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Archive for October, 2015

A Review of Mr. Hockey

Posted by Scott Holstad on October 27, 2015

Mr. Hockey: My StoryMr. Hockey: My Story by Gordie Howe
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is a really good autobiography of one of the greatest hockey players of all time. Perhaps the best. He played in an era that preceded me, so I never got to see him play, but I’ve seen video and I’ve obviously read about him and he was pretty impressive. I knew he played a long time, until he was quite old, but I learned a whole lot more about him in this book.

Gordie Howe was a Saskatoon boy who grew up loving and playing hockey. And he was good. This was in the era when the NHL just had six teams, an era that lasted for a long time, so jobs were scarce at the NHL level. Still, he dreamed of playing in the NHL. Like many hockey players, he wasn’t the best student. He wanted to be out on the ice all the time. He was so good that the New York Rangers offered him a contract when he was just 15! And he turned them down. He was very shy and the thought of moving to New York, where he wouldn’t know anyone, turned him off. The next year, at 16, Detroit offered him a contract. He asked if he’d know anyone in camp. Apparently a number of Saskatoon boys would be going to their training camp and that sealed the deal for him. He quit high school (one of his biggest regrets, he writes) and became a professional hockey player. He spent two years, but only the second playing, in the minors and was finally brought up to Detroit around 1948. His original contract was for something like $2500. Back then, there was no player’s union and players weren’t allowed to discuss their contracts with each other. The owners said they made no money and couldn’t afford to pay the players much and the players believed them. It was a crock of shit. For years, Howe made next to nothing, even when Detroit told him he’d be the highest paid Red Wing and one of the highest paid players in the league. In the late 60s, when he found out a scrub was making substantially more than him, as well as many other teammates, he felt really betrayed. And demanded a big raise. Which he immediately got. And then he realized he could have demanded four times that much and gotten it.

Howe became a scoring machine. He won six Art Ross trophies for NHL scoring leaders and six Hart awards for NHL MVP. He helped the Red Wings win four Stanley Cups. And this is the thing that really impressed me — he was in the top five in NHL scoring for 20 consecutive years!!! That’s completely unheard of. Sidney Crosby has been in the top five in consecutive years, I believe, twice. Other players, once, twice, four times. How? Twenty consecutive seasons. That’s unreal. Of course, there are a lot of people who think Howe was a dirty player and he addresses his hard nosed style of play in the book and admits to it, but largely writes that he became violent largely in retaliation. In any event, he became the NHL’s all time scoring leader and also accumulated 2,000 career penalty minutes. His scoring title lasted until Wayne Gretzy came along and took it.

One thing I didn’t know was Howe played long enough — and longer — to play on the same team with two of his grown sons! How incredible is that? They played together for years. And although I knew this, it’s incredible to think that he played in five decades — the forties, fifties, sixties, seventies, and eighties, when he was in his fifties. Isn’t that astonishing?

He writes a lot about his wife, whom he dearly loved. She became his business manager and was quite good at looking out for him. Unfortunately, she died in 2009 and he’s been alone and missing her since. He’s now in his late 80s and, as his children write in the final chapter, is getting dementia, which is very unfortunate. At least he retained enough of his memory to write this book. What a great player. He played professional hockey for 32 years. That’s got to be some kind of record that will never be broken. Is this the best autobiography I’ve ever read? No. But it’s a quick and interesting read and well worth the time. Recommended.

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A Review of Foundation and Empire

Posted by Scott Holstad on October 26, 2015

Foundation and Empire (Foundation, #2)Foundation and Empire by Isaac Asimov
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

