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Archive for the ‘Technology’ Category

A friend and colleague of mine, Beth Magill,  posted this video on her Facebook page, and I couldn’t resist sharing it here.  Miri Ben-Ari is one talented artist!  It gives a whole new twist to the capabilities of the violin.  Enjoy!  😀

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I read an interesting article today about enhancing your well-being through purposeful mental training such as that done by Buddhist monks in Tibet.

Written by Brian Maffly of the Salt Lake Tribune, it is a fascinating look into current scientific research done by Communications Psychology professor Richard Davidson of Madison University, using the latest technology such as magnetic resonance imaging, or MRI, to document the startling control the monks demonstrate over their emotional states.  His resulting ideas about “neuroplasticity” — the notion that we can enhance brain function through purposeful mental training — threaten to upend conventional psychoterapy, which has little scientific basis.

Davidson is quoted as saying:

“We were all taught that the brain is different from other organs in the way it changes over time.  We thought the process was one of irrevocable death,”  Davidson said.  “We now know that view is definitely wrong.  The brain is capable of generating 7,000 to 9,000 cells a day.”

Recruited by the Dalai Lama, monks who participated in this study had spent, on average, 34,000 hours in intense meditation and were considered masters of the faith.   By using scans that tracked brain function, Davidson was able to track high levels of activity in the areas of the brain associated with emotional well-being.   Further studies documented measurable changes in brain activity after two-week sessions of mental training.

The most interesting part of this article for me is directly related to music.  Davidson states,  The brain is the only organ designed to change in response to experience.   Musical training changes the structure of the brain and when it begins earlier in life the greater the influence. (emphasis mine)

Come join us in our Kindermusik classes and create some well-being of your own for you and your child.  We gladly offer pro-rated tuition when joining after the beginning of the new semester!

For our class schedule, please visit our website.


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I haven’t had an opportunity recently to just surf through the varied offerings on Youtube.com.   A lot of what you view is just not really worth the time you spend there, but once in a while you find a real gem.  This is one of those.

Meet Corey Vidal, a 21-year-old video artist and official “YouTube partner” from Canada, which basically means that Youtube.com actually pays him to make videos.  He’s also a dancer, choreographer, and singer – a real Renaissance man of many talents.  This video, however, required something different from him than any he had made before. 

The first time I viewed this video, I was struck by the breadth and depth of creativity involved to produce this final product.  I mistakenly thought that Corey had taped himself singing each part, then somehow looped them all together.

The thought of one individual singing the range of all four parts was staggering, much less putting them together and overlaying them into one video of four individual parts playing simultaneously.  I didn’t know that that was exactly what I was supposed to think. 

Then I got to checking further into the video itself through information provided by Corey Vidal on the Youtube site which led me to my favorite researching website – Google.com.  What I found, amazingly enough, is that what he actually did was even more difficult than I originally thought. 

The audio track of this salute to John Williams is, in reality, from a comedic acapella group called Moosebutter, also from Canada.  According to their website, their music is “Music for Your Inner Lizard” – yes, extremely tongue-in-cheek.  🙂

moosebutter

With Moosebutter’s blessing and a collaborative effort with Corey Vidal, the four-minute+ video was first choreographed into four individual parts, and Vidal then had to learn each one perfectly in order to create the illusion of being the sole singer.  The video took more than a month to make and received 10,000 hits in the first 48 hours after posting onto Youtube. 

I will say that it’s a pretty convincing video.  If it had not been for Vidal’s own clear attribution to Moosebutter and additional links to other sites, including  11Alive News here in Atlanta, I would have been taken in.   Even after learning the truth, I am amazed at what he has done.  Tonight as I finish this post, the counter on this video is over 1,000,000 hits, more than 175,000 since I first viewed it just this morning, and it’s only been uploaded for twelve days. 

For a look at Corey’s other videos, check out his Youtube channel.  

Interested in what those lyrics to “Star Wars – an Acapella Tribute to John Williams” were?  (Yes, you did hear what you thought you did.  Those are pretty realistic “Wookie” calls.)  Visit Moosebutter here and then be sure to check out some of their other recordings – Harry Potter, for one.

