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SapTimber 2009

Our elder daughter, Penelope Carolyn Jacob, died of apparent respiratory paralysis on September 3, 2009. She is survived by her husband John, eight year old daughter Logan, her sister Cheryl, and us, her parents. We are somewhat in shock, and our attendance to other matters, such as correspondence, may suffer for a while. Penny lived in Oregon, and was in rehabilitation following brain surgery for melanoma that had metastasized there, pressing on nerves that controlled her right side, paralyzing it. She had trouble breathing, then was abruptly gone. We are helping her family in whatever ways we can, and Cheryl is there for the month to help also. I will have a more complete discussion in my OctOgre 2009 HiPiers column.


There will be no funeral or service, per her preference. Those who would like to contribute may do so by planting a tree in their neighborhood, as Penny loved trees, or a contribution in her name to the Eugene Waldorf School, 1350 McLean Blvd., Eugene, OR 97405. There is no obligation.


Original post:



Fifty three years and a couple of months ago I married a smart brown-haired nineteen year old girl.  I was always partial to that type.   She was nicknamed Cam, for the initials of her maiden name: Carol Ann Marble.  Ever since I have teased her about not staying nineteen, as if all problems could have been avoided thereby.  When she had her 43rd birthday I quoted Gilbert & Sullivan “She might very well pass for forty three, in the dark with a light behind her.”  In the course of novel writing this AwGhost I had need to pattern a wedding sequence, so my wife dug out her photo album, which included the text of our own wedding ceremony, along with many early pictures.  Ah, nostalgia!  We looked so impossibly young in those days.  She also saved the several poems I wrote her in those romantic years.  Here are three:


To Cam:


Two years ago in Florida

The twenty-third of June

What ended there and started then

Will not be finished soon


For there and then the knot was tied

I lost my carefree life

And forfeited my single days

And gained a loving wife


Though she is sometimes difficult

Puts the horse behind the cart

And smiles and sniffles all at once

I love her with all my heart.



Happy Anniversary Dear


I married a girl of nineteen

So sweet with her hair full of sheen

  Five years went by

  'Til I realized that I

Had a wife I could not contravene.


One lesson I now underscore:

Not to trust what she says anymore

  For I checked on her age

  And what was my rage

When I found she is twenty and four.



At one time we attended some square dancing classes, because we had enjoyed square dancing in college.  But in the course of cleaning up the floor she got a case of housemaid's knee, similar to tennis elbow, a joint affliction.  For that occasion I wrote, with one word tastefully omitted (after all, she was a minister's daughter):


There was a young lady named Cam

Who got herself into a jam

She hurted her knee

On a floor-scrubbing spree

And now she can't dance worth a


Sometimes I wrote poems for others, too.  Once my wife's grandmother gave me for Christmas a key chain with a little padded box to hold the key.  I don't remember the first stanza, but from memory here is the concluding one:


So thanks again for what you did

Unearthing from the place it hid

The coffin with the flip-top lid



I read Eala's Misfit by Chris Condoleo.  I had read a sample, and it was a close call, so I asked to see the whole, and this was the second book of the three that arrived almost together in mid AwGhost.  My impression is mixed .  There's a nice cover and bookmark.  It's the story of a girl whose mother is killed, and the girl is protected by being exiled to an alternate reality orphanage for several years.  She had magic powers which are blocked off, including her knowledge of them.  It's ugly; no one likes her there, and she suffers nightmares.  But it seems her magic manifests in her dreams.  For example, one day a girl torments her with a snake.  That night she dreams of snakes—and fifty or more real snakes go after the tormenting girl.  There is this kind of imagination throughout the novel.  Unfortunately the level of writing is less than professional, and it seems somewhat haphazardly organized, a common fault in amateur writers, by no coincidence.  So I deem it unpublishable by a commercial house, but there is imagination and a story there.  www.eppyscreations.com.


