Thursday, July 30, 2009

She Lives!

Written 30 July, 2009

She lives!

I just checked in and the ever-vigilant Peter Stindberg had left a message: She lives!

Mystical Cookie is alive and well! See here for her recent blog post, and here for Peter's post on Mystical's return, and here for Armando Frangilli's tribute to her. Here's my own note on her disappearance.

Mystical (Peter's right; calling her Ms. Cookie just sounds silly) is the creator of the wonderful Mystitool, a multipurpose gadget I never ever take off. It has about one hundred functions; many of them-- like flight assist, a gentle avatar light, and avatar radar-- are essential. The Mystitool will tell you how many prims a given area of land supports, rez a table that will rez a chair every time an avatar sits, make a great sky platform, let you track your nearby friends (most handy when shopping), create a follow chair so your friends who are lagging can move along with you, scan an entire sim and tell you how many avatars are present, and where, create a nonphysical shield that will let you walk through walls, ban and unban residents on your land, call up a history of your teleports, automatically paste URLs heard in chat into your browser, rez a skydiving platform that will carry you to great heights and then derez, remind you when you need to take a break and get off your sedentary butt, and let you teleport to anyplace you have focused your camera. There's a handy movelock function, too. And that's just SOME of the things the Mystitool will do-- and all for less than $400 Lindens!

Here's where to get it.

In addition to selling the Mystitool and other gadgets, Mystical has an array of sims with a strong community. That community has been in disarray and in confusion and in mourning these past months with worry about Mysti. See her for a great post by Chestnut Rau on personal responsibility in Second Life.

I agree with Peter; it's regrettable Mystical Cookie didn't tell anyone she was all right. It would have saved a great deal of grief to a great many people. Maybe she just wasn't able.

Whatever, everybody is glad she's back. Welcome back, Mysti!

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Lava Ride Talk

Who was Shaky Sam and Why Did He Leave This Seismology Device in the Lava pool?

Written 29 July, 2009

Lava Ride Talk

Sweetie: Oh! You could use like railroad ties and have like some lost scorched science expedition that was studying here

Sweetie: and abandoned it, leaving Shaky Sam to his own devices

Sweetie: All old wood, very rickety looking

Sweetie: The ties can look a little like the entrance to a mine

Sweetie: Whimsy Lava Flume Ride Feasibility Study

Sweetie: Abandoned by the Whimsy Transit Authority

Sweetie: Traditional log cars kept burning up upon rez

Sweetie: You could write a little study

Sweetie: The locals took to daring one another to ride down in metal barrels

Cheyenne: We could actually let them take a ride

Sweetie: Yes, they could get a patented metal or premium solid granite barrel

Cheyenne Palisades: I could make an ice sled that would get smaller and smaller as they rode it down

Cheyenne Palisades: or one that would burst into flames

Sweetie: Why not have your choice?

Cheyenne Palisades: Choose: wood or ice

Sweetie: Could have an abandoned amusement park sign

Sweetie: Says out of order

Sweetie: Whimsy, Beautiful and Dangerous: The Theme Park

Sweetie: Closed

Sweetie: Too dangerous

Sweetie: Whimsurance rates went though the roof after the first hundred surious claims

Sweetie: sputios

Sweetie: spurious

Sweetie: Whimsy Amusement Parks: "Entertainment to die for!"

Cheyenne Palisades: There is absolutely no correlation between 2500 degree Fahrenheit lava and tissue injury

Sweetie: ‘sides, we told you we’re not responsible so we’re not responsible

Cheyenne Palisades: Even if there is, correlation is not causation

Sweetie: Correlation is for liberal losers

Cheyenne Palisades: rofl

Sweetie: Correlations are not recognized as legal precedents in the tax sheltered nation in which we are domiciled

Sweetie: So bite us

Sweetie: This is an E ticket ride. Everyone dies

Cheyenne Palisades: You think the Rezzables carnival was dangerous!

Cheyenne Palisades: You don't need no stinking HUD to die here!

Sweetie: World’s first lave flume ride ends in massive failure… the newspaper headline ruined us… if it weren't for the evil mainstream media, we’d be offering kids the freedom to enjoy the entertainments they want!

Cheyenne Palisades: I’m keeping this chat

Sweetie: That’s fine; I must disclose I am not responsible for any of the comments or suggestions here in or any subsequent avatar injuries or deaths which may occur or arise from construction of any theoretical amusements

Sweetie: :)

Pele Gardens at Whimsy

Photo by Sweetie

Chey and Python
Monitor Lizard
Chameleon. Watch him change colors.
Touch him to make him catch a fly with his tongue.
Written 29 July, 2009

Pele Gardens at Whimsy

For more than a year now the flats below the volcano Pele have been pretty much bare. This weekend, Sweetie got motivated, and we decorated them. They turned out beautifully.

We reworked the stream of water that descends from near the summit and changed the lava flow. A footpath now ascends the mountain.

Sweetie has set her mind on a defunct carnival ride. It seems the Whimsy Transportation Authority tried to develop a theme park on the flanks of the volcano Pele. They shut the program down after the 39th avatar was incinerated.

Why 39? Because 40 would have been too many.

Yes, Sweetie was on a creative mental rampage tonight. It had something to do with my getting a mammogram today. Don't ask.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Protecting Our Asses

Nurse Rosie is on duty 24/7, but she has difficulty covering three sims.
She suggests we place First Aid kits in convenient locations.

Written 27 July, 2009

Protecting Our Asses

Long ago our virtual attorneys advised us to protect ourselves against litigious avatars by providing our own insurance policy—and so Whimsurance was born.

