Friday, August 28, 2009

I cut the arrow from your neck, stretched you beneath the tree

Evil clown head thumbnail

When you're standing in front of a giant glowing clown head that says "Death" might be in the wrong place.

Wear Grey thumbnail banner

Not meant to lead off from there, but...We start with a cousin. Miss Sanura Snowpaw's first-life cousin, in fact, who lost his fight against brain cancer a decade after receiving the diagnosis, on the 13th of August, 2009. Because this cause is so deeply personal to her, when she heard about the Grey Ribbon Crusade and other charities, she came up with the Wear Grey for a Day campaign for SL.

On September 18th, 2009, there will be many vendors who have set out specially-made grey outfits and items just for this event. All who participate (I'm one of the participants) display the Wear Grey logo banner (seen above, and in Autogenic Alchemy in Penzance, more information can be gained with a click) along with their item.

Some information on the Leap for a Cure program, along with their events list and their Twitter feed.

Anyone who wishes to participate and donate 25%, 50%, 75% or 100% of proceeds received will be gratefully acknowledged, she says, on the blog. But more than that, she is committing herself to reporting full transaction histories from the course of proceeds received, with evidence that they are going to the American Cancer Society.

If you have any questions, direct them to Sanura Snowpaw, Prue Genira, Colorful Sinister, or Kali Jetcity.

We end with a blog. Support them if you can.

Th-th-th-that's all, folks

In the meantime, see you on the other side. Hopefully no more than a few days. We'll know when we get there...

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

through your eyes the strains of battle, like a brooding storm

(Now with 27% fewer typographical errors! Sorry--dashed off the first version of this while I was taping boxes together and coordinating what to bring out from the garage for the first load sent to the storage unit. Oops.)

I woke up this morning
Now I understand
What it means to give your life
To just one man
Afraid of feeling nothing
No bees or butterflies
My head is full of voices
And my house is full of lies

Home is what you make it. Home is where, when you go there, they have to take you in.

Home is changing.

This is home, home
And this is home, home
This is home

If all goes according to plan, home will be in limbo for at least a week, hopefully no longer. My already scarce appearances in world will likely go nonexistant--for a while, at least.

This, friends and neighbors, is as close as I ever want to get to a full First Life confessional, here. I am more than happy, most of the time, barring tech news, movie trailers and music, to ignore that I have a First Life most of the time.

This situation changed that.

I found your standing there
When I was seventeen
Now I'm thirty-two
And I can't remember what I'd seen in you
I made a promise
Said it everyday
Now I'm reading romance novels
And I'm dreaming of yesterday

I'm not going to go into why--those of you who know me well enough to ask can ask, if you haven't already. And most of you who do know, have been fairly busy being appalled, worried, or hand-holding, frankly.

Or all three.

This is home, home
And this is home, home
This is home

But this is about to change. How things will (with any luck) play out:

On Saturday, the 29th of August, we load everything we can possibly load in a borrowed car and unload it into a storage unit across town. Whatever won't fit--that we're keeping--comes with us; the cats go off to the pet hospital for updates on their shots and storage for the few days (again, hopefully) on their own.

Then off we go to a motel--no internet, near as we can figure, local phone only, cable of some kind, wee fridge, microwave if we're lucky--and spend a week in one room, breathing, and letting some of the last two years of stress go.

I'd like to see the Riviera
And slow-dance underneath the stars
I'd like to watch the sun come up
In a stranger's arms

After that, if all continues to go well, we're off into our own place, which has free net (Hallelujah! People with PRIORITIES!), and we can work out the other details later.

This is Plan A.

This is home, home
And this is home, home
This is home

If Plan A fails to work, Plan B goes into effect, which involves considerably more work, planning, financial outlay, uprooting to an entirely new state and replanting there, and far from ideal, let alone enjoyable, accommodations. It does have the virtue of having one of my loves in residence, so you know, it's not all bad.

So that's it. Plan A, Plan B. No idea which one is going to play out, though we're pulling with all our strength of will for the first one. Trying not to bite my nails down to the bone waiting.

I'm going crazy
A little at a time
And everything I wanted
Is now driving me away
I woke this morning
To the sound of beating hearts
Mine is full of questions
And it's tearing yours apart...

And, one way or another, eventually we get back to a place with net access before September is over. One way or another.

I just have to wait and see which way it's going to go. And how far we'll need to hop.

At this point? Welcome to the Train-Wreck Life.

This is home, home
And this is home, home
This is home

(Lyrics taken from Sheryl Crow's song, Home.)

Sunday, August 23, 2009

and sometimes I get nervous when I see an open door

You have received a message from Second Life:
Your object 'Kittenz II - toy ball' has been returned to your inventory lost and found folder from parcel 'Caledon Morgaine' at Caledon Morgaine 38, 126 due to parcel auto return.

Okay, so, I admit, about eight months ago now, I lost my mind briefly when I had a lot of "spare" (ha!) Lindens, and spent it all on a Damiani kitten, with the toy ball, the food dish, the pet bed, and the scratching post. Then I built a house shaped like a dog, put the kitten in, never finished it completely, and ended up picking up the house--cat and all--when I lost that parcel.

At this point, while I work over what I want on the ground in Morgaine, I've put up a second, mostly empty skybox for rezzing things out, and building the odd thing on occasion. I decided on a whim to pull out the house, get the cat and xir toys out (it's a virtual cat, the gender is apparently flexible in my mind), and then put her in the new skybox.

The new skybox is predominantly one large megaprim (though to be fair, it's actually six large megaprims, so we don't have camera/bounding box issues). But, because it's essentially one large unangled rectangle, there's a bit of it that goes beyond the parcel of my land. One corner, in fact. Just the one corner.

And that limited-AI scripted collection of plotting pixels has found it, and knocked xir ball into it. TWICE.

In other news...recently-discovered GUH. (Little to do with SL, mostly dropped here on the off-chance that Edward might not have seen it. Since he doesn't do Twitter.)

I am hoping to have at least one new frock, or some of the animal-skin set I've been working on, in world by Friday, at the least. I may not make this, and I'm not assuming it as a deadline. Currently, I don't think I'd make anything SL-related as a deadline, I'm pulled out of world so often.

But I have a target. That's the target. Something new in-store before we move, and everything potentially goes up in the air.

That's all. Just something. Sometimes it's the little things that keep us going.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

paranoia strikes deep, into your life it will creep

In a meandering way, Warren Ellis brought my attention to the Sex Work Awareness site. They've got a PSA now (that's short for "Public Service Announcement", if you're not cognizant of the term), as well as a couple of audio files for linking or tossing into podcasts. And there's also a mention that leads to a blog post dealing with the tragedy of Julissa Brisman, which can be extrapolated to the tragedy of working in a profession where few people offer respect, understanding, acceptance, or even barely tolerant incivility.

Why am I bringing this up? Because certainly on the grid, in Second Life, sex workers don't run the risk of death, infection, inability to attain civil protections, having to conceal what they how is it relevant?

I'll give you an example. Of the kind of thing I hear about every other day or so, or watch unfold personally.

There's a group I'm in--and it really could be any of my groups, it happens so often, but let's just say for reference it's a scavenger hunt/lucky chair/freebie group--where every few days, someone asks how to make money in SL. (I say this happens a lot, and it really does--in Caledon, in texture groups, fashion groups, on the street in main chat....I mean, it happens a LOT.)

And there are always two replies in the flood of answers that they'll get.

1. "You should strip for a living, those girls make a lot of money."

2. "You shouldn't do that, man, it just leads to bad things."

Understand I am broadly understating here. The first one pretty much references cheap clothing, "dressing like a hooker", bling, and "looking cheap", for the most part. So on the one hand, the money incentive is there in the offer--"dance, you'll get paid well"--while at the same time, dismissing any positive value in dancing--because you'll have to look cheap with oiled skin and microskirts and masses of big wavy blonde hair and big fake boobs to do it.

(And really. Come on. It's SL. By strict definition, all boobs are fake. So is the grass. So are the trees. So are the dance poles.)

The second, of course, is the trap. "Dance and you'll make money"...but no one will respect you. "Strip for a living"'ll pay rent but you're now the lowest of the low on SL. "Do some pole work"...but for the sake of all you hold holy, get out before you really get hooked into it.

