A polymath rambling about virtually anything

Archive for June, 2012

A Review of Platinum Pohl

Posted by Scott Holstad on June 30, 2012

Platinum Pohl: The Collected Best StoriesPlatinum Pohl: The Collected Best Stories by Frederik Pohl

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is an excellent collection of short science fiction stories. I’d read some of Pohl’s work and knew he was prolific, but I don’t think I had the appreciation for him that I now have. This is some kick ass work, encompassing decades of writing. Philip K. Dick is probably my favorite sci fi writer because he can do some truly amazing things, but I’d have to say Pohl is probably now my second favorite. Some of the stories which stood out for me were “The Day the Icicle Works Closed,” “The Gold at the Starbow’s End,” “The Day the Martians Came,” “Day Million,” and “Fermi and Frost,” which won a Hugo when it was published. I was worried that such a large collection of short stories might ultimately bore me and become redundant, but that never happened. The material stayed fresh and the editor did a fantastic job at picking out the stories to include in this book. As I’ve learned, Pohl is truly a giant in sci fi circles, and now I know why. Read this book!

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Mac External Hard Drives

Posted by Scott Holstad on June 28, 2012

I’m so ticked at manufacturers of external (backup) hard drives made for Macs! All I want is a portable hard drive to back my system up on. Is that too much to ask for? Macs have Time Capsule, but it’s not really portable, and even though it does backups, it’s more of a wireless router. It’s expensive and heavy. I have one and don’t use it.

Yesterday I went to Best Buy and bought a 500 GB Seagate external hard drive for $90. I brought it home, looking forward to using its built in software to back up my system and do automatic backups whenever changes are made. That’s the whole point. The packaging said it was for PCs and Macs. It also said you don’t have to reformat it for Macs like you do with some products. Well, first, I DID have to reformat the hard drive because it was a Mac! I then installed the software and there was no place at all in the software’s interface which would have enabled me to back up my computer, let alone schedule any, etc. I was ticked. I called Seagate. They told me I needed Time Capsule, that their product couldn’t do what I wanted it to do. Um, false advertising, misleading packaging, whatever — I was TICKED!!! I took it back to Best Buy. I then bought a My Passport from Western Digital. I bought it because it was specifically for Macs. Same size, same price. I brought it home, hooked it up, and looked for a software interface to appear. Nothing. I downloaded the user manual and it said I should have gotten a screen about Time Capsule. I didn’t. I called Western Digital. The person I spoke with barely spoke English and had such a thick accent, I could hardly understand him. I did understand the following though: My Passport only works with Time Capsule — another external hard drive. Why the hell would I need two? I mean, what the hell is wrong with these people? I said that it said nothing on the packaging about that and that if it had, I wouldn’t have bought it. The rep was pretty speechless to that. I mean, what do you say, right? So, basically I have a hard drive that I can drag and drop folders and files onto and it will save them, but it can never update anything on its own and I have no way of tracking this stuff, so I wouldn’t know when to replace a file or folder with an updated one. It obviously can’t automatically back up my system. It’s pretty damn useless. I’ve moved some things on to it today, but really, if/when I ever update the stuff I moved, I won’t know if/when to update the hard drive because I won’t have remembered it. Isn’t that stupid as hell? I swear, isn’t packaging regulated? Shouldn’t both manufacturers have put on their packaging that their products couldn’t work without Apple’s own Time Capsule? What a joke. See if I ever buy another one of their products….

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A Review of Naked Spirituality

Posted by Scott Holstad on June 25, 2012

Naked Spirituality: A Life with God in Twelve Simple Words (Paperback)Naked Spirituality: A Life with God in Twelve Simple Words by Brian D. McLaren

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I like Brian McLaren, but I’ve found his books to be either hit or miss and this one seems to be a miss for me. It’s a lightweight, I guess intentionally, but there’s nothing really challenging here, it seems to me. It’s like he set out to write a new book and just phoned it in. Very disappointing. I expected his usually radical approach to religion and spirituality, but felt deflated while reading it. Indeed, I didn’t even finish. Made it halfway through before giving up. Pity. At least I’m confident I’ll find more books of his enjoyable and challenging….

Oh, the one thing I really did appreciate about the book came at the very front where McLaren described his evangelical/fundamentalist upbringing. It mirrored my own about 100%. Eerie. I feel sorry for him, as I’ve been tormented by my own stringent upbringing throughout my entire life. Unfortunately, the book lost any edge it may have started with shortly after.

