Thursday, August 28, 2008

The Gender Blogs: XI. Gender Fluidity

Written 27 August, 2008

The Gender Blogs

XI. Gender Fluidity

There’s a certain freedom in escaping the gender binary—but it can be difficult. We are, after all, schooled from infancy in the Aristotelian binary: black vs. white, night vs. day, good vs. evil, and it’s not easy to break away. But when we do, the world becomes an infinitely more interesting and beautiful place. It’s worth the intellectual effort to get over the mental hurdle.

Once outside the binary, male and female become but two stops along the gender continuum. There are all sorts of intermediate positions, and every one is legitimate and honorable.

Under this construction, gay men, lesbians, intersexed people, and transgendered people aren’t evil, criminal, sinners, mentally ill, or mutants; they just occupy different spots along the bunny trail.

Not only is this liberating for GLBTI people; it’s empowering for the rest of us.

Why? Because few of us are comfortable with absolute gender stereotypes. We don’t enjoy being John Wayne or Marilyn Monroe; we’re happier someplace else along the Rambo-Bimbo sliding scale.

So if you’re Rosie Greer, a NFL ballplayer who likes to knit, or if you’re Sally Ride and want to enter the formerly all-male field of astronautics, it’s perfectly okay. If you want to be butch or femme, it’s quite all right, regardless of what you saw in your pants the last time you checked.

I would venture to say that at some time in their lives almost everyone bumps into gender barriers that shame, humiliate, and disempower them:

“Boys don’t cry.”

“Why don’t you wear dresses more often?”

“You can’t do that. It isn’t allowed. Because we say so. Now get back in your pink box!”

And so what do we do? We learn to conform, and we pass on the tradition of intolerance to our own children. And some of us of go out of our way to enforce gender barriers on absolute strangers. We vote to deny the rights of gay men and lesbians to marry. We publicly laugh at gender nonconformers. We don’t want our children to have THAT teacher.

Let’s face it, most of us chafe, in some form or other, at our pink and blue binary boxes. We should all do ourselves a favor and climb out of them once in a while.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

The Gender Blogs: X. Gender Binaries

Written 27 August, 2008

The Gender Blogs

X. Gender Binaries

In my last post I brought up the issue of deception as it applied to transsexualism. In this and the next post, and the next, I will elucidate.

Pretty much everybody has an opinion about the “real” sex of transsexuals. Just about any transsexual you might ask will tell you they feel as if their “real” sex is the sex with which they identify. Their physiology is an encumbrance. Many of their family members and friends and a good portion of the general population would agree with their assessment.

But some people are absolutists when it comes to gender: they consider sex immutable. No matter how transsexuals might perceive themselves, absolutists “know” the “true” sex of transsexuals is that of their birth. When quizzed, absolutists might cite religion (God created them male and female, so he did) and will usually point to one or more physical or societal characteristics they consider definitive of one’s sex. These might be sex chromosomes (XX vs. XY), external genitalia (penis vs. vagina), internal genitalia (ovaries vs. prostate), hormonal state (estrogen vs. testosterone predominant), the ability vs. inability to give birth, the pronouncement of sex at birth, or the sex role in which the individual was raised. To them, sex is absolute and immutable.

Curiously, however, human beings can’t be reliably and absolutely separated into categories by ANY of these binary criteria. That’s because real life, as most of us know, is analog and messy. So you can sort XY individuals into a blue box and XX individuals into a pink box, but sooner or later (and most likely sooner) you’ll come upon an individual who doesn’t fit in either, or who seems to fit in both.

I’ll use chromosomes as an example. Males have one male chromosome (Y) and one female (X), for a chromosomal makeup or XY. Females have two female chromosomes (XX). But there are people with XXY chromosomal makeup (this is called Klinefelter Syndrome), or XYY, or XO (Turner Syndrome, in which there is no male chromosome), or mosaicism, in which some cells are XX, some XY, and some neither. Or you’ll come across XY individuals who have given birth or XX individuals who have fathered children or XY individuals who are more feminine in body form and psychology than XX individuals because they’re totally unable to process testosterone (which is present in every human being and to some extent masculinizes female brains).

