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Piers Anthony, Jan. 1, 2011 Piers Anthony, Jan. 1, 2011. Photo by Jane McConnell.
AwGhost 2019

I watched Stranger Things, season two. I watched mainly during a fever, so probably have details wrong. It started with a struggle to get my system changed from TV to DVD; but it just wouldn't, Until Daughter Cheryl tried it, hitting the same button I did, and for her it worked. Ever thus. The boy Will disappeared last season, but was finally rescued. But there remained something odd about him. There are several continuing narrative threads as the mystery grows. Someone is poisoning the pumpkin crop. Will sees something in the night, like a monstrous tentacular cloud. Mike has problems too, in fact all the boys do. The parents of course don't understand, except maybe the sheriff. They find Will standing outside in a trance state; he can't say what happened. Meanwhile Sheriff Hopper and Mike have a row, each thinking the other is lying. Dustin's odd lizard-like pet, Dart, molts and grows. Sheriff Hopper gets trapped in an underground tunnel and caught by growing vines. Will's drawings lead him and his mother Joyce to him, and they rescue him. But Will relapses. Steve and Nancy find their relationship intensifying. Will says someone angered the monster; that means trouble. Dustin's mother is in a trance, repeating a few words over and over; he concludes that she wants him to find a missing girl, Eleven, posing as Jane, an she visits a bad suction of town. A man threatens her with a knife, and she makes the man get overrun by biting ants. She demonstrates telekinesis. She meets Kal. They knew each other as younger children, before they got separated. Kal can make others see or not see what she chooses. The lizard monsters-–the demigorgons, or demi dogs--attack, and eat any human they catch. Then Eleven arrives. It seems she has been staying with Hopper, like a daughter. Meanwhile they tie Will down and heat him cruelly, because the monster that's in him can't tolerate heat. They finally drive it out, like a cloud of smoke. Another group tackles the subterranean monster complex, torching it. But Dustin's pet Dart does remember him, and they pass by him as they escape through tunnels. At the conclusion there is a school dance where a number of couples form, such as Will and Eleven. The main dance is totally unfamiliar to me, because I'm from a prior generation and never was part of the school dating scene. But the huge sky monster remains a threat.

I watched Aquaman. A lighthouse keeper discovers a woman washed up in the sea. She is Atlana, fleeing an arranged marriage in Atlantis. She finds love with the keeper, and they have a son, Aquaman. But Atlantis won't let them go, and sends a raiding party to bring her home. She wipes them out, but realizes that to save her husband and son she needs to return to Atlantis. She dies there, reportedly sacrificed by the king. Years later there is mischief and Aquaman's younger half brother Orm of Atlantis makes ready to unite the seven sea kingdoms, and to invade the land. Aquaman is the royal first son, whom they call Arthur, so Princess Mera, a flaming redhead, who is technically Orm's fiancee, comes to recruit him to lead the opposition to Orm. Why? She is trying to do the right thing, and Orm is not temperamentally suited to rule, being a power-hungry brute. Aquaman and Orm fight, but it is interrupted. Aqaman and Mera wind up in a kind of tour of several sea kingdoms, attacked by each. Until his mother Atlana appears; not dead after all. Aquaman goes to take the Trident, which can be taken only by the one true king—and does take it. He is the one it recognizes. Mera tells him to go defeat Orm. What if he loses? She says to make Orm fight in Aquaman's own venue this time. She kisses him and sends him off. He fights Orm, uses the Trident to defeat him, and spares him. Atlana appears, explaining that they are both her sons and she doesn't one son killing the other. Then she returns to Aquaman's father, while Aquaman rules land and sea with Mera as is bride. Taken as a whole, junky fantasy, but it does have a story line and is visually impressive, with a satisfying conclusion.

