Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Visit Daily Kost Kutter Soon!

Hi to all fans of LiveBetteronLess. I've now launched the heir to this column, which you can find by going to: http://dailykostkutter.blogspot.com. The new blog has nothing to do with The Daily Kos, other than perhaps irritating the political fanatics there. I hope you'll visit Daily Kost Kutter frequently. It will always try to live up to the concept of helping you to live better on less. The columns there will be, in the main, original, but I might borrow some of the concepts from the ones I did previously on this site.

I have three (count em!) political blogs. The main one is:

I cross-post "Camp2008VictoryA" columns (with occasional variations) at:

A third blog is directed toward politics in Pennsylvania, with emphasis on the forthcoming general election that apparently will pit Barack Obama against John McCain. You can find that blog at: http://pennsylvaniaforjohnmccain.blogspot.com.

I love visitors, and I appreciate their comments. If you'd like to send me an e-mail, you can do so at: TalkTop65@aol.com.

Steve Maloney
Ambridge, PA

Monday, November 26, 2007

SHIFTING BLOG TO "DailyKostKutter"

Hi. Thanks for visiting.

I'll be changing this blog, with a different title and a slightly different approach. In a short time, I'll have a link to a new blog. I'm thinking of calling it "DailyKostKutter."

Until it gets set up and running, you can visit my other blog sites, which are:

I hope you visit these sites regularly. Stay tuned for the launch of "DailyKostKutter," which will be a five-times-per-week column that will deal with how to gain control of your life.

steve maloney

ambridge, pa

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Britney Spears, Lindsay Lohan, Paris Hilton: Creatures of habit

On Friday, November 16, I'll have another column about a film that deals with habits/addictions: "The Unbearable Lightness of Being." It deals with how a choice to change circumstances is one way -- and sometimes the only way -- to overcome bad habits.

When we want to learn about bad habits being hard to break, we can watch some of the current celebrities. People like Britney Spears, Paris Hilton, and Lindsay Lohan fit Woody Allen's definition of "celebrities." He said they're people who are famous for . . . being famous.

They're three young women who "go partying." They drink too much -- and then get in their cars and drive. They have one failed romance after another.

Some people ask: "Since they have so much trouble with driving, why don't they hire a driver?" They certainly have enough money -- perhaps tens of millions of dollars.

In fact, the reason they don't pay for a limo service is that driving -- actually, driving badly -- is part of who they are. Frankly, they're not the only people in America who get a feeling of peace -- or liberation -- or exhilaration by turning on the key and going on their way.

Having someone else drive them is for them, one speculates, something like taking a shower in a rain coat. They have a variation on Descartes famous dictum: "I think, therefore, I am. For Britney, Paris, and Lindsay, it goes this way, "I drive, therefore, I am."

Thus, they drive for the same reason they relentlessly "party." It's a habit that only a jail term -- perhaps -- can break. Driving is something like smoking (at least for Britney). It's one of the "grown-up" things they do.

It's quite a habit. If they don't have a valid driver's license, or if they're obviously intoxicated or "high," they still drive.

These young women, "train wrecks waiting to happen," are the ultimate creatures of habit.

They get out of rehab -- or out of jail -- and then they go back to the same circumstances they were in before. And then they party . . . and drive.

If, say, Britney moved to Ambridge, PA, she wouldn't have to drive. As I explained before, everything is within walking distance. However, what my wife and I regard as "everything," she would regard as nothing.

I can hear her now saying, "There's NOTHING to do here."

Poor girl. She needs to adopt my philosophy of living better on less, but she never will.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Living Well in Ambridge, PA

I heard today from an old friend, Noel in NJ. who read with approval previous installments of "LiveBetteronLess." However, he admitted he had THREE cars (compared to my none). I wrote him the following:

Ambridge, PA is a wonderful place to live – one of those towns where everybody knows your name (or soon will). I

(If you'd like to read more about the details of Ambridge, click here or here.)

My wife Pat and I were walking (of course) back from the doctor's at the end of August, and standing near the sidewalk was a Black family, a mother and three children, two of them sturdy boys around 8-9 and a beautiful little 5-YEAR-OLD girl with "corkscrew hair."

I said, "Hey kids, ready for the beginning of school?"

The little girl looked at me and said in an intense voice, "I CAN'T WAIT FOR SCHOOL TO START!"I said, "Honey, with that attitude, I bet they can't wait for you to get there!" What an angel.

