Sunday, September 15, 2019

The joy of compound words

Effective public speaking depends on choosing specific words to describe our ideas. Frequently those are compound words, especially nouns. The Merriam Webster dictionary defines a compound as: “A word consisting of components that are words.”

Often (but not always) those components will be a pair of nouns like tooth + brush = toothbrush. Word order matters – a boathouse is not the same as a houseboat.

At the Learn English Today web site the web page including compound nouns discusses several other possibilities:
An adjective and a noun (blackboard, greenhouse, redhead)

An adjective and a verb (dry-cleaning)

A verb and an adverb (drawback, takeover)

An adverb and a verb (input, outbreak).  

Words may either be placed next to each other or coupled via hyphens, like the model train engine and car shown above. Rules for hyphenation are complex. The U.S. Government Printing Office Style Manual (whose 2016 edition can be downloaded here) has chapters on Compounding Rules (#6) and Compounding Examples (#7). Rule 6.7 says that:
“A hyphen is used to avoid doubling a vowel or tripling a consonant except after the short prefixes co, de, pre, pro and re, which are generally printed solid.”

Some compound words contain more than two words, as shown above by a longer model train. An article by Karina Martinez-Carter on June 10, 2013 at The Week titled 8 of our favorite ridiculously long German words mentioned Rechtsschutzversicherungsgesellschaften (legal expenses insurance companies). Decades ago I read a humorous claim that there was a single German word corresponding to the following English sentence:

“The woman who stands in a kiosk next to the opera house and sells the remaining tickets at a discount right before the performance begins.”   

Hopefully you do not have either a fear of words - which The Phobia List web page refers to as logophobia or verbophobia, or a fear of long words – which they call sesquipedalophobia or (absurdly) hippopotomonstrosesquipedaliophobia.

Back on August 30, 2012 I blogged about Uncommon fears and made up hoplocynohydrophobia  to describe the fear of getting shot by a swimming dog carrying a handgun in its mouth. I just searched at Google, Bing, and DuckDuckGo and found no one but me has ever used that word.

Saturday, September 14, 2019

Don’t stick a ‘candle’ in your ear to remove excess wax

Sometimes I am amazed by the curious things people do and believe.

Ear candling or ‘coning’ involves sticking the bottom of a rolled-up wax-coated cloth cone in your ear (while lying on your side) and then lighting the other open top end – as is shown above. Over at Amazon you can buy a 2017 book by Vikki Kinsella titled Hopi Ear Candling: a complete home study course. The section describing how candles work says:

“The candle is inserted in the ear canal – always the narrow end first – and then the top of the candle is lit. The candle burns, sending smoke into the ear canal and this pushes out the air. The warmth will help the wax to soften and loosen any debris that is within the ear. The smoke can fill the ear and will help mucus and any other debris sitting within the sinus passages. The debris is dissolved and then can be drawn up through the ear by the pressure that has been created when the candle begins to burn. There is a small portion of the candle that does not burn and some of the debris will collect in this section.”

At the American Academy of Audiology web site on June 22, 2010 there was an Opinion Editorial  by Jackie Clark, Douglas L. Beck, and Walter Kutz titled Ear Candles and Candling: ineffective and dangerous. It discussed how the following four claims for ear candling are false:
1] Interconnections in the head allow the candles to drain the entire system through the ear.

2] Oxygen drawn through the candle will create a vacuum.

3] When a vacuum is created, it will pull residue out from the ear canal.

4] The method is safe, noninvasive, and effective. 

That editorial referred to a 1996 magazine article by D. R. Seely, S. M. Quigley, and A. W. Langman in Laryngoscope titled Ear Candles – Efficacy and Safety, which you can download here. They surveyed otolaryngologists and found the complications shown above in a chart.  
On February 18, 2010 the U.S. Food & Drug Administration had a consumer update titled Don’t get burned: stay away from ear candles. Health Canada also discussed Ear candling and advised:
“However, this old home remedy has no proven medical benefits and can cause serious injuries.”