I read Radiant Cool, by Dan Lloyd, which I sought because I read a review that indicated it was a novelization of an essay on Consciousness. That's one of the mysteries I seek to see solved before I die, the other two being Existence and Life. This is dense reading, replete with diagrams and charts and obscure pictures. Consciousness is not a simple on-off switch; it is complicated and messy. The novel doesn't come up with the answer, but it does have interesting story twists along the way. Young, pretty, feisty Miranda Sharpe discovers Professor Grue slumped over his keyboard, unconscious or dead, so she takes her dissertation and gets quietly out of there. If he is dead, why, and by whom? And what about his specialty, consciousness? Both mysteries are opaque. But later in the novel Grue turns up again, alive, for a while; he had inadvertently overdosed on a drug. In the course of the story Miranda interacts with one Dan Lloyd. Yes, the author of this book. She is cautious, as strange men can get grabby. One she encounters is Gordon-the-nerd. “His amorous advance on me began perhaps ten minutes into the semester; it was dead in the water at eleven.” “At the end of the rainbow of experience, this pot of mush.” “I planned to spend the afternoon finishing my first book, also known as a dissertation, also known as the Swamp Thing.” “That was the paradox of the day, I thought. The instant of conscious life has no duration. Like a point. But packed into the instant is history and expectation, the time line. Consciousness is the line and the point, the warp of space and time. Multidimensionality lives!” Miranda has a copy of a key file Dan has lost via a computer glitch after months of working on it. He is highly gratified. “I won't be able to sleep until I've copied it about ten more times, and buried at least one in concrete.” “All consciousness is consciousness of something.” The novel is followed by a substantial essay, “The Real Firefly--Reflections on a Science of Consciousness.” This is even denser reading. It amplifies aspects referenced in passing in the fictional portion, but despite my fascination with the subject, I can't say I understood it. Where does the brain process images? Everywhere. It asks what is the natural function of consciousness? But has no answer. So I will answer: it enables a creature to survive a dangerous environment without having to maintain an impossibly large mental file of IF THIS...DO THAT alternatives such as what insects use. I think of it as similar to the shortcut multiplication represents over addition: instead of laboriously adding up a collection of groups of ten beans to get the total number, you simply count the number of groups, then multiply it by that number, taking a fraction of the brain's time and storage space. So consciousness enables more efficient functioning, and is a powerful survival tool. That's why nature keeps it. The essay explores the science fiction concept of a brain in a vat. If all the usual stimuli are made, does the brain even know it has lost its real body? It indulges in thought experiments to try to zero in on the minimal requirements for consciousness. “You can't step in the same stream of consciousness twice.” It establishes that time is an integral component. But it misses what I consider two fundamentals: that feedback is essential to consciousness, such as when you consider yourself considering an incoming image, and that consciousness is an emergent property, occurring only when circumstances are right. I am also not sure he explores the critical role of feeling, which is integral to consciousness. What is the point, if you don't care? So the author has labored hugely to bring forth something less than a mountain. Still it is a considerable discussion.

