Public Speaking

by Grace aka costofcollege

Hillary Clinton Can’t Give a Decent Speech. Does It Matter?

… Great speeches require something Clinton has refused to give: exposure, access, the illusion of intimacy….

Rhetorical skill alone has become something of an essential skill for the modern politician. It has put several of them on the map as serious presidential contenders, from Ronald Reagan to Mario Cuomo to Barack Obama and Elizabeth Warren.Consider the defining campaign speeches. At the 1992 Democratic convention, Bill Clinton memorably invoked his belief in “a place called Hope,” while George H. W. Bush delivered a weak and disjointed address littered with phrases like “serious business” and “You bet.” There were Obama’s 2008 remarks on race and John F. Kennedy’s on religious freedom.

Speech making may be important to politicians, but I doubt anyone counts on beating Clinton just “because she can’t give a good speech”.  And it’s not as if many of her opponents are particularly outstanding in that department.

I agree that great public speakers give “the illusion of intimacy”, and in that way they effectively engage their audience.

Are you a good public speaker, or even a great one?  How did you build up your skills?  Or, do you fear public speaking?  How have good or bad public speaking skills affected your career or other parts of your life?  Which politicians are the best and the worst speechmakers?

Related:  “How I Overcame the Fear of Public Speaking”

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83 thoughts on “Public Speaking

  1. On topic, I have developed much better public speaking skills over time. I used to hate it but now kind of enjoy it. The key for me is really understanding my topic. If I am comfortable with the topic, I can talk easily at length. I spoke at a seminar in January in NYC and my 13 year old attended since she tagged along for the weekend. After my talk, she said, “Mom, I didn’t realize you were so good!” High praise indeed although she later admitted she didn’t really understand the subject of my talk. Off topic, just ordered my instapot 7-in-1 on Amazon prime day!

  2. I have spoken to large groups (>1000 people) a few times in a community leadership role, and to groups in the 25-50 range many times. I agree with knowing the subject makes it easier to speak about it. It’s not that hard after the first couple of times and when I am comfortable with the topic.

    The larger groups were actually easier, assuming no faux pas on my part. The crowd is a blur, whereas with smaller groups it’s easier to see people and if you notice a reaction it can throw you off.

  3. Most of my public speaking has been in training roles or knowledge-sharing, and always when I’m the subject matter expert. In that situation, I am confident and generally get good feedback. I would not be a good motivational or extemporaneous speaker. I need to be fully knowledgable on my topic and have a general plan in my head, otherwise I may ramble or jump around too much. (I hate listening to speakers who ramble and go off topic)

    I watch a lot of TED Talks, and do make note of styles and approaches that I think are effective.

  4. Wow. I think the article tries really, really hard to hide the fact that these guys just. cannot. stand. Hillary — until it gets to: “That’s tough to do if you’re a calculating operator focused on the accretion of power.” Hmmm, asking why a candidate can’t effectively connect with an audience, when you are operating on the assumption that said candidate is an egotistical, power-hungry robot, would appear to be begging the question. The whole piece is a rhetorical device.

    That said, I do agree with a fundamental tenet: the great orators are great not just because they have a great sense of language and a great delivery, but because they are charismatic and connect with people. When you listen to Obama, he uses far more complex language and bigger words than any politician I have ever heard. But he has the rep of a great orator, because he can be extremely charming and personable and sincere — you catch him in some of those more casual moments, and he seems like a guy you’d want to hang out with. And his best speeches are the ones where that part of him that feels “real” comes through. The difference with Hillary is that I think we *are* seeing the “real” her — she is earnest, she is smart, she is driven, and she wants to do a good job, and she is also more introverted and not as comfortable relating to people on a more personably level as, say, Bill. So she is sort of stuck — she can try to be relatable, but that reads as fake; or she can go with who she is, and come across as cold and aloof. My sense is that this campaign, she is just going with who she is.

    Which I happen to like (not that I, umm, in any way resemble that collection of personality traits). But I do wonder if that makes her unelectable. I disagree with the article’s premise — I don’t think you have to be a great speaker to be President. But I do think you need people to like you enough to get inspired and vote for you. And I think the same personality things that get in her way in making speeches also interfere with her ability to rally voters to her cause.

  5. I think great speeches are a thing of the past. It’s all about the sound bites now. We’re never going to see the great speeches that build over 10 or 15 minutes. Speeches today are just a collection of 15-second sound bites.

