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Saturday, February 11, 2012

Double Duty

So, you know those funny words you have to try and read when you fill out an online form?  That is called a captcha and they were designed to help combat Spam robots (called bots) that go around the internet and fill out forms much to the dismay of the website owner.

So to make you identify that you are a human, they came up with these forms. Now some of these little letter pictures are helping save books. Watch the video below about ReCaptcha. I bet you will never look at these annoying forms quite the same again.



Thursday, February 9, 2012

Mouse and Key Clicks

  1. If you double click on a word in a document, online or in email, it highlights it so it can be deleted, copied or modified.
  2. Triple-clicking a word will highlight the entire section or paragraph. 
  3. Same thing for double  and triple clicking on the URL in our browser. It makes it easier to delete.
  4. The squiggly line character is in the upper left-hand portion of your keyboard is called a tilde (pronounced "till-deh").
  5. Want to delete something without it going into the recycle bin? [SHIFT] + [Del] will give you a delete confirmation box. Clicking ‘Yes’ (be sure this is what you want to do!) will delete the file bypassing the Recycle Bin.
  6. In many software programs you can use [CTRL] + [Z] to undo the last action.  [CTRL] + [Y]  will let you redo the action.
  7. Want to drop down on a web page without having to scroll or use your mouse on the side bar? You can press the [Space Bar] to scroll down one screen. Add the [Shift] key to scroll back up to where you were on the page.
  8. You don’t have to type “http://www” into your Web browser. You can just type "dailymouseclicks.com".
  9. Want to copy and paste an entire document? Instead of highlighting from top to bottom, hit Control + A to select everything.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Income Tax: Capital punishment


Ok, you should have all your W-2 forms (due to be sent by January 31st by employers) and soon to receive your bank or broker 1099 forms. Its now time to pull together your tax documents to drop off at the tax preparer or to handle your own through e-file or even regular filing via the mail by this year’s filing deadline, April 17.

About 77% of Americans are now filing online, often receiving their 79 million refunds, electronically deposited, just a couple of weeks after filing.  So, does it cost money? It depends. It is worth checking out your options.  You can visit the IRS website for a listing of various free e-file companies. Link: Free File Companies on the IRS Website. 

If you qualify for EITC (Earned Income Tax Credit), an active duty military with an AGI (adjusted gross income) of $57,000 or less, or has an AGI of $31,000 or less, you can use TurboTax Online Tax Freedom Edition.

There is also a TurboTax Free file for the 1040EZ & Simple Federal Tax Returns. This will be perfect for my son since he doesn't have any major deductions, has a very low AGI and will only be getting a refund.

 You can file with H&R Block's Free File if your Adjusted Gross Income is $57,000 or less,you are 52 or younger, and live in any state or U.S. Citizens and resident aliens with foreign addresses.


If you have simple tax situations, you most likely won't pay a fee through these programs for your Federal taxes but to file your state taxes electronically, you will need to pay a fee (all fees are tax deductible along with any costs for an accountant, tax software or cost of tax publications, internet subscriptions about taxes and books about taxes). Note: the deduction for tax preparation expenses is only available in the year that you actually spent the money.  So if you pay for the software today, it is taken off of next years taxes. Save those receipts.

Not sure which company to use? Have some unique circumstances?  Take the time to read the different websites and ask questions. I personally have used TurboTax, TaxSlayer and TaxAct without a problem in the past.  You can also use the Free File Fillable Forms, the electronic version of IRS paper forms, with no income restrictions.

Small Print Note: I am not an accountant or a tax attorney, etc. Although the information contained here is presented in good faith and believed to be correct, it is General in nature and is not intended as tax advice. Furthermore, the information contained herein may not be applicable to or suitable for the individuals' specific circumstances or needs and may require consideration of other matters.


E-Filing By The Numbers
Click image to enlarge. Source: H&R Block

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Straighten Up!


Have you considered ergonomics in your office or home work space?  I noticed that to have my feet on the ground, my chair needs to be pretty high (I have long legs for my height). As a result, I had to look down at the monitor, rounding my shoulders and putting greatly stressing my neck and spine. It creates a serious risk of pinched nerves and a permanent hunched look as I grow older. So I purchased computer monitor stand to raise my monitor slightly and improve my view. This was a pretty inexpensive change that makes a significant impact on my health. It also benefits my relationship with my chiropractor as it improves my tight muscles in my neck and shoulders! ☺ More than 80 percent of neck and back problems are the result of tight, aching muscles brought on by years of bad posture, the Massachusetts Chiropractor Association reports.

It doesn't cost an arm and a leg for a decent chair.  If you aren't using a proper chair, head over to Staples and try out some of the options or do some do-it-yourself adjustments to improve the ergonomics of your seating.   A decent cushion is really important, especially if you are sitting for a long time. Arm rests are helpful to reduce strain when you are not typing. Keep them low enough so they don't put stress on your shoulders. Decent lumbar support should be considered, allowing a slight curve to support your lower back.

Your keyboard and mouse need to be a reasonable distance in front of you on your desk or slide out tray. If the keyboard is too close, your arms will be awkward and cause strain. If too far, you will lean forward causing strain on the shoulders and spine. The keyboard should within a distance that allows your elbows to stay close to your body with your forearms approximately parallel with the floor. Also look at the wrist angle when your fingers are on the keyboard. The wrist is at risk for issues with repetitive motion (carpal tunnel syndrome) and awkward angles. You may wish to invest in a wrist rest for your keyboard and mouse to keep your wrist in a neutral position.

Give your eyes a break! It is high recommended that to reduce eye strain you should follow the advise of the Mayo Clinic to use the simple 20-20-20 rule.
A good rule of thumb is to follow the 20/20/20 rule: Every 20 minutes, take your eyes off your computer and look at something 20 feet away for at least 20 seconds.
There are some great free utilities for those that spend a lot of time in front of the computer. Check out WorkRave (Windows and Linux) and EyeDefender (Windows). Mac users, you may want to check out Time Out.  You should also stretch regularly.. and you can download Stretchware to remind you to pause for a short break and do slow stretching exercises while sitting in their chairs. Doctors therefore suggest that breaks should be taken every 30-45 minutes for at least 5 minutes. This is to help prevent repetitive stress injuries, keep you healthier and less likely to have long term issues related to poor posture and repetitive motions.


Monday, February 6, 2012

Faster! Faster!: Speed Reading


When I was in high school, as part of our English class, we has a few weeks of a speed reading course. This has really beneficial in reading textbooks and articles (and less beneficial when I read novels and finish them quickly).

The idea is to increase your speed by breaking the brain-ear connection, no longer listening to the inner voice reading each word individually. Did you know that the average adult score is around 300 WPM for people who have moderate abilities and college students who are considered to be “exceptional” readers have scored more than 800 WPM on online speed reading tests. I clock in at around 750 WPM.  Of course, I am slower when reading a novel.. I like to hear those little voices. ☺

I highly encourage you to improve your reading skills. Your children will benefit even more from this training. There are a number of free products online.. our wonderful resource.


http://www.free-speed-reading.com/ - This site has some great tools online and even review some of the different software products that can be used to increase reading speed.

 http://www.freereadingtest.com/free-reading-test.html - This site, owned by Ace Reader Software, provides 156 reading exercises, divided into 13 levels and 4 groups of themes. Their software is also available to download with a 30 day trial.

http://www.spreeder.com/app.php?intro=1 - Spreeder helps you learn to read with some great features including increasing or decreasing speed, making the window size taller or wider and you can even use your own text.