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Archive for May, 2008

PostHeaderIcon Summer is Officially Here!

Even if it it’s not June 21st yet, the official start of summer, it is definitely summer time here at OffAssist.

Yea! Barbecues, swimming, vacations… Cries of, “I’m bored!” ringing in the ears of work-at-home parents all over the country! We work at home to spend time with our kids, at least partly, but there is no denying that working from home gets a lot easier when they are school age.

With the work part of work-at-home in mind, here are a few sites we’ve rounded up that have either great ideas for entertaining the kids or look like good places to let the kids explore to give you a minute or two to meet those deadlines.

Work-At-Home Mom’s list of 15 Quick Activities to Keep Kids Busy While You Work

Great kid, not-so-great handwriting? Give ’em some practice. This site lets you create your own handwriting worksheets, including cursive!

Funology – Science and fun with both online and offline activities for kids (of all ages!)

I’m sure we’ll have more as summer progresses and the team gets more and more desperate to be both “working” and “parent”.

Happy Summer! Now, go out and play!

PostHeaderIcon Time to Buy?

If you are reasonably sure of your job, iffy in this economy, it is looking more and more like a great time to buy a home.

There are fewer homes on the market now, and that number has declined every month for the past 12 months, BUT, that is due far more to a construction slow-down than to any significant market improvement.

If you are a first time buyer you should know that single-family home prices hit a new low in March. While things might perk up a bit for the summer, since that is traditional moving season for families, it doesn’t look like the market is going to improve (for sellers) anytime soon.

Foreclosures are having a real negative impact on prices as well, and inflation is keeping many families who might like to move in their current homes.

For more, check out the Reuters’ article from May 27th on this very topic.

PostHeaderIcon Smart Tips for Spending Your Economic Stimulus Check

Even people getting paper checks are starting to see stimulus funds by now, and those with direct deposit have had theirs for a while.

Now, what do you do with it? Me, well, I stimulated the local economy by installing a new water heater since I discovered mine leaking a few days before the check came in. I think the water heater guy enjoyed it more than I did, but at least having the stimulus check (which, yes, I know full well I’ll be paying for next year!) made the unexpected home improvement sting a little less.

For those of you without a pressing need for home repairs, here’s a round up of articles on smart ways to spend–or not spend–your 2008 income tax refund advance 😉

CPAs offer advice on how to spend tax refund at accountingweb.

Freemoneyfinance.com has a top ten list of tips here.

MySuperChargedLife’s awesome economic stimulus round-up can be found here.

Thinking about saving or investing your check instead? Check out the math in this post at My Two Dollars comparing your options.

Here are suggestions on HOW to invest it from Lazy Man & Money.

Then, of course, there are the inevitable scams related to the stimulus checks that you have to watch out for.

PostHeaderIcon Singing CPAs

It’s May 23rd and the start of a long weekend. I imagine, CPAs, like the rest of us, could use the break.

For a look at how some CPAs relax post-tax day, check out this fun article at accountingweb.com.

PostHeaderIcon OO 3.0

Has anyone else noticed that when you try to abbreviate Open Office, especially when speaking, you end up saying, “Oooh?” Do you think they planned it that way, or was it just a happy accident?

Either way, no one here is disputing the fact that Open Office is cool and getting cooler. OO 3.0 will be available the day after Labor Day, or at least that’s the plan as I last heard it.

In the meantime, for a sneak peek, check out this nifty entry over at Open Office Ninja’s blog.

Yea, it’s a couple months old, but that just means the release date is that much closer! And let’s face it, it’s easier to get excited about something coming at the end of the summer in May than it would have been in March.

PostHeaderIcon Excel-lent!

As part of blogging for OffAssist, I’ve had to learn lots of numbers-related stuff I would never pay attention to otherwise.

