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Piers Anthony at work
AwGhost 2005
HI-

Call it an Act of God: in the morning a truck hauling a bulldozer on a trailer rolled up before our house. It turned out they had taken a wrong turn and got onto our long drive instead of to the house under construction. We have a loop so cars don't have to maneuver to turn around, and I tried to tell them that, but instead they elected to turn by backing across our yard, and by the time it was done they had crushed the little fringed cypress tree that was the first ornamental shrub my wife planted here in 1988. Only half of it is left, cracked and battered; maybe it will survive. What did God have against that innocent tree?

I stay in touch with my readers. This has cons and pros. One con is the time it takes, for though one letter may be brief, there are hundreds of them, and some folk want to argue endlessly about homosexuality, Mormonism, Israel's settlement of the West Bank, or other topics that may be vital to them but are peripheral to my interests. I'm a writer, not a social, religious, or political sage, and my opinions in such areas are man-on-the-street grade, as this column plainly demonstrates. For the limited record: I regard homosexuality as part of the broad sexual continuum, not right or wrong in itself, and I prefer let those of that persuasion follow their own natures, as they let me follow my adamantly heterosexual nature; the Mormons started as a borrowing from a pirated fantasy/historical novel but in time became a legitimate religion that prefers to hide its origin, and they aren't trying to convert me any more than I'm trying to turn them agnostic; the West Bank was once independent but in its anarchy was a hotbed of terrorism, like Lebanon; it's not likely to be peaceful any time soon because the fanatic Muslims who bear about the same relation to the Koran as the Ku Klux Klan bears to the Bible will not allow peace as long as Israel exists. Since when did the word Moslem become Muslim? Please go argue with someone who knows something about them, and leave me to my fantasy.

One pro (this is about my contacts with my readers; did you forget?) is that I can receive valuable feedback on subjects of interest. Almost everything in these columns gets some comment somewhere by someone, ranging from the woman who confided that filling her car with gasoline would never be the same after my in-your-face (or wherever) sexual analogy, to serious advice about my health. For example, I am now trying a high-zinc and bee pollen treatment for my inflamed prostate; soon I should know whether it worked. But my reason for leading into this discussion is not to drop cherry bombs into private privies (well, not entirely...) but to solicit some more advice. You see, I am cursed with imperfect teeth. I take good care of them, but they rot anyway, and I have put more money into my mouth for less success than anyone else I know. I've had a dozen or more root canals, but am still losing teeth. What was supposed to be a two week tooth implant will be a year, and I'm using a “flipper” or fake tooth I have to take out for meals and overnight. Another onlay fell out and that will have to be redone. Another area is starting to hurt when I chew; that's surely another tooth rotting at the root. Plus about $5000 a year routine upkeep. There was a time when my whole yearly income was not that much. Well, I've about had it. My dentist evidently does not believe the amount of effort I put in daily taking care of my teeth--four brushings a day that are not token, a daily rinse with hydrogen peroxide, no food eaten between meals, and so on. I think he thinks I'm only telling him that and not practicing it, because to him there may be no such thing as teeth that rot despite good dental hygiene. Well, there are, and I've got them. I'm tired of the continuing expense, pain, and inconvenience, and want a better solution. I'm thinking of dentures. I'd like to know from folk who went that route whether it was worth it. I'm wondering whether using my four (so far) implants to anchor dentures makes sense. I'd like to get away from constant dental distress. Is this the answer? I will welcome informed feedback. Bear in mind that I don't need 50 year teeth; 20 year teeth should suffice, at my age.

My wife's health continues to improve, which translates into a more positive outlook for us--we celebrated out 49th anniversary in June and now look forward to our 50th next year--and more working time for me. She's by no means out of the woods, and there's another shoe to drop, but things are definitely looking up. I completed the quarter million word Key to Liberty, wherein Havoc's four children, now teens, go to Earth and wreak some havoc there, to prevent it from taking over their home planet of Charm as a reclaimed colony. I mean, Earthers don't even believe in magic. The siblings became Glamors younger than others did, and are accordingly more magically powerful. Things get complicated when they seed Earth's volcanoes with Chroma magic, converting them to centers of colored magic. But this destabilizes Earth and the malign Male Spirit returns to take over from the benign Female Spirit, which was not what they intended. Havoc comes to Earth and takes the current human animation of the Female Spirit as his mistress. She's some creature. Did I mention that this is one sexy novel? Well, consider that aspect a surprise. Now all I have to do is complete Xanth #31 Air Apparent by year's end and I'm home free, for now. It may happen.

