Friday, August 30, 2013

Uncommon fears

An XKCD comic on August 16th titled Increased Risk mentioned:

“..odds of getting shot by a swimming dog carrying a handgun in its mouth.”

Randall Munroe didn’t bother to give that fear a name, so with tongue-in-cheek I just did - hoplocynohydrophobia. Clearly it is a very uncommon fear. I never ever thought about it until he wrote about it. Both luposlipaphobia (fear of being pursued by timber wolves around a kitchen table while wearing socks on a newly waxed floor) and arachybutyrophobia (fear of peanut butter sticking to the roof of one’s mouth) also are uncommon.

This month an article from Marie Claire magazine asked singer-songwriter Taylor Swift their standard celebrity questions, including what was on her top five fears list. She replied that they were:

1. Sea urchins
2. Googling myself
3. Earwigs
4. Cynics
5. Getting arrested

When you ask an inappropriate question you can expect rather uncommon answers. Ms. Swift’s second album was titled Fearless, and it won Grammy awards in 2010 both for Best Country Album and Album of the Year.

This image of a swimming dog was Photoshopped to add a handgun.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Martin, tell them about the dream

Today is the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s celebrated I Have a Dream speech. Surprisingly, the second half of that speech was improvised, as was discussed yesterday by Carmine Gallo.

Back in 2009 Andrew Dlugan analyzed it in a post on his Six Minutes blog.

The image of an inscription on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. came from here.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Did your audience still hear your voice after your presentation?

In her Knockout Presentations Blog on August 8th a post by Diane DiResta titled Can Your Audience Still Hear Your Voice After Your Presentation? posed that provocative question that was asked at the National Speakers Association (NSA) convention.

It was meant figuratively, but it also has a literal answer - just for a second. For music two seconds also is fine. Look up the Wikipedia entry for Wallace Clement Sabine, who found that the aptly named Fogg Lecture Hall at Harvard had an unacceptable reverberation time of five and a half seconds. I’ve posted about room acoustics before. 

Figuratively speaking, it is all too easy to put your audience to sleep with an uninspired presentation. Staying creative, and writing speeches that tell stories isn’t easy.

Pages 14 to 18 of the July/August issue of the NSA’s Speaker magazine had an interview with screenwriting lecturer Robert McKee about The Business of Story.

Also, On August 5th the Convene blog had a post about 5 Ways to Keep Your Best Ideas Flowing.

There was an excellent four page magazine article about how to Reclaim Your Creative Confidence by Tom and David Kelley that appeared in the December 2012 issue of the Harvard Business Review on pages 115 to 118. You can download a reprint here or here. They discuss overcoming four fears of: the messy unknown, being judged, the first step, and losing control.

Images of David E. Lillienthal and Senators Maloney and Radcliffe both came from the Library of Congress.  

Friday, August 23, 2013

Performing or giving a talk in front of an audience is the most common social fear for people in the Canadian military

Between May and December 2002 there was a survey on social fears done on a sample of people on active duty in the Canadian military. There were 5155 from the Regular force and 3286 from the Reserve, for a total of 8441. The total responding was about 80%, or 6842. Results were analyzed and eventually published in an article by Amber A. Mather, Murray B. Stein, and Jitender Sareen in the October 2010 issue of the Journal of Psychiatric Research and titled Social Anxiety Disorder and Social Fears in the Canadian Military: prevalence, comorbidity, impairment, and treatment seeking. You can read an abstract here. Table 2 listed how prevalent 13 fears were. Those results are shown in the following bar chart. (Click on it to see a larger, clearer version).

Performing/giving a talk in front of an audience was the most common fear (17.3%), followed by speaking up in a meeting/class (15.7%), meeting new people (15.0%), talking to people in authority (13.3%), and taking important exam/interviewing for job, even though prepared (13.0%). Then came almost a tie between attending parties/social gatherings (11.2%) and talking with people you don’t know well. Another tie followed for entering a room where others are already present (10.7%) and working while someone watches (10.7%). Going on a date was tenth (10.2%), immediately followed by expressing disagreement to people you don’t know well (9.8%) and finally there were writing/eating/drinking while someone watches (5.0%) and using a bathroom away from home/public bathroom (4.3%). Some other social/performance situation was feared by 15.0%, and 19.6% had at least one social fear.    

