A: How much free will have I got?

B: You? Lots.

A: I mean ‘I’ as a human?

B: I’m not sure. Isn’t there something about this by that Skinner chap?

A:  It was. It was Burrhus Frederic Skinner (B. March 20, 1904, Susquehanna, Pennsylvania D. August 18, 1990, Cambridge, Massachusetts) did a fair amount on conditioning.

B: Of course. Remind me…..

A: Well Skinner’s research looked at reinforcement. If an animal is rewarded for behaviour the animal is more likely to continue carrying out that behaviour.

B: So how would this pan out in real, every day, living your life, terms?

A: Well as Stevie (Belle and Sebastian) puts it;

”What’s important is a code by which to live. Here’s mine…drummed into me at an early age

1. Never hit a woman

2. Never cross a picket line.

3. Always get your round in at the bar.“

B: I see. So dead practical.

A: Absolutely.

B: I also read that when people were asked to write the name ‘Michael Schumacher’, most people write this quicker than when they write other names.”

A: Interesting and true.

B: Didn’t Pavlov do something like that with his dogs?

A: He did. However there was some spooky business going on with Ivan Petrovitch Pavlov (B. September 14, 1849 Ryazan, Russia,  D. February 27, 1936 in Leningrad).

B: Really?

A: Yes. He worked with Lenin.

B: The Lenin?

A: No his brother. Of course the Lenin – Vladamir Ilyich Lenin (B. April 22 1870 Simbirsk, Russia, D. 21 January 1924 Gorki, Russia). Apparently he gave Pavlov a special task. Pavlov’s assignment was to write a summary of his life’s work – but he was to apply this knowledge to human beings,

B: Wow.

A: Three months later Pavlov handed Lenin a 400 page manuscript. Lenin shook Pavlov’s hand firmly and told him he had guaranteed the future of the Revolution.

B: So Lenin used these finding on his people?

A: Apparently. According to Aldous Leonard Huxley (B.26 July 1894, Godalming, Surrey, England, D. 22 November 1963 Los Angeles, California)Pavlov showed that the central nervous system of dogs can be broken down using various unpleasant methods. Therefore, in principle, so could the central nervous system of political prisoners. It is simply a matter of applying the right amount of stress for the right amount of time.

B: So the funny little things he did making dogs bark weren’t so innocent.

A: Um… no.

B: So tell me about the dog experiment thing.?

A: Well Dr Pavlov was looking  at conditioned reflexes. He showed that dogs could be trained to physically react (salivating) to an external stimulus (a bell) without food being present.

B: Wasn’t there a disciple of Pavlov who recorded experiments on other animals?

A: Indeed Edward John Izzard (B. 7 February 1962 Aden, Yemen) made some interesting observations of Pavlov’s less successful work with cats.

B: Really.

A: Professor Izzard describes that after Pavlov had managed to condition his dogs, he tried to repeat the experiment on his cat;

“Pavlov’s cat results:

Day 1: rang bell – cat f****ed off.

Day 2: rang bell – cat went and answered door.

Day 3: rang bell – cat said he’d eaten earlier

Day 4: went to ring bell, but cat had stolen batteries
Final day Day 5: Went to ring bell with new batteries, but cat put paw on bell so it only made a thunk noise. Then cat rang his own bell, I ate food.”


On Anger, Optimism and Why It’s Cruel To Say Happy New Year To People

 An angry Robin Hood

An angry Robin Hood

B: Happy New Year.

A: Don’t say that.

B: Why?

A: It’s cruel.

B: ?

A: Let me explain. Do you remember when you told me the Doctor Fellgood tale of Wilko Johnson, Lee Brilleaux and the chips?

B:  Ah what wonderful bedtime stories I used to tell.

A: That’s right. As you recall they, allegedly, had a big fight because Lee put too much salt on his chips.

B: Indeed. So this is relevant to anything how?

A: Well Mr. Johnson got extremely angry didn’t he?

B: He certainly did

A: But why did he get so angry?

B: Not sure why he got so angry after all Lee only put too much salt on his chips.

A: After 15 years of touring.

B: At least.

A: (sigh). OK let’s go through this slowly. When was the last time you got angry?

B: Well this week I’ve been angry about people parking on double yellow lines outside schools, etc…..

A: So why did you get angry?

