Sunday, February 27, 2011

To become an expert on...The Big Society

Many conversations I have had the last three weeks have mentioned The Big Society. Roughly defined (by wikipedia - here) it is "the flagship policy idea of the 2010 UK Conservative Party general election manifesto. It now forms part of the legislative programme of the Conservative – Liberal Democrat Coalition Agreement.[1] The aim is "to create a climate that empowers local people and communities, building a big society that will 'take power away from politicians and give it to people'."

I want to figure out what that means.
Wikipedia is just too easy to ignore. I'm going to go through their definition and try to figure out everything on there that confuses me. That should be a good starting point.

Okay, so here are some things that go into The Big Society:
1. There will be a Big Society Bank established in 2011 that will take money from banks, dormant British accounts (??), and charitable contributions. This money can be accessed by grants from charity organizations and community centers.
The Bank is a non-governmental organization. It will be financially self-sufficient. this is what it says (from the cabinent report):
"second, the Bank must help prove that putting
money into social ventures can generate both
social impact and real inancial returns. This is
vital for building market conidence in what is
a new ‘asset class’. It is also part of building the
Bank’s own investment track record, and thus
its ability to raise more capital if required"
What that sounds like is something like the microfunding projects like and that other one by the Indian guy who only lends to women (i can't find the name of it now - GRAMA VASANTHAM' maybe?  Gramin bank!) where they claim that social entrepreneuership lending is actually profitable. but this is different. how can non-profits be profitable? am i missing something? moving on...

ok, ok...The Big Society Bank will not directly accept grants from non-profits. Rather it will give money to funds (intermediaries) that will give money to "social ventures." okay, i'm with you so far. i think the part that is confusing is that i'm not familiar with anything like this happening anywhere else. i need a podcast on this.

The New Yorker wrote a piece on this (Lauren Collins: "What's the Big Society?") and referenced Edmund Burke who is viewed as the philosophical founder of modern conservatism in the UK. And the New Yorker associated him with ideas such as government being left out of people's affairs and instead small bands of citizens joining together to accomplish things in society. I am out of my depth here.

"Communitarian Conservatism?"

An idea that might be scary to Brits but is normal to Americans is the existence of a big philanthropic sector. Americans don't assume that the government should be the first to help out homeless people. They assume that the shelters should. Why do we assume this? The Big Society is encouraging people to start taking responsibility for helping each other out instead of the government helping out. Wow. how does one change the social assumptions of a nation?? Wow.

The Labour Party has called this plan "DIY Britain" - haha.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

"Armed with such parallels, the Ever Wasers smile condescendingly at the Better-Nevers and say, “Of course, some new machine is always ruining everything. We’ve all been here before.” But the Better-Nevers can say, in return, “What if the Internet is actually doing it?” The hypochondriac frets about this bump or that suspicious freckle and we laugh—but sooner or later one small bump, one jagged-edge freckle, will be the thing for certain. Worlds really do decline. “Oh, they always say that about the barbarians, but every generation has its barbarians, and every generation assimilates them,” one Roman reassured another when the Vandals were at the gates, and next thing you knew there wasn’t a hot bath or a good book for another thousand years."
- "How the Internet Gets Inside Us" by Adam Gopnik
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"the real damage is being done at the neurological level, that our children are having their brains altered by too much instant messaging and the like. This sounds impressive but turns out to be redundant. Of course the changes are in their brains; where else would they be? It’s the equivalent of saying that playing football doesn’t just affect a kid’s fitness; it changes the muscle tone that creates his ability to throw and catch footballs."
"How the Internet gets Inside Us" by Adam Gopnik
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"Cognitive entanglement, after all, is the rule of life. My memories and my wife’s intermingle. When I can’t recall a name or a date, I don’t look it up; I just ask her. Our machines, in this way, become our substitute spouses and plug-in companions. Jerry Seinfeld said that the public library was everyone’s pathetic friend, giving up its books at a casual request and asking you only to please return them in a month or so. Google is really the world’s Thurber wife: smiling patiently and smugly as she explains what the difference is between eulogy and elegy and what the best route is to that little diner outside Hackensack. The new age is one in which we have a know-it-all spouse at our fingertips."

from "How the Internet Gets Inside Us" by Adam Gopnik
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from (here) - Milk and Roses Cafe - Brooklyn, NY

London sewerage system

Place to visit next: London sewerage system.

