Pre-emptive redundancy

gadgetThere are things that we just don’t need, yet no matter how unnecessary those things might be, you can guarantee that someone, somewhere is designing a brilliant solution for a non-existent need that, in all probability, we will feel the urge to have in our life.

Any kitchen will be testament to this weird flaw in human nature – a quick inventory of your average kitchen drawers or the dusty realms between cupboard tops and ceiling will unearth a plethora of gadgets and accessories, used only once or twice, before being consigned to oblivion, some of which will still be found in their original boxes. Popcorn makers, pancake flippers, electric fat separators, fancy knives for de-stoning avocados, trays for making your bacon crispy in the microwave, and the inevitable, essential unused kitchen gadget par excellence… The rabbit lever corkscrew, complete with complementary foil cutter. You’ll argue, of course, that the majority are well-meaning, but unwanted, gifts; however I’m pretty sure that at the time you were secretly excited to receive them, and for a time at least, they held pride of place on your kitchen counter!

Now they sit, unused and forgotten, in the dark recesses of the corner cupboard, (the one you have to lie on the floor and practically crawl into to retrieve anything at all).

It’s not just in the kitchen though that you find such things – scattered throughout our lives are the waterproof pens, digital bookmarks, USB mug warmers and weather station clocks that at one time seemed such essential necessities but now find themselves washed up on the shore of redundant trash.

There’s a whole industry geared up to designing, producing and marketing gadgets, toys and other ‘must have’ items which will basically have a working lifespan of nanoweeks, before ultimately being consigned to the oubliette of forgetfulness. They are designed with redundancy in mind.

facelight_001There are exceptions to the rule, of course – for every 99 toasted sandwich makers that lie festering in gloopy, rancid loneliness, there will be one that sees almost daily use – it entirely depends on our own appreciation of their usefulness and utility, but I fear that these will always be in the minority, which in its own way is just a little bit sad, especially for those who have invested time, money and effort in bringing them into being.

One such product I recently came across is the SL keyboard: It is something that I simply would never use – I don’t see the point of having a keyboard that replicates exactly the same actions that a mouse click can achieve, but don’t let that put you off because there will no doubt be a significant number of SL users who have been waiting for this for years. I hope it’s a success for its creator, but for me, this falls clearly into the same category as laser guided scissors… Maybe I’ll be proven wrong, but we’ll see.

Whilst considering useless accessories, I came across a forum comment suggesting that the majority of items vended from gacha machines is pretty much pointless too, and I think they may have something there. Plushies, knick knaks, useless accessories, those things that avatars inexplicably have dangling from their mouths, and a whole host of other meaningless, yet seemingly highly desirable objects form a significant part of the gacha market, but despite their lack of purpose, I don’t personally think they fit into the same category as their real world equivalents. In RL, functionality is king: gadgets fall by the wayside simply because they are too niche, too quirky and they take up time and space that we just don’t have to spare. None of this matters in SL, which is itself niche and quirky and is a place where physical space isn’t such an issue and where time passes in a leisurely manner. If ever there was an environment where the fun and frivolous should proliferate it’s SL.

And personally, I wouldn’t enjoy it half as much if it was any other way!

s. x

What a waste
What a waste
What a waste
What a waste
Ian Dury And The Blockheads – What a Waste

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Unwelcome guests

introvertI’m an antisocial so-and-so! In a world where most people are happily facebooking, twitterising, whatsappulating, linkedinerbating, and plurkating, I tend to walk the road less travelled and far less crowded: That of avoiding socialising at all costs. I much prefer to interact with people in person, but even then it’s only in small doses, and occasions that are few and far between. Online, social intercourse is limited to this blog – which is, of course, strictly on my terms – and SL.

Despite my antisocial leanings, I do actually enjoy spending time with my friends and acquaintances inworld. SL can be quite a lonely place at times, particularly if I’m not in the mood to potter around doing the sort of things that you don’t really need company for: shopping, exploring and building, for example. On these occasions, I’ll happily seek out those on my friends list or have a chat to fill the time, and when that’s what you’re in the mood for it can even be quite frustrating when there’s either nobody about, or everyone is logged in, but you have no idea where they are or what they’re doing!

