How To Launch A Cat


In his wonderful book, Sketching User Experiences, Bill Buxton identifies the 15th century notebooks of Mariano di Jacobi detto Taccola on military technology as some of the earliest examples of “sketching".  Buxton continues by explaining what he means by “sketching”: suggestive, unfinished illustrations of concepts that are provocative rather than didactic.

The illustration above comes from a 16th century Bavarian work called the Buechsenmeisterei or Artillery Master’s Manual.  The anonymous ink and watercolor illustration is labeled “How to Launch a Cat” and is part of the Getty Museum’s collection in Los Angeles. The drawing depicts a cat with a rocket strapped to its back. It appears to be a sketch demonstrating the possible military application of felines in siege warfare.  It may just as well, of course, be a sketch of novel ways to dispose of cats.

“There is more than one way to skin a cat” turns out to be an incorrect translation of an old German proverb.  The correct saying is, of course, “there is more than one way to launch a cat.”  Placed in its proper context, this saying makes much more sense.

There are also many ways to launch a new business – perhaps as many ways as there are to launch a cat.  I am in the process of doing so now.  The business does not involve cats – though it does involve friends.

I am aware of the common adage that one should never go into business with relatives or cats, no matter how cool they may be.  Nevertheless, I find the prospect of launching a cat with my friends to be infinitely appealing.  It is an opportunity to turn work into play.

And all we need do is wait until the cat is up, up and away.

4 thoughts on “How To Launch A Cat”

  1. Concur with the persuasive viewpoint delineated in How To Launch A Cat. I was viewing all these inputs and noticed that many of them are actually only for the connections. I thought about skimming over your site because of it but settled instead to just join in. Keep triggering sentiments in others! I actually like the manner you have penned this.

  2. Very funny post! I never knew they got the translation wrong, wait till my friends here this. And the even better thing is that the new definition does actually make sense.

  3. I’m the one who got my blog emptied by the bug. Found a database backup that was about 1½ months old that I read back, but it kind of sucked. I would’ve used a server control(Like linkbutton) myself, and made a proper postback when the link was clicked.

  4. Hi James,
    It's my first landing on this page, but definitely not the last. I like the design. As for the cat, goodluck launching it with your friends! I totally relate to you opinion about avoiding relatives.

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