Friday, May 30, 2008

ARC and You!

On the blogs recently, I see lots of blanter concerning the "ARC" which I find just a tad on the overreacting side.

But first, just what is ARC? It's known as the "Avatar Rendering Cost" tool, which is a fancy way of measuring how big an impact your avatar makes upon the grid. It's a quick way of seeing if your 255 prim necklace is crashing people out. A higher number means your avatar is drawing more resources and thus causing more pain to your neighbors.

The idea behind Linden Lab releasing these tools to the public is to get those who complain about lag to shut the hell up. With ARC, you can spend your days trying to pin down who's dragging down the sim and vent your anger out upon him, her, or it.

THe fuss arises (because no matter what, they must make a fuss) due to the observation that a lot of popular attachments are high prim and rendering heavy. There is a fear that due to the popularity of events and the massive waves attending them that only those with the minimal ARC number will be allowed in and thus discriminate against those with heavier ARC numbers. They fear that everyone will be forced down into attachment-less clothes-less black skinned avatars in order to enjoy any form of SL.

But, I don't think that will happen.

In engineering, there are always constant trade-offs. An improvment in one area will be off set in another area, and the big game is to get what you want with minimal trade-offs. You'll never get the perfect concept, that's impossible. But you'll try. In addition, and especially in games and real-life vehicles, there is a constant leveraging of performance parameters. Aircraft such as the A-10 do not have the speed or manuveurability of a F-16 simply because the immense armor and weapons load will not allow it, however, that's acceptable because it does not have to dog fight, just blast tanks.

The ARC tool is going to inspire a similar thought process. It cannot be denied that today people load tons of attachments onto themselves, with lots of scripts imbedded into the mix. As Second Life has come along, and new scripters have come in, attachments have steadily reached epic proportions. There are prim breasts, prim chest hair, prim this and that, and often with all kinds of nifty scripts which change the color or cause it to do something or imitate a real life this or that. There has been a shift towards these kinds of things due to plain old peer pressure, since bigger and more detailed was often seen as better. It took some incredibly heavy attachments before people began to bellow about it.

Now, with the ARC tool, the Lindens have introduced a method of self reflection. For once, we are confronted with a number which represents just how much of a pain we can be to our close friends and fellow party goers/concert attendees/sim neighbors. And there is a sense of guilt and shame, especially to those who have really high numbers (I haven't tested the tool myself, but I think 2500+ is bad). I think the big fuss is due to people wanting to have their cake and eat it too. They want to go easy on their fellow avatar but they don't want to sacrifice their 255 prim boots.

So, why am I confident we won't be reduced to an endless sea of black? Because people will subconscienously apply engineering principles to the matter.

Consider this. I find that my three piece hair, each piece 255 prims, gives me a value of ARC 55000. I want a good looking hairstyle, but I don't want to drag a sim with me when I enter, either. The crowd against ARC argues that we HAVE to go to basic Linden default hair. But that's a false dichtomy, because there will be a certain value of ARC at which there would be little effect upon Second Life performance, say, it's 1500 (just counting the hair). All I would have to do is simply shop for a designer who designs good but efficient hair. If I stay in the 1400-1600 range, I may be able to find something that looks good and saves wear on sims. It won't be as detailed as my original piece, but it won't be as much a memory whore either. Compromise.

And those builders who design for efficiency will be rewarded, as the crowd drifts to wards lowering their ARC. It will feed upon itself, after a fashion. A balance will be struck between going completely nude and blinging out.

Those who detract the ARC complain that we're discriminating against their right (right!?) to wear prim heavy avatars, presenting a scenario in which we're a sea of clones. But that simply won't happen. What will happen is that we'll drift towards a lower ARC count without hitting dead zero. The detractors don't want to consider this and radically alter their shopping habits or upset their way of living. They've made a significant investment in their avatar's appearance and perhaps have a trademark (think Aimee Weber) which they don't want to change but is causing an ARC meltdown.

The simple fact is that the genie is out of the bottle and things will change. Discredit and disprove the ARC as much as you want, it is one of the few indicators of avatar cost out there and people will use it (just as people will use ban lines despite their hideous appearance on the grid).

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Thank You Dirk

Throw a few bucks at real people to build the community. It is important. New residents when welcomed and encouraged properly rent our land, buy our clothes and furniture, become interested in our art, become inspired to improve their education and enroll in a class. They find likeminded residents to discuss their griefs and illnesses with. They find strength and use that newfound strength to uplift others. They bring their imaginations and skills with them and challenge us with new creations and ideas... and they do it all without borders or boundaries.
-Dirk Talamasca, on Prokofy's blog

Yes! Yes! Oh yes Yes! Dead on! On the button! Getting the newbies together and getting them involved: bingo, right on the head of the nail. That's what increases retention. I can summarize it right here:

"Build the community. It is IMPORTANT. New residents when welcomed and encouraged properly [continue on to stay invovled in SL activites]."

This is what I have said before, in a concise and neat paragraph. Thank you, Dirk. I feel validated now.

Monday, May 19, 2008

One Day

One day,

While taking shade on an old wooden bench under a canopy of maples, away from the
bright noon sun, I found a quiet calm. The child were out at school and adults out
at work and only I was there resting. The sparrows darted back and forth into the
shrubbery and squirrels chittering around the silent sigh of the trees as the breeze
whistled past.

