Tipple of choice

Home_Ethiopia_Incoming_CoffeeCoffee… Nectar of the gods!  Anyone who really knows me will also know that coffee is my only vice (well, maybe not my only one, but who’s keeping score?)

Although, I’m not one of those people addicted to the magical cherry in such a way that it’s just a routine habit – it’s not the caffeine fix that floats my boat, and you certainly won’t find me loitering outside Starbucks to grab my daily dose, served up in a corporate paper cup – in fact I can think of few things worse – neither will I get through a dozen cups a day simply because I need it. My particular weakness is for very good, home-ground wherever possible, artisan coffee – black and strong – I do appreciate a really good coffee in the morning and without that small blessing, the day can seem that much longer.

starfucks_001Yesterday morning was not a good one… Up far too early to think, let alone brew up, it was around an hour later on the train that the coffee monster struck. It was going to be a long and challenging day, and the only thing that was going to kick start me was coffee. When the coffee monster wants to have his way, there’s no arguing, even though it meant sinking to the depths of something brown, unrecognisable and wet from the buffet car.

“What do you mean there’s no coffee?”

Apparently, the machine was cleaning itself – an explanation that instantly gave me the mental image of a cat licking its butt – it would be ten minutes at least before it was done, and I’d probably be better off waiting until we arrived at Swansea. After disembowelling the ‘steward’ with one of those plasticky things with holes in that you’re expected to stir your beverage with, (because no-one on the railways understands the concept of spoons), I calmly returned to my seat clasping a cup of hot water, in which dangled a small paper bag of something almost, but not quite, entirely unlike tea. Not a good omen for the day ahead.

rainy10_001Much, much later, after returning home and helping myself to a large, and purely medicinal dose of chocolate, (my only vice), I caught up on the day’s blog activity, where a glance at my referrals’ stats caused me to pause. Amongst all the usual suspects that refer traffic to the blog – Google, fellow bloggists, and such like – was a bizarre interloper: A whisky review site. Curious as to why on earth I should be getting hits from something so unrelated to SL, I investigated further.

It turns out that one of my posts from last year, in which I’d included a link to that site, had decided to add a pingback in the comments section to their post and I was getting a steady stream of bemused bourbon drinkers directed here as a result. If you are one of those unfortunate and bemused cyber tourists, I do apologise – this is probably not what you were expecting!  Alternatively, I may have inadvertently succeeded in recruiting a whole swathe of whiskey swilling enthusiasts into SL!

chic1_001Would that be a bad thing?  Probably not: In that earlier post, I’d discussed that heady mix of alcohol and virtual reality and concluded that, rightly or wrongly, it’s part and parcel of virtual living. I know people in SL at both ends of the spectrum, from teetotal to drunken bum, and everything in between. I myself enjoy a glass or two of decent wine whilst SLocialising on a Friday night, (my only vice), and I offer no opinion either way – it’s your life after all. However I have to say that most evenings you’re far more likely to find me diving (not literally) into a mug of really good tea, rather than anything stronger: always proper leaf, preferably an Assam TGFOP, and carefully brewed to perfection, (my only vice).

No matter what I might be doing inworld, I’m pretty much guaranteed to have a drink of some description at my side, if nothing else, it gives an excuse to occasionally sit back in my chair, and contemplatively dangle my lips in something whilst I ponder the mysteries and big questions of virtual living… What’s it all for?; Who is Governor Linden?; Why can’t I get a hat that my hair doesn’t poke through? – It’s liquid therapy for a virtual philosopher.

Plus, it adds another layer of enjoyment to messing about in SL, and why shouldn’t I enjoy it… After all, it’s my only vice

wasted_001

s. x

One more cup of coffee for the road
One more cup of coffee ‘fore I go
To the valley below.
The White Stripes – One More Cup Of Coffee

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

In the Prime of SLife

blade-runner-la-2019There are some places in SL that I find myself naturally drawn to. If I was to tell you that in the real world, my favourite movie of all time is probably Bladerunner, then you can surmise the sort of inworld sims that really get my heart pumping, and in which I can happily spend many, many hours simply exploring and losing myself in the illusion of it all.

There are a number of such places in SL – Hangars Liquides, Toxian City, InSilico, The Offworld Colonies; all of which tick all the right boxes, but there is one sim, the great-granddaddy of them all, that has sadly and maddeningly now passed into oblivion: Nexus Prime, (not to be confused, please, with the Transformer of the same name!)

