Author Archives: george

THE DOOMSDAY BRUNETTE By John Zakour


John Zakour’s The Doomsday Brunette features Zachary Nixon Johnson, the last private detective on Earth. The story is set in 2057 after extra-terrestrials have introduced advanced technologies. Zachary Nixon Johnson discovers the extent of the new technology with this case involving the Thompson Quads, four women created with modified DNA that makes them smarter, more sexy, and more powerful than the average human. The Quads are social icons with constant media attention (think the Kardashians times 10!). Ona Thompson calls Johnson at 3 A.M. asking for help. Johnson shows up and finds Una with her sisters Twoa and Threa…and the dead body of Fora Thompson. How could a killer murder a woman as powerful as Fora Thompson? Who would target one of the most popular women on the planet? And why?

The Doomsday Brunette blends Science Fiction tropes and mystery elements into a light, fluffy concoction just perfect for Summer Reading! You can read reviews of John Zakour’s The Plutonium Blonde here and The Radioactive Redhead here. GRADE: B

GENTLEMEN MARRY BRUNETTES (1955) DVD


I’m a fan of Gentlemen Marry Brunettes partly because of “My Funny Valintine” (music by Richard Rodgers and lyrics by Lorenz Hart), “Ain’t Misbehavin’” (music & lyrics by Thomas ‘Fats’ W. Waller, Harry Brooks, and Andy Razaf). And I love the great scenes of Paris and Monte Carlo.

Gentlemen Marry Brunettes is a 1955 technicolor romantic musical comedy starring Jane Russell and Jeanne Crain as sisters Bonnie and Connie who travel to Paris to find adventure and love. Directed by Richard Sale with a screenplay by Mary Loos and Sale, the movie is based on the novel But Gentlemen Marry Brunettes by Anita Loos. Anita Loos had titled her book But Gentlemen Marry Brunettes, but the studio dropped the first word from the title for this film.

Anita Loos was also the author of the novel and play Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, which was a smash hit with Jane Russell and Marilyn Monroe two years earlier. Gentleman Marry Brunettes is a semi-sequel with Jane Russell returning but Jeanne Crain playing a role similar to the one Marilyn Monroe starred in but both women now playing new characters. Alan Young (later the star of TV’s Mr. Ed), Scott Brady (brother of Lawrence Tierney), and Rudy Vallee also appear in this movie as love interests. The choreography was by Jack Cole, who had also contributed to the Gentlemen Prefer Blondes film. The dance ensemble includes a young Gwen Verdon who would later go on to greatness. Gentlemen Marry Brunettes is fun. Are you a fan of Jane Russell and Jeanne Crain? GRADE: B

BRUNETTE AMBITION By Lea Michele


Welcome to BRUNETTE WEEK! Two years ago I celebrated REDHEAD WEEK. Last year it was BLONDE WEEK. Now it’s time for brunettes!

I first discovered Lea Michele on Glee where she played the talented Rachel Berry. I loved Lea Michele’s ability to sing the various songs the producers of Glee chose for her despite the various musical genres. In Brunette Ambition (2014), Lea Michele presents a book that’s part memoir, part recipe book, part style guide, and part self-help book. Lea Michele shares her experiences from her career and tips on beauty, fashion, inner strength, and…ambition. Lea Michele also discusses her role as a the spokesperson for L’Oreal.

In Brunette Ambition, Lea Michele shares the lessons and advice that worked for her. This is the book Lea Michele wishes she had when she struggled during her teenage years and early twenties: a practical guide to setting goals and how to achieve them no matter what obstacles Life puts in your way. I enjoyed the never-before-seen photos and clever anecdotes. I even made “Italian Comfort Soup” (p. 20) using Lea Michele’s recipe. Delicious! I hope you enjoyed BRUNETTE WEEK! GRADE: A
TABLE OF CONTENTS:
Letter to Fans 9
Chapter 1: What Makes Me Me 11
Chapter 2: The Biz 25
Chapter 3: Self-Care 101 47
Chapter 4: For the Love of Food 63
Chapter 5: Living the Fit Life 91
Chapter 6: Everyday Style 109
Chapter 7: Red Carpet Fashion 121
Chapter 8: Hollywood Glam 135
Chapter 9: Friendship 169
Chapter 10: My Life with GLEE 187
Until the Next Time 203
Acknowledgments 205

YOU’LL SEE THIS MESSAGE WHEN IT IS TOO LATE: THE LEGEL AND ECONOMIC AFTERMATH OF CYBERSECURITY BREACHES By Josephine Wolff



Josephine Wolff is an assistant professor at Tufts University. And she’s Patrick’s friend. I decided to read Josephine’s book, You’ll See This Message When It Is Too Late (2018), because I wanted to learn more about cybersecurity–Josephine’s specialty. From page one, I found a compelling series of stories about companies and organizations affected by online attacks.

