Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Public speaking only was the 7th most common fear of Americans on a Top Ten list in a survey reported on January 24, 2019

It still is common to hear the silly claim that public speaking is our number one fear. On January 24, 2019 there was an article (press release) at SWNS digital titled The average American laughs 8 times a day, study finds. It reported results from a survey of 2000 Americans done by OnePoll for Snow Teeth Whitening, who obviously were seeking publicity for their recently released product. The top ten fears list is shown above in a bar chart. (Click on it for a larger, clearer view). Snakes (51%) were followed by heights (38%), dentists (23%), claustrophobia (21%), needles (21%), clowns (18%), public speaking (17%), the dark (15%), flying (14%), and birds (5%). Presumably the fears survey really was done to get a rank for dentists.

A second bar chart reports the top nine most attractive physical qualities, with a smile (67% or ~two-thirds) ranked number one, with eyes (65%) being second. Height (34% or ~one-third) was sixth.  

A third bar chart reports ten things Americans would rather do than go to the dentist.

A fourth bar chart reports the top ten things that make us laugh, and show off our smile.   

Saturday, January 26, 2019

Words within words

At the Saint Al’s Toastmasters club meeting yesterday the Word of the Day was banal (meaning boring or lacking originality). I couldn’t help noticing that the very different word word anal was contained within it. Lots of other words also have that property, and some contain multiple words. At Wordnik there is a web page of “Puts the ___ in _____” Jokes with 221 items! Twenty examples (with the larger word first) are:

Ambassador – ado, ass, bass

Asking - skin

Brash - rash

Controller - troll

Dungaree - dung

Execute - cute

Flamboyant - boy

Gangster - angst

Grave - rave

Innovation – no, vat

Kidnap - nap

Manslaughter - laughter

Mortgage – gag

Narrative - rat

Origin - gin

Outwit - twit

Pantsuit - ants

Patriot - riot

Sincere - sin

Travel – rave

The Jack-in-the-Box image was adapted from one at Openclipart.

Thursday, January 24, 2019

Tuesday once again was National Speak Up and Succeed Day

Oops! This year I once again forgot to blog that the fourth Tuesday (the 22nd) in January is supposed to be National Speak Up and Succeed Day. I did remember in 2013 and 2016 though. And those posts got 44 and 43 hits this week.

The cartoon of a woman speaking was revised from this one at Wikimedia Commons.

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

A bogus blackmail phishing email

Yesterday I received an extremely nasty phishing email, the same one that was described in an article at My Antispyware on January 21st titled This is my last warning email scam. It claimed to have a webcam video of me masturbating, and both lists of my email contacts and Facebook friends. Then, like pointing a gun at me, it threatened blackmail - unless I sent $2000 in payment via Bitcoin within three days they would send out that video and destroy my social life. But the email contained  nothing to persuade me they really had any contact information – not even my first name. I am not on Facebook, so I have no friends there.

That article at My Antispyware said I should cover my web camera lens and block my microphone port. But, as is shown above, I already had a piece of opaque black electrical tape slapped over the lens on my iMac. Another article at PC Magazine on October 11, 2018 titled Don’t fall for this email sextortion scam said back then the scammers were only asking for $250 or $500.

The movie trailer image of Bette Davis came from Wikimedia Commons.  

Monday, January 21, 2019

In 2009 persuasion likely accounted for 30% of the U.S. Gross Domestic Product (GDP), or about 4.56 trillion dollars. What percent of GDP was due to persuasive public speaking?

On January 4, 2019 at Inc. there was an article by Carmine Gallo titled Public speaking is no longer a ‘soft skill.’ It’s your key to success in any field. A section on The Growing Value of Changing Minds began:

“In a world built on ideas, the persuaders – the ones who can win hearts and change mind – have a competitive edge. I’ve spoken to economists and historians like Deidre McCloskey at the University of Illinois, Chicago. She conducted an impressive research project to prove that old fashioned rhetoric – persuasion – is responsible for a growing share of America’s national income.

McCloskey analyzed 250 occupations covering 140 million people in the U.S. She created a statistical model based on the amount of time people in each category spent on public speaking and persuading another person to take action. In some cases persuasion played a more limited role than others (think firefighters versus public relations specialists).

