Friday, October 31, 2014

swans and other stories

Once I saw a swan crash land onto/into the road in Dublin. It was along the quays and the Liffey was very high and black, and hey, it was an easy mistake to make, man. It tumbled and stood up, seemingly unharmed, and then strutted in the middle of the road, hissing at anyone who thought there might be something funny about the situation. Swan was not happy. A man got out of his car and attempted to herd it out of the road. Swan was having none of it. And then, man just got behind swan, picked swan up and flung swan over the wall into the river. I cried with laughter. Just a regular Thursday morning in Dublin. Later that night I saw David O' Doherty do his comedy thing. He mentioned swans enough (twice) in his act that I thought this would be a Great and Amazing story to tell him as he signed a CD for my friend far away (Hi Hannah!). It was not. Rapid word vomit, still cringing.

I live in Edinburgh now. Trying to weasel my way into the book world. In fact, I have a feeling somehow that I found the listserve through Neil Gaiman, maybe he mentioned it in his blog. Thanks Neil. You'd do a better job of writing this. If you're a fan of his or even if you're not you should go see him in Tasmania this January. Hobart is great. MONA is great. MOFO is also pretty great but getting real expensive. Even if I still lived there I couldn't afford to go. Also if you live in Tassie you should check out my friend's bands -The Dead Maggies and Mouldy Porpoise, because they are great and so is she and I miss her.

the toast is the best thing on the internet and Mallory Ortberg is a goddess.

My sisters are amazing. They are much cooler and infinitely more fabulous than me. They'd definitely also call me a sap for writing that.

this stream of consciousness has been brought to you by tiredness

Charlie Byrne's in Galway is a helluva bookshop.

I put sriracha on everything. But especially eggs. It's a delicious treat, swearsies.

If you have interesting and amusing thoughts on books, swans or coping with edinburgh winters say hey. I've just finished taping my windows shut. Goodbye draughts, see you later fresh air.

Happy Halloween (I'm going as log lady)


Thursday, October 30, 2014


I often think about my childhood home, even though I don't want to live there now.

Tell me about your idea of home. What does the word, the idea mean to you? Do you associate it with a person, place, or feeling? A song, book, or movie?

Email me or use the hashtag #listservehome on Twitter or Instagram. I'll post all results on a tumblr page called listservehome. I can't share a link here because of Listserve rules, but you can google "listservehome" and "tumblr" - or email me and I'll send you a link.

Stephanie P
Brooklyn, NY

PS: Happy birthday Shane! ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

My social anxiety

I suffer from moderate to severe social anxiety along with waves of severe depression. I try not to allow my mental illness define me, but I do not hide it from those around me, since it is a part of who I am. I can almost remember the day when I stopped wanting to go to stores or visit friends. Don’t get me wrong, I was never the most social kid. Yet, before I was 19, I had a few friends and went out on Friday nights. Then one summer, I stopped calling people and began to be content being within the four walls of my home. There was nothing that had happened, there was no traumatic incident. The outside world suddenly became scary and unknown.

Now, some years later, I am a university student trying to make my way out of school. My boyfriend is working very hard to convince me that I deserve to think of myself as an equal to my peers and deserve to be treated as such. University was not what I expected. I have to spend a lot more time arguing with professors then I thought I would. I have been granted accommodations from the university, such as a quiet room to write exams, but a lot of my professors seem to think these accommodations are not necessary. I am often told that my illness is inconvenient. I know, but I am trying to convince them (and myself) that I am worth it.

I would just like to thank those who helped me when I didn't think I deserved it. People like my boyfriend, and my current close friends, are the reason I am alive today. Though everyday, I still need to make the choice to get out of bed and it still takes all the energy that I have, I am glad I am around to make that decision.


Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Are we gods?

Disclaimer: Not Gods; I'm talking about petty, little everyday gods."Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic"

Under this context, do you think our society would look magical and god-like to someone from 1764? Consider the evidence:
- We can communicate instantly with anybody around the world (cell phones)
- We can learn (almost) anything from home (Internet)
- We can get from one place to another in the world quickly and safely
- We can carry most of our wealth with us and make transactions everywhere (credit cards)
- We have instant access to (almost) every piece of art, entertainment and debate (Internet again)
- Many other things: Microwaves, online translation, wireless everything, flying cars (ok, maybe not!)

If you think its possible we look a little god-like to our time-traveller, let me ask you the next question: Do you feel like a god? Why not?

Maybe we are at a great moment in human history but are too busy trying to make sense of the noise to appreciate it.

PS: If you ever wondered how to survive were you to be transported more than 230 years into the past (and who doesn't) my answer would be: invent the hot air balloon. It's probably the simplest and most useful piece of technology not invented by then.

Enjoy life!

Girona, Spain

Monday, October 27, 2014

Sophie's World Wonders

Dear Listservians,

Sometimes, I feel my life is not as exciting as I thought it would be when I was 12. I try to mitigate that feeling by going on little adventures with calculated risks.

With your suggestions, I'd like to make a bucket list of uncommon, odd, curious spots for myself to visit, one day. Of course, the best ones are free.

Send me a quick note with an idea of what I could put on my list.
If you've already been to your singular point of interest, took a picture and feel like sharing it with the rest of the pack, please do so! Use the hashtag #SophiesWorldWonders on Instagram. Don't forget to let us know where it is.

Here are some examples... As you can see, it doesn't have to be super fancy:

- I took the picture I posted on Instagram this week. It's a historic sign in New Hampshire, off route 3 near Lincoln, about "The Betty and Barney Hill Incident". It's funny because it's super official, but the sign talks about how Betty and Barney have been abducted by aliens.

- In Montreal, there's a place on Ste Catherine street where the Princess Theater used to be. The Great Houdini got punched in the belly there, backstage, by a McGill student, and died a couple of days later of a ruptured appendix. The building is gone, but someone draw a Houdini graffiti in the alley. Most Montrealers don't know about how one of them killed a legend.

- In London, UK, off the Strand, on the side of a building, you can see a Roman bath through the basement window. There's an outside switch to turn the light on. That's it. A peek of a Roman bath through a dirty window full of algae. With a light switch.

- On the island of Brac, in Croatia, a pine tree is growing on the roof of a chapel.

- There's a half-day hike in the Appalachians called "Indian Head". The view on top is stunning. When you get back, stop by the waterfall to pretend you are in Jurassic Park.

Thanks in advance.

Montreal, Canada

Sunday, October 26, 2014

I'm Listening

I know she’s frustrated. They say we should gradually surrender the things of our youth as we age but I can’t help but rail against that notion as I see her struggling to feed herself, to even say hello.

A relic of the past, she stares at me with wide eyes.

With so much wisdom and experience contained in one person, I ask the question I had been meaning to ask for a while now. She had been married to my Grandfather for over 50 years until he passed.

‘What’s the key to a successful marriage?’

Unable to name her brothers and sisters just a few moments before, I expect a confused, disjointed response.

She turns her attention to me with a hawk-like focus and steely states ‘Listen to each other. Always listen to each other.’

In a moment, like the conversation had never happened, she’s back wondering what’s for dinner that night.

I’m thankful I listened.

In six months I’ll be walking down the aisle to my best friend.

If you’re married, engaged, in a relationship, or single, I would be more than honored to hear what you have to say about what you believe creates a successful marriage.

For our wedding, I will incorporate your advice at our wedding tables- featuring your first name and your location.

I’m grateful for your time and for your unique insight!

