Monday, April 16, 2007

Is Self-Employment Good For the Self?

There are so many things that I enjoy doing and the list grows daily. Reading, cooking and watching television (particularly bad reality shows) tops the list. These are all activities that relax, inspire and energize me. And yet I can not allow myself the time to do any of them between Monday's and Friday's. Come to think of it, the weekends are pretty much consumed with work as well.
"Oh, you must have a strict office job?" People often ask when I complain about my inability to seek solace and relaxation during the day. I must them solemnly and with tremendous guilt, tell them no. I must explain that I am, in fact, my own boss. And quite possibly the worst boss I have ever worked for in my life!
The soft cushions of the couch do not touch my posterior from the moment I rise. It must seem the most trivial complaint of someone who is self-employed, but I truly have no time for myself! Why is it that the self-employed portion of our society are often the most over-worked, under-paid, under-appreciated and depressed? Why do we monopolize our own time so rigidly when for most of us the reason we left corporate America was to have MORE time? Why do people choose to be self-employed and how many of them are really happy?
There are over 10 million self-employed people in the United States today. I would like to explore these careers, find out what made these people take this leap of faith and determine their level of happiness and success?

The Picky Diner

After dining with my newly pregnant friend, I realized how difficult a simple meal at a restaurant can be. This is why Kate Markgraf is garnering so much attention. While dining at the Langham Hotel’s Café Fleuri, Margraf suggested creating a menu that catered to pregnant women. She introduced her idea to Chef Mark Sapienza and he was so taken with the idea that a pregnancy menu was developed. The menu is divided into sweet and salty dishes to target specific cravings of pregnant women. The dishes are all specifically developed to satisfy pregnancy nutrition requirements.

With the varying differences in people’s dietary requirements, more and more restaurants are catering their menus to reflect these needs. Legal Seafood offers a wheat-and-gluten-free menu for diners suffering from celiac disease, an intestinal disorder that causes the body to reject wheat, rye, and barley, among other grains. Standard fare is given major alterations to create a satisfying dining experience for diners with special needs. Salads come with gluten-free croutons, and calamari sautéed in gluten-free oil arrives with a cornmeal breading.

Many smaller boutique restaurants are making dietary adjustments, as well. The Elephant Walk in Cambridge, Brookline, and Waltham has gluten-free and vegan menus for lunch, dinner, and Sunday brunch. Blue Ginger’s Ming Tsai is an outspoken advocate for allergy-sensitive diners. They will accommodate these patrons as long as they notify the kitchen in advance. With the help of the Massachusetts Restaurant Association, Tsai continues to push for legislation requiring restaurants to train servers and cooks about high-risk ingredients and common substitutions.

Is this a legitimate trend that will continue to grow or is it too specialized? Is it something that people will support? Do more restaurants need specialty menus? How many allergy-sensitive diners are there in the world? What are their thoughts on the current dining situation in our country?

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Matchmaker, Matchmaker

Finding Love the Old-Fashioned Way

What is a fabulously sophisticated woman to do if she finds herself running out of wealthy men to frolic with across this darling island of Manhattan? Why, sign up with a matchmaker, silly!

What is wrong with a woman wanting to be judged solely on her beauty and a man judged on his income? In the caveman days, women searched for men who they felt could protect and provide for them. What offers more protection than a million dollar penthouse in the city and a Mercedes S-Class? Do you know how safe a doorman and a German car can be?

PocketChange, the New York-based company has created “Natural Selection Speed Dating”, a matchmaking service exclusively available to wealthy men and beautiful women. The first run of this elite dating service occurred last week at a swanky restaurant in uptown Manhattan. I wonder if these clever, take-charge individuals found true love, or at least a dinner companion?

The company has lovely plans for the future, including a matchmaking night for “Sugar Mama’s” looking for a sweet-young-thing to keep them company through lonely nights. Who knows, there may be another Ashton & Demi cavorting through this fabulous city.

