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Piers Anthony, Jan. 1, 2011 Piers Anthony, Jan. 1, 2011. Photo by Jane McConnell.
Dismember 2017
HI-


My latest collaboration with J R Rain, The Journey, will be on sale at 99 cents for a week starting Dismember 28. Young folk of the village have to head out for a significant journey before they are recognized as adults with adult privileges. Unfortunately many do not survive the experience. In fact there is a press gang lurking to capture and enslave 18 year old Floyd; he doesn't have much of a chance. Then, amazingly, Amelie, the girl he dreams about, appears, and athletically helps him with magic. Only it turns out she's not exactly what she seems; she is Faux (pronounced Fo), a female Fee whom Amelie hired to see him through. She intends to make a man of him, as she is supremely equipped to do, as they travel to Asia to find the summer resort described by the poet Coleridge in Xanadu: “...where Alf, the sacred river, ran, through caverns measureless to man, down to a sunless sea.” This is one wild adventure, with literary allusions, that you shouldn't miss at any price.

I watched The Huntsman—Winter's War. It had subtitles, but they did not work, so I had trouble making out the dialogue. There is some kind of betrayal at the beginning, and the queen's sister Freya departs to form her own kingdom to the north. She trains children to become warriors, with the stricture “Never love.” But two do fall in love as they grow up. They marry in the garden—and the queen finds them. Freya makes them each fight several others, and when they win, she punishes them anyway and they are dumped in the freezing river. He survives, and is later recruited by friends, as he is the best tracker. Then his lady love shows up, not dead after all, angry because he left her. She says the one he loved is dead; she's forgotten love. But it's not true and in due course they make love. Then Freya finds them, and requires Sara to kill the man. She shoots an arrow into his chest and he drops. But she hits a medal he wears that she gave him long ago, and it stops the arrow from killing him, by no coincidence. She never misses her target. His death is more apparent than real, as she knows. He returns to shoot an arrow at the queen, but her returned sister's magic stops it. Yet there is a falling out of sisters, and their potent magic cancels them out enough to give our heroes the victory. So love did conquer in the end. Phenomenal effects, nice twists.

I watched Kong—Skull Island. I expected junk, but it seemed competently done. Satellite picture reveals a formerly hidden island with a bad reputation. It looks like a skull, and there may be remarkable secrets there. They recruit a crack team, complete with a pretty lady photographer. A carrier goes in, and a dozen helicopters take off. The island is surrounded by a thunderstorm, but they make it through. They drop seismic charges that reveal that its bedrock is practically hollow. Then a giant gorilla appears and knocks down a couple of helicopters. They fire on it, and it goes after more of them, soon clearing them from the sky. The seven survivors are land-bound. A rescue party comes but can't do much. They encounter a giant ox, but not nearly as big as Kong. Giant bugs attack. They discover a surviving colony from 28 years before. One man sees the giant ape get attacked by an octopus, which it kills and eats. They learn that Kong has been protecting the islanders from enemies; he's their friend. But the bombs have stirred up big vicious lizards. They locate an old pieced-together boat the old man made from airplane parts, and use it to travel along the river. A rescue party comes, but its leader doesn't take the threats seriously. So he has to learn the hard way. A monster lizard attacks and starts eating them. They finally stop it with a flame thrower. Small flying reptiles attack, then a big Kong-sized one. Kong fights it in a phenomenal battle and finally kills it. Kong also saves the woman from drowning. They escape as Kong watches. Can they keep the secret of the island, so that there are not future invasions? They'll try. The whole thing is wildly impossible, but it's still one hell of a story.

I watched Copying Beethoven, which starts with a young woman, Anna, at Beethoven's bedside as he dies. Then a flashback to a prior time, when there needs to be a copyist for Beethoven's ninth Symphony. That is, someone to copy his messy notes into correctly clean ones, like formally typing a manuscript today. Beethoven is largely deaf and irascible at times, but she does impress him with her competence. It is almost unheard of for a woman to be a copyist, but he accepts her. He dotes on his nephew, who feels stifled, with justice. Anna has her own problems with the maestro. For example when he's washing up, he moons her. Yet he is a genius of music, and it is in the background of the movie. Beethoven is however a mess conducting an orchestra; he can't hear the music, loses his place, and it all goes awry. Everyone who is anyone will attend the next premier, which promises to be a disaster. Until Anna stands in the orchestra where he can see her but the audience can't and conducts for him, showing him the timing. He copies her motions, and the performance of the Ninth Symphony is a resounding success. This strikes me as one of the most evocative sequences I have seen in any movie, in significant part because of the glorious music. I expected to be bored, but was uplifted.

