Saturday, April 04, 2009

RRPC: Making Sense of the Numbers

Yes, it's Round Robin time again! Jill of South Bay Soliloquy suggested this week's topic, By The Numbers. As an accountant, my job (when I have one) is to work with numbers - calculating, pasting, sorting and formatting them until they generate results that check out, make sense and mean something. Most of the time, it's a game for me, where the object is to figure out where the numbers belong and what to do with them to generate the right answers. Even as an unemployed accountant, I've been known to fire up Excel 2003 and build a spreadsheet or two or three.

Not everyone finds numbers interesting.
From the Picasa album Round Robin Photo Challenges

When I was in college the first time, I was an English and Film major. Having struggled in high school Algebra and Trigonometry, I took no math classes whatsoever at Syracuse University. I'd never heard of a spreadsheet. Microsoft Office didn't exist yet. I knew that Syracuse had a School of Management, but couldn't conceive what it was for. I've mentioned this before, but it's still true: my mom used to tell me, in the years after I left S.U. without a degree, "I think it would be fun to be a night auditor at a motel." She would then explain the joy of adding up numbers in double entry bookkeeping until it all reconciled perfectly. I thought she was out of her mind!

Numbers don't always say cheerful things.

But in 1991 (or was it 1990?) I let Travel Network convert me from a travel agent into a bookkeeper, and was astonished to discover that I liked to work with numbers. I moved on to Worldwide Travel in 1992 as their bookkeeper/ comptroller / operations manager, and continued to learn how accounting worked. In late 2002 I went to the University of Phoenix to turn that old unfinished B.A. into a B.S. in Business/Accounting. After I got the degree in 2005, I found at job as a staff accountant for First Magnus, a mortgage company.

You can make numbers prettier, but that
doesn't change the underlying meaning.

If you see an unhappy ending to that part of the story, you're right. First Magnus crashed and burned, and so did Beaudry RV, where I worked after that. Even Worldwide Travel is gone now. But none of that is the fault of the numbers, all that financial data I entered, extracted, formatted and reported on for those companies. The numbers only reported on what was happening. They didn't cause what happened.

Numbers don't always make sense.

As I wait for (look for, and apply for) a job, I'm also back to studying accounting, this time with the CPA exam specifically in mind. There are times when I'm sleepy or bored or tired, and the numbers in the sample test questions I'm studying just don't make sense to me.

But there's almost always a correct answer to be found.
(Intermediate Accounting homework, dated March 2004.)

So I take a break, get a soda, check my email or whatever, and come back - and make the numbers tell me their secrets.

A quick note: these were all taken with my new Canon PowerShot SX110 IS, which I bought Friday after my Sony Cybershot decided not to turn on even with a fully charged battery. The old camera was sent off to a servicing center by the Geek Squad, because it turned out I bought a 4 year extended warranty for it back in late 2006. John isn't happy about the expense, but I can't go without a working camera, and not just because of these Challenges!

I got the new Canon for $199.99 ($30 under the sale price) at Best Buy, thanks to another customer who gave me a printout of an Office Depot ad, which Best Buy price matched. Bottom line: I got a midrange quality camera, better than a compact one and less awesome than an SLR, for far less than any other camera in that category, and less than I paid for the Cybershot in 2006. Next task: to learn to use it properly!

Oh, and all the special effects here, including negative, paint bucket and magic mirror, were done in my cheap/free photo editing software, ArcSoft PhotoStudio 5.

Now let's see what the other Robins did with numbers!

Linking List

Jill - Posted!
South Bay Soliloquy

Carly - Posted!

Karen - Posted!
Outpost Mâvarin

Monica - Posted!
Click Shots

Leslie - Posted!
Empty Nest

Sherrie - Posted!
Sherrie's Stuff

Karen - Posted!
In the Moment

Suzanne R - Posted!
SuzyQ421's Photo Blog

Jama - Posted!
Sweet Memories

Vicki - Posted!

Chris - Posted!
Camera Obscura RRC

Linda - Posted!
Mommy's Treasures

Marina - Posted!
visual chronicle

The Ellis Family Cincinnati

Karen **Welcome, New Member!***
A Georgia Angel

Teena - Posted!
It's all about me!

Connie - Posted!
Far Side of Fifty Photos

ellen b. - Posted!
The Happy Wonderer

Terri - Posted!
Ways I see the World

Gattina - Posted!
Keyhole Pictures

Molly Mavis - Posted!
Visual Dialogues

Mojo - Posted!
Why? What Have You Heard?

Jen**Welcome New Member** - Posted!
Cherish the Moments **Welcome New Member**

Rita - Posted!
Cashjocky and the Old Salt



Astaryth said...

Those are nice little cameras! I have a PowerShot A570IS, which I love. Your camera is way more powerful than it is :P I was in the market for a 'carry around' camera when I got it for when I didn't want to drag out the Rebel DSLR, so it is perfect for that use. You are going to love this model,I think, I have looked at it, and it has some nice bells and whistles.

Marina said...

Great post. Loved the story, I have to admit that when it comes to a job involving numbers I agree with you when you responded to your mom's suggestion :-).
Best of luck with your search for a job!

MyMaracas said...

Neat photos! I have a powershot too, and I'm still learning to use it. Congrats on getting yours at such a great price.

visualdialogues said...

Smart photos and nice dog.

I always freeze when I encounter maths. Never like the subject but I do remember phone #s very well...crazy, eh?

I value your comment as well. Do drop by....

Jill said...

Your accounting numbers remind me of that class I took in college... Scary! (But great idea)
And I do love the new camera. Congrats!

Carly said...

Hi Karen

I will never, ever know how you manage to speak perfect english, and juggle numbers just as well! I speak better english then I tend to write it... something always gets lost in the translation in my brain... but as for math or anything numbers related, well, let's just say the word REMEDIAL! LOL. Neat photos! Congratulations on the new camera, it looks like it will be a lot of fun. I have that photo editing software, or one similar by the same company, it's nice to work with!


Far Side of Fifty said...

All those numbers and columns..I am glad someone else can work with them..but not me! Great looking new camera! :)

Linda said...

I am currently taking a break from my tax return, so I'm feeling especially connected to the numbers right now!

Suzanne R said...

Wow, a great lesson on numbers and how to use them in ways that sometimes mystify me! ;-) Congrats on the new camera!

Yecap said...


What can I saw, my wife is an accountant and when she starts trying to explaing some concepts to me I find my mind wandering to more exciting things like photography.


Family Affair Photography said...

I was a night auditor for a hotel for several years. Luckily I had the computer to help me through it. More than anything I loved watching the people come and go and during the night shift, you saw some interesting things! :-) However, I also have to be honest that numbers and I have never had a great love for each other. Basic math is about the best you get out of me. Great entry for this challenge.


Wammy said...

You are speaking greek to me that is for sure.

Jama said...

I almost bought this camera until I read about Canon S5 is, and fell in love with it after trying it out at the store.

I used to work in hotel line, and during night shift I had to assist the night auditor, I tell it's no fun when the number doesn't tally!

Yecap said...

In relation to my entry, thanks for asking by the way, it is dew on the roof of my wife's car and then I drew the nymber five with my finger. It was very early in the morning and I think that is partly what gives the picture it's colour.