Is it wrong to match people up based on shallow desires? Is this the trend matchmaking is taking? Are we getting down to what people really want and what could be the success rate of such an experiment? Who better to give your readers some answers than some of the city’s best matchmakers as well as those wishing to be matched?

As more and more singles are growing tired of looking for love on websites, at speed dating events or in personal ads, a new and yet somewhat old-fashioned trend is steadily rising in popularity. Matchmaking. This method of finding love has been around for centuries and is now getting a face-lift to compete with the times. Websites devoted to helping friends introduce friends are popping up all over the internet and training programs like the Matchmaking Institute in New York are preparing people to become matchmakers.

The matchmaking site reports that half of all marriages in the United States are created through matchmakers, friends introducing eligible friends. That’s all it takes. Samantha Daniels was a successful divorce attorney who started her own matchmaking company. Her efforts were the basis of a short-lived television series, “Miss Match”. But what she offered her clients, and what more and more companies are beginning to offer, is a private and personal way to meet a potential partner.

Janis Spindel is a professional matchmaker from New York who charges upwards of $100,000 to find her clients a mate. Spindel has been in this business for over 15 years and takes the credit for 760 marriages and thousands of committed relationships.

With the increasing number of sites like,, and, this is a fascinating topic that is growing in popularity and legitimacy daily.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Bullying the Bully

Your 8-year-old son comes home from school and is withdrawn and quiet. You press him for details but he seems distraught. Eventually you are able to pull the problem out of him. He has been bullied at school. Your first reaction is to march down to the school, pull the bully’s parents in for a meeting and fix this mess before anything like this happens again. Unfortunately, this is not the best route.

Experts are saying that it is becoming more common for children to open up to their parents about what is going on in their lives…Great! Then parents are taking matters in their own hands and aggressively trying to fix the problems and fix the bullies…Not so great.

“Adults who address bullying by bullying the bullies will not solve theproblem,” warns Dr. Doug Winborn, associate professor of health and human performance at MTSU . “While the bullying behavior is unwanted, the bully must be helped along, too. And there are ways to accomplish this (through educational) programs.”

It is a sad situation, but experiencing the swings and glares of bullies in school has become a normal part of growing up. However, Dr. Ellen Slicker, MTSU psychology professor believes that this behavior is destructive to both the bully and the victim.

How do you handle this situation with respect to both sides? How do you deal with your child if they are being bullied or if they are the bully?

The Caffeine Rush

Grabbing a hot cup of coffee may be the undiscovered remedy for your burning, post-workout muscles. A recent study has found that caffeine can reduce the pain from exercise-induced muscle soreness. Lead researcher Victor Maridakis studied nine female college students who were not regular caffeine and coffee drinkers. Each participant was given either caffeine or a placebo after an exercise session and one hour before a strenuous thigh workout. Those who were given caffeine experienced 48 percent reduction in pain compared with the placebo group.

Previous studies on caffeine have shown that it increases alertness and boosts endurance. The researchers suggest the caffeine likely works by blocking the body’s receptors for adenosine, a chemical released in response to inflammation.

Caffeine and energy packed drinks like Red Bull have grown to a $3.4 billion yearly industry. It grew by 80 percent last year. How dangerous are these drinks and what is the long-term impact they will have on a generation of children who have grown up with a constant caffeine boost?

Just this past year, more than 500 new energy drinks entered the worldwide consumer market. It has been reported that many young adults are abusing the caffeine rush that these drinks provide by drinking numerous cans in a row to get an unnatural “high” or “buzz.”

There are clubs on-line for energy drinkers, MySpace pages and blogs popping up daily. This growing industry is working hard to recruit new fans of these heart-racing drinks.

What are the negative impacts of such drinks like Red Bull, Monster and the newly added (and scandalously named) Cocaine on our health? Do the benefits of caffeine outweigh the negatives?