East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai

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First day of the new year

Last night I celebrated the end of 2020 by cutting my left thumb while I was chopping an onion – nothing major, thank goodness, but it led me to spend the last hours of the year reflecting on two important issues

  • first, it is important to always have a well stocked first aid kit at home, especially if the closest emergency ward is 25 KMs away
  • second, we often underestimate the usefulness of our off-hand’s thumb

Apart from this, one hour before the end (or the beginning), I also got a five-star review for my first Garr the Cunning novella, and a royalty payment notification for The House of the Gods, my dinosaur novel.
It was a good way to end 2020 and start 2021.
Well, apart from the plaster-wrapped thumb, that is.

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Into the third decade

Something that struck me a few moments ago, while I was trying to put some order on my hard disk in preparation for a system update and some other administratrivia, is that in little more than ten days we’ll be in 2021 – the beginning of a whole new decade.
The third decade of the twenty-first century.

It probably comes from all those c heap movies I watched as a kid (and I still watch – sue me), those adventures set in the far future of 1997, 2001, 2018, but the idea of being going into the third decade of the century gave me a sort of shiver.
The future, so far, has failed to deliver much on the old promises – unless of course you were counting on the promises of cyberpunk. Those have been fulfilled with chilling earnestness.

In the 3rd decade of the 21st century, I will enter my 6th decade – at the same age, my father retired, my grandfather too. They were old men.
And now not only I do not feel like an old man, but of course I cannot retire.
My parents would have never imagined such a state of affairs. Still in the early years of the 21st century, they were the “regular 9-to-5 job” sort of people; the “why can’t you settle down and buy a house” people; they had been born when the nation was at war, had gone through the 1968 youth revolts, they had seen the TV been born, go from black and white to color, from 1 channel to 20, from 5pm-10pm to 24/7. They had witnessed terrorism and political scandal and more wars. Men had walked on the moon, computers had become commonplace in the workplace and in homes.
And yet they still expected the system would work the way it had worked for their fathers.
Finish school, find a job as a clerk, copying by hand old bills for thirty years while you build your retirement.
“Why do you waste your time playing with that computer instead of doing something real?”
I was not convinced, but of course I was the kid who read science fiction instead of “realistic stories”, and when I tried to explain that things would be different I caused great concerns in my family.
Why couldn’t I be normal?
Why had I to be such a disappointment?

And they had a long list of friends’ children that were “OK”.
Good office work, steady girlfriends, then a family, children, a dog…
In the last twenty years I’ve seen those OK kids be ground into fine powder and blown away – families exploded, jobs lost, lots of money spent on counselling and psychological assistance, their children leaving without a word, their dogs suing them for alimony.
For me and my brother’s been equally hard, but who knows, maybe because we did not have anything “normal”, we could not lose that.

And now here I am, going into the third decade of the 21st century – my parents, and their parents before them, had a solid body of unshakable certainties, while I do not know what will happen next.
But they were wrong.
Let’s see what hand is dealt to us next.