I watched A Birder's Guide to Everything. David, age 15, in an ardent birder. That is, a bird watcher, who verifies his sightings by snapping pictures. I remember my excitement when I saw my first piliated woodpecker, and dreamed of spying the extinct Ivory Bill Woodpecker. He belongs to a small birding group, three members. He thinks he sees a Labrador Duck, which is extinct. That sends them off on a, well, wild goose chase. They recruit a girl who is not a birder but who has a telephoto lens they need. They find the duck—and a hunter shoots it. It turns out not to be THE duck, but an oddly plumaged crossbreed. Nevertheless it turns out to be a transitional experience for David, and now he has a girlfriend. Coming of age genre, well done.

I watched the Discover video “Death Valley.” It's the lowest and hottest place in the United States; temperatures range up to 145°F. It was once a shallow sea, a billion years ago. What happened? Volcanoes. Plate tectonics generated volcanoes that pushed the ancient sea up and away and formed 11,000 foot high mountains, a hundred million years ago. Thirteen million pears ago the earth's crust thinned and stretched, and the mountains sank. By three million years ago it was one of the lowest places on Earth. A freshwater lake formed. It evaporated two hundred thousand years ago, leaving a layer of borax. Meanwhile boulders up to 700 pounds move across the desert floor, leaving trails up to half a mile long. How? The theory is that when there is rain and wind the valley floor gets slippery and they slide. It is still sinking a tenth of an inch a year. Eventually it will be low enough for the sea to come in and fill it. Um, no, not in our lifetime, so don't rush out to watch.

I read Sex and the Seasoned Woman by Gail Sheehy. This is a book about the experience of aging women which might attract little attention if that were the title, but someone found a great best selling title. I have to admire that genius of marketing. It's a good book, regardless. Her thesis is that as women age they achieve their Second Adulthood, which can be far more rewarding than their First Adulthood, because they know so much more and have more resources. They may no longer need to be beholden to a man for their place, no longer tied down by children and fading romance. Now they are free to seek their own destinies, and age 50 may be the beginning of their real fulfillment. Now they can pursue love, sex, and new dreams. And yes, freed from the constraints of possible pregnancy and childbirth, many do seek sex, their way. They find fulfillment in true love with a soul mate whom they may or may not marry. Not all of them; the author gives examples of dreams that don't work out. But seasoned women are largely free from the straitjacket that is, or was, society's lowly expectation for the distaff gender. Along the way she provides many fascinating individual case histories, and many interesting facts. This is worthwhile for the male as well as the female reader. Some quotes: “What makes a seasoned woman? Time.” “'How old are you, anyway?' 'Somewhere between forty and death.'” “A woman who reaches the age of 50 free of cancer and heart disease can expect to see her ninety second birthday.” Young people count the number of years from their birth; after 50 they start counting the years to their death. Some are WMDs: Women Married, Dammit! “...the number one factor in enhancing sexual desire and response among women is a new partner.” One divorced woman of 70 told why she was not interested in sex: Too old. Too fat. Too scared. But this book shows that a woman is never too old, and if she meets the right man—or sometimes, right woman—she won't be scared. So how to deal with the middle? Exercise. That's the single cheapest and most effective remedy. “Sex, passion, and soul go together.” “A richly rewarding and stable sex life is not just a fringe benefit. It is the central task of marriage.” What about women without a partner? The vagina can atrophy from disuse. Some women take younger lovers. One says she keeps herself alive, sexually, with BOB. Who is BOB? Her Battery-Operated Boyfriend. But it's not just about sex; that's only an ingredient in a larger lifestyle. “If the central motivator of all human activity is passion, its opposite is depression.” “The fact that a woman's Second Adulthood is fueled by a dominance of testosterone coincides with the resurgence in woman of adventurousness, independence, and assertiveness.” Even so, men still have more testosterone than women do, about ten times as much. “70 percent of aging is controlled by our lifestyle: how actively we move around, how much we drink or smoke, how well we sleep, how many close friends we keep up with, and how engaged we remain in life and community.” “Sex may be the last to go. But there is one thing that never goes—the only meaning that survives all—love.” So yes, I recommend this book; it's a fair guide to a more satisfying later life, and it nicely endorses principles I have picked up on elsewhere and tried to follow. If I should ever find myself alone, which is a fair prospect at my age after 61 years of marriage, I would want to gain the company of the right seasoned woman to complete my life.