We look forward to hearing from you!

Kelsey + Kevin
Washington D.C.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

As I write these words, I am 18 years old, 8 months, and 3 w...

As I write these words, I am 18 years old, 8 months, and 3 weeks old. I can’t speak for every 18-year-old on the planet, but I think this is a funny age. You are just old enough to know how young you really are, you are full of idealistic thoughts that you sheepishly acknowledge as maybe just a bit too idealistic. You still feel like a child parading in adult’s clothing. You recognize that you probably don’t know all that much.

So here’s my question for the community - what did you wish you could tell yourself when you were 18? It can be life advice. It can be a story. It can be a baking recipe.

I don’t know all that much, but I’d like to learn.

Princeton, NJ

Friday, October 24, 2014


What is UP Listserver's?!

I live in NYC, so I will keep this brief and to the point. I understand that time is money, and Your time is valuable. What do You do with this precious commodity? I was once on an interview and that was the only real "interview" question I was asked, he said "What can you say is your biggest accomplishment in your 25 years of life?" I sat there, and millions of answers rushed to my head and raced to the tip of my tongue, and before I could reason with myself and give a million dollar answer, I replied "helping people".

I didn't always believe this, and it wasn't until I was 18 and had tried to fill a void in my soul with too many pointless things, and failed. My life drastically changed for the better when I realised that it was not a "what" that could fill my void, but a "who".

Instead of going to college when I graduated highschool, I took an opportunity to travel the world. I joined an organization that sent me to Africa, Southeast Asia, South America, and live in Perth, Australia for 2 years. I did all of this traveling, while [most] everyone else my age was in college partying, for 4 years. I'm not saying I am better than them, if I had been at college I would have definitely been a beer pong queen [I now blame my lacking skills in this game on this fact]. Out of all the beautiful places I lived in and visited, the highlight is the people I met and hopefully helped. I could have been living a comfortable life in the Tri-State Area, but instead I was able to see how majority of the world lives ; with not enough food or clean water, sleeping on garbage heaps in slums, etc. etc. Seeing and experiencing different cultures popped my New Jersey bubble, and opened my eyes to how vast this world is, how invaluable people are.

The greatest accomplishment I have in my 25 years of life, started the moment I became a real Christian and actually started living for others and not just myself . The "who" was Jesus Christ, and my void began to not seem so hopeless anymore, the million dollar question finally seeming to have an answer, I had found hope. That same opportunity is available for You as well.

See, I truly believe that You, AMAZING You, were made for a specific purpose and unique design; and until You figure out what that is, or at least skim the surface, You will feel that void. You know what I'm talking about, that inexplicable void; that part of You that no amount of money or drugs or relationships, even.. coffee [gasp], will ever fill. So what are You waiting for, answer the question for yourself. If You don't like what You come up with, change it. And if you change it several times, and still don't like it, email me and I'll help. ;D

4 practical applications after reading this:

1] Find Your purpose in this life, help people, put others before Your own desires, look up Youth With A Mission [YWAM] it's the incredible organization I called home for 4 years.

2] Look up Hillsong Church, their music is incredible! I am going to the conference tonight in Madison Square Garden #NoOtherName, #hoLLA.

3] Take the "Now, Discover Your Strengths" assessment. Buy the book, take the quiz online, just take it!! Focus on Your strengths, and not Your weaknesses, and email me Your results! My first strength is "Positivity", I will definitely be able to help You get enthusiastic about Your results.

4] Find an Esthetician and get a facial!

Shout out to Melanie, You Win [insert trophy emojii here].


Thursday, October 23, 2014


Last night I almost had a three-some. I only needed two more people.

It’s a true story. Maybe. But more importantly, I hope it grabbed your attention or made you laugh. This timeless joke reminds me of an old school Mark Twain quote:

“Life is short, break the rules, forgive quickly, kiss slowly, love truly, laugh uncontrollably, and never regret anything that made you smile.”

I think there’s more to the quote, but you get the gist of it. Life is too short. If you can’t find something to laugh about every day, try harder. It’s out there. Don't take things so seriously. There's more to life than work. Find a healthy balance, and spend more time with your friends and family, and laugh with them. Uncontrollably. That's what ultimately matters in the long haul.

Shoot me an email back describing something that makes you laugh everyday and how you find a healthy work/life balance. Mine is slipping and could use some fresh new perspective and ideas. Or just say hello and where you're from. Would love to hear from you.


Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Daily Deeds

Imagine my surprise to open the letter saying "you've won" today. I've always thought about what I'd write and now that I have the opportunity to actually write it I've changed my mind.

Today at work (in a restaurant) I had a guest with a coupon for two free meals. She was by herself and asked if the other free meal could "go to the next person who looks like they could use it".

It's little things. Little things like a free meal, holding the door, smiling at a stranger that make the biggest difference. There's so much wrong in this world. So much scary out there that sometimes we've become so guarded that we forget that were not the only thing that matters.

It doesn't matter that you're a successful business man, or a single mother, or homeless. We all need to be there for each other or else what is our life worth?

So I challenge you. All of you. Do something nice. Pay for the next cars order, smile, have fun, be nice, and for God's sake tip your bartender.

Hoping for many replies with wonderful deeds.

"1000 years from now, nobody will know who I was, where I was from, or how much money I had, but the world might be a little better, and a little different, because I had kindness in my heart".

Allison Peters
Iowa, USA

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Hello you wonderful Listservians you! :D

***Note from The Listserve: We made an error in today's email. Here is the correct message from Jowel Balcita. Our apologies!***

Hello all,

I don't want to rub it in too much but I WON! I'm thrilled to be writing to you all today and considering the amount of people on Listserve, I never dreamed to win. Consequently, I don't have anything prepared so off the top of my head here we go!

I consider myself lucky, I was born in the US whereas my parents emigrated here from the Philippines and have all the luxuries they dreamed of having as children. I appreciate their hard work and their tenacity to provide a better future for their children. On a visit I recently had, I saw where they grew up, a family of ten in each side of my family growing up in houses smaller than the one I live in now, poorly paved roads where they walked miles to school to educate themselves and the general poverty of the area; it was humbling. One thing however they weren't lacking in was their spirit. Everywhere I went, I saw happy faces and laughter teems of children running around having a blast. I happily joined in and it was one of the best times of my life, I can see why, despite growing up in that state, they remain so happy and communal. On random trips, to various places, my mom will somehow find the one Filipino person besides us and they get along like they've known each other all their lives. It encouraged me to reach out and make friends of my own in a similar manner in the college club I'm in, Circle K.

Circle K, (also a gas station/convenience store here in the US. No affiliation) is a volunteer/social club that's very active here in the US and other countries worldwide. Its a great place to meet people and as a college student, a way to help out your community in your free time. I helped out on various projects county wide from Habitat for Humanity, CicLaVia (A great bike day if you're ever in LA, they take major streets and close them down except for bike traffic, it's awesome but I digress) Make a Wish foundation, and other charities. I met wonderful people, lifelong friends and I got to participate in once in a lifetime events. I held the rope for the hand for a giant inflatable Elmo during the Hollywood Christmas parade, I got to meet future Mayor of LA Eric Garcetti at a Hollywood fundraiser event we volunteered at, and we seem to turn up in places that other people normally can't get into. It is a blast and I do encourage the college bound of you and the college...umm...already in college people to join Circle K or some form of community service. It's all sorts of awesome.

