hankrules2011

Book reviews, health, hockey, publishing, music

Two Near-Death Experiences & Changes

Posted by Scott Holstad on September 18, 2018

Hello. I’ve been meaning to blog about some events that happened to me this summer, but I haven’t found the time, energy, stamina, etc. But I wrote a post and published it on LinkedIn this morning, and I’m going to provide the link for it here. It’s called “Major Changes.” It details how I suffered two near-death experiences in June and July, how recovery has been largely non-existant, how things keep happening to me, and how I’m unable to do any projects, gigs, favors, or even travel, for months. I’m hoping to be in a much better place by Christmas, but that remains to be seen. I may not make it to Christmas the way things have been going.

While I still have a decent number of blog subscribers here, since I essentially went an entire year without blogging (due to extremely poor health), I’m afraid I’ve lost most of my readers, so I really don’t know that too many people will read this or care, but for the few of you who will, thanks. And I’d like to blog more often — truly. It’s just really hard to find the time, energy, stamina, etc., when you feel the way I’ve been feeling for months. So, my apologies. I hope you are all doing well, and I’ll “see” you guys later. Cheers!

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Book Review: Sparta: Rise of a Warrior Nation

Posted by Scott Holstad on September 17, 2018

Sparta: Rise of a Warrior NationSparta: Rise of a Warrior Nation by Philip Matyszak

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This book was a bitter disappointment for me in a couple of ways, one of which is shared by another book on Sparta that I’m currently reading. I’ve looked up to and admired Sparta and the Spartans my entire life. The first research paper I ever wrote was on Sparta, and it was in elementary school. My whole life, I’ve heard about how tough they were as a people, how they were warriors, the infamous story about the youth and the fox, their innovative political and cultural systems, the incredibly famous stand at the Battle of Thermopylae, their leadership and domination of the Greeks, their rivalry with Athens and eventual defeat of Athens, etc.

But this book dashed those fond beliefs and admirations to pieces, and for that, I cannot forgive the author. I’ll be the first to admit that he’s the expert, he’s done the research, written the book. He knows more, and perhaps knows the truth. But the truth hurts, and most of my beliefs and perceptions of Sparta and the Spartans turned out to be bloody well wrong! They were indeed viewed as a warrior people and tough as hell, but I’m not sure why. They were surrounded by rivals and enemies, most of whom I’d never heard of before, and they fought awesome, hard fought, longass wars against some of the nation states, and it took them over a century, I believe, to simply subdue just one of their rivals on their part of the Greek peninsula! Other enemies they tricked, battled hard against, tried to avoid fighting altogether, and because even though they were allegedly “warriors,” the men had to get back to the fields for harvest season, they rarely laid seige to cities or peoples, and wanted quick victories so they could get home. They also weren’t a sea faring people, while Athens dominated the seas. They played neighbors off one another, getting Athens to fight Thessaly or Thebes or one of the others over a third city state, and while their males trained from a very young age to become warriors, the population of Sparta was so freaking small, they couldn’t even field a remotely respectable army (which may account for their decades long struggles against their neighbors, possibly), often putting a mere 7,000 men in the field. Compare that to the universally believed vastly inflated Persian number of at least a million man army, and even up to a three million man army, and it’s almost impossible to believe Sparta was capable of dominating ANYONE! In fact, during the first Persian invasion, Sparta didn’t even participate because of “religious” rituals they couldn’t leave, so Athens had to fight the Persians off. That’s a little embarrassing, particularly when you believe Sparta made its reputation off fighting the damn Persians! So when Xerxes decides to go after the Greeks again several decades later, Sparta had taken so much grief for pansying out of fighting them the first time and leaving it up to the rest of the Greeks (which is how it was viewed), that this time, even though they were having the SAME DAMN RELIGIOUS CELEBRATIONS AND RITUALS, they weren’t going to be denied, and gathered the independent Greeks together, and somehow because they were universally viewed as the best and toughest warriors in Greece (which says a lot for the rest of Greece, considering Sparta could barely beat anyone), they were placed in the military leadership position, and one of their two kings (they operated on a two king system), the famous Leonidas, took his famous 300-member honor guard off to hold off the Persians. And even though the battle is famous for the “300” (recall the Hollywoodized movie), they actually had a number of servant-warriors, and even some allies with them, so they had many more warriors than the infamous 300. They had well over 1,000. Nonetheless, they pass they chose to defend was so damn tight, that only about a couple of men could approach at one time, and they built a wall to defend from the top, and also — this isn’t widely known — the actual battle commander was the Athenian naval commander, because evidently Sparta, Athens, and the rest of the Greeks actually believed the few Spartans and their allies could hold the pass indefinitely, while the Athenian navy actually won the battle against the huge Persian fleet, and when the Spartan religious ceremonies were over a week or so later, they’d send their “huge” army of some 7,000 warriors if they were even needed by that point. Bear in mind the “official” history we rely on, by Herodotus I think (???), so vastly overinflates the size of the Persian army, as to be viewed as almost totally unreliable, stating it was between one and three million men large. Against roughly 1,000 defenders led by the 300 Spartans. It boggles the mind. And when Xerxes sent emissaries to the Spartans requesting they put down their weapons and surrender, Leonidas reportedly made that hugely famous statement (in Greek): “Come and get them!” That, my friends, is the true definition of big, bad balls! And as everyone knows, after just 3-4 days, a Greek traitor who lived in the area went to Xerxes and offered to show him a small trail around the other side of the mountain, thus flanking the Spartans and trapping them from the rear. Becoming one of the most infamous traitors in history. The Spartans did indeed fight very nearly to the last man, while the Athenian navy did indeed rip the Persian navy to shreds, but because Xerxes got his men into Greece because the most famous battle the Spartans ever had, and one of the most famous battles in the history of the world, was LOST by the Spartans (although, yes, treachery played a huge role in that), Athens was sacked entirely, but enough time had been salvaged for the citizens to escape, but you know what? I really don’t know how the rest of the Greeks ended up beating and driving back the Persians to ultimately win the war. It wasn’t because of Sparta.

