Cam whore

I’ve always felt that one of the greatest innovations that the internet has given us is the, now pretty much ubiquitous, webcam. I can vividly remember buying my first webcam, back in the days when 240p was considered high end and even if you were fortunate enough to have a modem that could handle a camera feed, it was still a struggle to find any real practical use for your new toy.

That’s all changed, of course, and now almost anyone can broadcast live in HD quality from the local coffee shop, or even on the move. Except, even with the capacity to do so, I don’t. My own webcam is employed for the occasional Skype call to family and doubles up as a remote security camera when I’m working away – a somewhat pointless exercise, I’ll admit, but at least I’ll be able to see that I’m being robbed, from a distance, if nothing else. I will admit that it’s strangely comforting to be able to see whether the postman’s been and what the weather is like at home, from the confines of a hotel room at the other side of the country.

I have at times considered setting up a feed of the back garden, but a) apart from the birds, squirrels and the fence being blown down, it’s not terribly exciting, and b) who would watch it anyway, when it has to compete with Sultry Sandra baring her all on Live

However, whilst my own camera may be gathering dust, I do have to admit to being somewhat addicted to a variety of webcams from around the world. Many are of iconic locations, but most are of places that you may not have heard of – places that I have visited and which hold happy memories for me, and have serendipitously had a webcam set up that can evoke those memories as if they were being made right now.

There is, for example the view of Mount Kenya I had from the balcony of my room when I stayed for one unexpected and exceptional night in the house once owned by Adnan Khashoggi – all I need do is turn on the feed, and once again, I’m there. It’s amazing, and rather fabulously, there are a host of other cameras out there too capable of bringing forth a variety of great moments.

That aside, I’m a fundamentally nosy person – I’m sure I’d make a great spy! And I derive a certain perverse pleasure from being an invisible voyeur to the lives and activities of strangers the other side of the world! I’ve always wanted to be able to do the same in SL too: Having the capability of camming anywhere in the sim is, in my opinion, a top feature of SL – I even have a HUD that allows me to quickly view and switch between multiple locations at the click of a button… If I could have a similar setup, Grid-wide, I’d be more than happy, especially if I could have more than one feed open at the same time.

Better still than that, my ideal SL webcam app would allow remote viewing of multiple inworld locations, whilst offline. Now, you may be thinking, why not just log in and take a look, but that’s not always possible or convenient, and sometimes you just want to keep an eye on what’s going on inworld, whilst you get on with your life outside.

It shouldn’t be too hard to come up with some means for sending a feed to your desktop, without the need to be logged inworld oneself, and I’m surprised that nobody – to my knowledge has ever done it, but even so, I can imagine the reaction from some quarters, including the profile disclaimers prohibiting the viewing, publishing or dissemination of inworld activities without express prior permission. All of which is a bit nonsensical when you consider that those avatars are generally the same ones that publish their every activity and undertaking in Plurk, Facebook and anywhere else they’re guaranteed a fawning audience!

Not that I’m particularly interested in that aspect anyway… All I really want is to have a calming live feed of my Nowhere Land parcel in the corner of my computer screen when I’m going about my general business, just as a reminder of what I’m missing, and what I can look forward to coming home to at the end of a busy day.

And, if you wanted to, I’d be happy to let you check it out too!

s. x

Wide-angle watcher
On life’s ancient tales
Rush – The Camera Eye

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


I don’t know whether it’s a peculiarly British thing, or whether it’s something that’s becoming more common elsewhere too, but in recent times it seems to me that we’re seeing an increase in the number of official warnings, alerts and advisories for things that we either wouldn’t have worried about all that much in the first place or are a simple matter of common sense, but are suddenly apparently now essential for our continuing health and wellbeing.

In less risk averse times, warnings were pretty straightforward, easy to understand affairs, that clearly had our interests at heart: Don’t talk to strangers; don’t stroke strange dogs; don’t eat yellow snow, and so on. Today however, things have become rather more complicated – and you get the impression that such measures are often purely in place only from fear of lawsuits, criticism and accusations of failure to look after society. Here in Britopia, these days we now apparently need terrorism threat levels, wind, rain, snow, heat, and flood warnings, air quality alerts and goodness knows what else the authorities decide to come up with in order to discharge their duty of care to society in general. Frankly, most – if not all of it – is total codswallop!

To take a current example: When this post was written last week, the following day, according to every news source in the country, we were facing an ‘Amber’ snow warning. I didn’t have the faintest idea what that means, and to be honest, even now it’s all history, I still don’t. Does it mean that the snow due to fall  is going to be of a particularly specific orange hue? Worse still, some parts of the country were on yellow alert… And, thanks to my childhood memories, I’m absolutely sure that I really don’t want to be caught up in a blizzard of yellow snow! But, is amber snow better, or worse than yellow? I really don’t know.

