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Piers Anthony, Aug. 1, 2020
Piers Anthony, Aug. 1, 2020

JeJune 2021


If you pounce immediately, as an early reader of this column, you can buy the electronic edition of my naughty novel The Sopaths for a penny under two dollars. It's on sale JeJune 3. The world runs out of souls, because of overpopulation, and babies start being born without them. They grow into children without conscience, and that's deadly. They will stop at nothing to get whatever they want, not excluding sex or murder. A sopath in a family means the death of the others, because if a parent tries to punish a sopath, the sopath will find a way to get rid of that annoyance permanent. The only way to stop it is to kill the sopath. The central family consists of a man, a woman, a little boy, and a little girl, each of which is the sole survivor of their former family. Each fully understands the others, as few others do. Then, would you believe, they adopt a sopath. Then it gets complicated. This ain't Xanth. Oh, you want Xanth? Then go for Xanth #40 Isis Orb, on similar sale the same day, whose story was suggested by a ten year old girl. No, it's not a juvenile. Isis is, among other things the Goddess of Sex. You should like it, if you're well over 10. If you're not over 10, maybe wait for the next sale.

I received a book in the mail They Thought for Themselves, by Sid Roth. The accompanying letter informed me that Sid is an Israeli-American Jewish man whom God has extraordinarily blessed. He had a dream in which he was instructed to write a book about ten amazing Jewish people. He did, and there are now well over two million copies in print. “You may wonder why I am sending you this book as a gift. It is because I believe it will give you the tools to achieve greatness. If you follow the advice of these ten Jewish people, I believe you will obtain the same results.”

Okay. My cynical take on this is that he wants to garner more reviews that could increase the book's popularity and boost its copies in print to three, four, five, or more million. Obviously I am a late addition to his promotion list. Reviews and publicity can be fickle. Chance, to a considerable extent, governs success, in books and in life. But I don't object; as a long-time pro novelist I understand the challenge of promoting promising books. So I decided to read it and see for myself. I don't need instruction in thinking for myself, and I doubt Sid realizes how successful I have already been. I hardly need new tools at this late stage in my octogenarian life, but let's consider his case. As a lifetime agnostic I have had little interest in religion except to keep it the hell away from my door, but my mind is open. I see adopting a new savior or new religion not as thinking for oneself so much as going to a new spiritual master, which is pretty much the opposite. But I meant to read and understand their take on this. I am not against religion, merely independent of it. I do know Jesus in my fashion; he was a character in my tri-part novel Tarot, and I respect what he stands for. In fact I believe that if Jesus came to this world again, he would prefer my company to that of a number of the pastors, ministers, or priests who preach in his name. He has little stomach for hypocrisy. If we shook hands he would feel and respect my power as I feel his, and he would not condemn me as an unbeliever though knowing me for one. More on that in a moment.

The thing about these ten Jews is that they all did something that their religion disapproved; they came to worship Jesus, or as he is known here, Yeshua. The main distinction between the Jews and Christianity is that the Christians regard Jesus as their savior, while to the Jews he is just a passing prophet, if that. Jesus was a Jew, as were his disciples. When it was decided that a person did not have to become a Jew in order to follow Jesus, it opened the floodgates of Christianity. But some Jews do recognize Jesus. They are called Messianic Jews. We learn their stories here.