Josephine analyzes nine major data breaches from the recent past and classifies them into three different categories based on the hackers’ motivations and intentions. First, attacks for financial gain like those on TJ Maxx, the South Carolina Department of Revenue, and other ransomware shakedowns. Second, attacks for cyberespionage like DigiNotar and US OPM. Third, attacks that aim for online humiliation like Sony and Ashley Madison.

Josephine shows how these breaches were discovered, what mistakes were made in trying to deal with the breaches, and–more importantly–what could have been done to alleviate the attacks. The focus should be on “…what the perpetrators are after, which applications they primarily use to initiate access, and what infrastructural components and configurations they rely on to carry out their ultimate goals.” (p. 280).

Yes, cybersecurity continues to be a problem. It’s complex, complicated, and confusing. But Josephine Wolff understands this problem and her well-written, well-researched book provides some possible approaches to improve our defenses. If you’re looking for a clearly written, concise, and occasionally funny guide to cybersecurity, I highly recommend You’ll See This Message When It Is Too Late. GRADE: A
TABLE OF CONTENTS:
Series Editor’s Introduction ix
Acknowledgments xiii
I Introduction: After the Breach 1
1 Lessons from Financially Motivated Cybercrimes 17
2 Operation Get Rich or Die Tryin’: How the TJX Breach Set the Stage for a Decade of Payment Card Conflict 19
3 “What They Aren’t Telling You Is Their Rules Are Archaic”: The South Carolina Department of Revenue Breach, IRS Fraud, and Identity Theft 39
4 The Most Wanted Cybercriminal in the World: GameOver ZeuS, Cryptolocker, and the Rise of Ransomware 59
II Lessons from Cyberespionage 79
5 Certificates Gone Rogue: The DigiNotar Compromise and the Internet’s Fragile Trust Infrastructure 81
6 No Doubt to Hack You, Writed by UglyGorilla: China’s PLA Unit 67398 and Economic Espionage 101
7 “Decades in the Making”: The Office of Personnel Management Breach and Political Espionage 121
III Lessons from Online Acts of Public Humiliation 143
8 Operation Stophaus: The Spamhaus Denial-of-Service Attacks 145
9 “An Epic Nightmare”: The Sony Breach and Ex-Post Mitigation 165
10 An Imperfect Affair: Ashley Madison and the Economics of Embarrassment 185
IV Who Should Safeguard Our Data? Distributing Responsibility and Liability 205
11 “Email the Way It Should Be”: The Role of Application Designers and Software Developers 207
12 Reasonable Security: The Role of Organizations in Protecting Their Data and Networks 225
13 “Happy Talk About Good Ideas”: The Role of Policymakers in Defending Computer Systems 243
14 Conclusion: “It Will Take All of Us” 269
Notes 281
Bibliography 301
Index 315

MAIDEN


I don’t know what I was doing in 1989 but I have ZERO recollection of this story of an all-female crew sailing around the world in the Whitbread Round the World Yacht Race. Every three years, a group of crews and yachts race around the world–35,000 nautical miles! Tracy Edwards, a brash and bold woman, decided to assemble an all-female crew and enter the race.

The 1980s was a time when males harbored a very condescending opinion of woman entering arenas that were traditionally dominated by men. Twenty-four year old Tracy Edwards struggled to find funding and support for her mission. British film-maker Alex Holmes takes a chronological approach to telling the story of Maiden and her crew. He wisely starts with Tracy Edwards who was a misfit and troubled teenager. But once Tracy started sailing, her dream of competing in the Whitbread Yacht Race blossomed. Tracy mortgaged her house to buy a beat-up 58-foot aluminum racing yacht which she and her crew rehabbed.

The actual race, with footage from 1989 and 1990, presents the thrills of the race mixed with the dangers of the ocean and the grueling life aboard a small ship for nine months. Plenty of things go wrong, many obstacles need to be overcome. Ups and downs abound! Maiden inspires with the grit and determination of Tracy Edwards and her impressive crew. Highly recommended! GRADE: A

FRIDAY’S FORGOTTEN BOOKS #542: THE GREAT SF STORIES #12 (1950) Edited by Isaac Asimov & Martin H. Greenberg


This 12th volume of The Great SF Stories series features many classics of Science Fiction: “Scanners Live In Vain,” by Cordwainer Smith, “The Little Black Bag”–one of C. M. Kornbluth’s greatest stories, “Enchanted Village”–a great story by Van Vogt, and maybe the story behind the favorite Twilight Zone episode of all time, “To Serve Man” by Damon Knight.