Charles N Brown died.  He was the proprietor of the genre news magazine LOCUS.  I met him three times as I remember, maybe more, encountering him mostly at conventions.  Back around 1966 I met him in New York and he was compatible, and lent me the dinosaur novel Before the Dawn, by John Taine I think, as I was then writing my dinosaur novel Orn.  Later he started LOCUS and sent me free copies, though I insisted on paying for them.  He showed me around part of the American Bookseller's Convention in Dallas, in 1982.  I visited his house in the San Francisco area 1987, as part of an Author Tour, where he interviewed me.  So you might think all was compatible.  Only on the surface.  I mentioned once, privately, that it seemed to me to be a waste of space to list things like authors delivering books to publishers; what counted was sales and publication.  Apparently he couldn't handle even that mild private criticism, because thereafter news and reviews relating to my works turned negative.  For example LOCUS ran the news of the British Fantasy Society annual award winners every year except one: the year A Spell for Chameleon won, and there was no mention of that win in the magazine, apparently to try to prevent it from winning any American award.  When my autobiography Bio of an Ogre was published, the LOCUS review was so negative you might have thought I was an ax murderer.  In one case a review put (sic) to call attention to a supposed error in my book—an error that was not in the published edition.  In the past decade or so LOCUS has not reviewed my books at all, I presume because there were too many protests about the unfairness of the ones it had been running.  (Sometimes the authors of unacknowledged protests sent me copies of their letters.)  Its agenda seemed to be that if it couldn't pan my books, it wouldn't review them at all.  So as far as objective news went, LOCUS was not to be trusted; it had a personal agenda on me, and I presume on others; I heard complaints.  There were other examples, but I think I've made the point.  That showed me how small Brown really was.  He used what was supposed to be an objective news and review magazine to push his private spite.  Too  bad; that meant that nothing in it could be completely trusted.  The SF/fantasy genre needs accurate sources of information, and LOCUS has become pretty much the only game in town.  I suppose that makes corruption easy.  Whether things will change there now that Brown is gone I don't know; I suspect not.  There's really not a lot of worthwhile genre news in it, maybe because others, like me, no longer bother to inform it.


I like shapely young women.  It's like bird watching: you catch every glimpse you can, but you never touch or become too obvious.  On rare occasions I'll see one with a low décolletage leaning forward in the grocery store to fetch an item from a low shelf, or to lift things out of her cart.  Electrifying glimpses!  They pretend they don't know what they're showing, and I pretend I don't notice.  Much of polite society is fashioned of pretense.  In off moments I put on the LATN TV channel, as they evidently cater to sight-seeing men of any age or language, with marvelously endowed pretty-faced creatures who show a good deal of breast and leg.  I also collect pictures I encounter.  One source is the glossy bra ads in the newspaper.  I have discovered that while girl calendars can be sexy—a correspondent in Hawaii sends me Hawaiian beauties—and PLAYBOY magazine ads can be sexy, these tend to be so obviously artificial that they lose appeal.  You fear that if you could actually touch one of those models, the glaze would crack.  But the bra ads are crafted to seem natural, as if real women are wearing them.  Slender, shapely, pretty creatures with glorious hair and perfect makeup, but still seeming to be genuine women in dishabille.  They turn me on, and I cut out and save the better pictures.  Some of the best are modeling Ambrielle bras.  Maybe the model for that brand just happens to be my type.  Thick long brown hair.  I never went for blondes romantically.  On the street you have a pretty good indication which women are married and which are looking: the lookers are slender with lovely hair, while the married hack off their hair and put on weight, as if they just can't wait to turn off their men.  So half the men dump them and go for new slender haired ones, as the 50% divorce rate suggests.  No mystery there.  But you know, if I were looking for a woman to keep, in contrast to bird watching, I think I'd look first at her feet.  Most American women hobble themselves on high heels, suffering ten times as many foot ailments as men, because they think that makes their legs look better.  As if bobby-sox college girls are unattractive?  As if men look at ankles and calves rather than boobs and asses?  To me, a feminist in high heels is a fraud.  I'd go for one with sensible footwear, knowing that it probably reflected a sensible mind.


Last column I discussed my wife's experience with the Kindle and Sony readers.  Now I have experience of my own: deluged with reading—I'm making slow progress—I'm reading one manuscript on the Sony.  That works okay, except that one day its battery was half charged, and overnight it dropped to zero so I had to recharge instead of read.  Apparently these things, supposedly using no power when pages aren't being changed, are depleting their batteries when turned off, which is a no-no in my book.  Otherwise it's okay.  It holds my place and the text is legible.  There's about to be a new version that will have wireless loading, like the Kindle, and I understand Barnes & Noble is working on a similar device.  Eventually these things will merge with computers and cell phones, so that any unit will do anything.  A newspaper article titled “The Kindle Killers” says that people will read onscreen using machines they already own, so why bother with a separate reader?  But I suspect Amazon will counter by adding features like email to the Kindle and ask why bother with a computer?  I wonder whether Google will get into the fray, as it now has a considerable interest in online reading.  It should be an interesting battle.


