Friday, February 15, 2013

this vicious circle's getting out of hand

[12:55] ʎpuɐↃ ssǝɹʇsıW (cxxxxxxxx): I read this message in wow skin group PLEASE CIRCULATE THIS NOTICE TO YOUR FRIENDS AND FAMILY ON YOUR CONTACT LIST.

*ATTENTION*!!!!!!

In the coming days, you should be aware¦
Do not open any message with an attachment called: "Invitation FACEBOOK", regardless of who sent it.
It is a virus that opens an Olympic torch that burns the whole hard disc C of your computer. This virus will be received from someone you had in your address book.
That's why you should send this message to all your can
[12:56] Emilly Orr: Oh, not again


I swear, I see at least one of these a day, and I'm not in a lot of high-traffic groups by intent. I'm sure that people in larger, more "chatty" groups see this more than I do.

[12:56] Emilly Orr: [Cxxxx], it's not a real threat
[12:56] Lxxx Pxxxxxxx: wow
[12:56] ღ ριηкч ღ (pxxxxxxxx Fxxx): thanks i will spam that around asap
[12:57] Emilly Orr: Please don't.
[12:57] ღ ριηкч ღ (pxxxxxxxx Fxxx): huh?


So, I did some quick work to track it down. I wasn't trying for open hostility, just information. While I was off doing that, others were chiming in.

[12:59] pxxx (pxxxxxxx Mxxxxxxxx): Candy, that's spam., it's ment to have people like you paste it all over
[12:59] pxxx (pxxxxxxx Mxxxxxxxx): so please dont
[12:58] ʎpuɐↃ ssǝɹʇsıW (cxxxxxxxx): I check and is in all the web, but just in case dont open it


That's the problem, isn't it? If we don't understand the technology we use, we don't understand how and why it stops working, let alone why it works in the first place. And I am not immune to this sort of magical thinking--I've made the "box of magic smoke" references, and there have been more than a few times where I've honestly struck computer towers, as if percussive maintenance would actually work on motherboards and hard drives.

[12:59] Zxxxxxxxxxx Hxxxxxxxxx: Spam can also be used for sammiches.
[12:59] Zxxxxxxxxxx Hxxxxxxxxx: But that is a diffrent conversation.
[12:59] Exxxxx (pxxxxxxxxxxxxx Rxxxxxxx): probably a more interesting one
[13:00] Emilly Orr: Not only that, but it's OLD spam. Like vintage 2006 old: http://www.snopes.com/computer/virus/invitation.asp


But this is how infection works, right? One person gets sick, infects another person, who infects another person, who...you get the idea. And in more places than just SL, virii no longer have to be computer-based. Now, they can be purely text-based, and people will still pick up the infection and pass it on. Whether out of fear, confusion, or simple misunderstanding of the technologies we increasingly rely upon, virii still exist, and will find new ways to keep existing--save that, once they move away from malicious coding, become far more insidious wasters of our time.

So what's the deal behind Prince Stolas on Twitter? God, of all people, tipped me to him, and it's a little unnerving that his/her/its user pic (as well as the name, for that matter) both relate to the Goetic hierarchy of named demons. Of course, to be fair, My Lord Stiv was never all that sane, even when he was hanging out at the Enigma in SL, so it's unsurprising to find him consorting with owl-faced demonic entities.

What is surprising, I suppose, is to find said owl-faced demonic entity handing out "fashion curses" on Twitter.

Turning to current news, someone mentioned a meteorite striking Russia late last night. I tossed the link to friends, and we went off to look for proof of veracity.

Turns out a meteorite did strike Russia last night. There's a ton of video footage, and at this point, a ton of coverage, and just about every link is saying that this had nothing to do with the "near miss" fly-by of DA14.

I'm not so sure, to be perfectly honest; while it wasn't DA14, it likely was an outrider pulled along the asteroid's route.

[Insert from the Editrix: here is a great article on what did--and didn't--happen regarding the meteor strike over Russia. Prevailing science says my theory's wrong; the meteor that hit and DA14 were on completely different ellipticals.]

Turning to video games: there have been many ways for Lara Croft to die in the older games; usually some variation of being hit by things (bullets, tigers, lasers, the ground), or being drowned, being crushed by falling things, et cetera; none of them were really that memorable, in the sense that the death itself wasn't the point, but the end-stop moment where you'd have to try again. They were, as a rule, just memorable enough that (most) players didn't want to see them over and over again.