Living in LA is also awesome, in the aforementioned paragraphs, (wow this is actually getting quite long) I get to go to places and experience great things. LA has a somewhat bad reputation of smog, crime and traffic, but you get past that, then you have a plethora of things to do, Chantry Falls is a great hiking trip with a natural rock slide, Downtown Pasadena a foodies delight. Hollywood and Highland for the shopping, Hollywood Walk of Fame and Graumans Chinese Theater. You also have miles upon miles of beaches to visit, each one with it's own culture and ambiance. If any of you ever visit LA, contact me and I'll set you up with a personalized list of places to visit. (I'm a massive foodie, I've gone to tons of food places here)

As is with Listserve tradition, I'll leave with a quote,

"Beauty that dies the soonest has the longest life. Because it cannot keep itself for a day we keep it in our hearts. Because it can have existence only in memory, we give it immortality there"

I hope this all finds you well and if you Google my name, you kinda just find me. So feel free to drop me a line.

Jowel G. Balcita
Los Angeles CA

Hello you wonderful Listservians you! :D

No big life lessons here, just a few things that lift my spirits and revive my sense of wonder. It's never a bad time to be reminded that people (and the things we make) are awesome, and that we live on/with an ornately fabulous planet, right?

Never underestimate the power of going for a walk. Don't forget to look around, the details in the everyday can be the most surprising. As Ed Hutchins once said, "nothing never happens".

Travel. I especially recommend Oaxaca, Mexico for it's astounding botanical, cultural, ethnic, and culinary diversity. When you can't travel you can explore the world vicariously with Fun for Louis (on youtube).

For a master course in the wonder of the everyday (with a focus on the built environment), listen to 99% Invisible. For a similarly masterful treatment of everyday humanity, try 'Death, Sex, and Money'. These podcasts have managed to make my commute something I look forward to.

If you are the kind of person who can read while traveling (unlike me) and you love great science writing (like me), here are some books I love and revisit: Bonk -- Mary Roach, The Ghost Map -- Steven Johnson, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks -- Rebecca Skloot, The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat -- Oliver Sacks. I also LOVE The History of the World in 100 Objects by director of the British Museum Neil MacGregor -- it has short chapters, great pictures, and I learned so much. Who knew that the Vikings had trading posts in Iran!?!

Making things yourself is another great invigorator. I like to paint, but cooking/eating is what I do (and think about) every day. Here are some delicious, simple, seasonal favorites: delicata squash (it tastes like candy! you can eat the skin!), Marcella Hazan's Chickpea soup (4 cheap ingredients, vegan, deeply warming and hearty), and pickled beets (a great entry-level pickling project, try roasting first for extra sweetness).

Last, a potpourri of click-ables that reliably lift me out of low points: The Secret of Kells, Brene Brown's first TED talk, Paul Simon's Concert in the Park (1991), Talking Heads (Sand in the Vaseline), Allen Toussaint (Songbook), The National (Boxer, Trouble Will Find Me), Cat Power (Jukebox), Solange (True), Flight of the Conchords ('I'm not crying', 'Feel Inside'), bzzzpeekDOTcom (kids from around the world answer questions like 'what does a frog say?'), thingsfittingperfectlyintothings.tumblr.

Los Angeles CA

Monday, October 20, 2014


No big life lessons here, just a few things that lift my spirits and revive my sense of wonder. It's never a bad time to be reminded that people (and the things we make) are awesome, and that we live on/with an ornately fabulous planet, right?

Never underestimate the power of going for a walk. Don't forget to look around, the details in the everyday can be the most surprising. As Ed Hutchins once said, "nothing never happens".

Travel. I especially recommend Oaxaca, Mexico for it's astounding botanical, cultural, ethnic, and culinary diversity. When you can't travel you can explore the world vicariously with Fun for Louis (on youtube).

For a master course in the wonder of the everyday (with a focus on the built environment), listen to 99% Invisible. For a similarly masterful treatment of everyday humanity, try 'Death, Sex, and Money'. These podcasts have managed to make my commute something I look forward to.

If you are the kind of person who can read while traveling (unlike me) and you love great science writing (like me), here are some books I love and revisit: Bonk -- Mary Roach, The Ghost Map -- Steven Johnson, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks -- Rebecca Skloot, The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat -- Oliver Sacks. I also LOVE The History of the World in 100 Objects by director of the British Museum Neil MacGregor -- it has short chapters, great pictures, and I learned so much. Who knew that the Vikings had trading posts in Iran!?!

Making things yourself is another great invigorator. I like to paint, but cooking/eating is what I do (and think about) every day. Here are some delicious, simple, seasonal favorites: delicata squash (it tastes like candy! you can eat the skin!), Marcella Hazan's Chickpea soup (4 cheap ingredients, vegan, deeply warming and hearty), and pickled beets (a great entry-level pickling project, try roasting first for extra sweetness).

Last, a potpourri of click-ables that reliably lift me out of low points: The Secret of Kells, Brene Brown's first TED talk, Paul Simon's Concert in the Park (1991), Talking Heads (Sand in the Vaseline), Allen Toussaint (Songbook), The National (Boxer, Trouble Will Find Me), Cat Power (Jukebox), Solange (True), Flight of the Conchords ('I'm not crying', 'Feel Inside'), bzzzpeekDOTcom (kids from around the world answer questions like 'what does a frog say?'), thingsfittingperfectlyintothings.tumblr.


Sunday, October 19, 2014

People Are Strange

I procrastinated too long to write anything worthwhile. I guess I don't really want to write anything "worthwhile" anyway because then it would just turn out inspirational/corny/would have some universally accepted moral that people have been force fed since childhood. SO: if anyone would like to email me, that would be cool.

music suggestions:

- everything ever written by the Beatles
- Squirrel Nut Zippers
- "My American Cousin" by Molly Lewis
- Mac Demarco
- The Drums
- Band of Horses
- "Day in Day Out" by Billie Holiday/anything by Billie Holiday
-Joni Mitchell
******** "Early Takes Volume 1" by George Harrison ********** (extremely spiritual album. im not spiritual to any extent, but definitely struck a chord with me. my favorite album of all time).

Anyone who is an avid Beatles fan, plays the double/upright bass, likes my musical suggestions, is in high school, or is just a person who gets the listserve should email me because you can, and why not?

I'm a failure because I wasted my opportunity to say anything meaningful. Oh well? May the force be with you, I guess.

- Love Lilly <3

Lilly Wolfinger


Saturday, October 18, 2014

Money can buy happiness...

Money can buy happiness...
...for someone else.

Spend $5 on someone else and let me know how it went.

To find out more about this project and myself, google me.

Have a happy day!


Bryan Ku
San Francisco, California, USA

Friday, October 17, 2014

Do we really need gender?

A school-teacher friend recently asked me what issue I thought would be most transformative for future generations, and I didn’t hesitate before answering. As much as I want young people to get a grasp on climate change or income inequality, I think the biggest generational shift already underway has to do with our concept of gender. And that’s a wonderful thing.

As awareness of transgendered individuals grows, the rigid idea of gender as unchangeable and defined by one’s genitals is quickly collapsing. The speed that public opinion on LGBTQ issues is changing also shows that young people are much more accepting towards diverse gender identities and expressions.

But in the adult world, we’re far from gender equality. In the U.S., only in the past hundred years have women begun to achieve the same legal rights as men (though due to gender discrimination, they’re still highly underrepresented at the highest levels of politics and business, and even in the same careers, they only earn 78 cents for every dollar earned by men).

