The best breakfast cereals

August 31, 2011 – Who doesn’t love a bowl of their favorite cereal?

As a kid, I thought breakfast was the best meal of the day because of cereal. Of course, I grew up when Corn Pops were called Sugar Pops and that was a beautiful thing.

Cereal not only filled your tummy back then, but it also entertained you. Remember reading the cereal box while eating? My sister and brother liked to do the same, so we had to take turns with the Frankenberry and Count Chocula boxes, and take turns getting the prize inside the cereal box.

For many adults like me, cereal remains a favorite comfort food, and it’s still a special treat to sit down with a bowl of Lucky Charms or Coco Krispies. It just makes you feel like a kid again. I like healthier cereals, too and a nice bowl of Crispex with a sliced banana usually does the trick.

So what are the top breakfast cereals of all time? According to the Ranker.com community, Frosted Flakes and Honey Nut Cheerios top the list at one and two respectively. And a few crazy people said Grape Nuts, which came in at no. 22.

View the complete list here, but I warn you, it will make you run for your bowl and spoon!

What is a correspondent mortgage lender?

August 30, 2011 – There are a few ways to secure mortgage financing to buy a home. The most common method is making an application through one of three entities: a mortgage lender, a mortgage broker or a correspondent lender.

To the borrower, the differences in these three may seem nonexistent because their outcome is the same. Once the loan funds, however, the differences become clear.

Correspondent lenders operate much like mortgage lenders who originate and fund loans in their name. The difference is that once a loan settles or closes, a correspondent lender does not accept monthly payments or service the loan. Instead, they sell the loan to another mortgage lender or to a secondary marketing agency, such as Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac. This helps them avoid the market risk lenders have by holding onto the loan, and guarantees they’ll make their money without carrying the risk of loan default.

Working with a correspondent lender provides another option to borrowers when searching for the right home financing. Some experts believe that correspondent lenders combine the best advantages offered by both mortgage lenders and brokers because they use all available aspects of mortgage negotiating and funding.

Before you finance your next home, be sure to research all three entities so you can decide which one will work best for you.

The modern resume

August 29, 2011 – The one thing we can count on in life is that nothing stays the same.

That goes for resumes too.

I just read a report over the weekend from www.ragan.com that simply choosing an overused font for your resume like Times New Roman may give potential employers the idea that you are lazy or difficult.

My resume features Times New Roman, and I can assure you that I am neither. I chose it because it’s clean and readable. Who knew that I could be considered uninspiring for using it?

My obsolete font choice can be easily rectified, according to the article, by selecting a more modern font such as Georgia. It also states that in the age of social media, we should make our resumes interactive, and build a storyline around them to bring it to life for those who read it.

That’s fine advice if you want a job in a creative industry like marketing or graphic design. But what if you’re looking for a position in the accounting or actuarial field? I don’t think it would go over that well if your resume were too out of the box.

Everyone wants their resume to stand apart from the competition, and if you’re a bit of a risk taker, the article gives a lot of unique tips you may find useful. They seem distracting to me, but judge it for yourself by reading it here.

Goodnight Irene

August 28, 2011 – First it was the earthquake and now it’s Hurricane Irene. What a week we’ve had here in Southeastern Pa.

We’re usually pretty safe here in our little corner of the world, but we’re being slammed right now with high winds and flooding rains like everyone else along the east coast.

Pretty much everything has been cancelled in Philadelphia and the surrounding areas, so here’s a few appropriate tunes to keep you occupied – if you still have electricity.

Stay safe.

The real magic bus

August 27, 2011 – The Who may have sang about it, but it was the memory of John Lennon that brought it to life.

This magic bus, the John Lennon Educational Tour Bus, is a non-profit, state-of-the-art audio and HD video recording studio on wheels. The bus travels the country, visiting schools, musical and technology conferences and other events.

