Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Weekly Recap: “Humorous Speech Contest”

This week’s meeting was a little more formal than our regulars. In fact, this meeting was different for a few reasons, and by a few reasons I mean just one fundamental reason. September 26th was our Electric Toaster’s Humorous Speech and Table Topics Contests. It was yet another week full of impromptu role volunteering, and as always our attending members stepped to the plate.

There was no Thought of the Day, so instead I stole a quote from our Toastmaster Craig: “Truthfully that is the best way to get the most out of Toastmasters—to just jump right in and go for the gusto.”

I think it’s worth taking a moment to acknowledge that Craig really walks his talk on the subject. For as long as I’ve been attending our Toastmasters chapter he’s been consistently stepping up to fill roles on the fly, often some of the more difficult ones on the spot. So my hat’s off to you.

ANNOUNCEMENT: We have an official new member: Greg Bingham. Welcome to ET!


The Skinny: Firstly, the content of each speech had to be original to qualify in the contest. Each of the three contestants required a timing of 5 – 7 minutes. Contestants whose speeches were less than 4 ½ minutes or longer than 7 ½ minutes would be disqualified. Appointed judges would mark up points based off of the criteria rubric they’d been handed. The appointed counter, Jean, would then tally up the scores to determine the winners. The order of each speech’s deliver was selected at random. 

Contestant 1: Karen Groth – Outhouses, Mice, and Other Critters

Karen volunteered to do this speech about a minute or two before she delivered it. She told us about growing up in her parents’ farmhouse. They had an outhouse out there, and her experience in it caused her to live in mortal terror of spiders, which I assume must’ve been crawling all over her. She had a high point with mice, albeit short-lived. It was when a mother mouse that ran past her with three baby mice trailing behind. Apparently, since then mice have organized an association dedicated to harassing her. 

She told us about her place at the beach. They love to eat her kitchen towels, her cleaning clothes, and her sofas. Evidently they don’t like Kleenex for some peculiar reason. My guess is out of reverence to the Great Green Arkleseizure, who sneezed out the universe (See Douglas Adam’s Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy). One day a chipmunk came running into Karen’s house (looking for Dale, no doubt). She and her husband had quite a difficult time shooing it out. 

They’ve also had trouble with baby squirrels nesting in the roof. Her husband barricaded the hole, and then the mother squirrel began screaming bloody murder. They figured it must’ve meant there were still baby squirrels in there so they unblocked it to let them out. Then they put the barricade back up. Mama squirrel started screaming again. This cycle went on until finally all the babies left. 

Karen wraps up her speech by informing us that she doesn’t like Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, or any of their children. Clearly, Karen is no fan of rodents, but they all seem quite fond of her. Well... of her house, anyway.

Contestant 2: Craig Jones – Twenty Pounds of Trouble
Over the course of their marriage, Craig and his wife have had several dogs. They were always big dogs, and they were always outside dogs. Finally they decided one day to adopt a small dog: a beshon-shitzu mix weighing about twenty pounds. Her name was Lucy Lu. As soon as they brought her home they immediately realized that a name like that didn’t appropriately fit the character of their new dog. The more fitting name they came up with is [drum roll]… Night Terror! No, I’m lying; they renamed her to Sassy. 

She was their first dog ever to be allowed in the house, being that she is hypoallergenic. Sassy likes to tease the cat by running up to its face and fall back before it can land a swipe at her. One of Craig’s favorites things about Sassy is that every day when he gets home, she’s staring out the window looking out for his car, and when she sees him, she knows it’s time to play. Sassy will grab a small chew-bone, and he’ll chase her across the hardwood floor, which causes her to slip and slide all over the place until she finally reaches a patch of carpet. 

Another is the classic fake-out. Holding the bone, he throws his arm but keeps it in his hand, and Sassy bolts down the hall after it. By the time he tosses it for real she realizes she’s too far away. So she turns back to run towards it, but her momentum over the frictionless surface causes her body to continue that direction as she runs backwards (Jackson’s got nothing on her). 

Sassy loves Craig’s son’s dog, PD (short for ‘Pug Dog’). When they drive to visit his son she knows from two blocks away and goes wild. As soon as the door opens she’s bursting through the hall and chasing after him around the house. For a few minutes anyway, until her little body is depleted and she crashes for a while. And the she goes wild again.

Contestant 3: Mike Fajen – Swap Meet Mania
Growing up, Mike’s parents were devout churchgoers, but sometimes they would take a Sunday off and go to the Swap Meet at the Drive-In Theatre. He described the experience to be, “as colorful and diverse as the Star Wars bar scene.” One time there was a “potential gold mine” of a booth in particular that caught his eye: booth 122. Loaded with bikes, stereos, ham radio equipment, and CBs, he joyously began rummaging to look for a price tag. Then he heard a voice [insert grouchy voice], “get your hands off the goods!” His brother, who was examining a skateboard for sale, was similarly treated. Mike explained that all he wanted was just to know the prices. The grump didn’t care; he rudely stated it was too expensive for them and to pike off. The two were shocked at this man’s crudeness, but later they hatched a mischievous plan to teach him a lesson. 

One of the features of the swap meet was the announcements that came on the radio, usually mundane and repetitive. So they went into the snack shack to inquire about how expensive it would be to air an announcement. “Three repeats for twenty-five cents.” So they paid the quarter and wrote out an announcement. Several announcements came and went, but they never heard the one they wrote. Mike thought maybe they’d checked to verify it first. Then they finally heard it:

“Attention bargain hunters, everything in booth 122 is free. The man wants to go home. Please help yourself, so that he may pack up and leave.”

