Link to Profile Semperoper, Dresden Sieg (auf dem Siegesäule), Berlin Brandenburg Tor, Berlin Skyline, Frankfurt am Main

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

This is My Life on Drugs

Well, antibiotics do qualify as drugs, don't they? The only problem with having lived the life of a boyscout is that I really don't know how good some of my favorite music might have been if only I had experimented.

Anyway, this ia a fair representation of where I am at these days.

Monday, November 27, 2006

I'll Be Home for Christmas

No definite plans, but the Dollar has dropped against the Euro, now roughly $1.31 per Euro and on its way to third-world status ... Ok, that may be a bit of an exageration, but it's already cheaper to buy most things in the US (Can you say WalMart Effect?) and getting cheaper still, especially with the looming 3% increase of the VAT to 19%.

By the way, for all you wage slaves in Germany, the average employer expects to raise wages only 2.5% this year ... the consultants are telling them that inflation is only 1.5 to 2.3%, but of course they are ignoring the increase of the VAT, which will in one stroke wipe out a lot of the good that was slowly coming from the tax cuts of the recent past. Hmmm.

What Does London Smell Like?

Julie London?

Tween girl: It so smells like London out today.
Hippie chick: What does London smell like?
Tween girl: Really damp.

--10th St & Greenwich

Overheard by: Intimidated by children

via Overheard in New York, Nov 26, 2006

I was walking across a bridge this morning in a very dense fog, and people half way across were disappering into the fog. It reminded me of the old British headline-joke, "Channel fogged in, Continent cut off."

I'm afraid I understand now why my colleagues accomplish so little. I've been working on the same Board presenation for two weeks now, and am scheduled to have it prepared by Thursday for circulation. It would have been done a week ago but for the five meetings I have had to endure to follow up on where I am with my presenation.

Each time I have to have one of these meeting, I need to bring what is a working draft to near-publication-perfection, a process that takes a couple of hours, because my boss and his boss are more focused on style rather than substance.

Me: "What do you want to say?"
Them: "There's an extra line over here."
Me: "Yes, it's a left-over from the last time we changed the table. I will clean it up when we are settled on the content. Now, what do we want to show in the new table?"
Them: "There are also some lines between these cells."

At this point I wish I could do a Tony-Blair during Prime Minister's Questions and say something like, "I refer you to the answer I gave some moments ago." Instead, I spend another two hours discussing how the finished product should look without actually ever getting them to focus on the underlying content. Once they said they were relying on me to decide that, so I did, and they proceded to pick apart every point I put to paper only to put them back together in the same form by the end of the meeting. My colleagues don't accomplish anything because to actually attempt something is to risk plunging yourself into several weeks of this hell. It is much more enjoyable to pretend to work, a lesson I have yet to learn.

We work in a production-oriented company. On the floor or in the shop, nobody would ever think to stop production just to see how it is going. They might take a sample, but the line keeps rolling, because downtime is money. Senior management gets that ... middle management seems to think that working in the middle office is not the same as working in a production environment, and they think nothing about taking me off line five times in three weeks. And this is not a "stop by my office and tell me how things are going" routine ... this is, "please bring us the current version of your presenation."

In the USA, when this sort of thing got hairy, the higher-ups would come by my office and we would brain-storm together. Yes, sometimes they were distracted by lines and colors, and I spent enough time going through the same conversation above to know that I should be careful to whom I showed rough drafts. With these two, there are no rough drafts, ever. And these two won't sit down to kick around ideas. Yes, It's nice to think they might have such confidence in me, but then their insecurities comes out like a tidal wave when we finally do sit down.

And so I cross the bridge into another day in the fog. And then I arrive home to several e-mails that tell me there is still life out there.

The first was from an old (girl) friend, who asks what I'm up to for New Year's and reminding me of the year we stayed up way past all of our friends talking until sunrise. At one point I handed her another drink, which she immediately dropped. She mentioned that she was amazed that I didn't get mad or anything, that I simply asked her if she'd like another. Always there with another drink, that's why the ladies always liked me, eh?