I was left to myself in that breezy haze of the park.

Minutes passed,

And a man came along and sat down on this old wooden bench under the maples.
Intently studying the shifting of the flora and fauna, as the sparrows darted and the
squirrels chatted. How could they hold his attention so? I wondered, unfortunately
wondered aloud before I caught myself.

He turned and fixed his gaze upon me now. But it was not a stern look, of one who
has been offended. No, in his eyes was a warm light and his face and grizzy shadow
curled into a slight subtle smile. It was the kind yet amused look of someone who

"Just thinking."

"About what?"

"Thinking about nothing."

"Well, that doesn't make much sense now."

"Does it?"

"Nope, not a mote of sense."

"I see." And he trailed off into his own little world. Silence passed for a few


Can you tell me?"

"Tell you what?"

"What you were thinking about nothing."

"Well," he trails once again. His head reels back slowly, arching towards the

A strong wind whipped up and startled the trees and the leaves clapped against
each other saying how rude it was.

"I could ask the same of you."

I was confused. Of me? What about what I am thinking?

"Well, I'm thinking about wondering what you are thinking about."


"Because it's odd to see someone come and sit in silence watching animals.

Especially here. There's hardly much here to see."

"Is that so?"

"Yes, you should go visit a national park or something! Lots of things there."

"I see."

"Yeah. Here it's just a few birds and squirrels and whatever plants they throw in

to look pretty."

"What do you think of their attempt? I find it quite beautiful."

"It is beautiful, just not natural, you know what I mean?"

"True, but that tells you something, does it not?"

I sat and thought a while. It was a park, a garden of sorts. People planted the
shrubs and trees and flowers they thought pretty and melded well with each piece of
this set. What does this tell me? Silence once again permeated the air while I
thought, while he watched contentedly the birds.

"I guess it tells me what the person who runs this park thinks is good."

"I see."

"Yeah, I guess he thinks tall maple trees shadowing old wooden benches, along a
brick path bracketed by simple shrubs and interrupted by the staccoto of the tulips
and pansies, is a good park."

"Yes, I can certainly see that."

"What about you? What are you thinking?"

"Do you think the park director really thought that?"

"Oh, well, I guess so. It would be his job to do that, right?"

"What about the squirrels and sparrows?"

"They take up homes everywhere, I guess they just moved in."

"Like squatters?"

"Yeah, a lot like squatters, if you think of it that way. They're ok, but they

crap on everything and make it all messy."

"Yes, that is true."

"They've been trying to trap them and get them out. They say they have been

getting mean and trying to attack people for food."

"And what do you think of that?"

"I guess we can't have people mugged by sparrows, right? They're already being

mugged by other people, let alone a by squirrels."

His smile seemed to fade a little. Had I upset him?

"But! But I guess that's a bit mean since those animals are just trying to live."

Silence once again. He sat, staring now straight ahead, no longer focused upon
the animals, or me, or the sky. Sat pensive. Was he truly offended by what I had
just said, or just thinking whatever he refused to tell me? It was but seconds.

"Did you ever think of the park like you think the director thought of it?" He

asked, turning to me again. I was relieved, he seemed to be in better spirits.

"No, no not really. I just walk through here sometimes. I like it, it's nice."

"And why do you walk through it?"

"Well, it is a nice day out and I don't have any work today. I guess the

director's tastes are a lot like mine, so I like it here too."

"Those birds and animals, they don't think about much either."

"I assume so, they're just animals."

"But they enjoy this park just the same."

"They do live here."

"Do they?"

"Where else would they live?"

"I have seen many birds elsewhere in less favorable places, I can only assume they

live somewhere there. So they do not all live here and places like it."

"Well, maybe they commute like people."

I swear, I could have seen him laugh. Picturing images of sparrows and pigeons
getting into traffic jams above their human counterparts, going to 'work'. I
supressed a giggle myself.

"You want to know what I think?"

"Oh yes! I've only been asking this entire time, silly!"

"Well..." Trailing off again, staring off into space, into that world of his that
seemed close but far away, mysterious. But I didn't press him, I never thought to.

He turned to me, and said, "I was thinking perhaps it is sometimes best if one
does not think too much about these kinds of things.

Sometimes, things are better left experienced.

I came here to watch the sparrows and squirrels go about,

Not caring or thinking.

And enjoy this nice spring day."

I was stunned. Had I been hoodwinked into being a fool? I certainly was! How
dare he lead me on like a piper from Bremen.

But as I thought about it, he was right. Did it really matter who thought to put
what into this small park? Or where to put it? And what its inhabitants thought or
lived? Wasn't it simply enough to sit and watch it unfold?

I closed my eyes and listened. I heard the sharp reports of the sparrow's wings
and each squirrel's fast paced musings to their neighbors. And the silent sigh of
the trees as each leaf went to and fro in the gentle warm breeze flowing past. Warm
like his smile. I could hear my own heart beating in the steady tempo of life.

I took a deep sigh.

And I opened my eyes.

"You're ..."