The two most common fears were the same as those found in a previous article on Canadian civilians. Fear of performing/giving a talk in front of an audience (17.3%) was a couple percent higher than the 15.1% found by Stein, Torgrud and Walker for the general public in Alberta and Manitoba. Fear of speaking up in a meeting/class (15.7%) was slightly higher than the 14.4% found by the Stein, Torgrud and Walker article, which I’ve previously blogged about back in 2009.  

The image of Canadian Forces came from here.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Listening and fishing

Continuing the topic of my last post, I’ve been reading more of the excellent short stories that won the AMS-Mimi Divinsky awards. I particularly enjoyed two from 2011.

NIcole Audet’s The Power of Listening is about how she helped a medical student learn to listen to her patients. She told her:

“√Člise, practising medicine is like fishing. The fish are the patients’ concerns, and they come in the form of physical or psychological symptoms. Your role as a physician is to ask the patient questions in order to catch the fish. To do this, you prepare your tackle. You put the bait on your hook and you cast your line into the water. You let it drop to just the right depth. You wait silently for the fish to bite the hook. Without judgment or threats, you create an atmosphere of trust and you let the patient open up at his own pace.”

Nicole said she was inspired to connect with that student by watching the film Mr. Holland’s Opus. One scene is about that high school music teacher helping a struggling clarinetist, Gertrude Lang, back in 1965. A YouTube video of that scene is here. Decades later Gertrude returns - now as the state governor. (There's a longer version of that finale here).

Throw Me a Line by Pauline Pariser also is about fishing and learning to relax.

The Ear is from Openclipart, and Waiting for a Bite is from Wikimedia Commons.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Best stories told by Canadian family physicians: the AMS-Mimi Divinsky awards

For the past three years the January issue of Canadian Family Physician magazine has contained three prize-winning short stories and a commentary. This year’s commentary by Carol P. Herbert titled The Power of Stories also contains one about her once having written a prescription for a piano and lessons.

Premature by J. P. Caldwell describes his struggle to insert a breathing tube in a very tiny infant that just had been delivered:

“And then, bagging this baby in the early morning, I realize that there is not a lot of difference between terror and joy—the same intensity, the same power to lift you up or to destroy you. Sometimes they are simply different sides of luck.”

43 Minutes by Jody Ching is about being present for the end of a life. And Wisteria, by Patrice Laplante is about how he began making a garden to remember his former patients.

Stories for Life (introduction to narrative medicine) by Mimi Divinsky appeared in the February 2007 issue a week after she died. You can read her obituary, and about the awards.

You also can read hundreds of wonderful Stories in Family Medicine collected in an archive. I found Carol P. Herbert’s article by doing a Google search on the topic of the “fear of failure.”

Rita Charon wrote a whole book published in 2008 on Narrative Medicine: Honoring the Stories of Illness. You can read her brief October 2007 article on What to do with stories: the sciences of narrative medicine.

The image actually is of the president of the Wiki Project Med Foundation, British Columbia ER physician James Heilman.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Great customer service

Two decades ago I had my employer buy a Macroscope 25 from RF Interscience Company. That’s a very useful 25X portable microscope for looking at small objects like weld imperfections, paint problems, documents, or insects. It’s just nine inches tall, and the eyepiece has a 5-mm reticle for measuring things. They sell a penlight holder for lighting the area you’re looking at. There also is a camera adapter that screws on threads under the rubber eyepiece cup so you can take pictures of what you see. 

Better yet,  you also can remove the  the top part and use it as an 8X monocular for watching birds. I missed having a Macroscope 25. 

Last month on eBay I say a couple of used Macroscopes for sale. I got outbid on the first one, but won the second one on a Friday evening for less than $25 including shipping. (Right now a new one is $140). When it arrived I was disappointed to find that the knurled ring on the eyepiece didn’t move properly, so I couldn’t focus to see the image or reticle clearly.

