Atomic

radiationSo, you’ve been unfortunate enough to be caught in a cloud of exotic radiation, released when your neighbourhood atomic reator went into meltdown. To your surprise and, it must be said, a certain degree of pleasure, you now find that you’ve developed super powers, the like of which have only ever been seen in movies. The fact that you can now bend steel bars as if they were toothpicks and fry bacon with your eyes at fifty paces is more than enough compensation for the downside that your skin is now a pleasant shade of pea-green and you glow in the dark.

However, as I endeavoured to show yesterday, possessing super powers may not be as great as it’s cracked up to be, and we have SL to prove it. So, let’s take a further look into the strange world of superhuman abilities and discover just how much of a bummer they can really be…

The ability to fly
Now here’s something we’ve always imagined would be awesome ever since reading Peter Pan as a child. Who wouldn’t want to be able to take to the skies like a bird and enjoy the freedom of flight? Why bother with the boring old ways of getting around, like walking, when we can forget the constraints of the ground entirely and experience what it’s like to be a cloud?

fly_001Except, we know from SL that flying isn’t quite all it’s cracked up to be. The first problem is one of navigation – whilst it’s a fairly straightforward matter at a fairly low altitude, we then run (fly?) the risk of colliding with buildings, getting stuck in trees and embedding ourselves into the nearest wall. The simple solution is obviously to gain height, but with greater altitude comes more restricted vision, and any perception of direction goes right out of the window. Even pulling up that mini-map is no guarantee that we’re flying in the right direction to get to our destination – distances on the map bear absolutely no relation to where you actually are… before you know it, you’ve overshot by several sims, turned back, got lost and, when you lose altitude to try and regain your bearings: Bang! straight into the side of a mountain!

As if flying wasn’t difficult enough, landing is an order of magnitude worse. Ranging from ungainly to suicidal, if there’s one thing that SL teaches us about flight, it’s that once we’re up there, we’re better off staying there, because when we have to come back down to earth, it’s going to hurt… a lot. If there’s another thing SL teaches us, it’s that it’s insanely easy to send oneself plummeting earthwards just through a moment’s inattention – in a real world context, that’s not a chance I’m willing to take!

Invisibility
Seriously? Have alpha layers taught you nothing about the sheer futility of attempting to carry off invisibility?

Shape shifting
This wouldn’t appear on my own list of ‘must have’ super powers, unless it was of the ‘eat whatever you want and maintain a perfect figure’ variety, but there are some for whom the ability to turn themselves into a dwarf, dragon or dog holds a peculiar allure. All I can say is, be careful where you do it – even in enlightened SL, there are places from which you can expect a lifetime ban, simply from appearing to exhibit remotely non-human characteristics. The real world is nowhere near as enlightened as SL, and should you choose to render yourself as a feline, tiny or orc then you can expect to either be hunted down and destroyed as a freak of nature, stuck in a cage and subjected to a lifetime of scientific study, or simply laughed at. Even worse, you may find yourself paraded constantly around endless cosplay and comic conventions – from which there is no escape… ever – you have been warned.

dark2_001Even if you choose to use your shape shifting powers merely to tweak your human experience, I’d hold back if I were you. If there’s one thing SL has taught us, it’s that people cannot be trusted with designing their own bodies. If pouting, bandy-legged, saddle-bagged bimbos is your thing, or balloon-breasted Amazons, guys with massive shoulders and titchy heads and impossibly tall giants is your idea of a well-proportioned body, then you probably need another dose of radiation! Try that in the real world, and they’ll be rounding you up in the name of human decency.

Teleportation
Not strictly a superpower, but a really cool trick if you can carry it off. However, proceed with caution if you fancy trying your hand at instantaneous travel in the real world: Generally, appearing from nowhere, perched upon a complete stranger’s head is rarely a great way to get off to a good start, neither is suddenly appearing in the middle of a friend’s bathroom/bedroom/business meeting simply because that’s where you last saw them isn’t always a good idea, particularly if you’re naked/dressed as Vlad the Impaler/the ‘other woman’.

In a world where instant teleportation is possible, you have no excuse for being late for work, other than the real one – ‘travel delays’ just won’t wash, and anyone can summon you anywhere at a moment’s notice. It wouldn’t work for me, and it won’t work for you either.

Eternal youth
Finally, possibly the most desirable of them all. If there’s one thing that SL is extraordinarily good at, it’s maintaining that illusion that we need never age. Though the days since we rezzed may tick inexorably away, we have infinite capacity to remain as fresh-faced, doe-eyed and innocent as we choose to be.  Even if we don’t want an avatar that looks like it’s never experienced the rigours of life, SL still gives us the illusion of youth: to outward appearances we may appear to be an old fogey, but inworld we can still be down wiv da kidz, dance the night away with the in-crowd and back flip down the high street with more energy and enthusiasm than we ever had in RL.

So, what are the negatives here, if we really did have this power in RL?

