Wednesday, October 22, 2014

The Linux Mint Beginner's Guide by Jonathan Moeller | LibraryThing

I've been fooling around with several (10+) different Linux distros and I really like Linux.  I have pretty much settled on about six different distros that I have set up as dual boots (often with more than one distro in addition to Windows) on several laptops I've fixed up. Mint is one of the best, and I thought this book would be useful in filling in some gaps.  It's a bit elementary for me, but would be excellent for someone just jumping in with little technical experience.

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Three by Julie Hilden | LibraryThing

I have always wondered when reading a book that indulges in some sexual gymnastics or kink or whatever, just how much the author separates him or herself from the contents. Is the activity something they have experienced, always wanted to, frowned upon?

So when I saw this book mentioned on Julie Hilden’s bio on her column at, a very interested blog related to court decisions, my eyebrows shot up and I had to scrape them off the ceiling.  Hilden graduated from Harvard and Yale Law School and also holds an MFA in creative writing so the writing is quite competent.  She writes frequently on First Amendment issues and I have enjoyed her columns.

I don’t know what to make of her book, however. It’s about a wife who marries Ilan with the understanding up front they will engage in threesomes. Following their marriage her obsession with him leads to all sorts of self-destructive behavior.  This not the kind of book I usually read, nor like to read, and nothing in this book made it more appealing.  I don’t enjoy reading about self destructive behavior; sex with guns and razor blades has no appeal at all and frankly, if I had my druthers, Ilan would be locked up.  My wife is sensible enough that if I pulled a stunt like that she’d pull a Lorena Bobbitt.  Billed as erotica; it’s not.

Hilden has also written a memoir (a Bad Daughter) which apparently details some of her less fortunate romantic choices. I wish this book had left me with a clearer picture of what a woman should not do, given the outcomes here. Her romantic adulation of Ilan struck me as bizarre.  I’m no prude and would willingly indulge in all sorts of fantasies (well when I was younger perhaps, now I’m just happy to be able to tie my shoelaces and those velcro ones look appealing) but nothing that involved razor blades.  On the other hand, I learned from a description of her memoir that Hilden carries the same gene that led her mother to develop early-onset Alzheimer’s.

But, maybe it’s just the rush to indulge in writing about S&M given the meteoric rise of Shades. I have no idea how to rate this book.  Writing is good (4), content is totally unappealing (1). It would be a very interesting book to discuss with the author, however, so I guess a (3).

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Robert B. Parker's Blind Spot (A Jesse Stone Novel) by Reed Farrel Coleman | LibraryThing

Of all Robert Parker’s creations I like the Jesse Stone series the best.  A couple of authors have attempted to continue the series, including Michael Brandman and now Reed Farrel Coleman, author of the Moe Prager series. I haven’t tried that series but will.  I know some people disagree, but I think Coleman has better captured Jesse than Brandman.  The interaction between Molly and Jesse is spot on.

We get a little more back story on what happened to Jesse in the minor leagues as he agrees to go to NY for a reunion with his old teammates at the invitation of Vic, the player who stole Kayla, Jesse’s girlfriend following his injury. Seems Vic needs Jesse’s help on a matter, but before he can reveal what it might be, Jesse has to return to Paradise where a girl has been murdered;  one that involves Vic (perhaps a bit too coincidentally.)  And the girl Vic had brought along as “entertainment” for Jesse turns out to be -- well, you’ll just have to read the book to find out.  

The only thing I didn’t like much was the last couple of paragraphs.  That kind of open-ended contrivance seems trite.

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Saturday, October 18, 2014

DUE DILIGENCE (Rachel Gold Mystery) by Michael Kahn | LibraryThing

Due diligence. Utter that dull gray phrase around a pack of corporate lawyers and watch them leer. That’s because the final tab for the due diligence in a significant transaction will easily exceed ten million dollars. Those kinds of numbers enchant even the most somber of practitioners.”

The plot revolves around an accountant who was doing due diligence on a company before a merger could take place.  Rachel had received a call from him explaining he needed her advice on some details of the merger.  When his body is found in the basement having gone through a trash compactor, Rachel is hired to help clean up some of the affairs and discovers an intricate web of deceit and malfeasance.  Soon her investigation leads to a presidential candidate and what he might have done many decades earlier and whether doing something that might benefit millions of people but leads to the deaths of some elderly patients might be ethically suspect.

