Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Make My Day

This is the time of year when many people see only the light at the end of the tunnel. They travel through their day with great purpose, without regard for what is swirling around them, only seeing that there are too many other cars on the road home from the office, no parking spots at the mall or in front of the library. If there are two customers in front of them at the ATM, this throws off their carefully-timed expedition by possibly ten minutes - a catastrophe of epic proportions. Perhaps this person is you.

I was once this person. I occasionally lapse into this behavior even now, grumbling about the lack of carriages or baggers at the grocery, the selection of greeting cards at the drugstore. But it's no fun and spreads irritation and ill-will, so I'm offering myself up as a bad example, in case you find yourself indulging in this type of negative behavior. After all, you're only human. My recommendation to you is that you find a mirror (perhaps you're in the car - the rear-view mirror works fine for this little exercise), look yourself in the eye and laugh. It may feel fake, initially. That's okay - give it a try. It really helps - what friendlier face could you find than your own familiar mug, laughing at yourself? It takes the edge off, you can go about your day feeling sufficiently appreciated. Then take a look around you - drink it all in - and remember to pay that smile, that laugh, forward to the next person you see....it's contagious!

Do it - I promise it'll make your day.

Still need a reason to laugh? Try this laughing baby video (if you're at work, turn the volume down).

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Flour: Spectacular Recipes from Boston's Flour Bakery + Cafe

Joanne Chang is an industry all by herself. This young woman has multiple Flour bakery locations (two in Boston, one in Cambridge) plus Asian restaurant Myers + Chang - co-owned with well-respected chef Chris Myers. Joanne's new "Flour: Spectacular Recipes from Boston's Flour Bakery + Cafe" cookbook is flying off the shelves of bookstores (we snagged the last one at Borders in Dedham) and on a recent Saturday morning my husband drove to Flour in the South End to catch up with Joanne and have her sign the book. Meanwhile, the place was mobbed with people clamoring for their Flour breakfast pastry and coffee.

"Flour" is a delightful and creative read - hardcover - co-authored by Christie Matheson with amazing photography by Keller + Keller. Joanne introduces the name "Flour" and her rationale behind that choice, which harkens back to a theoretical math class she took in college (she has a degree in applied math and economics from Harvard). It all makes sense, really. Even the most complex things begin with basic building blocks - if you bake (or even eat), you know that flour is a basic ingredient in many foods, especially baked goods.

Joanne provides us with helpful how-to's on techniques like applying a crumb coat, or whipping egg whites. She also gives the reader a list of necessary kitchen equipment, baking ingredients and why each is important, and her "Joanne's Top 12 Baking Tips". All of this is valuable; then the meat of the book contains recipes for many of the delectable treats you'll find in the Flour Bakery: brioche to banana bread, candied oranges and chocolate sorbet - these are some of the delights for which you'll find very complete instruction. And on page 134, my personal Flour favorite: Homemade Oreos! Can't wait to fire up my Kitchen Aid for this one.

You can find the book on Amazon here. It's also available in the Flour Bakeries.

All told, this "Flour" cookbook is a terrific resource for any baker and I look forward to getting started....

Click here for more about Flour Bakery + Cafe

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Packaging Expert JoAnn Hines on Targeting Consumers Through Packaging

In a recent issue of ThomasNet Industry Marketing Trends (IMT) Expert's Corner, JoAnn Hines, aka The Packaging Diva, lays out how the still-weak economy and fickle consumers are forcing businesses to rethink their packaging decisions.

It goes without saying that packaging plays a critical role in marketing a product or brand. However, it takes more than just a pretty package to sell a product that resonates with consumers.

IMT recently picked the brain of JoAnn Hines, a packaging consultant, speaker, educator and overall one of the busiest people in the packaging industry. Known in the industry as The Packaging Diva, Hines weighs in on some of the key forces within product packaging today.

