Monday, October 20, 2014


No big life lessons here, just a few things that lift my spirits and revive my sense of wonder. It's never a bad time to be reminded that people (and the things we make) are awesome, and that we live on/with an ornately fabulous planet, right?

Never underestimate the power of going for a walk. Don't forget to look around, the details in the everyday can be the most surprising. As Ed Hutchins once said, "nothing never happens".

Travel. I especially recommend Oaxaca, Mexico for it's astounding botanical, cultural, ethnic, and culinary diversity. When you can't travel you can explore the world vicariously with Fun for Louis (on youtube).

For a master course in the wonder of the everyday (with a focus on the built environment), listen to 99% Invisible. For a similarly masterful treatment of everyday humanity, try 'Death, Sex, and Money'. These podcasts have managed to make my commute something I look forward to.

If you are the kind of person who can read while traveling (unlike me) and you love great science writing (like me), here are some books I love and revisit: Bonk -- Mary Roach, The Ghost Map -- Steven Johnson, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks -- Rebecca Skloot, The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat -- Oliver Sacks. I also LOVE The History of the World in 100 Objects by director of the British Museum Neil MacGregor -- it has short chapters, great pictures, and I learned so much. Who knew that the Vikings had trading posts in Iran!?!

Making things yourself is another great invigorator. I like to paint, but cooking/eating is what I do (and think about) every day. Here are some delicious, simple, seasonal favorites: delicata squash (it tastes like candy! you can eat the skin!), Marcella Hazan's Chickpea soup (4 cheap ingredients, vegan, deeply warming and hearty), and pickled beets (a great entry-level pickling project, try roasting first for extra sweetness).

Last, a potpourri of click-ables that reliably lift me out of low points: The Secret of Kells, Brene Brown's first TED talk, Paul Simon's Concert in the Park (1991), Talking Heads (Sand in the Vaseline), Allen Toussaint (Songbook), The National (Boxer, Trouble Will Find Me), Cat Power (Jukebox), Solange (True), Flight of the Conchords ('I'm not crying', 'Feel Inside'), bzzzpeekDOTcom (kids from around the world answer questions like 'what does a frog say?'), thingsfittingperfectlyintothings.tumblr.


Sunday, October 19, 2014

People Are Strange

I procrastinated too long to write anything worthwhile. I guess I don't really want to write anything "worthwhile" anyway because then it would just turn out inspirational/corny/would have some universally accepted moral that people have been force fed since childhood. SO: if anyone would like to email me, that would be cool.

music suggestions:

- everything ever written by the Beatles
- Squirrel Nut Zippers
- "My American Cousin" by Molly Lewis
- Mac Demarco
- The Drums
- Band of Horses
- "Day in Day Out" by Billie Holiday/anything by Billie Holiday
-Joni Mitchell
******** "Early Takes Volume 1" by George Harrison ********** (extremely spiritual album. im not spiritual to any extent, but definitely struck a chord with me. my favorite album of all time).

Anyone who is an avid Beatles fan, plays the double/upright bass, likes my musical suggestions, is in high school, or is just a person who gets the listserve should email me because you can, and why not?

I'm a failure because I wasted my opportunity to say anything meaningful. Oh well? May the force be with you, I guess.

- Love Lilly <3

Lilly Wolfinger


Saturday, October 18, 2014

Money can buy happiness...

Money can buy happiness...
...for someone else.

Spend $5 on someone else and let me know how it went.

To find out more about this project and myself, google me.

Have a happy day!


Bryan Ku
San Francisco, California, USA

Friday, October 17, 2014

Do we really need gender?

A school-teacher friend recently asked me what issue I thought would be most transformative for future generations, and I didn’t hesitate before answering. As much as I want young people to get a grasp on climate change or income inequality, I think the biggest generational shift already underway has to do with our concept of gender. And that’s a wonderful thing.

As awareness of transgendered individuals grows, the rigid idea of gender as unchangeable and defined by one’s genitals is quickly collapsing. The speed that public opinion on LGBTQ issues is changing also shows that young people are much more accepting towards diverse gender identities and expressions.

But in the adult world, we’re far from gender equality. In the U.S., only in the past hundred years have women begun to achieve the same legal rights as men (though due to gender discrimination, they’re still highly underrepresented at the highest levels of politics and business, and even in the same careers, they only earn 78 cents for every dollar earned by men).

So I ask you to think critically when you make gendered assumptions, and question why we cling to this male/female division. At a deeper level, do we really need words like “man” and “woman”? If men and women can truly achieve whatever they want—follow any passion in their personal life or career—then what is the purpose of identifying someone's gender by calling them “he” or “she”? What vital information do these words tell us, beyond describing certain sex organs?

Up through the present, gendered language has enforced restrictive guidelines for how people should live their lives. Visit the aisles of any major toy store, and you’ll notice boys’ and girls’ toys are sharply divided: Girls can have pink, housework, and the arts; boys get cars, sports, and science. Social norms may be changing, but profit motives are not.

Some argue that language doesn’t affect reality, but studies have repeatedly shown that female-gendered words create a negative bias—from the usernames on comment threads to those at the tops of resumes. Calling a someone a "girl" isn't just about pointing out her vagina, but about grouping her into a class of people assumed to share personality traits and life paths. And in America, by and large, those traits are deemed lesser.

What is gender if not the most acceptable form of stereotyping? Perhaps in our lifetimes we will adopt a new neutral term to refer to individuals (as Swedish preschools have begun to do), or simply start using the more equitable “they.”

Until then, some thoughts for you to ponder: Why must we know a baby’s gender even before it is born? Why do we let advertisers tell our children what toys each gender can play with? Why is the U.S. one of the few developed countries without paid parental leave? Why aren’t all bathrooms gender-neutral? Why does the idea of taking a woman’s last name make most men angry? Why are laws restricting the reproductive rights of women mostly enacted by men?

