Tuesday, August 31, 2010

my heart is always running out of time

"To write a good love letter, you ought to begin without knowing what you mean to say, and to finish without knowing what you have written." ~Jean Jacques Rousseau

Dear heart,

In Aprille, I broke up with you. And you said no. I remember being more curious than hurt, at that point, and that was likely my undoing: because I wanted to know the why, more than I wanted to hold the line.

Every since then, I have had this feeling that I was limping along, sometimes at your side, sometimes farther back, and while I feel sure you noticed, I'm not sure you ever understood why. If you didn't see it before, see it now: because, for everything I tried, everything you tried, nothing mended that breach. In my heart, if not my mind, I knew we had come to the end of things. Whatever was past that point was in whatever future we will have, whether we share that future or not--but from that point, things were over.

You didn't want that. I understand, love, believe me; no one wants to lose someone they love, me included. But I was already lost; to you, to myself, and every step I took farther away hurt more, because you were with me, telling me in myriad ways, large and small, not to go.

This is hard. I know this is hard. And it will likely get harder, for both of us, before it ever improves. But I cannot walk with you, holding the fractured dream between us. It's far too late for that.

You need to know I do this without malice of any kind. You need to know I've thought about this, deeply about this, that I've thought of little else for the past eight months. It's been a journey fraught with tension and heartbreak, as I rediscover who I am, what I need, where I want to go.

You also need to discover who you are, and what you need, apart from what you want. You need to learn the distinction, and know it clearly. You need to know where you're going, before you decide who you want on the journey. I believe strongly that all this will come in time, but it has to come from you, no one else. No one--not even me--can tell you how to live your life.

I'll be around--I still love you, and if we can manage it, I want that friendship, I want to know you, to talk to you, to listen to you. But if I'm distant over the next few days, or weeks, know that's why--I'm breathing through the pain of letting you go.

And it is causing pain, know that. You are compelling still, so curious, so smart, so talented. That hasn't changed, won't change, and in some ways that does make things harder, for both of us. It would be easier all the way around if you'd simply grown bored with me, and I was tired of things. That's not where we are.

But where we are is not where we need to be, love. I see it clearly, I hear the universe telling me, and for once, I am listening. This is what needs to happen. This is what already has happened.

Be well, love. Know you are loved, and beyond that, liked, which is sometimes more important. I wish you all good things, and, when I can, I hope to talk again. In the meantime, fly. Test your wings. See where they take you. You might surprise yourself.

Monday, August 30, 2010

drag you around and lead you back to where you were

Short, quick and very succinct: Discord Designs has been having a hair sale.

I am mentioning this--and offering up a SLUrl directly to one specific section--because on this massive hair sale are also the Tomcat tails and ears:

Discord Designs,Kallisti Burns,hair,neko,shopping,Second Life

For once, clicking for the larger image on the above won't help you see a larger one--but it will take you to the Discord Designs blog, wherein you can see examples of other styles.

If you haven't run across her before, let me tell you, she makes GREAT hair. Absolutely GREAT hair. And she makes wonderful sculpted hair.

But, I'm slow on some announcements, which is why I'm doing this now--the sale ends tomorrow! And all these styles on sale will be gone.

Which, I now realize, includes the Tomcat.

So let me briefly tell you why, if you have a neko form at all, you should RUN RIGHT NOW to go get them:
  • They come in six color packs for L$30 each, or L$90 for all of the colors; each color pack has ten individual variations.
  • They are scripted to twitch in lifelike fashion, but they don't spew green spam when anyone else touches them--so lifelike, yes, but they don't jabber at everyone that someone's pulling your tail or caressing your ears.
  • They remap EXTREMELY easily from pelvis (the default) to stomach (so you can wear prim skirts or prim jacket tails and the tail at the same time) with hardly any fuss, muss or frustration.
  • They are NOT created around the by-now-standard "tail bondage" design--it's just a tail. The bases are not covered with nineteen prim cupcakes spewing particle hearts; they're not wrapped in spiked black leather and barbed wire with hanging ankhs and blood-smeared bandages. They're just tails.
I'm serious. For L$90 you will not find better tails on the grid. And I bought them back when she had a 50% off sale, so I got them for far more than the L$90 for everything you'd be charged now, plus I was indecisive, so bought two of the color packs to test, before I bought the everything-pack; I think all in all I spent something like L$350 or so on the Tomcat line, in all.

And I still think that's a steal. They're still my default tail/ear sets.

So GO! RUN! The sale ends August 31st and TIME IS RUNNING OUT!

Sunday, August 29, 2010

she will never be invincible, she will never be some Florence Nightingale

There is at least one account named "Desmond Shang" on a third party, "SL" style grid out there.

It is NOT me.

There is no valid reason beside deception for anyone to be creating a "Desmond Shang" account in parallel virtual worlds. Be *very* cautious with your hard earned money.

I can't make a lot of further comment about this, under advisement of counsel.

I am Desmond Shang in SL and on Blue Mars only. A valid email address for me is
desmondshang@gmail.com should you seek ID verification.


This? Is the essence of "not good". I'm with Des, I see no valid reason why anyone would want to be "Desmond Shang" unless there's a specific intent to defraud.

Fairly idiotic, as well--impersonating someone in a virtual world...in another virtual world? And he honestly thought no one would notice?

Hallows,halloween,Hallowe'en,Samhain,Second Life,haunted,stores

Seen (upstairs, natch!) at Venom Rahne. Your standard piercing shop with a few fun extras, but they're already gearing up for Halloween.

(The leaves are already turning where I live; I can't wait!)

[11:58 PM] Croon Nandahar: Emmmzk. http://img.secondlife24h.com/2010/08/220.jpg
[11:59 PM] Croon Nandahar: I would not pay 300L to join that group and get that dress.
[11:59 PM] Gothique Graves: 0.o
[11:59 PM] Lalina Bade: O_O
[11:59 PM] Emilly Orr: Who the...why...would anyone EVER...300 Lindens???

I have no clue. But that dress is HORRIFYING.

Guided by a mention in a blog entry from 2008, I tracked down Fancy Fairy on the off-chance to see if they still carried the Dia de los Muertos skin pack.

They do. Three tones for L$50; that CANNOT be beat! Go get 'em!

Pictures from Halo Cove:

Second Life,boxes,prims,newbies,sandbox,wtf

So, yesterday, I'm working in the land office in Solace Beach, and a fellow comes in. He wants more room than he has, and he'd like to pay just one tier box, rather than the several he has now. He's looking for a homestead. I know we have a few, so I look around, and the best deal I thought we had for him had no picture. (He'd actually looked it over on the web, and decided to ask me because he'd dismissed Halo due to the lack of photo.)

Second Life,boxes,prims,newbies,sandbox,wtf

In all my years on SL, I have never, and I do mean never, seen this many boxes on any patch of land. And I grew up in Rivula, land of the constant griefing! This was just surreal: not one but two full houses, both of them full of prims, plus prims hanging in midair, and boxes of labeled products scattered hither and yon.

Second Life,boxes,prims,newbies,sandbox,wtf

The weird thing was, there seemed to be pattern in the rezzing out of prims, but no purpose. Nothing was in the boxes, just boxes--everywhere! Filling doorways, staircases, taking up space, taking up processor speed.

Second Life,boxes,prims,newbies,sandbox,wtf

Neither of these were small houses, either, and both of them were furnished. I couldn't believe it. I kept apologizing, over and over. I didn't know what else to do.

Second Life,newbies,wtf,boxes,freebies,building

Everywhere there weren't tiny prim boxes in oddly distributed patterns or full-size furnished homes, there were...other things. Product boxes. Vehicles. The horse sculpt from the library. Hammocks. Hot tubs. Rocks.

Oddly no landscaping.

Second Life,boxes,prims,newbies,sandbox,wtf

In the end, we did get all the prims cleared away, and the land properly set for sale, even though that particular client elected to go with another land company.

Second Life,boxes,prims,newbies,sandbox,wtf

The land as it stands now rents for L$8000 weekly; as it's a homestead, it offers 3750 prims for the full 16,192 square meters. And it's positively lovely without all the clutter:

Solace Beach,virtual real estate,virtual land,Second Life


Meanwhile, this is what a full sim looks like when there's just very basic texturing:

Solace Beach,virtual real estate,virtual land,Second Life

ESO will, if it doesn't get a buyer, likely be textured either tropical/island or beach/woodland (our main two alternatives) and renamed Andoya Cove to better fit the Solace theme; but Miss Ayesha Lytton is trying to rent it out as a full sim. As that full sim, it will run L$24,000 per week, and she'll even toss in a free sim rename if you pay four weeks of tier upfront. (Otherwise it's L$14,000 to change the name; she can't go lower on that, that's kind of a Linden-level fee.)

For that price you run sans any Covenant, full estate manager rights to alter the landscape at will, and--if you toss in that full month of tier rental--whatever name you want on the sim itself.