McCloskey reached the following conclusion: Persuasion is responsible for generating one-quarter of America’s total national income. She expects it to rise to 40 percent over the next twenty years. McCloskey’s research was taken up by another economist in Australia who reached a similar conclusion.”

The Australian economist was Gerry Antioch, who discussed his research on the percentage of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in an article from 2013 in issue 1 of Economic Roundup titled Persuasion is now 30 per cent of US GDP (revisiting McCloskey and Klamer after a quarter of a century). That earlier article by McCloskey and Klamer was published in the May 1995 issue of The American Economic review on pages 191 to 195 and titled One Quarter of GDP is Persuasion. Table 1 of Antioch’s article shows the details of McCloskey and Klamer’s “inspired guesstimate,” of 26% for 1993 - which actually includes just 21 of those 250 occupations. There were four categories with weights of 1.00 (4 occupations), 0.75 (9 occupations), 0.50 (6 occupations), and 0.25 (2 occupations). They also made estimates from data for the years 1983, 1988, and 1991. Antioch made estimates for 2003 and 2009.

The first bar chart shown above presents the percentages for persuasion from all six estimates. A second bar chart restates them in current dollars based on GDP. A press release on November 16, 2015 from the Association of National Advertisers reported that research sponsored by them found that advertising alone contributed 19% to the U.S. GDP in 2014, or $3.4 trillion.

How much of these percentages or dollars can be attributed just to either storytelling or public speaking? Back in 2002 Stephen Denning published an article in the RSA Journal titled How storytelling ignites action in knowledge-era organizations in which he guessed storytelling made up two-thirds of persuasion. Then on page xvi of his 2005 book The Leader’s Guide to Storytelling he said it conservatively was at least half of persuasion.  In their 2014 book Business Storytelling for Dummies Karen Dietz and Lori Silverman mention Denning’s 2005 book and link to Antioch’s article.

What about public speaking? Page 324 in Chapter 15 of Stephen Lucas’s book The Art of Public Speaking (10th edition, 2008) just mentions the 26% persuasion estimate as being from a Wall Street Journal version of a January 10, 1995 Associated Press article about McCloskey and Klamer by Amanda Bennett titled Economists + Meeting A Zillion Causes and Effects. If Stephen Denning can guess a half for storytelling, than I can take a wild guess of a fifth for persuasive public speaking, and come up with the dollar estimates shown above in a third bar chart. So, it might be over $912 billion! 

Sunday, January 20, 2019

Did you turn off the power and pull the plug?

On January 9, 2019 at Computerworld there was a Shark Tank story about following through titled Details, details. The short version is that an information technology security team at a university found someone outside had hacked into one of their servers and was using it for denial-of-service attacks. The server turned out to be in the alumni office. There were databases with lots of personal information still on it. Officially it had been decommissioned months earlier, but no one actually had switched it off or unplugged it from the network.

Half a century ago my father and I also had a problem with something electrical that should have been disconnected long ago. One Friday morning my mother noticed that when she opened the refrigerator door the light didn’t come on, and it wasn’t cold as usual. We found the fuse for that wall outlet had blown, and used an extension cord to plug the refrigerator into another circuit in the adjacent pantry.

That large brick house had been built in Pittsburgh back in 1912, so the wiring for the kitchen outlets circuit was located on the ceiling of the unfinished basement. On Saturday morning we disconnected power upstream of the fuse. Then we began breaking that circuit into branches to isolate and locate the short. This process involved standing on a stepladder, opening overhead junction boxes, unwrapping electrical tape, and unwinding wire splices.  

We were using an analog multimeter to check for resistance between the hot and neutral wires. One branch with low resistance was not the real problem – just the primary winding of a transformer for the back doorbell. Eventually we found the short was in wiring leading through the back wall and underground - out from a long unused safety switch box. The switch mechanism was rusted until it was stuck in the ON position.

We guessed that it had been for the electric motor of a turntable for turning around a car. A neighbor told us the turntable once had been located at the back end of the driveway. It was not still there when we moved in during 1955. But no one ever had disconnected the wiring!