I read One Hundred Dreams by Lisa Morris. This is a book of a hundred sonnets. A sonnet is a variety of poem, fourteen lines, the last two often capping its theme. These ones are actually little stories, each sonnet an episode. I am not a great judge of poetry; it's out of my genre, and the sonnet has never been my preferred form anyway, so I suspect there's a lot I'm missing here. So I feel a bit awkward even presenting an opinion. But for what it's worth, I found the mini romances touching and sometimes painful. Typically a young woman relates to a man, positively or negatively; sometimes she gets him, but that is not always a happy outcome. Such as “One Kiss on the Moor,” where he kisses her and charms her into going with him on a ship, but when he gets her far away from home instead of marrying her he makes her his captive mistress. Bluntly, his whore. Other sonnets seem to follow up on this deception and betrayal. She is happy only in her dreams, until a new man rescues her, and she begins to heal. Other sonnets relate to princesses, some too canny to fall for the lies of men. When a man is true, he still may die prematurely, so the woman is suffering. Some romances do work out; some don't. In “The Hidden Box” he takes the minor things she leaves, like a green hair ribbon, and saves them. She likes him, and hopes they'll have a life together. Then he dies, and she discovers a box where he saved the mementos, and in it also a pair of wedding rings. I think that's the most painful one, for me, and yet my favorite, for its poignancy. My favorite single line is in “The Mermaid,” who would like to attract the attention of a man she likes, but knows why she fails: “I am not quite a woman of your kind.” She is doomed to be lonely. In a later one, “Wading Away,” a mermaid does attract a man, but leaves him for the sea. Isn't this the way it is for so many of us in real life, regardless of appearance? It has been conjectured elsewhere that man and woman are different species, seemingly similar, drawn to each other yet not quite each other's kind, causing so much mischief and heartache. Then there's “The Man Who Caught the Moon,” and it works out as they stay together, but she fades when landbound too long and has to return to the sky, their love still strong. Again imperfect, like the difference between the genders. Overall, I found this collection moderately depressing, because so many loves don't work out; yet it has its charms.

I read Creating Places—the Art of World Building Volume II, by Randy Ellefson. This is the second volume of a three volume work. The first volume was Creating Life, which I reviewed in Mayhem of this year. This volume addresses the settings a writer wishes to create, and it is exhaustive. So you invent a planet; does it have a moon? Because a moon facilitates the evolution of life on a planet, by stabilizing it; otherwise it could bobble all over, with disastrous consequences for life below. The book also gets into plate tectonics—drifting continents, for you ignorant folk—clarifying what is going on there. When one continental plate shoves under another, and melts, hot lava emerges from the surface above as volcanoes, some of which can be devastating. This too is important for the welfare of life. In fantasy you can do things magically, but in science fiction it is better to know what you're talking about, and this reference spells it out. When the movements of the ground throw up mountain ranges, these can create rain shadows, with copious rain on the side where fronts come from, and deserts on the other side because the rain has been squeezed out. Bounteous California, but also Death Valley. What kind of creatures to you have? This touches on everything from dragons to elves. Are there guns or just swords? That too makes a difference when you're up against hungry monsters. How do you travel? There are various ways on land. If there is plenty of water, then probably by ship; there is a competent discussion of the types of ship, including their sails. Next time I have a ship in my fiction, I expect to reread this portion, and get it right. Then there is the dubious art of politics. How are people governed? It goes into the various types of organization, from settlements to kingdoms, from autocracy on down. That discussion triggered an idea for me: suppose folk lived in a kakistocracy? That is, government by the worst. I may write a story about that. This book may well spawn similar ideas for you. It also has advice along the way on writing that I'm sure novice writers and perhaps some established ones too can profit from. I recommend this book as a basic reference; at worst it is a review of necessary concepts, and at best it will upgrade you from a mediocre speculative fiction writer to a superior one.