Because "everyone knows", you see, the woman who's willing to strip? Is willing to prostitute herself in all ways. And it's just two small steps from hooking, to being chained to a bar in a cage naked, and being told what to do. And--even by some women who wear collars--this is universally seen as the worst of all fates on SL.

This strikes me as akin to the gay marriage = marrying goats argument. "If we give people gay marriage, then ANYTHING can happen! People will want to marry their dogs! People will want to marry their END tables!"

Right. Because dogs, goats and end tables are recognized worldwide as having the same exact rights citizens do, and can thus enter into legal and binding contracts with people. (Which is, by the way, all that a legal marriage is, it's a binding legal contract. Period.)

It's that same sort of hivethink with dancing--dance with your clothes on, you might as well strip. Strip, and you might as swell screw guys for money. Screw guys for money, and you might as well just get collared already. The slippery slope? In the case of many women on SL--and a surprising number of men, whether they patronize escorts or not--the slippery slope has been oiled with the negative expectations of fully 80% of the avatars around that young woman seeking work.

That, and the other trap inherent in the statement--because all you have to do is jump on a pole, right? The animations do everything else. It's like you have to push a button every five minutes, that's not work.

And no, that's not work, but there's more to dancing than just the animations. There's making them flow together smoothly for yourself and the viewer (harder than it looks--that one takes practice, has a learning curve, depending on the pole, to know which dances work together and which don't). There's working out how to climb the pole while taking one layer of clothing off (*again* harder than it looks, believe me). There's emoting to the crowd. (And no, not talking about the emotes you see that go roughly, "SexiiSindii licks the pole and thinks about some hot guy in the audience she wants to lick, too".) It's even the little stuph, like remembering the people who tipped you, and thanking them for tipping. To talk about the muscles in legs and back, practice the perfect sinuous arch of muscle and tendon--at best, difficult with the avatar mesh. Not only that, but if you're dancing and hosting--something that some clubs still make their dancers do--then you have to keep track of who comes in, and welcome them, who leaves, and wish them well on their travels, and all of that while thanking folks who tip you and remembering how the dances work!

And all of that is if you're just dancing, not stripping or escorting. Stripping or escorting is harder. It's not a cakewalk.

And keeping all of that in mind, at any given moment, plus coordinating for event nights (which means serious Linden investment in costumes and skins), themed nights, plus being cheerful and having fun, which some nights, really is harder than it sounds...without adding in the complications of escorting on top...

...and knowing that at the end of the day, you may have men who want you, but few who really love you; you will have women who hate you, because of what you do. And no, it's not a knife in the belly, it's not getting a client who wants to strike out rather than slide in, it's not getting arrested or getting hooked on drugs...

...but women, women have so many struggles with self-worth, and it's yet another example of the more things change, the more they stay the same. People make a virtual world, and they can be, can have, the best of everything, if they're willing to improve, put in the effort, show the grid the face they want to live behind...and so few seem to realize that, dragging in all that excess baggage behind them, like anchor weights chained to their frontal lobes.

And the biggest baggage of all still seems to be: Sex sells, and the money's good. But if we catch you at it, we'll never accept you for it. You'll never be anything more to us than a cheap whore.

Welcome to the new world.

Friday, August 21, 2009

we gotta get out of this jail, we gotta let the future in

Interesting article I came across, regarding gender, identity, and realism in both worlds. And here we are again. While I respect the moment of confusion for anyone who has a problem that the person on the other end of the grid (or the email, or the phone, or, gods forbid, the hand-written letter) is not the gender, or the "type" of person they we are at the gender thing again, and I just don't get it.

And this goes farther--she's seriously hurt, it sounds like, or at least very deeply conflicted, over the fact that the 'other mother' she had on her side--wasn't. Or was, and was in truth, but--wasn't a mother.

Does it all come down to that? Is the bigger gulf not between the fixed and the adaptable, but between the parents and the childless? Which one bothers her more?

While I pondered that, I did want to see if Black Swan still had the Grand Odalisque on display. As it turns out?

They did.

She was impressive, she really, really was. Laying asleep on her dais, little more than a slightly raised, textured circle, she commanded the attention of the room, and really, how could she not?

I truly think this is one of the most phenomenal texturing jobs I've ever seen in Second Life--just matching the photograph to the sculpts involved, that's mind-boggling, how precise that is.

Just for the reference, the "Grand Odalisque"? Really is grand--she's impressive in the sense that the Rockies are impressive; she has her own mountains, her vales and valleys, and she's so very much more than life-size.

It's only from the top that you get the idea that you're not, somehow, looking at a real live woman; you can see where the sculpt planes meet. But even then, the trompe-l'œil makes it hard to distinguish sculpt from sun-warmed skin.

You can even take her home for a mere...*coughs*...L$15,000.

In fact, you can still walk the path around the lagoon in the sim itself...or just go straight for the shopping area, which seems to be packed full of everything they've ever been given, and more besides.

For another take on gender--as it relates to MMO marketing, anyway--read Sanya Weather's column on the topic over at

Within the same neighborhood--at least of gender and sexuality, if not the closer specifics--what's up with the sudden figleafing of skin displays? Is this something people are being asked to do from the Labs, or are they enforcing this on their own?

This, f'rinstance, seen at Deviant Kitties--it's for male skins! MALE! The bits are detachable, so why bother figleafing?!?

Maybe that's the point, though--maybe in this case, it's deliberate figleafing? Preserving the image that there is something under the sardonic smiley face?

(I don't know if it's a sale, right now, or not, too, but that skin? Currently L$75. In fact, all the skins in that row? Nothing's over L$150, and some even go down to L%50 per skin.)

Though I will say, I don't know if it's the shape, the hair, or that face, but the IX-1 skin is just about the prettiest look I have ever seen on a man.

Barring Fawkes.

Moving on.

Apropos of nothing we've been discussing, there's a Caves 'n Dungeons pack by Cel Edman going for L$299, likely at her main shop. I saw this one at CNI Holidays; weirdly, it's buyable, so if you get there while she's building the new haunted area, you might be able to snag a copy from her. (That's the owner, Crymzon Tempura, in the red witch's outfit to the right.)

I'm just glad that people in world are starting to display Hallows and autumn things. This summer can't be over fast enough for me.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

the kind who comes to poker, pockets stuffed with kings and aces

So, the CSR Summer Stamp Rally is winding up for this year, and since we're still preparing for our run, I thought I'd go over some panels of the world's cutest comic demonstration of the process, found on their site.

PhotobucketThis is such a lovely case of Engrish, but they really put effort into making things as clear as they could. So, here's our perky protagonist, holding up a CSR stamp card. (Yes, they really look like that.) Here, what she means is you can get a card on any product bought at any participating store that's marked with the CSR logo, and is L$100 or higher. (Check non-marked displays, too--sometimes they'll put cards in those as well.)
PhotobucketHit all twenty participating stores (they're found on the site), they don't have to be in order, just all twenty, and get a stamp at each one. Make sure to check your cards to ensure the blank circles are filled with a stamp. (Again, yes, you'll see it if it stamped correctly!)
PhotobucketAfter you've gotten all twenty stamp circles marked, go to the main hall (again listed on the main site with a link--and find a free machine to claim the prize (or prizes) you want!
PhotobucketOne filled stamp card (which means one trip through each of twenty stores, to get one stamp each on the card) equals one prize claimed from the machine. But you can stamp more than one cards, and the cards are transferable, so you can stamp them for friends or give them to other people to claim!
PhotobucketYeah, we found this out the hard way, the first year we did the run--you can stamp more than one card at once. The first year, we thought we had to stamp each card individually. That was a pain and a half, believe me.
PhotobucketWhat they mean here is, you can attach them at any free attachment point on your body. Arrange them however you want; you can even attach them to HUD attachment points.
PhotobucketIf you really want to go nuts, you can buy thirty-eight cards, and attach thirty-eight cards, and all for a total investment of (at minimum) L$3800. (And, of course, your sanity.)

