Monday, November 30, 2009

Some of My Favorite Websites

Written 1 December, 2009

Some of My Favorite Websites

So, you're wondering where I've gone those times when I'm not responding to your IMs or chat?

Odds are I'm off canoodling a website.

I COULD be shopping for computer stuff at Cyberguys or Frys or NewEgg. I COULD be checking the news on Huffington Post or the weather. I COULD be on XStreet or the Second Life website.

But I'm not.

No, instead I'm laughing my ass off at the Second Life anti-fashion blog What the Fug?


...or its real life equivalent, People of Wal-Mart.


Or maybe I'm looking at the bizarro cleverness of home repairmen and women at There, I Fixed It!


Or at Astronomy Picture of the Day...


I might be buying high quality music on Amazon:


Or bidding on something exquisite on eBay:


(Sorry, eBay has blocked the ability to copy photos, and I've not yet figured out a way around it. You can see the item though, by clicking on the link above.)

I might be furthering my education on YouTube:


I might even be looking at this hard to describe website by George Hutchins, a (in his own mind, at least), candidate for the U.S. House of Representatives. It's a train wreck, and like any train wreck it's utterly fascinating. This guy is clearly DSM certifiable. I'm thinking Narcissistic Personality Disorder (301.82). I mean, he manages to conflate his candidacy with, among other things, the Alamo, the Rough Riders, and Windsor Castle.


He wants to repeal the Civil Rights Act of 1964; and by the way, he welcomes minorities to vote for him. So maybe I should add a second diagnosis: Delusional Disorder (297.1).

By the way, if you read closely, you'll realize this guy doesn't have and seems to never have had (except for a stint in the military) a job. I wonder if he lives in his Mom's basement.

Oh, and he has a big problem with gay male homosexuals (his term). Not hard to read between the lines here.

Sweetie found Mr. Hutchins' site via Bob Cesca's awesome (formerly goddam awesome) blog and she was absolutely mesmerized. House passed. Hours!

So anyway, the next time I ignore you, you'll know where I am.

I'll be at Mr. Hutchins' site, looking for more gems like this one:

"Since the year 1979, I have been TRAVELING the World and America for Answers."

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Lunch

Written 29 November, 2009 Lunch

It seems the visiting dragon BreathofG8d Onmura saw Whimsy's peacock and thought a meal was in order. Here she is stalking Mr. Peacock.


Fortunately I was able to lure her away with the freebie prim Philip Linden. She said it tasted like cardboard.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Don't Panic!

Written 28 November, 2009

Don't Panic!

"But Mr Dent, the plans have been available in the local planning office for the last nine months."

"Oh yes, well as soon as I heard I went straight round to see them, yesterday afternoon. You hadn't exactly gone out of your way to call attention to them, had you? I mean, like actually telling anybody or anything."

"But the plans were on display ..."

"On display? I eventually had to go down to the cellar to find them."

"That's the display department."

"With a flashlight."

"Ah, well the lights had probably gone."

"So had the stairs."

"But look, you found the notice didn't you?"

"Yes," said Arthur, "yes I did. It was on display in the bottom of a locked filing cabinet stuck in a disused lavatory with a sign on the door saying 'Beware of the Leopard'."

-- Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams, 1979

I think the above perfectly sums up the resident feedback process for Linden Lab's decision about XStreet. I found it in the comments to a post on the subject in New World Notes. The author is the always witty Crap Mariner.

Meanwhile, after massive pullouts by merchants like myself, the content on XStreet remains as classy as ever:


Snow!

Written 29 November, 2009

Snow!


The heavy snow that blanketed Whimsy for two days has melted. The result is predictable: a pristine white landscape.

Word is that Eccentricity, to the south, also has snow. So, too, to Whimsy Kaboom and Whimcentricity.

If you don't believe me, look at the photos!

Here's Whimsy:




That's the dragon BreathofG8d, who promptly began to stalk our peacock. Film at eleven.

Here's Whimcentricity:



And here's Leaf Shermer's Eccentricity:


Check out Leaf's winter tornado!

