Monday, June 30, 2014

On Respect, Volunteering, and Walking

It’s generally accepted that it’s a good thing to be respectful. But what does being respectful mean? I think there’s an idea that to be respectful means to always be nice to others—but I find that idea misguided.

It’s important to assume a default attitude of niceness. Generally speaking, the world is a better place if you be nice to others. But sometimes a person is no longer worthy of your respect. Oftentimes, this happens because this person has done something or said something which has hurt someone you respect even more. At times like these, dropping the "be nice to others" strategy is perfectly acceptable—you should stand up for that person who still holds your respect, in the face of the one who has lost it.

In short: Be nice to other people as you come across them, but be loyal to those who have earned your respect.


The high school system I’m going through requires a certain number of volunteer hours to be completed before graduation. The most common way to earn these hours is through volunteering at summer camps; I did this, working with disabled campers in a one-on-one setting, to help them make the most out of their experience.

I don’t volunteer with camps anymore, though. Now I volunteer my time towards writing code, specifically open-source code which is freely shared with the world. The project I dedicate most of my time to is WordPress and its related efforts, pitching in time to help build a platform which brings the power of self-publishing to so many people for free.

I started out with this code volunteering by fixing typos and grammatical errors and unclear instructions whenever I came across them. It was a great outlet to practice these skills, and all the while I was helping any future users of that code understand it better.

You can volunteer with open source projects too, whether you’re a person who can code or not. Look up "Contributing to WordPress" to learn how you can help by translating, documenting, or all sorts of other activities. And if you know how to code, pitch in that way! Don’t let the size of the project daunt you—we try to be a friendly bunch! If you need some more direction to get started, send me an email and I’d be glad to help you.

People often lose track of the value of volunteering once they enter the "real world". But the sense of accomplishment and pride it gives you is second-to-none.


My profession is as a designer, which means I spend a lot of time indoors hunched over a computer or sketchbook. But the activity I enjoy most in the world is walking.

Throughout my day, I’ll take many walking breaks. Sometimes 20 minutes, sometimes an hour, sometimes far more, all dedicated to the leisurely activity of walking. While I walk, I don’t listen to music. Actually, I usually leave my phone at home.

Walking is a way to remind me that we’re too busy trying to be connected to a world beyond our local one, and it’s a way to connect me with what’s going on around me. Walking the same (or similar) routes each day lets you see the change over time in a space and get to know everyone around.

Go out on walks and talk with the people you encounter. It’s one of the most rewarding things I do.


Well, that’s it folks. Please get in touch! I’d love to get to know you better.

Lucas Cherkewski
Waterloo, ON

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Every Bad B*tch I've Ever Known [excerpt]

The following is an excerpt from the list of Every Bad B*tch I Have Ever Known:

"[1] There isn't a name that describes the magnificent, terrific creature that is my Grannie. She raised three kids almost entirely by herself, and then raised my Gramps' children, and a couple decades later her children's children. To support herself and her people she welded, worked for RCA, sold real estate, owned a nail salon, a liquor store and a laundromat. In the meantime, she taught me all the skills I would need to survive in prison: to spend days reading, play poker and be happy with my own company. She hasn't had a bad hair day since I was born, and has broken a single nail in two decades. The love she has for her family is only equaled by the murderous rage she has waiting for anyone that tries to hurt them; it is at both times the scariest and most enabling trait I have inherited from her.

[2] Judy is a native Texan who moved to DC to work for an organization protesting the Vietnam War. She became a lawyer and bought and flipped houses that are worth hundreds of thousands of dollars now in her spare time. She ate organic and local back when it was weird and fringe. She married my cousin and mentor, who couldn't have been less like her, and theirs is the love story that could immunize against romantic cynicism on a global scale. When she isn't telling people what she thinks she's simplifying my problems with chilling ease or reminding me that pragmatism isn't very useful if it doesn't make you happy.

[3] It's not entirely clear what Leah is going to be yet (philanthropist, mother and advisor will likely be among her illustrious titles). What is evident however is that she has the makings of being one of the baddest b*tches who ever graced this here planet. She serves as a baby whisperer for crying infants the world over. She knows everything about the Catholic faith, and almost everything about almost everything else. She taught me the real meaning of kindness, and let me join her family without thought. Nobody has ever bullied her into doing something she didn't want to do, and has never thought twice about putting the straying in their place, especially me. If you don't believe in a universal moral code, it's because you aren't familiar with hers yet. On behalf of the mad LC, you're welcome world."

To all of the women and men in my life who lifted me up so that I could achieve my dreams, who emboldened me to be always and unapologetically myself, everything I do is so that I can honor your love.

Yours sincerely -
Washington, D.C.

Saturday, June 28, 2014


Hi Everyone!

I’m 20 years old and currently a third year student at the University of Waterloo. I absolutely love my University because of the great opportunities it leads me to. By the time I graduate in 2016, I’ll have approximately a year and half of working experience all thanks to the co-op program. Although my university years have played a key role in shaping my identity, and I could go on about that for a while, I want to share something with you that truly makes me who I am today.

Today, I want to share a little story about two special heroes in my life: my mom and dad. About 12 years ago, my parents decided to move to Canada from Kuwait for the sole purpose of their kids’ education. Coming to Canada, at the age of eight, I couldn’t ever comprehend what this would mean for our family. My dad decided to stay back for a while as he had been doing really well in his career back in Kuwait. My mom took care of us, helped us with our homework and ran the household here. Their time apart for 10 years meant that they made their children’s education and success their absolute priority in life. It wasn’t just the big sacrifices. I remember waking my dad up at 2:00 am his time, in Kuwait, to go on MSN and help me with a physics problem I had been struggling with. My parents’ intense love and dedication for us gives me the strength to push my limits and fears aside to continuously strive for more. The education, morals, and values they have instilled in me have made me who I am today – a leader and a fighter. And I can’t thank them enough, except to acknowledge and honour everything that they have done and continue to do for me.

Currently, I’m taking a course on Coursera called “Programming for Everyone”. I have no clue why, but educational systems fascinate me…and what interests me more are the differences between them, across cultures. This course is teaching me basic Python programming skills through data analysis. It’s amazing how technology is changing our world, especially classrooms and teaching students. It’s why I wanted to learn coding. One of the reasons why I enjoy online education is because I am allowed to move at my own pace. It satisfies my curiosity and there’s always more to learn – it never stops and I love it!

If you have any recommendations on books, music, advice or just want to connect, I would love to hear from you!

Toronto, Canada

Friday, June 27, 2014

There and Back Again

I knew something was wrong last summer when I woke up at 3 am, and she was staring out of the window. She told me that a work buddy was picking her up. Her cadence was clipped and she couldn't explain why she needed to leave. I looked at her phone when she went to the bathroom to discover that said friend was out of town. Alexis was hallucinating.

The next day she didn't meet me like she said she would. She called me 4 hours later and struggled to figure out where she was and how to get home. Once we got to the ER, she was admitted and given a diagnosis. My wife had bipolar disorder.

When we talk the months following her hospitalization, I realize we had completely different experiences. What she went through at that time sounds hellish, and I'm not sure I'd be able to endure it. However, there's a unique and surreal kind of horror endured by a person trying to help some one through a manic episode. That's what I'm here to talk about.

Alexis was released from the hospital before her mania had fully subsided because of insurance reasons. Over the next month, she would leave the house at noon and return in the early morning, without telling me where she was going. After learning that she wasn't seeing or talking to friends and family, it became clear she was wandering the streets of New York by herself.

She accused me of robbing her of her independence and asked me for a divorce. I thought this was strange since we had always valued our independence. In fact, we decided to go to colleges in different towns (we're high school sweethearts) to preserve it. The irony is, this was a time when she was least able to exercise that independence. I did things that, although I realize were in Alexis' best interest, I still feel guilty about. I slipped the medicine she refused to take in her food and coffee. I turned GPS tracking on her phone and checked it constantly. I stole and hid her credit cards. After a month, she went to go stay with her mother in Florida. She began to take her meds and decided she wanted to return to New York – and me.