People from all over the swap meet came running for that booth. He was shouting and cursing and grabbing his stuff back from people. Each time the announcement was repeated the chaos grew as more and more people coagulated around his booth, driving the man insane. He yelled and argued with people, and tried putting a box over his booth number, which was taken off. Not too long after the last repeat he and his brother decided to get out while the gettin’ was good. 


Four of us volunteered to participate in the Table Topics Contest. The order was decided by each of us chooses a number between 1 and 20. Greg was selected to go first, the other three of us ushered outside the room to wait until we were called upon. One by one we came in and delivered our best topic speech based off the question. Again, there was a timing limit of 1 – 2 minutes, and going over meant disqualification.

The contest question delivered by Jeff Brookes: “Close your eyes and think of the outdoors, when thinking of beauty, size, or something that greatly impacted you, what do you see. Why did it impact you?”

Contestant 1: Greg – Told us about working controls at Mt. Bachelor, working night and day shifts until the job was done. In mid-summer, he was standing on the mountain, overlooking the horizon as the sun was setting/rising (he couldn’t remember which). He also remembers that experience because of an accident that next day that he called “one of [his] almost greatest failures.”

Contestant 2: Ben
– Trying to think of something better, what kept surfacing was a summer day I spent in John Day. At age ten I went bicycling with family up a small mountain. Taking a break, we took a picture next to a huge boulder, and headed back. Going downhill, my speeding bike got trapped in a tractor track until I crashed into a rock that sent me flying off. The bike had horns on the ends of the handles and one snagged my pants in the groin. I avalanched down the hill, pulling my bike down with me.

Contestant 3: Myron
– Originally from Seattle, when asked the question, two things come to mind for Myron. They are Mt. Rainier and Mt. Hood. As time continues to pass he feels that the effect of those two mountains has only increased. Both he and his father have climbed Mt. Rainier, and has climbed Mt. Hood a couple of times as well. “Somehow it just astounds me that there’s this big gigantic mass of ice and rock… not so far from a relatively major metropolitan area.”

Contestant 4: Shannon
– Shannon grew up at her grandma’s in rural Ohio. She’s always loved the outdoors and would often be found playing by the creek in the woods behind the house. As an adult she often feels like she never has a moment’s peace to herself. To relax from the stresses of daily life she loves to retreat into the wild. In fact, she was happy to share that later that afternoon she would be escaping to Sauvies Island. One of the reasons she enjoys it so much there is because it reminds her of the area she grew up in. 


After all the speeches and table topics contest speeches were made, it took a few minutes for all the points to be tallied up and the contest winners announced. Fortunately, I came in prepared with some Chuck Norris jokes in the event that we needed time to burn. So while the winners were being determined I told this joke: “Chuck Norris’s calendar goes from March 31st to April 2nd, because nobody fools Chuck Norris.”


The winners of today’s two contests, Mike Fajen for the Humorous Speech, and Myron Peto for the Table Topics, will be representing the Electric Toasters chapter as they move on to the next stage of the contest. Second place winners Craig and Shannon will be on standby to replace them if need be, should they for some reason can’t make it. Congratulations!

1st - Mike Fajen
2nd - Craig Jones
3rd - Karen Groth

1st - Myron
2nd - Shannon
3rd - Ben

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Westport's Masterpiece by Karen Groth

By now you may have heard that our chapter has its very own published author. A few months ago Karen Groth stood up in front of us and told us about her book, Westport’s Masterpiece: Building the Grays Harbor Lighthouse, 1897 – 1898. It is my pleasure to present her work here on her behalf!

Westport’s Masterpiece is a 164 page nonfiction account following Carl W. Leick, an exceptional architect responsible for the construction of several lighthouses in the northwest. The Grays Harbor Lighthouse is considered to have been his masterpiece, and so the book follows its construction.

Karen drew her inspiration from the journal she discovered at the National Archives in Seattle. She then unearthed several letters in Washington DC, and copies of the original plans at the Coast Guard’s archives in California. She even obtained family photographs. Clearly Karen had done her homework with a resourceful tenacity akin of an investigative journalist.

Karen provides us with a brief synopsis:

In 1897, the Yukon gold rush rages as a superb tower is constructed on Washington's coast.  Outstanding Portland lighthouse architect, Carl W. Leick, records his arguments with Seattle contractor, Charles J. Erickson, in a daily journal kept during the construction at Westport, Washington.

     Westport’s Masterpiece describes how nineteenth century masonry lighthouses were built using horses and hand tools.  Interviews with stonecutters, tinners, horseshoers and others explain building terms and procedures that are no longer used.

     The local papers gleefully report every misstep from the huge stone that fell onto the dock, to the plaster that fell off the newly cemented tower.  Nor is there a lack of colorful personalities, from the judge who who a pony express rider to the French clockmaker who moved into a palace.  

Excerpt: Aberdeen Herald of December 9, 1897

The peace and quietness of this burgh has been disturbed by a 'little unpleasantness' between the lighthouse superintending architect and Contractor Erickson. The trouble has been brewing for sometime. Those two skilled workmen didn't see all things with one eye, and the misunderstanding culminated last week in the superintendent, who is a large and powerful German-American with a quick temper, squeezing the windpipe of the contractor, who is an undersized Swedish-American, and a peacerful man. Result; a case before His Honor T. F. Thompson, and a fine of $3 and costs; rather a high priced temper for these hard times. . .
Westport’s Masterpiece: Building the Grays Harbor Lighthouse, 1897-1898 by Karen Groth can be purchased online at Powell’s Bookstore and AbeBooks, and is being sold at prices ranging from $12.50 - $24.95.