We're seeing movies again, and of course that broke the industry's four month losing streak. My wife attends in the wheelchair, but that works okay. We saw Revenge of the Sith, and found it good but not as good as we had hoped; it seemed more interested in tying up loose threads than in real adventure. It occurs to me that the Star Wars series resembles the Wizard of Oz movie, with a young human protagonist, a man in a lion suit, a man in a robot suit, one without a human brain, an evil nemesis, a benign adviser, and so on. It's a good formula. We saw Mr. & Mrs. Smith and enjoyed it a bit more, though of course it's not credible: how could two professional assassins be married to each other for six years and neither catch on to the other's business? Surely they would feel each other's hardware when they embraced. And we saw Fantastic Four, wild nonsense that was nevertheless fun. Still, I hope that when they starting making my movies--all three options are still going strong--they have less violence and more credibility. Of course there are ads for Charlie and the Chocolate Factory that answer that description, but I'm not quite comfortable with what resembles Michael Jackson leading children into Wonderland. Maybe they should have cast his sister, the one with the breast, instead; she could wear a chocolate pastie.

We bought new cars in June and July, trading in our two ten year old vehicles. I hated to see the old ones go; both served reliably and honorably, and what reward did they get? To be dumped back on the market. It seems unfair. I especially liked our 1995 Saturn, but my wife didn't, because she could no longer get out of it unassisted. Sigh; I hope its new owner, whoever that may be, treats it well. It had only 20,000 miles on it. Am I the only one who feels sad cleaning out a car for the last time? Yes, my empathy extends to machines. The new ones are Chrysler Town & Country van, which makes bringing the wheelchair along easy but gets only 19 miles to the gallon, and a Toyota Prius, a delightful hybrid car. They had a two year waiting list locally, but that dropped to maybe 4 months--then when we ordered there was a fluke and we got it in six days. I love the arrows that point out which way the power is going: from engine to wheels and battery when cruising, from battery to wheels when in traffic, from wheels to battery when you brake. Theoretically it gets 50 miles to the gallon, overall, but I'll be satisfied with 45. There is only one letter different between Prius and Piers; magically that surely means something. The other hybrids were too expensive, or couldn't take the wheelchair, or had no local dealer. So we should be set for the next decade. Still, I was intrigued by an ad for a TV feature on a car that runs on water; unfortunately that came on late and I fell asleep before that item appeared. Did anyone else stay awake for it? I really don't believe a car can run on water, because it takes more energy to split the water into hydrogen and oxygen than you get from it when the two recombine. So it has to be some sort of cheat, unfortunately.

More songs are running through my head. “Goodnight Irene, Goodnight Irene, I gets you in my dreams.” That was the version originally sung by Leadbelly later bowderlized to “I'll see you in my dreams.” He was a convicted murderer who I understand once performed his concerts in chains. Then there's “Morning has Broken,” which always intrigued me; finally I got smart and Googled it and got the words. It's a semi-religious song, each new day honoring God's first day. Nice. Sure I'm agnostic; that doesn't mean I condemn religious expression. Some religious sentiments are very nice. But I have a quibble with some words: it ends “God's recreation of the new day.” I think it should be God's re-creation, as this is not entertainment but a symbolic reanimation of the dawn of existence. And it should be the first day, rather than the new day: same reason. You create a new day, but re-create the first day. Maybe God isn't a grammarian. Regardless, it remains an evocative song Cat Stevens sings. Then there's one I heard only once, on M A S H back when it first ran; we loved those episodes of field medicine in the Korean War because of the way they evoked humor from grimness. There was one episode that was sort of nothing; they got fed up and threw much of their furniture into a central bonfire. Then they sang Dona Mobis Pacem Pacem, which I understand translates into “Give us peace, peace.” The camera took turns focusing on diverse faces, the tears streaming as they sang, so desperately longing for peace. They well knew the horrors of war and wanted it to end. What a contrast to the chicken hawks who sponsored the current war; they never experienced it themselves, indeed, made sure to avoid serving in any capacity where they might be at risk, then were eager to make war for other folk to fight. Disaster, of course; experienced soldiers would never have done it. War is not a picnic; it's an ugly business. No, I never fought; the closest I came was when I was in the US Army in 1958 and I went to the chaplain to say that I did not believe I could kill a man, friend or enemy, and he shook his head and said “I'm sorry your patriotism isn't greater than that.” I said no more; the man had damned himself, though he surely did not know it. Jesus Christ never called war patriotic, and those who so glibly throw Jesus' name around in such a connection are no true disciples of his. I suspect that I, as an honest agnostic, have greater respect for Jesus than does such ilk. I never joined a religion, not because I lacked conviction, but because I saw too much sheer hypocrisy in religions. To my mind, that song, as sung on that program, represents a far truer indication of Jesus' attitude. One other song: I think it was titled “The Thing,” and it was about a man who found a BOOM BOOM-BOOM, took it home, and no one welcomed him. Even when he died, St. Peter told him “Get out of here with that BOOM BOOM-BOOM and take it down below!” So what was it? I finally have a notion or two: it might be “new idea,” that would make many folk in the entertainment industry react similarly. But probably it is “tar baby.” Doesn't that fit? A tar baby is like the Iraq war: once you touch it, you can't let go of it.