Friday, November 27, 2009

Freak Snowstorm





Written 27 November, 2009

Freak Snowstorm

Whimsy being tropical and all, it's rare to see a snowstorm-- especially one so early in the season. But both myself and Eccentricity sim owner Leaf Shermer were anxious to see white. I guess we were just lucky this storm just HAPPENED to happen!

I shouldn't be at all surprised if the snow sticks.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Or Not


Written 26 November, 2009

Or Not

Okay, it's five pm. Where's my turkey?

This Thanksgiving day started off well enough. I rose at 9:30 am, dashed across the street to the market and bought a half gallon of milk and some breakfast.

Getting across the highway is usually pretty lively, but because of the holiday, the traffic was light. I returned in fine form with two bacon and cheese omelets.

They were delicious.

It was shortly after breakkie that the day began to go awry.

It seems Sweetie has a Playstation 2, and on that platform she has a game called Sly Cooper: Band of Thieves 2. It's a wonderful game with lots of sneaking, whacking, and getting killed.

The problem is Sweetie takes the game literally. She thinks she's really saving the world. And who knows, maybe she is?

"Urm, should I start the turkey?" I asked.

"Shhhh!" she said, as if all she had to do to make the turkey ready to eat was open the color picker menu and pick a delicious and yet fashionable golden brown and maybe add some steam particles. "Can't you see I'm trying to crash this elephant-powered satellite array?"

Time passed.

"Uh," I said.

"Shhh! I have to beat Rajan into submission so I can steal the clockwork heart."

Tick. Tock.

And so it got to be six pm and no turkey.

Although I did stop watching her and sneak away at five to pop the turkey (well, it's a five pound breast, we couldn't possibly eat a whole turkey) into the oven.

So we will be eating about 8 pm. Homemade cranberry sauce sweetened with Splenda, turkey breast, stuffing, gravy, peas, mashed potatoes, and, for dessert, pumpkin pie.

So even if we're eating late, we're having a happy Thanksgiving. We hope you are, too!

Happy Thanksgiving!


Written 26 November, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving!

Here's wishing one and all the happiest of Thanksgivings!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Surrogates


Written 25 November, 2009

Surrogates

Sweetie and I recently watched the Jonathan Mostow film Surrogates, starring Bruce Willis.

In the near future, most people operate in the world by the use of robotic surrogates which they control from cocoons in their bedrooms. The surrogates live their lives, working, flirting, playing-- and even solving crimes (not that there's much crime).

Willis plays an FBI agent named Greer who, no surprise, uses a surrogate to do his job.

The plot devolves into the usual big-budget conspiracy drama-- but I don't want to talk about the plot.

I want to talk about the use of surrogates in the picture.

Imagine Honda's righteously named Asimo robot overlaid with skin and hair and controlled remotely by the user and there you have it. (Check out this to see real-world progress on this front.)

Surrogates' surrogates can do just about anything their human controllers can do, and save their humans from the risk of automobile accidents, falls, communicable disease, and random acts of violence. The surrogates are, no surprise, young-looking and thin and attractive, unlike, often, their humans, who may be fat and old or of a different sex.

No surprise here. But the surrogates in Surrogates are uniformly young and pretty, virtual Barbies and Kens.

Not that Barbie and Ken aren't the Second Life norm, but here you find furries and vampires and giant dragons and tiny bears and robots and bag ladies and hypersexualized shiny-skinned dominatrixes and overmuscled, overtattooed triangle-shaped men. All those are lacking in Surrogate.

In Alex Rivera's 2008 film much less romanticized Sleep Dealer (which we also recently watched), the Mexico/US border has been closed and Mexican workers are hired to do jobs in the U.S. via surrogates. These surrogates, however, look like robots, and their controllers must do physical actions to control them.


I vividly remember a scene in Robert A. Heinlein's The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, in which Manny, the protagonist, who has lost a limb, detaches his "social" hand and replaces it with a series of hands specialized for various mechanical tasks. I was taken aback for a moment, then realized there was absolutely no reason to construct a prosthetic device with the same limitations as hands made of flesh-- at least where there's work to be done. So for me the surrogates in the low-budget Sleep Dealer show a lot more imagination than the big-budget Surrogates.

