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Piers the handyman 2007
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We have what I call our Garbage Garden, dating back over two decades from when our garbage disposal unit broke and I started burying garbage in the garden square for compost. Parts of that garbage are alive, and they grow. I like the idea of recycling the seeds of what we eat, so that we are actually contributing to the life cycle instead of destroying it. Over the years we have had potatoes, tomatoes, squash, a radish, and avocados. They don't produce much fruit, if any, and no avocado has lasted long enough to make a tree, but at least they get to have their brief place in the sun. I think anyone deserves that, whether human, animal, or plant. This year two kinds of squash are growing, and there are also half a dozen plants of a kind I didn't recognize. Probably weeds, but they weren't doing any harm, so I let them be. They grew up to about waist height and had little round white flowers. Then in AwGhost I spied what I realized was a green bell pepper. I thought the pepper seeds were infertile, but maybe not. Glory be! So far there is only one, but summer is not over.

 

I had my 78th birthday. We bought a cheesecake to celebrate. Birthdays don't mean as much to septuagenarians as they do to younger folk. The average American man my age is three years dead; don't rush me. Mainly I'm trying to live long enough to get done whatever I want to accomplish in my life, whatever that may be. That reminds me of a story about Abraham Lincoln: when asked how long a person's legs should be, he said “Just long enough to reach the ground.” How long should a person's life be? Just long enough to complete his term. But the local newspaper, the CITRUS COUNTY CHRONICLE, listed me first on that day, I think because I was the oldest for my date, AwGhost 6. My daughter works for that newspaper; do you think she had something to do with that? Naa...

 

I received word from the California Center for the Book, which runs an annual contest Letters About Literature, that eighth-grader Ian Tindel won top honors this year for his letter to me about my novel On A Pale Horse. They sent me a copy of their booklet containing all their letters from grades 4-12, including Winners and Honorable Mentions, and Ian's is of course a nice essay. “... your book made me realize how precious life is.” Thank you, Ian; I'm glad my novel helped you, and that California is encouraging its students to widen their horizens.

 

We saw the remake of the movie Total Recall. Herein lies a story. The original movie was more than twenty years ago, developed from the story “We Can Remember It For You Wholesale” by Philip K. Dick. They wanted a known writer to do the novelization, and I wanted experience of this kind, so I did it. In the process I learned things about Hollywood, such as their ignorance of basic physics and their tendency to eliminate the best rather than the worst sequences. For example, they had instant radio communications between Earth and Mars, when there should have been ten-minute delays, and they thought that vaporizing a Mars glacier would make breathable air. I did my best to patch these up in the novel, but have no evidence that they even read it. Perhaps my favorite scene was when the protagonist, Arnold Schwarzenegger, (named Quail in the story, renamed Quaid when a certain politician was vice president) was taking a break with fellow workers from his rock-breaking job, and there was a dancing girl entertaining them in the middle of the circle. Then Arnold got up and walked right through her. She was a holo! He had known it; we had not. You don't remember that scene? No wonder; it was cut. I had to eliminate it for the paperback edition, where the publisher decided editorially to enhance some of my scenes, but did not take out the original scenes, so we had things happening twice. They also cut the print order, so that though the movie was a bestseller, the book was not, because there were not enough copies available. Both the movie folk and the author were annoyed by that; I understand that the movie folk gave the publisher money to double the print order, and the publisher took the money then reneged. Readers may wonder why authors get cynical. I got some fan mail saying that the book was better than the movie; I love that. I did fill in two chapters of missing background, and spliced back in as much of the original Phil Dick's memory rationale as I could, to be true to that author. Dick was a character in his own right, largely unheralded while he lived, much recognized after he was safely dead; par for that course. I remarked once at a convention how I'd like to find the secret of progressing from recognition as a hack to a genius without having to die in between. But the current movie is a different creature, and I have no connection with it; I don't know if it even has a novelization. It is based on the same original story, and there are some similarities, but you could watch #1 and #2 consecutively and not suffer much deja vu. I believe Sharon Stone was in the first; different actresses are in the second, and Arnold is gone, as is any reference to Mars. No matter; the actors are competent and this is a fast-moving romp. It is set in a post-apocalyptic world where the only survivors are the British sphere, including part of France, and Australia, the suppressed Colony. Essentially, the protagonist is suffering confusions of memory, so he goes to Rekall to have a nice memory implanted, but it goes wrong and he winds up shooting a bunch of police. He turns out to be a notorious revolutionary whose memories were suppressed and new ones implanted, together with a sexy wife to keep an eye on him. When he tries to get a memory implant, that interferes with the prior implant, and really messes him up. Wife tries first to console him, then to kill him when he doesn't fall in line. As she asks him, did he really think a man like him could get a woman like her if it wasn't her assignment? That should make every newly married man uncertain; just how did he manage to rate such a doll? He escapes, but she pursues, aided by the robot police. Those robots reminded me of the ones in Star Wars; maybe they were out of work and available cheap. He meets up with his real girlfriend, whom he doesn't remember other than as a dream, and they struggle to avoid the constant pursuit. I have a taste for shapely brown-haired girls — in fact I married one — but when they were fighting each other and their hair got all mussed up I couldn't tell them apart. I'd have preferred more contrast there, as it's frustrating not being able to tell which one to root for. I loved the hi-tech background of the cities, with a subway called the Fall through the center of the Earth connecting Britain and the Colony, so they traveled in free-fall and buildings that seemed to sink into the ground (though maybe that was the Fall station) and elevators that went up, down, or sideways with marvelous precision, reminding me of working a Rubik's cube. It really is quite a set. Those layers of implanted memory are also impressive, as he gradually uncovers his original identity. I was reminded of the Bourne movies in both that and the way he handled himself when attacked; my wife was reminded of the James Bond movies. Obviously the studio was aware of the current fashion in futuristic adventure. Anyway, I recommend this one for largely mindless fun. And no, it is surely not nearly as good as the book I would have written, had I been asked to novelize it.

