Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Happy New Year!

I know it's not quite the new year yet (depending on when this email goes out), but I want to wish you all a Happy New Year! I enjoy the new year, and like many, use it as a time to review the past years accomplishments/failures and to look forward to what may occur in the new year. This past year, the big news for us was the birth of our sixth child. We hadn't exactly planned on having six kids, but she's been a great addition to our family, and certainly keeps us busy.

For the upcoming year, one of my goals is to complete another mobile educational game for kids. I completed a simple math game a few years back and it was a ton of fun to develop. In addition to doing the design and programming, I also tried my hand at the music and art for the game. That turned out to be one of the hardest parts of the game to complete. I think it came out ok, but could be way better. If you want to check it out, look for Balloon Blast Math in the app store. It's amazing how important good art and music is to truly bring a game together. This is where I ask the Listserve community for help.
I would like to hear from all the educators, musicians and artists out there. What would you do to make an educational game better?

For the educators:
How do you see mobile games helping kids learn the basics of reading, writing, arithmetic, science and music? From what you've played or seen kids play in the past, what works well and what doesn't? Have you ever had any ideas, but don't know where to start?

For the musicians:
What are some great basics skills that all young musicians must learn that could be put into a game? For other types of games, would any of you ever like to be involved in the creation process or create music for a game?

For the artists:
I need help! I can pull off some programmer art, but anything beyond that looks pretty bad. I'd love some help! Have you ever wanted to contribute art of graphic design to a game?

Anyway, if you have any suggestions or are interested in helping out, send me an email. Otherwise, have a great new year!

Spokane, Washington

Monday, December 30, 2013

Long Goodbyes

I lost my mother to brain cancer in March 2010. Glioblastoma multiforme, a hyper-aggressive menace. Surgery, radiation, and a litany of intimidatingly-named drugs granted her three years, twice the median. But of course, it wasn't enough. It could never be enough. The disease and its remedies slowed her speech, first transposing words, then substituting the wrong ones, then silencing her altogether. For someone who had always been articulate and quick-witted, it must have been maddening. I certainly felt helpless every step of the way, watching the inexorable decline, hoping in the last days that somehow we could have just one more conversation, that the morphine drip and the pain it suppressed would abate long enough for one more "I love you" to make it through.

It never did.

The pain of loss may vary in intensity but it never goes away. I take some occasional comfort in one of the themes of Douglas Hofstadter's book "I Am a Strange Loop": those who are close to us make little copies of us in their minds. It's what allows us to say, "I know how So-and-so would feel about this." And so to the extent that she bore me and raised me and I now carry her memory, she's still with me.

I got engaged at the age of 25 to my college sweetheart. We had dated spasmodically between 2006 and 2009, then she joined the Air Force Reserve and went off to med school. In 2010, I was working my first job in Atlanta, and we reconnected and entered a long-term relationship. I had my misgivings about the whole thing: I had a penchant for cheating and we fought frequently (about everything, even how to load the dishwasher). I loved her as a person and a friend, but I wasn't committed enough to love her as a life-long partner. I'm still not sure I have that capacity. We were engaged on New Year's Day 2011 and moved in together the following summer. As much as I might have wished for things to get better, they (surprise!) stayed exactly the same as they had been during our previous dating. Eighteen months in, I was clinically depressed, very nearly an alcoholic, and having fantasies about me or her being involved in a fatal accident just for the escape it would provide.

As a passive individual, it's hard to me to make significant decisions that will cause a lot of pain without immediate upside. I agonized over the choice for almost a year realizing that if I left, I'd be giving up my place to live. More importantly I’d be forsaking the person who loved me and knew me best. Despite our difficulties, when we were good together, we were great together, which made it that much harder to leave. But I couldn't stay, because I couldn't be the person she needed, and our professional trajectories were diverging quickly as it came time for her to enter her Air Force residency.

So a year ago this week I walked away. In hindsight it was the hardest and best thing I've ever done for myself.

When I was 19 years old I became an atheist. I could tell you the story, but I'm short on words and vitriol is boring (feel free to reply for the extended cut). Be as gracious and giving and kind as you can, and strive to repair what you will inevitably break.

I've tried to share here without being didactic, because the lessons taught by pain, loss, and grief do not generalize. If you would like to share your stories with me, I will read and reply to every message I receive. Thank you for reading.

Warren M.
San Francisco, CA

Sunday, December 29, 2013

I got an email from The Listserve with the subject “It’s your turn.”

For those in a rush, I offer just this quote: “If you’re really listening, if you’re awake to the poignant beauty of the world, your heart breaks regularly. In fact, your heart is made to break; its purpose is to burst open again and again so that it can hold evermore wonders.” – Andrew Harvey

As an almost-20 year old, I feel like it isn't my place to offer others advice. (Except, maybe, to someone under 20 years old, in which case, two things: First, take education very seriously, not because it will make you wealthy or prominent, but because it will immensely enrich your life. Second, it is very hard to avoid becoming very much like one or both of your parents when you grow up. This isn't a piece of advice but rather an observation.)

Anyways, I was recently thinking about getting a tattoo of the phrase, "This too shall pass," in Hebrew. (I recommend reading the Wikipedia page about this phrase, as it provides some intriguing insight and history.) My best friend texted me some advice, which included the following sentence: "I think you are the type of person who can tell others what in your life has meaning without it being on your body." It was incredibly thought-provoking, and I realized she was right.

I suppose this is my chance to do so, seeing as this email is all I have to show you all what in my life has meaning. Because I don’t think I should be offering advice, and because my best friend’s words have had such a profound effect on me, I hope it won't be too conceited or boring to mention what has made my life good: staying perpetually curious and fascinated.

I have learned as much from an astronomy course taught by Alex Filippenko (Google him!) as I have from a class on English literature from 1300-1650, or from my 13-month-old niece’s laughter, or from travelling all over Europe, or from reading Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s Wikipedia page. I think it is nice to be reminded that our lives and our selves are very teeny tiny parts of the vast world (not to mention the universe!). There’s a lot to see, hear, read, and encounter out there; some of it might be momentarily interesting and then get lost somewhere in the depths of your memory, and some of it might be so incredibly powerful and overwhelming that it will stay with you forever. Here are a few things that have fallen in the latter category for me, and I hope they will for you, as well: J.D. Salinger’s Franny and Zooey, Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God, Death Cab for Cutie’s “St. Peter’s Cathedral,” the word “ephemeral,” and the city of Berkeley, California.

(If you’re a fellow UC Berkeley student, and you’ve read this far, let’s be friends! “Sometimes life is merely a matter of coffee and whatever intimacy a cup of coffee affords.” - Richard Brautigan)

There are three things I would like to do before my time here (in this world, not in this email) is up: be a loving and happy wife and mother (and grandmother and great-grandmother…), write something (be it an essay, a poem, a bunch of poems, a short story, a bunch of short stories, or a novel) (or a mix of all of those) that stirs people’s souls, and get appointed to the United States Supreme Court (it’s a pipe dream, but that’s okay).

In the mean time, I still have a lot to learn. You’re welcome to teach me.

Leah R.
Berkeley, California

Saturday, December 28, 2013

What do I do?


I need a lot of help. It would be nice if you would take a moment to share your wisdom with me. I have some questions:

How did you figure out your gender/sexuality? Did it just come to you? Did you just kind of assume it and it felt natural to you? What was “society” and its norms’ affect on it? Do you think it is “wired” in your DNA or the way you were raised?

For those of you who are enjoying life, HOW DO I DO THAT? What did you do to get there??

