Mar 30, 2009

Integrating Technology

Perhaps you’re about to enter a more rigorous year of high school, or you’re about to go off to college, or you finally got that internship you were shooting for. All of these are great qualifiers for buying a new laptop or computer. The machine you own is an essential link in the career or educational path you undertake, and can either save you tons of time or severely slow any progress you make towards your goals. It’s important you have a machine that will hold up to whatever you could throw at it.

The first thing to decide on is format. This decision comes down to either a Macintosh or Windows-based platform. If the format you usually use is the same as the format that you will need to integrate with (for example, if you own a Windows machine and you are interning in an office that uses exclusively Windows), stay with it. However, if the format that you need to integrate with is different, the question comes down to whether you should learn a new format for the ease of integration, or integrate what you’re used to with the separate format. The reason this is so important is that integration between the Macintosh and Windows formats is not yet streamlined to the point where you won’t run into at least a few headaches. However, learning a new format could cause just as many problems due to unfamiliarity.

It’s always a good idea to consult with the local tech department for tips. If it looks like the differences between integrating your system with the new system will be too great, consider learning a new way of computing. Also, it never hurts to have both systems available. Consider purchasing a cheap, older computer with the different format so you have both platforms available to you.

Internet integration is becoming easier and easier nowadays, but it is still critical to double-check that you will be able to access the Internet quickly and easily without spending down-time chasing down glitches.

Consider what programs you’ll need. Things like word processors, Internet browsers, and presentation creators are a must, and usually come pre-loaded on any new computer.

Finally, consider accessories. Free space can dwindle very rapidly when collecting assignments on top of the usual stash of music, movies, pictures, and particulars of your personal computer, so consider an external hard drive. Also, a mouse could help ease the strain on your index finger if you’ll be clicking a lot.

The key is to anticipate how you’ll be using the computer on a daily basis, and then build your system from there. Do it right, and you’ll slide into your new position with ease!

Mar 23, 2009

How To Cheaply Travel Abroad

The travel bug is easy to catch. Without warning, you could be struck by the enticing call of distant lands, strange new cultures, and exotic dishes, and once you’ve heard that siren song, it’s hard to forget. Frequently, the only antidote is a healthy dose of wandering around in a foreign country. But don’t think this remedy always comes with the side effect of a deflated wallet- there are many ways to ease the cost of curing the travel bug.

When planning your trip, try to bring along as many companions as you can. Group rates are a great way to reduce airfare and accommodations expenses, as well as all those little things that can add up over time, like tooth paste and toilet paper. Plus, it’s always nice to have friends there to share the experience.

Try to pack as light as you can. Less stuff will mean a lower expense hauling it around, both on your back and your budget. Additionally, keeping all those clothes clean will be cheaper if you simply have less clothing to get dirty.

Learning the language is crucial, not just for getting around, but also for keeping expenses down. Unlike the USA, negotiations over price are commonplace abroad, and it’s easy for locals to take a tourist for all they’re worth when the haggling is one-sided. Being conversant in the local tongue will help keep away any unexpected expenditures.

Although tasting all the different delicacies is fun, it can be a huge drain on the funds. Visit the grocery store and make as many of your own meals as you can, saving any extra money you have to splurge on a restaurant every so often.

If you intend on staying for several months, see if you can make your trip profitable. Get a job teaching English, being a mentor, or simply waiting tables. Each day you work translates into another day of travel.

Finally, remember that just because it’s free doesn’t mean it’s not worthwhile- visit museums, fairs, parks, or any other activity that doesn’t require spending. You’ll be surprised at the differences that local flavor can add to an everyday activity. Make your own tour, perhaps off a free information pamphlet. Even simply walking the streets can be an enriching a unique experience in a foreign country. You might meet someone and get the local highlights and treatment.

It’s possible to travel on just about any budget, if planned correctly. The key is to take only what you need to have a successful trip abroad. If that includes a 5 star hotel accommodation and room service every night, then expect to pay out the nose. But, if you just want to travel for travel’s sake, plan out a budget, look for shortcuts to save money, and get out there!

Mar 16, 2009

The Benefits and Drawbacks of Videogames

There certainly has been plenty of controversy over what is and what is not acceptable when it comes to videogames. Most of this controversy, however, is not new. Rather, it is usually a rehashed argument that was used against some other form of media (such as television or movies). So, what exactly are the facts?

We’ve all heard the saying that videogames rot your brain. However, some studies suggest this is not necessarily the case. The complexity of modern videogames calls upon the player to use a variety of higher brain functions, such as pattern recognition, system thinking, flexibility, analytical agility, and surprisingly, even patience. Gamers must integrate several different streams of information at once in order to achieve a stated goal. It should come as no surprise then that game manuals can often be the size of short books.

