hankrules2011

Book reviews, health, hockey, publishing, music, tech

Posts Tagged ‘books’

My Year In Books: 2018

Posted by Scott Holstad on December 29, 2018

Every year, I participate in the Goodreads annual Reading Challenge. At the beginning of each year, you set a goal for how many books you’ll read that year. Goodreads keeps track of your running total and then lets you know how you’ve done and what percentage of your goal you met. You can also see other participants in the Reading Challenge. Every year until now, they’ve provided an end of year webpage, showing your stats, how you did, etc. For some reason, this year they did not. I am very irritated by this, so I’m doing the next best thing. I’ve taken a few screenshots of 1) what they show as your “Year in Books,” a similar webpage showing how many books, pages, etc, you read that year, the average length of the book, etc., 2) my 2018 Reading Challenge results, and 3) my Reading Challenge results for the last five years. I’m going to post these screenshots for you to see. If you want to see the actual books I read this year, you can go to my Goodreads profile and see the section on the left middle part of the page. You can find my Goodreads page here.

And now, a few screenshots of my year in books and my reading challenge(s)!

 

Goodreads-2018-Reading-Challenge-Results

Goodreads-Alltime-Results-Reading-Challenge

 

My-Year-In-Books-Goodreads-2018

 

That’s it! If you participated in the Reading Challenge, let me know how you did. Also, what is your 2019 goal? Cheers, everyone!

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Book Review: The Tragedy of U.S. Foreign Policy: How America’s Civil Religion Betrayed the National Interest

Posted by Scott Holstad on December 17, 2018

The Tragedy of U.S. Foreign Policy: How America's Civil Religion Betrayed the National InterestThe Tragedy of U.S. Foreign Policy: How America’s Civil Religion Betrayed the National Interest by Walter A. McDougall

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I didn’t like this book. And my criticisms are probably unfair, because the author most likely accomplished what he set out to do. I think I merely misinterpreted or misunderstand the primary thrust of where the thesis was going. I had been hoping for a general history of America’s “civil religion” over the years through the present, but especially focusing on the Reagan years through the present, and I guess I expected some analysis which would frankly be somewhat critical of the present situation.

Now before you jump on me to tell me that that is exactly what happened in this book, let me admit that I gave up and stopped reading before I got too far in. So if the author did what I expected, it’s my own fault for giving up. However, I literally have hundreds of books here waiting to be read, and I’m in the middle of reading over 100 at the present, so I really don’t have the time or patience for authors who micromanage their topics to death, particularly when a layman’s book is being somewhat treated as an academic book. Because this was detailed freaking history starting in the 1600s, going excruciatingly slow, unbelievably boring, and to be honest, while it’s fine for historical authors to be objective and not have an agenda, on the whole, the very title of this book implied a definite agenda, one with which I’d probably agree. Yet, for the life of me, I couldn’t tell what the author felt, believed, perceived, was advocating — nothing!!! — as he proceeded to regale the reader with amazingly boring trivial shit! And trust me, I don’t claim to be the smartest person around, but I’m not entirely dumb either. For instance, I’m presently reading books in fields such as public policy, nuclear engineering, religion (especially the primary theistic ones), atheism, philosophy, history, business, blockchain technology, network engineering, espionage, biographies, science, fiction, poetry, cryptography, culture, international relations, think tanks, hardware, software development, health, machine learning, AI, electronic warfare, limited nuclear warfare, radar signal processing, management consulting, quantum mechanics & quantum computing, among other topics. Trust me — I can handle details, I can handle boredom, I can handle a lot of “difficult” material. Sometimes I want to quit reading a couple of these other book — one nuclear engineering book is killing me, and one book on microwave RF design is boring — but I rarely have any questions as to the thesis of the books, the authors’ stances or where they stand on issues, what their agendas are, etc. And while I obviously know sometimes you have to work hard to reach certain points, this damn book simply seemed pointless to me. Mere American religious and political history. Ho hum. Pretty much know those fields already. By heart. I thought this would be a little more cutting edge, and again, perhaps it is, but dammit, give me a reason to reach the point in your book where you venture into uncharted territory! Otherwise, I’ve got better, more educational, more stimulating, more challenging books to read — piles of them. So for those of you who read this book in its entirety and came away impressed, please enlighten me as to why I am mistaken in my response to the book. In any event, I can’t possibly recommend this book. I’m sure there are alternatives that do a much better job. I’m extremely disappointed. Two stars.