So my major complaint resides in the fact that this book (and the other one) totally demolish my lifelong held perceptions of Sparta and the Spartan warriors, because the best I can tell is, the few wars they won were against insignificant adversaries, sometimes through trickery, and sometimes over the course of many decades. So why did they have this reputation of such badasses? They’re probably the most overrated bad ass “warriors” in the history of the world! And that saddens me more than you can know, but who did they conquer, what territory did they acquire, how much of Greece did they take, etc.? The answer to all is virtually none. Meanwhile, just a hundred or two hundreds years difference shows Alexander, a semi-Greek, destroying Persia, and becoming probably the greatest king the world has ever know, controlling virtually all of Europe, all of north Africa, the Middle East (Asia Minor), the lower parts of what’s now the ex-Soviet Union, all the way through Afghanistan, Pakistan, and India, leaving virtually only the relatively unknown Chinese as the only moderately civilized people in the world NOT under his control. And he accomplished all of this before he turned 32! Meanwhile, Rome comes along just a few centuries later to form what’s often thought to be the greatest empire in history (although not nearly as big as Alexander’s) and centuries later, Ghengis Khan conquered China, much of Russia, dominated parts of the Middle East, and spread his territory into eastern and central Europe. And Sparta compares to these truly great leaders and warriors how??? Sparta was “dominant” (if you can even call it that) for maybe 200 years, and even then, only over a very small territory and to a very small degree. So why its huge, gigantic reputation? What the hell did they EVER do to merit it? I’m like a monotheist whose eyes have been opened by science and now the idiocy of my former beliefs are laid out before me, leaving me ashamed and embarrassed.

Finally, my other complaint about this book is it deals almost exclusively with the rise of Sparta through the second Persian war, and then the book just kind of ends, even though Sparta was to play a role in Greek politics, wars, and life for another century or so. It just ends. So it’s really just a half book, and that added to my disappointment.

I wanted to give this book one star, but I can’t because that wouldn’t be fair to the author. It’d just be displaying my biases, and wouldn’t realistically have anything to do with the actual writing, research, or disappointing truths I’ve been forced to endure learning. Nonetheless, I can’t give the book more than three stars, because for one thing, the book went through some very long, dry, boring spells, and ultimately because the book is incomplete, even though the title should indicate that it’s not about the entire history of Sparta, but merely the rise. It SHOULD be about the entire history of Sparta, and I think the author does the reader a disservice by just leaving the story half told. So, interesting, enlightening book, but not recommended for fans of the “traditional” Spartans, but objective ancient history fans might find it moderately interesting….

View all my reviews

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An Interview With Global Security Expert Harris Schwartz

Posted by Scott Holstad on June 11, 2018

Today I published an interview on LinkedIn with a world renowned global leader in cybercrime & cybersecurity: Harris Schwartz. Feel free to read and comment. Many of you may find this interesting.  Cheers! https://www.linkedin.com/…/interview-global-security-exper…/

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LinkedIn and my Recent Adventures There, Part II

Posted by Scott Holstad on May 15, 2018

This is the second part in a two-part blog post about LinkedIn and my recent experiences there. You can find Part I here. This section I’ve worked on carefully because if read the wrong way, it could come across as bragging — which is NOT my intention! It’s just that some shocking things have been going on for me there and I wish to share my amazement and astonishment. I’m getting a kick out of this, and it’s been a little surreal, and I want to describe that here. So please don’t think I’m a narcissistic asshole now, because I’m really not. I admit I’m no one special in this post, but I’ve gotten others to buy into me, without lying about a thing, with my redesigned LI profile. Okay, here goes…

 

Part II

 

As I stated previously, I’ve been on LinkedIn probably since their beginning, or at least 13 years. LI usually tells you how long you’ve been connected to someone else, and my oldest connections are 13 or 14 years old. Over time, the number of my connections slowly increased, but they typically fell into two categories. Either they were people I had met in person somewhere, most of whom I sent requests to, most of which were accepted, or more commonly, others have sent me connection requests over the years, often headhunters, recruiters, and HR personnel, as well as others usually in my several fields who somehow happened upon my profile. I’ve usually accepted all requests, because I rarely have an objection – unless the profile has only one or two connections, which I then view as suspicious because why are they targeting me, so I reject those. And over the years, a couple of things have happened to me on LI. One, I’ve been contacted numerous times by recruiters or HR professionals about potential jobs, both contract and permanent, as well as simple inquiries and requests for interviews. This has led to both telephone and in person interviews, which have led to a number of job offers. This is good. This is something you typically want out of LI. The other thing is people often let you know they’re either in the market for a specific type of job or they’re looking for people to hire for a specific job, and the more contacts I’ve gained, the more frequently this has happened. And I’ve been able to put people in touch with companies and the reverse, and I’ve been able to help others in this way, which makes me feel good. I like to help others.

Now many of you know that some eight years ago, I developed extremely serious health problems, forcing me to prematurely “retire” and I was out of the workforce for some time, have really been out of the corporate world ever since. Yet I kept up with my profile in the hopes that one day I would improve enough to begin working again, perhaps as a consultant from home. So my connections continued to slowly increase. And I’ve padded my profile with things I’ve done since, mostly volunteer work, as well as a short-term contract gig or two, but as long as my profile seems to indicate I’ve been somehow active this whole time, that’s the important thing. It’s a strategy one has to develop and hone over time.

Two years ago, I decided to create a new IT startup after much thought, and did so with a partner. It still exists today and I remain somewhat active, but it’s been a struggle due to a variety of factors, most especially my health, as well as some technical and unforeseen financial complications. But I ended up working my ASS off for this, much more than I ever anticipated, coming to regret this decision. So what did I do? Come up with an idea for another startup last year, in a totally different field, in which I’ve worked my ass off for that one too – simultaneously – and while I’ve enjoyed myself to a degree, I’ve also had moments of regret, because my health can’t tolerate this degree of work.

However, I continue to hope that at some point in the next couple of years or so, I’ll be moderately healthy enough to do more serious IT consulting, possibly in networking, more likely in security, and I’d stop the second business and migrate the first one to a different role. With that in mind, I’ve been doing research, taking relevant classes, testing, experimenting, etc., in preparation – even for something that far in advance – while continuing to work in my two dual roles with the two small businesses. You can never be too prepared. So at the beginning of this year, I decided to seriously upgrade my LI profile, make it as appealing as I possibly could, reword some things, take a few things out, add a few things, make myself look as good as I could. Don’t lie. Never lie. But you can make things look pretty good if you know how to present them. During January, I had gotten to the point where I had slowly built up to 444 connections. That’s a nice number by many people’s standards, but I started lusting after the magic “500+” number that goes beside your name once you reach that mark, and I decided to be proactive and pursue reaching that target. And I’d do so by blindly sending out connection requests to strangers in the fields of my background and interests, but even though these would be “blind” requests, they’d actually be targeted intentionally to people with shared backgrounds and/or interests. And I’d do so in volume, making it unrealistic for me to personalize most requests, which I used to do, which some people do, but which most people do not do. You can send a connection request with a personalized message, or you can just click on the “Connect” button, which automatically sends that person a generic, automatically worded announcement that someone, in this case me, wants to connect with you. Most people are used to that and will respond favorably, but some people take offense at the impersonal, generic request and will reject it because it wasn’t personalized. However, I decided that danger was worth the risk because I’d send so many, that sheer statistics would assure me a good number of people would accept my requests and would connect with me. And so this is what I did, almost exclusively.