Senator Ted Kennedy died, age 77.  Two years older than I am—that makes me nervous.  My first vote as an American citizen was for his brother John, who, three years into his presidency, visited Tampa Bay Florida and was welcomed, then visited Dallas Texas and they killed him.  That's a simplification of a situation that grows uglier when inspected in more detail.  Ted was a strong liberal force in the Senate.  He might have been president, but for a couple of things.  One was the “Mudd Slide,” when Roger Mudd interviewed him, asked him why he wanted to be president, and he had trouble answering.  You'd have thought he would have had a canned answer ready.  If someone asked my why I want to be a writer, I would not draw a blank.  (So why do I?  Um, hum, let me ponder that.)  The other was Chappaquiddick.  The story is that Ted took a young female campaign worker out for a tryst, missed a turn, drove into the bay, managed to escape the sinking car, but she didn't, and drowned.  Bad scene, and the truth was never known.  But of course I figured it out, maybe alone among mundanes, and even put it, thinly veiled, into a novel decades ago.  Now it can be told: Ted took Mary-Jo out, but suspected they were being followed, maybe by a rival politician or a photographer seeking a scoop for a trash tabloid.  So he devised a way to discover who was spying on him: he got out and hid in the brush, watching for the pursuing car, while Mary-Jo took the wheel and drove on, maybe with the lights off.  But she was not familiar with the road, and in the darkness missed a turn and plunged into the water and drowned.  When Ted caught up to that place and discovered what had happened, it was too late.  Since he couldn't tell the truth—that he wasn't even there when it happened, because of his paranoia—he took the blame, and it severely crippled his political career.  He was a good man, but severely flawed.


The debate about health care reform is on.  Republicans used the same arguments in the 1960s to oppose Medicare that they are using now, and they are similarly invalid.  Here's a key to the hypocrisy and ignorance of it: when they were disrupting a town hall style discussion—you know, denying others their right to freedom of expression—they protested that they didn't want government running health insurance.  It's their mantra that this is burdensome and inefficient, that private insurers can do it cheaper and better.  But they don't want the so called public option, where a government agency competes with the private ones, fearing that it would take away their business.  How, if it's so inefficient?  So they were asked how many protesters were on Medicare?  It turned out that about half were.  But that's government insurance.  And they booed, refusing to believe it.  The fact is, Medicare is about the most efficient insurer extant, with overhead costs of three percent, while the average for private insurers is more like thirty percent.  How ignorant can you get?  As I like to say, you don't have to be stupid or ignorant to be conservative, but it helps.  Republican office holders surely know the truth, but keep silent.  It is tempting to suspect that you don't have to be a liar to be a Republican, but it seems that helps too.  Cynthia Tucker had a good column commenting on the situation, pointing out that private insurers spend a lot of time and money figuring out ways to deny legitimate claims.  Sometimes they hope the victim is just too sick to fight back.  What's wrong with profit?  It has no place when it's people's health and lives at stake.  If a new car is too expensive you can walk away, but if your health care is too expensive, you die.  The private insurance industry doesn't want real competition; that would interfere with those multi-million dollar CEO bonuses, while clients suffer and perish.  So yes, we need a complete overhaul, to cover the nigh fifty million uninsured people in America, to stop companies from cheating their sick clients, and to make health care affordable for all.  Failing that, a reasonable compromise is to have that public option.


A study shows that children can indeed suffer from chronic depression.  Duh!  I could have told them that when I was a depressive child.  Psychiatrists thought it couldn't happen.  It did not take me long as a child to conclude that psychiatrists had little notion of real children.  Indeed, as an adult I have my doubts that psychiatry itself is valid; I suspect that profession deludes itself about its relevance.  That is perhaps the only thing I agree with the Scientologists about, though I don't buy their manta either.  I finally refused to see any more child psychiatrists.  I date my long slow recovery from that decision; it was my turning point.


