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

Mayhem 2021


I am at present alternating my reading and reviewing novels with my reading of research books for my serious novel Deep Well. I read Geothermal Engineering Fundamentals and Applications, by Arnold Watson. This is highly technical, and frankly beyond my complete comprehension. It has pages of technical formulae and related discussion that only a mathematician or geothermal engineer could understand. For me it makes the point that developing geothermal energy is not a simple matter of drilling down to hot rock, bringing the heat up, and using it to generate electric power. That is the essence, yes, but there's nothing simple about the application. So this is not a text I recommend to my readers who seek escapist fantasy. Nevertheless, it does have value for me. I learned a new word—as an octogenarian I experience that less often than I did in my twenties—“pluton,” meaning a solidified bubble of magma. If it reaches the surface before cooling it is a volcano. If it remains below, it's a pluton. If you happen to be drilling in that vicinity, it behooves you to know, lest you encounter a forming pluton and trigger an inconvenient eruption of fiery magma. So it behooves you to survey the region before you start pricking balloons, as it were. Another thing I picked up on is that if you fill your pipes with super-hot water that will explode into steam the moment the pressure eases, and you open a valve, then abruptly close it, there will be a pressure knock not just right there, where your pipe is braced for it, but along the entire length of the pipe, virtually instantly. So it could burst out in another place, maybe steaming some innocent passing blonde. She wouldn't like that, and it could ruin your date. And another: the CO2 emission of oil is about 70% of that of coal, and natural gas about half, while geothermal is under a tenth of coal. Since that's what mainly causes global warming, that's something to think about before investing in a new coal plant. Geothermal energy can be complicated, but sensible.

I read Heroes of Perpetua by Brian Clopper. Three children, age about 11, Lou, Nelson, and Hugo, discover odd things, such as a bat hanging by a prehensile tail from a branch by daylight, black flying snakes, and a walking statue. The snakes attack viciously, but the heroes are able to destroy them by touching them to the statue. The statue turns out to be the Wizard Itzel in the body of a golem made of mud and sticks. Then Hugo talks mentally with an owl, who explains that the three of them have magic. The Wizard generates a portal that takes them to the magic land of Perpetua. The adventure proceeds from there in reasonably standard fashion as they encounter friends and enemies, struggling to figure out what's what. A girl who helps them turns out to be an enemy agent, though she just might be changing sides. In the end they manage to defeat the enemy, and return to their own realm, Earth. The creatures are myriad, unlike those of fantasy, and the magic is devious as the author demonstrates his endless imagination. This is technically a juvenile, but with so much action that it is compelling regardless of classification.

MaryLee and I have been on home lockdown for a year. Now at last we are starting to get back out into the larger world, which it turns out still exists. So far, just the Post Orifice, grocery store, filling station, and a Walgreen, but as time passes we hope to progress. We bought cake and eye scream for our anniversary and celebrated a passionate echo of our wedding night. We will surely go further once we remember how. Meanwhile our supposedly placid lives seem to be a constant turmoil of minor but frustrating time consuming interruptions. Whatever we need to do requires something else first. We'd like to just hug each other and tune out the complex world, but the world has other ideas.

The sunken garden has realized that spring is coming; I suspect that the 90 degree days gave it a hint. Apull is normally a dry month here, but we got a 3.2 inch thunderstorm. The four plumeria plants had suffered when I didn't protect them against a winter 38 degree low, dropping their leaves, but now new leaves are growing, and with luck they'll be flowering again. The purple Mexican Heather never stopped flowering. The papaya tree is flourishing, flowering and fruiting, and in time those fruits should ripen. The cherry tomato plants I transplanted to the garden are producing dozens of little fruits that we add to our salads. One tomato plant has spread out, oh, maybe twelve feet from its origin, surrounding nearby flower plants, and is trying to climb out of the garden. Okay, I am watching to see how far it gets.

A man came to my door and said he was doing asphalt drive surfacing, but an order was canceled and he had two truck-fulls stranded. Could I use them? Now this smelled like a scam, but I decided to gamble on its legitimacy, because our three quarter mile drive has worn somewhat in the past 33 years and it's a lot of effort to keep shoring it up with gravel. I gave the go ahead for one truck-full, and looked at what they were doing. It certainly seemed professional, as they leveled and graded the surface and applied the asphalt. So I okayed the second truck-full, and now we have about 420 linear feet of new surface, covering the worst of it. There has been rain in the intervening two weeks and it is standing up nicely. It cost a pretty penny, over ten thousand dollars, but that's the price of such work. The drive does seem improved, to that limited extent.

