Saturday, December 21, 2013

United Chingdom?

The flag of the landed gentry in the UK

The biggest property tycoons in the UK are... Chinese. As reported in this SCMP article, the two wealthiest property moguls are no longer members of England’s aristocracy. The Duke of Westminster, Gerald Grosvenor, who held the title for the past ten years (informally “His Most Wealthy Grace”), has tumbled to fourth place in this year’s ranking by Estates Gazette Rich List, behind Wang Jianlin (Dalian Wanda group), Henry Cheng (New World Development group) and a Mumbai-born businessman.  Joseph Lau, a Hong Kong-based tycoon who has been found guilty of bribing a senor Macau official in the widespread Ao Man-long scandal, holds the number seven position.
Not surprisingly, London’s toniest neighborhoods, landmark buildings and new land holdings are increasingly flowing into the hands of foreigners. And without fail, Asian investors have been taking full advantage of the city’s lenient property ownership rules. The three Chinese investors mentioned above alone combine for 38% of the total fortunes of the top 10 on the Gazette’s list. The British elite naturally still own most of the property in the UK. Therefore, the sovereignty of the island kingdom is not about to change. However, the symbolic flag flying over more and more of its most valuable properties these days are much redder than the Union Jack.   

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Shrinking the Wealth

Well, it all started when my parents left me $100 million.

Yes, even the rich have mental health problems. Theirs are just different from those of the 99%. They feel unloved by the jealous masses. They face family stress because of estate planning feuds. Their self-esteem can be gnawed away by the lack of needing a career. They can fill too much idle time with substance abuse, shopping addictions and eating disorders. Luckily for the wealthy, help is close at hand. (But then, isn’t it always?) As reported in this Wall Street Journal article, a growing number of the affluent are relying on wealth psychologists to help them navigate the bewildering emotional wilderness of having loads of money. These specialists work closely with money managers to help their patients “root out everything from individual self-defeating attitudes to broader family trust and communication breakdowns” in order to better preserve their financial and mental well being.

Methods that these “wealth shrinks” might employ are diverse, as summarized in this extract: “Some try and remove clients' emotional blockages by linking money-related behavior to universal psychological types. (Message: You're not the only person to feel like "the victim" of a prenup, but it's also possible to approach the document as a resourceful "creator" or strong "warrior.") Others draw genograms, a sort of family tree that reveals a client's inherited attitudes and patterns about money. A handful of practitioners even strap clients to a biofeedback monitor—think brainwaves or heart rate—which might reflect fleeting thoughts or subconscious emotions during money discussions.” Got it? Or is it as clear as wading through a stirred-up pool of long suppressed oepidal memories?

In any event, it should be no surprise that the sessions don’t come cheaply. Some therapists charge up to $10,000 for day-long sessions. The price alone may feel insane. But perhaps that’s a reason why these professionals might be aptly nicknamed “wealth shrinks”. In any event, let’s hope that the privileged few among the world’s population who own the lion’s share of capital are able to keep their wits about themselves, so as not to constantly fall into the herd-delirium mindset of recent years.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Beyond the Ways of the Tiger

This Asia Wall Street Journal interview clip of Lang Lang by Deborah Kan deals with the Asian Tiger Mom way of teaching. With all the subtlety for which he is famously known, he doesn’t dis rote learning out of hand. Rather, he says that all people need to move beyond the “work” phase of learning and engage emotionally in their subjects if they are to truly become educated. Good teachers, mentors and parents can balance the two methods and manage the necessary transition.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Those Shoes are Killing Me


A tragic story posted in about a Christmas shopping excursion gone terribly wrong:

Man leaps to his death after girlfriend refuses to stop shopping

When his girlfriend insisted on prolonging their Christmas shopping marathon, 38-year-old Tao Hsiao leapt from a seventh-story walkway and killed himself in a Jiangsu shopping mall.

Tao and his girlfriend (whose name has not been released) had reportedly been in the Golden Eagle International Shopping Center, in Xuzhou, for some five hours before a rather routine relationship scuffle escalated drastically out of proportion.

Tao told his girlfriend that "she already had enough shoes, more shoes that she could wear in a lifetime and it was pointless buying any more," according to a witness. Tao was then accused of "spoiling Christmas," and the shouting match likely would have continued had Tao not chosen that moment to hurl himself over the seventh-story balcony.

Tao fell through elaborate christmas decorations and crashed into a shopping stall on the mall's ground level, injuring no one but himself in the process. He died on impact.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

World’s Academic Ordering – Asians on Top

Graphic shows scores for PISA test for U.S. and other nations; 3c x 4 inches; 146 mm x 101 mm;
Let’s first dispense with two distortions in the above graphic. First, Shanghai’s score at the top, while interesting, is an oddity to the result. Though some local Shanghai residents might think otherwise, the place is a city, not a country. It is not administratively autonomous, and it happens to be China’s wealthiest and most elite urban entity. Thus, comparing test results from Shanghai to the US is like comparing a nugget of gold to a rock quarry. It just ain’t the same thing.  Second, and in a related manner, whinging about the overall scores of a country such as the US is a waste of breath. No country is more heterogeneous than the US (“bring us your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to watch network television”) and with a population of 300 million diverse and economically unequal citizens, the country is not going to do well when taken as a whole. Specific areas such as Massachusetts and Connecticut (and probably the San Francisco bay area, if it were segregated out) score meaningfully better than the national average.
The 2012 test was conducted with approximately half a million students in 65 nations and educational systems through the Program for International Student Assessment, or PISA, which is coordinated by the Paris-based Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, or OECD. The Shanghai distortion notwithstanding, Asia’s leadership is still remarkable across the board. Special mention goes to Vietnam for poking itself up into the Top 10 in Science.