Why didn’t I know about this? it’s not like it just started rolling; it’s been active for 14 years, providing young people with free songwriting and multimedia production workshops. Yet I just discovered the project on Facebook today.

Next stop for the bus? Elmsford, N.Y., for two student recording sessions on Sept. 25 and 27.

Visit www.lennonbus.org for a full schedule and more information. You can also view projects created on board.

With all of the music and art programs being cut from schools across the country, with the help of the Lennon Bus, there may be hope for our creative future after all.

Over the Rainbow and then some

August 26, 2011 – Yesterday was the 71st anniversary of the movie “The Wizard of Oz.”

I’m an old movie fan, so it’s easy for me to say that it’s one of my all time favorites. But even those who don’t care for the old black and whites love “The Wizard of Oz”. After 71 years, families still gather around to watch the story of Dorothy and her three friends find their hearts’ desire.

So, it made me wonder what other entertainment icons stand the test of time? Here are a few I came up with; feel free to add your own.

Movies:
“Casablanca” springs to mind immediately, along with “Citizen Kane”, although it’s not one of my favorites. And I have to give honorable mention to anything by Alfred Hitchcock, and to the wonderful family movies made in the 1960s such “The Sound of Music”, “Mary Poppins”, and “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang”, to name a few. I know I catch them whenever they are on.

Singers/Bands:
How about Frank Sinatra, or anyone in the Rat Pack to start? They are still wildly popular today. You could also include The Beatles, The Rolling Stones and Bob Dylan in the mix because all of their music still has a strong audience, even though many of the songs were recorded 50 years ago. I wonder how many people 50 years from now will be listening to Lady Gaga or Justin Timberlake?

Books:
This is probably the easiest category because schools will always push the classics on students, although they probably won’t really appreciate them until they are adults. So, what books stand out? How about “The Catcher in the Rye”, “Jane Eyre”, “Pride and Prejudice”, “Anna Karenina”, and “The Bell Jar”, to name a few? I would be remiss not to mention Judy Blume because I know that young girls in the future will still be captivated with “Are You There God, It’s Me Margaret?”. And something tells me the Harry Potter books will stick around for a long time, too.

The man who killed John Lennon

August 25, 2011 — It’s hard to believe that 30 years ago today Mark David Chapman, who gunned down John Lennon outside of the Dakota apartment building on Central Park West in 1980, was sentenced to 20 years to life in prison.

Upon his arrest, Chapman said he killed Lennon to gain his fame. Instead, he became infamous, and the world lost a great talent and peace advocate.

Since his sentence began, Chapman has been up for parole six times, and each time it has been denied. His next hearing is scheduled for 2012.

For his last parole hearing, Lennon’s widow Yoko Ono wrote a letter that stating that if Chapman was released, “I am afraid it will bring back the nightmare, the chaos and confusion once again. Myself and John’s two sons would not feel safe for the rest of our lives.”

Were the 1950s really that special? Or is it all relative?

August 24, 2011 — My father always says the 1950s were the best time in our country’s history.

He’s not alone since it is a sentiment shared by many people of his generation, who also believe that life in the 1950’s was simpler and more enjoyable.

I was born in December 1959, so I can’t say I remember life in the 50s, but I do remember the early 60s, which weren’t that different. Traditional roles were the norm, men were the breadwinners of the family and few women worked outside of the home after they married.

Back then we believed our politicians, didn’t question our doctors, and enjoyed a booming economy. There was sense of confidence within the business community that almost any problem could be solved quickly. The government helped boost this confidence by imposing price controls on commonly used goods to slow quickly rising costs. They also passed antitrust regulations to prevent corporate takeovers from strangling competition in the market place. Small businesses were also abundant, including mom and pop stores such as newsstands, candy stores, shoe repair shops, drug stores and food markets. People shopped locally back then, and the small stores thrived.

So, it was a good time for many in this country, but certainly not for everyone, especially those who were discriminated against since the 50s predate the civil rights movement and women’s liberation. Still, my father is correct with his statement, but so am I when I tell my son that nothing compares to the 1970s or 80s.

