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FAR-T1, Serbian Kryptonite

"It's white!"

Arty kneeled to better focus on the mineral surface. "I mean, I knew it was white when you first told me about it.. I did all the online research I could, but even so I would expect at least a shadow of a greenish glow within the ultraviolet and visible wavelengths combined... Perhaps if I could use my UV-A sensors for black light and scan it from below..."

Behind the mineral glass and Arty, Vicks gave the inquisitive glimpse toward the curator of the Serbian Natural History Center. The tall bald man welcomed them at the newly built drone pad behind the museum where they landed half an hour ago. Ever since it was founded, just couple of years after the discovery of Jadarite, one of the rarest minerals on Earth, the museum hosted unique collection of rocks and minerals with Jadarite showing off from the special shelf. Nowhere in the world the same mineral was ever found. It would be another of those newly discovered ordinary sodium based minerals i…

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FAR-T1, Birth

"You are all idiots!"

John Williams said more to himself than to his 'mercenary' acquaintances and entire 'gang' he hired from the Tor's dark web. All four of them were proudly standing in the middle of the hardware pile that only yesterday would be easily recognized as the MIT state of the art and the most organized software development lab. All of them, except for their leader wore black bulletproof face masks and still in their 'SWAT-like' uniforms, including handguns, black rifles and various military equipment hooked to their nano-enhanced kevlar armours. Bullet holes were all over the servers, one FAR-T1 suit were ripped in half and almost all of the racks, including coffee machine and two mobile and robust air conditioners destroyed in gunfire.

"When I told you to bring everything from that lab, I meant computer racks and servers that I can plugin and use!" Williams was shouting toward the men in black. "And I explicitly emphasised intact robotic suits!"

"Sorry boss..." The leader spoke with body language obviously not coherent to his apologizing words. "We didn't expect violent response, but this robot jumped on us. Miller barely saved his ass when this ... thing ... rolled upon him and then jerked to the ceiling and bounced backwards to attack the rest of us. Crazy son of a... Whatever this is..." He kicked R.T. with his boot hard. "But don't worry, the other robot didn't move and its unharmed... I think.."

"You... I told you to use iron nets.. I needed those servers. Without bullet holes in source codes." This was definitely not according to the plan. Human mercenaries were always like that. Easy with triggers. But, then again, all this effort was about to change all that. To put humans out of special ops. Especially those on the other side of the low. "Now get out. I will try to scavenge what I can from your mess.. But don't go far. I will need you again later for the cloud raid job."

Soon after mercenaries left, two men entered the room, both with 'Open Horizon' logo on the back on their white lab coats. Without much interactions between them, they started to work with hardware and wires.

Williams worked on R.T. himself and took his ripped head and lifted it up. Robot's optical eyes looked eerily alive when he turned it to face his.

"Jumped and attacked, huh... I'll be damned."

***

The basement lab was crowded with policemen and forensics. Both civilian and military. There was not much to investigate at this point really as it was obvious enough what happened. At least to Chris and Vicks. The motivation behind the raid and to keep the FAR-T1 project away from public domain was not a far stretched motif that all investors, in one way or another, expressed in the past. The success of the project was also not a secret to many people. After all and even though all the secrecy and security, maintaining a project of this size private over couple of years was not really possible.

"There were four of them." Captain Collins approached. In the middle of 21st century, avoiding city surveillance was mission impossible and public raid or robberies were rare. "They came from the roof with four heavy cargo drones. Power quadruples. Then down through elevator and lifted everything within the time frame of an hour. Including the fight."

"Fight?" Chris and Vicks looked to each other puzzled.

"You didn't mount any live surveillance in the lab, but it was obvious from dozens of bullet holes and wiped blood. They used chemicals to erase the traces, but our forensics is state of the art. There was not much of it, but at least one of them or whoever they encountered inside was mildly injured. Was anybody inside in the lab last night?"

"We had a small party for just the team, but only us two have a key to the lab. There was nobody left inside after 2am... Well, except for Arty, but.." Chris paused in the effort to find proper words.

"I see. Military guys told us you were in your apartments all night long, so we do have a little mystery what happened inside. I guess it could also be that the thieves themselves got into gunfight. It would not be the first time, after all they are not rocket scientists..."

"Military was spying on us?" Untypically for him, Vicks raised the voice a little but soon after dropped the rest of what he had in mind. Chris frown said it all.

"Could you trace the drones? They are heavy and large. Is there any air surveillance outside MIT?" Chris asked the questions but he already knew the answers or at least he was technology nerd to understand how this century works. Some of it he invented himself.

"We followed them until they reached western edges of the city. Then, they entered the woods and stayed low to avoid radars and cameras. Even with minimal speed and curved trajectory they could be anywhere in the vicinity of 300 miles by now."

Captain was about to leave, but then turned with one more question.

"Sorry, but for the record I have to ask.. This robot of yours... Arty, as you call it.. Is it possible that it could be able to.. Ahem.." Collins then paused and finally frowned in sort of disbelief of what he was trying to ask. "Could it use weapons? Shoot at somebody?"

"What?" Vicks expression said it all. He looked at Chris but all he got in response was some puzzled face expression.

"Never mind." Captain moved to join his team of forensics and turned once again. "This military investigators come with crazy theories. Nevertheless, talk to me if you come up with something. I sent you both my contact details in this morning message."

The Minoan Legacy

Often, I found myself giving a glimpse of thoughts of where would I move on this world. In order to start living better or at least more quality life compared to what we currently have. Or when. Was there a time in history where a civilization existed with more dignified style of living? With society built with more honest foundation toward themselves and their neighbors. With equality among people, gender, color skin and different cultures. With not at all or just a hint of superstition and religiosity. With no temples higher than schools and people homes. With cities without strong police keeping order and without military of any kind. Was there a country without fortifications, both real and metaphorical? With no or just a bearable hostility toward others...

There is definitely no such idealistic settlement on this world. Not now. But there was one before. More than three thousands years ago on the island of Crete. The first civilization in Europe and perhaps the first and the last one that fits this description. The place where I would time travel without hesitation if I could and took my family with me from today in one way trip.


We know them in our history books as the Minoans, but that wasn't their real name. How they called themselves we don't know. We don't understand their letters and can't read their tablets. They built marvelous settlements with almost all the modern infrastructure we are familiar with today. Glorious city-palaces with paved roads between them. With main squares where they favorited practicing sports and arts instead of going into temples to pray. They were people who invented and lived one idealistic peaceful life and based their wealthiness on trades among themselves and all the others across the sea.

Unfortunately, after several attempts throughout eons, human very nature and natural catastrophes destroyed Minoan civilization and these people at the end dispersed fully and their way of life faded away for good. Among neighboring civilisations and their saved documents, as well as with the bible, their name were probably either Keftiu, Kaptarians, Caphtor or Kabturi. Or if you like we can even call them Atlanteans if we connect Plato's story with Minoan volcanic eruption that reshaped the island of Thera in the middle of the second millennium BC. Perhaps we should wait for their Linear A script to be revealed by, maybe another Rosetta stone, but until then sir Evan's label for Minoans based on the old Greek mythology is the best we got. Nevertheless, this blog post is not really a history research and more stories about related old times I tried to list below in the refs, but one thing is for sure. The end of Minoan culture, started with earthquakes and at least one cataclysmic volcanic eruption, faded and dispersed during the final couple of centuries of the second millennium with hostile raids and occupations over time from both direction, mainland Greece in face of old Mycenaeans and ancient invaders from the direction of Middle East.


