hankrules2011

A polymath rambling about virtually anything

Archive for October, 2014

I Won!!!

Posted by Scott Holstad on October 24, 2014

I applied for disability over three years ago. I was denied twice, before hiring a law firm to represent me. I then had two court hearings, where I was again denied twice. Yesterday, I had my fifth chance, my third court hearing. Leading up to this, I was very stressed. I’ve been extremely anxious. See, I’ve been relying on my diagnosis of trigeminal neuralgia to do the heavy work, with some other issues, like anxiety disorders and eye problems and more to help out. But it hasn’t. In my last hearing, this past June, I just happened to mention that I had back issues and the judge perked up. He asked if I’d sought treatment and I replied that I had. He asked if there was an MRI. I said that there was. He then said he was going to rule I was capable of “unskilled sedentary labor,” unless my orthopedic doctor could prove otherwise. He asked for the records to be sent to hime, as did my lawyer. I surprised him with it too, cause I hadn’t thought it was relevant.

Over the past few days, I’ve been getting grilled by lawyers in anticipation of yesterday’s hearing. It’s been tough. Yesterday, I spent an hour and a half before the hearing with two lawyers getting grilled like hell, them hitting me with anything and everything, to prepare me for what the judge might ask me. They told me the judge was very volatile and there’s no telling what mood he’ll be in. He has a real bad temper. Because I’d appeared in front of him twice before, I knew what they were referring to. They told me the hearing would probably center solely on my back and that the medical expert the judge was calling in would determine the outcome — the judge would do whatever the medical expert advised. This made me nervous, because in my two previous hearings, the medical experts have drilled the hell out of me. I felt really depressed and defeated before going in there. I was also depressed because what I thought was my slam dunk — a diagnosis of coccydynia, massive tailbone damage and pain, proving I can’t sit for very long — would not be allowed in court because it wouldn’t satisfy the 12 month rule. I was stunned. The lawyers discussed asking the judge to recuse himself and they considered asking me to start over again instead of filing another appeal after the hearing. It was discouraging to hear.

Well, finally it was time. We were 20 minutes late and that never happens with this judge. He’s timely to the second. I took that as a bad sign. The judge got started and called the medical expert in Indianapolis. He said he was prepared to offer his assessment of the situation. I cringed. He starting using terminology I didn’t understand, medical things about my back. But then he said it would satisfy a “listing” and I understood that. My lawyers had told me a listing equates to disability in legal terms. My ears perked up. As he continued to talk, he went on to basically say my back is so screwed up that unless I got a couple of fusions and possibly some other surgeries, that combined with my other issues such as trigeminal neuralgia, means there’s no way I can work. I couldn’t believe it! I was stunned. The judge told him that there were some questions about my having responded favorably to some nerve blocks for my TN, but the doctor said that wasn’t his area of expertise and couldn’t render an opinion on that. So the judge terminated the conversation and said he would rule favorably in the case and that we were excused. I went outside with my two lawyers, holding my breath, and we all looked at each other and then said, holy shit! We couldn’t believe it! We congratulated each other. We were overjoyed. That damn doctor saved my ass. So now, after nearly three and a half years of fighting a lengthy, horrible battle, I’ve won — I’ve gotten disability. I feel so much relief. My lawyers told me I’ll be eligible for insurance and that I should expect a check within three to four months. They did warn me that the government tries to take disability back from people, especially younger people like me, and that if they do, I’ll only have 10 days to appeal, so they told me to watch for that, but we were all thrilled and when I got home, I called my wife and she couldn’t believe it. She was overjoyed. And then I called my mom and she cried. It’s been a very tough three plus years. We’ve barely scraped by. We’ve had to borrow money. I don’t think I’ll be getting all that much, but it’ll be that much more than nothing, right? I just can’t believe I finally won. It feels like a dream. Of course, until I get the judge’s decision in my hands, I won’t fully believe it, but it’s 99%+ as good as gold. Thank God! Finally! All of these doctors, all of these appointments, all of the surgeries, all of these medications, all of this pain — all of it is going to come to something good. I’m really grateful. I feel like such a huge weight has been lifted off of my shoulders.