I'm a great believer also in diversity in lifestyles. And the philosophy of "LiveBetteronLess" isn’t appropriate for everyone. However, the traditional suburban approach to living has pitfalls.

I remember visiting my brother and his wife in about 1974 in CT. They had bought a relatively expensive house in, and they had two small kids. Only one room was furnished and their were beds for the kids and (maybe?) a couch. Hey, if you buy a nice house, you don't have any money left for furniture, right?

Billy (brother) and the wife were fighting like cats and dogs -- over money and many other things. It was The American Nightmare. They'd fallen into every trap our society offers. Eventually, they ended up divorced. Soon after, my brother lost his job.

It occurred to me that they fell into my philosophy: we choose our circumstances and they're what determines the quality of our lives. They’d bought a house they couldn’t afford, but assumed -- falsely – they’d be able to afford it later. And their lives imploded.

A good part of my own life depends on circumstances, including some beyond our control. In 1991, my wife had a totally unexpected stroke (cause still not clear), and I decided I was going to "work from home" for the rest of my life.

In terms of finances, I had many ups and downs, but somehow we continued to survive. She's disabled but not anything like bedridden or in a wheelchair. She can do most things she did before the stroke, although she has trouble talking and can't work or drive. If you only have one wage-earner, you must adapt your life to that fact.

The car ownership thing I'll talk about again (several times in future columns), but automobiles are the world's worst "investments." Of course, if work is 20 miles away, you're going to need a car!

As you may know, some people make a lot of money "blogging." If they have a herd of visitors, they can use the sites for advertising. I'm going to try.

There's a famous photo -- will send you a link -- of a guy who got from Google's Ad Sense a check for $132,000. At that point, you're talking real money. Admittedly, the blogs that make the most money are those that write columns about how to make a lot of money blogging.

Why am I me? I grew up in a different world from a lot of American kids. It's Veterans Day (yesterday ), and I knew well as friends MANY kids who were killed or wounded in Vietnam -- two from my elementary school, two from my high school, one the husband of a student of mine, and others. I probably grew up in the most pro-American setting possible. That affected who I am.I

I'm very much into animals, both domestic and zoo animals (elephants, polar bears, tigers), and my cat, "Larry Bird," age 20, is sitting on my lap. We now have two cats -- had three -- and they play a big role in our lives.

Our cat that passed away, Lucky, would sit in my office and holler when Pat or I went by. What was up?

Lucky it turned out wanted us to say, "Hi, Lucky" as we passed by. She was pointing out that we shouldn't confuse her with the potted plant.As far as work:

Overall, my health is good. I found out three years ago that I had adult onset diabetes, so a lot of the foods I used to eat (candy, ice cream, white bread) are now out-of-bounds. I also found out I was (mildly) bipolar, so I started taking a med for that, and it did wonders to improve my disposition.

In terms of ifluence on my life, one book that had a major influence was Thoreau's "Walden." People asked him why he didn't travel much, and he said, "I have traveled much in Concord [, Mass.]." I know exactly what he meant. I doubt he would have thought much of TV, but I do a lot of my "mental traveling" on the tube.

Note: This is Tuesday's column. I'll have more on Wednesday about living happily in a small town.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Changing Our Circumstances, Adjusting Our Habits

You know those New Year’s Resolutions most of us make – and usually break? We vow to eat less, drink less, smoke less, exercise more, adopt a positive attitude, take time to “smell the roses,” and then we end up doing none of those things.

We talk about people, mostly others, who are “creatures of habit.” In fact, that definition applies to all of us. It’s more than us having habits. In fact, we ARE those habits. What we regularly DO is WHO WE ARE.

In my previous piece about living in Ambridge, PA – or places something like Ambridge, a town of about 7300 people – I discussed how just every place I want to go is nearby. In fact, most places where I want to be are within walking distance.

I walk a lot, and so does my wife. If I lived in the Pittsburgh suburbs, where getting anywhere quickly demands getting into the car, I wouldn’t walk much at all. For example, if “the mall” is five miles away, I’m not going to walk there.

My “habit” is to a couch potato – and a car potato. Living in the suburbs – or residing “far from town” – reinforces my bad habits. If it takes me half the day to get somewhere, I’m either not going or driving.

I mentioned the places that are close in Ambridge. They range from the post office, to the library, to the doctor’s office, to the bank, to the drug store, to the grocery store, to the bus stop, to the pizzeria(s).