Doomed Ship

Doomed Ship

Nexus Prime was old, even by SL standards – this dark, brooding city of futuristic tower blocks, underground tunnels and neon roadways, conceived in early 2003, stood within sight of the Welcome Area at Bonifacio – an imposing demonstration of the creativity of SL residents and the strength of the community that built it. Not forgetting the sneaky reference to Bladerunner encapsulated in the group under which the city was founded – Tyrrel Corporation. Over the years, the city survived a number of changes and iterations, yet continued to thrive; until recently, without ceremony, it appears to have vanished off the Grid for good – not altogether sure what’s happened to the city itself, but it seems to have been subsumed into the Doomed Ship – if anyone knows more, please enlighten me! To me, this is a terribly sad and untimely end to a great venture, and SL is the lesser for it. This, of course is a story we have become used to in the virtual world, sims come and go – even the very best of them – and often all that remains is memories and images, too little, too late.

nexusprime_001

Nexus Prime – in its prime!

Nexus Prime may not, in all honesty, have been the best of its kind, but it was certainly the oldest and the most interesting. It was, of course, a haven for roleplayers, and even for someone like me, for whom roleplay is one of those mysteries that I doubt I’ll ever really understand, I can certainly appreciate the attraction that these places hold for those who wish to indulge in such things. Surely an environment that works hard to create an atmosphere and surroundings that indulge roleplay can only serve to enhance it, and places like Nexus Prime and those in a similar vein do so incredibly well.

And SL is brilliantly suited to creating environments of this type – given enough imagination and and eye for detail, the fantastical is only a matter of turning that which is imagined into virtual reality. The normal rules don’t apply, and the imagined futures spawned in the mind can take real shape, colour and form when exposed to the creative environment of SL. You can build your dreams – or even your nightmares – inworld, and provided you have the inclination, time and space, there’s absolutely no reason why you shouldn’t.

And I have!

I’ll grant you, my effort is no Nexus Prime, neither can it hold a candle to any of the amazing futuristic dystopias that are scattered across SL, but it’s my own personal tribute to to a special place that is no more, and although it’s tiny in comparison, and bears little resemblance to it’s seminal forebear, I’d like to think that it captures the spirit of the place, even if it’s not anything like the real thing! Why not come along and explore Cyberhaven, and see if you can find the ancient SL relic that lies at the city’s heart?

cyberhaven_001

 

After all, isn’t that one of the things that SL should be all about – capturing our own individual take on those things that inspire us, and thus ensuring a constant and evolving virtual experience that is always building on what has gone before.

Ultimately – (dare i say it?) – all of these things be lost in time, like tears in rain! But as long as their memory is preserved, somehow, then nothing surely is lost permanently?

At least, that’s what I hope.

s. x

The light that burns twice as bright burns half as long
(Tyrell: Bladerunner)

Posted in Builder's bum, SL, SLarcheology, Tour Guide | Leave a comment

Computer says ‘what?’

writeTechnology isn’t always everything it’s made out to be. Coming from me, that might be a somewhat surprising statement, since you know I’m quite the geek, and my RL job is currently entirely focused on implementing new technologies to replace paper, share resources and remove manual processes.

All of which is somewhat ironic, considering that only this morning I found myself lamenting the fact that in my own life the digital world has almost entirely supplanted a number of activities that used to be perfectly well served using good, old fashioned methods.

Not so long ago, the bulk of my ‘offline’ writing – that is everything penned in circumstances where I had no access to my computer – were written down, employing the time-honoured method of pen and notebook. This was an ideal solution for those occasions when I had a long train journey to fill, wanted to scribble a few words down on the go, or when inspiration struck in places where any other methods just weren’t practical. It was also handy for capturing those ad hoc notes that might, one day, be turned into something more substantial.

It was a perfectly good system that was unlikely to fail, barring the ultimate worst case scenario of losing my notebook or the somewhat lesser issues of being bereft of writing instruments or sufficient blank pages. It also had the benefit of preserving a permanent record of what was written, ready to be recalled by the simple expedient of thumbing through the worn pages.

Even so, to my mind, it wasn’t perfect. Anyone who’s ever attempted to read my handwriting will instantly appreciate one glaringly obvious drawback, however the real sticking point for me was the tedious matter of typing up my notes… There’s nothing like having to write the same piece out again, twice in the space of a few hours.

