Friday, January 12, 2018

Speech #14: Cooling Hot Conversations

Have you ever lost a close friend? I lost a 50 year long friendship with a couple on the other end of the political spectrum because I was afraid to engage them in debate. All I dared talk to them about was the weather. The friendship became boring, it withered and died. The opposite of love is not hate. The opposite of love is apathy.

It is a societal problem. We become ever more polarized because we only dare to have conversations with people who agree with us. That is unhealthy. I am here today to offer my personal tips to avoid that.

The meaning of the words all and none are crystal clear. Everyplace in between all and none is some. There are hundreds of synonyms for some. I call them SoS words Here are a few examples.

few/little/lot/couple/handful, many, most, hardly any, almost all, the vast majority, paltry/piddling/smattering, a bit/quite a bit, and so on.

All those Sos words mean more than 0% and less than 100% but it is not defined how many percent they do mean.

Here's the problem. In my mind, many is more than few. In your mind many is more than few. But when we converse, there is no guarantee that my many is more than your few. That causes misunderstandings and needless arguments.

Let me give you an example. I'll pick on Manal. Please forgive me Manal. Manal knows that there are about 70000 drug overdose deaths in America every year. But she doesn't say that. Se says “there a lot of OD deaths.” Sam, works for a life insurance company. He knows about the 70000 OD deaths. Sam and Manal are in complete agreement! But Sam also thinks about the 2.7 million deaths for other reasons so he says “no there are only a few OD deaths”. Now we set the stage for a pointless and stupid argument. Why? Because they used Sos words instead of numbers, and because they are not arguing about facts but rather the choice of words to describe the facts.

So here are my 3 tips.

Number 1
Replace Sos words in your speech with numbers even if you have no basis for the actual number.

We should have three magic numbers. 20% 50% and 80% When you use one of those numbers in an argument, it should be understood that you just pulled the number out of the air to avoid using a Sos word. There is no need to challenge, “Where did you get that percent?”

If you hear your opponent exaggerate, he might say 99.9%, let it go. My trick is pretend that he said the less inflammatory 80%. I try not to allow the debate to be diverted from facts to an argument about the choice of words or choice of numbers.

To be really mellow and achieve Zen, translate all of those Sos words and all of those percent numbers in your head to the universal word some. My opponent said “the vast majority” while I was thinking “hardly any.” But, we are both saying some. Instead of arguing, rejoice in your agreement and move on.

Tip 2: Troll Repellent

Suppose you say, “Sometimes X is true.” An argumentative opponent responds, “Yeah, but sometimes X is not true.” The other guy is using a debate tactic called trolling. You can ward off trolling simply by saying in the first place “Sometimes X is true, sometimes not.” Those two extra words, sometimes not, do nothing to change the meaning of your sentence. There is no linguistic or logical reason to include them. But using those two words acknowledges the contrary case up front and that repels trolls like garlic repels vampires.
Now combine tips 1 and 2. You should say “X is true 80% of the time and false 20% of the time.”

Tip 3: Choose Your Battles

When a conversation has already degraded to an argument over characterizations rather than facts, stay out of it. Suppose there is a heated argument about whether something is good or bad. There is 0% chance of you persuading anyone to flip flop on their opinions, only 20% chance of you improving the argument, and 80% chance of you increasing everyone's blood pressure by adding yet another voice to am already silly argument. Believe me, that strategy can add years to your life expectency.

There is less than 20% chance of my tips changing global society. Nevertheless, I am 80% sure that it is worth trying.

Friday, December 15, 2017

Speech #13: The Heimlich Maneuver

Umatilla, FL

[Toastmaster Project "Speaking to Inform" Project #3, The Demonstration Speech.  Goals: Prepare a speech that clearly demonstrates a process, product or activity.

Readers:  Obviously this demo needs a video, not written words.  Sorry for that.]

