Friday, February 22, 2019

Why Peanut Butter & Chocolate Nutter Puffs were a bad idea

Many Americans are familiar with some sort of cheese puffs like the lurid orange Cheetos shown above. They are an extruded corn snack food. Popchips apparently thought about doing something different They made corn puffs flavored with peanut butter. Then they made a version with peanut butter and honey.

Then they got crazy and made a third version with peanut butter and chocolate (flavored like a peanut butter cup). But, as shown above, adding the chocolate took their color from tan to brown. They look an awful lot like cat poop! Their taste isn’t bad, if you close your eyes.  

I saw Peanut Butter & Chocolate Nutter Puffs on sale at a Grocery Outlet store here in Boise. Sometimes their merchandise is overstocks, but I suspect this one was a marketing failure based on product appearance.

The Cheetos image came from Wikimedia Commons.

Thursday, February 21, 2019

Flipcharts can be funny!

You can find YouTube videos on almost any topic. Here are three examples of comedy with flipcharts. The first one of Demetri Martin shown above (from 10 to 18 minutes in) came from an hour and five minute long video at Stand Up Show. At 41 minutes he also shows us some fliers for bulletin boards at coffee shops.   

Second there is this seven-and-a-half minute video by Ed Andriessen at Princeton Toastmasters on The Art of the Chart. Among other things he covers line, bar, pie, and flow charts.


Third, there is this three-and-a-half minute video about Picking up hot girls using a flip chart.

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

If you want to touch your audience with a story, then don’t hide behind a closed window

It is easy to write (or tell) a story while detached - like being behind a closed window. But then you miss the sounds and smells, and lose an opportunity to connect better with your audience.

On December 9, 2018 Stephan Pastis had an eight-panel Sunday Pearls Before Swine cartoon about losing the family dog Edee to cancer that connected with a lot of people. At the Washington Post on February 8, 2019 Michael Cavna had an article titled A cartoonist drew a touching tribute to his dying dog. His readers gave him an outpouring of sympathy.
On February 17, 2019 Stephan had another touching Sunday cartoon about how Anthony Bourdain and his Parts Unknown TV program had inspired him to be curious and travel. My favorite of his cartoons is the one on May 25, 2003 about Memorial Day.
The image was adapted from this one at Openclipart.

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Farewell to the Opportunity Rover out there on Mars

After about fifteen years or roaming around the red planet, the Opportunity Rover had its solar panels covered by dust from a huge storm last June. Its batteries ran down, and NASA finally declared the mission over. How could you summarize a fifteen-year trip on the surface of another planet?

On February 13, 2019 NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory posted a four-minute YouTube video titled Opportunity: NASA Rover Completes Mars Mission, which is shown above. Also on February 13, 2019 there was an article by Jonathan Corum in the New York Times titled NASA’s Opportunity Rover Dies on Mars. It has a large map of where that rover went.

And on February 14, 2019 in Bad Astronomy at SyFyWire, Phil Plait Posted another article titled Opportunity lost … but more will arise. That was quite an impressive drive!

Monday, February 18, 2019

Is your donut chart sending the wrong signals?

Back on July 25, 2009 I blogged about Bullfighting the Mehrabian Myth – a bogus claim about communication (as shown above in a simple horizontal bar chart) that 7% of our meaning is from words, while 38% is from tone of voice, and 55% is from body language.

Those mythical percentages often are illustrated via pie charts (as shown above), or related donut charts. Just because you can do something with PowerPoint (or another graphics program) doesn’t mean that you should.  

The worst donut chart version (shown above) I have seen comes from a Tony Robbins web page titled Are you sending the wrong signals? Compare it to the pie chart shown above, and you will see the angle depicting that 7% for words is larger than it should be. Also shown above is how that angle compares with a right angle, which should represent 25%. It’s almost half! I got out a protractor, and found it represents 12%, while tone of voice actually is 30%, and body language is 58%.

Another poor way to display those three percentages is via an exploded 3-D donut chart, as was done by ToolsHero.

Still another poor way to present the percentages is via a pointless row of three donut charts, as was done on web pages both by MindMaven and Slidemodel.

Yet another way to mess things up is by putting down the wrong percentages, like at Kizan, who had a donut chart saying words were 8% rather than 7%, and tone of voice was 37% rather than 38%.

There also even are pyramid charts, like the one shown at 3:30 in this seven minute YouTube video, which I don't think communicates effectively - it is way less clear than a simple bar chart. 

Sunday, February 17, 2019

Table Topics – Tell us about another magazine with a similar title

Table Topics is the impromptu speaking section of a Toastmasters club meeting. Participants give a one-to-two minute answer to a question. One series of questions could involve starting with a title, and asking to tell us about what would be in another magazine with a similar title.

