Category Archives: Male Roles In Society

Things to know about retirement, USA, married couples.


#1  Can one spouse can retire with the other spouse’s social security benefit?

Yes, a surviving spouse can choose to use their own Social Security Insurance* (SSI) benefit OR their deceased spouse’s SSI benefit – whichever is larger. But not both. SSI was created when a many (but not all) women’s jobs were in the home, and many (but not all) men’s jobs were outside the home. The spouse working outside had an employer and cash wages, the spouse keeping the home had neither.  So a non-working spouse who had no SSI benefits on their own could continue to collect the benefit their spouse had retired on, if the spouse died.

Here’s the clever bit: If both spouses had SSI benefits, each started drawing them when they retired. If one spouse died, the survivor could switch to whichever benefit amount was larger. Say, for example, Pat and Kim both worked and both earned maximum SSI benefits. If Pat starts drawing at age 62, the amount they get is substantially less (30% in my case) than if they hung on to “Full Retirement Age” – (66 2/3 years, in my case).  If Kim keeps working, or can otherwise hold-off starting SSI benefits, Kim’s monthly benefit will be larger, even if both have at least 40 quarters of paid employment and contributed the full amount required by law, every year. Thus, Pat and Kim have different monthly benefits from SSI and always will for the rest of their lives.

IF Kim dies before Pat, Pat can change to drawing Kim’s higher monthly benefit, but can’t keep their own benefit. Pat’s old benefit simply vanishes. If Pat doesn’t want Kim’s higher benefit, they keep their own and Kim’s vanishes. If Pat dies before Kim, Kim already has the larger benefit.

So the SSI monthly payment is a benefit for a living person, but it is not an asset which can be conveyed to a person that the original recipient chooses. This is a key difference between SSI, and employee pension plans, and 401Ks and the like. 401Ks, etc., etc., are assets. There are rules about how they are used, and rules about when and what taxes are paid on them. But they are as real as any other account at an investment firm.

 

#2 Is there a minimum amount you must withdraw from a 401K, every year?

Yes. Starting when you turn 70 1/2 years old. In one example I found, its 1/26 of the value of the account, a bit less than 4%. But it is complicated and Morgan Stanley’s retirement fund people say to come talk it through with them on the way to picking a number.

See topic 4, in:

http://fa.morganstanley.com/jteam/retirement_planning_mistakes.htm

There are retirement calculators that cover this as well, with their own lore, sacrifices and mod-cons:

http://www.choosetosave.org/ballpark/webapp/#/estimate

So if you’re 61 and haven’t retired yet, you don’t have to do anything. Yet. If you are working and can pack more money into the 401K, it’s probably wise to do so. If you wonder how much your 401K is worth to you as income, now, today, and you’re less than 70 and 1/2, its likely you can take out less than 4% each year. If you take out more than it makes every year, its a “decreasing asset” and you’ll have to judge your rate of consumption vs. expected lifespan. You can look up your life expectancy, for starters:

http://www.ssa.gov/planners/lifeexpectancy.html

If your 401K is with a different investment firm, they’re who you should speak with.

 

More as I get it. I’ve foot-noted “Insurance” below.

*”Insurance” as in “Social Security Insurance” is misleading.

Conventional insurance products are based on shared risk and supposedly conservative investments. Every week, month or year, you send in your pennies, along with everyone else. All the pennies get invested wisely enough to cover whatever payouts are made over the lifetime of the product. Automobile and home products typically last 1 year, “Term” life insurance lasts for a fixed period, ending at a birthdate or some other agreed point in the future. Payments can be spread out over the term the insurance covers, or be one-time at the beginning.

“Whole” life insurance stays in force as long as the insured person is alive and the regular payments are made. The payout becomes an asset for survivors.

SSI is none of these things. If you want to start a fight, call it a modified Ponzi scheme. The money it pays out comes directly from the regular contributions collected immediately before the payout. Sort of. There need not be a pooled asset which yields profits which support payments. The term of art for this is “Pay as you go”, which is more attractive than “Ponzi Scheme”.

