Thursday, March 28, 2013

The Best Travel Site:

If you are looking for a new travel site that can help you find hotels and vacation deals at the best prices, let me suggest you take a look at  We recently booked a short stay at a resort through this site. I  had tried to get a deal through the usual suspects, Kayak, Expedia etc. All of them said no rooms were even available.  My wife happened upon and saw they did have rooms available and at a discount from the rooms on the resort's website.  As a result, we booked a two day stay at the lowest price.

Jetsetter is not available for every location and hotel, but it does have choices in most vacation destinations, such as New York City (51 hotel options), Chicago, Las Vegas, etc.  In addition to domestic hotels, it also has overseas locations available. Right now on its mobile app (which you can download for free)  it is featuring deals in the Far East, including Thailand and Vietnam.

 Check it out if you are planning a trip and cannot find what you are looking for on the other travel sites.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Summly or Not Just for Boomers: You Decide

Many of you have probably read or heard about the 17 year old English boy who sold the iOS app he created to Yahoo for $30 million.  The app, entitled Summly, is designed to summarize news from all over the web for people on the go who don't have time to read for themselves. If you have read our Mission Statement for this blog, you will note that one of our goals is to provide you with information concerning travel, health and financial issues that you might not otherwise have the time to find or read.  We hope we have been doing that job.  And the best thing about our blog is that it is free. Since acquiring Summly, Yahoo is expected to charge for the app.  Decide for your self, but we hope you will keep on reading

Monday, March 25, 2013

Understanding Mindfulness

I have written several times about the beneficial effects of the practice of mindfulness. A recent article in the New York Times contains a useful discussion of mindfulness and how it works.  "In Mindfulness, a Method to Sharpen Focus and Open Minds," March 23, 2013. What is particularly interesting about the article is that it appears in the business section of the newspaper under the heading "Personal Business."  You might be asking yourself, as I did, what does mindfulness have to do with business?

Interestingly, one of the people quoted in the article is Janice Marturano, who, the article explains was the former deputy general counsel and vice president for public responsibility for General Mills.  She was responsible for developing General Mills' Mindful Leadership Forum in 2004.Obviously, if large corporations such as General Mills have such programs, mindfulness is not just some new age, namby pamby way of thinking.  It is a way of thinking clearly about the present. And that is useful for everyone.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

The Easy Way to Visit the National Parks

An  article in yesterday's Wall Street Journal, entitled "Hikes in the Nation's Parks---Without the Sweat", offers suggestions for Boomers and others with somewhat limited mobility to enjoy the national parks without hiking long distances or climbing hills.  March 20, 2013.

The article points out several must-sees such as the Mariposa Grove of giant Sequoia trees in California's Yosemite National Park. While there are several walking options available to see the thousand year old trees (some are believed to be as much as 3000 years old!), a good option is the narrated open-air tram ride that follows the same path that hikers follow.

Similarly, at the Grand Canyon, you could hike the seven miles or more to the bottom of the canyon or, again, there are free shuttle buses that allow you to hop on and off over some eight miles of the canyon's trails.  You know what choice I'm going to make when I get there.

The article also discusses various options at Acadia National Park in Maine, Wyoming's Yellowstone, the Great Smoky Mountains in Tennessee and western North Carolina, Shenandoah National Park in Virginia and Mount Rainier in Washington State.  All of these parks have their own wonderful attractions from Yellowstone's Old Faithful and other geysers to Shenandoah's not to be missed Skyline Drive.

If you are 62 or older, you can purchase a National Parks Senior pass for $10.  It is good forever and allows you and three guests free access to all of the national parks run by the National Park Service. It is well worth the price. See "The National Park Service Senior Pass" in this blog.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Home Free Adventures

In today's Wall Street Journal is an interesting story about the Martins.  They are a retired couple who sold their home in California and are now living around the world in various countries. They have visited a number of places I have written about in this blog, including Florence and Ephesus.I think that you will enjoy reading their blog that details their world travels. I know I enjoyed it very much.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Coffee or Green Tea: Why Not Both!

