Saturday, June 30, 2012

Journey to Ancient Alexandria

Trouble's just the bits in between! It's all waiting out there, Jackie. And it's brand new to me. All those planets, creatures and horizons—I haven't seen them yet. Not with these eyes. And it is gonna be... fantastic.

The Tenth Doctor

          This week I’m doing something I haven’t done in a while, visit a good old fashioned Second Life (SL) sim where the sim itself is the main attraction and everyone keeps their clothes on (or at least taking them off is not the primary activity). 

          So, after bouncing around the grid for a bit I came across Ancient Alexandria.  A role playing sim which recreates the ancient world of the Ptolemy’s and Cleopatra’s in all its past glory. 

          Unfortunately, when I first came across Alexandria, I wasn’t in proper period attire so I wouldn’t enter.  (Contrary to popular belief, I try to respect sim’s rules about attire and behavior.  One reason why I’ve been bouncing around butt naked so much lately.)  I promised myself to return for further investigation.

Something else different about this trip is that I’m accompanied by my Traveling Companion, GraciAnn Harte.  (Hey, Doctor Who’s been doing it for fifty years.  Why not me?)  Some of my readers may remember her.  We’re neighbors in Nowaki.  Graci also accompanied me on my recent BDSM club tour.   When not suffering with my presence, she’s a model who has recently graduated from modeling school.  Graci has been wanting to go exploring inworld and I offered to invite her on some of my adventures. (Actually, I think she comes along to see what trouble I get into next!) 

Graci and I agree on a day and time and begin to prepare for our trip.  One thing about hanging around with a model is that she knows a lot about how to dress and where to get cool outfits.  We went shopping together where Graci’s great taste and common sense came into play.  Especially when she saw what period costume I wanted to wear.  She mumbled something about not wanting to be seen in public with anyone dressed as a slave.  Needless to say, I ultimately went with her recommendation.  I have to admit I do look spiffy in her choice.  (Significant Other thought so too.  Now, she wants Graci to go to work on my hair and eyes.) 

At the appointed time and date, Graci and I teleport into Ancient Alexandria. Graci has selected a traditional long white dress with period jewelry.  Her hair is done in a Cleopatra classic style.   She is barefoot.  (So much easier in SL isn’t it?) 

We arrive at the port area.  (Where else would people arrive in ancient times?) The famed Lighthouse is visible in the harbor.  We move onto a temple and then back to a market back near the port area. Along the way we pass through a residence and wander the streets. 

Since Graci and I had to make our trip early on a Sunday morning because of our schedules, many residents aren’t about.  In fact, we only meet two.  One, a woman driving a horse and wagon and another woman running through the city streets. 

The sim’s attention to detail is extraordinary and this is at two levels.  The first is the period accuracy and layout of the buildings, furniture, and other everyday implements.  Then there is the quality of the detail work for these objects.  Intricate patterns are woven into rugs and mosaics.  Having had the opportunity to visit some ancient ruins in Real Life (RL) myself, I’m impressed by the quality of the workmanship and the accuracy. 

Tapestries, fabrics, and other objets d’art are strategically located throughout the sim.  Again, attention to detail and quality of craftsmanship are evident throughout.

There is an eerie sense as Graci and I walk through the empty streets.  I’m reminded of a ghost town.  Fortunately, it’s daylight.  Otherwise it could be more scary than eerie.  (I admit it, I’m afraid of the dark.) The two people whom we do meet are busy and can’t spend much time with us.   

While we wander about, Graci is taking pictures.  Despite my nobleman’s costume, I look the part of a tourist from the provinces wandering aimlessly about. The people we do meet respond better to Graci than to me. Maybe it’s my red eyes? 

This is an abbreviated trip for Graci and me as we both have RL commitments which call us back sooner than we’d have preferred.  But, our brief visit has given us a chance to see another SL sim lovingly built and maintained by a community dedicated to one theme.  We’re grateful for their efforts and for allowing travelers like us to visit. 

Graci and I encourage you to visit and see the work which brings back images of a world long gone. 

I’d like to thank my Traveling Companion, GraciAnne Harte, for making the time to join me and I hope that she will be back for further adventures inworld. 

As always, I’m grateful to all for their kindness and time in stopping to talk with a stranger who was passing through their lives. 

I welcome feedback from readers, please either comment on my blog or e-mail me at

     If you would like to read about my other adventures in Second Life
please click here.

Photo No. 5 Harbor Breakwater

Photo No. 6 Ship Dockside

Photo No. 7 Public Baths

Photo No. 10 Private Garden

Photo No. 11 Interior of Residence

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Sex in Second Life

  Sex is God’s joke on human beings.

