Just when one thought things couldn't get worse, I've been abandoned in the middle of the desert.
I'm stuck in a hotel in Moriarty, NM, with no transport (long drama filled story involving two highly irrational vindictive women, one of whom blames me for the loss of her cabin). Plans seem to be in the works, but are not yet certain.
The canyon I live(d) in caught fire today. It was started by a cessna that crashed when the pilot tried to fly too low in a box canyon. The fire is now covering 4000 acres, flames were reaching over 700 feet high, and it was generating multiple tornadoes and lightning. It is called the Canyon Fire near Tehachapi, and is completely consuming the canyon in which I was living.
I managed to get out safely with my kitties, some few clothes, and my laptop, but that's about it. There's a strong possibility the cabin I was living in no longer exists and that I am now homeless and have lost all my worldly possessions.
I won't find out for a few days until they put out the fire and let people back in the canyon.
Mostly I just wanted to let people know that my kitties and I are alive.
"Don't Be Evil." That's Google's motto, right?
Yeah, right, not when it comes to the actual money.
So, as many of you know, I've been self-publishing my stories and poems on www.deepeningwoods.com for almost 2 months now. The entire time, I've been hosting Google ads for revenue. In their TOS, Google states they do not issue payments until your ad revenue exceeds $100 in total. That occured for me about 2 days ago.
I have lived up to the TOS of Adsense to the letter, including not even clicking on the Google Ads on my site just to check to see if they even work. Today, I received an email from Google stating that my Adsense account is disabled due to "suspicious activity" and that they will be returning ALL of the revenue (minus their share, of course) to the advertisers.
What suspicious activity? The most ad clicks I've received in a day in the past 2 months is 7. How the hell can that be perceived as click fraud? The highest revenue in a day? $12. The total over two months? Just over $100.
Google, you are not living up to your motto. You are now shitting on the little guy. The guy who's only form of income is the ad revenue for his website and writing that he has put a lot of hard hours into producing. You are reneging on your contract, and yet still profiting off of MY hard labor.
Friends, please, write Google and voice your displeasure. Spread this note - let people know that Google does not live up to their motto, that they reneg on their contracts, and they they don't give two whits about the little guy. About the very people from whom they are making their profits.
I have initiated the appeals process - which amounts to filling out a generic web form. Let's see how it turns out. In the meantime, I can't access my Adsense account to try to see what they claim is suspicious, the ads are no longer appearing on my site, it will be, according to Google, at least a week for them to review the appeal, during which time there will be no ad revenue, and they will, again, be returning ALL my profits, minus their share, to the advertisers. which means I start from square one.
I haven't posted much lately, because, well, I haven't had much shiny to post about. So, it's sorta ironic that my post today includes an announcement that I'm locking some of my previous posts.
Anyway, I just launched a site dedicated to my dark faerie tales. Currently, it's very simple, and only has two stories. More will be forthcoming, especially in the theme of the Wonderland Bar (which makes its first appearance in Grey World). While this is a very good thing for me (and hopefully will generate revenue - if you visit, clickie on the ads to support your favorite neighborhood Evanmonster), it does mean that I need to lock any faerie tales I have posted to LJ. I may end up posting some rants on the site (or here and linking from the site), as well as some science fiction. Time will tell. Mostly, I aim to try to make it a periodical in the dark faerie tale theme. I'm even working on a new Wonderland Bar story right now. Well, not *right* now since I'm writing this post, but, you know what I mean.
Anyway, head on over to: www.deepeningwoods.net and check it out.
I'll be adding new features as I learn more html, including comment boards, actual illustrations (once I can afford an illustrator), a site banner (once I can afford to pay someone to make that, as well), and a donation button. I'd like to do link exchanges with other web authors and webcomics once I have a banner.
I've been working as a tutor for about a month now, which is starting this year off far better than last year. My pay, when I get it, honestly won't be great since I'm only working 16 hours a week, but at least it's pay. the job is definitely rewarding in other ways, however. I have 8 students, grades K-7, and meet with them each separately and individually. It's all part of the No Child Left Behind Program, so it's state-funded tutoring that is free for the children's parents. I have been told that the children who qualify for the program are all underachieving students from underachieving schools, which I can see in some ways, but at the same time, they all seem to be fairly bright.