Another common myth is that videogames will make users more anti-social and introverted. While this may be true in some extreme cases, it is the opposite for others. The hugely popular game World of Warcraft, for example, is an MMORPG. This acronym stands for Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game, which is a complex term that basically states that the game takes place in an online virtual world populated by other real people also playing from their computers. The appeal of an MMORPG is to “party up” with other people in order to play as a team. In fact, some of the more challenging areas of the game require the assistance of at least a few other players.

While beneficial in some respects, there are certainly drawbacks. The majority of research on videogames has been on the effects of exposure to violence. The research is clear- experiencing violence in videogames (and indeed, in any form of media) will make the user more apt to accept violent solutions to problems, have aggressive thoughts, and sometimes, conduct direct imitation. However, there is no evidence that these effects are markedly more poignant than exposure to violence in other forms of media.

Videogame addiction is another serious problem facing some players. There has been a bevy of coverage on the topic, and there are even programs available to help addicts break their habit. However, it is important to note that these reports often take the most extreme examples as indications of the state of videogame players as a whole.

Videogames, like any new media, can be both an opportunity and a vice. While holding the potential for new avenues towards learning and entertainment, they can also seriously hurt anyone who does not recognize the overarching negative effects that playing may cause. Videogames should be recognized as tools for enriching experience, and while those experiences vary in usefulness and value, their effectiveness is unparalleled.

Mar 9, 2009

Benefits of Learning An Instrument

If the game Guitar Hero has taught us anything, it’s that being a rock star is fun. The fame and fortune are nice, but anyone who is all about the music loves that feeling of nailing the song perfectly or ripping out a screaming solo. And while playing videogames with plastic instruments can be entertaining, few things are as satisfying as actually playing an instrument.

Making music is one of the oldest and most hallowed traditions practiced. One of the reasons for this is that it is simply very pleasurable, not only for the musician, but for all those within earshot as well. When undertaking the process of learning how to play a new instrument, it is crucial to remember to keep it fun. The dedication and hard work needed to master music making will come much more easily if you look forward to the process. For this reason, pick an instrument that interests you. If you like Heavy Metal, try the guitar. If you’re into Jazz, give the piano a shot. Playing the music you like to listen to is a surefire way to stay interested as you progress.

Another great reason to learn an instrument is that it makes you smarter. Studies have proven that musicians have significantly more acute listening and audible comprehension skills. This is important for a variety of reasons, especially when considering that the majority of learning occurs by listening to oral lectures.

Creativity is yet another benefit. Self-expression through music is a fantastic way to relax and relieve stress, and the pathways in the brain that riffing or jamming open up could cross over to many other unexpected areas.

Finally, being able to play an instrument could pay off financially. For example, there are individuals who helped pay for textbooks in college by performing at gigs with bands they met at school. You could also teach someone else how to play and pass on what you’ve learned (for a small fee, of course).

Being able to play an instrument is a skill that can be learned at any point in life, and the benefits will stick with you as long as you keep practicing. And if you happen to make it big, well, that’s not that bad either.

Mar 2, 2009

Intelligence Increasing Games and Activities

Highly intelligent people are recognized and envied in society as the “brain elite”. Being able to quickly understand and process information is a skill that everyone seems to be striving for. Here are a few ways to boost yourself to the coveted ranks of “smarty pants’.

One of the most obvious and frequently overlooked intelligence increasing activities is book reading. The focus and attention required to get through a few chapters will help flex your mental might and challenge your thought process by bringing new words and ideas into your consciousness. In fact, being able to read a book for thirty minutes without distraction is one way that racecar drivers practice their concentration. If you haven’t read much more than the TV guide lately, start slow. Pick up some popular page-turner and gradually work your way up to more challenging material. The more you read, the greater your vocabulary and lingual eloquence--not only will you be smarter, you’ll sound smarter too!

Puzzles are another great way to give your brain a workout. These can be crosswords, Sudoku, riddles, or even just a Rubik’s cube. These types of games require active and attentive interaction, as well as a great degree of lateral thinking. One of the best parts is that this type of activity can be found from several different sources completely free of charge. Search places like you local library, newspapers, and the Internet. You’ll find each is overflowing with puzzles that can help you become smarter. There are even videogames, like Fociz and Brain Age, that tout claims in increasing intelligence.

Increasing spatial intelligence can also be fun and easy. Creating collages, drawing, laying out posters, and taking pictures are all activities that help your brain in areas like visual memory and visual learning.

Just like lifting weights or going for a jog, time spent exercising the brain can benefit anyone. If you use these and other activities in a daily routine, you’ll find you can achieve better grades, synthesize information more quickly, and understand the world a little more broadly and clearly.