Can’t think of any, can you? And if SL is anything to go by, I say bring it on! Point me to the reactor core… I’m ready for my dose of Cherenkov!

ood_001

s. x

Tonight make it magnificent
Tonight
Make me tonight
Blondie – Atomic

Posted in Philosophicalisticality, RL, SL | Leave a comment

Fade away and radiate

superImagine you could have a super power – an unnatural talent or ability – what would you choose?

I’m pretty certain that x-ray vision and invisibility would definitely come somewhere near the top of most people’s lists, but there are lots of other potential powers that I’m sure we’d be more than happy to take advantage of, should we happen to fall foul of some inadvertent dose of radiation, freakish spider bite or other misadventure. Personally I’d quite like the power to render wasps incapable of coming within a mile of me, but most of us aspire to greater things. Being aspirational is one thing, achieving what is patently impossible is another – real life tends to play by the laws of physics and nature, and whilst a few of us may indeed be able to run, jump or hold our breath underwater beyond that of our peers, the power to stop speeding buildings in their tracks, jump bullets in one leap and being able to balance the bill at a work’s night out will sadly remain beyond us, no matter how hard we wish for it.

prof thunders mad science2_001That is only in the real world though; because we lucky few have at our disposal another world, in which such incredible feats are not only possible, but commonplace, and it strikes me that SL can teach us a thing or two about super powers that might just make us think twice about whether we’d really want them in the first place. (Not forgetting that to be a true superhero, you’re also going to have to find yourself an arch-nemesis, and that would just take all the fun out of it).

So, here’s a quick round-up of super powers we’d all really love to possess, but SL teaches us that they’d actually be a great big pain in the rear end in the real world:

X-ray vision
Everyone wants this – no matter how much you might pretend you don’t, I know you do. Of course, you only want x-ray vision because it makes shopping so much easier when you can stand outside the store and look through the walls, (yeah right!), but it does have its drawbacks. Firstly, by some spooky inbuilt sixth sense, everybody knows when they’re being watched, and when they latch onto your presence, gazing dreamily into the middle distance, or staring at a brick wall, they know exactly who it is that’s doing the watching. Within seconds, you’re booted, muted, reported and banned – the SL equivalent of kicking you in the naughty bits, calling the cops and slapping a restraining order on you. Not really ideal.

mine1_002Then there’s the other side of the coin: The more you tend to cam around in SL, the more paranoid you tend to be about who might be camming you. You spend all your time feverishly scanning the look-at targets of those around you radiating around the room, dodging the crosshairs and panicking when they loiter on your avatar. You just know that they’re undressing you in their viewer – why, because that’s exactly what you’ve been doing to them for the last half hour!

Let’s leave x-ray vision to Superman and radiographers, it’s far less stressful that way!

Telecommunication
Wouldn’t you just love to know what I’m thinking? (To be honest, I’d love to know what I’m thinking sometimes!), and would’t it be great if we could have sneaky conversations – mind to mind – without anyone being any the wiser? Well, maybe mind reading per se might still be a little beyond the capabilities of SL, but we have a neat means of private communication with anyone we choose, without the need to surreptitiously text them under the table.

IMs are as close as we can get to telecommunicating with our friends: There are few better ways of slagging-off somebody’s dress sense, gossiping about an acquaintance’s latest love interest, or having a titillating dalliance in public whilst maintaining an aura of complete normality. Except, of course, that aura is actually ‘obvious guilt’ – there are few more embarrassing moments than to be caught out in the middle of a bit of naughty natter, by someone pointedly observing that our extremely noticeable silence for the last ten minutes is indisputably down to us enthusiastically sexting the only other person in the room who’s also been remarkably quiet for rather too long. Our protests of “I was talking to a customer/tenant/friend who’s just logged in/whom I haven’t spoken to for a year”, will be seen right through – just as if those around us had x-ray vision; and we’ll have nowhere to hide.

Worse still will be the moment we exclaim, “What does she look like in that dress”, or describe in graphic detail, which would easily pass as dialogue in a German porn flick, just what we’re going to do later to our companion, only to find we’ve used the wrong box and blurted it out in local… And if we don’t do it, can we rely on our co-conspirator not to make the same mistake? I think not. Anyone who has wanted to fade away into the background from the sheer acute embarrassment that such a faux pas can create will empathise. Just imagine the mayhem that would ensue in RL if we were to have the same abilities as in the virtual world – it’s really not a good idea!

And that’s all I have to say on the subject for today, but there’s more to come tomorrow, so stay tuned and stay away from atomic reactors, strange glowing fluids and irradiated venomous insects… the consequences could be dire!

power station16_001

s. x

Electric faces seem to merge
Hidden voices mock your words
Fade away and radiate
The beams become my dream
My dream is on the screen
Blondie – Fade Away And Radiate

Posted in RL, SL | Leave a comment

Tremors

eotwIt is an uncertain world that we live in – we may think we have it all sewn up, with everything neatly in its place and doing exactly what we want it to do, but the reality is, we’re not in control. It doesn’t matter which way you look at it: Whether you believe that God, physics, fate, aliens or sheer luck is running the show, once thing is certain – it’s not us!