But I was interrupted. A strong wind came again and startled the wildlife and
made the trees moan. A plastic bag carelessly floated by like a ghost of humanity,
carried along by the chances of the air.

He was gone.

I was left sitting upon the old bench under its maple canopy and in its green
environs, amidst the drumbeat of wildlife, all alone.

The wanderer never came back.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Knowledge Home Plate

My quick takes on the latest in the Second Life blog:

On server notifications! First, I should say that I have a low opinion of Kate's experiments during her office hours. A lot of it is plain stupid. Do megaprims lag a server? How do I see FPS? Blah blah blah. They obviously don't do much because hardly anyone cares when they're used. "Oh people bitch about them!" Big surprise. If it wasn't mega prims or whatever else, they'd pick something. That's humans for you. But I digress.

I agree with the comments who point out that these server notices are pointless and annoying. I have no control what version my server is running on (I guess with islands you might have a choice, I dunno). If I wanted to test anything on a different version I'm sure there are appointed sand boxes. Kate helpfully points out where to find the info on the server version you're running, without realizing that no one cares. I should say the majority of people don't care. It's another non-issue brought forth by Kate Linden. I'm sure it's not up to her to do these pointless tasks, but I'd complain if I was her.

Comment "Commie" Award: To fanboy, and his grand love letter to Kate. I was laughing with tears in my eyes. It certainly broke the usual complaining whining comments that seem to overtake each comments sections. Kudos to fanboy for taking comments to a whole new direction.

On passwords and spam! Some may lambaste the Lindens for posting this, but to be honest, people really can be stupid. There's no other word for it. Don't alarm bells go off when someone asks for your password? C'mon! Unfortunately, for various reasons, people fall for these scams and the hosts such as Linden Lab have to constantly remind everyone to not be a sucker. JP Linden could have been a little more tactful but honestly, I whole heartily agree with his general tone.

Has anyone read "Pearls before Swine"? Their idiot convention stories come to my mind. I don't think anyone 'deserves' to have their password stolen but it certainly makes me wonder sometimes.

Commie Award: #22, by Argent Stonecutter. I'm sure it's relevant somehow, but seeing what appears to be at first glance a giant addition problem made me giggle. It was certainly different from the truckload of "hehe, stupid people", "hehe, let me offer my own advice", "what does the name of the post mean/cracks about the spam itself", and "SL doesn't work u sux!".

Torley spams Ivory Tower of Prims! Torley runs videos, tutorials of sorts. Today, in lieu of actually planning out some tips or whatever, it seems like he just advertises the Ivory Tower. His own table of contents:

00:37 - Find the Ivory Tower!
02:35 - Explore the Ivory Tower!
08:45 - Visit the sandbox next door!
09:27 - YOU can build!"

I am certain that at least one of his previous videos touched upon building and through youtube could have been easily linked. Why not just spam everyone with a landmark to it? Cut out this video middleman. The video only serves to illustrate that it does, indeed, exist.

He also mentions a chat log about some meeting. Chat logs are boring to me. I cut and crop mine to relevant material, but not many other people do. It's annoying reading and trying to follow a SL conversation because while in world you can witness the various conversations go on and you can intuitively block them; in a chat log in Real Life you can't and so you have to read through each inane comment. Plus, it's boring, like reading an encyclopedia. In world I can IM someone and bear out the chatter, especially when it's drifted and I don't care for the current topic.

And he informs us that he'll mention the version in which he filmed his tutorial. Great. Wonderful. It'll guarantee him work as he cycles through topics over and over again as LL changes the features around. Rare, perhaps, but one never quite knows when they'll throw a wrench into the works and rip apart a feature. Look at the 'communication' window, or the new search. So it's good and will keep those who actually watch these videos in the loop.

Commie Award: #3, Ewan Mureaux. Discussing the pressing issue of SL road rules. I vote for right side of the road, being an American. ^_^


Continuing from crazy reality:

Honour Killings!

I don't understand how it's possible for no one in the entire village to marry someone else in the same village. I guess the idea is to arrange a marriage with another village, but that has to be some hike just to make sure there's no village 'incest'. Once again, morality saves the day, by forbidding the practice and, according to the village, condoning the killings.


Thursday, May 15, 2008

The Will of the People

Today California ruled that Same Sex marriage is A-Ok.

What erks me is that immediately some people are scrambling to pass an amendment to ban said marriages. Citing it as immoral and harmful to our nation's children, they are determined to make sure marriage stays between a man and a woman.

Their reasoning is that the law that was challenged ('One Man One Woman' from 1977) was passed in many incarnations by the majority of voters. By striking down this legislation, they claim we're denying the will of the people.

The logic in this is hilarious. By the same coin, the Jim Crow laws were passed by the majority in their respective states. Was it okay to keep those on the books since the majority approved of them? How about rights to vote? Maybe we should have kept that the sole right of white male land owners, since the founding fathers voted that in by majority. Their WILL was there in black and white.

And why the hell is the government regulating this crap anyway? In my humble opinion, as long as all parties to whatever you're doing are legal consenting adults, what's the big problem?