B: Well – it’s wrong isn’t it. I don’t park outside schools so why should anyone lese do it – and get away with it.

A: I see it’s a sense of injustice. A sense of it shouldn’t be this way.

B: yes – life is unfair and shouldn’t be this way.

A: But it is.

B: I know.

A: So tomorrow are you still going to get angry when you see the cars parked outside the school.

B: Of course

A: Why?

B: Because I always do.

A: And will it change anything?

B: No.

A: Who’s it upsetting?

B: Me.

A: Well stop doing it then. You know it’ll happen so live with it.

B: So you let people get away with anything?

A: That’s a totally different question. If you wanted to do something about the parking you would inform the council, discuss with school, etc…

B: I see. So I have to accept the situation stoically?

A: Sort of. At present you live in a magical world where no-one parks in the wrong place. Wilko Johnson lives in a world where chips are salted to perfection. Seneca would say “Get over yourself” (in Latin).

B: Super ipse adipisci

A: Probably.

B: OK. So stoicism would translate to being miserable then? “I’m only happy when it rains” and all that?

A: Not really. Essentially stoicism says that it’s …” “>irrational to want that which is not God’s will, so attune thyself with thy inner Nature and live happily”. i.e. It’s going to rain whether you like it or not so why fight god’s will – enjoy it. (probably stoics would sing “I’m happy when it rains, as well as any other metrological mischief God wants to give us”)

B: I see so Jesus and Mary Chain rather than Garbage?

A: Precisely

B: Also it doesn’t scan.

A: No it doesn’t.

B: But, back to Happy New Year.

A: So next year. What do you really know about this 2009.

B: Well,. I bet it’ll be a bit like 2008.

A: OK. And how was 2008?

B: Good bits, bad bits. Some better bits. Some worser bits.

A: Worser?

B: Worse.

A: And you know that 2009 will be similar to this, yes?

B: I guess so.

A: And you know that at times you may get angry are when you encounter things that you feel shouldn’t be?

B: Yes.

A: So if you had some sort of a reality check and accepted, truly accepted, that there will be situations that could cause you stress you could prepare for them.

B. Yes.

A: So if you could, in effect, make yourself a little less optimistic and more realistic it would help?

<B: I get it. I should wish people a Miserable New Year

A: You haven’t got it. Miserable New Year – not quite. However a more realistic output would be good. You know things are going to go wrong so accept it – plan for it – change your expectations. – Be more pessimistic.

B: I see. So I can still hope you’ll have a Happy New Year ?

A: Of course.

B: But realistically I guess it’ll be pretty much as was last year. So; ‘Try not to expect to much this year. Prepare for disappointment. Celebrate those rare good moments.’

A: You should get a job writing for Hallmark cards.

B: If I applied I probably wouldn’t get past the interview.

A: Now you’ve got it.

New Book – ‘Tales From the Front’


A: Welcome back.

B: It’s been a little while I know, again, but …

A: Busy… busy… busy.

B: Absolutely.

A: So, what’s new?

B: Well, what’s new is that my book is finally, nearly, here.

A: Excellent – and it’s called ….

B: ‘Tales from the Front’.

A: ‘Tales from the Front’? An interesting title.

B: Well it’s a combination of 2 titles – Tales of the Riverbank ..

A: …and something with ‘front’ in it?

B: ‘All quiet on the Western Front’.

A: I see, an anti-war novel written by Erich Maria Remarque about the horrors of that war and also the deep detachment from German civilian life felt by many men returning from the front.

B: Yes, a classic tale of several schoolmates who represent a generation destroyed by the dehumanization of war.

A: And a TV series about Hammy Hamster.

B: Featuring his mate GP the guinea pig… but that’s another story…

A: A question springs to mind – why? Didn’t you originally call it ‘A Trainer’s Diary’?

B: I thought the title would evoke an image of those olden days – conjuring images of the trainer as explorer, trail blazer, hero, trend setter.

A: Trend setter?

B: Well perhaps not trend setter but a title that suggested a sense of loneliness, the danger, the humanity and the inhumanity of it all.

A: Um….

B: Whilst still retaining the old-fashioned charm of a happier, more innocent age where animals talked and had fascinating, but fifteen minute long, adventures.

A: So you thought of all this?

B: Well not exactly – my publisher thought of it.

