Balanced diet

balanceI’ve said it before – far more times than I care to remember – maintaining equilibrium in our lives is key to a healthy outlook and lifestyle. I believe the same is true whether we apply the thinking to the things we eat, our work and leisure activities, our spiritual and secular journeys, and how we divide up our time between the multitude of activities and demands placed upon us on a daily basis.

Business gurus and lifestyle consultants make their living – and, often their fortunes – from handing out pearls of wisdom, such as scheduling downtime in our diaries, taking proper lunch breaks, indulging in a little of what we fancy occasionally, and getting plenty of sleep, (you’re welcome! Please buy my new book, out soon from Amazon and all good booksellers, “Breakfast, Breaks and Bed: The Bluffer’s Guide to Balance”).

Achieving a healthy balance isn’t rocket science, (unless of course you are a rocket scientist designing spaceships that won’t topple over). It’s mostly common sense and simple, straightforward principles that most of us already know and have every intention of following, but somehow fail to manage. Inevitably, for many of us, there will be areas in our life where we will either struggle to retain control, or where we are not the ones calling the shots… This can easily tip the balance too far, even to the point of no return, and it’s something that we accept and grudgingly put up with. Whether it’s the ever-expanding waistline, the constant tiredness, the inability to turn off our mobile, or the incessant arguments, we accept that this is an inevitable part of life and simply put up with it.

Even those things over which we should have some element of autonomy – eating, drinking, sleep, exercise, use of leisure time – can elude our control especially if, like myself, you happen to possess a somewhat addictive personality. Under these circumstances, even harmless and innocuous pursuits can have an alarming propensity to upset the equilibrium of our lives.

dance2_001SL, along with a great many other recreational activities, falls into this particular category. Keep our indulgence in balance with the rest of our life and it’s pretty harmless, even at its most drama laden, but too much of a good thing can indeed be harmful, no matter how much we may persuade ourselves to the contrary. That’s something I can attest to from personal experience – there was a time when I’m sorry to say, SL was definitely a contributing factor to some very destructive events in my life, and for the major part, simply because it had become far too significant a part of me than I should have allowed… The balance had tipped too far.

However, balance in life – or even in SLife – is rarely just a simple matter of finding our fulcrum and and pinning ourselves to that point of balance, sometimes maintaining balance is more about establishing a mean that permits occasional peaks and troughs, but overall averages out to a more even and level playing field. And, if we’re serious about balancing out our virtual and real lives, we have to occasionally take a pragmatic approach to our priorities… Over-indulgence in one area might realistically require us to redress the balance, equally indulgently, by investing in a similar fashion elsewhere, and it is with this in particular that we can often struggle.

Many of us tend to relate to SL and RL on the same level and apply no real distinction between either. Consequently we can struggle to reconcile the need to balance the two lives, since we unconsciously treat both as contiguous – together they are ‘life’ – but, of course, this is a misapprehension. Ideally, we need to be able to separate the two, but without falling into the trap of ascribing equal value to them. Instead, I’d suggest that both have their own merits and their value to us will fluctuate according to our needs and priorities. In practical terms, this means not resenting those occasions when SL has to take second place to the real world, but conversely, allowing SL to fill a proportionate amount of our downtime, without feeling guilt. This can be difficult!

That difficulty is compounded when you add the expectations of others into the mix – both our real world and virtual acquaintances have expectations of us, and can make demands of us that we feel we must – and sometimes we really should – honour. This is quite a balancing act in itself, and one that can easily scupper any attempt by ourselves to achieve a proper balance of priorities in either life… And is probably a matter best left for the next post!

s. x

Life is very short, and there’s no time
For fussing and fighting, my friend
I have always thought that it’s a crime
So I will ask you once again
The Beatles – We Can Work It Out

Posted in Philosophicalisticality, RL, SL | Leave a comment

A little privacy please?

recluseI’ve written before, on numerous occasions, about my fondness for keeping myself to myself and being terribly antisocial. I’m essentially the same both in SL and RL, probably more so in the real world, if I’m honest. On this side of the keyboard, I’m an extremely private person who jealously guards my time and space against any intruders, in whatever form they may present themselves.

