Saturday, April 26, 2008

Slight Detour

Haven't been blogging as I have been busy organizing a trip to Vietnam next month. I haven't booked a hotel yet as the reviews on Hostelworld and Asiarooms are paralyzing me. Why are there so many unhappy people with their hostels? How can I be sure that where I'm staying will be clean, safe and honest? I can't and the internet is not helping!!! I've quit looking at the sites that cater to tourist and resorted to looking at people's blogs and Flickr accounts for a more honest assessment of the country and the accommodations. And apparently, nobody thinks to post a breakdown of their expenses. It's so hard to anticipate how much I'll be spending, and I don't really want to depend on my card. One thing, though: I've decided not to book through third-party websites and just email the hotel directly. I don't feel comfortable giving my credit card information online, and if I can pay in cash, so much the better. If I feel that I should quit the hostel after only a night, at least they won't be able to charge me additional fees except for what I'm willing to hand them.

Pictures when I return.

Sunday, April 13, 2008


Here are our kittens doing a Lolcat. In a tree!

Thursday, April 10, 2008


I earned $40 turking for the past two days. Whooop! Most of it were from the Are These Items Different hits which at one time reached 130,000, which is one of the highest in recent history. Checking to see if all those batteries and cables and screws were different nearly drove me to tears, but look! Shiny! *points at $40*

Of course, I am a mere amateur next to my fellow turkers. One was able to wipe off 12,000 hits for the past week. At $0.01 a hit, that's $120 right there. Over 1/8 of my target!

I know I could be making a lot more money out of this. Of course the money is better now that I have DSL. I still remember when I was trying to do this via dial-up. Not only was my internet connection sooooo slow, there were too few hits. Before a page even loaded to let me accept the hit, it was already gone. It took me the whole 4 hours allocated to me by Castingwords to download their transcription hits, much less transcribe them.

However, I have a real life job and if I don't do my job, I will rue more than the loss of $0.01.

Monday, April 7, 2008

The Things We Think: Freaky Little Schools

Last weekend, blog roulette led me to discover Bob Jones University and Pensacola Christian College (PCC). I got there because in the course of Obama-news, I learned that inter-racial dating was formerly not allowed in BJU.

Further sleuthing led me to discover this page detailing BJU residence hall rules. While students are allowed to bring cars to campus, "underclassmen (freshmen and sophomores) who are under 21 years old may use their vehicles only to drive home and for extension." What seems even more outrageous is that although BJU is a liberal arts school which offers undergraduate degrees in both 2- and 3-dimensional art, creative writing, dramatic production, radio and television broadcasting, and music, both church and instrumental, it has very rigorous rules against what its students are allowed to watch and listen to. The same site warns students that:

  • Music must be compatible with the University’s music standards:
    • New Age, jazz, rock, and country music is not permitted.
    • Contemporary Christian music is not permitted (e.g., Michael W. Smith, Stephen Curtis Chapman, WOW Worship, and so forth).
  • Televisions, DVD/videotape players and headphones are not permitted in the residence halls; computer DVD players may not be used to view movies.
  • You may not possess or play computer and video games rated T, M, A, or E10, or having elements of blood and gore, sensual or demonic themes, or featuring suggestive dress, bad language, or rock music.
  • Due to space considerations, appliances such as mini-refrigerators and microwaves are not permitted in residence hall rooms. A refrigerator and microwaves are provided in each residence hall.
  • Residence hall students may not watch videos above a G rating when visiting homes in town and may not attend movie theaters.
  • All weapons must be turned in for storage. Trigger locks are required for pistols. Fireworks are not permitted on campus.
On the other hand, it's good to know that weapons are allowed on campus, even if rock music isn't.

I also thought this dress restriction for BJU students was cute, naive and retaliatory:
Abercrombie & Fitch and its subsidiary Hollister have shown an unusual degree of antagonism to the name of Christ and an unusual display of wickedness in their promotions. In protest, we will not allow articles displaying their logos to be worn, carried, or displayed (even if covered or masked in some way).
Still, BJU has its defenders. It also seems so much milder than PCC. This site uploaded by a former PCC student details horrors worse than BJU. Women cannot wear jeans, only skirts or dresses. "
After bed-time ("lights out:" 11:00 every day, including weekends) students may receive demerits for talking, taking their contacts out, having their feet on the floor (or possibly suspended a few inches from the floor), being in the bathroom, or basically doing anything but lying in bed." No student is allowed to talk or otherwise interact with another student of the opposite sex outside of a "chaperoned" area, and physical contact of any kind, including hugging, tapping, and kissing can be grounds for expulsion. Worse, PCC, unlike BJU, is not an accredited school, despite having been founded in 1974.

