Friday, May 24, 2024

If there was a no-fly zone at the South Pole, then you would have to drive there
















The web page for the conspiracy-friendly Coast to Coast AM show on May 22, 2024 titled Antarctica Mysteries / Ancient Aliens & Harmonics claims that Brad Olsen:


“….recounted his trip to Antarctica around five years ago and what he observed there. There is a no-fly zone over the South Pole, and he suggested this could be a cover-up for a giant hole in the ice, which Admiral Byrd allegedly reported as an aviator on his first flyover of the area.”


His claimed no-fly zone is nonsense (as is that giant hole in the ice). The transportation section of the Wikipedia page for the Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station instead states that:


“The station has a runway for aircraft 12,000 feet (3,658 m) long. Between October and February, there are several flights per day of U. S. Air Force ski-equipped LC-130 Hercules aircraft from the New York Air National Guard, 109 AW, 139 AS Stratton Air National Guard via McMurdo Station to supply the station.”



















My brother-in-law and his co-workers operated a radio telescope there, and my sister once flew there. Back on June 7, 2011 I blogged about How many hats do you wear? And I included the above image of a souvenir hat from the station.


An image of snowmobilers was modified from this one at Yellowstone from Wikimedia Commons.


Thursday, May 23, 2024

What rhetorical devices are in your toolbox?





















My previous post on May 22, 2024 titled Being siloed is a problem for communication referred to an article in the October 2019 issue of Toastmaster magazine by Beth Black on pages 22 to 25 titled The Crafting of Eloquence and subtitled How rhetorical and literary devices turn basic communication into soaring works of art. She mentioned tmesis, hendiadys, and anaphora. There is another brief article by Bill Brown on page 15 of the November 2017 issue of Toastmaster magazine titled Say it with Flair. He mentions seven rhetorical devices: anaphora, alliteration, metaphor, simile, hyperbole, antithesis, and triad (trichotomy).


There is another recent article by Jacob Lee at on November 2, 2023 titled 10 Highly Popular and Extra Powerful Rhetorical Devices for Speeches in College. Still another article at on January 30, 2023 is titled The Top 41 Rhetorical Devices That Will Make Your Words Memorable.











And there is an eight-page pdf article titled Rhetorical Devices in Public Speaking with 32 of them, as shown above.


The image of Joe Kachler and his toolbox came from the Library of Congress.


Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Being siloed is a problem for communication













On May 15th I blogged about My workshop presentation at the 2024 District 15 Toastmasters Conference on May 18, 2024 about Creating or Finding Great Table Topics Questions. I discussed questions on story prompts from a book which I previously blogged about on May 27, 2022 in a post titled Sixteen ideas for Table Topics speeches from The Moth. The Moth has both live storytelling events and a Radio Hour. But when I asked my audience of about forty if they had heard of that organization no one said yes.


The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines siloed as:


“kept in isolation in a way that hinders communication and cooperation”


As shown above, communication includes public speaking, storytelling, and rhetoric. This blog has lots of coverage of storytelling (159 articles) but little in general about rhetoric (4 articles).   


The April 2024 issue of Toastmaster magazine has a cover story article by Caren S. Neile on pages 14 to 17 titled Bring Your Speech to Life with a Story. And the October 2019 issue has another article by Beth Black on pages 22 to 25 titled The Crafting of Eloquence and subtitled How rhetorical and literary devices turn basic communication into soaring works of art.


The image with siloes was adapted from this drawing from Pearson Scott Foresman at Wikimedia Commons.


Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Two questionable features in a room at the Quality Inn in Twin Falls










When I travel there often is something new to discover that might be used as material for a humorous speech On May 17 th I drove to Twin Falls, Idaho to attend the District 15 Toastmasters Conference. I previously blogged about my workshop presentation titled Creating or Finding Great Table Topics Questions.


I stayed for two nights at the Quality Inn & Suites at 1910 Fillmore Street, near the Costco. When I checked in, they asked me if I was OK with getting a room on the second floor of the two-floor Building B - which did not have an elevator. I was, since my luggage just was a small overnight suitcase and a briefcase. If I had our large wheeled suitcase, then I instead would have asked for a room in the three-floor Building A, which does have an elevator.


















Usually when you flip on the light switch near the front door of a motel room it turns on a ceiling light nearby (such as at the location shown by a dashed green circle). But for my room that light (circled in red) instead was at the back, only three feet from the window. The nearest light to the front door was the table lamp on a night stand to the left of the king-size bed. It did not illuminate the area where the closet rod was.


















When I first entered my room, I also noticed that the top drawer of the dresser beneath the television was open about four inches (as shown above). I assumed the maid had left it that way, after checking that the last guest hadn’t left anything behind. I closed it, since it was something to stumble over. But when I woke the next morning I found it had opened again. I suspect that rather than a poltergeist the slides for that drawer had been attached with a slight tilt.   