(Also? I love that the girl with all the cards is called "God". Hee!)
PhotobucketOf course, you could always preserve your sanity, decide what you really need from the prize list, and go from there.
PhotobucketSo, she's finally gotten twenty stamps and she's attached some things in odd places. She's exhausted and a little wild around the eyes. But it's over. Now what?
PhotobucketNow, you detach your cards, and keep track of where they are. That's important. Open your inventory next to one of the prize kiosks. You'll want to drag a fully stamped card onto the kiosk. Scripting will then show your card, fully stamped, suck it into the machine, and show you the prizes. All you need to do then is pick one!
PhotobucketShe's tearing her hair out here, but you don't have to. Just spend some time looking over your options (and you've likely done some advance reconnaisance before, looking over the official site), and pick from twenty things. Or--if you have twenty cards--pick one of everything. It's really your call.
PhotobucketThere is a time limit, she's right--and if you don't pick in time, your card is returned to you and you have to do everything again. Don't worry--it's not as hard as it seems. If you want, just finish your stamping, and go sit in the exhibition hall, so your avatar is stationary, and pull open your browser to see what the prize choices are. Then remember them, or write them down in a notecard, and go back to the prize kiosks and make your choices.

If you should have problems, the exhibition hall is staffed, and while not all of them speak English well, they speak it enough to be understandable, and they're friendly and patient besides. If you do happen to have a problem, they can resolve it, and I really do mean that--with highly scripted objects, they know there can be problems here and there, and they're fine with helping you figure them out. Then poof, back to the prize kiosks, pick your prizes, and you're done!

This year, I think I've finally decided on DP's sheep avatar, DEN-DOU's vampire skin (I'm fairly sure the fangs are painted on), d-LAB's Green Tree House, and SP Kawaii's KiraKira skin, shape and eyes.

And maybe Gritty Kitty's artist apron. La la la...

Monday, August 17, 2009

well it winds from Chicago to L.A., more than two thousand miles all the way

Bare Rose is coming up on their fourth anniversary of gridlife! Being Bare Rose VIPs, we got the chance to preview the upcoming hunt:


I haz a fierce!


Phear MEE!

...though overall, he doesn't look impressed. Moving on.

The whole point is, another story, another few locations, hop about, solve the riddles (they're easy this year), get stuph. Be sure you go for the "Additional Hunt Gift"--you'll get the world's cutest puppy shoulder pet.

How'ver, now I want to talk a bit about the tragedy of grid-wide hunts, since there are so many of them going on right now.

The Skipping Stones hunt started at Kunsthammer in Emmelia. They had a lot of really cool things--cool enough I joined their group for the Soul Window--for free and cheap, and also, the first faintly glowing stone in the hunt. This was their prize:


It's a dandelion arm tattoo in three shades (on all three layers), plus a gesture and poofer combination that results in the ability to blow dandelion seeds from the tattoo. Kind of neat. Quirky and very fun. I liked this one a lot.

The third stone was found at a store I'd never been to before, Sisters, and it's called the Shroud Dress. It's in a blend of striped and floral muted wine fabrics, with black lace petticoats, and it's definitely on the list of keepers:


You can see why.

I didn't keep anything else until the ninth stone, at Tyranny Designs. They featured a lingerie set seemingly made of brass coins--I doubt I'll be keeping it--and a mismatched set of skirts and tops which are okay, but not stellar. I did keep the shoulder songbird, though:


mainly because I'm amused by the irony.

The eleventh stone I'm still deciding on, it's from 1-800-BETTIE's, and it's vintage enough:


but the skirt alphas terribly. I just don't know if the alpha glitching is worth keeping the skirt.

Stone thirteen was Inorite's, and normally I love their hair. I still love their hair colors, but this set came with a floppy beige beret which--while undeniably cute--just wasn't my thing.

I'm also undecided on keeping chanimations' summer dock set:


It's a dock, with an attachable stone, and a sit pose. Put the dock out somewhere, hold the stone, click the small pile of river rocks next to the sit pose, and you have your choice (once seated) of nine or so poses.

It's big, it really requires a river, and a place you can rez things out, but...good for photos? Maybe?

Stone twenty-two was puzzling--So Many Styles decided to make a topless...leather...shorts set.

Think I'm kidding?


That's it. And yes, under the censored bar? Just me. No top. The top layer actually creates the high waist of the shorts.

And don't get me wrong, the texturing is fabulous, it's even better in world, but...where on earth would I wear this?? It's too casual for intimate apparel; it's too intimate for streetwear!

Sari Telling hid the thirty-third stone in a rather clever place, gaining hunters a lovely harvest-themed pantskirt set:


Which didn't seem to go with the rest of the hunt items, but screw that, it's Sari!

Now we jump ahead to the hunt gift from Split Pea, which I'm keeping at least the second one of: it's two headband-and-feathers combos, both perfect for flapper outfits and other 1920's-1930's costume outfits:


They're flexi, too, the feathers. Nicely, nicely done.

Ahead to the Sea Hole's hunt gift, and I can't rez this one out on my land currently--it's over 49 prims. But here's a picture you can look at over on Little Miss Hater's blog.

Don't know if I'm keeping that, either, but I do know I want to see it rezzed out, at least once.

Two stones later brings us to Turnip Homes' gifts--one's the Creature of the Deep hair that must be seen to be believed, and then there's the boxed art piece, Sea Horse


That's just...phenomenally fun, that is.

Finally, d-LAB's summer mole hat:


The mole is twee beyond belief.

But, even granting I keep all ten of the items I'm showing you? That still leaves fifty-one stores in this hunt alone that I traveled to, dug around in, found the stone in, bought the stone, took them home, unpacked them, rezzed them out or tried them on...

...and threw them away in horror.

This is the problem with grid-wide hunts. And I'm not saying this is particularly a poor example of the trend. I'm sure--saving everyone but House of Heart, who totally recycled a Hair Fair hand-out for the Skipping Stones hunt--that this group of designers really put their heart and soul into it. They tried to match a theme. They tried to be funky and bohemian. And by and large, they mostly succeeded...but bubble skirts, topless leather outfits and babydoll dresses?

Not my thing.

You can find Skipping Stones hunt tips here; and Anna Zweirs went into all the hunt gifts--first here, and then here.

Now, people have been talking about the massive shoe sale by Doreen Halley on XStreet Uncensored. Why are they talking? Because she's taken many of the sculpt maps that people are using for shoes at Dare Designs, Dilly Dolls, and just about every fetish place on the planet (for the ballet shoes, at least), and offered them up all-in-one, with heel-step sound menus, color/texture shift menus, in seventy-four colors--for three hundred Lindens.

This is causing controversy. Again, why? Because makers are saying she's devaluing everyone elses' hard work. Forget the fact that she routinely sells hundred-Linden versions of these shoes individually, and has done so for months if not years. Forget that people can have sales on XStreet that don't necessarily apply to the in-world price, and that's not unfair practices, because it is a sale.

No, people are mainly pissed because, by releasing three sets of all-in-one shoes, she's leading people to expect these prices from everyone.

Well, since KaShoez has been selling hundred-Linden shoes all along, she could well be doing that. But it still doesn't match the button work on Dare Munro's thigh-high versions, or the unique variations on footwear by companies like Show Me On the Doll who, though they use sculpted shoe maps, don't use those sculpted shoe maps.

There's also apparently a problem in the new build of Emerald resulting in some personal instability with changing SL clothing; the problem is, for most of us, the fix either disables sound/voice, or disables the ability to left-click on objects. Thus rendering us alone in a world without sound or gesture, unable to buy things.

Hmm, well, the first isn't bad...

I had a problem with their comments system, so ended up leaving two messages on it by mistake. Grr.

Lastly, as many of you know, I've had some personal instability of late, which has led to some temporal accidents--one put us in contact with the Autogenica Institute, a thinktank that operates quite some time from where we live on the grid (at least, in Caledon). I don't know how long we'll receive transmissions and updates from them, but it is a morbid, "Oh, we've all died, then?" way.

come down and join the circus, it's the end of your world

Maybe it's just me--maybe it would have been better had I been there--but the slideshow capture of M Linden's keynote address at SLCC? Pretty much comes off as superficial gloss. "We're doing better! We're rebuilding! You'll like it! People already love SL for what it is! And it's GREAT! Woot!"

