Friday, April 13, 2018

A Bloggable Misadventure

Umatilla, FL

Back in the days when I was writing blog posts almost daily, Libby and I invented an adjective.   We observed something from real life and we said, "that's bloggable."  Today I did that.

It was a splendid day in central Florida.  Sunny, temperature in the 70s, a nice breeze 10-20.  I wanted to go sailing.  I didn't find anyone to sail with me immediately, so I went alone.   Remember that I'm still very green a a Hobie 16 captain.

Well, I sailed to the far side of the lake.  I was sailing to windward so the sheets were hauled in tight. The boat was moving so fast that I decided to come about rather than gybe.  I blew it.  I was struggling with the tiller extension (that's a major pain on a Hobie cat.).  While I was fiddling with that, the boat inadvertently came about on its own.  That caught me on the wrong side (the leeward side of the boat.)  The wind pushed me broadside to the wind, and the leeward pontoon went under water.  It all happened too fast for me to react.  The next thing I knew, the cat was capsized and I was in the water.

Fortunately, I had a good life jacket on.  I also avoided getting underneath the boat.  So it was simple for me to climb up on the trampoline of the upside down boat.  On the far side of the lake, Libby was watching.  She saw me go over, and she was plenty scared until she saw my orange life vest appear above the water.  That calmed her considerably.

What then?  Well, I am unprepared to right a capsized Hobie 16 myself.  I need to watch videos and to practice it with assistance from a nearby boat for backup.   So I just stood there.   The boat was very stable.  The water was clear and clean and warm, so I could have waited indefinitely.   Another factor, is that tourist season is over and there are very few other boats in the water on that lake.

The wind was blowing me toward the nearest shore.  That would have been fine, except that the masthead got stuck on the bottom while I was still 300 yards from shore.   The boat stopped moving.  What next?

A man on shore saw me and asked if I needed help.  I had him call Libby and tell her to find a boat to come rescue me.  5 minutes later I saw a boat from the RV park leave.  It had to be my rescue.

But rescue would be very difficult with the mast in the mud.   I jumped in the water, swam to the bow and I managed to decouple the fore stay.  Good.  The mast floated up to the surface.  I could float to shallower water.  I then used the paddle and the wind, and soon I made it nearly to shore.  I got stuck in reeds only about 100 feet from shore.

When the rescue boat came, it held Russ from OMS and Libby.  But that boat had only a tiny electric trolling motor.   Much too weak to help me flip the hull, and also too weak to tow me anywhere.

So, I left the cat behind, jumped into the rescue boat, and accepted a ride back to the RV park.  There, we got the car and the trailer, and drove around the lake. We brought with us, some remnants from Tarwathie that I was very glad I saved.  Namely; two 110 foot spare halyards.

My plan was to swim out to the Hobie, and tie a line to her.  While there, I tried holding the capsize line while standing all the way aft on one pontoon to try and right it.  It did no good.  So I swam back to shore with the other end of the line. Then we could pull her in to the beach.  As we were doing that, a neighbor named Randy came to assist.  He was a great help.

The plan succeeded.  We pulled the boat over to the beach.  There, I was able to completely uncouple the mast and boom from the boat.  Then we tried to flip the hull upright using the capsize line.  No way even with the full strength of two men.

We backed the trailer down to the shore.  Then we used the trailer's winch line attached to the capsize line.  That worked, and we got the hull flipped upright.  The hard work was done.

In another 15 minutes, we had the mast and sails and all loose equipment back on board the boat.  Randy had a truck with 4 wheel drive, so he pulled the trailer and boat up to the road.  We then hitched the trailer to my car. thanked Randy, and drove back to the OMS RV park.

I think the only lost casualties were a clevis pin, and a little teflon bushing that sits under the mast.  Nothing broken, nobody injured.  So in that respect I was very lucky.

But beyond all doubt, that was a bloggable event.   Thank you Libby. Thank you Russ.  Thank you Randy.   Thank you my lucky stars.

Pictures?  Sorry, we were too busy to photo journal this event.  But here's a couple.

