hankrules2011

Book reviews, health, hockey, publishing, music

Posts Tagged ‘book reviews’

Visit Some Of My Updated Social Media Sites

Posted by Scott Holstad on September 30, 2018

Hi! I haven’t been blogging as much as I want to, nor have I been as active on some sites like I’d prefer to be, but lately I have been more active on some of my social media and other sites, and I thought I’d let you know about them.

Years ago, I got caught up in the Pinterest craze, created some boards, and pinned quite a few things to my boards. I developed a good number of followers, especially for a couple of my boards, such as my Amazing Men’s Watches board.

Well, for whatever reason, I got tired of it and haven’t been back in a long time. Like four years. 4 years! I was last active on the site in 2014. For some reason, a couple of months ago, it occurred to me to go visit my site, and I suddenly became interested again and started pinning new things to my boards. In fact, I’ve gotten so into it, I’ve created a number of new boards, and I’ve pinned quite a few things to them. And I’ve slowly been getting a few new followers here and there, so that’s been nice. I now have 18 boards with over 2,500 pins! While my watch board remains my most popular, with 368 pins and 524 followers, I’m particularly fond of some of my new boards and have been busy pinning pics, etc, to those especially. Among them are boards entitled Art I Like (262 pins as of today), Favorite TV Shows (58 pins as of today), and Boutique Computers (245 pins as of today). My Sports board has 8 sections with 459 pins. Some other, original, popular boards include Music, Musicians & Bands, Cute Animals, Books Worth Reading, and Places To Visit. So, please come check out my Pinterest boards, and feel free to follow me. Also, if you have a Pinterest site, let me know where I can find it and I’ll check yours out!

Another site I’ve been very active on for the past year and a half is Discogs, the audiophile’s online music site. I’ve bought and sold a number of really great items there, and among the great things about that site is, not only do they have just about every album ever made in their database, with most having copies for sales by people all over the world, but you can get great deals and find out the media and sleeve gradings, join discussion groups, and put your collection on your site for people to see. And one of the cool things about that last bit is Discogs will list the value for your collection, and in Minimum, Median, and Maximum value. I actually just got rid of triple digits of albums, so my collection is actually one of the smaller ones I’ve seen on the site, but I’m still proud of it because I have some good, rare, and valuable items, which is totally cool. Some of my more rare items include a Russian version of The Beatles’ A Hard Day’s Night, a Greek Public Enemy album, a Portuguese Depeche Mode album, a rare red vinyl Czech Iron Maiden album, a Chinese Linkin Park CD (which technically does not exist — I had to work hard to find it and get it out of China for a customer, who then didn’t want to pay the bucks for it…), German and Australian editions of Gary Numan’s debut Tubeway Army album, an old French Devo EP, and many more. I currently have 823 albums listed, with a Median value of $6,920.90 and a Maximum value of $11,883.21. You also are rated on your purchases and any sales you make, and it’s strongly recommended to try to maintain a high rating. In fact, they’ll kick you off the site if your rating drops too low. Fortunately, my ratings as both buyer and seller are 100%, so that’s awesome. I’ve worked hard to satisfy everyone I deal with there. The only thing that bugs me is everyone is supposed to provide “feedback” (ratings) for every buyer and seller, but I’ve sold quite a few items on the site and only about a third of my buyers ever bothered giving me feedback, even though most sent me private messages expressing satisfaction. But it looks like I haven’t sold much there, which isn’t the case. I used to have a large listing of items for sale, triple digits, but selling became too time and labor-intensive, and my health has become so bad over the past five months, that I basically shut that down and now I have just five items listed for sale. Still, I’d love it if any of you went to my Discogs site and looked at my profile, as well as my collection. Let me know if you do, and let me know if you have a profile and collection there, so I can go check those out. You can find my Discogs profile here, and my collection here.

I’ve also been fairly active on Goodreads — but not active enough. The site reports 1,467 books on my bookshelf there, with 1,061 read, 207 to be read, and 199 that I’m allegedly currently reading! Now, I’ve always read numerous books simultaneously — I have a system — and I have indeed let it get out of hand, but I’m certainly not in the middle of 199 books at the moment. A number of those books are ones I’ve finished, but haven’t had or made the time to review yet, and hence list them as Read. I’ve got several stacks of print and Kindle books to review. That being said, I probably AM in the middle of over 100 – 120 books right now, with me actively reading about 40-50 on a semi-daily basis. I read a few chapters of one book, switch to another and do the same, and continue on. And I get into phases, so that for several months, I was mostly reading religious, philosophical, and scientific books, other months nearly only sci fi books, other months mostly biographies, but lately it’s been a hodge podge of stuff — a combination of technology, biography, sci fi, business, history, nonfiction, and technical/scientific books that are mostly military in nature (electronic warfare, nuclear, etc.). As you know, I sometimes post some of my book reviews I write here on this blog, but I don’t do that for every book or every review — just some of them. So if you’re interested in my reviews, go check out my Read section (my most recent completed books are Philip Matyszak’s “Sparta: Rise of a Warrior Nation,” John Hernandez’s “How To Become A NFL Sports Agent,” and Joseph Siracusa’s “Nuclear Weapons: A Very Short Introduction.”), and if you’re interested in what I’m currently reading, go here (the newest books I’ve started reading are “The Holy Bible” –  ESV version, “The Quran,” “802.11ac,” and “Basic Security Testing With Kali Linux.”), and if you’d like to see what I’ve got lined up, go here (They’re ordered from oldest, chronologically, to most recently added to the list. My most recently added are Thomas Asbridge’s “The Greatest Knight,” Andrea De Martino’s “Introduction to Modern EW Systems,” Will Storr’s “Selfie,” Gordon Colbach’s “Wireless Networking,” Michael Steer’s “Microwave and RF Design,” Mark Richards’ “Fundamentals of Radar Signal Processing.”) and also, feel free to check out my Author’s profile page, and feel free to send me a friend request. Also, if you have a Goodreads’ site, let me know so I can check it out!

