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Monthly Archives: April 2012

New Commander for Robins Logistics Complex

Monday, April 23rd, 2012

Restructuring at Robins Air Force Base will bring new leadership this summer.

Last November, Air Force Material Command announced it would restructure the Air Logistics Center system.

Brigadier General Cedric George will be the first commander of the newly-designated Air Logistics Complex.

The 402nd Maintenance Wing will now be the Air Logistics Complex.

The current commander of the 402nd, Colonel Evan Miller, has been re-assigned to Air Force Materiel Command.

All 3 ALCs, Robins, Hill in Ogden, Utah, and Tinker in Oklahoma City will all see this restructuring.

Major General Robert McMahon, the current ALC commander, and Deryl Israel, the executive director, are both retiring.

The reorganization plan is still contingent on congressional approval.

 

GETTING THE HOUSE READY TO SELL-DISCONNECT YOUR EMOTIONS

 

When conversing with real estate agents, you will often find that when they talk to you about buying real estate, they will refer to your purchase as a “home.” Yet if you are selling property, they will often refer to it as a “house.” There is a reason for this. Buying real estate is often an emotional decision, but when selling real estate you need to remove emotion from the equation.

You need to think of your house as a marketable commodity. Property. Real estate. Your goal is to get others to see it as their potential home, not yours. If you do not consciously make this decision, you can inadvertently create a situation where it takes longer to sell your property.

The first step in getting your home ready to sell is to “de-personalize” it.

 

Successful kids and successful schools usually share a secret ingredient: supportive parents! This means the time you spend helping at school also boosts your child’s chances for success. Students and their schools both rely on parents to help them be their best. Students need a supportive atmosphere for learning at home and someone to advocate for them at school. In these days of shrinking budgets and increasing demands on teachers, many schools cannot provide everything students need without help from parents.

In today’s busy world, it is easy for parents to focus their time and energy on activities that directly benefit their own kids, and avoid getting involved with larger school activities and issues. Luckily, you do not need to make a choice between helping the school and helping your child. Recent studies show that the children of parents who are involved in schools do better academically.

Here are 10 ways you can be involved in your child’s education. Some support your child directly and others benefit the whole school, including your child. Remember, you don’t have to do everything! Choose the activities that fit your interests and schedule.

1. Make sure your children go to school ready to learn. In the morning scramble to get out the door on time, your children may skip breakfast or leave homework behind. The day gets off to a much better start if they pack their backpacks the night before, get plenty of rest and have a good breakfast.

2. Make time for homework. Set up a study area with good lighting and a dictionary, and limit television on weeknights to be certain homework gets done. Make reading an everyday habit. Children who have “no homework” can always review the day’s lessons or read a book for fun.

You may also need to curtail extracurricular activities and, as your children grow older, limit part-time jobs. Children who take part in other nonacademic activities for 20 or more hours per week usually don’t have enough energy to perform optimally in school.

3. Monitor your children’s academic progress. Don’t wait until report cards come out to check up on how your children are doing. Attend scheduled parent-teacher conferences to get acquainted with their teachers, and don’t hesitate to contact teachers at other times to find out whether your children are keeping up with assignments.

4. When there’s a problem, work with the school on your child’s behalf. If your child starts to slip academically, make an appointment with the teacher to put together a plan for correcting the problem. Teachers appreciate parents who reinforce the importance of schoolwork, and your child will have a better chance of succeeding if you and the teacher agree on a strategy.

If your child has difficulties with a teacher, try to keep an open mind and find out all the facts before jumping to conclusions. It’s always best to try to work out differences with teachers before going over their heads and complaining to the principal.

5. Attend school functions. Going to back-to-school night, the spring concert, school plays, talent shows and other school events shows your children that you value their schools. In a 10-year study of 20,000 teenagers, Laurence Steinberg found that only one-fifth of parents regularly attended school functions, and that those who did were much more likely to have high-achieving students.

In addition to communicating to children that school is important, Steinberg writes in Beyond the Classroom: “Attending school functions may be even more important for the message it communicates to teachers and other school personnel. Teachers cannot help but pay closer attention to students whose parents they encounter at school programs, for both positive and negative reasons. On the positive side, the added attention stems from a sort of halo effect — Susie’s parents are interested in her education, so Susie must be, too. But the attention also stems from the teacher’s knowledge that Susie’s parents are the sort of parents who are more likely to take action if something in Susie’s education is not going right.”

6. Volunteer at the school. In the early grades, some parents like to volunteer at school so they can observe how their children interact with other kids. As your children grow older, they may tell you they don’t want to be seen in public with you, but they definitely get the message that school is important when they see you helping on school projects.

No matter what age your child is, there are many opportunities to help at school, whether it’s in the classroom, library, computer lab or on the playground. Parents who spend their days at work or tending to younger children can help in the evenings by making phone calls, drafting newsletters or writing letters on behalf of the school.

You can join the school’s parent-teacher association or organization (PTA or PTO) or volunteer to assist an individual teacher. PTAs have evolved beyond bake sales and other fundraisers. Today’s parents are using their professional skills to bring substantive improvements to schools, such as upgrading computer labs, landscaping school grounds and introducing academic enrichment programs.

7. Take a leadership role at school. There are plenty of opportunities for parents to become decision-makers at schools. In addition to the PTA or PTO, you can offer to serve on the school site council, which oversees academic planning for the school, or on a district-wide committee or task force. Schools and districts often have committees related to curriculum, student health, after school programs, technology and more. Taking on a leadership role will give you a better appreciation of the complexities of education and will help you be a more informed advocate for your child’s school.

8. Evaluate your school’s performance. More and more data are becoming available to parents to help them understand how their schools are performing. On GreatSchools.org, you can find out test scores and lots of other facts. Depending on which state you live in, the data offered may include enrollment, teacher experience, the student-teacher ratio, socioeconomic status or the number of students per computer. You can also compare your children’s schools to other schools using the Compare Schools tool.

9. Help your school improve. Once you know where your school stands, you can play a part in helping all children succeed. Parents around the U.S. are having a direct impact on school success by organizing after-school tutoring programs, bringing in speakers for parent education programs, starting academic enrichment workshops, and introducing other school improvement projects.

To get inspired, you can read about other parents who have made changes at their schools.

10. Get involved in politics. When budget cuts are threatened and valuable programs may be cut, you can help your school by writing to your local and state legislators. Another important responsibility is understanding education issues and candidates on the ballot. If parents in your community don’t understand the ballot measures, host a pre-election coffee hour to pool everyone’s knowledge or schedule a debate for school board candidates. Make sure your voter registration is current by calling your county elections office. And don’t forget to vote!

Related books

Cooperman, Saul. How Schools Really Work: Practical Advice for Parents From an Insider (Catfeet Press, 1996): This book is packed with tips on assessing schools, teachers, principals, superintendents and school boards and ends with a chapter called “How to Take Control of Your Schools.” The author has 40 years of experience as a teacher, principal, superintendent, and as the commissioner of education for the state of New Jersey.

Steinberg, Laurence. Beyond the Classroom: Why School Reform Has Failed and What Parents Need to Do ( Touchstone, 1996): Among Steinberg’s findings during a 10-year study of 20,000 teens are that effective parents regularly attend school functions and teach their children to take responsibility for their own learning.

First Street in Warner Robins Renamed

During a public ceremony Tuesday afternoon, “First Street” in Warner Robins officially became “Armed Forces Boulevard.”

Warner Robins Mayor Charles Sheehan called a special city council meeting to vote on the name change.

The mayor along with Lt. General Charles E. Stenner of the Air Force Reserve Command and Robins Air Force Base Commander Col. Mitchel Butikofer dedicated the new street and unveiled the street sign.

 

Keep Your Garden From Becoming a Deer Salad Bar

Tired of serving the local wildlife an all-you-can-eat buffet of perennials, annuals and shrubs? Take some tips on the best deer-resistant plants.

By Amanda Lecky of Good Housekeeping

The first spring that we owned the house we live in now, I was thrilled to see a lush border of hostas pop up along the driveway. Hostas have been one of my favorite plants since I cut my gardening teeth in a shady spot in the Adirondacks, and so that first spring I added even more to the new property — brightening low spots with the variegated leaves of hosta “Sweet Innocence” and adding cool blue texture with hosta “Elegans.” All was well in our suburban yard until summer arrived, bringing with it not just heat and humidity, but some unexpected — and unwanted — guests: deer.

Soon, I realized that the deer that traipse through our property each night love hostas as much as I do. What says “textural border” to me screams “salad bar” to them. And so, after a couple of seasons of watching the deer gobble the hostas and various other perennials and annuals down to the ground, I finally pulled every plant from the border and let pachysandra fill the empty spots. That’s a plant deer don’t favor, though they’ve been known to eat just about anything if hungry enough.

I did experiment with spraying my plants with deer-repellent mixtures, but I’m a lazy gardener: I like to plant and then neglect as much as possible. So over time, I’ve filled my perennial beds with deer-resistant plants, such as echinacea and yarrow. These have the added benefit of being hardy and heat-tolerant, so I don’t have to water as much as I used to, either.

Luckily, there’s a wide variety of plants that deer don’t love, many of which you can read about in Ruth Rogers Clausen’s new book, “50 Beautiful Deer-Resistant Plants: The Prettiest Annuals, Perennials, Bulbs, and Shrubs that Deer Don’t Eat” ($20, Timber Press). Clausen gives some great ideas on how to discourage deer from browsing in your garden and provides detailed planting and growing information, as well as a “deer resistance rating” for all 50 plants. Take her tips and you just might persuade the deer to eat at a restaurant down the street.

 

Fannie and Freddie Set Timeline Requirements for Short Sales

By:  Carrie Bay

Beginning June 15, real estate agents working with distressed homeowners whose loans are backed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac should expect to receive a decision on a short sale offer within 30-60 days.

The GSEs issued new guidelines Tuesday that fall under the Servicing Alignment Initiative rolled out last fall and aim to bring greater transparency to the short sale process and expedite decisions related to these pre-foreclosure sales.

Not only is a short sale an effective foreclosure alternative when home retention is no longer an option, but it keeps homes occupied and helps to maintain stable communities, according to the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA).

Addressing real estate practitioners’ No. 1 complaint about short sales, FHFA directed Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to establish a new uniform set of minimum response times that servicers must follow in order to facilitate more efficient short sale transactions.

The GSEs’ new short sale timelines require servicers to make a decision within 30 days of receiving either an offer on a property under the companies’ traditional short sale programs or a completed Borrower Response Package (BRP) requesting short sale consideration, whether it’s through the federal government’s Home Affordable Foreclosure Alternative (HAFA) program or a GSE program.

If more than 30 days are needed, servicers must provide the borrower with weekly status updates and come to a decision no later than 60 days from the date the BRP or offer was received.

According to the GSEs, this 30-day add-on will provide some leeway for servicers who may need more time to obtain a broker price opinion (BPO) or a private mortgage insurer’s approval for a short sale. All decisions must be made within 60 days.

In the event a servicer makes a counteroffer, the borrower is expected to respond within five business days. The servicer must then respond within 10 business days of receiving the borrower’s response.

The GSEs plan to use the new short sale timelines to evaluate servicer compliance with the Servicing Alignment Initiative.

Edward DeMarco, acting director of the FHFA, says the GSEs new borrower communication and timeline requirements for short sales “set minimum standards and provide clear expectations regarding these important foreclosure alternatives.”

GSE servicers must comply with the new minimum communication time frames for all short sale evaluations conducted on or after June 15, 2012, although servicers are encouraged to begin implementing the new requirements sooner.

“I applaud Fannie and Freddie for finally coming out with real guidance with real world timelines for their servicers,” commented Anthony Lamacchia, broker/owner of McGeough Lamacchia Realty Inc., which specializes in short sales. “There is no question that this will help short sales and the market as a whole.”

Last year Freddie Mac completed 45,623 short sales, a 140 percent increase since 2009. Fannie Mae’s short sale completions shot up by 101 percent over the same period, totaling around 79,800 in 2011.

 

8 Signs of an Extraordinary Boss

The best managers have a fundamentally different understanding of workplace, company, and team dynamics. See what they get right.

A few years back, I interviewed some of the most successful CEOs in the world in order to discover their management secrets. I learned that the “best of the best” tend to share the following eight core beliefs.

1. Business is an ecosystem, not a battlefield.

Average bosses see business as a conflict between companies, departments and groups. They build huge armies of “troops” to order about, demonize competitors as “enemies,” and treat customers as “territory” to be conquered.

Extraordinary bosses see business as a symbiosis where the most diverse firm is most likely to survive and thrive. They naturally create teams that adapt easily to new markets and can quickly form partnerships with other companies, customers … and even competitors.

2. A company is a community, not a machine.

Average bosses consider their company to be a machine with employees as cogs. They create rigid structures with rigid rules and then try to maintain control by “pulling levers” and “steering the ship.”

Extraordinary bosses see their company as a collection of individual hopes and dreams, all connected to a higher purpose. They inspire employees to dedicate themselves to the success of their peers and therefore to the community–and company–at large.

3. Management is service, not control.

Average bosses want employees to do exactly what they’re told. They’re hyper-aware of anything that smacks of insubordination and create environments where individual initiative is squelched by the “wait and see what the boss says” mentality.

Extraordinary bosses set a general direction and then commit themselves to obtaining the resources that their employees need to get the job done. They push decision making downward, allowing teams form their own rules and intervening only in emergencies.

4. My employees are my peers, not my children.

Average bosses see employees as inferior, immature beings who simply can’t be trusted if not overseen by a patriarchal management. Employees take their cues from this attitude, expend energy on looking busy and covering their behinds.

Extraordinary bosses treat every employee as if he or she were the most important person in the firm. Excellence is expected everywhere, from the loading dock to the boardroom. As a result, employees at all levels take charge of their own destinies.

5. Motivation comes from vision, not from fear.

Average bosses see fear–of getting fired, of ridicule, of loss of privilege–as a crucial way to motivate people. As a result, employees and managers alike become paralyzed and unable to make risky decisions.

Extraordinary bosses inspire people to see a better future and how they’ll be a part of it. As a result, employees work harder because they believe in the organization’s goals, truly enjoy what they’re doing and (of course) know they’ll share in the rewards.

6. Change equals growth, not pain.

Average bosses see change as both complicated and threatening, something to be endured only when a firm is in desperate shape. They subconsciously torpedo change … until it’s too late.

Extraordinary bosses see change as an inevitable part of life. While they don’t value change for its own sake, they know that success is only possible if employees and organization embrace new ideas and new ways of doing business.

7. Technology offers empowerment, not automation.

Average bosses adhere to the old IT-centric view that technology is primarily a way to strengthen management control and increase predictability. They install centralized computer systems that dehumanize and antagonize employees.

Extraordinary bosses see technology as a way to free human beings to be creative and to build better relationships. They adapt their back-office systems to the tools, like smartphones and tablets, that people actually want to use.

8. Work should be fun, not mere toil.

Average bosses buy into the notion that work is, at best, a necessary evil. They fully expect employees to resent having to work, and therefore tend to subconsciously define themselves as oppressors and their employees as victims. Everyone then behaves accordingly.

Extraordinary bosses see work as something that should be inherently enjoyable–and believe therefore that the most important job of manager is, as far as possible, to put people in jobs that can and will make them truly happy.

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Energy-Efficient Appliances: Where to Find Real Savings

April 16th, 2012 by gaelite

In the average U.S. home, the electricity used to power household appliances and electronics can amount to as much as 20 percent of your annual utility costs. The energy costs associated with a single device may not seem significant, but together, providing power to our TVs, DVD players, computers, stereos, dishwashers, fridges, washers and dryers, water heaters, air conditioners, and more can really add up. Read on to learn which of your home’s appliances and electronic devices consume the most energy and what you can do to try to bring your electric costs down.

Furnaces and Water Heaters

These two products consume more energy than any others in your home, making it especially important to consider efficiency when you choose which models to install.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), ENERGY STAR qualified oil and gas furnaces have annual fuel utilization ratings of 85 to 90 percent or greater, which makes them 15 percent more efficient than standard models. Water heaters are next in terms of energy consumption, and the average household spends between $400 and $600 each year to run them. Again according to the EPA, today’s new ENERGY STAR qualified water heaters include smart design enhancements that increase efficiency and can cut your water heating costs in half.

Refrigerators

Next to your furnace and water heater, your refrigerator is the biggest energy guzzler in your home. To help cut costs, be sure that the fridge you select is the smallest it can be while still providing adequate storage space for all of your family’s food needs. Note that models with freezers on the top or bottom are generally more efficient than side-by-side models. Here, too, look for the ENERGY STAR label, which can reduce an energy expenditure of more than $100 a year to run the fridge to just half that.

Stoves

Consider how often you really cook when choosing between ovens and stovetops. Today, there is little difference between gas and electric stovetops in terms of cost. You should make your decision between the two based on your cooking comfort – but do bear in mind that gas stovetops require less energy than electric stovetops. In the case of ovens, though, an electric model makes more sense if you do a lot of baking or other oven cooking. You might consider purchasing the units separately, which gives you the flexibility to choose a gas range and an electric oven.

Clothes Washers and Dryers

According to the EPA, front-loading horizontal-axis washers use 50 percent less energy, less water, and less soap, which can translate into savings on average of about $95 a year for the average household. And by choosing an ENERGY STAR qualified washer, you’ll save enough over its lifetime to cover the cost of a matching drier. ENERGY STAR does not label dryers because most consume around the same amount of energy. But to cut costs and energy waste, look for one with a moisture sensor that will cause it to shut off automatically as soon as clothes are dry.

Air Conditioners

Once again, ENERGY STAR is the label to look for when selecting room air conditioning units. Models that bear the label consume 10 percent less energy than models that don’t. In fact, the EPA reports that if every room air conditioner sold in the United States were ENERGY STAR qualified, it would prevent 1.3 billion pounds of greenhouse gas emissions, or the equivalent of 115,000 cars. Also be sure to select an air condition that is the right size for the room you are trying to cool and not too big.

 

 

Down Payment Options

 

One of the components a lender uses to help determine what loan amount to approve is your down payment. A down payment not only serves as a commitment on a borrower.s behalf to make good on a loan, but acts as a lender.s guarantee to minimize risk in case a borrower defaults on a loan. The more of your own cash that you can put down for a loan, the easier it is to qualify for a higher loan amount or a lower mortgage payment.

Alternative sources of funding

Since most borrowers do not have large cash reserves on-hand for a down payment, there are other alternative sources for funding. Besides tapping into your own savings accounts, other resources may include friends, relatives, 401(k) plans, proceeds from stock sales, appraised assets, even a co-signer.

Many cities, looking to expand their communities, even offer their own down payment subsidy programs for cash-strapped buyers. It.s not uncommon to be gifted $5,000 to $10,000 without expectation of re-payment.

Loan-to-value ratio

A down payment is always expressed as a percent of the sales price and often referred to by lenders at the .loan-to-value ratio. or LTV. For instance, a $250,000 mortgage with an LTV of 80 percent would require 20 percent down or $50,000. Using a down payment calculator can help you see what influence a different down payment can have on your monthly mortgage.

Other down payment options

Some banks even offer zero-down percentage loans which require no down payment. These types of loans are typically directed at first-time buyers with good credit who are qualified to make the monthly payment but cannot come up with a down payment. However, without a down payment the buyer has no equity in the house and the lender is at greater risk, so the interest rate could be higher.

Another alternative to buying a home without committing to a down payment is to consider a lease option to buy. As a renter, you have an option anytime during the term of the lease, to buy the property at an agreed upon price from the owner. In some instances, the money you.ve put toward rent can be fully or partially applied toward the down payment.

Sellers can also assist buyers with their down payment. By offering a carry-back mortgage, sellers can sell their house faster in a competitive market and buyers can purchase a home they otherwise might not be able to afford.

 
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