Category Archives: Philosophy

The philosophy behind Second Life. What’s it all about?

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

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

The Liberals And The Linden Prize

Back in my oft-cited “Disneyfication” post, one of the things I expressed concern about was a potential bias towards advancement of “liberal” social causes in the criteria for the Linden Prize.  Well, now that Linden Lab has actually released the Linden Prize finalist list, it behooves me to go back and dig deeper into the actual nominees, and see just how much liberal bias there actually is.  After all, theorization should be no match for diving in and finding out, right?  So let’s have a look…

Alliance Virtual Library – The Info Island project is run by the Alliance Library System, which is mainly based in Illinois.  The facts that, first, it comes from a well-known liberal hotbed (the home state of President Obama, among other things), and, second, that it deals closely with local governmental agencies that are often liberal, are about the only things I can find here.  Certainly they support a wide range of environments, only some of which could be said to be “liberal.”  Assessment: Some liberal bias, but it’s not great.

American Cancer Society – This is the well-known Relay For Life that has been happening in SL for a few years now.  My gut instinct is to say, “Cancer affects everybody, so how can this be a liberal cause?”  It’s also a cause I have supported and continue to support in SL.  BUT!  This op-ed in the Wall Street Journal reports:

Last week the American Cancer Society announced it will no longer run ads about the dangers of smoking and other cancer-causing behaviors and the benefits of regular screenings. Instead, the Society will devote this year’s entire advertising budget to a campaign for universal health coverage. John Seffrin, the Society’s chief executive, said, “[I]f we don’t fix the health-care system . . . lack of access will be a bigger cancer killer than tobacco.”

Sadly, these ads will waste money that should be used to continue the Society’s educational campaign about prevention and detection. The evidence shows that universal health coverage does not improve survival rates for cancer patients.

“Universal health care,” a.k.a. “socialized medicine.”  Ask my ex-wife, currently struggling with the Finnish health care system, exactly how much that helps.  I hope ACS gets off that high horse and gets back to their core message soon.  Assessment: No real liberal bias, but watch that whole “socialized medicine” thing carefully.

Invisible Threads – The folks at “Double Happiness Jeans” describe it as a “virtual sweatshop.” Uh-oh, is that a liberal codeword I hear?  False alarm, though, as they describe their process, which allows SL-based employees to “manufacture” jeans from the comfort of their own homes, is kind of the antithesis of a “sweatshop” environment, and described by them as “the future of capitalist production.”  True, they did have an attack from a group calling itself “Virtual Anarchy,” attempting to “unionize” the virtual workforce, but I’m hard-pressed to say, from the record, whether that was an actual griefer attack or just a publicity stunt.  Assessment: No real liberal bias.

Let There Be Night – This project is also linked with something called “Dark Skies Awareness.”  The concerns raised here seem to be partly based on environmental factors, and partly on the needs of scientists, specifically astronomers.  I know something about the latter; my father, prior to his retirement, was a city manager in San Diego County, California, and as such was approached by astronomers at the Palomar Mountain Observatory with regard to changing street lighting to keep from spoiling their observations.  The city did start employing low-pressure sodium lighting, which is more easily filtered than other types of street lighting.  (As a side bonus, I got some nifty memorabilia out of it, like a copy of the earliest photo of Halley’s Comet as it approached the Sun in 1986.)  The site does make some troubling references, however, to things such as the widely-publicized envirowacko “Earth Hour” event.  Assessment: Some liberal bias, but doesn’t detract from the astronomical message…at least until we are able to move all astronomy to Earth orbit, or to the Moon.

Nonprofit Commons – This project is a host for many non-profit agencies’ SL presences, and, of course, some of those nonprofits are going to be lefty in nature.  A few examples: WMNF, a radio station that “advocates for peace, social and environmental justice” (liberal codewords!); the Drug Policy Alliance Network, which is pro-legalization; and the Sierra Club, which is well-known as being highly liberal.  However, there are some pretty good counter-examples listed among their membership as well, such as the Center for Civic Education, which promotes American political knowledge (and, let me tell you, some libbies are in desperate need of same!), and the Faith Foundation, a faith-based charity for children.  Assessment: A mixed bag, which is pretty much what you’d expect.

