Suite101 and What I Learned from Freelance Writing

Reminder to self that I should really get Google Analytics advanced certified.

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I did my research before singing with a so-called “content farm.”

The last thing I wanted, as a person who considers herself a decent writer, is to be exploited by a company with a selfish agenda that doesn’t respect quality writing. That’s what led to me Suite101, a Canadian-based publishing platform that is currently defunct. Suite101 was a moderately pleasant surprise.

You had to apply and submit a writing sample to start writing for them. You had editors. There was a $10 minimum payout. (Better than say, $50, which most writers will never reach.) The general quality of writing was well beyond the awful spew that is at the most well-known content farm, Examiner.com.

The item in the contract that caught my interest the most with Suite101 is that publishing exclusivity rights expired after a year. If you are a publishing company reading this, and you want to know what…

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Swagbucks vs. Ibotta: Two Cash-back Shopping Programs for Beer Money

I first heard the term “beer money” on https://www.reddit.com/r/beermoney/ .

/r/beermoney is a community for people to discuss mostly online money-making opportunities (some exceptions are allowed). You shouldn’t expect to make a living, but it’s possible to make extra cash on the side for your habits/needs.”

As a cash-strapped individual, I was on the lookout for some non-scam extra ways to make some money. After reviewing all the options including: Swagbucks, Amazon Mechanical Turks, and InstaGC, I decided on the seemingly most popular one, Swagbucks.

Swagbucks

 

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I have been using Swagbucks for a couple years now and have earned a couple hundred dollars. These were deposited into my PayPal account at $25 intervals with my earnings averaging about $20 a month when I consistently used the service. It has been a serious grind however; making a couple extra dollars is far easier to do with a regular job than with Swagbucks.

Swagbucks’ model revolves around users doing various online tasks and also getting points for online purchases. Each task or purchase is worth a certain amount of points or “Swagbucks” (SB). You can then redeem your SB for Paypal deposits or gift cards.

The main task I do on the site is taking surveys. Surveys are similar to an online focus group. You fill out profile information about yourself—such as age, gender, and income, and Swagbucks will match you to appropriate surveys, usually about products or services that you use frequently. The number of SB you get will vary depending on the survey. Longer surveys are normally worth more. Surveys can be tedious at times (I often find myself answering 50 variations of the same exact question.), but some of them will genuinely match your interests and you receive the credit automatically at the end of the survey.

The other way to earn SB is through cash-back on online purchases. They offer a small % back on many popular retailers such as Macy’s, Amazon, Old Navy, and Sephora. All you have to do is click on the website through the Swagbucks website and make the purchase through there. There is about a month waiting period for the SB to credit, probably to make sure you don’t return the purchase, and they also have help tickets available for people who have trouble getting credit for their purchase.

Sometimes Swagbucks also offers a fixed amount of SB for certain kinds of purchases. I have previously seen them offer several hundred SB for purchases for popular products from brands such as Proactiv, Dollar Shave Club, and Audible.

If I’m short a few points for the minimum payout of SB, I’ll either watch videos (They offer small amounts of SB for watching a set of videos.) or do an “offer” where I give my e-mail to a mailing list in exchange for a small amount of SB. The e-mail has to match the e-mail on your Swagbucks account so I use my secondary spam account for my Swagbucksing. These are my least favorite Swagbucks activities because they pay so low, and I only do them if I really need them.

I’ve also used Swagbucks’ main competitor, InstaGC. They are very similar to Swagbucks to the point where I’ve even seen the same surveys on each site. InstaGC’s main benefit is their gift card payout is much lower than Swagbucks’ minimum payout. You can get 100 points for $1 on Amazon on InstaGC as opposed to 2500 SB for a $25 Amazon on Swagbucks. They do offer PayPal, but you must redeem $50+ in other cash rewards or gift cards in order to gain PayPal access. I haven’t earned this much yet.

Another thing about InstaGC is I can’t use my VPN with it—I get an error message and the site is blocked. This is only a mild annoyance however. I mostly don’t use InstaGC anymore because of its redundancies with Swagbucks.

Ibotta

 

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Ibotta is an app you use with your smartphone. I first heard about Ibotta through a friend. She told me it was a cash-back program and eagerly sent me a referral link via text. The text said I could get $10 for joining.

I thought a straight cash-back program was too good to be true so I looked at the stipulations. Sure enough, there were a few catches with Ibotta.

