Saturday, March 22, 2008

Remove Pet Hair from Anything [Cleaning]

Remove Pet Hair from Anything [Cleaning]

By Tamar Weinberg on Pets

hairball_kitty.jpgIf you've got hairy pets in the house, you know what it's like to live with a permanent coating of fur on everything. Web site wikiHow suggests ways to clean and remove pet hair—at least until your pet comes around again. One tip is to use water and the palm of your hand:

Lightly dampen the palm of your hand. Wipe the pet hair off in a downward motion. The hair will ball up and stick to your damp hand.

Rubber gloves or latex gloves are also great pet hair removers, as well as a spare FedEx pouch.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Busting Myth, People Turn More Liberal With Age

Busting Myth, People Turn More Liberal With Age

By Clara Moskowitz, LiveScience Staff Writer

posted: 2008-03-10 9:20 a.m. ET
New research has debunked the myth that people become more conservative as they age. Credit: stock.xchng
Full Size
Previous Image Next Image
1 of 1

New research has debunked the myth that people become more conservative as they age. Credit: stock.xchng

The stereotype of a cranky old man, set in his ways, getting more conservative by the day, is an enduring one. But new research has debunked the myth that people become more conservative as they age.

By comparing surveys of various age groups taken over a span of more than 30 years, sociologists found that in general, Americans' opinions veer toward the liberal as they grow older.

"All the evidence we have found refutes the idea that as people age their attitudes become more conservative or more rigid," said Nicholas Danigelis, a sociologist at the University of Vermont. "It's just not true. More people are changing in a liberal direction than in a conservative direction."

Detailed study

Danigelis and collaborators Stephen Cutler of the University of Vermont and Melissa Hardy of Pennsylvania State University analyzed data from the U.S. General Social Surveys of 46,510 Americans between 1972 and 2004. While the surveys did not provide data for the same individuals at different stages, they represented snapshots of the changing attitudes of respondents in different age cohorts over time. The researchers corrected for the fact that the age groups at different survey times are made of up new members with unique baseline opinions.

The surveys assessed attitudes on politics, economics, race, gender, religion and sexuality issues. In some cases, such as racial issues and questions of civil liberties for communists, the researchers measured a greater change toward liberalism in older people than in younger people.

"What we believe has happened, at least for the race relations, is that the older group, starting out at a position of significantly more negative feelings, had further to go," Danigelis told LiveScience.

If people really become more liberal as they age, why does common wisdom hold the opposite to be true?

People might find an average 60-year-old to be more conservative than an average 30-year-old, Danigelis said, but beware of extrapolating a trend. The older person, for example, might have started off even more conservative than he or she is now.

Danigelis also blamed the misconception on pervasive negative attitudes toward the elderly in our country, and stereotypes that depict seniors as rigid, ornery and set in their ways.

"If you look at any greeting cards about getting older you’ve got a wonderful lecture about age stereotypes," he said. "My colleague continues to cut out cartoons about getting old and trying to teach old dogs new tricks."

The study was published in the October 2007 issue of the journal American Sociological Review.

In the future, the researchers hope to investigate whether similar trends occur in other cultures and societies.

"There are international surveys that might allow you to do a similar study," Danigelis said. "Our gut feeling is yes but we haven’t tested that and we hope to."

Excellent Attorney's Advice


Read this and make a copy for your files in case you need to refer to it someday. Maybe we should all take some of his advice! A corporate Attorney sent the following out to the employees in his company.

1. Do not sign the back of your credit cards. Instead, put "PHOTO ID REQUIRED."

2. When you are writing checks to pay on your credit card Accounts, DO NOT put the complete account number on the "For" line. Instead, just put the last four numbers. The credit card company knows the rest of the number, and anyone who might be handling your check as it passes through all the check processing channels won't have access t o it.

3. Put your work phone # on your checks instead of your home Phone. If you have a PO Box use that instead of your home address. If you do not have a PO Box, use your work address. Never have your SS# printed on your checks. (DUH!) You can add it if it is necessary But if you have It printed, anyone can get it.

4. Place the contents of your wallet on a photocopy machine. Do both sides of each license, credit card, etc. You will know what you had in your wallet and all of the account numbers and phone numbers to Call and cancel. Keep the photocopy in a safe place. I also carry a Photocopy of my passport when I travel either here or abroad. We've all heard horror stories about fraud that's committed on us in stealing a Name, address, Social Security number, credit cards.