Maybe I’ve got it wrong, and we’re talking the same sort of alerts they have in Star Trek – the sort that come with klaxons and flashing lights, and are frequently followed by crew members violently throwing themselves around the bridge, whilst desperately trying to arm photon torpedoes and completely failing to ask the rather obvious question, ‘why the hell are the ship’s doctor and engineer on the Bridge at a time when they really should be at their proper posts?’

The trouble is, just randomly throwing out these alerts with no real frame of reference is not going to help me understand the situation at all. If they’re saying that a couple of inches of snow is Amber and – I kid you not – potentially life threatening – then what about those poor buggers in Canada and Siberia who have to contend with several feet of snow at near enough absolute zero… What the hell alert level are they at? Neon purple with dayglo orange stripes? And how exactly does an Amber snow alert correlate with an Amber flood alert, or a ‘Significant’ influenza warning? Are they cross-compatible, or do they follow their own arcane rules? Nobody, in my entire lifetime, has explained these things to me – and, to be absolutely honest, I’ve never needed government advice about snowy weather anyway: I’ve always followed the same routine – look at the weather forecast, and if it’s snow, look out of the window, at which point I make a decision… Is it too deep/blizzardy/scary to go out in, or not?

Helpfully, the news agencies were also bestowing little nuggets of information supposedly in an effort to assist: Some parts of the country, apparently, were to be as cold as Norway. Well, that’s helpful… I’ll just jump on a plane to Scandinavia to check out the local temperature, so I’ll know whether I’ll need to wear my gloves today! Such ‘useful’ yardsticks that are frequently cited to assist in our comprehension are useless in most contexts – if I know what average temperatures in Norway at this time of year generally are, then great, but I – along with most of the UK population – haven’t a clue. I assume Norwegian February is cold, but for all I know, it could be sub-tropical bikini weather! We use these measures as a means of visualising abstract concepts, but we’re not terribly good at abstraction, actually. Unless you really have a good idea of the height of Nelson’s Column, the length of of a double-decker bus, the weight of an elephant, the size of Wembley Stadium, Wales or Wisconsin, it’s not going to help you much at all – I only know two of those things, and I consider myself to be both pretty well-informed and pretty abstract!

My biggest argument against such arbitrary alerts is that they’re invariably accompanied by a full explanation of the prevailing conditions anyway. Who cares if the heat merits a Yellow alert, if it’s accompanied by a two-page article describing the horrors that will accompany it? The warning is completely superfluous. Plus, of course, the average human being is pretty capable of following my own rationale of looking out of the window and concluding that it is both cold, and the snow is too deep to safely drive in.

I think that the real world could learn something from the way SL gives its ‘unscheduled maintenance’ notices. Having attempted to log in seventy three times, been unable to get dressed, and can only see the world in battleship grey, we readily conclude that something is badly wrong. Sure enough, an hour or so later, the Lab dutifully produce an Unscheduled Maintenance notice, telling us what we already know – but at least we now know that they know, and are presumably doing all they can to fix things, behind the scenes. They’ll also tag on an old-fashioned warning to the notice – don’t rez ‘no copy’ stuff; don’t build stuff; don’t buy stuff – all common sense, but sound, safe advice. They won’t pretend to know when things will be fixed, but the general rule is that when things get back to normal, it’s OK.

Now that’s the kind of warning I can relate to – no daft alerts, flags or colour codes, no unnecessary advice, no comparisons or in-depth analysis. It’s simple, straight to the point and readily understood. ‘Something’s broken, we’re fixing it, take precautions’.


I like simple.

Hmm… I’m looking outside the train window, and it’s just started to snow… And, contrary to all warnings, it’s white!

s. x

The creeping cold has fingers
That caress without permission
And mystic crystal snowdrops
Only aggravate the condition
Lindisfarne – Winter Song

Posted in Rants, RL, SL | Leave a comment

The long weekend from hell (except hell is supposed to be a damn sight warmer!)

I should warn you, before you go any further, that today’s post is a massive rant, and has nothing to do with SL. However I need catharsis, and writing about my woes provides something of an outlet for me: It may help me retain my sanity, but it may not – I shall take that chance. I won’t hold you to account if you quit now, and leave the rest unread, but if you do decide to persevere, I can only apologise in advance. You have been warned!

As a youngster, I used to love the snow. I have happy memories of far-too-infrequent winter’s days playing in the snow as a child. Back then, it seemed deeper, crisper and a lot less slushy that it seems to be these days, but those things have nothing to do with how I feel about the stuff today.

I think it’s fair to say that my love affair with the snow is well and truly a thing of the past.

I’ve had a few run-ins with the white stuff in adult life that have definitely soured my relationship with it. You see, the snow has a vendetta against me, and I really don’t know what it is that I’ve done to upset it.

