Tuesday, September 30, 2008


Along with the many great and terrible things that rushed into the Grid at the end of the Golden Times came many daemons. And like the griefers, the Lindens, avatars, and the Ony, they clamoured for supremacy across the land. Most were harmless, indeed, even friendly. Some, however, were true nightmares.

Perhaps none were greater than the one who came to be known as Okasus. Okasus, the Blue Devil.

Okasus was its name. Sheathed in deep metallic azure armor (or perhaps that is its skin?) and coated in sharp spikes and plates, it spits yellow fire in all directions while it flies across the world silently for purposes unknown, but likely evil. And all the while, it gazes upon the world and its victims with a single piercing cycloptic blood eye. Poor souls caught in its path are frozen at the sight of it, rooted as Okasus soundlessly glides towards them.

It wanders the land feeding upon the spirits and souls of those unfortunate to cross paths with this loathsome devil. It lurks in the shadows and out of sight. Only the ominous and unyielding red glow of its gaze is warning of its presence. For some it is the last sight they see before they leave this plane of existence, driven into oblivion as their enternal soul is forever devoured by the Blue Devil itself. Few have been lucky enough to witness it and survive, and those usually only because a dear friend was taken, occupying it long enough to allow escape.

In those days, Okasus ran with abandon and fed as it pleased and it became a scourge so much that towns became deserted for fear of the daemon swooping upon them. A swath of death and terror swept across the land and people wailed to Nunchuck, pleading Nhim to intervene and destroy this meance and fulfill his promise that that Nher people, the grievers, would prosper and never die out. They prayed seventy thousand two hundred and nine nights and seventy thousand two hundred and eighteen days for Nhis intercession.

It came to be that Nunchuck could not bear to bear witness to this sadness any longer and so from the heavens Nhe struggled with what to do with Okasus. Okasus was a progeny of his own creation, made from the code Nhe had conquered and made Nher own and so Nunchuck did not want to obliterate Okasus from the Grid. However, it could not be allowed to run unchecked upon the land for to do so was to invite a dead grid. In the end, he decided to bless one of Nhis people with inspiration, with which to bring downfall upon Okasus and relieve the land and the inhabitants.

There came to be that upon the grid an avatar. His name was Kaabon. Kaabon lived in a small village in the middle of somewhere, and he was a complete and utter coward. Kaabon had never ever left his village before and was terrified when merchants came into town and sold their wares. He did not mind this existence, because he did not care for anything outside his village and thus his fright of the unknown acted as reinforcement. He was content to live his existence in his quiet house surrounded by his fellow neighbors.

Kaabon lived a very unfulfilling life and he was always sad, but he never knew why. At night he would kneel on the floor and implore Nunchuck, “Why hath thou ignored thy plea? What is the cause beneath my sorrow??” Only he wished he could say that, because he was too timid to challenge Nunchuck in such a prayer. He was afraid his entire life was a waste and a blot upon the earth. His only reason for existence as he reckoned it to be was to continue to serve as the box pusher. Pushing a box from here to there, all day long, was his job. It was hard, thankless, and meaningless labour. He only wished he had some higher purpose.

One fine July day, Kaabon sighed and looked forlornly up at the pure blue sky. Not a single cloud marred it, and Kaabon grew sorrowful that such a nice day should be marred by his sadness. He was so deep in thought that he never saw the bus coming, and before he knew it, he was dragged for a mile and his entrails squished across the asphalt, blood flowing viscously into the sewer drains. It was very sad. The warehouse where he had worked was especially sad because now no one was there to push the boxes and no one wanted to do it. They all cursed Kaabon for getting himself squashed and inconveniencing everyone. Thanks a lot, they would sneer.

Anyway, back to Okasus. Nunchuck heard Nhis peoples cries and finally came upon a plan. “NI shall send upon them a power, and that power shall be the ability to control the day and the night, the sun and the moon, so that they may set the times as they will and escape from the long nights where Okasus lurks.” And so it was done.

