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This post originally ran on my old blog, the Sensdep Experience. I’m reproducing it here because a cold has shut down the writing portion of my brain, and I’ve eaten through my back log. Hopefully I will have something new for you tomorrow, but until then enjoy this classic!

So, since June 27th (The post originally ran Augusut 15th of the same year) I’ve been signed up with a company called SurveySpot to take on-line surveys for a cash reward. The idea is simple but I thought I might talk a little about my experience in case anyone wants to consider doing it themselves.

As I said, the premise is simple. The company contacts you with survey opportunities from various market research groups, and you can accept or decline each survey. Also, most surveys will have a few introductory questions to ensure you fall into the demographic they want to poll, and you may be told politely “no thank you” after doing those. However, if you are accepted, most surveys take between fifteen minutes and an hour and pay between $2 and $5.

These surveys work great for people who have a little bit of free time and want to make some extra cash. It wont come quickly, as there are long processing times between the research group and SurveySpot as well as between SurveySpot and you, but it’ll get there eventually. There are some surveys with no reward (though SurveySpot offers instead an entry into a quarterly $25,000 raffle), but you are under no obligation to do them.

The downsides are pretty straightforward. A lot of the surveys are boring, unless slight changes to product packaging really catches your interest. Some weren’t so bad though, so don’t expect every time to be drudgery. There is also the ever present chance of internet failure. Should something time out just before you finish, tough luck. I think it only happened once to me, though.

Being turned down for surveys can be frustrating. I’ve probably spent an hour getting rejected by six surveys to be accepted by one. However, I also had one day where I was accepted by all five, so it comes and goes.

The big things to watch out for are as follows:

A) Any company that asks for a sign up fee is a scam, flat out. Don’t bother. SurveySpot is free.
B) Any company that uses points instead of real cash is probably a scam. I was signed up for one of these before (Harris Poll Online) and after a ton of surveys could just manage a $5 gift card. If a company uses points, do the math. How long is each survey, how many points per survey, and what can points buy you. You might find it works out to an agreeable amount per hour, or, as I did, you might not.

That said, it’s not bad, for working from home on your own hours. It’s never a career, and not even really a second job, but not bad to pad the wallet a little. As I said, I signed up on June 27th, and the last survey I took was June 30th, about a month later. In that time I took 19 surveys at $3 a piece, for a total of $57 dollars. If I could keep it up, that’s $684 a year.

Unfortunately, I’m writing this because I couldn’t keep it up. It’s mind numbing work. It will never go on a resume, and I decided I’d rather do some other form of low paying work (like an online store) which will hopefully pay dividends later on. Still, I can’t complain too much about the experience, and I’ll have a check for $57 no later then four to six weeks after September 10th.

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A brief message to anyone who has just seen a big setback in their life:

I found out yesterday that my most recent shirt design on Threadless had the voting period cut short because it was doing that poorly. It’s something called the 1.5 rule. This comes as a particularly big surprise because the shirt had apparently been well received in the critique stage.

First of all, c’est la vie. It happens, and I can’t do anything about it now. I can’t control people that I don’t even see or speak too. So I move on.

Second, I’m shifting my focus. (In a big way, by moving to my first couple gallery-scale photo projects this summer, but thats for another day.) In a more immediately relevant way, I’m going to talk to someone who contacted me about an alternative business opportunity for a design I had. If one company doesn’t like my shirt, maybe another will.

Mostly, though, I’m focusing on school, which will be over in a few weeks, but not before a fair amount of blood, sweat, and tears.

(On the up side, I received an e-mail today that I won a contest here in the art department which I did not enter. Hard to argue with that. Granted, I think once they figure it out, they wont give me the prize, but hey, one can dream.)

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This beautiful Friday, I bring you a list of things I passionately want/don’t want.

First, I might want this ring if I get into a long term relationship. However, I currently don’t want it, since it would presumably just shock me whenever it feels like.

I definitely want a case of Bawls’s G33k B33r (thats geek beer, for the unl33t), even though I would probably never sleep again.

I want to shake the hand of this Maasai Warrior for making all western marathon runners look foolish. Just so we’re clear, its this quote:

The [London] marathon is easy. There are no lions.

Word.

This new book looks significantly more awesome then a book of career advice has any right to. Question is, will I find it under self-help, or graphic novels? Scroll down and watch the trailer. (On a related note, all books should have trailers.)

I don’t want this flashlight, but I do want the reviewer’s writing style. Let me pull out the passage I’m referring to.

You can do a lot of damage with a simple flashlight. One solid swing, connected with the occipital lobe, is enough to detach retinas, and I can tell you from first hand experience there’s just nothing funnier than watching a burglar blindly stumbling around your house, his tongue protruding, his eyes wildly googling in their sockets. “Hey honey! Kids! Check it out! Its Cookie Monster!” you can cry out. With peals of delight, encourage your loved one to toss Oreos at the would-be home invader, making moist, mocking “Nom nom nom” noises with your mouths all the while. What might have been a horrific tragedy becomes a midnight comedy!

Last, but not least (unless you count that I want it the least out of anything here), is this guy. There… there are no words. Just watch the video, and join me in wishing there had been someone there you could have done a better job of insulting him. I mean, wow.