  6. I spoke at a conference about a year ago in front of about 80-100 people. I didn’t really want to, only because I didn’t have all that much information to share on the topic, but this group really wanted to hear about it, and the organizers waived the conference fee for me in exchange for my presentation.

    As for establishing comfort and confidence in public speaking, if I have any of it, I would credit my college for the development opportunities. As one example, believe it or not, learning to call all the right commands in the right timing to march a group around is a highly effective way to eliminate undue hesitations and verbal tics like “uhhhh,” and essentially to train your brain how to think and process without ever losing your train of speech.

  7. The only public speaking I do is at weddings. I’ve had to give three maid/matron of honor speeches over the years and I really didn’t do badly. The key for me is just to rehearse in my head and not have notes. In any case, I garnered more laughs than the best man speeches, which tended to be meandering diatribes about past girlfriends and drinking stories.

    I like that Hilary is a bad public speaker, I have a distrust of politicians who sound too good.

  8. Hmmm, asking why a candidate can’t effectively connect with an audience, when you are operating on the assumption that said candidate is an egotistical, power-hungry robot, would appear to be begging the question. The whole piece is a rhetorical device.

    Prezactly. Hillary’s a perfectly fine speaker. Not award-winning, but fine. It’s really mindblowing how much she and the media hate each other. And lots of people hate Obama’s speaking style just as much as I hated W’s speaking style. And I don’t want to have a beer with any of these clowns. I just want them to run the country effectively. What is it with the damn “have a beer with” criterion?

  9. It’s also not just the content of the speech but the ability of the speaker. Jesse Jackson did a reading of Green Eggs and Ham on SNL that was amazing. He could read a toaster usuer manual and have the crowd chanting on their feet by the end.

  10. “It’s really mindblowing how much she and the media hate each other.”

    Why do you think that is?

  11. I have spoken to groups of up to about 250. I prefer to know the material/topic and be comfortable with it. I have had to do a few presentations “on demand” and while it was OK, it was not great. I used to hate it, but I don’t mind, Just give me some lead time to prepare and a fairly accurate idea of who the audience is.

  12. I dislike public speaking. I only have experience with small groups. Thinking about doing something such as toastmasters or reading at church to help me improve.

  13. “What is it with the damn “have a beer with” criterion?”

    I think it goes along with who the First Lady will be as “important”. I really get my hackles up when “they” say XXX is/was/will be a good first lady. I don’t give a rat’s ass. I’m not electing her (or if HRC or Carly get in, him). They want to have a pet project that seems to require a visible spokesperson like literacy (Laura Bush) or healthy kids diets and exercise (Michelle Obama)? Fine.

    ITA…I’m not electing a president because that person would be fun to have a beer with.

    complete side note…will the Secret Service get messed up if HRC becomes president? Bill already has his former president detail, which for all I know may be more extensive than the first lady (man) detail. Then there would be HRC’s presidential detail. If the upstairs sleeping arrangements are really like what’s shown for Frank and Claire on House of Cards, will there be 2 sets of Mechams in the private area of the White House?

  14. Fred – I think the new policy is that former presidents get Secret Service protection for a set period of time, and then they’re on their own. Maybe it’s 10 years, and if so, Bill’s allotment is up.

    To me, Hillary has always come across like someone who’s uncomfortable and trying too hard and not happy to be talking to you, the camera, or the interviewer. So it’s not just the lack of being great, it’s that she’s particularly bad. She sounds grating, and her laughs are like these forced cackles. It’s not just right wingers who say this–SNL has parodied it for years.

  15. I think a presidential candidate must be inspiring and exude confidence to the voters at least in certain critical speeches. President Obama did that at the start, then seemed to go flat and recently has delivered some good speeches. I see an example of public speaking every Sunday at church. There are some very effective preachers who effectively engage their audience and some who are told privately that they are rambling on. Hilary, I think at some level is compared to Bill Clinton as a speaker and that works to her disadvantage.

  16. Well, I am not a great public speaker in the politician sense, but since I teach, I have to be effective at that style of public speaking. And certainly over the years, I have improved. I also often give talks at conferences, which can be scary because you always have to worry about getting the jerk in the audience who starts asking hostile questions (and yes, those people exist). So I would say that while I can’t do political style speeches and could never get a bunch of people all revved up to vote for me or give me money, I can do the kind of speaking where you are clearly explaining a topic, or presenting options, or explaining to people why they should approach the software architecture in a certain way.
    When I worked in industry, I was amazed at how few people could explain a concept clearly. And that was most true for the nontechnical, managerial types. They could read vague points on a Powerpoint slide, but had no idea how to explain things or organize material. But then, I was always flabbergasted at the poor writing skills of the managerial types too.