There is far too much detail in this volume to cover in this commentary. What these folk have in common is their conversion to Jesus. They were raised as Jews, and remain so; they merely feel that Jesus is indeed the savior that the Bible, in the form of the Old Testament, predicted. Recognition of Jesus is what empowers them, sometimes dramatically, as in being healed of paralysis by him, sometimes merely intellectually. I liken it to falling in love; they fell in love with Jesus. I was especially impressed by the story of Rose Price, who was raised as a child as an Orthodox Jew in Poland. She was ten years old when Germany invaded Poland in 1939, soon banned from school, then confined in a prison camp. She had to work all day at a factory, operating a rifle bullet machine. Her family was gone. She cried until she ran out of tears. She prayed for deliverance, but got no answer, and concluded that there was no God. She got transferred from one concentration camp to another until she was sent to Bergen-Belsen and then Dachau. They were tortured. They were forced to dig sugar beets out of almost frozen ground with their bare hands, and her hands were bleeding badly. They were given a one quarter of an inch thick piece of bread a day to eat, and it was 80 percent sawdust. She stole a sugar beet to eat, and was punished by being hung up by her hands and whipped with a cat-o'-nine tails. Another time they were lined up naked to see how long it would take for their blood to freeze. She survived only because several others fell on top of her and their bodies kept her warm. Another time she made the mistake of smiling, and was put in a sewer tank for 24 hours. Twice she was selected to be shot, but she ran away and hid in the woods. When they were finally liberated in May 1945 she needed 27 operations. She had lost nearly 100 relatives and would gladly have seen Germany and Poland bombed to oblivion. She came to America, got married, had children, and participated in the local synagogue though she hated God. Then her daughter announced that she believed in Jesus Christ. This was another horror, because the atrocities had been committed in the name of Jesus, punishing the Jews for killing him. Then her husband converted, making him a traitor to her too. She was losing her second family because of this Jesus. She was ready to meet Jesus, and kill him. But in the interest of learning what she was up against she sneaked down to the basement and read the New Testament in a locked room. She learned that Jesus was actually gentle man, not a killer; the Nazis had misrepresented him. She prayed to him, and felt a big stone rolling off her back. She cried and finally felt clean. Then she knew Jesus was real, and made him her Messiah. Then Sid Roth, who assembled this collection, contacted her, and she reluctantly agreed to speak at an event for Messianic Jews. She spoke of forgiveness. And several ex-Nazis approached her and asked for forgiveness. One had been in charge of punishment at Dachau. Somehow she managed to forgive them. As she was about to leave Berlin, one of them came up to her and said that after she prayed with him, he had his first night's sleep since the war. The Lord had given her the strength to do it.

And that is just one of the stories in this volume. The others have different takes on it, some of which are eye-opening. There is nothing shallow here. So does this empower me to go to Jesus or to accomplish greater things in my life? No, but I appreciate how others could benefit. Here is my take on it. Jesus is a personification of an ideal, rather than a literal man, who may never have existed. There is no record of him in Roman times. But assuming that he was real, and that his spirit lives and is ready to return to the world, will he do so? I think not. Because if Jesus came again, and took physical form, and saw the horrors of this present world, the things preached and wrought in his name, the violence, the greed, the hate, the hypocrisy, none of it remotely similar to his actual message, his tears would flow. And if he tried to reform it, to make this world a truly Christian realm, the powers that be would crucify him again. They are not ready to give up their power, money, or prejudices for the sake of the Kingdom of God, any more than the Romans were. This present world is not fit for him. No, he is not coming again, at least not at this time. He is benign but not stupid. Maybe if more good works are done in his name, improving the spiritual climate, he might reconsider. Maybe.

I read Geothermal Energy – Renewable Energy and the Environment, by William E Glassley, as part of my research for my future novel Deep Well. This is a comprehensive textbook by an author who seems to have an encyclopedic knowledge of the subject. It does get into pages of formulae intended for more technical readers than I am, but it did also introduce me to notions I need to consider for my novel. Such as that the temperature rises about 1 degree C for every hundred feet depth. “In fact, the amount of energy, in the form of heat, that is present a few thousands of feet below the surface is more than enough to satisfy the energy needs of every nation of the world many times over.” It establishes that not only is the human population of the world rising phenomenally, the energy use per person is also multiplying. This is of course mischief. “Electricity generation alone accounts for nearly half of all greenhouse gas emissions.” Coal, oil, and natural gas are the main culprits; geothermal is wa-a-ay cleaner. However, getting that heat to the surface is not just a matter of drilling a hole in the ground and piping it up. Too deep a hole can melt the drill, for one thing, and there can be toxic chemicals. This book goes into detail on all of it. But it is clear that hybrid geothermal systems – that is, those that also take advantage of wind and solar power – can indeed save the world from the dire pollution now being generated.

But life is not just study and work. MaryLee and I watched the DVD with the first season of the current Star Trek series Picard. We understand that some Star Trek fans don't like it, but we found it interesting, if complicated to get into, and it winds up the season with real power. Characters from the prior series appear, such as the shapely former Borg Seven of Nine. Essentially, Picard is now older, nearing the end of his life, and wants to do something to rectify a serious injustice. A daughter of Data, cloned from a single survivor cell, beseeches him, but then dies, so he searches for her sister, as two of them were made. That leads to assorted adventures. First he has to obtain a ship and crew, off the record. By the time he accomplishes the mission, he dies. But they manage to salvage an aspect of him, ready for the next season. This series is, to my mind, notable for the human feelings it evokes. We come to care about the characters. I do recommend it. We also watched a couple more episodes of Futurama, and that was fun as usual. I like the sexy one-eyed Leela, and that crazy robot has his points.