The avatars turned the night into the day when Okasus was thought to be upon them and so the vile creature was thwarted for a some time. However, like all evil it evolved in a fashion and soon attacks and deaths once again piled on the grid and people shook with fright. Once again Nher people begged for mercy and comfort and once again Nunchuck contemplated what to do with Okasus.

This time, Nhe decided to send a sign to King Farbun and that sign would show the way to defeat Okasus. In this dream, Farbun saw himself approaching a wall, and as he came closer to this wall it duplicated his very image. For many days Farbun pondered what could the strange reflecting wall was. Then one of his best scientists discovered what the crazed king was talking about.

“Oh, so you are talking about a mirror?” said the doctor.

“Oh, the things that are being discovered these days!” exclaimed the king. “Now we shall rejoice for I will be able to bask and admire my own image for ever and a day! A feast is in order.”

And so Okasus stalked on as Farbun proceeded to never leave his castle ever again.

Nunchuck then tried to gather the courage of Nher people so that they would band together and defeat and destroy (however unlikely that last one might be) Okasus. And so Nhe breathed into their lungs the powder which restored their bravery and caused hearts to become passionate. For a time, the avatars stirred with anger and justice and some called for hunting and killing the Blue Devil. For if it had the strength of one thousand men, surely one thousand and one men could overwhelm it and free the land from its scourge.

But talk is idle and their fright was too great. And as their hearts and souls stirred, too quickly did their minds reassert and they were just too scared. They were too scared and like Kaabon they were waiting in fear and sorrow even though any day the bus in the form of the Blue Daemon might run and devour them. They were paralyzed by fear and it was only a matter of time before everything was to collapse and panic and rioting to begin.s

Nunchuck was at Nhis wits end.

“If My People shall not defend themselves against this threat, and my intercessions are to no avail, then perhaps only My True Mightliness can hope to quell this monster,” Nhe said as Nhe stretched Nher playtisimuss (check muscle).

Nhe rocketed off and quickly found Okasus as it was hovering over a baby carriage whose mother had left it while she went to buy another pack of cigarettes. The baby slept soundly as Okasus drifted lazily towards it, prey that was too easy to capture yet simple nature drove it to take the innocent soul. Just as Okasus was about to ensare the soul of the infant, Nunchuck came in Nhis Glory came and pushed the carriage away from there, saving the newborn’s life. On a side tangent, that simple act led to the mother being unable to locate her child and the baby was picked up and placed in a foster home where it grew up a delinquent, having never known his parents. But then, he saw a late night television show on the merits of oncology and he cleaned up, graduated from Med school, and devised a cure for pancreatic cancer. But someone stole his research and he died nameless and poor. Well, poor for a doctor.

Nunchuck gazed upon Okasus, and at once he pondered why Nher people were so frozen with terror and fear. But then in Nhis heart Nhe remembered that they were just poor creations of Nhis, and would never possess the power and omnipotence of Nher Mightliness. They were Nher wards.

“Foul demon! Azure Devil! The One Who Lurks The Shadows! Come forth to Me and take account of thyself!” Nunchuck thundered. “Whence ye came, thou shall return to it and trouble Us no longer!” Nher voice bellowed across the land, and those in terror from Okasus and its presence were drawn to the spectacle. A crowd gathered and for once people saw the face of Okasus. Those who tried to see The Face of Nunchuck were blinded by Nhis Holy Light and they never saw anything ever again. Needless to say, there was a sudden rash of blindness in this village that year.

Okasus merely stared, and did not reply. It stood there eerily, never blinking, never waivering in any perceivable manner. To the people nearby, who could not perceive Nunchuck in their midst, and blindness striking those who could, it appeared as if Okasus were frozen into place. And yet they played a part in Nunchuck’s plan, for the presence of so many meals around it calmed Okasus and made it reasonable.

“Answer me, Crimson Eye! Or be destroyed without mercy!” Nunchuck grew ready to intervene in the highest way to save Nhis Grid. Nhis patience had run thin and out.

