Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Demonstration speech by Dave Lieber about Starbucks hot drink cup sizes

One of the joys of public speaking is finding excellent speakers you hadn’t seen before. Dave Lieber writes a column for consumers in The Dallas Morning News. His other web site is Watchdog Nation. Dave his discussed how Starbucks has their own private jargon for sizes that mixes English, Spanish, and Italian.  

Watch him in a YouTube video on Dave Lieber & Watchdog Nation Share the Starbucks Secret on TV (including how to drink free coffee there). His demonstration is humorous and memorable. It might be even better if he also pointed out that the cup sizes increase in steps of 4 ounces (a half-cup) as is shown below.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Demonstration Speech: A world of healthy snacks from your microwave

It’s Superbowl Sunday, so this afternoon and evening Americans will be consuming lots of greasy, salty snacks while watching the game on television.

Several years ago I gave a demonstration speech at my Toastmasters club that showed how to use a microwave oven to make healthier snacks. I showed them before and after cooking, and then passed around bags with samples.

Popcorn is one snack food that can be made healthier. As shown above, a plastic popper lets you use bulk popcorn without the fat found in those overpriced commercial bags. Then you can add spices like cayenne pepper, curry powder, or Chinese five-spice, salt, and some butter or margarine.

You can microwave a pair of tortillas on a dinner plate to make your own chips. Cook for thirty seconds, then turn them over and repeat. Regular tortillas might take about four minutes, while extra thin ones just about two. You can begin by rubbing a small amount of oil between the tortillas, and then salting them lightly. Break them into quarters after cooking.

You also can cook an Indian papadum on a dinner plate. Indian markets stock packages of these in several spicy flavors.

As shown above, you even can cook four Indonesian krupuk at a time. (Both uncooked and cooked ones are shown). Experiment to get the correct cooking time. You want the whole cracker to puff up (no raw edges), but don’t want to start burning them.

Friday, February 5, 2016

An excellent infographic on how to hack your anxiety about presenting

Some infographics aren’t useful. On January 27, 2016 Matt Abrahams posted an excellent one titled Hack Your Anxiety. He discusses nine situations based on three types of anxiety:

(Where you’re presenting)

Flip it

(To whom you are presenting)


(What you are trying to achieve)

Be present

Under Flip It he says:

“Since the physiological manifestations of anxiety are similar to excitement (e.g. increased heart rate). trick yourself into feeling good about presenting by seeing your physical reaction as excitement.”

An image of Theodore Roosevelt carrying an ax came from the Library of Congress.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Did I really get an email from the late David Bowie?

When I checked my Junk Email folder for the account associated with this blog, I found the following item from January 27th:

A brief glance at Wikipedia shows David Bowie died back on January 10th. I don’t believe he tried to contact me, so I’m not about to open a file attachment containing malware. 

Snopes also has mentioned that Pat Robertson didn’t suggest David Bowie wasn’t really dead, or that “demons kidnapped him to entertain them in Hell.”

A wax museum image of David Bowie came from Wikimedia Commons.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Today is National Speak Up and Succeed Day

Once again it is National Speak Up and Succeed Day. How do I know that? In the past day my blog post from January 24, 2013 titled National Speak Up and Succeed Day was on Tuesday had over five hundred hits coming from web sites called Checkiday.com (All your holidays, updated daily) and Worldwide Weird Holidays.

I looked in the EBSCO Host databases at my friendly local public library and found that day also was briefly mentioned in an article back in the January 2003 issue of Middle Grades magazine titled 56 Skill-Building Activities You Can Use Right Now! which listed:

“49. Speak Up and Succeed Day

CHARACTER EDUCATION The fourth Tuesday of every January celebrates the importance of being able to speak publicly. Encourage students to stand up and speak out about something they care about. Invite professional speakers or local community leaders to give a short talk on how important public speaking is in their careers.”

It also was mentioned in a press release for a book at PRweb on January 27, 2004.

The image was modified from a 1909 illustration of Debate and Oratory at Wikimedia Commons.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Two more prize-winning stories from Canadian family physicians

The January 2016 issue of Canadian Family Physician contains two stories which won the AMS-Mimi Divinsky awards. I’ve blogged about earlier award winners in 2015, 2014, and 2013.