Slowly but surely, Alexis began to pick up the pieces left in the wake of her manic episode. She's thriving and feeling better every day, and we're both learning how to deal and mange her condition. Sometimes it's just as if nothing happened; other times it feels like the specter of bipolar disorder casts a pall over every conversation and decision. I think about the violations of trust I committed to try to help her and worry if I might need to do that again. I worry that I may not know her passwords if that day comes. I worry about telling her, “Smoochers, I would never keep tabs on you, but I'd really like you to tell me when you update your Gmail, in case I have to spy on you again.”

I may have not known what I was in for when we got married, but I don't regret a thing. While these trials may have complicated our relationship, they've also deepened it. I'm floored by with the strength, bravery and grace that she has handled this with. If you or a loved one are going struggling with bipolar disorder, I'm happy to share the little wisdom I have.

JP Erkelens
Brooklyn, NY

Thursday, June 26, 2014

If You're Going to Try

He circled the corner and was transported. She towered in front of the canvas, and it was hard to tell where Modigliani's brushstrokes stopped and where she began. Liquid leather leggings painted her skin in the same black as the 5:15 November twilight absorbing into the Victorian buildings across 54th street. She had the hair of a crow, casually wrapped around a sock like a cinnamon roll, framing the v of her nose and the pine of her eyes.

He had been here before; the same excruciating scene played out more frequently than he cared to admit. Him, standing there like a damn fool, feeling his feet form an ionic bond with the hardwood floor while he convinced himself she was no good. Sure, she could be different. Yes, maybe he had matured. Of course, true love is searching too, waiting for him to step into the light. One. Two. Three. Four. Five.

The faint Daisy smells of Jasmine petals and musk sucker-punched him allowing only a second more of consciousness to notice her small scarlet mouth and Calla skin as he veered by. He was hoping she would look his way. Eye contact. A smirk. A nod. An affirmation. An opportunity. He made his first failed pass.

“It doesn’t matter anyways,” he told himself in the neighbouring round room. He’d read this chapter. What starts as lustful enthusiasm quickly turns to misplaced words, overanalyzed reactions, distance, and dying. He shifted the 8 ⅛ hat on his head in diffidence questioning the morning’s wardrobe decisions in his weakly lit studio. “Stupid hat.” He muttered. He told himself he was happy she didn’t see him. He was comfortable with his current complacency and moped passed the greens and pinks of Matisse without looking up.

Though she did notice him. She first admired his hat, then his boots, and appreciated the comfort displayed in his self-expression. A brief fantasy made its way across her mind: the two of them sampling the delights of Spices and Tease before searching for antique treasures at Junk while beating the storm back to her place only to sit by Geranium candles and watch “Populaire.” She imagined a honeymoon in Mumbai. She quickly corrected herself. “Shutup.” she reminded. “I’m better alone. He wouldn’t understand me: just like the last one.” She stopped and secretly wished to have had the same loss of inhibitions as the five nude woman dancing in front of her on the basic greens and blues so that she could start a conversation. “Show me the Klimt that makes your stomach hurt.” She imagined herself rhapsodizing to him.

At the lilies, he regrouped “No. I have many failures of which I am the most proud. Today is a day of growth.” He paced in a crazy-eight and retook his course. He knew better than to backward cast his eye on prospects drear. Six. Seven. Eight. Nine. Ten.

She made her way into a windowed corner and stared at the steel roof next door. She justified her cowardice “Probably has a girlfriend.” The deepest sigh.

Upon his return, the men admiring the Madame on the wall were not what he was hoping to find. He searched the galleries and raced for the steps. He saw the red soles of her Louboutin’s disappear under the second floor’s balcony. “Wait!” he grunted, three floors too high for her to hear. Eleven. Twelve. Thirteen. Fourteen. Fifteen.

Step. Step. Sixteen. Step. “excuse me.” Step. Step. Seventeen. Step. “Pardon.”

Eighteen. Nineteen.

She listlessly exited the museum.

He puddle-jumped through the lobby.

She looked back. Nothing. “Another cab ride alone.”

Andrew Moriates

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Only for my favorite people and things

This mail is only to remember my favorite people and things:
My wife Mary
My son Samu
My mum. my dad and my sister
My team F.C.Internazionale
My singer J-AX

Have a good day !

Torre de' Busi - Italy

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

A bit of everything


First of all, what a day! It’s the first time in my life I actually won something! Feels great.

Secondly; a brief introduction. My name is Raoul, 26 y/o. Just finished doing the dishes.
Living in Holland. Earning (some) money as a graphic designer.
Like a lot of people on earth I enjoy music, art, tasty food & beer, our sun and spending time with my friends/loved ones.

What I really love is combining everything together by visiting (electronic) music festivals.
Nothing beats dancing in the sun together with my friends & strangers. You should definitely visit one of the many outdoor festivals in the Netherlands during summer, the vibe is always great. Try visiting a small festival: better atmosphere, better music, smiles everywhere, less commercial crap. I will name some DJ’s, bands & other stuff I like below. It’s a bit of everything but worth checking out.

Moving on to probably my biggest passion, graphic design. I love making prints, shapes, layouts, typography, drawing letters, silly characters. Although it’s hard for me making a living with graphic design at the moment I enjoy every second making stuff. It’s satisfying solving someone’s design problem, making information easily digestible and making people smile just by using shapes and letters.

As a rookie designer, seeing the excellent work of other designers is sometimes very intimidating. Still I keep on working knowing at some point in life I will end up where I need to be. I am curious if any of you readers are in a similar situation. Or even better, have been there and in the end got exactly where they needed to be. Lemme know & show your work.

Like everyone else I can’t help to end with some kind of advice. All smart things have been said by other Listserve winners so I think it’s time for some dumb advice. Be weird! Do dumb shit but know when to stop. Temporally alter your perception; can be done in numerous ways. Put on your grandma’s glasses and take a walk. Visit a rave! ☺! ☮! Walk instead of taking the bus/car. Take a detour. Write down every wacky idea you have, at night, under the shower, later it can turn out to be a golden idea. Doing dumb things may seem dumb at first but can provide a totally new way of looking at things. Try it sometime.


Stuff I like

Samuel Deep (DJ)
Mr G (DJ - check out his boiler room performance on youtube, energy!)
Allah-Las (Band)
A Tribe Called Quest (1990’s hiphop)
Tony Joe White (Blues)
Young Marco (DJ - Totally obscure)
The Penetrators (Band, garage, noise)
Dungeon Keeper (Ancient game I played A LOT. Great gameplay)
Nicolas Jaar (DJ)
Goat (Swedish band, really cool)
Moon Duo (Band)


I have got one favor to ask from you fellow listservers living in or visiting Berlin (Kreuzberg)
Please keep your eyes peeled for a girl that fits the following description: Name begins with E, is Dutch, 23 y/o, long legged, brown eyed, dark/brown haired, *very* messy eyebrows, long eyelashes, clumsy, big smile, crazy about food / food-design, birthmark on her left cheek - near her nose, doing an internship in Berlin (food-oriented), uses subway line U7 a lot.

Please say Hi for me. Tell her I love her and that I can’t wait to hold her again. I really miss her but due to circumstances I can’t tell her myself at the moment. Plus it would be awesome if some actually managed to find and tell her. Interesting way of crowdsourcing.



The Netherlands

Monday, June 23, 2014

Color systems, in brief

Ever wonder why that blue on your monitor prints darker on your printer?
Here’s the basic why ….

The two typical color systems are RGB and CMYK (you’ve heard these used a lot).

RGB (red, green, and blue) is the type of color system used for light; it is an ADDITIVE system, so when you add them all together, you get WHITE.

CMYK (cyan, magenta, yellow, and black) is the type of color system used for basic printing; it is a SUBTRACTIVE color system, so the absence of color gives you WHITE (or paper, in this case). The use of high percentages of CMYK is called “rich black” (its a deeper black than just using 100% K. And yes, black is “K” -- not to be confused with blue, which is “B”).

