Healthy SLiving

exerciseRecently, I’ve been trying to become just a little healthier – for quite some time I’ve had that nagging inner voice telling me it wouldn’t do any harm to ease off the chocolate and get out and about a bit more often, but you know how it is. Having a job that is frequently pretty sedentary, where if I’m not sat at a desk I tend to be sat on a train, and which tends to leave me wanting to veg out in the evenings – unless I’m working away, in which case it’s eating out – never a good thing, is not really conducive to living a healthy lifestyle.

It’s one of those things about which I’m not really a self-starter either; the days when I was super fit and would cheerfully spend several hours a week, including most of the weekend, undertaking pretty intense and challenging physical pursuits are long gone. I certainly couldn’t do even half of what I used to think nothing of in my younger days, and I doubt I could ever attain that level of fitness again. That, in itself, isn’t a worry – it’s life, and the natural process of getting on a bit, but there are occasional moments when I wish I could recover some of that degree of fitness… I just don’t fancy putting the hard work in to achieve it any more! Even if I could, I’d need a good hard push in order to get me going and, more importantly, keep me at it.

So, maybe I should be careful what I wish for… The phone call from my doctor was, at worst, a gentle rebuke, but it did give me something of a kick up the butt that I probably did need. “Really nothing to worry about”, she said, which of course worried me silly: My bloods were back and my ‘good’ cholesterol was low, whilst the ‘bad’ cholesterol was a little high – nothing particularly dangerous, but a wake-up call that I probably needed. So, it’s in with the oily fish and salads, out with the cakes and dairy, and briskly walking where previously I’d stroll. It’s not a massive lifestyle change, and it’s only been about six weeks so far, but if I can keep it up and maybe step it up a gear, it will hopefully do the trick, and maybe I’ll even feel somewhat better in myself.

Such things are difficult enough in the real world… can you imagine how difficult it would be to live a healthy virtual lifestyle?

All those little changes we can make in RL whose cumulative overall effect can impact positively on our health and wellbeing are just not really an option inworld – not that they’d make any difference, anyway. Who, for example is going to take the stairs; walk, rather than drive; or take the healthy option, rather than the full fat version? In the virtual world, it’s just far too easy to teleport and fly, and it doesn’t matter what you eat in terms of virtual food – it’s not going to have any effect on your waistline, whatsoever.

gym1_001All the above is, of course, totally academic – we can live whatever lifestyle we choose, good, bad or indifferent, in virtual form and our virtual ‘health’ is never going to suffer. As far as I know, there are no healthy lifestyle HUDs that punish us when we fail to go for a daily virtual jog by bumping us up from a ‘small’ to a ‘medium’ mesh dress size. Neither, to the best of my knowledge, does anyone make an ‘out of breath from climbing the stairs’ AO. Who wants to be reminded of our human frailties in SL anyway?

There is, of course, a downside to this. Whilst our avatars may stay svelte and toned, we on the other hand, sat in front of our computer screens, drinking our second large glass of pinot grigio, and tucking in to a family-sized bag of crisps for hours on end, day after day, are possibly not in such a good place to be. It doesn’t matter how athletic our on-screen antics, the mere fact that we are sat watching and doing little in the way of healthy exercise as a result of indulging our SL habit is almost certainly having a deleterious effect. Somewhat worrisome, don’t you think?

In a way, it’s a great pity that we’re unable to reap the benefits of some of our inworld activities – the amount of dancing alone that I do whilst logged in would probably keep me fitter than your average Olympian – either that, or it would be the death of me! It would be lovely though to be able to capture some of that SL goodness, however when it comes to keeping fit and healthy, I’m afraid the virtual world will never be any substitute for sheer hard work and willpower… Grrrr!

s. x

Pack it up, pack it in, let me begin
I came to win, battle me that’s a sin
I won’t ever slack up, punk you better back up
House Of Pain – Jump Around

Posted in Philosophicalisticality, RL, SL | Leave a comment

Intellectual?

iprThere are many things about me that people seem to find surprising or hard to understand. One thing that never fails to cause raised eyebrows if it should happen to crop up in conversation is when people find out that I don’t possess a television. In fact, since leaving home at the age of 18, apart from two short periods amounting to a few years each – times when I’ve shared a home with someone else – I’ve never bothered with a TV.

People seem terribly surprised at this. How do I cope without, they wonder; what do I do to entertain myself of an evening, they ask… Well, I have to say it’s never been that much of an issue as far as I’m concerned. There’s always plenty to do and, if I do fancy watching a movie or on the rare occasion that there is something worth watching on the telly, there’s always the Internet and catch-up TV. Not that the people’s catch up service of choice, the BBC iPlayer has ever really impressed me all that much. As far as content is concerned, my own view is that they need to sack whoever is responsible for it – most of the programming is frankly dire, and what’s left is either ‘classics’ from the days when 625 lines and vertical hold held sway, or is just plain boring.