Bette Davis

          There!  I have your attention now!  OK, don’t worry this isn’t one of those phony leaders that brings you in on the pretence of sex and then switches to an infomercial about reverse mortgage financing for your home. Although, I will only skirt with the edges of being “That Sort of Blog” as Glorf Bulmer would call it. 

          But as Significant Other observed while we discussed this story, it’s funny all that’s represented by just three simple letters. “Dog” or “cat” just doesn’t seem to bring out the same reactions or emotions.  (For all those true animal lovers out there, I apologize if I have offended.) 

          So when we talk about sex in Second Life (SL) what are we really talking about? IMHO, we’re talking about cyber sex.  Which essentially is people from Real Life (RL) going onto the Web, or, in this case, SL, and having a merry old time with each other through the magic of the keyboard.  (Although, web cams and microphones combined with affordable Skype access have upset many traditionalists.)

          Cyber sex has many advantages, no commitment (rumored to be mainly a guy thing), anonymity (great for all those doing things they say they would never do in RL), no risk of pregnancy, and, finally, no chance of getting one of those difficult-to-explain-to-existing-partners STD’s (I’m not including computer viruses or phishing scams here).  Oh, and, it’s a lot less messy, at least on the cyber end. 

          Then there are the disadvantages of cyber sex.  Is that hot sexual partner really who they say they are?  Are all those unemployed nineteen year old community college drop-outs living in their parents’ basements outside of Detroit really all in World of Warcraft?  (I’ll bet that last line stops a few folks in their tracks and makes them reconsider!)  Then maybe one party may record playtime and post it to You Tube or some other social media for all eternity to see (although probably only if it’s a really outstanding performance), RL partners may take a dim view of these activities (anyone remember John Wayne Bobbitt?), and some argue that the depersonalization and narcissism involved here are unhealthy in the long run (can’t wait to see the late twenty-first century).

          Now, in case you’re wondering where I’m going with this public service announcement concerning cyber sex and sex in SL specifically, here’s my point.  I’d been going under the assumption that sex in SL was premised on its simplicity and risk free nature offset the disadvantages for the risk takers among us.  The thinking being that what happens in SL stays in SL. 

          Well, guess what?  Things aren’t that simple in SL.  (Actually, the longer I write this blog the more I realize just how complicated SL is and how it can further complicate an already complicated RL.) 

          During my wanderings in SL, I’ve found that residents go looking for complications in their SL lives.  For instance, birth control can be found inworld.  For women wishing to simulate their biologic clocks in SL, they can.  From the uncertainty of whether or not they’re pregnant to the full nine month term (with Lamaze pose balls if needed) ending in a birthing scene, it’s all there.   

          At the Mama Allpa Mainstore,  I found a cottage industry dedicated to this whole natal process including certified doctors and midwives.  Oh, and if anyone is shopping for pregnancy test kits in SL, they can be found here.

          Then in my travels, I came across condoms (tintable or flavored if so desired) and Viagra.  Who knew?    

          OK, I don’t know about you but I’m thrown by this.  Don’t get me wrong.  I’m not criticizing or judging anyone.  But why do residents go to all this trouble and realism?  At what point would it just be easier to stay in RL with its troubles?  I get the sex toys and genital jewelry displayed alongside the condoms.  But why bring into SL objects that are considered by many in RL to be inconveniences? 

          Anecdotally in RL, I’m told that it’s difficult enough to get guys to use condoms.  In SL, where there is no apparent need for them (and if I’m wrong here, someone please correct me) why are they offered?  How many men freely admit to using Viagra in RL except for former Senator Bob Dole?  I would have thought we’d have scripts for ED by now. 

          Maybe I’m missing something about the potential for role playing here.  Or, maybe there’re some scripters who are just challenged by the need to create whatever they can inworld.  (If they have that much time on their hands, I ask that they contact me for a list of needed SL enhancements.) 

          I haven’t had a chance yet to meet either the retailers or users of these products and services but I’ll be searching them out and come back with an update later.  I suspect I’ll have some interesting stories to relate! 

As always, I’m grateful to all for their kindness and time in stopping to talk with a stranger who was passing through their lives. 

I welcome feedback from readers, please either comment on my blog or e-mail me at . 

     If you would like to read about my other adventures in Second Life
please click here.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Ruminations on Second Life

Never regret. If it’s good, it’s wonderful. If it’s bad, it’s experience.

