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Mark Strobel
4550 W. Tilghman Street | Allentown, PA 18104
Phone: 610-398-8111 1471 | Office Phone: 610-398-8111 | Fax: 267-354-6254
email: mstrobel@remaxcentralinc.com

My Blog

Let Your Photos Take Center Stage

November 17, 2017 1:39 am

One of the many great things about today’s smartphone cameras is that they allow you to take high-quality photos anywhere, anytime. The wide range of filters and settings turns amateurs into fashion photographers, travel reporters and SoHo artists.

The bad thing about this newfound accessibility to photography, however, is that most of those photos never make it off your phone. Once you take them and share a few on social media, they often get lost in the ether of the Cloud or some drive on your PC. Here are some creative ways to bring your favorite photos out from their digital recesses and into the world for you and others to enjoy on a regular basis:

Set up slideshows as screensavers on your laptop and desktop computers. You can even use this feature on your smart TV and let the slide show play when friends and family are gathered for the next holiday.

Make an annual photo book. Gather the best of your photos for a given year and flow them into an annual photo book. People will be more apt to pick up a hard copy of the year’s highlights as opposed to scrolling through your phone.

Make separate albums for special trips you’ve taken. After all, your vacation to Fiji deserves more than a few shots on Facebook or a fleeting image on Snapchat.

Get artsy with your favorite shots. Have them printed on canvases or framed as posters to showcase in key areas of your home.

Put endearing shots of friends, family and pets on everything from pillows and throws to mugs and calendars. That way you’ll be reminded of who matters most every time you use these functional items.

Consider going old school and making photos a social occasion. Invite a few friends over for a slide show of your European vacation or of your newest grandchild, and serve drinks and hors d’oeuvres. Invite them to connect their device to view their latest life event too.  

These ideas will help make your photos what they’re intended to be: precious memories of the people and places that matter to you.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Property Claims Satisfaction Surges, Even As Catastrophes Escalate

November 17, 2017 1:39 am

Although recent property insurance claim calls have escalated with fires, flooding and storm damages being reported all over the country, overall customer satisfaction among homeowners filing property insurance claims has reached a new all-time high.

The latest J.D. Power 2017 U.S. Property Claims Satisfaction Study notes this surge in insurance customer satisfaction corresponds with a 10-year high in catastrophic events, which are typically associated with lower satisfaction scores.

The study measures satisfaction with the property claims experience among insurance customers who have filed a claim for damages by examining five factors (listed in order of importance): settlement; first notice of loss; estimation process; service interaction; and repair process. Satisfaction is calculated on a 1,000-point scale with the overall Customer Satisfaction Index reaching a new all-time high for the study.

The largest single driver of the improvement is the settlement factor, which encompasses the fairness of the settlement amount, followed by estimation process and service interaction.

Following are some of the key findings of that 2017 J.D. Power property claims study:

- The West posts the largest improvement nationwide, amid a period where the toll from wildfires has yet to be fully reconciled. A handful of states with more volatile weather claims — most notably Texas, Florida, and Massachusetts —  post flat to declining scores.

- Weather-related claims elsewhere achieve the highest overall improvement in claims satisfaction, with high wind- and hail-related claims leading the way. However, water-related claims, which tend to take longer to resolve, are linked to lower overall satisfaction scores.

- High wind and hail claims are the most frequent weather-related claims in this year’s study, and both are correlated with relatively high satisfaction scores, regardless of total cycle time. Water-related claims, by contrast, are associated with the lowest satisfaction scores. On the whole, water-related claims score 39 points lower than hail-related claims.

- Slow resolution time is the primary driver of lower scores for water-related claims, with the time it took to a settle claim receiving a rating that is 0.40 points lower (on a 10-point scale) than other claims types for water-related claims.

Source: www.jdpower.com

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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5 Ways to Ease Holiday Travel

November 17, 2017 1:39 am

The hustle and bustle of travel during the holiday can be a major headache. To help ease your journey, MultiVu offers the following tips for smooth driving and flying this happy holiday season.

Do your homework. Before you commit to a travel plan, comparison shop. Use a travel review site such as Booking.com to cross reference lodging, car rentals, wellness retreats and more to make sure you're getting exactly what you expect before you pull out that credit card.