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A Review of The Dogs of War

Posted by Scott Holstad on October 22, 2014

The Dogs of WarThe Dogs of War by Frederick Forsyth

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Dogs of War is another excellent Forsyth book that is well plotted and heavily detailed with some limited action at the end. It’s almost an injustice to call it a thriller, but a thriller it is. Just a slow paced one.

It’s about Zangara, a small republic in West Africa, where a mountain is discovered that is thought to have tin in it. However, it’s discovered to be platinum and about 10 billion dollars’ worth. The mining company that has done this survey, located in London, is eager to gain mineral rights to the mountain, but the dictator of the country is cozy with Russia and the concern is once it’s made known what’s in the mountain, Russia will get first dibs. So, the owner of this company dreams up this elaborate scheme to hire mercenaries to overthrow this African nation’s government and install a puppet regime which will give him mineral rights to the mountain containing the platinum.

Enter Cat Shannon, mercenary. He’s one of the best, if not the best around. He and his gang are looking for work when he’s approached with this offer and so begins a lengthy round of planning and logistics that would bore the hell out of many readers (including my wife), but really gives one the feel of what it takes to purchase, transport, and store black market arms, as well as other goods. Shannon has 100 days to execute his plan. He buys a ship, hires a few more men, trains, and on Day 100 storms the beach, ready to take on the dictator’s men. I’m not going to give away the ending of the book, but suffice it to say that there is such an unexpected plot twist that I pushed my rating up from four to five stars based solely on that alone. Simply brilliant.

This isn’t Forsyth’s best book, but it’s really pretty good. I understand they made a movie of it and now I shall have to seek it out and watch it. If you’re easily bored by books that aren’t fast paced 100% of the time (or even 50%), this isn’t the book for you, but if you like good political and military thrillers with depth, I’d give this a try. Recommended.

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A Review of The Black Unicorn

Posted by Scott Holstad on October 22, 2014

The Black Unicorn (Magic Kingdom of Landover, #2)The Black Unicorn by Terry Brooks

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Boy, a lot of people really don’t like this book. Well, I do. Granted, it’s not as good as the first book in this Landover series, but I still think it tells a good story. In it, one night Ben Holiday, the new king of Landover, his wizard Questor Thews, and the sylph Willow all have dreams that compel them to go on individual quests because of what they see in their dreams — Ben sees his former law partner in Chicago in trouble and crying out for Ben’s help, Questor sees some magic books he can acquire, and Willow sees a black unicorn and a gold bridle meant for it. However, the evil wizard, Meeks, reappears and is the source of these dreams. He follows Ben back into Landover and exchanges identities with Ben, getting Ben kicked out of the castle and taking over the rule of the land. He then takes possession of the books that Questor attained and goes on an extensive search for the black unicorn, which apparently possesses some serious magic that he wants to harness. Meanwhile, Ben sets out on a search for Willow, anticipating great danger for her and wanting to save her from it. He is joined by a fantastic character, a fairie creature in the form of a “prism” cat named Edgewood Dirk. He accompanies Ben on his journeys, saves his life on occasion, and tries to impart wisdom in a game playing, cryptic cat-like way that merely infuriates Ben. (Brooks seems to really GET cats in his portrayal here.) He learns nothing. And this is where people have a problem with the book. In the first book, Ben used his skills learned as a world class lawyer to guide his way through becoming king of Landover. In this book, he’s dense as a rock. I mean, dumb as hell. Midway through the book, a 10-year-old child can figure out what has happened to Ben, but it’s not til the end of the book that he himself does, this after Dirk has hinted at it repeatedly. Apparently this infuriates a number of fans. I take it with a grain of salt and knock the book down a star. Of course, since this is a four book series, you know Ben’s going to beat Meeks and win in the end, but it’s fun to see it occur. And there’s the love interest between Ben and Willow, although it’s also frustrating to see how dense Ben is about his feelings regarding Willow. Still, this wasn’t a bad book. I like magic and fantasy and there’s plenty of that here. I’ve already read the third book in this series and I think it’s a bit better, so chalk this up to trying to write a sequel to a really good first book and falling a bit short. Nonetheless, recommended.

