What we've been reading: Harry Potter, stress, Dark and CEOs

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Since you definitely haven’t noticed yet, it’s nearly Christmas. <insert jovial Christmas chat here>

Good, now that we’ve got the festive small talk out the way, let’s get on to something altogether more fun and exciting: What we’ve been reading.

Each week, the AccountingWEB editorial team open the portal into our minds to show you what we read/listen/watch in our spare time. We use the word ‘reading’ very loosely in this content series, apparently.

Richard –  Harry Potter and the portrait of what looked like a large pile of ash

Bots, everybody seems to have one these days. Software companies, in particular, have not been shy in parading their latest bot. This intelligent assistant trend was fully established at the Software Excellence Awards when Sage’s bot Pegg bagged the innovation of the year award.

As we’ve seen, AI is making huge leaps in the world of accounting, but for every Xero Messenger chatbot there are other examples of bots getting things wondrously wrong.

The team at Botnik, headed by former Clickhole head writer Jamie Brew, ran all seven Harry Potter books through its predictive text keyboard. Instead of a sure-fire JK Rowling barnburner, the result was absolutely bonkers.

If you’re clamouring for the latest episode in the Fantastic Beasts saga you should take a look at this joyously surreal Botnik Potter chapter.  

Harry Potter and the Portrait of What Looked Like a Large Pile of Ash begins: “Leathery sheets of rain lashed at Harry’s ghost as he walked across the grounds towards the castle. Ron was standing there and doing a kind of frenzied tap dance.”

But my highlight from the bot-generated fanfic was this doozy: “The pig of Hufflepuff pulsed like a large bullfrog. Dumbledore smiled at it, and placed his hand on its head: ‘You are Hagrid now.’”

Valme – Stress: The silent killer of dreams and a scientifically backed way to rewire your brain for success

Having a stressful day, week, month or life in general is considered to be completely normal in the world we live in. In the world of accountancy, dealing with clients, submissions, deadlines and the various compliance duties can easily trigger this uncomfortable feeling that can also lead to serious health problems.

In reality, stress is a “fight-or-flight” response that we still have in the modern world as an inherited trait from our early ancestors. Our ancestors wouldn’t have survived (and consequently we wouldn’t have existed) without it.

The pounding heart and quick breathing triggered by the adrenaline help the body oxygenate quicker and the muscles tense to prepare you to run. So, funnily enough, HMRC and your clients are triggering the same response in you than the attack of a lion.

But there is a solution. Various studies link meditation with changes in the grey matter of the brain, serving as an antidote against stress. So let’s leave behind the hippie stereotype of incense and chanting. Meditation deserves a second chance.

Francois –  Dark on Netflix

I don’t like Stranger Things, I’ve decided. The Netflix juggernaut is twee, syrupy and relies way too heavily on nostalgic signifiers for my taste. So I was a little dubious when I disinterestedly flicked on Dark two weekends ago.

On the surface, Netflix’s newest original drama looked very Stranger Things. But as I watched, a far more complex and adult narrative began to unfurl. For all the sci-fi and mystery genre trappings, the show is ultimately about grief and choice.

That sounds heavy – and it is – but Dark’s creators have managed to make it extremely watchable, all without dipping into the lazy ‘weren’t the 80s cool!’ trope.

Life pro tip: don’t watch the dubbed version. Watch Dark in the original, subtitled German for a richer, more textured experience. 

Tom –  When the rich said no to getting richer

50 years ago, a high-flying automobile executive in the States turned down several big annual bonuses because he believed that no executive should make more than $225,000 a year (almost $2m in today’s money).

The executive in question was George Romney, father of former Presidential candidate Mitt, and he did so partially due to his Mormon faith but also because of a culture of financial restraint that was once prevalent in the business world.

Published before the unveiling of the current US tax bill, this New York Times opinion piece provides an interesting perspective on the corporate mindset of the 1960s and how (and why) things have changed in the intervening half a century.

While it’s tough to sum up several generations’ worth of tax changes in 800 words, the piece is certainly a good jumping-off point for a wider debate around the role and effects of income and corporation tax.

About Francois Badenhorst


I'm AccountingWEB's business editor. Feel free to get in touch with comments, tips, scoops or irreverent banter. 


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