These days I’ve gone hi-tech:

If I have WiFi and my laptop to hand, blogging is a doddle, but for those occasions when offline is the only option, or I’m on the move, I resort to capturing notes on my phone, to be pushed, emailed or uploaded later to my PC when it’s more convenient. It’s great and it suits a technophile like myself down to the ground. However, like paper, digital has its downside.

miller_001Let’s start with the idiot who designed a drop down menu in which the ‘send’ and ‘discard’ options appear adjacent to one another, and then failed to add the all-important ‘are you sure’ dialogue when you mistakenly tap the wrong one? Then there’s the super-sensitive predictive swipe keyboard that can’t distinguish the movement of a sliding finger from the jittery movements of a railway carriage in motion. And let’s not forget the utterly unpredictable nature of where all this remarkable technology chooses to deposit the results of my labours… Is it there, waiting for me in my unread mail, or has it been arbitrarily shunted into the junk? Is it lurking somewhere in my browser, stuck in the ether mid-flight, or have I been sold an illusion and it never left my phone in the first place? For these reasons, particularly with a post that I’ve been unable to complete in one sitting, it’s not unknown for me to have several drafts of the same piece – all different – deposited in a number different virtual locations, none of them being the final version that I know I’ve definitely finished, (maybe).

Worst of all is that moment, sitting down at home, about to make the finishing touches to my latest opus, only to find when I open it, I only have the first draft consisting of three paragraphs and ending on a half finished sentence. Frantically, I check my ‘phone… No joy; email… Nothing; backup and pending folders… Nope. With a heavy heart I try to recall my original text – the witty observations, clever musings and pithy comments, but to no avail. It’s back to the drawing board and the hard slog of resurrecting a half-finished, half-hearted post. It’s around about the final paragraph that I slope off to the kitchen to grab a cuppa, saving my work before I leave the room, of course. Returning to the task in hand, refreshed and rejuvenated, I cast my eye down the list of recent drafts… and there, impossibly, I suddenly spy the same post, from two weeks earlier – complete, finished and queued for publication! Yes folks, I’ve just re-written a post that I’d already finished – so much for doing it digitally doing away with writing out a post twice!

Whereas, in the past I’d have finished a piece in my trusty notebook with a flourish and a simple line through the page once transcribed, the digital age doesn’t afford me that simple, yet effective, facility – and that is why, I’m seriously thinking of returning to notebook and pen, if only for sanity’s sake!

s. x

I’m workin’ on my rewrite, that’s right
Gonna change the ending
Throw away the title
Toss it in the trash
Paul Simon – Rewrite

Posted in Rants, RL | Leave a comment

Dressed to impress

dressThere’s a girl I see occasionally at the railway station whom I’ve always had a sneaking admiration for. She has her own very individual and pretty unique style, and is always immaculately turned out. If I had to describe her, I’d have to say it was a hybrid of 1940s vintage chic and muted neo-gothic, and boy does she get it right.

This morning, it was a tasteful flowery button-front tea dress, black seamed fishnets, hair net and feathered fascinator, strapped leather booties, all rounded off with a miniature coffin handbag; and she looked, as she always does, stunning. Added to that, she has an easy elegance and poise that effortlessly communicates that she is completely at ease and comfortable with the way she looks.

Compared to the efficient, but bland business suits, ripped knees and t-shirt combos, and tracksuit and trainer brigade, she’s a refreshing and utterly fascinating breath of fresh air, and I only wish I had that same panache and self-confidence to be able to embrace my own style and taste to a similar degree. Unfortunately, I don’t – I tend to fit in with the crowd, in their off the shelf, same as everybody else, conventional, less than distinctive, toeing the line sartorial sameness… But then, most of us tend to, don’t we?

truck3_001As a rule, our day-to-day attire tends to sit squarely in the uninspiring box… It’s all too easy not to make an effort and to stick with the same old tired combinations and outfits, and even when we’re dressing up, we quite often have the same old standbys that we wheel out, party after party, simply because we know we look good in them and they make us feel good, but – in general – the vast majority of the time, we’re either dressing down or staying safe.

To me there are certain words that we singularly fail to achieve for far too much of the time, (and gentlemen, don’t think that you’re excluded either): chic, stylish, refined, classy, knockout, debonair, sensual, unique, character-full… instead, our wardrobes tend to gravitate more towards words like: comfortable, utilitarian, practical, plain, sensible, functional and machine washable – all perfectly reasonable expectations of day to day wear, but awfully dreary.

And yet, it’s an altogether different picture once we slip into SL.