My two favorite former interns took a few moments in their hectic schedules to say hi and tell me what they are up to. It is so nice to know you have positively influenced someone's life, nicer still when they actually tell you so, even better when they don't have to.

And finally, one from a consulting firm in London asking if I am still interested in working for them. Incredible timing, this one. I wonder if I can credibly explain why, after two months marking time and banging my head in this organization, they should consider me as anything but flaky for wanting to jump ship to them.

So, gentle reader ... What would you say in this situation?

When You Get Drafted

Remember the Dead Kennedys? The song went something like, "So what you gonna do when you get drafted?" Good question, and one I don't have to answer since I was a part of the all-volunteer force many, many years ago just after the Vietnam era.

Anyway, it seems some people are kicking around the draft as a way to curb politicians' urges to start and continue wars ... they figure that by making everyone's kid a soldier, it will be less palatable to send them off to war. Grab a clue, please. The draft does little more than make a cheap source of labor available for this sort of thing. It didn't stop Ike, Kennedy, Johnson and Nixon from muddling in Vietnam, and in fact probably made it more likely that we would be there since that war was not being carried on the books at its real costs.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Se a Vida É

The MP3 player took a major detour through the past five decades today ...

My Way - The Best of Frank Sinatra (Disc 1)
The Best of the Moody Blues - Moody Blues
The Doors - The Doors
LA Woman - The Doors
Pet Sounds - The Beach Boys
Endless Summer - The Beach Boys
Crowded House - Crowded House
Reach the Beach - The Fixx
The Singles 86-98 (Disc 1) - Depeche Mode
Best of OMD - Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark
Pop Art (Disc 1) - Pet Shop Boys

No rhyme or reason, just a lot of stuff I used to like to listen to. For some reason, the first discs of the collections are the best. Think that was planned by the producers?

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Not Sure if I am a Breast Man or a Leg Man

Bet you wondered where I might be going with this and why I dind't include the third part of the anatomy that makes up the Guy's Trinity, especially after that last post. Sorry to disappoint you ... sorrier still if I don't follow up next saturday with someting better. Anyway ...

My excuse for not joining the Expat Bloggers' Meet-up was that I was cooking Thanksgiving Turkey for the Partnerin and her friends. Yep, Thanksgiving came a week early because the Partnerin has a business trip next weekend.

The Partnerin has really gotten into roast turkey ala Thanksgiving ... so much so that she insists on a turkey several times a year. The first time I cooked, I had a friend with Commissary privileges, and managed to get my hands on a Butterball ®, which was great. But, not having access to a commissary and friends who did now being DEROS (if you know what FIGMO means, you can figure out DEROS ... if you don't, I'm going to leave you guessing, since I would have to kill you if I told you), we had to improvise.

So we took one of those nice german blocks of butter that are equivalent to two American sticks of butter, mixed that with plenty of tarragon, and then pumped it under the skin of this 5.2 kilo bad boy, in essence creating our own version of the Butterball®.

Stuffing was another matter. I like mine savory, as in "so full of sage that your stomach will be clear for a week." Sage is great for the digestion, which is why it is an integral part of many stuffings. This is simply bread crumbs from a loaf of Rye bread; in this case, store bought, since I don't want to bake a loaf of bread to then turn around and make it stale. One onion, a couple cloves of garlic, celery (which the Partnerin hates and therefore will not touch this stuffing except for the cursory but polite "this tastes very good" taste), fresh parsley, a bit of white wine (the one-euro per litre box French stuff is pretty good for cooking just about anything). Sometimes I put a bit of lemon or lime joice in it, mostly to use up old lemons or lime that would otherwise go forgotten in the Ami-fridge. I also add what would be breakfast sausage in the US ... the closest german equivalent is Zwiebelmett, which looks and tastes a bit like Jimmy Dean's but is eaten raw by Germans. Then salt, pepper, and a lot of sage. If I could remember to sing "Scarborogh Fair" while cooking, I might remember the rosemary and thyme, but I almost always forget those two things.

