Saturday, November 30, 2013

A TL,DR; five questions; and smileys

I’m going to split this up into two sections: the first, a “TL,DR” for those who don’t have much time; and the second, a longer, more expanded version of the first.

If you’ve only got a couple minutes to spare, here are some questions I want to ask you:

1. What sort of advice would you give a young adult?

2. What is your favourite book? (Movie, TV show, etc.)

3. Where is the best place you’ve lived or visited? Most interesting adventure?

4. What is a something I should learn how to do?

5. If you haven’t got anything to say to the above, then tell me a story about yourself! Anything at all, don’t be shy!

Hopefully, that was short and sweet enough! I hope you’ll consider giving me a reply J

Now if you’ve got a bit more time on your hands, allow me to expand on the above questions.

1. Nice to meet you! I am from Vancouver but am currently in Toronto as a second-year university student studying engineering, which means that yes, I am a young adult and yes, I am unabashedly looking for tips on life! I’ve no doubt that there are a wide variety of people reading this, and I wager a fair amount of you all will have lived and experienced more than me. So if you have any sort of advice at all, I’d love to hear it!

2. I love reading. Love, love, LOVE it! One of my favourite book series’ is Harry Potter, which you might have heard of … it really inspired my love of books. I’m always on the hunt for new ones to read, so if you have a recommendation, please send it my way! Now, I understand that not everyone shares my joy, so if you have a particular movie, TV show, or even song you really enjoy, I’m definitely willing to expand my horizons.

3. One of my wishes in life is to travel. Unfortunately, with my limited student budget, it’s a bit difficult at the moment, but I would love to hear your adventures. Having only visited a paltry number of countries so far (four … including Canada, where I was born), I would love to hear about some of your experiences, even if it just happened around the corner!

4. I am always on the lookout to try new things, so I ask you this: has a random skill ever proved useful? Or even something I should learn to do every day that will somehow improve my life? I’d like to know!

5. Stories. I like telling them, but I love hearing them more. Share with me any experience that you deem worthy – it may have been years ago, or it may have just happened yesterday! Whatever it is, I’m sure I’ll really enjoy reading about it.

That’s it! Thanks for taking the time out of your day from reading an email from someone you don’t even know – it means a lot to me! If this has caught your attention somehow, I’d love to get a response, and I promise that I’ll write back, really!

With that, enjoy the rest of your day (or night, as it may be)! J


Ellie T.
Toronto, Canada

Friday, November 29, 2013


What I’m working on right now is fluency. My mother’s language, Hebrew, was my first language, I can speak it without an accent, and thanks to a year of high school in Israel I can discuss most things relevant to a teenager’s life, like schoolwork, crushes, and the political climate, with ease. But I’m not satisfied. What I want is to be able to articulate a thought, any thought, with as little effort as it takes in English, and at the same speed. When I want to write or say something in English, different ways to phrase it gently bob in the air in my head like balloons, waiting for me to pick the one I like best. But in Hebrew, choosing between different expressions of a thought is like trying on pairs of boots that don’t fit until one seems like it’s good enough for gardening (but not for going anywhere nice).

And I want to be able to read, for pleasure. In English I can look at a page and, letting my eyes rove over it briefly, grasp its gist and decide if I want to read it with care. When faced with a Hebrew page my eyes can rove all they want but until I decide, OK, now I’m trying to read, no meaning filters through. My eyes jump ahead to the end of a line when I’ve only read half of it. Are we there yet? No? What about now?

Here are the things I’m trying: reading aloud, to my mom, over Skype. Reading short stories or books with very short chapters, to quell my frustration with how slowly plots unfold. Stacking books around the house so I can glower at them defiantly. Listening to Hebrew comedy shows on youtube as a reprieve from the hard work.

Why does fluency matter to me? I’m not sure. It was once about connecting with my mom, but she recently crossed the threshold of having lived more than half of her life in the United States. Her English is good, and in Hebrew she was always gifted with language (prose and poetry alike), but when we talk she often seems stuck between her two languages: unable to find the word in Hebrew, unsure how to express the thought precisely in English, and no longer able to fluidly switch between the two as needed. When I offer her the word she’s missing, or quietly (but audibly) translate to Hebrew when she switches to English, I feel discomfort, and I believe I make her uncomfortable by calling attention to her limbo state. In trying to be a living vessel of that once-fundamental aspect of her being, am I honoring her? Or being selfish?

If my mother's country of origin were not a country perpetually at war, would language matter to me as much? I'm not sure about that, either. Though I think of "language" as definitely political, in that it describes and defines what happens in the world, it is also safe and neutral, in that it can create its own worlds (in one's family, or in songs, or books) that are separate and safe from the harsh ugliness of reality, unlike other immigrant longings like "place" or "culture".

My mother’s brother, who didn’t go to college, can’t read the books I also can’t read, and he doesn’t need to. His identity isn’t in question. Do I need to? Who exactly am I trying to pass as? Do I have the right to whatever self-definition I want? I think the answer to the last question is no. What’s more, trying to get to literary and intellectual comfort with a language is arguably a weirdly classist approach to identity. If my mother’s split-self is good enough for her, why am I, as someone who has the privilege of claiming a whole, unbroken all-American identity if I so choose, not content with what I have?

If you are not sure who you are, is it ok to try to define yourself through language?

If you’ve had a similar experience, I would love to hear about it.

San Francisco, CA

Thursday, November 28, 2013

The Love Around Us

What a perfect day for me to win the lottery! I'm currently sick, don't remember the last time I was ever sick, and cannot do much so...

Just off the top of my head (read: headache), let's talk about love. I'm sure everybody has experienced it all before. The cycle of butterflies to heartbreaks.

How it lifts you up and gives you hope, make each a day a little brighter. It's an amazing feeling. Sometimes, just the thought of that someone makes everyday more bearable.

But love changes. It changes you. Who you are and who you become depends in part on who you've loved.

Heartbreak forces you to visit all those deep insecurities you didn't know existed or didn't want to acknowledge. It forces you to learn about yourself and who you really are deep down. Many a times, you will not like what you see. But you cannot be blamed. You have to love yourself no matter what. Now you see why they say you have to love yourself before you learn to love somebody else? You cannot expect and put the burden on someone to mend all the broken parts of you you didn't know existed. The only thing they can do to help you help you discover them. Love you while you learn to love yourself.

You cannot make someone love you. You cannot stop loving someone just because they stopped loving you. Because that would mean your love was conditional upon knowing they loved you. You cannot force someone to love you just because you don't love yourself enough.

Our definition of love has been flawed by countless Disney movies and romantic comedies. Ask yourself what love means to you. And then ask yourself again what love really is to you if you didn't have those ideas of love you see everyday.

I'm no expert on love or anything. But I'm saying this is what I have learnt, so far. Maybe I have a lot more to learn and what I learn may change everything I think I know now.

I hope you all find that special someone and for those who have found that special someone. Hold on to them.

I'd love to hear what you guys' definition of love is. Feel free to buzz me!


Eunice Tee
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

You look great

Hello esteemed Listserve audience,Yet another bright-eyed American has won the Listserve lottery, but please don't make haste for the delete button! I promise not to dispense advice, ask for advice, etc.

I. Librarians
II. JFK, Bill Hicks, and history
III. A note about the author

I. Librarians
As far as I know, I am the second librarian-type person in Champaign, Illinois (the other was Nanette D., a librarian at the Champaign Public Library) to win the Listserve lottery. My friend who turned me on to the Listserve, Ellen K., is also a librarian-type person who has won the Listserve lottery, but she is no longer in Champaign.

I have worked in libraries, have a master's degree in library & information science, and am currently/desperately trying to finish my PhD in that field. I like to think of myself as a rogue librarian - I seek out or tend to attract confused-looking people on the street, in grocery stores, and, of course, the library stacks. And I love to help because that is what I see as the essential function of a librarian: helping people find what they need.

