New Year… New stuff

Yes indeed, the production lines at Haven Heavy Industries have been trundling along nicely over the festive season, to start the year with some great new products: A new range of clothing and, from Neon Dreamz, some fun new wall decor.

I seem, for no particular reason, to have developed a pig fixation! This is reflected in the latest batch of wall decor from Neon Dreamz, which includes no less than four pork-related products (all completely vegan too!), along with a couple of new, tongue-in-cheek, ‘Seren’s Magical Kingdom’ signs – ‘Dismal’ and Dismay. All are click to resize and will definitely improve your SLife!

On the clothing front, HHI has a new range – ‘Serafine’ – an off-the-shoulder dress in 12 different bold and eyecatching designs. Each comes in a twin pack containing plain and belted versions. Only available to fit Maitreya, however – as always – smart use of alphas mean these can be used with system avatars too. L$250 each, or the full set of 24 dresses for L$2500.

s. x

What do you hope to find.
When you’re down in the pig mine.

Pink Floyd – Pigs (Three Different Ones)

Posted in HHI, Neon Dreamz, SL | Leave a comment

Pizza!

It’s said that the main topic of conversation here in Britland tends to be the weather. It’s a useful, non-controversial, common ground to establish a connection with strangers, a handy method of starting a conversation, and a means of filling otherwise embarrassing lulls while you desperately think of something witty to fill the gap.

There are – in my experience – similarly useful topics of conversation to fall back upon inworld too. In my own circles of friends, it’s a safe bet that with a degree of regularity you’ll end up having an in-depth conversation about food, music or burying people under the patio. I don’t know what that says about the sort of people I hang out with, or about myself, but it seems that these are topics that we never tire of, and about which we seem to be able to converse ad-infinitum.

It’s the first of these topics that I’ll be focussing on today, (maybe I’ll come to the others in due course): Food!

It seems to be an unwritten rule amongst my compadres that once one person broaches the subject of eating, everyone else must also weigh-in with their own related observation on the topic in question. This will continue for the rest of the evening, and no-one it seems, will be able to change the subject. Inevitably, at some point in the discussion, at least one, possibly several participants, will develop uncontrollable hunger pangs and yearnings to ‘snack’ and a mercy dash to the fridge will be necessary, triggering further fertile grounds for discussion on their return with pork pies, bags of crisps or spatchcock pheasant with an olive tapenade jus, steamed baby heritage vegetables and parmentier potatoes.

Unquestionably, Second Life can make you fat.

One of the joys of food chat in SL is the mixing of cultures and their traditional fare, much of which can be unfamiliar to those of other cultures. This is particularly noticeable between Brits and Americans where, for example, both cultures will be familiar with the sandwich, gravy, and biscuits, but would be utterly bemused by the outcomes of ordering these staples if doing so on the other side of pond.

American food is however something that holds a fascination for me – not all of it: Squirty cheese, for example, is not a foodstuff in my book, and deep fried butter on a stick makes me want to vomit at the mere thought, however there are some menu items I lust after that are simply not available in my little provincial part of the United Conflagration of Non-Europe, and those that can be obtained here are almost certainly pale imitations of the real thing. One of these is the Chicago deep-pan pizza.

To me – a certified pizzaholic – the DPP is the holy grail of pizzology: It’s pizza to the power of pizza, pizza squared, pizza++, yet I’ve never had the opportunity to try a real one and given the lock-down lunacy of the world for the foreseeable future, where my bins get to go out more than I do, the likelihood of ever travelling to The Windy City and having the chance to indulge myself is an ever-diminishing one. Only one solution then… And, in the time-honoured fashion of doomed ventures the world over, I uttered those fateful words: “How hard can it really be?”

Actually, it wasn’t all that difficult, and the results looked authentic-ish, and tasted pretty damn good! So, since half the world is apparently sat at home twiddling their thumbs and teaching themselves to make bread at the moment, in the spirit of sharing the wealth, I bring you another classic Seren recipe – if I can make it, any idiot can!

Seren’s Chicago Deep Pan Pizza

First make the base:

  • I have no idea what measures I used, or equally, how many victims you intend feeding, but trust your judgment, and when things appear to be about right, they probably are about right.
  • Pour a small mountain of flour into a bowl (I use ’00’ flour – the same sort that you’d use to make pasta) and some yeast.
  • Add a modicum of warm water, not too much – you don’t want it sloppy, and you can always add more if the dough is too short and crumbly.
  • A dash of olive oil, probably about a tablespoon (not heaped!), and a pinch or two of salt.
  • Mush it all together with your fingers until it forms a nice smooth dough. It’ll be insanely sticky. Do not touch anything else, or you’ll be picking dough off every kitchen surface for the next month. If it keeps cracking and won’t behave, add a touch more water.
  • Bung it somewhere warm for half an hour to prove.

Find a suitable deep dish to bake it in. Something like a quiche dish or shallow cake tin will do. I didn’t have either, so I used one of those aluminium (that’s aluminum to my American friends) baking things – it came in a pack of 5, so I have to make another 4 pizzas now! Pour in a gloop of olive oil and swish it all around.