My supplementary reading on the subject includes A NEW SCIENTIST article that says one in ten people believed to be permanently unconscious may actually be aware. Can we rescue them? My own experience with this is Jenny, my paralyzed correspondent, who was roused to consciousness by a letter I wrote to her thirty years ago at the behest of her mother. I remain uncertain that I did her a favor, waking her to full body paralysis for life; it's why I still write to her weekly. No, she doesn't answer; she's paralyzed, remember? Fortunately she can move a few fingers, and that enables her to relate to a computer and the internet, so she has a life, just not a physical one. Also a book review on The Origin Of Consciousness, by Graham Little. It suggests that one key step was the development of the neural capacity to record and group events according to their properties, thereby generating ideas. That is, as I see it, if you observe a tiger catching and eating your brother, and later another tiger eating your neighbor, it helps if you can get the idea that tigers are dangerous, which is a survival advantage. It says the attention mechanism of the brain enables redirection of neuron flows, contrary to entropy, in choice or free will, and is the only system in the universe not directed by entropy. Entropy is, as I vaguely understand the concept, the tendency of matter and energy to merge into a state of equilibrium where nothing happens, sort of like nine day old porridge minus the maggots. So consciousness must be the enemy of entropy, and we who have consciousness have creative free will. We also have a sense of self, and emotions. And an article from a 2016 The Atlantic, “A New Theory Explains How Consciousness Evolved,” by Michael Graziano. What is the adaptive value of consciousness? When did it evolve, and what animals have it? The theory suggests that consciousness arises as a solution to one of the most fundamental problems facing any nervous system: too much information constantly flows in to be fully processed. It needs to be sorted out before you get eaten by the tiger. So consciousness may have evolved gradually over the past half billion years, and is present in most vertebrate species. One advance was the tectum, a centralized controller for attention that could coordinate among all senses. All vertebrates—fish, amphibioans, reptiles, birds, and mammals—have a tectum. But invertebrates don't. That's things without backbones, like jellyfish, insects, worms, sponges and such. Then a new brain structure developed, the wulst. (Not in my dictionaries, which include the big Oxford English Dictionary) Its most advanced example is called our cerebral cortex, which is like an upgraded tectum. It enables, among other things, the theory of mind. That is, we understand that we are thinking, and can also understand that other people and maybe creatures are thinking too. I think maybe even those insectoid aliens from planet X who have been watching us for the past century. We can understand other people by projecting ourselves onto them, and appreciate how other folk might see us. Hey, Planet X Alien; stop mentally undressing that girl; she's not your type. Language was another big leap in the evolution of consciousness, and we humans certainly employ it, from TV to smartphones. But an article in NEW SCIENTIST says that consciousness may be an illusion. How's that again? Just about anything can be doubted, but I know I'm not imagining my consciousness. I may not know its mechanisms, but I know it's there. Ah, but the article says it may be a partial illusion, a picture knitted together by the brain as a result of all the inputs it is receiving. I think of a movie, which is actually a series of still pictures or fragments of pictures, replacing each other so fast that they blur into seeming reality. Now that could be. We are receiving constant multiple pictures, in the manner of a TV screen, and the blur does seem real.

I watched Skyscraper. They are opening the world's tallest building, twice the height of the Empire State Building. This is The Pearl in Hong Kong, a spiraling tower. Will Sawyer was a hostage rescue team leader, until he got shot. He now has an artificial left foot. He assesses security for skyscrapers. His “brother” Ben sells out to another side. He attacks Will, and dies in the ensuing fight. He says Will has been set up. Indeed, Will is photographed by the bad folk before they speed away. The gang seems to be run by a young woman, Xia. The mastermind is Botha. They gun down the building managers. The fire is set on the 96th floor; Will's wife Sarah and their two children Georgia and Henry, are not far above that. The fire is climbing; they must flee upward. To reach them, Will must climb up outside the building, despite his metal left foot. Much of his desperate climb is visible from the ground, and spectators applaud his successes. Falling debris separates Sarah from the children, then the children from each other. Will reaches Sarah, and so does Henry. Will goes after Georgia, but they are captured by the bad guys. They know he knows the building, and want his information. They mean to use the girl to make him talk. But he breaks free and makes contact with the authorities. Then comes back after Georgia, but the interactions are complicated by what amounts to a hall of mirrors. He does rescue Georgia, and they in turn are rescued. This is one scary struggle.

I watched Fantastic Beasts the Crimes of Crindhelwald. This is a Harry Potter sequel to Fantastic Beasts. Newt Scamander is summoned to find a way to deal with Dark Wizard Grindelwald, who escaped confinement and wants to rule the world. It took me some time to get into it, as it has scenes with assorted other folk I didn't remember. A young woman is required to turn into a serpent. A dragon is conjured into a suitcase. Leta believes she is bad. Queenie distrusts others. Jacob was enchanted. Tina is wary of what's going on. Back history of a wronged couple. Grindlewald makes his case to his followers. Leta attacks him, and is destroyed. Pyrotechnics erupt. I proffer this as a way not to make a movie. I saw the prior one two years ago, but there was no keying in to refresh my memory, no summary, so it largely passed me by. I'm sure there was more of a story than I was able to pick up on. A sequel movie, like a sequel novel, should make sure the viewer or reader has the information he/she needs to follow it without difficulty. Otherwise viewers/readers are lost at an unnecessarily extensive rate.

