How To Find the Truth

With all the advertisements, media spin, rumors, sales pitches and more that come our way, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to make correct decisions based on fact.

Have you ever wondered how to find out the truth? One way is to become a critical thinker. Critical thinking means disciplined thinking that is clear, rational, open-minded, and informed by evidence.


The most important part of that sentence is “informed by evidence,” meaning the decision you are making is based on verifiable, factual evidence.

Here are a few tips on cutting through propaganda and b.s. to make better decisions.

1. Don’t Believe Everything You Hear, See or Read

Imagine you’re talking to someone and they say “Did you hear that (mutual friend) has filed for bankruptcy?”  If you have not, what do you do with that information?

Do you repeat this without verifying?

Hopefully not. It’s best to ask more questions and seek the truth before repeating anything.

How about you see an ad that says ” This wrinkle cream will take years off.” Will you buy it, or will you look for customer reviews? When you look at those reviews, do you ask yourself “Are these real or made up?” Do you try to find non-biased customer satisfaction statements?

Now,let’s focus on this political season. Think of all the things you’re hearing on televised news, reading online and hearing from people. What do you believe? How do you find out the truth?

Unfortunately, almost everything has a “spin.” What you need to find out are the facts.

This takes time and research, but it’s best not to decide on something until you find the real truth.


  1. Ask Why

 One technique to use when you hear something you’re not sure about is to ask the person why they believe something. Ask it at least five times to get down to the reality of that person’s belief. It might seem irritating, but if they don’t have concrete, verifiable facts for their opinion, and their decision or statement is based simply on hearsay, gossip or their own feelings, it’s time to verify.

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If you’ve heard something to the contrary of what they’re saying, bring it up. Work hard to find the truth.

  1. Watch What People Do

 There’s that old saying, “Actions speak louder than words.”  For example, if a politician claims they are for something, but their voting record indicates otherwise, it’s better to assume they’re shading the truth for their own purposes. How about a CEO who says they believe in diversity, but there are only white men at the top of the organization? Or a person who says they’ve been spending too much money, but shows up with a new car they don’t really need.


Talk is cheap. Who people really are and what they believe can be found out by an examination of their actions.

  1. Root Out Biases and Beliefs

 Think about a time when someone asked you to try something new. It might have been something as simple as a new flavor of ice cream, but you’ve always preferred chocolate and don’t want to branch out. You have a natural bias.

It’s the same with critical thinking. We have to be aware of our own preconceived notions, attitudes and beliefs that might bias us against other ideas. To find the truth, we have to stay open to all opinions and weigh the facts.


  1. Persevere and Focus

 As Jon Stewart said about politics, sometimes the messages of politicians are so managed that when someone actually tells the truth it sounds crazy. In the late 1500’s, early 1600’s, Galileo claimed the earth revolved around the sun, not the other way around. His idea of heliocentrism offended the church. He was prosecuted, forced to recant and spent the remainder of his life under house arrest. Today, we know he was correct.

If you’re hearing something revolutionary, it might actually be true. To find out if something is real takes work. Stay focused, don’t deviate from learning and you might actually persevere in finding out the truth.








Voter Suppression.

It’s something I hadn’t spent much time thinking about until this election cycle. The GOP has driven so far to the right that their base threw up their hands and went for a non-politician. The Democratic Party also shifted so far to the right that a progressive movement rose up and got behind the campaign of a not-widely known Senator from Vermont.  Big money and Super Pacs have been deciding elections, the mainstream media’s been selling everyone a line and people have finally begun to notice. It’s been like watching the prequel to “A Tale of Two Cities.”  When a country becomes polarized, what comes next isn’t pretty.

Best oftimes

On Election Day in California, I volunteered to be a legal monitor for the Sanders campaign. The reason I did was because I’d read everything that had happened during the course of other states’ elections. Here’s a sampling:

If I keep writing about this, my post will rival War and Peace, so I will stop.

The media was…. crickets. Or spinning and misreporting, until the night before the California election (and the other remaining states that hadn’t voted) they announced that Hillary Clinton had won the Democratic nomination. This was reported despite the fact that superdelegates don’t vote until July 25, 2016.

