Monday, September 30, 2013

On Rabbit Hair and Doctor Who

A while ago a friend asked: "What's the purpose of your life?" and I remember replying "to help others" (something which I'm shamefully not doing enough of). Still no satisfactory answer to that question from me yet (hey I'm just 19) but I do have a few stray thoughts, so read on if you would indulge in the naivety of a teen.

1. In "Sophie's World" Gaarder compared the world we live in to a rabbit: "All mortals are born at the very tip of the rabbit's fine hairs, where they are in a position to wonder at the impossibility of the trick. But as they grow older they work themselves ever deeper into the fur. And there they stay. They become so comfortable they never risk crawling back up the fragile hairs again. Only philosophers embark on this perilous expedition to the outermost reaches of language and existence. 'Ladies and gentlemen,' they yell, 'we are floating in space!'. But none of the people down there care. 'What a bunch of troublemakers!' they say, 'Would you pass the butter, please? How much have our stocks risen today?'"

This passage is stuck in my head; the image of a yelling philosopher clinging on to the end of a rabbit hair keeps coming back to mind. Make whatever of it you would, or go pick up a copy of the book even. But as Albert Knox cautioned Sophie, perhaps Gaarder is just reminding us to remain curious like a child; not to become world-weary.

2. Camus talks about the absurd - the contradiction between man's search for meaning in life and his failure to find any - and offers three solutions: to escape through suicide, to commit a leap of faith in the transcendent or to just accept the absurd. I don't quite understand Camus yet, but what if he is right in that the purpose of life remains elusive to everyone? How devoid of hope our lives will be, when "living is keeping the absurd alive; and keeping it alive is, above all, contemplating it"?

(I could go on a bit more on Chinese philosophy and the role of pursuing morality in life - is it at all important? - but I think I should probably stop all these philosophical nonsense already)

3. Spend time with your family and loved ones. Call them. Nothing's more important.

4. Help others.

5. Cook and create new dishes! (If you happen to have a Chinese store nearby that sells Laoganma chilli oil, try that with everything. And I mean EVERYTHING)

6. And watch the latest episode of Doctor Who, of course. Happy 50th anniversary!

I think I might possibly be the first from my country to win the Listserve lottery (A little wave to my fellow countrymen!) So I'm ending off with a quick introduction of Malaysia:
- Southernmost country on Eurasia mainland
- Beautiful weather
- Delicious food
- Lovely beaches
- Wonderful people
So come visit us if you're planning a holiday to Asia!

Live simple, live healthy, live happy :)


Khai Yen

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Photo request

I'm not sure I have anything to say, or wisdom to impart, but I was wondering if you might send me a photo?

It can be anything in your life. A pic of your daily commute, a photo from your favorite vacation, a picture you happened to take recently on your phone.

I promise not to publish or utilize it in any way. I just want to know what your life is like.

Brooklyn, NY

Saturday, September 28, 2013

My, Would You Look at the Time

I’m reading a book called “Daily Rituals: How Artists Work” that catalogues the daily habits of famous authors, artists, composers, and so on from the past few centuries. It’s got some helpful tips (e.g. this one courtesy of statesman and turkey enthusiast Ben Franklin: make a list of your goals for the day in the morning; at night, ask yourself what you’ve accomplished) but the most striking commonality among these great minds is that most of them had the luxury to devote their entire lives to what they loved.

I’m 25 now and I’ve spent the better part of three years working the kind of meaningless office job that’s conspicuously absent from most stories in that book. I’m not delusional enough to think I’m on par with Beethoven or Shakespeare or somebody, but I think I can do better than an office job. I’ll admit, I’d love to invent the light bulb, but some guy already did it. And we already have the other stuff that people need, like cotton gins and Angry Birds.

So for now, all I can do is make the best use of my time outside the office. The older I get, the more conscious I become about how to spend my time wisely. I try to ask myself whether any activity I’m doing is meaningful to me and why. I’ve spent so much time in my life on passive activities with no value to me. Watching reruns of the Fresh Prince, reading Buzzfeed lists of the 17 Kittens Most Likely to Run for Congress. It all makes me want to regurgitate that one cliché about how time is our most precious resource, but you guys already know that. And actually… Water is probably more important.

Okay. Sorry, but while we’re on the subject of water, I’m going to make a recommendation and say I’m pretty sure everybody on this list would enjoy reading David Foster Wallace’s “This is Water.” It’s really quick and breezy and you can find it free online.

Did you read “This is Water”? Okay, good. It’s pretty synonymous with my own thoughts on the importance of being conscious of the little decisions we all make in life. Which brings me back to my main point. While I don’t think I have enough skills or direction to quit my aforementioned office job quite yet, I try to spend my free time in ways that matter to me. Mostly I play music, record music, read, and write longwinded ListServe emails.

Using the internet as my guide I’ve gotten alright at recording music—I’ve got Pro Tools and all the usual-suspect cheap mics—SM57s, MXL 990s—but I’d love to learn in a more formalized manner. It seems like kind of a crass request to tack on here, but do you guys know anybody who works in a recording studio in Chicago? I was once an intern for a well-known TV show so I am an expert at running errands, doing chores, and providing unpaid labor in a professional setting.

In any case, I hope everybody takes a moment each evening—like Ben Franklin—to think about what they did that was meaningful that day. Most of us will never have our faces on money or sign a Declaration of Independence but hopefully we can make the best of the time we’ve got.

Charles Austin
Chicago, IL

Friday, September 27, 2013

Zen in The Art of Moped Maintenance

This summer, I signed up to do a 30-mile trail race with my girlfriend on the last weekend of October. Both of us wanted to do (and have never done) a marathon, but we weren't interested in running 26.2 miles on pavement, so this was a perfect find. Before we began training, we both got back from Europe; she had been there for the summer working and I visited her in the last 2 weeks. In the last week, we visited a friend of mine from Morocco (and his family) during Ramadan, which consisted of a lot of sitting on couches (to avoid the +100F temperatures) and eating a lot of food (Moroccans are very generous to guests). Feeling uncomfortably full for a week straight and then jumping into long runs again is not fun.

It's been a little over a month since then, and training is going really well (we did 20 miles last week!). I didn't realize how much of it is really mental training, not even physical. If you train your body in manageable increments, distances that once seemed unattainable are surprisingly attainable. The problem is your mind, and keeping it busy as well as staying in good spirits. Having someone to train with makes all the difference...she's the one that had me up at 6am yesterday to run 14 miles before class. As much as we're excited for race day, we're also excited to not be training's hard work.

Oh yeah, I also have a moped from 1976. It's slow, loud, and squeaky. I would recommend it to anyone. All the freedom of a motorcycle, but the slowness gives you more time to contemplate and enjoy the good weather. Easy and fun to fix, and pedaling up the steep hills is a good workout. My friend just joined the Peace Corp in Nepal, and sold me his (a little more modern than mine, 1977), so now I've got two.

Shoot me an e-mail if you like running, mopeds, autumn, or want to know anything about New Hampshire. I also do quite a bit of photography, so if you're interested I can send a Flickr link. Also I'm currently reading Gravity's Rainbow...I can't be the only person who is struggling through it.