I read The God Wheel by Brian Clopper. It seems that every person has a God Wheel, a kind of divine device whose rotation brings him fortune of one kind or another. Felix Martin has a sudden turn of good fortune, with his would-be girlfriend Lorna turning friendly, and finding a $10,000 lottery ticket winner. Then he gets a visit from a ghostly young woman named Yolla, who says she's his goddess of good fortune. She takes his hand, and suddenly he's not at home. She shows him a vertical wheel marked in twelve segments, each with a mysterious name. One segment is Yolla; it seems it fell on her, and that's why his recent rush of good luck. Normally a person does not see his/her God Wheel, which is tucked away in a pocket dimension in his/her brain. Each person has a personal pantheon of unique deities, selected by their wheel. But Felix's squire, the one who spins the wheel, is missing, so now Felix must spin it for himself. A prophecy says that when this sort of mess-up happens, the dread Entropy Queen may escape confinement. That would be disaster, as she would take over the entire framework of fantasy and reality, ushering in her foul new order. So Felix must now pretty much guide his own destiny, and stop the Queen, to save the world. After that it becomes complicated. Lorna shows up, with her wheel, and they work their random way through her pantheon as well as his. And the dread Entropy Queen does show up, a formidable figure. Fortunately they manage to muddle through and save the existing order, so the rest of us can relax; with luck we'll never see our own wheels.

I watched Fear. Blond sixteen year old Nicole has a typical dull family life with father Steve and mother Laura. She meets David at a party, unaware that he has bad connections. They go off by themselves. They kiss. She stays out too late and gets halfway grounded. They date, becoming increasingly intimate. He visits at night when her folks are away. Another day he sees her with another boy, Gary, a family friend, and beats him up. That puts their relationship in question. Dad, Steve, tells David to get the hell out of her life, or else. Then Nicole sees David making out with her friend Margo. That really ties it. David threatens Margo, and goes after Gary, killing him. Steve goes after David and his friends. Who in turn go after Nicole's family, smashing into their house. Mayhem as the family fights back. David dies, ending it.

I watched The Watcher. Helicopters, police cars, and armed police converge by night on a city address. They are after a serial killer who studies his victim for weeks ahead. He grabs her, ties her, gags her, dances with her, before killing her. But doesn't rape her. Then comes to the crime scene as if by chance. He mails pictures of his victims, before they are killed, to the FBI police detective, Joel Campbell, challenging him. Now the focus is on the next victim, Ellie; if the police can identify her before the killer strikes, maybe they can save her and catch him. They don't, and she's dead. On to the next, Jessica. Meanwhile the killer, Abraham, even signs up with the same psychologist Joel uses, Polly. They don't catch up to Jessica in time either, but now are close on Abraham's trail. He steals a car; they are after him. He sets a gas station on fire, and escapes in the distraction. He raids the psychologist's office and gets a recording of her last interview with Joel. They meet at a cemetery. Abraham takes Joel to where Polly is tied and gagged, amid explosives. But Joel has his cell phone on, so the police are tracking him. He says that he and Joel need each other to give meaning to their lives. There's a tense showdown as the fire and explosions start. Joel manages to carry Polly out of it as Abraham gets burned to death. Polly is likely to be Joel's girlfriend.

I watched Raising Cain. Carter is picking up his little daughter Amy, but his wife doesn't arrive, so a neighbor woman takes them in her car. He chloroforms her and stops the car. Then his twin brother Cain shows up. They are evidently into something devious, like stealing children and experimenting on them. Carter adores Amy, but when starting to make love with her mother Jenny, he hears Amy cry, breaks off, and leaves the house. This is curious. Then he spies Jenny making love with a friend, Jack. He kills her, puts her in the car, and sinks the car in the river. She recovers consciousness just before the car goes under, too late. Or does she? Meanwhile a police psychologist, Waldheim, discusses cases of multiple personalty, which originate when a child is abused and creates an alternate personality to remember it, the original one remaining innocent. This must be Carter and Cain, explaining how Cain can mysteriously appear and vanish. Waldheim interviews Cain and his other personalities. She needs to get the one who knows where the stolen children have been hidden. That's Margo, who knocks her out and escapes. Cain assumes the identity of his father, Dr. Nix, who started all this. No, it turns out that Dr. Nix is real, having faked his suicide 18 years ago. Then Amy wanders in the park, looking for Daddy—and sees him. Amy has the syndrome too. This is not my preferred genre, but it is well enough done.