The first thing I noticed is there was a $20 minimum payout for PayPal. (They also offer gift cards, but I’ll probably focus on the money.) Then I looked at what kinds of products they offered cash-back on. They did have popular retailers such as CVS, Duane Reade, and Walmart, but they only offered the cash-back on certain items. You also have to watch an ad or do a short task to unlock the items. There were a couple hundred items advertised at my local pharmacies.

I also didn’t just get $10 free for joining. I had to make my first purchase within 10 days of signing up. So, wanting my $10, I trekked over to my local Rite Aid and looked for one of the items on the list—a SinfulColors brand nail polish that credits for 25 cents. Not a big credit, but I use that brand of nail polish anyway. I look for it everywhere; apparently they don’t carry it. I go to the other Rite Aid, which is just up the street. They have a bigger selection of nail polish. I could have sworn I saw SinfulColors there before but they don’t have it anymore either.

I decide to buy a Protein Powerbar that credits for $1 and sells for $2.75. It’s not until I buy the Powerbar and try to credit it that it says it actually requires you buy two Powerbars. I also just can’t buy another because they both need to be on the same receipt. I eat the Powerbar and decide it’s not worth buying more of them.

I then go to the households aisle and try to find Rubbermaid Freshworks Produce Saver tupperwear which credits for $2. They don’t carry this at RiteAid either. I get frustrated, think maybe it’s just this store, and head to CVS instead.

I look for the tupperwear at CVS but they don’t carry it there. I then look for Seventh Generation brand laundry detergent and dish soap. They don’t have either one of them. I find a Flintstones Gummy Vitamin bottle that credits for $1, but only the large-size bottle credits, it costs $17, and I don’t want to spend that much. I eventually get a $7 bottle of ZzzQuil that credits $1. I purchase it, scan my barcode and receipt with my phone, and the dollar credits to my account in an hour. I also finally get my $10 joining bonus.

I looked at the other ways to make money on Ibotta. The clothing stores had a lot of offers around $5 on a $50 purchase. So it’s really not that much more than what Swagbucks offers or common credit card cash-back offers.

I haven’t hit my minimum amount to cash out yet, and considering the limitations of the app, it may take a few more weeks before I get my beer money. (I don’t live near any major grocery stores, so I’m limited to the pharmacy options.) I just hope they don’t raise the minimum while I’m making progress. I Googled and apparently the minimum payout used to to be $5, so it appears they can arbitrarily change the program whenever they want.

My final advice on Ibotta: Use it on things you were going to buy anyway, but be careful you don’t end up buying things you don’t need.

If you would like to join Swagbucks use my referral link here: http://www.swagbucks.com/refer/scandalousmuffin

If you would like to join Ibotta use my referral link here: https://ibotta.com/r/kgdorsl

Adventures in Welfare

I would consider myself largely a failure at life. I barely graduated high school on time (I was almost held back twice for medical absences.), I dropped out of college, and I have had a mental breakdown at nearly every job I have ever held. I feel like there a couple kinds of depression: There’s normal person depression, which consists of going through life in a foggy haze, never knowing which way is up, but pushing forward nonetheless; and then there’s my kind of depression, where I can’t leave the house for up to 6 months at time and I drop to 90 pounds because I physically cannot eat. Being a failure at life entails lots of unpleasantness and deviations from normal person milestones. It also involves dealing with the faceless bureaucracies known colloquially known as “welfare.”

I first applied for welfare in New Jersey when I was around 20. By this time, I had driven the full scholarship I had to community college into the ground and had quit a near-minimum wage retail job. I applied for the trifecta of welfare: cash assistance (TANF), Medicaid, and food stamps (SNAP). I applied online and shortly after received a letter for an interview.

The Morris County Office of Temporary Assistance is a sad brown 1-story building located next to a Juvenile Detention Facility. In this sad building I waited about a half an hour in a sad line with lots of sad babies and their sad mothers just to speak to the receptionist so I could be directed to line of chairs in a sad hallway where I would wait another half hour and then then be directed to my second to last destination—a super sad, medium-sized waiting room.

My appointment was scheduled at 1 PM. I had shown up 15 minutes early. It was 2PM by the time I got to the waiting room. A thin 30-something guy with glasses walks in from the purgatory hallway and sits across from me.

“MEH!” he yells. “M-m-m-Mehhhhhh!” Everyone looks at him. “Sorry,” he says, apologetically. “I have Tourette’s.”

I sit across from Tourette’s guy for three more hours. He only has one tic and its name is “Meh!” There are no magazines, only a television with local news playing. There are children of various ages playing with each other interrupted every couple minutes by a stuttering “Meh!” and a rehearsed explanation for the people that just walked in.

