Monday, December 31, 2012

2013 in Second Life

An optimist stays up until midnight to see the new year in.  A pessimist stays up to make sure the old year leaves.

Bill Vaughan

          My 2012 year end meanderings in Second Life (SL) are drawing to a close.  I’ve already blogged about looking back into the year that’s past and I’d like to look ahead a bit to the New Year and see what the future holds as I write my last story for the year.
          I’ve been able to achieve some goals this year, missed a few (OK, who didn’t?) and overcame a few challenges. 
          Peering ahead, I see more opportunities and challenges in 2013 and look forward to them. 
          I plan to continue blogging and pushing the edges of the envelope about my travels and adventures in SL, to write more stories than I did last year, and to work on my blog’s format to improve my readers’ experience.  (There have been a few glitches.) 
          Other tasks I hope to undertake are reconnecting with old friends, following up on previous stories, and making new friends (less strain on existing ones that way).  As for stories, I’ll blog as always about exploring inworld, trying to complete my avatar’s ill fated makeover, and continue my two series, Sex and the Single Avatar in SL and Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.     
          New stories will be about SL and Real Life (RL) relationships (I missed this one in 2012), a new series entitled Shoemaker’s Children where I’ll write about misses by Linden Lab (LL), and new places and experiences in SL that I haven’t blogged about yet.  My Holy Grail will be to meet at least one Linden inworld.  (Someone said I had a better chance of getting an interview with Newt Gingrich inworld.) 
          Then there will the unknown, things that right now I don’t have a clue about and will go after as they arise. 
          So, as I put this year to rest, I’d like to thank my readers who have followed my journeys through SL and stuck with me even when I had a few issues earlier in the year.  I ask for your feedback, both criticisms and story ideas.  (And, should you have any compliments about my writing, it’s always welcome.)  Or, better yet, join me on my journeys.  It gets very lonely out there sometimes! 
To my inworld friends, thank you for your friendship, help, time, and candor.  You’ve all helped me to learn and to understand that SL is not just a technical phenomena, it’s a community of people who have come together to share their lives with one another and I feel truly fortunate that you’ve permitted me into them. 
I want to give a special thank you to Significant Other who has supported my blogging efforts (Even when it involved my avatar running around nude to get the story.) and permitted me to set aside time for the research and writing. 
In closing I wish all a very Happy New Year!  Make you achieve all your goals and be with those you know and love!
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, December 29, 2012

Who Are We in Second Life?

I believe...That our background and circumstances may have influenced who we are, But we are responsible for who we become. 