So I ask you to think critically when you make gendered assumptions, and question why we cling to this male/female division. At a deeper level, do we really need words like “man” and “woman”? If men and women can truly achieve whatever they want—follow any passion in their personal life or career—then what is the purpose of identifying someone's gender by calling them “he” or “she”? What vital information do these words tell us, beyond describing certain sex organs?

Up through the present, gendered language has enforced restrictive guidelines for how people should live their lives. Visit the aisles of any major toy store, and you’ll notice boys’ and girls’ toys are sharply divided: Girls can have pink, housework, and the arts; boys get cars, sports, and science. Social norms may be changing, but profit motives are not.

Some argue that language doesn’t affect reality, but studies have repeatedly shown that female-gendered words create a negative bias—from the usernames on comment threads to those at the tops of resumes. Calling a someone a "girl" isn't just about pointing out her vagina, but about grouping her into a class of people assumed to share personality traits and life paths. And in America, by and large, those traits are deemed lesser.

What is gender if not the most acceptable form of stereotyping? Perhaps in our lifetimes we will adopt a new neutral term to refer to individuals (as Swedish preschools have begun to do), or simply start using the more equitable “they.”

Until then, some thoughts for you to ponder: Why must we know a baby’s gender even before it is born? Why do we let advertisers tell our children what toys each gender can play with? Why is the U.S. one of the few developed countries without paid parental leave? Why aren’t all bathrooms gender-neutral? Why does the idea of taking a woman’s last name make most men angry? Why are laws restricting the reproductive rights of women mostly enacted by men?

Be kind to one another, and please VOTE on November 4th.

Hunter Oatman-Stanford
San Francisco, California

P.S. I write about fascinating, forgotten tidbits of history at collectorsweekly [dot] com. Follow me @hunterrible or drop me a line at hunters.listserve[AT]

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

About streets, poetry and mathematics

Hi everybody,

Last Thursday, Patrick Modiano received the Nobel Prize for Literature, but I would like to talk about another french writer whose work fascinates me: Jacques Roubaud. Mathematician, member of the Oulipo, he devoted his life to the study and production of poetry, he composed only by walking, without taking notes, memorizing the verses until he could write them down. "The Great Fire of London" is his masterpiece, he describes a mysterious "project" partly autobiographical, on a light tone, often funny and moving, in a complex structure full of Oulipian constraints. He manages to make us guess what may be the depth of literature, poetry and mathematics by organizing his knowledge and feelings in a story with "interpolations" and "bifurcations". If you love the game of go, the Grail cycle, troubadours, Japan, memory theories, libraries or literary games you should like these books. The first three «branches» have been translated into English as "The Great Fire of London," "The Loop" and "Mathematics:".

About mathematics, here is a conjecture of mine (I didn't find its description anywhere else):
The number 28 is the only number that can be written as a sum of the first n integers (1+2+3+4+5+6+7), m first primes (2+3+5+7+11) and p first non-primes (1+4+6+8+9). I was not able to prove it (I suspect it to be related to the Riemann hypothesis).

Some time ago, I had the idea of searching connections between the names of intersecting streets around me. I stumbled upon interesting stories, starting with those linking "Lugeol" street, where I live, and "Lacanau" street which crosses it. It happens that both streets have a relation with San Francisco:
Lacanau is a seaside resort near Bordeaux, it hosts the annual Lacanau Pro, the first international professional surfing competition to be born on French soil. Gabriel Medina won the 2011 edition at only 17 years and a few months later he triumphed at the San Francisco Rip Curl Pro Search.
Lugeol street is named after Dr. Lugeol, a doctor appreciated for his liberal ideas and his generosity. In 1856, he declared the birth of Clodomir Largarde of father unknown. It turns out that the mother was actually married and gave her maiden name to avoid a scandal: her husband, Urbain Balmigère, had left Bordeaux to San Francisco for at least 3 years and has since disappeared. I guess Balmigère gave in to the lure of the gold rush, but I do not know what became of him. Do any of you living in San Francisco have heard of the name Balmigère ?

A game : get outside, sit on a public bench or any other suitable place and note what you see or what the atmosphere inspires you, it can be as short as a koan. Send me the text accompanied by the name of the place where you did the observation. If you allow me to publish it, I will place your contributions on a google map.

A bench in Bordeaux (44.837055, -0.571995)
There are many pigeons here. Half a dozen children are running towards them, laughing, to make them fly, and then move away until the birds come back. Indeed they are returning, landing in a rustle of wings, in a wave that flows back again at the arrival of the children...
"So what happens in this book?" says the young mother to her son on the bench next to me, when I'm about to open my own. It makes me wonder if 'humans readings books on a bench' is as typical as pigeons coming and going...

Have a nice day!

Henri Bourcereau

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Leap of Faith

“Making a big life change is pretty scary. But, know what’s even scarier? Regret.”

That quote is probably one of the driving factors as to why I recently left my job of 7 years, moving to a new city to start over. If you go through life never taking risks, you’re going to end up with a lot of regret.

Life doesn’t happen when you’re standing still. And while I loved my previous job, I was stuck in my comfort zone. I wasn’t growing or learning, I could do my job on autopilot. I wanted a challenge, and I needed a change. I needed to prove to myself that I could do this. I needed to prove to myself what others had told me. That I owed the world more than what I was doing. That I had more offer.

Have I proven that to myself yet? No. Not even close. But I know I will. And I won’t give up. I’ll always keep improving and growing and learning. That’s my challenge to you. If you’re in your comfort zone, living in a bubble, get out of it. Whether you sell everything you own and travel the world, or just move to another city, get out there and do it.

I just got a new job that I’m really excited about. It’s the start of a wonderful career with a lot of opportunity to grow. My previous job was a learning experience, but I didn’t have any room to move up. I wasn’t okay with reaching my glass ceiling at the age of 30. So, I quit. I packed up everything I own, moving it all into a storage facility in the DFW area. In the meantime, I’m living with a roommate on a temporary basis.

Regardless of what happens, that leap of faith was something I needed. Never doubt yourself. You have the same chance as everyone else in life to make things happen. Go after your dreams. No one said it was going to be easy, but reinventing yourself can be one of the greatest things you ever do. Each day, week, month, and year, I will get better.

To be completely open and honest with you, I was terrified to do this. A little over a year ago, I lost my mom after she fought a courageous battle with cancer. Just four months after her diagnosis, I lost my best friend. I didn’t want to take a step in any direction without being able to share it with her. Good news or bad, she was always the first person I called. She was my rock in life, now she’s my angel. I know she’s watching over me smiling, happy to see my success, bravery, and newfound zeal for life.

You never stop the grieving process, you just learn to live differently. Life will never be the same as it was when I had my beautiful, smiling mother here on earth. It’s just different. We can be happy knowing that our loved ones are no longer suffering. There’s no more pain, no more hospitals, no more cancer. Yes, I lost my mom way too young, and I’ll never know the reason. But I owe it to her, and to myself, to stay strong and keep going.

I’m looking forward to this new chapter in my life. I encourage you all to evaluate where you are, ultimately doing what’s going to really make you happy. Reach out if you want, I’d love to hear your own stories and experiences.

Dallas, TX

Monday, October 13, 2014

All together

People of listserve, what a beautiful day to be writing to you. And what beautiful people you are.

