Sunday, February 17, 2008

Written 15 February, 2008

Coming Up For Air

Please step into the Wayback Machine, Sherman, and let’s go back to those days of yore, back to October, 2006, when I was new to Second Life.

I log in for the first time.

30 minutes pass.

I’m hooked.

I mean, I can fly!


From the start, I was in world a LOT—pretty much every waking moment when I wasn’t at work. And my real life suffered.

I was letting e-mails pile up for days before responding—and when I did reply, my messages tended to be terse.

I kept meaning to call friends, but just never seemed to get around to it—and when they called, I had difficulty tearing myself away from whatever was happening in world. “Sorry, I’m at a concert.” “Can I call you back? I’m on a poseball. Yeah, I’ll explain it to you. I’ll call you back. No, I really can’t talk just now.”

I was erratic in replying to phone messages, and even in paying my bills.

Now—I’m a multitasker by nature. I might even have had borderline ADHD when I was a child (I diagnosed this after the fact from the comportment notes on my first, second, and third grade report cards: “Chey is very bright, but needs to remain quiet in her seat instead of talking and moving around.” “Has trouble remaining on assignment.” “Daydreams.”

I remember being impatient with the plodding pace of the lessons. I always wanted to race ahead, and was in fact usually a half-dozen pages ahead of the class in my textbooks. So bored accounts for some of it, but hyperactivity, probably, the rest. I can keep up with the racing thoughts of my hyperactive friend Alison, juggling a half-dozen conversations with her at one time while my friends in the back seat look at us as if we are from another planet. So yeah, I’m pretty sure I have a touch of what she has.

I’ve always been able to juggle a dozen different tasks, jumping from one to another with ease. When I was in college, I would read a page or two from one text, then move to another and read a single section, then pick up a novel and read a chapter or two, all while watching TV, eating pizza, and carrying on a conversation. When I got my first computer (a VIC-20), I was always opening and closing programs, working for a while on one and then, when a thought came to me, moving to another.

WYSIWYG desktops made multitasking even easier. Now I could and usually did have active at any one time a bewildering variety of programs: Quicken, Word, my e-mail reader, Skype, Opera (my web browser, which always seems to have eight or nine active tabs), iTunes, PaperPort (scanner program) and IfranView.

But for my first six or so months in Second Life, I had extreme trouble leaving the grid to do other things. As soon as I minimized the viewer, I would get the “You have an IM” ding or I would just wonder what was happening in world and be unable to resist going back to see what I was missing.

I was pretty much a Second Life immersionist at this point. I wanted to be able to do EVERYTHING in world, and resented it when I had to exit to do even the most routine task.

Matters improved only marginally when I bought a second monitor, at least at first. I was able to run Second Life full screen on the primary monitor and open windows for all those other programs on the secondary screen-- but, out of habit, I suppose, I still had trouble tearing myself away from Second Life.

Two things saved me.

First was a combination of my Second Life brother Peter Stindberg and my Mystitool. Second was the need to manipulate images and textures out of world.

I jokingly call Peter Mr. URL. He’s instantly able to give you any web address you might need. I’ll say something like, “Gee, Peter, why aren’t there polar bears in Antarctica?” and within 30 seconds he’ll paste a link in chat that explains exactly why there are no polar bears in Antarctica.

Initially, this annoyed me, for I had to copy the URL, close the SL viewer, open my browser, paste in the URL, and wait for the load—all things that put me behind in the conversation in SL. But with the second monitor, and with the Mystitool’s URL capture feature turned on, Peter’s polar bear site would pop open automatically and all I had to do was cut my eyes to the left to read. Soon, I had re-integrated my browser into my life, and getting URLs was, as it should be, interesting rather than frustrating.

So, thank you, Peter! And thank you, Mystical Cookie!

Second Life charges a $10 sink fee for every photo saved to inventory, so it makes great sense to save snapshots to disk. I had acquired a large collection of files named Snapshot 0(put a number here) on my hard drive, and eventually I had to label and organize them. I was also feeling the need to make signs and textures for my land. This sent me to Quark XPress for the signs and to GIMP and PhotoShop Elements for the textures.

It hasn’t been an easy journey, but I’ve gradually learned to work on other things while I’m in world. My out-of-world correspondence no longer suffers, my friends get phone calls from me these days, and my checkbook is balanced. Life is better. Real life. And my Second Life has not suffered.

And if I can come up for air, you can too.


Peter Stindberg said...


My company once had an advertising witha Greenland motive, and we thought penguins might look nice. We had it running for almost a year until someone pointed out there are no penguins in Greenland.

Well, here's your URL:

Cheyenne Palisades said...

Damn, Peter! You never disappoint! I almost went with penguins and the Arctic!