Friday, June 29, 2012


When I first signed up for The Listserve some time ago I was full of skepticism, hopes and delusion. Then the projects started and I started to receive email after email; Beautiful words forming advice, tips and precautions that everyone really should take part of. Irregardless of it's purpose - it is fun hearing about other people.

Myself, I am some what of a metaphorically half-blind Sherlock Holmes and have some academic background in everything human. What I would like to add is some, although paradoxical, insight into the human condition. The problem, as I see it with most things in life, is that 99% of people never ever - listen - to - advice. You have your life and live it by the understanding your experiences have shaped over time. It takes a unique openness and self control - insight - to actually adapt your life to things you have not yet realized yourself.

Be aware!

Adam Ahlgren
Stockholm, Sweden

Thursday, June 28, 2012

It's okay

I thought long and hard, perhaps just long, about what to write. And of course I procrastinated to the point where I almost wondered if I'd missed my window to write to the list. You sign up, and you know intellectually that someday you'll have to write to everyone, but you figure it will be ages away. You'll have time to think of something.

And then it appears in your inbox asking to speak to hundreds of people. Some of whom will read and smile. And some of whom will think you're a blithering idiot. And some will think you have something interesting to say. And some will delete it without reading. And some won't understand.

And it's okay.

It's okay not to be read. It's okay not to have everything work out as you planned. It's okay not to be liked by everyone.

It's okay. It's okay to be ordinary and not one of the ones winning awards and being on the news and doing Great Things (tm).

I'm only about a week away from turning 40 years old. An age that sits solidly in what most consider middle age. Ancient to the 20 somethings and younger, in the prime of life to those already there and past. I'm not concerned with getting older. I enjoy the experience, the knowledge, the gift of being able to say that I'm closer to a half century of existence than not.

But I haven't done anything spectacular. I haven't devoted my life to curing childhood cancer. I'm not a famous politician or entertainer. I'm not a stunning businessman or scientist. I'm just fairly ordinary.

And that's okay.

I have a calm life, one that is creative and interesting. One that doesn't make for a good answer to that question of 'what's new?' or 'what do you do?' at parties, but one that leaves me generally content.

And that's okay.

So dream big, Do All The Things, but it's /okay/ if that Big Dream is something little and not earth shattering. There's nothing wrong with content.

Take good care of yourself, and remember that Life is Good.

Guelph, ON, Canada

Wednesday, June 27, 2012


Upon receiving the notification that I am the winner, I was immediately struck with, "oh no, what am I going to say or do?!?"

Having squandered 47.75 of the hours I was given to come up with something, I am hoping that in 15 minutes I have left, I can come up with something interesting to say to all 20k+ of you.

Actually, to tell you the truth, I am not that interested in saying something and am really just interested in the effectiveness of The Listserve as a platform for communication.

Email gets a bad rap these days and the reasons are good: we get too much spam, it is too easy to abuse with mass forwards, overuse of the carbon copy feature, and packed inboxes overwhelm users. Many students of mine never really used email in the first place, choosing SMS, IM, Twitter, Facebook and the like to telecommunicate with their peers. (My fear with all of this is that we are segmenting and tying ourselves to proprietary commercial platforms (at least in the case of IM, Twitter, Facebook maybe not with SMS) without even considering the repercussions.)

I love the constraints that The Listserve puts on the messages. No links, no rich text or images and so on. Back to the basics. Our only mode of interaction is the reply button. Fantastic!

So, if you will, humor me and send a reply! I would love to see how many of the 20k+ that I am writing to will! I'll email you back with the data and some of the comments after a week or so.

Oh, I promise not to sell your email address or spam you or even email ever again after sending the data and comments.

Have a good day!


Shawn Van Every
Buffalo, NY

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Life is good

Let me tell you about one of the best days of my life.