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A Review of The Gospel of Judas

Posted by Scott Holstad on June 22, 2012

The Gospel of Judas: Critical EditionThe Gospel of Judas: Critical Edition by Rodolphe Kasser
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I have to confess I started this book out of sheer interest in the subject matter, but I couldn’t finish it — I just thought it was too silly to believe. Maybe I’ve got too much of the traditional four gospels ingrained within me, but for Judas to be portrayed as the favorite and best disciple of Jesus who only did what he was told by Jesus to do and was therefore a hero as he brought about the crucifixion and resurrection strikes me as totally absurd. Not to mention that it was hard to read with all of the missing text that was skipped over and omitted. That was distracting. I couldn’t buy the notion of Jesus appearing to his disciples in the form of a child. You’d think that would have been mentioned in another gospel. And here’s one thing that might seem trite, but it bugs me nonetheless — apparently this gospel was written in the second century. Well, who wrote it? It follows Judas for just a brief period of time up until his suicide, I believe. Well, if he killed himself, how did he communicate the secrets of this text to the ones who would ultimately write it? He was DEAD for Pete’s sake! Isn’t this just some second century made up gnostic tale by people wanting to stir things up? That’s ultimately what it strikes me as. So, yeah, I probably should have finished it and maybe one day I’ll return to it, but I just thought the premise(s) was too absurd to continue reading the book.

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A Review of The Underground Church

Posted by Scott Holstad on June 20, 2012

The Underground Church: Reclaiming the Subversive Way of JesusThe Underground Church: Reclaiming the Subversive Way of Jesus by Robin Meyers
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I really liked this book even though its idealistic vision is so utopian that its recommendations can surely never be acted upon by most Christians. It’s a heartfelt book with a vision — one of love and caring for all. I like that. Even though he separates himself from the emergent church group, there are some similarities. I’ve read other Meyers books though, and sometimes he comes across as really ticked off. In this book, he really tries to balance his insights and comments between conservative and liberals in the Christian church, although it does finally lean somewhat to the left. That’s fine with me.

In the book, he takes issue with war, calling it a sin many times over. I’m not certain if I buy that since the God I read about in the Old Testament seemed to love war, but maybe he’s right — I’m no expert. He also feels Christians should actually be conscientious objectors, environmentalists, and frankly, socialists. To back this last claim, he cites Acts 4:32-35, which says

“Now the whole group of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one claimed private ownership of any possessions, but everything they owned was held in common…. There was not a needy person among them, for as many as owned lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold. They laid it at the apostle’s feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need.”

Interesting. And thought provoking. And quite possibly dead on. Again, I’m no expert. Toward the end of the book, though, Meyers starts making some recommendations of what people in the “Underground Church” should and will do and it’s really overly idealistic. For instance, start up church-sponsored interest free banks. Developing private economic systems within the church. Have pre-church communion meals. All of this he marks as Biblical and it might be so, but I can’t see conservatives (or even some liberals) as going for any of this. Indeed, the book is an appealing read, but as to its practicality, I would say I don’t know of too many — if any — churches that would follow through and become an Underground Church. It just isn’t going to happen in Protestant (evangelical) America. Which is a bit of a shame and shows you how off evangelicals are in general. When they should be concerned about feeding the poor, they — with their Republican politicians — are cutting food stamp programs even now as we speak. It’s truly appalling. Another book by Robin Meyers talks about how the right wing in this country is wrong, and it ties conservative politics to evangelicals and I think it’s a fair point, and as I grew up a strong Calvinist but have since moved on, I’m continually appalled by the Republicans and religious right’s polemics of hatred and greed. Prosperity gospel my ass!

If you get a chance and you’re remotely interested, you should read the book. It’s a well written, well intended, moderately well thought out book. It just won’t be taken seriously by conservatives or most Christians in general, and that’s a real shame.

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New Issue of Rays Road Review is Out

Posted by Scott Holstad on June 20, 2012

Hey there! The new Summer 2012 issue of Ray’s Road Review is out. You can find it at: http://raysroadreview.com/. We’ve got some good fiction, poetry, nonfiction & photography to check out. As the poetry editor, I’ve got to give shout outs to poets Jessica Tyner, DA Spruzen, Tim Suermondt, & Amanda Rachelle Warren. Please read & submit. Cheers!

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