Wednesday, December 31, 2014

I’m Sorry, We’re Breaking Up

April 30th, 2010:

Dear God,
I’ve had it with you. Let’s just say that the rules you’ve set down for me are too much to handle. Whether it’s your ten commandments or your path to enlightenment or some other method of guilt-trippy divinely-induced obedience, I’m done. I have tried to ascend, to climb the ladder, to be the best version of myself. I’ve tried to be selfless and sacrificial, to love everyone, to do unto them as I would do to myself. But let’s face it. I can’t. I can’t climb your fucking ladder. So as long as you keep asking me to be something I’m not and to do something I can’t do—to be perfect, for godsakes?—I’m going to go on disappointing you. And honestly, my rebellion will be a great addition to the new self that I’m building without you. You know, come to think of it, maybe people think you’re dead because they just wish that you were. Maybe we’re all tired of you keeping an eye on us. So until you can get your act together and meet me where I’m at, this is over. You are dead to me.


July 25th, 2013

Dear World (lovers, family, friends, acquaintances, etc.),
We’ve been at it for a few years now and I’m afraid I feel the same way about you as I did about God. Let’s face it. I’m not measuring up. I’ve been trying to “eat, pray, love” for a while now, and I’m 30 pounds overweight, quite confused, and alone. I’m supposed to spend my life giving it away for others, doing something that I love to do, and earning a sizeable income while at it. But that story’s not working for me any more. Who exactly is it working for, again? You evaluate me based on where I grew up, where I went to school, where I’ve worked, where I’m working, where I’m living, where I’m moving (or why I’m not moving), what I “want to do with my life,” what I look like on Instagram, what I sound like on Twitter, what I’m listening to on Spotify, who I’m dating (if I’m dating—am I datable?), what I’m eating, drinking, reading, driving, saying, not saying and, goddammit, it’s just too much. And you want it all to look effortless! Heaven forbid I look like I’m trying. You want me on the edge and playing it safe—living like money’s no object and saving like it’s the only object. You want me sensitive and untouchable, hilarious and dead serious, hopeful and cynical, put together and chicly untethered, well-adjusted and restless. And I just can’t cut it. It’s kind of ironic. You’ve started to look a lot more like “God” than you used to. The primary difference is that you’ve got a whole lot more unwritten rules to play by and, let’s be honest, a whole lot less promise. As a result, you are now dead to me, World. And to make this eminently clear to you, I reject your supreme commandment: that I must be myself. I reject this precisely because that is how you keep me climbing your ladder. I’m done climbing.


December 23rd, 2014

Dear God & World,
I miss you both dearly, but I’m not budging. You’re both dead to me. Hope? No. There’s no hope. Not unless one of you can drag yourself out of the grave I put you in and figure out a way to climb down here and love me even when I can’t be myself to your liking.



Boston, MA

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

My two cents

I already won? I wish I had prepared something, but now I must humbly jumble something together before heading out the door. I’m visiting family in Italy and wish I lived here, and that my Italian was better. I have to get around to those things one of these days.

Read the Greeks, the Russians, the Germans and the difficult.
Travel, do what no one does, get in serious trouble and stay out of debt.
Stay fit and strong, drink coffee and never pass when offered a drink.
Do good without anyone noticing. Never lie.
Keep seeking and keep learning.
Cancel your TV.

Finally, some Bolaño which describes me pretty well.

En la sala de lecturas del Infierno En el club
de aficionados a la ciencia-ficción
En los patios escarchados En los dormitorios de tránsito
En los caminos de hielo Cuando ya todo parece más claro
y cada instante es mejor y menos importante
Con un cigarrillo en la boca y con miedo A veces
los ojos verdes Y 26 años Un servidor

In the reading room of Hell In the club
for science-fiction fans
On the frosted patios In the bedrooms of passage
On the iced-over paths Where everything finally seems clearer
and each instant is better and less important
With cigarette in mouth and with fear Sometimes
green eyes And 26 years old Yours truly


Monday, December 29, 2014

Life List

“The purpose of life is to live it, to taste experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly and without fear for newer and richer experience.” -Eleanor Roosevelt

Many of you are probably familiar with the concept of a "bucket list," a tally of all the things that you want to do and be and see before you die. In the hope that my dance with the bucket is a long way off, I've more optimistically dubbed mine a "life list." I've been keeping it since I was 15, with the goal of mesmerizing my future grandchildren with crazy tales of my bizarre and eventful life. Every time the road seems too narrow or my life feels circumscribed, I push all my energy towards achieving one of the items on the list. This year, I checked off "hug a panda," "learn to saber open a bottle of Champagne," and "eat ramen in Tokyo," not to mention some unintentional additions, like "get paid to write 50 trivia questions about Gilmore Girls" and "get made fun of by Brian Boitano."

My life list, like life itself, will never be completed, and that's OK. If anything, it gets longer every year, and every item checked off seems to grow three new ones, hydra-like, in its place. Some of the items are genuine life skills, some are idle fantasies, and probably far too many of them involve drinking the most delicious drinks possible. But though it may be silly, the list reminds me that the world is open, that some dreams can be small and attainable, that if you don't ask, you don't get. For a little insight into my (admittedly odd) brain, here are 15 items that I'm working on right now. If you think you can help me get closer to achieving any of them, I'd be so grateful.

- Learn to caramelize onions perfectly, every time
- Go to a Japanese baseball game, and know all the coordinated cheers
- Build a fire without matches or a lighter
- Get a kiss from Jon Hamm (I know he's taken—on the cheek is fine)
- Sew myself a dress I'm proud to wear in public
- Write an article for The New York Times
- Wear a Ghostbusters suit with Caitlin Moran
- Help a bright, underprivileged kid apply and get into a top college, and counsel and support them through graduation day (and beyond!)
- Drink Orval Vert at L'Ange Gardien in Belgium
- Get my Certified Cicerone (I'm already a Certified Beer Server, so I'm halfway there)
- Sit in the cockpit of a plane with the pilot(s)
- Go to the Vanity Fair Oscar party
- Be awarded a bottle of Cristal so big that I can't lift it (badass 94-year-old restaurateur Cecilia Chiang inspired this one)
- Give $5,000 to the Fistula Foundation

I'm especially hoping you can help me with that last one. An obstetric fistula is an injury sustained in childbirth that renders a woman incontinent. It's easily fixed with surgery, but women in developing countries who go without treatment can suffer for their entire lives, becoming ostracized from their families, communities, and even their own children because they're perceived as smelly or "unclean." It's estimated that ongoing problems relating to fistula affect over a million women worldwide. By funding this surgery and training medical professionals in 21 countries, the Fistula Foundation often quite literally gives women their lives back. (For those who like to know where their money is going, CharityNavigator has detailed stats, and has given the Foundation four stars, their highest rating, for the past decade.)

If one-fifth of the Listserve donates just $1, $5,000 should be a piece of cake. I'll get us 1/25th of the way there today with a $200 donation of my own. I would be so grateful if you would consider giving $1 (or more!) to the Fistula Foundation. It takes less than 60 seconds, and you'll have an immeasurable impact on a woman's life.

And if your life list involves anything having to do with food writing, San Francisco, reading more novels, or drinking craft beer, please do reach out. I'm hoping to help other Listservers check off at least 15 items (and hopefully a lot more!) from their own life lists.

Thank you to the Listserve team for this opportunity, and to my beautiful sister, Mackenzie, for always inspiring me to do and be better. I am an incredibly fortunate person, and this experience is a great reminder to approach each day with a little more gratitude for all the abundance I have.

"Email 25,000 people": check!

Allie Pape
San Francisco, CA

Sunday, December 28, 2014

The Monologue

Welcome to The Monologue, the only late-night talk show that takes place via email.

I’m your host Brian Agler, and we’ve got a fantastic show for you today.

What’s happening...

President Obama recently announced that he would begin normalizing relations with Cuba. Analysts say the move will strengthen the airline and hotel industry, but cripple the rickety, old raft industry.

What else, what else…

North Korea has proposed a joint investigation with the United States over the recent Sony hack. The investigation is off to a slow start, as every North Korean lead consists of investigators saying, “Hey, look over there!” and then promptly running in the other direction.