Around 5 PM I finally get my interview and I teeter in the room feeling like I just had to listen to “What’s New Pussy Cat” for three hours. The worker who processes me looks like she was fresh out of college but the real world had quickly beat her into submission. Monotone and empty-eyed she leads me through the process, which is mostly just me signing multiple statements that I won’t commit fraud.

About another month later I receive my EBT card. Food stamps are generous enough—about $200 a month, but the cash assistance is only $70. Apparently, the state of New Jersey believes that a person can live off of $840 a year.

A couple years later I move to New York and apply for welfare here. There was a similar 5-hour long appointment for the meager cash allotment of $70 a month. There is a 24-month lifetime limit on cash assistance, so I ran that out pretty quickly. Conservatives and libertarians who believe that moochers can live comfortably off welfare indefinitely are sadly mistaken.

What I should have done at this point is apply for disability on the federal level. But instead I foolishly tried to work another retail job. This ended badly and I then spent the next couples years racking up hefty credit card bills while paying off the minimum on my meager savings.

The time comes every 6 months to renew my food stamps (SNAP). Well, one of these times I get a letter saying I did not send documents that I did in fact send. My food stamps get cut off. I’m pretty heavily in a depressive episode at this point so I just mope around and put my food expenses on my credit cards. Eventually I work up the courage to go to the sad building of endless waiting lines once again. I bring my documents, wait another month, and finally get my food stamps reinstated.

6 months later I have to re-certify again. I don’t have to go the sad building (thank god) but I do have a phone interview scheduled to complete the re-certification. The day comes for the phone interview and no one ever calls. If I don’t re-certify by the end of the month I’ll have my food stamps cut off again. I call the general help number on the re-certification letter to try and get help for the situation. No one picks up and it goes to a voice mailbox that’s full. I call four more times over the next two days. No one ever picks up and it goes to the voicemail that won’t take messages. I find the number for the state human resources department and call Albany. They transfer me several times to someone who says they’ll call me back. Luckily, someone does call back in a few days and gives me a new appointment. The appointment is close to the date I’ll get food stamps cut off which makes me nervous. I do get a phone call early for the interview, although it is on a day that is nowhere near the appointment. I’m luckily available and finish the process.

These days I have everything I need except money. I am currently applying for Supplemental Security Income (Social Security), which would have me certified disabled. The unfortunate part about the entire disability process is that it takes about two years. Pretty much everyone agrees that this is ridiculous. Disabled people obviously can’t work, and while I usually can hold a shitty job for a couple months before my inevitable spiral back into depression, I’m sure the Social Security people would flag me as non-disabled if I did a stint. So right now I’m just kinda withering in poverty..

I applied for SSI a year ago, was rejected, and am currently in the process of appealing the denial. I’m also trying to find a disability lawyer who will take my case, but the legal aid program I’m trying to get into has failed to communicate with me about whether they’ll take my case. (They’ve been “reviewing” my medical documents for five months.) I’m looking for a better legal aid program or maybe a trustworthy private attorney.

So that’s been my situation for the last few years. This is also my first autobiographical blog post in a while. Sorry if it wasn’t that interesting; it’s hard to make a post about tedious things non-tedious, I plan on doing a couple non-autobiographical posts in the future, maybe some political commentary or something. I was briefly considering letting my domain registration lapse, but, thanks to a donation from a friend, Clantily Scad will live on at least another year.

Chemicals and Errata


oh Father, I have never known
disappointment like yours.

the crows that left their feet
dented in your drawing board
dive into view as I defy my destiny.

we are reckless because we evolve;
we are mortal and motionless and instincts
for survival collide at ninety degrees:
an instant made solely of broken feathers,
broken glass, and broken blood.

—–

I’ve had this partial poem in medias res stuck in a word document for over 8 years. Like a lot of things in my life, I have no idea how to begin or finish it. So here it is. Something with the potential to come in third place at a poetry reading if only it had a frame.

This is the first time I’m depressed during the summer for no distinct, discernible reason. The variable here is the Seroquel, which is great for the panic disorder, terrible for things like paying attention or enjoying life. Oh, and the being stuck in a poverty trap, because I need to keep my income low to qualify for Medicaid.  ‘Merica.

This is a pretty emotive acoustic piano cover of Brand New’s Jesus Christ:


—-

I’m still an atheist, but I’ve always been fascinated with the cultural power of religious imagery and also as literary archetypes. The doctrines might be bullshit, but stories have staying power for a reason. And that’s the part that interests me. How do you pierce the collective consciousness with your words?