  17. Oh, and I am really bad at giving a speech withouth any preparation. My clear explanations go right out the door. I either start tying myself in knots or else go off on a tangent. When I speak at a conference, or do a class lecture, I always have notes reminding me what I am supposed to be saying. I think it works because my students evaluations always say I am organized and clear.

  18. Honestly, many politicians have been poor speechifiers. LBJ in particular did not give good speeches. He was better at the one on one. I wasn’t impressed with either Bush’s oratorical performance either. Our oratorical presidents in recent times have been JFK, Reagan, Clinton, and Obama. The rest were pretty meh.

  19. How long do former presidents receive Secret Service protection after they leave office?
    In 1965, Congress authorized the Secret Service (Public Law 89-186) to protect a former president and his/her spouse during their lifetime, unless they decline protection. (secretservice.gov)

  20. I’m a good public speaker, but certainly not a great one. What I hear when I hear Hillary is someone who is a good speaker, but not hugely charismatic to a crowd. That doesn’t bother me in the least. High school speech and debate helped a lot, and has carried over into my professional life.

    I always preferred prepared speaking, but I decided to work on impromptu speaking just to get over the sheer terror it provided. I learned that it really is just another skill that can be learned, even if the act of utterly bombing at it in the beginning feels horrendous. The first time I tried high school impromptu speaking we got a topic at random, we got 3 min in the hallway to prepare our speech, and then we were supposed to get up and talk for 5 minutes with an opening, a closing, and structure in between. I stood up, gave an intro, totally forgot anything I’d planned, turned beet red, and sat back down. And then decided I was going to figure out how to beat this thing.

  21. Fred – I guess it went back and forth:

    WASHINGTON — Dallas’ best-protected resident, George W. Bush, can now sleep more soundly. President Barack Obama today signed into law a measure granting the 43rd president — and himself and future presidents– a lifetime of protection by the Secret Service.

    Congress stripped that benefit in 1994, enacting a 10-year limit for presidents who take office after Jan. 1, 1997 — a list that so far includes only Bush and Obama.

    Under the new law, children of presidents will be protected until they turn 16. Presidents and their spouses get lifetime protection.

  22. “What is it with the damn “have a beer with” criterion?”

    Many people innately distrust/dislike people who are smarter than them. The best defense mechanism to defuse that instinctive response is to be funny, nice, self-deprecating, and highly interested in the other person. Same reason supermodels and actors like to be seen as “down-to-earth” — it’s the signal that says “I don’t think I’m better than you.”

    Also, every politician is limited by his background — that background may give you a connection with X block of voters, but that leaves Y and Z and A and B and C, etc. So if you are in those other groups, you want to believe that the candidate gets you and cares about you and understands the issues that matter to you (empathy). This was Bill’s genius, that “all walks of life” relatability. At the Presidential level, the background is going to be wealthier/better educated/generally more privileged than the electorate as a whole, so the “have a beer with” is shorthand for “despite my Harvard degree/Rhodes Scholarship/high-paying job/etc., I still get and care about the issues facing “real” middle-class people.”

    Which, I would also suggest, may seem less necessary to folks on this blog, because we are by and large much closer to the candidates’ backgrounds than the regular electorate is — the candidates already speak our language, and this is empathizing with other groups of voters.

  23. If you want to listen to a great public speaker, listen to a sermon by Bishop Michael Curry. All of his sermons are all very inspiring.

  24. Since I start out with a dislike and distrust of almost all politicians, it’s hard for me to get past that and objectively evaluate their rhetorical skills. I can’t think of one who I consider outstanding, but there are many like HRC that I think are pretty bad. I couldn’t stand to listen to Al Gore, and Ben Carson sounds wimpy and annoying.

    In my own public speaking, I can relate to HRC because I can give a passable speech and can usually get my point across but I lack a dynamic and engaging manner. I’m sure I could benefit from some coaching. My greatest fear in speaking is being dull. And my second greatest fear is giving a stupid answer that makes me look dumb. Therefore, I usually try to practice a few stock answers that allow me to evade the question or defer a response while not sounding too ignorant.

  25. “After my talk, she said, “Mom, I didn’t realize you were so good!” “

    I had a similar experience with a relative who once had a chance to hear me speak at a community event. Since I’m a rather quiet person compared to many family members, I think he was just surprised that I could speak at all!