I watched A Kiss Before Dying, the fourth in the package of four I got for six dollars. Set in 1987. Dorothy dresses well for an important date. She meets her boyfriend Jonathan Corliss, and they will meet her father and tell him of their relationship. Then Jonathan pushes her off a ledge, killing her. Her father is the head of Carlsson Copper, one of America's richest men. They think she committed suicide. Her twin sister Ellen survives. It turns out Dorothy was pregnant; that must be why he killed her,to avoid that complication. A year later they still think it's suicide, but Ellen is sure it wasn't. She investigates, and a friend finds a picture of Corliss--and in turn gets murdered. Now at last the police believe that something is going on. Ellen knows Jonathan as Jay Faraday, and has sex with him. They date for a year. Her friend Rose gets beaten up. Jay meets Ellen's father. Another friend says she knows whom Dorothy was dating when she died. So Jonathan/Jay kills her, and throws her body into the river. Jay and Ellen marry. Jay gets along fine with her father. But Ellen continues to put hints together about her sister. Jay is aware of that. Then one of his old college friends spies him as Corliss. Corliss' mother says that he committed suicide three years ago by swimming out to sea, but his body was never found. That's when he assumed the identity of another person. Bit by bit things are closing in on him. He catches Ellen investigating his past. They fight, she flees, and he gets run over by a Carlsson Copper train, ironically. So it is finally over.

I read The Emotional Craft of Fiction by Donald Maas, a leading literary agent. Actually I know how to write fiction, critics to the contrary notwithstanding, but it was on sale and I was curious about his take on it. He focuses mainly on, yes, the importance of emotion, and he's right; fiction has to stir your emotion, or you'll soon set it aside. He gives examples both from published novels and his own experience, and offers little exercises to encourage the writer to amplify the emotional aspects of his narrative. I would say this is well considered and presented, and the average writer can profit from it. I was pondering writing a novelette at the time, so I tried to apply the advice to that, and came up with a strong emotional sequence that should benefit my story. So yes, I recommend this book, especially if you are a novice writer struggling to enhance the effect of what you write.

I watched Hardbodies, the first of a sixpack of Beach Bodies movies I got for five dollars, which is a bit over fifty cents an hour. Three middle age men rent a swinging beach house. They hire a young stud Scotty to teach them how to score with the local girls. He gets them into better clothes and tells them how to dialogue. It's a challenge, but it begins to work. They get into it with lively girls. Bare breasts galore. Not much of a plot line, and it devolves into farce, but that's not the point. The point is to show as many young sexy girl bodies as possible, and it does do that.

I watched Private Resort, the second Beach Bodies movie. Jack and Ben crash a posh private resort, meaning to chase the hot babes. Until they spy the fabulous wife of a jewel thief. Now there's a challenge! It's a farce, flesh alternating or overlapping with slapstick. One boy meets a mystic who turns out to have a phenomenal body. The boys get the wife in their room, too drunk to stand. One gets a friendly waitress on the beach. The jewel thief tries to get the diamond by force, but the woman knows karate. A wacky chase through the halls of the hotel, into the ladies' locker room, everywhere. Fun.

I watched Side Out. Monroe is coming to work for his uncle in real estate in Pasadena. Prospective customers are hostile, as he is serving eviction notices. One is Zack Barnes, who plays volleyball on the beach. He meets the pretty marine biologist student Samantha. Monroe gets into volleyball and turns out to be good at it. Zack sees potential in Monroe and starts coaching him to play better. Monroe uses his legal knowledge to help Zack escape eviction. That costs him his job but wins Zack's friendship. They team up in volleyball. They enter a major tournament and make it to the finals. Zack can get a big payoff to throw the match. Will he? He starts to, but in the end doesn't, and they manage to win after starting ten points behind. They are the new champions. This is a good, compelling story, really not about beach bodies.

