Monday, July 30, 2012

Do more of what you love

On August 7th I’m heading out to Cimarron, New Mexico. It will be my third time backpacking at the Philmont Scout Reservation. I was 15 the first time I went and 26 this time around. After this trek I will have hiked around 200 miles during my time there. Having grown up in New York, spending a few weeks in the mountains of New Mexico opened my eyes. First of all, I had no idea that scrawny 15 year old me could carry all of that gear over 60+ miles. The trip also gave me my first 'raw' view of nature; from mountains in the sunrise to a deer that had been mauled by a mountain lion. The first night sky I saw revealed a blanket of stars that are hidden in New York City. Finally comprehending the sheer vastness of it humbled me. Unfortunately a few months later I received the news that my neighbor, a fire-fighter, had perished on September 11th. I was devastated for quite some time after that. While it has never been easy to deal with, it certainly shaped who I am today.

I feel like I'm lucky to have had that "Oh... the universe can be dumb and sometimes I can't control everything" moment so early. Your life is what you make of it and you won't get far if you fear the unknown. That said, I'd like to request that you do the two following things. They're easy, I promise :)

Get your friends together and go on a hike! If you've never gone on one, I'm urging you as much as possible to do this one! The feeling of reaching a summit is tremendous.

Most importantly: Do more of what you love.

Pat Cartelli
Queens, NY

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Random advice about Risk and “Risk”

We’re taught to fear “the stranger”, but most sexual assaults are done by someone the victim knows. Most children will be assaulted by a relative or family friend, most women by an acquaintance. Teach your children to know a dangerous situation, rather than relying on “stranger danger”. Women should know that they are not necessarily safe when they are with people they know.

Conversely, enjoy the company of people around you. Do not approach everyone like they are a potential scam artist/thief/rapist/liar. Life is too short to view everyone as a suspect.

If someone has a weapon and says “Come with me or I’ll hurt you”, DO NOT GO! Where you are is much safer than whatever abandoned place you are about to be brought to, that’s why they want you to leave it. Throw a loud fit and run towards people as if your life depended on it (it might). Even if you are injured, you are in a populated place and will receive medical attention. Many people have been murdered and/or sexually assaulted by simply following instructions.

Love is a risk, but worth it. After exiting a marriage with someone who was such a compulsive liar that he was effectively a stranger, I thought I’d never take that risk again. However, after time (and therapy), I am lucky enough to find myself less than a month away from marrying the best partner I could possibly imagine.

If you live in a country that celebrates Halloween, let your children celebrate it as you did when you were young: scared and in the dark. “Safe” events aren’t the point of Halloween, and it isn’t fun for kids.

With much luck, health, and happiness,

Meghan Callahan
Duluth, Minnesota, USA

Turn On, Tune In, Take Part.

Ten years ago, I ate 3.5 grams of psilocybe cubensis mushrooms for a simple, silly reason: I wanted to see things move. I have always been a textual person, a writer, and I wanted to unlock my visual imagination. What I experienced that sweet December night profoundly transformed the way I move through reality and engage with my fellow human beings. The visuals had very little to do with it.

While other elements of my late teenage life had edged open a door from the lonely, angry place I often found myself, it was that first dose of psilocybin that helped me step through. It is entirely possible that I would have eventually arrived at this place of joy and compassion without psychedelics, but the point is moot. They have been powerful allies along the path.

I harbor no illusion that psychedelics are a good idea for everyone. For many people, they may in fact be a very bad idea. They certainly won’t save the world. But they do have the capacity, when used safely and responsibly in an informed context, to better individual lives.

As non-profit organizations like MAPS (Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies) and the Heffter Institute increasingly receive federal approval for clinical trials into the therapeutic benefits these drugs can offer, and as psychedelics re-enter the mainstream consciousness of culture at large, I hope that the people whose lives they touch decide to work towards the betterment of society instead of dropping out of it. Turn on, tune in, and take part.

I’d like to thank the ListServe for giving this indolent scribe a deadline.

Daniel Tumbleweed
New York

Friday, July 27, 2012

True story

Here's a true story :

I was born in 1969, in 1977 2000ad - a British boys comic began. Not expected to last the year, the publishers using the hatch/match/despatch model (HATCH: create a new comic title and an excited audience looking for issue #1. MATCH: Merge a successful title with a less successful title, joining the audience together - usually heralded with the phrase "EXCITING NEWS CHUMS!" and, finally, DESPATCH: Shut down publication of the lesser title, saving money)

Issue 2 of 2000AD featured the introduction of the character "Judge Dredd". Designed as an anti hero, Dredd, unintionally, turned out to have a vast appeal to the kids who read it.

I was one of them.