“Saintly and Mightly God, I only do what I must to survive. No more and no less. For if I stop feeding upon these spirits, I will surely die. Surely Thy All-Knowing knows this. I only wish for life in this grid of ours,” replied the monster, surely lying in the presence of Nunchuck so as to save its life.

“Then what place spawned you, such a creature? I must destroy such a nest before your friends and family overrun and destroy Nmy Work.”

“I am sorry, Lord, but I have no thoughts from my birth. Where I came is a question which eludes me. If it pleases Thyself, know that I believe myself to be the last and only of my kind, for I have roamed far and wide these past few years and yet never saw any comrade or mate.” And yet this beast did not shed a tear, stating everything mechanically and in even tones. Its stare remained fixed upon Our Most High King without Blindness striking it. It did not know of the Mercy being bestowed upon it, or if it did it showed no caring.

Nunchuck thought long and hard, for a very long time, although to us mortals it seemed as if a blink of an eye. And so Nhe rendered this decision.

“Oh Okasus, bastard of this world, your sins are numerous and yet I will show you mercy for you know not what pain and suffering you cause. Therefore, I shall make you ward over those avatars who souls are wicked and vile. I shall give you the fair judgement and authority as My Gift, and you shall cull those who, after they have derezzed, have shown to have lived a life contrary to My Teachings. And you shall take them and cause them much suffering for their spirits shall be as eternal as those in Vivenshia, and you shall never know hunger again. Doth this seem like a fair offer?”

“Indeed, My Lord, it does sound more than fair,” replied it, and so Nunchuck gave it authority to take those deceased avatars who have disobeyed Nhis Will into itself and never let them know respite. They never knew peace and joy ever again. And on occasion Okasus did indeed forget its promise, yet usually those it has taken have become a soul purer than white and sent to the highest towers of Vivenshia. Let it be known that as Nher Mercy is infinite even upon what is evil, Nhis Wrath upon those who hear but do not listen is equally without end, and when thy soul derezzes into the great afterlife, a Blue Demon waits for thee.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Rail Roads!

According to Prokofy, and some other random dude, I hear they are going to alter the railroad system that runs through the Atoll Continent. The idea is that the current system utilizes a physical third rail around which trains attach to guide them around the track. The track itself is fairly old and has been around since that continent has been in existence.

It has been some time since any kind of Linden train ran around the track. When the trains derailed or otherwise glitches out of existence, someone had to run out and rezz a new one or set the old one straight. After the Linden taking care of the track gave up or left, it became little more than a glorified roadway. Some people (most notably James Gill) took up the cause and ran trains to and fro along the track, although again, such projects live and die with their creators. When they left, the trains soon followed.

I don’t think many people these days have even heard of any kind of Second Life railway, let alone know that there are two branches as well as a ferry line between the two. The Atoll’s railway is generally known as the SLRR, and is the one I just described. To the south on the older Mainland continent is the Great Second Life Railway, or GLSR, which runs through many eight or nine sims east to west (mostly through Olive to Purple, if I recall correctly). GLSR has never had a train that I can ever remember, although once I did run a car along the track pretending to be a train. GLSR is perhaps overlooked due to the more torturous track than its larger cousin to the north, possessing a large number of tight turns and skirting ban lines along a far smaller track. A shame since many stations along that line are very well done and beautiful (such as Olive).

Considering that kind of history, the Lindens and their Department of Public Works (DPW) are seeking to replace the third rail that is part of that system. Why? I have no idea. I suppose it would save some prims by scripting trains without having to work around a solid third rail. But the current system as it stands is, in my opinion, fairly well done. In fact, all things considered, I think a more tightly scripted train and track would be more prone to crashing and slipping up.

Let’s look at it this way. The age old mantra is, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” Perfectly applicable here. Consider.

The main problem with trains along GLSR and SLRR is laziness. If a certain person manages a train along the tracks, the trains themselves tend to move rather well. The operator, who can always delegate authority on this, just has to look over the occasional slip-up. I’m sure it might actually be more time consuming, but again, you could probably hire someone to look over it. I bet you could get one of the Moles (what a horrid nickname, I don’t care what the in-joke is) to look after it.