I saw a big green caterpillar chewing away on our tomato plants in our garbage garden. Well, they had already borne their fruit and were fading, so I let the caterpillar be. But I was curious what kind it was, as I remember seeing a similar one as a child that looked like a long cake with green icing and rows of little candles along the top. So this time I went to the bug books, and finally managed to run it down: Tomato Hornworm, a predator on tomato plants, vaguely related to the lovely luna moth. Duh! I did all that work for that?

Stray memories occur to me routinely, and there's not much to do with them except savor them and forget them again. Then I thought, say, maybe I can share them with my readers. For example, I mentioned last year how my one time roommate at Goddard college, Bob Pancoast, had died. What I remembered this time was burps. If he burped, he would say “Mmmm--tastes as good coming up as it did going down.” But if you burped, he would say “That was well brought up. Too bad you weren't.” An earlier memory was of the time I took a swimming course, age ten; I had just learned how, and wanted to improve. One of the exercises related to life saving consisted of throwing a line to a floundering person and pulling him out. We watched as a young woman pulled out a young man. Apparently that interaction was suggestive, and it gave him an erection that distended his swimming trunks and would not relent. He had to stand there for the rest of the lesson with everyone male and female pretending not to notice. Ah, the frustrations of adolescence.

A chain of thought took me to a couple of words I don't quite understand. I looked them up, but the dictionaries didn't help. Does anybody out there know why the Navy bathroom is the head, or why the Army restaurant is the mess? Which reminds me of a joke: on a TV contest show decades back there were three professional comedians whose job was to make contestants laugh. A contestant who got through without laughing won a prize. It was the framework for many jokes. Well, one contestant was in the Army, and he had a marvelous deadpan. The first comedian couldn't shake him. Then came the second. “You know, I was in the army. Yeah. I killed 300 men. Yeah. I was the cook.” That broke up the Army man, and I knew why: the pettest peeve of military folk is always the food. It always stinks, perhaps tainted by soldiers' hatred of being there. He would not have been Army if that joke did not score. That was one smart comedian.

Bill Bowers died. He co-edited the noted fanzine DOUBLE-BILL, and later his own, OUTWORLDS. I contributed to the latter with letters of comment similar to these present columns, which naturally stirred up the opinionated hornets in fandom. Opinionation seems inversely proportional to knowledge. I say again: consider this column. At one point there was a huge issue--I think about 80 pages--that seemed to be mostly objections to me. You see, I never suffered fools or rascals gladly, and those I tersely refuted did not appreciate it. I'm really more at home here in these columns on my own Web Site, because no one can selectively edit or censor me here. You don't think selective editing can be bad? I sent a comment on another writer's novel to one fanzine, saying such and such was good, while such and such was bad. Only the negatives were published, giving me a reputation for being exclusively negative. In one case, Dean Koontz was involved, and we had a fine blowout; years later we interacted in a different venue, and a strained relationship became positive. You don't think faneds (fanzine editors) would have such unfair agendas? Then you never participated in fandom. But Bill Bowers was one of the good ones; my fights on his pages were well earned. As I remember it took two years for the row following my review of Harlan Ellison's first DANGEROUS VISIONS volume to die down. No, Harlan himself didn't object; in fact I contributed to the second volume: “In the Barn,” my story about a barn full of large-uddered milking cows. Only one detail was changed: there were no bovines on that world. The cows were human. Ever see a big-breasted woman put on a milking machine? I never wrote the sequel, about the slaughterhouse; I doubt that ever could have been published. At any rate, there was that issue, and I meant to respond. But we were moving from the St. Pete Florida area to the Inverness Florida area at the time, getting our new house built, getting the old one ready for sale, and the contracts at either end were ripping us off--we finally sued one of them and got a judgment, but he turned up broke and we never collected--and there wasn't time. I lost the issue in the move, and never replied. The issues stopped coming, and I thought that I had been cut off for not responding, or that the fanzine had died. Years later I learned it was still going, and concluded that the mail had simply not forwarded them to me at my new address. I don't know what all those antagonists did with their spare time after that. So I left OUTWORLDS more or less by accident in 1977, and now, 28 years later, I'm sorry he is dead. He was a good guy.

