| The London Poetry Challenge encourages people
to get sponsored by friends and relatives for the charity of their choice,
to learn a poem by heart, and to recite it on stage at the Poetry Challenge,
held each year in October.
Trees of Love
| An unusual conservation scheme in Peru requires couples to
plant one or more saplings in order to qualify for a marriage certificate.
A similar green toll is levied on birth certificates.
A Bag of Litter for Admission
To assist in the growing problem with litter, organizations such as swimming
pools, museums, movies, in fact, anywhere where you pay to get in, should
have a special day and time, at least once a week, when you would collect
a paper bag and fill it with litter off the streets outside, hand it in
at the desk and so get in for free. This will have many positive effects,
not the least of which is to encourage kids to visit places such as museums
which normally they might not be able to afford. It will also keep the
surrounding areas free of litter.
Blaise Barron (e-mail: Blaise.Barron@pfizer.com).
Walking for Pleasure
| The Time Out Saturday Walkers' Club is a self-organising
walk club for Londoners or visitors to London. Participants gather to take
walks in the beautiful countryside around London, all reachable by train,
and all with a pub at lunchtime and a tea place afterwards.
Renting Apartments to People with Interests in Common
The following is adapted from an item entitled "Choosing your
neighbours at Utterslevshuse" which appeared in the Norwegian Ideas
Bank (Stiftelsen Idebanken, PO Box 2126 GrY¨nnerlokka, Norway, tel 00 47
2203 4010; fax 00 47 2236 4060; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org; web: www.idebanken.no).
Renting apartments that share a stairwell to people who share some common
interest has proved to be a successful new housing policy in Copenhagen.
This scheme was first introduced in 1996 in Utterslevshuse, a neighbourhood
in Copenhagen where over 200 households live mainly in four-story blocks
of flats. Not unusually, most people had hardly spoken to their neighbours,
but the new initiative changed all that.
Today there are separate blocks or entrances for deaf people, for people
who like noisy parties, for keep-fit freaks, for pensioners, for Somalis,
for families with children and so on. The degree of success ranges from
moderate (people get on and occasionally chat with their neighbours) to
great (real new friendships and a lot of common activities that make for
"stairwell solidarity"). Four ethnic contact persons have also
been appointed to improve communication with and between the various ethnic
groups in the area.
The following is adapted from an article in the Illustrated London
News entitled "50 ways to improve London":
Featureless monoliths, bare pavements and dreary walkways could be greatly
improved if they were inscribed with relevant extracts from novels, plays
and poetry - stamped in concrete, carved in stone, turning every stroll
into a literary adventure - just as poetry was engraved on pavements along
the Jubilee Gardens, set there during the Festival of Britain in 1951;
and just as poetry has featured in advertising spaces on the London Underground
and on Dublin billboards. Extracts from works which never mention London
could also be used as long as they were relevant to their location. Thus
we could see psalms in the pavements of Ludgate Hill on the way to St.
Paul's, Confucius and Lao Tzu in Chinatown, and on Greek Street a sprinkling
Sharing Your Pet
Jo Smith could not take proper care of her dog Mota, but she didn't want
to give him away or put him to sleep. So she hit on a novel idea: share
him. She placed an ad in a Chicago newspaper: "Pet to share. Four
year old Bichon Frise. Owner travels and would like to share with loving
Words like these
Last for ages,
Then end up
In the Yellow Pages
Adapted from an item by Nancy Keates in The Wall Street Journal
(Oct 31st '95):
Rodney Ryan has scattered poetry throughout the commercial Yellow Pages
telephone books he publishes for two communities on New York's Long Island.
Look for a landscape contractor in his Brookhaven directory, and you'll
find Robert Frost musing about "When I Go Up Through The Mowing Field."
A search for family counsellors brings advice from Rudyard Kipling: "If
you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs and blaming
it on you ...."Turn to the plumbers section, and Wordsworth describes
the emotion you'll feel if a plumber ever returns your call: "Surprised
"Most people only have room on their desks for a telephone book and
a dictionary. I was hoping this would allow people to experience poetry
every day," says Dr. Ryan, a one-time student of Asian poetry and practising
endocrinologist. Dr. Ryan distributes some 300,000 phone books in Brookhaven
Judge Lets Victims Take from Burglars' Homes
Based on an item by Woody Baird in the Seattle Times (10 April,
Since his election to the criminal court in 1990, Joe B. Brown has built
a reputation as a tough, street-wise judge willing to try new ways to
sentence criminals. He has ordered several burglars to open their homes
to former victims. With deputies in tow, the victims can take what they
want, up to a limit set by Brown that approximates the value of what they
"The criminal learns what a good citizen feels like, worrying whether
he's going to come home and find all his stuff stuff there,"' said
the judge. One victim made several visits before he was satisfied: "The
first day he didn't find anything, but the second time he came back, he
bagged a color television and a stereo-component set."
Criticism has come from Scott Wallace of the National Association of
Criminal Defense Laywers who argues that it may be difficult to tell if
items seized by a victim really belong to the burglar. However, Robert
Jones, assistant administrator of the Shelby County public defender's
office, is in favour of the judge's approach: "He's being very creative.