The reason your print doesn’t look like your screen is because you can’t produce all the same colors from CMYK that you can from RGB. In the spectrum of color you can see, RGB gives you the most options, then the Pantone system (we’ll discuss this in a minute), and then the most limiting, CMYK. You’ll notice blues and greens print the worst … you’re hitting the limits of CMYK. (Google “color gamut” and you can see what I’m talking about.)

As I mentioned, there is also the Pantone Matching System (or PMS for short.) All designers will have what will look to you like a paint sample book on their desk; it’s actually a Pantone swatch book. Pantone colors are proprietary and widely used to choose a “spot color.” They are pre-mixed colors that will consistently be *that* color, 187C is always a dark red.

A designer will often use this book to pick colors for logos because the color translated on screen or from a CMYK printer won’t match the actual PMS sample. Also, think about your printer and my printer. The type of ink, or paper -- it will change how the color looks. Your monitor might not be color corrected like mine, and a website will look different from a monitor to a TV set (both use RBG color). Pantone, being a premixed color, will ensure consistency throughout all printed materials. “Barbie Pink” and “Coke Red” are pre-mixed Pantone colors (but their formula is a secret!). There are some generic named colors like “Rubine Red” or “Reflex Blue,” but that’s a holdover from some olden-day printing.

I hope my little lesson on color helped you in some small way today!

Now, a question. Some friends and I are trying to get an online magazine-ish-blog started. We ran one for the past few years, but now is the time to really do it for REAL, promote it and maybe even bring in some extra income with advertising. Our content includes personal essays related to current events. It’s about the story behind the story. We aren't looking for hard hitting journalists. We're looking for anyone who wants to share how their world is impacted by the world around them. If you would like to contribute shoot me an email (it’s a few months away from launching, but we can provide story topics, or take submissions). Also, if you have any experience or can provide guidance for our little startup, I would love to talk!

Finally, to a few fellow listserve readers: Lyndsy, I wish you and Rodrigo the best -- and I am so excited for you to start the next chapter in your life. Husband, I love you and I don’t know what I would do without you. Thank you for sharing this life with me.

Atlanta, GA

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Languages & a little ambiguity

After having read every Listserve email for almost two years, I thought that my turn would come sometime later in life - perhaps when I’m more settled? That’s what everyone else made me believe at least. But damn, while I’m more than happy with almost everything in life, my professional life is a big question mark! I don’t really have any advice or anything for you all so I guess I’ll just narrate a little bit of me.

I’m a 22 year old girl born and raised in New Delhi (it’s almost 46°C these days, damn summers!) - capital city of India and I’m one of those people who always knew what they wanted to do in life. So my University major was Japanese - and even though I was just fascinated by things like origami back in high school that led me to this, Japanese made me fall in love with languages. So I tried learning French and gave up mid way only to realise that my fascination was more towards languages that don’t use the Roman script. Next I took up Korean and man, don’t I love it! I want to learn Arabic next but then Esperanto looks interesting as well (any Esperanto speakers here? Would love to hear from you!). Being a polyglot is an amazing thing. I speak 4 languages right now - my mother tongue Hindi, apart from English, Japanese and Korean, and I’m still not satisfied with just these. However, it’s just a little sick how people look at languages in India. It’s a country still obsessed with orthodox careers like engineering, medical sciences, law etc. and people end up thinking that you didn’t get anywhere else to end up with a language as your major. What they don’t know is just because of this stereotype, the field remains untapped to a great extent and you can do so much more than the traditional careers if you’re good at it.

So why did I say that my professional life is a big question mark? Well, because I don't know where will I be a few months down the line and I hate this ambiguity. While I have some real amazing job offers waiting for me here, I am waiting for a small little email from the MEXT of Japan that gives me my scholarship result. I got admitted to Waseda University in Tokyo for a masters in International Relations but I still don’t know if I’ll go or not due to this scholarship result. I’ll probably have the result with me by the time this email is sent out on the Listserve though! And yes, it’s not just languages that I love. I also enjoy politics, history, cycling, running, cooking, origami and music.

Apart from this little ambiguity, life is so good I wouldn’t want to trade it for anything. I’m doing what I love to do, have an amazing family and I’m in love with the most amazing guy. I’ve been in love before and I’ve dated before, but I guess you only feel the right kind of love once in life. Of all things, it happened when I wasn’t even expecting it. How good could life be?

Drop in a little email for just about anything or if you would like to exchange language practice emails. I’ve been a silent member of the Listserve all these years but I promise I’ll reply!

PS: A big shout out to Karthik for introducing me to the Listserve and also to everyone else I asked to join the same :)

May the force be with you!

Deepali Varshney
New Delhi, India

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Recent Events

In the past 30 days:
- Most my grandmother to old age
- Moved 4 times (I got really good at stuffing things cars)
- Got a new job in a new city

In the past 7 days:
- Moved to my (hopefully) final residency for the duration of this summer
- Jumped through numerous hoops to get a place to park my car (it's a pain)
- Jumped through some more hoops to get an ID that I need for my current living situation

Yesterday (Father's Day):
- Broke up with my girlfriend
- Had my wallet and watch stolen from my room where I'm currently living

Today (Day after Father's Day):
- Spent the morning cancelling cards and trying to get replacements for the things that were in my wallet
- Got an email saying I won the listserve

But now I'm just sitting in my room, eating pizza, and writing about the recent events of my life.

Feel free to email me with any questions, comments, or random tidbits of information.

Michael Solomon
Boston, MA

Friday, June 20, 2014

Malual Chuol Khor, the Skimm, and 30x30

A Dedication:
A few weeks ago I received an email that one of my colleagues, Malual Chuol Khor, known as “Moses” was killed. Moses was a community health worker who got shot while assessing children’s nutrition and hunger needs in Akobo East, South Sudan. I never had the opportunity to meet Moses but consider him a colleague. Most of us on the Listserve will probably never know someone so brave, inspiring, and selfless. He deserves special recognition for his efforts to help children in some of the toughest places on earth. 

A Suggestion:
Subscribe to The Skimm. Just heard about this recently… It’s an email newsletter sent each the morning – rich in content but short enough to read on the quickest of train rides. Written with some wit, it’s also non-partisan and has occasional pop culture references. There’s a lot going on in the world – think of this as the top 10 most important tweets in your twitter newsfeed.

A Request:
I created 30 x 30 bucket list, and in 110 days I turn 30 years old. Right now the list is actually a 29 X 30 list. What's the last thing I should add to the list? You can find me at @jleec2 or the email below.

Jenna Cluver

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Knifed in Senegal

I’d spent the early part of the afternoon at an internet cafe across the cul-de-sac from my hotel, mostly reading news and sending a couple of emails in the name of dodging the midday heat. Leaving in the late afternoon, a roaming street vendor approached me about 50m from La Brazzerade, the hotel I was staying at while in Dakar, Senegal. The street was still busy; plenty of the stalls were still selling things to tourists, and there was lots of human traffic about. This roaming vendor had a basket of things taking up both of his hands, like a washing basket would. He starts yapping away at me rapidly in French. When I finally got a moment, I said I couldn't understand him.

He switched to broken, searching English.

On top of this basket was a foam board with holes punched through it. In the holes pairs of sunglasses sat propped up. Some were a little scratched, most just looked like knock offs. "Want sunglasses?"

I pointed to my forehead where a pair of sunnies were perched. In case he missed the gesture, I deadpanned, "I've already got some".

He smiled, "OK OK!" and in putting the board on the ground greater revealed the contents of his basket. A length of rope was tied in a circle and on it watches were kept; all showing different times, many scratched to shit and looking altogether pretty second-hand. "Want watch?"

For the second time, I fended off the would-be salesman; I gestured to my own watch, an old Seiko, significantly less scratched and showing a time I believed. With an apologetic smile, I mentioned “I already have one.”

He smiled toothily, even more broadly than before. "OK OK!" Delicately, he put the watches atop the sunglasses on the ground, getting to a collection of small cardboard boxes in his basket. Opening one, he pulled out a bottle of fragrance, half full. "Want perfumes?"

Now, it'd be a cold day in hell that I'd catch myself carrying perfume but I got away with, "no, no woman, no girlfriend, no wife".

