Skimbleshanks

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

 

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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

 

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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

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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.

TTFN

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

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Stasis

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

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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)

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Previously on…

I may have mentioned at some point in the past my irritation at television programmes that insist on reminding viewers what transpired before the break or in the previous episode. Usually, for a person of average intelligence, such reminders are completely unnecessary, however – as with most rules – there will be the occasional exception. The recap, for example, at the beginning of a new season, when the interval since the last instalment may be several months is excusable, especially if – like myself – you happen to have the habit of unerringly starting to watch something at the start of season three, rather than the more logical beginning of the story. (I do tend to catch up on what I’ve missed, eventually, and yes I’m fully aware that this is a rather bizarre viewing method, but then again, I’m a pretty bizarre person anyway).

There are, however, occasions when a chance to see what has gone before are only too welcome. I’ve recently been working on an inworld Doctor Who project, which has seen me immersed in research that goes right back to the origins of the serial. It’s a subject about which I already had a fair amount of knowledge and I knew, for example, that a number of the original early episodes had been destroyed or lost – quite how many, however, I hadn’t appreciated. Some 97 episodes out of 253 recorded during the show’s first six years are still missing, (although audio recordings of every one have survived), leaving 26 incomplete stories. It’s one of my secret dreams to one day find the remaining missing episodes of ‘The Evil of the Daleks’ or perhaps the coveted final episode of The Tenth Planet’ at a knock-down price at a car boot sale – stranger things have happened, and who knows? Wouldn’t it be great to see something that only a highly privileged and fortunate audience viewed for the first, and perhaps only time, so long ago? One can dream, I suppose.

One of the things I’m often conscious of in SL, is that there is a great deal of the virtual world that I was never party to. Many of the people with whom I spend my time will often talk about places and events that they experienced, way back when SL was just a fledgling world, and the vast majority of those places are either gone from the Grid, or have changed beyond all recognition. All gone: Just memories and the odd image captured, never to be explored, experienced and enjoyed again. Sometimes I think we need some sort of Wayback Machine for SL, where we could just type a date into a search box and experience the Grid as it once was – coming to think of it, if the Lab still has all the log files and assets hidden away on its servers, it shouldn’t be that difficult a task to be able to resurrect at least parts of the Grid from past times – hell, if that feature was ever introduced, even I might be persuaded to go premium, if that was an incentive offered!

Shortly after finishing my Doctor Who project, which included a recreation of Foreman’s Yard in Totters Lane – seen in the very first episode, a friend of mine who happens to be a far more accomplished builder than myself, mentioned that they too had once built the same yard inworld – they sent me a picture, and the similarity to my own build was striking… I must have done something right!

It struck me that there must be many creators, like my friend – and maybe even myself one day, for that matter – who have some of the great builds from the past hidden away in their inventories. The sad part of it is that most of those will never see the light of day again and are doomed to languish forever, fondly remembered but otherwise lost to the virtual world. That’s rather sad, but it’s also one of the home truths about virtual living – like the real world, we have a finite amount of resources to utilise and there’s only so much that we can hang onto if we want to keep creating newer and (sometimes) better creations. So it’s out with the old, and in with the new, and even though it’s rarely ever a case of ‘once it’s gone, it’s gone’ – for all practical purposes, it is. Sitting unseen and unused in an inventory is not a happy fate, but it is, unfortunately a common one.

And, one day, I suppose Seren too will move on and away, and all that will be left will be a string of Hexadecimal, tucked away somewhere in backup copy of a nameless asset server… Never again to see the light of virtual day 😦

s. x

And sometimes you close your eyes
And see the place where you used to live
When you were young
The Killers – When You Were Young

 

 

 

 

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If you could…

An awful lot of time I spend in SL tends to be music related. Most of the people I hang out with have a shared interest in music, and much of the time we have in each other’s company will involve music, either in the background, as the main event, or as the topic of conversation; it’s usually a combination of those things.

However, my interest in music is relatively new found, and prior to coming into SL, I wouldn’t have said that I had an extensive, knowledgeable or far-reaching appreciation of music, and although I’ve always had a fairly eclectic and broad taste, or so I thought, that’s developed exponentially over the course of my time inworld. It’s fair to say that I’ve been exposed to a much wider variety of music and genres as well as people, many of whom have an extensive and voluminous knowledge of the subject, from whom I’ve learned a great deal and – in consequence – my own musical repertoire has expanded and developed. However, the one thing I don’t have, that for many of my inworld friends has been a formative influence in their lives, is an experience of growing up immersed in music, around bands, and attending gigs.

So, when the question was posed recently, ‘If you could go back in time and see any band, which would it be?’, I found it to be a far more difficult question to answer than most people of my generation, or older, may have – few had difficulty in rattling off some classic bands and artists who they would have loved to have had the opportunity of seeing in their heyday, whilst I… Couldn’t really come up with anything at all!

