Category Archives: First Life

Things back in the real world. You know, the place where everything sucks?

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

DJ CoolJ Hits First Life

This past weekend, “DJ CoolJ” played his first gig in First Life, DJ’ing the wedding ceremony and reception for my RL brother, David, and his longtime companion, John.  (Yes, it was a same-sex marriage.  This happened in California, where such things are legal, at least for the moment.  Any flames about the morality or lack thereof of the proceedings will be sent to /dev/null, because (a) I don’t want to hear it, this is my brother we’re talking about here, and (b) it’s not all that relevant to my part of the story anyway.)

The story here started back in July, when I received this message from another of my brothers:

Erbo,

David and John are getting married in Sacramento on October 19.  They would like you to attend and to be their DJ at their reception.

Would you be willing to do this?

Oh, certainly, I was willing!  But all my DJ experience has been as a Second Life DJ, behind the controls of SAM; the question was, how would I translate that into the real world?

SAM outputs an MP3 stream, intended for receipt by a Shoutcast server.  The simplest thing to do was to use another computer to translate the MP3 stream to audio.  I had a suitable machine on hand, which had been a gift from David, in fact: an OLPC XO-1, which runs Linux.  I installed the program mpg123 on it, which could decode MP3 and send the resulting audio to the machine’s audio output device (speakers or headphone jack), and wrote a short Python script to “wrap” around it and mimic the protocol implemented by a Shoutcast server.  The resulting arrangement had a slight delay in the audio output, but worked, slick as you please.

In the interim, of course, I had fallen in love with “Selena” and brought her to live with me in Denver, so, naturally, she got to come too.  (In fact, I think she realized this when she knew she was coming to live with me; one of the things she said over our IMs was “OMG I get to come to your brother’s wedding!”)  So we turned it into another road trip, not unlike the one I made to bring her to Denver, carrying, as part of our cargo, my computer, her flat-panel monitor, the XO-1, and a whole slew of cables and connectors to put it all together, including a wireless router, as the XO-1 uses wireless networking.  Once there, the XO-1 would be plugged into a (rented) “pro” DJ mixer/power amplifier rig and a pair of massive Peavey speakers, boosting its output to fill the room.

We pulled it off; there were a few glitches, but the happy couple was pleased with the performance, as were the other guests, including my parents.  I plyed my routine much as I would in Second Life, and I did see some weirdness that made me think I had logged back into the Grid (try: four groomsmen doing a synchronized dance routine, pantsless, to the tune of “I’m Too Sexy”).  I put out a “penguin tip jar” (a jar with a stuffed Tux next to it, and an appropriate labeling placard), and netted $38 in tips; by Linden Dollar standards, that was a smash hit gig.

Would I ever consider doing this again?  Well, if I did, I’d want to have a proper Windows laptop to load SAM and my music library onto, to avoid lugging around that heavy tower system.  But I’m pleased that it worked as well as it did.

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Filed under Audio, First Life, Music

Sometimes, Dreams Have This Way of Coming True

Selena and Erbo

Selena and Erbo

As you might have guessed from my last post, I was still kind of adjusting to being single in both First Life and Second Life. I am privileged to say now that both of those conditions have been successfully altered.

Back in July, I was hosting another one of my “Big 80’s Party” events. One of our hostesses, who couldn’t be there that night, was listening in on my stream and conversing with me via IM. We suddenly found that we had a lot more in common than we ever suspected…and the conversation turned increasingly affectionate as the evening went on.

By the end of the evening, I was extremely confused: “OK…exactly what is happening here???” By the end of the following evening, it had become clear–to both of us–exactly what was happening: We were falling in love.

It turned out that the lady behind this hostess that had worked with me for over a year was only a couple of years younger than me, very close to me in birth dates (2 weeks exactly), had many other tastes in common with me, and was an Arkansas country gal with an accent like dripping honey. And we were both “available.”