Speaking of cyber attacks…

Staples recently announced that personal data from over 1.2 million shoppers has been stolen. Staples responded saying, “We never saw this coming...mainly because we couldn’t believe 1.2 million people did their last minute Christmas shopping at an office supply store.

Oh, this is great…

Former Florida governor Jeb Bush announced he was forming an exploratory committee to run for president. His platform is all about fiscal responsibility: Cutting taxes, scaling back government spending, and saving money by reusing old “President Bush” stationery that’s been cluttering up the Oval Office.

And finally, here’s something...

Sir Elton John married his longtime partner David Furnish on Saturday. They were pronounced man and Rocket Man.

We’ve got some great guests today, from Mad Men, and the Black Mirror Christmas special, Jon Hamm is here!

He’s an amazing stand-up, and you can catch him every week on Ground Floor, Rory Scovel is here!

And all the way from Brooklyn to play a song off their album, Maia Manu, Bird Courage is here!

That’s The Monologue. We’ve got a great show for you today. Check your inboxes, we’ll be right back.


In my spare time, I’m a comedy writer, and for while now I’ve had the idea to start a late-night monologue mailing list. If anything, it would be a great writing exercise.It would also give me a chance to help spread the word about some actors/comedians/musicians I like.

I can’t send any links through the listserve, but I urge you to check out:

Black Mirror (We all know Jon Hamm, of course he’s great)
Rory Scovel (I think he’s the funniest, most creative, stand-up working today)
Bird Courage (I saw them playing on a subway platform once and they just knocked me out)

I’m still in the planning stages, but if The Monologue is something you might like to see in your inbox some day, I posted a sign-up on my site:

brianagler [dot] wordpress [dot] com

Brian Agler
Washington, D.C.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Commedia del Arte

For the last seven years, I've been a member of a traveling comedy troupe called Commedia del Arte. Yes, it's spelled that way on purpose, and no, we don't use the character masks anymore.

The troupe has existed for over twenty years, located in Mobile, Alabama, though we'll travel just about anywhere there's a venue. We perform in an extemporaneous style that starts with a basic script, but each actor adds his or her own touches to the character and story as it develops. No two performances are the same.

We don't make any money.

Our proceeds go to charities. Our previous show (Here Wolf, There Wolf, Everywhere a Werewolf) benefitted the Animal Rescue Foundation of Mobile.

We do make everything else.

We take great pride in building our own costumes, finding or fashioning our own props, reusing or reimagining whatever is available. We've made beards out of tea leaves, a sarcophagus out of wrapping paper, and a crocodile out of soda bottles. Almost all of our shows are original pieces written by our director, who often gives us a handful of script pages to study while she finishes writing the rest.

And everyone who joins is welcomed like family.

We have all types of people, young and old, in the troupe. Some people join for a single show, while others stay for years. For me, the members of Commedia del Arte have become some of my closest friends. At one point, I drove 6 hours every other weekend to continue attending rehearsal. I was Wendy in our production of Peter Pan! No distance would have kept me away.

A week ago today, I got married. (I'm actually on my honeymoon as I write this.) Commedia del Arte was as important a part of my wedding as any family could be. They wrote and performed an original wedding play for my groom and me, a beautiful wedding gift and a true display of friendship and love.

Please look us up to learn more! Find us through Google or through our Facebook (Commedia del Arte of Mobile). Here you'll find more information and--best of all--hundreds of pictures of our characters and shows.

Thanks and all the best,

Mobile, Alabama

Friday, December 26, 2014

Being an Earthling

Hello Listservers everywhere!

Firstly, thanks to Listserve HQ friends for the chance to say something to the global community. Even if it's random choice, it's still an honour to be given the opportunity to write, as well as to read.

For my moment of your time, I'd like to remind you of the first-ever photo, taken from the Moon in 1969, of planet Earth. What an extraordinary thing that was to see - the view of the home of Earthlings that our neighbours would have, if there were such creatures. Suddenly the whole, huge, complex, busy and taken-for-granted thing you and I live on and rarely think about, probably, was seen hanging unsupported in dark empty space, looking delicate, fragile even - just a small blue-green empty-looking ball, where in fact all life as we know it started, and still exists.

Being an Earthling is an interesting idea, I believe. You and I are members of a single human race, and seeing Earth as one entity in that photo - a single atom in a vast, endless universe - suggests that there's much more to link us than to separate us. I often wonder why we have borders, then; boundaries, frontiers, even countries? All that naming the bits of the planet we each inhabit does seems more about separating us than seeing how much we have in common.

Yet isn't it great the way that the Listserve breaks those barriers down? I could be young, old, any race, gender, colour, creed, rich or poor - but I'm still exactly the same as you - an Earthling. And seriously, if I have to have a passport, I'd much rather it said Earthling that the name of some country. Why shouldn't it? Think of how much the world could change for the better, if the human race shared just one common name: Earthling. After all, pretty well every Earthling wants the same stuff: home, safety, enough to eat, someone to love, a healthy life, a job, good friends, family.

Maybe if we ditched the competition to be "better than" or "feel superior to" our neighbours, we could focus on what the real Earth issues are that you and I face - problems of fairness, justice, drinking water, food, rampant capitalism, poverty, finite resources, global pollution, climate change - if you live on Earth you can't ignore these, given that you live on the same planet, breathe the same air, as every other human. Remember: Earth isn't doomed, but Earthlings might be. We're perilously close to being as dead as the dinosaurs - the human race gone - if we don't cooperate globally.

I'm a 62 year old with a great life and am a lucky member of the privileged west. Most Listservers seem to average 25 or so and are rightly focused on their futures. I wish you well in yours; I also hope and trust you pay more attention to the ground under your feet than my generation has. When the oil, the bees, the rivers, the minerals and the crops have all gone - where and how will you live? Your children? It's their planet too - so be clever and be brave: you can help solve Earth's problems, otherwise you and I are doomed.

If there is any hope for the future of humankind, and the planet it stands on, it lies in the hands, hearts and minds of Earthlings - particularly the young, who are the Earth's future - and their own. To end optimistically - you're smart, and I trust you'll play your part.

Roger Gould
Lancaster, England

Thursday, December 25, 2014


Timing, they say, is all. The Listserve ‘winners’ email awaited my arrival home from a visit to my younger brother in hospital (a double heart bypass, complicated by diabetes). My older brother has Alzheimer’s, and has just been sent home to die. I’m trying to complete the sale of my house but the buyers, a Christian church organisation, are anything but compassionate in their dealings and turning the dream into a nightmare. So, I was feeling rather despondent.

Then I’m chosen to write to thousands of strangers. What a gift, what an opportunity, what a spirit raiser!

Your time’s precious, so I’ll introduce myself and then ask a question.

I was born in a neighbour’s bed, following my father’s death and my mother’s eviction from our home connected to his job. The attending midwife, convinced I’d be born dead, abandoned my mother for ‘a woman up the road whose kid has a chance of being alive, love.’ Later, after a remarriage, our new family ended up living in an old railway carriage, perched on its wheels, in a field on the edge of a cliff overlooking the sea. A magical childhood followed: walking the beach to school, using sea and sand as our playground, standing on the headland watching thunderstorms develop over the waters.

Those who educate us, influence our life choices and should be respected and valued. One teacher was irascible, rigid and easily mocked. But for his negative attitude, I’d have been an architect. Another was bright, attractive, sexy and encouraging: through her I became a storyteller.

Enough of me: for more, type my author name ‘Stuart Aken’ into any search engine. Feel free to connect with me. I love the facility of the web and the net to link complete strangers from all over this amazing planet we inhabit.

So, to my question, which is complex: If you believe in a God (and there are many), is this because you were brought up to do so, because you consider every word of some text to be from that deity, because you ‘feel’ such a belief to be right, or because you have a deep-seated need of such a power?
If you don’t believe in any form of deity, is that due to upbringing, consideration of the evidence, or straightforward cynicism?
To be fair to you, I’ll express my own view. I suspect that we will never truly know whether or not a God exists. Such a power, by its very nature, must be so far beyond our ability to comprehend as to be inaccessible. I’ve therefore come to the conclusion that the only way to live is to abide by the Golden Rule and to live our lives in a way that will leave the world a better place than when we entered it.

I hope that this short missive finds you at the festive season and that you enjoy the holiday and engage in its spiritual message of peace and goodwill to all.