However, a significant amount of my time inworld is spent doing my own thing – sometimes this will take me away across the Grid, other times I’ll be hanging around at my own parcel of land, quietly getting on with something on my own. It’s at times like this that I can find myself becoming less tolerant of intrusion and interruption. Those in my circle of friends cannot, of course, be criticised for being friendly, and I’ve no problems with the occasional IM popping up whilst I’m otherwise engaged, and I will happily chat away should that happen. Occasionally, I’ll get an invitation to join friends to share in the fun – chances are, if I’m free, that’s exactly what I’ll do, if I’m tied up I’ll generally join them later. When I’m pottering around alone at home, I’ll often get messages saying ‘Hi’, or even ‘I can see you’re busy, but just wanted to say hello’, and I’ll never ignore or rebuff anyone who calls me up in that way.

Personal callers are, however a little more difficult: If you are wandering round and happen to stumble across me, or you happen to be in the neighbourhood and pop over to say hello, I can sometimes find that harder to accommodate. If I’ve decided I want to be alone, or I’m engrossed in doing something, often the last thing I’ll want is to have to entertain a visitor or engage in polite, face-to-face, conversation – horrible, I know, but that’s the way I am. It won’t stop me engaging with you, but the chances are that my mind will be elsewhere, and I’m unlikely to be the most facilitating host. However, this is SL, and if I’m in a public place, I just have to accept that sometimes this will happen and I shall live with it.

endless_001There are some circumstances however that will really irk me. Down on terra firma, wherever I happen to be, I figure that’s pretty much open house – friends, strangers, even enemies, are free to wander as they wish and proposition me, engage in conversation, and generally do the whole social thing. Elsewhere though, I’ve always considered it an unwritten rule, (as do most of the people I know), that up in the sky is by invitation only. Above the clouds is my private space – it’s where I keep my build platforms and workshops, and it’s where my own safe and secure, hidden away changing room is located – far from prying eyes, interference and random strangers poking around. If I’m up there, there’s a very good chance that I’m either busy, out of circulation, or both. Yet I have had people turn up without notice, make demands on my time, get in the way and expect a warm and civil welcome. There have been times when my visitor has quite obviously hunted me down, has almost certainly been watching me at a distance, and then purposely teleported to within a couple of metres of me, without warning, invitation or the courtesy of at least engaging me in conversation beforehand.

That sort of thing does not go down well with me at all!

At the very least, this will result in frosty reception. If it’s a total stranger intent on perving or disruption, then it’s a mute, ejection and ban – no questions, no comeback. But if it’s a friend, who seems oblivious to any giveaway hints I might give: “Oh sorry, didn’t see you there – I’m concentrating on some insanely difficult scripting that needs all my focus”; “Sorry, can’t talk now – I’m on a deadline”; “Oh hi! I didn’t expect visitors… I was having some quiet time on my own” – I’m at a bit of a loss about how to deal with it. If long, awkward silences or having a massive block of plywood rezzed between us doesn’t get the message across, then I’m not sure what will… Perhaps I should hand out a notecard with this blog post on it as a small gift to anyone who decides to surprise me when I’m in my own private world? Or perhaps, I should just grin and bear it and accept that this is what social media is all about, and I’m really just a square peg in a virtual round hole?

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

 

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Yesterday in Sweden

fakeSpeaking of things that never happened, it’s remarkable how quickly facts can get twisted and distorted in SL, and result in an account of events and occurrences that simply never happened in quite the way that gets recounted.

Official messages from Linden Lab get completely twisted and given entirely new meanings; rumours and surmisings get presented as hard facts; and inevitably, just as in RL, the passing on of information suffers from ‘Chinese whisper’ syndrome, and by the time any message reaches you, it bears little resemblance to it’s original content.

A friend who falls to log in for a couple of days may return to find their nearest and dearest mourning their untimely demise, blogging about what a wonderful person they were, and fighting over who gets to purchase their prime piece of corner plot once the rent runs out.

Any official announcement about anything by the Lab: Planned or unplanned maintenance, new features, changes to any aspect of SL, anything at all really, will invariably be misinterpreted as unequivocal evidence that SL is at an end and about to be thrown into the skip outside the back door of the Lab and taken away to the city dump, carnage16_001never to be seen again. The degree of misinformation to be found surrounding such announcements is such that should the Lab ever actually announce the demise of SL, the rumour mill will almost certainly interpret it as a proclamation that the virtual world is here to stay forever!

It’s not just fake, or misinformed news that proliferates in and around SL: The ease with which it is possible to misread, misinterpret or mistype conversation can lead to a wealth of misunderstanding and confusion, some of which can lead to considerable hilarity and mirth. At other times, misreported accounts of inworld happenings can result in fallings-out, upset, and a complete break down in communication between friends, turning them into enemies simply because of a simple typing error.