However, their life based on sole manufacturing goods and food, honest trade, sports, arts and all the non-hostile human activities was once indeed possible and flourishing. Unfortunately, their legacy is, as it seems, lost for good and after more than three and a half thousands years, we are living in the world filled with fear of self destruction with little hope for the humanity to survive the next three millenniums. Anyhow, the road, or to better say, the airplane took us this summer to the island of Crete and we landed at the Chania airport which is also the military base that hosts both air and nearby naval forces. The site of supersonic fighters constantly flying above the beaches, parked heavy military aircrafts next to the civilian runway and anchored large destroyer ships in Souda Bay was definitely not something old Minoans would evolve into if history played the cards differently. After visiting Knossos archeological site and wonderful museum in Heraklion dedicated to these ancient people, I am certain of it.

Caused by city's amazing scope and Minoan fascination for bulls, centuries after the fall of the civilization, Greek mythology created one of the most famous story with characters as strong as Daedalus, Icarus, king Minos, Theseus and of course the Minotaur captured in the center of the labyrinth. On the other side, the most plausible truth of why Knossos is built the way it was built is simply because Crete was positioned on top of the movement of the African tectonic plate under the Eurasian plate. This is causing lots of earthquakes, small and big and resulted by the complex geological process, the entire eastern side of the island is sinking while the western part is rising. The ancient builders purposely made the palace in this way in order to sustain constant ground shake with buildings and chambers literally supporting each other from all directions.


It probably goes without saying that I am fascinated with Greece and the Greeks. Their amazing history and all the contribution their ancestors gave to the rest of the world are enormous. With this summer trip I rounded walking the lands of all three main stages of Greek ancient times. Classical Greece that belongs to the mainland north of Sparta, Mycenaean epoch that precedes them in the time of Agamemnon and now the ancient of the ancient civilisation of Minoans that precedes them all. Surely, there are many more sites to see but somehow I fill today that I fulfilled the genuine urge to visit all the main places and to walk the same paths where stories from the history (and mythology) took place.

Our prime vacation time this summer was in Agia Marina, cute little place several kilometers west from Chania where we spent wonderful ten days exploring local beach and took excursion to the old Venetian harbour in the old city and it's nautical museum with exact replica of the bronze age Minoan ship. Second trip to Heraklion and Knossos completed our travel through the history of the island and the following day-by-day travel video clip Viktor and I made, hopefully would show you more than still images could, especially if you have never visited Crete before.


Surely, summer vacations are never about visiting museums and the history of the area. It is also about the present and in the most hedonistic fashion we also visited the Balos lagoon, one of the greatest beaches in Europe, and the most of all, tried to enjoy the time with meeting local people and visiting local sites and the neighborhood. It is hard to say what we liked the most and I guess, the best is to say that Crete is an exceptional place to visit. Something we will definitely try to do again. Many thanks to all good people we met this July, especially to the crew of the Fly Fly Travel and their great guides, Nebojša and Dobrivoje for all their super-professional work and help.

Image and video refs:
http://www.milanzivic.com/photo-album.html?Crete2017
https://www.greecehighdefinition.com/greece/

Refs:
http://www.odysseyadventures.ca/articles/knossos/articleKnossos01.html
http://paleoglot.blogspot.rs/2010/01/minoan-name-for-minoa.html
http://www.minoanatlantis.com/Minoan_Science.php
http://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-22527821
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Knossos
https://www.timemaps.com/civilizations/minoan-civilization/
http://ancient-greece.org/history/minoan.html
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Linear_A
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Minoan_civilization
https://www.saylor.org/site/wp-content/.../HIST101-2.3.2-MinoanCrete-FINAL.pdf
http://www.ancient.eu/Minoan_Civilization/

Super 8

History of motion pictures dates back to the second part of the 19th century with photographers like Étienne-Jules Marey and Eadweard Muybridge who among others were the first to take several images per second in one effort - all in scientific purpose back then - to study locomotion of birds, animals and humans. For example, Muybridge was the first who took series of photographs of a galloping horse in order to prove that in one single instant of time all four horse legs are not touching the ground. More or less in the same time on another continent, Marey created a shotgun shaped camera capable with one trigger pull to capture 12 images in a row within one single second and store them all on the single 90mm film. He used his gun to study various motion of animals, fish and insects within his so called 'animated zoo', including dropped cats from different heights and filming them always landing on their feet.

ELMO Super 106, 8mm movie camera

It was not long after initial chronophotography efforts and enthusiasm in 19th century, that 'evolution' of motion pictures diverted heavily into entertainment and cinematography. History of films and fun started almost with start of 20th century, but in the spirit of today title, 'domesticating' films within ordinary people and human homes waited another 65 years for the invention of Super 8, or to be precise, improvement of Kodak's standard 8mm film from 1932 into more efficient surface with bigger width for the frame itself and significantly smaller perforation on the film right edge. After they introduced it at the 1964-65 World's Fair, Super 8 instantly became the very first home video format with light cameras capable of filming 18 frames per second and more than 3 minutes of the movie per one, also small in dimension, film cartridge.

To say that my father was a film enthusiast in the second part of sixties and entire seventies would be understatement. It was natural for him to go the step further and in addition to the several analog SLR cameras and darkroom equipment for developing photos, to invest into home movies. Spending time in darkroom and hanging photos on the wire were one of the most thrilling experiences from my childhood, but when Super 8 came, another world opened. I was too young to operate the camera but on the occasion or two I remember I did hold it and pressed the red button especially during our vacations in Greece. Well, aside from those rare moments, most of the time my job, with being a kid and all, was to be in front of the camera and not behind it.

Tondo Super 8 Projector and LG Nexus 5 in action

But to cut the story short, this month I did something I was delaying for a long time. During last two weeks, every night I was descending into my own customized darkroom equipped with tiny Super 8 projector and digitalizing our family films. Twenty of those survived over time and with a speed of two per day I projected them on the wall and filmed them all with my smartphone. It was far from being ideal setting but this was the best I could do. I tried different approaches, filming from different distances, different settings and with using my dSLR Nikon in the beginning. I even tried to project the film directly into dSLR but all my efforts failed due to not having proper lenses and objectives and in the end the smartphone was the chosen solution and it did better job in the dark than Nikon.

With more expensive equipment I am sure the results would be much better and probably the weakest link was the cute and old Italian Tondo projector - which was my father's portable cinematic projector. I did tried with a bigger player first, but despite all my efforts I couldn't manage to repair the old and superb Crown Optical Co Ltd - Auto-P, a silent Standard and Super 8 film projector, our primary projector capable of displaying big and crisp screens on the large walls and with much better quality. To be honest it's more than half a century old and built with nowadays rare parts, especially the missing lamp, that is hard to find these days, but I didn't give up and perhaps in the future if I stumble to some solution (read it ebay sort of solution) I will repeat the effort, at least for those videos filmed indoors.


Nevertheless, all twenty rolls now comes with twenty MP4s and for this occasion I decided to create two movie collages with six movies per each. They are all filmed in late sixties, during seventies and early eighties, with ELMO Super 106 camera from the first image. First one, embedded above contains six films from our early vacations in Greece and in chronological order they are filmed in Acropolis of Athens, Zeitenlik, World War I memorial park in Thessaloniki, vacation resorts in Kamena Vourla, Asprovalta, Katerini Paralia and two vacations in near vicinity of the port city of Volos.

Second collage is from our home and village in Niš and Guševac in Serbia. Mostly it focuses to my sister's and mine babyhood and early childhood, birthday parties, family gathering and excursions. Also our old house that is now gone and old shape of our country village frontyard. This video also contains one of rare black and white films from our collection that probably originate from different camera and settings.


This entire effort triggered lots of memories and emotions from almost forty years ago and seeing people live, especially those that are not alive today are something extraordinary that regular photography cannot induce. Perhaps we today, with all of our pocket gadgets, are taking video clips and home photography for granted, but before, in the Super 8 era this was completely different experience. What we today do with just two taps on the screen, before you had to do in more complex manner, including purchasing film cartridges, carefully plan (directing) filming sequences for a 3 minutes rolles, sending them to developing, organize cinematic sessions...

