Tuesday, December 18, 2018

A ChangeThis manifesto on How to Master the Business Presentation

Back on September 2, 2016 I blogged about 15 ChangeThis manifestos about public speaking and related topics. On Nov 14, 2018 there was another manifesto by Tim Calkins on How to Master the Business Presentation. You can download the 19-page pdf file here.  

The cartoon of a man speaking at a conference was adapted from this image at Wikimedia Commons.

Sunday, December 16, 2018

What should we call the end slice on a loaf of bread?

At MSN yesterday, in a feature called The Daily Meal, there was an article by Lily Rose titled What the heck do you call the end slice on a loaf of bread? After British actor Stephen Mangan called it the heel there were a bunch of silly Twitter responses by folks who hated that jargon term.

But that article only scraped the surface for the topic. Lily didn’t bother to dig down and look in the Oxford English Dictionary to see when heel was first used. It had appeared in the poem Piers Plowman by William Langland from back in 1370 (spelled heele) – over six centuries ago!
The Merriam-Webster dictionary also says a heel is one of the crusty ends of a loaf of bread. The text accompanying the Wikimedia Commons image for caraway rye bread shown above says in German it is known as Der Kanten.

I don’t remember ever not knowing it was called a heel, but my mother majored in home economics - so I learned the term a very long time ago. When I microwave a hot dog as a snack, I use a heel as a makeshift bun.

Bread making has lots of other jargon terms, like Biga and poolish for pre-ferment.

Friday, December 14, 2018

Where should you put your hands on the steering wheel when driving a car?

Back in 1966 when I learned to drive I was told to put my hands at the ten o’clock and two o’clock positions. That advice now is out-of-date, since airbags became mandatory in 1989. This week I stumbled over an article at Lifehacker titled How you hold the steering wheel could seriously injure you in a crash. It instead said to put them at the nine o’clock and three o’clock positions to avoid getting hit by an airbag activating during a crash.

I Googled and found the Snopes article titled Should you put your hands at the 10 and 2 o’clock positions on the steering wheel? It said the ten and two was old advice from before airbags. Advice about turning the wheel hand over hand also was obsolete, since it applied to cars without power steering. I learned hand over hand in my dad’s 1964 Chevelle, which had manual steering.

Smoking a pipe with a straight stem while driving is potentially fatal. Just imagine having its bowl nailed by an airbag.

What other advice you once got is now out-of-date?

Images of a steering wheel, clock, and pipe smoker were adapted from Openclipart.

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

A captive market: pocket radios with clear cases for prisoners

You may find market niches that you had never imagined. This year at eBay I bought a used DT-110 pocket radio (shown above) made by a Taiwanese electronics company called Sangean. When I looked for a detailed instruction manual to download, I found a web page showing another version with a clear case (DT110CL) and nine other ‘correctional’ radios whose transparent cases would stop contraband like drugs from being hidden. The most deluxe was the MMR-77, which was designed as an emergency portable with a built-in rechargeable battery and a hand-cranked dynamo for charging it. That model also shows up on the radios web page for the Bob Barker Company.  

A web page titled Mass Incarceration: The whole pie 2018 from the Prison Policy Initiative says that there are about 2.3 million prisoners in the United States. In The New Yorker on January 10, 2014 there was an article by Joshua Hunt titled The iPod of prison about these little headphone radios powered by one or two AAA batteries. He discussed the Sony SRF-39FP, which has analog tuning. Amazon shows a similar $15 Jensen MR-50 (described as being slightly smaller than a pack of playing cards). I imagine any of these radios would help relieve the boredom of being confined.     

The image of cells in the old Idaho state penitentiary came from Eric Friedebach at Wikimedia Commons

Monday, December 10, 2018

Including relevant details makes a story come alive

At Spiceworks there was an unusual information technology (IT) help desk story involving a head of lettuce.

