Tuesday, February 26, 2013

What does a sequester look like?

As the U.S. heads towards budget sequestration, it dawned on me that we didn’t have an image of what that silly critter looked like. I created one starting from an 1887 Puck cartoon which originally had that monster labeled as the Tariff Question. He’s been Photoshopped and colored purple to represent that he was created in Congress both by blue Democrats and red Republicans.

There’s another 1908 Puck cartoon with an image that could represent a fiscal cliff.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Verbal communication skill is the top ability desired by employers from new college graduate candidates in the NACE 2013 Job Outlook Survey

In late summer and early fall the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) surveys employers about new college graduates. Their 2013 Job Outlook Survey was published on November 1, 2012 and described in a press release on November 8th titled Employers Look for Communications Skills, Ability to Work in a Team in New College Grads

One of their questions asked employers to rate the importance of candidate abilities and skills on a scale from 1 to 5 where:

1. Not at all important
2. Not very important
3. Somewhat important
4. Very Important
5. Extremely important

A bar chart shows the rankings. (Click on it to see a larger, clearer version). Ability to verbally communicate with persons inside and outside the organization was first on the list of desired candidate skills (4.63), and was considered more than very important. The rest of the top five abilities were working in a team (4.60), making decisions and solving problems (4.51), planning organizing and prioritizing (4.46), and obtaining and processing information (4.43). (Ability to create or edit written reports was ninth at 3.56, or almost a point below that for verbal communication).

Another question asked employers what attributes they seek on a candidate’s resume. Results are shown on another bar chart. The top ten attributes were leadership (80.6%), problem solving skills (75.3%), written communication skills (74.7%), ability to work in a team (74.2%), analytical/quantitative skills (72.0%), strong work ethic (73.1%), verbal communication skills (67.2%), initiative (66.7%), computer skills (64.5%), and technical skills (64.0%).

I’ve previously blogged about both the 2010 and 2011 surveys. Emphasis on the importance of communication skills isn’t new. The press release for their 2010 survey said that:

“Employers taking part in NACE’s Job Outlook 2010 survey, ranked communication skills at the top of the skills they seek in potential employees. Rounding out the top five were analytical skills, the ability to work in a team, technical skills, and a strong work ethic.”

What amused me about the 2013 survey was that the results for abilities and skills were not displayed as I have done via the first bar chart. Both the press release and the Student version of the survey instead had a Top Ten List with those abilities illustrated by little clip art cartoons.

Results for attributes sought on resumes were displayed on a series of little pie charts arranged in five rows with four columns each (except for a bottom row with three). Perhaps they were trying to make the information look like the dashboard for the flight engineer on an RAF Lancaster bomber from back in World War II, as shown above. To me the first ten little pie charts instead looked like silly Pac-Men ready to nibble their way off to the Northwest. I much prefer a horizontal bar chart, which lets you easily compare the percentages.

You can find the Acrobat  .pdf file for the full report by running a Google search with the phrase: “Job Outlook 2013 11 | 2012”, and the Student version with the phrase: “The_Job_Outlook_for_the_College_Class_of_2013_Student_Version)” .

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Humorous tips for public speaking from novelist Teddy Wayne

Yesterday’s online Opinionator commentary at the New York Times has a humorous article containing the following three tips (and many others):

“....Remember that the audience really wants you to succeed. Except for that one guy, in back, Brad. He doesn’t. But don’t think about him during your speech.

....Be cocky, not confident. Everyone loves a supremely arrogant person who is, at heart, deeply insecure and who takes out those vulnerabilities on weaker people.

....In your speechwriting, avoid clichés, like the plague. Getting the plague is such a cliché. (Note: this item is taken from a pamphlet on public-speaking tips from the 14th century.)”

Franz Hals painting of a Laughing Child is from Wikimedia Commons. 

