Friday, 28 April 2006

Catastrophy from Siren Tales

fire_dog A fireman is polishing his fire engine outside the fire station when he notices a little girl in a little red cart with little ladders hung on the side and a garden hose tightly coiled in the middle.

The little girl is wearing a fireman's helmet and has the cart tied to a dog and a cat. The fire-fighter walks over to take a closer look:

"That's a lovely fire engine,' he says admiringly.

Thanks,' says the little girl.

The fireman looks closer and notices the little girl has tied one of the cart's strings to the dog's collar and one to the cat's testicles.

'Little colleague,' says the fire-fighter, 'I don't want to tell you how to run your fire engine, but if you were to tie that rope around the cat's collar, I think you could probably go a lot faster.'

The little girl pauses for a moment, looks at the wagon, at the dog and at the cat, then looks into the fireman's eyes and says:

'You're probably right, but then it wouldn't have an 'effin siren, would it?'

Courtesy of this madwoman.

(NB: Catastrophy is the title of a "Cat Friendsey" Animal Video Show for your CATS TO WATCH (Parental Guidance Advised) from Siren Tales Productions.)

Sunday, 23 April 2006

Patron Saint of sheep; skin diseases; skin rashes; soldiers and syphilis, amongst other things ...

image The fact that England's Patron Saint shares a first name with a certain Texas village idiot should be enough to put most people off, but did you also know that St. George is the Patron Saint of sheep; skin diseases; skin rashes; soldiers and syphilis, amongst a whole list of other things you can find here at the Catholic Forum?

"He is patron saint not only of England but also of Aragon, Catalonia, Georgia, Lithuania, Palestine, Portugal, Germany and Greece; and of Moscow, Istanbul, Genoa and Venice (second to St Mark).

He's also patron saint of soldiers, archers, cavalry and chivalry, farmers and field workers, riders and saddlers, and he helps those suffering from leprosy, plague and syphilis.", according to the BBC.

The cult of St George probably first reached the Kingdom of England when the crusaders returned from the Holy Land in the 12th century. When I was a kid, his day, April 23rd, was still remembered. Well, it was marked as the day that you wore your Boy Scouts or Brownies uniform to school and there'd be a Church Parade, but it was never much of a party, as such.

"With the revival of Scottish and Welsh nationalism, there has been renewed interest within England in St George, whose memory had been in abeyance for many years."

Really? Personally, I don't buy it.

We English have never had that same sense of nationalism. Well, we wouldn't. We are arrogant enough to presume we are above needing to (re)claim our identity. We are the kind of people who go abroad and still think that the local people there are the "foreigners". Truly, it's never us.

The Scottish and Welsh, probably in their right minds, do have this sense of nationalism, because they want the rest of the world to know that they are not like us. And whatever it is that defines an Englishman (or woman) these days, it certainly has nothing whatsoever to do with a legendary 4th Century saint.

In fact, any figure pertaining to a particular religious persuasion is a wholly unsuitable candidate nowadays. A cartoon character might work though.

"Are you proud of the Country's glorious history and heritage? Then why not become a member of The Royal Society of St. George? Membership is open to all people who share our love of England and Englishness."

Agreed: England used to be lovely to look at. It is time, I think, however, that we stopped seeing the wholesale carnage we inflicted on vast parts of the world in the name of an Empire, as a "glorious history".

No less contentious and legendary in his way, is the bloke who may have been born and certainly died on this day, William Shakespeare, who, coincidentally, was who firmly placed St George within the national conscience in his play Henry V in which the English troops are rallied with the cry “God for Harry, England and St George.”

If "Englishness" is to be celebrated on April 23rd (though I have seen no evidence of great celebrations), maybe it would be better to call it Shakespeare Day? He has been analysed in almost every language know to mankind, yet, not even the English speakers understand him, so that kinda makes him universal enough.

Having been born in the Midlands, I know Stratford-upon-Avon quite well and, I will admit that it is a pretty town, well worth visiting. However, a stroll around the back streets and a rummage around the antique shops is far more attractive than lining up for the tourist traps. His "birthplace" probably wasn't his birthplace anyway.

Oh, of course, being "typically English" (despite a decade and a half in Spain: it is an untreatable condition), I do have an egotistical reason for proffering this alternative celebration. We have (on my late father's side), relatives with the surname Shakespeare. Just imagine, I could be a "celebrity blogger".

"To sleep: perchance to dream: ay, there's the rub;" Happy Shakespeare Day!

Thursday, 13 April 2006

7 Ways To Be Unreasonable

(ED NOTE: If being a bit of a rebel also gets you more excited about your work and that in turn translates to more passion, which rubs off on your life, creations or customers ... Well, yeah, I vote for unreasonable!)

First decide what you really want to do. What would make work worth working at and life worth living. Then figure out how to do it.

Most people look to what they know they CAN do as a guide to what they WILL do; I think to get anything important done in the world, you have to look towards what you WANT to do, and then figure out how to do it.