If you've ever dreamt of owning your own sim, but don't want to pay the fees upfront that the Lindens would charge...this is a cost-affordable alternative. Contact Ayesha Lytton (by IM over notecard) and specify you're interested in the full sim.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

these are hard hard times; who do you think you're fooling?

Got another mention on NWN; gave me a bit of reinforcement on the diffidently realized intention (if not actual goal) of taking better photographs beyond just multiple ones.

I don't always worry about the details, but it's nice that when I do, it's noticed.

What's a technocommunist?

Meanwhile, in the land of Emerald, the new production team (with some of the old team's members) are working on transparency issues. Some think the long list of required fixes needs to be kept private; some think it has to be made public; others think it has to be made public AMONG THE DEVS only, so they're all sorts of confused over there. All they really know? They have a huge list of problems that need to be addressed, and they're working as fast as they can to come up with a battle plan to address them.

Speaking of restructuring, have some very handy tips on fighting the Frankenfuture; AKA, bringing value back into business and creating forporations, not corporations. I'm not sure all the newly created lingo works for me, but I like the direction they're going. The problem is, the dinosaurs we have in government and business now are not going to understand anything that article says.

Meandering through the Stumblebum Brigade list, I took a port to the O!Bleak store. This is where I found myself:

Second Life,oddity,weirdness,land for sale,virtual real estate

Wau. I actually started out in midair over this, about nine hundred meters up, and I'd say it's a recent move, considering they're on the Stumblebum Brigade list, save--why are they on the list if they don't exist anymore?

And yes, I edited the smaller images to show you JUST how big that sucker is--that is a HUGE BLACK BOX a quarter of a sim in diameter. Damn.

Second Life,oddity,weirdness,land for sale,virtual real estate

I would love to know the backstory on that. Protest gone wrong? Their landlord suddenly raised their rates? What? And their blog's no help; the last update was back in May.

Back to this entry while everything sorts itself out in the background.

Quoting Glimmering Sands again:
I note, there seems to be some belief that age equals maturity. I believe there are plenty of counter examples to this on both sides of the magic 18 boundary.

I do not believe SL is the appropriate place for people to be first acquainted with topics that are considered mature, but this is my own opinion. It is not up to me to decide how another parent wishes to have their child introduced to subjects they consider mature (or even for me to decide what they consider mature)
No, we shouldn't take the place of parents, that's not our place. But by the same extension--are parents going to ignore their child's presence in Second Life, until they catch over their shoulder some pixillated pornography, before they throw a fit?

Because that's what this end of the argument comes down to: the parents who are involved in their childrens' lives are not the problem. Those children are likely in SL already, having claimed to be adults long before, and are smart enough and diligent enough not to be 'caught out'; or they've stayed responsibly on the Teen Grid, trying to obey the rules even when their own grid went under time and again due to...what, really? Irresponsibility on the part of the Labs? Lower-grade servers? Incompetent techs watching the game? What?

But no, it's not them. It's the parents who want zero responsibility for their spawn, who will then shriek like internally irrigated squirrels over the mere concept that their "babies" could have been led astray by Second Life--because as they all know, after all, it's a den of sinful corruption and vice, adultery, homosexual fur orgies, gambling, Mafia crime, pedophilia, and terrorist training (depending on the rumors of the day, and how vapidly dull those hearing the rumors really are).

Tock Mars said (in response to Zyth Hax):
Zyth, you are right. With teens coming to the main grid any adult that wishes to engage in adult behavior should leave Second Life.

And because this is true, a lot of adults are throwing a fit that they are going to lose a safe place to act out.

Forgive them. They will settle down and find some other game to play.
Please be kidding. Please, please, please be kidding. Because if Tock isn't, then that entire comment becomes outrageous. Adults leaving the formerly eighteen-plus-only world that we designed, populated, and helped to create? Why? Why should we?

Of course, this goes back to that whole 'think of the children!' vibe I'm getting off other comments. Again, Second Life is not Gaia. It's not Shinobi Village. It's an adult game, supposedly designed for o why should all our behaviors be restricted to G? Hell no. Screw that.

Zoren Manray said:
IM services and other social sites don't separate adult and teen users and I haven't heard of massive amounts of people getting arrested from the interactions between teens and adults on those services.
Pardon me while I laugh hysterically for a moment. Obviously, Zoren hasn't been paying attention to how many adults are arrested every year for dealings with children. While some aren very nearly defiantly guilty--just like overzealous photography studios and postal workers who carefully pore over pictures of children to determine what might be child pornography, but operate largely on "I'll know it when I see it because I see child pornography IN EVERYTHING"--some are not, and it's a headache for everyone involved. Not the least of which is, SHOULD someone go down as a sex offender, there's no marking for online or offline predation--at least, not yet--so the assumption is (in the eyes of nervous parents, church leaders, and politicians) "Oh dear GODS that man is moving next to our CHURCH and he's on the sex offenders list and I bet he had sex with a nine-year-old and he could be SHOPPING while our KIDS are there and our KIDS COULD BE NEXT to be RAPED TORTURED AND KILLED and he must be STOPPED AT ANY COST--" and other forms of grindingly shrill hysteria.

A significant number of the current crop of sex offenses, by the way? If anyone's curious? Are between kids who were two years apart. Like, eighteen-year-old with a sixteen-year-old. Or a fourteen-year-old with a sixteen-year-old.

Hells, there are cases now where it's a six-year-old who got in trouble for kissing a five-year-old on the cheek, and got arrested, and got CONVICTED, and that's bad; nobody's going to convince me that "unwanted sexual advances" figure in to the five-year-old sharing a hug with a willing companion, people. But it's more or less understandable now--when they're both little kids. In fact, it may even be baffling, over worrisome--"Oh, that's just sad, Shaelee, I can't believe the judge sentenced him--but it's over now, right? How's the little guy doing?"

The problem is going to set in later. What happens when he's fifteen? Twenty-four? FORTY? Because the victim? Will never age.

I'm not saying bad things won't happen with kids on the grid, they will, they happen now, after all. I'm saying that all it's going to take is one big lawsuit and we'll be right back in the midst of child porn hysteria central. Do the Lindens really want that to happen?

Protest all you want on how most teens just want to build and sell and interact in safe spaces in safe ways--sooner or later some ditz (of either gender) is going to hook up with some twink (older or younger), and there's going to be that moment of revelation on one side or the other--"Wait...you're HOW OLD?!?" That is the scenario I don't want to see played out with lurid description on 60 Minutes or The View.

However, I have to admit, Zoren did wind up making a point:
And for those lamenting that Adults will no longer be able to engage in adult behavior in SL have you even read the TOS and community guidelines? You shouldn't have been engaged in those behaviors in PG regions to begin with.
Something we've been screaming about for YEARS at this point...
In Adult regions the risk will be no greater that it is now. To gain access a teen would have to lie about their age to gain access in the same way they can currently lie about their age to get a main grid account. Thus we'll still have the "They misrepresented themselves so I had no idea they were underage" defense we've always had. Just don't start mature behavior with people you've only met in a PG area, have them come to you in an adult area, or check if they're age verified, seriously it isn't that hard people.
And this is absolute truth. In fact, the only hardship I think will happen in these cases is that there are adults, who, for whatever reason, never wanted to age-verify because they themselves did not want access. These selfsame people may see nothing wrong--and there is nothing wrong--with a discreet skybox-bounded bed or rug with adult poses. They just don't want to have to move to Zindra and be faced with everything, all at once.

So, okay, what happens if you meet someone dreamy in a PG area? Get them to go to a Mature area. It's not the end of the world, no; and the Labs are ***SUPPOSED TO*** (I'd make those damned letters BLINK if I could, people!) be age-restricting under-eighteens TO PG/General areas alone. Which should mean--if it works--that they can't access Mature areas any more than they can access Adult. If whomever it is won't--or can't--leave PG land, even for Mature spaces? You have your answer.

Zyth Hax comments again (in response to George Orellana:
Then maybe you should stop having "Virtual Relations" with random people on Second Life and if you say "Why should I have to [stop]" then think, that's what you're saying we should do, you're saying we should have to stop doing what we want to do, and that's enjoying Second Life. And you're right I can't assure you that I'm 18 so maybe it's time to be a bit more careful who you mess around with, just my opinion. ):
Okay, I grant Zyth, and the rest of the Teen Grid, this point: Linden Labs just took away THEIR playground, and they're pissed about it. I get that, I do; I was pissed when they wanted to pop up an all-Adult continent, increasing hassle to everyone and incurring loss of revenue for affected merchants, rather than do the LOGICAL thing and pop up an all-PG (at the time) continent. That still seems like the best idea. Because there are people who want to live away from any potential 'naughtiness'; moreover, as I said at the time, it doesn't HAVE to be a backwater. Make it an art hub, a culture hub, give it gardens, give it statuary, give it amazing views and even more amazing builds to work in, play in, live in. Do the RIGHT thing, the FAIR thing, and make an all-General-rated continent, and make it so amazingly beautiful that it will win awards for innovation on and off the grid.