View all my reviews

 

Posted in Book Reviews | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Some Short Book Reviews

Posted by Scott Holstad on November 25, 2018

I have a ton of books to review, ideally as many as possible before the end of the year. And my health has been extremely bad, so it’s hard for me to find the time, energy or inspiration to write any. However, today I got a few knocked out, leaving me with just over 150 more (!), so I thought I’d post them all here in one blog post, as they’re all fairly short. Cheers!

 

Forged: Writing in the Name of GodForged: Writing in the Name of God by Bart D. Ehrman

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I found this a fascinating book and really loved it. Much of it was new to me when I started, but for some reason, I set it aside for awhile while I read other books. And some of these other books went on to assert some of the same things I found Ehrman referring to when I later picked up the book to finish. That doesn’t diminish the research or quality of the material, but it does mean some of it isn’t as “original” as I had previously thought, which is the reason I’ve knocked it down from five stars to four. Still, if you want to learn the “real” story of many of the books of the Bible, particularly the New Testament, when they were actually written, who did and did not actually author so many of the books, this is an excellent source. Definitely recommended.

View all my reviews

 

God Needs To Go: Why Christian Beliefs FailGod Needs To Go: Why Christian Beliefs Fail by J.D. Brucker

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This short book is decent, not bad, and makes good and legitimate points. The author’s sections include 1. The Absence of Eternity, 2. The Birth of Ignorance, 3. The Flawed Logic in Modern Miracles, 4. The Error in Faith-Based Morality, 5. The Myth of Intelligent Design, 6. The Imaginary End, and 7. My Fall from “Grace.”

While I enjoyed reading it, however, I couldn’t help but think that these are largely issues that have already been addressed, mostly in more detail, depth, and intellectual mastery, by other authors out there, so aside from my feeling good about seeing another (reader-friendly) atheistic book on the market, I don’t feel like it truly contributes too much, certainly little new. Thus, while again I enjoyed it, I can’t help but view it as an average book, and am thus giving it three stars. If you have not yet read Barker, Hitchens, Dawkins, Harris, and some of the others, this may be a good intro, but I would quickly move on to the meatier resources out there. Cautiously recommended.

View all my reviews

 

The Templars: The Secret History RevealedThe Templars: The Secret History Revealed by Barbara Frale

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

It’s hard for me to decide what I think about this book. For virtually my entire life, I’ve heard and read rumors, stories, and myths about the mysterious Knights Templar, and most people know about the Holy Grail and have heard stories that the organization continues to secretly exist to the present day. When I got this book, I wasn’t exactly looking for or expecting to find these stories were justified. However, while I admittedly did enjoy learning about how the Templars were founded, and for what reasons, and the qualities one had to have and the sacrifices one had to make in order to become one, this book then quickly turned into basically a dry textbook of history, places, several events, politics, culminating in a very disappointing (for me) end to what had been an admirable organization, complete with confessions tortured out of the Templars who had been arrested due to political BS between the King of France and the Pope. It was further disappointing to learn that at least some of the confessions were true, as in the Templars’ secret initiation rites, which I cannot believe were original, had degraded into something undeserving of the name and purpose of the organization, and personal requirements and standards had been lowered to recruit new members, thus making for a lack of morals in some that would have probably gotten an original Templar killed by his fellows. It was also disappointing to learn of such a once-splendid organization’s demise, and as the primary author was granted access to the “secret” Vatican files, it’s highly likely that the reports of its termination as an organization are and were indeed true, thus destroying my youthful fantasies of a super-secret organization existing over the centuries to the present, exercising power in all sorts of areas. Like I originally stated, I knew that was essentially a myth, but it was still disappointing to read the historical truth.

This is a well-researched, and professionally written history of a fascinating organization that was quite powerful for several hundred years and which still interests numerous people til this day. The writing gets fairly dry at times, even boring, but there’s enough good details and history in it to make it worth reading. I’d give this book a solid four stars and state that it’s recommended.

View all my reviews

 

Sid Gillman: Father of the Passing GameSid Gillman: Father of the Passing Game by Josh Katzowitz

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I’ve always heard about Sid Gillman my whole life, and about how he “invented” football’s passing game. Yet when the great coaches are mentioned, he’s rarely, if ever, included. I’ve always wanted to know why, and I’ve always wanted to know some real details about him. Thus my excitement when I found this book some time back. I held on to it, like it was a treasure, waiting for the “right” moment to break it open and revel in its contents. So I finally did break it open, after waiting a very long time. And didn’t finish it. Because I didn’t enjoy it. I found it, and Gillman himself, tremendously disappointing. It was frankly a disillusioning read.