The best story from a resident was The Dance by Jessica Ladouceur. In just 512 words she tells about getting to know a patient.

The best story by a family physician was Arctic data streams (graphing land and love) by Courtney Howard. She pointed out that:

“I have recently realized that although MDs think that we make decisions based on evidence, much more often we change our practice based on the story relayed along with the evidence—based on the efficacy of an epinephrine drip in a code run over the phone and the success of polyethylene glycol in a single, extremely constipated Chipewyan elder. We respect numbers but, for better or for worse, we follow stories.” 

She briefly mentioned that story with the elder:

“Fort Providence—a Chipewyan-speaking elder is brought in with constipation and gets tired of waiting for the translator. He suddenly bursts out, 'No sh*t!' and raps the table next to his chair, causing the loudest explosion of inappropriate laughter of my career.”

Most of her story tells about attending a meeting in Yellowknife after a spill from a coal tailings pond into the Athabasca river.  

“Finally, the man who has been sitting in a pool of quiet at the head table rises to speak. He is the leader of the aboriginal group from just downstream from the spill in Alberta. He thanks everyone for their information, nods at the coal company rep, says he respects him as a human for coming. The poor young man from the coal company looks miserable for the first time. 

Despite the fact that the leader’s eyes are cast down and he seems to breathe in fatigue, something about him makes us lean in. A palpable sense of responsibility, gracefully shouldered. My own breath slows, is almost held, as he speaks.

‘They’ve never been faced with a serious situation like this before. They felt like their man-made dykes wouldn’t fail. The provincial government doesn’t know what they’re doing. The federal government doesn’t know what they’re doing. This tailings pond was constructed 15 years ago. So it was a new tailings pond that breached. We have thousands of older ponds.’ He continues, describing how his people still fish on the river, still live traditionally as much as they can. Meanwhile, the accumulating development projects in his area are changing the landscape so much as to make it almost unrecognizable.

He looks up, ‘We are going to be environmental refugees because of environmental catastrophes occurring on our land.’ “

She mentioned a word I hadn’t heard before, solastalgia, which means feeling homesick while you are still at home. You can download a .pdf file with both stories here.

Ben Schott discussed solastalgia back in 2011 in his Schott’s Vocab blog.

The image of a woman’s hands by Daniel Sone came from the National Cancer Institute.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Is the average attention span of a presentation coach almost as short as a that of a house fly?

At Gerry Sandusky’s web site I found a web page from January 14th titled Act Quickly. Attention Spans are Shrinking. On January 18th it was repeated at Presentation Magazine. He began by claiming:

“I recently came across some research on attention spans that shocked me. It essentially says that most of the people in your audience—whether that’s the audience for a keynote, a presentation, a sales pitch, or a meeting—have a shorter attention span than goldfish. Goldfish!

Microsoft conducted a research study in 2015 that found the attention span of the average North American has shrunk to eight seconds. That’s down from 12 seconds at the turn of the century. Down from 15 seconds late in the 21st century.

Goldfish, on the other hand, continue to hold steady at a nine second attention span.”

I went to the Microsoft web page for that 2015 report, titled How does digital affect Canadian attention spans? and downloaded it.

Page 6 of it says the 8 seconds, 9 seconds and 12 seconds actually came from a somewhat silly web site called Statistic Brain. ( The 8 seconds is for 2013). They were on their Attention Span Statistics web page, which I have previously blogged about. The current version for that web page claims an 8.25 second attention span for 2015. There is no mention of North Americans, and nothing about the 9 seconds for goldfish holding steady. It seems to really be from a BBC news web page back in 2002.

A chart (above) shows the research path I followed beginning with Gerry’s article.

Tooth Fairy Statistics

However, now things get very silly. Those three supposed data sources - the Associated Press, the National Center for Biotechnology Information, and the U. S. National Library of Medicine all are Nebulously Authoritative Places (NAPs). They are ridiculously general, and quite opaque. Looking further is pointless as trying to go scuba diving in quicksand!