Fred Meissner
Newmarket, NH, USA

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Come At Me World

BRRRRIINGGG!!! Stupid alarm… It’s truly a wonder as to how I haven’t thrown my phone out the window… Oh well. Today, I decided to do things differently. Instead of the usual phlegmatic approach to my morning rituals, I whipped out my iPod and practically danced my way to school.

I stopped at the market to grab myself some lunch and I noticed the girl in front of me was having difficulty with her credit card. Meanwhile, the bitter cashier pushed her aside and asked that I come and make my purchase. I walked up and said I would be paying for the both of us. The girl next to me looked at me with shock (why would anyone do such a thing?! ;) ) and asked if she could take my info to pay me back. I told her this one was on me; just make sure to pay it forward to someone else in need. She still looked pretty dumbfounded when I left her lol.

Later in the afternoon, as I found myself a cozy spot in the library, I learned that I had been selected for the list serve lottery! I always thought of when this day would come. I didn't worry much about what I would say since I new it would find me at the perfect time in my life.

Life, right now, has been quite stressful for me to say the least. I am in my senior year at NYU, studying for the LSAT's, working in the National Security Department at the Brennan Center for Justice (NYU Law), writing a thesis paper, creating/managing a magazine for NYU (nyuglobalexpress(dot)org) etc.

Last week, I was breaking under the workload and stress, especially after coming back from living in Spain for a year and having to re-assimilate my life back into the fast-paced NYC lifestyle. I had reached a low point in my life, feeling completely overwhelmed and not knowing how to move forward. Then it hit me, I was so focused on all the things I needed/had to do that I had begun to feel the suffocating grasp of limitation. How could I possibly do it all and succeed? That was my problem.

The realization struck me: our limits, if any, are self-imposed. How we think ultimately determines how we do. Our capabilities truly have the ability to manifest themselves if we can rid the boundaries we have mentally, and even socially, created. All that they require is the belief in their possibilities.

I must say, I have heard from many that they need to see in order to believe (with regard to faith, magic, science, etc.). In response to this, let me ask you one thing: how does one see if they are not willing to believe? Let that sink in for a moment.

My name is Natasha Babazadeh and I am 21 years old. I WILL excel in all of my classes like I have done the past three years. I WILL leave a significant work contribution to the Brennan Center. I WILL make the LSAT my bitch. I WILL create a badass magazine to circulate around NYU and all its study abroad sites. I WILL write a thesis paper that’ll blow your mind. I WILL help complete strangers. I WILL make an impact. I WILL change the world.

Natasha Babazadeh
New York City

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Railing against the machine

"The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation." - Thoreau

I did the Wall Street thing for 6 years before walking out one day and taking a trip around the world. I spent months dreaming about doing it. I kept asking myself, “What would it be like? If not now, when?” After suffering incredible anxiety over the prospect, I mustered up the courage, broke the news to my boss, and walked out of the office without saying a word to anyone.

One week later I was on a plane to Corsica.

I donated almost all of my possessions except my books. Books are the hardest thing for me to get rid of. My library is a direct reflection of my obsessions at any point in time. One month I was on this film noir binge and suddenly I had a Mickey Spillane section. When I discovered Mad Men, suddenly I had an advertising section. I still have this thing that whenever I see a used bookstore or a street seller I ask if they have any used Kurt Vonnegut books and buy out any Dell paperback editions from the 1980’s. I have about a hundred. I try to give them away to friends (I have a lot of friends), but I continually find myself going to as many used bookstores. “God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater” is a favorite of mine to pass along. Not only is it amazing (and way better than Slaughter-house Five), but most people have never even heard of it.

It’s been exactly one year this month since I took off. I’m thirty pounds lighter and much less anxious. I live completely detached from the market and the media circus. I’ve spent the last several months trying to find the right opportunity. I’ve got a professional job-coach that has literally re-trained me for navigating the corporate medium. I feel like a foreigner who doesn’t understand the culture or the language anymore. Just the other day I was having coffee with another Wall-Streeter. I was having trouble keeping up with the corporate-speak and it hit me how far I really was from that world.

I have a recurring dream that I’m back at my Wall Street broker-dealer and all my ex-coworkers are staring at me. The office is unfamiliar; I’ve learned the boss has taken me back as a favor to me. My suit doesn’t fit me anymore and I look extremely awkward. I sit down at my desk and stare at my hands, doing nothing.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I don’t want this to come off as a bunch of generation-y horseshit. I’m just out here trying to reinvent myself. The social pressure to settle is on its own an excruciatingly strong force. There’s a well defined, rigid societal structure in place that keeps the system going (just look at the NYTimes wedding section). I say live your life on your own terms, otherwise what’s the point? In the words of Bill Watterson, “You’ll be told in a hundred ways, some subtle and some not, to keep climbing, and never be satisfied with where you are, who you are, and what you’re doing. There are a million ways to sell yourself out, and I guarantee you’ll hear about them. To invent your own life’s meaning is not easy, but it’s still allowed, and I think you’ll be happier for the trouble.”

After helping build a successful equity derivatives strategy and trading firm in NYC, I am actively looking for startup opportunities in anywhere, USA. Feel free to send cool companies my way. Feedback welcomed.

Jonathan McLaughin

Monday, September 23, 2013

On Four-Year-Olds and Freedom

I hope you all have four-year-olds in your life who ask impossible questions twice a minute.

I have a nephew.

Two weeks ago, while my brother and I drove him to the zoo singing country music at the top of our lungs, my nephew stopped us mid-lyric. "What's free? You said free?" Strapped into a car seat, wearing swim goggles, covered in chocolate, peanut shells, cheddar bunnies, and matchbox cars, my nephew had asked a question so fundamental to all of our daily lives that we often forget it's a question at all.

I pulled the "I'm-just-the-aunt" card, and turned to my brother to articulate one of the ideals our nation was founded upon, one of the dreams we are all supposed to hold together. Somehow, with no time to prepare, he boiled down freedom to the perfect level for his son’s current cerebral development. “It’s being able to make choices in your life,” he explained. My nephew processed, nodded, and resumed racing his sticky cars around his sticky seat.

My brother didn’t say that freedom meant being able to do absolutely anything you want. He didn’t say that freedom meant having no commitment or responsibility. He defined it as the ability to make choices, and I like that my nephew’s first encounter with this enormous word gave it the weight it deserves.

I began to feel my own freedom recently, after working closely with a few of the more than two million incarcerated adults in our country. I coordinate a pro bono practice out of a law firm, in which we provide free legal representation to defendants facing violent felony charges. I spend my time in jail, prison, and courtrooms, listening to and advocating for people who may never know freedom again.

Today was the sentencing of the defendant we represented in my first full jury trial. Any sentence he faced carried a term to life, which means the number would simply be the year eligible to be denied parole. No parole board will ever approve release, and, in his mid-fifties, he is facing death behind bars. The sentence wasn’t about his prison term, but about where and how he will die. Much of what I do in defense begins to feel like end-of-life counseling, helping people understand that they will have almost no choices for the foreseeable future, if not the rest of their lives.

Walking out and continuing to live my life, free, brings new awareness. I think about the many surfaces I cross, the sounds I hear, the way light reflects on the world around me. Every time I leave Rikers Island, I feel the painful irony that the bridge back to Queens provides the most spectacular view of the New York City skyline, a view and a place that the 12,000 inmates will not see or enjoy for years.