Skoolaborate – This particular project is sponsored by existing schools, and liberal bias in primary and secondary education has been well-established at this point.  See, for instance, this article from the Christian Science Monitor.  The site is heavily larded with liberal codewords such as “diversity,” “international citizenship,” “issues of global significance,” “underprivileged groups,” and “inter-cultural understanding.”  Furthermore, the actual “units of work” which are taught by Skoolaborate members are not open for inspection by the general public, including the parents of the children undergoing such instruction; to me, this strongly suggests a “hidden agenda.”  Assessment: Clear liberal bias.

Studio Wikitecture: Open Architecture Challenge – Sponsored by the Open Architecture Network, and “dedicated to improving living conditions through innovative and sustainable design.”  While the liberal codewords in that statement and the references to the UN Millennium Development Goals are troublesome, they also have a fair number of business sponsors…and, as I was telling Selenalore last night, I see no reason to condemn so-called “green building initiatives” out of hand, as long as there’s no harm in it.  Assessment: Some possible liberal bias, not a lot, but caution is indicated.

The Space Between These Trees – Benefits the Kintera project.  I’ll admit, my gut reaction was to dismiss them as “envirowackos” out of hand.  However, I took their “Awareness Quiz,” gave what I thought were “common sense” answers to the questions, and got 6 out of 6 correct.  (For instance: Hunger is not always caused by a lack of food in the world.  It’s generally caused by the food being in the wrong place…and sometimes the reason why the food can’t be moved to the right place has more to do with politics than anything else.)  They focus not only on giving out livestock, but on teaching the recipients to care for it properly, and encouraging them to pass the offspring of that livestock on to others in need.  This is in line with the whole “Give a man a fish, you feed him for a day; teach him to fish, you feed him for a lifetime” proverb, and makes plenty of sense.  Assessment: Perhaps still some liberal bias, but certainly nowhere near as much as I first thought.

The Tech Virtual – This project relates to museum presences in SL, and the main museums involved seem to be focused on science, technology, and innovation.  None of this is prticularly “liberal” in outlook, though their upcoming projects on “energy” and “health” would bear watching, to ensure there’s not too great a focus on “liberal” aspects of those issues, like global “climate change” or socialized medicine.  Assessment: No real liberal bias, but watch those two projects I indicated.

Virtual Ability – I’m trying not to be biased by the fact that the people behind this project are fellow Coloradans. 🙂  They’re all about helping people with RL disabilities get ahead and thrive in SL…and some of what they say resonates a great deal with experiences friends of mine have had, and perhaps a couple of my own experiences as well.  I can’t find any liberal bias in this one.  Assessment: No liberal bias.

Clinical Scenarios for Increasing Patient Safety – This is tied to the British National Health Service, and, if you want a liberal can o’worms, it’s hard to find a bigger one.  See, for example, this post on the MedRants blog.  However, this is about improving patient safety…and anything that does that in the execrable NHS can’t be all bad, I say.  Assessment: Liberal bias only insofar as it’s tied to British socialized medicine.

LanguageLab.com – It’s a language school.  Really, how biased can it be? Primarily, too, it’s focused on teaching English to non-English speakers…which is a laudatory goal, as English is pretty much the de facto lingua franca (how’s that for some “borrowed” language terms?) of the planet; still, I can think of a few libbies who would be shitting bricks and sputtering “cultural hegemony!” at the thought.  Assessment: No liberal bias.

The NMC Campus Project – This is all about the use of virtual worlds in higher education.  The involvement of academia in this kind of project is pretty much a red flag for liberal bias; see for instance, Daniel Pipes’ essay on “conservative professors as an endangered species,” as well as, for a local angle, the case of Ward Churchill and the University of Colorado.  In fact, when I clicked over to their site, the first thing on their calendar was a series of lectures entitled “Global Agenda 2009: Tinderbox – Understanding the Middle East.” (Uh-oh!)  The lecture in question was fifth in a seven-lecture series, this one featuring a columnist for Israel’s leading newspaper…but this after the lecturers in lectures #1 through #4 have already drummed the liberal party line into anyone attending the whole series.  Another event on their calendar relates to responses to climate change among native peoples in Alaska. (Liberal codewords!) However, you could probably get much the same content on 80% of college campuses in the land…including the one I graduated from, more’s the pity.  Assessment: Liberal bias, but this is due to endemic bias among the underlying organizations, and not SL-specific.