The Partnerin likes her stuffing on the sweet side, with apples and raisins. She also uses rye bread crumbs along with the apples and raisins, and then soaks it all in milk. Aside from a little salt and pepper, nothing else.

This time around the Partnerin's stuffing got to be in the bird. Actually hers goes in the bird most times. This being Germany, we have to make a choice because the oven will only hold the bird and little else ... next kitchen we have, I am choosing the appliances, which will include an Ami-sized oven, maybe two of them, and an Ami-sized sink that can hold a week's worth of dishes (if I keep dancing with russian girls, I might be batching-it again, so I will need a place to store the dirty dishes until the nice and pretty polish housekeeper comes to clean up after me ... just kidding).

This lack of oven-capacity has forced a few interesting decisions on me. First, my stuffing now cooks stove-top in a dutch oven. It actually works rather well; the stuffing directly on the bottom of the pot does burn and stick, but when you scrape that part away at serving time, it gives a nice carmelized taste to the whole thing.

The other, harder choice, was what to do with the sweet potatoes. Since I had been out late the evening before and then spent too much time the next day puttering around, I didn't to the necessary prep work that would have had them par boiled and pre-baked for the glazed sweet potatoes of American Thanksgiving fame. So I simply boiled them until totally soft and then mashed them with some butter, crystallized ginger, brown sugar, lemon juice, and a bit of salt, pepper, and cinnamon. They were pretty good like this, and we also then didn't go overboard with ordinary mash on top of all the other starch.

I found a nice jar of Ocean Spray Cranberry Sauce in an English Shop near my office, which rounded it out nicely. If you can't find that, german stores carry Preiselbeeren, which are pretty close. The Partnerin also wanted corn, so we had corn.

All in all a good feast.

OK, that actually was a good excuse, but reality was that I was recovering Saturday morning from a little too much vodka on Friday evening, Saturday I was cooking, and Sunday I was recovering from eating too much on Saturday and it was sh!tty weather and I didn't want to drive to Bonn in that weather.
I'm sorry I didn't meet up with you all, as it sounds like I missed a good opportunity to broaden my circle of acquaintences. My dance card is never too full, so to say, but I can usually handle only two parties per week at my advanced age.

Next time, if you will suffer me.

Butterball is a registered trademark of ConAgra Brands, Inc., of Omaha, Nebraska, which we crew dogs affectionately called Aromaha, because on a hot summer day, when you popped open the hatch or canopy of your aircraft at Offutt AFB, you could smell the rendering plant from many miles away. Ah, for the goood old days when the Cold War raged quietly and the world was a safer place. You know, it's really sad, but now that I am working I find it hard to remember I had a sense of humor this twisted

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Gratuitous Photo Saturday

It's a sight to warm a man's heart ... a pretty girl holding a shot of vodka. The Russian and I and a few of our old classmates got together for an evening of dining and dancing ... and drinking ... at a local russian restaurant. If you ever wanted to bring a smile to the face of a russian girl "trapped" in Germany, just take her to a russian restaurant ... if you can find one. There used to be a half-dozen or so in the Frankfurt area, but many of them have shuttered. As of late, I have only found two. My young russian friends have never been to any while here, so for them it was a much welcomed taste of home.

One of the girls almost cried while reading the menu. The three of them took turns reading the menu items aloud followed by a judgement as to whether or not a certain dish was authentic russian. However there was some disagreement on one dish, which one of the russians claimed was a national dish while the two others declared that it was not. At which point a bit of inter-regional rivalry ensued, with comments flying about Siberians and people from the Caucuses and points farther east. It makes one wonder how the Soviet Union stayed together for seventy years.