At the same time, while he mentions his love for "chance encounters", M reveals himself to be as blind as most of the rest of Linden Labs--his answer to where he spends most of his time? Lindenworld. Which you can't get to unless you're a Linden, and as far as I understand, it's 100% Linden content.

While the Lindens are creators, and are obviously creating content, now and in the past...I still say that's exposing the deep disconnect between the average Linden running the game, and the average resident living on the grid.

In other news, disconnection looms again...floated for some hours in limbo earlier, and the final decision was that other services would be disconnected first, before the lifeline. (S'pose I should thank the Powers that Screw With Us they're just as net-dependent as we are.)

August will likely be a complete working...little in-world time...killing every Subscribe-o-Matic I can find, and every group that sends notices to my email...

I am frustrated, angry, resentful, anxious...I am hindered and hobbled, stuck in place, until some shred of light shines for me to leap towards.

Until then, I wait.

In and out of limbo, I wait.

Sit, tied down, and tell myself, the bonds will loosen when we find our way out.

That's all I want now. Just one direction that's less dark than all the other options...and until then, I wait. I watch. I grow more frustrated.

Friday, August 14, 2009

you can stop by for some cookies or some absinthe if you're in the neighborhood

A brief entry today as I move through worlds, breath held at any sound that might signal disconnection.

One thing, though. Via Desmond Shang, this link, on the initial moments of SLCC 2009. This part still kills me:

There were no printed schedules for convention goers, only a whiteboard at the registration desk. There was only one printed schedule, which Linden Lab employees were using until a Second Life member grabbed it, shouting "I paid $200 and I deserve at least this!".

Somehow, that makes sense: chaos and disorganization at the community convention they've been planning for months, now. These are the Lindens we know and, well...endure.

[Save, not so much: Miss chestnut Rau informs me that the SLCC is not affiliated with Linden Labs in the least. So, okay, that (slight) black mark I'll remove from the tally sheet, with understanding and apologies.

[I'll just have to go back to holding against them how they dealt with the OpenSpace/homestead issue, gambling, non-standard-size avatars, the entire debacle of Ursula/Zindra, their acquisition of XStreetSL and ShopOnRez (complete with subsequent killing off of ShopOnRez), and their current proclamation that any form of avatar sexuality (at least if listed on XStreetSL) is "patently offensive".]

One other note, which has little SL relevance, but I want it here because of sheer unadulterated beauty: sand art/animation. Of a sort.

Live from Ukraine.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

and the punchline points at you

One day after the announcement on what's appropriate for XStreetSL listings regarding copyright infringement, people on the grid are getting hit with Abuse Reports on violating copyright. One of those people? Winter Ventura, who also responded to the blog posting:

Aug 11, 2009 6:36 PM in response to: Blue Linden
What about Fandom?

Interesting set of rules, with an interesting lack of tolerance for fandom.


* Star Trek Uniforms
* Batman Costume
* Homer Simpson Avatar
* Gorean... anything.

These types of items have formed the backbone of Secondlife's avatar economy. A new movie comes out, and the content creators spring into action. Transformers, Iron Man, Robocop, Lara Croft... Now you tell us that these items are expressly forbidden.

What does this change mean for the thousands of content creators making items from the "GOR" universe? (will you be removing your "gorean" categories?) Can we assume also that your Anime Avatars and [Fairy] Tale categories will be going away too?

Gone will be the Barbies and Cinderellas and Alice in Wonderland avatars. No more outfits from the Matrix, no more Captain Jack Sparrows.. no more Mechwarrior mecha, no more Batmobiles, no more Cylons or [Battle] Droids, or Jedi robes. No Lightsabers, Portal Guns, no more Halo gear, and no more Stargates.

What an interesting world of imagination you're building here.

Pink Linden responded back:


The imaginative world of Second Life is still available--items that no one has ever dreamed of can be made by anyone with imagination, talent, and desire. In addition, there are business opportunities to obtain rights to produce real world branded items in Second Life--with permission from the rights owners.

So essentially: it has to be original, OR you have to be involved in a small enough fandom/roleplay community to get effective permission, OR you have to so substantially alter the item in question that it looks like a completely original which point you might as well give up and make original things.

But none of that is the point, because--nothing applies to the grid yet. It's just on XStreetSL--for now, at least.

But as expected, the Lindens hand down a policy with any vague content whatsoever, and people misunderstand it to the best of their ability. So people are having grand fun currently tossing around Abuse Reports and screaming in IM at each other for assumed "violations".

Oh, yeah, this is going to be fun for the next few months.

Pursuant to the above...maybe, if only sidewise...oddity found out researching the summer stamp rally run:


This is, uh, available at Anuenue's 'brother' business, NoaR. Sculpted and everything.

I guess...if you're that much of an RHCP fan??

I suppose, were this listed on XStreet, you could just handily remove the references to the band, and pictures of Anthony Kiedis and Flea...and it'd likely still fly,'s still baffling.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

among the roots and baby's breath, I covered us with silver leaves

The Lindens have released some new guidelines for listing items on XStreetSL.

This includes the new "Branding Guidelines", which I've included below:
Branding Guidelines

Branded items may be listed or sold only by the brand or intellectual property owner or its authorized agents. A "branded item" is an item that:

* contains or uses a brand name or logo;

* replicates or closely imitates the appearance of a real-world physical product of a brand owner (for example, items that replicate the appearance of brands of cars, jewelry, or shoes that are available in the real world);

* replicates or closely imitates the appearance of a celebrity, famous person, or fictional character from a copyrighted work (for example, avatars that replicate the appearance of movie stars or characters from a book, film, television program, or game); or

* replicates or uses an artistic or creative work that is the subject of copyright (for example, virtual artwork that replicates artwork available in the real world or a sound clip that includes part of a song recording).

"Brand names" include product names; service names; company names; organization names; trade names; designer names; trademarks; service marks; celebrity names; famous persons' names; the unique names of well-known books, films, television programs, games, and other works that are the subject of copyright; and the unique names of well-known fictional characters from copyrighted works.

Be careful not to make comparisons to a brand name or say that your item is "like," "inspired by," or "based on" a brand name because this can be misleading and can lead to intellectual property infringement.

When including pictures in your listings, use a picture that accurately represents your item so that buyers are not confused about what you're selling. Never copy or use someone else's pictures or logos without their permission.

If you are a brand or intellectual property owner or the authorized agent of one, consider making others aware of this information by including it in your listing.

If we receive a complaint from a brand or intellectual property owner, or if we believe in good faith that your listing violates these Branding Guidelines or intellectual property law, we reserve the right to remove your listing and content (including content in Second Life associated with the listing) and in severe or repeat cases revoke your Xstreet SL and Second Life privileges.

You are responsible for ensuring that your listings and content comply with applicable intellectual property laws. Please be aware that your compliance with these Branding Guidelines does not guarantee your compliance with all intellectual property laws. For general information about intellectual property and our intellectual property complaint procedures, please go here. If you need advice on intellectual property law, we suggest you contact an attorney.


This Is Acceptable:

* An item that uses a brand name (like Gucci®, Nike®, or Rolex®) can be listed only if the item is officially offered or authorized by the brand owner (for example, Gucci America, Inc., Nike, Inc., or Rolex Watch U.S.A., Inc.).

* An item that uses a celebrity or famous name (like Angelina Jolie or Barack Obama) can be listed only if the item is officially offered or authorized by the celebrity or famous person (for example, Angelina Jolie or Barack Obama).

* A virtual car that looks like a particular brand of cars (like Mercedes-Benz®) and uses the logo of the brand can be listed only if the virtual car is officially offered or authorized by the brand owner (for example, Daimler AG).

* An avatar that has the appearance of a fictional character from a copyrighted work (like Darth Vader or Wonder Woman) and uses the character name can be listed only if the avatar is officially offered or authorized by the intellectual property owner of the character (for example, Lucasfilm Entertainment Co. Ltd. or DC Comics).

* Virtual artwork that replicates copyrighted artwork that is available in the real world (like the artwork of Andy Warhol or M.C. Escher) can be listed only if the virtual artwork is officially offered or authorized by the intellectual property owner of the artwork (for example, The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc. or The M.C. Escher Company B.V.).