How did it work out? Oh.My.God. Unbelievable. I sent out quite a few, a good number each day, and within days, I had met and passed the magic 500 number. I was elated. But the connections kept building, which gave me pause to think. And two thoughts occurred to me. I thought since I’m adding connections, why do I have to stop now that I’ve reached my goal of 500? And then I thought, maybe I should aim for more higher up execs, “better quality” connections overall… I had already gotten some impressively high level execs, in the commercial sector, state and federal government, and the military. Some of my new connections were very impressive indeed. But I thought, why not conduct a little experiment? Why not target high level execs – directors, vice presidents and higher, with “C” level execs as my top goal – at a greater rate just to see how many would accept my connection requests and from what types of companies or organizations? How high could I go? And so I began to pursue this. And it turned into a living, breathing entity with a life of its own….

I started getting more and more connections at greater quantity and higher quality than I ever expected. Which inspired me to keep sending out connection requests. Which resulted in more connections. And the more high-level, high quality connections, the more these people wanted to connect with me. And I’ve continued this for nearly four months now, and it’s gone nuclear. The results have been and continue to be staggering. It’s been blowing my mind daily, and for awhile now, I’ve been largely targeting almost exclusively high level, high profile execs and officials with stunning results! And I’ve been receiving connection requests from such people in return. Yesterday, the CFO of Sprint sent me a connection request. The same day, a director from the US Department of State sent me a request. I’ve also been getting job queries. This morning, I’ve received two already, tentative offers for jobs in various fields in various locations. Of course, I’m not ready, not prepared, nor can I move for a job, nor can I work in an office environment – I have to work from home, and I need to be independent to set my own hours. Additionally, I’ve been getting requests from senior level connections to read their white papers, their test results, their scientific data and marketing materials, to analyze them, comment on them, reference them, tell others of them, etc. I’m talking Pentagon stuff!!!

As of this morning, I now had 3,313 connections. (I’ve gotten 220+ in the past day and a half!) I have connections at the highest levels at huge corporations, state governments, the federal government, international governments, think tanks, and organizations around the world. I have senior executive connections at Microsoft, Apple, Cisco, Intel, Lyft, Google, Indeed, Visa, Ticketmaster, the NASDAQ, most of the security companies like Symantec, Trend Micro, Malwarebytes, Webroot, Sophos, McAfee and others, with defense contractors like Lockheed Martin and Raytheon, with RAND, with companies like HP, Dell, Cray, IBM, with intelligence agencies like the FBI, ATF, Secret Service, DIA, DISA, NSA, with numerous government agencies like the State Department, Department of Energy, Department of the Interior, Department of Justice, Department of Homeland Security, with the US Army, Navy, and Air Force, with the Joint Chiefs of Staff, with the US Senate, within the White House itself, with the European Parliament, with the European Commission, and within the United Nations, including the UN Security Council. And these are senior executives.

I also have non-senior executive, but still high-level connections such as IT specialists, network engineers, security specialists, managers, researchers, economists, scientists, etc., at places like Facebook, Amazon, Indeed, PayPal, Disney, Sony Pictures, Warner Brothers, Ford, Hertz, Nike, SAP, Motorola, Verizon, Bitdefender, AVG, Boeing, Northrop Grumman, General Dynamics, NASA, several national laboratories, CERN, the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), IRS, US Marshalls, CIA, HUD, NIST, DEA, the Pentagon, the IMF, Interpol, and many more.

It’s mind blowing.

I’ve been keeping a list of both “C” level executives and some notable people who stand out, mostly for their positions or organizations. You wouldn’t believe this list if you saw it. Of course, you can see my connections any time you want by going to my profile at https://www.linkedin.com/in/scottholstad/. (Feel free to send me a connection request!) Of my 3,313 connections, 1,023 are senior executives (31%) and of those, 434 are “C” level executives, or 42% of my senior executive connections and 13% of my overall connections. Those are staggering numbers for an “average guy” like me! I’m going to list some of these people and positions at the end of this post just so you’ll see what I’m talking about. It’s built into a monster storm of epic proportions and it’s self-propagating now. The more high level connections I get, the more high level people want to connect with me. And I’ve been invited to join some excellent professional organizations and I’ve been approved to join others, some of which have high standards to be accepted by them. One is so elite, I’m literally shocked to the core that they approved and accepted me into their organization. I’ll mention it in a minute. I’ve rejoined two professional organizations I belonged to years ago. These are IEEE: The Institute for Electrical and Electronic Engineers and Usenix: the Advanced Computing Systems Association. New ones that I’ve been approved to join include ACM: the Association for Computing Machinery, ISSA: the Information Systems Security Association, ISACA, another elite security organization, and most mind blowing of all, the AOC: Association of Old Crows. Just what is that, you ask? Well, here is its description: “The Association of Old Crows is an organization for individuals who have common interests in Electronic Warfare (EW), Electromagnetic Spectrum Management Operations, Cyber Electromagnetic Activities (CEMA), Information Operations (IO), and other information related capabilities. The Association of Old Crows provides a means of connecting members and organizations nationally and internationally across government, defense, industry, and academia to promote the exchange of ideas and information, and provides a platform to recognize advances and contributions in these fields.” Yeah, I got in. We’re talking VERY high ranking government, research, and military officials. It’s a true honor, but surreal too.

So, my “experiment”/professional networking profile improvement has succeeded beyond my wildest imagination. And it keeps growing daily, many dozens a day. One of my new connections is the Director of Security at the US Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. Another is the CISO of Xerox. Others from this weekend are the CIO of the US Navy, CTO of IBM, Director of IT at the US Senate, COE of Dell, CISO of Dell, a Director at DARPA, the Director of the US Army Targeting Center, the CEO of Kaspersky Lab, Global CISO of Carnival Cruise Lines, Deputy Chief Information Officer of the US Department of Homeland Security, a senior VP at Cisco, Chief of Staff at the State Department, an economist with the IMF, the Chief, Executive Support Team at the White House and the CISO, White House. And those are just some from this weekend! IT BLOWS MY MIND! And the connections continue to grow. I don’t know what to make of it, or when it will slow to a trickle and stop, or how I can benefit, if at all, from this phenomenon, but I’m just going to ride it for awhile to see how far things go, how high things go, where it will stop. There isn’t yet an ending to this story or a moral to be learned, that I know of. So, if the end of this post seems somewhat abrupt, forgive me, but I’m virtually speechless at this point. My mind is blown. I’ve been joking with my wife that surely I must now be the most powerful man in America, after Donald Trump. There are others with more connections, and others may have more connections in the commercial sector or the government or the military, but I find it unlikely that there are too many people who have so damn many senior connections in all three sectors like I now do. No, there won’t be too many people with connections in all of these sectors at these levels. So, I must be the most powerful person in America after Donald Trump, right? Well, maybe Bill Gates probably has me beat. LOL! I’m honestly not trying to brag so much as to share my astonishment. Cause this all seemed pretty unlikely at the beginning of the year. I’m certainly joking about being powerful, that’s for sure!