It was the day I received news that my visa to live permanently in Australia had been granted. When I opened the letter and read it I burst out crying. I am an Englishman and now an Australian, it's not that I don't like England its just that my family emigrated to Australia when I was 7 years old, Australia had become a part of me. Unfortunately they moved back to blighty 6 years later.

In England I had a good life and a fantastic job, so much so It took me 34 years before I got back to Oz. I now live on the Gold Coast, Queensland with my wife and youngest daughter. Our middle daughter and partner are now in the process of emigrating bringing four of our grandchildren with them.

Life is good.

Gary Bennett
Queensland, Australia

Monday, June 25, 2012

From a Student

When I received the email telling me I could write a letter to 20,000 people, I smiled. The timing was hilarious.
The last four days have been the most amazing in my life... but that is a different story (you can ask me about it via email if you like).

After hours and hours of thought, this is a thank you, a thank you to all teachers who approach their jobs and roles with energy, sincerity and enthusiasm. Parents and community leaders too, but especially to those in high school education.

I’m one of those students... you most likely know the type.
The sort of student who loves to learn, but is much less thrilled with proving what I have learned.
You took the time, made the effort and encouraged me to persist, to be better, and even though my marks didn’t quite make it, you still taught me with the same passionate enthusiasm as always.

Just so you know - I’m 22 now - travelling the world, meeting new people, having exciting and challenging adventures.

And guess what?

I’m doing it with that exact same enthusiasm, sincerity and energy you used when you were teaching me some idea that flew right over my head.

On behalf of all students, thank you for your interest in our lives, and for sharing your passion.
I hope someday I can find the patience, wisdom and heart to do the same.

Tim Krins
Melbourne, Australia
(Currently in Vancouver, Canada)

Cooking your country's cuisine

My wife and I are cooking one meal from every United Nations member country,* in alphabetical order, as a dinner party and fundraiser. We call it United Noshes, and we document every meal and recipe on our blog.

In just under a year, as I write this, we’ve cooked 37 meals, from Afghanistan to Colombia, and raised close to $7,000 for World Food Program USA. Cooking dinner parties out of our home in New York (and occasionally on the road) has afforded the chance to stay better connected with old friends, meet new ones, and explore the world’s diversity from our own small kitchen.

If you’re from a country whose cuisine we haven’t cooked yet, or at least have some on-the-ground experience there, we’d really appreciate your help in compiling a menu, learning your traditions around the table, maybe even compiling a playlist of music to enjoy while we eat. While I can find the green plantains, Vegeta, fenugreek and palm oil, the seasoning of your traditions, memories, and advice will add the missing flavor to help our project do even more to span cultures and delight palates.

Thank you and bon appétit!

Jesse Friedman
Brooklyn, NY, USA

* We’re also recognizing the two permanent observers, Palestine as a full dinner and the Holy See as a wine-and-wafer appetizer to Honduras. That’s a total of 194 meals.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Something to do

Hello Listserve!

I'm writing this from my hotel room in Auckland, New Zealand. First trip out of Australia and I'm loving it!

Last night we dropped in to The Shakespeare for a quick beer on the walk home. Wow, What a pub! They brew their own beer in behind the bar. If you're in the area I highly recommend it.

Brewing beer is a very rewarding hobby which I recommend every beer lover try at least once. I don't mean those tins of extract you get from the supermarket, brew it from grain! The experience really helped me enjoy some of the excellent craft beers available to us now.

I tried the 'brew in a bag' method in a large pot on my stove. It only brewed about 24 bottles but they were mine! I had a great time adding the ingredients and seeing how it changed the flavours before and after it was bottled.

The first pour and taste was so rewarding, I had no idea if I had done it right or wrong or what to expect. To have this beer that I crafted myself from raw ingredients was the best thing ever.

Go on, give it a crack. It'll only cost you about $50 to get set up and a day of your time.


Jake H.
QLD, Australia
(currently Auckland, New Zealand)

Oh, and Sarah, I love you with all my heart :)

Just Do It

That idea you have? Stop putting it off. Will it be difficult? Probably. Will you want to give up? Absolutely. But don’t. You have to persevere.