I’m sorry if I sound like a sci fi traitor, but this book sucks. And this series sucks. I have no idea how it won a one time Hugo for best sci fi/fantasy trilogy of all time, beating Lord of the Rings, but the idiots who gave it to Asimov were complete morons. First of all, this book is unbelievably stupid. It’s divided into two parts. In the first, a young general of the fading Galactic Empire comes to invade Foundation. With 10 warships, only eight of which work. And it turns into a 10 year war. Somehow. I have no idea how Asimov figures that. In David Weber’s space battles, hundreds of ships are destroyed in seconds in his books and that’s how I picture things to be. You don’t go “invade” a world with eight ships, nor would it take 10 years. That’s just stupid. And when Foundation defeats him, they somehow have defeated the Galactic Empire too, even though it encompasses thousands of planets and Foundation has invaded none of them, so that makes literally no sense. The second half of the book is about a mutant called “the Mule,” which is an utterly stupid name, who is anti-Foundation and who has arisen from nowhere to take over a planet without firing a shot, whom no one has really seen, who there are only rumors about, who all of a sudden is taking over all sorts of planets, and who attacks Foundation for some reason. It’s mind numbingly stupid. The second thing that makes giving this book part of the best trilogy of all time stupid is, like the other Foundation books, the writing is utterly atrocious. Asimov can’t write. It’s like he got three degrees in science and decided he could write novels, so he did, but he actually can’t. Compare that to me. I have three degrees in English and writing. What if I decided I wanted to go dabble in science? I would have no validity to do so, but isn’t that the same thing Asimov is doing? I like his robot books, to a certain degree, but frankly, the more I read of him, the more horrified I am at his total lack of writing skills. For instance, the man has never heard of transitions. Never. One minute a character is talking to someone, telling him he’ll go to another planet to talk to someone else, and the next sentence he’s talking to that other person, but you don’t know that because there’s been no transition letting you know that. There’s been no goodbyes said, no space travel, no landings, no travels on a new planet, no setting up meetings with a new person, nothing. Just the next sentence, the character is talking to the new person and it just magically happens. Terrible writing. Then try this on. This is a one sentence paragraph opening chapter 16. It’s unreal.

“When the twenty-seven independent Trading worlds, united only by their distrust of the mother planet of the Foundation, concert an assembly among themselves, and each is big with a pride grown of its smallness, hardened by its own insularity, and embittered by eternal danger — there are preliminary negotiations to be overcome of a pettiness sufficiently staggering to heartsicken the most persevering.”

What the HELL is that about? What does that even mean? It’s just gibberish! It’s trash! And that’s how Asimov writes. He writes like crap. Who taught him how to write? Did he ever take any writing classes, let alone creative writing classes, in college? And his dialogues are typically wooden and unbelievable as well. Just atrocious. Bad, bad, bad. He mixes 1950s casual colloquialisms with formalities and pseudo-technical gibberish to make it even worse. It hasn’t aged well, that’s for sure.

When I read the first Foundation novel a little while ago, I was disappointed, but I thought it was somewhat original, so even though I thought it was a three star book, I gave it a four star review. This one isn’t sliding by. I didn’t even finish it, I was so disgusted. And I have the next one, the next two actually. Somehow I doubt I’ll read them now. I can only think they’ll be massive disappointments to me. For the life of me, I have no idea how many people can give this book a five star rating. Clearly they have few standards as far as quality of writing goes. Call me a snob, but I think there are many, many more sci fi writers out there with infinitely better writing skills — and ideas — than Asimov. I just started a huge book of his early stories which has a very high rating on Goodreads. I hope I’ll like it and I actually think I might. But this book? Not recommended at all.

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A Review of Hell’s Foundations Quiver

Posted by Scott Holstad on October 22, 2015

Hell's Foundations Quiver (Safehold, #8)Hell’s Foundations Quiver by David Weber
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

WARNING: THIS REVIEW WILL CONTAIN A GREAT DEAL OF PROFANITY. IF YOU ARE OFFENDED BY PROFANITY, PLEASE DO NOT READ IT.