II. JFK, Bill Hicks, and history
November 22, 2013 is the fiftieth anniversary of the assassination of John Fitzgerald Kennedy, 35th President of the United States. In the US and A this is a Very Big Deal. When I think of the JFK assassination, my first association is with the American comedian Bill Hicks (1961-1994), who said some pretty funny/irreverent things about that. He said funny and irreverent things about a lot of stuff, and I wish he were still alive to shepherd us through this sad and beautiful world.

I have a subscription to this magazine Texas Monthly, and like most mainstream periodicals it is a vehicle for advertising punctuated by the occasional article. Anyway, the editor felt the need to justify why “the national magazine of Texas” didn’t make JFK their November cover story. He wrote “Its many reverberations in American politics and society have been considered from every angle...The job of discovery and explanation has been completed.” I found this to be utterly fascinating, in that it more or less exemplifies the prevailing attitude toward the application of history specifically, and the (diminishing) role of the humanities generally. Ho hum.

III. A note about the author
I’ve been a Listserve subscriber for a while, and have wondered what I would say if I won. I came up with the content for this message just now, save for one thing: I long ago decided that if for some reason you want to contact me, I’m going to make you work for it. Sorry, it’s the librarian-cum-pedagogue in me. For that reason, I’m not leaving my email address in this message; however, if you conduct an online search for “Caroline Nappo” you will see results for a doctoral student/researcher at the University of Illinois (me) and a real estate agent based in Atlanta, Georgia (not me). Contact your local librarian for assistance if need be.

If you’ve read this far, thanks a lot. It turns out I do have one piece of advice. A dear friend says there’s only one thing you need to say to a pregnant person: “you look great.”

Very truly yours,

Champaign, Illinois, USA

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

30th Nov Black Ribbon Day

I love Stephen Chbosky's The Perks of Being a Wallflower. A beautiful book and film adaptation featuring Logan Lerman and Emma Watson. If you haven't read/seen it I really recommend it."So, I guess we are who we are for alot of reasons. And maybe we'll never know most of them. But even if we don't have the power to choose where we come from, we can still choose where we go from there. We can still do things. And we can try to feel okay about them."

The 30 November each year, though not all too widely known, is known as self-harm/suicide-survivor Black Ribbon Day. If you see someone wearing a black ribbon, go up to them and give them a hug and tell them you're proud of them. Wear one if you feel you want to.

There's a lot of support out there even if you can't see it right now. I could tell you my story and it might make you feel sad. But the truth is, we've all had bad times, we've all struggled. So you don't need to know my story. But what I want you to know is that somehow, not through lack of trying otherwise this summer, I survived. I was with good people who cared about me, I saw doctors and was at hospital more than I wanted to be, and somehow despite the terrible things that I've been through, and despite how much I still hurt sometimes, I made it.

And you're loved. I don't know you, but I love you. I love that you're fighting. Even if you don't feel like you are, you must be if you're reading this.

Contact me if you'd like to talk, share a story with me, ask me things, share music, anything.

My favourite song? I have so many. My most listened to (according to iTunes) is Ludovico Einaudi's Snow Prelude No. 15. Check it out.

I never expected to win. I've only been on the listserve for a few weeks as well. It's strange how I'm not really sure what to say.


Rachael Elizabeth
Ceredigion, Wales

Monday, November 25, 2013

Help Wanted. Inquire Within.


Now then, let’s get down to it.

I donated bone marrow last spring to a stranger who has since passed away. I do not know the name, location, or the details of when this individual died and I’m not quite sure how to deal with my grief over this. Maybe y’all can be of some help.

It was a few summers ago that I found myself sticking a Q-tip in my mouth and rubbing it along the inside of my cheeks. A little cottonmouth and an odd taste was the result, and it was altogether not an entirely unpleasant experience. Though, it did feel odd to send it off in an envelope to be scrutinized instead of examining it under a microscope myself, as if it was some Freshman Bio lab exercise. Twice, I was identified as a potential match for someone needing to undergo a marrow transplant, and twice I was subjected to an intense phone interview followed by the resulting disappointment when my bones were not, in fact, the closest match.

It’s worth noting that none of my relatives had contracted a disease necessitating the donation of marrow or organs, not even a fecal transplant. So maybe my thinking was that I could be a hero for someone, a nameless person that swoops in and pulls you from the train tracks where you’ve fallen inexplicably or that stops a mugging. I could be Batman, except instead of fantastic wealth, hand-to-hand fighting chops, and gadgets to rival Q’s collection; I had exceedingly effective bone marrow.

Prior to my move from the East Coast to my current residence on the West, I got my third call alerting me to my potential match. After undergoing a blood test and a medical screening, I was cleared to donate. Those of you that are into travelling, look into donating if only for the free sightseeing. You probably won’t get the chance to take in many sights, but you’ll at least collect some frequent flier miles.

The hotel I was staying at, located adjacent to the hospital, used a golf-cart to ferry me back and forth. Surrounded by geriatrics getting hips, knees, and sundry joints replaced, I felt particularly healthy prior to having multiple liters of blood and marrow taken out of my body. I came to commiserate with the elderly when I was shuffling laps in the halls outside my room after the procedure.

It was a few months ago that I heard that my marrow recipient died. My contact with the registry took great pains to emphasize that it wasn’t my fault. I know that I did everything I could, but why is it that I still don’t feel like I did? For the length of time from my recipient’s “second birthday” to their eventual death, they had my blood (A+ in case you were wondering) and it still wasn’t enough. He was the closest I’d ever get to a brother by blood.

Hopefully telling this story to 25,000 perfect strangers will help me deal with this grief for the loss of someone I’d never met, never known the name of, and will never speak with.

Donating bone marrow is an incredibly simple procedure with no lasting consequences for the donor. Check out the Be the Match Registry or another registry if you’re willing. Feel free to email me if I could elucidate the process for you and thanks for reading this all the way through.

TLDR: Blah blah marrow blah blah donate some.

Brian Alenduff
Northern CA

Sunday, November 24, 2013

I have always had fear in life and I could never figure out ...

I have always had fear in life and I could never figure out why. Maybe its a personality issue. I have always admired fearless people who take the risk and bet everything on what they believe. There were times that I just wanted to have the guts to quit and follow my heart, but my Capricorn Moon never let me. My decision making process is more rational than emotional and that's something I need to learn how to balance.

I have always loved art. Art is my passion, is my home, is where I go to when I am down or up. Art never let me fall. I have released a book; produced one Theatre play USA and another in Brazil; I have had three painting exhibitions; I wrote a bossa nova song; I had an Art Channel at Youtube called Arte por Ai and a blog called The Art Reference (I know - I dont have focus!). But all of those projects were done in my spare time, as a second option, as a hobby. I actually work as contract auditor for an oil and gas company. I know, right? Crazy me.

However this year gave me a tremendous crisis. As for the Chinese characters, the word crisis means danger and opportunity. I began the year with a broken heart and destroyed dreams which were followed by family issues and now I am about to get fired. I have found myself in the last months duelling with those issues. But I have then made a promise to myself that whenever I find myself in a difficult moment in my life I would never NEVER make a down turn to a negative habbit like drugs, alcohol, smoke or depression. But I would turn to good things...even if I were at extreme... So I found my lovely shrink, meditation, yoga, sport and art again.

This is stupid, but I also adopted the Jim Carrey's "Yes Man" movie concept for a month. In the movie, Jim says yes to every single invitation made to him and this ends up opening him to a new world. I did that for a month and I did amazing things and met amazing people. Stand up paddle; crazy trails; karaoke (believe me, I sing really bad); travels; cooking; political protests; slack line; organise a live music picnic;

And now I find myself in this moment: THE moment. F**k!
Its just like that expression "the train never passes twice". If I dont catch it now the chance is gone. I am happy and also shitting my pants.