The Sunken Garden continues. The papaya tree is flourishing, and the-pink hibiscus salvaged from a broken-off branch is doing better than any of the original hibisci did. The little potted tomato plant that collaborator Julie Brady – Dream A Little Dream – gave me, now in the Garden, has pretty much taken over half the area with branches extending as far as 20 feet, and has produced maybe 200 cherry tomatoes. Meanwhile MaryLee bought some Maverick Mix mini tomatoes of different colors, liked them, saved the seeds, and I planted them in two pots, and about 20 plants are growing. And back in the Garden a cold snap in winter – yes, it happens, even here in sunny Florida – stripped the leaves from three of the plumeria plants. I hoped they would re-leaf come spring, and lo! They did. So you can see we have our little excitements, senior citizen style. Meanwhile The Tennessee Magazine, which followed MaryLee when she moved to Florida, had an article on no-till gardening that can be done with little time and effort. Basically, you mulch to stifle the weeds. Oh – for those interested in doing similar I learned of a new link for composting: The website includes an in-depth piece on how to start composting, illustrated with useful infographics, including one of exactly what you can and can't compost. Yuzu Magazine is a website that focuses on composting and sustainable living, hosted by Veronica. She is trying to get 1,000 people to start composting. Maybe you can be among them.

We also enjoy grocery shopping, after being on home lockdown for a year. We do go masked and observe social distancing, nervous about the Virus. Publix has a shopping cart with a seat, so that I can push it while MaryLee rides, which saves her from getting worn out shopping. We typically spend over a hundred dollars. In my day in the other century similar shopping ran about ten dollars. The government claims that there is little inflation, but even a “low” rate adds up across the decades. I remember when I first got married – to Carol, in 1956 – I figured we needed $50 a week income, so I got a job that was a dollar an hour, 50 hours, and survived. I believe the minimum worker pay has increased somewhat since.

Covid-19 vaccination shots have been slow to reach the hinterlands and mine has not yet caught up with me, but I trust it won't be long now. I don't like the threat of the Virus, with its death toll and Long Covid lasting symptoms. Meanwhile scary stories about the shots are circulating. One is that there were over 3,500 deaths and 12,600 serious injuries reported between December 14, 2020, and April 23, 2021. Yet the government is dismissing such reports with a bare minimum of scrutiny, and mainstream news outlets have agreed to not allow any news critical of the shots to reach the American people. It says that though the Johnson & Johnson vaccine does have issues with blood clots, it is actually the safest of the three vaccines now being offered to Americans. Okay, if I have a choice, that's the shot I want. I hardly trust such private reports, but neither do I trust the government. Governments routinely lie when it suits their purpose, such as not alarming the sheep in the pen when shearing or butchering time approaches. I wish there were a reliable source of Truth, regardless of its nature. Alas, I haven't found it. No, I am not going to start believing in God for that. He probably has better things to do than answering the questions of sheep.

I have remarked before on The Equedia Letter, an unregistered investment adviser published by Ivan Lo. I certainly don't trust it, but I do consider what it says, just in case. It says we should not trust the system, or-the governments. I do agree with it to that point. It doesn't trust the vaccines, and suggests that Covid-19 is really not that big a threat. Neither does it trust reassurances about the danger of inflation. So it is striking on different sides of my belief and unbelief. Mainly, this issue says that a massive boom is coming, but that it is fueled by massive debt, and that is dangerous. That the top three banks are all participating in riskier mortgages. That credit card standards are loose. That the global “green” push will require excessive capital expenditures. That precious metals will play a role in economic growth while acting as an inflation hedge. But it hints that inflation is about to take off. Okay, I take much of this with a significant grain of salt. But neither am I sure it's all wrong. As they say, even a stopped clock is right twice a day. I suspect that wild economic times are in the making, and we'd better be careful.