I’ve also been active on other sites, only two of which I’ll briefly mention. As some of you may know, over two years ago, Gretchen and I founded a small technology startup, which has gone through changes, difficulties, evolutions, and is currently on hiatus due to my extremely poor health. The name of the company is WireMe Designs, LLC. The original business model is described on the website, but it’s evolved this year to focus more on consulting, and we thus had a new website created early this summer to reflect that. It’d be awesome if you checked it out, and let me know what you think. Greatly appreciated. You can find it at https://wiremedesigns.com. Secondly, if you look back over my blog here, you’ll note I wrote a couple of posts in May about my LinkedIn site and profile, and my experience to date on building my network in both quantity and quality. Well, it’s gone REALLY big since then, and I intend to try to find the time to write a post about it here with updated information. When I last wrote about it, I had expanded my network from a little over 400 people in January to over 3,300 in mid-May, listing 171 “notable” connections, including the CEO of Symantec, the president of Dell, the CTO of the ATF, several major UN connections, the CISO of Nissan, CISO of US Department of Education, CIO of USDA, CFO of Sprint, CISO of IBM, and CISO of The White House.

Well, as I said, my network has seriously EXPLODED since then, and as of this morning, I now have over 11,600 connections and it’s a VERY high-quality network, with 44% of my connections being senior executives, many of them C-level executives. I now have the highest connections at nearly every company in most major civilian industries, nearly a thousand US and international military connections, many of them generals, at the Pentagon, and even on the Joint Chiefs. I also have over 1,600 federal and international government connections at the highest levels, including most agency leaders, intelligence agency executives, the Senate, House, dozens of people at The White House, a dozen directors and above on the National Security Council, connections in so many countries that I have no idea, hundreds of connections at the European Parliament and European Commission, Interpol, NATO, nuclear connections in over 45 countries, numerous ambassadors — foreign and domestic — and about 75 connections at the UN, including several on the UN Security Council, and executives in the Secretary General’s office. It’s truly stunning. It just keeps growing, and as a result, I’ve been offered some mind blowing opportunities in a number of areas. And, as as for recent “notable” connections, I now have over 1,400 listed, among them recently the CLO of Sony, COO of Universal Music Group Nashville, CIO KraftHeinz, CIO of AIG, CIO of Nike, CPO of Shell, CFO of NBC Sports, CPO of the US Navy, CTO of HP, CTO of WebMD, CSO of Fidelity Investments, CTO/CIO of AAA, and the CDO of GE. Simply amazing. So, feel free to check my LinkedIn profile out, send me a connection request with a personal message to let me know who you are and how you found me, and a link to your profile if you have one.

I could keep writing more, but I’m not well and this has taken too long and tired me out, so I need to stop. I hope some of you will check these sites out, as well as others, which you can find on a page located at the top of my blog called Find Me Here… It’s got links to Instagram and Twitter accounts, as well as others. You can catch up on me in many ways, even though I haven’t been blogging here very often. Thanks to those of you who have stuck with me here, and for the comments. I appreciate all of you very much, and feel free to remind me to visit your blogs, because I’m bad about that and I admit it. Something I need to work on. I hope everyone is having a good weekend and cheers!

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Book Review: Blitzkrieg: From the Rise of Hitler to the Fall of Dunkirk

Posted by Scott Holstad on September 21, 2018

Blitzkrieg: From the Rise of Hitler to the Fall of DunkirkBlitzkrieg: From the Rise of Hitler to the Fall of Dunkirk by Len Deighton

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was a pretty good book, but it had some information and assertions that surprised me. I’ve spent my whole life as a war buff, spent much of my youth consumed with WW II, thought I understood how Blitzkrieg theory was actually fought in WW II, but apparently, I’m wrong.

The book gives a pretty good history and summary of German war status, theory, preparation, Hitler’s rise, mindset, theories of various military strategists. And then the war finally commences. Obviously, then, if this is well known to others, I’m showing my own ignorance here, but I’d always heard that Germany’s Blitzkrieg techniques were unleashed on Poland, before excelling in Belgium and France, and ultimately later Russia, to a degree. If you’ve believed that too, Len Deighton will argue you’re wrong. His thesis is it was not used in Poland, it was somehow not used in Russia, and it wasn’t even really used in Belgium. Merely in France, in the Ardennes, to a shocking degree of success. This was news to me, but I’ll grant Len authority status and take his word for it.

I wasn’t totally stunned at how inept France’s leadership, both political and military, was, as I’d read other books on France in other wars of the century where the beaurocracy, logistical and communication nightmares are simply legendary, but it was still a bit of a shock to find out how the previously thought to be best army in Europe/the world was so incredibly fucked up! It took 48-72 hours to relay orders, because the leaders didn’t use radios, everything was hand carried (orders), and just because you got orders, you didn’t do anything until they had been confirmed one to two more times. By which point the German army was 60 miles behind your lines, destroying your country. Fucking idiots! The British, initially, weren’t a lot better, at least not the vaunted RAF, which was disappointing to read, but if the truth hurts, it hurts. Some of the French actually played soldier at Dunkirk, allowing hundreds of thousands of British and French troops to escape to Britain, but again, I continued to be shocked at how willing the French political and military leadership was to surrender to Hitler and essentially conspire in his plot against Jews and others, while the Free French forces in Britain were led by only one real general of note, and we all know who that is. Why France is on the UN Security Council is beyond me. They’ve insisted they’re one of the great world powers, but they got their asses kicked in WW I, went over to Hitler after getting their asses kicked in WW II, lost Indochina (although embarrassingly, America followed France’s exact same mistakes with the same results), lost most or all of their colonies, and while they’re the centuries biggest losers, they land a permanent spot on the UN Security Council. Don’t get it. I’ve read about how they insisted. THEY HELPED HITLER! They shouldn’t have been allowed anywhere near the UN Security Council! Of course, while implicitly bragging about the US in the first half of the century, like an ugly American, I could admit to a number of American “irregularities” that many people wouldn’t want known about a LOT of countries around the world where uninvited or unwanted westerners stuck their noses into things and propped up or took down “dictators” all over the damn place, so in the end, maybe the US shouldn’t be on the Security Council either, eh? LOL!

Okay, I’ll stop with the politicizing. Sorry. It’s a good book, an easy read, interesting to those who would find the topic interesting, but stops with the capitulation of France, and I guess I knocked a star off because I wish the author had gone on to address Russia and explain just why that was NOT blitzkrieg warfare — what the differences were — because without having studied it in detail lately, it seems like similar tactics were used to launch the Eastern Front, but obviously I’m wrong. I just want to know how and why I’m wrong, and I never got that information from this book, so one star off for that. Otherwise, recommended.