I just needed to believe everything will be ok! And yesterday I was alone at the metro and, out of the blue, an old sir came to me and said: "I've got to tell you something. I am sorry to disturb. Listen to others but also tell your truth. Release that energy inside you. Ok?" To which I answered: "Yes" and he vanished. I only needed someone to say it will be ok and that I am not alone!

I can say that I will tr... that I will make it happen no matter what!
Thats a promise to me and a promise to you all, my Listserve friends!

So, feel free to follow my career and cheer, because I ought to find the necessary courage to make it rock!

Cheers from Brazil.
Have an amazing end of the year and may 2014 come with an exciting World Cup in Brazil!

Marcela Lanna
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Facebook Page: Marcela Lanna - Art
E-mail: mlclanna[AT]
Instagram: @marcelalannaName: Marcela Lanna

Saturday, November 23, 2013

A Crowd of People Stood and Stared

I am an 18 year old NYC college student so perhaps I’m too young to be annoyed with society or maybe I’m the quintessential cynical age. For those of you reading who feel a young adult’s opinions are invalid (you’re an age-ist basically) feel free to stop reading and go deal with your more pressing adult matters (go balance your check book or something!). But I think I have lived long enough to be able to comment on some of the imbalance I notice around me. I have noticed in the past couple years multiple cases of black Americans getting killed in circumstances that would have been extraordinarily different if these people were white. Besides the obvious Trayvon Martin case, there was a 19-year old girl, Renisha McBride who was shot in the face when she approached a white man’s house after being in a car accident. She was asking for help and was intoxicated at the time. So yes this woman was drunk, and yes it was 1AM, but what century do we live in where a person would shoot and kill a young person who was asking for help? If a blonde white girl, like myself (minus the blonde), had approached this man’s house I don’t think there would be a second thought of him lowering his weapon and asking the woman what she needed; he didn’t even have to open the door, just talk through the damn window! There was another case of a white man following his black 14-year-old neighbor onto the boy’s property and shooting him dead because the man believed the teenager had stolen from him. The boy turned out to not be the robber.
So America has now created a society where Stand Your Ground law allows anyone to arbitrarily kill whoever they believe has obstructed their safety. How broad are these assumptions and how can we not see that decisions are being made based on racial prejudice? It horrifies me to my core. Furthermore, most of the violence in America could be lessened if gun enforcement was readdressed. But even after Congress heard pleas from a Senator who had been shot in the head and grieving parents whose children had been massacred at their elementary school, they still failed to pass any restrictive measures on guns. There is some who argue that gun law won’t change anyone’s access to guns. I do understand the power of the black market and the fact that there are currently more guns in possession in America than there are people. Does this mean I should just sit back and come to terms with the fact that I live in an irrational, violent country? Well then I guess I will be asking for a one-way ticket to Sweden or New Zealand for graduation, because I’m not going to raise kids in a place where the people ruling the country are quoting bible passages and 18th century documents as a means of rationale. I know I have a lot to learn about life and experiences but there are some things that seem to me to be purely right and wrong. The paranoid, prejudiced, trigger-happy population that continues to make headlines have got to be the wrong ones.
p.s. Shout out to Joelle Milman for being so funky and adorable. Shout out to Jesse Ostroff for showing me listserve two years ago!!
p.p.s. if anyone has an internship in NYC for a hardworking, outgoing young woman email me! I also would love emails from anyone who wants to share interesting stories!
p.p.p.s Read Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide JUST DO IT
THANKS SO MUCH LISTSERVE! Never thought this day would come...

Olivia Klatch
New York, NY

Friday, November 22, 2013

Music is the Healing Force of the Universe

Music is life, life is music. The deeply fascinating thing about music is that so many people make it, that so many people feel compelled to create something and to share it with others, rarely expecting much in return. I am in many ways an introvert but with music I feel part of something, part of humanity. I engage with music every day. I go to record stores and learn from people who have been spending their lives exploring the deepest, most unlikely corners of musical creation. I dig through the bins by myself and wonder what I'll find this time and what hidden gems will pass me by, to be found next time or never. I go out at night and dance for hours, hearing songs created days or decades ago, manipulated by selectors shrouded in darkness, who don't need to be seen by a crowd to accomplish what they are there for, in a crowd of bodies in constant movement, energy levels rising and falling, but an atmosphere, a feeling in place that is eternal. There is no hope of leaving when the music is right, no matter the hour. In the words of Pina Bausch, "Dance, dance or else we are lost."

The voice of Ana Karina said, "Il y a qu'à s'interesser aux choses et les trouver belles." Records are things. Marvelling at the time, the effort, the work put into these acts of creation restores my faith in humanity every time I lose it. With music we connect with the past, the present and the future. There is so much humanity in a record, as you read in the liners notes the names of the individuals involved in the process, the vast majority of them long forgotten, living anonymous lives, yet you have in your hands something that they made, a testament to the fact that they existed and had something to share with the world. The wear on the jacket displays the years of use or lack of use, of care or lack of care. Whose was this, and what did it mean to them? Sometimes you find a message from a lover who made it a gift, and you wonder whether they're still in love, whether they're still alive. The scratches, the dust invade the purity of the grooves, visible and audible. As John Peel said, "Life has surface noise." You'll take this record home, play it for a friend, rock it at a party, listen to it naked in bed with your lover, show it to your children when they want to find out who it is that you are, were.

My sole musical recommendation: listen to Gilles Peterson's Worldwide on BBC6 Music. The man continues to dig around the world for beautiful sounds, whether they were made yesterday or made half a century ago. He taught me that genre is irrelevant if you really care about the music. If you want to hear my own selections, the sounds that I think the world should hear, listen to my intercontinental groove station, Minutes of Funk. You'll find it through @jeandreaux.

Shout out to those who create and innovate. Shout out to those who share creations. Shout out to those who try to really listen. Shout out to all people who have visions.

Space is the place.

Jean Dreaux

Thursday, November 21, 2013

some words, handwritten, to go with your morning coffee/ tea

I'm originally from someplace half a world away. Talk to me about writing, food/ traveling recs, advice on 'breaking into the industry', or just about anything under the sun really. Except math.

It took me a really long time to figure out what to write to you. In the end I decided to include a piece from my blog, written after I watched 'A Place At The Table' with my class. I would love to hear your thoughts on this, too.

Much love x

noon, saturday, spring 2013: just watched 'a place at the table' with my class.

we got to talk to barbie, one of the film’s subjects after the movie, and she made me realize: hunger, homelessness, desperation, need- these are all subjective. she's right, each time we mention poverty we think of emaciated children curled up under the relentless african sun, haunting eyes against dark skin, a mother’s fingers fitting perfectly into the contours of her son’s ribs. but hunger is real and hunger is also here, right here, in rundown towns of the midwest and in food insecure belts without delivery of fresh fruit or vegetables. imagine living in a town where the only fruit available is a bunch of bananas on a grimy store countertop. one bunch for a whole town. imagine never knowing the taste of an apple.

and yet here, in new york: we strut out of whole foods glowing with pride. we carry brown paper bags full of organic berries, cage-free eggs, unsweetened milk, greek yogurt; we wear health-consciousness like a blue ribbon on our chest, thinking, we are better than chef boyardee’s, better than special k, jell-o, doritos, coke. and back home in singapore there are people who buy gold-leaf chocolate ladurée macarons for S$7.60 apiece (i never understood the point of this, the gold leaf is tasteless); they shell out for international food festivals, for french brunches and michelin-starred steak houses. this is how the students of today ‘hang out’- at fancy places like this.

and i’m guilty of it, too, i get excited stepping into a cafe with quaint decor, i think nothing of shelling out $3 for a starbucks mocha; i love brunch, pancakes, things that i can make at home i’d pay to eat at a place with fancy lighting and pretty furniture.

i’m sure we all know what are the things we shouldn’t ever take for granted, but we lose sight of them anyway. we’re all guilty of letting the appreciation of simple things fall in and out of the rhythms of our life. just go with the flow, they say. we’re not on the other side and we just have to make sure we never get there. in today’s world its every man for himself.

i know of people who make fun of americans by hiding behind the stereotype/ generalization that all americans are fat and lazy. look at the excess of the west, the east would say, in a tone dripping of self-perceived moral superiority. look at their portions. look at how much they consume, how unhealthily they eat. but as with every story there is an other side.

