May 21, 2019 Meeting Minutes




Brookdale Paulin Creek


Start Time: 12:12 pm

End Time: 12:50 pm


10 Members: VP Education Brian Buckman, VP Membership Bert Rangel, VP PR Holly Young, Sergeant at Arms Kelly Cunneen, Secretary Frank Moraes, Christy Helvajian, Dan Schell, Harry Holland, Stephanie K Thatcher, and Steve Domkowski.

7 Gusts: Gabriel, Gayle, Lou-Jean, Matt, Merideth, Stephanie, and Teresa.


  • President: Brian Buckman
  • Toastmaster: Bert Rangel
  • Table Topics: Holly Young


Gabriel: “Knowing Your Values: Mission and Vision” — Ice Breaker
      Evaluated by Brian Buckman.

New Business

Officer elections coming up next month, June 4th.

Next Meeting

June 4, 2019



Committee Reports



After banging the gavel and making me jump, Kelly read our club mission.

President’s Remarks

Brian took the place of MeL who was on vacation. We all discussed how this shouldn’t be allowed in the future.

He mentioned that this was our sorta-annual open house and we welcomed five new guests. In addition, Gabriel was at the meeting. He has not yet been voted in but is otherwise a GINA (guest in name only). And former Noon Toastmaster and officer Harry Holland showed up.

Officer elections are coming up. Stop me before I secretary again!

I never got to make a pitch for my office, so let me explain a little. The main thing that the secretary has to do is create minutes for the executive committee meetings that happen once a month. And it is good if you create minutes for the regular meetings. But you absolutely do not have to do a narrative for each meeting. That’s something that Harry started and I continued.

As Brian pointed out, being an officer is a great opportunity to lead. Why he is stepping down thus remains one of the great mysteries like who built the pyramids. In fact, History Channel has a documentary coming out, “Did Ancient Aliens Make Brian Step Down?” It turns out there is no proof, but some ancient alien scientists say it could be so.

Space Alien

Toastmaster Bert

Bert started by talking about how scary public speaking is and how it gets easier with every time he does it.

Lots of people feel this way. I’m never really frightened. I’m like a musician who loves to play but sucks. Now that I think about it, I am a musician who loves to play but sucks. I’m also a public speaker who loves it but sucks. However, Toastmasters really has made me better than I was. Long way to go, though!

Bert then told us a parable:

There is a young lumberjack attempting to cut down a tree with a dull blade. He labored for hours and hours with little to no progress. A wise man walked up and said, “Stop and go sharpen your saw. Then you will be able to cut through that tree like butter.” The young lumberjack said, “No. I’m too busy.” And he continued to struggle and struggle with little success.

This parable is the basis for the Netflix original film A Young Lumberjack’s Vengence: Not So Wise Now, Old Man! But I think Bert was making a different point.

Bert went on to discuss his history with Toastmasters. Decades ago, he joined Toastmasters with a girlfriend who needed to prepare for a speech. But after that, he stopped going. However, last year, he joined for himself and it has been a more enriching experience.

Word of the Day: Epiphany

Bert broke with custom by picking a very English word. But it was originally coined to describe the coming of Jesus Christ. In fact, January 6th is Epiphany, the day celebrating the three kings coming to pay respects to Jesus.

Some of our club’s use of this word:

  • Brian: “This past weekend we picked up my daughter from San Jose State. And I noticed there was an epiphany on her face, ‘I’m going to have to live with mom and dad for two months.'”
  • Christy: “I’ve been out of work for about a month and I had an epiphany that I’m not going to go back to work for a while.”
  • Holly: “As you go through life you continue to have these epiphanies that change your whole perspective.”
  • Stephanie: “My epiphany was to join Toastmasters when I was inspired by this guy over there [Bert].”
  • Harry: “I remember last year the chairs were arranged in a circle. I wonder what the epiphany was to change it?”
  • Teresa (Guest): “My epiphany is just being here today… And I like being an honored guest.”
  • Gayle (Guest): “I want to get involved in climate change advocacy and speak at city council meetings. I was so bad when I last spoke and I guess my epiphany was that I need to come here.”
  • Gabriel (GINO): “I had an epiphany about an hour ago when Bert called me and I did not know what I was going to record a podcast on.”
  • Stephanie (Guest): “My new epiphany is that I’m bad talking on the spot.”

Alice Through the Looking Glass

I need to highlight Dan who quoted Jabberwocky from memory:

’Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
    Did gyre and gimble in the wabe:
All mimsy were the borogoves,
    And the mome raths outgrabe.

“Beware the Jabberwock, my son!
    The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!
Beware the Jubjub bird, and shun
    The frumious Bandersnatch!”

He took his vorpal sword in hand;
    Long time the manxome foe he sought—
So rested he by the Tumtum tree
    And stood awhile in thought.

And, as in uffish thought he stood,
    The Jabberwock, with eyes of flame,
Came whiffling through the tulgey wood,
    And burbled as it came!

One, two! One, two! And through and through
    The vorpal blade went snicker-snack!
He left it dead, and with its head
    He went galumphing back.

“And hast thou slain the Jabberwock?
    Come to my arms, my beamish boy!
O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!”
    He chortled in his joy.

’Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
    Did gyre and gimble in the wabe:
All mimsy were the borogoves,
    And the mome raths outgrabe.

Speaker: Gabriel

Gabriel’s speech was “Knowing Your Values: Mission and Vision.” He asked the audience these questions:

  1. What are my core values
  2. Do I know what my mission is?
  3. What is my vision for the future?

Most people don’t have explicit answers to these questions. He discussed how he has answered these questions in his own life.


Table Topics

Holly was in charge of Table Topics and she had some difficult questions for everyone:

Why must you love someone enough to let them go?

Gabriel: If you get to that point, then you accept that they know what is in their best interests.

To what degree have you controlled the course your life has taken?

Stephanie: When I was getting out of college, my father offered for me to help him start the business that we have today. But when he died shortly afterward, it became necessary for me to take it on by myself. So I had very little control of my professional pathway.

If you had an opportunity to get your message out to a large group, what would it be?

