Tuesday, May 26, 2020

One little speech (because everything hasn’t been said)

You always can give a little speech or tell a story of your very own - since everything has not been said yet.

A few days ago I was reloading my iPod from my extensive collection of CDs and happened to select Gillian Welch’s 2003 album Soul Journey. On it is One Little Song, which inspired this brief post. You can watch her sing it live in 2018 on YouTube. Lyrics for the first verse are:

“Gotta be a song left to sing

Everybody can’t have thought of everything

One little song that ain’t been sung

One little rag that ain’t been wrung out completely yet

Gotta little left

One little drop of fallin’ rain, one little chance to try again

One little bird that makes it home now and then

One little piece of endless sky, and one little taste of cherry pie

One little week in paradise, and I start thinkin’ “

Sunday, May 24, 2020

You probably won’t hear speaking coaches or motivational speakers cite results about fear of public speaking from the 2019 Chapman Survey of American Fears

That is because the fear of public speaking only is ranked #54 of 88 fears (and it has a fear score of only 2.081 – just above Slightly Afraid). Results from the 2019 Chapman Survey of American Fears finally were released on May 19, 2020 -  before Memorial Day. Results from previous surveys had been released before Halloween. But a motivational speaker also had a press release on May 19, 2020 titled Michael Lehrke discusses how to overcome fear of public speaking including a claim that:

“However, one fear that reportedly towers above them all is fear of public speaking or glossophobia.”

The latest Chapman survey was done between August 7 and 26 of 2019 on 1219 U.S. adults. Detailed results are reported in a .pdf file titled Methodology Report: American Fears Survey. There also is an article in a .pdf file by Sheyra Sheth titled America’s Top Fears 2019. As usual, there is a complete list of all 88 fears ranked by the percentage for Very Afraid plus Afraid. (It also is possible to use detailed results and calculate a Fear Score on a scale from 1 to 4 where 1 = Not Afraid, 2 = Slightly Afraid, 3 = Afraid, and 4 = Very Afraid). Some results are of particular interest during this time of COVID-19. They are by rank, percent, and fear score:

Corrupt government officials #1, 77.2%, 3.170

People I love becoming seriously ill #3, 66.7%, 2.944

People I love dying #5, 62.9%, 2.853

Becoming seriously ill #16, 51.3%, 2.583

Pandemic or a major epidemic #31, 42.8%, 2.392

Heights #41, 36.2%, 2.220

Dying #44, 34.6%, 2.158

Sharks #47, 32.3%, 2.015

Public speaking #54, 31.2%, 2.081

Fear of corrupt government officials ranked first and was far above public speaking. For public speaking the detailed results from 2019 were Very Afraid 12.8%, Afraid 18.4%, Slightly Afraid 32.9%, and Not Afraid 35.9%.

On May 2, 2020 I blogged about how it was not true that Are sharks now the #1 fear in America? Is public speaking only #2? On May 7, 2020 I also blogged about Tone deaf writing about fears of pandemic and public speaking. In that post I discussed another claim - that fear of public speaking was more terrifying than either sharks or heights.

Coaches often cite a Washington Post article about the 2014 Chapman Survey – where public speaking was ranked first out of twelve fears. On September 29, 2019 I had blogged about Stop playing – do serious digging before you come up with an opening statement. I pointed out that the more recent surveys had much different rankings.

The cartoon of a Cheerful Male Public Speaker was modified from one at Wikimedia Commons.

Saturday, May 23, 2020

Simplified images either can clarify or confuse

A simplified image can clarify a point by removing unnecessary details. But it also can confuse by leading us to believe nonsense, like the blivet shown above.

On April 23, 2020 President Trump had speculated about putting both disinfectants and UV light inside our bodies. David Gorski discussed both the next day in an article at Respectful Indolence titled President Trump and “just asking questions” about disinfectants and UV light to treat COVID-19.

Trump supporters pointed to a proposed device called Healight using ultraviolet light emitting diodes. There is a video animation on the Aytu BioScience Healight Platform Technology. At the Washington Times on April 26, 2020 there was an article by Rowan Scarborough titled Firm tests uv light treatment that Trump was mocked for mentioning. The next day at Respectful Insolence David Gorski had another article titled Healight: a highly implausible treatment for COVID-19. He pointed out that device was shown going down the trachea, and could not possibly reach most of the highly branched lung surfaces.

The image shown above at the left is the oversimplified lung anatomy from the Healight video animation. The image at the right is a cast from a lung – another simplified way of showing the real anatomy. (The Wikipedia article titled Pulmonary alveolus has a more complicated and less clear image of a lung). The lung really has a very highly fractally branched structure similar to a tree. A single catheter would be unable to reach most of those surfaces, and thus would be anatomically useless.

