The 25 best sports movies of all time

September 30, 2011 – In honor of the baseball playoffs kicking off today, here is a list of the all-time 25 best sports movies, courtesy of Time Magazine.

It’s nice to see four baseball movies made the list, namely Bull Durham, Eight Men Out, Field of Dreams, and Major League, but there should have been a few more. What about Pride of the Yankees or The Natural?

Just about every sport imaginable is represented on this list, even the obscure ones like synchronized swimming. Although it is a little odd that the only football movie is The Freshman from 1925. I never saw it but I’ll go out on a limb and say they could have chosen better.

Go Phillies!

There’s a school for that

September 29, 2011 – Today I discovered something else unique about Philadelphia.

It’s home to the Philadelphia School of Circus Arts.

I’ve always heard jokes about Clown College, but I never thought there was an actual place where you can learn the secrets that only circus performers know.

The school opened in June 2008, and there’s nary a clown to be found. It’s the only contemporary circus school in the region offering adult and children’s classes, along with private lessons in juggling, tight wire, trapeze, unicycling, tumbling, Chinese acrobats and physical conditioning.

The buzz on the streets is that the facility is also a popular solution to kids’ parties, special events and corporate team building exercises. Talk about getting employees to think outside the box. Can you imagine you doing a trapeze catch with your boss?

So whether you have a secret desire to run away and join the circus or you are simply looking for a new way to exercise, the Philadelphia School of Circus Arts may be the way to go.

Happy belated birthday Google!

September 28, 2011 – Yesterday Google became a teenager.

The Internet giant, which officially incorporated on September 4, 1998, has decided that instead September 27 is its birthday.

For something that has been around for only 13 years, it’s difficult to imagine life without Google, especially when it’s estimated to process over one billion search requests each day. I’m probably responsible for 10 to 20 of those daily searches, which makes me doubly embarrassed to have missed this special milestone.

Happy belated birthday, Google. I certainly hope won’t cause too much of a ruckus during your awkward teen years.

Understanding adjustable rate mortgage indexes

September 27, 2011 – Adjustable rate mortgages (ARMs) have an ugly reputation after the subprime crisis put them in the spotlight. However, they are still a good option for some borrowers for the right reasons.

ARMs become popular in the early 80’s when fixed rates were up in the 15 or 16 percent range. To escape high rates, buyers began choosing ARMs that carried lower starting rates. ARM rates go up and down according to a nationally published index, the most common being the One-Year Treasury Index. Some even offer a conversion option to switch to a fixed rate sometime during the term.

ARMs are good to consider when rates are expected to fall, or if the buyer plans to keep their home for only a few years. However, predicting interest rates is difficult for even the most skilled economist. ARMs do carry a rate cap, which is the highest rate by which it can climb during the loan’s term. ARMs could rise dramatically, causing a large increase in monthly household expenses.

Here’s an explanation of indexes that are most often used to price them:

One-Year Treasury
The Treasury Security indexes are calculated by the Treasury Department and reported by the Federal Reserve. These indexes have both weekly and monthly values, but most lenders use the weekly values in their adjustable rate mortgages (ARMs). These indexes reflect the state of the economy, and respond quickly to economic changes.

The most commonly used index is the One-Year Treasury Security. It’s used on ARMs with annual rate adjustments. Confusion can arise when some lenders use the term “One Year Treasury Bill.” Most one-year ARMs are actually tied to the Constant Maturity of the One-Year Treasury Security.

Six Month LIBOR
LIBOR stands for London Inter Bank Offer Rate. It’s the rate of interest at which banks offer to lend money to one another in the wholesale money markets in London. Money can be borrowed overnight for a period in excess of five years.

The LIBOR rate is used as a base index for setting rates of some ARM programs. Rates are set each day at 11 a.m. (London time) by leading banks, and posted each morning in The Wall Street Journal.

There are four types of LIBOR rates: one-month, three-month, six-month and one-year. However, the most common quote for mortgages is the six-month LIBOR.

11th FHLB District COFI
This index is primarily used for ARMs with monthly interest rate adjustments. The 11th District represents the savings and loans associations and banks headquartered in Arizona, California and Nevada. The cost of funds reflects interest paid by institutions for savings accounts, FHLB advances, money borrowed from commercial banks, and other sources.

Since the largest part of a cost of funds index is interest paid on savings accounts, this index lags market interest rates. As a result, ARMs tied to this index rise and fall more slowly than rates in general. However, such ARMs often have payment caps, but no month-to-month interest rate caps.

Career spotlight: jobs for single moms

September 26, 2011 – Being a working single mom isn’t easy. Not only do they bear the burden of being the sole financial and emotional provider for their children, they also feel guilty for spending time away from them while they work.

Ideally, single moms need jobs that offer flexibility. They are at the mercy of their children’s schedules and occasionally they may miss a day of work or have to leave early to accommodate them. They also need a job where they can earn enough to support their families.

Some of the most flexible jobs for working single moms can be found in the sales and education fields. The hours are often compatible with school and after school programs, and most of the tasks involved in these jobs can be handled outside of the office or classroom if necessary.

Real estate agents and other sales jobs offer flexibility because you can make appointments according to your schedule. Educational positions, such as teachers and teaching assistants have flexible schedules, as well, and most of them have added incentive of a long break during the summer.

Working single moms with younger pre-school children may find that working from home every day or splitting time between the office and home works best for their schedules. Some of the positions that offer this kind of flexibility are in the marketing and communications field. These jobs include writers and editors, graphic designers and proofreaders. Technology makes working at home easy, and many companies like to hire at home workers because they save money on office space.

For some single moms it may be easier to work nights or weekends, and hospitals with their 24/7 schedules offer the most flexibility. Jobs like nursing and X-ray technicians are in high demand and are expected to continue to grow in the coming years, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Jobs outside of the hospital may work well, too. Physical therapists, dental hygienists and pharmacy technicians also have flexible schedules outside of the basic 9 to 5 routine, and offer full and part-time opportunities.

Can’t find the ideal job? Perhaps you should create one for yourself. If you have a great business idea, you may be able start a home-based business with a grant or loan. If you’re the boss, your schedule can be as flexible as you need it to be, and if you have older children, they might enjoy lending a helping hand. There a few organizations, including the Federal Government who may be willing to help a single mom get started. Check out to learn more.

Ben & Jerry’s ice cream upsets moms

September 25, 2011 – Remember the Schweddy Balls skit Saturday Night Live did back in 1998 with Alec Baldwin, Ana Gasteyer and Molly Shannon? It was #11 on the 50 Best SNL Skits I wrote about yesterday.

Ice cream wizards Ben & Jerry’s announced a few weeks ago that they named their latest flavor after the skit. Now the vanilla ice cream with covered rum balls and malt balls has some moms upset., part of the American Family Association is asking folks to boycott Ben & Jerry’s because they find the flavor vulgar.

What happened to having a little sense of humor? Surely there are bigger issues for the American Family Association to tackle. Should we change the name of rum balls or malted milk balls while we’re at it?

If a kid asks for Schweddy Balls ice cream by name it would surprise me, and he or she probably wouldn’t understand the history or the humor behind it anyway. Besides, I’ve always considered Ben & Jerry’s adult ice cream. It’s way too expensive to waste on the kids.

The best SNL skits

September 24, 2011 – Can you believe Saturday Night Live kicks off its 37th season tonight?

In honor of that achievement put together a list of the 50 best Saturday Night Live skits. The list is chock full of old and new favorites, with a smattering of classics from the first years like Samurai Hitman, Land Shark and the Coneheads.

A side-splitting list for sure, but my all time favorite skit didn’t make it. I don’t know why, but Rob Schneider’s subway guitarist made me giggle madly. Good thing I found it here.

Swiss scientists break the speed of light

September 23, 2011 – It appears that Albert Einstein’s theory that nothing travels faster than the speed of light could be wrong.

Researchers at the CERN lab in Switzerland have recorded tiny particles referred to as neutrinos that they claim travels faster. Einstein proposed his speed of light theory back in 1905 and since it has become the basis of modern physics.

While I’ve never had a head for science, I find this intriguing. If their theory proves accurate it could turn the science world upside down.

The CERN researchers claim to have high confidence in their findings, but American and Japanese scientists have been asked to verify their results before they confirm them as a discovery.

Visiting the Lighthouses of New Jersey

September 22, 2011 — Once called The Graveyard of the Sea, New Jersey has one of the most treacherous coastlines along the Atlantic coast. Strung along the 127-mile coastline are lighthouses that shine through the night offering refuge to returning ships and perfect photo opportunities for those who visit.

Plan a trip in the spring or fall to miss the summer crowds. They’re all easily accessible by the Garden State Parkway, and your tour can easily be completed in a weekend, or even one day if you like to rise with the sun and go all day. Imagine seeing the sunrise on Sandy Hook’s quaint peninsula and the sunset on Cape May’s Sunset Beach. We begin our tour at the northern tip:

Located in Sandy Hook at the north end of the Jersey Shore, The Sandy Hook Lighthouse is the oldest operating lighthouse in the U.S. Follow the signs from Route 36 to the Gateway National Recreational Area (exit 117 on the Garden State Parkway). Built in 1764, the Sandy Hook Lighthouse sits on the grounds of Fort Hancock. In 1964, on the anniversary of its first lighting, the light was declared a national historic landmark.

A short drive in Highlands, the Twin Lights Lighthouse doesn’t look like the typical cylinder-shaped house we’re accustomed to, but rather resembles a medieval fortress. Built in 1862, the lights aren’t identical, but fraternal twins, and are formerly known as the Navesink Lighthouse. Follow the signs when traveling from Sandy Hook; the lighthouse is located off of Route 36, which runs parallel to the ocean. There is a museum and gift shop on the grounds along with picnicking facilities. Guided tours for groups can be arranged by calling ahead.

About a 40-minute drive south of Sandy Hook, you’ll find the charming Sea Girt Lighthouse, located at Ocean and Beacon Avenues in Sea Girt (off exit 98 on the Garden State Parkway). Built in 1896 and restored in 1981, this house-style light is owned and operated by the city of Sea Girt. The lighthouse has an interesting history. It wasn’t built as a signal for ships, but rather for light between the Twin Lights and Barnegat. When you visit take a few moments to relax across the street on one of the many benches that overlook the beach and the ocean.

On Long Beach Island, a little over an hour’s drive from Sandy Hook, you’ll find the Barnegat Lighthouse, first built in 1834. Today it’s probably the Jersey Shore’s most photographed lighthouse. You can take the Garden State Parkway South from Sea Girt (exit 69) and follow the signs. “Old Barney”, as it’s fondly nicknamed, collapsed in 1856 during a storm, but was reconstructed the following year, and now stands strong. Its 217 steps are climbable for the adventurous, but only on weekends. There is also a gift shop on the grounds.

Located at Pacific and Rhode Island Avenues in Atlantic City (off exit 38 of the Garden State Parkway), the Absecon Lighthouse was built in 1857, and was a longtime landmark of Atlantic City. Because Atlantic City was the most popular tourist spot along the east coast, the lighthouse was once a major tourist attraction—probably the most famous in the country. Between 1912 and the early 1950s, it was the most visited lighthouse in the U.S. with over 10,000 visitors per year.

In Wildwood (off exit 6 of the Garden State Parkway), the Hereford Inlet Lighthouse, a Victorian-style light unlike any other at the Jersey Shore, sits regally at First and Central Avenues. It was built in 1874 and meant to serve as a landmark for fishermen who worked off Five Mile Beach returning to shore through the treacherous channel in the inlet. It’s open to the public and houses the Wildwood Information center. Surrounded by gardens, with a short walk to the beach, the grounds will give you a great view of the inlet.

Located in historic Cape May, a short distance from Wildwood (follow Ocean Drive south), The Cape May Lighthouse can be found by following signs to Cape May Point State Park. Built in 1859, the light stands 157 feet, 6 inches tall and has 199 steps. The lighthouse is open to the public, and the area is popular for bird and marine wildlife watchers. Less than a mile south sits Sunset Beach, a spectacular place to watch the sunset, and a perfect way to end your day and your tour.

Beatle songs add up to big numbers

September 21, 2011 – Quickly … name your top 100 favorite Beatle songs.

Yes, you read it right. I didn’t place an extra zero on that number by accident. Top 10 lists may be all the rage, but the Beatles are worth more than that.

OK, it might be a tall order to name that large a number off the top of your head. There aren’t many groups that have recorded enough music to have a top 100 so you probably don’t have much practice thinking in the three digit numbers.

Sure, you could name some super stars who have been around for 40 or 50 years, like the Stones, the Who, and Bob Dylan, and maybe even a few pop stars like Michael Jackson. But can you name any artist or group that recorded together for only seven years and reached that milestone? That’s an amazing amount of music for such a short time.

And that’s only half of it. In all, the Beatles recorded 213 songs on 19 studio albums (not including greatest hits or compilation albums) in that seven years time span, which means they averaged nearly 3 a year. That’s a lot of creativity.

To save you the trouble, the kind folks at Rolling Stone put together a top 100 favorite list of what they consider to be the Beatles’ best. The magazine admits their list may be a little controversial, especially when you consider the Beatle’s career ranged from pop tunes such as “Love Me Do”  and “She Loves You” to deeper and sometimes strange lyrics in tunes like “Happiness is a Warm Gun” or “Revolution #9”. How could you choose?

There’s almost a 50 percent chance that your favorite made the list. I don’t necessarily agree with the order, but I am happy that George Harrison shows up frequently and finally gets his due.

If you want to save yourself some time paging through the lengthy list, the top 10 is the most interesting. But the entire list is definitely a worthwhile read.