Friday, February 22, 2013

Top ten fears of U.S. women from a survey by Debora M. Coty

This month in her Deb’s Blog of Wit & Near-wisdom central Florida author and speaker Debora M. Coty wrote about the results from a web survey of 500 American women she did for her new book Fear, Faith, and a Fistful of Chocolate: Wit and Wisdom for Sidestepping Life's Worries. She asked women to pick their top three from a list of 24 fears, or to add others. The top ten fears she found were:

1.  Loss of a loved one (spouse/child/parents)
2.  Debilitating illness/terminal disease
3.  Failure
4.  Old age/senility
5.  The unknown/the what-ifs
6.  Loneliness
7.  Dependency on others
8.  Rejection
9.  Specific critters (e.g. snakes, roaches, rats)
10. Being judged unfairly

A half-dozen other fears that didn't quite make the top 10 were:

- Trying new things
- Purposelessness
- Depression
- The dark
- Flying
- Public Speaking

She said the top fear, loss of a loved one, had over twice the percentage of the second fear, but she didn’t list all those percentages.

Her list is startlingly different from the 2001 Gallup poll titled Snakes top list of Americans’ Fears which found the following:

1.  Snakes (62%)
2.  Public speaking in front of an audience (44%)
3.  Being closed in a small space (42%)
4.  Heights (41%)
5.  Spiders and insects (38%)
6.  Mice (33%)
7.  Flying on an airplane (22%)
8.   Needles and getting shots (21%)
9. Thunder and lightning (16%)
10. Dogs (14%)

11. Crowds (12%)
12. The Dark (8%)
13. Going to the doctor (8%)

There are several other surveys with separate results for women and men. Some were done using longer prepared lists of fears to rank, like the Fear Survey Schedule II (FSS-II, 51 items) and the the Fear Survey Schedule III (FSS-III, 108 items) and their translations or adaptations. Results vary wildly depending on where and when women were surveyed, and which prepared list they used.   

Back in a 1965 magazine article Geer used the FSS-II with a sample of U.S. University students and found the following top ten:

1.  Death of a loved one
2.  Illness or injury to loved ones
3.  Failing a test
4.  Snakes
5.  Auto accidents
6.  Looking foolish
7.  Speaking before a group
8.  Untimely or early death
9.  Being with drunks
10. Making mistakes

Another article from 1991 using the FSS-II on Canadian women in metro Toronto 50 and over found:

1.  Death of a loved one
2.  Illness or injury to loved ones
3.  Roller coasters
4.  Auto accidents
5.  Snakes
6.  Being with drunks
7.  Suffocating
8.  Being in a fight
9.  Seeing a fight
10. Untimely or early death
    (Speaking before a group was 16th)

A 1992 article using the FSS-III on U.S. University students found:

1.  Failure
2.  Dead people
3.  Hurting others’ feelings
4.  Feeling rejected
5.  Bats
6.  Mice or rats
7.  Fire
8.  Speaking in Public
9.  Feeling disapproved of
10. Looking foolish

Another article from 1994 on Egyptian women university students using the FSS-III found:

1.  Being seen unclothed
2.  Nude men
3.  Dirt
4.  Failure
5.  One person bullying another
6.  Being punished by God
7.  Parting from friends
8.  Hurting others’ feelings
9.  Tough looking people
10. Looking foolish or Nude women

Finally, an article from 2000 on Greek women using the FSS-III found:

1.  Becoming mentally ill
2.  Possible surgery
3.  Looking foolish
4.  Failure
5.  Witness surgery
6.  Dead people
7.  Parting from friends
8.  Feeling rejected by others
9.  Losing control
10. Feeling disapproved of

The 1892 image of melancholia with fear came from the Images from the History of Medicine (IHM) collection.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

The pause that refreshes, or thirsty Marco

During a televised speech a small movement may appear much larger, and delivery can become more memorable than content. Florida Senator Marco Rubio found this out on February 12th, when he gave the 14-minute Republican response to the president’s State of the Union speech. After 11 minutes he paused for a drink of water that turned into a news story, as shown in the following brief video.

