hankrules2011

Book reviews, health, hockey, publishing, music

A Review of The New Analog: Listening and Reconnecting in a Digital World

Posted by Scott Holstad on January 1, 2018

The New Analog: Listening and Reconnecting in a Digital WorldThe New Analog: Listening and Reconnecting in a Digital World by Damon Krukowski
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book is more than just a simple “back to vinyl” sermon, refreshingly. It’s a highly scientific and socio-psychological look at the history of recorded music, the transition from analog to digital, and what that means to people and society.

Damon Krukowski writes as a musician, music fan, and techno nerd, yet mixes this all together quite skillfully. He writes about context, signal, and noise in ways that will make sense to most readers.

Krukowski writes that people hear in stereo sound. That having two ears allows us to make the small, even tiny, mental distinctions providing much-needed context for the world around us. He tells one story, among others, of a person falling over while riding a bicycle wearing earbuds because, while they were focused on the sounds that were being delivered in their ears, they weren’t able to integrate and HEAR other sounds in the world around them. Krukowski asserts that our stereo hearing is incredibly accurate for providing context for what we actually hear (and need to hear, for the most part) while our brains separate signal from noise.

And what’s the distinction? The author explains that signal is the foregrounded sound we’re supposed to concentrate on, ie., music in this case, while noise is the allegedly “unnecessary” sounds that interfere with our being able to focus on signal. The role of technology in separating signal from noise provides the allegedly purer sound that one obtains through digital transmission, eliminating noise entirely. But the question is, is music without (analog) noise what we really want to hear? Krukowski makes the case that it is not.

Krukowski’s “The New Analog: Listening and Reconnecting in a Digital World” skillfully examines the science, physiology, and effects of the changes from analog sound to digital sound, not only over time, but now in the rapidly changing musical media world in which we live. By putting our audio experience of recorded music into a bigger context of how people interact with the world, he offers a more intricate view than many who bemoan the emergence of digital music as it’s experienced through devices like head phones, iPods, and even smartphones. He argues that the digital delivery of music replacing analog, tactile music has largely been responsible for the loss of community represented by now many distant-memory record stores where people could hang out, chill, and talk with others about music and other similar interests, while shopping for tangible, artistic items of value that one can hold and play and hear signal WITH noise. He then calls for the re-introduction of the noisy environment once surrounding all music, that would lessen the near-total isolation with which people now experience music.

The only reason I am giving this book 4 stars instead of 5 is that he sometimes gets caught up in going seriously too far into hard technology that one might need an engineering degree to fully appreciate, and the middle has an extended section that drags a bit as a result. However, he ultimately delivers a very thoughtful analysis at how rapid technological change leads to unanticipated social consequences that aren’t always good. A very interesting and decent book and recommended for all audiophiles, vinyl (and CD) enthusiasts, and music lovers in general.

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A Review of Long Beach State: A Brief History

Posted by Scott Holstad on January 1, 2018

Long Beach State: A Brief History

Long Beach State: A Brief History

Long Beach State: A Brief History
by Barbara Kingsley-Wilson
Scott Holstad’s review
4 out of 5 stars

 

As an alumnus of Long Beach State, or California State University Long Beach, as it’s officially known, I was really excited to hear this book existed, to get it and read it. And I largely, mostly enjoyed it, and am glad it was written. I liked learning lots of information about its founding and the early days, its growth through the ’50s and ’60s, and even interesting info when I was there for grad school in the early 1990s…. But… I was annoyed it was only “A Brief History,” because as one of the largest and most diverse universities in California, I thought the book could — and should — have been easily three times longer and STILL left out lots of info! The author picked a few key topics and wrote short three and four page chapters, and I felt she could and should have written 10, 15, and 20 page chapters on topics such as, say, the sports programs. Nothing about the baseball team, which went to four College World Series beginning while I was there, or much about the women’s basketball team, which went to two women’s Final Fours during the years my undergraduate alma mater, Tennessee, was winning its first of eight national championships. I also found parts of it depressing, as how while the state created the school, initially as a teacher’s college, and then as a four year state school, and finally as a state university with numerous graduate programs, including even several PhD programs now, there was never enough money for the school to do anything to help itself, and thus, for years, it was just dirt, and muddy when it rained, parking lots, with dirt roads cutting through the campus, and how it initially started in two apartment complexes and how the first buildings, still in evidence there, looked like Soviet-era concrete block bunkers, which I found depressing when I was there, and you could tell how it went through growth spurts just by looking at the differing architectural styles, and how it’s always been a commuter school, unlike Tennessee or UCLA, two other non-commuter schools I went to, and the lack of support for most of the sports teams — except for women’s volleyball, strangely, although in fairness to that excellent program, it’s won a crapload of national championships and finished as second place runner up many other times, so what awesome success, but the school has had other sports programs that have experienced success, such as the baseball team, and at times, the basketball team, and I was disappointed to see how the small part on the basketball team focused on the early Jerry Tarkanian years and never mentioned coach Seth Greenwood, who was coaching when I was there and how two of our players were drafted by the NBA while I was there, one of them especially experiencing great success playing with Karl Malone in Utah, or even how the recent teams have experienced great success and have dominated the conference, gone to the NCAA tournament, and become nationally famous for playing any team, any time, anywhere, and plenty of top 20 teams, such as North Carolina and Kansas at those schools, and being very competitive, even beating some, such as top 20 Xavier, losing at UNC by only 3 points, etc, before going on to own its conference once conference play started. Nothing about that. I would have even liked to find out some info on the water polo and beach volleyball teams! Oh well. I appreciated the history of the Greek system there, because it was an issue when I was a student, as I recall, but again, felt discouraged that CSULB constantly had to hold fund raisers in the community to do things like buy tons of peach trees to plant to hide the ugly concrete buildings, and put brick patterns on the walls of some of these buildings, thus starting a new architectural style, begging for money to finish the famous Long Beach State Pyramid, where the basketball team plays, on how they had to start a new Scholars program, done while I was there, to bring up its academic reputation and attractiveness to students by giving school valedictorians a free ride — which worked! In the 1980s, US News & World Report rated LBSU as a pretty crappy school, but for the past decade or more, it’s gotten outstanding scores in a number of areas and has been listed as basically one of the three most ideal and attractive largely non-PhD granting universities in the West, and how it’s the best school for the money, the best ROI-type school in the entire country, and one of the most diverse schools in the country, and how the students who graduate from Long Beach owe less than most students from virtually all of the other universities in the country, etc, so it’s gotten high US News scores for a long while now, and has established itself as a decent academic school, thanks to a number of good programs instituted in the 1990s and up. I’m very proud of how far my first graduate alma mater has come in just a few short years, relatively speaking, starting with practically nothing and progressing to an appealing, well regarded university. I also enjoyed reading about all of the celebrities who attended Long Beach State, like the Carpenters (they were building the Carpenter Auditorium, or whatever its proper name is, while I was there), Steve Martin, Steven Spielberg, Chris Carter, and numerous baseball players, among others. I already knew about most of them, but it was still cool to read details I didn’t know. And I had to laugh about the t-shirt I read about regarding the now-gone football team. It reads “Long Beach State Football: Unbeaten since 1991.” The program was shut down back in 1991, the year before I got there, after new and legendary coach George Allen had died unexpectedly, because very few people supported the teams by attending the games over the years, and it was a huge drain on an already always tight school budget. I was deeply disappointed to attend a school whose football program had just been shut down, especially after going to UT, where the team competed for — and won — national championships on a regular basis, but a lot of smaller schools shut down their programs back then, like East Tennessee State University, just up the road from Knoxville 100 miles, among others because it takes a LOT of money to have and run a college football program, especially if you want to truly be competitive. I came to accept this over the years, and embraced that t-shirt’s slogan to the point of ordering one from the school just a week ago, literally, and I’ll now proudly wear it and laugh to myself as people will undoubtedly look confused when they see it.

