15 September, 2015

Swagbucks - Day Four

Today - it felt like I couldn't take a survey even if I really wanted to. I tried 12 surveys and only qualified for 4. Not very good odds for success. I once again found myself in an endless loop when trying a Peanut Labs Survey... but aside from the one instance, I found a better acceptance rate using the Peanut Labs. Even if I wasn't selected for a survey, Peanut Labs consistently provided at least 1 SB  in reward. I have found that Gold Surveys very rarely now provide a complimentary SB when disqualified.

The only outside of the norm effort I made today was taking a stab at "Tasks". This gives you a list of jobs, many of them thru an outside vendor where you rate a website, or play a game. I couldn't gain access to any of these, or I was told that user limits had been met. I will give this another shot tomorrow because I am curious.

I earned 229 SB today, for about 2.5 hours of effort.

My total after 4 Days: 1271 SB, or $12.71. I'm earning about .25 per hour. Buah ha ha!

14 September, 2015

Swagbucks - Day Three

In truth - it's Day 6, but car issues and needing a break from a computer, I took several days off. Today, more videos and more surveys. I didn't try anything out of the ordinary, and earned 243 SB. That included about 2-hours worth of surveys and and hour worth of videos. Much like Day 2 - over half the surveys I attempted, I was disqualified from. Out of 9 surveys, I successfully finished 4. I also found a SwagCode.

It should be mentioned that I began experiencing a screen refresh issue. Essentially, at random intervals, my laptop screen will blink off for less than a second. Pretty annoying. Whether or not that's related to SwagBucks, I can't say... just coincidentally started at the same time. I removed the browser plug-in, but the refresh issue continues.

Today, 243 SB were earned.

End of Day 3: 1023 SB

10 September, 2015

Swagbucks - Day Two

Day 2 unfolded as I anticipated, what I did not however foresee was being waylaid by my car not starting, It meant a day at home, and therefore a day of digging into SwagBucks. I repeated all of yesterdays tasks, however today, what I encountered was a bit different.

I installed that SwagButton into my Chrome browser, and it put a bar along the top of my internet window. It wasn't obtrusive, and it didn't seem to hijack anything I was doing, but I did feel like it was perhaps causing an issue. Whereas yesterday, before the SwagButton, I would sometimes be rewarded with SwagBucks (SB), today whenever I was rewarded with SB, the redemption code wouldn't show up and I'd lose the reward. Pretty annoying even though we are only talking about a handful of SB,.

The second thing I encountered was with the "Gold Surveys": I was disqualified for a much larger proportion of the surveys than yesterday. Over the 14 I attempted, I didn't qualify for 8 of them. In addition to the denial of SB, of the 8 surveys I didn't take, only 2 of them offered me a complimentary 1 SB. 

One thing new I tried today were the "Peanut Lab Surveys". I'm not really certain what differentiates these surveys from the "gold" surveys, but generally they offer a substantial amount of SB for far less time investment. Having said that, I was disqualified from all 15 attempts save 3. Two of these resulted in a reward of about 35 - 50 SB. One of the "Peanut Lab Surveys" lead me on an endless journey of survey to survey to survey with no explanation or end in sight and more importantly, no reward. Unlike the "gold" surveys, the "peanut" surveys aren't as easy to track, they don't have any identifiers or numbers to record.

I also took a shot at SwagStakes. You "spend" some of your SB for entries in a contest for some prize or another. I spent 11 SB for 3 entries into a contest to win a $2000 Amazon Gift Card. The competition was limited to 70000 entries.

After two days, my experience has been... well, redundant is how I would best describe it. I've answered the same questions several dozen times. I get that different companies are presenting these surveys, but crap. Like I said yesterday, if those repetitive questions were auto-filled, it would be a much less draining experience. 

At then end of this 24 hour period, I earned 285 SB. 

End of Day 2: 780 SB

09 September, 2015

Swagbucks - The First 24 Hours

I've been curious... lead to this site by testimonials of complete strangers that if an individual is looking for additional income, and wishes to earn that income from the comfort of their home, this is the legit way to do so. I mulled it over for about a month. I will come clean, it is my addiction to Amazon and it's used/new marketplace that was my real motivation. Yesterday, after settling in at home after a day of work, I decided to give it a shot. I am going to document my first week, day by day and share my experience. I figure some of my friends may have had the same curiosity, maybe like myself, they are a little embarrassed to admit that curiosity - so maybe me writing about my experience will help someone make a decision for themselves.