The details, where the devils lurk, are that a pay as you go scheme such as SSI starts with lots of contributors and no recipients. So the first funds collected did, actually, go into some investment, likely US Treasury Bonds, the most boring, safe asset. You’ll note this has the effect of retirees-to-be investing in the National Debt. Then the Baby Boom arrives and goes to work and the number of workers contributing is vastly larger than number of recipients. So the surplus continues going into bonds where it props up the National Debt.  Hiring new devils every year.

One wild-eyed argument against SSI is that NONE of the Treasury bonds will ever be sold, because actual tax dollars would have to pay them out. On the other hand, the Treasury pays bond dividends regularly, and returns the principle at the end of the bond’s life, to all the other bond holders inside and outside the USA. Does SSI surplus go into conventional “T-notes” similar to what anyone can buy, or are there conspiracy-special T-notes that pay no interest and don’t return the principle, because they exist only to suck up SSI surplus? I don’t know and I’m too busy to look it up, today.

A more plausible SSI disaster scenario is that the number of contributors won’t keep up with the number of recipients. This is the “SSI will go bankrupt” trope, and if nobody does anything about it, it will happen. Increasing the payments made by contributors or decreasing the benefits going to recipients seem like logical steps, but logic isn’t universally popular. It *could* happen. If nobody does anything about it.

So the payroll deduction is called “SSI” and it’s a gift to us from history, outdated and misleading marketing language. If we imagined we were as adult as other developed nations, we might make “SSI” part of taxes, in general, and make the payout an expense that must be paid, like our Congressperson’s retirement, medical and dental coverage.

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Bat-Mitzva and Bar-Mitzva book lists


Here’s an update, with the 40 titles I’ve typed into a Listmania list at Amazon.com. I’ll probably need a 2nd list for the rest.
Books for 13 year olds. “Today, I am an adult, and I take my place…”

“For Bar mitzvah or Bat mitzvah I used to wonder what to give, then I realized I had a list of books in my head that I’d found illuminating and helpful to have read as a young person. Books to return to as you grow into adulthood, books to provide a guide, a commentary, and perhaps, an inspiration. Books I gave to high school graduates, and camp counselors at my son’s summer camps. I’d have been pleased to get any of them, and I’m honored to give them, in turn.”

1. The Periodic Table by Primo Levi
“Unique and magical, a chemist’s life, each chapter centered on one element and its relationship to the author and those around him. Mercury, Lead and Carbon are imaginary, the rest autobiographical. My favorite chapter is the story of the chemists at lunch, and the slice of onion in the linseed oil.”

2. The Caine Mutiny: A Novel by Herman Wouk
“A detailed dissection of a failing organization and the price it extracts. Not to mention a great novel. (The typhoon made my hair stand on end when I was a kid) I give this book to people in crazy organizations (most organizations are crazy…). I have never read a better description of where the distress and responsibility fall when things aren’t working right.”

3. The Maltese Falcon (Crime Masterworks) by Dashiell Hammett
“Hammett’s best, not withstanding the Charles’ of The Thin Man (and the movies it gave birth to…). All the elements are familiar, and yet the way it unfolds is riveting. The writing is gripping, laugh-out-loud funny and timeless. The subjects are honor, duty, loss, romance and having to get up every morning and get on with your life. Because “..a man … has to do something.””

4. A Brief History of Time: From the Big Bang to Black Holes by Stephen Hawking
“This is it – how we know what we know, only one equation, and as readable and instructive now as ever. Hawking’s ability to express himself against the challenges of his own body is beyond my words. This book is so clear, and starts with a wonderful joke. I was overseas the first time I read it, and his contrast of Einstein and Aristotle gave me courage to get the job done.”

5. Emma (Penguin Classics) by Jane Austen
“One of those remarkable books which seems dauntingly long when you start and far, far, too short by the time you’ve finished. Emma, of good family and comfortable circumstances, trys to help her friends by matchmaking. The results are far from what anyone wants, complication and crisis compound on each other. But all is made well. Her own match is concluded in the sweetest way.”

6. The Wisdom of the Bones: In Search of Human Origins by Alan Walker
“This terrific book focuses on the Nariokatome Boy, a 1.6M yr old Homo Erectus’ skeleton. Kamoya Kimeu found the first pieces, Alan Walker and Meave Leakey assembled them, the scientific descriptions were published by Walker. The Boy is most complete Homo Erectus skeleton so far. Like us. But not us. Pat Shipman, Walker’s wife, is gifted writer. The story is his, the voice hers.”

