hankrules2011

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

A Review of Unseen Academicals

Posted by Scott Holstad on March 26, 2015

Unseen Academicals (Discworld, #37; Rincewind #8)Unseen Academicals by Terry Pratchett

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

It pains me to give a Discworld novel a less than stellar rating, but I found this one lacking in some way. It started out promisingly — the wizards at Unseen University find that in order to keep a sizable endowment, they must play a game of commoner “football,” or as it is known, “foot the ball.” They are aghast, but are more aghast at the thought of their losing any of their nine meals a day, so they begin to form a team led by Archchancellor Mustrum Ridcully. Meanwhile, Lord Vetinari, the city’s benevolent tyrant, has decided he wants to control this game, forming leagues and handing out gold looking trophies and he wants the wizards to lead the way. Promising start, yes?

Unfortunately, it’s all ruined by a Romeo and Juliet love story between Trev and Jewels, two new characters. We also meet Glenda, a forceful cook in charge of UU’s Night Kitchen and Mister Nutt, a goblin (who later turns into an orc) who is adept at pretty much anything. Trev takes Nutt to his first football match, where the crowd does “the Shove,” and where the wizards are in search of pie, and Nutt is really taken with it. So much so, that he grabs the ball and scores the game winning goal.

Somehow it comes to the wizards’ attention that Nutt has some skills, so they make him coach of the team. They ask Trev to join, as he’s the son of a late, great football player, but Trev declines, saying something along the lines of “I promised me old mum” he’d never play. This is repeated so freakin’ often, Pratchett pretty much beats the reader to death with it. It gets old very quickly. And of course, you know Trev ends up playing. Duh.

So Jewels becomes a fashion model for dwarves and becomes quite famous and in demand. Glenda acts as her manager. Nutt seems to develop a thing for Glenda, which is odd because one traditionally doesn’t think of “things” happening between goblins and humans. But Glenda feels her heartstrings being tugged at for the first time in her life and she loves it.

I guess my main complaint is, the book really isn’t so much about foot the ball as it is about Nutt and his relationships with others, such as Trev and Glenda. And while that’s moderately interesting, the humor that could have been attached to a book devoted to a book of the wizards playing at foot the ball solely could have been pretty forceful. This, however, is rather mediocre. It’s a romance, with football as its backdrop. I feel disappointed. I’d recommend it to Pratchett fans, but not to anyone else.

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My Life Twin

Posted by Scott Holstad on March 24, 2015

I met my life twin today. Not my life companion — that’s my wife. My life twin. I took my car to the Toyota dealer to have some work done. The service manager was a nice guy about my own age with hair my own color and a goatee similar to my own beard. His name was also Scott. He saw my Penguins hat on my head and asked if I was a Pens fan. I said I sure was. He said he was too. Then, he said he actually had been born in Boston, but raised in Pittsburgh. I was momentarily stunned and then replied that I had too. Who’d have thought? We talked about where in Boston we were born and where in Pittsburgh we were raised. We talked about going to Pens games back in the ’70s when they were pretty bad and getting beat up by Philly’s Broad Street Bullies. We’d see the games at the Igloo. It was awesome. Somehow we’d both come south. We didn’t get into specifics, but he had wound up in Nashville for awhile and started following the Predators, making sure to see the Pens whenever they came to town. He saw some great teams and players over the years. I told him that for my birthday this past year, my wife got us tickets to the Pens game in Nashville and we went up, had a great time, and the Pens won. We had a really good time talking. So when I later told my wife about this coincidence, she told me I had met my life twin. LOL! I should have gotten his number so we could have gotten together to watch some Pens games over some beers. Next time. I don’t know if he’s married or not, but my wife is a Pens fan too, so it’d be great if he is, that his wife would be one too.

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Neurosurgeon

Posted by Scott Holstad on March 23, 2015

I went to a new neurosurgeon this week upon the recommendation of my pain management specialist for my trigeminal neuralgia. He was considered to be pretty good.

I’ve had TN Type 2 since 2010 and have suffered mightily off and on over the years. During that time, I’ve undergone many tests and many minor surgical procedures, mostly gasserian ganglion blocks. Last year I had three late in the year, but they didn’t help at all. My pain management doctor was about to pull her hair out and didn’t know what else to do, so that’s why she sent me to the neurosurgeon, hoping he could avoid cutting me open and instead do some laser surgery on my brain. However, when I last saw her in January, she put me on a new medication, as a last resort, and I’ll be damned if that hasn’t really helped. A lot. Before that, I was living on Percocet, popping it like candy to help with the pain. It was really draining, very wearing. I hated that. Since I started that medication, I’ve taken exactly two, and none over the past seven weeks!