For those of you who have done the higher education thing, WHAT DO I DO?

What do you think about the education system? (Google Finland’s education system for perspective.)


Do you have any good jokes? I really love puns.


I haven’t lived a lot of my life, but I don’t think I’m going to enjoy living the rest of it.
In a first-world society like ours, one popular fear is ending up on Skid Row, homeless, alone, and with no support. If you ask others their biggest fears are, it’ll be things like “public speaking” or “spiders.”

If you ask me, I fear living the 9 to 5 life—10 years down the road, I might be working some boring office job, focusing on a “career” I don’t want, since I was forced to declare a major at a time when I couldn’t even decide what to order at McDonald’s for lunch.
Let’s get real—I still don’t know what to order at McDonald’s. I have no idea what I want to do or how I want to live my life…but being stuck in something I have no passion for? That’s the worst thing I can imagine. I’d rather die.

I hate my uncertainty. I wish I knew what I wanted. I don’t know a lot about myself, to be honest. I love chemistry, and I love fantasy fiction. I hate being left alone in my own head, but I hate being around too many people, because in both, there is too much to worry about all at once.  It’s all a balance, right?

One escape I’ve found are in fandoms. Harry Potter, for example, has saved me on multiple occasions. If you were to learn anything from this email, it would be that YOU SHOULDN’T BE AFRAID TO DEDICATE YOURSELF TO SOMETHING YOU LIKE. For me, it means at least I know *something* about myself. ;) But there are just some things I can’t escape! I have problems (college tuition, applying to grad school, etc) and pessimistic views about the world (global warming has doomed us). And I’m not sure what my gender or sexuality is.

(((Really, what kind of BS is our education system here in the US? Kids do not have the same access to (higher) education. What we teach our kids is outdated! Technology is moving so fast and we aren’t integrating that into our classrooms enough. As I saw on tumblr the other day, we are preparing youth for jobs that don’t exist anymore, and developing new jobs no one is being prepared for.
Another thing, higher education is so…. STUPID! Tumblr made me ask: why is it, that to get an education, we’re under a debt sentence? (Get it? Cause “death” and “debt”? HAHA I laugh at stupid jokes.))))

Please reply at pottermore.first[AT]gmail.com! Thanks for reading!

Los Angeles, California

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Listen to your Life

“Listen to your life. See it for the fathomless mystery it is. In the boredom and pain of it, no less than in the excitement and gladness: touch, taste, smell your way to the holy and hidden heart of it, because in the last analysis all moments are key moments, and life itself is grace.”
~Frederick Buechner

Perhaps my two greatest teachers have been pain and community. I first learned of pain from my father who humbly and quietly endured 40 years of kidney stones and chronic pain before cancer claimed his weary body. It strengthened his soul and was an invaluable teacher to me. C.S. Lewis claimed that, “pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.” Khalil Gibran believed that much of our pain was self-chosen and unlocked our understanding by being the “bitter potion by which the physician within you heals your sick self.” He went on to say that, “The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain.” I've known great pain, chosen and otherwise, emotional and physical. I both curse and honor this demanding teacher. (Intentional) community has been the framework through which these battles have worked themselves out in messy, beautiful and frustrating ways.

I've had the comical fortune of stumbling into some remarkable community situations. I've mostly learned from people (scarily) different from me while maintaining close fellowship with a variety of kindred spirits. Growing up in the middle of nowhere, looking at me you would never guess that I spent two years in a makeshift basement apartment in the projects of West Philly sharing a home with the strongest grandmother I've ever met and several of her grandchildren (when playing basketball in the hood, referencing your engineering degree regarding a disputed score is a great way to encourage someone to punch you). My framework of risk and purpose was drastically shifted living with a middle-class Latino family who spent many years as peacemakers and community builders among warring tribes and narco-traffickers. I fell tragically in love with their daughter and ran away to be a glorified manny for a super-rich Chinese family teaching their little emperor ‘murican English (someone peeled my grapes, cleaned my running shoes and prepared my French-pressed coffee to perfection daily). This was quite an awkward and humbling experience, difficult to process and yet overwhelming in shifting my perceptions on serving honorably and receiving undeserved love.

The title character in Shantaram claims that, “Fate gives all of us three teachers, three friends, three enemies, and three great loves in our lives. But these twelve are always disguised, and we can never know which one is which until we've loved them, left them, or fought them.” Respect that battle; had my own ignorance won out, my father would have died without us struggling together to love and understand each other. Be vulnerable, be okay with the possibility of being wounded and open to attack. It frees others to grow into their true identity. Allow other people to be mysterious, our healed scars, travel experience and desire for strangers, enemies and loved ones to reach their potential allow us to love people wholeheartedly on our non grumpy days. Love holds things together, sees the potential, cares not cures, sacrifices entitlements, offers everything without expectation; is quick to listen and slow to speak.

love to my B.A.L.L.S. (Books, Art & Leisure Lovers’ Society)
Check out Typhoon’s White Lighter album and anything by Geographer


Peter Kyle Gackenbach
Baltimore, Maryland USA

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

On marriage, finance, and footwear

The twenty three years of my marriage thus far seem to have gone by so very quickly.  Perhaps I got lucky when meeting my wife, but I like to think that choosing the smartest woman that would have me figures into our happiness.  Choose your mate wisely, and then choose them every day after.

I believe you become married the moment your partner agrees to marry you.  Not when you get the marriage license, or after the ceremony, but when the both of you agree.  If you think that you need the blessing of some institution before you can behave like a married couple you have abdicated the responsibility for your choice for perhaps the most important plot arc of your life.

An engagement only gives your friends and family time to make travel arrangements.  Celebrate your marriage in whatever way you choose, but celebrate the done deal and not the doing.

These two bits of my father's wisdom, dealing nominally with finance and footwear, I hope you find as broadly applicable as I:

"There's no such thing as a tube stock.  One size does not fit all."
"There are only two sizes of shoe: fit and don't-fit."

Trey Boudreau
Alvin, Texas, USA

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

So that I can eat more cake

I've been meaning to unsubscribe from the listserve for a while now. I get really annoyed by the huge emails of life advice.

For that reason I thought that if I ever got chosen, I'd send a cheese joke or a witty one liner. But when I got the email it suddenly didn't seem that simple - it felt really weird - should I really do that when I have the opportunity to speak out to more people than I might ever get the chance to again?

So for better of for worse, this is what I've decided to say:

I like running. I used to hate people who said they liked running. It made me feel bad when I was sitting on the sofa eating cake. Now I still hate people who say they like running a bit, but I can eat more cake than I did before without becoming a human sphere.

I run for me. I run alone and I have my own targets. I race against myself. I run wherever I want to, whenever I want to.

If I have had a rubbish day, I can go for a run and it makes me feel better. I'm not sure about my direction in life, or my career, or my relationship, but running is something that I can be sure about.

People are really important, surround yourself with them and love them back - but ultimately you cannot trust them. People are unpredictable, just like you are.

So my advice to you for 2014 would be to go out and find something for you, just for you. Something that you can be totally selfish about. Something that you can come back to when the other things aren't going so well.

In 2014 I am going to run my first marathon. I don't know where I will be at with anything else in my life, things are far from perfect at the moment, but it feels so incredibly good to have one thing to be sure of.

London, England

Monday, December 23, 2013

Home is where the heart is?

Hello Listservians!

There's a lot of important stuff going on in the world but I'd like to talk about home right now.