7. The Autobiography of Malcolm X (Penguin Modern Classics) by Malcolm X
“I read this book in 1971 and I found it electrifying- Brother Malcolm X plumbed the depths and climbed the heights and had his life torn from him just as it seemed his greatest work was beginning. The hell of segregated America is something we must never forget. How one man educated himself out of prison and became a national leader is always worth knowing.”

8. The Hominid Gang: Behind the Scenes in the Search for Human Origins by Delta Willis
“A great how-they-did-it adventure, led by Richard and Meave Leakey, Kamoya Kimeu, etc. Kimeu is a treasure in his own right, worth meeting. Willis was with the expedition as they, Alan Walker, etc, found the Nariokatome Boy, a 1.6M yr old Homo Erectus skeleton. She also covers friction between the Kenyan team and the Institute for Human Origins (from Berkeley), who found “Lucy” in Ethiopia”

9. Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values by Robert M. Pirsig
“Pirsig wastes no time. You need a thin aluminum shim for your top of the line BMW motorcycle. Do you buy expensive shim stock from the BMW dealer, or snip a piece of essentially the same thing from an empty beer can? Pay someone to think for you, or call it yourself and accept the consequences? What *is* high quality, how do you define or apply it? A great story too!”

10. When Elephants Weep: The Emotional Lives of Animals by Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson & S. J. McCarthy
“Written by a noted natural science reporter and a once-enfant-terrible of Freudian Psychology, is very readable and not always comfortable. Elephants are not the only species here. Animals feel and express emotions; cases to cite don’t hurt.
Full disclosure: S. J. McCarthy is a personal friend of mine. my admiration of her writing has been verified in double-blind tests.”

11. To Kill a Mockingbird: 50th Anniversary Edition by Harper Lee
“Some people can’t stop writing books. Harper Lee had one book to write. Her love of her father and the story she wanted to tell is worth more than the whole production of many other writers.
Atticus Finch’s story wasn’t leading straight to Rosa Parks, Brown Vs. Board of Education or the Voting Rights Act of 1964. Low-key person-by-person didn’t get the job done. But it wasn’t a coward’s path.”

12. The Cuckoo’s Egg: Tracking a Spy Through the Maze of Computer Espionage by Clifford Stoll

13. The Face of Battle: A Study of Agincourt, Waterloo, and the Somme by John Keegan
“A landmark book, explaining the often unrealistic conventions of military history, as far back as Julius Caesar and as close as the Charge of the Light Brigade. He then describes three notable battles in the history of England and Great Britain, and what the typical soldier would have experienced. Keegan’s account of the first Battle of the Somme is heartbreaking.”

14. Ancient Engineers by L. Sprague De Camp
“A wonderful (filled with wonder) history of engineering in the long ago and far away. From the Tigris/Euphrates and Nile civilizations to Leonardo, who De Camp rightly points out, was the last of the ancients- wise, but secretive, not pubishing during his lifetime or after. Not a specialist book on any area or culture, its a guided tour by someone who loves the subject.”

15. Desert Solitaire by Edward Abbey

16. Fate is the Hunter by Ernest Kellogg Gann

17. Funny Money by Mark Singer

18. A Garlic Testament: Seasons on a Small New Mexico Farm by Stanley G. Crawford

19. The Fallen Man by Tony Hillerman

20. Genome: The Autobiography of a Species in 23 Chapters (P.S.) by Matt Ridley

21. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain

22. Incredible Victory: The Battle of Midway (Classics of War) by Walter Lord
“The best kind of history, built of quotes from 350 survivors, 250 from the US and 100 from Japan. How code breaking, courage, luck and sacrifice stopped the Japanese conquest of the Pacific. A human tragedy, triumph and a victory that comprised 1/3 of what Winston Churchill called “The Hinge of Fate””