“You don’t actually have to _pay_ any claims,” the lawyers told us. “Just exclude everything.”

You can buy your very own Whimsurance policy on Whimsy from the sign near the temple to Pele and underwater from the signs near the lava beds. On Whimsy Kaboom, you’ll find a Whimsurance dispenser in the admissions office. For only ten Lindens you can rest assured you’ll be covered from all dangers (just don’t presume to make a claim).

We’ve taken additional pains to protect our visitors so they can’t sue our asses.

* Lots of regions give away hard hats while they’re under development, but ours are perpetually available. You can get your free Whimsy hard hat near our giant granite bobbing bird (who is, appropriately enough, named Bob, because he does). On Kaboom, you’ll see the hard hat on the reception desk at the Robot Sanatorium at 3500 meters.

* We offer free protective thermal boots so avatars won’t get burned up wading in the molten lava. You can find yours on the platform near the train’s second stop or near the lava bed at the volcano Pele.

* Because our train runs much of its route underwater, we provide free SCUBA gear so avies don’t drown.

And we’re now considering a Whimsy first aid kit.

I’ll be listing the contents soon on this blog. For now, I’d love to hear suggestions from my readers for first aid gear, medications, protective garments, surgical instruments, and other things that should be included in Whimsy’s first aid kit.

After the Fold: More Horrible Ways to Die on Whimsy

Whimsy, Beautiful and Dangerous

A smoking hot lava boulder hurtles toward an unsuspecting Cheyenne!
Moment of impact!
Sweetie is eaten by piranha
Sweetie and Chey die in the lava
As Chey watches in in mock horror, Sweetie is knocked from the platform
by one of Whimsy's aggressive hummingbirds
Written 27 July, 2009

Whimsy, Beautiful and Dangerous

Yesterday, while working in the gardens below Pele with Sweetie, I very nearly became a casualty to the volcano goddess.

To my credit, I heard and saw the big smoking hot lava boulder coming and stepped aside, and it hissed past me and bounced into the lagoon.

But I wasn’t anticipating the flaming glowing tiki man that passed within inches of Sweetie a second or so later and smacked into me. Ouchie!

Whimsy is a most beautiful place, but it’s not without its hazards, which is why I changed the name of the land to Whimsy, Beautiful and Dangerous.

Sweetie liked that. Especially the dangerous part.

Whimsy has great beauty—lush vegetation, soaring birds, waterfalls and cascades, mountainous terrain, water effects.

But Whimsy has great risks, too. The danger from the volcano Pele is obvious— hurtling, smoking, hot lava boulders which can squish your avatar, volcanic eruptions with their noxious fumes, and even a pyroclastic flow (which is triggered by the yodel poseballs in the gardens below the volcano, for god’s sake, don’t sit on them!). But there are other volcanic dangers, too— notably, hot beds of underwater lava and an underwater cave.

And then there’s the wildlife. There are aggressive hummingbirds that can nudge you over a cliff; underwater, there are sharks, squids, octopi, and sea urchins that can spear you with their sharp points. And there’s always the piranha.

Even our great train ride ends in a spectacular wreck. And let’s not talk about the robot sanatorium on Whimsy Kaboom, shall we?

We don’t enable damage on the land, so you won’t actually be killed and sent home; you’ll just get bumped bitten, inked, or squashed.

It’s all about the PERCEPTION of danger, you see.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Tweaktocracy Blog

Written 25 July, 2009

Tweaktocracy Blog

Look here to see the Tweaktocracy blog Sweetie and I post to on occasion. I just put up a new piece about copying objects.

A Tale of Two Insurances

Chey’s Little Truck in Happier Times
Written 24 July, 2009

A Tale of Two Insurances

Maybe if I had gotten an MBA instead of an MA I would understand why the insurance business is the way it is.

I rarely write about my life on Earth in this blog, but since I just wrote about my first automobile, and since I’ve been spending the last three months dealing with the aftereffects of people running into my little Isuzu pickup for no good reason, and because the long-delayed outcome has turned out to be a happy one for me, here goes.

I drive a little 1993 Isuzu pickup which I bought in 2001 on eBay for $2200. I flew from Atlanta to Tampa and picked it up and drove it home on tires which had become square because the truck had sat so long on the dealer’s lot (THUMP THUMP THUMP THUMP THUMP for 600 miles is NOT fun!). I bought four new tires at Sam’s Club, spend $200 or so to replace the catalytic converter, and have been driving more-or-less happily ever since. Now the Isuzu, which was eight years old and had 89,000 miles when I bought it, is 16 years old and the odometer shows 140,000 miles.

In April, while I was stopped in traffic, a Chevy Monte Carlo slammed into me from the rear, making a mash of my back bumper and mangling the Chey’s front end.

The driver presented an insurance card to the policeman who responded to the call, but when I called his insurance company the adjuster was unsure whether the gentleman in question was or was not insured. It took two full months, with me bugging the adjuster every other day, for him to decide the inured wasn’t in fact the insured. It took further arm-twisting to get a letter from him attesting that fact.

With his letter in hand, I filed an uninsured motorist claim on my own insurance policy.

While that was underway a distraught woman in an ancient Ford Econoline van backed into me at the grocery store, caving in the driver’s side rear quarter panel (although not badly). We exchanged information and I phoned her insurance company, which was prepared to cut me a check—but she refused to talk to them. Presumably, she operates under the if-you-ignore-it-it-will-go-away strategy of life. I hope her daughter got out of jail.

Under pressure from me, her insurance company sent her a you’d-better-talk-to-us-if-you-want-to-remain-our-insured letter. When she finally contacted them and confirmed she had hit me, they sent me a check for $1260 for damage I don’t intend to have repaired. Good enough.

