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Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Thursday, December 20, 2012

A Visit to Blairstown

Blairstown

I took a little drive up to Blairstown today. 



I needed to get to Nature's Harvest to pick up some miso and nutritional yeast for a couple of recipes.

This interesting little town of approximately 6,000 people was incorporated in 1845.  I'm generally not good in small towns even though I grew up in one.  



Blairstown is not like any other small town I know.  There's a vibe; a good vibe.  And, once you talk to a couple of shop keepers, you get a pleasing sense of culture and intellect.









As I parked, I took note of Historic Blairstown Theatre across the street.  



I haven't attended any events there yet but some coming attractions caught my eye.  Check out their calendar.










I popped my head into Gallery 23 first.  I'd visited a few months ago, bought a small watercolor and had a good chat.  



The gallery today was with filled with gorgeous things by a variety of artists and artisans:  paintings, custom jewelry, pottery, art glass, hand-made notecards, Christmas ornaments, shawls; beautiful, beautiful things.  I didn't want to take time to chat today; I saw the bookstore was open and hadn't been there before.  

The BookNest is a small, well packed store with new and used titles in a variety of categories.  There are also collectible dolls and a variety of gift items by local artisans.  



Today there were well-displayed Christmas books and some interesting Christmas ornaments.  I had a good chat with Herman, the proprietor. 

I buy a Christmas ornament every year for my son and granddaughter; it's a tradition my mother started in our family a long time ago.  I found this year's ornament at The BookNest.



I finally got over to Nature's Harvest Natural Foods Store.  I'd been there before too, when I was just trying to start this business, back in the fall.  I'd taken a quick spin around the store then but this time I was there for some specific things.  



This is one of the best natural foods stores I've seen in at least a decade.  They have everything.  Packed into this small market are shelves crowded with just about every and any natural and organic ingredient you can think of:  flours, nuts, extracts - everything.  They have fresh produce, lots of personal care products, vitamins and minerals, teas, and a variety of things like canned soups, breads, and pet foods.  



They've always been friendly and helpful when I've contacted them. Today we had a quick chat about possibilities of substitutes for sesame meal which isn't as readily available as it had been several decades ago.  I don't need a huge supply; it's just me and one recipe.  I think we came up with a good possibility.  

I was so impressed with the extent of what's available at Nature's Harvest that I'll be visiting Blairstown more often in the future.

It's a beautiful drive to Blairstown, relaxing.  The town is petite and unique and there are wonderful shops there.  

(photos here were not taken today and are from the sites of the featured businesses without permission and will be removed on request.)






Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Times Flies

Christmas is a week away and I'm hardly ready.  I think many feel the same.  As usual I haven't even approached what I'd like to accomplish before then nor will I have by then.  Still, I have all my shopping done.  If you're in the same situation, just relax, do what you can, relax, accept what isn't finished, relax, enjoy the day as it will be.

It could be depressing but I refuse to let myself go down that spiral.  I got a wonderful CD yesterday.  I try to buy 1 more Christmas CD each year.  I love Christmas music.  It's an old album but a wonderful one:




I highly recommend this album.

Still waiting for certain people to finish what I've paid them to do so I can figure out what to do, if anything with this business.  I'm on hold for the time being.

But, before I go:

If you're in Phillipsburg, visit or investigate these local businesses:


Star Light Farm

Ariel's Massage Therapy

Paul Davis Emergency Services

Aunt Lee's Antiques and Hobby Center

Serenity BodyWorks

Robert A. Parr IV Photography

Makoto Japanese Restaurant


Hopefully, the new year will bring good things for us all.

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, Happy Chanukah, Happy New Year.  I won't be back before then.



Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Our Country

Ours, not somebody else's.  Our Country, our state, our county, our town.  Ours.



You know, it's really interesting - visit the Democratic Party, Republican Party, Green Party, Justice Party web sites. Do you see what I see? 

Neither the Dems nor Repubs actually have platform statements on their sites, at least not that I can find. Both are focused on electing party members. Both the Green and Justice parties have clearly defined platforms. You can see clearly what they stand for. 

I'm an Independent. I'm for NO parties. They cloud the issues or don't actually care about them, for the most part, particularly those who've been around too long. I'm OK with the election results but our entire system is a mess.

I'm not very political.  I vote.  I email my reps fairly frequently about what concerns me; they work for Us.  I'm beginning to think that I have to email all of them weekly.  A really awful local talk show host, here in New Jersey, once said something on the air that I actually thought was brilliant.  He said that if we vote out incumbents so they know they don't have a guaranteed lifetime career, they'll start behaving better.  He's right.  

Most people vote party affiliation.  Most people associate certain parties with certain social and political philosophies.  Most people help elect somebody then go back to their lives and figure they've done their job as a citizen; that person they just elected will do what they want.  

I agree that we have career politicians who aren't paying attention but in addition to using our vote to prevent and avoid political dead wood, we can communicate our wishes regularly to those we elect.  If they know we're watching, if they know what we want, they'll pay more attention.  Most of us are too busy or don't think anybody will listen but if enough of us speak up, they'll have to; they mostly want to stay in office, after all.