23. Rising From The Plains by John McPhee

24. Stranger in the Forest: On Foot Across Borneo by Eric Hansen

25. Assembling California by John McPhee

26. The Survival of the Bark Canoe by John McPhee

27. Young Men and Fire by Norman MacLean

28. Your Inner Fish: A Journey into the 3.5-Billion-Year History of the Human Body (Vintage) by Neil Shubin

29. The Simple Art of Murder by Raymond Chandler

30. The Immense Journey: An Imaginative Naturalist Explores the Mysteries of Man and Nature by Loren C. Eiseley

31. The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan

32. The Visual Display of Quantitative Information, 2nd edition by Edward R. Tufte

33. Synapsida by John C. McLoughlin

34. Five Equations that Changed the World: The Power and Poetry of Mathematics by Michael Guillen

35. One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

36. A Country Year: Living the Questions by Sue Hubbell

37. All Creatures Great and Small by James Herriot

38. Carrying the Fire: An Astronaut’s Journeys by Michael Collins

39. The Prince (Bantam Classics) by Niccolo Machiavelli

40: Ultramarine: Poems by Raymond Carver

Buy a copy for your brother. Read one of the poems to him.

I think I’ve bugged more of my friends and family with Carver’s masterpiece, “The Car”, from this book, than with any other poem I’ve ever read. More than “Howl”, more than “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock”, “McCavity the Mystery Cat” or “Greed and Aggression”. There are teaching guides for middle school teachers to use this one as an exercise. Find it. Read it. Make up your own verses. Make up your own poem when you’re driving somewhere with your family. I’ll come back and edit in an excerpt, but trust me, you need this book, as a gift if nothing else.

When I bought my brother a copy and stopped by his house and read him, “The Car”, he laughed and looked thoughtful, his wife squeezed his hand. and he paused, at the end, after,

“… Car of my sleepless nights.
My car.”

and then he said, “‘The car I struck with a hammer.’ ‘The car I struck with a hammer.’ The car I cut to pieces with an oxy-acetylene torch !”

See?

Yeah, there’s sadness here too, but there’s a LOT of that tough heart that people, not just men, need to have to get by in this world. The first poem is called “What You Need To Paint” and lists (from a letter? a notebook?) things a well regarded fine art painter recorded. Brushes, Colors. And then the zinger, that gives the whole thing life: “The ability to work like a locomotive”.

Its what we all need. Raymond Carver had it, and its beautiful to listen to, to watch, to live up to in your own life.

So buy this one for your brother, or sister, or someone who YOU love, who can work like a locomotive, when its required.

You won’t be sorry.

41: Seizing the Enigma: The Race to Break the German U-Boats Codes, 1939-1943 by David Khan

—=== Original Post: ===—
Its that time of year again, so beside a check, its time to pass around books that I think are worthwhile to those who are learning how to take their place in the wide world

Last year I put “The Prince” by Machiavelli into the hands of a couple of Benjamin’s classmates, JG and JB. Dunno if either read it. Both boys and Benjamin had been talking politics, so it seemed like a natural. I also gave JB a copy of “Carrying the Fire” by Apollo 11 astronaut Michael Collins.

JG did have an actual Bar Mitzva and by way of celebration, I gave him:
The Periodic Table – Levi
A Brief History of Time – Hawking
Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance – Pursig (His dad noted this approvingly – “ah”, he said, “Pursig? Well, its not depressing like ‘Lila'” and I said, “Now he takes his place…” or something similar.
The Maltese Falcon, Hammett
I’ve also got a copy of
“The C Programming Language” for him.
He’d probably enjoy “The Curve of Binding Energy” too.

For JB I’ve got:
The Face of Battle – Keegan
Brazen Chariots – Crisp
and not-yet delivered:
Assembling California – McPhee

For SL I’ve got:
When Elephants Weep – Mason and McCarthy
The Fallen Man – Tony Hillerman
or
The Thin Man – Hammett
For this child and the next, both girls, I need books with a strong female character/voice. Sue Hubbell, Jane Goodall, Pat Shipman, Delta Burke… Obviously fiction such as Pride and Prejudice, Wuthering Heights, Anne of Green Gables or Little Women would be appropriate, but at least some is likely to have been given… Neither Kinsey Milhone in “A is for Alibi” or in “Shooting the Boh” are quite right for 13 year olds. This is harder than it looks. “October Sky” has been recommended for an inspirational teacher who is an unconventional woman who inspires the author. His mother also has a strong role. Good suggestions, from a woman who’s son is all over the submarines, tanks, airplane books used to read. She also says she was big on Judy Blume at age 13. I’ve certainly seen Judy Blume’s books, but haven’t read any yet. Probably ought to, and October Sky too. We had a copy once…
How could I have not included
“To Kill A Mockingbird” by Harper Lee?

