Saturday, July 27, 2013

Real Life vs. Second Life

Once harm has been done, even a fool understands it.


          Sometimes, Real Life (RL) gets in the way of being in Second Life (SL).

          Like early last year when my laptop crashed and I went “into the wilderness” for a while until its replacement arrived.    
           Or, when Superstorm Sandy came roaring through and took out power for a while here in the Northeast.   (Come to think of it now, last year was pretty wild and I still managed to post to this blog every week.  Pulitzer prizes have been given for less!) 
          My current dilemma is that my broadband provider has failed to provide the reliable, fast service to my home that their advertising claims will always be there for me.  (I won’t mention their name now but if this situation isn’t fixed soon, I may not be so forbearing.) 
          So, now, I’m sitting in one of those ubiquitous coffee shops with Wifi as I post this. (Hey, I’ve run consulting engagements out of these places; blogging is a cinch by comparison.)  Significant Other is with me, wondering how their involvement went from emotional support and tolerance to assisting in marking and holding turf in a crowded coffee shop on a Saturday night.  (I’m reminded that once upon a time I used to know how to have a better time on Saturday nights.) 
          I’m feeling pretty good about this work around.  I’ve made my deadline.  My regular readers hopefully will not be disappointed.  (Both of you know who you are and I’m grateful.)  I’ve done my weekly promotions.  (Trust me, folks just don’t show up at this blog because of divine inspiration.)  And, as a real treat, I had a very nice cup of tea with a pastry.
          This recent example of life’s vicissitudes has gotten me thinking about how can I integrate myself into SL to better insulate myself from these service interruptions.  (Significant Other’s eyes are rolling about now.) 
          The problem is SL is not easy to get into.  First, there’s that pesky problem of the viewer.  Next, another favorite gripe of many of us is the lack of a mobile SL solution.  (Although, there may be some relief coming here soon.  See Wagner Au’s recent very interesting story on his blog about a potential tablet solution for SL aficionados.)  Then there’s the juggling of RL events when a problem arises in order to meet SL commitments.  (It really is like having a “second” life.  Whoever named this virtual world really knew what they were doing.)  One theme that runs across all of these is the difficulty of reaching anyone inworld outside the viewer unless you happen to have their RL email address. 
          I don’t have any ready solutions right now other than running out to my friendly, local coffee shop.  Like most good things in life (RL that is), SL is difficult to get to but worth the effort once you’re there. 
          I do wish to apologize to Lisah Lorefield whom I stood up today.  She was going to take me on a tour of an art gallery that she’d discovered.  I will reconnect with her and get that story done. (Along with the one that I missed last week.  I seem to building a bit of a backlog here.) 
          In closing, to all my loyal readers, I regret this recent interruption and I hope to get back inworld and to more orderly blogging shortly! 
          In the meantime, please feel free to read some of my other stories that you may not have gotten around to yet!
          Be well, be safe, and I’ll be back with you as soon as I can!  
As always, I’m grateful to all inworld 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, July 20, 2013

Time in Second Life

 Time is an illusion.

Albert Einstein

          Today I missed an interview in Second Life (SL) with an artist whose work I’d encountered on display at Naked.  The reason for this miss was because I messed up calculating the time difference between where I live on the East Coast of the United States in Real Life (RL) and where my interviewee lives in Madagascar. 
          (Now, don’t worry, there’s a great story here with this artist, Mi, and as soon as I figure out what to do, you’ll have this story about this woman and her extraordinary work on view at Naked.)
          This all got me thinking about the concept of time inworld.  (Don’t worry, I’m not about to develop a theory of relativity for SL.)  I’m not talking about the present not the past like the Regency Era or 1920’s Berlin.  How do we track time inworld and how does it relate to RL?  (I’ll bet you don’t get these heavy philosophical discussions in those other SL blogs that you read.) 
          For me, there are three types of time inworld.  First, there is Second Life Time (SLT) which, since Linden Lab is based in San Francisco, California, is measured in Pacific Standard Time (PST).  (To my British and Commonwealth friends, to forestall your queries, I have no idea why they don’t use Greenwich Mean Time (GMT).)  
          Then there’s my time, Eastern Standard Time (EST) here on the East Coast. 
          Finally, there’s everyone else’s time.  You may ask why is this an issue to me and is this just another example of me having too much time on my hands?  Well, I’m a writer and I meet people.  So, being able to figure time out is important to me.  (Significant Other feels I have a problem with just one time zone, let alone multiples.) 
          So, which time do we use?  Our own, whatever that may be.  SLT?  Or, someone else’s time zone? 
          Upon first arriving inworld, I learned about SLT and thought it was a great idea.  A standard time that we could all use.  (I love standards.)  Well, most folks I’ve encountered inworld aren’t too such what SLT is.  Or, if they have heard of it, they don’t know how to relate it to their own time zone.  This inevitably leads me to attempting to figure it out then compare it to where I am, well, you get the picture.  Something drops somewhere and I miss an appointment.  (That’s my story and I’m sticking with it.) 
Which leads me to another question.  (Notice how subtly I did that?)  Have those of us who are inworld regularly reconciled inworld time with RL time?  While I haven’t gotten it perfected yet, I find myself thinking in terms of multiple time zones.  (Having a RL job which involves phone calls at all hours of the day or night doesn’t help.) 
I find that I get the outliers wrong like Madagascar, Australia, or New Zealand.  (Sorry guys!)  I won’t go into what happens when we allow for Daylight Savings Time twice a year in this country. 
           So, to wrap my verbal meanderings up, I want to apologize to those whom I missed interviews with.  (Even those of you who weren’t there anyway for your own scheduling issues.) 
          I’ll continue to struggle along and sort out my scheduling issues and stop being a menace to my fellow residents. 
          And , I promise to get that interview with Mi out very soon! 
As always, I’m grateful to all inworld 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, July 13, 2013

