Blog Archives

I think, therefore I audit. I film, therefore I am. (CUV)


The point of this video is discussing what Descartes‘ famous maxim “I think therefore I am” means to me today, whilst driving past the house he grew up in in the village that bears his name in France.

This is actually video number 18 in the French holiday season, but I didn’t number it as I wanted to present it earlier, so later on the French series will jump from 17 to 19.

Portrait of René Descartes, dubbed the "F...

Oh, Renee!

The phrase “I think therefore I am” always seemed to me to be ridiculous. After all, when people become thoughtless they don’t just stop existing. They exist as they did before. Some even go through life in a thoughtless state. We have no idea to the extent that animals think – some such as bonoboes, whales and elephants may experience thoughts closer to our own than we may expect. Maybe there is thoughtfulness even further away in the cladoscope from mankind than we would even expect. It doesn’t make the more thinking animal more or less existant than the less thinking animal.

So I decided some time ago that another verb was needed rather than “to be” in order to make a more fitting end to this sentence, and I came upon it while teaching audit. I used to, and still do from time to time, train younger folk how to audit businesses, do reviews, due diligences and all manner of accountancy related services for business. I taught that mindless ticking and bashing of documents, without understanding the heart of an entity’s business, its purposes and its systems, would lead to a valueless and proabably flawed audit process, and that the only way to audit properly was to switch the brain on and keep it switched on for the duration of the audit. So I coined the term “I think, therefore I audit” and taught with this motto all around East Europe in the nineteen nineties and still do from time to time now.

The problem is of course, that because the audit profession is dominated by Big Four firms, who know that they cannot make profits on audits by putting people who can think for themselves on jobs, they have made the profession more and more of a box-filling matter so that junior staff, especially first years fresh from university with precious little practical training and little time to have learned how to think about the things they need to look out for, even though they mainly would probably want to, can go in and perform the bulk of an audit. This is not popular with middle tier clients who want some added value from the observations of their auditor which these younger ones are not yet ready to give, and on the contrary frustrate the client with naive questions as it becomes painfully apparent how they are learning on the job, and the middle tier try to field more senior people on work, and this actually costs our firms more, although we are taking generally less because the audits are smaller and the Big Four are erroneously assumed to have more prestige.

Yes. Even after Enron, and all the other Big Four messes. And the middle tier are forced to endure tighter regulation to assure that audits are being done “properly” but this “properly” means being done the way the Big Four instituted and keep on doing – namely mindless box filling. The Big Four lobby the professional bodies and state how things need to look in the way a standardised audit is carried out, and having any actual talent for sniffing out what could be wrong in a company, having any ability to think your own way through to what could be ailing in a company, these things have no premium whatsoever, on the contrary audit has become such a secretarial job over the last ten years that anyone with a spark of imagination is likely to run from the profession screaming. Read the rest of this entry

Polish Poetry Homework (CUV)


Hot off the press today, not historic in any way, my helping Sophie get more motivated to learn the poetry for her Polish literature class led me to do an impromptu YouTube session with her reciting some from memory.

It may interest you to know that none of the poems were learned with this video in mind, or even recently, and the class test of them happened some time ago.

I don’t let Sophie read a poem more than once a day. I don’t let her read without trying to enjoy the poetry and understand something from it. Never read in order to memorise, but in order to enjoy. Then go back some time later, especially more that two weeks later in the end, and see what was memorised and what not. Just like the goldlist method, only without the writing out, only using recitation.

This method works with a child’s poetry syllabus if you get ahead and do the initial readings well ahead of the class, so that the child already really knows most of the and is at the most putting in the finishing touches while other children are in a panic trying to force the thing into their memory. This results inevitably in the child using the Polish school method having the poem in the short-term memory and the child using a staged repetition technique and taking a long-term view  will have a long-term memory of the poem.

So where you have continuous assessment, the benefit is reaped by people who simply won’t remember the poem once the year is finished. But children need to understand that education is for them to take something precious into their lives and is not just about marks and grades. A teacher might grade the cramming kids higher, but they simply won’t know much when my lower graded kid will remember more than any of the rest of them, and have a more pleasant time over it.

Question about the Voynich Manuscript


A page from the mysterious Voynich manuscript,...

Image via Wikipedia

One reader of this blog brought up the subject of the Voynich Manuscript and asked whether the Goldlist method could be a good tool to someone wishing to decipher this.

I produced the first draft of the below answer in the comments section next to the query, but I thought it was a very good idea to talk about this as a main article on its own account, so I’m reproducing the answer here, and expanding it a bit with a few more thoughts.

It will be a nice precursor to another article I have in the pipeline, namely my story “Otherwise Engaged” which also talks about a special book made by one person and handed down in a family, this one containing a self-fulfilling prophesy. Although it was among my favorite short stories in the ones I ever entered into the Daily Telegraph‘s monthly short story competitions some years back, it was one of the ones that actually didn’t get anywhere, other than some nice comments by other Telegraph bloggers at that time.

Anyway, now to my thoughts on the Voynich Manuscript.

The easiest thing is to assume that it is a hoax, as so many of the unexplained things are hoaxes, but in order not to assume any bad intentions on the part of the author, let us say that it is a work of art.

The paper and the ink seem to be consistent with 15th century Italian, which also had a writing style of the sort used here at that time, a revival of an earlier Carolingian handwriting style.

The manuscript should not be looked at in isolation from the accompanying illustrations. They contain detailed drawings of plants which are not actually consistent with plants to be found in any of the linguistic locations posited, in fact, these plants don’t exist, unless they all existed once and all coincidentally disappeared, or maybe they exist on another planet and the author was a shipwrecked alien, or, most likely they are the product of someone whose psychology is a ‘creator’ style psychology. Read the rest of this entry

%d bloggers like this: