Tuesday, December 29, 2015

A holiday reminder to proofread your graphics

My sister Sally sent us a box of cordial blueberries. Their box top is shown above.

The front of the box instead claims they used real cherries. (Click on the image for a larger, clearer view). Obviously the graphics for this package were derived from one for their cordial cherries. But the bottom of the box correctly lists the fruit used as blueberries. 

Monday, December 28, 2015

Does it sound right?

In September 2015 the 85 year old novelist (or science fiction writer) Ursula K. Le Guin released the revised edition of her book Steering the Craft: a twenty-first century guide to sailing the sea of story. Chapter 1 is titled The sound of your writing. It opens with:

“The sound of the language is where it all begins. The test of a sentence is, Does it sound right? The basic elements of language are physical: the noise words make, the sounds and silences that make the rhythms marking their relationships. Both the meaning and the beauty of the writing depends on these sounds and rhythms. This is just as true of prose as it is of poetry, though the sound effects of prose are usually subtle and always irregular.

Most children enjoy the sound of language for its own sake. They wallow in repetitions and luscious word-sounds and the crunch and slither of onomatopoeia,* they fall in love with musical or impressive words and use them in all the wrong places. Some writers keep this primal interest in and love for the sounds of language. Others ‘outgrow’ their oral/aural sense of what they’re reading or writing. That’s a dead loss. An awareness of what your own writing sounds like is an essential skill for a writer. Fortunately it’s quite easy to cultivate, to learn or reawaken.”

You can listen to an NPR Interview and read a longer excerpt.

Ivan Kramskoy’s painting came from Wikimedia Commons.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Yes Donald Trump, the word schlonged is vulgar

Mr. Trump got into trouble for describing Hillary Clinton’s defeat by Barack Obama  in the 2008 Democratic primary election by saying that Hillary got schlonged. Then he whined on twitter that:

“Once again, #MSM is dishonest. ‘Schlonged’ is not vulgar. When I said Hillary got ‘schlonged’ that meant beaten badly.”

It’s really almost an F-bomb. The Yiddish word schlong means penis and so the obscure verb form means intercourse. It would be even more vulgar if he had specified other than the usual form of sex (e.g. buggered).

The Washington Post, Esquire, and BBC News all took him to task for using that word. Saying Hillary got torpedoed would have been better (and less blatantly sexual).

Trump needs to learn some better words for won and lost. A little more time listening to sports talk radio or TV would probably help. Sportscasters all seem to have been taught out of a book like the mythical one shown above.

The bomb image was adapted from Openclipart.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Just in time for Christmas - a bluster and vendetta based state budget proposed by a Grinch

On December 16, 2015  Wayne Hoffman, the head Grinch over at the Idaho Freedom Foundation published an article titled Otter, lawmakers must ease burdens in 2016. It began by claiming:

“This winter, Idaho lawmakers and Gov. Butch Otter must figure out how to provide $100 million — and as much as $200 million — in tax relief. We’re talking about real tax relief. Why cut taxes? Because Idahoans are struggling to make ends meet, and the state’s confiscatory tax policies are squarely to blame. 

A person earning about $11,000 in taxable income finds herself in Idaho’s top tax bracket — 7.4 percent — the highest in the region. Cutting income tax rates, contrary to popular belief, doesn’t benefit just the rich, it benefits the working poor too.”

That claim for the state of Idaho having the highest tax rate in the region really is nonsense when you use a common-sense definition that includes all six of our neighbors as shown above and discussed in my October 5th blog post on Using graphics to see an argument more clearly. In previous articles Wayne at least clarified that he was curiously using just the Intermountain Region (with only two of our neighbors). That region excludes Oregon, which has a bracket of 9 percent for that taxable income, and a top bracket of 9.9 percent. Also, three of our six neighbors have no state income tax. 

Wayne’s article linked to their very curious full budget proposal, which calls for a total of $3,151,920,000, which is a 2.6% increase over 2016. I say curious because it makes a point of including $5,000,000 (an underwhelming 0.16%) to Reduce federal dependency. What are the biggest changes  they propose?

The table shown above lists the nine biggest winners - those being increased by more than 3%. (Click on it to see a larger and clearer view). Sensibly, public school support is up by 4.8%. The rightmost column shows that this item represents over 49% of the state budget. Adding in the other education categories of professional technical education (1.89%), colleges and universities (8.6%), and community colleges (1.11) leads to a total of 60.68%, which is almost all of the 63.07% total.  