More news from the front lines of the new Lara Croft: this is now their idea of memorable. (Clicking that link, btw, leads to an incredibly visceral and disturbing death that someone made into a .gif; I would say it's definitely NSFW, and might indeed be NSF anyone, ever.)

This is what's been bothering me about the new trend towards "realism" in games. And it's not even the Uncanny Valley aspects of coding, nor am I going to go off on how violent videogames cause children to find guns and kill people, because they don't. I do think, however, that violence in video games, combined with the violence we see on television, on our streets, by watching the news, by watching horror films...it doesn't predispose anyone to violent thoughts or outbursts, but I do think it becomes easier and easier to adapt to the set point of violence, whatever that is for the culture at the time.

To that end, I think scenes like this, where Croft is going to die, there is no way for her not to die, yet we are shown her death throes to the end anyway, vividly; I think scenes like this are closer to torture porn, frankly, than "realistic" death, with "weight and impact". And we run a very real risk, by participating in these death scenes by proxy, of making it easier to shrug off other forms of violence.

Monday, February 11, 2013

and bitter cold goes side by side

News of NiranV's trouble with this JIRA is both daunting and depressing to read; while I no longer use Niran's viewer, I will say I found it easy to use, easy to build in, and photography was phenomenal while using it. Overall, I really thought it was the best of the V3 coding out there.

But it seems he's intent on hanging up his hat. If true, he will be sorely missed as a creator of an actual USABLE V3 viewer, but more than that, this kind of battle with the Lindens (and the rest of the TPV community) burns people to cinders, and that's the really sad thing. He shouldn't have had to fight this hard to fix things.

But then, in reading through the JIRA comments, my jaw hit the desk more than once:
"Real bodies are not perfectly symmetric, and neither is our avatar model; changing this now would be more disruptive than symmetry justifies."
(Widely Linden)
Seriously? Plus, that statement is so dense as to be nearly impenetrable for most people. "Real bodies" aren't perfectly symmetrical, no, but virtual bodies are. Plus, this seems to be a simple change so that prim clothing, armor, prim attachments, wings, et cetera, would fit better and be positioned more accurately, right? So why would that small fix be "more disruptive" in any way?

There are more interesting comments on that JIRA, but I'm quoting the last one in brief:
"If Linden Labs really wants to get their customers to drop them like a rock, feel free to close it again. I'll know to stop getting on Second Life and go do something productive then."
(Maki Guyot)
This is exactly where a great number of us are. And I know I say this a lot, but this time I think it has some merit, because I've pretty much given up on updating this blog at present. (Granted, that does not mean I'm not blogging, but really, the only blogs I'm updating at all right now are my Tumblr feed and Topping Out.)

Without serious work on their communications with the community, without severe and sudden deconstruction of the ivory tower elitism that seems to solidly permeate Linden Lab, they're going to lose Second Life as a viable world. Which--also as I've said before--would be a really bad thing, because so many different applications (everything from training midwives to practicing military tactics to rehabilitating the disabled to encouraging socializing and personal contact) keep surfacing as to why SL is a good thing to have around.

Meet the fastest robot in the world--at least, so far, that is.

I don't normally get political on this blog, but I have to laud Nancy Pelosi's recent statement that violent video games have no impact on school shootings, and on violence in general. She's getting dunned, especially on Fox News, for this stance, but I have to applaud her for this. Because if violence in games were the sole determining cause, then there would be huge upswings for violent acts in Japan, for instance, which allows far more brutal depictions of violence in games than even we do.

We need to address the culture, not the media created by the culture. Because it's still the truth: guns don't shoot people by themselves, and violent games don't kill on their own, either. Find the root causes, not the symptoms, and we can begin to heal the cultural rift. Taking away the weapons and the games, by themselves, won't work.
Finding out why so many of our teens feel disenfranchized, why so many of our teens snap after years of constant bullying and abuse, will do us far more good than banning a few games that the bulk of young adults don't even play.

To distract from the political, have thirteen minutes of bizarre news bloopers.

And after that, here's a twenty-five minutes on why those of us in the US are paying more and getting less (in terms of download and upload speeds) than comparable developed nations. Just taking the case of Hong Kong, where even the poorest households have faster data transfer rates than people who have the fastest speeds over here, it does cause us to wonder why. I'd be very interested in finding out what Time-Warner and Comcast (to name only two) think about Ms. Crawford's assertions.