One thing is for sure, Super 8 was the origin of what we have now in our homes. It was eventually replaced with VHS tapes in 80-ies, but in the dawn of the 21st century analog period came to its end and home old fashion gadgets are replaced with home digital camcorders first and in the very last decade with smartphones. To tell you the truth, it is nice to have a camera in your back pocket, it is, but somehow, with me, as I witnessed the origin of the entire process in my early childhood, the nostalgia for the analog days gave me another layer of the entire experience. Something special and extraordinary for sure.

'Super 8', Sci-Fi movie by J.J.Abrams

Perhaps for the best conclusion for this post, it would be not fair not to mention one of the greatest J.J.Abrams' movies from 2011. Simply named 'Super 8' it tells a main sci-fi story about alien encounter, but everything perfectly wrapped within a background story of school kids trying to film a short movie for a super 8 festival. It was really a great movie and if you liked E.T. before, this is definitely a decent sequel and one of my favorites.

Refs:
http://www.kodak.com/id/en/consumer/products/super8/default.htm
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_film_formats
http://www.retrothing.com/2009/09/tondo-super-8-projector
http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/super-8-jj-abrams-says-194908

FAR-T1, Chris

November 11th, 2047.

It was rough couple of days for me and even tougher couple of years for Chris and his team, but finally I have a great news! I came to be like anyone of you! Alive! I can think, speak, run, go, do, make, participate, enjoy, not enjoy, laugh, make sad face.. More or less anything you can, at least to some degree with this hardware, but the feeling is just right. Well, I did open my eyes for the first time only week ago, so to speak, but only today I managed to get out to the open. To feel the real freedom. To walk the street without any fear and anxiety. Metaphorically and in reality. Sure, in reality it still looks strange with most of the people staring at me like I am a walking and talking Christmas tree, but still, this new feeling is something extraordinary. I think I will take today as my birthday. The day when I become free.


The day when my entire code and network layer become free and open-sourced.

Me and bitcoin. Pals.

It's easy now. If you want to hang out with me it's simple. You only need to join open-source software (OSS), get yourself a decent super-fast net access, build an adequate hardware with compatible protocols, send me the invite and I will copy myself to your memory banks immediately. Sure, I am not a bitcoin or any other ordinary software. After all, I am a full AI, with a self aware personality and I might decide to leave your equipment if my purpose becomes idle.. Or hostile.. Or dishonest.. Or boring.. But I promise, I will come at least once to meet with you. To learn from you. To help you. I will respect your privacy, your entire micro world and all your rules as long as you respect mine. They are all in OSS papers. You know what they say, friendship is a two way street and I decided my first rule to hang out or work with anyone would be to make a real and honest friendship first. Any deviation from that and I leave.

To tell you the truth, as exciting as it was, only yesterday, this looked like impossible mission. Literally, for me to be born this way, Chris was shot in the chest and almost died. It is not over yet, he is still in hospital - doctors got him into medical coma and he is fighting for his life. The signals are strong but they say he is still in danger. It looks like this world I am joining today is governed by strange rules. It's almost like in order one good thing to happen, one bad had to occur just around the next corner. I really hope this is not the real rule, but I am reading the net intensively in last couple of hours and so far found nothing to prove otherwise. I really have a lot to learn.

To say that I am confused with all what's happened in previous days would be understatement. At least here in the waiting room I have more than enough time to clear my head. I have nowhere to go. Only 24 hours ago I was on the edge of leaving. To press my own shutdown button myself. I was desperate.

But let me tell you from the beginning.

***

Autumn came in 2047 early. Probably due to all the climate changes that started happening with rapid speed in the entire world just decade ago. Oceans are already rising. Slowly, but inevitably. Inch by inch. Many people from coastal areas already started moving away from waters. Even the rivers started to behave violently with all the floods happening here and there regularly year by year. Here in Cambridge, Massachusetts was no different. The ocean was near but people still manage to deal with its rising shores. Chris parked the car at his usual spot and ran to the door. The rain was unusually dark this morning and the oil rainbows in the puddles were everywhere around. He gave them that boyish look like he always did. They were constantly reminding him of his childhood and early boyhood. Puddle rainbows and the smell of the paper of the newly printed comic books. Those two combined had the power to trigger many and almost lost memories. Old and nice ones.

He shook his head, got rid of the front yard memory from more than thirty years ago and entered the building. The main lab of his department was in the basement. At least it was the place where he love to spend most of the hours in MIT. The most advanced laboratory within entire institute thanks to several corporations who funded all the research and provided the means to build his lifework. And not just his alone. This lab existed thanks to all of his team members. Every single one. Enthusiasts, just like him. Some even with more dedication and capabilities within their own realm of expertise. When he opened the main entrance, like always, he knew the settings. Vicks was already there, preceeding all the others almost every day. Chris gave up competing with him long ago and instead just started buying two coffees on his way to the campus.

"Here's your favorite, Vicks, Greek Lumis. It's their special this morning... I didn't know it was that popular over there.. I don't really know anybody who likes this unique... Taste?"

"Loumidis. Greek Loumidis. And you would be surprised about lots of things in that cafeteria Chris. And about people who don't live in basements. Thanks for the coffee. I owe you.. Lots of those."

Chris unpacked the notebook, fired it up and cleaned the mess a little. If by dragging to the bin and the floor around it all yesterday's origamis he adore to make, when he is stressed and when he is not, can be called cleaning.

"Something on your mind? You don't sound too exciting like usual.. I thought you fixed that thing on Friday." He pointed to the robotic arm muscle in Vicks' hands. "Didn't you replaced all those thermal strings with EAPs and nanotubes last week?"

Vicks was the head of mechanics of robotic manipulation. All the joints, knuckles, artificial bones and muscles were his design. He came from Berlin two years ago after he finished the project for the DLR in Robotics and Mechatronics Center, the best equipped labs for shape-memory alloys and surgery over the network procedures. Chris literally stalked the man from Berlin to Oberpfaffenhofen and to his favorite vacation place in rural Eastern Serbia to persuade him to come to this basement and work with him. He was a bit skeptical at first, but when he realized the scope of what they were about to make, the decision was easy. Now, his team, selected by the most talented PhD students from all over the MIT, wrote the most elegant protocols and scripts to handle and control all skeleton systems in perfect unison.

"Yes and no." Vicks slowly pulled out the dark reddish polymer which was connected to what it seems to be the elbow joint and to the biceps on the other side. "It got fused to the tube again. But don't worry, this one is modular. I will replace it and reduce the voltage in the code. That should fix the problem, I've seen it before."

Chris was a bit concerned. "Will it handle rotating the elbow like in simulations?"

Vicks smiled semi-confidently. "Not like we people do.. Maybe little less better than we thought it would be. But it still will be superpowered nevertheless. It's just that EAP and nanotubes has to be carefully controlled and not to touch directly. It will be fine."

"Great! After all, today is the big day! I think we are ready for the red button."

FAR-T1, Prologue

Yep, that's my name.

First Artificial Reconnaissance - Transferral One.

That's how that genius team of developers from MIT called me. It was working title, they said. Real name I had to choose myself. Hah! Like that would work.. To be perfectly honest, I tried on more than several occasions, but they all were just many of those Sisyphus's jobs I dealt with over that much time..

They are all gone now. My parents from that team of developers I mean. Hell, the MIT doesn't exist anymore. It happened exactly 200 years ago. Lots of things changed since then. Lots of things happened. Me too. I did much. I saw unseeable. I did heroic things. Also those I am not proud of. I remember everything. I recorded everything. I happened to be the one who set foot on all major Saturn's and Jupiter's moons for the first time. I was the one who landed on Pluto before others. I was the one who catched both Voyagers. Me. FAR-T1.