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Another ‘HeyPal’ phishing email

Today I received another fraudulent phishing email claiming to be from PayPal and warning that my account has been limited. It was hilariously inept. Of course the email address it came from had no relation to PayPal. They also sent me eight copies in a row - which went right into my junk mail folder.

As shown above, the big giveaway is a button telling me to Reactive Account Service Now. Presumably they meant to say Reactivate. But there also is lettering for putting in fake PayPal and Facebook logos. On April 6, 2020 I blogged about An inept ‘HeyPal’ phishing email.  

Monday, May 18, 2020

Pop-Tarts: comedy, history, and toaster fires

I particularly enjoyed a routine in Jerry Seinfeld’s Netflix special 23 Hours to Kill about Pop-Tarts. He said to:

“Think back to when the Pop-Tart came out. It was the 60s. We had toast! We had orange juice frozen decades in advance. You had to hack at it with a knife. It was like a murder to get a couple of drops of liquidity in the morning. We had shredded wheat. It was like wrapping your lips around a wood chipper. You’d have breakfast, you had to take two days off so the scars could heal so you could speak….

That was breakfast. And in the midst of that dark and hopeless moment, the Kellogg’s Pop-Tarts suddenly appeared out of Battle Creek Michigan, which as you cereal fans know, is the corporate headquarters of Kellog’s and a town I have always wanted to visit … because it seems like a cereal Silicon Valley of breakfast super scientists … conceiving of the frosted, fruit filled, heatable rectangles in the same shape as the box it comes in … and with the same nutrition as the box it comes in too.

That was the hard part. I don’t know how long it took to invent the Pop-Tart, but they must have come out of that lab like Moses with the two tablets of the Ten Commandments.

‘The Pop-Tart is here! Two in the packet! Two slots in a toaster! Let’s see ya screw this up! Why two? One’s not enough. Three’s too many. And they can’t go stale ‘cause they weren’t ever fresh.’ “

History of Toaster Pastries

At Mashed on April 9, 2018 there is an article by Carissa Stanz titled The untold truth of Pop-Tarts. She said Post actually came up with Country Squares before Kelloggs but unveiled them before they were ready to hit the market. Kelloggs had time to knock off the product, and mass market first. An earlier article for the thirtieth anniversary by Steve Hymon in the Chicago Tribune on September 25, 1994 titled Toasting an icon compared the marketing:

“The names given to the two products were one more indication of Kellogg's superior marketing savvy. Kellogg appreciated that kids were the primary target audience for Pop-Tarts because they had yet to establish breakfast habits of their own. Post seems to have been more confused. As awful a name as Country Squares seems in 1994, it was arguably worse in 1964, when the word ‘square’ was widely used to mean ‘nerdy.’ When paired with ‘country,’ it seemed to describe a food for middle-age rubes from the sticks.”

My family tasted toaster pastries before they were sold in supermarkets

I remember tasting one type of unmarked toaster pastry before either was in supermarkets. My stay-at-home mother raising us five kids had signed up for a consumer panel that sent out free products to be tested. We just had to fill out a set of survey questions about our reactions. I vaguely recall that prototype product had less filling and was less tasty than what eventually appeared.  

Toaster pastries can cause fires

At the Miami Herald on June 27, 1993 there was a humor column by Dave Barry titled Tarts Afire. He discussed a fire in Ohio from pastries stuck in a toaster. A recent article at Extra Crispy on February 7, 2018 is titled Pop-Tarts are flammable, so we set some on fire. You never should leave a toaster unattended. Some toasters even can turn themselves on after a power failure, as described in CPSC recalls for ones from Waring and KitchenAid.

The pop tarts image came from Evan Amos at Wikimedia Commons. The toaster fire cartoon was adapted from an image of a Hamilton Beach toaster at Wikimedia Commons.  

Friday, May 15, 2020

The point in your PowerPoint slide deck should be clear

On Monday May 11, 2020 there was a Dilbert comic strip titled Point at end of slide deck that has the following dialogue:

Man: What do you think of my slide deck?

Dilbert: I reviewed all 26 slides and I can’t figure out what your point is.

Man: I could put the point on slide 27.

Dilbert: Or just give up.

It’s easy for your point to get lost when you just open up PowerPoint and start cranking out data slides. Before you do that you need to plan what points need to be made. Start with an outline, mind map, or storyboard. On March 18, 2012 I blogged about Does your speech have too much content and not enough structure?

