A polymath rambling about virtually anything

Archive for July, 2013

Death of my Father

Posted by Scott Holstad on July 31, 2013

Yesterday was the worst day of my life. My father died suddenly and unexpectedly at my house early yesterday afternoon. I got home from a meeting to find my parents at my house. Dad was mowing my yard for me, which he’s done often and is really appreciated. However, shortly after noon, he sat down in a chair on my patio, sweating like crazy and he started gasping for breath. I didn’t see this. Mom took him a glass of water, but he slumped down to the ground, which I did see and Mom yelled that he was having heatstroke, so I wet down two towels and took them out to cool him off. But he was on his side moaning and gasping and, essentially, issuing croaking sounds from his mouth and he was shaking too. It was horrible! I’d never seen him like this. I’d never heard such sounds come from a human. I asked him if he wanted me to call 911 and said I would, but he croaked out a “No” — his last word. Mom asked if he wanted to sit up, and he barely nodded, so we sat him up and I held him steady. But his head slumped to his chest and it didn’t appear that he was breathing, so I called 911 and, with them on the line, I performed CPR on my father for about 10 minutes, until emergency personnel arrived and took over. They tried for 10 more minutes. There were eight emergency workers there, and they’d blocked off the road. They named three different hospitals they were going to take him to before settling on Erlanger, the heart hospital downtown. But I knew it was too late. He had stopped sweating, had gone cold. His lips had turned white. He wasn’t breathing; there was no pulse. He was dead. Mom kept talking about heatstroke, I guess because she was in denial, but we rushed to the hospital where we were shown to a special, private visiting family room. Literally, 15 minutes later, a doctor and two nurses came in and told us that they had gotten his pulse back, briefly, but lost it and they had tried to shock his heart, but he was gone. He was dead. My dad was dead!!! FUCK!!! Mom started asking questions, but I tried to quiet her, because they were largely senseless. We were taken back to view the body. We stayed with Dad for about 20 minutes. I held Mom as she cried. My parents were elderly, but Mom’s nine years older than Dad and she was sobbing about how she was supposed to go first. I didn’t know what to do. This might sound macabre, but I took a picture of him lying there, with tubes and instruments sticking out of him. He head was yellow. His skin was cold as ice. I kissed him on his forehead and we left.

I’d always worried about Dad going because he’s fought two battles with cancer, and has had three or four serious operations because of it, but he’s survived. I never thought a heart attack — or something like it — would kill him. That’s not in our family. I guess it is now.

Mom and I made lists. My wife came home and we held each other, crying, before going over to Mom’s. There’s so much to do, so much to take care of. And we couldn’t find Dad’s final arrangements anywhere — not in his two safes. Mom’s having to wing it. The funeral service will probably be next Saturday in Knoxville, where they moved from to be near me. That’s where their friends are, their home church is, their burial plots are. I think we’re going to have him cremated. Mom wants me to drive up to Knoxville Friday to meet with the pastor to discuss the service, and then to go to the funeral home to see the body one final time. I’m not sure I want to do that, but that’s what she wants. She doesn’t want to live in their house anymore, by herself. It’s a two story house and she could fall on the stairs. I don’t know what to do. She could move in with us, but we don’t have much room and everyone would be squeezed in on top of one another. One option is to sell both houses and buy one large house for more room. Perhaps up in Knoxville. Chattanooga has been a disaster anyway. I’ve never had good job luck here and neither has my wife (or my parents). I got divorced here from my ex-wife. Bad vibes. It’d be good to start over. The only problem is, while Mom would like to be in Knoxville again, the job market is no better there than here, so we’d be facing similar problems. I just don’t know what to do.

