Santa Pause – Part 2

Valentino was a miserable old sod. Didn’t take too kindly to people turning up unannounced – that was a great way to get perma-banned – but she’d dealt with the old git many times before, and she knew exactly how to handle him.

She fired off a quick IM: “Hey V! How’s my favourite ex-Linden? Guess who? Yep, it’s that irritating virtual P.I. you love so much. Wanna slope off somewhere and get nekkid together?”

The answer, when it came, was just as she’d expected: “Haven! Bugger off, you rancid old tart. Go bother someone else instead.”

“Not gonna happen”, she responded. “You owe me one!”

“I’ve no time for this. Go play at being a private dick elsewhere. Preferably in hell!”

“Awww… You don’t mean that. D’ya want a chance to piss off the Lab or not?”

It was a good ten minutes before his reply came. “OK. You got me. Come on over.”

Valentino was an avatar with an agenda, or rather a grudge that he wasn’t prepared to drop any time soon. He’d been one of the Lab’s brightest and best employees – a straight-talker, well liked by the residents and always prepared to go out of his way to pull a few strings to help out anyone in trouble. Then, back in late 2013, he found himself on the unwelcome receiving end of the infamous Linden HR Skype call – the powers above were of the opinion that he was was ‘no longer aligned with the direction The Lab were going’. He was out of favour, off the payroll, and on the scrapheap. Bet he wasn’t going to take it lying down. Although denied the coveted Linden name, he was determined that wasn’t going to to stand in the way of his inworld capabilities, and those capabilities were impressive. Nobody knew quite what he could do – there were rumours he’d coded his own bespoke, and highly questionable viewer – which, coupled with underground contacts at the Lab who remained loyal to their ex-colleague, made him a formidable force to be reckoned with. That is, if you could find him. Valentino was a very useful guy to know.

When she arrived at his home, it was much as she remembered last seeing it, a small, unremarkable Linden home – he’d once told her that he lived there out of a sense of irony – there were none of the banks of computers, monitors and other paraphernalia you’d expect to find at an expert hacker’s inworld base of operations, in fact, the only clues to the clandestine nature of his affairs was a small media prim, upon which played a live feed of the interior of Battery Street, in front of which was a large and inviting button. She’d once asked him what would happen if the button was pressed; he laughed, and told her it would set off the fire alarms at the Lab’s offices and that he’d occasionally activate them, just to watch the ensuing chaos as everybody frantically tried to save their work before evacuating. She suspected there might be more to it than that, but it was really none of her business.

“Haven, you irritating pain in the arse, long time, no see… Shame you couldn’t keep it that way!”

“Lovely to see you too”, she responded, “how are you keeping?”

“I was fine until your ugly mug turned up here. When are you going to get yourself a decent mesh head and stop scaring kids in the street?”

Pleasantries over, she grabbed a seat and explained what she wanted. Was it possible, she wondered, for an avatar to be showing as logged in, but otherwise apparently missing in action?

Valentino reckoned it was unlikely, but theoretically possible… And, if it was possible, then it would give him enormous pleasure to expose whatever snippet of dodgy Linden code was responsible, or – better still – exploit it for his own purposes. Not known for being overly demonstrative, the irascible ex-Labber even managed to let slip a rare ‘Yay!!!’ gesture!

He was slightly less pleased when she told him she was on a deadline and would need both an answer, and a solution in the next few hours.

“Who the hell do you think I am… Superman?”

She fluttered her eyelashes, grateful for the rarely used, but indispensable HUD that allowed her to do so. “You mean you’re not?” She replied winsomely, “but I’m sure I’ve seen you fly!”

She smiled – that HUD, such a useful piece of kit – “I know it’s probably an impossible task, but if anyone can do it, I can’t think of anyone more capable than you!”

She knew she had him.

“I’ll message you”, he said. “Now piss off, I’ve work to do!”

s. x

Oh oh when I if I was a kid oh how magic it seemed
Oh please let me dream it’s Christmas time
Pearl Jam – Let Me Sleep

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

Santa Pause – Part 1

Around this time of year, it’s my usual practice to cobble together a festive story, and this year is no exception. This time round, I’ve decided to resurrect one of my favourite characters, (well, it’s me, but in the guise of somebody else!) – the leading character of my first ever serialisation in this blog, which if you’re interested, can be found in its entirety here.

Now that’s out of the way, let’s get on with it – it’s a three-parter, with the final instalment on Christmas Day…

oooOOOooo

The sound of traffic and car horns played their muted daily accompaniment, filtering through the dirty windows of the ramshackle and disorderly room she called her office. Outside, the snow had begun to fall more thickly, covering the tyre tracks and footprints like an expert house-breaker hiding the evidence of their presence.

Peering through the slats of the blind, she shivered – these damn New York winters were bad for your health, if the cold didn’t get you, the hidden patches of ice on the sidewalk would, and then it was a trip to the emergency room and a hefty bill to pay… That’s if anyone found you soon enough and were public-spirited enough to call 911 – after robbing you blind first, of course! Shivering again at the thought, she turned away from the window… Only one thing would serve to keep out the chill, she thought, releasing the bottle of Jack from its confinement in the desk drawer.