But no. The Labs aren't going to do that. They're going to force these kids into our playground, and while we're willing to share some things, we don't want or need to share other things with the underage. And it's not specifically the underage we don't trust! It's the Labs. We purely, honestly, rationally do not trust the Labs not to fuck this up.

Put frankly.

I'm not sure if I'm going to read this thread all the way down. I can see a very large battle brewing, and it touches on a lot of things integral to society, family, and the concept of relationship itself, but it can also come down squarely into the simplistic "NO KIDS"/"SCREW YOU, ADULTS" thing I'm already seeing, and...that's not good, either. Once concept becomes dogma, thinking goes out the window. And--though I know the Lindens aren't going to listen on this issue any better than they listened on Zindra, we need to stay rational and (at least somewhat) clear-headed.

But with clear and unwavering--and deeply traumatizing--real life punishments for even online offenses at this point, I can see why some adults are running scared. What I don't get is the attitude from some of the under-eighteens; it goes beyond "Dream on, like I'd be interested in you" into "But we would never never EVER want to kiss icky adults, we just want to build and be free to create"...and frankly? That doesn't ring true, either.

Friday, August 27, 2010

silly thoughts of small deeds

Meet Miss Leela McAndrews.

Second Life,Solace Beach,weirdness,newbies,freebies,stupidity

Or rather, some of the stuph she felt needed to be rezzed out and abandoned on parcels she didn't own.

Leela was born August 10, 2010, and is in all of two groups: Divine Blood (a Bloodlines spampire group) and Euthymia VIP (which is apparently a club attached to a mall).

Second Life,Solace Beach,weirdness,newbies,freebies,stupidity

She has no picks, no interests, no real life...why am I even surprised at this point?

So far, in texturing the last little bit of Mikela, I've tracked down four Alpine cabins, four sex beds (all set for sale), a couch, a pair of badly-built shoes, and several vendor boxes for freebie miniskirts. They'll all be gone in an hour, or less than--I've already contacted the estate manager responsible for Mikela Isle--but what the hell happened? She decided to hold a party on unowned land? With bedhopping? On the ground floor?!?

As well as set up a minor sex-bed reselling business. Deeply, deeply tacky.

So, before this gets any more out of hand--I want to briefly talk about one of yesterday's entries.

I'll be talking with people in world--possibly later tonight, those who are still awake and active, or later this coming week (though I'm not sure about tomorrow, because we have guests coming over), but I just want to clear up a few things now.

1. I did not, nor would I, say the Wulfenbach Consulate is doing anything wrong.

2. I did say they and the JLU seem intertwined, but I didn't say that was a bad thing. Apparently I'm wrong on that, but, both groups are, and admittedly so, dedicated to helping newcomers orient to the grid and helping out where they can. These are also not bad things.

3. I never said they were part of the Emerald group.

4. I never said they were part of the Woodbury University group. (Though there do seem to be ties between Emerald and Woodbury...)

5. I never said they were part of the Wrong Hands group. (Though again, there seem to be ties between Emerald and Wrong Hands...)

Okay? Don't freak out. Everyone can step down from DefCon whatever now. I'm not against the Baron, or the Baron's people. If y'all remember, I used to be one of the Baron's people, and only left because I don't go to Steelhead, and I was building my brains out on another sim most of my spare time, when I wasn't working insanely trying to revamp my business, or actually having a social life.

And, according to the Baron, it's a leave of absence anyway, apparently. So there you go. I am NOT anti-Europan.

Honestly, I don't know how these things get started...

Thursday, August 26, 2010

the harbingers of war with their nature revealed

So, let's talk a bit about the future of Second Life. The future of Second Life with kids.

Philip Linden addressed the whole teens-and-SL thing on the official blog. The high points for me were:
  • 16 to 17 year olds are, as promised, going to enter Second Life (in a supposedly "protected" way);
  • 13 to 15 year olds might be coming in later, if the first stage protections work for older teens;
  • and, of course, Philip Rosedale outright lied, when he said the Teen Grid wasn't going to close.
Me being me, it's the lying that gets me, but all of it's bad, in my opinion. I'm not going to trust anyone I meet now who's new. I'm not going to be social at all unless I can personally guarantee there is zero chance of ever even flirting with any avatar I meet, just in case, let alone anything else. And frankly, I was already a hermit for the most part, socializing in spates of group chat; this will not help.

Now, to the comments. Michael Fairplay starts things off:
This turns logic on its head, Linden Lab got all upset and nervous over age play but we are going to unleash 16 year olds onto the grid. Well at least I can say the bad decisions are consistent. It's one mistake after another.
What are the guidelines? Supposedly they're going to be restricted to PG builds, but I know there used to be a lot of "free sex" sims operating on the PG mainland. Zindra was supposed to take care of that, and when last checked, the known ones seemed to have been removed, but does that really mean they're gone?

Ceera Murakami remarked:
Are you going to create a G-rated continent for the Teens to access, and that they can't leave until they turn 18? If you don't, even if you restrict them to PG sims, those sims are side by side with Mature sims containing XXX content.

Or are you going to further downgrade "Mature" mainland and prohibit all use of Adult-rated content anywhere outside Zindra or isolated Adult-rated private sims? That should go over really well with your over-18 residents, who signed up for a virtual world that allowed an Adult experience,and not for Disneyland-safe G-rated fun.
A damned good question, and a good point beyond that.

Jeroen Waisman says:
There is a reason why 18+ isn't allowed to access the TG, without doing a expensive background check, being a licenced educator and being restricted to an educational sim. Restrictions should work both ways. Exposing teens to adults raises concerns, but so does exposing adults to teens.
Absolutely. Why aren't the Lindens thinking of those concerns, also?

Gavin Hird has heavy questions:
Could the Lab please clarify exactly by which mechanism the age group 16-18 will be restricted to General (PG) regions.

Can you also clarify what signup controls you will put in place to confirm the age of this group? (we know the current credit card account verification method for access to adult regions makes it possible for 13+ to enter such regions.)

Can you also clarify how you will proceed to purge General regions of the large amount of adult and mature content currently in resident parcels?

Add to that, how will you guarantee that the residents transferred from the teen grid indeed is 16+ old?
Are we going to get answers to any of these questions any time soon, also?

Shockwave Yareach ponders:
I am not the least bit worried about the teens coming in. I am, however, scared sh*tless about the law enforcement folks coming in with them - people who do not know (nor care) how SL is run or that Timmy broke a rule by camming into my home.

I make a very good living. Some of that money still comes into SL, though much less after the voidsim debacle. But if you think I'm going to risk prison and a child pedo rap to continue playing in SL, you truly are living in a dreamworld. Better start telling us what protections and the rules are because many are already preparing to abandon ship.
He's not wrong. What are the rules for accusations of child endangerment? What are the protections?

Again, a huge sign that the Lindens--as per usual--have failed to think this concept through.

1angelcares Writer said:
I shop and party and work and hang out on PG sims. To argue that we adults will never have to interact with minors because they will be on the PG sims and we adults will be on the Mature or Adult sims is ridiculous. I want to be able to speak with whomever I want to on the grid, anywhere on the grid, without fear of legal reprisal. Nowadays, you don't even have to proposition a minor to get in trouble. Just be nice to them! Just give them a compliment! OMG! He must be "grooming" the poor, poor innocent teenager for "future" molestation!
This is a realistic assessment of the situation. Or, put another way, it's not the teens we fear so much as their parents; not their families so much as their media outlets sensing salacious news about to be made. How many reporters are going to log into SL as a potential 16-year-old? How many parent groups are going to flip out? How long before Second Life is once again Public Enemy Number One in Germany?

Ceera Murakami chimed in again:
I'll grant that most 16 and 17 year olds are probably mature enough emotionally to handle what they might see in a Mature sim. But the LAW still says it's illegal to provide them access to Adult materials. Linden lab's 'opinion' that 16 year olds are mature enough does not make it legal.

What I see happening is that once this new policy goes into effect, any new person you meet, before you consider interacting with them in an Adult manner, you better webcam them or get a photocopy of their legal ID. Otherwise, you risk arrest for contributing to the delenquency of a minor. That will absolutely kill most Adult interaction in Second Life.

Prior to this, yes, the new person you meet might actually be under 18. But if he or she was, then they LIED to get here, and the legal onus is on them for 'sneaking into the Adult movie theater'. When mommy complains that their 14 year old girl is table dancing for you, you can say "No one here is supposed to be under 18, so she lied to get work here as a stripper."

After this, there's no protections at all. Even if you're standing in the Adult-rated Zindra continent, any 16 or 17 year old who has their own credit card, or who borrows their parent's card info to be able to buy L$, will have full and unrestricted access to the hardesd hardcore areas in SL. And any of them can PM an adult and get involved in Adult conversations, with no way for the adult to know that he's chatting up a kid.
Yeah, I can't really add anything to that, I believe the same thing.