          As I continue my meanderings towards the end of this year in Second Life (SL), I got to thinking (Significant Other finds I tend to do this when I have too much time on my hands.) about identity in SL and who our avatars really are.
          Are we in SL who we are in Real Life?  I’m not raising the question as to the right or wrong of doing this (For the record, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with being someone else inworld.  I’m more interested in how and why we do this.) 
          What are the components of who we are in SL and RL?  In my unscientific opinion, gender (including orientation), personality, and lifestyles are the major differentiators among us in either life. 
          We are presented with three choices about who we will be when we first come inworld.  (Far fewer than what our avatars’ appearances have!) We can be who we are in RL.  Or, we can be different.  Then there’s always doing some combination of both. 
          Let’s talk about the components of who we are for a moment and how we can present ourselves.  First there’s gender.  Does everyone present themselves inworld as they are in RL?  I once read that most female avatars in SL do not represent RL women especially if they’re naked.  I suspect this may be an exaggeration but really do we know?  Do we care?  Should we care?  Likewise with gender orientation, how many avatars have the same orientation inworld as in RL?
          Next on the list is personality, based on what some residents I’ve met about the manners of others, I suspect that not everyone inworld is as well mannered as they are in RL.  Inhibitions tend to be lower inworld than in RL.  (Why is it never the other way around?) 
          Then there’s lifestyle.  How many inworld BDSM practitioners actually practice in RL?  Or, how many who are engaged in the SL fashion world are involved with mundane pursuits like computer programming jobs in RL?  (Trust me, I don’t make my living by writing in RL.)  SL appears to be a place where we go to do what we can’t in RL. 
Here’s the hard part.  Why do people present themselves differently in SL than in RL?  I have a few theories.  My first is that people wish to experiment.  SL is a safe place to do that especially given the anonymity inworld.  (Does anyone really use their RL names in SL?)  Without the risks of public embarrassment, physical harm, or financial loss, why not? 
My next hypothesis about acting out in SL is that people do things that they would never do in RL.  While visiting with the BDSM community, I learned that some engage in BDSM practices that they feel are too risky in RL or they can’t find a partner with similar interest. 
          My last theory is just because.  (That’s a cop out if I ever heard one)  There is no particular reason other than these things can be done and are done without a thought being given.  This idea may harken back to the discussion as to whether or not SL is a game.  (Does anyone care or worry when some plays an orc in World of Warcraft?) 
          What are the consequences of being something in SL that you’re not in RL?
          For the avatar, he or she can experience things that could not be in RL.  They can experience feelings or events not possible or practical outside of SL.  Being ever the optimist that I am (believe it or not) maybe they’ll have more respect for others than they might have had otherwise. 
          For the community, there is a broader diversity of thought, opinion, and practice.  The social life and culture of various inworld communities don’t stagnate and continually change.  Of course, this is not always for the best.  Can anyone say that every new fashion is exquisite or that every new building is breath taking.  (This is the counter argument to my being an optimist.) 
          Finally, what about the impact of all this on relationships in SL?  I submit does it really matter?  Inworld, we take people as we find them.  Don’t we?  I know that I do.  I find it simpler that way.  If I worry about whether or not the person I’ve just met inworld is an unemployed, nineteen year old, unemployed guy living in his parents’ basement outside of Detroit then I feel I’ve missed the point of SL. 
          Who we are is as important in SL and it is in RL.  What is important is are we being true to ourselves and how do treat those around us in both places. Are SL and RL better places because of us? 
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.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Whither Second Life Redux?

The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore, all progress depends on the unreasonable man.

George Bernard Shaw

            A few months ago, I blogged about where Second Life (SL) and the challenges facing it.  My list included:
    LL is not making investments in its technology and infrastructure to permit a scalable solution

·    New SL products don’t really cut it (I’ve been to Realms and am underwhelmed.  I haven’t been to Wilderness yet but first reports say I’m not missing much.)

·    RL technology is changing (e.g., iPhones and iPads) but SL is still trapped in desktops and laptops.  (Now, there’s a slogan for a mass movement, “Free SL!”) 

·    LL acquisitions are in businesses moving away from SL (i.e., Little TextPeople).
            As I wrap up this year, I want to talk about this a little more and its implications for the New Year. 

            Are we any better off in SL today than we were a year ago? Where are the new products for SL from Linden Lab (LL)?  OK, there’s mesh but that seems be causing some performance problems.  What prospects are there for new products?  The next Big Idea?  Or for that matter what’s LL’s strategic direction? 

            I know a little about strategic directions (OK, very little, but more than I do about working on my own makeover – that’ll be a future story.) What are SL’s business drivers?  What’re the baseline and the metrics to measure performance?  And I’m not talking about the sim rentals that LL churns out. 

            How about we move onto the three stables of any good business strategy, people, process, and technology? 

            Let’s start with people?  Anyone seen a Linden lately?  The ones that are around, how much would you like to bet most of them just do maintenance and not development?  (With sim rentals down, there may not be much cash left for that soon.)  Then there’s process.  Er, maybe someone could help me with this one.  I’m not familiar with any LL business processes for growing the business.  Finally, there’s our old friend, technology.  And I do mean old.  SL is running on an infrastructure that’s almost as old as Y2K.  (You remember Y2K, it came just after disco died.) Anyone heard of any new SL innovations lately?  Yes, there’s the already mentioned mesh but I’m not sure that fixes the root cause  problem.  (I’d love to hear from anyone with a contrarian opinion.) 

            So, I ask the question again, whither SL?  I’m still not sure.  But, next year, I’ll be starting a new series entitled Shoemakers’ Children in my blog.  I’m going to take indepth looks at some of the challenges facing SL today and see what solutions, if any, are out there.  I also plan to try and meet some Lindens either inworld or out and see if I can have a dialogue with them.  Let’s hear what they have to say. 

