1000

millionThis, according to WordPress, is my 1000th post.

Unfortunately, WordPress is wrong – since only posts appearing on this page get counted, anything else on the site counts as a big fat zero; then there’s the bits and pieces scattered around other sites on the interweb, and let’s not forget my original blog\s that preceded this one – which themselves account for around a further year’s worth of posting. So, taking all things into account, I passed the 1000 post milestone some time ago. (Coincidentally, when I proofread this piece – I found I’d misspelt ‘milestone’ as ‘millstone’ – a somewhat apt slip of the fingers, if ever there was one!)

My usual daily offering is between 700-800 words, with a fair whack being considerably more verbose, which means that I could reasonably add a few more zeroes to the heading above, and put in a valid claim to somewhere around a million words, which is probably pretty close to my actual output over the past six years. If only I’d accumulated cash at the rate I’ve accumulated words I’d be a millionaire by now, but sadly that isn’t the case, and it’s highly unlikely it ever will be.

gypsy1_001Let’s face it, anyone who has ever written even a modest amount ‘for pleasure’ has harboured thoughts of becoming the next Grisham, Rowling, or Crighton, but if it was that easy, we’d all be up there on the rich lists. I know a few people who write professionally, or have done so in the past, and I doubt that any of them are holding out any hopes about making even a modest fortune from their work – not that they aren’t any good at what they do, it’s just the nature of the game.

The same is true for those who dream of making it big in SL. It’s true that some do, but the vast majority – no matter how accomplished they may be as designers, builders, artists, or whatever – are probably going to end up spending more than they make, or at best, breaking even over the course of their SLife. There really is no guaranteed way to make a fast buck in either life, even if you’re at the top of your game – luck, timing, sponsorship and market forces all play a hugely significant part in securing success, and it doesn’t always go to those who are the best at what they do, (just consider E.L. James, for example, oh my!).

pub4_001Perhaps a bigger consideration for me – given the chance – would I really want to turn what I do for fun into a business? Whilst you may not immediately appreciate the sentiment here, it is something that I’d counsel anyone thinking about turning a hobby or interest into something more to think very carefully about, before taking the plunge. There are some things in my life that I am extremely good at, so good in fact that other people have suggested I should consider developing those talents into a career, or at the very least, think about making a living from them. However, these are things I do for pleasure, not for profit and if that were to change, so would the whole dynamic around them. To write for a living means to be disciplined, consistent and to write with a purpose – there can be no off-days or times when the effort is too much, or there’s something else to occupy the time that you decide is worth doing more. You have to write on the basis that the aim is to put food on the table, not because you want to vent, rant, chat or wallow in nostalgia for a bit. You’re up against the clock – forget wandering off mid paragraph to toast a bagel, make a cuppa or potter around on the internet, (all of which I have done in the course of writing this post): That focus has to be unwavering, and procrastination has no part to play. And, perhaps most difficult of all, your work is no longer your own – unless you’re very fortunate indeed – you may be doing the writing, but other people are making the decisions… topics, titles, length, language, form and feel are dictated by editors, publishers and even the intended audience – what you once did for fun, when you felt like it, becomes the property of somebody else: Somebody with their own rules and expectations, and they are writing the cheques!

There are few things more deflating than reading a piece over which you’ve sweated blood, and finding that someone else has butchered it beyond recognition.

That’s not to say that some can and do pursue their dream in this way, and do so terribly well. Other bloggers have made the transition, but I’m not sure that I’d have the same courage of my convictions to make that step, equally, I’m not sure that it’s one I’d really want to make anyway – at least for the time being.

station11_001After all, there’s nothing wrong with doing something simply because it’s enjoyable; and there’s no rule that says you have to be successful, as measured by others, simply because you happen to be awesome at what you do. Maybe we won’t make our fortune from creating gestures, achieve fame through our skills at making mesh clothing, or be celebrated for our blogging, but if we’re enjoying what we do and we do it well enough to feel good about ourselves, then we’ve nothing to feel disappointed about.

I’ve always said that I’d still blog, even if nobody ever read any of the words – the bottom line is that I write for myself, in the way I want to, much like I build and do all those other things that I feel inspired to do in SL. Maybe one day that will change and I’ll be ready for the challenge of doing it for real, but until then, this will do nicely.

And that just about wraps things up for now, I think: 1,001,010 and counting!

write_001

s. x

You’re at the stage
You want your empty words heard
And everybody’s ready
They want to know your secret
But you are not telling
Furniture – Brilliant Mind

Posted in Philosophicalisticality, RL, SL | Leave a comment

Too many cooks

googleIt’s happening… I’ve known it was coming for years, but it’s only really been in relatively recent times that the signs have become more noticeable.