I suppose that SL is no different to the real world inasmuch that if something feels wrong, it quite possibly is, and if we really want to get our facts right, it always pays to check them out thoroughly before passing them on to others or relying upon them to be accurate ourselves. It makes a whole lot of sense and can avoid a huge amount of grief and unnecessary angst. At the very least, a quick sanity check can mean the difference between keeping our mouths safely and discretely shut, or making a complete and utter fool of ourselves in public by presenting something that is clearly a load of twaddle, as gospel truth.

Nuff said.

s. x

Save some face, you know you’ve only got one
Change your ways while you’re young
Boy, one day you’ll be a man
Oh girl, he’ll help you understand
The Killers – Smile Like You Mean It

Posted in Philosophicalisticality, Rants, RL, SL | 2 Comments

Artisan?

artisan-coffee-suppliersI’m writing this, whilst sitting in a bar/coffee shop, indulging in a slice of cake and working my way through a cup of coffee. It’s not just any coffee however, it is – apparently – ‘artisan’ coffee, a description that I seem to come across more and more frequently these days, although I’m not altogether entirely sure just what the term is supposed to imply.

The coffee is fine – I’ve had far worse, and I’ve also enjoyed better, however whether it merits the description ‘artisanal’ is something I have to question. I’ve no doubt that there is a degree of skill required to grow, process, roast and blend good quality coffee; neither would I dispute there is a degree of expertise to brewing a decent cup, but could it really be described as an art form, and do those who are involved in the process really deserve to be called artists? If feels wrong to me, since the proliferation of such artisan purveyors in the average high street is such that there must be an almost unlimited supply of creative, uniquely talented baristas all desperately seeking employment around every street corner!

The establishment I’m in also boasts ‘craft’ beer, although judging from the branded beer taps and well known international conglomerates from which those beverages originate, I have to question their provenance in terms of craftsmanship.

It is, of course, very much a marketing tool, and although there are certainly proper artisan creators of coffees of distinction, along with micro-breweries producing beers developed through craftsmanship and skill, I’m afraid that the majority of those establishments boasting artisan credentials do so only to appeal to that part of our nature that craves that certain something that makes us feel just a little bit special – the ego boost that elevates us above the humdrum and everyday.

It’s a technique that inworld merchants in SL have employed for ages, both as a marketing tool and an encouragement to stay loyal to their brand. I remember my early days in the virtual world and seeing other avatars sporting group tags that proclaimed them ‘VIPs’, ‘officers’ and similar and wondering just what one had to do in order to achieve such an accolade. It didn’t take me long to find out that such status was never earned, but was usually afforded by the simple expedient of joining a group – ostensibly for the benefits promised: Promotional gifts, exclusive offers, discounts and the like, but also the accompanying direct line allowing the easy dissemination of targeted marketing messages and a means for vendors to communicate simply and conveniently with customers. Not to mention the clever exploiting of group members to provide free advertising and recruitment services through those same group tags that so intrigued me as a noob.

lg6_001The allure of being distinctive and special, whether ‘craft’, ‘artisan’ or ‘VIP’ is undeniably strong. Indeed, in SL even the group thing can be taken one step further – some stores have cottoned on to the fact that we’ll even pay to gain VIP status… Yes, rather than having a standard group tag like the majority of our fellow store enthusiasts, by forking out our hard earned lindens, we can proudly become a ‘Privileged VIP’ or whatever elevated status is promised to lift ourselves even above that enjoyed by the lesser privileged masses.

Well, if that’s your thing, I won’t stop you – but let’s not have it cloud our judgement and fool us into believing that things are not necessarily special simply by virtue of somebody with a vested interest saying that they are. Good taste, a smattering of perspective and a healthy degree of cynicism are excellent tools when it comes to evaluating the true worth of the world that we live in.

Maybe the same might be true of people too?

s. x

I want you to notice
When I’m not around
You’re so very special
I wish I was special
Postmodern Jukebox ft. Haley Reinhart – Creep

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Home and Away

hotelToday, I’ll wake up in one town, work all day in another, and go to bed in yet another. In fact that’s pretty much going to be the pattern for the next three weeks. It’s going to be a pretty punishing schedule, and even when you’re used to it, you can become pretty disorientated.

