Thursday, July 22, 2010

Myself a week ago

It was a week ago and I was on the Green Line headed into work. I had a final exam in Econ that night. It would have been nice to have a boring day at work during which I could redo the most recent problem set for the third time and re-read the chapter on Keynesian multipliers for the fifth time, but as luck would have it, I had 250 or so quarterly reports to string together that day. In fact, if it hadn't been quarterly report day I would have been at home stressing and obsessing in peace. But it *was* quarterly report day, so in to work I went.

I do not, as a rule, allow myself to wish it was a later date-for who should wish any part of their life-even final exams away? (A case might however be made for stomach flus, severe hangovers migraines or anything else involving severe pain, but that's it.) However, as I sat on the trolley I was feeling impatient with the Green Line for moving so slowly (delaying the start of my unpleasant but necessary day) I felt a queasy but familiar feeling in my stomach.

This must be how superheros who are reluctant to use their super powers must feel (the ones who can turn into a werewolf or an atomic bomb, but only at great pain or the ones who can turn themselves invisible but feel like they've got bees in their ears if they do). I knew I had what it would take to get through the day okay and I also knew that it would be no fun at all.

I had already done the most recent Econ problem set three times. I was pretty sure that during the course of the day, even though I was processing quarterlies I'd have a chance to do it a fourth time. I had gotten as much as possible out of my notes (for a change they weren't very good notes so this was not much of a feat) and I'd read the relevant chapters in the book a few times (this was not very productive either-the book is terrible and I only considered it as a last resort because my notes were not helpful.) So by the time I sat down to take the test I would have done all that I could do to learn the material.

Quarterly report processing, while unpleasant (It doesn't matter if I put a sign up on my cubicle saying I'm not to be bothered-my boss will come in and bother me anyways. The result is, to paraphrase Stephen King, like trying to put together dynamite with someone clashing cymbals near by and administering electric shocks to you at irregular intervals) is something I've done often enough that I could probably do a good job of it even if I had to do it at three AM on two hours sleep.

Dealing with both of these situations together (school stress + quarterly reporting stress) is a relatively new phenomenon. Last term I lost my wallet because of the combination. This term I got through it okay. As I projected it wasn't fun. The software that mashes together performance reports, invoices commentary and cover sheets* broke twice. I did exchange rate at AE (aggregate expenditure, or GDP in Keynes's model) calculations while it was broken while waiting for tech support to call me back. I calmly explained to my boss that yes it was broken, but I knew why and it was probably a quick fix (I could have fixed the problem myself but I didn't want to muck around in the code-let the people who wrote it do that--it's what we pay them for) and that yes in fact, there was no one else I could call to demand that they fix the problem.

When I'd done all the problems I could possibly do, I read Paul Krugman's blog. This came in handy as there was a question about "hardcore Keynesians" and the liquidity trap on the exam.) And then I left work to go deal with that Econ exam thing.

This was also no fun at all, but nothing I couldn't handle. When I finished I walked to the Red Line instead of waiting for the shuttle bus while singing Voi che Sapete to myself.

*the reason we have software to do this is that financial reporting is messy. We need to send Ms. X her reports and her nephew's reports and her mom's trust fund report. We also need to send the accountant her mom's report-but not her reports and not the invoice for her mom's trust and we need to send her sister her nephew's account only. Humans are bad at getting this sort of thing done--especially if there are other humans jumping up and down and demanding to know if it's done yet. Software is great at this sort of thing.

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