We like think that we’re in charge, but even the most banal of occurrences can serve to remind us that the extent to which we control even our own man-made environment is pretty limited and by no means immune to flaws and failures. This week, a rogue quarter-inch pipe decided to disconnect itself from a tap at my workplace and spent the whole of Monday night merrily hosing out water at high pressure. The end result was a three-storey, modern office building reduced to a rather wet, completely unusable shell, several thousands in damage, and being put out of use for 7 days. It’s been a fun week!

Which prompted me to wonder… What if that had happened at Linden Lab’s offices, rather than my own? We often see assertions that SL is doomed and that the Lindens could flick the off-switch whenever they feel like it, but the assumption always seems to be that it would be a deliberate, conscious decision, when – if you consider all the possibilities, there’s a whole host of potential scenarios that could easily result in ‘game over’, that could happen in a flash and nobody would even know they were coming. Explosion, fire, flood, zombie apocalypse, killer meteor, alien invasion – these could all spell the end for SL as we know it, as could the very real threat – considering where the Lab is based – of earthquake. Only this week, warnings that the Hayward Fault could soon slip with brutal consequences were given – let’s hope that doesn’t happen, more so for the residents of SF than for any other reason, but it is another potential harbinger of doom for SL.

Or is it?

rebel4_001Even if all of the above were to occur, it wouldn’t necessarily spell the end for SL – whilst it might put an abrupt end to research and development, maintenance and support services, the virtual world itself would probably continue to function much as it always has, at least until somebody stopped paying the bills. SL is not solely based in one office in San Francisco – many of the Lab’s personnel work remotely and the virtual world itself is distributed across a number of server farms – it would take a concerted and targeted effort to take the whole thing down, and even the loss of a couple of server centres wouldn’t entirely bring SL to its knees, as we know from past experience of DDOS attacks that have adversely affected its supply network. SL, whatever we may think, is actually pretty robust.

Even if the worst case scenario was to occur, there’s no reason why SL shouldn’t continue to function for quite some time beyond what we might expect – it doesn’t need people to function, and as long as there’s a power supply and barring any fatal breakdowns, it could pretty much go on functioning for years, and if that was the case, just imagine how weird that could be…

Picture a world – post zombie apocalypse: Society has collapsed and gangs of shuffling, brain-eating zombies roam the streets. Those who have escaped their clutches hide behind barricaded doors, jealously guarding the rations they have hoarded, loaded weapons within arm’s reach. In the corner of the darkened cellar, a computer monitor glows as the room’s sole occupant stares at the screen, occasionally tapping away at the keyboard on their lap. On the screen: A virtual world – SL – a reminder of happier times when the streets were safe to walk and where people gathered to laugh, dance, shop and socialise. And, through the medium of SL, life – albeit virtually – still goes on, just as it did before, despite the fall of society beyond the walls behind which people hide. Here, at least, there is still a semblance of normality. As you sit silently, watching events unfold in the virtual world, a disturbing reminder of the real world outside sneaks in… Another tremor, stronger this time, and you wonder when the big one will strike. Vaguely you hope that when the quake comes, it will wipe out the zombies; but maybe it won’t… just so long as it doesn’t wipe out the power.

Not the power… that would be unbearable.

rebel13_001

s. x

there is a place that still remains
it eats the fear it eats the pain
the sweetest price he’ll have to pay
the day the whole world went away
Nine Inch Nails – The Day The World Went Away

 

Posted in /#: Apocalypse #/, Philosophicalisticality, RL, SL, Unlikely stories | Leave a comment

The tide is high

shellAt the risk of stating the obvious, there are many ways in which I’m just a little bit weird, and one of the subjects where I do tend to hold opinions that are probably at odds with most other people is that relating to beaches.

Let me explain: To most people, the thought of a beach is a pleasant thing, filled with images of long, lazy summer days, stretched out in the sun, perhaps reading a trashy novel before taking a dip in the sea. Or maybe you’re the sort that prefers a brisk walk along the sand on a blustery day, the wind spraying foam in your face as you throw stones for the dog to fetch from the advancing waves? Then again, you conjure up thoughts of family days out, playing beach cricket, building sandcastles and getting sticky-fingered from the melting ice-cream as it drips in the sun. Idyllic moments, for most, but each of those scenarios to me holds its own set of personal horrors!