'a place at the table' tells us that obesity and hunger are closely linked occurrences— some people are overweight simply because the only foods they could ever afford were junk food— chips, cakes, doughnuts etc. in an ideal world mcdonald's would cost as much as whole foods and vice-versa, but the reality is that the cheapest foods are often tv dinners, canned processed foods, fried snacks, crackers. how else, then, do you expect someone on food stamps to bother about nutrition when they're already struggling to just put some food on the table?

knowing this breaks my heart.

i don’t know about you, but i’m thinking that as the world sets its table for each and every meal, it should make sure that there’s a place for everyone at the table.

Wen Yi
New York, NY

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Have you ever seen something you couldn’t explain?

I once rode a Greyhound bus from Kansas to Iowa in a raving snow storm. Semis were flipped in the ditches; visibility was less than a few feet. But our driver must’ve been on something that made all this crazy feel like paradise, because he didn’t waver. I thought I was going to die that night.

I sat next to a bearded Canadian, maybe 30 years my senior. An out of work electrical engineer, “just passing through.” We exchanged few words most of the way, passing the first six hours in near silence, white-knuckling the arm rests. But at some point, maybe we’d both realized that our fate was out of our hands, so why not lighten up, get to know our neighbor? We started up a conversation. I eventually asked him if he had ever seen anything he couldn’t explain.

Just like that, the question slipped out. It’s so personal, I thought, so eerie, and yet he didn’t miss a beat. He told me a story I repeat to this day, 15 years later, like I am right here. He told me that he was camping in Arizona, and as dusk approached, he realized he needed to hurry to find a spot to pitch his tent. He walked into the desert from the road, about a quarter mile, and turned a corner. There, he told me this so matter of factly that I have no doubt he saw this, was a deer, sitting upright, on a rock, legs crossed like a perfect gentleman. I immediately thought of the Gary Larson cartoon where cows are standing on two legs chatting, and a lookout cow shouts out that a car is coming and everyone resume their positions. The Canadian electrical engineer offered nothing more, and little surprise, really. To this day, I ask this question of people from time to time, and I’d love to hear your story.

Please reply with an answer to the question: Have you ever seen anything you couldn’t explain. If I get enough answers, I’m going to build a website as a sort of repository of your stories.


Tuesday, November 19, 2013

If you have the time,

A few recommendations based on time constraints:

If you have 4 minutes, listen to Edward Elgar's Nimrod from the Enigma Variations, or Pink Mountaintops' While We Were Dreaming.
If you have 8 minutes, listen to Rossini's L'italiana in Algeri.

If you have 50 minutes, watch Top Gear (UK); I recommend the 2007 Botswana special first (series 10, episode 4, available on Netflix).
If you have around 80 minutes, watch the Duplass brothers' "Jeff, Who Lives at Home" or Mike Birbiglia's "Sleepwalk with Me," both on Netflix (you can also listen to the latter on Spotify, which is just as great in audio format).

If you have an hour or so, read Antoine de Saint-Exupery's Le Petit Prince.
If you have a day or so, read Chaim Potok's The Chosen.

An easy recipe that's a big hit at work parties for being a somewhat healthy appetizer is veggie rolls:
Chop up 1 med. broccoli crown, 1 med. green or red bell pepper, and 1 cup carrots. Add to 3 oz softened cream cheese, 12 oz ranch dip, and 2 cups shredded cheddar. Spread thinly among 10-ct tortilla wraps and roll tightly, then roll tightly again in saran wrap. Let them chill in the frig for a few hours, remove the saran wrap, and cut into bite-size pieces.

If you try any of the above, let me know what you think. I'd love to hear your music/movie/book suggestions as well - I'm on twitter at @SamAlleman or use the email below.

Thanks for reading.

Sam Alleman
Exton, Pennsylvania

P.S. If you have 30 seconds, check your spam folder. Otherwise, you might miss the email telling you you've won the Listserve lottery. Thanks to the Listserve team for the second chance.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

It doesn't matter

This'll take about 5 minutes to read. So take a moment to stop, if you fancy a wander...

I was with my friend at JFK in New York, waiting to board the plane back to London, having had a holiday for a week.

Getting to the gate, there was a slow shuffle to the desk to board, and we came between a man and the back of the queue.

Pausing to see who would go first, the man said to us, "after you..."

Without missing a beat, as my friend is want to do, he bounced back, "don't worry... It doesn't matter."

All he meant was, it didn't matter whether the man went first, or we did. We were all just about to get on the same plane and sit down for a good number of hours, so really, it didn't matter who went first.

What a thought!

I think it's the Zen nihilist in me that takes satisfaction in a universal state of mind, growing from the simple idea that 'it doesn't matter.'

'It', being everything. Not just the plane or the queue... everything.

Don't take this to mean, that 'it' doesn't mean anything, that things are unimportant. The world means a lot of things, to everyone including me. It just means, it doesn't matter.

I eventually found myself using it as a way to think about dying.

I don't have an issue with dying. I've experienced enough of it to not be scared of it. Well that's not true, I'm scared of pain, loss, suffering... But when I think about what it must feel like to die, or wonder what will happen when I die, and what happens next...I think...

Wait, it doesn't matter.

I came to a conclusion a while back - this is the nub of my email by the way - that instead of thinking of our lives as states where we are alive (now) and one day we will eventually die (then), there is a simpler way of seeing it.

Consider for a moment, that you will always be alive.

In the way that you are alive right now. In this moment.

When we see time as something more than past/present/future, and see it as always 'now', just consider that you will always be alive.

Now consider as well as always being alive, like you are right will always be dead.

You're dead right now. You - in the present now - will one day be in the present, dead.

When is the present? Always.

See it?

Maybe. Maybe not. Try it on for size again.

The state of living and dying exists in the same time: now.

When life and death don't matter, you can just get on with being in the moment. Forever.

If you've ever stood at a big jumping off point - a cliff by the water or a swimming pool board. There is a moment, when you may stand up there, contemplating the jump.

You know you're going to jump. You know how high you are. It gives you butterfly's in the stomach. You are in the moment. Exactly in the moment, alive. Whoa! What a rush.

But that moment - just when you imagine doing it...jumping off...but know you haven't actually moved?

Moving from being right there in the moment, to thinking about what is about to happen next, out of that present-feeling?

That's what we think about dying.

Dying is another experience, it doesn't fit into something we know.

We know we won't hit the water, or feel hitting the water. It's hard to grasp...trying to feel something that is EXACTLY about NOT being able to feel something.

Don't think of dying as jumping into the water from a height, full of anxiety, fear...wonder.

You are already in the water. You've always been in the water.

But you are also standing on the board, on the cliff. And you will always be standing there.

You are doing both, always. Forever.

This isn't a religious, or spiritual message. You may think it doesn't make sense. That's ok. Language is a terrible, clunky thing. You may probably think very differently from me, but then that's the point.

Thanks for reading, I appreciate it.

Treviso, Italy

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Overcoming Anxiety & Panic Attacks

I thought long and hard about what the best use of my Listserve opportunity would be and for me the most rewarding thing would be to know that I've helped somebody. Even if it's just one person it will make it completely worth it. This time last year I overcame probably the biggest hurdle and something that would have seriously impacted my future. From the age of 15 I suffered with panic attacks & anxiety that made even the smallest of things an obstacle. For those of you that don't know what panic attacks are, they essentially occur due to your brain's inability to process information correctly at that particular point in time. They make you feel sick, dizzy and intensely panicky; like your whole body is working against you. What makes them worse is that they are invisible to anybody but the person having them and often come at the worst of times. It is important to remember that they don't necessarily come in high pressure situations, some people get them while riding the tube.