For HM I’ve got:
Genome – Ridley
Assembling California – McPhee – both sent today via Ben. Maybe “Rising from the Plain” would be better, with so much coming from the geologist’s mom’s diary. I think a Sue Hubbell and/or Pat Shipman needs to follow.
5/13: Added When Elephants Weep – Mason and McCarthy
The Fallen Man – Tony Hillerman

For GS I’ve got
Assembling California – McPhee, and I need a couple more-
I’m thinking The Period Table – Levi
Fate is the Hunter – Gann
All Creatures Great and Small – Herriott

for GM I’ve go little beyond good intentions, yet

For MG I’m getting another copy of
The Periodic Table

For the school’s library I donated
“Fighting On Two Fronts”
“Autobiography of Malcom X” by Halley,
“Animal Farm” by Orwell

Sitting here burning a hole in my bookshelf are give-away copies of

“Desert Solitaire” – Abbey,
“A Garlic Testament”, – Crawford
“Robinson Crusoe” – Defoe
Your Inner Fish – _______
“The Curve of Binding Energy” – McPhee
“The Wisdom of the Bones”, – Shipman & Walker

I’ve got between one and several copies of

“The Curve of Binding Energy”,
“The Periodic Table”,
“Bloods”,
“The C Programming Language”,
“The Wisdom of the Bones”,
“Your Inner Fish”
“Broadsides from the Other Orders”,
“A Country Year” and
“Waiting for Aphrodite”

on order and presumably making their way to get there.

I realize I need more female voices. I’ve received some suggestions, along the lines of young adult fiction with strong female characters:
Judy Blume
Mercedes Lakey
M Pierce (not the other Pierce)
Earthsea (Not U. K. LeGuinn’s Earthsea Trillogy)
Ibbod
Harper Lee writes from a young girl’s perspective, and if “To Kill A Mockingbird” isn’t quite in the’ books for girls’ zone, neither is The Diary of a Young Girl by Ann Frank, who is also an undeniable girl.
Besides Hillerman, Hammett, Chandler and Conan-Doyle, Rita Mae Brown’s mysteries, written with her cat Sneaky Pie, are said to be child-friendlly and female voiced. I picked one up for a look through at the library sale.

I need to add
“Young Men and Fire”
“Fate is the Hunter”
“The Simple Art of Murder” – Chandler
“Incredible Victory” – Lord.
And more

Alphabeticly, by title, this all and some other old favorites adds up to:

The Autobiography of Malcolm X – Hailey
A Brief History of Time – Hawking
Brazen Chariots – Crisp
The Cuckoo’s Egg – Stoll
The Curve of Binding Energy – McPhee
Desert Solitaire – Abbey
The Face of Battle – Keegan
The Fallen Man – Hillerman
Fate is the Hunter – Gann
Funny Money – Singer
A Garlic Testament – Crawford
Giant Squid – Ellis
Genome – Ridley
Huckleberry Finn – Twain
Life on the Mississippi – Twain
Incredible Victory – Lord
Little Women – Alcott
The Maltese Falcon – Hammett
The Phantom Major – Cowells
The Periodic Table – Levi
Pride and Prejudice – Austin
Rising From the Plain – McPhee
Robinson Crusoe – Defoe
Sense and Sensability – Austin
Stranger In the Forest – Hansen
Taking Wing – Shipman & _____
The Thin Man – Hammett
To Kill A Mockingbird – Lee
Waiting for a Ship – McPhee
When Elephants Weep – Masson & McCarthy
The Wisdom of the Bones – Shipman & Walker
Young Men and Fire – _______
Your Inner Fish – _______
Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance – Pursig

Now that’s a list of old friends!
————————————————————————————

50 books every geek should read- from Monster.com


Ok, lets see: I’ve read 16 of these, gave up on another and have 2 in-progress.

I think there are a few good books missing:

1) “The C Programming Language” – Kernighan and Ritche. Not only a great book about programming, especially for beginners, it also shows how clear a programming text can be, how little needs to be said, and how to spiral around the same problems with increasingly capable and complicated programs.