What about failure? Learn from it. Try again. Be smarter this time. Make new mistakes. There’s a story I heard once: it took Edison more than 1,000 tries to invent the light bulb. He remarked to a reporter that he had not failed, he had simply found 1,000 ways to not create a light bulb.

How about luck? You’ll need it. But don’t let that stop you. You can’t get lucky if you don’t even try.

Get started. Change something. Do something.

Phil Crumm
Los Angeles, California

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Meta and Human Problem Solving

On 10/4/2004, I had an epiphany. I taught problem solving as a high school math teacher. After the vision, I moved to Portland to get a PhD in systems science, and in two years when I finish my dissertation, I'll be traveling the country to foment a (r)evolution.

I was teaching the students a basic four part problem solving method:

HAVE a problem.



STRATEGIZE what to do

SOLVE (act on the problem)

VERIFY that the problem is correct.

Then I noticed something interesting - these items form a set of recursive domains, 'meta' if you will. People move smoothly from having a problem, to filtering it towards a goal, towards planning and then acting, and after acting, reflecting.

Then I noticed that this is a fundamental relationship in the processing of groups - whether we talk of group identity (Forming, Storming, Norming, Performing) or the way in which Portland, OR has processed through the building of a new I-5 bridge (ODOT declares a problem, neighborhood mtgs, design meetings, construction meetings, construction!)

This basic pattern is nothing less than the operating of the hivemind, a prosaic and yet fundamental relationship in how humans compute. I believe that change in possible in my lifetime, and that I'll be the one to foment that change. Look for me traveling the country under the Dead Letter brand knitting people together into a shared network, under Meta, with personal motivation and interesting projects for all.

Dead Letter
Portland, OR

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Don't be afraid

Today I wanted to tell you to have the courage of doing what you really love even if you are afraid, just do it! After 4 years of studying Medicine, just because my family told me to do it, I quit and decided to study Industrial Design. It was the career I've always wanted to do but was too afraid of what might happen, even to give it a try. Now I'm full of excitement and happiness and have zero regrets of taking a chance to do what I really wanted and not doing what some others expected me to do. I guess what i'm trying to say is follow your dreams and whatever makes you happy. Dream big and live bigger.

Buenos Aires, Argentina

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Open Science for a Better World

I have always tried to make the world a little better whenever faced with a decision. Now that my wife and I are waiting for a baby, I am even more motivated to do so. Here is something I want to do to make the world a lot better. Let's improve science education using open source technology!

Here is why I think this needs to happen:
- Basic understanding of science helps people be better citizens of the Earth and our modern global society.
- Real science must be open, conducted with open tools. Science education should be like real science.
- Existing open source technology (Arduino, Raspberry PI, etc) is orders of magnitude cheaper than proprietary science education tech. Harnessing this technology could vastly lower the financial barriers to entry for educational institutions worldwide.

All we need is some good software and hardware designs to make it easy for educators to use. Who's with me? If you are passionate about open source, science, or education, please get in touch and let's make great things happen!

Tim McKnew
Central California, United States of America

Monday, June 18, 2012

Food For Thought

Hey everyone,

Like many others, I didn't expect to be selected this early, so here's something I learned from Bruce and Sophie. Who are they, you ask? Well, they're my cats. And before you file me under "Crazy Cat Guy" I want to share a couple things that I didn't

know before I adopted them.

- Cats are obligate carnivores. - Cats are desert animals, and as such, they don't have a high thirst drive. - Cats on an all kibble diet do not drink enough water and are

more prone to being dehydrated. - Dry food is has a really high percentage of carbs that cats dont really need.

How did I learn this from them? Well Sophie had some stomach issues that wouldn't go away, regardless of the brand of food I fed her, so I went into research mode and read about cat nutrition and such. As a result of all this, I moved them both to a strict canned food diet and then I started making their food at home. Yes, homemade cat food. Raw chicken with extra additives that they need. The net result of this? Her stomach problems vanished pretty much overnight. Not only that but both her and Bruce's coat is super soft and shiny,

there's not a person who pets them that doesn't comment on it.