My approach to teaching involves a bit of the Socratic Method. This is because that's really how my parents raised me. When I had questions, they would either have me go look it up myself, or they would ask me questions in return until I answered my own original queries. I feel this is an effective way to educate a child - if they are able to formulate the correct answers on their own, able to derive the solution themselves, they will much more readily remember it, and be able to do so for future questions they have when the educator is no longer around. It seems to work with my students, though I do obviously have to provide them with a basis in some things, like explaining the basics of how light works, and certain terms they had not previously encountered.
It is a bit challenging explaining things on their level without condescending or going below their level. Given that they are of varying grades, I have to come up with different approaches for each one. And given that they have different weaknesses, I'm targeting different subjects for each one. My youngest is working on learning phonemes and how to rhyme (and I've discovered that for that, Sesame Street Videos have been a fabulous resource). My first grader is learning how to tally and graph. He's been a particular challenge because he does not speak English very well (Spanish household), so I'm having to try to explain the meanings of certain words to him without being able to speak Spanish myself. A few students are working on decimals and division, and one is working on similes and metaphors. This one I particularly enjoyed working with - I introduced her to the Rime of the Ancient Mariner to have her seek out the metaphors and similes in it, and she's absolutely loving the poem.
Today I had the joy of introducing my seventh grade science student to evolution and natural selection. He's getting it. I discussed this with him a bit, introduced him to a couple Carl Sagan videos (Sagan was absolutely my hero as a child), and found this 7-video series to be quite useful: Evolution Primer
In all, I'm enjoying this job.
Just when everything's starting to look up, and it seems I'm going to be able to get myself back on my feet, I find out I'm getting kicked out by March. While I'm very thankful that my housemate/hosts took me in for as long as they did, I don't see that I'm going to be able to afford to move out on my own by then. I only recently managed to obtain employment again, and even so will not be paid until February. That February paycheck will also be a short one, most likely amounting to no more than $1000. I *might* be able to afford a room in a house with that, but certainly not a studio or apartment.
Now, I have to stay in Tracy because my students are here. I'm contractually bound to complete the scheduled tutoring sessions, and in fact there is a fiscal penalty for failing to do so ($27 per hour I fail to complete). This means living elsewhere is not feasible. Manteca or Lathrop might be doable, since they're not too terribly far for biking distance.
So my plan of action right now is to try to obtain a job as a barista, and to start cruising Craig's List looking for rooms to rent. I certainly can't afford to get my own place yet, but might barely be able to swing a room in someone's house by March.
Oh, and the laptop I'm using belongs to Melanie, my housemate/host. And I require a computer and internet access for my job. Both of my laptops died due to hard drive failures recently. So I guess part of my check will involve getting a new hard drive for one, and try to revive it.
Well, the year of amazing crap is about to be over, thank goodness. 2010 was certainly one of the worst years of my life. Hard to top the year when my ex-wife left me (I also got hit by a car that year), but it certainly tried, what with being the first year of my adult life where I was unable to work a single day, threatened eviction, my kitty almost dying, and my funds going to the negatives.
And from all appearances next year is going to be a MUCH better year. I already have employment, and in fact have my first tutoring sessions on the first Monday of the year. All of my loans are currently under deferral, so I don't have to worry about them until I get paid, which will be in February (the company only pays tutors once a month). Of my 8 students, I've managed to schedule 6 of them and am still attempting to get in touch with the parents of the remaining two. One does not speak English, and the student is too young to arrange the schedule for her (the student is only in the first grade), and the other has not yet answered their phone.
My issues with the SSA seem to be resolved, and I got my new Social Security Card. Not much more to add to that under than: what a relief that is.
My kitties are all fully healthy, and you can't even tell Grey was as close to death as he was earlier in the year. He's gained all his weight back, and is actually sitting in my lap at this very moment, purring his little heart out. He is a very happy kitty.
I'm looking forward to this coming year. Things are finally going to get better.
Before there was Santa, there was St Nikolaus. In Southern Germany, St Nikolaus is still bigger than Santa, and even has his own holiday, St Nikolaus Day, which is celebrated on December 6th. He was originally a Greek Bishop in Myra (Now Demre in Turkey), and one of his saintly acts was to sereptitiously deliver 3 purses filled with gold coins to the home of an impoverished family with three marriage-aged daughters. This in Southern Germany evolved into the tradition on St Nikolaus day where children place their best shoes either outside their door, or on their windowsill. During the night, St Nikolaus comes by and places goodies in the shoes, if the child's been good, or coal and switches if they child's been bad. Generally, parents put some candies and small toys in their child's shoes, and a couple sprigs of pussywillow to represent the switches just to remind their children that nobody's good all the time. I remember collecting pusswillow from a field in early autumn with some of my friends that their parents would preserve to have ready for St Nikolaus day. Some German children will even become upset if there's not a sprig or two of pussywillow in their shoes come St Nikolaus day.
