Monday, December 31, 2018

Why list 19 reasons rather than 20?

It’s the very end of the year. Time to make resolutions for next year, or (sigh) to look at how we did with our goals for this year. At Enrepreneur on December 27, 2018 I saw an article by internet marketer Ayodeji Onibalusi titled 19 Reasons you did not achieve any of your goals this year. His depressing reasons are that:

1]   You lack consistency.

2]   You fail to write out your plans.

3]   You court complacency.

4]   You don’t think big enough.

5]   You make too much noise about your goals.

6]   You’re constantly in the wrong company.

7]   You hate being corrected.

8]   You value praises over constructive criticism.

9]   You micro-manage everything.

10] You give others too much of yourself.

11] You wait too long to make corrections.

12] People’s opinions are important to you.

13] Your parents still advise you.

14] You’ve always done things the same way.

15] You’re a jack of all trades.

16] You don’t take care of your body.

17] You do not have a team.

18] You make comparisons.

19] You fail to act.

His marketing education must have omitted the topic of choosing list lengths for articles. Why did he stop his list at 19 items (fail to act) rather than going on to 20? Twenty is a much more interesting and popular number. We can easily see this by putting the phrase “N reasons” into the Ngram Viewer at Google Books, as is shown above. (Click on it for a larger, clearer view). When we focus on the numbers for the year 2000, we see that 20 items would be 2.5 times as popular as 19. 10 would be 8.3 times as popular, and even 15 would be 1.7 times as popular as 19.

The differences are even more striking for the phrase “Top M,” as shown above. But this is nothing new. Back on December 12, 2009 I had blogged about how Almost nobody wants to see your Top 15 list: please use either a Top 10 or a Top 20 list. My results from Google searches also are shown, and a Top 20 list was 30 times as popular as a Top 19 list. 

When setting goals, it’s useful to keep the acronym SMART in mind.

Saturday, December 29, 2018

Our 26-hour CenturyLink internet outage

When I sat down at my iMac early on the morning of December 27th our internet service was down. This happens a few times each year. Usually just unplugging and replugging our CenturyLink modem restores it in a few minutes. Not this time. I tried calling their tech service, got put on hold and then hung up on.

It turned out things were way more serious than usual. Service wasn’t restored for 26 hours. No research or blog post for that day. Our local TV evening news mentioned that the problem was more than statewide. An Idaho Statesman article was titled Widespread CenturyLink outage shuts down phone services at Idaho prisons, education dept. An Idaho Press article was titled Nationwide internet outage affects CenturyLink customers. A USA Today article was titled CenturyLink outage knocks out 911 calls, hospital’s patient records.

The big side effect of losing the internet was losing our feed for watching Netflix. Elaine and I went back to reading books from our local public library. I had watched the first half hour of Springsteen on Broadway (see YouTube trailer) and was looking forward to seeing the other two hours.

The vintage test pattern image came from Wikimedia Commons.

Friday, December 28, 2018

Table Topics - After that, you might need this

A few days ago I saw two television commercials for Boise businesses. One was for the recently opened Altitude Trampoline Park. It was immediately followed by one for Advantage Spine and Disc. What a thoughtful pairing! First you show where to go to injure my back, and then you show me where to go to get it treated.

That got me thinking about other possible commercial pairings that could be in Table Topics questions.

A second pair is foods with hot peppers (like Fiery Doritos Locos Tacos from Taco Bell) and antacids (Tums or Rolaids).

A third pair is saloons and bail bonds (which you need if you get caught driving home after drinking).

Images of a trampoline, crutches, a chili pepper, a saloon, and bail bonds all came from Wikimedia Commons.  

Monday, December 24, 2018

Burning a prop dollhouse to demonstrate how a house fire occurs

It’s hard to understand exactly what variables control how a structure fire occurs (fire dynamics). One excellent way is a demonstration using a dollhouse – an inexpensive prop just 49” high, 32’ wide, 19” deep. Watch Allen Fitzpatrick in this three-minute YouTube video titled Salem firefighter demonstrates fire flow paths by burning down doll house.

