Completelynovel.com is closing down

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Completelynovel.com, the self-publishing platform for indie authors on which I published my debut novel three years ago, will be closing down by the end of August this year.

[Sentimental chapters skipped.]

I guess that it is time for me to wake up from my fanciful dream of pursuing a writing career.

 

Debut Novel Published

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I have published my debut novel “Enlightenment”, the fruit of years of hard work, on completelynovel.com, a self-publishing platform for indie authors.

Basic information of the book is listed here.

The entire story has around 104,000 words.

I am counting on the book to turn things around for me. See how it goes.

Cheers!

No More Free Lunch

2

No More Free Lunch

Last night my landlord informed me of a big rent rise (over 16%), effective next month. Coupled with the depressing truth that most, if not all, of my “current” tutees will be attending boarding schools overseas in the coming academic year (starting September), this bad news was really hard for me to swallow. I have no choice but to seriously consider moving to elsewhere — somewhere less expensive — again.

On the average it takes me three to five days to compose, edit, and apply the finishing touch to a typical 1200-word essay that I publish here every month. And I have been doing so for over three years — dating back to my old blog (if you know where it is). Other than showing off my superb creativity and practical writing skills, these essays, the fruits of my painstaking efforts, do not bring me any tangible returns.

I wonder if I were to charge my blog visitors, how many of them would be willing to pay?

Answer: Not a single soul. Sad but true, I know.

Consequently, I have to make a tough decision. The coming essay, to be published here on the First of September, will be the last.

Make no mistake. I will keep writing creative essays — at least I will try to finish all the remaining episodes in the Vocabulary Series (VExx) — but it is extremely unlikely that they will be published here. Even if they are, they will not be publicly viewable.

Therefore, if you visit my blog once a month JUST to enjoy some FREE leisure reading, you need not come back after September. Otherwise, you may still see, from time to time, some latest news about me here.

YONG SIR

VE18

4

The noun “fruition” refers to something that is made tangible or real, or simply “realization”.

[Please refer to my previous essay VE17 for part three of this story.]

After an uncountable number of trials, Beacon, utterly perplexed, finally accumulated enough energy to open his eyes. When his brain got the originally-blurred image of the surroundings focused, he realized that he was in a single-bed hospital ward. His dream girl, Wiesława Neumann, was sleeping on the couch next to his bed.

Beacon: Wiesława, are you awake?

Beacon’s low voice was like an electric shock penetrating Neumann’s brain. Instantly Neumann woke up — in a dubious manner.

Neumann: Beacon, you are awake! This is unbelievable! I thought that you might never wake up.

Beacon: How long have I been in a coma?

Neumann: Almost a week. Today is December 31st, the New Year’s Eve.

Beacon: Was I seriously injured? Right now I just feel a little bit of headache; otherwise I do not feel any pain.

Neumann: Your car was torn apart by the garbage truck — literally. You got thrown out of the car and hit a tree trunk head-on. I … I am so sorry ….

Neumann burst into tears and could not carry on ….

Beacon: Sorry for what? The traffic accident was not your fault.

Neumann: I should not have allowed you to come to my place under such appalling weather conditions. I almost got you killed. It was my fault.

Beacon: Wiesława, you should not have blamed yourself. I am an adult; I am responsible for the consequences of my own actions. I was so eager to come to your place then. And I ignored every single safety rule. The accident was caused by my ignorance and negligence. It was my fault.

Neumann: Do not be so hard on yourself.

Beacon: Did anyone else get hurt?

Neumann: The truck driver suffered some minor cuts and bruises. Other than the two of you, there was no-one on the road at the time of the accident.

Beacon: Mother nature, thank you so much.

Neumann: The doctors said you hardly had a scratch but suffered a serious concussion. That was why you lost your consciousness for so many days.

Beacon: I was hit by a truck sideways but did not get a single scratch. Was that incredible?

Neumann: Maybe you were blessed and thus protected. But there was one piece of bad news.

Beacon: What was it?

Neumann: One of your cats, Mizar, passed away, probably on the night of the accident, your parents told me.

Beacon: Oh no! Mizar is dead. He … he must have traded his life for mine. Gosh, I owed him ….

Neumann: I am terribly sorry for your loss.

Beacon: How about my parents? Are they alright?

Neumann: Do not worry. Your parents are okay. Speaking of them, they have visited you every single day since they returned from vacation. They were here about two hours ago.

Beacon: And you have been here the entire time since the accident. Right?

Neumann: Yes. I … I felt guilty.

Beacon: I am so sorry that our first date turned out this way.

Neumann: It was part of our shared destiny, I guess.

Beacon: Wiesława, if my life was a drama, would you like to be its prima donna?

Neumann: I would love to, Beacon.

Beacon gently placed his hand on Neumann’s face. Neumann smiled and then closed her eyes.

Without hesitation, Beacon kissed Neumann on her lips.