If they’re close – say, within a 5-10 minute walk – I’ll hoof it. If they’re not, I won’t.

In short, my habits are a product of my circumstance. If I’m in a tightly-knit community that encourages walking – my main form of exercise – I’ll do so.

A couple of years ago, I asked a woman in her early 40s how she stayed so thin – in fact, she had a “normal” weight. She thought for a minute and said, “Oh, I just don’t buy very much food!”

Bingo! If we buy lots of nice fatty foods, what do we do with them? In fact, we eat them. That is, we eat what we have around. If we don’t have it, then we stay nice and trim.

"If you build it, they will come," as they say in The Field of Dreams. If we buy it -- junk foods -- we will eat it.

What we do depends that is on our circumstances. In fact, we get to choose those circumstances. And the choices we make determine which habits we practice.

In summary, because I don’t have to drive, I don’t. Because driving is unnecessary, I get lots of exercise. I’ve set myself up not for failure in habit modification but rather for success.

Friday, November 9, 2007


"If you're around long enough, you make just enough mistakes tp make it possible to learn a few things." (Me)

I'll be writing this weekend on why it is so hard to "fix" our mistakes. We've all heard about "creatures of habit," and if we look in our mirrors, we'll find out who those creatures are. Is it possible to break bad habits -- we all have them?

Yes, it is, but it requires changing the circumstances that keep us doing things we wish we didn't.

The problem is that our habits -- good and bad -- are WHO WE ARE. They're the way we do things because we can't really see any alternatives. (More Tomorrow)

Please read the other columns below.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Hey, Move! Living Better by Walking Around

In my last piece, I convinced you to save lots of money by selling your car. Well, at least I suggested it.

The selling the car part actually comes after you decided to move to one of those towns – like Ambridge – “where everybody knows your name.

I’ve lived in several places like that: Sea Breeze in suburban Rochester, NY; Williamsburg, VA (sigh!); Athens, GA (double-sigh, go Dawgs!); Bartlesville, Ok; West Hartford, CT; Springfield, VT (where “The Simpsons” movie premiered); Carnegie, PA (two miles from downtown Pittsburgh); and Ambridge, PA (18 miles from Da Burgh).

What factor is most important in moving to a town or small city? Well, since you don’t have a car, EVERYTHING’s gotta be easy-to-reach.

Ambridge has about 7,000 people – roughly the same sizes as Williamsburg (in the early 70s) and Springfield. Williamsburg, Ambridge, and Carnegie are in a three-way tie for placing just about everything where I need(ed) it.

I live at 818 Duss Avenue in Ambridge, an “old mill town” that somehow seems forever new. I’m right near 8th street in a town that has about 16 blocks of small businesses – surrounded by street where most people live.

So, what’s within 5-10 minutes walking distance? The CVS pharmacy, the Citizens Bank (and several other banks), Charles’s Men’s Store (nice, small), the post office, the Fire Department, the Police Department, the Ambridge Municipal Building (containing the place where I pay my water bill), my insurance agent (Carolyn Dunn), the Maple Restaurant (famous roast beef sandwiches), the use appliance store (cheap!), the Chinese Food place, the pizza place, and the Laughlin Memorial Library (lots of books!).

About 15 minute away – down on 1st Street – is my doctor’s office, a three-physician operation. Since I’m a big fan of the military, it doesn’t hurt that all three doctors are veterans – two, Kathleen and Donna, of the Air Force, Michael of the Army. They’re the best doctors we’ve ever had.

Food is something of a challenge. The old Foodland – 20 minutes away – closed. So we need to go to Pick and Pay, which is a 30-minute walk (gulp). But it’s great exercise – at least my wife says so, because she’s the one that always goes to the grocery store. Hee hee.

Like many Western Pennsylvanians, I share the addiction to high school football. Ambridge High School is right across the street, on Duss. The football stadium, named after historic coach Moe Rubenstein, is a one-minute walk. Go Bridgers!

There are a couple of gas stations/convenience stores nearby. But since I don’t have a car, all I do is note the petroleum price increases.

It’s true that we don’t have a Museum of Modern Art or a Yankees Stadium or anything approximating traffic jams

But we have everything we truly need within walking distance. Would we walk everyplace if we lived out in the fashionable burbs? Of course not.

This weekend I’ll talk more about Ambridge, why we love it, and how living here saves us a lot of money.