Performing the Heimlich Maneuver

Everyone has heard of the Heimlich Maneuver to help a choking person. But, it is important to do it right. I did it once on my wife. Afterwards, she said, “Thank you, but next time do it better, I think you cracked a rib.” So, let's take a few minutes to review the right ways.
Number 1: A Standing Person.
May I ask John Duran to come forward and be my demo victim.
Make sure the person is really choking. Look for secondary signals.
Hands at throat, can't breath, can't talk, can't cough, turning blue, unconsciousness
Tell the choking person you want to help them. Say “I know the Heimlich Maneuver and I am going to perform it on you.” That helps calm both you and the victim. Panic is bad.
With one hand, make a fist. You're going to wrap your other hand around your fist. Position your fist below the ribcage, but above the navel.
Gently wrap both arms around their waist. Lean them forward just slightly.
Make a series of thrust, hard and quick into the abdomen. Pull inward and upward as you press. It should feel like you're trying to lift the person off the ground.
John, while I do this I want you so say Ahhh, so that the audience can hear the effect this has on you.
If that didn't work, try five more thrusts.
If that didn't work do back blows with the heel of your hand. Aim for the area between the shoulder blades. Use enough force, but just with your hand. Do not squeeze or hug the person. John please say Ahh again.
If that doesn't work call 911, or have someone else call. Continue the back blows while waiting. When they arrive, back off and let them work.
Thank you John, you may sit down. How about a big hand for John Duran?
Number 2: Someone Lying Down
If I asked John to lay down on the floor up here, you wouldn't be able to see him. So I brought a smaller victim.
Verify that they are choking, and inform them of your intentions, just as with a standing person.
Get the person on their back.
Kneel at the person's hips.
No fist, Place one hand on top of the other. Place the heel of the bottom hand on the person's abdomen. This is the area just below the ribcage but above the navel.
Thrust inward and upward using your bodyweight
If that doesn't work, call 911 and continue thrusts until they arrive.
Number 3: On an Infant
Lay the infant face down on a firm surface or on your lap. Make sure the infant's head is turned so they can breathe.
Give five quick blows to the back with the heel of your hand between the infant's shoulder blades.
Be firm in the blows but not too hard. Gravity combined with back blows is your strategy.
If that doesn't work, turn the infant over. Support their head with your hand, keeping the head slightly lower than the feet.
Place your fingers on the lower half of the infant's breastbone. Make sure to keep your hand in the middle of your infant's breastbone and not to one side of another. Press down five times in a series of chest thrusts. Call 911 if that doesn't work As you wait, keep repeat the back blows and the chest thrusts.
Number 4: on Yourself
Make a fist. Place the thumb side of your fist against your abdomen below the ribcage, but above the navel. Wrap your other hand around your fist and thrust inwards and upwards.
If that doesn't work and you're still conscious, try to call 911.
You should see a doctor after saving yourself from choking to make sure there is no damage.

Madam Toastmaster

Tuesday, December 05, 2017

Here I Scoop the Whole Journalism Industry

I've always liked writing essays.   Op-Eds, blog posts, and speeches.   Back in the 90s, before I had a blog to preserve these essays I wrote many essays that I no longer have copies of.  One of them was about information in the 21st century.

My premise was this.  All through recorded history, objects and property have been the tokens of wealth.  Gold is the symbolic icon for all physical goods and money.   

In the 21st century, information is going to become king.  By 2100, I predict that 99% of the world's wealth will be in the form of Information, control of information flow, information processing, and information mining.   It has aleady begun big.  Think of the value of the company.  Think how little of that value is in the form of offices, warehouses and computer servers.  Ditto for Google and Facebook.  Their physical assets are almost nothing.

Modernization is good. But here's the problem.  Those laws are totally inadequate for something so valuable.  Only property law is rich enough and refined enough from centuries of experience to cover great wealth.   But property rights have never been applied to information other than patent, copyright, and trademarks.   

Medical records in your doctor's office are the doctor's property.  The information in those records has no legal status.  You have no rights.  If the doctor doesn't pay his rent, the landlord can seize the doctor's property including medical records.  Then the landlord is free do to anything he wants with them.  HIPPA and other laws don't touch the landlord because he is not a health care provider.

If I give you an apple, then I don't have the apple any more.  But if I share information with you, now we both have it.  Who owns it?  The law does not permit the concept of ownership of information.
When a Hollywood movie executive shares information about how he abuses women, all the world's journalists are free to make money publishing that information.  The executive retains no proprietary interest or property rights to that info.  Sadly, the same applies to audio recordings of what Amazon's Alexa might have recorded in the bedroom.   The homeowner has no ownership rights in that information.

Information is not like physical property so it would be very difficult to treat it as property under the law.  That difficult task is precisely what I belive every country must do.

So way back in the 90s, I predicted that in the 21st century, we would be  forced to redefine information as property that can be owned and sold and that has value. 

That brings us to today,  I just listened to the oral arguments in the US Supreme Court Case of Carpenter v. United States.   The issue was government access to our cell phone locatoin records without a warrant and without probable cause.  

