Oregon Smoke Information: Info Share

Hurricane Harvey’s dramatic rain event over the city of Houston has (justifiably) consumed much of the national and local media attention this last week. However, Oregonians may also be noticing the side effects of an event much closer to home; fire season. It’s been a hot, dry summer across Oregon, with little rainfall, and as the summer extends into a possibly hot and dry fall, several large fires have erupted across the state. This not only poses imminent danger to lives and livelihoods for those individuals in the path of the fire, it poses a risk to wildlife and forest ecosystems, shuts down roads and forest trails, worsens air quality, costs millions of dollars to combat every year, and prompts mass evacuations. Here in the Willamette Valley, the air quality has been pretty awful.

City, county, tribal, state and federal agencies have aggregated their data on a blog devoted to keeping Oregonians informed about potential fire and smoke effects to their communities. The blog includes links to all kinds of handy fire-related info generated by separate agencies, as well as tips on how to keep yourself safe and breathing easy during fire season. Check it out here.

Wildfire smoke in Oregon on the last day of August

Additionally, last August we released an audit of the Oregon Department of Forestry that examined the strain of several consecutive severe fire seasons on staffing and fire prevention efforts for the state agency. One of the audit’s findings was the need for more focus on mitigating forest fire risks. Ideally, one of the positive effects of a severe fire season could be a renewed focus by states, counties, cities, and individuals on steps that can be taken to prevent  fire related devastation in the future.

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Office of Economic Analysis ReBlog: Oregon government size, an update

Yes, the public sector here in Oregon continues to grow. We have never had more public employees or more tax revenue than we do today. However the regional economy and the number of total Oregonians has never been larger either. Once you make the adjustment of comparing the public sector to the size of the population, or tax revenues as a share of personal income, Oregon’s public sector hasn’t increased in size for decades. And make no mistake, adjustments like these are the correct way to examine the size of government over time. Reasonable people, and unreasonable ones too I suppose, can debate the proper role and scope of the public sector. However a larger population means there are more residents in need of services, from schools to roads to law enforcement and so forth. And a stronger economy generating jobs and income does translate into more tax dollars for the public sector.

Josh Lehner explores the size and presence of public sector employment in Oregon over the past several decades, and points out some trends that illuminate issues with public education employment and tax revenue. Read more here.

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CPA-Scribo ReBlog – Audit Documentation: If it’s not documented, it’s not done

In the AICPA’s Enhanced Oversight program, one in four audits is nonconforming due to a lack of sufficient documentation. This has been and continues to be a hot-button peer review issue. And it’s not going away.

But auditors ask, “What is sufficient documentation?” That’s the problem, isn’t it? The answer is not black and white. We know good documentation when we see it–and poor as well. It’s the middle that fuzzy. Too often audit files are poor-to-midland. Why?

Charles Hall writing for CPA-Scribo explores what comprises sufficient, and insufficient, audit documentation. While this piece was written for CPAs, his advice is applicable to just about any auditor and auditing function. Read more here.

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TED Repost: You owe it to yourself to experience a total solar eclipse

Sooo, what are you doing next Monday at 10:18 in the morning? As it turns out, the Oregon Audits Division office happens to sit right in the path of totality (we’re off-center by just a smidge, but that’s allowable). Not everyone can, or should, brave the traffic to join us on the lawn of the Capitol Mall, but those that do may be in for quite the cosmic spectacle.

 

Eclipse chaser David Baron gives his take on what we’re in for and what eclipse viewers in the path of totality can anticipate. Enjoy!
https://embed.ted.com/talks/david_baron_you_owe_it_to_yourself_to_experience_a_total_solar_eclipse

 

The path of totality cutting a swath through Oregon, courtesy of EclipseWise.com

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How becoming an amateur baker taught me to be a better auditor

This past spring I took on a new hobby: baking homemade bread. I have long been a home cook, but I had never baked a loaf of bread.  One of the key differences between cooking and baking is the balance between art and science.  Cooking is much more art than science.  In cooking, there are underlying techniques and key steps that must take place, but a cook has tremendous flexibility in how they make a dish, just as an artist has tremendously flexibility in how they paint a picture (Think Van Gogh vs. Picasso vs. Manet).  As a cook, you can deviate quite significantly from a standard recipe and get a great result.  In baking, the key to success is being precise and scientific.  Deviation can bring failure.