A user had called and told me her computer would not turn on. When I went upstairs and checked it, I found the pilot light LED would not go on, and the monitor and its pilot light LED was also dark. I followed their power cords heading left across the back of the desk and down to the floor. On the left side of her desk there was an overturned paper grocery bag. The power strip was on the floor. I couldn’t see the rocker switch because there was a head of iceberg lettuce sitting on top of it. Of course, it was in the off position from an unusual direct hit. The incident was written up as a ‘death by vegetable.’

I also found a mouse tale there:

“The user slapped a device down on the counter and exclaimed, ‘My mouse doesn’t work!’ The IT pro picked it up, looked at it, then slapped it back down and responded, ‘that’s because it’s your garage door opener!’ “

The powerstrip and garage door opener images came from Wikimedia Commons.  

Friday, December 7, 2018

A thumbs-down for Toastmasters International from a superficial storyteller

On November 26, 2018 at her Tell Me A Story (R) blog Hillary Rea posted that Toastmasters is a thing of the past. Storytelling is the future. She also said:

“In summation: if you are considering joining a Toastmasters group, please reconsider.” 

She had dissed them after visiting just one club meeting, and taking a cursory look at their web site. Her LinkedIn profile says she founded her company, Tell Me A Story, in May 2011. Years before that Toastmasters was providing training on storytelling.

If she had looked more than superficially on the Toastmasters web site, then she would have found that they had an entire manual about Storytelling (with five speech projects) in their Advanced Communication series. (On July 8, 2011 I blogged about those manuals in a post titled The Competent Communicator manual is just the beginning of learning about public speaking in Toastmasters International). How about the more recent Pathways program? At Level 3 it has an elective project for all ten paths, Connect with Storytelling.

There also are two articles by Craig Harrison about storytelling in Toastmaster magazine. In the March 2010 issue on pages 16 to 18 there was an article titled The Glory of the Story, which I had blogged about back on April 25, 2010. In the March 2017 issue on pages 20 to 23 there was a second article titled Story Takes a Turn.

Hillary linked to an article by Mary Mann at Salon from August 25, 2013 titled How Toastmasters cured me of the desire to speak in public. I derisively blogged about that article on September 4, 2013 in a post titled Blasting Toastmasters first and not even asking questions later.

Hillary’s blog post is one more example of someone trying to market their business talking nonsense about Toastmasters. Back in January I blogged about Charles Crawford in a post titled Toastmasters International misevaluated, and another titled Toastmasters International misevaluated again.

The thumbs down image came from Wikimedia Commons.

Thursday, December 6, 2018

My 2012 Honda Fit still is da bomb - another Takata airbag inflator recall

Back on April 14, 2016 I blogged about How not to communicate – Honda told me my car is literally da bomb. I had received a recall notice about the inflator for the driver’s airbag in the steering wheel. Recently I received another recall notice dated November 2018 about the other inflator - for the airbag at the front passenger seat, as is shown above. It explains the reason as follows:

“Honda has decided that a defect which relates to motor vehicle safety exists in certain 2012 model year Fit vehicles. The passenger frontal airbag inflator in your vehicle may explode when deploying during a crash. The potential for such explosion may occur in some of the subject airbag inflators after prolonged exposure to persistent conditions of high absolute humidity. In the event of a passenger frontal airbag inflator explosion, metal fragments could pass through the airbag cushion material, potentially resulting in serious injury or death to vehicle occupants. The risk of such an occurrence increases over time. It is imperative you schedule an appointment with an authorized Honda dealer now to avoid this condition in the future.”

Further down a sentence printed in red says:  

“Honda suggests that you avoid having a passenger sit in the front passenger’s seat until the recall repair has been performed.”

They said that because there is no way to manually switch off that airbag. It operates based on results from some sensors. Earlier this fall there were articles about the recall in USA Today and Consumer Reports. There is a 72-page service bulletin that describes the procedure for replacing Honda airbag inflators.

