Tuesday, December 5, 2006

My Second Life

Chey's Psychedelic Athlon 64 System in the Middle of an Upgrade
Written 29 November, 2006

My Second Life

I love my second life. In an amazingly short time, it has become an exciting supplement to my first life. It’s not that my real life is bad-- it’s as close to perfect as any life can reasonably be expected to get, I suppose-- it’s just that my second life is perfect. As Cheyenne Palisades-- that’s the name of my on-line avatar-- I have friends, a place to stay, a purse full of the local currency (Lindens), and a rapidly-growing wardrobe. I can fly, or, if I prefer, I can instantly teleport to other locations. There’s sun but no sunburn, beaches with no fleas, and perhaps best of all, I can spend all day in 5" heels without trashing my feet. And did I mention that I’m beautiful?

It all started on Cape Cod. I was singing and playing guitar with my friends Bill and Pam. They told me about their second lives, describing the complex three-dimensional, interpersonally interactive, capitalistic world that is Linden Lab’s Second Life. Their second lives, they assured me, were perfect. They were attractive, wealthy, and well-known as performers. They lived in a beautiful chalet on Lion Sands, with a grand view of the sun when it set over the ocean. I should try it, they told me.

Wasn’t it cartoonish? No, they assured me. Some of the avatars-- the on-screen representations of individuals from all over the world-- were quite detailed, and the environment was richly textured.

Was it expensive? No. You could spend money, of course, but SL was free if you wanted it to be. And not only that-- you could actually earn Lindens and export them to your first life as US dollars, or as almost any other type of world currency-- Euros or Australian dollars or rubles.

You should try it, they said.

I would, I told them.

Second Life sounded a lot like Habitat, a Commodore 64- based online community that formed in the late 1970s, a time when a 1200-baud dialup speed was considered outstanding. Habitat was clearly a precursor to SL. I never tried it, but remembered reading that avatars there had been creative in modifying local objects and avatar animations to allow sexual acts. Goddess only knows what the avatars in SL, who had access to broadband speeds and high-end graphics cards, were doing with and to one another! Not that cybersex was what I was looking for-- my own experiments with virtual sex had taken place from the keyboard of a VIC-20, and I found them unsatisfying-- but I was sure sex would be a big part of SL. So would commerce, I was convinced, after listening to Bill and Pam’s description of SL’s free enterprise system.

A diversion: A year-and-a-half ago I built a Windows-based system from scratch. I wanted a box that would be good for games, so I started with a gamer’s case with a window and fancy lighting effects. I bought a high-output power supply (also with lighting affects) and an ASUS mother board, stuck in an Athlon 64 processor and a GB of ram and a bunch of hard drives in a Raid array and a couple of data drives. I added a black light and quiet-running fans with LEDs and even lighted USB cables. Best of all, I invested in a 256 mb NVIDIA-based graphics card.
Within one week of signing up for Second Life, my PC was trashed. Here's the way it looked during the WTF-is-wrong-with-it phase.

My home-brewed psychedelic system was overkill for most things, but it would be challenged-- as would my internet connection-- when I got on SL. Seven frames per second? What up with that?

Which I did-- got on SL, I mean-- as soon as I was back home and unpacked from my trip. I went to the Second Life website and opened a free account. I chose the first name Cheyenne (Chey for short), as it, like my first life name, is a place name. From the list of available last names I chose Palisades, another place name. I mouse-clicked on Connect, and Cheyenne Palisades was born.

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