When I was 14 years old I loved comics and computers but, comics were derided and computers looked like it could lead to a day job (in fact, I started working in computers at 14).

In 2000, when I turned 30 and 2000AD, unbelievably still in print, was finally catching up with itself, having realised that all I ever wanted to do with my life was to draw comics, I pushed.

One year later I was drawing Judge Dredd.

I've now been drawing comics, and Judge Dredd as a professional comic artist for over a decade. Dreams can come true. Though, sometimes, you have to play the long game.
Belfast, Northern Ireland

Thursday, July 26, 2012

In The Defense of Cheese

A few days ago, there was a little snafu where my subject line was attached to another e-mail. So here's the real In the Defense of Cheese.

When I was younger, there would be times that my mother's “intensity” would drive me to leave my home for a few days, just to get away from her. Every time that I left home like this, I would always do something different. One time I took a bus tour across the state, and another I merely spent the week at a friend's house. In one particular instance, I packed up my scouting gear and took off into the wilds of the Appalachians. After about 2 days of hiking, I came across a cabin in the woods. I had enough food packed and I really didn't mind sleeping in a tent, so when I knocked upon the door, it was curiosity that drove me. An elderly hermit named Mary Ykatherine then came to the door (it's a silent “Y” apparently). She treated me to what I thought was borscht, but what was apparently 85% peyote. I closed my eyes for a second after the meal, and when I opened them Mary Ykatherine was gone, and in her place was a gorgeous princess. I inquired as to who she was and she said, “In the defense of cheese... THAT WAS DELICIOUS!” I don't remember much more from that trip.

Columbia, SC, USA

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Little Kid

As a college student/intern/tutor/babysitter/freelance writer figuring out what I want to do with my life, I wouldn't be where I am now without the help of some amazing people who helped me early on in my career. They could have easily ignored me and dismissed me as a "little kid," but instead, they took me under their wing and gave me work experience, guidance, and time that I will always value.

Thank you to the editor of the Town Journal in Ridgewood, NJ. At 14, I sent you my book report on the Odyssey as well as suggested that I become the paper's next book reviewer. You didn't laugh, but invited me into your office for a meeting, where you offered me the position. I was elated. You worked with me through awful draft after awful draft peppered with nonsensical words from the thesaurus because I thought they sounded fancy (and New York Times-esque). You sent me long e-mails full of suggestions about how to improve my writing, and I took each one to heart. I can't thank you enough for taking the time to work with me and allowing me to pursue what I thought was merely a dream.

Thank you to Kate Jackson of HarperCollins Publishers. After I wrote an article in the Town Journal about my disdain for teen books, she wrote an editorial in response. I then asked if we could meet and discuss our differing opinions on teen literature, and she agreed. When we met, she offered me a summer internship at the company in the children's editorial department. Kate and the team I worked with that summer were incredible, and it made me realize that writing will always be a part of my life.

My point here is that if you're young, don't be afraid to do what you love. I used to think that I had to be of a certain age to accomplish certain things, but I don't think that way any longer. Age isn't a barrier to accomplishments, and it doesn't define who you are. Always strive to achieve, no matter how old you are.

Julia Lynch
New York, NY

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

The last letter

Hi everyone! First I would like to say that English is not my native language, so forgive my possible (and probable) mistakes! This letter below I wrote when I was 16 years-old and was going through a difficult phase of my life, and I thought that leaving this world was the only option. I have never showed this letter to anyone, and it was the first thing that came up in my mind when I was invited to write here. Fortunately, I don’t feel like this anymore and I now I want to live my life and work it out no matter how difficult it gets. There’s always a way out! : )

Please, stop worrying about whose fault was it. It’s nobody’s fault but mine. I did it by my own free will, because I couldn’t live with myself anymore. I couldn’t stand the futility of people and their superficial relationships, and above all, I couldn’t stand and comprehend my inexplicable desire to be like them.
Some say that suicides are the bravest cowards that ever existed. I disagree. If I’ve had a little bit of courage, I would have said “no” in many times I said ”yes” without meaning to.
I would have said more about how I really felt and less about what other people expected to hear from me. I would have stood up for my opinions and done what I wanted to do even if the world and the people around me didn’t think it was right.
I would have enjoyed things more when I had the chance, and complained less when it was no longer worthy.
I would have accepted me for who I was, and I would had struggled less battles with myself. Because this last one I lost. I lost because maybe I hadn’t learned how to fight it right, or because I didn’t want to fight knowing I would lose it anyway.
Actually I think I would have lost much more if I had continued living the life I was living. The life that was mine and, like everything else that was a part of me, I hated with all my heart.
I hope you understand that this was the toughest and selfish decision I have ever had to make. I’m not gonna tell you not to be sad or angry, or cry. I just want that the only people who do it are the ones that really cared when I was alive. If my life wasn’t worth it, please make sure that my death is. I want to thank those who loved me, no matter how: be still because none of you could have stopped me if you tried. I’m in peace now.

