log (2006/11/24 to 2006/11/30)

Well, I stayed up about an hour too late last night, so I probably have to admit that Second Life has actually crossed the border into Fun territory, at least now and then. *8) Two events of note:

I got orbited! My first experience being hit with a weapon. In fact I think I may have been an innocent bystander; I'd just teleported into Warmouth, and someone said "draw!" and someone else said "who, me?", and then there was this one guy firing a weapon at another, and various smoke effects and pyrotechnic effects were going off, and someone said "strong orbit Joe Bloggs" (actually not "Joe Bloggs", but I forget the actual name), and suddenly I was like 100 virtual meters in the air and heading upward at a very fast rate (which is what "being orbited" means). I don't know if this happened because I was standing too close to Joe Bloggs when the orbiter weapon fired, or if the guy with the weapon also said "strong orbit Dale Innis" and I just took off so fast that I didn't hear it.

Unable to stop rising madly into the air using any of the movement keys, I just teleported back to Warmouth, and on arrival was no longer madly rising. One of the combatants was surrounded, and apparently trapped, by a big glass bubble, and the other one was sitting on top of the clock tower taunting him. I asked him why he didn't just teleport out of it, but he didn't answer.

I'm wildly curious about how that weapon (which from some of the message traffic I gather is maybe called a "Soul Keeper", although I can't find via Google any description of a Second Life weapon of that name) actually worked, given that Warmouth is a push-restricted zone, and for instance the little trampoline that I made the other day won't work on anyone but its owner while in Warmouth. How did the weapon eject me into the air so hard?

Anyway, my first experience with Second Life combat was basically fun and friendly; the combatants didn't seem at all upset at each other. Neither of them answered my questions about the weapons at all; maybe I was just too obviously a noob or the information is a big secret, but I suspect that they don't actually know, having bought the weapons somewhere with the scripts read-protected.

(One thing that it'd be fun to do but of course I'd never do myself would be to make some extremely useful and popular object and give it away for free, but with scripts read-protected and containing a Trojan Horse such that once I found myself in a room with forty-seven other people all of them carrying one of the objects, I could say "cockalorum!" and they'd suddenly all start doing the chicken-dance or something. Heh heh heh.)

The second event of note involves amazing generosity; I was in some Dance Club doing a salsa line-dance and chatting with people, and when I casually mentioned that the reason I was wearing all default clothes was that I'd never had any money to buy anything else someone gave me five hundred Linden dollars. Five hundred! Isn't that nice? I mean, sure, at the current exchange rate it's slightly less than two dollars US, but still. A pretty much total stranger and all...

I immediately used twenty-five of the dollars to give the person a positive rating; that felt good. And I've used a few more of them to buy some L$1 items at nearly-free-stuff shops (so now I have a zillion more inventory items to someday go through and organize). And I'm planning to use some of them to upload some textures, so I can have like a distinctive T-shirt or something.

What a silly thing to be spending one's time on, eh? *8)

I feel slightly guilty, or at least like maybe I should feel slightly guilty, because at the time the extremely generous person gave me the money I was being a girl. Using a different gender ought in theory to be no odder than using a different hair-color, but y'know. It is in fact considerably odder, and I'm sure that some people are probably creeped out by it or whatever. Hopefully my patroness isn't one of them, and wouldn't mind finding out that the young redhaired girl she gave the two bucks to is actually a doddering old redhaired man (something she could easily do).

Relatedly, I was standing in Warmouth the other day when someone broadcast (I think) a landmark to "The Dumpster -- just free stuff", or something like that. Last night I went there, and it was indeed full of all sorts of free stuff, including a nice ridable blimp, lots of clothes and accessories and hair and "flaming marshmallow on a stick"s and that kind of thing. Everything that I looked at seemed to have been put there by the same person, and when I looked around there that person was, standing around chatting to someone. I went over and told her how cool her free-stuff place was, and gave her a copy of my head-tentacle in case she wanted to make it available there also. She took it and thanked me, but I think she was just being polite; I imagine head-tentacles were probably all the rage months ago, and she's got whole warehouses full of them. But I still like mine.