For Hines' insight into the consumer packaging market, now and for 2011, read the full article here: Targeting Consumers Through Packaging

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Shake and Bake

It's like clock-work: daylight savings time arrives and the urge to spend time in the kitchen with it. All summer we subsist on whatever can be grilled and the occasional dinner out or sandwiches packed and carried to the beach. This last few weeks, though, I'm cooking and baking away: soups, brownies, cookies, chicken marsala, beef stew. It makes me feel warm and the house cozy during these dark Fall afternoons.

It happens every year around this time and I know, like the seasons, the newness of this kitchen creativity will wear off for me, usually by the day after Christmas. Meanwhile, my family enjoys hearty meals and plentiful leftovers. And I'm happy to note that young friend Jane has caught the "baking bug" and we the oh-so grateful beneficiaries of her largesse. So far we've enjoyed delicious cupcakes, sweet potato yeast bread and the best whole wheat dinner rolls ever. We dearly hope this trend continues....

Click here for fun facts about "Spring forward/Fall back"

Monday, November 15, 2010

Packaging - More than Meets the Eye

Packaging is what catches your eye in the cereal aisle at the grocery store. It's the reason you gravitate to those great headphones in the big box electronics store or that geegaw on the checkout counter at the 24-hour shop near your office. Packaging, or more accurately, packaging design, when well thought out and executed, speaks to you, the target audience, and draws you in. Colors, brand names, materials, fonts, inks, logos, taglines, and mission statements, often more than what the product actually is or does, will dictate your purchase.

Wikipedia's page for Packaging and Labeling provides an all-inclusive definition of the science, art and technology of packaging.

The materials used in packaging design are undergoing close scrutiny - unless you're growing all of your own food, you see evidence of this in the market every day. Sensible use of materials is being demanded by consumers and their advocates and in some countries mandated. Packaging designers and engineers must now consider the whole life of both the product and its packaging when proposing how that product will go to market - food, electronics, appliances, automobile parts, medicines - everything that is in-process, shipped, stored, consumed, exchanged, imported, or exported.

Items packaged safely, but with a minimum of packaging, are gaining popularity because of environmental considerations. Smart packaging is key and changes are being made daily. For amazing and innovative retail packaging ideas, head straight to The Dieline. Manufacturers of electronics and metals where corrosion or field defects may be a concern should consider the benefits of Intercept Technology Packaging as a solution. For cogent discussion on where packaging is headed, read The Packaging Diva's "Packaging News You Can Use" blog and join the discussion.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Focus on Excellence

My friend Mike has the most incredible focus. Mike is single-minded in his approach to learning and so enthusiastic about his studies that I cannot help but be drawn in. The fact that his primary subject is President Kennedy adds to the fascination.

Fifty years ago next month, Democratic Presidential candidate John F. Kennedy faced Republican candidate Richard M. Nixon in the first televised presidential debate in U.S. history. Radio listeners may have thought the debate a draw, but on TV, cool-headed JFK was the clear winner over the frazzled, sweating, five-o-clock-shadowed Nixon. This event forever changed the way politics is viewed in the media and certainly helped Kennedy win the November 8, 1960, election over Nixon.

Though he was in office for but a short time, President Kennedy's most valuable asset was his ability to speak to the citizens of the U.S. (with the help of brilliant speechwriter Ted Sorenson) to convey the importance of diplomacy, the arts, and justice in our world.

Which brings me back to the subject of excellence. My friend Mike is honing his JFK show in every spare moment, constantly striving to be the best he can be, both physically and in his knowledge of the life and times of JFK. He's brilliant at performing the magnificent speeches of JFK, conveying the emotion and careful crafting of every phrase. For Mike, excellence is an imperative.

Click here to learn more about Mike's JFK Experience

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Proceed with Caution - Enthusiasm is Contagious

I recently met young Michael Fontaine, age 20, who has been interested in special effects makeup since he was three years old. He cites the movie "The Exorcist" as the impetus behind his great love of special effects. Michael is both creative and articulate, so his stories of past makeup, drawing, and sculpture projects are completely captivating.

