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Are there any questions?

IT’S ALMOST a standard closing after slide presentations, including webinars, to check if there are any questions from the audience. (Are they still around with no audio/video?) The absence of questions can indicate: a.) lack of interest; b.) the presenter already running over his time limit; or, c.) everyone has already left.

A simple matter of influence

IN THIS AGE of social media and virtual meetings, how many times do we hear the appellation of “influencer”? Was there even such a word before blogs and followers became faddish? From the old-fashioned celebrity endorser, we now encounter advice-givers who influence decision-making for individuals or herds. The recent stock market assaults in the US involved influencers going wild with their herd instructions that made certain stocks shoot up or crash down.

How tight is your belt?

THE USUAL approach to adjusting lifestyle (and the costs that go with it) in the face of declining financial prospects in a pandemic is sometimes described as “tightening your belt.” This metaphor of moving one hole or two inward an accessory that holds up your pants gives an inaccurate imagery. Presumably, this move on the demand side is due to some weight loss associated with, in this case, having less to eat from not too much dining out. (Give up the cheese platter.) With the reduction of income, the lifestyle one can afford needs to be notched down as well.

Beyond due diligence

ACQUIRING an operating company involves the determination of its fair market value. This accounting approach is further affected by the buyer’s appetite and the seller’s desperation, especially when the business is swimming in red ink.

Don’t mention it

IN INFORMAL CONVERSATIONS, it is easy to forget who you’re talking to, and what topics are safe. The freewheeling nature of the exchange may lead to a subject best left unmentioned, at least with this particular person. Virtual chats are specifically perilous as one tends to overlook who are in the conversation, especially those with videos turned off.

Popularity ratings

WITH national elections coming up next year, surveys of political figures are becoming headline stuff, especially for those wanting to be included in the “presidentiable” list… without eliciting disbelief and wild laughter.

Flying off the handle

WHAT FLIES OFF the handle is a loose ax head getting detached from its place, sailing dangerously into the air and hitting an unintended target. The phrase denotes a burst of uncontrolled temper.

Money in a liquid state

WATER and its liquid properties provide some paradigms for business and the economy. “Liquidity” for instance refers to the flow of money in the economy and on a personal level describes how much cash one has on hand, also called a cash flow. (Does this signify that cash just passes through and goes somewhere else?) A high level of liquid assets above operating expenses can describe an individual as swimming in cash.

Welcoming a new year

I WILL TRY to avoid using the word “positive” when referring to my outlook for 2021. It causes people to walk away with a look of dread. No use clarifying it’s not a medical term but an optimistic view of the coming year. How could it not be better than 2020?

Punching through the message

ANALYSES, action plans, and strategies need to be presented in bite-sizes with short titles (three words max) that explain what they are about. A punchy phrase (say “declining market share”) sounds neutral, and devoid of drama. Isn’t this how a doctor’s diagnosis should sound like? How did “positive” become a dreaded word?

The art of forgetting

IT’S NOT just broken personal relationships that require the need to forget, along with the admonition to “just move on,” as if memories, especially the bad ones, are a heavy burden that hinder mobility. The art of forgetting needs to be developed, even if it comes all too naturally to the elderly who don’t remember where they parked the car or their PIN in front of the ATM — I know it’s the numbers of my birthday. The socially distanced line at the back gets restless.

Christmas in the New Normal

UNLIKE Scrooge of Charles Dickens’s “Christmas Carol,” we should not need ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Future to jolt us into celebrating this season, even with social distancing.

All sorts of ducks

THE POLITICAL appellation “lame duck” should only refer to an incumbent with an already designated successor ready to take over. Such a mandated succession plan may not be wholeheartedly accepted by the incumbent. Still, the lameness of a political bird applies only to the interregnum between the present and future office-holder.

Can I talk with you?

GETTING to talk with anyone powerful for anything, even if only to ask for information (Are you free Tuesday?) is hard enough with social distancing and working from home. Gone is the casual bumping at the office corridor to casually invite for coffee.

No need for an introduction

Working from home seems here to stay even in the post-vaccine normal, perhaps not necessarily for all. The knowledge business, tech support, and staff services (except Finance which still needs to prepare and sign checks) may well work from home, at least partially. Even psychiatrists can diagnose depression and loneliness online.

Also in the photo

PHOTOS highlight the importance of an event (or pseudo-event) by recording those who attended it. Business tycoons, triumphant politicians, and TV celebrities, moving out and moving in, get into the picture. Often, there is a less glittery crowd that also manages to join (usually running) the group — wait for me.

Hope you liked the music

ONE THING the pandemic and social distancing has forced on everyone is the use of digital communication. On-line experiences now cover all aspects of life, including previous face-to-face activities such as education and medical diagnosis, as well as banking, meetings, and shopping. Now, even children are encouraged to be glued to the screen for their lessons.