Scatter some flour on the work surface, dump the dough on it and flatten it out with your fingers until it’s thinnish and a couple of inches bigger than the pan. Slap it in the pan and squish it up the sides to make a doughy bowl. You can now spend a frantic five minutes repairing all the holes and broken bits.

Stoke up the oven to super hot – 250°C (That’s about a million Fahrenheits).

Now construct the pizza:

  • Pile a massive load of grated Mozzarella into the dish and spread it out to fill it right up
  • Add toppings – be super generous. I used Italian meats and mushrooms.
  • Dollup tomato-ish topping and cover the lot. You can cheat by buying a jar of it, or if you’re brave, use my recipe [Passata, dash of balsamic, chopped herbs, half a spoon of sugar].
  • Grate parmesan over the top.

Bake at 250°C for 13-14 minutes – keep an eye on it, youdon’t want the crust to burn.

Remove. Top with more parmesan. Eat. Enjoy!

s. x

On State Street, that great street, I just want to say
They do things that they never do on Broadway
They have the time, the time of their life
I saw a man and he danced with his wife
In Chicago, Chicago, Chicago, that’s my home town

Frank Sinatra – Chicago

Posted in Half-Baked, RL, SL | Leave a comment

Under the influence

I’m sorry… I tried, I really did, but despite my very best efforts I’m afraid I’ll be starting the New Year with a rant!

Over the past couple of weeks I’ve been making a serious effort to relax, kick back and generally do the sort of things that normal people get up to when they’re not doing proper work. This has meant that I’ve spent a lot more time than usual trawling through the likes of Youtube and experiencing the best of what social media and light entertainment can offer. It has been an illuminating and somewhat disappointing experience which has left me with the overwhelming impression that 1) The quality of what passes today as ‘entertainment’ has reached an all-time low, and 2) The human race has passed its pinnacle of evolution and is now descending rapidly in the other direction, de-evoluting back into primordial soup.

Did humanity make a collective decision to ascend to the very heights of stupidity and inanity whilst I wasn’t paying attention? I wouldn’t be at all surprised if that was the case. Rather a bold statement, I agree, but based upon what I’ve been subjected too in the name of entertainment recently, it’s one that I’m prepared to stand by.

Where do I start? Well, let’s consider the selection of recommendations for my viewing pleasure that Youtube has offered me, all of which fall broadly into the same category, although each genre has it’s own subtle nuances. Let’s start with…

Unboxing videos. These are, apparently, all the rage – an unparalleled opportunity to watch people take expensive stuff out of boxes, that companies desperate for media exposure send to them. Initially, I thought these would be something akin to useful consumer advice, being offered by experts in their field, but no – these are, pretty much without exception, utter dorks who have no understanding, knowledge or insight into what they’re doing. These are people who will gush unashamedly about the quality of the packaging, going into loving detail about the bubble wrap surrounding the box contents, but are utterly clueless when it comes to the actual item you think they would be reviewing. They will randomly press buttons, shake things, shrug in incomprehension and give the overwhelming impression of not having a clue – for which, I am reliably informed they will be sent more expensive stuff, received bucketloads of advertising revenue, and audience figures in the millions! Frankly, you may as well give a boxed food processor to a chimp and watch what happens – because that’s how it feels.

I could only watch so many people rave about taking stuff out of boxes and looking clueless, so I then ended up scrolling onwards to the next offering: ‘Reaction videos’. Having had the bar already set pretty low, I didn’t think it could get any worse – I was wrong!

It seems that there are huge numbers of people who have an irresistible urge to watch other people watching or listening to Youtube videos, and usually completely overreacting, in a highly irritating manner, to them. Once again, I tried to find some rationale behind it, but I couldn’t. I did think it might be a sneaky, subversive means of advertising, but I now think I’m wrong. A lot of these videos seem to revolve around the concept of watching someone hearing a song, or version of a song, they’ve not heard before and then critiquing it. It’s clear though, that most of those doing the critiquing have no concept of what musical ability is and are utterly unqualified to comment upon it, or – alternatively – are very capable vocal coaches whose comments will invariably pass completely over the heads of their audience, and who have – quite bizzarely, in my opinion – never heard the tracks they are ‘reacting’ to for the very first time. I find it rather unbelievable, for example, for a qualified professional vocal coach to say that they’ve never heard any version of ‘The Sound of Silence’ before – that just doesn’t ring true.

Then I discovered the videos of people reacting to people reacting to stuff, at which point a large part of me died inside.

What was left of my brain that hadn’t yet jellified, then turned to something that proliferates all over social media, but baffles me completely: The opportunity to watch people play video games, streamed in real time.

Once again, I entirely fail to see the point. I can think of few things I’d rather do less than watch somebody else for hours on end playing ‘War of Gears Raider Crossing Nite 2077′, or whatever, rather than play it myself. I can’t see any benefit for the games’ companies, since nobody who watches these things is going to go out and buy the game to try it themselves; and there’s no benefit for the watcher – other than you have both hands free to eat your cheesy corn snacks, rather than just the one. The only people who seem to benefit from these things are the people streaming them, who somehow have persuaded their gullible followers to support them, tip them and endorse them, whilst they get to stay home, without any need to do a proper job, and play games all day.

