Thursday, November 29, 2012

The Benefits of Tea and Why Starbucks is geting into the Act

Starbucks announced recently that it was acquiring the pricey tea store chain Teavana for $620 million, Teavana seems to be found in just about every mall in the country. You know the store: they offer you free tastings of various exotic teas just outside the door and inside the store sell tea in bulk They seem to be doing quite well.  Obviously, Starbucks is onto something or it wouldn't be making this purchase.

 Now, I don't know about you, but I love tea. Most of the world agrees, as other than water, it is the most popular drink in the world. I drink it hot in the morning with my breakfast and iced at lunch. In the evening, I may have another cup. Black or green, loose or in bags, it's tea for me. Lots of people praise  coffee, but give me a good cup of tea every time. It has a certain warmth that no cup of coffee can offer. And cold, nothing can be more refreshing. I guess Starbucks is catching on. Is there anything more pleasant than the sound of the name of the play (and movie), The Tea House of the August Moon? And how about "Tea and Sympathy" or "Two for Tea."  Finally, we all have  heard of people "reading the tea leaves. No one sings the praises of coffee quite that way or tries to read the coffee grounds!.

How do you brew the perfect cup of tea?  There are a number of theories about that.
Some purists insist on using a tea ball filled with loose tea in a pot.  They then pour boiling water over the leaves and leave it to steep for 3 to 5 minutes. Others are content to pour almost boiling water over tea bags and let it steep.  Still others throw caution to the winds and pour some water into a cup, drop in a tea bag and put it in the microwave for a minute or so. Anyway you make it is fine with me.

And ice tea?  What better way than to throw a few tea bags into a pitcher, pour cold water over it and put it out in the sun for a few hours?  With a few lemon slices or sprigs of mint tossed in for good measure, it is heaven on a hot afternoon.

Most of the tea we drink comes from three countries, China, India and Sri Lanka. There are numerous varieties available. One of my favorites is Earl Grey a black tea with a distinct orange flavor to it.

What are the benefits of tea?  Plenty!  Whether black or green or even white, tea contains flavenoids which are known to reduce the risk of cancer. According toWebMD, there are quite a few other health benefits that may surprise you.  It may reduce the risk of heart disease and diabetes,  In addition, it may even help lower cholesterol.  Another side benefit is that it may also contribute to mental alertness. That may also be due to the presence of caffeine in the tea. A Starbucks Grande Tazo Awake contains about 135 mg. of caffeine, about the same as some coffees. Black tea, which is steeped for 3 minutes, contains 30-80 mg of caffeine. Snapple lemon tea contains about 60 mg.The caffeine in tea may also help in avoiding gallstones and maybe even dementia according to the Nutrition Action Health Letter. You might want to take your tea without milk as it is believed that tea loses some of its antioxidant qualities when milk is added.

So, feel free to drink up----and cheers!.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

"Bond, James Bond": Skyfall

Ordinarily, I do not review movies on this blog.  But this time I will make an exception.  We just returned from seeing the new James Bond film, Skyfall.   It is in my opinion the best of the Bond films ever.

I have been watching the Bond films since the first one 50 years ago, Dr. No.  I thought no one could play 007 like Sean Connery.  I was wrong. In this film, Daniel Craig actually surpasses anything Connery had done with the character. Moreover, the script is by far one of the best in recent years. It has an easily understandable plot and all of the characters are well-played.  In addition to Craig, Judi Dench in her familiar role as M is nothing less than superb.  Indeed, most of the story line centers around her and the efforts of a former MI6 agent (played by Javier Bardem, who chews up the scenery when on screen) to track her down.

As usual, the action is nonstop with car and train chases around the world. Supposedly, Craig does most of his own stunts. If so, hats off to the man. Some of them were quite amazing. There is also quite a bit of nostalgia and humor in the film, including the resurrection of the original Bond car, the Aston Martin with the ejection seat.

As an added attraction, the music for the opening sequence is sung by Adele, who also co-wrote the song, also called "Skyfall".

Whether you are a James Bond fan or not, you have got to see this film. The almost two and one half hour film just flies by. 

Andy Warhol Museum

Andy Warhol was probably the first artist who turned art into a business. He was almost solely  responsible for creating the Pop art genre.  He is currently the subject of an exhibition of certain of his works at the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art.1000 Fifth Avenue (at 82nd Street)New York, NY 10028. Phone: 212-535-7710 (TTY: 212-650-2921  The show, entitled "Regarding Warhol, Sixty Artists, Fifty Years," runs until December 31, 2012.

Andy Warhol, in addition to being a painter and graphic artist, also produced a number of quirky movies, including his famous Chelsea Girls and Empire, which shows the Empire State Building in slow motion and runs for some 8 hours. In the late sixties and early seventies he hosted celebrities at his studio, The Factory, where he reportedly coined the phrase,  "In the future everybody will be world famous for fifteen minutes." Warhol died in New York in 1987.

In addition to Warhol, the exhibit at the Met features many other well-known pop artists, including David Hockney, Keith Haring and Deborah Kass. But it is Warhol who is the featured artist.

For those of you who cannot make it to New York, there is a museum dedicated to Warhol in his hometown of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  Located on the North Shore of Pittsburgh, it features a number of his art works. In addition when we were there recently, the work of Deborah Kass was also featured.

In addition to his art, the Museum also showcases some Warhol memorabilia, including his high school graduation picture from the Schenley High School yearbook and his diploma from Carnegie Institute (now Carnegie-Mellon University).