The irresponsibility of this act, on top of everything else, made me believe that volunteering was an absolute necessity. I received training late the night before from a hard-working, bleary-eyed lawyer who was trying to get everything coordinated. Around 1 a.m. I received my assignment and credentials. I was assigned to a precinct with an expected high voter turnout near downtown San Diego.

Showing up at 6:30 a.m. with donuts and a 12 pack traveler of coffee from Starbucks for the poll workers, I was still initially viewed with suspicion by them. I was finally allowed to sit quietly on a couch in the room and watch. I had access to an app to check voter registration and a link to a website to check polling locations.

Voters were standing at the door when it opened at 7 a.m. and remained steady throughout the day. As it progressed, I began to see that there was a really large problem occurring: HALF of the people voting were being given provisional ballots.

In California, a provisional ballot is given instead of a regular ballot for a number of reasons. Maybe a voter doesn’t have their mail in ballot to surrender (no, you can’t vote twice), they’re voting in the wrong polling place or they don’t have proof they are registered to vote.  Many people were first time voters and had chosen to register as No Party Preference. They could then choose to vote Democrat, Libertarian, Green Party or No Party Preference. That’s a complicated mess to begin with.

Unfortunately, many of the voters didn’t bring their mail in ballots and didn’t want to go back home get them or hadn’t received their mail in ballots. Some were registered with the wrong party. One young lady was shocked to learn she was registered Republican, when she clearly didn’t fit their demographic. Some didn’t want to walk the few blocks to their correct polling place and some couldn’t get back in time to vote at their regular polling place but felt it was important to vote.  I helped almost every other voter figure out a problem via my app or online. As the man supervising the precinct told me when he got back from making his rounds to the other locations, “It’s Provisional City.”

Why am I telling you this? Why should you care?

Because it’s been announced that Clinton has won California and there’s still 2.6 million ballots that have not been counted, largely provisional. Since the Democratic election was within 450,000 votes between the two candidates, 2.6 million might change things around.

Again, why should you care? Hasn’t President Obama already endorsed Mrs. Clinton? Isn’t she the nominee? Here’s a recent video by Lee Camp:

Not really. She’s the “presumptive” nominee. There’s still that July 25th vote by the Superdelegates to consider. And did you know Washington D.C. still hasn’t voted yet?

And in case you’re wondering why the Sanders campaign is continuing and his supporters are largely ignoring a call to “Unite Blue,” this is the Pre-K version of what’s been happening. As Americans, we’ve been told our vote matters, that it’s one of our most important rights. From what I’ve seen in this election, if you believe that,  you know about the oceanfront property in Arizona I’m going to sell you.

Wake Up. Get Involved. You Matter.


As a great man said, “Change starts from the bottom up.”


          Know-It-Alls, Bullies, Whiners, Gossips, Angry Aggressors, Passives…

          We’ve all come across toxic people, in both our work and personal lives. But what do you do when you’re stuck dealing with one for more than a prolonged encounter?

During a recent seminar I taught on how to read body language, an attendee had a question. It began with him describing how a co-worker sat with one hand behind his head and what that meant. This was easy to decipher. The guy was practically yelling “I’m superior to everyone!”

Businessman sitting in chair, hands behind head, smiling, portrait, cut out

But the attendee’s concern didn’t stop there. He wanted to know how to deal with this self-important co-worker, a guy who thought he knew everything, but didn’t. The man’s ignorance was impacting their projects negatively and he wasn’t sure how to approach the situation.

In many of the classes I’ve taught, no matter the subject, someone usually has a question about how to get around a person who has become the bane of their existence.

If you have someone plaguing your life, here are some thoughts on how to overcome the problem.

  1. Don’t Escalate the Situation

          Many times, toxic people can be neutralized without a fight. In the case of the arrogant and ignorant worker described above, I told the attendee to first try a non-confrontational approach. In Tai Chi, a Chinese martial art, a key principle is to yield to an oncoming attack by redirecting the incoming energy rather than meeting it with an opposing force.

