A $610 Million Burning Cash Pile

Tuesday, Sep 21, 2021

OK, it’s done. The least meaningful election in our nation’s history is over and we can get back to fighting this pandemic. What an enormous waste of time.

We, as taxpayers, collectively spent $610 million on this election to ensure Mr. Trudeau could gain a single seat over what he won in 2019.

That’s $610 million that could have been put towards transfer payments for ICU beds, or clean drinking water, or a steaming housing crisis. Instead, we had to stomach 3 mainstream politicians make promises they can’t keep for 5 straight weeks.

Now, $610 million is probably an eye roll and giggle for my American friends. The 2020 American election cost a whopping $14 billion. We’d need to have an election every 6 weeks to catch that rate of spending.

But this doesn’t change the fact that our time was wasted. That there are bigger things to worry about. That our governing bodies are effectively unchanged from the middle of August when the election was called.

Our prime minister’s vanity election is over. Canadians slapped his wrist for calling such a stupid election. Canadians slapped the Conservatives for forgetting their conservative roots. And Canadians proved they are looking for an alternative to the two mainstream parties — Jagmeet Singh’s performance may be the most intriguing element of this election, while the PPC’s vote-splitting tactics effectively wiped out any Conservative chance at victory.

I’m glad we’re finished with the charade. It’s time to get back to work to ensure this pandemic ends before the next election is called.

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Hook for Mac

Monday, Sep 20, 2021

School is finished. I have no intention to return for quite some time. I’ve thrown out paperwork, changed workflows, and developed new habits over the summer.

One of those habits is the Mac.

I’ve seen quite a shift in my iPad use over the last few months. Before, I’d leave the office iMac and spend all evening studying on an iPad. Now, the iPad has become a leisure-first device. I read, browse, and share (and edit photos — dang the iPad is still so good for editing photos) from my iPad in the evenings. I still work some on the iPad. Just not as much as before.

When it’s time to work right now, the Mac has made a comeback in my life.

There are many little workflows I’m preferring on the Mac right now. One is the ability to use Hook, a deep-linking app that works only on the Mac.

In short form, Hook enables you to copy a link to files, emails, tasks, PDFs, photos, webpages, and more with a simple keyboard shortcut. That link can then be pasted anywhere, providing a quick and easy method to jump into what you need. The app has been around for awhile, but I’ve only recently begun my exploration.

So far, I’ve used Hook for:

  • Linking emails to tasks in Things
  • Linking tasks in Things to event notes in Fantastical
  • Linking files, tasks, and events to Craft

As tax season draws ever nearer, I see Hook having a greater impact in documentation-tracking for each client return. In a summary sheet, I could quickly copy and paste links to specific tax documentation in a client’s file. Then, if I needed to find something, I could look through the summary sheet links rather than using Finder’s not-so-trusty search field.

We’ll see how things go — my experimentation is in its infancy. I’m also not totally wild about this being a Mac-only workflow. There are times in the evening when I’m at home reading or browsing where I’d like to access these links on my iPad. As things are right now, that workflow doesn’t work.

How I Studied for the Common Final Exam (CFE) and Placed on the Honour Roll

Friday, Sep 17, 2021

Active Recall and flashcards were key to my success on the CPA Canada Common Final Exam (CFE).

Each person studies differently. Each person comprehends differently. I won’t pretend I have all the answers to how you should study for CPA Canada’s Common Final Exam (CFE). I did, however, pass the CPA Canada CFE on the Honour Roll. Honour Roll recipients score in the top 1% of all exam writers. It’s probably the biggest achievement of my life. There were only 6 individuals on the Honour Roll list across Canada.

It took until after receiving my results to discover a flourishing Reddit community of CFE candidates. There are scores of subreddits of candidates exchanging ideas, asking each other questions, and providing valuable study tips.

I’m not sure if it was a blessing or a curse to discover this Reddit culture after I wrote the CFE. There are many good study tips in Accounting Reddit, but there are also some very bad tips.

Here’s how I studied for the CPA Canada Common Final Exam and how I placed in the top 1% of writers nationwide.

Active Recall

Back in January 2021 (six months before the three-day exam), I spent a weekend researching how to study. I didn’t research study tips and tricks. I didn’t research essential habits to adopt.

I researched how to study.

