Month: February 2013

Internal Auditors = Übermensch

What were you expecting? Business suits?

At my last job, I got an e-mail from my boss complaining about one section of an audit seeming a little anemic.  In the message, he asked how I could look for: “process inefficiencies, evidence of fraud, best practices, control gaps, areas for improvement, compliance deficiencies, contractual failures, and violations of corporate guidelines” without adequate testing.  You see, he knew that these were most of the areas that the literature on Internal Audit (IA) said was within scope of an IA department. It’s what the charter of the department said was our responsibility to look at.  Unfortunately he was unaware that’s not the required scope of every engagement.  This is nothing new; my last two audit jobs also pushed how IA needed to justify its existence by providing more value-added services (without cutting back on the non value-added work.)  This basically came down to an edict to do all things all the time and, since not sticking to schedule was such a horrific situation it all had to be done effectively instantaneously.  How? Management always insisted “multitasking” was the key.

Apparently, IA staff were expected to be no less than atomic super people capable of far more than any mere mortal.  When performing a test, usually with a specific “objective” in mind (and “objective” needs to be defined for every test; the test procedures must be engineered to achieve that objective,) staff needed to keep on top of the universe of all the other things they were charged with doing at the same time.

The human mind is subject to cognitive effect called selective attention.  This is best exemplified by the classic “invisible gorilla test.” You’ve probably seen the video online at sometime.  The simple fact is that the human mind, when given a specific task, has a lot of trouble noticing things outside of what’s necessary for that task.  About 50% of people can’t see a gorilla in the middle of some people passing a basketball when they’ve been told to count how many times the basketball was passed.

So, okay, how about the fact that auditors are highly trained specialists who should be able to notice things the average person wouldn’t?

As it turns out, specialists might be worse at it.  When a similar test was performed on experienced radiologists they proved even worse at spotting the image of a gorilla transposed on CT scans than of untrained people spotting the gorilla among basketball passers. Auditors will just need to work harder to overcome the limitations of our merely human brains.

Or maybe start exposing ourselves to radiation during training.

Obligatory Post Oscars Commentary

Gawd DAMN the Oscars go on forever and ever!  Three and a half hours?  Funny as the “we saw your boobs” song may have been (not very; it would have been a great bit on Family Guy but was out of place on the Academy Awards which really ought to keep a stick firmly implanted up its ass) there’s just way too much production, song and dance involved in this broadcast every year.  Ironically, this event–which exists solely for Hollywood to pat itself on the back–includes these musical numbers at the expense of allowing award recipients to give “thank you” speeches (you know, the patting yourself on the back part.)

The only productions that should exist during the show are as follows:

  1. Performances of “Best Song” nominees
  2. A medley for “Best Score” nominees
  3. “Best costume” should be done like a runway show, with the costumes being modeled instead of the slideshow presentation we’ve gotten for several years now
  4. The annual in memoriam montage (a.k.a. the “Reel of Death”)

Cut out a couple of awards that have no real meaning to the majority of the audience  (film editing, sound editing, & sound mixing) to free up a little more time during the broadcast.  Hell, the Grammys hand out only six awards during their 3.5 hour broadcast.

RACCOONS IN THE CROSSHAIRS: Something needs to be done about this.

Anything … except a SNIPER!
The Peninsula Humane Society has put out a bounty on a wildlife killer at large in the San Francisco area.  Apparently a dozen or so animals, most recently a raccoon, have turned up injured (or dead) with lead pellet fragments found in them.  There’s a $1,000 reward for anyone who can provide information leading to identifying the shooter of the raccoon.
I suggest you all do your best to help out, or else the animals will be forced to take matter into their own hands.

One-in-a-million Shots

Last week the world was abuzz with the news of a meteorite crashing into Russia and on the same day an asteroid being tracked by NASA was scheduled to pass alarmingly (but safely) close to Earth!  Peculiarly, many pieces of the meteorite smashed through the ice and plummeted into the depths of exceptionally cold Chebarkul Lake, making retrieval of the valuable space rocks considerably difficult and much more prone to contamination.

This amazes me because lakes and rivers make up, what, maybe 5% (at most) of the landmass around there?  It’s such a long shot for a meteor to hit over land as opposed to the oceans, which cover 75% of the Earth’s surface, but to then hit the miniscule area that has lakes is so obnoxious that you have to figure that, if there is a God, he likes to jerk people around or that meteors are attracted to water no matter what. 

This reminded me of another bizarre, but very unfortunate, string of events late last year.  During the notorious Hurricane Sandy there were several people killed by falling trees or limbs.  When you read the details of some of these cases you see timing as being such a deadly incident.  Had people left their homes a little earlier or later they would have missed the crashing trees completely or safely seen their aftermath blocking the roads.  It only takes a few seconds for a tree to come down, a dozen more in either direction and everything would be fine.

Kind of creepy, isn’t it?

RACCOONS IN THE NEWS: If it doesn’t have a mask or rings on the tail is it still cute?

Photo by rickst

A teenager in Bogalusa, LA recently caught himself a super-duper rare albino raccoon. Apparently he just likes to leave traps strewn about the woods around there to see what turns up.  I guess out in Louisiana you’ll do anything to pass the time.  Anyway, when he recently checked his traps he found this unique animal and has since become something of a local celebrity!