Here, I suggested the attendee/manager try letting his subordinate save face by saying “I’m sure you already know this, but…” and filling the guy in on his missing knowledge. Hopefully, by phrasing this in an agreeable way, the co-worker would finish his part of the project and feel kindly toward my attendee for helping him.

Often, people who are arrogant and angry are insecure, or they might have too much to handle in life. Try to look past the bluster and see if you can find a kind way to handle the problem before moving on to a more aggressive solution.


  1. See If You’re Contributing to the Problem

          Many of the people who ask about how to neutralize a difficult person don’t want to. They’re not sure of themselves or don’t want to “cause problems” by saying anything. If this sounds like you, you have two choices: Act or Suffer in Silence.

There’s also a flip side of that, of course. When confronted, some people get angry and the situation becomes a shouting match or devolves into a physical confrontation.

Imagine you’re in a room with a number of colleagues and another co-worker approaches and begins to berate you loudly about the things you do wrong.  No matter if what’s being said is true or untrue, what do you do?


          A good way to stop someone from continuing their diatribe is to remove them from the vicinity.  First, ask them to step outside the room. This takes the person away from their audience and has them comply with something you’ve asked, changing the “power” structure.  If it seems like they won’t go, you can gesture to the door and walk away. They will probably follow. Once outside the room, step closer to them, within 6-8 inches of their face, and hold eye contact. This move invades their personal space, showing by body language that you aren’t afraid. Keeping your voice quiet and calm, tell them you’ll be glad to discuss any issue they might have with you, but in a more private and civilized way.

This maneuver usually stops and de-escalates the situation. If it doesn’t, go with the next tactic.

  1. Don’t Engage the Devil

Although it’s tempting to argue or defend yourself, sometimes it’s best to walk away. Do a calm assessment of the situation. If you come to the conclusion that nothing you say will change the other person’s attitude, leave.

You might want to have it out, but if it doesn’t change anything, wasting your breath and time will have the same effect as saying the same things to a wall. Don’t bother. You can’t always control another person’s actions, but you can control your reactions.



How To Be a More Effective Communicator Than the President

I’ve been a fan of Marc Maron’s WTF podcast quite awhile and was surprised President Barack Obama had decided to visit Marc’s garage in LA and give an interview.


Then I listened to it.

And I got annoyed. (And for anyone who thinks I’m going down Politics Road, sorry to disappoint.)

President Obama is known for giving moving and commanding speeches. However, delivering a prepared speech (read from a teleprompter, notes or even from memory) is a lot different than answering extemporaneous questions or giving an interview.

If you want to be a great communicator, you have to think about all areas of speaking and abstain from some of the problems that have crept into the President’s speech.

Avoid Filler Words

Our Needs Improvement Communicator- in-Chief’s words were sprinkled with ums, uhs and you knows. Known as “filler” words, they have no place in your discourse if you want to sound authoritative.


Here are some examples of things you should work to eradicate from your speaking:

  • Uh, um and er creep into speech when you’re thinking about what you’re going to say next and forget to close your mouth.
  • Like is Valley Girl speak. Or as used by Will.i. am and scolded hysterically by Miriam Margolys in this clip from the BBC’s Graham Norton show
  • Don’t use xerox or repeat words. Here are some examples:  “I-I” or “You know- You know” etc. Just say it once.
  • You know is a phrase that you shouldn’t use unless you need to say “Do you know what you’re doing?” or other appropriate sentences.
  • The words so or and so are unnecessary when you’re transitioning from one sentence to the next.

Don’t Drop Your G’s

Here are some examples of some words ending with g’s: reading, thinking, going, caring, saying…You get it.

Here’s how the President pronounces them: readin’, thinkin’, goin’, carin’, sayin’…


I don’t know where he dropped his G’s, but I hope he doesn’t have to pay for them to stay  there.  Not completely pronouncing a word is fine for casual conversation, but consistently missing a G doesn’t elevate your level of conversation.


Whenever President Obama refers to people, he calls them “folks.”  If this happened occasionally, it could work. However, he does it all the time, even when discussing serious matters.

Please stop.