It’s reassuring to think that amid the chaos and upheaval, there are ways and means of achieving some sort of normality and the one of logical assumptions is that SL should be an excellent method for doing so. I’ve written in the past about the stability that SL can give to those for whom RL is uncertain or in a state of flux, and how ‘home’ inworld can be more permanent than home in the real world, providing a sanctuary of stability and constancy that life outside the virtual environment may not. However, the more fragmented and disjointed RL becomes, the less easy I find connecting – in every sense – with SL can be.

Take the example of going on holiday, or maybe moving home – these situations are invariably going to be disruptive to your everyday SL activities. You may not have access to the Internet, and if you do, the connection may not be as stable as you’re used to. However, such circumstances last only a finite amount of time, and usually – once you’ve found a solution – things aren’t so bad, because you tend to stay put for the duration of your absence.

Not so when, like me, you find yourself moving from location to location, perhaps several times a day. It’s when you find yourself in this position that you suddenly realise that there are a number of prerequisites that need to be in place if you’re going to have any success with SL at all. There are three obvious considerations, such as having equipment that’s up to the job, and a decent internet connection, but there are a whole host of other points to consider that in any other situation we’re hardly aware of, yet when they’re somewhat outside our control they can contrive to keep us out of the virtual world, despite our best efforts. They are invariably simple obstacles, yet extremely irritating in their effectiveness at denying us access to SL.

Never, for example, underestimate the importance of a comfy chair in which to while away the hours inworld. Whilst this may seem a simple problem to solve, it can be more problematic than you might think. The typical hotel room chair, for example, was never designed to accommodate the seated human form. Their principle purpose in life is to promote discomfort, brilliantly accentuated when combined with a table or desk that was never designed to be used as a work surface. Abnormally high chair arms and an abnormally low chair back effectively rule out resting any device on one’s lap, not that you can bear to sit for long anyway, considering the solid concrete cushion designed to be perfectly out of proportion to any size or shape remotely human in form.

goodnight1_001Why not use the bed? I hear you, quite reasonably suggest. That’s simple – there is no known way to sit, lounge or otherwise adopt any means of repose in or on a hotel bed. They are designed for sleeping, and nothing else. Besides which, if you do manage to find a bed that you can feel fairly comfortable with, it will be in the only spot in the room that has no WiFi coverage and will be located in the one position where it is simply impossible to plug into a power outlet.

Speaking of power outlets, all hotels work to the same rule – always ensure there are at least two sockets fewer than anyone is ever likely to need. Consequently you have to unplug your device every time you want to boil the kettle to make a cuppa, then forget to plug it back in… That is, until your battery goes completely flat! All assuming that your room is equipped with proper plugs in the first place and not cables that disappear mysteriously into oddly shaped plastic boxes embedded in the wall!

Even the most innocuous, yet essential activities can interfere with that seemingly simple task of logging in and spending time inworld. We all have to eat, and generally that’s not a problem; it gets a little more challenging however when to do so means heading out into an unfamiliar town to hunt down somewhere decent to eat, then spending far longer than we would normally would on the simple process of eating. It means that by the time you get back to your room – only to find your battery is flat because you forgot to plug it back in after your last brew up – it’s all just a bit too much. And, if you’re away with colleagues, all that ‘networking’ in the bar tends to lead to much the same result. Actually finding sufficient time to log in can be a real problem.

It seems to me that home comforts and SL go hand in hand. It’s all very well and good having an Internet connection, a decent device to log on with, and all the good will in the world, but there are certain key essentials without which it’s actually pretty difficult to engage successfully with the virtual world with any regularity. You can try, but your mileage may vary.

At the end of the day, it can be quite a relief to head back home, unpack the suitcase, put the kettle on (without any need to unplug anything else), and log in to enjoy some quality time with my SL friends, without the hassle that being away from home can bring.

s. x

Mirrors on the ceiling
The pink champagne on ice
And she said, ‘we are all just prisoners here, of our own device
The Eagles – Hotel California

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Where am I?

whereMany, many years ago I was involved in an unfortunate incident which led to me doing something that I thought only happened in movies. I was in a radio studio during a live broadcast and the atmosphere was hot, humid and stuffy – not something I tolerate particularly well. I started feeling distinctly queasy and light-headed, along with the telltale aura of an incoming migraine. What happened next, I’m told, was that I passed out quite spectacularly, right across the DJ and decks, completely disrupting the broadcast and breaking my nose in the process.