This then is the emergent phenomenon of the ‘influencer’ – which is, apparently, a proper vocation that can pay mega bucks, with little personal outlay, and absolutely no talent required. On the downside, if the trend continues, I can see the present generation of humanity splitting into two distinct lineages… The influencers, and the influenced – the latter, slack-jawed and drooling, never having to think creatively, or physically move from their channel of choice, or experience anything for themselves, but instead live out every aspect of their lives vicariously through the experience of influencers.

So, maybe I should take the cue and jump on the bandwagon?

I quite like the idea of just streaming from SL all day, little picture of me in the corner, whilst my supporters feverishly send me their love and support. I wouldn’t need to do anything instructional or advisory, since that’s not what it’s all about – I’ll just get on with shopping and dancing and building, whilst people stare incomprehendingly at me on their screens, munching on their cheesy snacks. As a double-whammy, I’ll throw in some virtual unboxing too, (and try not to wear too many boxes in the process) – I can’t fail to succeed.

Although, I’m really not sure I could live with myself, if I did!

s. x

I’ve learnt more than you’ll ever know
Even at school I felt quite sure
That one day I would be on top
And I’d look down upon the map
The teachers who said I’d be nothing

The Jam – This Is The Modern World

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Teaser

There’s a growing trend in the writing world, one which is particularly prevalent with newly-published authors, to include a teaser chapter tagged on to the end pages following their first novel, to generate interest in their follow-up offering.

I find it quite irritating.

For a start, I’m more than capable of deciding whether I wish to read an author’s next instalment, based on the content and quality of what I’ve just finished reading. If I’ve found the preceding 30,000 words to be a load of badly written drivel, it’s hardly likely that a few additional paragraphs are going to be sufficient to convince me to give the author a second chance. Conversely, if I have enjoyed it, I don’t really need any encouragement to want to read more and I don’t like being unnecessarily fed the first couple of chapters of the next offering. To begin with, it offers no guarantee – even if brilliant – that the rest of the book will be any good: In the same way that movie trailers take all the best bits of a film and splurge it at you over sixty seconds, to entice you into watching the remaining 90 minutes of sluggish action, the publishing industry standard is for authors to submit the just the first couple of chapters of a new book for consideration. If you haven’t grabbed a publisher’s attention by then, you can expect a rejection – consequently, a great many books these days have a cracking start, but then wander off into tawdriness. There’s also a growing trend to have a super-short first chapter, distinctly separate from the general narrative, full of drama and suspense, to grab the reader’s attention and capture our interest by raising a wealth of unanswered questions – a hook to capture us, which then goes on to leave us dangling, unappeased, until page 387!

How the heck am I supposed to judge whether I want to read a book based on a teaser that’s written to capture my imagination, but gives little indication of how the storyline is going to unfold? Give me a decent review over that any time – I can make a far better informed decision based on an informed precis, than I can based on an introductory chapter. Unfortunately, it seems that proper reviews are now old school, or better left to Amazon reviewers, (who are all close friends of the author, anyway). To top it all, there are of course, few things more annoying than starting to read something, only to be cut off randomly, just as you were getting into it… Although I imagine that is precisely why publishers insist on this tactic in the first place!

I suppose these aren’t particularly important considerations, unless you happen to be horribly torn between whether or not to blow your last few bucks on a new novel, or alternatively, yuo happen to a new author, desperate to get published, which is perhaps why the topic first crossed my mind. I’m toying with the idea of taking this whole writing thing further next year, as it seems to be something I’m filling a great deal of my time with anyway – this blog is just the tip of a very wordy iceberg – but we’ll see how that pans out in due course.

What else the new year will bring is open to debate. It’s around this time that I tend to do my annual forecast for SL, but I’m not going to do that this year. I think we will see changes, both expected and otherwise, inworld; but what these will be, I’d hesitate to suggest. There are two significant influences that need to be considered – the SL migration to the cloud, and the acquisition of the Lab: The first, I think, will result in noteworthy changes, the second, maybe not. Either way, whatever happens, I’d say there’s a strong likelihood that I’ll still be writing about SL, come next December.

What I find far more interesting to speculate upon is how external influences will affect SL in the coming months. It’s been an interesting year in terms of what society and individuals have had to come to terms with to adapt and adjust to a world that has, for many, become a very different place to what they once knew. There have been implications for SL, not only due to a significant increase in new sign-ups, but also the thanks to the re-birthing of long-forgotten accounts. There’s been consequential instability and change inworld, directly and indirectly attributable to the ways in which people’s live have changed and in the way in which we interact with each other online. In the real world, some have found life to have become soemthing of a nightmare – a real-life zombie apocalypse – others have found it illuminating and enlightning. Some have been unwilling passengers on a journey that seems to have no end, whilst others have simply gone with the flow. However, virtually or real… It’s not over yet!