You can respond to me, should you wish, at the email address below or through the social media I inhabit.

Thank you for your time and attention. And enjoy!

Stuart Allison
East Yorkshire, England, UK

Wednesday, December 24, 2014


Hello everyone on The Listserve!

I want to talk about something that I started in my life that is really helping me out to go through a bad moment. That is meditation.

Meditation is a simple activity that you can make almost anywhere and it doesn't cost you a penny. All you have to do is to spare some time for meditating. I am really a beginner but I could feel the benefits of meditating already.

Turn off your phone and start doing that when you will have no interruption, if needed warn people around so they don't disturb. All you have to to is to sit down, comfortably. Keep your spine aligned and focus on your breathe. A few mantras could help you to calm down. Three long Oooooooooooommmmms would do the job.

The thing is focus on your breathe or in the gaps between the thoughts. Meditation is all about trying not to think about anything, but when we are starting, lots of thoughts will surely come. All you have to do is observe those thoughs. Try not to judge and avoid to "follow" a thought or dialogue with it.

Imagine the thoughts are like clouds on a blue sky, your goal is to focus on the blue sky.

The thoughs are very important actually, cause they give you really good hints about your condition. All you do is observe. Ok, I thought of it, I thought of that, that made anxious... this is looking at you, and this is important. I call it honest observation.

But remember that the whole practice is to learn how to not follow the clouds, focus on the blue sky. Once you notice that you followed a thought and you are in the middle of a dialogue with it, don't get angry, simply abandon that thought and start focusing again on your breathe.

I understand that the goal of yoga and meditation is to "be really present" and that means to be totally aware of our presence, our self, the others, in everything we do, in every moment.

One last thing I have discovered as a beginner in meditation is: Your mind is just a part of your conscience. Your mind is not your whole conscience, your mind is not you.

There's a video that gives real great information, and detailed instructions about how to meditate. It was created by the Indian government to explain to the americans what was meditation. Search youtube for: "The Secret Meditation in Hindi"


Diogo Matheus
São Paulo - Brasil

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

30 things to do before I'm 30

I've been in London a couple of years now. I finished university in 2012 and migrated to the big smoke, following every other graduate, or so it seemed. I've been lucky enough to surround myself with brilliant and inspiring people at a marketing agency in central London, only now am I getting slightly itchy feet thinking I need to go and make something of myself, in a place outside of here.

London is mad, fast paced and full of incredible little places but I often feel like the adventurous side of me gets sucked up whilst living here. It's so easy to stick in a job I'm so comfortable with, but not doing something I truly love and am passionate about. I'm desperate to travel the world working for an NGO, and completely take me out of my comfort zone. Going to Kenya as a volunteer in 2009, has undoubtedly been the best decision I've ever made - I urge you, implore you even, to jump at any opportunity to go there. The people are just wonderful, and it will get under your skin in the way it has done mine.

So here's hoping that during 2015 I can cross of some of the list below. If any of you thousands of people all around the world find yourselves in London, get in touch! It's a big old world out there.

(I've only ticked off 12 of the 30 so far, 5 years left...)

And of course, MERRY CHRISTMAS!

1. Do something good, once a year, for a total stranger
2. Live in Africa for 6 months
3. Write a poem
4. Learn an instrument
5. Make a short film
6. Learn a language (or at least try to)
7. Go to an olympics
8. Run a marathon
9. Do a triathlon
10. Fall in love
11. Get married
12. Write and perform a speech
13. Start a charity
14. Sell a painting
15. Sleep out under the stars
16. Take a massive job risk
17. Get something published
18. Start a blog about something I love
19. Go to Glastonbury
20. Get a wild haircut
21. Stand on the equator
22. Volunteer at an old peoples home
23. Go interrailing
24. Travel somewhere new every year
25. Start yoga
26. Climb a mountain
27. Get over my fear of fish
28. Donate blood/an organ
29. See the northern lights
30. Leave a mark on the world

Rachel Owen

Monday, December 22, 2014

About strangers

Hello, strangers!

My name is Yasmim and I’m passionate about traveling. I'm 21 years old and I am proud to say that I already visited 11 countries. My last trip was in august/2013, when I traveled across Europe all by myself. My next stop will be: California and Vegas! yay!

One of the most important things that travelling has taught me is: there are much more good people than bad people in the world. My experience as a lonely traveler shown me that there are much more people willing to help a stranger than you could imagine. Strangers in train stations helped me to carry my luggages; strangers gave me all kind of information that I needed and made my traveling a lot more easier; among several others things. Those strangers helped me without asking for anything in return (except for some beggars in Rome, but that's another story).

In 2012 I was in Lousiana on a job exchange program (I worked in a Wendy's but that's also another story, haha). My friends and I were dying to go to New Orleans to see the Mardi Gras parade (and, of course, the party). However, we didn't have a car and couldn't rent one because of our age... So we decided to ask for a ride on the road. Ok, I know that was a little bit risky (maybe a lot). Anyway, a stranger took us safely to New Orleans and gave us a lot of city tips.

All of my traveling experiences were positives and I do not believe that was a question of luck. Of course, THERE ARE bad people in the world, so you must be careful! But, sometimes, just trust. Like in that Coca-cola advertising: there are reasons to believe! The world still is an horrible place but I guarantee you that’s not as evil as the media show us. Sometimes I have the feeling that we live in a permanent paranoia about safety! Of course we must have some precautions, but we can't stop living because of fear.

So, that’s my advice for you, strangers: put some faith in humanity and don't be afraid of trusting :)

p.s.: do you live in California/Vegas and have any travel tips? Please, email me!
p.s. 2: do you live anywhere in the world and have any travel tips? Please, email me!
p.s. 3: not exactly related, but If you read portuguese, I truly recommend you to read "Vacaciones" by Ana Paula Barbi.
p.s. 4: I'm a Listserve member since 2012 so it was REALLY hard to write anything, since I've read a lot of amazing stuff and I couldn't stop thinking that what I had to say wasn't good enough. I spent those 48 hours suffering from anxiety.
p.s. 5: I really don't know how to use comma in english.
p.s. 6: Like "Humans of New York" on Facebook. You won't regret it.
p.s. 7: I know those "life advices" are kind of boring, but I really wanna write about this. Haha.
p.s. 8: "Beijinho no ombro pro recalque passar longe."

Yasmim Kubaski
Curitiba, Brazil

Sunday, December 21, 2014


When I saw the email for this I was so excited. I asked around on Facebook about what I should write on as I was lost for words.

Many things where suggested to me; how to create a magickal life, my experiences as an apprentice to various people, life experiences, my passion for my spirituality and many others.

Then it hit me, appreciation and courage. My mom and I will always be at odds, we will never truly see eye-to-eye but I appreciate her more then I could ever explain. She went to bat for me many times as a teen, she has pushed my buttons more then she knows, she is there for me and my children pretty much every time I need her and she has complete trust that she can take whatever life gives her.

As a teen I was always angry with her and now I admire her strength and courage.
So mom, thank you.

Dad, I haven't forgotten about you. You're generosity is as deep as the stories I've heard. You're advice always appreciated even though I may not use it, I still keep it around.

I'm thankful for all your hard work and dedication to family and some of my favorite memories will always be of you letting me help fix the cars and finish the basement, as frustrating as it might of been for you.

Listserve recipients, find your courage and be appreciative. Much love and hope to you all.

Suicide Lifeline

Want to continue the discussion? Email me at:

Blessed Be,

Julia Maupin
Waterloo, IL

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Life is Abuse

I have a simple request. My friend Chloe was in a serious car accident last week and is currently battling the limits of modern medicine. She is one of the most courageous and strong people I've ever encountered, so I know she is going to put up a fight. All I ask is your love and hope and strength and prayers be sent to Cho Rombach (I know she's listening).

I've been part of the Listserve for the past four years. I never considered the possibility of winning, but its makes a world of sense for this to happen now. I know I'm still young (21) and have many more lives to live, but this has been a hard fucking year. I have no advice for you, no words of hollow encouragement. Everyone just has to keep moving. Practice mindfulness. Find the people you love and never ever let them go a day without knowing it.


