Archive for March, 2011

A Champion Surfboarder Doesn’t Toe the Line

March 27, 2011

The New York Times Sports, Sunday, March 27, 2011

A Champion for Surfers and for Causes, by Zach Weisberg

“Cori Sumacher si the reigning women’s world longboard champion, yet she has no major sponsors or endorsements….

As a woman and a longboarder, Schumacher struggles at the bottom of surfing’s hierarchy.  But instead of toeing the line she has taken an unusual approach, using her success in the water as a platform to take a stand on issues in hope of enacting social change in her sport and beyond.”

Toeing the line is a metaphor for staying within certain lines in a sport, and parameters in other occupations.  It may have come originally from the sport of fencing, and later from the English Parliament where there were lines beyond which oppositions could not cross, because they might wound each other with their swords.

The Arsenal of a Lobbyist: Hardball and Cupcakes

March 27, 2011

The New York Times, Sunday Business, Sunday, March 27, 2011

The Arsenal of a Lobbyist:  Hardball and Cupcakes:  An AT&T Veteran faces His Biggest Beltway Test

By Edward Wyatt in Washington D.C.

“Operation Cupcake.  As the Federal Communications Commission debated final rules last December on how Internet service providers should manage their traffic, AT&T delivered 1,500o of these opulent desserts to the F.C.C.’s headquarters here.

Like many other big corporations, AT&T annually blankets power brokers with token holiday gifts, but the cupcake campaign was notable for its military precision.  A three-page spreadsheet, stamped ‘AT&T Proprietary (Internal Use Only),’ detailed how the desserts were to be deployed to each of the 63 commission offices: four dozen were assigned to the enforcement bureau, 10 dozen to the wireless divisions, 12 cupcakes to each of four commissioers, and 18 to the chairman, and so on.

As it turns our, AT&T had begun its $39 billion courting of T-Mobile about the same time….”

I guess hardball for AT&T is a deployment of 1500 soft cupcakes from The Georgetown Cupcake Shop,” known for its  heaping swirls of luscious confection atop rich, creamy pastry.”   Interesting! And an interesting use of the sports metaphor used primarily in American baseball for pitching a hard ball in a tough sport. And with “military precision.”

Wouldn’t  a cupcake fight be fun between telephone executive officers?  What would they win?

The Endgame in Afghanistan

March 27, 2011

The New York Times, Week in Review, Sunday, March 27, 201

The Endgame in Afghanistan, by James Dao

“A reporter reflects on the experience of one American battalion and how success and failure go hand in hand.”

KUNDUZ, Afghanistan

Below are selected quotes from this article:

“With the Obama administration pledging to withdraw most American forces by 2014, starting this summer, Kunduz offers some object lessons.  Among them: the battered Taliban remain a deadly force; the militias the Americans increasingly rely upon are often as shady as the insurgents they fight:  American technology still cannot defend against some maddeningly simple weapons, mines and roadside bombs.”

“In particular, I came to view General Saidkhail (the police chief of the province killed by a suicide bomber in March) as a metaphor for the one-step-forward one step-back nature of the long American mission.”

Assessing the Surge

…”Many of the militias are controlled by strong men who traffic in drugs and weapons and pay their soldiers by taxing the locals, as the Taliban do.  Indeed, several militias in Kunduz fought alongside the Taliban before switching to the government’s side.

Can the Karzai government provide the food, clothing and salaries needed to keep those militias friendly?”

Wikipedia: In chess and chess-like games, the endgame (or end game or ending) refers to the stage of the game when there are few pieces left on the board.  With President Obama pledging to pull out some troops soon and almost all by 2014, what are the pieces left?

Family Pitches

March 26, 2011

The New York Times, Thursday, March 24, 2011

Finances That C.E.O.’s May Not Be Watching:  Their Own, by Paul Sullivan

Reginald Brack, 73, a former C.E.O. (Chief Executive Officer) of Time Inc., was interviewed by Mr. Sullivan about his financial planning for retirement and his estate planning for when he dies.  

“One of the things he and his wife have done to keep their family close is set up a foundation to give to charities they like but also to help their children and grandchildren talk openly about the purpose of their wealth.  Family members make pitches for particular charities and they all vote on which ones to support.

A pitcher pitches a ball, either in baseball or cricket.  However, people can pitch their ideas to family members, or in Hollywood, to producers about an idea for a movie.  


Where the Long Balls are Hit

March 26, 2011

“The Street Lawyer”, John Grisham, p. 183

“I didn’t want Barry to follow me into the kitchen because it left much to be desired…. I invited him into my office.