I came round shortly after, having been carried out the studio and accompanying mayhem, and the next thing I remember is coming around to find myself lying on a couch whereupon I uttered the classic line: “Where am I?” – I really didn’t think that anyone in real life ever actually said that when regaining consciousness, but obviously I was wrong!

Throughout my life that phrase, ‘where am I’, is one that has featured frequently. It’s a question I’ve pondered at various times and in various ways, for example, when considering where I’ve arrived on life’s journey and what options and decisions I have to make when deciding on the way forward for the future. However, far more frequently, it’s a phrase that gets plenty of use when travelling and I haven’t a clue of my whereabouts and location. I am ace at getting lost! For years I’ve tried to fool myself that I can find my way around anywhere, but the truth is that I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve become hopelessly lost, whether on foot or in the car.

That isn’t to say that I’m no good at using maps or other aides, it’s just that sometimes such things are just not enough to get me out of trouble – if indeed I use them at all, since I have an unswerving, but utterly misguided belief in my ability to navigate my way around anywhere, no matter how unfamiliar the location. My favourite trick is to turn right when I should be turning left, or head north when I should be going south, which even with modern technology is incredibly easy to do. There is, for example, the occasion I was unable to work out which direction I should head when leaving Manchester Piccadilly station, so I plumped for the way they seemed most likely – two hours of tramping around later, despite having Google maps at my fingertips, I was still nowhere near finding my destination, as well as being completely bewildered and having lost all sense of direction. It didn’t help when I found out that if I’d turned the other way out of the station, turned left and walked up the hill, I’d have reached my intended goal in about three minutes!

More terrifying was getting hopelessly lost in the souks of Fes, which saw me literally going around in circles, much to the amusement of the jeering locals, who I swear were laying bets on how many times I was going to pass the same spot, and in which direction!

Yet I have no such difficulty in SL. Inworld I rely extensively on the world map and mini map for guidance advice and direction and have no trouble at all. If I’ve visited a sim once, I can unerringly find my way around it again, even if my next visit isn’t until months later, and on the mainland, I can even work out my relative position and navigate without assistance simply from knowing the name of the particular land parcel I’m on. Why this should be, when I’m so hopeless at getting about in the real world, I don’t know.

here_001You have to question the efficacy of SL’s world map anyway. Back in the days when you could walk the entire length of a virtual continent in a matter of minutes, a map was probably an unnecessary luxury. Then, as the Grid grew, having a global atlas became something of a necessity. Now, the virtual world is so dispersed, with the bulk of the space occupied by unconnected private islands, the map has become far less useful. There is simply too much land mass, spread across too many locations to gain a useful overview of anywhere – if you’re looking for something specific, you’d spend a better chance of finding a very small needle in a very large haystack – you may as well randomly TP to any old location and take pot luck.

Once you’re on the ground, you’re not much better off. The mainland is so sparsely populated these days, there are few landmarks of any real consequence we can use as way points; on the other hand, most private sims are so small no map is required, you can see pretty much everything just by standing in one spot.

SL does have one huge advantage over the real world however: It doesn’t matter where in the Grid you are, or how lost and disoriented you might be, because with the simple click of the mouse you can be home in an instant.

If only it was that simple in the real world!

s. x

Strange little girl, where are you going?
Strange little girl, where are you going?
Do you know where you could be going?
The Stranglers – Strange Little Girl

Posted in Rants, RL, SL, Tour Guide | Leave a comment

Mistaken Identity

identityOne of those things I’ve always vowed never to do is meet anyone from SL in the flesh – for me one of the most attractive features of living in a virtual world is the way in which you can choose for it to be entirely removed and distinct from reality. I can be whoever I wish, and do whatever I want, in whatever context I desire whilst inworld; that does not in itself convey any need or wish for my virtual existence to be in any way connected with the real me. If I choose to share something of my virtual life with someone in the real world, (a situation that has not yet occurred), I will do so, but it will be on my terms and only to the extent to which I feel entirely comfortable. Similarly, if I choose to disclose elements of my real life to those I know from the virtual community, it will be on the same terms, and there are a number of things that will always remain strictly private, confidential and none of your business.

Not everyone feels the same way, but each to their own, and whatever works for you is fine.