A: Still, It is a ‘Weekly Diary of the Laughs, Tears, Stresses, Triumphs, Fortunes and Misfortunes of a Management Trainer’. Did you write that?

B: I refer my honourable friend to my previous answer.

Welcome Back

A: Welcome back

B: It’s been a little while I know but …

A: Busy… busy… busy

B: Absolutely. But I need to talk about Euro Disney?

A: Do you mean Disneyland, Paris ?

B: Afraid not. It’s part of the ‘what are the glorious mistakes you can learn from’ series.

A: Pretty big series.

B: Oh yes. So let me give you a brief run down of the problem.

A: Please do.

B: Well Disney wanted to build a theme park in Europe – Florida was a big success so they were looking for more …

A: … money.

B: .. opportunities to make the dream come true. So they choose Paris.

A: I’ve often wondered about that. Why Paris?

B: Good question. What do you know about Paris, France.

A: Well I know that Paris, France has a latitude of 48° 51′ north – roughly the same as Prague, Krakow, Lvov, Kharkov and Winnipeg.

B: Good.

A: The average temperature is around 25 degrees Centigrade (77 Fahrenheit).

B: Whereas Florida has an average temperature of 33 degrees C. (92 F.)

A: Doesn’t Paris, Texas have an average temperature of 33 degrees C. (92 F.)

B: I believe so.

A: You don’t think…….

B: No. (pause) It couldn’t be ….

A: Anyway another thing I know about Paris, France is that it’s full of French people.

B: And what do we know about French people?

A: Well we know they have a culture of fine food and wine; the mentality of French workers is different from American workers – they tend not to like being told what to wear, how to behave and what size earrings they are allowed; European business is often conducted differently than business in America, for instance school terms in Europe are more strictly adhered to in Europe, i.e. French parents are less likely to take children out of school for a week for a holiday; European spending habits are different than US habits – they aren’t willing to pay high prices for hotels to be close to the attractions. Europeans tend not to stay too long in one place for holidays, etc. etc…

B: I see, so it’s not Florida then?

A: It’s not.

B: Anyway, Euro Disney opened in April 1992. On the first day there were expecting 500,000 visitors.

A: How many were there?

B: 50,000.

A: So did Disney have a rethink?

B: They did.

A: Well done Disney.

B: However it took them 2 and a half years and costs rose from $2.25 billion to $4 billion.

A: So the learning here is?

B: Don’t get into a stupid fight with the French.

A: Or arrogance is not bliss

B: Or be prepared to change when you’re wrong.

A: Exactly.

B: As an afterthought I’ve just read ‘The Disney Way’ co-written by 2 consultants versed in the Disney principles ‘Dream, Believe, Dare, Do’.

A: Oh and they have an explanation for Euro Disney do they?

B: They do …. “One of the biggest mistakes was in naming the park.”

A: I see, so the money, the culture, the climate weren’t all that important then?

B: Apparently not. They continue; “Fortunately, Disney took steps to rectify the problems before the venture failed completely.”

A: So success then.

B: Apparently so.

Probably The Most Confusing Blog In The World

A: I’ve been reading about probability this week.

B:Are you sure?

A: Yes. There’s a very interesting problem concerning 2 goats and a car.

B: Shoot.

A: OK. Stay with me for this – it’s a bit tricky.

B: OK.

A: On a tv show contestants can win either a goat or a car.

B: Why?

A: Because……. I don’t know – perhaps they’re Capricorns?

B: If they were Pisces?

A: It would be 2 fish and a car I guess.

B: You digress.

A: I do. There are 3 doors on this t.v. show and behind each door is either a goat or a car.

B: 2 goats. 1 car.

A: Correct. And before you ask – you can’t hear or smell the goats.

B: Or the car?

A: Or the car.

B: Go on.

A: The host asks the contestant to choose a door. The winning contestant chooses a door.

B: Door number 1, 2 or 3.

A: If you like.

B: I like. Oh by the way does the host know where the car and goats are?

A: Yes. This is important.

B: Glad I asked.

A: OK. So the contestant chooses 1, 2 or 3. Then comes the intriguing part.

B: What – the door is opened.

A: No. The door isn’t opened

B: What happens?

A: Well, the host opens one of the doors not choosen to reveal a goat.

B: Whilst the contestant…

A: Whilst the contestant still has the door they’ve already choosen. They may even stand by it – if they like.

B: Intriguing.

