Thursday, January 27, 2011

Four Books I've Loved

The following are four books I’ve enjoyed so much that they've remained on my list of favorite books for ten years or longer.  I belong to a couple of different book groups and when the opportunity arises, I recommend that my fellow readers read and enjoy these if they have not yet done so.  I urge you to do the same:

Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy - it's romantic and dreary, sad and intriguing.  A married woman, Anna is caught up in a circle of infidelity and passion, dissatisfaction and betrayal.  Tolstoy's work is considered to be a highly realistic picture of Russian society in the latter half of the 19th century.  I've read it three times, so far...

John Adams by David McCullough - beautifully written, this story of the New England native who became the second President of the United States begins during the American Revolution.  The stories of Adams' contributions during the earliest days of the United States are engaging because they're told in such a personal way.  Along-side the political machinations, John and wife Abigail's letters to each other during some incredibly difficult times remind the reader that history is made by real people.  It's a large book - don't be daunted by that; I couldn't put it down.

To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee - this is Harper Lee's only published novel.  A story of racial inequality in the deep South, it's said to be taken from events that happened in or near Lee's hometown of Monroeville, Alabama, when she was ten years old.  The family life is realistic and the characters richly painted.  Lawyer Atticus Finch and his family will win your heart by page five, if not sooner.  I've read this book many, many times.  It never gets old.

The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand - the essence of this book is explained by the characterization of protagonist Howard Roark:  he is an individual who will settle for nothing less than his own vision of perfection.  His philosphy as an architect is that his artistic integrity is of the utmost importance and he's willing to risk a life of poverty and obscurity to uphold his principles.  Roark is passionate, but cold, in a way.  Likable, though, and the philosophy is fascinating.

I should tell you that the link to each is an Amazon Associate link, meaning that if you click through and purchase any of them, I would receive a small commission.  If you don't purchase, I recommend that you visit your local library for these books.  Either way, happy reading!

Be sure to leave a comment with your favorite books listed...

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

By the Light of the Full Moon

This past week I enjoyed a revelatory experience:  a Full Moon Goddess Gathering, courtesy of my dear friend, motivational speaker and self-esteem coach Kathleen Hassan. Kathleen's passion lies in helping teen girls and women of all ages become all they were born to be and unlock their personal power for self-confidence and success.

According to Kathleen, "the light of the full moon illuminates and assists us in releasing the things in our lives that no longer serve us."  The event began with a powerful introduction by Kathleen, exhorting us to release the light shining from within. We enjoyed a group angel card reading, a cup of tea, and much letting go of "junk" in our lives. Each of the 18 participants drew one or two angel cards, then took some time to reflect on why the message of those cards may be applicable to her life. With encouragement from Kathleen and this dynamic group of women I gained some insight, including confirmation that I will be better off clenching my teeth less and letting go of my urge to control more.

Kathleen can be relied upon for truth and wisdom.  She's generous with a kind word in the context of her coaching practice and in her daily life. She practices what she preaches and is not shy about revealing the difficulties in her past that brought her to this place of knowledge and spirituality where she so joyfully resides. This proponent of the law of attraction also happens to be one of the funniest people I know.

Although the full moon was obscured by thick cloud cover, we goddesses gladly took our individual lists of "things to let go", donned our heavy coats and snow boots, and went to the outdoor firepit to "let it go". As each of us tossed her paper list into the fire and the group chanted over and over "it is gone", we felt a burden lift from our collective shoulders. With hugs for our loving leader and a new-found resolve, we drove off into the nighttime snow flurries feeling a little lighter.

If you'd like to try your own "letting go" session, here is Kathleen's list to help you get started:

comparing myself to others
listening to the voice of ego
putting too much emphasis or care about what others think of me
blame, guilt and shame
jealousy and envy
not accepting myself - just the way I am

For more on this subject, read Kathleen's post Buh-Bye to What No Longer Serves Me
Photo by Public Domain

Thursday, January 20, 2011

How Did I Get Here? Packaging in Review

In the process of revamping our web site (almost ready) and producing some informal "how-to" videos (still working on them) about Intercept Technology packaging, I began to reflect upon my reason for being involved in the packaging business.  Here are my thoughts:

When Joe and I began Liberty Packaging Co., Inc., as a part-time venture 15 years ago, we were enamored of the Intercept products and how miraculous they seemed.  Intercept prevents corrosion and drains a static charge at the perfect rate to prevent damage to the products inside, for short or long-term storage, when shipping and storing anywhere in the world.  Amazing!  A single material that has these capabilities, that does NOT include oils or volatiles, does not outgas or particle shed and is safe for handlers.  Fantastic! It works for metals, large machinery, small parts, electronics, rubber and more.  We had never heard of any single packaging material that had so many positive attributes.  Materials test results substantiated these performance claims and we knew that Bell Labs/Lucent had been using Intercept to package some of its own products for a number of years with great success.

At that time, the possible applications for Intercept Packaging seemed limitless and we got to work finding the manufacturers and other organizations who would see the value of such a versatile material. Because Intercept is a disruptive technology in the packaging field, we found that manufacturers felt the need to do their own testing of the product to be sure it could work for them.  Along the way we've gained some loyal customers and enlightened many manufacturers who have been able to reduce the time spent to package their products or parts, reduce the space required to package (no vacuuming required) and even reduce the materials required to package.  Safe, clean, easy to use, reusable, recyclable material, Intercept is like a dream come true for these customers.

The jewel of test results is a recently-published paper from Alcatel/Lucent, which quantifies its own testing of Static Intercept.  The news is all good:  in comparing the use of Static Intercept bags with traditional metalized shield bags for the protection of sensitive electronics, Static Intercept showed superior performance in tests of environmental impact, ESD dissipation, atmospheric pollution and corrosion testing.  I won't address all of the points here as the paper is highly detailed, but the conclusion states: "This paper has demonstrated the environmental benefits packaging can have on the storage, shipment, and protection of sensitive electronic components - a 40-fold reduction in GWP (global warming potential).  The benefits are shown to be present throughout the entire product lifecycle, but most noticeably in the use phase where the superior protection qualities of the Static Intercept bag are multiplied into environmental benefits."

This paper published by Bell Labs Technical Journal shows that the Static Intercept material has significant environmental and cost advantages over the metalized shield bag.

Liberty Packaging is on the right track - given this validation from Bell Labs, I feel good about my path.  And remain astonished by the seemingly magical capabilities of Intercept packaging materials.  If your company is interested in corrosion and static protective packaging, and in reducing its environmental impact, or you'd like a copy of "Reducing Environmental Impact and Increasing Reliability Through Packaging:  A Lifecycle Assessment Approach", please contact us here.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Recession is a Four Letter Word

It took some time for the word "recession" to replace the ubiquitous "these tough financial times", a phrase I hope never to hear again. According to Wikipedia, the word recession accurately describes what has been occurring in the world economy, to wit: "In economics, a recession is a business cycle contraction, a general slowdown in economic activity over a period of time for more than two consecutive quarters". Phrases like "credit crunch" and "these challenging financial times" are almost euphemistic in the way they tiptoe gingerly around our recent economic status.

Though the downturn began in 2008 the experts who help us understand the state of our economy only lately began to use the word "recession" to describe our circumstances. But stating the obvious, giving the elephant in the room (perhaps another over used phrase?) a name, then moving on to consider the world the way we'd like to see it seems like a good idea. Continuing to blame those who unwisely changed the reporting requirements for banks, allowing mortgages for people who could not afford them, is foolish. Financial institutions conveniently mashing up numbers to hide their ill-considered and selfish machinations is just wrong. Call it by name, insist that the entities and individuals responsible own their mistakes and make retribution, change the system so this cannot happen again, then move on in a productive and positive fashion.  

My ninth-grade English teacher always admonished us to "Tell it like it is". It may sound simplistic, but I think this approach is best in circumstances where there is a challenge to overcome.

The good news according to is that bank economists feel the worst of the global recession has passed.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Julien Smith Thinks I'm Fat

Forgive me. As far as I know, Julien Smith has never said he thinks I’m fat. Here’s what really happened. A New Year’s Day post by Julien caught my attention for two reasons: First, because I’ve gained a few pounds since Thanksgiving week and this weight gain is bugging me. I’ve been the same weight since a short time after my second son was born more than 23 years ago. This is new territory for me, and I’m middle-aged and it’s just weird. Unless you know me very well, you probably won’t notice this weight gain. That’s fine - it’s not really about you, it’s about me.

