Once More, With Feeling

I stand before the fourth version of the Evans Family Compound.

I’ve been so far from here,
Far from your warm arms,
It’s good to feel you again,
It’s been a long, long time…
…Hasn’t it?
Genesis, “Supper’s Ready,” Foxtrot (1972)

A year and a half has passed since last I wrote the despairing post that has headed Evans Avenue Exit for all this time.  In that time, my First Life has gradually improved.  I found a new job for more money, was let go from that job, then found another new job for even more money.  Selena has traveled through other games, such as the mighty World of Warcraft and a knockoff of it for kids (as many fantasy MMOs tend to be), Wizard 101, with some detours into the life of a sniper in Modern Warfare 2 on Xbox Live.  Yet there’s always been that thought between us…”We’ll be back in SL some day.”

Yesterday became “some day.”  At the urging of Lexxi and Chelle, who’ve been in here all this time and have missed us terribly, we leased a largish parcel on a private sim, very much like the Fantasyland-run sim where the first Evans Family Compound was.  We’ve erected a new dwelling that is in the great ostentatious tradition of Evans dwellings.  (And it was unbelievably cheap, from my experience…I paid L$300 for a furnished dwelling that would have easily run me L$5,000 or more in 2008!) And, perhaps, one day, we will join the ranks of sim owners again.  Or I may take up the trade of DJ again; heaven knows I’ve kept my broadcaster updated with new music as I’ve acquired it.  Or we may find something else to occupy our time.

For now, though, we’re consolidating and getting things squared away before we figure out what comes next.  And, of course, we’ve been welcomed back by our friends (and neighbors).

As a blogger of my experience likes to say…”More anon.”

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Filed under Downtime, First Life, Meta

The Dream Is Over

You’ve read Steinbeck’s The Winter of Our Discontent?  Well, 1989 was the winter of our despair… – Jacob Stonebender, Callahan’s Key (Spider Robinson)

In our case, 2009 is the winter of our despair.  These are dark times at the Evans Family Compound.  Scratch that: There is no more Evans Family Compound.  There is no more Just After Sunset…and very soon, there will be no more Lexxotica either.

On December 2, 2009, I was laid off from my job in First Life.  Since Lexxotica and Just After Sunset were basically being supported by me paying the tier fees for Lexx every month, this had about the same effects on our Second Life presence as a shotgun blast to the face.  Fortunately, Lexx found someone to buy Lexxotica off her in relatively short order, but, in the meantime, there was nothing for it but to pack up all the stuff from the house (including Selena’s homes for her alts), as well as the club, and get ourselves out of there.  Lexxcore and Just After Sunset are out of business.

Lexx has offered me, and Selena, a gig at a new club set up by another friend of ours, hosting and DJing as a team.  Unfortunately, I’m not in the frame of mind right now where I could really do a show…

I have no idea whether we’ll ever be back to owning land, and I have pulled the plug on my Premium subscription for the time being.  It all depends on whether I can find work…and, if I don’t, soon enough, we’ll have much bigger problems than worrying about Second Life.

So it’s not likely I’ll have anything more to say on this blog for awhile.  For those of you that still manage to keep things together, I salute you, and pray that you never suffer this fate.

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Filed under First Life, Meta

Another Good One Departs

sumar-morgan(Image courtesy of Velveeta Biedermann)

Three years ago, a newbie to Second Life managed to buck up his courage enough to venture forth into The Shelter in Isabel sim, then, as now, one of the premier newbie-friendly locations in Second Life.  One of the people who welcomed him and helped him feel right at home was one of the Shelter’s longtime volunteers, and one of the unofficial “moms” of the Shelter: Sumar Morgan.

Now, that newbie-that-once-was has learned, via Tateru Nino, that Sumar Morgan lost her battle with cancer a couple of weeks ago.  And I am saddened.

I doubt I could say anything about Sumar that hasn’t been said already, by those far more eloquent than Yours Truly.  From my perspective, when she and I found each other in the same room, she’d always greet me warmly, helping me feel included in the sometimes large and intimidating crowd of The Shelter.  I’ve spoken before of the role of certain people’s writings (Tateru’s among them) in getting me into Second Life; Sumar’s role, among others, was no less critical in keeping me there through my awkward “noob” phase, until I found my place in the greater Grid.