Being around someone like Michael, who expresses excitement and enthusiasm about his work, requires the audience (in this case, me) to see the work through his eyes. While this young man animatedly explained several projects in which he has participated I was thinking how amazing it is that this kid latched onto his chosen career at age three, did the work, made the connections and is now being recommended and mentored by the biggest names in the Hollywood special effects makeup industry. And he continues to do the work (with relish!) to master new skills, as the technology continues to evolve.

You may be working on something completely different, but the energy generated within you by simply listening to a happy and enthusiastic person can carry over into your day, if you're open to that. I know it works for me, even subconsciously. Imagine how a deliberate effort will work - when harnessed properly, another's enthusiasm can power us to focus and be more productive, enjoy the task at hand. That's my plan for tomorrow...

Artwork and photo credits: Michael Fontaine

Sunday, August 22, 2010

The Van Burens Get Ready

If you know me, you already know that two of these handsome Van Burens (a Canton-based band) in the photograph are my sons. Sears was kind and marketing-savvy enough to sponsor a few groups over the summer for a nifty travel opportunity - a video presentation was required to enter the contest - and The Van Burens were chosen by Sears to receive a travel stipend toward their trip, plus some work on "Ruby Pearl" their trusty band van by the Sears Blue Automotive Crew, as well as a new video camera. Since the VBs are on the road on a regular basis, this is a perfect opportunity for them to work their craft, meet new friends, and hone their video production skills on Sears' dime.

Here for your viewing enjoyment is The Van Burens Get Ready, the band's first video-post of their week-long Sears Exploring My America Road Trip, which takes them through a portion of the Appalachian Trail between Gorham, NH, and Gettysburg, PA.

Stay tuned for new posts each day this week. These guys are a talented bunch, and ensuing videos promise to be filled with their particular brand of off-beat humor, with music and history woven throughout.

Be sure to visit Sears Exploring My America or The Van Burens daily to vote and help the VBs win the Sears contest (and a daily chance for you to win a $100 Amex gift card).
Bon Voyage!

Photo credit Chris Bernstein

Friday, August 20, 2010

The (MacBook Pro) Honeymoon Is Over

I love my MacBook Pro, don't get me wrong. It's just that I'm no longer infatuated with it. You know that first blush of attraction you get for a new electronic gadget? It's gone, kaput, fizzled. My MacBook Pro (affiliate link) is reliable, smart, and gets things done on time and under budget, but I no longer snuggle into bed with it each night to chat on Facebook or Twitter, or watch my favorite shows on Hulu. For months after I purchased my MacBook Pro I would have separation anxiety each time I left the house. It would wait patiently in its neon pink zippered scuba-gear sleeve and I would long for the moment I could return to power it up and label my photographs, download music, or see who had posted new grandchildren pics on Facebook.

The Mac software, like Garage Band, iPhoto, iTunes and iWeb is used daily. I'm learning something new every month or so with my One to One or Workshop sessions at my favorite Apple Store (Derby Street in Hingham, - hi, Steve and Andy!).

The honeymoon is over, but the comfort level is high. My MacBook and I are together for the long-term.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

As Time Flows By

"The measurement of time is a human invention.
It exists only because humans agree on the ways time is measured...seconds, minutes, days.
When we change from daylight to standard time,
it's only because we agree on it.
But time itself doesn't need a clock or us.
Time flows measured or unmeasured.
It flows with or without us." ~Jok Church

This is a wonderfully accurate observation by Jok Church (of "Beakman's World" fame). While humans may think we control it, time requires no help from us - it marches onward with or without our wall clocks, wrist or pocket watches, bedside snooze buttons, cell phone clocks, calendars, Day-Timers and iPhone alarms. I'm comfortable with that...

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

The Theater of the Airport

Sitting in the airport (many hours logged in the past few months) I find myself physically incapable of reading a book or magazine. The goings-on around me are far too fascinating than any novel I've ever read. Business-men and women, families with kids, a high school group with chaperones, a Dad and his son visiting colleges, the airport staff and restaurant-workers. Young, old, joyous or not, fit or carrying an oxygen tank. I'm pretty sure I'm staring rudely (please accept my apology), but I can't help myself. I want to know what you're wearing, eating, reading, talking about - what do you do for work? How old is that kid with the nose ring playing the hand-held video game and why is she traveling alone? Why is that woman reading a trashy novel rather than talking with her husband and daughter over a late dinner? I'll never know the answers, but people-watching in any airport, day or night, is great theater....