Another table shown above lists the eight biggest losers - those being decreased by more than 3%. The sum for those items is only 3% of the total budget. Seven of them individually are less than a piddling 1% of the total budget, and three are just 0.1% or less. They don’t make much of a difference, so including them seems like vendettas rather than carefully considered cutting. Cutting both the judicial branch and the state police is particularly foolish. Are maintaining current levels of justice and public safety unimportant?

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Good and bad news about Steve Harvey

Steve Harvey was known as the host of the Family Feud TV show. Now there’s good and bad news about him.

The good news is that he’s much more famous. The bad news is that it’s for having made a mistake on live TV. The good news is that he just misread one cue card. The bad news is that card listed the winner of the Miss Universe pageant he was hosting.

Steve had announced that Miss Colombia was the winner. After she was crowned he told the audience that instead Miss Philippines had won. Miss Colombia really was the first runner-up. He held up the card and apologized. (In a tweet he also misspelled the names of both countries).

The good news is that both Steve and the pageant got a lot of extra publicity. The bad news is that now Steve is stuck with a catchphrase and may be introduced by Steve ‘the winner is‘ Harvey.    

On his Manner of Speaking blog John Zimmer described Five Lessons from the 2015 Miss Universe Mix-up.  At Forbes.com Cheryl Conner discussed What Steve Harvey’s Mistake Teaches Entrepreneurs: How to Turn Your PR Gaffes Into Wins.

Monday, December 21, 2015

A great story about friendship and pushing on

Watch this 18-1/2 minute TEDx Boise talk from back on January 16th titled I’ll Push You: 500 Miles, Two Best Friends, and One Wheelchair. It describes how together Justin Skeesuck and Patrick Gray did the 500 mile Camino de Santiago pilgrimage across northern Spain.  

On December 18th Justin and Patrick were interviewed by Marcia Franklin in Pushing On, a half-hour episode of her Dialog program on Idaho Public Television.  

The stylized scallop symbol for the pilgrimage came from Wikimedia Commons.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Why you might need to see the problem to understand what really is going on

Sometimes you have to see (or visualize) a problem to understand what really is going on. On November 20th the SHARK TANK troubleshooting section at Computerworld had a humorous story titled Is it the appendix? The spleen? The intestine?

An application analyst (software guy) at a hospital was working the Third Shift along with a support tech (hardware guy). At 2 A.M. the software guy got called to help troubleshoot a (nurse) user’s  problem: 

“User: ‘The thing on my computer stopped working.’

Which thing, ma'am?

User: ‘The thing attached to the computer.’


User: ‘So I can see the patient orders.’

You mean the monitor?

User: ‘What?’

The TV?

User: ‘No, so I can put my password in.’

The keyboard?

User: ‘No. I am busy. I don't have time to play these games. 
I can't move the arrow so I can get the line into the box for the password.’

You are saying the mouse is not working?

User: ‘What?’

The oval-shaped thing with the buttons?

User: ‘Yes.’

I'll have tech support bring a new one as soon as possible.

User: ‘What do I do in the meantime? I am busy.’

I'm sorry, but is there another computer available in the area?

User: ‘The one next to me is not being used. I will move over.’

I called tech support to relay the message. The tech ran to the floor with the replacement.Turns out she is left-handed, and was using the mouse for the computer to her left."

Friday, December 18, 2015

I still don’t want to buy a doorbuster

Five years ago I blogged about an example of silly seasonal marketing jargon -  I don’t want to buy a doorbuster (or a blowout, or a red tag).

The Irish doorbuster shown above in an image from back in 1888 is pretty impressive though. You’d need a flatbed trailer just to tote it around.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Jargon and guff

The word jargon has an uncertain origin in Old French. If you prefer to tell a fairly tale, you instead could blame it on the mythical French hot-air balloonist and self-promoter Armand Jargon (shown above). Jargon originally referred to the inarticulate utterance of birds (twittering). Later it came to refer to unintelligible or meaningless talk.

Similarly, guff refers to empty, windy talk increasingly favored by companies. Financial Times columnist Lucy Kellaway has collected examples of it in her Guffipedia, a brief dictionary introduced in a six-minute podcast. Twenty of them are shown above in a table. The most outrageous is the eight-word phrase pledge allegiance to the promise of our brand which can simply be replaced by the word care.  

The drawing actually is of Gaston Tissandier and came from the Library of Congress.