Moving on to art, let me introduce you to the work of Augusto Esquivel. He's using simple buttons strung on nylon line to create ephemeral, moving hanging sculptures. Personally, I remain enamored of the piano, but some of the other set pieces are just as stunning.

For art closer to home, buying one of the clock pegs from Yanko Design will let you use any random object (of the correct dimensions) as clock hands. Want to mark the hours of your day with pencils or pens? Done. Want to insert harvest twigs? Done. Slim throwing knives, tatted bookmarks stiffened with cornstarch, wire ribbon? Whatever. It'll work. Insert things into peg; set correct time; insert peg into wall; done.

The next dangerous drink has emerged: in this case, a vodka rated at 250,000 Scoville units. (To put that into perspective, poblano peppers rate, on average, between 1,000 and 2,000 Scovilles, jalapeño peppers around 5,000 Scovilles, straight cayenne about 30,000, and pure habañero pepper about 200,000.) The terms in which this vodka is described make it sound less like a drink, and more like an assault; however, I know people who would buy that--and drink it--with great relish.

At least until the burn hit. Then there might be tears and lamentations.

Let me also introduce you to Tsuyoshi Ozawa, who in 2012 did a series featuring women holding vegetable weapons. I...really have no place in my brain for that, so I'm sending it out to you. Maybe someone will make sense of it for me.

And there's a very inspiration video featuring women in Second Life participating in One Billion Rising. It's an important cause, and it's a touching video, both. (Plus, here and there you might recognize a few faces you know.)

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

mark the time that slips away where the oceans meet the sky

There are things in our lives we can redesign to make much more efficient, or beautiful, or inspiring. And then there are the designs we make just for fun. Me, I know why the tentacle plunger might get made, though it's clearly the latter. (And no, think bathroom, not bedroom--this really is a redesigned plunger, not a sex toy.)

This, though, is truly amazing and if it succeeds in a stable way, we will effectively end the debate over use of stem cells in medicine. And make no mistake about it--the initial cost outlay for medical-grade machines (and the technologists to run them) will be high, but after that, surgeons will be able to create stem cells that originate on a growth medium, not in a baby, and (even more important, in my opinion), will be able to drop rejection of the cells to zero, because they can use the patient's DNA to grow them.

Imagine: a world where there is no risk of rejection, because the cells are grown from each patient. A world where there is no need for the scary immuno-suppressants we have now, with their occasionally vicious side effects, because our bodies will simply adapt and reintegrate our own cells.

3D printers can do a great many things, but I admit, I didn't realize they could print out living cells. We are living in the future, people.

Meanwhile, coming from the more cynical region of future techs, Amazon is trying to patent a yet-to-be-created device that will ensure digital scarcity. While the concept of digital scarcity still makes me laugh, my bigger question is why? And why did it take so long to grant the patent? (It was originally filed in 2009.)

But that's not the worrisome part. The part that makes me nervous is the implicit kill coding.

Say I own a digital copy of To Kill a Mockingbird that I acquired from Amazon. I've read the work several times, I need more space for things, and Amazon has told me I can re-sell the ebook when I wish. I list it for sale (at a reduced price, though Amazon still takes a cut), and someone buys it. This technology would then (supposedly) kick in and "transfer ownership" of the ebook, giving a copy (with the kill code intact) to the buyer, and subsequently deleting my copy of the book.

Considering how easy it is for technologies to go haywire, I am not sanguine that other books may be deleted, or that there would be cases where my book might be deleted, and the buyer's copy not delivered. All around, this sounds like a bad move.

Turning to gender, and perception, Lore Sjöberg has a marvelous little commentary on the myth of the "nice guy". It's well worth reading, and I'm thinking it should be required reading for every guy in SL. Because what he says is true: women don't want "nice" when they're considering potential mates or partners. They want smart, or funny, or smart and funny, and hey, liking a good cuddle now and again wouldn't be bad either. And after those attributes are covered, then women turn to the physical.

Is that sinking in? Ask ten guys what they want in a woman, at least half of them will mention breast size. Ask ten women what they want in a man, nearly all of them will mention intelligence and sense of humor over any physical attribute.

We don't want you to be a "nice guy". We want you to be a good man.