Let’s take our summer’s day at the beach scenarios – there are few things that I find quite so unappealing. In fact, offer me a beach holiday – even a freebie – and unless you can also offer me a decent range of alternatives guaranteed to keep me well and truly off the beach, I’d probably say no thanks. The thought of wasting whole days, just lying on the sand, as the sun gently scorches me lobster pink, setting me up for who knows what skin-related horrors in later life, simply leaves me cold. I’ve yet to find a way to read a book on the beach that is comfortable, convenient and doesn’t result in blindness from the sun’s glare on the page; and sand is one of those things that I just find a nuisance – both for its intrusive, and its abrasive qualities, (there’s a reason they use sand to clean graffiti from buildings, you know!)

Throw in a ‘pleasant’ family day out, and you’ve just boosted my aversion a hundredfold. Maybe I’d feel differently if I had kids, but to me small persons and beaches just don’t mix – and if my own childhood experiences are anything to go by, the reason kids are such a pain at the beach is simply because they’d rather not be there in the first place.

beach_001Then there’s the sea: Nasty, dirty, foul-tasting and cold – why on earth would anyone want to subject themselves to that? As for what might be underfoot – if I don’t manage to step on a lego-shaped stone, broken bottle, weaver fish or something horribly slimy, then I’ve got off lightly. No, thank you.

The other scenario – the brisk walk on the shoreline – I find tolerable, for short excursions, but beaches are just too long, too cold, too windy and – let’s face it – terribly boring places to tramp around for long, so again – no thanks.

However, I do quite enjoy the beaches of SL; not so much the Giggles Beach, rammed with oddly-shaped people in thongs and not much else, kind of beaches, but the little gems that you can stumble across all over the Grid. Places of driftwood and wind-worn picket fences, wiry grass hummocks and muted colours. In some ways, many of the virtual beaches that you can find inworld seem to capture more of that essential quality of the coast that the real beaches we visit in RL, if you see what I mean? Perhaps it’s just my own flights of fancy, but what SL seems to do remarkably well, not just for beach scenes, but in so many other scenarios, is capture the very essence of a location – an idealised version that we’d all like to believe exists in RL, but probably only really exists in our minds. It’s an alternative reality – one that celebrates the essential qualities of the coast, emphasising those elements that make for the perfect imaginary beach: gulls wheeling and crying overhead, the soft crash of breakers on the shore, the muted, sun-bleached tones and sea-worn scenery. There will probably be a lighthouse out at sea in the distance, but what there won’t be will be screaming and crying children, the sickly smell of hot flesh, salt and sun-cream, wasps, and sand in your plastic mug of tea.

It’s the sort of beach scene that appeals even to me, and indeed – being one of those fortunate enough to own a coastal parcel, one of the first projects I undertook on my land was to build a small, and pretty much perfect, beach. It’s a place that I find myself drawn to when I need space and time to be alone and think, a place where even I can find myself whiling away the hours, staring out to sea, and not worrying about where the time went – something that, on a real beach, would be anathema.

But that’s one of the joys of SL: We don’t live in a perfect world, we can’t even hope to find anything remotely close to that perfect fantasy place in our head, and – although SL is far from perfect too – the one thing it does incredibly well is create the perfect world that doesn’t really exist.

beach1_001

s. x

The tide is high but I’m holding on
I’m gonna be your number one
Number one, number one
Blondie – The Tide Is High

Posted in Philosophicalisticality, Rants, RL, SL | 1 Comment

Island of Lost Souls

lost soulWay back in the day, when companies, colleges and corporate concerns were welcomed into SL with open arms and promises of virtual global domination, boundless digital horizons and a brave new world with unexplored potential, there were a host of different ways to get inworld. It seemed that every corporate website, educational institution and virtual entrepreneur was offering to sign you up to SL, via their own registration API, and along with it a chance to promote their brand by way of a custom last name. Those were the days that the privileged few could rejoice in having a distinctive second name, like ‘Gossipgirl’, ‘Cartier’, ‘Reuters’, ‘MetaverseModSquad’, or even ‘Google’!

Be famous enough – or important enough in Linden Lab – and you could even have your own unique last name: ‘Onassis’, ‘Eno’, ‘Kapor’,’Gingrich’, and ‘Ono’, (I have a buddy inworld who was once on Yoko Ono’s friends’ list!), to name a few; however those halcyon days eventually came to a close. Virtual worlds, (at the time), turned out not to be the next step in human evolution that we thought they’d be, and the big companies pulled out, taking with them their inworld property, influence and those special names.

Even then, the ways into SL were multitude – there were still a wealth of sites with the SL registration API, each allocated a group of last names for new residents to choose from, until that fateful day – 18th November 2010 – when individual last names were replaced with the catch-all and universally hated, ‘Resident’. Ever since, disgruntled residents have pursued quests to unearth any still-functioning registration sites that may offer one final opportunity to grab a legacy name – an ultimately futile quest, but one from which the faithful, in their fervour, refuse to be swayed. If there are any still out there, they’re likely to belong to companies or educational establishments with access restricted to their own internal people. Theoretically, at least, the Lab still offers a custom name programme, it’s costly – but no more so than renting a region from them – but as to whether you could convince the Lindens to do it, that’s anyone’s guess.