Meanwhile I left my truck at the body shop and rented a miserable little Chrysler which I’ve been driving about all week.

Today I phoned the body shop—which I had specifically told to make sure they had the parts needed to repair the Isuzu before taking it in for repair— and asked if I could pick up my truck. The told me they couldn’t get the very parts I had asked them to make sure they had on hand, so the truck hadn’t been repaired. I distinctly remember using the F word.

I was terribly annoyed at the body shop for the rental car expense I had incurred in NOT getting my truck repaired—but that annoyance was mitigated by a call from my insurance company not two minutes later.

The very nice lady on the phone told me that since Isuzu no long makes the parts needed for the repair, she was prepared to do one of three things:

* Cut me a check for $1050 and call it a day

* Total the truck, take possession of it, and give me a check for $2250.

* Cut me a check for $1250 and call the truck cosmetically totaled. I would keep it, and would be able to sell it, but I would be required to show her proof the smashed taillight had been repaired and I would have to send her copies of my driver’s license and the truck’s title and registration.

My day had brightened considerably.

I mean, when you buy a vehicle for $2200, drive it for eight years, get checks for more than the purchase price, and still get to keep a truck you can drive every day or sell for $1200 or so, it’s a happy thing.

I’ve not yet decided which of the three options I’ll take. The third sounds good, but I’m suspicious of getting my vehicle blacklisted as cosmetically damaged when you have to look really closely to see it’s less than perfect. It hardly seems fair to the truck.

The second option would let me replace the aging truck with something newer and less worn. That’s appealing, because the truck will be sitting in my drive for three months this fall. I could buy a replacement vehicle upon my return— but I have to get back and forth until the end of August, and I don’t relish being on the bus for a month.

I’m thinking I’ll go with the third option. I’ll put a big fat check in my pocket (actually, I plan to use it to repay a loan), buy a bumper from an aftermarket parts maker just down the street, pay someone fifty bucks to install it, find a replacement taillight at a junkyard or on eBay and install it myself, and call it a day.

Late Breaking News: I just grabbed a tail light on eBay for $15 plus $9.99 shopping.It was a steal, as a new one is like $180.00.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Freedom Freebies and All They Entail

The Freedom Freebie Rollerbot Makes a Break For It
The Freedom Freebie Sub In Motion

Written 23 July, 2009

Freedom Freebies and All They Entail

Awhile back Sweetie decided nothing would do but we develop a line of freedom freebies.

“Er, freedom freebies?” I asked. I was dreading the worst.

“Yep, freedom freebies. And you know what that means.”

“I’m not sure I do,” I said. “What DOES that mean?”

“Well, they’ll need to have a means of escape, of course,” Sweetie said. “That means you’ll have to program them to run, hop, swim, somersault, and fly away.”

“Wait a minute,” I said. “You mean we’re going to have freebies that try to escape their fate by running away?”

“Pretty much,” she said smugly.

“But doesn’t it obviate their whole purpose if they run away?”

“Not necessarily,” she said. “What does obviate mean?”

So the upshot is we (we meaning me) will develop a machine to manufacture a variety of freedom freebies and deliver them to the requesting avatar. They will then escape, or try to; the avatar will get them only if he or she manages to touch them as they make their escape.

I’ve been in my secret laboratory (well, on a sky platform; I’ve never found the time to make a secret lab) developing prototypes. So far I’ve created freebies that roll, hop, float, teleport, and fly away, and a sub that dives beneath the water, showing only its periscope. I’m working on the last and most complicated freebie, which, using legs, will run away. And maybe a rocket ship which will blast off. And maybe a freebie that will shrink away to nothing if you don’t touch it quickly. And maybe a ninja freebie that will attack with katanas. And maybe a wild West freebie with six shooters. And maybe a freebie that will generate a lightning storm to hide its getaway. But that’s it.

No matter how many weird escape routines Sweetie comes up with.

The freebies will require machines to make and transport them. I made one version, but Sweetie nixed it, so I’m back to the drawing board. And she’s decided there has to be a mine to produce the raw materials with which they’re made. That, of course, requires a cavern in the sky. And the sky platform atop the cave might as well house my store and serve as the entry area to Whimsy.

This promises to be nearly as big a job as the robot sanatorium.

Mainland Reminder

Written 23 July, 2009

Mainland Reminder

Visiting the bogus gold mine served as a reminder of just how ugly, chaotic, dysfunctional, and stupid the mainland is.

It looked even worse after it finished rezzing.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

The Gray Dumpster

Copyright 1992 by Cheyenne Palisades

The Gray Dumpster: The First Car I Ever Owned
My first car was a gray 1950 Dodge Coronet which I bought in 1968, when I was 19, for $30. To say she was in poor condition would be an understatement. She listed to one side like a ship taking on water, and the finish looked as if it had been worked over by an army of mechanics with ball-peen hammers. The mohair interior had become no-hair, and padding erupted from the front seat like an overstuffed turkey on Thanksgiving. The driver's door didn't open, causing me to have to get in and out on the passenger (uphill side).

Because the battery was weak, , I would park her on the hill behind Shoney's, where I worked so I could bump start her. The manager (a great kidder, he), once told me to come quick, the garbage truck was trying to empty her-- and so the car acquired a name-- the Gray Dumpster.

The Dumpster had a fluid drive transmission, which meant I could drive her as either a three-speed or as an automatic; the clutch was optional. So, apparently, were the radio and heater. The car was cold in the winter, and I would sing to keep myself company. Her tires were bald, and there was no spare. When I would have a flat I would drive until I reached a gas station and buy a nearly bald replacement for five or six dollars. All the gas stations had spares in those days.