I suppose I could have fallen back on any one of the usual suspects – The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Who, Dumpy’s Rusty Nuts, and so on – but, to be honest, that would have been cheating and, I don’t really know which – if any – I would plump for if I had the choice. I suppose I had a bit of a sheltered upbringing as far as music goes, not seeing my first gig until my very late teens, and that wasn’t even a ‘proper’ one, and the number of bands I’ve seen live I can count on the fingers of one hand – it’s just one of those things that has never really been part of my life, and so if I could go back in time, it’s something that would be a little bit alien too, sad to say.

I’ve always found live music to often be a little disappointing anyway. I think there are very few bands and vocalists capable of delivering the sort of performance that would blow my mind, couple that with less-than-perfect acoustics, a noisy crowd and the inevitable singalongs – (there’s something deeply annoying about paying a king’s ransom to go to a concert, only to have the artist point the microphone at the crowd… I’ve paid to hear the professionals sing, not the plebs in the crowd!). “Ah yes”, I hear you exclaim, “it’s the atmosphere and the drama of the occasion that makes all the difference!” – Well, OK, but personally I’d rather not be pressed up against a crowd of sweaty fans, having my feet stepped on and being sureptitiously groped, before being seriously ripped off for a t-shirt that will fade in the wash, and a souvenir programme that will just be hidden away in a cupboard. So, I’m a bit of a diva… So what?

Maybe I’m something of a Philistine for holding those views, especially considering that I’m really not at all qualified to comment on the matter, but I can’t help how I feel. I’d much rather enjoy such things vicariously through the stories of others who are vastly more experienced in such things, and they do have such great tales to tell of their own experiences, that I don’t feel I’m missing out at all. Better still, on any given day inworld, I can find a whole bunch of people who would be more than happy to chat for hours about the time they saw Hendrix at Woodstock, or U2 at Slane Castle, or the High Numbers at the Railway Hotel, and I’m more than happy to listen to them, especially if I can do so to a background of the music in question, which is almost always the case.

So, if I did have the chance to travel back in time to see any band… I think, in all honesty, I might just give that chance away to one of my inworld friends, who would no doubt appreciate it far more than I would!

s. x

“There’s no reason for it, you’ve gotta go sometime”
Pink Floyd – The Great Gig In The Sky

 

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

The coal man cometh…

“But on us both did haggish age steal on. And wore us out of act!” Yep, going all cultural today and quoting Shakespeare at you – ‘All’s Well That Ends Well’, according to the Bard, but is that really true? Just because something works out OK in the end, does that mean that whatever has occurred previously is immaterial? I’ll let you draw your own conclusions on that point.

We are, however, coming to the end of 2017 and in terms of SL, I’d venture to say that it’s ending pretty well, with some significant enhancements and improvements having been introduced to SL over the course of the preceding year and some exciting times ahead of us to be realised in the coming months.

It’s around this time that I usually do a bit of a retrospective and come up with some predictions for the coming year, however I’m shying away from doing that this time around for a couple of reasons, firstly – my predictions in recent years have been so wide of the mark that it’s embarrassing to revisit them, and secondly – with the impending changes to the SL architecture that we’re looking at next year, I honestly couldn’t even attempt to guess at what this might mean for us residents.

So, let’s get the embarrassing bit over with – the things I predicted for 2017…

  • An inworld mesh building tool. Nope. Didn’t happen; I’ve been way off the mark with this prediction for two years now.
  • A simpler model of land ownership & payment. Also a big miss there.
  • Sansar success. Erm, I didn’t do so well on this either. Yes, the open beta came and went and as for my prediction that the majority of interest would come from outside SL, it’s hard to say, since we have no figures. However, in a desperate attempt to snatch some solace that I did get something right: I did predict Sansar would have little impact on SL concurrency, and in that regard I was absolutely correct. Yay, go me!
  • Linden Historical Project. Did I seriously predict this? What was I drinking at the time? A complete non-happening.

So, if anything, you can see I have a particular genius for failing to predict the future. Never ask me to come up with your lottery numbers – you’ll always lose!

A lot of things happened in my own personal SL story that I never anticipated too, the most surprising of which was my sudden excursion into the world of running a music venue (well, several actually), and becoming a virtual DJ. That’s something I vowed would never happen, and when it did, it was only supposed to be a one-off. Fat chance of that… It now forms part of my regular inworld pursuits and will probably continue for the foreseeable future. However, if there’s one lesson I’ve learned about virtual life, it’s never say never.

As for the future, from my personal perspective, the only certainty I have is that for the first quarter of 2018, at least, my inworld activities will continue to be curtailed due to work commitments, so I can’t see much happening until the springtime, beyond that, who knows?