That appeared to be the perfect fruition of the secretly-hidden romantic context of the scorching eternal flame in Beacon’s heart.

Finally Beacon could open a new chapter of his life with his long-sought soul-mate in the impending new year.

But then … Beacon had some strange feelings; he felt like kissing a fur!

Beacon abruptly woke up. He found himself kissing the tender fur at the back of a red cat. It was Mizar; the Garden Ranger was still alive, thanks to mother nature.

Upon further inspection, Beacon realized that he was lying on the couch with all of his little tigers. Fire in the warm-keeping oven was burning steadily, and there were a few spare firewood logs beside the oven — as usual.

Beacon, still holding the tablet in his hand, knew that he must have fallen asleep after reading those enormously-boring essays written by his arrogant pen-pal who always liked to show off his pathetically-minimal creativity. Everything that happened earlier was just a random mix of two substrates: a nightmare and a sweet dream.

Even though Beacon was a bit disappointed, he must admit that those lullaby-like essays had evoked an astonishing and soul-stirring effect on him: the fire in his lonely heart was burning more vigorously than ever. What he liked most about those writings was the author’s spellbound ability to develop an integrated fiction using just the bits and pieces of a couple of his online posts. To him, such an exquisite talent in creative writing was simply beyond comprehension. Privately, he felt divinely-blessed to have such a charming acquaintance.

Beacon decided to return a favor to his online pen-pal. He planned to use his newly-bought tablet, which possessed high-definition video-recording capabilities, to capture his fantastic dance moves, and then proudly show his devoted pen-friend the “exotic” video!

After setting up all the technical gadgets, Beacon got changed. He was now wearing some eye-catching brightly-colored costume of native Africans. But right before the actual recording, he noticed that he had got a new email message entitled “Long Time No See”. And most astoundingly it was sent from Wiesława Neumann, his dream girl, who had got every feminine characteristic appealing to him most.

At first Beacon was in delirium, but soon he regained his equanimity. He had still got an agonizing memory of the haunting proverb: “Felicity brings calamity.”

So, Beacon took a deep breath. But his heart was still beating at twice the normal rate.

“Should I open the message right away? Should I wait a couple of days? Should I just ignore it? Should I ….”

Beacon was in a self-inflicted dilemma.

Then the gifted Garden Ranger that seemed to have read the perplexing mind of his master deftly jumped onto Beacon’s arms and accidentally clicked open the fantasy-provoking electronic mail.

[The End]

(1075 words)

P.S. I hereby wish my devoted online pen-pal, Mr Beacon, a prosperous new year — in which he is definitely going to find the dream girl for his lifelong journey! 😉

VE17

2

The noun “felicity” refers to a state of extreme happiness, or a source of blissfulness.

[Please refer to my previous essay VE16 for part two of this story.]

Mizar: No more hesitation, Master. It is now or never!

Beacon: But … it is getting late. I should give her a call tomorrow.

Mizar: No time is a good time. Trust me: Christmas Eve is the perfect moment to jump-start a relationship!

Beacon: Okay! Right now I am going to give it a shot — the one and only shot!

Mizar: Fantastic. I wish you the best of luck. Goodbye, Master.

Beacon: Wait … wait a second ….

The entire body of Mizar glowed golden yellow, again. Beacon had to temporarily close his eyes to deny the potent irradiation.

Seconds later, everything returned to normal. Mizar, intact, was sleeping on the floor right in front of the warm-keeping oven, as he usually did.

Knowing that Gabriel, the messenger sent by mother nature, had left, Beacon realized that he had to do it on his own and had to do it right away! The love fire in his lonely heart was burning more ferociously than ever; he now had only one thing in mind: Show his dream girl the secretly-hidden romantic context of that eternal flame!

Beacon took a deep breath. Then he picked up the phone and made the most important call in his life ….

Neumann: Hello.

Beacon: Hello, may I speak to Wiesława Neumann please?

Neumann: Speaking. Who is this?

Beacon: This is Beacon. Remember me?

Neumann: Of course. You are the IT guy that developed our Personnel Database Information System almost a decade ago. And I remember seeing you a couple of times in our Youth Center for system upgrades over the past few years. Right?

Beacon: Yes, I am glad that you do remember me.

Neumann: So, what is up?

Beacon: Sorry for my intruding question. But … do you have any plans for the coming Christmas holidays?

Neumann: No. Nor do I have any plans for tonight, the Christmas Eve. Actually I am home alone right now.

Beacon: Really? Where are your family members?

Neumann: I am the only child. And my parents are on vacation to celebrate their wedding anniversary.

Beacon: What a double-coincidence!

Neumann: You are the only child in your family, and your parents are on vacation too?

Beacon: Exactly!

Neumann: Then I guess you are also home alone.

Beacon: Bingo!

Neumann: What a triple-coincidence!