I’m talking about the dumbing-down of the internet; the slowing of the information superhighway. It’s been suffering from a slow, but altogether insidious creeping death for a while now, because you can have too much of a good thing. It’s not so much a case of information overload that’s an issue – although, in practical terms, that was a concern until IPv6 came onto the scene – it’s more a case of the quality and type of information that you find on the .net that’s starting to clog its digital arteries.

One of my recent little side projects has been remastering and editing an original 1956 cine film. Sprucing up the quality and removing the artefacts of age and time aren’t a problem; they just take time, an eye for detail and a lot of patience – the difficulties I’ve experienced has come from an entirely different angle. I wanted to add a soundtrack – a mix of effects and incidental music consistent with the type you’d traditionally hear in the background, whilst a well-spoken narrator would chatter conversationally away in a clipped English accent over the top… Jolly good, old chap!

Except it’s been blooming difficult to find anything suitable, anywhere on the web. I know what music I want, (it goes, ‘Dah dah dah, dah dah dee diddly dah, dee diddly diddly diddly diddly daaaaah’  – you know the one!), but i’ve no idea what it’s called, who wrote it or where I’ve heard it before, which has meant coming up with ever more inventive search terms, none of which have been any use at all. ‘1950s documentary music’ turns up films about Buddy Holly; ‘music+pastoral+film+backing+track’ gives me a wealth of Christian music sites and Hollywood movies, and is no help at all; ‘steam train travelling through countryside incidental music’ produces The Railway Children and country and Western songs! In fact, pretty much every search term I’ve tried, no matter how specific or utterly esoteric has failed to produce the goods.

It’s symptomatic of the bloat that is afflicting the World Wide Web… When was the last time you were Googlewhacked? There used to be a time when you could find anything you wanted on the first page of Google – now you’re faced with pages and pages of 1Direction, the European economic crisis, which flag is this week’s most politically incorrect, and Jeremy Bloody Clarkson. It doesn’t matter what you’re looking for, because apparently that’s all that the rest of humanity is interested in! Mr Berners-Lee’s baby has become a bloated monster, crammed full to bursting with pointless irrelevancies and dross – it may well be the last bastion of free-speech, but – and I say this with a feeling of fatalism – without some sort of moderation or editorial input, it will soon become an unnavigable morass. I can see a time, in the not so distant future, when librarians will be re-inking their stamp pads and dusting down the shelves, because it won’t be long until the only reliable source of information won’t be Google, but a well-thumbed, old-fashioned encyclopaedia!

The statement, ‘size isn’t everything’, is in this case true. The bigger, more bloated and more accessible the internet grows, the less useful it becomes: too much information of the wrong kind is counter-productive – imagine a book index listing every occurrence of every word and every incidence of every punctuation mark: It becomes cumbersome, irrelevant, meaningless and utterly unhelpful.

Recently, I watched a video review of Hello Games’ – soon to be released – No Man’s Sky –  it’s 18 minutes’ long, but I drank in every second. This is a virtual universe of 18 quintillion unique planets, and when I say planets I do mean worlds equivalent in real terms to the size of real planets. This is virtual existence on an unimaginable scale, and some would say that it’s just too big… what’s the point of a virtual universe where you can spend an entire lifetime simply exploring a single planet? How meaningful to a human being can an environment be when it is a space so vast that one might never come into contact with another living soul? And, without any external or parallel terms of reference, how exactly is anybody supposed to gain any sense of their place in such an utterly perplexing universe?

2044435-SecondLifeInfo_21341_SL may be big, but it’s not so big that it’s unmanageable – in area, it’s around 700 square miles, and if that sounds big, it’s not – SL is about the same size of Mauritius, and to give you some idea of how titchy that really is, I’ve arrowed it on the map below.mauritius

In fact, SL is so small that we can always find company, make friends and partake of all those incredibly important things that make SL a community, yet it’s still big enough for us to explore and experience a huge amount of new and exciting things to keep even the most demanding of us satisfied. And therein lies one of the fundamental tenets of SL’s endurance as a platform, it is neither too big, nor too small – it exists in the Goldilock’s Zone of virtual worlds. More populous and expansive and it would run the risk of becoming cumbersome or irrelevant, as could easily happen with the internet; bigger still, and it loses all sense of time, place and reality – as I fear will be the case with No Man’s Sky. Going to the other extreme, it becomes claustrophobic, parochial and self-destructive; a place we can become easily bored with and without sufficient social or geographical diversity to remain viable. As it is, it’s just right – and hopefully, that’s just the way it will stay!

s. x

Just a castaway
An island lost at sea
Another lonely day
With no one here but me
More loneliness
Than any man could bear
Rescue me before I fall into despair
The Police – Message In A Bottle

 

Posted in Philosophicalisticality, SL | 2 Comments

Existential Engineering

engineerWe’ve all laughed over misheard lyrics in songs, despite which, our minds work in such a way that even when we know the real words, we’ll still stubbornly persist with our own warped interpretation anyway. It’s one of the quirks of humanity that I find quite endearing and which defines us as being more than purely logical, rational machines. We’re pretty adept at accepting the illogical and irrational, and adapting so that such things fit seamlessly with our world view. In many ways it’s a necessary survival strategy – if we were unable to cope with the illogical and counter-intuitive things of the world, such as the waging of war and blatant, wilful acceptance of social inequality, then we’d all be doomed to an existence where the everyday business of living would become a struggle that would simply tear us apart.