It’s every parent’s prerogative to tell their children that the world is worse off today than it was yesterday. But I try to remember that even now, at a time when it seems like it couldn’t get any worse, we’re still living in someone’s best time. And in 20 or 30 years from now, someone will be telling their son or daughter that very thing.

Rating online mortgage companies

August 23, 2011 – The Internet opened the floodgates for businesses to offer their services online. While these services may not appeal to everyone, the new generation of homeowners — the same generation that is accustomed to banking, shopping and conducting other business online — has embraced new technology making online mortgage transactions possible.

Still, with online fraud and identity theft on the rise, how can you guarantee that the company is a safe and legitimate business? With a little investigation, you can rest assured you’ll find the best deal on the Web and be safe while you’re at it.

Do your homework. Visit some of the bigger online players, such as www.ditech.com (now conducting business through http://www.gmacmortgage.com), www.e-loan.com, www.quickenloans.com and www.lendingtree.com and navigate through their sites to get a feel for the company. Are they a member of the Mortgage Bankers Association? Are they an equal housing lender? Do you know anyone who has used them in the past? Be sure to check out their site’s security and privacy statement.

Stick to the names you know. An online search of mortgage companies will provide you with enough names to keep you researching for hours. However, if you’ve never heard of a lender, it’s probably best to avoid them. Selecting a mortgage company is a major decision, and it is usually best to go with a familiar name.

Compare the criteria. Like shopping for appliances, computers, or anything else, the more comparisons you make, the better deal you’ll most likely find. Arm yourself with plenty of information on rates, loan products, processing times, resources, tools and more to find out what’s best for you. The more you know about the mortgage process the better off you’ll be.

Ask for the bottom line. If the lowest interest rate is the selling point that makes you decide on a lender, be sure to find out the annual percentage rate (APR) or the true cost of the loan. This is the interest rate, plus any additional fees and/or points charged by the lender. Lenders are required by the federal government to provide you with the APR in order to help you make comparisons.

Protect yourself. Online lenders often require personal data, such as social security numbers and information on bank accounts. Never submit any personal information before you determine the safety of the site. Look for an icon, such as a padlock, at the bottom of your browser window, which indicates that it is secure.

More tips for working with job recruiters

August 22, 2011 — If you’re actively looking for employment, there’s a good chance you’ll cross paths with a recruiter along the way.

Recruiters can be a good networking resource because they have access to a broad range of companies and business contacts. Still, some people find working with them to be a chore.

To ensure a positive experience when working with a recruiter, it helps to learn how they function and what they expect.

  1. Understand that a recruiter does not work for you (the job seeker), but rather for the hiring company (their client), so their loyalty lies with them. If you possess the skills their client is looking for, they will contact you to see if you are interested.
  2. Ask questions about the recruiter’s background, their area of expertise, and the clients they work for. This will give you an idea of their specialty so you won’t waste your time or the recruiter’s time if they are not the right fit for you.
  3. Make the recruiter’s job easy. If you are interested in working with them, be upfront about your specific skills, what you have to offer and exactly what you are looking for. However, if the relationship isn’t working or you no longer want them to call you, end it professionally.
  4. Don’t take it personally if a lot of time lapses between phone calls. It doesn’t mean they don’t want to work with you. Most likely, they are busy or don’t have a job that is a good match for you at the moment. Keep in mind that jobs come in daily, so that can change quickly.
  5. Be patient when working with recruiters. Although it’s wise to follow-up with them once or twice a week to re-establish your interest in working with them, don’t become a pest or appear desperate.
  6. It’s perfectly fine to work with more than one recruiter at a time while searching for a job, but it’s best to be upfront about it if they ask so they don’t recommend you to the same client.
  7. Never work around the recruiter by contacting their client directly. It will get you blacklisted with recruiters, and may make you look untrustworthy to the hiring company.