August 2007 - Posts
The team behind Bioshock caught a lot of flack for releasing a sub-par disc masquerading as a soundtrack for buyers of the game's Limited Edition in the UK. It was a mere three tracks, all remixes by Moby. What a disappointment if you paid extra for that.
Fortunately, I never did.
In a doubly awesome twist, 2K made up for it by releasing the entire soundtrack to the game's original in-game audio. Click here for a direct download.
There's a cool story with the soundtrack composer at Music 4 Games.
The game is set in the 60's and as such, includes a slew of licensed songs which - there's a discussion on the developer forums where some hardcore fans have figured out how to extract said songs.
Yay again to Rock, Paper, Shotgun for tipping me off to the existence of all these goodies - it's one of my new favourite sites.
I can only describe my thinking as pure genius in using an image of burning airplane wreckage to go along with a posting ostensibly about the fun of business travel.
When you're young it's arguably the best time to travel - especially if the costs are covered by someone else. Audit is one of those professions where you get to do just that.
It depends on where you're located and which industry you're dealing with and where your office is located, of course.
If you're in a smaller town with little business, you're more likely to be sent far and wide - but if business picks up, you might find yourself stuck at home while others are flown in to help you.
On the other hand, you might be in a large city with many clients, but if you develop specialized skills, you might find yourself sent around everywhere.
Or, you'll just be thrown here and there depending on who's busy on existing clients and who has room in their schedule for different jobs.
The one thing I can guarantee is that if you're dealing with natural resource companies, you're much more likely to be sent to the fringes of the world than, say, people working on bank audits.
Bank audits mean sitting around downtown. Which is okay, except that bank audits also involve very very long hours. Technically all that travel also translates to very very long hours, but if you're the kind of person who'll take a dozen EasyJet or Ryanair flights while on vacation "because you can", you probably don't mind. So what if the occasional air traffic control strike that can foul up plans. Or if you have to fly 1200km to go to a destination 600km away. The latter is welcomed by some people, who are eagerly collecting their frequent traveller points.
Delays, on the other hand, are welcomed by any young workaholic: if you find yourself working on your laptop in an airport lounge, it feels much more fun than sitting in a cubicle doing the same thing. And heck, if you get the work done early, you might have some time off at the end of the week, which is its own reward - if you're in the luxurious position of being able to be flexible with your schedule.
Over time I may grow to begin to grow tired of travel. Or perhaps not.
All I know is that I have lots of upcoming travel, which will severely cut back on the amount of time I have to play Bioshock, the source of the above image, and the other time sinks that take up my free time when I'm not enjoying the last vestiges of summer.
The Evil HR lady asked her HR friends and readers to state why they went into
Incidentally, that reminded me about one of the fun things about my otherwise desk-bound job.
I get to call myself an auditor!
And so too, for that matter, do other people.
It's a great punch line to Dilbert-ish office humour.
Here's a scene: crowd is gathered by Xerox printer/photocopier waiting for one person's massive print job to come to an end.
The crowd sees my client and myself standing there, waiting for our turn.
"Oh, this will take a while, but if you photocopy something it'll interrupt the print job."
Great - 4 pages copied, Xerox spits out our paper, and we're ready to go.
"That'll be 25 cents a page," a member of the crowd says. "Where's my dollar?"
My client says, "you know this guy's an auditor, eh?"
Everyone suddenly freezes up in what we'll call mock fear.
"You're free to go sir!"
I love auditing clients where the staff have a sense of humour.
Neil's been on vacation, which has no doubt given me an additional chance to cry "First!", as I write about an interesting little feature in Checkmark, the magazine of the Institute of Chartered Accounts of Ontario. The Summer 2007 issue came out and I skipped right to the back for the profession's version of "true crime" stories, although it's not necessarily a matter of "crime", it's definitely more of the kind of thing you'll see Dennis or to a great extent, Francine writing about on a regular basis.
The interesting feature I'm referring to is the ICAO's "Disciplinary Notices" page - or section, if it's been a rough period - which functions like a police blotter for Chartered Accountants.
One name jumped right out: "Wanda A. Liczyk, North York."
She has been "found guilty of three charges under Rule 201 of failing to conduct herself in a manner which will maintain the good reputation of the profession and its ability to serve the public interest." The notice goes on to explain how she signed contracts without proper authority for "a friend" with whom she was having a relationship that impaired her independence.
As a punishment, Wanda "was fined $15,000, charged costs of $7,000, and suspended from membership for six months."What did she do?
She was the CFO and Treasurer of the City of Toronto during the MFP Leasing scandal (link working until September 2011). Quite a fuss got kicked up about this whole thing - Wikipedia has a quick summary if you're unfamiliar with it - basically a $40 million contract ended up costing over $100 million. Read that if you want the details - rest assured, taxpayer dollars got thrown in a big hole.