Once inworld, our choice of clothing takes on a whole new range of expressiveness – seemingly without effort they become the one thing that our clothes in the real world so often fail to achieve: Extensions of our personality and character, enhancing our presence and bolstering our self-esteem. Gone are the practical, hardwearing fabrics in muted colours, in favour of frills and frippery in vibrant hues; frumpy and comfortable becomes cool and classy, whilst football jerseys and trackie bottoms are transformed into natty suits, and casually elegant leisure wear. And the thing is, these outfits aren’t reserved just for special occasions. No, this is our everyday attire – fit for shopping, hanging out with friends, industrial scale building projects, and whatever else we fancy getting up to in the virtual world. We’re more than happy to make the effort in SL, when we wouldn’t even consider it in RL.

butterfly2_001I realise, of course, that there are practical considerations to be taken into account when it comes to the real world. Cost, practicality, availability; all come into play and can severely impact upon our ability to allow our clothes to speak for us, but there’s also the ‘C-Word’ – which,  in itself, is so often responsible for dumbing down our world and making life far less interesting and exciting than it deserves to be – Convention!

All too often, it’s convention that dictates what we are ‘allowed’ to wear and – more significantly – how comfortable we are likely to feel in the clothes with which we choose to adorn ourselves. We could really do with a little less convention and a little more invention in the real world, because otherwise we just become faceless, characterless, anonymous drones, whilst the real ‘us’ fights a losing battle to retain some semblance of originality and individuality, but is far too timid to appear to be different.

Which is why I admire my post-war neo-gothic girl at the station… Coffin-shaped handbags and A-line dresses may not be to everyone’s taste, but they’re a damn sight more interesting and characterful than all the other grey, black and bland outfits that surround her.

I just wish I had the courage to give it a go myself!

s. x

Put on that dress.
I’m going out dancing.
Starting off red,
Clean and sparkling
P J Harvey – Dress

Posted in Philosophicalisticality, RL, SL | Leave a comment

Toy Story

barbieIt’s been an interesting time in the toy industry just recently: Action Man has turned fifty, although he doesn’t look a day older to me, whilst Barbie has undergone – some would say well overdue – plastic surgery, and now comes in waif, tiny and chubby versions, along with a variety of skin tones and hairstyles. Then there’s everybody’s favourite, Lego, which has finally succumbed to increasing bullying pressure and released a wheelchair-bound minifig.

Now we can all sleep secure in our beds, knowing that the next generation’s imagination will be tempered from the outset with a healthy dose of political correctness, which of course will ensure that any latent stigmatism and non-inclusivity can be safely channelled against real people, rather than the inanimate playthings we poor souls had to get by with.

Thankfully, we also have SL – one of the last bastions of free thinking, common sense and the underlying understanding that a sense of humour, coupled with honest, open and frank discourse isn’t as evil as the morally righteous brigade would have us believe. And, if things do get a little fraught, we always have recourse to mute, eject and ban – everyone’s a winner!

Coming to think about it, there aren’t that many places left that are as blatantly un-PC as SL, although much of the time we tend to be pretty much oblivious to it. Indeed, we may even fool ourselves into the illusion that we are inclusive, unprejudiced and broad-minded, but unconsciously and completely without recognising it, the huge majority of us are blatantly and obviously advertising to the world in general that, in our heart of hearts, we’re actually pretty much indoctrinated into rather less ‘civilised’ cultural norms.

Take a look at the avatars around you, next time you’re inworld – you might even want to look critically at yourself. How many short, fat, ugly avatars do you see? How many avatars do you see with a physical disability? And, if you’re in the company of your usual compatriots, how many display features other than the majority ethnic group. Just how many of us, given the chance to create a pixel version of ourselves through the magic of SL elect for the Barbie Doll/Action Man look, without even thinking about it? And, of course, SL is practically overflowing with avatars that seek to emulate Michaelangelo’s David or Botticelli’s Venus, all without the slightest regard for realism or accurate representations of the normal human form, and – weirdly – almost all of us at some time have seen fit to bemoan the fact that SL residents are highly unrealistic, idealised and stylised versions of humanity, without even noting the irony that most of us complaining fall into exactly the same category.

'The Vitruvian Avatar' - The Gallery, Nowhere Land

‘The Vitruvian Avatar’ – The Gallery, Nowhere Land

Even those of us who try to approximate something resembling our real selves tend to gloss over the imperfections, and when we choose not to, or – shock, horror – make an active choice to present ourselves ‘warts and all’, it can be painfully obvious that we don’t quite fit in. In RL, for example, I’m 5’9″ and I’ve elected to have a 5’9″ avatar inworld: You’d think I’d committed some sort of heresy! I’ve lost count of the number of times people have told me I’d be better off being ‘normal’ SL height – it seems that my stunted condition can at times be considered objectionable, simply because my avatar fails to come up to the virtual norm. It’s no wonder that many of us choose to simply follow the crowd to become the finely toned, unblemished, perfect specimens of virtuality that is expected by the masses.