Visitors to Casa Haven are few and far between, and only ever by way of invitation – don’t ever call round on the offchance I may be in, I simply won’t open the door to you – I may even hide behind the sofa or crouch behind a cupboard, just in case you glimpse movement indoors. If you do happen to receive one of those elusive invitations to call round and share a movie and a pizza, even then it’s not all plain sailing. I’ll happily enjoy your company for a while, but eventually you will have outstayed your welcome – as the evening wears on, in my mind I’ll be willing you out of the door, and every extra cup of tea that you elect to stay for will exponentially raise the chances of said tea being adulterated with a good helping of hemlock to speed you on your way.

My time and my space are both very precious to me; I am an orderly, logical person, and I really resent having my orderly, logical life messed up and interfered with at the whims of another. I like to do my own thing, in my own way and in my own good time – and if anyone should happen to impose on that part of my life, it really does mess with my head and causes me a wealth of stress… And I am not the sort of person who otherwise succumbs easily to stress.

It is pretty stressful at the moment.

light1_001I have family staying with me: Whilst, in so many ways, it’s lovely to have them here, it is also driving me slowly insane. It doesn’t help that they are staying for an indeterminate amount of time – anything from a few weeks, to several months! (I’m on day 3, so far). In consequence, I’ve had to clear out my studio to make another bedroom, (they weren’t happy with being allocated the box room), and suffer the daily trauma of negotiating bathroom rights, disrupted mealtimes and NEVER HAVING A MOMENT’S TIME TO MYSELF!

They mean well, but they have no concept whatsoever of privacy, personal space or independence. It doesn’t matter if I’m working, surfing the net, reading a book, hiding in my bedroom, or messing about in SL – within a short space of time, a face will appear hovering over my shoulder, a preface to the inevitable question: “What are you up to?”

Even the little, well-meaning offers of help and assistance are driving me bonkers…

  • No thanks, I’m happy to do my own ironing;
  • No thanks, I don’t need a meal on the table when I arrive home;
  • No thanks, I don’t want a cup of tea;
  • No thanks, I’m quite capable of doing the hoovering;
  • Thanks, but I was going to hang the washing out myself;
  • No thanks, I don’t want a game of cards, I’m, perfectly happy carrying on what I’m doing on my own, (which, by the way, I don’t watch you participating in)

Do I sound ungrateful? Well, I won’t deny that’s how I feel – I am an extremely independent, self-centered, self-sufficient person and if I want something, I’ll ask!

I can’t even escape into SL… Either I’ll have someone peering over my shoulder asking me what I’m doing, or I’ll feel guilty because being sat on the other side of the room, wearing headphones and completely absorbed in something else entirely is definitely not the ideal way to behave once you’ve passed the age where you can be considered a moody teenager. So, for a while, my forays inworld are likely to be few and far between, and very much less than satisfactory – a most unfortunate state of affairs.

Weirdly, this whole situation has had a rather unexpected effect… It’s made me want to spend time in the company of others!

s. x

Solitude sometimes is
The place that I would like to live
Solitude sometimes is
When nothing really seems to fit
Manic Street Preachers – Solitude Sometimes Is

Posted in Philosophicalisticality, Rants, RL, SL | Leave a comment

Best laid plans

contingencyIn life, you can’t plan for every eventuality… You can try, but no matter how detailed your planning, there is always the chance that something will go terribly wrong and leave you in the lurch. This is especially true when you have to rely on anything that’s outside your control, and particularly when you’re relying on things which themselves are dependant upon other factors behaving as they should.

I’m generally pretty good when it comes to contingency planning and I can usually be relied upon to have factored in backup plans, alternative scenarios and strategies for most situations where failure is not a desirable option. However, there are times – often the simplest scenarios – when no amount of planning is going to save the day.

And that’s how my day started.

The plan was to be in a certain place by 9am, and I’d be travelling by train. My tickets were purchased in advance, I arrived at the station with 30 minutes to spare… And that’s where it went wrong. Only one ticket machine was working, the queue was like a Soviet bloc bread line and it seemed that every person in front of me was either stupid, confused or completely unable to grasp the concept that there might be other people in the queue with trains to catch.

Needless to say, my train arrived before my tickets, and departed without me. Worse, by some obscene quirk of unhelpful timetabling, the supply of potential trains I could have caught – which until now had been around every 15 minutes – mysteriously stopped and there wouldn’t be another for at least an hour, leaving me over 2 hours late. Ah well, at least the the sun was shining.

Such things can drive people to madness, but since I’m already there, I just shrug and resign myself to the vagaries of misfortune.

