Chasing Freedom by Kambry Ellis. This is a sequel to Escaping
Paradise, which I reviewed last year. In that one Alyssa falls
for handsome Jon, but he turns out to be trapped in a cult, and also
has an alter-ego Jonah who is sadistic and beats her up. They manage
to escape the supposed paradise, and Alyssa is now trying to heal
from her physical and emotional wounds. But there are complications.
One is that the bad guys put out a contract on the life of one of her
friends; another is that she finds herself slowly falling for Jonah,
whose idea of love is a kind of sadism. She may be softening him,
while he is hardening her. The details become complicated, and lives
are lost. Now she loves both Jon and Jonah, and they love her. I
haven't seen that romantic twist before. The story will be concluded
in the third novel, Claiming Salvation, next year. Hard
hitting, and perhaps not for every reader's taste; it's no gentle
The Hole In The Universe, How Scientists Peered Over the Edge of
Emptiness and Found Everything, by K C Cole. I read it as
research for my novel A Tryst in Time, which is ado about
Nothing, but it is fascinating in its own right. The essence is that
nothingness is the perfect original state, and imperfections in it
account for the universe as we know it. Empty space, of course, is
not really empty; it has dimension and forces traversing it, and from
it are constantly popping up pairs of electrons and positrons that
normally dissipate immediately, but not always. You might think of
space as a giant rug, and where there is a kink in it, that's what we
perceive as matter. There was once a bigger kink that we call the Big
Bang, the origin of the universe we see around us. Along the way this
book discusses everything from phantom limbs on people to Einstein's
Theory of Relativity, seen from the perspective of nothingness.
Relativity has been amply verified, and so has Quantum Mechanics, yet
the two are incompatible where they overlap, so String Theory labors
to meld them. The main String is M, for Magic, among other things; I
like that, considering my reason for reading it. There's so much in K
C Cole's book that I can't cover it in any detail, but I heartily
recommend it to anyone with any intellectual curiosity about the
ultimate nature of reality.
watched 45 Years. Kate and Geoff Mercer are getting ready to
celebrate their 45th anniversary. A woman's body is found
in Switzerland, Katya, frozen in a glacier, and fifty years later
Geoff is notified as the next of kin. Why? Because way back when,
they were dating, and pretended they were married so that they could
share accommodations. She even had a wooden ring on her finger. Then
Katya died, maybe slipping off the path, and fell in the glacier, and
was gone, until now. Then he met Kate. He would have married Katya,
had she lived. That upsets Kate, all these decades later. She checks
his old papers, trying to learn more about Katya. But in the end they
are glad to be married to each other. As a long married man I relate.
watched the Discover video, Mount Saint Helens. In 1980 the
volcano developed a bulge, some 400 feet. Then it subsided somewhat.
Then on May 18th let fly. 57 people were killed, and 230
square miles of forest were destroyed. Nearby observation stations
disappeared as the north flank became a giant landslide. It was a
rare sideways eruption. It tore a gap in the mountain two miles wide
and two thousand feet deep, leaving a horseshoe shaped crater. The
magma beneath expanded outward. Then it was quiet for half an hour.
Then the eruption resumed, forming an immense mushroom cloud. The
snow on the mountain was melted and became a torrent of water and
mud. It dumped more that 65 cubic miles of mud. Then it was quiescent
for twenty years, then formed a new dome inside the empty cone. Three
and a half thousand years ago the mountain erupted with four times
the mass of magma. There have been different types of eruptions in
the course of its history. Scientists learned a lot from Mount St.
Helens that enabled them to save many lives when similar patterns
occurred later elsewhere.
watched From Time to Time. In 1944 Tolly is thirteen. He is
sent to spend Christmas with his grandmother. Tolly's father is
missing in the war; he clings to the belief that dad survives. He is
intrigued by the old house. At night he sees the ghost of Susan.
Grandma doesn't doubt it. Her father gives Susan a companion, Jacob,
a runaway black slave boy, for Susan is blind. Then Tolly encounters
Susan by day. Her brother makes Jacob clean the chimney, then lights
the fire under him. A cruel joke, while their father is away. Now
Jacob can see Tolly, and Susan can hear him. One servant girl can see
him; she helps him and covers for him. He takes food to a fugitive.
But then when the house is burning, Jacob knows a route through the
chimney to reach and rescue Susan. Then they appreciate Jacob. Back
in the present, Tolly's mother comes to visit. It seems that Grandma,
father, and Tolly are all alienated from her, but she knows
something. As does Tolly, from the visions of the past; Susan tells
him. He finds the lost treasure. This saves the estate. But Tolly's
father is dead. That tragically unites him with his brother. But they
see the ghost of his father, who tells him he will be all right. Also
the ghosts of Susan and Jacob, who died of an illness while still
watched Aftermath, a Schwarzenegger movie. Roman goes to meet
his wife and daughter at the airport. Instead he receives the news
that the plane crashed, no survivors. Jake, the air traffic
controller inadvertently caused the accident because of a phone
malfunction, is obsessed by guilt. Roman goes to help at the cleanup
site. He finds daughter Nadiya literally in a tree. Jake's house gets
painted with the words MURDERER and KILLER. He separates from his
family and buys a gun. The airline offers Roman $160,000 reparations
for his wife and daughter. If he doesn't sign the deal, he probably
gets nothing. He just wants someone from the airline to say they're
sorry. They don't. Jake tries to suicide with pills. One year later
is the anniversary of the event. Jake is now Pat, in another city
with another job. Roman wants to find him, to look him in the eye. He
hires an investigator to get the name and address. He goes and stabs
Jake to death, when Jake's wife and son are there. He serves prison
time. Ten years later Jake's son is about to shoot him in revenge,
but changes his mind. So the cycle ends. I think I like
Schwarzenegger better in a role like this, though this is not my kind
watched The Greatest Showman. It's a musical. As a child, P T
Barnum makes a girl laugh, and her father smacks him on the face and
tells him to stay away. But she sneaks out the window at night to
join him. She gets sent away to finishing school. They correspond.
When they are grown they marry and go together. They have two
daughters. Then he gets fired because the company is abruptly
bankrupt. He puts together his show of wonders using a bank loan for
which his collateral is invented. He recruits “freaks,” a
dwarf, a bearded woman, a really fat man, a really tall man, Siamese
twins, and so on. It's a success. Then his family lives in a mansion.