The first incident occurred around 15 years ago. At the time, I’d headed down to London for a romantic weekend with my long distance partner at that time. That Saturday evening, as we enjoyed a meal in the local Chinese restaurant, the first tentative snowflakes made their appearance outside the window. The suggestion was made that perhaps I should head back home early, but given the choice between a night drive home and a rare cosy night sharing a warm bed, I elected to stay. Bad call: Over the course of the following morning, every motorway in the country was closed and what should have been a comfortable 2 hour drive, turned into a 15 hour nightmare of zero visibility, black ice, getting hopelessly lost, slithering across the carriageway out of control and all undertaken in a 20 year old Morris Mini threatening to overheat every time the traffic came to a standstill, which was very, very, frequently!

I still have nightmares about that drive.

My second snow fail, I’ve written about previously, so I won’t go over it again. You can read about some of it here.

And now, this weekend has topped it all…

Let me give you some context: Since August last year I’ve been working on a work project that has been incredibly demanding, intense and has worn me out, physically, mentally and emotionally. With the exception of a few days over Christmas, I’ve not had a break at all, and since the project started, I’ve been working away from home for all but 5 weeks. This week was the end of 15 weeks straight working away, and also marked the end of the project. It has been rather stressful! Added to that, there has been enormous uncertainty about what my job will be at the conclusion of the project, if indeed I have a job at all – that’s something that has become a little clearer only this week, but is still pretty much undecided and is, by no means, certain.

I needed a break! So, 3 weeks ago, I arranged to spend a long weekend away – same location that I’m working, but for my own enjoyment. The plan was for me to stay put and upgrade the accommodation and a friend would travel up to join me from back home – which would also double up as a birthday treat for them – we were both looking forward to it immensely, and then, this week – unexpectedly – it started to snow. Those of you in Britopia will know the full extent of that nonsense…

However, it’s not snowing here. This is what Caernarfon looked like in the midst of the ‘Red Snow Alert’:

And this is what it looked like back home:

Unfortunately, back home was also where my friend, my clothes, and my transport home were located, unable to escape and completely snowed in.

It was clear, after a couple of abortive attempts that they would not be joining me this weekend.

And that leaves me stranded without a change of clothing, no transport, no companionship and no plan for getting back home on Monday. To make matters even more interesting, the trains South have all been cancelled for days, and if I can’t get home that way, it’s going to be a hit and miss matter of trying to get to Birmingham, of all places, in the hope of getting a bus going my way. Of course, I’ve paid for the accommodation, and I won’t get a refund if I cancel, so I decided I may as well stay… In a location that has effectively completely closed down due to the weather elsewhere, with no means of getting about. It was not going to be the enjoyable weekend I had hoped for, not by any stretch of the imagination. Instead, it’s would be an expensive, stressful, tedious, waste of time…

Just what I needed to wind down after six months of solid work!

I am not a happy bunny.

And the snow and I are no longer friends, and probably never will be again.

s. x

Life is a mystery
Everyone must stand alone
I hear you call my name
And it feels like home
BL▲CK CEILING – She Is Not In Heaven

Posted in Rants, RL | Leave a comment

Silly String

We love to complain about performance – it doesn’t really matter whether we’re talking about our work colleagues’ ability to pull their weight, the fact that our trains are incapable of running on time, our favourite sports team’s ability to produce any sort of of worthwhile result, or that whatever provider of any service we elect to put our trust in, everybody else seems to manage to choose a better one. The actual causes of our frustration will vary from person to person, but there is one particular area about which most of us will have had cause to complain about performance, sometimes justifiably, and that is – of course – SL.

The trouble is that when it comes to SL, we all have very different experiences and expectations – our own definition of good performance may be wildly different from that of another person, and there are so many variables affecting performance that it’s almost impossible to set any sort of benchmarks against which we can measure our own experience. When you consider the factors that can, and do, influence what we get, the futility of the task becomes apparent: Internet connection, ISP, cabling, network load and capacity are all factors that can drastically affect us, but are generally completely outside our control. Our own equipment – computer hardware, modem/router capability, applications, peripherals and settings are equally important. Once you start mixing and matching the various combinations of these things, the pool of potential issues grows exponentially and that’s without even considering how such things can interact with each other, or taking our own habits and expectations into account.

It’s not even enough to say get the best you can afford – a rule that works well for tools, beds, bondage equipment and knives – since that is necessarily dependent upon our budget, and even then may be ineffectual. The best computer in the world will be little use for SL if you have the worst internet connection in the world! You can’t put tractor tyres on a Ferrari and expect top notch performance.

However, I think things may be slowly improving, thanks in no small measure to the increasing capabilities of technology and the steady shift to a culture of mobile devices.