If you like to drink coffee or green tea, you are probably aware of the many health benefits of each of these drinks. I have written about some of those. What you may not know is the benefit of drinking both beverages in cutting the risk of stroke when the two drinks are taken individually each day.A Japanese study suggests that drinking green tea or coffee daily might lower stroke risk by about 20 percent.  Green tea contains catechins, which have an antioxidant, anti-inflammatory effect, that can help regulate blood pressure and improve blood flow. And coffee contains more than just caffeine. It also contains quinides, These are compounds that can help control blood sugar, which cuts your risk of stroke by reducing your risk of Type 2 diabetes. The researchers wrote that the "combination of higher green tea and coffee consumptions contributed to the reduced risk of stroke as an interaction effect for each other," The study was published in the American Heart Association Journal, Stroke.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Movie Day: The Incredible Burt Wonderstone

If you like to laugh or if you, like me, like magic,  by all means see the movie, "The Incredible Burt Wonderstone."  In theaters today, this movie is a laugh a minute.  Starring Steve Carell as the character in the title, he plays a magician, who teams up with his best friend forever, Anton (played by Steve Buscemi) as a well-worn Las Vegas magic act.  Carell is perfect as Wonderstone, an egomaniacal diva, sort of a cross of Liberace, Wayne Newton and Siegfried (or is it Roy?) who suffers an ignominious decline overnight and loses his best friend and job.

Jim Carrey plays Steve Gray, a so-called "street magician", who basically tortures himself and presents it as magic. Think David Blaine. Much of the film is presented as a contrast between the two styles of magic, with Wonderstone representing the traditional (think David Copperfield, who makes a cameo appearance).

Alan Arkin plays the grumpy, elder statesman magician who brings a spark back to Wonderstone as only Arkin can.  Speaking of spark, the lovely actress, Olivia Wilde, plays Wonderstone's assistant, who also helps to bring him back from his downhill slide.

I give it three and a half stars.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

This Pill Could Save Your Life

If you are driving along Interstate 376 from downtown Pittsburgh to Pittsburgh International Airport, you will pass a building on the left side of the highway with a large round, white object atop one of the buildings alongside  the higway.  It looks like some sort of enormous pill.  In fact, that is exactly what it is: an aspirin tablet The pill is the symbol of the Bayer company which manufactures the world-famous Bayer aspirin. It is a fitting symbol of a drug that for many years has been known to be effective in helping to prevent various medical conditions such as colon cancer.  Its effectiveness in staving off a heart attack is well-documented and many physicians advise their patients at risk of a heart attack to take a small aspirin a day for that very purpose.

What was not known until recently is that aspirin may also be effective in preventing the most deadly form of skin cancer, melanoma. The very name, melanoma, strikes fear in the hearts of anyone who knows even a little bit about the potentially damaging effects of over exposure to the sun's rays.In a recent study, researchers at Stanford University found that post-menopausal women who took aspirin at least twice a week were 30% less likely to develop melanoma.

While not yet definitive, according to the study's author, Dr. Jean Tang, "aspirin may have a chemo-preventive effect against the development of melanoma."

Although aspirin appears to have many beneficial effects, it also is known to cause gastrointestinal bleeding in some people. So, before starting any aspirin regimen, consult your own physician.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Movie Day: Emperor

The movie "Emperor", which opened this weekend, is misleading. From the title and the previews, it appears to be a movie about General Douglas MacArthur and his role as Supreme Commander in Japan after World War II.  And yes, MacArthur, played by Tommy Lee Jones, does appear in the movie as Supreme Commander and, yes, he does have to decide whether to prosecute Japanese Emperor Hirohito for war crimes.  But that whole aspect of the movie is really a subplot to the real story:  the hunt by a General Bonner Fellers, one of MacArthur's adjutants, to find his Japanese girl friend.  Most of the movie is shown in flashbacks of their pre-war romance.

As General Fellers, Matthew Fox, does an okay job as the obsessed general, but until the very end of the movie, he shows little passion. Jones, when on screen, chews up the scenery as only he can do. But, even there, we don't get a real sense of MacArthur and his own bombastic, ego-centric personality.

Don't get me wrong, it is not a bad picture. Shot in New Zealand and Japan, it has some remarkable scenes. I just think the movie should be promoted as a romance, love story and not a World War II movie. In addition, the whole romance angle was done so much better in the 1957 movie, "Sayonara," starring Marlon Brando.  See it on Netflix and let me know if you agree.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Why You Should Consider High Intensity Interval Training Exercise

Several months ago, I referred to a study that showed the substantial physical and mental benefits of high intensity training. High Intensity Interval Training for Better Health. That type of training involves periods of 30-40 seconds of all-out cardio followed by an equal amount of rest. Recently, a study by the Montreal Heart Institute reaffirmed those benefits.  In a four month study of obese men and women, those who performed 30 minutes daily of interval cardio training such as cycling, not only lost weight, but also scored as much as 25% higher on cognitive tests.  According to Dr. Anil Nigam, MD, the participants in the study were getting more oxygen to their brains and using that oxygen more efficiently.