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A Review of Dead Zero

Posted by Scott Holstad on October 13, 2014

Dead Zero (Bob Lee Swagger, #7 Ray Cruz, #1)Dead Zero by Stephen Hunter

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

This book started out really well, but the ending was so incredibly stupid that I have to give it just a couple of stars. The book starts out with Ray Cruz, a Marine sniper who is tasked with having to assassinate an Afghan warlord named Ibrahim Zarzi. However, out in the Afghan wilderness, he and his spotter are jumped by mercenaries (American). His spotter is killed, he is wounded, but escapes. He tries to complete his mission, but a missile destroys the building he was going to use to do it on.

Fast forward in time. The FBI comes to one Bob Lee Swagger, the hero of Hunter’s books up til now. Retired and an old former Marine sniper, they want his help in locating and stopping Cruz, because they’ve received a message from Cruz that he’s going to somehow finish his mission, killing Zarzi in the US as he tours the country. He’s changed his ways and is an American golden boy now, and we’re promoting him for Afghan president. The problem is, the mercs are still after Cruz, and now they’re after Swagger.

It’s an action packed, fast paced mystery/thriller that is pretty exciting and even though it’s not remotely believable, unlike Alex Berenson’s novels, it’s still a good ride. And then something happens. A few things.

I don’t know how to write spoilers in these reviews, so I’m just going to write it here:

*** SPOILER ALERT***

Cruz turns out to be Swagger’s son. Nice coincidence, that, don’t you think? Now we can keep the book series alive, even as Swagger gets to be too old to continue. I didn’t like that. Not at all. And I’ve read the next Cruz book and I hated it, so … not thrilled.

The FBI finds out there’s an emergency at the White House and they need a sniper. They call all of their snipers and find they’ve all gone home because they’re tired out from what they just went through. So the FBI goes to the White House with Swagger and Cruz, who apparently aren’t tired at all. But here’s the thing — doesn’t the president have the … Secret Service at all times? Wouldn’t you think they’d have plenty of men around to terminate the threat? Wonder why Hunter didn’t think of that….

Here’s the kicker. Major spoiler. The ending is so damn stupid as to make the entire book useless. The bad guy did everything because he’s pissed off at the West (and the US) for the introduction of the birth control pill in 1960 and what that has done to women. Yep. Women work now and earn just as much, if not more, than men. (Don’t know where Hunter got that utterly false statistic.) Women should be barefoot and pregnant, apparently, and should know their place. The family unit is shrinking. Western society got along quite nicely for centuries with men in the lead and now, thanks to birth control, women are running wild. So Islam, with its misogynistic views, is our only hope. Yeah, I know. Can you believe that shit? That’s the biggest pile of horseshit I’ve ever read. To think that an intelligent reading audience would buy that as the reason for taking down the US by a traitor is asinine. So I would give this book one star, but I’m giving it two because it was exciting, up til that point. Still, definitely not recommended.

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A Review of The Cobra

Posted by Scott Holstad on October 9, 2014

The CobraThe Cobra by Frederick Forsyth

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The Cobra was a bit of a disappointment for me, especially since I love Forsyth and most of his works. The premise is pretty simple. The president, who is clearly meant to be Obama, decides to take on the cocaine cartels and wants them wiped out. To do this, he turns to an ex-CIA man code named “The Cobra,” who assures him that with appropriate time and resources, he can do it. He then recruits an ex-soldier named Cal Dexter to be his second in command. And thus begin my complaints with the book.

After this initial introduction to The Cobra, we almost never see him again until the very end of the book. How odd is that? Instead, Dexter is everywhere — all over the world — coordinating the logistics for putting together cocaine hunter/killer special ops groups who are going to take on the cartels by air and sea. Additionally, friendly governments are recruited to help, the British by sending their special forces, others by ramping up security. And halfway through the book, after tons of planning, the operation begins. And goes on and on. And the good guys — who are real god — and the bad guys — who are real bad — go at it, with the good guys winning virtually 100% of the time, so incredibly easily that you have to wonder if the government actually followed this novel as a planning guide, could it eradicate the drug trade? Forsyth makes it look so damn easy. And that’s not remotely realistic.