Unfortunately, I, an attorney, have firsthand knowledge because my Wallet was stolen last month. Within a week, the thieve(S) ordered an Expensive monthly cell phone package, applied for a VISA credit card, had A credit line approved to buy a Gateway computer, received a PIN number From DMV to change my driving record information online, and more. But here's some critical information to limit the damage in case this happens to you or someone you know:

5. We have been told we should cancel our credit cards immediately. But the key is having the toll free numbers and your card Numbers handy so you know whom to call. Keep those where you can find them.

6. File a police report immediately in the jurisdiction where your credit cards, etc., were stolen. This proves to credit Providers you were diligent, and this is a first step toward an Investigation (if there ever is one).

But here's what is perhaps most important of all: (I never even thought to do this.)

7. Call the 3 national credit reporting organizations Immediately to place a fraud alert on your name and also call the Social Security fraud line number. I had never heard of doing that until advised by a bank that called to tell me an application for credit was made over The Internet in my name. The alert means any company that checks your Credit knows your information was stolen, and they have to contact you by Phone to authorize new credit.

By the time I was advised to do this, almost two weeks after the theft, all the damage had been done. There are records of all the Credit checks initiated by the thieves' purchases, none of which I knew about before placing the alert. Since then, no additional damage has been done, and the thieves threw my wallet away this weekend (someone turned it in). It seems to have stopped them dead in their tracks.

Now, here are the numbers you always need to contact about your wallet, etc., has been stolen:

1.) Equifax: 800-525-6285
2.) Experian (formerly TRW): 888-397-3742
3.) Trans Union : 800-6807289
4.) Social Security Administration (fraud line): 800-269-0271

How to Fly Through Airport Security

ly Through Airport Security
From Wired How-To Wiki

You might as well check your dignity curbside. Soon you'll be shoeless and flustered, spilling comics across the floor as you dig your MacBook from the depths of your duffel. But take a deep breath, frequent fliers: It is possible to pass security with your ego intact. Here's how.

1. Do recon online. Security delays vary widely by concourse and terminal. Go to to find average wait times. If you're not checking bags, print your boarding pass at home and head to the fastest line. (Be sure your gate is accessible from that security checkpoint.)

2. Carry a messenger bag. The topside flap gives easy access to your laptop and Ziploc of liquids and gels while the pockets provide plenty of storage for alarm-trippers. As soon as you get in line, tuck your belt, wallet, keys, watch, and phone into the sack.

3. Wear laceless shoes. And holeless socks. Just think of all the foot fungi of travelers past. Or don't.

4. Go! After you pass ID screening, make a beeline to the shortest x-ray queue. Don't wait to be directed, and don't hesitate to bypass dawdlers. Not only will you get there faster, you'll keep the whole line moving.

5. Use only two bins. Place shoes, coat, and toiletries in the first bin; laptop in the second; followed by the messenger bag. Keep the roller on the floor, where it's easy to manage, until the last minute.

6. Dress strategically. Don your coat and shoes while waiting for your bags. Put on your belt and watch at the gate.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

It's never enough... teachings!

It's never enough... teachings!

By Alla Staroseletskaya

One of my coworkers sent me a message with a HIGH VALUE teachings. Please try all of them.