Knowing that things can so easily turn pear-shaped, no matter how carefully planned, even when we have some element of control over our circumstances, is somewhat comforting when it comes to dealing with environments that are inherently unstable, unpredictable and mostly beyond our control… Environments like SL.

Our virtual world has a habit of throwing things at us that, in a real world scenario, would have us banging our heads against the wall. Only last night, an inworld conversation was rendered even more entertaining when SL decided to randomly render the text of individual speakers invisible to themselves, but perfectly normally to everyone else, before equally randomly splurging out a wall of dialogue spoken earlier in the conversation.

dance1_001I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve been at a club and the ensemble has resorted to the virtual equivalent of a community singsong because the DJ can’t log on, or the music is just refusing to play. That’s not to mention MP3s sticking, animations going haywire, and bits of bodies rendering in peculiar places.

How often have you spent your hard earned lindens on a new outfit, only to be forced to wait hours for it to decide to show up… And when it does, it obstinately insists on remaining a pleasant shade of battleship grey, just for the hell of it.

There are the times you simply can’t get inworld; the heart-stopping moments you suddenly appear to have lost all your money; and those annoying occasions when you TP home, but embarrassingly just end up hanging helplessly in mid air in the exact same place you were just trying to leave.

These, and so many other maddening annoyances at which SL excels are completely outside our control, and no matter how well thought out our inworld plans, there are few, if any, contingencies we can put in place by way of mitigation – we’re stuck with them, I’m afraid, and there’s little we can do, other than put up with them.

No different then to RL on those occasions when life decides to throw its toys out of the pram and wrong foot us, just out of sheer spite. We can rant and express our rage about it, but ultimately there will always be those occasions where we have to accept our lot as victims of circumstance and put up with the situation.

Or, alternatively, make the best of a bad deal… Which is exactly what I’ve done this morning. I may be late, but at least I made use of the time by writing this post!

s. x

No, you can’t always get what you want
You can’t always get what you want
You can’t always get what you want
But if you try sometime you find
You get what you need
Band From TV – You Can’t Always Get What You Want

Posted in Philosophicalisticality, Rants, RL, SL | Leave a comment

Tap, tap, tappity tap tap tap

pokemonThat was the guy sat next to me on the bench at the station this morning. His feet, drumming away on the platform surface as if possessed by the spirit of an enraged Flamenco dancer on speed, or perhaps the result of a very unfortunate, very, very nervous tic.

It was nothing of the sort – the glazed expression, fixed stare focused on the small device in his hand, and the tell tale headphones told the whole story: He was in ‘Oblivious to the Outside World Land’. Just how oblivious was evidenced by the way the whole bench was vibrating from his rhythmic foot exploits, drawing the confused, curious and exasperated stares from fellow passengers, along with his accompanying nasal snorts with which he punctuated his reverie – unconscious of the disgust he was provoking from those around him, who – no doubt, like me – desperately wanted to tell him to blow his nose. He, of course, wasn’t even aware he was doing it.

The ability of modern technology to so effectively isolate us from the physical world around us, to the point where we feel able to behave as if we’re in our own private bubble, completely unaware of the outside world, never ceases to amaze me. Some of the things I’ve seen and heard from people, who seem completely oblivious to the fact they’re on public display, by virtue of the phone held to their ear, or device clutched in their sweaty hand, are both ill-advised and frequently very annoying; and, I dare say, if people could see themselves, they’d be acutely embarrassed by their own behaviour.

It seems that when the tech is turned on, any sense of propriety is turned off – people sing out loud in the subways, dance in the streets, argue volubly in the open air and – worse still – completely forget that they are in a public space and do all manner of personal things, best consigned to the privacy of one’s own home, completely oblivious to the fact that they’re surrounded by strangers. Picking noses, scratching privates, adjusting underwear… anything goes it seems once protected by the cloak of invisibility with which portable tech seems to imbue the owner.

There is a darker side too: The chances of walking under a bus, colliding with a lamp-post, falling down stairs or being mown down by an erratically driven mobility scooter are drastically increased when under the influence of this powerful technological drug. Few of us would dare venture out into the great outdoors, or indeed the not-so-great indoors, whilst wearing earplugs and a blindfold, yet this is essentially what millions of people do every day when they step out of their front door, equipped with earbuds and mobile device. And it’s only going to get much worse…

forest_001Pokemon Go, in the short time since its release, has already started collecting its fair share of victims – from stumbling across dead bodies, getting lost underground and robbed at knife point, it’s simply a matter of time before the body count starts stacking up. There’s something rather sinister about the way that PG manages to turn everyday people into single-minded zombies, oblivious to anything around them.