Two shots later she was feeling rather more mellow, although even the alcohol couldn’t entirely mask the fact that it was damned cold in the office. Idly she toyed with the idea of trying to light the fire, but it had been years since it had last seen use, and she had nothing to burn anyway, not that she could have been bothered to do anything about it.

Sighing, she glanced at the time – four in the afternoon, SLT – dammit, too early to call it a day, and too late to for there to be any likelihood of anyone wanting to do business in what was left of the afternoon. Why the hell did she even bother? Sometimes she just thought of throwing in the towel and just heading off to Giggles Beach, in the frankly pathetic hope of catching the eye of some rich and generous playboy. Yeah right! Who was she kidding? There was about as much chance of that as there was of someone turning up needing her help in the next half hour. She consoled herself with the thought that anything can happen in SL.

As if in confirmation, a tap on the door roused her from her musings.

“Come on in. It’s open”

‘Aw crap’, she thought to herself, as the door opened to reveal her caller; ‘just my luck. One of those damned littles!’

Now, it would be fair to say that she was the tolerant sort – you had to be, in her line of business – but she struggled when it came to littles. The combination of cutesy dresses, stupid baby talk and freaky family picks was just a little too much bordering on the weird for her, but business is business, and she’d happily take lindens off a little as much as she would from anyone.

Thankfully when the client spoke, it wasn’t baby talk, but a gruff Bronx accent, with a distinctive nasal twang.

“I gotta problem I need fixed”

Trying to look businesslike, she grabbed a pen, then realised she had nothing to write on. Making the best of things, she leaned back in her chair instead, nonchalantly twiddling the pen in her fingers, and gestured that the shortarse should take a seat.

His name was Rupert, and contrary to her first impressions, he described himself as an elf. It was a missing person case: It seems his boss had disappeared off the face of the Grid after a late night bender to celebrate his rez day. She’d interrupted – people do that all the time, he’d be back eventually, maybe he was was even logged in as an alt… People had their reasons for such things.

Rupert was having none of it. People like his boss didn’t just vanish – not a few days before the biggest job of the year.

She asked all the usual questions: Time and place he was last seen, known acquaintances and enemies, possible motives for disappearing, description…

Wait a minute!

Fat guy, big white beard, bright red outfit with fir trim…

“This is a wind up, isn’t it? It’s Santa Claus?”

“No”, protested the elf, “I mean, yes – it is Santa, but I can guarantee this ain’t no wind up!”

The sound of coins jingling distracted her: ‘RupertElf Resident paid you L$5000’

“Maybe that’ll convince you I’m serious” he continued, “and there’s plenty more where that came from!”

“OK. You’ve got my attention. Tell me what you know.”

It was a strange set of circumstances, even for SL. The Big SC, as the elf insisted on calling him had been out with the boys at Frank’s place. Around midnight, he’d disappeared, with a brief ‘BRB’ and that was the last they’d seen of him. Rudoph had joked that he’d fallen asleep at the keyboard, but when he  failed to turn up the next day, it was evident that something was up – this was the middle of the Christmas rush, and it was unheard of for The Big SC to be missing at such a critical time.

She glanced at the calendar on the desk – 22nd December – she could see why Rupert was anxious.

The strangest aspect of Santa’s disappearance was that he was definitely still logged in to SL, he was showing as online, but totally unreceptive to any attempts to contact him. IMs simply bounced back with the message, ‘Avatar unreachable’ – all very perplexing.

It wasn’t going to be a straightforward case, that was obvious, but the hard cash that was now sitting in her account, along with the promise of more, was all the encouragement she needed. It would mean calling in some favours, but if that’s what it took… She knew she’d hit paydirt with this one, and she wasn’t about to let it go now.

“Okay Rupert, I’m on the case. Gimme a call tomorrow, same time, and I’ll let you know know what I’ve got.”

The elf thanked her, then left her alone. Thoughtfully, she locked the office door and poured herself another slug, before opening up her inventory and thumbing through her note card folder with a frown. Dammit! Why couldn’t she be more organised? To say her filing system was a bit of a mess was a blatant understatement – in much the same way that saying the sea is a bit wet – she cursed as she fought her way through forgotten reminders, lists of obsolete landmarks, invitations to events now long-ago, death threats, And bizarrely, a recipe for scotch eggs! None of which was helpful, and most of which should have been consigned to the trash can months ago. For the hundredth time she toyed with the idea of hiring a secretary, knowing full well she could neither afford it, nor would anybody be prepared to put up with her ways, not for any sum. Sighing, she continued sorting through her notes.

Finally! There it was… Helpfully entitled ‘2011-08-11 14:26:54 note card’ – when would she learn?

She scanned through the list of names until she spotted the one she was looking for: Valentino Bohemian. Next to the name, a string of seemingly meaningless letters – coded Grid co-ordinates, unwieldy but far more secure than a straightforward landmark. She quickly decoded the letters and pasted the result into another note card, remembering this time to give it a title: ‘VB – secret location details’. Pointless trying to find him now, he was from the UK and wouldn’t be logging on for some hours yet; she may as well head home and spend the time getting constructively sober. Well, that was one option anyway, perhaps she might just call into a bar, or two, along the way.