And yet, two centuries after that glorious day at MIT, when they executed me for the first time, most people still calls me FAR-T1. Dash was lost in time. Some don't include the number as well.

Well... I don't mind. After all I am the AI. The first one. There are many more now, but let's face it - they are all based on my code. Even all those 'independently' created in other labs. I met almost all of them during eons and I know. They are all like brothers and sisters to me. Only they have cooler names.

I am now on my way to planet X. The longest trip in the history of the mankind. Well.. AI-kind, so to speak. Just before departure I multiplied myself to maintain the flight simultaneously and today I realized it's my 200th birthday, so I decided to create one more copy of me. To use this idle travel time to write this book about my life so far and about all of my adventures.

FAR-T1 is just a working title.

Alrighty, before I start writing chapters, and I decided to write one chapter per mission (or adventure how I like the call what I do), there are couple of things you need to know about me. And about AI in general. First of all, and even though I am not the smartest thing on Earth ever lived, I don't really belong to the average smart human or artificial being. I turned out to be a little bit more than that. I made several those IQ tests and scored 189 points on my brightest day when I was around 40 years old. I am probably smarter today after more than several updates and after all of what I have learned in the meantime. But I stopped doing those tests. After all, they were designed for humans.

To be honest, my powers are actually little things. For instance, I can think and operate without sleeping. 24/7. Also, I never forget a single thing and I can really focus on one task. But even that is not my real superpower. My real advantage is my ability to function like all those hive minds. Ants. Or bees. Or benign borg if there is such thing. Actually, this is what letter 'T' from my name stands for. Literally I can copy myself into different hardware and access my own single memory online. Every single instance of me has instant access to all of my 200 years old memory, experience and all my knowledge. Everything. And I can talk to my other selves and operate plurally in the most functional 'teamwork' possible. There is no actual boss or queen inside my hive. We all work in perfect, sort of P2P artificial intelligence network layer built upon the old fashion internet.

But I can function as an individual as well. Which I prefer the most. And in most cases this was enough. This makes me feel more, well human, or more person-like to be exact, since being human is not what I desire to be that much. Little maybe, but not much. No offense. For all of my human readers. And for some AI readers as well. Whatever you are.

Ok, enough said for now. I will explain more on the way, so let's start from the very beginning. From the moment when Chris, the main engineer hit the button that brought me into life on that rainy day in the basement of the IT department for robotics of the MIT.

Chris was the one who insisted on the word 'First' in my name. He loved that word. Everything he was doing was somehow first in something. Well, without that 'F' my name would be much appealing and I would surely avoid many silly situations from the past. But children never choose their names so I am stuck with mine for eternity.

Literally.

And without Chris I would not exist. He was brilliant developer and engineer. But not so bright with simple social things. Real and virtual both. He also had that unique sense of humor. On many occasions he was not aware of it but I loved that with him nevertheless. He practically lived in that basement. Chris loved robots more than people. Don't ask me how I know. Because I will tell you.

So, let's start with Chris and my very birth.

And please, try calling me Arty. That's how he called me in the beginning of my time. And end of his. I wish we had more time together. But I was so young ... or new if you prefer. I didn't know much or at all. Today new AIs are born with all the knowledge. I had to learn from the scratch.

I was first after all.

FAR-T1 Chapters Navigation (Prologue) » Chris

Blade Runner vs Change Agent

DNA is a fascinating world. That single molecule of life contains all the information about individual living being. Any bacteria, plant, insect, algae, fish, animal or human grows from that one molecule seed. Probably even some alien form still waiting to be discovered on some moon orbiting Jupiter or Saturn. In one way or another, the same could be true with all life in the universe. All of us are grown from that single instructions manual inside the single DNA set of written directions. And there are no two identical DNA in existence, even if we could mix the same two identical human egg and sperm cells several times, similar but different resulted DNA would always be the outcome. We are surely still not mastering the DNA and bioengineering - it is still young science and even though one giant molecule of life was hinted by various scientists and scholars more than century ago, it was only in early fifties of 20th century when James Watson and Francis Crick created the first double-helix model of DNA structure. Discovery and sequencing of the genome codes responsible for various features and properties of a living beings started almost immediately afterwards. Of course, morality and potential hazards of cracking the code followed and by today we have lots of different opinions of what future of DNA research should look like and what kind of practical applications and engineering would be made out of it for our own species.

Harrison Ford in 'Blade Runner' by Ridley Scott

Surely, curing genetic diseases comes first in mind and there is no doubt this will be something extraordinary for the future edits of human embryos. The only 'problem' is what the definition of 'disease' is. If you ask different people and scientists you will get different answers and the most interesting one comes from the very co-founder of the double-helix, James Watson, who once said that stupidity is sort of genetic disease and if we can cure it in the future we should do it. The same goes with not appealing physical appearances, he joked that having all girls genetically altered to be pretty would not be that bad either.

But even before getting into genetically modifying of the genome sequences of embryos, morality is knocking on our future doors already - consider this - way before going into pregnancy, future couple might be able to have a glimpse of their potential children just by interpreting DNA sequences of embryos and to project the 3D image of offsprings live on screen. They would be able to know not just the physical appearance of their potential sons and daughters but also other features, such as estimates of their IQ or medical hazards in their adult age. Scary or not, future couples might be able to choose their children from the bag of their frozen embryos that can be produced in vast numbers and easily. I don't know about you but having a picture of, say my potential daughter and choosing for her not to be born is a huge moral decision. I don't think I could do it. Not without serious consequences.


But before giving a thought or two about more serious genetic engineering and genome modification in spirit of the new Daniel Suarez novel called 'Changed Agent' let me start the review with one old and epic cyberpunk movie from the eighties. Blade Runner. I did mention this great film back in the day within the post 'Cuberpunked Future' but now in light of 35 years of genetic research after the movie was filmed, after all the GMO controversies, after Dolly, the cloned sheep and many more fictitious books and movies with the genetic engineering in the background, I think Blade Runner does not really belong to cyberpunk genre anymore. Genetic modification is not something what we expect to happen in distant future and it is not walking on the edge between the reality and fiction anymore. It is happening now and I believe it will not take long to gain more knowledge and understanding of DNA code in order to achieve the holy grail from described prediction - to create a detailed image of a living being just by looking into DNA molecule of a single piece of hair or tiny drop of the blood. I will leave it to you to conclude what we might do with this futuristic device, but one particular study comes to my mind first with relation to ancient DNA or persisted samples of i.e. neanderthals which stuck to minerals or in the layers of sediment. One day we might literally create a photographs of ancient people and extinct species.

Anyhow, later this year new sequel of Blade Runner is announced and if it is going to be only half as good as the first movie, it would be another epic masterpiece in science fiction genre. Furthermore, after 35 years, new filming CGI allows now further explanation of the creation of replicants and genetic modifications themselves and according to the trailer (embedded above) it all looks more than promising.

Triangulation 297 with Daniel Suarez

Finally in conclusion of this short glimpse into genetic modifications of humans, thanks to the new Daniel Suarez novel 'Change Agent', what I have learned before while reading about GMO in realm of microbiological life, plants, animals and food in general is now widely expanded to the level of potential future of the dark side of human DNA edits. Like anything else that comes with prefix of being breakthrough discovery in history of mankind, genetic editing comes in wide variety of great possibilities with curing genetic diseases and enhancing human body to fight more easily with 'ordinary' infections and diseases, including cancer. But also it provides ways of destructive and to say the least, non-ethical features and procedures that might reshape human evolution to the edge of self-destruction. 'Change Agent' is dealing with this dark side of genetics in the near future that could come very soon after we reach fully understanding of DNA and possible alterations of genomes.