Saturday Night Live described it as follows:

“You suddenly lunge to the side, all the while holding awkward eye contact with the camera, and then you take a drink from the tiniest bottle of water anyone’s ever seen, and then, for no reason, you set the bottle down even farther away.”

Comedy Central’s Colbert Report and Daily Show both did hilarious segments about it. Speech coaches like Max Atkinson, Corby Guenther, and Lou Hampton discussed it. Will this be the moment that forever defines Senator Rubio as thirsty, like when President Gerald Ford stumbled and fell down the steps from his plane? Time will tell. (Back in 1929 Coca Cola began using the phrase The pause that refreshes in their advertising campaigns, and they continued to use it in World War II).

Monday, February 18, 2013

Would you rather carry people up or bring them down?

Those two buttons on the wall between a pair of elevators are a reminder about attitude. When you write a speech or an article you can choose either to take people up or just to bring them down.

Recently I saw a Huffington blog post titled Money fear: 12 ways to fight financial stress written last September by Mary Pritchard, a psychology professor at Boise State University. Her post began by citing some statistics from an annual survey of 1226 adults done in August and September of 2011 by Harris Interactive for the American Psychological Association (APA), and titled Stress in America: Our Health At Risk. You can download that 78-page report  it at the APA web site.

Mary’s first paragraph said:

“In the past couple of weeks, I’ve been blogging on how to cope with stress. Why? Because let’s face it, we are one stressed out bunch of people. The scary fact is that, in the American Psychological Association’s study “Stress in America,” the majority of American adults surveyed reported that their stress had increased during the past five years. And respondents fully realized that their stress levels were taking a toll on their health. In fact, 88 percent of women and 78 percent of men surveyed reported that their stress level had a strong or very strong impact on their physical health.” 

Her first startling statement isn’t quite true, if by majority you mean more than half. The table shown above lists data that appear in a bar chart on page 16 of the APA report. In 2011 just 44% reported that that their stress had increased during the past five years. Only in 2008 was it a majority - 53%. How did the section of the APA report on The Impact of Stress open? It instead said:

“Reported stress levels for Americans overall are continuing to drop and have reached their lowest point since 2007, when the Stress in America survey first began tracking stress levels . While stress levels appear to be balancing out, they remain high and exceed what Americans consider to be healthy . Year after year, many Americans report extreme stress (22 percent in 2011; 24 percent in 2010 and 2009; 30 percent in 2008; and 32 percent in 2007) — an 8, 9 or 10 on a 10-point scale where 1 is little or no stress and 10 is a great deal of stress . These findings are indicative of a serious trend that could have long-term consequences on people’s health.” 

A graph shows how the mean rating for stress (on a scale from 1 to 10) has dropped from 6.2 in 2007 to 5.2 in 2011. (Click on it to see a larger, clearer version).  

Another graph show how the percent of Americans who reported extreme stress also dropped from 32% in 2007 (almost a third) to 22% in 2011 (less than a quarter). So, when you look at the results year by year you see a different and more positive picture of the changes than what people recall by looking back five years. 

A bar chart shows ten significant sources of stress, which were: money (75%), work (70%), the economy (67%), relationships (58%), family responsibilities (57%), health problems affecting my family (53%), personal health concerns (53%), job stability (49%), housing costs (49%), and personal safety (32%).   

Another bar chart shows the symptoms experienced in the last month as a result of stress, which were: irritability or anger (42%), feeling nervous or anxious (39%), fatigue (37%), feeling depressed or sad (37%), lack of interest, motivation, or energy (35%), headache (32%), feeling as if you could cry (30%), upset stomach or indigestion (24%), muscular tension (24%), change in appetite (17%), and change in sex drive (11%).

A third bar chart shows seven strategies for dealing with stress that were believed effective by those using them: focusing on the positive (62%), managing time better (56%), being flexible and willing to compromise (53%), avoiding people or situations that are stressful (53%), expressing feelings instead of bottling them up (51%), saying No (50%), and adjusting expectations (41%).