On a lighter note, that very same principle that enables us to mediate the irrational and ridiculous permits us to explore our creativity in SL without losing our sanity or sense of perspective in the process.

station8_001To return to the business of mishearing things… Whilst waiting for the train this morning, an announcement came over the tannoy – what I thought I heard was that a train had been delayed due to ‘existential engineering’… A bizarre but fun concept that my mind leapt upon with glee!

In the real world, our lives are very much governed by our circumstances – existence is all about surviving, wrestling with the choices life demands we make, and finding ways to deal with the world and the way it impacts upon our lives. Our jobs and responsibilities determine ‘what’ we are and how we act; and our lifestyles are very much a product of our environment. We have some influence over our circumstances, and we do what we can to attain some degree of individuality, but – in the main – life tells us what to do and how things are. We are very much subject to the whims of fate, continually tossed around on the sea of life and blown by the winds of fortune. The best we can do is often just to go with the flow and make the best of circumstances, with varying degrees of success and satisfaction. That’s not to say we can’t triumph – we can, and do – but, when it comes to engineering those successes, we can only work with the tools at our disposal, and within the constraints of our situation and circumstances.

Much as we may bemoan our lot, most of us are – in the main – pretty satisfied with maintaining that status quo. We prefer life to play by the rules and to follow patterns that make logical and practical sense, even if that often leads to a foregone conclusion that isn’t always completely satisfactory, we take  a pragmatic view and accept that life is something that most happens to us and that our influence on it is fairly limited in the wider scale of things.

spectacular34_001However, unleash us in SL and everything changes! No longer subject to arbitrary or fixed rules, we a free to engineer our own worlds and our own second lives. We can do what we want, when we want and however we want to do it: Our existence is no longer a product of the world around us and its influence. Instead, who and what we are shapes that world and creates an environment that is in harmony with our wants and needs; one which reflects and enhances our character and our dreams, rather than stifling and constraining them. If we stick with the engineering analogy, not only does SL provide us with a vast array of tools, but also a limitless supply of materials with which we can construct an existence that fulfils and facilitates our ambitions. We actually create our own vicariously experienced reality, instead of fitting in to one that the world has shaped for us.

And some people call it a game!

s. x

So move away Jimmy Blue
Before your small, small town turns around
And swallows you
Del Amitri – Move Away Jimmy Blue

 

Posted in Philosophicalisticality, RL, SL | Leave a comment

Tech Support

techHi, you’re through to Technical Support, Seren speaking. How can I help you?

I’m sorry to hear that, can you explain the problem to me?

You’re wearing a box? Well, did you intend wearing it? Are you making some sort of fashion statement?

No? Oh, you thought it was clothes? This might seem a silly question, but do you usually have trouble distinguishing clothes from boxes? Yes, I agree, it was a silly question! OK, have you tried taking it off and putting it back on again? You have… and it’s still a box?

Are you quite certain you didn’t just buy a box by mistake – I mean, it’s easy enough to do… box, socks… they do sound very similar. Oh, it was a jacket? Well, er… jacket, packet – you see my point?

Well, there’s no need to be so rude about it! Only trying to help. No, I’m sorry, it’s not something I’ve come across before, all I can suggest is you could perhaps try starting a new trend, maybe everyone will want to wear boxes when they see you strutting your stuff. No?

Well, I suppose you could always use it as a box – you know, for putting clothes and stuff in?

What’s that… it’s full already?

Full of clothes? Well, that’s handy – why don’t you just help yourself to those instead – no-one needs to know!

Not at all, it was my pleasure. Thank you for calling Technical Support.

inns7_001

s. x

Help, I need somebody
Help, not just anybody
Help, you know I need someone, help
The Beatles – Help!

 

Posted in SL, Techietalk, Unlikely stories | 2 Comments

Retraction (You have to be joking!)

sorryOh my goodness, my recent posts on SL people types ruffled a few feathers! It seems there’s a few DJs builders, scripters and so on out there in SL world who think my analysis was a little unfair and paints a somewhat inaccurate picture of the complex and subtle skill sets that such people need to do what they do.

I’ve even been told I should publish a formal retraction… Well, nuts to that – it ain’t gonna happen!

