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Gary Hoggatt
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Gary Hoggatt

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"The Buffalo Sabers select Taro Tsujimoto of the Tokyo Katanas"

This is hilarious.  Selecting a fictional player in the draft has to be one of the best sports pranks ever.

More on said player at
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Don't leave home without it!

Great find from +Dirk Puehl here.  Excellent vampire hunters kit, even if it's not "authentic" exactly.  I can totally picture Dr. Van Helsing carrying this case along with him to London.

My review of Dracula, for all the vampire fans out there:
“As to Van Helsing, he was employed in a definite way. First he took from his bag a mass of what looked like thin, wafer-like biscuit, which was carefully rolled up in a white napkin; next he took out a double-handful of some whitish stuff, like dough or putty. He crumbled the wafer up fine and worked it into the mass between his hands. This he then took, and rolling it into thin strips, began to lay them into the crevices between the door and its setting in the tomb. I was somewhat puzzled at this, and being close, asked him what it was that he was doing. Arthur and Quincey drew near also, as they too were curious. He answered:— “I am closing the tomb, so that the Un-Dead may not enter.” - “And is that stuff you have put there going to do it?” asked Quincey. “Great Scott! Is this a game?” - “It is.” - “What is that which you are using?” This time the question was by Arthur. Van Helsing reverently lifted his hat as he answered:— “The Host. I brought it from Amsterdam. I have an Indulgence.” (Bram Stoker, “Dracula”)

The customary methods of destroying a vampire are probably as manifold as the regions and cultures with their very own vampire myth – and there are at least dozens who have one. Folktales as well as archaeological finds tell of decapitations and putting the head between the leg of the corpse, stones put in the deceased’s mouth, metal objects driven in chests as well as the familiar stakes, made of ash, hawthorn or oak, depending on the area the vampire haunts. Apotropaics, items to ward off the undead, usually include the well-known garlic, wild roses and consecrated artefacts like wafers, holy water and consecrated earth. Novelists from the second half of the 19th century, like Sheridan LeFanu and Bram Stoker, codified the methods into a package of measures now familiar to every cinemagoer. 

Depicted below is a nicely arranged package of said means, auctioned off for about £ 7,000 at Sotheby’s as an original set dating back to the 1850s, belonging to one Professor Ernst Blomberg. Unfortunately, it didn’t. The illustrious professor as well as the vampire killing kit were made up by the London artist Michael de Winter in the 1970s out of a whim. Nevertheless, an appropriate exhibit for the #wunderkammer   on a #gloomysunday   and the anniversary of the capture of the “Blood Countess” Erzsébet Báthory (ref - Michael de Winter’s story of the fake vampire killing kit can be found here:

#steampunk   #victoriana  
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Better than a DeLorean...

These pictures take me back to my childhood, romping around the malls of Southern California, hitting up KB Toys and Waldenbooks.

h/t +Yonatan Zunger 
This all looks so, so familiar.
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Los Angeles could use some fiber.

As a resident of Los Angeles I'll be very interested in seeing where this fiber internet proposal goes.  Better internet would be awesome.
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The reality is those laws may make it through a southern state, but not one where the high tech industry is so entrenched and hates the telecommunications companies (hello net neutrality). 
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Book review - The Arabian Nights: Tales of 1,001 Nights: Volume 1 translated by Malcolm Lyons and Ursula Lyons.

I enjoy reading classics and traditional tales - The Odyssey is a favorite of mine - and after recently reading Tamim Ansary's Destiny Disrupted: The History of the World Through Islamic Eyes, I realized I hadn't read one of the most famous sets of traditional tales around - the 1,001 Arabian Nights!  After researching the various translations, I decided to go with The Arabian Nights: Tales of 1,001 Nights: Volume 1, the first volume of a three volume set of a full translation of all 1,001 nights by Malcolm Lyons and Ursula Lyons.  Released in 2008, each volume runs about 900 pages.  After reading the first volume, while parts were entertaining, I think I'll leave off at that, or at the least take a long break.  The translation seemed well done, but the tales themselves were just too repetitive and some recurring themes grated on me.

As most know, the framing story of the tales is that the evil King Shahriyar takes a new bride each night and kills her in the morning, so Scheherazade volunteers to take a turn and then proceeds to divert the king for 1,001 night with an ongoing series of cliffhangers so that she and the other women of the kingdom may live.

Frankly, if I was the king, I'd probably have pointed out that a lot of the stories seemed pretty similar somewhere around night 150.

Now, don't get me wrong, some are indeed highly entertaining.  My favorites are the humorous tales and ones dealing with magic.  Unfortunately, these are far outnumbered by "romantic" ones.  I qualify that because the romance is so shallow that it makes a Disney movie seem realistic.