I've been a librarian, in public libraries, most of my life, in 4 states, in many communities.  I've actually been required, in one job, to attend ALL town council meetings.  I know how things work on the local level and somewhat up the chain.  People are people, no matter who they are or say they are or think they are.  Think of shortcuts you make.  Think of things you avoid doing for whatever reasons.  Think of laws and regulations you "fudge" on.  Think of things you forget to do.  Think of ways you take advantage of what or who you know.  And, don't tell me you don't, everybody does or doesn't do something.  Do you think you're unique?  Do you think elected officials are any different than you?  Don't let them make you think so.

So the only way to be sure you have a chance of getting what you want from your elected officials is to let them know what that is and keeping telling them what you like and don't like about what they're doing.  You're a citizen of the United States.  Make your wishes known.  Put your reps email addresses in your address book, their phone numbers in your speed dial, their web sites in your favorites.  Become the dripping faucet, the squeaking hinge, the squeaky wheel, that makes them pay attention.

Have a great day.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Autumn Traveler


Have you been seeing these?



They're crossing the road in the area.

The Banded Wooly Bear caterpillar 



is the larva of Pyrrharctia isabella, the Isabella Tiger Moth.



The 8 or more species in the United States are called wooly bears because of their long, thick setae (bristles).  The caterpillars hatch from their eggs in the fall and overwinter as caterpillars.  There are 2 seasons of the Wooly Bears.  Those you see crossing the road in the fall hatched beginning in August.  I wasn't able to find a definitive reason why they're seen rushing across the roads so often but generally their looking for secluded placed in the fall, under wooded debris where they can spend the winter.

Their found throughout the United States, Mexico and Canada but not elsewhere in the world.  They range from temperate to arctic climates.  In the winter, the caterpillars can actually freeze solid.  "First its heart stops beating, then its gut freezes, then its blood, followed by the rest of the body. It survives being frozen by producing a cryoprotectant in its tissues. In the spring it thaws out and emerges to pupate."


In the coldest regions, growing (and eating) seasons are brief so some wooly bears repeat their life cycle for several years, eating, freezing, thawing, eating again and repeating this cycle.  Some are known to live through 14 winters.

The caterpillar normally has a band of bright reddish copper in the middle with the head and tail black, but I have seen individuals nearly completely copper and some all black.  Weather folklore lays that you can predict the severity of the winter by the Banded Wooly Bear caterpillar:  if the copper band is broad and the black narrow, winter will be mild and, the more black, the more severe the winter.  However, larva from the same cluster of eggs show great variation in coloration and the copper band tends to increase with age.

Over the years, I've caught individual Wooly Bear caterpillars to watch them pupate and emerge as moths.  I've never been successful.  They are often parasitized.  It isn't pleasant to see the results so I've stopped making the attempt.  I can't say I've ever seen the adult moths.  They have a few days, after emerging from the cocoon, to mate and lay eggs before they die.  There are 2 seasons:  May and August.  

You can see Wooly Bears roll up and play dead if disturbed or touched.


Their head is covered in the middle of the ball.  Their bristles do not inject anything nor are they designed to break off and irritants.  However, they can, just by being bristly, cause irritation and dermatitis so it's not recommended that you let children play with them as I did when I was a kid.  If you want to save them on the road, move them in the direction they're going, slide something under them and put them on the side of the road they were headed toward.

There are several Wooly Bear Festivals, somewhat like the Punxsutawney Phil. groundhog event to predict the coming winter weather.  Wikipedia list Oil City and Lewisburg, PA as having Wooly Bear festivals, among others.  I didn't find anything for Oil City but, in Lewisburg:  



Woolly Worm

Festival and Prognostication

Woolly Worm Festival and Prognostication, Pennsylvania’s OTHER weather prognostication festival is held on a mid-October Saturday each year. It is a little known fact that the striped coats of the cute and cuddly Woolly Worm caterpillars give clues to the length and severity of winter. The event features a lot of Woolly Worm fun, including the prognostication by an “expert” team of local judges, and an annual story-teller, plus food and music.

Information from Wikipedia, Iowa State University Extension and Outreach and Lewisburg, PA websites.  (Please cite your sources.)




Tuesday, September 25, 2012

SCAMMED!

I'M FURIOUS!!!

But, first, a question:  What is business?  What does it mean to be in business?  Is it only about making money?

I think there're at least 2 views on this.

One, it's a way to make money.  Plain and simple.  That's the focus.  Bottom line.

Another view, you have a product or service that you think will be of value to people, you can make money selling it.  Focus on the product or service, marketing, comparing your product to others,

So, I've been scammed, it isn't the first time, it undoubtedly won't be the last.  Part of it is my fault for not paying better attention to certain things and for not following up on things that don't look right.

I won't divulge all the details because it's embarrassing.