Monday, December 14, 2015

The joy of metaphor

When we say that A is B, we can use a metaphor either to make the strange familiar or the familiar strange. In his Manner of Speaking blog last year John Zimmer had an excellent post on Rhetorical Devices: Metaphor.

I found a wonderful TED Ed video by poet Jane Hirshfield about The art of the metaphor. There also is a longer Metaphorically Speaking TED talk by James Geary. Mr. Geary mentions that we use six metaphors a minute.

An article titled Clean Sources: Six Metaphors a Minute? by Paul Tosey discusses where that number six came from, and adds some more detail - that only about a third of metaphors are live. So, look for the diamonds and avoid the stones.

The image of diamonds came from Wikimedia Commons. The caption was adapted from an article by David Brooks titled Want a Better Speech? Start with Better Parts, in which he had quoted Hans Lillejord: “Some words are diamonds; some words are stones.”

Saturday, December 12, 2015

When did the Wall Street Journal say that public speaking is the #1 fear in America?

On December 10th there was a web article at the Dale Carnegie Northwest Blog by Liz Scavnicky-Yaekle titled Science Says - Five Ways to Prepare for Public Speaking which opened with the startling statement that: 

“Public speaking is the #1 fear in America according to the Wall Street Journal.“

That sounds way more scary than this October’s Chapman Survey of American Fears which instead ranked public speaking 26th out of 89. When I blogged about it, I pointed out that people really were only Slightly Afraid of public speaking. 

Anyhow, when did the Wall Street Journal say that? Let’s pull back the curtain on this silly appeal to authority. The last time was  on June 13, 2014 in an article titled Joe Queenan’s Guide to Public Speaking which just opened with the very generic statement that:

“People routinely say that being asked to speak in public is their No. 1 fear, inspiring more dread than flying.”

I blogged about that article the day after it appeared. Back in 2007 Preston Ni had claimed more specifically that:

“Did you know that according to the Wall Street Journal, public speaking is the number one fear in America? The fear of death is ranked number two! That’s right—we seem more afraid of public speaking than we are of physical demise, heights, jumping out of a plane, or dreaded in-laws.” 

He repeated that claim in two web articles at Psychology Today on May 14, 2013 and November 6, 2013 but never supplied a date for the Wall Street Journal article. Anyway, the death is number two claim corresponds to a old Jerry Seinfeld joke, as I discussed back on March 1st in a blog post titled A high mound of manure from Bill Hoogterp about fear of public speaking.

The image was adapted from Unity Brings Victory at Wikimedia Commons.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

The thunder tube - a compact prop for creating sound effects

Sometimes a speech calls for sound effects. Fred E. Miller mentions thunder in a 2010 blog post titled Props can help the audience GET IT! Here are some great ones! 

My sister Ellen just sent me a Remo Thunder Tube. As shown above, it is just a 7” long by 2-1/4” diameter plastic tube with a 17” coil-spring tail protruding from a drumhead on one end. You can find it at Amazon or American Science and Surplus

Watch Robert Fishbone’s four-minute Thunder Tube Tutorial.

A “thunder sheet” is another less compact prop for producing thunder sound effects. Older ways are discussed in a blog post on How to make stage thunder and lightning: 1829 - 1900.

If you are very talented comedian and actor like Michael Winslow, you can make thousands of sound effects without any prop other than a microphone. There are YouTube videos of him doing a car alarm and other things on the Jimmy Fallon show, and on other TV shows in Kansas City and London

Monday, December 7, 2015

Overblown article title of the week - How to overcome the fear of public speaking in five minutes

At Inc.com on December 3rd there was an article by Joel Comm titled How to overcome the fear of public speaking in five minutes. In just five minutes? Gee, that might involve an injection of something. Just a pill or a suppository couldn’t act that quickly.

But, look at the link. At some time the title got changed to that overblown one from a more reasonable 7 Tips for Overcoming Your Fear of Public Speaking.

An equally overblown opening sentence claims that:

“It’s commonly believed that the greatest fear common to humans is the fear of public speaking.”

But, when you click on that link you find the 2006 article instead talks ONLY about the U.S., which certainly is NOT all humans:

“If speaking in public scares you, you aren't alone, says Paul L. Witt, PhD, assistant professor of communication studies at Texas Christian University, Fort Worth.

