Thursday, December 14, 2017

Review of the Timer function on the Toastmasters International Mobile App


When I rehearse my speeches I usually time myself either with the stopwatch function on my Casio watch or a digital lab timer. I finally got around to downloading the Android version of the free Toastmasters International Mobile App at Google Play and tried it out on my Samsung Galaxy S Relay 4G phone, as shown above.

When I opened the App it asked me to enter a Username and Password. For rehearsal I chose to skip that, and to continue to Use as Guest.

The timer on the Mobile App is quite useful, and easy to navigate. The top menu line first asks you to Select Speech…      V. When I clicked on that line I was asked to Select Speech Type, and given choices, which are:

Intro Speech (4:00 – 6:00)
Prepared Speech (5:00 – 7:00)
Extended Speech (8:00 – 10:00)
Table Topics (1:00 – 2:00)
Evaluation (2:00 – 3:00)
Open Time

The Custom Speech type starts set at times for a prepared speech (5:00 – 7:00) and then both minimum and maximum can be adjusted up or down in 0:15 increments.

Initially the two circular touchscreen control buttons are Start (red) and Reset (gray).  Pressing Start changes the left button to Pause (black). When Pause is pressed, that button changes to show Resume (Red). On my phone the Timer displays 0.4 in. (1 cm) high 4-digit white numbers for minutes and seconds. The background begins as dark gray, and eventually changes to the usual Toastmasters traffic light colors of green (shown above), yellow, or red. 

The Timer also continuously displays a horizontal progress bar with a vertical line between a dark color (left) and a lighter color (right). But, as shown above, there is insufficient contrast between the grays, some contrast between the greens, and easily seen contrast between the yellows.

I would suggest that (as shown above) that contrast should be increased so that a quick glance at the Timer display always would clearly reveal what percent of the maximum time has elapsed.   

I also wanted a way to tilt my phone so the timer could be seen easily during rehearsals. Placing it inside a generic 9.5 oz. clear plastic food storage container (like those made by Glad or Ziploc) solved that problem. 

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Be your own Santa Claus – download free public speaking e-textbooks


If you are looking for inexpensive e-books so you can teach yourself and learn more about public speaking, you are in luck. There are three completely free ones you can download listed on the Journalism, Media Studies, and Communication web page for the Open Textbook Library at the Center for Open Education in the University of Minnesota.

They are:

You also can download chapters from another e-textbook at The Public Speaking Project, which I blogged about back on December 1, 2009 in a post titled The joy of finding a free and worthwhile e-Book: The ACA Open Knowledge Guide to Public Speaking.

The image of a paper Christmas decoration is from the Library of Congress.  

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Use the right tools (visual aids) to give a great speech

If I was speaking in a conference room that holds about twenty people, then either a whiteboard or a flipchart would be suitable for displaying a limited amount of text to my audience. For a larger audience, like a ballroom, I'd need to use other visual aids.

Suppose instead that I wanted to discuss teamwork, and convey that I did not want my co-workers to go off in eight different directions. Then I might want to present a projected image like the one shown above as part of a PowerPoint presentation. (Click on it to see a larger, clearer view).

Next I might present another image with all nine of us going in the very same direction (in a very precise diamond formation).

And I might also present an image with one of us putting on the brakes (arrow) in order to line up with a couple others. The three images shown above are of the RCAF Snowbirds, and were taken on October 15 during the Gowen Thunder airshow held at the Boise airport (also known as Gowen Field).

Those images were taken with my Olympus E330 8-Megapixel digital single-lens reflex camera   equipped with a 40-to-150-mm zoom lens, as shown above. I was about two miles from the airport control tower, on Cole Road.  

The United States Air Force Thunderbirds also were there, and a bottom view of one of their four-plane formations is shown from about a mile away. The camera was hand-held, with both elbows braced against my chest. Photographing the Thunderbirds F-16 fighters going perhaps 400 mph is much more challenging than photographing hot air balloons, as I blogged about back on August 30, 2012 in a post titled After all… tomorrow is another day.

Those balloons were moving slowly enough that I could probably instead have used a little, pocket-sized Nikon Coolpix L110 camera which later bought and more commonly carry. The Coolpix has an LCD viewfinder, and a shutter lag of a few tenths of a second, which is completely unacceptable for catching fast- moving F-16s. But for most subjects it is far easier to use than the E330. The E330 runs on lithium-ion rechargeable battery, and I have to remember to take a charged-up spare along with me. The Coolpix runs on four AA penlight batteries which can be purchased almost anywhere if I forget to take along a spare set.

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Not quite my name

Getting names of organizations or people right matters. Yesterday at the blog for the Nashville-based presentation design agency Ethos3 Kelly Allison posted about 5 Reasons Why You Should Join a Toastmasters Group:

The good news is that she mentioned those five reasons are:

Combat fear

Build Confidence

Sharpen Leadership Abilities

Improve Improvisation

Expand Your Network

The bad news is that, even in her title, she got the terminology wrong. What you join is not called a Group, it is a Club. She never mentioned the organization's full name either, and refrerred just to Toastmasters. She said:

“There are groups and chapters all over the United States and even across the globe, so there’s bound to be one within your vicinity, no matter where you are.”