Nothing that a little vodka couldn't fix. Put enough vodka into the mix and they become fast friends again. Oddly enough, the restaurant didn't have russian vodka, so we had to settle for Absolut. As you can see, the results were not marred by that slight faux pas. Hey, I could not resist ... the title of this post is Gratuitous Photo Saturday, after all.

That's The Russian on the right. She looks downright fat compared to The Other Russian, and believe me, it is not because The Russian has a few pounds too many. The Other Russian is really thin, but nonetheless quite pretty and a natural blonde, unlike The Russian. I hadn't seen The Other Russian for a couple of months ... for those of you who may have read earlier posts, The Other Russian is the one who said she wanted to marry me so she could stay in Germany. Well, she didn't need me since she got a student visa, but she still dances with me, and, in this case, with The Russian herself despite her Siberian views of people from the Caucuses.

Actually, the fact that The Other Russian wanted to dance with me, especially the slow dances, seemed to bother the Russian. Up to this point The Russian and I have only been dance partners to techno and a little hip-hop, but she grabbed me for a few slow dances which is completely out of her character, and she made them very close for the benefit of our friends back at the table.

Then, on our return to the table after the second dance, she announced to the group, who have always wondered what kind of relationship we are having since we spend a lot of time together without them, that she and I are taking Salsa dance lessons ... which is something we have discussed doing but haven't actually started because, despite having the Partnerin's blessing (the Partnerin hates dancing but I rather like it), Salsa dancing is possibly more intimate than I dare to be with The Russian.

A man has to know his limits.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Its Mourning in America

I wanted to post something about last week's election results, but was too busy, and besides, I'm not sure what I wanted to say.

I did say in this space back in April that the Republicans stood to get their clocks cleaned largely because they have made it easy for 11+ million illegals to sneak into and stay in America while at the same time making it so difficult for ordinary US citizens to get back into and move around the US, courtesy of our friends at the TSA.

My friends, a lot of ink has been penned on why the Republicans lost ... and don't kid yourselves, the Dems didn't win, the Republicans simply blew it in classical "F$#k-up a W@t Dream" style that they have consistently demonstrated for more than a decade.

I never shared the pessimism of my Democrat friends because the Democrats have never really been out of power ... don't believe me? Think back to 1995, when Republicans were left scratching their heads because they had to then explain that "No, we do not want to starve your children!" (the school lunch debate). Think about the 50-50 split in the Senate back in 2001, where the Republicans technically had control of the place with Cheney as a tie-breaker, but in the spirit of "New Tone" they actually split committee chairmanships with the Dems despite the fact that they didn't have to. What planet are these people from? They make Euro politicians almost look good.

Anyway, I think the war in Iraq might, just might have been an issue. Bush should have declared victory and left three years ago ... Oh yeah, that's right ... he tried that with the "Mission Accomplished" carrier landing but then lost his nerve.

But I digress. No the real reason the Republicans lost is not the War in Iraq. It is the War on Terror and the way it is being fought. It is the TSA. It is grandmothers and little three-year-old girls being wanded and other women being groped by TSA goons in the name of "safety." It is being unable to carry a can of Coke onto your flight for fear that it is a weapon. It is plastic sheeting and duct tape. The War on Terror is being fought by the same people who have been fighting the War on Drugs for nearly forty years, and we all know how that is going.

Unlike a number of conservative pundits who opined that maybe a little time on the sidelines would return the Republicans to their senses, I personally hate to see them wandering in the wilderness, since the last time they did it for forty+ years and when they finally got back to power they were utterly clueless on what it is to govern as a majority. If they had, things would either be much better, or they would have flamed out spectacularly six years ago ... either way, we all would have been better off.

As for Rummy, a lot of you aren't going to miss him until you realize what a colorless dweeb Robert Gates is; Bush picked the wrong Gates for Defense ... Bill Gates has more killer instinct and knows how to squash an insurgency. Bill Gates for Secy of Defense.