In Second Life, our relationship quickly built itself. She created an entirely new alt, “Selenalore Michigan,” for the sole purpose of being my companion. That blew me away. I’d never had anyone do that before, or even known of anyone who’d done that. She quickly became “Lady of the House” at the Evans Family Compound on Lexxotica, and has contributed to the development of its architecture and landscaping. And she has also become the proud recipient of the only “Girlfriend” tag ever given out in my DJ fan group; the title of this reads, “I’m With The DJ, OK?” (A quote from the song “DJ Girl” by Katalina.)

This might have been where it stayed for us…had her father, with whom she was living in RL in Hot Springs, Arkansas, not awakened from a bad dream and decided it was time for her to leave the nest. And, with that, preparations began for a Grand Adventure that would carry me through seven states, and result in this lovely lady coming home with me, to stay. (It also resulted in a lot of other adventures, such as finally getting to meet the RL person behind “Lexx” for the first time, and what Lexx terms “the 30-minute hug.”)

As I write this, “Selena” is in fact leaning on my shoulder, helping correct my prose before it gets posted. We’re both tremendously happy, and she enjoys being here in Denver. There may be wedding bells sounding in both worlds sometime soon, or soon enough. I would just love for everything to work out between us, and for us to go down in history as a shining example that relationships can make the transition from Second Life to First Life successfully.

For now, though, you’ll have to excuse me…I think someone requires my attention. 🙂

“When you wish upon a star,
Makes no difference who you are,
Anything your heart desires will come to you…”

— From the Disney movie Pinocchio

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Filed under First Life, Relationships

The Coming Disneyfication of Second Life

In the wake of the conclusion of the Second Life® Fifth Birthday Celebration–and especially in the wake of the remarks made by Linden Lab® board member Mitch Kapor on the 7th, as well as certain other announcements–one is left with an impression that more changes are in the works for our Second Life virtual world…not all of which will be viewed as “better” by many of what have been, up to now, its core constituencies.

First, as Hamlet Au states, Kapor has explicitly said:

“[I]t is simply valuable for people to be able to use a virtual world. And that is going to make things challenging for people who feel that as the frontier is being settled and there is less novelty and in some senses less freedom, it is always an uneasy transition for the pioneers. And I believe we are going to go through that again.”

SLKids, Goreans, BDSM’ers! Think getting excluded from the birthday celebration was bad enough?  Well, that’s only the beginning. Expect to find yourselves further and further marginalized, if not outright banned, because you don’t fit into LL’s Brave New World of businesses and social causes.  And furries, roleplayers, escorts and sex club owners, you’re not long behind.  After all, this ain’t the “frontier” anymore, and all the old brothels and saloons have to make way for respectable businesses.

Second, expect voice and other technologies for bringing your RL self into the virtual world to take on more importance as time goes on.  Again we quote Kapor:

“[V]oice through its tone carries a whole stream of information about the attitude of the speaker, the speaker’s intention, which is just not present in text chat. And though voice is not a panacea and there are still many applications in which it is actually a drawback, I am not a positive affordance. My intuition was that it would be hugely empowering to add voice in a fundamental way to the platform and when the team actually produced them, we saw the incredible wide spread adoption of it. It was gratifying in the extreme and now it is not really possible to imagine the experience without voice.

[…] There are a lot of other meta information that is filtered out of our avatar to avatar encounters. And what is missing today is that natural conveyance of things like body language and gesture and facial expression.[…]

So what is missing today for a whole set of users are going to be making things more realistic when you want them to be more realistic in terms of the presentation of your avatar.”

Great, if you want to be yourself.  But how about if you want to be someone else? The transgendered people are going to be only the first casualties of this new emphasis on “realism” (see Cala’s well-known post on the subject of voice, for instance); this one’s also going to hit the roleplayers, furries, and many others, including those of us who’d rather just keep our voices to themselves, except when we want to share them.  (Lexx and I communicate via Skype all the time, leaving SL Voice turned off.  Occasionally, we conference in other people…but at our discretion.)

