Sunday, March 31, 2013

A leap of faith

1. I feel like this is a TED talk for email.
2. I think this is one of the scariest things I've ever done.
3. I don't like public speaking.
4. I don't think I'm a very good writer.
5. I'm not apologizing.

The Journey:
I took a jump, a leap of faith into the unknown.
A month away from my 30th birthday I am on a plane flying thousands of miles away from all that I know.
I have two suitcases, my phone and a laptop.
This is only supposed to be for 5 months.

For the first time in my life I had no keys.
I had no place to let myself into.
It was the most unexplainable feeling of freedom.

I am a sassy, queer urbanite transplanted into the glorious, interior mountains of British Columbia.
From a city population of 5.5 million to 90 thousand, including cowboys.
I'm in a town where people my age and younger leave to go to where I just came from.
I live in a place where people my parents age come to retire.

I know no one.
It takes me a month to realize that's ok.
I'm still reminding myself that it is.

It takes me one month to make a friend.
I forgot how hard it is to make friends as an adult.
I am reminded of the things it takes to be a good friend.
I practice daily.
There are many days where I am lonely.

I start challenging the idea of familiarity.
I start challenging the idea of personal space.
A fully furnished 2-story urban apartment to a half-furnished room in a shared house.
I start challenging the idea of ownership.
The idea of things. My things.
I've learned that they really are just things. Promise.

It took me 30 years to realize what matters most.
And, yes I assume it will change.
For both of the above, I consider myself lucky.

I suppose this was part of a trend in doing things that scare me.
Last year I went on a hot air balloon ride in Turkey.
I still fear falling.
I got a tattoo.
It's not a very good tattoo.
Next week, for my actual birthday I am going to go shoot a gun.
And because it's my birthday, I'm wearing heels.

This is not a fear of getting older.
This is not an escape mechanism.
This is not to make up for an otherwise ordinary life.
I am not ordinary.

Everyone asks, 'why did you do it'?
As though taking such a big risk is a bad thing.

I took a jump, a leap of faith into the unknown.

I needed to be scared.
I needed a change – something, anything.
It ended up being everything.
It is not easy - I don't know why I ever expected it to be anything less.
I listened to my heart, she told me to jump.
And for once, I didn't listen to my head as so rarely do I ever let them talk together.
(They almost never agree.)

A month away from a milestone birthday, I closed my eyes and dreamed I could be somewhere different.
I ended up here.
I changed everything I knew.
This is not the first time I've done it.
There's a chance it won't be the last.

I can never go back to where I was.

A friend once told me, “You will always regret not doing something, rarely will you regret trying.”
What have you done lately that scares you? What are you scared to try?


Amanda Lynne Ballard
Kamloops, British Columbia

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Class of 2017

As of March 23 2013, 3:19 PM EST, the Listserve has 21402 subscribers. With that number, it should take approximately fifty nine years for the lottery to get through everybody.

Why couldn’t I have been chosen in, say, twenty years? Hopefully, by then I will have been to places and done things really worth sharing. As a high school senior, the most excitement I had this week was piling into a car with a bunch of friends screaming YOLO (ironically….kinda) as we left school mid-day for a Red Mango run.

The notification that I had won the Listserve Lottery came shortly after I’d been rejected by a college. By no means was it my dream school, but it still stung a little, and made me a little less confident about the slew of decision letters I will be getting this week.

As someone who was raised being told that Harvard, Yale, and Princeton are the only universities in the world, I completely sympathize with all the other seniors out there experiencing admissions jitters. However, my (extremely limited) life experience has led me to believe that all this fuss about rankings and prestige is ridiculous. So is all the drama. College is more about the work you put in once you're actually there than where you're going.
So, all of you in the same boat as I am, I would advise going out and properly enjoying second semester senior life this spring break. Don’t sit by your computer periodically hitting refresh. For those of you with a couple of or more years to go, really follow your interests. It doesn't matter if that passion doesn't seem like it'll impress the admissions officer gods. Though second semester has not been as relaxing as any of my classmates anticipated, a lot of my friends are taking the post-application opportunity to do things they've always wanted to do, from reading more books to starting hip hop classes. But it makes me wonder, why did all these things have to wait until now? Why did we let school and the possibility of college take over so much of our lives?

Either way, I wish everyone waiting on admissions the best of luck. The cliche that you will wind up going where you belong is only partially true. The other half comes from how much you will make of the experience. I hope all of this is not too preachy because lord knows I need to heed this advice more than anyone else haha.

I’m sorry that this email was so demographic-specific. If any of the rest of you have read along this far, this summer I will be travelling to Mumbai, New Delhi, Guangzhou, Hong Kong, and Seoul. Anyone who lives in/has been to those cities, please let me know about places I should definitely see! Preferably sites off the beaten track. To the experienced travelers (I want to be you), please send me any practical tips about traveling smartly in general.

- Anna

P.S. If you haven’t already, make sure to read The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery. It’s a truly truly special book that will stay with you for a long time.

New York, USA

Friday, March 29, 2013

Running with it?

Hello Listserve!

I'm just going to let this roll… I'll share a little and I'd love to learn a bit more about you all.

A bit about me - I have a background in physiology and I love business, people, traveling, photography, medical/science meets business, and relationships/communication. I'm also in the home stretch of an amazing counselling psych program (Clearmind) and I sell my art (They're abstract photos that look more like paintings. You can check them out on flickr "bethhallphotos"). Want to trade a piece of art? Can you recommend any great-to-work-for medical device companies?

My top 5 values:

And I'd love to hear from you...
Do you love salt water taffy? What do you love about it? Where's the best salt water taffy you've ever had? Do you know where I can get a taffy pulling machine so I can make yards of it for people?

What's the most beautiful place you've ever been to? Obvious or obscure.
Most amazing waterfalls?

What's the most meaningful thing you've ever given or received?

What are some of your favourite/beautiful/inspiring movies?

What's your favourite go-to vegetarian or vegan recipe?
And the best vegan cake recipe you've come across? (I want to start exploring the vegan world of desserts!)

Where's the most romantic place you've ever been?
Most beautiful love story? (Yours or someone you know)

What makes your heart sing?

Random ask:
Do you have two shabby chic, contemporary, or reclaimed wood bedside tables you're giving away within 100kms of Vancouver or Seattle? Or a cool, small coffee table (1.5 ft by 3ft -ish) or blocks of wood that would do the trick?

Final thought:
When sailing to Bora Bora, we don't get there in straight line. The same goes for life. Let yourself get off course and when you notice you're off, tack back.

Love to you all!

Vancouver, BC

Thursday, March 28, 2013

“This too shall pass”

I have no story to inspire or cause to champion; I can only offer myself, as I am right now, sporadic thoughts and all. I’m tiptoeing at the edge of twenty-one, a little over half way through my architectural undergrad, attempting to relish in the present because thinking of the past makes me feel too embarrassed and thinking of the future makes me feel too anxious.

I don’t know if receiving the listserve notice and having my first kiss on the same day is a coincidence. I almost want to say that it’s like some sort of cosmic sign that this day is a really, really significant one. But then again, maybe it’s not.

I’ve been living a sort of nomadic life style recently, living in cities around the world so incredible that I could liken my life (however undeservedly and pretentious sounding) to fiction. I have been travelling through this amazing life only to return to my sleepy, industrial university city every four months. As much as everyone complains about being here, I kind of love it in the way that one loves a childhood blanket – the familiarity upon returning is comforting. That being said, I do have times where I am overwhelmed by my educational frustrations here and feel compelled to return to my parent’s suburban house just to escape it all (however suffocating going back to that small town may be – that’s another thought all together).

