hankrules2011

Just trying to make it, a day at a time…

Road Trip!

Posted by Scott Holstad on April 11, 2014

We’re in Abingdon VA on our way to Maryland. We’re going to celebrate Gretchen’s 50th birthday with her family and friends. We’re also going to run around Baltimore and catch an Orioles game.

Last night, we stayed in a retro motel called the Alpine Motel. Sparse but comfy. I’m going to post a picture. Cheers!

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A Review of The Forever Drug

Posted by Scott Holstad on April 9, 2014

The Forever Drug (Venture Silk, #2)The Forever Drug by Steve Perry

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This sequel to Spindoc was just as good, if not better, than its predecessor. It was action packed, it read quickly, it was exciting, and it had just enough sci fi in it to justify it as a sci fi novel. Once more, Venture Silk is in the thick of a crazy spy game, this time with his new live-in love, Zia, the master spy. At risk is a new wonder drug concocted on the planet E2, which enables someone taking it to live for 500 or a thousand years or more. As a reward for her achievements on Earth (in the last book), Zia is administered the drug, but Silk is not. Interestingly, one of the side effects is developing telepathy. It makes for some fun scenes. You can tell Perry knows something about guns. Silk is followed and attacked, so he decides to buy a gun, and gets an 8 mm that shoots non-lethal darts. The darts being shot his way, though, are poisoned and quite lethal. A spy is sent from Earth to recover this wonder drug, meanwhile, and decides to take Zia as his prisoner/wife and to reverse engineer the biology of the drugs given her. He also decides to kill Silk and to turn on his handlers and head for another planet to sell the secret of the drug for a king’s ransom, as well as taking it himself so he can live forever — with Zia. Like the first book, there’s a lot of sex in this one, but I was more prepared for it this time and didn’t feel so much like a prude. Although I’ve never seen an author so taken with the term “mons” in my life. I’ve honestly never seen it used in a novel before…. Silk learns to take care of himself in this story, from taking martial arts classes to spying on the spies after him. You see, not only do he and Zia have to watch out for the Earth-based super spy, but other shadowy ones are after them too. It’s explained toward the end of the book, and I have to say that I wasn’t thrilled with the explanation, but I’ll take it anyway because the book was so fun to read. If you haven’t read this series, obviously start with the first one, but read this book because you’ll likely enjoy it. Recommended.

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A Review of Dr. Futurity

Posted by Scott Holstad on April 7, 2014

Dr. FuturityDr. Futurity by Philip K. Dick

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Not a bad book by Philip K Dick. An early one, and therefore a little more linear than his later works. Although, truth be told, toward the end of the book it can get a little convoluted, so it was occasionally hard to follow.

Dr. Jim Parsons gets into a car wreck and is thrown 400 years into the future. He is nearly immediately run over by a young driver, who stops to pick him up. Parsons is confused when he can’t understand the young man, and this could have been difficult, but Dick took the easy way out by telling us Parsons gradually started picking up the language and everything from that point on is in English.

Parsons is taken into San Francisco and sees the streets teeming with young people, all looking alike, with Native American looks and features. He enters a meeting in a warehouse, where the occupants are attacked and he successfully saves the live of a wounded girl. Only to be arrested. You see, in this world, death is glorified and institutionalized euthanasia is enforced around age 30. He’s sent to a prison camp on Mars, but escapes and winds up on a planet where he finds a plaque made out to him, giving him instructions on how to operate the space ship. Weird, I know. It’s actually explained on the last page of the book.

Parsons comes across a tribe of these people whose murdered leader is kept frozen in the hope that he can be restored to life. Indeed, these people are the ones responsible for bringing Parsons into the future in the hopes that with his medical knowledge and equipment, he can bring this man back to life. Turns out he died with an arrow to the heart. This group obviously knows about time travel and had gone back to the 16th century to kill Sir Francis Drake and get rid of all colonizers to establish a Native American society that would last to the present time and beyond. During one of these trips back, this leader was killed.

Parsons travels back in time to witness this and discovers that the man responsible for sending him to a Martian prison is posing as Drake and is there to kill Corith, the leader. However, to Parsons’ horror, he confronts Corith to warn him of his impending doom, only to kill him himself in self defense.