However, in the interests of journalistic integrity, fairness and a quiet life, I will – on this occasion only – present a counter argument, as suggested to me by those I’ve horribly wronged, although I can’t guarantee it’s going to go far in endearing me to those detractors, but one can try. I’ll stick with the more technical ‘professions’, with whom I seem to have stirred up the most complaints, in particular DJs.

I may have been a little scathing in my appraisal of the sheer amount of raw talent required to master the decks in the average SL club. I’m reliably informed that a successful DJ will have invested years of blood, sweat, tears and alcohol into becoming adept at their craft and that my comment that pretty much anyone can be a DJ, if they can download YouTube videos and type a notecard, is well off the mark. All those times a DJ is seemingly ignoring you and palms you off with a glib comment that “I was in my DJ software” or “cueing up a track”, then pause a moment and spare a thought for the poor soul. Unknown to you, they’re doing insanely complex things with levels, bit rates and codecs, thinking six tracks ahead, AND trying to make sense of a screen full of IMs whilst pleasantly thanking people for their tips… Multitasking doesn’t even come near an adequate description of the brain-numbing challenge they face from moment to moment.

sm53_001To be a DJ is – apparently – a thankless task: play one dodgy request, and you’ll alienate the whole room; fail to play someone’s favourite track and you’ll never be allowed to live it down. Don’t have the live, white label, stealth Ibiza bootleg of William Shatner’s ‘Common People’ – you’re a rank amateur… Play it, and you’ll be thrown out of the club! Those tips should have a couple of extra zeros for all the grief these heroes go through!

So, according to those who know these things, DJing is not at all easy – I stand corrected. (Believe that and you’re far more gullible than I’ve given you credit for!)

Hopefully, I’ve now placated all the deeply offended DJs in SL, so I’ll move on to that other class of highly qualified and gifted individuals: Scripters and builders.

Again, despite having personally dabbled in these disciplines for a while now, it seems I am woefully ill-informed when it comes to understanding the complexities and sheer dedication required to build even the simplest plywood cube or ‘hello avatar’ script. It seems that real builders have to contend with a whole range of problems that us lesser mortals would never even consider. The whole business of matching texture seams, achieving minimal land impact, optimising physics and achieving efficient server loads is something that content creators will never do spend a lifetime learning. All this in the harsh and unforgiving environment of sandboxes, where griefing reigns unfettered and other avatars will insist on sitting on whatever you happen to be building, just for the fun of it!

Even when you’re done, there’s more hassle… Despite having put your heart and soul, along with the best years of your SLife into perfecting your wonderful creation, nobody it seems is happy with the result. “Can’t you make it in a slightly different shade of orange?”; “Your alpha’s don’t fit my portly frame – I demand you cater for every possible shape in SL!”; “What do you mean, I have to buy my own furniture?”; “Your builds are too big for my land – make a quarter size option just for me!”; “100 LI is far too much for a medieval castle – I insist you make it only 20 LI and how dare you charge L$50 for it. Lower the price!”; “Your scripts are crap, I could write them a hundred times better, if I had the time and weren’t so important” – everyone it seems, is a critic. Consequently, SL builders have the patience of saints on Prozac.

channel9_001Which brings me to roleplayers, and the unsurprising conclusion that I’ve actually not done them a disservice at all; in fact I may well have given them far more credit than they deserve. I’ve reached this understanding by the simple expedient of standing in the middle of a Bloodlines’ sim and shouting at the top of my voice: “Vampires suck! (And they cheat at baseball!)” – It’s taken me three days and sixteen blood transfusions to get over the resulting mayhem! I’m seriously considering going into bulk wooden stake manufacturing to get my own back!

As for the rest: Noobs, SLex addicts, Land Barons, Shoppers and Hunters – well, as far as I’m concerned, nobody’s complained to me, and the cooling-off period expired… Oh, let’s say, five minutes ago.

Oh yes, almost forgot the bloggers again: Every word I wrote about them is quite definitely true!

Happy now?

s. x

You will never understand
How it feels to live your life
With no meaning or control
And with nowhere left to go
William Shatner – Common People
(Not the live, white label, stealth Ibiza bootleg – I’m no DJ!)

 

 

Posted in Builder's bum, Musicality, Rants, SL | 2 Comments

I am what I am

not normalYesterday I considered some of the stereotypical inhabitants of SL – those round holes that us square pegs somehow manage to squeeze ourselves into, albeit with judicious application of a lump hammer. Today I conclude my analysis, so if you haven’t yet found your inworld niche, read on… You may discover where you belong!