There are plenty of other excellent stories in Volume #12. I love Eric Frank Russell’s “Dear Devil.” I don’t know much about William Morrison, but his tale of an alien with all the answers, “The Sack,” is memorable. And Kornbluth’s dark “The Silly Season” will haunt anyone who reads it. Another top-notch anthology! GRADE: A
TABLE OF CONTENTS:
9 • 1950 Introduction (The Great SF Stories 12) • essay by Martin H. Greenberg
13 • Not with a Bang • (THE MAGAZINE OF FANTASY & SCIENCE FICTION, Winter 1950) • by Damon Knight
19 • Spectator Sport • (THRILLING WONDER STORIES, February 1950) • by John D. MacDonald
26 • There Will Come Soft Rains • [The Martian Chronicles] • (COLLIER’S, May 1950) • by Ray Bradbury
34 • Dear Devil • (OTHER WORLDS, May 1950) • by Eric Frank Russell
70 • Scanners Live in Vain • [The Instrumentality of Mankind] • (FANTASY BOOK, June 1950) • by Cordwainer Smith
105 • Born of Man and Woman • (THE MAGAZINE OF FANTASY & SCIENCE FICTION, Summer 1950) • by Richard Matheson
109 • The Little Black Bag • (ASTOUNDING SCIENCE FICTION, July 1950) • by C. M. Kornbluth
138 • Enchanted Village • (OTHER WORLDS, July 1950) • by A. E. van Vogt
154 • Oddy and Id • (ASTOUNDING SCIENCE FICTION, August 1950) • by Alfred Bester
170 • The Sack • (ASTOUNDING SCIENCE FICTION, September 1950) • by William Morrison
190 • The Silly Season • (THE MAGAZINE OF FANTASY & SCIENCE FICTION, Fall 1950) • by C. M. Kornbluth
205 • Misbegotten Missionary • (GALAXY SCIENCE FICTION, November 1950) • by Isaac Asimov (variant of “Green Patches”)
221 • To Serve Man • (GALAXY SCIENCE FICTION, November 1950) • by Damon Knight
230 • Coming Attraction • (GALAXY SCIENCE FICTION, November 1950) • by Fritz Leiber
244 • A Subway Named Mobius • (ASTOUNDING SCIENCE FICTION, December 1950) • by A. J. Deutsch
260 • Process • (THE MAGAZINE OF FANTASY & SCIENCE FICTION, December 1950) • by A. E. van Vogt
267 • The Mindworm • (WORLDS BEYOND, December 1950) • by C. M. Kornbluth
281 • The New Reality • (THRILLING WONDER STORIES, December 1950) • by Charles L. Harness

BARBARA BROWN TAYLOR AT THE Chautauqua Institution


Barbara Brown Taylor, best selling writer, teacher, and former Episcopal priest delivered a thought-provoking and at times humorous lecture on the subject of “Alarming Grace: A Christian Perspective.” Diane has read most of Barbara Brown Taylor’s memoirs. When she was reading Taylor’s newest book, Holy Envy (2019), Diane said, “You need to read this Introduction.” I read the Introduction where Taylor writes about teaching an 8:00 A.M. college class in Comparative Religion. I’ve taught plenty of those early classes over the years. Taylor’s descriptions of the sleeping students in the last row, the students in the middle of the class fading in and out of consciousness, and the alert students in the front row writing down every word is spot on. Great writing and astute realism!

Barbara Brown Taylor’s lecture was Standing-Room-Only and interrupted by high winds and rain (yes, many lectures are delivered in outside venues at the Chautauqua Institution). Diane was out in the elements sitting with friends while I sat indoors in the Hall of Christ watching a live video feed of Barbara Brown Taylor. Taylor engaged the audience and kept everyone’s attention despite the wind and the rain. After the lecture, Taylor answered some questions and clarified her thoughts. Diane was thrilled to hear one of her favorite writers. I enjoyed Barbara Brown Taylor’s excellent lecture and witty style. Of course, Diane and I had to dash to our vehicle when the clouds dumped more rain on the Chautauqua Institution’s parking lot! GRADE: A
BARBARA BROWN TAYLOR MEMOIRS:
Holy Envy, HarperOne in 2019
Learning to Walk in the Dark, HarperOne, 2014
An Altar in the World, HarperOne, 2009
Leaving Church, HarperSanFrancisco, 2006

I WILL TEACH YOU TO BE RICH, Second Edition By Ramit Sethi



This Second Edition of I Will Teach You to Be Rich (2019) isn’t as snarky as the First Edition. Ramit Sethi presents an approach to maximize your money and–in theory–make you Rich. Of course, the only proven ways to have more money is to spend less or make more money. But Ramit Sethi explores several options to manage your money more effectively. I learned new facts about credit cards and banks that I didn’t know. You might find the sections on credit cards enlightening, too.

