Gunning Daily News

Forget about the Man Cave, How about a Home Recording Studio?

December 5, 2013 8:42 pm

I have explored every sort of feature, fixture and specialty room one could want in a practical home. But it appears the latest rage for amatuer and professional musicians is to establish their own home recording studio space - but how does one begin the task?

The latest update of Jeff Towne’s primer on setting up a small recording studio (transom.org) notes that one doesn’t need a perfectly-tuned space in order to make decent sound mixes.

Towne says place monitor speakers so that the two monitors and the spot where you’ll sit make an equal-sided triangle, and position them at about ear-level when you’re in your working position.

Keep a clear path between your ears and the speakers (it’s tricky to keep computer screens out of the way, but it’s crucial that you do) and try to soften or break up any hard, flat surfaces between you and the speaker (like your desktop), which could create interference from sonic reflections.

Don’t get the speakers too close to a wall, or too far into a corner; the bass response will be affected.

If you’re having problems with echo, or a resonance problem that sounds like a ringing or unnatural build-up of certain sounds when you’re listening, you may need to do some treatment of your room.

Towne says skip the cardboard egg-cartons on the wall, they don’t really do much of anything, but some strategically placed acoustical foam might. Even without investing in a full-on studio treatment, just getting some soft materials on your walls, like drapes or other heavy fabrics, will help a lot.

If you can break up plain flat surfaces, especially behind your mix position, you’ll reduce many problems. Professional studios use specially built diffusers for that, but if you can place a bookshelf or some other irregular surface that will scatter audio reflections, it will help.

Check out the full article for lots more info on setting up your home recording studio at http://transom.org/?p=23904.


Should You Ban Facebook at Work?

December 5, 2013 8:42 pm

Facebook use in the workplace is a mind-boggling issue for employers. On one hand, employers don't want to come across as controlling "Big Brothers" who don't trust employees to get their work done. But on the other hand, well, your employees may not be getting their work done.

But from a productivity standpoint, should you ban Facebook at work? And would doing so raise any legal concerns?

Facebook Use at Work

Just how much time are employees spending on Facebook at work? In Oklahoma, state employees (using the state's computer network) made more than 2 million visits to Facebook in a three-month span, according to Oklahoma's Cyber Command Security Operations Center as reported by United Press International.

Though the finding isn't representative on a national scale, it signals a growing trend of employees frittering away a fair amount of time at work on social media. In response, many companies have banned Facebook at work.

If you decide to jump on the corporate bandwagon and implement a Facebook ban, remember that your social media policy can't be too restrictive. It's crucial that your Facebook ban doesn't unlawfully interfere with your employees' free speech rights under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA).

The actual process of blocking access to Facebook from work computers is pretty straightforward. It merely requires updating your "Approved Sites" Internet settings, as Demand Media explains.

Despite the simplicity of setting up a Facebook ban, employers should give pause to consider whether a ban is even necessary.

A Potential Non-Issue

In a way, this whole "should you ban Facebook" debate may be a solution looking for a problem. According to a study conducted by the National University of Singapore, "cyberloafing," or surfing the Web at work, can actually increase employee productivity.

In the study, the Web-surfing group was not only more productive but also reported less mental exhaustion and a higher level of engagement in their work, compared to those who were given breaks but were prohibited from surfing the Web.

Two other recent studies -- one by the start-up "Big Data" firm Evolv and the other by a Warwick Business School professor -- also found that social networking at work appeared to boost both productivity and retention, reports Forbes.

So before you go willy-nilly with a new Facebook policy, carefully examine your employees' actual productivity numbers. If their numbers are good, your "Facebook ban" idea may actually be a solution looking for a productivity problem that simply isn't there.

Source: FindLaw


Word of the Day

December 5, 2013 8:42 pm

Private mortgage insurance (PMI). Required by most lenders for conventional loans with a down payment of less than 20 percent. Insurance is paid by the borrower and guarantees the lender will not lose money if the borrower defaults.


Q: Can I Deduct Improvements Made to My Home?

December 5, 2013 8:42 pm

A: Yes, but only after you have sold it because improvements add to the basis of your home. Your gain is defined as your home’s selling price, minus deductible closing costs, minus your basis. The basis is the original purchase price of the home, plus improvements, less any depreciation.

The IRS defines improvements as those items that “add to the value of your home, prolong its useful life, or adapt it to new uses” – such as putting in new plumbing or wiring or adding another bathroom.