Expect more of these kinds of policies coming out of LL…and expect LL, increasingly, not to care about what the Residents think of these policy shifts.  Their response to complaints about the new policies will start to be, “You don’t like it?  Fine!  You can just go elsewhere!”  Up till now, this wouldn’t have worked, because, after all, where else could we go?

Where else, indeed:

IBM and Linden Lab have announced that research teams from the two companies successfully teleported avatars from the Second Life Preview Grid into a virtual world running on an OpenSim server, marking the first time an avatar has moved from one virtual world to another. It’s an important first step toward enabling avatars to pass freely between virtual worlds, something we’ve been working toward publicly since the formation of the Architecture Working Group in September 2007.

And here is where we see the grand strategy really begin to take shape.  Once it becomes possible to travel between Grids as easily as we teleport from place to place on the Main Grid, Linden Lab will start tacitly encouraging any activities they don’t want on the Main Grid to migrate to one of the OpenSim-based grids, where, presumably, the rules will be different.  As all these unsavory “legacy activities” spread out, LL’s original Main Grid will become more “Disneyfied,” more suitable for showing off to all those businesses and social activists that will then shower the Lindens with dollars to establish their virtual-world presence.

(Oh, those of you who’ve already invested, perhaps heavily, in a presence on the Main Grid?  Guess what: you’re up Shit Creek without a gas mask.  You can either stick around in LL’s increasingly-more-stringent environment, or sell out, most likely at a financial loss, and start over again where the rules are more like they used to be.)

So, how does the Linden Prize fit into all of this?  I’m not sure, but when I look at its stated purpose:

“[The] fundamental motivation here is to recognize special achievements by Residential organizations using Second Life and to call attention to the ways in which it is being used to improve the human condition.”

I start wondering just exactly how much “improve the human condition” is a code word for “advance liberal social causes.”  (You don’t see that it’ll be that partisan?  I’ll believe it when I see a Linden Prize awarded for something like the virtual-world equivalent of Oleg Volk’s www.a-human-right.com site, promoting gun ownership for self-defense.  Or for a campaign exploring the themes raised in Mark Steyn’s book America Alone.)  Perhaps LL thinks that highlighting the works of a virtual Amnesty International, or Greenpeace, or whatnot will go a long way towards cleaning up the image of SL as a sordid den of sex and child abuse, at least, in the view of certain asshats.  This could especially be the case if LL sees a potential dominant performance by the Communists Democrats is in the cards in the November elections.  (Or maybe I’m just overstating the obvious; LL is, after all, in San Francisco, a city which is so far off the “moonbat” end of the scale it’s not even funny…)

LL may go on to many great things as a result of this strategy.  But in a very real sense, to paraphrase the old Vietnam War-era saying, they will have destroyed Second Life in order to save it.

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Filed under Business, Current Events, Philosophy, Politics

Odd Lots

I’m taking a breather from campaign-related posts for a minute to just talk about a couple of things on my mind.

First of all, congratulations to Chelle and Danielle for scoring a couple of the DJ slots at the Second Life Community Convention.  I don’t know whether these will be RL performances, SL performances, or both, but they should both be well-suited to the task.  Of course, my name’s not on the list…but that’s because I didn’t ask.  Due to one thing and another, my real life is going to be absolutely insane until at least mid-August, so I haven’t been particularly looking for DJ work anywhere, as I’ll be spread thin enough as it is.  (The campaign isn’t helping…but it doesn’t take up that much of my attention, and it should be over soon enough anyhow.)