Personally, they made doing anything out of the ordinary a challenge. I didn't know where to seek help and didn't know how to stop feeling the way I did. At my worst I wasn't even sure if I would ever find a way to get rid of them. Now here's where I hopefully help at least one of you start to get over your panic attacks & anxiety. In the Summer of 2012 I experienced a few life events that would change my outlook on everything and change my life. At the start of the summer I met my favourite band and with that my biggest role model. This experience not only taught me that I could push past my anxiety and achieve things I never thought I could, but also that I shouldn't let my mind stop me from experiencing the most amazing things in life. During that summer I volunteered at the London Olympic Games, pushing myself further than I had ever done. During that experience I finally overcame my anxiety when I realised one thing; life is too short to let my mind stop me from experiencing all the amazing things the world has to offer. If you are sitting reading this and you are somebody who believes that you'll never be able to overcome your anxiety you just need to keep a few things in mind every day. You can ALWAYS take time and relax whenever you're in a situation you believe to be difficult. You are in complete control of yourself and nobody is going to think bad of you for wanting a few minutes of time. Always remember that what you experience can be overcome and it's far simpler than you think, it just takes a change in your perception of things. Remember that worry is a complete waste of energy, it doesn't produce anything. Finally, don't ever let your mind stop you from having a good time. Realise that life is short and you should take every opportunity as it's these experiences that you will always look back on. I'm 21 next Saturday, in my third year of my degree, have seen the most incredible things and have some amazing opportunities ahead of me. I'm proud to say that my life is good. I am happy.

Please feel free to email me or send me a message on twitter @jamiemaison anytime and i'll do my best to help, even if you just want to find out more about my experiences.

Thanks for reading,

Jamie Maison
London, UK

Friday, November 15, 2013

I Do Not Have A Subject Line, Sorry

I think that when you take part in something like the Listserve Lottery, you don't really fear never winning. So what if you don't win, that's just the way of things. What really is frightening, perhaps, is the idea of winning and then never noticing. Having an opportunity presented to you that you missed and let pass on by. I almost missed the email that said I won, and now I'm a bit short for time. I'm no genius and I don't do anything spectacular, so I'm just going to spout out interesting thoughts on various things that I have thought about. I invite you to add your insight or disagree harshly.

Groups, especially who share common ideas, are probably one of the worst things in the world. If you want horrible things to happen, just get a bunch of like-minded people in one place. People say that they are opposed to organized religion, and I'm not going to say that that's wrong, but if you are you should probably also be opposed to activist groups, and even civilization itself. The number of people who have died due to nationalism or mob violence is absurd.

If you take a point on a line at 0, and say that it will go either left or right randomly for each cycle, it follows Pascal's Triangle as far as probability is concerned. This may have implications in Plinko.

Confirmation bias a(e?)ffects everyone. It probably will impact you personally in the next hour. See if you can catch yourself. Open mindedness is excellent and difficult.

You are probably not limited in intelligence or attractiveness. Both of these are very mutable, and we are conditioned to think otherwise.

GK Chesterton was a genius. If you've not heard of him, look him up.

Don't forget that you are fallible. You've probably made a few mistakes today already. Regret is seen as depressive in our society, but I've found that I can extricate myself from it when I consider what I could change about myself to avoid making similar mistakes. Mayhaps it is intended to be constructive.

Don't draw conclusions from any correlative study. Especially about cancer. Correlations are feelers for science, not data.

Discovering new things is still very possible, no matter how much you think science knows. We don't really understand simple things like sleep, and the lithium batteries in your laptop. Math too. The Collatz conjecture is really worth thinking about for some of your time.

Do things that are new, even if you hate them initially. Try messing with programming or math for a little while, see if you can solve some sort of a puzzle. Do something that society is opposed to- learn to pick locks or crack into computers. A dull life breeds dull people.

I'd like to know if I'm alone in feeling empathetically at a higher intensity than I feel internally. Tell me if you are like me in this way.

It is great to take irresponsible risks on your own time, when nobody will hold you responsible. Probably you should take only calculated risks otherwise.

Remember that people are entitled to their opinions, and they are not stupid if they disagree with you, especially on subjective matters.

I don't think companies should have opinions. Even if everyone at Google is pro or anti-gay marriage, they oughtn't publicize themselves as such. It's an abuse of power.

"If you assume, you make an a** of u and me." Shut up. This is incredibly untrue.

Please disagree with me, or extend my thoughts. Thank you!

Sam Casavant

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Don't get married

I'm against gay marriage. I'm also a lesbian.

Basically, I think getting married is a pretty silly thing to do, whether you're gay or straight. Historically speaking, marriage was a contract designed to pass ownership of a woman on from her father to her new husband (hence, her name changes from her father's to her husband's). But, if that isn't enough to put you off, there are plenty of other reasons not to get married.

For example, in most Western countries, social security rights are determined according to a 'breadwinner' system, where one member of the family is considered to be the 'head' and the others are awarded their rights according to their relationship to him. I say 'him' because, historically, only men have been considered capable of being breadwinners, this despite the fact that plenty of women are currently and always have been the sole or primary providers for their families. The extent to which this model applies varies somewhat according to where you live (e.g., it's pretty strongly applied in Britain and pretty weakly applied in some Scandinavian countries; here in France it's somewhere in between, but even in non-European countries with different histories of social security like Australia and the US you can usually find some version of the same story), but it's always there and it creates a whole heap of problems.

Marriage encourages people to be dependent on another, economically speaking: in short, for women to be dependent on a man. But what about divorce? Divorce rates have been increasing in the Western world for decades now (in the EU, for example, there's almost one divorce for every two marriages), and study after study has found that divorce makes women more vulnerable. This is often because women are almost always granted custody of children following the breakup of a relationship, and sole parenthood is really, really hard. It's also harder for women to be sole parents than for men, because they face much more discrimination, economic and otherwise. And there are plenty of other reasons too, but I've only got 600 words...

When marriage along these lines is applied to homosexuals, similar things start to happen: the partner with the lower economic power is made reliant on the partner with higher economic power, and then they get vulnerable, and if the relationship breaks up they're up shit creek without a paddle, if you'll excuse my turn of phrase. I don't understand why progressive homosexual people would want to put themselves and our community in that position. If anything, we should be fighting for the rights of ourselves and our heterosexual friends not to have to marry. We should be fighting for the benefits of marriage, such as tax breaks, couples' pensions, and so on, to be available without having to place one member of the partnership in a position of vulnerability.

So there are some good reasons not to get married, at least if you're a woman. If you're a man, it's probably a pretty good idea to get married, in that married (and even divorced) men tend to be better off financially than unmarried men do, but if you care at all about the person you're marrying, then you probably shouldn't.

There are plenty of other ways to celebrate your love for your partner: throw a huge party, have some kind of ceremony in a church if that's your thing, eat cake, go on holiday. All these things - the most enjoyable and, I think, most important aspects of getting married - can still happen without an actual marriage. Go for it!

Paris, France

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

I Gave My Kidney to a Stranger

He was taller than me, a big guy – almost twice my size. He used to play semi-pro football before his kidney failed. He was charming, outspoken, the kind of guy that everyone in the neighborhood knows. He had the same initials as me.

I didn’t meet him until about three months after he’d been given my kidney. When I gave, I knew only that he was a “youngish male.” He’d been on dialysis for years; he told me that when the transplant coordinator called to tell him they’d found a match, he dropped the phone in disbelief. He never thought he’d get a second chance.

