Archive for June, 2014

Riding the Rich, Grey, Chinese Wave

June 24, 2014

The Economist June 21st 2014

Riding the rich, grey Chinese wave


China’s largest private sector conglomerate has been a skillful surfer of changing business trends:

“Retirement homes can be depressing places, but Starcastle comes as a pleasant surprise.  This upmarket development for pensioners in Shanghai is a joint venture between Fosun Group, a Chinese conglomerate, and Fortress Investment Group, an American private-equity firm.  Visitors find a colourfully decorated apartment building filled with energetic oldies…

Since time immemorial, Chinese children have been expected to take care of their aged parents–but rising incomes and shifting norms are changing things.  The 93-year-old former boss of a hotel chain insists such stylish retirement homes previously unheard of in China are the future: ‘It’s very advanced; it’s convenient… and the children stop worrying.’

The Starcastle venture illustrates the long-standing strategy of Fusun’s transformation from an entrepreneurial startup into China’s largest private-sector conglomerate.  Put simply, the firm has been brilliant at trend-spotting, catching successive waves of economic growth in China at just the right moment…”

Skillful surfer and catching successive waves of economic growth are great surfing idioms/metaphors.  The “rich, grey Chinese wave” is just part of the Chinese conglomerate, Fosun’s strategy. They are “one of the largest steelmakers, in China as well as one of its largest miners of gold and iron.”  They are also “determined  to transform the firm from an industrial conglomerate into an insurance-oriented financial firm…”

The surfing metaphor is introduced in the title and the lead-in phrase and then developed with successive waves of information about different Fosun strategies.




Is the Stock Market a Level Playing Field?

June 23, 2014

The New York Times EDITORIALS Monday, June 23, 2014

The Hidden Cost of Trading Stocks

“There’s no escaping the conclusion that the stock market is not a level playing field where all investors, large and small, have an equal shot at a fair deal.

A recent groundbreaking study found that undetected insider trading occurs in a stunning one-fourth of public-company deals.  Experts have long debated the pros and cons of high-frequency trading, another pervasive practice, but there is no doubt that it gives superfast traders the jump on others in trading stocks.  And the very idea of trading on a public exchange, where stock prices and trading volumes are visible to all, is being eclipsed by private trading of public stocks in 0ff-exchange venues, called dark pools, usually operated by banks.”

In addition, according to this article, stock exchanges pay rebates to brokers for sending them buy and sell orders.  Apparently, the rebates “are corrupting… A study from 2012 estimated that rebates cost individual investors, mutual funds and pension funds as much as $5 billion a year.”

It’s not just athletes who need a level playing field to keep games fair, investors need fair markets.


Baseball Is More Than a Sport

June 23, 2014

This is not the season for baseball, but I have been watching Ken Burns’ film about the history of baseball in the U.S.  It evolved over many years from two English games, Rounders, a children’s game, and Cricket, played all over the world.  By mid to late 19th Century it was practically the same game played today with four bases 90 feet apart, and a pitcher’s mound 60 feet from home base.  The field is wonderfully geometric, with right angles, a total of 360 degrees around the bases, and the number of feet between the pitcher’s  mound and home base in proportion to the total.

Many of the commentators in the film mentioned how important the game is to our national heritage.  It is really the national sport, unique to the U.S.

From a Bank of America sponsership for the film:  “We believe baseball is more than a sport.  It is a window into our nation’s culture, diversiy, heritage and determinants.”

“On base” and “off-base” are two idioms from the game of baseball used a lot in American English.  To be on-base, one is doing the right thing, the appropriate thing.  In acting off-base one is using inappropriate behavior.

The Cards Have Been Dealt

June 23, 2014

Sports Illustrated, November 7, 2011, p. 93

“The Cards Have Been Dealt”

“Carpenter (shown in a photo) sealed his rep(utation) as a big-game pitcher:   La Russa (shown in a photo) was able to retire at the top of his game.”

The St. Louis Cardinals won the World Series with a tremendous effort during the postseason.  Carpenter is a pitcher for St. Louis whose statistics confirm the quote at the top of this post (9-2 wins versus losses; 3.05 ERA (earned run average) in 15 postseason starts, who “this year adds a 1-0 NLDS (National League Division Series) clincher and the 6-2 World Series clincher to his resume.

Of course, the quote: “The Cards Have Been Dealt” is a play on words or idiomatic use of cards with the baseball team, the Cardinals, and their win in the World Series.

Drones: The Bar Has Been Raised

June 23, 2014

The Wall Street Journal, Friday, November 4, 2011, A1

U.S. Tightens Drone Rules

A senior official at the CIA (Central Intelligence Agency) said: “The bar has been raised.  Inside the CIA, there is a recognition you need to be damn sure it’s worth it.”

The “bar has been raised  for drones (unpiloted planes), “because military and diplomatic officials complained large strikes were damaging the fragile U.S. relationship with Pakistan.” Many key U.S. military and State Department officials demanded more selective strikes…” and the White House launched a review over the summer, in which Mr. Obama intervened.”

In track, the bar is raised to make running and jumping more difficult.  In this case, raising the bar for drones will possibly make the strikes more precise.

London Trains for Post-Olympic Hurdle

June 23, 2014

The Wall Street Journal, Wednesday, August 15, 2012


London Trains for Post-Olympic Hurdle, by Alice Sperit

LONDON–The flame no longer burns inside London’s Olympic Stadium, but property developers still are hoping that the Summer Games will ignite the moribund housing market in the neighboring area.

The idiom here is hurdle, from track and field sports.  One has to jump over the hurdles on a track.  Apparently, the British government did well with their hurdles turning the old Olympic Park into the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park for residents.