Here is my launch point in Olde Mill Stream RV Park.  The capsized cat is on the far shore.

The blue thing is the capsized hull.

Speech #16: Young Al

Umatilla, FL

[This speech is project 5 from The Entertaining Speaker, "Speaking After Dinner".  The goals are: 1) Prepare an entertaining after dinner speech on a specific theme.  2) Deliver the speech using all your skills.  They remind you that after dinner, the audience will not want to be intellectually challenged.   Time 8-10 minutes.  My actual time as 10:26, just 4 seconds short of being dinged for speaking too long.  Especially enjoyable was that we had two teen girls in the audience as guests, and both girls loved the topic.  Just like with Harry Potter books, young people like young hero models.]

Well, that was quite a meal. You all just sit back and enjoy your coffee and cognac while I stand here and ramble on a bit.

I’m going to talk about my hero, Thomas Alva Edison. You know Edison, the guy who invented the light bulb, right? He did a lot of other things that might surprise you, including email, phones, Hollywood, and the electric car.

But forget all that. I want to talk about young Al (that was his boyhood nickname) growing up in Port Huron Michigan between the ages of 10 and 15.

Al’s first interest was not electricity but chemistry. One day, he convinced another boy to swallow a large quantity of Seidlitz Powder. Today, we call that stuff Alka Seltzer. Al told the boy that the gas would allow him to float up in the air and fly like a bird. While the doctor did what he could for the boy’s pain, Al’s mother fetched the switch that she kept behind the Seth Thomas clock.

In the basement, Al stored his chemicals and built himself a laboratory. He put the same label on all the bottles --- poison, so that nobody would be tempted to mess with them. While other boys played sports, Al worked in his laboratory and did research at the public library. He bought every chemical available from the local drug store, and then began ordering chemicals by mail order. For that he needed money.

Al’s father had a 10-acre truck garden. So young Al began picking the vegetables and selling them in the town. He didn’t do the actual work himself. Instead, he hired other boys to do it for him. He made so much money doing that that he contributed $600 per year to the family. In today’s money that would be $17K.

Then he got another idea. The railroad ran between Port Huron and Detroit. Al convinced his parents to allow him to sell newspapers on the train. The train left Port Huron in the earl morning, and it didn’t return until 9:30 at night. That gave Al a lot of time to kill in Detroit. One thing he did was buy top quality produce in Detroit and sell it in Port Huron, thus boosting the profits of his vegetable business.

The train had three kinds of cars, smoking cars for men, baggage cars, and the ladies cars for everyone else. The baggage car was divided into three sections, one for baggage, one for mail, and one for a smoking room that nobody used. Al got permission to move his laboratory and chemicals to the smoking room of the baggage car. He even convinced Mr. Pullman, who was working on his revolutionary Pullman car to do the carpentry for his laboratory. Then, during the long daily layover in Detroit, Al could work in his mobile laboratory.

One day, someone abandoned a printing press on the train. Al kept it for himself, and he used it to create his own newspaper. At every RR stop on the route, he collected gossip and news to publish. Then he wrote, edited, printed and sold the newspapers all by himself. He also used the railroad’s telegraph to send notice of his newspaper headlines to towns further down the track to increase his sales.

At the outbreak of the Civil War, people became more interested in news. Al’s sales increased. When word of the battle of Shiloh came in, young Al ran to the offices of the Detroit Free Press. He said, “I don’t have any money now, but if you give me 1000 copies of the paper at one cent each, I’ll pay you tomorrow.” They said yes. Al put the papers on the train and telegraphed the headline down the route in advance. At the first stop, where he normally sold 5 papers, he sold 20 copies at two cents each. At the second stop, there was a big crowd of 50 people, so Al raised the price to five cents. By the time the train got to Port Huron, the whole town was at the train station waiting for the news. From the doorway of the train Al shouted, “I’m almost out of copies, the price is 25 cents per copy.” So, he sold his last 700 copies for 25 cents each.