Charlotte Rogg
Amherst, MA

Friday, December 19, 2014

On Community, Organizing and the Internet

About 10 years ago a bunch of people who worked on the Internet team of John Kerry’s US presidential campaign got together after the election. It was the first time digital technology played a major role in a campaign and they knew it was the future of politics.

They also knew there was a long road ahead. They founded a scrappy organization, the New Organizing Institute, to define, train and recruit new organizers who could continue to expand and innovate. In 2006, NOI held a small unconference, Rootscamp, to spread the word.

This weekend in Washington, DC that conference is happening again. It’s grown from a gathering that filled a couple of classrooms at a community college in Brooklyn to a weekend that brings together more than a thousand progressive organizers from across the US and the world.

But it’s more than the size of the event that has changed.

I’ve worked in this space all that time. When I began, just after the 2004 elections, it was in its infancy. Few people understood what we did or why we did it. Most people thought if you worked on the Internet team you would fix their computer. We regularly heard people say they “didn’t do the Internet.”

Yet, we knew what it would be. We knew the power of the Internet had the ability to influence every single aspect of the campaigns we worked on. We know it was a tool for change. A way to bring people together. To find common ground. To build power. To make the world a better place.

We also knew we couldn’t do it alone. We needed allies. We needed more of us. We needed the powers-that-be who controlled the budgets and everything else to give a damn and pay attention.

Rootscamp was where we came to figure out how to make that happen.

Yesterday I walked the halls of the Rootscamp2014 that buzzed with energy. There were happy reunions. The opportunity to run into a colleague you worked alongside years back and hadn’t seen lately. Hugs from friends whose lives had taken them away from DC. But most striking was I saw more faces I didn’t recognize than those that I did. I was struck by how far we’d come. How the community we had hoped to create had become a reality. How that collective work had blossomed into a community that was beautifully diverse and inclusive.

It’s given careers to people who had passion and purpose. It’s been a launching pad for companies, nonprofits and campaigns and individuals that work to elect our representatives from school board to president, stop climate change, end gun violence, increase women’s equality, give a voice to the voiceless, and much more. It’s where we want to solve big problems and answer hard questions. It’s a place where we know we are more powerful when we do that together.

Of course, we still have work to do. We continue to strive for more. But we have a place where that happens – a community where we learn from each other and challenge ourselves to be and do better.

If you’ve ever wondered about doing this type of work. if you’ve wanted a way in, I encourage you to google the New Organizing Institute. You could be walking the halls next year alongside us, full of energy and empowered to create change. That would be a beautiful thing.

I’d love to hear how you’ve created a community of your own, challenged the status quo, or followed your bliss.

With gratitude for this community too,

Tracy Russo
Washington, DC

Thursday, December 18, 2014

At the Crosscroads

Hello Listervians! My name is Apar Singh and I am a 25 year old turbaned Sikh living in California. The other day I met a patient in the morning that I had been assigned to take care of and after introducing myself she looked at me strangely and asked, “Where are you from?!” I told her I was born in Flint, Michigan but raised in Yuba City, CA in the Central Valley. She smiled and exclaimed, “I was ready to welcome you to the United States of America!” I literally LOL-ed! She was the most pleasant soul I’ve ever met...she just had never seen nor met a person with a turban before. Not racist…but maybe a little ignorant. But that’s OK, I am willing to educate and people are willing to learn. That’s what it’s all about.
In case you haven’t figured it out yet, I am medical student in California currently enjoying living in Monterey Bay while learning medicine at a community hospital in a nearby city that serves mostly migrant workers. I am at a juncture in my life where I have to decide what field of medicine to enter that will subsequently dictate what my life will look like for the rest of my life. Will I be a surgeon and cut people open and live at the hospital? Will I be a community health doc in a small town that everyone knows on a first name basis? Will I be a radiologist and live in a dark room looking at screens all day and be content with minimal human contact? Will I have to move to another part of the country for my training for anywhere from 3-7 years? Will I come out of medical school with the same drive for community organizing and engagement that I came in with?

I met an amazing woman earlier this year…and I want to spend every moment with her, helping her accomplish her dreams to change the world, and I know she will help me do the same. Her training will also take at least another 5 years as well. What are the chances they will be in the same place?

So many questions and concerns, and with no answer…yet. But that’s OK.

I have a Beautiful Life. A Loving Family that put everything on a silver platter for me. Supportive Friends that linked me up with all you caring souls at Listerserv (Thanks Amritpan)! I get to HELP PEOPLE for a living. How cool is that? Answer: HELLA cool.
Feel free to contact me with any or all questions, concerns or comments you have. Or if you just want to talk. I like conversing about Public Health (my nonprofit plug: Google “BPSHI”), Single Payer, Meditation and Ultimate Frisbee to name a few. Thanks for listening!

Random things to enjoy:
“Conquer your mind, Conquer the World.” – Guru Nanak Dev Ji, founder of Sikhism

“Be like the flower that gives its fragrance to even the hand that crushes it.” – Imam Ali

“What an honor we have that we can walk into a room and people can tell us anything and trust us with their health.” – Anonymous Family Practice Physician

Apar Singh
Monterey Bay

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Hi Gaby!

I want to slide down the dunes of Lençóis, explore the ruins of Petra, bike the streets of Utrecht, shop the Maasai Market of Nairobi, swim the waters of Vettica, climb the tower of Porto, and soak in the sun of Koh Lipe. I want to meet beautiful people with beautiful stories and dance on the beach with strangers to loud music and see things with my own eyes.

I want to spend my last five months of college drinking champagne with my friends on random Wednesday nights and sitting on docks in the moonlight not sure if I'm trembling from the cold or from excitement. I want to find a way to end wars so that my family has peace. I want to make my parents proud and love unconditionally and learn how to let go of someone without completely falling apart and eat ice cream with extra fudge but most of all I want to be happy.

I came to the striking realization the other day that we can do it. I haven't quite figured out how, maybe I never fully will, but there has to be a way.

If you have any suggestions, please write to me. I'd love to hear from you. If you don't, I'd love to hear from you too.

Be kind, and remember "everything will be okay in the end. If it's not okay, it's not the end."

Thank you.

Andrea Blazanovic
Williamsburg, Virginia, USA

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

On Mourning, Reflections, and Eternal Grace

I'm missing the funeral of a dear friend's daughter's father today because I couldn't get away from work. Picture me, dressed in black and gray, solemn. Ready to mourn in community-- but held captive by duty. Nonetheless, present.

Every day is a gift, wrapped in the most intricate of details.

Here's to you all, I'm grateful to have you in my immediate and extended community.

1 Cor 15:8-10

#1716 #teamjournal #Scribegameproper

Washington, DC

Monday, December 15, 2014

All Lives Matter

Dear Reader,

Black lives matter. These three little words, which are so obviously true, echo the great pain of too many. Parents that lost their beautiful children, brothers and sisters that never get too play together, loved ones brutally ripped apart, little children that will grow up without one of their parents, and so many more. I can imagine the pain. And I hand my head in shame. Because justice is denied to too many families. The least we could do is stop those responsible and hold them accountable. Yet even this seems to be too much. With the great majority of cases ignored and the whispers for justice unheard. What do we tell the family of Tamir Rice, Eric Garner and Mike Brown ?

The callous disrespect for human life does not end there. Blackwater's Youngest Victim is one of the most heartbreaking documentaries that I ever saw. It tells the story of Ali Kinani's death. Ali was a nine-year old boy. He was killed by Blackwater forces in the infamous Nisour Square massacre. They were in no danger and opened fire on innocent by-standers for no apparent reason. Sadly very few people know about this and many other tragedies in the Iraq war. Cheerleading a war is never hard if you do not face the high price paid.

An other great documentary Dirty Wars starts with the story of The Khataba raid an incident in the War in Afghanistan in which five civilians, including two pregnant women and a teenage girl, were killed by U.S. forces on February 12, 2010. Initially, it was implied that the three women were killed prior to the raid by family members in an honor killing. As part of the cover-up US Special Forces removed bullets from the victims bodies.