Victoria Holt

          As is my wont (Hey, it’s my blog after all!) every once in a while I stop in between projects and ruminate about what I’ve seen and learnt in Second Life (SL) as I’ve wandered about.  And, at the risk of becoming overly self-centered, there’s a lot to think about.  Especially around the question of whether or not the promise of SL has been fulfilled. 

          I always come back to the diversity of SL.  The many different types of residents inworld, what they do, and how they do it never ceases to amaze me. I freely admit to first coming onto the grid expecting it be populated by an overly technical group of geeks building whatever they took a fancy to.  Yes, there is certainly that group inworld but there are many others too. 

          The social aspects of SL took me by surprise.  People had come inworld, overcome the hurdles (more about these later), and staked out communities on this virtual frontier.  Many of these were drawn by the social aspects of SL.  Others by the creative opportunities. 

          People come together to socialize but also for other personal reasons such helping one another.  People go to concerts, create new art forms which can only exist inworld, and are reinventing the literary salon.  Don’t let me forget that old cultural standard, the magazine. 

          With communities and socialization comes bad behavior and, unfortunately, SL has it.  Glorf Bulmer and Lindal Kidd have recently blogged about some of the behaviors they have encountered recently. I regret this type of conduct inworld as much as I do in RL but I do find this a reassurance of the vibrancy of life inworld.  (Glorf will kill me for writing this.) 

          Another interesting observation I’ve made is how these communities can either parallel Real Life (RL) interests and communities or be completely stand alone in SL.  The BDSM communities come to mind for the former and vampires for the latter.  (If there are any RL vampire communities co-locating in and I’ve missed you, I apologize and want to meet you.) And, these are only a couple of examples. 

          Other things I’ve noticed in SL are that there is a lot to see and I haven’t even begun to scratch the surface of it all.  (Although with sims shutting down I do worry this may not be as much of a problem longer term. Sorry, bad joke.)

          I have noticed that things change fast inworld.  Some of the groups whom I first met when I began blogging I’m now told are no longer as cohesive as they once were.  Good friends have quietly winked out never to be heard from again.  Some of the more poignant blogs I’ve read have been about friends lamenting the disappearance of those whom they’ve been close to and have never come back.  A real sense of loss can be felt by the survivors and I may run the risk of sounding trite here but the not knowing what happened really bothers them. 

          Of course, there’s the more traditional break up of a relationship where both parties are inworld and don’t want to know where the other is.  The anonymity of SL relationships plays an important role here.  Myself, I always take at face value how a resident presents herself or himself.  One could drive oneself nuts trying to figure out who is really behind an avatar really is.  I’ve always been suspicious that many avatars whom I meet inworld are fronts for nineteen year old unemployed community college drop-outs who live in their parents’ basements in suburbs of Detroit.  Yet, I’m always told by my inworld friends to remember that there is a real person with real feelings behind that avatar. 

          Finally, while I find a lot of repetitive “me too-ism” inworld in some creators’ work there is still much original work.  The recent addition of mesh technology in SL has fueled a creative revolution in my humble opinion. 

          All of this has got me thinking about the promise of SL versus the reality especially when measured against Facebook (FB). In RL, when I mention SL these days, many are surprised that I’m still here.  Most had avatars or still do, they just haven’t returned in years. 

          When I inquire as to why they haven’t returned, the infamous hurdles are raised.  They say that getting set up was a hassle and when they finally got an avatar going they couldn’t find a lot to do.  I remember one RL colleague at work, whom I convinced to join me in an effort to explore SL’s potential for RL meetings, was just sitting at a bus stop somewhere inworld when I found him. He didn’t know what to do and couldn’t find anything to do.  Those who hung around a little longer complain of poor system performance and frequent crashes. 

          FB, on the other hand, seems to have fewer barriers to entry and I’ve met too many people in RL who have told me that they’re grandparents even use it.  FB permits a few tasks to be done but does them well.  Their simple games and the ease with which developers can create applications only helps.  FB’s business friendly approach seems to have helped people make some serious RL money.  (Unlike their recent IPO!)

          Are there alternatives to SL?  There are other virtual worlds but I’m not sure how successful they’ve been.  Based on a recent post in Wagner James Au’s blog, New World Notes, until the recent technologies, smart phone and tablet mobility being the most notable, are absorbed, not a lot may be happening in virtual worlds for a while.  (Although an even more recent post on his blog gives hope for the future.)

          So where do we go from here?  I’m not sure.  SL has a niche, although admittedly, it’s getting smaller.  Social media like FB and Twitter have large followings but will they last?  Everyone remember the AOL and Yahoo portals?  Anyone still really using them?  I don’t expect any new virtual world competitors to arise until the technology shakes out. 