Let's start with the idea about "additional income". Maybe I'm unique, but the idea of additional income equates to me having additional money to pay bills, buy groceries, buy the champagne to celebrate being awash with cash. That's kind of not the reality of getting involved in SwagBucks. Any money you earn comes in the form of SwagBucks... 100 Swagbucks earns you $1. You can redeem your Swagbucks for gift cards, a quick look thru the payout options revealed that about 50 different gift cards are available. Walmart, Target, Visa, eBay, Starbucks, Paypal, CVS, Gamestop, Lowes, and Best Buy just to name a few. I'm not 100% certain yet, but I believe redeeming certain cards like Amazon will provide an instant code you immediately take to Amazon's site and apply to your account. I believe other options such as a Visa card can be mailed - though I've not ventured that far as of yet.

How did I get started? I went to the SwagBucks site and began to sign up. On the sign up page it asked me if I had a promotional code. So, I stopped and began this frenetic search for a promotional code. Suddenly it occurred to me to check one of my favorite sites: Retail Me Not. Sure enough, there was a promotional code for SwagBucks, and signing up started me with off with a lucrative 70 SwagBucks.

So, you sign up and are presented with numerous tutorials explaining how the site works.  This is a snapshot of your SwagBucks dashboard:

Your have numerous options in earning Swagbucks (SB). You can install the SwagButton which will integrate with your web browser. This is essentially a plug-in that runs in the background that like Facebook or Google sort of "watches" your web activity to better gauge your interests. I've not yet installed this feature, but plan to in the coming days.

You can search the web via the SB site - on occasion you will be rewarded 3 -5 SB for your searches. This seems completely random, and in my 24-hour period I was rewarded 3 SB and then 4 SB for conducting such searches.

Another option is shopping thru SwagBucks. This is perhaps the most rewarding opportunity - you spend money so the incentives are high. For instance, I was offered 4 SB for every $1 I spent at Amazon. I saw several retailers featured. The biggest bang for buck is the "Sponsored Retailers". As i explored some of these, I realized that signing up for say a trial membership to something will reward you with mega SB - 2500SB in fact. That was the extent to which I explored these options.

The most logical way to earn larger amounts of SB is thru "Answer" feature. This leads you to the "Gold Surveys". These refresh throughout the day and provide 10 SB to several hundred SB. The determination of just how much SB depends on the involvement and time requirements of the survey. Every survey is listed with the reward amount and the approximate time to complete the survey. The time approximations are pretty spot on, and the surveys are rather involved. In my experience over the past 24 hours, the surveys ranged from simple feedback, to heavily involved and deeply personal. I answered a lot of questions about my interests and job role. Seems like I answered the same questions repeatedly over the surveys, and I sort of found myself wishing that my profile would auto-fill those questions. Taking the surveys require your attention, and you can't simply scantron your way thru them - in nearly every survey I was asked a control question to ensure I was paying attention. Again, this is the cost-free biggest bang for your SB earnings. It's important to mention that one survey I did for 20 minutes completed, but the SB did not show up. I did nothing out of the ordinary. I researched this a bit, and it is a glitch that happens from time to time. SwagBucks is responsive to this issue and this is my advice: Keep a word doc open and paste the url of the survey and the survey number to the word doc. If you do encounter a situation such as happened to me, this is information you will need to report to SB to rectify the issue, I took perhaps 7 surveys and this only occurred the one time.

Another option is watching videos. Again, these are clearly explained: with your reward for watching these videos. There's numerous categories, so you'll likely find something that interests you. Rewards for watching these videos range from 1 SB up to 4 SB, The more SB means the longer you are expected to watch. Not that I am suggesting it - but you can start the videos and open a new window and simply listen (or not). The reward is low and the time investment large, just like the surveys.

There are additional ways to earn SB - but I've not yet explored these avenues. The one thing that seems to have reached fanatical, obsessive levels are daily Swag Codes. These are highly coveted, and numerous sites release these secretive phrases to fans. I found a twitter site, and a FB page that offer these. It seems like they are release 2-3 times a day. Apparently SwagBucks offers up these clues thru their site, but I've yet to witness this clue. However, at some point today I was checking the particular twitter account I had found and sure enough the code they presented when plugged into my SwagBucks account rewarded me with 4 SB. By far - the easiest reward for my efforts throughout the 24 hours.

All in all, what did my first 24 Hours look like, and what did I earn? Well, the simple fact is, if you have a full time job and isn't really permissive with you not paying attention to your day to day tasks - then you will be relegated to SwagBucking in those few hours between job and sleep and your weekends. I took 11 surveys, I was disqualified for 6 of them, Disqualification happens rather quickly - within a minute of starting a survey and you will be given 1 SB for your effort. They 5 survey I did take resulted in 325 SB for about a 2 hour time investment. Would you take a job that offered you $1.60 per hour - probably not. About 90 mins worth of videos and commercials gave me 16 SB.  Signing up and answering some profile questions quickly turns into small SB rewards which sets the tone of this is easy and quick. The reality is, it's not lucrative for the amount of time you will need to invest. At the end of the 24 hour period I have 506 SB or $5.06 for roughly 3.5 hours of time. Yes, it's easy, but the question you need to ask yourself and come to terms with is: "how much is my time worth?"