In my brief experiences in criminal justice, I see a system that temporarily retains while fostering more hatred, violence, and division. I see judges and prosecutors with their hands tied by obscenely high sentences: three years for a stolen cell phone, eight years for a burgled DVD player. I see my tax dollars adding to the sum total of suffering in this country, instead of developing opportunity.

Many days I forget the choices I have, the choices I make. I don’t want to forget my freedom. With it, I am going to try to change what prison means in America, because we as a country are better, smarter, and kinder than the injustice we submit our citizens to every day.

Make good choices.

Olivia Warren

Sunday, September 22, 2013

The best cookies I've ever eaten.

I’m a linguistics grad student/science lover/vlogger/reader of funbooks/inventor of words like “funbook”/overall internet denizen (@nonesuch42). I come from the bleak era of Standardized Testing, but I always enjoyed (or at least tolerated) the writing portions. This was probably because I had one story I liked to tell, and I fit it to the prompt year after year. It’s a story of reckless bravery and adventure. It’s a story of family. It’s a story about the power of nature. Or maybe it’s just about the power of cookies.

Most of my dad’s family lives scattered throughout California. Around my dad’s birthday in June, we all went on a camping trip to the Pinnacles. My parents (wisely) brought an RV, the rest of the adults slept in a giant tent, and the four cousins slept in the back of a truck. We heard rustling all night, but thought nothing of it.

In the morning we went on a grueling hike. We brought enough snacks, but not nearly enough water. California gets pretty hot and dry in June, but apparently all of us native Californians had forgotten this particular climate fact. My dad saved the day by taking the empty water bottles, hiking down to the bottom to fill them up, and rescuing my dehydrated family members.

As if that weren't enough excitement for one day, when we got back to the campsite and had made dinner, we started hearing more rustling over by the food storage. Thinking it was probably a raccoon or something, my aunts, parents, and grandparents go over to investigate. Naturally, the kids follow. It’s not a raccoon. It has tusks and is GIANT. It’s a wild boar. And there’s another one. And it’s eating our garlic bread!

My biologist grandpa starts clapping and making a bunch of noise, but the boar doesn’t seem to notice and keeps chomping away. Foldable metal chairs are brandished, flashlights are turned on, someone even thinks to snap a photo of the lunacy. But it’s not until the boars go for the cookies that my aunt goes for the boars. Wielding a folding chair, she snatches the cookies, and the boars, apparently satisfied, saunter off.

I hear that the wild boars have been exterminated from the camping area. I guess that’s good for future campers, but it’s sad for future timed-essay writers.

The best cookies I've ever eaten:

Dry stuff
1 2/3 cup flour
3/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup sugar

3/4 cup (1.5 sticks) butter
1 tsp vanilla
1 egg

The tasty bits
1 3/4 cup chocolate chips (11.5 oz bag)
1 cup coconut
1 cup oatmeal
1 cup chopped walnuts

Oven: 375 degrees Fahrenheit
Bake Time: 8-11 minutes

People say you're supposed to mix the liquids with the sugars separately and then mix that with the flour and stuff. And that you're not supposed to melt the butter. Who has the time? Sometimes you just want a cookie, you know? I melt the butter and mix all the stuff in one bowl at pretty much the same time. I do put the chocolate, coconut, oatmeal, and walnuts in last. I've experimented with different sized cookies, but they are tasty when tiny or enormous, so just try not to burn them and you'll be alright. Usually makes about 3-4 dozen, but if you make them small you can get a lot more.

Oh, and DFTBA!

Jessica Harmon
Los Angeles, CA

Saturday, September 21, 2013

At What Point Do You Become That Which You Are Trying To Eradicate?

At what point do you become that which you are trying to eradicate?

This past weekend (9/13), I attended a show by the controversial band Death In June. Douglas Pearce (the sole continuous member) has been accused of being a racist, a Nazi, a fascist, and worse. The fact that he is openly gay, Jewish, and has played sold out shows in Israel is beside the point. I have listened to his music for years. I consider myself on the left end of the political spectrum. I’ve read any number of interviews and clarifications that Pearce has made about his views. I have a graduate degree in philosophy. I have participated in a number of civil rights demonstrations across the country. I can safely say that I find nothing fascist or hateful about him or his music. This is my conclusion. I stand by it.

Others only look at surface images of the band, and project their worst fears onto it. Those are their conclusions. I have listened to their arguments, and read their cases. I remain unconvinced.

The show I attended was protested by a group identifying themselves as anti-fascists. They have a right to do this. I respect this.

Rather than engaging us in dialogue, however, they became violent - openly harassing (an ethnically diverse!) group of people waiting politely in line for the show. There were fists involved. They tried to storm the venue. It was their assumption that we were all waiting to attend the next Nuremberg rally, and that we were Nazis who needed to be stopped.

The anti-fascists wound up physically harming a number of minority members of the audience. Additionally, they had vandalized the club where DIJ played the night before, and succeeded in threatening another venue to the point of cancelling a sold out show (which has since been relocated).

In 1920s-1930s Germany, the Nazi Party deployed a group known as the Sturmabteilung, or “brown shirts” to disrupt, threaten, intimidate, and physically harm political opponents. How, qualitatively, were the actions of the anti-fascists different from the tactics of the Sturmabteilung? Tactics aside, how is it anti-fascist to declare yourselves the gatekeepers of what people can, cannot, should, and should not listen to?

In their quest for a villain, they became the villains. Rather than seeking common ground (of which, I suspect, there may have actually been much between them and the audience), they demonized us.

Additionally, they denied our humanity in an even more fundamentally important way –they denied us the choice, the chance to make up our own minds about what we were seeing and hearing. They failed to recognize our own abilities – our own rights – to recognize good and evil.

Walt Kelly, the creator of the comic-strip POGO, wrote in 1953, regarding the McCarthy hearings:

“Traces of nobility, gentleness and courage persist in all people, do what we will to stamp out the trend. So, too, do those characteristics which are ugly…There is no need to sally forth, for it remains true that those things which make us human are, curiously enough, always close at hand. Resolve then, that on this very ground, with small flags waving and tinny blasts on tiny trumpets, we shall meet the enemy, and not only may he be ours, he may be us.”

In Jungian psychology, there is a term for this – “owning one’s shadow.” I hope that someday, the 8 protesters (not 20, as they claim) look into this, and find resolution.

Then, perhaps, we can all move forward and fight real evil - together.

Oh yeah. The show? Simply amazing.

Kevin Kovelant

Friday, September 20, 2013

How to write a great email

Hello Listserve-ians,

I used to write email for a living for progressive political causes, so I thought I'd take this opportunity to share what I've learned about writing emails to large numbers of people. Perhaps these tips will serve you well when you win the Listserve lottery or whenever you find yourself needing to send a clear, compelling email to many people at once.

First, have a clear ask. Don't bury the story -- effective emails ask the reader to do something up front. If you want your readers to do something -- and you probably do, otherwise why are you sending mass email? -- let them know clearly what they should do as quickly as possible. If you've typed more than a sentence or two and haven't gotten to your ask, revise your draft and see if you can get it in earlier. And try to have only one ask per email. If you want your readers to do more than one unrelated thing, send them more than one email.