Sao Paulo, Brazil

Monday, July 23, 2012

Happiness consists in realizing it is all a great strange dream

In an age where we are constantly connected to everyone and everything, there's never been a bigger divide in social interactions, I feel that people are losing the ability to communicate properly. However, being a part of Listserve has reminded me that we can truly make a connection and communicate without the need to meet. Receiving these emails over the past months/weeks has inspired me to take risks, reevaluate my life and make it a life that I want to live not only that but I've had to chance to gain insight into some incredible and passionate people in this world. So thank you all for being you, never stop!

South of England, UK

Sunday, July 22, 2012

What makes you cackle like a witch?

I like to ask people what the last thing that really made them laugh was. I think you know a lot about someone when you know what they find the funniest. When you make somebody laugh a lot, you have complete control over them. It's an interesting power trip to know that you've reduced somebody to a blubbering mess. So tell me, when was the last time you really, really laughed? Mine was when this happened:

Last year our cat Piffon died. He was a big part of the family, although it was a love/hate relationship - he had the most annoying meow you could imagine, a whiny guttural sound, like a scarred infant crying for help or something. And he was a total coward too, not one of those cool cats you hear about who kill mice. Once we actually saw him getting chased by a bird. Anyway, he was getting very old so my mum and sister took him to the vet, who explained that he had lived a long life and it was best for him to be put down. My family, despite their sadness, agreed that it was best. On the way home, my sister had Piffon's body on her lap in the car, her and mum both crying as they drove. Then suddenly, his dead body urinated profusely all over her!

Tears of grief turned to tears of laughter - it was Piffon's final revenge against the family who so lovingly despised him.


Robbie Smith
Murrumbeena, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

In The Defense of Cheese

I find I have a few things I often admonish people about, and I’ve picked one to share with you all. First, a little about myself: I am an American guy in my lower twenties. I live in the center of the state of Pennsylvania, and, on the weekends, run a small take-out BBQ. This particular job involves lots of prep work and any needed welding and fabrication to keep things in good shape. Now, as stated before, my intention is to lecture the world about something. This isn’t something terribly life changing, but if you eat meat, you should know this. Use a meat thermometer! People regularly ask me questions about cooking, and when they do I usually ask them a few questions myself. One thing I find is that most people rely on some primal instinct to determine whether their meal is ready. The usual outcome is that otherwise delicious cuts of meat get overdone. There is an easier way. For about $10 you can have a tool that will tell you exactly when your food is done, every time. No more relying on some formula or a pop-out button to determine if that turkey is done, folks. Stick a thermometer in there! If the center is up to 170º, it’s done, otherwise, it’s not. No poking, prodding, test cuts, or other guesswork. A thermometer is certainly the cook’s best friend. (Tip: don’t cut that turkey right away. Cover and let cool for 10-15 minutes)

Justin Smith

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Intelligence & How to Get It

You are what you know.

A contemporary view of intelligence finds that it is the sum of two factors:

G(f) is fluid intelligence- the size of your working memory, how ‘fast you think’ etc.

G(c) is concrete intelligence- a measure of how much factual information you have acquired.

Learning more information then is the key to greater intelligence.

Hart and Risley (1995) found that children in non-working households heard, on average, 616 words per hour, while children from professional families heard 2153. By the age of three this totaled a difference of 30 million words. Less well off children are exposed to fewer concepts- and develop less concrete intelligence.

Research into memory and cognitive neuroscience has soundly shown that the learning of new material is much more efficient if you already know a body of linked material.

Eric Hanushek’s work suggests that a good teacher can get 1.5 years of learning growth in one year, a bad teacher 0.5. The consequences of a bad teacher for a number of years in a row can be devastating. Note that many of our most challenging schools struggle to attract good teachers.

Finally, we know which classroom practices most enhance learning and achievement. We have a well-developed science of learning- but you’ll have to look very hard to find proof of this in our schools. It’s long overdue that schools, classrooms and teachers applied what works, and the folk pedagogy and traditions that guide our educational institutions were replaced by evidence-driven practice.

Dr Mark Evans
Norwich, UK

Thursday, July 19, 2012

How would you help aspiring teachers in the developing world?

Tim Ferriss (of 4 Hour Work Week fame) is turning 35. His birthday wish is to raise $50,000 from the followers of his blog to help fund aspiring teachers. If we are able to raise $50,000, he will match that with another $50,000 donation! As of this writing, we have raised $27,181.

To raise the money, he is using a new 501(c)(3) nonprofit called Vittana. Donations to Vittana students are 100% tax deductible.