I finished writing my erotic romance novel Eroma, EROtic ROMAnce, and sent it to my agent.  It's an 86,000 calculated, 74,000 computer word love story concluding with a wedding and honeymoon, sexy as hell.  I suspect it will prove to be unmarketable to traditional print publishers, so probably I will query a number of electronic publishers.  It's about the erotic romance game, “Eroma,” wherein avatars compete somewhat in the manner of TV Survivor type series, only the competition is sexual, and there's a vast mundane audience that can deliver instant feedback on what it likes or hates.  Each contestant has his/her avatar, and the avatars not only interact in assorted challenging settings, they can have sex complete with orgasms that the mundane contestants experience.  In one setting, male players have to overcome and penetrate amazon-like defenders of a fantasy castle, turning them off by reaching the switch where the cervix normally is and triggering a thirty second mutual orgasm.  Female players have to prevent warriors from penetrating to their orgasmic switches.  So it's sexual combat between eager contestants, male and female; the game is careful not to use the word “rape.”  Other sequences become less conventional and more challenging.  I suspect some publishers will balk just from seeing the title of Chapter 3: “Poop of the Day.”  That features a restaurant where the waiters poop out the food entries, before it gets worse.  No, this is not reveling in filth; the food is perfectly tasty and healthy, and this is a pseudo setting; nothing is really real.  But some contestants have a problem with the manner of its apparent genesis, and get eliminated by the vomit factor.  Fancy that.  So I suspect that even the wilder erotic publishers have not before seen anything quite like Eroma, and may not want to.  But I had fun writing it.  In SapTimber I will start writing Xanth #35, Well-Tempered Clavicle, which is a rather different genre, and not just because there's no open sex.


Newspaper article titled “Early Vegetarian Activism” turns out to mean exactly that, with a picture of a six year old vegetarian girl.  “Young children are deciding to cut meat out of their diets and many of their meat-eating parents are backing them.”  More power to them!  They realize that animals are being mistreated, and are acting to deter that.  About three percent of American adults are vegetarians, evenly divided between reasons of health and animal welfare.  I'm the latter.  But you know, vegetarianism can be healthy if you pay attention, and a careful vegetarian is apt to be healthier than a careless omnivore.  Eat plenty of nuts and fruits.  We also take a flaxseed oil supplement, for the omega 3 that meaters get from fish.


I read a review of a novel titled Touch that looks interesting.  It's about a flat-chested girl with three male friends who spends a year in another city with her mom.  In that time she blossoms, developing marvelous breasts.  Then she returns and enters high school with her friends, only it's not the same, because they now see her in a different light.  You don't say!  One touches her chest: intentionally?  Did she let him?  It becomes a lawsuit.  I may buy that book if I see it.  I notice breasts, as mentioned above.  In my GEODYSSEY historical series I conjecture that full breasts were once a signal of pregnancy and nursing, meaning a woman was sexually unavailable and therefore of little male interest.  Only when they shrank back to nothing was she breedable.  But when our kind rose to two feet, and babies couldn't run along on their own in the manner animal babies can, women had to carry them, and they needed more help from men, including when they were nursing, so nature managed a remarkable turnabout: making full breasts become sexually desirable instead of turnoffs.  And you know, they work.  Women also became sexually available at all times, even when not fertile, to encourage men to remain interested.  I suspect it happened at a time of species contraction, when maybe 95% were wiped out, and the only survivors were the women with that essential male help.  Men wouldn't have done it for nothing; they had to be compelled.  Continuous sex is compelling.  It hasn't changed all that much today.  Many men still try to impregnate women and bug out, but they can't escape the lure of sex.  So full breasts are, really, one of several defining marks of our species.  Our overdeveloped brain is another, and our fur-less skin, the most efficient cooling mechanism in the animal kingdom, so we can forage in the noon sun while the big predators can't.  The study of mankind is fascinating.  So are breasts.  If you think otherwise, you're probably not a man.


Now they have jeans with eyes set along the lower crease of the buttock so that they wink as the girl walks.  It seems only fair that a girl's bottom gets the chance to peer back at the boy's eyes focusing on it from behind.  Bottoms are about as interesting as breasts; that's why young jeans are so tight.  Reminds me of the question: what's the first thing you notice about a woman?  Answer: is she coming or going?  Obviously you can't answer unless you know that.


Total Sci-Fi Online, a British web site that spun off from Dr. Who fandom, ranked the 100 best genre movies, and #1 was the 1982 Blade Runner.  Okay.  I might rank them differently, if I had the time and inclination to watch the full list.  I still remember Forbidden Planet from the 1950s, but can't be sure how I would rate it today.  One problem with such rankings is that people tend to go by nostalgia, so the old “classics” score higher than they may deserve.