Second, use direct, conversational language, and keep it short. Your email isn't a term paper or a novel or a text message. A casual tone, clear wording, and an eye for brevity will quickly communicate to your readers what you want them to do. Save the long explanations, detailed asides, and endless adjectives for another time.

Third, tell a story and be authentic. There is a saying that you should write drunk and edit sober. The best emails tell a compelling story in an authentic way, so people are moved to take whatever action you're asking of them. Your story should be real and heartfelt, should clearly explain why the reader should take action and what effect their action will have, and shouldn't ring false. For more advice telling great stories, google "New Organizing Institute story of self" and click the first link.

Bonus: Become a consumer of email. I've signed myself up for every political email list I can find -- Republicans, Democrats, advocates, politicians, nonprofits, everyone. I read these emails to look for new trends, get ideas, and scope out new techniques. If you write a lot of email, it's worth your time getting to know what your peers are doing.

Email is a wonderful tool -- it moves mass numbers of people to action every day. I hope with these tips, you can move people to take the action you'd like them to take, too!

If you need a free tool to send mass email and do other online organizing, I've just released one called the Action Network. Google "now you can mass email people like Obama" and click on the Washington Post article to learn more about it. And if you have questions about email writing or online organizing, feel free to reply and ask away!

Jason Rosenbaum
Washington, DC

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Hey there! I would like to invite you to embark on a part ex...

Hey there! I would like to invite you to embark on a part experiment part attempt at collaborative art with me that promises to be very interesting: at least for me. Perhaps a little about me before I describe the experiment. I'm a PhD student in Computer Science at the University at Buffalo (if you’re at UB too, holler!). I'm especially interested in languages: their versatility in conveying our intangible and complex emotions, the obscure mists of evolution that mask how they diverged from their common origins and how the nifty anchors of words latch onto our subconscious to offer themselves in times of communicative need.

And then there are poets and writers, who create entire worlds from a handful of words: burdening their tiny bodies with convoluted metaphors, animating their abstract skeletons with powerful emotions. Once the connection between the two has been forged, the mere mention of the word brings the emotions simmering back to the surface. That’s where the experiment comes in. I’d like you to write back to me, with the first memory that comes to your mind when I mention the following words:






I have written a small program that can pull images from the web for a given phrase. The second part of this experiment is where I aggregate results from everyone who wrote in. The idea is to combine the collective memories into a collage. Pictures, the third in the trinity of expression. Once the collages are completed, I would write back to those who contributed and maybe even put them on the web.

So I invite you to join in. Let technology aid us in collective human expression.

Nikhil Londhe
Buffalo, NY, USA

PS: Don't forget to have a good day, smile at the people you see and wish them a good morning!

Wednesday, September 18, 2013


Ideally, I would want this email to relate to every person here, in one way or another. My attempt is broken down into three parts. Let me know how I do.

Part One:

The best thing to learn to cook is gumbo. It is always delicious. Even if its not, throw some hot sauce and butter-loaded rice in there, and it’s delicious.

My favorite recipe comes from googling “New Year Sausage and Andoille Gumbo”. Of course, I use whatever meat I have handy, store-bought seasoning, and low-sodium chicken broth. The rice has to be cooked with butter and a bay leaf. And that’s the beauty of gumbo – it’s waiting to be perfected according to you. Go now and cook it. Holler if you need help.

Part Two:

"Now, no matter what the mullah teaches, there is only one sin, only one. And that is theft. Every other sin is a variation of theft. Do you understand that? When you kill a man, you steal a life. You steal his wife's right to a husband, rob his children of a father. When you tell a lie, you steal someone's right to the truth. When you cheat, you steal the right to fairness. Do you see? There is no act more wretched than stealing, Amir. A man who takes what's not his to take, be it a life or a loaf of naan...I spit on such a man.”

As an atheist, the most common question that pops up after the awkward pause is some variation of, " you know good from bad?"

To be honest, it's a frustrating question because I have always felt that my desire to be a decent human being was innate. I never spent time learning to justify it, but now I do. I reach out for different books, philosophies, poems, quotes, commencement speeches, fortune cookies, Snapple caps - anything that will put into words what I've felt all my life. The excerpt above is one passage I have found that did just that for me. It's basic, concise, and most importantly, true. I have stolen this for my own, and it is now a part of what I believe. The ideas I have about how to live are not radical or new. They have been spoken before, by someone, somewhere, in some manner unbeknownst to me. I just have to find them.

Part Three:

Try AmerCorps. A federally funded, full-time volunteer program that places participants into various non-profits throughout the country. As I like to describe it, it's like the Peace Corps. But in America. And for only 10 months.

Have a gap year to fill? Want to know what it truly means to give back? Want to try out living in a new city (for almost no cost)? Hate your job and looking for something different? Email me. Tell me what you're looking for. I'm in the love with the idea of what I'm doing right now, and I will spend however long it takes spreading the message that there is a program out with the sole purpose of providing perspective and fulfillment. Yes, that sounds cheesy. Yes, it means temporarily leaving the comfort of whatever life you have created for yourself. Yes, it's a difficult process. But I promise you, it will give you the breath of fresh air that you didn't even know you needed. Give me the chance to prove it to you.

Washington, D.C.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

the beach, Longhorns, and my Abuela

My boyfriend says that to know me, you have to understand 3 things: I love the beach, I live for Texas Football, and above everything else, I love my Abuela. She is my favorite person in the world.

For those of you who don’t know, Abuela is Spanish for grandmother and mine is top notch. When I was five and my favorite movie was Mary Poppins, Abuela promised me to take me to feed the birds at St. Paul’s Cathedral. She did so much more – she took me to Spain, England and France on an almost month long and amazing trip. You couldn't feed the birds anymore at St. Paul's Cathedral, but that didn't slow us down.

When I was thirteen, she retired and moved to Austin, where I grew up. I think she knew how much my little brother and I would need her – my parents separated 8 months later and her house, just 2 miles from mine, became a much needed oasis. At 18, I decided to defer college and join AmeriCorps, a decision that wasn’t well received by my parents, but she supported me. When I was 23 and wanted to move across the country to be with the man I adore, she said “go and be happy.”

She taught me that even though people might not treat you well, you should still treat them with kindness and dignity.

She taught me patience through knitting and that you can always fix a mistake without taking out the last 10 rows.

She taught me how to shuffle a deck of cards and that you don't come to the card table without money.

She taught me that Thanksgiving was the best holiday because, it’s not about things, it’s about people and being gracious for what you have. I will always cherish our pre-Thanksgiving Chinese food dinners and how she would turn the AC on in November so my homemade hot chocolate would warm me while we watched the Thanksgiving Day parade.

She taught me that good friends were more important than many friends. She always insisted that it was going to be those good friends that get you through the toughest times. She's right. I went home a few weeks ago, after Abuela was diagnosed with Stage 4 Lung Cancer. She's fighting against some ridiculous odds, but at 84, she's winning. It's wonderful. She has the most amazing group of friends helping her and I have a great group supporting me.

I want to move home to spend time with her, take her to doctor’s appointment, and to be sure someone is there when she needs a hand. I'm excited about this opportunity -- I get to care for my favorite person, but I'm also scared. I would be leaving my boyfriend of seven years and well-paying job for something unknown. Any advice?

