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Piers Anthony, Jan. 1, 2011 Piers Anthony, Jan. 1, 2011. Photo by Jane McConnell.
Jewel Lye 2017

This is an inordinately long column, about 16,000 words when I normally try for about 3,000. This is mainly because I watched the Star Trek original season and made notes on every episode. So if that bores you, just skip past any paragraph that starts “Episode” until you get to something more to your taste.

{Web underling's note: In converting from the file format Mr. A prefers to the HTML coding needed for this site, we often encounter wacky bits of code the underling must cull. There was so much this time, the underling relied on a timesaving search-and-replce technique, then tried to clean up the text wrap. Any stray blank spaces in the middle of words indicated where that process did not quite work. Apologies for the ragged reading.}

Open Road has two promotions of my books this month: WereWoman on July 4th for $1.99, so you can catch it if you hurry, and Xanth #40 Isis Orb July 29th for 2.99. WereWoman features Phil, a novice private eye in a community of supernaturals, or supes: werewolves, witches, demons, vampires, goblins, ghosts, succubi, zombies, and who knows what else. He is unusual in that he is a were who changes not into an animal, but into a woman. That helps him conceal his identity on a spy mission. Then something starts killing supes, and a sexy witch hires him to handle it. Then it gets complicated. I am now pondering a sequel, possibly titled E Motion. If you like supernatural events, this is your novel. Isis Orb was summarized by a ten year old girl, who is older now, and I believe she likes what I made of it. You should too.

An anthology I have a story in is now available at Amazon. This is Forsaken Stories Abandoned Places. Mine is “Privy,” about an outhouse that still stinks a decade after being deserted. Hmm; there's a odor; what's going on? My story also appeared in Cautionary Tales.

I watched the Discover video “Clash of the Cavemen,” which concerns the Neandertals versus the Cromagnons, the first modern man. The Neandertals had dominated Europe for a hundred thousand years, and drove out any moderns who intruded, but in the end could not compete with the moderns. They were tougher, but not as smart. The moderns had better technology, such as sharper, lighter spears, warmer clothing, better shelters. The two species diverged about 400,000 years ago and were 99.9% similar genetically, but the moderns were artistic and probably far superior in language. Symbolism made their minds more versatile. The moderns' larynx was lower and better able to sound vowels; probably their language was superior. When hunting, Neandertals ambushed big game and fought it up close, which lead to injuries. The moderns evolved to run, and are among the best long distance runners in the animal kingdom, so they can hunt on the open plain. The Neandertals could not; they were not built to run well. For perhaps 5,000 years both species shared Europe. How did they interact? They must have fought on occasion. They must have interbred. Kidnapped Neandertal women would have been used for sex, and some might have conceived. The video says there's no genetic record, but more recent research indicates that there is a trace. My story “Beast Wife” tells how a Neandertal woman, outcast from her tribe and facing starvation, makes a deal with a Cromagnon hunting party she encounters: unlimited sex in exchange for food and protection for herself and her baby. They accept and take her into their tribe, and a trace of that lineage remains today. How did they go extinct? One theory is that our diseases wiped them out, as they had no immunity. We saw that when the Europeans invaded the Americas: their diseases wiped out 90% of the natives, making the conquest relatively easy. It does happen. Also, as the video does not say, the Neandertals may have gotten devastated by a super volcano and almost wiped out, clearing the way for the invading horde. Naturally the victors credit their superior qualities rather than the blind luck of being safely in
Africa when the volcano blew out. Ever thus.

I watched Rogue One, a Star Wars prequel. I found it a bit hard to follow, but of course I date from a generation or two back; my brain is relatively fossilized. Jyn Erso, daughter of scientist Galen Erso, is a daring fugitive. Galen is marked for death, because he is involuntarily working on the Death Star, the Empire's ultimate weapon. But he has programmed a secret flaw in it that will destroy it if invoked. If they steal the plans to the Death Star they can take it out. He sends a message to Jyn to tell her that. The situation seems hopeless for the Rebellion, but a few volunteers join Jyn to make the raid on the data vault. They call themselves Rogue One. If you like weird machines, wild action, and phenomenal slow motion crashes, they are here galore. They get the plans and broadcast them to the galaxy so that anyone can use them. Mission accomplished, maybe.

I watched Solace, an Anthony Hopkins movie. There's something about that first name that appeals to me; maybe some day I'll figure it out. He, as John Clancy, is a sensible doctor, but psychic, with isolated flashes, and when he meets the pretty lady cop, Katherine, he gets a flash of her head freshly bloodied with a bullet He didn't want to get involved, but that changes his mind. The blurb says that the serial killer they are after can read minds. That's not exactly the case, but close enough, and makes it a challenge. He's like John, psychic, only better. As they follow clues, they are doing exactly what the killer wants them to do; it's a trap. There's another angle: the killer seems to kill folk who are going to die soon anyway, from causes like cancer. Then the killer, Charles Ambrose, comes to John and explains how it's really mercy killing he does, sparing folk terminal agony and medical expenses that will wipe out their families. Then it becomes a contest between psychic and psychic. Charles is tired of this burden and wants John to take over. Katherine gets shot but survives; Charles dies, as he intended to And John may indeed take over. This is a thriller with a difference.

I watched Fathers and Daughters Jake is a novelist who is arguing with his wife when they crash. She dies, he gets brain trauma. He is left to raise his five year old daughter Katie, “ Potato Chip” They love each other, but he needs treatment at a mental hospital first, so he won't go into psychosis. Katie stays with her aunt, Jake's wife's sister, and her family. Seven months later he is out, but sister wants to adopt Katie. They are better equipped to raise her than Jake is. Then we segue to Katie 25 years later, who feels incapable of love. She has sex with men she doesn't even like, just to have some sort of feeling. She's a social worker who works with distressed children, notably Lucy, a black girl who lost her mother a year ago and hasn't talked since. They are going to transfer her elsewhere, evidently not having helped her. Then she talks: she wants to stay with Katie. But the rules of social work do not permit this, and they lose each other, to mutual distress. Meanwhile, 25 years earlier, Jake is autographing copies of his books when he develops severe tremors. Critics start panning his books. In the future Katie meets an aspiring writer she really comes to like. She also teaches Lucy to ride a bike, just as her father taught her. But she is conflicted about being a girlfriend. Jake, now a successful novelist, suffers a bad seizure and dies while Katie is still a child. She messes up her relationship with her boyfriend, but in the end realizes that she has found love and they reunite. This is no simple love story; it's a complicated one, with difficult shades of gray, more like real life. Real people are complicated.

I watched 10 Cloverfield Lane, which despite its dull title is a thriller. Michelle is mad at her boyfriend, and drives off—only to crash. She wakes in an underground bunker, her leg chained, with an IV in her arm. Her captor is an older man, Howard, and another man, a neighbor Emmett, is also there. It appears that Howard is not completely sane. Michelle makes a break for it, trying to get out, but there's a woman outside demanding desperately to get in. Michelle doesn't trust that either. So they're there with plenty of food, games to play, a sort of family. There's the sound of helicopters: the enemy proceeding with Phase Two, cleaning out survivors of Phase One? There is evidence that Howard is lying about his family. Did he kill his wife and daughter, or kill a neighbor girl? Michelle and Emmett are uncertain. They plan to overpower Howard and go for help outside. But Howard catches on and shoots Emmett, and dissolves the body in a barrel of acid. Now it's just Howard and Michelle. Te wul[d evidently like to have a more intimate relationship with this pretty girl. She flees him, dons a protective suit, breaks out, and discovers breathable air outside. There are aliens out there, with their weird spacecraft, and they are soon after her. She escapes them too, and is on the way to join the surviving remnant of humanity. What a relief!

I watched Wonder Woman, not the current movie but the prior animated version. It is set in the framework of the Greek gods and goddesses. The Amazons are hidden away on a secret island for centuries. Then a modern fighter plane crash lands on it and the Amazons are chasing the downed pilot, Steve. They make him prisoner. Then the imprisoned god of war, Ares, escapes via treachery, and Diana is designated to pursue him into the contemporary world and deal with him. She becomes Wonder Woman. She and Steve go into that realm, but Ares is already well on the way to loosing the forces of Hell to devastate the world. There will be much slaughter and many souls descending to Hell to serve its lord. Now the regular Amazons fight back, and there is war. The good girls finally win. Wonder Woman returns to act as liaison and to be with Steve. It's a fun movie, albeit somewhat lightweight. I suspect the current movie is similar.

I read My Shorts by Arthur M. Doweyko. The shorts in question are thirteen of his short stories, despite the cover illustration of underpants on the clothesline. I won't comment on every one, except to say that they are diverse and often surprising, though the volume could have used copyediting. “The Probability Machine” sees the protagonist ignorantly messing with a machine that sees the near future, bringing disaster. You know, like a kid finding a loaded gun and playing with it; bound to be mischief. In “Linda” Linda uses a stone to bash a soldier so that her family can escape; if there was more of a point, I missed it. “P'sall Senji” sees Harry encounter a green alien who is wounded. The alien warns him of danger to the president; don't let the alien emissary touch the president. Then the alien disintegrates, and its up to Henry to save the president. He tries, only to find himself as part of the alien trap. He should have stayed clear. “Harry and Harry” is a tricky time travel story. “The Catch” seems ordinary, with a wife and daughter waiting for their men to return with the catch, and an ugly shock at the end. “The Boy Who Couldn't Lie” has a boy who tells lies that then come true. That messes him up until he figures out a way to make one lie really pay. “Cold Heart” has men land on a nice planet and meet the lovely telepathic Lan. Then it gets ugly. “Companion” raises a provocative question: if you destroy a computer game that is sentient—that is, conscious—is it murder? “Blue Ice” offers a service where you can pay to have your DNA checked to accurately predict the time of your death. Would you do it? “Andrew the Last” sees the last cyborg with a human brain about to be upgraded—but will that improve or eliminate his real self? “Cherry Creek” is set in 1881 when young men start dying unexpectedly and suspiciously. It seems that a generation ago an American Indian girl was accidentally killed, and the fact cowered up. Now it seems that her ghost is killing the grown children of the men who killed her, and leaving black feathers to mark their bodies. Can the last one escape? She tries, but. Overall you are bound to find something on your wavelength in this collection, and you might find yourself thinking about some of the issues touched. I regard the thoughts as more important than the plots.