In relation to War on Terror, I would like to thank Craig Murray Former British Ambassador to Uzbekistan. He exposed the complicity of the UK-government in torture programs. Which in Uzbekistan includes boiling people alive. No Western leader seem to have a particular problem with this as long as Uzbekistan remains an ally. "The British government does not care how many people they kill abroad as long as it advances them one bit " -Craig Murray

Now thanks to a Listserve member's excellent advice to "Do something new! Do not just tell me to love everybody", I will not tell you what to do. But I will ask you all, to please remember all the innocent victims. Sadly I have no solutions or answers, only the believe that if we come together. Say enough is enough. Say Every live matters. Something will change. Ultimately it is in your hands, do you quietly accept the injustice ?

"I have seen that it is not man who is impotent in the struggle against evil, but the power of evil that is impotent in the struggle against man. The powerlessness of kindness, of senseless kindness, is the secret of its immortality. It can never by conquered. The more stupid, the more senseless, the more helpless it may seem, the vaster it is. Evil is impotent before it. The prophets, religious teachers, reformers, social and political leaders are impotent before it. This dumb, blind love is man's meaning. Human history is not the battle of good struggling to overcome evil. It is a battle fought by a great evil, struggling to crush a small kernel of human kindness. But if what is human in human beings has not been destroyed even now, then evil will never conquer."
― Vasily Grossman, Life and Fate


Xavi Ezechiel
Amsterdam, The netherlands.

Sunday, December 14, 2014


One of my goals in life is to be open-minded and accepting, which can be incredibly hard, but I always try to hear people out. Even if I don’t end up agreeing with them, I usually learn something. Please hear me out.

Remember a time when you were really for or really against something, and someone you heard, or something you read managed to change your mind. An issue about which you had made up your mind, knew how you felt, could argue about forever. If this has never happened to you, I hope it will at some point. It’s a pretty cool experience. For now, try to imagine how or why it could happen.

…got it?

OK, now I’m going to bring up something that many of you probably feel strongly about, and I want to bring up one part of the issue that isn’t often discussed.

Enter: genetically modified (GM) or genetically engineered (GE) organisms. What you get when you take a gene from one organism and put it into another organism. Sometimes these two organisms are distantly related, and sometimes they’re very closely related.
I just want to make one point: not all GMOs are the same.

The thing that ties them together is pretty obvious, namely, that they are genetically modified. If you are against the process of genetic modification, if you fall on the “tinkering with nature is wrong,” side of the fence, then this one common point is very important to you. There’s plenty of writing out there on this part of the issue, so let’s move on.

What makes individual GMOs different from one another is the gene that’s added to the organism. I also think it’s important what the purpose for adding this gene is, who’s doing it, and how and to whom it will be sold or donated. I think the good/bad of a GMO is dependent on these factors, not just the fact that it is a GMO. In light of this fact, it’s frustrating that the national conversation involves grouping all GMOs together and ignoring the differences between what gene has been added to the organism, what it does, and what it’s for. If someone adds a gene to a crop that makes it poisonous to humans or other animals, that could obviously be bad. If someone adds a gene that makes a crop extra nutritious, that could be great. I think this is the nuance we should focus on.

So, my point here is: if you are against herbicide-resistant crops, you don’t have to be against all GMOs. If you’re against all GMOs Monsanto produces, you don’t have to be against all GMOs, because other companies, and also nonprofits and universities, can produce GMOs. If you’re against all patented GMOs, you don’t have to be against all GMOs, because GMOs can be unpatented and donated rather than sold.

There is endless potential for different uses of GMOs, and we’ve seen only a fraction of it so far. I like to think of a possible best-case-type scenario to illustrate this: a nonprofit uses donated funding to develop a GMO crop that solves a major problem; the nonprofit works with the community affected by said problem to tailor the GMO to their needs, then donates the seed for the crop. We don’t hear about many examples like this. But we could. This is why I care and why I chose this subject to share with you all. The widespread, blanket rejection of all GMOs makes innovation difficult. Let’s talk instead about how we can make them better.

Berkeley, CA

Saturday, December 13, 2014

How to buy people's love

With a cake. This is very easy, just follow this recipe:
The lava cake recipe: (for 15-20 cupcake sized lava cakes)
200g butter
200g dark cooking chocolate
200g white sugar
5 eggs
1 tbs flour

Preheat the oven at 375 F (190 C). (This is IMPORTANT! Never neglect to preheat the oven.)

Melt the chocolate with the butter, and then add the sugar.
Add the eggs one by one, and beat the mixture very strongly after each egg addition. The resulting mixture must be perfectly homogeneous. Add the flour last. (Taste it: it should already taste amaaaaazing!)

Pour the mixture in the cupcake cups; fill them up to 3/4.

Now it's time to add the Nutella, to transform this great recipe in an AMAZING Nutella melting heart cake!
I usually take two table spoons; I fill one with roughly 1/3 of Nutella and use the second to drop the Nutella in the center of the cake. Once the Nutella drop is in the cake I use one spoon to collect some dough on the side to lightly cover the Nutella drop with some dough.

Now it's time to cook it 20 to 25 minutes at 375 F (190 C).
How to know when it's done: First of all it smells delicious. Secondly you can use a knife and stick it on the SIDE (NOT in the MIDDLE) of the cake, it should come out ALMOST dry (yes, the “almost” is very important: if it's too dry that means it's too cooked, but if it's not enough that means it's not done yet). If that can help you feel better: you will most likely fail the cooking the first time. I did failed it a couple time before getting used to how the cake should look like when it's done.

And now enjoy your delicious cakes, and share them! Good cakes are made to be shared!

(Sure this recipe won’t buy you love for life, but it will do so for the next five minutes, so better act quick if you have a favor to ask, or a bad news to announce.)

I will finish this email with a bunch of random thoughts:
-My name is Aleth, I am a 24 years old girl (I know: so not obvious from the name), I am French and I moved to Boston in August to pursue a PhD in Chemistry.
-This is the first time in my life I’ve ever, ever, EVER win anything. Hopefully this is announcing the beginning of good times to come.
-If you ever want to watch a good French TV show because you like French or you want to learn it, watch Spiral (French title is “Engrenages”). Season 4 is available on Netflix, and there’s plenty of ways to find the previous seasons (why the hell are they not on Netflix too?! That’s an amazing show!)
-I considered going all cheesy about the persons I love, but I figured you guys don’t care.
-I am also always looking for good new fantasy books, and indie bands. So I’ll be happy to hear any suggestions. (Like literally “any”. I listen to a lot of different styles of music)
-Let me know how the recipe turned out if you try it. Or shoot me an email if you want to talk about anything else, I always like a good story.
-I’ll finish with a joke I actually find very accurate:
What do you call somebody who can speak 3 languages?
2 languages?
1 language?

(Oh, and you lost the game.)

Boston, MA

Friday, December 12, 2014

Cancer, Love, and Social Justice

When my mom called back instead of texting, I knew the news couldn’t be good. I was in my first year of college, and I saw people flooding my younger cousin’s Facebook page with their sympathies and promises of prayer. I couldn’t figure out what happened, so I texted my mom.

She called back because my 16-year-old cousin Anna had been diagnosed with cancer, and you don’t simply text that to someone.

My faith became wrapped up in my cousin’s battle with cancer. It sounds selfish now to think about how much her battle and her pain became entwined with my own faith journey, but it did. When my mom called back six months later to say that Anna was cancer free, I knew God was present in that miracle.

When Mom called back three months after that to say the cancer had returned, I felt myself starting to doubt a little more. But God had done it before, so he would do it again. And by now, 1,000,000 people had pledged to pray for Anna, so if God was out there he had surely received the message.

And then Dad sat across from me at a kitchen table and said, “Mom called today to say Anna has passed away.” As my first real experience with grief crashed over me, I watched the Santa Claus God I had constructed disintegrate before my eyes. As I yelled at God and fought with him, then decided we simply weren’t on speaking terms, then finally admitted I don’t know if God’s even out there, I found myself drawing strength from a place that had initially challenged my faith: a historical understanding of Jesus, one that sets aside the debate of his divinity to focus on how he helped others.

I became captivated by the idea of radical love. I saw radical love manifested in Jesus, because that is my upbringing and my heritage, not because Jesus or Christianity has some exclusive hold over those qualities. Soon that radical love became translated to justice – Jesus reached out to the people marginalized by society. When I attended a new church convinced that my doubts and my on-again, off-again belief in God were flashing in neon lights above my head, I heard the pastors call Jesus the first social justice worker, and everything clicked. I didn’t need to check off items from “the list of things you must believe” to be a Christian – I needed to make the world a better place in whatever small ways I could.