The organization has been called Toastmasters International since back in 1930. And she linked to a page from Toastmaster magazine rather than a web page about Who We Are or how to Find a Club.

In the TV show Criminal Minds, from 2005 to 2017 actor Shemar Moore played FBI profiler Derek Morgan. He currently stars in S.W.A.T. But on November 17, 2017 at her Speechwriter-Ghostwriter blog Jane Genova instead posted with the title “S.W.A.T.” – Shermer Moore Makes a Lousy Bet.


Kelly Allison responded to my comment by changing the blog post text from Group to Club.


Thursday, December 7, 2017

The joy and frustration of modern nightlight technology

I recently heard a nurse mention there were inexpensive motion-activated nightlights that could help prevent falls. Nightlights once used little 7-watt incandescent lamps, like the replica of a Coleman lantern shown above. It used a photocell so it was off during the day.

When I looked at the nearest Walmart I found that for just $8 I could buy a GE Ultrabrite Motion-Activated Light #12201 using two soft-white LEDs with an output of 40 lumens (slightly more than the 36 lumens from an incandescent lamp). It stayed on for only 90 seconds after sensing motion. As shown above, it plugs into the upper socket of a duplex wall outlet, and only consumes 1.5 watts when lit up. We got two of them for our bedroom, and put another two in the hall.

For $10 Walmart also had a GE LED Motion-Boost Light #38769 whose light output increased from 3 to 25 lumens. I thought that model would be perfect for putting on the wall above our cat’s food bowl, but found instead it has a major design flaw. The plug on its back is positioned so high that it blocks both sockets on a duplex wall outlet. I'm going to take it back for a refund.

Of course, there are other simple options with just light sensing rather than motion sensing. SnapPower makes ones that can almost instantly replace the cover plate for either a wall switch (SwitchLight) or a duplex outlet (GuideLight).

The image of a Coleman lantern nightlight is from Wikimedia Commons.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

We are carried along by our mentors

Recently I was listened to one of AlejAndro Anastasio’s One Hand Speaks podcasts titled The difference a few kind words can make in a person’s life. He described how his high school art teacher inspired his career in art. That got me thinking about some similar mentoring experiences I had. My first also happened in high school. I had blogged about it in a March 1, 2013 post titled Does your speaking voice sound like a little girl? One of my dad’s old friends, Dr. John F. Kahles, had visited us and after dinner told me a fascinating story about metallurgical engineering. It started me toward majoring in metallurgy at Carnegie-Mellon University. (His memorial tribute is at the National Academy of Engineering).

John told us about selecting materials for the teeth on the bottom of the scoop to a front end loader or bulldozer. Those teeth have to deal with contacting both sand and rocks. Sand is abrasive and will rub and wear away material.

Repeatedly hitting rocks causes cracking (impact fatigue) at the surface, and the cracks can grow inward until a tooth breaks off.  An obvious solution for reducing the abrasive wear rate from the sand would be to make the teeth harder, so they would wear out less rapidly.

But if that’s all that is changed, then you just switch failure modes. The impact fatigue cracks were not a problem before because they grew so slowly that they just were worn away. When you just increase the hardness, the cracks can grow faster until the teeth now can break off rather than wear out. So, before you can raise the hardness, you need to think about how to change the impact fatigue behavior. 

Another experience happened when I was a junior, and finally got to choose a metallurgy course as an elective. Our class advisor, professor Robert Dunlap, told Bob McIntyre and I to take a big leap and enroll in the graduate course on Alloy Steels. It was taught by the department head, Harold W. Paxton, using  E. C. Bain and H. W. Paxton’s book, Alloying Elements in Steel. Professor Dunlap said that a lot of the course will probably go right over your heads, but it might be the only chance you get to learn that topic from a true master. I struggled to get a B, but was fascinated. Six years later I got a job doing applied research on alloy steels at the Climax Molybdenum Company lab in Ann Arbor, Michigan.     

Much later I got to be the mentor. On April 28, 2009 I blogged about the Joy of teaching college students – talking about corrosion and materials selection in a guest lecture at Boise State University.

Ernst Nowak’s painting of a piggyback ride, and a photo of a front end loader both came from Wikimedia Commons.

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Student became a professional wrestler after he watched news debates to improve his oratory skills

On December 1st there was an article about India by Santosh Pradhan headlined Person who started watching news debates to improve his oratory skills finally becomes a professional wrestler at a satirical web site called Faking News. It claimed student Sanil Jain started watching news debates to improve his speaking skills, but learned so many wrestling moves that he decided to become a professional wrestler.

The previous day there was another article by the same author titled Workers dig potholes which were filled up for Ivanka’s visit after citizens complain about not recognizing the roads.

These humorous articles are similar to those at the more famous satirical web site The Onion. Two recent brief ones there were titled Glitch in country allows citizens to temporarily walk through tables and Buick introduces self-buying car.

An image of wrestlers was retouched and cropped from an 1899 painting by Thomas Eakins at Wikimedia Commons.