Category Archives: Why

Duck’s Breath Mystery Theater on-line!

Thanks to my friend Eric Lindberg, I can report that the 45 rpm “The Ballad of Ronald McDonald“, can be found at ““, from 16:00 to 19:15 or so.

and Dr. Science: 20:33 to 21:40 – the Human Brain compared to the Computer.

Also found “Household Appliances“! = #2 Behind the Comedy, from 32:50. Sounds like the lp version from “Out of Season“, with acoustic intro, then studio, rock and roll, contents.

Here’s the complete set of Behind the Comedy:







The Ballad of Ronald McDonald – Merle Kessler / Duck’s Breath Mystery Theater

Thanks to my friend Eric Lindberg, I can report that the content of the 45 rpm “The Ballad of Ronald McDonald“, can be found at ““, from 16:00 to 19:15 or so.

The Ballad of Ronald McDonald – Merle Kessler

His face painted gayly, young Ronald did ride

All with his soldiers, 2 Shakes and Large Fries

Big Mac he rode with him, and Mayor McCheese

To fight Colonel Sanders, his worst enemy


While in the White Castle fair Wendy did stay

She watched all a-tremble her lord ride away

She loved not Lord Ronald, though she was his McBride

Another clown had the franchise on her pride


All in the moonlight Jack’s onion rings shone 

To court this fair damsel he’d come all alone

The Taco Bell struck the young lover’s McDoom

As Ronald McDonald stepped into the room.


“My burgers are bitter!” young Ronald he cried

as he wiped a McTear from his orange McEye

“I blew-up your boxes, Jack, outsold you too”

“And Wendy, oh Wendy, I did it all for you!”


It was not Colonel Mustard in the hall with a knife

That parted the lovers away from their lives

But Ronald McDonald killed them and himself

Crying, “No need to go-o-o anywhere else!”


The Burger King found them on the sanitized floor

The blood thick as catsup, it grieved him full sore

He said, “Millions consumed your fast food while they roamed!”

“Now your arches have fallen, we’ll eat burgers at home”


This was a single put out by Mr. Kessler but also performed as part of Duck’s Breath Mystery Theatre shows. He was a member of that comedy troupe. I have the 45 rpm disc, autographed, somewhere, I hope. I meant to keep it.

This song was written and performed by Merle Kessler, and he holds the copyright to it. This publication of the lyrics is intended to keep knowledge of the song alive, and provide a reference for discussion. I assert that this is “fair use” under current law.

The rhythm is 10 syllables, 1,2,3; 12, 3; 12, 3; 1; : da da da, da-da  da, da-da  da,  da

It looks like 4 bars, or  6 groups of notes, per line, repeated 4 times per verse.


11/9/18 – add *what* struck the McDoom, then follow Eric’s note and get the rest! Thank you!

11/8/18  – add McDoom line & one after

Our story, integration

In response to two of David Brooks’ columns about “our” problems, 7/23 & an earlier one, I wrote the following. From the recommendations and replies, I gather I’m not the only one who feels this way…