Back to the new doctor. When I met him, he seemed very rushed. I hate that in new doctors. When you meet with a new doctor, they should take the time to get your history and find out what’s been going on, how, why, how long, when, etc. This guy just wanted to get through it and move on. I was put off. Then he told me he had never heard of TN Type 2. I was stunned. I thought to myself, here’s a doctor who specializes in brain surgery and he doesn’t even know what this is? WTF? I had to define it for him. Even then, he rushed me through it, like he didn’t even care. Which pissed me off. Then he told me about the two major types of surgical procedures, but this time I interrupted him and told him about the medication and its success and he sounded relieved. He said, well if it’s working, there’s no need to cut you open. And you’re on a pretty small dose, so you could conceivably go up quite a bit if needed before we’d need to do anything, so let’s just keep it there and see what happens. Sounded good to me. So that’s how we left it. So, mission accomplished. I made contact with a surgeon who could do surgery if needed, but am not going back until that time is necessary, hopefully never.

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New Ray’s Road Review

Posted by Scott Holstad on March 20, 2015

It’s spring and that means the Spring 2015 issue of Ray’s Road Review has been published today. Fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and photography. Check it out! http://raysroadreview.com

Of course, since I’m the poetry editor, I have to acknowledge the poets in this issue. They include Lyn Lifshin, Robert Joe Stout, Terry Savoie, Alan Catlin, Richard Fein, and Colin Dodds. Good stuff. Good poets. Check them out.

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A Review of Don’t Call Me Goon

Posted by Scott Holstad on March 18, 2015

Don't Call Me Goon: Hockey's Greatest Enforcers, Gunslingers, and Bad BoysDon’t Call Me Goon: Hockey’s Greatest Enforcers, Gunslingers, and Bad Boys by Greg Oliver

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book is about hockey enforcers and their fights. It goes back to the early years of the early twentieth century and highlights many, many players. Let me tell you, for those of you who think fighting is still prevalent in today’s hockey game, it isn’t. They actually brought people up on murder charges back then! Hockey would break out at fights. It was crazy!

The authors cover early fighters such as Joe Hall, Red Horner, and Sprague Cleghorn before moving on to heavyweights from the original six era. It was fascinating to read about. Things really got bad, though, during the expansion era, circa 1967. When the Philadelphia Flyers, St. Louis Blues, Pittsburgh Penguins, and other teams came into existence, doors opened for players who previously couldn’t get on with the original six teams. A lot of these were fighters. And so Philly’s Broadstreet Bullies were born, and they terrorized the NHL throughout the ‘70s. I was disappointed the authors didn’t cover someone I consider to be perhaps the most famous enforcer of all time, Dave “The Hammer” Schulz, nor did they cover Bob “The Battleship” Kelly, other than just brief mentions. Still, the fights were tremendous. And tremendous to read about.

The authors then go into pairings of fighters, such as the infamous Bob Probert and Joey Concur, as well as Tiger Williams and Dan Maloney, among others. They then go on to highlight fighters who could score and defend too. They try to cover issues like concussions, but I don’t think they go quite far enough with that. It’s a growing concern and one that shouldn’t be swept under the rug.

It was interesting to read the former enforcer’s take on the current state of the game. They think it’s been ruined by a newish interference rule that has resulted in cheap shots and gone a long way to eliminating the role of enforcer. They think enforcers policed the game and the refs shouldn’t be the ones having to do it themselves and aren’t in a position to do it right either. They think today’s game is watered down with pansy players skating around doing whatever they want. As noted big time enforcer Tiger Williams said in the book, “Some snot-nosed little [punk] that isn’t going to break a nail is going to score 50 goals and he’s never driven to the net in his life. He’s never stood in front of the net with Moose Dupont giving him 89 cross-checks in the back of his head,…. To have today’s play’s players score 400 goals in a no-punch pond hockey league is garbage. Getting in another guy’s face is part of the character of the game.” Well said, Tiger, well said.

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RIP Sir Terry Pratchett

Posted by Scott Holstad on March 13, 2015

Yesterday, the world lost one of its funniest and best writers ever — Sir Terry Pratchett. He was a fantasy writer, but a satirist too, perhaps the best ever. His wit was sharp, his jokes hilarious. He wrote a long series called the Discworld series, over 30 books, about a world riding on the backs of four elephants which were in turn riding on the back of a giant turtle hurtling through space. The times were largely medieval, but he made them relevant to our own. He had trolls, dwarves, werewolves, vampires, igors, goblins, witches, wizards, and more. His City Watch mini-series was much beloved. I’m reading the last Discworld book right now. Pratchett came down with Alzheimer’s eight years ago, still managing to publish two more books, but sadly died yesterday at the young age of 66. It’s a real tragedy. He sold over 85 million books. I wrote reviews of some of his books that I read. You can read them here:

 

