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Talks and awesome burger and links

As the worst grad student ever, I have given no official talks. Maybe a talk or two for my lab, not recently. I've given a couple of talks to an informal student algorithms group now, first on quantum computing basics and tonight on voting methods survey, and I seem to do surprisingly well. Good prep, good diction and um-avoidance from what I'm told (I totally forgot to pay attention tonight, apart from an earlier resolution to avoid ums... I'm willing to take silent pauses over 'um' all the time.) I'm told I also did really well at pitching my volume to the surrounding volume (we present in a cafe), which I am vaguely conscious of having attended to -- I'm self-conscious about being (or other people) being too loud, but also aim to be loud enough when I need to be, and I can be when I need to be.

I wonder how much the speech training from Academic Decathlon in high school is still with me. Though I hadn't written out a full speech, just thought about stuff for days, finally writing out something today, then switching out to an outline.

(ETA: The Runcible Spoon's burger was awesome tonight. They got "medium rare" correctly, unlike last time (failed twice that night), cooked-ish but still pink or even red, and juicy. I had cheddar cheese instead of provolone cheese, but am not sure if that was part of the awesomeness. Seemed like a bit of (black) pepper to the whole thing? Very juicy and somehow very flavorful. I didn't want to finish, because then it was over.)

(ETA2: tried showing M&C how to swing dance later. Hope I laid some preliminary groundwork there. I'm not at all used to teaching leaders how to lead. Teaching east coast to followers is semi-easy; half the time their moves are intuitive, at least if they want to keep their arm. Later we took fog photos.)

I researched rice cookers yesterday, and learned you can microwave rice, and tried it. Worked alright, though I still had some water left. Main advantage is if my saucepans are busy; I can use Pyrex that otherwise doesn't get used much. Doesn't have the rice cooker advantage of going away and having rice ready when you come home, of course.

Microwaving cups of water for tea has worked too, something I picked up on Spokane. I have a tea kettle, and a tea pot from Amy, but sometimes that feels like too much work, or too slow.

Also researched water filters. For jugs or faucet mounted stuff, PUR seems to be best at filtration, but PUR has trouble making faucets mounts that actually stay on the faucet and don't leak in a few months. Brita might be more practical there. Crystal Quest claims much longer filter lifespans but isn't even mentioned by any identifiably independent website.

I re-read Dzur, and read Brust's new Iorich. Fun times. Re-read Jo Walton's first three novels as well. The Prize in the Game is grimmer than the first two but the oracle-priests are hilarious, especially ap Fial's "Emer has been helping weave the gods' will" *frown frown*. It'd be a massive spoiler to explain why, but it's both touching and brings a huge grin to my face.

* Half-day schools, work, and women in Germany
* Robert Solow on market failures.
* The Permian hellhole
* Timur's pyramids of heads
* Tufte-Napoleon's March-style health spending graphic. And if we spent like other countries, our budget deficits would go away.
* Hait had been growing before the quake.
* Chinese propaganda exhibit
* Cold winters? The Arctic Oscillation
* Boston Globe article on polyamory
* Excessive testing and NYC schools
* 1996 Economist article on direct democracy. I'm told the editors have soured since then.
* Liberal professors and social typecasting

* Texting charity to Haiti. Actually a nice fit for me, with lots of rollover minutes and little actual use of the phone.

* Rubio suggests dissolving Congress. Pesky democracy!


( 5 comments — Leave a comment )
Jan. 19th, 2010 06:48 am (UTC)
You looked like you were seriously enjoying that burger. And it looked like a seriously enjoyable burger.

Great talk! And good job on the um-avoidance. I gave my first grad-school talk on Friday, and the biggest complaint I got was that I need to stop saying "um" so much. Part of the problem was that I had written down just about everything I wanted to say -- but then I'd go off-script, lose my place, and have to hem and haw while I found it again. I don't know if the solution is bigger print, to just write down fewer notes and wing it more, or both.
Jan. 19th, 2010 07:02 am (UTC)
I think with my talks I haven't had many off-script problems -- barrage of questions from the audience notwithstanding :) -- and if I forget what's next, it probably helps to know that I have an external memory to check, rather than trying to remember and panicking if it doesn't come through.

I've often made resolutions to avoid ums, either when listening to someone else's painful talk, or in psyching up before mine, but like I said I completely forgot about it (consciously) once I started talking tonight. Glad something worked.

Maybe it was my anti-stuttering practice. I used to stutter a lot more, and a major coping mechanism was to simply slow down, take a deep breath, and start talking slowly... an ex-friend noted the one time I got tipsy as "you were talking clearly *without* the pauses". I don't think about it much, but something in me may have learned to shut up and wait for the next word to come.

I remember searching my notes a couple of times tonight. I don't remember what I said. I think "let me check my notes" near the end, not sure about earlier.

I guess this is why you videotape talks when you really want to improve. Instead I consult the massed memories and hope for honesty.

Bigger print, or maybe a more obvious outline, or a marker -- pen on paper, or highlighted text on screen. WAS HERE LAST. Winging it sound dubious; OTOH, a lot of my talk wasn't looking at the notes too much. OTOH, I've been thinking about the material for a few weeks now, so I'd probably have been half-decent even cold, apart from worse math... as it was, I found myself doubting my limited-vote numbers on the spot, so could have used more explicit working out for my confidence even if I didn't share it all with you.

burger burger burger burger

ETA: I guess one remaining question is whether I was avoiding 'ums' because I'm willing to be silent in my pauses, or because I was good at finding words and keeping talking without having pauses. No idea, on my end.

Edited at 2010-01-19 07:48 am (UTC)
Jan. 19th, 2010 07:07 am (UTC)
The talk was really good, yeah! Thanks for giving it :)

I noticed you adjusting volume with the background noise, too. Was that a conscious choice, or did it just sort of happen?

Also: I'm a big fan of rice cookers. They're easy and straightforward and they make tasty rice, reliably.
Jan. 19th, 2010 07:35 am (UTC)
I addressed that at the end of the first paragraph, sort of. :) I had some intention to find the right volume, and may remember making sure I was loud enough to be audible; less memory of not being too loud. But it's something I've been self-conscious of otherwise over the years ("Damien stop yelling!" -- Lisa, in a car, with me getting excited), and a relatively new friend has a tendency to talk too loudly in public IMO, and lets me wave her volume down, so I guess I've gotten some practice in judging what the room needs (or doesn't) to hear.

Still, this is a rather unexpected compliment to hear and then have confirmed. Um suppression is pleasing but in line with my hopes; getting my ideas across was certainly planned; I wasn't that deliberate of volume control, so I'm surprised to have it pointed out. "Cool, but huh" vs. "Cool and yay, just as planned".

Yeah, I can see the appeal of cookers, I'm just hesitant when it comes to appliance purchasing. Plus I'd have to find space for it.

Edited at 2010-01-19 07:46 am (UTC)
Jan. 19th, 2010 08:03 am (UTC)
Guess I've given a fair number of class talks here, too. No detailed memories there, but no memories of disaster either. Usually shorter, though group theory might have taken some time.

Yes, I'm in full-on verbose introspection mode. And in my head, it's like this all the time. Well, except during talks, I guess...

I didn't ask about it, but I think I was good at eye contact. A lot with Jon since he was right across the table for me, but I recall a good deal of scanning, at least of non-obstructed people. Maybe better than the quantum talk, I don't know. That's something I remember from AcaDec Speech, and other advice sources, and something I've often noticed other speakers failing at.

Edited at 2010-01-19 08:33 am (UTC)
( 5 comments — Leave a comment )


Damien Sullivan

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