A closing. I started this post a few days ago, and over the weekend I decided to limit sending out very many targeted connection requests without personalized messages. This means I will probably send far fewer, because it’s more time consuming now. But I think that’s okay. I don’t actually NEED to keep adding to my network; I’ve done well enough as is. But this new strategy will likely earn me a higher connection request acceptance percentage, which was already pretty good. (Although, as I mentioned, over the past day and a half, I have over 220 new connections!) But I’ve been interacting to a degree with many of them, which is good. Maybe they’ll remember me down the road and who knows where that could lead? I guess I’ll end this abruptly, as I predicted. I think I’ll attach a list of some of the better known or more significant companies and agencies represented by my contacts, as well as a list of some of the more notable contacts, by title, not name. Again, I do not intend to brag. I’m doing this to share my astonishment, because while I’ve been fortunate enough to have some cool jobs and a decent career or careers, I’m really nobody special, and yet for some reason, these people – or at least some of them – apparently think I’m somebody special, which is the biggest irony of it all.

PS: For those of you who are among my older connections and for those among you whose position I did not list, please do not infer that I do not value you or your connection. Indeed, I do or we wouldn’t have connected. Some of my most valued connections are among my oldest. This blog post was written to describe my initial recent goal, subsequent experiment, the results of such, and sharing astonishment at some of the connections I’ve recently made that, by most people’s standards, I have no business having. So, please do not be insulted if you are an older connection or not singled out; I’m merely concentrating on the most recent ones. Thank you.

 

 

LinkedIn Connections: 3,313

 

Senior Executives:       1,023 (31%)

“C” Level Executives:  434 (13%)

Network Engineers:    147

Developer/Software Engineers:         143

HR/Recruiters:            110

Project/Program Managers:   124

Writers/Editors:          118

Engineers:       220

IT Professionals:         313

Security Professionals:           372

Federal & International Government:            234

 

 

Most Companies Represented:

 

Cisco:                                       115

Malwarebytes:                        84

C Spire:                                    75

Microsoft:                               67

TVA:                                        54

Teklinks:                                  53

Regions Bank/Financial:         45

BBVA Compass:                      40

EPB:                                         35

Dell:                                         31

BCBS:                                      30

 

 

Notables Executives’ Companies

TVA, TekLinks, Shipt, Wendys, Nationwide, BCBS, Kaiser Permanente, Visa, Regions Bank, SunTrust Bank, Bank of America, MGM Grand Hotel & Casino, Caesars Entertainment Corporation, Ticketmaster, Carnival Cruise Lines, Nieman Marcus, Scripps Networks, Authors Guild, Discogs, Morgan Stanley, PricewaterhouseCoopers, JP Morgan Chase, NASDAQ, USAA, AIG, Time Warner, AT&T, Sprint, Vonage, British Telecom, Plantronics, C Spire, Palo Alto Networks, Godaddy, Rackspace, Amazon Web Services, DC Government, State of California, ConocoPhillips, Nissan Americas, Lyft, Xidax, HP, Dell, IBM Watson, Xerox, IBM, Intel, Cisco, VMware, Oracle, Cray, ACM, Microsoft, Apple, Google, Malwarebytes, Sophos, Trend Micro, McAfee, Symantec, Webroot, RSA Security, Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, Mandiant, Rand Corporation, Idaho National Lab, Oak Ridge National Lab, Association of Old Crows (AOC), US Army, US Army National Military Cemeteries – Arlington National Cemetery, US Army Cyber School, US Army Targeting Center, US Air Force, US Navy, US Pacific Command – US Navy, Missile & Space Intelligence Center, Secret Service, ATF, FBI, DIA, DISA, NSA, DARPA, CERT, US Securities and Exchange Commission, US Department of Commerce, Federal Reserve System, Medicare & Medicaid, USDA, US Department of Education, US Department of Energy, US Department of the Interior, US Department of Justice, US Department of Homeland Security, US Department of Veterans Affairs, US Defense Logistics Agency, US Department of Defense, Joint Chiefs of Staff, US Senate, US Senate Select Committee On Intelligence, US Department of State, White House Writers Group, White House, HAE (Hungarian Energy & Public Utility Regulatory Authority), European Parliament, Europol, United Nations, International Economic Arbitration Court, United Nations Security Council, International Criminal Court

Other Notable Companies (typically mid-to upper management or IT personnel, etc.)

Facebook, Amazon, eHarmony, eInsurance, OpenTable, Expedia, Indeed, CareerBuilder, CDW, Groupon, PayPal, Citi, Uber, Volkswagen, Ford Motor Company, Hertz, Nike, FedEx, Cigna, BMI, QVC, The Home Depot, WalMart, Target, Saks Fifth Avenue, Macy’s, Disney, Sony Pictures, Warner Brothers, Walt Disney World, Mayo Clinic, GE Healthcare, Delta Airlines, SAP, Deloitte & Touche, Nokia, Motorola, T-Mobile, Verizon, EarthLink, BitDefender, AVG, Boeing, General Dynamics, Northrop Grumman, Kerberos International, Honeywell, Tennessee Attorney General, US Attorney General, NASA, Lawrence Berkeley National Lab, Lawrence Livermore National Lab, CERN, Missile Defense Agency, European Space Agency – EC, National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), NIST, HUD, IRS, US Marshalls, DEA, CIA, US Marines, Pentagon, Office of the President – White House, Securities & Exchange Organization (SEO) of Iran, European Commission, IMF, Interpol

 

 

Scott’s Most Notable LinkedIn Connections

3,313 Connections

These connections are not in order of “importance,” but in chronological order of when we established a connection, from oldest to most recent.

