The Closet Republican?

June 30, 2011 – Here’s an interesting tidbit from the Toronto Sun.

John Lennon was a Reagan fan and a closet Republican.

Looks like Lennon may have followed Winston Churchill’s school of thought that if you’re not a liberal at twenty you have no heart, and if you’re not a conservative at forty you have no brain.

Imagine that.

Return to Collinswood

June 29, 2011 – “Dark Shadows” premiered this week back in 1966.

The gothic soap opera that focused on Barnabas Collins and the rest of the creepy Collins clan scared the bee Jesus out of me when I was a kid but I adored every minute of it and rushed home from school each day to watch my favorite characters. I especially loved the time travel, when they were swept back to Colonial New England. Funny how each member of the Collins family had someone back then who looked exactly like them.

Through the years, I’ve wondered if I would enjoy watching it again, or if it would seem too dated as many shows from that era do. In 1991, Hollywood attempted a weak remake, which lasted only a few episodes, and thankfully so.

Now director Tim Burton will try his hand at another remake scheduled to reach theaters in May 2012. I’m intrigued, but more frightened because Burton cast Johnny Depp in the lead role. That’s not surprising, since Depp is Burton’s favored actor for most of his films. But Depp’s Michael Jackson-like performance in Burton’s update of “Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory” paled in comparison to Gene Wilder’s and I’m afraid the same will be true when compared to Jonathan Frid’s Barnabas Collins. However, there probably isn’t an actor I would consider right for the role. The character is too iconic, just like the Barnabas portrait that hung in the hall in Collinswood, and was featured prominently in every episode.

Still, Burton, who also claims he was obsessed with “Dark Shadows” as a kid, will bring the story to new generations, and with vampire popularity at its height, he’ll most likely have a hit on his hands.

And for those of us who love the original series, we know nothing will ever be as good. Sometimes it’s impossible to recapture the magic.

The difference between mortgage pre-qualification, pre-approval and approval

June 28, 2011 — The mortgage industry is riddled with terms that may confuse even the most sophisticated buyers. This is especially true when it comes to understanding the difference between loan pre-qualification, loan pre-approval and approval. Here’s a brief explanation of each.

When a buyer is pre-qualified, it simply means that a loan officer or real estate professional has weighed the buyers’ debt against their income to determine whether they will qualify.

The pre-approval process takes this a step further. To determine a pre-approval amount, the lender will check the income information provided by the buyer and run a credit report. If approved, the buyer is given an amount for which they will most likely qualify. However, an approval cannot be given until a property is found, and a satisfactory appraisal is completed.

Loan approval occurs when the underwriting process has determined that the buyer and the property meet all of the necessary criteria. After loan approval is received, a closing date can be set.

Job interviews are a two-way street

June 27, 2011 – When preparing for a big job interview it’s easy to overlook the obvious.

You may be armed and ready with answers to the toughest questions, but don’t forget that you are also interviewing them. Your perception of the company is important and the questions you ask not only show your interest in the position you are interviewing for, but also can help you decide if you want to work there.

Aside from asking general questions about the company or what to expect from a typical day at the office, be creative. For instance, I always ask for the average length of time employees stay with the company because that speaks volumes to me. And if they don’t know the answer, I ask how long they’ve been with the company. I consider it a solid corporate culture if they can tell me it’s more than seven years.

I also ask the interviewer for their favorite part of the job or the company, and then try to find out the opposite by asking about their least favorite, or the most common complaints employees make. My questions usually focus on the corporate culture because that is important to me. I can find out what a company does through its Web site. I’m more interested to find out if I’ll be a good fit.

The best way to compile a list of appropriate questions is to decide what is important to you. Do you prefer a flexible schedule? Or do you want the convenience of working from home occasionally? Factor those requirements into your questions. Here’s a helpful top ten list from to get you started.

1. What are the top three tasks you want the candidate to perform after being hired?
2. Why did you choose this company?
3. How do you see me benefiting the company?
4. Is there room for growth and advancement?
5. Are there opportunities for professional training or further education?
6. How will I be evaluated and by whom?
7. What is the general culture of the company?
8. Are there other job responsibilities not mentioned in the ad?
9. When will you be making a decision on the successful candidate?
10. May I call you if other questions arise?

Be sure to close the interview with question #9. That might be the most important question of all.

Purple haze

June 26, 2011 – I never had much desire to visit France — I’m more of a fan of the Mediterranean countries, at least when I vacation in my mind — but these gorgeous photos of the country’s lavender fields make me want to hop a plane now.

With lavender’s ability to sooth nervous tension, relieve pain and help insomnia, the people in this region must be the happiest and most well-rested people on earth. Just looking at them made me smile.

Happy Birthday, Carly!

June 25, 2011 – It’s no secret that I adore Carly Simon. She’s my favorite female singer/songwriter of all time. In fact, nobody does it better than she does.