Gayle (Guest): I want to speak to the Board of Supervisors and City Council to get Santa Rosa onboard with the Green New Deal.

What impact would you like to leave on the world?

Merideth (Guest): My biggest impact personally would be raising my children with morals and goodness.

What is the most desirable trait a person can possess?

Steve: The most desirable trait is kindness. I think of that every day. Just be kind to one another. It doesn’t cost anything.

If you looked into the heart of your enemy, what do you think you would find?

Stephanie (Guest): I don’t think people make decisions based on their own but rather based on what they think other people want them to do.

Speaker Evaluation: Brian

Brian noted that giving evaluations is critically important — and hard to do.

He liked that Gabriel was relaxed with good pacing and projection. He also liked that Gabriel started his speech with questions.

In terms of improvement, he felt that the speech could have concluded less abruptly and that Gabriel should make more eye contact.

Wrap Up

Bert said he thought the meeting was great. And it was. He then turned the meeting back over to Brian.

Brian polled the guests who seemed to enjoy the meeting. We discussed how this meeting was different from other meetings — in particular, there was no timer, ah counter, or grammarian.

Then he turned the meeting over to Bert.

Then he turned the meeting over to Brian.

Then he turned the meeting over to Bert.

Then there was a rip in the fabric of time.

And with that, the meeting was adjourned — as it always is after major cosmological events.

Our next meeting is June 4th.

Space Alien by The Digital Artist. It is in the public domain. Image from 1897 edition of Through the Looking Glass by John Tenniel. It is in the public domain. Puzzle by Annca under the Pixabay license.

May 7, 2019 Meeting Minutes




Brookdale Paulin Creek


Start Time: 12:12 pm

End Time: 1:12 pm


10 Members: President MeL Konrad, VP Education Brian Buckman, VP Membership Bert Rangel, VP PR pro tem Holly Young, Sergeant at Arms Kelly Cunneen, Treasurer Mark Burchill, Secretary Frank Moraes, Christy Helvajian, Stephanie K Thatcher, Steve Domkowski.

3 Gusts: Bosten, Gabriel, and Gabriella.


  • President: MeL Konrad
  • Toastmaster: Steve Domkowski
  • Educational Minute: Bert Rangel
  • Table Topics: Orlando Kai O’Shea
  • Grammarian: Frank Moraes
  • Ah Counter / Timer: Stephanie K Thatcher.


MeL Konrad: “Speech Organization and All That Jazz”
      Evaluated by Frank Moraes.

Stephanie K Thatcher: “Adventure” — Ice Breaker for Dynamic Leadership
      Evaluated by the club.

New Buisness

Officer elections coming up next month, June 4th.

Next Meeting

21 May 2019



Committee Reports



Last meeting, Kelly was gone so I read the club mission. But before this meeting, we couldn’t find the sheet with the mission on it. As a result, I learned something interesting: Kelly’s been holding out on us. It turns out she has it memorized. Not that she knew that!

So it was actually good that I lost it — even though we found it before the meeting.

President’s Remarks

MeL announced that we were having an election. Holly has stepped up and taken over the position of VP PR that Anna left vacant. Having a physics background, I can’t help but see some general law in the fact that Anna and Holly are both in real estate. Conservation of real estate professionals, perhaps?

Everyone was to mark their choice for either Holly or Not Holly. Given that Hot Holly hasn’t shown up for a single meeting, Holly is a shoo-in.

Speaking of “shoo-in,” did you know this is widely spelled “shoe-in”? In fact, it is so commonly misspelled that an apocryphal original story has risen up. According to it, once upon a time, there were corrupt jockeys who sold out to bettors. Thus a particular horse would be a “shoe-in.” Of course, if you think about it for a moment, you will see that this makes no sense. Jockeys ride horses and horses have shoes. That’s like saying movie stars make lots of money and that’s why “greenback” means attractive.


MeL introduced our guests: Bosten, Gabriel, and Gabriella. Gabriel announced that he was joining that day.

She also highlighted our club’s Area Director review which was very positive.

Toastmaster Steve

It’s Steve Domkowski’s world; the rest of us just live in it. At least, that’s my philosophy. So I was keen to see what our club’s most colorful character would do as Toastmaster. In the year I’ve been in the club, Steve has never been Toastmaster even though he is an experienced member of the club.

It shouldn’t have surprised me that Steve performed a bit of a bait and switch by claiming that the theme of the day would be “air.” I mistook this for the word of the day and got prepared to wax poetic about Talking Heads. But it was not to be.

Educational Minute: Bert

Instead, he introduced Bert with the Educational Minute. Bert discussed his position as an officer and encouraged other people to take on the role.

I could make a joke here. I could talk about how he was just trying to trick new members into ruining their lives. Or that he forgot to mention that there is an open bar at the executive committee meetings

But the truth is that it’s fun to be an officer. I don’t think Bert was lying when he said that his work as an officer is something he looks forward to. I feel the same way. Of course, for me, it’s been tough going, but I feel like I’ve grown into my role. So it really is a good thing to be an officer. And in a fundamental way, it is an important part of the educational program.

So I would be thrilled for other members if there is no room for me as an officer this next year — just as I will be thrilled to serve for another year. I really do hope everyone gives serious thought to being an officer. And remember: I became an officer after my second meeting!

And now I return you to my usual snarky tone.

Word of the Day: Insouciant

When Steve announced that “insouciant” would be the word of the day, everyone laughed in my direction because it sounds foreign and I have been on a campaign to shame all Toastmasters who use foreign words.

Insouciant isn’t really a foreign word. But it is a recent one. And I doubt it will surprise anyone we ripped it off from the French. It came to England in the 18th century from soucier, which means “worry.”

The whole thing got me thinking about the purpose of the Word of the Day. I’ve tried to use simple words because of my still active trauma of trying to use poetry for Table Topics. But really, what kind of a society do we have where no one knows this:

Because I could not stop for Death

He kindly stopped for me

But fine. Don’t worry about me. I’m just going to move into a cave until the rest of our civilization decays and I don’t have to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous comments like, “Romeo and who?!” Not that I’m that into Shakespeare; I’m just saying I’m not … about it.