‘It is even scarier than rattlesnakes,’ Witt tells WebMD. ’The idea of making a presentation in public is the No. 1 fear reported by people in the U.S.’ "

Back in 2005 Seth Godin published a book whose title began All Marketers Are Liars. Joel’s LinkedIn page lists experience as an internet marketer, which explains his overblown claims.

Then he goes on to list those seven decent tips: 

1]  Remember that it’s not about you. It’s about your content.

2]  Shake some hands before you talk.

3]  Keep in mind that you’re the only one who knows [how nervous or afraid you are].

4]  It’s OK not to be perfect.

5]  Audiences are made of people just like you.

6]  Be gracious with yourself.

7]  Your passion, knowledge, and experience can carry the day.

The 1962 image came from Wikimedia Commons.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

How to think outside the box

Words used in speech writing matter. They can put you and your audience in a box and bias how you and they think about creatively solving problems. Pages 83 to 89 in the December issue of the Harvard Business Review have a very interesting article by Tony McCaffrey and Jim Pearson titled Find Innovation Where You Least Expect It - how to overcome “functional fixedness” and other biases that get in the way of creativity. You can read it at their web site. (It begins with a novel way that all the passengers on the Titanic could have been saved despite a shortage of lifeboats).

Arby’s is a classic example of fixedness. In 2012 that fast food company finally realized that instead of just thinly-sliced roast beef sandwiches on buns their restaurants also could make and sell roast turkey sandwiches. It only took them 48 years.

 McCaffrey and Pearson talk about changing how you describe an object by asking two questions:

“1]  Can it be broken down further?


2]  Does our description imply a particular use?”

If either answer is yes, then you keep breaking them down and put the results on a simple tree, as is shown above for a particular candle. A wick can be described as a string, so it can instead be used to tie things together.

There are other ways to describe candles. As shown above, some even have a low-melting point metal core wire (perhaps lead) inside the wick. But, if you view a candle as a scent delivery system, you might replace the wick with a warmer and end up with a business like Scentsy.  

 My father told me three stories about thinking outside the box. Two were from back in the early 1950s when he was a professor of Chemical Engineering at the University of Tennessee. He was part of running their graduate program. Their correspondence was being typed on an old, worn out manual typewriter. It made a very poor first impression on potential students and professors. Dad asked the university purchasing agent about getting an IBM Executive electric typewriter with proportional spacing. The answer was a firm no. If Chemical Engineering got a new one, than the other engineering departments would want one too, and then so would Agriculture, etc. What if someone donated a typewriter to the Chemical Engineering department? It would be just fine. That’s what Dad’s consulting practice did. Problem solved.      

Oak Ridge National Laboratory had built an aqueous homogeneous nuclear reactor. Dad and his co-workers were asked to research fluid flow inside that spherical core cavity which had pipes entering and exiting at the poles as shown above. They wanted to build a transparent model out of acrylic plastic with a cavity diameter of eight to ten inches. It could be formed from two hemispheres of Plexiglas sheet stretched over a sphere. But where can you buy an inexpensive but precisely made sphere? Small spheres can be bought as replacement parts for ball bearings. What about bigger balls? Well, a bowling ball is an 8.5” diameter sphere. He submitted a purchase order for one without any finger holes. The purchasing agent called him up, and said I know you’re playing a practical joke on me. You’re still upset about me rejecting the typewriter. But I went ahead and ordered you an obviously useless AMF bowling ball. So there!        

A third story was from the late 1950s when he was involved with the design of a facility that had a lot of connected glove boxes (an example of which is shown above). For future changes there usually are are lots of ports with round covers rather than gloves. They had visited some government nuclear facilities, and found them using expensive custom spun stainless-steel covers. Instead Dad designed ports on their boxes to use standard sized stainless-steel cake pans - mass-produced products about a tenth the cost. Dad kept a big yellow McMaster-Carr wholesale hardware catalog in his office so he could easily find  those sorts of mass produced products and components.       

The game box, Arby’s sandwich, and reactor images came from Wikimedia Commons, and the 7205 glovebox came from CDC. 

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

The joy of skepticism

How should you react when you see a loony tabloid cover like the phony one shown above?

George Hrab gave an excellent 24-minute TEDx Lehigh River talk on Rethinking doubt: The Value and Achievements of Skepticism. Phil Plait pointed to it in a November 14th post at his Bad Astronomy blog. On September 1st I similarly blogged about Don’t open your mouth until you’ve done your research

The Bigfoot image was adapted from Openclipart.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

A video where mediocre delivery overrides the content

Recently I watched Ben Angel’s 14-minute YouTube video titled How to Overcome Your Fear of Public Speaking and Become More Influential. The content is OK, but the delivery fails five ways.