2020 has been the unwelcome teaser chapter for the year that will follow. It’s provided us with a foretaste of what 2021 might bring. It’s given us insights into human nature and our own resilience, and it’s certainly grabbed our attention, but has also left us with a great many unanswered questions, the most pressing of which are probably, ‘what happens next?’ and, ‘how will the story unfold?’

I’m not even going to attempt to predict what the New Year may bring in RL, at best I can say the outlook is somewhat unsettled, but at least it won’t be boring! As for my plans in both real life and SL, I have a few ideas under consideration, but nothing firm yet. Watch this space for news!

So, as we turn the final pages of 2020 and think about consigning to the bookcase of memories, I’m sure some will be glad to see the back of it; however, unlike a bad novel, we can’t choose our author for the follow-up, but I suppose if the story is unpalatable we can always just skim through the pages lightly, not dwelling too much on their content, until we feel ready to dip in… Hopefully, we won’t have trawl through too many pages before we get there!

Happy New Year folks!

s. x

I’m the king of my own land
Facing tempests of dust, I’ll fight until the end
Creatures of my dreams, raise up and dance with me
Now and forever
I’m your king

M83 – Outro

Posted in Philosophicalisticality, RL, SL | Leave a comment

Starry, starry night?

Curses! Foiled again!

Well, that’s one of the joys of living in a country where the weather almost always manages to conspire to upset the best laid plans. We British have developed a grudging acceptance that whatever the season, the climate will always remain an unknown quantity, and one which inevitably will turn out to be the complete opposite to what we’d wish.

So much so, that the majority of us will harbour childhood memories of picnics in steamed-up cars, stranded in beach car parks on Summer days out, whilst the rain hammers down outside the windows. It never snows at Christmas, barbecues will always been rained off, and if ‘Silent Night’ had been written about the UK, the line referring to all being calm and bright would instead be rendered as ‘dull and cloudy’, as it is now, as I type this post.

Today’s view from my window

In fact, the clouds have formed an inpenetrable mass of grey, almost to the ground, redusing visibility to around 50 feet: Great for Halloween, but rubbish for anything else. The clouds were there last night too, along with rain and howling winds. Not usually something I’d be particularly bothered by, except I’d very much have liked to have had the chance to see the conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn – the so-called ‘Great Conjunction’ – which, due to the weather, turned out to be not that great at all, as far as I was concerned. Ah well, there’s always the next one in 2040, I might just still be around then, although I bet the weather will be rotten!

The heavens do seem to conspire against me in this regard. I wouldn’t say that I’m an avid stargazer, but I do like to take the opportunity to see those celestial rarities that occasionally make an appearance, particularly as many will – quite literally – be once-in-a-lifetime events. Unfortunately, most of those have turned out to be never-in-a-lifetime events, thanks to the utterly miserable atmospheric conditions that are endemic to this part of the world. I’ve lost count of the number of eclipses, meteor showers, conjunctions and comets that have made an appearance during my lifetime, but have remained utterly unobservable thanks to cloudy skies, and I sometimes wonder why on earth I even bother?

I’ve been checking out the sky inworld too – ever since EEP was unveiled by the Lab, it’s something that I’ve been very excited about. Something I, like many other parcel owners, have always wanted is greater control over environmental factors. Windlight was always great, and gave enormous scope for fine-tuning a parcel’s look and feel, but the possibilities that EEP would open up were enormous… Customised sun, moon and clouds, control over day duration and daylight cycles, and different environments at different altitudes: What’s not to like?

Except, I didn’t like it. When I got my hands on the Firestorm EEP pre-release, I hated it with a vengeance! And, now that I’m using the release viewer, my ire has only abated very slightly.

I can only imagine that the design brief for EEP went something along the lines of, ‘Let’s make it as insanely complicated and counter-intuitive as possible’ – because that’s exactly how it is. Even the ‘personal lighting option’, which previously equated to a simple slider that you could choose your time of day with, now requires a degree in lighting management and atmospheric meterology to get to grips with. Now, before you accuse me of being unnecessarily obstructive, I do – of course – understand that the new controls allow complete customisation of every aspect of the inworld environment, and are therefore going to be complicated, but for the love of all that is holy, why on earth can’t we have a ‘bimbo mode’, for those of use who want to tweak, but don’t want to have to waste half a lifetime learning how to make it half-past midnight! It feels to me like EEP in its present form is like giving us a viewer with a load of deceptively simple menu headings, which when clicked just give you all the debug settings, with no plain-English options.

OK, rant over (almost). Being the plucky and determined individual I am, I persevered and after much frustrated reading and viewing of Youtube instructionals – none of which helped in the least – I did what I usually do and made things up as I went along. The end result was almost, but not quite, entirely unlike the lighting I wanted for my parcel – in much the same fashion as ordering a cuppa from a Sirius Cybernetics Corporation Nutrimatic machine. However, by this stage, I’d run out of alcohol, it was way past my bedtime, and I no longer possessed any more hair to tear out. It would have to do. The irony, as I sit and reflect on my efforts and gaze out of my window at the murk in RL, is that both are pretty similar to the other; not really what I had in mind, but such is the nature of things. There is however a major difference between the RL moon and mine, in that the real one doesn’t have a sleigh crossing its face, neither does it rise in the West! I’m quirky like that.