Before we move onto what Wanda did - or who she did, as some would put it - a quick note on MFP: they got Toronto to sell MFP its computers to MFP. This meant MFP technically "owned" them. Then MFP leaseed them back to the city. A completely pointless transaction, anyone can see - and one that ripped off the city by about $80 million.
The media didn't forget about Wanda - they mentioned last year that the ICAO initially figured that the risk of Wanda doing Bad Things was low, but a review of that decision pointed out that it's important to uphold the reputation of CA firms by punishing those who do wrong. And so disciplinary hearings took place over the past year.
David Nickle, a local city hall reporter, wrote up the start of the ICAO investigation, and he reminded readers about what transpired: as David explains it, "the institute has charged her in connection with the somewhat seamier,
secondary matter of the related external contracts inquiry: her
relationship with Michael Saunders, a married computer consultant who
Liczyk hired, and hired again, to create first North York’s and then
Toronto’s tax collection system. The charges indicate that Liczyk “knew
or ought to have known” she was compromised in dealing with Saunders
(when we say relationship, it was, of course, that kind of
relationship). Also, that she signed those contracts without proper
Discipline, Goodness and Knowledge
As with any profession, people screw up. Some don't have enough
training, some have lapses in judgement, and sometimes what happens is
a mystery. I'm reading about how these problems also affect the medical
profession in Complications, by Atul Gawande right now.
the medical profession, Gawande writes, has a fair bit of trouble
balancing the need to police itself and avoid destroying doctor's
careers, the Disciplinary Notices seem to indicate that the CAs are
capable of identifying whether people have hope of rehabilitation or
have irreparably disgraced and destroyed themselves.
A six month suspension is not thrown around lightly. It was the
harshest of any punishments reported in Checkmark this month, and it
shows they really meant business. A CA with her experience would
usually be in the prime of their career but a black mark like that will
definitely tarnish whatever reputation she has left - the Notices
always have a preamble which states that "The Discipline Committee applies the principles of rehabilitation, specific deterrence and general deterrence to determine sanctions appropriate to the particular circumstances of each individual case and in the public interest."
When I see that, I see it was saying, "we'll try and make you learn from your mistakes, punish you if you deserve it, and make the flogging sufficiently public if the the people are justly baying for your blood." Well, the "flogging" part is probably be taking a bit of artistic license with my interpretation, but you get the idea. Wanda's already gone through the embarrassment of having her affair revealed to the entire city, has been fired and now has bloggers pointing at her. And judging from David's site, probably laughing too.
That's my somewhat facetious interpretation of serving the "public interest".
Aside from a longer suspension or larger fine, the other alternative would be to expel Wanda from the Institute. No doubt some people figure that wouldn't be a Bad Idea. The ICAO reserves that ultimate punishment, though, for people who it believes are "incapable of being rehabilitated or are otherwise ungovernable". Considering that it's rather unlikely she'll make a mistake this huge again, it's safe to say the ICAO exercised its judgment wisely in this case. While I don't, I wonder if anyone wants to play Devil's Advocate and thinks she was punished too much?
There were additional people dragged into the mess, including the city's former budget chief, a politician named Tom Jakobek. The amazing thing was that despite being heavily implicated in alleged bribery related to MFP he was arrogant enough to try and run for mayor of the city while the scandal was fresh in everyone's minds!
Although that claim wasn't proven, he admitted to lying about some of his involvement in the case - as a result he only got 5000 votes in an election for mayor of a city of about three million people.
To make matters worse, yours truly was televised nailing Jakobek with hard hitting questions at a mayoral debate - essentially asking "where do you get the idea it's worth running if you've just been through a scandal like that?" I must admit, it was a cool moment - which I promptly documented in my college newspaper. His answer was beyond unimpressive. He said he had apologized repeatedly. And as a result, we should offer him a second chance?
Right, so that's how he got 5000 votes.
Politicians don't seem to have the kind of recovery methods that CAs or even doctors have access to, it's clear to see - but ballot box justice might be just as efficient, when you think about it.
Sitting there is one thing. Standing there with an Outreach newspaper another. But going up to people and asking for money is too much. This opinion piece is a bit harsh, but nevertheless true.
I can be as bleeding heart as anybody - within reason: when I drive home from a client and for some reason have some nicely wrapped cookies or candies I'll share out of Christian charity - but if you think handing over coins or bills is a Good Idea, you need to have your head examined.
I just finished reading Blue Blood, where the NYPD veteran talks about his experiences with junkie panhandlers. To support their addictions, they need tons of cash. But they get it from their tried and true methods standing at busy places, potentially earning more per hour than New York's finest. They estimated upwards of $100 an hour. Tax-free, of course.
I wonder how long before the cops crack down on the guy with the messed up leg in front of Castle Frank subway station?
