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Picture of Piers doing archery

FeBlueberry 1998

Continuing stories: last column I had succeeded in extending my series of good runs to 45. Well, I made it to 50. Then I hit bad weather for the 51st , and the garbage truck was there when I arrived at the newspaper pickup point, and I had to stand and wait, and my streak ended. I got a stopwatch, so I could time the actual speed of my running without the interruptions; it indicated that I didn't miss by much, and maybe that waiting had put me off my stride, but excuses aside, my streak was indeed ended. Ah, well. The point is after all the exercise, and to fetch the newspapers; the timing is incidental. A couple of times thereafter the rain was so bad I couldn't run in the morning, so I ran in lighter rain at noon, and those runs were faster, one being near my record. My conclusion: my body gets stronger as the day progresses, and morning is not the best time if speed is the object. But this was merely confirmation of what I already knew. I run in the morning because it is convenient for my schedule, and in summer it's cooler, and the exercise is just as good regardless. Now that the weather is cool, I also use the RowBike to ride out to close the gate in the afternoon. In hot weather the exertion is simply too sweaty.

About that rain: yes, we are breaking records in Florida, thanks to El Niño, which in turn is thanks to global warming. There have always been El Niños and La Niñas, but the El's are getting stronger as they gain more heat-fuel. So we are having summer-like rains in Jamboree, and there is flooding. Now we live on a forested peninsula in Lake Tsoda Popka, our tree farm, and you might think we'd have a personal problem. Our house is ten feet above the water table, and our drive is as little as four feet above it. But in fact we don't; we have never flooded. Because a whole lot of the local landscape, including parts of the North Village, would have to flood to raise that lake that much, and that doesn't happen. It's the places in cul-de-sacs with inadequate drainage that flood, rather than the water table level lakes.

I have ongoing semi-legal battles. Naturally I'm correct in all of them, and the other parties are wrong. It just can take those other parties time to see the light. Last column I had made my point to a publisher; this time I made it to the Cauliflower Frantic Tacks Boor, who abruptly dropped its claim for $36,000. The time from when it first made the claim, until it dropped it, was just over one year. One year and endless communication with a CPA to be satisfied that I don't live in Cauliflower, and indeed have not been there in a decade. That's bureaucracy for you. I was pondering suing, as I don't like being publicly listed as a tax deadbeat.

1998 started well for me: the first thing I did New Year's Day was find an arrow that had been lost for three months. I practice my archery twice a week, and have a range measured out, but one day I missed the target left and right, and those two arrows seemed to have disappeared from the face of the earth. I got a metal detector, and in about five minutes it located one arrow, buried in the ground. But the other remained hidden. Sometimes they bounce off the forest floor and sail on who knows where. So each Archery Day I would look again, checking out ever less likely locations. It turned out to be farther out than any before it, point in the ground, fletching hidden in the descending foliage of a tree, so that the arrow shaft looked like the stem of a plant. Clever concealment, but I finally did get it. The arrow was somewhat faded, but remains serviceable, and I trust it's glad to be back with its companions. No, it hasn't tried to hide again, since then. Otherwise, my archery is settling down. I have my right hand compound bow set to 60 pounds; that's why an arrow goes so far when it misses. The left hand bow I bought from Dee Licious Lahr of Kiss Mee continues to serve well, with a new string and peepsight. I use dental floss tape on the strings where the arrows nock. I can hit the target at 50 feet, but my 100 foot range has a problem the right-hand bow doesn't have, for some reason: the sunlight comes through the peepsight, generating a glare that makes it impossible for me to aim. It's maddening. I have to go search for a patch of shade, and there's never shade at my normal ranges. So why does this happen only with the left bow? It's the same kind of peepsight on both bows; I just face opposite ways when firing. Apparently that changes the angle of light just enough.