Archery report: I got fed up with those left side arrows flinging out randomly instead of where I aimed them, so changed the arrow rest again. My wife suggested that though the closed circle that prevents the arrow from falling off is nice, it must be twitching the fletching as it passes through and tugging the arrows to the sides. I think she's right. So I took it down and dug out my old reliable old-style arrow rest. But the bow is set up for the new kind, so I had to carve a block from foam plastic to move it out so that the arrow aimed forward instead of ten feet to the left. Then when I tried it, the arrows flung out to the right and dropped to the ground as I drew them. Well, it takes quite a jerk to draw 57.5 pounds left handed, so I wound it down to 55 pounds. And they still flung wildly out. Then I caught it happening: the arrow rest was coming partly loose from the foam plastic mooring, flipping the arrow out--and snapping back into place. What devilish cunning! So I wrapped package binding tape around it to hold it in place--and the arrows still flipped out. So I wound it all the way down to a feeble 50 pounds, and then I was able to draw smoothly enough to have it stay in place. But the arrows were dropping way low: that lost power. I remade the block to raise the arrow rest, but the arrows still dropped low. I was at the limit of the sights; I couldn't adjust them farther. So I would it back up part way, to 52.5 pounds. That lifted the arrows, solving that problem. I still missed most as I zeroed in again, but there were very few flukes. A fluke is where the arrow goes in an impossible direction just to spite you. Say you're off-planet and loose three arrows at New York: one strikes Tokyo, another Paris, and the third the North Pale with some moondust on it. You couldn't do it deliberately, but it happens. Ask any archer. So I think I have it straightened away now, and I expect to make better future scores.

One of the myriad publications I read is the WASHINGTON SPECTATOR. It doesn't like current American politics any more than I do. It asks whether we face a choice between tyranny and civil war. That bothers me too. The far-right greedheads have the bit firmly in their teeth and are stampeding toward national disaster on every front; they don't much care what happens to the rest of us so long as they get all the power and money. The Downing Street Memo is only a little part of the soiled tapestry. With the continuing signs that the last two presidential elections were stolen--there are alarming indications of massive electoral fraud--so that there isn't relief at the corrupted ballot box, how do we ever get out of this mess? I think of the French Revolution, where it took civil war and wholesale execution of the royalty to fix it--unsuccessfully. I think of Samual Taylor Coleridge commenting: “The Sensual and the Dark rebel in vain, slaves by their own compulsion; in mad game they burst their manacles and wear the name of Freedom--graven on a heavier chain.” Is this where we are headed? I hope not--but do fear it.

A Sunday LuAnn comic: her parents list all the chores the have to tackle, exchange a glance, and wind up snoozing embraced on the couch. I love that.

I look at everything that comes my way. Periodically there will be a spam-type from the Party for Islamic Renewal. One was titled “Racism, Lynching, Slavery--Pillars of the American Dream.” It quotes Friedrich Otto Hertz: “At the heart of racism is the religious assertion that God made a creative mistake when He brought some people into being.” It says that the US shamelessly calls for human rights while implementing inhuman policies. That the US hypocritically rants about free speech but cannot tolerate genuine opposing views. That white America accumulated great wealth and power, the price paid by thousands who were lynched and millions who died on slave ships. Okay, why is it that it requires hostile Muslims to state the obvious? Not that the Muslim world is any better in such respects. Consider their treatment of women.

