close this bookVolume 10: No. 32
View the document1) Politics and policy
View the document2) Industry news
View the document3) Journal calls
View the document4) Book reviews

I read some serious books this summer, and may as well pass along what I learned. (That makes the books a business expense...)

The best may be "Women, Men, and Money" by Palo Alto real estate lawyer William Francis Devine, Jr. (If you're buying or selling Northern CA property, his hourly fee may save you a bundle over a realtor's percentage deal. Plus he's better motivated to steer you away from bad deals.) Devine has had his belly full of people who buy his advice and then ignore it, or who waste his time because they don't know what they want -- masters of disaster, he calls them -- or who sabotage their own finances and marriages because of ego flaws. This 275 pp. paperback is his recommendation that we prioritize our lives before we screw around with legal and financial matters. Dedicate your life to the work you love and the family you love, not the false security of a paycheck. (False because if you need the money, you will always be afraid of losing it. Better to invest in yourself, to where you can always earn a living through your unique skills.) Become the person you want to be, doing the work you want to do, even if you have to forego the security of a steady income and a 401(k) plan. In fact, ditch the whole "Bermuda Triangle" of wages, home ownership, and retirement. They lock you into a system that kills your dreams and ends your opportunities. Better to follow your dream -- art, music, philosophy, whatever -- until you're good enough to rake in the real dough. Then you can buy a house without sweating it, and retirement won't even be an issue. (Getting the kids through college? Let them pay their own way, if necessary. What doesn't kill them will make them stronger.) Maybe this isn't for everyone, but Devine's approach makes sense to me. A warning, though: the book starts with quite a bit of self-promoting hype, and it took me a few chapters to get over the feeling that this was just a lawyer telling us that the world would be a better place if everyone thought like a lawyer. .

Not everyone fits any particular rule, but Kevin Leman's "The New Birth Order Book" offers a good first guess as to why we are what we are. First-born children (or those born after a five-year gap, or in some families the first-born boy or first-born girl) tend to have certain shared personality traits, as documented by MIT's Frank Sulloway in "Born to Rebel: Birth Order Family Dynamics and Creative Lives." Ditto for last-born "baby of the family" children. "Only children" share both sets of traits, but tend to be super-first-borns. Middle children are more variable, with each finding ways of getting attention and approval that differ from the previous children's strategies. This is pop psychology, of course, but Leman argues persuasively that birth order gives a good start on understanding family dynamics and the conflicts that lead people to a therapist's office.

Specifically, only children (or those after a gap of 5-8 years) tend to be little adults by age seven. They are thorough, deliberate, self-motivated high achievers who read voraciously. They are also fearful (esp. of failure), cautious, black-and-white thinkers who have excessively high expectations and are uncomfortable with their own age group.

First borns are similarly reliable, conscientious, well-organized, and hard-driving, but are often natural leaders. They tend to be serious, scholarly, logical, and love computers. They are also critical, given to making lists, and don't like surprises. They tend to be controllers and perfectionists, making life miserable for those around them, but they are the leaders of our society -- the doctors, bankers, pilots, etc.

Middle children are more likely to be diplomatic, compromising mediators, avoiding conflict. (Sometimes first and second children will switch roles, if the parents are so demanding and critical that the first child gives up on pleasing them.) Middle children are often secretive, and have difficulty expressing their feelings unless pressed. They are are loyal and have many friends, despite being independent mavericks. Leman calls them unspoiled. Middle children often do well in service occupations.

Last children (or those just before a 5-year gap) are often charming, precocious, engaging, affectionate attention seekers. They love surprises. They are "people people" and natural salesmen, fun to be with. They can also be irresponsible and tenaciously manipulative, and may refuse to accept blame.

Leman says that marriages between first-borns and last-borns are the best, with the first-born providing stability and the last-born supplying spontaneity. Second-best is a first-middle or middle-last marriage. First-first marriages devolve into control fights; middle-middle into non-communication; and last-last into credit card debt.

What I really like about this book is its message of tolerance. Leman claims that personality is pretty much fixed by age five or eight. That seems pessimistic, but minimizes blame and dissipates guilt. It offers understanding and helps us choose coping strategies. Leman -- a baby of the family -- includes two chapters on the dangers of perfectionism and how to lighten up and settle for mere excellence. He also has chapters on parenting, including ways to help a last-born "cub" accept responsibility. .

There's more to family dynamics than just birth order, and Leman goes into other topics in his "Sex Begins in the Kitchen." (He's written fourteen books, including several on parenting.) I didn't find this book as inspiring, though it's useful and easy enough to read. Some of the themes include putting your relationship first, being aware of your spouse's needs, and communicating. Several of the chapters are Leman's summaries of someone else's published theories. Ultimately, of course, it's all based on research studies by others -- Leman is just a practitioner and a good public speaker and writer.