There are, of course, exceptions to the rule – many people will choose to stay true to their real world ethnicity when inworld, although I suspect that there are equally as many who choose otherwise, particularly if they spend a significant amount of time amongst peers of a different ethnicity. Then there are those who will decide that they should be themselves inworld, even if to do so means to distinguish their avatar as having a disability – others may choose to be different inworld, for a variety of reasons. However, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if well over 70% of SL residents would balk at the idea of ever adopting a look that was anything less than their own personal or SL-stereotypical version of ‘attractive’.

And I’m not sure what that says about us, or human beings in general.

s. x

She’s a perfect 10, but she wears a 12
Baby keep a little 2 for me
She could be sweet 16, bustin’ out at the seams
It’s still love in the first degree
The Beautiful South – Perfect 10

Posted in Philosophicalisticality, RL, SL | Leave a comment

Picture imperfect

photographerThere’s a controversy raging in the photographic world all over a simple monochrome photograph, taken by one Chay Yu Wei, entitled Look Up!

Mr Wei’s picture was judged so compelling, that it netted him first prize in a Nikon photography competition, winning him a wheely bag for his efforts.

Except, it turns out that Mr Wei photoshopped his offering (badly), inserting an aeroplane where none actually existed, misled those who questioned the image, and may even have stolen the idea from another photographer who published an almost identical image a year ago. Boos all round for Wei’s lack of professional integrity and for Nikon’s apparent indifference to the purity of the medium they champion.

Deception and plagiarism aside, this is by no means a new debate. Even though it’s become far easier for anyone to manipulate photographs since the advent of digital capture, it’s a practice – many would argue, a skill – that has been around since photography itself was conceived. Anyone who’s ever framed, dodged, burned, masked, overlaid, cropped, tinted or adjusted an image is guilty of the same ‘crime’. Some call it heresy, some call it art, some really don’t care! It’s a debate that will continue and to which there really is no all-appeasing solution.

I think there’s something deeply rooted in the human psyche that compels us to want to ‘improve’ on reality. On a personal level, we’ll adorn ourselves with makeup, or at the more extreme end of the scale, enhance or improve our bodies with cosmetic surgery. Our portraits are studio lit and airbrushed to perfection, tweaked and enhanced. As for the world around us, we’re not averse to a spot of landscaping, adding the occasional water feature, and generally making nature conform to our idea of attractive.

elephant1_001Throughout the ages, painters, sculptors, poets, authors and yes photographers too, have sought to augment, prettify and – on occasion – completely distort reality for aesthetic and artistic reasons, almost to the point that our romantic ideas of perfection seem both eminently attainable and the way things really should be.

That, sadly, is not how the real world works. Every silver lining has its cloud, and the reality is that the raw materials of everyday life, which we have no choice but to work with, are far from perfect.

Unlike SL, where the world itself is essentially a blank canvas – one that presents us with almost limitless opportunities to build perfection… A perfect body, a perfect environment, a perfect world.

Sounds simple, doesn’t it? Yet if there’s one thing SL most definitely isn’t, it’s perfection.

Perfection inworld is no different to perfection in RL – it is entirely subjective, frequently divisive, and entirely in the eye of the beholder. No matter how open-minded, relaxed and inclusive you may be, there will always be elements of SL – representing other people’s perfect vision – that will leave you cold and wondering what on earth happened to good taste and an eye for beauty. And therein lies an immutable truth: When human beings get their hands on something and mess around with it, the result is never going to tick all the boxes for everybody.

Not that we should let it stand in our way, because in SL at least, we’re not going to break anything beyond repair. It’s only pixels… And if our pixels should happen to offend somebody else, nobody’s forcing them to look. Unfortunately, the same can’t always be said about RL.

As for Mr Wei’s fake aeroplane, it’s no different – he’s simply put his own spin on a reality that, for him, just wasn’t quite perfect enough. Whether you think that’s a travesty or not is immaterial – it’s not your photo, and given the chance, as we are in SL, we’d probably do the same too!

camera2_001

s. x

Hi Time magazine hi Pulitzer Prize
Vulture stalked white piped lie forever
Wasted your life in black and white
Manic Street Preachers – Kevin Carter

Posted in Philosophicalisticality, RL, SL | Leave a comment

Sunrise

sunriseToday was an early start but I really didn’t mind all that much. Although it was a cold morning, the grey skies and rain that have been a feature of the weather recently were notable for their absence.