You can also buy the track from them for $0.99 if you really like it.  (Got a Star Wars fan in your home?  Think Christmas gift.  They’ll love it!)

Enjoy!

H/T goes to Tabby Worthington

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I’ve had a number of readers contact me, asking for further updates about the Sales Tax Holiday for 2008. 

According to the Georgia Department of Revenue’s website,  Georgia House Bill 948 provides for a sales tax exemption from both state and local sales taxes for certain items purchased July 31 – August 3, 2008.

The Bill also provides an exemption for specific energy and water efficient products purchased October 2 –5, 2008, with information pertaining to that specific holiday being released at a later date.

During the sales tax holiday of July 31 through August 3, 2008, a sales tax exemption applies to purchases of tangible personal property in the following categories:

  • Articles of Clothing. The exemption applies to articles of clothing and footwear with a sales price of $100 or less per item. Clothing accessories such as handbags, umbrellas, cuff links, handkerchiefs, jewelry, key cases, wallets, watches and watch bands, and ponytail holders and/or similar hair products are not exempt.  In other words, they’re taxable.  See link below of exempt items.
  • Personal Computers. A single purchase of $1,500 or less of personal computers and/or related accessories is exempt. If the single purchase exceeds $1,500, the entire transaction is taxable. See link below for exempt items.
  • General School Supplies. The exemption applies to the purchase of general school supplies with a sales price of $20 or less per item.  Exempt items are linked below.

All of these items are intended for personal use and are not for resale.  They do not include items purchased at theme parks, entertainment complexes, hotels, restaurants, or airports. 

For general information about the 2008 Sales Tax Holiday, please visit the Department of Revenue here.

You might also visit your child’s school website for a list of required supplies by grade-level.  Print it out and take it with you.  Many of the local office supply stores such as Office Depot, Target, or Staples also have lists there at their stores, supplied by local area schools for specific grade-levels as well as teachers.   For a printable list of tax-exempt school supplies, go here

For information about children’s books that are exempt, please follow this link.   After last year, when I had a question about a specific book I was trying to locate for my then 12yo daughter, and finding no one in any of the local stores who could verify that, yes or no, it was tax-exempt or not, I’m definitely printing that list out and taking it with me. 

Tax-exempt clothing and footwear may be printed out from this page.  Know before you get to the checkout lane whether or not your selections are taxable.  It can save you money. 

The single purchase of $1,500.00 or less of personal computers and personal computer related accessories for noncommercial home or personal use is exempt during the sales tax holiday. Computer related accessories include keyboards, monitors, other peripheral devices, personal digital assistant, modems for Internet and network access and non-recreational software.

Be very aware of the $1,500.00 limit on personal computers and software.  If your purchase exceeds that amount, even if only by a few cents, you’re liable for the sales taxes on the *entire* amount – not just the difference over and above the $1,500.00. 

For a printable list of exempt computers, software, and related accessories,  please check out this page.

Plan your shopping accordingly ahead of time.  Stores tend to be extremely busy during these days.  A little bit of foresight and planning can pay off not only in big savings, but also less hassle and frustrations.  

I did this last year, checking out recommendations for laptops, and plotted my shopping strategies accordingly.  By visiting major stores’ websites ahead of time and adding my email address to their email newsletters’ list, I received sales flyers *before* the sale dates and shopped at home. 

I found the laptop I wanted on sale at BestBuy.com, visited the local store’s website the night before to verify they had it listed in stock, went there first thing the next morning, and came back home in less than 90 minutes, the proud owner of a new laptop being set up and loaded by the Best Buy Geek Squad with software I had chosen.  I picked it up later that afternoon while others were still roaming around, making their choices.  This process also saved me over $98.00 in sales tax, not including the incentives that Best Buy offered in their promotional sales for laptop computers. 

For additional information and any other questions you may have, visit the Georgia Department of Revenue site.  I do not know if any of these tax-exempt lists pertain to online purchases or not.  That is a question that can be researched at the Revenue site or by contacting them at the Taxpayer Services Division at 404-417-6601 or taxpayer.services@dor.ga.gov .