In fact, consider Darfur. Women are freely raped, and this is not any token thing; it is an area where infibulation is practiced, meaning that their genitals are cut back and sewn up, so that rape rips out the stitches and and may cause them to bleed to death. They may be shunned as sexual deviants--for being raped. This apart from the general starvation, slaughter, and brutality of the genocidal war there. Other nations are too busy with their own concerns to intervene. Yeah, sure. Muslims are lecturing America?

Meanwhile the disaster that is the Iraq occupation is causing the American military services to run out of soldiers. Who in his/her right mind would sign up for that meat grinder? Yet they are expelling highly trained specialists who are willing to serve: the homosexuals. Thus bigotry trumps national interest. Quote from a column by Robert Scheer: “Integration was most ardently opposed by Southern white Baptist preachers who cited the Bible, and now we hear the same Scripture-based attacks on gay marriage. Yet this is hypocritically selective because Christian writings are full of historical anachronisms, such as the acceptance of polygamy and women-as-chattel. Marriage to a divorcee, a common occurrence even among conservatives, is expressly forbidden in Matthew (5:27-32): '...whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.'”

From a column by Cass R. Sunstein: “In recent years some conservative politicians have been insisting that federal judges should strike down affirmative action programs, protect commercial advertising, invalidate environmental regulations, allow the president to do whatever he likes in the war on terrorism, use the Constitution to produce tort reform, invalidate gun control regulation, invalidate campaign finance laws and much more--regardless of whether they can find solid justification for these steps in our founding document...What we are seeing, for the first time, is a fundamental challenge to the rule of law itself.”

When I graduated from high school in 1952 my great aunt gave me Peterson's Field Guide to the Birds. That summer I used it to identify all the birds I saw on our forest farm in the Green Mountains of Vermont. I have learned precious few birds since then, but I remember those ones. I still have that worn volume. It was then that I learned of the Ivory-Billed Woodpecker, thought to be extinct. I saw the Piliated Woodpecker, a striking bird, which we also have here on our Florida tree farm, but the Ivory Bill was even more striking. Well, now they may have found it again in the wilds of Arkansas. This is electrifying news, and I hope it can be solidly confirmed.

An article in NEW SCIENTIST on slime mold. That's another passing fascination; in fact I used it as the basis for my novel Omnivore, published in 1968, wherein there was a planet where the descendants of slime mold were the dominant species of creature, the land-born one-footed mantas. It's really strange stuff, a fungus that moves around, then settles and flowers in its fashion. Fungus is the Third Kingdom, matching the Animal and Plant kingdoms, and vitally important as it breaks down the organic substances made by the other two. Without that recycling, life would come to a filthy halt soon enough. Now they suspect that slime mold possesses a basic intelligence despite having no nervous system. Good for it.

Having successfully Googled to find the words to a song (see above), I tried it to find the words to a poem I heard once while serving in the US Army in 1957 and never since: “Ode to the Four Letter Words.” These lost fragments haunt me. And it gave it to me without hassle. I am coming to like Google. The idea is that you don't dare say exactly what you mean, but can get at it circuitously. Such as if you would like to have sex with a woman: “You may speak of her nipples as fingers of fire, with hardly a question of raising her ire. But by Rabbelaise' beard, she will throw several fits, If you speak of them roundly as good honest ....” “Though a lady oppose your advance, she'll be kind, As long as you intimate what's on your mind....But the moment you're forthright, get ready to duck, For the girl isn't born yet who'll stand for 'Let's ....'” How true!

PETA stands for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. The organization has made headlines with hard-nosed actions verging on terrorism, in the name of saving animals from bad treatment. Now PETA employees are charged with 31 felony counts of animal cruelty for dumping 31 dead animal bodies they had promised to find homes for. It seems they kill 85% of the animals they take in. I oppose animal cruelty--in fact I am a vegetarian for that reason--just as I oppose trashing the Constitution. It seems that some so called patriots are contemptuous of American values, and some so called animal protectors are slaughtering them instead. Has the world gone crazy? Yet consider what they are dealing with, next.