The frequent format of this category is a handsome young man and a beautiful young woman meet - often for mere minutes! - and they instantly fall in love and pine for each other to the exclusion of all other activity.  Usually they're royalty or the children of rich merchants, so I guess they can afford to sit around pining.  Then, they either pine for years and die weeping, or some luck brings them together through no merit of their own.  I'm pretty sure over half the page count is taken up with these stories.  It's just too much.

It was also a bit tiring to see so much wanton cruelty.  Lots of slavery, lots of unwarranted executions, sexual violence including what amounts to a king putting ancient roofies in a visiting princess's drink and date raping and impregnating her while she's passed out.  I know, I know - different era and culture, Odysseus and Aeneas and the like aren't exactly perfect all the time either, etc., etc.  Still, even if you try to make such allowances in being non-judgmental, it just doesn't make for a fun read.

All in all, the few great stories in this volume aren't enough for me to recommend reading the entire book, much less the entire three volume set.  The Lyons did release a single-volume version of the tales that contain only a select set of the stories, and that might have been a better way to go.  Darn my attempt at thoroughness...

Related reviews:
Destiny Disrupted: The History of the World Through Islamic Eyes by Tamim Ansary -
Leo Africanus by Amin Maalouf -
The Odyssey by Homer (translated by Samuel Butler) -
The Aeneid by Virgil (translated by John Dryden) -
King Arthur: Tales from the Round Table, edited by Andrew Lang, illustrations by H.J. Ford -
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I own it on Kindle.  You can borrow my Kindle reader if you want, I usually use the Kindle app on my tablet these days.  And one Kindle advantage for us eye surgery types - you can enlarge the font!
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My oldest kid is only in first grade, and I'm already seeing this trend.  Great article.

To all my children's teachers: Please note that each of my children will be bringing a basket full of laundry each day to school. We are covering a unit on self-sufficiency at home. Children will be learning how to sort, fold and put away their clothes. We work on this during the evening, but if they do not finish their work by bedtime, it will need to go to school with them each morning. This is a great opportunity for teachers to reinforce in the classroom, what I as the parent am trying to teach at home.

h/t +Laura Gibbs 
I like turning things around and examining how things really work. A mother's note to schools about what she will need from them. Brilliant. 
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Gary Hoggatt

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2013 - The hardest year, but ending on a high note

Longtime readers will recall that this has been my hardest year ever.  2013 featured two major medical issues for me.  From February to April I underwent treatment for testicular cancer (more at ) and in June - just in time to keep me from going on a family vacation - I had surgery to repair a retinal detachment (more at ).

Everything on the medical front has been good news since then, with no problems found in my frequent follow-up visits over the course of the second half of the year.  So that's definitely been a relief.

My family is wonderful.  My wife +Emily Parkhurst and I celebrated 17 years together in December (and next July 4th will be 10 years of marriage), and in October she threw me a wonderful surprise birthday party to celebrate my getting though a tough year.  My oldest boy is doing great academically at school, and he and I have been studying karate together for the last year (when I was medically able to, at least) and this month passed our belt tests, earning a yellow belt for me and a white belt with black stripe for him, which made me very proud.  My younger boy is the sweetest kid ever, he's doing well with his letters and numbers at pre-school, and he plays very well with both his big brother and little sister.  My baby girl is wonderful, growing so fast and starting to walk a month ago, and now having about 10 words, one of which is "daddy."

We had a successful and fun family vacation in Hawaii earlier this month, which was very nice after having our June plans thrown for a loop.  It was the first time all five of us had managed to actually go on vacation since my daughter was born.  We had a great time, hiking, going to the beach, visiting museums, and indulging my history interests at Pearl Harbor.

Two weeks ago my D&D group got together for a live session for the first time in over a year - we normally play on a message board due to geography, scheduling, and childcare.  Kicked the boss monster's butt, too.

The holidays this year were also wonderful.  We got to see lots of family, including several family members who live some distance away, and had a great time.

I didn't get as much reading in in 2013 as I usually do - most of my reading is audiobooks during my commute and reading at lunch time at work, and neither of those happened during my long medical-related stretches at home - but I have a bunch of completed books I'm going to be trying to catch up on reviews for, and I'm now back to reading (and audiobooking) my usual voracious amounts since my routine has returned to normal.  Hit me up on Goodreads at if you want to make sure to get my reviews, as I crosspost them here, Goodreads, and Amazon.

There's no way around it - the first half of 2013 was brutal, and made it my hardest year ever.  But the second half of the year went really well, and has ended on a very high note.  Things are good.  My family is happy and healthy.  I have my own health back.  Everything is moving in the right direction.