A lot of things that have been done in the past aren't working, so somebody
needs to be creative."
Write Your Minutes Before Your Meeting
From an e-mail to the Alternative Institutions discussion group on
the Internet (to subscribe to this online discussion group, send a request
Meetings are long slow things of low bandwidth. I devised, implemented
and tested this variant:
The agenda of the meeting is placed on a central computer. (At the time
I wrote some locking code and scripts on a VAX/VMS system, but now the
same could be done easier with RCS on any Linux system.) The participants,
in their own time, edit the agenda, writing in whatever they would have
said in the meeting; i.e., everybody co-writes the minutes of the meeting
before the meeting happens. Before the meeting, the future minutes are
printed and everybody reads them. The meeting can then simply approve
90 per cent of the future minutes, and briefly argue about any remaining
Pros: Fast. Simple. The minutes are far more accurate and complete. Quiet
personalities can get their word in.
Cons: It doesn't work in the presence of Alpha personalities. They not
only like to have their say, they like to be seen to have their say, and
hence will verbally and at length go over everything again.
John Carter (tel 00 27 12 808 077 74 ext194; fax 00 27 12 808 0338;
e-mail: email@example.com; web: www.geocities.com/SoHo/Cafe/5947
A Contact Sheet in the Back of Library Books
From Stephen Rogers, 7 Avenue des Eglantines 24, 1970 Wezembeek-Oppern,
Do you have favorite that you would love to discuss in depth with other
enthusiasts? Selected library books could have a contact sheet pasted
in the back. People wanting to meet those drawn to the same work could
enter their names and contact details. I have often felt the urge to get
in touch with those who have underlined and dog-eared the very pages I
found significant. My proposal would be the next best thing - it would
certainly provide a new means by which people could relate to each other.
Jurors Ask Questions
Summarised from an Associated Press item in the Seattle Times
(January 2nd 1999).
This scheme won the Legal Social Innovations Award 1999. Since 1994,
Circuit Judge Robert Jones in Portland, Oregon, USA has allowed the jurors
in the civil trials in his courtroom to interrupt with questions, even
when witnesses are on the stand. He has had switches installed under the
lawyers' desks. If either lawyer objects when a juror ask a question,
they flip the switch, which lights a button on Jones' bench, and he can
dismiss the question. "This makes the jurors more involved in the case.
It is the people's courtroom," Jones said. "Any trial lawyer will say
it scares them to death when a juror puts his hand up," said attorney
David Miller, who often works in Jones' courtroom.
Robert P. Jones, Circuit Court Judge, 706 Multnomah County Courthouse,
1021 SW Fourth Avenue, Portland, Oregon 97204, USA (tel 503 248 3038).
Unusual Sentences for Crimes
Adapted from an article by David Mulholland in The Wall Street
Journal (May 25th '95):
Alternative sentencing programs that give judges options other than prison
or parole are on the rise. Ten years ago there were about 20 such programs
in the States; now there are more that 300, says Mark Mauer, assistant
director of the Sentencing Project, a Washington DC group that promotes
the use of sentencing experts for most non-violent crimes. Sentencing
experts - usually lawyers of social workers - put together sentencing
packages appropriate to the criminal and the crime with a view toward
Many judges and sentencing experts argue that creative sentences can
serve both justice and the community. Here are some examples: As part
of his sentence for molesting two students, a sixty-six-year-old Houston
music instructor was forced to give up his $12,000 piano and post a sign
on his front door warning children to stay away. In Portland, Maine, a
Bowdoin college graduate convicted of smuggling several thousand pounds
of marijuana was sentenced to set up and run an AIDS hospice. The logic?
The city needed the hospice, and the smuggler has the organisational and
business savvy to make it work. Edmonton, Canada, is cracking down on
prostitution, making 1994 the "Year of the John." As part of
the sentence for clients picked up in prostitution busts, Judge Sharon
Vandeveen informs their wives. Dr Barbara Romanowski, director of Sexually
Transmitted Disease Services in Edmonton, has proposed that the clients
pick up used condoms in skin-trade areas as part of community service
In Memphis, Judge Brown's sentences combine traditional and creative
elements. The municipal judge argues that locking people up for longer
and longer periods isn't working. He says the people he sentences typically
are young drug users with no employment skills and long juvenile records.
Judge Brown says that, depending on the crime, his usual sentence for
such offenders is two years in prison and five years of probation, with
the incentive of sentence reduction if the offender passes the GED - a
test of high school equivalency - and successfully completes a drug rehabilitation
program. Alternative sentences are also used in courts run by teenagers,
with a real judge presiding, that have sprung up across the country. In
one case a graffiti "tagger" - someone who puts gang or personal
logos on walls - was sentenced to six months of guarding the wall he vandalised.
If anyone marked the wall, he had to clean it.
Bury Me Near the Corn
|The Natural Death Centre helps families looking after a person
who is dying at home. It also advises on inexpensive, green, family-organised
funerals. It gives legal advice about burial in gardens and on farms, and
has set up an Association of Nature Reserve Burial Grounds (for woodland
burials where a tree is planted for each grave instead of having headstones).