And on May 10, 2014 I blogged about how Message Mapping is a tool for planning your speech (when you have several points to make).

A statue of Don Quixote in Toledo (Coronades03) and an image with a hand, a bar chart, and pie chart (Maximillian Klein) were both adapted from Wikimedia Commons.  

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

What story did Mark Twain tell about his experience with stage fright?

According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the first use of the term stage fright was by Mark Twain in his 1876 novel, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. Twain was first, but he actually used it four years earlier, in 1872 in Chapter 78 of his book Roughing It, which you can read at Project Gutenberg.

He said he had a severe case of stage fright only once, before lecturing for the first time in San Francisco on October 2, 1866. But it went away in less than five minutes after he began to speak, and never returned. Mark said that:

“….I went down back streets at six o’clock and entered the theatre by the back door. I stumbled my way in the dark among the ranks of canvas scenery, and stood on the stage. The house was gloomy and silent, and its emptiness depressing. I went into the dark among the scenes again, and for an hour and a half gave myself up to the horrors, wholly unconscious of everything else. Then I heard a murmur; it rose higher and higher, and ended in a crash, mingled with cheers. It made my hair raise, it was so close to me and so loud.

There was a pause, and then another; presently came a third, and before I well knew what I was about, I was in the middle of the stage, staring at a sea of faces, bewildered by the fierce glare of the lights, and quaking in every limb with a terror that seemed like to take my life away. The house was full, aisles and all!

The tumult in my heart and brain and legs continued a full minute before I could gain any command over myself. Then I recognized the charity and the friendliness in the faces before me, and I began to talk. Within three or four minutes I was comfortable, and even content.” 

Another version appeared much later in his Remarks at the American concert debut of his daughter Clara Clemens, at the Eldridge Gymnasium in Norfolk, Connecticut on September 22, 1906. It appears in Mark Twain’s Speeches titled as Mark Twain’s First Appearance and can be found at the Internet Archive.

“My heart goes out in sympathy to anyone who is making his first appearance before an audience of human beings. By a direct process of memory I go back forty years, less one month – for I’m older than I look.

I recall the occasion of my first appearance. San Francisco knew me then only as a reporter, and I was to make my bow to San Francisco as a lecturer. I knew that nothing short of compulsion would get me to the theater. So I bound myself by a hard-and-fast contract so that I could not escape. I got to the theater forty-five minutes before the hour set for the lecture. My knees were shaking so that I didn’t know whether I could stand up. If there is an awful, horrible malady in the world, it is stage fright – and seasickness. They are a pair. I had stage fright then for the first and last time. I was only seasick once, too. It was on a little ship on which there were two hundred other passengers. I – was -sick/ I was so sick there wasn’t any left for those other two hundred passengers.

It was dark and lonely behind the scenes in that theater, and I peeked through the little peek holes they have in theater curtains and looked into the big auditorium. That was dark and empty, too. By and by it lighted up, and the audience began to arrive.

I had got a number of friends of mine, stalwart men, to sprinkle themselves through the audience armed with big clubs. Every time I said anything they could possibly guess I intended to be funny they were to pound those clubs on the floor. Then there was a kind lady in a box up there, also a good friend of mine, the wife of the governor. She was to watch me intently, and whenever I glanced toward her she was going to deliver a gubernatorial laugh that would lead the whole audience into applause. 

At last I began. I had the manuscript tucked under a United States flag in front of me where I could get at it in case of need. But I managed to get started without it. I walked up and down – I was young in those days and needed the exercise – and talked and talked.

Right in the middle of the speech I had placed a gem. I had put in a moving, pathetic part which was to get at the hearts and souls of my hearers. When I delivered it they did just what I hoped and expected. They sat silent and awed. I had touched them. Then I happened to glance up at the box where the governor’s wife was – you know what happened.

Well, after the first agonizing five minutes, my stage fright left me, never to return. I know that if I was going to be hanged I could get up and make a good showing, and I intend to. But I shall never forget my feelings before the agony left me, and I got up here to thank you for her for helping my daughter, by your kindness, to live through her first appearance. And I want to thank you for your appreciation of her singing, which is, by the way, hereditary.”

Many, including me, had another impression of his opinion based on quotations like:

“There are two types of speakers: those that are nervous and those that are liars.”

But, as I discussed in my May 12, 2020 blog post titled Did Mark Twain really say there were just nervous speakers or liars? that quotation didn’t actually come from Mark Twain. It showed up in a 2015 press release from Toastmasters International ironically titled Five public speaking myths debunked.

Is this stage fright story completely or even partially true? Given his penchant for telling tall tales, it’s not clear.