It’s pointless trying to watch anything serialised on iPlayer – by the time you’ve realised it’s online, half the episodes have been removed, and wait around too long for anything before you watch and you’re likely to find that it’s been removed for ‘copyright reasons’. The problem, apparently, is that such programmes are only licensed for broadcast – by whatever means – for a limited time, after which they disappear into some media black hole, perhaps never to surface again, except in some overpriced box set hidden away in the darker recesses of Amazon. As far as I’m concerned, it’s all a pretty academic argument anyway – with the government making the decision that I’ll need a TV license to use iPlayer in the future, I’m afraid that I’ll be going elsewhere for my entertainment – the quality of the service is poor enough to dissuade me from bothering most of the time at the moment, and it’s certainly not good enough to make me want to pay for it!

pulp1_001This whole licensing thing is very much a modern phenomenon… These days it seems there’s practical nothing out there that doesn’t require you secure some sort of licence for the privilege of accessing or using it: TV, software, images, music, and so on. We all know why – it’s to protect the intellectual property of the copyright owner, although that in itself is open to debate, since the copyright owner these days is rarely the creator but some faceless corporate entity, solely in the business of making money on the back of other people’s efforts. The trouble is, in my experience, the licensing process very often defeats the underlying principle that it’s supposed to be protecting: When iPlayer tells me that only three episodes of Dad’s Army are available, and I have to watch one of them in the next 2 hours or lose it forever, I don’t simply shrug and accept my bad fortune, instead I get annoyed and start hunting down every – possibly nefarious – copy of every episode that was ever broadcast. Nobody profits from that, other than me.

Maybe you’d consider that to be intellectual property theft – I’m not going to argue the point. However I would suggest that it’s a kind of nonsense, especially when we’re considering visual or audio media, where the inherent nature of the beast is such that it is intended to viewed or listened to – to restrict that ability is to defeat the very purpose of that intellectual property. We live in a world where shared ‘ownership’ and creative commons is considered the norm – original work is so straightforward to copy and disseminate that any attempt to restrict such activities is bound to fail, and at worst, will exacerbate the situation. (Unless, of course, you’re trying to scan a banknote, or edit an image of one in Photoshop – try it, you’ll be surprised at what happens).

IP rights are, of course, extremely important for original creators – something that strikes close to the heart of many SL content creators – and it will always be necessary to have some sort of protection in place to prevent people in this position from being ripped off, plagiarised and losing revenue, but as technology continues to develop, it really is about time that IP protection and the law also developed alongside it, rather than trying to fit outdated principles and arguments to modern cases – the world is changing, so are attitudes, and it’s probably about time we became a bit more flexible in terms of how we treat ‘property’.

Who, for example, owns items created inworld, or for that matter, imported into SL? Is it the creator – and if so, if the original and possibly only work, exists solely in SL, then who is in control of its fate? Is it really the creator, or is it Linden Lab? And… Does it matter?

If I upload a photograph to an online image sharing site, I may inadvertently, (or maybe entirely vertently… Is that a word?), be passing any rights I have to that image to the hosting company – I may well be signing over the right to use that image in any way they wish, profit from it, sell it on or butcher it to suit their own needs… I could tune in to the news one day to find one of my images has – perfectly legitimately – been turned into Trump’s campaign logo – and there’d be nothing I could do about it. Yet I’d still own the identical original and it would be entirely my inalienable right to do with it what I wanted – weird, huh?

IP law, practice and principles are entirely outdated and hopelessly inadequate for coping with the constantly changing digital landscape, but perhaps that’s not the underlying problem… Maybe we need a change of heart – is it time that our whole concept of what ownership of intellectual property means needs to change? The alternative is just to hide whatever creative output we make so that nobody but ourselves has access to it, either that, or licence it… No, forget I ever mentioned that!

s. x

Hold on John
I think there’s something good on
I used to read books but
It could be the news
Or some other amusement
It could be reusable shows
Pink Floyd – Not Now John

Posted in Rants, RL, SL | Leave a comment

Wine not?

wineI’ve started making wine – it’s something of a landmark occasion for me.

The significance will not be immediately apparent, so I shall explain. Years ago, one of the recreational pursuits I used to fill my time with was making my own wine. It was a hobby that fitted well with my lifestyle – which was busy for the most part – since a significant part of winemaking is simply to let the stuff get on with the business of fermentation, and later, ageing – requiring little or no intervention and commitment. This is interspersed with short bursts of frenetic activity: Gathering ingredients, preparing and starting the wine, racking, and bottling – great for a long weekend, bank holiday or when you manage to grab a break from the normal routines. Finally, of course, there’s a reward to be had at the end of the process… A decent quantity of – hopefully palatable – cheap plonk!