A: That’s not the intriguing part. The next bit is.

B: Pray tell.

A: Well the host then asks the contestant if they want to change their mind.

B: And?

A: And invariably the contestant says ‘no’. How crazy is that?

B: Not that crazy.

A: It’s ridiculous.

B: Why?

A: Well – if the contestant changes their mind they have twice the chance of winning the car, of course.

B: Of course (pause). I see it now?

A: No you don’t. But it is true though. Trust me. It’s maths.

B: And this proves?

A: That it’s often difficult to adapt – change your perspective – change your TOR.

B: Tor? Mountain? Get to the top of the tor and change your point of view?

A: Terms of Reference.

B: I knew that. But seriously, talk me through the goat thing.

A: Well – it’s to do with where you are.

B: (A long drawn out) OK…..

A: At the start you choose a door and have a 1 in 3 chance of getting the car. Right?

B: Check.

A: When you’re asked if you’d like to change your mind the TOR are different.

B: (A longer drawn out) O.K…………

A: Look at it from the point of view of the prize behind the door that the contestant hasn’t chosen and hasn’t been opened.

B: I can do that.

A: If you’re a car – you won’t be opened – obviously.

B: Obviously. Because …?

A: Because you’re a car and the host wouldn’t give the game away.

B: Ah ha.

A: So therefore you have a 2 in 3 chance of being a car…

B: Because there are only 3 options for the doors that are not the contestant’s choice….

A: Which are a) car/goat, b) goat/car or c) goat/goat.

A: Exactly.

B: So by eliminating the goat as an option in all three

A: You are left with options …a) car b) car or c) goat.

B: So as a contestant if you worked this out you know…

A: You would change…. QED.

B: Quite Easily Done?

A: Quod Erat Demonstrandum.

End of Year Thoughts

“Prison World magazine, created to form and serve a community of incarcerated readers, has doubled in page size, from 16 to 32, and estimates a readership of 250,000, according to The magazine is shipped to more than 3,000 subscribers in the general public, somewhat by default.”

B: Imagine that.
A: Imagine what?
B: A captive audience.
B: This is true. It’s a little like Personnel Today.
A: How so?
B: Well they seem to feel that they have sole power over HR writing in the UK.
A: You wouldn’t be bitter about anything here at all?
B: Well they have just rejected a 15th straight idea.
A: I see.
B: And if you look at some of the nonsense they do publish…
A: Such as?
B: Such as an article on ….”How to manage employees who win the lottery.”
A: (gasp)
B: I kid you not…

“For some HR professionals, the familiar lottery slogan ‘It could be you’ pops up more often than expected.
There are more and more stories of people who want to carry on working after they’ve won the lottery – and it is up to HR to consider how to deal with staff with new-found riches.
Supermarket sweep
Hitting the headlines most recently was a case involving 10 Tesco workers who each scooped a £750,000 share of an overall £7.5m win. All 10 have decided to continue working.
“I can’t speak for the winners, but I think a large part of wanting to return to work is a desire to return to an extent of normality,” says a spokeswoman for Tesco.
The fact that the employees have chosen to stay on, she adds, shows that a job can be worth much more to an individual than a salary.
Other recent examples include Mary Jones from Denbighshire, who said she had no intention of giving up her cleaning job when she won the jackpot. And at Royal Mail, almost all staff in two separate winning syndicates stayed in their jobs.
So how can HR keep lottery winners – or indeed anyone who comes into a windfall, whether via inheritance, marriage or any other means – motivated and loyal? Tesco believes the answer lies in treating every member of staff as a valued individual, citing examples of flexible working opportunities and an emphasis on career development.
Mike Emmott, employee relations adviser at the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD), agrees. “It comes down to all the things that HR should be thinking about anyway – support, recognition, fair treatment, giving everyone a chance to contribute, and listening to your employees.”
Work and self esteem
The CIPD conducted a survey a few years ago, asking people whether they would still work if they won the lottery, and a significant percentage said yes. Work is crucial to an individual’s self-esteem and gives life structure, adds Emmott.
Staff at the Alliance & Leicester bank clearly agree. A group of lottery winners invited their director to attend the presentation of their cheque and join in the celebrations.
Loaded question
While Tesco is adamant that its lottery winners won’t be treated differently to any other member of staff, Carol Dempsey, a reward partner at PricewaterhouseCoopers, believes there should be exceptions to this rule.
“I think we should acknowledge that people are motivated by different things and accept that money can be significant,” she says.
“If you have a lottery winner who previously took a particular job because they needed the money, it makes sense for HR to find them a role that pays slightly less, but that they would enjoy more,” Dempsey adds.
Kerching!!! Holding on to big winners
• If you want to hold on to staff who win the lottery, think carefully about overall employee engagement.
• If you treat a lottery winner differently to any other member of staff, be sure there’s a good reason for it and communicate this.
• Don’t get involved with jealousy among colleagues as a result of the win. This is for individuals to sort out among themselves.
By Kate Hilpern”