I really enjoyed Sethi’s rant against “experts.” He supplies several examples where financial experts were very wrong in their predictions. Sethi counsels caution when investing in stocks and bonds. He is not a fan of Real Estate. Sethi breaks down the pluses and minuses to owning a house versus renting.

I read this edition of I Will Teach You to Be Rich from cover to cover. But, if you check out the TABLE OF CONTENTS you’ll see that you can browse this book for the topics that most interest you. Ramit Sethi’s thoughts on money and spending make sense to me. If you’re interested in improving your financial situation, I Will Teach You to Be Rich is a marvelous place to start. GRADE: B+
TABLE OF CONTENTS:
An Open Letter to New Readers 1
Introduction: Would You Rather Be Sexy or Rich? 6
Why do people gain weight after college? The similarities between money and food
Counterintuitive but true: We need less personal-finance information
Common excuses for not managing money
You’re not a victim-you’re in control
Stop debating minutiae and focus on the Big Wins
The key messages of I Will Teach You to Be Rich
“Rich” isn’t just about money: What does it mean to you?
Chapter 1 Optimize Your Credit Cards 23
How to beat the credit card companies at their own game
Why Indian people love negotiating
Stop being intimidated by your credit cards
Picking the best card for airline miles, cash back, and rewards
The six commandments of credit cards
How to negotiate with your credit card company to get fees waived and receive lower rates
Secret perks your card offers
Why you should always buy electronics, travel, and furniture on your credit card
What not to do with your cards
The burden of student loans
When credit cards go bad
Five steps to getting rid of debt
Week One: Action Steps
Chapter 2 Beat the Banks 69
Open high-interest, low-hassle accounts and negotiate fees like an Indian
How banks rake it in
The bank accounts I use
Why you really need a separate savings account
Opening high-interest, no-fee accounts
Why people stick with terrible bank accounts
Five marketing tactics banks use to trick you
Negotiate out of fees with your current bank (use my script)
Week Two: Action Steps
Chapter 3 Get Ready to Invest 94
Open your 401(k) and Roth IRA-even with just $50
Start investing, step by step
Why your friends are scared of investing
Investing is the single most effective way to get rich
Where should your money go? Introducing the ladder of personal finance
Mastering your 401(k)
Crush your debt
The beauty of Roth IRAs
What about robo-advisors?
The exact account I use
Feed your investment account
HSAs
Beyond retirement accounts
Week Three: Action Steps
Chapter 4 Conscious Spending 126
How to save hundreds per month (and still buy what you love)
How to spend extravagantly on the things you love and cut costs mercilessly on the things you don’t-without making an annoying budget
The difference between cheap people and conscious spenders
How my friend spends $21,000 per year going out-guilt-free
Using psychology against yourself to save
The four buckets: fixed costs, savings, investments, and guilt-free spending money
The envelope system for not overspending
What if you don’t make enough money to save?
How to make more money
Handling unexpected expenses
Week Four: Action Steps
Chapter 5 Save While Sleeping 167
Making your accounts work together-automatically
The power of defaults
How to spend only 90 minutes a month managing your money
Ways to use psychology to help you save money
Create your automatic money flow
Using your automated finances to fuel your rich life
Week Five: Action Steps
Chapter 6 The Myth of Financial Expertise 188
Why professional wine tasters and stock pickers are clueless-and how you can beat them
Who should you trust?
Experts can’t guess where the market is going
How experts hide poor performance
You don’t need a financial adviser
Behind the scenes: When two wealth managers tried to recruit me
Active vs. passive management
Chapter 7 Investing Isn’t Only for Rich People 212
Spend the afternoon picking a simple portfolio that will make you rich
The beauty of automatic investing
Asset allocation: more important than the “best stock of the year!”
Retiring in your 30s or 40s: The FIRE movement
Convenience or control? You choose
The many flavors of stocks and bonds
Creating your own portfolio: How to handpick your investments
Investing the easy way: target-date funds
Feeding your 401(k) and IRA
The Swensen model of asset allocation
Insane crypto “investments”
Week Six: Action Steps
Chapter 8 How to Maintain and Grow Your System 260
You’ve done the hard work: Here’s how to maintain (and optimize) your financial infrastructure
Feed your system-the more you put in, the more you’ll get out
Ignore the noise
The tricky part of managing your own portfolio: rebalancing your investments
Nutty beliefs about taxes
When to sell
For high achievers: a ten-year plan
Giving back-an important part of being rich
Chapter 9 A Rich Life 282
The finances of relationships, weddings, buying a car, and your first house
Student loans-Pay them down or invest?
How to help parents who are in debt
The big conversation: talking about money with your significant other
Should you sign a prenup?
Why we’re all hypocrites about our weddings (and how to pay for yours)
Negotiating your salary, I Will Teach You to Be Rich style
The smart person’s guide to buying a car
The biggest big-ticket item of all: a house
The benefits of renting
Is real estate really a good investment?
Planning for future purchases
Your Rich Life: Going beyond the day to day
Acknowledgments 335
Index 336