Broadband, in particular, can be surprisingly robust – only recently it was reported that engineers have successfully maintained a broadband connection over a length of wet string… Just for fun, which does go to show that sometimes technical integrity can be maintained over surprisingly sub-optimal circumstances. This is important, because the more connected we become, the more innovative technologies have to become in using whatever ‘infrastructure’ may currently exist – especially when we are demanding, more and more frequently, wireless rather than wired connections. Taking the string scenario a stage further, imagine fabric that can act as an interface between your PC, phone and smart watch, without all that tiresome mucking about with Bluetooth pairing? T-shirts you can stream music from? Silly maybe, but who really knows what the future holds?

And therein lies my hope – can we possibly look forward to a future when the computer simply becomes subsidiary to the other devices and connections in its ever-expanding network, able to divert processing power, capabilities and bandwidth from whatever else may be connected… T-shirt, toaster, car, phone, a spare coil of internet-enabled string? Far-fetched though that may seem, it’s no more so than a great many of the items we now think of as everyday and ordinary – items that work together seamlessly, without our intervention.

I’m firmly of the view that sometime, in the not so distant future, performance in terms of what we look for from the equipment we employ to access SL, will no longer be an issue: We’ll have bare-bones computers with little need of built-in hardware to manage graphics, sound or even Internet connections – instead, they’ll simply borrow that functionality from other connected devices better suited to managing those particular functions, wirelessly, effortlessly, and with little or no degraded capability.

SL, without lag, at top speed and on demand – how awesome would that be?

Best of all, it’ll finally put an end to the horror that is the wiring harness that completely fills the space beneath my desk!

s. x

Someday we’ll find it, the rainbow connection.
The lovers, the dreamers and me
Debbie Harry & Kermit The Frog – Rainbow Connection

Posted in RL, SL, Techietalk | Leave a comment


It’s funny how some things can be out of place, but nonetheless are perfectly suited to their situation. This morning, whilst sat waiting for a train, many miles from home, I spotted a little black cat making his way along the opposite platform. He then, very astutely in my opinion, made use of the footbridge to cross to my side, whereupon he carefully traversed the length of the platform, making his way along the white line on its edge as if he owned the place, unconcerned about the people around him or the immanent peril of passing trains. I almost expected him to climb aboard when the train arrived!

Although a cat is certainly not something I’d particularly expect to see parading along a station platform, and it struck me as being a little unusual, somehow he seemed to fit in perfectly… The very archetype of the railway cat.

Those of us acclimatised to SL are well-practiced when it comes to accepting weird and wonderful juxtapositions and the unexpected appearing in otherwise normal situations. We scarcely blink an eye should we come across a vampire at the mall, an exotic dancer on a motorcycle or a talking dog on the dance floor, and very few things that would undoubtedly cause something of a furore if they were to occur in RL succeed in fazing us at all when we’re inworld. Our virtual mindset is far more tolerant to the different and the departure from what might be termed normal than our real world acceptance may be, and I think that we can perhaps learn something from that and when we find our RL selves making assumptions and falling into the trap of unconscious prejudice, we might like to pause a moment and consider how we react in SL to such things first.

In RL I have moved at various times of my live among diverse circles of people. Some might be considered, at the very least, off the wall or niche, whilst others could be thought of as ‘underground’ or subcultures, rather than mainstream and wholesome. I have learned much from those experiences about myself, others, and the world in general, and I’d like to think that I’m pretty tolerant, open-minded and unprejudiced as a result. I’ve also had friends and colleagues over the years who – through no choice of their own – might be considered by society to be different: A construct that only arises out of what people choose to consider as normal or, to be completely frank, majority rule. In other words, in a world where 90% of the population are hexagons, if you’re unfortunate enough to be born a square you are, by default, abnormal.

And yet, no-one would argue that every one of us is unique, and different to every other person; we consider that to be something to be celebrated and embraced, as long as we get to choose to what extent we are prepared to accept that everyone else with whom we come into contact with has that same privilege afforded to them by ourselves. There’s something fundamentally wrong with celebrating our own uniqueness, but avoiding, denigrating, or holding prejudice against those who – whether by choice, or otherwise – do not fit within the confines of our own definition of normal. You can’t have it both ways, yet in the real world, it seems to be the rule, rather than the exception.

In life, we will often come across things that appear to be be out of place, like my unexpected railway cat. The trick is to let such occasions become opportunities to expand our own world, rather than moments when we claw ourselves away from reality into our cosy, defined and parochial understanding of the world. The cat has as much right as myself to be walking the platform, just because it’s not something I’ve seen before does not make it abnormal, something to be avoided or ignored – it is an opportunity to question, explore, investigate and learn… Whether we’re talking about cats in odd places, race, gender, disability, faith or talking, dancing dogs.