Thanks for listening,

my heart’s in Austin, but I’m in MA

Monday, September 16, 2013

Building Community

Because I love building community and connecting, here are a few things I would love you all to know about:

Trash for Peace: Reduce, Reuse, and Rethink the way you look at trash.

I volunteer with an awesome nonprofit that creates functional art from trash. We look for ways to reduce consumption. We reuse plastic bottles and other “trash” to create recycle bins, green houses, and more. We encourage people to rethink the concept of trash/waste through creativity and innovation. Google us, “like” us on facebook, or shoot us an email – we love partnering with other organizations! We also post our manuals on our website for free, so please download them and use them in your classroom, organization, or business!

Oregon’s Health CO-OP (or any of the other Health CO-OPs nationwide)

I have a background in public health, and I’ve always felt like health insurance was a bit of a dirty word. Well finally there is an alternative (sadly, only in some states) starting January 1st! Oregon’s Health CO-OP is a nonprofit that listens to what Oregonians want in a health insurance plan, and we have made a plan to reflect that! Brilliant, right? It focuses on innovation, building community and trust, thus helping everyone to move forward and become healthier together.

Important changes to your health insurance plan through the Affordable Care Act!

For women from the United States, starting January 1st, your health insurance plan is required to cover: well-woman visits; counseling and testing for sexually transmitted diseases; ALL FDA approved contraceptive or sterilization methods/procedures; breastfeeding support, supplies, and counseling (this includes breast pumps); and screening and counseling for interpersonal and domestic violence. This is mandatory on ALL health insurance plans FREE OF CHARGE. No co-pay. No co-insurance. FREE – if you have health insurance, so make sure you have some type of plan! If you live in Oregon, check out CoverOregon and see if you’re eligible for governmental assistance on your monthly premiums (I’m sure other states have similar health insurance marketplaces) – or for free insurance through Medicaid.

Dr. Vandana Shiva

Google her if you don’t know who she is. Her background is fascinating and her work, inspirational! She runs a seed saving nonprofit for organic women farmers in India called Navdanya. She also helped Bhutan create the Gross National Happiness Assessment. Who cares about GDP if no one is happy?

Tanzania Travel Plans?

Any interest in visiting Kilimanjaro, Serengeti, Ngorogoro Crater, Zanzibar, + more? Let me know! I know the most amazing tour guide in the country. He can make your trip as low or as high budget as you want, and I promise he’ll point out camouflaged animals you otherwise wouldn't spot or help you get to the top of the mountain. I would put my life in his hands, no question. I used to live in Tanzania and have traveled around with many guides. He has true magic.

And just because I am a rule follower, here’s something important I’ve learned that I would like to share with all the other rule followers out there…

Just because you follow the rules, doesn’t mean you can’t color outside the lines. There is no RULE that says you have to stay within the lines. Often times, doing something differently leads to a new perspective. Sometimes, it leads to the creation of a masterpiece.

Hope to connect with you soon!

All my best,

Corey McAuliffe
Portland, Oregon, USA

Sunday, September 15, 2013

What would you do with five dollars?

I have never been very good at telling stories: I fumble, I slur words, I backtrack. But here I am, winning the chance to write an email to the world, so here is my story:I am living on five dollars a day for reweave (google it!).

It all started as a way to fundraise. Donate $1,000 and I’ll live on five dollars a day for a month.

What does it mean, exactly? There is no right or wrong way to do this experiment, but I set up rules so I could stay on track. This challenge goes beyond food; transportation, entertainment, and even a new toothbrush are being taken into account.

The rules are as follows:

I will not go into "debt" with friends (ie. having them pay for something and then I pay them back on October 1st).
If I accept something for free it either needs to be donated by an organization, offered for free to everyone, or it needs to be something I would have received for free even prior to this experiment.
Rent is not being included in this experiment because that would negatively affect my roommates, and that would be kind of scummy of me.

I know my monthly t-pass was $43 and I use the MBTA at least twice a day, five times a week. There are 20 workdays in September (excludes Labor day), so I pay approximately one dollar per bus/t ride. That leaves me with about $3 for food for the rest of the day. (If I walk home from work then I have $4.00!)

Food is a bit trickier. Eating at a restaurant has been of the question.
I've been saving my receipts and found that if I "charge" myself per serving, I can keep track of how much I spend and how much I eat.

For example: If I buy a container of oatmeal for $4.99 and there are 15 cups, I know that each 1/2 cup serving costs me 19 cents - that’s how much I will "charge" myself for breakfast.

My usually breakfast is oatmeal. Lunch = good ol’ PB&J. Dinner = Eggs and frozen veggies, sometimes pasta if I’m feeling adventurous (and by that I mean its harder to measure). I’ll throw a banana or a glass of milk in the mix for added nutrients.

At first glance it seems I am eating a well-rounded diet, however my body is already feeling the effects of transitioning from an organic diet to “the cheap stuff”. Also, the average person eats two or three times the recommended serving size, meaning that I am getting sufficiently less vegetable and fruit servings by measuring it out than by eating until I am full.

I have been seeing the effects in my sleep, my skin, my hair, and especially my weight. I have been keeping track of my caloric intake to ensure than I am eating a healthy amount, but eating more than 1,600 calories is a struggle.

People are not meant to live and eat on $5 a day. I repeat: human beings are NOT meant to live and eat on $5 a day. Think of the people who are forced to live on less.

Am I happy I am doing this experiment? Yes, and honestly, I would recommend that everyone do it for even just a week. It makes me think about the value of a dollar, the value of a serving, and the value of a meal.

What would you do with five dollars?

Yakira Levy
Boston, MA

Saturday, September 14, 2013


Ideally, I would want this email to relate to every person here - in one way or another. My attempt is broken down into three parts. Let me know how I do.

Part One:

The best thing to learn to cook is gumbo. It is always delicious. Even if its not, throw some hot sauce and butter-loaded rice in there, and it’s delicious.

My favorite recipe comes from googling “New Year Sausage and Andoille Gumbo”. Of course, I just use sausage, I just use store-bought seasoning, and I use low-sodium chicken broth. The rice has to be Louisiana-style. And that’s the beauty of gumbo – it’s waiting to be perfected according to you. Go now and cook it. I promise it’s as easy as it looks. Holler if you need help.

Part Two:

"Now, no matter what the mullah teaches, there is only one sin, only one. And that is theft. Every other sin is a variation of theft. Do you understand that? When you kill a man, you steal a life. You steal his wife's right to a husband, rob his children of a father. When you tell a lie, you steal someone's right to the truth. When you cheat, you steal the right to fairness. Do you see? There is no act more wretched than stealing, Amir. A man who takes what's not his to take, be it a life or a loaf of naan...I spit on such a man.”

As an atheist, the most common question that pops up after the awkward pause is some variation of, " you know good from bad?"

To be honest, it's a frustrating question because I have always felt that my desire to be a decent human being was innate. I never spent time learning to justify it, but now I do. I reach out for different books, philosophies, poems, quotes, commencement speeches, fortune cookies, Snapple caps - anything that will put into words what I've felt all my life. The excerpt above is one passage I have found that did just that for me. It's basic, concise, and most importantly, true. I have stolen this for my own, and it is now a part of what I believe. The ideas I have about how to live life are not radical or new. They have been spoken before, by someone, somewhere, in some manner unbeknownst to me. I just have to find them.