I’ve been thinking about why it is that your email each day means so much to me. The best I’ve come up with is that back in the old days, before tweets and tags and status updates, we’d have had a lot more opportunities to strike up conversation with each other. You know, face to face. You’d have told me your yarn, I’d have shared mine.

I feel like the Listserve is the closest we get to that now – an unmediated insight into each other’s lives.

Keep on sharing. I like hearing you tell me your ideas and experiences, your adventures, victories and defeats, your hopes and despairs, weaving our collective story.

The stories we tell ourselves are important. As individuals, as communities, as societies. How and who we want to be matters. This weekend just gone, hundreds of thousands of people around the world took to the streets to tell the story of our ability to shape a better future. I took part in London. People from all walks of life, marching together against climate change. I often feel powerless reading the newspaper and watching the news. But walking together with others, knowing there were multitudes of other people out there sharing the same vision, made me feel powerful individually and to believe in our power collectively.

Too often we’re taught that we have to accept the world as it is. That the structures and systems of our society, our economy, our politics are unchangeable.

This is not so. Apart from the laws of physics, we create just about everything else. Our world can be the world that we want it to be. It’s time to stop being afraid.

On which note.

Here where I live, in London, BP sponsor the Tate Gallery, one of the UK’s best known art institutions. The Tate Gallery has refused to reveal how much exactly they receive from BP (anything to do with an ex-CEO of BP chair the Tate’s Board of Trustees?) but every day the Tate scrubs BP’s public image clean, soiling the integrity of the arts for a negligible amount of money. While BP feed our addiction to fossil fuels and fuel the climate crisis.

But seeing nearly a million people march, I know it won’t be long until oil companies are obsolete. A blip on history, as archaic as the fossil fuels they depend on.

Were you on the march? Drop me a line and say hi. Next time maybe we can march together.

Thanks to Nic for introducing me to the Listserve (even if he doesn't read it any more) and being my best friend.

London, UK

Sunday, October 12, 2014

The Beatles had it right....

One of the most important, inspirational, and meaningful sayings I live by is: "all you need is love”. I am 24 and a recent half graduated university student. I’m obsessed with chocolate and my favourite book is “Brave New World”. I've experienced many terrible and many beautiful things in the past few years. However I have been fortunate enough to experience falling in love...two and a half times...I say two and a half because two people I know I love and the half…well you’ll see.

The first love was extraordinary. We were together for about a year and a half. He taught me many things that in turn allowed me to grow tremendously as a person. He was also there for me throughout my hardest years of life. During 2011, over the span of 6 months, 5 young people I know passed away. I was a complete fucking wreck and naturally this weakened the progression of a healthy relationship. A few years after these tragedies, and the inevitable crumble of this relationship, I was reminiscing about my former love. I wondered: why the fuck did things turn out this way...? I will never forget what my Mum (I love my Mum...probably much more than she even knows) said to me: "It wasn't meant to be and that's ok! You know why? Because just by him being present he was doing so much good for you. He was there for you through those difficult moments. He helped you get through that terrible time and that was the purpose for him being a part of your help you." - Thank you first love; I don't know if I ever said that to you...

The second love... We met a few years ago during what I like to refer to as the most ridiculous cake incident I've ever been a part of. Picture a two person cake fight amongst a 50 person booze filled slop show birthday party. The cake fight ended with us two cake-covered people cleaning ourselves up and during the process flooding a bathroom using a bidet. Naturally we headed out to the "hottest" nightclub with cake bits still crusted all over...we ended the night with ... well I'll leave that to your imagination. I was fortunate to spend the rest of the year getting into many other crazy shenanigans with him. Sadly he graduated and headed to the other side of the country. However a few months later, during the adult version of Disneyland: Shambhala Music Festival, (in Salmo BC...if you get a chance's truly life changing) our paths crossed again. As time has it things came to an end and we both returned to our separate lives...Although not before spending one more week together.

The half love is interesting. We met at the beginning of this past summer. I can whole heartedly tell each one of you that I have never in my life experienced a stronger connection with a stranger....ever. We met briefly and months later we met again... coincidentally at another music festival. Every time we saw each other it was as though a strong cosmic energy pulled us together. It was some magical. I distinctly remember a moment where we gazed into each others eyes for a solid 30 seconds....that's a feat...try it with someone sometime; it's a wonderful feeling. Afterwards we continuously seemed to see each other in odd places around the city. It was nice, however, I soon left the city on soul pilgrimage across the country.... yet not before finding out he too would be at this year’s Shambhala Music Festival.

I travelled around the states and Canada en route to Beautiful BC. When I arrived "home" I had a very odd feeling that half love would not be in attendance. I was right...actually a friend had purchased his ticket last minute. The universe is interesting in these regards because guess which love was there? Love number two. It was the first time we had seen each other in a year...and it was beautiful. Everything between us fell right back into place. Following the festival we were fortunate to be able to spend yet another week together. When he left I could barely speak…all I could muster up were copious amounts of tears.

It is so important to share love and appreciation with people. Love is the most beautiful part of life. I want you to know that no matter what or where you are there is love in your life. Love can be found in the Earth's energy, within yourself, in the smile of a stranger, the embrace of someone special, and even in the most painful of situations. Trust that the universe has the best path for you…so follow your heart and follow your feet!

I would definitely be interested in hearing your stories of love, helpful tips on grieving, meditation advice, places to do yoga, and any advice on how to make it in Event and Promotion Marketing!

To each of you I send a bit of loving energy and I hope that you will always tell them how you feel <3


Saturday, October 11, 2014

I Can See You Through This Telescope

Back in the day, astronomers didn't know if there were galaxies in the universe other than the Milky Way.

They could see blobs of stuff in the sky that looked like potential galaxies, but that could also be clouds of gas and dust on the edges of our own Milky Way. How to determine which they were? What was the true nature of these 'nebulae'?

On one side, enter Harlow Shapley. Shapley pointed out that it’s difficult to distinguish nearby, dim objects from distant, bright ones. But given how (relatively) small and bright these nebulae looked to us, if they were distant and comprised their own galaxies, they'd have to be INSANEly bright and far away to appear as they did to earthbound observers. Plus, astronomers had observed a nova in Andromeda that was brighter than the entire rest of the nebula combined-if Andromeda was a whole galaxy, what phenomenon had released so much energy so quickly?

Shapley’s opponent was Heber Curtis. Curtis believed that the nebulae were 'island universes' of their own, basing his opinion on the fact that the spectra of light from these blobs were indistinguishable from the spectrum of the Milky Way (whereas individual types of stars have their own distinct spectra). Not to mention, contemporary theorists were beginning to propose a spiral structure for the Milky Way, just like those of the mysterious nebulae.

In 1920, Curtis and Shapley had a Great Debate in Washington DC. Each scientist presented his arguments, but the debate ended in a draw.

But wait! Several years previously, an astronomer named Henrietta Leavitt (who, breaking gender barriers at Harvard, became one of the greatest researchers of her time) had discovered a relationship between period and brightness for Cepheid variable stars.

Variable stars are what they sound like: stars that vary in brightness over time, waxing and waning in the amount of light they emit. The period of a variable star is simply the length of time between one luminosity peak and the next.

Leavitt discovered that there was a fixed correlation between the inherent brightness of Cepheids, and their periods: brighter stars took longer to go through their full cycle of waning and waxing. Leavitt's groundbreaking research paved the way for the resolution of the Great Debate.

