Wednesday, October 30, 2013

A Visit to Fraunces Tavern in New York City

Recently, we were in New York City for a short visit. Because we had been to most of the major museums in the city, we were looking for something a little different. I suggested we make a visit to Fraunces Tavern. Fraunces Tavern is best known as the place where, at the end of the Revolutionary War, in 1783, General George Washington gave his farewell address to the officers of the Continental Army.

Washington's address to the officers was given in what is called the Long Room, apparently because of its length across the width of the building atop the tavern below.  According to a contemporary account by one of the officers present, there was not a dry eye in the house as Washington finished the address and shook hands with those present.Washington, of course, did not fade away as he then apparently thought, but went on to become our first President.

And neither did Fraunces Tavern just fade away. New York City became the first capital of the United States and the Tavern housed the offices of the new government's Departments of Treasury, War and Foreign Affairs (today's State Department).

Built in 1719 as a private residence, it became the most popular tavern of its time after being purchased by Samuel Fraunces in 1762.  While the upper floors are a museum,which includes a Hall of Flags of the United States,  the lower floor still serves as a tavern. In addition to the tavern itself, the building  is also connected with several other buildings, including another restaurant, where we ate. The restaurant, among other dishes, serves what is described as George Washington's favorite chicken pot pie. I don't know about Washington, but it was my favorite, just filled with white meat chicken and topped by a thin, crisp shell. Yum!

Fraunces Tavern is located at 54 Pearl Street in the Financial District, near Wall Street. The phone number is 212-425-1778. There is a small fee for admission to the museum, but it is well worth a visit.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

How to Get Through Airport Security Quickly

Recently, we have been traveling by airplane quite often. It seems like the time to get through security keeps getting longer and longer. So I decided to see if there was anything I could do to make it a little easier and maybe even quicker.

I knew, of course, there was no way I could hurry along the other travelers or the TSA personnel. What could I do myself that might ease the process just a little? I came up with the following solution that seems to work well.

After you get through the boarding pass checkpoint, you usually start the process of removing your wallet, watch, and other personal items you have in your pockets or are wearing, such as jewelry. What if you removed those items before you went through the security line?

I tried it and it makes the ordeal just a little better. I removed my wallet, watch, comb, and loose change from all my pockets and placed all the items in a small plastic freezer bag I had brought with me.  I then placed the bag in my briefcase (you could also use your carry- on  bag).  It seemed like I flew through the x-Ray process. Once on the other side, I emptied out the plastic bag and was on my way.

It seemed to me that not only was it quicker, it was safer.  Just putting all your personal items in those little plastic dishes as you go through security always seemed to me to be a  little unsafe. We have all heard stories of and maybe even experienced ourselves missing or forgotten watches, wallets, etc. Using my suggested method makes those a  lot less likely. Try it; I think you'll like it.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Rush to See Captain Phillips

We recently saw what have to be the two best movies of the year. Both are thrilling, non-stop excitement. They are Rush and Captain Phillips.

Rush, which is directed by Ron Howard, is the story of the battle between two Formula 1 race car drivers, Niki Lauda and James Hunt, for the world championship. While there have been other movies which have tried to capture the excitement of Formula 1 racing (Grand Prix, starring James Garner, comes to mind), no movie, until now, has made you feel what it must be like to experience the thrill and the danger of driving at speeds in excess of 170 mph around treacherous curves and in the rain. Rush does that and more. The movie captures the personalities of the two men as they react to that danger and as they interact with one another in the face of unimaginable adversity..

Lauda (played to perfection by Daniel Bruhl ) is a rigid Austrian, who insists on going by the rules. On the other hand, Hunt is a playboy, who drinks champagne before a big race.  Chris Hemsworth  plays Hunt, whose wife, Suzy, eventually left him for the actor, Richard Burton, who was on leave from Elizabeth Taylor. Hemsworth is best known for his role as Thor in the Avengers' series.

If Ron Howard does not win the Academy Award for his direction of this movie, something is definitely wrong with the selection process.

