Animation using PowerPoint [Article]

Before you start frothing at the mouth about the worst possible thing in a PowerPoint is animation (it is), take a moment to read through this instruction guide by Cole Nussbaumer using Excel, PowerPoint & QuickTime player. Not an easy task, but it can be done (especially for those of us not familiar with more advanced graphing tools) – and makes the story a lot more powerful.

Excelling in Economics [Article]

Carmen Reinhart & Ken Rogoff, the two economists who influenced the “austerity drive” that most Western governments, predominantly the US, have been enforcing in the last three or so years, made an error in their calculations in a spreadsheet. “How much unemployment did Reinhart and Rogoff’s arithmetic mistake cause? asks Dean Baker, in the Guardian

If facts mattered in economic policy debates, this should be the cause for a major reassessment of the deficit reduction policies being pursued in the United States and elsewhere. It should also cause reporters to be a bit slower to accept such sweeping claims at face value.

An Excel-lent Debacle: A Microsoft contribution to its ignorant users in the finance world [Article]

Microsoft’s Excel is the glue that sort of holds the world together. Most finance folks know this already, but in case you don’t, here are two recent articles expose the extent of the influence that Excel has in the banking system & how dramatic the results are of reliance on spreadsheet models. The first article is about Excel’s contribution to the London Whale trading debacle, & the second is a comment thread on YCombinatior.

An Excel-lently well done product [Links]

I spend most of my work day – & quite a lot of leisure time – on Microsoft’s Excel, A product that has its origins in Lotus-1-2-3. Dan Bricklin, the creator of VisiCalc, which was then pushed out of its numero-uno spot by Mitch Kapor‘s Lotus-1-2-3 shares some very interesting thoughts on its 30th anniversary, on a product that holds most of the world together (Doubt that? find out what your company uses to do any analysis!) He shares some rare footage from the time too (no one does the dance moves any more though!!)

Big Data is Just Data, Why Excel “Sucks”, and 1,000 Miles of Data « PowerPivotPro

Feel free to glaze over this one, Why Excel sucks. I admit I’m an Excel nerd, and this may appeal to you if you understand or have experienced the “challenges” of working with dramatically changing reporting needs & multiply source data files. Hope is at hand, if you haven’t already heard of PowerPivot.

Learn to Code

No, this isn’t a resolution based on an arbitrary point in time.

It is the antipodal of a resolution that was made many many moons ago, when I was a student  at school. It was a resolution firmly based in ignorance, that I’d never need to learn about/ to use computers, forget to code. It was 1992, & computers then probably cost the school a fortune. There were fewer than 2 places which had computers – those big machines which needed a home in a frigid room (a difficult venture considering power supply of about 8 hours a day, with arbitrary power cuts by the powers-that-be). I was one of two idiots (as I see the decision now) who refused to have anything to do with those beastly machines, or to get into the cold, hallowed chambers where those machines & their juice-supplying brethren  were grandly housed!

For over 9 years after that, I had very little to do with computers (why would I when they looked something like this ugly beast??), save a boneheaded decision to type del* in DOS at the behest of some learned companion on a prized possession of a pompous-ass rich-dad brat  [another story best forgotten, several lessons very well learnt].

Story made short, my re-vocation in accounting & finance made it absolutely imperative to learn to locate the power-on switch on the wretched x386 (no mean feat for me, made horribly worse that I would usually be the one to open up the office), get familiar with MS Excel (the glue that holds most firms together, despite claims by more sophisticated applications to be otherwise), patch up a network, connect & install printers, build & rebuild computers (Good heavens, how do I open this box???), install accounting applications, then other applications, train people less familiar than I was to use computers (found out that such a breed does exist! I was one too!!!) etc etc etc.

I looked on enviously as colleagues, friends etc did magic with their programming skills, finishing work quicker & having enough time to have a beer/ coffee/ smoke, while my longhand way of working meant I had no time for any of those vices – or a life outside of those long hours at work.

I’ve been teaching myself some VBA programming, getting help from some of the best in the Excel VBA business ( MVP’s all.. Dick Kusleika, ChandooJohn Walkenbach, Debra Dalgleish, Bill Jelen, Mike Alexander, Jon Peltier via their books/ websites/ blogs/ podcasts etc) for a couple of years now, hacking/ copy-pasting together enough code to allow me to hasten the delivery of the reports-that-no-one-needs-or-reads-but-must-be-on-my-desk-in-20-minutes & get out of the cell (pun intended) of work in time to see the sunset or walk on the beach or to play with my kids.

When Fred Wilson posted this on his site as his New Year’s resolution, I jumped at the opportunity to learn another languages, just to keep the grey cells grey; registered for this course, & am on my way to confound the daylights out of me. But I’m making some progress, or so I think.

Program or be programmed.
I choose the former.
Good luck to me.