Hell’s Foundations Quiver (Safehold #8) was a fantastic book. But David Weber, the author, is a first class ASSHOLE and I’m getting really sick of this addictive fucking series he’s written. This is the fourth straight book with the war in Siddermark and with where the book ended, it’s clear to me that there will need to be between two and four more books before this war is concluded, if then. And that’s too goddamn much. Damn it, the first war was over in one book, the first. The second war, between Charis and Corisonde, was over in one book. Why the fuck can’t this fucking war be over in one fucking book??? Why the hell does it have to stretch over four fucking books, and now apparently many more? WTF? Weber is obviously a greedy fuck who has discovered that if you write 1,000 page books in such incredible detail from so many perspectives, you can draw a war out six or eight or 10 books and suckers like you and me will pay countless millions for them. Cause it’s admittedly an awesome story. In fact, it’s the best story I’ve ever read. That’s why I keep coming back to it, even with all the stupid names I resent so much and even with all of the phrases Weber has his characters repeat on virtually every other page until you want to bash your head into the wall. Countless reviewers have commented on how slow the plot is. Well, he’s slowed it down even more. Even though this book is probably the best Siddermark book in the series, and even though it’s full of action and battles, nothing really happens. There’s no progression. No resolution. Just a military stalement for yet another year, basically. So why write the fucking book at all? Because Weber wants to make bank, that’s why? Greedy prick! I’d love to tell that SOB off. He’s the most amazing writer, even with his bad, annoying habits, and can create the most amazing worlds, but damn, he manipulates his readers with his unbelievably slowed down and unresolved plots. Yes, it was good to see the vicars, the Group of Four, freaking out. Yes, it was good to see Charis and Siddermark settling some debts, militarily. Yes, it was damn good to see Merlin slaughter some bastard Army of God fanatics again. And, yes, like the ending of the last book, the ending of this book was pretty good, with Merlin appearing out of the blue before Earl Thirsk of Dohlar. Presumably in an attempt to save his life. And since this book began with where the previous book left off, it’s safe to assume the next one will too. (And the first chapter of this book was excellent!) But, dammit, do I have to wade through umpteen more battles I’ll never remember with newer weapons that barely progress technologically with lots of politics and religion and realistically nothing at all happening? Cause if I do, I’ll never read another fucking Weber novel again. I already hate his guts for doing all this shit to us. I already resent him for his obvious manipulations of his readers. Does he really have to string it out so damn long? And not only that, but when the war in Siddermark is finally over sometime in, oh, book 12 or so, will we FINALLY get to see Charis invade the Temple Lands and attack Zion and finally pay back the Group of Four like we all have been dying to see for the last eight books? When the hell is that going to happen? Or is Weber going to string that war out for five or eight books too? Cause if he does, I’ll be dead before this series is done and frankly, he’s no younger than me, so he might want to consider finishing the fucking series before he dies himself. Asshole. And what about getting humanity back to space? When the hell is that going to happen? In book 35? I mean, really? WTF? Weber started an excellent series and then got carried away and now he’s dug everyone a hole they’ll never get out of. What a cruel bastard. Honestly, if you read this book on its own merits, it’s a five star book. It’s really good. But you can’t do that. Because it’s part of the series and because it’s a big part of the war in Siddermark sub-series, which Weber has yet to come close to completing and I’m so damn pissed about that, I’m inclined to give the book one star. Because that’s what Weber deserves. So I’m compromising and giving it three undeserved stars. I guess if you’re reading the series and haven’t already given up, you’ll have to read this, so it’s recommended, but otherwise, give up now while you still can. Cause this series isn’t going to be over for the next 20 fucking years.

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A Review of Kingpin

Posted by Scott Holstad on October 22, 2015

Kingpin: How One Hacker Took Over the Billion-Dollar Cybercrime UndergroundKingpin: How One Hacker Took Over the Billion-Dollar Cybercrime Underground by Kevin Poulsen
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Kingpin is a fascinating and utterly frightening account of one hacker/carder who essentially took on the world and took over the billion dollar carding empire — until the FBI finally got him. Max “Vision” Butler was a giant self taught computer genius from Idaho who settled in San Francisco and met another guy named Chris and found they had some things in common, like making money and hacking. Max had already been in prison for hacking and had a vendetta against authority and society even while at the same time viewing himself as a “white hacker,” hacking for society’s good. He was a walking dichotomy. They set up a carding scheme with Max as the hacker/carder, hacking at first into restaurant point of sales machines and getting credit card data from them, and later into a zillion “secure” computers and servers of banks and companies (and individuals too) around the world. He gave the card data to Chris who built a card making factory in Orange County and soon he was making millions, while paying Max next to nothing. But Max enjoyed the challenge of hacking and carding. And he was the best, or at least one of the very best. There was a Ukrainian who could have challenged him for that title, apparently. Going by the name of “Iceman,” Max destroyed all of the English speaking carding boards on the web one night and transferred all of their members to his new board, Carders Market. There, people exchanged ads and sales of stolen credit card numbers, by the millions at times, and other card and ID making odds and ends. Until one FBI agent infiltrated a competing board that Max had taken down. It was brought back and this agent was made an admin there. He was getting tons of info, but he was after Iceman. Trouble was Iceman found him first and tried to out him. The irony was, this FBI agent was so good that as soon as he was outed, he made some major online changes and defended himself successfully and pointed people in other directions. Another irony is that so many carders and admins were actually FBI informants. The story of how Max was ultimately caught and brought to justice was pretty exciting, like an action novel and again, the irony was it occurred immediately after he decided to quit carding and go legit and he had deleted his account from the board and was saying his goodbyes, even as the FBI came storming through his door.