  26. I like speaking in public. HATE preparing for it (for a conference) but I like the actual speaking. Reminds me of doing theatre. My favorite was when I gave a reading at a friend’s wedding and maybe 5 people came up to me at the reception and said “that was such a great reading! Are you an actress?” :D

    My favorite teacher in college was the one whose lectures made the Tudor and Stuart periods sound like one long rollicking drinking party, in between the wars and beheadings. :)

  27. I don’t mind speaking in public, but it’s not something I volunteer for. Definitely prefer plenty of time to prepare and/or a topic about which I am very knowledgeable.

    There is professor who recently retired from my university who is “famous” for being a scholar of the Civil War. He has a speech impediment that makes him sound like Elmer Fudd. I never took his class or attended any of his special lectures, but I have heard from others that you completely forget about it as soon as he gets into his talk because he is such a great storyteller. His Wikipedia page actually says he is “known as an excellent public speaker.”

  28. On the public speaking front, I am way better than I used to be. I think the mental shift came largely from realizing that it is Not About Me, it’s about them. I used to get very intimidated and even had one horrible deer in headlights moment early on in my career, facing a room of about 200 people. But that all comes from getting in my own way — part of my brain is so busy worrying how I’m doing and if people like what I’m saying that I don’t have enough free brain cells to remember what it is I’m supposed to say.

    I still do find it ridiculously intimidating (hello, introvert). But thinking in terms of “what do I want to convey” and “how can I say things so these guys can hear it” helps get me out of my own head and able to focus better on the topic. By and large, I don’t have audiences of Supreme Court judges looking to pick apart everything I say — it’s a conference in, say, New Orleans, where 15% of the people are attending because they are actually interested in what I have to say, and the other 85% are just happy not to be in the office and are eagerly awaiting happy hour. So, you know, it doesn’t hurt to remind myself that the bar is a lot lower in reality than in my own mind.

  29. After teaching everything from swimming lessons to philosophy to technology, I can stand up in front of a bunch of people and talk. Like Mooshi, I am better than I was 30 years ago (I cringe thinking about the very first recitation section I led in grad school). I don’t necessarily like it, but I can do it. Even more important, I can get almost any room talking about the subject at hand. But I don’t think I have any preacher-like inspirational skills.

  30. Fred – I think the new policy is that former presidents get Secret Service protection for a set period of time, and then they’re on their own.

    No, they changed it back.

    President Barack Obama on Thursday signed into a law a measure giving him, George W. Bush and future former presidents and their spouses lifetime Secret Service protection, the White House announced.

    The legislation, crafted by Republican Rep. Trey Gowdy of South Carolina, rolls back a mid-1990s law that imposed a 10-year limit on Secret Service protection for former presidents. Bush would have been the first former commander in chief affected.

  31. Since people are commenting on professor lecture styles as an example of public speaking, I thought I would post a link to the following study that finds that lecturing alone is not the most effective way to teach STEM subjects. The study is a large (actually the largest to date) meta-analysis of 225 studies that looked at the effects of active learning methods in STEM courses. From the study
    “the data suggest that STEM instructors may begin to
    question the continued use of traditional lecturing in everyday
    practice, especially in light of recent work indicating that active
    learning confers disproportionate benefits for STEM students
    from disadvantaged backgrounds and for female students in
    male-dominated fields (27, 28). Although traditional lecturing
    has dominated undergraduate instruction for most of a millennium
    and continues to have strong advocates (29), current evidence
    suggests that a constructivist “ask, don’t tell” approach
    may lead to strong increases in student performance”.

    http://www.pnas.org/content/111/23/8410.full.pdf

    There is a lot of discussion of this study and similar studies in my field right now. Many of us are moving away from lectures as a way of teaching CS. The idea that a great teacher is a great lecturer who can hold students rapt with storytelling may be going away.

  32. Congress stripped that benefit in 1994, enacting a 10-year limit for presidents who take office after Jan. 1, 1997 — a list that so far includes only Bush and Obama.

    Does that reflect a different time? Bush’s protection would end in 3 years at which time I think he’d still be at significant risk. Same for Obama in 2027.

  33. Others have mentioned speech/debate as beneficial. This was true for me. I was state champion one year in impromptu speaking and placed highly in extemporaneous speaking as well. I always preferred Lincoln-Douglas style debate, but impromptu is kind of fun. I’m a good speaker compared to the average person, but not compared to the average Totebagger, where I fall somewhere in the middle.

    My speech style is much like my posting style. Some of you have consistently beautiful posts with few or no typos. My posts are dashed off in the middle of something else and I almost always find a typo after I hit post.