Or how long until people like those in the SUV in front of me at Castle Frank on the weekend come to their senses, and realize that the pittance they doled out is not going to assuage their yuppie guilt for their SUV-driving ways, but rather make things worse?
The good thing about my job is that as soon as you really have a complete grasp of what you're doing - or at least, enough of a grasp to be able to answer your own questions by just thinking out loud - you're given brand new responsibilities that challenge everything you know, and then push you a little further too.
This is, of course, in contrast to jobs where you get good at doing one thing, and then you're told, "excellent, now keep doing that for the rest of your life."
Training someone else to do what you do is but one example. Many jobs have you train your successors. Not all have you then review the quality of their work. How well you have taught them becomes apparent virtually instantly considering the fact that you’re going to see whether they did what you asked them to do right the first time.
Well, nobody’s perfect, but so far, so good.
From the Whiskey Tango Foxtrot file, comes this story courtesy of Francine - Deloitte is operating in Iraq.
The article that mentions Deloitte is about a Marine facing court martial - appealing a conviction actually.
It breathlessly discusses all the operations Deloitte is involved in. And it's certainly too weird to believe, but I'll assume the Salem News has its facts right.
What would one of the Big Four be doing in Iraq? Auditing the American contractors? Apparently yes - and doing some consulting work too, according to the article.
I sped through the article, but the jarring thing that appears in the whole piece is the series of revelations from a former Marine, a friend of the embattled Marine, who discusses Deloitte and makes what I can only describe as really far-out claims. The Marine is part of a group that's investing D&T's operations in Iraq. The article shows that they're alleging a link between the military judicial system and D&T. They believe they'll be proved right a few years down the road, as NCIS and JAG officers - think military lawyers, if you haven't watched TV in the past ten years) - will be getting lucrative positions in non-military fields thanks to all this work. There's also additional allegations linking D&T with terrorist organizations - it seems really far fetched though.
One thing that doesn't surprise me, though, is that there would be members of the Armed Forces, past or present, who have the will to look for this sort of thing, or believe in it even if the evidence isn't there. A quick Google search will reveal articles like this one by Chris White, which talk about deception in military recruiting. The fact that the No Child Left Behind Act somehow makes it possible for the American military to get copies of school records including student contact information that leads to potential recruiting calls is chiling to say the least.
Moving back to the original article, though, I have to point out that despite the seriousness of the claims, the whole thing is thrown into question - do you blame an out of context quote, or the Marine himself - when you get a quote from a self-described friend of the defendant saying that Deloitte has, "offices and lobbyists in nearly every national
capitol and, seemingly, in almost every provincial and state capitol in
Well, yeah. So do most Big Four firms.
One immediately begins to wonder if they're reading too much into things that aren't there, or whether this is just one red herring of an innocent fact amid more insidious allegations?
I'm not going to jump on the conspiracy theory train today, as rich a topic of discussion it is. It's just a bit too crazy. But the fact alone that there are Big Firms operating in Iraq is enough to generate some level of wonder in my mind. How crazy would it be to actually show up to a job with your audit kit, while wearing fashionable kevlar?
Instead of making a cute reference to my calculators as battle rifles and sidearms, actually taking the real thing with you is just a bit too much.
It's enough to make you appreciate your at-times-relatively-boring-but-at-least-I-don't-get-shot-at desk job.
The doorman asked why every piece of news he ever reads about events he experienced himself, everything turns out much different from how he saw it happen.
I could write a short essay on my own experiences with journalists - the way they allow truth to be just another variable. Writing what you think happened rather than what people are trying to explain to you. Gunning for that angle you want to cover rather than tackling the subject manager in a simpler but more honest way.
One of my favourite annoyances is the sly editorial tactic - sneaking in a judgment or inference to push your favoured points. Or using quotes from sources that strengthen your chosen point of view and make the other side look bad.
That one happens all the time. On a good day it'll make me laugh, on bad days I'll get seriously annoyed.
Certainly there are many who try and get stories right, but I've found that the lure of sensationalism or their own preconceived notions is too strong for too many. At least it is possible, to some extent I hope, to try and look through the facts as presented to figure out what really happened.
I think I just opened Windows Vista's "Mixer" for the first time. Doing this in all older versions of Windows gave you a chance to mute or unmute your inputs - microphone, MIDI, wave files and CD audio. And that was it.
Well how's this for something long overdue? You can now mix the sound among your various programs. Do you want Windows sound cues at one volume level, videos playing out of Firefox at a lower level, and Winamp drowning both out?
Now you can do it.
There were 2177 spams landing in my e-mailbox last month. 15 more than last month. And recently a half dozen trickled past the spam filters. How disconcerting. A bit interesting to see the increasing creativity of the spammers.
As interesting as a new insect invading your house, though.