In any event, I intend to stop by The Shelter soon and drop a nice chunk of Lindens in their donation box; I think Sumar would appreciate that.  As long as The Shelter remains, fulfilling its role in helping newbies, Sumar will never truly be gone from Second Life.  And I trust that, even now, she’s doing her best to assist newbies entering their Third Life.

“Nobody dies…they just leave here.” – Roland Kirk

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Filed under Community, People

Off Air

Well, that didn’t last long.

Due to circumstances beyond my, or even AnMiTh’s, control (the hosting company he was using for GameScribe closed its doors, giving him virtually no notice before shutting his servers down), On The Grid is now off the air.  It’s not likely to resume, as, in the wake of this disaster, AnMiTh has refocused on his new project, which is more closely tied to EVE Online, and doesn’t even involve a radio station anymore.  Can’t say as I blame him.

In truth, it turned out to be a lot of work to (a) do the show, (b) do it well, and (c) keep doing it on a regular basis.  It’s given me a new appreciation for those radio talk show hosts that do this week-in, week-out…or even do it five days a week.  Of course, they have armies of staffers, writers, and so forth to help things run smoothly, while I had basically me, myself, and I.  Let me explain what went into the program to show you what I mean.

The process would begin on Fridays (the day after the previous show went out), when I’d start looking for both news links and something to put into my second “feature segment.” (I started out trying to do three segments total, the news and two features, but Selena saw that it was basically too much and forced me to cut it back to just one.) Each show would get its own “notes” document on Google Documents where I’d record this information.  As it got closer to Thursday, I’d spend some time writing the segments themselves; I’d hold off writing the “news” segment till Wednesday night, to give me the maximum amount of time to find “fresh” news, but I’d write the “feature” segment as well as the “intro segment” before then.

Thursday morning, at work, I’d print out the completed “notes” page for that evening’s show and bring it home, where I’d spend some time that evening in SAM laying out the musical selections, as I would for a regular DJ set.  Of course, I’d lay it out in a strict format, using the appropriate “fill” and “title” tracks where required, as well as “silence” tracks to mark the points where I’d pause the playback so I could speak my pieces.  (The title music for On The Grid was supplied by Shi; it was an excerpt from her track “Escaping.”)  If you listened closely, you’d note that, amongst my eclectic choice of tracks, I always included three things:

  • A selection by Nightwish.
  • A selection by Marillion.
  • A selection by Shi (other than “Escaping,” that is).

Then I’d bring up all the programs I needed for the broadcast, across two different computers:

  • My regular broadcast rig (SAM, Frostwire, and an Explorer window to drag tracks from Frostwire into SAM when necessary).
  • The SL client, so I could get IMs with requests. (At first, I put myself at “home” in-world; later, I stationed myself at GameScribe’s building on Lexxotica.)
  • Firefox, with which I’d post the “Links” post to the show blog before airtime.
  • An IRC client, which tied into GameScribe’s Web chat system, so I could get requests that way.
  • TweetDeck, for additional connectivity and feedback.
  • Google Talk, which I used to communicate directly with AnMiTh and synchronize handoffs between his “jukebox” system and my broadcaster.

After that, it was just a matter of waiting for 8 PM my time, grabbing control of the GameScribe Radio server at the right time, then playing the music and speaking my pieces at the right times.  After giving control back to the jukebox and closing down things, though, I still wasn’t done.  I then took the “board tape” of the show (recorded as an MP3 file automatically, via an option on the encoder in SAM) and loaded it into Audacity, to transform it into the RePodCast of the program.  (“RePodCast” is a term I came up with, a portmanteau of “rebroadcast” and “podcast.”) The finished track had to be uploaded to the GameScribe server via FTP; regular browser-based uploads choke on files that size.  Then I’d do the “RePodCast” post on the blog, reprising the links as well as including the link to the file.  And then it would be time to…think about doing it all again next week.

And all this while I was doing my real job during the day, as well as putting in my usual time helping run Just After Sunset and doing the regular housekeeping.  Is it any wonder I started feeling like I was about to blow a fuse?

I’m not sorry I did it, though; it was a valuable experience.  But I don’t know if I’d want to put myself through that again.  And I hope at least some of you listened and enjoyed it.

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Filed under On The Grid

Announcing “On The Grid” On GameScribe Radio

onthegridI am privileged to announce that, starting soon, I will be hosting a radio program on the GameScribe Radio Network devoted to the Second Life® virtual world, to be titled, On the Grid.” This program will feature me exercising both my DJ skills and my blogging skills, as I combine eclectic music with segments discussing SL and various things in it.