I don't expect everyone to start making their own cat food because that's just unrealistic, but for all of you cat lovers out there, think about switching them to an all wet food diet, at least. Its not as convenient and is a bit more expensive than dry, but it's way better

better for them. Canned food has a far higher protein content than dry, as well as having a lot more water to it which will help keep them hydrated, this in turn will help keep urinary tract diseases at bay. Not only that but most canned food has about 4% carbohydrates in it, as opposed to 30% or more on dry food.

So please, look into it. Wet food is the way to go. Don't take my word for it either, google "cat info" and the first hit will have lots of info on the subject, read up on it, the site is maintained by Dr. Lisa Pierson and is an invaluable resource.

Your kitties will thank you for it. You wouldn't eat junk food your entire life, and neither should your cats.

Carlos Anicama
Tacoma, Wa.


Hi there! I'm a 22 year old Singaporean and I'm an undergraduate student studying in Perth. I signed up for Listserve for the exciting prospect of reading and learning new and beautiful things from everyone in this community. And now that it's my turn, what would I say to a million people if I had the chance?

I've thought long and hard (3 hours of typing and backspacing), bugged tonnes (4) of friends, and ate 6 scoops of ice cream. Here's what I'd like to say to a million people.

First of all, I'd like to thank my family (my dad, mom and sis) for being the most imperfect, annoying, nagging, beautiful, supportive, loving family. I have always told them through Skype and Facetime that I love them on the phone but since it doesn't count unless a million people hears it, so I'd like to shout "I LOVE YOU" to my family.

Second, I'd wanna thank all you previous contributors for making me smile/laugh/appreciate honey/rotate my head/cook. Nary a morning that goes by that I do not open my inbox first thing in the morning to read the contribution for the day. I'd also like to thank all future contributors for what is to come because writing this one email is hard work!

Lastly, I'd love to thank my ALL friends for being absolutely amazing, Franc Roddam for Masterchef, Kelly Clarkson for her voice, ancient Chinese for creating ice cream, Aztecs/Mayans for chocolate, and you for reading.

Perth, Western Australia

Just Some Reflections

Dear Readers,

The collective consciousness of society would browbeat one into thinking that most others are inferior and inherently competing for something like honor or recognition.

It's a good thing that isn't true.

This listserve, like the real world, is a better portrayal of how much more kind, thoughtful, and accepting people actually are. Of course, we aren't utopian yet, and I see things in people's characters that I think to myself often, but now have a place to widely broadcast!

The founder of western philosophy said, "I know one thing, that I know nothing." Yet many people I meet (including myself) can think that there's something you know, something that sets oneself apart, that somehow lends authority to judge or critique someone else's beliefs, actions, or decisions.

May I humbly suggest that none of us know the inner workings of every human heart. Religious zealots may have been indoctrinated, the poor may be so because they support others, and the classically uneducated may be wiser than their lack of a degree may evince.

If I could share something from my life experience that I think could help all of you, it would be to not only to treat people justly and rightly, but also with respect. I've had personal experiences with people who, in retrospect, have been astonishingly wiser than I, but who were easy to dismiss because they had learned that wisdom is its own qualifier, and weren't competing for something as fleeting as honor or recognition.

Kind regards, Anonymous

Albuquerque, NM

Thursday, June 14, 2012


1. Get a cat.
2. Never ever believe that your dreams aren't possible.
3. But don't assume you'll achieve them without working hard.
4. You are special.
5. Go ahead, say you don't like it. See how soon you start to like it after that. (My relationship with Mumford & Sons)
6. Love your family, even the ones you don't like.
7. Have a good relationship with your siblings.
8. If someone throws a drink on you, hey a free drink.
9. Everybody needs a stuffed animal.
10. Volunteer, and actually listen.
11. Kill your tv.
12. Love yourself (even if you don't necessarily like yourself).
13. There are some things that will never change, same goes with people.
14. But there are some things and some people that will.
15. Life is a big grey area.
16. Watch Crash, if you haven't.
17. Give faith a chance.
18. I love all of you, and I don't have to know you to say that.