But critics object to the supposed indecency of the show. Then he
gets an invitation from the Queen of England. They take the whole
cast along. Then he imports Jenny Lind, a Swedish singer, who really
can sing, and she wows them. Then he walks with his trapeze girl, and
other condemn him for fraternizing with the help. He goes on a tour
with the singer Jenny. She evidently wants more of him, and when she
doesn't get it, she publicly kisses him and quits. It's a scandal
headlined across the world. His wife goes home. The theater burns
down. But the members of the circus act say this is their home; they
were freaks, but here they are players. He and his partner try again,
but can't afford to rebuild the building, so they go for a tent. The
greatest show is back.
I watched Patterns of Evidence Exodus. This is an exploration
of the Israelite captivity in Egypt: did it actually happen? For
centuries no one questioned it, but now they do. It was supposed to
be in the time of Pharaoh Ramses, but there is no archaeological
evidence of Israelite presence there then. Could it have been at
another time? What about the earlier Middle Kingdom, 400 years before
that? What about the names of the dead? There they found Israelite
names. So maybe there were Israelites in Egypt, then. But what about
the rest of the story? Does the biblical narration have to be
literally true? Or can it be approximately true? Some experts
dismissed it because they were fixed on Rameses. I think experts can
be idiots; I have seen it elsewhere. There was a report of a series
of calamities, as described in the Bible, but this may be a fake, as
there was only one, when real plagues should have been widely noted.
Yet if it referred to the time of the Middle Kingdom, it could be
accurate. Then there was the invasion of Egypt by the Hyksos. What
about the conquest of Canaan? There was no evidence of the
destruction of the city of Jericho. It was destroyed, but centuries
earlier. Adjust the chronology—and the story matches that of
the Bible. The conclusion: the Bible may be essentially correct, only
some details misplaced, and the close minded historians wrong.
I read Xanth #45 A Tryst of Fate, by Piers Anthony. Yes, my
own novel; when I do the editing reading I count it as a read book.
The prior three novels have been placed and should start appearing
soon. This one picks up immediately after Skeleton Key and has
the same protagonist, twelve year old Squid. She is outraged,
figuring she has done her time and it is the turn of somebody else.
For one thing, the protagonist has no privacy; every obscure reader
knows her most intimate secrets. She'd like to do some naughty things
with her boyfriend, but not when the world is watching; she'd quickly
get in trouble with the dread Adult Conspiracy. But there is a
reason: she has to go solve a nasty murder mystery. Why her? Because
she is the one murdered, seven years in the future. Uh-oh. So she and
her boyfriend cross reality tracks to get to the scene; it's not time
travel, which is dangerous because of the risk of paradox, but an
alternate reality that runs a few years ahead of her own reality. She
finds the murderer, Goar Golem—and requires him to
become the new protagonist so she can retire. He must stay with it
until she forgives him for killing her, which she won't lightly do.
Then it gets interesting. There's a lot in this story, and it is no
retread of old ideas. There's an exploration of the real mechanism of
the spread of cancer, a little known carnivorous dinosaur called
Spinosaurus, a BEM invasion, and the threat of a New Clear blast
wiping out a hundred thousand Mundanians. I believe this novel is up
to the Xanthly standard, and should satisfy readers while making
humorless cri-ticks wince at the puns. What more can you ask?
I watched Memory Hackers, a Nova presentation. Without memory
we would be prisoners of the present; it largely defines who we are.
Jake has HSAM, Highly Superior Autobiographical Memory. Maybe 55
people in the world have it. They can instantly remember every detail
of every day of their lives. What exactly is a memory? That has
flummoxed researches for decades. They have discovered that there are
different kinds of memories. Sometimes skills can be remembered, but
not events. The hippocampus is crucial for forming new memories. They
experimented with sea slugs, because they are one of the simplest of
creatures. Find out how a sea slug remembers, and that should suggest
how more complicated creatures do. There are physical changes in the
brain as memories are formed; new neurons grow. Consider the first
kiss: where is that memory stored? We don't know. Is it like a book
in a library, stored away unchanged? What happens when we evoke that
memory? It seems that memories are constantly being rephrased. It is
not a book; the act of remembering changes it. This means that
memories of fear can be retrained and eliminated. Fear of spiders can
be eliminated. It is called reconsolidation. Because of this, memory
can become unreliable. Imagination can create a false memory. This
can really mess up eye-witness testimony. DNA testing has shown this.
Experimenting with mice, they can use laser light to turn memories on
and off. The special ones who can remember everything can't turn off
the bad memories. Why did evolution give us changeable memory? It
allows us to select the memories we really need.
I watched Android Cop. Two cops chasing the bad guys run into a trap
and one gets killed. Raids in the Zone, the forbidden section of the
city, can wind up disastrous. They request backup and a robot comes.
Both the bad guys and the police don't know what to make of it. Then
the robot is assigned to partner with our main cop, Hammond. They
have to locate the android aspect of the mayor's daughter, Helen,
whose living body is unconscious but whose android body is not aware
it isn't real. They must find her before the bad guys do. What they
don't know is they are set up to fail, so the police can retaliate.
They find her, but are not allowed to tell her her nature. She knows
this area. She says people are not getting sick because of radiation,
but from something else. They are attacked from different directions,
unaware that the police are tracking them and betraying them to the
enemy. But they make a .pretty good fighting team, the girl included.
She gets injured, and sees that her hand is not flesh. “I'm
like him,” she says, indicating the robot. And it seems that so
is Hammond; he was badly injured in the prior trap that killed his
partner. Now they are attacked by an armored helicopter. They are
finally killed, in their fashion. But at the hospital Helen wakes
when they thought she wouldn't. The bad plot is revealed. At the end
Hammond and the android are still partnering, only now both are
androids, one controlled by a human mind. Presumably Helen is around
also. This is not exactly a conventional humanoid robot story.
I watched In Defentse of Food. Some children try to eat right,
but still get fat. Childhood obesity and diabetes are increasing.