It is however a hobby that requires a certain amount of space and longish periods of time when you’re going to have tubs, demijohns and bottles cluttering up kitchens, cupboards and anywhere else that you can find handy for accommodating the paraphernalia that goes with the pursuit, undisturbed and quietly going about its business – this can be anything from a few weeks, up to months, and it’s certainly not the sort of thing that you can really undertake if your circumstances are such that they don’t facilitate the process.

This has been my position for a long time: The last time I was able to indulge myself in this particular diversion was around 8 years ago, at which point, all sorts of things in life went wrong, requiring successive relocations and an extended sojourn in a temporary apartment where there simply wasn’t any space to move, let alone pursue the craft of the vintner… Besides which, all my equipment was in storage!

Now, I’ve finally reached a point where I have both the space, the time and the opportunity to rekindle my interest in winemaking – something I’ve not even really been able to consider, literally for years. More significantly, it marks another milestone in my life – after a number of years in flux, I can now confidently say, I’ve settled down! That means security, safety, long-term plans, stability, and control over the direction my life is going – it’s a weird, but welcome feeling.

2010 - A vintage year

2010 – A good vintage

The previous times when Haven Wineries was in full swing were also the halcyon days of SL for me. Back then, I wasn’t Serendipidy Haven, and whilst it possibly wasn’t the most productive and adventurous time that I was spending inworld, it was by far the most intense and prolific time for me – it was then I was spending the most time logged in, hit the highest highs and lowest lows, experienced the joys and horrors of SL partnering, experimented with RLV, spent an inordinate amount of time exploring rather dubious locations and generally attempted to suck the virtual marrow from SLife at every opportunity. Whilst it was mostly a whole lot of fun, too much of a good thing – like too many bottles of home made wine – can ultimately lead to unfortunate situations and a whole heap of trouble. I learned lots of lessons about life, myself, and other people during that period – mostly stuff that comes naturally to normal people, but somehow had passed me by for most of my life and needed a virtual equivalent to illustrate important various life lessons that I’d have otherwise remained pretty much oblivious about.

Since then, things have calmed down a great deal. It’s not been by any conscious mechanism, but over time I’ve eased off the SL throttle. My inworld exploits have become somewhat less fraught – some might say, more boring – and the amount of time that gets given over to SL has dramatically declined. I’m not exactly sure when I made the transition from logging in, come what may, to logging in when I feel in the mood, but it definitely happened at some point, and it doesn’t feel as big a deal as it once did.

As it is, things are such in RL at present that I have little spare time for SL exploits anyway – how long that will continue, I don’t know, but it’s one of those things you just have to accept and live with. Even so, I don’t think I’ve lost my mojo for SL, it’s just a matter of juggling priorities, (especially now I have to factor in time for making wine too!), and sometimes that makes things a little bit messy. I’ve no doubt that the current state is a merely temporary state of affairs – although, bearing in mind, ‘temporary’ in my world can sometimes mean years! At some point in the future you might well find me writing about how I can barely spare the time for real world activities in between the hours I’m logged in to SL… Who knows?

But, in the meantime, maybe I should just relax with a glass of plonk😉

Cheers!

s. x

Red, red wine
It’s up to you
All I can do, I’ve done
But memories won’t go
Neil Diamond – Red, Red Wine

Posted in Philosophicalisticality, RL, SL | Leave a comment

Balancing act

expectationIt can be tricky enough to successfully balance the different priorities that make demands upon our time and energy on a daily basis; throw SL into the mix, and the challenge becomes greater for those of us who indulge in the virtual world – some might say it’s more an academic exercise, since the formula is pretty straightforward: RL comes first, SL fits into the gaps. However, most will say it’s more complex than that, and the choice between putting RL or SL first is far more complicated than it may first appear.

Perhaps the struggle to prioritise real world and virtual world commitments isn’t always entirely something for which we alone are to blame; at its heart, SL is a social platform, and it can be at its most rewarding when the social media aspect of the virtual world comes to the fore. By definition, this is going to involve us interacting with others, participating in shared activities, and ultimately, building relationships with those with whom we share our virtual environment. This is where conflict can lurk.

freakshow13_001Entering into a relationship with someone – even a completely virtual one, where the only interaction is entirely fabricated to at least some extent – is a social contract. Even if not explicitly expressed, it comes with expectations, implied behaviours and some degree of commitment. It also creates emotional bonds which can be unconscious, but nevertheless incredibly strong. This is true, whether of a simple virtual friendship or a relationship of a somewhat deeper and more complex nature. Herein lies the problem.

SL relationships, of any kind, require us to make the same sort of effort as real world relationships. That can equate to time and effort, being put to inconvenience, and undertaking activities that conflict with our schedules and lifestyle. Generally, if the relationship is one that we value and are happy to invest in, this needn’t cause us too much trouble, but there will inevitably be occasions when we have to decide what is more important to us – the real or virtual – and that can cause difficulties. Any relationship, after all, necessarily involve us and at least one other party, and with that comes an obligation to manage the expectations, needs and feelings of those other parties. You may consider that this is little different from relationships in the real world, but unlike real life, SL is very effective at distancing us, (and those with whom we share it) from reality.