Also from NEW SCIENTIST: the fur trade had been in the doldrums, as people realized it wasn't nice to slaughter cute creatures so as to wear their skins. After all, there are many effective substitutes. But now fickle fashion is swinging back, and an ad says “Fur is fun again.” It seems this is the result of a campaign by the fur industry to make it cool and trendy to wear fur. So the fur farms are back, with animals in barren cages smaller than the recommended minimum--and who wants to spend his whole life in a cage? Some animals exhibit extreme fear and signs of self mutilation. I suspect it is similar to the depressive girls who cut themselves to make the emotional pain go away for a few hours. Then comes the slaughter: some animals are swung by their hind legs head-first against the ground, with luck getting stunned. Many are fully conscious while being skinned, and remain so for up to ten minutes after all of their skin has been removed. When this was called to the attention of the fur industry, it claimed the video evidence had been staged. Thus animals are literally tortured for their fur, and it seems that no reforms are in the works. The particular fur factories described here are in China, but of course the fur comes here. So you want to wear genuine fur as a fashion statement? Stay the hell away from me.

The power problem: at the rate the world is using up fossil fuels, they will run out all too soon. They are also polluting our world, and warming it. A study of past effects, circa 50 million years ago, suggests that a tipping point is approaching that could acidify the oceans and lead to another great extinction. Alternative energy sources will come, before or after the last lump of coal is mined, the last drop of oil pumped, and maybe even before we extinguish most life on Earth. It's too bad that America is not in the forefront of the quest for renewable energy, but fortunately other countries are trying harder. Wind farms are appearing, and no, they are not killing birds wholesale; the birds learn to avoid them. But my bet is on solar collection in deserts and rooftops, translated to electricity conducted around the world.

From a column by Walter Brasch: the Patriot Act (to my mind a completely unpatriotic menace) violates six Constitutional amendments: #1, 4, 5, 6, 8, and 14. The Act has not made a dent on terrorism, but is trashing the Constitution. We are losing the safeguards that made America great.

“Deep Throat” has been revealed. Plenty is being said about the misdeeds of the Nixon administration, and you know I have a T-shirt saying “I don't care if he's dead, I still want to IMPEACH NIXON” and I do wear it, signaling where I stand on that. But I have a peripheral comment: some folk today may not realize that the term originated from the title of a dirty movie. It was about a woman in the sex industry whose clitoris was in her throat, so she got her orgasms by oral sex, literally. Some mischievous genius borrowed that for the secret source revealing Nixon secrets.

They are still trying to discredit Vitamin C, saying that a study of studies indicates that it doesn't work on the common cold. Okay, you can believe the studies, or you can believe me: Vitamin C does work. So what's with the studies? They were trying daily doses of 200 milligrams. That's like giving a starving man half a peanut a day and noting that he died anyway. To stop a cold you take one gram--that's 1,000 milligrams--of Vitamin C per waking hour until symptoms cease. That's about a hundred times the dose they were trying. It generally takes three days with me; others generally have faster success. I take it in liquid form to be sure it doesn't run through the digestive system undissolved. I suggest that there are two classes of people in the world: those who know Vitamin C doesn't work, and those who have actually tried the proper dose. Welcome to try it yourself, next cold you start. Then you'll know. So why do they refuse to test the proper dose? I think because it would put a lot of palliative nostrum companies out of business, and they make sure that what actually works doesn't get tested.

There's a new liberal voice in town, Live Liberal at www.liveliberal.com. Loud mouthed conservatives have tried to make liberal a bad word, though the dictionary definition is favorable to progress or reform, open minded, tolerant, free from prejudice, generous, charitable, and the like. Why would conservatives want to proclaim opposite values of bigotry, intolerance, close mindedness, prejudice, niggardly and the like? Yet seems they not only espouse such opposites, they practice them. It has been said that conservatives are without empathy. They have come to dominate the media, all the time screaming about the liberal bias there. To them, it seems, anyone only slightly to the right of Rush Limbaugh is ultra liberal, and anyone to the left is virtually criminal. Sickening. So if you want to see issues like income inequality, increased national debt, and progress and reform through individual freedom discussed, there's where. I may even look it up myself.

DISCOVER magazine has an article about Roger Penrose, who has devised an experiment that may determine whether orthodox quantum mechanics is invalid. It may take years to set up the experiment, but the diagrams are persuasive for me; I think he's right. Another article is on out-of-body experiences; it seems that many people have them, and near-death experiences. It seems our brains are wired for mystical experiences. That explains a lot. Much of religious belief may thus be fathomed.