In March, 2012, I made an online clothing purchase from a retailer who also has a catalog.  Generally, I dislike their clothes; they're not well made and their styling is tasteless.  But, I needed an additional pair of summer pants and, after looking around at several local stores and online sites, I found something that looked promising and might fit properly.  I ordered online.  I've ordered online a great deal.  I've not had many problems.

A couple of months ago, I noticed an odd charge on my checking account from the catalog company.  I found the  invoice for the pants and put it aside to call them about the charge.  I forgot about it.  Today, I noticed the same charge on my account and remembered the previous charge.  I called the bank who reviewed the charges with me.  I tried calling the phone number attached to the debit and got a busy signal, several times.  I called the catalog company who told me the company who placed the debit was not them but they processed the orders.  It's a "rewards" program.

I called the "rewards" company again and got through.  They told me that when I ordered the pants, there was a page on which were several offers and a place for my email, etc. and a Continue button.  When I hit the Continue button, I had ordered the rewards program which entitled me to a $15 dollar discount on my next order with the catalog company that I never order from.  They also informed me that email confirmation had been sent.  I demanded a full refund of charges and told the person on the phone I would be contacting a lawyer.  There's a monthly charge for the program of $14.95.  Quite a deal, huh?

I'm well aware that I won't receive a refund.

I later visited the "rewards" program - which BTW is named for the catalog company - interesting, huh?  You can't see anything about the details of that company unless you log in with your membership number, which I don't have since I was never sent one, never received an email from them.  So much for the program they're charging me for. I, possibly, inadvertently ordered a membership in a rewards program for discounts on orders to a clothing catalog company that I never order from and for the cost of $14.95 a month, I got one discount of $15 on my next order which may never happen.

I left a message on their web site informing them that, if I don't receive a refund of the current month's charge by the end of the month, I will call a lawyer.  I will also call the bank at that point for a stop payment of $30 and it will probably be too late.

I'm sure this is not illegal.

I am very frustrated and disgusted - with myself as well.  But, above that, I have serious questions about what business means.

If I'm a farmer and have dairy cows, I let people know I have milk for sale and set or negotiate for a price or trade.  It's unlikely that I could get away with watering down white paint and sell it as milk.  If I'm good at cleaning house, I can let people know that I'm available to clean houses and what my rates are.  It's unlikely that I could get away with contracting to clean house, sit and watch TV there all day and clean nothing.  It's also unlikely that I could get away with actually cleaning the house but tacking on charges for house sitting while I was there, if it wasn't previously agreed to, or charge for walking the dog while I was there but wasn't asked to do.

I'm afraid that some people think that making money is more important than being a human being, in having an honest, straight forward manor of relating with other human beings, in having personal ethics that they themselves would expect from others.

Fortunately, there are individuals in business who are human beings, who are honest and straight forward in relating with other human beings and who have personal ethics that are at least as important to them as making money.

Distinguishing between the 2 types is not always easy but here are a couple of clues:


  • Does the business you're dealing with have easily distinguishable contact information:  address, phone number, email address.  If not they really don't want to be bothered with people, they just want their money?
  • Does the business give clear, easily accessible information about their returns policies and easy methods of accomplishing a return?


There are other clues that, at the moment are less clear to me.  I have much to think about in preventing this kind of thing from happening to me again.  I'll post more about business ethics as thoughts occur to me.

Regardless of these questions of ethics, if anyone treats you in a manner that you feel is unacceptable, you have every right to simply refuse any further contact with them, to seek some kind of resolution, to seek alternatives to interacting with them.  More on that later.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

A Few Observations

I started this business back in October 2011.  It's been nearly a year.  The business is pretty much over.  I never made a cent.  The original web site at www.awarenj.com will soon disappear because I will not renew the hosting fee.  The web site never functioned properly to actually do the business as I intended.  There's no reason to keep the site alive.

I started the business, as I suspect many small businesses begin, because I had what I thought was a good idea and thought enough people might be interested in what I wanted to do to make some money at it.  I didn't begin the business primarily to make money although, certainly, I hoped I would make enough to eventually supplement my coming retirement; I started the business doing something I enjoy, hoping it would be useful enough to make money.

Even before I officially registered the business in December 2011, I encountered a lot of number of small, local, independent business that had a somewhat different focus on business than many larger businesses and certainly corporations.  These small businesses seemed to be and, hopefully, are as interested in providing a product or service to their customers and in interacting with their customers as much as they are in making money.

Today, I renewed my Norton virus protection plus product after much difficulty online and was finally able to get through by phone and finalize the transaction.  The person who helped me was very patient.  The problem in completing the transaction was actually mine.

Today, I discovered that I've been billed by Yahoo, through PayPal for something I've been completely unaware I was being billed for and that I didn't, knowingly, order.

While I was primarily responsible for these problems, my initial perception of the problems was partially the responsibility of the company and how they do business.