Sometimes I feel so incredibly lucky to have these opportunities placed in front of me that I want to learn everything there is to know about anything relating to architecture and absorb everything and work so hard at this thing that I supposedly love so much that I don’t even ever want to sleep. And yet at other times, I just want to crawl in to bed and sleep away the days because I feel that my dreams are more satisfactory than my daily life. I am constantly fluctuating between feeling exceptionally lonely and feeling extremely loved. I am having trouble separating my profession and education from my personal feelings and find myself letting them dictate each other’s respective successes and failures. A counselor recently told me that I am having the symptoms of “acute depression”. This scared the fucking hell out of me.

A roommate commented on how up and down I’ve been recently, and I feel so guilty to place my own tribulations on people that I so deeply care about. Sometimes I just want to hide away from everyone so they won’t have to feel burdened by this side of me.

I was with my class in Chicago last June when I received the news that my grandmother, or more affectionately, “Bub”, had suddenly passed away. While my classmates were loaded onto the bus behind us, I bawled in my friend’s arms as he held me and after having shown him some clothes that I bought a few days prior, he said, “I’m so sad to see you crying in your new dress”. For whatever reason, this will always stick with me.

Anyway, it’s quite strange that this is my biggest audience to date, and it’s even stranger that you’re all behind a computer, 99% of whom I will never know anything about. This has been quite hard to write for me, knowing that this isn’t completely anonymous. A handful of my friends will be reading this, and will probably shortly be asking if “I’m okay”. I guess, right now… I am and I’m not. But aren’t we all?


Wednesday, March 27, 2013

a girl called Emily

Three summers ago, I am a fourteen year old boy on a summer camp, trying to avoid accepting that I am gay. On that camp is a girl I’d never met before, with big brown eyes and great music taste. Her name is Emily and as fourteen year olds on summer camps do, we become friends. On the last night of the camp, Emily goes to the disco ’with’ a girl, and tells me later that she thinks she might be bisexual.

After that conversation, I am inspired by seeing for the first time someone who could be open and proud about not being straight. On the spot I resolve to have come out by the last night of the next summer’s camp. I’d never before even considered telling people I was gay.

The camp ends, Emily and I speak online a few times, and somehow manage to always go to the reunion that the other one misses. Eventually, the conversations fizzle out, but I always have in mind the prospect of thanking Emily after I’d come out, of telling her that she’d changed my life without even realising.

Easter Sunday 2011. Sitting in a tree, I come out to my best friend. By the end of May, I am coming out to my sister, who whilst being supportive, asks me to postpone coming out to our parents and everyone else until her exams are over. I understand, and comply, putting off that conversation with Emily another few weeks.

In June, I find out Emily has killed herself. I never get to say thank you, never get to let her know what she did for me. I try to stop myself thinking about what could have been if I’d come out sooner, because there’s no point. I’ll never know whether being aware what she had done for me would have saved her. It’s too late now.

I don’t suppose that my story has a moral. But I know that I can never again allow myself to let friends slip away, thanks go unsaid or anything be left until tomorrow.

**However, I want to use this opportunity to do more than tell a sad story. I’m asking you to donate some money to charity, however small or large a sum, in memory of Emily. What would then be amazing would be you emailing me the name of the charity you donated to and (if you want) the amount you gave. I could then email you all back, telling you how much money was donated by all of you in total, so you could see the difference the Listserve can make collectively.**

My friend deserves to be more than a sad story or a teen suicide statistic. Please, allow her to be your inspiration as well. I can’t change the past but you can all help to create a better future.

Thank you all so much,


Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Cyber Bullying and the Power of Words

I was a victim of cyber bullying during my freshman year of college. I will never forget the moment I was sitting at my favorite campus coffee shop, glancing through anonymous posts on a collegiate online forum, when I saw my name. The post said, “Melanie – you’re fat. If you cared more about your weight, people would care more about you.” I blinked back tears and ran to my dorm room in a daze as questions rushed through my mind. Who wrote this post? Are they right about me? Do other peers of mine think this too? I was mortified beyond belief, and for months after I read the post, I no longer felt safe or at home in my college community. The post triggered my deepest insecurities, and led me to constantly criticize myself. It shattered my self-esteem and my flawless perception of the community I had so recently become a part of.

I have come a long way since that moment back at the coffee shop. I am almost ready to graduate with a double major in Government and Sociology, I hold numerous leadership roles on campus, and I look forward to a vibrant career in social justice advocacy. Despite all this, I will never forget how strongly those hateful words affected my life and how my experience with cyber bullying was minor compared to the experiences of many others on this collegiate online forum. Cruel messages can lead to eating disorders, insecurities with sexual orientation, suicide, the perpetuation of stereotypes, and unnecessary tears. Let’s remember the true impact that our words can have on others, and the power that we all have to make sure that our words are kind ones.


Monday, March 25, 2013

Mopeds and Magic

Hello stranger. How's your day so far?

Bet you've been patiently waiting for this super inspiring email of the day! Yeah well, this probably won't be it. I attempted that, but then I realized that I sounded ridiculous. Honestly, I'm still too young to give a list of wise life advice and I'm not old/legit enough to have some world-changing business to promote.

If you met me right when I saw the "You've been selected" email, you'd probably laugh at the variety of facial expressions I had at that very moment. Other Listserve lottery winners out there, I am sure you know exactly what I mean when that joyous and "this is unbelievable!!" moment turns into absolute dread and fear. HOLY CRAP, what am I suppose to write to all of these people?!

But if there's one thing I'd like to share, it'd be my short time in Vietnam this past January. It reminded me that no matter how difficult, stressful, or scary life can be, I'd still have this one moment to hold onto. Let me set up the scene for you.

There I was, propped on the back of a dusty, cackling moped, thrusting my hands into the air like some kid on a rollercoaster ride. I was speeding down the roads of Ho Chi Minh City at night with my cousin, feeling the wind crash against my face, watching storefronts blur into lights and colors. It was the most unexpected form of harmony: the unified circling of the mopeds, the sweet smells of grilled sticky rice, and the dazzling flower-shaped lights together shared a story of Vietnam that was equally exhilarating and comforting. At that moment, nothing else mattered but this great sense of euphoria. I knew that when I returned to the US and sat down to record this very moment, this would be my connection to Vietnam, a place that once felt distant, mysterious, and foreign.

Some backstory: My parents came to the US after escaping the horrors of the Vietnam War. Instead of hares and turtles for bedtime stories, I listened in awe to bold stories of escape and freedom. I heard them all: from the stories of the Vietnamese boat people to my mother's early entrepreneurial spirit selling beef jerky to raise money to leave the war-ridden country. If you haven't seen the Google commercial called "Graduation," about the Vietnamese immigrant struggle, you should. That's my mom. Makes me tear every time.

Life's difficult sometimes, but I'm trying to make the best of it, not only for myself but my family. My parents would support me regardless of my career choice, but as a first generation Asian American, I am still responsible for taking care of my parents one day. I'm terrified because I don't really know what I'm doing or where I'm going. But what I do know is that no matter how crazy things get, how scary life can be, I have that moment in Vietnam. A simple moment that's so magical, so magnificent, that the realist in me believes in miracles.

So now it's your turn. Did you ever have a moment like this before? I'd love to hear about it.

PS. If you're interested in food writing and eating (as in everyone), we should share our food adventures together. Find me at my blog called butterandbutter on Tumblr.

