Even after my five years at the helm of Accounting Today, my father - ever my booster - still asks me how I can edit a financial-based paper when, in my formative years, my basic math skills were performed with the aplomb of an absent-minded seventh grader.

I was, to be sure, a candidate for one of the many financial literacy programs launched by the American Institute of CPAs and some of the state societies. The problem is that I was born about 30 years too late.

Speaking of institute initiatives, I recently attended my 10th meeting of Council for the AICPA in Washington D.C., and while there, I fashioned a comparison sheet in my mind of how much - or, in some cases, how little - things had changed for both myself and the institute since my first meeting in 2000, which was held in Las Vegas.

Upon arrival that year, I had a maddening 90-minute wait for my luggage at the Venetian Hotel. This year, I was lucky to have gotten a room, as the institute's room block was sold out some two weeks prior to the cutoff.

Now, based on year-over-year numbers, it really should not be a mystery how many rooms to block. But that pales in comparison to 2000, when a convention of CPAs vastly underestimated the number of tables for an evening banquet, when all that was necessary was to total the number of attendees and divide by 10.

In 2000, one of the featured (and obviously uncomfortable) speakers was then-Securities and Exchange Commission Chairman Arthur Levitt, who at that time was spearheading the audit independence rules, and was in little danger of being on the institute's holiday card mailing list.

Five years later, Treasury Secretary John Snow was among the marquee speakers, and addressed attendees on two of his boss' favorite subjects on his second-term domestic agenda - Social Security and tax reform.

The irony, of course, is that Levitt's audit independence rules were rendered moot by a spate of accounting scandals, the collapse of a 90-year-old global firm and the creation of the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board.

In Washington, Council passed a resolution to work with the Financial Accounting Standards Board to develop generally accepted accounting principles for private and not-for-profit entities.

In Las Vegas, I had obtained a copy of a business plan for a curious for-profit Web portal, through which the institute's goods and services would be funneled. There was also talk of funding the Cognitor - a proposed global business credential that would stretch across several disciplines.

Five years later, the portal has navigated a sea of red ink, several wholesale management changes, suspect acquisitions and finding itself a defendant in a restraint of trade lawsuit, and its management promises that the vehicle will turn a profit in 2006. As for the Cognitor or XYZ, it took the institute $5 million in research to determine that its membership preferred to promote the CPA credential.

Has the institute changed since 2000? I think it has, but whether it was from natural progression or necessity, or a combination of both, is still up for debate.

This just in: I was informed that the institute didn't secure a large-enough room block for an upcoming convention in, of course, Las Vegas.

Some things never change.

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