Why did I donate my kidney to someone I didn’t know? I’m a pretty nerdy guy, so in some ways, the answer is just that I read some articles and decided the benefits outweighed the costs: on one side of the ledger, laparoscopic surgery, a couple nights in the hospital, some weeks of recovery, minimal or nonexistent long-term health consequences; on the other, the near-certainty that I’d add decades to someone’s life, that I’d save them from brutal years on dialysis, save their family from the funeral of someone who died too young. It was the latter set of arguments that I could hear most clearly.

Another answer might be just that I wanted to do something extraordinary. I’ve been very lucky in life: I wanted to give something back. I’m no hero, truly no better than anyone else, but I wanted the chance to be heroic, at least once. This was my personal Mt. Everest. It was a way to put my mark on the world, to know that I had achieved something extraordinary.

If you’re reading this and are in decent health, you too could save someone’s life. Not just one person, in fact, but several: each year in the U.S. alone, three thousand patients have willing but incompatible kidney donors. One altruistic donor can trigger a domino effect of several more donations that wouldn’t otherwise happen. Typically these chains are five to eight pairs deep, but sometimes as many as thirty-six life-saving transplants can result from just one altruistic donor. I work for an organization, the Alliance for Paired Donation, who puts together these chains.

There are many reasons not to donate. It’s painful; your family probably won’t like it; there’s always a chance, however remote, that something goes wrong. But it won’t make you more likely to have kidney failure in the future, won’t decrease your life expectancy, and won’t be as uncommon a choice as you would think. Every year, hundreds of people each donate their kidney to a stranger, and more people will donate this year than last year, last year than the year before that. In the U.S. since 2001, altruistic kidney donation has increased almost fivefold. Moreover, organizations like the National Living Donor Assistance Center exist to make sure that no one is prevented from donating due to financial reasons.

Ultimately, whoever you are, whatever you do or have done, you personally have the chance to do something heroic, something that helps shape the meaning of your life by giving a gift of incalculable value.

Please email me at the address below if you have any interest in learning more about kidney donation. It’s not for everyone, but I hope that, for many of the people reading this, it’ll be a choice they’ll be proud to tell their grandkids about someday. I know that, speaking personally, it was the best decision I ever made.


Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Help me teach?

Dear Listervians!
I am a 26-year-old teacher who lives in Haarlem and works in Amsterdam. I teach children from the age of 4 to 6. Children in this age group learn best by playing so that is what I’m helping them with. I can use your help as well, please read on!
In my class we work with projects for about 6 to 7 weeks, we’ve had projects like the circus, the castle or the airplane. To start a project I always ask the kids what they would need to play, so I help them build, (life-size when you’re 4-6 year) airplanes, hospitals or the witch’s shack. You should see what we can do with glue and some cardboard!
The children will then start to play, being the customs officer, doctor or any character that is suitable for the project. By playing inside the restaurant or the castle children develop their social skills but that is only the beginning.
For the children the playing is very real and they take it quite serious, together we come up with ideas of what we need. We make passports, spell books, cookies or anything that comes to mind. Of course to do this the children will have to write, read, draw, measure or count, in other words, learn! On the other hand it is only just a ‘game’ so children won’t feel pressured or anxious to fail, they just need something to enhance their play and while playing there are no mistakes! Because you can’t make mistakes while playing all children can learn at their own level, some children really want to know how to write or do something while other just pretend to do so.
Our current project is the mail, and for this we could use your help. In my class we have a stuffed bear and his name is Flip. Flip’s parents are currently traveling the world so for the time being Flip is in the capable hands of the children in my class. They play with him, help him and some actually see Flip as a real classmate. Flip goes home every weekend with a child. Flip has a little book and camera and parents can help their child to write down what adventures they had during the weekend. On Monday we read Flip’s diary. By doing so the children will get to know each other better, have a chance to show something from their home and have a little peak inside the lives of the others.
As I mentioned before, Flips parents are traveling the world. That’s where you come in. It would be great if we could get postcards from all over the world sent by you/Flip’s Parents. Would you please send us something? A postcard, letter or anything else you can imagine would be great!
It would be absolutely amazing if we would receive even just a few letters. Please write on the card where it is from so we can see where Flip’s parents are! Flips parents are called Ben & Sara. If you want to know how Flip looks you can Google ‘Flip de beer’ and you will find him.

You can send your mail to:
OBS Rosa Boekdrukker
Groep 1/2A
Vancouverstraat 3/5
1056 DT Amsterdam
The Netherlands

Many thanks,

Werner Tillema
Haarlem - The Netherlands
If you have any questions or just want to talk, send me a mail @ watillema[AT]

Monday, November 11, 2013

An Awkward Life

I’m still not sure what the title of my (auto)biography is going to be, but the subtitle will most certainly be An Awkward Life. Perhaps I’m starring on a reality TV show and don’t know it yet, but I find myself in a fair number of truly awkward and comical situations. I’m not sure if it’s my penchant for saying the first thing that comes to mind or just some karmatic effect from a previous life, but regardless, I’ve got a lot of good fodder for my future stand-up comedy routine.

My most recent I’m-pretty-sure-the-Universe-is-laughing-at-me moment happened last month when I was en route to what was most certainly going to be a break-up conversation. I was getting out of my car to meet my then boyfriend when I heard the distinct sound of fabric tearing. I looked down to see a hole in the crotch of my pants. The timing couldn’t have been worse, but it did give me a few minutes to laugh at myself before a truly unpleasant conversations. These things happen to me more often than I can count, but I have come to enjoy and embrace the comedic relief it brings to otherwise dull or unpleasant situations.. When I came out to my mom over dinner, she thought I was playing a practical joke for a while. Trying to prove that it wasn’t a joke proved pretty uncomfortable.

I could fill the rest of this e-mail with some of my favorite stories, but I’ll try and keep it brief. I’d love to hear from you guys on a host of things. I’m a total and complete news junkie who is obsessed with politics and public policy. So, a few things I’d like to hear from you about:

1) My favorite book at the moment is Nudge by Cass Sunstein. The book basically discusses choice architecture and how we can build a smarter planet to make up for the fact that we humans often make decisions that aren’t in our best long-term interests (think saving for retirement, eating healthy foods, climate change, etc.) If you’ve read Nudge or have an interest or experience in designing better systems of any kind, I’d love to hear about your work.

2) What are your awkward and comical stories?

3) I’m interested in how people work, particularly GTD and organizational strategies. Feel free to share some good advice/tips in this arena. I’ll also accept any life advice you’d like to give in general.

4) I work in fundraising/development, focused primarily in politics and the non-profit world. If you work in these fields, I’d love to connect.

5) Finally, if you know any single and awesome gay guys in the DC-area, I love awkward first dates. They make for the best stories.

Thanks for reading, y’all!

Washington, D.C.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Scraped off the bottom of my brain

When I got the email regarding the listserve lottery, my wife and I were out to dinner. I asked her opinion what to share. I had no idea what to write and I’m not entirely sure that I’m closer a day later. Lately my camera has been a more effective means of communication.

She mentioned a few topics:
Several involved Stephen King and his works/influence on everything. She’s a very big fan, but I am not.
Then she mentioned I should write about the genius of John Carpenter, though I think Jason Zinoman’s Shock Value does it better than I can. Additionally, Jonathan Lethem wrote the definitive book on They Live.
She did bring up a great question to consider: Why is it that while gay rights are making so many strides in such a short amount of time, the rights of women are being attacked and rolled back at a frightening pace?

I had the thought that some of the best writing is both personal and succinct. One personal topic I considered was my family’s immigration story but it’s just a variation on a theme. I will say that its given me empathy for anyone who comes to this country to start a new life (whether they are here legally or illegally).

Instead, I’ll briefly discuss my experience with Crohn’s disease. I was diagnosed with Crohn’s a little over three years ago after about ten days of not being able to eat. Essentially I would be hungry, but my body wouldn’t let me chew. I’d wake up in the middle of the night and need to take a handful of tylenol and antacids just to get back to sleep for an hour. I had to map out where every bathroom in the world was and prayed they were clean. All of this, out of the blue.