New Year's Day afternoon we got together with Cheryl and saw the movie Titanic. I am biased against $200 million extravaganzas based on incidental historical tragedies, but this one satisfied me. It's a really solid movie whose special effects are relevant to the story, and a nice romance too. Some scenes you might think would be dull were otherwise, such as the engine room, where giant piston rods conveyed the power to the screw. This was dynamic, especially when the Captain decided to speed up in an effort to arrive a day early. Those forging rods dramatically showed the increasing power. Toward the end, as the ship was sinking, the rising water within it got increasingly fearsome, at first covering a floor an inch deep, but later bursting violently into new chambers. When the rear section of the ship broke off and then went down, with people falling off it--that was awesome. There were no surprises about that; they diagrammed the manner the ship went down, and then you saw it actually happen in awful detail. I regret that the movie did not make more of the irony of the situation: there was another ship an hour away, that could have rescued perhaps all the people, because the Titanic took over two hours to sink. But when that ship, the Californian, tried to warn the Titanic that it was surrounded by ice bergs, the latter replied SHUT UP. So the Californian's wireless operator wrapped up and shut down for the night. Then the Titanic struck the iceberg, and the one ship close enough to help could not be reached. The Titanic's sister ship, Olympic, was 500 miles away. A closer German ship was willing to help, but the Titanic rejected it, saying "You fool." So two thirds of the people died, because of a combination of speeding through dangerous waters, arrogance, and bad luck. Nevertheless, even without that, the movie is great, and I recommend it to young and old alike, all 3+ hours of it.

I still write to Jenny every week; it's been nine years now, and she's 21. In Xanth Jenny Elf is getting married. Thus the Adult Conspiracy limits are off. No, I'm not writing sex letters to her. But sometimes there is a hint of off-color. For example, when I played with state names, and they turned suggestive. Here's that paragraph:

The Pickles comic strip has a fun notion; place names that go with state abbr. Like Shapeless Mass., Goodness ME., Oola LA., Deathly Ill., Hittor Miss., Poison Penn., Grandpa PA., Proan Conn., Coca Colo., Either OR., and Squee Mich. I wonder if more can be done? Like maybe Blushing Virgin. Income TX. Telephone CO. Ga GA. Lock& KY. Ameri CA. Eightnine Tenn. Gold Ore. Doctor MD. Tellme WY. Alack Alas. Dirty Wash. Full MT. Kickthe Kan. Show ID. Hug& KS. Shovit IN. Ah OH. Feel OK. Gimme MO.

Remember when I got SmartBoard, and it wouldn't work, claiming I needed an updated file, which I couldn't get because I'm not online? Well, I check everything that comes in the mail, including junk mail, and sometimes I find something useful therein. In this case Macrohard sent a CD disk that said it would equip me to go online and use its service. Now I can't do this, because I have no modem. But the disk also included MegaMesh Exploder #4 (sorry - I just finished writing Xanth #23 Xone of Contention, and can't get the parodies out of my mind). I wondered: would that upgrade my key file so that SmartBoard would work? So I shipped off the novel, backed up all my key files, just in case, shook off my wife's dire misgivings, and tried it. I expected it to balk, saying ERROR, ERROR! YOU HAVE NO MODEM, YOU TURD! JUST FOR THAT WE'RE DESTROYING YOUR SYSTEM WITH A MEGA FATAL ERROR. SO THERE!! But it didn't. The first thing it did was present a licensing document for me to agree to or else, donating my gonads to Macrohard in case I ever even thought of ever criticizing its godly beneficence. Then it loaded Exploder #4. Then it loaded its go-online files. Finally it thought to check for the modem. Too late; I already had what I wanted. I exited and tried SmartBoard. And it worked! It still took me several hours to figure it all out, because there were no instructions, and half its hotkeys didn't work. Don't they try their programs on real systems before they send them out? But gradually I got there, and the functions that do work are nice enough. So now when I copy text it sucks it up with a POP! and then I can go look at it and change my mind before I Paste, and I can save some in a special category for future use if I want. I can put it into a MultiCapture Mode that enables me to copy several text items cumulatively, much like the word processor's Spike. The glitches are minor, and overall I like it.