This second recall is an example of waiting for the other shoe to drop – a phrase explained by Andrew Thompson in the 2017 book Hair of the Dog to Paint the Town Red:

“Wait for the other shoe to drop began with the American manufacturing boom in the late 19th century. In large cities like New York, apartment housing became common. These dwellings were all built with similar designs, with bedrooms typically located above one another. It was common to be awoken late at night by a neighbor removing their shoes in the apartment above. The person below would often wake when the first shoe dropped on the floor and made a loud bang. Already disturbed, the person would then wait for the inevitable noise of the other shoe hitting the floor.”

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Demonstration Speech: Using an air fryer to make homemade low-fat French fries

Here in Idaho we love potatoes, particularly French fries. The big problem with deep frying is that the potatoes pick up lots of oil. For example, a large serving (5.4 oz) of McDonalds French fries has 470 calories with 198 calories (40%) coming from fat. Assuming the fat is canola oil, that’s about one and a half tablespoons of oil.

If you instead make fries at home with an appliance called an air fryer, then you can cut the amount of oil by a factor of four. The potato sticks are sprayed with oil rather than submerged in it. An air fryer is a countertop forced convection oven which circulates hot air around the basket of food. Inside the oven there is a spiral heating element and a fan (as shown above).

Begin with 12 ounces of Russet Burbank potatoes – one jumbo or two large ones. Either peel them, or scrub the surface with a wet brush to remove dirt. Cut the potatoes into uniform slices, and then cut the slices into your favorite thickness of square sticks.

As shown above, there is a very large range of thicknesses.

Soak the potato sticks in a bowl of cold water for ten minutes to remove surface starch. Then dry them, using a salad spinner (as shown above) if you have one, or paper towels if you don’t.

Place the sticks in the air fryer basket, and spray them with cooking oil spray from an aerosol can. Cook at 380 F until browned and crisp. Depending on the thickness this may take ten to twenty minutes. (See Williams Sonoma recipes for shoestring and seasoned regular fries).  

Back in February 7, 2016 I blogged about a Demonstration Speech: A world of healthy snacks from your microwave. Tortilla chips were included. Don’t try to air fry tortillas – they will float to the top and hit the fan. A demonstration speech is project 3 in the advanced Toastmasters communication manual on Speaking to Inform. Back on December 9, 2012, at Six Minutes, Andrew Dlugan blogged about How to Master the Demonstration speech.

Monday, December 3, 2018

Proofread both the text and title of your speech or article

On December 2, 2018 Jane Genova posted an article titled Another high achiever commits suicide – Vice Admiral Scott Stearney, 58. She claimed:
“As the Daily Mail reports, Stearney was 58 yeas (sic) old. At the time he was overseeing naval operations in the Middle East as well as being a husband and father. He had joined the navy when he was 58.”

But according to the Daily Mail Stearney actually joined the navy back in 1982 – when he was around 22. Jane’s fascination with suicide is macabre.

On November 25, 2018 Jane posted another article with a mangled title - “FBI” – Will This New Dick Wolf Series Be Renew or Cancel? That title should have been something more like Will ‘FBI’, the new TV crime show from Dick Wolf, be renewed or canceled? Jane linked to an article at TV Series Finale that tabulated ratings for the first eight episodes. Then she whined that the relationships within the FBI unit had not gelled, and her vote would be to cancel. But she never looked further to ask why that happened.

According to  the Merriam-Webster dictionary a showrunner is:
“a person who oversees the writing and production of each episode of a television series and has ultimate managerial and creative control over the series.”

An article by Joe Otterson in Variety on October 10, 2018 titled Dick Wolf’s ‘FBI’ changes showrunners for second time described how the series had switched from Craig Turk, to Greg Plageman, and then to the tag team of Rick Eid and Derek Haas.

Jane had changed her mind. Earlier on October 31, 2018 she wrote another article titled Dick Wolf’s ‘FBI’ getting its footing that said her hunch was that ‘FBI’ will have a second season.