This book is especially good because it’s well written and written with authority, as the author, Kevin Poulsen is a well known former “dark hat” hacker from before Iceman’s time, and is now a Wired editor. He writes quite well and while explaining technical things like Sequel hack attacks in Internet Explorer, it never feels like he’s talking down to you. Indeed, he even shows some lines of code at various places in the book so you get a feel of what some of the hacks looked like. I’ve got to say, though, that I’m damn glad I use a Mac. Virtually all of the hacking/carding is done to and with Windows machines and can’t be done on Macs. And since 95% of all computers and servers are running Windows commercially, it’s scary as hell, but at least I don’t have to worry about anything here at home. I hope. Still, the scary thing to learn was that online transactions are actually much more secure than live credit card transactions and that restaurants are the absolute worst. Followed by retail stores and gas stations, etc. The primary reason it’s so bad in America, and trust me, we’re not told just how bad it is, is because our credit cards still use those magnetic strips, which are completely hackable. The rest of the world has gone to unhackable chips and while some banks in America are making that transition — I have two credit cards with chips — most places won’t because of the expense. They’d rather pay for stolen money and credit than to upgrade their systems. How screwed up is that? People’s lives are totally ruined. Their social security numbers are stolen and sold, their driver’s licenses are stolen and sold, their credit and debit cards and PINS are stolen and sold and the banks and companies don’t want to make changes cause it’s easier and cheaper to reimburse people. Great. Makes me want to never use a credit card again. And of course, that’s impossible. Oh, never use a credit card via public wi fi. Never.

So I wasn’t sure if this was actually a five star book or not, but I can’t think of any reason not to give it five stars, so I am. Definitely recommended.

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A Review of Childhood’s End

Posted by Scott Holstad on October 15, 2015

Childhood's EndChildhood’s End by Arthur C. Clarke
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Childhood’s End is simply one of the most brilliant, excellent, and exciting science fiction novels I have ever read. To think that it was published in 1953, years before so much of this technology had even been thought of, is miraculous.

One day numerous huge space ships appear and hover over all of Earth’s major cities. Aliens have “invaded” the earth. They are called “Overlords” and people are now at their mercy. However, they’ve come to do good! They solve Earth’s political, criminal, religious, military, and nuclear war problems and introduce a life of leisure and prosperity to all of humanity. Yet they won’t show themselves and this drives people nuts. The head of the UN is the only human allowed to talk to the Overlord Supervisor and he does so once a week. Finally, he begs him to show himself to humanity and is told that the Overlords will … in 50 years.

Fifty years later, when mankind has grown lazy and incompetent, the Overlords descend from their ships and show themselves and what humans see is shocking. Yet they get used to seeing them among them.

Meanwhile, one man, Jan, decides to stow away on an Overlord ship to go their home planet. He estimates it will take 80 earth years, but because of light speed, only two month his time, or four months going both ways, as he’s sure he’ll be sent back once he’s found there. And he succeeds. And is stunned at what he finds. The Overlords’ planet and cities are unlike anything he could ever have imagined and he yearns for Earth.

Meanwhile, a couple named Greg and Jean have two young children where they live on an island commune. Their oldest boy is saved from a tsunami by an Overlord and starts having odd dreams. His parents become worried. Greg eventually meets with Karellen, the Overlord Supervisor, and what he is told chills him. Mankind is changing. The Overlords are here to supervise that. What happens to facilitate that is truly original and the ultimate fate of humanity is rather sad, in my opinion. When Jan gets home from the Overlord’s planet, he is stunned at the changes on Earth. And a lot is explained to him, and to us. The final pages are chilling and simply unreal. I’ve never read anything like them before. Clarke can really write some original stuff.

To me, this is easily a five star book. In fact, I’m under the impression that this won a Hugo at some point. If so, it was much deserved. The book “only” has a 4.07 out of 5 rating on Goodreads, so there are obviously some people who don’t agree with my assertion, but that’s still a pretty good rating. Do I recommend it? Hell yeah, I do! This is easily one of the best books I have ever read. And frankly it helps that it’s only about 200 pages. You can read it in a day or two. Strongly recommended.

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A Review of At All Costs

Posted by Scott Holstad on October 13, 2015

At All Costs (Honor Harrington, #11)At All Costs by David Weber
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is another five star Honor Harrington book. It seems all I ever give those books are five stars. But I think they’re that good. This book has a 4.15 out of 5 rating on Goodreads, so a lot of people obviously like it, but most of the reviews I read were one and two star reviews simply bitching about it. And I don’t understand that. Why are they even reading this series if they don’t like the characters, the kingdoms and systems, the politics — which are essential to the plot — the battles, etc? I think these people giving these books one stars are idiots and need to be reading something else, something besides military sci fi, obviously.