Then, joy of joys, EEP broke! The Labbies fixed it, of course, but then cheerfully made the following announcement:

‘A fix has been implemented. Applying EEP settings should work normally again. However, any Settings assets uploaded between 14:40 SLT yesterday and 11:50 SLT today will not work. Please delete those and re-upload. We apologize for the trouble and frustration this issue caused.’

How fantastic – guess what time I uploaded my asset settings? Yep, all my hard work had been undone, and I had to start all over again.

Maybe I’ll get used to EEP over time, even embrace it, but until then I’m afraid you’ll have to put up with my grumbling. So, nothing new there!

It’s not all bad though: The stars in the night sky now twinkle at night, which is very pretty, and also brings us right back to where we started. There are some, throughout history, who have hypothesised that a previous Jupiter/Saturn conjunction could well have been the Christmas ‘star’ that the wise men from the East followed to Bethlehem. I don’t know about that, but I can see the rationale behind it, especially if appearing low on the horizon, it could be taken as a sign in the general location of a particular place – and there was such a conjunction, around 7BC, if you allow time for camel transit and so forth, so the dates tie-in. I’m not one to engage in speculative arguments around such things – as far as I’m concerned, both faith and science have their place, and may even overlap – it’s up to you what you believe. That aside, if it wasn’t for the biblical story, we simply wouldn’t be in the throes of celebrating Christmas in its present form, along with everything that entails… So, if you’re not of the persuasion to accept that there is at least some validity in what others may believe, then I guess you’ll be treating Christmas like any other day?

However, for those of you that will be celebrating the Festive Season, for whatever reason, this will probably be my last post before the big day (mainly because I’m lazy, and there’s mince pies that won’t eat themselves), so I’ll wish you all a very happy Christmas, and I’ll see you on the other side! The usual, obligatory, off-kilter Christmas song below, I offer as my gift to you.

s. x

Oh come on! That’s where I eat!
She’s having a baby where I eat
Oh oh, now there’s three dudes coming in as well
Oh why don’t you join the damn party
It’s only my house

The Axis of Awesome – I Love Being A Cow

Posted in Builder's bum, Linden Love, Philosophicalisticality, Rants, RL, SL, Techietalk | Leave a comment

New at Haven Heavy Industries

Two new ranges out, just in time for Christmas – worth considering as a gift for that special someone in your life – that is, you!

There’s something fun for the more demure lady – the ‘Serenade’ range of summer dresses… I know it’s winter in Brit-topia, but it’s still sunny elsewhere in the world, and in SL it doesn’t matter anyway! The Serenade dress comes in 6 colourful designs and, at only L$175, it’s not going to break the bank, even during the festive season.

For those of us more inclined towards a brawl in the bar, rather than high tea in the park, there’s the ‘Poker’ range of leather biker jackets. A full suit of thirteen poker-based designs, one for each day of the month, and a spare for those days your best is covered in oil from the Harley. L$250 each, or buy the full set for L$2500.

Find them on Marketplace at HHI.

s.. x

Posted in HHI, SL | Leave a comment

Unscheduled maintenance

‘Unscheduled maintenance’ – that’s a phrase that anyone who’s been knocking around SL for a while is familiar with, and none of us are fooled: We know it’s a euphemism for ‘unexpected cock-up’, trotted out by the Labbies to give the impression that everything is perfectly OK, and even though this might have been an unplanned event, it’s nothing to be concerned about, it’s just a bit of maintenance and everything will be just fine… Just you wait and see.

Nobody, of course, is fooled but it’s standard procedure these days to dress up even the most unmitigated disasters in sugar coating, just to pretend that all is well, and any inconvenience that we may be experiencing is just temporary, nothing to be at all concerned about, and – more than likely – probably a misunderstanding on our part, and not actually the end of the world as we know it. ‘Unscheduled maintenance’ is the hi-tech equivalent of having the band playing waltzes as the Titanic goes down – the implication that all is well and there’s absolutely nothing to worry about is far preferable to exposing the true reality of the situation.

It’s something that, I suppose we’ve become largely accustomed to as our world has become increasingly more complex. With increasing complexity, comes an ever-increasing likelihood that something will break, unexpectedly and with unknown consquences – that knowledge, at times can be terrifying and fraught with far-reaching implications, so it’s no wonder that we try to dress things down a little. We’re starting – belatedly, and perhaps too late – to understand that we live in a world that can effectively be shut down as the result of something as simple as trading bushmeat in a local market, and where damaging, irrational and inaccurate viral ‘information’ can result in social collapse, destruction and damage, even violence and death. In all these things it is the complexity of society and our modern world that encourages and fosters our capacity for catastrophic failure. Good things can turn bad very quickly in a complex environment.

So I found myself wearing a wry smile when reading about Elon ‘Madman’ Musk’s most recent venture – the latest test flight of his Starship project, which officially experienced a ‘rapid unscheduled disassembly’ on landing. Which, of course, sounds so much better than ‘massively catastrophic explosion’! All credit to Mr Musk though, who just brushed it off with his “Mars here we come!” tweet which followed. Erm, maybe I’ll pass on that particular holiday until you’ve mastered the landings, Musky!