Christmas in the US means everyone's obsessed with snow and presents and family and home. I don't like snow or rampant commericalism, and family can be tough when one side are orthodox Israelis and the other are Catholic Mexicans. But home is something bigger than family and religion. Home is history and belonging and native understanding and love of a place because it is *yours.*

As a military brat, I miss out on that. There's a phrase for this, "third culture kids," or TCKs. Military brats, diplomatic brats, missionary kids - there's this pull between our passport country and the country/countries where we've grown up. We never belong entirely to either culture and we can never entirely lay claim to either place.

People ask me where home is and I never know how to answer. I usually joke and say that home is wherever I'm sleeping tonight, or where my cat is, or where the wi-fi connects automatically. I've never found a serious answer. I'm still looking for my home and sometimes I think I always will be.

So, whether you celebrate anything this time of year or not, please talk to your families. Tell them you love them. Go for a trip around your hometown. Wave to your neighbours. Reach out to those who are alone, are in mourning, or that you've always wanted to get to know but never have.

Enjoy home, and be blessed.

If you're a TCK as well, or want to share any thoughts on anything I've said, please feel free to email me! I'd love to hear from you.

Rei C

Sunday, December 22, 2013

I had what I could fit into my car with me

When I moved to California from a tiny midwestern town in 2001, I had what I could fit into my car with me. I moved into a sublet, found a temp job, and started a zine. Attending countless punk shows during this time from Reno to LA, sleeping on couches, driving all-nighters, close friends and new friends are one in the same, but you lose track of people--I did. Time passes: career, marriage, kids.

This year I got an email from my estranged step-mom hoping to catch up and reconnect. It's a nostalgic season, I have a 2-year-old daughter who has spurred me to re-size my heart, and I needed to forgive my step-mom. We exchanged a few emails, a promise of a phone call, and that was the end of it. It was a quick wash of the hands of the whole dirty business. I felt adult, matter-of-fact, professional. I could HANDLE STUFF.

Later that same week I get an unexpected FedEx at my office. Unusual. It was from an old friend from my punk rock zine days. I'm instantly filled with dread. Heart stops. This is the stuff of existential life crises. Sh*t. Do I tell my husband? Is there a severed ear in there? The return address is only his first name and a PO box. What the hell could this be? I was a crusty, delinquent 20 year old, but turned out OK. This person could be anything.

I opened the package carefully. Inside the envelope were clippings from my zine and a thick stack of photographs of me and friends from shows and travels all over the West Coast, notes, drawings--Priceless stuff. I thought back to my 20s: getting elbowed in the boob by Jello Biafra, the thick grime of Gilman Street, pretending to be tough at Slims, the ancient band members at the Holidays in the Sun, late nights locating my car after a show freezing in my fishnets. The friends from those days, the boys, the music.

I sent a nice, short note thanking him for sending the package. I didn't hear back. Nothing. Someone let the air out of the balloon.

You don't usually get the resolution you're hoping for, but I am grateful for the gesture.


Winters, California USA

Saturday, December 21, 2013

ಜೀವನದ ಒಂಬತ್ತು ಸೂತ್ರಗಳು

Subject written in Kannada roughly translates to: "9 tips to make your life more comfortable" or "9 tips for contentment"


My name is Ritesh and I am from Bangalore, India. I am engineer by profession and I'm currently pursuing my dream of starting a software product startup. In my spare time, I read as much as time permits, play the guitar, take nature walks, and enjoy birdwatching. I also dabble a bit in photography and video making. I am a big fan of satire and dark comedy, and I'm writing some material to present at a comedy club.

After graduation, I found myself in an IT job and married my long time sweetheart Prateeksha. Both Prateeksha and I are rationalists and realists, and live in a crazy country called India. Having being born in an era where we had access to cable television, western media and the internet, our values are a mixture of Indian conservatism and western liberalism, and we started realizing very early on our differences in culture, living standards, and expectations from life.

We both decided to follow some rules to make our lives more comfortable and I thought it was best to share these ideas with the listserve crowd.
1. Do what you love and be the best at it. No recession or economic downturn can affect your earning prospects.
2. Pick up a hobby. Learn to play an instrument, pick up photography or just watch nature. It will give you peace of mind and will also keep you occupied.
3. Stay very close to your workplace. It might be more expensive, but the time saved is priceless, and it gives you more time with your partner and for your hobbies.
4. Buy a really comfortable bed - you sleep for almost a third of your life, why compromise on comfort?
5. Whatever tools and technologies your work requires, buy the best the money can buy. If you are a professional guitarist, buy the best guitar money can buy. If you use computers, buy the latest greatest thing. Better tools improve productivity and reduce frustration.
6. Eat healthy and eat at the appropriate times of the day. Don't skip meals. During my post grad days, I neglected eating and sleeping at the right times and paid a terrible price for it.
7. TRAVEL - that's all there's to it in life. Experience everything life, culture and nature has to offer. Take at least 2 vacations a year. Need not be exotic but you should make a habit of it. Be aggressive about it.
8. Socialize - make new friends, speak to old ones and build long relationships. Travel with friends. Visit every wedding, get together and birthday party. Don't expect anything from anyone but play your part. Remember that your family and friends are you support structure in your time of need.
9. Find a partner who you can relate to. A person I knew told me, "you can probably have sex 30 mins in a day, the rest of the time, you need to talk". Make sure you find a companion with who you can talk for hours.

That's it. I followed these simple rules and have found great joy and contentment in life. Every decision I take in my life, I assess the impact on these factors and I immediately find the answers I am looking for.

If you have things that you want to add to this list, I would love to hear about it. Write to me and I shall collate all of them and put it out there (with the appropriate credits). Lastly, try Indian food. While the western world was urbanizing, mechanizing and growing their economies, we Indians were innovating on food. Ask an Indian friend for suggestions (should be easy to find one, there are more than a billion of us).

Live long and prosper.
Ritesh M Nayak
Bangalore, India

Friday, December 20, 2013

Manuscript found in Accra

Im half Ghanaian and half Ukrainian, but I grew up in the Netherlands. Ive always been ambitious by doing things for myself, freelance, build businesses, fail, start over, succeed, fail etc. Until I reached a point where I almost forgot what I was doing and why. Entrepreneurship comes with a price and it takes a while before you feel like you have hit the jackpot, financially but mostly emotionally. The pressure in wanting so much for me turned into a daily routine of obsession and anxiety. I found everything boring and just came to the conclusion I lost my Mojo, and it was somewhere out trying to find me, But I was too tired to look for it myself.

My father passed away when I was 10, he moved out to Ghana 20 years ago to follow his dream and unfortunately passed away within 3 months. So i took a leap of faith this year and decided to start something for myself in Accra and honor his leap of faith. I started 2 businesses and officially launching Access Accra a city guide and platform here that will launch in February.

There for – it was only right, to share with you guys a piece of a beautiful book and a fitting name for my experience this year.

Excerpt of Manuscript found in Accra – By Paulo Coelho

There is nothing wrong with anxiety.

Although we cannot control God’s time, it’s part of the human condition to want to receive the thing we are waiting for as quickly as possible.

Or to drive away whatever is causing our fear.

This is so from childhood onward, until we reach

the age when we become indifferent to life. Because

as long as we are intensely connected to the present

moment, we will always be waiting anxiously for someone

or something.

How can you tell a passionate heart to be still and to

contemplate the miracles of Creation in silence, free of

tension, fear, and unanswerable questions?

Anxiety is part of love, and should not be blamed

because of that.