To donate:
1) Google “Vittana” and click on the first link
2) Choose “Lending Teams” at the top
3) Scroll down and choose “35th Birthday Challenge for Tim Ferriss!”
4) Choose “Join Team” in the right column 5) Connect with Facebook
5) Find a student, and donate!

I highly encourage you to consider making a difference in someone else’s life today!

Thanks for your time,
Andrew Martin
Stanford, CA

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Building something awesome with friends - or the story of FarmFest

It is a happy coincidence that I got the invite to write something to you all in my favorite week of the year. It is the week prior to a festival I help organize: FarmFest. Let me tell you why I love this festival so much.

I grew up on a dairy farm in Friesland, the Netherlands. Throughout our upbringing, my twin brother and I spent a lot of time together - building tree houses, doing chores on the farm, playing games. Both my brother and I went to study: he moved to Utrecht, while I moved to Amsterdam. I am currently finishing my Masters, and he decided move back after his BSc. He's going to continue the farm when my parents quit.

Most friendships from back home have watered down through time. I only see my twin brother when I go back to visit the farm, and many other friends I only see on special occasions. Fortunately, there is something that brings a group of us together every year: FarmFest.

10 years ago a couple of friends and I decided to celebrate our birthdays together. We got some bands, lots of beers, and invited friends. Saturday July 14th we will throw the tenth of these gatherings, which we named FarmFest. This festival has grown from a few dozen friends to more than 500 people, who come to listen to bands, bbq, drink beers, dance, and relax around bonfires. Every year we improve something: better audio, a larger tent, a second stage, more bands.

Yet, the most pleasure I get from FarmFest is not the party itself, but the preparation. In the months and weeks before FarmFest my old friends, twin brother and I get together and try and figure out how to organise a festival. And let me assure you: creating a festival with friends is the awesomest thing in my life. Because of the festival, I get together with my old friends and we renew our friendships by working together.

What brings your friends together?

Kind regards,
Scherpenzeel, Friesland, the Netherlands

P.S. If you're in the neighborhood, don't hesitate to drop by!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

The Loneliness of Extraversion

Hi Listservians! This is a shorter version of something I wrote in April, which can be found if you search the title.

The Loneliness of Extraversion
On a recent Sunday morning, I slept until my eyes were ready to open, rearranged my apartment, ate cake for breakfast, and read online news in total silence. I did two loads of dishes, returned library books, and watched bike polo in the park. I then found my favourite tree and sat under it to think about how amazing the previous few weeks had been.
I hadn’t had a day without social interaction in more than two weeks, but Sunday, when I finally had some time to myself, I found that I would keep looking at my phone and try to decide whether to text or call or email or chat or bbm or ‘like’ activity or comment or message people. Amidst the solitude I had been seeking I still sought out the technological company of my peers. Sharing these experiences with people is what fuels my life, but the problem with being an extrovert, and a busy, well-liked one at that (cry me a river, I know), is that in the moments when you’re not surrounded by love and friendship, you feel very much alone.

Empty spaces seem bigger. The quiet seems quieter.

Eventually, after resisting the thumbscializing cycle of Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and G-chat, I succumbed to the compulsion of checking what was making that red light blink, and I responded to a few of the alerts adorning my status bar. Though I don’t regret doing so, I am glad I was able to hold off on them until I had appreciated my surroundings. These lonely moments are necessary, particularly to an extrovert. We function by way of external stimulation, but if we don’t give ourselves the time to wipe the slate clean, we’ll just be trying to catch up with the alerts of the stimuli that just happened an hour ago, a minute ago, a second ago…

Extroverts! We need some time off! We need to trust ourselves that whatever activity we choose for the hour, afternoon, or even whole day, will be the BEST one. During the times when we turn our phones to silent or better still, leave them at home, we will be significantly more capable of being the best participators in activities, because we give ourselves to them fully.

Lee-Anne Bigwood
Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Monday, July 16, 2012

Raspberry rhubarb muffins

I know it's a very hot summer in places right now but these muffins are completely worth it.
(Sorry for mixing unit types here, but these are from my notes and what I know works for me)

375g AP flour
265g Brown sugar (I prefer dark)
2.5tsp Baking powder (from a can opened <6mo ago)
0.5tsp Baking soda
0.25tsp cinnamon (ground fresh ceylon)
0.25tsp nutmeg (ground fresh)
0.25tsp salt
1.0 egg
1.25cup buttermilk
0.5cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled
2.0tsp vanilla extract
1.0cup raspberries
1.0cup rhubarb, choppped

Preheat oven to 400F

0.5cup chopped pecans
0.33cup brown sugar, packed
0.25tsp cinnamon
1.0Tbsp cold butter

Combine ingredients in food processor, pulse until they resemble coarse crumbs

Whisk together flour, baking {powder,soda}, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt
In a separate bowl combine sugar, buttermilk, butter, egg, and vanilla
Combine the two mixtures, mixing until roughly combined
Add in fruit, stir three times to distribute
Pour into muffin liners in a muffin tin (makes 12-18)
Sprinkle topping onto batter
Bake @400F for 20-25min

Notes on muffins:
Fresh ground spices are THE BEST. Get a microplane for ~$10 and you'll be set.
Nothing in the world smells as good as fresh ground cinnamon and nutmeg.