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Book Review: Sparta: Rise of a Warrior Nation

Posted by Scott Holstad on September 17, 2018

Sparta: Rise of a Warrior NationSparta: Rise of a Warrior Nation by Philip Matyszak

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This book was a bitter disappointment for me in a couple of ways, one of which is shared by another book on Sparta that I’m currently reading. I’ve looked up to and admired Sparta and the Spartans my entire life. The first research paper I ever wrote was on Sparta, and it was in elementary school. My whole life, I’ve heard about how tough they were as a people, how they were warriors, the infamous story about the youth and the fox, their innovative political and cultural systems, the incredibly famous stand at the Battle of Thermopylae, their leadership and domination of the Greeks, their rivalry with Athens and eventual defeat of Athens, etc.

But this book dashed those fond beliefs and admirations to pieces, and for that, I cannot forgive the author. I’ll be the first to admit that he’s the expert, he’s done the research, written the book. He knows more, and perhaps knows the truth. But the truth hurts, and most of my beliefs and perceptions of Sparta and the Spartans turned out to be bloody well wrong! They were indeed viewed as a warrior people and tough as hell, but I’m not sure why. They were surrounded by rivals and enemies, most of whom I’d never heard of before, and they fought awesome, hard fought, longass wars against some of the nation states, and it took them over a century, I believe, to simply subdue just one of their rivals on their part of the Greek peninsula! Other enemies they tricked, battled hard against, tried to avoid fighting altogether, and because even though they were allegedly “warriors,” the men had to get back to the fields for harvest season, they rarely laid seige to cities or peoples, and wanted quick victories so they could get home. They also weren’t a sea faring people, while Athens dominated the seas. They played neighbors off one another, getting Athens to fight Thessaly or Thebes or one of the others over a third city state, and while their males trained from a very young age to become warriors, the population of Sparta was so freaking small, they couldn’t even field a remotely respectable army (which may account for their decades long struggles against their neighbors, possibly), often putting a mere 7,000 men in the field. Compare that to the universally believed vastly inflated Persian number of at least a million man army, and even up to a three million man army, and it’s almost impossible to believe Sparta was capable of dominating ANYONE! In fact, during the first Persian invasion, Sparta didn’t even participate because of “religious” rituals they couldn’t leave, so Athens had to fight the Persians off. That’s a little embarrassing, particularly when you believe Sparta made its reputation off fighting the damn Persians! So when Xerxes decides to go after the Greeks again several decades later, Sparta had taken so much grief for pansying out of fighting them the first time and leaving it up to the rest of the Greeks (which is how it was viewed), that this time, even though they were having the SAME DAMN RELIGIOUS CELEBRATIONS AND RITUALS, they weren’t going to be denied, and gathered the independent Greeks together, and somehow because they were universally viewed as the best and toughest warriors in Greece (which says a lot for the rest of Greece, considering Sparta could barely beat anyone), they were placed in the military leadership position, and one of their two kings (they operated on a two king system), the famous Leonidas, took his famous 300-member honor guard off to hold off the Persians. And even though the battle is famous for the “300” (recall the Hollywoodized movie), they actually had a number of servant-warriors, and even some allies with them, so they had many more warriors than the infamous 300. They had well over 1,000. Nonetheless, they pass they chose to defend was so damn tight, that only about a couple of men could approach at one time, and they built a wall to defend from the top, and also — this isn’t widely known — the actual battle commander was the Athenian naval commander, because evidently Sparta, Athens, and the rest of the Greeks actually believed the few Spartans and their allies could hold the pass indefinitely, while the Athenian navy actually won the battle against the huge Persian fleet, and when the Spartan religious ceremonies were over a week or so later, they’d send their “huge” army of some 7,000 warriors if they were even needed by that point. Bear in mind the “official” history we rely on, by Herodotus I think (???), so vastly overinflates the size of the Persian army, as to be viewed as almost totally unreliable, stating it was between one and three million men large. Against roughly 1,000 defenders led by the 300 Spartans. It boggles the mind. And when Xerxes sent emissaries to the Spartans requesting they put down their weapons and surrender, Leonidas reportedly made that hugely famous statement (in Greek): “Come and get them!” That, my friends, is the true definition of big, bad balls! And as everyone knows, after just 3-4 days, a Greek traitor who lived in the area went to Xerxes and offered to show him a small trail around the other side of the mountain, thus flanking the Spartans and trapping them from the rear. Becoming one of the most infamous traitors in history. The Spartans did indeed fight very nearly to the last man, while the Athenian navy did indeed rip the Persian navy to shreds, but because Xerxes got his men into Greece because the most famous battle the Spartans ever had, and one of the most famous battles in the history of the world, was LOST by the Spartans (although, yes, treachery played a huge role in that), Athens was sacked entirely, but enough time had been salvaged for the citizens to escape, but you know what? I really don’t know how the rest of the Greeks ended up beating and driving back the Persians to ultimately win the war. It wasn’t because of Sparta.

So my major complaint resides in the fact that this book (and the other one) totally demolish my lifelong held perceptions of Sparta and the Spartan warriors, because the best I can tell is, the few wars they won were against insignificant adversaries, sometimes through trickery, and sometimes over the course of many decades. So why did they have this reputation of such badasses? They’re probably the most overrated bad ass “warriors” in the history of the world! And that saddens me more than you can know, but who did they conquer, what territory did they acquire, how much of Greece did they take, etc.? The answer to all is virtually none. Meanwhile, just a hundred or two hundreds years difference shows Alexander, a semi-Greek, destroying Persia, and becoming probably the greatest king the world has ever know, controlling virtually all of Europe, all of north Africa, the Middle East (Asia Minor), the lower parts of what’s now the ex-Soviet Union, all the way through Afghanistan, Pakistan, and India, leaving virtually only the relatively unknown Chinese as the only moderately civilized people in the world NOT under his control. And he accomplished all of this before he turned 32! Meanwhile, Rome comes along just a few centuries later to form what’s often thought to be the greatest empire in history (although not nearly as big as Alexander’s) and centuries later, Ghengis Khan conquered China, much of Russia, dominated parts of the Middle East, and spread his territory into eastern and central Europe. And Sparta compares to these truly great leaders and warriors how??? Sparta was “dominant” (if you can even call it that) for maybe 200 years, and even then, only over a very small territory and to a very small degree. So why its huge, gigantic reputation? What the hell did they EVER do to merit it? I’m like a monotheist whose eyes have been opened by science and now the idiocy of my former beliefs are laid out before me, leaving me ashamed and embarrassed.