And don't get me started on the fact that America has not had a conservative President since Ron Reagan. 'Nuf said.

So, if you haven't guessed where I stand politically up til now, let me close with the utter irony that unlike Alec Baldwin et al., who claimed that they would leave the country if Bush won, I actually left the country, and now I wonder if I can ever go back ;)

That's a joke for those of you in Rio Linda.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Deliciously Cliche

As soon as we crossed the border from Germany into the Netherlands, the rain stopped, the clouds parted and the sun began to shine. I kid you not. Another case of real life imitating [bad] art, as in dumb, cliche-filled movies. Nearly 300 kilometers of rain, fog, and grey skies behind us in Germany, and two hundred ahead of us on the way to Brugge, Belgium, but the rest of the trip would be mostly pleasant.

One of the few reasons other than the Parternin herself that I stay in Europe is for the chance to pop across borders and do things like this. We haven't done much of this in the past year, as she has been working long hours while I was playing long hours. It was indeed time for a change of Continental scenery.

As the drive became less frightening and as the radio dial filled with dutch voices, the Partnerin dozed off. She awoke somewhere around Brussels, where I had tuned to a french-language station. "Finally, something we can both understand." I have some dutch in my blood, and parts of the language come back to me when I pay attention. It's all just noise to her. We both do french, however.

One can't go to Belgium without eating a few frites. The scene here was precious. As I ordered my Pommes from the dutch-speaking and very disorganized kid behind the counter, a woman started ordering 7 burgers of various sorts in french. The kid spoke no french, which kind of took both me and the lady by surprise, me because I thought that the locals were mostly bilingual.

The woman, of course, spoke no dutch. She stood there for a moment expressing her disbelief with words to the effect of, "We are all one country, after all." I guess she assumed that it was requisite for all in Belgium to speak french, and not necessarily the other way around. The european branch of my mother's family straddles the Netherlands-Belgium border, placing us squarely in the dutch camp, but most of my relatives speak both languages. A surprising number of the locals do not.

So we translated for them. At first she was grateful, but then she realized that I was not a local. "Where are you from?" she asked. I told her "Franc-a-fort" ... We are speaking in french after all, ;) A little humor there, completely lost on her.

"But you do not sound German!"

"No, I am American," I replied. Now she was truly puzzled, because like most Europeans she has been led to believe that Americans don't do languages (actually had one use that phrase with me once). There is a delicious irony there ... Europeans hate it when Americans do "their" languages better than they themselves can.

But the title of this post is Delicious cliche ... Speaking of delicious cliche's, we also had belgian waffels, pictured above. I also did some chocolates too, as captured by the Partnerin here as I fumble for my cash to pay for my stash of truffels, etc. If I lost a kylie over the summer, I think I gained half of a kylie back this weekend.

We went to Brugge after the Partnerin found one of those Tchibo travel specials offering a Medieval Spectacle which is staged in an old church there. She has tried several times to book the Tchibo specials, but they are almost always sold out. This time we got lucky.

The Medieval Spectacle is is a feast set in 1468, where you are the guests of Charles the Bold and Margaret of York at their wedding feast. As advertised, there was plenty of food, drink, and entertainment. What there was not plenty of was parking. We ended up parking about a kilometer away, but it was just as well as I partook in plenty of food and drink (the Partnerin was the designated driver of her own volition I might add).

When we first arrived, one of the ladies in waiting showed us to the table and explained the routine to us in English, much to the consternation of our table-mates. The man across from me finally asked, "Are you American?" The Partnerin told him I am American but can speak German and that she is German ... you could almost see the look of relief on his face. He replied in German that he and his wife could both do german or spanish, but she could not do english. I joked that I could do mexican or puerto rican, and that was as close to spanish as I could get. No laughs. Not so funny in retrospect, unless you have lived in New York.