Part Three:

Try AmerCorps. A federally funded, full-time volunteer program that places participants into various non-profits throughout the country. As I like to describe it, it's like the Peace Corps. But in America. And for only 10 months.

Have a gap year to fill? Want to work with people in need? Want to try out living in a new city (for almost no cost)? Hate your job and looking for something different? Email me. Tell me what you're looking for. I'm in the love with the idea of what I'm doing right now, and I will spend however long it takes spreading the message that there is a program out with the sole purpose of providing perspective and fulfillment. Yes, that sounds cheesy. Yes, it means leaving the comfort of whatever life you have created for yourself for a short period of time. Yes, it's a difficult process. But I promise you, it is not a wasted opportunity. Give me the chance to prove it to you.


Thanks and gig 'em.

Washington, D.C.

PS: If you’re free and in the DC area, let me know! I would love to meet a fellow Listservian.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Older and Wiser?

Hello Listserve:

I am considerably older than most of those who have already posted their messages on this site, and thus I have lost most of my armor of idealism . Much of this is due to the experiences I have had working as a Psychologist in Massachusetts mill cities for almost forty years. I feel I have seen almost everything humanity can offer. I no longer question whether something is good or bad; I just see it as fascinating.

There is nothing anyone can do that would surprise me any more. Anything my wildest imagination can produce someone out there is doing it, and they are doing it thinking it will bring them happiness or satisfaction. Most of the time it doesn’t.

I would give you all advice, because I know, better than Dr. Phil, what you should do with your life, but more than that I know that you wouldn’t listen. That's not how people change. Change has to come through emotional experience. Perhaps in three years you might think back and say, “maybe that guy was on to something.”

I am a big believer in the saying “When the student is ready, the teacher appears.”

Humans are a work in progress, an intriguing but flawed species. If you haven’t realized by now, please take notice: the world is almost always run by character-disordered people. Kings, Queens, generals, presidents, tyrants, business leaders, billionaires, market movers, and celebrates are usually greedy, power-hungry narcissists, or else they have that missionary zeal and are self-righteous. That’s not always true, only about 90% of the time.

Most people are basically kind and caring. They want to get along, have a few satisfying relationships – which is difficult enough-- contribute something to the good of the world and then relax and enjoy their family and friends. But then someone comes along who wants to grab power and take control of everyone and everything. He (it almost always is a he) identifies some small difference as a huge threat, then gathers a group of devoted followers to save his people from it, and everything goes downhill from there. Just look at history, and look at what’s going on now.

As I said, I am old, I am wise, and I know everything about human relationships. If you want an answer just send me the question. I won’t expect you to take my advice.

Donald Bermont

Thursday, September 12, 2013


First of all, check out the band Mideau. They are new and amazing. I’m a fan. Google MideauMusic.

Now, before I start my message, relax. Whenever I get the Listserv, I’m in midday mode. My face is tense, my shoulders are scrunched, my breathing is short. Maybe this isn’t you. But if it is.


Take a moment and a deep breath.


The combination of anonymity, a fleeting power to amplify my voice, and a word limit to simplify it makes me feel both safe and significant for today. I can open up to strangers. I can say something important. I can say the most important thing—if I could only realize and articulate it within 48-hours. But it’s the first weeks of my PhD. So I cant. And in the absence of Best, [though I don’t believe there is one], I leave you something good:

“In the center of [the city called] Fedora, that gray stone metropolis, stands a metal building with a crystal globe in every room. Looking into each globe, you see a blue city, the model of a different Fedora. These are the forms the city could have taken if, for one reason or another, it had not become what we see today. In every age someone, looking at Fedora as it was, imagined a way of making the ideal city, but while he constructed his miniature model, Fedora was already no longer the same as before, and what had been until yesterday a possible future became only a toy in a glass globe.

The building with the globes is now Fedora's museum: every inhabitant visits it, chooses the city that corresponds to his desires, contemplates it, imagining his reflection in the medusa pond that would have collected the waters of the canal (if it had not been dried up), the view from the high canopied box along the avenue reserved for elephants (now banished from the city), the fun of sliding down the spiral twisting minaret (which never found a pedestal from which to rise).

On the map… there must be room both for the big, stone Fedora and the little Fedoras in glass globes. Not because they are all equally real, but because all are only assumptions. The one contains what is accepted as necessary when it is not yet so; the others, what is imagined as possible and, a moment later, is possible no longer.” – Invisible Cities, Italo Calvino

If we are not careful, we can spend so much time building the world of our dreams
that we miss the world around us.
And if we are not careful, we can watch the world around us so intently
that we never enjoy the dream to make it better.

"There must be room both for....Fedora and the...Fedoras in glass globes."

Now, I treasure passion and purpose. If asked what I see as something beautiful, I would say the sight a person in the act of their passion—be it painting, wandering, debating, laughing... If asked what I feel feeds my depths, I would say the moments that I engage my own passions—but I would also say the knowledge that I am making the world better, even if only for one person. In some ways, these two concepts are Fedora and the Fedoras of the glass globes.



YouTube the black&white version of ‘Shake the Dust‘ (Anis Mojgani).

Look at the sky, often.

Visit the wordpressblog Tolling. I write about what strikes me as important. I welcome suggestions.

North Carolina

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Laugh and the World Laughs with You

My son introduced me to Listserve recently. On being a "winner" he said keep it short and sweet. Thousands will read. Yikes!!

Here goes:

Why can children laugh 300 to 400 times in a day while adults laugh only 4- 15 times? What have we lost or misplaced?

I am at that point in my life where approaching the big six 0 has had me reorganizing priorities, possessions, people, time. It has meant the downsizing, discarding, minimizing of work and stuff. It has meant simplifying activities and relationships. It has given me more time to read, travel, and discover new things. To reconnect with friends and family. This increased quality of life, way outweighs the decrease in income.

My latest discovery is Laughter Yoga. Anyone try it or belong to a club? I was watching Wavy Gravy on PBS was fascinated by his life and personality and intrigued by Laughing Yoga. So I checked it out.

It is exhausting. It is embarrassing. It is forced. I started with 2 minutes and slowly worked myself up to 10 minutes. I have the TV on. I do it to videos on my computer, slowly learning the different techniques. At first I just felt stupid, but now I feel great!

Dr. Madan Kataria the ‘Guru of Giggling’ is correct when he says: We don't laugh because we are happy, We are happy because we laugh.

I invite you to join me in this global movement for Health, Joy & World Peace

Sandra Wetzel

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

How Not To Make A Baby

It turns out getting pregnant isn’t as easy as it looks.

My wife and I have been trying to conceive for over five years, suffering one miscarriage and month after month of letdowns and discouragements. Turns out we both bring our own specific biological issues that, when combined, compound the problem.

While I’m well aware that we are not the first couple to grapple with infertility and conception issues, this is one of those things where knowing you’re not alone isn’t always the most comforting thought. Add to that the staggering amount of tips, suggestions, medical information, etc., it can get downright frustrating.

When things don’t work as they should, be it electronics, automobiles, or my reproductive system, it drives me crazy! There’s no real peace in the knowledge that there’s nothing I can really do to cause my body to produce the correct amount of sperm.