I watched Li'l Abner, which is old enough to be in black and white. Sadie Hawkins Day is coming to hillbilly Dogpatch, and pretty Daisy Mae is not the only girl with an eye on handsome ignorant Abner. He thinks he's going to die in a day, so he plans to marry Daisy tomorrow. But first he means to capture Earthquake McGoon, to get the reward on him, $25, so his family can live happily ever after. Comes the race, and Daisy has competition in Wendy Wildcat. All sorts of shenanigans as the girls chase the boys. But Daisy finally catches him. Then the bonus feature Private Snuffy Smith. This is another slapstick backwoods story. Hootin' Hollar Moonshiners battle with revenuers. Then one of their batches turns things invisible. So he makes his dog invisible, and other people think he's imagining the animal, except for the barking. They have lost track of a new range finder, and are conducting a search that looks like an invasion of Hootin' Hollar, with tanks and airplanes. It becomes like a pitched battle. It's a mock battle; soldiers dusted with flour are officially dead, but not everyone knows that. Farce throughout, but fun.

I watched Charlotte's Web. I read the book long ago and wanted to see it “live” for all that it's animation. It's a musical. The sow has piglets on the farm, but one's a runt and can't get in to the teat to feed. The farmer is about to kill it, as it won't survive, but daughter Fern tearfully begs him to spare it. So he gives it to her to raise. It's mutual love at first sight. Thus Wilbur Pig joins the family. Until he gets big, when he is sold to another farm and has to separate from Fern. He learns he can talk, as all the animals can, though the adult humans are in denial about that. But he is unhappy because he misses his friend Fern. He needs a new friend. He finally finds one in Charlotte, a spider, and another in a gosling. Fern visits, so they are reunited to a degree, and she can understand the animals. But there is a looming shadow: when fall comes, Wilbur will be slaughtered for meat. Charlotte is trying to think of a way to save him. She weaves the words SOME PIG into her web, attracting a crowd, but the effect doesn't last. Same thing with TERRIFIC, and RADIANT, and HUMBLE. In the fall they take him to the fair to show him off, the Humble Pig. If he wins the prize maybe he'll be spared. Sigh; another pig wins. But Wilbur also wins a medal, and is saved, thanks in large part to Charlotte's efforts. Charlotte herself has finished her life, and dies of old age. They save her egg sac, and in the spring over a hundred baby spiders hatch, three of whom stay to keep Wilbur company. He is happy, but never forgets Charlotte. I think the movie does justice to the book, and it's a poignant story that doesn't hide the fact of death in the background.

I watched Tom Sawyer & Huckleberry Finn, two classic Mark Twain tales merged into one the movie narrated by Twain himself, theoretically. Been a long times since I read the books, and I don't much remember the details. Tom and Huck are hiding in the cemetery when they witness a murder. They don't dare tell lest the murderer come after them. Next day Tom is punished for getting caught out at night by having to whitewash the picket fence. He persuades friends to do it as a privilege. He's a persuasive rascal. Then an innocent man is about to be hanged for the murder because of the false testimony of a supposed friend. They dig under the jail wall to free him, but he is recaptured and put on trial. Then Tom starts to testify, and the murderer makes a break for it. Then they think Tom has drowned, so he gets to attend his own funeral service. Then they see robbers fetching their cache of coins; they think the robbers will take them to the Big Eyes Caves. Tom takes girlfriend Becky there, and they get lost without light, then hunted by the bad man. They escape, and Tom finds his way out in the morning. Tom and Huck return to find the stolen treasure; the bad guy catches him, but they escape and he dies in the cave. Tom and Huck are rich, now well dressed as they part company. Huck travels the Mississippi River with his friend the runaway slave Jim. Tom and Huck never see each other again, but the narrator still has the slingshot Huck was carrying. Hmm. It's a wild story, but seems reasonably true to the originals as I faintly remember them.

I watched Star Trek Episode #19 “Tomorrow is Yesterday.” The Enterprise is getting drawn into a star, resists, and gets flung into the past: 1960s Earth. A fighter plane comes after it, they use the tractor beam on it, but it breaks up. They do rescue the pilot, Captain Christopher. He wants to go home, but now he knows too much, and his knowledge will mess up the future and maybe eliminate them all. But if they don't return him, that will mess up the future similarly. They beam down to a top secret base to eliminate dangerous records, only to complicate things further. Finally they move back even farther, to take Christopher to a time just before this happened, so he doesn't remember. Then they fling back to their own time. Meanwhile their computer system is messed up, calling Kirk “Dear.”

Episode #20 “Court Martial.” They have suffered damage in an Ion storm and must set down on Star Base 11 for repairs. There Kirk is arrested for murder and perjury. He was blamed for an error during a storm, years ago, culpable negligence that cost Finney his life. He demands a court martial to clear his name. Meanwhile he encounters an old girlfriend there, Areel, who is assigned to prosecute. The case is damning, but Spock discovers an anomaly. The computer, which is in effect Kirk's accuser, is not performing perfectly. Why not? They do a sound check, eliminating the sounds of all their heartbeats, and find one remaining: Finney, who is after all alive. He has pied the computer and the ship, but Kirk fixes it before it crashes. And of course wins his case.

Episode #21 “The Return of the Archons.” Sulu and another man are beamed down to a planet to search for a ship lost a century ago, but something is strange, and only Sulu returns, essentially mindless. Kirk and Spock lead a party to investigate. All the folk there seem mindless. Until some sort of witching hour, when they seem to go crazy. At another hour they return to “normal” mindlessness. It's the Festival. It seems to be a kind of religion, Landrew must be obeyed. The visitors are not of the Body. Thu natives slowly attack, but the crew stun them. Is it telepathic control? They are essentially under siege of Landrew. Cloaked figures enforce compliance. They wonder whether there is a computer controlling the folk. Kirk and Spock fake conversion, assisted by one of the devotees who does not like the control. They face down the machine and it destroys itself.

Episode #22 “Earth Seed.” They discover an ancient Earth spaceship deep in space, but it is not crewed by humans. Kirk, Bones, Scotty, and shapely Lt. McGivers, a specialist in 1990s Earth, beam aboard. There are humans there, in suspended animation, 72 of them. It is the Botany Bay, and there is no historical record of it. They revive an Indian who is a superior person, physically. His name is Kahn, a former ruthless leader. McGivers is fascinated with him, and he takes advantage of that, and makes her his accomplice so he can take over the Enterprise. His own personnel now control the ship. But when he tries to kill Kirk, McGivers changes sides and saves him. They fight, Kirk wins, and drops Kahn and his people off at a habitable world, together with McGivers, who chooses to join them.

Episode 23 “A Taste of Armageddon.” They visit the alien colony Eminiar VII, on the orders of the Ambassador. They seem entirely human, especially Mea, the woman who greets them. They are at war with another planet in their system. The war is by computers; those “killed” have 24 hours to report for disintegration. The personnel of the Enterprise are “killed” and ordered to go planetside, but they catch on. Kirk takes Mea prisoner before she can be disintegrated. Scotty, in charge of the ship, refuses to lower the defensive screens; he is justifiably suspicious. Thanks to supreme nerve, Kirk, Spock, and Scotty finally prevail, save themselves and the ship and ending the war. This is one tense episode.

Episode 24 “This Side of Paradise.” They check as agricultural colony, Omicron, fearing that the people have not survived, because of deadly radiation. But they have survived and seem fine. There's a woman, Leila, whom Spock knew six years before. There are no animals, not even insects, yet their crops are fine. A flower blasts Spock with vapor and makes him emotional. Now he loves Leila, and is more interested in kissing her than in his duties. Then the others get dosed by the flowers. Only Kirk is unaffected. A plant is beamed aboard, and the whole crew starts beaming down. It turns out that the plant spores drift through space until they find the right planet, collect in plants, and give their new hosts perfect health and contentment. Kirk alone remains as he was. Until he gets blasted again by a flower, and changes. But fights it off. Then provokes Spock to anger, and the strong emotion overrides the spores. Then they provoke others, including the colonists, until all are free of the spores. The colony will be resettled elsewhere, where they can truly accomplish things instead of living in the happy illusion of paradise.

I read Reverie of Gods by Diego Valenzuela. He write The Armor of God, which I reviewed here in 2014, and The Unfinished World, 2016. This is a larger novel. There are many characters; the main one is Leander, who is assigned to a mission that is theoretically a test, a kind of qualifying for advancement. It is led by Claire, and they encounter Adel and little Eva. But it quickly get serious, as people connected get brutally killed. Hardly anything is as it first seems. One night Adel seduces Leander, but then it turns out that it wasn't really her, but an alien female emulating Adel, who is killing others. Then he does have an affair with the real Adel, but she's not what she seems either, and neither is the child Eva. There's a formidable plot to destroy the present order that Leander somehow has to thwart while trying to save Adel's life, because he loves her. That's only part of one thread of a complex tapestry. There's a lot to assimilate here, as the author has worked out a world where universities are called cradles, and many folk have “irises” that are deadly built in mind controlled weapons, each different. Unfortunately it needs copy editing; there are typos and wrongly chosen words throughout, and portions become avoidably confusing. It's like a powerful spaceship with unfinished details, still well worth your while if you like mental challenge.