How can you tell someone not to worry when he has

invested his money and his life in a dream but has yet to

see any results? The farmer cannot speed the progress

of the seasons in order to pick the fruit he planted, but

he waits impatiently for the coming of autumn and harvest


How can you ask a warrior not to feel anxious before

a battle? He has trained to the point of exhaustion for this

moment; he has given of his best. While he believes he

is prepared, he fears that all his efforts could prove to be

in vain.

Anxiety was born in the very same moment as mankind.

And since we will never be able to master it, we

will have to learn to live with it—just as we have learned

to live with storms.

For those who cannot learn to do so, life will be a

nightmare. Even worse, in an attempt to drive away anxiety,

they do things that make them even more anxious.

And the eyes of the soul are bleary with tiredness.

At that point, in walks one of humankind’s worst

enemies: obsession.

Obsession arrives and says:

“Your fate now belongs to me. I will make you look

for things that do not exist.

“Your joy in living belongs to me, too. From now on,

your heart will know no peace because I will drive out

enthusiasm and take its place. “

Therefore, although anxiety is part of life, never let it

control you. –

Thanks for reading, don’t hesitate to email or contact me or add me on social media! Im not hard to find :)

Irina Oduro
Accra, Ghana

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Are you a DONK?

Did you know a dog has a specific pH balance with their skin that is much different than humans? Depending on a lot of variables with the dog, their pH levels tend to be a lot higher than that of a human. So, if a human shampoo (or something worse) is used on a dog for bath time, the dog's pH level will be thrown off, creating an environment where bacteria, parasites, and viruses can cause a lot of problems.

Unknowingly, many pet owners will wash them repeatedly, trying to fix the problem, but end up making the problem worse as the skin's pH level becomes more imbalanced. Also, if the shampoo makes their skin feel dry (a lot of them have sodium chloride- aka salt, as a thickening agent), your dog will scratch at his/her skin, creating areas for bacteria to attack and it quickly becomes a vicious cycle.

It was with all this in mind we (my soon to be wife and I) started searching for a good, all natural, pH balanced shampoo for our 6 year old Golden Retriever, Max. Unfortunately, we couldn't find anything that met our requirements. Something that had no parabens, sulfates, synthetic perfumes, dyes or other bad 'stuff' in it. So, after a LOT of research we decided to formulate our own and started a business!

We actually fall into a new demographic referred to by the acronym "DONK" - Dog Obsessed, No Kids. We may add some more humans to the world after we're married. Then they can come up with a new acronym for us. Dog Obsessed Now With Kids? Although, DONWK doesn't flow as well.. it would probably never catch on.

We're launching the website in the next few weeks and we would love to connect with any other pet minded people on Facebook or Twitter. If you search for Bobo's Natural Pet Products on either you'll find us. We actually used Max's paw print for our logo if you need any more proof of the DONK thing. Wish us luck, starting a business is stressful and a lot more work than people think!

To any other U.S. Marines past or present reading this- Semper Fi!

In closing, it wouldn't be a Listserve email without a favorite quote or two so here are a few of mine..

You can have anything in the world you want if you'll just help enough other people get what they want. ~ Zig Ziglar

If you don't design your own life plan, chances are you'll fall into someone else's plan. And guess what they have planned for you? Not much! ~ Jim Rohn

A professional is an amateur who didn't quit. ~ Richard Bach

Portland, ME USA

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

The karma of divorce

When I first joined the Listserve, I knew immediately what I would write about if I ever got my turn---divorce. My own parents divorced when I was five years old, and in one of those great ironies of karma, I fell in love with a divorced dad and am now getting to see it from the other side.

I have a better understanding now of some of what my parents went through. It had never occurred to me, for instance, that my dad once had to have a conversation with my stepmother where he explained how much money he made, and how much got taken off the top in child support. And on the other side, there was the time my Beloved, after spending an afternoon dealing with an ex-caused frustration, angrily vented 'well, at least I know that when he's eighteen, I can tell him everything!' I had to gently explain to him that HE couldn't be the one to do that!

Here's the thing: when kids are involved, you have to be the grown-up, and that sometimes means sucking it up. Sucking it up doesn't mean staying married to someone you can't be married to. But it does mean letting go of your own petty stuff in the service of a good life for your kid.

Between my childhood with divorced parents, my adulthood as a stepmom, and my career as a teacher, I have seen it all, and I think most divorcing parents would do a better job if they spent less time thinking about how much they hate their ex and more time thinking about how much it would suck to be the kid in the middle of the whole thing---the kid who is told they can't go to the family holiday party with dad because it's not his weekend; the kid who can't keep a picture of Mom's new baby in his room because Dad doesn't want to hear about it; the kid who can't go the baseball game with Grandpa and the cousins because his other parent won't drive a little out of their way to drop him off; the kid who misses an appointment because one parent won't let the other one pick him up a few minutes before the official access time; the kid who is housebound for a weekend because Dad's carseat broke suddenly and Mom won't loan him hers for the weekend; the kid who spent 20 minutes crying on the front step of her school because yesterday's parent didn't tell today's parent that the usual pickup route had some road construction going on which would make them be late...

Please, divorcing parents, don't be that person. Loan Dad the carseat. Tell him about the construction. Let the other parent swap weekends for a family party. Sign the consent form so they can take the child on a special trip. Let them have an extra hour so that an out-of-town relative can see the child during a visit. Don't make your child a victim of your desire to be right, to win, to prove you know better. Maybe you do know better. Maybe you really are right. But please, be the grown-up and let your ex spend their emotional energy on being a parent, not on fighting you.



Monday, December 16, 2013

I am a failure

The worst part about being self-aware and sorry for yourself is that it makes it possible to feel bad about feeling bad. 

It's funny that as soon as you have ambition, other's success seems like an insult. Especially if that other's success is in the same field in which your passion lies. Maybe that's not funny. 

So why am I a failure? 

It's not because I've tried to be published and failed. It's not because I've tried to write for competitions and failed. And (given the fact that I make enough money to support myself, live on my own and am generally happy) it's not even that the incredible smallness of my troubles makes me feel so terrible.

And here's the best part! The best part; I had a great upbringing. I'm white and male. I went to great schools and am completely privileged. My biggest problem when writing? I have nothing to write about. No foster homes. No financial struggles. No, go-to true story of hardship that just rolls onto the page. I don't even have the moral position to even think of looking for pity from strangers because the thing that plagues me is so ridiculously un-pitiable. I am an antagonist! i am a bad person for feeling bad about the real and actual fortune that has led to this fanciful and gutless misfortune I feel! And I know that!

Isn't that just f*cking amazing! Ridiculous. I should be the happiest man alive. But I'm not.

So why am I really a failure? 

Because I know what I have to do to succeed.

I need to have the balls to leave a comfortable job and take my writing more seriously. I need to get off the damn internet and take a bit of control of my life. I need to stop being so damn lazy and actually do something about the one thing that I feel true passion for. I am a failure because I know exactly what I need to do to stop failing, yet I lack the courage to do it. 

I am a failure.

But maybe I won't always be.

M. Willis

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Regret, Grudges, and Doing The Right Thing

When I was fifteen, I looked at my 10-year-old self and thought, "what a moron." When I was twenty I looked at my fifteen-year-old self and thought, "so simple-minded!" Now I look at my twenty-year-old self and think, "so naive..."

In five years time, when I'm thirty, I'll look back at myself now and I know that I'm going to have similar feelings. I hope, however, that I will at least give my former self the same credit that I do now: he knew that he was still learning and that he always will be. He knew that by making mistakes, even if he didn't know that he was making them, he was going to get better and learn from those mistakes.

