Monday, December 5, 2016

A brief book review of Quiet Power: The Secret Strengths of Introverts

Earlier this year a wonderful book for introverted kids and teens was published. It is Quiet Power: The Secret Strengths of Introverts by Susan Cain, with Gregory More and Erica Moroz. It follows-up her earlier book, Quiet: The power of introverts in a world that can’t stop talking. In 2012 she also gave a widely viewed 19-minute TED Talk on The power of introverts.

Each chapter in Quiet Power contains several brief stories, and ends with a summary of points and usually a page of instructive cartoons by Grant Snider. For example, Chapter 13: Quiet in the Spotlight is about performing and sharing your talents with others. It has:

Introductory stories about Carly and Liam, followed by A Shy Introvert shines (Ryan), The Fairy Godmother Sings Soprano, A Nudge from Mom (Victoria), Free Trait Theory, and An Audience of Dolls (Caitlin). The Summary is titled How to Shine in the Spotlight, and it has sections titled Prepare, Study the Experts, Slowly Build the Pressure, Familiarize Yourself, Breathe, Smile, Connect, and Look Outward.  

The four main parts of this book and their chapters are:

Chapter 1: Quiet in the Cafeteria
Chapter 2: Quiet in the Classroom
Chapter 3: Group Projects, the Introverted Way
Chapter 4: Quiet Leaders

Chapter 5: Quiet Friendship
Chapter 6: Quiet Parties
Chapter 7: # Quiet
Chapter 8: Opposites Attract

Chapter 9: Quiet Creativity
Chapter 10: The Quiet Athlete
Chapter 11: Quietly Adventurous
Chapter 12: Changing the World the Quiet Way
Chapter 13: Quiet in the Spotlight

Chapter 14: The Restorative Niche
Chapter 15: Quiet with Family


Quiet Power is not perfect. I disagree with her statement on page 249 in A Guide For Parents:

“But if your child is one of the many with stage fright - public speaking is the world’s most common phobia, afflicting extroverts as well as introverts - here are some ways to help him overcome it... “

That is an doubly inflated unsupported variation (both geographically and by fear level) of a statement in Quiet:

“...public speaking is the number-one fear in America, far more common than the fear of death.”

It would be much more useful to point out some real survey statistics on adolescent fears. Back on January 29, 2012 I blogged about Is public speaking the greatest fear for US teens? I discussed how in a 2005 Gallup poll it was not even in their top ten. On  June 11, 2012 I blogged about What social situations scare American adolescents, and what are their top 20 fears? In that post I discussed results for 14 situations from the National Comorbidity Survey Replication Adolescent Supplement (NCS-A). 24.9% feared speaking in class, compared with 13.3% for going out/dating. 

On February 18th NPR had an interview with Susan described in an article titled How Parents and Teachers Can Nurture the ‘Quiet Power’ of Introverts. It includes a discussion on public speaking.

I wish something like this book was around when I was a kid. How shy was I five decades ago, when I was in 10th grade? I was the second of five children - three boys Harry, Richard, and Thomas, and two girls - Ellen and Sally. After school Ellen was talking with a group of her girlfriends and waved to me to come over. I thought she might be playing matchmaker. No such luck. She had told them that her brothers really were named Tom, Dick and Harry (in reverse order), but they thought she was kidding. They all knew about Harry, the Eagle Scout who was a whiz at math and chemistry. And they all knew about Tom, the musical prodigy who became the lead cellist in the school orchestra while only in seventh grade. But I (Dick) was invisible. Until she introduced me, none of her friends believed that I even existed.   

Finally in 11th grade I really started to blossom. In trig class I got asked to put homework problems up on the blackboard and explain them. My classmates began to realize that I almost always got them right. I also was one of three 11th graders who took Advanced Placement (AP) chemistry, and got a 5 on the AP exam (meaning when I got to university I didn’t have to take either semester of freshman chemistry). On the qualifying test for National Merit Scholarships I was a semi-finalist, and also outscored a girl who later became one of four valedictorians (Later my sister Ellen got a National Merit Scholarship).

In 12th grade I  took both AP physics and calculus. I got a 5 on the AP exam for calculus, and a 3 on the one for physics. I began my freshman year at Carnegie-Mellon University with a semester worth of AP course credits. 

Saturday, December 3, 2016

A bad way to make passwords secure

On November 23, 2016 the Computerworld website had a SHARK TANK article with a software horror story titled Now THAT’S password security. It described what a government employee encountered when he tried to login to another agency, as he had to do quarterly. It seemed like he could never remember his password, since he was told it was invalid each time he tried to use it again. 