1. If you peel a banana from the bottom you won't have to pick the little "stringy things" off of it. That's how all the primates do it.
2. Separate your bananas when you get home from the store. If you leave them connected at the stem, they ripen much faster.
3. Store your opened chunks of cheese in aluminum foil. The cheese will stay fresh much longer and not mold!
4. Peppers with 3 bumps on the bottom are sweeter and better for eating. Peppers with 4 bumps on the bottom are firmer and better for cooking.
5. Add a teaspoon of water when sautéing ground beef. It w ill help to pull the grease away from the meat.
6. To make terrific scrambled eggs or omelets add a couple of spoonfuls of sour cream, cream cheese, heavy cream, or Fat Free Half and Half before beating them.
7. For a super brownie treat, make brownies as directed. Melt Andes mints in double broiler and pour over warm brownies. Get set for a wonderful minty frosting.
8. Add garlic immediately to a recipe if you want a light taste of garlic and add at the end of the recipe if your want a stronger taste of garlic
9. Leftover snickers bars from Halloween or Christmas make a delicious dessert. Simple chop them up with the food chopper. Peel, core and slice a few apples. Place them in a baking dish and sprinkle the chopped candy bars over the apples. Bake at 350 for 15 minutes! Serve alone or with vanilla ice cream.
10. Reheating Pizza Heat up leftover pizza in a nonstick skillet on top of the stove, set heat to med-low and heat till warm. This keeps the crust crispy. No soggy microwave pizza. I saw this on the cooking channel and it really works.
11. Easy Deviled Eggs.Put cooked egg yolks in a zip lock bag. Seal, mash till they are all broken up. Add remainder of ingredients, reseal, keep mashing it up mixing thoroughly, cut the tip of the baggy, squeeze mixture into egg. Just throw the bag away when done for an easy clean up.
12. Expanding Frosting. When you buy a container of cake frosting from the store, whip it with your mixer for a few minutes. You can double it in size. You get to frost more cake/cupcakes with the same amount. You will also be eating less sugar and calories per serving.
13. Reheating Refrigerated Bread. To warm biscuits, pancakes, or muffins that were refrigerated, place them in a microwave with a cup of water. The increased moisture will keep the food moist and help it reheat faster.
14. Newspaper Weeds Away Start putting wet newspapers in your plants, work the nutrients in your soil. Put layers around the plants, overlapping as you go. Cover with mulch and forget about weeds. Weeds will get through some gardening plastic but they will not get through wet newspapers.
15. Broken Glass Use a wet cotton ball or Q-tip to pick up the small shards of glass you can't see easily.
16. No More Mosquitoes Place a dryer sheet in your pocket. It will keep the mosquitoes away.
17. Squirrel Away! To keep squirrels from eating your plants sprinkle your plants with cayenne pepper. The cayenne pepper doesn't hurt the plant and the squirrels won't come near it.
18. Flexible Vacuum To get something out of a heat register or under the fridge add an empty paper towel roll or empty gift wrap roll to your vacuum. It can be bent or flattened to get in narrow openings.
19. Reducing Static Cling Pin a small safety pin to the seam of your slip and you will not have a clingy skirt or dress. Same thing works with slacks that cling when wearing panty hose. Put a pin in the leg seams of your slacks and -- ta da! -- static is gone.
20. Measuring Cups Before you pour sticky substances into a measuring cup, fill with hot water. Dump out the hot water, but don't dry cup. Next, add your ingredient, such as peanut butter, and watch how easily it comes right out.
20. Foggy Windshield? Hate foggy windshields? Buy a chalkboard eraser and keep it in the glove box of your car. When the windows fog, rub with the eraser! Works better than a cloth!
21. Reopening Envelope If you seal an envelope and then realize you forgot to include something inside, just place your sealed envelope in the freezer for an hour or two. Viola! It unseals easily.
22. Conditioner Use your hair conditioner to shave your legs. It's a lot cheaper than shaving cream and leaves your legs really smooth It's also a great way to use up the conditioner you bought but didn't like when you tried it in your hair.
23. Goodbye Fruit Flies To get rid of pesky fruit flies, take a small glass fill it with a 1/2 inch of Apple Cider Vinegar and 2 drops of dish washing liquid, mix well. You will find those flies drawn to the cup and gone forever!
24. Get Rid of Ants Put small piles of cornmeal where you see ants. They eat it, take it "home," can't digest it so it kills them. It may take a week or so, especially if it rains, but it works & you don't have the worry about pets or small children being harmed!
25. INFO ABOUT CLOTHES DRYERS The heating unit went out on my dryer! The gentleman that fixes things around the house for us told us that he wanted to show us something and he went over to the dryer and pulled out the lint filter. It was clean. (I always clean the lint from the filter after every load clothes.) He told us that he wanted to show us something; he took t he filter over to the sink, ran hot water over it. The lint filter is made of a mesh material - I'm sure you know what your dryer's lint filter looks like. well,...the hot water just sat on top of the mesh! It didn't go through it at all! He told us that dryer sheets cause a film over that mesh that's what burns out the heating unit. You can't SEE the film, but it's there. It's what is in the dryer sheets to make your clothes soft and static free -- that nice fragrance too, you know how they can feel waxy when you take them out of the box, this stuff builds up on your clothes and on your lint screen. This is also what causes dryer units to catch fire & potentially burn your house down with it! He said the best way to keep your dryer working for a very long time (and to keep your electric bill lower) is to take that filter out & wash it with hot soapy water & an old toothbrush (or other brush) at least every six months He said that makes the life of the dryer at least twice as long! How about that!?! Learn something new everyday! I certainly didn't know dryer sheets would do that. So, I thought I'd share!

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

How To Block Caller ID

How To Block Caller ID

Information on blocking and un-blocking your Caller ID Number when dialing out

* Summary
o Per-Call-Blocking
o Permanently Block Caller ID
* Federal Legislations
* Per-Call-Blocking
* Permanently Blocking Caller ID
* Blocked Caller ID and Toll-Free Numbers
* Software to block calls on caller id information



* USA: Dial *67 before you dial the number. If you have Caller ID blocked permanently, dial *82 to unblock for a given call.