She pondered the odd circumstances of her unexpected case, ensconced in a corner booth at Fat Sam’s over a bowl of the special meatballs and pasta that the joint was famous for – it was a helluva lot easier than cooking for herself, and if she was honest, it tasted a damn sight better than anything she could ever conjure up herself. This whole thing just sounded weird: Elves, Santa Claus… Yeah right, and she was the queen of England! She laughed to herself – I guess this is SL, she though; she’d seen stranger things, and who was she to judge?

She reckoned it could all be sorted pretty quickly – the ‘missing’ avatar was clearly down to some sort of technical glitch, and a quick visit to Valentino would get that all sorted, then everyone could get on with their festive role-playing, she’d be laughing all the way to the bank, and everyone would live happily ever after!

She lifted her glass in a celebratory toast to herself, then downed it.

Easy money!

s.x

I’m dreaming of a black black Christmas
Black smoke glows against a midnight sky
I’m dreaming of a black black Christmas
Black smoke glows against a midnight sky
Poly Styrene – Black Christmas

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

Cheers

In some ways, human beings are like wild animals – we like to gather together at watering holes, although the analogy does break down slightly thereafter, since we tend to do so primarily for companionship, whilst wild animals tend to do so primarily for utility, that is, they need to drink.

In fact, although we humans clearly do drink when we get together at our designated hostelries, it is the companionship element of the occasion that tends to be more important to us, so much so that it’s a scenario that’s become enshrined in popular culture. Which establishment speaks to your sensibilities is somewhat immaterial:Whether it’s Cheers, Moe’s Tavern, The Woolpack, Queen Vic, The Drunken Clam or the Rovers Return, it’s not so much the place, but the people and their lives that draw us together, and it’s seldom – if ever – about the contents of their glasses. Nobody ever tunes in to see Del Boy, Rodney and Grandpa quietly supping on their drinks at the Nag’s Head – we’re only interested in the conversations and situation comedy that arises from the interactions between them. A bar, in human terms is far more a place for putting the world to rights than it is for drinking to forget the world.

Given that the consumption of liquid refreshment is only of secondary importance to this particular form of socialising, it’s perhaps unsurprising that I myself – being averse to such situations in RL, (it’s expensive, inconvenient and requires the presence of like-minded friends) – have managed to find the virtual equivalent instead. And the location is even a pub!

Most evenings, if I’m not tied up with more important things, will find me at The Killing Moon, a friendly neighbourhood pub, located on my home sim of Penny Lane. Just as in a real pub, there’s a bar, interesting trinkets scattered on the shelves, a games’ corner and a jukebox. More importantly, it is here that I regularly meet up with many of my friends, and also where I’ve made a few new ones too. We may dance, joke, sit and chat or occasionally burn noobs on the dancefloor, (it’s not called the Killing Moon for nothing, you know!). We have a great time, sometimes interspersed with drama, the occasional moments of pathos and sadness, and – when we feel like it – the odd intellectual moment. In short, all the features of getting together with friends in a real pub, but with virtual alcohol instead.

It’s an aspect of SL that, for me at least, meets an unspoken need for company and companionship, without any of the pressures or expectations of a more formal or prescriptive setting. It’s not a fixed get-together – sometimes there may be just one or two that pop in, at other times there can be a good crowd gathered, and sometimes you’ll just get an IM out of the blue: “Are you busy? We’re at The Moon”.

I’m not good at social situations in RL, but I think in all of us there’s something that needs that informal, come as you are, no obligation meeting place. Somewhere where you can do your own thing in the company of friends, and they can be themselves around you too; and all without the worries about who you’re going to share a taxi home with, and how much the next round is going to cost you – and that, in my opinion, can’t be bad.

I suppose it’s not for everyone, and I totally understand why, but for me The Moon is a place where you head off to at the end of tiring day, and just unwind; maybe chat and have a laugh – or just listen in to the banter around you. It’s a place for the weary traveler to put down their burden and relax; a convivial setting to debate the day’s headline news; somewhere to flirt and tell naughty jokes; a place where you can spill the beans, chew the fat and argue the toss… A place where boundaries are broken down and friendships built.

And, when it comes to Last Orders and chucking out time, you can head home, happy and content, without ever having left the house.

s. x

And son all my life I’ve been searching
The bars I’ve been in I forget
The lights outside ever brighter
But a light on the inside not yet
The Beautiful South – Liar’s Bar

 

 

 

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

Fireworks!

I’m in the fortunate, or unfortunate – depending on your point of view – position of being situated in an elevated position. I don’t mean that I’m lording or over the lesser minions beneath me – I think I’d be hard pushed to actually find any lesser minions, to be honest – what I mean is that I live at the top of a hill.

That has its disadvantages, which I’ve had occasion to write about before, but it also has its plus side too. I have great views that extend perhaps some 220° across from my rear windows, and during the winter this vista is increased even more as the trees shed their cloak of concealing leaves, allowing me an uninterrupted view across the city and the estuary beyond from my desk.

