Category: writing


When the pandemic first began two years ago, we all sought different coping mechanisms. Indoor gardening, adopting a pet from the local shelter, sourdough bread starters (I still haven’t managed to grow one of those), singing sea shanties over Zoom, and many, many more. For me, it was a bit different. 

I saw a Reddit post that recommended keeping a daily diary. That would keep you grounded and distracted, give you something to do, and might provide an interesting time capsule for your future self to reflect upon…

When I started my daily “Plague Diaries” blog posts, I didn’t have a particular plan or destination in mind. At some point, I promised myself I’d keep writing until I got fully vaccinated. I had no idea that would take over a year. Had I known ahead of time that the blog series would last 406 days, I might not have started it in the first place — but I’m glad I went through with that project.

Someday, somehow, some way, some other, future, wiser version of myself will be able to re-read all those daily posts, reflect on that crazy year of politics and pandemic, as well as my highly unstable job situation as I kept trying to not get fired, to last just long enough to become a permanent Canadian resident. 

Here and now, though… I wanted to share this experience and this tale with the world, but I found out the hard way that book agents aren’t very enthusiastic about 232,500-word manuscripts landing in their inbox. Heh. I did the next best thing: spent several days compiling and formatting all those posts, and then turned it into my longest Kindle e-book to date.

To celebrate its release, I’m giving it away for free: it’ll stay free on Kindle for the next five days, until the end of Sunday, March 13th. If you’re reading this in the future, then a) hello from the past! and b) if you have Kindle Unlimited, you can still read the book for free that way. And if you don’t have an actual Kindle device, fret not — you can install the Kindle app on your phone or computer. I’ve got you covered, eh: just go over yonder and click the big button.

If you like the book — or if you’d read those blog posts of mine in the past (you know who you are!), I would sincerely appreciate it if you download the book and leave a five-star review, even if it’s just two sentences long.

If you’d like to learn more, here is the official book description. I hope you enjoy it, and thanks in advance!

“Plague Diaries: a Covid Chronicle” begins with a Russian-American-Canadian workaholic trying to keep his artsy and immuno-compromise girlfriend safe from covid in rural Ontario in March 2020. Things get a whole lot weirder after that.

This book is a chronicle of one man’s quest to stay away from covid, to find vaccines, and — hopefully — maintain his sanity as the world falls apart. Part personal journal, part time capsule, each of the 406 days has a small personal update and a link to that day’s strangest news, be it political or covid-related. Mundanity and boredom are mixed with global horror as the virus spreads…

Relive the events of that turbulent year with this book: the stranded cruise ships, the sourdough starter mania, the summer riots, the week-long uncertainty as Trump caught covid, the longest election of our lifetime, the long-awaited vaccine news, the January coup attempt, the GameStop saga, and much, much more. Along the way, there are road trips, abandoned mine exploration, a quest to become a Canadian, a love affair with an Instapot, a pursuit of financial independence and early retirement, and lots more.

New project: LetsRetireYoung.com

I grew up reading personal finance blogs: there wasn’t much else to do for fun after graduating college during the 2008 bubble. I always wondered about that elite and mysterious tribe of bloggers, the influence they wielded, the lives they might have led. As tempting as it was, I never set up my own personal finance blog, if only because I didn’t want to be just another non-entity who was still stuck in the rat race, daydreaming out loud, sharing less-than-motivational updates along the lines of “just 51 more months till retirement!”

After I achieved my lean-FIRE early retirement in May 2021, life got a whole lot more fun and easier. Eventually, an online acquaintance teased me: “is it really a FIRE if you don’t have a FIRE blog?” (A bit like that joke about how to figure out if someone is a vegan – they’ll tell you within three minutes. Heh.) And so, the seed got planted…

I’ve launched my Let’s Retire Young blog just over two months ago, and it’s finally fleshed out enough (and not at risk of being abandoned like yet another infatuation) that I feel it can be shared with the world at large. It’s quite separate from this here blog because while a large part of that new blog is based on my own experiences, it’s mostly just money advice. Conversely, while this blog occasionally mentions money, it’s more of a personal memory repository. And, of course, “Let’s Retire Young” is far easier to memorize and pronounce than “Grigory Lukin.” (Which, if you’re curious, rhymes with “story” and “win” when pronounced correctly. Russian names are weird, I know.)

The new blog’s tagline is “Earn more, spend less, invest the rest” – and while I was pretty bad at the “earn more” part, it’s a valid part nonetheless. (Like this post I wrote about getting a tech job without learning how to code.) So far, I’m writing three posts per week: I meal-prep them every Friday (because, as we all know, Friday = “write day”), and there are already 24 of them out there. Once I make it to the big #25, I will have proven my commitment to the bit, and might be able to secure some sort of a semi-professional writing gig. (That’d be a pretty huge upgrade for this writing hobby of mine.)