There are many software products on the market that can block certain calls depending on their Caller ID information. We have information about around ten such products, some of which are free. Click here to see the list.

How Retailers Trick You in to Buying Stuff You Don’t Need (and How to Fight Back)

Consumers shopping habits have been put under a microscope and analyzed by the retail industry in order to maximize sales.

Shoppers have been as thoroughly studied as lab rats and the research has resulted in scientifically proven approaches to influence shopper’s emotions, to heighten their insecurities and to trick them in to buying things they don’t need or want.Joe Consumer has put together 10 of the most common retail tricks, along with tips for how to avoid being taken in. While some of these things may seem like common sense, each is a reaction to a specific tactic retailers use to get you to buy just one more thing.
My, that’s a big basket you’ve got there

retail-tricks-shopping-carts.pngStores have hundreds of enormous shopping carts parked conveniently at the entrance. Once you have selected something, you’re more likely to “find” additional items - after all, that empty space in the cart is just begging to be filled, you must have something else you can buy, right?

Tip: If you can skip the cart and make do with a basket, you’ll reduce the temptation to over buy. If you can get by without the basket, even better!
Mirror, mirror on the wall…

Vanity mirrors slow you down and keep you looking, but there is more than meets the eye. Most people can’t help but check themselves out, and who’s 100% satisfied with what they see? Making you more self-conscious helps you see new items as a solution. You are more likely to buy, when you’ve walked out of the house in something less flattering than what’s on the rack in front of you.

Tip: Wear something that looks good on you while you shop, and avoid mirrors unless you’re already trying something on. Not only will you feel more confident and buy less, you’ll generally get better service too.
Buy in bulk and save?

retail-ticks-buy-in-bulk.pngMisleading bulk sales are another retail favorite. There’s no difference between $5 each and the four for $20 on sale, except that you just might end up with three more than you wanted. Also, products sold in different volumes and weights often have prices that are chosen to confuse you. Shoppers tend to look at $10.49 for 48 ounces and think it’s the equivalent of $4.99 for 24 ounces even though it’s not -you’re paying more for less! Most grocery stores and pharmacies are required to provide per unit pricing signage, but these often don’t reflect sale prices.

Even when it is actually cheaper per unit to buy in bulk, it doesn’t mean you should! Do you really need a gallon of mayonnaise, or 1000 clothes hangers?

Tip: Compare unit prices, use that calculator on your cell phone, and don’t buy more than you can use, no matter the “savings”.
How did they stack all those boxes like that?

Those towering displays of intricately stacked boxes are called power displays, and they are meant to be speed bumps to slow you down and distract you from finding what you came for. Stores like Ikea have taken this to a whole new level. Their layout is specifically designed to require every shopper at least momentary exposure to every major showroom and floor, which increases the chance that you’ll come out with more than what you came in for.

Tip: Look for shortcut signs to areas of choice & beeline to the checkout.
To get to the cheese, you have to get through the maze

retail-ticks-hide-the-essentials.pngMilk, bread, restrooms — all the essentials — are all in the back of the store, because they’re staples that everyone needs, and relatively low margin. Putting them there forces you to check out other merchandise along the way. Getting them first can help you stick to your list.

Tip: Beeline to the back and work your way forward.
Bargain bins and going-out-of business sales

We all love feeling like we got a good deal, but don’t be fooled! While some stores pay their clerks to be obsessive about precisely-folded sweaters on display, others actually pay them to make sure the displays are just a bit little messy, because shoppers interpret that (often unconsciously) as a cue that other people thought it was a deal too. Others retailers are known to have annual moving sales, year end sales and re-opening sales that just amount to taking their leftovers off hangers and dumping them into clearance bins.

Tip: Evaluate the value of a “bargain” objectively, not by how wrinkled it is.
Oooh, something smells amazing!

retail-tricks-something-smells-amazing.pngStores and restaurants love to stimulate your appetite with provocative sights and smells. Grocery stores capitalize on hungry consumers by offering free samples, but this isn’t charity any more than the smell of freshly baked bread is an accident. These are signals to excite you and tempt you into buying foods that are likely no better for your financial health than your physical health.

Tip: Eat before you shop, or if you’re out shopping for the day, pack a water bottle and a snack!
Save even more with our charge card!

There’s a reason why department stores so cheerfully help you afford that overpriced indulgence with a discount on with a store charge card - they make the money later. You’re much more likely to buy big impulse items if you don’t have to count the dollars out the wallet you are holding.