5 Tech Toys You Can Find at the Dollar Store

December 4, 2013 10:00 pm

It’s easy to break your budget at holiday time. But blogger Marc Saltzman, whose Digital Crave seeks out bargains for stingy shoppers, has discovered a handful of tech toys regularly found and sold way below retail at dollar stores including Dollar Tree, Dollar King, Family Dollar, National Dollar and others.

Check your local store for these techie bargains that are worth putting under your tree:
 

  • LED book light - This clamp-on, a steal for a buck, does the same thing as the $20 version at your local book store, illuminating a book for reading in low-light. Available at Dollar Tree locations, the slender, silver book light attaches to a soft- or hardcover books. Includes three AG13 watch batteries.
  • Retractable Mouse – If you need a spare computer mouse, look for a retractable USB Mouse from Tech-1, available in white or black for less than two bucks. Plugs into an available USB port on your PC or Mac – no drivers needed – and you can pull on the cord to give yourself as much space as you need. It’s not wireless, but this small and affordable accessory could be an invaluable travel companion.
  • Maplock GPS anti-theft device – If you have a standalone GPS navigation device, you know it can attract thieves. Instead of spending up to $30 elsewhere, you can pick up the Maplock for a couple of dollars. It clamps onto your GPS, locks it down and tethers it to your steering wheel via a security cable. Be sure to buy the correct Maplock to fit your specific GPS model.
  • Double headphone adapter – If you’re hitting the road for the holidays, siblings might want to listen to the same music, movie or game in the backseat – without disturbing you. Whether using a smartphone, portable media player, tablet, laptop or gaming system, they can split the enjoyment with the HRS-Global Double Adaptor ($1). On one end is a male 3.5mm jack to snap into your device. On the other end are two female ports to plug in earbuds or headphones.
  • Tilt Top Calculator (Studio) – A solar-powered Tilt Top Calculator from Studio ($1.50), has an easy to read, adjustable display. Scientific calculators were also offered at some dollar stores.

Is Your Home Properly Winterized for Your Pets?

December 4, 2013 10:00 pm

With autumn quickly giving way to the cold and inclement weather of winter, I want to take a moment to make sure our four-legged friends have a good winter, too. A recent post from the Association of Pet Dog Trainers (APDT - apdt.com) had a lot of good information for homeowners about wintering pets.

According to the APDT post, puppies, senior dogs and dogs with certain disease conditions (such as thyroid conditions) are more susceptible to cold temperatures. Remember - temperature related illnesses require immediate removal to a warm, dry environment and medical attention by your veterinarian.

Hypothermia can result from extended exposure to cold and is a life-threatening condition. Watch your dog for signs of shivering, shallow breathing, weak pulse or lethargy.

Frostbite is a temperature related tissue injury and most commonly occurs on ears, tails, scrotum or feet. Signs include discolored skin (red, pale, or grayish) swelling, or blisters. Check your pet often for signs of frostbite which may be hidden beneath fur.

Special Considerations for Outdoor Dogs

The APDT says you should bring your dogs inside for the winter if at all possible. If bringing your dogs inside for the season is not possible your dogs must have warm, windproof shelter - preferably heated.

Dry, clean bedding is essential to keeping warm and straw or bedding needs replenished all winter season long.

Water & food can easily freeze. Use heated bowls to prevent freezing and make sure that the electrical cords are out of reach of your pets.

Outdoor dogs will burn more calories (up to 30%) and need extra food. Make sure that you are feeding additional rations during cold temperature.

The Humane Society of the United States also weighed in on winterizing for pets saying if pets cannot come indoors, make sure they are protected by a dry, draft-free enclosure large enough to allow them to sit and lie down, but small enough to hold in the pet’s body heat.

Raise the floor a few inches off the ground and cover it with cedar shavings or straw. Turn the enclosure away from the wind and cover the doorway with waterproof burlap or heavy plastic.


Word of the Day

December 4, 2013 10:00 pm

Judgment. Court decree stating that one person is indebted to another. Also specifies the amount of the debt.


Q: Can I Split My Mortgage in Two and Pay Biweekly?

December 4, 2013 10:00 pm

A: The biweekly mortgage has become increasingly popular as more people favor paying off their home loan early and reducing interest charges.

Monthly payments on these loans are split in half, payable every two weeks.

Because there are 52 weeks in a year, you actually have 26 half-payments, or the equivalent of 13 monthly payments per year instead of 12.

Under the biweekly payment plan, a homeowner can save tens of thousands of dollars in interest and pay off their loan balance in less than 30 years.