For example, starting with Reader’s Digest we might think of the cartoon character Elmer Fudd, who refers to his nemesis Bugs Bunny as a wabbit, and come up (as shown above) with Weeder’s Digest. Obviously it would be a gardening magazine, and the cover story would be on wascally wabbits and how they want our wutabagas. That title is already used for a gardening newsletter in Washington from the WSU Whatcom County Extension.

Starting with Popular Science we might come up with (as shown above) a paranormal magazine called Popular Séance. It might have articles on topics like how to run a Séance or do a Cold Reading.

At a supermarket checkout counter I saw a copy of Clean Eating, (a questionable concept) which inspired (as shown above) its opposite.

Sears catalogs used to have a selection of products labeled Good, Better and Best (which can be flipped to Bad, Worse, and Worst). The venerable Good Housekeeping magazine could inspire its opposite (as shown above). Similarly, Better Homes and Gardens could inspire the Worse ones.  

Images of Houdini, a chitlins sign, and a back porch all came from Wikimedia Commons.  

Saturday, February 16, 2019

A satirical map with over 50 alleged regional terms for carbonated beverages

As shown above, Randall Munroe recently published an xkcd cartoon with an absurdly detailed map of alleged Regional Terms for Carbonated Beverages. (Click on it to see a larger, clearer view). It is a satire of one by E.D.W. Lynch on June 6, 2013 at Laughing Squid that was titled Soda, Pop, or Coke: Maps of Regional Dialect Variation in the United States. At least that’s what the Explain xkcd web page suggests.  

I grew up in Pittsburgh and lived both in Columbus, Ohio and Ann Arbor, Michigan. While there I heard carbonated beverages called Pop, rather than Medicine. Also, I lived in Portland for 4 years and heard Soda, which didn’t need to be spelled Söde. (One brother-in-law of mine does refer to LaCroix carbonated water as Substance).

There are lots of regional brands of soda, some of which went national. Vernors is a ginger ale from Detroit. My mother liked it when she lived in Cincinnati and Pittsburgh. Sometime after my dad retired, and they moved to Knoxville, Vernors began selling it there. At a supermarket checkout line someone asked her what flavor that was – and she said it’s great ginger ale. She wrote Vernors to point out their label didn’t then say what it was. Eventually the label changed, and now describes it as The Original Ginger Soda.
Randall likely was making fun of clickbait web articles that provide maps or ranked lists on topics such as the Most Reasonably Priced Housing or the Best Places to Retire. For reasonably priced housing Lima, Ohio sometimes pops up. (Lima is roughly 75 miles from both Toledo and Dayton, and best known for the Lima Army Tank Plant which builds the M1 Abrams).

Thursday, February 14, 2019

An infographic with almost unreadable sections

At BOSS magazine round this February 12th there was an article titled 6 Tips for beating public speaking anxiety that ended with an infographic from the British presentation design firm Buffalo 7. The infographic originally appeared on May 25, 2016 in another article at their web site titled as How to overcome presentation anxiety. Those tips were Nerves = Positive Energy, Perfect Your Intro, Use Deliberate Breathing, Don’t Rush – Take Your Time, Keep Movin’ On, and Use Body Language to Tour Advantage. The background in that infographic alternated between light green and bright blue and, but all the body text was white. Small white text on a light green background is nearly unreadable, as is shown above for just the very top of that infographic. Either that text should have been black (I changed the words speaking anxiety as an example), or the background should have been darker.

At Dave Paradi’s Think Outside The Slide web site there is a page with a Color Contrast Calculator for avoiding that graphical travesty of pretty but unreadable design.

At Entrepreneur on October 27, 2018 there was an article by Matthew McCreary titled 6 easy tips for conquering your fear of public speaking (infographic), which had another infographic version with a darker blue background, as is shown above.

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

A dozen awful sports quotations

Great quotations are wonderful, because there are oodles so bad they are funny. Yesterday at USA Today high school sports there was an article by Joe Leccesi titled NCSA: The worst inspirational quotes of all time. His twelve picks are:

“Chemistry is a class you take in high school or college, where you figure out two plus two is 10, or something.” – Dennis Rodman

“Ninety percent of the game is half mental.” – Yogi Berra

"Nobody in football should be called a genius. A genius is a guy like Norman Einstein.” – Joe Theismann

“I quit school in the sixth grade because of pneumonia. Not because I had it, but because I couldn’t spell it.” – Rocky Graziano

“Why should we have to go to class if we come here to play football, we ain’t come to play school, classes are pointless.” – Cardale Jones.

