hankrules2011

A polymath rambling about virtually anything

Archive for May, 2015

A Review of J.R.

Posted by Scott Holstad on May 27, 2015

J.R.: My Life as the Most Outspoken, Fearless, and Hard-Hitting Man in HockeyJ.R.: My Life as the Most Outspoken, Fearless, and Hard-Hitting Man in Hockey by Jeremy Roenick

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This was a very enjoyable book to read, even if you’re not a huge fan of Jeremy Roenick. I gained a lot of respect for him as a player as a result of reading this. He obviously loves the game of hockey and played with a lot of passion. Over the course of his 20 year career, he became one of a very few American-born players to score more than 500 career goals. Pretty impressive.

Roenick grew up a hockey player. He was playing pee wee hockey at 10 and his parents were traveling to other states to take him to tournaments. He moved around a lot as a kid, mostly due to his father’s occupation, but as his hockey playing skills grew, his parents’ determination for him to succeed grew, so his dad did something totally bizarre. Rather than take a promotion to a warm weather city like Dallas or LA, he took an entry level demotion to move to Boston so his son could grow up entrenched in a hockey atmosphere, losing some 50% of his income in the process. Still, he must have been doing pretty well, because JR went to prep schools, where he dominated. So much that he got drafted by Chicago after his junior year of high school. He wasn’t even 160 pounds yet. Strangely, even though he wasn’t into academics, he decided to go to college and went to Boston College — for 15 minutes. Long enough to read the syllabus for a class and decide it wasn’t for him. So soon, he was NHL-bound. He played a year in the minors, but got called up to Chicago and scored. The rest is history. He had a tough coach, was surrounded by good players, was a tough player himself, could score a lot, was a fast skater, a scrapper, and excelled. He lasted eight years in Chicago before they shipped him off to Phoenix, where he stayed for five years. Then he went to Philly, where I think he was also there for about five years. L.A. for one abysmal year, then two years with San Jose, then retirement. Along the way, his body took a lot of punishment. Hundreds of stitches, many broken bones, most teeth busted. Abused. He also partied his ass off, even though he was married. Strangely the book evades the topic of groupies. Gee, I wonder why? LOL! He devotes a chapter to a gambling problem he had, which was pretty bad. He played a lot of pranks. He was the life of the party, an entertainer. When he retired, he didn’t know what he wanted to do, but he felt like he wanted to stay in front of the camera. So when NBC offered him his job as an analyst, he jumped for it. And I like watching him now. I think he’s very good. There’s a funny story in the book about a disagreement he and Mike Milbury had in the studio about a hit on Kris Letang which nearly brought them to blows. Speaking of Penguins stars, in the book’s first paragraph, JR calls out Sidney Crosby for not showing enough or proper leadership. Which I tend to agree with, and I’m a huge Pens fan.

This book isn’t the best autobiography I’ve ever read. There should have been more about the game of hockey itself and more hockey stories, with fewer party stories. But it’s still quite entertaining. One area of confusion. He goes out of his way to ensure you know he’s American, dammit! Yet the book is written in Canadian English (defencemen, cheque, etc). WTF? Whatever. I enjoyed it. If you like hockey, you probably will too. And even if you don’t like hockey, but you like a good story, this might be a good book for you. Recommended.

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A Review of Flight of the Condor

Posted by Scott Holstad on May 21, 2015

Flight Of The CondorFlight Of The Condor by Richard P. Henrick

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

In a word: cheesy. In another word: dated. In yet another word: entertaining. This book, published in 1987, is about a nuclear showdown between the US and USSR. America has a satellite up at all times overseeing Russia and their nuclear threat. When that satellite goes bad, it falls to earth and another one replaces it. Only this time, it doesn’t. And one of the top Soviet generals takes notice. And decides he wants to take this opportunity to nuke the hell out of America while they can’t spot what is going on over there. The US tries to launch another satellite on a Trident missile, only it’s apparently shot down. They then decide to dust off the space shuttle, “Condor,” and launch it manually via that. Word gets through to a terrorist organization and to the Russians and they both send teams to dismantle things. Meanwhile, this book is about subs. Our heroes are on a diesel powered sub called the Razorback, shadowing a Russian nuclear sub. And they want to take it out. Yep, they want to start WW III by sinking a Russian nuclear sub. Brilliant. As one of the crewmen puts it toward the end of the book, “…why didn’t they blow away both vessels and be done with it. These were their waters. Another foreign nation had absolutely no business there. How much better it was to be safe now than sorry later.” So they sink a French sub, thinking it’s a Russian sub. With absolutely no ramifications. None.