I recently had regular service done on my car.  I take it to the dealer who has recently moved farther way from me; I used to be able to walk there.  I have the option of being driven home if the car is going to be there a while and then being picked up when the car is ready.  I believe I have the option of a loaner if it's going to be even longer.  I had them check the tires and found that I needed all new tires.  I prefer a particular brand that I wasn't going to buy from the dealer.  Nobody whined or tried to pressure me into buying tires there.  When I bought the tires I was told I needed an alignment to guarantee the tires but I wasn't going to have that done where I bought the tires.  Again, I wasn't hassled about not having that done there but was simply told that they couldn't guarantee the tires if the alignment wasn't done before 300 miles of wear on the tires.  I had it done at the dealer the next day.  After the service, I received an email from the dealer with a survey about my service experience that I haven't returned yet.  They also send me emails and text messages reminding me of upcoming recommended service.

First, in both cases, neither Yahoo nor Norton had or has any direct contact with me, the customer, and, in view of their web sites and methods of contact, don't want any such contact.  Automatic renewal is the preferred method of transaction by most software companies.  This is very indicative of the desire to not have contact with customers which, in turn, is very indicative of the desire to have no responsibility for customer satisfaction.

My web host, after creating a web site that did not and does not make possible the business model I outlined, has not made any effort to contact me since I paid for the web design.  Clearly an indication of the same desires to collect money without additional interaction with the customer including measuring customer satisfaction.

Next, business web sites without clear, obvious, easily recognizable contact information is another indicator of disinterest in customers and their satisfaction.  Brick and Mortar businesses who don't have their address, hours and phone number prominently on their home page are lucky to be in business.  How can you possibly expect anyone to come to your shop if you don't tell them where you are?

Thirdly, invoicing has become a study in how to confuse, befuddle and obscure what's being invoiced and again, is a clear indicator of disinterest in the needs of customers.  In many cases, it's a result of poor database design where product/service description is insufficient to be recognizable to anyone except the person who created the original lingo in the descriptions, many who must be illiterate.  In a lot of cases, these descriptions are nothing more than codes and are not descriptions at all; lazy database or data entry design. I, the customer, have a right to have a clear, concise description of what I'm paying for.  In the case of some medical invoices, it might arrive weeks after the appointment. My records are more important to me than those of the business I'm paying and shouldn't be a surprise to anyone.

Finally, I'm a customer.  I'm paying for something.  I want the transaction to be simple, efficient, clear and final.  I'm not guaranteeing any future transaction.  I have no interest in spending any money for less than I want.  I want a decent product that the company selling it stands behind.  I want respect in the fact that I'm spending money for something and can just as easily spend my money elsewhere.  My money is worth something.  I prefer the experience I have at the Hyundai dealer where I bought my car.  They treat me like they understand that I don't have to do business with them.  I know that, personally, the corporation doesn't care about me the individual but they understand that I never have to buy a car from them again.  My positive service experience is more likely to benefit them than just selling me a car and forgetting about me.  I've had pretty good experiences with most of the auto dealerships I've done business with.  There've been a few exceptions.

Certainly Verizon doesn't care if I'm happy with my phone, wireless or DSL services although after completing a recently phone survey for them I began to get daily calls trying to connect with me because they were concerned about my less than glowing responses.  The companies who supply my natural gas, my water and my electricity aren't particularly concerned if I'm satisfied.  I have recently replaced a large portion of my electricity with wind supplied electricity so we'll see how that goes.

I don't want to be "friends" with business owners just because we have a business transaction.  And, we're certainly not "family".  I just want to be treated like my expenditure matters and that it's hoped that I'll come back.  I want to see that businesses are thinking about their customers in advance, not after they disappoint or piss off somebody.

I've had a lot of bad experiences with large, national and international corporations who are playing the odds that they have so many customers that completely ignoring their customers after a sale won't matter much in the long run because so many of their customers won't care anymore than they do.  These same corporations produce and sell and endless array of products and services and usually don't stand behind them.  They often have no reliable supply of standard products that you can depend on to replace something that breaks or wears out.  And, that's OK but not for me.  

So, particularly after the economic crash, whenever I'm able, I won't continue to do business with companies who provide a service and don't monitor how satisfied I am with their service.  I stop buying from companies who insist on automatic renewal plans.  I stop buying from companies who don't have hours that are convenient for me.  I stop eating at restaurants whose quality of food  and/or service declines.  I rarely shop at malls anymore because all the stores sell the same things over and over again.

In other words, for me to spend my limited money, I intend to get only what I really want and need and, if businesses aren't paying attention to what that is, they lose my business.  And, when I have the opportunity, I let them know.  After all who depends on whom?


Tuesday, August 21, 2012

A Paucity of Spiritual Resources?

Yesterday I encountered the title of a book by an author I'd never heard of.  While I'm a librarian, it isn't unusual for this to happen.  Librarians are NOT, as some people think, walking encyclopedias of information, nor do they know the title of every book published.  And, as a self-proclaimed spiritual seeker, I don't know the names of every self-proclaimed teacher or the titles of every "spiritual" book printed.  Still, the title:  Transcending the Levels of Consciousness  is of interest as, in plain English, it's along the line of spiritual inquiry that I've been studying, on and off, for years.