Qee West 33 48 22e_001Even if you could gain access to a portal, other than the official one, and were able to secure a second name somewhat less bland than ‘Resident’, I’m not so sure it would turn out to be the big success you’d hoped it would. There’s a very strong chance that you’d login with a great big smile on your face, only to find that your new SL account was limited to some tiny corporate island with absolutely no way to commute to the Main Grid, or even communicate with the wider world outside your new virtual home. It would be a somewhat hollow victory: Not only would you be stuck in one place with your shiny new name, but you’d be sharing it with everyone around you and, if you decided to stay, you’d have to spend the rest of your virtual life in discussion with ‘colleagues’ about business matters you know nothing about, or pretending you’re enrolled in college courses to other students who have infinitely more interesting real lives than you! You’d be marooned – a lost soul on an island far from anywhere, unable to break away or connect with the world that you can see all around you, but to every intent is beyond your grasp.

I wonder if there’s a resonance with SL in general there – we often bemoan the fact that those outside our virtual world have very warped and misguided ideas about what SL is. Much of what the world in general believes is a throwback to the good old days when SL was mainstream, when all those big companies had an inworld presence and virtual worlds held so much promise. Those were the days when anything and everything was not only possible, but desirable, and so sex and debauchery, dodgy deals and questionable practices were rife and consequently hit the headlines. Now that things have quietened down somewhat, and big business and the press have moved on to other things, we still have that legacy which precedes us and – because nobody of note seems to bother with SL any more – there’s no-one to set the record straight.

In the vast ocean of the internet, we’re lost souls, cast ashore on the small island of Second Life. You know what though… it’s not all that bad – there’s worse places to be!

s. x

You can come for a while come with a friend
Forget about work start all over again
Let the real you through, here’s what we do
Blondie – Island Of Lost Souls

Posted in Philosophicalisticality, SL, SLarcheology | 4 Comments

Off the grid

escapeFor the first time in far too long, I’ve recently had a chance to get away from it all and relax – it’s not a proper holiday, I’ve not had one of those for a number of years, (/me sighs), but I was fortunate enough to get out of the rat race for a whole three days, and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Holidays have always been special to me – whether home or abroad, they are an opportunity for me to enjoy new experiences, immerse myself in culture and cultures that normally I wouldn’t have the chance to, and make a determined effort to break the suffocating routines that everyday life tends to impose on us. I’m not one for lazing on a beach, letting that precious time slip away into nothingness either – in fact, I can think of few things I’d enjoy less – I’d rather be out exploring off the beaten track, getting caught up in the everyday lives of other people and generally experiencing everything that my chosen destination has to offer. This can occasionally mean I end up in places and situations that are not to everybody’s taste… walking across a butt-clenchingly terrifying country border crossing resembling something out of Mad Max for example; slipping and sliding through goodness knows what nameless slime between the stalls of a South East Asian wet market; or sitting for hours on a railway platform in the blazing sun without a clue where I’m going, surrounded by hundreds of people who know exactly where they’re going, and unable to communicate with any of them. Fun!

This time, I left behind internet connections, mobile phones, electricity and gas supplies, heading out into the countryside to spend a couple of nights in a yurt! Cooking was in the old-fashioned manner – in a suspended cooking pot over a wood fire, and my days were spent exploring the woodlands, enjoying the fresh air and basically becoming utterly disconnected from the real world.

You might think that’s something I’d find terribly difficult, even for a short time, but much as I enjoy availing myself of 21st century technology, and despite the fact that I spend an inordinate amount of both my working and resting life plugged into the .net, I’m quite capable of cutting myself loose and getting back to nature.

lindenvillage_001Even inworld, you’ll tend to find me stepping off the well-worn paths and poking around in places that few people seem to want to explore – long abandoned parts of the Grid where once the Lindens played and virtual history was made, the highways and railroads of the mainland that lie mostly empty and forgotten, save for the occasional scripted bus; wildernesses, wastelands and backwaters, only visited by their owners and the occasional curious passerby. The Grid may be a vast place, but an awful lot of it is practically sterile, devoid of life and left to its own devices.

It often seems that the populace of SL, now lack the time or the energy to take time out – it’s shopping here, then TP’ing off to another mall, then crashing the latest fayre before whizzing back to the favourite club for a while before logging off. Many of us seem to have brought the frenetic and draining activity of the real world into the virtual with us – the urgent need to be somewhere, the perverse desire to always be doing something, when often what we could really do with is to do nothing, just mosey around, occupying ourselves with a bit of this and that, stopping to sit and stare and, basically, make the most of the big old virtual world we’ve been blessed with.