Diet connects four of the top things that will kill you. Potato
sticks and fruit loops may taste great, but. High fructose corn
syrup. Highly processed white flour. So we get hooked on tasty food,
salt, sugar, and fat. The vitamins have been processed out. So
companies started selling vitamins separately. Omega 3 fatty oil used
to be in the food, but now has been replaced by omega 6, which has a
longer shelf life but nullifies Omega 3 when out of proportion. And
sugar—we consume ten times as much as we used to. Soft drinks
are saturated with it. Carbohydrates convert to sugars too. The
modern diet generates a lot of misery. Milk is an ideal food for
babies, but not every mother can breast feed. Then came the formula.
But much of it is indigestible. Why? Because one indigestible
bacterium fills the baby's digestive system and prevents other
bacteria from attacking it. Checking a primitive African tribe that
is generally healthy, we find that they eat healthy. So what can we
do? Eat real food, not too much, mostly plants. So go to the produce
section of the supermarket; the healthiest foods are there. Beware of
“nutritionism.” Beware of the priesthood of nutrition.
Original good ideas tend to get hijacked by commercial interests.
Such as reducing saturated fat in the diet, leading to consuming more
sugar. Moving from butter to margarine. Uh-oh. So how do you know
what is really healthy? Eat food cooked by humans. Avoid foods you
see advertised on television. Red meats lead to TMAO and generate
plaque leading to heart attacks. So eat less meat. Seventh Day
Adventists lead healthy lives, and the vegetarians live longer. Fiber
is good, as it feeds beneficial microbes. Different kinds of gut
bacteria can make a profound difference in health even with a similar
diet. Use smaller plates and glasses. Eat the healthier food first.
Attempts to reform food marketing result in law suits by the food
industry. In America we eat fast; in France they eat slowly. Thus the
French Paradox: they are healthier on similar foods, because they
actually eat less. All things in moderation—including
moderation. As a lifelong vegetarian who is a health nut, I
appreciate this confirmation of my lifestyle. I seem to be doing
I watched MILF, billed as a new sexy comedy classic. Four
young men want to get laid, but are clumsy with girls. One is named
Anthony, and he accidentally walks in on his newly divorced sexy
mother in a lesbian bondage tryst. He is horribly embarrassed. His
friend Brandon dreams of an encounter with Anthony's mother, who is
also intrigued by him. The girls their own age are not so much
interested in boys their age. Then Anthony's mom visits Brandon with
seduction in mind. She of course succeeds. Then Anthony returns. She
hides, then departs quietly, complimenting him on his performance.
And visits him again for more, in bed, in the pool, anywhere. It
becomes an ongoing affair, as she really likes him and craves the
sex. Hormones, she explains. Then Anthony's father is in town and
they have a meal together. Dad is friendly to Brandon and snide to
his ex wife. And Dad catches on. He says he's gay, not stupid. But
how will this affair affect Brandon's closest friend Anthony?
Meanwhile the others have found MILF partners too. But they start
feeling hemmed in; the MILFs are too possessive. Then Anthony finds
mom and Brandon together and is furious. But Anthony has been
screwing Brandon's mom. They fight. Anthony's mom breaks it off, not
liking the consequences, and Brandon gets together with a nice girl
his own age. So all ends well. It's a hell of a sexy movie, with many
flashes of full bare breasts, pantied bottoms, and much simulated
sex. But unlike the porno movies, it does have a story line and some
I watched The Killing of America, a 1981 film that was
suppressed for decodes. America is the only major nation with a
higher murder rate than countries in civil war. More fatalities than
in all her wars. Even presidents got shot, like Reagan and Kennedy. I
remember. Martin Luther King. Kent State, 1970. George Wallace
crippled. Robert Kennedy 1968. After the Jack Kennedy assassination
the murder rate tripled. A new kind: random strangers being killed.
Sniping became a fixture of American life. But the sale of rifles
increased, averaging two guns per family. Why do snipers kill random
folk? Out of boredom, bigotry, the colors of their clothing. Charles
Manson. God tells them to do it. Reverend Jim Jones, with Jonestown
in Guyana. He killed more than 900 Americans. A man enraged because
his loan application was turned down, so he abducts the banker and
holds a news conference to state his grievances. There are so many
that killers are allowed to plead guilty to lesser charges and
eventually be released. Most mass killers have an IQ over 125. They
just keep killing. Ted Bundy was maybe America's worst sex killer,
killing more than 40 women and girls. A public vigil for John Lennon,
people crying as one of his songs is played. And two people were shot
during the vigil. The killing continues. And of course it has
continued since the movie, to this day. I am bemused that the
authorities, instead of heeding its warning, suppressed it. Which
side are they on? Ah, but those killings are good for gun sales.
I watched Bad Girls at Play. Featuring Stormy Daniels, the
porn star President Trump had a fling with and paid off for silence.
Slow simulated sex, simulated ecstasy, ballooning breasts double the
mass of natural ones. Music plays during the prolonged sex sequences.
Male-female, then two girls make out. Standard diluted softcore porn
with almost full female nudity but not for male. Barely any plot.
I read The Domain of Sagas, by Brian Clopper. This is the
fourth novel in the Irving Wishbutton series. The dean of the
characters school, Harmstrike, has nasty plans for everyone else, and
it seems to be up to Irving to stop him. Then it gets complicated, as
Harmstrike magically sends Irving into an alternate story, evidently
hoping he will get hopelessly lost in it. But Irving sees parallels
between this story and his own, and starts identifying equivalent
characters, though they don't know it. He has to follow their story
line while retaining his own identity; it's a challenge. Then he gets
thrown into a third story. Bit by bit he does handle their situations
while orienting on the larger picture, and slowly making them
understand that all the stories are by one writer. The action is
continuous, with threats galore. I have to say that there is more
sheer imagination here than I have seen in some time, with every kind
of creature and person. It's a wild ride.
Our dull lives were interrupted in Marsh as we saw to house repairs.
Our original kitchen sink was replaced maybe twenty years ago, but
the new one had a tap that leaked a bit when used, and that drip had
made a nice damp cabinet below that fostered black mold and even
mushrooms. So this time we replaced the whole sink and cabinet, done
mainly by a handyman with Daughter Cheryl supervising. My wife and I,
octogenarians, are trying to go gently toward that good night, and
don't tackle the big stuff on our own. One day with the kitchen sink
gone I had to take leaves of lettuce to the bathroom to rinse as I
made supper, and wash the dishes in the bathroom sink. We are getting
through, but will be glad when things are back to normal.