Now, I get the impression that the new system would involve a train and a track scripted to communicate to each other in order to keep the train on the track without slipping off. The obvious pro to this approach is conservation of prims as you eliminate the third rail. Those prims could possibly add up over sims, especially if they are trying to beautify the track area itself.

Second, you would be able to eliminate physical collisions which could cause lag. The sim strains just a tad when it has to process the interaction between three objects: the wheels, the rail, and their ground. This new method would just be wheel to ground contact, I suppose, and so simplify that interaction, reducing lag and making it more likely to cross sims (a needed requirement for a cross continent train).

Now, the downsides. The new trains and rails would probably require many more scripts to adjust to what was taken for granted with the third guiding rail. You’d have to have some kind of correction factor once the engine starts off the track, and some dampening factor so the train doesn’t over- or under-correct. I imagine the scripting would be much heavier and prone to accidents. What if the sim lags for a bit and the train runs off the rails? Under the third rail, it would at least just slip along the track, but with these new styles of trains it would probably fly off like a silver bullet. And all those scripts acting in unison would likely cause significant lag in themselves.

The greater potential for derailing means greater attention has to be paid to the trains themselves. On bad days, they might not even make it out of the shed, just fly out and across the sim. Not only that, but you also have to consider the lay of the land. Trains operating around edges would if they derailed be very unlikely to correct themselves. Trains may hit parcels where scripting is not allowed, meaning that you’d have to get out and push, or such parcels that the train skirted would lead to the entire engine acting as one giant road car flying across the continent in whichever direction it lost communication. Very messy.

Plus, there is the fact that it seems such a train would have to be built from scratch. While there are numerous and current models for running along the third rail, the new system would have to be researched and tested, wasting a lot of time and money when a perfectly fine model is already known. Not always does a new design, or a newer design that is more ‘high tech’, necessarily mean the product itself is better. A good example would probably be the recently rejected XM8 assault rifle. Why bother adopting such a rifle when the Army already has the M16 and M4 which are still perfectly serviceable? Or New Coke. How about plastic bags, which end up littering just as much as paper while being not nearly as biodegradable?

Now let us look at the pros and cons of the current system. The first con we described above, that it introduces more thinking from the server on the more complex interactions between the more teeth like rails and the multiple wheels and body of the train. It’s a very real phenomenon which occurs when you get a bunch of physical prims (or regular prims) to bounce around each other. Knocking down a structure in SL by unlinking and turning all the prims physical causes noticeable lag, and when you are in a go-kart bouncing off the walls your viewer slows down. The same thing occurs here.

And to be sure, the current implementation requires relatively straight tracks. If the tracks follow too deep a curve (such as the Horseshoe Curve) it is certain to derail or get stuck. This really applies to the GLSR, as the SLRR was built with this in mind and so follows more shallow curves. It would be something to consider when making any new railroads in the continents yet to be built.

The idea is noble and grand: Build a better train. The Lindens need, however, to take heed of the fact that sometimes it’s better to leave the existing infrastructure rather than build a new one from the ground up.

Friday, September 26, 2008


The Linden Lab blog has been pretty silent lately. I guess they are really busy. That can be good or bad.

It could mean they are working on stabilizing and improving the grid.

Or it could mean they forgot they had a blog.

Or it could mean they don't care anymore.

Uh oh.


Continuing my rants (September is going to be known as 'Rant Month' -_-)...

I’m going to contrast two movies that follow a similar theme. One succeeds and the other, in my opinion, fails miserably.

The particular genre is comedies where the main character gets screwed over. There’s probably a technical term for it that I don’t know. But in general, the theme is that the main character is in a situation where everything is working against him, her, or it in a way that elicits humor. You’re supposed to be able to laugh at either the ways the protagonist falls short or the ridiculous situations that develop.