Having fresh baking powder is important. It reacts with air and loses potentcy.
Muffins are chemically levened by the reaction between the acidic buttermilk
and tartaric acid in baking powder and the basic baking soda.

Muffins get their texture from being roughly mixed. You only need to mix until
all the flour is wet; any more and you risk developing gluten strands and
making your muffins chewy, with a cake-like crumb.


Seattle, WA

A story about music, youth and culture

This is a story about music. It is also a call to arms for anyone interested in recording. Forward it to anyone it might help.

A lot is said about DIY music, and plenty more about mainstream artists. But this is a story about the rung beneath all that; a rarely mentioned rite of passage for anyone who has performed a note of music in their life.

When I was 12, a youth club opened by our school. It had a music room where a member of staff showed me how to play a simple drum beat. I didn't 'get' music as a kid, but then they started playing along with the baseline to 'Smoke on the Water'.

Something clicked. It was a huge rush, and I feel it again as I write this.

A decade later I was taking a degree in music production. My classmates wanted to be songwriters or DJs, but my love for bands like At the Drive-In and Fugazi led me to a certain music culture based in Washington DC through the 1980s. There is plenty of literature describing DC's punk heritage (everyone from Beastie Boys to Moby were part of it), but it was essentially a community defining their own identity through DIY record labels and live shows.

Through an academic lens, I picked apart why this movement worked. It needed a town to call home, a live music venue to draw people together, a studio to document their efforts, and a bunch of people who are more interested in music than money. And then I remembered the now-defunct youth club I used to visit.

So a week before graduation, I put myself to work. I wrote a proposition on the Sunday (I find the funding, you provide the space, we create an environment where young people can use music to build their own community), drove across the country to my hometown on the Monday, changed into a suit in my car and walked into the council offices with a freshly-stapled business plan.

They said yes, but only if I can find the funding. Councils never say no to funding.

I could write a book on the next part, but you'll have to settle for a summary. In one month I raise £25,000. Twenty per cent becomes a part-time wage. I order £22,000 worth in equipment, but negotiate it down to less than £17,000. We install a very competent recording studio with a rehearsal space, and let these ingredients simmer to see what happens.

For many young people, it was transformative. I'm reading through the old case studies now, and I'm fondly reminded of calls from teachers seeing improvements in class, or the mother whose daughter just seemed happier at home. Words like 'confidence' and 'ability' keep appearing, and I'm struck again at the story of the boy with Aspergers who wouldn't sing until his third week. These examples only skim the surface, but it was significant for all of those involved.

Two years later, I left the studio in their capable hands. The teenagers it was built for had taken charge of their own ship, and I had achieved my life's first serious ambition. My next was to become a journalist.

I'm telling this story for a simple reason. I think it could be replicated in hundreds (maybe thousands) of towns around the world.

All that fundraising, studio engineering and management was hard work, but you're already connected to an internet which can guide you. Hell, I could recommend a tonne of books that would tell you everything you need to know. They worked for me.

Do you know someone with enough drive to make it happen too?

Is it you?

If so, send me an email. I still have all the business plans and equipment lists, and could throw in a bunch more tips to avoid certain pitfalls.

Maybe some of you will take it on, and maybe culture will be a little richer for it. Who knows.

As for me? I'm working from home and enjoying family life in the English countryside. I've learnt that you can do anything if you plan it right and work hard. You can talk and talk, but nothing happens until you get up and do it.

Tom Davenport
Wiltshire, England

Sunday, July 15, 2012


When I ask questions, I am genuinely curious to hear the answers. How are you today? Don’t say fine. Tell me what you were anticipating to be stressful at work today, or what you are looking forward to doing this evening. My favourite question to ask is “What are you passionate about?” It stumps people most of the time. This upsets me because I don’t like to see a disconnect between someone and what makes them the most happy and curious in life. Your passions should always be within arm’s reach. Once I get the ball rolling and someone begins opening up to me, I like to think that I’ve lightened their mood and distracted them from whatever negative thoughts were tossing in their heads. Maybe when they’re done speaking to me, they continue the conversation within themselves. Perhaps they had lost touch with what they are passionate about and I helped rekindle their fire.