The same is true for technology – the simpler things are, the less apt to stop working they will be. Once you start adding layers of complexity, injecting new code, tweaking, updating and revising, each time you’re adding in the potential for unplanned failure, perhaps disastrous, even when building what should be improvements. A single person setting up a small pile of dominoes has a small chance of accidentally toppling them; but when you have 100 people setting up a 100 piles of dominoes, all of which interact with and cross the paths of what the others are doing… Well, you know it’s going to happen sometime, but you don’t know where, how or when, or how extensive the damage when it does.

This, of course is what happens routinely in the code that governs SL, leading to the infamous ‘unscheduled maintenance’, but it can happen at the human level too, and in the somewhat parochial culture of a virtual world where we have a varied and complex cross-section of communities and individuals crammed into a relatively small environment we can experience ‘unscheduled maintenance’ on an emotional and relationship level, and occasionally even a ‘rapid unscheduled disassembly’. We have our own mitigating buzzwords for describing such things, probably best captured in the catch-all term, ‘drama’.

It seems to have been an exceptional year for drama in my neck of the SL woods. I’ve seen some very public rifts form between individuals and groups where there had always been friendship and harmony; I’ve witnessed the breakdown of interpersonal relationships that had previously endured for years through thick and thin; and I’ve experienced animosity, misunderstandings and ire erupt where I’d never previously have expected. It’s all been very strange, and very upsetting too.

I’ve no doubt that the unprecedented – now there’s a word that’s earned its keep this year – events of real life have had a knock-on effect in the virtual world, both in the way people have coped personally and in the way that society has been forced to change and adapt. There will be also personal events that have taken place in people’s lives that will impact on their relationships with, and in, Second Life – that’s always been the case, and for those who have found themselves in that position in the past, SL has often been a refuge from the real world, a healing environment, and a place that lessens the impact of personal suffering and trauma: However, it seems to me, at least amongst the people I spend my time with, that the inworld experience has somehow now become antagonistic and emotionally unsupportive in such circumstances.

However, I don’t think that’s the whole picture, because when you’re part of a stable community that has become established inworld over the course of many years, bringing together a hugely diverse group of people from all over the world and from a huge variety of backgrounds, situations and interests, you do run the risk of overcomplexity. Everything works perfectly, right up to the moment something unexpected fails, and that starts the whole stack of dominoes toppling, with disastrous results. The trigger could be an occurence, a change, a decision or something perversely silly, but under the right circumstances it can start an avalanche of problems, which – try as you might – you’re not going to be able to stop until it finally runs out of energy. That’s what I think has happened in my little community in SL, and I have my own theory about exactly what the trigger might have been. I guess that’s the way it goes sometimes… A classic rapid unscheduled disassembly.

However, as I survey the smoking and barren wasteland of a community that is turning to anarchy and all-out tribal warfare, there are nevertheless some bright spots on the horizon. Some things have always remained constant throughout all my time in SL: They may be particular friendships, people or places, or even the ability to fall back into old routines, almost forgotten – like back-up copies of past experiences. And, because they are simple and straightforward WYSIWYG elements of my virtual life, rather than horribly complex, and therefore inherently unstable and corruptible, they are dependable and constant. And so, once the avalanche has passed – which it will – they’ll still be there, and while they are, there’s hope and a solid foundation to start rebuilding, no matter how bad the damage.

So, look out Mars, here I come!

s. x

Uh oh, overflow, population, common group
But it’ll do, save yourself, serve yourself
World serves its own needs, listen to your heart bleed
Tell me with the Rapture and the reverent in the right, right
You vitriolic, patriotic, slam fight, bright light
Feeling pretty psyched

REM – It’s The End Of The World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine)

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

All aboard!

It’s funny how we can be charmed by the most unlikely things, but beauty is often only in the eye of the beholder, and the allure to one person of one particular diversion may be wholly incomprehensible to others. Some are fascinated by Star Wars, others are trekkies, there are those who collect stamps, Barbie dolls or rocks and still others will have an enduring love for fast cars, birds or needlepoint. There’s no real logic to who will like what, and although you can often generalise – boys tend to like Ferraris and, so on, those rules aren’t set in stone and you can often find that people enjoy things that are entirely unexpected.

You’ll know, from the many times I’ve written on the topic, for example, that I am bit of a sucker for trains, although if you were to ask me what exactly is the appeal, I’d be hard-pressed to explain it. I’m not a trainspotter, by any stretch of the imagination, and having spent the last few years of my working life enduring more time than is strictly reasonable on, around and waiting for trains, I can categorically say that there are usually far better ways to travel, if you have the choice. The appeal seems to lie in a strange combination of the sight, smell and sound of the railway, together with the ‘romance’ of a rail journey, the engineering and the architecture, and an indefinable quality – let’s call it the ‘aura’ of the railway and the great rail journey.

Oddly, you can try to impress me by talking about steam cylinders and crankshafts, axel weights and wheel configurations, top speeds and tonnage and I’ll be bored to tears – I’ve no interest in any of that – but stick me up close to a locomotive of any description and I’ll come alive. It’s a bit weird.