It’s a principle I’ve learned to embrace in the real world and one which quite definitely holds true in the virtual world too.

s. x

Though he was big and fat,
All the world was good to him,
And he pointed out on the map
All the places he had been
The Kinks – Phenomenal Cat


Posted in Philosophicalisticality, RL, SL | Leave a comment

Misty Morning

Beautiful sunrise this morning, glowing orange and pinks against a pale wintry blue sky streaked with glowing contrails and wispy grey and white clouds. There was ground frost covering the fields, with a mist rising above the frozen ground, and in the cold air my breath condensed into smoky billows. It put me in mind of an old Black Sabbath song I haven’t heard for a while (maybe it was the two long-haired rockers behind me, talking about heavy metal)… “In the misty morning, on the edge of time…”

Then my reverie was rudely interrupted by the arrival of a mum and her three uncontrollable kids… Cue an hour of screaming, sibling rivalry, chair kicking, arguments, Peppa sodding Pig, running around, high volume mobile phone conversations and an overwhelming aroma of oranges as the whole family decided to sate their daily vitamin C requirements in an orgy of citrus destruction. And then it got even better as a couple of lads turned up, clearly off their skulls on something or other, barely able to walk and singing football anthems at the top of their voices. Bear in mind that this was still before 9am! “…we’ve lost the rising sun, a final sign…”

Isn’t that always the way? Every time you get a a moment to yourself and find time to disconnect and lose yourself in a spot of private creativity, somebody comes along and ruins the moment; like Coleridge’s fabled person from Porlock, effectively cutting off the creative flow and bringing you back to harsh reality with a bump; that special moment now lost for all time; “…as the misty morning rolls away to die, reaching for the stars we blind the sky…”

It can happen in SL too, you can be happily getting on with your building project, playing a blinder of a DJ set, putting together the finishing touches to a new outfit ensemble or just enjoying the fun of spending time with friends, chilling or shopping, when all of sudden… Blammo! Real life decides to intervene and trip you up. It’s the knock on the door from the unwelcome visitor, the intrusive phone call at an inconvenient moment, the sudden unexpected kitchen disaster or the irritating computer crash. The things that break the spell and drag us away from what we’d prefer to be doing and, when we do finally regroup and try to pick up where we left off, it’s too late – the moment and the momentum has gone, leaving us feeling irritated and deprived. “We sailed across the air before we learned to fly; We thought that it could never end. We’d glide above the ground before we learned to run, run. Now it seems our world has come undone.”

It can be terribly annoying when those sort of things occur, especially when we’ve set ourselves up for getting properly stuck in to our inworld activities – we’ve made a brew, or maybe poured a glass of our favourite tipple, made ourselves comfortable, and prepped a selection of nibbles to keep you us going, and then, just when we’ve settled down and are properly engrossed in what we’re doing, we’re dragged rudely from our pursuit, have to make our apologetic BRBs, and then deal with whatever the real world has decided is more important than our entertainment: Our moment of respite from RL is over; we resign ourselves to the fatalistic inevitability of outside influences beyond our control, grit our teeth, and hope fervently that the interruption will soon pass, allowing us to get back to the serious business of enjoying SL. Fat chance of that! “…Oh they say that it’s over, and it just had to be; oh they say that it’s over, we’re lost children of the sea, oh.”

The trouble with being interrupted, mid virtual flow, is that – like the peace of my morning sunrise – once that mood is broken, it’s almost impossible to recapture. We may try, but it’s unlikely we’ll succeed: The motivation of earlier will have dissipated, the tea will be cold, the snacks somehow less appetising, or friends have logged off and the music has ended. Time, too, has passed and whereas we’d had all evening at our disposal before the cat decided to be sick all over the freshly ironed laundry, we’re now already thinking about making the sandwiches for work tomorrow and very conscious that bedtime is looming. All we wanted to do was laugh, and dance, and run and play in the virtual fields; build fantastical structures straight out of our imagination, and joke with friends, and instead we’re starting to yawn and rub our eyes, we’re losing track of the conversation around us and wondering where all the time went. “We made the mountains shake with laughter as we played, hiding in our corner of the world. Then we did the demon dance and rushed to nevermore, threw away the key and locked the door.”

Coming to think of it, although I may have frequently expressed my reservations about the onset of VR for SL, in particular, the way which it can isolate you from the world around you, I’m starting to form the opinion that just maybe that can be a good thing too… If you’re isolated from reality, clad in goggles and headphones, interruptions are going to have to up their game if they’re going to stand any chance of creating any distraction in the future – and that can only mean those wonderful, sublime, creative inworld moments can be enjoyed exactly as they were intended to be: Without interruption.

Now, if only I could find something that can do the same in RL!

s. x

Look out! The sky is falling down!
Look out! The world is spinning round and round and round!
Look out! The sun is going black, black
Look out! It’s never never never coming back, Look out!
Black Sabbath – Children Of The Sea


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

Salted caramel

Is it just me that thinks the world is getting a bit too pretentious for its own good?