Much more time travel takes place and this is when it gets confusing. At some point, there are four time travel ships at Drake’s beach with four groups of people observing Corith die. All from the future, but appearing at different times. Parsons wonders which version of himself he’ll encounter. He tries to find Corith another time to kill him again, so that when Corith is revitalized, he won’t point to Parsons as his killer. Confusing, I know.

At the end, the female leader of the group, Corith’s daughter Loris, shows him their two grown children brought about by the one night Parsons and Loris got it on 19 years previously. They ask if he wants to stay with them, but he elects to return home to his real wife and there the story ends.

This is a book about free will, if anything. It’s not overloaded with numerous concepts like some of Dick’s other works, but it’s a good read nonetheless and I read it in less than a day. A must for Dick fans and recommended for others.

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A Review of The Afghan

Posted by Scott Holstad on April 3, 2014

The AfghanThe Afghan by Frederick Forsyth

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Unlike most reviewers I’ve encountered online, I really enjoyed this book. Perhaps it’s because it’s the first Forsyth I’ve read since Day of the Jackal, I don’t know. I’m not sure what I was expecting, but I really wasn’t disappointed.

The plot revolves around British and American intelligence agencies finding out about a super secret Al-Qaeda plot to do something bigger and worse than 9/11. The questions are what, when, and where? Several people are brought in to do something about it and only a few people in both governments know about it. Mike Martin is a retired British paratrooper colonel who has olive skin and grew up in Iraq before moving to Britain. He’s recruited to become “the Afghan.” The *real* Afghan is a Gitmo prisoner who was a Taliban commander and who’s never been broken, and has been in solitary for five years. Martin is going to become this man. A fake trial is put together where it’s announced the Taliban leader is being let go and is being handed over to the Afghan government. There, Martin, as the Afghan, “escapes” and makes his was to Pakistan, where he finds help in getting back with the Al-Qaeda forces to fight against the West. Now, the plot was tiresome at times in going over the back story leading up to this. We have to wade through pages of Martin learning Pushtan (he already speaks Arabic), of his learning the Koran, of his learning how to pray properly so he won’t trip up and expose himself. The book drags here. And frankly, it drags most of the way through, as it’s bogged down with detail. Now I like detail, so I actually appreciated it, for the most part, and I think this is what many reviewers had problems with. Still, it was cumbersome, so I’ve lowered my rating from five to four stars. Along the way, Martin is connected with Al-Qaeda, who interrogates him to ensure he’s really who he claims to be, complete with a scar of his thigh that he had to have made by a CIA doctor. Hints at what the big surprise will be come halfway through the book, as we discover Al-Qaeda operatives researching shipping companies to find a large boat big enough to transport a lot of “goods” from Asia to America. It’s pretty easy to guess it won’t be a load of silks. But what will it be? When the authorities discover it’s coming on a boat, but don’t know what or where, they start scanning the ocean and boarding boats, first large, and then smaller. They are operating under the assumption that it’s a tanker that’s going to be sunk in a canal to demolish things economically by blocking shipping traffic for months. When they realize that’s not going to be it, they move on to plan B. Now, I’m not going to give away the ending, but I will say it’s somewhat anticlimactic. I thought with everything leading up to it, it’d be bigger, bolder, brighter, more extreme. Instead it was largely docile. Oh well. Really, not a bad book. I read it in less than a day, so it’s a quick, easy read. If you can get over extreme detail, I certainly recommend it. I found it fairly compelling.

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A Review of Alternities

Posted by Scott Holstad on March 30, 2014

AlternitiesAlternities by Michael P. Kube-McDowell

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Boy, there wasn’t a single character in this book that was likeable. Not one. The protagonist, Rayne Wallace, a “Runner” who goes between alternate versions of America, is an absolute asshole to his wife, who in turn is a total bitch to him. Wonderful marriage. In one of the worlds he visits, he happens upon an alternate old crush named Shan. We’re supposed to applaud their falling in love as he can start a new life, possibly, and finally be happy. Never mind that he’s cheating on his wife and leaving his little girl in the dust. Shan seems somewhat likeable — until she turns him in to the government because of a strange gift he brings her from his world, thus ensuring his capture and interrogation, leading to the climax of the book.

There’s also President Robinson, who’s a psychotic intent upon starting a nuclear war with Russia, which in this world (the “Home” alternity) is a big bully to pussycat America and which has its nuclear subs appearing in our ports. Robinson’s out to change that and nukes one of their subs, which is only a precursor to what he intends to do. And he intends to use these alternate Earths as escape vehicles for he and his government cronies so that they can continue to dominate worlds while their America is obliterated by Russian nukes. Real nutjob.