This Is NOT Acceptable:

* A virtual sneaker named after a sneaker brand available in the real world (like Adidas® or Converse®) cannot be listed if the listing party is not the brand owner (for example, Adidas America, Inc. or Converse Inc.) or officially authorized by the brand owner.

* A virtual t-shirt with the logo of a real-world brand (like a Mickey Mouse® logo or an NFL® logo) cannot be listed if the listing party is not the brand owner (for example, Disney Enterprises, Inc. or the National Football League) or officially authorized by the brand owner.

* Virtual furniture with the distinctive appearance of a brand of furniture available in the real world (like the Eames® lounge chair and ottoman) cannot be listed if the listing party is not the brand owner (for example, Herman Miller, Inc.) or officially authorized by the brand owner.

* An avatar that has the appearance of a celebrity (for example, Elvis Presley or Marilyn Monroe) cannot be listed if the listing party is not the owner of the celebrity's right of publicity (or the right to use the celebrity's appearance, for example, Elvis Presley Enterprises, Inc. or Marilyn Monroe LLC) or officially authorized by the celebrity rights owner.

* Lists of unrelated brand names cannot be included in a listing or hidden by using white-on-white text, tiny fonts, special HTML code, or other means intended to circumvent the rules. (See also Keyword Spam below.)

* Misspelling brand names or adding, removing, or swapping some characters to try to circumvent the rules, for example, using the number "1" instead of the letter "I" or a dollar sign "$" instead of the letter "S," is not allowed.
This is what I want to know:

1. What happens to once-copyrighted items that are now in the public domain? Are they now also banned because someone once registered them for copyright?

2. What happens to the roleplay groups who play Jedi and Sith in the Tatooine sim? What happens to the roleplay groups of Time Lords and Gallifreyans who roleplay Dr. Who? What happens to the several different styles of StarGate systems, which may or may not be called StarGates? Many items they play with come off XStreetSL, like uniforms, TARDIS rooms, lightsabers...

3. What happens to Gor? TONS of Gorean items on XStreet, what happens to them?

My biggest question, though? Why in the hell are they doing this? Who's been telling them SL is in violation of copyright? (Note: I'm not saying that all of SL is free of these issues; I'm asking who complained.) Because this is so wide and sweeping a policy--and if it's implemented on XStreet, you can bet in less than a month it will show up on Second Life at large--it seems absolutely inconceiveable this wasn't a crackhead idea developed by the Lindens themselves.

EFF agrees that copyright in Second Life is a mess.

Abuse reports auto-reject reports of copyright infringement.

[19:02] Winter Ventura: I would really like a world in which the Lindens don't try to blow up the economy every thirty days

Yeah, really.

[19:08] Emilly Orr: They're doing everything they can to make their game fail.
[19:08] Winter Ventura: They're doing everything they can to chase away everyone who loves this game.

That too.

This? Is sheer insanity.

(I also had to grab this, while I was reading over the new guidelines:

Adult Guidelines

All uploaded or posted material falling under any of the following definitions of "Adult" content must be marked as such by checking the "Adult" checkbox in the Add or Update Item page for the material:

  • Patently offensive, obscene, vulgar, or profane language.
  • Visual depictions of death, dismemberment, or serious bodily injury.
  • Visual depictions of patently offensive sexual conduct including, but not limited to, sex acts between consenting parties and masturbation.
  • Visual depictions of nudity including, but not limited to, exposed pubic area, genitalia, buttocks, and female nipples.

However, "Adult" content does not include any of the following material, which is not allowed to be uploaded or posted on the Xstreet SL marketplace under any circumstances:

  • Explicit sexual material depicting minors (person(s) under the legal age, mental, or physical capacity to give consent);
  • Explicit sexual material involving any person(s) without the consent of all parties involved (i.e., rape).

The terms "party" and "person" as used above include avatars.

We may remove listings that contain "Adult" content if they are not marked as such.

So...let me get this straight: depictions of non-consensual sex are not allowed, ever. Okay. Depicting underage non-consensual sex are not allowed, ever. Okay.

I get both of those.

Depictions of consenting sex between adults; depictions of any level of nudity, INCLUDING rear nude shots where only the rear of the avatar is shown at ALL; THAT is "patently offensive".

They're going to ban all sexual content soon. I have this feeling. It's very nearly a prophetic vision. Wanna take bets on how soon I'm going to be right?

Sunday, August 9, 2009

forever now unsaid, the words that might have warmed December

To be clear, regarding yesterday's post, it's all about discretion, you see. For all my failures--and I have had them--in this arena, this much I know and know well: running a house of pleasure is no picnic, not the least of which is that running one openly means everyone knows. And those who are bitter of spirit will never let anyone else forget exactly what Mlle. Artaud is doing in that two-story brownstone with the red-shuttered windows.

So the first lesson is always, Be discreet. Remember, these are lives and reputations you are playing with. One does not patronize a courtesan who speaks of assignations willfully and flagrantly; at least, unless said gentleman feels they have no other choice.

To that end, while someone is always free to portray a slattern of no fixed abode, no fixed skill, no change of attire, and certainly no sense of discretion at all, one must also realize that even the market for those particular "ladies" is slim: after all, where are the soot-darkened bricks of Whitechapel, where are the shanties thrown up beside the docks?

First, build your dock...

Discretion is important, discretion is key. Also important is willingness. While the types of women men patronize are staggeringly varied indeed, they generally (at least to modern sensibilities) share one asset: they want to do what they're doing, or at least, they want the clinking coin they can hear jingling in the pocket. It is the rare female indeed who can build custom around unwillingness, or fighting back; though, admittedly, the prices tend to go much, much higher.

But even with these damsels, discretion must be preserved. Discretion. Willingness. Adaptability. These are not just words, they are foundations of the courtesan's art.

And this is what so bothers me about this particular school of roleplay, I think: the pretense.

To be clear, the pretense of being one thing openly, while being another thing in private, is not new in any world. Ladies of the evening frequently must conceal what they do from public view, or risk extreme public censure (and in some cases, arrest, beating, and even death). But to hide what one does, to be discreet, to conceal behind a sheer cloth of innuendo and sidewise wording, the true purpose of her endeavors...that, in itself, can be a form of art.

This is not Miss Easterman's goal. This is what is, and remains, so very frustrating--she makes no attempt to hide who she is and what she does--and what the 'maids in training' at her school do. Yet, she expects the frequent use of *doe eyes* in conversation to take away all responsibility for whatever she says after.

When the statements start out with "Maid School Training Class" and end up with "From a BDSM perspective..." there can be no doubt what is really going on, and what the true point of such "training" is.

Let me be frank: I have no objections to escorting, as a profession. I have no objections to the establishment of houses of ill repute, in or out of Caledon and the steamlands. I have no objections to BDSM; dominance; submission; and fetish in general. I don't mind these things. (Gad, you should see my latex folder, it's getting to the point I'm going to have to confine myself to five categories--costumes; bodysuits; accessories; dresses; AOs--and delete the rest!)

What I mind is being blatant about it. And yes, thank you, I can say that, because being blatant here, outside Caledon, in a blog where I not infrequently talk about the grid at large is vastly different from asking to be bound to one of the telehub's central supports in Victoria City, say, or describing how much I like to be spanked in public chat!

(...okay, I take the first one back, Miss Easterman has never asked to be tied to anything in Victoria City. That I know of. Though she has asked to be taken to the nearest gentleman's dungeon, and "punished properly" for being "bad"--and yes, she has described how much she adores spanking in ISC chat.)

There is a vast difference between hinting and stating outright. And for me, at least, if not many others, there is no difference between statements preceded or followed by *doe eyes* and STATING OUTRIGHT.

To use the nomenclature: if you're a whore, even if you despise the term, then just embrace it, and see where it takes you. If you're a maid, then GODDAMN IT ACT LIKE ONE.

Meanwhile, there are new products at Lady Disdain above Autogenic Alchemy in Caledon Penzance. Check the Autogenica blog for more details and SLUrls.

Friday, August 7, 2009

like a million times before, no dignity or grace, it's the price and not the race

It floated across the Caledon chat...