I drove the Gray Dumpster for more than a year without problem. Surprisingly, she didn't take her last voyage with me. I sold her for $15 to a cook who wrecked her by going the wrong way up a one-way street. The next day, I went with him to the dump to see her, gray and ugly as ever, but now squashed.

The Gray Dumpster would have been a bargain even at $50.

It Memes Nothing

It Memes Nothing

Written 22 July, 2009

I'm a bit offput by the use of the word meme by Second Life bloggers who equivocate a meme with a fad, or worse, the blogging equivalent of a chain letter, as when bloggers ask others to respond to a series of questions. Not that there's anything wrong with that, but it trivializes the idea of a meme, which is a bit more profound. A meme, as proposed by biologist Richard Dawkins, is a self-evolving social construct. I hope to God we never have an evolving chain letter! Or maybe we already do.

It all seems so memingless!

In his most recent post, prolific SL blogger and meme perpetuator and now originator Peter Stindberg asks a variety of interesting questions. Usually I read memeposts lightly and move on, but one of his questions meant something to me:

5. What was your first car?

Peter answered: It took me well into my twenties before I owned a car, and it was an Opel Corsa.

As I happen to have the answer to that question in the can, I decided to break a precedent and reply to a meme question. You'll find it in the next post.

p.s. I just bet someone $10 USD Peter will have something interesting to say about this post.

There's Gold in Them Thar Sims!

Written 21 July, 2009

There’s Gold In Them Thar Sims!

I would never have believed it.

But I learned long ago, if Sweetie says it’s so, it’s so.

Still, I wanted to see it for myself, and so she took me.

When, long ago, Sweetie told me about the Second Life Mining Corporation, a place that sells equipment to find the gold hidden in the ground all around Second Life, I was incredulous. No one would fall for that, I told her.

But then one day my friend Bonneville Nightfire teleported me to a seashore where he was assisting two brand newbies. They had found a chest of “gold” hidden on the beach and were certain their fortunes were made.

It was just a two-prim chest with a gold coin texture on one face and there was nothing in the contents, but no matter how many times Bonne and I tried to tell them it was just a prop, we were totally unable to persuade the newbies it wasn’t real virtual gold. When I left, they were still gloating and congratulating one another.

Oh, to be young and stupid!

Well, young anyway.

This weekend Sweetie finally took me to the Fishii (so it wasn’t a rat I was smelling, but a fish!) sim, where she showed me Daffiyd Footman's Second Life Mining Corporation, where he sells, with all apparent sincerity, equipment to find and mine’s Second Life’s hidden gold.

Hello! Do you want earn L$? Why don't you dig for gold in the ground? This is not a joke! Gold can be everywhere, you only have to find and to dig it and you will earn L$! You will need a mining equipment and some probes to find gold.We have the equipment what you need to get started.Get one from the Equipment Vendor at the main store. It is worth it! This mining equipment will give you the ability to dig the gold off the ground in whole Second Life.

Damn! And all this time I assumed I had mineral rights to Whimsy! Excuse me, I’ll be right back. I need to consult my virtual attorney.

Of course, you have to not only buy this guy’s equipment; you must also buy self-exhausting supplies and bring the equipment back for “repair.”

So, the deal is you buy this guy’s equipment and go around Second Life, exhausting your supplies and damaging your drill bits as you search for the gold that is buried in the ground.

Sheesh! What a racket!

And I thought the Sion chickens were a scam!

It's a Bug!

Written 22 July, 2009

It's a Bug!

I just talked with a Linden on Live Chat, and the problem with my camera is a bug in the Release Candidate viewer 1.23.4.

You know, when I was learning BASIC I had a program that would break in unexpected ways every time I added a feature or made a change.

And you know what? I rewrote the code.

Hint, hint.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Camera Malfunction

Written 20 July, 2009

Camera Malfunction

The camera in Second Life is a wonderful thing. You can position it almost anywhere. It never runs out of film, and you never have to send your negatives out for processing.

When my camera breaks on Earth, I sent it out for repairs, or I buy another. When it breaks in Second Life, I mess with settings-- and if that doesn't work, I guess, I go to Live Help or call the concierge line and talk to a Linden.

But my camera in Second Life has never broken.

Until now.

My last three or so batch of photos turned out crappy. The first was of a rapidly circling (escaping freebie, more about those soon) object, so I assumed  I had just missed it. When, a few days later, I took photos of Sweetie in the gardens at Whimsy, and discovered I had managed to cut off the top or side of her head in every shot, I started suspecting something was awry. But it wasn't until I took the shots for the previous post that I realized my camera was whacked.

I played with my preferences and the settings in snapshots. The preview shows a full-width picture, but when I hit the keyboard shortcut (CTRL + ~) it saves as only a fraction of my screen.

When I take the shot with the snapshot button, however, I get a normal photo.

Sweetie told me she heard this is happening to other people. If so, I'd love to hear your experiences, and even better, I'd love to hear how to solve the problem.

Cartoon Animals

Written 27 May, 2009

Cartoon Animals

While sorting landmarks last night I saw a flying pterodactyl. And not only a pterodactyl, but a pterodactyl straight out of Bedrock, yabba dabba doo! I inspected the creature, identified the maker (Duggy Bing), checked his picks, and teleported to an entire sim of animated cartoon animals.

A cat was flying a biplane. Walruses were circling in the water. A group of chimpanzees postured, one passing a pile of steaming dung from hand to hand. A giant man-eating plant waved gently in the breeze, eying me.

There was an assortment of animated dance balls and jars, including a singing Elvis.

Lots of fun here!