Finally, my other complaint about this book is it deals almost exclusively with the rise of Sparta through the second Persian war, and then the book just kind of ends, even though Sparta was to play a role in Greek politics, wars, and life for another century or so. It just ends. So it’s really just a half book, and that added to my disappointment.

I wanted to give this book one star, but I can’t because that wouldn’t be fair to the author. It’d just be displaying my biases, and wouldn’t realistically have anything to do with the actual writing, research, or disappointing truths I’ve been forced to endure learning. Nonetheless, I can’t give the book more than three stars, because for one thing, the book went through some very long, dry, boring spells, and ultimately because the book is incomplete, even though the title should indicate that it’s not about the entire history of Sparta, but merely the rise. It SHOULD be about the entire history of Sparta, and I think the author does the reader a disservice by just leaving the story half told. So, interesting, enlightening book, but not recommended for fans of the “traditional” Spartans, but objective ancient history fans might find it moderately interesting….

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A Review of Deconversion: a Journey from Religion to Reason

Posted by Scott Holstad on March 5, 2018

Deconverted: a Journey from Religion to ReasonDeconverted: a Journey from Religion to Reason by Seth Andrews
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Fantastic book! Seth Andrews lived my own exact life growing up, and we were both traumatized by the same types of things (the movie, “Thief In The Night!”), and we were both fundies/evangelicals for much of our younger lives before we both started asking ourselves some questions, before asking others, and began reading and researching, and while Andrews reached his conclusions and belief system before I did, I admire his resolve and his courage for “coming out” as an atheist in a strong Bible Belt city, because I live in the biggest Bible Belt city in America (I believe it was so named last year…), and unless you’re a Red State Republican bible thumper here, you don’t really feel very welcome in this city, and while I haven’t spent years as an out and out atheist as Andrews has, I may as well, because when I’m not on my feet “praising the lord,” I stick out like a sore thumb, and it can make one very uncomfortable. Yes, there there are “liberal” Christians here, as well as a few Muslims, about 25 Jews, possibly a few Hindus, although I haven’t seen any, some agnostics, some atheists, but no place to really gather and not be in church, because the only alternative is the Unitarian CHURCH, and while it’s a catchall for all beliefs and while they tend to make fun of fundies, it’s still called a “church,” so that kind of defeats the purpose. I’m reading Dawkins, Hitchins, Barker, George W Smith, and others right now, and it’s been really refreshing, and for the first time in my life, I feel like a huge weight has been lifted off of my shoulders, like I’ve been liberated, and I have Barker and Seth Andrews to thank in many ways, because unlike Hitchins, they’ve BEEN there, they understand, they know what it’s like to “deconvert” and how traumatic that can be for so many reasons, and I have found this book very helpful and very freeing and I recommend it for anyone going through a similar process or who has questions, doubts, etc. It helps fill it the holes, or flesh out the holes one finds gaping wide open in the christian bible. And the stress is not on what one believes, but what one doesn’t believe, unlike what many people think. Atheism is merely “a lack of belief in a god” or supernatural being, etc. It’s NOT a philosophical antithetical belief system, although individual atheists can choose to have antithetical beliefs or any belief they want; it pushes no life agenda, just ration, reason, being a good person, and a lack of belief in a god. That’s it, that’s all. It’s very simple. If there is no rational evidence to convince you that a god exists, you are thus not obligated to believe in a god, nor should anyone else. Very simple. Sure, you can go full blown philosophical and George W Smith does that, but it’s not necessary, and you can find out why by reading most of these authors and finding out in less than 10 minutes. In any event, I’m elated I came across this book and now I listen to the author’s podcasts and have found help, comfort, and entertainment in them. Strongly recommended for those encountering spiritual doubts….

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A Review of The New Analog: Listening and Reconnecting in a Digital World

Posted by Scott Holstad on January 1, 2018

The New Analog: Listening and Reconnecting in a Digital WorldThe New Analog: Listening and Reconnecting in a Digital World by Damon Krukowski
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book is more than just a simple “back to vinyl” sermon, refreshingly. It’s a highly scientific and socio-psychological look at the history of recorded music, the transition from analog to digital, and what that means to people and society.

Damon Krukowski writes as a musician, music fan, and techno nerd, yet mixes this all together quite skillfully. He writes about context, signal, and noise in ways that will make sense to most readers.

Krukowski writes that people hear in stereo sound. That having two ears allows us to make the small, even tiny, mental distinctions providing much-needed context for the world around us. He tells one story, among others, of a person falling over while riding a bicycle wearing earbuds because, while they were focused on the sounds that were being delivered in their ears, they weren’t able to integrate and HEAR other sounds in the world around them. Krukowski asserts that our stereo hearing is incredibly accurate for providing context for what we actually hear (and need to hear, for the most part) while our brains separate signal from noise.

And what’s the distinction? The author explains that signal is the foregrounded sound we’re supposed to concentrate on, ie., music in this case, while noise is the allegedly “unnecessary” sounds that interfere with our being able to focus on signal. The role of technology in separating signal from noise provides the allegedly purer sound that one obtains through digital transmission, eliminating noise entirely. But the question is, is music without (analog) noise what we really want to hear? Krukowski makes the case that it is not.

Krukowski’s “The New Analog: Listening and Reconnecting in a Digital World” skillfully examines the science, physiology, and effects of the changes from analog sound to digital sound, not only over time, but now in the rapidly changing musical media world in which we live. By putting our audio experience of recorded music into a bigger context of how people interact with the world, he offers a more intricate view than many who bemoan the emergence of digital music as it’s experienced through devices like head phones, iPods, and even smartphones. He argues that the digital delivery of music replacing analog, tactile music has largely been responsible for the loss of community represented by now many distant-memory record stores where people could hang out, chill, and talk with others about music and other similar interests, while shopping for tangible, artistic items of value that one can hold and play and hear signal WITH noise. He then calls for the re-introduction of the noisy environment once surrounding all music, that would lessen the near-total isolation with which people now experience music.

