What we've been reading: Hockey accountant, coffee, and Oxford commaby
Welcome to what we've been reading, the AccountingWEB editors weekly round up of the stories that have caught their attention.
This week, we've read interesting stories involving ice hockey accountants, coffee, Raymond Carver, and the Oxford comma. Although some of these stories include an accounting angle, it's not strictly about accounting.
But this isn't just about us, we want to hear from you! What kind of online book club would this be if we were the only ones reading? So what have you been reading? Comment below with your recommendations.
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It’s not every day a crowd of 20,000 chants an accountant's name. But this actually happened last week after an Illinois-based accountant stepped onto the ice as the emergency goalie for the Blackhawks ice hockey team.
Earlier that day, Scott Foster had been sat at his computer putting in his shift as an accountant. But the 36 year-old's evening took a radical turn. His usual emergency goalie routine consists of eating free food in the press box, but when a nasty bout of cramp in the third period meant the Blackhawks was without a goalie, the accountant skated on with 14 minutes left in the game.
The Blackhawks were 6-2 ahead at that point. But with his formidable opponents, the Winnipeg Jets, coming off a six-game winning streak even the accountant couldn’t forecast a victory.
But as an accountant's job is to manage risk and uncertainty, the Blackhawks couldn’t have picked a more qualified emergency goalie. The accountant deployed his risk management skills as soon as he took his position in front of the net. A puck came hurtling towards him, but he blocked the strike. And then another. And another.
When the game wrapped up Foster had blocked seven goal attempts. As his Blackhawks teammates congratulated him and the crowd idolised him, the commentators named Foster the most valuable player.
The adulation from the fans and the team makes a stark contrast from the occasional mumbled ‘thanks’ he must get in his day job from his clients.
“This is something that no one can ever take away from me,” he said after the game. “It’s something that I can go home and tell my kids.”
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Drinking coffee is one of the first things many people do when they get to the office. As revealed in our weekly Small Change series, accountants such as Geoff Britton from GBAC Ltd or Charlie Carne kickstart the day with a cup of coffee.
This small act is so well embedded in our daily lives that it is not often that we question its possible effects on us, besides the obvious enhanced state of alert and wakefulness. But drinking coffee has a number of benefits, including protection against Parkinson disease and diabetes.
The bad news is it could also increase the chances of cancer because of its content in acrylamide, a substance that appears during the process of coffee roasting.
Of course, acrylamide is also present in many other roasted and toasted things that we often eat, yet brown toast doesn’t seem to be as demonised as the beverage. Perhaps because of this, many people consider the possible cancer warning displays in coffee shops in California to be an extreme measure.
I don’t know about you, but I think I will ignore the warning for now. If there’s anything certain, as one of the sharp comments of the original article states, is that life causes death. That one is for sure.
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A grammar/pay dispute crossover from across the pond this week, and the curious case of Oakhurst Dairy. The US Court of Appeal has ruled that a missing comma in the state of Maine’s overtime laws means that Oakhurst will have to fork out $5m in overtime to their delivery drivers.
The case began in 2014 when three truck drivers sued the Portland-based dairy for what they said was four years’ worth of overtime pay they had been denied. Maine law requires time-and-a-half pay for each hour worked after 40 hours, but the following activities did not count for overtime pay:
“The canning, processing, preserving, freezing, drying, marketing, storing, packing for shipment or distribution of:
(1) Agricultural produce;
(2) Meat and fish products; and
(3) Perishable foods.
The drivers argued that due to a lack of a comma between “packing for shipment” and “or distribution”, the law refers to the single activity of “packing”, not to “packing” and “distribution” as two separate activities. As the drivers distribute – but do not pack – the goods, this would make them eligible for overtime pay.
A district court had previously ruled in Oakhurst’s favour, but the appeals judge sided with the drivers, and the state laws have since been amended.
The missing comma in question is known to grammar aficionados as the Oxford or serial comma, and is used before the words “and” or “or” in a list of three or more things to clarify sentences in which things are listed.
By way of example, language website Grammarly points out that the sentences “I love my parents, Lady Gaga and Humpty Dumpty” and “I love my parents, Lady Gaga, and Humpty Dumpty” are a little different. Without a comma, it looks like the parents in question are, in fact, Lady Gaga and Humpty Dumpty.
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Francois: The Carver Chronicles
One from the archives: Here’s D.T. Max’s explosive literary expose of Raymond Carver and his relationship with his editor Gordon Lish.
Bet that’s the first time you’ve read the phrase: “explosive literary expose”. I stumbled across this story late one night, and I simply couldn’t stop reading it. Written in 1998 by D.T. Max, a noted biographer of literary figures, the story chronicles the enmity that developed between two fascinating characters.
Carver’s famous short stories, it emerges, are really the product of two minds. Lish’s heavy editing - which went as far as rewriting endings - altered Carver’s early collections for the better.
Years later, an older, embittered Lish stews over the credit he never received. While Carver, who died in 1988, enjoys a prominent position in American letters. This story is about more than these two men, though.
It’s about friendship, and how it can end. It’s about death, the nature of creative ownership, and how we consume culture. What starts out as a bourgie literary spat becomes a vector for so much more.
Now it's your turn. What have you been reading. Have you read something interesting about the profession or just something you'd like to share.