Given that creating things is completely free, Second Life is inevitably flooded with lots and lots of free things, the vast majority of which are awful, and a few of which are really nice. A peculiar alternative economy in that sense, but one that it's at least for awhile interesting to play in.

One person that I talked to was from Brazil, and when someone else from Brazil passed by he commented that yeah, Second Life had been getting lots and lots of press lately there, and everyone he knew was going to try it. So there may be a spike in the Brazilian population going on. This reminds us, of course, of the fact that more than half of the current population of Orkut (Google's rather lame social networking system) is said to be from Brazil. I doubt that will happen to Second Life; my theory about Orkut is that it's such a bad social networking service that no one'd use it regularly without some strong reason (like "everyone else from my country is there"), whereas Second Life is a pretty good virtual universe, so the same effect won't apply. Of course that might not last forever...

Ha, so last time I posted here it was Sunday, and I was really sleepy because I'd gotten up before dawn to try to buy a Wii from Amazon. This time I'm posting it's Sunday again, and again I'm really sleepy, but this time it's just because I haven't been sleeping well; no family-bonding or console-buying explanations. (The Wii that M managed to order in the morning, by the way, arrived just fine, and the kids have been playing the new Zelda game like 16+ hours a day, in shifts depending on which one is awake at the time; they say it's pretty good.)

It's amazing how important sleep is, especially at this advanced and doddering age. (The little daughter can stay up all night playing Zelda, and still be awake and bouncing around the next day; the little boy doesn't tend to do this, but I'll bet he could. They're young!) Being all sleepy like this, the amount of useful work I can do (in this intellectually-challenging field in which I find myself, anyway) is strictly limited.

(Maybe this is the Goddess's way of telling me I shouldn't have planned to get any work done on Thanksgiving Weekend anyway.)

Thanksgiving was very nice, just the four of us sitting around the table eating the food that M and I spent the morning putting together. All went very well, nicely timed, yummy-tasting; we're getting good at this particular feast after all these years. For dessert we had chocolate pie and carrot cake; the carrot cake's from a recipe that I used to make all the time 'way back when kids were tiny (or even Before Kids), and M remembered and we found the recipe card for. Cream Cheese frosting and everything; very nice.

Speaking of which, a reader that we're very glad to hear from writes:

The Bicycle Pedaling Frog wishes you and your family a mordantly ambitious Trucksgiving.

Isn't that nice?

In rare moments of lucidity I've been playing Second Life a little. (Hey, it's all the rage!) Here I am (or rather here's Dale Innis in one of the various forms I've used for him while playing around with avatar design), admiring the sunset or sunrise or something while sitting on a wooden box that I (he) created, sat on, and then edited the Z-coordinate of so he was sitting like 300m up in the sky:

Nice virtual sunset

Second Life is intriguing and frustrating, because it's always just on the edge of being fun, but also lags and crashes and glitches and things often enough, and is diffuse and confusing enough, that it never quite gets there. Most of the people that I encounter are also newbies; probably I hang out in Newbie Places, not having found the Experienced User Places yet (or earned entrance to them if I knew where they were), but there sure are alot of newbies. The most common question I hear is "what do you do here?", and the most common answer is "that's a good question!".

There's sex, of course. One of the first interactions I had was when this vaguely bat-looking woman came down out of the sky and said "do you want to go to a club?", and when I dithered about being a newbie and not really sure what was going on she said "there is sex". (I said "oh! nrn, tx".)

And there's building stuff. I made this spinning metal barrel that sits there a few virtual feet off of the virtual floor with a sign saying "click me!", and if you click it your avatar goes over and sits on it, and because it's spinning your avatar spins around and around head over heels, which looks amusing and produces memorable visuals if you go into "mouselook" mode where you're looking out your avatar's eyes. (I have a picture of that somewhere, but I'm too lazy to find it and post it; use your imagination.)