If you’re an absolutist, it has to make you crazy to learn sex doesn’t have one determinant, but many. You really don’t want to hear humans aren’t always categorizable into the binary categories of male and female—and so you use the only tools at your disposal: denial and rationalization. Those people aren’t like you and me (and frankly, I’m not so sure about YOU!). They’re aberrations, freaks of nature. They’re psychologically sick / being punished by God / should be kept away from “normal” people.

And YOU, of course, are a normal person. Despite that third nipple.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Anonymous said...

yeah, but what happens when a male latches onto someone who's male playing a female? When that person doesnt encourage an attachment but they are the subject of a crush and despite repeated hints, is still the object of desire. How do you let them down? is it always going to hurt the person with the crush? Should you ever tell them? or do you perpetuate the illusion hoping they wont ever find out?

Written 25 August, 2008

The Gender Blogs

IX: Disclosure

I’m glad the above comment came in last night, because the post on which I’ve been working is this one, which is about disclosure— and specifically, when and if to tell others one’s real life gender status in Second Life.

­I would like to assert that unless there’s a specific reason for someone to know your gender status, it’s none of their business. It’s that simple.

It’s only when the nature of our interactions with others is such that they have a need to know that we come under a moral obligation to disclose.

It can be difficult to determine exactly when and if one should disclose, as any gay, lesbian, bisexual, or especially transgendered person can attest.

Transgendered people perhaps make for the easiest illustration here.

Suppose you were a male-to-female transsexual, an individual born male but who lived 24 hours a day as a woman. When you went to the grocery store for milk and cabbage, would you be under an obligation to disclose your gender status to other customers or the Haitian woman at the register? Of course not.

Now, some people might argue that there’s an element of deception in transsexualism, and perhaps there is, but perhaps the bigger part of the responsibility lies with the people who blithely assume the gender of others. It’s really not anyone else’s business which gender you are, is it? Is it? Not when you’re just going to the grocery store. Those who take it upon themselves to confront or harass transsexuals in public are really being busybodies. Those who are bothered by that need to take a close look at themselves.

Now suppose that you, as a male-to-female transsexual, join a woman-only social club. Are you a woman? Well, you could argue you are, since you live your life entirely as female. But others could argue that you’re not, since you, unlike most women, had a boyhood. Do the other members of the club have a need to know your status? Perhaps. You’ll be attending meetings and working on joint projects with them—but unless you form an intimate relationship with some of the members, there will really be nothing going on between you and them that would make disclosure essential.

But suppose that instead of a social club it’s a support group. Now you’re listening to the intimate stories of other women and perhaps telling your own. Should you disclose? Depending on the circumstances, again, perhaps.

Let’s further suppose the group is for female survivors of violence. You’re in the company of women who have suffered at the hands of men. Some will be psychologically damaged, and many will have strong negative feelings about men. And no matter how much you may look like and feel like a woman, your past is your past, and it’s not a female past. Should you disclose? It’s easier to argue yes in this circumstance, for the discovery or accidental revelation of your transsexualism would almost certainly be disruptive to the group.

And now let’s consider SL. Suppose you’ve fallen for another avatar, and he or she seems to reciprocate. Poseballs are in your future. Does he or she deserve to know your real life gender status?


But suppose you’re a female working a male avie and a woman falls hard for you. She’s interested in hooking up; you’re not. Are you obligated to tell her?

No. And why not? Because it’s really her issue, and not yours at all. So long as you don’t give in and jump on that Devotion poseball, she has no right to know.

But when she wears you down and you’re ready to jump in the sack with her, you should tell her.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

The Gender Blogs: VIII. Your Cheating Heart

Written 22 August, 2008

The Gender Blogs

VIII: Your Cheating Heart

A great many people treat Second Life as if it were Las Vegas. What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas. In other words, they believe or at least act as if what happens in SL has nothing to do with the real world.

I suspect these are the same people who have hot sex after hours at work on the Xerox machine, telling themselves it has nothing to do with their marriage.

Cartoonish avatars writhing around on a LCD screen doesn’t necessarily constitute infidelity, but when those avatars have a relationship, when there is emotional involvement, and especially when one or both of them falls in love, it becomes something else entirely. Suddenly there is a RELATIONSHIP. And if one or both of the people in that relationship are married, they are emotionally cheating on their spouses.