Being A Great Communicator Takes Practice

Once you’ve learned how to listen for filler and crutch words, you’ll notice them everywhere. You’ll hear them used by politicians, professional athletes, actors and anyone who hasn’t practiced speaking in front of the public.

At Toastmaster meetings, where people can learn to become better speakers, a dog clicker is used each time a person slips up.  The once innocuous tool used to discipline pets becomes a dreaded but effective method to eradicate bad habits in speech. Filler words quickly cease.

If you want to be a better speaker, practice eradicating these small problems from your speech and you’ll be able to say that you are a more effective communicator than the President.


Adding Drama to Public Speaking

Every time we talk, we use different tones of voice, gestures and body language. When it comes to public speaking, it’s no different. After determining what message you want to convey and crafting a speech, be it inspirational, educational or humorous, the hard work has just begun, because it’s time to determine how to present your material.


To give perspective, imagine that tonight you’re attending a charity event where the keynote speaker is going to advocate for those who suffer from Alzheimer’s.

The speaker comes on stage, stops in the center and stands still. He doesn’t make eye contact with the audience. When he speaks, it’s difficult to hear him. If he moves his arms at all, it’s to clasp his hands in the front and wring them together.  In a monotone, he talks about his elderly father, who had once been the CEO of a successful company, who liked to compete in tennis tournaments and had a fondness of dancing. Now, his father can’t remember anything or anyone in his family. These facts are conveyed like the speaker is reading from a list. The speaker urges you to give money to help fund research to eradicate Alzheimer’s, then walks off the stage, still not looking at the crowd.


How would you feel? Would you be moved to give money? You probably would because you care about the cause.  However, did the speaker’s words as conveyed move you to action? Did they move you to contribute even more than you’d intended? Probably not.

Now, imagine a speaker coming on stage and looking out at the audience. He begins by saying “My father achieved many things in his life. He started from a poor background, put himself through school working several jobs and became the CEO of a Fortune 500 company.” Now, the speaker moves, reaches out with his hands above shoulder height and, in a vibrant voice, says “He was larger than life to me.” Then he drops them back to his sides. “He used to be a top tennis player.” The speaker makes a motion like hitting a ball. “And he loved to dance.” He mimes dancing with a partner. He goes on to say “Now, Dad’s in a wheelchair.” His tone has changed, softened. His hands grip an imaginary chair and he pushes it a few feet along. Then he stops and looks back at the audience. “When I visit him, he doesn’t know who I am. He doesn’t know my mother, his wife of 45 years, or remember any of the successes he’s had.” The speaker pauses. “All because of Alzheimer’s.”

Are you there with the speaker? Do you imagine his father as he was, and how he is now? When you’re asked to contribute money, will you give a little more because the devastation of the disease has been brought so clearly into your mind?

Back to your speech: It’s time to begin rooting out unnecessary language. Hone your words until you communicate exactly what you want. Consider whether your words are telling the story and evoking the emotion you intended from the listener.

When performing a speech, you should always think about the following:

  • Vocal Variety, including tone of voice, rate, pitch, use of different voices to bring characters to life and pause.
  • Body Language, including gestures, use of act-outs to bring drama to words, facial expressions and eye contact.
  • Energy

Vocal Variety

Varying your voice is what emphasizes your words in a speech. Rate is the pace of your words, tone is the intention behind them and pitch is the sound of your voice.


 Rate is perhaps the easiest to understand. A basic mistake is talking too fast because of nerves.  It takes practice to slow down and speak like you’re having a conversation with a friend. If you have jokes, are you pausing after your punch line to give the audience time to laugh? If you’ve said something you want the listeners to take time to digest, do you pause? Your rate should vary throughout your speech, so be sure to analyze your text and practice.

Tone is more complicated, and takes even more thought.

There’s a poem by an unknown author called The Tone of Voice. It says, in part:

It’s not so much what you say

          As the manner in which you say it;

It’s not so much the language you use

          As the tone in which you convey it.

          “Come here! I sharply said,

          And the child cowered and wept.

          “Come here,” I said-

          He looked and smiled

          And straight to my lap he crept.