Plan ahead – it’s worth your money *and* your time!

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As of my last post, my external hard drive that basically was the repository of all of my data – business, music, jpegs, everything – had crashed and I was rapidly learning that it was going to take *BIG* bucks to recover what was lost. 

Well, the big bucks part hasn’t changed.  This week as I drive to Tennessee for my son’s wedding I will be dropping off the hard drive at a company in Marietta whose sole existence is the recovery of data from scores of crashed computers and computer-related equipment.  Thankfully, the first 24 hours will cost me nothing as they examine my hard drive and figure out what needs to be done.  It’s the *next* 24 hours that will probably shock the pants off of me!

As I’ve resigned myself to the fact that I must now pay out *BIG* bucks to regain what I mistakenly thought was safely stored, I’ve also resigned myself to the fact that I must have a back-up for the back-up.  If all goes according to what I hope will happen, I do plan on having my data transferred over to another hard drive.  Then  I will have to  buy a second external hard drive as a back-up.  Think *super* mega-flash drive.  This one won’t fit in your pocket.

However, in the meantime, back at the ranch, my 17yod, Rebekah, who has often been an assistant in my ABC classes over the years, came to me last Friday night with an amazing statement.

“Mom, you know you can copy all of your music off of your iPod back onto the computer, don’t you?”

Huh? 

What’d you say?

“Yes, you can.  It’s not hard,  I did it when I moved all of my stuff off your iTunes onto my laptop.”

Whoa!  We can recover *ALL* of my music off of the iPod?! 

We’re talking over 12G of music – mostly Kindermusik, VBS music, Children’s Choirs, but also some beloved classics – Southwest DeKalb High School Band 1970 and 1972 – the year we won the Virginia Beach Band Festival – not to mention Andrea Bocelli, Michael Buble, Joshua Radin, Simon & Garfunkel, Kai Winding, and Paul Desmond, just to name a few.  Oh, yeah, there was some of Napoleon Dynamite left on there from Bekah, too. Not to mention all of the purchases I had made through Sonific.com which is now defunct.

Bekah assured me that it could be done, but I was too leery of doing it Friday night before my last classes on Saturday morning.  I decided to wait until the semester was over.  I also decided that I was not going to put it back on our desktop – already slow and slowing.  12G would just about fill this baby up *again* – which is why I bought the dang external hard drive to begin with last year!

Well, last night, with the aid of my extremely knowledgable 17yo, we successfully transferred *ALL* of my music files from my iPod onto a new laptop.  HURRAY! 

I was one *extremely* happy person right then.  When I finally released Bekah from a massive bear-hug dance, she grinned and said, “You have to thank PC Magazine, too, Mom.  That’s where I learned it.”

So, *THANK YOU*, PC Magazine! 

(Now, if I could only recover my stored website information that easily as well!) 🙂

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Today I think I’ve had one of the most absolutely frustrating experiences of my life.  As the daughter of a man who could and did fix anything electronic just for the fun of it, I was raised to be cautious where electronic equipment and electrical storms were concerned.  As a child I remember vividly the experience of a lightning strike on our fence that travelled into our house and literally burned out all of the television sets and radios that we owned plus causing tremendous havoc in the wiring of my parents’ fairly new home of two years. 

I have always been very careful to make sure that my computer, printer, electronic equipment in general were all turned off or even unplugged when a storm comes through.  This spring has been one of the most active in recent years.  Last night as the latest series of storms rolled through, I made sure to turn off my desktop and printer.  I honestly can’t remember if I turned off the external hard drive or not, but I think I did.  (You already see where this is going, don’t you?)

In any case, after the storms were through, I did sit down last night to do some work, some internet surfing, and answering some email.  I spent about 45 minutes going through my Jpeg photos, optimizing them to send some really cute photos of some of my students in class via email to some of my Kindermusik families for them to enjoy. 