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Luggage Dilemma Solved!

I'm so pleased with my new little blue Samsonite Feather Lite suitcase with wheels, telescoping handle and plenty of zipper pockets. It's the perfect size, no fancy gadgets, and the price was right. Purchased at Marshall's, this little blue traveler will be a cinch to locate among all the mostly black bags at the baggage claim.

No more pondering; the choice has been made.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Luggage is Confusing

I'm shopping for a new suitcase. The little inexpensive fabric wheelie bag I bought 12 years ago at BJs Wholesale Club for $45 has some miles on it and is showing signs of wear. Being a thrifty sort, and not being required to travel by plane more than once a year, I've just kept using this somewhat raggedy bag. It's been to Italy once, Disney World a few times, and to the beach house even more. It's been all around Massachusetts, to New York City and even the Poconos. Its telescoping handle is rickety and the seams are starting to come apart around the zippers, but I'm having a difficult time parting with my little green suitcase.

I've searched on Zappos, at Filene's Basement, Marshall's, and Macy's for luggage. No purchase yet. It all seems so expensive to me and I'm afraid to make a commitment. Perhaps I'm being unreasonable. I've procrastinated long enough - there is a trip looming and I must chose.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Seth Godin's Road Trip 2010 -Preheat Mode

Seth Godin has been my daily inspiration for about a year. I subscribe to his newsletter, and each morning I add another of his pieces to the puzzle of the how and the why. Seth has an unusual gift for identifying the behavior of individuals and groups, and providing ways one might challenge or capitalize on said behavior, depending. Seth doesn't profess to know everything, but he offers a highly accessible playbook, for business or for life, in "Linchpin: Are You Indispensible?", teaching us how we can make a difference. Isn't that what most of us want - to make a difference? That's my take on it.

When Seth Godin makes a public appearance, it's generally a private audience. Seth recently asked his followers to help him create events in some major cities and a grass roots effort by many (clearly indispensable) Seth fans has resulted in Seth Godin Road Trip 2010 - Fight the Lizard or as it's known on Twitter, #sethroadtrip. First stop, Boston on June 17! A fortuitous side effect of the Seth Road Trip support is that small communities of Godin fans are getting to know each other. I'm sure he planned it that way - tickets are going fast, so click the Road Trip link above and join in the fun.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Great Packaging: the Gift that Keeps on Giving

I'm in the packaging business. I love packaging. If it's useful, protective, plastic, logoed, beautifully colored, plain, fancy, paper, reusable, buttoned, zipped, tied with a bow or not, I love it all. Innovation in packaging has revolutionized the food industry and I especially appreciate the freedom that this great packaging allows us.

We recently visited our friend, Tom, who owns a specialty shop selling wines and olive oils and all kinds of foodie goodies that are out of the ordinary; not regular grocery store fare. Tom talked about his visit to a restaurant supply show where he viewed myriad new items that make food preparation simpler for restaurant owners. All of the items he mentioned are foods that would require very little preparation - just cook, arrange artfully on a plate and listen for the yummy sounds from your dining room.

Because of GREAT packaging, we now have juicy eight-ounce hamburger patties ready for grilling and fresh pastas any time we want, even soft-shell crabs out of season. Salad greens, deli meats, fresh bread, pulled pork, exotic fish, tender cuts of beef - whatever your palate craves, with delectable gourmet flavorings, ready to use with little or no preparation. I think back to the days when my Mom was feeding a family of seven at the end of an eight-hour work day, with exactly zero convenience food items - everything was fresh - washed, cut, seasoned, cooked and served by Mom the Chef. I'm especially grateful for Mom's skill in the kitchen, but ever more grateful for the freedom that is available to me, in the kitchen and elsewhere, because of innovative packaging.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

I've Heard that Song Before - Recipe for Change

"It seems to me I've heard that song before,
It's from an old familiar score
I know it well that melody."