Bill Abbott
Oakland California July 23
The “we” you see is not the one I experience. You write,
We post-Cold War Americans haven’t really settled on what story we are a part of.
Really? I’m pretty clear what story I’m part of. Objective truth exists and is important. We are measured by how we treat the least among us. Science works because it is based on reality. Hope can overcome fear. Do unto others as we wish to be done to ourselves. The challenges we face mean we have no-one to waste, yet too many people are poor, marginalized and left behind. Women’s rights are human rights. Black lives matter. Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Love wins. We don’t educate our neighbor’s children because of charity, we educate them because we will have to live with them. We are not perfect, we have never been perfect, but we can always get better. That’s my story. That’s the story of my country, and of humans in general.
The first President I voted for was Jimmy Carter, in 1976. I’m still waiting for a Republican I could vote for to appear on a ballot. Any ballot. Local, State or Federal.
In an earlier column, you wrote, “As a nation we seem to have lost all enthusiasm for racial integration.” Maybe that’s true for you. Its not true for me, or my friends, or our kids, or the cities and states we live in. Come visit us in Oakland. We are still working on it. Its hard work, that doesn’t mean its not the right goal.
546 Recommend
Mark Thomason commented July 24
Mark Thomason
Clawson, MIJuly 24
@Bill Abbott — Not everywhere is California. To win, we need the politics of the Venn Diagram overlap. I don’t devalue what you say, nor what is said in other regions. I say there is enough in common to make a politics that will resonate with a majority of voters, without using hate and fear.
2 Recommend
TinyBlueDot commented July 24
AlabamaJuly 24
@Bill Abbott
Mr. Abbott, please consider running for office in some capacity. Your remarks are clear, intelligent, and convincing. And I agree with every word you wrote, perhaps especially the line, “We are measured by how we treat the least among us.”
Leslie Durr commented July 24
Leslie Durr
Charlottesville, VAJuly 24
@Bill Abbott Brooks isn’t talking to you or to many of us. He’s talking to the disaffected white people who have been co-opted by the Republicans to ‘look over there, not over here.’ And, yes, some of them actually read the NY Times.
Au Gold commented July 24
Au Gold
New Jersey, USAJuly 24
@Bill Abbott Well said!
Pete Hollister commented July 24
Pete Hollister
Oregon WIJuly 24
What a great comment. Bravo!
Leslie Durr commented July 24
Leslie Durr
Charlottesville, VAJuly 24
@TinyBlueDot We really need people like you who resonate with Bill Abbott’s words in places like Alabama to run; Oakland already has it down pat.

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:

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

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:

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.

*Fortunate* Motorcyclist survives driving off cliff

My comments to CNN:

Cliff-diving motorcyclist Matthew Murray, 27, passes a “25 MPH” advisory sign in the 12th second of CNN’s video clip. This is in the 2nd run through of the crash video. In the 15th second he’s going 68 MPH as he starts to lean into the turn. He’s still going more than 50 MPH as he slides off the pavement and onto the dirt. Text on the screen says something to the effect that he “was following the turn when he thinks his steering locked up”. The video shows no such thing. He was going too fast, and could not turn sharply enough to follow the turn. He started at more than 2.5 times the advised speed. He left the pavement at 2 times the advised speed. His speed “locked” his path, not his steering.

Get the an accurate map of the curve, the size and tread pattern of the motorcycle tires and a description of the motorcycle (make, model, horsepower, brakes,weight-as-crashed) and rider (weight). Give to “Mythbusters”. Have them duplicate the failure, during deceleration, then do a binary search for the steady speed at which a motorcycle on those tires, at that weight, could follow that turn. Braking uses traction, does that change maximum speed?. Find the entry speed, before braking, that would allow the bike to make the turn. Put a GoPro on the bike for comparison pictures, and a second one showing where the front tire touches the road.

A Software Tester’s journey from manual to political tester

I wrote this some years ago. I should simplify the context and incorporate what I reference from the OP and other responders, so that it stands alone. But this has  meaningful observations which took effort to reach, so I’m putting a copy up here to start with.

Wow, no exaggeration! I can see every event that befell poor Jim happening in the real world. HOWEVER, Jim’s a fortunate fellow, he has management attention at all! AND they look at results. AND there is a perception (no matter how shakily based) of overall product quality.

Jim was no worse than anyone else until he got automation started and mistook his personal satisfaction and enjoyment for the company’s obvious goal of shipping a stable or improving level of quality with fast turnaround on bugs and needed enhancements. This is engineering, not art. Its not self actualization, its a commercial business or a service enterprise which creates value.

