the corner office

a blog, by Colin Pretorius

Exam and smell

First one down. Not too bad (I'm trying not to sound too surprised).

UNISA's exam venue in London is a church hall in Kensington. For the past 4 years that I've been to the venue, there's been a particular kind of soap in the gents. It has a distinct smell. Some kind of flower. I recognise the smell, I like the smell, it takes me back somewhere.

Problem is, I quite literally mean somewhere because I can't place it. I get a whiff and it smells so familiar, and I try to picture myself smelling that smell in the past, hoping for a flashback. Home? School? Work somewhere? Someone's home? I have no idea and it bugs the hell out of me each year.

I'm tempted to spritz a sample to bring home and make all my friends and family smell it to see if they recognise it. I really wish I knew where that damned smell was from.

{2011.01.31 - 22:54} : Comments (0)


With all the things going on in the world at the moment, the 'Most Shared' article on the BBC news site right now is an article about a man, and a horse, and a jail sentence. That's all I'm saying.

{2011.01.30 - 10:34} : Comments (0)

I am an economist?

I identify very strongly with this but it's not a way to become popular in this world:

Old joke: Economist and non-economist are strolling in Manhattan. When they pass Carnegie Hall, the non-economist says wistfully to the economist, "You know, I’ve always wanted to learn to play the piano." The economist replies "obviously not."

I have an anecdote along these lines that was something of an eye-opener for me. But since I have exams looming, it'll have to wait.

Anyhoo, the source of that quote is well worth reading.

{2011.01.29 - 22:39} : Comments (1)

Priorities dammit

Who cares if they've charged someone? The really important question hasn't been answered yet. What happened to the pizza?

{2011.01.24 - 23:14} : Comments (0)

Sunday already

It's been a lovely week. I've been on study leave. I was quite diligent with some long-outstanding chores and made sure I was up to date with current affairs and had deep thoughts about current affairs and blogged some stuff and got a bit of studying done on the side. It's been a lovely week.

{2011.01.23 - 22:48} : Comments (0)


There is no easy answer to binge drinking and related social problems, but since that doesn't win elections, the whole country is being subjected to minimum prices on alcohol. In the news today, an expert has estimated that the planned changes will save only 21 lives a year (and naturally says the minimum price should be higher to save more lives). That is a sensitive point in my world, but let us move onto something else.

The article mentions that
two thirds of the public believe alcohol consumption is "out of control" nationally but those questioned were split evenly on whether the price of alcohol should increase.

I would suggest a different survey:

  1. should the price of alcohol be doubled, across the board, to tackle binge drinking?

  2. is alcohol consumption "out of control" nationally?

I'd put money on the fact that a survey asking those questions in that order would have the public emphatically stating that when it comes to alcohol misuse in the UK, there is no problem and that everything is hunky-feckin-dory, thank you very much.

{2011.01.19 - 09:36} : Comments (0)

Do you understand?

I am not in favour of sharing too much info with Facebook, but if you explicitly agree to give away your data and are not being misled then caveat subscriptor, if you ask me. Some dude from Sophos disagrees:

Right now Facebook is not obliged to force its users to understand what they are signing up to.

How do you "force" someone to understand what they are signing up to?

It reminds me of one of my favourite Simpsons clips:

{2011.01.17 - 16:18} : Comments (0)

On bonuses

These are various points on the bonus brouhaha.

  • It's inconsistent that many of the people who get most upset if you point out that incentives matter when it comes to social welfare, unemployment benefits, free medical care, schooling, etc, are the quickest to condemn bankers' bonuses because of the 'risks.' You can't have it both ways.

  • Incentive is one thing, how much impact it had is another. So far there's little evidence and what has been found is contradictory or goes against the 'conventional wisdom' entirely (read the paper and chase that citation around Google scholar for a bit if you don't believe me - for example this and this and this). The point is not that bonuses aren't bad or dangerous, just that the anti-bonus brigade's certainty is not justified and at least a chunk of the evidence points to them being plain wrong.

  • People hear the word 'bonus' and then the brain stops working. If you're earning 20k a year and get a 40k annual bonus, noone would say you're earning 20k a year, you're earning 60k. If you only get a 10k bonus the year after, you've taken a 30k pay cut. How many other labour markets have that much price variability?

  • I'll bet most people who bitch about bankers have no idea what bankers actually do. I'll bet half the 'bankers' earning big bonuses have no clue what the other half do. And if you don't know, you can't even *begin* to pretend to have an informed opinion about whether a person is worth their (annual) income or not.

  • The only people who should have an opinion are shareholders. Shareholders get the profits helped by a good bonus policy (whatever that is) and should bear the losses incurred by a bad bonus policy (whatever that is). If shareholders don't like their company's bonus system but lack the power to change it, then that's something that should be fixed. But then the problem isn't bankers, it's the government's crap company law, and the government can and should fix it.

{2011.01.15 - 15:56} : Comments (0)

Stuff I learned today

Not that I ever have, but now I know. If you type with two spaces between sentences you're doing it wrong. (via).

That article has over 1200 comments at the moment. I guess people feel very strongly about two spaces.