Just for the fun of it, I’ve also set up a mirror version of my blog over on Medium: I may have missed that platform’s golden age, but it still gets me some readers, especially after I joined a publication for newbie writers – which, admittedly, accepts absolutely everyone, a bit like a tutorial level in a video game.

The blog itself is about early retirement, with a side of geographic arbitrage: I strongly believe that anyone’s financial situation can be changed for the better (if only a little), but that can require significant lifestyle changes, up to and including moving to another city or even country. My advice won’t suit everyone (it would be rather strange if it did), but for the right kind of person, my stories could provide a valuable blueprint. I escaped the rat race at age 34, without having rich parents or a huge inheritance or a high-paying job. (I never once made $100K USD in a year.) I found and exploited multiple glitches in the system, and managed to escape it in one piece, with my sanity mostly intact. Now I live on roughly $1,000 USD a month (rent is cheap here, eh), and loving it.

When I started that side project, I didn’t realize how interesting the monetization component would be: thus far, I’ve made $22 USD through AdSense on the main blog and $4 USD on Medium. Not exactly a huge income stream per se, but according to the r/blogging subreddit, search engines generally ignore you until you put out 25-30 posts. We’ll see how that plays out – but meanwhile, I’m enjoying this gamification process of all the different indicators that can be tracked and improved. Earnings rate, visitors, clicks, page loading time, etc…

Getting to the first 25 posts is the first major milestone. At the pace I’m going, I’ll cross the 100-post threshold sometime in June/July. (Unless, of course, that money-related reality TV show I applied for calls me back, in which case I’d probably be offline for a few months in early 2022. My life is pretty eccentric.) Once I get to that point… Perhaps I’ll be able to get a book deal, and get an actual, real book published from some of my best posts. Perhaps something else. Maybe I’ll switch to just one post a week, or end the whole project with just 100 posts so as not to dilute it with random generic gibberish. We’ll see.

In the meantime, though, head on over to LetsRetireYoung.com and check it out for yourself, eh. Feel free to leave comments, ask questions, share your favourite posts on social media, and tell your friends. I know that personal finance blogs are a dime a dozen these days (things have changed a lot since 2008), but hey – it’s better to have blogged and lost than never to have blogged at all, am I right?

Cheers, y’all.

The measurements of life

I measure life in bottles of vitamins. One pill per day, each day, without skipping: a measured and controlled path forward, toward whatever future lies ahead. As each bottle grows lighter and emptier, I move away from the person I had been when I began, toward the person I will be when I consume the final pill. Rinse and repeat. A chain of little bottles, back to back, tracking my progress through months, years, decades. My small ever-present companions.

Each vitamin bottle is the opposite of a time capsule: a known quantity that will disappear by a certain date, leaving behind it nothing but a plastic shell. A known known. An utter lack of surprise and the most banal imaginable method of tracking time. A message in a bottle in reverse.

The previous bottle ran out a few weeks ago. I’d started it before I made the choice, for the second time in my life, to leave behind everything and move to a new country where I knew absolutely no one. I’d started it before I drove across the continent, almost the entire length of the mighty I-90, for four days and three nights. I’d started it before I met her. Before I knew her. Before she died.

The new bottle has 365 pills. The only thing I know for sure is when I will be at the end. But as for where, or how, or even who…

One pill per day, each day, without skipping. Slowly and steadily, whatever lies ahead.

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. 🙂

Seattle summer scene

At
my
midway
bus stop,
met an artsy
young woman
with an MBA
from
an
unlicensed
pharmacist.
Together,
we harvested
roadside
berries.

In the aftermath of the 2016 election

I took a sleeping pill on the election day. At 1:15am on November 9th, I woke up to a strange world, vastly different from the one I had left behind.

We had it wrong. We had it all wrong. The conventional wisdom, the time-tested rules of politics, the elaborate polling models. All for naught.

In the age where celebrities are trusted more than scientists, where statisticians like Nate Silver are treated as oracles, where complacency supersedes commitment, our hubris humiliated us.

The Obama coalition fell apart. The white vote and the minority vote were different – vastly different – from what had been expected. The leading factors, to mangle Rumsfeld’s words, were known unknowns. We just hadn’t cared enough to know them.

My degree is in political science. I am a financial analyst by trade. The aftermath makes me want to reconsider ever mentioning my degree, ever again working as an analyst.