Weirder still is that the fascination extends into SL. I have my own little railway inworld – the SWR – and given half a chance, I’d extend it way beyond my own small parcel if I could. You’ll often find me tweaking, tinkering or refining the various bits and pieces necessary to keep the trains running, and occasionally undertaking major engineering work to improve the system. However, my interest extends beyond just my own bit of SL, and in recent weeks I’ve been making a concerted effort to navigate Heterocetera by rail, and at the present time, I reckon I’ve completed around 80% of the SLRR network. There are other independent lines that await discovery too, some of which I’ve tackled, and others which I’ve yet to investigate.

The great attraction of exploring SL by rail, for me anyway, apart from the fact that I like trains, (did I already mention that?), is that I can rez my engine, jump aboard and fire it up, and then just chug around in a leisurely fashion guided by the rails, without having to worry about steering, crashing off the road into the sea/buildings/onlookers, or being thrown a billion miles into the ether at sim boundaries and losing my transport completely. That’s not to say that the SLRR isn’t without the occasional annoyance – sometimes the guide does unexpectedly disappear, sim boundaries do sometimes kick me out, (but at least my train messages me with a TP back to the footplate), and on one momentous occasion I ended up in a monster of a diesel locomotive which decided to suddenly and uncontrollably, haphazardly spin ferociously in a circle continuously, with no way of escaping… But, this is SL, and these things happen! That aside, it’s great to be able to just cruise along without worrying about touching the controls, allowing me to concentrate on the scenery as it passes – a far less stressful experience than trying to drive around the mainland roads.

In fact, if you’re a bit of a driving numpty like me, who would never attempt to play one of those Grand Auto Smash Pillage Thieve and Burn Rubber games, on the basis that even attempting to ride a pushbike inworld tends to inevitable result in a fatal crash into a brick wall, travelling by train ticks all the boxes in terms of comfort, controllability and lack of death or grand theft and larceny. So, if you have a hankering to explore the mainland but haven’t a clue where to start, where to go, or feel that the whole place is just too big to make any sense of, my advice is to find yourself a freebie loco, type SLRR into search, TP right in and see where you can go from there.

SL trains are reliable too. It’s not that they stick to timetable, but since you’re running the show, it’s your timetable and you can make it up as you go along; stopping wherever you fancy, thundering through stations you don’t like the look of and generally journeying however the hell you want to. It’s super-premium first class travel!

SL railways tend to be incredibly low traffic too, so you have the whole line pretty much to yourself. I’ve hardly ever come across anyone else on my travels, although there are the occasional touring trollies that I run into (literally), much as you’ll meet the pod tours on the mainland roads, but other than that, it tends to be a pretty solitary mode of travel. I only wish that the SLRR wasn’t limited to Heterocetara, because I reckon it would be awesome to have a rail network all over SL – and, of course, there are some individuals who have built their own stretches of line, along with numerous narrow-gauge and other alternatives, but all of these, like my own SWR, are limited by available space, and that’s a shame, because I think they’re a great, and undervalued, virtual way to travel.

And, whilst we’re on the subject of the SWR…

This year, for the month of December only, the Festive Express will be running on my Moonletters Town branch line. Departing from a snowy Marmalade Skies, you’ll pass through reminders of Summer at Strawberry Field, until returning to the Winter’s depths at Marmalade. It’s only a short trip, but you can always hop off at Haven Halt, located at Sakura, where you can change trains for the Nowhere Land Explorer and Cloudbase Sky Train, for a sightseeing trip around the snows of Nowhere Land and high in the clouds above, with views right across Penny Lane, (don’t forget to crank up your draw-distance!)

So, come on over for a trip, and if you see me hanging around, feel free to throw a snowball or two my way!

s. x

Runaway train never going back
Wrong way on a one way track
Seems like I should be getting somewhere
Somehow I’m neither here nor there
Soul Asylum – Runaway Train

Posted in Events, RL, SL, Tales of the Road, Tour Guide | Leave a comment

New at Neon Dreamz

It’s that time of year, when everything seems to be one long celebration… Hallowe’en becomes Christmas, becomes New Year, which then becomes Easter, with – if you happen to live Stateside – Thanksgiving thrown into the mix for good measure.

It’s a colourful and fun time of year in SL, when locations and sims go into a state of flux and change as decor evolves to capture the moment and events reflect the party atmosphere.

All of which, makes this an ideal time to launch the Neon Dreamz Christmas Collection – 24 varied decorative items celebrating the festive period. With prices to suit all pockets, starting at L$150, multipacks and a complete collection fatpack offering a massive saving of over L$1000 on the individual prices!

See them inworld at Neon Dreamz, or on the Marketplace.

s. x

Posted in Builder's bum, Neon Dreamz, SL | Leave a comment

Still resolute

The tail-end of November may be an odd time to be talking about New Year resolutions, but as I’ve always maintained that a) they’re pointless, and b) if you’re going to resolve to do something, do it now – no need to wait for New Year, then there’s no reason I can’t write about them whenever I feel like it either.