First, the title is misleading, almost backwards. His content comes from an unreferenced  2014 blog post more accurately labeled 5 Things Influential Speakers Do That Others Don’t. Five steps with headings in the video (and their times) are:

Energetic Engagement (1:06)
Manage Your Look (6:49) 
Dealing with Attacks or Criticism (7:43)
Presentation Structure (9:03)
Overcome Your Fear of Public Speaking (11:41)

About 4/5th of the way through Ben finally gets around to really talking about how to overcome your fear (using visualization).

Second, although he talks about managing your look his set is distracting. Left of the sofa is a tall cylindrical container of twigs, switches, or canes. Are they decorative, or are they kinkily functional (Fifty Shades of Grey)? At the right is an imposing unlit floor lamp that resembles a crane. The shade is just to the right of his head, so my eyes were repeatedly drawn to it. It is the Elephant in the Room. Eventually I started hoping Ben would act out the classic drunken party joke by putting the lampshade over his head. It looks like a nearly perfect fit. 

Third, the zoom keeps toggling from wide enough to show all his hand gestures to slightly too narrow, and then back again. That’s as irritating as a hearing a dripping faucet. There are 103 zoom changes, or an average of one every 7.2 seconds. I concluded whoever had the camera must have attended the Take Two Breaths and Then Zoom school of video production. Zoom is the visual equivalent of cowbell in a rock song like (Don’t Fear) The Reaper, and usually we don’t need More Cowbell.  

Fourth, some of his gestures aren’t engaged with the audience. Instead they are done from his viewpoint, and appear backwards to the audience. Watch at 2:30 when Ben says to picture a scale from zero (right) to ten (left). 

When you think about it for a minute that scale really should be vertical (higher is up, not to the left), since he needs to discuss how energy varies over time.

Also watch at 11:26 where he talks about visualization, and at 13:00 says rewind while his hands instead say fast forward. 

Ben needs a warning (shown above) to stop gesturing backwards. 

Fifth, at 1:03 he says to:

“Grab a pen and paper and jot this down. Step one: energetically engage your audience.”

That’s not engagement. It’s just smug superiority.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Thing Explainer - the joy of simplicity

Back in September 2013 I blogged about Funneling your big ideas through a small vocabulary. That post began from one of Randall Munroe’s xkcd cartoons called Up Goer 5. It explained the Saturn 5 moon rocket using a line drawing that had captions limited to a vocabulary of just a thousand words. Funneling ideas through a limited vocabulary is an excellent antidote for our usual wallowing in jargon.   

On November 24th Randall’s book Thing Explainer: Complicated Stuff in Simple Words appeared at Amazon.com. He again uses line drawings and a thousand-word vocabulary to describe things like the International Space Station (Shared Space House), Cells (Tiny Bags of Water You’re Made Of), the Mars Rover (Red World Space Car), and organs in the human body (Bags of Stuff Inside You).

Go to Amazon.com, and click to zoom the Look Inside  feature for a preview. You’ll probably enjoy reading his explanations.   

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Something free - A Thanksgiving Reader from Seth Godin

Most of the time I enjoy reading Seth Godin’s blog. On November 16th he had the thoughtful A Thanksgiving Reader that you can download. Happy Thanksgiving!

The Thanksgiving image was adapted from a 110 year old Puck magazine at the Library of Congress.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

A missing piece explaining American attitudes toward preparing for disasters

An October 13th blog post about the 2015 Chapman Survey of American Fears titled Americans Need A Disaster Reality Check began by stating:

“In our survey we asked a random sample of Americans about fears of natural and man-made disasters. We then asked whether they had taken recommended preparedness steps such as assembling an emergency kit.

More than half of all Americans [55 percent] fear they will experience a natural or manmade disaster. And some 28 percent fear such a disaster will damage their property.

A whopping 86 percent believe an emergency supply kit, such as a 72-hour kit recommended by FEMA or the Red Cross would improve their chances of surviving a disaster. Nevertheless, 72 percent have made no effort to put together such a kit. WHY?”

I looked in their Complete Survey Results and found the question about experiencing a disaster was at the top of page 86. Answers were four levels of disagreement or agreement:

1 = Strongly Disagree
2 = Disagree
3 = Agree
4 = Strongly Agree

 and the question was:

 “Please indicate your level of agreement with the following:
I will experience a significant natural or manmade disaster in my lifetime.”

