Sunday, May 28, 2017

Nearly a century before LOLCATS there was Harry Whittier Frees

Many of us are familiar with humorous (LOL = laugh out loud) images of cats with silly captions. The Wikipedia article about LOLcats shows a 1905 postcard of a costumed cat created by the American photographer Harry Whittier Frees (1879 – 1953). Some of his images like the three from 1914 shown above: Fire, A Hungry Bunch, and The Nurse can be found at the Library of Congress web site, and 22 others are at Wikimedia Commons.

William Wegman is another more recent photographer noted for his animal images, mainly his Weimaraners with deadpan expressions. You can see ten of his images in a September 29, 2014 CNN article by  Emanuella Grinberg titled  William Wegman: Why dogs are such a draw. Wegman produced some of them using a 20”x24” Polaroid camera.  

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Five pieces of bad advice from The Onion on how to conquer a fear of public speaking

On February 27, 2017 The Onion posted a one-minute parody video on How To Conquer A Fear Of Public Speaking that dispensed the following bad advice:

1]  Fill the crowd with a few familiar faces who will lie to you about how it went.

2]  Never start a speech without tossing a few fun-sized candy bars into the audience first to get them on your side.

3]  Close your eyes and breathe deeply before each word during your speech.

4]  Try to imagine everyone in the audience dead.

5]  Take solace in knowing that no matter how bad your speech goes, it will be forgotten immediately upon its conclusion. 

The onion image came from the National Cancer Institute.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

The most arrogantly overblown statement about fear of public speaking

In a book titled $3.33 from back in 2011 Jarod Kintz claimed that:

“99% of the population is afraid of public speaking, and of the remaining 1%, 99% of them have nothing original and interesting to say.”

Back on February 17th I blogged about Bursting a hilariously overblown claim that 99% of the world fears public speaking. Mr. Kintz’s quote was repeated in a 2012 Big Fish Blog post titled 25 More Awesome Public Speaking Quotes.
The image was adapted from a 1900 Puck magazine found at the Library of Congress.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Cotton swabs are sending about 34 children to the emergency room daily

That was the title of an article that appeared on the USA Today website on May 8, 2017. It came from a press release titled Study: Cotton Tip Applicators Injure Children at Surprising Rate which said: 

“Doctors have warned that using cotton tip applicators to clean your ears can lead to injury and infection, but a new study shows that a startling number of children suffer injuries after cotton tip applicators are inserted into their ears. The study by researchers at Nationwide Children’s Hospital found that more than a quarter of a million children were treated in U.S. emergency departments from 1990-2010 for cotton tip applicator-related ear injuries, that’s about 34 children every day.

‘Far too many children and parents believe that the ears should be cleaned at home, and that a cotton tip applicator is the tool to do that,’ said Kris Jatana, M.D., a pediatric otolaryngologist at Nationwide Children’s Hospital and lead author of the study. ‘And because this study only captured injuries that were treated in emergency departments, there were likely a lot more injuries to children who were treated by an ear, nose and throat specialist or a pediatrician.’

Of the children treated in emergency departments, more than two-thirds were under the age of eight, and 77 percent of patients were handling the cotton tip applicators themselves. Dr. Jatana says these products should be kept out of the reach of young children, and it’s important for parents to teach older children that cotton tip applicators should never be used in their ears.

‘The ear canals are self-cleaning, so not only is it unnecessary to clean children’s ear canals, but it puts them at serious risk of injury,’ said Dr. Jatana. ‘Cotton tip applicators can easily cause a perforation or hole in the eardrum or push wax deeper into the ear canal where it gets trapped. Injuries can cause infection, dizziness or irreversible hearing loss.’ ”

How could most injuries be prevented? Take those swabs away from children. Tell them if they want to get water out of their ears after a shower or bath, then they should just jump up and down. They’ll probably instead roll up a facial tissue, but won’t be able to push it hard enough to perforate an eardrum.

Where are the detailed results from that study? In an article that will appear in The Journal of Pediatrics by Zeenath S. Ameen, Thiphalak Chounthiarth, Gary A. Smith, and Kris R. Jatana titled Pediatric Cotton-Tip Applicator-Related Ear Injury Treated in United States Emergency Departments, 1990-2010.

What is missing from that press release and article? A context for that 34-a-day number. Where does it fit in a bigger picture compared with other injuries?

For example, how does it compare with skateboarding? I found an article from April 8, 2016 at LiveScience by Sara G. Miller titled Not So Gnarly: Skateboarding Sends 176 Kids to the ER Every Day. That’s five times the number of cotton swab injuries. It reported on results from a 2016 magazine article in Injury Epidemiology by Lara B. McKenzie, E. Fletcher, N.G. Nelson, K. J. Roberts, and E. G. Klein titled Epidemiology of skateboarding-related injuries sustained by children and adolescents 5-19 years of age and treated in US emergency departments: 1990 to 2008. You can read the abstract here at PubMed. Curiously McKenzie, Nelson, and Roberts are with the Center for Injury Research and Policy in The Research Institute at Nationwide Children’s Hospital, as are Ameen, Chounthiarth and Smith – the first three authors of the article on cotton swabs.