On December 9 th Jane posted another incorrectly titled article titled It Goes All the Way Back to Cain and Able (sic).

Saturday, December 1, 2018

Why the ‘I turned out fine’ argument just is a fallacy

An excellent article by Justin Coulson in The New York Times on November 27, 2018 discussed The fallacy of the ‘I turned out fine’ argument. It reminded me of a 2-minute comedy routine by Patton Oswalt titled The Parental Defense which you can watch on YouTube:

Mom: “You used to scream all night, (when) we didn’t feed you. You turned out fine.”

Patton: (wanted to say) “I didn’t turn out fine. I’m a fat comedian with OCD. I get up in front of strangers and talk about my dick. This is not good parenting.”

Thursday, November 29, 2018

How should you pronounce the acronym SHRM – of the Society for Human Resource Management?

The American Society for Personnel Administration (ASPA) was founded way back in 1948. (Its two-vowel acronym might be pronounced ASS-PAW). Then, in 1989, the organization changed its name to the Society for Human Resource Management. That is an unpronounceable acronym consisting of four consonants. An implicit vowel (red) has to be added somewhere between them to get a pronounceable word, as shown above. The best choice is an E – resulting in the nickname for Sherman, SHERM, as shown in green. That’s what appears in a recent ‘HR Experts’ TV commercial on YouTube.

But another choice is SHRUM, or ‘shroom, a contraction representing the noun mushroom. Mushroom Management is a derogatory phrase usually defined by something like:

“Keep them in the dark, feed them sh*t, watch them grow, and when they’ve grown enough can them. “

An image of mushrooms was adapted from one at Wikimedia Commons.

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Pearls Before Swine cartoon about acronyms for the fear of missing out (FOMO), and four other fears

On November 10, 2018 there was a Pearls Before Swine cartoon about five acronyms. As shown above, one was FOMO, which really does mean the Fear Of Missing Out. The other four were humorous but commonly refer to something different.

FOBO refers to Front Office Back Office rather than Fear Of Being Oblong. FOCO refers to a business that is Franchise Owned (and) Company Operated rather than Fear Of Carefree Otters. FODO really is the Fear Of Disappointing Others rather than Fear Of Demoralizing Oatmeal, although there is another cartoon called The Oatmeal. FOFO means to Find Out For Oneself rather than Fear Of Family Occasions.

I easily came up with another three (shown above). The usual source for an urban legend is a Friend Of A Friend.

Monday, November 26, 2018

Troubleshooting the Magic Mouse for my iMac

Back in 2009 I bought an iMac computer which came with a sleek bluetooth wireless Apple Magic Mouse. On the bottom are an on-off switch, a green pilot light, and a cover for the battery compartment. (At Ifixit you can see a teardown revealing what is hidden inside).

When the cover is removed, I can replace the two AA batteries, which needs to be done once or twice a month. (I use Energizer rechargeable Nickel Metal Hydride batteries). Yesterday I replaced the batteries, but afterward the mouse did not work. What went wrong?

I had never ever cleaned the terminals in the battery compartment. The protruding, spring-loaded ones (yellow arrow) that touch the flat negative contact on the bottom of each battery are wiped clean when a new battery is inserted. But the recessed ones that touch the protruding positive contacts on the top of a battery just sit inside crevices (red arrows). Apparently enough dust had accumulated on those terminals to insulate the positive contacts. I got out a bottle of rubbing alcohol and moistened some cotton applicators. After I cleaned the terminals the mouse worked again.     

I found some bad advice when I looked up Magic Mouse problems. One thread suggested scraping with a scalpel, a second thread suggested rubbing with a pencil eraser. Both are way too aggressive and could damage the plated surfaces.

Sunday, November 25, 2018

A 1960s Halloween superprank in a computer center

Telling scary stories is a favorite Halloween activity. This year the Shark Tank blog at Computerworld told one titled Little IT Shop of Horrors III: The eyes! The eyes! from the mid-1960s about the first supercomputer, the Control Data Corporation 6600.   