Tip: Pay in cash. Going to the ATM and physically seeing your bank balance gives you that extra time to consider.
Retailers love to put children to work “helping” you find things

retail-tricks-kids-help-you.pngManufacturers advertise to children aggressively, so kids are primed to seek out products they have been exposed too. Stores know that catching a kid’s attention is a great way to get distracted parents to fork over cash for an impulse buy, and they purposefully put colorful, fun, shiny items within their reach.

Tip: Try to leave the kids at home, or have someone watch them. People tend to shop more efficiently without partners and friends, too.
Checking out? One last thing…

Drinks, candy, gum, media – all right by the checkout counter. This section is convenient in part because it is compact and limited, but it also means you can’t compare prices, and may not get your favorite brand.

Tip: Ask yourself if you actually need it, or if it’s worth your place in line to compare prices.

How to Read Music

How to Read Music

It's certainly possible to play music without being able to read it, just as it's possible to be able to speak without being able to read or write. In both cases, the person who cannot read or write is missing out on an opportunity to comprehend and communicate better. Learning to read sheet music can improve your grasp of music theory, enable you to play music you've never heard before, and allow you to more easily relate your musical ideas to others. The skill can take a while to master, but the basics are laid out for you here. == Steps ==..... Study the staff. There are five lines and four spaces, each of which represents a single note. The space above or below any given line corresponds to the note above or below it on the scale. Identify the clef. The first symbol written on a staff (the five lines on which the notes are written) is the clef, and it tells you which lines and spaces on the staff correspond with which notes. The two most common clefs are the treble clef and the bass clef. Treble or G clef with G noteTreble clef: The treble clef, also known as the G-clef because it circles the line for the G note) is used in writing music for most musical voices (soprano, mezzo-soprano, alto, and tenor), most woodwind instruments, stringed instruments (violin, guitar) and high brass instruments such as the trumpet. It also typically corresponds to the notes played with the right hand on the piano. The notes played on the lines of the treble clef staff are, from bottom to top, E, G, B, D, F. The order of these notes can be remembered with the use of mnemonic phrases such as Every Good Boy Deserves Fudge. The spaces between the lines, from bottom to top, correspond to the notes F, A, C, E, a sequence which, obviously, spells "FACE." Bass clef or F-clef with F noteBass clef: The bass clef, also known as the F-clef because it defines the line for the F note between two dots, is used for lower-pitched instruments such as the bassoon, the bass, and low brass instruments such as the trombone and tuba. The piano part played by the left hand is also usually written with a bass clef. The notes played on the lines of the bass clef staff are, from bottom to top, G, B, D, F, A. This order can be remembered with the aid of phrases such as Good Burritos Don't Fall Apart. The spaces between the lines, from bottom to top, correspond to the notes A, C, E, G. The mnemonic device All Cows Eat Grass may help you remember the order of these notes. Determine the key signature. Directly to the right of the clef there may be one or more flat or sharp symbols before the notes begin. This group of symbols is called the key signature. If there are no so such symbols, then the key signature is "natural" (neither sharp nor flat). Key signature in A-flat-major and f-minorA flat symbol on a line or a space tells you that all notes on that line or space should be played flat (one semitone lower than they would otherwise be played.) Thus a flat symbol on the line of the staff that corresponds to "B" would indicate that all "B" notes in the piece should be played as "B-flats," which are halfway between "A" and "B". The symbols that look like lowercase letter "b"s are flats. Key signature in B-major and g-sharp-minorA sharp symbol tells you that all notes on that line or space should be played a semitone higher than they would otherwise be played. The symbols that look like number or pound symbols are sharps. The key signatures progress in what is called the "circle of fifths"; that is, each key is a musical interval of one fifth from its neighboring key. In key signatures containing flats, the name of the key is the flat to the left of the last flat. A key signature with four flats, B, E, A, D, for example, is the key of A flat. The exception to this rule is the key of F, which has only one flat. In keys containing sharps, the name of the key is one step above the last sharp; for example, if there are three sharps, F, C, and G, the name of the key, one step above G, is "A". Notes can also be designated flats or sharps by flat or sharp symbols placed right before them within the piece of music. In this case, only the corresponding notes in that measure (see next step) are modified. Natural signs cancel a flat or a sharpIf the key signature tells you that all "B" notes, for example, should be played as "B-flats," a natural sign can be used before a single "B" note to indicate that that particular note and other "B" notes in that measure should be played as "B," not as "B-flat." Time signature highlighted in blueObserve the time signature. To the right of the key signature, if a key signature is present, will be the time signature (also known as the meter signature). The time signature typically consists of two numbers, and it looks like a fraction. It may stay constant throughout a piece of music, or it may change from time to time throughout a piece. A bar line or measure lineThe top number determines how many beats are in a measure or bar (a measure is defined by vertical lines, or bar lines, that run perpendicular to the staff). For instance, if the time signature is 3/4, there are three beats in a measure. The bottom