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A Review of Dealers of Lightning

Posted by Scott Holstad on March 3, 2015

Dealers of Lightning: Xerox PARC and the Dawn of the Computer AgeDealers of Lightning: Xerox PARC and the Dawn of the Computer Age by Michael A. Hiltzik

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I’ve heard of Xerox PARC (Palo Alto Research Center) for years now and of its importance, but this book really drove home just what a critical place PARC was for the development of the personal computer. It was an excellent, excellent book. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Back in the mid-60s, Xerox decided they wanted to compete with IBM and AT&T by developing their own research labs in the hopes of winning prestige and a possible Nobel or two, just like Bell Labs did. They set PARC up with a virtually unlimited budget and told the director he could hire whomever he wanted. Pake, the director, had heard of one Bob Taylor, formerly of ARPA, the precursor of the Internet, and hired him to head his computer lab. Taylor instilled a fierce commitment in his employees, but had a very adversarial management style and made a lot of enemies around the company. Another key hire was Alan Kay, a programmer with a dream of creating laptops and one day tablets (30 years before they ever came out) which would be so easy to program, kids could do it. Soon PARC had the best and the brightest from Stanford, MIT, Carnegie Mellon, Harvard, UC Berkeley, Utah, etc. They came from all over, from the best computer science programs. And there were no deadlines and nothing to produce – it was like a giant think tank where you could just follow your dreams to see where they’d lead with unlimited funding. For the most part.

By the late 60s, one of the programmers had produced a mouse, ancient by our current standards, but radical by theirs. Also, they were producing GUI operating systems for point and click possibilities. By the mid to late 70s, the inventers had invented a graphical user interface, an operating system, overlapping windows, a text editor (word processor), a programming language, software, Ethernet for networking, a mouse, display, keyboard, audio, and a laser printer, which would be the only thing Xerox would go on to make money with. And that’s the crux of the situation. Xerox didn’t know what it had. Xerox did nothing with PARC. PARC embarrassed Xerox. The wizards at corporate were so far behind the times that change of that enormity just unnerved them too much to act, so they didn’t. In fact, they got rid of the R&D people who had created PARC, brought in new managers to run PARC, got rid of Bob Taylor (who had gotten too big for his britches), prompting a ton of resignations from his team members, and lost a lot of people who went on to form companies like 3Com, Adobe, SGI, and others. Xerox could have OWNED computing and they blew it! They literally could have been Microsoft, IBM, and Apple rolled into one and they blew it. The author tries to shield them from this criticism. He tries to say that as a copier company, they weren’t equipped to sell computers. Well, why invest in researching them, then? He tried to say you’d have to retrain 100,000 salesmen. Well, do it. Piss poor excuses, in my opinion. Xerox has no excuse for blowing things the way they did.

One last thing. I really enjoyed the chapter on the visit by Steve Jobs. Of course, it’s a famous story about how Jobs visited PARC, saw what they had, ripped them off, put everything in the Mac, and made a killing. Part of which is true. However, with his first visit, he was given just a main demo given anyone who would visit. Apparently he wasn’t impressed and he had the ear of the Xerox CEO, who was investing in Apple, so PARC got a call telling them to show Apple everything. Jobs and his crew went back again and this time got more, but not everything. Somehow Jobs knew this, and before Jobs was out of the building, the Xerox CEO was on the phone to PARC telling them to show them everything. This elicited a great deal of stress and agony in some Xerox employees, who thought they were giving away the store. (They were.) So Jobs went back and apparently went nuts when he saw the GUI interface, and his engineers also appreciated the mouse and networking, etc, et al. And so the Mac was born.

This book isn’t perfect. There are a ton of people to keep up with. It gets hard. Sometimes the book gets a little boring. But all in all, if you’re into computers and into the development of the personal computer, the story of how the first one was built before Steve Wozniak came along and claimed to do it is pretty awesome and the story of Xerox PARC is pretty awe inspiring. Definitely recommended.

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A Review of Dogfight

Posted by Scott Holstad on March 3, 2015

Dogfight: How Apple and Google Went to War and Started a RevolutionDogfight: How Apple and Google Went to War and Started a Revolution by Fred Vogelstein

