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Piers the handyman 2007
Jewel-Lye 2014

I watched the Discover video How the Earth Was Made: Earth's Deadliest Eruption. This turned out to be in Siberia 250 million years ago, and it lasted a million years.

It was something like 500,000 times the size of Hawaii, our biggest ongoing eruption. They didn't pussyfoot in the old days. So much lava came out that it formed a mound a mile and a half high, and covered an area the size of the United States. But it wasn't the flowing lava that wiped out 95% of life, it was the released carbon dioxide that in effect thinned the air and suffocated creatures. This severe pruning cleared the way for the dinosaurs and pine trees of the Mesozoic Era, and the following development of birds, mammals, and mankind. In sum: the world we know. It would have been something to watch, but we would not have survived the experience.

I read Revision Ravine by Brian Clopper. This is a sequel to The Questing Academy, actually part two of four, wherein the characters of novels exist when not on duty in their assigned stories. It's a fabulous notion, and imagination is rampant. They have feelings and drives not entirely governed by their authors. What about a character who does his utmost, only to be set aside as the author changes his mind about the story? Is that fair? Characters of many stories coexist in the Academy, and can get interested in characters outside their own stories. They have stories of their own, apart from the ones their authors script. In the present book they have to go to the dread Revision Ravine whose environment tends to siphon away their memories, even to the point where they may not remember why they came there. Anything can happen, and often does. This is one wild romp.

I watched Just Another Love Story, billed as a high adrenalin thriller, nervy and stylish. So much for blurbs; it turned out to be a Danish film with English subtitles (that is mentioned only in the small print), about a man, Jonas, who causes a car accident that leaves a young woman blind and with amnesia. Feeling guilty, he visits her in the hospital, and is mistaken for her boyfriend, so plays along. But actually he's married with children. Gradually he falls in love with the woman, Julia, which complicated his marriage. Then her real boyfriend turns up, a violent criminal, and it devolves into mayhem with both the boyfriend and Jonas getting killed and Julia, her sight and memory restored, with what is left. The concluding complications and violence did not seem to fit the tone of the first three quarters of the story, with the question of what a man in such a situation should do, and turned me off, as did the surprise about it being subtitled. I turn on the English subtitles routinely now, as some films in English seem about as easy to understand as those in other languages, but this was deceptive. No, rechecking, I see the catalog did mention it.

I watched ZPG Zero Population Growth, a 1971 movie. Overpopulation is wiping out resources so that people have to eat pills and drink from bottles, no regular meals, and there is perpetual smog. Something has to be done. So they finally do it: all reproduction is forbidden. No children for 30 years. The penalty for violation is death. The people don't much like it but have no choice; there is a cone of suffocation that descends on violators. Couples are issued dolls instead, that they can treat like babies. There are also videos of banquets so they can have the experience vicariously. The museum has realistic animals that once were common, like house cats, but are now extinct. So most folk cope, unhappily. But one couple has a baby anyway, in secret. Then the neighbors find out, are at first supportive, but then want the baby for themselves. When they don't get it, the man sounds the alarm, and the cone of death comes to take out parents and baby together. But they have planned for this, and dig out below, descending to the sewer system, where they float on an inflatable raft out to sea and to an island that is deserted because of radiation. With luck the radiation has faded enough to let them live, unmolested, though it's not clear what they'll find to eat. Okay, a 40 year old movie does seem dated, but the problem remains: how do we stop overpopulation from destroying the world? I pondered this in my GEODYSSEY series, concluding that there will inevitably come disaster, crashing of the food supply, cannibalism, and decimation of the population the hard way. Unless some serious control is exercised to limit births. Since Joe Schmoe will aggressively defend his right to have ten children by three women, for the state to feed, this can't be voluntary. My solution is universal contraception, maybe in the food or water or air, with special medication needed to counter it in order to restore fertility, or maybe contraception that is 99% effective and a few babies are conceived randomly. There would still be a ferocious baby black market, and legitimate parents might need to be in protective custody, but at least the population would come down without undue violence. There is no really simple answer, so probably we'll suffer the crash. I hope not to live to see it. There are indications that this could happen sooner than we think, though; I may have more on this anon.

I watched Coffy, a 1973 movie with a sexy heroine and lots of violence. I liked the bare breasts galore, but not the viciousness. Coffy has a grudge against criminals, and winds up slaying them all. They deserve it, but art this is not.