This was brought home to me yesterday when I popped into M&S, not something I’m accustomed to doing on a regular basis – I find it’s too full of the crumbly and annoying type of old people that I’m determined not to grow into – to pick up some decent tea and a packet of biscuits, on account of the fact that hotels always fail to provide enough of those essential supplies, and what you do get is usually made from sawdust.

Whilst perusing the Rich Teas and choccy digestives, my eyes were drawn to that great British treat – teacakes. I don’t know whether you have them in the rest of the world, but they are a fabulously misnamed morsel of loveliness: A soft biscuity base, squidgy sticky marshmallow innards, all covered in a domed shell of chocolate. They are one of those things that you grow up with – granny always brings them out on a little china plate for afternoon tea – they are, in fact, practically a British institution.

So you just don’t mess with teacakes!

However, that other great British institution – Marks & Sparks – has done just that… There, nestling up to the custard creams, trying to look innocuous and not at all out of place: Salted caramel tea cakes!

It’s indicative to me of a culture that feels compelled to gentrify anything and everything… No longer can we order that standard fare of the roadside transport cafe, a milky coffee, now we all have to bring out the Italian in us and request a latte. It’s the same damn thing, but posher; a social climber of the coffee world. The same is true though of so many things in this day and age: Craft beers, designer phones, gifts that can’t be found on the high street, bespoke furniture… And the overwhelming majority of these wonderful things are no better than the less posh alternative, and some may well be far worse. However, thanks to clever marketing, the average person has convinced themselves that a latte is a far superior product to a milky coffee, even if they are exactly the same thing.

It’s a fundamental part of modern day living that we think we deserve the best – nothing wrong with that, except the people selling us these needful things are hell bent on convincing us that not only do we deserve the best, but the defining qualities of ‘best’ are those ethereal add-ons and superlatives that have no intrinsic value in themselves, but in some way can be construed as adding something desirable. Gone, it seems are the days when we were happy with our lot, made do with what we had, and appreciated the simple things in life – now everything has to be enhanced, gilded and primped and sold for twice the price, even when it’s not worth the extra. Which brings me right back to bloody salted caramel! Back in the day, we were more than happy with our plain old caramel, the simple, homely treat beloved of kids everywhere – but now, that’s just not good enough unless it’s been turned into a posh, ‘grown-up indulgence’ with an obligatory (but totally unnecessary) sprinkle of salt, and most of us couldn’t tell the difference between the two if we tried!

Personally, I quite like the old-fashioned, rough and ready, take it as it comes variety of life. It may not be all new and shiny, and those who live in a more rarefied atmosphere may sneer at us over their skinny soy frappuchinos – (totally oblivious of the irony of the fact it’s a made-up, meaningless name – the ultimate in designer branding!) – but at least you know what you’re getting, it’s going to be familiar and comfortable like an old pair of slippers, and you’re never going to have to pretend you like it – even if you don’t – just to appear cool and froody.

In many ways, SL is like the old-fashioned version of the tea cake. It’s not pretentious, clever, quirky or posh; it doesn’t pretend to be something it isn’t; it’s not out to ‘keep up with the Joneses’, and you know exactly what you’re getting, warts and all. Moreover, even though it’s not cutting edge, special, or particularly upmarket, it’s enjoyable, fun, and – like an old car that you’ve had for years – you’re not that bothered about getting it dirty and a bit scratched. It does what it’s supposed to do in a no-nonsense, straightforward way, and if you are looking for something that’s all-singing and dancing, then I’m afraid that you are going to be somewhat disappointed.

However, if you want something with no surprises that does mostly what it says on the tin, and does so fairly consistently, without too much real drama, then SL is as good as any old-fashioned treat that your granny might serve up for afternoon tea…

And I can’t think of a much better endorsement than that. Can you?

s. x

I’m just an old fashioned girl with an old fashioned mind
Not sophisticated, I’m the sweet and simple kind.
I want an old fashioned house, with an old fashioned fence
And an old fashioned millionaire.
Eartha Kitt – Just An Old Fashioned Girl

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

Caps Lock

A sign in a railway carriage recently caught my eye, it was one of those notices that advise you what to do if the train should suddenly career off the tracks at ninety miles an hour, to end up in a mangled heap of twisted metal and burnt flesh. One of the directives said:

“await instructions from On Train staff”

And that puzzled me.

Not the instruction itself, that was pretty straightforward. What caused me to raise a questioning eyebrow was the odd capitalisation of the words ‘On Train’.