My rating: 1 of 5 stars

Rarely has a book incensed me the way this one has. First of all, let me announce that I am an iPhone lover and Android hater. No need to take pot shots at me. Just the facts. If you don’t like it, read something else. Anyway, I thought this book was going to be a reasonably objective look into the war between Apple and Google on smart phones and tablets. Boy, was I wrong. The author lets us know right away where he stands. He starts by mocking Apple and Steve Jobs as they get set to introduce the iPhone to the public, making them look like total dunces and then pulling one over on the public’s eyes with a brilliant demo. Then, poor Google. They loved the iPhone. They loved Apple. So imagine how hurt they were when Jobs and Apple got wind of their development of the Android and didn’t appreciate it, of how badly their feelings were hurt. They even went for walks with Jobs assuring him that they weren’t going to go ahead with Android — only to do it. And this was somehow justified by the author. The author also went out of his way to explain that Apple has never sued Google, just the phone and tablet manufacturers. Okay. Nonetheless, Apple has the patents and it’s winning. This is a hatchet job disguised as journalism and it pisses me off. It also pisses me off that I spent good money on this damn book thinking I was getting one thing when in fact I was getting something else. If I wanted to read something by a Google cheerleader, I would have bought something else. So too, if I had wanted to read of a Jobs smear job on Google, I would have bought that — but I didn’t. I wanted something balanced. This was not. So I didn’t finish it. I made it to the seventh chapter before giving up. I’m trying to get my blood pressure down now. I can’t believe what a crock this book is. What a Google lover this author is. How open software trumps closed systems every time, which isn’t necessarily the case — look at the facts. Of all of the books I’ve not recommended, this comes in at the top of my list. Most definitely not recommended!

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Med Cocktail Mess

Posted by Scott Holstad on March 2, 2015

So I’ve been doing a lot of research on various websites lately on several different meds I take and the outlook is pretty grim. This all started because about a month ago, I was put on a new med with what drugs.com said had 109 side effects, including extreme rage, anxiety, hostility, suicidal tendencies, depression, and more. That’s a little worrisome. So we monitored how I did and to our relief, I didn’t experience any of those. What I did experience were extreme drowsiness, bloody noses, chest pains, dry mouth, and extreme tiredness, to the point of making it difficult for me to function throughout the day. But the payoff was good because the med — for pain — was actually working! However, as I started researching, I noticed the med was mentioned with another med that I was on, another fairly new one, that also had extreme tiredness as a side effect. Double whammy, I guess. Then, as I continued to research, I found a site that listed countless posts with people discussing three meds that I’m on — one I’ve been on for a long time — and a cocktail they believe is responsible for both short and long term memory loss. Big time memory loss. Very sobering. I guess the good thing is I’m on average doses for two of them and a smallish dose for the third, so I guess that’s good, but I’m really fatigued all of the time, just worn out. And my memory’s been going for awhile now. But perhaps more importantly, I can’t function during the day anymore. In the morning, I’m dropping off early and it doesn’t help that I’m a severe insomniac, often up at 1 or 2 AM. I’m usually good late in the morning or during the mid afternoon, but by late afternoon, I’m nodding off in a chair and by evening, I’m falling asleep in a chair and I’m ready for bed by 8. I don’t usually make it to bed that early, but I’m ready. It’s gotten so bad that it’s rough for me to drive during the day. I’ve fallen asleep at red lights. And yet I have a hard time taking naps. Go figure. It makes no sense. I get three hours of sleep a night, typically, and can’t sleep during the day, often, except now I’m always tired and nodding off. And it’s the meds. I’ve read about a few people who said their side effects cleared up when their doses were doubled. I’m a little concerned about asking for that, but I’m willing to give it a try. I’m going to try and call one of my doctors today about this. Four different doctors are monitoring these three meds I’m on. Surely one of them will have something decent to say about it! And the thing is, my pain level has substantially decreased, so I don’t want to decrease my med dose. It’s working. But something’s got to be done about the fatigue. I’m already taking Nuvigil and Adderral. I don’t know what else they could do about that. Maybe doubling the dose would do it. I’m willing to try it. Gah! These meds are going to be the death of me!

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Insomnia

Posted by Scott Holstad on February 22, 2015

I’ve been up since 12:15 AM and I want to write something about my severe insomnia, but I don’t know what to write. Yesterday, I had the luxury of sleeping in until 4:15, but that’s very rare. Normally, I’m up by 2:15. I typically go to bed around 10 or 10:30, so I average maybe three or perhaps four hours of sleep a night. I try to take a one hour nap after lunch every day, which helps to a certain degree, but I’m always exhausted. It’s very wearing. I take two sleeping pills and many other pills with sedative side effects, but while they put me to sleep, they don’t keep me asleep. It’s very frustrating. It’s been this way for at least 12+ years. For as long as I can remember. I can’t remember when it wasn’t this way. I don’t know what caused it or what causes it. I’ve tried every prescription and non-prescription sleep aid known and nothing helps. Right now, I’m taking Estazolam and Sonota, neither of which help that much, as I mentioned. I’m writing this at 4:25 AM and I feel like I’ve been up all morning. By the time my wife gets up, I’ll be ready to go back to bed. But I almost can never do that. I just can’t go back to sleep again. It’s very frustrating. Insomnia blows.

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A.D. Martin

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