Beacon: You have got a sense of humor!

Neumann: I will wholeheartedly take your remark as a compliment.

Beacon: Well, since we are both members of the “Home Alone Club”, may I dare to suggest that we spend some time together?

Neumann: Yes. I would love to. How about tomorrow morning at the City Hall? We can certainly enjoy the festive atmosphere there.

Beacon: Hmm …. I cannot wait any longer. How about right now?

Neumann: You are so funny. Well, the weather outside looks dreadful, and it is getting late.

Beacon: It does not matter at all. I can drive to your place within 15 minutes.

Neumann: Come to my place in 15 minutes? How did you know my residential address?

Beacon: Hmm … I must admit that I acquired your address, which is, of course, confidential information, … kind of … illegally ….

Neumann: Through our Personnel Database Information System, right?

Beacon: You are smart. I am terribly sorry.

Neumann: Then I guess you have been having a crush on me for quite some time. Right?

Beacon: Definitely.

Neumann: Let me tell you something, something that I have never told anyone before.

Beacon: What is it?

Neumann: It is a story about a teenage girl having a crush on a young man. It was one fine holiday in early Autumn back in 1995. The weather was so perfect that a teenage girl and her classmates decided to go biking together in the countryside. They did so many fun activities: chatting, chasing, scene-visiting, photographing, and so forth. They had a really, really great time. But the most unforgettable memory of the bike trip was the shining image of a slender young man, without mustache, posing, in a cool manner, on a huge rock. The girl had to confess that he was a genuinely-handsome hunt! He looked pretty like the lead male character of the music video of an extremely-popular ballad back in the early 1990s. Even though she had only a glimpse at him, her heart almost stopped at that split second. She believed that such an “exotic” experience was — what people called — love at first sight.

Beacon: I do not want to jump to any conclusion here. But my intuition suggested that you were the teenage girl and I was the young man in the aforementioned story. Correct?

Neumann: Affirmative. You are brilliant. You know, I recognized you right away when you first came to our Youth Center on the system project about a decade ago, despite the presence of your sexually-appealing mustache and the noticably-different build. Again, my heart almost stopped. But I felt too embarrassed to take the initiative to break the ice with my dream man in the work place. Thus I just said a routine “hello” when our center supervisor introduced you to the colleagues.

Beacon: I am your dream man. Well, I am truly flattered.

Neumann: Maybe we are meant to be together; perhaps we are star-crossed lovers.

Beacon: Is that a line from a poem? You are so romantic.

Neumann: Thank you for your kind remarks.

Beacon: Wiesława, could I come to your place — I mean — right now?

Neumann: 100% yes! Be careful and drive safely.

Beacon: See you in 15 minutes!

Neumann: See you.

Beacon, in seventh heaven, embarked a short voyage to his love nest. Seat belts, red lights, and safety rules were all behind him. Under such scaring weather conditions, the traffic was understandably-light. His chariot sped through two-thirds of the journey in less than 5 minutes. He could almost see the destination with his naked eyes. But then ….

Bang! A garbage truck, out of thin air, violently hit Beacon’s car sideways at a crossroad. Everything blacked out; it was a complete silence.

Precisely at the instant the truck hit Beacon’s car, Mizar, comfortably lying on the floor before the warm-keeping oven, suddenly suffered a heart attack and died right away.

Proverbs are usually true: “Felicity brings calamity.”

[To be continued.]

(1098 words)

VE16

2

The adjective “feminine”, an antonym of “masculine”, means “characteristic of a mature woman”.

[Please refer to my previous essay VE15 for part one of this story.]

Mizar: Master, I just started learning Latin; I am a beginner.

Beacon: Mizar, you are not only multilingual but also hilarious!

Mizar: I will wholeheartedly take your remark as a compliment.

Beacon: You are now officially the main character of the story!

Mizar: What story?

Beacon: The story about a cat capable of speaking human languages.

Mizar: I got it. Master, you are hilarious, too!

Beacon: Let us get to the point. Who are you exactly? I do not think you are simply the Latin-speaking version of Mizar!

Mizar: Would you like to make a wild guess?

Beacon: Would you like to answer my question right away?

Mizar: You seem a little tense. Sit back and relax.

Beacon: Answer my question now.

Mizar: Okay. Please keep an open mind.

Beacon: Of course. Go ahead.

Mizar: According to an age-old myth in your culture, pets — in special and rare occasions — are believed to speak human languages. Have you heard of it?

Beacon: Yes.

Mizar: Fantastic. The myth says only a tiny proportion of the pet-lovers are allowed to communicate with their lovely angels in their mother tongue. And those chosen individuals have one thing in common: they all possess scintillating intellect.

Beacon: You are implying I have got a cosmos-towering brain.

Mizar: Exactly.

Beacon: Thank you for your compliment. But the truth is that I am no genius and my brain is just so-so.