From an SL perspective, I’m expecting a huge amount of change, and positive change at that. Most will arise as a result of the infrastructure and architecture changes that the Lab will be pushing forward with. As to what exactly that will mean to us, I don’t really know – with SL becoming cloud-based, the possibilities are endless, in terms of content, performance and potential. I expect a completely different approach to the management of assets and how the viewer works, but I really have no idea just what we can expect in that regard. The other, perhaps more complex influence that may bring change to bear on SL is what’s happening in the wider world of technology. Certainly, nobody really seems to know how virtual 3D is going to evolve in the coming months – it was supposed to be this year’s Big Thing, but it never really came to anything, perhaps 2018 will be the year that we see it become mainstream? Personally, I don’t anticipate that 3D SL is ever really going to take off – that will be the domain of Sansar – and we may even see 3D viewer support dropped or simply deprecated over the course of the year, but I do think that we may see an influx of new blood as a result of the wider 3D renaissance, and that will bring its own challenges and considerations.

Other technology too, not just the Cloud and 3D, will no doubt influence the future development of SL, and – perhaps more importantly – society’s attitude towards virtual technology, as will political agendas and policies. What that will mean for you, me and virtual life, is very hard to predict – there are so many variables and possibilities that to try and predict what things will look like in the future is pretty much impossible.

Back in the day, when for me New Year’s Eve used to mean big family parties at my grandmother’s house, it was always my father’s job – as a dark-haired man – to bring a lump of coal with him and undertake the first-footing, to bring good luck for the coming year. So, rather than make any predictions, I’m instead just going to take the opportunity to deliver you this virtual lump of coal in this last post of 2017 to wish you all the luck in the world, and a very happy, productive and maybe a even a prosperous future, in both your real and virtual lives.

See you on the other side!

s. x

I want me and you both to join hands down at the front
So the next time I see you, remember these words so
We’ll sing like the barricades are down, and we’ll dance like no one’s around,
Singing four simple words
Frank Turner – Four Simple Words

 

Posted in 2.0, Linden Love, RL, SL, Techietalk | Leave a comment

Santa Pause – Part 3

The IM from Valentino she found when she logged in was disconcerting:

“Call me. What the hell have you got me into?”

She called him.

“Look, I can’t explain, you’re just gonna have to see this with your own eyes and then make up your own mind. I’m gonna send you a TP – it’s gonna be freaky, but stick with it – and Haven, remind me to punch myself in the mouth for listening to you!”

The TP request followed almost immediately, she took it, but it wasn’t like any other TP she’d experienced before. Messages flashed up on her screen she’d not seen before: ‘Disconnecting Agni…. Contacting Asmi’; ‘Secure verification in progress’; ‘Single use token exchanged’; then, ‘Loading alt world’… and she arrived.

Her surroundings were disorientating, she found it hard to discern any particular direction, and the there was little of substance from which to get her bearings. If anything, it was like floating in an endless space, only a space that shimmered with ever-changing colours and light, and where distance seemed to have little meaning. Panicking somewhat, she swung her camera around wildly, until to her profound relief, she spotted the familiar figure of Valentino, beckoning to her.

“Where the hell are we?” she asked him, and immediately regretted it, as the words lazily floated away from her into the ether in a way that was completely alien. As she watched them slowly cartwheeling away from her, she almost found herself wishing for good old fashioned chat lag, rather than this weird phenomenon.

“Use private”, came the terse instruction, “local is freaky as hell!”

She asked him again, and was surprised by his unexpected answer.

“No idea, hun. As far as I can make out this is a secret Grid that nobody, not even me, knows about – but our guy is around here somewhere. I did some digging behind the scenes and managed to figure out that he was definitely logged in, but somehow blocked – a bit like back in the good old days when we used to sling people into the Cornfield for mucking about. After that, it was just a matter of tracking him down… To this, frankly odd, place.”

She called up her radar: Sure enough there were three green dots, herself, Valentino, and the third, when she hovered over it, SantaClaus Resident. The only trouble was, all three green dots kept shifting and there was no way of knowing where exactly any of them were in relation to each other. All they could do was stick within eyesight of each other and search, as methodically as they could, which really was not very methodically at all!

It was difficult but they persevered, and after some time, the world around them began to behave in a more normal fashion. It was still colourful and surreal, but it no longer felt as if they were inhabiting some sort of 3-dimensional Escher painting – the words ‘up’ and ‘down’ once more assumed a meaning and they no longer felt nauseous just from being there. Then. quite suddenly and without warning, they found him.

Santa Claus looked exactly as she’d expected, but his current situation wasn’t at all what might have been expected. He hung, suspended in mid-air by a tracery of light beams, immobile and silent. They tried speaking to him, pushing him and sending him TPs home, but he remained insensitive to all their efforts – he was clearly AFK in every possible sense. They debated, for some time, how they might release him from his unfortunate condition, but even Valentino, with his extensive range of hacker’s tools, was unable to come up with anything. Conscious of the looming deadline of Christmas Eve, they tried everything they could think of, but their efforts came to nothing.