number in the time signature determines what kind of note gets one beat. This number is most commonly 4, which means that a quarter note (see next step) gets one beat. It may also be 2, which means that a half note gets one beat. 4/4 time is so common that it is sometimes designated with the letter "C" ("common") in the time signature instead of with a fraction. Likewise, 2/2 time is sometimes designated by the letter "C" with a line running down through it. More complex time signatures may have an 8 or some other number on the bottom, but these are beyond the scope of this article. Play the notes and rests in relation to the time signature. Now that you know which lines and spaces correspond to which notes (thanks to the clef), you can read the piece from left to right. The symbols will either represent notes or rests. Rests indicate silence, so they do not designate any pitch; they are typically always placed in the same position on the staff. A variety of symbols are used to indicate the duration of a note or rest relative to other notes or rests.Notes:Rests: A whole note or semibreve appears as a circle on the staff in a measure and generally is worth as many beats as the measure contains. Thus when there are 4 beats per measure (as in 4/4 time) the whole note is worth 4 beats, while in 3/4 time, which has 3 beats per measure, the whole note is worth 3 beats. You will notice when you read the sheet music that generally if there is a whole note in a measure, there aren't any other notes, because the whole note takes up all of the beats available in that measure. An exception may occur in irregular time signatures, such as 5/4, where a whole note may designate five beats unless it is accompanied by another note or notes--typically a quarter note--in the same measure, in which case it would be worth 4 beats. Whole rests look like dark rectangles hanging down off the second line from the top of the staff and are worth the same duration as whole notes. You can remember that whole rests come DOWN from the line because it's like a hole was dug. Half notes or minim are worth 1/2 the duration of whole notes. They appear as an empty circle with a straight line dropping down off the left side or going up off the right side. In 4/4 time, a half-note receives two beats. Half rests look like dark rectangles sitting on top of the third line from the top of the staff and are worth the same duration as half notes. These can be differentiated from whole rests because the half rest looks like a top hat--hat and half sound similar. Quarter notes or crotchet are worth 1/4 the duration of whole notes. They look like solid circles with a straight line coming off of them (as in the half notes). In 4/4 time, quarter notes are worth 1 beat. Quarter rests are designated by a unique symbol that looks something like a bird flying sideways. They are worth the same amount of time as quarter notes. Sometimes they are represented by a symbol that is the mirror image of an eighth rest, shown later. Eighth notes or quaver are worth 1/8 the duration of whole notes. In 4/4 time, they are worth half a beat, so two eighth notes equal 1 beat, the equivalent of a quarter note. A single eighth note looks like the quarter note, but has a single "tail" that drops straight down or straight up and then curves back up or down toward the solid circle. Two or more eighth notes together are connected by a single bar at the bottom or top, instead of having "tails." Eighth rests look a little like a leaning stick figure person cut in half vertically and holding his head in his outstretched hand. Or like a stylized number 7 with some kind of growth--hopefully it's benign--on its top left end. They are worth the same duration as an eighth note. The one in this picture is actually a sixteenth rest, therefore having two bars on the top. Sixteenth notes or semiquaver are worth 1/16 the duration of whole notes.In 4/4 time, they are worth a quarter of a beat (four of them together make a single beat). A single sixteenth note looks like the eight note, but with two "tails" instead of one. When they're connected, it's with two bars, not one. A dot next to the note or rest means that it should be lengthened half of the note's duration. A dot next to a whole note means that the note should be played for the duration of a note and a half (depending on the time signature; if the whole note is four beats, then a whole note with a dot next to it is held for six beats). A dot next to a half note means that the note should be held for the duration of 3/4 of a note.[1] There are notes and rests of shorter durations than eighth notes and eighth rests, and these are designated by other symbols. Rests longer than whole rests may also be designated by a bar running through more than one measure with a number on top. The number indicates the number of measures of silence and does not necessarily correspond to the number of measures through which the symbol actually runs. Pay attention to how the notes are played together or in succession. D-minor triadFrequently you will see two or more notes "stacked" on top of each other on the staff. This is a chord, and indicates that all the notes should be played at the same time. Chords may only be played on polyphonic instruments (instruments on which you can play two or more notes independently or as a chord) such as the piano and guitar. If there is an arc connecting one note's circle to another note's circle, this is a tie, a slur, or a phrase mark. A tie occurs between two notes of the same pitch, and means that the notes are connected and should be held out for the total duration of the tied notes. A slur occurs between two (usually) different notes, and means that the notes should be voiced or articulated as little as possible. A Phrase mark generally is used over a series of notes, and means that you should play them continuously without a break in the musical thought. This is can also be referred to as legato.[2] If you see notes with dots over or under them (not next to them) play or sing them in a shortened fashion, leaving some silence between the notes so that they are detached from one another. This is referred to as staccato.[2]