Al also made friends on the railroad. He was careful to give free papers and magazines to all railroad employees he came in contact with. He especially liked riding in the steam engine. The engineer taught him how to drive the train, and the fireman taught him how to stoke the boiler. After that, the engineer and the fireman realized that they could get drunk and sleep the whole trip while Al did all the work. Al loved that.

Al was instructed that if he let the water in the boiler drum get too low, it could explode. He certainly didn’t want that, so he meticulously kept the drum full of water. One day in the station, he put too much water in. The water went up into the boiler tubes which were red hot. The water cleaned off the years of soot layered in those pipes and then boiled. That caused a geyser of hot black mud to shoot out of the stack of the steam engine. It came down on the heads of the fine gentlemen with their top hats, and the fine ladies with their parasols who were waiting in the station. Young Al pointed at the engineer, and said, “I’m just a kid. I didn’t do anything.”

One day, the train hit a patch of rough track. It rocked from side to side. A bottle of phosphorous fell off the shelf in Al’s laboratory and started a fire. Al tried to put out the fire and failed. The conductor came rushing in and put out the fire. That quick-tempered Scotchman was so enraged, that he threw Al and all his chemicals off the train. He also boxed young Al in the ears so severely that for the rest of his life Thomas Edison was nearly deaf.

But Edison accepted deafness in good spirits. Later in life, he said, “When Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone, it was a piece of junk. It was only capable of working within one city block. So, the first thing he did was to hire me to make a practical telephone. Because of my deafness, I had to make it loud enough for me to hear it.” Later, when I invented the phonograph there were many similar devices around that I couldn’t understand because their sound quality was so poor. I worked for a whole year, 20 hours per day including Sundays to get the word “specie” perfectly recorded and reproduced on the phonograph. When this was done, I knew that all other sounds could also be done, which proved to be the fact.”

Ladies and gentlemen. When you go home tonight after this splendid banquet, look into the eyes of your young children or grandchildren. Might you see a spark of young Al in those eyes?

Monday, April 09, 2018


Umatilla, FL

I had to invent a new word to describe what I've been doing yesterday and today.

Our Hobie 16 is all rigged and functional.  Naturally, we (mostly I) am anxious to sail it.  It's fun and there are lots of new things for me to learn. 

The question is when?  The past 2 days have seen unsettled weather.  Weak cold fronts are passing accompanied by scattered showers.  Today's showers are just short of being thunderstorms.   The average wind speed has been about 10 knots; perfect for sailing.  But the actual wind speed is more like 3 knots punctuated by periods of 20 knots.   Couple that with the fact that we now live very close to the lakeshore.

So, here I sit wanting to sail.  No wind.  A few minutes later, I look out and I see all the flags flying in a fresh breeze.   Off I rush to the lake.  But by the time I get there and get the sails ready, the wind stops, and there is another black cloud potential thunderstorm heading my way.

When we lived many miles away from the boat and the water, we didn't have this on-again off-again foolishness.  On days like today we would either stay home, or go out on the lake and wait out the calms and the storms onboard the boat.  That's why I need a new word for my impatience -- Lakesideitis.

We'll post some good pictures and videos when we get them.  For now, here's a video of me shot by someone else yesterday.

By the way.  Youtube has lots and lots of Hobie 16 videos to learn from.  There's much more to it than I imagined.

Friday, February 16, 2018

Taking Risks is a Virtue

[Umatilla, Florida:   I used this speech in two speech contests yesterday.  I won 1st place in the first contest and 2nd place in the second contest.  A man who saw both, said I seemed tired the second time.]

Show of hands. How many of you saw the pictures of Elon Musk’s Tesla car in space? Wasn’t that a thrill? Musk hired smart people and he trusted them to do their jobs, and accepted the risk of failure Hats off to Elon Musk. He is my number 1 example of a risk taker.

But Elon Musk was not born and raised in the USA. Sadly, our home-grown NASA has become so risk adverse, that I for one believe that private risk takers like Musk will get us to Mars and the Moon before NASA does.

