Monday, March 20, 2017

Speech #1: The Dumbest Guy In The Room

[Toastmaster Competent Communicator Project #1, The Icebreaker.  Objectives: To introduce yourself.  To begin speaking fora an audience.]

The Dumbest Guy In The Room

Mr. Toastmaster, ladies and gentlemen.

You may have seen the best selling book and movie called The Smartest Guy In The Room. I'm here today to tell how I have benefited from being the dumbest guy in the room.

I was trained to be an engineer at Clarkson College in northern NY. When I got to be a senior. I realized that I didn't know two important things. I didn't know what engineers actually did all day, and I didn't know where to look for a job.

I went to my professor. He said, “Dick, interviews are not for you. I have arranged for you to work for General Electric in Schenectady, NY. Report there June 6.”

Little did I know what I was getting into. GE had amassed in Schenectady a brain trust of scientists and engineers that was the envy of the world. In fact, in the years 1900-1965 more than half of the patents in the entire world named at least one of those people as a co-inventor.

As a green engineer, I became the dumbest guy in the room. But what happens to the dumbest guy? He is motivated to improve himself.

GE then sent me to Daytona Beach Florida for a few years to work at their Apollo Support division. Those were the people who put a man on the moon. They really were the smartest people in the world, and I was the dumbest guy in the room. I benefited greatly from that association.

When I returned to Schenectady, I found that 7 of GE's best and brightest were about to leave the mother company to create their own startup. They asked me to join them. Once again, I became the dumbest guy in the room. But the startup prospered and I benefited.

They sent me on assignment to Sweden with my family. There, I was the smartest guy in the room; at least with respect of the technology I was sent there to teach. But outside of work, I and my family found ourselves in an alien culture where we didn't speak the language. Believe me, not speaking the language is the most humbling experience imaginable. It was perhaps the cure for a young man who's head was getting swelled.

Speaking of family, I met my wife Libby in high school. I was a senior and she was a junior. We went out on a date. That was the first and last date of my life. Now, 55 years later we have 3 wonderful children, 5 grandchildren and 2 great grandchildren. I guess it is fair to say that it was a very good date.

Years later, I went to work for NYISO. That is the organization that runs the power grid and the energy futures markets in NY. When I got there, I found that my engineer's training was not enough. I had to learn economics and law also, to the extent that I could explain to lawyers how the power grid works in lawyer's language. Once again I became the dumbest guy in the room.

That brings us to this evening. Here I stand at the podium, surrounded by experienced Toastmasters. Once again the dumbest guy in the room.


Mr. Toastmaster, thank you.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Toastmaster Speeches

Umatilla, FL

Here's a heads up.  I told you that I have been enjoying two Toastmasters clubs in recent months.  Actually, I have been creating and presenting speeches at a rate that nearly matches my blogging productivity.

Libby has been very helpful.  She comes up with the topic ideas, and she is the even patient audience that listens to me practice over and over again.  She times my presentations.  She ding's a bell every  time she hears me say ah or uh or er, or if I do something distracting with my hands.

My preferred manner of expression has always been the essay, about 600-800 words in length.  As you may have noted, most of my best blog posts are about 600-800 words in length.  Toastmasters speeches are allowed 5-7 minutes which means (guess what :-) 600-800 words in length.  In other words, the format suits me just fine.

So, I propose to publish my Toastmasters speeches here on this blog after I present them at the club.  About one per week.  The Toastmasters training program puts me through a series of about 70 speech assignments.  Each emphasizes a different aspect, or gives experience in specialized speaking  situations.

You should understand that speaking is not exactly the same as writing.  For example, my assignment for next week is to emphasize body language.  That is missing in the written word.  Nevertheless, I hope that most of the speeches will entertain you in written form.

At the very least, these assignments encourage me to broaden my  choice of topics and forms and especially to get out of my shell and speak about things (like feelings) that make me uncomfortable.  Look for much more variety than you have seen on this blog in the past 12 years.

Each speech has an assigned goal.  I'll explain the goal in italics at the start of each post.  Look for a new speech about once per week.  I'll post them in chronological order.

One part I can't publish here, unfortunately.  A regular feature of Toastmasters is called table topics.  That is when you are asked to speak 1-2 minutes extemporaneously on a topic chosen by someone else, and where you have no advance knowledge of the topic.  Compare it to improv on Whose Line Is It.   I find that kind of speaking very scary.  Unfortunately, after the fact I have no written copy of what I said to post here.

p.s. I have a secondary motive.  I think that Toastmasters is a wonderful organization.  Perhaps, I can encourage you to try it out for yourself.  There are local clubs everywhere.  Guests are always welcome.  There is no fee, and there is no undue pressure for guests to speak if they don't want to.


Friday, March 10, 2017

Can a Ship's Clock Define Home?

Umatilla, FL

One thing we did this week is to take our ship's clock from Tarwathie.  I hung it on the wall of the RV.   It is the clock that sounds ships bells every 30 minutes.   Hearing those bells makes us feel at home.


Wednesday, March 08, 2017

Probably No Surprise To You

Umatilla, FL

I hung this sign on Tarwathie yesterday.

I suspect that regular blog readers have seen this coming for years.  You might say that I was the last to know.

On Sunday, we went to the boat to start prep for our planned April 15 departure to the Bahamas.   Guess what, I started finding problems caused by the boat sitting idle for a year.  I also found that my will to roll up my sleeves and deal with tough problems has drained.  I stayed up all night in emotional turmiol.  I didn't sleep an wink.

At dawn, I made up my mind.  Time to sell the boat and to beome CLODS (cruisers living on dirt).  An hour later, I steeled myself to tell Libby.  I did so with great trepidation, fearing that she wouldn't like that at all.  But before I could open my mouth, Libby looked at me an said, "Let's sell the boat."

Libby is an amazing partner, lover and wife.  She reads my mind better than I can myself.  She is so supportive, that she is unable to segregate her own persona from our collective persona as a couple.  If I asked her what her decision would be if she disregarded me, she would be unable to answer.

Bottom line, we both agree that now is the right time to move on to the next chapter in our life.  Which is --- we don't know yet.  We are still in excellent health.  Many things are possible.   But we decide to leave the cruising life while all the memories are still good ones, and before an accident or tragedy forces us out.  

We also think of Tarwathie as almost part of the family.  It is unfair to her to sit in storage so much of the year.  She should belong to a young couple who will use her to the fullest extent possible.

This is not my last word on the subject. My head is still in turmoil. Look for more to come.

Meanwhile, it will take me a week or two to prepare a proper advertisement for Tarwathie including inventory and pictures, and a price. I know that many readers of this blog dream of cruising themselves on a worthy vessel like Tarwathie.  Here's your chance.  The rest of the world doesn't know yet that she is for sale.

p.s. We had planned to go to the Bahamas with Walt&Pat and Larry&Terri.  But when we told them yesterday that we were backing out, all of them said that they would cancel too.  It turns out that they were going only because we were.  That's sweet and very touching.  We have really wonderful friends.

Saturday, March 04, 2017

Hi Ho Tarwathie

Port Charlotte, FL

It has been more than two months since we were on the boat.  We got here today.  She's fine.  Sitting try, smelling fresh, no mold.

Our purpose is to get her ready to splash in April.   We'll be here two or three days.

News:  We may have a nice young man, from Val David Quebec as crew for part of our Bahamas cruise this spring.  His name is Luc. That should be fun.

See in the picture.  Tarwathie has her name freshly applied after we removed the old name for repainting.