I watched Tears of the Sun, a Bruce Willis movie set in war-torn, oil rich Nigeria. This is brutal from the start, as we see the presidential family assassinated, children first. Navy Seal A K Waters has to get an American nurse, Lena, and the nuns with her out before the rebels come and brutally wipe them all out. She refuses to go without her 70 person mission. They want to bring their chickens and everything. The helicopters can't carry them all, so they will hike 40 miles through the jungle and wilderness to neighboring Cameroon. It is some hike! Except that the copters don't take the other personnel; there isn't room. Lena is furious. But when they see the devastation left by the rebels, with bodies strewn everywhere because of ethnic cleansing, they turn the helicopters back and pick up a dozen of the portion of the 70 that came, partly by making space as A K and Lena and the men get off the copter. They will trek by foot with the remaining 28. The American brass are not pleased. A group is following them. Why? They spy more ethnic cleaning, with rape and killing and burning of the village in progress, and shoot the perpetrators. But much damage is already done, such as nursing mothers with their breasts cut off; this is what the rebels do. The pursuing group gains on them, and they realize there's an inside man radioing the position. They learn that the heir to the Ibu tribe is with them; that's why the rebels are pursuing them. This is real mischief. A K polls his men, as he has been advised to turn over the heir and leave the refugees in the jungle. The men agree to try to get the refugees to safety. But is it even possible? They get into a pitched battle and take losses. Lena gets hit. A K gets hit. They call in air support. The planes blast the enemy at the last moment. So they make it, barely, saving most of their group. It is one ugly but powerful story. You think revolution and war are fun? This film may set you straight.
I watched Emanuelle Queen of the Desert. I had hoped for a sexy exciting action thriller, as it is billed, but it was apparent from the start that it's a junky effort. The color is washed out, the dialogue amateurish. But we do get to see sexy Emanuelle naked. She encounters a guerrilla soldier in the desert, offers him sex, but pushes him off a cliff so he dies. Then she joins his four companions and plays them for jealousy. She stabs one to death. The remaining three pursue her to a village where they shoot up the natives. But she has a rifle now. Then a flashback to a week prior as the men go about their mission; no sexy woman there. They quarrel among themselves and push the natives around, raping and killing. Then back to the present with Emanualle. They kill each other off, except for the one decent guy. Hardly worth watching.

I wrote three sexy stories totaling about 12,000 words, then the novelette “Ghost Puppeteer,” sequel to the novella Ghost Ensemble, all slated for my collection Relationships 7. During that I had my last two teeth pulled, as I had a toothache in one and it was time to get my lower denture. I spent Thanksgiving Day writing with a dull ache in my jaw, on a soft diet. You can see why I have a rich imaginative life; my mundane life is well worth ignoring. Then I watched some more videos.

I watched Violet & Daisy. This is an odd one. Two pretty girls, maybe 18, don nuns' outfits and go and shoot up a male hangout, killing maybe a dozen men, with no remorse at all. They are hired assassins, for they need the money. Their next target turns out to be a middle aged man who is expecting them. He offers them fine cookies. They wind up killing the other bunch of killers who come for him. It goes on from there, weirdly innocent and violent. Then it changes, turning strange and feeling as key revelations are made. In the end they become real girls, surprisingly. Not a formula movie.

I watched Killing Device. This is a microchip that can be implanted in a person, looking like a crown on a tooth, but it has wires extending into the brain that can in effect take it over so the person will become an assassin who then commits suicide, concealing the true source of the hit. Then a chip-crowned assassin sneaks in and kills four senators who were planning mischief. There is skulduggery at every level. The least likely people suddenly kill, and are in turn killed, as more teeth are uniquely crowned. Then a reporter starts investigating. He steals an odd crown and they chase after him, knowing that they must get that crown back. He encounters the dentist's secretary and they flee together, and fall in love during a pause in the action. Credibility degenerates from there. This could have been a truly dramatic film. Unfortunately the plotting is second rate, as is the acting.

I watched The Lovers, which turns out to be the two halves of a single twining serpent ring whose wearers will always reunite even if widely separated. Jay rescues his wife who is trapped underwater, but in the process he is left brain dead. His mind goes to India 1778, where there is a betrayal and the king is assassinated. The new queen means to kill the ex queen, but covertly, so the ex is shipped to the far side of India, Bombay—if she makes it there. This is contrary to the will of the British authority, but England is far away, so they are trying for a fait accompli. The captain, James, is charged with keeping ex safe. But they are traveling overland, and pursued. He gets interested in the queen's lovely lady warrior guard, Tulaja, and she in him. But she is cursed to betray the one she loves, so dares not love. He finds the other half of the ring she has and begins to understand. Meanwhile, as it were, Jay's wife gets the ring and puts it on his still finger. Then she gets the other half, seemingly from Tulaja, and adds that to it on his finger. And he is hauled out of the depths of his near death and wakes.