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Behavior is Maintained by Its Consequences

I’ve no idea why I was compelled to write the following, but I did, and here it is.

Written 16 July, 2009

Behavior is Maintained by Its Consequences

I once knew a woman who had a stalker, a real one, one who was smitten with her and did all the things stalkers usually do. He wasn’t the really scary sort of stalker, more an Elmer Fudd sort of stalker (which, come to think of it, might be the scariest stalker-type of all!). He would sit in front of her house some nights, all night long.

One cold night she went outside and gave him a blanket and a thermos of hot coffee.


A blanket and a cuppa? No WONDER he kept stalking her!

I’m a behaviorist. I understand that behavior is maintained by its consequences. When stalking someone gets you hot coffee and a blanket, your stalking behavior is reinforced. And guess what? You’ll continue stalking.

That man stalked that woman for years. And why? Because she was unable to consistently ignore him. Eventually she would break down and reinforce him with a word, with a look, with a blanket. That put him on a variable schedule of reinforcement, which is almost impossible to extinguish. And so she was stuck with him for years.

The schedules of reinforcement were discovered in the laboratories of psychologist B.F. Skinner more than half a century ago. They’re empirical, meaning they were discovered through thousands of hours of observation of all sorts of animals, human and otherwise. Here’s a good short discussion.
For a more detailed description, see here.

Knowing the schedules of reinforcement, and, more so, understanding that they work with humans as well as pigeons and rats, has stood me in good stead in this life—and I’ve known people who set themselves up for a lot of grief because they couldn’t quite make themselves believe the laws of behavior apply to humans. Or even to nonhuman animals.

Here’s an example: Back in the 80s, I had a friend with a cat problem. She had made the mistake of feeding a stray of two, and now she had a dozen or so cats showing up at her back stoop every morning, yowling and demanding to be fed.

“They’re driving me crazy!” She said. “Please do something about them.”

They really WERE driving her crazy. Four times in as many months, she had started her Chevy Nova and a cat had fallen to the ground, dead. Some had died of broken necks; others had been disemboweled (see the note below for an explanation). She had begun to leave the hood open all night and she would yell and beat on the fenders with a broom before starting the car, but it wasn’t helping. Cats were still falling from under the hood, dead. Now she had four dead cats on her conscience and a dozen live ones on her stoop.

For a week or so I watched my friend’s behavior toward the cats on her doorstep. She would scream at them and chase them and refuse to feed them, but by the third or fourth day she would feel sorry for them and give them food.

“Okay, I said. “I know how to get rid of your cats.”

“How?” she asked suspiciously. “I’m not calling animal control. They’ll gas them.”

I said, “If you were to stop feeding those cats today, they would still be on your stoop a month from now. That’s because they never know when food will show up—but they know if they wait long enough, it eventually will. They’ve learned that persistence pays. So if you stopped feeding them they wouldn’t realize it for a long time. It will take them a long time to realize it’s no longer working. You have those cats on a variable interval/variable ratio schedule of reinforcement, and that means their behavior will be difficult to extinguish unless you change the schedule.

“So here’s what you do. Start feeding the cats every day, and at the same time. Be consistent. Feed them for three weeks. Then just stop. They’ll show up on your stoop and yowl and fuss, but by the end of a week they’ll be gone.”

“I don’t think I could last a week listening to them,” she said. “I’m sure I would break down and feed them.”

“Okay, then,” I said. “Feed them for three days on your stoop. Then keep right on feeding them, at the same time a day— but every day move the bowl another 15 or so feet from your house. In two weeks the bowl will be far away. Feed them a couple more days, then stop, cold turkey. The cats will show up where they were last fed. They’ll yowl, but you won’t hear them. One or two might come back to your stoop, but if no food is forthcoming, they’ll soon go away.”

She didn’t do what I suggested. And, years later, guess what? She still had yowling cats on her door stoop.

It’s because of all this that I avoid reinforcing bad behavior of all sorts in Second Life. I don’t give griefers the satisfaction of knowing they’re bothering me; that’s what they live for. It’s the opposite of getting an obscene phone call and saying, “Hello? HELLO? Who IS THIS? You stop calling here! What’s wrong with you? Don’t you DARE call here again.” They live for that stuff. I mute them and file an abuse report.

I don’t give money to beggars; I mute them. If begging never paid off, they would soon stop. (Not that I'm stingy. I give money to nonprofits that help people.)

When people try to manipulate or use me, I don’t reinforce them by playing their head games. I mute them.

And you can bet I don’t bring my stalkers blankets and hot coffee.


Note: I liked my friend’s Nova so much I eventually bought one of my own. I, too, adopted a cat, a kitten who had come up to me at my new home and rubbed against my leg. I’m not much of a cat person, but this one charmed me. I had begun to feed it and we were well on our way to being cat-and-human. And then one morning I started my car and felt a thump. I got out and there the cat was on the sidewalk, stone dead, its insides mostly outside. It was an emotional disaster—and that was just ONE cat. Imagine my friend, who had bagged four!

My theory is the cats were nestling in the engine compartment of my Nova, and my friend’s, as a nice and sometimes warm hiding space. Wherever they lay, they must have put themselves in the path of the metal fan and the fan belt. When the starter turned the fan...

Friday, July 17, 2009


Written 16 July, 2009


The ability to ban and mute avatars goes a long way toward making Second Life a level playing field for everyone.

Unfortunately, many people don’t take advantage of mute and ban (and unfortunately, some people are illiberal with it. I’ve known people who were banned from sims for simply showing up, before they had time to read the rules and change their clothing to be theme-appropriate.)