Speaking of the Oscars, Tom Hanks definitely deserves a nod for best actor for his virtuoso performance as the real-life Captain Phillips in the movie of the same name. The docu-drama details the mostly true story of the capture of a merchant ship carrying relief supplies by Somali pirates off the coast of Africa. Hanks, it seems like, is in every scene and definitely carries it off better than any other actor could. Of course, this is why he already has two Oscars.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Boomers Beware: Oreos Are Addictive

A study by researchers at Connecticut College announced today suggests eating Oreo cookies may be as addictive as snorting cocaine. The high sugar, high fat cookie that we love to tear apart and dip in milk appears to affect the same pleasure zones in the brain as both cocaine and morphine. The study conducted on lab rats has not been peer-reviewed but the findings appear to be consistent with other studies which have shown a link between consuming high carbohydrate foods and the release of dopamine in the brain.

Source: College study finds Oreo cookies are as addictive as drugs | Fox News via @foxnewshealth

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

No Surprise: Jerry Seinfeld is Hilarious

In a bit of a departure from our usual fare on this blog, I wanted to share with you our experience at the Jerry Seinfeld show here in Pittsburgh last Saturday night.

First of all, it was a miracle we were able to get any tickets at all. When the show was originally announced, the show was sold out quickly. Apparently happy with the response, a second show was scheduled. I called the box office and remarkable, tickets were still available for the second show.  I gobbled up two for a total of $176, tax and handling fees included.. They were for middle of the left center orchestra. Not bad.

The show began with Seinfeld's warm-up act, a comedian whose name I could not hear when he was announced.  He was very funny and I began to wonder if Seinfeld could top him.  No need to worry. After about twenty minutes of  the warm up act's non-stop jokes, Seinfeld appeared to a standing ovation. As I am sure is common where ever he goes, he paid homage to the city, pointing out that Pittsburgh is always ranked number 1 or near the top in almost every survey of the most livable cites, but then further pointing to the fact that "nobody believes that for a minute."

The next 75 minutes or so were similar non-stop observations about everything---and, of course, about "nothing." He joked that our lives all "sucked" including his own, but pointed out his sucked "a lot less." I was surprised at how limber he was as he danced around the stage. At 59, he appears to be at least twenty years younger.

It was a real tour de force and I would recommend you see him if he is visiting a town near you or even if you have to travel.  It is well worth it.

For scheduling information about the tour, see

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Weight Watchers Endorses High Intensity Interval Training for Weight Loss

As those who read this blog know, I am a strong advocate for Hight Intensity Interval Training or HIIT. Weight Watchers, of course, is the largest and arguably most successful weight loss plan. I am pleased to report that Weight Watchers has acknowledged the benefits of HIIT as an important part of a weight loss plan.

In its September/October 2013 issue of its Weight Watchers Magazine,  Weight Watchers discusses a plan for HIIT, referring to it as the "hottest" approach to walking.  Referring to a study published in the Journal of Physiology, it says that three thirty minute sessions of HIIT are as effective as 5 sixty minute sessions of moderate activity.  The article states that not only can HIIT  supercharge your weight loss program, it can reduce the risk of diabetes and heart problems, at the same time increasing stamina.  

The article suggests three plans, one for the rookie walker, another for the regular walker and a third for the pro.  For the rookie, it suggests 12 repetitions of alternating 30 second push activity followed by 2 minutes of a recovery walk. For the regular, it involves 15 periods of 1 minute of push followed by 1 minute of recovery. and the pro, 20 periods of 1 minute of push followed by only 30 seconds of recovery.

Finally, the article points out three considerations while walking during the push period: 1. take small steps; 2 focus on stepping first on your heel; and 3. pump your arms as though you were running.

Source:  Weight Watchers Magazine, September/October 2013.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Good News: Exercise Can Prevent Dementia!

All boomers and even those who are not yet boomers worry at times about the potential for cognitive decline or dementia. The good news is that neither is inevitable. The magic bullet to avoid those dreaded aspects of aging:  good old-fashioned aerobic exercise.

A number of recent studies have shown that while brain volume shrinks as we age, exercise can reduce the amount of shrinkage and actually produce new neurons in the brain. In one of those studies at the Cooper Institute in Dallas, Texas, the researchers followed over 19,000 adults for some  24 years to determine if exercise could prevent dementia and even Alzheimer's.  The good news is that those persons who were the most fit had the least amount of dementia.

The studies show that the most beneficial form of exercise is aerobic, such as walking, running, cycling and swimming. Most importantly, the studies have shown that it is never too late to start exercising.  Whichever form of exercise you choose, it is important that you keep at it consistently. Optimally about 2 and one half hours of aerobic activity per week is enough to keep those neurons growing..

Source:  AARP Bulletin, September 2013, p.12.