If you are willing to pass along those unverified attention span statistics, then you probably also still believe in the tooth fairy. But, lots of people have been fooled. Perhaps that is because at the bottom of that Statistic Brain web page there also is a specific reference to an article from February 2008 in the ACM Transactions on the Web by Harald Weinrich et al titled “Not Quite the Average: An Empirical Study of Web Use.”   

For example, Joseph McCormack’s 2014 book Brief - make a bigger impact by saying less says in section 2 Inattention - The muscle is weakening of his Chapter 2 on  Mindful of Mind-filled-ness:

“The information inundation is weakening people’s ability to focus and prioritize. Prevailing research says the average attention span is down to 8 seconds from 12 over the past five years (Ref. 7).”

Similarly, an article on January 7, 2016 at Ethos 3 by Leslie Belknap titled How-To Conquer Short Attention Spans also referred to that 2008 article falsely claiming:

“In the study, Not Quite the Average: An Empirical Study of Web Use, researchers determined that the average human span in 2013 was only 8 seconds (the average goldfish can pay attention for 9 seconds).”

Sound Bite Statistics

There’s no 15 seconds listed either at Microsoft or Statistic Brain. So, in a comment, I asked Gerry Sandusky where he got that 15-second number for the late 20th century (not the 21st he said)?

He replied:

“The 15 seconds is a combination of personal experience and television research with soundbites. This article will show you the decline over the past third of the century.”

Without saying so he had changed the topic from attention span to sound bites. Sound bites should be shorter than the average attention span, or they wouldn’t be effective. Based on their length we could hope to get a lower bound for the attention span.

I looked for other articles about sound bites and found one by Joseph A Russomanno and Stephen E. Everett in the Summer 1995 issue of the Journal of Broadcasting and Electronic Media titled Candidate sound bites: Too much concern over length? It looked in detail at the 1992 presidential campaign. They noted that:

“Studies have demonstrated a marked decrease in candidate sound bite length since the 1968 campaign. During that period, average sound bite length declined from 42.8 seconds in 1968 to 9.8 seconds in 1988.”

For the 1992 campaign they found an average of 9.90 seconds - almost exactly the same as for 1988. What was the average (in seconds) for each of four networks? For ABC it was 8.05, for CBS 10.37, for CNN 12.45, and for NBC 8.50. Those numbers vary about as much as the 12 to 8 second range reported as if attention span was decreasing. 

Television Commercial Statistics

In October 2005 Jeff Davidson gave a speech that was published as Taking Back Control of Our Days in the November 1, 2005 issue of Vital Speeches of the Day. He said that:

“While the typical TV advertisement was 53 seconds in 1965, by 2000 it had dropped to 25 seconds with 15 second ads as well as 3 second ads peppering viewers at every turn.”

Also, a newspaper article by Emily Fredrix titled TV Commercials shrink to match attention spans in USA Today on October 30, 2010 noted that:

“The number of 15-second television commercials has jumped more than 70% in five years to nearly 5.5 million last year, according to Nielsen. They made up 34% of all national ads on the air last year, up from 29% in 2005.

....On average, about 5% of an audience viewing a 15-second commercial will give up on it. The number jumps to about 6% for 30 seconds and 6.5% for 60 seconds, says Jeff Boehme, chief research officer for Kantar Media.”

On September 27, 2015 I blogged about What can you communicate in 20 seconds or less? In that post I mentioned 20, 10, and 5 second TV commercials.

Bull and Bronco Statistics

How else can we find a lower bound for people’s attention span? Out west there are two relevant rodeo events - bull riding (see PBR) and bronc riding. If people couldn’t manage to pay attention for the length of a full ride, then they wouldn’t be paying for tickets to watch them. Well, both events call for the cowboy to do an eight second ride. So, the attention span really should be more than 8 seconds.

How short is the attention span of a house fly? Would you believe it is five seconds? I don’t know if that’s right or wrong, and neither do you. 

The image of a farmer’s boy and his sister came from Wikimedia Commons, as did that of a bull rider and a house fly.  The tooth fairy was derived from an image found at Openclipart.