The only reason I am giving this book 4 stars instead of 5 is that he sometimes gets caught up in going seriously too far into hard technology that one might need an engineering degree to fully appreciate, and the middle has an extended section that drags a bit as a result. However, he ultimately delivers a very thoughtful analysis at how rapid technological change leads to unanticipated social consequences that aren’t always good. A very interesting and decent book and recommended for all audiophiles, vinyl (and CD) enthusiasts, and music lovers in general.

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A Review of Long Beach State: A Brief History

Posted by Scott Holstad on January 1, 2018

Long Beach State: A Brief History

Long Beach State: A Brief History

Long Beach State: A Brief History
by Barbara Kingsley-Wilson
Scott Holstad’s review
4 out of 5 stars

 

As an alumnus of Long Beach State, or California State University Long Beach, as it’s officially known, I was really excited to hear this book existed, to get it and read it. And I largely, mostly enjoyed it, and am glad it was written. I liked learning lots of information about its founding and the early days, its growth through the ’50s and ’60s, and even interesting info when I was there for grad school in the early 1990s…. But… I was annoyed it was only “A Brief History,” because as one of the largest and most diverse universities in California, I thought the book could — and should — have been easily three times longer and STILL left out lots of info! The author picked a few key topics and wrote short three and four page chapters, and I felt she could and should have written 10, 15, and 20 page chapters on topics such as, say, the sports programs. Nothing about the baseball team, which went to four College World Series beginning while I was there, or much about the women’s basketball team, which went to two women’s Final Fours during the years my undergraduate alma mater, Tennessee, was winning its first of eight national championships. I also found parts of it depressing, as how while the state created the school, initially as a teacher’s college, and then as a four year state school, and finally as a state university with numerous graduate programs, including even several PhD programs now, there was never enough money for the school to do anything to help itself, and thus, for years, it was just dirt, and muddy when it rained, parking lots, with dirt roads cutting through the campus, and how it initially started in two apartment complexes and how the first buildings, still in evidence there, looked like Soviet-era concrete block bunkers, which I found depressing when I was there, and you could tell how it went through growth spurts just by looking at the differing architectural styles, and how it’s always been a commuter school, unlike Tennessee or UCLA, two other non-commuter schools I went to, and the lack of support for most of the sports teams — except for women’s volleyball, strangely, although in fairness to that excellent program, it’s won a crapload of national championships and finished as second place runner up many other times, so what awesome success, but the school has had other sports programs that have experienced success, such as the baseball team, and at times, the basketball team, and I was disappointed to see how the small part on the basketball team focused on the early Jerry Tarkanian years and never mentioned coach Seth Greenwood, who was coaching when I was there and how two of our players were drafted by the NBA while I was there, one of them especially experiencing great success playing with Karl Malone in Utah, or even how the recent teams have experienced great success and have dominated the conference, gone to the NCAA tournament, and become nationally famous for playing any team, any time, anywhere, and plenty of top 20 teams, such as North Carolina and Kansas at those schools, and being very competitive, even beating some, such as top 20 Xavier, losing at UNC by only 3 points, etc, before going on to own its conference once conference play started. Nothing about that. I would have even liked to find out some info on the water polo and beach volleyball teams! Oh well. I appreciated the history of the Greek system there, because it was an issue when I was a student, as I recall, but again, felt discouraged that CSULB constantly had to hold fund raisers in the community to do things like buy tons of peach trees to plant to hide the ugly concrete buildings, and put brick patterns on the walls of some of these buildings, thus starting a new architectural style, begging for money to finish the famous Long Beach State Pyramid, where the basketball team plays, on how they had to start a new Scholars program, done while I was there, to bring up its academic reputation and attractiveness to students by giving school valedictorians a free ride — which worked! In the 1980s, US News & World Report rated LBSU as a pretty crappy school, but for the past decade or more, it’s gotten outstanding scores in a number of areas and has been listed as basically one of the three most ideal and attractive largely non-PhD granting universities in the West, and how it’s the best school for the money, the best ROI-type school in the entire country, and one of the most diverse schools in the country, and how the students who graduate from Long Beach owe less than most students from virtually all of the other universities in the country, etc, so it’s gotten high US News scores for a long while now, and has established itself as a decent academic school, thanks to a number of good programs instituted in the 1990s and up. I’m very proud of how far my first graduate alma mater has come in just a few short years, relatively speaking, starting with practically nothing and progressing to an appealing, well regarded university. I also enjoyed reading about all of the celebrities who attended Long Beach State, like the Carpenters (they were building the Carpenter Auditorium, or whatever its proper name is, while I was there), Steve Martin, Steven Spielberg, Chris Carter, and numerous baseball players, among others. I already knew about most of them, but it was still cool to read details I didn’t know. And I had to laugh about the t-shirt I read about regarding the now-gone football team. It reads “Long Beach State Football: Unbeaten since 1991.” The program was shut down back in 1991, the year before I got there, after new and legendary coach George Allen had died unexpectedly, because very few people supported the teams by attending the games over the years, and it was a huge drain on an already always tight school budget. I was deeply disappointed to attend a school whose football program had just been shut down, especially after going to UT, where the team competed for — and won — national championships on a regular basis, but a lot of smaller schools shut down their programs back then, like East Tennessee State University, just up the road from Knoxville 100 miles, among others because it takes a LOT of money to have and run a college football program, especially if you want to truly be competitive. I came to accept this over the years, and embraced that t-shirt’s slogan to the point of ordering one from the school just a week ago, literally, and I’ll now proudly wear it and laugh to myself as people will undoubtedly look confused when they see it.

All in all, it’s a decent little book, and I’m glad it was written and I’m glad I read it. But I STILL wish it wasn’t a “Brief History,” because I think the school deserves a “Comprehensive History,” and I guess I’ll just have to wait to see that one written some time in the future. Recommended for anyone who has ever attended or graduated from Long Beach State, as well as any interested Cal State University system supporters and Long Beach/L.A. County residents.