Getting to the bottom of things

WHEN someone is presenting too many charts, going on and on too long, and way past his allotted time, the head of the table (even in a virtual meeting) is bound to curtly interrupt with a question — can you get to the bottom line? This need to cut to the chase strips away the rhetorical flourishes to wrap up with the conclusion.

Exits and entrances

LEAVING a high-profile and powerful position without much ado is quite a feat. Lack of ado, or fuss, is often unavoidable. Some public statement, preferably unremarkable, on the reason for the exit, is called for. (I just couldn’t bring the team to the finals. I need to give some other coach a chance to do this.)

Hindsight and foresight

HINDSIGHT, or looking back, is often considered a useless skill, as it refers to the past and does not help change the present. More useful for change management is foresight — looking forward.

Just in case

WHO can forget the Y2K bug which spawned expensive consultancies on the premise that the computers would reset all the data to 1900 when the millennium was crossed to cause plane crashes, stuck elevators, crashed bank deposits, and lost files? The biggest surprise was that nothing happened. And countries like Russia that disregarded the dire warnings racked up savings on Y2K consultancy costs and had the last laugh.

Worst-case scenarios

THERE is always at least one person in your chat group that posts, often and lengthily, worst-case scenarios. As if the pandemic is not scary enough, the prophet of doom manages to trigger your worst nightmares. Using old data, fake news, and even prophecies of Nostradamus, his warnings are posted. The vaccine won’t be available until the next decade. There is a new strain of the virus that will make one or both of your eyeballs pop out into your sinigang soup. The mask you’re wearing has been manufactured to spread the virus.

Conflict of interest

CONFLICTS of interest often go unremarked. A partial list of these social anomalies will suffice.

Stand-up and stand-in

FOR COMEDIANS, there is a category of performance called “stand-up.” It requires the entertainer to stand on a bare stage, sometimes a pub or a small theater, in front of the audience barely a foot away from him. He delivers lines which he hopes the audience will reward with laughter and applause. It’s the starkest type of performance, as there aren’t even jugglers to help. There’s just the stand-up performer who knows he’s dying when people aren’t even paying attention and just sipping their latte.

Getting in the mood

WHILE karaoke music invites participation, even enthusiasm, mood tunes are expected to be left alone. Mood music plays in dental offices, restaurants, pubs, and malls. It used to be played in full elevators, like Muzak. It’s pleasant background static, as unobtrusive as wallpaper, to put you in a temporary emotional state, usually pleasant. You can have a quiet conversation while the background sound is playing — how could you forget where you parked the car? Of course, there are pubs (we may enjoy them again someday) with live bands to amp the mood to frenzy and the stomping of feet to “YMCA.”

Is hitting a punching bag a good exercise?

AS FITNESS EXERCISES go, a punching bag (maybe with the painted face of a hate object) can get you nice and sweaty. The object of the fitness program is to just hit this heavy object, usually swinging from a hook and having the rough dimension of the human torso or a sack of rice, and just dance around it. Loud music helps hype up the adrenaline for the swinging of the fists. It’s a bit more aggressive than yoga.

Can we skip to Christmas?

PERHAPS just as a promo gimmick, one fast food outlet put out Christmas décor for the store last month, in July. It’s not certain whether this unexpected and playful approach increased the take-outs and dine-in sales levels. But it was worth a try, if only to lift the spirit with a wink.

Are there any other matters?

SCHEDULED MEETINGS, even virtual ones, need to be prepared for. A detailed agenda (and the clickable link for the meet) is sent out to attendees to make sure they have useful insights and comments to offer. The agenda provides a list of matters to be taken up. Attached position papers and risk assessments may accompany the items.

Every dog has his day

If you look up English idioms involving dogs, there are enough of them to fit a wide range of situations.

In search of blandness

IN THE MIDST of our current pandemic crisis, there are already moves by some to raise profiles of wannabes for… ahem, bigger things. Is it too early to be thinking of the big marketing event in May of 2022? Brand consultants are tasked with transforming vanilla into an exotic flavor for the masses — bring it to the provinces. Never mind if they have enough hospital beds.

Dine-in and take-out

THE NEW NORMAL is not just about face masks and physical distancing. It’s also upending the meanings of words and phrases. The same word may have a different meaning now. For one, the variations for taking meals have been affected, as old meanings may no longer apply, and can cause confusion.

With a little bit of hope

In his book, Psychonomics: How Modern Science Aims to Conquer the Mind and How the Mind Prevails (2014), Eric Robert Morse dissects the various studies that show that the rational economic man (Homo Economicus), with full knowledge of supply and demand and an optimizing rationale in making decisions no longer exists as a construct. Irrationality and emotions can drive economic decisions, the premise of the economic behaviorists. These emotions include status anxiety, panic buying, and the endowment effect (putting more value in what you own).

Formal and informal conversations

THE NEW NORMAL seems to favor scheduled meetings where discussions are based on the agenda, and questions and answers are recorded in minutes of the meeting. Formal conversations also include media interviews conducted even when the interviewee is in a different time zone from the interlocutor. Replies to reckless questions need to be carefully couched as these are retrievable as video clips — yes, we were elated by his apology.