Roleplayers
Roleplayers in SL are on a mission – however, the mission they think they’re on is not really it. Whilst they may think their sole purpose in SLife is to harvest new souls for the blood brotherhood, barter at the market for the best slaves, wriggle around in latex gimp suits at their mistresses’ pleasure or prance around the fields of the virtual countryside as their own little pony, what they’re really out to do is to drive home to all non-Roleplayers that SL is deadly serious business. To us, SL is fun, but – for goodness’ sake – don’t try explaining that to a Roleplayer. If you really want to find out just how serious these guys are, try wandering into the middle of a Gorean RP sim in a bikini, and fire off your favourite giggle gesture at the top of your voice… But don’t say I didn’t warn you!

ww8_001

Drama Queens
Despite the name, this category is open to both sexes, and for that matter, furries and non-human species of any kind. Typically, Drama Queens are the big kid at school who used to steal your dinner money and give you Chinese burns, now you’re all growed up and have achieved a modicum of success and self-actualisation, whilst they’ve turned into cellar-dwelling, sub-humans with no hope, no prospects and no-one left to steal dinner money from, they seek solace from creating the illusion in their own minds that SL revolves around them. The best way to put a Drama Queen in their place is to tell them you’re a Linden, then refuse to become their friend. Drama Queens can be fun to watch when they go into meltdown – just make sure you bring beer and popcorn.

Noobs
We are all Noobs. Yes even you, after all these years.

I Want to do teh Sex
Well, we all do at first – who wouldn’t – but eventually, most of us settle down to ‘normal’ SLives, with the occasional furtive fumble under the pixel covers thrown in to spice things up. There is however a fairly large (in every way) contingent of SL residents for whom there is only one thing worth doing inworld, with anyone, any time and in eye-poppingly perverted ways. The natural habitats for Teh Sexy Ones are those locations regularly posted on rather more popular blogs than this one as being amongst SL’s most popular destinations – usually accompanied by panic stirring statements that SL is dying and it’s all our fault for not admitting that pixel rumpy pumpy makes the virtual world go round. The common denominator amongst all serial procreants is their unerring ability to be wholly ignorant of human body proportions – everything is bigger and wobblier than the laws of nature and physics would ever tolerate in RL, and they’re probably the wrong colour too!

Land Barons
There’s a common misconception in SL that the Lindens are in charge. No… I’ll start again: There’s a common misconception in SL that the residents are in charge. Actually, that’s wrong too… It’s common knowledge in SL that the Land Barons are in charge, and there’s nothing we can do about it. What is quite definitely true is that ever since it was possible to own tracts of land inworld, there have been Land Barons, hovering vulture-like ready to snap it up, and regurgitate it back out to lesser mortals at vastly inflated prices. This is no different to RL, and if you do ever meet a Land Baron inworld, take a picture because it’s the closest thing to reality you will ever see in SL.

Average Joe/Jane
Maybe you’re feeling left out because I’ve left you out. ‘What about the Tinies?’ I hear you shriek in your tiny, shrill voices; ‘You’ve forgotten the Artists!’ you cry. Well, I can only apologise, but let’s face it, this is a blog not Wikipedia and it wouldn’t take long before we all grew terribly bored with this line of enquiry. However, if you’re still lacking a hole into which you may insert yourself, then please feel free to identify with Mr/Ms A N Other – a bucket group that encompasses all. Whatever your type, flavour, identity, leanings or grouping, this is where you’ll find others who are similar to you. Coming to think of it, isn’t that SL summed up perfectly?

s. x

Well, who are you?
I really wanna know
Tell me, who are you?
‘Cause I really wanna know
The Who – Who Are You?

 

Posted in Philosophicalisticality, Serial killers, SL | Leave a comment

Who are you?

brushI recently wrote a piece in which I mentioned that people who join and stay in SL tend to find a niche that appeals to them and stick with that as a central tenet of their virtual existence. This by no means the case for everyone, but many of us do have second lives that are coloured by a particular hue of the the SL spectrum and to which we naturally gravitate and relate. A simple illustration is to ask the question ‘What do you do in SL’ – those who can give a definitive, structured response, are likely to fall into that category… “I’m a builder”, “I’m a DJ”, “I run a store”, are typical examples of this.

Inspired by those quizzes in women’s magazines that we always find ourselves doing to kill time in the doctor’s waiting room – you know the sort: score between 0 and 10 and you’re a social climber, between 34 and 50 and you’re likely to be a misanthropic dictator with insane murderous tendencies, (I usually score around 63) – I thought I’d put together a brief, (perhaps a little tongue in cheek), guide to the stereotypical characters you might bump into – or find yourself emulating – inworld.

Builders
These are awfully clever sorts for whom very little appears to be impossible. When faced with the question “Can we break it?”, the reply is invariably, “Yes, we can!”, and they do so with aplomb and panache. They are apt to stand staring at half finished projects, shaking their head and muttering, “You see… who needs mesh anyway?”, before consigning the whole lot to the trashcan. Builders believe the world, whether real or virtual, evolved from a simple plywood cube and are equally as likely to ask how many prims something is as they are its price… often to the bemused stares of RL sales assistants.