In 1924, (and stay with me, we’re almost done) a young man named Edwin Hubble used the 100-inch telescope at Mount Wilson, California to locate Cepheid stars within nebulae.

Because Leavitt had shown a relationship between Cepheids' periods and intrinsic brightness, and because Hubble could now measure the period of stars in nebulae directly, he could determine how luminous the Cepheids in the nebulae really were.

From there, it was a short step to settling the Great Debate. If we know how bright something is, and we know how bright it looks to us, we can tell how far away it is-resolving Shapley's dilemma of distinguishing close faint things from far bright ones.

As you (hopefully) know, our galaxy is not the only one in the universe. Hubble’s calculations demonstrated that the nebulae were so far away, they had to comprise their own separate galaxies.

Shapley wasn't all wrong: nebula-like 'globular clusters' do exist within the Milky Way, and the 'super'nova that had gone off in Andromeda WAS an unusual phenomenon.

But these facts weren't obvious at the time. Arriving at a less-wrong picture of the our universe took hard work and careful analysis. Today scientists estimate that the universe is billions of light-years across, but it's worth reflecting that a century ago, most people thought the Milky Way was pretty much it.

Alison M
Philadelphia, PA

Friday, October 10, 2014

Learning stuff and Venture Capital

I like to learn. Partly for the sake of learning and what it teaches me about me, but also because of the creativity that learning new things breeds. I like Coursera, Udacity and EdX courses because I am good at working to deadlines and I don't get motivated by badges or accumulating points. I'd recommend Geoffrey Hinton's Coursera course on Neural Networks for Machine Learning!

The common theme among the things I like to learn about is 'emergent behaviour' - when lots of simple systems interact to create complex behaviours. I like ants, slime mould and the brain where lots of simple biological systems interact to create complex outcomes. Ants for example are the most successful living insects and developed farming, both agricultural (fungus gardens) and animal husbandry (aphids and mealy bugs) millions of years before humans - that's right! Ants! I like cellular automata and Conway's Game of Life in particular as well as machine learning and AI.

Look some of them up and maybe you'll be as amazed as I was.

I also get to apply some of this because I work as a VC in London. I recently started using twitter and enjoy it. So if you want to get in touch tweet me :) @simonpking

Simon King
London, UK

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Pale Blue Dot

One of my father's earliest memories is running towards his home, terrified that it had washed away after a monsoon thunderstorm rolled in. He was outside with his older sister collecting drinking water from a nearby well. My grandfather had recently moved the entire family across the new border after the Partition of India in 1947. Lacking basic amenities and accommodation, their first house was built with mud: soil, silt, and clay.

One of my mother’s fondest childhood memory is falling asleep on the rooftop of her house listening to Punjabi songs under the moonlight. She loved the sound and rhythm of the language and wished to learn, but it was of little use in her village. My grandmother would tell her it was a distraction and she should focus on her studies instead. However, my mother has a endless passion for learning and taught herself the basics of the language.

Six decades later my father is an entrepreneur working in Africa and South Asia after spending a career as an Engineer and my mother is as an English-Punjabi interpreter working for the Courts, Refugee Board, Lawyers, Doctors etc. after spending a career as a High-school Teacher.

Now, in their retirement years, though they refuse to retire, both of them use smartphones and tablets and communicate by Email, Facebook, and WhatsApp. Their journey has taken them from reading books under a kerosene lamp to reading books on a tiny device that was simply unimaginable during their childhood.

The world changes at an incredible pace and I can only wonder how different everyday life will be a few decades from now.

At the same time it is extremely unfortunate that too many people have been not been given or have been denied the opportunity to progress and better their quality of life.

I don’t have a solution for this but I wish we, as a society, put more emphasis on enabling education for all and inspiring a passion for learning in everyone because I firmly believe that no learning is ever wasted.


Finally, my favourite people around the globe:

- Stephen Fry (Comedian): Look up his brilliant career on Wikipedia

- Neil deGrasse Tyson (Astrophysicist): Wonderful and insightful lectures, talks, podcasts, etc

- Chris Hadfield (Astronaut): His "Space Oddity" music video from space is incredible

- Malala Yousafzai (Student + Activist): A brave girl with a passion for learning

- Parveen Saeed (Philanthropist): Search "Parveen Saeed BBC" to find out what she does.


Aside: The Pale Blue Dot is a photograph of planet Earth taken in 1990 by the Voyager 1 space probe from a record distance of about 6 billion kilometers from Earth. "YouTube: Carl Sagan - Pale Blue Dot"


Wednesday, October 8, 2014

A dream deferred works out better sometimes

With all due respect to the brilliant Langston Hughes poem about racial and economic inequality, in other contexts a dream deferred isn’t always so bad. This is a story about bottling up something you are so passionate about that you might not be ready for in an earlier time in your life, only to revisit it years later to satisfying ends.

Throughout middle and high school, I studied flute. Most of the music I was interested in was composed and played on trumpets, pianos, saxophones, trombones, but not so much flutes. So I drew my ear training and inspiration from the greats that played other instruments. It’s the usual suspects for a teenage jazz fan - Miles Davis, Thelonious Monk, John Coltrane, Charlie Parker. I also listened to flute players like Herbie Mann and Yusef Lateef, but their recordings were few and far between.

When I got competent enough to improvise, I’d have all of these licks in my head that I’d memorize from the greats - Parker's fluttery runs that would make your heart leap out of your chest, Monk’s inexplicably dissonant but melodic passages, dark, brassy riffs from Miles. But when I tried to replicate them on the flute, they’d sound incredibly corny. The notes were right, the feeling in my head was right, but what it sounded like coming out of the instrument was all wrong. Saccharine. It’s not what I wanted to sound like.

I don’t know why I stopped playing the flute in high school. In my back-narrative, it’s because I could never get it to sound like what I wanted to sound like, but it could have just has easily been because of the social stigma of a dude playing jazz flute in his mid-teens in a city and a school that’s not really about that kind of music. Or maybe I just got into girls and that was that. Whatever the reason, I stopped playing flute and didn’t pick up another instrument for over 20 years.

Then on my 39th birthday I remembered that I’d always wanted to play the trumpet, but was always worried I wouldn’t be able to pick it up. It had seemed like such a different instrument, and so hard to make so many notes out of just three keys. I can’t say that I’d consciously thought about it much in the intervening years, but for whatever reason I’d long since put it away as something I’d just never do.

On that day as the notion emerged in my mind, all of the worries and concerns suddenly evaporated. Who cares if I’ll never be good? Who cares if I try it and then decide that it’s really not for me? Why the fuck not? If I can just learn *how* to play enough so that I can decide if it’s something I enjoy doing, then it will have been worth it.

I bought myself a beautifully restored trumpet from 1947, and have been taking lessons for the past 4 months. And I love it. Just the ability to produce a clear, resonant tone is its own reward and continues to give me a thrill. With no pressure on myself to be great or even good, practicing is a pleasure. I now routinely pack for business trips differently so that I can bring my horn with me. Making small, incremental progress is incredibly rewarding. Whereas it once would have been tedious to spend long stretches of time just focused on exercises and sound production rather than playing songs, it now feels like a gift.

I’ve got more to say on this, but for now I’ll just leave you with these 600ish words and this thought: it’s totally fine to leave some passions alone until you’re really ready to take them on.