[19:06] Bamika Easterman: Today's Maid school lesson is "The Naughty Maid." - 2PM and 7PM SLT - All welcome. Full lesson notifications may be found at ( ). The school is located in Caledon Southend at ( ).

I realize I'm in the midst of getting yanked from world, of gritting my teeth at the knowledge that I cannot even grant reliable net connection to fulfill my Radio Riel hosting duties, that I have no idea when I'm going to be pulled back into limbo of an yes, all of this may be making me more friable, emotionally, than usual...

...but SERIOUSLY now, is this necessary?!? EVER???

You know what's the most galling thing about this? No one cares. I'm deadly serious--no one, not one of you, cares. Even as I post this, there are other things I could do--speak to her personally; register a complaint with Des; leave a reply on the Steamlands forum...

...and granted, for this, maybe this blog posting counts, but honestly, this is so far beyond 'wink and a nudge' innuendo...

Last week's "class" of "appropriate kneeling times"...that was pushing the bounds of propriety into the wall.

This week? Forget pushing, we're talking aggravated assault on decency, with a potential rape and battery charge.

This is insane, people. And no one's going to deal with it. Not even me.

Which means Bamika gets to continue exercising her love for fetish in public, with zero controls and apparently mass resident approval--is ANY of this sinking in??

Probably not. It's not right, it's not sane, but no one gives one single silver farthing for standing up and stopping her. NO. ONE.

Not Des. Certainly no estate manager. Definitely no Caledon residents.

No, you're all just jollying her along, "oh, that's just Bamika, you know, she's like that--"

But no one wants to step up and say, No. Not this time. This goes too far.

What happens next week, gentle friends? When she's explored appropriate kneeling practices, with references to Gorean terms, Gorean attire, and the fine art of blowjobs in the parlor? What happens after this week, when the entire thing is how to best portray yourself as a slut for hire?

How to properly conceal a prim pregnancy in formal maid attire?

When is it appropriate to wear heavy rubber and butt plugs to work?

The guidelines for tearing one's mobcap and skirt aside, and pleading to be fucked in front of visiting relatives in the manor house?

I am so far past hinting at this point. It's cowardice to let her go on with this, yet we all let her go on, and WE. DON'T. CARE what she does!

Were it not that she puts "maid" in the titles of her little school postings? They would have NOTHING TO DO with Caledon at large. And it seems like, hiring any maid from her Maid School? Would get you a maid who knew nothing of protocol, nothing of appropriate servile roleplay, nothing of where to get scrubbing and washing animations...

...but everything on how to beg for sex and heavy punishment.

It's sickening. It is anti-Caledon. And everyone puts up with it!

Why? Just ask yourselves that. Why?

Because my only answer to that is that yelling at her in public just gets my stress level up, and doesn't change anything she does by one single pixel, and nothing changes in the least.

So what's your answer, Caledon?

(The notice to the Steamlands forum page, by the way, can be read here.)

Monday, August 3, 2009

I thought all that blood had been shed long ago

The Train Wreck's moving into jagged terrain at present, and floating off into limbo. The blog will be on hiatus until we're out of cautioned lands. The SLife is taking a (hopefully brief) vacation as well. I'll hope to see you soon. Take care.

((aka, the roommates took the router. We're working on it. But we might be moving sooner than planned...))

Sunday, August 2, 2009

I'm not here for your entertainment, you don't really want to mess with me tonight

STEAM: Steampunk Travelers' Event, Adventure & Megahunt

STEAM: the Hunt!

This is the first ever Steampunk Grid-Wide hunt! There has never been a Steampunk-themed hunt before, so this will be very exciting and fun. STEAM will take place during the month of September, 1st-30th. The gifts will remain available for the entire month... if you can find them!

There will be many Steampunk-themed gifts to find hidden all over the grid in participating shops. You'll be offered a variety of gifts as you search for the hidden items. Only high-quality designers have been invited to participate, and their exclusive items will be available only for the duration of the hunt.

As with most hunts, you will be given a starting location. That location will give you the LM to the next, and so on.

Please drop by this shop closer to the hunt, click on the GEAR, and receive the starting location!

...Riiiight. I wonder, just out of idle curiosity, if anyone in Caledon, New Babbage, or Steelhead has been contacted about this hunt? Considering it's a "Steampunk-themed hunt", comprised of "high-quality designers"?

Though I am informed after the fact that Mr. Allen was contacted; but as he loathes the very existence of grid-wide hunts, he chose not to participate.

You'll want to drop a notecard on Mr. Perryn Peterson closer to the time of the hunt, if you have questions or want more information.

Meanwhile, back to other hunt annoyance. Burning Chrome took part in the Sci-Fi Hunt, and their hunt sign was on display near the door. The hunt gift? Was forty-two meters away.

I swear, this ENTIRE hunt is so stupidly done...

How'ver, the Burning Chrome gift, at least, was worth the insane length of time it took to track it down: namely, three Twi'lek skins, two texture-changing and tintable Lekku, and some chromed sabers just for fun.

So far, I'm up to four things I'm definitely keeping from this hunt:

* Katey's Bespin hair;
* Likka House's "Angelic Game" outfit;
* Stringer Mausoleum's Pipoptical tropical-fish hair;
* and the Twi'lek avatar set mentioned above.

In further perusal of the hunt locations, we have found it, the single ugliest square of carpet ever seen on SL:


Think I kid? That's a straight shot. But go see for yourself.

Rogue Designs had something even more amusing than hunting down the sparkly orb, though:


Now that's comedy. They also have a small line of steampunk outfits on the back wall that...well...

Just don't laugh too hard when you see them.

In the end, we finally tracked down a hint list; personally, me, I'm fine with not having hints, I just want SLUrls. That's not too much to ask. But still, all the stores I wanted to visit--after tearing my hair out with the stores I never want to see again--well, that list helped.

The Skipping Stones hunt has a lot of good merchants and makers; that starts on the tenth. And the Black Keys hunt brings us a hunt that has an unusual theme: all black. Perplexing. That starts on the fifteenth.

And there's a hunt I might be joining, but...well, more on that later. Because it would mean participating in a grid-wide hunt! NOOOOOO!

In the meantime, I have what I have and I have tons more to delete, and all in all--save for a side trip to Balderdash for her Restless Ghost, argh--it was a fairly low-key (and low-expense) day. Not too bad all told.

you're my perfect little punching bag

Six or seven stops in on the "Sci-Fi and Fantasie Grid-Wide Hunt" (I know, I KNOOOW what I said, but somewhere in this there's HAIR), Magia failed utterly twice:

1. They put their orb somewhere between 30-40 meters from the hunt sign, when the stated limit is 20 meters, by hunt organizer edict; and

2. Their prize was an Edward Cullen outfit.

They FAIL.

Bubblegum Boutique also failed partially, in calling this:


The "Victorian Angel" dress. Victorian? With that cleavage??

And in Florida Paradise, complete and utter fail: the orb could not be bought. Apparently Trena Chenille was such a complete ditz, she set the orb to sell original contents.


So we jumped ahead to the one place we knew we wanted something from: Katey's, which has both Padawan and Bespin hair. Which looked damned cool in the promo photo (and the Bespin hair, at least? Looks AWESOME on; the On the Loose blog has pictures).

Unfortunately, that left us at Store #56, so we skipped to the next spot...which happened to be Trip With Tink, which had another hunt they were advertising:


This is Trip With Tink's main floor, if you've never been:


Riiight....animated unicorn and kitten poofers, and sparkly sparkly mushrooms are so dark, edgy and dangerous, so deeply..."Twisted"....I rest my case.

Seriously, guys, what the hell is wrong with people? Every single grid-wide hunt we've ever gone on, maybe--and it's a big maybe--5% of all stores have anything even vaguely in theme with the stated hunt.

The first Twisted hunt, as it happened, actually did better than average--about 15% of all stores had something to do with the stated theme (which, as with this one, is supposed to be a compilation hunt of dark/evil/twisted/BDSM/gothic/vampire/demonic retailers, for all your "dark Twisted needs"). But that left the staggering 85% that didn't, and, when we got to the store that was giving away pink sequined dresses, we threw up our hands in utter disgust and walked away from the hunt.