Each of Kahn’s books takes a legal issue and builds a plot around it. There’s usually some kind of list with obscure combinations of letters and numbers Rachel must decipher. While the details of the characters appear repetitive from one book to the next, I didn’t find that as disconcerting as have some readers.  

Some interesting history of trademarks. I knew little of their origin and raison d’etre. “During medieval times, trademarks became a symbol of responsibility as the powerful guilds of Europe required their members to each use a unique mark. That way a defective product could be traced back to its maker. A trademark was thus the highly personal symbol of a single worker: when his life ended, so did his trademark. By the middle of the twentieth century, however, it had metamorphosed into the multibillion dollar world of brand-name marketing—a world where a single word, such as Xerox or Corvette or Chanel or Kodak, can be worth hundreds of millions of dollars.”

Not to mention that St. Louis became home to many brands of beers because it’s built over the top of hundreds of limestone caves.  I just had to check out whether all this was a figment of Kahn’s imagination.  It is not and the caves play a central role in the solution to the puzzle. Note that claustrophobic activities appear in other of Kahn’s novels.  (

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Sunday, October 12, 2014

Johnson V. Johnson by Barbara Goldsmith | LibraryThing

Reading this book is like watching a train wreck in slow motion.  We know it’s painful and really shouldn’t watch, yet the grinding and twisting of the family members, bashing each other and causing pain and suffering to each other, has a salacious interest that draws the reader in for more.   It’s truly a Bleak House.

Americans suffer from the conflict of two myths:  the lottery get-rich-quick syndrome versus the Puritan ethic of hard work and avoidance of luxury.  The result of this struggle means that we love to see the rich suffer and be unhappy despite, or especially because, of all that money.

This Johnson family will battle presents a good case for why inheritances over, say $1,000,000, should be taxed at 100%.  Not to mention a lesson in why there should be better oversight over the trustees. It’s a sad story of kids fighting over huge amounts of money they have done nothing to earn.  The whole idea that a will could be successfully contested makes a mockery of the legal system.  Johnson had a battery of lawyers drawing up the 48 page will.  The children, after his death, didn’t like the result so it was challenged in court.  It wasn’t fair,” was their argument. The lawyers didn't care, they were making millions off the battle.  So why bother with a will if a court can intervene and change how the money is allocated?  Just go straight to probate and let the court decide.  Or, as I noted above, tax it all at 100%.

The trusts were set up in a rather bizarre fashion so that the children were skipped and the benefits devolved onto the grandchildren.  They were also designed in such a way that control of the huge corporation remained in the hands of the family and not stockholders which provided  substantial tax benefits.  The trustees were virtually untouchable and exerted control at the expense of everyone but themselves, making themselves quite rich.

The book is structured in an unusual way, laced with snippets of interviews with the family members, often contradicting each other, always hostile.  It sometimes feels disjointed with little sense of connectedness or linear feeling. Lots of interesting detail, but little of substance.  You feel empty, sad, bewildered, and not a little angry at the selfishness and stupidity of nearly everyone.

The first part of the book is background, family history, setting the stage for the longest trial relating to a will in US history.  When the elder J. Seward Johnson died in 1983, he left the bulk of his estate to Basia Johnson, his most recent wife, who was 42 years his junior.

The trial occupies the last section and here the  anomalies were most apparent.  One juror was heard to exclaim how she couldn't live on $12 a day and what was she to do. She was being asked to sit in judgement on a family, the individual members of which had a net worth of $50 to $100 million each and were fighting over the distribution of another $500 million.  In the end, the trial, which lasted 17 weeks before it was settled, was hog heaven for the more than 200 lawyers who participated and who shared more than $24 million in legal fees. There were over 300,000 pages of documents.  Had it gone to the jury (many of whom reported being totally appalled at the time they had spent for very little money when` a settlement ultimately resulted) no matter who had won, there would have been decades of appeals until, most likely, all of the inheritance had been transferred from the defendants and plaintiffs to the lawyers.  Even lawyers who observed the case thought it represented a nadir of American trial law. I would disagree.  We haven’t seen the bottom yet.

Audiobook that’s good shower listening.  The dirt can be washed off immediately.

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