 

  1. Global IT Manager, Apple
  2. CISO, TVA
  3. CIO, State of Tennessee, TennCare
  4. Director, US Department of Energy
  5. Director, Office of Policy, National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA)
  6. Chief of Staff, US Department of Energy
  7. Kevin Mitnick, “The World’s Most Famous Hacker”
  8. VP, Head of Cyber Defense, Visa
  9. VP Cyber Programs, Raytheon
  10. CIO, Secret Service
  11. Chief, DHS Joint Analysis Group D-JAG
  12. Global Sr. VP, Symantec
  13. Chief Federal CyberSecurity Architect, Dell
  14. Deputy Director for Intelligence at US Pacific Command, US Navy
  15. Sr VP & CSO, AT&T
  16. Global CISO, Vonage
  17. Deputy Director, G6, NETCOM, ARCYBER, US Army
  18. Sr Cyber Security Manager, Lockheed Martin
  19. Director of Security, Google
  20. CISO, Centers for Medicare & Medicaid
  21. Sr VP, US Public Sector, Cisco
  22. Director of Malware Intelligence, Malwarebytes
  23. Director Cyber, Lockheed Martin
  24. Sr Director, Global Customer Success, Malwarebytes
  25. Head of Global Infrastructure, Microsoft Azure
  26. Sr VP, Americas Partner Sales, Cisco
  27. President, FBI-Law Enforcement Executive Development Association Executive Board of Directors
  28. President & CEO, Symantec
  29. Member of Board of Directors, former Microsoft CIO
  30. Director, Systems Engineering, Cisco
  31. VP, Corporate Development & Strategy, Malwarebytes
  32. Director, Global Security, Risk & Compliance Practice, Amazon Web Services
  33. CTO, IBM Watson & IBM Cloud
  34. CISO, US Department of the Interior
  35. Director, Global Pursuit Organization, America’s Data & AI at Microsoft US, Canada & LATAM
  36. Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Army for Military Personnel & Quality of Life, US Army
  37. VP Global Physical Security, Oracle
  38. Global Director, Justice & Public Safety Solutions, Oracle
  39. Director of Engineering, Oracle
  40. Chief Enterprise Architect, US Securities & Exchange Commission (S.E.C.)
  41. Sr Technical Advisor, NSA
  42. CEO, Cray Inc
  43. Special Assistant to the President & Associate White House Staff Secretary at Executive Office of the President
  44. Data Scientist, US Securities & Exchange Commission (S.E.C.)
  45. Lead Data Scientist, Microsoft
  46. eGov Consultant, United Nations
  47. Managing Director, White House Writers Group, Inc
  48. Information System Security Manager, Northrup Grumman
  49. World Wide Head of Print Communications, HP
  50. VP, Oracle Cloud
  51. Director, Anti-Terrorism & Emergency Management, US Army Europe
  52. Special Investigations Officer, United Nations
  53. Chief of Staff, Director North American Operations, Oracle
  54. Chief, Current Operations Division at White House Communications Agency
  55. Sr Advisor to the CTO, US Securities & Exchange Commission (S.E.C.)
  56. Foreign Service Officer, US Department of State
  57. Global Network Manager, United Nations
  58. Coordinator of ISIL, Al-Quaida & Taliban Monitoring Team, UN Security Council
  59. HP Fellow & VP
  60. President & CCO, Dell
  61. Director, Fort Worth Regional Office, US Securities & Exchange Commission (S.E.C.)
  62. Deputy Commandant, National Cryptological School, NSA
  63. Sr Data Scientist, Microsoft
  64. Economist, United Nations
  65. Deputy CIO, Idaho National Lab
  66. Assistant Director, Office of IT, US Securities & Exchange Commission (S.E.C.)
  67. Sr Ops Analyst, CIA
  68. Director, Advanced Programs & Innovation, Office of Commercial Space, Federal Aviation Commission
  69. CTO, ATF
  70. Head of Tactical Force Unit, United Nations
  71. Director of Operations, White House Communications Agency
  72. Presidential Writer, The White House
  73. Sr Research Fellow Scientist, CERN
  74. Deputy Military Advisor, United Nations
  75. GM, Chief of Staff for CEO, Microsoft
  76. Interim CTO, Microsoft
  77. Data Scientist, Apple
  78. Ambassador At Large – NGO Diplomatic Envoy, United Nations
  79. Director, Apple
  80. Program Manager, US Department of State Bureau of Diplomatic Security
  81. Chief, IT Project Management Office, ATF
  82. Vice President Ops, Apple
  83. Regional Director, Business Development, NASDAQ
  84. Executive VP, CSO, CIO, Malwarebytes
  85. VP Infrastructure Engineering, JPMorgan Chase & Co
  86. VP, Global MSP, Sophos
  87. Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Nuclear Energy, US Department of Energy
  88. SCCM Engineering SME, NASA
  89. eCrime Threat Intel Analyst, Facebook
  90. Sr Information Consultant, European Parliament
  91. Global CISO, Societie Generale International Banking – 2018 Global CISO of the year
  92. CISO & VP, McAfee Labs Operations
  93. VP & Global CISO, Webroot, Inc
  94. Director, RSA Security
  95. Sr Accountable Official for Risk Management, US Department of Homeland Security
  96. Branch Chief, Office of Compliance Inspections & Examinations, US Securities & Exchange Commission (S.E.C.)
  97. Director Cybersecurity, PricewaterhouseCoopers
  98. Technical Director, CERT
  99. CIO, IT Acquisition Advisory Council
  100. Deputy Commandant, US Army Cyber School
  101. CISO, Nissan Americas
  102. Director of Marketing & Communications, Association of Old Crows (AOC)
  103. Executive VP, Global Defense & Cyber Strategy, AECOM
  104. Director of Global Services & Intelligence, Mandiant
  105. Director of Special Operations, Asymmetric Warfare Intelligence for Complex Operations Ltd (AWICP)
  106. CISO, Lyft
  107. Sr Director of Security, Microsoft
  108. Cybersecurity Data Chief, Federal Reserve System
  109. Vice President Security Research, Trend Micro
  110. VP & CISO, Rackspace
  111. VP Engineering, Symantec
  112. CISO, US Department of Education
  113. CISO, DC Government
  114. Director of Digital Innovation & Solutions, US Department of Homeland Security
  115. CISO, State of California
  116. CIO, USDA
  117. Director of Operations, DISA
  118. Director Systems Engineering, VMware
  119. Director Global Cyber Defense, Johnson Controls
  120. Deputy CIO, US Department of Homeland Security
  121. Global CISO, Carnival Cruise Lines
  122. CEO, Kaspersky Lab
  123. CFO, Sprint
  124. Director of US Army Targeting Center
  125. Chief, Executive Support Team, White House
  126. CISO, Xerox
  127. Director of IT, US Senate
  128. VP, Dell Consumer PC’s
  129. Chief, Cyber Strategy & Policy, USAF
  130. IBM Fellow & CTO, IBM Z at IBM
  131. Chief Data Scientist, Department of Defense
  132. CIO Plans & Programs, US Navy
  133. System Engineering Director, Cisco
  134. Director of Security, US Senate Select Committee on Intelligence
  135. Chief Scientist & Technology Leader, Cisco
  136. Director Network & Security Engineering, Time Warner
  137. IBM Fellow, VP, CTO Watson, IBM Academy of Technology
  138. Deputy Director NTIS, US Department of Commerce
  139. Secretary General & President of the General Assembly @ World Organization on Economic Digital Monetary & Social Development, United Nations. Supreme Chief Justice & Minister of Foreign Affairs, The International Economic Arbitration Court
  140. Diplomat, Lagos, United Nations
  141. Deputy Assistant Director, Information Technology Branch (ITB), FBI
  142. Policy Advisor, DG CONNECT – Directorate-General Communications, Networks, Content & Technology, European Commission
  143. Future Studies Technology Development & Frequency Management Engineer, European Space Agency, European Commission
  144. Director VA Privacy Service, US Department of Veterans Affairs
  145. Technical Director, IT Operations, US Department of Defense
  146. CISO, IBM
  147. Advisor for Communication & Outreach @ European Political Strategy Centre, European Commission
  148. Deputy Assistant Attorney General & CIO, US Department of Justice
  149. Principal Deputy CIO, Department of Homeland Security
  150. Chief of Staff, US Department of State
  151. Head of Forensic Laboratory, Europol
  152. Director First Responders Group, Department of Homeland Security
  153. Director Chief Threat Communications, Trend Micro
  154. VP & CISO, Dell
  155. CISO ConocoPhillips
  156. Deputy Chief of Staff, DISA
  157. CISO HEA (Hungarian Energy & Public Utility Regulatory Authority) – NATO: Top Secret Clearance
  158. Chief of Staff, US Army National Military Cemeteries/Arlington National Cemetery
  159. CIO Oak Ridge National Laboratory
  160. COO, 10th Panzer Division (Germany)
  161. CISO, Kimberly-Clark
  162. Brigadier General, US Special Forces
  163. Executive Director, Interpol
  164. CTO, Ticketmaster
  165. Head of IT Security, Wendys
  166. CISO, CTO, British Telecom
  167. COO, Joint Forces Headquarters, DoD, Pentagon
  168. CDO, Bank of China
  169. Board Member, Public Policy Executive, Rand Corporation
  170. CISO, Ministere de l’Agricuture, Quebec
  171. CISO, White House