I think this book is a turning point in the series, even though the series is drawing to a close. Honor gets pregnant and via tubing, gives birth to a baby boy. Everyone’s happy. However, maybe not everyone. See, the people on her planet of Grayson wouldn’t understand a single, unmarried woman giving birth to a bastard child, so someone must think about a solution. She, of course, has been seeing Earl White Haven, and by extension, his crippled wife, Emily, who also gets pregnant and gives birth to a baby girl. The grand solution? Honor marries them. Both of them. I know, it’s crazy and no one protests at all, but she does it and I guess it satisfies people. However, I would have liked it if Weber had written some people’s reactions into the book.

Meanwhile, the diplomatic documents going back and forth between Manticore and Haven have been sabotaged, so both make plans to restart the war, and many have misgivings about it. Honor is selected to lead Manticore’s fleet and they strike first and draw blood. However, Haven has developed a huge fleet and attacks a planet and does even more damage. Haven’s president wants to end the war and sends a peace proposal to Queen Elizabeth who grudgingly agrees to meet with her in a neutral location. However, three separate assassination attacks take place leading to some gruesome Manticorian deaths, all of which point to Haven, so Manticore gears up to restart the war once more. Haven knows they’re not responsible, but they also know Manticore assumes they are, so they plan to put together the biggest, strongest fleet ever assembled and attack Manticore’s home system and end the war with Manticore’s surrender. And so develops the biggest, baddest, coolest space battle you’ll ever read about. Hundreds of superdreadnaughts and thousands of LACs fly and die. Millions of people die. And who wins? Well, you have to read the book, of course! It’s a pretty awesome and big section of the book, though. Weber really knows how to write battle scenes. It’s his greatest strength.

From events that occur in this book, it looks like Manticore is about to gain a new enemy for future books. That’s pretty bad for a kingdom suddenly without much of a fleet, since their fleet has been shot to hell. But I’ll take that bridge when I come to it in the next book. I’m anxious to see Honor get back to Grayson to settle things with the opposition steadholders. Very anxious to see that. If you’re reading this series, this book is strongly recommended. If you’re not reading this series, don’t start with this book — you won’t know half of what’s going on. Awesome book.

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A Review of From Counterculture to Cyberculture

Posted by Scott Holstad on October 10, 2015

From Counterculture to Cyberculture: Stewart Brand, the Whole Earth Network, and the Rise of Digital UtopianismFrom Counterculture to Cyberculture: Stewart Brand, the Whole Earth Network, and the Rise of Digital Utopianism by Fred Turner
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

This book was a massive disappointment. I had been wanting to read it for so long and had really been looking forward to it. I had heard about the Whole Earth Catalog and Whole Earth Review and their respective influences for years, and I had been on The WELL for over a decade myself (sch@well.com) and thought it was the best BBS ever devised, and of course Wired Magazine was awesome, so I knew this book had to be cool as hell. Boy, was I wrong. I actually almost finished it, almost made it 300 pages through before giving up in disgust. I don’t know how you could take such a COOL topic or topics such as Stewart Brand, 60s/70s counterculture, the invention and growth of the Internet, the importance of the Whole Earth Catalog, the influence of The WELL, the influence of Wired, the growth of the New Economy, and so much more, and make it SO DAMN BORING!!! God, this book sucks. It reads like a bad doctoral dissertation, which I guess should come as little surprise since Turner got his PhD at UC San Diego and taught or teaches at Stanford. He’s writing to his academic cronies and I guess he’s writing to impress them, but it’s definitely not for laymen, because he takes a chronology of events, times, places, people, things, happenings, big ideas, etc, et al, and bores you to tears while also beating you over the head with redundancy until you want to bash your head into a concrete wall. This is frankly one of the worst written books I’ve ever had the misfortune to read and I have no doubt that if ANY other decent writer out there had undertaken to write a book about similar topics, they could have written an engaging, enlightening, entertaining and cool book that would have captured most readers’ attentions. Instead, this garbage kills any interest I’ve ever had in the subject and I’m almost embarrassed now to have been on such a cool and influential BBS as The WELL after Turner has turned his destructive powers of total boredom on it. I’m giving the book two stars instead of one because the topic is good, but the book is not. Most definitely not recommended. I can’t stress that enough.