I am told that it will tell the nation's children to aspire to a poor and immoral role model. Huh? Like children understand anything about marriage? If I presume correctly, to any given child hearing about 'same sex' marriage will elicit a yawn. They don't care, it's not a Pokemon, and they can't plug it into their PlayStation. In my opinion, the only way this would affect a child is if one happened to be sitting nearby watching a display of two people consummating the marriage. And who on this hellhole of a planet would let that happen? It's absurd.

And to be honest, marriage these days isn't exactly a good thing to be pointing to as a place to uphold morals. Unless abusive spouses and high divorces rates combined with just plain ol' sleeping around is something Conservatives want to impress upon their children. Personally, I'd clean up my own house before commenting on someone else's.

Like I said, the tales of horror that all our children will become homosexual due to this ruling is absurd. It is similar to the tales of horror that were told if we allowed dem blacks as equals! Or those immigrants (funny in its own right, as they would block these people, completely forgetting their own immigrant heritage many of whom would have came illegally except for the ocean in the way).

Finally, let's take a look at the statistics in California. This ruling will lead, they say, to unprecedented boat loads of gays getting married left and right in that state! They'll be all over the place!

Population of California: 38,000,000
Estimated Population of California that is Homosexual: 92,000 couples = 184,000

Wow, in a huge state, 0.4841 % of the population is gay! OOH! This is the nation's third largest state, with an area of 163,696 square miles. In that math, there are approximately 1.12 homosexual people per square miles in California. Consider that the number 184,000 is conditional as a couple, so it's actually 0.56 couples per square mile. That is a super minority. It's rare, and consider also that the actual stats would probably be lower since most couples could be in their own communities (such as San Fran). Why does anyone think this will significantly change their state?

The only reason why a state becomes a magnet for same sex marriages after such a ruling is because no other state is allowing it. Kinda like the way Acme might get mobbed if it was the only supermarket chain selling bread. If the entire nation allowed it, I'll bet no one would notice at all. Except, of course, the screaming conservatives.

Before you yell at me, I have no love for extreme liberals on other things. In fact, I hate conservatives and liberals equally. Go pigeon hole someone else, I've got better things to do than pass laws against someone's idea of sex.

In closing, I'm going to copy/paste a few quotes from the discussion board on on this article:

"I have to worry about my children's exposure to immoral behavior being held up as legitimate even though it goes against my religious beliefs violating my rights."

".....and in case you haven't heard, homosexuality is legal in all 50 states and gay relationships between consenting adults are just as lawful as straight relationships, so whatever "many people" believe is moral or immoral is irrelevant to this debate....and finally, "many people" thought it was immoral (and even used The Bible to support their position) to grant blacks equality in America so it is very much the same thing. The court at that time did the same thing by going against the will of the people to overturn an I guess at the time they were "activists" as well."

"I also hate it when people compare gay rights to civil rights. It isn't the same. Gays take actions that are considered to be immoral by many. Being a different color isn't an action that affects others."

"...and straight people don't have kinky sex that many find objectionable? I guess we should ban them from marriage also."

"I like all colors of people and we all make the world a more colorful place, but homosexuality has long been a tabboo in our world. Their is a reason for that, being that who you are is not defined by your sexual identity. If it is, that's when you start making decided steps outside the "norm." The norm being that sex is part of our reproductive needs. Of course we enjoy it, we are supposed to, so that we procreate.

Rosa Parks did not try to scissor another woman in that bus, she just wanted a seat. She is entitled that. "

""Norm" doesn't mean anything. "Normal" is a setting on my washer. Human behavior is a bell curve and some people fall outside of that....does that make them bad or wrong? The Constitution says no as long we do not violate the rights of others.....and are gays, by marrying, scissoring straight people in the street? A better question, how does gay marriage affect anyone but gays? How does it violate your rights in any way?"

"I think i'll marry my dog now...he can use the insurance"

"Many things are illegal because of morality, though nothing should be illegal because of morality. It is not up to our government to legislate morality."

"Let's condone pedophilia, murder, bestiality, heroin use whatever floats everybody's boats. And you know what, really who does besteality hurt?"

"The intolerance is not the bigotry, nobody is forcing you to do anything you don't want to do through legislation. If by granting gay marriage prevents you from marrying, then we can talk."

"I am also sick of the homophobic thing...Anytime someone says they are against gay marriage doesn't mean they are homophobic. I might be against my neighbor owning a dog, that doesn't mean I am afraid of them."

" say let them marry...then they can find out what is like to pay a divorce attorney, lose half their crap, be resposible for someone else's overspending"

"I am against gay marriage, but I don't have a fear of or aversion to homosexuals. I don't consider not allowing gay marriage to be discriminatory, so you are wrong."

"And all I was saying is a majority of opinion doesn't necessarily make from right and wrong. Their is much more at stake than gay people marrying. This will directly effect our economy on many levels that we aren't prepared for. Gay people do not need the protections of marriage the way a straight couple do. In a two parent straight family it has been the norm that one works while the other raises the children(I know a lot of families have two working parents know, but I'm talking about what marriage means). Gays do not need a stay at home partner, which in turn would need the benefits of their parteners health or dental insurance, or direct access to many other of their parteners monetary interests. Gay marriage is unnecessary, while their are countless other pressing issues. A lack of marriage is not discriminatory, and furthermore I don't appreciate gays in my churches either. I am raised a christian and was taught, through the bible, that homosexuality is not part of God's plan for our lives. What gives gay people the right to fight and push their way into my church and force the whole world to accept their lifestyle? Do you go to dunkin donuts demanding a beer? Do you go to hooters demanding men in thongs? Gays are not discriminated against as much as they'd like the world to believe. "

"Wow what a simplistic view of marriage. So a man and woman get married so there is one worker and one person to stay at home or for health/dental benefits/monetary interest? Seriously? That is the argument you choose to make? I (female) married my husband for nothing close to the reasons you list. I married my husband because I loved him and wanted to spend the rest of my life with him.Furthermore if a couple decides not to have children do they not have a valid marriage?

