Saturday, November 25, 2017

I'm a Sucker for Self-Help Books!

                I picked up Neil Pasricha’s The Happiness Equation at the library because a book I thought I had on hold wasn’t there after all. Mr. Pasricha has nine basic suggestions for happiness, of which I’d agree with maybe eight. The one I’d take issue with is: Never retire. I was heavily influenced by Paul Terhorst’s Cashing in on the American Dream, Joe Dominguez’ and Vicki Robin’s Your Money or Your Life, and the 1938 film version of Philip Barry’s Holiday. I first retired in my mid-forties because I had a disagreement with my employer, Company L, over work-life balance. I thought there should be one.
                Mr. Pasricha presents many reasons for not retiring including structure and having a social network. I love being able to determine my own structure, and I wonder if Mr. Pasricha, who is Canadian, has set foot in corporate America recently. (He did say he’d visited Wal-Mart’s headquarters and was quite taken with the friendliness of the people he met there; perhaps the friendliness was real and perhaps not—sometimes these things can be faked, especially for a visitor.) With few exceptions—very few—I would not want the backstabbing brownnosers I worked with at Company L in my life, let alone in my social network.
                In Mr. Pasricha’s favor, his last suggestion is not to follow suggestions. And that’s a good suggestion.
                I found Cheryl Richardson’s Take Time for Your Life at an estate sale. I almost didn’t buy the book because the cover features a woman who appears to be having an orgasm, but having had my own experiences with publishers slapping inappropriate covers on a book (The Simple Life, a book primarily about frugality, which I edited, featured… a blade of grass), I took a closer look, and I’m glad I plunked down my 50¢ for this book. Ms. Richardson presents a seven-step program to help take control of our lives. I was most taken by her criteria for her clients’ choosing a job, which include:
                Work must never cause them to compromise their integrity
                The required hours must allow them to have a life outside work
                Their contribution must be acknowledged and appreciated
                Their work must be challenging and fulfilling
                They must have an opportunity to use their best talents and gifts fully
                They must be able to provide their input for important decisions
                They must be paid fairly for the work they perform.
                I guess if I could find a job that would do all these things (especially the last one), I might be willing to follow Mr. Pasricha’s advice and never retire. Perhaps there are unicorns out there after all.
                The final book, Real Cause, Real Cure, by Jacob Teitelbaum, MD, and Bill Gottlieb, CHC is another estate sale find I almost didn’t buy. I mean buying health books at an estate sale? These people died, after all. What good did the book do its previous owner? Anyway, I plunked down a whole dollar for this one and was pleasantly surprised. The authors give nine “real causes” of health problems. The chapter on prescription medications is worth the price I paid for the book. If the authors are right, many patients being treated for Alzheimer’s are suffering only from being overmedicated. The “real cures” part of the book deals with specific conditions.
                I definitely recommend this book. Most books I buy find their way to Half Price Books; this one’s staying on my bookshelf.

© 2017 Larry Roth

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Minimalism: As Black Friday Approaches Here's a Book for the Season, Some Shopping Advice and an Actual Gift Suggestion