I wrote a short short story on request for an anthology of doll stories, “Octo,” about an octopus doll who is rejected by the other dolls because he is not like them. Then a marauding rat comes, threatening to destroy them all, but Octo fights it off at great cost to himself. He is literally all torn up. Then the other dolls are sorry, and find a way to reward him. It will appear in The Secret Life of Dolls, published by Mannison Press. They have also published Read the Read, my trilogy of tiny stories “Walk the Walk, “Ride the Ride,” and “Fly the Fly,” as I mentioned here last month. So if you want to learn what you didn't know about dolls, look for that volume, when. Meanwhile I continue to research, slowly, for my geothermal novel, Deep Well. It's amazing how complicated digging a hole can be, as I mentioned above.

A newspaper feature 4-25 covered the fight over the future of transgender athletes. This isn't just prejudice. Physical men who elect to change to women can still have male style muscles and systems, giving them an advantage in competition. For example, Terry Miller was an average ninth grade athlete in Connecticut. Then he/she came out as a transgender girl, and won three state championships, broke two state records, and won two titles at an all-New England meet, beating the fastest girls from six states. Elsewhere women's world records arc threatened. Gender equality is fine in theory, but in physical sports maybe there should be a transgender category. I suspect that if needlepoint or cake baking were competitive among boys, a girl who transitioned to a boy would have an advantage, though not as obvious.

Clippings: Religion seems to be waning in the USA. Around the turn of the century about 70% belonged to a church, synagogue or mosque; now it's 47%. Globally, the most secularized nations, like Scandinavia, Australia, Canada, and Japan are among the healthiest, wealthiest, and safest. As a lifelong agnostic I'm not surprised; religion really is, to an extent, the opiate of the masses. Science is generally more sensible in the real world than faith, especially when there is work to be done. Money: since 1985 Wall Street bonuses have grown 1,217%. If the minimum wage had kept pace, it would now be $44.12 an hour. As it is, the number of billionaires has grown by nearly a third during the pandemic. The Equedia Letter, a pseudo business publication, is now concerned about the amount of debt the US government is taking on. You know, like trillion dollar bailouts for the poor who lost their jobs in the pandemic. But I don't see them concerned about the trillion dollar tax cut for the rich that Trump engineered. Maybe I missed that paragraph. A private Florida school refuses to employ vaccinated teachers. Trust Florida to be in the vanguard of nonsense. As a resident since 1959 I like the physical climate better than the social/political climate. Article in NEW SCIENTIST for March 13, 2021, titled “Why quantum is relative” by Carlo Rovelli, that I hardly understand, suggests that things are real only as they interact with other things. We think about things as having absolute properties, because that seems true in our experience, but our horizons are limited. It also suggests that thinking of the world in terms of relations might help us understand the nature of consciousness. That, as regular readers of mine may remember, is one of my buttons. I'd like to know the nature of reality, of life, and of consciousness, and hope to learn those things before I interact with the bucket that says KICK MEE. Yes, I know; I hear the snide voice of my illustrious critics saying “Lotsa Luck, Moron.” I'd like to send them that bucket to play with. Article in the February 27 issue of NEW SCIENTIST titled “A trillion dollars to fix the world” by Rowan Hooper plays a game of imagination. Imagine you have inherited such a fortune and want to use it to solve humanity's most pressing problems. What is the best way to spend it? What about eliminating world poverty? The life expectancy of the world's poorest folk is 15 years lower than that of the richest. They have experimented, giving one-time gifts to poor folk, and they generally spend the money wisely to improve their lot. They may get better educated; a woman who has never been to school has four to five more children than one with 12 years of education. Another effort is to stop climate change. We need to extract carbon dioxide from the atmosphere on a massive scale. That's something I am focusing on, by encouraging the world to eliminate air pollution by converting to geothermal energy instead of fossil fuels. Another is to cure all disease. Universal health care is by far the best way to gain on that. I suspect there are many other ways that a trillion dollars could improve the world, could the money just be wrested from the greed-heads. And a third NEW SCIENTIST article, this one also from the February 27 issue, “The first urbanites,” by Laura Spinney. I'm a fan of ancient history; it's not all cluttered up with the names and dates of autocratic kings that conventional education thinks is relevant. In fact my major series, GEODYSSEY, relates, trying to cover global history for the past eight million years in an interesting manner. Alas, readers were more interested in funny fantasy. I had not encountered this Trypillian culture in my research, which predates the Mesopotamian cities and maybe early China too. It seems to have been quite a phenomenon.

Yes, this is a relatively short HiPiers column. I'm busy learning about the strange new world out there. Maybe I'll be in finer fettle in the future.


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