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An Overdue Overall Update

Posted by Scott Holstad on December 31, 2017

12/31/17

Hi. Last day of 2017 and I’ve blogged almost nothing at all this year. I regret that, but it’s been the toughest year, toughest two years, of my life and I haven’t had the ability to blog or even write book reviews like I once did. I started an “Update” blog about 6-7 weeks ago, but never got very far, and have been horribly ill for a week, and don’t have the strength to finish it, but I’m determined to write a blog post for 2017. I’m including what I had gotten done last month at the bottom of this post, but am just going to give a brief synopsis here to let those of you still reading this blog know I’m still alive.

2016: I had 8 minor surgeries, most on my back. I had at least 33 tests and procedures that were diagnostic tests for my stomach ailments alone, the final result being I was ultimately tested for the rarest of diseases into 2017 with no results, leaving the doctors to discard me and wish me the best. I also had at least two strokes in the fall, the second of which was pretty major and continues to impact me to the present. Before the strokes, I had lost the ability to drive, and became largely homebound except for 2-3 medical appointments a week, every week, for which I took either a city disabled van or taxis. I had to start walking with a cane in late spring. The strokes impacted me in various ways, as my memory started to fail, and I lost my balance and coordination, resulting in numerous, regular falls. I was also on 3 of the 5 strongest pain medications in the world, whose side effects messed me up, but none of which really helped me. I stopped responding to virtually all pain medications of any type around November 2015.

2017: This year, I’ve only had two minor surgeries for my back, both failures. I was scheduled for a third, but the surgeon refused to do it, saying it’d be useless. Gretchen and I later met with the chief surgeon who said even a major surgery would not only be ineffective, but counterproductive, and he refused to perform any. He recommended as my only realistic hope an experimental and dangerous brain surgery that is hard to find and obtain. More on that in a minute. Before that, I started to experience more falls and greater memory impairment and even total memory loss, progressively, day by day. We explored getting me a home health aide, part time, but can’t afford one. I’m now wearing one of those fall alert pendants. Gretchen’s worried she’s going to come home from work and find me at the bottom of the stairs with a broken neck. I started having bizarre “episodes” — don’t know what else to call them — beginning March 31, in which I woke up and started wandering around the house at 3 AM, disoriented and unable to control myself, resulting in 15 falls, the last of which Gretchen witnessed as I tripped in the dining room and fell face and head first onto our hardwood floors, breaking my nose, knocking me out, and busting the hell out of my head. The pain in my head was unreal. I didn’t care about the nose or anything else. I refused to go to the hospital, even though four paramedics were there when I regained consciousness, working on me, and trying to convince me to go to the hospital. I don’t go to ERs. I had a horrible experience in early 2016 and vowed to die at home with dignity than go back to another damn ER. I tried to get a CT or MRI for 10 days, but no one would refer me for one without my going to the ER. Finally, on the 11th day, I went, had a CT scan, was told I had a severe, probable long term concussion, had possibly experienced some brain damage, and that was a joy. According to multiple doctors, I had already experienced brain damage with each of my strokes. My nose bled 24×7 from then into June, and the incident screwed up my neck and back, forcing me into home healthcare PT. My memory impairment and losses became much worse from that point on. I experienced more “episodes” like these in August and September, and have watched my memory deteriorate badly, as well as seeing my forgetfulness increase exponentially. It was about two months ago when this orthopedic surgeon stated I need Deep Brain Stimulation surgery, which has a 4% mortality rate, and which is available for Intractable Chronic Pain possibly only at Mayo and the Cleveland Clinic. One of my doctors put me on a supplement for memory loss/retention two months ago, and earlier this month, my neurologist put me on a hard core medication for severe dementia and Alzheimer’s, while allowing it’s possible I may be in the early stages on Early Onset Dementia. I am 51. I no longer expect to live to see, say, 54. And this drug he put me on has caused a very serious adverse reaction, or reactions, so that over the past week to week and a half, the symptoms have been so bad, I’ve honestly felt I was going to die several times, and today is the first day I’ve had the energy and wits to actually get online and do anything. I’ve simply been lying here trying to survive during one of the most hellish and painful weeks of my life, sick to death.

After those two depressing paragraphs, there were other things that happened in my life. In 2016, Gretchen and I created a startup that I poured myself into far more than I should have and it badly impacted my health. We decided, due to having to delay opening for business indefinitely while suffering tremendous costs and state taxes, to start to shut things down this fall, and I’m still trying to tie up loose ends, as I’m able to. Additionally, both Gretchen and I have started new side businesses, just to see how they’ll do, part time. Just really getting underway, but who knows? Gretchen’s oldest son was married last month in Maryland, so we made a long car trip to the wedding, which was lovely, but it was hard on me. Still, it would have taken a lot to make me miss that, although we didn’t decide I would actually go until the last minute. It was touch and go. Nonetheless, it was a joyous occasion. It was also good to see the rest of her family and meet some new in-laws.

Gretchen is busting her ass holding down the fort, working full time, having to do all of the errands and chores I once did when I was mobile and more able, and still find time for her side projects and to look after me. She stays very busy. And as limited as I am, I stay busier than I want to, mostly with technological projects that would take too long to go into. I’m worn out now. Sorry. I wrote more than I intended, but I just wanted to say I haven’t forgotten you folks out there, and I miss interacting with you, and if my health ever improves sufficiently, I’d like to resume blogging and book reviewing, but I have no idea if or when that will be. I hope everyone has been doing well, has had a good holiday season, and here’s to a good 2018 for all of us. Cheers!

— Scott

 

———————————————————————————————————————–

Hi! I don’t even know where to begin. I haven’t posted a “real” blog post in nearly a year. It’s kind of stunning, because I’ve been blogging since 2003 and used to every day, but the past year and a half have worn me down until I no longer had the strength, energy, physical or mental abilities to continue doing so, and had to call a halt to it.

Lessee, for the past 3.5 years, my health has been unbelievably bad. Most of you know I have Trigeminal Neuralgia Type 2, a very rare, very, very rare, extremely painful head and facial pain disease, considered the most painful disease in the world, typically referred to as “The Suicide Disease.” I also have three other head pain disorders, including Cluster Headaches, which are also known as one of the most painful disorders in the world, and which I’ve also seen described as “the Suicide Disease” in some sources.