Protect yourself. From hurricanes to earthquakes, there's a lot that's not in our control. But something that is? Protecting our travel investment with travel insurance coverage. Travel insurance can reimburse your non-refundable expenses if you must cancel a trip due to sickness or injury and most importantly, it'll cover you for medical emergencies that may happen while you're traveling.

Lighten the load. During the holidays, consider sending unwrapped gifts in advance to your destination to lighten your load and wrapping them upon arrival. Pack a capsule wardrobe so that you can mix and match your outfits, and find out if laundry services are available at your destination so you can do a light load while on the road. Wear your heaviest clothing item, like a knitted sweater or peacoat, to lighten the weight of luggage or leave more room for packing. Think about things you don't need, and consider going more natural to save weight: hair dryer, hair spray, your entire skincare lineup (maybe just take the moisturizer and sunscreen in travel-sized containers and a mini makeup kit),

On the go games. Traveling with a brood? The best kid games on the go are the ones without small pieces and that don't make a lot of noise: cards, coloring, reading books are great. Car games that require rider participation are also a wonderful way to keep kids entertained and don't require any packing.

Source: MultiVu

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Ward Off Identity Theft This Holiday Season

November 15, 2017 1:39 am

Identity theft is a scary thought year-round, but during the holidays, the last thing you want to deal with is the headache and hassle of a stolen identity. Consider the following safety precautions from IdentityForce.

Be Charitable without Giving Access to Bank Accounts. Conduct research before donating to a non-profit. Be wary of a charity that uses a name closely resembling a well-known organization. If donating online, avoid crowdfunding or only donate to those people you know personally as it is extremely difficult to verify where your donation is going.

Volunteer Your Time, Not Your Identity. Many food banks or soup kitchens require a driver's license or a background check before volunteering. If sensitive personal information is required, ask about their privacy and data security practices. Also, do not sign open-ended consent forms. If this is mandatory, confirm that the forms are encrypted.

Don't Let an Online Shopping Scam Fool You. Avoid buying from merchants operating websites that are not secure. Hackers may set up websites designed to look like those of a legitimate seller. Before purchasing from them, research the organization and check with the Better Business Bureau. Additionally, look for the HTTPS and lock symbol in your browser address bar.    

Proceed with Caution When Applying for a Seasonal Job. On a job application, include only your name, address, telephone number, email address and relevant job history. Do not include the SSN, date of birth, or driver's license number. If an employer requests that information before granting an interview, ask to withhold the information until an in-person interview is possible.

Don't Overshare on Social. Hackers will try to sell stolen identities on the Dark Web, and often the gateway to gain access to personal information can be via social networks. When posting online, do not provide specifics. Social media identity theft relies on seemingly inconsequential details that can be linked together. The more dates, names and facts shared, the easier it is for thieves to impersonate your accounts. Also, remind friends and family not to share their personal information.

Source: IdentityForce

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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How-To Stay Safe on the Road This Winter

November 15, 2017 1:39 am

Between wintry weather and the holiday party season, the road can be a dangerous place. To keep you and your family safe all season long, consider the following tips, from Allstate.

Do a systems check. Make sure your headlights and brake lights are in working condition, along with tires, heater, defroster, brakes and windshield wipers, and that you have enough windshield washer fluid.

Play it safe. Don't drive through standing water on roads or in parking lots — it can stall your engine. Take an alternate route.

Take it easy. Give yourself extra time to get where you're going. Increasing following distance, traveling at slower speeds and accounting for the extra stopping time will help avoid collisions.

Stay alert. Give the road your undivided attention. That's especially important with slick streets and potentially dangerous conditions.

Don't panic. If your vehicle begins to slide or skid, don't slam on the brakes. Look down the road in the direction you want to go and gently steer your vehicle that way. Release the accelerator until traction returns.

Have an emergency kit. Include the tools you will need to protect yourself should a problem arise. Gloves, boots, blankets, flares, water, jumper cables, a flashlight and something for traction, such as sand or cat litter, are all helpful items to have in the car.