I did some online searching about the author, Dr. David Hawkins, and his Institute of Advanced Spiritual Research after texting a friend (she's in another time zone so won't get back to me right away.  She's also not generally in front of a computer screen, like me.)  

I thought I'd see if I can borrow one of Dr. Hawkins' books from the local library but they  have none.  Since I'm there frequently, I'm aware that books of this ilk are scarce at my local library.  So, I tried the state's ILL (Interlibrary  Loan) system which can be accessed, in most cases from your local library's web site or in person at your local library.  Still nothing by Dr. Hawkins along these lines.

And, it's not unusual.  There are many definitions and interpretations of the words spiritual and spirituality.  There are just as many paths presented by many, many "teachers".  I'm not going to delve into these definitions or the various paths here or now.  I'm more concerned at this moment about the the lack of substantive printed material, in this subject area, in many public libraries.  You will find religion in the 200s, philosophy in the 100s, as well as the occult.  But, unless a book of this type is reviewed and, even more importantly, reaches the level of some commercial success, it will not be purchased because, unfortunately, public libraries, have, in many cases, succumbed to the pressure to compete with recreational entities like bookstores, video games, television and celebrity.

Some of my professional friends and colleagues will be angry, if they read this, but most of them do not and will not and, I'm sorry, but this is how I feel personally and professionally.  I may be 'old school' but when I entered the profession we were proud to be considered part of the educational community, dispensing information to those who need it.  Library collections were intended not just for leisure reading but to represent the diversity, breadth and depth of human knowledge and culture.  

A couple of years ago I was at a training session with a bunch of other library directors and happened, at lunch, to sit next to a director of a library not far from mine.  In the course of conversation, we were commiserating about the lack of substantive intellectual inquiry we were encountering at our libraries.  She expressed the sense that we're past the dumbing down of America and have reached the state of dumbed down.  This includes, sadly, spiritual inquiry, in my opinion.



In any case, neither my local public library, nor the state's ILL system is giving me ready access to any of the titles of Dr. Hawkins.  At the moment I'm not interested enough to make a purchase but I'll keep the information in my back pocket.

I am concerned that my profession is missing The Mark and will, eventually, pay for it, as it already is, in lack of support.  After all best sellers are everywhere, in multiple formats and some of us aren't interested in that; we're looking for something much more.

More investigation is needed but maybe this is a direction for me to consider in my pursuit of financial stability in retirement.  Maybe there's a need for a review tool of this type of resource.

Of course, there is NOT a paucity of spiritual resources, I'm well aware of that.  They are there, readily available but not generally familiar to those not seeking them.  Still, it might be useful to have reviews of printed resources for those who are needing some direction in sorting out the kernels of wisdom from possible chaff.

Something to think about.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Refrigerator Tea and Miscellaneous Observations



Refrigerator Tea

teabags


We’ve been blessed with a cooling break the past week or so but during our long, hot and dry span I was getting really uncomfortable in my un-air-conditioned house.  I’d been drinking a lot of that popular sweetened, peach-flavored “iced” tea and thought it was too sweet so I thought I’d make some sun tea in the left over 2 liter bottles.  Going online to figure out how many tea bags per 2 liters I should use I discovered several links to sites warning of the dangers of sun tea.  I was already thinking that sun tea takes a while and I never really found it all that tasty so this really put me off.  After investigating a little I decided against making sun tea but, in that heat, I really didn’t want to make tea and then  wait for it to cool off.
Here is a link to the Snopes article on sun tea:


It seemed like more attention needed for the process than I wanted to give so I looked for more solutions.  What I found was a process for making refrigerator tea which I’ve been making since.  I use the discarded plastic 2 liter bottles from that well-known, popular tea that I like so much (I don’t name brands anymore unless they want to advertise and help support me, sorry.)

Here is my methodology for refrigerator tea.  It occurs to me that this may be equally hazardous to sun tea so proceed at your own risk.  I’ve been using this method for over a month now and no problems so far.

  • Fill a clean 2 liter container with filtered water. (I keep 2 water filter pitchers filled in my refrigerator most of the time) Fill to about 1 inch from the bottom of where the cap screws on.
  • Select one or more of your favorite bagged teas. (I’m still experimenting with a variety of black, green and herbal teas) The bags should have strings.
  • Holding the tags at the end of the string, insert one teabag at a time into the water, keeping the string and tag draped outside.  Insert 7 to 8 teabags this way.  I find that holding on the bundle of tags as you insert each bag keeps the strings even and keeps the teabags from sliding into the bottle.
  • Using a table knife or narrow handle of a cooking spoon, holding the tags of the teabags to keep them from falling into the bottle, push the teabags beneath the water several times until they appear mostly saturated.
  • Pull the tags and strings straight but not too taut but leaving the teabags immersed in the water and gently, slowly screw on the cap.
  • Put the bottle into your refrigerator for at least 4 hours but preferably longer and even overnight.