Some of our club’s use of this very French word:

  • Gabriella: “People with frontotemporal dementia seem to be insouciant.”
  • Mel: “Cats are the epitome of insouciance.”
  • Stephanie: “My family is very insouciant about what they are going to eat for dinner.”
  • Mark: “I’m a little OCD, which means I am insouciant about nothing.”
  • Holly: “After days of door-knocking, I find that I am insouciant.”
  • Christy: “I’m quite insouciant about looking for a job.”
  • Kelly: “My brother is not insouciant but rather light-hearted.”
  • Brian: “My wife was insouciant about my agony about the Warriors consecutive losses.”
  • Bosten: “I hope to become more insouciant about public speaking.”
  • Gabriel: “Before going to see Endgame I was insouciant about it.”

Speaker One: MeL

MeL spoke about “Speech Organization and All That Jazz.” In it, she talked about using a mind map. She related it to a recent jazz cruise that she had gone on. How do you approach that? Well, not from the core but rather from one of its branches.

It’s a little hard to explain here. But luckily, MeL is going to write a blog post about this.

This is an example of my using guilt to get my way. Even though I’m going meta here, I’m sure that it will still work. And if it doesn’t, I will still manage to bring it up every time I see MeL over the next two months. Then I’ll just look dejected until she finally writes it.

Speaker Two: Stephanie

This was Stephanie’s ice breaker, but it was not her first speech. Back on Feb 5th, before she was a member, Stephanie gave a speech to us in preparation for a speech she was going to give to a group of pharmaceutical companies.

This speech was called “Adventure.” She talked about how she got her sense of adventure from her father every bit as much as she got his DNA. And she went on to discuss how this has been a driving force in her life.

Buhatan River Adventure

Table Topics

We were running long on time for reasons that are not quite clear to me. But if history is any indication, it was Mark’s fault. And by that, I mean that I have a history of blaming everything on Mark. It just so happened that Mark ran Table Topics.

Tell me about your experience when you met a celebrity.
Gabriel: I met Robin Williams in 1998 when he was filming Bicentennial Man. He was just as you would expect: funny and polite.
If you could go back in time and give yourself some advice, what advice would you give?
Gabriella: I gave my very first speech at age 20. I would tell myself, “Relax!”
Describe your life as if it were an object somewhere in this room.
Bert: I like to think of myself as the air conditioning system. Always being interrupted.

Speaker One Evaluation: Frank

This was the first time I’ve done a speech evaluation in which I felt like I knew what I was doing. That doesn’t mean it was a good evaluation. But those Toastmaster documents for doing evaluations are really helpful.

We have such documents for just about everything. They are available on the website. But they are all in ZIP files. I’ll try to remember to make them more easily available. If I forget, bug me. As good as I am at pushing guilt into the world, I’m even better at absorbing it.

Speaker Two Round Robin

Everyone was really impressed with Stephanie’s ice breaker — both its writing and its performance. I don’t recall anyone having much to say about things she could have improved.

Grammarian: Bert

Bert mentioned a few things that stood out to him:

  • “Air — Can’t live without it.”
  • Jazz cruise is better than a blue cruise.
  • “Adventure flows in my DNA.”
  • “Don’t worry; there’s always Toastmasters.”
  • “Give the audience a present — wrap it up.”

Timer/Ah Counter: Holly

The times were:

  • MeL (5-7): 8:10
  • Stephanie (4-6): 6:54
  • Table Topics (1-2)
    • Gabriel: 0:32
    • Gabriella: 0:13
    • Bert: 0:27
  • Frank (2-3): 1:15.

The Ahs:

  • MeL: 1 ah, 2 oks,
  • Frank: 1 um, 3 ahs
  • Stephanie: 0
  • Bert: 1 well.

Wrap Up

Steve wrapped up with, “Peace brothers and sisters.”

MeL took the meeting back over. If anyone is going to District Conference, let us know. We are going to have an Open House at the next meeting so please spread the word.

Mark came up and encouraged everyone to become an officer. The elections will be during the first meeting of June (4th).

Brian came up and mentioned the open roles for the next meeting.

MeL polled our guests. Gabriella said she was very happy to be back. Bosten said he was impressed with the group and hoping to become better at speaking.

She also welcomed back Christy who we haven’t seen for a while.

And the meeting was adjourned.

Our next meeting is May 21th.

Jockeys Racing! On Horses! by Colin Knowles. Licensed under CC BY 2.0. Buhatan River Eco-Adventure by Norfolk18 and licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0.

Connecting With Your Audience

Holly YoungI believe that the art of giving a good speech is really being able to engage and make an impact on your audience with the content you have chosen to talk about.

It’s about connection.

I can remember a time, which seems not so long ago, when I was absolutely terrified of public speaking or for that matter, giving a speech in school. There was this panic and a tremendous amount of nerves right before having to talk to an audience only to be offset by the relief of having it finally behind me.

As I got older and gained more life experience, I started to develop an attraction to individuals who could speak so eloquently in front of a large audience. It fascinated me that these people spoke authentically and with such comfort while being able to convey a powerful message that engaged their audience.

The one thing I started to realize about these speakers was one major commonality. They were talking about something they truly believed in and were absolutely passionate about. They had a powerful message they wanted out to others, which I feel made their ability to speak with such ease and grace, much more fluid. They had something important to share with others and it came from their heart.

At this stage in my life, I am no longer afraid of giving a speech. It is no longer something that terrifies me but challenges me to become a better person.

I now know that when you talk about something you are not passionate about, it can be difficult to deliver a good speech that engages your audience. Your heart simply isn’t in it.

But on the flip side, if you engage your heart in what you want to talk about, something magical happens. Your passion and love for your collection of words will come through to others. They will see you and hear your message. Your authenticity will shine and you will make an impact!

Using Free Writing for Speech Ideas

Fountain PenA lot of people say they have difficulty coming up with ideas for speeches. They are wrong, of course. Get someone talking about their lives and within 5 minutes, they will probably provide ideas for a dozen speeches.