         Words may be mild and fair

          But the tone may pierce like a dart;

          Words may be soft as the summer air

          But the tone may break my heart;

          For words come from the mind

          Grow by study and art–

          But tone leaps from the inner self,

          Revealing the state of the heart…

I’m sure you’ve had to sit through lectures delivered in a monotone, been scolded by a parent, enjoyed soft words from a loved one, heard an emotional plea from a friend or a call to action by a politician. Each time we speak, we need to consider what tone of voice to use and, throughout our speech, what response we want to evoke in our audience. Our voice is our primary tool to bring about the result we hope from our listeners, but can be made more dynamic by our use of the stage or lecture space, our energy and body language.

Look at the words of your speech. What tone do you want to use for each phrase? Some speakers think they need to increase volume on their key points, but sometimes softening and speaking in a quiet tone actually brings about a better effect.

The best thing to do is tape yourself reading your speech exactly as you’d perform it, then listen. You’ll be able to hear where you need to improve. Better yet, enlist someone you trust to give you honest feedback.

Pitch is how you sound when speaking. Sometimes, when people get nervous or excited, their voices go up and up in pitch. The deeper tones of a speaker’s voice resonate better with a listener’s ear. If you’re gifted with a resonant speaking voice, that’s a starting advantage. Still, no matter whether you’re blessed or need assistance, you can always improve the richness and quality of your voice by doing voice exercises or hiring a voice coach. You will learn body posture and breathing, do tongue twisters to loosen up, exercises to improve the timbre of your voice and more. All of this will add to the quality of your performance.

When speaking in a large facility without a microphone, you have to project your voice so everyone can hear you. Picture bouncing your voice off the back wall and you will get some idea of how much energy you’ll have to put into it.

Energy is what you bring to your performance. Think about when you’re tired, sick or simply “not feeling it.” If you don’t have energy to put into your performance, you’ll come off as uninspiring or merely adequate. Sure, you might be better than other speakers on a technical level, but you have to amplify your energetic output for your message to be fully conveyed and appreciated. Sometimes we think we’re putting across an emotion, but it’s not enough. It’s easy to bring to mind an actor’s performance that felt flat. That person didn’t put enough of themselves into their role. The same thing goes with public speaking.

 Body Language

When you first start out in public speaking, gripping the edges of the podium and glancing nervously at your notes might be the best you can do. That’s okay. As you progress, moving away from the podium, even if you have to keep a hand on it like a life preserver, is a good move forward.

We use gestures when we speak and don’t really think about them. They come naturally. When it comes to public speaking, it sometimes seems that we suddenly don’t know what to do with our hands and arms. Our facial expressions become wooden and we can’t make eye contact. The first thing to do if this happens is to take a deep breath. Breathing helps to relax your body and bring oxygen to your brain. Breathe deep into your belly, below your navel, for best results.

At the start of your speech, you should stand still and have limited movement. The audience needs time to get used to you.


In speaking, whenever you’re using gestures, they should be both natural and planned. Imagine when you’re telling someone how tall a child is. You might bring your hand to the height level to further demonstrate what you’re saying. Gestures in a speech are no different. If there are phrases that can be emphasized through use of body language, think about them and plan them into your talk. Gestures are made above your elbow height and can also include your head, nodding or shaking it to emphasize your words.


 A quick way to see if you have gesture is to videotape yourself doing your speech.  Sometimes we unknowingly make the same gesture repeatedly, which can distract from the message. Also, the larger the stage, the larger your gestures should be. What might be appropriate in a one-on-one conversation won’t convey the same message to a larger audience.


Darren LaCroix, the 2001 Toastmasters World Champion of Public Speaking, famously fell to the floor of the stage during his world championship winning speech and stayed down for uncomfortable moments. This was done purposefully to emphasize failure, by literally falling on his face. He then talked about how to get back up and overcome obstacles. This dramatic move was an “act-out” of his words and something that caught the audience and judges’ attention.

Darren Henderson, 2010 Toastmasters World Champion of Public Speaking, wore a World War II bomber jacket, helmet and goggles to add to his words about pretending to be a pilot. He then acted out play-fighting arial battles with a childhood friend, pretending to talk into a hand-held radio microphone to emphasize his words, which were “Snoopy One to Snoopy Two.”