The toothy grin persisted, accompanied with the now customary "OK OK!" and he began placing those items on the ground beside the rest of his booty. By now, his basket was mostly empty. He pulled out its last item which was obscured by a few perfume boxes.

It’s a knife.

Oh fuck.

I took half a step back. It was broad daylight and totally in public. There were dozens of people around, many quite close. I'd so far been reasonably lighthearted with respect to this nonexistent transaction but it had drained from me now, leaving uncertainty and a very real amount of fear. He stepped forward, knife extended, still smiling.

Smiling, as this was probably how he came to obtain these things he was now "selling" and he'd just ostensibly hit jackpot for future sales. I was rooted to the spot. Through the toothy grin came, "want knife?"

I could hardly believe it. Right hand diving into my pocket, I retrieved and unfolded in one motion a knife that Russ, my housemate, had given me last year.

"Nah mate, I've got a knife."

He kept smiling, gathered his things and wandered off, wishing me a good day. I went and found beer to heavily self medicate with.


Everyone has seen or done at least one thing that retelling can keep an audience in the palm of their hand. Tell me yours.

Lastly, I’ll be in Alaska next week for a while. Tell me where to go/let’s have a beer.

Cam Ritchie
Perth, Western Australia

Wednesday, June 18, 2014


Outlandish theories of mine that I don’t necessarily believe:

- Maybe when we sleep, our changed brain wave patterns allow us to sense some of the other timelines in the multiverse, which inform our dreams.

- Perhaps a strong emotional event causes brain waves to imprint onto wood at a quantum level like a hard drive writes to magnetic material. People who are sensitive to it could get a feeling of what happened. So ghosts are like, not interactive.

- Regarding the Fermi Paradox: What if our concept of space-time is way off—just an illusion in the state of matter we call consciousness.
So we’re out there, somewhere, waiting for us to contact us... Nah.

For posterity:

In 1994, at the age of 17, I left my home in New York and went on a backpacking trip across Europe with my best friend. We had no debit cards, no smart phones with Google Maps—no cell phones at all. We had travelers checks you could only cash during regular business hours, and before the Euro that meant loosing money exchanging everywhere we went with little idea of the exchange rate—and hardly a way to check.

The web was in its infancy, and there weren't really any “cyber cafes” to send an email to the one or two friends that actually had email addresses. I think I spoke to my parents once over the course of a month. Finding useful information online was impossible; our nearly sole source of information was a “Let’s Go Europe” guide book.

Now, I can hardly go somewhere 5 blocks away in my own neighborhood without checking Google Maps. How did we manage? How did we get around? Paper maps?! We had to ask strangers for directions, which in turn helped us meet new people and find places that weren’t in the guide book. People would leave messages for each other on bulletin boards in youth hostels like “MM, We’ll be in Paris at the Aloha Hostel in 2 weeks”. Things were way more inconvenient, but demanded mental strength, emotional independence, and being more social in real life. Honestly, I can hardly believe I did it.

In retrospect, I can really grasp how much my life has changed as a result of technology. I remember hearing my parents talk about when they got their first TVs and thinking how different times were for them growing up. I think the difference between their generation and mine is drastically less than my generation and the next. I’ve become so dependent on computers and the internet that I'd like to try to take a one week sabbatical from all computer technology once a year and go camping. It takes a couple days to “detox” and stop reaching for my phone every 30 seconds, but when I do, and get over Fear Of Missing Out, it is a great feeling of freedom. I love technology—I’m a coder and electronic musician—but it is really important to remember that we can live without it.

Happy Father’s Day to my Dad! He’s a great human being. I love you, Dad! I am so lucky to have such a great father.

Shout out to Marianna, fighting the good fight in Rio. Screw FIFA! Go Brazil! xox

If you work at an ad agency in NYC: Hire me!

If you live in the US: It’s time for common sense gun laws. Gun ownership should be, at the least, as regulated as car ownership. How many people have to die before things change?

And finally, smile. Even if you don’t feel like it, fake it, just for a second. See? It’s good for you.

Daniel McNeil
Brooklyn, NY, USA

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

thanks to my families

Hey friends. I'm Peter, a 21 y/o college student studying biology and psychology with (i think) far too much job experience lifeguarding for someone my age.

I got this email after a long-as-hell finals week closing out a longer-as-hell school year (just finished my third year of college) and was about to head home for a weekend with my family. I had two siblings' graduation party to attend (brilliant grads of the 8th and 12th grades), father's day festivities to partake in, and a brother from out of state in town to visit with. What with all the fun and familial silliness (familliness?) I had going on I very nearly didn't find the time to send all of you my little note.

So I guess with the caveat that I have not lived that long/accrued much "wisdom" or whatever, I'll just share my feelings after this family weekend as well as a bit of advice. I'm super thankful for all the families I've belonged to, including but not limited to my family-family, my dorm-mates and other friends at school, my lovely family that hosted me for 4 months in Denmark, my teammates over the years, and folks I go to church with. I'm also looking forward to the families I may one day belong to.

Particularly in light of a day like father's day, remember to show love and thanks however suits you best to all the families that you're a part of, be they ones you were born into or those you made yourself or found later on. Gratitude looks good on everybody, and in a world with so few universally-flattering colors, it's a pretty stylin' idea to incorporate it into your wardrobe.

On the heels of that half-baked advice, I would advise you to also

-watch The Lego Movie, idgaf how old you are it's the best thing ever
-read "Everybody's Free to Wear Sunscreen"
-listen to One Direction (or at least don't be an elitist turd and hate on those who do [such as yours truly])
-be bold in asking people if you can pet their dogs

Wishing you all the best,

Monday, June 16, 2014

Hi there! I find it an honour to have been chosen by Listser...

Hi there! I find it an honour to have been chosen by Listserve.
I live in Cape Town in sunny South Africa,with my husband,cat+toy-pom.
My son passed away from Heriditary colon cancer (familiar polyposis)3yrs ago,aged 24yrs + I still find it hard to accept he is gone + my daughter I'd 29yrs old + she has to have a Colonoscopy every 2yrs until she is 45 to see if she developes Colon Cancer too. Its been hard but God gives us strength if we believe in him.
If anyone has had a similar experience or just to chat about Life .....
God Bless,

Carolynn Dyer

Sunday, June 15, 2014

A message to myself in the future

Tl;dr: I’m striving to live more authentically. Email me! =)

Oh how I wish that wasn’t such a cliché. There are so many things I wanted to share with you, but this topic is really a message to myself.

Being honest with others is important, but being honest with yourself has to come first and is probably harder. Admitting when I’m wrong, my bad habits like procrastination, or that I’ve been making excuses is uncomfortable, but it’s ok to experience discomfort. Confronting my true feelings on others, how I want to spend my time, or what my big dreams are without disclaimers, is more than a worthy goal. It’s key to living “true to myself”.

Probably the hardest thing I’ve had to admit to myself that I grew up with an alcoholic. Although I dealt with the repercussions of that every day, it was a long, slow process to accept as truth. It’s still hard to talk about, but now that I can, it frees me to ask myself how I really feel about it and address the consequences.

One consequence was that I became a people-pleaser, worrying more about what others wanted than what I needed. It took me a long time to realize you don’t have to try to please everyone. Steps to independence have made it easier to feel, voice, and assert my needs. After high school, I practiced ‘being rude’ as a way of rebelling against people-pleasing. In college I began to spend my breaks the way I wanted to. As I’ve become an independent adult, I’ve realized all the choices I’m lucky to have: where I live, what I do for a living, who to include in my self made family. Lately I’ve been asking everyone around me for their opinions on decisions I need to make, from trivial to important, but the key to making decisions lies in knowing myself better.