I try to be conservative in my use of the ban tool, and so I like to give people the benefit of the doubt. You’re naked on Whimsy? Please put some clothing on. What? You’re naked again? Please read our rules and wear clothing when you’re on the sim. Okay, this is the third time. Please leave now and don’t come back until you’re ready to follow our rules.

But when people try to game me, or when my bullshit detector goes off, I don’t mess around. They’re gone.

When we lived on Pele in Forsaken, an avatar in a nun’s outfit appeared on the land when I was with Sweetie, telling us she had come to talk with us about our inappropriate lesbian relationship. Did I pretty much know what she was going to say? Yes. Did I want to hear it? No. I said “mute” in chat, then clicked on her and muted her and banned her. When, a year later, she suddenly showed up on Whimsy, my new region, I banned her as soon as I saw her.

A month ago, while out shopping with Sweetie, an avatar I had never heard of sent me a teleport request and a cryptic IM message. I refused the teleport and closed the IM box without replying.

When we arrived home 15 minutes later, he was on the sim, hitting up one of our residents.

He had left by the time I got to her house, but I had no sooner landed than I got another IM from him. He asked for a script about which I had blogged. I said I would be happy to send it to him. Then he sent me a request for a voice chat. I refused it. Then he sent me a teleport request.

He had been happily and bizarrely hitting on me, but stopped to say he needed me to come to him in person because of “security issues.”

Security issues! IM is the ONLY thing in Second Life that’s secure.

“Paranoid schizophrenia,” I said to my friend.

“Mute,” I said to him in IM. “Don’t bother to type to me. I won’t hear it. And please don’t try to come back to Whimsy. I’ll be happy to send you the script you wanted as soon as I can find it in my inventory. Goodbye.” And I found the script and dropped it on his profile, and that was that.

Life is too short to waste time on fools.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Welcome on Whimsy

Welcome on Whimsy: Grannies
Welcome on Whimsy: Microcephalics
Welcome on Whimsy: Vampires
Welcome on Whimsy: Blingtards
Welcome on Whimsy: Elves Gone Bad
Welcome on Whimsy: Avatars of Outrageous Proportions
Welcome on Whimsy: Angry Avies
Welcome on Whimsy-- No, Wait, NOT Welcome on Whimsy! Noobienudies!

Whimsy's Rules

Written 16, 2009

Whimsy’s Rules

Since I brought them up in my recent posts on child avatars, Sweetie thought I should do a blog about Whimsy’s rules.

In Second Life, people dare to be what they can’t be or are afraid to be on Earth—and for many people, SL is a game or a sexual playground; they can’t quite get it through their heads, at least at first, that some standard of behavior may be required of them. Fortunately, most people eventually figure it out.

But for those who haven’t figured it out, and for those who seemingly can’t figure it out, we have rules for comportment on Whimsy. Here they are:

NO drama. We all get upset from time to time, but you will be expected to manage your anger and hurt feelings in a mature way.

Since there are tools (private IM, private voice chat, or going to a secluded spot on or off the sim), there’s absolutely no reason why resident and visitors should have to witness squabbles, threats, name-calling, and childish outbursts. Besides, adult should be able to disagree politely.

NO public nudity. Nudity is allowed in designated areas or behind walls or closed doors on rented or purchased property.

There are many places to be tastefully or untastefully nude in Second Life. Whimsy is not one of them. Why? Because a variety of people live here and some of them probably wouldn’t appreciate being confronted with a freenis upon rez-in.

NO publicly visible pornography (we make a distinction between erotica and pornography).

Why this rule? Because while we are sometimes turned on by erotica, we find pornography crude and ugly and nonsexy and don’t want to look at it.

And the difference between erotica and pornography? Do you really need to ask?

NO mimes (just kidding). Mimes are fine. Well, not fine, but acceptable.

It seems appropriate to spoof on mimes. I’ve no idea why. Yeah, I do. I think they ask for it.

NO assault, harassment, bullying, griefing, name-calling, or other rude behavior.

While most of these rules will get you a warning, violating this one is likely to get you instantly banned.

NO pushing of others without permission. This means you cannot shoot people with guns unless they say it’s OK.

I realize this is sometimes done in fun, so I try to be lenient with people who do it. But they’d better stop when I say stop.

NO begging, soliciting, scamming, camping chairs, pyramid or ponzi schemes, or advertisements for such.

If I wanted to live on the mainland, I WOULD live on the mainland. Pull a scam on Whimsy and see how fast you get reported for Abuse.

NO prim littering. Pick up your prims when you are through with them.

I understand the need to rez prims on occasion, and so the Whimsy sims are open to build. People will occasionally leave a prim or two or drop a hairdo when they meant to detach it. I use the Land menu every couple of days to look at the prims on the land, and simply return such items, no big deal. I don’t even mind people doing simple builds on the land, so long as they pick them up when they leave.

Occasionally, however, someone will rez something stupid big. One idiot left 1800 prims on the land. I sent him an IM asking him not to do it again. I didn’t ban him; after all, maybe he just dropped a high-prim piece of jewelry. But if it were to happen again, I would NOT be happy.

A year or so ago, a citizen asked permission to rez a thousand-something sky build on the sim. I said no, that’s what sandboxes are for. When I logged in a few hours later and found him and 1200 of his prims on the land I promptly banned him.

NO slavery, no collars, no tags proclaiming ownership. Human slavery is egregious. If you choose to role play master-slave relationships, do so behind closed doors or on another sim.

We’re not opposed to B&D, but in an era when there is more human slavery than at any time on the planet, we consider it irresponsible to replicate it in Second Life. We’re okay if your slave status is in your profile, but please, no external manifestations of slavery. We don’t want to be included by having to hear your collar chat or look at your slave tag.