Republicans have evidently decided that Hillary Clinton will be the Democratic nominee for president next time, and have cranked up their smear machine. Already they are publishing books and faking pictures. What bemuses me is the way professed moral folk hardly seem to hesitate to cheat and lie to achieve their ends. At issue at the moment is the book The Truth About Hillary, which hints she's a lesbian and that her daughter Chelsea was conceived only because Bill Clinton raped her. Fascinating; I can hardly wait for the next three years of this campaign. Some people seem to have no shame, and I'm not talking about Hillary.

Here's an example: a letter appearing in the local newspaper said that this Rove business--leaking the identity of a secret agent, which is a crime--was a tempest in a teapot, and they should be focusing instead on important things. He called it a display of partisan politics. “The liberals have presumed Rove guilty without any proof just as they did to Clarence Thomas. This is their modus operandi. They scream fanciful suppositions loudly and often and hope that the unthinking will believe their propaganda.” Oh, really? One thing I, an avowed social and political (but not financial) liberal, have noticed is that the conservatives tend to accuse the opposition of what they themselves are doing, to cover their guilty butts. Thus when they savaged Anita Hill, the woman who accused Clarence Thomas of sexual harassment, they screamed that he was the one being savaged. Since then evidence has surfaced showing that Anita Hill was correct; she was the one wronged. They screamed that the Democrats were trying to steal the Presidential election of 2000, when in fact the Republicans stole it. Now solid evidence has put the spotlight on one of the misdeeds of Rove, and this letter-writing character is desperate to change the subject. And where was he when the Republicans actually impeached president Clinton for a peccadillo that a number of his accusers were guilty of, as well as several prior presidents? Rove should not be investigated similarly? What a hypocrite. Yet it is par for their course.

I received an email discussion from Frank Eeken titled “The Truth about Killing.” It makes several intriguing statements. Human beings do not want to kill. Research shows that less than 25% of soldiers choose to shoot at the enemy, and only 2% shoot to kill. 1% of the air force was responsible for the total killings by bombing by airplanes. A study of the Normandy Invasion of World War Two concluded that after 60 days of continuous battle, 98% of the survivors became psychiatric patients--i,.e,, insane--and the other 2% were called “aggressive psychopatical personalities.” Half of those were sociopaths, which are folk without feelings. [I differ here: sociopaths are folk without empathy. They have feelings, but no compassion for others; they are ultimately selfish. In my fantasy they are folk without souls. Politically they seem to be radical conservatives.] The other 1% are special people who want to spare others pain and sorrow. Okay, as I mentioned above, I am a vegetarian because I don't like hurting animals; my empathy extends beyond my own species. This discussion suggests that I am hardly alone; I merely draw the line beyond where most others do. War and killing are ugly things, though I do not say they are never justified.

Last time I mentioned how each month this year had more rain on our tree farm than the prior one. That continued, with 10.2 inches in June and 10.95 in July. I suspect the streak will break soon, however. Meanwhile we had an air conditioning lapse: the upstairs unit worked less and less well, until finally it was running continuously, jacking up our electric bill something awful, but not cooling; it got to 87° here in my upstairs study and I didn't dare turn on my computer lest it fry. I hauled a mattress downstairs to sleep on. My wife has slept downstairs for months, being unable to climb the stairs because of her illness. The Air Conditioning folk said the unit was working. The hell it was. So we turned it off two days, then tried it again, just in case--and it worked perfectly. So did a bubble get in a pipe or something? Meanwhile our second heat exchanger has never worked well; it runs only when the repair man is here. The perversity of the inanimate ruins our effort to save energy.

The Humanists say that Humanists should come out of the closet, as it were, and let the wider public know they exist, to counter the takeover of our nation by the Radical Right. Okay, I am a card-carrying Humanist. Here is one official definition: Humanism is a progressive philosophy of life that, without supernaturalism, affirms our ability and responsibility to lead ethical lives of personal fulfillment that aspire to the greater good of humanity. Why is anyone not a Humanist?

I have other notes, but am out of time. I have a novel to write, medical appointments to keep, and the other things old fogies do. Chances are that by the time you read this I'll be 71. When I attend that Orlando fan convention next year I am seriously thinking of wearing a name tag saying PIERS ANTHONY BOF. The initials stand for Boring Old Fart. It's not fun being old, but think of the alternative.

PIERS
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