Episode 25 “The Devil in the Dark” has miners on a far planet Janus VI getting mysteriously killed by something unseen. They are burned to crisps. The Enterprise must deal with this problem. It seems that very strong corrosive is being used. They conjecture that this is silicon based life, as there are basketball sized balls of silicon scattered through the mine. They spy the monster, which looks like a giant humped pepperoni pizza, and shoot it, but only dislodge a small section. Analysis confirms the silicon. Then Kirk encounters it,and there is a standoff; it does not attack. Spock mind melds with it and learns it is a Horta, highly intelligent. and in great pain. He touches it, and learns that the silicon nodules are the Horta's eggs, about to hatch, which the miners have been destroying. They compromise: the Horta tunnels, and the miners take the elements. Each profits. I like that resolution.

Episode 26 “Errand of Mercy” has trouble with the Klingons. The Enterprise is headed to the colony Organia when they get attacked. They destroy the enemy ship and resume their flight to the planet. Kirk and Spock beam down to check the situation, leaving Sulu in charge of the ship. But the natives see no danger and decline to take any defensive action. The Klingons invade; Kirk and Spock are stranded on Organia, and soon made captive. The Klingon commander, Kor, rather respects Kirk as a worthy enemy. Then the Organians make all weapons on both sides too hot to handle. Then they reveal themselves as pure energy creatures, far beyond the warring parties.

Episode 27 is “The Alternative Factor.” They approach a lifeless planet. Then the galaxy's magnetic field blinks twice, and life appears on the planet, apparently human. This should be impossible. Kirk, Spock, and four men beam to the surface, where they find Lazarus, a man who says they can still be stopped. HQ sends a Code 1, invasion status. The commander says the effect was noted across the galaxy, but strongest here. They must investigate. Lazarus says it's a thing they have to destroy. Lazarus seems to fight an invisible foe. He says he's a time traveler, as is the enemy. He steals dilithium crystals the ship needs for power. The enemy is from a parallel universe, an antimatter realm; if the two meet, there will be total annihilation. Kirk puts the two Lazarus's together and destroys the connection. The universe is now safe.

Episode 28 is “The City on the Edge of Forever.” The Enterprise, approaching a planet, is shaken by a series of ripples in space/time that burn out one device and shake up the personnel. Dr. McCoy--”Bones”--gets accidentally overdosed with 50 times the proper medicinal dose. He beams himself down to the planet, and Kirk, Spock, and four others go after him. They encounter ancient ruins that are still operating, a time portal. McCoy leaps through it, changing history, eliminating their present. Uh-oh. Kirk and Spock follow, hoping to catch Bones and eliminate whatever he did to wipe out their future. They arrive in Depression America, maybe a week before Bones, get jobs at a mission house run by pretty Edith Keeler, and set about collecting electronic tubes and such to construct a mnemonic device to locate McCoy. Kirk dates Edith, at her behest. Spock's device foresees that Edith will either die, or become a vital figure in Earth's future course. She must be the key that Bones affects. But which alternative secures their future? Her life or her death? Bones arrives, and a native steals his transporter. It seems that Bones saves Edith from getting killed, and that deviously leads to Germany's victory in World War Two, and the change of history. They must see that Edith dies on schedule. But Kirk has fallen in love with Edith. Then she dies in a car accident and Kirk lets it happen. They return to the future. All is well...

Episode 29 “Operation Annihilate!” They trace a plague of mass insanity that travels from world to world in one section of the galaxy. Can they stop it from striking again? Kirk's married brother Sam lives there. They rescue his wife Aurelia and his son, but Sam is dead, and then Aurelia dies. They encounter flying blobs resembling those of Heinlein's novel The Puppet Masters that puncture people and inject tissue that controls them. One attacks Spock, putting him into intense pain. He fights it off and returns to the planet to capture one of the creatures so they can examine it. They conclude that it is an almost indestructible brain cell in a larger creature. Will they have to destroy the planet to stop it? Kirk refuses to accept that. He conjectures that maybe intense light can kill it. They try it on Spock. It works, but blinds him. They they discover that they could have used another frequency; they didn't have to blind him. Fortunately he recovers his sight; Vulcans heal well. They have stopped the plague and saved the planet.

Season Two, Episode 1 “Amok Time.” Spock is acting strangely emotional, even throwing fits. He requests shore leave on planet Vulcan, and Kirk grants it but orders Spock to sick bay. Bones concludes that Spock must get to Planet Vulcan immediately or he will die. They go there for Spock to meet his promised wife. Kirk and Bones beam down with Spock to witness the ceremony. The intricacies of the situation require that Spock and Kirk fight to the death, but Bones arranges it so that Kirk's death is more apparent than real. He survives, and Spock is glad, and no longer interested in marriage. This interests me for another reason: it was one of the ones I saw the second half of, way back when, and I remember that it was a different Vulcan woman. This is not the same as the original. For one thing the present woman is prettier, and more completely clothed. They thought I wouldn't notice?

Episode 2 “Who Mourns for Adonais.” The Enterprise is halted in space by a giant hand formed of energy. A huge face appears before the ship, and they are obliged to visit planetside. Their host says he is Apollo, and they are to worship him. He magically garbs the lovely historian Carolyn in a sexy gown and walks away with her. They try to oppose him, but he has too much power. Then Carolyn rejects him. He conjures a storm, the ship fires on the source of his power thus revealed, and he loses it, and fades out.

Episode 3 “The Changeling.” They are going to a settled planet, but there are no signs of life. Then something crashes into them at warp speed. They are under attack. It is Nomad. They beam it aboard. It's a machine. It floats to Kirk. It calls Kirk the Creator. Its mission is to eliminate imperfection. Its creator was Roykirck; that's why it confuses Kirk for him. It was thought destroyed, but survived damaged. But it may decide to exterminate them. It kills Scotty, then revives him. It wipes Uhura's memory and they set about reeducating her. Spock mind-reads it and learns that it's not the original Nomad; it merged with another program. Now it means to go to Earth and destroy life there. Kirk shows it that it is imperfect, and it destroys itself. That saves mankind.

Episode 4 “Mirror, Mirror.” They teed dilithium crystals, but the proprietors are reluctant. Kirk, Scotty, Uhura, and Bones beam back aboard—to a ship where a bearded Spock governs. They are in different uniforms. In fact, in a different universe, where assassination of officers is a way to advance in rank. How do they return to their own? Meanwhile Kirk must rain death on a planet, or be assassinated by Spock, who will then become captain. Kirk also has a sexy girlfriend, Marlena. They make plans to transfer back to their own universe, but Spock catches them. Marlena helps them prevail. Kirk tries to persuade Spock to take over and change the ugly course they are following, with Marlena's formidable help. Spock says he will consider it. They beam back and all is well again, at least in this universe.

Episode 5 “The Apple.” They beam down to a planet resembling the Garden of Eden, but it has some deadly plants. They are being stalked by stealthy humanoids. Something from the planet nullifies much of the power of the Enterprise; it will crash in a few hours if not fixed. It seems that mischief is afoot. They try to beam back up, but this fails. Kirk, Spock, Bones and others are trapped on the planet. They capture a native, who takes them to the leader, Vaal, who seems to be a statue whose open mouth accepts their offerings. The natives seem not to know about human reproduction; there are no children. Then they get the word: kill the strangers. The mission fights off the natives, and the ship fires on Vaal and kills it. The natives will learn to cope, to love, and to have children.

Episode 6 “The Doomsday Machine.” The solar system they are headed for has been destroyed. Only a derelict ship remains. These are not good signs. Kirk, Bones, Scotty and a party beam aboard the ship. They find one survivor, the dazed captain. It seems that an immense robot from another galaxy breaks up planets and eats the pieces. A doomsday machine. Now that machine appears, like a planetoid sized minnow with a giant fiery maw, and orients on the Enterprise. The wreck's captain pulls rank and takes over, determined to attack the robot. Spock finally relieves him of command, but he steals a shuttle craft and goes after the machine. He flies into its maw, doing it minor damage. Kirk flies the derelict ship into it, overloads the engine, and explodes it inside the maw, finally terminating it as he gets beamed back in the last second.

Episode 7 “Catspaw.” Kirk, Spock, and Bones beam down to a planet where Scotty and Sulu have disappeared. It is foggy and bleak, and wailing spooks say Kirk will die. They find a castle, enter and find a black cat. They walk into a trap and wake chained to a wall. Scotty and Sulu appear, dazed, and release them. They meet Korob, the wizardly master of the castle. And Sylvia, who suspends an image of the enterprise above a candle flame, and via sympathetic magic the ship overheats. Sylvia interviews Kirk, alone, trying to seduce him, showing that she can assume many woman forms. I note that the cat is never present when Sylvia is. Kirk plays her better than she plays him. She catches on, a woman scorned. Korob releases them while the furious cat returns. She is indeed the cat, but both are illusions. The aliens are finally revealed in their real form as they die: weird blue birdlike things.

Episode 8 “I, Mudd.” A visitor takes over the ship. He turns out to be an andr oid , and requires the ship. So they make a four day detour. It turns out that Mudd, a con man of t he prior Season One Episode 6, “Mudd's Women,” has managed to set this up, and now has two hundred thousand men and pretty women, androids. They need human input, and Kirk is to be it. Mudd has an android emulating his own nasty wife so he can mock her. He gives the androids purpose. Now the whole crew is landbound while the androids crew the ship. They mean to serve all mankind, and thus control it. Kirk supervises a show that is completely illogical, confusing the master mind. They craft a paradox that paralyzes it. Then they set Mudd up with reprogrammed androids, including several copies of his shrewish wife to berate him. Lovely!