One of the great things about SL is that it gives us the opportunity to ‘holiday’ whenever we feel the need – we don’t need to book time off, arrange travel and hotels or shell out cash that we just don’t have. And yet, how many of us never take that opportunity and instead spend all our inworld time rushing about, being subject to demands on our time and energy and generally succumbing to all the pressures and demands on our time that we face in our day-to-day lives?

Maybe I’m wrong, and that’s not how it is for you, but I do sometimes wonder.

Sometimes we need a break, even virtually.

pines1_001

s. x

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

Posted in Philosophicalisticality, RL, SL | Leave a comment

What’s in a name?

nameNote to self: When making notes to self, in future please ensure that content of said note is sufficiently erudite to communicate the intended purpose of note. In this particular instance, the note in question was simply today’s title, with a link to a song. In the normal course of events, that usually means I’ve had a barnstormer of an idea for a post, but at a most inconvenient time, so I’ll jot down the briefest details to revisit in depth when I have the opportunity. Unfortunately, on this occasion, my jotted-down note was three days ago, and I haven’t the faintest idea what I intended to write, now that I’ve returned to it.

Ho hum, well here goes nothing…

There is something intrinsically powerful about names – if all that possessing a name amounted to was to have a simple means of identification, then there are far better and succinct means of doing so than the fairly arbitrary naming systems that we, as a species, have adopted. National Insurance numbers and telephone numbers are, for example, much better suited to that task, if perhaps not always quite as easy to recall when referring to others. Neither do we tend to use names only as a convenience, by far the majority of us use what is otherwise a fairly straightforward nomenclature in ways that range from the purely descriptive to the mystical and esoteric.

The manner in which we employ personal names can be influenced by a variety of factors: names can show familial links, religious affiliation and can even be used as a sort of of personal punctuation – an interrobang of the soul – particularly should we choose to be known by a mononym: There is something about a single, expressive statement of ‘I’ in the form of a name that says so much about the person… Cher, Sting, Spock, and of course, Prince Roger Nelson a.k.a that completely unpronounceable and untypeable symbol thing. Names (or lack of) can be powerful things – the manufacturing and sales industries spend millions in researching what names will sell, and what will lead to a downfall in profit: Would you rather drive a Ford Mustang, or a Ford Donkey; drink Coca Cola or New Coke?

That power with which names are imbued is also evident in the way in which we choose to afford the privilege of an appellation to inanimate, or non-human, objects too. We’ll happily give formal names to boats, spacecraft, hurricanes and our pets, and many of us are equally at home naming the most everyday of objects. Who hasn’t owned a car they’ve christened Maureen, or had a pet name for their favourite body part?

Names hold a singularly important place in SL too, something that’s currently very much on the radar as speculation about the eventual brand name for Project Sansar will be – getting that particular name wrong could be disastrous for Linden Lab! However, wherever we look in SL we can see instances where names have paramount importance when it comes to achieving particular aims. Try this simple test – imagine your own local High Street, populated with the shops you are so familiar with, now imagine the same High Street, but sporting the brand names of stores familiar to us in SL. Without even considering the goods they might be selling, I can almost guarantee that that the SL version is more attractive. Unconstrained by the demands of political correctness, corporate branding and and local planning regulations, SL store names are infinitely more exciting, compelling and interesting that what we see in the real world. If SL was ever to be closed down, there’s an awful lot of residents who could make a good living out of marketing and advertising, I reckon!

Parcel and sim names can be equally evocative, guiding our expectations and compelling us to explore ever deeper. And then, of course, there are our own names – those we choose to be known by. The strength of feeling we have for these is unequivocal – the outrage that was felt amongst the SL populace when the Lab made the decision to do away with allocated second names is testament to that, although it can reasonably be argued that we have just as much scope for creativity with first names as we ever did, and the advent of screen names gives even greater flexibility. Perhaps it is in our avatar names that we are most expressive, and rightly so. Ever that, however, is only part of the picture – for in a uniquely human way, real world conventions sneak into the virtual world, subverting even the cherished and hallowed ground of avatar names, by the simple and charming expedient of nicknames!

Many of my friends are known inworld by their nicknames – names that never appear in their profile or above their heads, yet they are indisputably part of them. You’ll hear, for example, some of my close inworld friends frequently referring to me as ‘Boots’ – for reasons I won’t go into now – a name to which I’ll happily respond without a second thought… and perhaps that’s something else about names too: Sometimes it’s not what we choose to call ourselves that matters, but it’s who we are to those closest to us.

moon4_001

‘Boots’

s. x

And scars are souvenirs you never lose
The past is never far
Did you lose yourself somewhere out there?
Did you get to be a star?
And don’t it make you sad to know that life
Is more than who we are
Googoo Dolls – Name

Posted in Philosophicalisticality, RL, SL | 2 Comments

10 GOTO 10

pythonWay back in the day, when I had plenty of spare time, oodles of inspiration and far more capable brain cells than I do now, I’d be more than happy to dabble in a spot of scripting – or programming, as it was known then – just for the fun of it.