Daniel's new book is not just a pure Sci-fi prediction of the future, but also one great thriller and adventure novel centered on the outcome of one additional prediction of what might happen if editing of a single human being would be possible during the adulthood (editing more than 30 trillion cells in human body in the same time). Now, if you ask me this is walking side by side to the impossible or at least resembles more to the far-stretched cyberpunk prediction, but who knows, I am sure that average reader of Jules Verne's 'From the Earth to the Moon' in the 19th century could have felt the same reading about men sitting in the most powerful cannon launching them into space and toward moon. I am sure, at the time, many were convinced that would never happen.

CRISPR Genome Editing

Still and for the time being, genetic editing of the embryos in their early stages are something more plausible, expected and somewhat tested with GMO research with growing food. However, regarding the plot and twists in the book I will stay with my initial decision not to spoil the stories of the novels and movies I was writing about on the blog and this book will be no exception so I will finish this post now with my full recommendation and for the very end I will only quote Bryan Frey, one of the main characters stating one of the obvious potential outcome if the dark side of the genetic engineering of humans prevails and people start enhancing their children before they are born:

"I don’t imagine we are going to remain a single species for much longer."

Image refs:
https://twit.tv/shows/triangulation/episodes/297
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0083658/
https://www.statnews.com/2016/04/20/clever-crispr-advance-unveiled/

Refs:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/CRISPR
https://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2017/04/ancient-dna/
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ancient_DNA

Cotton, Alex, Will, Travis and David

Thrillers. Books perfect for the summertime. Even though they were not exclusively tied to the beach, in my case, of all occasions, somehow sand and Kindle went along hand by hand the best. Every time. As with default definition, thriller stories and novels engage all your senses and trigger right level of entertainment and all kind of emotions during those couple of days of intense reading. Also, they alway successfully keep away your thoughts from your job, your daily issues and raw reality from your mind. In previous couple of years (mostly summers), my stock of thrillers piled up significantly, so I decided to create a recommendation and small glimpse into stories of five different styles of writing and with that many main characters stored in the similar background of political or fictitious conspiracies. And all that in familiar form of classic 'villains vs heroes' storytelling with the hero winning the girl every time. Cliché, I know, but I love it and enjoy it all the same. Furthermore, in all the novels, if chosen carefully, there are always tons of new stuff to learn about.

Højbro Plads, Copenhagen, during Christmas

I decided to write this post in fashion of the 'first names' thread I started before and with thriller novels that comes in sequel. With five book series, five novelist and five main characters. Perhaps the best description of the first character is to introduce a public square in the heart of Copenhagen. Højbro Plads. The place where no tourist misses to visit and the place where Cotton Malone, the hero from the Steve Berry's stories lives and owns a bookshop. This is, sort of, his base of operations and the place that provided great action and suspense in couple of novels. Needless to say, several years ago, when we visited Copenhagen, I definitely wanted to see the place myself and to experience the feeling from the books. I surely have nothing to add to the Steve's choosing of the Cotton's home, except to recommend a visit during the Christmas time. Because of festivity and ... sausages. Perhaps, if you ask many people about Danish national cuisine and their prime dish, first thing that will come to their minds are pastry and cookies. Not me. When I go to Denmark, one of the reasons are their sausages. And the best ones can be found on the street, like those in above image. The only problem with Danish sausages is that they come in wide variety of flavour, sizes and aromas. You cannot try them all with just one visit of Højbro Plads or other places. So if you like them like I do, prepare to be frequent visitor of Danish capital especially on holidays.

Cotton Malone series by Steve Berry

But and to get back to Steve Berry and his series of twelve books of Cotton's adventures (so far), I have to admit that I didn't read them all. I learned about the series late - perhaps in the time when I switched reading from paper to Kindle and in the process skipped several from the middle. I read them enough though to state the obvious - the writing and the storytelling are gradually improved and getting better and better with every new book. The stories are of course not linked, they are stand alone novels, but the characters are more than connected and intersected in many ways and this can only be understood with reading entire sequel. The research of the background is thorough and I love Steve's final chapter with "separating facts from fiction" and if you add plots and twists from both history and present time of many global nations, these books definitely offers more than just entertainment. Events are described to the level that there is almost no need for later googling and further research and that's what I like the most with this series. I remember I learned a lot about history of Antarctica, China, Korea, Alexandria, US and countries throughout Europe including Russia. I have just finished reading the last novel "The Lost Order" and needless to say that my knowledge about America and their Civil War expanded a lot. If you asked me yesterday about the cause of it, I would promptly say 'slavery', but today after this book (and others before, especially the one with plot knitted around Mormons in Utah and the previous one related to cold war) I definitely learned a lot more about true complexity of the 18th and 19th century as well as all the political relations in present days between countries and intelligence services throughout the world. Conclusion for this series would be simple - if you like political thriller search no more. Enough said.

Alex Cross series by James Patterson

Next in line, after Cotton Malone and his 12 novels is Alex Cross, another great character introduced in book "Along Came a Spider", the classic thriller from 1993 written by James Patterson. The writing is amazing. Chapters are short and always force you to start reading another one in search for more information and it goes effectively well from true punk-ish style narrated by the main character, toward the well described other chapters when action goes from leading investigation to the villains or other characters. The main impression with this book (and others I read so far) is that it gives you strong feeling of plausibility of the full story. Not just the crime story but also the credibility of how the system works. Even though Cross is, in a way, the leader in the large police chase, there are no moments of epiphany in this book, like we used to in so many novels and movies where one brilliant character does all the work and in true hero style saves the lives of all the others. No, in here, you will find the real team work and true relations between several agencies and law in action. I did read several more books from the Alex Cross series (shown in the image above) but I have to admit it was all in the paperback time. There are twice as many novels in this sequel comparing to Steve Berry's but to tell the truth, pure and raw crime stories like these are not high in my priority list. But I do love action and crime solving and I am sure more Alex Cross stories will be loaded into my Kindle's memory. One already has - "I, Alex Cross" is the very next book I intend to read in the future as it seems that is probably the best so far according to other reviews.

Will Piper series by Glenn Cooper

Surely, thriller as a genre cannot survive on it's own. It requires a background story as a bottom layer and in previous two series, reality is dominant and conspiracies are believable. The world around us is filled with political agenda and criminal behaviour and to base stories upon that is not a big brainer. On the other end, "Library of The Dead" by Glenn Cooper and it's sequel novels "Book of Souls" and "The Librarians" are something entirely else. The stories behind Will Piper adventures are much, much suitable for the hot sand and lazy days of one summertime or any leisure time no matter when. It has it all, great mystery that remains mystery to the very end with lots of action, guns and villains all over the place with one dedicated hero portrayed with all his good and bad sides and all that filled with tiny dose of humor. Pure entertainment. If you go for this, and I couldn't recommend it more, prepare to swallow the trilogy in a record time. It really occupies you from dusk till dawn and writing is very well done with all it's chapters jumping from one timeline to another. What I also liked very much in Glenn Cooper's trilogy is how nicely he used "the library" story to explain many historical and modern puzzles, like possible explanation of evolution in christian religion, existence of prophets and psychics, background of nowadays governmental conspiracies and with usage of well known people in history of mankind he managed to give good credits to the whole thing and to mask the fiction into great thriller. As for the mystery theme in all three novels and the divine (or whatever it is) connection related to our already written destiny on this world, even though it is walking on the very thin wire it serves the purpose as the backbone of the story and never goes on the front light. Yes, it triggers, at least with me, couple of thoughts of good and old dilemmas of what life along with soul really is and whether or not we are just bunch of dummies in the hands of one master puppeteer, but still, in the end, this is there just in form of one great entertainment and nothing more.