 

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LinkedIn and my Recent Adventures There, Part I

Posted by Scott Holstad on May 14, 2018

LinkedIn and my Recent Adventures There

 

My LinkedIn Profile: https://www.linkedin.com/in/scottholstad/

Let me first say that this is going to be a strange blog post. I’ve been wanting to write it for awhile, but the topic is fluid, always changing and growing, so it’s hard to set a point to write about it in absolute terms. Moreover, I have struggled with how to frame this topic. If I’m not careful, I’ll come off sounding like the most narcissistic braggart on the Internet. If I approach it more cavalierly, I risk insulting countless good and kind people who have reached out to me. I want to explain a situation, starting from the beginning and describing its evolution, both in my mind and in reality. Without coming across as a giant asshole. It’s a tough task I’m placing before myself. But I’m going to try. I expect the writing and editing of this post to take several days, as the situation remains fluid and evolving, and as I try to gather my thoughts and describe things in a hopefully careful way. I guess I’ll begin at the beginning.

I have been on LinkedIn for at least 13 years now. That’s a long time. If you’re somehow, and I don’t know how this would be possible, unfamiliar with it, it’s a professional networking site that originated as somewhat of a glorified online resume service where companies, recruiters, and employees/job candidates could find one another. Its scope has grown over time. While your profile still has the appearance of a fleshed-out resume, and one can make it as detailed or not as they wish, now it’s possible to join innumerable groups of professionals with similar interests, occupations, memberships and the like, to share information, interact with others, engage in educational activities, and seriously network like a fiend. I’ve read countless articles over the past six months that all assert that HR people and recruiters look for a candidate’s LinkedIn profile in addition to or in lieu of one’s resume, often after receiving a job application or after an interview. Having a good profile is evidence that you take your profession seriously and that you are to be taken seriously. And one way to be taken seriously is by both the number and types of “connections” you have on your profile, for LinkedIn shows how many professional connections each person has right beside their name, initially maxing out at 500, indicating a person has more with “500+” beside your name. There are two things to know about this. One, you can of course exceed 500 connections. Your actual number of connections, or “followers,” is reported beneath your profile “header” in your Activity feed. There you can see just how popular or “important” someone really is: Do they have 730 connections, do they have 2,100 connections, or do they have a monstrous 22,000 connections? It matters. The second thing to know is while your profile shows you maxed out at “500+” officially, and while you can exceed that and people can see the true number, there actually IS a maximum number of connections one can get on the site. It is 30,000. I’ve only “met” one person who had reached that figure, and he had started a second, “personal” account, which when I saw it last, had nearly 14,000 more connections! That is one seriously well connected person. An aside. There is a program I don’t know the exact details of called “L.I.O.N.” People who are L.I.O.N.s are people who are serious about networking, about collecting as many connections as possible, for a variety of reasons. Not everyone with a ton of connections is a L.I.O.N., but in order to become one, you basically have to be a connection hog. These people “advertise” the fact that they are such by listing “L.I.O.N.” after their name and title. That way, if you’re interested in obtaining more connections yourself, you can send them a connection request and rest assured that they will accept. Because, you see, that’s the downside to LinkedIn. While people can send you connection requests, and you can decide whether or not to accept them based on whatever your criteria is, people are most certainly NOT obligated to accept YOUR connection request you send them, which can be both insulting to some and can render a proud, or insecure, person humble within a brief time. If you send out 10 connection requests, but only one accepts, that indicates the other nine did not deem you worthy of connecting with for whatever reason. And there are many reasons. One is quite simply that you are not in an industry they care about and you have little to nothing in common, so they see no point in connecting with you. That’s pretty common. Another is many people only send out and accept connection requests from people they actually have met or know. Those are actually LinkedIn’s official guidelines, which almost no one follows. If you meet or know few people and subscribe to this philosophy, obviously your list of connections will be quite small. That is why many people join various groups – to connect with others of shared interests, etc., in an online forum, hoping it’ll lead to personal connections with some in the group. Or more often, most people send out connection requests to strangers, usually because they’re in a similar industry, are alumni from the same school, live in the same area, WANT to connect with a public or high profile person and are hoping for an acceptance, or something similar. Meanwhile, all of the research I’ve done over the past half year unanimously indicates that recruiters or HR professionals view people with few connections as less desirable, interprets the small number of connections as proof that no one wants to connect with you because you’re not professionally worthy – you’re small fry with no assets to offer anyone. Fair or not, true or not, these are irrelevant. It’s the perception that matters, so it behooves those who are job seeking, or who simply want to maintain a current or updated professional profile, to always be trying to add to their connections and make sure they have “enough,” whatever that means. And, yes, that has been quantified. I’ve seen published a consensus on the part of many recruiters that one should have at least 10 connections for every year of your birth, or if you are 30, you should have at least 300, and if you’re 45, you should have at least 450. The reasoning is, one should encounter at least 10 people in a full year they could legitimately connect with on a professional basis, just in your daily job, life, travels, meetings, etc. Yet, you’ll see numerous profiles that don’t meet this standard. I can’t count the number of profiles I’ve seen that have only 75 or 50 or 20 or even fewer than 10 connections. And what that tells me and what that tells recruiters is that this person doesn’t take their professional profile and professional life and making their online “resume” important seriously enough to make it as appealing as possible. These are people who are lazy or don’t give a shit. Again, that’s not always necessarily true and is often unfair, but that’s the perception, and in candor, that DOES describe a whole lot of people. They don’t take it seriously enough to enhance their profile, and thus recruiters aren’t going to take them seriously and they’ll lose out on job prospects. And this is fact, not conjecture. But back to L.I.O.N.s Being one can be a stigma, as some people – mostly recruiters – actively hate them, others observe them as attention or connection whores who don’t care about who they connect with – just that they do. The two arguments I’ve seen not to become one has been that it dilutes your connection pool, and subsequently everyone else who connects with you, and second, it somehow leads to exponential spam growth. As I’ve added connections, I’ve seen about 1-2% more unsolicited messages, emails, and the like, so possibly this is true of “pure” LIONS, but if you’re merely adding a lot of more “targeted” connections, I don’t believe this is true at all.