One chapter covers personality types: attention getters, controllers, martyrs, pleasers, carrot seekers, cop-out artists, and revengers. Many other books describe personality clusters. A new one that I haven't read is David Daniels and Virginia Price's "The Essential Enneagram" , about nine personality types. I did read Daphne Rose Kingma's "The Nine Types of Lovers: Why We Love the People We Do and How They Drive Us Crazy" , but found the examples too extreme to identify with. I could see myself in her Cool Cucumber cluster, but my wife would have to be a blend of three groups. A previous book that I've read went the other way: Lily was pegged well enough but I was spread across three groups. Leman's clusters aren't universal either, but aren't so extreme as to miss most readers. Besides, it helps that he ties this material into the birth-order perspective.

Another good chapter covers communication styles. Leman reports five "languages of love" identified by Dr. William Harley: verbal affirmation, giving gifts, acts of service, spending time together, and physical touch. You tend to transmit and receive in a single mode. If you and your spouse are not communicating in the same mode, you are not communicating. Each will feel slighted at his or her love messages not being received and returned, and soon each will feel unloved. A simple but powerful insight. .

I have a bit more difficulty recommending David Schnarch's "Passionate Marriage: Love, Sex, and Intimacy in Emotionally Committed Relationships. It's a good book by a successful therapist, but somewhat heavy reading. I recommend skipping the last chapter -- which is highly philosophical -- and reading the rest in reverse order. That way you get the coherent theoretical framework in Chapter 13 before reading the individual case studies. Schnarch's thesis is that we can grow only through confronting our anxieties, and that this doesn't happen when we depend on a spouse for emotional support. The more dependent we are, the more we anxious we are about losing that support. (Recognize the similarity to dependence on salary?) Spouses must each learn to "stand on your own two feet"; only then can you meaningfully choose whether to stay with each other. Schnarch puts a lot of emphasis on differentiation, the development of a self separate from your marriage relationship. He then recommends a "hugging until relaxed" exercise, in which couples learn to hold onto their individual centering even when together. Looking into each others eyes during intimacy is also recommended. Further exercises focus on control issues and sexual hang-ups. I don't doubt Schnarch's success, but I have trouble following his rhetoric about "two-choice dilemmas" and his "sexual crucible" approach -- and this is the popularized version of his theories! Anyway, it's a good book if you have trouble expressing yourself or standing up for your own needs. .

Gee, I read quite a bit this summer -- but wait, there's more! I also read three books on shamanism (Brazilian, Peruvian, and Native American), two on street fighting, one on martial arts legends, four on wilderness survival, and three of Gary Paulsen's young-adult novels about coming of age in the wilderness. (His "Hatchet" won a Newberry award, and has three sequels. He also wrote "The Island," with a similar theme about learning all one needs to know from watching nature.) Like my cats, Paulsen has figured out that outdoors is more interesting than indoors.

I also read an "alternative history" novel called "Pavane," by Keith Roberts. It's out of print, but copies can be found. My brother David treasures his so much that he keeps it in his safe deposit box. The book's setting is a world like our own, but still in the Middle Ages. Freight is hauled with steam engines -- going by road at all of 20mph -- but the Church has restricted applications of gasoline engines, electricity, radio, and concrete (which could too easily build fortifications). It's a world of castles and feudal loyalties. Roberts depicts history as a courtly dance -- a pavane ("puh-vahn") -- with each of us carrying the dance forward, free to choose but constrained by circumstances. Alternatively, history is a tapestry. Roberts' chapter-stories mostly follow a single thread through three generations of one family, from obscurity to mercantile wealth to nobility and rebellion against the Church. I really cared about this world and some of its characters, though not for the magical "Old Ones" and their Celtic religion. Sometimes Roberts' poetic language and archaic jargon were a bit much for me. His impressive vocabulary and obscure knowlFrom - Wed Oct 11 11:18:04 2000 Return-path: Envelope-to: Delivery-date: Wed, 11 Oct 2000 11:09:53 +1300 Received: from ([]) by with smtp (Exim 3.16 #5) id 13j7aq-0007QH-00 for; Wed, 11 Oct 2000 11:09:52 +1300 X-eGroups-Return: Received: from [] by with NNFMP; 10 Oct 2000 22:11:26 -0000 X-Sender: X-Apparently-To: Received: (EGP: mail-6_1_0); 10 Oct 2000 22:11:24 -0000 Received: (qmail 13336 invoked from network); 10 Oct 2000 22:11:24 -0000 Received: from unknown ( by with QMQP; 10 Oct 2000 22:11:24 -0000 Received: from unknown (HELO ( by mta2 with SMTP; 10 Oct 2000 22:11:24 -0000 Received: from [] ( []) by (8.9.3/8.9.2/best.out) with ESMTP id PAA25662 for ; Tue, 10 Oct 2000 15:08:51 -0700 (PDT) X-Sender: Message-Id: X-mailer: Eudora Pro 4.0.1 Macintosh To: From: "Kenneth I. Laws" MIME-Version: 1.0 Mailing-List: list; contact Delivered-To: mailing list Precedence: bulk List-Unsubscribe: Date: Tue, 10 Oct 2000 14:53:19 -0700 Reply-To: Subject: CI-CW: CW 10.32 Content-Type: text/plain; charset=US-ASCII Content-Transfer-Encoding: 7bit Status: X-Mozilla-Status: 8001 X-Mozilla-Status2: 00000000 X-UIDL: 38fa5238000004ca