I’m thinking a lot about living authentically because of my biological father. I only first met him recently. He sent child support growing up, but nothing else as far as I knew. I’m easy to find and contact on the web, but I never heard a peep from him until I sent him a random facebook message – just short update on my life, as I thought he was not interested. I was shocked to receive a long, gushing reply telling me how much he had longed to communicate with me all those years. Ever since, I have been wondering what really stopped him when it was so easy before, and when all it took was one small prompt to open the floodgates from him of stories and hopes. He has his excuses but he knows they’re just that. Learning more about him and the ghostly presence I’ve apparently had in his life, I’ve imagined how different things could have been and still could be if he could be honest with himself, and then with people in his life, about me and probably many other things too.

I’d like to come back to this email in a year and see if I followed my own advice. How do you keep yourself honest? Please write back! A couple other things we can chat about:

What’s your favorite band to see live? I’m a show fiend.

Brazilian percussion. Check out The Handphibians!

German Wheel. Average people can learn awesome new skills, at places like Madison Circus Space.

Computer Science. I know a lot of you are techies out there. I’ve got a hypothesis about how we can increase diversity in the field. What’s your idea?

Madison, WI

Saturday, June 14, 2014

ε=ε=ε=ε=ε=ε=┌(; ̄◇ ̄)┘ hiiiiiiiii

Helllooooo, Trav here. I’m 27 and live in the San Francisco Bay Area (though my home is Vermont, shout out to my homies). One of my favorite things to do is getting lost in the depths of Wikipedia. What follows is a small subset of my list of favorite articles in the following format:

“interesting quote”
--------article [my comments]

--------List of cognitive biases [makes me wish I had studied psychology]

--------List of common misconceptions

“Fagan entered the palace through an unlocked window on the roof and spent the next half hour eating cheddar cheese and crackers and wandering around. He tripped several alarms, but they were faulty. He viewed the royal portraits and rested on the throne for a while. He then entered the postroom, where Diana, Princess of Wales had hidden presents for her first son, William. Fagan drank half a bottle of white wine before becoming tired and leaving.”
--------Michael Fagan Incident

“more people commute by bicycle in greater Copenhagen than cycle to work in the entire United States.”
--------Copenhagen [I’d like to visit/live there]

--------List of unexplained sounds

“Saying “Hey baby, you’re looking good” varies greatly from the use “Baby, don’t swim at the deep end of the pool!””
--------Term of endearment

--------List of air filtering plants [your air is dirty but plants can help]

“communities who live … without significant contact with globalized civilization.”
--------Uncontacted Peoples

--------Yolo County, California [It’s not just a state of mind, it’s the state of California]

--------Apollo 17 [Things I didn’t know about the last time people went to the moon:
•2 guys hung out there for 3 whole days
•They collected rocks, left bombs around and repaired their car with duct tape]

“There is a widespread consensus that substantial long-term sea-level rise will continue for centuries to come.”
--------Current sea level rise

“a medical disorder characterized by uncontrollable bursts of sneezing brought on by fullness of the stomach”
--------Snatiation [it’s fun to say hehe]

--------Timeline of Solar System exploration [a lot of cool stuff has happened in space y’all]

“A toast sandwich is a sandwich made by putting a thin slice of toast between two thin slices of bread”
--------Toast Sandwich

“Jeanne Calment … had the longest confirmed human lifespan in history, living to the age of 122 years

At age 85 (1960), she took up fencing, and continued to ride her bicycle up until her 100th birthday

Calment smoked from the age of 21 (1896) to 117 (1992)

Calment ascribed her longevity and relatively youthful appearance for her age to olive oil, which she said she poured on all her food and rubbed onto her skin, as well as a diet of port wine, and ate nearly one kilogram (2.2 lb) of chocolate every week.”
--------Jeanne Calment

--------Évariste Galois[even better than the Wikipedia article is Danny O’Brien’s blog post, “touch of the galois”]

And also, here’s a bonus riddle, if you can tell me what is meant by the following statement, I’ll give you a prize (maybe),

“he’s a gray baloney at my almond butter”

…and if this wasn’t life motivating enough, lookup Steve Roggenbuck’s “stop pretending it’s boring to be alive”

have a nice day,

Trav Fryer
Mountain View, CA

Friday, June 13, 2014

Food for Thought

Greetings to everyone on the listserve. I'm Matthias, a 23 year old student, and amongst other things, I study computer science, philosophy and psychology. I'm not writing some long detailed story, I just want to give good "food for thought" to everyone of you.

1) Developing skills and competence that suit your character, and utilizing them is a crucial life task. Don't do something you need to do - become really good at something you want to do instead. I know it's an old saying, but motivation really is the key.

2) "Someone who walks slow, still goes faster than somebody standing still". Actually starting something, even if it's slow, is better than not starting it at all. Also, progress requires goals, and growth - otherwise you might stop walking.

3) Infinity isn't just "large" - it's not a static entity, like a huge number. It's just used to describe the lack of any boundaries. Also see "Infinite monkey theorem", Graham's number.

4) Causality chain: Everything that happens is a result of a long chain of other events. If one event in this chain would've been different, the whole outcome might have been completely different as well. Every fraction of a second counts. Think about a specific occurence, and track back all the little things that lead to it. You can go backwards in chain links forever, and if a coincidence didn't happen at the correct second, everything could've been different. It might sound a bit extreme, but after all it seems that our entire existence is based on a huge chain of accurate events. See also: Chaos theory, butterfly effect, determinism.

5) In regards to 4), coincidence really is amazing and one of the most powerful things. Some might believe in destiny or fate, but after all, the universe is a complex and dynamic system, where everything affects each other. Try out as many things as you can, have a plan and be dedicated, but also allow yourself to "experience coincidence", so many options might come towards you.

6) In the end, only memories stay, and you're only experiencing the presence. So the underlying reasoning behind all our actions might be experiencing as many good moments as possible.

7) The reason we procrastinate is because we value the presence much more than the uncertain future. Enjoyment (=reward) right now > possible benefits in the future.

8) "A man convinced against his will, is of the same opinion still". If you want someone to do or believe something, he must want it.

9) Most people are defensive and unwilling to admit mistakes, thus, criticizing is often pointless. However, agreeing with someone in a debate often does wonders, and might lead to the other person suddenly questioning himself.

10) There is no perfect ethical system. Almost always, you could interpret an action as right or wrong (e.g. murder could cause more good than bad, and thus might be justified in one system, but of course measuring the amount of "good" or "bad" is subject to interpretations again).

11) The root of all evil in the world might be greed and selfishness, also causing the current economic outgrowth. Even though that hardly can be fixed, „effective altruism“ tries to figure out efficient ways to improve the situation. Might be worth checking into.

12) Book tip: "How to win friends and influence people" by Dale Carnegie, with many revelations on human relations.

If some of these words made you think, I'm happy :) feel free to contact me if you want to talk more about something.

Vienna, Austria

Thursday, June 12, 2014

See Your Folks

I didn’t fall in love with my son immediately. Apparently, it often takes a bit longer for the Dad. It did for me – about 4 months, when he was starting to show some understanding of the fact that it was his Dad who was around.

Since then, what I struggle to understand is why having a child doesn’t seem to bring everyone closer to their own parents. I can’t understand how people don’t consider the inexplicable, natural love they feel for their child/children and relate it to how their own parents feel about them.

Go to a website called 'See Your Folks'. And wherever your parents are, make sure you see them, talk to them, cherish them and allow them to cherish you more often while they’re still here.

Canberra, Australia

I can't think of any particularly interesting stories to tel...

I can't think of any particularly interesting stories to tell, and I don't have any pithy life advice, so instead I'll give you some music. I'm sticking to just five pieces, because I'm afraid that if I list more you’ll all just see a long list and ignore it...

Some of these are classical choral pieces and some are modern songs. All of them are among the most beautiful things I've ever heard, and they all make me feel things that seem meaningful and important and worth feeling. Maybe they'll do the same for you.

Ave verum corpus — William Byrd
Viðrar vel til loftárása — Sigur Rós
Angeles — Elliott Smith
Os justi — Anton Bruckner
Sanvean — Dead Can Dance

Happy listening!

Asa Goodwillie
Boston, Massachusetts

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

If you’re not on the edge, you’re taking up too much space.