THE FAREWELL


Awkwafina (aka, Nora Lum) stars as a struggling artist named Billi in New York City. Billi loves her grandmother, Nai Nai (Shuzhen Zhao), who lives in China. Billi and her mother (Diana Lin) and father immigrated from China to America 20 years ago. When Billi learns her beloved grandmother has Stage Four lung cancer, she immediately wants to fly to China to take care of her. But, Billi’s mother, father, and entire Chinese family decide to keep this knowledge from Nai Nai. Director Lulu Wang based this movie on the actual “white lie” that she and her family told her own grandmother who was diagnosed with cancer.

Much is made in the movie about the differences in Eastern and Western thought. Billi, Americanized and modern, wants to share the medical information with her grandmother. But, peer pressure from her family force her to remain silent. A wedding between Billi’s cousin and his Japanese fiancé (played brilliantly by Air Mizuhara) is pushed forward as the reason for the entire family to gather together around Nai Nai.

The cast is great, but Lulu Wang could have cut the wedding festivities short. If you’re in the mood for a wonderful family drama with some humor, I recommend The Farewell. GRADE: B+

THE DESTINY THIEF: ESSAYS ON WRITING, WRITERS, AND LIFE By Richard Russo


I’m a fan of Richard Russo’s comic novels, The Risk Pool, Nobody’s Fool, and–my favorite–Straight Man. The Destiny Thief is a slim collection of Russo’s non-fiction, but his humor and wit shine through every essay in this book.

My favorite essay is “Getting Good,” as in getting good at writing. Here’s a little of what Russo says about that:

“Systematically removing potential naysayers–teachers, agents, other writers, editors–from one’s life might feel liberating, but its likely effect is to lengthen, not shorten your apprenticeship. John Lennon, playing eight-hour shifts in Hamburg strip clubs with his fellow Beatles, must have felt like a slave, and like every slave he must’ve resented his shackles, but he would’ve noticed which songs worked best and which parts of the songs garnered the most applause. Most importantly, when the drunks’ gaze drifted back to the naked girls, he would have heard that silence loud and clear, even over the thunder of his amplified guitar, and understood it as advice: Stop doing this, or Stop doing it this way, or Try something else, because this isn’t working.” (p. 90-91)

Russo, who loves music, also shares the story where he bought an excellent 12-string guitar. And, although he practiced and performed with it, Russo realized the instrument was better than his modest skills. He abandoned his dreams of a music career and focused on writing.

I enjoyed Russo’s “Address to the Graduates of Colby College” which is full of practical advice. After reading Russo’s praise of Dickens’ “The Pickwick Papers” I wanted to drop everything and reread that classic! I had the same reaction after finishing “Mark Twain’s Non-Fiction.” “Imagining Jenny” tells a moving story of one of Russo’s friends who transitions from a male to a female with Russo’s support. And I really enjoyed Russo’s comments on Ross Macdonald and Eudora Welty especially their correspondence in Meanwhile There Are Letters in “The Boss in Bulgaria.”

All in all, The Destiny Thief delighted me with its wisdom and charm. GRADE: A
TABLE OF CONTENTS:
The Destiny Thief 3
The Gravestone and the Commode 25
Getting Good 45
Address to the Graduates of Colby College 107
The Pickwick Papers 117
Imagining Jenny 131
What Frogs Think: A Defense of Omniscience 155
Mark Twain’s Nonfiction 177
The Boss in Bulgaria 193
Acknowledgments 207