When it comes to my virtual friends and acquaintances, I’m afraid this produces an unequal equation: Many of those I know inworld have no problem with sharing information and details about their real lives that I, for one, will never share about myself, except with a very favoured few. There are those who, if I was to run into them in the street, I would instantly recognise: I know roughly where they live and I know what they look like and sound like in the real world. They, on the other hand, could walk past me and never know they’d encountered Serendipidy Haven, unless they are one of the handful with whom I have shared my photo and voice – and even then, it’s such a rare occurrence, I might still pass by unnoticed.

I’m pretty certain however that those of you who do associate with me inworld, or even through the pages of this blog, have some sort of mental picture of the real me, and in some cases that may well be a fairly accurate one. However, I discovered only recently that imagination and reality can be worlds apart when it comes to the facts, with amusing results.

I shall paraphrase the recent exchange that took place between an inworld friend and myself over the course of a few days:

Friend: Who’s that girl pictured on your blog then?
Me: Huh? What girl… What picture?
Friend: That girl. It’s you, isn’t it?
Me: I don’t think so!
Friend: I think it is!
Me: I don’t even know what picture you mean, but I know it’s not me!
Friend: I’m sure it is. I worked it out.
Me: OK – I’m intrigued now – send me a screenshot of the picture.
Friend has offered you inventory
Me: Erm, that’s definitely not me.
Friend: Bet it is.
Me: Nope… That’s Scarlett Johansson!

They were very disappointed; I was very flattered!

litNo doubt, the friend in question will wish to beat me to a pulp when they read this – but I certainly wouldn’t wish to humiliate them over such a sweet mistake, so they shall remain completely anonymous and if anyone asks me who it was, my lips will remain tightly sealed.

It’s weird how our minds, when presented with only the bare minimum of information, will still nevertheless, try to fabricate a coherent picture from what is available, and will latch on to any strand of detail that comes their way, no matter how tenuous it may be. Throw in some intelligent guesswork, a bit of luck and you may – Nutrimatic fashion – end up with something that is almost, but not quite, entirely unlike me!

This is probably a good thing, since:

a) You will be spared the true horror of experiencing the true reality of me;
b) I will be spared the true horror of ever being recognised in RL by you;
c) I am more than happy to be mistaken for Scarlett Johansson.

There is a further aspect to this whole anonymity thing that also merits exploration – some people in SL really do appreciate the anonymity the virtual world provides, for the simple reason that they actually do wish to remain anonymous and experience things as a normal, everyday person. What if – and you have absolutely no way of knowing the real facts here – what if, in real life, I really am Scarlett Johansson? Surprise!

The problem with being famous is that it’s very difficult to escape to normality – the moment anyone suspects you might be a celebrity, they’re all over you asking for your autograph, taking photos, bragging to their friends about meeting you and generally meaning you never have the opportunity to have fun and do all the things that normal people get to do. It’s bad enough not being able to pop down the shops for a loaf of bread without the paparazzi hounding you, or being unable to leave the house without a disguise, but if you can’t even escape to a virtual world and experience some semblance of normality, then fame can be a real bind. So we may never know when the rich and famous are amongst us in SL – our best friend may be a superstar, and we’d never know it!

scarlett. x

Fame, (fame) what you like is in the limo
Fame, (fame) what you get is no tomorrow
Fame, (fame) what you need you have to borrow Fame
Fame, (fame) it’s mine, it’s mine, it’s just his line
To bind your time, it drives you to crime (fame)
David Bowie – Fame

Posted in Philosophicalisticality, RL, SL, SLilverscreen | 3 Comments

Pew-pew, pew-pew-pew!

hotshotI’m not a fan of shoot-em-ups, give me a puzzle to solve or an adventure to navigate my way through, and I’m happy. Put me at the wheel in a driving game and you’ll put a smile on my face, but introduce any sort of combat into the mix and I’ll rapidly lose any interest I may have had.

I think, to some degree, I lack some of the essential motor skills that running around with a gun, targeting and despatching opponents, whilst all the time saving my own skin demand. Even when such things aren’t the major element to any particular game, the need to resort to them even incidentally can kill the moment for me. One of my favourite games ever was Tombraider – I loved it, and would play for hours, right up to the point when some bad guy would heave onto the scene and I was required to blast them to kingdom come in order to progress further. I’d give it my best shot, but it usually ended in frustration and that sighing exclamation, “aaahhhh”, as Lara once more bit the pixellated dust. Knowing that I’d have to restart and face the same scenario all over again, and again, and again, really did little to keep my interest, and I swear I’d have completed every level a darn sight sooner if it wasn’t for the fact I was being killed every few minutes!