I’m lucky. I’ve been able to beat the disease back into remission, but it has given me this sense that I’m always on borrowed time until it comes back. The little bastard is always in the back of my head. A very personal reminder of my own mortality and what is really important.

Sometimes a high quality of life (whatever that means to you) is more significant than making a splash. I have no interest in disrupting the world at 41. Unlike twenty years ago, I don’t have anything important to say or write. No grand ideas. I’ve discovered what’s important: time with my son, a small collection of lifelong friends I can count on one hand, a beautiful and loving wife that I count among those friends, health insurance, a good book, a good meal, seeing new places. I’ve discovered yoga and think, despite my best efforts, it’s changing my life and who I am for the better.

Take from that what you will…

Some recommendations:
Stretch - Neal Pollack
Anything by George Saunders
Trouble - Patrick Somerville
A Gate at the Stairs - Lorrie Moore
The Coldest Night - Robert Olmstead

Idle No More - King Khan
Another Self Portrait - Bob Dylan
Elvis Club - The Del Lords
Kathleen Edwards’ entire catalog

A final thought, we’re asked not to include hate speech here (and in many other places on the internet). Instead of preventing it, I suggest everyone allow it. When it’s driven into secret corners of the internet it can flourish and grow strong on its paranoia. Hate speech cannot survive when held up to the light of day. Expose it for the cowardice that it is by letting everyone see it and mock it.

Martin Molloy
Hillsborough, NC

Saturday, November 9, 2013

How Kubb Brought Me Back To Life

In the summer of 2011, my third child had just turned a year old. I was just beginning to feel reconnected with the world. My business was having one of its best years, in no small part to my part-time assistant. Yet, despite the optimistic signs all around me – I was working as if the world would end tomorrow. Projects I wanted to forget for clients I wanted to ignore. My regular exercise routine was pacing between my monitor and the coffee pot. I wouldn’t leave my house for days at a time. My temper was getting short. I would explode at the slightest inconvenience. I was making my life and my young family’s life worse. Not better. I didn’t know how to stop.

In early August, two of my favorite people visited from half the world away and set up this block game in my suburban backyard. A simple game of 11 square wooden blocks and 6 wooden sticks. They were a little unsure of the rules – though they knew that 5 of the wooden blocks were placed on opposing sides, the larger king – placed in middle, and each side took turns throwing the sticks at the opposing sides blocks. The other parts of game play weren’t as clear. It didn’t matter, we played game after game after game for was seemed like hours.

Kubb – they called it.

A few weeks later I purchased my first kubb. Then in the middle of a mild, Minnesota winter, I invited a bunch of friends over to play for my 37th birthday. We joked about taking this silly wooden game seriously. We joked about playing competitively.

I pulled together two friends and entered The Loppet Foundation's winter kubb tournament. Outside. In February. In Minnesota. Walking into the tournament I remember saying to Jim, “there’s this one part of the rules I don’t quite understand.” He shrugged and we waited for our first game.

That first game lasted no more than 5 minutes. Same as the second. In those 2 short games – Jim, Jamie and I got a faint whiff of the game's bowling-esque short game and intense strategy. We applied our learnings as quickly and clawed our way into the Championship bracket.

After that tournament, when I had a hard problem on a client project – I’d step outside and throw some wood. Sometimes I’d play against myself, other times I’d practice some aspect of the game. A clear, focused mind brought a hit every time. Any other single thought guaranteed a miss. It felt like hours melted away. Yet the clock would say only 30 minutes. Sometimes 45. Always refreshing.

I slept better. I stopped drinking 2 pounds of coffee a week. My inlaws commented on how much color was in my complexion.

I thought my team was ready for the U.S. National Championship. We weren’t. We couldn’t hit anything. But we could hold on. If we didn’t lose immediately, we could hold on for a hour. A slow, painful slog only relieved by the tournament organizer calling time. Again we clawed our way into the Championship bracket. Again we lost immediately. Two long days in the heat of the Midwestern sun. Playing kubb. Nothing better.

Kubb is a simple game. No technology, no Internet, no Inbox. Just friends and family throwing wood across the lawn. A simple game that brought back to life.

Garrick van Buren
Minneapolis, MN

Friday, November 8, 2013

Drink Your Orange Juice

A Giraffe can't lose
Have to go buy staplers
You're Standing on it

Quinlan Pfiffer
Portland, Oregon, USA

Thursday, November 7, 2013

ListServe Love poem

My blog is mainly religious poetry but here is my favorite love poem that I composed:


Like Hemingway drank his scotch,
Like dogs who want to sniff your crotch.
Like a mother who loves her babies,
Like when the doctor told you didn’t have rabies.
Like I only can love you.
Like kids wasting the day on their Playstation Three,
Like when you say “There’s nothing good on TV.”
Like America loves its guns,
Like when we watch Law & Order reruns.
Like I only can love you.

Like Hillary still needs her Bill,
Like when you cried from that waxing from Brazil.
Like evangelicals love Tim Tebow,
Like when we dreamed we’d go to the carnival in Rio.
Like I only can love you.
Like I only can love you.

Peace from the beach,
St Pete FL USA

The Canadian version of Breaking Bad is kind of lame. It ends after he gets cancer and his treatment is totally paid for by the government.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Hi all, In what I think is a Humankind Tradition, I raced...

Hi all,

In what I think is a Humankind Tradition, I raced to get this over to listserv, this despite the rush I got from getting the lottery email that made my heart race and put a smile on my face. The problem you see is recurrent, the natural flow of a busy life gets in the way of sudden opportunities, or small things and small gestures in a very quick mental calculation that guesstimates the amount of work needed for the amount of accomplishment and because inertia operates outside the physical world, sometimes going with what you have is the most likely outcome.

Now, I have mixed feelings about this, and I’ve had mixed reactions as well, mid through university - Computer Engineering - I realised I wasn’t really having the time or my life, and most importantly, I wasn’t accomplishing much, so in the course of a few months I made the decision to quit, during that process I started my own company and I went from there. A few years later, things were ok, we had a central office in Lisbon a small but very good team and the river was flowing, but a business opportunity came and we went for it, we nearly doubled the team size, we put a lot of money upfront to make sure the project would succeed, come 9 months and a baby boy later and the project failed, miserably at that, and I had some of the worst months of my life, between managing a snow ball of debts, managing family and close friends who had helped or had stakes in the business and everything around that.

At that point I decided that I would fix this The Right Way (tm) and got a job - while keeping the company open - with one of the best IT companies you could work for in Portugal. For a few years I laboured and split the money between myself and my growing family and the debts that I set off to payoff, and fell back in the flow. Come three years and another baby boy :) and amongst the usually linkedin avalanche of generic recruiter emails, one caught my eye and it pointed to Dublin Ireland. For two months we created spreadsheets, we made plans, scenarios, we looked at maps and cost of living and finally we rationalised a decision we had already made, and the four of us got on a plane and flew over to Ireland - a country we had very little knowledge about.

A year has gone, my two baby boys have grown and learned a second language in a way grownups can only be jealous about and here I am now, on The Summit conference making a decision on whether or not to follow up on an opportunity, an opportunity to reach a group of people who are open to reading what unknown humans decide to put out of their brains and I still have a conflict, I still have a hard time investing in something new and I still procrastinate in front of the computer instead of simply writing things down and assume the risk of failing and I still don’t have an answer or a system to do these things, but then again, I look back, and through pain and joy, I realize I made decisions that aren’t compatible with procrastination or sticking to what you know, and I don’t think I can rationalise that very well :)

Anyway, I don’t think I can make a deep introspection here or give any generic advise that would be helpful to anyone except that yes, as we all know, risk is part of human nature - as is rationalising - but consider at least that taking risks is what you do with the future and rationalising is something you do with the past, and with that in mind, don’t mix the two too tightly, you really don’t know what’s going to happen :)

Thank you all, I hope I managed to make some sense amongst the sudden introspection I DIDN’T set out to do :)

Cheers, love to all

David Ramalho
Dublin, Ireland

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

For The Story

I'm a student at the University of Texas. I won the Listserve lottery with two midterms in the next 48 hours. I've never really thought about what i'd say to thousands of people at once, so I'll just give you some advice I live by. Just do it for the story.