The Wife looked anything but spanish. I placed here somewhere in the middle of Poland. Later on, when the MC was saying a quick phrase in Russian, I translated for the Partnerin and our table mates were curious. Then the Wife sneezed and I wished her "Nostrovye," which my Polish intern had assured me is how the Poles bless one another after sneezing in Polish. She thanked me in polish, so the guess was right. How spanish entered that picture must have been an interesting story.

The feast was advertised as "semi-buffet." We both wondered what that meant. At first I thought it might mean that some things were served while others were go-fetch-for-yourself. It turns out that "semi-buffet" means they bring big quantities to the table and then the table-mates divvy it up for themselves. Here you see my table-mate dishing up my soup.

What you also see in the background is the huge hunk of bread that we had to divvy without the benefit of big knives. A quick joke about what it used to mean about breaking bread, and then we tore off what we wanted.

While we were negotiating the finer aspects of Medieval dining (we did have modern cutlery, so it really wasn't so bad for the Partnerin and her new-found friends ... I'm a barbarian at heart, so it was a step up to have a seat, much less cutlery)., the falconers were giving a show.

At one point the wingtip of one of the birds (a falcon, an eagle, and an owl) went whistling through my hair. The Partnerin jumped, but I kind of shrugged it off with, "There's something a health department in the US would never stand for." The falconers were letting the birds fly directly over the heads of the diners. They were also letting selected members of the audience take turns at letting the birds land on their gloved hands.

In fact, there was a lot of audience participation in the event, and not just in the eating. At one point, the Knight appointed to represent our table in the combat came to brief us on what we were expected to do to support him. He asked the table what language we spoke ... German was the answer from three of the four, and he looked at me and said, "Do you also speak german?" to which I replied, "Un peu," and received a very irritated "Alors!" which I took as being his version of "give me a break!"

I had hoped that the very tall and pretty Lady Margaret of York would pick me for seomthing but she went for my table mate, who had the chance to shoot a cross bow for a small prize. Not really much of a cross-bow ... don't want to seriously arm us amateurs. I didn't get permission to publish the photo, so I hope they'll take the free advertising here in exchange for permission. She was a real-life Snow White.

Did I mention that there was plenty to eat and drink? Well, that went on with a number of other entertainment events, and then we spilled out onto the streets of Brugge just after 11 p.m. The town itself is a happening little scene on a Saturday evening. And after all of that, you can find your way to a waffel stand on the corner.

Time to go hit the cross-trainer.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

This is Captain America Calling

That damn song (actually it's called "Catch Me Now I'm Falling")had been kicking around my head for more than a week (don't know why ... these things just happen), but I couldn't find my copy of Low Budget by The Kinks, so off to to order another. Suppose I could have obtained it elsewhere on the net, but I once figured out that the cost of my time to find a "free" version is roughly triple the cost to simply buy one. The internet always was a pikers heaven ... the rest of us simply pay cash.

This was one of those albums that made 1979 an interesting musical year. It was, after all, the re-awakening of musical tastes and sensibilities after that long, dark period called the Disco Era.

Heck, it even has saxophones ... I can't think of the last time I heard one of those on a pop album. Very 1970's indeed.

It has taken the place of Jamiroquai on the MP3 player. Lasgo's "Some Things" has pushed off the Pet Shop Boys. Otherwise, I'm pretty much in a musical rut these days.

A Question of Trust

Yes, gentle reader, it is a little after 9 a.m. and I am here typing away. What gives ... is he abusing his internet access at work? No, one of the fortunate things about working "across the border" in the Bundesland of Baden-Wurrtemburg is that the holiday-schedule is a little different from that of Hessen, so while all of my Hessian friends are toiling away, I got to sleep in until 9. What decadence.

All of which gives me the occasion to ponder the crisis of yesterday ... not much of a crisis for me, rather one for my new German masters. I have commented here in previous posts that I wonder what my colleagues do all day. I found out over the past couple of weeks as I worked my way through the trail of spreadsheets and formulae that they have amassed in the course of doing their jobs, whatever those may be.