So, forgive your former self for the mistakes they made, and thank them for taking a bullet then so that you don't have to now. Excuse all those stupid things they said which upset other people. Forgive them for the financial decisions which left them feeling like a complete idiot. Let them off for letting that one jerk take advantage of them. They did it all in order to make you a better decision-maker.


Forgiveness is important for staying calm in life. I'm not a religious man, so I'm not preaching forgiveness for the sake of any higher power, but simply because in most cases, it makes a lot of sense. I'm talking about holding grudges.

Grudges are what happen when you let someone irrationally occupy your thoughts and and affect your actions because of some wrong they did to you. This includes the places you can't go, the people you can't speak to, the conversation topics that can't take place without their name coming up and making you upset. That all sounds like a lot of effort for little gain, and it's just not worth it. Most grievances are based on accidents or misunderstandings that got out of hand.

It's not easy, and I struggle with it as I'm sure many of you do. I think that trying to see the situation from someone else's position really helps. This, too, is hard. I recently read some advice: To better understand the argument of your opponent, try arguing their side of the story.


Those are a couple of things I have been thinking about recently: learning and forgiveness. I tend to overthink a lot of things, but being able to empathise is a skill I'd really like to be better at, so that's what I'm working on.

If you've read this far, thanks, and I hope that I've made you think a little bit. If you have any thoughts or comments let me know - heck, for all I know, in five years time I'll be all *for* grudges!

Now onto the self-promotion part of my email. I'm an Independent Software Developer, and I recently left my full-time job to pursue a little more independence. I've written about it on my blog. I am doing a little bit of freelance and contract work at the mo so if you need a JavaScript (front-end or server) or iOS developer, or whatever, maybe I can help?

I'm also a busker on the London Underground, and I've recorded some music. You can hear it on bandcamp, look for "Dan Plus Add". it's kinda nerdy, and kinda folky. I hope you enjoy it.

Finally, shoutouts. Jon and Alun: put your hand where your foot is. Happy 30th, Natty! As for you, Elli: you are wonderful, beautiful, funny and smart, and you fill me with so much joy and energy. Oeuf ou boeuf? <3

London, UK

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Make sure to check your e-mail!

So...from the subject of this email, one can figure out that I didn't check my email and didn't realize that I had won the listserve lottery. For some reason, this is surprisingly common. Because of that I'm not even sure if this e-mail will make it on.

About 7 years ago when I was in the middle of applying to colleges I read somewhere that the best way to write a college application essay was just to free write (within topic of course!) for a specified amount of time and then go back and edit what you wrote. This would create a genuine essay. Not sure if that actually helped me get into college but I want to think it did. I'm going to try and stick with this concept in this email.

The problem (or bonus, depending on your outlook) is that emails on The Listserve can be about anything. I've seen some excellent recipes, read some very interesting stories, and have heard countless pieces of advice. We're just going to see where my mind takes me.

I like peanut butter and chocolate.
Finding a job is difficult when one's interests are so varied.
The worst part about graduating from a college where everyone gets really good jobs is being the one that doesn't get a good job.
You can find tons of information about me on the internet. The only place that I'm private is facebook.
Feel free to text me if you find my phone number.
Somehow I'm shy and outgoing at the same time, but mostly I'm an introvert.
I still maintain the fact that I was smarter at 12 years old than I am now.
I really do love Listserve emails which consist of fun little anecdotes whose only purpose is to write something other than a blank email.
America's Funniest Videos will always make me laugh whether it's Bob Saget hosting or that guy from Dancing with the Stars.
Everybody needs to know about the Earth's Helium problem.
Actually do research before you buy an electric vehicle.
Batteries die and parts use a big carbon footprint when they come from all over the world.
Realize that the Beatle's biggest fans were teenage girls.
Paramore is(are?) my favorite band.
I get nothing done on Fall Saturdays on account of College Football.
I love science fiction but couldn't care less for fantasy.
I wish I had a roomba that dreamt of electric sleep.

Well hopefully one of these lines will resonate with you and will make this email worthwhile. I look forward to hearing from each and every one of you (even if it takes me forever to respond).

Monrovia, CA, USA

Friday, December 13, 2013

Go build a fort

Seriously, forts are great. We should all build forts more.

Not all who wander are lost. In the media, my generation (millennial) gets a lot of crap for not falling into place these days. A lot of the criticism aimed at this group centers around us not getting and sticking with jobs. Many of my friends, all recently graduated from college, have been bouncing around various internships and entry level jobs for the past 2-3 years just trying to find something that fits.

I have wandered in and out of many different jobs, activities, sports, and hobbies in my life and I’ve learned something valuable from each one. Mostly, I’ve learned that if you don’t stick with something you won’t get good at it, but hey, that one takes a while to sink in. And sometimes, you just know when something isn’t right for you. Like ballet, that one probably isn’t going to happen for me (I was kicked out of gymnastics when younger due to lack of flexibility). Since college, I have grown less and less sure of what I want to do in life, in terms of a career. This insecurity isn't exactly comforting but it has opened my mind to a lot of new possibilities I hadn't considered before.

I think it’s ok that a lot of us are wandering. Maybe more of us will actually end up in careers we enjoy and doing what we were born to do. There’s bound to be a lot of confusion, anxiety, and failure before we figure out what that is. It may not look like it right now, but I think we’re collectively onto something. We’ll get there. Just give us time.

Music Recommendations:

Ocean by John Butler- I was introduced to this piece a while ago and I still think it is one of the most beautiful pieces of musicianship I’ve ever heard- thanks buddy

Steeldrivers-really solid Nashville folk band

The Goat Rodeo Sessions: Yo-Yo Ma, Stuart Duncan, Edgar Meyer and Chris Thile

On that note, does everyone else think they sound absolutely amazing when singing alone in the car? I’m just really sure I sound amazing. Every other time I sing is just varying levels of stage fright. I will believe this to be true until I die.

Keep it real,
New Jersey

P.S. Thanks Sarah for introducing me/us to the listserve. You deserve all the credit in the world.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Sugar and Magic

I love to bake. It's pretty simple. Not the actual baking, that can be very difficult, just the fact that I love it. I don't find it particularly relaxing but it does make people happy and I have accomplished something tangible. I'm slowly working on learning to adjust recipes and make them my own and hope to be able to create brand new ones. My one rule/ piece of advice with baking is if the recipe calls for vanilla, always add a little bit more than it says.

If you aren't a big on making things from scratch but want something that people will love: I have made this a few times and it is well received.

Chocolate Explosion Cake from The Domestic Geek

Devil’s Food cake mix
3 eggs
1 cup water
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 package chocolate instant pudding
1 cup sour cream (8oz)
12 ounces chocolate chips (I bag ~ 12oz)
Dark chocolate frosting ( I jar)

Preheat oven to 350* and grease a 9X13 cake pan.
Mix cake mix with eggs, water, and oil. Then mix in sour cream and lastly mix in instant pudding. Make sure there aren't any big lumps from the cake mix or pudding mix.
Stir in chocolate chips.
Pour mixture into greased cake pan. Bake for 60 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean.
Frost with your favorite dark chocolate frosting and enjoy, this tastes the absolute best if served warm!

That's really all I had to say. But if you want a little more here are a few things about me:

I live in Portland. It is a fantastic city. Not my favorite place on earth but certainly not the worst place I've been.

I love to travel. On my list of places to see are Thailand, Japan, Greece, and Scotland. I've already been to most of mainland western Europe, England (this is my favorite place) and Ireland. Though I do need to go again and this time bring my husband with me.