How about other sports? I found a July 2016 report (Statistical Brief #207) by Audrey J. Weiss and Ann Eixhauser titled Sports-Related Emergency Department Visits and Hospital Inpatient Stays, 2013. It came from the Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project (HCUP). Table 2 listed the Top Five specific sports activities associated with emergency room visits (discharged) for both boys (2789 per day) and girls (1415 per day), and the overall total (4204). As shown above, for boys there were 458 injuries associated with American tackle football, followed by 379 for other unspecified sports activity, and 329 for bicycle riding. For girls there were 181 for school recess and summer camp, 139 for bicycle riding, and 132 for other unspecified sports activity. Running (111) and soccer (110) were almost the same and both more than 3 times that for cotton swabs.    

Table 1 listed the Top Ten specific sports activities associated with emergency room visits (discharged) for both children and adults. I have plotted them in the bar chart shown above, along with the cotton swab and skateboarding injuries. There were almost exactly twice as many (353 per day) soccer injuries as skateboarding injuries, but that was minor compared with the largest category - 1051 bicycle riding injuries. There were a total of 7,688 sports-related Emergency Department visits per day.

Friday, May 12, 2017

An argument about ‘weak language’ that is weak tea


Chapter 4 of Bill Hoogterp's 2014 book Your Perfect Presentation is titled Weak Language: Cut It Down. The section on page 51 titled The Taste of Weak Language says:
"Let's try a little experiment. Fill a glass or cup one-fourth full with a beverage you like – coffee, soda, something flavorful. Now add plain water to the same glass until it is three-fourths full.

How appetizing does it look now?

In theory, it shouldn't be a problem. Water has no taste, so it should have no effect. The same should be true for all the ums, basicallys, and other weak language. They don't mean anything, so what's the harm?

Take a sip of the watered-down drink. How did it taste?

That is what it tastes like to other people's brains when we use weak language. It dilutes and weakens the power of your message."

But that argument is ridiculous, since our filler words are NOT EVER twice what our message is. An article titled Cutting Out Filler Words by William H. Stevenson, III in the February 2011 issue of Toastmaster Magazine discussed the extreme example of Caroline Kennedy who used 27 ‘ums’ and 38 ‘you knows’ (a total of 65 fillers) in a five-minute talk. Let’s assume conservatively she spoke at 80 words per minute for a total of 400 words. Her filler words then would be just 16% of the total, not the 67% of the total in Bill’s ludicrous example. 

Mr. Hoogterp’s 'theory' is a ridiculous straw man! Would anyone really believe that nonsense? Ask the high-school girls in any domestic science (formerly home economics) class. When I was a small child in Knoxville I learned the recipe for iced tea from my mother. If it will be chilled in the refrigerator, then for each cup of hot water you put into the pot you add one tea bag and a teaspoon of sugar (or for Southern sweet tea a tablespoon). To make three cups you need three tea bags, not just one.

Another article by Jessica Bennett titled What a Speech Coach Told Me About “Speaking Like A Woman” (And Why It’s BS) on March 8, 2017 at Fast Company also took on Mr. Hoogterp.

The image of an iced tea glass came from the National Cancer Institute, and the image of a 1935 cooking class came from the Library of Congress.  

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Should your speech first go to the dogs?

Why not? After all, in the business world it’s dog-eat-dog. On May 7 at CBS News there was an article titled ‘Audience dogs’ help students reduce anxiety over public speaking and an accompanying video. It talked about the Kogod School of Business at the American University providing a canine audience for nervous speakers to use when rehearsing.    

Back on January 30, 2015 I blogged about how Seth Godin gave an incomplete solution for fear of public speaking. Here is the other part he missed. In his post he mentioned using a dog as an audience.

In another post on January 26, 2013 titled Hopping through sixty speeches: Shauna Causey’s Ignite Seattle talk I reported that:

T. J. Walker, who wrote the best selling book T. J. Walker’s Secret to Foolproof Presentations, had coached her to put sticky notes with little faces on her wall as a way to simulate an audience when rehearsing. I’ve also seen suggestions to use stuffed animals, or even pets. (Our cats both get disgusted and leave the room whenever I try to lecture to them).

The listening dog image was extracted from the famous ad for His Master’s Voice at Wikimedia Commons.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Two recent cartoons about presentations

On April 11, 2017 Doug Savage’s Savage Chickens cartoon (shown above) was about concentration or attention. On May 6, 2017 Zach Weinersmith’s Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal cartoon was about why imagining a naked audience might not work as a remedy for stage fright.