Thank goodness that SL is somewhat immune to such things. Whilst it’s perfectly possible to become immersed in SL to the exclusion of our surroundings, it’s fairly difficult to do so to the point where we are completely oblivious to them. Certainly, we can slip on a pair of headphones and try to forget the real world, but the virtual world, whether on a big screen, laptop or even mobile device, doesn’t demand the same attention levels as most other virtual environments, and many of us do find our attention can wander, either intentionally or otherwise, from the job in hand. Few of us will ever be in the position where indulging our SL interests will ever put us in harm’s way, and most of us – when we’re in company – are probably less likely to lose our sense of decorum in the way that my foot tapping, snot sniffing, bench sitter managed to this morning.

It did seem, for a while, that particular virtue of SL was under threat – the looming spectre of Oculus Rift promised all sorts of mayhem and disaster for the future, by depriving us of any connection with the real world whilst logged in, but now that Linden Lab have quietly knocked Oculus on the head, it does seem that we might have escaped that particular indignity:)

Call me old fashioned, but keeping the virtual world experience firmly within the stereotypical basement, with blinds drawn, and a bowl of cheesy snacks on the side, is actually rather more appealing than flaunting my virtual exploits in public!

s. x

I’ve been roaming around
Always looking down at all I see
Painted faces, fill the places I can’t reach
Pixie Lott – Use Somebody

Posted in Linden Love, Rants, RL, SL, Techietalk | Leave a comment

Blogging Bytes: 14th July

predatorThere are plenty of people out there handing out ‘good advice’ for free. The trouble is, it can be difficult to work out what really is good advice, and worth following, because much of it is patently nonsense.

The trouble is, get it wrong and you could miss the one good piece of advice that you really should take to heart.

But then again, nothing is quite as it seems in the dark recesses of Alt. life: Only Food Runs.

s. x

Every living thing
Pushed into the ring
Fight it out
To wow the crowd
Metric – Stadium Love

Posted in Alt. life:, Unlikely stories | Leave a comment

What’s in a name?

nameNames throughout history have a story to tell… Almost every culture has its own particular conventions and nuances, ranging from the purely descriptive, the historical, derivative, patronymic, religious, functional and even the whimsical… The names we are given, or increasingly in modern times, we are claiming for ourselves, can speak volumes about our background, our culture and influences, and how we view ourselves and our children. Even nicknames given to us by others can be pretty revealing insights into character.

Real life names are, however, limited in some respects, and whilst it is true that, for most of us, it’s a fairly simple process should we wish to be known to the world by something other than our given name, most of us stick with what we have.

When it comes to the virtual world however, the element of choice plays a much greater part in defining ourselves, through the use a pseudonym far better suited to our purpose and preferences. Here we have free reign to be as creative as we wish, often to an extent that we might consider a little too forthright in RL. Whilst there are those who still get rather grumpy about the Lindens doing away with fixed last names, it seems to me that since that fateful day, we’ve actually had far more scope to customise our virtual persona than previously.

That’s not to say that everyone takes advantage of the freedom offered to them, but I think it’s fair to say that for every ‘Smith4218’ there’s a ‘DickTater’, ‘EllieMentory’ and ‘IvorLuvvlybunchofcoconuts’! What I find fascinating however is the seemingly limitless way in which people have managed to capture the essence of self using such a brief and succinct means of expressing themselves.

Some names are blatantly in your face… ‘SuckSlut69’, for example, leaves little to the imagination; whilst others may be more subtle and esoteric… ‘JustButtons’, leaves you with more questions than answers. Then, as we also find in RL, there are the descriptive names that many choose for their avatars… ‘DragonMage’, ‘Deejay60s’ and ‘Fashion Writer’, and let’s not forget the the puns, rhymes and playful witticisms that usually give a pretty clear depiction of the story of person you’re dealing with: ‘Cinder Vella’, ‘IPFreely’, ‘Bomber Lancaster’.

oblivion5_001One thing you wouldn’t necessarily think you might see inworld is the familial type of name, but SL has its own variation on this particular theme – not necessarily names that relate one avatar to another, but more frequently, names that tie a new resident to their forebears. Whatever the reason someone might have for ditching an avatar and replacing themselves with a new model, it doesn’t necessarily follow that they also want to lose any connection with their previous incarnation, and so SL residents have come up with their own particular conventions for recording that relationship for posterity. So we see a variety of prefixes and suffixes that we’d never incorporate into a personal name in the real world, but in SL become a poignant reminder of a prior virtual existence… ‘TheNew…’, ‘…Reborn’, and of course, the simple, but eloquent addition of ‘2’ appended to the end of a familiar name.