Emma Birdsong
Pulaski, TN

Random beauty

Google translate is great, and I use it extensively while learning Spanish. But there's only so much it can do. There are some words of a language which remain untranslatable. Here are some of my favourites:

Duende (Spanish)- On a translator, it'll show "elf". It is actually the spark of divine inspiration, expressing itself out of one’s heart, or the involuntary feeling of awe, in reaction to an inspiring piece of art or music.

Tenalach (Gaeilge)- The relationship one has with the earth, the air, the water. A deep connection that makes you one with nature.

Gemütlich (German)- Translates as "comfortable", but it is the sort of comfortable exhibited by a warm house full of people who love you; when you are happy and relaxed.

Ya'aburnee (Arabic)- Literally translates as "You bury me." The declaration of one's hope that they'll die before another person, because of how difficult it would be to live without them.

Koi No Yokan (Japanese)- The feeling you can get when meeting a person for the first time, that you will fall in love with them. Different from "love at first sight", as it does not say that love already exists, only the knowledge that it WILL happen later.

On that note, I'll sign off. Hopefully you will find these words as beautiful as I did.

Kolkata, India

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Ganhei na loteria, e agora??

foi exatamente isso que eu pensei quando recebi o email avisando que eu tinha sido selecionada, o que eu vou escrever? depois de um tempo pensando, resolvi começar escrevendo sobre o tempo, não tem melhor tópico pra começar uma conversa com quem não conhecemos.. Moro no estado mais ao sul do Brasil, e aqui o clima vai de muito quente a muito frio, e no momento estamos no muito frio, embora ainda não seja inverno, já teve até temperatura negativa em algumas cidades, e segundo notícias, na próxima semana as temperaturas já ficarão bem altas de novo. Não há como entender o clima daqui mesmo!

Bom, eu sou estudante de arquitetura, e por mais exaustiva que seja a faculdade, não me arrependo da escolha feita, que, por sinal me permitiu viajar a outros países (amei todos!). Estou mais para fim do meu curso, e ultimamente tenho pensado o que eu vou fazer depois de formada, mas isso é uma preocupação pra mais adiante.

Agora uns tópicos mais aleatórios (ainda!) pra fechar o email:

assista Greys Anatomy, How I Met Your Mother, Community, White Collar, TBBT, Modern Family, Raising Hope, New Girl, 2 broke girls, Parenthood. A lista é grande, mas vale a pena, eu garanto! :)

Leia todos os livros do John Boyne, principalmente O Palácio de Inverno. É ótimo!

Assista Uma Linda Mulher, é excelente!

E pra fechar, sempre pense duas vezes antes de agir, e tenha sempre fé, seja em alguém ou em alguma coisa.

Abraços, Mari
Canoas, RS, Brasil

Monday, June 11, 2012

A little bit about me


I am going to have to write this quickly because I am really busy! My flatmate and I are organising a Eurovision party and people will be arriving any minute. Check out wikipedia if you don't know what that is.

My name is James and I am English. I live in Barcelona which I love. Some people say I'm lucky to live here but anyone can do it if they want, it just takes determination and a little bit of sacrifice.

I've not had a Eurovision party before but I think it will be fun, if a little camp! I recently moved into a new flat and have done a lot of work to make it a home. It's nice to be able to enjoy it with my friends.

I'm feeling very happy at the moment. Maybe partly because the weather is good and I can spend time on the beach. Work is going well and I am getting on well with my friends. I certainly didn't feel so happy during the winter, but then it always makes me a bit depressed.

The only downside is I find it harder to eat well and have put on a couple of pounds. It is definitely worth the sacrifice!