My very first experiences of coding were on an ancient RM 380Z, with a big white ‘reset’ button on the front of the case, (we used that a lot!), and would have been something along the lines of:

10 CLS
20 PRINT “I can count! “
30 LET x=”How cool is that?”
40 LET n=1
50 FOR n=1 to 100
60 PRINT n
70 NEXT n
80 IF n=100 THEN PRINT x
90 END

I never said I was good at it!

Over time I played around with various flavours of Basic, eventually settling down with Mallard Basic because of its built-in and almost unique ability to handle multiple array files… Real and complex databases written entirely in Basic, wow!

mosp5_001Then my enthusiasm waned,I lost interest, and my coding for fun days were pretty much over. However, they do say that necessity is the mother of invention, and as the years have passed I’ve never been afraid to revisit those forgotten skills when the need has arisen. I’ve dabbled with C, spent hours messing about with HTML, and sweated over VBasic when trying to persuade Excel to do things it really doesn’t want to. However, I can’t say any of these were particularly fun – I’ll code if I have to, but that’s all.

That also explains why I’ve never attempted to do anything with Java, Python, Flash or any of the more exotic languages currently on offer – I’ve yet to be in a position where I might need them to solve a problem, so I’ve never had any particular inclination to try my hand at them. The same must be said for LSL: whilst I have on many occasions come to the conclusion that I really should get to grips with scripting in SL, I simply haven’t developed any real enthusiasm to knuckle down and do it. As a consequence, LSL like so many other opportunities to develop new skills in my adult life, has been relegated to the ‘needs must’ fallback position – inworld scripting isn’t something I’d typically do for pleasure, but sometimes it’s a necessary evil that has to be satisfied if I want to achieve my aims.

Adopting this rather haphazard approach to an activity that, by its very nature, tends to require a structured and consistent approach is not without its issues. It can be utterly frustrating to constantly hit dead ends due to lack of knowledge and to be unable to resolve problems because of limited understanding. And sometimes you just have to accept you’re doomed to fail, no matter how hard you try.

However it’s not all bad news: It’s possible to gain a huge amount of insight by working methodically through a broken script, step by step, until the solution finally becomes clear. Similarly, reverse-engineering existing resources can be an absolutely fascinating process which can make even the most arcane principles crystal clear and with greater clarity than any amount of teaching or ‘hands off’ ever could.

mosp2_001In fact, taking this rather piecemeal and random approach has served me well. I’m no demon scripter by any stretch of the imagination, but I can certainly get by when I need to, and more importantly, I completely understand how the rather modest scripts I manage to put together work. They do the trick, and that’s good enough for me!

Maybe one day, when I have more time and my enquiring mind decides it fancies regaining some of the lost exuberance of my youth, I’ll have a bash at learning how to script for SL in earnest. Until then, I’ll leave it to the experts and let necessity dictate those rare occasions when I need to get my own hands dirty!

s. x

Here you go way too fast
Don’t slow down, you gonna crash
The Primitives – Crash

Posted in RL, SL, Techietalk | 2 Comments

Mobile drones

phoneWe’re becoming a generation enslaved to technology: Not in the way science fiction writers tend to imagine – we haven’t become Matrix style battery farms for mechanical overlords, neither do we find ourselves in a bloody conflict with Terminator styled automatons; even so, we are quite definitely the underdogs in today’s technologically grounded world, and it’s the machines that are very much in command.

It’s all happened quite insidiously too – we’ve hardly noticed, and now we’re enslaved.

I’ve spent the last couple of days with three colleagues who would find it impossible to function without a mobile phone constantly to hand, or more accurately, two phones. It didn’t matter what we were doing, or where we were – 6 phones out on the table, and conversations punctuated with beeps and the sound of tapping nails. This was the case constantly, at breakfast, whilst working, during downtime and late at night in the bar. Control freaks – but not in the usual sense of the term – they were the ones being controlled.

Then there was the guy on the train this morning who threatened a fellow passenger with physical violence, simply for being asked not to use his phone in the ‘quiet’ carriage. Shocking.

And that’s just mobile phones… There are those who slavishly follow satnavs along impossible routes, others who’ll happily go into debt simply to own the latest plasticky and naff offering from Apple, whilst some will lay bare every moment of their life by way of a non stop running commentary on social media.

This is what it means to be human in the developed world of the 21st century, apparently. To be at the beck and call of faceless and cold technological overlords that rule every aspect and control every moment of our lives, whilst we mutely accept their coercive and unceasing demands.

infuzion_001Thank goodness SL is different. That might seem an odd thing to say, considering what SL is and how it is more than capable of intruding into our real world, everyday lives, surely it’s no different to any of those other threats to our humanity I’ve already mentioned?