Ciaran Laval asks a pointed question:
Why don't you turn the teen grid into the PG continent we were asking you to create at the time of the adult content fiasco? That would be perfect for this little experiment, teens could roam there, adults would come as they could setup stores and rentals, the teens could even setup business partnerships with adults to distribute their wares.
Mm-hmm. Why can't this happen? I know why it won't--Lindens don't listen, don't take advice from residents on the ground, and don't care about doing the right thing--but why can't it happen? And the advantages of an all-PG continent far outweigh the potential disadvantages: making a purely protected content that one physically cannot in any way port off until one is 18, or older, and such information is kept tidily on file at the Labs for verification--all it really requires in terms of change is blocking porting (which could then be locked to that PG continent), and access to resident's RL info--which all residents have on file anyway!

Glimmering Sands asks:
Is this new policy, unwittingly or not, a public admission of SL that their attempts have failed and they might as well codify the practice?
And isn't that a question to keep you up nights?

Terrence Linden came in at this point to address one of Miss Murakami's points:
I understand your concern. To clarify, any user who is under 18 in our system has a maximum maturity rating of General. Those with a maxium maturity rating of General are not able to adult verify and/or access adult regions, even with a credit card on file or if they gone through the age verification system.
Until they come up with a brand new alt, that is...

Skatoulaki Nakamori comments:
When I was forced to relocate my place to the porn ghetto...er...I mean...to Zindra, I remember specifically reading - both in comments in the SL forums as well as in published interviews with Philip Linden - that despite speculation and rumor to the contrary, there was no intention to move teens onto the main grid.
Yeah. Bugs the hell out of me, too.

Emma Starsider shares Desmond Shang's worry on contracting with teens:
I think it's a very bad idea to form a business relationship with a teen. You might get into legal trouble really fast. Talk to your lawyer or accountant before you start this.
And both she and Des are serious; if you run any major business in SL, at the very least pay for an hour's consult with a corporate lawyer, nailing down the teen provisions, all none of them, for cooperative ventures with adults.

1angelcares Writer posts her plan of attack:
Not that it's a failsafe, but to protect myself from as much liability as I can given that Linden Lab is throwing us under the legal bus, I am considering the following:

1) I will uncheck the PG box in search. Only Mature or Adult search results will show. Any new places I visit, new stores I shop at, or new groups I join will have to be Mature or Adult. As for existing places I frequent and groups I am affiliated with, I will carefully evaluate their value to me
vis-a-vis the probability/liability of minors being present.

2) Any new avatars whose rezday is after August 14th, 2010 will be ignored/muted unless they are able to prove they are age-verified. I will be polite, but firm. No verification, no interaction.
I have to say I'm right there with her. I'm checking profiles like crazy now, and it was a habit before. And I'm nervy and paranoid--is that new av a teen at the BDSM discussion? Is that newbie asking for free latex underage? I'm afraid to hang out in PG areas; I'm afraid to hang out in all other areas just in case someone's slipped through. And it doesn't even stop there, because as several gentles pointed out, teens have been with us all along.

But 90% of those teens? Are smart enough to keep their heads down, and play along; just the 10% of extremely thick got scooped up for wanting to be a dancer "because high school sucks" or wanted to show off their new Halo armor freebie set at the strip club.

Now? It's a whole new world of doubt and fear. And it only gets worse from here.

As the Betterverse blog puts it, "January 1, 2011 is going to be an interesting day in Second Life."

give me space so you can drown in this with me

Paradise lost...and regained. It's really easy to get lost in SL; I know, I've done it. But generally speaking, she's right; you can't lose yourself in something unless you're already lost to begin with.

Have a fetish for eighties music? Try it with a side of eighties cartoons.

TF2 the MMO? Gad, I hope not, but the pics are fun.

Back to SL matters. There's something else a bit unnerving about Sin-Labs.

Because I hadn't found the hunt prize yet, when I rezzed into world, I was back in Sin-Labs. This? Was 'overheard' on the main chat:

[08:44 PM] S-L Doll Stand: Hello Emilly Orr, welcome to Sin-Labs
Our dolls are here to assist (when not restrained)

Great....I wandered for a bit, not finding anything in the warren of internal stores, so returned to the main warp hub and stood in thought.

[08:47 PM] IM: you think: The encaser looks interesting, maybe you should try it
[08:48 PM] IM: you think: The bikegirls look great, maybe you should try them out
[08:49 PM] IM: you think: An hour on a stand, just isn't enough
[08:50 PM] IM: you think: Statues are not people, they're just decoration
[08:51 PM] IM: you think: An hour on a stand, just isn't enough
[08:52 PM] IM: you think: That can't have been a muffled sound from that statue, can it?
[08:53 PM] IM: you think: Maybe you should have a drink, a special drink
[08:54 PM] IM: you think: Tight is good, shiny is good
[08:55 PM] IM: you think: This is a good place to stay

At 8:55 pm, I found the box, and got the hell out. Sin-Labs is seriously unnerving on a lot of levels.

TigroSpottyStripes Katsu wonders "why do you guys insist on not accepting input from users before deciding to make important changes permanent?"

A damned good question, that.

I want to do a bit more Emerald dissection.

I started off here, and I tried to follow the logic out.

2006: The first rumors of Copybot hit an already embattled grid. Stunned by several recent economic downturns, the big hysteria became--ANYONE could copy ANYTHING on SL and NO ONE CAN STOP THEM! Whether this was true or not, it caused a grid-wide spasm of doubt and hysteria that in some cases, persists to this day.

2007: Linden Labs releases the source code so people can finally play openly (as opposed to hacking the code out) with the source coding. This does not assuage fears that an army of Copybot clients are going to march over the grid and lift everything in sight. It does, however, lead to some innovative browsers, including Nicholaz, CoolSL (developed in cooperation with CSI:SL), Kirsten's, and the then-named Greenlife. Generally, residents are more confused by the process, than supportive or deriding.

2009: Restrained Life hits the grid. Many people are creeped out by it. Many more immediately adopt it. The age of point-and-click domination arrives.

(July 2009: It's totally non-relevant, but I admit to being amused as hell at the whole Sion chicken drama--it's just insane, the lengths to which people went to justify chicken addiction. But it's not germane to much, save Neva had this freakish theory about the Woodbury group developing Emerald on the one hand and mass-slaying her chickens on the other. We move on.)

October 2009: Greenlife, having renamed itself Emerald some time back--so as not to conflict with the new 'no touchy!' policy of Second Life branding--comes out with breast physics. Now, breast physics are nothing new--they're old hat in Japanese anime games, there's breast physics in Runes of Magic (wait until the close-up, about 0:52, you'll see what I mean), even Silent Hill 5 threw some physics on their nurses (fast forward to 0:49, or 0:52 if you're curious)...but all of a sudden, Second Life had jiggle. People nearly mass-converted to Emerald just to check it out. Certain womens' groups lost their minds over the concept. Most of the rest of us were thinking, what's the big deal? So someone else sees breast movement, how is this a tragedy? But the controversy raged for months.

2009-present: Prokovy Neva rants about the Emerald developers (Actually, Neva rants more than that, because it's been, like, every other post for over a year, now.) Honestly, I can't even address this, because she's completely monochromatic--you're either a loyal friend or you're a lying Communist spying on her, there's no in-between. (Trust me; I know monochromatic thinking, I do a fair bit of it myself, I won't lie--but I have shades, damn it. Neva? It's all or nothing, always, and once she fastens on a concept she does not let go, even in the face of further evidence. Once you're evil--you're evil, according to her.)

February 2010: Linden Labs releases two things at once: Viewer 2, and a new 'targeted' ad campaign for new users. Both cause an inordinate amount of frustration, stress and outrage on the part of SL's resident population.

The Viewer 2 headache is easy to figure out: the Labs talked to focus groups, merchants, citizens specifically invited to 'brown-bag' in-person events, pored over the JIRA and held development workshops at the Labs...and then did nothing on those lists. Instead, they turned out a bloated, feature-laden mess that overly inflated inventory, shuffled everything around to new places with no inherent logic, substantially changed the basic structure of chat, inventory, and in-world notifications, and--as if that weren't enough--made it impossible in the new viewer to build, change profiles, or easily change music/media streams out of the box. (All that came later.)

The marketing headache was something else entirely--the new promos, pulled snappily together by Ill Clan, featured a brightly-colored world just packed with young, urban, nearly exclusively human professionals, moving streamlessly through shopping (in which clothes changing becomes something as magical as a Sailor Moon transformation), greeting a new project head at the office (implying that walking up to another avatar, setting down a briefcase, and shaking the other avatar's hand are all seamlessly integrated animations in SL), and enjoying romantic vacations (nearly entirely featuring two oppositely-gendered humans on beachfronts alone). And a great deal of it was presented as being voice chat, not text chat.