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.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

The Five Senses in Second Life

Man has no Body distinct from his Soul; for that called Body is a portion of Soul discerned by the five Senses, the chief inlets of Soul in this age.

William Blake

            Recently, I went to the Renaissance Hunt and Faire in Second Life (SL) to check out how things were going.  Things were going well.  While I was there I noticed several sides of beef on a spit over an open fire.  Maybe because I was in between snacks in Real Life (RL), I paid particular attention here. 

            The fire was realistic throwing off its heat.  The meat looked good enough to eat.  The burning wood could almost be heard and the crackling meat along with it.  The smell of smoke and cooked food would have been wafting through the air if this had been (RL). 

            This got me thinking about the five senses in SL.  The five senses (I won’t go into the purported sixth sense.)  being sight, hearing, smell, touch, and taste. 

            These senses are what help us experience life, RL that is.  Our frame of reference is based on inputs from all of them.  We can even form impressions when not using all of our senses at the same time. We may even have preferences for certain sensory experiences.  Although, over an extended period of time, we could be skewed by incomplete inputs.  (Cautionary note, in RL I am not even remotely close to being qualified to give opinions on these matters.  Just check with Significant Other.)  However, the remaining senses can be strengthened to offset the loss of the others. 

So in SL, we’re faced with experiences based on incomplete sensory inputs.  Sight and hearing are easy to experience inworld.  Touch, not as easily, unless you follow some of the advanced techniques in Lindal Kidd’s recent post about cyber sex!  (I’ll leave it to my readers to ponder the possibilities.)  For smell and taste, we’re left with our imaginations.  I’d submit that a sim with realistic visual and audible variables could trigger memories of smell and taste.  Fire is one of my favorite examples of this.  (I’ve already warned you that I’m not an expert in this field in RL!) 

            Can we then in SL have an experience based on incomplete sensory information?  Maybe, maybe not.  Possibly by adding RL stimulus (e.g., having scents present in the same room while having a virtual experience or tasting food or drink) residents could enhance inworld experiences while inworld. 

            Of course, technology continues to advance and someday we may be able to experience all senses inworld.  Who knows?  (Although, most residents I know would probably settle for reduced lag before we get too exotic.) 

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 Sides of beef  

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Reminisces of 2012 in Second Life

God gave us memories that we might have roses in December. 
 J.M. Barrie

            2012 is coming to an end and I’m trying to wrap up things in Second Life (SL) before the New Year.  Christmas is a time when in Real Life (RL), I stop to take stock about things and look back on the year that has passed.  From there I look ahead and begin planning for the New Year.  (Significant Other says this is the most terrifying part of the year.) 

            So, this year, I’m expanding my approach to SL.  Why not?  SL is part of my RL (Not to worry I know how to maintain balance, Significant Other sees to it should I not.)  

            RL and SL sort of came together earlier this year for me when I had a minor health glitch probably because I spent too long at a computer for my Twenty-four Hours in Second Life series.  (Never sit in the same position and location for an extended period of time.)  Then my computer went on the blink and had to be replaced. 

            Somehow, despite all this, I managed to keep writing.  (Hey, I’m nothing if not hardcore.)  Health improved and until I sorted out my hardware, my time in the Wilderness, I wrote about the world of SL outside the grid. 

            The new in SL has always interests me which is why I go exploring inworld. New friends, places, and experiences await me every time I TP into a new sim and sometimes when I go back to one previously visited. 

            This year I wandered into the nudists and BDSM communities.  (Read the stories if you’d like to know what happened.) I met a tarot card reader and pirates.  I made friends with a mad scientist.  I visited the ancient ruins of Manchu Picchu.   I went for walks in my neighborhood, Nowaki

            I also began two new series within my blog, Sex and the Single Avatar in Second Life  and the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World in Second Life

            While doing this, I revisited old friend and places.  Perryn Peterson kept me abreast of the steampunks and his new projects.  Showing that there is continuity and growth among communities inworld.  I went back to 1920’s Berlin.  In fact that’s where I first encountered nudists inworld.  (See what you’re missing when you don’t read all my stories?) 