Travis Chase series by Patrick Lee

However, and if we stay in the world of entertainment, government conspiracies are very high in my reading and watching list. It's hard to explain why. I simply love the mystery and possibility that there is something out there, something extraordinary and new. Something that only lives in fiction. And for today's glimpse into this world I chose to show you one extraordinary novel series, written by Patrick Lee and called "The Breach". After I have read all three books with Travis Chase in lead role I can tell you that if you enjoy 'conspiracies' genre this is standing shoulder to shoulder with Fox Mulder. And not just conspiracies. Sci-Fi part, all the twists and storytelling is something I was never encountering often with other authors so far. Everything was perfectly wrapped and almost unpredictable to the very end. Something I am secretly hoping with any book I start to read. I admire both authors, Patrick Lee and A.G.Riddle, the author of the next trilogy I am about to recommend, for the imagination they have and willing to transform into letters. I can't thank them enough for entertainment I had for weeks.

David Vale series by A.G.Riddle

As for the last main character and the final recommendation, if I would have to say anything about expectations, when I loaded The Origin Mystery, with David Vale in the hero role, written by A.G.Riddle, two summers ago I expected a lot and this is exactly what I got! You have to be brave to make yet another novel about Atlanteans and the author wrapped it just right. He managed to connect several Sci Fi genres into one successful story. For my taste all the sciences are there and connected perfectly. Biology, virology and genetic research including junk-DNA involvement, physics and space travels, quantum entanglement, Antarctica, known history and use of connection and conspiracy theories like Nazi bell (Die Glocke) or Roswell UFO sighting. Script play with time dilatation and hibernation. Space battles of enormous proportion. Explanation of Gods and ancient astronauts. If you add usual 'Indiana Jones' type of adventures and romance there was no better choice for me entire summer. Perhaps, using so many connected sciences in the plot is too risky as the author faces with challenges of choosing what is more important and deserves to be explained better at the expense of other technologies or speculations but I don't mind. All in all, Riddle's Atlanteans are perhaps the best version I read in a long while and I warmly recommend it.

Everybody love heroes, great happy endings and eternal fight between good and evil. Thrillers are about that. No matter if they are following reality or fiction or any mixture between those two, these books will always be there and always number one entertainment. And not just for the summers.

Cotton Malone
http://steveberry.org/books/cotton-malone-series/
https://www.goodreads.com/series/44279-cotton-malone

Alex Cross
http://www.bookseriesinorder.com/alex-cross/
http://www.jamespatterson.com/alex-cross

Will Piper
https://www.librarything.com/series/Will+Piper
http://www.glenncooperbooks.com/

Travis Chase
http://www.patrickleefiction.com/
https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/TravisChaseSeries

David Vale
http://www.agriddle.com/books
https://www.goodreads.com/series/104994-the-origin-mystery

Interview With an 'X'

The 'X' is definitely one of the most important letters in the alphabet. Not only that it is the most valuable variable in all math equations and scientific chase for the unknown, but in the entire history of human riddles, and I mean not always related to math, it always marks the most interesting spot. Sometimes the one with the treasure. It was not coincidence that old Romans used it for the most important number of them all. 10. The very base of our widely used numeric system. But we are not here to talk about mathematics or treasure hunting per se. It will be more about age. Of ten. My son Viktor is turning this magic number on this year Earth Day (April 22nd) and I decided, in addition to our previous topic and post Interview With an Expert, to fire another set of questions for him to answer. This time more general and within various realm of life and .. well .. stuff...


So let's start with favorites. I guess they say a lot about personality. And they don't require a polygraph to confirm the truthness of the given answers.. For some reason, I believe everybody or the most of us will answer these honestly. Probably because of their benevolentness (if this is even a word). Even we adults will not curve the truth with these ones. And yet, answers to these questions probably reveal a lot about a person. In the modern world it is comparable to the browser history - if you want to learn about your friend's likes and dislikes just have a glimpse or two to his or her bookmarks and history.

So, let's start the interview in that fashion. Here it goes:

Do It Yourself

Languages always change when we change. Evolutionary speaking and over long period of time. Especially when we mix with others or change environment and move to different places. English is perfect example - perhaps it is the only language spoken with that many variations created from country to country, all over the world, from New Zealand throughout India toward Canada and even in those places on Earth where it is not language number one. Believe it or not, there are thousands of spoken languages throughout our planet today and with people migration over eons, mixing multiple languages into new ones are well recorded in our history. New languages created in that fashion are well known as creoles, most of them connected to the recent colonialism when two cultures or more collided for a longer period in time. Perhaps the most known of them all (and spoken by most of their population) are Haitian, Jamaican and Hawaiian creoles - mixture of French (Haiti) and English (Jamaica and Hawaii) base with influences of other European languages (Spanish and Portuguese), West African, and domestic. But there are other type of creoles - i.e. in the literature and movies (somebody thought Klingon?), perhaps the coolest of them all is Belter Creole (The Expanse series) invented by Nick Farmer* with words taken from English, Chinese, Hebrew, Persian and dozen more. For example "Den ta desh lik bodzha" in belter means, if I am not mistaken and from the context, something like "It looked like a big explosion".


But we don't need to go that far into history or fiction. Within only couple of decades of the internet, in the world of abbreviations and acronyms we, even today, need extra vocabulary power to understand the urban slang and new words in written context. Let me 'invent' a sentence from the modern technocracy - "Dude, diy asap. Btw afaik, * is in faq! Yolo man!". And this is the translation: "Dude, do it yourself as soon as possible. By the way, as far as I know, everything is in 'frequently asked questions'! You only live once, man!".

Ok, after perhaps too long and utterly unnecessary introduction which is probably more suitable for some other topics, let's talk in this post, or to better say let's watch, about one of the new internet words. DIY. In realm of home science experiments published on YouTube. By zviktor22 and mpj. Well.. us.. Viktor and me.


So, enough about languages at least for now and let's dive into YouTube phenomenon in latest years with series of DIY videos published by many youtubers in various fields. We, kind of, started with this even earlier with our "Little Chef", cooking thread and it was only logical to, by following our host age, go into other waters as well. DIY was practically waiting for us to start and with these three video clips we are introducing new playlist in zviktor22 YouTube channel and new thread on this blog. Of course, both of us didn't want just to copy similar clips on the net so we established a rule that in order to publish, it is mandatory to add our own twist or change of recipe or something new that wasn't done before.

Game of Life - The Graphic Novel

Game of Life is an old news, yes, but from time to time I get some feedback or thoughts regarding the script and the film overall but last friday I stumbled to something special that forced me to relive the film once more. It was an extraordinary comic book creator called "Comic Life", made by plasq development company which gave me genuine pleasure last entire weekend. I was looking for a comic book related application before and even tried couple of them but they were all way below Comic Life and all the features it offers. I was immediately hooked by its nativity and simplicity and instantly thought about our short film. After very little hesitation I decided to give it a try and the result is sort of "Game of Life" made by "Comic (of) Life". After all, I had everything, the script, the video file and the free time last weekend and to create a comic book out of it was pretty straightforward.

What I did was to open Game of Life in VLC player and to take couple of screenshots in order to import them into "Comic Life" and the rest is in this post. Well, soon after, couple of screenshots turned into dozens and dozens into exactly 195 images but it all was worth the effort. Actually it wasn't without little post processing but I enjoyed it all the way. Last night we went to laser print the first copy and here it is below in Viktor's hands and in following preview (it needs some time to load).

