Just an average girl.

It takes me on average…
4 attempts to get a recipe right
And an hour to fall asleep at night
5 trips to recall how to navigate
The confusing roads of the interstate
3 days a week I’ll be wearing a dress
Thirteen-hundred is my rating for chess
You can tell me your name, just say it twice
But once is enough if you’re really nice

Down with the flu & there’s not much to do. . .

Being sick sucks. Especially in summer. While everyone else is enjoying themselves on the beach and indulging in cocktails, I’m cooped up in my flat all by my lonesome, feeling sorry for myself. Until I discovered the brilliance of Awkward. It is far from the featherbrained display we normally associate with MTV shows.

Awkward is a funny, coming of age show about a girl who struggles with her identity as well as her feelings for the 2 boys in her life. The cliched premise is overwritten by the unique nature of the characters. I finished 2 season in 2 days, and couldn’t wait for more.

The main character, Jenna, is quirky, smart, and totally weird. Bad luck follows her like a plague, which I identify with a lot. Here’s the trailer for season 2:

PS. Forgot to mention, it features an Asian that is not Annoying. That get bonus points in my book.

Bad Luck, Worse Luck.

These past few weeks have been rather depressing. It feels like all the bad luck I’ve been accumulating since birth just exploded in my face. It all started with me losing my bag at Clifton. On the one hand, I should have been more careful; on the other hand I feel like I shouldn’t /have/ to be more careful. My absent-mindedness does not entitle people to exercise their kleptomaniac tendencies and the fact that it is such a common occurrence highlights one of the biggest drawbacks of living in an otherwise beautiful city.

Replacing all my keys was a bit of a bother. Luckily I managed to get everything sorted with the help of my friends :) I was a bit wary of blogging about losing my car keys because my overly-paranoid mind kept on thinking “What if the person was trolling the internet looking for someone who’d lost her keys at Moonstruck”? Dun dun dunn.

Soon after losing my keys, my glasses broke (due to a fault that’s not entirely my own). I spent ages looking for new frames on Saturday and couldn’t find any to my liking. The problem with Asian faces is that our noses are too flat to support the frames, so I always end up in one of two situations: 1) They sit so far down my nose that I look like a granny 2) They’re so close to my eyes that my eyelashes brush against the lenses. Sigh. I attempted to superglue the frames together but I have a sneaky suspicion that the lens is too big for the frame.

Last night, I thought I’d be a good domesticated girl and finish my ironing… and it ended up a rather holey experience. I don’t know how it happened, really. I was paying attention but alas, ironing (and house chores in general) is simply not my métier. I then spent a good quarter of an hour scraping the melted material off my iron -while it was still plugged in-. Probably not the best course of action… I blame Andy Pandy for the ill advice.

Chance to win (for me, not you)

I’ve been following (somewhat religiously) this really cool, awesome, and thought-provoking blog called You Are Not So Smart. The owner of the site has since published a book (actually, I’m not sure if it’s published or if it’s still in the pipeline) but the point is, as part of his promotional strategy, he is giving away something FOR FREE. From Think Geek no less!

Not really sure what this is, or does, but it's marked $99.99 - Hell yeah, I want one (if it's free)! Hmm, wonder if the geek's included? :p

Now, I’m sure you all know how much I adore free things. They make me *happy* – more so than chocolates and smoothies (individually, not together… obviously). In order to qualify for an entry to winning this Free Thing, I have to embed his book trailer (I had no idea such a thing even existed until today but I digress) in my blog. The trailer isn’t badly made. In fact, I really appreciate how it brings up the dialogue, because the person voicing it pronounces “because” and “want” in a really obscure manner. (I’m allowed to make fun of his accent because I have one too, so nobody can call me accentist, or something.)

Anyways, not to be sidetracked, this post is dedicated to my minute chance at winning the Free Thing.

Edit: Oops, almost forgot to embed that video. *doh* Here it is:

New York’s attorney general, Andrew Cuomo, has filed a lawsuit against Ernst & Young (one of the Big Four auditing firms) over the collapse of Lehman Brothers. The civil case is built on claims of professional negligence and it seeks damages equalling all the audit fees E&Y has earned from Lehman ($150m) plus an unspecified amount. While the penalty itself is of insignificant magnitude (it is less than one percent of E&Y’s global revenue and will most likely be covered by insurance), the action highlights a rather contentious issue – that of an auditor’s liability.