I’ve always been of the opinion – perhaps, you might argue, the grammatically correct opinion – that capital letters are reserved for the start of new sentences, proper nouns, titles, and expressing the first person singular. Occasionally, where the situation merits, they can be used to stress importance or to provide emphasis – a device I regularly employ on the pages of this blog. However, I’m picky about those words I consider deserving of such distinction, which explains my bemusement at the emergency notice: What, in particular, makes the words ‘On Train’ quite so special? As far as I can tell, we’re not referring to a proper noun here, neither could those words possibly be construed as a title – maybe, just maybe, I could accept that particular usafe if the word staff was also capitalised; that could be a title, of sorts, but just those two pathetic words on their own… No chance!

It seems to me to be symptomatic of our ever-increasing reliance on digital technology and, more specifically, on the rapid over-utilisation of the diminishing pool of available unique identities, tied with the need for ever more obscure passwords.

Let me explain:

No longer can we get away with Geoff66 and the stupifyingly difficult to guess password: Geoffword99 – these days Geoff and any combination of digits have long ago been employed by multiple Geoffs all over the world. They are long gone, so we have to make creative use of random and unnecessary capitals, along with arcane combinations of non-alphabetic characters, and passwords requiring that we practically need to develop our own language in order to devise an acceptable combination that will protect our online pizza orders from prying eyes. (Semi interesting fact: An 8 letter dictionary word, with a single capital, one additional digit and one non-alphabetic character will take a standard PC 10 years hard work to decode. Add an additional punctuation character, and we’re up to 800 years; just one more and it’s going to take 485000 years – consequently, my pizza orders are safer than my bank account!)

I think we’re becoming so used to randomising our vocabulary that we’ve started giving up bothering with such complications as rules of grammar and just do what looks good to us, whether it makes sense or not. Welcome to the post-digital world!

And I’m afraid we can find the confusion creeping into SL too, which for someone like me, who relies very much upon the placement of capital letters when calculating how to address a newcomer is a complete nightmare. It may be fun and quirky to have an ungrammatical name, but it’s less than helpful. If you turn up sporting the name geoFree Resident, how am I to know how to address you without causing offence? Is it Geoff? Geo? Geoffrey? Or some other mangled approximation of a name? And, for good measure, as the virtual gene pool of available monickers grows ever smaller, resorting to numbers to supplement any name is now pretty much standard practice – unless you’re fortunate enough to be Polish, in which case you could probably throw together any random combination of little used letters and come up with something usable 😉

I just want to be friendly, but it’s tricky when I can’t even figure out what you want to be called.

It is, however the shape of things to come, so I suppose I should just suck it up and accept it – Aberrant Capitals and all – in the unfortunate knowledge that things can only get worse, and there’s nothing I can do about it.


s. x

Four letter word just to get me along
It’s a difficulty and I’m biting on my tongue
And I I keep stalling, keeping me together
The Ting  Tings – That’s Not My Name

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


Winter is a time of stasis: Life slows down and anything that’s not strictly necessary lies in abeyance and waits for its time to come. Animals hibernate, plants die back, trees lose their leaves and shut down, and we wrap ourselves up, stay indoors and pack away all our warmer weather accoutrements.

Many of us keenly feel the sense of slowing down that the colder, darker days bring and, for some, winter is a sombre, even depressing, time. Others, like myself, feel the loss if the warmer days, but enjoy winter for all that it brings – there’s something about a crisp, cold December morning that can make you feel very alive.

I find that there can be some very pleasurable aspects to the winter time – everything from stodgy, comforting meals, to the smell of damp earth and leaves; and whilst frost, snow and freezing rain may have their undoubted downsides, I find it hard to write them off, because they have their pleasurable sides too.

Most of us have our winter rituals; perhaps it’s the packing away of the summer clothes, digging out the duck down duvet, making the first batch of stew and dumplings or resuming an indoor hobby that we’ve neglected for the last six months of the year. One of my activities that’s become a bit of a ritual in recent years, is transforming my inworld parcel from the bright and sunny aspect that it wears for much of the year into the muted and less colourful tones of winter time. Out comes the snow and icicles, up goes the winter foliage, and in comes the inclement weather. The final touch, which seals the deal and declares that winter has finally come to Nowhere Land, is when the huge and stately ancient oak which presides regally over the meadow is replaced by a frost-rimed and bare-branched guardian over the land… It’s the finishing touch that marks the change of seasons.

However, none of that will be happening this year.

As I’ve already mentioned, whilst I’m working away, my time inworld is pretty much going to be limited to a few hours on a Sunday. When you consider that I usually have that much time at my disposal most evenings, you can appreciate that much of what I’d normally get up to in SL is going to be sharply curtailed. Consequently, over the coming weeks the opportunities I do have to log in are likely to focus on things other than the time-consuming and fiddly pursuits of landscape gardening – it’s unfortunate, but some things take priority, and spending time with friends is one of those things that I consider to be far more important than sorting out the snowfall.