Episode 9 “Metamorphosis” They are supposed to medicate and deliver a lady ambassador to a critical area, but get sidetracked to a small earthlike planet. They meet Zefram, who supposedly died 150 years ago, but he is kep t alive by The Companion,” a mysterious presence. The lady's illness progresses; they need to get her to the ship for treatment, but the entity that governs this planet prevents it. Then the entity merges with the lady, and she loves Zefram. But she can't leave the planet, so Zefram will stay. They will find another ambassador to stop the war.
Episode 10 “Journey to Babel.” They go to Vulcan to pick up the ambassador and his wife, to deliver them to Planet Babel for a conference It turns out that they are Spock's parents. There are a nu m ber of other ambassadors aboard, not all of them friendly with each other. The Vulcan has words with a different ambassador—who later turns up murdered. That makes the Vulcan a suspect. He also suffers from the equivalent of a heart condition; Spock must donate blood for surgery. Then Kirk gets attacked and injured and Spock must take over. He can't take the time to save his father, despite the pleading of his human mother. Kirk pr e tends to be more recovered than he is, and relieves Spock—just in time for the crisis. He handles it, and Spock's father survives. Spock's mother understands neither father nor son.

Episode 11 “Friday's Child.” They beam down to meet dangerous natives, to make a agreement for valuable minerals. But there is a klingon there, who kills a crewman. This is mischief. Meanwhile there is a distress call from a freighter being attacked by a klingon ship. Scotty, in charge, goes to help. But it's a fake, meant to lead them astray. Meanwhile, on land, they seek to rescue the pregnant Capellan woman Eleen (pronounced Elly-en), widow of the former chief. She is about to give birth. She does, but doesn't want the baby. But finally accepts it. Scotty backs off the klingon ship, then rescues the stranded party. All ends well.

Episode 12 “The Deadly Years.” They report for a routine resupply for a colony, only to discover the inhabitants impossibly aged. Maybe it's a Romulan experiment. Kirk meets a former girlfriend, Mireme. He also starts suffering small m emory lapses, and arthritis. He's aging, as so are other ship members who went to the planet. They have maybe a week to live. Except for one, Chekov. The Commodore requires a competency hearing to replace Kirk, and Spock reluctantly has to go along. The Commodore takes over, but he has never had a field command and gets the ship in trouble. They devise a possible cure using adrenalin, and Kirk takes it. He recovers, takes back command, bluffs out the Romulans, and saves the ship.

Episode 13 “Obsession” They have just confirmed a vein of mineral 20 times as hard as diamond: Dikironio. But a deadly mist is killing men, draining their blood of hemoglobin. Something like this wiped out half the crew of the Farragut ship 11 years ago. Kirk was a young officer on his first mission there. Now he's obsessed with this possible intelligent danger to the galaxy. They intersect it in space, and its gets into the ship. Spock is able to withstand it. Kirk sets a trap for it, at g reat risk to himself, and manages to destroy it.

Episode 14 “Wolf in the Fold.” Kirk, Bones, and Scotty, on therapeutic shore leave on Argeli us, watch a sexy dancing girl. Then outside she gets stabbed, and Scotty is there with a knife and no memory of the occasion Uh-oh. Then comes a second killing, and Scotty is implicated again. T h en a third. They beam the party aboard where they use a computer to examine Scotty's mind and memory. The name Jack the Ripper comes up: could it be a nonhuman murderer? So it seems, and now it controls the ship's computer. They null that by tranquilizing all the ship's personnel and putting the computer on the solution of pi, an endless calculation, then beam the thing into space.

Episode 15 “The Trouble with Tribbles.” They are headed for Sherman Planet, that both humans and klingons claim, and receive an emergency call from space station K-7. It's not an emergency; they merely want to protect a superior strain of grain. Insults are exchanged, and there is a human/klingon brawl. Uhura, on shore leave, gets an adorable little creature: a tribble. It multiplies and next day they have dozens of the cute little furry cooing fluff balls. Meanwhile on the space station a klingon provokes a brawl by telling Scotty the Enterprise is a garbage scow. The tribbles continue to multiply, threatening to overwhelm the ship and the space station Kirk wants them off—but how? Then they start dying. Something in the special grain is killing them. It has been poisoned. The tribbles don't like klingons, and the sentiment is mutual The shyster who sold the first tribble is assigned the 17 year chore of cleaning them out of the space station Scotty transports all the ship's tribbles to the klingon ship just before it leaves Hmm. This is one fun, naughty story.

I watched the comment by David Gerrold, who wrote the tribbles episode. They made an animation episode, which had both advantages and limitations. The tribbles turned out pink, because the colorist was color blind. (You'd think color perception would be a requirement for a colorist. Evidently not. I don't understand Hollywood.) He discusses the problem of fans suggesting ideas and then thinking that anything similar in the program is stolen from them, even if it was in the works before they suggested it. Yes, that happens; it has happened to me, though I carefully give credit to reader ideas I use. Gerrold says “May all of your tribbles be little ones.” They were going to do a live action sequel, but had a new director who I suspect was a klingon, who d idn't like tribbles.

Then on that disc is an episode of Deep Space 9 with its completely different ship and characters. They warp back to the time of t he first Enterprise in pursuit of a bad man who means to kill Kirk and change the course of history. That would be disastrous for those of the far future. So they avoid direct contact and search for the culprit, preventing him from his mischief. From this I learned the meaning of uniform colors: regular crew people wear red, leaders wear other colors like blue or gold They discover tribbles. One of them meets his own great grandmother, who he finds attractive, and wonders whether he is destined to become his own great grandfather. The paradox is scary. We see a replay of the human/klingon brawl, this time witnessed by the visitors from the future. It seems that one of the future women came from this time; she recognizes Dr. McCoy but of course does not introduce herself. Maybe I'll find out about her when I get to that series. They find the planted bomb and beam it to space, where it explodes. History has been saved. The captain does briefly meet Kirk without revealing his origin. They return to their own time. “Trials and Tribble-ations” is interviews in 1996 and later ab out the making of that episode. They loved doing it, in that manner revisiting their own childhoods as fans of the series.

Episode 16 (I guess) “The Gamesters of Triskelion” returns to the present, as it were. Kirk, Uhura, and Chek ov beam down to a world and disappear from observation from the ship, transported to a far planet They are surrounded by male creatures and prett y warrior women and made captive. They are to be trained as thralls, with obedience collars to enforce discipline. Kirk resists, and gets whipped. He overcomes the whipper, and there are a number of bids for him by the Providers who govern He questions Shahna, his pretty light green haired trainer, who is herself a thrall, and kisses her, evoking unfamiliar emotions in her. Meanwhile Spock locates the planet—and the Providers take control of the ship. The Providers finally show themselves as colored brains under class. Kirk fight s three thralls, wagering the ship's complement against freedom for all the thralls, and wins.

Episode 17 “A piece of the Action.” A planet has been out of contact for a century. Kirk, Spock, and Bones beam down to find a 1920s style Earth American gangster mob culture. The mob boss wants them to provide him with weapons to wipe out his competition. Spock and Bones escape and return to the ship, but Kirk is co-opted by a rival mob boss. He escapes, and rescues Spook and Bones, who returned per an agreement and were betrayed. Kirk and Spock in mobster clothing head out. They get one of the mob bosses beamed to the ship and head out to the street. In due course they assemble all the bosses, make a demonstration of the ship's power, organizing this world more efficiently. Mission accomplished.

Episode 18 “The Immunity Syndrome.” A ship manned by 400 Vulcans has been destroyed; Spock knows. The enterprise, heading for time off, is instead ordered to the area. A mysterious blob of energy appears in space, and half the ship's personnel suffer weakness and discomfort. This must be what wiped out a solar system and the Vulcan ship. More malaise, and the blob disappears. Their power is being drained, from the ship and their bodies, and the ship is being hauled into the center of the blob. And they see a giant living blob that is drawing them in, a space amoeba 11,000 miles across. It evidently feeds on the energy of others, and is like a virus infecting the galaxy. Spock makes a solo flight to the nucleus of the amoeba. He believes it can be destroyed from inside. Kirk directs the ship to the nucleus, the chromosome body. They blow it up, recover the shuttle craft with Spock, and resume their regular activities.

Episode 19 “A Private Little War.” They beam down to a planet like the Garden of Eden, with the natives supposedly at peace. But they are fighting with flintlock rifles. That is beyond their culture; have the klingons been interfering, providing them with illegal technology? This is supposed to be a no interference planet. Kirk gets injured and poisoned; Bones does what he can to keep him alive. They need the help of Tyree and his sexy wife Nona. She uses her arts to cure Kirk. But the power of it is that hereafter Kirk can refuse her no wish. She wants to destroy the enemy. Kirk compromises by arming the villagers with the same technology the klingons gave the others, to preserve the balance of power. Meanwhile Nona is trying to seduce Kirk. She steals his phaser, but gets killed by the enemy. So there is compromise, but at a price.

I read An Eye of Another Color by Jacob William Watters. On the cover is a dog with one brown eye, one blue eye, a small but noticeable difference. I reviewed his other poetry book Curbside Assistance and the Benefit of Mistakes four months ago, where I found several poems that spoke to me. The ones in this volume, less so; maybe my mood was different. But there were some. “More than a Memory” tell how his dead friend came again in his dreams with the message that death is but a stepping stone, only she phrased it far more eloquently. “I'd have written it down properly if only I'd been conscious at the time.” That is one problem with dreams. In “In Another Life” he ponders an evident breakup and deeply regrets it. “You, subtracted from my life,/ It's been unbearably dreary.” He prays when he wakes that in another life they could lovingly be together. That seems true to me; in our fond imagination we have perfect relationships, but in reality there are edges and misalignments that mess it up. In “Desert Alone” he sees an oasis, and the name of that oasis is Love.” I like that: life being a desert, and love being an oasis that makes it bearable. That may be why we crave love.