I was listening to this song last week for the purpose of learning it. It was written by the famous team of Jule Styne and Sammy Cahn, recorded by Harry James and his Orchestra with Helen Forrest on vocals and became a pop hit in early 1943. Like many songs of that era, it speaks to memories and love lost during wartime. Sad, but sweet.

It occurs to me that the lyrics of this song could relate to my life, and how some of the daily tasks or situations in which I find myself have been repeated over and over (I've heard that song before). I thought perhaps, while acknowledging that I recognize that it is a similar tune (I know it well, that melody), I could think of a different way to perform this tune (task or situation) to facilitate a different outcome. Even if the original outcome for me is working just fine.

For instance, I've read that putting your pants on starting with the "other" leg, forces you to reconsider that small act. I've tried this, and find that it does make you think differently, forcing you out of an old habit just for a moment (I habitually start with the right leg). Any yoga or pilates teacher or physical therapist will tell you that switching sides when vacuuming, raking or shoveling snow helps your body be more balanced in its strength and coordination. So although our natural proclivity may be to always vacuum right (or left) handed, it's worth it to give equal time to the other side - I know my brain works harder, less on automatic pilot when I vacuum or shovel left-handed. Perhaps a little slower at first, but I get the job done.

Another way to make a change and promote a different kind of balance: if I normally didn't greet the people I pass on my walks (or the cashier, mail carrier, or woman in the next office cubicle), I could try nodding my head or just saying hello, and see if that helps me feel friendlier and more connected to the people around me. The worst that could happen is that they don't return the favor - the best outcome (and I am one to assume the best of people) is that that friendly gesture makes both me and the recipient of the "hello" feel noticed and appreciated. Small gestures can be very powerful and are not to be underestimated.

Making small changes like this can feel like a challenge at first, but practiced over time, can lead us to more thoughtfulness about our daily life, a feeling of connection with those around us, and a new and satisfying comfort level with change. All of this may engender a renewed feeling of openness and well-being. Positively.

The photo above is of American singer Helen Forrest, who began singing at age 10, in her brother's band, worked for big band leaders Artie Shaw and Bennie Goodman, then Nat King Cole and Lionel Hampton, before being hired by Harry James. She left Harry James' Orchestra in 1943 to pursue a solo career, appearing on radio and in movies before singing with the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra, then led by Sam Donahue (it was the early 1960s). Helen Forrest recorded over 500 songs during her long career and didn't retire until her 70s, when arthritis forced her to give up performing. Given all that she did in her lifetime, she is clearly a great role model for change.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Shop Special Sale Club Now!

The club referenced in my title is the members only shopping club by which customers obtain special pricing in stores. It's a fact that nearly every store in which I shop regularly has a special membership club. If you sign up (it'll just take a minute) you get special pricing and coupons and another little tag to hang on your already jam-packed keyring.

I understand the concept of a paid club membership to play golf, or a gym to work out, but an unpaid membership to a grocery store or pharmacy seems absurd to me. I realize it's just a method for keeping track of patrons' purchasing habits and a marketing ploy to make shoppers feel unique and cared for. Sort of a sly "permission marketing".

I find this mode of marketing a bit irritating. I don't want to carry more stuff in my purse or pocket, I'd really rather carry less. I'd rather you (I mean you, grocery store or Hallmark Card shop) please just give me (and everyone else) the special prices and stop with the memberships. I can even understand a paid membership to the big box stores like BJs and Costco, where you pay a membership fee to get the special pricing and you can choose to shop there or not. But when I go to CVS and the cashier asks whether I have a CVS card, the hair stands up on the back of my neck with irritation. I'm not entitled to purchase items at the sale prices without the card. Buy a mascara and get the eye shadow at 50% off; that's the kind of sale I'm talking about. So, of course, I have a CVS card. And three different grocery store "memberships", plus BJs, two bookstores, gas station, etc, etc. The coupons resulting (supposedly another membership perk) from such transactions never get used, because I have so many little receipts/coupons in my purse I can't keep track, then they are expired by the time I notice.