I love "nerd/geek" things. Or at least what a lot of people think falls into that category. Things like Harry Potter and Star Wars and Marvel and games made by Valve and Blizzard. I love playing Cards Against Humanity and Settlers and others. Also a huge Disney fan. I also spend a lot of my free time cross stitching or reading.

Hope I kept it fairly simple, interesting and fast. If you are also a fellow Portlander, let's trade some baking tips, start a book group or head out to geek trivia. :)

Portland, Oregon

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

My friend Ella

I'll keep this short because that's the kind of emails I like :)

My friend Ella is a 7 year old girl suffering from NF1, a condition that causes a lot of tumors to grow

She has a Facebook page called "Hope for Ella" where you can read about her, and see the amazing and selfless things that she does (organising a Christmas party for kids affected by Hurricane Sandy, making sandwiches for her homeless friends in Philidelphia)

If you have a minute, it'd really make her day if you liked her Facebook page "Hope for Ella"

If you have more than a minute, you should send her your favourite joke - I'm sure she'd love it

Thanks and have a great day!

Steve Ngapo
Auckland, New Zealand

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Just another quote

Having very little literary talent of my own, I'll defer to the words of another to say what I am unable to.

“The problem, often not discovered until late in life, is that when you look for things in life like love, meaning, motivation, it implies they are sitting behind a tree or under a rock. The most successful people in life recognize, that in life they create their own love, they manufacture their own meaning, they generate their own motivation.

For me, I am driven by two main philosophies, know more today about the world than I knew yesterday. And lessen the suffering of others. You'd be surprised how far that gets you.”

-- Neil deGrasse Tyson (reddit, 2012)

That is all. Now get back to work!

Sydney, Australia

Monday, December 9, 2013

Lessons from a failed founder

It’s been little more than a month since my startup failed and I had been working on it for 2 years.

Here’s some background: I was in pharma marketing and decided to quit my job and build an online travel startup. Neither my co-founder nor I are technical people. We put in quite a bit of our savings to do this crazy thing.

Here’s why I think we failed:
· We didn’t build a strong team. Everyone was located all over the world and we never took the time to really get to know people.

· We ran it too “corporate”. Since both my co-founder and I came from the corporate world we had hierarchy and structure when we shouldn’t have.

· Spent too much money, too fast. We spent a bucket load of money on building our website and when we pivoted to a new, much better idea all I saw was all that money being flushed down the toilet. Lean Startup made a whole lot of sense after that.

· We could have been better hustlers (e.g. been more bold). I think we both had personalities that didn’t really have the gumption to do what needed to get done.

· We quit our jobs too early. We should have continued working and built this thing on the side and once we saw growth, then quit.

· We didn’t realize how convoluted the travel industry actually is. We did tons of research before quitting but we were incredibly naïve about how complicated it was to get something going in an industry where fax is still a common tool for communication.

· Don’t get caught up in the echo chamber. I moved to San Francisco for my startup and it was easy getting caught up in opinions. VCs think you should do this, other entrepreneurs think you should do that and all this is fed to you constantly. We definitely got caught up in it. Ultimately, it’s what your customers want that’s most important. Nobody else needs a voice

· We forgot it’s a business. Especially with web startups, I see a lot of people think about money way too late. We did that for the first version of our idea but remembered to think about the revenue model for our second idea. Too little, too late.

If you guys have any questions about my startup experience or similar experiences to mine, let’s talk!

Fortunately, I’m not completely removed from the startup world. I get to look over my brother’s shoulder as he works on Lite Bite, a non-profit product. In developing countries, dentists don’t have powerful lights to see in the mouth. He and his friends created a low cost dental device that puts a light source directly into the mouth. It’s 350% more powerful than the flashlights currently being used. It’s a really cool project and if you want to learn more about it, I’d be happy to talk.

Best wishes,
San Francisco, California

P.S. I’m looking for job leads for marketing/market access roles in pharma/biotech (in San Francisco or Bay Area) so if you have any leads, please email me!

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Beauty, connection and warmth

Dear people,

I love reading your stories. You give me the chance to share your lives a little bit. To me, this is very valuable. Thank you!

Me, I am a forty-year-old single mother, about to lose my job. Uncertain times. But by now, I do want to take life as it is. I also found out that I want to dedicate it to beauty, connection and warmth. This is what matters most to me. Knowing this feels warm and sweet. So strangely enough, I have never felt happier.

I remember being a child and walking home from school. I passed a field where a girl was playing. She saw me passing and she started screeming something. I could not hear what she said, so I walked in her direction; she then came running at me. As she came closer, I heard she was actually insulting me. I didn't know her, she didn't know me, I didn't do anything to her, but still she started hitting me. I ran away.

This experience stayed with me. I could not understand why anyone would want to do this, and it was very difficult to accept my own powerlessness in the face of agression, hatred, lack of consciousness, or however you would want to call it.

Over time I decided to withdraw from the world. I found a safe place to live in my mind. It was a lonely way of living but it also allowed me to be close to beauty and far away from the violence and hurt I saw all around me. My body turned cold and I never felt very safe. Living like this had something very grey and meaningless about it. I connected to others in a judgemental manner. My mind was working hard to close off my reality for anything that could prove me wrong.

At twenty I wanted to become more alive. I did all kinds of physical things, singing, theater, yoga, to become a bit less sterile. I had children. This opened up completely new layers within. To really inhabit the body is a long process but very worthwhile. It changes everything.

Eight years ago I started working in prison as a humanist spiritual counselor. There I met very many loveable and soulful people. People that grew up in poverty, in environments which were not safe, with little love and respect. People with addicted parents. People who had to become used to unstable and unhealthy relationships and bad food. People who were so bored that they went on drugs as young as they could. People who spread violence and hurt in the world and were suffering.

I also met many people in my personal life, who were doing well in terms of jobs, safety and material wellbeing. But amongst them many who lacked somehow the ability to really care, about others, about the world, about beauty, about nature, about truth. They emit some sort of hardness and coldness.

Slowly I learned to remain present more, and not to react to pain by stiffening or withdrawing. I became less of a victim of circumstances, and more of a creative force. Very nice that this is possible.

Now I want to use what creative force I have, to further beauty, connection and warmth.
Beautiful things can happen between people. Nobody should go through life unseen and uncared for.

My two kids say hi, I say: may you all blossom,

I would love to hear from you,

All the best, Jolanda
The Netherlands

Saturday, December 7, 2013

22-Year-Old Brain Cells

Wow…I won…I never win. I just found out that I won the Listserve…5 days ago. -___- Shame on me. Thank you, Connie Chweh, for introducing me to the Listserve…yes, you should be jealous! I’m so proud of you. I’m so happy that you’re in my life. I love you.

After 22 years of existence, this is what my brain cells have to offer:
1) Bullying happens because we let it happen. If you’re a witness to it, put a stop to it. We're basically bullies ourselves if we do nothing about it.
2) Let’s finally shut up about our obsession with appearance and be satisfied already.
3) “In three words, I can sum up everything I’ve learned about life: It goes on.” -Robert Frost
4) I’m below average to poor in math, but according to my calculations, 99% of the time, life always works out. It may not work out how you initially wanted it to, and it may take A LOT of time and “bipolarity” (no disrespect), but it’ll happen if you let it happen and it’ll happen if you make it happen.
5) Weird > Normal. Always. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. Ever.
6) Besides a broken heart, there’s nothing more heart-breaking than loneliness. Since graduating college in June and starting a “big girl” job, I have experienced genuine loneliness for the first time. I know that I have people to go to when I’m feeling this way, but sometimes, I just don’t (Sorry, Connie…). Besides that one time I missed the e-mail about winning the Listserve, I’m pretty good about keeping up with my e-mails. If you’re ever feeling lonely, don’t hesitate to send me an e-mail. I know, STRANGER DANGER, but really, I would love to help. And if helping doesn’t go very far…or anywhere at all…know that I have rather large ears.