          SL can continue to hold on for a while. Although, if paying customers continue to decline and the platform’s performance issues get worse then things could spiral out of control.  Remember the SL architecture is almost ten years old and most, if not all, of its creators are long gone. 

          I’ll continue my travels across the grid and bring my stories back to my readers for as long as there is a grid. One thing I’m certain of is that as long as the grid is still there, I won’t be lacking for things to write about! 

As always, I’m grateful to all for their kindness and time in stopping to talk with a stranger who was passing through their lives. 

I welcome feedback from readers, please either comment on my blog or e-mail me at . 

     If you would like to read about my other adventures in Second Life
please click here.

Saturday, June 9, 2012


Do not cease to drink beer, to eat, to intoxicate thyself, to make love, and to celebrate the good days.

Egyptian Proverb

          During my travels across Second Life (SL), as I’ve written a few times, I’ve been struck by the communities which have grown up inworld and have developed lives of their own.  Many times these complement the Real Life (RL) lives of their members. Other times they exist apart.  Either way they are vibrant and diverse groups of people celebrating some facets of their lives together.

          Today, I will write about celebrations inworld.  In particular the anniversary celebrations of two communities that I’ve become close to over the past year and to whose members I find myself returning to from time to time. (You’ll have to ask them yourself how they feel about me dropping in.) 

          The two sims are 1920’s Berlin and Book Island, places I’ve visited several times and written about previously.  Their members were gracious in making themselves available for interviews with me and guiding me to other locations inworld for other stories.  (Or, maybe they just wanted to get me out of town?)

          1920’s Berlin recently celebrated their third anniversary and Book Island their fifth anniversary.  Each had a full program of events celebrating their successes and partying to enjoy their company.  I was invited to both.  I attended both (although in one case, due to the vicissitudes of RL, I arrived in the middle of the night and had to celebrate all by my lonesome). 

          The community behind 1920’s Berlin is led by Frau Jo Yardley and is dedicated to role playing the city of Berlin as it was during the Weimar Republic. The spirit and physical look and feel of the sim is exceptional as I’ve written before and I encourage people to visit. 

          But 1920’s Berlin is not just a static sim which gathers virtual dust and bots mechanically greet visitors.  Anyone who got caught up in the recent recreation of the May Day riots would probably agree.  Likewise anyone dropping by the monthly naturists’ social in the public baths would probably have a similar opinion.   And, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the Eldorado Club on Saturday nights. 

          The third anniversary celebrations did not disappoint.  Parties, bands, parades, a treasure hunt, a car rally through the streets of Berlin, and museum exhibits were but a few of the events scheduled.  Even the strict period dress rules were relaxed for a period of time.  Don’t let me forget to mention the new zeppelin which flew overhead?  (Now, some may ask how, with all this going on, did I manage to miss all of it and wind up as a one man parade? Well, let’s just say it’s complicated.) In a word, these folks know how to throw a party.

          Book Island had similar celebrations for their fifth anniversary (without the road rally and zeppelin though).  Actually, probably a bit more sedate given the nature of this sim.  Selina Greene established Book Island as sanctuary for writers in SL.  I visited with her and her friends and came away thinking that SL could be the new salon for the twenty-first century. 

          Group events, dances, music, speeches, and poetry readings were the stables of this anniversary.  As with 1920’s Berlin, the community came out to participate and enjoy themselves.

          One dance I attended had Brendan Shoreland providing the live musical entertainment and there was also a period costume party for the guests.  (I didn’t win.)  The festivities were not disappointing.  Here, I can say from personal experience that everyone had a great time. 

          I came away from both these celebrations impressed by the organizational skills to produce these events which went over several days in each case and their content.  These were not just cookie cutter images of each other.  Each was different and had its own theme.  Each responded to its community in its own way.  What they had in common was that everyone had a wonderful time. 

          As I started this post by talking about the communities inworld and how they are developing, I’d like to end by taking about each one’s traditions and shared memories and how they are remembered and handed down.  Are we really any different from our ancestors who sat around fires in the night thousands of years ago and shared stories from our common past with those who continue on after us?  Think about it.

I would like to thank Frau Jo Yardley and Selina Greene for their kind invitations to join them and their friends in their celebrations.  I also wish them and their communities continued success and many more anniversaries! 

As always, I’m grateful to all for their kindness and time in stopping to talk with a stranger who was passing through their lives. 

I welcome feedback from readers, please either comment on my blog or e-mail me at . 

     If you would like to read about my other adventures in Second Life
please click here.

Photo No. 1 Frau Jo Yardley  

Photo No. 3 Selina Greene

Photo No. 6 Book Island Fireworks  

Saturday, June 2, 2012

A Visit to the Age of Sail

It is not the ship so much as the skillful sailing that assures the prosperous voyage.