I guess the only thing missing is "that special someone", I hope I'll meet them soon. Maybe I already have.

Take care,
James x
Saturday 26 May 2011
Barcelona, Spain

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Finish a project

Hello everyone,
It's an honor to be writing to all of you. I can't believe I've been picked so early on!
I've been trying to figure out what to write about, and believe me… it's tough. Don't worry, I'll be brief.

I have something I'd like you to do.

Think about a project you've been wanting to finish — perhaps something important, or perhaps something small. And ask yourself… why haven't you done it yet?

Today, I want you to put aside whatever's standing in your way. Finish that project. Even if it's not perfect, there's always time to fix things later.

The biggest barrier to success is often fear of failure. But that's okay… it's better to try often and fail, than to wait for perfection which will never come.

Good luck!

Trevor Johns
San Mateo, California, USA

Saturday, June 9, 2012

I just want to tell the world.

I love, with every ounce of my soul, my wife and my kids.
May God watch over them always.

I get my strength from my family, my faith, and my friends.
Nothing is more important to me than this.

Thanks for reading.

Downers Grove, IL

Friday, June 8, 2012

Make things.

You have something you always wanted to learn to do, but
never did. Perhaps you were intimidated; maybe you didn't
know where to start. Maybe you tried, but got frustrated.
Maybe you had grand plans that would have taken you years of
concentrated effort to pull off.

Here is a thing that I am learning: It's okay to do it badly.

So your stick figures aren't even recognizable as people.
So you knit a rectangular scarf that's somehow not a
rectangle. So the birdhouse you built is wonky. So the
program you wrote crashes if you look at it funny. So you
painted an ugly picture of your father in his underwear in
a recliner. So the curtains you sewed sit funny on the rod.
So you only know two chords on the guitar, and it takes you
a few seconds to switch between them. So you made a video-
game that's ugly and weird and broken and nobody wants to

Do something that you're bad at. Enjoy it anyway.

Maybe get good at it, if you want.

But you've gotta do it badly first.

Jeremy Penner
Ottawa, ON, Canada

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Moving Day

Since the email from the nice people at The Listserve caught
me on the morning of moving day, I’m filling this email with
fragments from journals I found during the move, flipping
through them at random and typing out what I find interesting
until I hit the word limit:

Recent revelation upon looking at the books scattered around
the house: we’ve always been more into gnomes than genomes.

I am most impressed by those who can find the signal in the
noise. People like David Foster Wallace, W.H. Auden, Amy
Hempel, Rob Greco, my sister, Matthew Weiner, Sherlock
Holmes, Deron Bauman, Al Swearengen, Frank Chimero, Ira
Glass, Noah Dennis, Patrick Rothfuss, Ze Frank.

Would we think differently with our brains in our feet?

Book idea: How to Look at People

The closest thing to a Mos Eisley experience = Colorado,
mountain town bars, the characters, the eclecticism,
the realia of the local.

Dreams of megafauna are my favorite.

"[He] used to claim that there’s no freedom quite
like the freedom of being constantly underestimated."
– The Lies of Locke Lamora

Next project: put together a resource for a daily
"Lucky Ten Thousand" for my students.

Matt Thomas: "To live in Iowa -- and to stay sane
-- requires the cultivation of a vast inner geography."
– yes, exactly, that’s how I survived, isn’t it?

Remember, it's the cheese that keeps us connected like
the chips in Paula Deen's nachos.

For some reason I'm fairly confident that oompaloompas
would have loved Melanzanas.

"I like trees because they seem more resigned to the way
they have to live than other things do." – Willa Cather,
O Pioneers!

I wonder how much our current mental state is dependent
upon our ability to imagine a happy/fulfilling, realistic

"He turns the empty glass in his hand, and considers
biting off the rim." – from Raymond Carver's "What Is It?"