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A Review of The Untethered Soul

Posted by Scott Holstad on October 9, 2015

The Untethered Soul: The Journey Beyond YourselfThe Untethered Soul: The Journey Beyond Yourself by Michael A. Singer
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The Untethered Soul is a unique book and it obviously means a lot to a whole lot of people because I’ve never seen a book with a higher rating on Goodreads than this one. Yet I had some problems with it. For that, I’m a little embarrassed, to be honest. Nonetheless, I did.

First of all, I don’t normally pick up too many spiritual books to read. I bought this one on the recommendation of a relative. And I found it intriguing. Singer has some interesting concepts. He wants people to stop suffering, to be free, to find their consciousness, to become self aware, to attain true enlightenment. In that regard, it’s largely an Eastern religious book, although Singer tries to “Westernize” it by mentioning Jesus (and other spiritual leaders) throughout the book. He begins with the voice in your head that is always talking to you, your own, always second guessing you, offering you advice, often wrong, etc. He writes that if the person behind this voice were on the sofa beside you, you would kick him out in a heartbeat, thinking him crazy. Not a bad point. He writes of the “monkey man,” the person inside your head who makes your life miserable and how you can go about silencing him and attaining your true freedom. Yet at the same time, his instructions for doing this seem to me — but apparently not to others — to be rather vague, as though the reader already knows some of the steps for going about this. For instance, if your heart is closed, you’ll be hurt by things. You need to open your heart to attain true happiness. Um, okay. How exactly do you “open your heart?” Cause I don’t know how. I don’t think it’s as easy as just that.

The book, while small and apparently easy to understand for many, seems fairly heavy to me. Perhaps that’s because I’m stupid, although I’ve read an awful lot of philosophy over the years, but there’s an awful lot of advice here, some of it quite good when you can follow it. And if I were to follow it, I’d have to read this book some five or six times to just be able to even try to follow all of the advice he gives. I can’t do it with one reading. I tried out some of the things in the early chapters and it’s quite difficult.

In the later chapters, he starts to get pretty redundant. Actually, he is pretty much throughout the entire book, but it becomes more noticeable in the later chapters. He also starts talking more about God, which is the subject of his last chapter. I actually got something out of this, although I’m not sure I agree with everything he asserts.

Singer believes one can become totally free and totally happy, but in order to do so, one has to seemingly completely clear oneself of any distractions and thoughts of virtually anything, becoming a nonhuman organism (in my words). That doesn’t appeal to me. I think that’s a weakness of both the book and his approach.

The Untethered Soul is an ambitious book and parts of it are quite good, but I think some of it’s pretty vague, some of it’s pretty damn difficult to actually accomplish, some of it’s boringly redundant, and it might be a little overrated by some. I’m glad I read it and I might reread it again at some point, but it’s not the greatest book ever written. Nonetheless, recommended.

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Pain Issues Update

Posted by Scott Holstad on October 9, 2015

As I’ve written about before, I have to deal with extreme pain and have had to since about 2010. However, it’s gotten worse since around April 2014 and, if possible, even worse than that since about six months ago. I have Trigeminial Neuralgia, which is one of the most painful disorders known to mankind. Wikipedia calls it the Suicide Disease. It affects the trigeminal nerve in the brain, which impacts your entire head and face, providing blasts of indescribable pain which are completely debilitating. And I happen to have Type 2, which is a slower acting, long lasting type of TN, with a less sharp, but still extremely violent type of pain that impacts my entire head and face, usually on my left side. It makes it impossible to do very much at all. For several years, I was completely bedridden with it. I have had to have a number of minor surgical procedures for it, some of which have worked short term, many of which have not. I’ve taken a zillion meds for it, but the only one that’s ever helped has been Percocet, which I’m not fond of taking. Unfortunately, I have to.

At the same time, I’ve had back problems. I was diagnosed a year or two ago with coccydynia, which is extreme tailbone pain. I was diagnosed with degenerative disc disease in my lower back and some other lumbar problems. I also have arthritis in my hips and it hurts to walk any distance at all, and it certainly has hurt to sit for any duration many, many times. I have one of those “donut” pillows to sit on, which helps somewhat.

Because of these problems, I am on disability.

The problem is that in the spring of 2014, I started getting a different type of head pain and couldn’t figure out what was happening to me. It actually seemed to be an extreme type of “normal” bilateral headache and it’s stumped my doctors. In addition to my primary care physician, I have a pain management specialist, a neurologist, and a neurosurgeon. None of them seem to hear what I’m saying when I describe this new head pain to them. I guess cause it doesn’t make sense to them. It can’t be bilateral and cause that much pain, so they ignore me. My neurologist, at least, has been trying out a ton of different meds on me. The problem is most don’t work and most are so new and expensive that Medicare won’t pay for them. Great. Five weeks ago, he gave me Botox injections for the first time. I’ve always heard they can help with head pain. He told me it takes one to three weeks to kick in, but should work for two to four months. It took about two or three weeks before I noticed a difference, and my head pain did improve from about an 8 or 9 out of 10 to about a 5 or 6, which was big, but this past Saturday, the pain returned with a damn vengeance, and until yesterday, I’ve been at a 10 out of 10 every day since. It’s been brutal. And the new meds he’s given me to take haven’t done anything.