I mean, jeez, if I were a surrogate FBI agent I would have x-ray vision, an antenna that revolved on the top of my head and built-in heavy armament and shielding. Why not?

Still, I guess, Surrogates is worth a watch. But take a look at Sleep Dealer, too. It's a surprising movie.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Some Thoughts on Linden Lab

Written 24 November, 2009

Some Thoughts on Linden Lab

Linden Lab, founded in 1999, was the brain child of Philip Rosedale, created to bring to reality his vision of a three-dimensional virtual world-- Linden World, later renamed Second Life.

People said Philip was crazy, but somehow he managed to not only overcome the many technical obstacles: bandwidth, graphics performance, storage, a viable economy-- he managed to convince venture capitalists to fund the Lab and created a workable platform, the Second Life we know and enjoy today.

Under Philip's direction, Second Life grew and become more sophisticated (think torii, flexible prims, Windlight, voice, and sculpties).

There comes a time when visionaries must step aside and allow new leadership. Philip was wise enough to know when his time had come; in March 2008 he stepped down as CEO. Philip was replaced by Mark Kingdon (known in world as M Linden). Philip remained as Board Chair. He is still listed as such on the Linden Lab website, although he announced in October he has decreased his involvement with the Lab in order to start a new company.

It was clear Kingdon's job was to grow Linden Lab, to make it sustainable and profitable. This expectation is customary and expected, for without profit Linden Lab will not long endure. He's acting, as best as I can gather, like the CEO of any small company.

But Linden Lab isn't making donuts (notice how I never pass up an opportunity to mention donuts in this blog) or jeans or automobiles. Instead, it's creating virtual space in which hundreds of thousands of people spend time and money. It's creating an experience for its customers-- of which I'm one and, since you're reading this, you probably are too.

Some of Second Life's (and by extension, Linden Labs') customers are corporations and companies. Many more are individuals. Both classes are sources of income and, hopefully, profit.

Second Life has more than proven its utility as a place for virtual meetings, cooperative endeavors, prototypes and simulations, training, and higher education. Savvy corporations and several hundreds of colleges and universities know this and pump dollars into the economy to buy sims (i.e., rent virtual space on Linden Labs' servers). IBM, for instance, has more than 40 regions.

Linden Lab has worked hard to accommodate its educators and corporations. Nonprofit sims are available for half price, for instance, making it possible to maintain a presence in Second Life for less than $150 USD per month.

For corporations, the Lab has created private "behind the firewall" grids-- in essence, entirely private virtual worlds. I suspect these private grids are the Enterprise Beta, currently in development. Those who partake in the Beta get advanced customizable avatars, their own currency, more simulator power (an option we peons on the main grid don't have and can't purchase), the ability to load, save, and roll back entire regions, a custom viewer, and more security by being separated from the main grid-- all for $55,000.

All well and good, but if Linden Lab is to prosper, it must do more than get five-digit sums and monthly tier from several dozens of corporate and university customers. It must make Second Life grow in scale from the current concurrency of 50-60 thousand people to hundreds of thousands or even millions of people online at the same time. It must reach more people like you and me and give them a reason to stay in world. Only in this way will Second Life-- and Linden Lab-- hit the big time.

Linden Lab shouldn't give up on its efforts to woo corporations and educational institutions, but it mustn't forget where its bread is really buttered. It must bring individuals into Second Life, and it must give them a reason to remain here, for collectively they will generate far more income for the Lab than corporations ever could.

Some recent and past decisions by Linden Lab show a disregard for and even disdain toward the residents of Second Life. The first thing that comes to mind, of course, is the dreadful news that items on XStreet will be taxed merely for being in the database. This spells disaster for small merchants, who, like myself, sell ten times more items on XStreet than in our stores. The lack of process ("Hey, we had three office hour sessions? What? You didn't hear about them?"), the catering to the loud demands of a few large-scale sellers, and, perhaps most of all, the arrogant tone of Colossus Linden's posts is disheartening, to say the least. It provides one more set of data points leading credence to the assumption, common on the grid, that Linden Lab isn't very much interested in the welfare of its non-corporate residents.