I don’t think that’s entirely the case, although I can’t disagree that SL is as capable of taking over our lives as any other mobile device, or technological toy. Where the virtual world does differ is that once we’re logged in, there are very few of those external influences to exert their power over us. That’s not to say that the inveterate phone addict will not still be afflicted with that particulate nemesis demanding their attention, however my experience is that once we’re inworld, we see such things for the real annoyances they are – aggravating intrusions into our personal time that can, and should be, ignored, switched off and generally be given short shrift.

Second Life, for the most part is mercifully free from such encumbrances, and provided we are capable of putting the outside world on hold, there is very little that intrudes inworld to stop us from enjoying quality time doing the things we really want to enjoy doing. Skype, for example, hasn’t managed to find its way inworld and social media has barely made any real inroads into our pixellated lives. For many of us, the moment we step inworld, the real world steps into the background – we know it’s still there, but it becomes incredibly easy for us to ignore it, and the numerous unwanted diversions it seeks to inflict on us, sometimes to an extreme degree. I know one resident, who shall remain nameless, who cheerfully ignored the fact his kitchen was ablaze in rl, simply because attending to it would have compromised his ability to enjoy what was happening at that particular moment inworld!

Allowing ourselves to be immersed in, and absorbed by the very technology that seeks to take over our lives may seem a strange solution to the problem of the machines invading our personal space, but sometimes the safest and most secure place to be is behind enemy lines.

And that’s where you’ll find me, come the revolution… until then, don’t even think of phoning me when I’m inworld, because you won’t get a reply!

s. x

Hang up and run to me
Whoah, hang up and run to me
Blondie – Hanging On The Telephone

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

Aged to perception

dustBy the time you read this post, the current fad of the moment that spawned it will have passed and there’ll be a whole new craze sweeping the internet to keep us amused. There’s more than a little irony in that, since this particular post is essentially about time passing.

As I write, everyone I come across seems obsessed with Micro$oft’s HowOldRobot – the web app that checks out the faces in any image you care to send it, and magically hazards a logical guess at the gender and age of the subject. Inevitably, this crossed over into SL, with residents by the score asking the poor thing to come up with ages for their avatars.

Resisting the temptation, (well, at first anyway), to upload myself into the matrix and ask for a robotic age appraisal, I instead tried to mislead this technological marvel by challenging it to sex and guess the age of Lego figures and the people featured on the Sgt. Pepper album cover – not too successfully, I might add. However even I eventually succumbed, with entirely predictable results.

agesAs I suspected, this particular use of technology is, at best, unreliable… or should I say crap, because that seems to be the overall feeling about it from the world in general too. My estimated ages ranged from a lithe 20 to a rather disappointing 44 and in a least one case, I swapped gender too.

I know what you’re thinking – did I really expect a computer programme to be able to accurately suggest a human attribute pertaining to a computer-generated, and wholly unreal, picture?

Well, actually, yes… The thing is, we humans do it all the time, especially when it comes to SL. I’m willing to bet that every one of us, even if only in our own mind, has ascribed a particular age to each of the avatars that we spend our time with inworld; an age that is wholly independent of any knowledge we may have of the real person behind the avatar. I have friends inworld, for example, who are retired – even drawing a pension – yet my mind chooses to believe the illusion that their avatar’s appearance presents, and I see them as people in their late twenties and early thirties. Similarly, I have a friend whose avatar looks to be around 16 years old, and that’s how I perceive them, even though I know that in reality they are much older.

It’s no surprise to me that many of us consciously choose an avatar with a physical appearance that can often be decades younger than the real thing. Perhaps it’s to do with vanity, or trying to recapture lost youth, or maybe we just think younger avatars look better, but whatever the reason, in doing so we do a great job of convincing those around us that we really are as young as our avatars look.

And, we successfully fool ourselves too!

How many of us act our age in SL? And is that our real age, or our assumed age? Somehow, possessing the virtual attributes of youthfulness seems to release the inner child trapped within our adult bodies. That’s not to say we can’t act youthfully in the real world, but those occasions we do are perhaps less common than we’d like to think they are. We’ve all argued that inside we’re still a teenager, but apart from the odd occasion we feel we can get away with it in RL, it’s only really in SL that we really do act as if we’re still teenagers! I’m convinced this is something to do with looking the part – a youthful body seems to inspire a youthful outlook, and a youthful outlook inspires youthful activity – and as far as I’m concerned, that’s no bad thing.

agenoHere’s the weird thing though: Although I have little problem pinning down my friends and acquaintances’ avatars to particular ages, I honestly couldn’t tell you how old Seren is meant to be. Sometimes I think twenty-something, other times thirty-something, but I really can’t pin it down – and neither it seems can the age robot.

It makes me wonder how old others perceive me to be… so, over to you!

How old do you reckon?

s. x

Television man is crazy saying we’re juvenile delinquent wrecks
Oh man I need TV when I got T. Rex
Oh brother you guessed
I’m a dude dad
Mott The Hoople – All The Young Dudes

 

Posted in Philosophicalisticality, RL, SL | Leave a comment