This was a world without non-humans; without furs; without constructs, robots, Tinies, mermaids; without darker subcultures, vampires, Goreans or roleplayers of any stripe; without non-beach territories; without those who choose not to, or cannot voice; and almost entirely populated by straight white people. People--from non-white to non-human people--were understandably upset.

The world that Ill Clan presented--which, many of us understood viscerally was the world the Labs wanted to own--was a world where people used Second Life to work; where all disposable income was then spent back in the world; where it was just as much fun if not more fun to spend spare time in, after, of course, working in Second Life in the first place. Talk about giving a large segment of your userbase the cold shoulder; this went right over that edge into active snarling insult, in a pretty video package.

Between the new ad campaign and the new viewer, people again nearly mass-converted to using Emerald. For most of us, no matter which browser we were using, if we were in a browser that identified other browsers, for several months we've seen three out of every five people in world at all using Emerald. It's been a nearly unbroken sea of green out there, in most areas of the grid.

Here's where things get odd for me, though. From 2006 to Aprille 2010 is pretty much a straight line; my experiences match more or less the blog entry's, I can line things up in my head. Then...this:

April 2010: Apparently the Wrong Hands group engineer a takedown of the Justice League Unlimited griefer-prevention group, a group largely staffed and supported by the Wulfenbach Consulate. (**This has proven not to be true; see note at bottom.) They do this even though the Wrong Hands group is largely a sub-grouping of Woodbury University. So...the bad guys...infiltrated the good guys...proving they were the bad guys...but because the Lindens were helping the JLU, the Woodburys--along with their sims--got banned en masse?

That seems overly simplistic. Plus, it's just weird--since when were griefers ever interested in doing the right thing? That's kind of the definition of griefer--some overly bored idiot who does stupid things because he or she--though generally he--thinks it's funny.

I don't share their sense of humor. I find myself in the midst of griefers, I generally choose not to interact, bounce if I have the power, or leave if I don't have other options. Arguing with them generally serves no purpose but to upset me, and there's no point in that.

Plus, the whole thing just gets weirder from here. Like this video, which supposedly is "proof" somehow of the Wrong Hands group "interrogating" Fractured Crystal, the main programmer behind Emerald, or at least Modular Systems--save for, first, unless I'm wrong on who's speaking to whom (the video is terrifyingly fuzzy), that's Fractured saying he doesn't know a single thing about coding or programming, he 'leaves that to other people'. Huh?

And that brings us to the second point, which is LordGregGreg Beck being on the ground at that meeting, so--was/is Beck a member of the Wrong Hands group? Which means he's in the bad guy section too, right? Save he left Emerald because of Emerald's shady data mining practices, so again we have a hacker who's having an ethics crisis.

That just makes my head hurt. I'm not saying hackers don't have ethics; I am saying generally, if they have ethics, they don't stay involved with questionable groups.

But maybe I'm wrong; maybe where SL is concerned, they do.

April 15, 2010: The news on Emerald's data mining finally surfaces for most of the grid. Those of us paying attention--id est, watching the forums, staying involved, reading blog and news posts--had been putting two and two together and getting five for some time. But suddenly, the Alphaville Herald broke the story and it was the Most Terrifying Thing EVER for a lot of people. At least half of all SL groups, practically, had at least one person who would go off on the topic nigh-hourly, trying to "warn everyone". Yeah. We're warned, already. Enough.

April 16, 2010: Hazim Gazov, apparently part and parcel of the Woodbury Group, contacted Joe Linden about possible violations on the part of Emerald. The ball starts rolling downhill.

August 22, 2010: Bloggers--some of them well known, and not a few actual news services--start to ask pointed questions about the implosion of Emerald from Aprille to August, wondering what on earth's going on. It's a good question. It's not one that's been adequately answered.

August 24, 2010: Nelson Jenkins releases this to the Alphaville Herald. I have several questions on this, and likely zero answers forthcoming, ever, but here goes:

1. Collection of IP addresses. I'm fairly sure this happened, but do we actually have any real information that actual SL avatars-to-RL-names correlation has been done? All I've heard are that "some" main accounts, leading to identification of "some" alts, have been released to the public; but does anyone know any more than that?

2. The 'third party' uncovering the data mining. Was this Hazim Gazov? And again, if he's with the Woodbury twinks, why is he upset over Emerald data-mining? It's just as unethical to scam personal data out of people as it is to crash their sim repeatedly, in my book. Sure, the second example is "just a sim", but think about it--someone spends several days out of a month deliberately crashing the sim you pay tier on, those are days of rent you're still expected to pay, when you've been deprived of actual performance hours. I know this game; I lived it in Rivula in 2007 and 2008. Gods know what any of us did to piss people off, but Rivula was constantly being attacked, griefed, crashed out, lagged to death...Some of it was honest server overstress, but in most cases, it was self-replicating griefing objects or grey goo.

3. The accusations against Fractured Crystal and Phox ModularSystems--how valid are they?

4. Can the Quicktime exploit that Gemini/CDS systems use to operate through be closed?

5. Did Arabella Steadham actually leave the Emerald development team? Did she come back? Or was it all just fluff and thunder distraction from the real problems at the time?

6. Whether it was a 'practical joke' gone wrong (as Arabella says) or an actual DDoS attack on another site, the facts are it happened, and thousands of Emerald users are now passive participants in a criminal activity. It's one thing playing the bad guy on their own; it's an entirely separate issue to con thousands of residents of Second Life into helping them pull off the bad act. A simple 'gosh, oops' isn't the apology these people are looking for. What are the developers of Emerald willing to do now to gain back the trust of everyone whose ethics were violated during that 'joke' session?

7. Is it really only 20% of users who've chosen Emerald to access the grid? I think that number's much higher.

8. Doesn't Arabella realize that deleting 'negative' comments on the blog entries proposing transparency in future Emerald actions are just playing right into the lack of trust the public has for Emerald right now? If we can't even trust her to post what she gets, and answer it honestly, how are we supposed to trust her, and the entire Emerald team, with our passwords, our IP addresses, and our browsing histories again?

9. Is Arabella really that clueless, or that smug, to think that this should be something swept under the carpet because it's not a "life and death" situation?

10. Can someone confirm for me--because I heard the same thing--on Emerald's removal from the TPV directory Linden Labs maintains before the change from Fractured to Arabella took place? If that's true, then the entire story Arabella's been pimping on the removal being solely an issue of the company changing CEOs is false, and misleading.

Now, to tie all this wandering speculation up: I'm not trying to extend drama. And I've had my fifteen minutes of fame, back in 2007; I don't need more. I just want to know how it all ties together, is the thing.

Emerald; Modular Systems; Woodbury University; Justice League Unlimited; Linden Labs; the Wulfenbach Consulate. And yes, I know some of the principals involved, and likely I will be asking, but it's just so strange to me, you know? It's like an interlocking set of rotating rings, and some of the rings are toxic, and others have my friends on them, and they're all interwoven.

We need a magician to take them apart. Better yet, we need someone to sit down and actually explain things, as simply as possible. What is really going on here?

(**That note. While there are Wulfenbach Consulate members in JLU, the JLU existed long before the Europan arrival on the grid. [This I did not know previously.] Also, the Wrong Hands group didn't take down the JLU; they sent in a covert operative who was granted access to a group-only database, who then snapped pics and threw it up somewhere else--one suspects one of the Woodbury sites. The JLU then closed ranks, reinforced their security, and went on with their lives. So much for that.)

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

we're teaching murder not understanding now

We've reached the point of Emerald evangelicals, by the way; people so devoted to Emerald as the grid-based embodiment of viewer perfection; people so vigilant in their defense of Emerald as the One True Browser; people who will then turn on anyone not using the Holy of Absinthine Holies, and consider them a rat bastard Communist who's trying to destroy the grid....Well, look, this was a mild example that happened last night in ISC chat:
[18:14] MoonWhite Nightfire: Well... Emerald is the most powerful [in the] opinion of many. More users (at least in [the] not-noob sphere) use Emerald, then any [other] viewer. Always I saw usually 80% of people around me [using] Emerald. So, [Emerald] will NOT DIE: In one way or the [other] it will [live]. MAybe there will be a [new] dev team... maybe a trustworthy group fork it and develope a new viewer based on it. Any way, it WILL LIVE.
It's not going to get better from here. We're now dividing into camps, just like the pro-Zindra and anti-Zindra camps earlier, and it's going to get just as divisive as Emerald lurches on, on and off the grid.

(And just a note--all the corrections in Mr. Nightfire's comment? Were all issues of either rushing the statement, or dyslexia; I didn't change the meaning, just the spelling.)

When I finally argued Imprudence into logging me in today (I wanted to go to Second Life; Imprudence wanted me to go to localhost), I had difficulty moving in the sandbox from where I'd left SL.

toys,beach balls,beach,Second Life,virtual worlds,griefing,sandbox

Now I know why.

toys,beach balls,beach,Second Life,virtual worlds,griefing,sandbox

All nine of these ginormous things are owned by camila Deir, who is old enough to know better.

toys,beach balls,beach,Second Life,virtual worlds,griefing,sandbox

And there's even two off the sim entirely.