    The trip to Iowa is over. Both flights were late, the rental car was unavailable and we got to hang out at the O’Hare Hertz for an hour and a half before they got us an alternative and the airport parking declined my credit card due to fear of fraud. But we survived and I will never have that particular experience again.

    I like the Merkel post- everyone knows I like Merkel.

  34. “What is it with the damn “have a beer with” criterion?” I’m with you RMS, and I agree with Laura’s hypothesis about not being better than folks. I may be in the minority but I want the President to be A LOT better than me. I’m smart enough and funny but I’m well under qualified to be President of the United States.

    I thought that Obama’s eulogy in SC was amazing! As a mom, I mostly yell at groups of children which I don’t think qualifies as public speaking – maybe persuasive speaking. I’d like to do some stand up so will have to get past my fears. Not afraid of standing up in front of people, I love attention, but afraid of people not laughing. Speaking of laughing, I saw Book of Mormon recently and it was fantastic! Exceeded all my expectations. If you have a chance to see it do so, post haste. Money well spent.

  35. I can speak fairly well to a large group of people because I practice and know what I am trying to say– as a start. All that goes out the window when I actually open my mouth because I want my group amused and immediately go off script and play to the crowd with humor and self-depreciation and thus and such. Because I know my material, however, and have practiced, everything I wanted to say somehow gets said. It helps also that I am one of those speakers who just wants to get to the bar.

    What I am terrible in is in cocktail party chit chat with groups of three or four. I simply cannot stand it, get self conscious and tongue-tied. Coffee hour after church is sheer torture! Any kind of reception whatsoever slays me.

    I wish it were the other way around.

  36. I didn’t play on prime day, and thinking about it, I’ve never gone to Amazon to browse casually. That’s a problem, for them. I go to search for specific items, like 19 x 19 air filters, and then I’m done. I wouldn’t even know where to begin browsing, and it’s not like they make it an inviting experience.

  37. “I always preferred Lincoln-Douglas style debate”

    Do you prefer to rely on just yourself?

  38. “In 1965, Congress authorized the Secret Service (Public Law 89-186) to protect a former president and his/her spouse during their lifetime”

    I wonder how “their lifetime” is defined. Does it end when the first of the couple die? When the former president dies, whether or not the spouse is still alive?

    This is sort of like eats, shoots, and leaves, but for singular/plural rather than use of commas.

  39. “Many people innately distrust/dislike people who are smarter than them.”

    I definitely want a POTUS who is smarter than me. I don’t want someone not smarter than me making such important decisions.

  40. Hmm, here’s a tangential question: Which recent POTUS do you think were smarter than you? Which did you think were not smarter than you?

    BTW, I did enjoy W’s recent line: “To those of you who received honours, awards and distinctions, I say well done. And to the C students, I say you, too, can be president of the United States.”

  41. Back OT, my kids’ school treats public speaking as a core competency. All the kids have to do public speaking, starting in kindergarten. In MS, there’s a speech competition that all kids are required to enter.

    I think starting early, and the way it’s treated as something normal that everyone does, helps them become comfortable with it.

    In college, one of my profs considered speaking a core part of engineering. He pushed for a technical speaking class, which is now a required class for all engineering majors. In one class I had from him, each student had to read through certain technical journals, find a new type of device, and explain to the rest of the class the physics behind the operation of the device That experience was great preparation for job interviews.

  42. I don’t think anyone’s really smart enough to be President, when you think about it. There’s no way that any single person could possibly have the collective requisite experience and expertise. They might be skilled in business with no military background, or no foreign policy credentials. Or maybe they have no experience at all actually working in the private sector.

    I think “smart” in Totebagger parlance, probably meaning IQ, is one tiny measure of intelligence, and probably not even the most relevant one.

    On the topic of Hillary, sometimes I think I would really like her if I knew her personally:

    http://mobile.nytimes.com/2015/07/19/magazine/re-re-re-reintroducing-hillary-clinton.html?smid=pl-share&_r=0&referrer=

    More than any other recent President or major candidate, I think our early upbringings are the most similar.

  43. “I don’t think anyone’s really smart enough to be President, when you think about it. There’s no way that any single person could possibly have the collective requisite experience and expertise.”

    Yes, but I want a POTUS who is a quick learner, who can quickly grasp concepts and pick up enough from a team of experts to be able to make informed and rational decisions.

  44. “my kids’ school treats public speaking as a core competency.”