The Regency Era in Second Life

The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid.

Jane Austen          

          My peripatetic ways have led me to many different places in Second Life (SL) and to meet many different people.  One of these is my old friend, Brendon Patrick MacRory whom I first met when I’d visited the Age of Sail inworld earlier.    
          Well, Brendon has been up to new ventures since we last hung out inworld.  For some time, he’s been inviting to visit him in there.  As anyone who knows me in SL, scheduling is somewhat problematic for me.  (Significant Other insists it is in Real Life (RL) for me as well.  But, that’s another story.)  Anyway, I recently accepted Brendon’s invitation and joined him and his friends in Regency Somerset, a sim dedicated to the Regency Era in England. 
          I arrive in the Port Austen area of the sim where I am met by Brendon and his two friends, Merry Chase and Cara Cali.  I’m immediately struck by the scale and detail of the sim. 
          My hosts welcome me to 1813 where “King George the III, not feeling himself in mind, his Son, the Prince of Wales, George the IV, is Prince Regent, meanwhile, we are at war with Napoleon of France on the Continent and the Sea, while at the same time, involved with some conflict over in the Former Colonies.” 
          Looking down from the quayside, a harbor is at my feet.  A small boat is tied up and a bathing wagon sits at the water’s edge waiting for holiday makers.  Behind me is a row of shops which sell all manner of Regency merchandise for those needing such.
          Brendon, Merry, and Cara are themselves attired in a manner which makes them look like they just stepped out of a BBC production of Pride and Prejudice.  (Which happens to be Significant Other’s favorite novel and I was instructed to plug in this story.)  They talk about their inspirations for the sim deriving ideas from Jane Austen, Charles Dickens (OK, he was a Victorian but close enough.), Patrick O’Brian, whose collected works look down on me as I write this (Yes, I know, he’s definitely neither lived in the Regency Era nor even Victorian times but he does a pack a lot of Regency period detail into his writings!) and many period drawings and pictures.  Merry says that much of their brainstorming was done via Pinterest and Cara adds that Pinterest boards were a very important part of the building process.  Brendon explains to me all the Pintrest pages devoted to specific items, like pubs and taverns, seaside resorts, Bath, the Crescent, clothing and style, tea sets, etc.  (It’s interesting how the new social media tools are being used to expand the capabilities of older ones.)  Cara maintains a blog about the project. 
          We begin to take a constitutional around the sim to show me its buildings and layout.  Brendon tells me that it’s based on the RL town of Lyme-Regis in southern England which was featured in two of Jane Austen’s novels and one of Charles Dickens’s.  He also mentions that another small, English town, Porkellis. 
          Our first stop in our stroll is Nelson’s Blood Tavern where fine drink and dining and a clean room are available for the tired traveler.  The furniture and fixtures along with the attention to detail (Who else would put petit fours in their sim?) are standard features in my friends’ work I’m beginning to learn. 
          I ask them why they selected the Regency Era for their work.  Merry replies that Brendon was planning to do a Regency area for a long time, Cara has always wanted to build Regency, and she’s interested in just about all of history so she tagged along for the ride.  Brendon believes different people have different reasons, but the style of the Regency, its nouveau-Classical revival, the pageantry of the military, the love of country are all appealing.  Also, the Age of Exploration, the Age of Romance, Beethoven, and Mozart are all additional reasons for him.  Cara adds the Age of Revolution and the start of women’s emancipation.  (I’m beginning to suspect that she’s a closet Bonapartist.) 
Cara continues that their sim is included in Antiquity which is a group of historical sims, and like all estates has expanded and contracted over the years.  Merry states there were already Baroque and Victorian areas in Antiquity but a Regency one was missing from between those.  They felt it's a popular time because of the works of Austen and O'Brian so they knew it would appeal to lots of people.  Also, with the current two hundredth anniversary cycle of Jane Austen and the Napoleonic Wars underway there should be an audience.  (And, sometimes, Cara adds, a BBC production gives them a shot in the arm!)