Consider: just as in a real life relationship, the spouse is being deprived of companionship, of intimacy, and of sex. There’s no exchange of bodily fluids, but the emotional impact is the same for both parties. How can that not be cheating?

I’m not arguing the ethics of cheating here. People needs to search their own hearts. I’m just saying it’s irresponsible and immature to pretend what happens here isn’t real and can’t affect our real lives. So if you’re cheating on your real life partner, stop pretending you’re not. Because you are. And you need to admit it to yourself.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

The Gender Blogs: VII. When Sex Rears Its (Ahem!) Head

Written 22 August, 2008

The Gender Blogs:

VI. When Sex Rears Its (Ahem!) Head

When a male plays a female avie or a female a male avie, it’s all well and good. It can lead to personal growth, and certainly the deception involved can hurt no one.

Unless romantic feelings arise.

Sex in Second Life can be and often is impersonal (more about this in a future post), but feelings are personal and intimate.

What does it mean when you’re a female avatar with a male typist and you develop romantic feelings for a man? What does it mean when you jump on a kiss poseball with a male friend? What does it mean when that kiss arouses you?

There’s the deception thing of course. Does your potential sexual partner deserve disclosure from you? Are you morally obligated to inform him of your real-life status Yes, in my opinion. (More on this later).

And then there’s the cheating thing. If you are married and on a kiss poseball with someone who isn’t your spouse, are you being unfaithful? (I would say yes. More on this later, too).

And finally there’s the homosexual thing. If you’re in an in-world heterosexual relationship with someone who is of the same real-life biological sex, is this in any way gay?

It’s here that the head can begin to hurt. What if you’re female avi / male typist in hot sex with someone who is female avi / male typist? Is this a lesbian or gay male tryst, or something else altogether? What if you both know the others’ typist is male? Does that change anything? And what if the other typist is female and you’re male? Does that change anything? More on this later, too.

The Gender Blogs: V. Playing Female

The Gender Blogs

V. Playing Female

Lots of female avatars have male typists. Some female avies are mere vehicles for the typist’s lust. Others are played quite seriously as females.

I have nothing but respect for female avatars who are played seriously, regardless of whether they are controlled by males or females.

It would be too much of a stretch to suggest that most males who play female avatars seriously are transgendered, but it is certainly within reason to say they’re getting in touch with a part of themselves in a way that would be diffiult in real life.

( And certainly many male-controlled female avies ARE controlled by transgendered people. And male avies by female-to-male transgendered people as well.)

If a male plays a female in a serious way—putting together an attractive look and wardrobe, making friends, building a true second life—it’s bound to lead to new insights and understandings, and so is a good thing. It can’t hurt for a man to have a better understanding of the distaff side. Or vice-versa.

But many things in Second Life can lead to sexual feelings—and that’s where things can become confusing.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

The Gender Blogs: IV. Getting a Glimpse of the Typist

(Top to Bottom): Boy. Girl. Boy. Girl.
Written 18 August, 2008

The Gender Blogs

IV. Getting a Glimpse of the Typist

 Second Life lends itself to the construction of avatars that represent the owner’s ideal self. We need not be ugly, or old, or fat, or disabled (although we can construct our avatars to be all of those things). We can shape our bodies to maximize sex appeal and make avies sexually attractive to others— and most of us do.

But of course sexual attractiveness is a moveable feast—meaning that what constitutes a beautiful and sexy avatar body is a function of the beholder. Often, we build our avie selves to our own standard of sexual attraction, believing or hoping others will find us beautiful and desirable.

There are certainly a lot of beautiful avatars in Second Life— but many are so over the top that they’re sexual stereotypes—virtual Rambos and Bimbos—with overexaggerated body proportions, skimpy clothing, pumped-up hair, oiled skins, and do-me Animation Overriders.

In some of these avatars, I am certain, I can see through to the typist behind the screen.

Women can certainly fetishize their bodies—and lots do—but it’s darn near ubiquitous for men to sexualize womens’ bodies. When I see a female avatar who is too-too—hair too big, breasts and ass too big, legs too long, and wearing far too little in the way of clothing—and when almost no attention has been paid to personalizing the look or accessorizing or achieving some sort of coordinated appearance—when every element of the avatar is calculated to maximize sexual essence, and when the profile is filled with groups like “Cum On Me” and “Bukkaka Beauty” and reads something like “I will fuk anything that moves,” when the avie’s chat is overtly sexual in a way womens’ speech rarely is, I think: GUY!