 

Finding myself unexpectedly caught up on reading for the moment, I read a couple of books of my own choice. I don't get to do that routinely. One was Erotic Fantasy Art, edited by Aly Fell and Duddlebug, that my wife gave me in 2008. This is a series of over a hundred paintings of lovely, mostly nude, girls. For some reason artists seem to prefer shapely girls to BEMS—Bug-Eyed-Monsters, though I suspect that BEM artists would would have different priorities. No actual sex here, at least not that you can see, just tempting displays. Nice art throughout, some of it pretty sexy. I noticed how wild and ethereal their hair can be; I've always been a fan of nice hair on women, even when it isn't brown, and it gave me an idea for the next Xanth novel I'll write, #38 Board Stiff.

 

And I read Twins, by Lawrence Wright, that I bought in 1998; it can take me a while to get around to some things, which perhaps gives a hint of how jammed my time tends to be. We are learning things from identical twins, one of which is that they are not identical; one can be healthy while the other has a wasting disease. How much of us is genetic, and how much environment? It's really hard to tell, as the two factors interact. “Genetic traits for behavior are best understood as inclinations, not as mandates.” Yet when identical twins are raised apart from each other, there can be startling parallels. In incidental fact: “The younger a woman is when she has her first period, the higher her chances of developing breast cancer in the future.” With girls maturing earlier and earlier these days, that bodes ill for their health. Twins tend not to be as healthy as singletons, maybe because they tend to be born earlier as the womb gets crowded. 35% of identical twins are left handed, twice the rate of others. And there is a report of observing twins in the womb: one punched the other, and the other looked surprised. Twins have also been observed kissing each other in the womb. And what do identical twins indicate about self, the unique center of every individual? Where is your identity if another has it too? It does make you wonder.

 

I proofread my own novella, Awares, with Elasa, my lady robot taking on the dread menace of the Maggots: telepathic creatures with spaceships that are coming to literally eat all life on Earth. They take over the minds of key leaders who then go about building slaughterhouses intended for human beings, with the general population none the wiser. Elasa, being a machine, is immune to telepathic takeover, so it's her challenge to save Earth. So the Maggots set out to nullify her, of course. Fortunately she has the help of a precognitive Lamb, and a Venus Flytrap plant capable of projective telepathy, and the specially talented Awares. Even so, there's no certainty of success; it's a sort of David vs. Goliath situation. This concludes a series of four novellas, To Be A Woman, Shepherd, Flytrap, and Awares. All will be available as e-books.