One unexpected benefit is that, come the beginning of November, I can reap the benefit of half the inhabitants of the town’s fireworks when Guy Fawkes night comes around. No spending a fortune on Roman Candles, rockets and starbursts for me – if other people have money to burn, then I’m more than content to let them do so, whilst I can share in the festivities from my lofty perch, and moreover, from the comfort of a warm living room, rather than standing outside in the cold, while the alpha male of the family authoritatively orders everyone to stand fifteen metres back, whilst struggling to light the damp blue touch paper by the fitful illumination provided by his mobile phone.

I’m not a huge fan of fireworks, to be honest – they’re pretty, but nothing special. Having worked backstage in the theatre, I tend to be umimpressed by most pyrotechnics, having set off louder and more impressive explosions myself  in my heyday – there are few things more satisfying than blowing up a maroon in a milk churn, or discharging a Colt 45 in an unfurnished stairwell! The days when I used to be both thrilled and terrified by fireworks are long gone. I have rather less than wonderful memories of heading down to the local Round Table fireworks’ display, where I’d stand, pressed up against my parents, unable to see most of what was going on, thanks to the throng around me, and not particularly enjoying the explosions which had much the same effect on me at the time as thunder. (As you can tell from my previous admission, that’s no longer the case!). About the only enjoyable thing about the whole event was the smell of the hotdogs – although we could never afford to actually buy one!

Far more fun, were the family firework nights, when we’d have a bonfire, pool our meagre boxes of Standard fireworks for a night of entertainment that was more thrilling as a result of the imminent danger of somebody getting decapitated by an errant Catherine Wheel, or – heaven forbid – grabbing the wrong end of a recently spent sparkler, than the actual pyro’s themselves! We’d feast on jacket potatoes and hot soup, before heading back indoors to defrost, only to rush back outside again when the neighbours started setting off their far superior stock of rockets!

I think the last home firework display we had was when proper ‘display’ fireworks first came on the scene, although not widely available, and I managed – at great expense – to get my hands on a couple. I should have known better when the instructions advised to stand at least 25 metres aways (tricky in a 10 metre garden), and to bury the mortars in soil to at least 6 inches deep. Ah, the folly of youth… My parents, and local fire brigade, were somewhat unimpressed!

---However, I am a bit of a fan of virtual fireworks. I first came across these in the Venice sim a good few years back and spent a wonderful New Year’s Eve there with my SLignificant other at the time, and it was a place that came to be a favourite of mine. I was determined that, one day, when I possessed a patch of virtual land I could call my own, I too would have fireworks to rival Venice. And so, that’s exactly what I did! Ever since, on a few days of the year, I’ve indulged myself with my own carnival of light and noise, but until now I’ve never really shared them with anyone. Then, this year, I extended an invitation to some of my friends to come along, and what a wonderful time we had – not just because of the fireworks, but it was a lovely evening of socialising and sharing too.

It just goes to show that even inworld, you don’t necessarily have to go exploring or hunting for good times – sometimes they’re right on your doorstep.

s. x

Come on baby, light my fire
Come on baby, light my fire
Try to set the night on fire, yeah
The Doors – Light My Fire

 

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Religious fervour

There are only two taboo subjects inworld, as far as I’m concerned – religion and politics. I have nothing against either, but in my experience, these are both subjects almost guaranteed to create a storm should they come up for discussion.

I actually think that can be a good thing – it’s a rare thing these days for people to allow themselves to get passionate about anything, and I think that we need a bit of passion in our lives, otherwise things can get terribly bland and depressing. However, with the eclectic mix that we get in SL, combined with the freedom it gives us, and the fact that ‘it’s not real’, means that things can escalate rather quickly, and what was an innocent friendly discussion, can rapidly turn into World War 3. Any topic can fall foul of this process, but politics and religion are prime candidates, and that’s something that I’d rather not have to  contend with when I’m enjoying myself inworld.

Most of the time, it’s never really intentional, but when strong feelings are involved, people do tend to get stuck in, and the results can be all too predictable. There are occasions however, when somebody will come along that you just know is going to be trouble. Sometimes, it’s unintentional and completely innocent, but there are those who know exactly what they are doing and are seemingly impervious to to other people’s wishes and sensibilities.

When anarmofgod.resident turned up at one of our happy little gatherings lately, I couldn’t help but utter an inward groan after taking a glance at his profile. This, I thought, could turn ugly and would no doubt end in tears, or a punch up. However, I’m nothing if not tolerant, and certainly for the next ten minutes he behaved pleasantly enough and I thought maybe I’d been a little quick to judge.

Then it happened.

Completely without warning, and with total disregard for the tone and content of the ongoing conversation, our visitor suddenly splurged a massive wall of text at us, urging us to repent, turn away from our wickedness and put our lives and trust in God. Seems, I’d been right in my initial appraisal after all.

Now, we’re a fairly well-mannered bunch – and we don’t go round looking for a fight. So our first reaction was pretty much one of bemusement, and a quiet acceptance that this chap had said his piece and offloaded his burdensome message, and would hopefully now just chill and we’d forget all about it. Fat chance! A couple more exhortations of similar nature and we were starting to become a little irked at the intrusive missives, and when it happened again, we gently told him we weren’t interested, and please could he just shut up and be a little more sensitive to the sensibilities of those around him. That fell on deaf ears, the preaching continued and our responses took on a more robust character.