            Earlier this year I reviewed some books on frugality, most of which would fall into the “Oh, poor me, I overspent and I’m now paying for it boo hoo hoo” category. This is not one of those books.
            In my last post I mentioned Kanopy, a streaming service offered free from the library. The first thing I watched after signing up for Kanopy was Minimalism: A Documentary About the Important Things, which led me to check out the Minimalist’s book, Everything That Remains, from the library. (The book is available in the Johnson County libraries; the Kansas City library did not have it.)
            The authors, Joshua Fields Milburn and Ryan Nicodemus, grew up in southwestern Ohio. Milburn’s mother left his abusive father who died when Milburn was young. His mother was an alcoholic who was eventually able to get sober. (What is it about that part of Ohio that makes people want to self-medicate?) Milburn got a good job right out of high school and was on the fast track complete with all the toys he thought he was supposed to want when his mother died and his wife left him—both in the same month.
            While he was sorting out his mother’s belongings, which he described as three apartments stuffed into one, he became overwhelmed. His mother retired to Florida but had never gotten rid of her winter clothes. He seesawed between taking her stuff back with him to Ohio or renting a storage unit in Florida. He finally realized he would never need his mother’s belongings, so he donated them. This started him on a journey to minimalism. He eliminated 80% of his stuff, gave up TV, the internet, his cell phone, and finally even his goals. He decided to go back to having internet and a phone, but by giving them up, he realized life would be possible without them. He recommended to his employer that he be laid off and eventually he was. Nicodemus, who worked at the same company was also eventually laid off, though not at his request.
            The minimalists contacted other like-minded people, formed a publishing company (Asymetrical, currently located in Montana) and started putting out books. They are having fun.
            They did a book tour that started small and ended up successful beyond their dreams. So many people showed up to hear them in Toronto they thought they were competing with another act. They wound up having to do more presentations to accommodate everyone. It seems there is a lot of interest in having less stuff and more life. As one of the people who attended their lecture in Toronto said, she was living the life she was supposed to want, but it wasn’t her life; she was living someone else’s dream.
            On a personal note, when I left my job with Company L in 1995, my parents were flabbergasted. Their reaction was basically how could I give up everything they ever wanted. My problem was what they wanted was not what I wanted.
            On yet another personal note, my mother died in 2003; my sister has just this fall let go of our mother’s clothes.
            There is an awful lot to think about in this book, including the astute observation that hoarding and organizing are pretty much the same thing. Hoarding is out in the open, but organizing is essentially well-planned hoarding. I’d add that “organizing” in today’s language usually implies buying containers and other items to contain our excess, so it may well be more expensive than hoarding plus we wind up with all the stuff we bought to hold our stuff.
            The book is independently published (the ISBN is 9781938793189), and it could use some editing, but since I’ve been there, done that, and had my own share of screwups, I’m in no position to criticize. Just read the book and appreciate its message.
            As we’re entering the Season this year, perhaps we could pause our spending for a few minutes and think about the things we buy both for ourselves and as gifts for others. If it’s something useful or needed, great. If it’s neither, well, isn’t it a waste of time, money, and the space it will occupy?
            And on one more personal note, don’t buy something simply because it’s on sale. I’m considering buying an Instant Pot. Walmart has a “Door Buster” ad with a 5-quart Instant Pot for $49. I’m looking for the 8-quart model. I almost fell into the trap of “$49 is a good deal; maybe I can live with the 5-quart model.” But I realized (in time) something you don’t want on sale is not a good deal. I know I’d wind up buying the 8-quart model eventually, so I might as well save the $49 (plus tax) I’d spend on this model and get what I want the first time. 

            One thing you might consider giving, if you still have anyone on your list who has a landline, is MagicJack, which I reviewed in my second post way back in December of last year. (Here’s the link: They’re having a sale. For $29.99 plus tax, you get the MagicJack and a year’s phone service. Please read my review because MagicJack does have some limitations. The link to the special is:

© 2017 Larry Roth

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Kanopy: Cord Cutting with Help from the Library

                Kanopy is a streaming video service many libraries, including the Kansas City Public Library, have begun offering to their patrons. Some libraries offer other streaming services, so if your library doesn’t offer Kanopy, you might check with them to see what they have available.
                Kanopy offers more than 30,000 titles, and it’s free. To get Kanopy, go to, hit “Watch Now,” and follow the instructions. You’ll need a library account.
                Kanopy’s offerings include documentaries, indie films, foreign titles, and classic and contemporary films. You can watch twelve selections per month, and you have three days to watch each one, which comes in handy at times, since Kanopy offers several of the Great Courses, most of which have twenty-four thirty-minute lessons.
                The first thing I watched on Kanopy was Minimalism, a documentary by Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus. That led me to check out their book, Everything That Remains, which is so good I’m going to review it in my next post. I also watched Beyond Food, another documentary that led to my reading Abel James’ The Wild Diet and Dave Asprey’s The Bulletproof Diet. Both books were interesting, but both authors have done very well financially and base their diet on food that is organic, grass fed, free-range, and every other euphemism out there for expensive, which puts strict adherence to their diets out of reach for most of us commoners—especially those with large families and small incomes. I did find Kerrygold Grass Fed Butter at Aldi, but it’s about four times as expensive as Countryside Creamery, Aldi’s brand.
                As I said, both books were interesting, and my take on them is we commoners can probably get some good out of the books if we do the best we can with what’s affordable.  
                In the meantime, those inclined to cut the cord can possibly save some money by eliminating cable and adding Kanopy to their streaming device. A word of caution, though: Dan and I subscribe to Acorn and Netflix, both of which offer an awful lot of good TV. There is a danger to having so much available, and that danger is we’ll wind up living vicarious lives, so I’d advise that you limit your viewing (my limit is 90 minutes a day plus the news) in order to give yourself time to have a real life.

© 2017 Larry Roth