The Bible also tells me I can't look at/be near a man when I have my period. What gives heterosexual people the right to fight and push their way into anything and force others to accept the way they think?Besides what gives you the right to speak for God or to say what God's plan is?"

"Jesus would welcome them if they repent of their sins and since he would classify homosexuality a sin, they would have to give up their gay lifestyle and he would be more than happy to let them in."

"Everybody in that state would be legally forced to recognize it. It's everybody's business"

"How would you even know if a gay couple were married or just living together unless you asked? Don't be absurd.You live in a free country which means that often times you may have to encounter things, people, situations etc that you disagree with or don't like.Deal with it."

"Many churches decide who can marry who can not. You may get rejected by a Catholic Church if you have not been confirmed as a Catholic and sometimes counseling with a priest and even classes are required before they allow a straight couple to marry."

"Because I was here first, why don't the gays move and start their own country like "Gayland" or "Sodom." They could decorate it any way they want."

"I am not a Christian, so why should I be bound by what Jesus wants when this is a civil matter and not a religious one?"

"FLASH: CA Supreme Court permits Homosexual "marriage" : Peverse, disgusting, twisted , deviant.

But, it's a natural function of over-population. Even rat experiments [ a good comparison] shows overcrowding leads to any hole being fair game.

Of course there some disease consequences to this joyous progressive court decision: intestinal parasites, aids, higher level of venereal disease, hepatitis, etc. etc. But hey, we should all pay for our "brothers" natural life style choices.

What's next? Should you be able to "marry" your horse or wolfhound? Perhaps adopt some human babies to live in the barn with your "spouse"?

History shows pluralistic societies run their course and fail. Look how far we've come in the US. We should be so proud to belong to a dying society."

"the people who oppose it do not have a right to limit equality for their fellow Americans ever. See 14th Amendment to the US Constitution."

And finally, the mega-paragraph:

"The argument against gay marriage is weak and flimsy and would not hold up in a high school debate class. The people who are against same-sex marriage continually use religion as an argument. Christianity, like ALL religions, is made up. The fact of the matter is, the Bible is a work of fiction used as a means to try to control people. Another fact is sin only exists in the minds of Christians. So wake up you silly Christians, you've been duped! The Bible is a work of fiction and sin does not exist. Homosexuality is 100% normal, just as heterosexuality is. Imagine the uproar if Christians were being denied the right or privelege to marry because people thought it was "morally" wrong. I'm so sick of the "it's morally wrong" argument. My morals are not your morals, and allowing gay people to marry in no way shape or form takes anything away from heteros or forces anything upon them. The argurment against same-sex marriage is weak, weak, weak. So put down the Bible you thumpers, it's just another fictional book! Why didn't they call Jesus to the stand to testify against same-sex marriage? Oh, yeah, that's right, he was just a man that lived 2000 some years ago! It amazes me how many seemingly intelligent people actually believe all the Jesus nonsense just because someone told them if they didn't they would go to Hell! Christianity is for the weak minded, however, I support their right to be a **bleep** if they want to be. If God/Jesus is really against same-sex marriage, PROVE IT, but don't try using the Bible because it proves nothing."

Monday, May 12, 2008

A Beginner's Guide to Second Life

I feel that, having a year and a half (or thereabouts) of experience in Second Life, the time has come for me to pass on to the next generation of new people all of my knowledge thereof. If a newbie come and asks for help, I will shamelessly spam this link. Maybe I'll put it on a notecard, because, at least for me, Second Life makes my computer drop to its knees when I try to upload links.

You've downloaded the client, created an account, and logged in. What you are now witnessing is what is known as "Orientation Island". This is an island where you are completely sequestered from the rest of the scum of Second Life so you can learn how to use Second Life without have goatse and Dissent cubes hogging your view.

I will tell you right now that you can forget anything on this island. Detach the HUD you see on screen (the one that lists your 'quests') by right clicking it (Cmd + click for Macs, if I recall correctly) and selecting detach from the menu. Right clicking will be your friend. Trust the right click. That circular menu is about one third of learning how to use Second Life. Anytime you see anything and you want to know more about it, sit on it, buy it, take a copy, mute it, or abuse report it, is but a right click away. Learn this well.


You can, if you wish, wander the rest of Orientation island and play around. There's a few good things but nothing special. Trust me, not much of it will be any use and a lot of it is displayed as awkward as a Chinese engrish shop. It's up to you.