I think it’s revealing that we are disposed to invest such care and attention to our inworld names, when in comparison we probably make less of an effort with those we employ to identify ourselves for email and other online purposes, where we might tend to use our given name, or an identifier that we generally use consistently across a variety of platforms. This is possibly a consequence of function over form – in the real world, our names are more closely linked to our person, serve to make us recognisable to others, and are less about creativity and more about utility.

Most significantly, there is, I would argue, a stronger sense of identity expressed through our inworld name in our virtual lives, than could ever be the case in the real world, partly for the reasons I’ve discussed above, but also partly because we choose who we are in the virtual world, and an important part of that choice is how we wish to be known by those who share our ‘world away from the world’, and that makes it a terribly important part of our virtual identity. And let’s not forget that it’s the one thing that even complete strangers know about us, even before any introductions… It’s right there, hanging over our heads.

I’ve often found that the stories that lie behind the names my friends have chosen can be as fascinating as the people themselves, and I always love it when someone wants to tell me their story.

And yes, there’s a story behind my name too, but that’s for another day. In the meantime, you can call me by any of the names that I seem to have accumulated over the years… Seren, Lady Haven, Dippy, Dipster, Boots… I’ll answer to anything!

s. x

I miss the catch if they throw me the ball
I’m the last chick standing up against the wall
Keep up, falling, these heels they keep me boring
Getting glammed up and sitting on the fence now
The Ting Tings – That’s Not My Name

Posted in Philosophicalisticality, RL, SL | Leave a comment


weirdI am a crazy collector, a madness magnet, a whacko attractor… However you want to term it, I seem to have a talent for drawing those poor souls who are a couple of planks short of a full pallet into my presence.

It’s not something I do consciously, neither for that matter is it a talent I particularly relish, nevertheless it seems I’m stuck with it, and that’s all there is to it.

If there’s a freak on the train or bus, then I guarantee that they’ll sit next to me, even if there are a thousand vacant seats to choose from. At parties I’ll find myself involuntarily saddled with the creep who wants to talk in gory detail about their hernia operation that went horribly wrong and insists on showing me their resultant scar/colostomy bag/extra nipple. Total nutters randomly befriend me in bars, on the street and in cafes, and holidays become a nightmare game of hide and seek as I do my utmost to avoid the company of the persistent muppet who’s managed to convince themselves that I’d rather spend my entire trip viewing their extensive collection of Spanish beer mats, rather than the local sights.

The latest incident, which spawned this post, happened on the train home yesterday. There I am, happily ensconced in a seat, all on my lonesome and minding my own business, when a woman exuding the pungent fragrance of eau de gin and tonic plonked herself down in the seat next to me. Doing my best to politely ignore my new travelling companion, I gazed studiously out of the window at the passing scenery… Right up to the point where my erstwhile sozzled friend decided that my shoulder was the perfect pillow upon which to rest her head and snuggle up! It was one of those terribly surreal moments when you know exactly what you should do, but find it incredibly difficult to do so… And the longer you let it go, the more difficult it becomes to do anything at all, so – of course – I continued to stare fixedly out of the window, whilst she continued to make herself comfortable!

And, so it continued for the rest of my journey, my unfortunate position only being redeemed when my stop came and I had little choice but to finally extricate myself from her clutches – which was not the easiest thing to do. And the worst part? Most of the time she was resting on my shoulder, I’m pretty sure she wasn’t even asleep.

That sort of incident, my friends, is pretty much a regular occurrence for me – what on earth could I have done to so frequently attract such ‘interesting’ people.

welcome_001I wish I could say the same wasn’t true in the virtual world; you’d think my luck might be a little better in SL, if only because the ratio of loonies is so much higher inworld that they’d find plenty of their own kind to associate with, without bothering me. Not so, I’m afraid… Inworld, I am equally adept at cornering the market in weirdos as I am in RL, and I have absolutely no idea why.

