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Book Review: Black Hills by Dan Simmons

I put “Black Hills” into my reading queue a while back because I actually grew up in the Black hills and thought it would be an interesting lark to read a novel about my home town. But because I was disappointed by another book of the same name, "Black Hills” by Nora Roberts, I stayed away.
Aside: Really, it was clear to me that Mrs. Roberts had never been in South Dakota. Why she set her romance novel there I will never know. 
Later, I read other Dan Simmons' books like “Hyperion,” “Summer of Night,” and “The Terror” and was blown away by his writing skill and his story telling. I cried my eyes out during “Hyperion,” sat up up in bed petrified reading “Summer of Night,” and was gobsmacked about what British sailors had to endure as their officers tried to find the Northwest Passage in “The Terror." 
But Simmons’ “Black Hills” is off the charts in terms of level of difficulty compared to these other three. I can’t even describe the skill required to pull off this crazy and…
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Book Review: "How Great Science Fiction Works,” by Gary K. Wolfe, Course Review by Rick Howard

I very much enjoyed Dr. Wolfe’s Great Courses lecture. I have always considered myself to be a science fiction fan, but after listening to these lectures, I learned that there are numerous holes in my science fiction education that I will have to get busy filling. 
To my great surprise, I learned that the mother of science fiction is Mary Shelly, the author of ‘Frankenstein; or The Modern Prometheus,” published in 1818. She was the first author to tell a fictional tale where the catalyst of the entire story arc was a bit of science that was tantalizingly just out of modern reach. Electricity might be able to reanimate dead tissue. What a great idea. The fact that a woman created an entire genre of writing is fascinating by itself but when you consider that she did it when, at the time, respectable women didn’t write novels and especially didn’t write horror/gothic novels, Shelly’s accomplishment is extraordinary. And she wasn’t done there. Some scholars say she is the first author to c…

Cryptocurrency, Blockchain and Bitcoin: It All Seems So Mysterious

Executive Summary
When Satoshi Nakamoto published his seminal paper called Bitcoin: A Peer-to-Peer Electronic Cash System in October 2008, he started what is arguably the first viable cryptocurrency. Bitcoins have steadily increased in value from its inception to today where one bitcoin is worth some $6,500 and its success has encouraged the development of some thousand other cryptocurrencies. But it begs the question, how does an electronic string of digits contain any value at all and why do the 22 million Bitcoin practitioners in the world today think this is so special? To answer the value question, you have to remember why any currency system has value. The U.S. dollar has value because we all agree that it does. Bitcoins have value because 22 million Bitcoin practitioners have faith that it does too. Bitcoins are also scarce meaning that there is a finite number in the world. This has a contributing affect to why bitcoins have increased in value. To answer why Bitcoin is special…

Why I Vote

Executive Summary
New Jersey and Virginia are holding state elections on 7 November. Some of my friends, family and colleagues tell me they don’t vote. They have lots of reasons. They say that their vote does not count. They say that the system is, at best, a poorly designed system and, at worst, completely corrupt system. They say that they do not follow politics. They say that they don’t have time. This got me to thinking about why I am so on the polar opposite end of those thoughts. I always vote. I began to wonder why that was the case. This essay is my attempt to work that out. What I discovered was that voting for me is about being a man and the example I set for my own children. It is about being an appreciative citizen and not taking for granted the privileges won by the spilt blood of our ancestors. It is about giving back to the community, in some small measure, in order to preserve these rights that men and women thought were so important in our country’s history that they w…

Reborn at Arlington: Memorial Day 2017

1,500 US Army soldiers stood on the misty parade field at Fort Meyer waiting for the sun to rise. The leadership had scheduled another morale building yet mandated "fun run" where once a quarter, the entire unit comes together to do PT (Physical Training) in a show of Esprit de Corp and unit cohesion. Since we were all stationed at the Pentagon, many of us had been in the Army for a while. We were a little broken down in the body department and had seen our fair share of these types of events. There we were, at the twilight of our careers, huddled in small groups during the dawn of one more PT morning.
Of course, there was the usual grumbling between the older soldiers asking one another if we were motivated yet and if we had a cup of Esprit De Corps to spare. But there was a sprinkling of young soldiers among us too and their shiny new faces kept us old timers from getting too cynical and fussy.
As the sun poked up above the horizon, the Army's Command Sergeant Major call…