There are a lot of discrepancies in the book. The dialogue is wooden, at times, and hardly believable. The situations are absurd. The feared Russian Spetsnaz are shown to be total pansies when the chips are down, thanks to American military police heroes. Uh huh. An oceanographer discovers an old college flame who’s now a paleontologist with students on a dig near Vandenberg air base. So they immediately start up where they dropped things off 15 years previously and the reader has to suffer through lines like, “…he slowly gave himself until all was given. A whimper passed her lips as this gift was received deep in the tight, warm recesses of her womb.” I’m not kidding. Worst sex scene ever. And there’s an earthquake in Alaska that causes a tsunami to hit northern California. I have yet to figure out how this added to the plot. The oceanographer and an engineer fear sabotage and try to warn the Air Force higher ups, who won’t listen, so when the Russians and terrorists are defeated and the shuttle makes it up and the satellite is launched, Russia backs down and the day is saved. Cheesy. Yet still somewhat entertaining. I wanted to put this book down and did a couple of times, but found myself drawn back to it every time, wanting to know what happened next. Not sure why. It’s poorly written, the plot is bad, the dialogue choppy, but I still kind of liked it. A guilty pleasure? Sorry. I can’t recommend it. But if you happen upon it in a used bookstore like I did and can get it for a buck, it’s probably worth it.

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A Review of The Veteran

Posted by Scott Holstad on May 18, 2015

First of all, I want to mention that this is my 500th blog post here on WordPress. That’s a lot. Thanks to all of you who have been reading me all this time. I guess I’ll continue on. Next….



The VeteranThe Veteran by Frederick Forsyth

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Veteran is a book of five longish short stories by Forsyth, some of which are quite good, some of which are less so. Nearly all of them have somewhat surprising plot twists toward the end which give the reader a pretty good jolt.

The first story, “The Veteran,” is about the murder of an unidentified old man by two young thugs. The police search everywhere for his identity, but to no avail. Then, to everyone’s surprise, the best defense lawyer in London takes these thugs on and wins their case. Then … plot twist.

The second story, “The Art of the Matter,” is a delightful and heavily researched story on the art world and how a young art professional at an auction house gets royally screwed by a big wig there and his story of ultimate revenge. It’s pretty sweet.

The third story, “The Miracle,” is about an American tourist couple in Italy who happen upon an Italian of German origin in a town there who tells them a miraculous story, only to have, ta dah, a plot twist at the end. *** SPOILER ALERT *** I don’t view this story as plausible after thinking about it though. To think that this man and his accomplice could set up their scam in a specific courtyard out of the way in this town and just expect suckers, like these tourists, to happen along and listen to a lengthy tale, only to give up their cash, is beyond belief. Just not realistic.

The fourth story, “The Citizen,” is about drug running, with a mega plot twist at the end.

The final story, “Whispering Wind,” is the one everyone raves about. Everyone seems to love it. I hated it. I couldn’t stand it. It’s novella length and I just couldn’t finish the final 50 pages. I gave up. I was so bored. The story is about the life of the only white man to survive Custer’s last stand, and you would think, interesting premise, right, especially as written by an upper class Englishman. But Custer hardly appears in this story and it turns into a fantasy story, and I hardly view Forsyth as a master of fantasy. Stick to the spy/thriller genre, Mr. Forsyth. Please. I hated this story.

All of this said, it’s a pretty solid book and if you’re a fan, you must read it. If you’ve never read any of his work, this really isn’t representative of most of his work, but it’s not bad. Somewhat recommended.

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Cursed?

Posted by Scott Holstad on May 15, 2015

Weird things have been happening to my mother and to us over the past few months. Check it out.

Mom had her taxes done. She owed over $10,000 in taxes! Never owed anything like that in her life. She lives on Social Security, for God’s sake! She wasn’t real happy about that. Then, last week, she backed her car through her garage door and had to have a new garage door put in. To make matters worse, last week she also fell on her driveway and broke her wrist and cut up her arm pretty bad, necessitating stitches. She also thought she had gotten a concussion, but it doesn’t look like it. She’s having a hard time with this, just in terms of getting dressed, etc. Then yesterday, she was sitting in her living room when her neighbor was having a tree cut down and those assholes cut the tree so that it fell right on to her roof! It cut a hole in her roof, knocked down her gutter, and demolished her patio furniture. Sounds like a curse to me….