Mizar: You need not be so modest.

Beacon: Well, I am simply telling the truth. Could you please stop throwing urban legends like that at me?

Mizar: Fine. Here is the truth. My name is Gabriel. I am a messenger sent by mother nature.

Beacon: A messenger sent by mother nature?

Mizar: Yes. I can show you my digital ID.

Beacon: Very funny. How can I possibly verify your identity? Download your public key from the Internet and then decrypt your message with it?

Mizar: You have the utmost potential to be an outstanding comedian.

Beacon: Thanks. Seriously, are you using the body of Mizar as a vessel or something like that?

Mizar: You are genuinely smart.

Beacon: Please do not hurt my cat.

Mizar: Do not worry. Nothing is going to happen to your cat.

Beacon: Then what are you doing here exactly?

Mizar: I am here to help you tackle the most challenging conundrum in your life.

Beacon: Really? What is it?

Mizar: Seeking your best half.

Beacon: What? You are here to help me find a girlfriend?

Mizar: Affirmative.

Beacon: That means you are a matchmaker.

Mizar: You could say that.

Beacon: I would never have thought of it. Mother nature sent you to set me up on a blind date. This is utterly incredible!

Mizar: That is not entirely correct. It will not be a blind date. You know the girl — very well.

Beacon: Very intriguing. What is her name?

Mizar: Wiesława Neumann. She is your dream girl. Correct?

Beacon: I … do not know … what to say — you just hit the bull’s-eye.

Mizar: Chill, Master. Speaking of your dream girl, I must say she is a real catch. For one thing, she has a beautiful name: Wiesława means “great glory” or “all glory” and Neumann is the family name of your all-time idol, the founder of game theory. Besides, she has got all the feminine characteristics appealing to you most: a broad hip and a pair of sexy legs. Last but not least, her authentic voice sounds almost identical to that of your favorite songstress.

Beacon: Gosh, you just made me blush.

Mizar: I am sorry that I am going to make your cheeks even rosier. You have been having a crush on her since you met her on a freelance project almost a decade ago. You wanted to ask her out on a date but did not know how to break the ice with her. Right?

Beacon: Yes, you are right on every single word you just said. But … how did you know so much … about me?

Mizar: That is classified information, I am afraid.

Beacon: Then … are you going to help me?

Mizar: Certainly. That is why I am here.

Beacon: What should I do?

Mizar: We have been chatting for almost ten minutes in subzero temperatures. I feel a little bit cold. Could we go inside first?

Beacon: Sure. Let me quickly grab some fresh logs. Please go inside.

The almost-extinguished fire in the warm-keeping oven got re-ignited with the refilled wood logs.

Beacon: Should I get you something to eat?

Mizar: A hamburger and some French fries would be great.

Beacon: What? I thought you would want some salmon.

Mizar: I was just kidding. In fact, I do not feel hungry. But I guess Mizar does want some salmon. So, let me get the job done as soon as possible and then leave Mizar alone.

Beacon: That is a good idea.

Mizar: Master, please listen to my love advice very carefully, as it holds the key to drastically change your life — for the better. You need a diminutive bit of courage, and you should not be afraid of making mistakes. Breaking the ice with your dream girl is not an exact science, it is an art. You should temporarily forget everything that you learned in game theory — trying to minimize your maximum losses would not help at all! Instead, you should memorize all those romantic quotes found in many of the creative essays written by your pen-pal, a man of honor, who has been trying his very best to help you with your stagnant love situation; you should attempt to apply them when the right moment comes.

Beacon: That sounds pretty easy. I believe I can handle it.

Mizar: You can, I am sure. Pick up the phone right now and give her a call.

Beacon: Right now? Hmm ….

[To be continued.]

(1033 words)

VE15

2

The noun “equanimity” refers to composure under pressure, mental/emotional stability, or simply “cool”.

It was a freezing Christmas Eve. The temperatures in rural areas plummeted to as low as minus 26 degrees Celsius because of a staggering snow storm. Everywhere was covered by a thick stack of uninvited silvery-white snow. In a seemingly-ordinary town that merely housed one thousand or so residents, everything looked still and lifeless.

Yet, there was a vigorous fire burning in the lonely heart of the lead masculine character of this short fiction. And that scorching eternal flame had a secretly-hidden romantic context.

Beacon, an extremely-shy philosopher, was home alone, as his parents were on vacation to celebrate their 40th wedding anniversary. Despite the subzero temperatures outside, he felt safe, warm, and cozy in his small, yet elegant, house.

The walls and ceilings, made of wood, were smartly covered by two thermal insulation layers on both sides: extruded polystyrene foam and lime plaster. Even though the residence, with virtually no partition walls, was just about 50 square meters in size, it was the perfect citadel for 3 human inhabitants (Beacon and his parents) and 4 lovely, playful, and sometimes naughty, adult cats. Given the smart design, the entire bastion only needed a single wood-fired oven for keeping warm, even during the coldest winter times.