There are options, of course, with adoption or in vitro fertilization leading the pack. We’re not opposed to either, although they’re not exactly in our budgetary cards just yet. If anyone can point Oprah our way, there’s a high five with your name on it. Honestly, the romantic idea of conceiving a child the “old fashioned way,” is just what our hearts are set on.

Through it all, hope has been both our strongest ally and greatest source of pain. Each month, we carry the hope that this time, this month will be the one. And each month, we feel like idealistic, optimistic fools, only to start the whole process over again. Regardless, I worry about us losing that hope.

I’ve been working on and off on a blog about our experiences where, if nothing else, I’ve found supportive and comforting folks who read and share. We can share links, of course, so I’m not sure if this makes it through, but you can find it by heading to howtomakebabiesdotwordpressdotcom.

My wife and I are praying people, constantly covering this and seeking an answer. There’s a certain level of acceptance by now, but there’s always hope.

I think that’s what I’d like to leave off with…there’s always hope. So many things can be denied or taken away in this world, but hope, though it may sting us at times, is what keeps us going.

Feel free to drop me a line or look me up. I’m on Twitter: @jovid52, where I share nonsense, music I’m enjoying, television reviews, and stuff, but I’d be happy to interact with ya!

Joe Thompson
Dallas, Texas

Monday, September 9, 2013

What do I do now?

I just finish my college and i need a new project to work with.
Next year i'm going to New Zeland and I already got my visa, just saving money for the trip, so, nothing more to do about that.

Before April next year i have to do something productive. And i need your ideas. Just send me an e-mail with your suggestion.
I'm thinking about develop a Smartphone App, but don't know what (I studied IT on college)

Jonatah Benatti
Horizontina, RS, Brazil

PS: Sorry by my english, never been out of Brazil.
PS2: If you're from NZ and want to help me find a good place to live and study in NZ, send me an e-mail too.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Notes from an Australian

G’day, my name is Marc Bruce, 28 and I was born in Sydney, Australia. I recently moved to Helsingborg, Sweden. Some may say that was a terrible mistake but I like the cold. My career has revolved around IT Support but I’ve also worked abroad as a Camp Counselor (MN, USA) & Volunteer English teacher (Xi’an, China).

Here are a short series of notes that I would like to share with you all.

The types of people I enjoy:

The go-getters, the wild ones, the spontaneous, the courageous and the brave, the thinkers and the doers, the optimists and the non-conformists and above all else - the ones that know themselves.

OTP22: Cryptography, Svalbard & Dead Drops:

Almost a year to this day I started working with a small team to try and solve the mystery behind OTP22. OTP22 is an ARG (Alternate Reality Game) that has gone to extraordinary lengths to keep its MO a secret. We still do not fully know what it is all about. The latest dead drop is in Bulgaria at location 42.0552, 25.5927, if you are near please email me. More info can be found on our Wiki or through our IRC Chan: #ARG

Board games:

I feel like board games have fallen out of the mainstream now that we have computers. I recently got back into them and you know what? They are great fun! It really brings a great social aspect to any evening. My favorites at the moment are: Elder Signs, Settlers of Catan and Pandemic. I also want to try Formula D, Game of Thrones & Twilight Struggle. For anyone interested, you should really check out Wil Wheaton’s series on Youtube called Tabletop.

Apps I use (MAC):

- QuickCal: Hotkey: Ctrl + Shift + R. This allows me to quickly add things to my calendar or reminders list.

- Alarms: Hotkey: Cmd + E. Reminders that I make with QuickCal are displayed in a panel dropdown with this app.

- Screenfloat: Hotkey: Opt + Shift + W. Extremely useful for keeping stuff onscreen.

- Snagit: Hotkey: Cmd + Shift + W. Screenshot app that copies to clipboard (Pro tip for Retina Displays: This app fixes the huge screenshot issue)

- Cloud: Hotkey to auto-upload screenshot and copy the link to your clipboard: Ctrl + Opt + C. Perfect for fast sharing.

- Airmail: Similar to Sparrow but still in development.

- Clocks: Hotkey: Cmd + D. I’ve disabled my normal clock; this allows me to see the time anywhere in the World (useful in OTP22).

- Notefile by JuneCloud: Had some issues with Apple Notes deleting my stuff so I switched to this and haven’t looked back!

- Zoomit: Hotkey: Opt + Z. Finally, a Loupe for your Mac.

The Future:

At our current rate of consumption and with the world’s population growing exponentially I fear the tipping point is near. The greed of men has got in the way of sustainability. This planet is all we have, letting corporations ruin it solely for profits is like letting a bully get your lunch money, and your parents worked hard for that money damn it! Don’t feel as though you are powerless to do something. I have a soft spot for the underdog and I know others do too. Winning a battle that may seem to you like David vs. Goliath will soon turn into 100,000 David’s, and one of those David’s is bound to have a stone that hits hard.

Parting thoughts:

Pay it forward and always remember how far you’ve come.

Marc Bruce
Helsingborg, Sweden

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Still learning

Hello Listserve!

I'm writing this from Reykjavik, Iceland. I arrived here from NYC yesterday, and leave for Paris tomorrow. I'm from San Francisco, originally. I am 25. (not relevant at all to the content of my message, but a little background info is always fun..)

A few things:

1) The world is small. We have so many experiences/emotions in common. Think about that the next time you feel alone - you're not.

2) Be good to your family. Your time with them is not guaranteed. But when it ends - remember, its not the number of years, it's the quality of those years. (rest in peace dad, 4/17/13, I still miss you - and my heart and thoughts goes out to those who are or have been affected by any type of cancer. You are cared for!)

3) Go easy on yourself. It's your first time through this life.;)

4) Whatever it is - you'll be ok. I promise. :)

With lots of jetlag and love,

Reykjavik, Iceland

PS - message me Paris travel tips! I've never been:)

Friday, September 6, 2013

Gone West

So I won the listserve lottery just after moving across the country. Here is a short version of the story. This summer my husband and I quit our jobs and moved from the Midwest to the Northwest. I'd been missing mountains something terrible during my 16 year tenure in the flatlands, and this year the time was right for us to make the move. In some ways the plan was taking shape over the last several years, but really came into focus the last 12-18 months.

We did not have jobs waiting for us, at least not in the traditional sense. But we no longer want to have jobs be the primary driver in deciding where we live and when we could travel. Our goal is to cultivate location independent sources of income (we do still need income.. there is no trust fund we can fall back on). Before we quit our jobs we cultivated freelance consulting work that would give us a foundation to build on and we worked to have at least a years worth of comfortable living expenses in our savings account.

Our longer term goal is to have a home base but to be able to spend 3, 6, 12 months in other locations learning and working with different people in different environments.

My work focuses on community engagement and helping groups develop collective decision making practices. My husband is a technology writer, though his first love is radio. You can find one of his projects by searching for Radio Survivor.

I'm interested in hearing from people who have experiences with working freelance or as a contingent worker (by choice); and from people who have made decisions that some considered risky but just felt right to you.

Also, tell me about where you live (or where you have lived) and what is great about it, or why it should be avoided... I'm always looking for the next place for a new adventure.