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Two library databases and a web site for exploring both sides of controversial issues

At the back of the January 2019 issue of Toastmaster magazine, on page 30, there is a single-page humor article by John Cadley titled At the Library. (His columns are a series titled Funny You Should Say That). John opened by claiming:

“I’m sitting here in the Fayetteville Free Library in Upstate New York wondering if ‘free library’ is redundant.”

Then he just told us a bunch of Tall Tales about libraries. Unfortunately he didn’t bother to ask a reference librarian there if she had anything that would be particularly useful to Toastmasters (or others) trying to write speeches.

She would have replied that yes, they had a database from Gale called Opposing Viewpoints in Context that lets you explore both sides of an issue. EBSCO has a similar one called Points of View Reference Center (supplied, for example, by the Ohio Web Library or Utah's Online Library). And, if (like here in Idaho) your state library system does not supply either of those for your friendly local public library, then you instead can use a web site called ProCon. I mentioned ProCon in a comprehensive blog post on Feb 14, 2015 titled How to do a better job of speech research than the average Toastmaster (by using your friendly local public and state university libraries). Boise State University provides yet another database from SAGE called CQ Researcher, described as providing in-depth reports on today’s issues.

Librarians can keep you out of blind alleys. They are used to subject indexing, and are excellent at figuring out the right search terms to describe a topic. On August 22, 2012 I blogged about Avoiding blind alleys in research. On June 25, 2017 I blogged about how Pteromechanophobia is just a humorous, pseudo-technical term for fear of flying – from a satirical cartoonist.

One of the Tall Tales Mr. Cadley spouts is:

“America didn’t have a library until 1731 when Benjamin Franklin, who invented everything the Chinese didn’t, founded the Library Company of Philadelphia. This prompted U.S. Presi­dent James Madison to propose the Congressional Library in 1783. A section of the executive order for the Library read: ‘It is no longer permissible for politicians to know ABSOLUTELY NOTHING. Every member of the House and Senate is now required to read at least ONE BOOK so he knows something. ANYTHING.’ ”

He should have gotten smarter than a fifth-grader before cooking up the part about President Madison. In 1783 we didn’t have a Constitution, so we didn’t have a President. Our first, George Washington, served from 1789 to 1797. Our sixth, James Madison, was president from 1809 to 1817.

The real history of the Library of Congress is more interesting than his Tall Tale. It began in 1800 with President John Adams and $5000 worth of books in the Capitol building. After that building was burned by the British during the War of 1812, Congress accepted former president Thomas Jefferson’s offer to sell his comprehensive personal library of 6,487 books to restart the Library of Congress.

The image of arguing was adapted from one of a couple arguing at Openclipart. The image of a blind alley came from Francisco Anzola at Wikimedia Commons. I lightened it, and changed the sky to blue.

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Why was a Nazi swastika on the ends of those cracker boxes?

It is not what you might think, and demonstrates how our perception of symbols can change. The ad for Snowflakes shown above is from back in 1914, before a swastika carried that historical baggage. Pacific Coast Biscuit Company was up to something completely different. According to the entry for the National Biscuit Company in a 2007 book called The Business of Food: Encyclopedia of the Food and Drink Industries, back in 1898:

“A several month-long national advertising campaign introduced the public to the Uneeda Biscuit, the company’s signature soda cracker, which was the first national cracker brand. Ads also promoted the innovative package, which was made of moisture-proof cardboard with an air-tight, waxed paper inner seal devised for freshness. The biscuits became an immediate success, and a succession of new products followed throughout the first half of the 20th century.”

Ends of National Biscuit packages had a trademarked IN ER SEAL label with clipped corners, as is shown above. (The label actually was red).  

Starting in 1907 Pacific Coast Biscuit Company put a swastika label (also with clipped corners and in red) on the ends of their packages, perhaps to suggest they were using similar packaging. 

But that provoked a trademark infringement lawsuit by National, with court records including the color image comparison (from page 174, which I retitled) shown above. Pacific lost, was enjoined to stop in 1915, and in 1930 was bought up by National. I stumbled over that Pacific Coast Biscuit Company ad when I looked up images of crackers on Wikimedia Commons while writing my last blog post about A simple geometry demonstration using crackers.  