You may be wondering how to not look like a clone. This is where you meet your second best friend, the edit menu. Right there at the top of your screen. This edit menu is about the only one up there that you ever need or ever will touch. You'll see lots of options here. There is a bunch that will detach your clothes and objects attached to you (more on that later) and oh look! A selection called 'edit appearance'. This will bring you to the actual editing appearance box. There's lots of sliders to play with how you look and I highly recommend taking as much time as possible tweaking your avatar to your whim. It's worth it to not look like John or Jane Doe. Clothing selection is slim and I advise against making your own until later when you REALLY get a hang of it. For now, just edit your shape and maybe your skin. You will see both of these options listed on the menu that pops up. Take your time, I'll wait right here.

Done? Good.

Before you exit this mode, click on "Save" at the bottom to make it permanent. You can also click "Save As" provided you want to name your creation. Which brings us to our next obstacle.

The Inventory.

By now, you'll see a bunch of blue boxes at the bottom, This is your second best friend. You'll see a curious box like button on the far left, that can be clicked to bring up the local chat box for... local chatting with anyone nearby. Typing has a range of about 10 to 13 feet ingame, so keep that in mind and be kind to friends who might have wandered outside of that range and thus didn't quite hear you. The other buttons are self explanatory. There's communicate which will bring up your friends list (friends can be made by right clicking someone and selecting... make friend or something similar) where you can Instant message your friends anywhere in a manner similar to any IM programs such as AIM (AOL Instant Messenger). There's also Fly which causes you to fly, Search which bring up a search box (more on that later), Map and Mini map which bring up a large and small map respectively, and finally Inventory.

Inventory in Second Life is chaotic and down right confusing, even for me. There's a lot of folders and a lots of objects and a lot of mess. But there is some hope. It will be tricky, so try to bear with me.

The Inventory window has a menu at the top like a Mac. And this has a file, create, and sort buttons. Create allows you to make folders among other things. What is most important is the ability to make folders. Under sort you'll see a bunch of options, I would suggest doing it alphabetically as opposed to date created/received. Now, the trick is to treat inventory as you would sorting files in an office job. Name the folders as you wish to sort everything, and then drag the objects you wish into each. Let me give you an example.

Let's say I have a water gun, a skin, and a notecard. I could make three folders, one for toys, one for skin, and one for notecards. Above all, take the time to sort your inventory often. Do NOT be like me and just let it sit at random. You'll thank me.

If you don't know where to find a specific object, there is hope. At the top, under the menu, is a white box. Type in the name or part of the name and Inventory will return and show you all objects with that in its name. So, if I search "Water" it might in my inventory turn up water bottle, A guide to water sports, and the water gun mentioned above. That is all there is to inventory. Not so bad, but this is something that Second Life and even instructors in Second Life tend to gloss over.

Anything in your inventory, by the way, can be right clicked and you get another menu which will allow you to wear or delete or whatever. It's self explanatory, but if you were searching for a skin for your avatar to wear then you could search for it in the inventory, right click it, and select wear. Be forewarned: do that slowly and give Second Life a good minute or so to process that kind of thing. Second Life can be notoriously buggy, laggy, and temperamental. Keep that in mind.

So you're set. You know how to edit your appearance, how to right click things, and you're somewhat comfortable with inventory. And now you're asking, "Now what? I'm still stuck in this lame island". Do not worry my friend, for you have come for the quick and dirty guide to Second Life. I will not disappoint.

Go to the center square. There will be a billboard of sorts. Click on this, and it will spit something out to you. This is what is known as a landmark. Let's discuss landmarks, because you'll get a lot and they're not intuitive.

When you get a landmark, it is displayed on your screen and is also copied to your inventory so if you should accidentally click it off you can still find it in your inventory, usually under "landmarks" folder. The landmark will show you a picture the land owner uses for that particular landmark, a short description, and the location (in this format: "Name of Destination, Name of Sim or Island, Coordinates in X Y Z planes). The two options are "teleport" which teleports you to that destination and "show on map" which will bring up the map and show you with a red circle on the map where you would go if you followed the landmark. Imagine landmarks as something like a link from a website.

Get the landmark by just left clicking the sign. It may or may not ask you things, whatever it does, just get the point across that you want to get outta there.

Now, how we proceed is dependent on where that landmark sends you. Likely, there will be lots of people and at this point just socialize. You'll get the hang of it. You'll likely make a few friends. Try to have an open mind about things, because Second Life is nothing if not weird and most people are good at heart, try not to dismiss someone because they are a furry or they wear leather chaps or what have you. If you do need help ( I doubt it), try an icebreaker. Discuss the weather, sports, or comment on the local architecture. Obviously, try to avoid 'hot' topics such as religion, politics, or toast unless you're confident in your current friends. Above all, don't be shy. No one is out to bite your head off. Be confident. I may have repeated myself there.

What about Money?

Money is an elusive beast in Second Life and the currency is L$. You need it to buy land, and buy stuff. How do you get money?? Well, there's a bunch of ways. The most obvious is you submit your credit card/paypal info to LL on their main site and transfer some funds there to your avatar. That's the easy way.

But if you're like me, you either can't, or won't, give Linden Lab your payment information. Then, it's much more tricky. One way is to start making, building, scripting, or writing and selling that to earn cash. But that's a long way off and we're just trying to get you used to Second Life first. Details come later. It's an option, but one in the distance.