I’m not altogether sure what followed next, since I’d already decided to mute him, but I could tell from the increasingly pointed comments of my companions that it was more of the same. Eventually, one of our number – the sim manager – who had been at pains to make him welcome, and then tried her best to explain that we respected his right to share his beliefs, but please could he respect our rights to enjoy ourselves unmolested, decided that punitive action was the only answer, and summarily ejected him from the sim.

A shame, really, but when people refuse to respect the rights of others, for whatever reason, then they get to pay the price of their folly. The shame of it is that every one of us, on another occasion would probably have been more than happy to engage in a spirited debate about the subject, but the manner in which he railroaded us with his opinions, coupled with the innapropriateness of the situation and occasion – and, of course, we were total strangers to him… at least get to know us, before you try to proseletyse us – meant that he’d started on the wrong foot in the first place. Frankly, if heaven is populated with rude, arrogant and ignorant people like that, then I’d rather give the other option a try!

Joking aside, I don’t have any problem with anybodys’ beliefs, and I’m happy to engage with them in a fair and balanced exchange; but don’t be an arse… There’s enough of those in RL, we don’t want to have to put up with the the virtual variety too.

s. x

Evangelistic Nazis, you cannot frighten me
The name you take in vain shall judge you for eternity
Motörhead – Bad Religion

Posted in Rants, SL | Leave a comment

Collector’s edition

I know a lot of geeks! And it  seems that most of them are in SL.

A ridiculous number of my inworld acquaintances are experts on everything and anything to do with Doctor Who, Marvel Comics, Star Trek, Star Wars, Gerry Anderson, Batman, Northern Soul, model trains, planes and automobiles, scooters, computers, childhood TV programmes… Actually, the list could go on forever and I’d still miss something out! Now that I think about it, some of my friends could probably rank themselves as experts and speak with authority in regard to pretty much each and every one of those subject areas that appear in the list above – quite remarkable!

It does make for some fascinating conversations, and – although some might think an in-depth discussion comparing the desirable characteristics of a variety of classic cars, and their requisite Airfix models could well be the most tedious and boring of topics that could ever be raised, I find that geeks, buffs and enthusiasts are amongst the most fascinating and engaging odds people when indulging their interests, and I love to listen in.

Inevitably there will be times when the conversation turns to that most geekish aspect of geekism: Collectables.

There is, of course a whole culture of collecting that underpins the vast range of geek topics. Whether it’s models, franchised objects, original pieces or surrounding paraphernalia, the lengths enthusiasts will go to in order to acquire and own their own particular objects of desire can be extraordinary. Today, thanks to the internet, there’s even more in the way of collectables that can be found – usually at a hefty price – and a huge array of specialist sites where such things can be paraded, traded, swapped and sold. To the outsider, it can all be a bit weird and may even be considered silly, but one person’s treasure is another person’s trash, and for every hoarder of handbags or He Man action figures, there will always be someone who simply cannot see the point.

That’s something that we, as SL residents, can often be all too conscious of. On the Seren Haven Geekological Scale SL scores pretty highly since it’s a classic example of compounded geekism, scoring points for being computerish; internetty; niche; virtual; alternative life; complex; multi-player; and, unlikely to be something you’d admit to amongst friends and family. The real acid test however is that when you do talk to others about SL, the only people who really understand what you’re on about, or can relate to you, are those who are themselves into SL.

With that in mind, it’s somewhat surprising that there is little, in the way of collectables and other paraphernalia associated with SL, available to those of us who have a leaning towards such things. It’s difficult, of course, to come up with physical mementos and the sort of items that lead themselves to collectability when we’re dealing with a virtual world, but no more difficult, really, than giving a cartoon character or comic franchise the same treatment. Where perhaps SL falls down in this respect is that, unlike other media, where those who own the rights and have control have seized upon opportunities for marketing and monetisation, outside of the core product. This is something that Linden Lab have never done, and probably never will, and that leaves very little for those who wish to gather together something more concrete about their SL experience.

The other essential aspect that makes a collectable something of value is its age, quality and scarcity. Again, in terms of SL, this is something that requires something of a stretch of the imagination to come up with anything at all. Here I’ll admit to having amassed my own collection of – now defunct – SL viewers, all of them utterly useless, of course, but I feel a certain sense of nostalgia from firing up an ancient V1 viewer, even though I’ll never get any further than the login screen.

Perhaps then, the real collectables are the intangibles – and surely, for a virtual world, it’s only logical that those things with the most intrinsic geek value should themselves be virtual. Ever since I’ve been inworld, I’ve unconsciously (at least, until recently, when it’s become a more concerted effort) collected virtual artefacts that are ‘old’, in terms of SL; hard to come by and, are significant to the virtual journey. In my inventory you will find folders stuffed with a host of virtual treasures, some of which are simply unobtainable any more… Ancient avatars, greenies, Linden bears, time capsule fillers and – possibly my most treasured possessions – a couple of Lightwaves’ sculptures. There are gaps: I’d sell my virtual soul to get my hands on a Starax’ Wand, a bit of a futile hope for a no-trans object, but anything can happen in SL! It wouldn’t even bother me that it wouldn’t work any more, it’s part of virtual history, and that’s where the value lies for me.

And there you have it… Seren Haven: Virtual geek, enthusiast, and bore!