All in all, it’s a decent little book, and I’m glad it was written and I’m glad I read it. But I STILL wish it wasn’t a “Brief History,” because I think the school deserves a “Comprehensive History,” and I guess I’ll just have to wait to see that one written some time in the future. Recommended for anyone who has ever attended or graduated from Long Beach State, as well as any interested Cal State University system supporters and Long Beach/L.A. County residents.

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An Overdue Overall Update

Posted by Scott Holstad on December 31, 2017

12/31/17

Hi. Last day of 2017 and I’ve blogged almost nothing at all this year. I regret that, but it’s been the toughest year, toughest two years, of my life and I haven’t had the ability to blog or even write book reviews like I once did. I started an “Update” blog about 6-7 weeks ago, but never got very far, and have been horribly ill for a week, and don’t have the strength to finish it, but I’m determined to write a blog post for 2017. I’m including what I had gotten done last month at the bottom of this post, but am just going to give a brief synopsis here to let those of you still reading this blog know I’m still alive.

2016: I had 8 minor surgeries, most on my back. I had at least 33 tests and procedures that were diagnostic tests for my stomach ailments alone, the final result being I was ultimately tested for the rarest of diseases into 2017 with no results, leaving the doctors to discard me and wish me the best. I also had at least two strokes in the fall, the second of which was pretty major and continues to impact me to the present. Before the strokes, I had lost the ability to drive, and became largely homebound except for 2-3 medical appointments a week, every week, for which I took either a city disabled van or taxis. I had to start walking with a cane in late spring. The strokes impacted me in various ways, as my memory started to fail, and I lost my balance and coordination, resulting in numerous, regular falls. I was also on 3 of the 5 strongest pain medications in the world, whose side effects messed me up, but none of which really helped me. I stopped responding to virtually all pain medications of any type around November 2015.

2017: This year, I’ve only had two minor surgeries for my back, both failures. I was scheduled for a third, but the surgeon refused to do it, saying it’d be useless. Gretchen and I later met with the chief surgeon who said even a major surgery would not only be ineffective, but counterproductive, and he refused to perform any. He recommended as my only realistic hope an experimental and dangerous brain surgery that is hard to find and obtain. More on that in a minute. Before that, I started to experience more falls and greater memory impairment and even total memory loss, progressively, day by day. We explored getting me a home health aide, part time, but can’t afford one. I’m now wearing one of those fall alert pendants. Gretchen’s worried she’s going to come home from work and find me at the bottom of the stairs with a broken neck. I started having bizarre “episodes” — don’t know what else to call them — beginning March 31, in which I woke up and started wandering around the house at 3 AM, disoriented and unable to control myself, resulting in 15 falls, the last of which Gretchen witnessed as I tripped in the dining room and fell face and head first onto our hardwood floors, breaking my nose, knocking me out, and busting the hell out of my head. The pain in my head was unreal. I didn’t care about the nose or anything else. I refused to go to the hospital, even though four paramedics were there when I regained consciousness, working on me, and trying to convince me to go to the hospital. I don’t go to ERs. I had a horrible experience in early 2016 and vowed to die at home with dignity than go back to another damn ER. I tried to get a CT or MRI for 10 days, but no one would refer me for one without my going to the ER. Finally, on the 11th day, I went, had a CT scan, was told I had a severe, probable long term concussion, had possibly experienced some brain damage, and that was a joy. According to multiple doctors, I had already experienced brain damage with each of my strokes. My nose bled 24×7 from then into June, and the incident screwed up my neck and back, forcing me into home healthcare PT. My memory impairment and losses became much worse from that point on. I experienced more “episodes” like these in August and September, and have watched my memory deteriorate badly, as well as seeing my forgetfulness increase exponentially. It was about two months ago when this orthopedic surgeon stated I need Deep Brain Stimulation surgery, which has a 4% mortality rate, and which is available for Intractable Chronic Pain possibly only at Mayo and the Cleveland Clinic. One of my doctors put me on a supplement for memory loss/retention two months ago, and earlier this month, my neurologist put me on a hard core medication for severe dementia and Alzheimer’s, while allowing it’s possible I may be in the early stages on Early Onset Dementia. I am 51. I no longer expect to live to see, say, 54. And this drug he put me on has caused a very serious adverse reaction, or reactions, so that over the past week to week and a half, the symptoms have been so bad, I’ve honestly felt I was going to die several times, and today is the first day I’ve had the energy and wits to actually get online and do anything. I’ve simply been lying here trying to survive during one of the most hellish and painful weeks of my life, sick to death.