 

I also saw a bunch of videos. Some were junk that I bought because they were cheap, like two or three dollars per. I saw War of the Worlds 2 and Invasion of the Pod People on a two-movie disc; neither was close to the impact of the original movies, though each had its moments. Mega Piranha was fun if you accept the notion that a fish can double its size every few hours. The idea was that an experiment got loose in the wild, and soon these vicious fish were attacking everything else, and even leaping out of the water to catch folk on the beach. Then I viewed one my daughter lent me, Gamer, and that was distinctly higher class. The idea is that people can play violent games using real-life avatars, mostly death-row prisoners, gunning others down in a kill or be killed competition. Or a player can animate a shapely woman, sending her into sex. But what does this technology mean for the larger population? Right: there may be no limit, and the whole world could find itself locked into just such gaming with ordinary folk the puppets. It had to be stopped, and a death-row criminal turned out to be the one to stop it. I watched Super 8, borrowed from a correspondent. That starts out as children, maybe 7th graders, trying to make their own zombie horror movie. Then a couple of things happen that compelled my rapt attention: the girl they got turned out to be a born actress so she seemed really to be the part; it was startling to see real talent emerge from the kids' clumsy ideas. And there was a train wreck that they coincidentally filmed because they were there. I'm not sure I have seen a more dramatic train wreck in the movies; it was spectacular. And it freed an alien monster, leading into a different kind of adventure. The human interactions are well done, too. This one is well worth watching. And Fracture, also borrowed, wherein Anthony Hopkins — an actor with a first name like that is bound to be good, no? - in the role of a clever murderer outsmarting the police, does his magic. It's a sort of quality murder mystery, with the mystery being how could the gun we saw him use turn out to be an un-fired weapon?

 

A reader sent me a transcript of a post on Facebook, “Talking to God,” which seems to be by Jordan Lejuwaan. It's some story. Seems the narrator is riding the train and another man joins him. Then the other asks “Why don't you believe in god?” For indeed, he is an atheist. It turns out that his companion is God, and is happy to converse with someone who is not afraid of him. In the course of the dialogue he becomes satisfied that this is indeed God, who wants to optimize intelligence and feeling in the universe but has to let most things play out in their own fashion. On rare occasion he intervenes, as when the dinosaurs got locked into their emotionally stultified way and finally had to be eliminated to make way for creatures with better prospects. Thoughtful throughout, and worth reading by deist and atheist alike. (I'm agnostic.)

 

Facebook, again: it seems there is a Piers Anthony fan page there. This is just to let you know that I am not there personally. I have never been to Facebook, partly because we're on dial-up and have to limit our online activities to email and my survey of electronic publishers. I don't object to the fan page, but if you want actual contact with me, HiPiers.com is the place.

 

I am liberal, because that's where reason, compassion, and common sense seem most in evidence. The August 1 issue of THE WASHINGTON SPECTATOR, a liberal newsletter, describes how the House Republicans have gone wild, targeting the environment, banking regulation, and taxes on the rich. “Anti-environmental bills are the largest single category of cosponsored Republican House bills filed since the GOP House landslide in 2010. Which makes sense, because dismantling environmental protections is where Republican members of Congress can provide the largest savings for their corporate underwriters.” Right; they want to pollute air, earth, and water and let others have to clean it up or suffer loathsome maladies from it. They are filing tax cut bills almost as frequently, so they can keep even more of their ill-gotten lucre. They also have a bill to cut off funding for study of the causes of climate change, so they can continue pretending global warming does not exist or is not caused by industrial pollution. Also to expand gun rights, restrict rights for union members, cut funding for the United Nations, and so on. They have voted 33 times to eliminate Obamacare, falsely claiming it is costing our society money instead of saving it. (The Congressional Budget Office, said to be objective, concludes that Obamacare adds 30 million people to the insurance rolls while cutting the deficit by $109 billion over 10 years.) It is, in general, a shit agenda. How could any sensible person support it? Ah, there's the rub: these folk are not sensible. Another leftist newsletter, THE HIGHTOWER LOWDOWN, remarks on the minimum wage, which has become disgracefully low. Raising it to $10 an hour would help the economy by putting more money into the hands of the lowest paid workers, who are guaranteed to spend it promptly. The only groups who oppose it, by slight majorities, are the Tea Party, and those who get their news from Fox TV. Studies show that, contrary to business claims, a higher minimum wage does not eliminate jobs.