Besides, even though I will know something is missing, the vast majority of visitors and passers-by are unlikely to be aware that anything is amiss. Many sims, after all, remain resolute in their determination not to change in accordance with the seasons, and anyway, I suppose it’s quite pleasant for those who aren’t particularly fond of what the weather is doing outside to find somewhere inworld that reminds them of balmier days.

It’s not a big deal, but it does remind me that SL has a way of worming its way into your life in the most unlikely fashion, often without us being overtly conscious of it. However, unlike the real world, it’s entirely possible – barring disasters and foolishness – for things to quite happily remain exactly as you left them, for extended periods of time; and, whilst I’m indisposed, Nowhere Land will remain – in stasis – awaiting my return.

And when I do… Well, I might just make up for lost time. So expect some unseasonal snow sometime in April – you might want to hold off packing away your winter clothes, at least until May is over!

s. x

The summer sun is fading as the year grows old,
And darker days are drawing near,
The winter winds will be much colder,
Now you’re not here.

Jeff Wayne – Forever Autum

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

Great expectations

Life is full of expectations – it’s one of the things that drives us onwards and motivates us; it is also fertile ground for disappointment and disillusion. Much of our personal endeavour is prompted and sustained by the expectation of where our path will take us, and how we view the world and those around is, in part, derived from our own expectation of what we perceive. Similarly, of course, the expectations that others have of us can be equally uplifting or disappointing in their own right.

One of the key life skills we develop over time and through experience is how to manage expectations, either our own, or those that others have of us. And it can be a tricky thing to do, especially since unreasonable and failed expectations can lead to a whole world of disappointment and difficulty. We’ve all felt that sense of betrayal when we find that the holiday destination or movie that others have raved about and we’ve wanted to experience for ages turns out to be a disappointing and lacklustre flop. Most of us know what it’s like to find that our potential soul mate is not the person we thought they were, and we’ve all been in the embarrassing position of knowing that the fruits of our own efforts are flawed, not up to scratch and a bit of a let down.

Then there are the expectations that have no real basis, but we nevertheless choose to rely upon them anyway… Perhaps the time we were in the early days of a relationship and it became clear that your new significant other expected – way too soon for your liking – to be invited along as partner to a family party. Awkward; likely to cause offence if refused, but pretty unsettling if you’re not ready to take that step.

Managing expectations, as anyone who works in a customer service environment will know only too well, is rarely a simple matter.

This is true when it comes to realising the potential of SL. Many of us can be pretty critical about how the Lindens manage the virtual world, but in reality it’s an impossible task. Whilst I sure that all of us – The Lab included – want an error free and responsive, cutting edge virtual environment, achieving it means working within the available resources and prioritising where those resources are best utilised. You may think it’s a simple formula – reduce lag, improve reliability, build in new features, and while you’re at it, lower tier! Those however are incredibly high expectations when placed in the context of the wider arena of SL. Certainly the Lab could lower tier, but not without slamming the budget for feature development. Alternatively, they could go all out on eliminating lag, but at the expense of quality control, meaning less reliability and broken functionality. And what features do we expect then to focus upon? Will it be the shiny niceties, the groundbreaking tech, or the the boring backend utilities? You can’t have it all, but that’s often what we expect.

The virtual world is no different to the real world in this regard – if you want to own a Ferrari, then you’re going to have to make sacrifices to achieve your goal. Your expectations of whether you’ll ever actually get there will be tempered by reality, and maybe sometimes we need to remind ourselves that SL is in much the same position.

There is, however, an alternative – one that goes against the grain for most of us, yet is very effective nevertheless, and it’s really simple… Why not lower our expectations?

That may sound like a terrible idea, yet lower – and perhaps now realistic – expectations mean fewer disappointments and more chance of seeing our expectations exceeded. And, before you completely write that off as a bad idea, consider something rather less fancy than SL, but rather more successful: Minecraft. It’s simple, basic, makes no attempt to be cutting edge or technologically advanced, and nobody expects it to be. They simply make the best of what they have, innovate and creatively work around what could be perceived as deficiencies when compared with more cutting edge games, and are perfectly happy with the status quo.

SL is what it is. Sometimes you just have to accept what you have and realise that the car parked outside the house will never be a Ferrari… But it does everything a Ferrari does – maybe not as fast, and without the admiring and jealous glances of passers-by – but it will still get you to the shops, will do it a lot more economically, and is a damn sight easier to park!

s. x

Maybe you’ll marry, maybe you won’t
maybe you’ll have children, maybe you won’t
maybe you’ll divorce at 40, maybe you’ll dance the funky chicken on your 75th wedding anniversary…
what ever you do, don’t congratulate yourself too much
or berate yourself either

your choices are half chance, so are everybody else’s
Baz Luhrmann – Everybody’s Free (to Wear Sunscreen)

Posted in Linden Love, Philosophicalisticality, RL, SL | Leave a comment