Writing prompt idea: Write a sentence that you are sure
that no one on earth has ever written before.

careworn = best adjective

Luke Neff
outside of Portland, Oregon

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

A little anecdote from my time in Vietnam

A couple of months ago, my friend Jill told me to sign up this Listserve thingy – she said the writing is pretty good. Indeed it has been, I have really enjoyed receiving all the emails.

I've decided I'm gonna tell a story. In summer 2010, I went backpacking for a month in Indochina with my mate, Eston. On one bit of the journey, we left Phonsavan in Laos at 6am in the morning and travelled all day to get back into Vietnam. We arrived at Vinh at 8pm in the evening, and caught yet another coach to Hoi An after waiting around for two hours.

So, we were on this coach, seated on the back row, exhausted and grubby. The driver came round the bus and gave us blankets, which we placed on the seat next to us. Two teenage boys, around our age got on and sat next to us. We couldn't really understand each other but they offered us gum - very friendly guys. We gesture and converse monosyllabically for a bit.

This coach was a bit different, it had a large space between the last row of seats and the penultimate row, large enough for a mat and for people to lie down, which the two boys did. I fell asleep and woke up in the middle of the night and in the darkness of the moving coach, I saw one of the Vietnamese boys kneeling and relieving himself into a plastic bag held by the other boy. Oops. I didn't want to be rude and stare so I closed my eyes again, opening them again to see the bag being flung out of the open window. Then I saw the other boy using one of the blankets to wipe the floor. I'm guessing he spilt the bag. The boys shifted elsewhere on the mat, away from the wet spot and went back to sleep.

Later I woke up again, this time, the driver was chasing the two boys away from lying down (it was a long ride so I assumed he was rotating his driving shift with someone else). He appeared to scold them, and then after they moved back to their seats, he lay down on the mat – right over the 'wet' spot!

At this point I was stifling my laughter, terrified the driver would smell something and accuse Eston and me. I don't think I would have been able to remain poker-faced in the face of interrogation. I was also really glad I didn't use the blankets given.

But seriously, I had a great month of travelling. If you ever get the opportunity, do visit Indochina, especially Laos!


Lancaster, UK

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

A few things to remember...

1. Watch for bikers and runners when you drive. Too many accidents occur because people are making a simple turn and are in a hurry, and forget to look to see who else they share the road with. If you see a biker or runner, don't forget to check where they are before you turn in front of them, otherwise you could turn right in front of them and badly injure someone (not to mention put a nasty dent in your car).

2. Don't drink and drive. It doesn't matter if you've only had two drinks. If you think you're okay to drive, wait a half hour to be sure. The next time you think about getting into a car, think about if you found out when you got home that your son/daughter/brother/sister/best friend was killed by a drunk driver. Just don't risk it.

3. Help others. One of my favorite quotes is by Shirley Chisholm: "Service to others is the rent we pay for our room here on earth." It doesn't matter who you are or how hard you've worked to get where you are, someone out there has fewer opportunities than you. Everyone has someone else to thank for where they have gotten in life: your parents for raising you in a good environment and working to give you a college degree or good values, a teacher or mentor who helped you realize your passion, a nameless patron who donated scholarship money or gave you a job. But not everyone receives the same opportunities, and everyone at least deserves to be fed, to be educated, to have a roof over their head. It may seem that one person can not make a change, but one person can be a friend or make a small difference in one other person's life, and that's all that matters.

4. Send a card or letter to someone you care about, just to let them know they matter and you are thinking about them. Not tomorrow, do it today. Tomorrow might be too late.

Buffalo, NY

Monday, June 4, 2012


When I was a young boy my parents took my brother and I on a trip to Sydney. We went to the Zoo, and the Powerhouse Museum (absolutely fantastic for a young kid into technology and science like I was and am), and many many other places. Most importantly, we were spending time as a family. I look back on the trip with the absolute fondness of memories. And with a little regret.

Not about the trip, no, let me explain. We were heading back to the hotel after a long days adventuring. My brother and I could be a little bit (ok, a lotta bit) of a handful when we were young, and this particular day was no different; So you can understand why when the train arrived at the station, I just stepped on. Or rather, into the gap between the platform and the train.