2) “The C++ Programming Language” – Stroustrup. By comparison to C, a much thicker book, containing K&R’s language and a whole lot more, for practical coding and for object oriented techniques.

3) “The Codebreakers” – Herman Kahn A huge book and one that ends in the era where crypto was still a government issue, mostly. But a great history, and clear proof that no cypher system, or code book, is 100% unbreakable.

4) “Seizing the Enigma” – most complete discussion of BREAKING Enigma I’ve seen so far. There are any number of good lessons here, starting with, a small, motivated, team can accomplish what is considered impossible. Never treat the opposition with contempt. Define your requirements as well as you can, do what you can to satisfy them, pay attention to what actually happens.

The actual analytic technique to break Enigma was cooked up by two Polish intelligence officers who could see how the wind was blowing in the late 1930s. When the Germans invaded, they escaped with their method and presented it to the French. The French passed it on to the British before they collapsed. The technique wouldn’t do for rapid recovery of plain text from a well operated system but it could break in by brute force, with some time, and it could also rapidly exploit any laxness in technique by the cypher users. Whereas the Germans believed that Enigma was essentially unbreakable and never seriously looked for its weaknesses, or their own in using it.

Code and cipher trade-craft was good in the Kriegsmarine, so-so in the Wehrmacht and lousy in the Luftwaffe, oddly echoing Hitler’s complaint that he had a Christian Navy, a Reactionary Army and only one National Socialist (Nazi) armed force, the Luftwaffe. The Brits mounted a frontal assault on Luftwaffe Enigma traffic and got what they needed because of bad practices by the users. With the Wehrmacht they got enough to combine with conventional intelligence, what the Soviets gave them from “Lucy”, from the Italians sending cables to each other, etc., to get the job done. The Kriegsmarine used Enigma intelligently, so that frontal assaults hit a blank wall. Fortune gave the Brits the keys, the initial rotor position for each message, occasionally, and they knew what they were missing, so they made it their business to GET the keys, through espionage, Soviet salvage of a sunken German ship, the capture of a shipboard weather station in the North Atlantic, the US Navy’s capture of U-505. Every six months when the key changed, they had to get the new one and did, EACH TIME. And tight security at the Allied end allowed the Germans, all of them, to ignore any suspicion that their cyphers and codes were less than 100% secure. They had no “Red Team”s, or even someone looking at the pattern of Allied luck in finding lone U boats, bombing the right place at the right time, etc. Convinced of their own superiority, like the Japanese, they caught “victory disease” and when the tide turned, retained a confidence that events did NOT justify. Lucky for us.

