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The triad in midflight

The dream in which we dwell is at an end.
The longest peace in pieces falls apart
As force and fire triumph over art,
And madness rolls through sky and sea and land.
Unclear and pointless who had acted first:
The box is open, genie on the loose.
We always knew, the day we made the fuse,
The last conclusion of our bloody thirst.
The laws that used to bind us are no more:
The loosening of all established rules.
Some consolation once the wreckage cools,
Grim anarchy that always follows war.
It’s closer now: the new and glowing world,
A spectacle for those who will remain
Through waves of light and sound and shock and pain,
And years of darkness in the sudden cold.
The dream in which we dwell is at an end.
Too late to fight, to plead, to hope, to flee.
And there, on the horizon, do you see
The wave of light enveloping the land?

Giving away another e-book!

I’m on a roll – let’s do another giveaway! From now until midnight on the 27th, my e-book “50 shades of yay: great thinkers on happiness”  is free on Amazon.com!

What is it? Well, aside from a terrible pun, it’s actually a nifty little book that collects 50 different perspectives on happiness from all over the world, from centuries and millennia ago. They range from ancient philosophers to Mark Twain to Christina, Queen of Sweden (my favourite!), to a girl in the mid-19th century Illinois who wrote a damn good poem on being happy.

I’ve written quite a few e-books over the years, but this one remains my favourite. We live in the age of weaponized outrage, the time of chronic unhappiness, the era of workaholism. It doesn’t have to be this way. Now, more than ever, folks can use an outside perspective (or, in this case, 50 of them) to stop, and think, and reconsider. This may sound cheesy, but over the course of editing this book, I learned some things about myself and changed how I live my life – and I am happier for having done so. “50 shades of yay” remains my most favourite, and also least appreciated, creation.

So go ahead and click over yonder and download your free copy. You don’t need a Kindle to read it – you can just install the Kindle app on your phone, and that’ll do the trick. And as always, if you liked the book, please feel free to leave a book review on the book’s Amazon page: that’d be awful nice of you. 🙂 And needless to say (but let’s say it anyway!), tell your friends and share the link and maybe help them get a little happier too.

It’s been a while since I’ve done this, and now is as good a time as any. For the next 3 days, until midnight on the 24th, my e-book “Legends & Lore from Around the World” is free on Amazon.com!

What is it? Oh, nothing much – just a collection of all the world mythology I could get my hands on: the classic European stuff, the obscure and fascinating Native American myths you’ve never heard of, ancient tales from Africa, stories from the native people of Australia and much, much more. All in all, it’s over 10,000 pages of goodness. As far as I know, this is the largest collection of mythology ever assembled.

I’ll be honest and admit that some of the formatting may be slightly shoddy, but under Kindle’s new rules, I can’t upload e-books over 3,000 pages long. In other words, this copy of the book will remain the way it is. (Otherwise, I’d have to break it down into 4-5 individual e-books.)

So go ahead and click over yonder and download your free copy. You don’t need a Kindle to read it – you can just install the Kindle app on your phone, and that’ll do the trick. And as always, if you liked the book, please feel free to leave a book review on the book’s Amazon page: that’d be awful nice of you. 🙂

Ye olde roadtrippe, day four

I’m in Canada, y’all! Took only 40 minutes to get my car through customs: they were very confused that I’ve managed to fit everything I own into one Kia. (I also heard a Canadian say “eh” for the first time, so that’s an unlocked achievement right there.)
 
Typing this up at Tim Horton’s, using the free wi-fi and munching on some potato wedges like the stage-one canuck that I am. 🙂
Onward to explore. :^D

Another day, another 887 miles. Just six hours away from my destination! (Plus customs, of course.) Spending the night in an odd little Michigan village called Paw Paw.

There should be a congressional hearing into the utter lack of bacon at hotel breakfasts. (Breakfast sausage just ain’t the same.)

Along the same stretch of I-90 in Minnesota, there are towns called Alpha, Welcome, Blue Earth, and Ceylon. Heh.

I dined in the town of Nodine, MN, but didn’t see any of the Spartans in Sparta, WI.

South Dakota’s radio is filled with religion, in-depth weather forecasts, and detailed analysis of pork futures and corn contracts. This is probably the only part of the country where being obsessed with weather is justified. (Evidently, 40 barns collapsed the night before because of all the snow on the roofs.)