And I’m almost certainly right.

The Gender Blogs: III. Being Noncompetitive

Working on the Windows

Sweetie's Windows Scrips Left Windows Transparent Inside
And Allowed Texture Change Outside

Written 16 August, 2008

The Gender Blogs

III. Being Noncompetitive

I do recall one instance in which even I recognized my competiveness. It happened back in January, 2007, and it had to do with That Bastard Martin.

Martin had been giving Sweetie little scripted gifts, and she was forever Ooh!ing and Ah!ing over them. When the giant drinking bird he made for her fell apart (as did the dragon swing he had previously given her, ha! ha!), and I said I thought I could do better, she snorted and said, “It has a PHYSICS engine!”

[Note to self: Bob, the Whimsy drinking bird, has been bobbing contentedly and continuously for five months now, and to date has shown no signs of falling apart. Pat self on back three times.]

Soooo, Sweetie took a job building windows. She had purchased a window and door script and was having the devil of a time making the windows all change texture on command.

Sweetie had given TB Martin copies of the window change script. He came to Pele (our home at the time) and she and he were working to sort it out. I asked for a copy and Sweetie gave it to me, and the instruction notecard. The three of us stood on the beach, trying our damndest to make the windows work—and I figured it out first. I had my windows merrily changing textures on command, and TB Martin, with his “physics engine” and a one-day head start, was getting nowhere.

So of course, I had to say to Sweetie, in IM, “Nah, nah nah nah nah!”

But of course, I’m not competitive!

Not at all!

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

The Gender Blogs: II. The Bem Sex Role Inventory

Either-Or View of Gender

I started this post way back in December, 2006, and it lay fallow until now.

Written 15 August, 2008

The Gender Blogs

II. The Bem Sex Role Inventory

Before the 1970s, most folks thought about masculinity and femininity as mutually exclusive, like a sliding scale. You know, with hypermasculine on one end and hyperfeminine on the other. The more masculine you were, the less feminine; the more feminine you were, the less masculine. John Wayne left, Marilyn Monroe, right.

Psychologist Sandra Bem came to look at gender differently. Rather than a single continuum, she visualized separate measures of masculinity and femininity—a two-slider system. It was possible, Bem argued, to rate high on masculinity AND femininity, or low on both, or high on one and low on the other.

“The concept of psychological androgyny implies that it is possible for an individual to be both compassionate and assertive, both expressive and instrumental, both feminine and masculine, depending upon the situational appropriateness of these various modalities. And it further implies that an individual may even blend these complementary modalities in a single act, such as the ability to fire an employee, if the circumstances warrant it, but with sensitivity for the human emotion that such an act inevitably produces.”

– Sandra Bem, Bem Sex Role Inventory Manual
(Take the Bem here: [Blogger not accepting URLS at the moment]

Bem’s idea made so much sense it was incorporated into the zeitgeist. Today, most people understand it’s perfectly natural to be both decisive and compassionate, to be dominant and soft-spoken, forceful, yet yielding. Women can express their competitive impulses without, usually, being considered unfeminine, and men can compromise without being considered nonmasculine.

Bem devised a psychological test, a sex role inventory which is widely available on the internet.

During our first month, together, Sweetie and I both took the Bem.

Neither of us were surprised when the results showed us measuring high on the feminine scale, nor were we surprised when we scored high on the masculine scale. After all, in addition to being helpful, affectionate, considerate, loyal, understanding, and sincere, we knew we were independent, assertive, analytical, and forceful.

Our scored did differ in several areas though. Sweetie scored high on ambition; I scored low (I have already set the world on fire; I’m content these days to sit and watch it burn). And Sweetie scored particularly high in competition. I scored low.

This has led to a two-year running joke between us, since Sweetie considers me one of the most competitive people on the planet.

Of course, the Bem, as it derives its scores from self-report, is susceptible to vagaries in the way the subject feels about herself. I rated myself low in competitiveness because I absolutely hate the idea that there must be winners and losers. In my book, EVERYONE should win.