I had eyeball surgery. That is, for cataract removal. A cataract is a kind of cloud that forms in the lens of an eye that obscures vision, and if it gets too bad you can't see well at all. My eyes are good, but as I progress from Old to Ancient things do gradually go wrong. When I got the OED—Oxford English Dictionary—it came with a large magnifying glass. You see, the OED is the size of an encyclopedia, ten volumes plus a couple of supplements; what I have is The Compact Edition, with four dense pages printed per page in quarter size; even so it's over 4,000 pages. So you need a magnifying glass to read the fine print. Well, now I find myself using that magnifying glass to read the entries in my other large dictionaries, which are the 1913 edition of Funk & Wagnalls New Standard Dictionary that I got used for my tenth birthday in 1944 and still use today; the 1945 Second Edition of the Unabridged Webster's New International Dictionary of the English Language that I inherited from my wife's father in 1988; and the second edition of the Random House Dictionary that I bought in 1987. I use them all, but mainly the last one, as it is more recent. I may go to a dictionary one or ten times in a day, for spelling, pronunciation, meaning, and nuance. You might say I have the dictionary habit. Yes, I still discover words that aren't in any of them. I get tired of constantly bringing out that magnifying glass. So I decided to do something about it: improve my vision. Thus the cataract surgery. Monday JeJune 19 I had it on my right eye. I was required to bring nothing of value, I presume so it couldn't get stolen when I was under anesthesia, so I took off my wedding ring. I hated that; I have worn it for 61 years and my wife has the matching one. They wheeled me into the operating room, gave me myriad eye drops, asked questions like when I was born and what eye it was supposed to be, repeatedly. No, they weren't idiots; this was verifying that I am who I said I was, and that there's no mistake about the surgery. No chance of going in for cataract removal and emerging without a kidney. The doctor put gauze around my eye, shone bright lights into it, and I saw a tapestry in a blue sky that shifted into a dark red cloud. At some point the cataract came out and a replacement lens went in. There was discomfort but not pain; the worst was actually when they pulled the gauze away; the adhesive felt as if it were pulling my skin off with it. I went home with a huge projecting eye patch, and fumbled doing things with just my left eye. Next morning the doctor removed the patch and some more skin (it felt like) and I could see again. My eye looks the same is it did before, only it seems that my pupil is now an expensive lens rather than nature's own. Next month we'll do the left eye. My hope is that I won't need glasses any more, but we'll see. The proof of this pudding will come when I look up words: with or without the magnifying glass? Meanwhile I take three different kinds of eye drops a day, and must paste a patch over the eye at night, for a week. So far there does not seem to be much change in the vision of that eye.

Episode 20 “Return to Tomorrow.” They are in an unfamiliar part of the galaxy approaching a planet well beyond human settled space, dead for half a million years Sargon contacts them mentally: he is not alive, but needs them to save his existence. Kirk, Spock, Bones, and a lady psychologist, Ann, beam over a hundred miles below the planet's surface, where they meet a glowing ball that represents Sargon. Only two other entities survive, as balls. They will borrow the human bodies to build robots to house them, with the agreement of the humans. Kirk becomes Sargon, Spock becomes Henoch, and Ann becomes Thalassa. But Henoch conspires to kill Kirk, and with him Sargon, so that Henoch can keep his body. This is mischief. But Sargon catches on and tricks Henoch into leaving Spock's body; they will not take over the humans. Episode 21 “Patterns of Force.” They approach a primitive planet that turns out to be far more advanced than it should be, and hostile. Kilk and Spock beam to Ecosia, and discover a Nazi state. They adopt Nazi uniforms to pass themselves off as natives, but get caught. They escape and contact the resistance. They infiltrate headquarters and manage to set things right before they depart.

Episode 22 “By Any Other Name.” They beam do w n to a planet answering a distress call. They are met by a man, Rojan, and woman, Kelinda, kelvans who demand the surrender of their ship, or else. They want to take it to Andromeda, a journey of 300 years even at warp velocity They can turn people into crystals, and if they break the crystals, the people are dead. The aliens take over the Enterprise, nulling any who try to resist. They make improvements in the ship and head to the edge of the galaxy. The kelvans are not used to human sensations and emotions, so the humans introduce them to feasting, drinking alcohol, and making love. Soon they are losing emotional control. Kirk tries to seduce Kalinda; she, understanding this, slowly becomes amenable. Rojan gets jealous. Another kelvan gets dead drunk. Kirk persuades Rojan that they would be better off making friends and settling in this galaxy as humans. Another bad threat dealt with.

Episode 23 “ The Omega Glory.” Kirk, Spock, Bones, and a crewman beam to another starship, the Exeter, that has been unresponsive. They find uniforms with only gravel in them. There seems to be no one aboard, only uniforms. Bones analyses the crystals and concludes they are the human body when all water is removed. They beam to the planet and discover the other ship's Captain Tracey, the only survivor, because the disease does not strike here, only when a person leaves the planet. But Tracy is not their friend. He says no one there suffers illness and they live for centuries; he wants to get the secret. But Bones says it is only natural immunity built up by the local folk; there is no secret of immortality. Kirk and Tracey fight, while Spock sends a mental message to a woman that enables him to summon another landing party that takes over. Good wins over evil.

Episode 24 “The Ultimate Computer.” The Commodore Wesley beams aboard with news that the Enterprise will be the fox in a war game, run by the M-5 Computer. Kirk is dubious that a machine can really replace a human crew. Tough beans; the computer is hooked up. Then it makes a mistake, but refuses to return control to Kirk. They try to bypass it, but M-5 acts to preserve its control. But it doesn't accept that the enemy ships are part of the war game; it thinks they are really attacking, and fires with full force. So now they will indeed attack, needing to stop the Enterprise. Kirk finally persuades M-5 to turn itself off. Kirk gambles on the compassion of the other starship captains, a human trait a machine does not have, which saves the Enterprise. The computer will not govern man.

Episode 25 “Bread and Circuses.” 47 men were caught on a primitive planet; they need to find them. But something weird is happening on the planet. Kirk, Spock, and Bones beam down, and are taken prisoner by the local runaway slaves with rifles. Then by the empire forces, which are now commanded by the former ship captain. They want Kirk to bring down the ship's crew for combat in the arena. Spock and Bones are given swords and have to fight two warriors while Kirk watches. They win, but not in a way that pleases the audience. Kirk is given a lovely female slave for the night, then taken to the arena. He makes a break, and they get beamed back to the ship.

Episode 26 “Assignment: Earth.” Their mission is historical research, observing Earth in the year 1968; they have traveled back in time. They are in orbit, concealed—yet a man with a black cat beams aboard. He is Gary Seven, and the cat is Isis. He says that if they interfere with him, it could change Earth's future, perhaps eliminating them. Is he human, or an alien; from the present or the future? They confine him, but he breaks free and beams down to Earth. He goes to his office, where he meets Roberta Lincoln, doing encyclopediar esearch. His job is to prevent Earth from destroying itself. Kirk and Spock arrive as Gary Seven departs. Police arrive as they beam back, and two policemen get beamed aboard, then immediately returned to the office, to the stupefaction of Roberta. Kirk and Spock get arrested. Gary modifies the rocket's mechanism so he can take it over. Now it is armed with a nuclear warhead, heading for Asia. This could start World War T hree. But they manage to detonate it short of landing, averting WW III. Isis Cat manifests as the sex goddess Isis. This is one fun spoof.

Season 3, Episode 1 “Spock's Brain.” They orient on an Earth type planet. A pretty girl beams in and uses her instrument to stun all those present. Then they discover that Spock's brain has been removed. They have the body on life support. They pursue the ship that has the brain. Kirk, Bones Scotty, and a party beam down to the planet where it may be. Primitives attack them; they question one and learn that he has no concept of “female.” They find a girl, but then the original girl stuns them down. They have Spock's body along, but still need to find his brain. Spock communicates via the intercom. They put a communications helmet on t he girl, so that she now knows what's going on, but she refuses to cooperate. So they put the helmet on Bones. Now he knows. But the knowledge fades before he finishes. Then Spock speaks, and inst r ucts him how to conclude. So Spock is saved.

Episode 2: “The Enterprise Incident.” Kirk has been irritable and arbitrary. They encounter a romulan ship using a klingon design. Others surround them. They are given one hour to surrender the ship or be destroyed. Kirk and Spock beam aboard the romulan ship to talk. They are met by a lovely lady commander who takes a shine to Spock. Kirk attacks Spock, who instinctively uses the what he calls the Vulcan death grip on him. Except that no, it is only a stun grip; there is no deathgrip. So Spock, theoretically incapable of lying, lied. Kirk survives, but the romulans think he is dead. This has been a plan: to obtain the romulan cloaking device that conceals whole ships in space Menwhile Spock, on his date with the romulan commander, enjoys the cuisine. She changes to a seductive feminine outfit. Then they catch on that the cloaking device is being stolen. The commander feels betrayed, understandably. Then she and Spock get beamed aboard the Enterprise. They escape, using the cloaking device. It is implied that Spock would like something more to do with her, but how angry does she remain?

Episode 3: “The Paradise Syndrome.” They discover an Earth type planet about to be banged by an asteroid Kirk, Spock, and Bones beam down to see what's what. They find American Indians. Also an intriguing obelisk, which opens to take him in. Uh-oh. Now the others can't find him, and they have to get on with the mission of diverting the asteroid, with Spock in command Kirk wakes with his memory gone, and the natives worship him as the god who has come to save them. The lovely high priestess will marry him, and she conceives his baby Then the asteroid comes, bringing the deadly wind. Spock and Bones beam down, and Spock's mind rapport brings Kirk's memory back. But the natives have stoned them, and the priestess will die. The planet is saved, but not Kirk's wife.

Episode 4: “And the Children Shall Lead.” Responding to a distress call on a planet, Kirk, Spock, and Bones beam down to investigate. They find the people dead by mass suicide. Then children come, happily playing childish games heedless of the dead adults. Maybe the suicides were induced, the children's feelings nulled. They beam them up to the ship with Bones. They don't seem to miss their parents at all. They conjure a holo of a man who tells them to take over the Enterprise. They evidently have powers of mind control. Indeed, they mess up the mind of anyone who opposes them, including Kirk. But Kirk fights back, mentally, and shows the children the horror they are in, and banishes the evil presence that misguided them.