NO sexual age-play. Don’t even THINK about it. 

Harassment or ridicule of child avatars simply because they are child avatars is absolutely not permitted.

Those are our rules. Most are common sense and shouldn’t need to be stated, which is why we put them in the covenant rather than smacking people with a notecard when they enter the sim.

With the exceptions of griefing, age play, and spamming, a single violation of the rules won’t get someone banned. But those who repeatedly break a single rule or test limits by sequentially breaking the rules do get banned.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Some Thoughts on Child Avatars: II. Hands Off!

Written 14 July, 2009

Some Thoughts on Child Avatars

II. Hands Off!

Because they unsettle so many of Second Life’s residents, child avatars are banned from many regions. That’s the prerogative of the sim’s owner (although it DOES make the sim the twenty-first analog of a 1950s “all-white” café). Discrmination is discrimination. If you ban child avatars on the basis of individual appearance and behavior, good on you. If you ban them because they belong to a particular class of avatar, well, wear your I’m a Bigot sign proudly.

Bigotry isn’t a good thing (although people like Rush Limbaugh and Bill O’Reilly would probably claim otherwise—but it’s an individual choice. Bigotry injures people only when it’s expressed, and most people don’t express it, or express it only in what they deem to be safe situations, as when a friend started sending me racist Obama material during the run-up to the 2008 presidential election. I called her on it.

In Second Life, bigotry against child avatars fuels something far worse—harassment and ridicule and griefing. All child avatars have experienced this, and more than a few adult avatars who chose to be a few inches shorter than the 2+ meter Second Life height norm. Let’s face it: being 5’3” tall in SL can get you harassed—even if you’re 50 years old and 5’3” on Earth. Horribly harassed.

Marianne McCann has written extensively of this in the Metaverse Messenger and elsewhere. Marianne (who it turns out I know in RL) is one of the few child avies who doesn't rub me the wrong way. She plays her avatar more like a real child, a smart child with language skills.

It’s just not right to harass child avatars simply because they’re child avatars. Ignore them if you must, mute them if you must, ban them if you must, but if you verbally abuse them, bump them, or threaten them, you’re in the wrong.

Some Thoughts on Child Avatars: I. Safe Space

Written 13 July, 2009

Some Thoughts on Child Avatars

I. Safe Space

Whimsy is ABSOLUTELY SAFE SPACE for furries, tinies, dragons, vampires, mechanical avatars, and human avatars of all shapes, sizes, genders, sexual orientations, perceived avatar age, and lifestyle. If you are harassed, please contact sim management immediately.

       --- From the Whimsy Covenant

Avatars in Second Life come in almost infinite varieties. Whimsy is safe space for all of them: elves, furries, vampires, tinies, dragons, robots, mermaids… and child avatars. When child avies visit I treat them with the same respect I would show anyone else.

The weekend of the Fourth was a test for this we-welcome-all policy. During our fireworks show/rez-day-celebration-for-Sweetie, we had several child avatar visitors. A couple of people were bothered by this, and one excused herself, saying in IM she couldn’t be in the presence of child avies lest she be pegged as a pedophile. I told her I understood her decision and hoped she would come back to visit later.

A lone child avatar came to see our fireworks show. She IMed me afterward, asking if she could come to the dance platform where a bunch of us had retired. When I said “Yes, of course,” her gratitude was palpable. Later, she asked if she could bring over some friends and I said yes again. Her friends were child avies also, and she and they were perfectly well-behaved. I think they had a good time.

So, Whimsy has lived up to its covenant.

That said, I’m seriously bothered by child avatars.

It has always bothered me that seeming children are controlled by adults. I know that sweet-faced four-year-old is a balding fortysomething alcoholic named Freddy and that two-year-old is a tattooed Alabama divorcee named Mabel. But when I told Sweetie last night I would be writing this blog, she hit the nail on the head.

What bothers her about child avatars, she said, is this: adults are playing innocents.

Sweetie was right. A child avatar is qualitatively different from a twentysomething hotty played by a 60-year-old or a fierce dragon played by an agoraphobic clerk or an anthropomorphized rabbit played by a 19-year-old. It’s an experienced adult portraying our most vulnerable and dependent, a naïf, a child.

Despite the Linden ban, I’m certain a great deal of age play is still going on in private spaces. I can’t help but think this private illicit sex spills over into public, most notably in appearance: I see altogether too many “children” sexualized with adult skins and makeups.

I ran into the avatar pictured above at a public sandbox. She was just creepy. Because of the way she looks and the way her AO causes her to lick the lollypop she holds, I absolutely consider her a walking sexual display. If this Jon Benet Ramsey wannabe were to show up on Whimsy I would ask her to change her appearance or leave— or, more likely, ban her on sight—not because she’s a child, but because she is a sexualized child.

Such sexualized child avatars make it different for the other type of child avies: the ones who do their best to look and act like real children.

But I question the underlying motives of even those folks.

I’d always supposed people who ch0ose to portray children in a nonsexual manner were reliving an unhappy or unsatisfactory childhood—but lately I’ve become convinced many such folks are simply retreating from the pressures of adulthood. They infantilize themselves to escape—what? Job? Family responsibility? Sexual feelings? Their adult bodies?

It bothers me that they’re not portraying children as they really are. Rather, they are walking stereotypes of children—children who are more vulnerable, more innocent than any real child could possibly be. They not only infantilize themselves by wearing the virtual bodies of children; they further infantilize the child they portray in their profiles, and in their chat:

I’s is five yeaws owd and I wuvs my mommy and daddy and all my fwiends at Ms. Sunshine’s Learning Academy. I wuvs to pway on the swings at the pwaygwound and go to the zoo with my pawents. I wuvs my bunny Fwuffy.