Leaving the tavern, we continue walking through the beautiful landscape of the sim.  Having lived in England for a number of years, I can appreciate the similarities to the RL English countryside. 
          After a bit, we come upon the Royal Crescent which is a reproduction of the one in Bath, England.  I felt a wave of nostalgia come over me as I haven’t seen the originals in years and once spent much time on that street. Unlike RL, I’m able to enter the buildings and look around.  As usual, my friends have outdone themselves.  Lighting, wall coverings, and room dimensions add a feeling of realism which is hard to describe (OK, maybe if I was a better writer, I could!)  and really must be experienced to be truly enjoyed. 
          Leaving the Royal Crescent, we walk along a small river until we come to a hedge maze and farm country.  The feeling of a small, English town is complete for me.  The pastures with the sheep near the estate homes with their gardens makes me expect to see Jane Austen come around a corner and greet us. 
          We complete a circle in our promenade which leads us back to Port Austen where we come upon the Orangery and a Martello tower.  Along the way, the Baroque neighbors are pointed out to me. 
The latter was a standalone fortification erected across England and her Empire during the Napoleonic Wars for defense against invasion.  I’ve never been in one and couldn’t resist the opportunity.  (Yes, Significant Other does have an opinion on this behavior of mine.)
The former looks like a greenhouse and is laid out as a conservatory for a social setting and includes music and plants.  Also, the ghost of Jane Austen inhabits the building and she visits us while we’re there.  We are also visited by Mademoiselle Charlotte Giroux who resides nearby and is one of the finest Regency dressmakers in the sim.  My friends hope that she will open a shop on the quay. 
The Orangery and a nearby farmhouse will ultimately be replaced by baths and a reproduction of the Assembly Rooms at Bath.  So, I’d recommend hurrying over to see these and Jane’s ghost.  (I’m not sure what will happen to her in these renovations.) 
Before I leave I ask about how long the sim will remain open.  The reply is hopefully for a while but nothing is forever in SL.
During our walk, I’ve asked who else has helped in building this sim.  Brendon, Merry, and Cara have talked at length about other residents such as Crotian, Jacon Cortes, Tiamat Windstorm, Sere Timeless, Aldo Stern, and Jacon Bexter are mentioned.  Twelfth Night supplied Jane Austen’s ghost.  If I’ve omitted anyone, I apologize in advance, your work is beautiful!
As for future events, there will be a country fair in September.  Dates and other specifics have yet to be finalized.  As they become known, I’ll publish them in this blog.
As I prepare to leave, I think about all that I have seen.  Regency Somerset is step back into another time and place.  Considerable time and effort have gone into its creation.  This is yet another example of what can happen in SL when people with passion and creativity look to build something inworld. Brendon, Merry, and Cara have done a magnificent job! 
I encourage all who either are interested in this period or who wish to see some brilliant work to come by. 
And if you do, please wear period costume and be mindful of those who are roleplaying there.  If you really want to help then use the donation jars located throughout the sim.  Regency Somerset is a half sim and tier is expensive and borne by Brendon solely.  Show your support.  Too many exceptional sims have had to close recently for lack of funding.  Most of all, enjoy your visit.  See the detail that exists there.  Ring the desk bell in Nelson’s Blood.  Savor the pies in the kitchen.  Or, look for the lady bug in the rose bushes. 
               My visit is drawing to its end and I want to thank my hosts, Brendon, Merry, and Cara, along with Mlle. Giroux for their hospitality and taking the time to show a Colonial boy around their world and having the patience to deal with my questions.   I also want to thank them for fond memories of an earlier, happy time in my life.
As always, I’m grateful to all inworld for their kindness and time in stopping to talk with a stranger who was passing through their lives. 
I’ve included below links to a few photos from my visit.  But, as always, I encourage all to visit the site for themselves and not rely on my crude efforts as a photographer. 
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   Port Austen Landing Zone