Life is good.  And after a year like this, I appreciate being able to say that all the more.
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2013 was not the best for me either, so I'm with you on hoping 2014 will be an extra good one to make up for it.
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Book review - Steelheart by +Brandon Sanderson.

I'm a huge fan of +Brandon Sanderson, superheroes, and post-apocalyptic/dystopian novels, so when I heard Sanderson was writing a post-apocalyptic dystopian superpower novel, I was quite excited.  Sanderson's 2013 Steelheart lives up to that promise, and is the beginning of another great series from Sanderson.

The premise of the book is that some humans mysteriously begin developing superpowers after a comet...  asteroid...  something...  called Calamity appears in the sky.  But all the Epics, as the superpowered folk are called, go completely evil.  There are no superheroes, just megalomaniacs and murderers struggling with each other for power and domination of the normal people, with regular humans trying to stay our of the way.  Each Epic has a particular weakness, though, that can negate their powers, and a group of humans called the Reckoners are trying to fight back.

One of the most powerful of these Epics is Steelheart, who has ruled Newcago for eight years after conquering the city of Chicago and killing the father of our protagonist, David, in the process.  David saw his father injure Steelheart, though, and he has grown up trying to piece together what Steelheart's weakness is and how to kill him.  At the beginning of the book, he hears the Reckoners are in town, and he sees the perfect opportunity to hook up with them to take out Steelheart.

One of Sanderson's strongest points as a writer is his world-building.  That talent is on full display here as he crafts the dark new fictional world of Newcago and of the Epics and Reckoners.  Just as Sanderson has done with with the magic systems of his various fantasty novels such as the Mistborn series or Elantris, the way the Epics work is fascinating, full of quirks and interesting mysteries, and yet always self-consistent.  Newcago, the former Chicago dominated by Steelheart, is appropriately dark, oppressive, futuristic, and dangerous.

Sanderson also writes great action sequences (the Mistborn series has some of the best fantasy action scenes I've ever read), and he knocks it out of the park on that front in Steelheart as well.  With the Epics, high-tech Reckoners, and Steelheart's personal army called Enforcement, there's no shortage of great action sequences that are both exciting and do a great job of illustrating the unique aspects of this setting.

Steelheart is the first in a planned trilogy, and Sanderson does a great job of providing a satisfying conclusion to this book while leaving many threads open to pursue in future installments.  I can't wait to read the sequel, due in Fall 2014.  There's also supposedly talk of a film version, which I really hope comes to fruition.

If you're a fan of Sanderson, superheroes, or dytopian fiction, I highly recommend Steelheart.  Sanderson has really done it again with this novel.  It's amazing how prolific he can be in so many different series while still keeping each so original and of such high quality.

Related reviews:
The Alloy of Law: A Mistborn Novel by +Brandon Sanderson -
Legion by +Brandon Sanderson -
The Emperor's Soul by +Brandon Sanderson
A Memory of Light by Robert Jordan and +Brandon Sanderson -
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Happy Halloween!

Here's some great spooky music from Two Steps from Hell to celebrate the day.
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Be sure to check out the Google home page. All sorts of fun things happen when you click on various areas.
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Book review - Washington: A Life by Ron Chernow.

In his 2010 Washington: A Life, historian Ron Chernow became the latest author to write the authoritative single-volume biography of George Washington.  It's certainly an impressive work, winning the Pulitzer Prize for Biography and weighing in at a hefty 948 pages or 42 hours on audio.  Does this massive tome live up to all of this and bring something new to those who've read up on Washington?  Yes, yes, it does.

Much like Joseph J. Ellis' 2004 His Excellency: George Washington, the cornerstone of Chernow's approach is the recent (in historical perspective) Papers of George Washington Project at the University of Virginia.  Using these papers, modern authors are able to dig into Washington's inner thoughts in a way that previous biographers like James Thomas Flexner, whose 1974 single volume biography Washington: The Indispensable Man was a previous champion of the single volume Washington bio genre, could not.  But while Ellis settles for a mere 352 pages, Chernow goes to the limits of what a single volume can hold in nearly tripling that total.  As a result, Chernow delves very deeply into Washington's life and thoughts, and covers both the man and his times as extensively as is likely possible between the confines of two covers.

As one might expect between the now available original sources and the page count, Chernow covers Washington's life in great detail.  Both by time frame - early life, French and Indian War, pre-Revolution, Revolution, private life between generalship and the presidency, presidency, and retirement - and subject - military, political, personal, economic, slavery - Chernow covers the man as well as many books focused on any single one of those subjects.  I've read a lot on Washington and his times, and Chernow managed to illuminate each of those periods and subjects for me in some way even with my solid background.