I do, however, like a challenge—and this is really the reason why Sweetie laughs when I say I’m noncompetitive.

(Actually, I no longer even say so. Sweetie delights in bringing up the idea of my noncompetitiveness and then demolishing it.)

I like challenges. I love it when Sweetie says something like, “Wouldn’t it be neat to have a broom that would grab itself and sweet the floor?” or “We should have a robot sanitorium,” or “This path is okay, but it’s not spectacular. I want spectacular!” or (latest instance), “Nice robot av. I think when it should be forced to wear red shoes and dance when it violates the sanitorium rules.”

It sometimes takes a while, but I figure out how to do the task Sweetie has set for me. And so the brooms on Whimsy DO grab themselves and sweep the floor, we DO have a robot sanitorium, and the path to Pele IS spectacular. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

The Gender Blogs: I. Why I Will Be Writing About Gender

Finally getting around to posting the BEM blog (which follows) has motivated me to finally get around to the current subject.

Written 20 August, 2008

The Gender Blogs

I. Why I Will Be Writing About Gender

I’m fascinated by the issue of gender in Second Life.

Can pixels have gender?

Clearly so.

Certainly the human beings operating those pixels have gender, and sometimes—a LOT of times—the gender of the human operator doesn’t match the gender of the avatar.

When I mentioned this to a friend, she didn’t believe me.

“That’s a girl!” she said.

“Cause of the too-big hair?” I said.

“Yeah. And the too-big ass.”

“And the too-big breasts?”

“Yeah, that too. And the super duper mini-skirt, and that oiled skin. I mean, what guy would dress like that?”

A lot of them, apparently.

And so, because it interests me, I’ll be writing a bit about gender.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Happy Birthday, Chey!

The Selene. Alas, I Was So Busy Having Fun I Forgot to Take Photos
Of the Antics With My Friends

Written 19 August, 2008

Happy Birthday, Chey!

Yesterday was my RL birthday. And what a great birthday it was!

My birthday actually started on Wednesday, when Sweetie couldn’t take it any longer. The box she mailed me arrived last Tuesday. Heeding her admonishment not to open it, I set the unopened package on the steps leading to my home office. But on Wednesday, Sweetie (and let’s face it, Sweetie is NOT the most patient avatar in the world) Sweetie was eager for me to see my present.

“But it’s not Friday,” I said teasingly.

“Open it!” she demanded.

I did. It was a Space Navigator, a donut cutter-shaped device that opens new possibilities in three-dimensional navigation (you can, for instance, use it to twirl a prim around and around! Watch Torley Linden’s videos to see it in use).

Woo hoo! What a great present!

My birthday ended last night, when a group of friends, Sweetie, and I had a grand time turning ourselves into mechanoids and touring the robot sanitorium and the earth orbit display 3000 meters above Whimsy Kaboom.

I ended the evening by flying friends about in my birthday present to myself—the Selene, Carrah Rossini’s great airship. It’s beautifully textured and wonderfully scripted, a 160-prim vehicle that actually flies! See it here.

Although I did nothing at all in RL, it was one of my best birthdays ever!

My next birthday will be one that ends in 0. I’m not sure how great THAT will be.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

No Skin for Sweetie!

Written 17 August, 2008

No Skin for Sweetie!

My Sweetie bought her skin in her first months in Second Life. It's a nice skin.

Late fall, Sweetie decided to go get some new makeups for her skin. We visited Au Natural, the store where she bought her skin, and she bought a couple. And planned to return to buy more.

In December, I happened to stop by Au Natural. Everything was on sale. I even bought a skin or two for myself, they were so cheap.

I couldn't wait to tell Sweetie! And tell her I did, and the next morning we teleported to the store-- and landed on the grass. The store was gone!

I IMed the owner, who told me she had just deleted all the Photoshop files for her skins and purged them from her inventory-- but just wait, her new skins would be wonderful. They would be for sale in January.

January came and went. No skins from her. Still no skins from her.

No skin for Sweetie!

Today, Sweetie and I were exploring. We visited the Navrem sim, where we found a store with really inexpensive outfits.

We worked our way up two floors, buying the occasional outfit; the third floor was skins. Sweetie tried on a demo, liked it (it looks a LOT like her usual skin), and was JUST about to make a purchase when the entire building suddenly disappeared.