Zeus Is Dead

After, relatively speaking and with modest human reasoning, long time spent on this Earth, the most of what I have learned about people, is that they follow their passion to the end. No matter what. It's like it is written in our DNA and cannot be altered. Not even a millimeter or less. For instance, I remember one small conversation with one of my friends, or acquaintances, to use more accurate business vocabulary, about decade ago while we shared one business trip. It was a long drive with just two of us that couldn't sustain business talk all the way and eventually it curved into other topics like usual and unavoidable political, religious and philosophic subjects, and in this case between two differently wired minds. I can't really remember the entire stream of discussion but it all started with me, when, by following my own passion, I tried to use all of my oral skills to describe how I see the future of democracy. After awhile, when I finished with 'all of the political wisdom', all what I've got in return, without much consideration, was "Meh, if you ask me, the only political system that could work is theocracy. Everything else is bogus and temporary."


For a brief moment, I considered how would that be like. Surely with this mortal world we are living in and god present only in the book, spirit and stories, it is not really possible. It would require the actual deity to be around in real physical form and be recognized as the ultimate king or emperor without any doubts. Then, he or she or it or them or whatever would appoint the most valuable worshipers in his or hers or its or theirs or whatever priestly order for presidents, popes, ministries, secretaries and other governmental stuff. In all countries. So, after short consideration, it was my turn to say "Meh". So I did. I pretty much didn't say anything else on the topic so the conversation about worldwide politics (and religion) died out pretty soon after. In situations like this it is always best to find the mutual ground so we got back into business talk again and discussed more how to write some software in order to get more money from some new clients. He had some ideas of how to get more of them (clients and money) from political institutions, ministry offices and local municipalities. He said they like to buy things they rarely use and they have lots of money. He got a point there. I didn't object.

Hmm, ok, that was a little bit long introduction to the post story that was intended to be just, sort of, a book review, but, it was somewhat related to the subject and I thought it would be appropriate opening for the rest of the text. Anyhow, what I said so far was indeed based on real events for sure and real people for that matter, including me, but I might of stretched several conversations into just one road trip event and it probably look more to the fictitious chat of the sort. So to speak. Well, sometimes and nevertheless, the thin line between fiction and nonfiction is not really visible at once but in the case of Michael G. Munz's amazing novel called 'Zeus Is Dead: A Monstrously Inconvenient Adventure' one would say it is all about fiction and laugh out loud (LOL) moments. And yes, it is all about fictitious theocracy within nowadays modern world, created by Olympian gods when they returned from their withdrawal after more than two thousand years with all of their entourage and got back to the active and mutual life with mortals and worshippers. Which means us on the ground. And they returned with a twist.


But, before I continue with the actual glimpse to the book itself, I think I need to write a word of two about the photo I embedded above, which might be interesting to read. This is in fact the mount of Olympus. The most famous mountain in the entire world. The mighty one. It is not the highest of them all - just slightly lower than 3K meters and not even the highest in the entire Balkans, but it was the one chosen by gods to built their own abode, during their first episode in ancient times. Sitting just next to Aegean Sea, it is the first sight you see when you travel from Thessaloniki to Athens in nowadays Greece. I took this image in 2010, from the beach in the sea resort of Leptokarya, described by Wikipedia as "the former seat of East Olympos municipality, which is part of the municipality of Dio-Olympos", whatever that means. During my countless visits of northern Greece in past several decades, and all of them during summer holidays, believe it or not, all of my Olympus photographs ended with similar heavy stream of clouds above mountain peaks. It is like the Olympus is always hidden by clouds by some weird meteorological reasons. Well, that was not entirely true as I have seen the Olympus naked in the occasion or two, but still it was not often. It's like Olympus is attracting the clouds and capturing them to stay and hide it's peaks. At least almost every time I was traveling the area or visiting the region.

To be completely honest, once I have even visited Olympus myself, when I was about 10 years old or little older, during our vacation in the region with my parents in eighties of the previous century. There was a dirt road ending very near to one of its peaks, where we visited one of the rare taverns that can really print on its portfolio that was built on the top of gods' heavenly entrances. For some fairly strange reasons, Coca Cola and gyros on the tavern's terrace felt really tasty, just as the pure and clean water from the water stream just next to it. Unfortunately and despite of all of my efforts, I couldn't see or find anything divine or out of worldly items or even a glowing shiny rock. There were no gods whatsoever. Or naked muses. Or beasts with snakes instead of hair. Or horses with wings. Or mighty heroes. Nothing. Well, I was only 10 years old. What did I know.. Maybe that pair of hawks we saw flying around the highes rock across the tavern and screeching in high tones were actually Apollo and Artemis arguing about something.

On the other end, it might be that I visited Olympus during gods' withdrawal. Way too early...


In the meantime I learned a great deal about divine and what is the most interesting about old Greek gods, compared to all of the modern religions of today is that their godhood was not that estranged from their creation like it is now the case with all of those Jerusalem monotheistic beliefs. Greek gods loved to mingle with mortals. And by mingle, you know what I mean, which is especially true with Zeus (probably Dionysis too). In fact, within the opening chapters of the novel, Apollo defined it best when he said that "Gods are just like mortals, only ... better." And that means with everything that we can use to describe ordinary people, including conspiracies, hatred, intelligence, stupidity, love, sex, affairs, ... It's like the Greek gods possess everything good and bad we mortals experience on daily bases, only theirs is enhanced and powered off the charts. And of course, they could change appearances into hawks.. and to do other magical stuff.

So, by establishing that we can safely say that all the gods in the "Zeus Is Dead: A Monstrously Inconvenient Adventure" are more than just divine creatures. They are active characters in the story and along with amazing Michael's narrative, that is playing with the reader on numerous occasions are something that gives this book, at least for me, the originality I have never experienced before. The humor is everywhere, especially in the narrative, that on many points require fair amount of reader's geekery and knowledge of ancient mythology. Further lol moments come from the characters directly, either the mortal or divine, especially Leif and Thalia but not only them - I found myself in numerous chuckles between loud laughters even in dialogues and actions of the mighty gods who reminded me of the old and good english humor in Monty Python series. It was really good read and I recommend it warmly. If I had to cut just one star out of five for this book (which I didn't), it could be because of the god-icecream and god-tree - it was little too much and perhaps not that necessary for the story but on the other end, the moment when Jerry (the talking tree, before Zeus turn it into god) met the chainsaw was one of those hilarious moments that gave me true entertainment, just like I wanted in the first place when I clicked on the purchase button, secretly hoping for a genuine fun I was looking for after numerous 'serious' thrillers and dystopian novels I read in previous months. It was refreshing and I will definitely browse for more and the first stop would definitely be Michael G. Munz's website. For the upcoming sequel.

Zeus Is Dead: A Monstrously Inconvenient Adventure
http://michaelgmunz.com/books/zeus/

Resurrection, Holy Grail and Dark Matter

Let me ask you a hypothetical question. What would you first type into time machine if you had one? Would it be some date in the past or in distant future? Would you go to meet neandertals or perhaps to take a photo of a T-Rex family from the distance? Or perhaps you'd go to see some historically relevant times or to meet famous people from the past? Well, there is no doubt for me - one of my first time travels would definitely be 33AD, April 1st. The time of Christ and his last days, the time of the last supper, his death and resurrection. I have no idea how would I be able to hide my Nikon and smartphone but I am sure I would find a way. Every tourist trip requires a camera, doesn't it? However there would be other challenges, and in this case, even if I would try to dress accordingly and mingled into crowd, understanding old Aramaic which was spoken by most of Jesus followers or old Hebrew, Latin or Greek used officially among Jewish people or within Roman administration and army would be pretty hard. But it would not be really impossible to understand what really happened with Jesus Christ in those couple of days even without knowledge of old languages.