So, tallying everything up, we have three clear instances of liberal bias and five “partial” instances, out of 13 projects total, so the situation may not be anywhere near as dire as I first thought.  And, in all cases, none of the bias was specific to being in SL, but was all a function of the underlying organizations.  Now, on the other hand, there was no instance of any finalist project having a conservative bias of any nature…whether this was due to bias on the part of the Linden Prize selection committee, or simply due to the fact that there just weren’t any “conservative” projects for them to choose from, I don’t have enough information to say.  Overall, though, I’m willing to concede that my initial assessment of the Linden Prize was off-base to at least some extent, possibly completely so.

“When I’m wrong, I say I’m wrong.” – Jake Houseman (to Johnny), Dirty Dancing

UPDATE: Well, according to Massively.com, the winners are Virtual Ability and Studio Wikitecture.  That’s one “no bias” entry, and one “some bias” entry…and LL doesn’t live down to either my expectations or Prok’s (he thought Skoolaborate would take it).  Consider me corrected…at least for now.  However, keep your eye on the prize (as it were), as there’ll be plenty of opportunity for LL to show liberal bias in the future.

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Filed under Community, Current Events, Philosophy

BZZZT! WRONG!

Just two days after I posted my call to Linden Lab™ to cut the crap and make the Second Life™ Grid, you know, actually work, they’ve proven they can’t listen worth a damn:

Today we are very happy to share some exciting news with you: Linden Lab has acquired Xstreet SL and OnRez – the two leading Web-based marketplaces for buying and selling creations for Second Life. Over the past few months we’ve been working with the folks at Virtuatrade and the Electric Sheep Company to hammer out the details…

How much of those “last few months” spent in negotiating to take over two services that, unlike the Grid, actually work, could have been spent on, say, making the Grid actually work?

How much effort will integrating these two services into the overall SL environment suck away from making the Grid actually WORK?

And will these two services now quit, you know, actually working once they’re subsumed into LL’s already bursting-at-the-seams infrastructure, thus requiring even more effort to make them work again, effort that could have been devoted to making the Grid actually WORK?

(Are you starting to see a pattern here?  I hope so. 🙂 )

I’ll leave it to others to debate the business aspects of this acquisition.  I’m more interested in having a working environment in SL.

Linden Lab: Does the phrase “fiddling while Rome burns” do anything for you?

UPDATE: Okay…now maybe I can start to believe that LL is taking these problems seriously.  But I’ll refrain from sending the roses until I see some real results.

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Filed under Bugs, Business, Downtime

Linden Lab: This has gone FAR ENOUGH. Fix SL *NOW*.

As I write this, Selena has just had to cancel our Sunday night event because Second Life™ is brokenAGAIN.

Most In world services are at reduced functionality at the moment. Please avoid L$ transactions or handling valuable (no-copy) assets until we post an ALL-CLEAR. Regettably, our ability to broadcast a warning in world is also disabled. Please let your friends know if you’re logged in. [emphasis mine]

When the system is so broken that the Lindens can’t even broadcast a message to tell people in-world how broken it is…well, something is rotten in the state of Denmark.  And it sure as hell ain’t Danish blue cheese.

Friday night, we had to cancel our event because the sim on which Solar Moonlight sits (Tyros) suddenly crashed on us, logging us out, fifteen minutes before the event was due to begin…and, upon logging back in, we were unable to TP there.  Thank God Lexxotica still seemed to be up and running, or who the hell knows what would have happened?

And this doesn’t just affect us; Prokofy Neva, one of the few people who tries to run a rental business in a reasonable manner, reports that he’s getting lots of people breaking leases:

I don’t know whether people refund because they can’t log on and get sick and suspicious of SL even when they *can* log on (or perhaps they get mad their friends can’t log on), or whether, more likely, they can log on, but they can’t get me to do something for them because *I* can’t log on.

Either way, bad for business.

Much as Prok’s critics might cheer his business troubles, anything that’s bad for his business is likely to be worse–perhaps fatally so–for other businesses.