According to Beacon, a modest gentleman, the interiors of the stronghold had nothing special. The truth was the exact opposite — the inside was a first-rate art gallery.

Right behind the front door, on the walls of the corridor, there were four abstract paintings, all hand-drawn by Beacon when he was still a little kid, which were as good as, if not better than, those masterpieces created by Leonardo da Vinci. The best of the four, entitled “Double Bitter”, depicted a resented smile on the characteristic flat face of a child suffering from Down’s syndrome, who apparently had just been administered Iodine solution for protection against disastrous radiation fallout. Even the average audience would be able to decipher the philosophical meaning of this soul-touching art work.

At a quiet corner of the living room, a handmade bamboo cabinet had displays of over a dozen nicely-framed 12-inch photographs of the deceased cats Beacon once raised. Each of these authentic images reminded him of the happiest moments he once spent with the little tigers. The photograph that got center stage, in memoriam of Zeta, was taken the day before her accidental death, which, Beacon believed, was caused by the consumption of certain extremely-poisonous mushrooms found in a nearby mini-forest. Sadly, Zeta was barely one year old.

Just next to the kitchen, there were two processed tree trunks that blended in perfectly with the other interiors of the living room. The bigger one was used as a dining table and the tiny one a bench. Both, found on the nearby hillside, were leftovers of a decade of natural erosion. Beacon picked them up a couple of years ago, had them manually carved and chemically treated. The end-products were these two pieces of ever-lasting, yet environmentally friendly, household furniture.

Beside the main pair of windows in the living room, a brace of eye-catching ceramic sculptures were erected on a flat, rectangular-shaped marble rock. Both were handmade by Beacon’s devoting mother over three decades ago. One of them roughly delineated a mother breast-feeding her baby boy while the other practically symbolized a young boy splitting firewood with an axe. Even a layman should be able to correctly guess what they actually referred to. One word perfectly summarized the underlying theme: LOVE. These age-old, yet lively, figures seemed to indicate that Beacon’s artistic talent was, indeed, inherited from his maternal linkage.

All in all, there might not be any valuable furnishings in Beacon’s fortress. But every Earthling would have to concur that this environmentally-friendly, love-filled residence was definitely something — something that he/she would be longing to see in person. And the main character would have to accept such a compliment wholeheartedly.

Resting on a couch, Beacon, accompanied by 3 of his cats, was doing what he usually did to pass the time: he was reading, on a recently-bought tablet, those sarcastic essays written by the most creative online pen-pal that he had ever known.

The missing cat, Mizar, with the nickname “Garden Ranger”, was patrolling outside, disregarding the life-threatening weather conditions; maybe, in the little tiger’s naive anticipation, nine lives would be more than enough for his adventurous journey.

Happy moments tended to go by unnoticed. Beacon felt a bit cold, as the fire in the warm-keeping oven was almost extinguished. He needed to quickly refill the wood fuel. But it happened that there were no spare firewood logs in the house, which sounded a bit surprising to him as he habitually placed a few spare logs beside the oven every time he did the refill.

Running out of options, Beacon went outside to grab a few fresh logs from the stacked firewood pile. Immediately he saw Mizar lying on the snow beside the doorway. Naturally he got down on his knees to caress the tender fur on the back of the red cat.

“Garden Ranger, what are you doing here? You may freeze to death lying on the snow like that.”

Out of the blue, something extraordinary happened.

The entire body of Mizar glowed golden yellow. Beacon found the irradiation so intense that he had to loosely close his eyes.

“Gosh, what is happening?”

Then something even more extraordinary bombarded Beacon head-on.

Mizar, standing upright, spoke to Beacon in his mother tongue, “Merry Christmas, Master!”

At first Beacon was totally shocked and speechless. But pretty soon the subzero temperatures forced him regain his equanimity. The atheist knew that there had to be a rational explanation for everything.

“What a surprise! Mizar, I did not know you could speak Latin. I always thought you could only meow; it seems that I was plain wrong!”

[To be continued.]

(1027 words)

VE07

0

[Note that I changed the format of my Vocabulary series, starting from this essay.]

Cozy, as an adjective, refers to comfy, homey, or sheltered. Other acceptable spellings include “cosy” or “cozey”.

A couple of days before Christmas, an online pen-pal of mine, residing in Athens, Greece, posted on my favourite forum (“the forum”) the following message:

“I would like to share a piece of bad news with you guys. Recently I have been unemployed. For years, I worked in the insurance section of a large company offering various car services. Since the third quarter of this year, my colleagues and I have not received our pay cheques. It now seems that our unpaid salaries will be gone forever.Things are getting pretty tough here. Merry Christmas to all.”

[Note that I edited the message for anonymous and grammatical reasons.]