Mainly because I've never heard anyone talk about it and it was on wikipedia's list of modern wonders of the world (here). and that's amazing.

Here's why it's cool:
- because it's beautiful
- was covered in the BBC mini-series Seven Wonders of the Industrial World (covering feats of engineering during the Industrial Revolution)
- "In the summer of 1858...London was in the grip of a crisis known as the 'Great Stink'. The population had grown rapidly during the first half of the 19th century, yet there had been no provision for sanitation."
- Parliament only authorized funds for the sanitation after "The Great Stink," defined: The Great Stink, or the Big Stink, was a time in the summer of 1858 during which the smell of untreated human waste was very strong in central London, England. (link). awesome.
- so, what happened was this: "Joseph Bazalgette, a civil engineer and Chief Engineer of the Metropolitan Board of Works, was given responsibility for the work. He designed an extensive underground sewerage system that diverted waste to theThames Estuary, downstream of the main centre of population. Six main interceptory sewers, totalling almost 100 miles (160 km) in length, were constructed, some incorporating stretches of London's 'lost' rivers." (also wiki)

These people know how to build a sewage treatment plant - it's so beautiful! Much better job than these guys: MSD-St. Louis.

this is my girl becky. it is a privilege to know her.

Friday, February 18, 2011


from fifty and fifty - the state mottoes project (here) where fifty designers tackle the fifty state mottoes. this one by tad carpenter.

in other news, 11 year old girl actually thought i said "misery" the first time I said my state. jokes abound.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Ever-Waser am I

"All three kinds appear among the new books about the Internet: call them the Never-Betters, the Better-Nevers, and the Ever-Wasers. The Never-Betters believe that we’re on the brink of a new utopia, where information will be free and democratic, news will be made from the bottom up, love will reign, and cookies will bake themselves. The Better-Nevers think that we would have been better off if the whole thing had never happened, that the world that is coming to an end is superior to the one that is taking its place, and that, at a minimum, books and magazines create private space for minds in ways that twenty-second bursts of information don’t. The Ever-Wasers insist that at any moment in modernity something like this is going on, and that a new way of organizing data and connecting users is always thrilling to some and chilling to others—that something like this is going on is exactly what makes it a modern moment. One’s hopes rest with the Never-Betters; one’s head with the Ever-Wasers; and one’s heart? Well, twenty or so books in, one’s heart tends to move toward the Better-Nevers, and then bounce back toward someplace that looks more like home.

From "The Information" by Adam Gopnik (Feb 14 issue of the New Yorker)
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It's perspectives like this that make me love the New Yorker. I find myself to be an eternal "Ever-Waser."

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Tinie Tempah - "Pass Out"

the Brit awards (read: British Grammys) were on last night and this guy won British single of the year. Thus confirming that Top-40-esque songs are not great on their own merit but only gain affection after hearing it every 20 minutes on top 40 radio. But, as those songs go, it's not bad.

A list of the winners (here).

Interesting that all the "international artists" are Americans. I wonder how often that happens.

I'm all verklempt (actual spelling, I looked it up). Discuss amongst yourselves. Here's a topic: Americans are cultural colonialists. Discuss.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

stolen from claire.

Claire showed me the new wedding website from the people at Anthropologie, BHLDN. These photos are from an old collection found in Belgium. The one on the right - what the??

Saturday, February 12, 2011

do you see it?

London so far...