A: I like the little tips at the end.
B: So ‘Personnel Today’ isn’t it?
A: Still bitter then?
B: Just a tad.
A: Any thoughts on Christmas?
B: Not really. Just amazed at the different class system in Britain at the moment.
A: Really?
B: Oh yes, I’ve a copy of ‘Fur, Feather and Fin’- Country Sporting Gifts for Christmas.
A: Tell me more.
B: Well amongst the items are; £35 shooting socks, a Fly Free Game Safe that’s “a brilliant invention to keep flies and predators away when hanging your game”.
A: Always a problem that.
B: My favourite though is a tally counter
A: For counting all the game you kill presumably.
B: Possibly but it’s more versatile than that – It’s “for counting birds or people!” – their exclamation mark not mine.
A: More, more.
B: Well for the woman (probably called the little lady) who has everything, there’s a cushion embroidered with the words “Treat her like a thoroughbred and she won’t be a nag” or “A great fisherman lives here with the catch of his life”.
A: Great cushions
B: These cushions or “these saucy cushions make an amusing gift for the right person” and cost £36.
A: Enough already.
B: Ok – that’s enough for this year.
A: Isn’t this just like a Simpson’s clip show with a montage of half a dozen half explored ideas?
B: Half a dozen?
A: I exaggerate…….three.

“…No One, No One Is More Disappointed Than I Am In That Result.”

A: So you’re looking to diversify your talents after spending too long in the IT side of the market?

B: As I see it “The bottom line is I got it wrong by being overexposed to subprime and I suffered as a result of an unprecedented liquidity squeeze and deterioration in that market.”

A: So you’re looking for different work?

B: Well you’ve got to really. It’s like a shark.

A: I see – the pinnacle of evolution – perfection in every detail.

B: Not really. I mean you’ve got to keep moving or you die.

A: Is that really true for sharks?

B: I doubt it. Since I’ve been watching Q.I. and reading about new research from scientists I have no faith in anything I believe to be true any more.

A: Such as…

B: One moon, the Corby trouser press not originating in Corby, death being bad for you…

A: These things aren’t true?

B: Probably not. Life is far more complicated these days.

A: It’s always been problematical for me.

B: Yes but you’re only 8. You had no simple past to look back on. No times when policemen rode bicycles, gave you a clip around the ear for scrumping apples, and swerved their panda cars home after a 3 hour shut-in at the British Legion. Ah. Simple days.

A: Dangerous days.

B: Possibly, but in a nicer, no publicity, way.

A: I’m still confused about what I’m supposed to do.

B: How so?

A: Well am I supposed to pretend I believe in Father Christmas, eat all my food and play computer games?

B: Of course.

A: But it doesn’t make sense. You buy me a computer, lots of games then tell me I spend too much time playing on it. Ditto red meat, mobile phones, the Disney Channel. As I say it’s confusing.

B: I see.

A: You also tell me how great life was when you were a child. You could play out all summer long, on your own, in a local wood for 14 hours each and every gloriously sunny holiday day. Yet if I go further than the end of the drive…

B: Well – things are different now.

A: Statistically not I think. The stats on child murders, harmers, etc haven’t changed significantly since Victorian times.

B: Good point.

A: Another thing. Say you gave me all your money for three months and I not only lost it but left you with a debt of say, $8.4 billion you wouldn’t be too pleased would you?

B: Probably not.

A: You wouldn’t pat me on the head; say “take some time off and go shopping” would you?

B: No.

A: And you wouldn’t give me $160 million to spend on aforementioned shopping would you?

B: Of course not. That would be silly.

A: I’ve one more question for you.

B: Shoot.

A: How do you apply for a job with Merrill Lynch?