Jewel-Lye was an interesting month for me. I wrote the 9,350 word novelette “Choice,” about an alien nanny, Sliper, for a five year old human child, Jane, who is taking her to visit her own home planet, when she notices suspicious human characters and knows they mean to abduct the child for ransom. She is not equipped to fend them off. What to do? She spies an alien man of a warlike planet—in fact their two planets are at war now—with a five year old boy, on similar business. Wealthy human families currently hire alien protectors for their children; it's the current fashion. She makes her choice. This is neutral ground, and his boy has torn a pant leg that the warrior is ill equipped to mend. She signals him, making mending motions, which her six finger hands are well equipped to do. Then she glances significantly at the three lurking rogues across the hall. The man quickly assesses the situation and nods. He brings the boy, and she expertly repairs the pant leg. Then man and boy fade out, to reappear when the rogues strike, and the man wipes them out in an instant. She nods; their deal has been completed, and they go their ways. But it is actually the beginning of an adventure neither sought or expected, and they wind up together as a couple, adopting laboratory made human twins. The sequel, “Lab” follows those twins, whose destiny is beyond what anyone imagined.

But when I finished “Choice” I was struck by a fever of up to 102F that wiped out my exercise routine. It started with trouble sleeping; I simply could not get comfortable enough to nod off. It was a great relief when I did get back to a normal schedule there. One complication was a sudden urgency for urination that simply would not wait; in fact as I rushed to the toilet I pissed my pants. Then when the time came to defecate, right, I pooped my pants on the way to the toilet. Did I mention sudden urgency? In due course the fever passed—then reappeared, or maybe it was a new illness. My new hearing aids started popping out of my ears at odd moments; fortunately a visit to the audiologist fixed that. Another complication was my typing. I touch-type on a modified Dvorak layout, but my keyboard is marked for the inefficient QWERTY layout, so when it goes wrong I can't just hunt and peck to correct it. I would type a sentence, pure gibberish, so I would retype it—more gibberish. It took me longer to laboriously make corrections than it did to do the initial typing. So it seemed my fingers had the poop-in-pants syndrome. In the midst of that my adult trike got a flat tire, and the new fashioned patches don't work; if the makers actually tried using their own products they'd know that. Maybe they don't care. So I found an old old-style patch, and it held for one day. Sigh. So my daughter bought some new old-style patches, and that worked. All told, it was a couple of weeks of nuisance, and I lost five pounds. I caught up on reading, and on videos, and sleep, then slowly resumed my exercises and got to work on writing the 9,650 word novelette “Lab.” I am a writaholic; the rest is incidental.

Remember the Xanth sexist question I had two months ago? So far five readers have addressed it, and the count is 5-0, no sexism. But they were male responders; a female is working on it now, and we'll see.