All the way down this sad story, Jim accepts product failures, and testing failures. You Can Never Ignore Failures. Period. He should have turned political at that point and realized that Test, like anything, needs to be sold, shown to be valuable and productive, and needs allies. Therefore, tests need to actually be valuable and productive, and needs to make it easy for people to accept them, adopt them, and feel they are important support in their own success. Therefore he needed to measure success, as understood by his customers (developers, support, users) and maintain or improve its integrated value. Accepting failures leads to dead astronauts, wasted billions, wrongful convictions, Senate Select Committees, Frontline specials, sub-Redits, and worse.

Instead of seeing failures as a very, very, high priority, Jim turns into a man with a solution, wandering around, looking for a way to apply it. A tawdry tale, rendered no less tawdry by its oft retelling. Not insignificantly, Jim’s manager is clearly a weak and ineffective character who should have seen problems coming, or reacted when they appeared. Once Jim had made the case for automation, they might have hired someone who knew something about automation, or contracted with very carefully defined goals.

Jim might have split his team up front. He needed manual testers, who carried on the work that had been being done, with as much success as possible, and brain power applied to improve results and lower cost. A front line to hold success. Then a test automation group who focused on test automation with clear and obvious benefits

The automation environment needed to be something:

  • …anyone could run;
  • … which worked from a shippable product, as well as a release candidate or development build;
  • …which could be triggered directly from a product build, so the build group-and-release group ran it every time;
  • …which could be configured to run anything from a single, new, test to all existing tests
    • in a developer’s environment, before check-in, or
    • at any subsequent point, including on a previously shipped release with a support issue.

Setting up the test environment, creating a test to get the product to say “Hello world”, and recognizing that as a test pass ought to take no more than an hour longer than simply setting up the product. That assumption has to be proved every release or two with a calibrated innocent new-hire from somewhere.

Since all tests start by installing the product, license, etc, and starting it, the first thing to automate would be that. If there were changes in that functionality, over product history, the automation could start with the newest, but it had to support them all. Having this ‘smoke test’ be part of a full build would pay dividends to everyone, everywhere, and by designing with backward compatibility and future adaptability, thrash could be minimized, or at least recognized.

This would be a good time to look through the bugbase to determine where the most bugs were being found, where the most escapes were happening, and where the most critical bugs were coming from. Besides looking backward, a forward look at the product roadmap and with developers and management could highlight areas of future leverage

In parallel with automation, all of the above should be considered when selecting manual tests. Tests which never fail should be reduced relative to tests which find failures. Something that fails for diverse reasons may be a great canary in the coal mine, or might be a too fragile sponge that soaks up maintenance effort. In any event, continual improvement of the manual testing should run in parallel with introducing automation. After a small number of releases, the manual tests available should exceed the resources to run them. Selection of the ‘vital few’ should in intentional, not happenstance.

Most people can see the limitation of record and play back, so things should never stop there. The only tools worth looking at are tools that can be edited and rapidly expanded by iteration. Cut and paste is the lowest form of iteration and rapidly grows nightmares. Algorithmic test point generation is desirable, but data driven testing should get strong consideration. Algorithmic generation of literal tables which are then applied as tests separates the thing that needs to be done over and over, running the test, from the thing which is done less frequently, generating the test points.

In my life, I’ve seen a few of the failures in Jim’s story, but a lot of failures of usability by others, or by anyone, complete lack of testing in development plans. Test suites (with running tests) abandoned and no-longer run, until the next great hope get started. And far too little curiosity about which tests should be run, automatically or manually, to get the most bang for the buck.

Like I said, Jim is lucky!

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Top 10 Bookstores in the East Bay

A nice write-up on a key subject! Omits “Dan Webb Books”, doesn’t mention “The Booktree” right across the street from “A Great Good Place For Books” but my picks belong in my list. This is theirs and I’m glad to have found it!

The writer mentions the Montclair Egg Shop as a pairing with A Great Good Place for Books. Absolutely yes! Best place I can think of to take a new book or an old friend or both.

Source: Top 10 Bookstores in the East Bay