I responded to the aforementioned message in order to give my pen-pal a bit of encouragement. I stressed that he should never lose his confidence and that he could get through tough time like this.

A handful of forum members also did the same.

I thought that my pen-pal would post a reply in no time. But he did not. Indeed, he did not post any further updates on his situations for two weeks.

Then in early January, my pen-pal finally posted something promising as follows:

“I would like to thank you guys for supporting me. Your encouragement makes me feel cozy here. While I would prefer not to go into the details, I can tell you that I faced some truly crazy situations at work last month but I kept thinking in a positive manner. Now I clearly see what I can do for a living.”

[Note that I, again, edited the above reply for anonymous and grammatical reasons.]

I was relieved. In fact, I almost burst into tears.

I guess the reader may be curious enough to ask, “Why was I so emotional about the reply?”

Here comes the answer.

I have been visiting the forum for almost eight years. Even though most of the members live in places that are thousands of miles away, they are like family to me. While I have never met any of them in person, I know their personalities, hobbies, and tastes very well. Needless to say, a couple of them know me very well, too.

The ups and downs of life are unavoidable. When I see my pen-pals plummet into a valley, I am saddened and would give them encouragement. When I see they bounce back into the sky, I am delighted and would congratulate them for their success. To put it differently, I am emotionally attached to the wellbeing of my pen-pals.

Can you imagine that someone, residing in Central Europe, recommends, on a regular basis, stunningly-beautiful songs originated from the hidden corners of the world? (What is more, this music expert almost always gives detailed background information about the performers!)

Can you imagine that someone, who loves minority cultures, history, and philosophy, often hilariously entertains other members by making, for instance, a programmer’s clock that incorporates the notion of the midnight sun?

Can you imagine that someone, intelligent and knowledgeable, recommends, from time to time, gorgeously-magnificent paintings and photos that are contextually connected to the never-ending discussions and debates between members? (To be honest, I find many of the recommended photos rather sexy!)

Can you imagine that someone with a sharp eye for spotting the unusual out of the ordinary is willing to teach you — free of charge — the names of various fruits neatly placed on the table of an outdoor cafe?

Can you imagine that someone, good at Mathematics and Computer Science, is able to write a 500-word essay on the similarities and differences between two movie themes? (Seriously, the essay looks like a Ph.D. thesis to me!)

Can you imagine that a French member, a hobbyist comics artist, is generous enough to send you a digitized scan of an original A4-sized drawing that is of professional quality?

Can you imagine that an Italian member, a disc jockey and a hobbyist songwriter, promises to write you a song when you die? (Well, someone superstitious may consider this “bad luck”. I, however, regard this as “friendship”!)

Can you imagine that an American member, an expert in everything, offers to write you a eulogy when you die?

Can you imagine that a Greek member, a hobbyist programmer and the father of two lovely kids, regularly recommends low-budget independent movies that are far more thought-provoking than most of the Hollywood blockbusters? (I have to admit that the plots of some of those independent movies are fantastically intriguing!)

Can you imagine that a Polish member, currently subject to snow storms and subzero temperatures in his motherland, is still willing to patiently respond to the posts on the forum through his painstakingly-unstable Internet connections?

Can you imagine that an ordinary member can be promoted to a moderator without any prior public consultation? (I had better delete this example. Otherwise I may get myself into big trouble.)

Can you imagine that the core members have successfully organized a couple of conferences?

Can you imagine the unimaginable? (Hmm … this sounds too romantic!)

There are no face-to-face interactions. There are no monetary gains for me.

Sometimes there are irritating or provoking remarks. Sometimes there are even personal attacks.

There are greetings. There are help and support.

Occasionally there are flame wars. Even worse, the forum may suddenly become inaccessible — because of urgent server maintenance or hackers’ attacks.

But the essence never changes. The forum makes you feel you are not alone on this lonely planet. It makes you feel cozy in an ice-cold cyber world.

The forum has become part of my daily life.

Perhaps I should stop here. Otherwise, this essay is going to exceed one thousand words and my readers will complain about its redundancy.

(1000 words)

VE04

0

Write a 600-word fiction using ALL of the following words:

bachelorette, balsam, bandwagon, banquet, bastion, befall, befit, benevolent, berth, bicentennial

Here is the required fiction with a word count of 672 words.

Maya, a stunningly beautiful lady, is delivering a speech to her family members, relatives, friends, and colleagues in an important ceremony as follows:

For every living member of my family, today carries preponderating historical significance – it marks the bicentennial anniversary of the passing of a genius who was, in his prime times, generally regarded as “the father of one-way functions” by his peers in the computer science world.

Let us time travel back to 250 years earlier.

The date was January 1, 2012.