Photo No. 2   Beach and Bathing Wagon

Photo No. 3   Martello Tower

Photo No. 4   Shops

Photo No. 10 Bridge

Photo No. 11 Residence Interior

Photo No. 13 Baroque Neighbors

Photo No. 14 The Hedge Maze

Photo No. 15 The Farm

Saturday, July 6, 2013

What Second Life Means to Me

In the end, it’s not going to matter how many breaths you took, but how many moments took your breath away. 

Shing Xiong

               I’ve been thinking again.
          Yes, as Significant Other continually reminds me this is always dangerous, even in Real Life (RL) and not just in Second Life (SL). 
          The question is where all this could lead to and not whether or not I have too much time on my hands. 
          I’ve been thinking about what SL means to me. 
          After over two years of traveling across the Grid, meeting new friends, and having new experiences, I’m stopping to think about what SL means to me.  (Don’t laugh, I’ve talked with many of you inworld and I know you’re having similar thoughts.) 
          At the most basic level, SL means three things to me.  First, a sense of community among residents.  People are coming together inworld for a variety of reasons, fashion, music, BDSM, or just hanging  out.  They are serious about these interests and they enjoy meeting others of similar inclinations and sharing whatever it is they have. 
          Next is friendship.  People tend to meet up with other people whose company they enjoy for whatever reason.  I know I have friends inworld whom I enjoy meeting with regularly and heading out across the Grid together.  I confess to feeling good when I’m logged in and someone IM’s to just say hello and check in on how I’m doing.  Why would I feel any different about this inworld than I would in RL?  (As I’ve stated before many times, I do have friends and a social life in RL even if Significant Other requests that I keep them outside our home.) 
          Finally, there’s the feeling of never knowing what happens next inworld.  Starting from a very prim and conservative position, I now wander around nude and interview people about their BDSM practices.  Perryn Peterson can always be counted on for a new idea for a party and a hunt, and something different and new always seems to be around the next corner. 
          How did things change for me inworld?
          This was an interesting question for me.  My original premise coming inworld was to go walkabout.  I’d believed that the SL technology and the builds were the big stories.  Simple, right?  What did I know!
          What changed for me?
          Things inworld were more involved for me than I’d originally thought that they would be.  Instead of a bunch of geeks sitting around coding things and sending rockets to Mars, I found individuals in communities who were having a merry old time for themselves.  (Don’t get me wrong, the geeks are there and they are sending rockets to Mars, they just didn’t seem to be too interested in me.) 
          The individuals whom I interviewed became friends who brought me into their groups and before I knew it, I had a social life inworld.  Who knew?
          These groups went across a diversity of interests and I find I have to continually update my group list as I join new ones and have to delete old ones because of Linden Lab’s limit.  I’m a wanderer and explorer so tend to move along.  Sadly, some groups have just drifted away. 
          Why did my thinking change?
          Well, for one, I now realize that SL is not just about the technology.  Then, people are as complicated inworld as they are in RL. But, most importantly, people in SL are as good as they are in RL.  (I confess to being an unabashed believer in the ultimate goodness of humanity no matter how much we may screw up along the way.) 
          There were other factors as well which developed as I blogged.  Questions like whether or not SL is a game got me thinking initially.  Next came the question of friendship inworld.  People are more than just a bunch of pixels.  As I’m continually reminded as I wander about inworld, there are real people with real feelings behind all those avatars.  Not only that but people help people inworld.  When I temporarily lost access to SL last year (for technical reasons), people helped me stay in contact with others inworld.   After Hurricance Sandy, people reached out to me to see how I was doing.  Finally, I started thinking about our identities inworld (Maybe I do have too much time on my hands.)   Who are we inworld?  Really.  Does SL equate to RL?  Are our second lives an extension of our real lives? 
          Going forward what does SL mean to me?
          Community, friendship, and the unknown will always be part of my SL experience.  A sense of balance with RL is important as well. (Significant Other helps there considerably.)
          But, the SL experience will have to change going forward.  Mobility, a robust virtual economy, and social media will need to be part of the SL experience going forward.  For just as I rarely write letters to anyone in RL anymore, SL will need to add the tools that I use in RL with my social circle.  Otherwise, SL could become nothing more than a fond memory that I’ve outgrown.                 
As always, I’m grateful to all inworld 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. 