Clippings and such: I received a letter with my name backwards proffering life insurance, saying “Our records indicate that you are between the ages of 50 and 85.” I am 86. Why do I distrust their insurance? The Hightower LOWDOWN says that we put the robot Perseverance on Mars to probe the planet's watery past, just in case there was life. But meanwhile folk in Texas are running out of water. Human bodies are 60% water, but 96.5% of Earth's water is undrinkable salt water, and half the remaining 3.5% is deep underground or locked in polar ice. So of course the huxters – oh, all right, today it is hucksters – are zeroing in on this precious commodity, a trillion dollar market opportunity. It will become expensive, unless governments start acting for the welfare of their people. Don't count on it. Maybe the answer is equipment to glean water from the air. Perhaps related is an article in NEW SCIENTIST for 3-6-2021 by Karina Shah titled “Complex life's days are limited.” One billion years from now our aging sun will heat up Earth's atmosphere and it will contain little oxygen, making it unsuitable for complex life. But I have a suggestion: refine the oxygen from water. You know, H2O, or one Hydrogen with two Oxygen. Oops, I forgot; the hucksters have priced water out of reach. Sigh; we're doomed. SCIENCE NEWS for 3-13-2021 has an article by Laura Sanders titled “Our Brains, Our Futures” which says that we may never understand brains in the way we understand rainbows, black holes, or DNA. That gives me a quirk of a smile, because we hardly understand those things anyway. Who has ever seen the hidden colors of the rainbow, like polka dot, barber pole spiral, or plaid? You have to visit Xanth for such sights, and it's not easy to get there. Regardless, they are now drawing detailed maps of the neural highways of the brain, and discovering that the dot on the map is less important than the roads leading in and out. They hope to learn how to change the brain's circuits in ways to alleviate Parkinson's disease, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and depression. Um, but would that eliminate my obsessive-compulsive need to write? That would depress me. Letter in the local newspaper by Cecil Casterelli, 5-7-2021 headed “Mother's Day not for cows.” It says that our dairy cows have their newborn calves torn from them at birth so that we can drink their milk. The cows are locked indoors chained to concrete floors, impregnated artificially, and when their milk output drops they are ground into hamburgers. She recommends replacing milk with nut and grain based substitutes. Amen to that! This month I tried Ripple artificial milk, and it is getting close. I am nudging closer to vegan, and trust I am not at all alone in that. The recent ransomware attack that shut down the big fuel pipeline was done by the criminal Dark Side. Evidently it is extending its mischief form the Star Wars universe to ours. The survivors of Covid die sooner. That makes me nervous, as I wait for my vaccination shot to come. One estimate of the1918 flu is that it caused 500 million infections and 50 million deaths. Covid-19 seems less worse so far, but we have not yet seen the end of it. Article in THE WEEK says that even mild obesity makes the infection worse, and 69% of Americans are overweight. One more reason I keep my own weight down, at the level it was when I was in college. And in the week for 6-4-2021 an article exploring the mystery of the “Havana Syndrome,” when dozens of diplomats and CIA officers at the embassy there began falling ill with vertigo, headaches, fatigue, hearing loss, visual disturbances, mental impairment, and other symptoms. Then it happened in Europe, Australia, China, and other places. We suspect the Russians, using some sort of targeted radio frequency including microwaves aimed at the head. A virtual hammer-blow to the brain, maybe. Ugly business, and things may complicate once our experts figure it out and start doing it back to the other side, while of course denying that we are. Politics ain't beanbags, it has been said.

Interesting letter in our local newspaper by Chris Conklin, titled “Build a floating solar plant.” He says that large solar (photo voltaic) plants are being built around the world, such as one in Morocco that will send electricity to England via a 1,200 mile underwater cable, eventually providing 7% of England's electrical energy. That made him wonder about doing something similar locally, such as floating solar panels on our various Tsala Apopka lakelets. In Xanth of course those are Tsoda Popka lakes, each sub-lake a different flavor. He calculates that ten square miles of solar panels could produce ten million kilowatt hours, or twice as much as Citrus County normally uses. The main challenge would be storing this power for night time use. Well, a geothermal unit might provide night time power, and batteries are improving. I am researching geothermal power as a means to save the world, but I support other clean power sources too, and this looks good. Article in Tampa Bay Times for 5-23-2021 by Dalvin Brown says IBM says a new chip might one day quadruple your cell phone's battery life. Okay, what might it do for day/night battery power? I'd love to see Citrus County get the Hades off fossil fuel, just as I'd love to see it get off cruelty meat. Another article in the same paper, by Matthew Cappucci, describes a new kind of home built by Delta Homes that can withstand a category 5 hurricane and still look good after the storm passes. Hurricanes do strike Florida on occasion, and their season is nigh upon us. I can tell you, as one who has lived through a hurricane, that it is one experience you never want to have again. At this stage of my life I doubt I'll be building a new house, but if I ever do, I will keep this in mind.

Until next time, then--


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