Mary Karr does it pretty damn well in this piece that was obviously about David Foster Wallace:

  I loved so my ghost might inhabit you and you ingest my belief

in your otherwise-only-probable soul. I wonder does your
     death feel like failure to everybody who ever
           loved you as if our collective cpr stopped
too soon, the defib paddles lost charge, the corpse
     punished us by never sitting up. And forgive my conviction
           that every suicide’s an asshole. There is a good reason I am not
God, for I would cruelly smite the self-smitten.

  I just wanted to say ha-ha, despite

           your best efforts you are every second
alive in a hard-gnawing way for all who breathed you deeply in,
     each set of lungs, those rosy implanted wings, pink balloons.
          We sigh you out into air and watch you rise like rain.
We are just interjections, enjambed upon the line breaks of our lives.

This is a Title in Re: This Blog Being 6 Years Old

According to this little push notification thing on my iPhone that I’ve ignored for 11 days, I’ve been “scandalousmuffin” on wordpress for 6 years. Which means I was a teenager when I started blogging here in 2008.

*Insert platitude about time and aging here.*

I wish I had something wise about blogging and/or getting old to say, but I don’t really have anything. I am still struggling at being an adult, but luckily, thanks to the United States sucking at education and economic regulation, so are a lot of people my age.

Here’s a thing that happened in my life: I recently spent 15 days in the psych ward at Bellevue Hospital. It was a largely boring experience, but I accomplished what I set out to do by checking myself in– which was 1. Get off the sleeping pills; 2. Get on some mood stabilizing meds; 3. start interacting with people again.

The combo of psychotropic drugs I’m on now is far from perfect. It feels like all the negative aspects of being stoned, minus the paranoia. I’ve been meaning to write a full entry or series of entries about the psych ward, but the David Sedaris-y part of my brain isn’t working very well (Lots of parts of my brain aren’t working very well.). And I don’t want to write about a heavy experience like that, unless I can put a lighthearted spin on it. It’s a coping mechanism or something like that. (Also, according to David Foster Wallace, Wittenstein said that the most serious things can only be talk about in the form of jokes, and I’m just pretentious enough to use that as an excuse.)

I’ll elaborate on the circumstances and happenings of the hospital stay later, maybe. Too retarded right now, like literally.

I’m not quite sure how to end this entry. It’s been so long since I’ve blogged, everything moment over the keyboard mostly feels like a shadow of haunting self-guessing if my writing style is too boring or nonlinear or rambly or X. “Am I overusing dependent clauses?” Sigh.

I guess I’ll end it with a “too soon” .jpg of something significant that happened in the news:

 

 

 

Sadness, Sardonic Irreverance, Lies, and Tits

“So it’s not something you can talk about with your friends?”

“Well, I do, but they ask me to come out and I’m like, well I can’t come out cause I’m filthy, and they’re like why don’t you take a shower, and I say no it’s on the inside.”

———-

Hai guys.

I’ve had a shitty fucking winter. I finally accepted after years of denial that I definitely from suffer from emotional dysregulation issues in dimensions way beyond unipolar depression and I also probably have a personality disorder mixed in there as well; neither of those Dxes really go away with time but both statistically increase my risk of dying by suicide. So I’ve been trying to figure out to cope with those aspects of my permanent brain fuckery after losing health insurance, ruining my long-term relationship, admitting I have a crippling prescription pill addiction, and moving back in with my parents.

…I wish this were the plot to an indie film in which complex psychological issues were mediated and superficially resolved during a denouement with a dance competition, but unfortunately this is my unscripted, personal human experience and I have not yet learned how to tango.

One of the most uncomfortable realities I’ve discovered about being trapped in a state of intense emotional flux is that all the existential anxiety is heightened and compounded by the need to constantly reevaluate the the oscillating levels of doubt and confusion, particularly those at stem from the false dichotomies society loves to throw out there, e.g., “That was the illness, not you!” <<Did that make any sense or was that just a bunch of redundant concepts with vague overlaps and missed ideological connections? Whatever. I’m writing this stoned on pills and dropped out of liberal arts school long before learning how to pronounce ‘Sartre.’

Anyway, to help resolve some of my identity crisis, I made a pie chart to capture a static qualitative representation of my core essence:

If there’s one thing I learned from being the psych ward multiple times, it’s that visual metaphors that oversimplify the human condition are among the most common therapeutic tools that therapists who graduated from a third tier public university with a Master’s in Social Work and the delusion that they’ll make a difference can pull out of his or her ass to help you understand yourself.