Catching up on my emails, over the first welcome cuppa of the day, my study window was the perfect frame for the breaking dawn. A story tale Crescent moon hung, suspended amongst the pale, variegated hues of the dawn sky – muted pink, fading to soft grey and the palest of blues, with just the suggestion of a warm orange glow in the East.

As gradually as the tea being drained from my mug, the sun began to rise, bringing golden tints to the darkened sky. The rich amber orb, the colour of fresh egg yolk, rose behind the starkly bare branches of the winter trees, silhouetting the intricate tracery of their forms, whilst the morning sky grew hazy and bright.

IMG_4639It was time to leave… But the sunrise wasn’t done with me yet.

Another window; another picture. As the train passed through the countryside, an ever evolving pattern of light and colour unfolded as I watched. The low sunlight picking out the detail in the fields and meadows passing by.

A river glistened, frosty rooftops sparkled and the grass and hedgerows took on a quiet beauty that, at any other time would have eluded me. Even the towns and industrial parks, bathed in the now brightly shining sun, maintained an almost ethereal quality that dispelled their ugliest qualities, the light catching and burnishing each metallic surface, creating a myriad mirrored reflections.

Somehow the journey didn’t seem as long or as tiring as it normally does… In fact, I’d have happily stayed on the train if the trip had been twice as long. Sadly, work was calling, enjoining me to leave the sanctuary of my seat, merge with the masses on the tube and brave the crush and rush of the London day.

IMG_4652Mornings like today remind me that, even in the midst of the daily grind, early starts and the demands of work and responsibilities, there is more to our world, and life, than our immediate experience. In a world where so often our attention is focused on fear, anger and ugliness, it’s refreshing to be reminded that there’s also a great deal of beauty, peace and tranquillity… We just need to have it brought to our attention now and again.

And therein lies the problem – all too often I find my focus lies elsewhere: I get up, I work, I play, I sleep… And it all happens within my little bubble, where anything else has a hard time getting in. On the odd occasion that I’m able to work from home, for example, it’s quite likely that I’ll sit down in front of a screen from the start, stay in front of the same screen if I take a ‘break’, grab a brief respite for food and then spend the whole evening in front of a screen, writing this blog and ‘escaping’ to SL. A day will have passed without me noticing. The world outside may have come to an end, but I wouldn’t even know it.

Sometimes we need to take a break and be surprised by just how amazing the real world is, or we face the danger of believing that SL really is better… And, the truth is, it isn’t.

Which is why today’s post is not about SL or any of the usual things I tend to write about, because there’s a whole world out there.

And I’d forgotten there was!

IMG_4657

s. x

Little darling, the smiles returning to the faces
Little darling, it seems like years since it’s been here
Here comes the sun, here comes the sun
And I say it’s all right
The Beatles – Here Comes The Sun

Posted in Philosophicalisticality, RL | 2 Comments

Interior Designs

clashYou only really appreciate how simple SL makes the process of decorating and furnishing, when you have to do the same thing for real. Compared to the real world, the whole exercise in SL, whether you’re tarting up a treehouse or customising a castle is ridiculously easy.

To begin with, virtual furniture is a doddle to manoeuvre – there’s no heavy lifting, no backache, and no dropping wardrobes on your toe as you struggle to negotiate the stairs. A quick click and drag of the mouse and you can shift a grand piano from room to room, with no effort whatsoever; you can throw mirrors and delicate ornaments around with wild abandon, and those awkwardly-shaped and heavy items of furniture that would take four strapping muscle men to move in RL, (and they’d still have to take off the handles, and those things that held the candles, to get it in), can be moved with a flick of the wrist.

Size isn’t so much an issue either: Whereas guesstimating the size of a gap that will nicely accommodate that lovely new dresser could easily spell DIY disaster in the real world, much of our inworld fixtures and fittings are easily and quickly resized to fit into any space, without us resorting to amateur carpentry just to fill the gap. And, if not, you can always embed any overhang in the wall!

Then there’s the decorating – and if you’re the sort of person who’s under the misguided illusion that you actually enjoy decorating in RL, then I can only assume either someone is paying you to say that, or else you’re a little bit insane!

Let’s compare the processes in RL to their virtual equivalent:

rainy5_001RL – Spending hours trudging around DIY stores, collecting wallpaper samples and colour charts; endless deliberation over colour schemes and themes; stepladders, pasting tables, dust sheets, cleaning brushes, aching muscles, bruised knees and then realising you have to do it all over again for the second coat.