When most people think about what they are committed to, they consider where they can build a bridge to from where they already are. What would happen if you chose where you wanted to go without considering your current circumstances and then worried about how to build that bridge?

There is nothing wrong with being reasonable, except that "what is reasonable" is a poor guide to action when designing actions to push the future. Being reasonable will help you feel safe in the sense of knowing that your actions will turn out pretty much the way you expect them to. But it is dangerous in that same sense of producing predictable results; what is predictable has, by definition, been done before. And what has been done before is unlikely to make much of a difference in the future.

Paul Lemberg

Seven ways to be unreasonable.

“The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adopt the world to himself. Therefore, all progress depends on the unreasonable man.” - George Bernard Shaw

“Insanity is doing the same thing over and over expecting different results.” - Rita Mae Brown

“So what else is new?” - Paul Lemberg

Being reasonable

My dictionary defines being reasonable as being rational. Rational, it says, means being reasonable. A vicious circle: I know I'm in trouble already. Going further, reasonable also means being governed by reason; which in turn means explanations, justifications, underlying facts, good judgment, normalcy, plus the capacity for logic and analytic thought. Further, being reasonable means being within the bounds of common sense, as in arriving home at a reasonable hour, and lastly it means not excessive or extreme.

I'm all for logic and analytic thought, but does following the dictum "be reasonable" sound like a good way to build a breakthrough business?

The very idea of "being reasonable," prescribes something restrictive. It exhorts us to remain "within the box," to do what sensible people would do: not to over commit ourselves, to be cautious, to avoid risks, to hold our trump cards.

What is the alternative?

To be unreasonable, of course. Being unreasonable, like it's more cautious cousin, suggests multiple meanings. Here are seven applications of being unreasonable.

1. Think beyond what is normal, proper, and appropriate.

Typically, one of the first things prospective clients say to me is, "But you're not from our industry. How can you understand our problems, much less provide solutions?" My response is always the same: "That's the last thing you need. You already have plenty of people thinking similarly and use over-used ideas." What you need is thinking un-bounded by the traditional logic of your industry; ideas that can bring an un-reasoning perspective.

2. Eliminate the reasons why.

There are reasons why we have to do things a certain way. There are reasons why certain approaches to business are going to work and others will not. There are reasons why things should be the way they are and not some other way. Challenge the reasons why and ask people to set them aside. Ask, "Well, what if we did. What would happen then? Would that work? What would work better? What would really rock you?"

3. No more excuses.

When someone in your company doesn't produce the desired results--results to which they have committed, perhaps promised themselves and their departments--they usually have a reason why not. Looking at it this way, you always have one or the other: desired results or reasons why you don't. People act as if those reasons are almost as good as the results. How do I know this? Because they always say something like, "Well, it didn't work, but here's why not," or "We didn't get 'it' done, because..." Or, worse still, " We didn't even try because..."

Remove people's option to resort to reasons why not. Take away their option to resort to excuses. I think the entire working world would shift if there was no recourse to the "excuse" option--if all you could do was produce the desired result, or try another way to get the desired result, or try another way, and so on.

4. Set unreasonable expectations.

Ask people to go beyond what they think is reasonable or normal, Ask them to go beyond cautious commitments that hedge their bets, to make risky pronouncements that exhilarate them but might threaten the natural order of things.

Place big giant stakes in the ground--then figure out how to deliver. Figure out how to turn those unreasonable expectations into reality. Taking this approach will dramatically increase effectiveness and productivity--and ultimately cash flow, if it works nicely--in any business. Why should you settle--why should your customers settle--for what is reasonable and predictable? Why accept the norm, the average, the median? Apply unreasonable thinking. Set unreasonable expectations.

5. Make unreasonable requests.

This approach will aid every executive when working with vendors, contractors and employees. Remember "Just say no?" Try "Just ask for more." Keep asking for more, better, sooner. Up the ante. Ask people to perform beyond their best.

This is not a negotiating tactic. It is not "nibbling." It is asking people to perform beyond their own sense of what is reasonable. Sometimes people will fail to meet these unreasonable commitments--don't beat them up for it. Sometimes you will get stellar results you wouldn't have dreamed of previously.

6. Make unreasonable plans.

Does this sound like an oxymoron? Most companies plan to achieve reasonable results relative to past successes and failures, or even worse, relative to questionable industry lore. Instead of setting these kind of goals, begin with a more profound question: what would make a really big difference? What would cause a breakthrough for the company? What would dramatically increase shareholder value or profits? What would be "worth doing?" The answers may not be reasonable; they may instead take you down a path towards huge success.

7. Forecast unreasonable futures.

Most businesses forecast their results--revenues, growth rates and so on, based on prior year's results. They call this reasonable, and similarly they assume industry norms and consider them reasonable. But in the twenty-first century, driven by the incredible rate of change in all aspects of our: culture, industry, customer's businesses, our workforce, available technology--to think that anything dating from last year remains the same in this one--this isn't just not reasonable, it might be totally ridiculous.