Minnesota roadside shops have free cheese samples. 🙂

Chicago’s highway traffic isn’t any worse than Vegas on a Friday night, but wow, they really do like their tolls. Had to stop to pay them seven times, and one of those didn’t accept anything but coins. (Well played, robots, well played.)

Ye olde roadtrippe, day two

Drove farther today than I did yesterday. More than halfway done! Ended up taking a rather big detour to avoid a flooded section of the highway. Later on, I drove over a long stretch of almost-flooded highway, with impromptu lakes surrounding it on both sides. (An omen of the not-too-distant future?) That was followed by the post-apocalyptic remnants of an old wildfire. And after that, fog. Hundreds of miles of fog. Being able to outrun a major weather pattern is intrinsically cool. Managed to escape not just the fog but a local river that’s projected to get a couple of feet above the comfortable level.
 
It took three attempts to find a South Dakota hotel that a) was on a paved road, b) had outdoor lights, and c) was actually open at the late, late hour of 10pm. The bastards still don’t have bacon at their free breakfast, though.
 
When your food consumption consists solely of water, black coffee (bitterness is energy entering the body!), and prepackaged food, it gets ridiculously easy to track the caloric intake. Welcome back, cheekbones!

Ye olde roadtrippe, day one

Drove 687 miles today on the mighty I-90. 26.4% down – almost there!

It’s logical but still unbelievable that just one day of dedicated driving can get you from Seattle to the Yellowstone national park.

I was greatly amused by dozens of signs telling me how close I was to Butte. (Hey, I’ve never claimed to be mature.)

Montana and Idaho are mind-boggingly boring. Judging by their 80 mph speed limit, they strongly suspect that too, and they may or may not be sorry.

There are two small towns in Montana: Anaconda and Opportunity. For about 5 miles before I figured that out, the “Anaconda Opportunity” road sign had inspired myriads of ideas in my understimulated mind.

Passed a sign that said “Amsterdam Manhattan.” Nice try, Montana: I have it on good authority that those two cities are at least 50 miles apart.

I moved to the United States from Russia when I was 16. Now I’m 32, and it’s time to move once more – someplace safer, more stable, more civilized. Somewhere like Canada.

Over the past 16 years, I’ve been a burger-flipper and a student, a busboy and an analyst, a canvasser and an investigator, a minister and a rescuer. These days, I work at an online company. (It’s fairly small – you’ve probably never heard of it.) When an opportunity to transfer to our Ontario office presented itself, I pounced on it.

I remember visiting a dollar store for the first time: the glorious cornucopia of stuff where everything cost just a buck. I remember being amazed that 15-year-olds could drive their own trucks. I remember the overabundance of election signs and the novelty of free and fair elections.

Since my arrival in 2003, I’ve lived and worked and studied in rural Nevada, Reno, Las Vegas, Fort Worth, Tampa, Seattle… So many journeys and experiences, sights and friends, adventures and mishaps. So much to explore, with ever so much beauty.

I remember driving upward, toward to the clouds, on the picturesque Sunshine Skyway Bridge, with a giant pelican flying by as we both crossed the beautiful Tampa Bay. I remember the breathtaking drive through the Arizona desert as the first rays of sunshine lit up the sand dunes in every single shade of gold and scarlet. I remember seeing the entirety of New York City from the top of the Empire State Building at sunset: the world’s greatest city, its lights shining bright in the darkness.

And then… During yet another roadtrip, I narrowly avoided the deadliest shooting in American history. After spending most of the day driving from Boise to Las Vegas, I was too tired to brave the strip’s traffic, and I went to an off-strip casino. My laziness was the only reason I ended up two miles away, at the Orleans casino, instead of being near the Mandalay Bay on the night of October 1st, 2017. As I was gambling, hundreds of people got shot: 58 dead, 851 injured. Later that night, I saw a sea of sirens to the west, and learned the details shortly after. The entertainment capital of the world, the city of sin, was forever transformed by the action of a single 64-year-old madman. I can’t begin to imagine what it was like to be in the midst of the carnage but I saw plenty of the aftermath: the locals, each of whom had known somebody at the shooting; the impromptu vigils and shrines; the seemingly endless line of people waiting to donate blood. I too gave a pint of my blood – the very least I could do to help the city recover.

