Sunday, June 26, 2011

Technology Woes

I woke up Saturday morning with a revelation - in order for me to devote my life to making a difference I have to have my house in order. By this I mean my work and home life. If I am constantly one step behind or finishing my projects just in the nick of time how will I ever have the time, energy or focus to perform the research needed to make a difference. I decided it was time. Starting today I am going to work towards getting all those pesky little projects out of the way.

Too bad I had this revelation a day too late. I turned on my desktop computer and performed my usual routine; checking my blog stats, reading emails, feeds and tweets. Then my husband checked his and down loaded a song onto his Ipod. The computer locked up, this wasn’t anything unusual locking up has been a regular occurrence lately. I got it going again and continued about my day. Later when I tried shutting it off it acted weird, but I was able to power it down. Now I can’t get it to boot up. No matter what I try nothing.

Then DH was listening to his Ipod and it went into a disk mode and he couldn’t get back to the start menu. No matter how many times he tried - nothing. Panic began settling in. I never backed up his music onto my laptop or his photos - though I do have most of his photos on disk. If we can’t get the computer going again his email contacts and favorites will be gone as well.

I was able to get his ipod going this morning and will have my IT person at my work look at my computer tomorrow, but a lot of aggravation would have been saved if I would have taken a couple of simple backup precautions while I had the chance.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Memorable Vacation Reads

In the Oprah Magazine article 7 books that made a difference to Yoko Ono, Yoko tells us she travels a lot. She says:

So when I arrive in a city, I like to go to good local bookshops and make a selection based on how I'm feeling and what I'm thinking. The book I pick usually seems to have a definite karmic connection!
I don't have Yoko’s luxury of having a driver to take me to a local bookshop when I travel, so I need to figure out what my book karmic connection will be before I leave home. For an avid reader like me, a week away from home without a good book can be disastrous and has happened. So when packing for a major vacation, I now take at least four books with me.

When I think back to my most memorable vacation reads, my favorites have been when I got the karmic correction right.

What do I look for in a vacation read?
Ever since I read Bill Bryson’s A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail, while camping on an island in the Chippewa Flowage, I try to match my vacation reads with the setting or place I am visiting.

A book that perfectly matched subject with setting was:
A Trip to the Beach: Living on Island Time in the Caribbean by Melinda Blanchard and Robert Blanchard which I read while traveling to the Caribbean island Anguilla. The book recounts the Blandchard's experiences including the obstacles they encountered while opening their upscale restaurant in Anguilla. The book provides insights into Anguilla’s culture and its people.

Last year while planning my vacation to Montana, the decision of what books to take was a tough one. I had already read Stephen Ambrose’s Undaunted Courage: Meriwether Lewis, Thomas Jefferson, and the Opening of the American West about the Lewis and Clark expedition and Larry McMurtry’s Lonesome Dove, one of my all-time favorite reads, about several retired Texas Rangers and their adventures driving a cattle herd from Texas to Montana; both would have made perfect selections. In desperation, I asked Sarah at Citizen Reader for recommendations. She came up with Laura Bell’s Claiming Ground. This autobiographical book takes place in the hills of Wyoming where Laura worked as a sheep herder and cattle rancher. She examines her life and the choices she made. It was a good book to read while sitting on a picnic bench in Yellowstone surrounded by the Wyoming Mountains.

Nonfiction does not always make a good vacation read:
Generally I have found getting the karmic connection right for nonfiction (my preferred genre) to be tricky. A nonfiction book that is a great read at home can seem down right depressing and out of place on vacation. For example, I received a comment from a reader here telling me she was setting Gail Collin's book When Everything Changed: The Amazing Journey of American Women from 1960 to the Present aside ‘til she wasn’t on vacation anymore . It was making her too angry. I have found in order for nonfiction to work as a vacation read it has to either relate to the place or setting I am visiting or read like fiction.

I read Susan Orlean’s book The Orchid Thief: A True Story of Beauty and Obsession on my recent vacation in Northern Wisconsin. It was an enjoyable book that read like a novel. This book had been on my reading list since Kim at Sophisticated Dorkiness mentioned Susan Orlean is a narrative nonfiction writer she enjoys. After she included The Orchid Thief on her reading list for her hypothetical class Journalists who say "I", I decided to take it with me. While reading I kept thinking this book would make an ideal selection for someone traveling in South Florida.

If I can’t come up with a book that matches the setting or place I am visiting, or a nonfiction book that reads like a novel, I look for a really good story. My most memorable fiction read is Margaret Atwood’s The Blind Assassin. Atwood’s book which includes a story within a story reads like sheer poetry. Reading it under a palm tree on a beach in St. John was the ultimate karmic connection.

I also find historical fiction to be a safe vacation choice. Philippa Gregory's The Other Boleyn Girl was a memorable beach read from my Anguilla vacation.

And lastly, Kathryn Stockett’s The Help was my favorite vacation read from last month’s up north vacation. I am usually disappointed with popular mainstream fiction, but this book was outstanding. The book is about black domestic servants working in white Southern households in the early 1960s. I was enjoying it so much; I remained outside in our vehicle reading long after we had returned to our cabin.

What do you look for in a vacation book? Do you have a memorable vacation read?

Sunday, June 05, 2011

What is the future of the Roth IRA?

At the conference I recently attended, one of the speakers brought up an interesting point about Roth IRA’s.

As you may know, Roth IRA contributions are made with after-tax dollars and are allowed to grow income-tax free as long as you, or possibly your children or grandchildren, own the account. With that in mind, many Traditional IRA holders are taking advantage of the current low income tax rates, paying income tax and converting their pre-tax IRA’s to Roth IRAs.

So what is the problem?
According to the speaker, government has mortgaged their future. With Traditional IRA accounts, they are guaranteed a steady stream of revenue. When a pre-tax IRA account holder turns 70 ½ they are required to begin taking taxable distributions, thus making income tax payments. In the future, with the majority of Traditional IRAs converted to Roth’s and new money invested in Roth’s (many company 401(k) plans now offer Roth IRA options as well) the government will no longer receive steady income from retirement accounts.

So what will happen to the Roth IRA?
The government, needing money, will change the rules. At the very least, earnings on Roth IRA contributions will become taxable.

For now Roth IRA’s remain a good deal, so take advantage while you can.