No Reason for Crazies to Have Guns

I used to like Reason magazine. It was a watchdog for government overreach like eminent domain abuse (think forcing out homeowners to build a shopping center) and government silliness (like cities disallowing cucumber plants in the front yard). Even the comments were clever.

Then they started harping on pot, hookers and Bitcoin a few years ago. OK, you can make a case against the drug war, but hookers and Bitcoin are (I hope) rather fringe issues that aren't going to ensnare ordinary Americans going about their lawful business in a web of fines and legal proceedings.

Lately, though, they've followed other media lemmings into the Sea of Perpetual Outrage. Progressive outlets see Nazis everywhere; conservative outlets see murdered babies everywhere; Reason wants anarchy for all. Maybe this makes sense when you constantly report about police officers who shoot family dogs. (Of course, Reason didn't cover this one or this one.)

Living in Indianapolis, where quite a bit is lef…

Lessons from School you Need to Unlearn

Years ago, I had a coworker who was new to office work. The work was technical and had to be just right, so I gave her a checklist of items she had to complete for every assignment. I'd review her work and see that she'd missed steps and I'd tell her to fix it. Finally she got upset and showed me the  checklist with items checked off, as if checking off boxes was the job. If it was a school assignment, where getting 70% is passing, she'd have been fine.

School assignments tend to be box-checking, academic exercises that you don't have to master and often don't relate to the real world. School itself bears little resemblance to real life. Sadly, some people carry school approaches into their adult lives. Here are some mental habits that schools instill, and that you need to shed.

No Fair! Wanting fairness doesn't make you immature, but refusing to help yourself because something wasn't your fault, does. Neighbors online complain sometimes that the city f…

Should You Make your Life Harder?

The answer to this should be obvious...and yet people constantly make their lives harder than they need to be. Maybe it's America's Protestant origins, maybe there was some natural selection for industriousness during the neolithic era, but whatever the cause, the lives of other people (not mine) could be a lot easier.

The best things in my life didn't require long hours grinding away at dull, hard work. In fact, the dull, hard work offered few rewards. I spent four and a half miserable years in engineering school only to graduate and find the market was flooded with mechanical engineers. My school advised...more school. Which I went in for--and amazingly, it didn't create a job opening. I finally switched to admin work--which didn't even require a college degree--and finally enjoyed a steady paycheck. I traded my arduous diet and exercise regime for a low-carb diet and lost 20 pounds and a gaggle of health problems. I sold my ridiculously overpriced house in Denv…

Should you Let your Kids Quit the Piano?

Never give up! How I hate that phrase.

Now and then, I hear people say they wish their parents had made them keep taking piano lessons. Well, I was one of those kids who had to take piano lessons for years and years after I wanted to stop. Long story short: I'm not grateful for those goddamn lessons. Nor do I play the piano anymore despite having some aptitude for it. I don't have any desire to.

My mother started taking me to piano lessons when I was six and I said I'd like to play. For four years, all was well. Then I reached the limit of my ability: I didn't have the dexterity to play really difficult pieces, despite lots and lots of practice. And many of the practice pieces didn't interest me. I asked to quit.

But my mother, wishing she'd had piano lessons, frog-marched me to more piano lessons for the next four years. It was nothing but an exercise in frustration and probably learned helplessness. Practicing didn't help me improve. My teacher tried to …

Should you Buy an SUV?

Do you go off-roading? Do you need to drive on goat paths? Do you need lots of cargo space? Does your vehicle need a lot of clearance from the ground? Do you need to tow a heavy load? No? Then you might not need an SUV.

People buy SUVs for various reasons. Traditionally, people bought them for off-roading or driving on treacherous terrain, or for the cargo room, or for pulling a heavy trailer or a big boat. Now it seems more people buy them because they're trendy or because they're scared of driving in bad conditions. I see SUV drivers gingerly driving around potholes and creeping along snowy streets. I pass some of them in my old Camry. But even in the 28 years that I had a Colorado driver's license, I got along with a car; so did most of my relatives in Colorado. If you need transportation to get groceries and go to the office on paved roads, a car will probably do.

Some people drive an SUV because they're safer than driving a smaller car. Having been broadsided by …

Should you Stock Up Before a Storm?

Before every storm, the TV news shows people running to the grocery store to empty the shelves. Should you go, too?

When I was living with my parents right after college, the power went out for three days. The good news is that their house had a fireplace. The bad news: being hoarders, my parents had too much junk around the fireplace to use it. Being a child of hoarders, I was well-conditioned to leave the hoard alone. We shivered.

But it doesn't have to be that way. If your household is well-prepared, you shouldn't need run out and get supplies or suffer in a house that only feels like a meat locker. Since an emergency like a power outage can happen anytime, so it pays to be prepared. Here's what I keep at home:

Meat in the freezer. (Much more filling and nutritious than the bread and milk everyone runs out to buy.) I stack the packages vertically, like books on a shelf, making it easier to get them out. Canned goods (and hand-operated can openers).A kerosene heater you …

FIRE: Feed Illusions, Retire Early

There's a popular FIRE guru who went to the same university I did, graduated the same year, got rich mostly through a charmed life, and now harangues his blog readers if they don't live like hillbillies. I, too, worked my ass off and saved money...and at age 28, I didn't have $50 to attend my high school reunion. I did not live a charmed life.

So I'm thinking about starting an early retirement blog myself. I'll write a lot about how awful it is to have to get up and go to work every day*, but how wonderful it is to spend the day growing a garden, walking in the forest and playing with my dog. Then I'll spring the pitch: there are houses for sale in Indianapolis for as little as $10,000! These are legitimate, GOVERNMENT sales! You can own a house, retire early, and tell the The Man to take a hike! I'll have a friend who bought and rehabbed a few houses and rents them out tell readers that this is FOR REAL!**

I haven't decided how to handle information a…