But NASA wasn’t always like that. My second example of risk taking was the NASA of 50 years ago. I’m speaking of the Apollo and Saturn V projects that put the first men on the Moon in 1969. That was the greatest single achievement is the history of man.

I was privileged to be slightly associated with those projects when I worked at GE’s Apollo Support Department in Daytona Beach. GE’s role was the computers that monitored status before liftoff. Let me describe how it worked.

At t minus 120, two minutes before liftoff, we had 400 GE engineers in a big room. The computers in those days were 10 billion times less powerful than the computer in my hand. But we had something then that you can’t buy today for any price. We had printers that printed 20000 lines per minute. We needed 400 pages paper, one sheet per engineer. At t-2 minutes two of those printers roared into action. Paper flew out of them so fast that it flew up to the ceiling and halfway across the room before coming down. It took only 12 seconds for those printers to print 400 pages. Then it took another 20 seconds to get those 400 engineers in position to read their page.

Each engineer was trained to read and interpret the data on one specific page. For example, engineer number 239 read page 239. They had 20 seconds to do their jobs. If the data looked good, he remained silent. If the data looked bad he would wave his hands and shout no=go. T=60 seconds was the go/no-go decision point for the whole mission.

Ladies and gentlemen, we put men on the moon by taking risks. We trusted smart people to do their jobs competently and took the risk they could be wrong. Modern day NASA doesn’t work like that.


Example Number 3. You may have heard the expression “reach for the brass ring” Raise your hand if you don’t know where reach for the brass ring comes from.

Let me tell you, because I know firsthand. When I was 14 years old, I got my first job as a merry go round operator at an amusement part. You can say carousel instead. On my carousel, kids riding on the outside horse could lean far far out to try to catch a brass ring on their finger. They had to lean so far, that it seemed like they might fall off and crack their skulls. Of course, nobody wants kids to be injured. The risk was more of an illusion. Nevertheless the kids who got a ring wore it as a badge of courage. Without the risk, the ring is just a meaningless bit of metal. We taught children of that era that courage and risk taking are virtues. We also taught parents to let their kids hang on with one hand instead of two hands at times.

Here’s the point. Our adversity to disasters can have the unintended consequence of limiting the height of our achievements. In a risk adverse culture, the average person may live longer and suffere less. But we shave off the pinnacles of success to fill in the valleys of failure. We are embracing --- mediocracy.

But wait! I’m preaching to the choir. We are toastmasters. We stand up here to speak. That takes courage. We risk failure. We value excellence. I urge you to go home and tell your friends, your family, but especially tell your children and grandchildren. Risk taking is a virtue.

Saturday, February 03, 2018

Recovering From a Crashed PC

Umatilla, FL

Last week I asked my laptop PC to restart.  Instead it died.  It was so bad that I couldn't boot windows or DOS, or the boot options.  I have a bootable emergency recovery disk; that didn't work. After power up, it never gave me a chance to type anything on the keyboard.  Now I've recovered almost 100%.   My successes, failures and missteps may be helpful to others.

What Happened?
My PC did not actually die.  Nor did the hard disk actually crash.  It was a random write error on the disk that caused the problem. 

There are error correction mechanisms on the main memory and disk that make write errors rare.  But they can never be eliminated 100%.    Even so, almost all errors in your data go unnoticed because they don't cause trouble.  Suppose the color in one of the pixels in one of your pictures has a slightly wrong color?  You'll never notice.  But a few things are critical.  Most critical is the information on the hard drive used to navigate the file system on the hard drive.  A single bit being wrong in the most critical of locations could have been the cause of my trouble.

Online Backups
Things keep changing, if you keep up with the modern world.   One change is that much of my most important data is now stored in the cloud rather than locally on my PC.  "Cloud" merely means stored on someone else's disk somewhere in the world. Gmail stores my email.  Google Photos stores my pictures.  The Chrome browser stores my contacts and bookmarks. stores all the text and photos of the archives of this blog.