You wouldn’t have known this, but for the first time in as long as I can remember – and that’s a heck of a long time – this year I made a New Year’s resolution. I didn’t tell you about it, and if I’m honest, it was a bit of an off-the-cuff decision that I really didn’t expect to bear any real fruit.

I was wrong.

It’s now nearly next year, and not only have I kept my resolution, it’s still something that is actively part of my everyday life and, in fact, only last night I had need to re-affirm it once again.

2019 was one of those years that saw some things going downhill for me and, come the dawn of the New Year, I came to the conclusion that I was not going to let 2020 be like that too. I accept that there are many things that happen to us, over which we have no control, and much of the time it’s also the things that others inflict upon us that bring us down in daily life – we do, however, have control over that, even though we may think that we don’t. So, I resolved that 2020 would be the year that I would choose to remove toxic people and relationships from my life. And, that’s exactly what I’ve been doing, and I can honestly say that life has been a whole lot better than it was as a result of that decision.

I guess that 2020 has been an apocalyptic year for most: A challenging year in so many ways, and yet, having removed the negative influences, the emotional drains and the deadweight from my life, I can honestly say that this year has been great, as far as I’m concerned. I feel I have greater freedom, can be myself and I don’t have to deal with the emotional baggage, stress and hassle that those who are only interested in what they can get for themselves entail. That’s not to say that it’s been entirely easy or without its own challenges – I found myself ending a 9-year close relationship that was founded more on somebody else’s neediness, deceit and greed, than emotional equity; I also had to draw a line under some situations which were just making me unhappy, although I’d convinced myself up until then that keeping them in my life was for all the right reasons, and it has been lonely at times. Overall, though, I feel a sense of peace and happiness that previously eluded me.

Whilst this has essentially been a real-life change, that isn’t to say that the same principles shouldn’t apply to SL. As is the case for so many, SL is often a refuge from the real world – somewhere I go to have fun, companionship and relax, but I regret to say that hasn’t always been the case this year; I’d go so far as to say that 2020 has been one of the crappier years for inworld tolerance, tranquility and rationality that I’ve experienced.

It’s ironic that when I look back at this time last year, I was extolling the virtues of SL people and – to employ the very phrase I used – their ‘kindness and humanity’, and now some of those very same people have found their way onto my Christmas ‘Naughty’ list, with the ‘Nice’ list looking decidedly sparse and under-populated. I won’t go into detail – the culprits should know who they are, and if they don’t, then they really need to start building some self-awareness and get a grip.

Now, I could simply put up and shut up with all the drama, back-stabbing, mud-slinging, arguments, angst, undermining, beligerance, self-entitlement and downright rotten behaviour that I’ve witnessed, experienced and been subjected to – but Seren ain’t one to lie down and take a kicking, neither will she blithely tolerate and gloss over such behaviour when it takes place around her… That just makes her miserable, and drains all the fun and enjoyment from an environment that should epitomise such qualities. When it comes to the point that I’m not looking forward to logging in, even dreading it, because I just know what to expect, then I need to do something about it – and I’ve started to apply the same rules I use in RL in the virtual world too.

Be mean, obnoxious, nasty, idiotic or offensive to me, or around me inworld, and I’m not going to put up with it any longer – I won’t tolerate you disturbing my ‘wa’, it’s unacceptable. End of. Just as in the real world, I’m on a mission to strip out toxic people, places and atmospheres from my Second Life, and I’m pretty ruthless about it too. Just last night, what should have been a happy, low-key social event was turned into a war zone, when an argument spilled out into open chat, with personal insults being flung, accusations being made, and all in the most offensive terms and abusive language possible. A very public punch-up between two fully grown men, acting like spoiled children. If that sort of behaviour had happened in a work environment, they’s have both been on a formal warning quicker than it would take me to type the letter.

Toxic stuff like that ruins Second Life.

I’ve muted both of them, despite them both being on my friends list, and they’ll stay muted until they can grow up and demonstrate they act like reasonable adults, and stop spoiling SL for other people.

They aren’t the first and I doubt they’ll be the last if people’s behaviour continues in the same vein. I don’t know whether frustration about real life is making its way into the virtual world, or if people are just changing for the worst, but I don’t need it or want it around me. I don’t want my SL to be always all about who’s fallen out with who, which club owner is currently feuding with which other club owner, or being subjected to other people’s small-mindedness. And, yes, my resolve does mean I miss out on some things, spend more time alone and no longer socialise or talk as much with some people inworld as previously, but if it means I’m once again enjoying SL and no longer dreading what I might encounter when I log in, then it’s worth the sacrifice.

Somebody who’s known me for a long time recently commented that when I first came to SL I was quiet and reserved, a bit of an outsider – I think I’m probably reverting back to how I was then, but you know what… It’s way less stressful and far more enjoyable than putting up with other people’s shit!

And now I’ve got all that off my chest, I feel much better too.

s. x

All the while you waste away, you’re asking
“Did I really need another one to take me down?”

Manchester Orchestra – The Silence

Posted in Rants, RL, SL | Leave a comment