Now I study how people talk about social justice. I’m fascinated by this concept and how people not only come to understand it, but how they choose to act on it. And I’m really curious to know what you think, too, because when else can I ask approximately 25,000 people about their thoughts on social justice?

These are my questions to you:
When did you first hear about social justice?
What does social justice mean to you?
What is something you do to make the world a better place?

This is my challenge to you:
When people prayed for Anna, they tried to pray at 12:12, based on the corresponding verse in Romans. Now December 12th has become a special day in the life of the 1Million4Anna Foundation created to honor Anna’s beautiful spirit. So in memory of Anna and all of the inspiring warriors who have brightened our worlds, I would challenge you to brighten a child’s day on December 12th. Together we will make the world a better place.

Float on, Anna.

Laura K
North Carolina, USA

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Anything from the heart, works

Hello fellows!

We all have that one night/day in our lives which makes us think we learnt something new about ourselves. This is one of those nights which made me more acceptable towards life and how it's up to you to make it or break it.

I was studying communication design in Australia and used to work as a waitress at a small Indian restaurant in Melbourne. After some 3 months of waitressing, I was pretty settled at the place. Used to look forward to meeting new people and have our last meal together with that chilled beer and a late night drive to home.

Sometimes our manager would get orders for catering and he was always short staffed and only hired girls. A lot of times he had to refuse as he didn't want the girls carrying all the heavy stuff and he couldn't leave the restaurant to go do it himself.

Once he got an order for an Indian engagement party where we had to make biryani for some 150 people. It was a big order for someone as small as us. Client wanted someone from the restaurant to serve at the party too. For some reason (maybe because I had a car), my boss chose me. It was a one hour drive, with my car full of biryani (I'm a huge biryani fan!) and me dressed in black, ready to serve families. I was pretty nervous. I was imagining all those judgmental eyes trying to picture how poor my family must be to let me be a waitress at a small Indian restaurant.

When I reached the venue, I realised I had to carry the containers myself since I was the first one to reach. After carrying huge food containers, people started coming in and I was setting up tables, hoping to avoid eye contact because that very moment, I was just a waitress who was dressed in her fav black shirt n black trousers trying to avoid conversations with judgmental Indian families living abroad. I could imagine them calling my dad n telling him how they feel to see his daughter serve other people when she should be out doing something more respectable. My brain wandered to places and what my parents would think of me if they saw me lost like this. While I was in that rotten world, smell of biryani woke me up. As dramatic as it sounds, it was that smell of home and how good food can fix everything in the world, pumped me up.

I uncovered the lids, poured biryani in the serving containers, ran around to find spoons and plates.

Bride's family was very sweet and tried making conversations with me but all in vain. After an hour, I was back to being myself. I had said no to putting on make up as aunties were getting ready just about anywhere they found a mirror or if they spotted me dressed in just black for an Indian engagement.

Soon I was out there like a pro waiter, serving food and even taking feedback from everybody and I was comfortable in my skin. I don't know how exactly it happened but now I'm glad it did as its important to go through the awkward moments just so you can appreciate the non-awkward moments. Strange is good.

And as it turns out, the client family came the next day to thank me for helping them serve, gave a gift n asked for one more event later. I had left the country by then :)

Anything from the heart, works.

Do share some of your awkward yet learning moments, would be happy to know you better.


Kind Regards,

Kanika Seth
New Delhi, India

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Remembering Montana

I miss Montana.

In 2009, I was just about to finish my dissertation and I had accepted my first job – a tenure-track position at a small liberal arts college in Montana. I was moving to Montana from Chicago, and I was excited – but also apprehensive. My anxiety came from a few places. First, just the idea of starting the job itself – being the one in charge, and standing in front of a room of students who wanted me to have the answers – was fairly terrifying. Then, there was the more immediate anxiety of leaving my wife behind in Chicago. She had one year left in her grad program, so I was headed out West on my own. And then, there was concern about Montana itself. I had visited the campus for my interview, and I fell in love with the college and the town. But, a visit was one thing, living there another. While I was not a Chicago native, I knew I loved the city tremendously and just didn’t know how I would function anywhere else – especially someplace so much less urban.

When I packed up and headed out, my dad traveled with me. We stopped at Mount Rushmore and we drove through the Badlands. We followed a semi through a reservation, and it was the darkest night either of us had ever seen. And with every mile, I realize now, I was slowly falling in love with the mountain West.

Montana is spectacular: raw and wild. Drive just a few minutes out of town, and there simply are no people. Just amazing mountain views everywhere you turn. I took a float down the river with some friends, and fished for the first time. I was terrible at it, but I had a blast. We were out too late, and I remember sitting in the raft, looking up, and seeing the Milky Way for the first time in a very long time. I visited the state and national parks often, and regularly took long drives just to explore. I was never, ever disappointed and often awe-struck.

The people were just as fascinating as the scenery: my neighbor was an artist, a potter, but also a carpenter and a Western ware model. People brought small children to bars. People were polite and friendly and everything was casual. I still miss the local brewery.

Even the things that were hard about Montana I remember fondly. Even the cold. It was cold there like I had never personally experienced before. I used to plug in my engine block warmer on the coldest nights. I remember one day it was so cold my car frosted on the inside as I drove to work, even after sitting and warming for a few minutes. It felt like, in some small way, me versus the elements. It was an adventure.

I miss other places. I still miss Chicago something horrible. I miss my hometown, and the place I went to college. But none of those places got under my skin and into my bones quite as fast as Montana.

Work took me away from Montana, and I haven’t been back in a few years. My wife and I have a small child now, and planning travel isn’t always easy. But I know, deep down, that I can’t not go back to Montana.

Zachary Callen
Meadville, PA

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Rediscovering the culture of sending and receiving a postcard!

Hello All,

I am a 28 year-old guy from the Dominican Republic, (a nice place in the Caribbean) and I want to talk to you about a hobby I started last year. Have you ever heard about Postcrossing? When was the last time you received a postcard? When was the last time you sent a postcard?

Well, Postcrossing is a nice Project that allows you to “send a postcard and received a postcard back from a random person in the world”. More than a hobby I found this project as a way to learn about other cultures; every postcard I received has its own story, its own mystic.

How it works?

The first step is to register on the Postcrossing site (You can google it: Postcrossing). Then you would be able to request to send a postcard. The website will display (and send you an email) with the address of another member and a Postcard ID (e.g.: US-786). You then mail a postcard to that member.

The member receives the postcard and registers it using the Postcard ID that is on the postcard. At this point, you are eligible to receive a postcard from another user. You are now in line for the next person that requests to send a postcard. Where the postcard comes from is a surprise!

You can have up to 5 postcards traveling at any single time. Every time one of the postcards you send is registered, you can request another address. The number of postcards allowed to travel at any single time goes up the more postcards you send!

A simple request...

I’d like to hear from you guys, would you mind sending me a postcard from where you are?

Tell me something about you, what’s your hobby? What do you do?

Ramón Lora
Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic

Monday, December 8, 2014

Doubt is a double-edged sword

Have you heard of “anomy”? The Encyclopedia Britannica defines it this way:

“in societies or individuals, a condition of instability resulting from a breakdown of standards and values or from a lack of purpose or ideals.”

In “The Abolition of Man” and elsewhere, C.S. Lewis predicted that this would be the trajectory of a society that repudiates objective values. Here are some quotes, what do you think?

"Human beings, all over the earth, have this curious idea that they ought to behave in a certain way, and can't really get rid of it."

"A great many of those who 'debunk' traditional...values have in the background values of their own which they believe to be immune from the debunking process."

“You cannot go on 'explaining away' for ever: you will find that you have explained explanation itself away. You cannot go on 'seeing through' things for ever. The whole point of seeing through something is to see something through it. To “see through” all things is the same as not to see.”

"If nothing is self-evident, nothing can be proved. Similarly if nothing is obligatory for its own sake, nothing is obligatory at all."

"If naturalism were true then all thoughts whatever would be wholly the result of irrational cuts its own throat."