That leaves us in a bind. There are numerous areas where you can get some free cash, using Search and typing in NCI will bring up a few landmarks to the NCI hubs of which some give you cash if you're less than three months old. There's money trees, but I don't know how to operate those. There are places called camping spots, where if you right click and sit on them you will earn a small amount of L$ per hour or so. Camping is very boring but good if you really really REALLY want some money.

But worry not! There are many places that will give you freebies. Try searching for a place called "Orientation Station", it is a place very similar to Orientation island that we were in earlier however in one section of it there are numerous freebies available that you can buy (using, again, right clicking and selecting buy). Using the Search button and searching for freebies will turn up some results. One trick to using search is to visit one of the top ten returns, and then one of the results lower down on the page. This ensures that you don't end up in some jerk's parcel who just put 'freebies' in his descriptions to generate traffic (similar to, I suppose, spam mail in real life).

You've got some objects now. There are two ways you get objects. You either get the straight up contents, and all you have to do is find the object in your inventory and wear it or use it. The second way is annoying. You have to find an area that allows you to make objects, and then drag the object from your inventory to the ground in front of you. Once it is outside, you have to right click and bring up that circular menu and select 'Open' and then "copy to inventory". Why people do this, I do not know but the fact is they do so it's best to know how to unpack as they call it.

Parse through your freebies, you will likely have lots of things. Skins, shapes, hair, clothes, shoes. The skins will definitely be better than anything you can make at this stage and I suggest you experiment and see what you like. There are shapes too, if you're not happy with the one you made. Clothes are the same, you find them in inventory and select wear. If you think there is a mix up, then you can go to the edit tab at the top of the window and select "Detach Clothing" and then pick what you want to shed. You might see a few objects such as "shoes" or "necklace" or "hair". Here is where the fun begins.

You see, clothes as such are not the only thing in Second Life. For you can wear this other objects too! Definitely try some of the hair attachments (attachments being what these objects attached to you are called in general). It will look more realistic than the default hair. Just right click the object in your inventory and select wear. By this point, I should start sounding repetitious and that is a good thing. We're getting somewhere. Play around with your new freebie clothes.

And then you're done. The only task left is to play around with Second Life and see where you want to go with it. You could be like me and be an eternal bum, blogging about this and that and hanging out with a few friends. You could learn how to build and script and create things. You can try to buy and sell land and become a 'land baron'. You can do any number of things and honestly, the sky is the limit. Don't be afraid to test everything and ask people for help.

That's about it, I believe. That's the quick and dirty guide to Second life and getting settled in. In doing so, I skipped over building, all the inane movement controls and building and such, and probably many other things. However, those are more extraneous and you can learn those later when you're more comfortable with the game itself. For now, you've learned the skills that are absolutely necessary. Good job you! You've learned them!

Sorry if this got lengthy, but congrats if you stuck with me long enough to get here. I assure you, it's well worth it. And hey, if you ever get confused, you can just as easily search and find my name and pester me.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Word Count

I have 130 posts. Assuming that each post is about 500 words long (a generous estimate considering my usual ramblings), that means that overall I have written some 65,000 words. That comes with some colossal error bars, since each post can vary in length, obviously, and none of them are jointed in any way, rendering the entire exercise of word counting (as if it could be complied like a book or magazine) useless.

Wow, I just killed a post before I even wrote it.

Not In My Pharmacy

A pharmacist refuses to fill a prescription on the grounds that it violates his beliefs. Specifically, the belief that all life is sacred and shouldn't be messed with, etc, etc.

I don't understand what belief contraceptives violate. I understand the fundamental argument against abortion (the embryo is a human being, with a full set of DNA and so on) but what exactly is the case against contraceptives? If anything, you would think people against abortion (as I suspect the pharmacist is also against, usually these two beliefs go hand in hand) would applaud birth control since it prevents what you have to kill later on if you had never used it in the first place. It's preventing the formation of the embryo later on in development.

If we're going to go and say we should never prevent anything that deviates from nature's course, then why all the hullabaloo over people on life support? Under the same idea, more or less, we should let nature (or God or whomever) just take its course. After all, without human intervention, they would have died. In fact, let's eliminate all medical care. Messing with nature is bad bad bad.

Okay, now let's dispense the weasel words. This guy says it violates his religious beliefs. Okay, so this girl doesn't have her contraceptives from you. She can't transfer and fill it at another pharmacy because Pharmacy Genius decides to freeze her prescription (which is more a bother, doctor can always write another one if need be). So, she goes and gets pregnant and then likely has either A) an abortion which can be partly blamed on the Pharmacist or B) a baby which this college girl and her family will have to raise.

Why do these religious nuts think it's so noble to bring a life into this world of ours, when this life is likely going to live through hell? And why do they shoot themselves in the foot on these matters? As I said above, he refuses the contraceptives so in the worst case scenario she goes and commits a worse evil in the eyes of God. Way to go, real pillar of Jesus there. Don't tell me that abortion can never lead to good and might kill a future Einstein, because on the other hand it could easily also mean a future Stalin or Genghis Khan or Caligula would have been aborted and saved the world some trouble. It's a nasty argument.