Inworld friends, partners and associates do not necessarily have the advantage of those subtle, and sometimes not so subtle, clues that are self-evident in RL. The information available to those who share our SL is nowhere near as rich or accessible as that available to those who are part of our real lives, consequently pressures and constraints and other demands upon us, that might be obviously apparent in RL, are pretty effectively hidden from those around us in the virtual world. Their only frame of reference is that of their own lives and those with whom they share relationships outside SL. If I’m not married, have no children and no significant demands on my time in RL and I know nothing of your own real life, it is easy to understand how I may make the assumption that you are equally unpressured, and have ample opportunity to lavish your time upon me inworld… The reality may be very different.

Lacking much of the information that may be freely available to us outside the virtual environment, it is very easy for those amongst whom we do spend a great deal of time with inworld to draw incorrect conclusions and make assumptions that are erroneous. Many of us have experienced the wave of concern that flows over a group of people when one of their number is conspicuous by their absence: ‘I hope Tarquin is OK – he hasn’t been online all week’. It is, of course benign, all borne from genuine concern and caring, but can be completely misdirected. Similarly, those of us familiar with such situations can find ourselves feeling almost obliged not to absent ourselves from inworld gatherings, knowing the concern it might spawn amongst our friends and companions. So we find ourselves in the somewhat bizarre position where – because of our virtual relationships – we feel compelled to meet the expectations of others even if doing so compromises our freedom of choice, and may even have a deleterious impact upon our real lives.

Crazy world, huh?

s. x

Because we are your friends.
You’ll never be alone again.
Well come on, well come on.
Justice vs Simian

Posted in Philosophicalisticality, RL, SL | 3 Comments

Balanced opinion

opinionI suppose I should start today’s post by adding a caveat: Anything you read on these pages is going to be, at the very least, coloured by my opinion, and frequently will reflect only my view on any particular subject. This is, after all, a personal blog and I’m afraid if it’s unbiased reporting or purely factual information you’re after, this is quite definitely not where you’re going to find it! That said, I do try to take a fairly balanced view when it comes to writing here, and I tend not to be too opinionated in the views I express.

I wish the same could be said of a very vocal cadre of SL commentators, who seem to have little to say that is positive, helpful or factual, and use the internet as a vehicle to conduct personal hate crusades against individuals and businesses using very public rhetoric, in a manner that is frankly both appalling and disturbing.

Whilst I have no problems with the tenet of free speech and the right of the individual to hold an opinion, I do think that it’s also incumbent upon the individual to self-moderate, get their facts straight and to present their views in a reasoned, rational tone, rather than resort to the insensitive, inflammatory and offensive… But maybe that’s just asking a bit too much?

I don’t know whether it’s endemic to online communities in general, or if SL is particularly conducive to fostering vitriol, but it does seem to me that our little virtual bubble has far more than its fair share of bad feeling and misinformed commentary, to the point that it’s even possible to identify specific stereotypes:

The Bitter ex-Resident
These are commonly found lurking on popular online forums. They hold extremely polarised opinions about SL, the vast majority of which are extremely negative, disparaging and couched in less than positive terms. They provide a popular bandwagon for others of a similar persuasion to join forces, who are more than happy to authoritatively wade in with assertions that SL is dying, is practically grinding to a laggy halt and has pretty much no traffic at all.

Oh, and by the way, none of this is based on fact, experience or first hand knowledge, because the last time any of our authorities on the virtual world even bothered to log in was back in 2008!

The Pitiful Plurker
There is a whole subculture of people who are utterly incapable of living in the real world, however because it would simply be wrong to live a hundred percent in SL, they split their lives evenly between spending their time inworld and on the SL addicts other platform of choice: Plurk. This allows them to live a complete fantasy life, where they can pretend whatever they want is real, and anything they wish can be said with complete impunity.

In pursuance of that aim, every facet of their virtual (ie ‘real’) life is shamelessly broadcast online to the world and his wife in gory detail. This, of course will include wanton slagging off of inworld friends with whom they have fallen out/shagged/gossiped with; racist, homophobic and elitist slurs aimed at those they spend time with inworld; and endless pity parties dwelling on how friends have let them down and their lives are a mess, (hardly surprising, really).

channel1_001The Evil Ones
There are, unfortunately, a group of people who will quite happily use the anonymity of SL as an excuse to act inexcusably. Equally unfortunately, there are even websites and forums that cater to this unsavoury virtual underworld – it’s no secret.

To such people, there is no such thing as decorum, reasonableness or common decency, and they are in more than happy to employ the voice that the free internet offers to stoop to any depth in order to bring down their fellow residents.

