Tuesday, December 15, 2009
In this post I give you a valuable phrase. Mutter it to yourself when a group of other people are needlessly stressed.
Some background to the phrase: sometime ago, somewhere, in some media I learnt a tiny piece of trivia about zoo-keeping.
Boredom is one of the greater difficulties with keeping wild animals in captivity. There are many ways to alleviate this - one neat one is that you never just give an animal its food - you hide the food in different places, making them hunt or forage for it. Another trick I've actually seen done, with bears, is to freeze food in a garbage can full of water - they seemed happy rolling this block of ice about, worrying away at it - winkling out treats with their claws. Again, life made a little harder was actually better for it.
A surprising technique for primates was also revealed. Based on the doctrine that a little boredom-alleviating stress is actually good for you - the keepers take some excrement from big cats (handily they had some tigers nearby) and plonk it in the primate enclosure. Although it is unlikely that the apes know what animal the poo is from they do know that it means something foreign is about. Lots of hooting and jabbering - retreating to safety - perhaps slowly coming out to investigate the offending matter, running back to safety again - eventually deciding that all was somehow OK and settling back to normal.
I've been involved in software development projects for many years now. In the past I recall discussing an impending client meeting with colleagues. The clients were going to be told that they were going to get what they initially signed up for, rather than the quite different features that they now wanted. Being a common problem in software development, we knew that it would lead to hooting and jabbering.
Thus, the impending meeting was referred to as "Tiger shit in the monkey cage".
So - there it is. "Tiger shit in the monkey cage". Probably also useful if there are children in your life.