Then there’s Senator Endicott, who discovered the “gates” to these alternative Americas, although we’re never told how. He has women from these alternaties brought over for him to serve as sex slaves whom he ultimately murders. And he murders others in his quest for power. Real nice character. He tortures these women first, by the way.

Tackett and O’Neil are also characters and perhaps we can identify with them a bit because they’re opposed to Robinson’s plans, but O’Neil’s a whiner and Tackett is in the dark, which is surprising because he heads the intelligence unit that utilizes these gates to steal things from alternate Americas and bring them back to improve the “Home” America’s chances of evening the playing field with the Russians.

Then there’s the mysterious maze that lies between the alternate gates with its own demon that destroys people it encounters. That’s never really satisfactorily explained, although the author tries to late in the book, to my dissatisfaction.

I wanted to give this book four stars because I like alternate world stories — Philip K Dick has it down. But the characters in this book have no redeeming qualities and I hated just about everyone I encountered and everything they stood for in this book, and for that reason alone, I can’t recommend it.

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Depression

Posted by Scott Holstad on March 28, 2014

I think I’ve been in a deep depression since Toby’s death last month. And I think his death magnifies my father’s death last year. I should be feeling good, living in a nice, new house in a nice, quiet, safe neighborhood, but all I can think about is how Toby isn’t here and doesn’t get to see it and live in it and how Dad can’t experience it — he was a great handyman — and how he can’t help out around the house. It’s really disappointing and I’ve been struggling. My wife has commented on it. I don’t know how to snap out of it. Of course it’s not been helped by the poor, grey weather. That’s really been getting to me too. Years ago I was diagnosed with SAD — Seasonal Affective Disorder — but I’ve never been treated for it. Basically it’s getting deeply depressed due to extended poor weather, most common during the winter. I finally caved in and bought one of those lights for it. You’re supposed to be exposed to it for about an hour each morning, but I haven’t found or made that kind of time for it, so I don’t know that it’s doing any good. I’m spending about 20 minutes a day in front of it. I need to make a better effort. Meanwhile, I’ve been listless and I don’t care about a lot of the things I normally care about. Gretchen misses Toby and my dad too, but she only got to experience being with Toby for two and a half years. He spent his entire six years with me. I watched him grow from a demon imp kitten who I wanted to kill to a loveable, dependable companion cat whose company I really enjoyed. I/we really miss him. He had become Gretchen’s cat, so to speak, over the past few years. When she came home from work, he would jump up and go to greet her, just like a dog. I’m also having to deal with my mother, who I think has unresolved issues regarding Dad’s death and who is lonely and doesn’t know how to deal with many things, such as financial things. I’m having to help her a lot, but she calls me a lot and comes over and sometimes it’s a little overwhelming. She just bought a condo up in Knoxville and will be moving back up there in a little over a month, so that’s going to change the dynamics, but it will also be weird and I’m going to worry about her living alone at her age up there without me able to come over to help her with short notice. Additionally, my job situation hasn’t changed and our cash is starting to run low due to all we’ve paid out to contractors for new home repair issues — electricians, plumbers, appliance repairmen, handymen, etc. I’ve also had car issues and have had to pay some big bills for that, and I need a new oil pan gasket which, the dealer says, costs $1,700 alone just for the stupid part, never mind the labor costs. I’ve got a lot on my mind. I’ve got a lot going on. Things are starting to ease up now, which is good, but all I can feel is blah. I’ve had moments of happiness — time spent with my wife, time spent reading or going to the gun range for some target practice — but generally I just feel bad. And I don’t know how to fix it.

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Tennessee ends Mercer’s NCAA run with romp

Posted by Scott Holstad on March 24, 2014

Mercer Bears vs. Tennessee Volunteers – NCAA Tournament Game – Recap – March 23, 2014 – ESPN.

UT put on a completely dominating performance to make it to the Sweet 16 for the first time in several years. Go Vols!

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The Lived In Look

Posted by Scott Holstad on March 21, 2014

Well, we’ve been living in our new house for exactly one month today and things are coming together. We’ve got just about all of the boxes unpacked, which is good, and most things have been put away. We still haven’t hung any pictures yet, though, but that’s the norm for me. It takes me awhile to hang pictures, mostly cause I hate putting holes in nice walls. So we have them stacked and lying about the house. I guess we’ll have to do it sometime.