Act-outs can be as simple as smelling an imaginary flower, pretending to open a door or anything that adds to the picture you’re painting with your words. You don’t have to be that dramatic to emphasize your words, but look at the text of your speech and determine if there are movements you can do that will add to the visuals of your message



If you’ve attended a live play, you might notice an actor who doesn’t grab your attention. That’s because they might be having an off day and not putting as much of themselves into their performance as necessary.

The energy level of a speaker can affect the way his or her message is received. For instance, if you have a cold and have to give a presentation to an audience of 200 people, you’re right to be concerned. A speaker has to give out their own energy and enthusiasm to engage an audience and, if you don’t feel good, you’re going to come across as flat.

Unless you’re Steve Jobs, with an audience already on the edge of its seat waiting the announcement of a new Apple product, speaking to live audiences requires your energy  be “larger than life.” This doesn’t mean you have to be someone else. In fact, the best public speakers sound like they’re having a conversation with an old friend, but you need to be aware of the venue and audience size so you can gauge how much energy you have to put into your performance.


After you’ve written your speech, look for opportunities in the text for vocal variety and use of body language. Adding these ingredients will make your message more dynamic and stay in the minds of your listeners.

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Nine Inch Nails and My Spontaneous Life

Yesterday I was reading the local paper (don’t ask me why I still do this) and noticed that Nine Inch Nails and Soundgarden were playing a concert at the Chula Vista Ampitheater, formerly Coors Ampitheater, now Sleep Train Ampitheater, which is rather embarrassing to even say. I knew NIN was my daughter’s favorite band. We’ve been under a lot of stress packing and getting ready to move so I casually ask her “Want to see Nine Inch Nails?” Of course, she does. “When is it?” TONIGHT.


I get online and find 4th row tickets for a shockingly reasonable price. I purchase them and follow it up with an online chat with a representative about the logistics of receiving them. She says she’ll call me back after she gets with the seller. I go back to packing. Time goes on. I finally check my email and there are 3 increasingly urgent messages from the ticket people. I call. They are very sorry, but they can’t fulfill the order. They will give me a discount coupon worth $50.


I find tickets that are VIP access in the mysterious row d, not D. I call and no one seems to know where this is. I figure with VIP parking, they’re probably good. I purchase them. I call to find out the logistics of receiving the tickets and am told that I can be emailed the tickets, but I won’t get any of the VIP privileges. Oh, and d was a typo, it’s row D or the 4th row again. They offer me $100 off or 3 extra tickets, but I decide it’s all kind of odd and decline.

By now it’s 4 p.m. The concert is at 7 p.m. and I still don’t have any tickets. For the same price as the mysterious VIP tickets, I find 2 front row seats that can be emailed to me. I buy them and follow up with a phone call. I get a delightful representative in Texas who is wondering why someone my age (over 30) is going to see NIN. Gee, thanks? Uh, they’ve been around awhile and “older” folks do go to concerts.


Finally, I get the tickets and we race to the border to the concert venue. Race? If 10-20 mph traffic for 35 miles can be called that. Then we were subjected to a full pat-down and purse search before being allowed in. Was I attending a rap concert in an inner city by mistake?


We missed early opening act Cold Cave and they’re setting up for Soundgarden. We are in front row, center seats! To our right is a beer drinking couple who probably wouldn’t cause trouble if you paid them. They were quiet, shy and had their tickets for months. The man professed to be a fan for 20 years of NIN, but had never listened to Hesitation Marks, NIN’s newest effort.  My daughter said just contemplating that made her mad and that he shouldn’t have even come to the concert. Judgmental? Us? Then there was the duo on our left, a female lawyer and her male makeup artist friend who she always introduced, repeatedly, as “my GAY friend.” How about just “friend?”


Soundgarden played an eleven song set, for which I was enthusiastic for about seven. I knew a lot more of their music than I thought I would, including the one that seems to stick in my mind most, Black Hole Sun, perhaps because I had to hear (and hate) it so much.