Also a program I'm in is doing a photo project called (RE)DEFINING: Identities of Asian America (2013). If you're interested, just google it. We'd love to have more submissions.

I look forward to hearing from all of you,

Francesca H.
Quincy, MA

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Caught off guard

Hopefully this makes it into TheListserve since I am a few days late. I checked my email for the first time in 5 days to see that I had won the lottery this week. I actually hoped I'd receive the email in a few weeks because I'm currently traveling. I had hoped to learn some valuable life lessons to share with you all, but oh well.

I was in the Bolivian Salt Flats with zero internet access when I received the email. It was an incredible experience, 10,000 sq. km of salt desert. There are only 30 cm of salt separating you from 180 meters deep of (the saltiest) water. Follow that up with volcanic rocks and natural geysers, a red lagoon, and natural hot springs at an altitude of 5,000 and you have an amazing trip. And I still have 3 weeks to go making my way up from La Paz to Lake Titicaca, Arequipa, Cusco, Macchu Picchu, and ending in Lima.

This is the first time I have backpacked. It has only been a week, but it seems like a month. I highly recommend it for anyone looking for an adventure. Get out and try something new. Go somewhere you never thought about. Experience something you never dreamed of.

Shout out to my girl Giselle who got me hooked on TheListserve in the first place.

Phillip Berredo
Rio de Janeiro, Brasil

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Something has gone terribly wrong in the UK

If you happened to catch the 2012 Olympic opening ceremony, you may remember the bit with the dancing nurses pushing beds - celebrating the National Health Service. If you live outside of the UK you probably will not of heard of the recent public enquiry that revealed that one NHS hospital had allowed 1200 people, mostly elderly, to die due to lack of care. Some of them left to expire in unchanged beds in their own waste.
You probably will not have heard of the young man, who died of thirst, immobile in his NHS bed while his carers ignored him. He tried to survive by drinking the water from his bedside flowers, he tried calling the police. No one came.
You will certainly not have heard that several more hospitals are now under investigation for similar failings. You will certainly not hear of any sanctions or consequences.
To pick on another UK institution, you may have heard that the BBC,  home of such beloved shows such as Dr. Who, sheltered an alleged predatory paedophile - the late Sir Jimmy Savile - and resisted attempts to investigate this after his death.
You probably will not have heard of the string of cases of children in public care who were abused by their carers and by powerful political figures now dead, although it is rumoured that some of the guilty still live.
You may have heard of the government minister, in power last year, who recently pleaded guilty to 'Perverting the Course of Justice'. The maximum sentence that a judge can impose is life; typical sentences are two to three years. He got eight months and will probably serve just four. If you live outside of the UK you probably have not heard of the Parliamentary Expenses Scandal involving dozens of Members of Parliament paying back improperly claimed expenses. The sums involved are enormous. Only a few have been charged.
All these problems and many more, have been caused by a slow deterioration in the way the United Kingdom runs its affairs. Political parties have been taken over by a managerial class that has little experience of the life outside of a political bubble, and pays no attention to it. The system of Representative Democracy that used to prevent scandals such as those I have outlined here, has broken down.
Recently a small group of people met in the town of Harrogate and have put together six basic demands that could - in time - lead to a constitutional convention and more responsive direct democracy. You can learn more by emailing me, or follow my own efforts to support them on twitter as @adwelly.

Andy Dwelly
West Sussex, United Kingdom

Friday, March 22, 2013

Emily, Nell, & Abbie: a love story.

Today was a day to get things done. One of those things? Clean out my e-mail inbox. I read some Listserver haiku, then opened the next Listserve gem. I read it. Blinked. Read it again. WAIT, WHAT? I WON?! I have 48 hours... when was this sent? TWODAYSAGO?! Ohgeezohgeezohcrapohgeez.

It was only a few weeks ago that one of my dearest friends was selected to write for you all (Emily Johnson, woot woot!). I thought back to the conversation we had when we were both new to this list. Emily said she'd write a story - something entertaining for others to read, like the time her parents accidentally left her and her sister at a gas station. I guess I was so sure I wouldn't be picked that I never fully thought it out. Now, with just a few hours to think this through, it is as if nothing exciting or interesting has ever happened to me.

Some of my favorite messages from you lovely folks are the ones that tell me something I don't already know, like what to do if a stray cow should wander into my yard (chase it) or what it's like to work at Wal-Mart (fascinating, among other things). Has anyone else checked out FutureMe yet? Thanks to the person who recommended that website. Let's face it, you don't need one more person telling you to SEIZE THE DAY! Either you're going to seize it or you're not.

That being said, I'm just going to share some stuff with you. No big deal.


MUSIC WORTH CHECKING OUT (in no particular order)
The Prigs
Annie & The Beekeepers
Sydney Wayser
Via Audio
Josh Mease/Lapland
The Spring Standards
Frank LoCrasto (Google "Frank LoCrasto Simple Times" and you can download this track for free. I'll give you a nickel if it doesn't make you want to get in a car and drive around, except not really because I'm not made of money and there are a lot of you reading this.)

If you're new to GF, or even if you're not, I recommend reading the blog by Gluten-Free Girl and the Chef. I learned how to make the juiciest chicken EVER from her website (the key is a vertical roaster, which you can buy for less than $10). Granted, that has nothing to do with gluten, but that's the beauty of her blog! You can learn to cook all sorts of tasty stuff, not just grains!

Go to NASA's website and sign up for "Spot the Station". Enter your address, then they will alert you either by e-mail or text when the International Space Station will be flying over your house. Science!

Google "50 life hacks to simplify your world" and you can learn this elusive skill, as well as 49 others. Ever wondered how to open a blister pack without cutting yourself? A can opener! Who knew?!

Since we're already talking about sheets, one thing that can really help a housekeeper out after your stay is to put your towels in one pile and dirty sheets in another pile. Do you make your bed after you stay in a hotel? Stop it. Your heart is in the right place, but it takes more time to pull apart a made bed. Do you tip your housekeeper? Congratulations! That's amazing!


Thank you so much for reading and, let me just say, that outfit looks great on you.

Megan Bishop[AT]
Hunt, TX

p.s. quick shout-out to Evan Smith. I'm pretty excited to be your wife.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

A practical guide for saving the planet

Fellow citizens of the blue planet,

I've dedicated my career to the sustainable business movement. At present, I serve as the global head of sustainable innovation for a $3B company, and teach MBA students as an adjunct professor of sustainable entrepreneurship.

How do you make a dent in the most critical issue of our times? Here are the most important actions you can take, ranked by highest impact. I've used a breakdown of US carbon sources to represent global (industrialized-world) environmental impacts.

1. Electricity: 34% of total emissions
The main sources of electricity in the home are air conditioning, followed by refrigeration, heating, clothes drying, and your television. Turn the thermostat down in winter and up in summer, and practice efficiency for the others. Wash in cold water and line dry when you can. If you pay for your electricity, you can request to buy a percentage from renewable sources, sometimes even at no cost to you.

2. Transportation: 27%
a) Flying
My work flight to Paris last week itself exceeded the carbon emissions of a typical Indian over an entire year (1.5 tons). When I can't avoid flying, I purchase carbon offsets, which fund projects that remove an equivalent amount of carbon from the atmosphere. Offsetting my Boston-Paris roundtrip flight, for example, costs about $18 -- about 2% of the flight cost. I buy offsets from TerraPass, a reputable offset company; google "terrapass carbon footprint calculator".

b) Driving
Another major source of emissions is our car travel. I love my Prius and believe in electric/hybrid cars. To allay a common fear, the batteries are not significant factors; they are 100% recyclable at end of life, and in any case, more than 80% of the total impact of an automobile is the fuel source. Consider also living near your work/school so that you commute less.