We landed in the grass. No building.

No skin for Sweetie.

She's starting to think the SLuniverse is conspiring to keep her in the skin she is in.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Lost in Space

Photos 1 and 2: Space scenario at Spaceport Bravo, January, 2007
Photo 3: Chey's Communication Satellite
Photos 4 and 5: Recreation at Whimsy Kaboom Space

Written 14 August, 2008

Lost in Space

A long while ago, back when we were newlynotweds, Sweetie and I visited Spaceport Alpha. It’s a wonderful place, and I highly recommend it.

Some several hundred meters above Alpha (or maybe Bravo) there was a giant black sphere. It was featureless outside, but inside was a star field, a giant earth and moon, and a spacecraft that gave every appearance of being in earth orbit.

It was spectacular—but it doesn’t seem to be around any longer.

Since it’s no longer around, I decided to recreate it. I hung a 100-meter sphere in the sky 300 meters above Whimsy Kaboom (Sweetie talked me into replacing it with a 150-meter sphere; it’s humongous!), put a rotating field of stars on its inner surface, and stuck up a 20-meter Earth and 10-meter moon. And then I built a spacecraft—my first, not counting Sputnik-1. And presto! We were in space!

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Textures: Painted or Photosourced?

Written 12 August, 2008

Textures: Painted or Photosourced?

Sweetie long ago taught me the distinction between painted and photosourced textures in Second Life, but I didn’t think much of the difference until we found a skin store that sold skins that were as realistic as possible at a resolution of 512 x 512, down to pimples and wrinkles and ingrown hair.


Photosourced textures essentially bring real-life images into Second Life. Painted textures are hand-created—drawn. So which is better?

Both types have their champions. I use photosourced textures on occasion (for instance, for road signs), but both Sweetie and I are firmly in the painted texture camp. Our skins and most of our clothing was painted by an artist.

I could go on and on, but I think I’ll instead present some pairs of textures. Drawn textures will be to the left; photosourced textures will be on the right.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Rosie's in Trouble Again!

The Top Photo Was Taken by Sweetie

Written 10 August, 2008

Rosie's in Trouble Again!

I've been thinking about making a robot avatar for visitors to the Robot Sanitarium. So this morning, I started playing, using an already existing bot, Rosie, the Jetsons' maid. I disassembled her and put her back together as body parts, attached and adjusted them, and it looked good, except my arms and legs showed. So I made a shape. Better, but still arms and legs. And so I made an animation with arms and legs folded. That did it.

When Sweetie came online I dropped a folder on her, and bam! Photo opportunity! Guess who is who?

Why I Don't Wear Prim Lashes

Friday, August 8, 2008


Written 16 April and 6 August, 2008


When I look at my first and second grade report cards (I keep everything!), I see comments in the comportment section like, “Cheyenne is bright but won’t stay in her seat” and “Chey’s’ mind seems to wander.”

Hey, I remember those days! I would be three pages ahead of the class and my exercises already completed as the teacher plodded along with the lesson. I was bored! Of course!

But did I have Attention Deficit Disorder? DO I have Attention Deficit Disorder? Certainly not.

Or maybe I do.

I have a friend with ADD. She tells me I’m one of the few people she knows who can keep up with the half-dozen threads she interweaves in her conversations. She’s like that guy who used to spin the plates on the Ed Sullivan show. He ran from plate to plate, giving each attention so it wouldn’t fall. My friend jumps from topic to topic in much the same way, as if to keep the topics spinning. Without warning. And I keep up with her. It amazes our one-topic-at-a-time friends.

I have no problem attending to slow-paced movies and novels of interminable length, but I also have no problem jumping in my reading from Silas Marner to Vittorio the Vampire to A is for Alibi-- simultaneously. I have the ability to work on a half dozen things at a time, jumping from one to another with facility. And I like that about me.

I know some children are indeed hyperkinetic, but I think a lot of kids diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder get zapped because they are smart and bored and not because of psychopathology.