When I was a kid, I read a biography of Charles M Schulz. In it, he was quoted as saying that if you were going to be a cartoonist, you had to be able to sit down and think of something funny. That amazed me at the time. But it really isn’t that hard. There’s a trick to it.

I never lack for ideas. If I did, I’d be out of business. Just the same, if you asked me to come up with a speech idea on the spot, I’d be flummoxed. I need to go through my process.

The Process

My process is to release my mind from the restrictions of logic or narrative. And even though I can do this in my mind, it’s still easier to do on paper. Just let your mind run wild. And trust me: it will run very wild.

When done on paper, this is called free writing, which Wikipedia says is “a prewriting technique in which a person writes continuously for a set period of time without regard to spelling, grammar, or topic.”

It’s simple:

  1. Set a time limit — like 15 minutes
  2. Go some place where there will be no distractions (including music[1])
  3. Write (or type) nonstop — without regard to spelling, grammar, content
  4. When done, read through what you wrote and make notes of what is useful.

You will probably find that there are times your brain gets stuck. It’s perfectly fine to write the same word over and over. Just keep working through it.

My free writes are filled with profanity and non-words like “sliggulable.” It’s fine. Just write.

One final thought on this: destroy your free writes after you’ve read them. As you get better at doing them, you will be surprised what kinds of things bubble up from your subconscious. You don’t want other people seeing them. And if you are like me, you won’t like seeing them.

Starting With a Topic

With Toastmasters, you have an advantage because your path will indicate what you should talk about. For example, the next speech in my path is on mentorship. If I were doing a free write, I would think about mentorships in my own life. Right now I can think of a few things:

  1. People who use mentorships to yield power of you
  2. Trying to mentor young people without being a know-it-all
  3. Advisor guiding me throw the treachery of academia
  4. Having a much younger mentor.

But I don’t know what would come out when I started writing. One thing is for certain: after a half hour, I’d have enough material for several speeches about mentorship.


Instead of writing, you could also just talk. Most people have audio recorders on their phones. I use a system that converts my voice into text notes that I can email to myself.

It doesn’t matter how you do it. What matters is that you do it long enough to get past censoring yourself. And the more often you do it, the less time you will need.

If All Else Fails

But maybe free writing isn’t for you. It’s just a tool and not all tools work for all people.

There are websites that have lots of ideas for speeches. Reading through them will doubtless give you some ideas. Here are some of the better lists:


The best way to get ideas for speeches is to give speeches. It’s not just that “Necessity is the mother of invention.” It’s also that the more speeches you give the more ideas will come to you naturally. Giving speeches really does reorient your brain.

So go forth and speak!

[1] Listening to music is a creative activity. Having music on while free writing will deprive you of some part of your creativity.

Ice Breakers for Public Speakers

Ice BreakingAt Toastmasters, we think of an “ice breaker” as the first speech that we give in the program. Of course, “ice breaker” has a more general meaning. Most people think of it as some kind of device used by a speaker to capture the audience’s attention. And it is in this regard that I want to talk about it.

At our last meeting, Holly Young gave her first speech to our group. It was excellent. My only suggestion was that she start with some kind of story that she could come back to at the end. This is one approach to an ice breaker.

Last year, Tony Navarra gave a speech in which he started with a story about his mother arguing with his father’s mistress. Young Tony noticed a hatchet and thought about using it to end the confrontation. Did he pick it up and hack the mistress to death? We didn’t find out until the end of the speech. But the main thing was that I don’t think I’ve ever been so engaged with a speech because of that.

Ideas for Ice Breakers

Today, I came upon a video by Ryan McLean, “Public Speaking Ice Breakers.” In it, he goes over 10 ideas for ice breaker — 7 when speaking to a large audience and 3 when speaking to a small audience. As he notes, there are things you can do with a small group that you can’t with a large group. In my experience, the opposite is also true. For example, it’s much easier to do comedy for a large audience.

Here are the ideas for large crowds:

  1. Make a joke at your own expense
  2. Ask a “raise your hands” question
  3. Start with an unfinished story
  4. Have someone introduce you
  5. Bring up some recent news
  6. Have audience members complete a task
  7. Read a quote.

And here are the ideas for smaller groups:

  1. Get everyone to introduce themselves in an unusual way
  2. Get everyone to make up a story about the person next to them
  3. Perform a quiz.

I don’t want to go into the details here. Watch the video; it’s good.

Everyone Is Different

Different people will take different things from this. Personally, I don’t like people starting with things like, “Raise your hand: how many of you love your mother?” It strikes me as too much like a TED Talk. I’d prefer, “We all love our mothers. Even people who hate their mothers love their mothers…”

But that’s just me. At the last meeting, Jennifer Shannon started with a “raise your hands” question and I thought it was very effective. And most people like TED Talks — it’s just miserable old iconoclasts like me who don’t.

And even I like some of them:

Go Forth and Speak!

Check out the ice breaker video above. I think it will give you ideas as you work on your next speech.

April 18th 2019 Noon Toastmasters Meeting




Brookdale Paulin Creek


Start Time: 12:12 pm

End Time: 1:12 pm


9 Members: President MeL Konrad, VP Education Brian Buckman, VP Membership Bert Rangel, Treasurer Mark Burchill, Secretary Frank Moraes, Holly Young, Orlando Kai O’Shea, Stephanie K Thatcher, Steve Domkowski.

3 Gusts: Area 25 Director Donica Hopkins, Jennifer Shannon, and Gabriel.


President: MeL Konrad

Toastmaster: Mark Burchill

Educational Minute: MeL Konrad

Table Topics: Orlando Kai O’Shea

Grammarian: Frank Moraes

Ah Counter / Timer: Stephanie K Thatcher.


Holly Young: “All About Holly” — Dynamic Leadership (Ice Breaker)
      Evaluated by Frank Moraes.

Jennifer Shannon: “Just Checking” — Area 25 Speech Contest Winner
      Evaluated by the club.

New Buisness

District conference is coming up on 11 May 2019.

Next Meeting

7 May 2019



Committee Reports



I started by reading the club mission and still managed to say “um” a lot.