A peep at the online forum for PCC alumni revealed that a lot of them regretted having gone to PCU but had to enroll there because their parents wanted them to go there and refused to pay for any other colleges. Granted, PCU is cheap! $1,575 tuition per semester, $1,675 room and board, and some $600 for miscellaneous fees! BJU, in comparison, "costs a little over half of the national average — $16,220 per year (room, board, & tuition)."

But still! Why spend all that time and money in an unaccredited school? Unaccredited schools are fine for people who want to teach homeschoolers, I suppose, or who have no plans of leveraging their degree to their advantage. But what if one wants to take up graduate studies in the future? An 18 year old may not know what he wants right now, but it's better not to close any doors to the future.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Things to Do in New York: 2

Living in an area where the transportation system is erratic at best, I am eager to try out the NY Subway System. I have always been fascinated by trains: they seem to be the most efficient and fastest way to get from one place to the other and they do not involve any exertion on my part. No traffic, no traffic lights, controlled stops, and well-lit rooms that allow uninterrupted reading.


  • Unlimited ride cards:
    • 1-Day Fun Pass: $7.50.
    • 7-Day Unlimited Ride MetroCard: $25.
    • 30-Day Unlimited Ride MetroCard: $81.

Mixed Tapes

Today, I discovered Muxtape and Mixwit, two sites where you can create and share your mixed tapes. Mixwit has a more nostalgic feel to its design: creators can dress up their own cassette tape whose rollers turn realistically as the music plays. Aside from the play and pause and jump forward and back buttons, there is also a tracking button for easy refrain replays. Muxtape only features a list of the songs contained in the mixed tape in aggressively 60 font and a countdown. The Muxtape homepage is also off-putting, what with its discordant radio buttons in clashing colors.

Both websites suffer from a failure to give listeners an idea of the theme of the mixed tape. It would be nice to have an idea of what I’m listening to but it’s impossible. Other than the user names and vague and extremely personal mixed tape titles, it’s almost like Russian roulette. And there is nothing more disappointing than a mixed tape that does not have a sense of narrative.

Things to Do in New York: 1

What will I do with my Mturk money once I get to New York?

Why, be Wicked, of course.

Except that even for matinee tickets, Broadway is still expensive:

Front Mezzanine: $139.50
Orchestra: $139.50

That’s a lot of transcription jobs right there.

The Russian Connection

Art Lebedev has a story about the role Russia played in the US Declaration of Independence of 1776 and

how one of the pillars of the US national pride happened to wind up in the Kiev archives, and why the document of historical importance was entitled “United States of Жmerinca”

According to him, Timothy Matlack, Assistant to Charles Thomson and noted calligrapher, was assigned with penning the Declaration of Independence prior to it being signed by the members of the US Congress.

Apparently, according to Lebedev, Matlack was actually Tomislav Matlakowski, a native of Kiev and born in a place called Zhmerinca. The theory is that Matlack wrote the title in mixed alphabets, with the Russian character Ж being overlooked for its similarity to the capital Latin letter A.

Lebedev illustrates his story with photos and scans of the original document. Looking for corroborative statements on the internet has led me to believe that it is an April Fool's Joke, but it's worth going to his blog for his other insights on graphics and design. His company's motto is "Design will save the world", and perhaps it just might.

Trawling for Pennies

Right now, my challenge is to see if I can use Mturk as the sole source of income for my New York trip. But sometimes Mturk hits can often lead to other money-making opportunities.

I made a blog in preparation for AdSense revenues before I realized too late that WordPress doesn't allow AdSense revenues. Durr. I liked the WordPress interface better, and it allowed me to set degrees of anonymity to my posts, something that Blogger doesn't allow. If if one is to be a whore, one has to strip.

Amazon Bullies Small Printing Houses

WritersWeekly, a site I frequent for leads on writing markets, is sounding the alarm against an Amazon business decision that will prove detrimental to small printing houses.

In an article, Angela Hoy of WritersWeekly talks about how Amazon is now requiring print on demand (POD) publishers to use Amazon subsidiary BookSurge to print their book orders or else “the ‘buy’ button on their book pages will be ‘turned off.’”

The book information would remain on Amazon, and people could still order the book from resellers (companies that list new and used books in Amazon’s Marketplace section), but customers would not be able to buy the book from Amazon directly, nor qualify for the coveted “free shipping” that Amazon offers.

There have already been complaints about the quality of the products produced by BookSurge, as documented in that site.

Of course, having a major retailer dictate the terms of the sales carried on its website in such a monopolistic manner is that Amazon will always have the final say on pricing, distribution and access to services. PODs have a very small market as it is; how can they hope to negotiate for better rates against a behemoth like Amazon?

My other fear is that this will result in the homogenization of tastes. Amazon is already heavily promoting pap bestsellers and self-help books. Why should it exert additional effort in printing one or two copies of an obscure text that will only have a handful of readers?

6 Months to New York

I have six months to raise $800 for a New York trip in October. Right now, I have $117.17 earned through Mturk.

Let's see how fast I can achieve my goal.