After having had a nice little break from that, my head and facial pain came back with a vengeance in the summer of 2014, but this time bilateral, which is unusual. I immediately had three minor brain surgical procedures, but I told my doctors they wouldn’t help, as this pain was different. I was right. Then, in early 2015, my back started giving me real problems again. Serious pain to match my head’s serious pain. I’ve had back problems on and off for six years, but like my head, it had been off for a couple of years, and this was an unpleasant surprise. I went back to my orthopedist and started seeing a rheumatologist, who told me I had “massive” amounts of osteoarthritis throughout my body and would need two hip replacement surgeries at some point in the not too distant future. Meanwhile, my orthopedist told me my DDD had gotten much worse, and I had other problems in my back as well, which I knew — spinal stenosis, a broken tailbone, nerve damage, etc. She sent me ultimately for six months of PT, but it didn’t help at all. In February 2015, sick of being far too overweight, I went on a massive low carb diet, ultimately averaging 6 carbs, then down to 4 carbs, per meal per day. I lost weight and it felt good. However, and I do think this was coincidental, about four months later, I started developing stomach problems that developed into a nightmare. At first it was just gas after meals, but then it was joined by nausea, and progressively advancing, stomach pain — incredibly severe stomach pain. So severe, it easily matched my back and head pain, each of which were at least a 10 on a 1-10 scale every day without a break. This happened over a period of months though, so I had no idea it would get so bad.

I suffered through the remainder of 2015, still losing weight from my diet, but my stomach was causing me to lose my appetite, along with my stomach shrinking from my diet. My back didn’t improve, my head didn’t improve. I had a new neurologist, who was trying things like Botox and steroid injections, as well as Trigeminal nerve blocks, but nothing helped. By November 2015, I stopped responding to virtually all pain medications, both OTC and prescription, with one exception that helped me so little, it was almost a non-issue. In January 2016, after two months of bugging her, my pain doctor put me on a new, much stronger pain medication with another strong pain medication to take for “break through” pain. The new ones had lethal side effects. I’m not joking. I had to be really careful about how and when I took them. And when I took the other one in conjunction with the first one. But they, too, didn’t really help, and their side effects seriously fucked me up in the worst way. I complained about both the low dose of the main one and the break through pain med, but my dose on the ER medication was not increased. The new IR literally almost killed me. Taking both, and a third to boot, almost killed me. Several times, I basically lost the ability to breathe and my tongue swelled up so much, it largely cut off my breathing passageways. Another time, I became paralyzed from the chest down, and Gretchen had to lie me down — I had been standing — where I lay for a couple of hours until it wore off. I thought it was going to kill me then for sure. Backing up a moment, in December 2015, I also lost the ability to eat. It’s hard to explain. I couldn’t eat, didn’t want to eat, got sick at the thought of eating. I’d go 3, 5, 7 days without eating anything, then take a couple bites of rice and a bite of chicken, and go vomit. I was nauseous when dinner was being made. My diet was thrown away; I now had some form of eating disorder, for all intents and purposes. I lost about 150 pounds…

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A Review of Outriders

Posted by Scott Holstad on November 12, 2016

Outriders (Outriders, #1)Outriders by Jay Posey
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Meh. While Outriders had some interesting concepts, it really didn’t do much for me and actually left me bored at times. I had a hard time trying to finish it. It’s military sci fi that’s more military fiction that also tries to be spy fiction. Maybe the author was confused.

It starts out with a pretty cool scene though. Captain Lincoln Suh dies on the very first sentence of the very first page of the very first chapter. And he’s later brought back to a form of existence similar to living. Ah, modern science! Actually, it’s obviously set at some point in the future. After all, it’s “sci fi.” I read someone venture that it’s possibly the year 2100, or somewhere around there. The reason for this assumption is one of the characters states that her great grandparents were growing up in the time of the moon landing. But, now humanity has spread itself to the moon, Mars, and some of the other moons throughout the solar system.

Anyway, back to Suh. He’s brought back to this existence, as I mentioned, but why? He’s been brought back to become a member of super secret Special Forces unit in the military. He works his ass off in this secret training program, only to find out he doesn’t make the cut, and he’s shocked. But he is immediately brought into the fold of another group, the real group he was actually destined for: the Outriders, a Tier One Special Missions unit of the U.S. Army. It’s a five person unit that he’ll be leading. Two members of the team are women, one of whom is black and who grew up rich and privileged and joined the military against her parent’s wishes. I know it’s become incredibly popular for sci fi authors to include women in all military sci fi book military units, including special forces units, because future women are warriors you don’t want to fuck with, but I’ve occasionally read some things I’ve really had a hard time buying, at the risk of sounding like a complete sexist pig. For instance, I just finished a military sci fi book in which this 5’4″ petite female Marine carried a 140 pound railgun as her carry weapon. Seriously? I don’t know many men who could do that. A lot of people generally consider men to possibly be slightly stronger than women as a gender, whether you buy that or not, so to believe that a petite woman could do that is really stretching things in my opinion. It’s the height of PC.

I guess, aside from spaceships and space colonies, one of the things that makes this “sci fi” is the attention paid to the power armor. It’s pretty cool. But you know, other than that, it didn’t seem all that “sci fi” to me. It seemed more straight military to me. With a little spy/thriller thrown in. Tom Clancy in the future, maybe?

I guess one of the interesting aspects to the book is somewhat philosophical in nature. When Outriders are “killed” (again), if there’s enough of their body parts left, they can be put back together and brought back to existence. If not, they have had personal backups made of them, so they can simply be replaced. Makes people like Suh wonder about one’s soul. Is there one? What happens to it? What happens to the copies when they die (again)? Etc.

All that said, I found Suh to be a real annoying prick. I felt like he thought too highly of himself and his abilities. I thought his sense of leadership was overrated. I just didn’t like him. He was a narcissist. And I never got a real good feel for his team. I guess I thought the character development wasn’t the best I’ve seen. And the bad guys never felt all that bad to me. I just didn’t feel too invested in this book. In other words, I just never really got into it. The most interesting thing about it was the beginning. Everything after that was downhill. I looked over the reviews I saw online. I encountered a number of four star reviews, maybe a couple of five star reviews, and quite a few two and three star reviews, similar to my own. Obviously, this isn’t the best military sci fi book ever written. I think Jay Posey is talented. I just think he perhaps mixed some genres in this book, made an unlikable protagonist, and wrote a bland book. I haven’t read anything else by him, but there’s enough here to make me give another one of his books a chance though. Perhaps. But three stars. Not recommended.

