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Month: July 2011

3 powerful social science ideas for living fully in a highly developed country like the UK

Do poms whinge?

I’ve only lived in Europe for 4 years. In a new economy, that is a sizeable chunk of time.  Here it is nothing.  Surrounded by old buildings and reminders of a long history, everyone is acutely aware of their insignificance.  To the ear of a new arrival, there seems to be a lot of complaining.  And the constant whine is not a figment of our imagination.  Academics have constructed massive theories about the anomie of Europeans, the malaise of hopelessness, and the prevalent sense that someone powerful makes our lives a misery.

What is fun about living in a highly developed country?

There is another reading of life here that I find more useful.

Being a small part of a large system is invigorating when our understanding of the part we play brings alive our sense of our relationships with other people. The need to tell our story to the strangers around us sharpens our wits as we retell the same story for their appreciation.  And we are drawn into the present as we attend mindfully to changes the ripple across the land.

  • A part implies a whole and a complex whole implies relationships in every direction.  What could be more fascinating for the social animals we are?
  • A stranger needs a quick explanation and often not in words. A courtesy on the underground melds our story with others and is instantly recognizable to them.
  • The world swirling around us draws us in to fast moving events and draws us to horizons and vistas that are breath taking in our mutual recognition of possibility.

Putting my money where my mouth is

Sitting on a grubby train, it can be difficult, I admit, to be anything but disgusted.  And the impulse to withdrawn into our shell is very strong.  I do try to avoid the trains, I must be honest.

  • But what if we thought instead about the wonderful diversity of relationships we have because of our movement.  What would  our commute look like through a filter of “relationships”?
  • What if we were interested in the story of the person next to us (including their desire to sleep if that be their story)?
  • What if we developed a Sherlock Holmes sense of awareness about who was on the train with us and where they were going? If we knew the fields we pass through so well that we knew when the wild flowers were late and when the birds were hungry (or over fed).

Would we then feel out of sorts, put upon and out of control?

The three ideas from social science which suggest whinging is the wrong way to see the UK

Parts and relationships.  Strangers and stories in gestures.  Swirling activity and vistas suddenly appearing on the horizon.

Those are the powerful concepts that challenge the stories of us as hopeless bit-players in someone else’s romance.

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5 stages of leadership – from leading me to leading a massive crowd

As I searched for well written articles on social system stratification – or to you and me, coordinating our organization with layers, I fell over this cool distinction of leadership tasks from Christo Nel.

#1 Lead our selves – can we sing and sing with others?

  • Do we join in?
  • Do we practice?
  • Do we grow with feedback (or throw a strop)?
  • Do we help others and let them know of our needs to help the choir sing (feedback)?

#2 Influence our friends – can we speak up and take responsibility for group success?

  • Do we practice raising “the issues”?
  • Do we listen to others and value how they make the group richer?
  • Can we get things done without elaborate management structures?
  • Do we celebrate whenever we can?
  • Do our friends value us as a “metronome” that allows helps them sing together?

#3 Organize network of groups – can we set up agreements for sustained activity and induction of noobes?

  • Can we suggest and set up “light weight” schedules and systems that people can stick to?
  • Can we delegate to people who get things done and get things done better?
  • Can we encourage others to learn from the best?
  • Can we monitor what needs changing and flag that up to the network?
  • Do we build future leaders so that the incoming smoothly replace the outgoing?
  • Do we understand the whole choir and what it takes for all of us to succeed together?

#4 Inspire performance that surprises even ourselves  – be a mirror for the organization

  • Do we help us make sense of triumph and disappointment?
  • Do put our long term plans into words and keep us all informed of how we are doing?
  • Do we highlight people who are implementing our values in humdrum and challenging circumstances?
  • Do we encourage smaller assignments to distribute leadership and build our acumen for leadership?
  • Do we know where we have come from and where we are going and when other people listen to us, are they able to tell our story too?

#5 Balance the work of today with our investment in the future – be loyal, to everyone

  • Do we broker sound inter-generational agreements?
  • Do we set out a few key factors for  looking after all of us for now and for ever?
  • Do we keep the organization simple but relevant to today and tomorrow?
  • Do we keep good relationships with our neighbours and nurture sound relationships where we can solve problems together?
  • Are we big enough to absorb frustrations into the group story and to show by our words and deeds that the group is big enough to live life to the full?

These five levels of leadership are as relevant as they have ever been

  • Be happy, skillful and obliging
  • Be a positive influence among our friends and work mates
  • Design simple systems that help large numbers of people coordinate with each other
  • Reflect who we are back to the organization so we are alive to what is ‘good and true and better’ and what we should do more of
  • Be mindful of the world and model for us the joy in the richness and diversity of the world

Stratified social systems uses ‘techie’ language and so does the new age ‘complexity theory’.  Lyrical language is more fun.  Depends whether you are like to be impressed by techie or whether you like to have fun with words!  Your choice!

Hmmm . . . I like big enough to live life to the full.

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Two Important Tips when using WordPress on a local server like WAMP

How to use WordPress on your laptop

Some basics first.  Beginners use the free, hosted WordPress blogs on  The next step up is to self-host your blog by using free software from at a self-hosting service whom you pay around USD10.00 a month.  The hoster, such as Dreamhost host a lot of WordPress blogs and will set up the basic shell for you within about 10 minutes.

If you want to be a  little bit more ambitious and make or edit your own theme, then you can turn part of your own computer into a self-hosting service.  The first step is to download  WAMP (assuming you use Windows).  WAMP gives you an Apache server, mySQL databases and PHPadmin.

All you do to get everthing running is

  • Download WAMP into a directory c:/wamp (follow the download instructions)
  • Set up passwords for root and IP 127… at PHPadmin activated following WAMPserver in Start/All Programs
  • Use Windows Explorer to go to c:/wamp/apps/PHPadmin and edit your password the file

$cfg[‘Servers’][$i][‘auth_type’] = ‘config’;
$cfg[‘Servers’][$i][‘user’] = ‘root’;
$cfg[‘Servers’][$i][‘password’] = ‘yourpassword’;

  • Set up  a new database ready to receive your wordpress.
  • Make a new directory under c:/wamp/www and upload an up-to-date version of wordpress from
  • Edit the config-sample.php file following instructions at

Two important tips to using Wordress on Wamp

  1. When you edit the file for WAMP save it using the Save As command.  Just closing the file updates the text but throuws up an error.  Not sure why but i wasted an evening on this.
  2. When you are working with a fresh installation of WAMP, go into into its menu box and make sure the module – rewrite is on.  If mod_rewrite is not on, you will not be able to use “pretty” permalinks.  Your wordpress will say you are using them but when you try to view the page, you will get an error because wordpress cannot find the page in mySQL even though it is on!

Two time-consuming obstacles that you can avoid!

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