There’s a twist at the end that brings The Cobra back into the story and also involves Dexter. By now, the cartels have figured out what’s going on to a certain degree, but seem powerless to stop it. Amazing. What happens at the very end was a bit of a surprise to me, and a welcome one, actually, but it couldn’t save the book. Why name the book “The Cobra” when it actually should have been named “Cal Dexter?” It doesn’t make sense. Why write a book that makes winning the war on drugs — which America has stunningly lost to a shocking degree — look so incredibly easy when we know it’s not? It’s not remotely realistic. Some people complain of boredom due to the incredible detail and planning that went on during the first half of the book. Well, that’s basically Forsyth’s way, so I personally don’t have a problem with that. But it’s got to lead somewhere. And this led nowhere. Another complaint — there’s no sense of suspense or real danger to the good guys in this book. You get that in the Odessa File, the Jackal, the Fourth Protocol, etc., but not here. It’s just non-stop intercepting and destroying drug shipments left and right. The only danger is to the bad guys. Not much of a thriller.

Normally I highly recommend Forsyth books, but I’m afraid this time I can’t. I’m not even sure why I’m giving it three stars instead of two. I guess out of respect for the author. Not recommended.

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A Follow Up

Posted by Scott Holstad on October 9, 2014

Well, I had my surgery yesterday. It was my third in the last four months. I guess it went okay. Although it’s taking awhile for me to recover. I’ve gotten really woozy, very dizzy, and have had a sore jaw and a real headache — very bad — ever since waking from the anesthesia. At least this time, the anesthesia worked. I don’t have high hopes for this, although my wife does, but who knows? It might work out. It might help my pain. I sure hope so.

As a follow up to my last post about our old house, it was a disaster! I wrote about the flooring specialist and said it can’t be too bad. I was wrong. He came in with a meter of some sort and found the kitchen floor and the eating area off the kitchen saturated. Then he found the hardwood floors in the dining and living rooms also saturated! I didn’t believe him. Then he went to the giant den, which had no water exposure, and claimed it too was saturated and I basically called him a liar to his face. But what could I do? I’m no expert. He climbed under the crawl space and took pictures, which told me nothing. And he recommended tearing up the kitchen and kitchen area floor and wood beneath it and replacing it, somehow drying out the hardwood floors (thank God we don’t have to rip those us!), and tearing up the carpet and carpet pad in the den and replacing them. Oh, he also insists we have to replace the cabinetry in the kitchen. Excuse me, but WTF???!!! The closing was that very day. What the hell were we supposed to do? I called regarding homeowners insurance to get the ball rolling on that while my realtor called the buyers’ realtor to explain the situation and see if they wanted to once again delay the closing or still go ahead with it. And to our relief, they still wanted to do it that day. Thank God! So, we set this flooring a**hole up with State Farm, who has been giving me nothing but grief ever since and things seem to be progressing. We went to the closing and met the buyers. They are from Haiti and seemed very nice. I hope they like living there. It was explained to them that the floor repairs could take anywhere from one to five weeks, and they seemed okay with that. Whew! We got a whole lot less than we should have gotten for it, a whole lot less than what we paid for it, a whole lot less than what we originally listed it for, but after having been on the market for so long, we were just glad to be rid of it. And guess what I did the following day? With some of the proceeds of the sale, I was able to pay of the entirety of my student loans! I’ve been paying on those for YEARS and still had many years and tens of thousands to go. What a relief to have that off my shoulders. The rest of the money went to my mother. Many thanks to her.

Meanwhile, Gretchen had a big doctor’s appointment on Tuesday and was diagnosed with probable fibromyalgia and possible lupus. She’s now taking medication for lupus and I don’t really know what they’re going to do about the fibromyalgia. Still, after searching for answers for a very long time, it’s good to finally know.

I guess that’s it for now. Isn’t that enough? Some good, some bad. Could be worse. I hope I recuperate fully soon, because I’m sick of feeling poorly. I hope this eliminates, or at least diminishes, my head pain. At least for a good, long while. Cheers!

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