My Second Life is liberally laced with lunatics, ranging from those who’ve ragequit SL because I dared to have have other people in my friends’ list, (they came back fairly soon after, but even now – some 5 years later – I still feature in their profile as the most evil biatch ever to have been foisted upon the metaverse), to those who have fallen truly, madly and deeply in love with my pixels, despite having no idea of even the most basic details of my real life. Then there have been stalkers, pursuing me for various reasons, ranging from my body to my writing… At least one person convinced they’ve been married to me, and a whole range of completely bonkers people who make the weirdos and freaks of the real world appear positively normal and dull!

Am I the only one thus afflicted, or is this something rife in SL that is pretty much par for the course for everyone? The reason I ask is because a rather worrying thought has crossed my mind following today’s ‘adventure’ on the train… Could it be a case of like attracting like? Do the fringes of normal society gravitate to me because they identify with me as a kindred spirit?

That’s a rather worrying thought… And the biggest worry of all, is that it might, in fact, be correct!

s. x

When you’re strange
Faces come out of the rain
When you’re strange
No one remembers your name
Infected Mushroom – People Are Strange

Posted in Rants, RL, SL | Leave a comment

Mood swing

insaneThe mind is a funny old place – for some, staying on top of it is a doddle, whilst some may struggle to keep it under control. There are those for whom the world is something over which they exercise their emotional authority, whilst there are those for whom life, day-to-day, is an emotional rollercoaster, where events and occurrences dictate their reactions. The mind can also be pretty unpredictable, like a car that has run without the slightest mechanical problem for years, there’s no guarantee that one day you may not turn a corner, and with a sickening crash, the engine falls out, leaving you – the hapless driver – with nothing but broken pieces of metal littering the road.

The boundary between control and confusion, stability and stumbling, is narrow and once you’ve crossed over to the dark side it can be a hell of a job to claw your way back, although many do, and equally, many can pull off the illusion of having done so whilst in reality they’re still stuck on the wrong side.

I’ve always been one those who is very good at acting the part, whereas behind the scenes the turmoil that’s going on may paint a very different picture. Over time I’ve developed a strategy that seems to work for me:

  • Trust no one
  • Always expect the worst
  • Avoid people
  • Try not to drink too much

Pretty rubbish, huh?

OK, so it seemed to work for a bit, then a couple of years ago a rather scary and unexpected event forced me to reappraise things. It was a real wake up and smell the coffee moment and, for the first time in many years, I found myself challenging my own coping strategies and questioning whether it was time to start reaching outside my comfort zone and start living a little.

Of course, it came to nothing – it’s never as easy as it might sound. They do say that the road to hell is paved with good intentions, and on that basis, my own personal highway is a multi-lane motorway, complete with toll booths, services and variable speed limits! Even so, the seeds of discontent with my own personal philosophy had been sown – I knew some butt kicking was due, and I knew I was the one who’d have to be doing it to myself.

lg6_001As they say in movies, when they can’t be bothered to write a narrative to cover the intervening period – or, as is the case here, that interval is rather boring and lacklustre – ‘time passed’, and looking back to that particular moment in time when I saw myself and what I was setting forth as a life as clearly as I was ever likely to, I’m surprised to find that in some ways I have indeed made progress. One of the signs of those changes is that whereas before my life was predictable, safe but nevertheless – to me – pretty challenging, it is starting to become – in my mind, anyway – rather less safe, terribly unpredictable and horribly challenging. I must admit, however, there’s a certain masochistic element of excitement about it – that same feeling you get at the top of a vertical drop when you’re teetering on the edge – terrifying, but nevertheless compelling.

I think, to some degree, SL has played a part in this ascent into the realms of the living. It has given me the opportunity to poke my head above the parapet, without becoming vulnerable. It has exposed me to situations that, in RL, I can and do struggle with quite badly, but inworld I can cope with them. It has forced me to be gregarious, even sociable, despite this being contrary to my RL nature. And, knowing I can do these things virtually, has – with varying degrees of success – leaked across the void into the real world with unexpected consequences.

There are still occasions when I crash and burn, and there will still be days when I can go from zero to hero and back again, in the space of a few hours. Whether I ever get to a point where I can deal with that is debatable. But – and this is the big, big thing for me – when now I look to the future, there’s an element of hope there and not the overwhelming feeling that it’s all going to go horribly wrong; as for when I look to the here and now… Well, let’s just say it’s both interesting and complicated, and leave it at that.