After those two depressing paragraphs, there were other things that happened in my life. In 2016, Gretchen and I created a startup that I poured myself into far more than I should have and it badly impacted my health. We decided, due to having to delay opening for business indefinitely while suffering tremendous costs and state taxes, to start to shut things down this fall, and I’m still trying to tie up loose ends, as I’m able to. Additionally, both Gretchen and I have started new side businesses, just to see how they’ll do, part time. Just really getting underway, but who knows? Gretchen’s oldest son was married last month in Maryland, so we made a long car trip to the wedding, which was lovely, but it was hard on me. Still, it would have taken a lot to make me miss that, although we didn’t decide I would actually go until the last minute. It was touch and go. Nonetheless, it was a joyous occasion. It was also good to see the rest of her family and meet some new in-laws.

Gretchen is busting her ass holding down the fort, working full time, having to do all of the errands and chores I once did when I was mobile and more able, and still find time for her side projects and to look after me. She stays very busy. And as limited as I am, I stay busier than I want to, mostly with technological projects that would take too long to go into. I’m worn out now. Sorry. I wrote more than I intended, but I just wanted to say I haven’t forgotten you folks out there, and I miss interacting with you, and if my health ever improves sufficiently, I’d like to resume blogging and book reviewing, but I have no idea if or when that will be. I hope everyone has been doing well, has had a good holiday season, and here’s to a good 2018 for all of us. Cheers!

— Scott

 

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Hi! I don’t even know where to begin. I haven’t posted a “real” blog post in nearly a year. It’s kind of stunning, because I’ve been blogging since 2003 and used to every day, but the past year and a half have worn me down until I no longer had the strength, energy, physical or mental abilities to continue doing so, and had to call a halt to it.

Lessee, for the past 3.5 years, my health has been unbelievably bad. Most of you know I have Trigeminal Neuralgia Type 2, a very rare, very, very rare, extremely painful head and facial pain disease, considered the most painful disease in the world, typically referred to as “The Suicide Disease.” I also have three other head pain disorders, including Cluster Headaches, which are also known as one of the most painful disorders in the world, and which I’ve also seen described as “the Suicide Disease” in some sources.

After having had a nice little break from that, my head and facial pain came back with a vengeance in the summer of 2014, but this time bilateral, which is unusual. I immediately had three minor brain surgical procedures, but I told my doctors they wouldn’t help, as this pain was different. I was right. Then, in early 2015, my back started giving me real problems again. Serious pain to match my head’s serious pain. I’ve had back problems on and off for six years, but like my head, it had been off for a couple of years, and this was an unpleasant surprise. I went back to my orthopedist and started seeing a rheumatologist, who told me I had “massive” amounts of osteoarthritis throughout my body and would need two hip replacement surgeries at some point in the not too distant future. Meanwhile, my orthopedist told me my DDD had gotten much worse, and I had other problems in my back as well, which I knew — spinal stenosis, a broken tailbone, nerve damage, etc. She sent me ultimately for six months of PT, but it didn’t help at all. In February 2015, sick of being far too overweight, I went on a massive low carb diet, ultimately averaging 6 carbs, then down to 4 carbs, per meal per day. I lost weight and it felt good. However, and I do think this was coincidental, about four months later, I started developing stomach problems that developed into a nightmare. At first it was just gas after meals, but then it was joined by nausea, and progressively advancing, stomach pain — incredibly severe stomach pain. So severe, it easily matched my back and head pain, each of which were at least a 10 on a 1-10 scale every day without a break. This happened over a period of months though, so I had no idea it would get so bad.

I suffered through the remainder of 2015, still losing weight from my diet, but my stomach was causing me to lose my appetite, along with my stomach shrinking from my diet. My back didn’t improve, my head didn’t improve. I had a new neurologist, who was trying things like Botox and steroid injections, as well as Trigeminal nerve blocks, but nothing helped. By November 2015, I stopped responding to virtually all pain medications, both OTC and prescription, with one exception that helped me so little, it was almost a non-issue. In January 2016, after two months of bugging her, my pain doctor put me on a new, much stronger pain medication with another strong pain medication to take for “break through” pain. The new ones had lethal side effects. I’m not joking. I had to be really careful about how and when I took them. And when I took the other one in conjunction with the first one. But they, too, didn’t really help, and their side effects seriously fucked me up in the worst way. I complained about both the low dose of the main one and the break through pain med, but my dose on the ER medication was not increased. The new IR literally almost killed me. Taking both, and a third to boot, almost killed me. Several times, I basically lost the ability to breathe and my tongue swelled up so much, it largely cut off my breathing passageways. Another time, I became paralyzed from the chest down, and Gretchen had to lie me down — I had been standing — where I lay for a couple of hours until it wore off. I thought it was going to kill me then for sure. Backing up a moment, in December 2015, I also lost the ability to eat. It’s hard to explain. I couldn’t eat, didn’t want to eat, got sick at the thought of eating. I’d go 3, 5, 7 days without eating anything, then take a couple bites of rice and a bite of chicken, and go vomit. I was nauseous when dinner was being made. My diet was thrown away; I now had some form of eating disorder, for all intents and purposes. I lost about 150 pounds…

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Republicans Can’t Be Christians — Sorry!