Scripters
These are mostly either failed builders, or people who design RL websites. They know 101 ways to hack Google and can play Youtube videos that are banned in their own country. Scripters will often combine their web design knowhow to create horribly difficult to navigate websites, and objects full of LSL scripts that perform functions that nobody has ever wanted. Scripters will universally state they can build a better viewer than anything already available, but simply don’t have the time due to their ongoing inworld project to create a sensor that really can tell who your alts are. Scripters of both sexes have beards and never shave their naughty bits, (if indeed they possess any).

DJs
club9_001DJing inworld is a horribly complex task that takes years of practice, immense musical knowledge, and costs thousands to do even remotely seriously – this is what DJs will tell you. In reality, anyone who can rip audio tracks from Youtube, write notecards and click a mouse button is fully qualified to command the exorbitant tips, (a.k.a. ‘listening tax’) that DJs command. The best way to make a DJ happy is to flood the screen with gestures proclaiming them as  •·.·´¯`·.·• ✭✮✯✰☆ Superst★r  DJ! ✭✮✯✰ •·.·´¯`·.·• The best way to annoy a DJ is to tell them that their music is crap. Similar to, but not quite as awesomely talented, are the sort of half-breed wannabe DJ/Club owner, but failed, characters known as ‘Greeters’, whose sole purpose in SLife is to be rude to you for not giving them a tip when their chat bot said ‘hello’ to us.

Shoppers and Hunters
Shoppers and Hunters lie at different ends of the same SL scale. Your typical Shopper has an inventory so large that the whole Grid lags when they log on and a bank balance so negative that the government are considering a public bail out to keep them afloat. SL to the Shopper is like Amazon, but with stores you can walk around, indeed virtual goods are more important to them than the real thing, and most are happy to be drip fed caffeine and sugar, in lieu of food, simply so they never have to miss a sale. Hunters, on the other hand, are on a mission to clothe, house and equip themselves with anything, provided it’s free. Normal considerations such as something being utter crap, tasteless, the wrong size or just plain awful, do not come into the equation – the important thing is the price tag, and that price tag has to say L$0!

That’s all for today… But fear not, if you haven’t spotted yourself yet, there’ll be more of the same tomorrow!

s. x

Substitute your lies for fact
I can see right through your plastic mac
I look all white, but my dad was black
My fine-looking suit is really made out of sack
The Who – Substitute

Posted in Philosophicalisticality, Serial killers, SL | 3 Comments

SLife hacker

hackI’ve just returned from that corner of Youtube which sucks the time from your life and the life from your time, yet – no matter how much you might promise yourself “I’ll stop after this one last video”, somehow – half a lifetime later – you’re still there, watching goodness knows what rubbish.

It’s that clickbait compulsion that compels you to venture ever deeper into the bowels of internet videocrity… cats doing utterly boring things; lists of ten things you never cared about; the least scary pictures ever taken, and inexplicable foreign language lack of talent shows. You just can’t stop yourself until you eventually succumb to fatigue or your brain starts running from your ears.

This particular occasion was a whole series of pointless ‘life hacks’ – you know the sort of thing: How to eat cheesy puffs without turning your fingers orange; how to open a tin can with only a brick and a slice of lemon; and a million ways not to amplify your phone speaker using only a paper cup and absolutely no concept of high fidelity sound. We seem addicted to these type of videos, and as a result, we all roll our clothes instead of folding them and can peel an orange in a single piece  – and if you can’t, then that’s why your life is going nowhere fast… do it, now!

It struck me that it’s high time we had the virtual equivalent of life hacking tips, and I did toy with the idea of making a video, but to be honest that seemed too much like hard work – so instead, here’s a few hacks to make SL just that little bit simpler, (and who doesn’t need that?