I don't think it's just me - I've heard rumblings from others. We can choose not to participate, and sometimes I say "no thank you". I want to know what you think...

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Music to Remember By

I've been singing all my life. Both of my parents have lovely singing voices; all of my siblings and I have sung casually or professionally pretty much our entire lives. We were likened to the Von Trapp Family in our parish growing up (that's still a little embarrassing for some reason) and there was always music in our house. And sing-alongs in the car on any trip longer than 20 minutes, especially at Christmastime. We listened to the Singing Nun, crooner John Gary, Herb Alpert, PDQ Bach, Linda Ronstadt, the Gatlin Brothers - we were all over the map in terms of musical taste. We all still remember many of those songs we sang together 40 years ago, like "The Hearth Song". And I know for sure that my Mom and Dad remember lyrics and melodies that are even older, but it wouldn't be polite for me to say how old!

This longevity of musical memory brings to mind the idea of music as mnemonic device. I've often thought, when trying to recall a name or place or even the outline of a presentation, that if it was set to music I'd have an easier time remembering. According to Think Quest "A Mnemonic device is a method for enhancing memory. When using the term mnemonic device, most people are referring to a trick that one uses to help memorize something." You probably use mnemonic devices without even thinking about them. Here's one I use regularly: "thirty days hath September, April, June and November ...etc." It's not a song, but the meter is reminiscent of music or poetry until you reach this part: "February, which has 28 or sometimes 29". That's a bit awkward, but it works every time.

About.com: Secondary Education has a list of mnemonic devices for students (aren't we all students?) that you may find helpful if, for instance, you cannot recall the names of the five great lakes or the order of operations in math. Or you can create your own memory devices, which you may find easier.

I could take the names of the planets or the recipe for "Madeline's Brownies" and set them to a familiar melody like "Running on Empty" from Jackson Browne or "As Time Goes By" (yes, the song from "Casablanca") or anything from Jesus Christ Superstar, and I'd remember them readily. It's an interesting idea, but I guess I find it easier still to use Google, a cookbook or phone a knowledgeable friend to get my facts straight, rather than attempt to re-lyricize a song.

The picture above is the band I've been fortunate to be a part of for the past ten years (and still going strong), The Tom LaMark Orchestra. Great musicians and true gentlemen, who must have a catalog of a million songs if you tally up all they know collectively.
Photo credit: Susan Wilson.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Workday Refreshment: Break Time

Consider this a public service announcement. If I had a megaphone, I might use it, turned up to 11, for this friendly reminder:
Now that Spring appears in the Northeast (as evidenced by the sunshine and green shoots in my yard), remember to step outside at lunch or whenever it's convenient, just for a few minutes. Tree-gazing, flower sniffing, bird-watching, or a quick stroll by the single tree near your office building will do wonders for your attitude and demeanor. Co-workers will think "I'll have what she's having". They may ask whether you've lost weight or had a haircut. You'll have roses in your cheeks and a clear mind. Take a break and refresh yourself - get back to nature, even for five minutes. It'll make your day so much more enjoyable.

Sunday, February 14, 2010


Our minds see and hear what our past experience has trained us to expect. Naturally, there are blanks in each individual experience, which is tied to our place of birth, family, schooling and the myriad of people who have influenced us in large or small ways. The mailman and the family dentist have caused us to think a certain way about all mailmen and dentists. My mailman and my dentist (each very competent at his job) don't represent all mailmen and dentists in the world; they're individuals. Generalizations about a group may contain accuracies, but they don't allow for individuality. If we look into the proverbial mirror, we may notice blanks in our experience, or blind spots, which can hinder us from seeing another person's point of view.