What about Mary’s second startling statement about how stress level had a strong or very strong impact on physical health? That was in a bullet point (and bar chart) in the section on Stress and Gender on page 23 of the report. But the very next bullet point said that men are more likely than women to report that their own stress has slight or no impact on their physical (36% vs. 26%) or mental health (40% vs. 32%).

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Is Somebody Singing (ISS) - A song from the International Space Station

Want to see some truly joyous storytelling about being up in space? Watch this video, with Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield singing and playing the guitar while in orbit, along with a group in a Toronto studio of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (Barenaked Ladies, and the Wexford Gleeks).

I saw a post about it on Phil Plait’s Bad Astronomy blog. Some of the lyrics are:

“...Floating from my seat,

Look out my window

There goes home

That brilliant ball of blue

Is where I’m from and also where I’m going to.

So sing your song,

I’m listening, out where stars are glistening

I can hear your voices bouncing off the moon.

If you could see our nation from the International Space Station

You know why I want to get back soon.”

To see it at its best go to this link for the video, and then click on the square bullseye at the bottom right of that player ribbon for a full-screen view.

There also is a video of Jewel in the Night, a song Chris did solo in orbit. Chris has a video about the Space Station guitar, and how playing in zero gravity is different from on earth.

Friday, February 15, 2013

A human model where you can see and feel the forces

The gigantic 2,200 meter (1.6 mile) long Firth of Forth Railway Bridge in Scotland is nine miles west of central Edinburgh. Those three cantilever steel structures are 100.6 meters (330 feet) tall, and at high tide the railroad tracks are 46 meters (151 feet) above the water. That bridge opened on March 4, 1890. You can read a brief history here

How do those cantilever structures work? Benjamin Baker, one of the designers, gave a lecture at the Royal Institution in London on May 20, 1887 in which he showed a lantern slide with a human model that very cleverly let his audience both see and feel just what was going on:

“Two men sitting on chairs extended their arms and supported the same by grasping sticks butting against the chairs. This represented the two double cantilevers. The central girder was represented by a short stick slung from one arm of each man and the anchorages by ropes extending from the other arms to a couple of piles of brick. When stresses are brought on this system by a load on the central girder, the men’s arms and the anchorage ropes come into tension and the sticks and chair legs into compression.

In the Forth Bridge you have to imagine the chairs placed a third of a mile apart and the men’s heads to be 300 ft. above the ground. Their arms are represented by huge steel lattice members, and the sticks or props by steel tubes 12 ft. in diameter and 1-1⁄4 in. thick.”

The March-April issue of American Scientist magazine contains an article by Henry Petroski titled An Anthropomorphic Model that describes the history of that famous visual aid. It turns out Kaichi Watanabe, a young engineer who was a constuction foreman and Mr. Baker’s assistant, was seated on the platform in the middle of the image. 

An image of the bridge came from Wikimedia Commons. 

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Hiding in the shadow

On February 8th at his Public Speakers Blog Steve Siebold posted a four-minute video about The Single Most Important Speaking Secret, which he said is energy. I agree, but when I saw it, I just burst out laughing and shouted: “Aziz, light!”

While the background is bright and clear, his face sometimes goes into shadows and looks murky. That unintended visual style is like film noir. What went wrong, and how could it be fixed?

The exposure meter on a still or video camera senses what is going on near the center of the image. If the image is uniformly lit, then that reading is representative and everything goes well. In Mr. Siebold’s video the sky likely was much brighter than his face. The camera was fooled by that bright light, so it underexposed his face. Zooming in more so his body covered the metered area would have improved things. Positioning the camera higher and aiming it down so it didn’t see as much sky also would have helped. 

The exposure meter also assumes that the image area reflects 18% of the light falling on it, which  is about right for skin. But when you try to image a long skinny object, like a ski sitting on a background of snow, or a sword on black velvet, you need to rethink the exposure because an average will be wrong.    

As one commenter on the video noted, it looked like the sun was behind Mr. Siebold, so a reflector placed behind the camera could have been used to light up his face.