President’s Remarks

MeL started by introducing our members. Gabriel attended his second meeting with us and I noticed that he signed up to do a speech in a few meetings. So I think we have a new member!

Also at the meeting was Area Director Donica Hopkins and Jennifer Shannon, who came to give her Area-winning speech “Just Checking” — which I assumed was about ethical approaches to banking.

District Conference

The District Conference is coming up on 11 May in San Ramon. I suspect a lot of people will go to it just for the chance to experience the wonder that is San Ramon. There’s a reason why everyone calls it “the 4th largest city in Contra Costa County”: because it’s population is below that of Richmond, Antioch, and Concord. How many other cities in Contra Costa County can say that?

In addition to San Ramon, there will be a lot of great speeches (if you’re into that kind of thing). The conference costs $99 and — like most Toastmasters events — should be fun. MeL will send out information about it this next week.

Our next meeting will be 07 May 2019. We were going to have an open house on 30 Apr 2019, but it turns out that the District will be supporting open houses in May, so we are probably going to do it then.

Orlando Gives Big Speech

MeL introduced Orlando who recently spoke in front of a large group.

He said that he was on the organizing committee for the Santa Rosa Trans Rights March — which took 8 weeks. There were about 400 people at the event and all the organizers gave speeches.

Orlando said that he had prepared remarks but that he found he was much better talking off the cuff.

His speech was simultaneously translated into Spanish and American Sign Language — something that none of the organizers had planned their speeches to allow for.

Congratulations, Orlando!

Upcoming Elections

The Toastmaster year runs from July through June. And that means we need to elect new officers. It’s a good thing because we really need to get rid of the current set of losers. (Like me.)

MeL went over the role of the Vice-President of Public Relations. Our current VP-PR, Anna Wong, has abandoned us to live in San Francisco. This makes no sense! Now I could understand if she had moved to San Ramon. I mean, who wouldn’t give up their last remaining molars to live in the 4th largest city in Contra Costa County? But San Francisco? Why?!

Anna will be sorely missed. So will her partner Marlee.

The VP-PR is the person responsible for reaching out to people and letting them know about the club. They do things like social media where they get into arguments about how Tony Robbins really isn’t that good a speaker and which toothpaste is best for public speaking. They might also reach out to local businesses and give speeches. Or anything else that might help promote the club. It’s a great opportunity to use your creativity.

Nominations will be in May and voting in June. After elected, all officers will have an electronic monitoring device placed on their ankles so they can’t escape.

Uriah Heep
Roland Young as Uriah Heep

Toastmaster Mark

My wishes have been fulfilled. Somehow, the word got out that I wasn’t too happy about all these foreign phrases people were using. So Mark picked:

Dulce et decorum est


This was one of my favorite words as a child because of Lord of the Rings. After out of the influence of the ring, Tolkien describes Gollum thus:

For that moment a change, which lasted for some time, came over him. He spoke with less hissing and whining, and he spoke to his companions direct, not to his precious self. He would cringe and flinch, if they stepped near him or made any sudden movement, and he avoided the touch of their elven-cloaks; but he was friendly, and indeed pitifully anxious to please. He would cackle with laughter and caper if any jest was made, or even if Frodo spoke kindly to him, and weep if Frodo rebuked him.

Sounds kind of like me. Did Tolkien make me the way I am?!

We discussed Uriah Heep, the character in David Copperfield. I have a confession to make: I’ve never heard the band. I was surprised to hear that they were a heavy metal band. I think I had always assumed they were a folk band. I listened to a little bit of them. They’re pretty good: great vocal harmonies and a rockin’ rhythm section!

Video: Uriah Heep performing “Easy Livin’

Well, here’s what the group had to say:

  • MeL: “I’m going to go the opposite of obsequious because that’s my cat, Sally.”
  • Brian: “Last night, my dog Brody was very obsequious behind me as I cooked bacon.
  • Holly: “Obsequious makes me think of The Stepford Wives and the creepy spell all those women were under.”
  • Stephanie: “Growing up my mother was quite obsequious about doing a complete body-scan at the doorway before she would allow me to go to school.”
  • Donica: “It’s very important at work that I am very obsequious to make sure that my boss is not trapped somewhere without a flight or hotel.”
  • Jennifer: “There’s a word for when the thing sounds like what it is.”
  • Orlando: “I’ve never met a cat in my life that was obsequious.”
  • Steve: “Donald Trump is not obsequious to anyone, but being a politician, he is full of Uriah Heep.”
  • Gabriel: “My wife is pregnant and last night I was not willing to be obsequious and go downstairs to get her lotion.”
  • Bert: “I am an obsequious monk of the hospitality industry.”

Speaker One: Holly

Holly gave her speech “All About Holly.” She talked about her life starting in Los Angeles and moving to the Bay Area when she was 12. Then she moved back south. Probably because her family didn’t settle in San Ramon — known throughout California as the 4th largest city in Contra Costa County. Finally, three years ago, she moved back to the Bay Area.

She spoke about her personal (marriage, children) and working (30 years in the real estate industry) life.

Her goal with Toastmasters is to consolidate her experiences and learn to coach and help others.

Anxiety: more than a 17-point word
Anxiety: more than a 17-point word

Speaker Two: Jennifer Shannon

Jennifer gave her Area 25 Speech Contest winning “Just Checking.” In it, she talked about her theory (from her psychological practice) that anxiety came from people focusing on things that are uncertain. “Is that pain in my arm cancer?” Or, “Am I going to lose my job?”

People can overcome this by assuming what they do about most things: that all is fine unless they have evidence otherwise.

It was clear why Jennifer won the Area contest!

Table Topics

Orlando was in charge of Table Topics where he gave money-related topics in celebration of tax time.