“I want to rush for 1,000 or 1,500 yards – whichever comes first.” – George Rogers

“We didn’t underestimate them. They were a lot better than we thought.” – Bobby Ronson

“We must have had 99 percent of the match. It was the other three percent that cost us.” – Ruud Gullit

“Defensively, I think it’s important for us to tackle.” – Karl Mecklenburg

“If lessons are learned in defeat, our team is getting a great education.” – Murray Warmath

“Lads, you’re not to miss practice unless your parents died or you died.” – Frank Leahy

“Look, I’m a coach. I’m not Harry Potter. He is magical, but in reality, there is no magic. Magic is fiction and football is real.” - Joe Mourinho

The facepalm gesture cartoon was adapted from one at Openclipart.

Monday, February 11, 2019

Should those be your last words?

As shown above, today’s Savage Chickens cartoon from Doug Savage is titled Death is Annoyed. He is so upset he gives that chicken until Thursday to come up with a better ending.

People best remember the first (primacy) and last (recency) things you say. At Wikipedia they both are in an article titled Serial-position effect. Fred E. Miller discussed both in his NO Sweat Public Speaking blog back on December 5, 2009 in a post titled The Law of Primacy and Recency.

Sunday, February 10, 2019

A misleading bar chart with inflated fear percentages

At PresentationGuru on January 17, 2019 there was an article by Rosie Hoyland titled The best way to protect yourself from misleading graphs. It linked to a four-minute TED-Ed YouTube video by Lea Gaslowitz from July 6, 2017 titled How to spot a misleading graph, and also warned that: 

“Even careless handling of the data can send a distorted message.”

I found a good example of careless handling in a long, otherwise decent article by Michael Smith at SlideHeroes titled CONQUER THE FEAR! 8 Steps for Controlling Public Speaking Anxiety, which contains the bar chart shown above that displays results from the 2014 Chapman Survey of American Fears. The top blue bar indicates that 29% of Americans fear public speaking.

Compare that with my bar chart showing 25.3% (for the same sum of Very Afraid and Afraid) from a blog post on October 29, 2014 titled Chapman Survey on American Fears includes both zombies and ghosts, and the Washington Post version from an October 30, 2014 article titled America’s top fears: Public speaking, heights, and bugs.

How did Mr. Smith wind up with an answer that was inflated 4% higher than mine and the Washington Post? Look at the rather confusing data table from the survey for this item. As shown above, the first row in the data table is for Refused – people who didn’t answer because they don’t know. But he read and used 29.3% - the Cumulative Percent (right column) from the third row, which wrongly includes that 4.0 percent from the Refused (or Don’t Know) category. Really 8.8% were Very Afraid, and 16.5% were Afraid, which adds up to 25.3%. Oops! Every item in Mr. Smith’s chart includes that same mistake.
A Dilbert cartoon on January 30, 2019 described another type of misleading graph:

Presenter: As you can see from this chart, our product has been rated number one for six years in a row.

Dilbert: Why does you chart stop four years ago?

Presenter: I’ll bet you don’t get invited to a lot of parties.

Dilbert: That’s just a lucky guess.

The cartoon of a man with a pump was adapted from one at Openclipart.

Saturday, February 9, 2019

Remember that not every question has a clear answer

A couple days ago at LinkedIn Joel Schwartzberg, who was hyping his Get to the Point! book, claimed: 

“ ‘It depends’ is not an acceptable final answer from leaders or experts. Get the information you need – or pose it yourself – to make a strong and clear recommendation. Leaders take positions. Waffles are for breakfast.”

Wrong! Just because someone can ask a question doesn’t mean there is a clear, final answer right now. In the real world we often live in the meantime. When there is not enough evidence, then the answer simply is we just don’t know. Maybe we will know later, and maybe we won’t.

Look at fact sheets from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) about Crisis and Emergency Risk Communication (CERC) for both an Infectious Disease Outbreak and a Hurricane Response. They say that to be credible:

“Acknowledge when you do not have enough information to answer a question and then work with (the) appropriate experts to get an answer.”

Joel replied:

"Fair enough, Richard. I was thinking more about when leaders choose to waffle rather than take a courageous strong point of view, but that's not clear from the post. I will rewrite or remove it for the false implication. Thank you."

Friday, February 8, 2019

A new Engaging Humor path in the Pathways educational program at Toastmasters International

On February 5, 2019 Toastmasters International launched a new eleventh Path on Engaging Humor in their Pathways educational program. It includes four brand-new required projects: Know Your Sense of Humor, Engage Your Audience with Humor, The Power of Humor in an Impromptu Speech, and Deliver Your Message with Humor.