This is the domain of the backstabber, the jealous, the entitled and the malcontent, who is at their most happy pulling a fellow SL resident or business to pieces over some imagined or made up slight. Here is a no holds barred domain where anything is considered fair game… Poor health, poverty, relationship or family problems, depression – all provide rich pickings for those with an axe to grind, whilst feeling fully justified in doing so and taking personal affront if challenged.

Strangely enough, here too is the domain of the amateur self-styled protector of intellectual property, the crusader who spends their life scouring the Marketplace and Etsy with the sole intent of trying to destroy SL designers for daring to draw inspiration from the work of others. It’s a deeply unhealthy environment.

This is the murky underbelly of SL filled with people whom you’d swear have no interest in SL, other than in some twisted and perverse form of self gratification.

I can only surmise that their real lives must be a pretty horrible place to live too.

s. x

And there seems to be a problem here.
Your state of emotion seems to clear.
You rise and fall like wall street stock
And you had an affect on our happy talk.
Nirvana – Opinion

Posted in Philosophicalisticality, Rants, SL | 3 Comments

Unspending Spree

retailEven though many of us – gentlemen especially – might pretend otherwise, we’re all massive fans of shopping. Maybe not the routine supermarket sweep for everyday essentials, but few of us would deny that we quite enjoy, even if only a little bit, the opportunity to indulge ourselves, splash out on something special, or spend a day trekking around our favourite shops.

The only problem is cashflow – unfortunately, shopping can be far less enjoyable than it might be, thanks to the fact that we have to pay for goods, and when money is in short supply, or those objects of desire upon which we’re considering lavishing our hard-earned readies are just too damn expensive! All of us, at some time, have experienced ‘post purchase dissonance’ – that disturbing, nagging feeling that we’ve spent too much on something we really shouldn’t have bought, and internally beat ourselves up about it. There are occasions, of course, when these feelings are entirely justified – sometimes the temptation to succumb to the lure of the sale overwhelms common sense, rationality and sobriety and we end up splurging when we really shouldn’t.

If only lovely things were a lot more affordable…

Which they are, in SL.

The shopping bug is big business in the virtual economy – just take a look at the range of goods available on the Marketplace alone, and let’s not forget that not every inworld store is represented there either – SL is the ultimate platform for the inveterate shopaholic: A vast variety of desirables, often of high quality and holding significant appeal, and in real terms, all at knockdown prices. Even the most expensive virtual item requires very little outlay, and indeed, the more desirable and expensive the virtual item, the wider the disparity between the cost of real and virtual goods. A good quality slice of mesh cake, for example, might be sold for a couple of hundred lindens – not terribly expensive, and relatively close in price to its real world equivalent; scale up to a high quality mesh sports car, and you might be talking about splashing a few thousand lindens – a price we might balk at, but likely to tempt us nevertheless – whereas in the real world, that same sports car would be something we could only dream about possessing. SL brings the unaffordable within the reach of most pockets.

So we shop, and we shop with a vengeance!

vague_001I clearly remember making the transition from virtual freeloader to virtual consumer: that moment I first stood inworld, grasping my first wad of linden dollars in my sweaty pixellated palm and pondering what goodies were worthy of my hard-earned cash. Over the weeks, months and years that followed, my inventory became populated with shoes, clothing, gadgets, vehicles, buildings and a whole host of ephemera that I simply had to have. Sometimes, parting with the cash was hard, but sometimes you just have to bite the bullet and spend, spend, spend!

Then, suddenly, it stopped. My shopping habit petered out for no apparent reason. I certainly continued to visit stores and trudge the Marketplace, but my spending decreased to the point where it became almost non-existent – I had become a virtual window shopper; loving the shopping experience, but no longer feeling the need to consummate my consumerist desires. Within a short space of time, my inworld bank balance had reached a state of strange equilibrium – cash would go in at the beginning of the month to pay rent and with a little left over for tips and such like, but other than that, there was – excuse the pun – no change.

That isn’t to say that I never do anything to support the SL retail economy any more, I do, but I don’t do it very much at all any more. In some ways it’s slightly unnerving, in others it’s rather comforting: Having a somewhat addictive personality, there has always been the danger that I might bankrupt myself in the real world as a result of my inworld spending. That, it seems, is now unlikely to happen, thank goodness. In practical terms too, it’s good news – my inventory, which had grown to an extent that it had pretty much attained sentience, filled with items that had never been worn, used or otherwise employed at all, simply stopped growing and, ever since, all of those redundant items have started to find themselves pressed into service, and that can’t possibly be a bad thing.

It’s all very strange and I can’t explain it… And, if the SL retail economy does one day go bust, you’ll know who to blame!

s. x

I’m all lost in the supermarket
I can no longer shop happily
I came in here for that special offer
A guaranteed personality
The Clash – Lost In The Supermarket

Posted in RL, SL | Leave a comment

Quantitative easing

effortIt may be a rather simplistic view of the world, but I’m firmly of the opinion that there are basically two types of people – those who tend to adopt a victim mentality, and those who choose to deal with things. There are, of course, varying degrees of these behaviours and they can change from person to person over time, depending on circumstances and situation – and it’s entirely possible to swing from one extreme to the other, or even to take diametrically opposite positions in relation to different circumstances at one and the same time.