    I wish my kids’ school had done that.

    What ever happened to elocution instruction in the public schools?

    … the rise in the nineteenth century of a middle class in Western countries (and the corresponding rise of public education) led to great interest in the teaching of elocution, and it became a staple of the school curriculum….

    Lyndon Johnson’s mother taught elocution lessons in her home.

  45. “Yes, but I want a POTUS who is a quick learner, who can quickly grasp concepts and pick up enough from a team of experts to be able to make informed and rational decisions.”

    Nobody can get through the campaign and debate process without being exceptionally good at that.

  46. I joined Toastmasters to improve my extemporaneous speaking, and it has definitely helped. But what I didn’t expect was the value I would get out of doing speech evaluations. Listening to a prepared speech, evaluating it against criteria, and giving a 2-3 minute oral evaluation has really helped me to develop my analysis skills and then most importantly articulating my ideas clearly (and quickly).

  47. Moxie- my brother does improv with a couple of groups in LA. He said when he started out doing stand-up, he couldn’t eat the whole day because he knew he’d throw up. That surprised me when he told me that recently because he’s always been kind of a comedian and he’s at home on the stage now. But he said after the first time your jokes fall flat, you realize you don’t die from it, and the “worst case” isn’t really as bad as you imagine it to be. He said once he got past a couple of fairly lousy starts he was able to relax and actually enjoy it. I hope you give it a shot!!

  48. Finn, my school didn’t have policy debate, just L-D, and no one at my school was as interested in/successful at debate as I was. The powerhouse school had an excellent, organized coach but I don’t think she ever used her influence on behalf of her students in any direct way, such as suggesting to the college student judges that they’d be more likely to be hired in the future if they preferred her students, etc. The powerhouse school also had lots of NMSF in L-D and I hung out with her team often.

    I suppose you’re right that I preferred to work alone, but that was partly because so few people at my school were interested in academic stuff. I remember heading to National Science Bowl in Ames or Des Moines with my sister, me, another good team member and a wrestler we recruited in the bus station office whose district meet had been canceled due to weather. We couldn’t compete without 4 people and he was willing to ride along to Ames/Des Moines (4 hr one way) and his parents were willing to let him. (He called them first for permission.)

  49. I am also one who expects POTUS to be smarter than me. I think that’s one of the reasons I still like Bill Clinton even after some of his dramatic character lapses. I love to listen to him speak. He had an absolutely amazing grasp of the ins and outs of policy and an amazing recall of facts. Newt Gingrich is cut from that same cloth.

    I am almost giddy at the prospect of the first debate. Ten participants, the bottom eight of whom will be desperate to be memorable, and one of whom will be Donald Trump. There is going to be some real crazy talk happening that night. I am hoping to see some candidates who can think on their feet and keep the crazy at bay. I think there is a decent chance we will end up with a Republican president, so I’m really hoping a strong, qualified candidate emerges from the process.

  50. “my kids’ school treats public speaking as a core competency.”

    That’s the biggest difference I’ve found between good public and elite private.

  51. There’s no way that any single person could possibly have the collective requisite experience and expertise

    You have people at your beck and call 24/7 with the requisite experience and expertise. It’s about knowing who is right and getting those who think you’re wrong to do your bidding.

  52. I was out today, and I didn’t have access to TV or internet until the evening. I watched Obama answer the question about Bill Cosby during his press conference. I was impressed with his answer and how he handled this question. I think he answered this in such an honest way because he is second term, and cares deeply about the women in his own life.

    In my opinion, the person that is POTUS should be a great (or at least VG) public speaker.

  53. A SAHD from Falls Church (northern Va.) is now a two-time Jepoardy champion. Alex seems really shocked by this. During the contestant chat session tonight, he was almost in disbelief asking him to explain how he chose this path. Then he commented that at least staying at home with young children must allow him *plenty* of time to read, which is helpful for Jeopardy.

    When he answered a question with the correct answer “fish sticks,” Alex commented “And I bet you make a lot of those.”

    A minute later, to another correct answer, he quipped “the stay-at-home dad is right again.”

  54. I am surprised that the producers didn’t try to edit the comments because that is nasty. Alex is about turn 75 and he is out of touch.

    A close friend from college is a SAHD. He met his wife in college, and I know both of them from undergrad. They have the same undergrad and graduate degrees, but she took a job with McKinsey after grad school. They used to travel all over the US and Latin America for their jobs, but they finally decided that he would stay home because they didn’t want both parents to be away during the week. She runs a large portion of a Fortune 10 company now, so he didn’t go back to work full time because her work schedule is insane. Most of the full time or part time SAHDs that I know in my neighborhood are doing this because their wives have jobs that are difficult to support with regular child care.