They did not, however, go unnoticed.

So engrossed had they been with their efforts to raise Santa, they had completely failed to notice the single blue dot that had appeared on the radar. It was only when a stream of blue text appeared on the screen that they realised they were no longer alone.

“Can I be of assistance?”

Demonaria Linden towered over them – an impressive, and somewhat frightening avatar, a full 9 feet in height, with impressive wings and glowing red eyes. It was clear that, despite the nature of the question, assistance was the last thing they should expect from him. She decided to bareface it out.

“Er, yeah. Hi! Umm, we were just passing and happened to notice our friend – Mr Claus – was, er… hanging around here, and we were kinda hoping you might be able to help us out with getting him back home?”

When no response was forthcoming, she added: “Mr Linden, please sir.”

It didn’t work.

Instead, the reply, when it came, was pretty much what she expected.

“What? You invade my own private grid, trespass on my land and then have the audacity to make demands of me? How dare you?”

“Let me just put you straight on a couple of things. First, you won’t be leaving here with your friend, or at all; second, Christmas this year and for as long as I care to make it so, is cancelled! And thirdly, once I’ve sorted you pair out, things are going to change around here – I’m fed up with residents and all their demands: ‘fix this, fix that, improve this, change the other, we want Skyrim graphics, we want no lag, blah, blah, blah!’ – you lot have had it way too easy, and now it’s my turn!”

“So, Demonaria Linden is going to give everyone inworld a very special Christmas present this year – higher tier, fewer prims, less privileges and a new Linden tax to keep me living in the fashion to which I hope to become accustomed. And none of the other Lindens are going to be able to stop me, because I locked all their accounts when they were off enjoying themselves at the office party!”

“Now, before I consign you to everlasting silence, I want you to bow down and worship me! BOW DOWN BEFORE THE GREAT AND ALMIGHTY DEMONA…”

The Linden stopped dead, frozen in mid-flow.

“Well, that’s quite enough of that nonsense”, said Valentino.

“What did you do to him?”

“Well, I may only be an ex-Linden, but I can still play around with the old God Powers”, he winked, “I muted and froze him, and that’s the way he’s going to stay, especially after I ban his ass and block his login! And… that give’s me a crazy idea about how we’re going to get out of this mess, and take old Santa with us.”

Valentino quickly explained his plan. Using his God Powers he’d restart the region, which even on this weird Grid, would hopefully log them all out and send them all back to RL. Santa would be released, and all he would have to do is log back in again to his home location. Just to be on the safe side, Valentino would send him an IM explaining the situation – hoping that Santa would have his IMs sent to email, although it stood to reason that being Santa Claus, it was inevitable that would be the case, and then, all being well, everything would be sorted.

It sounded like a plan that might just work, apart from one small detail…

“What about all the other Lindens?”, she asked; “He said he’s locked all their accounts – what are they going to do?”

Valentino smiled. “Oh, I think we can do without them for a while, after all what was it they used to say? – ‘Your world, your imagination’ – I think it’s high time we had a bit more of that in SL! Besides, when you’ve got a cool, friendly, ex-Linden on your side… And who it seems is now in charge of everything, who needs them?”

She laughed.

“All right, you old charmer, looks like everything’s worked out just fine. You’ve got your own back on the Lab, I’ve got my paycheck, and the elves have their boss back. All’s well with the world… So, something was mentioned a while back about getting nekkid?…”

“Bugger off, Haven!”

“Lol. Merry Christmas to you too, V!”

oooOOOooo

‘Twas the night before Christmas and all through the virtual office, the only thing stirring was a lonely private investigator pouring a shot of Jack Daniels’

She smirked, and the clock began chiming midnight. Some minutes later there was a commotion in the hallway and a tentative knock on the door.

“Come in, it’s open”

Santa Claus, puffing slightly, bustled through the doorway and sank gratefully into the chair in front of her desk. She poured another glass and pushed it across to him.

“Rupert said I’d find you here”, said Santa, “Sorry I’m a bit late, damn chimney was blocked up!”

Mentally, she noted the fact down – another reason never to light the fire.

“I just wanted to say thank you’, he continued, “and give you this.”

He handed her a small, gaily wrapped, parcel; “Merry Christmas, Seren.”

“And a very merry Christmas to you too, Santa. And, if you ever need a good PI… I’d go elsewhere, if I were you!”

s. x

It’s Christmas time again
It’s time to be nice to the people you can’t stand all year
I’m growing tired of all this Christmas cheer
You people scare me
Please stay away from my home
Blink 182 – I Won’t Be Home For Christmas

Posted in Linden Love, Serial killers, SL, Unlikely stories | 1 Comment