Ear candling also just was thoroughly debunked by Edzard Ernst on page 165 of his 2019 book Alternative Medicine: a critical assessment of 150 modalities, which you can read at Google Books.

There is a 13-minute YouTube video by Clifford R. Olson from August 31, 2018 titled Do ear candles work to remove earwax? His answer is no. What got me started on this topic is another 15-minute YouTube video from Jonathan Jarry on September 3, 2019 titled Video – the strange case of the illegal ear candle.

The very last word on ear candles comes from a May 17, 1993 Seattle Times article by humor columnist Dave Barry titled I’m all fired up over a cure for ear wax. Dave said that if something went wrong, then the newspaper would use this headline:
Deserved to Die, Authorities Say

Friday, September 13, 2019

Evolution of road graders

A road grader is a fascinating piece of construction equipment. Modern ones like the Caterpillar motor graders shown above have enhanced GPS-based controls on their blades (antennas indicated by arrows). They don’t need surveyors and stakes to grade land to a desired contour. How did graders evolve?  

On Tuesday, September 3rd we were driving south in Oregon on U.S. Route 97 and drove past the Collier Logging Museum 30 miles north of Klamath Falls. On Thursday September 5th we stopped and visited that lovely 146-acre museum. It has equipment from three eras: horse and oxen (1860 – 1900), steam (1890 – 1920), and internal combustion (1920 – today). There also is a ‘village’ of historic log cabins.

In displays on the horse and era there was a sign and an Adams Leaning Wheel grader. At the Historic web site I found more on Adams graders in an article by Lisa Lorentz on August 31, 2014 titled Sunday Adverts: Don’t Read This. The South African KHPlant web site has more Historic Motor Grader Pictures showing the evolution.

I looked on the Library of Congress web site and found two pictures showing road grading in Alaska, one from 1916 showing another tractor towed grader, and one from 1942 showing a motor grader working on the Alaska-Canada highway.    

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Visiting Crater Lake

Last week my wife and I finally visited Crater Lake National Park in southern Oregon. That six mile long by 4- 1/2 mile wide lake is the deepest in the U.S. at 0.37 mile (1,949 feet) and it is amazingly clear and blue.

On Wednesday, September 4th we took the two-hour 33-mile Rim Drive Trolley Tour narrated by a park ranger. The trolley stopped six times for us to look and take pictures, four of which are shown above.

Looking east there is Wizard Island. Looking south there is a smaller island, the Phantom Ship (circled in yellow). Another view through trees shows the Phantom Ship more clearly, and closeup. Although it looks small it really is 500 feet long and 170 feet high.

Crater Lake was formed by collapse of the ~12,000 foot high Mount Mazama after a gigantic volcanic eruption 7,700 years ago. That eruption spewed 50 cubic kilometers of molten rock – about 100 times that for the 1980 eruption of Mount St. Helens.  
Crater Lake was on my ‘bucket list’ of places to see. We saw it during the less crowded time after Labor Day. Still we had to stay at a motel in Klamath Falls, since the park lodge was fully booked.  

Sunday, September 8, 2019

Glassophobia yet again

What is worse than a pseudo-technical term for fear of public speaking like glossophobia - which will send you down blind alleys when you try to search for useful information? You also could misspell it as glassophobia. That error pops up every now and then in books, web articles, and even a YouTube video.

On April 8, 2017 at Amazon there was a 100-page paperback book by Perez Dalton titled How to Be Good At Everything. Well, not really everything. On December 22, 2017 at Amazon there was another short (47-page) paperback book by Perez Dalton with an absurdly long title of How to Overcome Fear of Public Speaking (Glassophobia): Powerful Techniques for Creating Strong Social Presence, Staying Above Social Anxiety and Building Confidence.

On October 17, 2018 the Purple (mattress) web site had an article titled Sleep Guide for Anxiety which claimed:  
“The fear of public speaking (glassophobia) is still ranked alongside death as the number one fear of 20 percent of Americans.”