Meanwhile, about six months ago, my back started hurting really badly, every day. Like 9 or 10 out of 10 every day. Excruciating pain. Combined with my head pain, it made life virtually unlivable. I scheduled a massage or two, thinking it might be muscular, and that worked for a day or two, but I was also concerned it might be skeletal, so finally, after waiting way too long, several weeks ago, I went to see my orthopedist. They took a ton of x-rays and then had some surprising news for me. First of all, my coccydynia is worse than I realized. My tailbone is broken. Completely. My doctor recommended I have surgery to have it removed. I had already talked about that with her a year ago and since have talked about it with several other doctors of mine, all of whom advised me against it as they’ve had patients who have done that only  to wind up with permanent, horrible pain as a result of the surgery. They said it would be stupid, just live with it. I told her that and she said their surgeon is an expert and has written books on the subject and that people come from as far away as Minnesota to get him to do their surgery. *sigh* I don’t know what to do. For the moment, I don’t think I’ll have it done. Secondly, I still have arthritis in my hips, which of course I knew. Third, my degenerative disc disease in my lower back has worsened, if that’s possible. Fourth, I have arthritis in my middle back’s spine. Fifth, I have degenerative disc disease in my middle back, where my main pain is located. Sixth, and most important, she used a medical term for this that I don’t remember, but in my own words, I have the worst curvature of the spine I’ve ever seen just by looking at the x-rays. Unreal x-rays. And I’m only in my late 40s. Damn! How did that happen??? I’ve never seen an x-ray that looked that bad before, with the possible exception of my broken tailbone. She said my middle back muscles are straining to compensate for that spinal problem and are too weak to cope, so she sent me to physical therapy for eight weeks and will see me again when I’m done. Hopefully I can avoid surgery. I know sometimes I’ve slouched over the years, but I actually do try to sit straight and stand straight most of the time, so I have no clue how this happened. And all of this has been contributing to my 10 out of 10 daily pain I’ve been experiencing for months. Unreal.

Back to my head pain. I’ve come to the conclusion that no doctor in Chattanooga can help me. I need to go to a big time place. So I contacted Vanderbilt University’s Neurology Headache Clinic and talked to them for awhile. They require a referral, so a month ago, I asked my doctor to fax one to them and he did. They told me it would take two to three weeks for them to contact me. Well, it’s been a month, so yesterday I called them and they claimed not to have received the referral. Great. I’ve been suffering like crazy while waiting for nothing. I called my doctor’s office again and explained the problem and the person I talked to had an attitude. Said they’d faxed it. I said maybe they sent it to the wrong fax number, would they please re-fax it to THIS fax number. They grudgingly said they would. I waited a few hours and called Vandy back to see if they got the referral. The woman I spoke to asked which fax machine did they send it to. Man, how many fax machines do they have? They must be a huge place for a “clinic,” because they have 80 neurologists on staff. Anyway, she said she’d have to send a message to their “faxist” to research the matter and someone would get back to me. That was at 1 PM. No one ever called me back. Why are healthcare professionals such dumbshits? Why are they so damn rude? Man, it’s like pulling teeth with them and they treat you like they’re doing you the greatest favor in the world when in point of fact they’re actually just DOING THEIR DAMN JOB! Anyway, the woman I talked to also said something about all of my files being faxed to them, which surprised me because no one had ever mentioned that to me before. All I’d been told was the referral. If they want medical files, I’d have to contact a number of doctors and it would take awhile and probably tick some people off. Of course, I could do it, but why do it unless I knew they’d agree to see me? Maybe they wouldn’t agree to see me without seeing my medical files…. What a damn hassle. Just the fact that I’m willing to drive three hours away one way to get help should indicate how desperate I am. I would really like to think that they could help me. When I talked in depth with one of their nurses last month, she told me I seemed like a hard case and would need to be seen by one of their department heads. I’d really like this to work out, cause I need help. I am, however, nervous about my current neurologist finding out. He started the first headache clinic in Chattanooga, has been very successful, is a huge narcissist, and I think would be very offended if he knew I were taking this step. He might even drop me as a patient. I don’t really know. And he is trying to help me. It just hasn’t been that helpful so far. However, I see him next week, so I’ll tell him about the results of the Botox injections and see what he does next. Who knows? Maybe he’ll come up with something. I doubt it, but maybe….