So, the only things I store only locally on my hard disk are:

  1. My archives from the ghosts of computers past.  I have a copy of the files from every computer I ever owned going back to 1979.  Why do I keep that?  Because I don't want to think through the consequences of deleting anything.  I hoard data.   It's not as bad as hoarding stuff because all my old data sits quietly in a corner of my disk.  If I keep the data, I don't have to decide whether or not it should be kept.  (Cynics argue that a crash and loss of all historical data every once in a while is beneficial.  There's a grain of truth in that.)
  2. Office documents,  Word documents, spread sheets, presentations.   Microsoft and Google keep trying to make me store those on the cloud, but I'm old fashioned and paranoid about my privacy.
  3. Programs that I installed on my PC.  In the old days, when you started with a new PC, it was a lot of work to re-install all your beloved software.  But today, I notice that there is very little old software that I still need.  Picassa, and PDFdirect were the only two software programs that I downloaded and reinstalled on my new PC.
The point is that a disk crash today is less disastrous as in the past.  By the same token, it should make it easier to keep backups, because there is so little new information not on the cloud that needs backing up.

For younger people who don't have the same hang ups as we elders, I recommend a tablet+keyboard or a Chromebook as the sensible modern PC.   Those devices have almost zero of your data stored locally.   Everything is on the cloud.  The only backup you are responsible for is your account and password. 

Chromebook also allows you to not have Windows (or Linux) at all. No operating system, no such thing as one of your files stored on the device, no apps.  It makes your life much simpler.

A New PC?
I went out and bought a new laptop.  That probably was not necessary, but I didn't know it at the time.  But there's also personal bias.  My laptop was 5 years old.  It worked pretty well, but one of the rows of keys on the keyboard were beginning to get stuck.  I'm a computer nerd and a gadget freak, so it doesn't take too much arm twisting to get me to buy a new machine every few years.

If you are one of the people who like to keep computers for 10-15 years, you're heaping a lot of grief on your heads.  All the software, all the web sites assume that you have a newer, faster, higher capacity PC.  If you don't things work poorly or not at all.  If you are a grandparent, and your kids want to buy a new PC for you, let them do it.

The Kinds of Backups
The old fashioned kind of backup is now called Windows 7 Backup.  It is a program to run.  You tell it to save a complete backup, or an incremental backup.  There is a restore program to retrieve data and files from the backup copies.   I discovered that the last time I made a complete backup was 11 months ago.  Uh oh.

A different kind of backup from Microsoft is called File History.   It stores only new files and changes to old files.   It runs automatically if your backup disk is online.  It is effortless.  I thought that File Backup protected me for all the new stuff I did since the 11 month old full backup.  Wrong.

No wonder everyone loves to hate Microsoft. On my new PC, I plugged in my USB external backup disk holding my File History, and I planned to recover all my recent files that way.  It didn't work.  I missed the check box outlined in yellow in the screenshot below.  That tiny error wiped out all my File History forever, and I can never get it back.  Sigh.

The Solution
There were two parts to my solution to recover all my files and data.

  1. I removed the hard drive from my old laptop (4 screws) and I  invested $7.99 on to buy a cable that lets me connect the old drive the the USB port of my new computer.

    When I plugged it in and tried to look at the contents of that hard disk, it failed.  I could not see any files on the disk.  That's what killed my old PC in the first place.
  2. A very old utility program that has been around since MS-DOS 1.0 is called CHKDSK.  You may remember using CHKDSK on misbehaving floppy disks.  Anyhow, CHKDSK is still around and updated.   I got into a command prompt window and simply typed "CHKDSK F: /R."  (F: is the drive letter of my hard disk when plugged in a USB port). It took hours to finish.  It is the kind of thing you should start before going to bed.  But in the end, it found and repaired all the errors on that disk.  I could access all my files!  There is a chance that some file is missing, but I don't see any.

    BEWARE:  There are numerous services and software packages that offer "Disaster Recovery"  or "Data Recovery">  Many of those cost hundreds of dollars.   It is true that they might recover some things that CHKDSK doesn't, but you should always try CHKDSK first.  It is free and it solves the most common problems. 