8.8% Strongly Agreed, and 46.5% Agreed, for a total of  55.3%, as was quoted. (35.9% Disagreed, and 8.8% Strongly Disagreed).

But, there was another question at the bottom of page 85, which instead asked:

“Please indicate your level of agreement with the following:
I will experience a significant natural or manmade disaster in the near future.”

For that question only 4.4% Strongly Agreed, and 21.5% Agreed, for a total of just 26%. A majority, 59.1%, Disagreed and 14.9% Strongly Disagreed.  

As shown above, there is a huge difference between in my lifetime (which could cover many decades) and in the near future. People don’t bother to prepare since they think it can’t happen here or now. 

A WPA poster for The Big Blow came from the Library of Congress

Saturday, November 21, 2015

One chart to rule them all

In a Dilbert cartoon titled The Generic Graph on November 18th, the pointy haired boss explained that:

“The company is standardizing on this one chart.”

which was why he had used it yesterday for the travel budget and today for the sales estimate. (It also could work for coffee consumption and Bigfoot sightings).

What is that chart for? Does it show what was (history), what is (current data), or what will be (a prediction we hope will come true)?

Look more carefully. How much data was used to draw that line?  Perhaps the curve just is a spline interpolation that exactly fits those three gray points. Would a fitted straight line have been more honest?

You can’t really expect to use just one chart type. At Perceptual Edge there is a Graph Selection Matrix that includes lines, points, bars, and boxes. At Plot.ly they discuss Time Series Graphs & Eleven Stunning Ways You Can Use Them.

One chart came from Tolkien’s One Ring.

Friday, November 20, 2015

KRC Pulse Poll on American fears found the most common five were heights, public speaking, failure, spiders, and small spaces

In advance of Halloween on October 21st, KRC Research posted a press release titled America’s Biggest Fears and subtitled KRC’s Pulse Poll Reveals Which Phobias Are Most Common. Those were:

Heights 33% (Acrophobia)
Public speaking 32% (Glossophobia)
Failure 31% (Atychiphobia)
Spiders 28% (Arachnophobia)
Small spaces 16% (Claustrophobia)
Flying 13% (Aviophobia)
Germs 13% (Mysophobia)
Needles 13% (Trypanophobia)
Ghosts 9% (Phasmophobia)

They polled 507 adults in August, but didn’t mention that the margin of error was 4.35%. Based on that margin the first three aren’t significantly different. What were the top ten fears? Who knows, since they only looked at nine, although a Top Ten likely would be much more popular.

A bar chart shows those nine fears without their phobia names. (Click on it to see a larger, clearer view). Failure isn’t usually included in surveys, although it was the greatest fear for both women and men in a fear survey schedule from back in 1992.

The image of a pumpkin patch by Carol M. Highsmith came from the Library of Congress. I drew a face on one.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

What to do with your hands

Yesterday the On Leadership section at the Washington Post had an interesting article on gestures by Jena McGregor and Shelly Tan titled What to do with your hands when speaking in public. It used graphics and animations to nicely illustrate that topic. Their main points were:

1]   Keep hand movements descriptive.

2]   Use open palm gestures to build the audience’s trust.

3]   Keep your hands in the strike zone when possible.

4]   Don’t point. Just don’t.

5]   Politicians love to use the Clinton thumb. Most people shouldn’t.

6]   When you don’t know what to do, drop your hands to your sides for a moment.

7]   Avoid drawing attention to the wrong places.

8]   Conducting is for orchestras, not public speaking

9]   Keep objects out of your hands.

10] If behind a lectern, show your hands.

11] Avoid “spider hands.”

If you are tall enough to play pro basketball, then your “strike zone” (#3) won’t be hidden by a typical lectern (#10). If you’re short, you could skip being hidden by instead using the top of a chair or stool to hold your notes. 

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Shutting the stable door after the horse is stolen

On November 6th someone anonymously commented twice on my post from October 2, 2012 titled Rock Water: the Bach Flower Remedy for perfectionism that doesn’t contain any flowers. He (or she) said that I should have tried the flower remedies before writing skeptically about them. But, I already wrote that post over three years ago, and I’m not going to apologize now for doing it. In three previous posts I had already discussed the lack of evidence for effectiveness of the flower remedies.