In fact, you have to go back a very long time to find a combat game I’ve ever enjoyed – and indeed, managed to become somewhat addicted too… It was the original arcade version of Star Wars. And I can still remember the calming voice of Obi Wan in my ears – “Use the force, Luke” – as I thundered, lasers blazing, down that narrow exhaust shaft on the Deathstar, then pulling out at that last second to spiral off into space and witness the fruits of my labours: The explosive annihilation of that dark symbol of the Empire’s might! Happy days.

laser_001I’m not sure if it’s some dim memory of those halcyon days subliminally influencing me, or perhaps it’s a spell of temporary madness that has befallen me, but I’ve only gone and created the last thing inworld that I’d ever imagined I would – a laser combat zone!

It’s a complete diversion from anything I’ve set up before – a gritty urban area, complete with abandoned buildings on several levels, lots of nooks and crannies to secrete yourself and blast your companions, and – despite my complete ineptitude when it comes to such things – it turns out that not only am I actually a bit of a natural born zapper, but I thoroughly enjoy myself whilst I’m at it, contrary to all my expectations.

laser_004Maybe you fancy yourself a virtual Buck Rogers too? Or perhaps you’re something of a sharpshooter yourself? Well, here’s your chance to prove it… You can find the portal to my laser combat zone at Marmalade Skies: Take the yellow train – but hold on tight, the ride is heart-stopping and if you fall out, it’s a long way down. On arrival at the combat zone, click the base station in front of you for your kit and instructions. Then run, hide and blast your friends and companions back to their constituent pixels!

It’s fun. Honest!

Would I lie to you? (Be careful how you answer… I’m armed!)

laser_005

s. x

I’m gonna take you down – down, down, down
So don’t you fool around
I’m gonna pull it, pull it, pull the trigger
AC/DC – Shoot To Thrill

Posted in Builder's bum, RL, SL, Tour Guide | 1 Comment

You know you’re a geek when…

geekTo be a geek is something of a badge of honour these days. It used to be the case that to be categorised in that way was something of a slur, bringing into question your social abilities, stature and ability to connect on any level with anyone other than a fellow geek.

That’s no longer the case: It’s almost the case that geekism is now trendy and hip and there’s an almost grudging admiration from those who firmly fit into the non-geek category for their bespectacled, awkward, pale-skinned compadres. It’s a cross between wanting to tickle them under the chin and say “aww, aren’t they cute”, and the nagging realisation that your average geek probably possesses the knowledge and means to hack into the Pentagon and direct a pre-emptive nuclear strike, directed at you personally, whilst simultaneously whupping your butt at World of Warcraft!

I accepted long ago that I’m of the geekoid persuasion – it’s never really worried me that much, but I’d does have its irritations. There are few things more annoying than having to endure the wafflings of a know-it-all who patently, to the trained mind, actually knows nothing at all and is spouting a load of nonsense. Then there’s the lack of opportunity to ever have a full-on, in-depth geek discussion on a level that meets that deep-seated desire to know and explore all that is knowable.

arkham6_001SL to the rescue! Our virtual world is a geek’s paradise, not only does it provide us with ample opportunity to dive into the nitty-gritty of truly geekolastic topics as 3D rendering, optimal computer settings, baud rates and multi-threading, but it is stuffed to the gills with other geeks who enjoy nothing better than getting deeply embroiled in endless conversations and debates about everything from non-Newtonian fluids to quotes from the director’s cut of fabulously obscure moves from the 80s that were only ever released as showreels on U-matic video! No to mention that you can do all this whilst dressed as Batman, wearing a t-shirt emblazoned with the word ‘Bazinga!’, and surrounded by posters making obscure references to girls in red dresses, black cats and the phrase “I know Kung Fu”.

It’s the perfect environment for me, and best of all, SL gives me an opportunity to use some of that seemingly useless knowledge in a productive way. I’ve lost count of the number of times that somebody has asked “Does anyone know how I can…” and I’ve found myself jumping in, almost without thinking: “Preferences > graphics > general > maximum complexity slider to max”, or spending ten minutes in IM with somebody to diagnose and fix a problem that they just haven’t been able to sort out themselves. In SL, geek really is cool, especially when it means you can make someone’s day by pointing them in the direction of a hidden debug setting, or digging them out of an ever deepening technical hole.

screenshot_2017-01-03-20-58-58However, it is possible to be a little too geeky. I realised that this week when one of those annoying and intrusive ads popped up on my phone. We’ve all had them… Invitations to download the latest game, sign up to Amazon Prime or check out the latest cut price lingerie collection, but I finally realised I’d taken geekism to a whole new level when the this particular advertisement demanded my attention… I mean, how many people, in all honesty get targeted adverts trying to sell them oscilloscopes?

