Amazon Smile: Donate to Charity for Free

I started using AmazonSmile about a month ago and thought I would share it with you. It is a pretty easy and free way to support any charity of your choice when you shop with Amazon. I currently support the Muslim Center of Middlesex County (MCMC) but you’re able to pick any registered charitable organization and have Amazon donate 0.5% of your purchase price to them.
The only thing you have to do is make the purchase through instead. The website will look exactly the same, with the same products and prices but a portion of your order will now be donated to charity instead.
A screenshot of the age is here:
amazon smile pic

Book Review: Shells by Yegor Chekmarev

Early last week I found out that someone who recently graduated from the same high school I attended had published his first book and thought maybe I should give it a shot. I was lucky enough to have known him from before through soccer and was given an opportunity to read and review the book. Shells by Yegor Chekmarev is currently available on Amazon ($10 for a paperback copy, or $0.99 for a Kindle edition). A self-described Russian-born American was influenced by “the short stories of Jorge Luis Borges, the visionary novels of Arthur C. Clarke, and the labyrinthine layers of Mark Z. Danielewski”. He wrote his first short story entitled “The Dreamer” and is currently in the process of getting his second novel out to publishers which I will hopefully get to review again here once that project is completed.

At 212 pages, it certainly didn’t feel as long from the moment I picked it up and began to read it. I knocked out half the book in the first night I got it but eventually got slowed down by work and other priorities and unable to write this review as quickly as I had originally thought. I will reveal some minor spoilers in here though I will spare the majority of details for those interested in reading it themselves.

The main premise of the book is that a man wakes up every single day in a new body and must learn what his name is, who his new family and friends are and try to collect as many memories about the individual to survive the day without causing too much damage to the person’s life. We are told that as he moves on from body to body, the original “host”, as I shall call it, is returned to the state with no recollection of what happened the day before and continue living their lives.

It has a very quick paced beginning with the protagonist waking up in a body of a high school kid that is clearly not his and is completely unaware of his current name, family or what kind of personality this person might have. As I mentioned earlier the main character, whose name we don’t actually learn until later on in the book, tries not to cause too much damage to the host’s life although we see on occasion that this principle doesn’t always hold true as emotions tend to run high as the novel progresses.

As you continue reading, several questions immediately come to mind. Is he the only person who is switching from host to host on a daily basis? Are there others? What happens if he switches and runs into himself during the course of his day? Is that possible or what has happened to his body as he continues switching. Will he ever break the curse or will he forever wander through life, flitting from soul to soul, never creating an identity for himself?

So many questions that for the most part do end up being answered as you wrap up the book. A very impressive book for a first time publisher so make sure to go check it out on Amazon: Shells by Yegor Chekmarev. It is pretty great to see people our age (or in this case a little younger than me) who have taken an interest in writing and can produce quality material. Hopefully there is more in store for the rest of us.

On a related note, if you have a book or a paper that you have written or published, let me know and I will write and review it when I get the chance. Hopefully some of you can return the favor when I finally get around to publishing my own.

Howard Zinn: Hero and Historian

I had first heard about him back in 10th when a teacher of mine, Ms. Pfeffer (who I still consider as one of the two best teachers I had of all time), introduced our class to a chapter from a book called “A People’s History of the United States.” I had never heard of either the book or the author named Howard Zinn prior to that moment but I can safely point to that day in 2002 that changed me. Until earlier today, I don’t think I ever thanked Ms. Pfeffer for that brief introduction but I took care of that and let me thank her here again.

I think we only read one chapter for our class regarding how the farmers of the Shay’s Rebellion should be considered the real heroes in the true history of the United States of America. It certainly peaked my curiosity and I went on to read the whole book which questioned why the initial union organizers did not receive much credit over the course of history or why the founding fathers, for all the good they did, still were considered with such glamor since they were slave owners themselves.

At a time when few politicians dared even call themselves liberal, “A People’s History” told an openly left-wing story. Zinn charged Christopher Columbus and other explorers with genocide, picked apart presidents from Andrew Jackson to Franklin D. Roosevelt and celebrated workers, feminists and war resisters.

During the civil rights movement, Zinn encouraged his students to request books from the segregated public libraries and helped coordinate sit-ins at downtown cafeterias. Zinn also published several articles, including a then-rare attack on the Kennedy administration for being too slow to protect blacks.

The attached quote above and the one below is from this NPR article and a lot of the stuff about him, I am learning now but already could have figured he would have had a rich history given his take from just a single book. I plan on reading You Can’t Be Neutral on a Moving Train: A Personal History of Our Times some day, hopefully sooner rather than later, and most certainly it will give be an even better perspective.

One of Zinn’s last public writings was a brief essay, published last week in The Nation, about the first year of the Obama administration.

“I’ve been searching hard for a highlight,” he wrote, adding that he wasn’t disappointed because he never expected a lot from Obama.

“I think people are dazzled by Obama’s rhetoric, and that people ought to begin to understand that Obama is going to be a mediocre president — which means, in our time, a dangerous president — unless there is some national movement to push him in a better direction.”

His critical views of President Obama are pretty damning to say the least but it definitely brings to light the type of reality we all may be hiding from and need to wake up to. I’ll end the post with three quotes from Howard Zinn regarding what he worried about most and what he thought about politics and war.