I called up RF Interscience, and they said to send it in for service. Then they would look at it and tell me if it could be fixed. So, I sent it off via USPS Priority Mail on August 1st.

Monday morning  I realized that I hadn’t heard back from them, and I was considering calling to check where it was. That afternoon a UPS package arrived containing the repaired Macroscope. They had cleaned the lenses, and tightened the loose setscrews on the eyepiece. There was no charge, and they had sent it back on August 3rd, the very same day they got it. That’s great service! 

All the delay just was from shipping it back via UPS Ground. The invoice also said that this was a first edition Macroscope 25 made for them in Japan. Small specks in the image resulted from aging of the cement used to bond the reticle to the window. If that bothered me, they could replace the reticle assembly.    

This early Macroscope doesn’t have threads on the eyepiece for a camera adapter. Otherwise it was a great buy at eBay, the garage sale for the world. 

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Public speaking was ranked sixth by a survey of workplace phobias in Singapore

On July 24th the JobsCentral Community had a post by Jonathan Tay titled Survey Results: Tales of the night (shift). Singapore workers share ghostly encounters at work. It was timed to precede the month-long Hungry Ghost Festival, which began on August 7th. That online survey was done from May 22nd to June 23rd of 2013 and covered 3,568 workers in Singapore aged 16 and over.

Most of it was about supernatural encounters, but it also discussed real workplace phobias, as shown above. (Click on the bar chart for a larger, clearer view).The top five most common phobias were not meeting performance goals/targets (51.1%), followed by offending the boss (46.3%), missing deadlines (41.8%), offending colleagues (31.5%), and having to make crucial decisions (22.9%). Public speaking/presentation (21.8%) was sixth, which contradicts the frequent claim that it universally is the number one phobia.

Almost two-thirds (65.1%) of the unexplained events involved seeing ghostly figures or shadows. Others in the top five included equipment starting to operate on its own (12.3%), unexplained shifting of items (8.5%), doors opening or shutting on their own (5.2%), and possessed co-workers (3.3%). 

Almost a third (32.5%) of the unexplained events took place in washrooms. Others in the top five included meeting rooms (15.1%), corners or storerooms (tied for 7.9%), and corridors, stairways, or a particular workstation (a three way tie for 7.1% each).

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Imagine your audience buried in heaps of laundry

I’ve previously blogged about figuring out that Winston Churchill was responsible for the silly advice to imagine your audience naked. The TV Tropes web site has a lengthy entry on that topic, and there even were both Dilbert and Savage Chickens cartoons.  

On July 9th, the Edinburgh Evening News published the latest variation, a joke by the Australian comedian Benny Boot:

“Fear public speaking? Imagine your audience with clothes on. More clothes. HEAPS MORE. Now it’s like you’re just talking to a pile of laundry.”

Benny also tweeted it. Watch a hilarious but profane ten-minute YouTube video of Benny’s standup. I love his use of the microphone stand as a prop for showing that a joke was dynamite.

The laundry image came from here.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

In a survey about financial planning, public speaking was ranked 10th out of 15 general and financial fears

On July 24th Nationwide Financial released the results from their Fear of Financial Planning Consumer Study. They had Harris Interactive survey 783 American adults (who currently had $100,000 or more of investable assets) between March 26th and April 3rd. Participants were asked about five general fears and ten financial fears.

As shown above, out of five general fears, the most common was skydiving (81%), followed by investing in the stock market (62%), dying (58%), public speaking (57%), and losing my job (37%). Slightly more people feared death than public speaking.

As also shown above, the most common general and financial fear was that there will be another financial crisis (83%), which even outranked skydiving (81%). (Click on the bar chart for a larger, clearer image). Public speaking only was ranked 10th out of those 15 general and financial fears, very far from the typical claim that it is number one.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Joy of letting the words fall out

I really enjoyed watching this video of Sara Bareilles singing her new single Brave, and hope you will too. The first chorus goes:

"Say what you want to say
and let the words fall out
Honestly, I want to see you be brave"

For those with attention deficit disorder there also is this one-minute Stop/Watch condensed solo keyboard version.