3. Industry: 20%
I'm a firm believer free-market innovation, but many environmental costs are business externalities -- that is, business incurs these costs, but society (taxpayers) pay them. Carbon is the classic externality, making the atmosphere our greatest "tragedy of the commons". Write to your government leaders to urge action, especially climate change legislation (thanks for leading here, France and Australia). A US governor once told me that for every 1 call/email she got, she assumed 15 or 20 constituents shared the same belief.

4. Commercial & Residential: 11%
Vote with your dollars by practicing preferential buying behavior for greener products. Do your research on claims and eco-labels (see, but don't be afraid to try to do good and refine your choices later. For example, should you choose organic or local foods? Both turn out to benefit the environment for different (sometimes competing) reasons. Pick your strategy and go for it. As Yogi Berra said, "when you come to a fork in the road, take it."

5. Agriculture: 7%
The choice of the food we eat has tremendous impact, especially protein. I'm not a vegetarian, but I've developed a rule for myself: I eat meat once a day, beef once a week, and lamb once a year. I count fish as half of a meat; download the Monterey Bay Aquarium's "Seafood Watch" app and ask questions at seafood restaurants about where the fish comes from. For me, this is the right combination of carbon-frugality with something I'll actually stick to; find a way to reduce your own meat consumption. To learn the basis of my rule, google "ewg meat eaters guide eat smart".

"Anything else you're interested in is not going to happen if you can't breathe the air and drink the water. Don't sit this one out. Do something. You are by accident of fate alive at an absolutely critical moment in the history of our planet." -Carl Sagan (often attributed)

Please feel free to ask and challenge.

Asheen Phansey
Boston, MA USA

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Reading stories

Hi, people of the world,

Like most of you, I guess, I've been reading stories since I was a
child, and I stlil do. I also write stories. True stories: I'm a

One of my obsession and great wonder, especially when there is so much
to read/watch/etc., is: What makes us read a story till the end?

I would love to hear your thoughts on this. You can
•• send me a link toward stories you loved (text, film, multimedia, whatever),
•• share your thoughts on this topic,
•• do both.
+ You can share your craziest thoughts on new ways of telling stories,
ways that you'd love to experience, but haven't so far.

I'm excited to read what you have to say!

Céline Mouzon
Paris, France

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

My World is your World

So you're casually sifting through your e-mail's at the end of the day, to then stumble upon the one granting you the power to enter 21,440 international inboxes within the next 48 hours... well shoot, now what?
Can't say that I have life inspiring words to share or a heartfelt story to tell, so instead I'll give you a 3 minute insight to the life I live.

I'm Melea, one of those names you can't remember or enunciate correctly for at least the first 3 or 4 introductions. It's fine, I'm over it. I simple it down to MJ when I'm not in the mood to repeat "Mah-Leah" in slow motion multiple times over.
I'm 21, tall, silly, and really good at drinking beer. Gotta make the parents proud somehow ya know?
I have a quality twin brother, 3 sexy sisters and 2 cute parents that never fail to amaze me. The 7 of us have somehow managed to master this casual Brady Bunch vibe, which I can easily pinpoint to the one thing I am most grateful for.

Running, piano and travel are the 3 keys to my heart. All of which make keep my soul smiling for all of eternity.
Last year, I swapped the usual textbooks in for my passport and hit the wide open road. In 10 months I managed to experience 20 countries and was able to shift through all 360 longitudinal degrees this world has to offer. Those few hundred righteous days are a massive collection of the most beautiful moments that I cannot even begin to put into words, and will always be kept at the top of my heart. It's the people you find, and that find you, while experinceing foreign cultures, currencies and countries that make such an unforgettable impact on your life and the way you live it.
If your stuck being sad, travel.
If you're bored with things, travel.
If you're happy, travel.
It doesn't matter where you start, just start.
A couple months into my trip, I came to the conclusion that backpacking should be a pre-requisite to becoming an adult. It's a lifestyle that you cannot explain to those who haven't, and those who have, get it without any explanation needed.
I was planning on staying on the road for another year, or 4, but learned of my acceptance into Engineering at the University of Calgary mid - July, so I figured it was time to come back home and sort out my education.
Being back in this strict scheduled school atmosphere has been a struggle to say the least. I've come to the realization that all test writing abilities I'd acquired over my previous 15 years of education, were lost somewhere south of the equator. Shoot, hate when that happens. Attempting to navigate one of the most strenuous degrees I could've enrolled myself into after a year of being lost in the world was a bit presumptuous, my bad. Here's hoping I make it out the other side.
The single thing keeping my determined head up is the job opportunity after these 4 years. From the 10 short months of foreign living I was lucky enough to experience, I've learned the world is a crucial component I need in my life for the rest of my life. I need a career that allows me to travel to any country at any time for any reason. I need that plethora of opportunity and adventure at every turn, where meeting new friends becomes as innate conversing with old ones.

So boys and girls, to sum up; round up a backpack and a couple dollars and hit the world, I'll meet ya there.

If any of you happen to be looking for a new up and coming engineer to fit a job outline of ample travel, I'm your lady.
Or if anyone could hook me up with a more intelligent brain so I can cake walk through the next 3 years of this degree, that would be absolutely fantastic.

I appreciate the few minutes you've given me, and will gladly return the favour when your Listserve stars line up.
Until next time my darlings, keep it cute.

Melea Johnson
Calgary AB, Canada

Monday, March 18, 2013

A little of this, a little of that.

On the last day of 2012, I turned 47. As I look back on my life, I'm sometimes amazed at how strange and interesting my journey has been. I joined the Air Force at 18, spent two years in England, came back to the U.S. and spent the remaining 8 years of my military career in northern Maine. I was involved in fundamentalist Christianity for nearly 15 years. I raised a family of six amazing children whom I love more than anything. I left the faith, divorced, and rebuilt my life from scratch. I've found amazing people who welcomed me into their lives. I spent a week in the desert at Burning Man. I've loved freely, and have been loved.

If I can indulge a bit, here a few principles that have helped enrich my life. Perhaps one or more will speak to you:
- I can't control the people around me. All I can do is control my own actions, words, and responses. Understand that everyone is on their own journey, and has their own reasons for their choices and actions. 
- Regularly escape my comfort zone. If I'm not challenging myself, I'm not growing. The universe is too big, wonderful, and full of amazing people for me to stand in the corner and watch it go by.
- Love more, and follow the campsite rule. Leave the people in your life better off than when you found them. (Nod to Dan Savage.)
- Enjoy art. Make art. Be art. 
- Safety Third.
- Don't give a crap about what other people think. Follow your joy.
- Life is short. Don't sacrifice joy in the present for worry about the future. Live in the moment that is now.

Thanks for reading! I'm looking forward to hearing from my fellow Listserve readers.

Brian Schantz
Sacramento, California

Sunday, March 17, 2013

(nah subject)

ladybabe is my favorite word to describe my girlfriend, computers are probably going to , coffee does well, france was a blast, comfortable headphones on my ears.

sunglasses_and_music to extend confidence.
my family is amazing
fresh air can help ∆˚ˆ¨…π

be wonderful to other humans.