This year looks to be worse.

So far, Neon Hammerer (who runs the Putrid Cafe in the Wastelands) wins the hunt, hands down. She actually had an inventive idea, executed it, and included a notecard telling how she was inspired to make her hunt prize. Kudos to her. for she didn't include a GODDAMN LANDMARK FOR THE NEXT PLACE....

Done. SO done with this damned thing.

Okay, moving on. I was joining the Complainer's Brigade on this until I did a little study on it--and read some blogs, talked to some creators, you know the drill....

So my position has changed, somewhat. I still support a closer-to-instantaneous switch-over--in that they should fix the 'bug' of avatar hiding, and replace it at the same time with avatar masking code (glitches in which are causing me and others to appear sometimes without faces, just big eyes--see my current profile pic for an example). But I now agree with the Lindens that this bug should be fixed, it's a potentially dangerous exploit in the wrong hands, and pretty damned insane in inexperienced ones--I mean, just think of someone who doesn't get that the 'hide avatar' function of that particular prim is achieved only by torturing an insanely huge megaprim--what if they try to rez that sucker out?

Simcrash. Possibly multi-simcrash. Possibly grid shutdown until someone can get in and delete that non-resolving prim. Which, if we're talking severe inexperience, will likely be rezzed out, and, if not returned, will then glitch and go physical, or something equally fun.

The best explanation of the screaming match, for people who don't want to read through the whole thing? Is BlueClaw Diesel's:

1. The bug was identified as a bug/hack whatever
2. LL warned people NOT to build content around it because it would eventually get fixed.
3. People ignored it and built entire business's around it
4. LL finally gets to fixing the BUG/HACK/EXPLOIT
5. Hilarity ensues.

Pretty much. Can we all move on to serious issues now? This was a bad way to hide the avatar mesh, get over it. Oh, and this line of Myra Remblai's?

Ever seen an old micro? They don't animate because the avatar mesh is hidden underground. Hiding the avatar mesh some other way is infinitely better since it allows articulation.

Yeah, um...Myra? You're wrong, here. Talk to Jen and Seven Shikami over at Seven's Selections; they have a micro-fairy that perches atop a hidden avatar's (hidden below the ground) head; I have one. Unless I'm wrong, I remember the wings fluttering. Unless you don't count flexi wings as "movement", in which could always make flexi limbs, with a small enough beetle, or snail or something, it would still work.


You know, I had reconsidered, I thought the "complete ditz" remark I made earlier was very much on the harsh side? But, harsh though it may be, it stands after this:

[6:03] Trena Chenille: emily the orb on the sign is an example only---the orb with the gift is inside the store.--i have removed the example so that those like you will not be confused.

Oh, good, I'm so glad no more people like me will be confused. Gosh, that's grand news.

So perhaps I was less than politic in the answer back:

[6:08] Emilly Orr: Pardon, but generally, the example orbs? Say so. This one said it was orb ten. But thanks for clearing up the confusion, though--isn't any one of the stores from the sign position more than 20 meters away?

And her reply?

[6:12] Trena Chenille: it was cleared as ok before the hunt began and i have had many people take the orb so it was ok before i left late last night

Well, good then. Glad to know the organizers don't care about their rules either.

I haaate grid-wide hunts.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

temporary happiness is like waiting for the knife

“Never trust a computer you can’t throw out a window.”
(Steve Wozniak)

Postponing the sculpt commentary for the gleanings from an earlier conversation, which can be roughly titled Where the Lindens Went Wrong, frankly. And for this, we finally decided, we had to go all the way back to 2003, for the core seeds of the current problems.

Why 2003? I mean, SL was just starting out. They couldn't have made that many mistakes their first year, right?

Actually...yes. And they're still reinforcing some of them, and making other mistakes worse by trying to patch the problems raised. Factor in several hundred unintended consequences...and you'll find that's why we are where we are now.

“Hardware: The parts of a computer system that can be kicked.”
(Jeff Pesis)

First, the transition from primvatars to full avatars, which created the thirty-six attachment points--because those were the points developed for attachment of each prim for the primvatar, before the replacement with the polygonal mesh we have now. There didn't used to be any upper limit for each attachment point, because it was thought no one would ever want to push that boundary--primvatars were blocky, overlarge, shambling stumbling things, and it was pretty much a relief to everyone when the avatar mesh was introduced.

“I’ve finally learned what ‘upward compatible’ means. It means we get to keep all our old mistakes.”
(Dennie van Tassel)

The real, fundamental issue--and the main point of disconnection between residents and Lindens--is in what Linden Labs actually is--at first, Philip Rosedale wanted a physical way to give computer users virtual immersion technology. But between 2000 and 2003, Rosedale changed his mind and started developing an immersive virtual world (originally called Linden World, and up until I started researching this piece, I honestly thought the Blair Witch 2 Webfest weekend had utilized early SL technology; turns out it was actually a project).

“It is not about bits, bytes and protocols, but profits, losses and margins.”
(Lou Gerstner)

So, Torley and the recent hire of Cyn notwithstanding, what you had in Linden Labs were a group of software developers who primarily seemed to be hunting for a way for business types to cross-platform easily and collaboratively--that ultimately, users of Windows, Macintosh and Linux, scattered through Seoul, Paris, Los Angeles and Taipei, could all get together in one virtual room and trade information back and forth.

There are several problems with that, not the least the proprietary struggles, but let's step aside from that. That's our bottom line--that's the Lindens' bottom line, becoming the ultimate business app. And that's fine for a bottom line, folks have done more with less on a pretty much consistent basis--but that ignores the unintended consequences of virtual-world development.

Namely, their residents.

“Complexity kills. It sucks the life out of developers, it makes products difficult to plan, build and test, it introduces security challenges, and it causes end-user and administrator frustration.”
(Ray Ozzie)

Or take the first sims that existed on the grid--spaces were parceled out for individual residency (the Lindens needed beta testers for the developing program, which was how many people started off on the grid), but the total prims were shared. So people started stockpiling prims: if they wanted fifty prims for a project, say, they'd pay the prim tax (prims used to have a prim tax, per each prim, to be rezzed out at all), then leave those prims piled on their land somewhere, so no one else could grab those prims away--because all prims were shared, remember?

Which is how sim prim limits were developed, because the Lindens had never considered how people would deal with virtual real estate, prior to people actually being on the grid, and dealing with the issues.

“There are two major products that come out of Berkeley: LSD and UNIX. We don’t believe this to be a coincidence.”
(Jeremy S. Anderson)

Unintended consequences. We, the grid residents, are the unintended consequences. For example, let's talk about gambling. Gambling became a thing in SL because there were no rules against it. There were no rules against it because the Lindens (again, not thinking of the potential down side) didn't think they needed to make any. Why would anyone bother with virtual gambling in Second Life? There were enough virtual casinos on the web!

But people did. People wanted to gamble here. And for a while, the Lindens looked the other way--and I truly do not believe maliciously, but decidedly unthinkingly, because--being a software company, primarily packed with software developers--they just didn't think of the larger picture. (The larger picture, in terms of gambling, being the illegality of it in certain areas.)

Most of you are familiar with the virtues of a programmer. There are three, of course: laziness, impatience, and hubris.”
(Larry Wall)

Unintended consequences. They banned gambling, figured everyone would shrug and move on, and instead, suddenly had mass emails, IMs, phone calls, and in-person visits to the San Fran offices. Something they had never, ever seen coming, and they had no real clue how to fix it. Many big-money players left SL never to return, and the economy staggered because of it--something else Linden Labs never saw coming, nor actually sat down and thought through.

Software developers. Unintended consequences.

“That’s the thing about people who think they hate computers. What they really hate is lousy programmers.”
(Larry Niven)

Or ageplay, for instance. (Which, by the way, just for the record--"ageplay" does NOT automatically equal pedophilia. I don't care how many people want to argue that. It doesn't.) "Ageplay" was so broadly co-opted as "sex with children" that even for those of us who understood the actual meaning as something far different, we still had that twitch of emotional connection; and many, many users felt personally discriminated against, in ways that made them leave the grid.

Unintended consequences. More grid departures.