The lead singer, Chris Cornell, was Mick Jagger thin in the de rigour tight jeans, t-shirt and poodle mop hair.


Lead guitar was Kim Thayil, ranked 100th greatest guitar player of all time by Rolling Stone magazine.


His bass man was Ben Shepherd, who spent most of the concert looking immensely bored, randomly knocking over things or swinging some type of plastic rope, kind of like a fat sadomasochist. At the end, he just chucked his bass over his shoulder onto the floor. I know it was the last concert of a long tour, but still.


After men in black swarmed the stage to transition it for Nine Inch Nails, out comes a small man in a black skirt/legging outfit and he starts playing “Copy of A.” That’s Trent Reznor? I think. We’d seen NIN in LA at the Staples Center last year, but we were in the nosebleed section. Up close, it’s a whole different world.


The energy, the nonstop music and beat of a fabulous seventeen song set made the whole experience feel like we’d only been listening for five minutes. It was fun to watch Trent’s young stage hand jump up and down from the stage with microphones, water bottles, wires and more. The concert was dotted with calls (typically by men) of “I LOVE you, Trent!” and wafts of weed. What photos I could get were lucky because smoke and burn your retinas lighting was a prime factor in the production. Not fun was getting splashed with a large glass of beer someone decided to chuck at the stage and having a glowering mountain of a security guy occasionally plant himself in front of me, typically when I was about to get a pretty good photo.



Of note, Trent sang “Closer,” which he had gotten bored with, but brought back for his fans on what might be his last tour for awhile. He closed it out with “Hurt,” from his Downward Spiral album. It’s a song filled with emotional loss and his pain radiated off of him as he sang it, tears in his eyes. Or maybe sweat. I’m not sure.


At the close, after I complimented the stage hand on his hard work, he gave Kat a copy of the NIN set list as a souvenir.


The concert was exactly what we needed to renew our energy and take us away from the daily grind of life. I now have a taste for front row seats and life is going to be an expensive, but fun, proposition.


5 Quick Tips to Overcome Fear of Public Speaking

Jerry Seinfeld said   “According to most studies, people’s number one fear is public speaking. Number two is death. Death is number two. Does that sound right? This means to the average person, if you go to a funeral, you’re better off in the casket than doing the eulogy.”

Fear of public speaking trumps death! If you’re one of many who feel like this, how do you change it?


1. Start small. If you consider it, you’re engaged in public speaking all the time. You talk to friends, family, co-workers, the barrista, the mailman. So, what’s the difference? The spotlight is on you and you’re invariably in the standing position, perhaps bringing back memories of being in front of a class with the teacher waiting for you to fill everyone in on who started the Franco-Prussian war and all you can remember is what you had for breakfast. Next time you’re out with the girls/guys, try raising a glass of your drink of choice to someone and say something quick and pithy like “Susie, you’re a great (friend, mother, sister, co-worker…)” or “Here’s to (insert your favorite sports team) beating (your least favorite sports team.)”  There, that was quick and the best part is you got to chug down a drink immediately after you said it.


2. Don’t forget to breathe. The boss expects you to present a short report on the latest project at a meeting or you’re a writer promoting your first book. You’re prepared, but the thought of speaking in front of everyone makes you want to run for the bathroom and hurl.  Before you do your presentation, if you’re at work, close the door to your office (unless you want to be talked about) and open your jaw. Reach up and massage the area just below your ears in a circular motion to release the tension that’s there. Now, stand with your feet at shoulder width apart and take a deep breath in through your nose and down into the bottom of your belly, then release it through your mouth slowly. Do that 5-10 times. If you have time, even do some shoulder rolls, shake your hands and loosen up. This is a quick way to get some of the tension out of your body and will help you stay calm when you make your presentation.


3. Don’t memorize. Sometimes beginning speakers write everything down and then decide that if they memorize what they wrote, all will be fine. Don’t do this. I’ve witnessed numerous speakers, some even advanced, get to a certain point in their talk and here’s what happens: Silence. The speaker’s eyes are either cast into the back of their head searching for that next phrase or staring in horror at the audience, mouth working unconsciously to bring the words to their lips. Instead, I recommend bullet points. Take the key content of your speech and write bullet points that will jog your memory.


