Category Archives: organization

More videos

Happy New Year!  Here’s a bevy of videos for your day off.

October, at the old apartment: Lemon juice (again), Sisters, Grabbing and licking, Bunny toy, A lotta hair, Entertaining Ellie, Raspberries, Danerjeesen Womp Womp, Bedtime babbles, Time to say goodbye part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4, part 5 and an Indian summer, Swingset fun, Climbing challenge part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4, Slow Indian summer, Climbing challenge part 5 and some zwieback, part 6, part 7, Uncle Pastuzo, Siblings at play.

November, at the old apartment: Formula futility, Drops, Rückbildungsgymnastik, Hand and foot part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4 with babbling, Decluttering achievements part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4 (Dotville), Showing off the atlas, Discovery binder Vivienne part 1, part 2, part 3, Stationmaster, Discovery binder Vivienne part 4, Discovery binder Joseph part 1, part 2, Letter tracing, Duolingo Swedish part 1, part 2, Whiteboard drawing, Silly!, Mattress flop, Putting in the trees, Jumping game (again), Big jump, The jumping game disintegrates, Everyone asleep, Swedish duolingo, Picture explanation, Piano soporific, Shape families, Discovery binder Joseph part 3, part 4, part 5, Joseph’s journal, Miquon math orange, German workbook, Smiles and spit, Origami review.

More later…

FATCA madness

More than a year ago, the IRS announced that they had 77’000 banks cooperating with them for FATCA.  Robert Wood wrote on that and a bunch of other scary IRS facts for citizens abroad.  (Really, $10’000 for a non-willful FBAR mistake?)

Today, July 18, 2015, the searchable list of Foreign Financial Institutions numbers 168’239 funds or institutions.  The UK alone boasts 23’568 – the first hit being “Mrs E M Brown Grandchildren’s Settlement.”  Other notable entries there: “17th Earl of Pembroke W/T -Lady Pembroke” and “Lord Clinton’s Marriage Settlement – Lady Clinton’s Fund.”  It appears that every fund that wants US investments in its portfolio needs to register with the IRS – and you know that means forms.  Reams of forms, to the tune of several tens of thousand a year, and even more potential data from the institutions that register.  And these forms probably can’t be e-filed, so a few of the roughly 95’000 IRS employees probably get to type those forms into a database and file them in a drawer somewhere.  Assuming 40’000 filings a year, with 9 pages per form printed out single-sided, that’s about five kitchen stoves worth of paper volume just for the registrations.  Of course, these registrations are chump change compared to the number of filings each year.  How do they keep track of all the information they’re gathering? 

What bugs me most about the list of Swiss institutions is that the pension fund I formerly used to use, one that converts part of the savings into a fund, is of course registered here, because they also trade with US shares.  But they’ve bumped me out, because I’m a US citizen and not worth their having to actually keep tabs on me.  (I’m still uncertain whether these tax-deferred voluntary pension schemes are even a good idea at all, just because the US probably doesn’t view them as eligible for any sort of tax deferment.)

So with all these hassles, I’m curious to see if I can even open a bank account in Ellie’s name before getting her registered with Social Security, because Postfinance (and pretty much every other Swiss bank) requires US citizens to fill out a W-9 form that allows them to share information with the IRS when requested.  And of course that form requires a Social Security Number…

At any rate, there will be two more accounts on our FBAR next year.  And for Janet’s sake, I hope that the IRS finally implement a copy-paste function within the PDF document for filing the FBAR, so she doesn’t have to re-type the Postfinance address a dozen times.

Teamwork and Personality

LinkedIn led me to an interesting article on teamwork and how to assemble a great team.  It’s long (compared to the average internet attention span), but worth reading in full – if you have the time.

For those who don’t, here’s the summary: Personality tests are not enough, nay, they are even misleading, because humans are rarely consistent enough in their actions across time and different social settings for the tests to have any useful predictive power.  A pretty good predictor on how well a team will work is what the author calls Factor C, which is in turn made up of three measures of the individual members.  Those are fairly simple: People who can read non-verbal communication (body language, eyes, etc.) well strengthen a team, as do women.  People who dominate the conversation drag down team performance.

Remember, them be stats.  I’m sure you can find counter-examples of great male team-players or women who make teamwork trying.  I can without hardly thinking.  And the author cautions that the gender advantage may simply be another way of pointing out that on average, women are better at reading non-verbal communication.  He also points out that this Factor C matters most in face-to-face interaction, and far less in remote collaboration on projects that can be divided into chunks of independent work.

So it’s all more complicated, as you might have expected, but one thing seems certain: Myers-Briggs stinks.

The 5S Method

This Thursday, I took a short two-hour in-house course on the 5S method, a Japanese methodology aimed at eliminating waste and credited with making just in time manufacturing possible.  Wikipedia already has an article on it, but I’ll try to write something slightly more practical while keeping in mind what might interest those of my readers who I know are already trying out different approaches to organization in daily life.

The method is called 5S because all five steps of the method begin with an S syllable in Japanese.  Most translations try to keep the S in the translated terms; I’ll skip that for clarity.

1. Separate: separate what you need at your workspace from what you don’t need there.  One way of streamlining this process is to run around sticking colored post-its on things you find: red for what needs to go, green for what needs to stay, and yellow for checking after e.g. a week whether the item has been used in the meantime.  The yellow stickers help overcome indecision procrastination.

2. Arrange: remove the red stuff, and arrange what’s left so that everything has its home there where it is needed.  Prime real estate goes to what gets used most often.  If necessary, rearrange the room to shorten paths and avoid collisions.  Make sure that another person can find his way around your workplace in case you’re absent.  Label or color-code your storage, make sure that putting something in the wrong spot will look odd (e.g. draw outlines on the wall of what’s hanging there), where possible store like with like.

3. Swish and Swipe: keep your workplace clean, but more importantly, use the cleaning process as an inspection process.  Are your tools still in good shape?  Are they still the tools you need?  Are your markings for maintaining order still visible and legible?

4. Maintain: maintain and improve on the advances you’ve made in the first three steps.  Document your work in the first three steps and make rules visible.  Work on making it easy (shaping the path) for everyone to follow the rules.

5. Form habits: unless the four previous steps become habits, the method will remain a creaky machine running on the fumes of willpower.  The tiny habits approach might help in this regard.  If several people share the workplace, talk about how you might be able to “rally the herd” around these principles.