You can thinly slice lemon and/or lime, squeeze the juice into the water and insert the slices.  I also shave the rind (no white) and add it.  You can add fresh or frozen peach slices, strawberries and other fruit that you like.  So far, I’ve not found that the fruit, other than the citrus adds much flavor so maybe I need more.  I don’t add sweetening until later, if at all.

Generally it’s been a weaker tea than the commercial brand I sometimes still drink but that’s ok for me; I just want some flavor to what I drink.  It’s made cold and stays cold and it’s refreshing and satisfies a need for something cold to drink on those uncomfortably hot days.

Miscellaneous Observations

Since I’ve given up on my business I’ve been trying to think of something I can do online to make a little money to eventually supplement my retirement that’s not far aware.  I’m still interested in unique independent businesses but, call it sore grapes, I won’t be promoting any businesses anymore unless I get something out of it.  There are a ton of really interesting little businesses throughout New Jersey.  I still find them exciting.  But, I spent months collecting information, web sites, and putting a database together and didn’t make a dime.  So, I’m done with that.

I’m a librarian, most of my life.  But, I’m not a best seller librarian; I’m more of an information dispensing librarian.  I love to help people find whatever information they need for whatever they need it (as long as it’s legal, of course).  So, if anyone read this and has a brilliant idea about what I might do with that experience and ability, let me know.  So far I don’t think anyone reads this, not even my friends so….

So, observations:  I see some healthy trends.

Return to local, small business – I think this is really happening; more and more.  I plan to continue to promote the idea.  I think it’s intelligent, sensible, and economically healthy.  It doesn’t mean we don’t need some things from big business.  Where else would I buy gas?  While I’d like to see more choice in cable providers, I would continue to feel most comfortable with experienced and well-financed cable companies.  The same with phone and Internet access providers.  I don’t really need most things imported either.

Packaging.  I, myself, have become more aware of the amount of packaging that clutters our lives.  I’ve been trying to find ways to eliminate more and more of it.  Food packaging is mostly for processed foods so eating more whole foods automatically eliminates some of that packaging.  Supermarkets, though, have, for some time, packaged produce, probably at the insistence of people who are afraid of “those other people” who might have touched the fruits and vegetables they want to buy.  This morbid paranoia about germs is part of a number of problems we currently have and need to move away from.  Germs are everywhere and always have been and the population is growing, not shrinking so I think we, as a species, are ok if we’re sensible in how we move through life.  Besides, who thinks that packaging eliminates germs?  So, reducing the need for packaging is, I believe, a good effort to make.

Plastic – Do you remember that some of us, self-proclaimed, hippies used the word plastic as a derogatory adjective?  That’s because we saw it’s proliferation in our lives.  We saw synthetic (plastic) double knits as an indicator of the opposition.  Well, plastics also have their place but have become an enormous environmental problem.  There are many organizations fighting to reduce and eliminate plastic in the environment.  I was recently called to attention by the Two Hands Project when I mentioned collecting refuse at a local park in plastic bags which went into my garbage.  They told me they don’t use plastic garbage bags.  I stopped buying garbage bags some time ago and recycle my plastic grocery bags for my garbage.  No, I don’t use reusable bags for my groceries because I always forget to take them into the store with me and now I can find mine and I refuse to pay for the ones the stores well.  Mine are canvas and were free, picked up at various library conferences.  But, I’ve been given the challenge of eliminating those plastic bags as well and wracked my brain for weeks trying to think of a solution.  I recently found instructions online for making origami pouches.   I’ve modify the instructions to make much larger liners for wastebaskets.  I’m trying to find a way of making a video to demonstrate.  Reducing or eliminating packaging usually means plastic.

Slow Living – I’m seeing an increasing number of people returning to a saner, quieter, slower way of life.  A friend of mine and I are at or near retirement age.  We’re single women.  We’re trying to figure out what to do next.  One of the things we’ve been discussing is living overseas where things are less expensive.  We’ve also been thinking about, researching, looking at intentional communities where people of like mind have joined together to live a different lifestyle from the mainstream.  We’re also interested in combining the 2 and looking for intentional communities abroad. I'll keep you posted about this.

Pigheaded thinking – I'm seeing also, unfortunately in my thinking, a lot of people clinging to dreams of the economy just before the crash and wanting to get back there.  I think it’s a mistake.  That lifestyle, that economy and that focus of thinking was what created the economic mess we’re in today.  Going back there is the wrong direction.  We need to rethink everything.  That particular American dream – accumulating stuff, buying whatever the latest gadget is, constantly seeing celebrities as models for living, is a model for the disaster that was caused by greed and a race toward a meaningless future.  I’ve already seen ads for programs about flipping houses, ads for useless products, ads for new models of many things that differ from the last mostly in unnecessary features that are cute or entertaining.    I’m moving in an almost opposite direction.  What stuff can I eliminate from my life?  What devices do I have or can I find to replace power tools of any kind?

