Why I want to get legally married – part 1

There’s a very logical reason why I want to get legally married to my husband: I want to protect my family. Those of you not familiar with the legal rights granted by that $50 marriage certificate might be thinking I’m being dramatic — but I’m not.

Despite Benjamin and I having Wills, there’s absolutely nothing to prevent one of our families from contesting them should one of us die. Given the behavior of my family over the last year this is not a passive concern. In a worst-case scenario I die and our joint assets are frozen during probate and Benjamin is kicked out of our home if my family “wins”. We’ve taken as many steps as possible to prevent that including the aforementioned Wills and life insurance policies with Benjamin as the primary beneficiary (life insurance policies are contractual documents that bypass Wills unless the insurance beneficiary falls through to the estate). If a spouse of a legally married couple dies the person’s assets transfer seamlessly to the surviving spouse.

Enough about death, lets talk about life. It’s a good thing I like wading through the tax morass ’cause as a non-legally married couple it is an amazingly hard slog. Lets say I want to further hedge my bets against a worst-case “Casey dies” scenario by transferring some of my assets over to Benjamin while I’m alive. Because he and I aren’t legally married I can only transfer ~$13k/year to him tax-free — anything over that amount he would need to pay a gift tax. Married couples can throw however much money they want at each other and not suffer the tax hit.

Lets talk about retirement. When Benjamin was working at the bank, prior to becoming a full-time student, we were actively contributing to his Roth IRA. When he became a full-time student he wasn’t eligible to contribute to his IRA because he wasn’t earning any income. If we were legally married I could have contributed to his IRA (via the “spousal IRA“) for the past three years. This is unfortunate as we missed some pretty good growth opportunities due to how low the market was during that time. A friend had mentioned that I could have hired him for some position and paid him enough money to max out his yearly IRA contributions. The two downsides to that are 1) he would have had to pay taxes on the amount and 2) it could have decreased or removed his ability to obtain grants, scholarships, and/or loans.

Those are the three big financial reasons that jumped immediately to mind this morning – I’m sure there are other financial reasons that I’m not thinking of at the moment.

Evidence Christians used lies during Prop 8

Today finished out the testimony phase of “Perry v. Schwarzenegger”, also known as the Prop 8 Trial. I’ve been following the trial via live-blogging site prop8trialtracker.com courtesy of the Courage Campaign Institute. The testimony has been very revealing — particularly the part where the Proposition 8 proponents blatently lied to the public during the campaign about what gay marriage would mean (see Liveblogging Day 10 Daily Summary near 9:42):

“Polygamists are waiting in the wings! If we have same sex marriage, we’ll have polygamy next.”

Despite no one anywhere advocating anything about polygamy. And:

“Let’s just say that sexual attraction is definition. Pedophiles would have to be allowed to marry. Mothers and sons. Man who wanted to marry horse. Any combination would have to be allowed.”

Aside: I certainly don’t condone pedophilia but it’s pretty obvious that pedophiles are already allowed to marry another adult of the opposite sex.

Those are just two small examples – there are many more in other parts of the testimony. It was obvious at the time, and even moreso now, that the entire campaign was run on lies and fear. It’s clear throughout the testimony presented by expert witness on both sides that there is no “better for society” reason, no “children will be better off” reason, no “it’ll destroy traditional marriage” reason to prevent gays and lesbians from getting married. What’s the real reason our right to marry was taken away in CA? Because it goes against some people’s religious views. Last time I checked it was the power of the state government, not any church, that allowed couples to marry.

And just who were these “Prop 8 proponents” casting out these lies? The quotes above were from a video that ProtectMarriage.com, the defendants, financed during the campaign. And who financed ProtectMarriage.com? Also from a video that ProtectMarriage.com created (see Liveblogging Day 10 Daily Summary near 10:06):

“We know that today we must win. That’s why we are so grateful that 2,500 pastors have come out on consistent basis every month. If someone is going to vote no, we flip them to show that kids will be taught this in schools. We have spent thousands of dollars on polling. Continue to do so. In 1999, LDS got involved in Hawaii. With capital S, they were significantly involved. No different this time. Campaign will cost minimum of $25 million and LDS across this state deeply involved. Catholic Bishop in SD, three evangelical ministers from SD all got involved. Asked Focus on the Family for money. They sent us $50,000 that allowed us to get petitions printed. Thanks to you, we are here, we will win.” (emphasis mine).

And just in case you thought “three evangelical ministers isn’t so bad – must be a Mormon and Catholic thing”, here’s an email admitted into evidence that was sent to ProtectMarriage.com listing who was involved (see Liveblogging Day 10 Daily Summary near 10:23):

Evangelicals—400,000 signatures; 3,00 pastors
Orthodox Jews
(emphasis mine)

Maybe God and I will work out our conflicts, but Christianity can go screw itself. Take your “hate the sin love the sinner” and “think of the children” mantras and shove it where the sun doesn’t shine. Using John’s logical conclusion to a metaphor in a related blog entry: forget the bathwater, the baby’s dead – throw it out.

2009 PBC Rating: 1

I’m excited to announce that this year I pulled off a PBC rating of 1. This is particularly good news because my performance was being compared to all the other band 9 employees, a band that I’m relatively new in. I think I made a strong showing for 2009, obviously others did too, and I’m expecting 2010 to be even better.

[From my post two years ago:] For the uninitiated: At the beginning of each year, IBM employees write down their goals for the year and put them in the PBC tool. At the end of the year employees write up how close they came to achieving those goals and submit them to management who reviews them. Also at the end of the year management gets together and rates employees according to how well they did compared to their peers. Ratings can be one of the following

  • 1 – Extraordinary
  • 2+ – Exceeded Expectations
  • 2 – Solid Performer/Met Expectations
  • 3 – Needs Improvement
  • 4 – Your Ass Is Getting Fired

Because PBC ratings are tied to bonus payouts, the number of 1s and 2+s are limited – generally at a 3rd-line manager level.