Episode 5: “Is There in Truth no Beauty?” They must transport a Medusan ambassador, Kollos, who is so ugly it is madness even to look upon him, so they must wear masks. The ambassador is in a closed chest. He travels with Dr. Miranda Jones, a lovely lady telepath. But Bones is concerned; there is something disturbing about her. Her associate Larry loves her, but she can't love him back the same way. Larry looks at the Medusan, and goes mad. He gets the controls and plunges the Enterprise outside of the galaxy into a kind of limbo. Spock might link with Kollos' mind to find the way back, but Miranda would be jealous of the contact, so must be distracted while Spock makes the attempt. Kirk sets out to do that. It turns out that Miranda is blind; she concealed that. Spock links with Kollos and goes mad. Kirk persuades Miranda to save him, so all ends well.

Episode 6: “Specter of the Gun.” They encounter a machine of some sort. It is a buoy that tells them this is melkot space and to withdraw. But they are here to establish peaceful relations with the melkot. They beam down to the planet and encounter a glowing statue. Then they are in an 1881 western town, Tombstone, Arizona, armed with sixguns. They are to be executed by being on the losing side of a historical gun battle at the OK Corral. Chekov gets shot and killed, but that gives them the clue that this is not following the historical record, as he stood for a survivor. They try to escape, but force fields confine them. Spock figures out that this is a fantasy setting; if they don't believe in it, it can't hurt them. With that understanding, they attend the shootout. The Earps shoot hundreds of bullets without effect. Then Kirk beats up the leader with his fists, but spares him. That impresses the melkot, and they make a deal.

Episode6: “Day of the Dove” They discover a colony wiped out, a hundred people lost. Then a klingon ship appears, but it is disabled. Klingons meet Kirk's party; they think the Enterprise did it, and mean to commandeer the Enterprise. Meanwhile a whirling flame hovers. They beam aboard, making prisoners of the klingons. The whirling flame follows. Something takes over the ship. Their phasors become swords. The flame seems to be inciting violence. Spock detects the alien entity. Kirk tries to negotiate with Kang, the klingon commander, but they wind up sword fighting. Until they all catch on, including the klingons, and literally laugh it off the ship.

Episode 7 “For the World is Hollow, and I have Touched the Sky.” They are targeted by missiles, which they destroy. Bones checks the crew and finds one terminal illness: his own. They find an asteroid 200 miles in diameter. It is hollow, livable inside, on a collision course with an inhabited planet, in about a year. Of course they must stop it. Kirk, Spock, and Bones beam into it. It seems just like a planet. Then they are captured by an ambush of natives. The lovely high priestess Natira “welcomes” them to Yonada. These folk don't know that they are actually on a spaceship that has been flying for 10,000 years. Natira takes a shine to Bones. They talk. She would like to marry him. Kirk and Spock explore and find the control room. But they are discovered, and it is sacrilege. Bones intervenes, and they are released, while he remains. But they return to divert the Yonada so that it will survive. Their medicine cures Dr. McCoy. But it is uncertain that Bones and Natira will actually be together.; they have different missions in life.

Episode 9 “The Tholian Web.” The Starship Defiant vanished without trace three weeks ago. They are investigating. They see something in space, but their instruments don't show it. Kirk, Spock, Bones, and Chekov beam to it, in space suits, and discover crewmen who seem to have killed each other. All aboard are dead. The ship is dissolving. Kirk sends the others back and remains there himself. The dead ship fades out, with Kirk aboard. Chekov goes crazy and they restrain him. They may be suffering the same syndrome that took out the Defiant. A Tholian ship challenges them. They fire on it, having taken fire from it. The Tholians weave an energy shield in space. Kirk is presumed dead, but Uhura sees him in a mirror. It is the fabric of space itself in this vicinity that is driving crewmen mad. Then Scotty sees him. They they all see him as a ghostly figure. They finally do manage to rescue him and escape the Tholian Web.

Episode 10 “Plato's Stepchildren.” Kirk, Spock and Bones beam to the Utopian planet and meet a dwarf, Alexander, who takes them to the leader, who has an infected leg. The natives live for thousands of years and are telekinetic and magical, but have little disease resistance. They want Bones to stay with them, and to persuade him they take control of the crew, making Spock dance and laugh and cry, while Kirk becomes a childish horsie. Then Nurse Christine and Uhura are beamed down in gowns to join the entertainment crew. Kirk is forced to kiss Uhura, which I understand is the first time a white man kissed a black woman on American TV. Perhaps to fend off outrage in those relatively racist times, the American 1960s, they made the kiss deeply unwilling on both sides. Too bad; Uhura was a lovely and competent woman, quite worthy of Kirk's romantic attention. Then the crewmen, notably Kirk, become suddenly adept at telekinesis and mind control, and fight back and defeat the arrogant natives.

Episode 11 “Wink of an Eye.” They receive a distress call from Scalos; Kirk, Bones, Spock, and a crewman beam down, but find nothing. It seems the call was prerecorded, but still it's a mystery. Back on the ship, Bones examines Kirk, who fears he is hallucinating. Then a force field manifests on the Enterprise; something has invaded the ship. They find an alien device they are unable to touch. Aliens are aboard! The scene freezes for all but Kirk. Then a lovely woman appears, Deela, and explains that he is accelerated to match her; the others are moving at normal velocity. She kisses him, and says that he can not return to his normal frame. She evidently means to claim him for herself. [The episode appears to be defective; it kept freezing up at this point, and finally defaulted entirely. Presumably Kirk figured things out and saved himself, as he usually does.]

Episode 12: “The Empath” This started erratic, as with the prior episode, then gradually cleared. Kirk, Spock, and Bones are in darkness, but Spock detects a life form. They find a sleeping young woman. She wakes, but is mute: no vocal cords. Then they find booths labeled with their names. A man approaches them, but when he seems to attack they knock him out and flee to the surface with the woman. Two robed men intercept them, the Vians, and take Kirk as a specimen. He finds himself suspended by chains. Then alone with the girl, while Spock and Bones watch from nearby, unable to approach. Then the girl, a total empath, takes his injuries, and collapses. The alien men explain that one of Kirk's men must help, but Bones may die or Spock go insane. Bones elects to be the one, and finds himself suspended. Kirk and Spock rescue him while the empath watches. The aliens explain that Kirk's planet must demonstrate its worthiness to be saved. Bones is part of that. The empath takes on McCoy's condition, and saves him at her own expense. Kirk tells off the Vians: they have lost their own capacity for human emotions. They relent, and allow the human to save the doomed planet. Nice of them.

Episode 13: “Elaan of Treyius.” The men have foul reputations, but the women are something else. Sure enough, the lady leader, Elaan, is an imperious beauty like an African queen who rejects advice from inferiors. They need to teach her human manners. That duty falls by default to Kirk. This may have been inspired by Shakespeare's The Taming of the Shrew. Meanwhile a klingon ship is hanging around, unresponsive. What is it up to? Kirk tries to set Elaan straight, and she kisses him. She evidently has a rare power over men. It is her tears; they are a potent permanent love potion. Kirk now loves her. The engines have been pied; they can't try to go into warp drive without exploding. Their dilithieum crystals have also been pied. The klingons evidently know this and are trying to provoke that explosion. Elaan's necklace turns out to consist of crude dilithium crystals, which are common here. That restores the power. No wonder the klingons want this system! Elaan, realizing that Kirk loves the Enterprise more than he loves her, is resigned, and moves on, as does Kirk.

Episode 14: “Whom Gods Destroy.” They bring new medicine to a prison planet for the criminally insane, hoping it eliminates mental illness. They meet Marta, the only woman here, a pretty green girl who says she's rational. And Garth, a former starship captain. And suddenly the prisoners our out, in control. Garth assumed Kirk's form, and means to take over the Enterprise. Uh-oh. But when he orders the crew to beam him aboard, they refuse, because he doesn't give the countersign. He throws an insane fit, then brings them to a meal. Marta dances voluptuously. They put Kirk in a chair generating intense pain, wanting him to reveal the countersign so Garth can take over the Enterprise and set out to conquer the galaxy and be master of the universe. Spock breaks free, but Garth emulates Kirk so that the two can't be told apart. But Spock does manage, and the situation is saved.

Episode 15: “Let That Be Your Last Battlefield.” They go to a planet to decontaminate it. They bring in the sole survivor aboard a shuttlecraft, Lokai, who turns out to be a man half white, half black, literally, the halves left and right. Then comes another man, Bele, whose colors are black and white, like a mirror reflection of the first. The two are enemies. Then Bele manages to take control of the ship. They fight back and retake control, but how do they tell which man is legitimate? Bele takes control again, using his special electric power. It turns out that everyone on their planet is dead; they have destroyed themselves in their mutual hatred. But still these two fight. They beam down to the ruined planet; all they have left is their hate.

Episode 16: “The Mark of Gideon.” Planet Gideon is not a member of the confederation. It has agreed to talk with a delegation of one: Kirk, Captain of the Enterprise. But when Kirk beams down, it doesn't work, and he finds the ship empty. What has happened? Then the ship is staffed again, the others discovering that Kirk has not arrived on the planet. Then a young pretty woman, Odona, appears, as mystified as he. Kirk concludes that this must have been somehow arranged. Odona revels in being almost alone; her home is so crowded that folk are never alone. They kiss, and many faces watch from a screen. Now the planetary council is watching. So they are behind this. They appear on the ship, and it turns out that Odona is the ambassador's daughter. So it is a set-up. It turns out that Gideon was a virtual paradise, but the constant increase in population threatened to overwhelm it, and their culture prevents contraception or sterilization. So they set out to fetch in a deadly illness to do it for them. Kirk has had that illness, and is a carrier. Meanwhile Spock beams down to the original coordinates, to find an exact duplicate of the Enterprise. He finds the two, gets them beamed aboard the real Enterprise, where Bones cures Odona. She returns to spread the disease, now a carrier. Is this ethical? Each viewer has to decide.