Middlemen – A friend tells me he appreciates the middlemen that make his life possible but most of the examples he cited make it possible for him to have stuff he doesn’t really need which I’m sure is not of concern to him; he wants those things.  If I buy produce from farmer’s markets, I eliminate a LOT of middlemen.  Middlemen increase the prices of many things.  Middlemen don’t produce anything.  The entire financial industry is mostly unnecessary.  Wall Street is nothing but a highly elevated Atlantic City, Tahoe, Vegas and Monaco combined.  

So, now I’m looking for ways to bypass middlemen whenever possible.  I don’t have any good examples yet but eating out is certainly something on my mind.  I run out, frequently, to get fast food (I’m no purist in any respect) or a sandwich.  Even if I go to a sit down restaurant, I find, in many cases, that I’m a much better cook so why am I paying someone to cook for me worse than I can cook for myself.  Granted, when I was working and commuting full time (I’m semi-retired), cooking after work was often more than I could gather energy for.  But, eating more naturally and simply, rather than thinking I have to cook a full meal, just for me, every night, makes it possible to have good healthy food and not pay someone else to prepare it.  I’ll try to find more examples of this.  

I know that some of you pay people to clean your house, walk your dog, do your laundry.  Some of you need these services and, as a librarian who’s supported myself most of my life in public (service) employment, I certainly feel that providing a service is a valid business model.  But, I do think there are layers and layers of middlemen who are inflating the prices of too many things in our lives.

A word of advice – Moderation in all things.  I’m not a purist in any respect, as I mentioned earlier.  I do what I can, when I can.  I try to learn and do more to live a sensible, meaningful, low-impact life on a continual basis.  I don’t think beating each other up over every little thing is a good way to make changes happen.  I think disseminating information and getting people to think about their choices are useful efforts.  I’m a librarian, what else would I think?  That's what I'm trying to do here.



Tuesday, July 24, 2012

All Things Must Pass

It is with sadness and disappointment that I have to say that I am ending this business.  I actually never really got started.


There has been no interest; no visits to my original web site or to this blog.


I thought I had a good idea and that if I worked hard at it, I could make enough money to supplement my retirement which isn't far away.  But, I've been working at this since before October and I haven't made a cent and there's no indication that I will.


So, after a while I'll try to figure out something else to do about that.


My best wishes and thanks to those who have tried to be helpful.  Good luck to all the small, local, independent businesses that I discovered.  I hope you have better success than I've had.


If you visit www.awarenj.com and the About Us page, you'll see the services that I'm still available for.


The original website at www.awarenj.com and this blog will remain online for the period that I've paid for.


Lorraine O'Dell, Owner

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

New Jersey Small Independent Business Treasures

So, a friend of mine, who's been trying to advise me on my business, and I have been exchanging emails.  He's trying to help me understand how to get traffic to my sites.  I'm not understanding that yet.


In the midst of this, I sounded off about the economy and middlemen and he responded that he appreciates the middlemen that make it possible for him to have Alaska crab legs, ice cream from Pennsylvania, lettuce from California, etc.    But, here's the thing:  neither he, nor you need middlemen.  New Jersey has just about everything anybody needs - and I've lived and worked in 4 states so I think I have a good basis of comparison.


Just visit my site or read this blog and find whatever you might want from small, independent, local businesses right here in New Jersey, like:  buffalo at Readington River Buffalo Company and pasture-raised beef at Bringhurst Meats in Berlin, artisan cheese at Cherry Grove Farm in Lawrenceville, artisan ice cream like the Bent Spoon in Princeton and handcrafted chocolates like those at Antoinette Chocolatier here in Phillipsburg, and New Jersey Shellfish Co. in Westville where you can get fresh crab.  


I haven't made a dime yet but this is what I want to do, discover and promote New Jersey, independent, small, local businesses. There are hundreds of them; this is just a sampling, and just specialized foods.  I cover jewelry, boutique fashion, natural cosmetics, artisan perfumes, wellness practitioners, spiritual advisers and centers, the arts, crafts, unique activities for adults and children and more.


So, I'll keep working at this for a while longer; trying to figure out how to make a little money at it.


New additions to our database:


Readington River Buffalo Company
Bringhurst Meats
New Jersey Shellfish Co.


Monday, July 16, 2012

Wellness - Metal and Jewelry Allergies


Years ago I bought a pair of wire-rimmed glasses at a flea market. After wearing them for quite a while, I noticed that the skin behind my ears, where the frame wrapped around was red and itchy.  I cleaned the frames really well and even soaked the ear pieces in alcohol to be sure they were germ free.  The metal turned green after a while, the itching developed into a rash.  A similar rash appeared where the metal frame rested against my face at my temples.  The ear pieces turned black.  The rash became infected.  At that point, I went to a doctor and found I had a staph infection at the site.

