Been about a year since the passing of both my grandmother and my best friend Matthew. I’ve been thinking about Matt a lot lately, because Scout summer camp is coming soon, and one of my fondest and clearest memories from when I was a kid (I have mild brain damage, so my memory is wobbly at best) is sitting on the steps of the canteen at Katahdin Scout Reservation, splitting a pint of Ben & Jerry’s Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough (Matthew’s favorite flavor, and mine until it was unseated by Phish Food) and watching the world go by.
Matthew was my best friend in every way possible – we had no shame or secrets from each other, we frequently completed each other’s thoughts, and we both stayed sane through the vagaries of adolescence in rural Maine by venting our frustrations and puzzlements at each other. He was the brother I never had.
He turned me on to David Lynch films, I turned him on to a few genres of music. We would stay up until the thin hours of the morning sending endless Links to their doom in search of the elusive Princess Zelda. We shared everything.
I miss him. My personal faith, which I don’t talk a whole lot about and doesn’t really fit 100% with most established religions, is comforting – sort of a cafeteria Hinduism – because I know (as much as it is possible to know such a thing) that he is a part of you and me and everything and that we are all part of him. It still doesn’t make me miss him less, though, or wish less that I could call him up.
I made the common and terrible mistake of letting contact slip between us – we hadn’t talked in a while when I heard he had passed. I don’t believe in regret, but I definitely wish that I hadn’t let contact go by the wayside. It wouldn’t have changed anything, but.
Treasure your life. Treasure the lives and love of those around you. Recognize and hold sacred the relationships – spoken or otherwise – you have with others. To do otherwise is the only real blasphemy, the only truly mortal sin.
prisoners don’t just go away.
The other day on NPR, there was a bit about mandatory minimum sentencing for nonviolent drug offenses, which got me thinking. There are a lot – a LOT – of people in prison for the dumbest reasons imaginable. I happened to have a few extra Christmas cards, and a couple stamps kicking around, so why not?
Googling around for prison pen pal sites came up with http://www.friendsbeyondthewall.com , and a few clicks later I had the face, bio, and mailing address of some woman incarcerated in Texas staring back at me. I wrote out something pretty generic about happy holidays and whatnot, stuck on a stamp, addressed it, and boom.
I figure that no matter what people are in prison for, basically everyone deserves to be happy. If you’re so inclined, you can get the name, address, and other relevant details from the site without any of your information getting passed to them – you have to give a name and email address to the page to have them email you the mailing address, but you can use a fake name and a throwaway email if that makes you feel safer, and just omit the return address from your envelope (I didn’t use one).
It occurred to me earlier that some folks might be interested in how I make side cash. Mostly, I do secret shopping – it doesn’t pay a huge amount by any stretch of the imagination, but hey, it’s a few bucks here and there and gets you a free somethingorother that you probably were going to buy anyway. Case in point: Last week I got paid $6 to walk into a convenience store and buy beer that I was going to buy anyway, and the company picked up the tab on the beer. All I had to do was keep my receipt and write down a few details like names and whether the cooler looked clean. Others will ask you take a couple pictures of stuff but really this is as easy as it gets.
Corporate Research International – This is the outfit I use most of the time, they have a lot of assignments and pay via paypal within about a week. If you decide to sign up, please let me know (before signing up yourself) so I can send you an invite from my account – this changes absolutely nothing for you, but nets me two bucks (more if you’re from another country) which I will be happy to split.
Secret Shopper.Com – I just started with these folks. There’s not as much of a selection as CRI (the above one) but they have some assignments that CRI doesn’t, so. They take about a month to mail you a check.
Mystery Shop.Org – This is sort of an aggregator for several different secret shopper companies and also has some focus groups and one-time marketing things.
Oh, speaking of focus groups. MarketWise is the outfit I do those through, but it’s Charlotte-specific so. Focus groups are an irregular source of cash because I generally only do them about every 6 months, but they pay well (around $75) when I do them. A little Googling will tell you if there’s a focus group thing in your area – there probably is if you live near any sort of a city.
Online surveys are also a source of some income, but the only outfit I’ve found that pays actual money with a minimum of screwing around is Pinecone Research , and they’re currently invite-only. Let me know in a comment if you’d like me to save you an invite, and next time I get one I’ll kick one your way.