Chris Bunting
San Francisco, Ca

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Little stories

When I was a kid, my dad used to pick up rocks when I wasn’t looking and hurl them into the forest, where they would crash-crash-crash through dry leaves down a hill. “Do you hear that? It’s the bork!” What a bork was, he left to my imagination. Even at that tender age, I didn’t quite believe in the bork, but I never fully came to disbelieve it either. Today, when I look out into a peaceful forest, I imagine the lumpy form of the bork there: the world’s most mysteriously awkward monster.

In high school, I spent four months in a supply closet. It was the most logical solution to having been expelled from the bus. I couldn’t get home, and my mom’s coworkers didn’t want a 14 year old sitting with their clients. The metal chair and bare light bulb didn’t bother me. Each day I got to dive into books, and they spoke back with fantastic lives and landscapes. My memory of that drab room is intertwined with the mercenaries of the Black Company, the baffled savior of the Book of the New Sun, the parallel worlds of Amber.

Human imagination works that way: leave a blank space, and given a starter seed, imagination grows and incorporates fresh details.

A decade later, I escaped a low point in life with a year overseas. One cold Scottish morning, I hiked alone through a storm of rain and sleet to the top of a mountain, where clouds swirled threateningly overhead and nearby cliffs promised a quick end, if the gusts should push me over. It was, in a word, grim. But in the distance, beyond the shore, the sun broke the clouds and illuminated a string of islands. There in the chaos and gloom, peering through both the physical and mental storm, I saw the distant promise of peace.

I eventually found some creativity and fun in journalism, and two years ago traded for something even better, game development. The islands, closet, bork and others all get a direct role in my life now, especially as I’m a month into my first solo project. Still, it’s terrifying: my earlier life produced plenty of stories, but not many successes.

But I’ll exit with one “story” distilled from my years of meeting and writing about tech entrepreneurs, and happily shared in a sentence: nobody has a fucking clue what they’re doing. Not even the ones with gold-plated university pedigrees and careers that started at age 14. If you can deal with the grueling experience of figuring things out, step by step, you can do what they do: fail sometimes, succeed at others.

Thanks, Listserve. I like your stories.

p.s. I’ll be looking for co-conspirators soon. If you’re into strategy or RPGs and do code, art or balancing, or want to otherwise assist, email me!

Chris Morrison
San Francisco, CA

Friday, March 15, 2013

What am I doing here?

What is the purpose of life? If you were able to ask most living organisms, I think they'd say to pass on their genes and help ensure that the offspring has a chance to do the same. Is that all there is? Are humans really different than other animals?

I think we are. Or else, would you argue that a sterile man or woman has no purpose in life? Why do we advance medical technology to allow humans to live well past 60, when at that point, most have had their go at biological success?

I'm not sure what the purpose of this life is. James Taylor boldly started a song with "The secret of life is enjoying the passing of time." And while I find that quite profound, I consider it more overarching advice than a true look at life's purpose. When done properly, the enjoyment of the road trip should surpass that of the destination.

So what should we be doing here, and is it the same for all people? These are obviously difficult questions that will elicit different responses from different people. I have found fulfillment in the idea that my purpose is to improve life on this planet, at whatever magnitude I am able. As an overarching theme, it is comforting that this can be done through many platforms, be it through one's profession, volunteerism, talent, or simply from forming interpersonal connections that improve the lives of a handful of fortunate friends.

Think about seeing a performance by your favorite musical group. Would you rather see them alone, or with five of your closest friends? Would you prefer a performance to be for your friends alone, or would you like the whole packed venue to share the moment? Doesn't it feel good to share enjoyment with others?

I hope this email has improved your day, even by the most marginal of degrees. I'm interested in what you think on the subject. I know I will enjoy hearing opinions from a group as large and diverse as The Listserve. And knowing that, I hope you enjoy providing collecting your thoughts and sharing them with me.

Chicago, IL

Thursday, March 14, 2013

I literally received the "you've been selected" email yester...

I literally received the "you've been selected" email yesterday 30 minutes after telling two of my best friends about the Listserve & how crazy it would be to write for it over lunch at "Don Molina´s" in Bariloche, Argentina. WOW Timing is everything!

And today I am writing you from my hostel after getting back from white water rafting on the Rio Manso river which is in the mountains 2 hours north of Bariloche. It was aaaaamazing and this town is breathtaking. It sits at the foothills of the Andes mountains near the Chilean border. If you ever get the chance please visit!

I manage a commercial real estate firm near Silicon Valley where all the Tech Giants live, Facebook, Google etc... I am successful at what I do, not because I have any secret formula but because I work my but off, know my market like the back of my hand & I always try to be in the right place at the right time. I can´t tell you how many deals I have done when I called a potential client consistently or met a client at a function I didn't have to be at and on that day happened to be the day they decided they needed a commercial agent for their business. Timing is everything!

I actually fell in love with the girl who introduced me to The Listserve. We met volunteering at the Aids Health Project in San Francisco of all places. We dated on and off for over a year and a half until she moved back east (where she is from) to go to grad school in New York to get her masters in social work. I think it is inspiring that she has chosen a career where she gives all of her time, knowledge & help to those who truly need it. Oh and she is also smart, funny & sexy as all get-up. We both live very busy lives, she is living her life life studying, working & experiencing New York and all it has to offer on her own, which makes me happy now and I know she is too. I miss her like crazy sometimes and would love to be in the same city again so we could go on our fun dates and just enjoy each-other. I have no idea what the future holds for us? But that's OK, such is the mystery of life & like I said... Timing is EVERYTHING

I would love to hear your "timing is everything stories" or anything at all:)

Listen to: Justice, Steve Winwood, Michael McDonald & Paloma Faith
Watch: Fried Green Tomatoes, Breaking Bad, Game of Thrones

Good luck out there!

Anthony Kamm - 30 yrs old
San Francisco, CA

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

So This Is A Thing...

When I signed up for The Listserve, it was a subconscious experiment in anonymity. A friend suggested I subscribe and I'm not one to slough off good advice, especially when it comes to accumulating things to read/see on the Internet. I read some submissions during class and deleted others when my inbox became inundated with the morning flood of law school registrar emails, Groupons for spider vein treatments, and reminders that I was going to miss out on bidding on that pair of Lululemon yoga pants I added to my watch list on eBay five days prior and forgot about. I never thought I'd be chosen to submit anything--the odds, I thought, were astronomical. I could just be a passive voyeur to the wisdom of the huddled masses and then get snapped back to reality when I realized I was about to get cold-called in my Property class. 

Lo and behold, on the first day of my spring break in which I sat festering in FOMO as my fellow law school classmates sent Snapchats of the hell they were raising in Key West whilst I sat in bed at my parents' house with a cold, I received the email that I was a lucky bleeder for the next round of Listserve emails. "Welp," I thought. "I better come up with something good."

I haven't been able to, if you haven't noticed. Alas, I'm not in the creative writing mood, which is weird because I consider myself a "writer" (a.k.a. I'm a pretentious early-20something with a journalism degree). But I have some pressing things on my mind, if it's a valid excuse: I still don't have a summer legal job, I feel isolated from my friends because I said the wrong things to the wrong people because I was absent on the day in kindergarten when they taught us how human interaction works, living alone is lonely when the novelty of never wearing pants wears off, I'm paranoid I don't understand a damn thing about anything going on in my classes, and I overall absolutely detest the second semester of my 1L year of law school. So you know, I have ridiculously typical problems of someone in my position that are weighing on me like the world on Atlas. 