But you knew that already!

s. x

Because we’re all so very twenty first century,
You’re probably listening to me on some kind of portable stereo
Maybe you’re sitting on the back of the bus
Frank Turner – Four Simple Words

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

Today: The virtual world… Tomorrow: The universe?

Just when you thought Linden Lab’s intentions for SL lacked ambition, they sneak a choice phrase into an overly-wordy document that few people will ever read, and go from one extreme to another. The document in question is the utterly mind-numblingly over-cautious lawyer-speak spiel that they felt it necessary to produce for the recent Creepy Crawl Costume Contest; the Lab’s annual round up of all things Halloweenish.

Quite why it’s deemed necessary that a simple fancy dress competition should merit a set of rules and regulations that would put a small country’s constitution to shame is beyond me; maybe it’s an American thing, rather than a Lab thing, but to any reasonable person it really is overkill of gargantuan proportions. Back in the day when I might have considered participating in fancy dress competitions myself, we had far simpler rules, usually along the lines of:

  1. Dress up
  2. Don’t pinch your sister

Short, sweet and simple.

However, buried amongst all that litigation-speak, is a short phrase that I’ve never come across before in connection with SL – a phrase that, when used in such an official document, is presumably achnowledged and endorsed by the Lab. What, I imagine I hear you ask, is the phrase in question?

Brace yourselves…

‘the Second Life universe’

If ever there was a phrase that promised greater things, that is it. In four simple words, SL it seems has joined the rarefied heights of, amongst others, the Marvel Universe, the Tolkien Universe, the Harry Potter Universe, and so on. All of which is a bit weird, I would submit, for the following reasons:

  1. SL is clearly a single, virtual world. There are no Linden endorsed or tolerated alternatives, derivatives or parallels. To suggest it’s a universe is like saying that the Earth is the universe. Whilst, philosophically that might be argued to be true, in real, practical terms it is not. The Earth, and SL, are both worlds by any definition and therefore are a part of the greater universal whole, not its entirety.
  2. SL is not canonical. Within those other fictional universes mentioned above, canon is everything. Each related story, account, character or situation is a jigsaw piece that is clearly linked to the big picture. Let’s face it, even inworld SL is not canonical – as you wander from sim to sim, the one thing that strikes you like a slap across the face with a wet cod is the complete anarchic disarray and disconnectedness of each individual’s personal interpretation of the virtual world. Even if there were alternatives, it would be a nightmare task to try and create anything like a cohesive big picture.
  3. Where is the evidence? Much as it’s pretty easy to make big claims about practically anything, the proof of the pudding lies in the eating. You can argue until you’re blue in any part of your body you choose that there is life on Mars, but if you can’t back that up with solid proof, it’s just an unfounded statement. If there truly is an SL Universe, then where the heck is it? Where’s the fanfiction, the alternative timelines, the contextual reassignment and the crossovers? And please don’t try to argue that blogs, vlogs and such like count in this regard, because the vast majority of them are just a regurgitation of what we already know, or at best, opinion. I’ve yet to find anything out there that seriously attempts to take SL and develop new themes, contexts and dimensions.
  4. This is Linden Lab speaking. You just know that some junior staffer came up with ‘the Second Life Universe’ on a whim, thought it would look good in legalese, and nobody’s noticed it until just now, when I pointed it out (you don’t read The Lab’s legal stuff, you don’t honestly believe that they can be bothered to read it themselves?). It’s a bit like the inspiritaneous way I randomly invent words – unless they’re adopted by the world at large, or they form the vanguard of a planned, strategic plan to create something noteworthy, they mean very little. Much as I would love to think that this first glimpsoid of ‘the Second Life Universe’ is a hint of greater things to come, I know that it’s not; more’s the pity.

Such a shame really, because just imagine how amazing it could be? The collectables, the movie franchises, the conventions and cons… but frankly, this is SL and all it will ever really be is a small, unregarded world somewhere in the uncharted backwaters of the unfashionable end of the virtual arm of the metaverse.

And personally, I’m just fine with that.

s. x

Our universe itself keeps on expanding and expanding,
In all of the directions it can whiz;
As fast as it can go, at the speed of light, you know,
Twelve million miles a minute and that’s the fastest speed there is.
Monty Python’s Flying Circus – The Galaxy Song

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

Degrees of separation

I recently came across a fascinating article introducing me to the concept of the Erdos Number; possibly not the most useful academic device for everyday life, but nonetheless a principle that can be applied in a multiplicity of interesting ways. Erdos led me to the Bacon Number, and perhaps predictably to the more commonly known, and far less esoteric principle of six degrees of separation.

It’s a crazy, but often accurate observation that any one of us could – in theory – make contact with one another through a network of no more than six connected people. In some ways it’s also a bit worrying that someone like Donald Trump is connected that closely to me, even if it is only by way of a friend of a friend, of a friend! It may not even take six connections… Some studies have posited that in the US, the connection between any two people could be as few as three, or even two links distant.

Such connections have, of course, become a lot closer as a result of the growth of travel and technology, and the information age – go back a hundred years or so, and I’d suggest that the degree of separation between two people would be much greater; a few hundred years further back than that and you’d likely have stronger genetic links with strangers than you would as a result of any other connection. Today however, easy international travel and especially the spread of social networking via the internet have brought us ever closer. And, in our case, that also includes SL.