The best way to summarize the task at hand would be to describe it as managing roughly 150 assets positioned in 30 countries. To do that, they have developed roughly 180 spreadsheets, one for each asset and then another 30 or so on top to summarize and manipulate the relevant data. Each quarter the 30 "management" spreadsheets grow by 6 as six new worksheets are added to the folders to summarize the data at that point in time and to plan forward.

My boss's boss made a joke to me, after closing the door to my office, that I must surely think they are crazy for not having a real database, which was why I was there. He was right. They are crazy ... nice, but crazy. They are, fortunately, implementing the database that I designed for them during my job interview (they gave me a "test" with 5 case-problems, one of which included how I would get my hands around the problem of managing 150 assets in 30 countries ... they must have liked the outline, because they hired me, although like so many good Germans they started building the solution before the architecht had finished the plans, something I may have to reckon with later). Until then, they must still live with their ad-hoc past.

Self-documenting Code or Spaghetti Code ... a little geek humor. When a small group of people have been working with the same collection of data for some length of time, they become so familiar with it that they all basically understand what any one of them might have done with it. In [computer] programming cirles, they would tell you that their "code" is self-documenting, as in "We hold these truths to be self-evident," anyone can figure it out sort of way. Well, people working with spreadsheets aren't always programmers, and sometimes their skill sets lack the complexity to offer up that lame excuse ... no, the average spreadsheet jockey will timidly reply with something like, "Well, that's the way we have always done it."

Which is what I faced yesterday just before I clicked the "Trace Precedents" button on the Excel Auditing toolbar to look into the convoluted formula adding up results for several assets in the same region. Oops, one of the assets, generating roughly EUR 92 million in EBIT (earnings before income taxes) was counted at two levels, the first being on a regional basis and then again in the global totals on its own. What that meant for this particular "Management Tool" was that the amount upon which the bonus pool would be calculated was overstated by EUR 92 million.

Not a problem for me. Just admit the error, fix it, and move on. My bonus for the year was going to be paltry in any case (it is pro-rated). My boss didn't share my view. His first take was, "Does it really need to be fixed ... I mean, if the number is both in the top and bottom of the fraction, doesn't it cancel itself out?" I'm sure he got a 1 note in his O-level Maths roughly 18 years ago, but it wasn't evident today ... adding the same number to the numerator and divisor of a fraction is not the same as multiplying or dividing the same for the purposes of factoring out a quantity. His "older" boss, who is one year my junior but looks ten years older probably because he is responsible for riding herd and cleaning up after these "kids" immediately saw the flaw with his logic and sent him to his office to workout a quick analysis for himself.

In the meantime, he looked across the table at me and asked, "What would you do?" We knew where my boss stood ... hide. But the boss's boss didn't get to where he is by taking the easy way out. This was an obvious test of my character.

"It's easy for me to come in and say, 'Let's own up to the problem and fix it,' since I have no connection to the history. It's a no-win for us ... if we admit we made a mistake we lose a little or even a lot of credibility. If, on the other hand, we try to cover out tracks and later get caught, we then have no credibility. Besides, anything we do will have to be documented with a memo to file to explain why we deviated from our own formulae. Better to clean it up now and be done with it."

By this time my boss has come back and says, "Yes, it does make a big difference, but we already communicated this amount as a part of the [performance] targets for this year to several dozen managers ... if we fix the error, we will have to re-communicate the targets to them, and they will wonder why. Wouldn't it be easier to take this through to the end of the year and fix it then?"

Yeah, and then explain why next year's targets suddenly got so much easier while explaining to the files and future auditors why we paid X-million more in bonuses than the accounting systems said we should. Hmmm.

The Boss's boss went with what we discussed. Nevertheless, I still have to look to the guy to whom I report ... another warning light goes off in my head.