Monday, June 23, 2014:  From the online ad for the reconfigured Olympic Park:

“The same size as Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens combined and the biggest new park to open in London for a century, the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park is the one of the most ambitious developments the capital has ever seen. Now, almost two years after London was taken over by Olympic fever, the park has just reopened for public use and the ambitious plans for its legacy can be finally put to the test. The park has received a facelift to make it a green and spacious environment: 4,300 new trees have been planted and four new outdoor spaces added on top of the miles of waterways, acres of woods and habitats for wildlife. From the nature and mountain biking trails to the Olympic pool, we look at the what’s on offer in the capital’s newest playground.”

In addition, there are the following spaces:  A velopark for cyclists; a multi-use sports arena; a hockey and tennis facility, as well as “The Orbit,” the largest sculpture in Great Britain,  a great looking cafe and playground.



Riding a Wave: “Wonder Women: Sex, Power, and the Quest for Perfection”

June 23, 2014

The New York Times, Tuesday, Septembe 24, 2013


Striving to Have It All And Then Recalculating, by Patricia Cohen

“Wonder Women: Sex Power, and the Quest for Perfection,” by Debora L. Spar, is the latest offering from a high-profile woman with advice for her educated middle-and upper-class sisters on the possibility of having it all.  Publishing a book on a current debate is like riding a wave. Catch it too early, and the wave will sweep out in front leaving you behind.  Catch it too late, and miss the force needed to carry you to shore…

Feminism ‘lit the spark of my generation’s dreams,’ she writes, but it also ‘ironically and unintentionally raised the bar on women so high that mere mortals are condemned to fall below it’…

Ms. Spar embraces the differences between the sexes, whether attributed to nurture or nature.  Women are more risk-adverse, more collegial, more desirous of relationships, she says.  And the clincher: they bear children.  Accept these realities, she urges, and move on from there…”

Terrific use of an idiom, comparing publishing with riding a wave; have to catch a wave at the right time.  Perhaps Ms. Cohen, the author of the article is a surfer.  And the bar is high for women; it’s tough to do it all.

New Playbook? CFOs Wake Up to Wage Inflation

June 22, 2014

The Wall Street Journal, Saturday/Sunday, June 21-22 2013


CFOs Wake Up to Wage Inflation

“Even as the U.S. job market has improved, companies have been slow to pay workers more. But they may now be approaching the time when they must cut bigger paychecks to compete…

This month, a quarterly survey conducted by Duke University and CFO Magazine showed that U.S. chief financial officers expect wages and salaries to increase 3% over the next 12 months…Further, they now expect their workforces to increase 1.9% versus 0.8% last year.

That leaves the little matter of how firms will pay for those, bigger, more expensive workforces.  Cutting costs elsewhere likely isn’t much of an option after more than six years of following that playbook.”

According to this article, it will not be easy to increase productivity; they may have to raise prices.  “The CFOs said they expect the prices their firms charge customers to increase 2.6% over the next year, against the 1.5% gain they forecast last June.”

Playbook is a book of strategies: a compendium of plays for the team, whether football or other sports.  However, it is so common, that it is used in other speech, such as business and dating.


Ballpark Numbers for Iranian Reactors?

June 20, 2014

mThe New York Times INTERNATIONAL Thursday, June 19, 2014

THE STRUGGLE FOR IRAQ: Conflict in Iraq Adds New Angle to U.S.-Iran Nuclear Talks, by David Sanger

VIENNA–The Iranian leadership had a message for Washington on Wednesday by President Hassan Rouhani’s chief of staff, Mohammad Nahavandian, who said to reporters at an international relations forum in Oslo:  “If President Obama really wants some cooperation on stabilizing Iraq, he might first think about speeding forward with a permanent deal over Iran’s nuclear capability.”

American and European negotiators are “growing skeptical that a deal both Mr. Obama and Mr. Rouhani can embrace–and sell at home–is possible by a deadline agreed with the Iranians last year, now a little more than a month away…

‘There’s no splitting the difference here,’ said Robert J. Einhorn, who was a crucial player on the American negotiating team until last year, and still advises the United States.  ‘If the Iranians keep taking the view that they must have the capacity to fuel power reactor, they are not going to even get in the ballpark of the numbers the U.S is talking about.”

Numbers in the ballpark are reasonable and usually can be negotiated.  This idiomatic usage derives from American baseball parks.

Departing From The Usual Playbook

June 3, 2014

New York Times BUSINESS Tuesday, June 3 2014

Departing From Usual Playbook in Pursuit of Allergan

Bidders Chart Odd Path, Then Change Their Tack, By David Gelles

“From the moment it was announced, the $53 billion joint bid for Allergan, the maker of Botox, made by Valeant Pharmaceuticals and the hedge fund manager William A. Ackman, was highly unconventional.

It was the first time an activist investor had teamed with a strategic buyer.  Mr. Ackman quickly accumulated Allergan shares, stirring debate over the long reporting window for such stock buildups.  And it was a rare unsolicited offer in an age when most big mergers are agreed on.

Yet in the last week, Valeant and Mr. Ackman have turned an already unusual deal into one of the most confounding takeover attempts in recent memory.  Their tactics have often departed from the established playbook, and at times have appeared counterproductive.  And after they offered a succession of revised proposals, changed tactics, and made public presentations, the fate  of Allegan remained no more certain than it was in April, when the process began.”

There are actually two sports idioms in this article, as quoted:  playbook and tack.  Playbook is a book of strategies: a compendium of plays for the team, whether football or other sports.  However, it is so common, that it is used in other speech, such as business and dating.  Tack, from sailing, is also widely used.  A tack is a change in direction.