Understanding is the key to accepting. And accepting is the next step in recovery.

I should also probably declare Jesus as my lord and savior and Bill Nye as my spirit animal, but I’ll procrastinate making those decision later until I find a sponsor.

Good night, WordPress. I love you.

Semantics Won’t Do, Apologies From a Post-Manic Mind

Now that I’ve “bottomed out” in my depression and don’t do anything, I’ve had a lot of time for massive amounts of unproductive, introspective analysis.

I’m the least functional during the nadir, but interestingly enough I prefer this to the “crash” phase. Less of a constant feeling of distress. Less crying. But still anxiety-inducing enough to do basic functions like go outside that I don’t.

I am also experiencing tremendous amounts of embarrassment about some of my behavior over the summer and during the subsequent crash. Some things I did have some basis in reason and intent. Others seem to have been wedged in distorted or exaggerated thinking, and I can only recognize it all now as the batshit crazy bullshit that it was.

I am also embarrassed about some of the mental gymnastics I pulled to rationalize things. There’s a few people to whom I want to personally acknowledge, but I’m too avoidant to bring it up right now so I’m just going to hope that they still read my blog occasionally and know who they are.

Thanks for calling me out when I needed to be called out. This is an open invitation to tell me I’m batshit anytime.

I hope that my partial self-awareness prevents further batshittery, but I think part of being batshit includes being blind.

(I spent like a week writing this post and I’m still only semi-satisfied with it. Finding the right words and putting them in the right order is hard for me these days.)

Notes on Sadness, Death, and Depression

I know the seasonal sadness is kicking in because everything feels like a chore.

I have a ticket for NY Comic Con Thursday and I don’t really want to go. I had plans for a Mako Mori cosplay, but I don’t think I can afford to get my hair relaxed at the moment.

It’ll probably cost around $100 in this city. I’m having trouble justifying dropping that amount on credit for hair, but I also already have my ticket and already have most of the outfit.

Decision-making is hard.

My ex said he like me because of my “emotional nakedness.” He was ER doctor. He wasn’t into unnecessary suffering, so he would often talk families into pulling the plug on their demented, elderly who were dying and in pain. He’d come home after his 14-hour long residency shifts, and he’d be too tired for sex so we’d spoon on his couch while he talked about who he “killed” that day. I loved him a lot, but it didn’t work out because he wanted to have babies.

I turn 25 in a month, and I’m thinking about going up to Ithaca for my birthday. I had my best birthday up there when I was 21. I want to relive the upstate experience, which mostly involves being drunk and communing with nature.

I had the SAT scores and leadership cred to get into Cornell, but I didn’t apply. Instead I went to Cornell’s bastard sister school, Wells, because I wanted to surround myself with people I was better than. It was a decent strategy until I got horribly depressed and failed a literature final and then dropped out.

I applied to CUNY after that, for the very flippant reason I was dating a guy in NYC, but then Wells withheld my transcript because they mistakenly believed I owed them money. That eventually got worked out, and now I live in NYC, but I still haven’t gone back to school.

I miss driving, but I do not miss car insurance premiums.

I was once involuntarily hospitalized for marking a “5” on a 1-5 survey in a medical study. The question was something like, “How often to do you think about death?” I tried to explain to the doctors that mostly I got lazy towards the end of the survey and there were legitimate philosophical reasons for thinking about death, and they wrote down in the report that I was “being defensive.” I shut up when I realized things were going poorly and then they said I was, “guarded and evasive” and being “purposefully vague.” I lived a lifetime of Kafka novels that week.

While I was there, one of the many horrible things that happened was when they strapped a schizophrenic, Korean girl named Jacqueline down, just for calling a nurse a “bitch.” They kicked me out of my room so they restrain her to my bed. The entire time she kept screaming for Eddie; she had a tattoo of his name on her ankle surrounded by roses. It’s kinda sad and romantic—being in love with a made-up person.

American society is supposed to be civilized but we are still really barbarians.

Whoops. Mistake Post.

Hi, Blog Followers.

If you haven’t noticed, I double posted a post to the wrong blog with sensitive material. I deleted it immediately.

I guess anyone following me already knows my shit, but now that automated e-mails are out, can you keep this info under wraps?

If you have no idea what I’m talking about: good.

Thanks,

scandalousmuffin