Earlier I wrote “one way to be taken seriously is by both the number and types of “connections” you have on your profile.” I’ve just addressed the number, or quantity. Now, the types, or quality. People want to see that you matter and that others think you matter. If all of your connections are what some would consider “minor league,” i.e., low level blue collar, secretarial, restaurant servers, etc., while there is nothing inherently wrong with those professions, people want to see that people higher up the career ladder than you are also connections, i.e., people above you take you seriously enough to connect with you publicly and professionally. So, not only your fellow administrators, but senior managers, a director, possibly even vice presidents or “C” level execs, such as COOs, CTOs, CISOs, or best, CEOs or Presidents of companies. Does it matter what the breakdown is between working grunts and higher ups as connections? I think the answer would vary from recruiter to recruiter, but I personally don’t think the ratio matters too much, at least the lower down the career ladder you are. As long as you have some “decent” connections, most can be at your level or even lower. But for people higher up in their career path or for people trying to scale the corporate ladder, the ratio DOES matter. You want as many connections higher up and more impressive than you for connections as possible. The more, the better. That’s why I’ve seen it written that when you send out “blind” connection requests, you should aim higher rather than lower, knowing your acceptance rate will be lower, but also knowing it’s highly likely that at least a certain percentage of these people will accept your request, thus enhancing your profile and hence your credentials. Because connection quality matters possibly as much as quantity, perhaps more so. Of course, it’s cool to connect with all of your friends, but unless your friends are all senior execs, you need to develop a strategy for attracting execs to connect with you. And two things can affect this. One, how fleshed out, fully developed, and thus appealing have you made your profile. Because that’s the number one thing. It is, after all, essentially your online resume no matter how you look at it. But the other variable that can factor in is, the more high level connections you have, the more OTHER high level people will want to connect with you, because they’ll see that you are desirable to some higher ups, and therefore to them as well – even if they don’t know why! Ultimately, your “regular employee” to “high level” or executive ratio should be tilted toward the higher, the better, because once you’ve achieved that, such people will be sending YOU connection requests based on the quality of your connections, which they’ll want to join. Fact, not conjecture.

All of which brings me to my story…

To Be Continued…

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A New Music Blog Post Today!

Posted by Scott Holstad on May 1, 2018

Hi! I wrote a blog post on Scott’s Music Shak today. It’s about buying online music from independent dealers vs. Big Box sites like Amazon, eBay, and the like. I think I make some good points, but I’m biased. If you get a chance, go read it. And please, feel free to leave a comment. I’m not getting enough comments from people, and can’t figure out why. They’re emailing me, just not commenting on my blogs. And by the way, I implemented a new promotion today which you’ll see if you visit my site. If you sign up for my email list, found at the bottom of any page, you’ll receive semi-regular email newsletters containing a discount code for 10% off your first purchase over the next week. I intend to do this regularly. Newsletter subscribers will also be the first to hear about sales, new items, new collectibles, new blog posts, and more. So, please consider signing up for the email list and joining in that way. Thanks! Without further ado, I leave you with “The Benefits of Buying Music from an Independent Online Dealer vs. Big Online Stores.” Cheers!

Scott's Music Shak

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Happy Birthday G!

Posted by Scott Holstad on April 15, 2018

I just want to say Happy Birthday to my sweet, wonderful, amazing, beautiful, intelligent, and talented wife, Gretchen. I’m going to try to make this the best day you’ve had in a long time. You are my world and I love you more than you can possibly know. I’m so grateful for you and that you’re my wife. I’m the luckiest guy in the world. I love you and Happy Birthday, Bebe!

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Scott’s Music Shak: My New Music/Audio Shop & Website

Posted by Scott Holstad on March 30, 2018

Hi all! It wasn’t too long ago that I wrote about my newish music selling business (Feb. 21), letting you in on some of the stuff I’ve been doing for the past six months, and providing links to my then-seven online shops. Well, I’ve made some changes. I’ve closed down two of the shops (on Bonanza and e-Record Fair) and I’ve created my own new music and audio website! I’m very excited about it. It’s called Scott’s Music Shak and it’s now open for business! If you don’t want to click the link I’ve supplied in this sentence, the URL is: https://scottsmusicshak.com/. It’s mainly a shop, and features a number of “Collections,” where most music lovers should be able to find something that interests them. I’ve only put in some initial inventory, but I’m going to be adding more on a near-daily basis. The Collections are “Vinyl,” “CDs,” “Cassettes,” “Accessories & Components,” “Rare & Collector’s Items,” and “Under $10.” I also display some Featured items at the top of the homepage, while I have a live Instagram feed at the bottom of the homepage. The Collections are toward the bottom of the home page, while a link to my entire Catalog is in the menu at the top of the homepage. At this point, I have 63 items in my Catalog, but I’m going to adding hundreds. It’s very time consuming to do so, so I can only add so many per day.