I remarked in the Marsh column how the comic Non Sequitur
sneaked in a derogatory reference to President Trump, and got banned
from the local newspaper. So then they held a referendum among
readers to choose which other comic to replace it: Sherman's
Lagoon, Nancy, Candorville, or
Rubes, the new strip to start Monday, April 1. Indeed, it turned
out to be Sherman's Lagoon. All nicely democratic, no? No. I
remember the political adage, to install your man, don't rig the vote
where folk are watching, rig the ballot. Here is how this is rigged:
they did not solicit nominees from the readership, they proffered
ones they selected. Thus they excluded my choices, to restore the
better ones they deleted in a prior purge, or to restore Non
Sequitur itself after this warning. No, that might open the door
to the embarrassment of the readers concluding that the editorial
overreaction was wrong. They made damn sure that couldn't happen. Now
we have seen this process in action. The newspaper, like the nation,
is not a democracy, whatever they might prefer you to believe. Now
The March/April 2019 issue of THE HUMANIST has a couple of intriguing
articles. One is titled “Lots of Love: Exploring Polyamory in
Portland.” Polyamory means many loves, or having more than one
romantic relationship at a time, with the knowledge and consent of
all partners. Just as friendship is not exclusive, here romance is
open. It has been estimated that almost ten million adults practice
it in the USA. Because it is not listed as an option in the census or
similar surveys, and there may be some stigma attached, this is hard
to verify. So would polyamory alleviate problemn in conventional two
party marriages? The article indicates no; if you have social or
sexual hangups, this might merely complicate them. “Relating
well with just one person is a serious challenge—relating well
to many takes for more skill, yet can be far more rewarding.”
So a person should consider carefully before getting into something
like this, not because of morality but because it may be more of a
challenge than he can handle. Religious rules can be forbidding.
Which is why this article appears here: humanists are not as hung up
about conventional morality, and may be in a better position to
The other item is a book review of 21 Lessens for the 21st
Century, by Yuval Noah Harari. This has some intriguing thoughts.
One is that as AI—that's Artificial Intelligence—comes to
the fore it may dominate our decisions on what to study, where to
work, and whom to marry. We may come to “see organisms as
little more than biochemical algorithms, and believe that humanity's
cosmic vocation is to create an all-encompassing data-processing
system—and then merge into it.” That is, to stop thinking
and deciding for ourselves. Ouch! Another relates to God, secularism,
and free will. “From an ethical perspectives, monotheism was
arguably one of the worst ideas in human history.” So if you
don't go to God for your ethics—let me pause here to recall how
Theodore Sturgeon remarked that morality is what society dictates for
the individual, while ethics is what the individual decides for
himself—where do you go? Harari suggests that the most
important virtues of a secular person are commitments to truth,
compassion, equality, freedom, responsibility, and courage. That
makes sense to me. The author also remarks on free will. “If by
'free will' you mean the freedom to do what you desire, then yes,
humans have free will. But if by 'free will' you mean the freedom to
choose what to desire, then no, humans have no free will.” Oh,
my; that will keep me pondering for some time.
Article in NEW SCIENTIST Titled “Let the Sun Shine.” For
years we have been told to slather on sunscreen to prevent skin
cancer. This interests me because I don't use sunscreen, and did have
a pie shaped wedge cut out of my right ear to remove basil cell
carcinoma, a form of skin cancer, and for the past quarter century
have worn a hat to keep the sun off that ear. My elder daughter died
of melanoma, a more dangerous skin cancer. You bet I am aware. But I
do try to get a daily brief dose of sunlight on my arms and legs. So
am I being hopelessly confused? Not according to this article. It
turns out that direct sunlight does cause skin cancer, but those who
get more sun live longer on average than those who don't. Sunlight
overall does more good than harm for the human body. Sunlight helps
the immune system, lowers blood pressure, aids wound healing, and
produces Vitamin D. So what about sunscreen? It's not really healthy.
Your best protection against burning is sunglasses and clothing,
apart from staying mostly in the shade. Which is what I do. Sunlight
Another NEW SCIENTIST article is titled “Welcome to the Age of
Wood.” It starts off with a joke: Did you hear about the wooden
car, with wooden wheels, a wooden chassis and a wooden engine? It
wooden go. But future wooden cars are no joke. They have developed a
wood based material called cross-laminated timber (CLT), densified
wood which can replace both steel and concrete. Sounds like plywood
to me, but it has steely strength, lasts long, weighs less, and is
surprisingly fire resistant. They plan to start building skyscrapers
out of it, and yes, cars. They can even make it transparent so that
it can be used like glass, but with better insulating properties. I
am looking forward to the age of wood.
Cheese: as an ovo-lacto vegetarian, meaning I don't eat meat but do
eat eggs and milk products, my rational being that those products
don't hurt the animals, I eat a lot of cheese. An article in NEW
SCIENTIST by Graham Lawtotn, dated 16 February 2019, shakes me up. It
indicates that cheese is not the kind-to-animals product I had
assumed. They drive dairy cows hard. The natural lifespan of a cow is
about 20 years, but most dairy cows are slaughtered at age 5. That
is, when they can no longer produce milk at a super-cow rate. So the
dairy industry is intimately connected to the meat industry. This
business of milk from contented cows is hogwash. A cow must birth a
calf in order to freshen, that is, start producing milk. The male
calf is killed immediately, or raised for six months and slaughtered
for meat. The female calf is separated from her right after birth,
de-horned and ear-tagged usually without anesthetic, raised until 18
months old, then artificially inseminated. Nine months later she
births her own calf, which she can't keep, and is milked several time
a day, until her production declines and she is slaughtered. Cheese
is essentially concentrated milk. Because of that, it requires a lot
of milk to make a pound of Cheddar cheese, putting more cows at risk.