They linked to a blog post from the 2017 Chapman Survey of American Fears – but it actually ranked dying at #48 and public speaking at #52.  

On November 18, 2018 at Every Day Facts there was a four-minute YouTube video mistitled Glassophobia explained briefly.

And on April 6, 2019 down in South Africa at her Communicate! blog Rosanne Hurly Coyne posted on Glassophobia, and reposted on July 11, 2019 at KZN Women in Business as Glassophobia or Fear of Public Speaking.

The image of a glass being filled was modified from one by the EPA at Wikimedia Commons.

Monday, September 2, 2019

Is notus a xenophobic compound word?

Notus (population ~540) is a very small city in southwestern Idaho, whose post office is shown above. Is its name an unusual xenophobic compound word formed from not (an adverb) and us (a pronoun)? That explanation was given in an article by Danielle Wiley titled The hazy history of Notus which appeared in the Idaho Press on March 25, 2016. It is implausible, since the name is pronounced like it instead was spelled notice.

Her article mentioned that notus also was thought to be a Native American word meaning “it’s all right.” Finally, near very end she mentioned:

“The town's website describes it as the ‘city of the southwind’ because the word notus is believed to be a Greek word for ‘south wind.’ ”

I got curious and looked up notus in the Oxford English Dictionary. It says that noun means the south wind, frequently personified ;  Notus the god of the south wind, son of Eos and Astraeus. The Latin word comes down to us from ancient Greek (Νότος). Apparently someone in southwest Idaho knew a bit of Greek mythology.

At Wikimedia Commons I even found an image of the god Notus from a 1794 book.

Here is a Youtube video about someone who grew up in Notus.

Sunday, September 1, 2019

An abysmal article about fear of public speaking based on shallow research

According to his LinkedIn profile, Michael Hanson is Director of IT Technology for UnitedHealth Group in New Port Richey, Florida (in the Tampa metro area). He writes a blog titled The Middle Manager. Beginning on April 2, 2019 he posted a series of 13 articles on Public Speaking. The first blog post, just titled Public Speaking, is truly abysmal, but the rest are OK. The first three paragraphs in that first post say:

“I want to start a series on a subject that affects a lot of people. The technical term is Glossophobia – fear of public speaking. This fear is considered a social phobia, and a paper published with the US National Institutes of Health noted that of people that had social phobias, the most common was speaking in public, by a significant – 89.4% – margin (Source: Epidemiology of social phobia: a clinical approach). 

An inability to speak in public can actually negatively impact your career. It can reduce your compensation by as much as 10%, and there’s a 15% chance that it would affect a opportunities for career advancement to higher leadership positions (Source: Columbia University: Social Anxiety Disorder). 

I’ve heard that fear of public speaking ranks up with life-changing events such as divorce or death of a loved one. It’s frequently quoted, but I couldn’t find any actual support sources. But given the above numbers, it’s probably fairly accurate.”

First, a phobia is different from just a fear, as is illustrated in the Venn diagram shown above, which appeared in my December 11, 2013 blog post titled Spouting Nonsense: July 2013 Toastmaster magazine article fumbles fears and phobias. You can find the detailed differences discussed on this web page at PubMed. And I’d call glossophobia a pseudo-technical term.

Second, the PubMed abstract from a magazine article that Michael linked to was published in European Psychiatry. It described results from a survey done in Sesto Fiorentino, which is a suburb of Florence, Italy. What percent of people there had a phobia of public speaking? The abstract says 6.88% had social phobia. Multiply that by 0.894, and you find just 5.88% of the population in that suburb there had a phobia of public speaking. That’s a rather small percentage. Does it have any relevance to a U.S. audience? Not really!

According to a 2008 article by Ruscio et al 12.1% of a U.S. sample had social phobia sometime in their lives. Of those, 88.7% had a phobia of public speaking/performance, which multiplies to 10.7% with public speaking phobia. That’s about half of the 21.2% with a fear of public speaking/performance (stage fright). It’s purely coincidence that the percentages with speaking phobia, 89.4 and 88.7 were nearly equal.     