I have to be honest — I’m petrified. Dad was the glue that held this family together. He was giving and caring and sacrificial and loving and he was the person I turned to in emergencies and for advice, and frankly, he was a real handyman — something I’m not at all — and he took care of both houses. Now I have to step up to the plate and I don’t know how. I don’t know how I’m going to make it without him. Gretchen’s going to miss him. My mom definitely doesn’t know what she’s going to do without him. This is a nightmare. I can’t believe this has happened. At my house. While mowing. And he suffered. He was in pain. It only lasted maybe 20 minutes or so, but it was horrible to witness and I would gladly have taken his place if I could have. Mom still thinks it’s a combination of heat and stress, but he simply had a heart attack and died. The thing I’m beating myself up over is, what if I had called 911 five minutes earlier, when I asked him? What if I had ignored him when he said “No” and called. Would it have saved him? Did I unwittingly kill him? Am I responsible? I tried to do the CPR as best I could, but I failed there too. I could tell he was dead while I was doing it. I was so distraught. I am still.

A number of personal friends and friends of the family have emailed me and I feel overwhelmed. I have something like 60 or 70 email messages to respond to. I don’t know when I’ll have the time or inclination. At least people care. People wrote repeatedly in these messages about how much they loved my dad, about what a positive impact he had made on their lives. I hope some will come to the funeral service. Dad was one of 10 children. Now there are only five left, and none live remotely close. I don’t even know if his own family will be able to attend the service. How sad.

I don’t know what to do. I feel lost. I feel empty inside. I’m tormented too, because we didn’t always have the best relationship, although we had both reached out to rectify that over the past decade. I’m an only child and I didn’t always treat him right. It took my maturing for me to gain the proper perspective on my dad. I love him; I always will. I just wish I could have said goodbye somehow. I feel so guilty.

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Liriano a Cy Young candidate

Posted by Scott Holstad on July 30, 2013

Liriano a Cy Young candidate

via Don’t laugh: Liriano a Cy Young candidate – SweetSpot Blog – ESPN.

Finally. A season to cheer about in Pittsburgh — for baseball! After 20 consecutive losing seasons, it’s almost August and we’re half a game out of first place and playing really well. And Liriano has had a spectacular year, as has Pedro Alvarez, who leads the National league in home runs. Go Bucs!

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A Review of Born Standing Up

Posted by Scott Holstad on July 27, 2013

Born Standing Up: A Comic's LifeBorn Standing Up: A Comic’s Life by Steve Martin

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Steve Martin’s autobiography is a charming, witty, humorous, and at times sobering tale of his life as a stand up comedian, including everything that led up to that point. It starts with his family, when he was a boy in Southern California. He had very poor relations with his father, which obviously impacted him, and not much better relations with his mother and sister. He started working at Disneyland when he was 10, eventually moving into the magic store to sell its wares while he learned how to be a magician. Later, he moved to a theater at Knott’s Berry Farm, played the banjo, did bits of stand up and magic, recited poetry, and did a little bit of everything. I was happy to recall that he enrolled at one of my alma maters — Long Beach State (or as it’s now known, California State University Long Beach), where he majored in philosophy. He was also trying out at places to do magic and stand up. He took his studies seriously, but eventually got a gig up in LA, so he transferred to UCLA (another school I also attended) and found it to be much harder than Long Beach. LOL! Eventually, he was traveling around picking up gigs — this was in the mid-60s — and found some up in San Francisco. When we think of Steve Martin, we often think of his records and the crowds he packed in, but we don’t often realize he paid his dues for 10 years, traveling the stand up circuit around the country, playing to crowds of three and four at a time, making next to nothing. He decided, at some point, that he would start making jokes without punchlines, and while at first, audiences didn’t quite get it, eventually he started winning them over with his wackiness. He landed a job as a writer for the Smothers Brothers and eventually got on the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson. He writes he didn’t really get recognized until he had been on that show 16 times. I think he’s being truthful is writing that. When SNL came out, Martin was both flabbergasted and elated, because he had thought he was the only one in the country doing “new comedy,” but here was an entire group of talented people he could relate to. He was soon asked to host, and went on to host numerous times. Finally, his manager got a record out, and it sold a million and a half albums. He started to get the recognition he had sought for so long. By the early 80s, he was playing to crowds of 45,000! It was crazy. And it got to him. He was booked for two years straight, and the life on the road — alone — really got to him. So he got out, in 1981. Left stand up for acting, and never looked back — until this book. Eventually, he reconciled to a degree with his family, shortly before his parents died, and that was nice to read about. Martin doesn’t go into great detail about his personal relationships, but does mention a few, as well as some of his relations with other performers. (Did you know Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks opened for him?) This is an introspective book that tells of a hard climb up the ladder to comedic success, and leaving it for the unknown with no regrets. It’s a quick read; I read it in one day. It’s very entertaining and very interesting and I certainly recommend this, not only for fans of Steve Martin, but for anyone.