Take into account all the factors--bring everything you know about the situation up-to-date, add to it all the future changes you predict--and use that to forecast unreasonable results and make unreasonable plans.

So what to do?

Should you give up all pretense of rationality and logic? Should you step outside the norms and ignore the accumulated wisdom of your industry? "That would be great if it works out," you say, "but if it doesn't, my job is on the line." Right? Well, yes, but...

Unreasonable thinking does not mean un-thinking. Unreasonable thinking is about exploring. Pushing the envelope. Cross pollinating. Intuitive inventing. It may be that the line separating unreasonable ideas from ridiculous ideas lies where thinking is left behind. Or perhaps the line lies only in hindsight.

I think the fear of failing, the fear of jeopardizing your future, is the biggest obstacle to creating great results. Yet the only way to create big giant breakthrough results is to take the road less traveled--to create ideas and programs that are unreasonable--and going for it. If you fail people will--with perfect hindsight--call your idea ridiculous. But if you succeed... wow!

About The Author: Visit to download a simple worksheet for aiding your practice of making unreasonable requests.

Monday, 10 April 2006

Intruder Alarm

So, here I was minding my own business at the keyboard, dog at my feet this morning, when suddenly, a singular caterwaul broke the morning's silence. Holly's sense of direction, it has to be said, is somewhat better than mine. As I began to check various directions, she bolted straight out towards the back utility room.

Nanoseconds later, Khan came rushing through the house at the speed of a bullet and fired himself out of the front door between the gaps in the trellised "kiddy gate". He was closely followed by a ginger cat of unknown origins, who was catching up on him rapidly as he passed through the house and similarly shot out of the front door.

Kitty was right behind the stranger. Considering that all three cats only had to traverse one 12 foot room and the 6 foot wide hallway to reach the door, either the dog wasn't trying or she is supremely stupid. She failed to catch any of them!

Betty was observing all this, calmly and serenely, from the safety of a windowsill and Mico was in the garden, not far from the front of the house. It all happened far to quick for him too. When I took the dog out to investigate what she'd missed (she wouldn't settle until she'd made sure the intruder was gone), Mico was just sitting there, transfixed, with a shell-shocked "WTF was that?" look on his face.

And, as we strolled down the garden, Balu ambled lazily up from the vines opposite to see what was going on. "You've missed all the fun, lad.", I thought.

In truth, there did not seem to be a great deal of animosity towards this stranger and the disturbance was minimal: everyone returned to whatever they were doing very quickly once he'd left and it is the second time I have seen him loitering around recently, which probably means he's been around much more that I haven't been aware of. Presumably now, he's "cased the joint" and got up the confidence to come in the back window in search of the food that is served out in that back room.

No doubt, this will open a new chapter in the tales of the feline frolics.

Sunday, 2 April 2006

The Coming of the Great Plague

You would think so, wouldn't you. According to the BBC, "Plans for mass burials are being considered as part of Home Office preparations for a possible bird flu pandemic. It cites a confidential report that says a "prudent worst case" assessment suggested 320,000 could die if the H5N1 virus mutated into a human form." There is, of course, nothing to worry about!

Rabbit Rescue Employs New Security Chief

Yes, boys and girls, rabbits are in season again! Well, maybe the rabbits were in season how ever long ago it takes to make little baby ones, but rabbit hunting season (for cats) has begun again this year.

We have too many rabbits here and they do cause considerable damage to crops, especially the vines and, for that maybe the "responsible" thing to do would be to ignore it and let the cats get on with what is natural to them to control the population. Unfortunately, when they bring them, alive, into my house and the poor little things are screaming in fear of their captors, I find that I simply I do not have what it takes to be an accessory to murder.

So, one dear little thing spent the hot afternoon in a cool cat basket to rest and recuperate from the ordeal, after being inspected, given a little milk and some TLC in lieu of psychological counselling. When they are this small, I am not sure that their chances of survival are good alone, but I've taken him (or her) to a spot where, hopefully, it will find some friends or, better yet, a new mummy.

Let the dog see the rabbit ...

I generally thought this meant so that they can eat them. Here was the curious thing and, I suspect it was because Holly picked up from my caring for the little bunny, that this was the right thing to do. So that is what she did. Just like she has done in the past with kittens. Strange and wonderful dog.
All afternoon, each time a cat went to go near the rabbit, she would stick her nose between cat and basket and give them a short, gruff bark and a nudge out of the way. These cats, her "older children", knew she meant it too, because I watched as they rolled over quickly into defensive postures, then slunk away.

A German Shep/Presa Canario/Rottie type mix is probably not what you'd normally consider as suitable as a babysitter for small rabbits (nor for small kittens, for that matter). I keep expecting her to revert to nature and behave like a dog one day, but it really shows no signs of occurring!


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