A scene in a film from 1997, The Fifth Element, has Professor Pacoli trying to decipher a message carved on the interior wall of an Egyptian temple. A small boy named Aziz is holding the top edge of a large rectangular brass tray angled to reflect sunlight onto the wall for him. Aziz is tired and keeps nodding off, so the professor repeatedly calls: “Aziz, light!” and the phrase found its way into the Urban Dictionary.         

Monday, February 11, 2013

Randy Newman’s thoughts on fear

Right now we are in between the Grammy Awards and the president’s State of the Union speech. What connects those topics?

Singer-songwriter and composer Randy Newman is a great storyteller. On his 2008 CD Harps and Angels there is a song called A Few Words in Defense of Our Country containing the following lyric:

“A president once said,
‘The only thing we have to fear is fear itself’
Now it seems like we’re supposed to be afraid
It’s patriotic in fact and color coded
And what are we supposed to be afraid of?
Why, of being afraid
That’s what terror means, doesn’t it?
That’s what it used to mean”

An abridged version of that song appeared as an op-ed in the New York Times on January 24, 2007 called State of the Union: Another Take. I never understood that five-level Homeland Security Advisory System chart, which since has been replaced by something simpler with just Elevated or Imminent. It looked like they began with traffic light colors of green-yellow-red, then decided they wanted two more levels, but forgot that in the visible spectrum blue should come after green. 

Randy Newman won six Grammys, and was nominated another nine times - all for film music. He also won two Academy Awards for Best Original Song, but was nominated another eighteen times. Many people think of him just as having written family-friendly film scores with songs like We Belong Together for Toy Story 3 and Our Town for Cars. But, long ago he also wrote very adult songs like Mama Told Me Not To Come, You Can Leave Your Hat On, and I Love LA.  

Sunday, February 10, 2013

How Americans Communicate - some results from a survey published in 1999

Back in 1999 the National Communication Association published a report titled How Americans Communicate that was based on a telephone survey of 1001 people done by Roper Starch Worldwide in the summer of 1998. The original used to be on their web site, but if I recall correctly it was just for members. There are lots of references to tidbits from it in books. For example, in David Dempsey’s Present Your Way to the Top, on page 3 he says that:

“A 1999 study commissioned by the National Communication Association found that only 24 percent of Americans are very comfortable giving a speech or a format presentation.”

How about the rest of us? Would perhaps 17 percent have been not comfortable at all? You can find the whole report online here at a university web site. The survey was done on a sample of  1001 people over age 18. 52% were female and 48% were male.

Some questions of interest and results shown on page 20 were:

“For each type of communication that I read to you, please tell me whether you feel very comfortable, somewhat comfortable, not too comfortable, or not at all comfortable communicating that way:

261. On the telephone
262. Via the Internet/by email
263. Face-to-face/in-person
264. In writing
265. Speaking up at a meeting
266. Giving a presentation or a speech"

A bar chart shows all four percentages for giving a presentation or a speech. (Click on it to see a larger, clearer version) 24% (about a quarter) were very comfortable, 34% (about a third) were somewhat comfortable, 22% (about another quarter) were not too comfortable, and 17% (about one-sixth) were not at all comfortable.  

A second bar chart shows the percentages who were very comfortable for all six situations. Mr. Dempsey only quoted the 24% for giving a presentation or a speech, although even fewer people (22%) were comfortable communicating via the Internet. Back then email was pretty scary! A similar bar chart appears on page 6 of the NCA  report.

Yet another bar chart shows the percentages who were terrified (not at all comfortable). Giving a presentation or speech terrified 17%, followed by a tie (9%) for speaking at a meeting and email. This chart is what you should use if you want to alarm people, like some speaking coaches.

We also can group two categories and show the percentages who were anxious (not at all comfortable or not too comfortable). 39% (two out of five) were anxious about giving a presentation or speech, followed by 26% (about a quarter) for speaking up at a meeting, and 17% (about one-sixth) for email.  