Party smart. Especially during the busy holiday travel season, including one of the most deadly days on the road — New Year's Day— Allstate strongly urges drivers to plan ahead and always find a sober ride home before partaking in holiday festivities.Source: Allstate

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Practical Ways to Promote STEM Learning

November 15, 2017 1:39 am

(Family Features)--Demand for workers in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) careers continues to explode. Data from the U.S. Department of Education predicts that growth opportunities in these fields will increase 14 percent by 2020. One way to nurture kids' long-term potential is to make learning STEM subjects fun, hands-on and interactive.

Whether you're looking for fresh ideas to shake things up in the classroom or planning activities to share with the family at home, consider these creative approaches to increasing child or student interest in STEM topics.

Take a field trip: When learning occurs outside the confines of a classroom, it can create unexpected sparks of interest. Build classroom field trips or family outings around destinations that offer unique ways to highlight STEM subjects. For example, setting up a tour of a local baseball stadium may be a chance to get up close and personal with the game and the field, but it's also a way to discuss the math behind baseball. Similarly, a visit to an indoor skydiving facility is more than just exposure to an extreme sport; it's an opportunity to learn about terminal velocity and gravity. Additional options include an outdoor nature lesson, manufacturing facility, planetarium or local farm.

Introduce robotics: Between self-driving cars, drones that can aid in rescue efforts and robots that assist as a "butler" for day-to-day tasks, the future of robotics is here now. Researchers at Brandeis University found that students involved in robotics are two times more likely to take more challenging math and science courses and two times more likely to pursue STEM careers.

One option to increase interest in robotics is the TI-Innovator Rover, a robotic car that introduces middle school and high school students to the basics of coding and programming. Students without any coding or robotics experience can learn to write basic programs on their TI graphing calculators that make Rover do things like draw, dance or even crash.

Career show and tell: Seek out speakers or mentors who have real-world STEM careers, ranging from more traditional STEM fields like scientists or engineers to more unexpected jobs that use STEM principles every day, such as a fashion designer or an ice cream flavor scientist. Encourage kids to get hands-on with these careers by having guests both show and tell how they use math and science every day. For example, students can measure and cut materials to make a circle skirt, an unexpected lesson in geometry. Or they can scoop up a physics lesson on states of matter as milk transforms into ice cream.

Cook up some fun: When it comes to bucking tradition, the kitchen may not be the first place you think of to drive home the benefits of STEM learning. However, the kitchen is a perfect place to explore the chemistry of combining ingredients and hone math skills such as dividing fractions when splitting a recipe.

Solve real-world problems: Give students an opportunity to think through a real problem and come up with a solution. For example, challenge them to solve how they would create low-cost options for filtering water in countries without clean water. Through trial and error, students can learn that failure is OK and sometimes leads to a better solution.

Source: Texas Instruments

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Is Your Home Safe From Burglars This Holiday Season?

November 14, 2017 1:39 am

Is your home safe this holly jolly holiday season? Christopher Maynard from Consumeraffairs.com pointed out that as the holiday season approaches, more consumers may be stockpiling gifts. The prospect of hitting the jackpot is a huge motivator for burglars this time of year, so homeowners should spend some time assessing their potential exposure.

Maynard sites FBI stats which reveal that last year there were over 1.5 million burglaries in the U.S., accounting for nearly 20 percent of all estimated property crimes. That translated into $3.6 billion in property losses, with affected consumers losing an average of $2,361.

This fact may have consumers thinking about shopping for a home monitoring service, or adding other technologies like electronic locks, smart lights, and video cameras to stay on top of their home’s security, both at home and remotely.

Jami Barnett, Ph.D. of the Consumer Affairs Research Team, recently provided an overview of these technologies. Among her recommendations are:

Smart locks. Electronic locks using WiFi and phone apps give homeowners control over locks wherever they are. Dr. Barnett says some such locks have keypad entry codes, so you can give a neighbor or house sitter access, and then simply change the code after you return. Other locks can be linked to mobile devices so people who need temporary access can open the door with their phone.

Smart lights. Dr. Barnett says over 70 percent of burglaries happen when nobody is home. Smart bulbs and smart switches make your house look occupied. You can also turn lights on and off using a mobile device.