Everything changes and nothing stands still – Heraclitus

Most people fear change, yet change is the only constant. In learning to embrace change and what it means, you open yourself up to interesting possibilities in your life. Be out there. Push the envelope. Dare to be different. Have passion for what you do. Take that risk.

The Question Hootenanny

Ask a question, get an answer. When you ask great questions, you often get great answers. When you ask questions no one has asked before you may well get new answers no one has thought of before. Try it. Often.

Get Shit Done

Stop thinking about it. Stop talking about it. Stop dreaming about it. Take a few meaningful steps everyday to bring your vision into reality. Concrete action. Deliverables. Milestones. Screw procrastination, make things happen and get shit done. Start today. Start now.

Better the World

Do something with your life that helps make the world a better place. Why not? The more you make the world a better place…the better YOUR world becomes. There’s no down side. Microfinance makes the world a better place. Guiding and mentoring someone who is coachable makes the world a better place. Being kind to others makes the world a better place. Helping people grow makes the world a better place. Launching a startup that employs people and makes money makes the world a better place.

Shits and Giggles.

I’ve been happily married for 28 years…in a row…to the same incredible woman. We have three amazing sons who are all wonderful, smart, kind, thoughtful young men. We all work very hard at what we do and laugh our collective assess off a lot. Shark Tank is our favorite show to watch as a family. Walking Dead a close second. They should do a special show that combines the two. Mark Cuban as a zombie killer. Kevin O’Leary telling a zombie startup founder, “You’re dead to me”. Okay, off track now.

The Startup

I’ve been doing startups for 20+ years. Started one of the top 10 interactive agencies in the world (according to Ad Week magazine). 40 full time staff. Seven million in annual revenue. Blew up at the end. Bad mojo. Other things I’ve co-founded in the last few years. NedSpace, co-working for startups, remote workers and social entrepreneurs. Maker Faire Africa, for innovators, builders and makers throughout the African continent. Pitchlandia, crowd-driven, crowd-sourced, crowd-decided live funding event 20 startup founders pitch, 10 get funded, 100% decided by a live audience of 300 people. All three things first of their kind in the world.

90 Days to Cash Flow Positive

Every company I’ve started since 1989 has been cash-flow positive in 90 days or less. I’ve never raised a dollar in venture capital for one of my own companies. I’ve never written a business plan, and at this stage in my life….I never will. So it goes. Starting a real startup is art. It’s innovation. It’s true exploration, Not small businesses, not being an “entrepreneur”…but a startup founder driven to create something new, exciting and innovative based on growing an idea you’re passionate about.

Do You Have a Startup in You?

If so, and you want to grow it in a supportive environment of other founders in a free online peer-to-peer network (private Google Group), drop me an email. If 25 people respond I’ll create a private Google Group where everyone can help one another to launch and grow their startup with this peer-to-peer support. 90 days to cash flow positive.

Startup your startup and change the world.

Mark Grimes
Portland, Oregon

Tuesday, June 10, 2014


Unlike a lot of these Listserve emails we get, I have nothing really of use to share with you. There is no uplifting message and no important lesson that can help you have a better life.

I am 41 years old and for the last eight years I have been happy with my life. What about the previous 33 years, you may ask? Well, they were okay, but I had no idea what I wanted to do. I had pretty much drifted through life without any goals, or at least, none that had stuck. But for the last eight years I have been working at my dream job and I simply stumbled into it.

You see, I love cars. Ever since I can remember I have been fascinated with them, probably before I can remember as well.

For the past eight years I have had a job where car manufacturers give me brand new cars to drive for a week so I can write about them. They fly me all over the world to exotic locations, put me up in five-star accommodation, feed me the finest cuisine and ply me with the best booze. I am one of the luckiest bastards in the world, and I will still criticise the iPod interface in their newest car.

I am a motoring journalist and have what I consider to be one of the best jobs to have ever existed, especially for someone who loves cars (and booze). It was my dream job when I was young and I first found out there was such a thing as a “motoring journalist”.

When I did, I was in awe - people were actually paid to drive cars and write about them? That has to be the ultimate job, my nine-year-old mind muttered to itself. That would be freakin’ AWESOME...

Then, because I was nine, my mind scampered off to think about other nine-year-old boy things, like what would happen if you put the cat in the washing machine (you bleed quite a lot and the cat never goes in) or what the inside of the digital clock looks like (pretty much exactly like a broken digital clock) and the idea of writing about cars became a distant dream.

But here’s the really annoying part for anyone who is driven, highy-motivated and chases determinedly after their dream: I didn’t get this job by charging after it in a focussed fashion, studying journalism and reading everything I could about cars. I didn’t relentlessly harass editors and publishers to let me write about cars for them. Nope, like all the best things that have ever happened to me, it just happened when I was least expecting it.

Eight years ago I was in the right place at the right time and after 33 years of basically drifting through life was offered my dream job. At the time I had six months experience writing for a tiny local newspaper on a part-time basis and was living at home with my mother.

Now I do something I love. I don’t live with my mother anymore either (but I still vist regularly!).

Sure, the stress levels get pretty high around deadline time and being a freelancer means you pretty much have to be constantly on the lookout for work, but the payoff is a job and a lifestyle I truly love and look forward to every day.

Like I said at the start; no messages, no lessons. Just the thought that sometimes drifting through life can lead to very good things indeed.

Damien O’Carroll
Auckland, New Zealand

Monday, June 9, 2014

Learning to Think

Hello, world. I'm a Computer Science PhD student studying Artificial Intelligence, which suddenly seems cooler when I write it down [1]. Today, I'd like to talk about intelligence, brains [2], learning, and solving problems. It's the kind of stuff that keeps me up at night, and amazingly enough, it also manages to pay my rent.

I discovered Computer Science in an Intro to Java course my freshman year of college. Programming hooked me with its instant feedback loop: write some code, and now I'm playing chess against myself. Write some more, and now the computer is playing against me. Write more, and now the computer is winning, despite the fact that I taught it (quite literally) everything it knows! It's a rush that I still don't know how to accurately describe. It's the kind of creation that drives artists, inventors, and scientists to work long hours for low pay and poor recognition, and once I tasted it I couldn't stop.

During college, I channeled this energy into a passion for solving real-world problems with computers, which the AI community calls "Machine Learning" [3]. That led me to enroll in a PhD program [4], where I joined the Autonomous Learning Laboratory at UMass.

I'd like to tell you about the grand projects we undertake in the lab, with shiny anthropomorphic robots following our spoken instructions and monolithic supercomputers that project the future in amazing detail [5].

Instead, my PhD research is mathy and esoteric. It turns out that humans are particularly good at exploring the unknown in small, understandable chunks, while computer algorithms excel at making shallow insights on massive scales. On occasion, however, the pieces come together to produce world-changing results [6].

My point in all this is that there's nothing mystical about intelligence, whether it originates in cells or silicon. We still have much to discover about the universe and our brains, but I believe that by teaching computers to learn, we're also giving computers a chance to teach us.

[1] Usually at this point in a conversation, someone chimes in with: "Artificial Intelligence? Like in that movie where science goes too far and creates something it can't handle, resulting in disastrous consequences?" Yep. That kind.

[2] You can't talk about AI without a tangent about the brain, and all too often someone smugly quotes: "If the human brain were so simple that we could understand it, we would be so simple that we couldn't." It's a nicely constructed sentence, but it doesn't stand up logically. Understanding the brain is not only possible, it's essential. I decided to leave the brain research to the neuroscientists, though, because it turns out there's a shortage of living human brains to experiment on.

[3] In truth, this is what AI has been about all along, but a period of overpromising and bad PR led researchers to re-brand the field.

[4] If you're considering a PhD, don't believe all the things you read about it on the internet. Each student's experience is different, based on the school, department, and advisor you work with. Your fellow graduate students also make a huge difference!

[5] That's actually not so far off, though it doesn't seem as futuristic in real life. I just asked my phone "Will it rain today?", and Google's massive network of datacenters spoke back in a pleasant female voice: "Yes, the forecast is 84 degrees with a chance of storm". My lab's robots look more like trash cans than people, though.

[6] Can you remember what finding information was like before modern search engines? It wasn't pretty.