Recession and recovery

THERE ARE WORDS used so often in conversation and public discourse that their meanings are no longer provided nor challenged. Take “corruption.” (Go ahead.) This word is often paired with “graft,” referring to the illicit use of one’s position to derive personal benefits and advantages. Graft too is a botanical term for joining plant stems. “Graft and corruption” are automatically linked, like two plants...well, grafted together and attached to political types.

Just another day at the office

ONE WAY of characterizing the brilliant performance of any star, say in the basketball court or the ballet stage, is to describe it as “just another day at the office.” The ability to provide a consistently high level of performance is admired for its being as predictable as office hours.

Can we change the topic now?

AS RECENTLY as mid-February, yes of this year, if somebody mentioned the phrase, “social distancing,” we would have associated it with a lovers’ quarrel — I don’t want you near me, you beast. Yes, no flowers on Valentine’s Day, and no responses to text messages, except — let’s just move on. But starting mid-March, we just got caught up in the health crisis and we could talk of nothing else. Social distancing had lost any romantic connotation.

Living through historic times

WHEN READING about history, memorable events in the usually distant past like wars or the fall of governments, one generally knows how the ending turned out, whether glorious or tragic, who the villains and heroes were (for the latter, usually the ones writing about them) and perhaps what we can learn from them. The details and linking of sometimes disparate events make history worth reading.

Will household income recover too?

IT SEEMS economic scenarios from government and bank economists for the rest of the year through the full lifting of quarantine restrictions deal with macroeconomics. This category covers country-wide numbers like the impact of the shutdown on GDP, monetary and fiscal policies, inflation, and sovereign credit ratings. Sometimes, the economics of the firm, or “microeconomics,” also get into the conversational soup in terms of companies and sectors that are at risk and the rescue plans being put in place, including debt moratoriums and easing of bank provision for doubtful accounts.

Can we still make plans?

EVEN a simple thing such as having a haircut after three months of hirsute abandon can be like checking an itinerary for Sagada. There are many variables to consider. When will the barber shops open? Those in the malls may wait for the partial opening of the whole complex. What about social distancing? How many chairs are available? Can you just walk in as before? Is an appointment necessary so there’s no waiting around (and spreading the virus) for the next available barber? Okay, you can skip the hot towel and the perfunctory patting down of the shoulders and neck and the scalp clawing to wake up nerve endings in a version of the complimentary massage.

Working at home

A COMMON PLACE for work became the “new normal” after the industrial revolution in the western world of the 1800s. The then agricultural economy, that itself founded villages, went on to large scale manufacturing, drawing laborers from the rural population to work in the assembly lines to produce such items such as automobiles and steel bars. This development separated the home from the place of work. The subsequent revolutions like the Information Age, as well as the rise of the service sector, led to even larger office buildings and the introduction of cubicles.

Feeling the pinch

ALREADY, our mind is on the post-quarantine scenario (already real in many places) now referred to as the “new normal.” There are designated winners (agribusiness, food manufacturing, furniture for social distancing) and losers (travel, cruise ships, oil, massage parlors).

Cancellations and postponements

IT HAS BEEN almost routine since early March for announcements to be made that yet another much awaited event or season, even the Tokyo Olympics, has been canceled or postponed. The news is greeted with the same mild concern as weather reports, even of an impending typhoon about to enter the country’s area of responsibility. More alarming perhaps, given the panic mode we’re in, is to hear of an event that is pushing through as scheduled, even if this is still in August.

The morning after

IN THE 2008 financial crisis on subprime loans, and collateralized debt obligations (CDO) which allowed bad loans to be acquired by a further chain of investors as assets in their portfolios, the domino effect of defaults closed down many banks and bankrupted investment funds. The survivors (given hefty bailout funds from governments) were required to undertake “stress tests” to determine their chances of survival with their exposure to risky assets.

A new meaning for staycation

STAYCATION was a clever marketing strategy for hotels to fill up rooms over lean days like weekends which business travelers seldom book. It meant staying a weekend in a nearby luxe hotel, requiring a short car trip (free basement parking) at the same time enjoying fresh bed sheets, fluffy towels, a swimming pool, and free breakfast buffet. And this is offered as a package with hefty discounts for a family staying in the city and having a vacation. This is not to be confused with the shorter stay for a couple where the fluffy towels also come in handy along with a preference for in-room dining -- no breakfast required.

Keeping your distance

MAYBE what’s uncomfortable about quarantines and lockdowns of borders of whole cities and countries, aside from the obvious impeding of the freedom of movement, is that there seems to be no difference between authoritarian regimes and democracies in addressing the contagion risk. Even the scenes of empty streets and masked stragglers come from the same horror movie. What the government decrees is automatically imposed and followed, yes, for the good of the community. Maybe the democracies moved a little bit more slowly fearing resistance from the governed. But they followed the early movers anyway.