The control console on the CDC 6600 had a pair of large, round, green, display screens that typically were used to display text, as shown in an image from a linked article. But those screens also could display graphics, as is shown above.

AT 2:00 AM the operator on duty saw those screens “wake up” to first display a pair of closed eyes. Then the eyes slowly opened, looked to the left, looked to the right, and stared straight ahead. Finally the eyes closed, the display went blank, and right back to displaying text.   

An image of a CDC 6600 originally came from Wikimedia Commons.

Saturday, November 24, 2018

A very competent and cheerful medical center

For 21 days, from late October to mid-November, I was a patient at Saint Alphonsus Regional Medical Center here in Boise. On October 24, 2018 I had routine abdominal hernia repair surgery at Saint Alphonsus Regional Medical Center. I came in at 5:30 AM and was sent home in mid-afternoon.

But by late the next morning I had not urinated. I called the surgeon’s office, and was told to come to the emergency room (ER). (I thought that overnight my bladder had overfilled, and simply inserting a catheter would drain it). In the ER they ultrasonically scanned my bladder and found it was empty. They told me my kidneys had shut down (renal failure), and admitted me. (My digestive tract also had stopped moving, which is called an ileus). Soon my kidneys started up again, and eventually my digestive tract began moving. Finally I was moved to rehab, and stayed for eight more days.

On November 19, 2018 I blogged about Communicating during a personal medical crisis. In that post I described interactions with physicians who led my care. This post is about the rest of that impressive team – who were both highly competent and very cheerful. There were very few glitches.

At my bed there was a controller for the television (with a speaker) and three call buttons for contacting the nurse’s station. A large button was for general use, and two smaller buttons had symbols for medication and toilet.   

Two key team members are the nurse and nursing assistant. They introduced themselves at the beginning of each shift. The assistant helped me get to the bathroom and back using a walker, and got me a glass of ice water for at my bedside table. Twice a day the assistant scanned my patient id bracelet, and took vital signs (blood pressure, pulse, oxygen).  

The nurse handled intravenous and oral medications, and injections. When I was moved to a room in rehab the nurse noticed that the lower control on the hospital bed for raising my knees was not working, and had the bed replaced by one that was. While moving the bed back toward the wall she bumped the connector for the call button, and it disconnected. I was out of contact for a half hour until someone stopped by.  

Before rehab, at about 5:00 AM a lab person came by to take a blood sample. A couple times she sighed, changed which of my arms to try, and then got done quickly and almost painlessly.   

When you are lying in a hospital bed, meals are a highlight of the day. Around 8:00 AM, noon, and 5:00 PM someone from food service delivered them. Just one time I received an inedible serving of underdone butternut squash. Also a few times a condiment like a butter pat or jam serving was omitted.  Otherwise every meal was good or excellent. The grilled halibut and salmon were very tasty. I also really looked forward to a visit from another food service person who came by to let me place my (soft diet) orders for the next day.

The environment services people who cleaned my room also were cheerful.

Physical therapy (PT) and occupational therapy (OT) also came to visit. PT got me out of bed with a two-wheel walker - first just moving around the room and later going down the hall. OT helped me shave and start brushing my teeth after meals. They got me thinking about how I was going to manage when I got back home.

When I got to the rehab, I had 1-1/2 hours a day each of both PT and OT. I told OT that at home we already had a $ 70 four-wheel walker from Harbor Freight with a seat and basket (as shown above). They told me that was not their preferred design, but to bring it in and work with it, since it was what I would be using. Eventually I was allowed to get out of bed and move around the room on my own with that walker.

At night a medical center is not a restful place for a light sleeper like me. The Life Flight helicopter ambulance typically took off or landed at least once. One time it came at 3:00 AM and 3:25 AM. (My wife described the sound as like what you’d hear if you leaned over a lawnmower while it was running). Usually I got the nursing assistant to leave the room door closed, and the nurse to put the cover over the display for the computer work station. 