Posted by Scott Holstad on December 1, 2016

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/donald-trump-like-jesus-disciples_us_583e48d7e4b04fcaa4d5bd72?ncid=fcbklnkushpmg00000063http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/donald-trump-like-jesus-disciples_us_583e48d7e4b04fcaa4d5bd72?ncid=fcbklnkushpmg00000063

 

Oh, holy shit! If this doesn’t discredit ALL CHRISTIANS in everyone’s eyes, than what will? Trump a disciple of Jesus? Trump EVERY disciple of Jesus rolled into one? Are the Christians going totally insane now? At this point, with 81% of all white evangelicals having voted for Trump, it’s obvious to me that today’s Christians have sold out, have sold their souls to the Republican Party and to Fox News, do not care about Jesus or his teachings, especially about “love,” “the poor” and caring for them, loving your neighbor as yourself, treating everyone — including immigrants!!! — as equals (Remember the story of the Good Samaritan they always teach in church? Do the Christians ever learn anything from that, considering the Samaritan was from a group of unacceptable immigrant types Trump and his Christian/Republican friends would have thrown out of the country by now, showing their great Christian love and compassion?), about healing the sick — for free, dammit! — and healing the sick occurs a lot in the New Testament, but apparently Christians/Republicans must skip over those parts of the Bible … if they ever actually read their Bibles. What about believers of other religions? The Old Testament God would have had his Israelites go kill all of them. He was permanently pissed off, in a bad mood, and ready to kill everyone who was on his shit list. That’s why so many fundies like OT God. But see, I don’t believe in OT God. Not anymore. I was brought up to believe in him. I was brought up to “love” (hate) and fear (yep!) him. That’s how the “Church” controls you, controls the Christians in its clutches. But I threw that out the window decades ago. There’s no room in my life for brain washing, mind numbing, soul destroying bullshit like that. I feel that God, if there is a god — and I often wonder — created all people and if he does love people, he loves them all equally, no matter what their color, gender, nationality, ethnicity, sexual orientation, or anything else like that is. And I really think Jesus would support that. He said the most important commandment was to love your brother like yourself. He didn’t say white brother. He didn’t say straight brother. He didn’t say that person must definitely be a male. Yet, our wonderful Republican Christians pretty much hate all other religions, and if you go by Trump and his followers, and 81% of white Christians do, then they all hate Muslims especially, even though there are two billion of them in the world today. Hating two billion of God’s children is sure to make God proud of you, his personal representative on earth, showing the rest of us just how great it is to be a Christian and what a loving, tolerant religion it is. Not. Christians, I’m not convinced God would approve of you actively hating two billion of his children and acting to work against them in one way or another, at a minimum, to keep any of them from entering our country, a nation of immigrants, a nation where each and every one of our families have come from other countries through immigration, something we’re now trying to deny people of a different religion, and most of them a different ethnicity, just because they’re not white Christians and therefore not acceptable. I’m becoming more and more convinced that it is literally impossible to be a current Republican, especially a Trump Republican, and a true Christian at the same time. No true follower of Jesus and his teachings would ever endorse what Trump and the current Republican party stand for. They simply clash too much. Today’s Republicans stand for hatred, not love, helping the rich and hurting the poor, screwing the sick, starting or sustaining violence and wars, something Jesus symbolically taught Peter he wouldn’t have supported on the night of his arrest, Republican oppression of women, while it’s clear in the New Testament that some of the most important disciples to help Paul were women and the first people to be given knowledge and proof of a risen Jesus were women, Republican hatred, repression of and oppression of virtually all minorities, especially black people, while New Testament Christians had members of all races, including Jews, obviously, other Middle Easterners, Africans, Romans, Greeks and other Europeans, even Asians and apparently far Eastern people. Jesus welcomed people from all demographics. God made everyone, let’s not forget that. It seems that most of today’s Christians/Republicans have, unless he did it to create slaves for them? Cause I honestly don’t know what their thinking is regarding God’s motivation for creating minorities since they obviously hate, resent, repress, oppress, and abuse them so brutally and have for centuries. How do today’s Christians justify this? Cause I just read an article yesterday that basically said that it was white, rural, Christian, mostly poor voters who just put Trump in office, as well as many of these other Republican freaks who want to destroy the country and the world, and that pretty much every single one of them are white Christian racists, whether overt or not, as well as anti-education (did God tell us he wanted us to be stupid?), anti-“liberal,” (cause obviously *I’m* the bad guy here, right? Cause I’m an educated liberal “elite.” Shit. Pretty much every Republican political leader has an impressive college education. Trump has an Ivy League education!). But I’m getting off topic. Today’s Republicans can’t be Christians because they all want revenge and vengeance for everything. Long jail terms! Stiffer prison sentences! Three strikes! Death penalty! Hell yeah! Oh, what did the Bible say? Vengeance is mine says the Lord? Judge not lest ye be judged? I often wonder if today’s Christians have ever read the Bible. My bet is, maybe a few Psalms, some books of the Old Testament, cause God is pretty pissed there and a pissed God is pretty rad. Maybe a couple of key New Testament verses. Not much else. Of course they’ve all had Sodom and Gomorrah drilled into their heads all their lives, so they hate gays more than anything on earth, homosexuality, the controversial and debatable alleged sin in Sodom thought of as the abominable sin. But do they ever stop to think about how many times Jesus mentioned homosexuality in his teachings? Zero. Never. Paul did. A couple of times.Paul was somewhat sex obsessed. Paul had issues, IMO. Jesus never brought it up. Also, how many times did Jesus condemn abortion, the other major Christian topic of hatred? Zero. None. Never mentioned it. It is mentioned in the Bible, I believe, although I’m willing to be wrong on that, but the Jews had/have an interesting take on things like that and things like the question of when does life begin. Republican Christians have been fighting for decades to get the courts to make it the law of the land that life begins at conception. But that’s not what Jews God’s chosen people, believe. And remember, they base ALL of their religious/moral/ethical beliefs on what is written in the Torah/Old Testament, etc. Jews believe life does not begin until a baby is actually born, has come out of its mother’s body and has taken its first breath on its own. With that first breath on its own, life has then begun for that baby. And not a moment before. Think about that. Jesus wasn’t a Christian. They didn’t exist at the time, obviously, and he didn’t come to earth to start a new religion anyway. Paul founded the Christian religion, based in large part on the teachings of Jesus. But Jesus had nothing to do with it himself. He was a practicing Jew. He worshiped in the synagogue on Shabbat. Thus, he would have shared this belief. For Jesus, life would have begun at birth, not conception. Therefore, abortion is acceptable to Jews. It always has been. I’m no religious historian, but I’m under the impression that this stance dates back centuries, possibly and probably pre-dating Jesus. If so, he would have known of this Jewish stance on abortion and since he never once mentioned it or certainly spoke out on it, it’s safe to assume he agreed with it and endorsed it. My point is that at a minimum, topics like helping the poor (the most frequent topic Jesus ever spoke about), taking care of the sick and the helpless, healing others, PAYING TAXES!, praying, faith, giving one’s wealth, riches, and possessions away to follow God, having the right priorities, forgiveness, peace, doing away with religious hypocrites (like current Republican Christians), and compassion were all infinitely more important to him and his teachings and followers than trendy conservative Christian hot topics like homosexuality and abortion, as well as many other current Christian topics that I don’t think represent Jesus or his teachings.