This is not at all what I support. So what can I do, after a lifetime
of innocently eating cheese? Well, I think I need to support
alternative milk that doesn't come from cows, goats, or whatever. The
article has a subsection devoted to cheese alternatives. There is
ethical cheese, where cows and calves are more humanely treated. But
that addresses only part of the problem. What happens to the male
calves, and to the cows when their production declines? Then there is
vegan cheese, using no animal product. NEW SCIENTIST convened a panel
of staff to sample five brands for taste, texture, etc. Prosociano
Wedge is not great but might do grated into a pasta dish. Original
Flavor Slices, not great but inoffensive. Mediterranean Style Block.
Some rated it the best, others the worst. Mozzarella Flavors was
nothing like real mozzarella. Those four were by Violife. Smoked
Gouda Style Slices, by Follow Your Heart. This was rated the best of
a bad bunch, quite like real gouda, but not gourmet. So at least an
alternative exists. But I think what is needed is a way to grow milk
without the cow, that looks, feels, and tastes like milk, and has the
same nutritive value, at a cheaper price. That could be made into the
same kinds of cheeses, butter, or yogurt. Then it could start
replacing milk so that the dairy industry could fade out of business.
Of course I'd like to see artificial meat also, that could do the
same to the meat industry. Get the semblance right, the nutrition, at
a cheaper price, and economics will do the rest. It could be a giant
step in the salvation of the world, because of the horrendous damage
the meat and dairy industries are doing to the global environment.
Shorter notes: you know about medical surveys, where individuals are
anonymous? Don't believe it; your DVD identifies you regardless. You
think the internet is anonymous and free? Not any more. Sir Tim
Berners-Lee, the scientist who created the technical standards that
made the web possible, is distressed by the uses to which it has been
put. Now he is working on a new platform called Solid,whose goal is
to re-decentralize the web, returning ownership of data to the users
who generate it. But it is doubtful that he will succeed,in the face
of the dystopia generated by a few big companies like Facebook,
Google and Amazon. Women have younger brains than men by an average
of 3.8 years. But long working hours stress women more than men. The
cultural police are now trying to decide what novelists can write
about, according to an editorial by Theunis Bates in THE WEEK, for
March 22, 2019. It concludes “Readers should be the ones with
the power to decide whether a novel fails or succeeds, not cultural
police who punish writers for using their imagination.” Amen.
Experts say the current US economy is booming, but the truth seems to
be that there is no boom. Sometimes it seems that if you want a wrong
answer, go to an expert. Children who grow up with greener
surroundings have a significantly lower risk of developing mental
disease later in life. Yes, I grew up in a forest, and saw that my
own children did too. Book: The Uninhabitable Earth: Life after
Warming, by David Wallace-Wells. It starts “It is
worse,much worse, than you think.” I believe it. Everything
alive today can be traced back to the Last Universal Common Ancestor,
LUCA about four billion years ago. Then it split into bacteria and
archaea, which today make up the majority of all living species. LUCA
may have lived in an alkaline vent on the sea floor. Fossil evidence
suggests that our species arose in east Africa, and it is suspected
that it is the changeability of conditions that drove the evolution
of our big brains. Yes, that was my assumption for my GEODYSSEY
series. I think mankind was prodded by living in the highly volcanic
Rift Valley there; volcanic lava can provide rich soil, but volcanoes
are dangerous. It helps to be smart to live there. Binge drinking
changes DNA, as do cocaine, cannabis, and methamphetamine. I suspect
the mechanism is epigenetic, but it is scary anyway. Letter in the
TAMPA BAY TIMES March 14, 2019, by Richard Golden, remarks how
legislators want to fine people $500 for using uncertified emotional
support animals, and maybe even throw them in jail for two months.
“How about going after businesses that ignore the do not call
list, or drug companies that sell us prescription medications
containing known carcinogens? Which do you think would be more
useful?” I suspect he will wait a long time for the answer. But
I can offer one: people in need of support animals generally don't
have large resources to pay off legislators, but those errant
companies do. March 16 column by Graham Brink says that our Florida
partisans are among the most politically prejudiced in the country.
That an analysis in the ATLANTIC magazine ranked each county in the
nation for political tolerance, shading the least prejudiced in
white, the most prejudiced in dark green. The whole state of Florida
is dark green. No other state matches that. Meanwhile the
conservative Florida Citizens Alliance wants to ban books they object
to in public schools. This of course is mischief, as what a liberal
sees as lovely a conservative may see as obscene. It reminds me of a
passage in what I remember as an L Sprague de Camp historical novel
where a time traveler got arrested in the Roman Empire. “Why
send him to Rome for interrogation?” an official demanded. “We
have a perfectly good torture chamber right here.” And I
received an email from one Benji Stein telling me he's a hacker who
has cracked my device and set up a malware on an adult porno site
where he intercepted my passwords, uploaded all my data, and will
send out an obscene message in my name to all my contacts if I do not
pay him $650 within 48 hours. Sigh. I fear he will be disappointed. I
work offline, have never been to a porno site, and do not have a
Facebook account to be hacked. So if you receive an obscene video
purportedly from me, it really is fake news.
Pirates of Orion” Spock keels over. He has an illness that
causes the blood to stop processing oxygen. They must find a planet
where a treatment drug, Strobolin, is available, or rendezvous with a
ship that has it. A weird Orion (which they pronounce with the accent
on the O; in real life it is o-RI-on) ship intercepts the Huron
that is bringing the drug. The Huron seems dead; its cargo has
been taken. Kirk, Scotty, Nurse Chapel and Uhura beam over and find
it empty. They arrange with the Orion captain to get the drug, but he
doesn't want the incident reported lest it compromise Orion's
official neutrality, and tries to wipe them all out, but they manage
to defuse that and get the drug, saving Spock.
“BEM” The green alien Ari ben Bem from Planet Pandro is
traveling with them as an observer as they explore a planet. Bem is
actually a colony creature, capable of separating into parts. He
messes with their communicators and phasers, substituting fakes. He,
Kirk, and Spock get captured by natives, thanks to Bem's mischief. A
planetary intelligence informs them that it does not want them there.
It regards the natives as its children. They agree to depart and
quarantine this planet.
