Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Recession's alphabet soup

Once it was acronyms that drove us nuts. Well, they still do. I’m forever stumbling over clumps of letters that mean nothing to me.

Now we’re also being faced with the challenge of understanding itty-bitty letters. The first time I heard economists debating the likely look of the end of the recession, I thought, ‘what the?!’ They spoke of U-curves, and V-shapes and (ohmigod) the worst shape of all... the dreaded L.
It seems that, historically, recessions have followed certain patterns – giving us those Us, Vs and Ls. It seems we all love Vs, because it means a swift descent into the depths, followed by an equally rapid upsurge – something like the woe that hits fox-trotters’ faces when criticised by judges on Dancing with the Stars , quickly followed by grins when they score the next dollop of praise.
U curves are pretty good too. We slide down, swoop around the bend and then quickly ascend once more. But the L? Bad news. It indicates a vertical drop followed by a flat line, with damn-all uptick in sight.
I keep hearing commentators rattling on about ‘green shoots’, signs of life, and evidence of better results. But it all depends on who’s talking. It seems Kiwi business people aren’t expecting a U any time soon, given that the latest survey out today (April 8) says confidence hasn’t been this low since 1974. But given that stockmarkets have done a little up-climb lately, followed by a down-slip, I’m betting it won’t be long before someone invents a W mode, with a pesky up/down jiggly bit in the middle. Maybe even a series of them.
My metaphorical soup was made even murkier last week when I heard someone use “hockey-stick” talk to describe the typical uptake pattern for new technology. I took that to mean there’s a brief, u-shaped hesitation at the bottom of any new way of doing things, followed by a swoop up the vertical handle of the stick, as more and more people come on board.
But no.
Googling revealed that the term – coined by someone debating climate records – is based on the shape of a North American ice hockey stick. It describes numbers running along from left to right on a flat line (as represented by a stick lying on its back) followed by an acutely angled upturn, like the blade of that sort of stick. Sharp angle, not U-curve.
At least acronyms do have meanings you can easily get to grips with, unlike two types of hockey sticks. Why, only today I’ve been reading about a NASA project called THEMIS, which stands, as I’m sure you know, for Time History of Events and Macroscale Interactions during Substorms. Yes, well. It is interesting. Really.
NB As there’s nothing we can do about economics or outer space, the best thing to do is work on our own wellbeing. Which means getting out, having fun and being creative. Here are four ways of doing that (all Auckland events). I’ve done courses with all the women mentioned below and know they can give you a good, powerful and even life-changing time.

You can:

FEEL EMPOWERED at Sally Mabelle’s uplifting range of classes covering singing, speaking, relating, and creating.

FIND THE COURAGE TO BE YOURSELF by attending six evening sessions with visionary trainer Amanda Fleming, beginning mid June. Here's the info on this, and her other courses.

DANCE FOR JOY at an afternoon event, April 19, with the inspiring Lizzie Haylock and unwind out of your rushing, time-stressed life. NB No dancing talent needed! As Lizzie says, however you want to move is perfect, no matter your age or shape. A creative, time-out, sensory space for women. For info email:

And you can also WRITE SOMETHING BEAUTIFUL, at my own weekend course on May 16-17, Call Out Your Inner Writer. It’s just as much about developing your creative confidence as your scribbling skills.

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