For whatever reason, the entire InWorldz grid went down, and hard today--owners of the service are still scrambling to figure out why. (Me, I'm just glad my stance against that damned Z in their name prevented me from leaping to InWorldz from SL.)

Wagner James Au on New World Notes has the audacity to suggest that if Emerald developers used their real names they wouldn't be in their current mess. There's more than a little hint/drop/thud that he's referring to the larger grid as well--that if everyone on SL used their real names, it would foster trust and community.

What an inane and utterly meritless opinion. I loathe this Facebookian equation between real names and trust. As if any business, any business on the grid, from the Labs on down, would automatically have more resident support, or even resident trust, if they always used their real names, instead of their resident names or even net handles is ludicrous from the start.

Want to use your real name on everything you do? Go work for Blizzard. Me, I'll keep Emilly, thank you. And stand and fall under that reputation. Tarnished as it is, it's mine, and people know me; most people don't know my real name, and frankly, I want to keep it that way. Ask me for my real name as a condition for playing Second Life, ever, and that's the day I leave.

And I really, really doubt I'd be the only one.

"Saying 'I notice you're a nerd' is like saying, 'Hey, I notice that you'd rather be intelligent than be stupid, that you'd rather be thoughtful than be vapid, that you believe that there are things that matter more than the arrest record of Lindsay Lohan. Why is that?' In fact, it seems to me that most contemporary insults are pretty lame. Even 'lame' is kind of lame. Saying 'You're lame' is like saying 'You walk with a limp.' Yeah, whatever, so does 50 Cent, and he's done all right for himself."
~John Green

Avatar,James Cameron,Second Life,Na'vi,copyright

More Avatar sightings at Thalia 98. Why am I even surprised?

I find it curious that on slutmonae Berhardt's blog, there are only three entries--the introduction/explanation, the Flickr page announcement, and the apology. Two are from 2008; the apology is from 2009. And there is literally nothing else.

My curious mind wonders if she has become as mute and silent in RL, as in SL, though I have no real idea how that would work.

As to how I found that blog, one of the stops on the No Strings Attached hunt is at Sin Labs. I'm still looking for the doll box there, but in the meantime, happened across a placard next to a Sphynxgirl stand--I don't know if it was specifically slutmonae (or one of her alts); I admit, I was more looking for the hunt gift than anything. But out of idle wonderment, I clicked. I read. And now I have a deep puzzlement, once again.

I doubt it's slipped anyone's mind that I am at least loosely affiliated with SL's BDSM community. To that end, though, I have to say with all honesty of heart: I don't get being that restrained. For the space of a scene, yes; for the experience or the lesson, all right. But day in and day out? No IMs. No inventory access. No notecard access. No communication. No identification, even, of other avatars, by name or chat.

And in slutmonae's case, blindfolded, so hour upon hour, day after day--unable even to see.

That twitches me. It is a large and varied world, with many people in it, and those people have a varied cornucopia of desires...but that shut off from everyone around me? That's not my fantasy, that's a fear.

But, as I said, it is a wild and weird and diverse world; obviously, slutmonae is thrilled at this development, so thrilled that she's no longer even communicating in the ways she is allowed to, off the grid. But is that a good thing?

your devils and your gods, all the living and the dead

The last picture in this artist's mention I found curiously haunting. I looked up the artist and the first thing that struck me was the sedate, yet inordinately innovative website. (Chase the 'click to enter' sign with your mouse anywhere across the screen, once it loads--and it will bring you in anywhere it is. It's beautifully subtle.) The second thing is that Ellen posed for that shot in 2007, for a photo series called Polyester.

An article written for the Robert Berman Gallery said of her work:
Playful yet bizarre scenes are a balancing act between fantasy and reality. Much like the tradition of Cindy Sherman, film stills are staged that have a vague familiarity that keep the viewer wanting more.

This body of work that has been realized over this last year continues to intrigue and titillate with a fresh yet strangely comforting uneasiness.
Fascinating stuph, and I think they're right, that's what's so capturing: especially in the case of Ellen's almost doll-like makeup, vintage outfit and hair, contrasting so vividly with the artifact of the modern world--it jars, it unsettles, and yet, pick any single detail and it is both comforting and familiar.

I can see the allusion to the work of Cindy Sherman, as well. She also works in that strange, half-vintage, half-modern world of women as still lives.

Meanwhile, in more Second Life-related matters, a post was thrown up on the Modular Systems blog on Wordpress--then, for unknown reasons, taken down. Amusingly, Katharine Berry tracked down and put up the Google Cache version of the post. I quote:
LL requirements for Emerald
August 24, 2010

Today, the Emerald Development team has received a large list of requirements and conditions from LL. We have reviewed all of these conditions and fully intend to address and conform to ALL of them them as soon as we possibly can.

We feel the conditions are reasonable given recent events, however some will take more time than others to fulfill. It is a big list of things that we need to do, but we expect we should have all these conditions met within the next two weeks. By that time we will have a fully TPVP compliant viewer release out and re apply for the TPVD.

The use of the Emerald viewer is still a decision that is yours to make.

We have been informed that LL wants us to stop using the emkdu.dll file which improves rendering speed in our future releases. I would like to take a step in that direction as a show of faith to LL right now and ask our users to go into your Emerald install directory while you are not logged into the viewer, and delete the file named emkdu.dll. The viewer will continue to function correctly however possibly a bit slower.

In closing, I will reiterate, Emerald Dev Team intends to fully comply with the conditions set out before us by Linden Lab, and we plan to do so within the next two weeks. Use of the Emerald viewer is still your choice, Emerald is not a malicious viewer.

Sincerely, Jessica Lyon
Interesting. Why was the post deleted? Who knows? I know I don't trust them based on a combination of factors, including over nine months of inventory problems pared with the last-straw situation of speaking with an Emerald dev, who was extraordinarily rude and snippy, when she didn't have to be. This? This is just further incentive to do what I was already doing, which was not using Emerald. Frankly.

Second Life also chimed in on their official blog:
Late last week, we discovered a denial-of-service attack that was being served through the widely distributed Emerald third-party viewer. This is in direct violation of our third-party viewer policy (part 2, section d, paragraph iii).

We have removed Emerald from the list of third-party viewers, and are now in touch with the Emerald team to discuss what can happen next. We did this to do our best to protect the safety and security of Second Life users. We will not tolerate a viewer that includes malicious code, nor will we tolerate development teams with a history of violating users’ trust or disrupting their lives.

We take privacy, safety, and security very seriously, and we will act to the best of our abilities to protect it. We have not yet disabled logins via the Emerald viewer, but will do so if we feel the software and the team behind it is not able to meet the standards we’ve set. While Emerald is currently the focus of our attention because of what happened recently, all third-party viewers are held to the same standard, and must comply with the third-party viewer policy.

Now, if we can move past the irony of Linden Labs talking about taking privacy and security seriously when they've been hacked twice--and once, directly for credit card information--in the past, this may be the first time they've ever taken a direct stand against any third-party viewer. And this time, it's one of the most popular viewers on the grid.

Is Emerald on the way out? Is this just a bad patch of turnover, getting the hackers out, the bureaucrat coders in? I don't know. But it's fascinating to watch from the sidelines.

And just to tie things up where interests are concerned, Katharine Berry makes the Kittyviewer, which isn't a viewer I've ever heard of, so I can't say whether it's stellar or a mess.

And in sadder news, director Satoshi Kon has passed away. He was responsible for such impressive animated works as Perfect Blue and Paranoia Agent. At the time of his death, he was working on Yumemiru Kikai. He will be missed.

Monday, August 23, 2010

you keep looking but you can't find the woods while you're hiding in the trees

Followed by the visit to Gawk, was a visit to DECO. DECO is in the Scribble sim, which is somewhat odd to begin with, but in a fun and whimsical way. This? This is hard-core architecture, my friends. Which makes it stand out.

Deco,Art Deco,fashion,virtual worlds,architecture,Second Life,shopping
(The front of DECO in Scribble.)

Deco,Art Deco,fashion,virtual worlds,architecture,Second Life,shopping
(Part of DECO's tower.)

Deco,Art Deco,fashion,virtual worlds,architecture,Second Life,shopping
(Proving that the products inside are as much in period as the structure.)

Deco,Art Deco,fashion,virtual worlds,architecture,Second Life,shopping
(One of the vintage light fixtures.)

Deco,Art Deco,fashion,virtual worlds,architecture,Second Life,shopping
(The 'clean' version--next to the aged version--of an aluminum 20's table and striped vinyl chair.)

Deco,Art Deco,fashion,virtual worlds,architecture,Second Life,shopping
(Upstairs at DECO, the small line of landscaping items, with that fabulous tin ceiling detail.)