Practical Joker” They are cataloging asteroids. Romulans
attack, claiming they trespassed into Romulan territory. They escape
through an energy field, but then suffer a plague of practical jokes,
like dribble glasses or bending forks, flying pie in the face. McCoy,
Uhura, and Sulu visit the holodeck, walk in a somber deep forest, and
can't be reached by others. The main computer is the jokester,
evidently infected by a virus. The air has nitrous oxide or laughing
gas. They pass through the energy field that started it, and this
time it reverses it. But now the Romulans are caught in the practical
joker syndrome. Kirk plans to wait a bit before informing them how to
get out of it. Why spoil their fun?
“Albatross” They help Planet Dramia, but then Dr. McCoy
is arrested for slaughtering hundreds of people on Dramia 2 nineteen
years ago. They investigate. They get the plague; crew members change
colors. Spock takes over, as he is immune. They need to get McCoy so
he can discover a cure, but the Dramians refuse. Spock stages a
jailbreak to get McCoy. The plague is caused by an aurora; McCoy
didn't do it. McCoy finds the antidote in one man who survived the
prior plague. He saves the ship and the Dramians, who duly honer him.
All is well again, and they agree to forget prior infractions.
Sharper than a Serpent's Tooth” An alien space probe scanned
Earth, sent out a signal, then self destructed. Now an alien
spacecraft appears. It encloses the Enterprise, then beams it.
It looks like a flying dragon. It is a Mayan god Kukulkan, a flying
serpent. Kirk, Scotty, McCoy and crewman Walking Bear are beamed to
the alien ship, where they face a kind of animation test to see
whether they can figure out a riddle. If they fail, all mankind will
be destroyed. But they free a vicious creature, who disrupts the
museum, and satisfy Kulculkan that they deserve to go their own way
and find their own destiny. He departs.
Counter Clock Incident” they will honor commodore April, the
enterprise's first captain, now 75 years old. They encounter another
ship whose captain speaks backwards. They increase speed to
impossible levels, like warp 20. They find themselves in an alien
universe with black stars against white space. Things run backwards
here. Two novas overlapped and created a connection between the
opposite universes. But they have become younger, in fact children.
April takes over and gets them out. The children age back into their
original roles. All is well again.
The Orville season one
#1. “Old Wounds” Ed Mercer discovers his wife in bed with
a blue man. So much for that marriage. One year later he is promoted
to captain of the exploratory ship the Orville. He takes his
friend Gordon as his helmsman. They set course for Epsilon. Then he
learns that his ex-wife Kelly has been assigned as his first officer.
She promises to depart at the first opportunity. At the station they
learn that a fabulous new aging device has been invented, and the
enemy Krill want it. The Krill attack, demanding the device. Gordon
uses the “hugging the donkey” technique to balk it,
zooming around and around it close up so that it can't fire at them.
They give the device to the Krill, but set it off so that in minutes
it grows a giant redwood tree on the Krill ship, destroying it.
Mission successful. Then Kelly arranges to get replaced as first
officer, but Ed reconsiders, as she has performed really well and
saved the ship, and asks her to stay. Then at the end she talks with
the Admiral, and we learn that she was the one that arranged for Ed's
promotion. She is really trying to make it up to him, but kept that
secret. I haven't yet gotten all the characters straight, but already
I love this series.
“Command Performance” Bortus has laid an egg, and
requests a 21 day leave of absence to hatch it. His species is all
male; this is how they reproduce. Then Ed and Kelly visit his parents
on another ship, leaving Alara in charge. She is cute and possesses
inhuman strength, but deeply uncertain and wants to quit, but can't.
Meanwhile Ed and Kelly find themselves seeing New York City, in their
old apartment, two years before. It is as if the last year never
happened. He sleeps and wakes in a Calivon zoo. They are in one cell,
seeing the others; the specimens can see and talk with each other but
can't leave their cells. Alara decides to disobey orders and try to
rescue Ed and Kelly, to the delight of the crew. They borrow Calivon
illusion technology to masquerade as a Calivon ship so they won't be
attacked. They rescue Ed and Kelly by trading crappy old TV series
for them, which are great exhibits. And Bortus' egg hatches a female,
which is impossible in their society. Another wild adventure.
“About a Girl” Everyone is admiring the new baby girl.
But her father wants to make a her a male. They refuse. A Moclan ship
comes to take the baby, to perform the procedure. Burtus changes his
mind and decides to raise her as a female Moclan. But his partner and
the Moclans are determined to take the baby. Kelly will be his
advocate as she had a year of legal training. The planet is a weapons
manufacture industry, horribly polluted. Ed scans the planet and
locates a female—they do exist--and brings one to the
hearing, Haveena. She turns out to be the planet's greatest writer.
But the panel decides to do the procedure. So the baby becomes Toap,
male. Damn; I was hoping otherwise.
the Stars Should Appear” They encounter a monstrous city ship
in space, 2,000 years old, drifting, 780 kilometers across. They
board it. It is huge inside. They find a living landscape, with hills
and trees. The find a cabin in the forest. The family there does not
know it is aboard a spacecraft. Kelly and Alana walk in the field and
are accosted by two men who demand their identification, and shoot
them when they don't understand. The Orville gets called away on an
emergency. Meanwhile Kelly gets tortured and interrogated before the
others rescue her. They access the control room. It is a generation
ship, but got messed up on the way and now is drifting, its people no
longer knowing. But they will be able to fix it in a day.
“Pria” A comet is heading into a star. But there's a
mining ship crashed on it whose female captain says she's in trouble.
You bet! They send the shuttle to rescue her. But the star's gravity
draws the shuttle in. They catch it with the tractor beam. She is
captain Pria Lavesque, from a town near Ed's home town. She kisses
him on the cheek. Kelly does a search and fails to verify Pria. She
may be an impostor. Kelly and Alana search her room and find an odd
device. Then the ship encounters a dark matter storm, big globs of
darkness. Pria guides them out of it. Ed and Pria visit a holo scene.
They kiss, then make out. Then they learn Pria is from 400 years in
their future. The dark matter storm was supposed to kill them,
historically. She's a dealer in rare antiques, saving this ship from
destruction without changing history. She takes them to her own time.
Then Kelly tackles her, they fight while the ship returns via the
wormhole to the present. Then they destroy the wormhole. Pria is
captive here, assuming she will continue to exist, as it seems that
history has been changed.
“Krill” they learn that Bortus can eat just about
anything. They they receive a distress call. A Krill ship is
attacking a mining colony. They challenge it, and it orients on them.