I still find it a bit weird that I can know people as friends and acquaintances in the virtual world and become pretty close to them, yet know little of their real lives, or even what they look or sound like in the real world – it’s entirely possible that I could live in the same street, work with or spend my time with someone in RL, with whom I have strong connections in the virtual world, yet have no idea that we share that connection. We might pass each other on the street without acknowledging the other’s presence, without any inkling that we are best friends inworld. We may be worlds apart in real life, yet separated by no distance at all in the virtual world.

And who exactly are we anyway? The anonymity afforded by SL means that fame, fortune and position have little meaning once we’re inworld – a king and a commoner can consort with each other in ways that their worldly degrees of separation could never permit in RL. I may hold any station in the real world, but unless I tell you who I am, you will remain blissfully unaware of my circumstances.

Even so, we a remain connected at a fundamental level. In the same way that we may never meet in SL, yet share a common bond – our participation in the virtual world – so it is, that no matter how far apart our real lives may be, we share the common bond of being a part of the human race. There may be many degrees of separation between us – perhaps through choice – but there is one common bond we all share that we cannot distance ourselves from – we are all human beings.

Not so long ago, I fulfilled a lifetime’s ambition when I paid a visit to Nairobi National Museum to see one exhibit in particular: Australopithecus afarensis, otherwise known as ‘Lucy’. Many have suggested that Lucy can be considered the mother of us all, and as I gazed at the preserved remains of that tiny 4 foot tall, 3.2 million year old woman, I struggled to contain my emotions. Even now, thinking about it, I find it hard to describe the feelings that I experienced. It was something I’d never experienced before, and never will again.

The simple truth is that there really are no degrees of separation between any of us. No matter what our physical, location, social standing, beliefs, sexuality, gender or colour, we are all related; all members of the same family…

And I’m very happy to have you as my relative!

s. x

Look for the girl with the sun in her eyes
And she’s gone
The Beatles – Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds

Posted in Philosophicalisticality, RL, SL | Leave a comment

Shut up!

I’m generally pretty good when it comes to multitasking – I can keep a multitude of balls in the air, whilst rubbing my tummy, patting my head and cooking dinner, all at the same time. I can have multiple conversations too, whether in the real world – which comes in terribly handy at frought meetings, where the ability to grab a deal-clincher in the midst of a morass of meaningless waffle can be very handy – or in SL, where amongst those with whom I associate the norm tends to be conducting eleventy-six different conversions in open chat at once!

Indeed, I might even go as far as saying that my communication skills have noticeably improved since joining SL, although I can’t necessarily say the same about the content!

However, there is one thing that’s guaranteed to mess me up almost every time: It can hijack my attention, destroy my concentration and totally derail my thought processes. It’s one thing about SL that I find incredibly irritating, horribly annoying and immensely frustrating. It is the uninvited IM, or – even worse – group chat.

I’ll deal with the IM first: I tend to not communicate all that much by IM. As far as I’m concerned, it’s a bit like the telephone: Great for a quick ‘hello’ and catch up, useful for exchanging information over a distance or for a discrete private exchange, and handy for getting a message to someone when there are other distractions vying for their attention. Other than that, I view them as mostly redundant at best; a pain in the backside, at their worst.

The most annoying aspect of the intrusive IM is that they almost always come from someone you know, someone who should know better. It will invariably be an acquaintance – one of those on your friends list that doesn’t really need to be there – and someone who knows you well enough to have a good general idea of when you’re most likely to be hanging out with friends, busy, or unlikely to want to be disturbed, (like, for example, within 5 minutes of logging in!) Despite this, they will invariably message you out of the blue, and then try to engage you in a rambling conversation. There are a number of irritant elements to this conversation: a) it will completely distract you from whatever you were doing at the time; b) it will be full of content that utterly bores you; c) you will nevertheless feel compelled to respond – albeit with hidden homicidal undertones – because they are, of course, a ‘friend’; d) it will contain long, heavy silences, during which you vainly hope that the whole thing has finally petered out, only for the next instalment to jump out at you, just at the point you were starting to relax; e) it will be randomly peppered with URLs, images and LMs that you have no interest in, and are probably a little bit wary of opening… Just in case, and f) at some point, you will consider feigning a crash, but you know that no matter how long you give it, they’ll still be there waiting for you when you return.

Just as distracting is the group chat. That little icon pops up on your screen and, try as you might to avoid it, you just have to open it – fatal mistake. Invariably, bizarrely, you never get notified at the start of a group chat session, so you always end up with a randomly confusing response to an ongoing conversation for which you have no context. The typical group chat tends to follow one or more clearly defined paths: a) the argumentative slanging match, complete with well-meaning, but totally inflammatory voice of reason attempting to pour oil on troubled water; b) the call for assistance – “Can somebody help me?”; c) the gushing flattery dished out by a satisfied customer, no doubt going for a freebie or gift card in return, or d) the scam link to a dodgy ‘marketplace’ page, followed by a stream of ‘don’t click that link’ messages.