            One thing I keep coming back to in SL is the idea of change. Things change.  People change.  Sims that I’d visited regularly are now closed with no clue as to where their members went.  Friends have just blinked out of existence.  All one is left with is that in RL they are fine but have just moved past virtual worlds.  But new sims arise and new friends appear.  Maybe there is something to the idea of the great circle of life and not just in RL. 

            As for my blog itself, I’ve managed to increase the frequency of my writing and readership is up!  (Thanks to all my faithful readers!)  I celebrated my first anniversary as an explorer and blogger in SL as well as writing my one hundredth story

            I didn’t get around to everything I wanted to complete this year.  The blog needs work, my makeover is far from complete, and I didn’t get around to that series on SL/RL relationships that I’ve been meaning to write.  Well, that’s why there’s a New Year!  I’ll be writing shortly about my plans for it shortly. 

            I’ll stop here for now, I’ve enjoyed being out and about inworld this year and meeting with everyone this year.  I hope to see everyone again in the New Year and have some new adventures to write about when I do!

            Below are links to a few pictures from my visits this year.  They give a sense of what they’re about.  But you really have to see and experience them for yourselves.

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 Manchu Picchu

Photo No. 2 Nowaki

Photo No. 4 Ancient Alexandria

Photo No. 6 Paradise Sex Beach

Photo No. 7 Great Pyramid at Giza

Photo No. 8 El Dia de los Muertos

Monday, December 24, 2012

Christmas in Second Life

At Christmas, all roads lead home.

Marjorie Holmes

          As I wrote in my last story, I’m rushing around inworld visiting places that will soon be closing down for the year.  With today being Christmas Eve, I wanted to see several Christmas sims before the Holiday. 
          Juggling Real Life (RL) Holiday activities, I managed to get some time in Second Life (SL) to TP into a few Christmas sims and drop by some friends’ places done up for the Holiday.  (While this was going on, Significant Other]s eyes were rolling believing that most people have enough trouble dealing with the Holidays in RL let alone adding in SL.) 
          I randomly select three Christmas sites listed on the SL Destination Guide (OK, maybe it wasn’t a scientific sampling, I went for the names that sounded appealing.)  and head off on my Holiday jaunt. 
          First, I TP into 2012 Christmas Town.  A good crowd of other celebrators is about and lag doesn’t appear to be bad.  The setting is an urban area feted out for Christmas. 
          From here, I head off to Christmas at Calas.  Again, there’s a fair sized crowd of merry makers about and no signs of lag about.  (I guess the lag Grinch is off somewhere else today.)  This sim is an appealing country winter scene fitted out for the Holidays. 
          My last pick from the Destination Guide is Christmas at Winter Holiday Village  which is a small village suitably done up for the season.  As with my last two stops, people are celebrating and lag is nowhere to be found. 
          After my random pass through Christmas sims from the Destination Guide, I head off to visit the homes of several friends who make a point of decorating for the Holidays.  (Unlike me whose Nowaki home looks about as Christmasy as well, you get the idea.) 
          I’d read that Lindal Kidd had done up her tropical home for the Holidays so I dropped by at her home at Masocado to check her handiwork out.  As I tend to come and go in SL at odd RL times, I wasn’t able to meet Lindal or anyone else when I arrived. But the decorations were beautiful and fun to see.  If anyone can make the tropics look like Christmas it’s Lindal!
          Next, I’m off to Christmas at Jamaica Inn to check in Hibiscus Hastings’ and Janey Bracken’s handiwork with their Christmas decorations.  As usual, they’ve done a beautiful job from the crèche to the Santa Claus scenes.  (If you drop by make sure to check out the Christmas shop!)
          My next stop is Holiday Fest in Tribute City which I’ve written about earlier.  SL’s answer to Venice had been done up in classic Christmas style.  (OK, RL Venetians might have other opinions but I like it!)  Jessii Warrhol was about so I got to wish her a Merry Christmas.  Many other residents were in evidence as I wandered about. 
          Finally, I TP over to see Arik Metzger’s Lovecraftian opus dedicated to Christmas which I recommend to anyone looking for something a bit different for the Holidays. 
          This has been a bit of a whirl wind tour for me.  I wanted to see some of the Christmas sims before the Holiday and when they begin to close down.  I wish I’d taken the time to spend more time there with friends but this sounds like a project for the New Year.  (More on these in a later post!)
          The spirit of Christmas is alive and well in SL.  Even when the sim does not have a direct tie in to Christmas, trees, wreaths, lights, and other decorations are very much in evidence inworld.  (Even when there is a very real culture clash not to mention aesthetics.) 
If you haven’t already done so,I also suggest that you drop by to visit Perryn Peterson‘s  A Christmas Carol which will also close on December 31st. 
          But Christmas isn’t about the decorations, the glitter, and gifts.  Christmas is about our humanity to each other and reaching back to our homes.  While I would never suggest that SL should supplant RL when it comes to home, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with saving a little home for SL and our friends there.
          Merry Christmas everyone!                   
          Below are links to a few pictures from my visits.  They give a sense of what they’re like.  But you really have to see and experience them for yourselves.
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  2012 Christmas Town