Dave Coustan
Atlanta, GA

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Learning to disappear

I work in an Italian university.If Italy is Hell, the Italian university is the vestibule of Hell, as described by Dante Alighieri in the Canto III of his Inferno. The vestibule of Hell is the place of the Uncommitted, “those/ Who lived withouten infamy or praise”. Dante's poetic justice sentences them to an endless race after a blank banner.

In 2012 Harvard yearly operating expenses were 44% of the yearly state funding of all the Italian universities. We are becoming poorer and poorer. In such a predicament, Italian professors must not only research and teach: they are also forced to spend their time in a lot of administrative and managerial work. Their overwork is paid with promises – with the promise of blank banners called academic honors. Our government is curtailing our budgets and our academic freedom [1], our country is lingering in an unending crisis, financial and, above all, moral and political. Yet, the game of tenures remains the same, even if it has become so directed by external standards that it has nothing to do with science any longer.

Our government is evaluating our research by asking us: how many articles did you publish? Did you publish them in high impact journals? How many times were they cited?

It is not necessary to bore you with “googleable” technicalities like the serial prices crisis, the growing power of a few academic publishing oligarchs and the open access publishing movement. The major outcome is that we are accustoming to the idea that it is possible to evaluate research, to hire and to fire researchers, through standards established outside the scientific public sphere, by political and market powers. It has already happened – more violently - in the past: the accusers of Socrates were three well-meaning democrats; Galileo Galilei's main accuser was a saintly cardinal. Now we all see them as the villains of the story: how will our well-meaning bureaucrats and economists be judged, tomorrow? What will the future generations think of our good-natured uncommitted professor and scholars that keep on racing after their blank banners?

Trying to live a committed life in a world of Uncommitted is hard. Maybe my vestibule of Hell is my personal delusion – maybe it would be better to limit my horizon to my self-interest. Or maybe not. Dante's point of view - the point of view of a fictional afterlife - is a thought experiment, helping us to consider ourselves from the outside. Our self-interest filling the horizon of your life will die with us. Our memory, our footprint on the world, however, will last: how would you judge your footprint after your self-interest is gone? How would you judge yourself?

Everyone of us has been taught to appear. But the time of our appearance is short. Learning to disappear in a meaningful way is a more challenging task.

[1] If you are interested in understanding the situation of the universities in EU southerly countries search for the journal “Roars. Returns on academic research”.


Monday, October 6, 2014

A giant pumpkin in the lettuces

About ten years ago I was shooting a commercial for organic vegetables on the West Coast of South Africa. Before the cameras rolled, I took a walk with the farmer to inspect the crops. The soil in that part of the world is white and fine - like beach sand. I was amazed that anything grew in it, let alone bulbous aubergines and lush lettuces that were fit for the finest food stores in the world.

She explained to me that her job was not to farm the crops, but to simply take care of the soil. To make sure it is healthy, full of nutrients and regularly rested.

Good crops, she explained, are just the byproducts of happy soil.

As we talked, she spotted something unusual in the distance. She bolted towards it and triumphantly lifted the largest pumpkin I had ever seen. It was growing wildly in the sand amongst the lettuces. The beachy desert sand on her farm had become a fertile hotbed. Whatever seed fell on it just sprouted effortlessly.

It dawned on me recently that everyone of us is farming. No matter what your occupation, you’re growing crops. Your soil is your life. The people you come across. Your family. Friends. Coworkers.

Many of us abuse the soil to grow as many crops as quickly as we can. But a select few understand that what we get back is simply the byproduct of a life well lived.

I am in no position to tell anyone how to take care of their soil, but I have a feeling that being kind, respectful and empathetic to everyone you encounter would be a good start.

The universe is just a big black void filled with atoms filled with voids that operates on a strict set of physical laws. It cares not for our ideas of justice. The oceans crash on the beach in the dead of night just as they do during an awe inspiring sunset.

Good things happen. Bad things happen. In the end all we can be sure of is that the phyiscal laws of nature dictates that good soil will yield great crops. Perhaps that is what all the religions and philosophies are trying to get at with their own versions of ‘reaping what you’re sowing.’

The kindness and respect and empathy you show today might not come back to you tomorrow. But perhaps - in a summer to come - you too will find a giant pumpkin in your lettuces.


It was a privilege writing to you all. I would enjoy hearing from you - on email or twitter. My handle is my first and last name.

Leon Jacobs
Cape Town, South Africa

Sunday, October 5, 2014

What Did You Do Today That Was Fun?

Hola Listserve,

What did you do today that was fun?

That's what my friend Tyler asked himself everyday -- he had that question written down on a piece of paper, which he put above his door. Tyler passed away in a boating accident a few years ago, but his fun-loving spirit lives on and inspires me to do something fun every day. I find myself asking others that question quite often, which prompts them to reflect on their day and either find fun in the little things or do something fun. I love hearing about the fun things other people are doing! So I'd like to pose the same question to you:

What did you do today that was fun?

Reply to me with an answer, and I'll tweet out the replies from my account, @ishwr. If you don't want to follow me, and I don't blame you if you don't, I will be using the hashtag #TheListserveFun on all related tweets. Photos are welcome, and I will do my best to attach them to the tweets. If you don't feel like playing that game, then go do something fun and tell someone about it!

I'm looking forward to your emails!

------ Some unrelated thoughts:

- If you aren't registered to be a bone marrow donor, please educate yourself and consider registering. - If you find yourself in San Francisco or Marin County, say hi! I love meeting new people, hearing new stories and doing new things. Shoot me an email. - I want to give a shout out to my friend Aarti, who signed up for The Listserve around the same time as me. We talk about The Listserve emails quite often, and pondered together what we would say if we were ever chosen. Here's what I'd like to say: She has a beautiful voice and not enough people know about it. Search on YouTube for 'aartib715' to hear it! - Look, mom! I'm The Listserve famous! ------

Thanks for reading and have a good day!

San Francisco, CA

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Dear Future Me

Tomorrow evening I will be heading off to start college at Seattle Pacific University as a freshman. I hope to learn so much academically and personally, even if I am a bit scared. Below is a letter to myself then, of what I wish to achieve, work through, and experience in the next four years.

Dear Future Hanna,

Right now you plan to study computer science with a minor in women's studies, then go on to get a master's in library science in order to become a librarian. I don't see you changing your mind as you love books and believe in the power of public libraries. I only hope you are able to find work in a community you love.

Where are you living? Seattle still, or elsewhere? Where have you decided to get your Master's Degree? I hope it's somewhere back east or the southwest. Have you visited any other countries? What did you learn? How is the family; Dad, with his alcoholism, Jess with a job or college, Katie halfway through high school, and is mom still living in Rogue River? What do you regret not doing?

I hope you keep your wonder for nature and enjoyment of geeky things. I do hope however, that you learn better patience and to not be so anxious. I hope you feel more belonging at SPU than you did at Rogue River High School, and have the courage to branch out of your comfort zone. I hope you make wonderful friends and maybe even fall in love. I hope you learn to better forgive and be vulnerable. I hope you read some wonderful books and attend a few concerts. Stay thankful, optimistic, and independent. Don't forget to make a few mistakes (but learn from them).

Treat yourself and others gently (especially Mom).

With love,

Southern Oregon

Anything I should have added? Have any funny/interesting/educational stories about your own process becoming a full-fledged adult? Want to share a favorite book or song? Shoot me an e-mail!

Friday, October 3, 2014

Notes on disability, mental illness, and never giving in

In the past 7 years, I’ve worked for three museums, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, managed and run a small business, curated art jewelry, tended bar, been a cocktail waitress, facilitated support groups for young adults with mental illness, and programmed databases for a medical research team. Currently I’m pre-med, and I sell perfume.