The trouble is, with all this white noise going on in the background, I find it difficult to concentrate on my immediate surroundings. Yes, I know I can just ignore it, switch it off or simply choose not to open that chat window when the icon pops up, but somehow it compels me to take a look, and once I’ve taken that fateful step, I find it difficult to escape. And therein lies my downfall

I know I don’t have to take any notice and that it’s really my own responsibility to opt out, but I just wish that sometimes people would shut the hell up!

It’s just noise – nasty, annoying, intrusive, unwelcome, distracting, irritating, attention-grabbing, interfering noise. Like lawnmowers on a sunny afternoon in the garden, people eating crisps on the train, and the overly loud conversation in the corner of the coffee shop. It gets in the way of what you want to be doing and drags your attention away from the things that matter.

Maybe I should just take a leaf out of the book of a friend who has made a point of stating in his profile that he doesn’t answer IMs, refuses to acknowledge them and gets on with his SLife without those annoying interruptions. Then again, some messages aren’t all that bad, and some are necessary, so that seems like overkill really.

What I need is a bot that can deal with all my messages: One that filters out the rubbish and is capable of engaging in private conversation at a basic level – which is somewhat more than I’m capable of doing! Perhaps then, no longer plagued by the noise drowning out the important stuff, I can at least make something of an effort to be sociable…

Then again, perhaps not!

s. x

Shut up
Just shut up
Shut up
Black Eyed Peas – Shut Up

Posted in Rants, SL | Leave a comment

Off Grid

It was Douglas Adams who coined the phrase, ‘the long, dark teatime of the soul’ – that interminable, soulless void that occurs around about late Sunday afternoon, when lunch is done and frustrated desperation sets in. It’s a feeling that I hate, and once it’s taken hold, no matter what you try in order to break free seems of little avail. It’s not just a feature of Sunday afternoons either – any time that prevailing conditions are conducive to an episode of TLDOTS it can strike without warning: That listless, agonising combination of lethargy, indecision, tedium and moroseness which sees us reading the same paragraph for the fifteenth time without absorbing it; flicking between channels on the TV from ad break to ad break, ad nauseum; sighing deeply every few minutes, and berating ourselves for being incapable of getting up and doing something, anything, just to escape the downward spiral we seem so hell bent on descending.

It sucks.

However, Sunday afternoon, or any time on any day, when TLDOTS strikes or whenever I simply need to do something worthwhile with my time, there’s always SL. It’s the universal panacea for boredom, filling spare moments or procrastination whilst pretending to yourself that you’re not. If it weren’t for SL, I don’t like to think what I’d do with my evenings… Probably spend my time perusing cat memes on t’internet, or – horror of horrors – joining a gym and trying to keep fit, or such like!

That, would definitely suck.

Thankfully, barring power cuts, natural disasters or ‘unscheduled maintenance’, it’s a rare occasion that I’m unable to combat the depressing monotony of the slowest time in the universe that fills the gaps between all the important stuff, which Einstein for some unexplained reason, failed to incorporate into any of his theories of relativity, (perhaps it was a Sunday afternoon, and he was just feeling too listless to bother?)

That, however, is going to change for me – and will probably have done so by the time this post hits the streets. I’m off on my travels… Not in the fun and enjoyable, away for a jaunt in the sun, nor is it the enticing call of the open road, the hearkening of the unexplored wilderness, or the allure of foreign cultures that I’m succumbing to. It’s far more prosaic than any of that, I’m afraid. It’s business, and with it the necessity to be away from home during the week, until – wait for it – the end of time! Alright, it’s not really the end of time, it just feels that way, and at the moment next March may as well be the end of time – I will certainly feel very, very much older and far more tired that I do now, when it finally comes around. Then, at the end of it? Well, it could be the long dark teatime of my career, since at the moment there are no plans, and that distant future in three months could well herald the end of my job, or a recycling into some nameless, boring, soul-destroying office role – which is pretty much the same thing.

That aside, (which I’m really not that bothered about at this moment in time, to be honest), there is a practical upshot to the situation which, in simple terms, means my ability to get inworld and do anything other that stand in a corner and try – usually unsuccessfully – to make some sort of conversation is going to be severely compromised.

Even if I owned a laptop that’s capable of running SL, I’m going to be reliant on what will almost certainly be utterly rubbish hotel WiFi, whilst away from home. If I’m fortunate and can manage to get inworld, it’s going to be on a tablet via Lumiya, which although it’s a great viewer, frustrates me endlessly – I am, at heart, a keyboard person who avidly follows local chat, always ready to throw my own contribution into the mix and I just can’t do that on a tablet interface – it just isn’t suited to such things. Then there’s all the other things that I fill my virtual time with: building, hosting events, exploring; all of which become considerably more challenging, if not impossible, when I’m not sat at home with all the technological wizardry that I’ve become accustomed to.

It’s going to suck, big time!

It’s not so much the long dark teatime of the soul, but the long, unhappy descent back to the dark ages of the soul, and I’m really not looking forward to it.

At least I’ll still be able to blog.

s. x

I look to the future it makes me cry
And I just hope that you can forgive us
But everything must go… Go… Go… Go…
Chemical Brothers – Everything Must Go

 

 

Posted in Philosophicalisticality, Rants, RL, SL, Tales of the Road, Techietalk | Leave a comment