Deep-pocketed auditors often serve as scapegoats because there is little chance of wrangling money out of those who are truly responsible. Should the case go to trial, the jury’s behaviour will be (at best) unpredictable. Their lack of understanding of the technical nature of the case at hand, fuelled by the emotional baggage that still lingers in the aftermath of the financial crises, coupled with the outrage at having to serve jury duty in the first place does not bode well for the auditors.

Auditors are commonly perceived as the watch dogs of the financial world. They recount bricks and pennies, and are paid quite handsomely for doing so. However, they are not detectives. Their primary role is not to prevent or detect fraud. Auditors are paid to express an opinion – not a guarantee – that the financials are fairly presented in all material aspects. The International Standards on Auditing (S 240) require auditors to obtain reasonable assurance (as opposed to absolute assurance) that the financial statements are free from material misstatements. I think this is the part that most people fail to recognize and accept.

The Lehman Brothers used Repo 105 to temporarily undermine its liabilities and reduce leverage long enough to ensure that the balance sheet does not look out of place to its investors. This methodology is in line with the American Generally Accepted Accounting Principles and complies with America’s Financial Accounting Standards Board. Ernst & Young has since been criticized for approving the Repo 105 transactions without examining enough transactions. In retrospect, perhaps they should have paid closer attention. However, one must keep in mind the size of Lehman Brothers and the number of transactions it processes on a daily basis. Auditors are not super-humans. With limited manpower, it is impossible to examine every transaction and scrutinize every detail.

If there is anything to be learned, it is that the accounting standards must be revised to ensure creative accounting maneuvers are kept to a minimum. The last thing we need is another Enron* debacle and the fall of a Big Four.

*Enron was an American energy, commodities, and services company that used special purpose entities to “cook the books”. Its bankruptcy also saw the demise of its auditors, Arthur Andersen, who used to be one of the Big Five audit firms.

Bargaining 101

Ever seen the advert where a Chinese man asks a store-keeper for a discount on a R1.50 lollipop? Well, that’s exactly how markets in China operate. Cash is no longer king. It’s all about negotiations and how well you can talk yourself into a cheaper deal. So if you ever plan on visiting China, keep these tips in mind before you start harassing the sales rep for discounts.

1)      Don’t be afraid to ask for a discount. Even if (in your mind) you are already getting a huge bargain, chances are you can still drive down the asking price by a significant amount. Don’t be embarrassed either. If you get yelled at, console yourself with the fact that no matter what happens, you are still infinitely better than the person in front of you who makes minimum wage selling sweatshop clothing to needy buyers.

2)      Always do your research. Have an inkling of a clue of what the market price is. Don’t compare the prices with what you would have paid back home and don’t convert the currency. (If you must, convert using purchasing power parity, not the nominal exchange rate.)

3)      Never announce your budget. Ask the sales assistant what the lowest price she is willing to give you and that will serve as a benchmark for the bargaining. Rest assured that the “lowest” price quoted to you is far from the lowest price set by the owner/manager.

4)      Examine the items. My cousin asked for a coffee table to be delivered to her home. After assembling all the pieces, she pointed out several flaws which ranged from a slightly scratched surface to some discolouration that was hardly noticeable. In the end, they only charged her the delivery and assembly fees. Obviously this tactic won’t work for everything, but it’s nice to know that if all else fails, you could set fire to the fabric and claim based on poor quality. (j/k)

5)      Buy more, pay less. As a rule of thumb, if you purchase many items, you can generally get a bigger discount than if you only purchase one. Also, tell them you’ll bring your friends and extended family there even if you don’t have any; free word-of-mouth advertising is rarely turned down.

6)      Take acting lessons. Often times, you will be up against a sales rep who is even more hard headed than you are. In which case, threaten to leave and take your business elsewhere. The more dramatic your faux exit, the better. Of course, don’t actually leave the premises if you really want to buy that fancy gadget. If the rep doesn’t stop you then it is safe to assume that she won’t lower her price any further. That’s when you know you’ve hit the mark.

7)  Finally, if you don’t speak the language, take someone who can.

Hope these tips helped :)