In this decade snowflake became a slang term that implied a person felt he was unique, special, and entitled. My wife Elaine told me that on Reddit it sometimes gets a special spelling -  sneauxflake.  

Monday, January 14, 2019

A simple geometry demonstration using crackers

Props used for demonstrations don’t have to be complicated or expensive to be effective. As is shown above, the Pythagorean theorem say that, for a right triangle, the square of the hypotenuse (c ) is equal to the sum of the squares of the other two sides (a and b).

In Bobby Mercer’s new book, Junk Drawer Geometry: 50 awesome activities that don’t cost a thing, he has a clever demonstration of it on page 60 using fifty square cheese crackers. (You can read it on Google Books). As shown above, this example is for a = 3, b = 4, and c = 5.  I used 1” square Kellogg’s Reduced Fat Cheez Its. Of course, you could instead use larger crackers like Saltines.

Junk Drawer Geometry was preceded by two other books by Mr. Mercer with the exact same subtitle on the topics of Physics (2014) and Chemistry (2016).

When you look on YouTube for demonstrations of that theorem you can find another version using square Starburst candies, one with 4.5 mm diameter bearing balls, and several using water in connected flat containers. In The Wizard of Oz the scarecrow incorrectly states the theorem as being for an isosceles triangle. So does Homer Simpson, but he gets corrected immediately.

An image illustrating the theorem was adapted from one at Wikimedia Commons.

Saturday, January 12, 2019

Is this gizmo a walker or a rollator?

In my blog post on November 24, 2018 titled A very competent and cheerful medical center I referred to the $70 gizmo shown above as a four-wheel walker. (Its maker Harbor Freight calls it a Sit-or-Stand Behind Rolling Walker). It is useful for getting around after you have been off your feet, or after surgery (like a knee replacement). Hand brakes lock the rear wheels in position, and you can sit and rest on the seat, or use it as a platform for holding objects like a plate of food. But when I looked at the Wikipedia page for Walker (mobility), I found it instead calls that a rollator. That is insider medical jargon for those involved with orthopedics or rehabilitation.

They call this other two-wheel gizmo a walker. Web pages from equipment suppliers or manufacturers describe choosing a walker or rollator. GrahamField has an article discussing The Great Gait Debate: Walker vs. Rollator and the Avacare Medical Blog has another article titled Walker vs. Rollator: How to Choose with a nice infographic.

That Wikipedia page also claims walkers began appearing in the 1950s, based on looking up patents. When I looked instead at PubMed Central, I found a 1990 article by professor Graham Mulley on Walking Frames in the British Medical Journal which reported they originated three decades earlier:  
“The first walking frame was designed and make in 1924 by a 12 year old Cincinnati boy, Charles Williams. His aunt had broken her hip and after hospital treatment could move around her hospital room only by standing at the back of her armchair and pushing it in front of her. Charles fashioned a simple wooden walking frame that enabled his aunt to walk with more ease and confidence. The local hospital was impressed with his design and made several metal frames out of gas piping. In the 1950s aluminium frames were produced, and subsequently many modifications and additions were developed. The frame is now one of the most widely used walking aids in the world.”

Professor Mulley also humorously noted:

“Frames are used not only for ambulation. Other uses have been as plant stands, as a television aerial (apparently they give good reception), and as a clothes horse to dry ‘smalls.’ “

A rollator with only one wheel appeared in a Heath Robinson cartoon on the Habits of the night moth.

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Free cartoon images of people presenting graphics at Wikimedia Commons

Yesterday I blogged about Free cartoon images of public speakers at Wikimedia Commons.

That huge Wikimedia Commons database also includes dozens of cartoon images of people presenting graphics, two dozen of which are shown above. A few examples are a man with a flip chart, a man with a bar chart, a woman with a line graph, and a woman with a pie chart.

Those presenting are described as a Guy, a Man, a Businesswoman, or a Woman. Other keywords include presenting, presents, and discussing, and either graph or chart.