At the age of 37, that genius solved a conundrum that had puzzled the computer science world for half a century.  The problem, in the theory of computation, was to determine whether or not P equals NP, where P refers to the set of all questions for which some algorithm can provide an answer in polynomial time and NP the set of all questions for which an answer can be verified in polynomial time.  He attacked this puzzle by using an indirect tactic.  He mathematically proved the existence of one-way functions, which implies that P does not equal NP.  (Note that one-way functions are mathematical mappings that are easy to compute but hard to inverse.)  His work was considered by the topnotch researchers in the field a huge contribution to the computer science world.  The assorted one-way functions he discovered gave rise to something like a bandwagon: for the following two centuries, virtually all encryption/decryption algorithms used in secure data transfer for civilian purposes were based on those functions.

Let us go back to our “time of origin”.

Today is January 1, 2262, the 200th anniversary of the departure of that genius, Beacon, my great great great great grandfather.

That is why I picked today for my engagement party.

A couple of years ago, I came across a handsome stranger who looks like Beacon.  (Make no mistake.  I am 100% sure that he is unrelated to Beacon.)  He told me that he would like to propose to an intelligent yet gorgeous bachelorette but did not know how to say it.

Being a kindhearted individual, I offered him a quote from Beacon, which was, indeed, the original proposal presented to my great great great great grandmother.  It goes, “If my life is a drama, I will definitely beg you to be its prima donna.”

Note that “drama” and “donna” rhyme.  The line is like a poem.

I thought that the good-looking fellow would thank me for the romantic quote.  But he did not.

Instead, he, in his sincerest tone, read the exact line to me!

I was deeply touched.  But, of course, I was not out of my mind.  I did not say “yes”.

I asked him to spend some quality time with me to see whether or not things would work out for us.

Two years elapsed.  Things actually worked out.

I am certain that he has got a benevolent heart.  Thus, I, with no doubt, finally said “yes” to his romantic proposal last week.

Here is the fine-looking “stranger”, Oliver, my fiance.

Oliver then delivers his love speech before the guests as follows:

Thank you very much.  I would like to take this opportunity to make a couple of promises to my lovely fiancee.  Maya, I will make sure that nothing but the best befalls you.  And I will try my best to build the sweetest “nest” in the world, which is going to be a missile-proof bastion for us and a nurturing berth for our children.  I love you forever!

Without hesitation, Maya responds Oliver’s speech as follows:

Sweetheart, I love you till the end of time!

After some intimate and intense kissing with Oliver, Maya delightfully kicks off the engagement banquet by addressing the guests as follows:

Here comes the engagement meal.

Every cuisine is filled with assorted flavors and spices.  One of the dishes, which is my favorite, has got a unique balsam taste that befits the sentiment of this ceremony.

Enjoy the meal.


I sincerely hope that my dearest online pen-pal, Mr Beacon, will find the prima donna for his lifelong drama in 2012.

(706 words)

VE03

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This is the assignment for your coming birthday. (Gosh, who would have thought of such a unique birthday present?)

Write, in about 1200 words, a fiction using ALL of the following words:

Alsou, asunder, apron, amnesia, allegiance, ample, amid, announce, anniversary, adventurous, appealing

You are advised to spend no more than four hours on this assignment.

Calm down. I heard your complaint. You have plans for your birthday.

As always, I have already prepared a model answer. So, do what you do best – SHAMELESSLY COPY IT!

Here is the required fiction with a word count of 1283.

A statement published on the official website of Beacon Software Corporation (“BSC”) today reads,“The Board of Directors has accepted the resignation of our Chief Executive Officer, Beacon, who will be stepping down on the 25th of September, 2011. We were briefed by Beacon earlier this week that he has been diagnosed with progressive amnesia and thus he on his own accord took this departure decision. We will now be concentrating all our efforts on identifying the most appropriate candidate for this key position. There will be no further comments on this matter until that appointment is made.”

Ironically, the aforementioned D-Day happens to be the 37th birthday of Beacon. (Note that here “D-Day” refers to “Departure Day”, not the historical “Normandy Landings”.)

Holding a master’s degree in Mathematics and Information Technology, Beacon, with the characteristic charm of Libra, began paving his adventurous career path as a humble junior programmer working in a medium-sized software house close to his home town. Like most of the entry-level employees, he worked very hard but was rewarded very little. The vast proportion of profits went straight into the pockets of the owner of the software house, not the counterparts of the front-line programmers who did the heavy chores.

As the proverb says, “Better be the head of a dog than the tail of a lion”, Beacon, a systems analyst then, quit his unsatisfactory, low-paid job after gaining twelve years of hands-on experience in the field. He then borrowed a SME loan from a local commercial bank and founded his own software company, Beacon Software Corporation. (Note that “SME” refers to “Small to Medium Enterprise”.)

The (rather harsh) terms of the loan stipulate that while Beacon would have executive control over the corporation, 95% of the company’s shares, taken as security for the loan, directly belong to the bank. As such, the bank would appoint a small team of professionals as the Board of Directors of the newborn enterprise.