By the way, as I'm currently having hard drive troubles, I wasn't able to do post-processing on this entry or the one before. What I did use was the Blue Monday Windlight setting, and--while both these builds are lovely without it--that setting casts a dreamy, blue-green glow over everything that's just phenomenal. It added so much to these pictures, but believe me--the artistry of the builds was far greater. Both of these are worth a visit.

I wonder if you know, I wonder if you think about it

In a week, if all goes well, Something Awful hits space. I'm not sure how I feel about this.

The sim of Gawk was one I arrived in on the ZombiePopcorn hunt:

Gawk,Second Life,shopping,fashion,build,art,virtual worlds
(Magnificently detailed ship outside Gawk's main store.)

Gawk,Second Life,shopping,fashion,build,art,virtual worlds
(Debris and old display models outside Gawk's main store.)

Gawk,Second Life,shopping,fashion,build,art,virtual worlds
(Mysterious foundry space next to Gawk. Have your sound on; you'll hear the I-bars moving, and the stamp of the foundry press.)

Gawk,Second Life,shopping,fashion,build,art,virtual worlds
(Again, gorgeous detail work on this train outside the main store.)

Gawk,Second Life,shopping,fashion,build,art,virtual worlds
(I had clearer pictures of the derrick rig outside, but I liked the glimpses through the industrial grill work of the cargo containers.)

Gawk,Second Life,shopping,fashion,build,art,virtual worlds
(Wonderfully craggy, aged, detailed four-prong anchor beside the steps up to Gawk.)

Gawk,Second Life,shopping,fashion,build,art,virtual worlds
(Torso display models in a rusted cage.)

Gawk,Second Life,shopping,fashion,build,art,virtual worlds
(The lighthouse at the back of Gawk's sim.)

Gawk,Second Life,shopping,fashion,build,art,virtual worlds
(And light pouring into the upper floors of Gawk.)

All in all, it's an amazing sim just to wander--small, but realistically shaded, aged, perfectly proportioned...I was deeply impressed.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

I seem to you to seek a new disaster every day

Not to single out anyone or anything specifically, but the Hollywood Walk of Fame Hunt (first part here), running from 14 August to 30 August, represents everything currently wrong with SL.

That sounds overly dramatic, so let me explain.

Welcome to the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
This hunt is a themed hunt. All vendors have chosen a star
with a star on the Hollywood walk of fame.
The prizes are going to be something associated with the stars they have chosen.
It will run from August 14th to August 29th.

So what's the problem? Hunts have hunt themes, it happens all the time. This is a Hollywood hunt, and many--if not most--of the items are themed, so again--what's the problem?

The problem is in specifics. It's the difference between this:

cute dress,fashion,shopping,Second Life
(Picture copyright to Schnaeppchen's hunt blog; "Shirley Temple" dress copyright to Vicarious Vitae in Cornflakes.)

and this:

Mickey Mouse,Mickey Mouse,Disney,Disney,corporate logos,corporate logos,piercings,piercings,Second Life,Second Life
(Picture copyright to Schnaeppchen's hunt blog; "Mickey Mouse" piercing/watch set copyright to Magically Alluring in Serenityville.)

Does anyone else see the difference? Now, I will grant that the Shirley Temple dress from Stand Up and Cheer" was one of her better-known outfits. It showed up on her collectible doll, as well as porcelain collectibles and photos from the period. It was a well-known film, seen by many people, who weighed the price of a loaf of bread against the cost of a ticket (Stand Up and Cheer was released during the *coughs* first Great Depression).

Even with that, even as iconic a dress as it was, the dress itself breaks no records. It's a simple skirt over petticoats, high-waisted, with a wide ribbon tie and detail (and even the coordinating trim was often seen on dresses of the period, for children and adults). What makes it special is that it was seen on Shirley Temple; nothing else changes it. There are dresses made and retailed now, from off-the-rack to independent fashion houses, that share construction styling with this outfit.

Contrast that with the Mickey Mouse piercing set. The Mickey Mouse ears are trademarked. From ear hats to Mickey Mouse as a character, to the use of Mickey Mouse in corporate-level branding. This is a known and recognized symbol, at a glance recognizeable--it's like the logo for the Jim Henson Company (and I'd point you towards the Mickey Mouse ears making an appearance on the first Henson Associates still).

So why, in this conflicting morass of ethics and branding issues Second Life finds itself embroiled in--with on-the-ground groups dedicated to stamping out "content theft", as inaccurate a term as that is, clear up to take-no-prisoners bans of major sim owners for minor infractions...why, by any and all gods, did anyone think this hunt was a good idea?

Forget the stores who participated--bright or not, it's on them, store by store. Some followed the rules and turned in outfits or objects that were intended to be homages only; some threw those established conventions aside and turned in outfits or movie posters that were directly infringing.

What I'm more concerned with is the hunt organizers; are they simply not aware of the current uneasy imbalance between copyright infringement and original work? Do they not care? Did they just think a "Hollywood" hunt would have no issues, because they don't know enough about IP rights? Through ignorance or willful insolence, it's there, it's out, the hunt locations and tips are circulating through various blogs, and what's done is done.

But either way this goes--with bans and DMCA filings, or the Labs' ignoring them in turn--it's making me unhappy either way. An increase in hypocrisy on the part of everyone involved, down to bans from SL--it won't end well, no matter what happens.

And that's really, really sad for a scavenger hunt. When did hunts stop being fun?

we're setting the fires to light the way, we're burning it all to begin again

I am trapped in this place, and do not know whether I trapped myself, or was led here. Were my own actions to blame, or the actions of the larger world? I listen to Leonard Cohen and Rufus Wainright, Black Veil Brides and the Indigo Girls, and reflect on fidelity.

In these moments I think, am very nearly compelled to think, of Sigyn.

There are those who say Sigyn is an insignificant goddess, and to be fair, there are personages in the Norse pantheon that are much more vibrant, much larger than any life, than she. It's also true that she is not known for any great pronouncements, any life-changing philosophies--save for her life. She changed by not changing. She changed by refusing to give up what she knew was right.

There is a lesson here. I'm just not sure what it is.

("Loki und Sigyn" (1863) by Mårten Eskil Winge. Originally oil on canvas.)

At times I feel alone; I am told that I am not. I cling to the words over the feelings, because my feelings have betrayed me in this time, my assurances about myself fall flat and empty, meaningless on such stark ground. But I endure. If nothing else, I endure.

There are tales that speak of Sigyn as if she was an alien to Asgardian culture, even though her lineage is known. There are rumors from later prophets that muse on this apparent contradiction:
"I know that. I see it, in the threads. You could no more harm her than I could." [Njord] sighed heavily and came to sit opposite the slender [Loki]. "But you're curious about her origin." The sea-king offered him a drink and settled back, eyes dark. "My son found her a few years ago, not long after this hall had been built. She couldn't have been more than four or five years old, a bruised, hungry, disheveled thing, crying in the forest. Ingvi found her when He was out walking. She tried to run from him at first but was too scared and too weak to get very far, and he has a way with children. He calmed her and brought her to me." He smiled a little, a smile tinged with pain. "We don't know where she comes from... I suspect She's..." he hesitated searching for a term in the Aesir language that would not be derogatory "forgive me, a half breed." He inclined his head to the man. "I've always suspected the child born of an Aesir and Jotun union," His mouth tightened "and abandoned as a result. She's delicate... and too gentle to thrive amongst the Jotuns and yet if she is indeed part Jotun, would not necessarily be welcomed by some of the more insular Aesir." He snorted. "I don't know. I could be wrong. She could not tell us." He admitted. "What we do know is that she was mistreated and abandoned."
~from the Jotunbok, "Loki and Sigyn's First Meeting"
Whether married in or of the same blood as the Aesir, or the Vanir; what is sure and certain is that she did not look the same as others in Asgard, nor act like them. Her province was flowers and fruit, plants and herbs; theirs was learning and warcraft, song and story. She could blend nearly invisibly into surrounding foliage. She may have possessed pointed ears, as Loki had; accounts vary, and vary wildly.

But what is clear is that she was perceived as Other, as Not of the Blood--though again, by marriage or adoption, fosterage or birth, she was in the same bloodline.

(Built in 1996 in Svendborg; Alpha Diesel on a total of 4000 bhp; 51 ton BP.)

I have felt Other most of my life. There have been very, very few people that I can say, honestly, even to myself if not to them: You understand me. There are fewer that I trust without hiding, without shielding, showing whatever I happen to feel at the time. Even in those moments, with people I would trust with a knife to my throat, I hide; I conceal; I misdirect.

It is my nature, and while I fight it, in times of distress it is more than what I
do, it is who I am. Perhaps this is how it will always be. Perhaps no one has ever been able to see me and see the true face of me, the true feelings; because I am so adept at concealing myself away.

Sigyn--or so the stories tell--married Loki young; even if this is not true, she was reputed to look much younger than her actual age. I get the strong feeling that she was perpetually dismissed for this, sent from councils and conversations on the pretext that she was "too young" to understand.