  • How much do you like to pay for a meal out?
    Holly: I like a good meal so I’ll pay a lot of money. Not a lot. Sixty dollars?
  • If you had to spend $150 on something non-practical in the next 24 hours, what would it be?
    Mark: A nice meal and a night at River’s End with my sweety.
  • What do you like to spend frivolous amounts of money on?
    Gabriel: I like to spend frivolous amounts of money on my motorcycle.
  • If you were guaranteed a good salary to do anything, what would you do?
    Bert: I enjoy what I do so much that I don’t even look outside of that.
  • What were you spending money on when you were 16?
    MeL: Ripple. [Now I know why I get along so well with MeL! -FM]
  • When was the last time that you wasted money?
    Steve: Ryan has no money at all. So when we go to Karaoke, the DJ always says, “Girls, if you like to go to McDonald’s, Ryan’s your man.”
  • Does money buy happiness?
    Stephanie: Money itself doesn’t buy happiness but what you do with it can add to your happiness.
  • What would you do with a sudden windfall?
    Bill Clarkson: Pay people to move to San Ramon so that it would be the 3rd largest city in Contra Costa County.

Speaker One Evaluation: Frank

I evaluated Holly’s Ice Breaker. It was really good — especially for a first speech. She speaks very clearly with few ums, ah, or other filler words.

She had a few pacing problems because she refused to wear her glasses and have access to her notes. I wouldn’t even know where to start if I did that.

I also recommended (I got this from MeL) to start and end the speech at the same place. That is: circle back to where you start.

It was great to see a new member speaking. Next time, Orlando will give his first speech.

Grammarian: Frank

I flailed around for a bit. Normally, I focus on what I like, but I forgot to take notes. So I babbled a bit about unusual word choices like “frivolous amounts.” But the difficult thing about being grammarian is that everyone in the group speaks rather well. We really need some ESL people so I can get out my red pen. (Just kidding. I’d be even nicer to them. You wouldn’t believe how bad my 5 words of Spanish are!)

Timer/Ah Counter: Stephanie

The times were:

  • Holly (4-6): 5:39
  • Jennifer (5-7): 6:45
  • Table Topics (1-2)
    • Holly: 0:27
    • Mark: 0:27
    • Gabriel: 0:10
    • Bert: 0:30
    • MeL: 1:04
    • Steve: 1:58
  • Frank (2-3): 2:48.

The Ahs:

  • Jennifer: 0
  • Gabriel: 0
  • Mark: 1
  • Holly: 2
  • Orlando: 4
  • MeL: 5
  • Frank: [redacted].

Wrap Up

MeL polled our guests:

  • Gabriel: I loved it. It’s my second time coming. I thought it was great. It’s exactly what I’m looking for.
  • Jennifer: I’ve been meaning to visit and the contest is a great excuse to do so… There is a huge benefit in doing a speech over and over again. I didn’t realize that before.
  • Donica: I really like this layout. It focuses attention.
  • Bill Clarkson: It’s amazing how unimpressive the largest city in Sonoma County is.

Our next meeting is May 7th.

And the meeting was adjourned.

Still from David Copperfield (1935) taken under Fair Use. Anxiety taken from Pixabay and licensed under Pixabay License.

Narrative of the 08 Jan 2019 Regular Meeting

So many Toastmasters showed up to this meeting that we are considering holding future meetings in MeL’s car.

Okay, okay, it wasn’t that bad. In fact, it was a pretty good turn-out for a rainy day. Plus we had two guests, which always brightens things up. We are looking forward to having the whole gang back together for the next meeting. In MeL’s car.

MeL acted as Sergeant at Arms and introduced President MeL. She introduced our two guests: Orlando and Geo. And then she introduced the Toastmaster who was… me.

I learned a lot doing it. I have no problem getting up in front of a group and making a fool of myself. But I’m totally disorganized. I couldn’t even follow my own notes. But we’ll get to that shortly.

I started by complaining about the small audience size that why comedians hate Tuesday night gigs. Do you want to know why? Well, you should have been at the meeting!


Finally, I got to my prepared comments. They were about what I most like about Toastmasters. And this is the diversity of the group. In my normal life, almost everyone I know is like me: pointy-headed intellectuals with more neuroses than sense. But at Toastmasters, I get to meet what I think of as normal people — even though they are doubtless also messes in their own wonderful ways!

Word of the Day

In my role as Toastmaster, I forgot to find someone to do the Thought/Joke of the Day. So I told a joke. It was a good joke. Unfortunately, it can’t really be related on paper. Or at least: it wouldn’t be funny. But if you want to hear it, just ask me to tell you the library joke. It’s part of my series, “Jokes You Can Tell Your Grandmother.”

Next up was the Word of the Day. And that word was “delicious.” But in my excitement to be Toastmaster, I didn’t think of an example. So I had to stand in front of everyone stuttering. I finally came out with something. But here are some good ones from the meeting:

  • Steve: The Red Delicious apple is not my favorite.

  • Brian: The food at House of Prime Rib is wonderfully delicious. [How do you get reservations?! -FM]

  • Bert: During my vacation, there was a delicious moment of floating on top of snow.

  • Mark: The hamburgers at the Rohnert Park Bowling Alley are surprisingly delicious.

  • MeL: There is a record from the 60s and it is called “Delicious.”

  • Orlando: I took a walk into Armstrong Redwoods after Christmas and it was delicious.

  • Geo: I’ve been making these smoothies in the morning and they are delicious.

Speech: Thank You, Tom

Mark then gave a speech called “Thank You, Tom.” It was a fond remembrance of his father. What stood out to me was something that Mark learned about business from his father — without even realizing it until he did it. It had to do with saving a client who hadn’t been well treated by Mark’s predecessor.

The speech was part of Mark’s Advanced Communicator Silver. I believe after he gets it, we have to refer to him as Mr Burchill or simply Sire. (I made this same joke at the meeting, but poorly stated; this is my second try.)

After the speech, I sped on to Table Topics. Thankfully, the group reminded me that we were supposed to evaluate Mark’s speech. So after I hissed at everyone, we did that.

Can you believe we only get one minute to write evaluations, Comrades?! Let us take back power from the officer pigs who create false scarcity of minutes!

So left, two, three!

So left, two, three!

To the work that we must do.

March on in the Workers’ United Front,

For you are a worker too!

Excuse me! The Workers’ United Front took over there for a moment. Don’t get me wrong, they’re nice people. Just don’t mention the capitalist oppression of the prolotariate.