The 7 story museum is located at 117 Sandusky Street Pittsburgh, PA 15212
(412) 237-8300. The museum is open every day except for Monday. Hours are 10 am to 5 pm except for Friday when the museum is open  until 10  pm.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

How to Get the Best Deal: A Free E-book

For some time I have  been promising to publish a free e-book on negotiations. Well, here it is: The Baby Boomer's Practical Guide to Everyday Negotiaions.BoomerGuidetoNegotiations.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Generic Lipitor Recall

If you take the generic version of the cholesterol-lowering drug Lipitor, manufactured by the generic company, Ranbaxy, you should know that the manufacturer has recalled large batches of the drug known generically as atorvasatin calcium. According to the Forbes website,, the drug may include small pieces of glass. According to Forbes,  no other manufacturer's version of the drug has been recalled.

If you are taking the drug, you might want to contact your physician if you are not sure whether your drug has been recalled.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving!

I just wanted to take this opportunity to wish everyone Happy Thanksgiving and to thank all of the readers of this blog for their loyal support. As a further "thank you", I will shortly be making available for free to all those following the blog, a new e-book, entitled "The Baby Boomer's Practical Guide to Every Day Negotiations."  Keep an eye out for it. In the meanwhile, enjoy your holiday dinner and visiting with family and friends.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Your Fiscal Cliff

We have all heard a lot recently about the "fiscal cliff" that the government is facing and how it may affect all of us in the pocketbook with potentially new taxes and reduced benefits. While there is not much that  we can do to avert that crisis, there is something that you can do to try to avoid your own personal fiscal cliff or at least save a few dollars..

Let's face it, many of us spend too much every day on personal items that we don't really need.  We buy fancy lattes and eat expensive lunches and dinners. The New York Times recently ran a small article that struck me as a way to save some of that money. What if one day a week, you would not spend any money? I mean absolutely no money out of pocket.  Sure, you have to pay your bills, but what I am suggesting is that for one day each week, you reduce your discretionary spending to ZERO.

If you do that for one day a week for an entire year, I think you will be surprised how much money you will have saved.  And it is relatively painless.  For six days a week, you can follow your usual spending habits.  So long as you do not increase your spending on those other six days, you may be safe from your own fiscal cliff.

Try it.  Who knows, maybe next year you will want to do it for two days a week. Good luck.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

What is Mindfulness?

What is mindfulness?   I have written before about the many beneficial effects of mindfulness and deep breathing techniques. "Every Breath You Take," May 2, 2012. These include lower blood pressure, better cognitive skills and many other health related benefits.  It is clearly a practice that everyone can and should do everyday if you value your health or want to become healthier. But what is it about mindfulness that makes it so beneficial and why has it become so popular?

While I don't claim to be an expert and certainly I am not a doctor or health professional, I think the answer lies in the fact that our nervous systems today are so overtaxed by all the outside forces that bombard us from every corner of our world. We are constantly exposed to numerous stimuli which is fueled by the belief that the more things we can do at the same time, the more productive we are. I think mindfulness offers a form of relief that eases both the mind and the body by reducing the number of stimuli. In a world of multitasking, mindfulness is the ultimate form of unitasking.

In other words, by concentrating on just one thing at a time, we find relief from all the other outside forces that seek to demand our attention. And all it takes is to concentrate our mind on what we are doing right now and not try to do too many things at the same time.  If you are watching a football game on the television, watch the game but don't read the newspaper at the same time. If you are walking down the street, notice how you are walking, pay attention to your stride, the movement of your arms and every aspect of your body. If engaged in conversation, just listen rather than thinking only about what you are going to say.

 If you try these simple measures, I believe you will enjoy the benefits of mindfulness everyday without even thinking about it (no pun intended).

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Is the Flu Shot Right for You?

We have been told for years that we must get a flu shot every year. Those over 65 were especially encouraged to get a shot. Recently, however, the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota issued a report suggesting that in reality, a flu shot offers little protection to those over 65. In fact, it as found that the flu shots of today offer only a limited degree of protection for those younger than 65.

In the New York Times dated, November 6, 2012, reporter Roni Caryn Rabin analyzes the results of that study. "Reassessing Flu Shots as the Season Draws Near," She points out that while there are many studies that purport to show the benefits of flu shots for those over 65, those studies really only show that those over 65 who take care of themselves physically, are less likely to get the flu or suffer serious illness as a result of contracting the flu.

So, what should you do? Since there is probably no harm in getting the shot, I plan on getting one. In addition, I think everyone should make sure they are careful in what they touch and who they come in contact with-----avoid public hand rails and those persons who sneeze or cough. And remember: good old-fashioned soap and water is the best remedy to avoid the flu. So, wash those hands as often as you can.

Is Laughter the Best Medicine?

The Reader's Digest has always run a column entitled "Laughter is the Best Medicine."  It turns out they may well have been right.  In today's New York Times, there is an article reporting on a study conducted in England by a researcher at Oxford University that suggests that laughter is really a form of exercise that can help raise your pain threshold. "The Chemical Payoff of Belly Laugh With Friends."

The study was conducted by Robin Dunbar, an Oxford professor of evolutionary psychology. She showed a group of volunteers a series of two sets of movies, one set of documentaries and a set of comedies.  She then measured their pain thresholds and found that when shown the comedies, the thresholds rose, but not when shown the documentaries. She concluded that was because the laughter, like exercise, causes an increase in endorphins in the brain, which act as a natural analgesic. The same result occurs in runners and may explain the so-called "runner's high" some runners report experiencing Apparently, that effect is even greater when in a group setting or at least with one other person.

So, if you don't have time to exercise or don't want to take a pain reliever, maybe you should sit down with family or friends and watch a  Marx Brothers movie or reruns of Seinfeld.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

A Few of My Favorite Quotations

"The past is never dead, it's not even past."
                                     William Faulkner

"We live forwards, but understand backwards."
                                      William James

"Holding onto anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one who gets burned."

If the only prayer you ever say in your whole life is "thank you," it will be enough.”
Meister Eckhart