At Modern Fire Behavior there is a an article from 2015 on a new style dollhouse with plans. There is a 25-page pdf file of Palmer’s Dollhouse with both plans and instructions for lessons.  

There is a 9-minute video titled Deputy Chief PJ Norwood demonstrating flow paths with this training prop, and a 24-minute video titled Doll House fire behavior, Birmingham Fire and Rescue.

Saturday, December 22, 2018

How foreign travel can change your outlook

Never forget that a topic can be presented at different lengths - and either in writing or orally (and then via video). For the past decade I have enjoyed watching Rick Steves’ Europe on Idaho Public TV. At The Spokesman-Review on November 11, 2018 there was an article of his titled 10 tips for travel as a political act. (It also appeared here at his web site). Those ten tips are:

Get out of your comfort zone.

Connect with people, and try to understand them.

Be a cultural chameleon.

Understand contemporary context.

Empathize with the other 96 percent of humanity.

Identify – and undermine – your own ethnocentricity.

Accept the legitimacy of other moralities.

Sightsee with an edge.

Make your trip an investment in a better world.

Make a broader perspective your favorite souvenir.


In 2011 at TEDx Rainer he gave a 21-minute talk on The value of travel.

Earlier this year at YouTube there was a 1 hour and 13-minute lecture on Travel as a Political Act. Back in 2009 he published a book with that title. On February 21, 2018 at NPR there was an article on the 3rd edition of that book about how Rick Steves gets uncomfortable in ‘Travel as a Political Act.’

Friday, December 21, 2018

Explaining a cryptic quotation about stage fright

On December 19, 2018, at his Manner of Speaking blog, John Zimmer posted Quotes for Public Speakers (No. 299) – Adam Duritz. Adam is a songwriter and singer who you might know about as a founding member of the band Counting Crows. That cryptic quote was:

“People ask me if I have stage fright. I say, ‘God no, I’m completely comfortable there. I have rest-of-the-day fright.”

That quote came from an article in Origin magazine on September 9, 2014. The entire paragraph is clearer:

“People ask me if I have stage fright. I say, ‘God no, I’m completely comfortable there. I have rest-of-the-day fright.’ I mean, the nice thing about being on stage is it’s not that I know what to do, but I have a very clear feeling that anything I do is OK. All I’m up there to do is express how I feel. Any way I choose to do that is fine. But the rest of life, I have no sense of that. It’s one of the problems I’ve always had in my life: I have a lot of problems understanding connections between people and how to negotiate that. It makes everything hard offstage.”

The Wikipedia article about Adam has a dead link to an article he wrote for Men’s Health magazine. It is from April 16, 2008 and is titled The lonely disease. Adam has a dissociative disorder (depersonalization) and had learned how to cope with it. You can read more about depersonalization in The Merck Manual here.

My favorite Counting Crows song is 1996’s A Long December – a hopeful song with a piano lead and accordion backwash.   

The silhouette of a crow came from Openclipart.

Thursday, December 20, 2018

Comically stilted language from a content mill

Today my Google Alert on “public speaking” pointed me to a web article from December 19th at the OPE D Project titled 4 Causes Most Folks Hate Public Speaking. The first three paragraphs say:

“It is typically mentioned that public speaking is the world’s primary worry – and that most individuals worry it greater than dying. The truth is that there isn’t any analysis to again up that declare – it appeared a few years in the past in a newspaper record and has been broadly quoted ever since. But it surely’s true that most individuals would somewhat do most different issues than rising up in the entrance of a bunch of individuals. And real analysis typically reveals it amongst individual’s high worries.”

This laughable nonsense likely was generated by a content mill, who took an article from elsewhere and then mechanically ran its words or phrases through a thesaurus.

The image of a clown on stilts came from Gabriel VanHelsing at Wikimedia Commons.

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).