  55. When he answered a question with the correct answer “fish sticks,” Alex commented “And I bet you make a lot of those.”

    A minute later, to another correct answer, he quipped “the stay-at-home dad is right again.”

    Alex Trebeck is a dick? Who knew?

  56. I didn’t play on prime day, and thinking about it, I’ve never gone to Amazon to browse casually. That’s a problem, for them. I go to search for specific items, like 19 x 19 air filters, and then I’m done. I wouldn’t even know where to begin browsing, and it’s not like they make it an inviting experience.

    I agree.

  57. Junior played Prime Day today. It really was like a garage sale, but they had some neat little throwaways like a mini tool set and little camping stuff that a Boy Scout might just like. So I laid down a few rules: he couldn’t spend more than $50, he couldn’t use all that on one item and he had to run his purchases through me. He had a great time.

    For real stuff though, I reiterate. I thought it sucked– a real disappointment.

  58. “My speech style is much like my posting style.”

    I suspect that is commonly true, but with some exceptions. Some of us may tend to be more loquacious anonymously online than IRL. I’m curious to know what everyone thinks.

  59. “I wouldn’t even know where to begin browsing, and it’s not like they make it an inviting experience.”

    Yes, now that you mention it. Sometimes I search Amazon using Google Advanced, but that’s not a perfect solution.

  60. ““My speech style is much like my posting style.”

    I suspect that is commonly true, but with some exceptions”

    More or less. Clearly, I don’t put a lot of effort in organizing and structuring comments on here. When trying for a little bit of humor, I think I have a tendency to use an excess of adverbs, particularly when I’ve been listening to Bill Bryson. (“The ambitiously, if redundantly named…” would be a typical way for Bryson to introduce something.)

  61. I’ve hit an all-time low of laziness – Prime Day seemed like way too much work, so I didn’t participate. I also want fewer things in my house, not more. WRT public speaking, I am good when I am the subject-matter expert and kind of liked that kind of stuff. But please don’t ask me to speak at a social event. I don’t want to give a toast or an introduction. I despise public displays of emotion and am much better with sarcasm and jokes, which is usually not appropriate with social public speaking.

  62. Amazon has really poor search software compared to say Zappos, but their recommendation software is some of the best around. I always wish Netflix would use similar technology.

    The way a lot of these sites work is that once you run an initial search and have a bunch of hits displayed, an NLP based classifier groups all the hits based on features – key words in the item text. So for instance, the classifier will figure out that some of the items are brown and some are purple. Then, on the left, you will see filters based on the extracted features – the heading Color, with the keywords brown and purple underneath. In other words, those filters you see on the left are constructed dynamically, based on the items that were found.

  63. Alex Trebek is a dick? Who knew?

    Anyone who watches the show regularly.

  64. We’re planning on heading to the Pacific Northwest for vacation in August, and I am looking for recommendations. I already know a lot of places we want to visit: in Vancouver, the Museum of Anthroplogy at UBC, Granville Island, the Sun Yat Sen park, biking in Stanley Park, the aquarium. I don;t see much point in going to Victoria because it mainly seems to be about British architecture and gardens and tea. I would love some way to see more Native American culture, but don’t know where to go.
    And in Seattle, the art museum, the Asian art museum, the aquarium. Seattle Center, the waterfront, Pike Place market. Maybe a boat trip to an island? Is there a nice place to bike?
    Finally, I want to spend a little time at Mt Rainier. It is too hard to cart camping gear on the plane, so I assume we need to find a place to stay. I am very stuck on that – I don’t know the towns outside the part or what the lodging options are. I have been to that park about a million times as a kid, but we always camped.
    Anything that I am missing?

    And yes, I saw the terror article in the New Yorker about the big earthquake about to hit the Pacific Northwest. Every friend and relative I have, upon learning of our vacation plans, had to forward me the article. I guess I will not book a hotel in the tsunami inundation zone in Seattle :-)

  65. “Alex Trebek is a dick? Who knew?

    Anyone who watches the show regularly.”

    We used to watch the show occasionally when I was a kid, and my Dad would often shake his head and say “Alex Trebek is such a jerk,” but I didn’t quite understand why at the time. Since just about all of the answers were so far over my head, I didn’t realize that his exasperated corrections were so pedantic.