Gillman does indeed deserve credit for “inventing” the passing game, and he revolutionized the game of football forever. He quite possibly was an offensive genius. He was a lifelong workaholic. He tutored assistants who went on to amazing careers, like Don Shula and Chuck Noll. You could see elements of his game in the way they coached and won. So why isn’t Gillman typically included in discussions of the great coaches? Maybe it was because he never won a Super Bowl, which is a legitimate point, although he did a good deal of his coaching before Super Bowls existed. Maybe it’s also because he was a giant asshole of a person, unlikeable to almost anyone who ever met him. I hated him from about the 10th page on. And in terms of this book, I felt it was boring, redundant, didn’t exactly go to great lengths to argue for his greatness, although it made some efforts, and it kind of felt like the book went out of its way to ensure I’ll never include Gillman in a discussion of the greatest coaches, and nor will anyone else. I don’t know if that was the author’s intention – I tend to doubt it – but that’s what happened with me. I feel the book could have been a lot better, and possibly if a more experienced, more talented writer had been writing such a book, perhaps the outcome could have been different. However, the best I can do is give it two stars and state that I definitely do not recommend this book at all.

View all my reviews

 

 

Well, that’s all for now. I had hoped to do more today, but I feel terrible and I’m glad I got to do any at all. However, some of the ones I have lined up are on Japan at the end of WW II, religion, theism, the NSA, changing American military power and foreign policy, nuclear weapons, Biblical archaeology and how much of the Bible it supports as well as shows to be false, atheism, hockey, the history of Rome, the current and future status of the US and China, spies, American classism, the spread of theistic religions, Sparta, nuclear politics, think tanks, and much more. I hope to get to as many of these as I can. Please bear with me and be patient, and thanks for reading what I put down here. I truly appreciate it. Cheers!

Posted in Book Reviews | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

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!

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

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….

View all my reviews

Posted in Book Reviews, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

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….

View all my reviews

Posted in Book Reviews | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Subtle Changes To My Blog

Posted by Scott Holstad on March 2, 2018

Hi All,

I haven’t written a new blog post since the last one, but I’ve been working on updating my blog. I was nosing around some of my PAGES (as opposed to Posts) and was horrified at how out of date some of the information was. For instance, my beloved wife of five years was still listed as my “girlfriend!” Geez. That’s bad. So, I spent some time updating some of my sections, and I thought I would key in any of you who might be interesting in seeing or reading over the changes.

First of all, I changed the About section at the top (upper left) section of the page. While I retained some of the older material, I both updated it (from one cat to two) and added some newer relevant material (entrepreneur, audiophile, etc.). So, if you want an updated bio to find out where I’m at these days, there you have it.

I also added some books to my Favorite Books section. Two new novels, one new work of nonfiction, five new science fiction novels, and one I call a “Straggler,” that doesn’t fit anywhere else. I don’t have links for all of these books to Goodreads or Amazon, and maybe I should, and I really don’t think I have the time to do so, but it’s a good idea I just thought of, but in the meantime, there are some good books listed there that might appeal to a lot of people, so feel free to check them out.

One of the biggest changes I made was to my Find Me Here section. First of all, some of the websites and social media sites were outdated to the point of no longer existing, so I had to make some edits. Secondly, I had sites listed followed by hyperlinks. So 2013. I thought why not make the site words themselves the hyperlinks? That’s only the obvious thing to do. So that’s what I did! Check that page out, please!!! You’ll notice two Instagrams and two Twitters. That’s because I have an individual account for each and a music business site for each. They’re both listed separately to make it easy to know which you’d be accessing. I have 13 links/sites listed there at the moment, and while there are more I may add in the near future, I thought that was a good place to start. And I need followers on my Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter music business pages, so please feel free to drop by and follow me in those places. Also, feel free to make recommendations or requests, because I’m totally open to all.

Next, I briefly updated my Penguins Fan Page, although not by much. It essentially takes you to my website, to my Pens fan page there, but it also admits that it’s not up to date, and that I want and need to update it, and I plan to as soon as I find the time. Not too much there, and I won’t blame you if you don’t feel like visiting that page, although I’d be grateful if you would, obviously.

Finally, as far as my PAGES went, I made substantial changes to the My Sports Teams page. I made a lot of additions, with links to all of the teams I follow. I added an MLB team, three NCAA football “teams of interest,” two NCAA men’s basketball teams, a second women’s basketball team, a second women’s softball team, a second women’s volleyball team, and two NFL “teams of interest” as well. All in all, there are 25 teams listed for 10 sports, ranging from high school to college to the pros. If you enjoy sports at all, by all means, check that page out and feel free to leave comments!