Be kind to one another, and please VOTE on November 4th.

Hunter Oatman-Stanford
San Francisco, California

P.S. I write about fascinating, forgotten tidbits of history at collectorsweekly [dot] com. Follow me @hunterrible or drop me a line at hunters.listserve[AT]

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

About streets, poetry and mathematics

Hi everybody,

Last Thursday, Patrick Modiano received the Nobel Prize for Literature, but I would like to talk about another french writer whose work fascinates me: Jacques Roubaud. Mathematician, member of the Oulipo, he devoted his life to the study and production of poetry, he composed only by walking, without taking notes, memorizing the verses until he could write them down. "The Great Fire of London" is his masterpiece, he describes a mysterious "project" partly autobiographical, on a light tone, often funny and moving, in a complex structure full of Oulipian constraints. He manages to make us guess what may be the depth of literature, poetry and mathematics by organizing his knowledge and feelings in a story with "interpolations" and "bifurcations". If you love the game of go, the Grail cycle, troubadours, Japan, memory theories, libraries or literary games you should like these books. The first three «branches» have been translated into English as "The Great Fire of London," "The Loop" and "Mathematics:".

About mathematics, here is a conjecture of mine (I didn't find its description anywhere else):
The number 28 is the only number that can be written as a sum of the first n integers (1+2+3+4+5+6+7), m first primes (2+3+5+7+11) and p first non-primes (1+4+6+8+9). I was not able to prove it (I suspect it to be related to the Riemann hypothesis).

Some time ago, I had the idea of searching connections between the names of intersecting streets around me. I stumbled upon interesting stories, starting with those linking "Lugeol" street, where I live, and "Lacanau" street which crosses it. It happens that both streets have a relation with San Francisco:
Lacanau is a seaside resort near Bordeaux, it hosts the annual Lacanau Pro, the first international professional surfing competition to be born on French soil. Gabriel Medina won the 2011 edition at only 17 years and a few months later he triumphed at the San Francisco Rip Curl Pro Search.
Lugeol street is named after Dr. Lugeol, a doctor appreciated for his liberal ideas and his generosity. In 1856, he declared the birth of Clodomir Largarde of father unknown. It turns out that the mother was actually married and gave her maiden name to avoid a scandal: her husband, Urbain Balmigère, had left Bordeaux to San Francisco for at least 3 years and has since disappeared. I guess Balmigère gave in to the lure of the gold rush, but I do not know what became of him. Do any of you living in San Francisco have heard of the name Balmigère ?

A game : get outside, sit on a public bench or any other suitable place and note what you see or what the atmosphere inspires you, it can be as short as a koan. Send me the text accompanied by the name of the place where you did the observation. If you allow me to publish it, I will place your contributions on a google map.

A bench in Bordeaux (44.837055, -0.571995)
There are many pigeons here. Half a dozen children are running towards them, laughing, to make them fly, and then move away until the birds come back. Indeed they are returning, landing in a rustle of wings, in a wave that flows back again at the arrival of the children...
"So what happens in this book?" says the young mother to her son on the bench next to me, when I'm about to open my own. It makes me wonder if 'humans readings books on a bench' is as typical as pigeons coming and going...

Have a nice day!

Henri Bourcereau

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Leap of Faith

“Making a big life change is pretty scary. But, know what’s even scarier? Regret.”

That quote is probably one of the driving factors as to why I recently left my job of 7 years, moving to a new city to start over. If you go through life never taking risks, you’re going to end up with a lot of regret.

Life doesn’t happen when you’re standing still. And while I loved my previous job, I was stuck in my comfort zone. I wasn’t growing or learning, I could do my job on autopilot. I wanted a challenge, and I needed a change. I needed to prove to myself that I could do this. I needed to prove to myself what others had told me. That I owed the world more than what I was doing. That I had more offer.

Have I proven that to myself yet? No. Not even close. But I know I will. And I won’t give up. I’ll always keep improving and growing and learning. That’s my challenge to you. If you’re in your comfort zone, living in a bubble, get out of it. Whether you sell everything you own and travel the world, or just move to another city, get out there and do it.

I just got a new job that I’m really excited about. It’s the start of a wonderful career with a lot of opportunity to grow. My previous job was a learning experience, but I didn’t have any room to move up. I wasn’t okay with reaching my glass ceiling at the age of 30. So, I quit. I packed up everything I own, moving it all into a storage facility in the DFW area. In the meantime, I’m living with a roommate on a temporary basis.

Regardless of what happens, that leap of faith was something I needed. Never doubt yourself. You have the same chance as everyone else in life to make things happen. Go after your dreams. No one said it was going to be easy, but reinventing yourself can be one of the greatest things you ever do. Each day, week, month, and year, I will get better.

To be completely open and honest with you, I was terrified to do this. A little over a year ago, I lost my mom after she fought a courageous battle with cancer. Just four months after her diagnosis, I lost my best friend. I didn’t want to take a step in any direction without being able to share it with her. Good news or bad, she was always the first person I called. She was my rock in life, now she’s my angel. I know she’s watching over me smiling, happy to see my success, bravery, and newfound zeal for life.

You never stop the grieving process, you just learn to live differently. Life will never be the same as it was when I had my beautiful, smiling mother here on earth. It’s just different. We can be happy knowing that our loved ones are no longer suffering. There’s no more pain, no more hospitals, no more cancer. Yes, I lost my mom way too young, and I’ll never know the reason. But I owe it to her, and to myself, to stay strong and keep going.

I’m looking forward to this new chapter in my life. I encourage you all to evaluate where you are, ultimately doing what’s going to really make you happy. Reach out if you want, I’d love to hear your own stories and experiences.

Dallas, TX