Before we talk about anything, you should get an idea of why I attend movies. To me, movies are an escape. I go to a movie to immerse myself in a separate world and a plot where I don’t have to make a decision or work out anything or be involved, I can just watch. I can relax knowing that everything is beyond my control and thus no worry has to be raised. I tend to want something cheery, too. The world is depressing and scary enough and I don’t think we need any more of that. So I tend to gravitate towards light cotton candy and comedies. I only consider more serious titles if the movie itself is so good as to not be passed up. For example, ‘The Dark Knight’, where all my friends raved about it so of course, I had to see it too. And I like straight shooters. If a movie is going to go rapidly dark and grim, it had better be really spectacular and done delicately and skillfully. I can’t remember any titles off the top of my head, but when it happens poorly (as is often the case) I just can’t enjoy it. I came in to escape and have a laugh, not to be preached at or to cry.

Having that out of the way, you can understand where I am coming from when I critique this particular style. Probably we could call it ‘Wile E Coyote Style’. The coyote will never catch the road runner. He will always get smacked in the face with a boulder. There is no lesson (except to not catch roadrunners with catapults) and there is no real harm done (he just picks up and tries again). That to me is a necessity. There should be no real harm. The protagonist is only temporarily hurt or screwed over and nothing is actually lasting. You don’t feel so bad watching because you know that in the grand scheme of things these situations and plots would not lead to real harm in any party. The coyote gets up and the audience laughs because they know he’ll never have his internal organs squeeze out like a fresh orange across the desert when the boulder hits. He doesn’t go to a hospital and have to pay hospital bills, get painful surgery, maybe code once or twice, and go through years of physical therapy all while he suffers Post traumatic stress syndrome, hearing the ‘beep beep’ in his dreams and around every corner. Nope, the most we see is he’s wrapped in bandages that, when he spots the bird, fly off as he goes into the chase.

Let’s get down to brass tacks now. The other day I saw the movie ‘Duplex’ on TV. “Ah,” I said to myself (I’ve long since abandoned caring about talking to myself), “I’m bored and here is a nice little comedic movie to pass the time.” The set up seemed nice, a couple moves into a Brooklyn duplex, and they have a rentee in the form of an elderly woman. The general set-up is this old woman does something and the couple either get in trouble or get grief over no matter whether they do it or not. So, they in turn try to turn her out on the street through a variety of schemes.

It fails miserably. And part of the problem is that the director or the writers or whoever chose to display serious consequences for the couple every time they were put in the compromising situation. In a way, it becomes realistic that it no longer becomes an escape and it no longer stays funny. How can I laugh when the old bat throws the husband’s computer into a fire, destroying the book he was writing and depending on to put food on the table. Then we had a scene where we watch the couple sell off all their belongings just to survive. How can I laugh at that? Let’s examine why that particular scenario failed.

First, they made the mistake of establishing the husband as the writer and big money-maker. That means that anything that happens to him or his work will result in serious business. This in itself isn’t so bad because it might seem initially to be harmless background, perhaps he’ll make up a lie or something that’s real skillful (cuz he’s a writer lol) and he gets egg on his face when they find out it isn’t true. Or the old woman will add a chapter that’s weird (haha she writes porno into his history novel, publisher casts a weird eye on the writer, but they take it out and all’s well). I’m not a particularly stellar writer and yet I came up with two somewhat funny scenes involving him being a writer. Someone with a true gift could probably milk this into comedy gold.

But no. Instead, they have the old lady chuck his laptop (trivia: an Apple) into an open fire under the premise of an ‘accident’. You have to see it to believe it. How does she get it into the fire? She basically just … throws it in. You heard me right. There’s no particular wind up (aside from ‘he’s a writer and she’s evil’), the old woman just pushes it straight into the flames. And that in itself isn’t so bad, it still worked. It could have worked. It almost did. We got a funny scene where he pulls it out and chucks it into snow to put it out. Then, it gets flung into a street and run over with a truck. Destruction is always funny.