Which has actually proven handy with the tax stuff going all crazy the last couple years (phone rebates, stimulus checks). For once I actually know what’s going on and get to explain it to my husband 🙂

As part of learning more about things bookkeeping, I signed up for the accountingweb newsletters. Earlier this week I got a link to this article in my inbox. Basically, people are using Excel, in some cases in what must be some incredibly complicated in-going formulas, to create charts representing song titles or lyrics.

Now, I don’t do a lot of charting myself, but I do a fair amount of desktop publishing graphics, so I had to go check out the Flickr group, here. Be warned, they also have comments attached, and sometimes the language is a little, well… Don’t let your kids see it without checking it out for yourself first. How work-safe it is depends on how tolerant your boss is, no adult images, just adult language upon occasion.

Have a giggle – some of them are brilliant, others merely okay and many I didn’t get at all.

This one is my personal favorite, probably because it was the first one I got. Of course, you have to be a They Might Be Giants fan, or you’ll probably be unfamiliar with the song…

PostHeaderIcon Nvidia vs. The World

I don’t know how many of you follow computer hardware news, but recently there have been quite a few shake ups and changes in the computer hardware marketplace. A few years ago, video card manufacturer Nvidia decided to start making its own motherboard chipsets. This put them on the outs with the CPU manufacturer Intel, but made them a natural choice for an alliance with AMD.

However, earlier this year, AMD purchased ATI. ATI has long been the 2nd place player in the video card market. So now that AMD has ATI to support, it has dropped the Nvidia partnership. Add to this that Intel has announced plans to ramp up its own video card division and return video processing back to the CPU “Where it belongs”. Where does all of this leave Nvidia?

So far, Nvidia has been coping fairly well. By turning to the motherboard manufacturers themselves, they have still retained support in the marketplace. However the days of get an AMD AND Nvidia SLI compatible motherboard seem over. This cuts the effective market for Nvidia video cards effectively in half.

Both Nvidia and ATI have “Top Secret” products in development planned for release at the end of the year. It will be interesting to see how this story evolves over time and what affect it will have on pricing and availability of products in the marketplace.

PostHeaderIcon New York Wants More!

I first read about New York’s “Amazon Tax” in April, when it was still waiting to become law. Now that it has, the online retail giant is fighting back.

Check out the first article at Gizmodo. It’s old enough now that it has TONS of interesting reader comments, too.

Then check out the update at Ars Technica.

This is a bad, bad thing. As a service professional providing intangible intellectual property (writing and editing) most of what I do is not subject to Texas sales tax. If I have to worry about New York (or any other state) wanting me to collect taxes on their behalf, well, it’d be bad. Numbers are already not my forte and you’re going to make me keep track of MORE?!?

*sigh*

Just to satisfy my inner conspiracy theorist, does anyone know if there are any major small business accounting software firms based in New York? I am sure widespread adoption of this type of law would be a boon to them!

PS –

Did everyone else out there know that you are supposed to report online purchases to the IRS on your taxes? Dude! Turbo Tax so does not have that in their taxes-for-the-befuddled questionnaire!

PostHeaderIcon OffAssist’s May Newsletter

OffAssist’s May 2008 newsletter is up and can be found HERE. You can always SIGN UP or view the ARCHIVES.

Since I don’t usually post to the blog when it’s published, I thought I would. I also want to take this opportunity to thank Dy Larson, who forgot to mention all the blogging she does for me as well. I will admit that computer geek, business and bookkeeping news isn’t exactly the most exciting thing in the world, but she makes it less painful for my little blog 🙂

So there. Thank YOU, Dy. You rock.

🙂

PostHeaderIcon Internet Ad Takeover!

According to an article last month in Editor and Publisher, Internet advertising is set to out pace both newspaper and television advertising in the UK by 2009. All I have is the topix.net blurb to refer to, since, well, OA was a wee bit busy ’round April 13th… lol.

I have to say as a lover of the printed word, this news disconcerts me. I don’t read the paper, I admit it, but I think it is important. The idea that we might be all electronic one day is disturbing — I like the feel of paper in my hands and, let’s face it, advertising is what supports papers…