In addition to my catalog, there’s an “About” section, a section on the Goldmine Grading Standard, my Terms, and a “Blog/News” section, where I posted something today (“Are You Truly An Audiophile?“), as a matter of fact. Indeed, I’d be grateful to anyone who headed over there to check my Blog/News section out and possibly leave any comments, should they wish to. I’d also be grateful to anyone who wanted to suggest things I should add or delete or change or create (if possible), etc. I’ve done most that I can, but I could always potentially do a few other things. Finally, I’d love a couple of sales, if anyone feels extra supportive or inspired. I’m still learning how these transactions work. On my other shops that I’ve had (and I still have a few, though I’ll probably be closing or changing 1-3 others), the platform/website I’ve used has always handled the transactions automatically, sending me emails and texts when a new sale came in. This system is a little different and I have to be more proactive in how I go about things, so there’s a bit of a learning curve. I guess you could say I need and would appreciate some practice. LOL!

 

Scott's Music Shak

 

Anyway, I just wanted to announce the opening of my new website. I’m pretty excited about Scott’s Music Shak, and I have high hopes for it. I’ve done fairly well in a couple of my shops and I’d like to transfer my success to this website. Please come visit and feel free to leave comments or email me or do anything you want there! Cheers!

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A Great New Food Blog

Posted by Scott Holstad on March 26, 2018

Hi! This is a bit of a plug, so please forgive me, but my wife, Gretchen, has started a new food blog called “Vital Vittles – Food Trends: culinary finds for foodies,” and I think I lot of people who are “foodies” or into food and/or cooking might enjoy it. In case that link didn’t work for you, you can find it at: http://www.vitalvittlesfoodtrends.com/.

On her homepage, she writes “I’m Gretchen –  a food enthusiast and part-time blogger. It seems like every time I go to the grocery store, I find more and more choices! The choices we have today are almost overwhelming. Food trends come and go and with these trends, major food companies compete for our hard earned dollars. I provide some help in this blog with my unbiased reviews and comparisons. Comments are always appreciated, especially if you have anything to add to help others decide if that new food product is worth the money.”

So she reviews various food products, with plenty of photographs so you know exactly what she’s writing about, how it looks, how it might look partially cooked even, and occasionally she’ll get a “picky eater” taste tester to compare to her own observations. Among the items she’s reviewed lately are DelMonte Fruit & Chia, Green Giant Veggie Spirals – Zucchini, Forager greens pressed vegetable chips, Hostess Bakery Petites, and more. For whatever reason, she’s been getting a decent amount of “Likes,” but not too many comments, so if you visit her blog and read some reviews you find interesting, I’d encourage you to comment, leave a question, anything really. She’d like to make this more of a two way conversation, I believe.

Well, I’ve always known she’s a darn good cook, and I’ve been encouraging her to write a book or at least some articles for publication for awhile now. She’s one of the most creative people in the kitchen I’ve ever met, taking recipes and modifying them every time, a little different, always experimenting, always good outcomes. She may not have written her book yet, but this is at least a foray into writing about various foods, and the reviews seem good to me, so again, hop on over to her site and read a few. You may learn a few things and find it interesting in general. She and I certainly hope so! Thanks a lot for reading this plug, and please consider helping her out with more readers, likes, and comments. One note: her blogging platform doesn’t allow for followers, which is a major annoyance, but it does have an RSS feed, and you can always bookmark her blog if you like it. And if you do like it, check it several times a week, because she tries to write new blog posts 2-3 times per week, which keeps her busy. Okay, that’s enough from me. Go check her out, with many thanks. Have a good one!  — Scott

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A Review of Deconversion: a Journey from Religion to Reason

Posted by Scott Holstad on March 5, 2018

Deconverted: a Journey from Religion to ReasonDeconverted: a Journey from Religion to Reason by Seth Andrews
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Fantastic book! Seth Andrews lived my own exact life growing up, and we were both traumatized by the same types of things (the movie, “Thief In The Night!”), and we were both fundies/evangelicals for much of our younger lives before we both started asking ourselves some questions, before asking others, and began reading and researching, and while Andrews reached his conclusions and belief system before I did, I admire his resolve and his courage for “coming out” as an atheist in a strong Bible Belt city, because I live in the biggest Bible Belt city in America (I believe it was so named last year…), and unless you’re a Red State Republican bible thumper here, you don’t really feel very welcome in this city, and while I haven’t spent years as an out and out atheist as Andrews has, I may as well, because when I’m not on my feet “praising the lord,” I stick out like a sore thumb, and it can make one very uncomfortable. Yes, there there are “liberal” Christians here, as well as a few Muslims, about 25 Jews, possibly a few Hindus, although I haven’t seen any, some agnostics, some atheists, but no place to really gather and not be in church, because the only alternative is the Unitarian CHURCH, and while it’s a catchall for all beliefs and while they tend to make fun of fundies, it’s still called a “church,” so that kind of defeats the purpose. I’m reading Dawkins, Hitchins, Barker, George W Smith, and others right now, and it’s been really refreshing, and for the first time in my life, I feel like a huge weight has been lifted off of my shoulders, like I’ve been liberated, and I have Barker and Seth Andrews to thank in many ways, because unlike Hitchins, they’ve BEEN there, they understand, they know what it’s like to “deconvert” and how traumatic that can be for so many reasons, and I have found this book very helpful and very freeing and I recommend it for anyone going through a similar process or who has questions, doubts, etc. It helps fill it the holes, or flesh out the holes one finds gaping wide open in the christian bible. And the stress is not on what one believes, but what one doesn’t believe, unlike what many people think. Atheism is merely “a lack of belief in a god” or supernatural being, etc. It’s NOT a philosophical antithetical belief system, although individual atheists can choose to have antithetical beliefs or any belief they want; it pushes no life agenda, just ration, reason, being a good person, and a lack of belief in a god. That’s it, that’s all. It’s very simple. If there is no rational evidence to convince you that a god exists, you are thus not obligated to believe in a god, nor should anyone else. Very simple. Sure, you can go full blown philosophical and George W Smith does that, but it’s not necessary, and you can find out why by reading most of these authors and finding out in less than 10 minutes. In any event, I’m elated I came across this book and now I listen to the author’s podcasts and have found help, comfort, and entertainment in them. Strongly recommended for those encountering spiritual doubts….

View all my reviews

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