Thanks to the folks at The Listserve for running this great experiment, and thanks to Jenny B for turning me on to it!

all the best,

Ellen K.
Portland, OR

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Why Being a Minimalist Works for Me

As someone who grew up from South-East Asia, I was lucky to have spent my young adulthood in the US. I learned a lot about who I am and who I want to be and how to accomplish it. As an example, I had to learn to live alone the first time while in a foreign country, and I learned that I really really hate washing the toilet but I love doing my own dishes.

As a gamer (zerg rush anyone?) as well as someone with an engineering mindset, I knew what I had to do to get what I want. To minimize all the things that I hate to do or don't need in order to maximize my resources to do what I want. We as humans have long passed the capacity to be able to sustain our most important needs for survival but society is very good, too good in fact, in making us think we need more, and more.

It works for me because I want to be an entrepreneur. Many of you who are reading are probably in the same boat. Every penny that I make goes to my savings or the nearest liquid investment. Having a house just means that you have a bigger risk to take when you are planning to go out on your own and start a venture.

It works for me because I am environmentally conscious. Every flyer that you did not take from someone on the streets saves a tree over your lifetime (totally just made that up). I have stopped bringing every printout material that I received from conventions, conferences and I always try and put those materials back where others could have picked it up. (Though my wardrobe is full of those shirts they pass out at tech events. I haven't bought new shirts since.

I want to urge all of you to rethink about the essentials in your life that makes you happy, then minimize everything else. For many of us, it could be family, friends, a smart phone, a laptop, two pair of shoes, a dozen shirts, 4 pairs of jeans, one set of formal wear, dozen pairs of underwear, dozen pairs of socks, a set of cookingware, a broom, a mop, a towel, a bed, toiletries. You don't have to extreme of course, just cut more of the shallow stuff out so you can enjoy the things you truly appreciate.

PS: I developed a browser extension that lets you perform a mail merge on top of Gmail. A mail merge basically allows you to personalize mass emails. I would like some feedback on it. Google "gmerge alpha chrome" or "gmerge alpha firefox" as they don't allow links.

SoonKhen OwYong
Hong Kong S.A.R.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Lucky Breaks

I often get irked by minor hassles: Speeding and parking tickets. Car trouble. Cancelled flights. Stomach flus. Rude people. Spotty cell phone coverage. Getting ripped off. These are all little things, and usually the products of my own creation, but they make me mad anyway.

It helps to put things in perspective. I think about my lucky breaks and near misses. When I was 12, two friends and I trespassed on private property to explore a cave, and an man standing in the field fired a shotgun at us. He was far enough away that the shot bounced off our skin. If he'd been closer we could have been injured or worse.

In college I was walking at night with a friend and a car pulled up and the passenger pointed a pistol at us. Idiotically, I walked up to him and asked him what kind of gun it was. He was so nonplussed that he told me the make and model of his pistol and then ordered the driver to drive away.

Another time I was driving with friends in my car in Boulder, Colorado. This was 1982 or so. It was two in the morning and the car was rattling with empty beer cans. As I drove, I wondered why the traffic lights were all out. A police car pulled us over. He told me I was driving the wrong way down a one way street. He asked me to step out of the car, and shined his flashlight in the car. He saw all the beer cans. He took my license and told me to wait by the car, then went into his car to radio back to the station. Five minutes later he got out of the car and said, "Turn your car around and go home." And then he got in his car and drove away. I still have no idea why he didn't at least give me a ticket for having and open container and for driving the wrong way.

My lucky breaks have outnumbered my unlucky ones, and I'm very grateful.

Mark Frauenfelder
Los Angeles

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Bitcoin - currency of the Internet

I don't know if you ever heard about Bitcoin. But it will change everything. It's not "money". It's not only a "payment system". It's the idea. Idea of giving the power back to people. Thank you, listserve. Have a good time everyone!

Maciej Ziolkowski
Bydgoszcz, Poland

Monday, September 2, 2013

Nerd Holiday

Have you ever been in a room of people that all felt like friends and community, even though you didn't know their name?I have. And it has been happening over and over again for the last three days.

There is this giant, nerdy convention happening in Seattle right now. PAX Prime. Maybe you've heard of it? Anyway, it's a place for fans to learn about new games (video, computer, board, etc.) and meet creators and hang out with each other. It's loads of fun.

My dark secret? I hate the comic that inspires this convention. Penny Arcade features some of the most annoying characters that have said some terribly misogynistic things in the past. Things that fanboys (and maybe fangirls) like to hash over and over again. And yet, I still support the community.

This might make me the worst feminist ever, but I believe the Penny Arcade folks atone for their terribleness by hosting cool events like PAX and their charity that gives video games to kids in hospitals.

If you also happen to be at PAX Prime, welcome home! And if you are a gaming nerd that likes being around 70,000 people, maybe you should check it out next year.

In nerd fun we trust,


Sunday, September 1, 2013

The Future Comes Soon Enough

There is so much I want to tell you.

I want to tell you about love. I wish people were less scared to say “I love you” because more people need to hear that they are loved.

I want to tell you about traveling and how it should be pursued early and often.

I want to tell you about writing and how you should not fear your own words or thoughts, even though I will censor myself as I write this.

I want to tell you about my life, my work, my dreams.

I want to inspire you.

I want to make you laugh.

But today, I am not feeling light. Summer, my favorite season, is nearly over. Acorns are falling. Some leaves are beginning to brown on their branches. Change is in the air.

It’s the first day of second grade for my oldest son, an occasion that is both joyous and melancholy. I got up earlier than usual today, made breakfast, got him and his brother dressed in new clothes. They goofed off while I took photos of them standing by the flowering crepe myrtle in front of our house.

The younger brother—aged four and three-quarters and still in preschool — wore sunglasses for the photos, just like last year. He’s the confident one, he’s the silly one. He’s going to be the kid that holds court in the classroom, with guys and girls gathered ‘round to hear his jokes and stories.

I’m not sure what the future holds for my oldest boy, the one who has mild autism. He has been so excited for this day to come. School provides him a schedule; he craves routine. Still, as I left him this morning, he gave me a worried look. I couldn’t hear him over the din of the other children in the cafeteria, but I could see him say, “See you at 3:30.” He needed to know I would be there.

Each school year means a new teacher, who may or may not know the best way to handle my son’s idiosyncracies. There’s also the concern of whether he will make friends — will other kids invite him to birthday parties and play dates? My son is well known at his current school thanks to his lovable nature, his precocious math skills, and his ability to memorize everything from people’s birthdays to the exact length of nearly every song on my phone. Yet I know that as he ages, the chances of him being bullied for his differences will increase.

My family will be moving abroad next year, as we do every two to five years. While I am excited to introduce my sons to a new culture, the thought of starting from scratch — enrolling in a new school, finding new therapists, doctors, teachers, and caregivers — was enough to make me weep this morning. Maybe the new school will be wonderful and my son’s new peers will be kind and understanding. I am hopeful it will all work out, but the prospect of starting over fills me with angst.

Albert Einstein once said, “I never think of the future — it comes soon enough.” The physicist for whom our local high school is named is also believed to have been on the autism spectrum. I doubt my son will be the next Einstein. But I do hope that he will find his calling; that he will excel despite (or because) of his quirks; and that one day soon when I have to walk away from him, he will give me a smile — a simple acknowledgement that he is not worried and will be fine on his own.

Melanie Renzulli
Washington, DC