There are two main themes that Chernow uses to good effect.  He focuses on Washington's relationships and his finances to get to his inner self.

There are a large cast of secondary characters in this biography, and Chernow does an excellent job of getting the reader to know them on their own and in the context of their relationship with Washington.  The major personages given this treatment are Martha Washington, Alexander Hamilton (not surprising, since Chernow previously wrote a massive 2004 biography of him, which is now high on my to-read list), the Marquis de Lafayette, Thomas Jefferson, Henry Knox, Nathanael Greene, John Adams, Sally Fairfax, and Washington's step-children and step-grandchildren.  Chernow clearly demonstrates the impact Washington had on each of these people, and their impact on him.

Chernow's focus on Washington's finances is another interesting approach.  By following the old adage to follow the money, the reader gets a real sense of Washington's situation.  His efforts to turn a profit on Mt. Vernon, the financial weight of slavery, his debt, the true costs of the land rich but cash poor Washington serving as Commander in Chief without pay, the costs of entertaining the multitudes who made the pilgrimage to Mt. Vernon, constant dental bills, and most importantly the devastating effects of his prolonged absences on his business interests, all combine to shine a light on a less glamorous but vital part of Washington's life.  This last is especially vital, as in seeing how much Mt. Vernon suffered every time he was off serving his country, the reader gets a much better understanding of Washington's love of his country and his sense of public service.

The period of Washington's life that Chernow expanded the most for me was his second term as president.  A lot of attention is usually placed on the first term and the crucial precedents set then.  While Chernow does indeed cover that well, the beginning of rough and tumble politics in his second term is fascinating, and seeing the increasingly fractious country begin to consider even Washington a fair game for political sniping is a major turning point in American politics.

All of this effort - focusing on relationship and finances - does an amazing job of humanizing a man who often seems more monument than someone who actually lived.  Chernow lets the reader really get to know Washington, both in his impressive patriotic context but also in the personal and sometimes flawed intimate details of so large a life as well.  Chernow doesn't try to explain away the imperfections, either, instead letting them stand as equally valid parts of the man who often was indeed as great as he's been made out to be.

I listened to Penguin Audio's 2010 production of the book, narrated by Scott Brick.  The production was very well done, Brick delivers a powerful performance, giving the reading weight while still keeping a brisk pace, a necessity given the length of the book.  The unabridged production runs approximately 42 hours.

I highly recommend Chernow's Washington: A Life, even to those well-read on the man and his times.  Chernow does a great job of providing new angles and insights, and it's the most complete picture of the Father of Our Country I've yet read.  It's more of an investment in time than slimmer volumes, but it's well worth it.  As mentioned previously, Chernow's biography of Hamilton is now high on my list and I plan to read that soon.

Related reviews:
Washington: The Indispensable Man by James Thomas Flexner -
His Excellency: George Washington by Joseph J. Ellis -
An Imperfect God: George Washington, His Slaves, and the Creation of America by Henry Wiencek -
The Ascent of George Washington: The Hidden Political Genius of an American Icon by John Ferling -
Jay Weixelbaum's profile photoCam Loon's profile photoGary Hoggatt's profile photo
Hmm. I'm not sure how big fan of counterfactuals Chernow is, but I'll be sure to ask him next time I see him 
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Basic Information
Other names
Diablo III battletag: garyh#1615. Sometimes known as "garyh" on various messageboards.
Voracious reader.
I'm Gary Hoggatt.  I'm married to Emily Parkhurst and have three young children.  I work for for a large municipal government.

My interests include:
  • books
  • the interrelated realms of government, politics, economics, and history
  • Dungeons & Dragons and other RPGs
  • baseball (Los Angeles Angels, Strat-O-Matic gaming)
  • soccer (Los Angeles Galaxy, Arsenal, Barcelona)
  • fantasy and science fiction (books, films, comics)
  • Transformers
  • vegetarianism
  • computer gaming (RPGs, strategy games, Blizzard)
  • technology
  • space exploration
Feel free to include me in any of your Circles in which you discuss such things!

Book Reviews

I enjoy writing book reviews, so if you're looking to be exposed to new books, circle me for those as well.  My reviews will mostly be in the history, biography, classic fiction, fantasy, and science fiction genres, but other genres will occasionally slip in there (usually recommendations from my wife, who has great taste in books).
  • California State University, Sacramento
    Masters in Public Policy and Administration, 2002 - 2005
  • University of California, Irvine
    Bachelors in Political Science, Economics, 1996 - 2000
  • Los Amigos High School
    1992 - 1996