I’ve also been diagnosed with severe bipolar type I with psychotic features, been manic for 2 years, been psychotic for 4 and a half months, spent 9 weeks in the mental hospital, been disabled twice - once for physical and once for mental illness - had three endocrine disorders, and beaten cancer.


I was listening to an interview on NPR with a man who is a double lower-limb amputee. People, including his interviewer, have a tendency to be awed when people with disabilities leave their houses and do productive and sometimes wonderful things. On the one hand, I think disability can be motivating: it can teach great empathy, and it gives the stubborn something to prove. On the other, what is the other choice? You can either choose to be disabled and suffer in isolation, or you can choose to use a thing you love to overcome it.


Maybe I’m just too stubborn to die.

People tell me how brave I am for fighting cancer. Cancer has great PR, but the hardest thing I’ve done is overcome mental illness.

When you have cancer, mostly all you do is show up: the doctor’s tell you what to do and where to be and you go and they manage the rigors of treatment. Meanwhile, you are surrounded by the support of those around you, labeled a fighter or a warrior or a survivor, and you fight the battle with those you love around you.

When you have mental illness, you have guidance – which is often limited – from your doctors, you manage most of the rigors of your treatment – including figuring out what is going to save your own life – on your own. Meanwhile, you can’t tell anyone about your disease – and, if you do, you risk being yelled at, ostracized, judged, beaten, spat upon, abused, and raped. (Many of those have happened to me.) Your treatment, if you end up in the hospital, may include practices that the UN calls torture.


Never feel guilt after a suicide. You couldn’t have stopped it. At least there is no more pain.

Go for a walk outside every day. Take some vitamins. Lay down and take some big, deep breaths. Take your meds. Try DBT. Try CBT. Learn your triggers. Get enough sleep. Trust your doctors. Talk to your doctors. Don’t lie to your therapist. Find acceptance. Find peace. Find what gives you joy. Find a reason to fight. Find a reason to live.

Let’s make the following hashtag go viral: #iammentalwellness

I am a daughter, an art historian, a cancer survivor, a friend. I happen to have bipolar I. #iammentalwellness.

Email me your wellness.

Much love.

Houston, TX

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Love & Life

When I subscribed to the Listserve this summer I never thought I'd be chosen to write so soon! I've always thought of what I would write if I ever had the opportunity but of course now my mind is blank.

So I've decide to write about three things that are important in my life at the moment.

1. Music: Music has always been a huge part of my life. I've never been the type of person to say what I'm feeling or what is on my mind but I feel I can express my feelings through music.
Here is some good music I've been into lately and favorites that I've always loved:
OctaHate by Ryn Weaver
Oblivion by Bastille
The Mother We Share by CHVRCHES
Ed Sheeran
Mayday Parade
The City and Girls by The 1975

2.Samantha: I see the love of my life this week after being apart from her for almost two months. Many people roll their eyes or look at me in disbelief when I tell them that I've found "the one" at 22 years old. I can honestly say that I have. When I was 18 I had a relationship with someone that I was so sure of being the one. I was certain that they were possibly the person I could spend the rest of my life with. As time went on things started to change and so did the both of us. She started planning important things in her life and I was just waiting to start mine. Eventually, our relationship ended and I realized so much at this point in my life. I realized that I needed to learn to love myself first and find happiness within myself and not others. Looking back on that time I realized how much I was in love with the idea of us more than the person I was with. Now, in my current relationship I know how it feels to find your better half and be in love with them through every obstacle. She makes me want to be a better person and strive to do well in life. I'd be lost without her and I can't wait to see her.

3. College: Since before I graduated high school I always wanted to go to college and try to further my education. Towards the middle of my senior year after I had applied to Penn State my step mother told me I wouldn't make it. She said that I wasn't made for college and it would be hard for me to succeed. Immediately I became scared and worried that she was right and took a year off after high school to work and practice to get into a music school. I ended up learning a lot about life. Working for a restaurant, retail, and the post office. A year turned into four and I was approaching my one year mark at the post office with a pretty decent pay and hours when I realized I wasn't happy. I didn't want to do this for the rest of my life. So, I decided to go back to college and forget about all my fears. My stepmother and father felt the same exact way as they did when I graduated high school which only fueled my desire to succeed more. Now, I am about a month into my first semester and I'm doing great so far and I plan to graduate with my nursing degree.

Overall, don't let anyone tell you can't do anything because you can do anything with hard work and determination. I know that is cliche but it's true.
I would love to get to know any of you and I'm here if anybody needs to talk or vent. It's a tough world out there and sometimes we just need someone to listen.

Feel free to send you favorite song and/or artist to me and I'll return the favor:)

I hope you all have an amazing week!

Upstate New York

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Religious Education in the UK

I wanted to write about something I know. This won't interest everyone, but if you are an educator or interested in quirks of UK education law or religion in general then read on. At the end I will lay out some of the problems with RE, for many of them you will be able to find articles in BBC News if you research. I apologise now for being a cynic, but I love the subject and just want to see it be treated better.

The Legal Status of RE

All schools in the UK must legally provide Religious Education (RE) to its students, this dates back to a time when a huge number of schools providing free education were Church schools. At various times it has been known as Religious Studies or Religious Instruction. In the past it was entirely Christian in nature and taught as fact. Nowadays it must be predominantly Christian and also reflect other beliefs prevalent in the local area. For this reason there is no National Curriculum, instead in each Local Authority (LA) area a council (SACRE) is formed of local teachers and leaders of local religious organisations as well as representatives of the Church of England to decide what students in their area should study between ages 4-14 (whilst they could advise up to 18 in my experience they instead advocate taking an approved exam course at this stage). SACREs can include Humanist representatives and many (all?) SACREs recommend teaching about atheism and reasons for non-belief as well as taking a critical approach to religion as the students mature. Since under this government many schools have become academies and are therefore freed from their LA they are freed of following SACRE guidance, but they would have to justify major changes to the syllabus. Faith schools are free to only teach about their religion.

Government guidance says the purpose of RE is 'spiritual, moral, social and cultural development' 'personal development and well-being' and 'community cohesion' - no small task!

The Problems RE Faces

- In (non-faith) schools it is often the lowest priority. Primary school teaching is often poor, with the teachers reluctant to tackle a subject they feel they know little about and that has the potential to offend. In Secondary schools it is often given to non-specialist teachers. PSHE and Citizenship are shoe-horned into it, and GCSE courses are expected to be delivered in half the time given to other subjects.

- There is no academic subject called RE. An Ofsted report last year said RE was confused about what it was trying to achieve. The curriculum is decided by, and the subject is taught by, a mixture of theists, atheists, theologians, priests, philosophers and sociologists. If we could decide what the subject is we could decide how to teach and assess it (or even if it can/should be assessed).

- There is little public understanding of the need for the subject. Public perception is often that it has not moved on from the days of RS/RI. There are particularly low results for the white working classes - the group least likely to be religiously affiliated.

- Education Secretaries do little to help the image of modern RE by sending editions of the KJV to every school (Gove) or by being a vocally conservative Christian (Morgan).

- The leeway given to faith schools (including redacting exam papers) undermines the work done in other schools.

I am out of words to mention more issues, let alone attempt solutions. I hope this was informative and feel free to e-mail if you'd like to talk about any of it further.

M. Gallagher