They fight. They manage to null the Krill ship; it is dead in space.
To handle the Krill they need to find a copy of the Krill bible, the
Anhkara. They have a holo device that can make them look like Krill.
They visit the Krill ship and photograph pages of the text of the
Anhkara. They manage to wipe out the entire Krill crew, but save a
female and several Krill children. This may not be over.
“Majority Rule” Girl waking up to TV, phone. Prisoner
trying to escape, gets shot, then executed as the vote goes against
him. They visit a 21st century Earth-like planet where a
research group stopped communicating a month before. They have to don
contemporary clothing. Alara, medical officer Clair, Kelly, and
navigator Lamarr go there. Everyone there has two badges, green and
red. Push the red one, negative. Push the green one, positive. Over
500,000 negatives may lead to execution. Lamarr dances with a statue
and gets in trouble for obscenity. They find the surviving
researcher, who has been “corrected,” and he is almost a
zombie. They bring Lysella aboard and she helps them promote Lamarr
to survival. An interesting warning against absolute popular
“Into the Fold” Clair Finn and her two sons go for a spot
vacation. But Isaac comes along, to her dismay. The two boys Ty and
Marcus, are constant disruption. They fall into a gravitational fold,
nicknamed a glory hole, and are suddenly a million light years away
from where they were. They land on a planet. They crash. They are in
a rocky forest. Clair is knocked out. Something drags her away.
Robotic Isaac looks for her but doesn't find her. She is captive of a
local man, Drogon, who says she is safe here. Isaac leads the
children. They are attacked by three men. Isaac shoots and stuns the
men. We learn that there was a war, and the enemy put a drug in the
water, and few survive, turning to cannibalism for food. Clair
escapes, recovers her communicator, get in touch. But is pursued by
hungry natives. Ty is sick, having drunk the water. She reaches the
boys and Isaac. Two dozen natives attack, and are fended off with
lasers. Another shuttle arrives. They are rescued. Isaac appreciates
learning so much about the dynamics of family life.
“Cupid's Dagger” Two cultures are chronically at war over
who first colonized a planet. Now an ancient artifact has been found
that may settle it. The Orville will host the parties as the decision
is made. The forensic archaeologist is Darulio—the blue man
Kelly cheated with. And she winds up doing it again. There's just
something about him. Then Clair comes on to Yaphit, the intelligent
green blob, who always liked her. They make out by his enclosing her
bare body like a green mud plaster. And Ed gets romantically
interested in Darulio. It is because Darulian's annual hormones cause
folk to become sexually obsessed. Meanwhile the two cultures are
starting to war. But Darulian's touch makes the two leaders fall for
each other, defusing the war. Now Ed begins to understand about
Kelly's cheating: the hormones made her do it. A wild episode.
“Firestorm” They are caught in a space plasma storm.
Their chief engineer gets hit by debris and dies. Alara blames
herself, because she was afraid of the fire; there was an episode
when she was eight months old. Then she sees a clown, and thinks
she's losing her mind. But security cameras verify that the was
a clown. Then it appears again and attacks her. Then Kelly almost
falls into a gulf. Then Claire tries to operate brutally on Alara.
Claire now is the crazy one. Then a swarm of tarantulas attack. And
vanish. Maybe the plasma storm did it. A giant insectoid kills
Gordon. Only Alara is left as the ship reenters the plasma storm.
Isaac shows up; they are the only two. Then she catches on that he is
an impostor, the enemy. They fight. But this turns out to be a
program Alara is in. A simulation, where they collected fears from
the other officers to throw at her, and she survived them. So she is
capable of doing her job.
“New Dimensions” As a joke, Gordon and Lamar hide a piece
of the green alien blob Yaphit in some cake, and Bortus ate it. Both
report to sick bay, the one for missing a piece of himself, the other
for indigestion. Yaphit extends a tentacle into Bortus and recovers
the lost piece. Problems solved, except for the question of officer
judgment. The ship runs afoul of a space anomaly. It leaves a quantum
wake that kills plants. They try to warn another ship that is heading
for it, but its captain tells them to shove it up theirs. Then passes
through the anomaly. Its captain winds up aboard the Orville, and its
cargo turns out be be stolen rifles. Yaphit and Lamarr have to work
together to investigate, and they have trouble getting along; for one
thing, both are in line for the same promotion. But they gradually
learn respect for each other. The anomaly turns out to be a two
dimensional doorway. They shield themselves in a quantum bubble and
enter, and the other side is a phenomenal array of colored lines and
shapes. A two dimensional civilization. They make it through, thanks
to Lamarr's insights. He is promoted. My favorite episode so far.
“Mad Idolatry” the ship encounters a space anomaly and
suddenly is coming to a planet. Kelly, Gordon, and Isaac take a
shuttle to investigate, and crash. Kelly helps a child heal. Then the
planet disappears. Isaac thinks it is orbiting between realities. So
they wait for it to return in 11 days. Meanwhile Ed and Kelly get
back together romantically. The planet returns, now far more
advanced. 700 years have passed there. They visit and don native
clothing. They discover that Kelly has become a goddess. There's a
statue of her. But people are being executed in her name. She tells
them to stop. Isaac takes her place for the next cycle. Now the
planet is highly advanced. They send up a ship to return Isaac to
them. And Ed and Kelly have to break off their romance lest it
jeopardize the mission. They both hate doing it, but see the
#1 “The Woman Who Fell to Earth” Ryan Sinclair in
Scotland is trying to learn to ride a bicycle, but can't keep his
balance. He throws it over a cliff, then has to go try to recover it.
And something flashes. A giant blue freezing cold teardrop. He calls
the police. They send Yasmine Khan, “Yaz,” a lady cop who
wants to do more than fender benders. They know each other. Then on a
train a weird mass of wires descends, chasing a woman. She is Dr.
Who, who fell from the Tardis as it exploded. They take her to see
the cold blue teardrop. They give Dr. Who shelter. She says they have
all been infected with a genetic bomb, including Ryan's
step-grandfather Graham; they have glowing spots on their collar
bones. A big robot attacks and kills a man. Then another. They have
to stop it. The robot is collecting teeth from trophies. Dr. Who
finally manages to nullify it and sends it away. But Ryan's
grandmother Grace is killed in the course of the struggle. Then Dr.