I initially wanted to write about what was a long distance relationship between my boyfriend and I, but is now local. 286 days in our first year were spent with him in Ottawa and me in Vancouver. I’m also passionate about science (physics, biology, evolution), hockey, Sweden, feminism, body positivity, blood donation, and awareness of depression and anxiety.

So tell me: What are you passionate about?

I want to start interacting with the readers and writers of the Listserve by sending emails. Maybe it’ll become a passion of mine.

Colleen Meegan
Vancouver, BC

Friday, July 13, 2012

My American dream: Route 66

Happiness is to achieve your dreams and enjoy the road. These words are dedicated to a dream that begun 7 years ago, during my first days in university. There, one day, Maria and I decided to embark in the adventure of crossing the United States through Route 66.

Route 66 is the mother road of America, it is the road of hopes that crosses 8 States from Chicago to Los Angeles, Route 66 is a magical experience that lives and will live forever, in the heart of those who once lived the adventure.

It was almost a year ago, after graduation, when the dream became true. María and I set forth to on the trip that changed our lives. Every single mile from Chicago to Los Angeles was magical. The adventure lasted 35 unforgettable days and it was during that time that we realized we lost part of our hearts there.

The dream is still alive inside us, and that’s why we are so sure that Destiny has kept a place for us on Route 66. Times may change, but Route 66 is alive and kicking like never before.
I’d like to say goodbye with the words of Jack Kerouac

“I was halfway across America, at the dividing line between the East of my youth and the West of my future.” Jack Kerouac, On the Road

Álvaro M.H
Madrid, Spain

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Are you angry?

When I was young I was angry.

So much seemed to be wrong in so many parts of the world - I didn't know what to do, I just knew I wanted to do *something*.

Yet changing the system seemed impossible for millions to bring about, never mind one angry teenager.

5 years ago, a small thought changed my life.

I realised 'the system' - with its business, jobs and money - is not the problem. It's just a tool.

Most use that tool to prosper regardless of their impact on others - but you don't have to.

I started a business that finds ways to use the web - something I knew a lot about - to improve lives.

We make a profit so we can pay fair wages, and reinvest what’s left into doing more good.

This is a “social enterprise” - it puts people, not profit, first. I think the world would be better if every business were replaced with one.

I'm not noble or brave enough to give everything I have to charity - or to fly to a more needy country to lend a hand. But every day I do a job that I know makes the world a little bit better instead of a little more unfair.

I'll never make much money from it.

But I feel rich - and a whole lot less angry.

Manchester, UK

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Talking to Strangers

I'm a professor at MIT; I study how people share information online and am optimistic about better communication helping to create a better world. But paradoxically, as ever more novel communication technologies are emerging, there are serious breakdowns in meaningful communication.

The United States shows an ever-widening schism between political left and right who refuse to even talk to each other, let alone compromise in tackling national challenges. Blogs are hyper-partisan, speaking only to the true believers and reinforcing their preconceptions. Social network tools like Twitter and Facebook are great for chatting with friends about inconsequentialities, but actually decrease our tendency to pay attention *outside* our social circle. When is the last time you used social media to change the mind of someone who disagreed with you about something that actually mattered?

I signed up for The Listserve to help me think about tools that could enhance communication among strangers. It's great to communicate to a huge group of listeners. But what's next? How could this turn into a multi-way conversation? What about a blog where one random person posted every day but everyone could respond in the comments? With 20,000 people on the list, how could we handle everyone talking at once? What are the tradeoffs between picking a random sender versus using social moderation to choose the "best" one, whatever that means? How could this large group work together to map out the pros and cons of an important issue and decide on a best policy?

David Karger
Cambridge, MA, USA

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Get on with it and have an adventure.

These days, life changes faster than people could possibly imagine. Think back to the start of 2011. between then and now, were you expecting half of what happened? A quarter? I certainly didn't.

In that time, I've moved out of home, lost a loved one, decided to drop out of university, started a band, worked full time in IT Support, thrown the biggest concert of my life, moved from Australia to Edinburgh, traveled on my own for the first time, made a brand new set of friends, worked in Recruitment, and most recently, entered voluntary unemployment.

I was mugged twice, robbed once, injured myself countless times, spent more money than I should have, ended more friendships than necessary, started ones I would later regret, felt the saddest I have in my life, and took the stupidest risks yet.

Do I regret it? Not one jot. Would I rather have known these things would happen to me? Not if you paid me. Part of the fun of a movie is not knowing the plot beforehand, and why treat life differently?

All I can say to those who read this is not to plan too far ahead. Let life's little uncertainties choose a few things for you. Sit back and observe the world for half an hour, and notice the little odd things. It's not always nice, but it's always interesting.