Similarly, we can group the other two categories and show the percentages who were relaxed (very comfortable or somewhat comfortable). 58% (almost three out of five) were relaxed about giving a presentation or a speech, and 70% (seven of ten) were relaxed about speaking up at a meeting. 

There are many more topics covered in the report, and it’s still worth reading.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Thank you for visiting: 200,000 page views!

Last week this blog passed a landmark of having been viewed 200,000 times since it was started at the end of May, 2008. I still enjoy writing it, and have not run out of topics for posts. One way to think about 200,000 is as roughly the population of a medium sized U.S. city (not the whole metro area) like Akron, Boise, or Des Moines.

A better way to visualize 200,000 is as around twice the number of people to fill a big stadium for a college football game, like Neyland Stadium in Knoxville, Tennessee. 

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Fired up, ready to go

Another memorable event from the 2012 presidential campaign was President Obama’s final speech in Des Moines, Iowa on November 5th, the evening before the election. You can watch the whole thing on YouTube. He told a wonderful story about getting inspired by Edith Childs, a woman from the small town of Greenwood, South Carolina, whose call and response chant became part of his 2008 campaign.

That story begins at about 21 minutes in. Here’s a transcript of it: 

“...Don’t let anybody tell you your voice can’t make a difference. It makes a difference.

I got a powerful reminder of this myself on our last campaign. Folks in Iowa, I know you may have heard this story, but it was early in the primaries, and we were still way down in the polls, and I think this office had just finally gotten the heat turned on.

And, at the time I was still competing in South Carolina. It was one of the early primary states, and I really wanted the endorsement of a state representative down there. I’d met her at some function where I was, nobody knew me, nobody could pronounce my name, they’re wondering what’s he thinking. So, I asked her for her endorsement. And she said, I tell you what, Obama, I will give you my endorsement if you come to my hometown of Greenwood, South Carolina. And I think I had a little bit of wine during  dinner because right away I said OK.

So, it’s about a month later, and I’m traveling back to South Carolina, and we flew in late at night. I think we were coming from Iowa. We’d been campaigning nonstop, you know traveling all through towns, and having town hall meetings, and shaking hands. And, in between I’m making phone calls asking people for support. So, we land in Greenville, South Carolina, at around midnight, we get to the hotel at about one o’clock in the morning. I am wiped out, I’m exhausted. And I’m dragging my bags to my room. Back then we didn’t fly on Air Force One, and you know, the accommodations were a little different.

And, just as I’m about to walk into the room, one of my staff taps me on the shoulder and they say, excuse me Senator - I was a Senator back then - we’re going to have to wake up and be on the road at 6:30 in the morning. What! Why? Well, you made this promise to go to Greenwood, and it’s several hours away.

And, you know I try to keep my promises, so a few hours later I wake up and, I’m feeling terrible. I think a cold’s coming on, and I open up the curtains to try to get some light to wake me up. But, it’s pouring down rain, terrible storm. And I take a shower, get some coffee, and I open up the newspaper, and there’s a bad story about me in the New York Times. I was much more sensitive at that time to bad stories. I’ve become more accustomed to these now. And, finally I get dressed. I go downstairs, and I’m walking out to the car, and my umbrella blows open, and I’m soaked. So by the time I’m in the car I’m wet, and I’m mad, and I’m still kinda sleepy.

And it turns out that Greenwood is several hours away from every place else. So, we drive, and we drive, and we drive, and we drive. And finally, we get to Greenwood, although you don’t know you’re in Greenwood right away, cause there are not a lot of tall buildings around. And we pull up to a small field house, and I walk in, and I’m looking around, and I don’t hear a lot going on. And, the state representative said she was going to organize a little meeting for us, and we walk in and there are about twenty people there. And, they’re all kinda wet too, and they don’t look very excited to see me. But, you know, I’m running for President, so I do what I’m supposed to do. And I’m shaking hands, and I say how do you do, nice to meet you.