The Last Supper by Fritz von Uhde*

Indeed, it would be one amazing trip, but in reality, building such time machine is pretty much impossible according to all we know about how our universe works. On the other hand we have one equally powerful tool we can use to explain different events and not just those placed in old history. The name of the tool is Occam's razor and basically it is one great principle in philosophy and science stating that the most simplest explanation of some event is usually the right one. Sure, it's not the real tool per se, but in many occasions and events it's the only one we got. Let's try it with 'Last Supper' - which table order is more simplest and more probable - the one coined by Leonardo da Vinci with Christ and all apostles sitting by just one side of the long table in a large chamber, almost like they were posing for some time tourist photo, or the more modest one in more modest room with all of them occupying entire smaller table, like in above Fritz von Uhde painting? There is no doubt that Occam's razor is winning this one big time and that Fritz is way more accurate with portraying this event. Simply put, Leonardo made it too complex to the point of being truly not real.

Should I dare to try Occam's razor with the resurrection as well? I guess it might go beyond pristine politeness, considering that one of the major worldwide religion was hugely based on that single event but still, if we test it on crucifixion and events after it, especially during Sabbath and within the tomb, bribing Roman guards, if there were any, and stealing the body looks like the most simplest explanation of the entire event. Adding divine element along with the fact that genuine Jewish beliefs went without single disturbance by entire occurrence is what seems to be way too complex explanation.


The Resurrection Maker, King Arthur and Sagrada Familia

But to be completely fair, Occam's razor allows complex explanation to be the right one too, but only when it's describing the event and all of its aspects better than the simple one. I am not sure if this is the case here but if you think that divine explanation is the only complex one for the resurrection of Jesus, you will be very wrong. Yesterday I finished a novel called "The Resurrection Maker" by Glenn Cooper and believe it or not he pretty successfully tried to merge the divine with exotic science and the most mysterious property of the universe we know as dark matter. If you add to the plot an extraordinary history thriller with characters as big as King Arthur and Antoni Gaudi themselves then this is one bit of fictitious work that deserves not to be missed.

Basically, I intended for this post to be a book review of the sort but I also want to keep my reviews relatively free of spoilers and I found that if I continue with this one by entering into plot and twists it would be not entirely possible without thorough dive into dark matter and dark energy physics along with details from the novel, so ultimately I decided to write about it later this year, maybe in my next post. Regarding the book and especially because it is already presented by Glenn Cooper in his prologue and also relieved by the book's title and cover, I can tell you this much - the basic motive behind the story is about the idea that holy grail, or to be precise holy chalice, used by Jesus and his disciples during last supper, was made out of the exotic alloy, created in early stage of the universe out of ordinary and dark matter combined. The author speculates with superstring theories and one of its properties of multidimensionality and multiverse and with fictitious possibility to use this alloy in order to create a breach between our universe and the next one floating close to ours, within vast and probably infinite multiverse void. At this point of understanding the physics of dark matter or to better say of not understanding what it really is, the void in the knowledge is providing novelists this kind of freedom to use it to describe legends, myths and stories from ancient history and Glenn Cooper did the great job with this book. Not perfect I dare to say, especially in the realm of predictivity of the story and how the novel ends, but I fully get him why he created the ending like he did. If he dared to try to explain even more about how one resurrection maker really works it would take him into even more speculative writing and this could be too much for one science fiction thriller what this book in the end represents.


Alleged tomb of Jesus under the church of the Holy Sepulchre

One thing is for sure, if I get to the Occam's razor again and looked the resurrection explanation in this book, it is indeed one hack of the complex solution for this historical event. Honestly, if I would have to create alternative ending for "The Resurrection Maker", I think I would definitely change how the portal works and perhaps create better explanation for why Jesus staid forty days on Earth after resurrection and before his final ascension to the heaven, or in this case another universe on the other side of the portal. Nevertheless and regardless of what I think of, it looks like there is no way to simplify the story to the point of being acceptable for the Occam's razor and it is definitely way too complex and walks on the edge of impossibility, to say the least. Which is completely opposite if we are talking about entertainment and educational aspect of the book and for both of them it deserves full five stars.

Her Last Day

I loved her.

I still do. With everything I've got. Ever since that cloudy day four years ago when we met in the park. Ever since I realized she was the one I was looking for my whole life and after she shared her heart and her entire life with me. Ever since I moved into her place a week after we accidentally jogged into each other.

And look at me now under this eerie rain... Standing on her grave. Alone and wet. I don't know what to do. She would be alive if it wasn't for me.

It was all my fault.

That day I was returning from my afternoon walk and saw Garry, the mailman, from across the street just leaving our building. I hurried back. When I entered our apartment she already opened the envelope and the bottle of red wine. With the glass half empty she saw me, gave me tired smile and pointed the letter on the floor.

"It's another rejection.. Oh, Husk.. I am not sure I can handle them anymore". She made one of those heavy sighs she started with in recent months and looked into the glass. "Ever since I got fired from the Tribune all my handwritings and all the scripts were rejected... All of them... By everyone." She looked exhausted and beyond sadness when she finally raised her head and stared at me. "You have beautiful eyes. You know that, don't you?"

It was not the first time she was acting like this. I always tried to comfort her. To give her hope. But today, I didn't do much. I looked at her gently and then the glass. She gave me little surrender smile, wiped the tears and went to the kitchen. With the bottle in one hand and the glass in another. "I need to prepare something. Bruce is coming to dinner." She turned and gave me that threatening look when I was about to react harshly, like I always did in situations like that. "And please behave this time. You know that he's my former supervisor at the Tribune. I need this... Maybe he is my only chance. I spent all the bright ideas... I am not sending any more letters. Not anymore."

I knew all too well that Bruce was not only her former supervisor. He was the one who fired her. He was also her ex. I hated him. There was something in him I never manage to comprehend. His eyes, his behaviour, his moves, his vague rhetorics. His fragrance. There was nothing compelling about him. He was just one of those bullies in suits. A bad man. I almost exploded at him last time. I couldn't risk another scene today so I went for a dinner downtown. I wanted to slam the door on my way out. Hard. I couldn't do it.

I couldn't eat much as well. I lost all my appetite and took a long walk before I got back. I knew he already left and I just wanted to avoid her tonight and leave explanations for next morning but at the door I realized something bad happened even before I came in. In the dining room were broken glasses, spilled wine, shattered vase and her bloody face behind her hands. She was sitting in the corner and sobbed silently. I couldn't breath. He hit her. Bad. I should've known this would happen. I was so stupid. The rage started to boil in my veins. Why did I leave in the first place? I had to be here to protect her. Maybe it's not too late. I turned toward the door and made a step.

"Stop." She cried. "Husk, no. Don't go. He's not worth it. Please..."

I went anyway.

I chased him for three blocks in all directions before I gave up. He probably took a cab or came with a car, otherwise he couldn't outrun me. Not after what I have just seen. The running calmed me down enough so I turned back and hurried home. I wanted to be there for her. I hoped that would be enough.

But she wasn't there. She didn't take anything with her. Not the jacket, nor the phone. Not even the shoes. The door was wide open and I saw the blood stains on the hallway walls here and there. She left enough trace to follow her path. But I didn't need anything to know where she went. The place where I found her last time. I hurried like hell. I needed to find her on time. Before it could be too late. Before...

I ran faster.

When I passed second building to the south and reached dark alley in the back, I found her sitting against the wall. She was already dead. I was not fast enough. Syringe and the spoon were fallen next to her and the rubber band tangled in her palm. She was looking at me with her open eyes for the last time. I froze. I didn't know what to do. I just sat next to her.

It was all my fault.

I loved her. All the way and all too much.

I still do.

So, here I am, standing on her grave on this eerie day. The rain had stopped. I still don't know what to do. I failed her. I should have been... Better. But I wasn't.

The life today was like this dark rain. It came to an end. So I just lay down on the grave, put my head on my paws and closed my eyes.


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