If an opportunity arises where that voice in your head says "I don't know, that sounds _____", just do it. You may get in trouble, or some other negative things may happen, or the universe will go along with it and allow you to have some fun. Either way, the story will be worth it. Nobody remembers the nights they got a lot of sleep. I've had some of the best times of my life by doing it for the story.

Keeping it short and simple. For now, i'm going against my advice to stay in and study. Moderation y'all.

Good Luck,

Austin, TX

Monday, November 4, 2013

An Eye for an Eye

A few months ago my boyfriend, Alexander, pulled a fairly elaborate prank and convinced me I had won The Listserve lottery. I wrote a satirical piece on the superfluous things in this world that I love and hate. After submitting my masterpiece I eagerly waited for its distribution to the masses. A few hours after my submission I received an email from what I presumed to be The Listserve indicating that my piece needed some editing. The email referred me to an attachment with suggested revisions. A bit confused by the situation, I opened the attachment to find a presentation documenting each step of the hoax with colorful commentary provided by my boyfriend.

On Monday, I received yet another email claiming I had won The Listserve lottery. I immediately assumed this was another, albeit uncreative, attempt by Alexander to prank me yet again. However, after an email exchange with one of The Listserve's co-founders I was able to confirm its authenticity. This time it was the real deal! My initial thought was to submit the love / hate piece I wrote as victim to the aforementioned prank. But then, it hit me, this was my chance at retribution! The interweb gods were giving me a chance to do unto my boyfriend as he had done unto me.

So, fellow Listservians, I humbly request your help in assisting me in paying it forward to my lovely boyfriend. I ask that you send him an email at renzi.alexander[AT] with the content of your choosing – the more obnoxious the better, but a blank email will also suffice – and title it “It is what it is”.

For those of you interested in what I originally intended to submit, I’ve provided an abridged version below. Please feel free to email me for the full length. For those interested in seeing the presentation that set the wheels in motion for this post, send me an email as well.

** Things I Love and Hate (Abridged Version)**

1. Gelato (love) – For a period of time I was taking down two to three cones per week and would occasionally indulge in a full pint. I’ve come to realize my love for the cold, creamy goodness has entered an unhealthy territory. The solution – to open up my own gelateria and fully embrace the obsession.

2. Pandas (love) – Pandas are amazing because they’re (i) ethnically diverse, (ii) peaceful, bamboo-eating vegetarians and (iii) have a level of dexterity comparable to humans. I also own far too many panda-related articles of clothing (hats, sweaters, tanks, etc.), which is irrelevant to why pandas are awesome, but completely relevant as to why I am.

3. 2Chainz (love) – 2Chainz is not a rapper, but rather a poet that speaks eloquently against a high tempo backdrop. The only rapper even comparable to 2Chainz would be Gucci Mane, not for his ability to create thought-provoking rhymes, but because he has a tattoo of an ice cream cone plastered on the side of his face (I’ve already established why that would merit high praise in my book).

4. Skele-Toe Sneakers (hate) – Feet are ugly enough on their own, so why wear shoes to further accentuate the ugliness of this appendage. I’m convinced that anyone who owns these sneakers has no friends or family, no strong desire to procreate and lacks any semblance of respect for themselves or other humans.

5. Oysters (hate) – I’ve eaten enough oysters to know that anyone who says they like them is probably lying and should not be trusted. They have a gross, gelatin-like consistency and taste like a hybrid of saltwater and earwax.

Deva Niaz
New York, NY

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Congratulations With Your Birthday

It was fun to get the winning email with my 30th birthday next week. My gift to myself was to lose 30 lbs, which wasn't easy. It was however possible, and I don't know why I didn't discover that until now.

I read somewhere that your twenties are about figuring out what you want, and your thirties about working hard to get it. If I had truly believed in the importance of sustained, focused effort earlier in life I would have disagreed with this. I would have spent less time thinking about the person I would like to be, and more time doing the things that he would do. It doesn't count if it stays inside; see also faith vs. works.

Things I can't resist saying to 25k people:

* I asked the most creative person I know what I should write, and she said to tell people not only are there repercussions for being a douche, but for not being a douche, and to tread carefully.

* If you can get over the quirkiness, mewithoutYou's 2009 album may resonate with you as much as it does with me. It's all crazy, it's all false, it's all a dream, it's alright.

* I just re-read my favorite book, The Broad Highway. At this point I've read it so many times that I don't even know if it's truly a good book, just that my dad shared it with me as a young man so I like it. Best selling fiction book of 1911. Check it out.

* I'd love to hear from you how your culture and language celebrate birthdays. I'm American, but living in Holland I expect to hear a lot of "gefeliciteerd met je verjaardag", literally "congratulations with your birthday". We'll likely be sitting in a circle eating cake and drinking strong coffee.

* What is one thing I should do/see/visit/eat while I'm in Europe?

* What have you accomplished that you didn't think was possible?

The Netherlands / USA

Saturday, November 2, 2013


1. This is my oldest sister’s favorite joke. Elena, you wonderfully silly adult-person, this is for you:

“A man is driving his car down a long gravel road. Suddenly, a wide-eyed hare jumps out from behind a bush and our driver is unable to stop before flattening the poor little guy. Distressed, the man begins to cry. A car pulls up behind him and a beautiful woman steps out, pulls a spray can form her purse without a word and sprays the hare from head to toe.The man watches in awe as the hare jumps to it’s feet, hops a short distance from the car and turns back to wave goodbye. It continues hopping, stopping, turning and waving until it disappears into the distance. The man asks, “What on Earth did you spray him with?” and the blonde, reading from the can’s label replies, “Salon Hair Spray; brings life back to dead hairs. Adds bounce and permanent wave instantly!”

2. Talking point: Despite being a lazy, barely-semi-bilingual Canadian who sometimes even struggles with her native English, I think the whole idea of language is pretty neat. I am particularly interested by the way that different languages have words and concepts that we just can’t quite capture in our English lexicon. For instance, in French “Tu me manques” translates loosely to “I miss you” but more literally to “You are missing to me”. To me that gives the impression that the people you love, whom you miss, are essential components of who you are or who you have become. Sweet, no? All in all I’m truly lucky to feel that way about my goofy friends and my big, hilarious family.

That being said, here’s my question for you lovely, diverse worldwide Listservers. You know that feeling when you’re about to finish a particular thought and suddenly someone else, a friend or a stranger, finishes your sentence better than you possibly could have? It’s sort of a neat and momentary connection with another human being. Do you have a word for that in your language?

3. Hi guys! Isn’t this neat. I hope you all are having a nice day. Maybe the sun is shining where you are, or your sandwich is particularly tasty. All I know is, your hair looks great the way you did it today. On this end, I’m a 21-year-old student living and playing in beautiful Vancouver, BC.
Likes; peanut butter and jam pancakes, Calvin and Hobbes comic books, big happy dogs, travels, all of the outdoors everywhere, this band called The National, strangers who smile at you.
Dislikes; the sound of other people chewing. Honestly that might be it.

I sometimes wonder where grown-ups are supposed to make other grown-up friends. At the bar? On the street? I’m not entirely sure. It sure seemed easier when all our moms just organized the playdates for us. Well, I’d sure love to hear from whoever of you has a moment to write back. I’ve always wanted a pen pal, and from what I’ve read you all seem terribly interesting.


Riley Bushell
Vancouver, BC, Canada