Sunday, March 2, 2008

VOIP: lower phone costs on Net

Say hello to lower phone costs on Net

Internet calling has improved so much and become so inexpensive, it's a good time to try some of the services
By James S. Granelli, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
The cost of phone calls has been dropping for years, but there's still a lot of room to push prices down to pocket change -- if you're not afraid to make calls through your computer.

A growing number of calling services take advantage of the technology known as voice over Internet protocol, or VOIP. Thanks to continuing technological improvements, the plans are easier to use than ever and can save you a boatload of money on long-distance and, particularly, international calls.But don't rely on the plans as your only phone service: Most don't provide emergency 911 calling, and there can be other drawbacks as well.

You might not know it, but you're probably already using VOIP: It's the same technology that AT&T Inc. and Verizon Communications Inc. use to handle your long-distance calls, and it's the backbone in the so-called digital-calling plans offered by cable TV giants like Comcast Corp. and Time Warner Cable Inc.

The cost savings of VOIP has allowed upstart phone-based firms, including Vonage Holdings Corp. and Packet8, to compete against the big players, even though they don't own the lines to your home.

VOIP technology breaks up voice into data packets and sends it, like e-mail, over high-speed lines without the need for a lot of expensive hardware that phone companies use.

Scores of computer calling operations -- Skype Ltd., SightSpeed Inc. and Gizmo Project among them -- don't think those entrenched phone companies are passing the true savings of VOIP on to consumers.

And such companies as Mobivox Corp. and ISkoot Inc. believe that's especially true in the higher-priced mobile-phone industry, so they are bringing the same free and low-cost calls to cellphones.

"Costs of calling are dropping to free," said Andy Abramson, an industry and marketing consultant who has tested all the major VOIP operations.

Consumers might pay a basic access charge -- "an admission fee," Abramson called it -- for a connection or a basic calling plan, but they don't have to pay more just to talk to someone around the corner or around the world.

Neal H. Shact, chief executive of telephone services company CommuniTech Inc., recalled a visit to Paris two years ago when he spent $1,000 on cellphone calls.

"Two weeks later, I went to Sweden and used Skype through my laptop for even more calls and I didn't spend the whole $12 I had paid for," he said.

But the VOIP companies are businesses too and have to make a profit to continue offering service.

They typically make their money by selling extras, such as voice mail, extended voice and video recording, and international and nationwide calls to nonmembers.But even those prices are low: $30 a year for Skype customers to reach any number in North America and about 2 cents a minute for most providers to reach home phones in many countries.

The growing popularity of the programs has helped persuade two mainstream cellphone carriers -- T-Mobile USA Inc. and Britain's Mobile3 -- to create ways to let customers make calls and send messages without using their minutes.

T-Mobile uses software that links to high-speed Wi-Fi networks for free calls, messaging and data, and Mobile3 joined Skype on a new phone to allow free Skype-to-Skype calls on the cellular network as well as unrestricted Skype Chat messaging.

"All of these services give you a glimpse of what we are capable of doing if those who control the high-speed pipes into our homes aren't limiting access to what we want to use," said Marcelo Rodriguez, CEO of Voxilla Inc., a San Francisco company that provides information on Internet technologies.

For computer phone plans, the costs are so low that it's worthwhile to play with a number of them to see how they can cut your long-distance and international bills.

And with Skype, SightSpeed and a few others, free video is thrown in, as long as you want to sit in front of a computer and a webcam.

Setting up the calling programs is usually easy.

For the most part, you need only what many folks already have: a computer, an Internet connection and a headset with a microphone. Depending on the service, you might not need the computer or the headset once the programs are set up.

Skype, SightSpeed, Gizmo and others can be downloaded free from their websites. You'll have to register a user name and a password, much like you do for online banking and other services.

Some drawbacks

Sound quality can fluctuate from excellent to so-so, and calls can be dropped, albeit far less than with cellphones.

If you're looking for free calling, you'd better get your friends and relatives to use the same program you're using because nearly all of them allow free calling only among members.

Some drawbacks may be more in the eye of the beholder. If you spend a lot of time in front of the computer, then it may not be much of a stretch to use it to make a call.

If you have a laptop, you can take your calling plan with you. Computer-based calling plans usually don't offer mobile service. For that, you need programs like Mobivox and ISkoot.