Blind spots often manifest as anger, jealousy, resentment, fear of the unknown. They are why we feel threatened by someone voicing an opposing opinion, or even by the person in the next car trying to merge into traffic in front of us. Awareness of these blind spots is a good place to start. That old adage "you get what you give" hints that we should put aside the ego to look, listen, and really connect with those around us. That human connection, filling in the blanks, the ability to feel empathy or sympathy for our fellow humans, makes us better neighbors, partners, parents and people. That reflection in the mirror is you . . . and every connection you make.

William M. Thackeray: Quotes: Reflection
"The world is a looking glass and gives back to every man the reflection of his own face."

The Value of Intelligent Packaging

Packaging is a hot topic. Particularly when a new fancy cell phone or game platform is launched, or any computer product, there's a lot of buzz about packaging and how difficult the newer rigid plastics are to open or how over-packaged these (and other) items may or may not be. And obviously, with the green, eco, earth-friendly, environmental trend, packaging has been vilified as an unnecessary and wasteful landfill-clogger.

The movement toward economy in packaging is healthy, no doubt. The mantra reduce-reuse-recycle makes sense. The companies involved with the design and manufacture of packaging are hyper-aware of the rumbling by consumers. The fact remains, though, packaging itself is extremely valuable. The urge to label all packaging as bad is simply short-sighted.

With great packaging, the eggs you enjoy for breakfast remain whole and fresh until you cook them; the allergy medicine you keep in your desk is safe and retains its efficacy for when you need it most. No doubt about it: the safety and freshness of all the foods and medicines we ingest are due to proper packaging. In fact, the value of all products in the retail marketplace is greatly affected by packaging. Outside the retail realm there is smart packaging that keeps the individual components of computers, MRI scanners, space shuttles, airplanes and automobiles safe and ready for assembly, long before you see the final product.

Smart packaging is key, ideally beginning in the design stage of the product being packaged, through manufacturing, storage, shipment and use, so that entire process is focused on using the exact quantity and quality of materials required to protect the safety and functionality of the product. If the TV and each of its individual components have been properly packaged all the way from factory to consumer, the TV will function longer, meaning it will stay out of the landfill or recycle stream longer.

Intelligent packaging is being developed all over the world by companies and individuals who care about getting it right. It's not just about carbon footprint or monetary value. It's a delicate balance to reduce packaging materials, be aware of safety both within the manufacturing plant and for the consumer, ensure the whole life of the product being packaged, and maintain fiscal responsibility.

Friday, February 12, 2010


I just had a lovely phone conversation with West Coast Twitter connection Maia Berens. You might know her as @LifeCoachMaia. We connected accidentally, as people often do in the world of social media, and felt a certain kinship over the course of several months, so decided a chat on the phone was in order. We talked about our lives: husbands, kids, various jobs, and life philosophies. Part of the conversation had to do with the philosophy of being in the moment, how the challenges of life force us (or allow us) each to be a work in progress. We agreed that it's crucial to relish the details as we go about the process of life.

After Maia said goodbye and I returned to the sink to finish washing the dinner dishes, I recalled having heard that 20th century painter Norman Rockwell was eternally reluctant to let go of his artworks, even when they would have been deemed complete by anyone else. I'm not sure why that popped into my head, but I think there is a connection here. Even works that were commissioned by patrons of Rockwell with a large paycheck pending at the finish line were unwillingly released. I understand that there may have been issues with depression, and perhaps other things going on, but I'd offer that Mr. Rockwell seemed to truly cherish the process of creating art. At least that's what it looks like to me.

Intentions and goals are worthy and necessary, no doubt, but the road is so much sweeter if you savor the process.