Converting Your Kitchen to a Great Room? Consider This First

December 3, 2013 11:12 pm

In our last segment, I began exploring the idea of expanding your kitchen space into a "great room" configuration. In a search for top resources on the subject, we hit upon the Virginia and DC firm CASE Design Remodeling (casedesign.com) .

CASE offers a wealth of information for those considering a great room conversion in their own home, or having one built into a new home. According to its design team, the first things to consider when opening up a floor plan, are the advantages closed floor plans offer:

More privacy - Many households have people contending with different ages and schedules, from babies to teenagers and grandparents or nannies that all live in the same home. Enclosed spaces may work better in a house where everyone needs their space.

More walls for artwork - If you are an art enthusiast and need ample space to display your favorite works you will need wall space. Also, depending upon the delicacy of the work, direct sunlight may damage the art. In this case, walls are a good thing! Easier to clean/contain messes. You may prefer an enclosed playroom for kids or rooms with doors that can keep messes out of the main rooms, making you look and feel like a better housekeeper.

Noise doesn’t travel as far - Open floor plan designs have more acoustics and cause noise to travel further, while extra walls can help contain and limit noise. Specialty rooms. More rooms means more separate spaces dedicated to individual uses, such as home offices, art studios, craft rooms, workout rooms, and guest rooms.

The designers at CASE suggest you start planning for your great room conversion by making a prioritized list of the changes you’d like to make:

  • Visit each room in your home individually, making notes about the room’s location, adjacent rooms, natural light, and current uses.
  • Ask yourself, how can the room you’re standing in become a better room by combining it with the one next door?
  • Remember, a lot of bathroom expansions begin with the realization that a current, cramped bathroom is right next to a small, seldomly used room or linen closet.
  • Also, two adjacent bedrooms can be combined to create one larger bedroom or office.
  • And a garage can be finished and turned into a master bedroom, family room, or entertainment room.

4 Tips for Enjoying Life to the Fullest

December 3, 2013 11:12 pm

Have you ever felt like you need an upgrade on your life? Most of us have – and there’s a way to get it, says veteran physician Sanjay Jain.

“First, I tell people, ‘Don’t be afraid of making your life clearer.’ Many argue that life is not simple and, therefore, there are no easy answers, but as we have paraphrased from Chinese philosopher Laozi, ‘The journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step,’ ” says Jain, whose specialties include integrative medicine. He’s also an international speaker and author of Optimal Living 360 – available February 2014 (www.sanjayjainmd.com).

“Lives are built from many small components which, when viewed as an assembled whole, can appear overwhelmingly complex,” Jain says. “But when we break them down and consider the pieces as we make decisions in our lives, it’s much easier to see how small adjustments can result in a better return on all of the investments we make – not only in health, but in relationships, finances, and all the other essential aspects of our lives.”

Jain offers four points to keep in mind as you start the journey.

• Life is short, so live it to its fullest potential. Live it optimally. This is your life, so don’t waste its most precious resource – time. No matter one’s spiritual leanings, economic and education status, health, intelligence level, etc. – one thing is true for all: Our time on Earth is finite. There will be a time for most of us when, perhaps after a frightening diagnosis from a doctor, we reflect deeply upon our time and consider the most important moments, and all the time that may have been squandered.

• Balance is key. Too much or too little of something, no matter how good, is actually not good. Balance is one of the easiest tenets to understand, but arguably the most difficult to maintain. Obviously, too much alcohol is bad; then again, there are some health benefits to moderately imbibing red wine. What about too much of a good thing; can a mother love her children too much? Yes, if she is an overprotective “helicopter parent.” The best antidote to overkill of anything is awareness; try to be aware of all measures in your life.

• Learn to tap your strengths and improve upon your weaknesses. Engaging your strengths at work and in your personal life is important. When we do what we’re good at and what comes easily, we feel self-confident and satisfied. Some people, however, are not in jobs that utilize their strengths, or they don’t put their talents to work at home because they’re mired in the prosaic work of living. It’s important to identify your strengths and find ways to engage them. It’s equally important to recognize our weaknesses and work on improving them (because we can!) This is essential for achieving balance.

• Life is about making the right choices. Integrative decision-making makes this easier. There are many different types of decision-making, including systematic, hierarchal, impulsive, decisive and flexible. Integrative decision-making can be used for problems large and small, and includes the following process:

1. Define the problem. 2. Frame the problem. 3. Develop all your options. 4. Analyze your options. 5. Make the decision. 6. Execute your decision. 7. Debrief yourself.

While experts may be the best consultants for compartmentalized areas of your life, only you know the other aspects that affect your well-being and can determine how a decision in one area will affect another area.