May 2007 - Posts
Whenever an auditor is finding their work a bit boring, they need to remember: it helps keep modern civilziation from collapsing.
Financial markets are, despite being a vehicle for creating a secular-materialistic world, simply impossible to maintain without huge reservoirs of faith.
Of course, it's not a traditional type of religious faith - no water-into-wine miracles here - but it very much relies on people believing in certain things.
For example, money is based on belief. Belief that other people will agree with you that it's worth something valuable.
Since governments moved off the gold standards, money became detached from any real object - it's just a coin or a piece of paper.
And, at the risk of grossly over-simplifying things - its value stems from the strength of the economy from which it is issued.
Controlled supply of cash from a healthy developed nation with a balanced budget? Strong, "hard" currency.
Contrast that with the opposite - countries where the government is prone to print up more bills whenever it feels like it - a loose supply - and sketchy companies.
I'll sit around a bit longer some time soon and make an explicit link between hard currencies and auditors, but it's there. Only in a country with a strong regime of accountability - achieved through independent verification of financial statements which reduces the risk of shysters and con artists stealing investors' cash on a regular basis - can you hope to enjoy a strong economy with a hard currency and all the attendant luxuries.
Anyone who has gone through the academic treadmill of an undergraduate degree in Commerce should be able to piece together the reasons I've left simply implied in the last paragraph. For everyone else, I'll be happy to explain the logic that fills up the holes in the above statements.
But it's late and I really need to get some sleep right now.
What am I saying?
The title should really say travel makes you appreciate home
I left for my month-long vacation with a side-thought not far from my mind: would I like to request a transfer to work in any of the places I visited. It was an interesting way to travel - not only was I checking out the regular tourist sites, I thought about the pros and cons of various places.
While my internal jury is still out on where I'd like to end up, I found that I was looking at all the places I visited with a different sort of critical eye. Did a zany transport system and eclectic street life appeal to me?
How much insanity could I tolerate?
And perhaps most importantly, was I really getting a fair and accurate picture of cities with a visit that only lasted a couple of days?
No doubt I only got part of the picture - a fact which was reinforced by meeting a friend who had just transferred over to a European office. There were yet more issues that I had never even thought of that came up - the bureacracy you deal with when showing up for work in a foreign country can be ridiculously complicated, so you have to plan for various contingencies.
All those details aside, two overarching ideas stayed in my mind.
First, I need to figure out whether I simply like travelling once in a while or whether I really want to be posted abroad for an extended commitment? I'm still leaning towards a posting, but the decision is, if anything, even trickier now.
Second, looking at the other towns - their smells and aromas, their pretty parks or abject lack of green space - made me appreciate home so much more. You may think the grass is greener on the other side, but our lawn is literally the greenest I saw anywhere.
The warm welcome I got back in the office from simply everyone I ran into made me glad to be back. As strange as it sounds, I was happy to be back in the office, even if it meant digging through 300 e-mails that had piled up while I was away.
Free toilets in public areas, trees and grass everywhere, a public transit system that, although simple is nevertheless rather super easy-to-understand - and full of escalators, thank goodness!
It's good to be home.
I felt like a sucker for buying a $90 2GB Sandisk compact flash memory card with my digital SLR camera.
I mean, it's a decent price, but I ended up getting a 4GB no-name card for almost half price a month later!
Sadly, a month after that, while on vacation - two days before the end of the trip, actually - the 4GB card died on me.
Fortunately I had a total of 8 GB of photo storage on various cards with me: so even if the big card is totally gone, I have far more than enough photos.
Doubly fortunately, there are some excellent shops in the Toronto area that can recover data from dead media. Cross your fingers for me - hopefully they can resurrect the finicky card.
One thing you can be sure of - I'm not trusting anything remotely valuable to that 4GB card ever again - assuming it ever even becomes usable!
You would think that you could get in trouble for taking photos in museums and art galleries. But I've had a great deal of success doing just that, mainly because I know how to do that carefully.
Yeah, I've also been scolded and told to put away my camera, but that was in the 'learning how to take pictures covertly' stage of my self-taught training.
The major risk now isn't from places like the Houses of Parliament or the Spanish Royal Palace. Despite whatever security measures they may have, it's poor policy to shoo away tourists.
My current losing streak, is in taking photos of weird of amusing things in places where you would think no would would care.
Stores and airlines are out to get me, it seems.
First, a random shop in Barcelona - photos to come - with a hilarious-sounding product line. "Sicko19"? Sounds like an instant messenger screenname rather than a brand.
Second came Ryannair. Great airline. No photos on board policy. Unless your camera is pointed out the window, or at people whom the staff consider to be your friends.
So much for the ironic picture of a guy taking a photo of his family on the flight.
Based on those two isolated experiences, I have to say, Spain has to date been the Switzerland of the Mediterranean when it comes to strictly abiding by some silly rules.
I blame Franco. Or his ghost, anyway.
Got hit by 1737 spams - no commentary this month, on holiday.