Newspaper column by Robyn Blumner describes a new convention, the Moth.  This is the second oldest profession, storytelling, in an updated guise.  You have about ten minutes to tell a true story without notes.  Music plays in the background.  I'm sure sessions can be fascinating.  But of course I would think that, because I'm a storyteller.  I really do believe that storytelling is another of the defining marks of our species.  It's the leading art, and it may be responsible for much of our facility with language and our unity as a species.  If you're human, you like a good story.  Don't you?


Perhaps related: Ask Marylin had an item on vocabulary.  How many words must a person from another language learn, to communicate adequately in ours?  About 500, though 1,000 is better, plus some knowledge of verb tenses.  So if you want to tell a story in English, but you know only 499 words, tough luck.  Also perhaps related: Garrison Keillor remarks that “Bloggers are writers who've been liberated from editors, and some of them take you back to the thrilling days of frontier journalism, before the colleges squashed the profession.”  This rings true to me, as I write this blog-type column that is untouched by editorial restrictions.  Have you noticed?  He continues: “The Internet is a powerful tide that is washing away some enormous castles and releasing a lovely sense of independence and playfulness in the American people.”  Yes, the Internet is breaking down the corroded channels of the old order and opening things up for a wild new order.  Of course the early results are mixed, and there's a fair amount of shit out there.  But as with mutations, though 99% be bad, that remaining 1% will surely forge a better future.


I commented above on breasts above.  Okay, NEW SCIENTIST for August 8 has a feature “10 Mysteries of You” that explores other aspects of our nature.    Blushing may be a signal of honest feeling.  Laughter—women tend to want it, men provide it.  That must explain my funny fantasy, which seems have a larger female than male readership.  Pubic hair is probably to express (spread) compelling scent, as well as signaling sexual maturity.  Teenagers—it seems other species don't have them, and it may exist to allow young humans more time to develop their full physical and mental capacities.  Dreams may be to process memories.  Yes, I covered that in GEODYSSEY long ago, before science caught on.  Altruism may be to help your species, and therefore ultimately yourself, to survive.  Art may correlate with intelligent creativity.  Oh, do I ever believe that!  Superstition may have led into religion—after all, what is religion, but organized superstition?--providing some feeling of security in uncertain times; it is growing now, as more people are suffering economic and, in other parts of the world, physical distress.  Kissing may derive from breast feeding: the lips are a pleasure center that can be turned to social use.  And nose picking—almost everyone does it, often covertly, but science does not know why.  Well, I can enlighten science: it is to clean out a stuffed nose when the snot is too solid to blow out.  Need I say, duh?


Another NEW SCIENTIST article suggests that cold weather may have allowed our species to grow larger brains.  A study suggests that population size governed the need for bigger brains, to outsmart neighbors in a brain arms race, but the heat the brain generates limits it unless the weather cools.  It seems our efficient skin cooling system can do only so much to compensate for the albatross that is our bulging brain.  So larger population and cooler weather made bigger brains helpful and possible, and now that we have them, we have other ways to handle the heat.  Like air conditioning.  We'd better, lest the global warming we are making causes us to lose our minds.


And one on “The Third Replicator.”  The first replicator was the gene, the basis of biological evolution.  We are what we are physically and in raw brain power because of that.  The second replicator was the meme, the basis of cultural evolution.  We have language, art, music, and religion because of it.  The third may be—well, they're looking for a suitable title, but I'll use macheme, for machine meme, one of their suggestions, along with T-rep, for technological replicator.  That is, our machines, including computer programs, are now evolving largely on their own.  This process, the article says, is greedy, selfish, and utterly blind to the consequences of its own expansion.  We can see it happening; do we care?  This reminds me of the fragment of a poem by American Poet Sidney Lanier, one I admire: “What the cloud doeth, the Lord knoweth; the cloud knoweth not.  What the artist doeth, the Lord knoweth; knoweth the artist not?”  We are the artist who is loosing this process on the world, and it may have the potential to destroy us and the world.  Know we not?


This column and Survey update may be posted sightly early, and the OctOgre ones may be slightly late, because our Web Mistress is away for a month on family business.  Bear with it.

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