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A Review of To Honor You Call Us

Posted by Scott Holstad on October 29, 2016

To Honor You Call UsTo Honor You Call Us by H. Paul Honsinger
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I enjoyed a great deal of To Honor You Call Us, yet there was quite a bit about it I did not enjoy.

Captain Max Robichaux has been given command of the USS Cumberland, a bad luck destroyer with a problem crew, and tasked with going to the outer reaches of the galaxy to harass and fight humanity’s enemy, the Krag, aliens intent upon humanity’s genocide. Max’s only friend is the ship’s doctor, a brilliant, but woefully naïve man who helps Max gradually whip the crew into shape. There are instances of shadowing Krag ships, and of being shadowed, but there’s no real action until the end of the book when there is a climactic battle that Max predictably wins. And that’s one of the problems of the book – its predictability. Naturally, the protagonist has a tortured past, suffering from PTSD, and has a drinking problem, so he’s not perfect, even though virtually all of his solutions to the problems the ship encounters along the way are perfect. He’s a damn naval genius. Of course. And of course he whips the problem crew into shape. And of course there’s a drug problem among the crew and of course the doctor rehabilitates virtually everyone so that quite soon they’re all happy and productive naval personnel again. And of course Max thwarts a Krag battle plan aimed at another alien species, whom Max saves and of course, now they’re our allies. Of course. I’m not saying this stuff doesn’t work. I’m just saying you could pretty much guess what was coming down the pike and you really didn’t need to keep reading to know what would happen.

One of the things that really got to me in this book, and wait until you read the next book in the series – I just did – is the speeches and explanations. My God, it’s unreal! As I said, there’s not much in the way of action until the end of the book, so there are just events, speeches, a crew mutiny, more speeches, the drug problems I mentioned, continued speeches, some introspection, crazy speeches, and – holy crap – even more speeches! And perhaps by speeches, I mean explaining. Because that’s probably what it really is. The characters are forever explaining things to each other – and the reader – so everyone will know what’s going on. But it goes on and on, for pages. Max explains the secrets of the universe to the doctor and his crew and the doctor explains every scientific fact known to mankind to Max and the crew. Okay, maybe that’s a slight exaggeration, but that’s what it feels like. Page after page of explanations. I’ve never seen a book like this before. The author obviously thinks his readers are morons, or he wouldn’t spend so much time explaining the plot and tactical strategy and so on to “the crew” (and us). Sometimes it’s nice to NOT know everything that’s going on in a book, believe it or not. Sometimes I like to be surprised. This was just overkill.

Oh, and the female subplot. Apparently, the Krag released a virus of some sort that killed off about 70% of humanity’s female population, so apparently they’re kept at home, safe and sound. As a result, there are no female characters, which is a virtual first for me in a sci fi novel, with the near exception of Asimov’s first Foundation novel, a book that had one minor female character toward the end of the book. Since all male crews are in space for many months to possibly years at a time, you would think homosexuality would be prevalent, but that’s never mentioned in this book, which I thought was odd. The author passed up a chance to make a statement one way or the other on this topic.

Another issue: boarding parties. With swords. Like pirates. Seriously?

Finally, the author had the annoying habit of dropping pop cultural references to late twentieth century technology, fiction and sci fi, such as Star Trek, but since this is the twenty fourth century, how realistic is it to think that not only would he know all of this stuff, but that when he mentions these references aloud, his crew gets them? I think the author screwed this one up.

All this aside, the book isn’t bad. Robichaux, while both flawed and too perfect of a commander, is a likable character. And the final battle scene is pretty cool. And the budding friendly relationship between the captain and the doctor is enjoyable to see develop. Still, none of this can save the book from its problems, most especially the damned nonstop explaining and speeches. It would have been a four star book without those. With those problems, I’m knocking it down to three stars, although I’m still cautiously recommending it. It’s the first in a series. I’ve already read the second, but I’ll leave my opinion on that for the review I’ll write on that one.

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Strokes

Posted by Scott Holstad on October 21, 2016

Some people have been asking about me lately, so I thought I would write a brief post letting you know a couple things that have been going on with me. Thanks for asking.

Over the past two months, I have had two minor strokes. The first one wasn’t that bad. Eight doctors confirmed it was a stroke. I had numerous tests. I was told once you have one of these, you’ll have more and more frequently, and they’ll get worse until you have a major one. I was also told they cause brain damage and that this one had caused brain damage. Two neurologists and three other doctors also showed me and convinced me that my right side had lost considerable strength, as well as speed and reaction times.

Last month I had another and it was worse. I wrote a diary entry about it because I had a bad feeling about it, and indeed, when I saw my neurologist that afternoon and he asked me about it, I couldn’t remember any details and simply asked him to read my diary. In fact, it took me days to recover and I couldn’t remember about four days during that week. I think I suffered real memory loss and I’m willing to believe some actual brain damage.

So, now I’m on medication and wondering when the next one’s going to hit. And how much worse it will be. I’ve redone my will and my living will. And I’m still having other major health problems. Right now, my ongoing head and back pain problems are taking a back seat to my 18 month old severe stomach problems. I’ve been to many doctors and have had many tests, but no one can help me. In fact, two weeks ago, I was sent to a major hospital out of state for consultation, medication, and tests, because no one here can help me.

I’m still reading a lot, but I’m obviously not writing book reviews. I don’t have the energy or stamina to do so. I have 71 books sitting here to review and I just can’t bring myself to do it. 71. I spend every afternoon and evening exhausted and fatigued to the point of falling asleep at all hours, no matter what I’m doing, whether it’s lying down, sitting in a chair, sitting at the dining room table, even standing up. We think I may have narcolepsy. I average between two and four doctor’s appointments a week, all in the mornings, and spend the rest of the day exhausted and usually in pain. Also, I can no longer drive. I’ve been banned for several reasons, one of which is I pose a danger to myself and others. I now ride the local bus company’s vans for the disabled and take Uber. I also have to use a cane when I walk. My life has changed a lot just in the last year.

I guess that’s it. I could write a lot more, but I’m already tired out and have to stop. I hope any of you reading this are doing well. Sorry about the reviews. I’d like to resume doing them. I’ll do them when I can. Cheers!

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