On the off chance you’re reading this simple blog in the future,  perhaps while researching the year that brought you Rodrigo Duterte and Brexit and Trump, know this: there was opposition. There was hubris. There was a fundamental miscalculation of who we really are.

We were arrogant. We are shaken. We shall learn.

2016 is well under way, so here’s my first (and definitely not last!) new book of the year: Legends & Lore from Around the World. I’m giving it away on Kindle to generate some traffic, word of mouth, 5-star reviews, enamored fans – you know, the usual. The giveaway will end on Monday night (3/21), so you still have 60-ish hours to get the book.

What’s the book about? Well, it’s simply the biggest collection of mythology ever written – no more, no less. I’ve deep-dived into more than 50 antique collections of mythology, edited them and combined them all together to make sure no myth was left behind. (The book even has some Eskimo lore!)

Why go to all that trouble? Because myths are awesome. Both in the contemporary and the original meaning of the world. A lot of them are genuinely awe-inspiring, especially when you realize that they were the basis for the worldview of millions of people who lived thousands of years ago in place you’ve never even heard of.

Our myths are our cultural legacy, and we should do our damnedest to protect them. I like to think that by putting hundreds of hours into assembling my book, I’ve helped contribute to not only the preservation, but also the popularization of the world’s most ancient, most fragile literature. You too can do your part by sharing the word, downloading the book while it’s free or using your Amazon Prime account to borrow it for free – and then telling your friends! (I may be an idealistic writer, but I have to pay off those student loans somehow!)

I hope you like the book enough to leave a nice review for other myth lovers out there. After all, who can say “no” to a great story? Or 500 of them?

Go here to download it – and thanks in advance!

Hellooooooo, everyone!

It’s been a while since I published an e-book, but now there’s a new addition to my growing e-book empire. Ladies and gentlemen and all the conscientious objectors to the binary gender code, I humbly present to you my latest (and greatest!) e-book: Buffett’s Biggest Blunders: The Greatest Investor’s Greatest Mistakes.

Warren Buffett is without a doubt the greatest investor of our time. A humble, down-to-earth man with a talent for mathematics and analysis, he’s managed to build a $350 billion empire known as Berkshire Hathaway in 50 years. He’s a voice of reason, a paragon of patience, the living proof that one can attain wealth without day-trading or memorizing arcane formulas.

His successful trades, business purchases and arbitrage maneuvers have been analyzed time and again. Most Buffett fans know about his brilliant investment in See’s Candies or his lifelong love affair with Geico insurance. At the same time, however, there’s relatively little focus on the investments and business deals where he ended up losing.

It’s impossible to truly understand one’s investing strategy without examining one’s mistakes alongside the successes. They are two sides of the same coin. Both must be studied in order to get a full picture. Instead, even though Buffett has been remarkably open and candid about the mistakes he’s made along the way, very few pay attention to them and learn by analyzing his actions.

Did you know, for example, that once upon a time Warren Buffett paid his shareholders a dividend? That he briefly invested in Disney but then changed his mind? That he tried and failed to corner the market on stamps – and chose not to become a car collector? Those are just a few of the 30 investing blunders contained within this book.

This book collects 30 summaries of Warren Buffett’s investments that went awry. With summaries, charts and commentary from Warren Buffett and Charlie Munger themselves, “Buffest Biggest Blunders” provides an excellent opportunity to learn from the greatest investor’s greatest mistakes – and to become better investors by learning about the missteps of the Oracle of Omaha.

If you’ve ever wanted to learn more about his investing methods and foibles, this is the book for you. (Or, if you’re more of a 1,000-page book person, I highly recommend Buffett’s biography “The Snowball: Warren Buffett and the Business of Life” by Alice Schroeder.) If you’re new to investing and don’t want to lose your hard-earned cash, “Buffett’s Biggest Blunders” might just save you from making egregious investing mistakes. Or, if you’re going to join me at this year’s 50th annual shareholder convention in Omaha (also known as “Woodstock for capitalists”) and don’t want to be lost when Warren Buffett and Charlie Munger start reminiscing about their mistakes, you’ll probably want to skim my book and learn all about it.

And did I mention that it’d make an excellent present for your business-oriented loved ones? If they don’t have a Kindle, they can still read the book on a Kindle app. I have it on good authority that it works on any device that has a screen and an Internet connection. (And pretty soon, the screen will be optional!)

I’m always interested in hearing from my readers, so if you buy my book and love it, I would enjoy getting a 5-star review from you on my book’s Amazon page. I hope you enjoy reading my book every bit as much as I enjoyed writing it.

Happy reading!