Last year there were negative comments at LinkedIn from some long-time Toastmasters that the first ten Paths in the new Pathways program had omitted materials present in the program previously used. Some replies said to wait, since there were more paths on the way.

Back on July 8, 2011 I blogged about how The Competent Communication manual is just the beginning of learning about public speaking in Toastmasters International. In that post I discussed the 15 advanced communications manuals.

One advanced manual is Humorously Speaking (226O), which contains five projects titled Warm Up Your Audience, Leave Them with a Smile, Make Them Laugh, Keep Them Laughing, The Humorous Speech. You can find a pdf from the Philippines here.  

Another advanced manual is The Entertaining Speaker (226A), which contains five projects titled The Entertaining Speech, Resources for Entertainment, Make Them Laugh, A Dramatic Talk, Speaking After Dinner. You can find a pdf from the Philippines here.  

Another advanced manual, which I just finished, is Storytelling (226K). It contains five projects titled The Folk Tale, Let’s Get Personal, The Moral of the Story, The Touching Story, and Bringing History to Life. You can find a pdf from the Philippines here. What else might be next? Perhaps there will be a Path about storytelling.  

The cartoon was derived from six images at Wikimedia Commons. From left to right they are:

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Is flip-chart a racist term?

The potential problem is with the word flip. A 1998 Postcolonial Studies web article from Emory University by Reshmi Hebbar titled Filipino American Literature (referenced in the Wikipedia article on Anti-Filipino sentiment) says that:
“….American-born-Filipinos are referred to as ‘Flips,’ a term whose origins are unclear. The suggestion that this term comes from a World War II acronym for the phrase ‘f*cking little island people’ has caused some to shy away from the term. Others have reclaimed it and changed the acronym to mean ‘fine-looking island people.’ Others still find it more plausible that the term is just a shortening of ‘Filipino.’ ”

I think it’s just a shortening. An article by Edgar Snow in the March 16, 1946 Saturday Evening Post titled The Philippines Cry for Help stated that:
“Juan de la Cruz is what we used to call any Filipino before the American soldier came along and cut him down to the laconic ‘Flip’ – not a very nice name, but meaning no offense, we hope.”

Over in the Philippines there was a 2011 web page from their Red Cross which still used the word Flipcharts.   

It looks like political correctness complaints about flip-chart being derogatory first popped up 25 years ago, and have reappeared sporadically ever since. Sometimes the complainers suggest an alternative term, but other times they did not bother (and therefore should be ignored).

A 1994 book by Marlene Caroselli titled Continuous Learning in Organizations (which you can find at Google Books) says on page 109:
“As a trainer, for example, I have been advised not to call the flipchart a flipchart because the word ‘flip’ is a derogatory reference to citizens of the Philippines.”

A table in a 2001 web article by Lenora Billings-Harris titled Politically Correct Language
says that flip chart should be replaced by the vague term easel (since flip is a derogatory word referring to Filipinos).

A 2008 book by Paul J.J. Payack titled A Million Words and Counting: How Global English is Rewriting the World (which you can find at Google Books) says in a section on The Top 10 politically Incorrect Words of Recent Years:
“4. Flip chart: The term flip can be offensive to Filipinos, who consider it an ethnic insult. California has issued sensitivity guidelines to avoid using the term flip chart for easel pads or writing blocks.

A 2010 web article by John McCrarey titled Concerning Diversity Training had the following discussion:
 “Anyway, as an example of insensitivity the instructor solemnly informed us that the visual aid commonly referred to as a ‘flip chart’ was offensive.  Seriously.  You see, ‘flip’ is a derogatory term applied to Filipinos.   And so according to the trainer we should henceforth call the flip chart a rip chart.

To our credit, we didn’t let the trainer get away without asking some clarifying questions.  Like, it is wrong to ‘flip a coin’?  Is it permissible to ‘flip through the pages of a book’?  Or how about if someone cuts you off in traffic–can you ‘flip them the finger’?  Yeah, it’s true.  We were certainly being ‘flip’ about the subject.”

On May 18, 2018 in the New York Times there was an article by Nellie Bowles titled Jordan Peterson, Custodian of the Patriarchy which included the following anecdote:
“Why did he decide to engage in politics at all? He says a couple years ago he had three clients in his private practice ‘pushed out of a state of mental health by left-wing bullies in their workplace.’ I ask for an example, and he sighs.

He says one patient had to be part of a long email chain over whether the term ‘flip chart’ could be used in the workplace, since the word ‘flip’ is a pejorative for Filipino.