If you want to see your grandchildren across country, then you'll be happy to sit by the computer as you talk to them and watch them. Video also can be used with a webcam on a laptop to walk around a house and show relatives -- or prospective buyers -- what it looks like.

But with some exceptions, video quality is poor. SightSpeed has won awards for its delivery, and Skype is close behind. Other services can give the impression of old-time movies: You hear "hello" well before you can see a grainy hand waving at the other end of the connection.

Other drawbacks to computer calling plans come with the high-tech territory. Voice is, after all, a program, much like Microsoft Word and Adobe Acrobat, so glitches can occur.

Some employers may have firewalls that block workers from using the programs at the office. And getting help can be difficult: Most companies don't even have a phone number to call for tech support, leaving you to the mercy of online forums, chat rooms and help sites.

Growing market

Though VOIP has been around for a few decades, the founders of Skype Technologies, now owned by EBay Inc., gave it mass appeal four years ago. The world's most popular Internet calling program says it has an average of about 10 million users online at any time and 30 million to 40 million members who use the program daily.

The overall VOIP market just for cable TV companies and independents like Vonage soared from 6.5 million households in mid-2006 to 11.8 million at the end of June, representing more than 10% of the total telephone market, according to TeleGeography Research. By the end of the year, phone-based firms should have 15.2 million customers.

TeleGeography estimated that Skype alone has 17.8 million registered U.S. subscribers, about 5.3 million of whom are active users. Free Skype-to-Skype calls accounted for 28 billion minutes of talking, half of which were international calls, and the operation handled 4.1 billion minutes of paid Skype-to-phone calls worldwide.

"There's no question that Skype is moving a ton of calls," said Stephan Beckert, research director at TeleGeography. "But the incumbent phone companies shouldn't lose any sleep over it. There were 300 billion minutes in total of cross-border traffic in the industry this year."

Though Skype and similar services aren't threatening the major phone and cable companies yet, they are "pointing to the direction of future phone service," Beckert said.

Shact of CommuniTech agrees, saying, "Skype really was a game changer."

The key? It was simple to install and easy to use. And it introduced the concept of free calling worldwide.

Through numerous upgrades, Skype remains one of the easiest programs to install and use. Just go to the company's website and download the program for either Microsoft or Apple operating systems. Create an account with a user name and a password, and you're ready to make calls.

You can use the program to search for friends and family already using Skype, or you can buy credit online and make calls to conventional phone lines here or abroad.

SightSpeed, Gizmo and others work similarly.

Jonathan Bernstein is such a big fan of SightSpeed that he's now a beta tester with ideas on how to develop the program for business use.

Bernstein signed up this year to call his son in Florida but wound up instead using it more for his Sierra Madre-based crisis management firm, where it has become a videoconferencing tool that lets him train clients and provide other help. SightSpeed can replace expensive conferencing hardware, he said.

"In a crisis, all the written words you put out in press releases are not as good as an effective speaker who can be seen in a video right after a crisis hits," he said.

Rates for calls

For basic calling, there are no "gotchas." The programs won't let you use services that cost additional money without prompting you to buy credit first.

But you still have to be on the lookout, especially for the costs of calling folks in other countries who are using conventional phones. The sites typically have a detailed list of how much you'll pay.

Though rates may start as low as 1.9 cents a minute to land lines in Canada, China, Germany, Britain and other developed nations, they are much higher elsewhere. Gizmo Project, for instance, charges 33.4 cents a minute for a call to land-line numbers in Afghanistan.

You also have to be careful about calling cellphones in foreign countries, most of which charge the calling party for the entire cost of the call. In the U.S. cellular world, the caller and the person being called share the costs. VOIP calls reflect those rates.

SightSpeed, for instance, charges 2 cents a minute for calls to U.S. and British land-line numbers and to U.S. cellphones, but the price for calling a cellphone in Britain is 22 cents a minute.

Those international cellphone calls are where Mobivox, ISkoot and a host of others -- such as Jajah Inc., Raketu Communications Inc., Rebtel, TalkPlus Inc., Jangl Inc. and Jaxtr Inc. -- can make a mark.

A few, particularly ISkoot, work mainly with smart phones, those more-expensive business-oriented handsets like BlackBerrys that are gaining fashion with consumers. That's mainly because you need a cellphone that allows you to download needed software.

But Mobivox, Jajah and others can be used with most cellphones or land-line phones.

Los Angeles resident Angela Choi said she used Mobivox regularly to call her boyfriend in Toronto.

"My phone bill used to be $400 a month, and now it's down to $100," she said.