Would you mind answering these very 22-year-old questions for me? 
1) What is *your* definition of love?
2) I constantly wonder why we humans do things that make us so unhappy at times, even though we know we could die at any millisecond. How do you feel about this? How do you feel in general? What makes you happy? (Psychologist wannabe over here…)
3) Favorite quote?
4) Favorite song? (These rather large ears are desperate for new music.)
5) My 23rd birthday is coming up…ish. How should I celebrate? How did you/others you know celebrate this mega milestone…not.

Would you mind doing some very 22-year-old favors for me?
1) Please don’t litter. Maybe even pick up some trash when you see it? I know, EW, but trash that has been sitting there for aeons is more EW than taking a few seconds of your time and throwing it away. 2 words: Hand sanitizer.
2) Please make someone’s—ANYONE’S—day today…or everyday. You won’t only make their day, you’ll make your day too.
3) Please do something a little or a lottle different everyday. Your life will be filled with 365-times the memories.
4) Please just tell me about yourself/provide me with some of that wisdom of yours/vent/anything. 
5) Please be a good person. The universe needs more of those. 

If you’re anywhere near Fresno, CA, please send me an e-mail, so we can grab some grub and be friends. 
Thank you, Listservians, you’ve taught me quite a bit these past few months. I’m looking forward to reading your jackpot. Happy Holidays. I wish you all the absolute best. 
Hi, Dad. I love you too.

Ariel Lani Llorente
Fresno, CA

Friday, December 6, 2013

Good Grief, good friend!

Grief. I knew I would write about this the day I signed up.

Despite the fact that 100% of people die, our culture ignores death or grief. When my father died suddenly at 59, I had no fucking clue how to be in this new world *without* him and *with* grief. At first there were lots of people, cards, flowers. Then everyone went back to their lives… and utter loneliness set in. I felt deserted, but now I understand that I wasn’t the only one who didn’t know what to do.

So here’s some “What to Do’s” post-funeral to about a year later, the darkest time, next you find your friend in grief:

----- Listen -----
You can’t fill my void with words. Don’t tell me he’s in a better place, god has a plan, or any other cliché that sounds appropriate but really minimalizes my current, very real experience. He died. And no, this is not like the time your great-aunt died when you were three. Even the true stuff like ‘time heals’ doesn’t feel good to hear yet. You can simply say, “I don’t know what to say” and just be there. We can sit in silence. Or I probably have lots to say as I work through this: all kinds of sad, weird, dark, crazy, angry, contradictory, random stuff. Just be there, listen to me.

----- Reach out -----
Don’t wait for me to reach out to you. Call me, when I’m lying in the depths of devastation and meaninglessness, it’s easier to answer the phone than to find one, figure out who to dial, actually do it, and hope they will answer. Randomly stop by, and bring a funny movie (and food!). Be prepared to walk away without hurt feelings if I just want to be alone (leave the food). Likely I’ll need the company and the relief. Just the fact you checked in on me makes me a tiny bit less alone.

But you have to reach out a lot, and let me say no. Don’t expect me to be ready to share my pain with you when you’re ready to be available to me. I might finally be feeling good for a few precious moments, don’t force me into a conversation about “how I’m doing with all ‘that’” just because you have an extra ten today and want to feel like a good friend.

----- Give -----
Do the little things for me. I need practical help. Whether I am accepting it or not, my life goes on and I need to eat, fulfill some responsibilities, and take care of myself. The grocery store is unbelievably overwhelming. Why are there seven different kinds of EVERYTHING and which to choose? I can’t. It’s meaningless. Everything is meaningless. Why eat? Deliver me lunches, go grocery shopping for me, come fix me dinner, help me clean my space, take me on walks. I won’t think ask you for these things, but I need them.

It takes time. There’s no correct process or timescale. For me, years have passed and I’m happy and joyful again. I’m forever grateful to the few really good friends who didn’t disappear once the funeral ended. For the rest of my life I’ll miss my dad; what I like best now is reminiscing with family and old friends about him. The stories help him not feel so permanently far away. But he is, he died, and there’s no use ignoring death or minimalizing grief. Talk about it, be there, listen, reach out, give - don’t disappear. Love.

Taylor Hesselgrave
Portland, OR

Thursday, December 5, 2013

" Daily Koala ;)"

Hello everyone!

I have been thinking for quite a while what should I write in an e-mail addressed to the people of the world. I had some ideas, but none that I really liked. In the end, I decided on writing down some of my thoughts-realizations that are not certainly logically connected to one another. Those are nevertheless the thoughts that I deeply belive in.

First – everyone has some sad story. I have. And my closest friend, and my boyfriend, and my other friends. You, he and she as well. There are no people completely happy, everyone is afflicted with different problems in his life. Therefore, we should never judge other people easily, since we never know their story. Often people smiling the strongest are those with toughest past – but they belive in the power of optimism, they believe one should never give up and always have hope. They are right.

Second – happiness is a state of mind. One can have all the stuff in the world and be unhappy, one can be happy having nothing. It’s all about being able to appreciate beauty of this world and what life has to offer. Humbly accepting what comes along the way and being happy with every day, every little thing. When was the last time you stopped on a sidewalk, looked in the sky, realized how beautiful it all is, breathed deeply? Do it! Realize that you are alive, that life is a gift.

Third – there are good people in this world. We should never lose faith in others. Love exists, too. For many years I didn’t believe in love. For many years I thought it’s just some romantic fantasy from Disney movies. I lived alone, forcing myself to believe I’m happy – and then I met him. It was a complete coincidence, whim of fate, as if someone above planned it to happen. Everything went naturally and fast. All my ideas about myself turned out to be completely false. I believed I would never trust someone with all my heart – and I did. I believed I’m unable to love – and he proved me wrong.
Some time ago someone on listserve has written, that love is easy, it just happens. He was right, it’s exactly as he said. And if there is love, no obstacle can stop it.
My advice for the lonely – do not lose hope. Never. Never close your heart for other people – love will come, on its own, when the time comes. You will be completely surprised what the love really is.

Fourth – interests. Interests are one of the most important things in our lives. They give life colour. My love is reading books – I read a lot of them, of many different genres. It is said, that people, who read books, live twice. And so it is. Books always let me visit other worlds and experience adventures, moved me, made me happy, gave me laugh… I’m deeply fascinated with the world of fantasy, since it’s infinite, unbounded, with no constrains. As for me, it’s extraordinary and beautiful.

Thank you all for your time spent with my thoughts : )
My text has been written at the last minute, but I hope there is at least one person who found it interesting. Also, I’m very curious what is your opinion on the topics mentioned and what is, in your opinion, the best book anyone should read?