George William Curtis


          Recently, I was approached and friended by a resident of Second Life (SL) who has discovered his Real Life (RL) passion inworld. His name is BrendonPatrick MacRory and his passion is the Age of Sail. 

          After our first contact, we schedule an interview and at the appointed time we meet.  I appear at Milliways, the restaurant at the end of the Galaxy, famous from Douglas Adam's book, Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy at the appointed time.   (As a writer I love how genres cross and recross inworld!)

          BrendonPatrick is an auburn haired man of mid-height (at least compared to me and I still don’t know how tall I am inworld) with a tanned complexion from years spent at sea.  He is well attired in the costume of his period and greets me warmly as we begin our session. 

          I begin with what brought BrendonPatrick to this time and place.  In RL, he does reenacting, and Regency and Late Georgian being his favorites.  While at a Green Living conference in RL, he attended a session about the use of SL in education.  Returning home, he got on and played. Initially, he found nothing worth coming back to until late in the day he found Caledon University, a Victorian/Steam Punk Sim, part of over fifty which comprise Caledon. 

          In Caledon he started to hear about Antiquity and sea battles and then he finally found them.  All being beautiful builds.  While there one day, he heard of and was invited to a new sim, Dublin Harbor, at the time in Antiquity and set in 1712, and he was hooked. 

          Let me return to BrendonPatrick’s roots in period sailing for he is no amateur here.  He is a member of Historical Maritime Society in the United Kingdom, and the Brigade Napoleon, and the Leader of HMS Pacific Station, a Royal Navy and Royal Marine Group.  I think we can say he knows his way about a sailing ship circa eighteenth century. 

          In Dublin Harbor which is part of the Ocean Realms sim, BrendonPatrick found his passions writ large.  He has pirates, privateers, the Royal Navy and the East India Company.  We're talking Royal Navy life and battles here with all the guns and sailing tactics.  BrendonPatrick explains that sometimes battles are ship on ships, as on Thursday afternoons.  At other times, it’s cruising, and at still other times, there are scenarios, such as the Payroll, where one ship has it, and others are trying to find it, and capture it.  Large scale actions are not played.  (I wonder if that has anything to do with SL lag issues.)  In addition, Ocean Realms lends itself to exploration.  Something not possible in all sims BrendonPatrick adds.  All in all, sounds like a good night’s fun! 

          BrendonPatrick describes how SL can be used for such nautical maneuvers  as tacking, how close one can sail to the wind, how different boats handle and the skills to handle them.  However, he doesn’t believe that he can use the sim for historical research or education, but, it does allow him to live in the style of the time.  In addition to sea battles, there are dances and live concerts in the tavern and the fiddler is purported to be delightful. 

          After thanking BrendonPatrick for his time, I take my leave.  Later, I visit Dublin myself, to see this world from a time gone by. I wander about for a bit when BrendonPatrick IM’s me and invites me to join his partner, Siobbhan Sands, and him in their nearby home.  I TP over and am impressed by the beautiful home they have built together overlooking the sea.  The period furnishings and artwork add a certain atmosphere which can only be created with great care and thought in SL.  (Yes, there are a few anachronisms, but who among us can resist doing that inworld?) 

          Once again I take my leave of BrendonPatrick as well as his lovely partner.  Thanks to both of them, I’ve had a chance to glimpse into a world that I hadn’t seen before in SL.  My previous exposure to period sailing had been Avalon Hill’s Wooden Ships and Iron Men.  (I know it’s not a computer game but, find a copy on eBay and try it.  You won’t regret it.)  The real time appeal of shipboard action is there for me. 

          I know that I have only scratched the surface here and the prospect of doing battle with pirates for treasure and to rescue damsels in distress is too hard for me to resist. I will return to Dublin for some adventure and I’ll bring the stories back for everyone. 

I would like to thank BrendonPatrick MacRory for his time and openness with me.  I would also like to thank him and Siobbhan Sands for their hospitality in receiving me into their home. 

As always, I’m grateful to all for their kindness and time in stopping to talk with a stranger who was passing through their lives. 

I welcome feedback from readers, please either comment on my blog or e-mail me at . 

     If you would like to read about my other adventures in Second Life
please click here.

Photo No. 1   BrendonPatrick MacRory

Photo No. 2   Siobbhan Sands

Photo No. 3   Dublin Arrival Area

Photo No. 4   Dublin Street Scene

Photo No. 5   Dublin Church

Photo No. 6   Overlooking the Waterfront