Then there’s us. I keep having severe insomnia problems. Yesterday morning, I was up at 1:30. This morning, it was 2:30. It gets very tiring. I also still have my head pain. The medication I take for it is only doing a so so job. I’m a little disappointed, especially since we doubled the dose in the hopes of improving its effectiveness. Of course, we got hit with our own tax burden a few months ago. That was an unpleasant surprise. Then there was the Obamacare disaster, when they claimed we hadn’t provided them with requested info — which they had never requested — so they were eliminating various tax subsidies and raising our premiums. They also switched policies on us without telling us, putting us from a no deductible policy to a high deductible policy. Gee, thanks. By this point, however, I was already on Medicare, so I dropped out. But Medicare has its own costs, especially the Part D prescription costs. Last month, I spent over $2,000 on prescriptions! And I don’t have it to spend on that. Then there was the major expense of having a huge dead tree in the back yard cut down, as it was leaning over the house and we were worried it would collapse and demolish the house at any time. That was $2,700. And finally there was this disaster of this past weekend with our worry about the government sticking it to us about the assistance we had received formerly and our now having to pay them back over the next five years. It all really, really sucks.

So do we and Mom need exorcisms? Mom’s a Bible thumper and gets her houses blessed when she moves into them, so I wouldn’t think so with her. I guess these are just unpleasant parts of life. Curses? Probably not, although it sometimes seems that way. I would, however, like to know when life is going to ease up on us. It’s been hard going lately.

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A Review of The Rakehells of Heaven

Posted by Scott Holstad on May 14, 2015

The Rakehells of HeavenThe Rakehells of Heaven by John Boyd

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I struggled with how many stars to give this book. On one hand, I thoroughly enjoyed it and thought it was pretty original. On the other, it’s not particularly well written, it’s dated, and full of stereotypes. In it, two space cadets find a world similar to Earth with aliens similar to people, albeit mostly naked. The ship’s commander, Adams, is a born again Bible thumping evangelist, while the other, O’Hara, is an Irish drunken lout who’s hornier than anyone in the universe. Within minutes, O’Hara has sampled the local flavor, much to Adams’ disgust.

This world is not broken up into countries, but into universities where everyone studies. The two spacemen find out they can teach noncredit courses, so they get started on Earth’s art, drama, history, literature, ecology, emotions, legal systems, military, etc. And so they start these people down a slippery slope, for these people take things literally. Soon there is violence and then a police force. Then a guard of “centurions.” Meanwhile, O’Hara is screwing every female alien on the planet and Adams falls in love with one and gets married. Both are committing big time Navy regulation no nos, so they’d likely be prosecuted with at least a court martial if found out. Soon, there is a murder, the first on this world in over 5,000 years.

O’Hara is the drama teacher here and puts on plays with his students. He takes many liberties with Shakespeare and the Bible. Adams doesn’t appreciate it. There’s a lot of tension. Meanwhile, Adam’s wife becomes pregnant and has a daughter, who looks like O’Hara. Adams explodes! I won’t give away the climax of the book, but the book is framed in such a way that it begins with the arrival of their starship with only Adams on board. While he is being debriefed, this tale emerges. At the end of the story, he simply walks off. What, no court martial? No firing squad? WTF? He violated about 100 regulations and he’s simply going to get off? That doesn’t make any sense to me, so I’m knocking it down a star just for that. Otherwise, it’s an entertaining story — with lots of sex — although, not particularly well written. The dialogue isn’t really believable. Can’t say I recommend it for a general audience, but a sci fi fan might like it.

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Resolution

Posted by Scott Holstad on May 14, 2015

I don’t know how my wife would/will feel about me writing about this, but I hope she’ll be understanding because I feel like I’ll explode if I don’t write something about this. Okay. Late last week, my wife got a letter in the mail from a government investigator telling her she was being investigated for “intentionally” ripping off the government. But she’s never done anything like that in her life! She’s never even gotten a speeding ticket! A few years ago, when neither of us were working and we were both looking for work, we got some government assistance, but that changed with time and employment and was eventually terminated. Fine. Who’d think anything would come of that? Well, the government did. They told her she had to come in for a meeting to be held before a hearing before a judge to be held at a later date. She freaked out! She spent the weekend getting no sleep, sweating about getting prosecuted and going to jail. I told her there was no chance of that, that they wouldn’t have offered her the chance for this meeting, for this hearing, for the offer of restitution, which is what they wanted, if they were going to prosecute. She spent a lot of time researching and came to the same conclusion. Nonetheless, she wanted this meeting moved up, so she called this investigator first thing Monday morning and got the meeting moved up two weeks to this past Tuesday morning. She was nervous, but prepared. And apparently he was a nice guy. And apparently I was right, as was the research she had found. He just wanted her to sign some papers and start paying the government back the money they had given us for their assistance we had received. I thought it was cheap and tacky, but better than the alternative. He eased her mind by explaining that they had no intention of prosecuting. So, that’s that. We have a long, very long, time to pay this off. And it’s a lot to pay off, certainly a lot more than I ever realized we had gotten. I guess it adds up. Between this and my bitter feelings about my experience with Obamacare, I feel pretty disgusted with the government. Really disgusted. But I’m glad it’s behind us and grateful we can now move on.

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