Being in the geekier part of the Apple tech world, I follow Ali Abdaal pretty closely. Abdaal is a doctor in the United Kingdom who has one of the useful Youtube channels available for students and exam writers. You can discover all sorts of amazing productivity hacks, efficient workflows, and study tricks on Abdaal’s channel.

Abdaal discusses the idea of Active Recall on both his YouTube channel and his website. His definition of Active Recall is as follows:

Active recall involves retrieving information from memory through, essentially, testing yourself at every stage of the revision process. The very act of retrieving information and data from our brains not only strengthens our ability to retain information but also improves connections in our brains between different concepts.

So, as you’re reading, highlighting, and note-taking, it is imperative to retrieve what you’ve stored in your brain.

And you need to retrieve that information over, and over, and over, until it’s instant. You need to actively recall information from all parts of your brain.

Doing this requires practice, repetition, and endless self-testing.

AnkiApp

Abdaal provides a few different strategies to help you use Active Recall in your studies. The method I chose to utilize was AnkiApp, a flashcard app designed for the iPhone and iPad that uses algorithms to help you study. AnkiApp tracks your flashcard performance based on your own self-ratings and works you through your card decks until you’re an ace at each flashcard.

AnkiApp provides you a grade based on how you've scored yourself on each flashcard.

The concept is very, very simple really. AnkiApp tests you 10 cards at a time. Those 10 cards are algorithmically ordered. The set will produce cards until you tell AnkiApp the flashcard is easy. Then the app will put that card on the back-burner while you are tested on other cards. AnkiApp will still resurface the cards you’ve already aced, just to keep you fresh.

Creating flashcards in AnkiApp is pretty easy. Word-based flashcards are provided to candidates as study tools. I spent about an hour in early January copying the front and back of each flashcard in the provided Word document and pasting the information into AnkiApp. I did this in AnkiApp’s web app (best used in Google Chrome), as it was the easiest way to multi-task between Word and AnkiApp. When finished, the flashcards synced to the iPad app.

When reviewing, the "front" of the card showcases the topic. Tapping "Flip" flips over to the back of the card, where the answer is revealed and where you can rank your knowledge of the topic.

AnkiApp isn’t a free app, but it’s the next best thing to free. Accounting Reddit suggests candidates pay tutors and study coaches huge money for extra courses to guide them through CFE studying. While I can’t attest to the success of those third-party courses, I can attest to the cost.

Gevorg CPA’s CFE Review course costs $797. AnkiApp costs just $13.

Flashcards were the key to my success on the CFE. They harnessed the power of Active Recall and ensured I knew every topic like the back of my hand. I responded to two specific issues in the Day 2 case with verbatim text from the flashcards provided in the CFE study tools.

Schedule

I won’t get into details regarding how you should structure your study days. Some folks have families to take care of while studying. Others are able to take time off work to focus on their studies. I had to schedule around the lives of a 1.5 year old and a 3.5 year old who needed dad-time each night.

But I read countless Accounting Reddit posts of candidates sitting down to study two weeks before the CFE. Two weeks. Perhaps the folks who studied for two weeks were able to pass. Perhaps all my extra effort was for nothing.

But I began working through flashcards in January for the end-of-May CFE. As soon as flashcards were available as part of Capstone 1, I began the process of converting them into AnkiApp cards and studying them each night. For the most part, for 15 minutes each day, I’d stare at my iPad screen and test myself.

Of course, there was other studying going on as well. You have to read the eBooks. You have to write the practice cases.

But the flashcards dialled in all those topics. In many cases, the flashcards introduced topics for study. Then I’d come across them in my eBook reading. Then I’d come across them in the practice cases in Capstone 2. And finally, I’d review them over and over and over again in AnkiApp.

I won’t tell you that you need to start studying five months ahead of time. But that’s how I did it. And I had good success.

Wrap Up

I had no idea courses like Gevorg even existed until after I received my results for the Common Final Exam. Clearly, these courses have great success in producing successful candidates. These courses are expensive, but will increase your chances at successfully passing the CFE.

I went my own path. It worked really well. There were many people who helped me along the way. There were great experiences in my professional experience which I tapped into during the CFE as well.

But the core of all my success was the fact I studied how to study ahead of time and implemented Active Recall. Active Recall and flashcard use led me to an Honour Roll spot.

I have no doubt it’ll help future candidates achieve their goals as well.