“Writing code has a place in the human hierarchy worth somewhere above grave robbing and beneath managing.”
(Gerald Weinberg)

Or the replicant/grey goo problems that plagued September of 2006--breaking equipment, crashing sims, creating huge no-rez/no-script zones in many public areas. Basically, looking back on things, that one finally breaks down to rampant homophobia (since nearly all attacks were propagated by members of various 4-chan groups devoted to stamping out all 'fur fags', in RL and on the net) among men who saw the growing 'acceptance' of furs on SL as a personal affront to their campaign to push all gays off the net. For that, the rest of us had to suffer, but again, the Lindens didn't seem to completely connect things.

Unintended consequences. For software developers, replicants are essentially 'spam'--id est, they had several pop-up attacks, and just needed to figure out the right way to block them. After some initial failures, they hit on a method that worked, and voila, problem solved.

“First, solve the problem. Then, write the code.”
(John Johnson)

But for their residents, it was yet another chip away at the supposed omnipotence of Linden: that the Lindens not only could be wrong, but frequently were wrong, in how they went about solving the grid's problems.

Or take the OpenSpace/Homestead issue. The Lindens could have solved that entire problem by saying, these are limited-use sims intended solely for reinforcing point-of-view between you and other sims. They have script and prim limitations. They are not intended for living/working spaces.

Instead? What came across when they were offered was, Come get one, or five, these are SO COOL! You can do ANYTHING with them and you can AFFORD them! EVERYONE can own a sim now! You can set up the best nightclub EVERRRRR!

Yeah. That worked out.

“Optimism is an occupational hazard of programming; feedback is the treatment.”
(Kent Beck)

We're back to unintended consequences again. Do I think the Lindens deliberately misdirected people who bought into OpenSpace sims? Yeah, maybe a little. Do I think they never saw the backlash against them coming, though? Yeah, maybe a LOT. Because again--software developers. "Okay, that didn't work, oops, back to the drawing board." No big loss. Code can be broken; they can fix bad code. Code can be broken but can be worked around; they can patch bad code. No big deal.

But to residents? This was bait-and-switch. To residents, this was lying, in the minds of many, many who frankly, couldn't afford to convert over to a full sim, and thus did lose out--money and time spent and in some cases, reputation. (To be fair to the Lindens on this one, nothing in either the Terms of Service or Community standards guarantees that anyone will be able to make a profit from Second Life. So complaining about profits lost? Is pretty much just empty complaining.)

“The use of COBOL cripples the mind; its teaching should therefore be regarded as a criminal offense.”
(E.W. Dijkstra)

Does it begin to make sense yet? Prim attachment limits, to a Linden, is sort of odd and inconceivable--why would people want to attach more than 256 prims to any single attachment spot on the avatar? Why, for that matter, does anyone want more than thirty-six attachment points on the avatar? Who needs more than that?

“In C++ it’s harder to shoot yourself in the foot, but when you do, you blow off your whole leg.”
(Bjarne Stroustrup)

But residents, now, they take limits as end goals; most programmers will hear "256 prim attachment limit" and think, okay, so it's very unstable at the high end, strong on the low, and one to ten prims attached together will be perfectly fine and functional.

Most residents? Hear the 256 first. I've come across 273 prim hair before. I've come across 993 in a fully primmed-out robot avatar. I've found 600-prim tiaras before (generally on 200-plus prim hair!), and that's not even getting into fur avatars, which frequently go very high-prim indeed. Detail costs, we're told, but are we costing it out using the same value sets?

Software programmers. A group of heavily disconnected thinkers of the new net who see their avatars as 3D equivalents of chatroom icons, for the most part. They don't see the need to update, that's not them, that's just--you know, how they look in that moment. That's their visual identification. That's a logo. That's a detail.

Residents. A group of highly divergent dreamers on the grid who see their avatars as virtual extensions of themselves, for the most part. They see the need to update, they see the need for the clothes, the hair, the shoes, the houses, the weddings, the funerals, the babies, the vacation spots, the dance clubs, the parties, the theatres, the perfect skins, perfect shapes...that may not be them, individually, in real life--but it's more than a logo, it's a persona. It's everything.

If Java had true garbage collection, most programs would delete themselves upon execution.”
(Robert Sewell)

Or let's talk about Zindra again. Horrible idea, start to finish. Worst execution of anything the Lindens have ever done, hands down. Decried from conception as irretrievably stupid, and the single greatest proof that the Lindens purely and simply do not care.

Right? Or wrong? I mean, I know I've said that before, but am I being unfair to the Lindens in this?

I think the answer is, obscurely, yes and no. Because again, let's go back to the unintended consequences. What was the end goal of Zindra, after all? No one at the Labs could contemplate bringing in GM, say, for a car-based sim (ignoring the fiasco that was the Pontiac/Motoroka sim), having them search for....for...hells, let's say spark plugs...and have them get an endless amount of bondage/camgirl/free Lindens/newbie bits advertisements in return. They felt pushed against the wall by everything the residents were doing to their work in developing the perfect cross-platform business app.

So what do they do? They have to get rid of adult content without getting rid of it. So they decide on a new continent, with new rules, and new restrictions. They'll move everyone who has current adult content over there, and--voila, problem solved!

“You can’t have great software without a great team, and most software teams behave like dysfunctional families.”
(Jim McCarthy)

There are several problems with this, as we're back to unintended consequences again, but the largest one was the emotional impact on residents--and remember, that split between what the Labs think they know about the grid, and what we think we know about the grid, is a vast and wide abyss indeed. Where the Labs thought they were making it easier on everyone by just subdividing content--a very common practice in software development--almost every resident directly concerned thought of one thing: forced relocation.

You can't force pixels to relocate, you just move them. Pixels aren't people; it's just going from 01100110 01110010 01101001 01100101 01101110 01100100 01110011 to 01100110 01110101 01100011 01101011 01101001 01101110 01100111, so what's the big deal?

But to the avatars involved--or, put more precisely, the people who feel that those pixels are virtual representations of themselves, or their characters, or how they want to be seen--well, there have been comparisons to internment camps, to the Trail of Tears, to repression, to dictatorial recidivism--and, leaving aside the notion that there is no freedom of speech or action, when it all comes down to it, in Second Life, because ultimately, it's entirely a Linden playspace start to finish--that became a breaking point between the Labs and much of the grid.

Unintended consequences. Software never intended for residential use. And the ultimate irony, software that doesn't do a single thing towards the main goal of meeting in virtual boardrooms and exchanging information--because we still must go to the site chosen (hoping we don't crash), upload the image as a texture (then pay for it), hand it over to whomever else (who has to accept it), then wait for them to download it to their own computers!

The entire thing could be, and has been for years now, done better just sending emails!

“Debugging is twice as hard as writing the code in the first place. Therefore, if you write the code as cleverly as possible, you are–by definition–not smart enough to debug it.”
(Brian Kernighan)

There's a maxim that states: a company that receives one letter, knows about eight people thought about sending a letter, and they might need to think more about that advertising campaign or that product. A company that receives ten letters, knows about one hundred people thought about sending a letter, and they definitely need to think about that ad campaign, or pull/change that product. A company that receives one thousand letters knows that nearly everyone wanted to send a letter; that company goes into hiding, or changes its name, or ceases operation.

It seemed to us, when talking this over, that the Lindens do this in reverse. One IM (or email, or live chat conversation, from the right person) they tend to put a great deal of value on. Ten IMs or emails, they hold a brown-bag meeting or advertise when office hours are in their block, because they're "open to feedback". 2500 IMs or emails, they completely ignore, though, because obviously, that many people are just responding to someone else, not anything the Lindens have done; it's just base hyperbole and rumor at that point, and can be completely--and easily, as we've seen--ignored entirely.

“Always code as if the guy who ends up maintaining your code will be a violent psychopath who knows where you live.”
(Martin Golding)

It was suggested, at one point in the conversation, that what Linden Labs really needs to do is hire their 25 harshest critics, and listen to what they have to say about the state of the grid. Because while things could get much worse than they are now, at least they'd know how their policies would be received.

Lindens? You know how to reach me.

Some discussion on megaprims as attachments.

And sadly, the truth of this cannot be denied.

Tomorrow, sculpts about the grid.