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Free cartoon images of public speakers at Wikimedia Commons

At Wikimedia Commons there is a collection with more than a dozen free cartoon images showing public speakers. Two examples are Charismatic Male Public Speaker Cartoon and Pretty Woman Public Speaker Cartoon. You can find more by searching with the terms Public Speaker Cartoon.

Those images can be downloaded either in the Portable Network Graphic (.png) or Scalable Vector Graphic (.svg) formats. I horizontally rotated them to face to the right, recolored some (with Photoshop Elements) and used PowerPoint to create the two images of Toastmasters shown above. Cartoon images also can be found elsewhere at Wikimedia Commons, like the Clueless Cartoon Man I used as a befuddled speaker by erasing the background.     

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

When you see the phrase ‘a fully-immersive experience’ what do you think of?

Many of you likely would say a baptism, like the sailor shown above. But on January 6, 2019 at The Verge there was an article by James Vincent titled Kohler’s smart toilet promises a “fully-immersive experience.” He got that phrase out of their thoughtless press release for the $7000 Numi 2.0 Intelligent Toilet shown in Las Vegas at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES).

To me the combination of toilet and ‘fully-immersive’ sounds like a small child’s nightmare about potty training. The only worse thing would be going down the drain. Fred Rogers had to reassure kids that can’t happen.

Monday, January 7, 2019

A good (but not great) article on how to give a scientific talk

In an editorial supplement to the venerable Nature magazine called the Nature Events Guide 2019 there was an article by Nic Fleming on December 19, 2018 titled How to give a great scientific talk (which also can be downloaded as a two-page pdf file). He provides a good grab bag of advice from several people. But curiously he doesn’t provide links to any of those advisors.  

Nic opens by describing how PhD candidate Eileen Courtney was a bundle of nerves, and realized she needed help getting over her fear of speaking. Then he mentions Susan McConnell, a neurologist at Stanford who for over a decade has been doing presentations on how to give a talk. This would be a good point for a link to her five-minute YouTube video on The importance of giving a good talk.

And then he has an insert from Ramona J. Smith, the 2018 Toastmasters World Champion, with her Top 10 Tips. In the next to last paragraph he talks about Toastmasters International, and how Eileen Courtney joined them, got over her fear, and was runner-up in the 3 Minute Wonder Competition held by the Institute of Physics with her presentation on Graphene you can watch on YouTube. There is another insert with Eileen Courtney’s tips on how to Conquer Nerves.

Then he gives some advice from Dave Rubenson, who has a company called nobadslides.com. You will find more specific advice from Dave in an article from 2016 on the naturejobs blog titled A David Letterman-like countdown to the 10 biggest pitfalls in scientific presentations.  

Then he goes back to Susan McConnell and mentions her popular 42-minute online video, which is from 2011, is titled Designing effective scientific presentations using PowerPoint and structuring your talk, and can be viewed here on YouTube. He says that that Matt Carter’s 2013 book Designing Science Presentations is another source of advice. But McConnell relied instead on (and referenced) Michael Alley’s book The Craft of Scientific Presentations. Her slide design method (at 22:50 in the video) is Alley’s, which I blogged about on February 19, 2014 in a detailed post titled Assertion-Evidence PowerPoint slides are a visual alternative to bullet point lists.   

On October 3, 2012 I had blogged about a Free ebook on Communicating Science and other geeky topics. That 33-page publication still is available from the Burroughs Wellcome Fund as a free .pdf file.

An image of a mad scientist holding a key came from Openclipart.  

Sunday, January 6, 2019

Calling an elephant a zebra doesn’t make it the other animal

The lowest level of executive competence we should accept from a President is that he manages to keep the federal government running. Instead our present for Christmas from Donald J. Trump was a partial shutdown.

On Saturday he hit a new low. An article at CNN was titled Trump told lawmakers he prefers word ‘strike’ to government shutdown, sources say. Another article at The Hill was titled Trump, in a profanity-laced meeting with lawmakers, said he preferred ‘strike’ to refer to government shutdown: reports.

That’s fraudulent language. Calling an elephant a zebra doesn’t magically turn it into the other animal.