“Snow Crash,” Neal Stephenson
“Neuromancer,” William Gibson
“I, Robot,” Isaac Asimov  <———- 1
“Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy,” Douglas Adams  <———– 2
“Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?” Philip K. Dick  <————– 3
“Ender’s Game,” Orson Scott Card
“The Time Machine,” H.G. Wells  <————– 4
“Microserfs,” Doug Coupland  <————— 5
“Flatland,” Edwin A. Abbott  <——- tried, couldn’t get into it. Should try again I suppose
“1984,” George Orwell  <—————- 6
“Brave New World,” Aldous Huxley  <————— 7
“iCon,” Jeffrey S. Young and William L. Simon
“iWoz,” Steve Wozniak and Gina Smith
“Hard Drive: Bill Gates and the Making of the Microsoft Empire,” Jim Erickson
“The Visual Display of Quantitative Information,” Edward Tufte  <——————- 8
“Don’t Make Me Think: A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability,” Steve Krug
“The Non-Designer’s Design Book,” Robin Williams
“Tog on Interface,” Bruce Tognazzini  <—————– 9
“User Interface Design for Programmers,” Joel Spolsky
“Revolution in The Valley: The Insanely Great Story of How the Mac Was Made,” Andy Hertzfeld
“The Soul of a New Machine,” Tracy Kidder  <——————- 10
“Where Wizards Stay Up Late,” Hafner and Lyon
“Dealers of Lightning: Xerox PARC and the Dawn of the Computer Age,” Michael A. Hiltzik
“The Cuckoo’s Egg,” Cliff Stoll  <—————- 11
“The Perfect Thing: How the iPod Shuffles Commerce, Culture, and Coolness,” Steven Levy
“Longitude: The True Story of a Lone Genius Who Solved the Greatest Scientific Problem of His Time,” Dava Sobel  <– 12
“The Code Book,” Simon Singh
“Cryptonomicon,” Neal Stephenson
“Crypto,” Steven Levy
“The Pragmatic Programmer: From Journeyman to Master,” Andrew Hunt, David Thomas
“Code Complete: A Practical Handbook of Software Construction,” Steve McConnell  <—— working on it
“Design Patterns: Elements of Reusable Object-Oriented Software,” Erich Gamma, Richard Helm, Ralph Johnson, John M. Vlissides  <— working on it
“Dreaming in Code,” Scott Rosenberg
“The Mythical Man-Month: Essays on Software Engineering,” Frederick P. Brooks  <———- 13
“Beautiful Code: Leading Programmers Explain How They Think,” Andy Oram
“Cathedral and the Bazaar,” Eric S. Raymond
“The Long Tail,” Chris Anderson
“The Future of Ideas,” Lawrence Lessig
“On Intelligence,” Jeff Hawkins
“In the Beginning was the Command Line,” Neal Stephenson
“Code: Version 2.0,” Lawrence Lessig
“The Wisdom of Crowds,” James Surowiecki
“The Singularity Is Near: When Humans Transcend Biology,” Ray Kurzweil
“Gödel, Escher, Bach,” Douglas Hofstadter  <——— 14
“Gut Feelings,” Gerd Gigerenzer
“A Brief History of Time,” Stephen Hawking  <————- 15
“Hackers and Painters: Big Ideas from the Computer Age,” Paul Graham
“The Evolution of Useful Things,” Henry Petroski  <————– 16
“Getting Things Done,” David Allen
“Upgrade Your Life: The Lifehacker Guide to Working Smarter, Faster, Better,” Gina Trapani

“Gut Feelings,” Gerd Gigerenzer

Dr. G. R. Tiller, M.D. Murdered.


In memoriam, Dr. George Richard Tiller, M.D., August 8, 1941- May 31, 2009.

Rest in Peace, Dr. Tiller. If the name isn’t ringing a bell, he was a doctor, in Kansas, who would perform late term abortions. Constantly threatened, shot over a decade ago, he was assassinated as he ushered at his church, on Sunday. A victim of violence which can fairly be called terrorist. Not the first doctor assassinated by anti-abortion activists. FoxNews’s Bill BO’Rielly repeatedly rabble-roused against him in recent years. Why DOES O’Rielly hate our freedom?

If you don’t like abortions, don’t have one.

Want to stop other people from having abortions? Make accurate and complete sex education a priority, and make sure a wide variety of contraception alternatives are readily available. This is proven to work.

Love babies? Help some teenage mother take care of hers. Help her finish high school Help her get the training and experience for a real job that pays more than minimum wage. Do the same for the father. Nothing is better for a child than an educated, self-reliant parent. Two educated and self-reliant parents are even better.

Want to teach only abstenence, allow no abortions and restrict informations and access to contraception?  Sorry, you’re delusional. The data’s in. Whole, *European*, countries, Ireland and Romania, for example, tried it. It doesn’t work. Saudi Arabia has and carries out the death penalty for sex outside of marriage. That doesn’t stop it.

On to my next adventure


Besides the Inauguration of President Obama, January 20, 2009, was also notable because LTX-Credence had a Reduction In  [work]Force (RIF) and I am off to my next adventure.

Terrific support from my wife,  son, co-workers, friends and former co-workers has poured in.  And I’m focusing on being a homemaker, as long as the opportunity is here.

More soon.

Californians, please vote NO on Proposition 8. Its unfair, and its wrong.


I know about the presidential contest and I have strong feelings about it, but I want to go down the ticket a bit to the nearly-as-important (or maybe more important) issue at Proposition 8, the ban on same-sex marriage. Proposition 8 defines marriage as one man, one woman. The intention is to prevent same sex couples, two men, two women, from marrying. Its wrong, and its unfair. All the rhetoric against same-sex marriage is just about word for word what was being said against “mixed race” marriages not too many decades ago. By the same fear-mongers, and their same, fearful, followers. We’re better than this, Californians. Marriage is about two people who love one another. Please vote NO!