Yeah.

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I could have also called this post “Why I Like Improv (Even Though I Wont Do It Again)”. First, a little back story.

L’espirit d’escalier is a French term, literally meaning stairway wit. It’s a term Diderot created for the predicament of thinking of a comeback too late (literally, in the stairwell on your way out of the party). I, like most people I know, suffer from it all the time.

I’ve only been to a single meeting of my campus’s improv group, and participated very little, but had one exhilarating and successful skit about gizzards (you probably had to be there), but it has really stuck with me.

These two ideas come to me as a pair all the time with good reason. Give most anyone enough time, they can think of something funny to say in a specific situation. This is why stairway wit is so common; someone ribs you, your mind ponders over it for a while, and eventually finds the right thing to say. Improv is all about shortening the length of time your brain has to ponder before you can respond, until eventually you can act in real time. I think this is a great skill, not just for entertaining people at parties, but for life in general.

Stairway wit doesn’t just strike after playful exchanges, after all. Often, I leave a meeting, a date, etc., and find myself wishing I had said something different. In hindsight, I recognize that I missed a moment to be excellent. Ultimately, it’s impossible to go back, so all you can do is prepare yourself for the next time.

Join an improv group. Strike up conversations with strangers. Find someone to verbally spar with. All of these are ways to practice (in person, in real time, out loud) spontaneous conversation. The ultimate goal isn’t to be able to act or deceive (although you could do so pretty harmlessly sometimes and have fun), but to be able to better express yourself, to go after what you want.

In the end, improvisation is a tool for communicating with others, and one well worth refining.

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(An interesting bit of news – today is Step Lightly’s 50th post. Thanks for reading, and here’s to many more!)

I sure do have an ugly mug.

My chin is weak, I have chipmunk cheeks, fat lips, a big (I mean BIG) nose, bad skin, overgrown eyebrows, the list goes on and on.

I’m not the only one, either. My entire drawing class is racked with guilt over being such eyesores. Which is strange, because I’d say most of them are very attractive. Beautiful features abound. Why are we all so embittered?

Self portraiture.

There’s a lesson to be learned here, I think. It’s when we have to pay close attention to our features that we begin to worry, that we measure ourselves lacking and envy what others have. Each of was doing nothing more than making a detailed examination of our own faces, the face we know we wear every day. Yet when we have to study it, to actually look at it, we’re disappointed. We don’t feel like the outside measures up to the way we saw ourselves inside.

The key is to avoid the mirror. I don’t just mean in terms of physical appearance. I’d argue that appearance and the impression we give is primarily a matter of attitude. The more you act like the person you feel like you are, the more you are that person. And I know, it sounds like mumbo-jumbo or wishful thinking, but so long as we avoid the mirror, so long as we don’t go out of our way to show ourselves how we come up short, then who’s to tell us otherwise? You can be whoever you want to be, if you believe in it more then you believe your eyes. The amazing thing is, if you believe in it enough, others start to see it too.

If I avoid the mirror long enough, I even start to think my mug ain’t so bad.

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The other day, I was walking back from the art building in a terrible mood. One of my art projects was in the dumps and the other class had been simply tiring. I was acutely feeling a sense of envy about all the couples on campus, and yet my roommate’s sudden break-up had me thinking that love never lasts. I’d been sore for no good reason for a few days so trudging back to the dorm in a cold rain wasn’t exactly ideal either.

That was when it hit me: While it had been pouring all day, the rain had cleared just long enough for me to walk home. I’m not religious by any means, but I smiled and thought to myself, “Thank God for small miracles.” (Which in turn reminded me of the origin of the phrase “this too shall pass” which actually made me laugh, particularly in reference to all those couples.)

It’s a difficult thing to do, especially when everything seems to be going wrong, but it’s important not to forget to be thankful for the good things that come your way. Everyone has a dose of bad in their life, and probably always will. The hard part (I do this plenty) is not to feel like you’re owed something good. You probably are, and in our society, forgetting to demand your debts be paid is a good way to get screwed over. However, when you look life that way, then good things only make you even. Sure, you got a nice bonus, but that just about makes up for that weekend you had to come in to work. You have dealt with so many snotty cashiers that the polite one only pays you what you are due.

“Now that we’re even, world, what will you do to make me happy?”

The problem is, anytime you think that way, odds are something else bad will come your way and mess you up. You’ll be owed something again, and you’ll never really enjoy it.

It’s important to remember that life doesn’t tally pros and cons. Good things happen and bad things happen and quite often you can only do so much about it. One thing you can always do, though, is appreciate good things for what they are: good moments in your life. Not payback, not what you are due, just something good to be happy about.

A great way to practice this is to take a few minutes every day to write down something (or a few things) you’re thankful for. Some days the list will be long, other days it may read “I’m still breathing.” Thats okay. Life is that way sometimes. The important thing is to train yourself to look for good things, without tallying and spreadsheets and calculating what you’re owed. (Besides, breathing is a pretty good thing, right?)

Who knows? You might find you have more small miracles to be thankful for then you think.

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