“Eventually, fish can no longer restrain his engineering urge, and he decides to do some testing to identify the actual problem.

First he attempts a login, and as usual it fails. He goes to the password-reset page, but instead of typing his new password into the input box, he types it into a text file, then copies and pastes it. That way, he knows he'll be inputting exactly the same password every time.

Then he immediately logs out and tries to log back in by pasting in the password. And as before, the new password fails.

Fish tries several more times, and it keeps failing -- even though it's the same pasted password every time.

Clearly, it's help desk time. Fish makes the call, and after several rounds of debugging and testing, there's finally a clear answer: The passwords that fish is creating when his account is reset are all too long.

‘But instead of failing, the reset system simply chopped off the extra characters and saved the result’ fish says. So my password of ABC=12345 became ABC=12. But on the password-setting page, there was no mention of a maximum length, and no error message for a too-long password.

And a year later, now that they're aware of the problem, there's still no error message, and no warning of a maximum password length. I guess it's more efficient to have users create a new password every time they log in than it is to tell them what a valid password is.”

The image of an Xacto paper cutter was derived from one at Wikimedia Commons.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

You can’t tell what people in the city are eating for lunch from an aerial photo

A good speech, article, or blog post calls for detailed, careful research. You always should go back to primary sources. If instead you just depend on superficial secondary ones like a brief magazine or newspaper article, then you can miss important details.

I just ran across a September 28, 2016 article by Fredrik Haren at his Lessons from the World of a Global Keynote Speaker web site titled The most dangerous job in the world (just kidding). Mr. Haren had based his article on a single-page one in the September 19, 2016 issue of Bloomberg Business Week. That article by Evan Applegate was titled Obamacare scares more people than a nuclear attack. It was the print version of an infographic I blogged about on November 7th. The article and infographic begin with the same sentence:

“Chapman University asked 1,541 American adults what they fear most, then ranked the answers by the share of respondents who indicated “afraid” or very afraid” for each.”

Then the print article lists 50 fears (a Top 50 out of 89 they surveyed) without showing the percentages, while the infographic lists 42 fears but shows each percentage when you mouse over an image.

In his article Mr. Haren commented that:

“On a plane from Omaha where I had just delivered a speech I read an article in Business Week where they reported on a study by Chapman University about the things that Americans feared the most.

It was a long and depressing list of threats, from fear of corruption (number 1) to fear of cyberterrorism (number 2) and fear of personal data tracking (number 3) to fear terrorist attacks (number 4) and so on. (Americans are afraid of a lot of scary things that are statistically very, very unlikely to hurt them.)

What I found absolutely amazing is that the ONLY thing on this list that was actually a choice – meaning something that a person can choose to do or not do to! – was ‘the fear of public speaking’! (and perhaps also ‘heights’.)

‘Fear of public speaking’ came in at place 26 just after ‘fear of robots replacing the workforce’ and just ahead of ‘fear of property damage’.

The more I look at this list the more amazed I am by it.

There is this saying that people are ‘more afraid of public speaking than they are of dying’ – something I always thought must have been an exaggeration – but according to this survey it turns out to be true! (Fear of dying came in at 43…)”

Results from the Chapman survey were reported on October 13, 2015 in a blog post titled America’s Top Fears 2015. What simple question should have told Mr. Haren he was not seeing the whole list? Where was the fear of flying? It is 61st.

Is Mr. Applegate’s title Obamacare scares more people than a nuclear attack correct? Well, sort of. Obamacare was ranked 13th and feared by 35.7%, while nuclear attack was ranked 16th and feared by 33.6% - a difference of 2.1%. Based on the sample size of 1,541 the Margin of Error for the survey is plus or minus 2.5%, so the difference is not significant.

In my November 7th blog post I pointed out that the Chapman survey questions really were “How afraid are you of...?” not “What do you fear most?” and, there were four possible answers:

1 Not Afraid

2 Slightly Afraid

3 Afraid

4 Very Afraid

What do Americans really fear most? Back on October 30, 2015 I blogged about how According to the 2015 Chapman Survey of American Fears, adults are less than Afraid of federal government Corruption and only Slightly Afraid of Public Speaking. In that post I showed how to calculate a Fear Score from the percentages for those four possible answers shown in the detailed results from the Chapman survey:

Fear Score = [ 1x(% for Not Afraid)
+  2x(% for Slightly Afraid)
+ 3x(% for Afraid)
+ 4x(% for Very Afraid)]/100 

For Corruption the fear score was only 2.7, which isn’t even at Afraid (3.0). For Public speaking it is 2.022, almost exactly 2.0 (or just Slightly Afraid). For Zombies it was 1.308, and the very lowest for Gender was 1.201 (not far above the 1.0 for Not Afraid). This analysis fits with what Mr. Haren said in another article on Nov 6 2015 titled The world is less dangerous than we think.