Third, the Columbia University article Michael linked to was about social phobia, not fear of public speaking. Both it and the European Psychiatry abstract were used before by Peter Khoury in a horrible article at Magnetic Speaking, which I blogged about on December 15, 2016 in a post titled Believable and unbelievable statistics about fears and phobias of public speaking.
Fourth, the blog post about results from the 2018 Chapman Survey of American Fears had percentages for People I love dying 56.4% (rank #6), Dying 27.9% (#54), and Public speaking 26.2% (#59). The percentage for people I love dying is over twice that for public speaking, so it is not close at all.

Fifth, how about divorce? On December 14, 2016 I blogged about how Public speaking was the 7th most commonly stressful activity in an online survey done for Percentages were: Death of a loved one 94%, Going through a divorce or break up 92%, Looking for a job 83%, Moving 82%, Planning a wedding 78%, Getting a root canal 73%, public speaking 70%.

Saturday, August 31, 2019

Poetry and songwriting are the opposite of verbosity

On May 11, 2019 I had blogged about Does verbosity come from having lots of time to kill? The opposite of verbosity is making every single word count - so you can tell a story in about five minutes. Poets and songwriters can do this brilliantly. Recently I have been listening to the Bruce Springsteen studio album Western Stars. A YouTube video of the upbeat song Tucson Train is shown above. Bruce’s lyrics tell most of the story just in the first and third verses:

“I got so down and out in Frisco

Tired of the pills and the rain

I picked up, headed for the sunshine

I left a good thing behind

Seemed all of our love was in vain

Now my baby’s coming in on the Tucson train….

We fought hard over nothing

We fought till nothing remained

I’ve carried that nothing for a long time

Now I carry my operator’s license

And spend my days just running this crane

And my baby’s coming in on the Tucson train”

Another sadder song, Chasin’ Wild Horses has mournful pedal steel guitar along with the strings and  horns. You can listen to it here on YouTube. Lyrics in the second through fourth verses tell most of that cowboy story:

“Left my home, left my friends

I didn’t say goodbye

I contract out to the BLM

Up on the Montana line

Chasin’ wild horses, chasin’ wild horses

We’re out before sunup, in after sundown

There’s two men in the chopper

Two under saddle on the ground

In the evenings we’d hop in the pickup

Head into town for a drink

Make sure I work till I’m so damn tired

Way too tired to think

You lose track of time

It’s all just storms blowing through

You come rollin’ ‘cross my mind

Your hair flashin’ in the blue

Like wild horses, just like wild horses

Just like wild horses”

What could you edit out of the story you are telling?

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Clip-on ties are for when safety is more important than fashion

In Shark Tank at Computerworld on August 23, 2019 there was an article titled Life-saving sartorial advice that discussed an employee beginning a career with a gigantic company who manufactured computer equipment. He was maintaining that equipment, and was advised by an old-timer mentoring him to get some snap -on (clip-on) ties to wear with his uniform of a white shirt and suit. What happened next?

“It only takes a few weeks for fish to learn the wisdom of the old-timer’s advice. He goes on a call to sort out a malfunctioning card sorter, which he does, and then he leans over it to watch it do its thing. That’s when his tie gets too close to the moving parts. It’s instantly ripped from his neck, and then wraps around the rollers and brings the sorter to a screeching halt.”

My first job back in 1977 was in the Ann Arbor research lab of the Climax Molybdenum Company. Engineers were expected to wear ties, and for safety’s sake to tuck them inside our lab coats when working with shop equipment like bandsaws or hacksaws. As shown above, I acquired an assortment of clip-on ties. Police and security guards also wear clip-on ties so they don’t get strangled by any of the angry people they deal with. Public speakers usually don’t have to worry about people being that angry.  

