Monday, February 25, 2013

The Truman Little White House in Key West

If you find yourself, as we did, in the vicinity of Key West, Florida, this winter or really any time of year, consider a visit to the Harry S Truman Little White House.  You will be glad you did.
Key West is the southernmost city in the United States.  Located on a small island in the Gulf of Mexico, it is only about 30 miles from Cuba.  If traveling along Highway US 1 through the Florida keys, it is were mile marker 0 marks the end of the road.

Known primarily as a party town and the home of Ernest Hemingway, the Little White House is a diversion from the usual tourist stops and shops.  Situated at 111 Front Street, it is just a short distance from Sloppy Joes,where Hemingway is reputed to have spent much of his time in Key West.

Harry Truman was the 33rd president of the United States, succeeding Franklin Delano Roosevelt upon his death in April, 1945.Truman had been vice president for less than three months at the time and was unaware of many projects within the government, particularly the building of an atomic bomb, known as the Manhattan Project. It was Truman, however, only months later,who approved the use of the bomb over Japan, bringing an end to World War II,  Truman served out the remainder of Roosevelt's term and was reelected on his own in1948 in an upset over Thomas Dewey.According to a recent CNN poll, Truman is ranked as the fifth most admired president.

Looking for a place to find relief from the burdens of the presidency, it was suggested that he vacation in Key West at the then empty home of the commander of the Key West naval base.
He went there and liked it so much he would spend 175 days there during his presidency.

If you take the tour ($15 per person, slightly less for boomers over 62) you will see why. Among other things, it has the original man cave.  Located on the first floor, it has a bar, where it is said Truman would have a glass of whiskey each morning, and a poker table, where he would play every evening. Also located on the first floor is the desk where Truman signed the order which fired General Douglas MacArthur during the Korean war for insubordination. On the second floor are the bedrooms of Truman and his wife Bess, with many pieces of original furniture.

In addition to Truman, Presidents Kennedy, Clinton and Carter have all used the Little White House. Kennedy is said to have met with the then British prime minister, Harold MacMillan, in 1961 around the time of the ill-fated Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

How to Improve Productivity

We all want to improve our productivity.  Believe it or not, it appears one of the simplest ways to do so is to work less.  "What," you are probably thinking, "How can I improve my productivity by working less?"  Recent studies suggest just that: working less hours a day and taking more vacations can increase your productivity.

In an article in The New York Times today, "Relax! You'll Be More Productive," author Tony Schwartz discusses a number of those studies that show that you can increase your output by taking a nap and taking more vacations.

The theory behind those studies is that you are less productive if you use up too much energy. In other words, if you are tired, you are likely to take longer to perform a given task.  In addition, you are likely to be less mentally alert as you are working. Napping or vacationing gives you the opportunity to recharge your battery. 

Most intriguing is the study cited by Professor K. Anders Ericsson of Florida State University.  In that study, Professor Ericsson concluded that those persons who were most productive worked in 90 minute cycles.  They would work for 90 minutes, followed by a break.  In all, they would work no more than four and one half hours a day.  The rest of the work day was spent napping, exercising or meditating.

If this sounds interesting, you can review the entire article by Mr. Schwartz at

Seen Any Good Movies Lately?

Seen any good movies lately?  Yes, in fact, two recent movies, "Hyde Park on the Hudson" and "Quartet".  Both of these are small movies with large performances by several of the actors.

"Hyde Park" is the story of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt's meeting with King George VI and Queen Elizabeth shortly before the beginning of World War II.  The King came to FDR's home in Hyde Park, New York, seeking his support for England.  Bill Murray gives an excellent performance as the President.  More known for his performances in movies such as "Groundhog Day" and other comedies, Murray captures the president's accent and appearance to a "t".  Although Murray pushed hard for an Oscar nomination, he was not nominated for his role. See the movie and judge for yourself whether his performance was Oscar-worthy.

In addition to Murray, the movie stars Laura Linney as FDR's fifth cousin, Daisy, with whom FDR reputedly had an affair. In fact, the movie is based in part on diaries, letters and other documents found after Daisy's death which apparently detailed the affair with her as well as several other women.

One of the highlights of the movie is a scene at FDR's retreat, Top Cottage, where the king and queen are treated to a picnic of hot dogs. Watching the king eating a hot dog is hilarious.

"Quartet" is set in a home for retired musicians and classical singers in England.  While that doesn't sound like a very promising venue for a movie, it is well worth a look.  Directed by Dustin Hoffman, it recounts the relationship between two opera singers who had been married and divorced and who meet again after many years at the retirement home. Maggie Smith, recently of Downton Abbey, stars as the diva and Tom Courtenay (he of the early sixties movie, "The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner") as her ex.

Sort of an operatic "Glee", the movie follows the characters as they prepare for a gala to try to keep the retirement home open following financial problems, it is well worth a look. 

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

How Boomers Can Stay Healthy

Are you a healthy boomer or are you less healthy than you can or should be?  That is the question addressed in a recent study published in the JAMA Internal Medicine yesterday. The study suggests that baby boomers, while expected to live longer, may also have a higher percentage of health problems such as high blood pressure and other chronic conditions, which may affect the quality of life of those boomers.

Certainly, experience shows many boomers have had knee replacements in their fifties and early sixties as a result of running injuries and have various stress related medical issues such as high blood pressure and high levels of bad cholesterol.  In this blog I have written various times about ways to avoid problems associated with stress such as tai chi and meditation. What is Mindfulness?  11/18/12  Meditation and Tai Chi. 6/15/12 Also, I have suggested alternatives to running for cardio fitness that avoid the pressures on the knees such as walking and cycling. High Intensity Training for Better Health, 4/25/12.

While the alternatives I have suggested may not work for everyone, they certainly are worth trying.

Friday, February 1, 2013

The Old Florida: Pine Island's Tarpon Lodge

If you are looking for the old Florida, there is probably no place better to find it than Pine Island.  Located off the Southwest  Gulf coast, not far from Ft. Myers, Pine Island is not as well known as Sanibel Island or Captiva Island (where the famous South Seas Plantation is located).  However, if you are in the mood for a return to the old Florida, Pine Island is the place and the Tarpon Lodge is a good place to observe it first hand.

Pine Island is 17 miles long and 2 miles wide.  Because of limitations on development, there are no high rises on the island.  As a result, Pine Island retains a rural quality that is quite beautiful. Palm trees are everywhere on the island, particularly in the various nurseries that dot the landscape. Recently we visited the island and had lunch at the Tarpon Lodge.

The Tarpon Lodge is located at 13771 Waterfront Drive, Bokeelia, FL  33922.  Built in 1926, the Lodge provides over 20 rooms in the Lodge and several other buildings. In addition, the Lodge has a fine  restaurant overlooking Florida's Southwest Gulf coast.  Although we have not stayed  at the Lodge, we recently had lunch in the restaurant.  The lunch menu provides a full complement of seafood, salads (the Caesar is not to be missed, particularly if, like me, you love anchovies), steaks and pizzas.  My wife had the grilled shrimp, which were perfectly seasoned and marinated.  I opted for the chicken wrap which was prepared cordon blu, with ham, cheese and dijon mustard. Served with the above mentioned small Caesar salad it was more than enough for two meals.

Nearby is a large marina, where ferries can take you to Cabbage Key and North Captiva Island. Across the road from the Tarpon Lodge are pre-Columbian, Calusa shell mounds, They are well worth a visit.

If interested in more information about the Tarpon Lodge, check out the lodge's website at or call 239-283-3999,