And let's not even talk about the bait-and-switch on openspaces.

Just a thought here: I know of NO Lab decision that has negatively impacted its corporate customers.

For many of us, Second Life is important. For me it's so compelling that two years ago I've been paying Linden Lab more than I pay my electric, water, telephone, and heating companies combined. That's a lot for someone with at my income level. But from it I get entertainment, friendship, learning experiences, and private time with the notorious Sweetie, so I pay it, and I don't complain except when I get slapped in the face by the Lab.

Most Second Life residents, of course, don't spend nearly as much as I do, and some spend nothing at all. But many of us DO spend money, and 100 times the customer base will increase the economy by a factor of 100.

It's not hard to see the real money is going to come not from corporations, but from regular citizens.

There is no shortage of social networking applications that are flat and boring, and more than quite a few virtual worlds that lack Second Life's creation tools and its healthy system of free enterprise. Without its entrepreneurial opportunities (which the Lab has lately done a lot to destroy), Second Life might as well be Facebook, a flat screen with words and pictures.

One thing is for sure-- the best way for Linden Lab to lose its base of paying customers is to remove incentives for being here. Making stupid decisions about land pricing, then reversing that decision, then re-reversing it, meddling in the economy by purchasing XStreet and OnRez, then shutting down OnRez, then making listings on XStreet prohibitively expensive, becoming Wal-Mart and bulldozing all the small businesses, that's the way to destroy Second Life, for sure!

So what SHOULD Linden Lab (in my inestimable opinion) be doing?

Well, how about this, for a start (in no particular order of importance):

* Keep developing solutions for corporate and educational citizens

* Value land owners and content creators and stop making decisions which impact their income negatively (and reverse that horrible XStreet policy decision). In fact, how about spending as much brain power and time on improving Second Life for small sellers and ordinary merchants as you do for the corporations?

* Increase incentives for paid membership (anyone else remember First Land and the $400 L/week stipend?)

* Work on making the initial Second Life experience rewarding and pleasant for those logging on the first time so they'll return. This is a huge drain on the Labs' potential income, and you're fools for letting this go unchanged for so very long (see my next post about the Labs' plan to route newcomers through corporate welcome areas)

* Re-engineer (from the bottom up!) the server and client software for scalability, modularity, stability, and improved graphics performance, and make it accessible for people without high-end computers

* Stop bragging about putting more regions on new, more powerful servers and use more processor power per sim, increasing performance; and while you're at it, increase prims from the present 15k/region to at least 20k.

* Stop trying to turn the Second Life experience into a stupid and dull suburban existence on Bay City and Nautilus on the mainland and begin to value private articles. Remember that Second Life isn't a mall; it's a world.

The alternative is to just limp along until everyone leaves for a new and better-- or at least a less expensive-- virtual world.

Some of the OpenSim grids are getting pretty close to the tipping point. I'm keeping my eyes on them.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Mysterious Sea Monster Spotted on Whimcentricity!

Written 23 November, 2009

Mysterious Sea Monster Spotted on Whimcentricity!

OMG!

When I saw the circling pteradon on the Whimcentricity sim, I suspected something was up, biology-wise, so perhaps I shouldn't have been shocked when I saw this:


OMG, OMG, OMG! We have a sea monster!

I've always wanted a sea monster.

But this one was coming uncomfortably close to Mairenn's house:


By paddling intrepidly out into the ocean I was able to get this extreme long distance photo:


By using the latest forensic image-sharpening software, I came up with this:


This monster doesn't look happy.

So whatever, you do, _DON'T_ TP to Marienn's dock on Whimcentricity, grab a canoe, and paddle out and annoy the monster.

But if you just have to, be sure to stop by Whimsy first and buy our Whimsurance policy!

It will be ten Lindens well spent.