Real children absolutely do not talk or think like this. The avatars in Second Life who engage in such baby talk are subverting children in ways other than merely portraying them— they are robbing children of their intellect and language abilities. I cringe when I hear them talking.

So yeah, child avies bother me. But Whimsy will continue to be safe space for everyone.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Torley's SL Cheat Sheet

Written 14 July, 2009

Torley's SL Cheat Sheet

The ever-energetic Torley Linden has just announced a page on the SL Wiki. He calls it a cheat sheet.

Torley's cheat sheet provides a fairly comprehensive listing of the limits of Second Life: How big can a prim be? How small? How many prims can fit in a linkset? What are the aspect ratios of the various picture boxes in your profile? How many characters do you get in the first and second life tabs? That sort of thing.

Click on the link embedded in Torley's post to go to the cheat sheet page.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

A Trip to Daden Space

Waiting for the Rez
Moon Lander and Full-Bright Marker Flags Spotted
Selenaut Chey
Historic Moon Walk Patterns. The Astronauts Didn't Vernture Far from the Lander.
Fugly Lander. Is That Some Sort of Gold-Plated Camouflage Paint Job?
We Encountered This Alien Life Form
Chey Wanted to Buy These Moon Rocks, But They Were Not Set To Sell
A Touch of Second-Life Fabulousness (If You Can See It): A Mysterious Monolith
Written 12 July, 2009

A Trip to Daden Space

I've learned to take the Lindens' sim recommendations with a grain of salt. More often than not I find myself in a space where I can't rez a prim, can't fly, and my HUDs won't work properly-- all because of illeberal use of the YOU CANNOT DO THIS tools. That, and I'm almost certain to run smack into the red fence of friendship somewhere in my explorations. That, and the place is almost certainly going to be ugly and boring and without a hint of Second Life fabulousness.

But I still go on occasion. Yesterday Sweetie and I, on the Lindens' recommendation, explored the Daden Space sim, where, ta da! I couldn't take a landmark and couldn't fly and couldn't build and couldn't script.


Usually just landing in such a permissions hell causes me teleport somewhere else, and fast, but because of the historic importance of the event to which the sim was dedicated, I stuck.

You see, the sim commemorates Apollo 11, the first manned moon landing,.

The build is meant to be immersive. One of the requirements was one must have a spacesuit-- which was silly, since no one else was on the sim (which pretty much speaks to how much the Lindens' recommendations impresses other people, huh?).

A sign directed me to XStreet, where I expected to find a freebie space suit. No luck-- the suits were $595L. No way!

So Sweetie and I donned our (much better) freebie Privateer Space spacesuits and teleported to the surface.

Admist all the grayness, I was happy to see a blue-green Earth just above the horizon. I waited for it to rez.

And waited.

Finally, I went to inspect. I used my super secret powers to disrespect the hell out of the Apollo astronauts. I flew in the no-fly zone.

"Hey, Sweetie!" I yelled. "Did you know the Earth was flat?"

Indeed it was, as it was merely an image pasted on a flat prim.

"And blurry!" I cried. Indeed, the texture was of unforgivably low resolution.

The Apollo lander looked just like the real lander, as if it had been hastily constructed out of parts from a beginner's edition Erector set. I marveled at its fragility--  and lack of sophistication. It had, after all, been powered by a computer with less processing power than a 1981 Commodore VIC-20.

Sweetie and I had picked up Daden Space HUDS that obscured almost half of my wide screen and more than two thirds of Sweetie's smaller screen. There was no button to minimize it.

Buttons on the HUD turned on and off prims denoting the paths of the astronauts' moon walks and showed or hid spots that triggered photos and short videos in a built-in screen.

The HUD played a video of Neil Armstrong's first moonwalk and displayed historic photos taken in the same position and direction relative to the landers as the spot where we were standing when they were triggered.

The small size of the trigger spots made it easy to blunder in and out of them, causing a lot of jerkiness, so I took off the HUD and threw it away.

I found Daden Space good in concept, but poor in execution. The textures, with the exception of the moon itself, were poorly done, and the prims inexpertly creative. So A for effort and C-minus for results. I hope whoever actually created the build did it out of love and not for money.

Hey, Daden Space, your motives are noble! But let me put up a better Earth for you!

Accelerate Me!

Written 12 July, 2009

Accfelerate Me!

After our visit to NOAA, Sweetie and I found ourselves on the adjacent sim Second Earth 5, where we came face-to-face with a gynormous Fermilab particle accelerator. It was HUGE!

We immediately found our way inside, where we walked and walked and walked. Later we found a tour car, but the walking was more fun, even if Sweetie did get trapped on the wrong side of the supply pipe.

We love the sci lands!

A Visit to NOAA

Written 12 July, 2009

A Visit to NOAA

I loved the voice of the guy who used to give the weather reports over the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration radio station-- but then they replaced him with a robot, and it's never been the same.

I decided to go give NOAA a piece of my mind, and dragged Sweetie with me to their sim in Second Life.

We never found anyone to complain to, but we were perfectly charmed by a real-time weather map of the United States.

We even got to fly into the eye of a hurricane.

So I was ready to forgive them, but then we saw some nice deck chairs and sat on them.

And then this happened, completely out of the blue.

With the following result:

Well, it wasn't COMPLETELY out of the blue. We DID push the tsunami button.

I was so anxious to go home and get ouf of my wet clothes that I forgot to lodge my complaint and request they bring back the old NOAA voice.

So we're gonna be stuck with the robotic voice no NOAA radio.

But you know what? I'm starting to find it sexy.