I did some work on my lesson plans for this summer as well as my website.  I also used iTunes without any problems and downloaded some cool, free mp3 files that I planned to load onto my iPod this morning.  Everything worked beautifully, including iTunes which resides on my external hard drive due to the massive amounts of music files (mp3’s and mp4a’s) that I have, as a result of my Kindermusik collection and other numerous CD’s that I own.  Everything that I use in my studio is located on this 250GB external hard drive as well as my own personal stuff.  I moved it all over from the desktop last year to free up space for my family’s use.

Well, this morning when I was awakened by my husband as he was preparing to leave for work, he mentioned that “that little box-thing you’ve got sitting next to the computer is making funny noises. It’s flashing off and on.  You might want to check it.”

My eyes flew open at that announcement, and I rapidly got dressed and headed for the computer.  I didn’t need my usual chocolate macadamia-nut coffee fix to get out of the bed this morning.  My heart was already sinking, saying, “Please, no.  Please, no” while my head (and mouth) was saying, “Oh, crap!”  (Yes, Kindermusik teachers do swear from time to time. We just don’t usually admit it.)

After working with it, disconnecting all cords, using the compressed air, reassembling and powering up again, I got —- nothing.  Not even a blip.

At first, I was still hopeful that it might be a short in the power adapter as I could tell juice was flowing from the power strip *to* the adapter.  I just couldn’t see any evidence of juice flowing through the adapter *to* the unit itself.  So, after “chatting online” with some idiot named “Ray” who ostensibly is there to “help” the Iomega customer but only wanted to sell me on the idea of buying a *new* IOmega external hard drive,  I learned that I could find a new adapter at their webstore where they’d be glad to sell me one and send it from California.  Depending on my shipping choice, I could probably have it in 3-5 business days.

Instead, I turned around and called my local Staples store where I bought the hard drive last year, asking if they carried any such thing as a 6-pin, 12-volt power adapter for said hard drive.  The very nice guy there first apologized for not carrying what I needed and then advised me to call Radio Shack.

At this point, I decided to just put the entire thing, power cords, USB cord, *everything* into a bag and headed for my trusty, local Radio Shack where the very nice saleslady winced when she heard my story and told me she had never even *seen* or *heard* of such a thing as a universal power adapter like I needed.

At this point, I began to realize that I really and truly might have a *very* serious problem on my hands.  Where the idea came from, I don’t know – possibly an online pop-up ad or a television ad I’d seen one of the few times I watched television, but I remembered that Best Buy had the Geek Squad and turned my van toward Turner Hill Road and Best Buy.

Upon consultation with the Geek Squad guy, I gave the go-ahead for him to try a new housing unit for my hard drive to see if it actually *was* the power adapter that was the problem.  He first tried their universal adapter to find that it would not work in my case.  After paying $40 for the labor and $60 for a new housing unit, I waited there at the counter while he took my unit apart and moved the hard drive itself into the new housing.  With a *LOT* of prayers on my part, GS guy powered it up and plugged it into his computer.  We both waited and watched his screen to see if the G: drive would appear.

Nope, nothing. 

GS guy picked up the new housing, put it to his ear, and pronounced, “You’ve got a bad hard drive.  It’s just clicking once in a while.”

The next words were “data recovery.”  I’m not sure how much of that information I actually retained.  Suffice to say, Best Buy could send my hard drive off to Kentucky to recover my information, but it would probably take 2 weeks or more and cost anywhere from $250 to $1200. 

“Don’t you have anyone local who can do this?” I asked.

“No, I’ve got a friend who had this happen to his computer, and he found someone local who could do it in about a week, but I don’t know who it was.”

Despite repeated appeals to this GS guy and another GS individual working in the same area, I was unable to obtain any recommendations.

I’m not asking for blanket emails or comments, but if any reader with experience in data recovery, either from a perspective of client or provider, comes across this post and can provide some *good* advice, please contact me in the comments section.  I would prefer dealing with someone in the greater Atlanta metropolitan area, if at all possible.  Four years of hard work, a collection of photos of all of my Kindermusik classes, and a lifetime accumulation of music is not something I’m willing to just let go.

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