An aside. Not a day goes by when I don’t hear some quote or two coming from that absolute insane “Christian” leader, Pat Robertson. I think if there was ever a famous public figure claiming to represent God in current times who consistently just gets it WRONG every single damn time, it’s him. For decades, he has advocated conspiracy theories of all types, no matter how crazy. He has called for our country to assassinate another countries’ leaders. (Seriously??? WWJD? Does he really think Jesus would approve of that? If so, why? Where in the Bible did he get that idea?)  He has called for violence against abortion doctors, for overt sustained discrimination against gays, crying out for Christian backlash to the Supreme Court’s ruling allowing gay marriage. He constantly makes pronouncements like God is going to destroy America because we allow homosexuals to marry or God’s going to allow one country or another to attack or invade America as a way of punishing us for our love of gays or every time there’s a natural disaster, such as Katrina, Robertson’s on TV announcing it’s God’s judgement on America for one sin or another and oh yeah, this is great, every time there’s a mass shooting, he’s right there on TV doing God’s will, blaming it on America’s failing morals, how we don’t pray in schools anymore – – I can see Republican God getting so pissed off at no prayer in schools that he sends gunmen to schools across America for mass shootings to pay back the damn liberals running this country, even though it’s a Republican Congress, a conservative Supreme Court, a mostly Republican country in terms of Red states and governors, etc. Yeah, it’s the damn liberals in charge. You know, the same ones who can never pass common sense gun laws that might stop these sorts of things and save dozens of lives because powerful groups like the Christian Republican NRA and its politicians all over the country constantly block any law of any sort from ever passing that would ever help save lives and stop mass shootings. Cause Republican Christians know that Jesus would undoubtedly carry an AR15 with him if he were around today. One of his dozens of guns he would own. The fact that he was unarmed while alive and told his followers to put their weapons away when he was threatened apparently is meaningless to these people. Jesus was not a passivist. He would kick ass and take names!  — Anyway, Robertson. An example to America, at least the rest of us, of what today’s Republican Christians are and have become over the years — crazy, violent, hateful, intolerant, bigoted, spiteful, vindictive, mean spirited, and someone who shows no desire to follow Jesus’s teachings to care for the poor, to feed them, to heal them, to care for them, cause Obamacare is obviously of the devil himself since a black Democratic president came up with it, even though it was originally inspired by rich, white, religious Republican governor with great success. That doesn’t matter, because the president who made it a national program and law is a Democrat and, even worse, black. Therefore, it’s evil and must be repealed. Even though it pretty much does what Jesus called for us to do. That’s secondary. There are more important things at stake here. To Robertson and his ilk.

Anyway, Jesus did mention feeding and caring for the poor dozens and dozens of times though. And he did mention how hard it would be for rich people to get into heaven. Like practically impossible. Which makes me feel pretty good about Trump’s ultimate destination. And Robertson. And all other well off Christian Republicans. Cause although they’re convinced they know where they’re going when they die, I’ve got a pretty good idea they’ll end up surprised. Cause I don’t view them as Christians. And I don’t think God does either. In the end, it will be Jesus who will say, “Get away from me. I don’t know you.” New Testament, by the way. In case you’re a Christian. I assume you haven’t read that part of the Bible, since it’s not about getting rich or hating people or attacking our enemies or hurting as many people as we can. Yay Christians! Yay Republicans! Enjoy each other’s company. In hell.

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A Review of Outriders

Posted by Scott Holstad on November 12, 2016

Outriders (Outriders, #1)Outriders by Jay Posey
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Meh. While Outriders had some interesting concepts, it really didn’t do much for me and actually left me bored at times. I had a hard time trying to finish it. It’s military sci fi that’s more military fiction that also tries to be spy fiction. Maybe the author was confused.

It starts out with a pretty cool scene though. Captain Lincoln Suh dies on the very first sentence of the very first page of the very first chapter. And he’s later brought back to a form of existence similar to living. Ah, modern science! Actually, it’s obviously set at some point in the future. After all, it’s “sci fi.” I read someone venture that it’s possibly the year 2100, or somewhere around there. The reason for this assumption is one of the characters states that her great grandparents were growing up in the time of the moon landing. But, now humanity has spread itself to the moon, Mars, and some of the other moons throughout the solar system.