The second reason Julien caught my attention is that his writing on weight loss suggests I do what I’ve heard from many other sources, but never really (until now) considered doing: give up sugar and flour. I know this works because many friends, particularly those who find themselves facing food allergies or other health issues, have followed a “no sugar/no flour” mandate and all have lost weight, allergy symptoms decreased, life is better, new foods are tried, all good things come to pass. The proof is there: “no sugar-no flour” works for many people.

One reason for my hesitation to employ this regime is that one of my most treasured Christmas gifts is a signed copy of the brand new bakery cookbook by Joanne Chang, 
“Flour: Spectacular Recipes from Boston’s Flour Bakery + Cafe” (associate link). This book (click here for my recent review) is chock full of the most delightful recipes, straight from the kitchen(s) of one of Boston’s most prolific pastry chefs.

I’ve already created Joanne’s buttermilk biscuits and snickerdoodles, and each was sublime. In fact, I’ve tried multiples recipes for buttermilk biscuits in the past and hers was the most fluffy, flaky, and tender batch of biscuits I’ve ever made.

The most delightful fun for me in the kitchen is throwing some butter and sugar into my Kitchen Aid mixer and concocting some type of cookie, bar, bread or cake for my family and whoever else happens by for a cup of tea. Perhaps you could say it’s in my DNA to bake. How can I possibly turn my back on sugar and flour?

Let’s just say I’m weighing my options....

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

The Power of a Dream

This post is brought to you by the letter P.

It was a dream, yet oh so vivid.  It was New Year’s Eve.  In my dream, for some reason, my husband was urging me to write about “power".  The name Faith Popcorn (affiliate link) was mentioned - perhaps because in years past I’ve thought of her as my go-to predictor of the future as each calendar year comes to a close.  In my dream I was craving popcorn, which is not uncommon when I’m awake, truth be told.  I enjoy popcorn for snacking every few days.  Packaging was featured in said dream as well - we are in the packaging business and had been, in real life, diligently churning out product demo videos over the holiday break.

Needless to say, New Year’s Day my first task was to take note of said dream.  Then a reasonably polite interval after breakfast, I made some popcorn. 

Power, popcorn, and packaging.  Obviously popcorn and packaging figure into the scheme of my life on a regular basis.  The word “power” is not one I consider often in relation to my own life.  Why “power”?  After some consideration, I think it may be related to all the talk of New Years resolutions and self-improvement promises swirling around me.  All the promises to exercise more, eat better, quit smoking, refrain from cursing, call Mom weekly.  I think this dream of “power” is a message to myself to reread a book that influenced my thinking more than any other in recent memory:  “The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment” by Eckhart Tolle’s 1999 self-help book in which Tolle urges us to breathe “the air of the spiritual”.  It was immensely helpful to me when I first read it a couple of years ago in my quest to become a more positive-minded individual.

Time to revisit “The Power of Now” and reinforce Tolle’s message of positivity and enlightenment.  I find the more I seek the type of positivity found in books like Tolle's, the easier it is to maintain a good attitude, even in times of challenge.  To me, that's power.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Good Packaging Evolves

I recently purchased new bed sheets and pillowcases to ensure that our holiday guests would be comfortable during their stay in our home.
It was a nice surprise to find this thoughtful new packaging from
Springmaid (affiliate link) and Home, a house brand of Target store; both clearly making the effort to reduce the use of plastics and packaging in general. Both have eliminated the usual plastic or cellophane on the outside of the package, which is fine with me, as I normally wash new sheets before using. Each has a small amount of corrugated paper inside the sheets or pillowcases to maintain the shape of the package. Both have used a minimum number of ink colors for imprinting - also a consideration. All of the packaging materials can go into our town's recycle stream.

There is still plenty of work to be done in order to achieve the ultimate in retail packaging (reduce first, then reuse and recycle), but improvements are constantly in the works in the retail realm. The big picture requires packaging materials and methods that will keep the product fresh on the shelf for as long as possible, with fewer and better (recycled, reusable, recyclable) materials. Our responsibility as consumers is to pay attention, try the products, evaluate what works, and continue to be a thoughtful part of the discussion.