Anyway, since this pain has been ongoing since 2010 and since it’s gotten worse a year and a half ago and since it’s gotten much worse a good six months or more ago, I’ve become increasingly depressed. It’s difficult to make plans to do anything when you’re always in major pain. It’s difficult to actually do anything period. It gets old lying around the house feeling sorry for myself. I do get out in the mornings, usually, to run errands, since my pain seems to be less severe in the mornings, but it worsens throughout the day and there’s nothing I can do about it. Lately, it has come to feel like I’m in a hopeless situation, like I’m trapped in a prison with no way out. It feels like no one can help me, like I’m totally screwed. If this is what I have to look forward to for either the indefinite future or the rest of my life, well, where’s the quality of life in that? It just gets increasingly hard to remain upbeat or positive and I feel like I’m dumping on my wife all the time and that makes me feel badly, because she deserves a more positive husband as she has her own issues to deal with. Well, I guess that’s it for now. I have an appointment with my neurologist next week, as I wrote, and another with my pain management specialist in a few weeks. I’m going to try and follow up with Vandy. Maybe something will come of it, although I frankly don’t have high hopes. Feel free to send good vibes, if so inclined. This is a deep pit I’m trying to climb out of.

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A Review of War of Honor

Posted by Scott Holstad on October 5, 2015

War of Honor (Honor Harrington, #10)War of Honor by David Weber
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Even though this Honor Harrington book has a 4.09 rating on a 5.0 scale on Goodreads, it seemed that all I saw were one and two star reviews. People HATED this book! They thought there was too much politics and not enough action. Well, I completely disagree and I loved this book. Yes, there is a hell of a lot of politics, but it’s all completely critical to understanding the buildup to the beginning of the new war between Haven and Manticore. Without seeing the politics and the behind the scenes dialogues and scenarios, we’d have no idea why hostilities have resumed. It’s critical to the book and the series. I suppose Weber probably does go overboard on the amount of politics he shoves into this book. He has a tendency to do that in his books. But it’s still critical to the book. In fact, I wish we had seen more of Grayson’s politics in action, personally. That was probably pretty critical too, but Weber largely skipped over that.

In this book, the Opposition government, led by Baron High Ridge, has downsized Manticore’s navy by an extreme amount, because of sheer arrogance and stupidity. Meanwhile, in the four years of negotiations, during which time Haven has actually tried to get a peace plan in place and High Ridge won’t negotiate cause he’s a greedy bastard, Haven’s been rebuilding its navy. Big time. At the same time, the Andermani Empire is trying to take Manticore on to take over Silesia and Honor is named task force commander of a largely obsolete group of ships sent to Silesia to watch over the Andermanis. Fortunately, Grayson sends a group of its state of the art superdreadnaughts to support her, so that’s awesome. Communications between Haven and Manticore disintegrate over time, in part because Haven’s Secretary of State is modifying them to tick off the High Ridge government. So finally, Haven attacks Manticore’s many systems it had taken from Haven in the previous war, as well as Honor, and they have great success, accept for Honor, of course.

One thing in this book which is odd and which is a carry over from the previous book is a budding romance between Honor and Earl White Haven, who is married. It doesn’t seem realistic, like her relationship with her dead lover, Paul. It seems forced, strained, unbelievable, and the government’s opposition releases news that they are lovers, when at the time they are not, and it damages their reputations. Yet they yearn for each other. And White Haven’s crippled wife, whom he loves, meets Honor and loves her immediately and approves of their romance like any wife would — in a stupid, unrealistic sci fi novel written by an arrogant, dumbass man! This carries over to the following book too, which I’ve already started.

This isn’t the best Honor book I’ve read, but it’s quite complex and juggles many scenarios and issues simultaneously and does so rather well. Honor is still perfect, a bit too much, but one unique and cool thing about this book is Weber turns the tables on the systems. In this book, the Havenites are portrayed as the reasonable, peace loving, nice, realistic people while the Manticorian government is portrayed as arrogant, greedy, snide, deceitful liars, and much worse, so that you actually find yourself rooting for Haven for the first time ever. It’s brilliant! Good book. If you’re reading the series, strongly recommended.

View all my reviews

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