I never actually read or saw "The Help" (whoops?), but I find myself repeating that "You is kind. You is smart. You is important,"  mantra in my head to remind myself that for all my transgressions and disappointments and rough learning experiences, I can and will press onward. Even within the microcosm of my meager existence in the heart of a major metropolitan area, on the beautiful, sprawling University of Miami campus, within the quadrangle of the law school, inside the library, within my tiny cubicle on the second floor all the way to the right by men's room...I matter. You matter. We all matter. We're not anonymous, even among 20,000 names on a listserv. And we're all going to be OK. 

And just so this isn't a bunch of self-reflective mumbo-jumbo from some wet-behind-the-ears little punk, I'm gonna share my favorite pumpkin muffin recipe because I mean, if we're all gonna have to try to tough it out in this world, we might as well do it with some bomb-ass muffins that are high in fiber.

1 can of Libby's 100% pumpkin puree
1 box of Duncan Hines yellow cake mix
1 teaspoon of cinnamon 

Mix that ish up in a bowl (a mixer makes this easier because it's a very thick concoction, but if you've got some guns, go at it with a wooden spoon until it's all stirred up all nice and proper). Pour in muffin tin, but don't fill it up quite to the brim because these things swell up like a Kardashian's ego. Bake on 350 for about 23 minutes. I say 23 because that's what you're just gonna do anyway if I said "between 20 and 25," so there, I cut out the middle man. Remove and let cool. Dust with confectioners sugar and cinnamon. Eat with a Sam Adams Cherry Wheat. Congratulations, it's autumn forever and you'll poop like a dream.

Sara Solano
Miami, FL

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Greetings Fellow Humans!

I had thought about what I would write if I got selected for the Listserve Lottery and could never really decide. I (slightly) panicked when I opened up my inbox and saw that I was selected. I have nothing wise or inspiring to say. I barely know what I'm doing myself, I can't give people advice. I stared at a blank document for a while before just deciding to talk about what I know best: my nephews and pop culture.

I have two adorable nephews, AJ (17 months) and Mattie (almost 8 months), and another nephew (AJ's little brother) due in August. Being an aunt is the coolest job in the world. I'm determined to be the cool aunt I never had. The kind who lets you stay up past bedtime watching Doctor Who or Star Trek and will run around the yard with you pretending to be superheroes. The kind who knows peanut better and jelly sandwiches taste better with no crust, that some days are just lazy pj days, and who bakes cookies for no reason. I want my nephews to know how much they're adored but not be spoiled. I refuse to be the person with the screaming child they can't control that ruins everyone's mood. Seriously people, teach your kids manners. Maybe trying saying no every once in a while.

It's amazing the things you find yourself doing/saying when you're with a little kid. 'Stop trying to eat the kitty, AJ, Kitty doesn't like that.' 'Yes, you do have to wear your shoes. Pants too.' I've sung countless rounds of Soft Kitty and mangled rock songs to get a cranky baby to just chill out for five minutes. I've watched enough Curious George and PBSkids shows to have them show up in my dreams. I've carried a meowing toddler around a store. I've watched AJ ignore everything at the park in order to play (and try to eat) in the dirt. I've watched Mattie ignore toys so he can play with a slipper. I've played airplane until my arms ached just because it makes them light up. At some point you will find yourself saying 'Seriously? How did you manage to do this in the time it took me to blink?' or melting into a pile of goo when they climb in your lap just to cuddle. And then you can pass them back to their parents when it's time for a nap or diaper change.

I'm always looking for new bands/movies/tv shows/books/comedians/manga/anime/web comics/websites so if you have any recommendations please send them. Music is always playing on my computer, mostly alternative and indie rock although I listen to almost everything. I never go anywhere without my mp3 player, almost like a security blanket. Right now my favorite band is The Gaslight Anthem. Brian Fallon has the greatest voice I've ever heard. If you've never heard them, you can find their songs on youtube, go look them up. Dropkick Murphys are another must hear band. I'm a diehard Whovian and a recently converted Trekkie. Doctor Who is amazing. What other show can switch from the past to an alien planet to the future and still make sense? Captain Kirk is awesome, whether its The Original Series or the Reboot 'Verse. My goal is to watch every episode of Doctor Who and try every spinoff of Star Trek. I can trace my odd sense of humor back to discovering Monty Python and Douglas Adams as a kid. Tvtropes and Cracked are both addictive and I can easily lose hours on those sites. If you've never been to PostSecret you should check it out. I really love reading Fanfiction for pretty much everything.

Feel free to email me. Send me the name of your favorite band/book/movie/recipe. Tell me about your day or your life. Send a joke. I'll email back and would love to be pen pals with anyone who's interested.

Nicole M-
North Carolina

Monday, March 11, 2013

Time for an experiment!

Hi! My name is Randy Lubin and today we're going to conduct an experiment. The goal is to explore the social network of Listserve members.

Each participant will start an email chain that will eventually reach me, but only by going through friends / acquaintances. By analyzing the chains we can learn about the structures of our social networks.

Rule 1: If you know Randy Lubin, forward this email to listserve[AT] and included your current city
Rule 2: If you don't know Randy Lubin, forward these instructions to someone you know, who might know him.
Rule 3: As you forward the email, include your current city (I'm going to map out the different chains)

A bit about me to help you in your quest:
1) I am 26 years old and grew up in Livingston, New Jersey
2) I went to undergrad at Washington University in St. Louis and graduated in 2009
3) I went to Stanford for an MBA and graduated in 2011
4) I live in San Francisco, California
5) I'm active in the tech / startup scene and work for a company called Jive Software

As the email chains start reaching my inbox, I'm going to create a map of all the different paths. I'll also write up some interesting insights from the data and share them with all of the participants.

This could be very interesting - I hope you enjoy this!

Take care,
Randy Lubin
San Francisco, CA

p.s. this is based on the Small World Experiments by Stanley Milgram in the 1960s. Check it out on Wikipedia if you want to learn more - it's tied closely with the concept of 'six degrees of separation'.

Sunday, March 10, 2013


The words just flowed from me as I wrote these poems over a period of a few months. When I read them again now, they remind me of what I love about her, that she's "perfect" and that I'm passionate and capable.


Humble hurt hoarse hands
Hacking haiches horrendously
Helped heighten haiku


Womanly is you
Whiteley curves breasts hips and lips
Touch breathe waft taste kiss


Symphony of you
Mozart bach kate norah jones
Music of your words


Elegance is you
Gliding soft your moves to me
Hidden in the air


Dazzling is you
Glorious of black and red
Star of velvet night


Luxury of you
Rare rich warm close haughtiness
Elegance and charm


Loveliness of you
A world within enveloped
Pouring out to me


Perfection of you
Meet match meld friend blossom cat
Swooning calm complete


Dusky dark divine
Décolletage desk dressing
Ends incidently


Princessness of you
Blue blood regaled and fêted
Hibiscus bloom'd


Bye Listservistae. Poetic replies welcome. Have a lovely day :)

Peter Herrmann
NSW, Australia

Saturday, March 9, 2013

May you live in interesting times

We live in interesting times. A couple of weeks ago I got to attend TEDx Austin at the new Circuit of The Americas track here in lovely Austin Texas. Lots of great talks and ideas, which you can go watch.

One of the most interesting talks was by Byron Reese, who is so optimistic about the power of technology to change the world for the better that he wrote a book called "Infinite Progress" that I just finished reading. His arguments echo those of people like Ray Kurzweil - that technological change has been a force for good in the world, and that not only is that change continuing, is is increasing at an exponential rate. Apply that to the worlds problems and he thinks that we can solve hunger, poverty, even end war.