There were also a few other incidents that got me to this point. I remember a crowd of Sunday morning churchgoers shaking their fists and yelling obscenities at me and my fellow canvassers because they vehemently disagreed with our politics. I remember living next to two measles outbreaks: one in a megachurch in Texas, the other one on an island full of yuppies in Washington, both groups driven by ignorance and superstition. I remember the blatant and cartoonishly evil case of voter fraud in North Carolina’s 9th district, where nobody got punished.

I remember – and I forget, for there has been so much to view, to try, and to experience.

America has always experienced a balance of bad and good, of ugliness and beauty, of villains and heroes. It seems the balance has shifted – and not for the better. This isn’t the same country I fell in love with in 2003. The changes have been for the worse, and there’s no reason to believe it’ll get better. If I am wrong, I’ll just spend a few years in an interesting new country; another fun adventure to be had. If, on the other hand, I’m right, I’ll outlast the worst of what’s to come. No more mass shootings. No more people declaring bankruptcy due to illness. Far fewer preventable outbreaks of the diseases that should have been left behind in the previous millennium.

I spent half of my life in Russia, and I left it because there was no promise of future: nothing but corruption and despotism. I spent just as long in the US, and I’m leaving because it’s no longer safe, no longer the country I’d fallen in love with, no longer the beacon of freedom. The time has come for me to move once more. By the time you read this, I will be gone, driving into the sunrise, toward a new and better place. I hope that someday I might make it back.

“Trojan horse” – 6,170,000 search results on Google
“Trojan cow” – 12,800 search results
“Trojan giraffe” – 10,400 search results
“Trojan zebra” – 9,500 search results
“Trojan chicken” – 8,040 search results
“Trojan wolf” – 8,040 search results
“Trojan tiger” – 7,470 search results
“Trojan walrus” – 5,530 search results
“Trojan bull” – 5,390 search results
“Trojan penguin” – 555 search results
“Trojan hippo” – 536 search results
“Trojan whale” – 95 search results
“Trojan rhino” – 93 search results
“Trojan armadillo” – 72 search results
“Trojan human” – 65 search results
“Trojan platypus” – 60 search results
“Trojan aardvark” – 51 search results
“Trojan hedgehog” – 28 search results
“Trojan kangaroo” – 27 search results
“Trojan gorilla” – 21 search results
“Trojan dingo” – 15 search results
“Trojan otter” – 14 search results
“Trojan alligator” – 11 search results
“Trojan axolotl” – 5 search results
“Trojan mongoose” – 5 search results
“Trojan wildebeest” – zero search results

In his second sci-fi novel, Andy Weir, the author of “The Martian,” tried to do a 180 turn and write something different. His novel “Artemis” was only partly successful.

“Artemis” takes place on the sole human settlement on the moon, where everyone has a specific task, laws are mostly guidelines, the population is just a few thousand people, and everybody knows and (mostly) adores our protagonist, Jasmine “Jazz” Bashara.

Jazz is a 26-year-old full-time porter, part-time smuggler, whose family left Saudi Arabia when she was a kid, and who ends up getting in the world of trouble as the novel begins. It’s unclear what Weir was going for with this character: she has the mentality of a 16-year-old and the inner monologue of a teenage boy. (John Scalzi’s “Zoe’s Tale” came much closer to adopting the persona of a female protagonist, and he said that it took him ages to hone in on that writing style.) It doesn’t help that Jazz is Mary Sue incarnate: she can become an expert in electronics in just one day, or understand a groundbreaking PhD dissertation in chemistry after spending a few hours online.

To be fair, the science part of this science fiction novel was beautiful: Weir goes to great lengths to explain why Kenya would end up as a spacefaring superpower with its equatorial location; how to survive a fire in an oxygen-rich moon city; how and why an aluminum processing plant would prosper on the moon. The economy he describes is interesting as well: a single credit can buy you a gram of cargo shipped from the Earth.

Overall, the book is great sci-fi but with a supremely flat main character. When it inevitably becomes a movie, the screenwriters will probably do yet another 180 and give Jazz a personality transplant. Until then, however, I don’t recommend picking up “Artemis” until and unless you finish everything else on your “to read” list.

I give this book two out of five stars.

Full disclosure: I received an advance reader copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.

Buy “Artemis” on Amazon here, if you so choose.