Alex Michaelson
Edinburgh, Scotland

Monday, July 9, 2012

In praise of big fish in small ponds

Dear The Listserve people

I doubt you'll recognise my name.

I'm not famous. I'll never be famous.

But I have always aspired to be 'someone', a person who made some kind of small but significant contribution to 'something' . As it happened, I found such a modest niche. I'm a sociologist, working on two very specialised areas - the sociology of hevy metal and the sociology of the British Jewish community. Needless to say, there aren't many of us working in either area. I'm really just a reasonably big fish in a couple of pretty small ponds.

So for the last few years I've made a joke about being such a big fish in a small pond. I've said that really I'm just like 'the best water skier in Luxembourg'. Needless to say I didn't know anything about water skiing in Luxembourg.

But about a year ago I had a brianstorm: why not go and meet the best water skier in Luxembourg? Why not write a book about him/her and about other big fish in small ponds too? The idea seized me with excitement. This could be a polemic against power and celebrity, a celebration of the unknown heroes in obscure small worlds, a tribute to commitment and community.

So I've been working on the book. I actually met the best water skier in Luxembourg last year and I'm preparing further trips to visit such other obscure figures as the Icelandic special forces, the top novelist in Suriname and the best heavy metal band in Botswana.

The book is being crowd-funded so I need the help of strangers to complete my project. You can't post links on The Listserve but if you google 'best water skier in Luxembourg' or e-mail me, you can find out more.

In the meantime thank you to The Listerserve for making me a little bit famous for one e-mail.


Keith Kahn-Harris
London, UK

Every Vote Counts

I think people these days, for the most part, have been tricked into believing that their vote doesn’t count. But it does – your voice counts. You need to make sure that you pay attention to what affects you directly. If you don’t vote, you’re giving up your right to direct what happens to and around you. Figure out what representative (and by representative I mean anyone for whom you can vote to hold public office) best represents your views on the world, how you want the world to be, how you see the world progressing, and vote for them. It’s quite simple.

Over half of the subscribers to the Listserve have elections coming up in their respective countries, but this email isn’t just for them, it’s for everyone to keep in mind. Having a voice in shaping the future of your country, however small you think it may be, is something truly revolutionary. Indeed, few times in the course of history have conglomerations of people been able to direct the fate of their nations, and as such, this right (to vote) should not be taken for granted. Of course, people differ in their views for how they think their countries should progress, but in closing I think this quote from Voltaire will be to most people’s liking: “I may not agree with what you have to say, but I'll defend to the death your right to say it.”

Minneapolis, Minnesota

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Win win

If every person who’s convinced that there’s a glorious and eternal afterlife would take a voluntary shortcut right now, many global problems that humanity is facing would be a lot easier to solve.

Frank Mul
Amsterdam, The Netherlands

A recommendation, a funny story and some advice.

Hello World,
1. If you’re unfamiliar with Neil DeGrasse Tyson, please look him up. You will learn you are not only a part of the Universe, but ARE the Universe.
2. A friend recently told me this was his favourite story. I spent my 20s working in a school for children with various special needs. Twice a year we would take some of them to an outdoor adventure centre where we would climb, tunnel, drive quad-bikes etc. It was awesome. And very dirty. Hence we would shower the kids every night.
One boy I worked with, who was about 8, had various digestive medical conditions that resulted in him wearing a nappy and often suffering discomfort. At the end of one day he was in a toilet cubicle both undressing for his shower and using the facilities. Suddenly he called out to me, in a lot of distress, that his bottom was stinging (This is not the funny part!). I hurried him into the shower and rinsed him down with water relieving him of his agony. He was very thankful and continued to shower as normal.
Many weeks later, I was helping out in his classroom when out of the blue, he said to me “Do you remember when you were in the shower with me and I was crying because my bottom hurt?”
3. Don’t feel bad that you don’t know what you’re doing sometimes. No one does. We are all making it up as we go.


Thursday, July 5, 2012

we are a product of our own insecurities

Don’t worry, this won’t be one of those love yourself emails…although you should be doing that already. I would like introduce myself as Mr. Realist. I am not particularly religious, I just believe in things I see. I believe in capitalism and have encountered enough people to see that most people act in their own self-interest. I am not a hater or a pessimist; again, I am just a realist.

So how did I get this way? I am not sure. There are so many questions, yet so little time to find the answers. I don’t understand many things but I am intensely curious. Many people I come across rather know nothing and be happy rather than to know everything and be slightly bitter. It is hard for me to understand this but as always, I respect the viewpoint. Why not try to understand the world for all its intricacies?

I love life. I am privileged to work and live in a very progressive environment. It is mind bending to think how far we have come as a society in such short period of time. We are tolerant and accepting as a majority, but then again, I live in a bubble. Individuality is ripping from the seams of conformity. We are breaking into our own unique mold, yet unite as a whole.