Join me this Saturday, July 11, at 4 PM Pacific time for my special one-hour “Premiere Teaser” episode, before I move to my regular 2-hour time slot, Thursdays at 7 PM Pacific time starting on July 16.  Listen in here!

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Filed under On The Grid

Have I Reached The Party To Whom I Am Speaking?

lily_tomlin_01Apparently, Linden Lab® is introducing a new feature for Second Life® users, called “AvaLine” (I’m not sure if there should be an ®, a ™, or what after that word, so sorry, LL), which will allow people to dial a phone number and be connected to your avatar in-world.  Tateru, over at Massively.com, wonders what it’s useful for.  Quite frankly, so do I.

First of all, if you’re also a SL user and you need to get hold of another SL user that badly, the obvious way to do it is to fire up SL and make a voice call (or send an IM) that way.  Minimum hassle, no charges incurred.

Well, maybe you’re at work, or somewhere else where you don’t have the SL viewer handy.  You’re not out of options, though.  You can use another application, like Skype, to make a voice call.  You can send a message using another instant-messaging program, like Yahoo! IM, MSN, or GTalk.  You can send an E-mail.  You can even call the other person’s actual phone.  (That’s the way I’d get a hold of Lexx, for instance, if I really needed to talk to her quickly.  Likewise, she can call my cellphone, or send a text, if she needs me that quickly.)  Of course, this depends on the other person having made their outside-SL contact info available to you…which not everyone will have done, for whatever reason.

Ah! So maybe now we have a target market for AvaLine!  It would be SL Residents:

  1. Who want to be reachable by people outside of SL at any time;
  2. But, for whatever reason, don’t want to make any contact information available other than that linked to their SL avatar.

Aside from sounding slightly dodgy to me (and that’s just a matter of personal opinion), how big can this target market be?  In a world full of free Skype accounts, free IM accounts, free E-mail available through Yahoo, Microsoft, or Google, and low-cost cellphones with prepaid minutes–none of which have to have any public link to your RL identity–can AvaLine, which LL has admitted they intend to charge for eventually, find a niche?  And can you really do extensive business in SL without entrusting the people you work with, who might most have need to get hold of you urgently, with something more than an avatar name?

Also, of course, you have to use SL’s voice support to use AvaLine.  Which lets me, and most of the people I deal with, off right there, as we all tend to disable SL’s voice support and use Skype amongst ourselves.  It works well enough for us, as it has since before LL introduced the voice support in the first place, and it has the added advantage of staying operational and connected even if the SL viewer crashes, or if we decide, for instance, to exit SL and go to EVE Online.  (EVE also has built-in voice support…which we also don’t use, and for pretty much the same reasons.)  One could also use TeamSpeak or Ventrilo for the same purposes.

So AvaLine may be a great new “gosh-wow” feature for SL, but, really, it seems like a solution in search of a problem.  One wonders why LL is devoting resources to this instead of, you know, fixing the goddamn bugs.  (Not to beat a dead horse or anything…)

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Filed under Business, Technical

The Era “Just After Sunset” Opens

Just After Sunset

Well, it will probably come as a surprise to no one that I am back in the club business, along with master hostess Selena.  Lexx tasked us with developing a new club for the Lexxotica parcel previously occupied by Lexxistential Deviances, and, after that, Pb’s Solar Moonlight club.  We reached back to try and capture some of the ambiance we had with the Gin Rummy (which was, as you may recall, “SL’s premiere speakeasy”), and settled on “Just After Sunset,” which is, as we say, “a jazz club with attitude.”  That is, the live events won’t be strictly jazz music, but will feature whatever the DJs (meaning me, among others) want to play to fit the theme of the events.

Selena found the building we use, and handled much of the external landscaping, while I took on the task of fitting out the building interior.  Naturally, when we open, we’ll be one of the “teams” working as host and DJ.  (We won’t have dancers; I’m not sure if stripping pole dancers would require us to have an “Adult” content classification from Linden Lab.)

Save the date for our Grand Opening Formal Ball: Friday, May 1, 7:00-9:00 PM Second Life Time, at Just After Sunset, Lexxotica (97, 56).  See you there!

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Filed under Business, LexxCore