I was a smart and inquisitive child. I may have been out of my seat at times, and I may have tuned my teacher out at times. My mind might have raced (which it was supposed to do, wasn’t it? What else is school supposed to achieve?), but it was never because I was driven to move or unable to pay attention. I had completed my assignment, and the next days’ assignment, too. I was just bored.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Written 6 August, 2008


Night before last, Sweetie told me she was a bit worried about me because I didn’t seem to be all that connected to other people—herself excluded, of course. I should cultivate new friends, she said, and strengthen my relationships with existing friends.

I think she’s right.

For about 15 years I pretty much had, in lieu of friends, colleagues. We were engaged in the same sort of nonprofit work and shared the same goals. We admired and respected each other and saw one another three or four times a year at various conferences. Most of us were so involved with activism we had no real time for friends.

I also had people I term phone pests— those who were always flocking about me to get something—whether it was attention, information, or just to say they knew me.

Acquaintances are a dime a dozen. Friends? They’re rare. I’ve had a few. And I’ve lost a few lately.

I lost a good friend two years ago because a mutual friend was effectively fired from a conference at which he did volunteer work. As I was appointed to give him the bad news, I somehow became tainted. I’ve not spoken to either of them since I delivered the message. Not my choice.

I am losing another friend to heart disease. She’s still around, and we still talk, but after several years of her being in and out of hospital, and in light of her deteriorating health, there’s not much I can say to her by way of encouragement. Most of our talk these days deals with her latest hospitalization or her problems with the billing departments of hospitals. I go to see her from time to time, and phone her regularly. I’ve promised to look after her spouse if she should die.

I lost several sort-of friends because they were, at bottom, phone pests. You know the ones; they call when they want to whine and hang up abruptly when you start to share with them. Two years ago—after I started Second Life—I grew unwilling to disengage from the virtual world to waste my time with such people. I let the phone pests go—far later than I should have. I just stopped picking up the phone when they called. They never left a message, because, duh, they’re phone pests. They want to talk when THEY want to talk.

I didn’t quite lose my second-best friend, but our relationship changed after I started SL. She sensed I was caught up in something important to me and decided to give me room. We still talk, but she no longer initiates conversations. I don’t blame her and I’m determined to win her back as a friend.

And I lost my very best friend of all because she refused to attribute any importance or legitimacy to “the imaginary people in an imaginary world” of Second Life. She was insulted because I took my obligations and relationships in SL seriously. She thought I should drop whatever I was doing when she would call and couldn’t and wouldn’t accept that I wouldn’t do that when I was engaged in world.

Of course I’ve gained friends in Second Life—but most people on my Friends list (I still have a Friends list because I use the Nicholaz EC-F viewer) are really acquaintances. My real friends are Bill and Pam Havercamp, who I know in real life, Leaf Shermer, who was my neighbor for a year and is now my sim neighbor, and my Second Life brother Mordecai Scaggs. I count them as friends because they are there for me when I need them. Others are almost friends, but haven’t quite made the cut, or have fallen out of communication with me.

And then, of course, there’s Sweetie. She’s a lover and a friend and a constant companion. We’re in world and on the phone every day. We click on so many levels I don’t really mind that I’m at an ebb so far as other friendships go.

Still, I heard what Sweetie had to say to me. I’ll start paying more attention to my real life friends. Those who remain.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Lava Tube

Written 31 July and 5 August, 2008

Lava Tube

The other night I pulled a 60 x 20 meter cylinder from my inventory, applied a lava texture, twisted it in both directions, and lowered it into the long channel at Whimsy that separates Pele’s southern edge from Feminist Expedition’s island to the east. I removed lowered the land directly under it, smoothed the terrain on either side, and I could walk through it without effort. Then I twisted a couple of 7.5 x 40 meter rectangular prims to make a floor, added a few sculpties I made with the Rock Wizard to create entranceways on each end, and presto!, I had a 60-meter long underwater tunnel.

Woo hoo!

Sweetie took one look at it and began to move the prims, making for a more dramatic effect in the tunnel. Sweetie is all about drama.

Last night I walked back through, tweaking prims, adding molten lava and sound and animation effects. I added an old templedoor Sweetie had asked for,disguised the southern entrance with some seaweed, and, ta-da! The lava tube was done.

Walking through the tube is nice. The twisted prims give it uneven walls and floors, much as with sculpted prims, but without the boundary issues of sculpted prims. There are no invisible walls.

Visit the Whimsy lava tube. The ends are visible from the Whimsy red train.