{2011.01.15 - 04:23} : Comments (0)

The problem with Quality Street

... is that as you get closer to the end of the tin, pickings become ever slimmer and your positive disposition towards the product becomes increasingly less so, such that by the end you're cursing the bastards for putting so many Strawberry Ughs and Orange Blehs into the mix in the first place.

{2011.01.14 - 17:43} : Comments (0)

46th digit

And finally this, which brightened my train ride home immensely:

If you're going to be sacked, you may as well do it this way. An employee form by Domino's Pizza is making its way around the internet.

It reads: XX "came to work intoxicated on unknown substance possibly of hallucinogenic nature. Referred to customers as bovine and porcine'. After a customer complained he told her to go straddle a narwhal, you chlorinated gene pool'. Was removed from customer service to pizza-cutting area, where he wrote messages to customers concerning the nature of pi'. He became frustrated when he could only recite pi' to the 46th digit. When told to go home, he smeared lava cake mix over his face and yelled I'm Rick James, bitch'. He was not rostered for any shift today."

The "action to be taken" is, unsurprisingly, "termination".

{2011.01.13 - 16:05} : Comments (0)


KPMG offering bursaries. Which is exactly how I was able to go to university, 20 years ago. And had a job when I came out.

Mr Tant says this will be a "major new departure" for the accountancy firm, which he thinks could "establish a new trend of the private sector helping to meet the costs of tertiary education".


{2011.01.13 - 15:45} : Comments (1)

Thee first 2011 bike ride

Today was the first bike ride of 2011. I've only ridden a handful of times this winter... just too damned cold. But I bought the final bits of winter clothing over Christmas, and today I got to try them out. Buff for the neck and lower face, ear-covering beanie for the noggin, and big bulky overshoes to keep my tootsies dry and warm. Pickings are slim when you have size 13 feet, and I'm reduced to wearing an overpriced pair of what look like a cross between Ugg boots and crime scene slippers.

Still, I was warm enough and now I have no excuses. Given how much fitness I've lost and how tender the pressure points are feeling, I'd say 'yay' but that would be a lie.

{2011.01.11 - 15:49} : Comments (0)

Sharing the load

I linked to something similar before. The top 1% of UK earners are projected to pay 26% of all income tax this year.

You can hate bankers and bosses (and footballers and movie stars) all you like but if they weren't around there'd be plenty more tax to be paid by the rest of us.

{2011.01.10 - 18:06} : Comments (0)

Kid can count

"What's in your hand, Leo?"


"Aaaah," (spying the 10p coin), "and how much money have you got there?"

"One money"

{2011.01.08 - 16:23} : Comments (0)

The case of the one-socked corpse

The coverage of the Joanna Yeates murder case has been off-putting from the get-go. At the point where we're now being treated to photographs of socks, and speculation about what may have been done with the sock, I think it is safe to say that the media are well and truly fscking the cat. Enough already.

{2011.01.05 - 16:06} : Comments (0)

Rail fare increases and taxes

VAT rise and transport increases. Taxes suck but what can you do? Transport costs are another thing entirely. Makes me so cross I feel like going out and investing in SouthEastern (and then going to shareholders' meetings and ranting. And collecting all those loverly dividends).

But seriously though. There was an article recently saying that the state subsidises half of all rail travel. So instead of being angry about my share of my monthly transport bill going up, I'll just say thanks to any and all UK taxpayers reading this for helping me out with the other half. I'm not sure why I deserve your generosity, but you're very kind!

{2011.01.04 - 16:22} : Comments (0)

2010 and 2011

Pedantry aside, 2010 came and went, very quickly for me. It was a good year, all told. I cycle-commuted lots, and shed a few pounds. I cut my hair and got respectable. I had a great job, then got another great job. There was lots of snow in Jan/Feb and Nov/Dec. These made 2010 a good year, as years go.

On the down side, I studied and studied and studied, and studied and studied, and studied and studied and studied. Part of me enjoys it; it's been satisfying when I haven't been feeling utterly thick and out of my depth, but it's also started getting a Bit Much. In fact, I've had about enough of it. The perpetual state of working or feeling guilty about not working is a place I've been before and I don't like being there now. I bit off a bit more than I've been able to chew, and I'll be glad when it's over.

And for 2011? Exams soon, bah. If those go well then I've got 2 subjects left for 2011 and they'll be less stressful. Studies aside, no great plans. Slow down a little, relax more, get on top of the admin, keep cycling, floss more. The usual.

{2011.01.03 - 13:20} : Comments (0)

Happy New Decade!

It works like this...

  • End of Year 1 AD - ooh, a year since Jesus was born (hypothetically).

  • End of Year 2 AD - ooh, 2 years since Jesus was born.

  • End of Year 9 AD - ooh, 9 years since Jesus was born.

  • End of Year 10 AD - ooh, 10 years since Jesus was born. End of the the first decade! Yay!

  • End of Year 2010 AD - end of the 201st decade. Anybody? Anybody?

Now we can quibble about the days that got dropped from the calendar yadda yadda, but from a sheer I-can-count-to-2000 correctness point of view, I'm bound to mark what is (no matter how much less fun it is to see a 0 turning into a 1 than than seeing a 9 into a 0), the passing of another decade.

I'll save the my-how-the-year's-flown-by stuff for another post.

{2011.01.01 - 17:27} : Comments (2)

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