I’m rather proud of it, actually!

s. x

hacking on computers disassembling stuff
paid off in the end now who got it rough
the beauty of the baud and the world of the switch
make a new generation of us geekstas rich
YTCracker – Meganerd

 

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

Previously…

repeatThere’s an annoying trend that I’ve started to notice more and more frequently in Brit TV programmes. It’s something that our compatriots in the States have known as part of their televisual entertainment, possibly since the old gogglebox first found its way into households, here in the UK however we seem to have mostly resisted this particular annoyance, but just lately it’s started to creep into our programming.

What am I talking about? The seemingly essential recap of what’s happened previously, before we can settle down to enjoy our programme, that’s what!

I can appreciate the need to recap at the beginning of a new season – we can’t be expected to recall with crystal clarity the events of the previous episodes after a gap of many weeks, but I’m less tolerant of the reminder that’s slotted in to the beginning of the latest instalment solely to remind me of what I watched only a week previously. It strikes me as something of a nonsense to add this needless segment, particularly since they tend to get attached to the sort of epic long-running sagas that almost every viewer will almost certainly be up to speed with – and if they do happen to miss an episode, there’s every chance they’ll have taken the opportunity to catch up before tuning in for the next gripping instalment! Do we really need to be reminded about something we already know in these situations before we can see what happens next?

Far worse, however – and utterly pointless – are the completely unnecessary rehearsing of what happened ‘before the break’, where the viewer is subjected to a rehashing of the last 30 minutes of programme, being forced to relive what they’ve already watched in some ghastly Groundhog Day moment every single time the programme returns after an ad break. What on earth is that about? Has the demographic for television audiences suddenly started to be dominated by goldfish? Do these people seriously think that our memory spans are so short that in the space of two insurance commercials, a fishfinger advertisement, a reminder of the latest DFS sale and a heart-wrenching appeal for some worthy cause, we are going to forget what happened in the last 15 minutes of programme we watched? Worse still, do these idiots think their viewers are so dim that they’re not going to notice the cynical recycling of clips that reduces the amount of work that production teams have to do by at least a third, rather than making decent programming that fills the whole slot for which it’s intended?

Or perhaps I’m the one who’s being cynical? Perhaps this is a necessary evil hallmarking the advent of the soundbite generation… A world full of people for whom anything longer than a six-second Vine or 140 character tweet is simply too much for the capacity of their attention spell?

Somehow, I think not – because if that were the case, we’d have to apply the same principles to everything in life, and that simply doesn’t work:

Can you imagine if every post I wrote was preceded by a 300 word recap of the previous blog post? There’s simply no way you’d put up with such nonsense. Or imagine every time you logged in to SL, spending your first 15 minutes catching up on all the salient points of your previous session? Maybe it would go something like this…

‘Welcome back Serendipidy Haven! Before the break, you’d spent the night dancing away to an eclectic mix of music at the local pub with some friends: Albert, Orinoco126, Betty and Fairypoop. You played guitar – rather badly, I’m afraid. The conversation mainly covered such diverse topics as cheese; life, the universe and everything; the cost of light bulbs and hardcore pornography… blah, blah, blah

And so on for another three notecards, followed by 20 screen caps of the key moments and a short video of the best bits, and all before you have the opportunity to get dressed and check your alphas aren’t showing or even get started on anything that you’d logged in to do. It just wouldn’t work – yet, how many of us, without the option of fast fowarding to the new stuff, would simply put up and shut up?guitar_001

I do fear for the state of the human race when it seems that those very things that are supposed to stimulate and excite us are also the very things that are being dumbed-down, cut short and reduced to mere repetition of what has gone before. What place does creativity and innovation have in such a world? A world of smart technology, but dumb humans? It’s only a matter of time – if such trends continue – that our whole lives are reduced to a retweeted meme of a recap of a recap of a recap of a recap…

If that should ever happen, you’ll find me in SL: And don’t expect me to bring you up to speed when you join me!

s. x

If I go on
With you by my side
Can it be
The way it was
When we met
Did you forget all about those golden nights?
(The way it was)
The Killers – The Way It Was

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