I recall seeing on television a study that found solely preaching abstinence, as my Church advocates, doesn't work. In fact, it lead to higher rates of teen pregnancies than in those schools in which contraceptives were explained in detail. I'm sure the response will be that the children under study weren't religious enough or were tainted by wicked evil society.

A duty of the pharmacist is, like any other professional, to carry out their duty to the best of their ability. You just can't stall someone's prescription on the basis of your beliefs. At the least, transfer the damn script somewhere else. Don't deny the patient care. Imagine, if you will, your local dentist refuses to give you Novocaine while he pulls your teeth because he doesn't believe in it, or your mechanic doesn't want to repair your SUV because he only does fuel efficient cars.

They've sanctioned the guy, which I think is the right decision. A pharmacist is there to dispense the medicine, to make sure the dosage is correct, that there is no potential complications or reactions, among other things. A pharmacist is not there to impose upon someone their beliefs and values onto their patient. What a load of crock.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Indiana Juran and The Secret of Flickr

Today, for lack of anything better to do, I think I will go and rip some photos off of Jurin's Flickr page. Jurin is quite the adventurer who isn't so bad with (virtual?) photography. Personally, I suggested that Jurin go and found her own photo blog, but I was met with "Not for me!". Naturally that means I have to take up the mantle and hot link a bunch of photos! Before a million copyright lawyers descend upon me, I'd like to point out that I have linked to Jurin above, and also that I have not asked permission first. Hmm, perhaps I should not have let slip that last part.

Cool Orchestra

Jurin claims this is an orchestra, and I can only imagine the sim owner claims the same. All I know is that now I'm going to have nightmares of Oompa-Loompa Bishops, all staring at me with their judging eyes. OH THEIR EYES.

On second thought, they aren't really looking at the camera. Looks more like they're asleep. Probably plotting their next victim. Maybe electing the next pope of the Holy Willy Wonka Catholic Church.

Pride of Egypt

A throne fit for a Pharoh. Judging from all the rainbows, I suspect the pharoh who erected this throne was either a leprechaun or gay. The entire thing appears to be on stage. "Comedy Hour, starring Ramses the Third!"

"Hey, you're a great crowd. Now, what is the deal with The Nile? What, it hasn't moved onto anger yet?" Cue the Seinfeld sound clip and computer synthesized audience laughter.

Sunset City

Ever see the City of Phoenix, in Arizona? This is almost a dead ringer in terms of architectural styles. Honey bunches of block buildings. It's that new style of American downtowns, where the buildings ain't that high and are rather monotonous. Not implying that is a bad thing, nobody said cities have to be giant art comments of architects.

I think the true beauty arises from Windlight and the way the sunset frames each building. You know what I think when I see this? I'm thinking it's Friday afternoon, I've just punched the clock in my office, and this is the view while I'm waiting for the elevator. You can even see that there's no traffic, because I've worked overtime and everyone already went home, probably down the shore in this season but the mountains in the background along with the trees give me a vibe that this town is a long way from a sunny beach.

The Juggler

Jurin juggling. Just jumps off the tongue, jiving about like an Irish jig.

There's an invisible christmas tree to her left, and I'm sure that red ball is about to be dropped. You can even see her looking at that red ball, in a resigned sort of way. It's okay. You've gotten farther than I ever have in juggling. Damn gravity.

Columbus 1492

"More bears :P" is the comment Jurin supplied, and indeed, you can just make out the little critters. A grizzly Columbus, just landing on a brave new world of Native bears (who knows, red pandas?). I guess the Nina and Pinta didn't survive the voyage. Santa Bearia did.

Damn Dragons

Dragons in a wing of three. I guess magic is holding them up, because I see no visible means of support. One has to wonder what they are up to, because a single dragon is bad news enough. Imagine a swarm of three descending upon your hapless sim.

The lag would be horrible, for one.

I'm a pinball in there somewhere

A Second Life pinball machine. Incredible. From the comments, I assume that an avatar is the pinball. In pictures like these, I like to notice the backgrounds. There's an ice castle, a giant robot decked with what appears to be red wings, and a small village of shacks and things. There is only one conclusion.

This is a theme park in a third world country. The rich Americans go the park, while the huddled masses build shanty towns around the gates (or lack thereof in this photo) while the common folk work earning peanuts and two cents a day in the park shoveling the cigarette butts from the morons inconsiderate enough to just throw them on the ground when the trash bin is three feet away and the cigarette tower (the little spike looking things you're supposed to dispose butts in) is six INCHES away. I mean, sweet Jesus, does it really take that much effort to chuck them in the bin, Jack?? Do you really have to litter my lawn? It didn't look crappy enough for you as it is, you have to go and attempt to burn it with your disgusting habits? I'm going to install tasers in the ground, and when you come near they'll trigger and shock you. Then, I'll drag your body onto YOUR lawn. How's that, Mr Too Good To Dispose My Cigarettes Properly? Stupid morons. Smoking is bad for you anyway, and bad with second-hand smoke to others, the least you could do is just throw your garbage where it belongs instead of making my lawn, and by extension my city, state, nation, continent, planet, solar system, galaxy, cluster, and universe uglier. Thanks a lot.

Oh, uh, so anyway, I'll bet the avatars who ride that thing get real sick.