    Now, if my kids watch with me and there’s a question that I think they’ll be able to guess, I can pause the DVR and say, “Hang on, look at this one. You can figure it out.”

  66. My posting style is very composed. My speaking style suffers from excessive digressions and repetitions, and my conversational style is pure ethnic – everybody talks over each other, if you snooze you lose, the topic changes/progresses at lightning speed.. I try to speak less and exercise listening skills when meeting new people or one on one, but it takes a huge amount of work. Probably the most difficult thing for me in conversation, both personal and work related, is waiting for the person to complete his laborious explanation. I got it at hello and want to move on to the next step.

  67. My posting style is more serious than my conversational style. I joke and laugh a lot more IRL, but that doesn’t translate well to this kind of writing. I also have discussed things here that I rarely discuss IRL, as I’m more private than I am here. I have been told my whole life that I talk too fast, and to start over and repeat what I said, and I don’t have to do that here.

    i have the same frustration as Meme with laborious explanations. I was short with a colleague the other day because he spent much of the day popping up over my cube wall to explain things at great length that I already know. I had a lot of work to do, so after the 8-9th time I kept saying I had something I had to finish. When I tried to leave at the end of the day, he blocked the cube aisle and made me hug him first. I drove home so ticked off. Men aren’t forced to hug someone they’ve cut short so they can do their jobs. So apparently IRL I haven’t shed my problem of “too nice” like I thought I had.

  68. Oooh, I just saw that if we go midweek, there is availablity for tent sites at Ohanepecosh in the national park itself, and we can rent gear from REI in Seattle. Only thing is, Ohanepecosh has no showers, which has always been a line in the sand for my DH – he doesn’t go to campgrounds without showers.

  69. Anon –
    (1) I would never try that with someone at work, not even my whoever was my current “work wife”
    (2) If I did I’d expect her (you in this case) to give me a knee to the groin during the hug.

  70. “Probably the most difficult thing for me in conversation, both personal and work related, is waiting for the person to complete his laborious explanation. I got it at hello and want to move on to the next step.”

    This is me as well. I try not to appear impatient but one part of my brain has already moved to the next thing. My mother loves to have lengthy conversations, that branch out and take twists and turns. I need to bring her back to the original topic, along the way I’m not paying attention at all.

  71. waiting for the person to complete his laborious explanation

    I think I’ve mentioned my former boss who, when asked some question about WordPerfect, would start with “First, you have to understand about electricity”.

  72. “Probably the most difficult thing for me in conversation, both personal and work related, is waiting for the person to complete his laborious explanation. I got it at hello and want to move on to the next step.”

    Ditto. There is a guy on a non-profit board with me who gives the LONGEST committee reports. He is one of the nicest guys you’ll ever meet, but he uses a lot of big words in the wrong way. I’m not sure how to say it – it’s like he’s trying to sound smarter than he is but ends up sounding dumber than he really is. Add that to the repetitive explanations and some nervous tic phrases that he probably doesn’t even know he’s saying, and I just feel bad for the guy.

  73. “but their recommendation software is some of the best around.”

    I will take this to be a ringing endorsement of the knife sharpener that brought up the recommendation of a ski mask.

  74. Mooshi– DW and I went to Vancouver (the island) primarily for Butchart Gardens and did not regret it. YMMV.

    In Seattle, you and your kids may enjoy the Museum of Flight. The Chittendon locks were interesting (we saw salmon swimming up the ladders), and it was free. If you go there, I suggest going first thing in the morning; IIRC, it opened earlier than a lot of other tourist attractions, and the parking lot filled pretty quickly.

  75. Mooshi-Burke Gilman trail is a mostly separated from car traffic trail for biking. Since most of our guests live in areas without ferries, we typically take the Bremerton Seattle ferry with the car or take the West Seattle foot ferry. Both have nice views of the Seattle skyline.

    I don’t know if this fits into your schedule, but taking a ferry west to Bremerton or Kingston then allows you a shorter drive to Kaleberg’s neck of the woods with Hurricane Ridge, Dungeness Spit, Neah Bay.

    I don’t have much to offer on Vancouver as we typically are just driving through but Vancouver/Richmond has top notch dim sum.

  76. Mooshi – I have also been told that the Boeing factory tour in Everett is great. Elliotts Oyster House on the water by the ferris wheel in Seattle has a great happy hour deal on oysters.

  77. I remember the Chittendon locks, and Elliotts Oyster House, from my own childhood. We should get to those places. I don’t know about the Burke Gilman trail – need to look into that

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