Episode 17: “That Which Survives.” They encounter a ghost planet; it is too small and recent to have evolved life, yet there it is. Kirk, Bones, Sulu, and a guest geologist beam down to investigate. As they depart, a shapely woman appears and interferes with the equipment, apparently stranding them on the planet. The ship was displaced in space almost a thousand light years, another seeming impossibility. The woman, Losira, appears before the geologist saying “I am for you.” They find him dead, and bury him. She appears again on the ship, and kills again, similarly. Meanwhile the ship is in trouble, unless they can do an emergency bypass of the matter/antimatter engine. Losira comes again, this time for Kirk, but they fend her off; she can affect only the one she comes for. They discover a door and enter the planet. Three copies of the women come for them, but Spock arrives in time to phaser the computer and save them. They see a recording of the original Losira, now thousands of years dead.

Episode 18: “The Lights of Zetar.” On the way to Zetar, the galactic library Memory Alpha. They encounter a strange storm in space, which collides with them and evidently takes over the mind of the librarian Mira, though she doesn't know it. Kirk, Spock, Bones, and Scotty beam down, only to find all but one of the personnel dead, and that one soon dies. Scotty is really taken with Mira. Then she talks to them, connecting to the storm. The ten entities of the storm mean to have her body as host. Kirk puts her in a pressure chamber to drive them out. This is effective, and she recovers. Scotty is very pleased.

Episode 19 “Requiem for Methuselah.” Regilian fever is ravaging the crew; they urgently need special medication ryetalyn. Kirk, Spock, and Bones beam to a planetoid for it, and encounter a life form. Flint and lovely Reena host them for dinner, with the flying robot M-4. Spock plays a classical Brahms waltz while Kirk and Reena dance. Spot research indicates that Flint may be 6,000 years old, but Reena may not exist. Then they discover a lab with a number of models of “Rayna,” the android. Flint is a number of famous artists, including the composer Brahms and artist da Vinci, and has phenomenal power. He is using Kirk to evoke human emotions in Reena. But she is unable to handle the emotion, and dies, in her fashion.

Episode 20 “The Way to Eden.” They encounter the stolen cruiser Aurara, which they are supposed to detain, but it flees them. They beam the crew aboard just before it explodes. These are three men and three women who ask to be transported to the mythical planet Eden. One is Irina, a former interest of Chekov. Their leader Dr. Sevrin is a carrier of a deadly disease. Spock joins their musical presentation, but meanwhile they change the course of the ship. In fact they take it over and are about to violate Romulan space, which could destroy the ship. They use ultrasound to knock out the regular Enterprise crew, and land with the shuttle craft. It looks like paradise, but the plants are acid and burn the hand that touches them. This takes out two of the rogue party; the other four are rescued. So much for Eden.

Episode 21“The Cloud Minders.” A botanical plague is raging on Merak II, and they must go to Stratos, the land of Ardana, for zenite, the only thing that will stop the plague. Kirk and Spock beam down and are attacked by troglites, (as in Earth's troglodytes) but fight them off and connect with the authorities. The Advisor and his lovely daughter Droxine greet them. Meanwhile the troglite Vanna attacks Kirk, but he overcomes her. This is a two tier society, the rulers and the peons, like masters and slaves, in the clouds and the mines. Kirk beams down again, this time to meet Vanna, to persuade her to help, but she betrays him. It complicates, but they do get the zenite.

Episode 22 “The Savage Curtain.” The planet is molten, no life there. Then Abraham Lincoln appears in space before the ship and addresses Kirk by name. He will come aboard soon. They dress in full formal uniform for the occasion. Kirk and Spock beam down with Lincoln to the one habitable spot that appears on the planet. There Surak appears, the father of the Vulcans. Then appears a rock creature, who introduces other historical figures, such as Genghis Khan. (Actually Genghis was smarter and more rational than generally credited today; I explored him somewhat in my novel Steppe.) Kirk, Spock, Lincoln and Surak must fight Genghis and the others, and if they lose, the Enterprise will be destroyed. Surak goes to try to negotiate. A voice cries out, pleading to Spock to help him. That's a trap. Lincoln circles behind, while Kirk and Spock make a frontal attack. Lincoln and Surak are killed; Kirk and Spock survive. So they save the ship, with mixed emotions.

Episode 23 “All Our Yesterdays.” The star will go nova in 3½ hours. What happened to the inhabited planet? Kirk, Spock, and Bones beam to the planet. They go to the deserted library, and find one librarian there, Atoz. He keeps reappearing before them; are there several of him? Yes, one original and many copies. Then Spock and Bones get phased out into a snowy waste—a time portal into the past, 5,000 years ago. A cloaked figure leads them into a cavern. This turns out to be a pretty girl, Zarabeth, who says this is a prison. The time portal has changed their bodies and they will die if they go through it again. Spock becomes emotional; he even kisses Zarabeth. Kirk gets captured by musketeers and imprisoned. He breaks out, finds the portal, and returns to the present. Spock and Bones return to the present, leaving Zarabeth, who can't come. Spock would rather have stayed with her.

Episode 24 “Turnabout Intruder.” They receive a distress call. Janice is here, a former Kirk girlfriend. She exchanges identities with him. Uh-oh. They return to the Enterprise. Now Janice is running the ship, while Kirk languishes unconscious in her body. Others are becoming aware of the change in Kirk's personality. Spock mind-reads the body of Janice and recognizes that this is indeed Kirk. But she tries to have her body executed. Then the exchange reverses, and Kirk gets his body back. But it was an ugly scare.

Episode 25 “The Cage.” This episode has an oddly different cast. Only Spock is recognizable. Oh—It's the original pilot, which was later rephrased in two parts as “The Menagerie.” No need to view it again, or the expanded version. There is no formal termination; apparently the series abruptly ended as if treacherously shot down in space, all hands lost. The romulans must have caught them by surprise. I must say that I fear I will miss the series, having watched all the episodes in two months. I love those shapely young women with their bare legs and elegant coifs, and am only sorry that they are largely decorative in the series. If Kirk gets serious about any woman, she must die, as we saw in “The Paradise Syndrome.” There is no real continuity; every episode stands by itself, and the basic situation is reset for each episode. I had sort of hoped that Kirk would at the end remember his kiss with Uhura, realize that he loves her, and decide to retire from active space duty and marry her. It was not to be. So okay; would the next series, started almost twenty years later, and set eighty years after, measure up to the first? I doubted it, but watched the first three episodes and was pleasantly surprised: it is equivalent, perhaps superior, with intriguing new characters, and women who are more than decorations. I will watch them all, in due course, though it may take me years. Meanwhile a question: do I have a favorite episode? Now really; I like them all. But it might be “Devil in the Dark,” where they save tho Horta's eggs, or “The Trouble with Tribbles,” or Assignment: Earth” with its James Bond type parody. Because I have some trouble understanding movie or TV dialogue—my ears, too, may be loving their finesse—I used ear plugs, which helped, and turned on the Spanish subtitles—there were no English ones—to get the spelling of names. I did enjoy the series.

Star Trek: The Next Generation. Episode 1 “Encounter at Farpoint.” The ship has been redesigned. We meet Captain Picard and a whole new crew, one of whom is a Klingon, another an android named Data, one with a band around his head that enables him to read every kind of wavelength, and the ship's counselor is pretty mindreader Dianna Troi who reads emotions. These are interesting characters. They are exploring one of the farther reaches of the galaxy, when an alien, Q, appears aboard and warns them off. Picard refuses. An alien ship pursues the Enterprise, but travels faster than it safely can, near warp 10. The Enterprise separates into two components, the main saucer and the rest of it which then go in different directions. That is new! But then they surrender, and are put on trial by the medieval style court. They they find themselves back aboard the Enterprise, to resume their mission, which is now a test of their humanity. They are to pick up a key crew member an Farpoint Station. The two sections of the ship arrive separately, and reconnect neatly. This is the proof of the new first officer, Commander Riker, who directs the reconnection. They finally figure out the alien situation: a huge jellyfish-like entity had been captured and kept in pain, while its mate was angry. The Enterprise frees it, and the two aliens fly happily back into space.

The Next Generation. Episode 2 “The Naked Now.” They receive a strange message as they watch a white dwarf collapsing into a point: sexy female voice inviting them to a wild party. Riker and two others beam aboard the other vessel, only to discover its hatch blown out and all aboard dead, most naked as if in a wild orgy. 80 lives lost. Doctor Beverly Crusher is uncertain about Lt Geordi LaForge, with the head ring, who is acting strangely. Then the strangeness spreads. Now Tasha is acting funny. There's an indication that something is making people intoxicated on water. Wesley Crusher, the doctor's precocious son, manages to take over the ship. Lt. Natasha Yar—Tasha—in charge of security, becomes seductive to the android Data. (Later, when sanity returns, she tells him bluntly “It never happened.” I fear the racist restriction has been replaced by anti-androidism: they're okay in their place, but don't get emotional with them.) Counselor Deanna Troi tries to seduce Commander Riker. Dr. Crusher goes after Captain Picard. 'They are all intoxicated. Meanwhile the Enterprise is heading into the collapsing star and will be destroyed if not diverted. They manage to find a cure just in time, and escape.

TNG. Episode 3 “Code of Honor.” They need a vaccine. The leader Lutan beams aboard. He is impressed by Natasha Yar, and takes her involuntarily home with him. Now they need to get her back. Captain Picard and Deanna Troi formally visit to request her return. It is a matter of honor, their style. Lutan wants to take Tasha as his first wife. She is then challenged to a duel to the death by his present first wife, Yareena. Tasha wins, Yareena dies, but they beam her to the ship and bring her back to life, and she decides to marry another man and make him the new leader. All ends well. These first three episodes satisfy me that I want to watch more, once I catch up with reading, so brace yourself for more Episode Reports, though perhaps at briefer length. Sorry about that.