How about the comparison between the fears of public speaking and death? Many people know about it based on a Jerry Seinfeld joke that I last blogged about in October. 

An image of New York City in 1977 by Derzsi Elekes Andor came from Wikimedia Commons.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Ignite Seattle celebrates the tenth anniversary of its five-minute talks

On November 15th Clare McGrane had an article posted at GeekWire describing how Ignite Seattle marks 10th anniversary, a decade after accidentally launching a global phenomenon. It is unintentionally hilarious for ahistoricism (lack of concern with history). 

The format for a five-minute long Ignite talk involves 20 slides with auto advance after 15 seconds. The similar format for a Pecha Kucha talk (from back in February 2003 in Tokyo) also involves 20 slides but with auto advance after 20 seconds for a 6 minute and 40 second talk. Ignite and Pecha Kucha customarily ignore each other. For an example, see Sandy Rushton’s September 19th blog post at BrightCarbon titled Lessons from PechaKucha Night.

Pecha Kucha and Ignite both are constrained versions of a Lightning Talk (about five minutes, perhaps from 1997). But brief speech formats go back almost a century to the April 1917 first talk by the Four Minute Men, which I blogged about back in August 2010 in a post titled The power of brief speeches: World War I and the Four Minute Men.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

What I’m thankful for today - recovering from a broken fibula

 One of my favorite episodes of the four decade old TV show M.A.S.H. was titled Out of Sight, Out of Mind. In it surgeon Hawkeye Pierce (played by Alan Alda) lost his sight but then got it back. He got to temporarily experience the world in a completely different way. So have I.  It’s a topic for speeches about keeping a positive attitude. But it has reminded me of that bumper sticker that says Oh No! Not another learning experience!

On a late afternoon early in the fourth week of July I broke my fibula. That’s the smaller of the two lower leg bones, behind the tibia (as shown above). My wife and I had taken the Wallowa Lake Tramway to the top of Oregon’s Mount Howard (8,256 foot) and hiked around on a loop trail. About 100 yards from getting back to the station, while going downhill, I slipped on some loose gravel and fell. My right ankle was dislocated, but thankfully I immediately popped it right back into place. The tramway staff put me into a trailer behind a four-wheeled all-terrain vehicle, drove me back to the station, gave me some Advil, and helped me into the back seat of my Honda Fit.

My wife drove to the emergency room of the hospital in Enterprise, Oregon. They x-rayed my leg, told me my right fibula was broken, put me in a cast, and gave me a set of crutches and an ice bag for the swelling. By the time we got to La Grande, Oregon and I-84 it was too late to head back to Boise so we stayed in a motel. The next morning she drove back to Boise with me sitting sideways on the rear seat.

While waiting for orthopedic surgery I wound up getting three blisters growing under my cast. Fracture blisters are an uncommon complication. We found out when one burst, so we went to my nearby urgent care clinic. They removed the cast, took photos, and called my surgeon. He said that fortunately the blisters wouldn’t interfere with either of his incisions, so just dress them and put on another cast. They’d  take care of the blisters during the surgery.

On the afternoon of August 2nd I had orthopedic surgery at Saint Alphonsus hospital in Nampa. The surgeon installed a metal plate with a dozen screws to hold my bone together, a “rope” to pull my ligaments back into alignment, and put me in another fiberglas cast. They gave me a prescription for painkillers, but I needed them for less than two days. 

Then there were twelve weeks of couch potato time without me being able to put any weight on my right leg. I rolled around the house using office chairs both on the ground floor and second floor. Since I’m retired I watched a lot of TV, listened to the radio, and used a laptop computer to read and blog.

To go up and down stairs I sat facing downhill and used both arms and my left leg to lift my torso and right leg. In the kitchen I could still reach the stove, refrigerator, sink, and dishwasher. But only the front of the over-the-stove microwave oven was reachable from my sitting position. The back of the microwave and top cabinet shelves were more difficult - I had to stand on my left leg while bracing myself on the stove or counter with one hand. Then I could use the other hand to reach for things.

We also adapted by fitting our shower stall with a Moen shower chair and hand shower on a seven-foot hose. For showers my cast went into a clear plastic protector like a Christmas stocking with an elastic top. We had the low, round toilet replaced with a taller, elongated ADA-compliant one. I can roll the side of my office chair up to the toilet and easily transfer to the seat.