Photo No. 2 Christmas at Calas


Sunday, December 23, 2012

Visiting Second Life’s Renaissance Hunt and Faire

We need a renaissance of wonder. We need to renew, in our hearts and in our souls, the deathless dream, the eternal poetry, the perennial sense that life is miracle and magic. 

E Merrill Root

          With the year coming to an end, I’m out and about trying to visit places in Second Life (SL) that like Cinderella’s proverbial coach will turn into a pumpkin by the end of the year.  So, I’m rushing to visit these before the clock strikes twelve.
          One of my favorites is the Renaissance Hunt and Faire which is currently in its second go round.  I visited earlier this year with Perryn Peterson , the creative and managerial force behind the event but haven’t been back to look around since its opening on December 1st. 
          I TP into the landing zone to find only two people about.  (This may have something to do with the fact that it’s before 2AM SLT on a Sunday morning.)  One of the visitors is here for the first time and I assist her in getting started.  (I actually add value without breaking anything, Significant Other would be impressed.) 
          I pass through the hunters’ reception area and the gate to enter the Faire proper.  I find that a lot has happened since my prior visit.  The merchants have really come out in force and as I look down the merchants’ lane I see that all the shops and booths are occupied and bursting to the seams with all sorts of period merchandise.  
          When I walk over to the gypsy encampment, I find that there is now a fortune teller!  (On my last visit, there hadn’t been one.  What’s a gypsy encampment without a fortune teller?)  However, I can’t tell if Madame Zora the Mystic is real or just a prop.  No one is about, there is no contact information and I can find nothing about her in Search.  Still, it’s the thought that counts. 
          At the food pavilion, several sides of beef are slowly turning on spits over low fires.  I can almost smell the meat and the burning wood.  (One of these days, I’ll have to write a story about the five senses inworld.) 
          Not having human company about (Can I even say that in a virtual world?) to distract me, I notice the landscaping for the Faire and have a better appreciation for it.  Unlike many sims where a couple trees are dropped in, some bushes stick out, and the flat ground is colored green to simulate grass.  Perryn and his partner Mike, who also run a landscaping business inworld, have done an exceptional job.  (Definitely check these guys out if you’re thinking of having any work done.) 
Trees with seasonal coloring are grouped together in copses.  Bushes, grasses (individual blades no less), and flower beds are carefully sited to give the effect of a Renaissance countryside.  Other natural landmarks like brooks and marshes (I find this the latter when I fall into it.) 
I walk back to the sign post near the entrance to the Faire and go back home.  The Faire is a wonderful experience and shows the sense of community and creative skills that make SL a special place.  I recommend all to try and drop by before December 31st to visit, see and maybe buy the merchants’ wares, and participate in the mini-hunt which is being run along with the Faire.  I promise that you won’t be disappointed! 
If you have the time I also suggest that you drop by to visit Perryn’s   A Christmas Carol which will also close on December 31st.        
          Below are links to a few pictures from the Faire.  They give a sense of what they’re like.  But you really have to see and experience them for yourselves.
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 Perryn Peterson  
Photo No. 6 Merchants’ Lane
Photo No. 7 Fortune Teller
Photo No. 9 Side of Beef
Photo No. 10 Landscaping I
Photo No. 11 Landscaping II
Photo No. 12 Landscaping III