Anyway, back to Suh. He’s brought back to this existence, as I mentioned, but why? He’s been brought back to become a member of super secret Special Forces unit in the military. He works his ass off in this secret training program, only to find out he doesn’t make the cut, and he’s shocked. But he is immediately brought into the fold of another group, the real group he was actually destined for: the Outriders, a Tier One Special Missions unit of the U.S. Army. It’s a five person unit that he’ll be leading. Two members of the team are women, one of whom is black and who grew up rich and privileged and joined the military against her parent’s wishes. I know it’s become incredibly popular for sci fi authors to include women in all military sci fi book military units, including special forces units, because future women are warriors you don’t want to fuck with, but I’ve occasionally read some things I’ve really had a hard time buying, at the risk of sounding like a complete sexist pig. For instance, I just finished a military sci fi book in which this 5’4″ petite female Marine carried a 140 pound railgun as her carry weapon. Seriously? I don’t know many men who could do that. A lot of people generally consider men to possibly be slightly stronger than women as a gender, whether you buy that or not, so to believe that a petite woman could do that is really stretching things in my opinion. It’s the height of PC.

I guess, aside from spaceships and space colonies, one of the things that makes this “sci fi” is the attention paid to the power armor. It’s pretty cool. But you know, other than that, it didn’t seem all that “sci fi” to me. It seemed more straight military to me. With a little spy/thriller thrown in. Tom Clancy in the future, maybe?

I guess one of the interesting aspects to the book is somewhat philosophical in nature. When Outriders are “killed” (again), if there’s enough of their body parts left, they can be put back together and brought back to existence. If not, they have had personal backups made of them, so they can simply be replaced. Makes people like Suh wonder about one’s soul. Is there one? What happens to it? What happens to the copies when they die (again)? Etc.

All that said, I found Suh to be a real annoying prick. I felt like he thought too highly of himself and his abilities. I thought his sense of leadership was overrated. I just didn’t like him. He was a narcissist. And I never got a real good feel for his team. I guess I thought the character development wasn’t the best I’ve seen. And the bad guys never felt all that bad to me. I just didn’t feel too invested in this book. In other words, I just never really got into it. The most interesting thing about it was the beginning. Everything after that was downhill. I looked over the reviews I saw online. I encountered a number of four star reviews, maybe a couple of five star reviews, and quite a few two and three star reviews, similar to my own. Obviously, this isn’t the best military sci fi book ever written. I think Jay Posey is talented. I just think he perhaps mixed some genres in this book, made an unlikable protagonist, and wrote a bland book. I haven’t read anything else by him, but there’s enough here to make me give another one of his books a chance though. Perhaps. But three stars. Not recommended.

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My New Website

Posted by Scott Holstad on October 31, 2016

I’d like to announce the arrival of my new website, Scott’s House. It can be found at scottholstad.com. It has a Pittsburgh Penguins fan site complete with Stanley Cup information, pictures, and videos, a number of archived technical articles I’ve written over the years, a page devoted to my 13 years as a college student and the six universities I attended, as well as links to this blog, my book review site with close to 500 reviews, and various places I like to visit online. Check out what I’ve been working on putting together over the past couple of weeks. Feel free to email me and comment. Cheers!

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A Review of To Honor You Call Us

Posted by Scott Holstad on October 29, 2016

To Honor You Call UsTo Honor You Call Us by H. Paul Honsinger
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I enjoyed a great deal of To Honor You Call Us, yet there was quite a bit about it I did not enjoy.

Captain Max Robichaux has been given command of the USS Cumberland, a bad luck destroyer with a problem crew, and tasked with going to the outer reaches of the galaxy to harass and fight humanity’s enemy, the Krag, aliens intent upon humanity’s genocide. Max’s only friend is the ship’s doctor, a brilliant, but woefully naïve man who helps Max gradually whip the crew into shape. There are instances of shadowing Krag ships, and of being shadowed, but there’s no real action until the end of the book when there is a climactic battle that Max predictably wins. And that’s one of the problems of the book – its predictability. Naturally, the protagonist has a tortured past, suffering from PTSD, and has a drinking problem, so he’s not perfect, even though virtually all of his solutions to the problems the ship encounters along the way are perfect. He’s a damn naval genius. Of course. And of course he whips the problem crew into shape. And of course there’s a drug problem among the crew and of course the doctor rehabilitates virtually everyone so that quite soon they’re all happy and productive naval personnel again. And of course Max thwarts a Krag battle plan aimed at another alien species, whom Max saves and of course, now they’re our allies. Of course. I’m not saying this stuff doesn’t work. I’m just saying you could pretty much guess what was coming down the pike and you really didn’t need to keep reading to know what would happen.

One of the things that really got to me in this book, and wait until you read the next book in the series – I just did – is the speeches and explanations. My God, it’s unreal! As I said, there’s not much in the way of action until the end of the book, so there are just events, speeches, a crew mutiny, more speeches, the drug problems I mentioned, continued speeches, some introspection, crazy speeches, and – holy crap – even more speeches! And perhaps by speeches, I mean explaining. Because that’s probably what it really is. The characters are forever explaining things to each other – and the reader – so everyone will know what’s going on. But it goes on and on, for pages. Max explains the secrets of the universe to the doctor and his crew and the doctor explains every scientific fact known to mankind to Max and the crew. Okay, maybe that’s a slight exaggeration, but that’s what it feels like. Page after page of explanations. I’ve never seen a book like this before. The author obviously thinks his readers are morons, or he wouldn’t spend so much time explaining the plot and tactical strategy and so on to “the crew” (and us). Sometimes it’s nice to NOT know everything that’s going on in a book, believe it or not. Sometimes I like to be surprised. This was just overkill.