Clip-ons are not the only alternative to regular ties. As shown above in an engraving with five Celebrated English Chemists wearing bowties, chemists traditionally wore them to prevent dipping the end of a tie in the liquids the handled. (My father was a chemical engineer and he also wore bowties).

The Safety First sign came from Wikimedia Commons, and the engraving of Celebrated English Chemists came from the Library of Congress.

Monday, August 26, 2019

Celebrating 1,500,000 page views

This blog just passed a milestone of getting a total of over 1,500,000 page views. That number is over twice the population for the Boise metropolitan statistical area (730,426), which is the 80th largest in the U.S.

Where were my viewers? All over the world! The bar chart shown above lists the top ten countries, which have 76% of the total. Just 42% were from the U.S., 12% from France, and 8% from Russia, etc.   

I have published 1768 posts, so an average one would have 848 views. The most popular post had 22 times the average. The five most popular posts [number of views], title, and date are:

Sunday, August 25, 2019

Web links for finding 666 Table Topics questions for Toastmasters club meetings

Table Topics is the impromptu speaking section of a Toastmasters club meeting where members get to give a one to two minute answer to a question. That section uses questions asked by the Table Topics Master. Where does he or she get those questions?

In my July 7, 2019 blog post titled Club officers in Toastmasters (VPPR and VPM) should use all the brains they can borrow I had mentioned Lark Doley’s Golden Knowledge Base. Her web  page on Club Meetings lists a .docx file for D46_101 Ideas for Great Table Topics_Mark LaVergne and a .pdf file for D08_365 Sample Table Topics_John. Elsewhere there also is a .pdf with the 101 Ideas.

In my February 24, 2018 blog post titled Were you recently visited by the Table Topics Bunny? I mentioned that a search for Table Topics questions should also use the phrase “icebreaker questions”. At Conversation Starters World you can find a web page with 200 Icebeaker questions (and also a .pdf version).

The image of a Triumphant cartoon woman was modified from one at Wikimedia Commons.

Friday, August 23, 2019

In a 1984 New York Times article with a list of ten fears, did death come third (after public speaking)? No.

On my bookshelf I have a copy of the 2011 second edition of Andy Lopata and Peter Roper’s book  titled …and death came third (The definitive guide to networking and speaking in public). The back cover says that:

“In 1984 a New York Times Survey on Social Anxiety placed death third in the list of people’s biggest fears. The top two responses were walking into a room full of strangers and speaking in public.”

Similarly the first paragraph of the introduction claimed:

“In 1984 a New York Times study on Social Anxiety asked people what they most feared. Death came third. The top two fears were walking into a room of strangers and public speaking.”

Recently I searched the New York Times to find that study. There was only one 1984 article on social anxiety including a survey.  It was an article on December 18, 1984 by Daniel Goleman titled Social Anxiety: New Focus Leads to Insights and Therapy. Just below the title was a small box titled Situations Causing The Most Anxiety with a bar chart listing percentages for ten fears and the following explanatory text:

“In surveys of several hundred men and women, these situations were reported as producing the most anxiety. The research was done by Warren Jones at the University of Tulsa and Dan Russell at the University of Ohio College of Medicine.”

My version of that bar chart is shown above. Death wasn’t third - or anywhere else on that list. The fears (and percentages) are: A party with strangers (74%), Giving a speech (70%), Asked personal questions in public (66%), Meeting a date’s parents and First day on a new job (59%), Victim of a practical joke (56%), Talking with someone in authority  (53%), Job interview (46%), Formal dinner party (44%), and Blind date (42%).

Either Mr. Lopata or Mr. Roper could have checked a microfilm copy of the original article before concocting their book title. Apparently they relied instead on fallible secondhand information or memory. When I first found a database version several years ago, there just was the text - but not the bar chart graphic with those numbers.   

On March 2, 2013 I had blogged about how I read it in a book, so it must be true. That post discussed an incorrect version of Jerry Seinfeld’s comparison of the fears of public speaking and death - where death supposedly also came third (rather than second).