Meanwhile, the Lindens issue self-congratulatory blog posts, promise “pie in the sky, by and by” with infrastructure improvements (that have yet to materialize), and continue to chase educators with a platform that can’t seem to even support its present level of use, let alone act as a mission-critical tool for education.  Anyone else have the words “fiddling while Rome burns” coming to mind?

It’s time for the Lindens to start bringing what Jim McCarthy, in his book Dynamics of Software Development, called “radical focus” on the problem of stability of the SL platform.  You can’t call for radical focus too many times over the course of a project, as McCarthy points out, but at this point the Lindens are overdue.  Come on, M Linden, now’s the time to show leadership.  If my own boss in RL can do it, you can do it.  LL’s ability to ship bug-free code has fallen from “average” down to “marginal at best,” and is continuing the spiral towards “complete fiduciary misconduct” at this point.  How much more do they think their paying customers can take?

“…I warned the distributor I’m a Hershey bar…The Hershey bar gets smaller and smaller to stay the same price.  But it can only get so small.  I can shrink myself only so small before I’m nothing, a man without quality or quantity.” – Mort Lesser, “Mouthpiece,” by Edward Wellen

UPDATE: FJ Linden has posted a big, semi-technical explanation of what’s been going on and how LL is moving to fix it.  All well and good, FJ, but, as we say in America, “Talk is cheap.”  If you want to convince me, and other dissatisfied Residents, that you mean business, here’s the way to go about it:

  • Your timeframe for the rollout of these fixes is WAY too long.  Think “days,” not “months.”
  • What about manpower to meet that timeframe?  Easy: Every Linden who can code should be working on stability fixes right now.  Every Linden who can’t code should be working on testing said stability fixes. It’s “crash priority” time.  You guys’ future is at stake.
  • Forget all those other side projects, like building more mainland sims, or replacing the browser engine in the client, or other such foolishness.  All other considerations must be secondary to stabilizing the Second Life Grid and making it so people can actually USE it. I remind you: Your future is at stake here.

In other words, LL:  It’s time to shit or get off the pot.  Go big, or go home.

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Filed under Bugs, Downtime

Snapshot In A Family Album

Lexx and Petros show off their three little ones.

Lexx and Petros show off their three little ones.

I don’t know how common the concept of “families” is in Second Life.  I got an introduction to that concept some time back, when I was “adopted” as a father by Samaria, Lillindrial, Lexx, and so forth.  Over time, this has grown, until now I find myself the patriarch of a three-generational clan:

  • Myself and my wife Selenalore.
  • My younger siblings: Fiona the somewhat ditzy blonde sister, and Stephen the steadfast little brother.
  • My daughters: Morning, Suki, Lexx, Lilli, A.J., Adah, Shaunny, Ginger, Samaria, Say, and Miho.  (Don’t ask me how I accumulate them.  They just pop up out of nowhere, it seems.)
  • My one son, Piook, who’s never online…
  • And now, at least six grandchildren: Faith, Hope, DeSpair, Crissy, Angel, and Selina.  (UPDATE: Add to that Spring, Kayla, Giselle, and Tierra.  And one great-grandchild, Jasmine.  Heavens to mergatroids!)

The latest development came after Lexx and her spouse Petros visited the Make-a-Wish Adoption and Shopping Centre, on the “Happy Ever After” sim.  They found DeSpair, who wanted them to take him home with them, but insisted that his sisters, Faith and Hope, come along too.  The three are all 2-year-olds, and Lexx fell in love with them overnight.  And so, I came home from a party in RL tonight to find out that I was now a grandfather.

Of course, these kid avatars are powered by ageplayers, about which I’ve written before.  But, whoever their RL controllers are, they’re very convincing as little children.  They actually move so fast, it seems like the frame rate of the client can’t keep up!  And they’re cute as the dickens, too.  They listened sweetly as “Poppy” (that would be me) told them stories; first I recounted a condensed version of my adventure to pick up Selena, then I told them “a story about santa” (adapted from the movie Santa Claus Conquers The Martians), then another story condensed from “The Tale of the Adopted Daughter” in Robert Heinlein’s Time Enough For Love.  Meanwhile, over Skype, Lexx is just gushing over the kids.

I predict interesting times in the future.  For all of us.

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Filed under Relationships

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