I have been gradually cleaning up my study, using some of my Chore Hours to make myself do what I otherwise would never get around to, and some interesting stuff has turned up. Erin Schram sent me the rules of “Swamp Road Game” in 1998 and it's probably a good game. Sixteen families have built in a swamp area, with dirt roads so they could visit each other. But sometimes it floods, and water covers some roads, making them temporarily muddy. So they started paving some over, but this blocked off the water so that the level rose. The game consists of paving key roads in such a way that the village is split into two parts separated by washed out roads. There is the Washer who tries to do that, and the Paver who tries to keep all houses connected, however deviously. I have seen how maddeningly tricky it can be to modify even a simple diagram; this one is bound to be a challenge.

Tests are only as accurate as the scorekeepers allow, and sometimes the brightest students get penalized. It has happened to me often enough, as you might imagine. Tests tend to measure conformance better than accuracy. The Florida system provided a fine example that made the newspaper. A bright eight year old girl feared she failed her Florida Assessment Test because she followed directions, and might not be allowed to move on into fourth grade. What happened? The instructions said “Write the correct answer on the line, then fill in the bubble before the correct word or phrase.” So she wrote the correct answer on the line, then filled the bubble above that answer on the sheet. Get it? Not the bubble with the answer, but the one before it. This did not make much sense to her, and she wanted to inquire, but the instructions said in capital letters DON'T RAISE YOUR HAND FOR ANY REASON. What the test meant was of course the bubble with the answer, but that was not what it said. Most children did not notice, so got it wrong, which matched the wrongness of the test maker, so they were okay, but this was a smart girl who read what the test actually said. So she took the penalty. Her mother tried to protest, but was stonewalled by authorities who couldn't be bothered and seemed impervious to common fairness. As it happened, those “wrong” answers cost her only the equivalent of a grade, in effect dropping her from a B to a C, so she still got to go to fourth grade. But she was not the stupid one; the test maker and authorities were the stupid ones, selecting against accuracy. And we wonder why schools don't do better.

Some Animal notes: seven percent of American adults, obviously graduates of the American school system referenced above, believe that chocolate milk comes from brown cows. That's four million people. You think that's silly? I was surprised to learn, decades ago, that brown eggs do come from brown hens. And of course there's the racist joke how black mothers give chocolate milk. Ignorance flourishes; 80% support mandatory labeling of food containing DNA. Question: is a vegan diet right for your dog? The answer is, in some cases, yes. As with regular vegetarianism, which I practice, it is healthy provided you pay attention to nutrition and make it healthy. Simply deleting meat from your diet is unlikely to be healthy, but of course neither is the junk meat diet of many. So now I am in the process of out-healthing and outliving most meat eaters. That's hardly the only case where it pays to pay attention. Next item: Marvelous picture of a tree filled with goats. I was raised on a goat farm, which maybe accounts for my capricious ways, and have always liked them; I even published a novella Service Goat, where alien goats prove to be superior service animals, even enabling the blind to see, literally. So what are these goats doing it a tree? Grazing. They are in Morocco, where there's not much to eat on land, so they go after the leaves of the trees. Goats are sure-footed animals, and this works for them. They are evidently smart enough to go where the good food is. And it turns out that most mammals take twenty seconds to defecate. No shit!

Article in NEW SCIENTIST on Do It Yourself—DIY—gun control. Given that gun nuts tend to ignore the first part of the Second Amendment, which gives the reason for the right to keep and bear Arms “A well regulated Militia...” and evidently want no regulation at all, what's a sensible gun owner to do? Mass shootings average about one a day; there's the ongoing nut tally. They are outnumbered by gun suicides, and there I am on the other side, as I believe folk should be allowed to end their lives when they choose, and few if any doctors will help them do it gently. Shame on the doctors. A gun gives a person that ultimate freedom. But how can you be a safe gun owner? One answer is smart guns, that can be fired only by the owner. But the National Rifle Association froths at the mouth in its opposition to even the availability of smart guns. Their acolytes use boycotts and death threats to enforce their views. Yes, I regard the NRA as one of the nuts; it obviously opposes true gun safety, regardless what it says. But it seems that there are grass roots movements like the Gun Shop Project and Biofire Technologies that are trying to make gun ownership safer, and their influence is growing. Maybe in time the sensible gun supporters will herd the nuts into the cages where they belong, and we'll all be safer.

Our hunger for food is driving whole populations of fish toward extinction. Now Bren Smith is setting out to restore balance with three dimensional ocean farming. He is growing things like kelp and mussels in vertical columns in the sea. He says that this way, one acre can yield thirty tons of vegetables and a quarter million shellfish in five months. This looks promising, but he fears that climate change may mess it up. Are we doomed to starve because we won't stop the pollution that heats the world? Because there is profit to be made today by wiping out tomorrow? I'd prefer to drive the profiteers to extinction. Meanwhile obesity is on the rise globally throughout the world, as the Western diet spreads, and there are more obese children. Excess body weight now affects more than one in three people, leading to an increase in heart disease, cancer, and other chronic health issues. Damn it, you don't have to overeat just because food is available; I don't. It's discipline, not genetic; my parents were overweight when old, and when my father died he was too heavy to stand on his feet. I will not go that route; why should you? Do you really care more about that sugary soft drink than you do about your health? Go your way; it is not mine.

Fascinating experiment is fox taming. They tried identifying the least aggressive animals and mating them together. In three years those foxes began to accept humans. After four years, one cub wagged his tail. After eight generations, curly tails appeared. Then some foxes began to breed more than once a year. It seems that domesticated mammals of any species develop a complex of traits besides tameness: floppy ears, star shaped forehead markings, multiple breeding periods, and curly tails. It seems they are prolonging infancy. After twenty generations the foxes are like dogs: loyal and unbearably cute. You can now adopt a tame fix, for a price. If you did the same with humans, would they have curly tails?

I hate it when reputable publications publish misinformation. The June 2, 2017 issue of THE WEEK has an article titled “Straight talk about teeth.” It tells of the crisis in bad teeth we are suffering, and how the gap between rich and poor aggravates this. That's true; I have had competent tooth care, but it is hideously expensive and surely difficult for those not in the elite one percent economically to afford. But then it says “Nationwide, 25% of Americans are not connected to a fluoridated water system, and therefore are missing out on what the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention called one of the 10 great health advances of the 20th century.” False; fluoridation is actually one of the 10 great hoaxes of the 20th century, as I have discussed in a prior column. Children raised on it mature several months early, and are up to ten points lower in IQ, so you get physically mature girl children who are relatively stupid. I'm sure the boys love that! And their teeth are no better than those of folk in un-fluoridated areas. All because the mining industry found a clever way to market a waste product, and evidently greased the right palms. I am appalled, as should be all who value their health, and ashamed for the CDCP for carrying their water, so to speak.

Article in NEW SCIENTIST titled “Why be Conscious?” addresses one of my three main hobbies, the other two being the mystery of why there is something rather than nothing, that is, the universe; and the true origin of life. I'd like to have the answers to all of them before I die, but am not certain I will. When it comes to belief in God or the supernatural I demand tangible proof, but I have a problem with consciousness because I believe in it without such proof. That is, I can't prove I am conscious to you, and you can't prove you are conscious to me, yet we both are sure it exists, no? The article says that consciousness leaves no fossil record. That news comes hard to an old fossil like me. It says that consciousness is largely about perception and emotions, rather than thought or higher human capabilities. Yes. Our feelings govern us, and consciousness without feeling seems pointless. You turn on the TV and there's the big game between Team A and Team Z, which you happen to have no interest in, so you turn it off again. But if the game is between your glorious home team and the dastardly impostors who stole the title last year, you are interested, and you watch and react. Feelings give you positive rewards for good things and negative punishments for bad things; creatures with feelings tend to survive better. Compared with unconscious processing, consciousnesses is slow and energy intensive, but it does pay to have it. The theory is that consciousness evolved during the Cambrian explosion about 540 million years ago. No, a bomb was not detonated; the explosion was the development of the enormous variety of life forms, that came to dominate our world, one of which led to us. Do other creatures have consciousness? Many seem to, from the annoying fly that buzzes you but avoids your swatting, to giant squid with their marvelous color displays. My theory is that it's like multiplication compared to addition: you don't have to count every stone in every pile, but can get the total faster by counting one average sized pile and multiplying by the number of piles. Apply that system to more complicated challenges, like survival, and you will out survive the adder and your offspring will multiply. But the actual mechanism of consciousness remains a mystery. My theory for that is that it is an intricate feedback mechanism, so that you are thinking about yourself thinking about other things, and gaining a special perspective, a new dimension of thought.

{Web underling's second note: The final paragraph this month might prove disturbing to survivors of sexual abuse. Mr. A. seems to have forgotten his own daughter is such a survivor, and I disagree vehemently with his opinions below. The opinions stated below are the sole responsibility of Piers Anthony, as is every monthly newsletter, and do not represent those of his family. This blank space is your warning to stop reading now.}

Tampa Bay news item breaking as I do this column: a 22 year old woman had consensual sex with an 11 year old boy, and even had his baby. Now she may wind up in prison for sexual assault. I have a problem with that. I don't approve of sexual assault or of adults molesting children, but there is a difference between what an adult man might do with an 11 year old girl, and a 22 year old woman with an 11 year old boy. Chances are the girl is getting raped or seriously coerced. But a boy can't normally father a child unless he is sexually mature and more than willing. The sex was surely consensual. So yes, don't mess with children, but the consensual aspect makes a difference. Throwing a woman in prison for giving a boy what he wants is more like a misdemeanor than a capital crime, whatever the puritans may claim.

Until next time, which I trust will be less lengthy--

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