I’m not saying either approach is wrong or right, good or bad – we’re all different and we all find own way through the challenges that life throws at us, doing whatever it takes that will work to our advantage; the trick lies in knowing which route to take and having the wherewithall to take it. Speaking personally, I’m quite definitely in the ‘deal with it’ camp. I’m not particularly good at being a victim: I’d rather get things sorted than let them sort me, any day.

Whilst we’re on the subject, I think there’s a lot than can be learned from SL about human nature. The virtual world is pretty much real life in microcosm, and it can act as a lens that magnifies traits and characteristics, making them far more apparent and evident than they might appear to us in RL. In particular, the dramas and challenges of the virtual world seem to elicit a far stronger response than we see in the real world – reactions tend to be more extreme and emotions tend to run deeper for some reason. So when things do go wrong in SL, people can and do go overboard in terms of how they handle them. We can probably all think of virtual acquaintances who go into victim mode at the slightest provocation – and they make sure that everyone around them knows it too! Similarly, there are those who will take on a crusade against the merest suggestion of a perceived injustice, with all guns blazing and a zeal that is all but incomprehensible to those around them.

wind_001Thankfully, there are also a considerable number of pragmatic people in SL, who are quite capable of rolling with life’s punches, without resorting to either extreme. However, SL should be a salutary lesson to us all… Once we’ve seen just how destructive, self-serving and ineffective such behaviours can be in the virtual world, we should perhaps be more willing to take a more measured and studied approach to our real world problems too?

In fact, when we consider life in those terms, what we might perceive as problems aren’t quite such an issue anyway. If our normal approach is to be a victim, then there’s a chance that every challenge we face will be perceived as something imposed upon us, about which we have no choice, and against which we stand no chance. If we take the opposite approach, we can find ourselves ’tilting at windmills’ – with every problem assuming mammoth proportions, against which we must rail and rage, usually to our own detriment and bringing little reward. Moderation is usually the best answer: To not be overwhelmed and pushed down by life’s challenges, but nevertheless, to assert ourselves and take positive action that will place us in the best possible position to move forward.

write_001There was a time that I would do whatever was needed to get a post out on this blog – if that meant sneaking in a few paragraphs during a short break from work, staying up until stupid o’clock to get a piece finished, or missing meals, appointments and other pursuits to proofread a post, then that’s what I’d do – it was the ‘deal with it’ approach, supersized.

I’ve realised that there is a better way.

Things in my real life are very busy at the moment – I have house guests who are taking a massive toll on my available time; work is extremely busy; my time inworld has gone from 2-3 hours a day to about the same amount of time in a whole month; and, soon I’ll be away for a couple of weeks when I won’t have the time, or opportunity – and it’s quite likely I’ll have no internet access either – to blog at all. So, I face a choice… Do I become a victim, throw up my hands in defeat, and quit until better times? Or, do I manically start writing, forgoing food, sleep and essential activity, just to ensure continuity?

Actually, I won’t be doing either: I’m just going to ease back for a few weeks. Worry not, I’ll still be posting, just not as frequently as I usually do. I promise to deliver at least one, maybe two, posts a week just to keep things ticking over until I have more time to commit to the blog, and I have more opportunity to spend time inworld to gather inspiration for writing in the first place! It’s not permanent, and with any luck I’ll be back to normal by October… Just don’t think I’ve died, abandoned you, or been replaced by a bot – I haven’t!

writing_001

And, you can be assured…

I’ll be back!

s. x

“The words of the prophets
Are written on the subway walls
And tenement halls.”
Disturbed – The Sound Of Silence

Posted in Philosophicalisticality, RL, SL | 2 Comments

Ghost town

ghostIt can be a little unnerving to log in to SL only to find it’s not behaving in quite the way you’re used to. I don’t mean the usual weirdness and peculiarities that we expect and have grown used to in the virtual world, but rather the slightly offputting moments that cause us to question whether ‘something’ is going on… Moreover, something that everyone else, but us, appears to be privy to.

It’s that same feeling you get when someone has a birthday, or other celebration, and you appear to be the only person in your circle of friends who didn’t know anything about it.

On two days in a row this week, I’ve logged in to my home sim to find it suspiciously devoid of people. There’s a pretty vibrant collection of inmates residents at the Penny Lane sim, and at certain times of day, you can pretty much be assured of some company, whether in the local pub, playing games, or just hanging about in the street playing chicken with the cars or waiting for someone to mug! To find the place empty is just a bit weird, particularly when it stays that way all evening.