That comment is just shutting the stable door after the horse is stolen, a proverb shown above in a cartoon adapted from one back in 1884. It is a pointless form of heckling.

Friday, November 13, 2015

A really big bench for a morning break

This morning I had to chuckle when I saw saw four construction workers taking a break to discuss what would happen next on a nearly complete road project.

Their truck wasn’t parked nearby, so they improvised by using the 10-foot wide bucket of a Caterpillar wheel loader for seating. By the way, that CAT 966H is described as only a Medium Wheel Loader.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

How is a story like a can of beans? It also has a Best By Date.

Sometimes it is easy to tell when a story is past the Best By Date. A brief article by Natalie Walters at Business Insider on November 2nd is titled 11 tips to stop saying ‘um’ forever. It  repeated an infographic, but opens with the Startling Statistic that:

“Public speaking is the No. 1 phobia in America, according to The Chapman University Survey on American Fears.”

She linked to a Washington Post article from October 30, 2014 about last year’s survey. But this year’s survey came out on October 13, 2015, and it ranked public speaking at 26th not 1st - which is a lot less startling.   

Other times a story is past the Best By Date because it simply has become a tired cliche. Last Halloween Rich Hopkins discussed that problem when he made Another Visit to Speak & Deliver’s Story Graveyard.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

YouGov survey done in 2014 found U.S. adults were less than A Little Afraid of public speaking

How high is that fear?

On October 30th I blogged about how According to the 2015 Chapman Survey of American Fears, adults are less than Afraid of federal government Corruption and only Slightly Afraid of Public Speaking. In that post I discussed how the four answers people chose to reply to questions could be put onto a numerical scale by calculating a Fear Score.

Back in 2014 YouGov did a smaller survey of 13 fears in U.S. adults that also had four answers. I blogged about it in a post titled YouGov survey of U.S. adults found they most commonly were very afraid of snakes, heights, public speaking, spiders, and being closed in a small space. The four fear levels were:

1 = Not afraid at all

2 = Not really afraid

3 = A little afraid

4 = Very afraid

A fear score also can be calculated from those four answers for each question tabulated in the Acrobat .pdf file of their data. The formula simply is a weighted average of the percentages expressed as proportions:

Fear Score = [ 1x(% for Not Afraid at All) 
                      +  2x(% for Not Really Afraid)
                     + 3x(% for A Little Afraid) 

                     + 4x(% for Very Afraid)]/100

A bar chart shows the results. (Click on it to see a larger, clearer version). The five greatest fears were snakes (2.8), heights (2.63), public speaking (2.55), spiders (2.41), and being closed in a small space (2.24). Flying on an airplane (2.13) was 6th, mice (1.96) was 7th, needles and getting shots (1.90) was 8th, darkness (1.84) was 9th, and crowds (1.83) was 10th. Blood (1.74) was 11th, dogs (1.64) was 12th, and clowns (1.46) was 13th.

Another bar chart shows the sum of the percentages for Very Afraid and A Little Afraid. It ranks the results in the same order as the Fear Score chart, with the slight exception of darkness and crowds.

As shown above, those Fear Score results only covered 1.34 of the available 3.0 range, and didn’t include the highest 1.2 or the lowest 0.46. Adults were not even A Little Afraid of anything.

The fear score gives a balanced view of the answers for a question. Take public speaking as an example. 23% were Not Afraid at All, 22% were Not Really Afraid, 36% were A Little Afraid, and 20% were Very Afraid.

UPDATE  November 15, 2015

Another bar chart shows how the Fear Score for public speaking varied with gender, age, region, family income, politics, and ethnicity. One significant result is that women (2.70) were more afraid than men (2.36). 

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Free places to learn more about public speaking

At Inc.com on November 3rd Larry Kim wrote about 9 Places to Learn Public Speaking Skills for Free. (He actually mentioned 11 places including Andrew Dlugan’s Six Minutes blog, which is this blog in my list titled Other Sites of Interest).

It’s useful to have other people point out their favorites, rather than just vaguely pointing us to TED talks or YouTube. Some TED talks are mentioned here.

There is some great content on YouTube, but it is buried among tons of junk like puppies pooping. For example, Matt Abrahams has an hour-long discussion about impromptu speaking titled Think Fast, Talk Smart: Communication Techniques. You might also search via the phrase “Talks at Google,” and find presentations like Carmine Gallo’s 53-minute one on his book Talk Like TED.

The image was adapted from an old WPA poster found at the Library of Congress.