The SL story – pick your chosen colour or texture, drop it on the surface you want to change. Don’t like the result? Keep playing until you do.

No prizes for guessing which I prefer! In fact, it’s the ease with which SL permits you to experiment with colours, textures and lighting that’s prompted me to come up with a cunning plan. These days, before I even consider stirring a tin of paint, you’ll find me recreating my room inworld; I then have a blank, custom-made canvas on which to experiment with whatever ever decor takes my fancy – something like one of those in store kitchen design terminals, only perfectly tailored to my own needs and without the annoying salesperson trying to make a huge amount of commission out of me. The real beauty is being able grab pictures of wallpaper designs and import them, or – by scanning colour cards and grabbing the RGB values – being able to colour match to any paint I choose. It’s pretty cool, I think!

Of course, that doesn’t remove the need for rolling up my sleeves, digging out the brushes and getting to grips with the real thing at some point, but at least I’ll have something to show me how it should have turned out, once I’ve finished! Sadly, RL is a far cry from the ease of SL decorating. Wouldn’t it be lovely to live in a world where changing a colour scheme was as easy as flicking a switch, or as simple as swiping a pallette? (I still live in hope of the day we can get our hands on smart nail Polish, like in Total Recall!) – but I fear that is still a long way off.

So, in the meantime, I’ll struggle on with my paint pads and emulsion in my hair, and be content that – in the virtual world, at least – the end result shouldn’t look too bad!

s. x

I see a red door and I want it painted black
No colors any more, I want them to turn black
I see the girls walk by, dressed in their summer clothes
I have to turn my head until my darkness goes
The Rolling Stones – Paint It Black

 

Posted in Builder's bum, Rants, RL, SL | Leave a comment

Strangely familiar

chickenmistakenOne of the drawbacks about spending a fair amount of time in SL is the sneaky way it manages to transpose itself into the real world on a subconscious level.

It’s not really anything you might consider a problem, but it can catch you on the hop without warning in pretty much any situation. We’ve probably all experienced that moment of confusion looking for that item in our wardrobe, only to realise it’s something we only own in SL. Or maybe we’ve found ourselves in a furniture store, idly wondering how many prims that sofa is…

Or perhaps you’ve fallen prey to the particular curse that I’ve lately been blessed with: Confusing real people for avatars I know.

Most recently, I was stood on the platform at King’s Cross tube station, watching a chap with an eye patch waiting for his train and wondering which of the two guys I know inworld who habitually wear eyepatches he might be. Fortunately, one of those fine fellows always wears odd shoes too, so the matter was solved by a quick glance at my mystery man’s feet. That only caused more confusion, because I knew the other eyepatch-wearing gentleman happens to live in the States, and as far as I knew, he hadn’t been planning on a quick trip across the pond the night before, when I’d seen him inworld.

Thank goodness I saw sense before shouting out to him! You see my problem?

It’s not only eyepatch man that has led to this kind of scenario; there have been far too many occasions that I’ve caught a glimpse of somebody in the street and thought, “Oh, that’s so and so”, only to subsequently realise that, although they may be showing some of the traits that I might associate with an inworld friend’s avatar, it doesn’t mean that this random stranger is that person!

One of these days, I just know I’m going to do something daft and greet a complete stranger like an old friend, simply because they happen to be wearing the same hair as one of my buddies, (erm, I mean, they have the same hairstyle. See, I’m worse than I thought!)

tubestation4_001Perhaps not quite so embarrassing, but still probably not easily reconcilable, is what might happen – probably guaranteed, actually – if I should ever meet somebody I really do know from SL in real life. Why? Because I know, without any shadow of doubt, that I’ll expect them to be the image of their avatar in every way, and I’ll be terribly confused if they don’t look and act just the same as I’m used to inworld!

Yes, I know it’s a bit daft, (ok borderline insane, I admit it), but that’s the SL effect, and I’m sure I’m not the only one who suffers from it – please tell me I’m not!

However I have a solution. The first part is simple: I’ll just have to resolve never to meet anyone for real from SL; that solves half the problem. The other is somewhat more difficult, but possibly do-able – although I will first have to become Prime Minister and force through a new policy. I’ll simply require everybody to stick a sign above their head, bearing their name, just like in SL.