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A Review of Philip K. Dick: Five Novels of the 1960s and 70s

Posted by Scott Holstad on July 25, 2013

Five Novels of the 1960s & 70s (Library of America #183)Five Novels of the 1960s & 70s by Philip K. Dick

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I only read three of the five novels in this anthology, as I already own and have read two of them. So this review will only be about the three I just finished reading. All in all, it wasn’t the best anthology of Dick’s work I could expect, but I guess the first volume of this three volume series was. I thought a couple of the novels in this book were a little weak, but a couple were also very good — thus, the four out of five stars….

The book starts with Martian Time-Slip. It’s about human colonies on a desolate Mars, and right away you meet the indigenous Martian population, the Bleekmen — also called “niggers” because they’re black, I guess. I tell you, I’m starting to get pissed off at Dick’s overt racism in his novels, even though I’ve never read of any evidence that he was a racist. In my review of Flow My Tears, I wrote the following:

“I’m starting to notice a disturbing theme in Dick’s books: he doesn’t seem to hold black people in high regard. In this novel, black people are being sterilized out of existence and Jason seems to be glad of it. Dick also treats blacks oddly in The Crack in Space and there are pissed off, drugged out black people in Counter-Clock World. Evidently, Watts serves as Dick’s place of ultimate black fear and evil.”

To refer to your characters as “niggers,” even in the early ’60s, seems outrageous to me. It’s not like Dick was from the South or anything….

Anyway, we meet Jack Bohlen, a schizophrenic repairman, who is hired to construct a device for communicating with Manfred, a severely autistic child who others think can tell the future. I found the novel boring and it was obsessed with schizophrenia, which in odd 1960s understandings of it, is shakily discussed here. Apparently every third person in the world has it. Okay then…. I stayed the course and read the book, but the ending completely threw me, and not in a good way. Of course, Dick’s endings are often very twisty, but this one made no sense to me at all. It’s like he wrote himself into a corner and came up with this quick “fix” to get himself out of the jam, and that’s how he left it. I found the book depressing and unsatisfying and would be hard pressed to give it three stars.

The next book was Dr. Bloodmoney, which was better. It’s a post-apocalyptic novel, which might seem trite now, but was probably fairly original when it was published in the ’60s. There are a LOT of characters and sometimes it’s hard to remember all of them and what they all do, but Dick ties them together (sometimes TOO neatly) so that everything works out. It’s a far fetched idea he writes about, but I was willing to buy it, so there you go. I did think it was a little too long and could have been more concise. Maybe 3.5 stars.

A pretty good novel was the third one, Now Wait For Last Year. It’s about a drug called JJ-180, a hallucinogenic that’s not only mind altering, but it causes people to move in time, forwards, backwards, etc. One capsule is completing addicting, and it eventually causes death. It was developed as a weapon of war, since Terra (Earth) is joined with the Starmen to fight the Reegs, a war the Terrans are losing. We meet Dr. Eric Sweetscent and his wife Kathy, who he’s on the outs with. He works for a large company, but is hired to serve as the UN Secretary General’s personal physician. However, the plot starts getting odd when Eric encounters several different version of the “The Mole” and when Kathy sneakily addicts Eric to JJ-180, where he discovers he goes forward in time. He seeks an antidote, and finds one. He also finds alternate realities, a recurring PKD theme, and even talks to himself in other years to get advice. He finds that the Reegs are actually a good ally to have in the future, and that with them, the Terrans defeat the Starmen, but as there are alternate realities to different years, he has a lot to deal with. He’s on the run throughout part of the novel, and things are not always what they seem. There seem to be some irrelevant plot points in the novel, which weakens it a bit in my mind (why does the Mole send him to the girl in Pasadena — pointless…), but the characters in this book seem, for PKD, surprisingly fleshed out and it’s a good read. My only significant complaint is the abrupt ending, a complaint I have about a lot of Dick’s books. I was reading and wondering what was going to happen next, only to turn the page and find out I’d come to the end of the novel. No warning. Very disquieting. Still, a pretty decent book.