Table Topics

Brian was in charge of Table Topics. He presented a “grab-bag” of topics. Here are some examples:

  • Memorable New Year Resolutions (MeL): “One memorable resolution was when my husband and I ran an office furniture store. I used to eat at my desk. So I resolved not to eat at my desk. It took me three months to make good on this resolution. And to this day, I still don’t do it.”

  • Memorable Birthday (Mark): “I think I was in my twenties. I went out to the Blue Heron. And I thought I was getting so old! And that was the oldest I’ve ever felt on a birthday.”

  • What Super-Power Would You Pick (Geo): “I think I’d go for time travel. Then I could go back in time and change all the horrible experiences in my life.”

  • Beach or Snow (Orlando): “A couple of weeks ago I was watching this video about this guy called the ‘ice man’ or something. He never gets sick. He’s 57. And he swims in icy water. And he hiked Mount Everest in his shorts… It was super inspiring. So I’ve been making a conscious decision to be more present in the cold weather.”

Speech Evaluation

Bert evaluated Mark’s speech. He spoke about the difficulties of giving this kind of speech. Then he noted Mark’s excellent pacing, tone, and storytelling. He went through most of the points of the story. His only real “complaint” was that the speech hadn’t been longer.


MeL presented the grammarian’s report. She highlighted the gems that she liked:

  • My stated original intention of making “ooze” the word of the day.

  • Bert’s statement that he was “floating on snow.”

  • A phrase from Mark’s speech: “Ambition, persistence, humility.”

  • Orlando said “Be present in cold weather.”

Then we all discussed the word “peccadillo.” Geo was nice enough to pull up a definition for us, “a small, relatively unimportant offense or sin.”

Timer / Ah Counter

Steve presented the timer and ah counter reports. He focused on things besides ums and ahs — filler words, for example. Four people used a filler word at the beginning of speaking:

  • Geo: well.

  • Me: okay.

  • Bert: well.

  • MeL: um.

Interestingly, I absolutely positively never used um or ah during the whole meeting.

The timings:

  • Mark speech (5-7): 6:53

  • Table Topics (1-2)

    • MeL: 0:55

    • Bert: 1:19

    • Mark: 0:56

    • Geo: 1:05

    • Orlando: 0:54

    • Me: 1:13

  • Evaluation (2-3): 2:52

  • Grammarian (1-2): 1:59


I waffled a bit at the end — talking about the small but exciting meeting and our wonderful guests who were like pros — they really did a great job. And then I turned the meeting back over to MeL.

MeL asked our guests what they thought about the meeting. Orlando said he really enjoyed it — that he had no idea what to expect coming in. Geo said he got a lot out of the meeting. MeL thanked them both for coming and participating.

And with that, the meeting was adjourned!

Minutes of the 08 Jan 2019 Regular Meeting


Brookdale Paulin Creek


Start Time: 12:14 pm

End Time: 1:05 pm


6 Members: President MeL Konrad, VP Education Brian Buckman, VP Membership Bert Rangel, Treasurer Mark Burchill, Secretary Frank Moraes, and Steve Domkowski.

2 Guest: Orlando, Geo.


President: MeL Konrad

Toastmaster: Frank Moraes

Table Topics: Brian Buckman

Grammarian: MeL Konrad

Ah Counter / Timer: Steve Domkowski


Mark Burchill: “Thank You, Tom” — Special Occasions Speeches Path — ACS.

Evaluated by Bert Rangel.

Previous Buisness


Next Meeting

22 January 2019



Committee Reports


Narrative for the 06 Nov 2018 Regular Meeting

Sergeant-at-arms Kelly read our mission and introduced Present MeL Konrad. She introduced our three returning guests: Deborah, Alisa, and Yana. And then there was a bunch of paper work so I didn’t really pay attention. Who knows what happened!

MeL announced that we decided to drop the second November meeting because it was so close to Thanksgiving — just two days apart so it was clearly a no-go. (Notice how that can be taken as an obvious statement of fact or a snarky comment by a secretary who is totally out of control. What would life be without ambiguity? Unambiguous!)

MeL took over as Toastmaster and reminded us that 06 Nov 1860 was the day that Abraham Lincoln was first elected president. This made sense because it was election day for us. I should know because, being a liberal, I voted 37 times before the meeting.

Word of the Day

The word of the day was “history.”

Before we get into this, I should point out that I gave people the wrong idea. I said, “My family has a mental illness.” Despite what the beaten and battered man you know may indicate, I have a long history of performance. So I rarely say anything that is true. While my family is crazy, they are no more so than the rest of you. I just liked the sound of “history of mental illness.” .+.+.+.+ Really. &&^** Perfectly normal.

Some highlights:

  • Yana: my history does not define my future.

  • Mark: when you travel you learn that others have a different perception of history than you do. When we were in the south we learned about the “war of northern aggression.”

  • Brian: When I look at my personal history, I try not to say “coulda, shoulda, woulda.”

Speech #1

Brian spoke about his problems with procrastination. He had a lot of good ideas. But he never got around to writing the speech.

I’m kidding of course. Brian gets better each time he gives a speech. That’s both true of his presentation and his content. For example, he presented a memorable object lesson, “When you have to eat two frogs, eat the uglier one first. That’s excellent advice.

But this is very important Brian! If you ever provide an example that makes me that ill again, I will kidnap you and force you to watch all three The Human Centipede films.

Speaking of The Human Centipede I am fascinated by the evolution of the anus. We don’t tend to think much of the worm, but that was the organism that introduced the anus into life on Earth. Until then, animals took nutrients in and flushed wastes out of the same hole. Having separate places for this meant that we could extract far more nutrients from our food. I still find the whole process disgusting. But it really is amazing. And as much as my anus disgusts me, its better than the option. Don’t think about it. (In case you were wondering, this is the Easter Egg!)

Speech #2

Next up was me. I had to give an improved version of my previous speech on Don Quixote. So I bought a plastic sword and brought a pot to wear on my head. It is only when you start putting pots on your head when you realize just how big your head is.