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Failed communication

Sometimes normal procedures simply don’t work in an emergency. In Shark Tank on Computerworld there was an article on August 12, 2019 titled Messages pending.

A company had a third-party managed services provider (MSP) looking after their servers. The morning after a stormy night one of the company’s information technology (IT) employees noticed his email had not updated since 1:00 AM. He found the power had been off too long for the batteries in the uninterruptible power supply (UPS) to keep their email server running. He got that server running again after the power came back on.

Then he checked his cell phone for missed calls and text messages, but found none. He contacted the MSP and asked why he had never been notified of a problem. They said their normal notification method was via email. That promptly got changed to cell phone and text message.

My graphic used icons for a laptop and email server from Wikimedia Commons.

Monday, August 19, 2019

Hook your audience with a creative opening

On August 18, 2019 there was an article at Forbes by Esther Choy titled What your audience wants most from your presentation. She described three methods for grabbing attention:

"Conflict is the clash of forces or needs going in opposite directions….

Contrast is the juxtaposition of opposite qualities like heavy and light, plentiful and meager or active and apathetic….

Contradiction goes against your audience’s expectations."

The image of goldfishing came from a 1914 Puck cartoon at the Library of Congress.

Sunday, August 18, 2019

Please take Dave Paradi’s 2019 Annoying PowerPoint Survey

Every two years Dave Paradi does a survey on what annoys people about PowerPoint presentations. You can find his eight question 2019 survey here. It is open until September 21. This is your chance to pipe up about what irritates you and should be improved.

If you were thinking about using PowerPoint, then you might look at this article from August 13, 2019 at Inc. by Geoffrey James titled Jeff Bezos, Mark Cuban, and Tony Robbins don’t PowerPoint. The do this instead.
The image of an annoyed audience was adapted form a March 11, 1908 Puck cartoon at the Library of Congress.

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Making the stage your visual aid

The August 2019 issue of Toastmaster magazine has an article by Bill Brown titled Use the stage as a visual aid and subtitled how to enhance your message by moving with precision and purpose. He described three ways (which I have expanded on):

1]  Reenact a personal story or illustration.

2]  Incorporate the image of a continuum, or scale.

3]  Use your creativity.

For the first way he mentioned having seen Craig Valentine (the 1999 Toastmasters World Champion of Public Speaking) tell a story about being on a tour boat. Craig had used one part of the stage to represent the bow and another for the stern, as shown above. Bill told another story about working at a radio station, and moved around to three stage areas representing his boss’s office, the newsroom, and the studio.  

For the second way Bill described an expressiveness scale which ran from monotone to raving lunatic. Or, as shown above, it could be a time line. (I got that idea from a four-minute YouTube video by Craig Valentine titled Public speaking secrets: 2 reasons for movement on stage.)

For the third way Bill discussed using the stage as an imaginary map of the U.S. showing where a couple had moved – from Detroit to Boston to San Diego.

The stage also can have abstract but real props added. On August 22, 2008 I blogged about Give ‘em props. In that post I noted how Ellen Hermens described a speaker who placed a paper circle on the floor and stood on it to show ‘this is my point of view.’ Then he stepped away and took a critical look at that point of view from another angle. (That’s a simple version of the red carpet circle at center stage for a TED talk). Another point of view might be represented by a loop of inexpensive yellow polypropylene rope.  

In another blog post on January 17, 2017 titled Using imaginary or abstract visual aids I described how an airport was represented by paper cutouts and yarns (or ropes).

Craig Valentine’s tour boat also could be abstractly represented using 1” wide strips of yellow poster board, as shown above. If you make 45 degree miter cuts at one end, and then tape two pieces together, you will get an L that can be unfolded to make a stern corner of Craig’s boat or a corner of Bill’s room.  

Use your imagination, and you will find lots of ways to make the stage a large visual aid for your speech. The stage curtain came from a gif by KDS444 at Wikimedia Commons.