And that should solve the problem altogether!

s. x

I staggered back to the underground
And the breeze blew back my hair
I remember throwin’ punches around
And preachin’ from my chair
The Who – Who Are You

Posted in RL, SL | Leave a comment

Tech support is closed

flowchartIt’s no secret that I know my stuff when it comes to technology – I’m not sure why, but I can’t help being a bit of a geek, and right from my very first dabblings with computers, I was never afraid to dig around inside the case and beyond – my first ‘proper’ computer, (i.e. PC), was a second hand 286/AT, and by the time it was finally replaced it had suffered the indignities of having had me take a hacksaw to the casing, with numerous cables and other paraphernalia escaping from the resulting gaping maw and several additional, carefully positioned drill holes. It looked like a patient in intensive care following major surgery, but in my eyes it was a thing of beauty.

I’ve never really grown out of that geekish appreciation of computer hardware. Over the years I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve been described as the office ‘expert’, ‘computer whizz’ or ‘IT genius’ and had people turn up on my doorstep with their ailing machines, hoping for a magic cure. People have often turned to me, rather than official help desks and experts, stating they’re more likely to get things fixed that way, and suggesting that I’d be much better off in a role of that nature. However, I wouldn’t – I’d rather wrestle crocodiles than subject myself to being sat at the end of a phone, patiently trying to explain to complete idiots just why they can’t find the ‘any’ key on their keyboard. There’s the oft-cited belief that the only advice you ever get from tech support is “Turn it off and back on again” – trust me, if I was in tech support, I’d be telling you, “Turn it off. Walk out of the room and never, ever go near a computer again!”

mosp5_001Even so, I do try to be helpful when people need technical help, particularly in SL where even the most tech-savvy user can find themselves becoming hopelessly confused. It’s not unknown for me to spend a whole evening assisting a fellow resident with a problem that they’ve simply not been able to resolve through the normal channels, and I do try my best to ensure – before I plunge into the fray – that I understand the problem; that I know the salient details about their system and operating environment; and only then will I attempt to draw on the appropriate sources to come up with a solution. A by-product of this approach is that I’ve gained a fairly extensive understanding of a wide range of factors that can contribute to things going horribly wrong, along with the peculiarities of different viewers and operating systems – in short, I can usually resolve even the most complex SL problems fairly rapidly, and if I can’t, I know when it’s something that needs to be escalated and I can signpost people towards a resolution.

However, just lately, I’m finding that giving sound technical advice is becoming something of a battleground – firstly, there’s a large number of people out there who choose to ignore any pointers they are given, in favour of fiddling about randomly themselves and then storming off in a huff because I haven’t resolved their problem. Why even ask for help in the first place?

Then there’s the background noise of well-meaning, but ill-informed, experts who like to gatecrash any attempt to fix a problem with a whole host of hair-brained solutions, ultimately adding to the confusion and quite possibly making the situation even worse than it already was. These are the sort who are convinced that rebooting a router, clearing cache or rebaking will solve any SL problem known to humankind, and will cheerfully give out a list of meaningless instructions referring to menus and options that don’t even exist in the viewer that the hapless victim happens to be using. Just because you’ve used Imprudence since day one doesn’t mean that everyone does, or for that matter, should! I’ve heard people tell fellow residents experiencing problems that the issue is because they’re using the SL viewer and they can fix it by downloading Firestorm, (and this from someone who’s not even using a remotely up-to-date version of Firestorm because they’re ‘waiting for the bugs to be ironed out’!). The (wholly predictable) result – an avatar, still experiencing the same problem, but now stuck with an unloaded inventory, in a viewer that is totally unfamiliar to them and with none of their personalised settings applied… Good call!

type_001It was a situation like the above that finally pushed me over the edge: A fairly new resident had been experiencing problems for a couple of weeks. Some investigation on my part revealed their operating system, viewer and set up. After my initial attempts at simple fixes, I told them I’d get back to them. Ten minutes later, I’d searched the JIRA, reviewed the technical forums, solicited some advice and was pretty sure I was getting somewhere. Unfortunately, the poor resident I’d been trying to help had, in the meantime, received ‘help’ from half a dozen others, ranging from the dubious to downright crazy – none of which had even sought to address the actual problem. They were now stood, arms stretched out and unable to move, in the middle of the room, using an unfamiliar viewer and still suffering from the original problem.

That’s the point at which I thought to myself, “Sod it”.

So, tech support is closed – at least until I can summon the will to try again. Until then, if you’ve a problem, then I’m afraid it really is your problem.

I’m going shoe shopping instead!

s. x

Lights will guide you home
And ignite your bones
And I will try to fix you
Young@Heart – Fix You

Posted in Rants, RL, SL, Techietalk | 3 Comments