God was very sweet to me and blessed me with weekend plans my first week here! Last night at dinner, here are the things that I wrote down to look up:

- Sophie Dahl (after a conversation about cook book authors and me gushing over Nigella). Apparently she's in the same vein as Nigella, full of sensuousness and femininity while(st) cooking. Love. From the BBC's write food website for her recipes (here): "After the success of both a novella and a full-length novel, Sophie published her first cookery book, Miss Dahl’s Voluptuous Delights, in 2009. The recipes were inspired by Sophie’s childhood memories and the travelling she did as a model. Some of the book’s recipes were brought to the screen for BBC2’s The Delicious Miss Dahl, broadcast the following year."
of come to think of it, I do remember her being a famous plus-size model. Yay for femininity!

- BBC's Good Food website (here):* apparently fantastic recipes. we'll see if it usurps williams-sonoma as king of my stove.

- TV show: My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding. A new friend was talking about gypsies who get married around 16 and cook and clean and have children for the rest of their lives. unsurprisingly their wedding day is the best day ever. and completely crazy because they are planned by 16 year old girls and encompass the fantasies of 16 year old girls. (favorite picture here). turn about is fair play and i shared with them the glories of I Didn't Know I Was Pregnant. Bam!

*yay for English hilariousness - in registering on the Good Food website, it offers you the option of "Master" for your title along with Mr. and Miss and everything else normal. Hahahha.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Christ and the Church: marriage counseling

Pondering the ideas of Emotionally Focused Couple Therapy (developed by Dr. Sue Johnson, author of Hold Me Tight), I have started to wonder what ideas might be translated into our faith relationships with Christ. The Bible uses the marriage metaphor over and over to describe the relationship between Christ and the Church. Why not use the helpful truths of marriage counseling to help our relationships with Christ?

This came into my head first as one of those lame jokes that only you would understand. Christ and the Church in couples therapy. Haha.

But then I started thinking. In my old small group of 17 year old high school girls, they would bring up a question that would stump me: what do to in your relationship with God when you don't feel like he's there and don't really care about it? If the problem just included the first part - not feeling like God's there - but you DID care about it, there's a whole range of counsel a youth leader could provide: the promises of God in scripture, the evidence of his care for you in your life, etc.

Book Report: 'Hold Me Tight'

Now that I have plenty of time on my hands, being unemployed, I am reading the books that I have heard about or have been assigned that I have never had the time to read until now. One of those is Hold Me Tight: Seven Conversations for a Lifetime of Love by Dr. Sue Johnson. It was assigned for my Marriage and Family Counseling class at seminary and my professor said it was spot-on.

so far:
"Distressed partners may use different words but they are always asking the same basic questions, 'Are you there for me? Do I matter to you? Will you come when I need you, when I call?'"

"Distress in a relationship adversely affects our immune and hormonal systems, and even our ability to heal. In one fascinating experiment, psychologist Janice Kiecolt-Glaser of Ohio State University had newlyweds fight, then took blood samples over the next several hours. She found that he more belligerent and contemptuous the partners were, the higher the level of stress hormones and the more depressed the immune system. The effects persisted for up to twenty-four hours. In an even more astounding study, Kiecolt-Glaser used a vacuum pump to produce small blisters on the hands of women volunteers, then had them fight wit their husbands. The nastier the fight, the longer it took for the woman's skin to heal." (p.25)

-- I discussed this last one with Alexis and Allie the other day and Alexis said that this makes sense because when we are loved we are more like whom we are supposed to be - like pre-Fall garden perfect, when we could experience the full loving relationship that we had with God.

jono loves this lecture:

the past couple months or so jono and i have been talking about work/life balance. talking to allie and sharon a couple days ago, i remembered making a vow to myself in middle school to live a life where i wasn't stressed out. i've gotten mediocre grades and don't really have a "career," per se. but i'm happy and I have friends and family that I love. i don't really think that that vow should define my life - avoiding anything that might stress me out. and i obviously forgot that i made it. but i do think that life has been a little better (in some ways) because of that vow.

best cake ever!

Friday, February 4, 2011

Everything is a Remix Part 2 from Kirby Ferguson on Vimeo.

The idea that everything references everything is an interesting one to me. It goes along with the "there's nothing new under the sun" idea. I have more ideas about this but I'm way too busy packing for London. Maybe later.