Oh, and the female subplot. Apparently, the Krag released a virus of some sort that killed off about 70% of humanity’s female population, so apparently they’re kept at home, safe and sound. As a result, there are no female characters, which is a virtual first for me in a sci fi novel, with the near exception of Asimov’s first Foundation novel, a book that had one minor female character toward the end of the book. Since all male crews are in space for many months to possibly years at a time, you would think homosexuality would be prevalent, but that’s never mentioned in this book, which I thought was odd. The author passed up a chance to make a statement one way or the other on this topic.

Another issue: boarding parties. With swords. Like pirates. Seriously?

Finally, the author had the annoying habit of dropping pop cultural references to late twentieth century technology, fiction and sci fi, such as Star Trek, but since this is the twenty fourth century, how realistic is it to think that not only would he know all of this stuff, but that when he mentions these references aloud, his crew gets them? I think the author screwed this one up.

All this aside, the book isn’t bad. Robichaux, while both flawed and too perfect of a commander, is a likable character. And the final battle scene is pretty cool. And the budding friendly relationship between the captain and the doctor is enjoyable to see develop. Still, none of this can save the book from its problems, most especially the damned nonstop explaining and speeches. It would have been a four star book without those. With those problems, I’m knocking it down to three stars, although I’m still cautiously recommending it. It’s the first in a series. I’ve already read the second, but I’ll leave my opinion on that for the review I’ll write on that one.

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Strokes

Posted by Scott Holstad on October 21, 2016

Some people have been asking about me lately, so I thought I would write a brief post letting you know a couple things that have been going on with me. Thanks for asking.

Over the past two months, I have had two minor strokes. The first one wasn’t that bad. Eight doctors confirmed it was a stroke. I had numerous tests. I was told once you have one of these, you’ll have more and more frequently, and they’ll get worse until you have a major one. I was also told they cause brain damage and that this one had caused brain damage. Two neurologists and three other doctors also showed me and convinced me that my right side had lost considerable strength, as well as speed and reaction times.

Last month I had another and it was worse. I wrote a diary entry about it because I had a bad feeling about it, and indeed, when I saw my neurologist that afternoon and he asked me about it, I couldn’t remember any details and simply asked him to read my diary. In fact, it took me days to recover and I couldn’t remember about four days during that week. I think I suffered real memory loss and I’m willing to believe some actual brain damage.

So, now I’m on medication and wondering when the next one’s going to hit. And how much worse it will be. I’ve redone my will and my living will. And I’m still having other major health problems. Right now, my ongoing head and back pain problems are taking a back seat to my 18 month old severe stomach problems. I’ve been to many doctors and have had many tests, but no one can help me. In fact, two weeks ago, I was sent to a major hospital out of state for consultation, medication, and tests, because no one here can help me.

I’m still reading a lot, but I’m obviously not writing book reviews. I don’t have the energy or stamina to do so. I have 71 books sitting here to review and I just can’t bring myself to do it. 71. I spend every afternoon and evening exhausted and fatigued to the point of falling asleep at all hours, no matter what I’m doing, whether it’s lying down, sitting in a chair, sitting at the dining room table, even standing up. We think I may have narcolepsy. I average between two and four doctor’s appointments a week, all in the mornings, and spend the rest of the day exhausted and usually in pain. Also, I can no longer drive. I’ve been banned for several reasons, one of which is I pose a danger to myself and others. I now ride the local bus company’s vans for the disabled and take Uber. I also have to use a cane when I walk. My life has changed a lot just in the last year.

I guess that’s it. I could write a lot more, but I’m already tired out and have to stop. I hope any of you reading this are doing well. Sorry about the reviews. I’d like to resume doing them. I’ll do them when I can. Cheers!

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A Review of Rainbows End

Posted by Scott Holstad on October 17, 2016

Rainbows EndRainbows End by Vernor Vinge
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I admittedly haven’t read much Vernor Vinge, but I know some of his books have won several Hugo Awards, including this one. But whenever I read him, I just don’t enjoy his books. Admittedly, Vinge is an idea guy. He comes up with big ideas, world building stuff that can fascinate and allow the reader to explore new concepts and realms of being. But not in this book. In this book, the setting is just a few years in our future here on Earth and it’s not a big concept world he creates. It’s a little too plausible. A former “great” and famous poet from our current era (now) pretty much dies of Alzheimer’s and is revived by his family roughly 10-15 years in the future. He has no clue what is and has happened. He discovers the world has changed and everyone uses wearable computers and are jacked into a worldwide network (Internet) and there is no demand for any type of former skills the elderly had. Indeed, the only careers I can recall people having in this book are kids and old people going to vocational tech high schools and normally aged adults joining the military. There’s not much else. There are people who are about to be former librarians, because all of the books in the world’s libraries are being destroyed because they’re all being digitized. So, Robert Gu, the protagonist, is sent back to this votech high school to learn some skills that will translate into a real world job, one where information is the only source of monetary income and where data exchange is the only thing that most of that future’s young people care about.