“I’m worried that students will take their obedient place in society and look to become successful cogs in the wheel – let the wheel spin them around as it wants without taking a look at what they’re doing. I’m concerned that students not become passive acceptors of the official doctrine that’s handed down to them from the White House, the media, textbooks, teachers and preachers.”

Terrorism has replaced Communism as the rationale for the militarization of the country [America], for military adventures abroad, and for the suppression of civil liberties at home. It serves the same purpose, serving to create hysteria.

It’s not right to respond to terrorism by terrorizing other people. And furthermore, it’s not going to help. Then you might say, “Yes, it’s terrorizing people, but it’s worth doing because it will end terrorism.” But how much common sense does it take to know that you cannot end terrorism by indiscriminately dropping bombs?

Self-Publish With

Image representing Amazon EC2 as depicted in C...

Just yesterday, I was made aware of a “Self Publish with Us” service offered by Through CreateSpace or BookSurge, you have the ability to utilize several publishing tools to help sell your books, videos amongst other digital media.

For a first time author, this is probably a very enticing offer to have a book published for free while having it listed on Amazon and making it visible to millions of viewers. Amazon does take a percentage of the list price plus a fixed charge depending on the length of your book but you agree to a non-exclusive agreement giving you the ability to change publishing and distributing partners if a better situation presents it self.

There is a 24-page minimum if you choose to publish but I am going to assume that if you are writing anything, it will hit that 24-page mark rather quickly and shouldn’t be a problem. If you remember, I started writing my own book about earlier and without even knowing, I have been way past the minimum limit. This service really has gotten me back interested in finishing up the book and hopefully have one out within the next 6-12 months.

Let’s just take a look at some of the features “Self Publish with Us” offers:

Book Features from

  • All book covers are printed in full-color on cover stock and finished with a protective laminate coating
  • Black and white books can be printed on white or cream (also called “off-white”) paper
  • Amazon listings include the Search Inside!® feature
  • Free CreateSpace ISBN is assigned if you do not already own one

Some critical frequently asked questions that I briefly described earlier such as the initial cost to publish a book, whether you keep the rights to your work and can you order a member’s copy are answered below:

How much will it cost to set up my book?

There are no set-up fees for your book; before making it available for sale, we do require you to purchase and approve a proof copy of your book. We’ll also provide you with a free CreateSpace ISBN if you don’t already own one.

In what format do I need to submit my book files?

For your book’s interior, you must submit a fully-formatted PDF file. You may choose to use our Cover Creator tool to build a professional cover for your book or upload a finished PDF cover file.

Do I keep the rights to my work?

We offer a non-exclusive agreement, enabling you to take advantage of future publishing and distribution opportunities that may come your way.

Can I order copies of my book from you?

Yes, you can order copies of your book at very competitive rates. There are no print minimums, so you can order one book, 500 books or more, whatever quantity suits your needs and your budget.

  • Amazon listings include the Search Inside!® feature
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    Amazon Prime Is Worth It.

    As many of you might have heard, my home was struck by lightning during the course of the major storm in the middle of last week. Although there was no significant damage to the structure of the building, there was a significant damage to the Central AC unit, several electronics such as two computers, a modem and a router. Throughout all the chaos, there was no damage to any major appliance such as a refrigerator, freezer or the television set – as well as any of the people present inside at the time of the strike.

    Although I would suspect these things are probably covered by insurance, I doubt the damage is significant enough to warrant the near $500 deductible that usually comes with such claims. I went to my local Staples to pick up a power supply for a computer and a network adapter for another, a motherboard from NewEgg but throughout this past week I gained much needed appreciation for Amazon Prime and what it does.

    Even though it comes with a $79 annual membership fee, that cost can be easily recouped if you are in need of items immediately. For those unfamiliar, Amazon Prime gives you an “all-you-can-eat” fast shipping for eligible purchases. Members will enjoy the following benefits:

    Fast Delivery

    • Free Two-Day Shipping on more than one million in-stock items sold by
    • Upgrades to One-Day (Overnight) Shipping for just $3.99 per item.
    • Free Standard Shipping for eligible items shipped to P.O. boxes in the continental United States and APO/FPO addresses with U.S. zip codes.

    Simple Shopping

    • No minimum purchases required.
    • Members-only 1-Click buttons on product pages.

    Convenient Sharing

    • Shared benefits with up to four family members living in the same household.
    • For your corporate account use, you can add up to 4 co-workers to your account.

    Even though I don’t have Amazon Prime yet, a friend of mine does who ordered the items for me. I placed a D-Link DIR-655 Extreme N Wireless Router on Wednesday and Belkin 12-Outlet Home/Office Surge Protector on Thursday – both of which arrived on Friday. It can be quite unsettling to live without access to wireless internet especially in an age where you are almost dependent on such access all the time.

    There is nothing quite like the convenience of two-day shipping (and possibly 1 if you order gets lucky) especially with a competitive price that Amazon offers which is hardly beaten by competitors. So if you haven’t tried yet with your account, probably offers a free month of Amazon Prime – you can simply cancel before your month is over and not be charged. If you like it (and how can you not?), pay the fee and become a member. Although I must warn you, it can become quite a hazard to your monthly credit card statement if you order any- and every-thing you like on Amazon.