Neither “Adam and Steve” or “Jasmine and Eve” are threats to my (male-female) marriage, or anyone elses. The issue is a fake and the arguments are frauds. This is, pure and simple, an attempt to put a religious opinion against homosexuals- gay or lesbian, into State Law, and deprive people of basic rights because of who they are. I think this is immoral. People who want to exclude homosexuals or anyone else from their churches are entitled to do so. They even get to keep their tax exemption. But they should never get to impose their religion on others via state law.

This is REALLY IMPORTANT to me. If affects friends of mine, and their marriages. It affects friends of my son, and their parents. Marriage is a commitment between two people to be one, to care for each other, love each other, and if fortune is with them, raise children together. The argument that only couples who can concieve a child should be able to marry is foolish at best, and opens the door to great evil.

PLENTY of men and women marry, who are either unable to have children or choose not to. In my family, my beloved Aunt Martha and Uncle Stan were married for many years, and childless, until they adopted. They were biologically unable to have children. Should their marriage have been denied because of that?

Some years after my mother died, my father re-married. His new wife and sweetheart was “beyond childbearing age”, and they have had no children together. Should they be denied marriage?

My brother and his wife have chosen not to be parents. Should they be denied marriage?

I say, “LET THEM BE MARRIED!”, in all three cases, and I’m sure the proponents of Proposition 8 would agree- these couples who cannot or do not have children are terrific candidates for marriage because they love each other and want to spend the rest of their lives together.

Proposition 8’s supporters want to deny Adam and Steve, or Jasmine and Eve, the same Civil RIght to marry, for religious reasons that have no place in state laws. Marriage is the business of two people who love each other and whatever authority, religious or civil, that performs the ceremony. Witnesses, friends and relatives are customary, but not required. Approval from people of religions not-your-own are not required. Its about two people who love each other, period. Lets keep it that way!

And DO remember to vote- if you don’t vote, you have no right to complain if you don’t like the outcome! Even if you can’t make your mind up about anyting else, even if you don’t read all the candidates positions for the school board, go out and PLEASE vote NO on Proposition 8!

L7’s “Hungry For Stink” is a grinding, roaring, sweaty, smelly, joy!


I couldn’t help myself, I had to write a review of L7’s “Hungry For Stink” after reading a dismissive review of it on a CD site…

Although it did not equal the commercial success of “Bricks Are Heavy”, “Hungry For Stink” is many fan’s favorite, both of L7 and for the the Grunge era. The music, lyrics, production and feel are dark and heavy, but a bright, manic, defiant, optimism shines through the whole record, not unlike that in the Ramones’ classics, “Road To Ruin” and “Rocket To Russia”. Although recorded very nicely in a studio, the sound is that of a working band that’s tight, in practice and has some great, new, songs they’ve worked out on stage and want to capture. No studio experiments, and nothing self concious or half-serious about it.
“Hungry…” erupts with the anthemic “Andres”, a song about “a guy with long hair” who can fix the air conditioning… the heavy groove proves in every sweet, thundering, bar, that ovaries don’t get in the way of playing rock and roll. And never did.

The 11 songs that follow range from the punk dirges “Baggage” and “Talk Box” to the sharp, alienated rock of “Can I Run” and “Freak Magnet”; the hard, power-pop sensability of “Riding With A Movie Star”, “Stuck Here Again”, and “She Has Eyes” and more mosh-pit screamers like “The Bomb”, “Shirley”, and “Fuel My Fire”.

A little bit of rock-star introspecton, grunge-style, slips in with “Questioning My Sanity”

“Shirley” is about drag-racer Shirley Muldowney, including hilarious, seamlessly integrated, samples from her bio-pic “Heart Like A Wheel”.

Song writing and lead-vocals are shared by all four band members, which only adds to the grace and polish of the performance. Rough, abrasive, aggressive and like it is, straight from the shoulder, for sure. But its not just attitude and genius; in the day, L7 had the chops AND the brains to take every opportunity, and apparently had a great time doing it. And you can still share that grinding, roaring, joy.

*About that optimistic light- except, perhaps, “Talkbox”, which is a very effective slice of a bad dream. Great, but strong stuff.