"When I go to farms or little towns, I am always surprised at the discontent I find. And New York, too often, has looked across the sea toward Europe. And all of us who turn our eyes away from what we have are missing life." ~Norman Rockwell

Monday, February 8, 2010

Hibernation Consideration

In grade school we learned that chipmunks, bears, and other warm-blooded animals hibernate in winter, which allows them to survive the colder temperatures. I've been thinking a lot about this: perhaps New Englanders should strongly consider hibernation. A good time to begin may be as soon as the Thanksgiving dishes are washed and put away. We'd snuggle into our caves with full bellies, our body temperatures would drop and we'd survive on our stored body fat until Spring, to awaken just in time for the Boston Marathon. The long-suffering residents of Hopkinton would need to emerge early to get ready for the onslaught of racers, but at least they'd be well-rested. The remainder of us would be content to lie drowsily on the sofa watching the race on TV while replenishing our body fat stores with whatever snack foods we'd squirreled away. Halloween candy?

Perhaps you'd rather a modified hibernation; staying inside, but not sleeping the winter away. Technology lets us perform most of the tasks of living in society without ever leaving our homes. Work, chatting with family and friends, purchasing shoes from Zappos, choosing furniture or groceries for delivery, sending flowers to Mom or paying bills - all can be accomplished online while ensconced in a comfortable chair. We'd save on dry cleaning by dressing in our cozy, machine washable, sweatpants. Wii Fit games and yoga on DVD would help us stay in shape. Unlimited music, movies, Sporcle, and Seinfeld repeats would keep us entertained and if we wanted to learn, online courses for credit or otherwise are plentiful.

There'd be a Facebook fan page for hibernation where we'd compare notes and upload photos from our Blackberries, and #hibernate would trend on Twitter. New iPhone apps would abound.

It's a little late in the season to start now, but let's talk about it after your summer vacation and work out the details for next winter. And if you'd rather not participate, would you please shovel my front walk while I hibernate?

The gorgeous photo of the bear came from:

Native Americans

First People is a child friendly site about Native Americans and members of the First Nations. 1400+ legends, 400+ agreements and treaties, 10,000+ pictures, free clipart, Pueblo pottery, American Indian jewelry, Native American Flutes and more.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Bell Labs: John Franey on its low-static, eco-friendly packaging technology

Intercept Technology Xtend Pkg Shot Show 2010 Vegas

Intercept Technology Xtend Pkg Shot Show 2010 Vegas
Originally uploaded by laineyd7

Plenty to see at the Xtend/Intercept Packaging Booth at Day 3 of Shot Show 2010 in Las Vegas. Intercept is important material for evidence protection and we have some intelligent new products on view at Booth L-124.

Short or long-term storage, clean, no corrosion or degradation of evidence, no outgas or particle shed, so no chemical compounds introduced to the evidence. Intercept materials meet stringent environmental and packaging regulations of Europe and the US.

Intercept see-through evidence bags mean easy content verification during audits, so no opening and resealing.

Say hello to Ken (seen here in Terminator pose) and Chris if you stop in.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Breaking the Rubber Band

As I walked through the local park a few weeks ago, the sun was shining, the breeze warm, and Umphrey's McGee's "Mantis" was blasting on my iPod. I've taken to listening to that album pretty exclusively while at the gym or outside walking, because it lifts my spirits like no other music. A bit of an obsession, you may think, but I always feel refreshed and full of ideas following an Umphrey's workout session.

One of the lines in the Umphrey's song "Mantis", "Turmoil stands like old rubber bands, unbreaking" started me thinking. The fact is, rubber bands eventually do degrade and break - it has probably happened to you and it stings if one snaps on you while you're trying to wrap it around a pile of books or tuck your hair into a ponytail.

There's no denying that there is turmoil of all types in our world. The smaller stuff (spilling your coffee, or a dead battery in your car) to the more weighty (a sick child or parent, or worse) - it can often feel like pretty big trouble while it's happening to you. Terrorism, war, economic crises and pandemic illnesses loom large, touching some directly and all by our connection to each other.

If rubber bands can and do break, I propose that the chain of turmoil can be broken as well. It will mean breaking the habit of focusing on the negative, talking about only the bad news, the problems, the annoyances, the illnesses, the terrorists. I don't suggest we bury our heads in the sand, but each in our own way concentrate on spreading positivity and good. Support one another. Laugh when we can. Acknowledge the challenges, then begin the plan to change our individual lives and the world, bit by bit, one rubber band at a time.