Sunday, February 19, 2012

Dog in a Cat's World

There's a theory that most personalities fit into two categories: dogs or cats. This has little to do with which pets you like, but rather, how you relate to others.

Dog personalities like to please people. They are team players, and make decisions through extensive consultation. Cat personalities make independent decisions according to their own interests and priorities. Others' opinions are only important if they fit the cat's own single-minded purpose.

Suddenly the past few years of my life make terrible sense. I am a dog, in a world ruled by cats. What's worse, I unwittingly believed that most of our beloved leaders were dogs. No wonder I couldn't make any headway as a political activist.

It isn't all bad news though. Just mostly bad news. Cats are often capable (if uncaring) leaders. A cat can make a sound decision in the time that it takes a group of dogs to get through the first round of introductions. Richard the Lionhearted and Napoleon were undoubtedly cats . . . but so was Adolf Hitler. I'm guessing that Jimmy Carter, on the other hand, was a red-blooded, your-opinion-truly-matters dog. A great guy, but not the best choice to solve a national crisis. Give me a cat-leader any day when we're staring down the Iranians.

I'm not naive enough to think that anyone, including myself, is all cat or all dog. Most firefighters I know are dog-like, in that they care about others and want to help. Why else would you allow the world to keep you on a short leash called 911? Put a firefighter in charge of the fireground, on the other hand, and he or she must be a cat or things will go south quickly.

The ideal leader would be able switch back and forth between cat and dog styles effortlessly as the need arose. That's why ideal leaders don't exist, by the way. The higher you rise in leadership, the less you see the need for dog-style consultation.

You can read more about the dilemma created by trying to please others in my February column for Firefighting in Canada.

The recently released Drummond Report is a case of cats talking to cats. That's a really scary thought. I haven't had the patience to sit down and actually read it, but from what I hear, both polarized views are likely bad news in the end. Whether both sides honestly believe that they represent the best interests of the province or not, both assuredly care little about anyone else's opinion. And it's almost guaranteed that the volunteer fire service hasn't even entered either side's mind as a consideration of importance.

If you want a more educated perspective on the Drummond Report, you can read Laura King's blog post here.

Political consultation isn't all a waste of time, in spite of my gloomy surmisings. Eventually the issues important to dogs become big enough that even the cats take notice because all of their nine lives depend on it.

When that happens, the dogs that have their ducks in a row will be heard. Thus saith the doggish ant from Upsala.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Unapologetically (But Politely) Opinionated

A while ago one of my readers commented about the fact that I rated some of my featured links as being "boring, but useful."  The rating was only half serious, and quite honestly I never expected anyone to notice, but I had to concede that "boring" was a harsh judgement to render. In fact, I once wrote that the most terrifying verdict a speaker can hear is that she or he is boring (see my January 2009 column).

The cold dry fact, however, is that it's nearly impossible to make all useful information entertaining. There are certain textbooks you read, certain speakers to which you listen, and certain websites you visit because they offer what you need, not because they make you feel good.

While we're on the topic of rating websites, you might have noticed that I rated my Spontaneous Combustion articles as "Entertaining but not necessarily useful." I'm not sure which is worse - being boring or useless.

Speaking of Spontaneous Combustion (which is hopefully neither boring nor useless), I finally updated the link on the sidebar, and it will now take you to the most recent installment. Or if you are too lazy to find the link on the sidebar, you can click here.

I didn't just rate you as lazy if you didn't go to the sidebar. Or did I. Hmmmm.

Some of my friends have recommended that I curb my opinionated ramblings, seeing that I now hold the precarious position of temporary manager of the Pre-Service Fire Program. They may have a point, but I don't flatter myself that anyone pays that much attention. The fact that someone who is somebody actually read and gave feedback on my "boring but useful rating" was flattering, but definitely unusual. 

Now I feel like I just rated those who commented on my posts in the past as not being "somebodies." If I did, I definitely retract that rating.

On a vaguely connected theme (and as a means of suggesting you to read more of my hopefully entertaining stuff), you can read my musings about the ups and downs of not being taken seriously here (no link on the side bar this time, so no accusations of laziness). 

You gotta wonder how a blog post can spiral out of control to this extent. 

On a completely unrelated topic, I missed an opportunity to hear Margaret Trudeau yesterday. I was busy doing important stuff and didn't realize she was a two minute walk from my office giving an entertaining and useful talk on maintaining a balanced and healthy mental state of mind. It isn't a topic that has instant appeal to me, but, in my opinion, the fire service hasn't paid enough attention to the topic. I know I didn't take it seriously enough until recently.

Wrangling myself back to the original topic of harsh ratings, I wasn't repentant enough to change the ratings on the links on my sidebar. Or maybe I was just too lazy. 

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Superbowl Sunday Syndrome

Years ago I saw a cartoon of a mom and two knee-high kids in turnout gear by a fire truck with a charged hose, ready to attack a fully involved house in the background. The frazzled occupants stood in the driveway with question marks over their heads. The caption read:

"What did you expect on Superbowl Sunday?"

That might only be funny if you live in a small community served by volunteer firefighters. Or maybe it isn't funny at all, especially if you live in a small community served by volunteer firefighters. Whatever your perspective, it is a caricature of reality for lots of under-staffed departments.

Volunteer firefighters are the butt of many jokes about saving basements, slow response times, and wannabe firefighter behaviour. As chief of a volunteer department for a lot of years, my coping strategy in the face of this teasing was to laugh along with the rest, knowing full well that the mockers had no clue of what our reality was.

Kind of like me poking fun at politicians. I have little clue what their reality actually is. I should hold my opinions until I've walked a mile in their moccasins. Except that most of them don't wear moccasins. Even if they did, I don't plan to walk in them any time soon, so I'd be holding my opinions for a long time. It's much more fun to satirize these very large targets, even though I don't have enough information to be completely fair. Which is why people make fun of volunteer firefighters.

Here's where I should go into a tirade about volunteers doing a lot with a little, and saving lives on a shoestring budget, and how society is wrong to marginalize these essential public servants who often work for free . . . but no one listens to tirades, and I already talked about it in my June 12 post (in which I talk about the one-eyed king ruling in the land of the blind).

The moral of the story: if you live in the 80% of Canada served by volunteers, give them a break this weekend and be safe so they can watch the game.

And if you are a volunteer firefighter who is a Superbowl fan . . . keep your pager and your DVR handy.

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