4. No one knows what you’re going to say.  New speakers sometimes focus on “messing up” their speech. Maybe you’re going to forget something, or not say something the way you wanted to. Guess what? No one will know! Unless you handed out verbatim copies of what  you were going to discuss, as long as you get the gist of things across, no one will realize anything went wrong. Except you. If you did botch something, I recommend you keep it to yourself.  Accept people’s congratulations on a great speech and let it go.

5. Everyone wants you to succeed. When you stand up to give your speech and all eyes are on you, they’re not a pack of ravenous wolves waiting to eat you. It might feel that way, but most people are pretty nice and their expectations are fairly low. If you do stammer and have a few glitches, don’t worry. This will actually endear you a little to your audience. People like to root for the underdog and they’re probably happy it’s not them up there in the first place.  Refer back to the quote at the beginning of this blog.





The Tale of a Bad Case

This week I had a friend ask me to write about my worst legal experience. I immediately said NO. There have been a lot of gut-wrenching, nightmare making, soul searching cases that I choose not to relive.


The more I thought about this, I did recall one I don’t mind sharing.

I had been a prosecutor for about three years and was assigned to do misdemeanor trials. Today, prosecutors are assigned their cases ahead of time and have a chance to review them. Then, in the days of “Wild West” prosecution, I sat with a group of young attorneys in court behind our misdemeanor team leader. If a case got confirmed for trial, he would turn around with a slim, manila folder and hand it to the lucky recipient with the words “You’re in Department 3” or wherever you were sent.

One day, I was handed a file and flipped through the pages of the police report as I walked toward the department. It was a battery case. A young man had decide he didn’t like something my male victim had said and hit him.

When I got to the department, my victim sat outside on one of the wooden benches. He was a middle-aged, thin man and looked like he’d just eaten a lemon, lips pursed in a sour expression. I introduced myself and told him to tell me what had happened. He was angry, volatile and had a very healthy sense of entitlement. Within two minutes, I wanted to hit him.

The defense attorney was a blind man who had a loveable, yellow Lab seeing-eye dog. I  wore a pleated skirt with a bow in my hair in a futile attempt to counteract the cuteness of the dog.

The only thing I had going for me was the young male defendant was built like a football player, clearly much larger and more threatening than my victim, and he wore an earring. I was in a conservative part of the county and most of the jurors wouldn’t like that.

After picking a jury and doing opening statements, I called the victim to the stand. It immediately became a game of “Just answer the question.” The victim was determined to go down side roads, embellish his answers and give irrelevant responses no matter what I asked. It took way too long to get the story out about what had happened and I sat down, exasperated, knowing the jury’s patience was probably wearing thin.

Then cross-examination began. After some initial questions, the defense said “I understand you’re on kidney dialysis. Are you familiar with how this affects your ability to recall events?”

This was a fair question. Maybe the victim’s medical condition messed with his memory.

My victim’s response?

“I’m as familiar with my condition as you are with your BLINDNESS! And I’m on (lists numerous drugs) due to being a diagnosed paranoid schizophrenic. I’m under treatment by a renowned psychologist and (begins long diatribe about his mental illness.)”

My thoughts about this aren’t printable. You get surprises sometimes during trials, but not like that. The victim hadn’t chosen to share this information with me previous to this moment or I would’ve done something to soften it and I would have brought it out in my case. Now it was like watching a traffic accident you couldn’t stop.

In closing arguments, I told the jury that yes, the victim was unlikable, but it could be caused by his mental illness.  Unfortunately, it wasn’t a stretch of the imagination that something he said would make you want to hit him, but that was against the law.

That was all I had. I mean, really.

Waiting for verdicts is always the hardest part of a case. You pace around the office, try to distract yourself with other work, but it’s always on your mind. Time passed. More time passed. I’d anticipated a quick “Not guilty.”

Several hours later, I got a call to come to the court for some surprising news: the jury was hopelessly deadlocked. When polled, the jury came back 10-2 for not guilty. I’d managed to convince two out of twelve and still count that as a very memorable “win.”