As I age, my gums retreat, and it's gotten to the point where dental flossing doesn't suffice, so I have to use a small brush shaped like a Christmas tree to get through the crevices. Don't laugh; you young kids will get there in due course, if you get old enough. I saw a recommendation for a chewable pill called YOW! that can clean crevices without a brush. So I tried it. Three weeks later I felt a constant bloat in my stomach, and it was getting worse, beginning to sap my strength, as evidenced by slowing running times. Then I remembered when my dentist had me use a daily fluoride rinse; that had caused my stomach to develop a slow continuous burn and breakdown of health. So I stopped with the YOW!, and gradually, over the course of a week, the bloat faded, just as the prior burning had. YOW! does not contain fluoride, so it must be something else. I guess there's just something about tooth rinses that gets my stomach.

There's nothing so fascinating as an interrupted experience. I will hear a song once, and then may seek it for years. It took me over thirty years to run down "The Girl in the Wood," otherwise known as "Remember Me," and I succeeded only thanks to the help of my readers. Now I'm looking for others. When I was hitchhiking in 1953 I was picked up by a man whose interest turned out to be in boys; I politely declined, and he didn't push it. On the car radio I heard a song which I believe was sung by Eddie Fisher, and I remember some of the words: "I'm glad I kissed those other lips, Before I kissed your own; If I had not kissed those other lips, I never would have known." The reason I think it's Eddie Fisher is that years later I saw him on TV, singing that song. Curious, I tried to run it down, and even got a $100 book Lissauer's Enclyclopedia Of Popular Music In America 1888 To The Present, that lists everything. For 1953 I found listed "Many Times" sung by Eddie Fisher. Could that be it? Many times, many other lips? I got a CD with all Eddie Fisher's songs on it - and that one wasn't on it. So I signed up for a junk mail solicitation, TIME/LIFE's series of CD's, YOUR HIT PARADE, covering popular songs from 1940-1959 year by year, 24 songs a year, one CD a month. Teasingly, it waited until #18 for 1953. But that song was there! I listened - and it wasn't the song. Oh, well; I do like the songs of the late 40's and early 50's, excluding rock, so I'll be listening to those CD's again. Each disk has close to 70 minutes on it; at $16.99+2.15 each they are good value. But I still haven't found the particular song I was looking for. It may not even be a good song; it's just my curiosity that's driving me into these by-paths. There's another I'd like to find, too, dating from a similar time: I think of it as "Manwell." Maybe it's actually spelled Manuel; I don't know. It's about a Latin laborer who works for a gracious woman, doing minor chores. He has fallen in love with her, but of course never gives any hint, because she's several classes above him. She is always courteous to him, having no notion of his devotion. That's all - just his private unfulfilled love. So it's a sad song. I'd like to hear it again, but it seems not to exist.

Anyway, with Xanth done for now, and the market for GEODYSSEY in doubt, I'm making notes for next year's Xanth, The Dastard - he does dastardly deeds, of course - and doing some more writing on Candle, which is my project about a house whose front door opens onto a busy city street, and whose back door opens onto a deep forest untrod by human foot. My dream of heaven on earth. I thought it would make a good TV series, chapter by chapter as the mystery is explored. My literary agent got a producer interested, but the man said "Can't you make it simpler?" and I said "I don't see how the basic notion can be simpler," and he disappeared forever. My estimate of movie mogul eye queue is slight. So maybe I'll complete it as a novel, and see.

I received a card saying "Someone who thinks a lot of you, Bob Troll, requested and paid for a 12 month subscription to REMINISCE EXTRA on your behalf." The only trolls I know are in Xanth, or under bridges, but the first issue arrived in due course. It seems to be nostalgia about the Good Old Days. But somehow it doesn't interest me much. Maybe the future interests me more. Anyway, thanks for the thought.

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