With best of regards

P.S. Especially for My Love ... Leszek, I love you!!! Big surprise, huh? :)
And thank you for your help.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Music from the Ice

During the austral summer of 2008-2009 I spent five weeks at Palmer Research Station on the Antarctic Peninsula via a grant from the National Science Foundation’s Antarctic Artists and Writers Program. I was there to gather materials for a series of musical compositions inspired by Antarctic environments and ecosystems. Each day I set out from the station to explore my surroundings, make audio field recordings, and collect natural objects to use as musical instruments. If the weather was fair, and winds were below twenty knots, I hopped in a zodiac and motored out to neighboring islands or worked directly on the sea. In stormy conditions I investigated the glacier and rocky moraine behind the station.
I often visited Torgersen Island, home to a number of Adélie penguin colonies. I was delighted to discover that the penguins had chosen a very musical island on which to nest, as Torgersen is covered in shards of a dense, sonorous, igneous rock. The Adélies gather the smallest of these stones to build their nests, but even the larger pieces were surprisingly resonant. As the penguins ambled along well-worn paths between colonies and beaches, the stone fragments clinked under their feet creating delicate melodies.
The southern elephant seals were another one of my favorite subjects. I first heard them in a cove on Amsler Island. As we turned off the outboard motor and slowly drifted across the water, deep alien bellows emerged from the far end of the cove, echoing off the thirty-foot-tall walls of ice on either side of us. There, in the water, a couple of dark shapes tumbled and splashed. Several more massive creatures lay side-by-side on the shore. I quickly pulled out my pocket recorder, but after a few short minutes the seals’ outlandish calls ended abruptly. I returned numerous times hoping to find the “e-seals” howling in the cove’s sheltered waters, but instead I always found them piled up on the shore, fast asleep.
Finally I decided to camp out on the island for a night. I waited for a window of fair weather and then, one balmy evening, was dropped off on Amsler a few hours before sunset. Shortly after my ride departed, I heard it: the faint bawls and bellows, splashes and sputters, of e-seals cavorting in the water. There were over a dozen, sparring in pairs in the shallow cove. I don't know why it hadn't occurred to me before that the elephant seals might be nocturnal. Suddenly it was very clear why they snoozed all day! In the long Antarctic dusk their playful martial dances and eerie roars were mesmerizing. I listened and recorded until, in the wee hours of the night, I could no longer feel my toes.
Near the end of my stay I descended inside two crevasses on the glacier behind the station. From the surface the crevasses didn’t look like much, just ominous cracks in the snow, but inside lay ornate azure caverns adorned with thousands of icicles. Because it was summer and temperatures were above freezing, hanging on a rope inside a crevasse was a lot like taking a shower. First, I recorded just the multitude of water drops, and then I began to play some nearby icicles, cautiously tapping them with superball mallets. Lovely clear pitches emerged. Unfortunately, often the icicles fractured just as I started to get nice resonant tones from them. However, as they fell, shattering in the icy depths beneath me, they produced a spectacular mad-xylophonist cacophony, bouncing and echoing for a surprisingly long time.

Happy listening,

Cheryl E. Leonard
San Francisco

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Words strung, a story

...She walked round the block, from her house to ours, after her chemotherapy treatment. She didn’t wear her kerchief. The morning was light, airy, and blue. Green leaves hung heavily from strong oak branches, and cicadas buzzed heavily from within them, hidden. As Maya trudged over the sidewalk, her legs began to feel lighter and lighter.
Her walk was short, and took all of two minutes. By the time she arrived at our yellow house her legs were so light, she began to float. She was in the air; only by a few inches, but not at all grounded. With purposeful movements she opened the wide, white gate to our backyard garden and entered, closing it behind her carefully. She didn’t ring a doorbell or knock. No one, besides herself, knew where she was.
The garden had been watered that morning, and it was still early. Humid air was trapped below the greenery, giving the garden a damp, jungle-like feel.
Maya looked over the rows of shrubbery, and the assortment of flowers, and took up the nearby shovel. She started digging up the pink impatiens, then the large, leafy bleeding heart.
We, inside, heard the loud shoveling noise and gathered at the back window. Seeing her, we watched with a sense of dread. What was she doing? Under some spell, we didn’t think to go out and ask; we stayed in, observing, unblinking, chests pounding. Mom called Maya’s mom, told her Maya was up to something; that none of us knew what to do.
We watched as Maya shoveled with regular strong strokes, carefully piling the dirt to the side of the growing hole, which within an hour gaped. Clearly satisfied, visibly tiring, she sat in it and began covering herself; all except her hairless head. It stuck up, surrounded by dirt, severed flowers, and half-leaves. Then she began to yell.
“I need water!”
We heard her from our window perch, and so went to the backyard. Arriving at the site, we saw exactly what we had viewed from inside: Maya’s face sticking up out of the dirt. Like a flower, but pale, and plain, and beckoning. I grasped the handle of a watering can.
“Water me!,” she cried.
The water from the hose was cold. I ran some into the can, and then positioned it over her head.
“Yes!,” she said.
We all took turns watering Maya’s head, and she made clownish faces as the water flowed downwards, over her eyes which blinked and opened wide repetitively, over her mouth which spurted and smiled; over her pale, vein-lined scalp.

New York

(P.S. Many thanks to the listserve and to all who participate for the daily messages.)

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Sexy startups take too long. I needed money:

I'm a nervous female undergrad engineer at the University of Michigan, and I have this thing. A business. It all started because of a bug and an unbearable need to straighten my teeth. [Skip straight down to the ASKS if you have no patience for my running mouth.]

It's the least sexy business that a student could start (sorry, no social network for cats or mobile app for dating, here.) but it works. And I love it.

I find clients who need a little help optimizing their data management systems. Typically they are small businesses that I pass on my way to class or Chipotle. I get access to their excel spreadsheets and databases and convert the most redundant, messy, inefficient structures into gorgeously simple, automated files. This stuff gets me going (gets my customer's going too.)

I started this because
1. entrepreneurship is a bug on the U of M campus that just won't stop biting. Dude, it's completely normal for students to kick problems in the butt by STARTING things here (google MPowered Entrepreneurship). It's awesome.

2. I wanted to be able to pay for the good 'ol Invisalign treatment that I'm starting soon, instead of depending on my mom to pay the $5000 charge. Probably not the sexiest reason that should go down in history, but it's the truth. ( Invisalign is pretty sexy though. 3D scanners in your mouth when you least expect it.)

I don't see myself running a million dollar business revolving around excel spreadsheets when I'm older (Ha. Quote THAT in my biography when I'm 30 yrs old and running Excel Optimization LLC.)

So far, though, I'm addicted to the late nights. The pivots. The 50 doors closed in my face. The 2 that open. It's an exhilarating education and I challenge all students, graduates, adults, children to take on weirdass side projects and simply...try things out; fail a little.

1. If you want to optimize your organization/business' spreadsheets and databases in 2 days, email me.
2. If you're from Amazon, Apple, any Airline company--or a supply chain-focused company in general--hire me for a summer internship. I'd like to jump on a 10 minute call asap to blow your mind.
3. I want to know your entrepreneurial, self-starting stories, your side projects, your inspirations. I think that we can learn from each other. Email me!

Thanks, Listserve family. It's an honor to write my thoughts here after reading for a year and a half. My young words of wisdom: please stop waiting and just go do it.

I'm in love with you all. See you around.

Michelle Lu
Ann Arbor, Michigan

P.S. shout out to UM's A-Players: Cathy Huang (consultant, hustler), Lulu Tang (programmer, animator) Danyaal Rangwala (web developer), Pratik Kabra (web developer), Chris O'Neil (iOS developer), Shreyas Parat (product guy, meche), Kathy Lu (big data, writer), Lucy Zhao (consultant, writer), Aaron White (physicist), Lucy Zhang (product, electrical engr). Tracey Fu (consultant, pub pol.) + more

If you want to meet them, hire them, get inspired--hit me up immediately :)