What’s more, none of my friends amongst whom I usually spend my time were logged in – and the one friend who did make an appearance was as bemused as myself about the situation. It could be that everyone had decided to take a couple of nights off, or perhaps it was just an odd coincidence; maybe, just maybe, I’d been the unsuspecting victim of some great conspiracy, or bizarre practical joke; or could it be that for the past few years I’ve been living in something of a bubble… A bubble that’s finally burst to reveal the shocking truth?

mooby1_001You see, my virtual hometown is distinctly atypical of the wider state of the cause throughout SL. A state that really should be pretty obvious to someone who spends as much time exploring the place as myself. The reality across the virtual world is that much of SL is incredibly sparsely populated and there are vast tracts of our world that, for much of the time, are almost completely devoid of any kind of life at all. Just open up the world map any time you like, and the reality is staring you in the face – you’ll find across whole continents those little green dots, signifying the presence of our inworld compatriots are most notable by their absence. There are, of course, pockets of activity, where avatars are stacked in veritable high rise agglomerations – invariably, these will be clubs, sex venues, large popular stores, and commercial events, but you’ll rarely come across any gatherings of avatars simply passing the time of day in each other’s company.

Perhaps I’ve been somewhat spoiled: The inworld community in which I live is vibrant, friendly, supportive and sociable, and it’s an unfortunate fact that many self-styled communities in SL are such in name only, with little activity to suggest otherwise. There are those, of course, who work extremely hard to build strong and active virtual communities, particularly amongst roleplayers – some would suggest that, on occasion this can go to extremes, but at least there’s an effort made to build those bonds. However, for a community to organically and naturally develop inworld, simply as a consequence of the right people gathering together in a way that mimics a proper RL community is, I’d suggest, pretty rare in a virtual setting and is probably something you’re unlikely to come across all that often.

Having been part of such a community for so long, it seems that I’ve assumed – probably wrongly – that it is the SL norm, when the reality is that whilst people do form like-minded groupings in SL, they tend to be far more nebulous and ethereal than what we might more usually consider to be a community. I’m not saying that’s a bad thing, but I do think that we should have an appreciation of those natural communities that do occasionally emerge inworld, and do our bit to contribute when we are fortunate enough to be part of one.

As for my recent Marie Celeste experience, well this is SL after all… And far stranger things happen all the time!

s. x

Do you remember the good old days before the ghost town?
We danced and sang, and the music played in a de boomtown
The Specials – Ghost Town

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Button pusher

xcdo0azjkmnpi7at6wlvWhy do they put those sticky label things on bags of Cadbury’s Giant Buttons? I know it’s so you can reseal them, but c’mon… Are there seriously people out there who have the willpower not to scoff the whole bag in a single sitting? No way!

I can’t resist buttons – I know I should, but some things are just beyond human capability, and besides… What’s the worst that could happen?

Funny things buttons, they wield an inordinate amount of power over us, not just the chocolate variety, but the big red ones too, and all sorts of buttons of every description in between. So often they compel us into action, even to do things that any reasonable and sane person would never consider under normal circumstances. For example, stick a great big red button on the wall, with the instruction ‘Do not press the big red button’, and the urge that we’ll get to do just that is almost overpowering – indeed, many of us do succumb and give it a good hard whack before running away to a safe distance and adopting an innocent ‘Who me?’ look upon our countenance!

Lift buttons, (that’s elevator buttons to all you Americanians), are almost as bad. Give us a lift to ourselves and the compulsion to push all – yes ALL – of those buttons is overwhelming. Similarly, when the doors are a microsecond too long in closing, you’ll find yourself hammering away on the ‘door close’ button for all you’re worth – although I did read somewhere that these are unlikely to be wired up at all and merely serve as a placebo to keep us subdued and happy.

Oddly, those buttons we really need to push are those that we steadfastly refrain from touching – put a guy right next to a Pelican Crossing** button and he will do everything in his power to pretend it doesn’t exist… even if it means standing there for ten minutes as traffic whooshes by; it’ll take a woman to save the day by reaching past him and pressing the damn thing! (**Sorry, my Americanian friends, I have no idea what the equivalent to a Pelican crossing is over the pond… It’s like one of those ‘Walk/Don’t Walk’ things they have in the movies, but with a button that magically – sometimes – stops all the traffic).

Designers too delight in having fun with buttons. I tend to spend a great deal of time on trains, and with little else to do to pass the time, I find myself constantly amused by the spectacle of some unfortunate soul nonchalantly making their way to the loo, only to make an utter fool of themselves by stabbing ineffectually at all the wrong buttons in order to open the door. Utterly confused, they peer around all the nooks and crannies, pressing nuts, bolts, and anything that vaguely looks like a button, in the desperate hope that it might just be the one. Eventually, having finally succeeded, their embarrassment is compounded when they completely fail to press the ‘lock’ button inside and the next person along reveals them in all their glory to their fellow passengers!