 

How To Be A Woman, by Caitlin Morgan: “Do you have a vagina? Do you want to be in charge of it?...Congratulations! You're a feminist.” I also like the way she takes off on high heels. I believe that women who use footwear that cripples their walking and gives them ten times the foot ailments as men are crazy. They think it makes them look better? They are warped by the fashion magnates. If I were looking for a female companion — I'm not — I'd look at her feet to judge how sensible she is. Meanwhile the harassment of women continues. Liz Gorman was walking when a cyclist came up behind her, stuck his hand under her skirt and sexually assaulted her, then pulled his hand out and rode off. Or to rephrase it, he goosed her, which I regard as a lesser crime than grabbing, raping and killing, but it's still something that women should not be exposed to. Her report resulted in many other women coming forward to report their similar experiences. To be a woman is to be a sexual target. I'm a man, and I like the look and feel of women, but I also respect their right to go about their business unmolested. I would not want strange women goosing me on the street. So why do so many men think they have the right to do it to women?

 

Nice article in the local CITRUS COUNTY CHRONICLE by Tom O'Hara on dying. He agrees there are slippery slopes, but he wants to die in his own fashion. “I really don't want to endure those months of wasting away ... I would much prefer to spend a few weeks getting things organized and saying my goodbyes. Then I want to take control of the dying. It's my life. It's my body. If I want to spare myself and those I love months of useless pain and sadness, then I should be allowed to kill myself without a lot of legal debate and secrecy. And I'll get the satisfaction of knowing that I've saved the taxpayers a nice piece of change.”

 

The Thom Hartmann Blog often has interesting material. “In one day, Big Oil earns $342 million in profit, pays their CEOs $60,000 in salaries, spends more than $160,000 lobbying, and dumps a billion pounds of carbon pollution into our skies. All that in a single day. And what do we get out of it? Rapid climate change that's threatening to destabilize the entire planet.” Also: “Republicans in Congress passed a poison pill piece of legislation forcing the Post office to pre-fund retiree health benefits 75 years out into the future.” No other government agency has ever had to do this. This is running the Post Office broke and it is defaulting on payments and shutting down services. Without this burden it would be in balance. Why this corrosive legislation? Because it has hundreds of thousands of unionized workers. So Republicans are hurting unions by bankrupting the Post Office, and fuck those who depend on snail mail.

 

Stray notes: They experimented with speed signs one one of the roads we regularly use. They simply flash your present speed back at you, so that you and everyone else knows whether you are within the limit. When a real speeder charges ahead, the sign says SLOW DOWN. It's working, too; traffic slows right down. But the last few days the signs have been intermittent or dead. That's too bad. Voter fraud: Item in THE WEEK says that the biggest source of fraud is in absentee ballots, not personal voting. So why aren't the Republicans addressing that? Because those tend to vote Republican; it's only Democrat fraud they object to. And they have discovered a fifth moon of (demoted) planet Pluto, named P5, maybe ten miles in diameter. The others are Charon, Hydra, Nix, and P4. A state record-breaking python was found in the everglades, 17 feet, 7 inches. I'm just hoping those big snakes don't get hungry and start moving north, into our territory. And according to the Republicans, this is the dirtiest presidential campaign ever, and they blame Barack Obama. Most of what we see here in Central Florida is smear ads against Obama. So what's going on? According to columnist Bill Press, telling the truth about your opponent is not a negative ad, and that is what Obama has been doing. If I have an conservative readers who want to challenge me on this, well, make my day. I have been challenged before, and those folk, when refuted by the facts, don't apologize, they just disappear. They don't seem to be much interested in the facts, just ideology, however flawed. And it seems that quantum physicists are finally coming around to the obvious truth: that the universe exists regardless whether you measure it. NEW SCIENTIST article by Marcus Chown says that taken to its extreme, the old view implied that the universe did not exist until we observed it. And how did we come to observe it, if we did not exist before the observation? Monstrous paradox, to which they seem to have been blind. And one more: a new study indicated that a starvation diet does not extend the lives of animals. Makes sense to me; the longest and healthiest life should come from eating not too much or too little, but just the right amount. As I try to do.

PIERS
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