I watched Lilith, which I got because I read the novel by J R Salamanca about fifty years ago. The movie dates from the same time, 1964, and is in black and white. It was one phenomenal novel, and the movie follows it well enough except perhaps at the very end. Vincent, a young idealistic man takes a job at the local mental hospital where he comes to know the lovely schizophrenic patient Lilith. He is trying to draw her back into the real world, but she draws him into her world. It's a serious temptation, as it is a nice world. One thing the movie did not clarify was the words printed on her wall in the language only she knows: “If you can read this, you know that I love you.” They fall in love and become lovers. Then it goes wrong, because her definition of love is broader than his, and she makes love with another woman and is ready to do the same with a maybe ten year old boy, and it seems her brother killed himself because he couldn’t face his desire to have sex with her, though she was willing. When another patient wants to know how she feels about him, Vincent, jealous, tells him she wants no part of him. He commits suicide, and that so upsets Lilith that she regresses into full insanity and is lost to this world, ending the relationship. In the movie Vincent kills her; that is inelegant; they should have stayed with the book. But movie makers typically are not into literary nuances; they think there has to be climactic violence. Still, there are good thoughts. She asks him whether if he discovered that his god loves others as much as he loved him, would he hate him for it? I see that as a damn good question; she does love him, but she loves others too. We of the possessive persuasion can't understand that. Which philosophy is better? Her realm really is different from his, and it drives him crazy, literally. Another good sequence is when one patient tells another that he lacks a sense of reality, and a third patient asks what's so great about reality? The other patients love that. Part of the reason this story intrigues me is that I once worked in a mental hospital. It was only two months, between college semesters, but it was an education. Typical mental patients are not raving lunatics; they are ordinary rational people who can't handle some aspect of reality. It got so that I wasn't sure there was any real difference between the patients and me. If that was the impact of two months, what would a permanent job be like? I'd be nervous. At any rate, I recommend this movie, flawed though it may be, as I do the book; it does make you think. I suspect I will be thinking about it for many days, the movie having refreshed for me a really great story.

I had resolved to take it easy on my current novel, Xanth #40 Isis Orb, taking time for reading and videos. But I got caught up in the throes of it, as I usually do, and the others things piled up as I focused on it. So I completed it in JeJune, and edited it, just over 100,000 words. That's the story suggested by a ten year old girl, of five crossbreed folk who seek the Isis Orb to get their wishes granted. I researched the Goddess Isis, and she turned out to be quite a character, annoyed because she was displaced by Christianity in Mundania after thousands of years of worship. She means to do better in Xanth. These folk want her Orb? Lotsa luck. The novel should be self published in 2015.

I was innocently backing up my files, as I do daily, when some kind of error message appeared. So I abolished the message, and it vengefully took out my menu for addressing the backup flash drive. It was simply gone, and would not appear, leaving my novel locked in the computer. I finally had to call in my geek, Brian Smith, and he tackled it. And couldn't find it. When my stuff glitches, it truly glitches, similar has happened before, notably with problems addressing printers. But Brian did show me how I could use the regular file handler to address the backup drive, so I could get my material out. What a relief! Then I evidently typoed, and two pages appeared on the screen, and I couldn't get it back to one. I finally figured it out, maybe: there are little page icons at the foot of the screen, and if you accidentally hit one of those it can change it to two pages per screen.

My scooter had a blowout on the rear wheel a couple months ago, and when I fixed it the wheel no longer fit; it chafed against the fender. Does this make sense? No, but it happened. So I switched to my wife's bicycles for two and a half months, until one of them needed repair. We took it in to the bike shop, and they replaced two tires and tubes and got it back in working order. That cost $144, which was more than the bike cost initially. Oh how I missed my scooter! Then I started getting discomfort in the groin, and realized that the bike seat was doing it, putting pressure on a nerve. That happens to some men. Now I really missed my scooter. Then my printer ran out of toner, so we bought a replacement toner kit, which cost even more than the bike repair; do they make that stuff out of gold dust? While we were at the store we saw they had a sale on paper, buy two get one free, so we bought two ten ream boxes. Then I had to stack these fifty pound boxes in the closet, and to do that I had to clear out junk. And part of that was the front fender of my scooter, which I had had to remove years ago when I repaired a tire and the wheel no longer fit. I had forgotten. But now a bulb flashed. Yes, it makes no sense that merely patching a tire makes the wheel not fit, but it happened to me twice. Did I mention how impossible things mess me up? So I removed the rear fender, and now the scooter is operative again. Glory be!

My wife and I had our 58th anniversary, and celebrated by buying a chocolate covered cheesecake. At our age, that's excitement enough. The fact is that not many couples make it this far. I don't know the statistics, but my guess would be maybe one in a hundred, if that.