I think I've come to terms with it - my effort is to purchase some Christmas presents, and if I can do so with the sacrifice of my personal time instead of my personal cash - I think it's viable. Would I recommend this to someone looking to work from home and survive - absolutely not, this should not be a supplement to a job even at minimum wage. If you are looking to supplement SS or disability and are tired of watching daytime/nighttime television - then maybe this is an easy way for you to make up the difference. Now that the cherry has been broken - it will be much harder to earn that $5 every day - all those little perks for joining and setting up are now in the past and I must earn my SB just like every other hard-working stiff.

At the end of this week's journey I will offer an invitation to anyone that wants to join. I will also offer those sites I've found that provide those lucrative and secretive Swag Codes. Every day I will be posting my progress and I will let you decide if it's for you or not. What I can tell you based on these past 24 hours is that SwagBucks appears to be legit. I could cash out right now and be done with it. The claims of "scam" are likely a result of people realizing that the time investment comes at little reward,

Until tomorrow.

Day 1: 506 SB

21 May, 2015

Record Store Day

Record Store Day.

It's given me a lot to ponder this week. If I was only interested in having these items for the potential resale value of the day's releases, I could pull that plug right now. A quick check of eBay shows that little of what's been released over the past 6 years has held it's value. Unless it was regional; had low press count; and contained something exclusive (see Third Man Records) - then it's really not been a good investment.

If you only buy what you like - which is where I am, you can easily throw $300 at a small lot of music that probably isn't unique, meaning you already own it, or at the least have heard it. Maybe it's remastered, repressed, on some lovely colored vinyl, or compiled in a unique fashion, but chances are, in this digital environment, you are not hearing something for the first time.

Adding to the RSD landscape are the vampires. These individuals are garnering the most national attention surround RSD. Hated by buyers, I'd hope equally despised RSD organizers, and are slowly serving to put RSD in it's grave. This insidious group of individuals are the eBayers. They show up like a biblical plague on the Sunday preceding Record Store Day Saturday. It's usually a handful of creatures offering every single RSD release at an extravagant price (anywhere from a 100% to a 1000% markup). They guarantee product or a full refund. So, tell me how that works?! Because, right now, no one who organizes RSD has chimed in about the problem. Absolutely no one should be able to guarantee an RSD item, unless of course they are a store participating in RSD. They get away with this BS because they offer full refunds if the item can't be obtained. Is this someone so confident that they will be able to purchase every single RSD item when the store opens that Saturday, or is this someone that knows that the bulk of what's being released is coming to their store? If it's the latter - it's a violation of the agreement between store and organizer. In fact, employees who put all of this together for your shopping pleasure are forced to be hands off until close of business that Saturday. They get to pick from the leftovers. Thank you very much for the giant risk you took, here's some table scraps. But no one is acting, RSD organizers turn a blind eye to it, and eBay refuses to step in because of the refund offer, they claim it's no different than presale items which is not a violation of user agreements. Only the rich or desperate would consider these vampire's offers, but it's not really the point. I doubt they are taking much business, if any, away from the participating stores, the point is - they act immune to the same rules governing the stores participating in RSD, they likely are experiencing none of the risk (because these are individuals working in stores who could simply put the stock on the shelf), they are preying upon the consumer, and tarnishing a brand. They are essentially drug dealers operating on a black market. "Hey buddy, don't get up at 5 AM and waste your Saturday in line, I got what you need right here. Money back guarantee if I don't deliver the goods". WTF!?

In comes the store. Unless you are a heartless asshole, you have to realize what a massive risk an independent store takes to participate in Record Store Day. They purchase ten of thousands of dollars worth of merchandise that they hope and pray will sell. You don't know what you are going to receive until it shows up at your doorstep, you can't return it if it doesn't sell, and god help you if you receive 15 copies of something that patrons of your store generally aren't even in the market for. So, if people like me, that are questioning, "why do I do this" - and I assure you, there's a lot of us, no one is going to suffer more than that record store, that I promise you, isn't making a lot of money to begin with. It's an insidious proposition, you the store can participate in RSD if you meet some guidelines, and you might just do really well, make some extra cash, and have a great, albeit, kind of insane day that requires a lot of prep work. And that's your incentive - give the community of RSD lovers a location to make all their RSD dreams come true, and maybe you will have your best financial month. Don't participate, maybe lose out on some profit, and possibly send a message that we don't embrace the community of music-loving fans willing to line up like it's Black Friday at a Wal-Mart. Arrogant-much? (Domino).