And, I’m making my way around the room, and suddenly I hear this voice cry out behind me: ‘Fired up!’ And, I’m startled, and I don’t know what’s going on. But, everybody in the room - this is a small room - they act like this is normal. And, when the voice says ‘Fired up!‘ they all say ‘Ready to go!‘ And so, once again I hear the voice: ‘Fired up!‘  And they say ‘Fired up!’ And say ‘Ready to go!‘, ‘Ready to go!’ I look around, I turn around me  there’s this small woman, she’s about sixty years old, looks like she just came from church - she’s got a big church hat. And she’s looking at me, kinda peering at me, and she’s grinning, smiling, looking happy.

Turns out she’s a city councilwoman from Greenwood who also moonlights as a private detective. I’m not making this up, this is true. And, it turns out she’s famous throughout the area, when she goes to football games, and when she goes to rallies, and she goes to community events, she does this chant of hers. She does it wherever she goes. So, for the next few minutes, she just keeps on saying ‘Fired up!’ and everybody says “Fired up!’ And she says ‘Ready to go!’, and everybody says ‘Ready to go!‘

And, I’m thinking, you know, this woman is showing me up. This is my meeting, I’m running for President, and she’s dominating the room. And, I look at my staff, and they just shrug their shoulders. They don’t know what to do, so this goes on for a few minutes. Now, here’s the thing, Iowa. After a few minutes, I’m feeling kind of fired up. I’m feeling like I’m ready to go. So, I start joining in the chant, and my staff starts joining in the chant. Suddenly I feel pretty good. And, we go on to talk about the lives of the people in the room, and their families, and their struggles, and their hopes for their kids and their grandkids.

And we drive out, and it’s still raining, but it doesn’t seem so bad and we go to our next stop. For the rest of the day, even after we left Greenwood, even though we still weren’t getting any big crowds anyplace, even though people still couldn’t pronounce my name,  I felt good. And, I’d see my staff, and I’d say ‘are you fired up?’ and they’d say ‘we’re fired up!’ I’d say ‘are you ready to go?’ and they’d say ‘we’re ready to go!’ And we brought that to Iowa. And during our rallies this became a chant, and we’d have signs saying ‘Fired up!‘ ‘Ready to go!‘

The woman, her name was Edith Childs, she became a celebrity and she was written up in the Wall Street Journal. And folks did news stories on her. And this became one of the anthems of our campaign back in 2008. Now, here’s the end of the story though. We knew we were coming back to Des Moines for the last campaign rally I’ll ever do for me.  And so we were getting kind of sentimental and we called up Edith Childs. And we said, why don’t you come on up? No, no, listen to this. We said, why don’t you come on up? We’ll fly you up from South Carolina, and you can do this chant one more time just for for old good times sake. It’s like getting the band together again.

And, you know what Edith said? She said I’d love to see you, but I think we can still win North Carolina, so I’m taking a crew into North Carolina to knock on doors on election day. I don’t have time just to be talking about it - I’ve got to knock on some doors. I’ve got to turn out the vote. I’m still fired up, but I’ve got work to do.

And that shows you what one voice can do. One voice can change a room. And, if it can change a room, it can change a city. And if it can change a city, it can change a state. And if it can change a state, it can change a nation. And if it can change a nation, it can change the world.”

There’s also a shorter video about Edith Childs here.

Monday, February 4, 2013

The audience is on your side, and they want you to succeed

One of the most memorable speeches of the 2012 presidential campaign was when Senator Marco Rubio of Florida introduced Mitt Romney at the Republican National Convention.

But, when you watch the video above you’ll see very near the end, at 17:22,  he accidentally flipped over a comparison and said that:

“We chose more government instead of more freedom.”

USA Today, who had a copy of his text, and was blogging live, noted:

“10:31 p.m. ET: Rubio flubs a key line in his speech, saying ‘We chose more government instead of more freedom.’ Someone in the crowd says no. Line in the text says, ‘We chose more freedom instead of more government.’ “

I caught it too. But, if you didn’t have the text in front of you, you probably missed that minor mistake. Most of the audience didn’t care at all because the rest of his speech was so compelling. And, on the following morning the  headline for the Wall Street Journal’s Washington Wire blog said:

“Marco Rubio Delivers Rousing speech at RNC.”