Since I'm poor in the game (I didn't even give Second Life my credit card information to verify, which gets you some automatic vitual money), I can't buy or rent any land of my own, so in order to build stuff I hang out at the various sandboxes where anyone and everyone can build stuff but it gets cleaned up now and then. It's sort of fun in the sandboxes; mostly other penniless newbies like me fiddling with the building system and exchanging mysterious artifacts that we've found or that other people have given us, trying to figure out how they work or modify them to our own purposes.

One day when I was there, this young woman avatar was sitting crosslegged in the sandbox on Help Island, trying to combine a flame object with a log object to make a candle. She was still there (or there again) doing the same thing when I came back quite awhile later.

I spent quite a bit of time myself trying to make a smaller and less showy version of a huge hemisphere of floating multicolored wisps that someone gave me a copy of; the original is extremely impressive (it takes up about a quarter of the sandbox all by itself), and will get all the cargo-cultist newbies hanging around the sandbox coming over to beg you for a copy, but I was hoping to get a subtler effect. So far I haven't been completely successful.

(Like most of the cool visual object effects in Second Life, this one is a particle system.)

I think Second Life is, in general, something that rewards more than the very casual small amount of time (and zero money) that I've given to it. If I were to upgrade to Premium, give them money, get a better graphics card, buy some virtual land, build myself my own Home, actually learn the scripting language, open a shop selling spinny barrels and cool particle systems, join groups of like-minded people, and so on, I'd probably appreciate its coolness more. But so far I haven't made that investment.

Second Life is so hot that you'll have no trouble finding a bazillion interesting links about it if you want to. I noticed it most recently because (well, because the CEO was there, and because) it's been having problems with replicators. There's something especially impressive about a replicator attack that you can see in the form of thousands of little gold rings everywhere, rather than just tracking on little "computer virus infections per week" graphs.

Let's see, what else. Skyboxes. This interesting World From My Window series of posts (having to do with people who have invested vastly more than I have in the world), and the recent "copybot" incident (having to do with intellectual property here, rather than replicants), which has gotten considerable well-thought-out commentary:

You see, in something like Second Life, it's not the megacorps who are having their stuff copied, it's us. It's not the big companies that are trying to profit, it's the little guys. And all of a sudden, the same folks who likely argue cyberliberties and donate to the EFF and have gigs of video stored on RAIDs they keep in their garage suddenly feel the sting of perfect digital copying. CopyBot is a mirror, and what we see reflected in it is the unsavory fact that we all want DRM, if it favors us.

Hee hee! I've been giving away copies of my spinny barrel to anyone that asks, but then I'm still a low-investment guy.

Second Life is definitely one of those things we'll look back on a decade from now, and see clearly how it fit into an extremely important development that had a profound impact on society and culture and computing and all. If I weren't so sleepy, I'd figure out just what that development is going to be. *8)

Let's see, what else while I still have the awakeness to type? I read a gothic romance (pure escapism). SANS has published their latest Top Twenty list of security attack targets. Here's a list of lots of things spammers do to avoid filters. And between now and the end of January you can download a free audio lecture about some good pieces of music (I haven't listened to it myself yet, so consider this a notice rather than a recommendation).

To end on a slightly less miscellaneous note, a reader writes:

I love the current Ajax story. You should enshrine it somewhere.

We will enshrine it (or at least what I think was the current Ajax story when the reader wrote that) as the ending to today's weblog entry.

She pulled the blankets up around him and smoothed her hand across his brow. He had barely touched the tray of soup and toast from earlier. "Did you not like the soup dear?... Maybe we'll try something else a bit later." The blankets, her touch, even the untasted soup; he tried to gather the strength to let her know that it was perfect just the way it was.

Here's to things that are perfect just the way they are...