The Grammy, Academy and Golden Globe winner who rose to fame during the 1970s turns 66 today. A legend in her own time, she was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1994.

The biggest success of her career was the classic “You’re So Vain”, which prompted rumors worldwide as fans speculated who she was singing about when she crooned, “I bet you think this song is about you.” Likely suspects include Mick Jagger, Warren Beatty, Kris Kristofferson and Cat Stevens. Recent speculation, however, claims that it’s actually music and movie mogul David Geffen.

Simon, who was married to singer/songwriter James Taylor, suffers from severe stage and rarely toured during her hey day. I was lucky enough to see her twice, once in the late 1970s and once in the late 1980s. With much anticipation I waited for her to announce new tour dates for venues in my neighborhood when she recently toured with her two children, Sally and Ben. Alas, they didn’t come my way.

If you’re not familiar with Simon’s music, especially the wonderful deeper cuts on her albums, give her half a chance. You won’t be disappointed.

So join me in wishing Carly a Happy Birthday. It’s the right thing to do.

Ok, I probably overdid it with weaving in the song titles. Can you spot how many I mentioned? There’s at least one in every paragraph.

It’s laughter that is man’s best friend

June 24, 2011 – After a rough couple of weeks, a little humor is always welcome.

Today, while visiting my mother at the hospital, I turned on the television while she napped and watched “The Colbert Report” for the first time. His interview with former White Stripes frontman Jack White had me giggling rather loudly, and I almost woke her up!

Part 2 is especially hilarious…

Steven Colbert Interviews Jack White, Part 1

Steven Colbert Interviews Jack White, Part 2

Can’t wait to see Part 3!

Are the new cigarette warning labels a good idea?

June 23, 2011 – By September, all cigarette packaging will contain a new and larger warning label clearly depicting what cigarette smoking can do to your health.

The Food and Drug Administration released some of the graphically disturbing images yesterday that they say will take up at least half the space on the cigarette packaging, making the first change to the warning label in 25 years.

Some smokers are up in arms with the new FDA law, already feeling under attack because the places they are allowed to smoke are becoming fewer each year and the high taxes they have to pay to buy cigarettes. Others say they don’t have a problem with the new regulations.

Will this new campaign work? Will these images help people to quit smoking?

Most people who smoke probably started as teens when they believed they were infallible. Chances are it won’t stop this segment of the population from starting, and once your addicted, it’s a difficult habit to break. Still, if it motivates even a few teens to stay away from smoking, it may be good idea.

On the other hand, smokers already know it is bad for your health, probably have seen graphic images already, yet according to a 2008 national survey, 28.4 percent of the U.S. population still smoke.

Results from the U.S. News & World Report shows that 81.25% percent of those surveyed overwhelmingly agree that the new graphic warnings are a good idea. The survey, however, doesn’t break down the number of smokers v. non-smokers who participated.

Baseball has been very very good to me

June 22, 2011 – It happened 39 years ago today.

No, not the famous Chico Escuela skit from Saturday Night Live, but the day I attended my first Phillies game.

I sat in the stands off of right field with my family, and with Phillies right fielder Mike Anderson playing in front of me wearing number 22. I remember thinking it had to mean something important because it was June 22 and the right fielder was wearing number 22. Then I was blown away when I opened my Phillies program and saw that June 22 was also Mike Anderson’s birthday. The stars were aligned that night, I was sure of it.

Taking in the crowd at Veterans Stadium I remember thinking how lucky we were to have such a magical place in our city. I had never really paid attention to baseball before, but live and in person it was thrilling. There was lots of entertainment in between innings and the crowd was mesmerizing.

That was the first of many games that year for my family and me. We’d pack homemade hoagies and a cooler filled with Kool-Aid and head to the stadium. The Phillies had an awful record that year, but won practically every time Steve Carlton pitched, so those were the games we tried to attend.

I have no idea what became of Mike Anderson, but I think of him every June 22 because he played a significant role in helping that 12-year-old girl in the stands become a baseball fan.

Happy birthday, Mike, wherever you are. And go Phillies!

Shop for a home the sensible way

June 21, 2011 – Wouldn’t it be easier to know how much you can afford to pay for a home before you begin to shop?

With a credit pre-approval program offered by many mortgage lenders, you can find out what you may be eligible to borrow so you can shop in the right price range. Not only will it put your mind at ease that your credit has already been reviewed, but a pre-approval decision also lets sellers know that you are a serious buyer and that a sale shouldn’t be held up by mortgage problems down the line.

At the time you apply for credit pre-approval, a loan officer will collect any necessary documents to verify your income and assets. Final loan approval will be subject to a completed sales contract, a satisfactory appraisal of the property, updating the information you have provided and any other commitment conditions of the mortgage company you choose.

Before you begin to search, ask your real estate agent or loan officer about a credit pre-approval program. It’s guaranteed to make the entire mortgage process a whole lot easier.