So, keep it pumping, but remember to also take it easy.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Sunken Treasure in Key West

If you are like me, the lure of hidden treasure is compelling.  Who hasn't read Robert Louis Stevenson's "Treasure Island" and not dreamed of someday finding a treasure chest themselves? Some people today seek that treasure through the lottery. Mel Fisher did it another way: he spent sixteen years searching for the treasure of a Spanish ship that sunk to the bottom of the sea in 1622 In 1985, he found it and today, you can see some of that treasure and other artifacts from that ship in a museum in Key West, Florida, Mel Fisher's Maritime Museum.

While many people visit Key West to see the Ernest Hemingway house or have a drink at Hemingway's favorite watering hole, Sloppy Joe's, or better yet, have a cheeseburger in paradise at the original Jimmy Buffett Margarativille, the real deal is the Mel Fisher museum. Located just a short distance from these better known Key West attractions in an old building on Greene street, it is well worth a visit.

The Spanish ship Nuestra Senora de Atocha (Our Lady of Atocha) sank some 35 miles off the coast of the  Florida Keys in a severe hurricane on September 6, 1622. Of the 265 people on  board, including several Augustinian priests, only three sailors and 2 slaves managed to survive. The Atocha (named for a parish in Madrid) was also carrying an unbelievable cargo of copper, jewels, silver, gold and tobacco. Included were some 24 tons of silver and 125 gold bars and discs.Although the Spanish attempted various salvage operations for several years, the depth of the sunken ship and other storms hampered those operations.

It was not until Mel Fisher, a chicken farmer turned deep sea diver found it in 1985, that most of that cargo was located and retrieved.Gold and silver and other artifacts worth over $500 million have already been recovered. Recovery operations continue and additional treasure continues to be found. Recently, an emerald ring valued at $500,000 was found and is on display in the museum.

In addition to the displays of gold and silver ingots and other valuables,the museum offers a glimpse of life aboard the Atocha  Several cannon, muskets and swords from the heavily armed vessel give an insight into the ship's defenses.  Also, spoons and plates of Majolica show the day to day functioning of the ship. Most of these articles are in remarkable condition given that they are 450 years old!

The gift shop adjacent to the museum  has a silver ingot  available for purchase for over $100,000 and reproduction silver coin jewelry for as little as $65

The museum is located at 200 Greene Street in Key West. It is open daily.  The admission fee is $12.50 for adults with a small discount for veterans.  For more information, contact the museum at 305-294-2633 or view their website at

Saturday, March 2, 2013

The Edison House in Ft. Myers

Thomas Alva Edison is probably the world's most prolific and famous inventor.  Without his development of the electric light bulb, we would still be watching television by candle light. (That's a joke folks!) He is credited with over 1000 United States patents.  These include the phonograph, the movie camera and many other items we take for granted everyday in our lives.

This "wizard of Menlo Park," New Jersey also was an important part of the development of Southwestern Florida, specifically, the area around Ft. Myers. For many years, he had a winter home in Ft. Myers.  Today, that winter home and that of his neighbor and good friend, Henry Ford, are available for touring.  Located on McGregor Blvd. along the Caloosatchee River, the area once had been cattle country. The two adjacent houses sit on lovely estates filled with botanical wonders..

Some of these plants were grown as part of Edison's efforts to find a proper filament element for the light bulb. Others, were grown to support research in providing a source of natural rubber as part of a corporation formed by Edison, Ford and Harvey Firestone, who also was a neighbor in Ft, Myers. Finally, others are grown for their beauty.One of these is a banyan tree given to Edison in 1925 by Harvey Firestone.  At the time it was only 4 feet tall.  Today, it fills a complete acre!

Both the Edison and Ford houses are plain, simple buildings in the bungalow style. When we first toured the estates in 1983, one of Edison's original light bulbs still glowed brightly.Recent, we toured the estate again and it was no longer there. In addition to the houses, there is a lab where Edison and his associates conducted the experiments to find a domestic source of rubber.

One of the highlights of the Ford estate is a shed where two vintage Ford vehicles are displayed, a Model T and a pick-up truck.The tour guide explained that the term "pick-up" referred to the fact that if you purchased the truck, you had to "pick it up" at the railroad station and take it home where you had to complete its building by using the wood packaging in which the truck came as part of the running board and frame.  The "woody" was born!

After the death of Edison's second wife, Mina, the Edison estate was donated to the city of Ft, Myers for the express purpose of opening it to the public.It is available for touring daily. For more information, contact the estate at