  • Avoid unsightly marks on your monitor
    You know how it is… you’re at your favourite inworld club and somebody tells a ridiculously funny joke just at the moment you’ve taken a large mouthful of pinot grigio. The resulting tsunami of dry white makes Niagara Falls look like dribble; and – of course – it’s all over your expensive screen. The solution – wrap your monitor in cling film, and gigglesnort away to your heart’s content! Better still, you can preserve your keyboard from errant spills in the same way, and for those uproarious moments when something so funny happens that a bit of wee comes out, (go on… admit it!), why not protect your sofa too. In fact, why not go the whole hog and wrap yourself up every time you log in? (Don’t forget to leave a breathing hole though – or you’ll look very stupid when you’re wheeled into casualty!)
  • steam1_001Appear to be the life and soul of the party… always
    So, there you are – it’s your second nightclub of the night and you’re into your sixth hour of bluegrass ska techno-rave and, although your avatar is as fresh as a dew-kissed daisy, the picture behind the screen is very different. Eyes bloodshot, pasty-faced and practically keeling over from tiredness, you soldier on, determined not to be a party pooper. You can’t grab a crafty snooze, everyone will know, so what do you do? Buy a hamster, that’s what! Simply drop your keyboard into its cage and its merry scamperings will avert the dreaded ‘Away’ tag for the rest of the night. Better still, the nonsensical typos that hammy will happily churn out on your behalf will be indecipherable from the random witterings that you’d normally be typing after a good helping of the aforementioned pinot! Problem solved
  • Avoid unwelcome attention
    “Ur hot babe. cum to my place and sex me bitch”. You know how it is – you’re so damn gorgeous that every aspiring Adonis wants to treasure you and shower you with affection… but it can get pretty wearing when it’s happening all the time. There’s a simple fix – create an alt, and partner yourself! For an even more believable solution, create another alt and get yourself involved in a sordid and vicious love triangle – fall out with one alt in favour of the other, then spend the next three years stalking yourself and running a smear campaign against the two of you all over Plurk. Trust me, no-one will ever bother you again.
  • Make money from Second Life
    First, you’ll need a large, strong box. Open up the box, place PC, spare laptop, peripherals, Oculus Rift and Space Navigator into box. Seal. Take out advertisement on eBay and sell box along with contents. Cancel all payments to land barons, Linden Lab and internet provider. Use the time you previously spent in SL doing something that pays cash… stacking shelves, prostitution, gun-running – you get the idea. You will now be making a whole lot more money, by the simple expedient of completely avoiding SL – couldn’t be easier!

s. x

This is your world, and we say “No, I won’t go”,
A life less ordinary is the one I chose,
Far away from the soul, still healing,
We rise to the sun with the hope of freedom!
The Levellers – A Life Less Ordinary

Posted in RL, SL | Leave a comment

Truth or dare

moralityIt’s the time of the year in work when annual staff reports are making the rounds, so I wasn’t surprised when mine dropped into my inbox this morning. Except, it wasn’t mine – my boss had made the simple, but sometimes catastrophic error of sending the wrong email attachment. What he’d in fact sent me was somebody else’s: My opposite number in another office. As soon as I opened the attachment, I realised the mistake, so I did the honourable thing: I closed it, deleted and sent a reply to my boss, pointing out his mistake.

Did I consider scrolling down and digging the dirt on my arch rival? Did I think about saving the damning evidence for use at an opportune time? Of course I did! It’s only human nature, but after about three seconds of soul-searching, my conscience simply wouldn’t let me and – moral integrity intact – I chose the pathway of righteousness.

I only mention it because of something that cropped up recently inworld. A few of us were knocking around in the pub, doing nothing much in particular, when somebody suggested a game of ‘Truth or Dare’ – always a fun activity amongst the right gang of people. A few moments into the game the following ‘Truth’ question was posed:

[15:50]  Truthful Resident: ok heres a tricky question : if you had the ability to read everyones personal IM’s in Sl. would you admit it or keep quiet ?

Interesting question, don’t you think? And one that led to some interesting answers. The general consensus of opinion was that almost all of us present would have few qualms about using such an ability to spy on those around us, but that not one of us – without exception – would ever admit to possessing such a gift. we even went as far to say that we would use our ability for nefarious reasons, given the chance, and yes – although I’m loathe to admit it – I was as bad as the rest of our little crowd in that respect. Which, as you would surmise from the opening paragraphs of this post, I would consider to be unacceptable behaviour in RL.

The simple fact is that there are many things we would happily do, say or support in SL that we simply wouldn’t entertain in the real world. There are activities in which we might participate inworld, but publicly denounce in an RL context, and many of us would find ourselves very much on the wrong side of the moral tracks if our virtual behaviour was replicated in our everyday lives.

confused5_001Second Life, whilst it can be a very liberating environment, also blurs the lines of behaviour and morality – the virtual world is far more permissive, accepting and tolerant than the real world. I’m not saying that this is wrong – far from it – but there is a danger that our strongly held beliefs and principles can become confused, misled or even completely altered, once we enter our alternative reality. There are a variety of reasons that this can happen, all of which contribute to the overall picture:

  1. When we login, we do so on the understanding that we are taking part in something that is not ‘real’. The fact that SL is built around real people with emotions, feelings and standards becomes secondary to the notion that our inworld experience is somehow distant and removed from reality. To a certain degree, it is fake, and with that belief the consequences of misbehaviour are trivialised, even ignored.
  2. We tend to believe that SL is an ‘elsewhere’ place – a foreign country, or a different planet where rules don’t really exist. Anything is permissible, and there are no consequences tied to our actions. It is controlled anarchy.
  3. SL encourages a ‘tour bus’ mentality – what happens inworld, stays inworld. Again, with no consequences arising from our activities, we feel free to do whatever we want – after all, we can just log out and nobody will know what we’ve been up to.
  4. We tend to adopt a ‘victimless crime’ approach to inworld shenanigans: it’s just pixels, it’s only virtual reality, it’s just a bit of fun. Nobody gets hurt and nobody is a victim.
  5. We are anonymous in SL – nobody knows who we are, and we may as well be invisible in terms of accountability.
  6. SL distances us from our actions. We become an observer, rather than perpetrator, protagonist or participator – we don’t necessarily equate what we are watching unfold on the screen in any way with ourselves… we remain detached, aloof and disconnected.
  7. SL builds an artificial barrier, obscuring who we really are and allowing us to be someone else. This is similar to the way in which modes of communication can alter the message we give – for example, we find it infinitely easier to write an assertive, strongly-worded letter of complaint, than we do to complain to a ‘real’ person on the phone or face-to-face. SL is no different, it is however, much broader in its scope.

With all of these factors to contend with, it’s not surprising that our moral values may change dramatically on the click of a mouse key, but let’s not forget them entirely, or we may find that one day, it all goes horribly wrong!

s. x

All the kids stand laughin’ they never had such fun
Then someone cuts a blind man who just can’t make a run
And the queen who’s been standin’ behind the toilet door
‘Cos his parents don’t like boyfriends, call him a whore
UFO – On With The Action

Posted in Philosophicalisticality, RL, SL | 2 Comments

Sound bites

gnosiPerplexing: A word I frequently associate with SL, and particularly when it comes to some of the messages that pop into my IM box on a regular basis. Much of the time I simply ignore the junk that comes my way, it’s little different to the spam that we all have to deal with in our emails on a daily basis, the only difference being that many inworld messages are sent to me by supposedly rational and intelligent people.

Just occasionally though, an unexpectedly thought-provoking missive will find its way through, causing me to ponder further the confusing virtual world that we choose to inhabit.

Take, for example, the random offline message that appeared in my inbox recently:

[9:54] Musiclover Resident: plz miss you hvse most beutful musi in world i ever hear my lif …. but i cannt listen it because animal sound? i am not a complainer & noy new. 7 yers all uo al do is soo pefect … but i wish let you now i am a fisher all my life & reapect all nature but you muiic so peferfect , i cry ask you this
[9:55] Musiclover Resident: birds inscet too loud

Once I’d figured out what on earth the message was about – at least, I think I have – that feeling of perplexity descended. What was the point being made here?

As far as I can tell, this was a visitor to my parcel at Nowhere Land whom, it seems, was particularly enamored by my choice of music stream, but was somewhat disappointed that the ambient soundscape I’ve provided detracted from the music.

stream3_001That puzzled me somewhat – I wouldn’t call the nature sounds I’ve strategically placed around the parcel particularly intrusive, neither would I say they’re at all out of place; as for being so loud that you’re not able to appreciate the music, well there are a couple of spots where you might experience a veritable choir of frogs, crickets and birdsong, but you’d have to station yourself right in the midst of a bunch of bullrushes to do so.

In my opinion, the countryside ambience doesn’t detract from the audio stream, if anything it works in harmony with it, and if I was pushed to choose, I’d plump for the sounds of nature over music any day. Creating an environment in SL, as far as I’m concerned is an holistic exercise – it’s about making something that is intrinsically right, whether it’s a beach, the countryside, an urban ghetto, or an alien planet – and it’s the attention to detail and the little touches that convince the mind that those pixels are the real thing, that really make a difference.

That’s what works for me, but I also appreciate that it may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but that’s one area where SL really comes into its own. Unlike RL, our virtual world is infinitely customisable – you don’t like the music, you can always turn it off; birds singing too loudly? Turn them down; don’t like the sunset, change it to one more suited to your tastes… You can derender the scenery, alter the time of day and even restrict your vision to your immediate vicinity; there really little, if any excuse for SL to be anything but appealing.

Which brings me back to my music loving visitor and their IM. Can it really be the case that someone who has been abroad in SL for seven years doesn’t know about such basic stuff? How can it be possible that such an established resident should be experiencing a virtual experience that – to their mind – is sub-optimal? And yet, this is something I come across time and time again – experienced, knowledgeable and capable SL users who lack the knowledge that I would consider to be a basic skill for survival in the virtual world. You often hear the argument made that the SL viewer interface is just too complicated for noobs to get to grips with, however it seems that the viewer’s complexity has never stood in the way of many veterans with years of experience, whom – despite their experience, still have little, if any, idea about the most basic of viewer functions. I’m frequently astonished by the questions I’m asked by residents with years more experience than myself, accomplished builders and scripters, yet with a gaping hole where basic SL knowledge should be.

But then again, I’m a geek.

s. x

When I play my records
(at full volume, in stereo)
I have to close all the windows.

I can’t stand the noise of the birds
outside in the trees
Steve Turner – Noise

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