Dr. Barnett says if you pay for a professionally-monitored security system, it may be worthwhile to ask your alarm company about cellular monitoring.

She says when an alarm is triggered, the system uses a cellular connection to alert your security company. Since crooks can cut the phone lines and fiber-optic internet cables, disabling a wired alarm, cell monitoring will work as long as you have power or a battery backup.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Traveling by Train This Holiday Season? Read This

November 14, 2017 1:39 am

Heading elsewhere for the holidays? Many think about road safety or money-saving flight options when they consider holiday travel, but train traveling also requires a little know-how. Amtrak offers the following seasonal tips to ensure a comfortable and safe journey along the tracks.

Plan Ahead and Book Early. Go online to check availability, reserve seats and learn about everyday discounts.

Avoid the Rush, Arrive Early. Stations will be busier than usual, so arrive 45 minutes before departure.

Baggage Policy. Just like an airplane, train lines have their own baggage allowances. On Amtrak, customers can bring two bags and two carry-ons, up to 150 pounds collectively, for free. Amtrak also offers checked baggage service at a number of stations. Check your train provider for details before packing.

Check Train Schedules. Check holiday train schedules and status before arriving at the station to make sure there are no last-minute delays.

Carry Photo ID. Passengers are required to show valid photo identification when purchasing tickets and carry valid photo ID at all times aboard trains.

Source: Amtrak

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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4 Ways to Survive Holiday Gifting

November 14, 2017 1:39 am

(Family Features)--While the holidays might be the most wonderful time of the year for children, the gifting season can quickly spiral out of control for unprepared shoppers.

These four tips can help you conquer holiday gifting like a pro: 

Get organized. The secret to conquering the holiday season is having a plan. Take 10-15 minutes to update your calendar with all your holiday parties, family engagements, secret Santa exchanges or any other gifting commitments. Make sure to include dates, locations, times and even specifics, like themes, if they're available. If you have multiple holiday events, you might even color-coordinate your planner for an easy visual reminder. Sync your events across all smart devices for an easy glance at the touch of a button.

Find your go-to gifts. As an adult, deciphering what kind of gifts a child wants in this digital age can be tricky. Some classics like brick toys are still a hit with kids of all ages. Studies show that 60 percent of children love playing with brick toys and more than half of parents love that their kids do, according to Mattel Global Consumer Insights.   

Wrap gifts early. Now that you have your plan in place, save time by purchasing all the gifts you will need for the holidays and wrapping them at one time. Prevent the stress of a last-minute gift wrap run by pre-wrapping gifts and simply labeling them with removable sticky notes.   
 
Build a gifting closet. Once you have your gifts wrapped and ready to go, consider using an old crate or storage container and turning it into a "gifting closet." Insert dividers to separate the gifts by age range and set aside your treasure trove in an easy-to-reach storage area. You can even use this closet year-round for birthdays and other gifting events. On the day of the party, simply open your gifting closet, grab a gift for the right age and head out the door. 

Source: MEGA

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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How-To Avoid Seasonal Holiday Stress at Work and Home

November 10, 2017 1:39 am

Holidays are meant for joy and merriment - but with social commitments, family flocks and deadlines looming before vacation, it can sometimes be hard to find that holiday spirit. Below are a few tips from Accountemps to prevent holiday stress and fatigue:

Make a list and check it twice. Before leaving work, write down top priorities to accomplish the next day. Keep a separate list for personal to-do's. This will help you manage priorities, improve productivity and reduce stress during the holidays.

Look for helpers. If you're buried with too many projects, speak up. Meet with your team, boss or manager to discuss possible solutions to alleviate the pressure you're feeling, such as adjusting deadlines or delegating.

Give yourself the gift of time. Plan for time out of the office, and help your boss prepare for your absence so all important projects are covered. Think about ways you can minimize your stress level, such as leaving a little early to get holiday shopping done.

Eat, exercise and be merry. It's impossible to enjoy the holiday season if you don't prioritize your physical and mental health. Take regular breaks during the day to refuel, rest or stretch.Source: Accountemps

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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