Toucan


Written 23 November, 2009

Toucan

Whimcentricity resident Marienn Somers told me last night her toucan was feeling a little left out at not having been mentioned in my blog. So here it is.

I guess he was feeling lonely, too, because Mairenn went right out and bought a companion for him.


Friday, November 20, 2009

Outrageous!


XStreet Product Boxes


No XStreet Product Boxes

Written 20 November, 2009

Outrageous!


My friend Tozh Taurog sent me this URL about a recent decision by the Lindens in regard to merchandise on XStreet.

"In a move that continues to shake the Second Life community of content creators, merchants, and consumers, Linden Labs has declared that free virtual content will no longer be searchable without listing payments on their website portal; and additional fees will be added with the intention of discouraging content listed for inexpensive selling prices. The move is particularly troubling because the online Web listing service is the de facto search engine for virtual content in Second Life, since the in-world search tools are unable to provide information about an object beyond name and location — basic textual descriptions, pictures, or descriptions of licensing, size, or content-category are not possible. While initially the change was explained as a response to community feedback, the residents involved in this feedback process were revealed to be fewer than 100 in number, primarily larger merchants among a community of millions. Within 24 hours of the announcement, the feedback thread has swelled to over 1,000 overwhelmingly negative responses. Additionally, in-world protests have erupted throughout the day, and over 20,000 objects have been voluntarily removed from the online store by angered merchants."

This is so outrageous I had to go outside and walk a couple of miles to even begin to cool down.

What seems to have happened is that a few merchants complained about their sales being negatively affected by freebies. The Lindens asked for feedback on, of all places, a merchants' forum. Then they had three office meetings no one knew about, and announced the policy as a done deal.

Bottom line is we will have to pay for our freebies on XStreet, and pay $10 per month per item for listening items that have a price.

I'm heading to my land on Jessgate right now to deactive my SLEX boxes.

More on this later.

Rental



Written 20 November, 2009

Rental


We have this house for rent on Whimsy, if someone should be interested.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Another Overlooked Animal






Written 19 November, 2009

Another Overlooked Animal

Oh, dear.

I completely forgot about Julia Hathor's beautiful peacock!

For the past nearly two years the little fellow has been sitting on Whimsy's center isle, hoping a peahen or two would wander by. So far, no luck.

The peacock was given to me by my friend Melissa Yeuxdoux long ago, in early 2007 or maybe late 2006. He's 40 years old in dog/peacock years!

The photos above were taken from the same camera position as the sun came up.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Gravity Can Be a Nuisance


Written 16 November, 2009

Gravity Can be a Nuisance

Take a close look at the photo above. Do you see anything unusual? Other than the plumber's helpers on my feet, that is!

Let me give you a hint. Here's the original:


That's me with my friend Stargazer Blazer, standing on the ceiling (floor?) of the upside-down house on the Olive sim. To find it, just search upside down in Places.

The house has been there forever, since at least 2006, and it's always fun.

Star and I were using a gadget someone gave us; it allows you to walk around on ceilings. Fun. The same person gave us a HUD that lets us set gravity to any level, even negative (in which case you float upwards).

IM me or drop me a notecard if you'd like copies of these gadgets.

New Critters

Written 16 November, 2009

New Critters

Writing about and photographing Whimsy's many animals made me want new ones. So I took a trip to Animania, and bought four.

First up is this puffin. I figure he should have a cousin bird called a huffin. Cute, ain't he?

This puffing doesn't patrol, just stand there turning his had and making a puffin sound, which is, how can I describe it, sort of like throat singing while burping. I put him on a bluff, but Sweetie promptly came along and said, "He should have his feet wet," and moved him to a rock at sea level where he makes much more sense.

Here he is in his former placement. Later on, I'll post some pictures Sweetie took of him in his new home.


This bottlenose dolphin will swim randomly within a 50-meter radius. He jumps on a user-settable schedule, and makes a big splash when he does.


This trout jumps, too.


The last critter is an orange and white koi, which I placed near a group of flat flexi koi at the torii bridge. The flat fish look great when you look down on him, but they all circle, and this guy's random movements give the view variety. Sorry, no photo.