One of the early things we learn about in the book is there is some secret plot to create a subliminal virus in a tv medium so it can take over the world and it is being brought about and handled by one person, one of the “good” guys, or so people are led to believe. There’s also a super powerful AI named “Rabbit,” who we never learn much about, but who plays a major role in the book. Speaking of never learning much about, that applies to most of the characters besides Gu, and we don’t necessarily learn enough about him to care enough about what happens to him in this book. He turns from former world class poet into a data junkie with the help of a loser teenager who is always looking for a type of big score and they make an odd pair. And they collaborate on high school projects, but we never really see how. In fact, we’re never really shown how much of this futuristic, yet oh so possibly real, tech is literally used. However, back to what I was saying. Gu’s family is sick of him living with them, so they urge him to learn enough at high school to enable him to get a job (seriously? what type? doing what? he’s taking shop!), so he can move out. Great family. Completely dysfunctional. We never learn very much about any of the characters. They’re flat, they’re not very important, most of the interesting ones don’t even make enough appearances to allow us to get to know them. Characterization is a problem, then, in this book. So, too, the plot. I tried getting into it, but it just didn’t resonate with me. This super secret horrible plot to take over the world, this international crisis, is being constructed at UC San Diego and yet, I didn’t ever really get the idea that it was seriously that big of a deal. A subliminal virus? Oh wow, what a freaking nightmare! Worse than a nuclear bomb, clearly. Dear God, what will we do if it is released into the world? Oh man, who gives a shit? I just don’t care. And that’s a major point. In the end, what does the reader truly care about this book? Because to me, it was just not very interesting. I couldn’t relate to the characters, I thought the plot was damn stupid, I thought the technology, while moderately interesting, was close enough to today’s reality so that it didn’t really stretch my imagination enough to actually call it sci fi. It’s simply current reality, sped up by a decade. Big deal. And seniors who were successful CEOs, professors, career big shots returning to a vocational high school to learn new skills so that they can get a job in this futuristic society? That simply strikes me as stupid.

On the whole, Vinge, the idea guy who’s usually full of major universe shattering ideas, does almost nothing in this book to merit placing it up against his other works and I’m shocked this won the Hugo. I’d love to know what books were his competition that year, because it must have been a lean year for sci fi books. This book could have used some help with the dialogue, with character development, with plot development, with technology development, and perhaps a few others things. As far as I’m concerned, this book was a disappointment to me and I’m giving it two stars (although it probably deserves one) and stating that I simply can’t recommend it.

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A Review of Dreadnought

Posted by Scott Holstad on September 12, 2016

Dreadnought (Lost Colonies Trilogy, #2)Dreadnought by B.V. Larson
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

In Dreadnought, B.V. Larson’s second book in the Lost Colonies Trilogy, the Battle Cruiser “Defiant” has been retrofitted with the best of both Earth and Beta technology. Its acknowledged mission is to re-open channels to the old Colonies. On board is Captain William Sparhawk’s great aunt, Ambassador Lady Granthome who, of course, is constantly meddling in his affairs. Indeed, she has a sweet little document he knows nothing about until they are underway giving her complete control of the mission, with the exception of military necessities, after which point Sparhawk is to surrender control of the ship to her once again. It’s enough to drive a man to drink!

Seriously, I enjoyed the first book in this series so much, I gave it a decent review and ordered the next two editions. But I wasn’t totally sold on everything in the first book and one of the strengths of the first books turns into one of its greatest weaknesses here, a character named Zye. Zye is a huge Beta, a clone-type, human-derivative former colonist found on board the Defiant, the ship Sparhawk and his crew have captured from human space, as it drifted along, mostly deserted in the first volume of the series. Zye feels tremendous loyalty to the captain, which is great, considering he has no ability to sense danger or to feel for traps of any sort. Indeed, he invites them. She’s also huge and strong as an ox, so nobody messes with her. But we learn fairly soon that she’s also attracted to William, even though she dwarfs him, and even though he tries to dissuade her. She’s not easy to dissuade.

In the first book, it was kind of cute. Look, she’s his bodyguard. Oh, good, he needs one. Oh, she’s saved his life again. Damn glad she was there, even if she was sneaking into his rooms again uninvited for the 25th straight time.

This time it’s worse. Much worse. Zye is everywhere and she has a serious attitude problem. She still follows William everywhere he goes at all times. I know he really needs a bodyguard, but couldn’t he hire a real one? Also, she’s always, always following him, walking into his quarters, his bedroom, for God’s sake! WTF? And she seduces him – successfully!!! WTF was he thinking? Some seven foot tall, monster breasted Amazon isn’t going to be noticed coming into and out of your bedroom, captain? Well, she does, he falls for it, he realizes that he LIKES it, and then next thing you know, the whole fucking ship knows, because she has told everyone because he is her property. That’s a great way to run a ship. And she starts challenging him on the bridge. It gets worse, but enough.

Meanwhile, they keep encountering former colonies, almost all of whom are doing very poorly or just plain attack them outright. They also have to deal with this Stroj pirate the whole time who leads them through system after system until it seems they’ve been trapped. The battles are great the whole time and ultimately Sparhawk uses this beautiful little tactical ploy to capture the Stroj and escape the system.

It’s imperative to return to Earth to warn them of what they’ve found outside of the system, of what awaits them, of the need to build up a viable navy. But most important for me is, it’s crucial I don’t read the third and last book so I can have Zye drive me insane with fury as she commits more and more slutty atrocities. For instance, when William tells her he thinks it best that they not continue anything serious, as he is the captain and she is a crew member, she simply says something to the effect that she has a date with another crew member for sex that night anyway. And she’s been sleeping around and getting dating tips from the other female crew members while on the trip. Uh, okay. She wasn’t quite such a whore in the first book. This personality change took me by surprise. I thought she was dedicated to William. To find that in her mind, William’s interchangeable with any other male crew member, as long as they have working penises, was not what I expected from her. I somehow expected more from her. But maybe I misread her and maybe I misread Larson in how he created her. My bad.

I liked this book okay. Not as much as the first one, which I gave four stars to. Not quite as much action, I don’t think. Could have used a bit more. And Zye’s annoying presence and overwhelming dominance were so overpowering that they nearly ruined an otherwise decent book for me. That alone would have knocked the book down to two stars for me. I’m going to compromise and jump it up one star for a three star overall rating. If I can bring myself to open the final book, which I have right beside me, and if I don’t want to kill Zye on sight, I might read it. That book would be the deciding book on whether or not this is a successful series in my eyes. Does the author want to write a decent military sci fi series or does he want to write about a giant, semi-alien horny Amazon who dominates the pages of the books he writes to the exclusion of almost everything else? It’s his choice. As a standalone, not recommended. As part of the series, cautiously recommended.

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