This has been one of those weird posts that I never planned to write, and now I have, I wonder why. Oh well, never mind!

s. x

Ah, now I don’t hardly know her
But I think I can love her
Crimson and clover
Joan Jett and the Blackhearts – Crimson And Clover

Posted in Philosophicalisticality, RL, SL | Leave a comment

High finance

dreamsThere can’t be many of us who, at some point in their Second Life, haven’t dreamed of making it big and raking in the mega bucks. I’m sure we’ve all imagined ourselves as potential property magnates, fashion icons or virtual Rockerfellers, although the percentage of SL residents who do succeed in making it big inworld in business is actually pretty tiny, with the vast majority who try only succeeding in making a modest profit, or fail to make anything at all.

The plain facts are that unless you’re incredibly fortunate, making it big in business in the virtual world can be just as difficult and labour intensive as making it big in the real world. The hours are long, overheads can be high, and at the end of the day, profit margins can be small. Most people who are in business inworld for fun will, at best, only come away with pocket money and at worst will see little or no return for their efforts and may well find themselves out of pocket.

There are those, of course, who do hit the big time and not only make SL a good source of income, but can even make a decent living from their virtual endeavours, however they are an elite few and most of us can only dream of such success.

infuzion_001However, as with any commercial venture, making money in SL is not without its attendant risks. Just as in RL, investments can go down, as well as up, markets are subject to fads and fashions, and there’s no cast iron guarantee that today’s money spinner is going to keep on putting food on the table in the future. Finance and commodities are subject to fluctuation even in a virtual world and those who stand to gain the most from their investments are also those who stand to make the greatest losses should fortune cease smiling upon them.

SL is perhaps a riskier environment than RL in this regard: The somewhat stratified nature of virtual commerce, coupled with what is essentially a closed market with a very small demographic can give the illusion that the SL money machine is stable, reliable and only subject to marginal fluctuations. Maybe that’s true to an extent, but the reality is that SL probably a far less reliable in terms of financial security than many high-risk RL strategies.

To begin with, the division of wealth is extremely top heavy – most residents have very little at their inworld disposal, with just an elite few who control the real wealth. Those few at the top are hugely disproportionate in terms of capital and numbers to the general populace. All it would take for financial chaos is for a relatively small number of the big cheeses to cash in, drop out, or crash and burn to seriously effect the whole financial infrastructure… Lose a couple of land barons, successful creators or gaming impresarios and the whole economy could slip into a downward spiral, with little that could be done to fix it.

pawn1_001Then there are the highly volatile market forces that govern what’s hot and what’s not. SL may seem to be a fairly static market, but creators and content suppliers have to stay alert to emerging trends and be prepared to jump on the virtual bandwagon – often requiring capital investment and re-skilling – if they are to remain competitive and not stagnate. The market moves quickly too… It wasn’t so long ago that every other commercial sim in SL was knee-deep in Meeroos; then suddenly it was talking plants, followed by those awful coloured horse things. The same is true of mesh body bits and fashion – as a creator, you snooze: You lose – not such a big deal if you’re just in it for the fun, but if your SL income is putting meals on the table, you really do need to keep your wits about you.

I think, just as in RL, there is also something of a misconception about the riches that can be made from SL. Virtual profit margins are tiny, particularly when you take into account exchange rates, and when you’re talking making just pennies/cents on a sale, you simply can’t afford to fall foul of the economy. With recent jitters on the Lindex, people have become increasingly concerned that what seemed to have been a pretty stable playing field is actually far more risky than they imagined… A unexpected drop of just L$25 in the buying price of lindens against the US dollar was sufficient to send shockwaves through the market and make people very nervous about the net worth of lindens in their accounts.

There are number of outside forces that can have a dramatic effect on the virtual economy too. Anything from a change in US tax law to fluctuations in the price of the dollar can create a tidal wave of problems for inworld investments, as can real world economics – when people have less disposable income, that disposable income isn’t going to be directed inworld and that in turn means those who rely on an inworld income to supplement or fund their RL existence are in double trouble. Real world economics can easily throw a high degree of uncertainty into the mix – sterling falling against the dollar as a result of Brexit could have all too real consequences for those creators in the UK, for example.

And what happens to the cash that leaves SL? Unlike real world markets, funds cashed out tend not to get re-invested, can’t be banked inworld and are essentially just a drain on the economy. Once they’re gone, they’re gone, and with the fate of SL constantly being debated in the wider metaverse and other platforms promising so much – whether factually accurate or not – we’re seeing a significant number of big players suggesting that they may cut their potential losses, take the money and run. This could, if it happened, be wholesale bad news for SL – I think it’s a storm the platform could weather, but it would create enormous instability in the process.