Beacon cherished this golden opportunity with heart. He pushed his mental capacity to the limits and came up with two brilliant ideas. The first was about a brand-new way to perform lossless compression/decompression in the most efficient manner. (This award-winning algorithm makes use of a handful of breakthroughs in the underlying mathematics that offer satisfactory performance even for truly random input.) The second was about a fast yet secure encryption/decryption function. (This ground-breaking algorithm, based on two independent Rubik’s Cube transformations, one for byte-changing and the other for byte-mixing, has been vigorously proven to be theoretically unbreakable.) By combining these two ideas, Beacon gave birth to the prototype of a file management program for confidential data.

Knowing that software alone hardly constituted a unique selling point, Beacon needed a marketing gimmick. That was why he jointly developed, with researchers from the Department of Electrical and Electronic Engineering of a local university, a revolutionized hands-free device, similar to a hybrid of a pair of truly-transparent video glasses and a Bluetooth headset, to control the prototypic program “telepathically”, so to speak.

Beacon thought of a catchy name for the final product: Confidential Data Warehouse Telepathic System, or “Care System” in short. What an appealing abbreviation!

The product was an instant hit. Sales went global half a year after the initial release on Beacon’s motherland.

BSC went public shortly after its first anniversary.

As earnings kept growing exponentially during the second year, BSC’s share price soared in an unbelievable fashion.

Such a jaw-dropping operating performance, to most financial analysts, was like magic.

Unlike most businessmen, Beacon, getting rich, was not a money-sucker. Instead, he would like to give back to the community. He proposed to offer a free version of the product for academic and non-commercial uses. However, the Board of Directors, dictated by the profit-oriented bank, did not share the same thought. The Board believed that such a move would lower future earnings and put pressure on share price. Expectedly, Beacon’s proposal was rejected.

A stark difference in management philosophy between Beacon and the Board began to surface. Even worse, doubt over Beacon’s allegiance to BSC were emerging in the Board. But the worst was yet to come.

Not surprisingly, idea thieves in the high tech market rushed to mimic Beacon’s success model. It did not take long before similar products could be found everywhere around the globe.

BSC’s flying start could not last; a drop-off in operating performance midway through the third year caused a rapid evaporation of investors’ confidence, which in turn led to an irreversible plunge in share price during the second half of the year. At the year-end, BSC’s share price dropped to only one-fifth of its highest value.

Under such unfavorable circumstances, the Board had no choice but to compel Beacon to resign. Nevertheless, the Board, consisting of numerous cunning former-politicians, would like to give Beacon the respect he deserved, as he, after all, is the founder of BSC. That is why the amnesia excuse popped up – out of thin air – in the statement published today on the official website.

Beacon, of course, is unwilling to step down; he is helplessly forced to accept what has been announced. With a steel will, he decides to fight back. He, indeed, would like to exact revenge on the Board.

Therefore, he holds, on his own, a press conference and discloses all the missing yet intriguing details surrounding his mysterious resignation.

Fueled by the media that have a never-ending thirst for gossip, this explosive leak sets up several “he-said, she-said” confrontations between Beacon and the Board, which, to most audience, are even better than a nail-biting TV drama series. (Note that here “better” refers to “more entertaining”.)

On one episode, the Chairman of the Board, while fiercely denying Beacon’s counter-accusations, accidentally breaks an antique vase asunder in his office. Such bad publicity instantly brings cataclysmic damage to the goodwill of BSC, which is a consequence that Beacon would like to see – a lot.

Out of the blue, Beacon receives an email message, with subject “Reprisal Breeds Reprisal”, from his long-time online pen-pal, asking him to let go of his anger and hatred. Looking into the LCD screen which briefly transforms into a shiny mirror, he sees a malicious face with a pair of rage-filled eyes. Suddenly, he realizes that he has been almost completely consumed by vengeance. Lucky for him, he has still got a trustworthy friend, residing thousands of miles apart, who attentively cares for his well-being. Once again, this comrade gave him a wake-up call when most needed.

Beacon halts his confrontations with the Board and settles everything with BSC in a peaceful manner. He then sells all his shares which constitute 5% of BSC’s controlling rights.

Possessing ample cash that renders him needless to work any more for the rest of his life, Beacon buys a robust, regular-sized yacht. Promptly, he and his gorgeously-beautiful Uzbek wife, Maya, move to their lovely vessel and kick off a life-long journey searching for their dreamland together.

On a remote island amid the Central Pacific, Beacon enjoys every moment spent with his best half, who happens to closely resemble Alsou, a popular Tatar singer from Russia.

The story ends with Beacon, in an apron, preparing dinner in the kitchen and watching, through the crystal-clear window, Maya breastfeed their newborn baby girl in the warm of a soul-calming sunset.

May I dedicate this fiction to my dearest online pen-pal?

(1383 words)