An image of a Cheerful Nurse came from Openclipart.

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Toastmasters refocuses on having just one group at LinkedIn for members

In March 2017 I searched groups at LinkedIn, found there was one called The Official Toastmasters International Group (currently with 31,518 members), and joined it. After a few more months I found a post asking why there were two groups, and found there also confusingly was The Official Toastmasters International Members Group (currently with 48,824 members). These groups have useful discussions of topics such as the Pathways program. (I discussed my June 26, 2018 blog post on Another overview of Toastmasters International’s Pathways paths and projects).

Recently Toastmasters decided to keep the Members group and discontinue the other. A post from their Social Media Strategist said:

“A reminder, on November 30, 2018 The Official Toastmasters LinkedIn Group will no longer be active due to redundancy. If you are a current Toastmaster, please join The Official Toastmasters International Members LinkedIn Group. If you are not a Toastmaster, we welcome you to follow the Toastmasters International company page. We look forward to getting social with you. Thank you."

Monday, November 19, 2018

Communicating during a personal medical crisis

This Thanksgiving I am thankful for being home again after spending 21 days in the hospital here in Boise. On October 24, 2018 I had routine abdominal hernia repair surgery at Saint Alphonsus Regional Medical Center. I came in at 5:30 AM and was sent home in mid-afternoon.

But by late the next morning I had not urinated. I called the surgeon’s office, and was told to come to the emergency room (ER). I thought that overnight my bladder had overfilled, and simply inserting a catheter would drain it. In the ER they ultrasonically scanned my bladder and found it was empty. They told me my kidneys had shut down (renal failure), and admitted me. My digestive tract also had stopped moving, which is called an ileus.

I was put in Telemetry, with EKG chest leads, needles for intravenous (IV) fluids in both arms, a nasogastic tube (with suction to keep my stomach empty), oxygen via nasal cannula, and a Foley catheter for urine. My kidneys started up again, and eventually my digestive tract began moving. Finally I was moved to rehab, and stayed for eight more days. The day before I went home (last Thursday, November 15th) they finally removed the catheter.

During my regular stay two staff internal medicine physicians (hospitalists) -  Dr. Lisa Nelson and Dr. Carolyn McFarlane managed my care. Both did a wonderful job of communicating ‘we’ve got this.’ They told me about my current condition and treatments, what they knew, what they didn’t, and what tests were next to find out more. It was very reassuring to know where things were, and how I was improving.
I texted my sister Ellen (who has a Ph.D. in Biology from Princeton and once was a Research Fellow at Merck for six years) about those conditions, and she replied:

“Acute renal failure (ARF) occurs in a small % of people undergoing abdominal surgery. Some people suffer ARF following any surgery involving general anesthesia, A few suffer irreversible RF; and a few go into coma following general anesthesia. Shutdown of GI tract (aka ileus) is a more common complication following abdominal surgery, especially in older patients.

Lots of garbage on the internet: need to look at reputable sources (e.g. Merck Manual; Mayo Clinic, various NIH sites).”

The Merck Manual of Diagnosis and Therapy is a standard medical reference book. At home I still have the 13th edition from 1977, which has 2165 pages of nine-point type, is 5-1/2” wide by 8” tall by 2” thick. The entry for ileus in the web version says:

“Ileus is a temporary arrest of intestinal peristalsis. It occurs most commonly after abdominal surgery, particularly when the intestines have been manipulated. Symptoms are nausea, vomiting, and vague abdominal discomfort. Diagnosis is based on x-ray findings and clinical impression. Treatment is supportive, with nasogastric suction and IV fluids.”

Both the Mayo Clinic and Medline Plus have pages about kidney failure that have less jargon. 

One positive outcome from my stay in the hospital was losing weight. In August I had weighed 205 pounds, but when I got home I was down to 190.  

An image of a man in a hospital was adapted from Openclipart.