I don't remember much about it; what I do remember is falling, and in the same instant a fist grabbing my t-shirt from behind and pushing me up onto the train. My ankle and knee was sore and my eyes were filling with tears as Mum snatched me up and took me to seat. Dad was shaking the hand of the man who had saved, at the very least, my leg.

I remember laying on the hotel bed watching cartoons as Dad iced my leg.

My regret is never being able to thank that man for saving my life; or at the very least, saving my leg.

Jamie Reid
Canberra, Australia

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Sundry thoughts

I'm generally not big on quoting other people, and maybe this is totally cheesy, but this poem contains what I find to be useful pointers on how to go about life. It's not clever, it doesn't rhyme, it's not grandiose. It's eloquent and on point:

Go placidly amid the noise and the haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence. As far as possible without surrender be on good terms with all persons. Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even to the dull and the ignorant, they too have their story. Avoid loud and aggressive persons, they are vexations to the spirit.

If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain or bitter; for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself. Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans. Keep interested in your own career, however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.

Exercise caution in your business affairs, for the world is full of trickery. But let not this blind you to what virtue there is; many persons strive for high ideals, and everywhere life is full of heroism. Be yourself. Especially do not feign affection. Neither be cynical about love; for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment it is as perennial as the grass. Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth.

Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune. But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings. Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness. Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself. You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here. And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.

Therefore, be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be. And whatever your labors and aspirations in the noisy confusion of life, keep peace in your soul. With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams; it is still a beautiful world. Be cheerful.

Strive to be happy.

--Max Ehrmann, 1927

San Francisco, CA

Saturday, June 2, 2012

The simple secret to surviving India

You just landed in India. You’re a bit stressed: it’s absolutely normal. But let me just tell you a simple thing, and everything will go just fine. In a matter of days, the Indian in you will be fully awakened.

The head tilt.

This is a very simple gesture: just tip your head from side to side with a small angle (around 15°), repeatedly. Don’t make it start at the top of the head; your chin should be driving the movement. Limit yourself to three or four tilts, in a fluid movement. Got it? Yes, you’re doing it right.

You just learnt the secret to Indian communication. A stranger is talking to you in an unknown language? Just concur, using your newly learnt skill. Congratulations! You successfully communicated. Look at the visible satisfaction in your new friend’s eyes.

Huh? You still don’t understand what it means? You’re puzzled by this taxi driver’s use of the gesture when you give your destination? Was it “yes”, was it “no”?

No, you’re not getting it: it doesn’t have a meaning, because it IS the language. Does English have a meaning?

But the comparison with English stops here. The tilt head is much more powerful. What other language allows you to communicate “I reluctantly agree to the price you have given me, but be aware you get all my contempt” with such concision?

Warning: Excessive use of the tilt head may severely impair your communication skills back at home. Use at your own risk.

Warm regards,
Arthur Cheysson
New Delhi, India


I'd like to make some book recommendations.

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
That this book is about two teenagers with cancer should not dissuade you from reading it. It will probably make you cry, but it will also make you laugh. It's an honor to share in this story. You'll fall in love with it.

Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen
This is one of the most engaging stories I've read. It follows a young man who ends up working in the circus, but the best thing about it is that it also follows his life much later on in a nursing home. The way the two stories intersect is fantastic.

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
This is about a girl during WWII told from Death's point of view. Nothing else is like it. It will break you heart, but it's worth it.

A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson
Or anything by him. He's hilarious.

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
It seemed obligatory to put this on the list, as Towel Day was so recent.

Since so many others have given life advice, I feel as though I should do so as well. The only advice I feel comfortable giving comes from two video bloggers, John and Hank Green, who changed my life and introduced me to the best community in the world. Google them, check it out. For now, all I can say is Don't Forget To Be Awesome.

Maggie Needham
Chicago, IL