So - back to being heartless. That store you support and love throughout the entire year just bet the bank on RSD XX. Is that your problem? No. Are you responsible for their risk? No. Should you participate in RSD? I'd argue, yes. It is hard to relate to in this era of instant gratification, but their is a bond between consumer and the people who provide the goods. Grocery stores and supercenters eliminated our need as a consumer to have a butcher, a baker, a clothing retailer, a hardware store, etc. Our willingness to connect with the people that live and work in our neighborhood is at a point of extinction. We've leaped off the consumerism precipice and ignored Small Business America, because of being selfish, being frugal, being cynical, being apathetic. That's okay if that's who you want to be. But I will say, the service industry will give you the same amount of respect you offer them. So, if you turn your back (or choose apathy) on your independent record store after the risk they've taken to supply what you want in the luxurious form of exclusive releases and every color of vinyl under the sun - then you've sent a message to them. The message says - your only as important to me as the product you provide. I don't value the interaction, the experience, the atmosphere, the knowledge, the community, the convenience, and least of all you. and eventually, they will stop caring about you,

I'm pretty fucking over it. I have guilt if I don't go, I have empathy for the stores, I can't afford it, nothing I buy is that unique and it's certainly not becoming a college education for my son, and I don't like getting up at 6 AM to stand in line for hours, especially in the fucking rain. I don't know what my future RSD plans will be, I will only guarantee this. If I only have $10 in my pocket on RSD Saturday - I may not show up at 7 AM, but I will show up, and I will give that $10 to someone at Euclid in exchange for something pretty, and something my brain thinks I need. Because it's the right thing to do, it's respectful, and it's all I've ever been shown the other 364 days of the year they were there for my needs. And the last thing I'd ever want is for you to go away.

So, thank you Euclid, Skullyz and Park Avenue CDs , and all the stores that participate for taking that risk for lovers of music. Thank you for bringing us in from the rain, for allowing the morning to be structured, for giving us bathroom breaks, and for holding an event that brings us closer to other music lovers from our city, state, region, etc.

24 April, 2015

Review: A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night

A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night

My interest in this film was piqued last year when he was among a list of several independent films to watch for in 2014. Elijah Wood was involved in the production, so I believe that put this film on the radar of critics, journalists, and film-lovers. I've not seen the short-film that was the precursor to this movie, and hopefully I haven't missed out on anything as a result.

The film is a subtitled, Iranian independent release from 2014. Shot in black & white; what is immediately striking is the cinematography, reminiscent of early Jim Jarmusch. This is a vampire film, and it takes place in the dying town of Bad City. Sheila Vand portrays "The Girl" and her presence is equal parts sexy, eerie, playful and mysterious. What director Ana Lily Amirpour captured perfectly was the intoxicating aura that vampire lore suggests, and was brilliant to stay away from the genre's many trappings. While "The Girl" is central to the plot of the film, it's the social and political undercurrent that transforms this film from simply a well-done indie horror movie into something that speaks volumes about not only the situation in Iran, but that human struggle is universal and we are all frail from the weight of our reality. "The Girl" is as motivated by hunger as she is by ridding the wrong, her interaction with a young child is riveting and terrifying. Amirpour was clever to tell a story and let it unfold, and avoid explaining how we got here, and why it mattered - because it doesn't. A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night could have easily taken place in Cleveland or Detroit and still been completely relevant, and I think that's a mastery of story telling. Every performance is excellent, and the stark dereliction of the landscape is brilliantly captured. Arash Mirandi portrays a character that is believable given the circumstances of his day to day, an opportunistic young man trying to hold the fraying tethers of his reality together. Most writers would have him portray the hero or anti-hero instead of someone real, reacting the way a normal person reacts.

If there was a hiccup in the film, it was the score editing. There are parts where the music awkwardly fades out or drops out. It does become a bit distracting, but thankfully the scenes in which this occurs are without dialogue and the focus is on the interaction between two characters.

Please give this film a shot. Not for the horror-aspect, because it is not frightening. It is however eerie, gorgeous, sexy, well-acted, beautifully shot and brilliantly directed. And if I can offer one spoiler - the most important character is right at the beginning of the film...

01 February, 2015

Haloes Curios - HC08 - Zola Jesus, Le Poisson Rouge 191011


In honor of the Zola Jesus performance tonight in New Orleans, I threw together a small gift for someone who happens to be at the show. This New York City performance from 2011 was presented by NPR (see link below). It's a strong show and ushers back memories of when I saw Zola Jesus in Orlando a few years ago. An audio download was made available, so if you miss out on the parcel, you can make your own.

This is the first HALOESCURIOS since Halloween. Time simply got away from me, but it's certainly been on my mind. Anyway, I hope you enjoy the disc and if you were at the show tonight, had as much fun as I am anticipating having.

NPR Video of Le Poisson Rouge with Audio Download