‘Nice,’ he said, looking around.

This is where all the long balls are hit,’ I said proudly’.  We took positions across the desk, both chairs squeaking and on the verge of collapse.  

‘Is this what you dreamed about in law school?’ he asked…”.

 Long balls is baseball terminology.  Usually, a long ball is a hit and the batter runs to a base.  A home run is a long ball also, but the batter goes home and scores a run.

I suppose golfers could use it.  But whatever sport it comes from, it is good.

Justice Samuel Alito: Offensive Lineman on the Supreme Court Team

March 23, 2011

New York Times Magazine, March 20, 2011

MYSTERIOUS JUSTICE:  What drives Samuel Alito, anyway?

by Emily Hazelon

“Five years into his tenure, Justice Samuel Alito is the one conservative on the Supreme Court without a flashy legal signature. We know what to expect from the other justices on the court’s reliable right:…Alito usually reaches the same results as the others, but he does it by being small-bore. ‘He’s the offensive linesman on the team,’ a clerk who worked for Alito when he was a federal judge says, ‘He puts his head down and stays focused on the case in front of him.’

An offensive lineman‘s job on an American football team is to keep the defensive lineman from the ball carrier.  He does not call the plays for the team as a quarterback would, nor does he carry the ball except under unusual circumstances.  He concentrates on the lineman in front of him.  

He is small-bore:  This is a second sports idiom which refers to a rifle with a small bored hole and therefore uses a small bullet, as opposed to a shot-gun approach.  Small bore is precise and limited.

Litigation as a Game Plan

March 23, 2011

“The Street Lawyer”, p. 205, by John Grisham

“That’s complicated litigation.”

“It is, but, fortunately, here in D.C. we have lots of very good lawyers willing to donate their time.  I’m the coach, I devise the game plan, put the team together, then call the plays.”

The lead lawyer is the coach who directs other lawyers.

Serve and Volley Legal Techniques

March 23, 2011

“The Street Lawyer”, page 255, by John Grisholm

“As with any lawsuit, there were a number of ways to proceed with our action against the defendants.  The first was the ambush.  The other the serve and volley.”

“The serve and volley would begin with a letter to the defendants, in which we made the same allegations (as in the ambush), but rather than sue we would invite them to discuss the matter.  The letters would go back and forth with each side generally able to predict what the other might do.” 

Serve and volley is a tennis term; the ball is served, then hit back and forth (volleyed) until a  score is made by one side.

A Mystery That Must Be Wrestled With

March 18, 2011

The New York Times, Thursday, March 17, 2011

The Arts:  Books of the Times, by Janet Maslin:

 Mystery is a Thing With Paradoxes

Ms. Maslin reviews a new mystery by Kate Atkinson, “Started Early, Took My Dog.”  

She states:  “That was what solving something is about, it was hunting the ‘it’ down, pinning its arms above its head and making it spill the beans.  It was like being in a game, a game where you didn’t know the rules or the identity of the other playera and where you were unsure of the goal.”

In other words, these books cannot be simply read.  They must also be wrestled with, and that’s where much of the fun lies.”

Janet Maslin uses terms from the sport of wrestling, such as pinning its arms above its head and wrestling to inform possible readers that solving the mysteries takes some effort. She also uses idiomatic expressions that refer to all games and sports:  It was like being in a game, a game where you didn’t know the rules or the identity of the other playera and where you were unsure of the goal. 

“Spilling the beans” is an American English expression used on the streets, usually referring to criminals.  

Libya: Will David Cameron P.M. Draw a Line in the Sand?

March 17, 2011

Financial Times, Tuesday, March 15, 2011

A Libyan no-fly zone is only half an answer, by Phillip Stephens

“Mr. Cameron now leads the call for a no-fly zone over Libya ground Colonel Gaddaft’s air force?”  Would his air defences have to be destroyed?  What would happen if this fails?   “If Col. Gaddafi kept the initiative on the ground, would the west shrug its shoulders and say it had done its best?  Or would Mr. Cameron follow the logic by, quite literally, drawing a line in the sand beyond which the regime’s army would face air attack?”

Drawing a line in the sand  is an idiom for a boundary, a line which should not be crossed in a particular situation, but is not permanent.  It may have another derivation, other than sports, but that is the only one I can think of.  Certainly, games at beaches use lines for games, for instance pick-up volleyball, soccer, paddle tennis.

Can anyone think of another?