And I got a stopwatch. I run for exercise, and time my runs, but this is clumsy with a regular watch and I fear some of my times are wrong. Maybe I just don't want to admit I am slowing down as much as my times indicate. With the stopwatch there should be no question. I used it the first time on Monday, JeJune 30, and compared it to my regular way of timing: they were only one second apart. But I had trouble remembering when I started the run, which could have thrown me off a minute or three, while the stopwatch nailed it regardless, so it's an improvement. The run itself was abysmally slow, as they are in the heat of summer, but advancing age is the main culprit. I hate declining physically and mentally, but am determined never to be in denial about it. I am old. I remember my father, in his 90s, declining to use a walker, because those were for old folk. In this culture folk think age is a crime, and try to pretend to be young forever. Not me. When that time comes, I'll use a walker.

Assorted incidental notes: newspaper photo showing the backsides of three near-nude people, the center one female. Each of the men has an eye painted on the back, and the bottom of the woman is painted to resemble the muzzle of a lion. Taken together, the trio looks startlingly like the head of a lion staring at you. Letter in the newspaper says that religion has been and will always be a leading cause for mass atrocities, because the members of every sect think they are the chosen ones, and they'll trash anyone who questions this. Right; a woman in Africa was sentenced to death for being a Christian, and the Mormons excommunicated a woman for advocating that women be given equal rights, accusing her of apostasy. From here that looks like old fashioned cave man Me Man; You Woman; me bash you into submission. The major reason that I never joined any religion was that I saw that religion, as a whole, is as likely to degrade as to ennoble. But a few days later a letter in response to that one pointed out that secular states can slaughter their citizens wholesale too; money and power are the main culprits. Yes, but religion seems to be governed by the desire for money and power, same as anyone else. In 2015 Google's driverless car may be ready for the road. I'm for it; accident statistics are bound to improve when we get the drunk, texting, or game playing drivers out. I try to live a healthy life, but know that one careless fool in a car could take me out at any time. In THE WEEK a note that studies indicate that in the course of six million years mankind evolved to increase brain power at the expense of muscle power. Probably it's that smarter folk find ways other than brute force to accomplish their purposes. Another study indicates that the dinosaurs were halfway between mammals and reptiles, finding a compromise between warm and cold blood that enabled them to rule the world for a hundred million years; that was another way to do it. Newspaper article suggests that if you want to get people's attention, it is better to be interesting than true. Well, sure; my whole career has been based on that. Folk read me because I'm interesting despite the great majority of it being the structured lies called fiction. They surveyed ten nations in health care, and the USA came in dead last. That's what happens when you let the special interests govern. Some like to say that we have the world's best health care; no, we have the most expensive, which is not at all the same thing. Another article says that the real objection Republicans have to Obamacare is that they fear it will work. They are still doing their best to torpedo it, aided by what looks from here like a politically corrupted Supreme Court. And Florida is one of the worst in the country in services for the elderly. In 37 states there are more gun shops than libraries and museums. Jen Gunter remarks on folks' concern about an epidemic of false rape charges. She said yes, they happen, but are the exception and not the rule. She was violently raped, and works in a rape clinic, so has personal experience. Yes, I'm a man and I love the look and feel of women, but I'd like to see more effective measures taken to deal with men who evidently regard women as fair game for groping, goosing, and if opportunity rises, raping. Are we or are we not a civilized society?

I watched the Discover DVD video Evolve: Guts. This is another good one. It points out that we must eat to live, and thus we evolved the digestive system: the gut. It goes back about 600 million years, and follows the process forward as it becomes increasingly sophisticated. There was a leap forward in the Cambrian Explosion, where teeth and armor appeared, and especially mobility. So the gut became a tube with holes in both ends. To help digestion these creatures developed an alliance with bacteria to break down aspects the larger forms could not; the bacteria actually did the digesting in a symbiotic relationship. That has continued to the present day; we have ten trillion microbes in our guts. The dinosaurs were similar in this respect. Birds eat rocks to serve in lieu of teeth: gastroliths, to break down the food so that the bacteria could have at it. One huge breakthrough occurred with early mankind: the harnessing of fire to cook food. A comparison indicates that cooked food requires about 12½% less energy to digest. Thus we became significantly more efficient digesters. There's even a machine that duplicates the digestive process, right through to excretion: it shits.

With the novel done, I will now have time to focus on reading and videos for a while, until my vacation from writing gets tiresome and drives me back to the keyboard. For my writing is like breathing; there's only so long I can avoid it. But there are some interesting books to read and a slew and a half of videos to view. Two major ones are Jesus and Fluoridation. Did Jesus Christ really exist, or is he merely a parable? Stay tuned for my report. As for Fluoridation, this is a horror story you may find it hard to believe. There will be much more, anon.

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