Whether he is correct or not, I certainly believe that the next few decades will bring change to our world unlike anything we have ever seen before. Some of the things will be amazing - I am looking forward to having a pair of glasses like the Google Glass concept - but there will be unintended consequences of those advances, both good and bad. We all got to see video of the Russian meteor a couple of weeks ago because the cops in Russia are so corrupt that everyone has dashcams now! What things (good and bad) will be captured when millions of people are wearing cameras all the time?

In order for us to navigate these interesting times, people need to be educated on the issues. Learn as much as you can about technology and its impact on society. Read some of the fiction that touches on these issues - some of my favorite authors in this area are Cory Doctorow, Vernor Vinge, and Charles Stross. Read some of the non-fiction, like the book I mentioned earlier, or anything by Ray Kurzweil. Talk about it with your friends. 

Its going to be an interesting ride.

Steve Donie
Austin, TX

Friday, March 8, 2013

On Pessimism

Over the last 10 years I have struggled to become optimistic. If you know a pessimist, you'll know that it can be frustrating at times and nearly impossible to help them become more positive.

Here are a few tips I learned over the years:

Reward your failures: This works to return my mood/optimism quickly and avoid those long periods of being jaded. It is too easy to fall back into your comfort zone. The key is to avoid the temptation to “shut down”.

Celebrate your successes: This is how I make continuous enthusiasm a habit, celebrating either outcome.

Think long term: Every year I write a report on how my family is doing and we use it as a way to reflect on how our efforts have improved our situation. (Don't let long term thinking overwhelm though, cling to progress and shy away from overly ambitious goals at first.)

Face your anxieties head on, use logic to convince yourself of your emotional fallacies, and remember that no matter how much you want to fight against optimism, you cannot deny optimists are generally happier and more successful.

I am a Software Engineer in my 30s out of Utah and just had my first kid. Shout out to any other first time parents currently experiencing sleepless nights!

Kevin Munns
Salt Lake City, UT

Thursday, March 7, 2013


Durante los últimos años he conocido gente de muchos tipos, de diferentes maneras de pensar o actuar. Pero de la que más me he cruzado es de ese tipo de gente que no hace nada más allá de lo obligado, que va a la universidad, asiste a sus clases y vuelve a su casa. Es cierto que suelen salir con sus amigos y demás… pero nada que les saque de su rutina, de su camino trazado. Y me sorprende porque de todo lo que he vivido hasta ahora, los recuerdos más valiosos que tengo son aquellos en los que salí de lo habitual o necesario.
De hecho algunos de mis "momentos" favoritos son de cuando formamos un equipo de fútbol sala. Imaginaros la situación: un grupo de chicas de una escuela de ingeniería (en las que las mujeres no abundan precisamente) que prácticamente nunca habían tocado un balón, jugando al fútbol sala. Éramos malísimas. Una vez nos ganaron trece a cero (hay que decir que el otro equipo era de la facultad de deportes) y cualquiera hubiera abandonado en ese mismo instante, pero ahí seguimos nosotras pues porque nos lo pasábamos bien, nos reíamos y éramos un equipo curtido en batallas de cuarenta minutos. Y las pocas veces que conseguimos ganar, la satisfacción y alegría era grandiosa.
En definitiva lo que intento decir, es que vale la pena salirse del camino trazado. Vale la pena intentar algo nuevo de vez en cuando, aunque pueda parecer que no vamos a ganar nada con ello o que se nos va a dar horriblemente mal. Vale la pena no ajustarse al mínimo para conseguir sobrevivir. Vale la pena disfrutar viviendo porque sí.
Y si alguién te pregunta y ¿por qué? o ¿para qué haces eso…? Responde pues porque sí, porque me gusta. Y a vivir que hay tiempo para todo.

Tema aparte, me hace ilusión copiaros un trozo de un escritor que me encanta, a ver si os gusta.

"Tema aparte, me hace ilusión copiaros un trozo de un escritor que me encanta, a ver si os gusta.

Los enamorados más famosos del Disco fueron, sin lugar a dudas, Mellius y Gretelina, cuyos apasionados y encendidos amoríos habrían chamuscado las páginas de la historia si, por un inexplicable capricho del destino, no hubieran nacido con doscientos años de diferencia, en continentes bien alejados el uno del otro. Sin embargo, los dioses se apiadaron de ellos y a él lo convirtieron en una tabla de planchar** y a ella, en un pequeño noray de bronce.

** Cuando se es un dios, no es preciso aportar argumentos.”

Mort - Terry Pratchett

¡Un abrazo! y que vaya todo bien.

pd.- si os apetece leer un poco de ciencia ficción os recomiendo el cuento corto de Isaac Asimov " La última pregunta".

Valencia, España

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Nice to meet you!

Hello there, I hope you are having a great day! I'm not great on the whole "inspirational messages" thing, so here's just some stuff about me:

I get to live in New Zealand with my beautiful wife and 4 (soon to be 5!) children.

Biking to and from my office in town is one of the best parts of the day.

Playing board games is one of my favourite past times. They are mentally stimulating, socially engaging, and enjoyable! Check out boardgamegeek for some recommendations.

I am one of eleven people across the globe who work at a web development company called Lincoln Loop. It is run transparently - we all have access to all the financials and we set our own pay rates. And it's fun!

We actually used Google wave, so following its demise we made a communications platform of our own. It helps me feel connected to what's going on at work even though it's happening continents away. Search for "ginger hq" to check it out.

My favourite quote is "No matter where a tree falls, it lies where it fell".

Thanks for reading, random stranger! I'd love to discuss anything or hear about you too - send me a message.

Chris Beaven
Napier, New Zealand

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Olympic athletes and donuts

Every four years the Winter Olympics comes strolling through and, if you’re like me, you become captivated by not just the sports (seriously, curling is awesome) but the athletes involved in them. The various production companies tend to do a great job bringing life stories of athletes from across the world into your living rooms and getting you to not just care about how your respective country is doing (Latvia’s winning a gold medal in Men’s skeleton, you can quote me on that) but how important this chance of a lifetime is to someone you’ve never met.

I’ve been fortunate enough over the last few years to get involved in writing about the winter sliding sports of bobsled (or bobsleigh if you’re not reading this in America), skeleton and luge. In that time I’ve met some amazing athletes with amazing stories, not just those who are at the Olympic level, but with so many other people working hard to get to that level. There are people who are working two and three jobs just to support a dream to one day represent your country in the Olympics, and the hard work and effort these men and women put in is definitely something to applaud, even if they never do reach their dream.

The more you read about people like Steven Holcomb, Elana Meyers, Noelle Pikus-Pace, John Daly (the Olympian, not the golfer, though I guess him too), Erin Hamlin and folks like that, you’ll likely find yourself more motivated to try to accomplish things you dream about. Personally, learning about their selflessness, hard work and determination led me to try to better myself. I’ve lost 55 pounds since April, have started learning some German and have really tried to not let “I can’t” be something I deal with anymore.

As Sochi 2014 comes inching closer and closer, please take the time to support your Olympians and National Team members in various sports. They’ll appreciate it far more than the overwhelming majority of major league pro athletes ever do.

A few other things:
- If you’re looking to get a pet, make sure you check out your local shelter or rescue organization first. My boston terrier, Deacon, is amazing, showed up crate trained and house broken and is by far the best dog I’ve ever had. Why not help a poor little guy or girl out and make both of your lives better in the process?!
- If you have one motorsports event to check out all year, make sure it’s either the Continental Tire Sports Car Series at a regional road course or the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series late model stock race at Martinsville Speedway. Honestly, just go to Martinsville, you’ll feel better about yourself later.
- You’re never completely finished with laundry until you’re naked.
- Krispy Kreme is a far superior donut product to Dunkin Donuts for most flavors.