As far as parting advice, be honest to yourself and be honest to others. Surround yourself with people that love and support you.

Love always,

Mr. R
Silicon Valley, USA

Wednesday, July 4, 2012


Today is the perfect day to eat ice cream for breakfast. Gather your family for a dance party in the kitchen. Take a road trip to the mountains for a picnic. Sing your favorite song at the top of your lungs while you air guitar naked in front of the mirror. Today is someone's birthday, call them and sing Happy Birthday them. They deserve something more special then a Facebook comment. Invite your friends over for cocktails and karaoke. Build a fort with your kids in the back yard. Tell them about the moon and explore the stars. Live your life with many mistakes and no regrets. Never join the grown ups. The world will laugh at you. The trick is to laugh first and laugh the loudest. And tonight as you sit around your dining room table with your family or friends tell them you love them. Because the zombie apocalypse is coming and.... you are going to have to kill them.

Mylissa Fitzsimmons
Los Angeles, California

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

There Once Was A Man From Nantucket...

This year is the bicentenary of Edward Lear's birth. He was an author and artist, responsible for The Owl And The Pussycat and the popularisation of limericks. His nonsense inspired me to become the person that I am, so in honour of that wonderfully silly man I thought I’d inflict some homespun limericks upon you all...

My uncle is blessed with a nose
That’s as crimson as any a rose
If you wait until night
And then switch off the light
You would swear, in the dark, that it glows

Have you heard of the cat on the mat
He was lazy and stubborn and fat
When a mouse walked on by
He would open one eye
And say “Sir, I refuse to touch that!”

Young Jim would eat nothing but eggs
Which he pickled in large wooden kegs
When each barrel was done
He would jump in for fun
And the juices stripped hairs off his legs

A buddhist was studying dharma
And assessing his level of karma
With a shake of his head
He exclaimed “When I’m dead
I am sure I’ll come back as a llama”

On a sunny day sometime in June
I decided to go to the moon
So I made me a rocket
From the foil in my pocket
And I’m sure that I’ll get there real soon

Thanks for reading,

Paul Matthews
Seoul, South Korea

Monday, July 2, 2012

A Few of My Favorite Things

1) Travel! I've visited London, Rome, Nairobi, BVI, Bahamas, Jamaica (7x), Tahiti, Mexico, The Yucatan Peninsula, Cayman Islands, and Paris. Living like locals, making friends & pen pals.

2) Photography! I love to photograph people, architecture, plants & animals etc. so much so that I've made my passion my "business".

3) Dump Cake: You need: 1.5 sticks of melted butter, 1 can of cherry pie filling, 1 can of crushed pineapple, 1 box of white cake mix (unprepared), a handful (or 2) of brown sugar, Optional: coconut & walnuts to taste. Preheat oven to 350 degrees, open & dump can of crushed pineapple in a 9x13 inch dish. Spread evenly. Repeat with the cherry pie filling. Open box of cake mix & pour over the fruit. Pour melted butter as evenly as possible over the top of cake mix. Sprinkle a brown sugar over top and finish with coconut & walnuts to taste. Into the oven for 25-30 minutes or until top is golden & bubbly. Eat warm & with vanilla ice cream!

Hope you enjoy my favorite things. Let me know some of your favorite things & if you decide to try the dump cake!

Your new friend,

Olympia, WA

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Hello Everyone!

Somewhere, in this crowd of 20 000 people, is someone who believes I
can be an important asset to them. I am just finishing my second year
as a Nanotechnology Engineering student at the University of Waterloo,
and I am looking for 4-8 months of co-op work starting in September.
My work experience so far includes nuclear reactor design for the GEN
IV Nuclear Reactor Project, Jr Project Manager for the opening of a
state of the art chemical engineering wetlab facility, and the
development of a line of industrial chain lubricants for a small
Ontario-based lubrication company.

This chance to speak to all of you is a unique opportunity to make a
direct request to 20 000. Send me an email, and lets talk about how
we can help each other. I would love to know how I can help you, in
any capacity. Send me an email and ask me any questions you have. I
will provide as much information as I can, and hopefully this will
lead to an important, mutually beneficial relationship.

Best Regards,

Jon Joel
Waterloo, Ontario


A close friend of mine this week had a heart attack.

He's 21.

By a miracle, someone was close by who administered CPR, and he's undergone cold therapy, and there appears to be no neurological damage. He's awake and lucid, though he doesn't remember that we had dinner together a few days before the event. He doesn't remember what happened, he doesn't remember feeling any pain. He just wasn't, for a while.

This has been an intense reminder that everything that I am and anything I care about could evaporate at any time, with no warning.

Make every day the best day of your life.

Jeremy Apthorp