CJ Carey
Amherst, Massachusetts, USA

Sunday, June 8, 2014

The Goodness of Others

To say that this is the last thing I would expect this exact week is a huge understatement. I turned 23 a few weeks ago; graduated college a little over a year ago; started my first full time job about ten months ago; and lost one of my biggest fans just a few days ago. Cue the tears...or the smiles of remembrance (actually, the smiles- my dad lit up the room and made people smile wherever he went).

My dad developed Alzheimer's disease several years ago and from the day he was diagnosed up until last Friday my mother, sister and I took care of him. Thanks to a system of relentless unity, collaboration, and love, we made it through. Thanks to our friends and family we're going to make it through this, as everyone else who loses a loved one does.

The past few days of phone calls, visits, and ad hoc trips across the country, have taught me the extent to which people can love and care. And with that I'll say it- thanks. To those of you who subscribe and are reading, for doing so (especially you, lovely lady who just helped me from beginning to end with the funeral services), and to everyone and anyone I've met who is/are also reading this. Even if we haven't spoken in a while, I'm glad I had the chance to be a part of your experience.

If there's one thing I want to do for my dad, it's to keep learning- whether it's in continuing graduate degrees or in learning from other people and places, I will. So feel free to reach out, whether you want to commiserate on experiencing Alzheimer's or are into international development and public health, or simply need a new pen pal, I'll be glad to hear about it.

Have a great day ListServian!

Northern VA

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Fears of the Morrow

"And my dreams are strange dreams, are day dreams, are grey dreams,
And my dreams are wild dreams, and old dreams and new;
They haunt me and daunt me with fears of the morrow –
My brothers they doubt me – but my dreams come true. "

-from The Wander-Light
Henry Lawson

Tomorrow is a human a thing. For other minds there is only now. But not for us.

We sleep and wake and live our lives by tides and shapes of nights and days and nights.

Tomorrow is our dance; the steps of our rhythms with legs astride.

Because it's pain that teaches best, we fear the morrow. And so we should.

Yet tomorrow is the promise of a better thing.

I live now. Fears of the morrow mine are now. But my dreams too come true.

My dreams too come true.

Max Goff
Saratoga Springs, UT USA

Friday, June 6, 2014

Hysterectomy at 19

I had a hysterectomy when I was 19.

In writing that sentence my knee-jerk reaction was to prefix it with “I was FORCED” to have a hysterectomy at 19 – but that simply isn’t true – in fact, I had to fight for it, which was (and undeniably still is) the most difficult thing about the whole experience

I didn’t have cancer, and while I did suffer from serious health problems none of them were life threatening. But after 7 years of debilitating gynaecological problems, over 30 surgeries, chronic-pain, and the onset of a secondary condition that rendered me unable to take any hormonal medication, I had run out of options.

The process of obtaining a hysterectomy for a young woman in Australia is a horrible endeavour, one that forces the patient to acknowledge responsibility at every juncture. I understand the legalities behind the loopholes I was forced to jump through, but to this day it remains the most traumatising part of the whole experience. Permanently losing my ability to bear a child and the physical act of having my womb removed was nothing compared to the sense of blame that was foisted upon me.

The process was long and arduous, heightened by the fact that the more disheartened I became the harder I had to fight. I was incredibly fortunate to have the support of my long-time gynaecological surgeon (even though it went against everything he stood for), but his blessing was just the tip of the iceberg.

For him to legally perform the surgery I needed to be examined and assessed by a plethora of medical professionals, including my GP, an endocrinologist, a pelvic-floor physiotherapist (they really exist), a pain management specialist, a psychologist, and an independent gynaecologist who I’d never seen before. When all those people had submitted their recommendations I was forced to undergo a full psychiatric work-up to determine if I was of sound mind (I was). At every point I had to plead my case, to beg for this procedure, to fight for it harder than I’ve ever fought for anything in my life. I was constantly reminded that it was MY decision and I was to blame for any future repercussions, a sense of liability that clings to me even 5 years later.

One of the more difficult stipulations was that I had to write a letter to my future-self explaining the reasons behind my decision in my own words. It was the final nail in my guilt coffin, a physical entity linking my culpability in the present to my potential regret in the future. Like everything else it was a fight, a plea – but this time I was begging myself, and in doing so admitting fault – now, and forever.

There are two copies of that letter in existence today; one sits in an archive room at a Sydney hospital, the other is in a safe at my parents’ house. I have no interest in seeing either - but one day I may - which is why I will also be adding a copy of this to the one at my old home, to remind me that while I may blame myself now and in the future it is only because of a system that forced me to feel this way.

So was it worth it, Future Self? We both already know the answer to that question.

P.S. She’ll very likely never see this, but I just want to tell 25,000 people that I, quite honestly, have the best mum in the world, and that I am just so thankful for her unwavering and unconditional love and support. I genuinely couldn’t have got through any of this without her.

P.P.S. Feel free to get in touch – Contrary to this email I’m actually quite a bubbly, vivacious person and I’d love to chat about non-uterusy things!

Sydney, Australia

Thursday, June 5, 2014

West Papua

I recently visited West Papua and was very surprised how different it is from the rest of Indonesia, Journalists are banned from entering the region so the outside world rarely hears about what happens.West Papua was colonised by the Netherlands in 1898, along with the islands that now make up Indonesia. When the Republic of Indonesia became an independent nation state in 1949, West Papua remained under Dutch control. The Dutch government began preparing West Papua for its own independence throughout the 1950s. At the end of 1961, West Papua held a Congress at which its people declared independence, and raised their new flag – the Morning Star. But within months the dream was dead. The Indonesian military invaded West Papua and conflict broke out between the Netherlands, Indonesia and the indigenous population regarding control of the territory. The US intervened and engineered an agreement between Indonesia and the Netherlands, which in 1962 gave control of West Papua to the United Nations and one year later transferred control to Indonesia. The Papuans were never consulted. However, the agreement did promise them their right to self determination – a right which is guaranteed by the UN to all people in the world.

By 1969 there was widespread resistance to Indonesian rule. The Indonesian military had killed and imprisoned thousands of Papuans in the seven years it had occupied the country – yet it was under these conditions that the people were supposed to exercise their right to self determination. It was agreed that the UN should oversee a plebiscite of the people of West Papua, in which they would be given two choices: to remain part of Indonesia or to become an independent nation. This vote was to be called the ‘Act of Free Choice.’

But the Act was a sham. Instead of overseeing a free and fair election, the UN stood by while Indonesia rigged the vote. Declaring that the Papuans were too ‘primitive’ to cope with democracy, the Indonesian military hand-picked just 1,026 ‘representative’ Papuans, out of a population of one million, bribed them and threatened to kill them and their families if they voted the wrong way. So strong was the intimidation that despite widespread opposition to Indonesian rule, all 1,026 voted to remain a part of Indonesia. Despite protests from the Papuans, a critical report by a UN official and condemnation of the vote in the international media, the UN shamefully sanctioned the result and West Papua has remained under control of the Indonesian state ever since. The Papuans now dub this episode ‘the Act of No Choice’. Consigning the fate of a million people to live under the brutal occupation that ensued is one of the most shameful chapters in the history of the UN. Recently there have been a number of detailed reports that heavily criticise the actions of Indonesia, the UN, and its member states during this period.

In recent years a new independence organisation, the KNPB (National Committee for West Papua) has become prominent. Under its guidance huge independence rallies have been held across West Papua and the West Papuan’s voice is united more than ever. As a result, many of its members have been arrested, tortured and killed. In 2012, the KNPB chairman Mako Tabuni was killed by Indonesian police, whilst many others face lengthy jail sentences of up to fifteen years just for raising the West Papuan flag.

You can lean more by checking the West Papua Subreddit or searching for the Free West Papua organisation in Oxford.