Most of the arguments centered on the reasonable expectation of privacy, which is the traditional and only way it seems to protect privacy.   But then I heard the justices say something that made me jump out of my seat.  They said (my paraphrase) "Suppose it was not an issue of privacy.  Suppose we treated a customers cell phone history information as property that belongs to the customer, not to the phone company."   The lawyer for the government was stunned almost speechless.  He said, (my paraphrase) "But but but.  That would be revolutionary in law."

Aha! The moment I predicted has arrived during my lifetime.  Don't get me wrong, there are long hard battles to fight.  This is merely the opening shot in the war.

Monday, November 20, 2017

Speech #I2, A Fatal Lack of KISS

Zebulon, NC

[I can't give you the goals for this speech because I screwed up.  Libby helped me to design this speech from the Entertaining Speaker book, but at the meeting I told them it was from the Speaking to Inform book; wrong.  Anyhow, Libby and I thought that is was the most fun speech so far.  Unfortunately for you the sound effects and timing that added drama don't come out in written form. I used Red text to indicate sound effects.  Verbally though, those sound interrupted me mid-sentence, adding to the drama.]

A Fatal Lack of KISS

Start the countdown. 5 minutes from now 10 people will die.

Ladies and gentlemen.

Last August, the destroyer USS John S McCain was in the Straight of Singapore. That is a congested area of the ocean with lots of ship traffic going in and out. In those circumstances, one would think that the captain would order all stations to be fully manned with the most experienced crew, including himself, the master helmsman and the systems engineer. That did not happen this night.

On the bridge are several stations. The CO or commanding officer, the helm on the left that steers and controls engine speed, the lee helm on the right, the aft station behind, and the radar man. [BUZZ 4 MINUTES]  The ship was modern, each of those stations had a screen, keyboard and mouse. Steering wheels and throttle levers don't exist any more. Normally there are also lookout stationed outside, but not this night.

At 520 in the morning, the McCain was moving fast at 20 knots. It was overtaking a tanker to the left traveling maybe half as fast. My information comes from the official navy report on the incident. What you see on the screen is the record of the actual positions of the two ships at one minute intervals

Suddenly, helm reported trouble steering and controlling throttles at the same time. The CO barked his order. LEE HELM YOU TAKE OVER THROTTLE CONTROL WHILE I HELP HELM WITH STEERING.

Lee helm says, “Aye Aye sir.” Then he used a pull down menu to select TRANSFER CONTROL.[BUZZ 3 MINUTES] 

What nobody on the bridge understood is that the software did not allow transfer of just throttle control. I transferred both steering and throttle to lee helm.

Helm believed that he still had steering control, but it wasn't working. He complained to CO. “Sir it isn't working at all.” The CO said, “Let me see.”

Radar reported, “Ship close by on the port side sir.” The CO responded, REDUCE SPEED TO 10 KNOTS. Lee helm said, “Aye Aye sir.” and he moved the throttle control slider on his screen to reduce engine power.

But lee helm believed that the slider controlled both left and right engines together. He didn't understand that on another pull down menu that option box was not checked.   So what actually
happened was that he reduced power to the left engine while the right engine continued full speed. That made the McCain start a gradual turn to the left.[BUZZ 2 MINUTES] 

Nobody noticed the left turn except the radar man. He said, “We are turning toward that ship sir. Collision alert.” The CO responded, “REDUCE SPEED TO 5 KNOTS”. The lee helm said, “Aye Aye sir.” and he did as ordered, again mistakenly only on the left engine. The rate of left turn increased.

The CO and helm were frustrated that steering control didn't work. CO ordered, “AFT STATION TAKE OVER STEERING CONTROL” [BUZZ 1 MINUTES] 

Aft station, said, “Aye Aye sir” and he used a pull down menu to select TRANSFER CONTROL..

But Aft helm forgot to preset zero rudder angle before the transfer. The previous rudder setting on his screen was 33 degrees left rudder, so after the transfer the computer moved the rudder to 33 left. Now the gradual turn became a lurching sharp turn to the left. The whole ship leaned to the right. It almost knocked the CO off his feet.


Lee helm spoke up. “Sir, I just realized that I set the throttles incorrectly. I'm attempting to correct that now.” But he didn't understand that he no longer controlled anything because aft station had the control.

Radar interrupted, “Sound collision alarm. Sir, should I warn that tanker on the radio and sound 5 blasts on the horn?”

The CO said, “Everybody shut up. I'm trying to figure out what is happening with the steering.”

On the screen are the names of the dead.