However, none of these things really bother me that much. I’m here, essentially, just for fun, and whilst I do occasionally dream of making it big, I know that the reality is that I just don’t have the balls, determination or time to do it – and it wouldn’t be half as much fun as I’m having now, so I think I’ll just remain cash poor and enjoy the alternative riches SL offers… fun, friendship and the occasional emotional high.

s. x

I’ve had enough of scheming and messing around with jerks
My car is parked outside, I’m afraid it doesn’t work
I’m looking for a partner, someone who gets things fixed
Ask yourself this question: Do you want to be rich?
Pet Shop Boys – Opportunities (Let’s Make Lots Of Money)

Posted in Philosophicalisticality, RL, SL | Leave a comment

Salted hash

saltIf today’s title made you drool then you are either: a) In need of medical attention, or b) Far too much of a nerd to be reading this blog. If today’s title made you go “huh?”, then I shall provide the following explanation, stolen from the web…

Attacks can be prevented by randomizing hashes, by appending or prepending a random string, called a salt, to the password before hashing. The salt does not need to be secret. Just by randomizing the hashes, lookup tables, reverse lookup tables, and rainbow tables become ineffective. An attacker won’t know in advance what the salt will be, so they can’t pre-compute a lookup table or rainbow table. If each user’s password is hashed with a different salt, the reverse lookup table attack won’t work either.

If you’re still none the wiser, then congratulations: You are ideally suited to the sort of random meanderings that typify the average post in this blog.

In really simple terms, secure passwords on the .net are encrypted. Really secure passwords employ a random sort of encryption based on both the password and an extra chunk of text (the ‘salt’), to produce a result that should be unguessable. For an extended glossary of some of the terms used above, see the end of this post.

I only mention the subject because I like random. Many of the most enjoyable moments in my life have arisen from pretty random occurrences, decisions, and events and I find something very satisfying in knowing that no matter how well-prepared, organised or otherwise in control we may be, any of our plans can be brought down or transformed by a single random occurrence. Randomness, for me, conjures up thoughts of doing things on the spur of the moment, taking the occasional crazy risk or wild decision; it means going with the flow and not always considering the consequences; it can mean bafflement and confusion, but equally, it can mean pleasant surprises and fun. Best of all, I think the unexpectedness of randomly occurring situations can add to their appeal – without ever intending it, it’s possible to have life-changing experiences, make new friends, discover previously unknown talents, and learn things we never knew before.

burning4_001Perhaps that’s one of the reasons I find SL so appealing – if ever there was a world in which the most random situations and circumstances were commonplace, it is the one within which we live our virtual lives. Even on those occasions when we log in with a firm plan and a good idea of exactly what to expect, we can find ourselves completely thrown, thanks to the actions of others and our own interactions with the environment in which we find ourselves. And, just like in RL, these can have sometimes far-reaching consequences. Many of my closest friends inworld would never have known me if it wasn’t for a random sequence of events or a chance encounter that opened the door to unexpected possibilities. The activities I pursue, the places I visit, even – on occasion – the clothes I happen to be wearing, can frequently be attributed to some random seed sown across my virtual pathway.

A random click on the map, a random TP request, a randomly chosen store or sim… Often arbitrary choices have led to very satisfying results, and I think there’s an awful lot to be said for that kind of circumstance. To my mind, there’s far too many things in life that are set out and follow predefined and strict paths and patterns – I am not the sort of person who relishes the thought of being constrained by order and design, I always need that element of the unknown and unexpected to keep my interest and stir my emotions. Perhaps that’s why, like so many others, this simple world of pixels still manages to grab my attention even after all this time…

And long may it do so!

String – stuff for tying parcels up.
Salt – seasoning for food, often found hobnobbing with pepper, or vinegar.
Password – ‘123456’
Hash – the usual result of trying to write a sensible blog post.
Lookup table – when sat at the head of a banquet, the act of gazing wistfully at the distant salt.
Rainbow table – the result of giving paint to young children.

s. x

No one I think is in my tree
I mean it must be high or low
That is you can’t, you know, tune in
But it’s all right
That is I think it’s not too bad
The Runaways – Strawberry Fields Forever

Posted in Philosophicalisticality, RL, SL, Techietalk | Leave a comment