Second, I was over at Mars Japanese Gardens with Tateru and others on Saturday night, and the talk had turned to whether SL culture was fragmenting.  She said, “How many newbies know who Anshe is? Or Prok? Or me? Or Erbo?”  Well, let me tell you, that was a bit surprising! I hardly expected to find myself in the same chat line with Anshe Chung, Prokofy Neva, and Tateru Nino…unless it was a sentence beginning something like “Erbo Evans, unlike major SL personalities such as Anshe Chung, Prokofy Neva, or Tateru Nino…” 🙂  I know who the little fish in that pond is, that’s for sure.  I mean, look:

  • Anshe got to be where she is by getting in early, realizing the commercial potential of SL, and moving to exploit it, building up an empire over time in “Ben & Jerry’s” fashion.  It’s a feat that’s unlikely to be repeated.
  • Prokofy’s “fame,” such as it is, is more like “notoriety,” whether that label is rightly or wrongly applied.  Yet, in a very real sense, “it doesn’t matter what [the press] say[s] about you, as long as they spell your name right,” and I am also reminded of the statement about Howard Stern, that his detractors actually spent more time listening to him on a daily basis than his fans did…and both groups cited the same reason most often: “to hear what he’ll say next.”
  • You can ask Tateru why she’s so famous, and she’ll tell you that she doesn’t know.  However, one can’t argue with the evidence.  I’m forced to conclude that she must be doing something right, something that people like, regardless of what it actually is or whether she knows it.
  • And me?  Whatever fame or notoriety I’ve garnered, I’ve had to work for.  No one promised me a bed of roses, and I never came in expecting one.  My previous community experience definitely comes in handy when attempting to grasp SL, but there’s really been no substitute for planting my virtual feet on the Grid and getting my avatar’s hands dirty actually doing things, seeing things, and living the Second Life lifestyle.  Again, I’m left to wonder how things would have turned out if I had been able to upgrade my computer system to be capable of running SL, say, a year earlier…

Perhaps, one day, I will deserve that pride of place…and people will be reading about me in the next edition of the Official SL Guide.  But I’m not concerned about that now.  Hell, just surviving the next couple of months will be daunting enough.

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Filed under Celebrity, Current Events, First Life

No, I Haven’t Dropped Off The Face of the Grid

Kickin’ It at the Evans Compound

There have been many twists and turns in my Second Life of late, which will probably be of interest to very few, but which I offer up here by way of explanation for the lack of new content at this address.  Some of this, Danielle has already written about, so you can consult with her for corroboration.

First of all, Danielle and I are officially no longer partnered…”divorced,” if you will. While a sad occurrence, it’s more a reflection of the fact that we wanted to give each other the space we needed–her to find other playmates, and me for my other projects.  She lost no time, though; she is now engaged to Shawn Triskaidekaphobia, Head Manager at the Gin Rummy, and will have a wedding ceremony in-world this Saturday.  I’ll be walking her down the aisle to give her away; that somehow seems appropriate.

This is not to say that I am currently engaged in the hunt for “the next ex-Mrs. Evans,” though.  Far from it; I simply don’t have time, for one thing.  I’m presently engaged in a new project out-of-world which I’m spending as much time on as I can eke out of other things, including SL.  While I can’t divulge details, I will say that it involves Windows software development…a field I’ve been away from for 6 years or so prior to this.  But it’s coming back to me, especially with a fresh copy of Microsoft Visual Studio 2005 to work with.

Which is not to say I’m abandoning SL, either.  I am still partner in the Gin Rummy operation, and I continue to keep things up there, including DJ’ing there as scheduled.  DJ CoolJ has a couple of other gigs, too, at Black Diamond (usually 10-midnight, whenever Chelle decides to schedule me in), and, most recently, at Club Incircle (6-8 PM on Saturdays).  And I have my own “groupies” now, too…just look for “DJ CoolJ’s Groupies & Friends” in Groups.  And the Evans Family Compound in Aphrodisia still stands; I don’t want to give up that property, it’s too nice. (I have rented out the guest house, though, to a couple of our GR employees who needed a place to live.)

And, hopefully, I’ll have some more insightful commentary up here soon, on this strange and wonderful, if not always reliable, Grid of ours…population five million strong and growing.

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Filed under Current Events, First Life