[At this point I stopped speaking and rang a bell 10 times to toll the dead.]
– 530--
So, what really happened? Who should we blame? The captain of course. The officers, the crew and the Navy. But, thinking like an engineer, one thing stands out. Kiss.

I don't mean Kiss in the romantic sense. I mean the KISS Principle in engineering design. Keep It Simple Stupid. KISS

Steering of any moving vehicle using screens, keyboards, and insane and an egregious violation of the KISS principle.

Now, lets bring our attention back to those of us in this room. All of you may have occasion to make decisions in everyday life that could affect life and safety. There is one lesson I want you to learn from this speech. Remember only one word. What word is that? Everyone: KISS.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Speech #I1, Carr Cabin, Local Gold

Umatilla, FL

[This is project #1 from Toastmasters, Speaking to Inform book.  The goals are: 1) Select new and useful information, 2) Organize for easy understanding, 3) Present it in a way to motivate the audience to learn.]

There's gold.  GOLD I tell you, in them thar hills.  No, not in the hills, but rather in your back yard.  But hold back the gold rush. I don't mean monetary gold.   I mean cultural gold and natural gold.  

Fellow toastmasters and honored guests:

Archie Carr was a zoologist, a conservationist and a writer.  Wikipedia said that Carr was a legend at the U of F and that students used to fight to get in on his classes.  He is honored by the Archie Carr National Wildlife refuge , and an Archie Carr sea shore in Costa Rica where he was famous for saving sea turtles.

As a writer, Carr was sort of the Henry David Thorueau of his day. He wrote about his family cabin in the scrub by Lake Nicotooon near Ocala National Forest.  So by analogy, Lake Nicotoon was the Walden Pond of Florida.

I learned this on a tour sponsored by the Florida Wildlife Festival in Umatilla last Saturday.  Let me show you the basic geography.   Ocala sits here.  Nearby Silver Springs lies on the western border of Ocala National Forest.  To the east is the Saint John's River.  To the north is Palatka.  To the south are Altoona and Umatilla.  Umatilla is my winter home, and Umatilla was Archie Carr's home.  The Carr cabin is on the southern border of the forest.

Carr's family donated the site to the forest service.  The citizens of Umatilla viewed the Carr family as their claim to fame.  Archie was the local boy who made good.  There was Archie himself. One of his sons is a naturalist.  Another is currently one of NASA's most famous scientists working on space probes like Cassini, Juno, and Galileo.  So the Umatillans banded together to accurately reconstruct and restore the Carr Family Cabin.  Today, it is open to the public.

 A forest ranger guided our tour and she was a fountain of knowledge.  I especially appreciated what she taught us about the ecology.

Florida scrub is a very unique endangered ecology endemic to Florida.  The plant life is dominated by scrub pine and scrub oak trees, not much taller than eye level. They are interspersed: pine oak pine oak. The ranger explained that this ecology depends on crowing wildfires occurring once every 30-60 years.  A crowning fire is one that reaches the tops of the tall trees and kills them. The reason those scrub trees are all the same height is that they are same age to within a week.

Then came the part that really blew me away.  Scrub pines burn readily, but scrub oaks are very fire resistant.  So, when the time comes the pines begin exude resin.  It gets on everything nearby. Those fire resistant oak trees, get completely coated with resin and that makes them explosively flammable.   In other words, the pine trees deliberately set up the right conditions for a crowning fire, then just wait for a spark.

But there's more.  After the fire, new shoots appear immediately.  But the new oaks are not grown from acorns.  Most of the oak tree lives under the sand, and after the fire it sends shoots upward.   So if you look at a stand of scrub hundreds of yards across, those are not individual oak trees, they are all shoots of a single living organism.

The ranger said that when the shoots are three years old, they produce more acorns than at any other time in their lives, and that the bounty of acorns is a favorite food for black bears and scrub Jays.  I saw bear prints in the sand.  The scrub jay is a rare bird.  Their call is heard almost every day in the scrub, but they are very difficult to see.

If you drive through the national forest, you may see ugly areas that have been clear cut.  If you are like me, you curse at the logging companies who rape the environment.  But the ranger said it is the forest service that does the clear cutting.  Clear cutting simulates the effects of a crowing fire.  They do that to provide habitat for those elusive scrub Jays.

So  If you are inclined to see this local history and local nature for yourself, I recommend contacting the local National Forest Service.  They can tell you how to get there, and if you're lucky they may even send a knowledgeable ranger to be your guide.

Thank you.