Nobody’s perfect. On April 25, 2012 Brad Phillips blogged about when Mr. Rubio lost the last page of his speech. In an interview with GQ magazine he was asked how old the earth is, and gave a long answer instead of just saying I don’t know. He was criticized by Phil Plait and others, and later corrected himself.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Blue Astroturfing and stealth raisins

On November 5, 2010 I blogged about how I didn’t like unknown advocacy groups pouring money into political campaigns. I called that lack of transparency stealth raisins. They were like some oatmeal cookies where there was raisin paste you couldn’t see, instead of them being labeled as oatmeal-raisin cookies.

Astroturfing happens when a political, advertising, or public relations campaign is  organized to appear being from the grassroots and mask the actual sponsors. Since 1986 the playing surface at Boise State University’s Bronco Stadium has been covered with blue artificial turf. So, the local color for astroturfing would be blue rather than the usual green. In the 2012 election in Idaho we had a good example. It was from a group that favored three referendums for education reform that asked voters to approve what the state legislature had passed in 2011 (widely known as the Luna laws).

Last October 22nd the Spokesman-Review in Spokane, Washington and the Idaho Statesman here in Boise printed a sanctimonious opinion piece titled Education Voters of Idaho: Parents must have final say in how schools are run. Part of it said:

“There are too few groups advocating for the rights of parents with school-age children and for the smart approach demanded by taxpayers who fund our system.

That’s why we started Education Voters of Idaho (EVI). Over the last two years we have watched the debate over education reform with increasing frustration, even disdain. Like most Idahoans, we were tired of education reform getting caught up in politics and being focused on personalities. We decided to do something about it, and founded EVI to push sound policies on behalf of parents and taxpayers throughout the state. Our voices and the voices of thousands of others like us need to be heard.”

Then Ben Ysursa, the Idaho Secretary of State, asked EVI to reveal who its donors were since they were a political committee subject to the Sunshine Initiative. They claimed they were a nonprofit and didn’t, so he sued them. EVI lost the suit in the 4th Judicial District (Case CV-OC-2012-19280), and then revealed where their  $640,000 really came from.

Albertson’s supermarket heir Joe Scott  gave $250,000 (or 39%), and Michael Bloomberg, the mayor of New York City gave $200,000 (or 31%). So, 70% of the money came from just two very wealthy donors. That’s not very grassroots, and was a public relations disaster.

Voters in Idaho conclusively rejected all three referendums. Two of them lost in all 44 counties in the state, and the third only lost in 37 of 44 counties.

The close-up view of artificial turf was recolored from this one.

Friday, February 1, 2013

National survey shows that U.S. college freshmen are much more confident about their drive to achieve than their public speaking ability

I saw an article from the January 29th Huffington Post (College) titled Record Low Number of College Freshmen Partying: UCLA CIRP Survey. It discussed the Cooperative Institutional Research Program (CIRP) which does an annual survey of U.S. college and university freshmen. For 2012 they had data on 192,912 students from 283 four-year institutions. You can download The American Freshman: National Norms Fall 2012 here at a UCLA website. The article mentioned that students had bragged most about their drive to achieve, so I went to look up and see whether they also had bragged about their public speaking. 

Students were asked if they rated themselves “Highest 10%” or “Above Average” as compared with the average person their age in 19 different categories (see page 42). Results are shown above in a bar chart. (Click on it to see a larger, clearer version). The top five categories in percent were drive to achieve (76.4%), cooperativeness (69.1%), academic ability (69.0%), understanding of others (67,9%), and leadership ability (61.1%). Contrast this with public speaking ability (36.8%), which was ranked just 15th.

One of the running gags on Garrison Keillor’s radio show A Prairie Home Companion is a fictional town called Lake Wobegon where:

“...all the children are above average.”

Students in the CIRP survey knew better than that. As merely freshmen they have plenty of time to take some courses to help them improve before they graduate and go to work.