Even after birthing sons. Even after demonstrating her own powers. Who we look like, we become; who we act like, we are.

Sigyn,barque,wooden ships,tall ships,sailing,ships,Finland,Norse,Nordic,mythology,shipping,museum,Sweden
(The barque Sigyn, built in Göteborg in 1887, now a museum ship in Turku, Finland. Sigyn sailed for several Swedish shipowners before being sold to Åland, from where she was bought to become a museum ship in 1939.)

I am struggling to understand. To make sense of everything. A follows B follows C follows D, but there are gaps, and there are shifting letters, shifting ground underneath my feet. It's my own instability that's being addressed, I know this, but how long do I wait for things to settle? How long should I?

And will they?

She bore him two sons, Narvi, the second-born, and Váli, named after Odin's son of the same name. They were strong and clean-limbed, but there was prejudice sunk deep, blood-deep, bone-deep in the Aesir. Having seen Loki's children with Angrboða, a female Jotun, and having named them monsters, they waited for Váli and Narfi to show traits of Loki's "monstrous blood".

Sigyn, for her part, was mostly pitied, or despised. Is it any wonder she did not socialize more freely with the society in Asgard? A child-bride sold as a pawn, at best; a monster in her own right, for not being 'of the blood'; what did she have in common, at all, with people who saw her in this light?

("Loke og Sigyn", painted in 1810 by Christopher Wilhelm Eckersberg. Originally oil on canvas.)

There are words straining to be said. There are ideas begging to be articulated, if only so I can see the shape of my thoughts by the flavor the words leave in the air. I waver between holding everything back and saying too much. I don't seem to be able to find a steady, middle ground.

The perception is that Loki lied, which he did not do. The perception is that he killed Baldr, which he did not do. The perception is that he was a divisive, unwanted, invasive element in Aesir culture, when in fact he was the blood brother of Odin, who loved him--at least, until Baldr died. Which, by fiat and prophecy, Baldr had to do to become the golden leader of the new gods. People--even the Aesir--forget this, and far too often.

("Loki and Sigyn during Loki's punishment", painted by Karl Franz Eduard von Gebhardt. Originally oil on canvas, this was a reproduction seen in Ebenezer Cobham Brewer's book, 'Character sketches of romance, fiction and the drama'. )

Histories fade, memories fade, everything gets confused, or maybe that's just me. I'm saying things out of order, I'm not saying the things I want to say, I'm saying things I don't want to say, and I have no idea if it's through artifice or genuine unknowing. All I know is, I just want things to work. To work out. And I have no idea how to do that.

Perhaps that's the first step in all of this: admitting that I have no clue about where I'm going, anymore, and what I'm going to do when I get there. Maybe it's also admitting I might need help in figuring it all out.

There are many ways to take a prophecy of oncoming demise. Some parents magnify all good things, reinforcing that it is simply the time that cannot be avoided; ensuring that their child knows love and joy and care until the end.

Frigga did not do this. She was fearful and arrogant; for her son was perfect, and he would stay with her forever. So she made the whole of the world bargain for her son--all save the mistletoe, because it was a parasite, and would never amount to anything. And Baldr grew up, brash and boastful, knowing nothing could kill him, knowing himself to be immortal.

All the time the drumbeat of the prophecy, that Baldr must die, that the natural world itself hung in the balance until he did. And that that very perfection, that bright shining gold of him, was supposed to fade, for death to sink into his bones, and make him humble, and thus he could rise and lead the new gods with a merry heart and an understanding nature.

The whole of the world, Frigga risked, out of misguided pride.

("Sigyn: Lady of the Staying Power" was written by Galina Krasskova and published by Asphodel Press. A passage from the back of the book states "She gathers broken things, and people, to her breast to heal.")

I too, have pride, but it is steadily evaporating. There may be such a thing as an excess of humility; if there is, I'm not there yet. But I'm not sure how much farther I have left to fall, before a total loss of self-integrity.

Is that a good thing? I'm too close to it to tell.

Baldr held a challenge, his ego overwhelming his common sense--and not for the first time. He invited everyone, including Höd, who was blind. Höd was an amazing archer--what he fired at, he hit, with or without his vision. Admittedly, Loki knew this, and watched as he shot arrow after arrow at Baldr, while Baldr laughed.

Then Loki handed him an arrow with a point carved from the lowly, dismissed mistletoe, the single plant o'er all the earth that Frigga never bothered to extract the bargain from. Höd lined it up. Baldr urged him on. The Aesir watched as the arrow flew true--and struck, and killed Baldr on the spot.

The prophecy fulfilled, Loki slipped away, but his closeness to Höd did not go unmarked. Höd was not blamed--and why would he be? Baldr asked him to fire. But Loki was, all because he saw the loophole--and knew the prophecy must be fulfilled.

(From Skaldenmet, a German translation of the 1999 poem "Sigyn Talks To Her Husband" by Laura Gjovaag. Artist unknown; at a guess, pencil and ink on board, but I could be wrong.)

I am also tired. I am still far too fragile, but the air around me swirls with confusion and unease, and it's nearly all of my making. When the talks begin, what will I say? When the talks begin, will I know how to listen? When the talks begin...when will the talks begin?

Loki, sensing the change in the air, and his quick fall from 'tolerated' to 'abhorred' status, spurred on by Frigga, escaped to the mountains with his sons and his wife. He pondered ways in which he could be caught, for every form of escape he had. He was working on a way out of a fishing net, as a sleek-flanked salmon, when the Aesir climbed the mountain. Quickly, he transformed and threw the net in the fire, before seeking the stream and fins again; but alas, in this, he had outsmarted himself; Odin saw the net, pieced the making together, and caught him, held him in strong unyielding arms.

A cave was found, deep and dark. A serpent was found whose venom was so strong, it could affect the gods themselves. The serpent was trapped above three stone slabs, each pierced with a hole, set on edge. Dark magics were employed that changed Váli into a wolf; the abrupt, unwanted change drove him mad. He turned on his brother, Narfi, tearing him to pieces, and ran deep into the cave, never to be seen again.

And these gods, these bright and shining walkers of the Rainbow Bridge, drew out Narfi's entrails, using the entrails of Sigyn and Loki's child to bind him across the three raised edges of the stone, whereupon they tightened and turned into iron.

Imagine. Loki feels betrayal? Yes. Anger? Yes. Rage, and even hurt? Yes.

What does Sigyn feel? These people who have never accepted her as one of them, have just killed one of her sons outright, driven the other mad, bound her husband in magicked chains--and Odin had the audacity to turn to her, after, and say all she had to do was walk away from her husband--just walk away--and she would be accepted among the shining throng.

Tell us he is not your husband, he said. You will be a maid again, and live with us, and we will never refer to him more.

And Sigyn--pale, Other, different Sigyn--said no. You bind my husband, she said, I will stay with him. You reject my husband, you reject me. Go home to your wives, and your husbands; leave me to mine.

And there she stands, month into year into decade into century into millenia, time slowly grinding her to sinew and bone. She stands, holding a rough bowl above her husband's eyes, to catch the venom of the by-now maddened serpent. She only leaves his side when she must empty the bowl into the darkest reaches of the cave. And in those moments, only the howls of her husband can be heard over the howling of her transformed son.

The poison drips, adds to the burden
In my bowl. It fills with revenge.
You feel the drops when I leave
To empty the bowl
Falling into your eyes.
Your body shudders, shakes the ground
That you are held to,
Gripped by the last embrace
Of our son.

Laura Gjovaag speaks as if she were there; in that cave, in that trembling body. Enduring, enduring because it is all she has, enduring because it is all she can do. To protect her love and husband as best she can.

Do the gods see that you will break the binds?
Do they know the pain that will make you fight?
Do they care that I am the one who holds Ragnarok away?

But the gods do not think of such things. They think of the loss of Baldr, of the bright and shining golden son, whose loss has made Frigga bitter and grieving-grey. They think of justice done. They do not think that they, themselves, crafted their demise.

Oh, Loki, my husband,
My arms are tired.

And I can guarantee they do not think of Sigyn.

I think of her. In these moments when stress and weakness diminish me, I cling to that image, that image that has inspired so much art, so many different interpretations, as the world spins on. I think of her.

I am not that embattled lady, growing older in the dark; I am not driven half-mad by the will to stand and not lose my own sense of self to the howls in the black. But my soul is on its knees, and if this means I must stop, now, and not press forward, not keep walking at any cost...then that is what I do. I have the serpent's spite with Sigyn's guiding endurance; occasionally, I am the wanderer in outer shadow. But I will make this work.

And perhaps, the world will move to where I sit, instead of me walking forward in the world. And I will regain that sense of closeness, which is all I truly wanted. Perhaps that is my lesson in all of this reflection; that we have reached another time to pause, and reinforce, and sit, hands on knees, prepared for the universe to speak.

I'm waiting. This, too, is what I do.

(Poem © 1999, 2003, 2007, 2010, Laura Gjovaag, from A Dreamer's Sketch Pad.)