For going outside we got an inexpensive Blue Streak wheelchair from Drive Medical (at Amazon) with an 18-inch wide seat. We can get around with me in the right front seat of my wife’s minivan and the wheelchair in the back. Shopping at the WINCO supermarket or COSTCO store looks much different (and less friendly) from a wheelchair than it does standing up. The two-inch high threshold at the entrance to Golden Star, our favorite Chinese restaurant, now was an obstacle I had to go over backwards. That wheelchair was chosen based on it being narrow enough to go through our bathroom doors. But it was too clumsy to use for getting on the toilet since the front wheels get in the way.

After six weeks they removed the cast, x-rayed my leg again, and switched me to a knee-high Aircast XP Walker Extra Pneumatic brace (as shown above) that is worn over a 22-inch long tube sock. It has air chambers on the front, rear, and sides that can be individually inflated (arrows) or deflated using a squeeze bulb. The Aircast could be removed for taking showers, so I was much more comfortable than I was with the nonremovable fiberglas cast. But it still is very warm, and has to be removed twice a day because sweat winds up on the rubber under my foot. Also, the Aircast only came with two socks, so we ordered another six at Amazon. 

Twelve weeks after surgery  (at the end of October) I was done with the Aircast, and could put weight on my right leg again. But my right foot had swollen from a size 11 narrow shoe size to a size 13 medium. I know that because we got a used pair of athletic shoes at the Idaho Youth Ranch store. Elevating my leg and applying an ice pack didn’t seem to help reduce the swelling. Over a weekend it wouldn’t go down. Monday I went to my local urgent care clinic. The doctor said it might be an infection or perhaps a blood clot. To rule out a potentially serious clot, she sent me for an ultrasound scan of my leg at Saint Alphonsus Hospital in Boise. So my wife and I waited in the emergency room for most of the afternoon. Thankfully it wasn’t a clot, so I didn’t need to take blood thinning medications. The next day I had a follow-up appointment with the physician’s assistant to the surgeon. He gave me an antibiotic to take care of any infection. He also prescribed compression stockings. When I went to Norco to get them, they said my foot was swollen to where a sock that would be useful for my ankle would not fit. So, for now I’m instead using six-inch and three-inch wide elastic bandages to apply compression.  

Currently I am getting physical therapy, doing exercises, and learning to walk again starting with crutches. My leg muscles are in sad shape from disuse. I can stand, but not walk without crutches or another support. We have a stationary exercise bike facing the TV in the living room that will help with my calf muscles.  But last Wednesday I managed to walk up the stairs using the handrail for support. So, I can see an end to my immobility and am in reasonably good spirits. Medicare and my supplemental insurance has covered the vast majority of my expenses.

It is likely I can recover completely, so the only leftover from this adventure will probably be getting hand searched every time I fly. That plate will set off metal detectors at the airport. I am planning on carrying images of my X-rays in my cell phone to show to TSA, and also perhaps a couple of 8-1/2 x 11” hard copies laminated on a page. 

Images of a leg and a wheelchair came from Wikimedia Commons.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Please don’t change the defaults on my web software without asking me

I have an ancient free Hotmail email account (that Microsoft currently calls which I use almost solely for getting a daily Google Alert on the topic of public speaking.    

Recently they changed their Sign In screen to that shown above (recolored to green) - so now I have to enter my email name on one screen, click Next, and then enter my password on another. They used  to have one screen where I could complete logging in by pressing the tab key to go from the email name to the password.

They never asked but also split up my inbox into two categories labeled Focused and Other. Very weirdly they put my daily Google Alert into Other, although it’s where I’m Focused. I looked up how to undo those settings, and reset to a single inbox.

 Even more weird is that when I go to sign out they first show a short menu (above, recolored) which then changes to a longer menu (below, recolored). I don’t look at my email on my phone, so I haven’t figured out if the short menu is for mobile users with small screens.

Monday, November 21, 2016

I don’t want to buy a doorbuster on Black Friday or any other day

Once again the Christmas shopping season has begun with ads for big sales on the Friday after Thanksgiving. Yesterday USA Today had an article titled 4 things to know before shopping for Black Friday doorbuster deals. Doorbuster is tired marketing jargon for a deal so great that customers will lay siege to your store, and then break the door down to get in.

Business jargon keeps on growing. The front page to the Small Business section of today’s Wall Street Journal has an article by Chana R. Schoenberger titled Can you speak startup? with a multiple-choice quiz that asks you to pick definitions for the following twenty jargon words or phrases:

Demo Day
Customer-Success Associate
Subprime Unicorn
Hockey Stick
Next Level
Green Meadow
Growth Hacker


I knew Prezi was presentation software, but missed most of the rest.

The image of a doorbuster was adapted from a battering ram found at Wikimedia Commons.