Health: it seems that after age 40, your brain shrinks about five percent every ten years. So if you live beyond 100, maybe a third of your brain is gone. But aerobic exercise can prevent much of this. Which is why, of course, I started my exercise program at age 40; now in retrospect I see the reason. Other threats to health: high blood pressure. That used to be 140/90; now it's 130/80. The first number is the peak when the heart beats; the second is the low between beats. 46% of American adults are above that upper threshold. So where am I? I remain 115/65, 15 digits below. Now it turns out that folk who watch a lot of TV can get Deep Vein Thrombosis, or blood clots, which can dislodge and mess up the lungs or heart. That strikes me as a good name for a musical band, DVT for short, with the base notes going Throm! Throm! Throm! I don't watch a lot of TV, but I do spend a lot of time at the computer, which I think could be similarly dangerous. Fortunately I don't sit still for long without getting up to do this or that. That probably saves my ass, literally.

In the NoRemember column I mentioned a bullying woman saying she had Power, Position, and P____. I wondered what P could be, and concluded probably Pussy. Myron Chaplin wrote to suggest instead of a word, an abbreviation: PMS. He remarks that women with this condition can be particularly Poisonous, Powerful, Painful and occasionally Pernicious, and are best treated with Tenderness if not completely left alone. Good advice.

The Ask Marilyn column in PARADE for NoRemember 19 was asked whether it makes a difference if you wash your hands in hot or warm water, versus cold water. She answers no, usually. No matter how hot the water is, you're not killing the germs; you'd need boiling water for that. Heat does help with grease, but that's about it. Yes, I had reasoned that out as a child. When I washed dishes I did not use hot water, in part because our house in the Green Mountains forest of Vermont had no electricity and the water was pumped by hand. To heat it would mean lighting the wood-burning stove, putting some kettles on, then in due course pouring the hot water into the sink, greatly complicating a simple operation. Once a visitor remarked on that, and I said “Oh, I wash them in cold water.” I learned over half a century later, from my father's journal that I inherited, that he regarded that as an example of my arrogance. Come again? When hot water that hands can tolerate makes no difference in the cleaning effect? Those who never washed a dish were critical of my system as I washed their dishes? None of them offered to do it themselves, their way; they wanted me to do it their way. That made me arrogant? So okay, how do I do it now? I do use warm water, because with electricity it is easy, and it's more comfortable. But I doubt the dishes are any cleaner, apart from occasional grease. And I remain as arrogant as ever, as any critic can tell you. It is as if I travel on an island of rationality, surrounded by folk in at least partial denial about reality but very sure they are right. Denial is a great comfort to them, though they also deny they are in it. Thus my course differs from most, which makes me eccentric in their view. You know the rule: poor folk are crazy; rich folk are eccentric. So I used to be the first, now am the second. Adults are sensible; children need correction. And so on. I always liked the humorous formula “I am firm, you are stubborn, he's pig headed.” Especially one of the female versions “I am beautiful, you are pretty, she's all right if you like that type.” All of them quite true, as you know from your own experience. I am sane; you are...

ALTERNATIVES, the health newsletter by Dr. David Williams, remarks that childhood depression is in the rise. I find that interesting, having been a depressed child. I think I have mentioned before how at about age twelve I assessed my life with a thought experiment, asking myself whether if I had the choice of living my life over exactly as before, or never existing at all, which would I choose? And I thought probably the latter alternative. But as I have also mentioned, things changed about the time I went to college, became a vegetarian, became a writer, and met the girl I married, and now yes, I would prefer to live it over as before. So I don't belittle childhood depression; it can be as serous as adult depression. It seems that since 2000 24% of girls and 9% of boys in England are depressed by age 14. I came from England, but probably the statistics for America are similar. Now the use of antidepressants is rising sharply. I suspect that's a superficial treatment for a deeper malady. How about reconsidering how we treat our children? Dr. Williams recommends, among other things, feeding them a daily probiotic. I agree. I had daily stomach aches that probiotics might have eased. But I am thinking of the social and legal treatment of children, and this is not just a matter of expecting them to be little servants washing dishes the wrong way. As I have also mentioned before, some of those little girls have big girl problems, such as getting sexually molested and not daring to tell. Antidepressants are treating the symptoms rather than the causes. That's only the beginning. If I ruled the world...