Whilst SL doesn’t sport any particular buttons of note, it does have it’s own virtual equivalent – one that is fast becoming a feature of the past and a part of SL that I really think should be cherished and preserved for the enjoyment of future generations: Poseballs.

There used to be a time when every sim would have its own collection of poseballs: Hovering over chairs and sofas, lurking in corners and scattered pretty much everywhere. And wherever a poseball was to be found, so too was the irresistible urge to click it. Of course, you could never be entirely sure what the outcome might be – and clicking a poseball would often lead to embarrassing, even compromising positions and situations; but of course, that was half the fun of it!

balls_001The days of the poseball are fading fast though – where once they were common, they are falling out of favour, replaced by furniture with discrete embedded animations, menu-driven scripted HUDs, and the new kid on the block – experience keys. Not that there’s anything inherently wrong with that – it is progress, after all – but that vicarious allure of those mysterious blue or pink balls, or those enticing grey and red ones, without really knowing what they may lead to, is being lost. The almost irresistible urge you feel to click and sit, with absolutely no idea what the outcome might be, is one of those special pleasures almost unique to SL, and I fear that it’s something that may soon be consigned to the digital dustbin of the past.

We can’t lose these wonderful, enticing objects that meet such a deep-seated and fundamental need of the human psyche: The need to push the button… just to see what might happen!

Cherish your balls, I say – because one day, you might just lose them!

s. x

World, my finger is on the button…
My finger is on the button…
My finger is on the button…
“Push the button”
The Chemical Brothers – Galvanize

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We love Lucy

wbLucy is back! That’s what the sign said, and it was quite obviously big news, worth shouting about.

Who is Lucy? Surely you know Lucy? Well, OK maybe you don’t – I certainly don’t, but I’m going to hazard a guess that she’s a beautician of some variety, and I’ll go further and surmise that’s she’s been away from work for a while – maternity leave perhaps? – and has returned, much to the relief of her regulars, who can now relax in the knowledge that they can now have their ears waxed, bikinis lined, and nails buffed by a consummate professional!

It’s nice to be missed, and there’s something about SL that seems to foster a sense of kinship: If you should happen to leave an inworld conversation for even the shortest duration, without returning to a chorus of ‘WB’s and ‘We missed yous, it’s rather touching to know that people are looking out for you and that when you’re not around, even if it’s just to make a quick cuppa or have a pee, your absence is noted and your return is welcomed.

DSC_0006It goes further than that, of course, amongst friends. Be missing from SL for a week, maybe two or three, and the alarm bells start ringing. In the absence of information to the contrary, people begin to worry, concerned that something untoward may have happened in RL; anxious enquiries are made, and hopes that everything is fine are expressed. Thankfully, the progenitor of all this angst usually returns a short while later, somewhat bemused by the fuss, since they did mention they were off on their holidays only a short while ago. Internet outages can be particularly perplexing – when an absence from SL is coupled with an absence from Facebook, Twitter and alternative methods of keeping in touch, we do tend to imagine the worst, and it’s a great relief when absent friends suddenly reappear, cursing their misfortune and ISP in equal measure.

Then there’s the ‘Big Quiet’ – when someone simply drops off the virtual map, leaving no clue as to their whereabouts or fortune. Occasionally, word will surface that they are OK, but SL no longer fits into their life; other times, sometimes years later, they’ll reappear as if there’s nothing at all unusual about vanishing for an extended period then popping back as if nothing had changed.

There are times, of course, when our worst fears are realised – when the Big Quiet extends across both worlds and someone we knew will never cross our path again. Those who have experienced that pain will know just how difficult it can be, and you have my heartfelt sympathy.

Let us not focus on the leavings, however, but rather on the returns – and recently, there seem to have been rather a lot of those in my own SL. Over the last few weeks I’ve seen friends return from all sorts of absences… Home moves, internet failures, hospitalisation, unexplained disappearances, and difficult real life stresses, and on each and every occasion it has been a pleasure to welcome them back. Mostly, when people return after a sojourn outside the virtual world, they’re simply happy to be back and pick up from where they left off; on other occasions, people return specifically to seek something they’ve not been able to find in the real world: Solace, comfort, friendship and help – and I’d like to hope that the relationships that are forged in SL, virtual though they may be, are able to fulfil and sustain such a vital role. Actually, I know they can – sometimes far more ably than some RL relationships.

There are some people who will remain forever in my friend’s list, even though they may have been absent from SL for years. I still miss them, and I know that if they did, by some slim chance, ever reappear, I’d have no hesitation whatsoever in giving them the biggest welcome back ever. I live in hope.

s. x

Everyone you meet wants to meet you again
Everywhere you go you leave something behind
Meet the dark souls gonna make them shine
Lucy the castles gonna blow your mind
Twisted Wheel – Lucy The Castle

Posted in Philosophicalisticality, RL, SL | 3 Comments