Other than that dresser, and not being well-lit at the front, the room was clean and just fine. And the free breakfast buffet in Building A was quite good.


When I mentioned the lighting to another conference attendee, they remarked that the motel name just was Quality Inn, not High-Quality Inn. On The Simpsons there once was a Low-Quality Inn.


Coincidentally the Pearls Before Swine comic strip for May 18, 2024, titled A Hotel Room Conundrum, had the following dialogue:


Front Desk Clerk: Hotel front desk.


Rat: Yeah, I just woke up from a nap. The whole room is dark. I managed to find a light switch, but nothing happened.


Front Desk Clerk: Yeah, that’s cause you have to put your card key in the little slot marked ‘MASTER’ by the room door.


Rat: How am I supposed to find my key and the card slot in a dark room?


Front Desk Clerk: By first bumping into a whole bunch of @###.


Rat: Actually happened to me.


Goat: God bless that hotel clerk.


Cruise ships do this to help save energy. There is a one-minute YouTube video from Vacation Impossible titled Carnival Cruise Tip – Stateroom Lights Not Working which explains that really any card will work, not just the Sail and Sign magnetic one.


Monday, May 20, 2024

Visiting Shoshone Falls in Twin Falls, Idaho




























On May 17th I drove to Twin Falls, Idaho to attend the District 15 Toastmasters Conference. After lunch I drove east on Falls Avenue and then north to visit the very impressive Shoshone Falls on the Snake River – sometimes known as the Niagara of the West. It has a height of 212 feet and a thousand-foot span. The Falls is in a city park with an admission fee of just $5 per vehicle. The mist just above it forms a rainbow!
















Downstream of the falls the river is rather placid.


Wednesday, May 15, 2024

My workshop presentation at the 2024 District 15 Toastmasters Conference on May 18, 2024 about Creating or Finding Great Table Topics Questions












On May 18, 2024 I gave a 20-minute workshop presentation at the 2024 District 15 Conference in Twin Falls, titled Creating or Finding Great Table Topics Questions. This blog post is a handout about it which   provides the references from that presentation.


Table Topics is the impromptu speaking part of a Toastmasters club meeting. Before the meeting the Table Topics Master makes up (creates or finds) a series of questions related to the theme. At the meeting he or she asks members who do not have a role to answer them. Then they give a one-to-two-minute off-the-cuff speech.


















Some of you in Division A may have heard of another question source. If you have small children, then you may get asked: “Daddy, where do Table Topics Questions come from?” An answer is that the Table Topics Bunny brings them. On February 24, 2018 I blogged about Were you recently visited by the Table Topics Bunny?





What makes a question great? A great table topics question is open; it is neither wide-open nor closed. On May 11, 2021 I blogged about how A good Table Topics question is not closed, and it is open-ended rather than wide open. Earlier, on October 5, 2020, I had blogged about Tips for creating good Table Topics questions.


A closed question has too brief of an answer. It might be a single word or a number. For example, we could ask this comically awful question:


Would you rather be attacked by bears or crocodiles?


Conversely, a wide-open question is too general for most people and requires way more than a two-minute answer.  For example, we also could ask:


What is the meaning of life?


But that question might work with experienced speakers in an Area, Division or District Table Topics Contest.


An open question is like a small container which can easily be filled in just two minutes. For example, we could ask:


What are the worst street names you ever saw?


The very worst name is Poison Creek Road. One is in Marsing, Idaho and another is in Hanksville, Utah. In Idaho there also is a Poison Creek Picnic Site, on Mud Flat Road. But the words poison and picnic don’t belong anywhere near each other.


Another great question is:


Tell us a story about something that’s in your wallet, pocket, purse, or backpack.


On May 6, 2010 I blogged about What stories are you carrying in your pocket?





Another great question is:


What do we call the residents of that town?  


On August 16, 2023 I blogged about More about demonyms for cities – in Idaho and elsewhere. When I asked it, I found it didn’t work without posting a list of possible suffixes. The best demonym is Caldwellers for residents of Caldwell, Idaho. For Twin Falls, Twin Fallers doesn’t work for everyone, just those who jump off of the Perrine Bridge in pairs. And in Horseshoe Bend, only blacksmiths can be called Horseshoe Benders.  


At Bad Grammarian on February 22, 2024 there is an article titled Table Topics Questions Guide. It has the following themes:


Seasons: Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter

Holidays: New Year’s, Valentine’s, Mother’s, Father’s, Halloween, Christmas

Events: Birthday, Graduation, Wedding, Anniversary

Interests and Hobbies: Pets, Travel, Food, Gardening, Movies, Television


We also can use approaches: Smallest or Biggest, Oldest or Youngest, Worst or Best.