Thursday, July 4, 2013

On the Road: Route 66 in Second Life


I was surprised, as always, be how easy the act of leaving was, and how good it felt. The world was suddenly rich with possibility.

Jack Kerouac, On the Road

                Recently, my good friend, Perryn Peterson, invited me over for a sneak peek at his next project in Second Life (SL).  Perryn has recreated Route 66 inworld.  (Or, at least a small portion of it.) 
          And, with today being Independence Day, July 4th, in the States, I thought that this would be a good time to go tripping down memory lane.  (At heart, I’m very nostalgic.)
          Now, many of you, especially outside of the United States and probably most Americans under the age of fifty, are probably what Route 66 is and if you happen to know, why should you even care.
                U.S. Route 66 is a famous transnational highway that runs across the United States to the West Coast.  (Whether or not this region’s name should be capitalized is an internal debate comparable to that on the Second Amendment.)  Originally constructed in the Twenties and was removed as an official road designation in 1985. 

Route 66 has always had special place in American sensibilities.  There was a TV show, a song, and a movie.  (What else would you expect in America?)  Books have been written for years on this subject.  (Barnes & Noble has nine pages alone of them.) In the days of 21¢ a gallon gasoline and big gas guzzlers, the open road stretching all the way to California and the Pacific Coast seemed attractive. 
          America’s Manifest Destiny was based on moving west.  First by covered wagon, then steam train, and finally the internal combustion engine on highways.  (Let’s not forget aircraft but they don’t help my story.) 
          Route 66 brings out nostalgia in many Americans (including this one) because of an appeal to a simpler time.  (Given how that simpler time included the Great Depression, World War II, and the Vietnam War to name but a few topics, gives you some idea how bad things are now.)  Also, the appeal of the open road which has been part of American literature as shown in the works of Herman Melville, Mark Twain, Jack London, and Jack Kreouac to name but a few.  This last one especially appeals to me as I wander across the Grid.  (Significant Other suggests that I’m merely lost.) 
          I arrive in the Route 66 sim when all is quiet.  It’s not open to the public yet but I wander about.  It’s eerily quiet and the streets are empty.   Given how Route 66 has receded into the mists of history in Real Life (RL), the atmosphere seems appropriate. 
          I walk through streets with architecture reminiscent of times gone by.  The southwestern style of older shops and buildings contrasts with the Art Deco look of roadside diners.  Gas stations with pumps that look older than some European countries stand by the side of the road waiting for vehicles to stop to be filled. 
          Once again, Perryn has outdone himself with his attention to detail based on his thorough research. (Perryn’s longtime friend and collaborator, Mike Olbracht, has been ill in RL and was unavailable to help him.  Perryn was on his own with this one.)  Let me give an example.  Like on any U.S. highway, Perryn has included the Route 66 road markers.  What he has done is to add the bullet holes to them that are seen in many rural (and a few urban) areas in this country.  (I’ll bet my overseas readers didn’t know that.) 
          Another example of the sim’s authenticity is the period advertisements and movie posters which are placed along the highway.  What Perryn also has managed to accomplish is to show the passage of time.  WPA posters from the Thirties, Burma-Shave road signs can be seen as one walks down the roads.  (Come to think of it, I should have driven down Route 66.  I’ll take this up with Perryn the next time I see him.)  Cars and trucks are parked along the road but no one gave me any keys.  (Significant Other says that’s because they probably heard about how I drive.  I don’t know what the problem is.) 
          The Mother Road Route 66 Celebration arranged by Perryn runs from July 27 to August 4, 2013.  Perryn’s functions are always fun, have superb gifts from the participating vendors, and are well attended.  I recommend participating and dropping by to see Route 66.  As in RL, it won’t be around for long and soon will only be a memory. 
          Please find below links to pictures that I took on my visit.  As always, my crude efforts do not do the sim justice and I recommend all to go see Route 66 for themselves. 
          I would like to thank Perryn Peterson for his time and hospitality in showing me around his sim.  I wish Mike Olbracht well and a speedy recovery! 
As always, I’m grateful to all inworld 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   Route 66 Landing Zone

Photo No. 2   The Road

Photo No. 4   Roadside Diner – Interior

Photo No. 5   Gas Station

Photo No. 7   Period Advertisement I

Photo No. 9   Route 66 Shop

Photo No. 10 Two American Classics

Photo No. 11 Route 66  Flea Market

Photo No. 12 Mieville Motor Hotel