In addition to this situation, I have encountered, several times in the past, a reaction seemingly to base metals.  I had jewelry that turned my skin green then black, caused a rash and infection set in.  I’m one of many people who can get a rash and infection if the metal button on jeans sits against bare navel. 

I once saw a 60 minutes segment about mercury in dental fillings.  The information about the mercury didn’t concern me so much as the fact that metal dental fillings are alloys of various metals and my mouth was full of them.  I’ve had most of my metal fillings removed and replaced with ‘ceramic’ fillings but not before encountering a dentist who became quite angry when asked about alloy fillings. She did a shoddy job in her anger, the filling overlapped my gum and, within a week, the gum became infected.  I saw a different dentist to have the filling removed and the infected gum treated. 

I don’t know how widely known it is that quite a few people have reactions – “allergies” – to metals.  Some jewelers, whose pieces I admire, use metals that I can’t wear.  Months ago I found a site that sells really gorgeous Wiccan jewelry; all of it made of metals that I can’t wear.

Nickel is apparently the primary culprit but is alloyed with many metals.  I can't wear copper (which is sold as therapeutic).  I have sensitivity to some grades of silver.  Most stainless steel is a problem for me.  I would imagine that bronze, brass, chrome, etc. would be disasters.  Anything that normally is easily oxidized and reactive, that acquires a patina over time, I can't wear.

This extract from WebMD gives a little more detail:

"Allergic Reaction to Metal - An allergic reaction to metal is an overreaction of the body's immune system to a substance (allergen) in a metal. An allergic reaction to metal can cause intense swelling, pain, and itching.

Nickel is the most common metal allergen. Jewelry that does not trigger an allergic reaction is made from:

Stainless steel (grade-300).
14- or 18-karat gold.
Niobium.
Titanium.
Platinum.
Dense, nonporous plastic, such as monofilament nylon, acrylic, or Lucite."

By           Healthwise Staff
Last Revised        September 7, 2010

"It is estimated that about 17% of women and 3% of men are allergic to nickel and about 1 - 3% of the general population is allergic to chromium and cobalt." - Buzzle

So, if you've noticed reactions to jewelry and other metal touching your skin, this is probably why.


Jewelers - be aware and be kind.


New in our Directory:


Union County listings including:


Just Bead Yourself
Betty's Chocolate Novelties
Cranford Vanilla Bean Creamery
Autumn Antiques
Betty Gallagher Antiques
Ken's Antiques
Ann Weiner Miniatures
Badawang Art
Center for Acupunture and Herbal Medicine
Heaven on Earth Massage
Westfield Yoga and Meditation Center

News


This blog site is a model for our desired web site.  We've come to the limits of this site's functionality and capacity to contain the content of our entire site.  We'll experiment with it some more but, except for the blog, we're unable to add to this site and we're turning our attention to our business plan and learning how to gain traffic so that we can justify further investment in a new web site.


If you visit, please leave comments and suggestions so that we can continue.


Thank you.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Sunday - Family Day

Today is the day I try to work on my family histories.  I've been researching ALL of my families for several decades.  I haven't reached the goal I set for myself but the journey has been fun and enlightening.


Genealogy, or family history, is one of the most popular and populated activities or hobbies.  It can become quite obsessive.  I have occasionally spent most of a day in research, forgetting to eat, forgetting other things that need to be done, forgetting what time it is and almost missing transportation schedules to get me back home.  It's also a lot of work


I'll be posting from time to time about this enjoyable activity; what's worked for me; obstacles I've encountered.  And, you will eventually find lists of resources on the site to help you with your family history research.


Enjoy the day.






Saturday, June 23, 2012

Give me Feedback

Take a look at the link to Atlantic County, righthand menu.  It's the only page that's currently complete.  Let me know what you think.  I'll be working on a category page next.  If I get enough positive feedback, I'll use this layout as my web site rather than www.awarenj.com which isn't getting any traffic or interest.


I appreciate any feedback.


Have a great day.



Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Testing and more testing

This blog is my test blog to work on design ideas for my web site.  My web site at www.awarenj.com is useless.  I've spent a lot of time and effort to try to use the site as I want but the design is stagnant and I'm unable to add to it on my own.  This site allows me to work on the original idea I had for the site, on my own, without the constraints of my web hosts CMS and design.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Buying vintage is good economics


My "new" vintage kitchen cabinet from:




Cute and matches the kitchen, gives me more storage, is more interesting than anything I could have purchased new for the same price and is made of better materials and is better constructed.  It's also recycling the piece.  Buying used, vintage, and antiques is good economics.

Thursday, June 7, 2012


World Oceans Day - June 8, 2012



The Two Hands Project


Ocean Alliance


Save the Whales


Institute of Cetacean Research


WDCS - Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society


These are just a few of the organizations fighting to clean up the ocean and to keep it clean and healthy. It's an inspiring list but every effort is necessary, every contribution important.  We have one home, much of it ocean.  We have to learn to live here intelligently.