Newspaper headline: “End the conflicts...we can end world hunger.” Yes, but the devil is in the details. There are power grubbing dictators small and large across the world, and most of what they understand is force, and that means conflict. If you could wave a wand and spread global peace, yes the resources exist to feed everyone. But that wand does not exist. I wish it did.

Yet another installment of my Vegetarianism Can Save The World theme, not that I proselytize, as you understand, is an item in NEW SCIENTIST titled “A 'coffee maker' for lab-grown plants” says that cultured meat, like the $300,000 lab-grown burger, isn't the only such effort. Now they're trying to do the same for plants, because a growing global human population, shrinking farmland, and climate change will force us to find new ways to guarantee food supplies. The VTT Technical Research Center of Finland is working to make cellular agriculture part of the solution. They have developed a small bio-reactor that looks a bit like a coffee machine in your kitchen. Just pop in a pod of plant cells along with growth media and wait for them to turn into jam-like food. The thing is, when these cells don't have to help the overall plant survive they can become a lot more productive. Such a cell line could produce ten, a hundred, or a thousand times more of these interesting compounds than the original plant does. So not only might we replace the poor cows who get slaughtered for their meat, we might replace the grass they eat, and the pastures ripped out of the natural realm, bypassing the whole destructive shebang. Ten, a hundred, or a thousand times as efficient? Process it into food that tastes like whatever you want? I'm sure there are details to work out, such as what do you feed those marvelous cells, but this is most interesting.

Can we colonize the moon? Item in THE WEEK says the scientists speculate that below the moon's surface lies a vast network of caves and caverns, potentially perfect for a subterranean lunar colony. Japan's space agency believes it has proof that such caves exist. One hollowed out lava tube is 31 miles long and half a mile high; big enough for a city of millions. That cavern might contain water or ice, and shield folk from meteorites, radiation, and extreme temperatures. Now if they brought in coffee machines to make the food, and pressurized it with air, and generated light, it might be a nice retirement community for those who find Earth gravity burdensome. But I doubt settlers there could ever return to Earth; gravity would kill them.

Other notes: Sales of electric cars are growing, jumping 36 percent last year. Prices are dropping and performance is rising, and they are less polluting than gasoline powered cars, even when you count the costs of generating the electricity. China is betting on them. We are satisfied with our Prius, but we are keeping an eye on electric offerings for the future. Maybe what we really want is an electric Prius. It seems that 17% of all online ebooks were pirated. I think similar is true for movies. That is discouraging. I believe all my books have been pirated, even self published ones. I made my fortune before epublishing took over, so I'm not going hungry, but it is annoying to see the freeloaders prospering. The average writer can barely earn a living from writing, if at all, and this could wipe out many. Do we really want to see the most imaginative aspect of our society be starved out of existence by thieves? I understand that a new book titled Out Of The Wreckage: A New Politics for An Age Of Crisis, by George Monbiot, makes the point that activists and communities, that is to say, the non-leaders and un-elite, are the supreme cooperators, and storytelling is the heart of it. Yes indeed; storytelling is as I see it the essence of humankind, largely defining us. It enables us to perfect communication by language and to share values. Face it: why are you here reading this? Because you like my storytelling, fictive, factive, and opinionative. Monbiot says the fact is, humans are also deeply weird in their capacity for imagination, creativity and abstract thought. We like stories that make sense. Yes indeed, and I take joy in that weirdness, thank you. And THE WEEK republished an article from The Guardian about how Silicon Valley hooks us, using foibles of our minds to lure us into addiction to their wares. Do you get into Facebook, YouTube, or Twitter, intending a few minutes, but staying an hour? Then you're getting hooked. “The dynamics of the attention economy are structurally set up to undermine the human will.” No, it doesn't happen to me, not because of any superior willpower I may think I possess, but because I'm on dial-up and can't use those programs, which may be just as well; I fear they would fascinate me into oblivion. And a NEW SCIENTIST article “Before the Beginning” says that when they researched to locate the very beginning of life on Earth, they found RNA that replicated itself—and it is still with us, in every cell. It is the ribosome, a tiny molecular machine that does just one thing, but does it so well that it has never been replaced. It reads the genetic code contained in DNA and uses it to construct the proteins that make us what we are. “In essence, they are the cellular robots that build the stuff that makes our cells tick.” So what is the real heart of all of us? A mini robot reading instructions and building our cells. That's what's behind the curtain. So will there ever be conscious robots? There already are, and they are us.

PIERS
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