To make things more challenging the evaluation of employees for band 9 aren’t done at a 2nd-line manager’s level but at a level higher. This means that my manager isn’t directly involved with the discussions but instead fills in my 2nd-line manager who advocates for me with her management team. Getting a 1 this year shows that not only am I performing well but I’m making good progress at getting exposure to my 2nd-line manager and her peers.

Like last year, I thought I’d include an excerpt from my manager’s writeup:

This is only Casey’s second PBC assessment as a Senior Software Engineer (Band 9) employee. For 2009, I can say with complete confidence, Casey has stepped it up a notch to clear the “raised bar” of expectations for the higher band and has achieved an extraordinary contribution rating, relatively, in such a short time. I feel this is remarkable, well deserved and continues to be tip of the iceberg regarding Casey’s up-side potential, in regard to his career in Tivoli and IBM, as a technical professional. Given the economy, recent resource reductions and world events, Casey is accomplishing this at a time, perhaps, where relative contribution relatively, may be more competitive than ever.

Open thread: Casey’s Hair

Anyone who has known me for any length of time has known that my hair is a distinctive feature about me. Not because it’s always the same, but because it is always changing! It’s been medium and spiky, long and spiky, long, way long, and even helmet-y (Renee, if you so much as think about uploading that picture of my helmet hair from A&M I’ll disown you!!). Recently it’s been in the form of a faux-hawk but I can’t seem to find any pictures of that style. Sadly, that only covers the hair on the top of my head, not on my face which has at times been a goatee, a chin strap, and an almost-beard.

Some people liked the long hair, some hated it. Some like the facial hair, and some hate it. But in all things it’s a topic of discussion, so discuss: what do you think of my hair, past or present? Bonus points if you can link to a picture to share with your approval or displeasure :)

Fedora 12 and VMware Player 3.0

Over the Christmas break I took the plunge and upgraded my Fedora 11 desktop to Fedora 12 (this was after testing the upgrade on my laptop first). Things went seamlessly until I went to run VMware Player 3.0 which was installed pre-upgrade. VMware Player successfully recompiled the kernel modules but kept crashing after the GUI would come up. Thanks to some googleing, forum posts, and a bit of redirection I came across this post. I went for easy route and just added the line:

pref.vmplayer.downloadPermission = “deny”

to ~/.vmware/preferences and the GUI comes up as expected.

Water conservation – harder than it sounds

Denver Water, the county and city of Denver’s water utility, has an extensive water conservation campaign. This is because, like many areas around the nation, Denver’s population is growing but it’s water sources aren’t.

Benjamin and I have been doing our part for a while now. Last year we bought a high efficiency washer and dryer when we moved into the new house. Living in a townhouse we don’t have much of a yard (no grass at all) but we do have some raised beds for flowers and vegetables. The previous owners installed a time-controlled watering system for those beds which we use during the summer. Our house was built in 2005 so it has low-flow toilets. We run the dishwasher only when full.

The last bastion of water wastage in our house is the shower. We use between 2000 and 3000 gallons of water a month and I believe around 1000 of that is from our shower usage. Benjamin likes to take longer showers and while he’s flexed on just about every other aspect of my environmentalist agenda, taking shorter showers is just isn’t in the cards. After some cajoling/sweet talking/bribing I was able to talk him into letting me replace our 2.5 gal/min shower head with a 1.5 gal/min shower head. He wasn’t happy about it but I promised him that I would never again bring up his longer-than-I-think-are-necessary showers if he’d let me install it.

As a bonus the new shower head has a pause feature allowing for Navy showers. No, when the button is pushed your shower stall does not fill with hot navy sailors — instead the flow of water either stops or the flow is significantly reduced. According to the package the pause button was suppose to stop all water flow but in reality it just reduces it down to a mere dribble.

My back-of-the-envelope calculations says that without the use of the pause button the new shower head is conserving around 390 gallons of water a month (estimated 13 minutes of shower for both people per day and changing from 2.5 to 1.5 gal/min flow) — and that’s a pretty conservative estimate. With my use of the pause button we probably shave another 45 gallons/month beyond that for a total savings of 435 — or about 45% savings total.

There was an interesting article last month in the WSJ that talks about shower water conservation and the resistance to it.

IBM Thanks! awards

IBM has an internal employee appreciation program called Thanks! Awards. This program allows employees to show appreciation to a fellow coworker for going above-and-beyond the call of duty. The award is actually a placeholder. After being given the recipient goes to a specific website to redeem the placeholder for an IBM-branded item of their choice.

Each employee is allowed to give up to 12 Thanks! awards a year and can receive up to 3 of them (the limit on receiving only 3 is presumably linked to the IRS regulations that says employees can gift up to $75 to an employee tax-free and the items to choose from are all easily under $25 each). I’ve maxed out the number of Thanks! awards that I can receive every year that I can remember, and each year I race with myself to see how close to January 1st I can max out. Not that I solicit them or do anything different than I usually do in my day-to-day job ’cause that would be cheating. In 2008 I received my 3rd award on Feb 25. This year it was on Feb 16. We’ll see what happens in 2010. I’m not the only one who keeps track of this as a quick google says some people even mention the number they get on their resume.

After your limit is reached coworkers are suggested to send internal eCards instead – which are admittedly corny but in my mind have the same personal recognition impact. Because lets be honest, it isn’t the IBM-branded stuff that’s the big win from the Thanks! award program, but the recognition of a fellow coworker of a job well done.

And in that vein my work resolution for the new year is to be better about giving out Thanks! awards (and corny eCards if necessary) where appropriate.