Andy Rogers
Birmingham, UK

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

7 Billion people

n. The realization that each random passerby is living a life as vivid and complex as your own - populated with their own ambitions, friends, routines, worries, and inherited craziness - and epic story that continues invisibly around you like an anthill sprawling deep underground, with elaborate passageways to thousands of other lives that you’ll never know existed, in which you might appear only once, as an extra sipping coffee in the background, as a blur of traffic passing on the highway, as a lighted window at dusk

I found this on Reddit one day and it just made me think about how insignificant my life must be compared to the other 7 billion people on this planet. I've always thought of having so many problems, so much troubling me. But when you look at it from a wider perspective, billions of other people are having the same problems that you might have. Everyone shares their problems with everyone else, even though we might not meet each other in our entire lifetime.

Lets consider the man serving coffee at my local cafe up the street. I've gone up and asked for a cup of water and a bagel maybe a few times, not really interested in this person life. But for all we know, he could be deep in debt, working his butt off to make up for student loans on a wasted degree that he never needed. This man has no time for a relationship, he has become a slave to the banks. His life is just as complex as mine or yours, if not more. The more you think about it, the more fun this game becomes. You can fabricate fantastic lives for people just by glancing at their faces. Maybe that person speeding on the freeway was on their way to the delivery of their baby, or to a very important meeting. It’s the type of thing I like to do while I am walking around town. Plus, it helps get the creative juices flowing when it comes to writing stories.

As I near the end of your attention span, I must begin my concluding sentences. Your life is incomprehensibly small compared to the lives of the other people around you, most of whom you have never seen or never will see. And as much as we think that our lives are soooo much more important than the guy you shoved on the sidewalk, then think again. Because everyone you will ever meet is thinking, breathing, and feeling the same as you are. We think we are all different, but everyone is human.

Portland, OR

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

My Rock

My husband and I have been together for 12 years, we met in college, dated
for 6 years and got married 6 years ago. I often forget just how much
we've been through during that time (good and bad): the ups and downs of
college, family deaths, graduation, grad school, first jobs, not knowing
how we'll pay the bills, buying a first home, andŠbabies (!). And even
when I sit here and write this, I know there are countless things I'm

He's my person (anyone watch Grey's Anatamoy?). I can always count on him.
He knows me best. Basically, he's my rock.

But, at the end of the day I love him the most because he makes me laugh.
Not just giggle or chuckle. I'm talking the deepest, most uncontrollable,
eye watering belly laugh that you can possibly imagine. There's nothing

So, my message is this: If you're with someone and you're not having fun
in your relationship, it's not worth it. Your "person" should be able to
bring out the best in you and be able to make you laugh uncontrollably
(and you the same to them). It's pretty simple really.

Also, listen to your kids (or just kids in general). I mean reeeeally
listen. My 2 year old points out the most obvious things that I take for
granted everyday. She's helped me see (and hear) the world around me in a
completely fresh light. Try it, you'll be amazed.

Like my advice? Don't like it? Either way, I'd love to hear from you. Or
planning a trip to Wisconsin (I know you want to!)? I'd be happy to point
you in the direction of the best places to visit, eat, lounge, canoe, etc.

Oh, hey there toots!

Katie J
Madison, Wisconsin

Monday, June 2, 2014

Ma & Pa Kettle

My parents are pretty extraordinary people. In the late '80s, My dad came to the U.S. from Nigeria with less than $100 in his pocket to study veterinary medicine at the University of Auburn. My mom followed a few years later to study pharmacy, and then they popped out my older brother. I still don't understand how two foreign grad students were able to raise my two brothers and me on an American college campus. But they did it somehow. And mind you, there were no grandparents to send the kids to stay with. And then if life weren't already hard enough, my mom encouraged my dad to go back to med school in his 30s: "You've always wanted to be a real doctor. Be a man, and go be a real doctor." (My mom's words, not mine). So he did at age 36, with an 8-year old, a 5-year old (me), and a 2-year old at home. Still, they both did a pretty solid job raising us, especially my mom. And I know I wasn't an easy child - wetting the bed 'til I was in high school, and getting expelled from middle school, all the while thinking I knew better than they did because they were foreigners.

After my sophomore year of high school, my dad got an opportunity to open his own OB/GYN practice in West Virginia. The schools there were pretty terrible, so my parents sent me back to Georgia to live with a friend. After 3 months, my mom decided she needed to be with me, so she and my younger brother came back to Georgia. But my dad stayed. He stayed in West Virginia until he finished putting me through Yale, and by that time, my younger brother needed his dad back so he'd stop getting into trouble. So my dad shut down his practice, and he came back to give it a go in Georgia in the middle of a recession.

Fast forward to today, and somehow they're so damn proud of me, when they're the impressive ones. They're so damn proud of their son in New York. They're so proud, and I don't care. I was always more concerned with impressing other people than with impressing my parents. For me, the impression hierarchy was always "friends, then strangers, then family." At least until recently. A couple years ago, I quit my job in finance to start a company (shout-out to my partner Andy, who also clued me into The Listserve!). Some days it's great, some days it's rough. This happens to be a good month, and today happens to be a good day. Tomorrow should be too. My parents don't understand what I do, and they'll be proud of me no matter what. But for the first time, I want to do right by them and make it work. I remember when I got into Yale. I leaned over the bannister and called down nonchalantly to my mom who was sound asleep on the couch. Her reaction was not nonchalant. She immediately jumped up, started running around downstairs (picture the running man at a gospel revival), then up the stairs screaming and praising Jesus. I know I'd like to see that again.

New York, NY

P.S.: Lower Manhattan Community Church in New York is so dope. If you're in New York and like thoughtful honest sermons, great music, and wonderful community, come visit.

Past Crushes: Breana, Bethany, Amanda, Nina, Christy, Carla, Tara, Angelica, Jessica, Bea, Liz, Caitlin, Kerstin, Whitney

Sunday, June 1, 2014

I Wasn't Sure

I wasn't sure I'd be okay if I left him. We shared everything that mattered for more than four years: a home, friends, finances, cats. Deep down, I couldn't imagine building that much familiarity and rapport with someone else. I had somewhere to go, and I wouldn't starve, but that was it; leaving would mean starting my adult life over from scratch.

(I told him I loved him, and I walked away.)

I wasn't sure it was a good idea to go back to college. After dropping out of high school, I'd taken a few scattered classes, but mostly got bored and abandoned them. If I actually pursued a degree, there would be serious money on the line. Fucking this up would have consequences for the rest of my life.

(I borrowed enough to buy books before financial aid came in.)

I wasn't sure it was wise to change my gender label. Acceptance for even binary trans* people is sluggish, and nonbinary folks (neither male nor female) are all but invisible. I didn't want to explain myself all the time. I didn't want to fight to be recognized. I didn't want to wince at the wrong pronoun or turn off people who might have found a gendered me appealing.

(I thought, I cried, I wrote. Eventually I came out.)

I wasn't sure moving was the right choice. Transferring to an out-of-state university would mean more expensive tuition and fewer grant opportunities. It was also a less familiar institution, with no reputation to speak of, and it was far away from my safety net. Moving would mean leaving behind almost everyone I cared about, for more risk and much more expense.

(I packed my life into a rental car and spent all night riding north on the 5.)

I wasn't sure I was ready to change my name. It was so expensive, and I'd be dealing with the paperwork for months. I'd only had the new one in mind for a little while, and wasn't even used to hearing it yet. Making it legal would be a statement of certainty and finality that I had still not begun to feel, and changing my mind would mean paying the costs all over again, financial and otherwise.

(I waited a month for one minute in front of a judge.)

I'm not sure this is the right message to send to you all. I've read a lot of boring Listserve posts, but a few wonderful ones, and I aspire to contribute to the latter. There are so many things I want to say to you, and so little time to say any of them just right. I'd like it to be personal, but also memorable and unique. If I miss the mark I'll never get another chance.

... but if there's one thing I've learned, it's that I can't wait to be sure. I'll never have all the information about any decision that matters to me. I have wasted a lot of time being afraid of change and stagnating; it's only when I'm brave, and take chances, that I grow.

Thanks for listening. Feel free to write; it would be fun to hear from you. Please pardon me if I'm slow to reply, though. This degree's not earning itself, and finals are coming up.

Finn Rose Ellis
Portland, OR, USA