“In a sort of ghastly simplicity we remove the organ and demand the function. We make men without chests and expect of them virtue and enterprise. We laugh at honour and are shocked to find traitors in our midst. We castrate and bid the geldings be fruitful.”

"A creature revolting against a creator is revolting against the source of his own powers--including even his power to revolt...It is like the scent of a flower trying to destroy the flower."

Thanks to all for your thoughtful and entertaining contributions to this list, and to the Listserve team for making it possible!

Chris B.
Vancouver, WA

Sunday, December 7, 2014

We are all Sisyphus

In short, Sisyphus, in Greek mythology, was punished for his deceitfulness by being forced to roll a gigantic boulder up a hill, watch it roll back down, and repeat this action forever and ever and ever. Albert Camus writes about our beloved Sisyphus in his essay, The Myth of Sisyphus, but turns Sisyphus' monotonous and rather tragic punishment into something beautiful. He says that the struggle itself is enough to fill a man's heart. He concludes the essay with: "One must imagine Sisyphus happy." This is, by far, one of my favorite quotes. You can read more about The Myth of Sisyphus on Wikipedia. However, The Myth of Sisyphus is not my favorite Wikipedia page. My favorite Wikipedia page is called "List of potato dishes" and I plan on making every single dish on that list eventually before I die.

What is your favorite Wikipedia page?
And what is your favorite potato dish?

Wendy Wen
New Jersey, USA

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Growing up, my parents fought and argued a lot. This fightin...

Growing up, my parents fought and argued a lot. This fighting extended to families on both sides. I rarely saw any expression of love amongst the grownups. The funny thing is though, I remember not feeling anything. I wasn’t necessarily upset; I was just so good at shutting off that part of my life. However, at times it would get extreme. This one time, my mother decided that she can't take life with my Dad anymore and she simply wanted to die. She said that she would do this by starving herself as any other means would be sinful. I remember begging her to eat after watching her starve for a day or two. I didn't get why in the world she would do something like that back then. I understand now though. She didn't want to die, she loved us too much. She loved me even more. She really needed her husband to care. She was getting sick and frail. The new business they had opened was consuming her health and she was turning into skin and bone working day and night. Her already fragile health was deteriorating right in front of our eyes. My Dad was a workaholic, very well respected medical professional in the community, but did not have it in him to understand my mother's pain. Most nights he'd stay out at night drinking and smoking and numerous times my mom has had to go out looking for him in the bars/streets. She's my hero for pulling through all of that and for having successfully ingrained the importance of family in my Dad's head. She is so strong. I wonder sometimes if I should have spoken up and told her to leave him, but times were different back then and I was in denial about any of what was happening. I started thinking about what happened during my childhood a lot more recently. I needed to dig deeper to explain to myself why I was not like my friends. I was never insecure about anything growing up. I looked good enough for me, I did great in school and I had no trouble making friends. I wasn't caring at all though, especially to people who were not immediately related to me or very close to me. Showing care felt like undressing a burn where the gauze would stay stuck to the wound while you try to remove it. It was very painful, It felt physically impossible to do, I couldn't even fake it. It's not like that anymore though. After several toxic relationships where the men were never really with me or cared really all that much about me, which made me crazy mad of course and led to fights which felt like home, I finally figured it out. Once I made the connection, I was reborn. I cared, in fact I cared enormously. I cared about everyone. It didn't matter whether I knew them or not. I cared about them and I cared about their story. It's a much better world to live in when we care about eachother:)

This process led to so many good things in my life. One of which was finding the man of my dreams. I can't imagine life without him. I have a great relationship with my family and friends I've gotten to know during my journey. I'm not all better, but knowing the root of my problems has helped me to actively fight it and do better. I do not have the greatest health condition. I've inherited my mother's systemic disease and got another life long condition as well that gives me pain all the time. I rarely focus on it though, which is why I don't tell people about it. I focus on how to manage it so as to improve my life.

Write to me! I hope this glimpse of my journey was a bit interesting to some of you.


Friday, December 5, 2014

Sunrise Beach

There are many stories about being in a rock band that you don’t hear. Not the stories of groupies in the green room, or creative differences that lead to brawls in the studio, or snorting cocaine off the mixing desk - those stories are well recorded, and are becoming a tired cliché. Here are a couple of my thoughts on playing in a band.

I live in Australia, on the Sunshine Coast. I've been making music since I was 12. This year my band released our first three music videos.

The last one to be released is my favourite, and I shot it all in one day in the city. I was working in a restaurant (yes, we’re all still working part-time, paying the bills) with a French girl, Camille, and she had one of those faces that just begs to be on film. We took a day off and drove down to the closest city, Brisbane, with my brother, who sings on the track.

The problem was, I had absolutely no idea what I was going to shoot.

Somehow, by the end of the day, I had a drive full of footage, most of it shot with little idea in mind how I’d use it, and within a few days I’d edited it into a satisfying and unified collection of images. They had no logical story, but they connected with the song’s themes - the prismatic experience of life in the world coupled with a deep sense of yearning.

Tortuous. You sit around for days, cycling through random words and phrases until they become meaningless sounds, filling your mouth like over-chewed cud. Every band name you think is even slightly good you find via internet is already taken. “Bored of Directors? Really? Somebody already named their band that!? Eventually we all gave up and decided that naming the band after where we were currently living was actually a genius idea. Luckily, we were living at Sunrise Beach at the time.

Eventually, one of you will snap. Cooped up in a car driving through endless Australian country towns (Australia is a bloody big country!), before you know it, the smallest thing will break you, and being brothers, there is no filter on what you will say.

“I hate it when you eat strawberries! The smell fills the car! You’re constantly eating over-ripe fruit, and I know you’re only doing it to annoy me.”

“STOP breathing through your nose so loudly!”

Somehow, no matter what you do, no matter how expensive the leads you buy, you always end up with a black tangle that takes far too long to untie at the end of a gig. When do we get roadies, please?

Music is like a glue that connects people invisibly. Sound is the fundamental vibration from which everything else arises. In Hindu philosophy, the universe was created by the sound Om, and the Bible says “In the beginning was the Word”. Think about how music in a movie heightens emotions dramatically, or how a whole crowd of people can connect through a song being played. This is what I’ve always been interested in creating: music with emotional resonance, music that has the power to forge connections.

Thanks for reading. If you’re interested in seeing the music video that I talked about making, it’s called Red Placard, and my band is called Sunrise Beach.

Anand Chalmers
Sunshine Coast, Australia

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Effective Altruism and Its Discontents

On November 25th, Robbie Shade posted about effective altruism. He
explained what it is. I would like to continue the discussion.

Why am I not replying to Robbie directly, rather than posting to the
list? I thought it would be fun to introduce a little public
conversation over the list itself.

I have a background (Ph. D.) in moral philosophy. Coincidentally, the
day I won TheListServe lottery was also my last day at work before
retiring. I retired early, in part so I could devote more time and
energy to "doing good". I read Peter Singer in the early 1980s and
have been a supporter of Oxfam America or similar organizations for
over 30 years. However, while I am an effective altruist veteran, I
have my doubts.

About three years ago, I decided to pick an issue and a location to
see if I could gain a more local and better informed perspective about
a particular problem. I picked malaria and western Kenya. Back then I
thought malaria was the do-gooder's low hanging fruit. Malaria seemed
like a simple problem. If people are protected from mosquitoes, they
won't contract malaria. So hand out bed nets for $10 a net and save a
child's life.

Unfortunately, fighting malaria is not so simple. Bed nets seem to be
helping in some marginal areas, but at least in western Kenya, where
the parasite is endemic, Kenya's long-term bed net program is not
winning the war on malaria. The nets make sleeping more uncomfortable
by hindering air circulation, require maintenance when torn, and
retreatment when the "long-lasting" insecticide wears off.

Several years ago, Bill and Melinda Gates, Ray Chambers, and others
started a global campaign to eliminate virtually all deaths from
malaria by 2015. Most professionals who work in the field thought the
goal was wildly unrealistic. Unfortunately, the pessimists were right.
The deadline is almost here and we are not even close. Now Gates is
hoping to eliminate malaria in his lifetime. I am not abandoning the
fight against malaria as a worthwhile pursuit. The problem still
fascinates me, but I no longer think it is an easy one to solve.