On the actual day, St Nikolaus comes by some households, knocking first to be ever so polite, where he and the children sing songs and recite poems, and an exchange of gifts is made. He generally asks each child if they've been good and done their homework, but he can also check his big golden book for that information. In the South, he is also is sometimes accompanied by his companion Knecht Ruprecht, who in the past would threaten to beat bad children with St Nikolaus' golden staff. Clearly this isn't done anymore, except maybe sometimes in jest. In my opinion, Ruprecht is an attempt by the church to absorb the tradition and idea of Krampus into Weinachten and advent (which really are all just coopting of Pagan and Roman pre-Christian winter celebrations).
St. Nikolaus and Krampus
St Nikolaus and Knecht Ruprecht
My first memory of St Nikolaus comes from an event that happened shortly after my family had moved to Germany. I was 9, and we had discovered Volksmarching, and were on one of our first ones (if not the first one). It was a snowy day, as December days usually are in Southern Germany, and all was pretty peaceful. It may have actually been December 6th, but I can't remember for certain. Well, we're on the course, enjoying the hike, when out of the bushes jumps this rather tall man dressed in clothing the like of which I'd never seen before (St Nikolaus, having been a bishop, dresses in bishop's clothing. It used to be reddish-brown, and white, with gold trim, but since the Coca Cola Santa Claus, the brown's turned red. Sometimes he's also in all white and gold). Needless to say, he scared the living daylights out of me. But, rather than become excited as he expected, or run screaming as many children might do when confronted with a scary stranger, I, being the feisty little boy I was, charged. Screaming, I began beating and kicking poor St Nikolaus' legs. The man was at an absolute loss, and it took some minutes for my parents to pull me off him and then explain across the language barrier (since they had not yet learned German) that we were Americans and that I had no clue who are what he was. Very patiently, he explained St Nikolaus to us, gave me a toy and candy, and then limped back into the bushes.
I miss St Nikolaus day.
This morning I received a call from the individual at the SSA who was supposed to be working my case. He informed me (and is recorded on my voice mail stating such) that he contacted San Angelo and that they confirmed the birth date I gave them is indeed accurate. Supposedly they will be issuing my new card which, he says, will arrive within the week. Let's see if it actually happens.
This time of year, I particularly miss Deutschland. The observance of the winter holidays is so very different there than here, and there are many traditions that just aren't done here. And the smells are different - and smell is the sense most strongly tied to memory.
Advent. The celebration of Weinachten really begins with Advent, which starts 4 weeks before Christmas day. This is when the decorations start going up, when the Christkindlmarkt springs up, when the season really starts to become magical. Growing up Agnostic, the Catholic origins of Advent were lost on me, but the magic wasn't. It's hard to decide where to start first, but I'll start with the Christkindlmarkt, since it's always the first thing that really brings home that Weinachten is upon us.
There is simply nothing like the Christkindlmarkt (Christ Child Market), or Weinachtsmarkt, here in the U.S. The most famous Christkindlmarkt, in Nuernberg, draws visitors from all over the world. My family never went to it though, since every city holds it's own, and it's the ones in Augsburg and Stuttgart with which I'm immensely familiar. You know you're approaching the Christkindlmarkt long before you see it. The smells of fresh baked goods and recently made candies (many vendors make them in the back of their stalls!) fills the air with an aroma that only occurs once a year. When you turn the corner, the Marktplatz (Market Plaza) is filled with booths, all decorated with fir and garland wreaths and lights and nutcrackers. I feel insufficient to the task of really describing the wonders of the Christkindlmarkt, so here are some photos:
Okay, that's enough Kristkindlmarkt images. They just begin to tell the story. One of my favorite things of the Christkindlmarkt, was at the Augsburg one, there were a couple vendors who sold rock candy on a stick, and for a while, this was the only time of year you could get it. I loved the smell of the freshly caramelized sugar.
I'll write more about Weinachten and the holidays of December in my next post.