There is an 18-page pdf article from 2017 compiled by Mark Lavergne with 101 Ideas for Great Table Topics. You can find it here


If you lack imagination, then you just might Google the phrase “Table Topics Questions.” At District 8 Toastmasters you can find an eight-page pdf file from 2017 with 365 Sample Table Topics Questions.

But there are other phrases which work well for finding great questions. They include: Impromptu Speech Topics, Icebreaker Questions, Job Interview Questions, Conversation Starters, Story Prompts, and Writing Prompts.

On May 12, 2014 I blogged about 200 Impromptu Speech Topics (actually three sets of them).

A second phrase is Icebreaker Questions.At ConversationStartersWorld there is an article titled 200 Icebreaker Questions. There is another by Clare Lew at TeamStrength titled The 25 Best Icebreaker Questions for Team-Building at Work. Back on January 27, 2018 I blogged about 25 questions for Table Topics from Clare Lew.











There is a very interesting set of questions which I blogged about on February 12, 2018 in a post titled Falling in love and Table Topics questions.Reader's Digest published them on March 13, 2024 in an article titled The 36 Questions That Lead to Love

A third phrase which works well for finding great questions is Job Interview Questions. On December 8, 2022 I blogged about how Job interview questions about soft skills also can be used for Table Topics questions at Toastmasters club meetings.

A fourth phrase which works well for finding great questions is Conversation Starters. On November 21, 2022 I blogged about how Conversation Starters can also be used for Table Topics questions.

A fifth phrase which works well for finding great questions is Story Prompts. On October 24, 2022 I blogged about Less than obvious sources of Table Topics questions for Toastmasters club meetings. In that post I mentioned 15 story starters in a 2022 book by Steven James and Tom Morrisey titled The Art of the Tale (and subtitled Engage your audience, elevate your organization, and share your message through storytelling). And on May 27, 2022 I blogged about Sixteen ideas for Table Topics speeches from The Moth.

A sixth phrase which works well for finding great questions is Writing Prompts. On November 12, 2022 I blogged about how Writing prompts also can be used for Table Topics questions. A prompt provides a starting point for a writer who is stuck. So, where can you find good collections of writing prompts? Here are two possibilities.

There is a Learning Network article at the New York Times which was updated on August 2, 2023. It is titled 525 Prompts for Narrative and Personal Writing. There are 37 categories. When you click on a prompt, you are taken to a brief Learning Network article. So the article also is a huge bank of ideas for prepared speeches! And every year there are 365 in twelve monthly pdf articles with writing prompts from Lakeshore Learning.

In summary, you can find thousands of Table Topics questions to use. You don’t have to make them up from scratch!

The cartoon of magician Zan Zig was adapted from this image at Wikimedia Commons, as was this image of a magnifying glass. 


UPDATE: May 20, 2024


Woodrow Wilson reportedly once said that:


“I not only use all the brains that I have, but all that I can borrow.”


For the Table Topics Contest, Meg White printed out a page from the web article I referenced about 365 Sample Table Topics Questions, and Greg Alvord picked out a wide-open #217 to ask the contestants:


“What worries you about the future?”  



Sunday, May 12, 2024

200 Impromptu Speech Topics



















Where can we find oodles of impromptu speech topics to use as questions for Table Topics in a club meeting of Toastmasters International? I found three articles, each with 200 of them.


There is an article by David Kidwell at EduBirdie on March 14, 2024 titled Free 200 Impromptu Speech Topics About Everything. His ten categories are:






Speech Examples for High School

Middle School Topics Ideas

Topics for College Students

Controversial Ideas for Impromptu Speech

Social Media Impromptu Speech Examples

Environmental Impromptu Topics


There is a second article at PaperWritten on May 5, 2020 titled 200 Hot Impromptu Speech Topics for A+ Grades. Their ten categories are:


Easy Impromptu Speech Topics

Funny Impromptu Speech Topics

Academic Decathlon Impromptu Speech Topics

Controversial Topics for Impromptu Speech

Impromptu Speech Topics for High School

Special Speech and Debate Impromptu Topics

Persuasive Impromptu Speech Example Topics

List of Impromptu Speech Topics on Social Media

Impromptu Speech Topics for College

Impromptu Speaking Topics for Conservation


And there is an undated third article by Susan Dugdale at write-out-loud titled 200 first-rate impromptu speech topics. They are organized as four lists, each with fifty topics.


At Bad Grammarian on February 22, 2024 there is a Table Topics Questions Guide. It suggests some themes like:


Seasons: Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter

Holidays: New Year’s, Valentine’s, Mother’s, Father’s, Halloween, Christmas

Events: Birthday, Graduation, Wedding, Anniversary

Interests and Hobbies: Pets, Travel, Sports, Food, Movies, Television


We also can take different approaches, such as: Smallest or Biggest, Oldest or Newest, Worst or Best, etc.


The cartoon with 200 women speaking was adapted from Wikimedia Commons.