At first it seems rational to think in terms of "maximizing" good. If
you want to do good and you can do more good with the same amount of
money, then you ought to opt for the choice that does the most good.
That is fine in principle. However, I wonder if the uncertainties of
doing good call for more moral humility. If Gates and others had a
less ambitious goal, would they have succeeded?

What about the rest of us? Many people just want to do some good, not
the most good they can. Aiming for the most good can seem arrogant or
naive. What if you have more passion about a cause with which you have
a personal connection? Will your commitment be greater and longer
lasting if you pursue that cause rather than follow the
recommendations of WiseGiving?

I would love to hear from others who are interested in effective
altruism or malaria.

Related Reading:
David Brooks, "The Way to Produce a Person," New York Times, June 3, 2013
Sonia Shah, The Fever
Peter Singer, "Famine, Affluence, and Morality"

Cliff Landesman
Brooklyn, NY USA

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Let me trade a list for your time

At the time of this writing, there are 24,389 of us. Assuming (rather optimistically) that every Listservian will spend two minutes reading this, that's 813 hours of collective human time, or about twenty 40-hour work weeks.

What would you devote yourself to if you had almost half a year of working time?

I wish that people - e.g. the creators of silly apps, or people at work who schedule meetings for way more people than necessary - thought more about the opportunity costs of time. With this in mind, thank you for your sacred time.

Without further ado, let me serve you with a list (so sorry, I just had to) that I hope will make this time worth it for you:

One word: "Sonder" - look up its definition on the website "Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows."

One quotation: from Kurt Vonnegut, “We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful about what we pretend to be.”

One poem: "The Jabberwocky” by Lewis Carroll. Language is a strange thing.

One book: "The Road" by Cormac McCarthy. I finished it while sitting in a high school hallway at a debate tournament, and had to wipe away tears when my opponent and judge arrived.

One speech: David Foster Wallace's "This Is Water" should be required reading / listening at least once a year.

One concept: Fundamental Attribution Error - basically (and I'm oversimplifying) a scientific explanation of the advice to "be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle."

One film: Interstellar. You know a movie has engaged you when you're still listening to the soundtrack and thinking about its ideas weeks later. One thought that it's prompted, in a roundabout way, is that any sort of recorded communication is time travel, albeit in only one direction - you're conveying your current thoughts to someone at a different time. A dramatic example of this would be a book written by a long-dead author, getting a glimpse into a mind that hasn't existed for years. I guess this email would be a less extreme example, since this will be sent a day after I submit it.

One habit: journaling, which I've recently re-started. Look up the article "How Keeping a Diary Can Surprise You" in the New York Times - you'll thank yourself later for journaling.

One painting: “Dream Caused by the Flight of a Bumblebee around a Pomegranate a Second Before Awakening” by Salvador Dali. Capture your dreams in your journal, along with those fringe, semi-conscious thoughts you have as you're drifting in the zone between wakefulness and sleep.

One band: Typhoon. They blow me out of the water with every track (but seriously, this group makes amazing music).

One preachy puzzle (easy to solve with the aid of the Internet, and therein lies the irony): 01001000 01110101 01101101 01100001 01101110 01110011 00100000 01100001 01110010 01100101 00100000 01101101 01101111 01110010 01100101 00100000 01110100 01101000 01100001 01101110 00100000 01100100 01100001 01110100 01100001

One question: What's an idea you have for improving life - not ambitious or earth-shattering, but trivial or everyday? For example, I've thought that if walls had rounded or diagonal edges instead of corners, there would be so many fewer awkward near-collisions of people in or around buildings.

One shout-out: Happy early birthday, sis!

One post-script: I love you, dearest.

Kyle V.
Bay Area, California

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Life advice and luck


I'm just kidding ;) I don't want to give any advice for your life. Everyone should do what they want as long as it doesn't harm others.

I am a 24 year-old Math and Economics student at University of Dortmund, Germany and I really don't know what to write. So I just wanted to say „Thank you“. First of all thank you to The Listserve and its members for this interesting project. I love to read about other peoples lifes and stories in such an authentic way. I am also very thankful for my life. I don't believe in God but I think you can be thankful anyway. I am lucky to have loving family and friends that are healthy and love me for who I am. For me, the most important thing ist to know that you're being loved by someone.

After an unhealthy relationship and one year of being single I found the perfect girl last summer. We met at a party and made out quite quickly (there was alcohol). Two days later we met again and discovered how many things we have in common. From that day on, we saw each other every day and really fell in love. I often think about how unlikely it was for exactly the two of us to meet at that party, kiss and later discover all these similarities. She thinks it was fate but I am more the coincidence-type.

Speaking of coincidence... When I was notified that i had won The Listserve lottery I felt very lucky at first. But then I was wondering if I really was lucky or if the time period i am subscribed to The Listserve was just long enough for this to be likely to happen. Because I am only subscribed for a few months now, I know there was much luck going on, but I was interested in the probabilities anyway. So I worked out a formula where you can calculate the probability of winning in a time period of your choice. Here are some results:

The probabilty you win

-tomorrow: 0.004%
-within the next month: 0.13%
-within the next year: 1.32%
-within the next 10000 days: 10.08%

Assumptions: The growth rate continues to be 25 subscribers per day and you can't win twice (otherwise the probabilities would be a little bit lower).

So I indeed was very lucky to win The Listserve lottery.

I'll be on vacation in Thailand and Cambodia in Feburary and if you know anything exciting/interesting to see/do there besides the main tourist stuff (Bangkok, Angkor Wat) I'd be happy to hear it :). Also my girlfriend and I want to take a short trip within Europe for New Year's and we don't know where to go yet. It could be something crowded and exciting or something quiet and romantic. Feel free to send me suggestions or anything else you want to say.

I wish you all the best!

Dortmund, Germany

P.S. The formula I used (I'm sorry if I made any major mistakes):
sum from i=1 to n over: [ 100/(23432 – i + 25*i) ]
n: number of days you want to look ahead
i: counting variable
23432: people who didn't win yet (minus 1 winner a day, plus 25 new subscribers a day)

All the probabilities may be a bit higher because i didn't consider the case when someone doesn't write an E-Mail and someone new is chosen. A good approximation up to a year that is easier to calculate is:

(100*n) / (23432 + 24*n)

Monday, December 1, 2014

A lawyer dies and goes to heaven…

A lawyer dies and goes to heaven. “There must be some mistake. I’m only 55.” Saint Peter checks his book. “Actually, you’re late – we added up your billable hours and you’re 110 years old”. Lawyers, eh?

I used to be a lawyer. For nearly 6 years, first in Amsterdam, then in London.

On a holiday I was reading the 4 Hour Work Week when I jumped up and yelled at my (by then frightened) girlfriend: I’ve made a mistake, being a lawyer is not SCALABLE, aaargh!

I made a bold plan to come into work the next week, quit, get my hands on an Aston Martin, start a better version of Facebook and execute various other killer plans. I was going to live the dream.

But as you may have guessed, a couple of years later, I was still at the law firm. A seed had been planted though and I made a decision to actually quit, for real this time!

Looking back, the hardest part was walking into my boss’ office to tell him. We got along really well and I was afraid it would disappoint him somehow.

It actually took three attempts before I finally walked in. On the first two, I pussied out and decided to make a blank copy on the copy machine right outside his office.

My goodbye email to the rest of the firm was leaked – you can find it by searching “Binsbergen Resignation Letter” – and I was free to do what I wanted.

Now I’m building a legal startup called “Lexoo”. We help businesses get fixed quotes from multiple UK lawyers, all working on a low overhead basis (if you google “Lexoo” you can find out more).

So far it’s working out. It’s nice not to wear a suit. Our investors are great guys. And a large bunch of customers are using our service. Turns out that companies reaaaally hate overpaying on legal work, so we’re solving a problem.

What about you guys? Any funny, crazy or disturbing lawyer stories? I wrote a free entrepreneur’s guide with insider’s tips and tricks on how to deal with lawyers (google: “Lexoo book”). I’d love to update it with your stories!

I’ll end with a Woody Allen quote that always makes me smile:

“Some men are heterosexual and some men are bisexual and some men don’t think about sex at all, you know, they become lawyers.”

Find me on twitter or send me an e-mail, I would love to hear from you!

Daniel van Binsbergen