Who manages to summon the Tardis, bids farewell to the three—but
somehow they get picked up too.
Ghost Monument” Ryan, Yaz, and Graham find themselves on a
spaceship with Doctor Who. Then they are on an alien planet, with
alien folk: two ordinary people, a man and a woman, trying to escape
the ruined planet. They can talk with them because universal
translators have been implanted in them. They meet a hologram man,
apparent but not really there. Now they must race across the surface
to the Ghost Monument, which looks like the Tardis. The four of them
plus the local couple set out. Thy trek across a virtual desert. They
come across stone ruins and robot guards attack. This is a shooting
range; everything is a target. Doctor Who manages to null their power
source and they all go inactive. For a while. Things like flying
blankets attack. They make it, and declare the two natives as joint
winners. All disappear, leaving the original four back in the desert.
But the Tardis comes. It has been reorganized inside, which is of
course much larger than it is outside. They are on their way.
“Rosa” the seamstress Rosa Parks, a black woman boards a
bus, but is kicked off for not properly honoring the racist seating.
Historically she's the one who got arrested for sitting in the white
section of a bus. They meet her. Ryan is black, and Yaz is taken for
Mexican (she's actually Pakistani), so Mongomery, Alabama in 1955 is
awkward. There are Artron signals whose source Doctor Who has to
locate. She discovers a case of future hi-tech instruments; that's
the source. A young bearded man owns them and is hostile. Why is he
messing with time? He is Krasko, a former prisoner. They meet Martin
Luther King. Krasko is trying to nudge history in little ways to
change it so that the great revolution doesn't happen. So they start
nudging it back in place. Krasko damages the key bus to it can't be
there, but they find another bus to replace it. There aren't enough
passengers to make seating an issue. The four of them ride it to fill
it up. So Rosa's demonstration goes as history dictates, and the
revolution is on. In a year segregation is ended. Rosa changed the
world. A painful but excellent episode.
“Arachnids in the UK” This opens with a man telling his
niece's wife that he wants to make this all go away. Then in England
the Doctor is ready to separate from her three new companions, having
brought them home, and it is evident that none of them are keen on
doing that. Yaz checks on a friend—who turns out to be encased
in spider silk. There's a giant spider, dog size. It's happening all
around England. A horse-sized man-eating spider appears. So they lure
the lesser spiders into the hotel panic room by playing modern music,
the facet the mother spider—who is dying for lack of oxygen,
her breathing system being ill adapted for this size. Problem solved.
The three decide to stay with the Doctor.
Tsuranga Conundrum” They are searching through a giant dump.
But what they find is a sonic mine. It detonates and they wake in a
hospital. Only it is actually a ship, the Tsuranga. She works with
Aston, the doctor in charge, but he gets caught in an escape pod and
jettisoned. Then they encounter a little sort of demon that eats
anything. A pting. It will destroy the ship if they don't get rid of
it. In fact the ship will destroy itself. The pting feeds on energy,
so they feed it the detonating bomb. Meanwhile a pregnant man births
DW#6 “Demons of the Punjab” in Pakistan, Grandma gives Yaz
her late grandfather's watch. Now the Doctor uses that watch to take
them to Pakistan in the time of her grandfather, 1947, the time of
its partitioning from India. They get a ride on a horse-drawn cart.
The line between Pakistan and India is separating the couple about to
marry. The idea of a Muslim marrying a Hindu is anathema, and people
are getting killed for such. They learn that her grandfather Prem
must die the day he marries; Jasmine's existence depends on this. And
so it plays out, tragically.
“Kerblam!” the Doctor gets a special delivery of a box.
It's a fez type hat. Also an invitation to visit Kerblam. They go
there. 90% of the workers are perpetually smiling robots, so they
join the 10%, and are handling the boxes being shipped. They meet
Kira, another living worker. They have to toe the line, or there is
trouble. But there are frequent power outages, and not all the robots
are powered by the main system. Something is going on. Then Kerblam
itself asks for help. They discover that the bubble wrap around
packages consists of tiny bombs. The Doctor manages to prevent all
those packages from being teleported out, saving things. Overall,
this seems to be a parody of Amazon.
Witchfinders” The witch trials. Becka Savage at Pendle Hill
supervises as they dunk the accused witch under water. If she drowns,
she's innocent. If she survives, she's a witch, and will be hanged.
There is no record of this town; it seems it was saved from Satan by
killing all residents. Then the Doctor's party sees figures rising
from the muddy gravesite. They are alien spirits using the recently
dead bodies. And the Doctor gets arrested for witchcraft. King James
(the role a witch hunter is playing) sets up to have her dunked. But
when they lift up up again the chains are empty. She held her breath
and escaped the chains. The witch-killing Becka becomes the alien
Morax. The aliens plan to take over and occupy the bodies of all the
people. The Doctor manages to stop them, and all is well again.
Takes You away” The Tardis parks in Norway. They take a walk in
the woods and find what looks like a deserted house, but someone is
in there. They find the child Hanne, who is blind. Her father
departed four days ago. Something took him away. They check around.
Something roars. They go inside. In the attic is a mirror that
doesn't reflect. It is a portal to elsewhere. Doctor, Graham, and Yaz
go through it into a nebulous realm. They meet a sort of man
creatures they call Ribbons, and make a deal to trade the sonic
screwdriver for his lamp, once he shows them where Hannah's father
is. They encounter flesh eating moths. They find Erik. And Trine, his
wife. She had died, but here she is alive. Then Graham encounters his
own dead wife, Grace, Ryan's grandmother. They think they're real,
but they aren't. This is the Solitract plane, an alternate reality. A
conscious universe. In the form of a frog. The Doctor persuades it to
let her go. It's a wonderful, friendly universe, but not reality.
“The Battle of Ranskoor av Kalos” I had a bit of trouble
following all the details of this one. Brief sequence from 3,400
years ago. Now they encounter Paltraki, who is told to return what he
took. the Doctor meets Ux, one of only two in the universe. The
Doctor knows the Creator, Tim Shaw from 3,400 years ago. Stenza
technology can create anything. They have to stop the takeover of the
universe. They do, and depart in the Tardis.