Ken Childs
Durham, NC, USA

Monday, March 4, 2013

Pretty earrings

I like details.Sometimes I wish I could take pictures whenever I blink my eyes. To save that detail for later.

When I'm waiting for the bus or in the middle of a crowd, I imagine the lives of the people around me: that woman is wondering what she'll cook for dinner for her husband, mom and 2 and 4-year-old kids. Oh. She has pretty earrings. That boy has a small birth mark on his left cheek and wishes he could get a new pair of sneakers for his birthday. That sweet old lady is looking at me and wants to talk. I say hi and smile. She smiles back and 10 minutes later I know all about her family.

If I get nervous or need to gather my thoughts, I do origami. Focusing on the way I need to fold the paper is relaxing.

I inhale deeply after someone passes by me in the street. Besides perfume, people have their own smell and it's as unique as a fingerprint (but not always pleasant).

Going for a run under pouring rain and against strong wind makes me feel powerful. "If we can face this, we can face everything in life". That's what my mom says.

Sometimes I talk to myself in french because…erm…I feel like it.

Right now I'm going to watch this week's video lectures from my "Astrobiology and the Search for Extraterrestrial Life" online course on Coursera. I'll be a doctor in 2 years but need to run away from the medicine bubble every once in a while.

Wish you all a bright day.

Maria Laranjinha
Coimbra, Portugal

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Just being there...

To all the people out there who we depend on to 'just be there' when we need you most. And those of who are constantly working to protect us. Thank you.

I recently took an opportunity to spend a 12 hour shift shadowing an Ambulance crew in an fairly typical mid sized city in the UK. It gave me a brief and touching glimpse of raw humanity. Sitting there in the back of an ambulance as it raced across the city to a someone desperately in need of help, it struck me; they just accept and don't think twice that no matter what 24 hours a day 7 days a week 365 days a year in less than 10 minutes help will always be there.

I feel deeply privileged and fortunate to live somewhere where that is possible. Just as I marvel that as I sit here writing this with a few clicks of a mouse this message will be delivered to just over 20,000 people spread across the globe.

Anybody can make a difference, you have to fight for change, stand up, speak up and make your voice heard. It is your responsibility not someone else's! If there is any wisdom that I can pass on from my short time in this world it is that if you see a problem you should do all you can to fix it, not just hope that someone else will notice and do something about it.

Don't accept, always think twice. Go out of your way to give someone an opportunity, make a stranger feel privileged. Pass it on. Let us know how you made someone feel lucky.

United Kingdom

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Sunrise in Lake Michigan

It's around 30ºF (-1 ºC) in Chicago right now. We just saw the first substantial snow of the new year and as a kid who grew up in West Coast suburbia, I never would have imagined myself saying, "I have come to appreciate everything that the city of Chicago offers." These include:

1. Wearing boots, scarves and gloves. Now when I watch television, movies, and my West Coast friends wear any such accessories to look fashionable, I've gained the assumptive habit of chuckling.
2. 'Checking the weather' involves more than opening your window in a city that shines in the morning, snows in the afternoon and rains at night (if you're lucky, in that order).
3. Appreciate food from pizza to kimchi pork belly fries to what I think is the best vegetarian food I've ever had (a seitan reuben in a vegan diner).
4. Love schizophrenic/varied architecture forms from "cold, utilitarian" modernism, to Asian-influenced, prairie-style living, to buildings in the Untouchables, and Wilco album covers.
5. Comprehend what it means for a public schools system with over 110,000 students a year to have 6 of every 100 students earning a bachelor's degree by the age of 25
6. Learned what it really means to have 'gang violence' [I highly recommend this paper for anybody interested in the institutionalization of modern gangs]. 
7. Understood that many urban, big-city issues do not emerge as individual human failure or corruption per se, but simply institutional failure—failures of scale: our police, our local companies, our education system, our local government, our local media. These issues at large transcend so many supposedly 'correct' political/popular theories. For example, it is incredibly difficult to creditWilliam Bratton, COMPSTAT and Broken Windows theory for the success of NY crime decline, when the actual crime began falling several years prior throughout the US
8. Grown to appreciate sunrises on Lake Michigan

But really more than anything, I've learned to appreciate being uncomfortable. I found this quote to express what I mean:  "To my mind, the greatest reward and luxury of travel is to be able to experience everyday things as if for the first time, to be in a position in which almost nothing is so familiar it is taken for granted. // Bill Bryson" and more than anything I am incredibly grateful of the opportunity I've had uprooting all of my childhood comforts towards starting something new, difficult and just different.

Vincent Yu
Chicago, IL

Friday, March 1, 2013

“A day without fun is a day that eats sh*t” - Hunter S. Thompson

Short Version: Tell me about the most important trip you've ever taken and how it changed your perspective on the world - johnledyard1773[AT]

Maybe it's because I had the opportunity to spend the past two weekends away from home, exploring a brand new city with best friends and also learning how to ski, but travel and new experiences are on my mind.

Lately, when I find myself too deep in the daily monotony that is the 9-5 grind I think of Mr. Thompson's words and try to imagine how best to embrace his decree. Intuitively the meaning is clear: Fun Is The Best. However, it also can serve as a sobering reminder of how trivial, in the grand scheme of things, the pursuit of fun actually is. When considering the number of people facing extreme poverty, disease, lack of potable water, insufficient food, discrimination, and the persistent threat of violent conflict - fun can seem impossibly naive. Despite these realities, some solace can be found in Hemmingway's commentary on the perseverance of the human spirit, "Man is not made for defeat. A man can be destroyed but not defeated."

A good friend of mine recently explained to me his approach to Lent (albeit blasphemous to some of you): Instead of practicing self-denial by giving something up, he uses the time to try as many new and challenging things as possible. This approach reinforced my belief that my concept of fun is also linked to the idea of challenging one's world view by trying new things, visiting new places, and experiencing different cultures.

Surely my upbringing living and traveling abroad serves as the foundation for my interest in travel, but my friend's concentrated period of self-discovery along with my recent trips rekindled my desire to get out and more fully understand the human spirit by interacting with new people and places.... but i need your help.

And with that I turn it over to The Listserve: Tell me about your travels!

What was the one trip that you've taken that had a profound impact on your perception of the world or changed the course of your life?
Who were you with? Where did you go? What did you do? What did you see?

And if you haven't been able to take that dream trip - where would you go and what would you do?

Most importantly - Where should I go? I trust that your stories will inspire me enough to leave the familiar behind and get out to see the world and all it's imperfections.

In the spirit of travel I leave you with a quote commemorating one of the first great American explorers - John Ledyard

"In 1773 a freshman at Dartmouth College
on this spot felled a giant pine
from which he made a canoe
and in it descended the river to Hartford, Connecticut.
He was a traveller among the Indians
an associate of John Paul Jones
an officer under Captain Cook
traversing all oceans and penetrating remote lands.
He foresaw and foretold the riches
of the Pacific Coast and the advantages
of commerce with the far east.
When about to cross Africa he died in Egypt
at the age of 37.

He too heard the voice crying in the wilderness"

Remember that the world is much bigger than the little corner you interact with and see everyday.

Warm regards,


**Many thanks to M. Lewis for convincing me to sign up, we can only hope he wins The Listserve lottery someday.