Okay. Those are the changes I made to my PAGES at the top of my blog. But I didn’t stop there. I made more changes to the lists and widgets on either side of my main blog wall. On the left, I changed my Twitter feed from @scottholstad to @scottsmusicshak. So too, I changed the Instagram feed from @scottholstad to @scottsmusicshak also.

On the right side of my blog, I deleted some obsolete blogs in the Blogroll, added a couple of Bookstores, and made some significant changes to the Music section, where I deleted over a half dozen groups, such as Hungry Lucy and Unto Ashes, while adding over a dozen new groups, such as KMFDM, Rammstein, Pet Shop Boys, Within Temptation, Flora Purim, Neal Schon and others, AND I added a number of audio companies, largely audiophile-quality companies for those interested in such things, such as Bryston, Klipsch, Pro-Ject, Krell, Rega, and others. If you’re willing to spend the money, you can find anything from affordable entry level audiophile-quality turntables from Pro-Ject for $500 to Bryston amps for $6,500 to a Rega RP-10 turntable for $7,000 all the way to the new McIntosh XRT2.1K loudspeaker system for a small, little $130,000/pair. Yeah, you read that right. But hey, if you’re a REAL audiophile, you find ways to feed your obsession, right? Heh. Finally, I added a new section called Boutique Computers, listing some of my favorite custom designed and built computers and the companies that make them beneath the heading. It’s a long story and the subject for a blog post some time, but suffice it to say that after experiencing some unexpected tech disasters in the spring of 2017, I decided to go high end with the idea of very high end for a very long time with the goal of expandability, so I had a “boutique” computer custom built for me, realized I had been short sighted and that it wasn’t sufficiently expandable, returned it, had another with 34 drive bays started being built by the same company, but work on it got bogged down, I grew impatient with what I viewed as their ineptitude, so I cancelled our contract, and I went elsewhere. I ended up with a Xidax X-8 Glacier, the specs of which are pretty awesome. I could have gone even more awesome, and maxed out some rigs to see how much it would cost to go uber awesome. The Falcon Northwest Mach V maxed out at $24,000 while the Digital Storm Aventum was just about $30,000! For a tricked out PC. One that would still be tricked out five years from now. But the Xidax I got cost a great deal less and will still be a quality computer five years from now and has enough storage capacity to last me at least 10 years or more, and that’s what I was looking for after a quality processor and quality GPUs. Anyway, like I said, a story for a different blog post….

And I guess that’s about it. For now. Next, I’m going to have to write another “real” blog post, eh? I’ll try to do so sooner than it took me last time. By the way, in my last post, I mentioned that I have seven online shops at the moment, although I’m trying to close two of them. I’m also considering opening my own e-commerce-based website, my own shop, and shutting down all but one of these shops (because this one, on an audiophile site, gives me lots of sales), but that would be a major commitment, both in time and money, and I’d lose the global audience that’s built into some of these sites for the uncertainty of people not ever knowing about or ever finding my own new site. So, it’s a bit of a gamble. But I wouldn’t have to pay all of these fees for transactions, I wouldn’t get banned from listing items because I’ve allegedly listed “too many” of a certain type — when I’ve never listed ANY of that type before! — I’d have complete control over my inventory and pricing, my marketing and promotion, and my social media sites could all point to my website instead of my Facebook site — which has not translated into sales at all — and ideally, if I could get people to jump to a “landing page” on my site and enter their email for a discount or a promotion of some sort, I’d be able to send out email newsletters on a semi-regular basis, maybe weekly or bi-weekly, offering both tips and promotions, which is what you’re supposed to be doing to get sales, according to all the data. So, if anyone reading this has any opinion on this gamble, I’d love to hear it. I think longterm, the good outweighs the bad, but upfront, it would be a massive timesuck, a hell of a commitment, and I’d have to work very hard to get people to notice this site. But it couldn’t be any worse than several shops I have right now, so I don’t see what I have to lose in that regard. I really only have 2-3 sites where I’m selling anything, really only two, and I’d be glad to dump the rest in exchange for full control over my own inventory, pricing, shipping, listings, promotions, everything. Lemme know your thoughts and thanks!

Okay, have a great weekend everyone. Cheers!

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

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.

View all my reviews

Posted in Book Reviews | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

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.

Posted in Book Reviews | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

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.

View all my reviews

Posted in science fiction | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »