Personal Finance Tips – How to Get a VA Loan If You Are a Veteran!

If you happen to be a person who is on active duty right now or are considered a qualified veteran you could have a valuable resource available to you in order for you to get a loan for a home. VA loans are for those who qualify to get a home loan from the Department of Veterans Affairs. They are a department of the government that actually will keep your interests at heart when they are processing your loan. So it’s a good idea to research your VA loan possibility before you go looking for other lenders.You can do a self screening to see if you are a qualified veteran or if you are on active duty. However, if you are a veteran you need to have received an honorable discharge or you may not be considered eligible. So you should take whatever military identification that you have, down to your local Veteran’s Administration office to see if you are truly eligible before you get your hopes up.You will need some sort of proof that you serviced in the military. This would be your DD214, Military ID Card, Military Record and any awards you might have for proof that you served in the U.S. Military. Even though your local VA may already have any of these items you still should make sure that you have your own copies.You can also, if you wish, go to the website for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs if you would rather try to apply online. You will click on the “Veteran Services” option on the website where you will then click on “Home Loans”. Then you can click on the “Certificate of Eligibility Veteran Registration Instructions” this way you can register for the site. You will need to do this in order to be able to apply for a loan online.After you have done this you then go back and login. Go back to the “Veteran Services” and click on that, go to “Home Loans” and click on that. Once back to the options page for home loans you can then click on the “VA Loan Electronic Reporting Interface.” Once you are there you will need to follow all of the directions they require for you to apply for the loan.You will then need to go to your VA Office when the site directs you to. This is so that you can complete the entire loan processing. You will give the rep all of the paperwork that they are going to need like proof that your served, your real estate agent’s contact information (understand that you already need to have a house in mind so that if they need to ask questions your real estate agent can answer them for you) and any other information that they might require. It’s probably a very good idea for you to call them ahead of time to see exactly what they need from you to continue processing the loan.After that, you will just need to wait for your loan to be processed and while you are waiting make sure to continue to update your agent about how far along the process is. They need to know that it’s still in process so that they don’t think that you’ve decided to not go through with it.

Photography Tips For the Photo Doldrums – Condensation, Hail, Mist and Fog

Thus far we’ve considered photography tips on waves, waterscapes, waterfalls, reflections, abstracts, splash ‘n spray, foam ‘n bubbles, and puddles as remedies for the photo doldrums. But, water can provide even more photo op’s! Here are 4 more.#1 – Condensation: Perhaps more often associated with man-made things – cold objects amid warm, moist air – condensation is an often overlooked source of interesting pictures. So, watch out for cold water pipes and surfaces in warm places. Or, open your fridge sometime and check out the food containers with clear plastic lids. Are there any condensed water droplets on the underside of the lids? Remove the lid without disturbing the droplets, (Tip: leave the lids just sitting on top instead of clicked down tight) and gently place it down on a flat surface suitable for a background. Set up your camera to shoot straight down on the lid for over-all sharpness.Regularly check your local weather forecasts and keep a notebook of the special places you find in your neighbourhood that provide good locations for shots that include the following:#2 – Hail: Hail is possible with most thunderstorms as it is usually produced at the leading edge of a severe storm system and usually falls within 2 miles of its parent storm, during the summer months, in the afternoon and evening hours. Hail-producing clouds are often identifiable by their green coloration and hailstorms normally last about 3-15 minutes. Hailstones can vary from less than pea-size to larger than 4″. Place a hailstone over a slightly smaller hole in black cardboard and shine a light up through the hole and the hailstone, and photograph the hailstone’s interior structure. Or picture assorted stones along with coins, etc for size comparison on a dark background. Or photograph it after a heavy fall where ever it lays, amid the damage it may cause.#3 – Mist: In the early morning or late evening, mist or groundfog can generate “artist’s light” as masses of water vapor in an area condense from coolness near ponds, rivers, etc or down in ravines and valleys. It burns off quickly though, so you have to anticipate it and get there early. Look for things extending above the mist, or visible through openings in it, as it swirls about.#4 – Fog: Can make all the difference between ordinary and exceptional images. In foggy scenes include foreground objects for silhouettes and interesting contrasts. Just remember that you generally have to increase your exposure by 1/2 to 3/4 of a stop to avoid a picture that’s too dark.Self-Assignments For Above Photography Tips: Choose the projects that interest you most. Follow the photography tips conscientiously. Re-shoot when you aren’t satisfied. Do it til you are satisfied. It’ll take all your patience and passion. Your skills and eye will improve with the practice. Shoot especially in early and late light. Use a tripod as much as possible. Edit your results relentlessly. Pin small samples on the wall for a few days to study before making final prints for wall art.Photography Tip #1 – Condensation: If you have a container of yogurt with a clear plastic lid in your fridge, just sit the lid on top of the container and don’t click it down tight. When water drops from condensation form a pattern of circles on the underside of the lid, gently take the lid and place it down on a table or counter top, without disturbing the drops. Shoot straight down on it and make a close-up of a part of the pattern.Photography Tip #2 – Hail: When a thunderstorm is forecasted keep an eye out for hail. Find a safe place to shoot from and shoot it as it falls and bounces off things, using both fast and slow shutter speeds.Photography Tip #3 – Mist: When the weather forecast predicts ground fog, have a rural scenic spot in mind to go to that has higher and lower sections within it and shoot it just as the sun comes up.Photography Tip #4 – Fog: When the weather forecast predicts fog, have a scenic spot in mind to go to and shoot a portion of it that has things that recede from you into the fog, with some leaves hanging down into the top of the frame as silhouettes.In the next article of this set we’ll consider photography tips about water’s cold season photo op’s for remedying the photo doldrums, when it can turn crystalline or even solid!

Chaos Theory: The Uncontrollable Factor in the Development of Management Systems

Failures in project management systems can be superficially explained by anything from a lack of project detail to managerial conflicts. However, this failure often has deeper roots. Until we begin to recognize this uncontrollable factor it will be difficult to master the implementation of any management system. This factor is known as the “Chaos Theory” or simply “chaos”. Chaos Theory could be considered a core management theory for the 21st century. According to Wheatley (1992) when management tries to control chaos by “shoehorning” it into a specific structure, an organization is bound to fail. Controlling chaos this rigidly is actually limiting information gathering (Stuart, 1995) and creating the illusion of management. According to McNamara (1999), Chaos Theory recognizes that events are rarely controlled. As systems such as those in management grow in complexity, the more they become volatile or susceptible to cataclysmic events.One way to plan for such chaos is through “contingency management”. Contingency management is having an alternative plan to fall back on when chaos strikes, allowing for critical internal processes to continue and meet the desired outcome. Most managers do not see contingency management as a necessary step, because it takes time. In a world where efficiency and timeliness is key, this step is often the first to be overlooked. Until management recognizes the importance of contingency management and allows it to be fully implemented, chaos will continue to hinder the progress and efficiency of management systems.DEFINING AND ESTIMATING CHAOSThe more general name for the field is complexity theory, where chaos is a particular mode of behavior (Rosenhead, 1998). Chaos theory explains that the behavior in turbulent systems quickly becomes disordered (Wikipedia, 2005). Chaos theory acknowledges that management systems break down. It recognizes that decisions need to be made even in the absence of all intended information (Herz, 2001). Complete order, while the ideal, will always be the one unaccounted for variable–part of our human nature. Similar to accidents, chaos is like a release of energy in an uncontrolled way (Blockley, 1998).Project management systems are considered dynamic systems, similar to those in nature, which means they change over time and are hard to predict. Even though they are changing, there is usually an underlying predictability that can be identified. This is where chaotic behavior comes into play. Behavior in systems can be placed into two zones, one, the stable zone, where the system, if disturbed, returns to its initial state and two, the zone of instability where some small activity leads to further divergence (Rosenhead, 1998).CALCULATING CHAOSChaos is immeasurable because of its level of randomness and unpredictability. Gabriel (1996) states that looking for sufficient equations to enable one to ‘manage’ such chaos is part of a futile and wish-fulfilling quest. However there are some researchers that believe calculating chaos is possible. While chaos in the business world mimics that in nature, unlike chaos in nature, there are measurable ways for project managers to try and calculate the degree to which chaos will affect their project. The following formula can help to calculate project constraints:Dynamics = D + a*P + b*R + c*D*P + d*P*R + e*R*D + f*D*P*RWhere D=directives, P=prerequisites, R=resources and a & f are constraints.However Bertelsen and Koskela (2003) postulate that aside from estimating the size of the chaos (small to extra large), a system is too complicated to predict its function and response to a given problem.WHY IS BUSINESS SO CHAOTIC?The pace of today’s businesses and technological innovations have quickened to an impossible pace. Sometimes project timelines need to be written before all tasks and resources have been completely identified, which puts a project behind schedule before it has begun. This increasingly fast-paced system is “a breeding ground” for a chaotic management system (Yoke, 2003).This breeding ground is creating a complexity explosion, which is affecting the way project managers need to manage. Undertaking a management system project is more than a weeklong project–many last for years or longer. As conditions are constantly changing, goals and objectives need to also be flexible to change. Goals and objectives are necessary, however, flexibility is key in order to ensure positive long-term results of a project.HOW TO MANAGE CHAOSThe first line of defense in order to manage chaos is a good management team and an even better project manager. According to Bertelsen & Koskela (2003) an organization can manage its chaos by seeking out the factors that are easiest to change. An organization should then handle a projects dynamics and stress in the face of uncertainties. Finally, a manager should both always have a contingency plan and be able to keep track of critical factors and issue warnings. By turning an organization into a “learning organization” successful management of chaos is more likely (Bertelsen & Koskela, 2003).Systems are so dynamically complex and highly sensitive to conditions that any link between cause and effect can set off a ripple effect rendering its future deliverable unpredictable. Technologies, timelines, scope, costs, personnel, are constantly changing within an organization and management must be adaptable. The same holds true for project managers. If they are not given the flexibility to adapt to chaos then management systems will fail. Project managers need to be seen as venture capitalists: always searching for new ideas.Most management systems set forth a detailed plan and than proceed to follow it. According to McNamara the best way to do this is to work backwards through the system of an organization. This will help to show which processes will produce the right output and what inputs are required to conduct those processes (McNamara, 1999). A good project manager is one who realizes that plans often need to change in order to accommodate a changing situation. By following contingency plans, good managers can avoid such mishaps as scope creep and cost overruns.
There are different tools that project managers can use to help manage the chaos and successfully manage complicated systems. According to the Numbers Group some such tools are:1. Work Breakdown Structure (WBS) – breaks the product to be developed or produced by hardware, software, support, or service element and relates the scope to each.
Example of WBS2. Program Evaluation and Review (PERT) – a model, which helps the project manager define the critical path using, randomized tasks
Example of Pert Chart3. Implementation Schedule (GANTT) – graphical representation of the duration of tasks against the progression of time.Example of Gantt Chart4. Enneagram – originally a tool for personality mapping, can find order in chaos by identifying underlying patterns in an organization. The map allows project managers to predict certain outcomes, which results in more reliable management systems. The Enneagram provides a structured view with which to see the order in between chaos (Fowlke & Fowlke, 1997).
Example of an EnneagramCONCLUSIONA good project manager is one who can adapt to a changing environment as well as allow individuals to manage their own areas of expertise. This business trend is seen in forward thinking companies in the 21st century, and is also known as “managing by objectives” or “empowering knowledge workers”. Unfortunately, in most companies this value paradigm is missed because management is focused on the financials rather than on renewing and developing knowledge (Stuart, 1995).The project manager’s main function is to recognize employees’ strengths and to empower his group to work individually, both in a team and as individuals. The new project manager needs to be forward thinking and to have the ability to be flexible, creative, and able to respond to events quickly (Yolk 2003). Organizations need to embrace disorder and look to the edge of chaos (Stuart, 1995). Perhaps this empowerment of both individuals and teams as a whole, in conjunction with managements’ ability to stay nimble in the face of a dramatically changing environment, will allow organizations to better manage the challenge of chaos in the 21st century.REFERENCESBertlesen, Sven; Koskela, Lauri. “Avoiding and Managing Chaos in Projects.”>.Blockley, David. “Managing Proneness to Failure.” Journal of Contingencies & Crisis Management June 1998: 147-176.Freedman, David. “Chaos Theory.” Inc. October 1998: 50-60.