You’ll find my review of Flow My Tears, the Policeman Said at https://hankrules2011.wordpress.com/20… and of A Scanner Darkly (a very good book) at https://hankrules2011.wordpress.com/20….

This book isn’t perfect, but it’s worth reading. There are some fine tales here. Recommended.

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Posted by Scott Holstad on July 23, 2013

My wife begins a new job today. It’s not necessarily ideal, but it’s pretty decent and she should enjoy it. It’s been a frustrating process, because she’s gotten interviews, but not offers. However, I’m not even getting interviews. I’ve been looking for a job for 13 months. I got one in February, started in March, but it was a contract job and they had virtually no work for me. They terminated my contract after only five weeks, saying only positive things about me. It was weird. And it was back to square one for me. Since then, I’ve found nearly no jobs to apply for, and the ones I’ve applied for haven’t called me. In fact, I’ve only interviewed with three companies over the past 13 months! One of my problems is I’m in a niche field — tech writing/editing. There aren’t many jobs like that in Chattanooga. They’re few and far between. So I’m stuck. Unless I take a retail job or something like that, which would force me to work nights and weekends (which I don’t want to do), I guess I’ll keep looking for something in my field. I’ve also done project management, but increasingly those positions require a degree in that particular field, so it’s hard to even find a decent project manager position. It’s been really frustrating. So we’re poor as hell!  We’ve been doing some contract work out of the house, but it doesn’t pay much, and certainly isn’t worth the time we put into it. So anyway, back to my wife. She starts today. It’s going to be a satellite office for a company out of Nashville and she’s going to be her own boss, for all intents and purposes. I’m really happy for her. Maybe I’ll go over and have lunch with her sometimes. Meanwhile, I keep applying for full time, contract, and free lance jobs here. I applied for a free lance copy editing job two weeks ago, having copy editing experience with newspapers and magazines, and they haven’t called me. I don’t know what the problem is. I think my resume’s pretty good. One of my problems is I’m over-educated. I have three degrees. But I take one of them off my resume for some jobs. Which really ticks me off because I spent a lot of time and money getting those degrees — I shouldn’t have to leave them off my resume. But I think that has hurt me. I also think my age has hurt me. I have experience dating back to the mid-90s on my resume, so clearly I’m in my 40s. I think a lot of companies want younger employees, which irritates the shit out of me. I’ll work for as cheap as a 25 year old — I just need a damn job! I’ve thought about branching out as a full time free lance editor, but I really want the security of a paycheck every two weeks. You know? I’d also like benefits, truth be told. But at this point, I’ll take practically anything. If a contract job pays enough (and it should), I can buy my own insurance…. Anyway, offer some congrats to me wife and if you have any advice for me, feel free to offer it. Cheers!

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Dustin Jeffrey signs with Pittsburgh Penguins

Posted by Scott Holstad on July 21, 2013

Dustin Jeffrey signs 1-year deal with Pittsburgh Penguins – ESPN.

Wow, I knew we had lost Jarome Iginla to Boston in the off season, but I didn’t know we’d also lost Brenden Morrow and, more importantly, Matt Cooke. I feel especially bitter about Cooke, who had been a thug until two years ago when Pittsburgh told him to clean his act up or get out — and he did. And he’s been a very productive player. I thought he’d be a Penguin for life. I’m really bummed about it. I can’t believe he signed with Minnesota as a free agent. What was he thinking? Pittsburgh was his home! Damn!

All I’ve got to say is that goaltender we drafted a few weeks ago better turn out to be world class, and soon, because we need another Stanley Cup and we need a world class goaltender to get it. Our two goaltenders are good, but not that good….

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