‘She had a radical-left boss who was really concerned with equality and equality of outcome and all these things and diversity and inclusivity and all these buzzwords and she was subjected to — she sent me the email chain, 30 emails about whether or not the word flip chart was acceptable,’ Mr. Peterson says.”

Which of those alternative terms are useful? Easel pad is, since a Google search on Images leads to catalog pictures of flip chart pads from office supply stores. Rip chart is not.

But please don’t call it a writing block! A Google search on that term leads to images about writer’s block (which even is a TV Trope), including an infamous Calvin and Hobbes cartoon whose gist is shown above by another image.

When I looked up scholarly articles about flip charts at JSTOR, I found one by Everett B. Lare titled Nonprojected Visual Aids in The Clearing House, Vol. 33, No. 4, December 1958, page 255 which refers to a turnover chart or flip chart. Regrettably turnover already has several other meanings, including the pastry shown above.

Am I going to stop using the word flipchart? In general, no. If I knew I was going to be speaking to a predominantly Filipino-American audience, then perhaps I might call it an easel pad.

A cartoon of a man pointing at a flip chart was modified from this one at Wikimedia Commons.

Monday, February 4, 2019

Reliable places to find information for your speeches

At Presentation Guru on January 22, 2019 there was a brief, useful article by Rakiah Oneeb titled The Most Reliable Places to Find Credible Data, which may be of interest to Toastmasters. It is good as far as it goes, but it doesn’t go far enough. (For another viewpoint, look at Andrew Dlugan’s Six Minutes article from June 11, 2018 on How to Research Your Speech Topic).

Her first four sentences say:
“As a presenter, one of the worst things that can happen during your presentation is not you forgetting to mention an important stat/data, but someone from the audience disputing the authenticity of that data.

Not only will it embarrass you, it will blow your credibility out of the water. So, when it comes to presenting, there isn’t a greater faux pax (sic) you could commit.

Even if you are an expert in your field, your presentation will need to cite other credible information either to compound on your findings or convincingly compare them to the other.  

Rakiah discussed five (really six) places where she claimed you could find reliable information for any subject:



3] Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ)

4] a) Google Scholar and b) Microsoft Academic Search

5] Expert Interviews

Unless you are already very experienced at searching (like I am), I would suggest you should start by interviewing a reference librarian at your friendly local public library. Ask her both about books and which of their databases you can best use for finding information to put in your presentation. 

Rakiah suggests that you access EBSCO databases from a public or university library that uses it. EBSCO currently is what the Idaho Commission for Libraries, via LiLI, supplies for our public libraries. Idaho taxpayers individually may be poor, but collectedly we are powerful. (Other states use other suppliers like Gale).

EBSCO is extremely useful, but their basic search is a blunt tool - like trying to cut a raw carrot with a butter knife. Their advanced search is way more powerful. I usually start looking for magazine articles in three EBSCO databases – MasterFILE Premier, Business Source Premier, and Academic Search Premier.

On February 24, 2015 I blogged about How to do a better job of speech research than the average Toastmaster (by using your friendly local public and state university libraries). I discussed EBSCO there. But I never use Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ), Google Scholar, or Microsoft Academic Search. I don’t often use JSTOR since I have to go to the library at Boise State University and use one of their public terminals in order to access it.

Under their under Articles and Databases tab a web page at the Boise State University Library lists these seven preferred places to look:

Academic Search Premier (from EBSCO)

ProQuest Central


Web of Science

Google Scholar

CQ Researcher

Gale Virtual Reference

Only three of them match Rakiah’s list. CQ Researcher provides in-depth reports on today’s issues. Similarly, on January 17, 2019 I blogged about Two library databases and a web site for exploring both sides of controversial issues. Web of Science is very useful for both engineering and science.

Rakiah did not mention WorldCat, which is the planetary card catalog of libraries from OCLC. Back on February 28, 2012 I blogged about 40.5 years of WorldCat – a great tool for digging up books, magazine articles, etc.

The U.S. National Library of Medicine (NLM) has wonderful resources, like Medline Plus (trusted health information for you). A great source from them is PubMed Central which has a free full-text archive of over 5 million articles. They also have the PubMed database with 29 million citations of article titles and abstracts.

The Presentation Guru article ended with a section on evaluating your sources, and linked to an article about the CRAAP test. CRAAP is an acronym for Currency, Relevance, Authority, Accuracy, and Purpose. On August 7, 2017 I blogged about that topic in a post titled Spotting fake news and finding reliable information for speeches. My post discussed two examples of unreliable information.
The carrot and butter knife were adapted from images at the National Cancer Institute.