We started out by meeting the neighbors across the street, who seem nice, and the neighbors on one side, who are nice, but we haven’t met anyone else yet. Gretchen has exchanged waves with the neighbor on the other side of us, but they haven’t come to greet us, so that’s that. I guess we’ll have to go introduce ourselves to them. Where I came from growing up, when someone moved into the neighborhood, you went and introduced yourself. I don’t like it when people don’t do that. In our last neighborhood, no one ever came by. I guess times have changed.

We’re really, really enjoying how quiet it is here and how peaceful it is. It’s also very private, particularly out back. That’s nice. We have a deck and a patio and when weather permits, we try to use both. The weather hasn’t been that great here though, although yesterday was nice. It’s also safe here, which has been important to us. People actually leave their garages open during the day! I would never do that! Everything’d get stolen from it in areas I’ve lived before. It’s a very nice change.

We’re almost done with contractors! I’ve got one here right now working on the screen door to the deck. Some more work needs to be done on the deck, and the floors squeak a bit too much, so we’d like to have that looked into, but otherwise most things have been taken care of. And let me tell you — it’s cost a pretty penny! Contractors aren’t cheap.

I’m going to post some requested photos of the place as it currently is (even messed up a little bit). It’s the “lived in” look. I hope you enjoy.

Our entryway

Our entryway

The entry leading into the living room

The entry leading into the living room

Living room. We're going to get more chairs.

Living room. We’re going to get more chairs.

Looking into the dining room

Looking into the dining room

Kitchen

Kitchen

Master bedroom

Master bedroom

Guest bedroom

Guest bedroom

Hall bathroom

Hall bathroom

The library

The library

Another view of the library

Another view of the library

Yet another view of the library

Yet another view of the library

The den

The den

Another view of the den

Another view of the den

Another den shot

Another den shot

Office

Office

Another view of the office

Another view of the office

Garage

Garage

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A Review of The Man Who Never Missed

Posted by Scott Holstad on March 20, 2014

The Man Who Never Missed (Matador, #1)The Man Who Never Missed by Steve Perry

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I have a hard time rating this book because it started strongly, but after a few introductory chapters, it falls into a giant flashback that takes up about 80% of the book, much of it anticipated by the first chapters. Nonetheless, the book moves along and is engaging and then the end comes — and it’s not what I expected. Or rather, it was what I expected, but I was shocked Perry used this ending. If I tell what happens, I’ll give away the story, so I won’t do that, but I was somewhat disappointed with the ending, and that brings my ranking down from five to four stars.

Emile Khadaji is a military deserter who split during a gigantic massacre of unarmed rebels. The Confed is the government responsible for this, and he ultimately decides the Confed must go down. In the meantime, he finds a mentor who schools him in quasi-Eastern fighting monk methods and mentalities, goes to another planet to become a bartender — while meeting a hot exotic chick and having hot, graphic sex — and then goes to another planet to educate himself. This takes place over a period of years, so there’s some potential for boredom in this phase of the book. Finally, he comes to the place where he decides he must make a move against the Confed, but needs funds to start his actions, so he becomes a smuggler in order to become rich (if only it were so easy) so he can fund his own personal war. He winds up on a planet with a special non-lethal weapon which he masters over the course of a year of training, and starts taking out soldiers. By the thousands. All the while, the Confed thinks they have a guerrilla army they’re fighting — but it’s just Khadaji.

As I said, I’m not going to give away the ending, but I did think there were alternatives available to Khadaji and I didn’t understand why he did what he ended up doing. It simply seemed senseless to me. This book is apparently the first one in a trilogy, so I would be interested in reading the others, but cautiously so. Mildly recommended.

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New Issue of RRR Out!

Posted by Scott Holstad on March 20, 2014

Spring is finally here and that means the Spring 2014 issue of Ray’s Road Review has been published. Check it out at raysroadreview.com. Read and submit. We especially need nonfiction.

Among the poets published, we have Doug Draime, D.A. Spruzen, Erren Kelly, Thomas Piekarski, David Cravens, and the always great Lyn Lifshin. Feel free to leave comments on their pages.

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EDIT: I have no idea why the links for RRR aren’t working on my site, but I apologize. Just google Ray’s Road Review and it should find it. I have the site up on another browser right now! Weird.

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