I cleaned up some back piles of papers. Things that are not writing tend to accumulate, and every so often I devote a Chore Hour to sort them out. In this manner I discovered the buried March 1, 2019, issue of The Washington Spectator, with a devastating article titled “Deconstructing Trump,” by Patricia Roberts-Miller. It says that to many people the Trump phenomenon seems impossibly new and outrageous, with his followers inexplicably oblivious to his dishonesty, irrationality, and incompetence. Yes, I'm similarly mystified. Trump is Trump, but are the Republicans not paying attention? As I recall, there was a time when a Republican was a conservative, and a conservative valued things like integrity, tradition, family, and financial responsibility. Today it seems he values greed, bigotry, dishonesty, and spite. Did I misunderstand, before? This article may clarify that. It says that Aristotle called rhetoric the art of finding the available means of persuasion. So why does Trump's base support him so absolutely? Are they stupid, or is this their actual nature? This article goes back to 1939 when Adolf Hitler was in power in Germany, the main architect of World War Two, mentioning his 1925 autobiography Mein Kampf. As I happens I read that book in high school; it wasn't assigned, I was simply curious. I remember his reasoning that when he investigated the various ills of society there was always a Jew at the root of them, therefore he felt the world would be better off without Jews. I recognized that as specious logic; he came with a bias against Jews and sought justification of it, as bigots do. Anyway, the rhetoric scholar Kenneth Burke concluded that Hitler's rhetorical effectiveness came from his relentless repetition of “the bastardization of religious forms of thought.” That is, ways of thinking common to Western European Christianity, projecting and scapegoating. Identifying a common enemy, claiming a symbolic rebirth and toggling between material and spiritual ways of explaining events. Demagoguery displaces policy argumentation with mindless praise of “us” and condemnation of “them.” Conservative Christian Germans overwhelmingly supported Hitler, as conservative Christian Americans supported slavery, segregation, and lynching. I find this an ugly but revealing parallel. Hitler projected all the flaws of his, and the Germans, onto the Jews, accusing them of doing what he was doing. He identified any person who disagreed with him as Jewish, just as Trump now speaks of fake news and awful “libruls.” And, Hitler said, Germany would be great again. Recognize the playbook? Then about Trump: “What matters is that his rise to power was fueled by a demagoguery that reflected the racist, xenophobic, misogynist, and authoritarian values of the GOP.” It concludes “Trump isn't Hitler, but he has put the rhetorical strategies of modern history's most galvanizing and villainous demagogue to effective use.” Now you know.

Shorter notes: the Authors Guild says that we have stories and creativity that are valuable. But we need to stop computers from trying to recreate us, and work jointly to safeguard the importance that human creativity has in all our future. I am not sure I agree; if a machine can write fiction as well as I can, maybe it should have the same chance on the market as I do. Fair is fair. Newspaper editorial says that the big companies are making billions in profits, yet paying no taxes. For example, Amazon made $11 billion in 2018, and claimed a tax rebate of $129 million. I agree that they should pay at the same rate we grunts in the trenches do. Article in NEW SCIENTIST says that most advice about diet is fatally flawed. Maybe, but I believe I will continue to eat fruits and vegetables, avoid highly processed food, and take supplements, because this advice, too, may be flawed. Another article says that organic foods are not necessarily more nutritious than conventional ones. But I agree that we need better studies. Another article says that cancer cells produce an odd electrical current that maybe we can turn against them. My daughter died of cancer; I'd love to see a treatment that could stop it. Newspaper item says that studies indicate that healthy people don't need low-dose aspirin for heart health; in fact it does no good and may be risky. I knew that decades ago; my doctor had me on low dose aspirin, but I learned it was bad for the brain and I dropped it and him. I do value my brain, and not just because that alien from Planet X may relish the taste of it. So unless you have specific reason, like a prior heart attack, you probably should stay clear of contstant aspirin. And Ross Perot died. He was a billionaire who ran for president in 1992, used his money and an array of charts and graphs, condemned the federal budget deficit and was leading in the polls, when he suddenly dropped out, to return months later. What happened? He blamed Republican dirty tricks, but I think the answer was more prosaic. He was talking to supporters, and at one point referred to “You people.” A black man challenged that, and Perot realized that he had blundered into one of the code phrases that dismissed blacks as a less than worthy group. In effect his underwear was showing. He was so embarrassed by his mistake that he dropped out. That cost him his lead, and maybe the presidency. But I am not at all sure he would have made a good president; he had other hangups. Item says that women's brains react to sexual images just as much as men's brains do. I have trouble believing that; as far as I know, the great majority of patrons of porn sites are male, not female. Article in NEW SCIENTIST for July 20, 2019, says they have found the black soldier fly, whose larva can be dried and fed to pets, can replace fish-meal in the diet of farmed fish and animals, can be swapped for soya in animal feed, baked into bread, and mixed into ice cream. They can digest all manner of human wastes, and can even be processed into a kind of plastic. They do it without producing methane. Converting excrement into food may sound yucky, but most of us, including vegetarians and vegans, unknowingly eat fats and proteins from insects all the time, because they are in the crops we harvest and get ground up with the grains. So this may be the next coming thing, which you can accept or tune out, but you'll be eating it. I just thought I'd give you the glad news. Have a great day!

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