Where a cook might take a pinch of salt, a baker measures out an exact ratio of salt to flour. This is known as a baker’s percentage (it really should be called a baker’s ratio IMO, but we will leave that for another blog post).  Deviating from a recipe will have tremendous consequences in bread making that are not typically seen in cooking.  Add a percent too much salt or too little yeast and your bread will not rise.  A bit too much water and the bread will lose structure and be flat (and the dough will be super sticky).  Too little water and it will be dense like a bagel.  Bake it until it reaches 150 degrees and it will be gummy and undercooked inside despite looking golden brown and delicious on the outside.  However, bake it past 160 degrees and it will have that beautiful crumb inside we all know.  The reason behind this? Chemistry. Gluten gelatinizes around 160 degrees.

The crumb structure inside bread is due to fermentation and gelatinized gluten

I am not trying to say there is not an art to bread making, there certainly is, but in general, it is a more scientific pursuit than cooking. Just like auditing, is a more science than art in my opinion.

So what does this have to do with being a better auditor? Well actually a lot when you start thinking about it. Results in both bread making and auditing come from good planning and implementation of your plan.  If we invest the right time into planning and implementing our plan, we will get a good audit.

What else has it taught me? Patience.  Bread making is a long ordeal (well not as long as auditing, but do not expect to get something on the table in 10 minutes).  Most artisan breads require a long fermentation.  From start to finish, a nice flavorful loaf takes 3 to 4 days to make.  Over time, the dough develops and builds flavor if the right ingredients are mixed together.  Just like our findings are slowly developed over time using the right mix of condition, criteria, cause, and effect. In the end, we strive for ‘flavorful’ findings. One of the important stages of bread making is “proofing” or proving the bread is alive and rising. Proofing is the last step before baking. With proofing I see some similarities to our quality assurance processes. QA is the stage of an audit where the findings are proved out.

This ciabatta was well proved, with a nice rise and airy texture

Lastly, control is critical. Bread making is all about controlling ingredients, temperature, and time.  With good controls in place, you can achieve the same results every time.  Every professional baker knows this and that is how they churn out delicious bread every day.  Bakers control ingredients by precisely weighing them.  Good bread makers never measure by volume, as no two cups of flour are the same and by weight can vary by 25% or more.  Auditors should do the same and measure using precise tools. Bakers also control for time and do not try to rush or delay.  A baker aims to get the dough into the oven at the right moment. If it is put in the over too early flavor development through fermentation and rising has not occurred. If put in too late after fermentation has ended the bread will lose all the air that was made and the bread will be flat and dense.

This ciabatta did not go into the oven at the right time and came out flat because it was overproved

We should strive to do the same thing and get our reports into the ‘oven’ at the right time by auditing what is relevant now and issuing our reports timely.  Lastly, bakers control for temperature to produce a bread with the right characteristics (baguettes only get crispy and crunchy in a hot and steam filled oven). We should consider our tone (e.g. temperature) that we use when ‘baking’ our reports.  Sometimes we need a hotter oven and other times we can cool it down.

Peter Reinhart has been a valuable resource for me as I learn about bread making. You can listen to his TED talk or get any of his great books on baking if you are interested. He likes to give what he calls his bakers blessing “May your crust be crisp and your bread always rise”. In his honor, I am ending with an auditors blessing: May your findings be impactful and your recommendations always implemented.

First attempt at a Miche, a whole-wheat sourdough loaf

 

Ian Green, CGAP and OAD Principal Auditor

 

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Evergreen Data ReBlog: Color Psychology

As I usually do in my workshops, I talked to a group in Warsaw, Poland about how we should use color intentionally in our data visualization and that, in fact, the color choice itself can help us tell our story. I prepared a little activity around this issue, in which I asked them to generate a list of the words, phrases, feelings, memories, etc that come to mind when seeing this color:

 

Apart from “very yellow,” what words and phrases come to mind when you see this color? Do you have a positive or negative association to it?

You may be surprised to learn that auditors themselves don’t see the world in stark black and white, and we enjoy a dash of color just as much as the next person. Within reason, of course. (And for the record, our words are ‘sunflower,’ ‘sparky,’ and ‘neon sign.’) But what influence does color have on our perception, and how does that apply to our work?

Stephanie Evergreen explores the influence of colors on our psychological state, and ponders how they can best be used in data visualization. Read more here, or explore the psychology of color in more in-depth here.

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