Did I Really Need a New PC?
I could have borrowed a PC from a neighbor to run CHKDSK.   But I would have to keep it overnight.  That's a much bigger imposition than borrowing it for one hour.

When I owned a house, I always had some old PCs around that could have run CHKDSK for me.  But when living on a boat, and now an RV, there's no room for old stuff.  Old stuff is clutter.
Besides, as I said, it only takes minor arm twisting to make me buy a new PC.

Friday, February 02, 2018

Speech #15, Innocense

[This Toastmasters project is called "Make Them Laugh".  I was required to come up with some personal experiences and make them humorous.  I had a bit of trouble thinking of things.  The result was this speech.  The audience was polite, but in all honesty, I bombed.  Oh well, everyone has to strike out sometimes.]

In our culture, we expect children to be innocent.  By the same token, we expect adults to be the opposite.  I don’t mean guilty.  I mean innocent as in lack of guile.  When adults are truly innocent, the results can be funny.---
In the 70s, my business was building simulators.  I’m sure you have all seen videos of flight simulators used to train pilots to fly.   Well, my simulators duplicated  control rooms trained nuclear power plant operators.  My simulators were huge, about the size of a basketball court.
In 77, I was helping a company in Finland to make their first simulator.  Because Finns have a fine eye for art and aesthetics, their gymnasium size simulated control room was not just functional, it was strikingly beautiful.
The project manager was a delightful handsome young man named Martti.  Martti was very innocent.  That year was the international conference on simulators to be held (in all places) Gatlinburg, Tennessee.   I went there with the team of Finns including Martti. For most of them it was their first trip to America.S Martti brought with him a portfolio of pictures of his beautiful simulator.
One day at breakfast, Martti told us that after yesterday’s session he met a woman engineer from a major American utility.  The two of them hit it off and had a nice conversation.  Then Martti said, “I asked her to come up to my room to see my simulator pictures.  She refused.   I can’t understand why.”  The rest of us howled with laughter because we knew that Martti was completely innocent.
At that same conference, I was presenting my own paper on simulators.  The darkened room held about 300 people in the audience.  There was no stage.  Midway through my talk, I noticed a man in the front row holding a sign. 
Uh oh.  I backed away from the light of the overhead projector, and I did a little pirouette to quickly zip it.  But it wasn’t open, it was broken and it wouldn’t zip.
What to do next?   Well, I noticed that because there was no stage, nobody behind the front row could see me below the waist,  So I pretended that nothing was wrong and finished my speech.
A few years before that, I went to work for a big company in Sweden.  My knowledge of Swedish was very elementary at the time, but most Swedes speak excellent English.  On my first day on the job, I was sent to the company infirmary for a physical.  The nurse at the infirmary didn’t speak English, but she managed to convey that I should take off my clothes.  Swedes are less modest than Americans.  As I stood there naked, she grabbed a clipboard and sat on a stool directly in front of me, and said (in Swedish)  “How long are you?”  The only reply I could manage was hamana hamana hamana. My boss explained to me later that the Swedish word long should be translated as tall.
Back to Martii once again.  After the Gatlingburg trip, Martti invited the team with their wives to a dinner at a fancy restaurant on an island in Helsinki.  At the dinner table,  Martti eagerly showed us his most prized souvenir from the trip.  It was a digital watch.  That was the year that digital watches first appeared.  Martti’s watch was as thick as a thumb, and the digits glowed an evil red like the eyes of the Devil in a monster movie.  But Martti was sure that the was the first person in all of Finland to own such a watch, perhaps in all of Europe.
“Where did you get it?” we asked.  Martii said, “I went to New York City on my way back.  A man came up to me and opened his coat.  He had lots of watches and he sold me this one for only two dollars.”  Martti held up his wrist and pointed proudly.  But when he did that the works fell out of his watch and dropped into his soup. 
So here’s the point.  In all of those stories, the humor comes from someone being truly innocent in an otherwise adult situation.  Long live innocence.

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.