Listening to my speech I was struck by the relative lack of ums and ahs. Instead, there was a whole lot of stammering. But I think I do a good job of mixing up my speaking disfluencies.

Table Topics

Mark ran the Table Topics with two choices: a saying or a word. Some highlights:

  • Dan — Gambit: I think all through my life I’ve been involved in a lot of gambits — a lot of failures and a lot of successes.

  • Bert — Déjà vu: Did I really see the future?

  • Kelly — Raining cats and dogs: I love to run in the rain.

  • Deborah — Dressed to the nine: That is when you go for it. It is when you make sure your outfit speaks to who you really think you are.


Bert evaluated Brian’s speech. He talked about how Brian had a natural and authentic approach to his speaking. What’s more, he highlighted the structure of his speech. Then he started talking about frogs and I started to have more fantasies of men tied to chairs forced to watch violent scatological films.

There was a round-robin discussion of my speech. Everyone was really nice. In other words, they lied. Mark liked my humor, but he’s twisted in that way. Bert discussed my passion. Kelly thought I should have worn the pot longer. I agree — no one can make a pot work like me.


Kelly was the grammarian. She focused on our 16th president. She was also taken with the words maverick and gamut. As a once very serious chess player, I will tell you: there are no interesting lines that follow from gamuts accepted or declined. But I did once write a short story called “Rook Gamut.” It’s not about chess.

Ah Counter

Bert was the ah counter. He prefaced his comments by noting that ahs aren’t all bad. This probably comes from the fact that I whine about them so much. Now that Brian has fixed his ah problems, I’m all alone. But being as I am, I may try to introduce even more ahs into my speeches. Not true! My plan is to start doing sections of my one-man play “Deconstructed” where I will have memorize these things. Otherwise, the writer gets really angry. Regardless, the quality of the speeches just get better and better.


  • Brian: 6:25

  • Frank: 5:33

  • Table Topics

    • Alisa: 1:15

    • Dan: 0.42

    • Yana: 1:03

    • Bert: 1:10

    • Kelly: 2:18

    • Deborah: 1:49

  • Bert: ?


MeL said she was pleased that the speeches were humorous and that the guests played such an important part in the meetings.

The guests all discussed their thoughts about the meeting.

And the meeting was over!

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Minutes for the 06 Nov 2018 Regular Meeting


Brookdale Paulin Creek


Start Time: 12:12 pm

End Time: 1:15 pm


7 Members: President MeL Konrad, VP Education Brian Buckman, VP Membership Bert Rangel, Sergeant Kelly Cunneen, Treasurer Mark Burchill, Secretary Frank Moraes, and Schell.

3 Guest: Deborah, Alisa, and Yana.


President: MeL Konrad

Toastmaster: MeL Konrad

Table Topics: Mark Burchill

General Evaluator: MeL Konrad

Grammarian: Kelly Cunneen

Timer: MeL Konrad


Brian Buckman: “Eat That Frog!” — Dynamic Leadership Path — Research and Presenting Speech.

Evaluated by Bert Rangel.

Frank Moraes: “Why You Should Read Don Quixote – Part 2” — Evaluation and Feedback — Evaluation and Feedback Speech (Part II).

Evaluated by Round Robin.

Previous Buisness


Important: Membership Dues Can Still Be Submitted

You still have until the end of the month to get your membership dues in. If you haven’t already done so, please do it now!

Next Meeting

04 December 2018



Committee Reports


Noon Toastmasters

Minutes for the 06 Nov 2018 Executive Meeting


  • Start Time: 11:03 am

  • Location: Brookdale Paulin Creek

  • Presiding officer: President MeL Konrad

  • Attendees: MeL Konrad, VP Education Brian Buckman, VP Membership Bert Rangel, Treasurer Mark Burchill, Sergeant Kelly Cunneen, and Secretary Frank Moraes.

  • Previous Month’s Minutes: approved.

  • Financial report: Mark sent out the financial report. We have 11 paid members. Dan Schell has returned and should be submitting his dues soon. We paid for our PO Box last month for the whole year, which is roughly a third of our 6-month budget. Paypal is being a problem. [Secretary’s remark: because they suck!] They wanted lots of information about our contact information. So we are no longer using Paypal and we are no longer accepting credit cards.

  • DP Status: Brian said that Anna and he had almost completed their first path. Our biggest problem with getting DP status is not all the stuff we do. We are an awesome club. Our problem is that we are a small club. Mark proposed that new members starting after the new year sign-up for 9 months instead of the normal 3 months. We will offer $10 off the first yearly membership.

  • Officers Training: Dec 1.

  • Old Business:

    • Mix-up with officers names on the website has been fixed.

    • MeL thanked the group for the successful open house and gave everyone a gift-card for Starbucks. Thanks, MeL!

    • Mark has contacted all outstanding members regarding dues.

    • There was concern about our old address on our local website and the TMI websites. It was not there. It was, however, on Google Maps. Bert contacted Google regarding this and they made an exception and actually fixed the problem. We are now clean.

    • We’ve canceled the podcast.

  • VP Reports:

    • Education: Brian said that we should have two new levels by the next meeting.

    • Membership: Bert sent out a thank you email message to people for coming to the open house. Then he sent another message announcing the current meeting.

  • Housekeeping items:

    • Frank wants the WordPress site destroyed!

    • Nov 20 meeting was canceled due to its proximity to Thanksgiving.

    • Dec 18 meeting will be a Social.

    • Jan meetings are pushed up by a week so that the first meeting will be on Jan 8.

  • Discussions:

    • Bert would like to focus on LinkedIn for marketing.

    • In order to get $50 for the open house, we need (1) copy of guest list; (2) copy of flier; (3) receipts. Information must be provided to Mark.

  • Motions:

    • Previous Month’s Minutes: Mark motioned, Bert seconded.

  • Votes:

    • Previous Month’s Minutes: yes (unanimous).

  • Action Items:

    • MeL and Bert will organize the welcome material.

  • End Time: 12:00 am

Join Us!

All members are welcome to join us for executive meetings. They occur at 11:00 am the first Tuesday of each month. They are more lively than they probably sound.

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