What I haven’t told you, however, is that up until this moment, the movie drops hint after hint that the novel he’s writing in his laptop is past due and is needed to win some bread. The couple’s livelihood is staked on this thing. When I saw the laptop get destroyed, I felt sympathy and sad more than amused and entertained. I wanted to smack the hag upside the head, she didn’t even apologize (if she did, it was lame). Not funny at all to me. As if that wasn’t bad enough, after that is a barrage of scenes which chronicles the struggles of the couple as they try to make ends meet, the publisher drops the writer, and in general things get bad. Just not funny at all.

This is just a singular example of the failure in this movie. It gets worse and worse with this old hag. You sympathize with the couple because you want to see this old farty bitch die a horrible and slow death for being an crab ass jerk. What’s worse is that the police (well, a singular police officer) march to the old woman’s drum beat and make life double hell for our hapless couple. You get the feeling that there is no way to turn for these poor saps. They’re up shit creek without a paddle and alligators with laser beams on their heads are circling while vultures cackle overhead. They’re trapped. And through no fault of their own, they were simply doing what most Americans and people in the world do and buy their own home. If someone is going to be in this kind of situation as the movie presents it, the characters on the receiving end better deserve it somehow. Nope, they’re certainly likable enough, albeit a tad wooden.

The list just goes on and on. It reaches new lows in punishment and it gets so extreme that you can’t laugh anymore. You just want it to end. You just pray the old woman dies or this couple gets some astronomical reward for going through this. They went from normal enough people to hiring a trained assassin to get rid of sack of decaying flesh that is torturing them. Yes, that is how bad it gets. Yes, it’s a spoiler. But in this case, I’m going to do the reader a favor and ruin it so you don’t rent/buy this movie wondering what it is and how it goes. They hire a killer. Unsurprisingly, he fails. And the couple gets the grind again.

The climax involves the husband still saving the witch’s life from the burning duplex, despite the hell she has raised and intense damage to livelihood, job, and reputation. It really says something when this man hates her enough to hire a killer against her and yet has a change of heart and enough compassion to not let her burn in hell. Nope, he saves her life in a remarkable display of how real people would NOT act. Anyone else in that position and experience would have let her burn to death. He was shown earlier to have no qualms to killing her by proxy, but perhaps seeing her die face-to-face changed his heart. It doesn’t matter either way, because nothing comes from it. He saves her and that’s it, they move out and move on. Where do they go? What do they do? What kind of resolution occurs to justify that level of suffering? Nothing. Nothing at all. In fact, it’s not so much a climax, because that implies there’s a resolution afterwards. It’s more like the final culmination of a pile of nonsense and suffering. The end. It’s extremely unsatisfying and leaves me with a bad taste in my mouth.

Oh wait, there is a resolution. There is a voiceover at the end of the movie, just as the credits roll (who would want their name on this garbage?) where it is revealed the old woman, the cop, and the retailer who sold the couple the house are all in cahoots with each other and their business is luring in new couples and breaking them down. Yes, you heard me right. Not only do they show absolutely no remorse for their actions (how could they? Nothing really happened to these antagonists) but they imply they have done this numerous times to at least one other couple! They’re like serial killers! Oh, but we’re supposed to laugh because HA HA it was funny watching that couple get their comeuppance for… existing? For being happy? For being a successful writer?

In any other movie, that trio would have been nailed and destroyed. They deserve it. They did nothing redeeming what so ever. That’s another gall, they act as if they have ‘taught’ the couple something. Personally, the only thing they taught me was avoid elderly women living in a home being sold by Danny DeVito. It taught me how big of a jerk some people can be. “Oh, maybe he’ll write about something he knows something about now!” cackles the old woman in the end, as if the writer has to know about the subject he’s writing about. Doesn’t anyone realize that, while it’s useful to have knowledge of the subject, one does not necessarily have to be an expert in an area of fiction to write well in it? And he was making lots of money (supposedly) before the movie, so he was successful even if he wasn’t the next Herman Melville. There is nothing so revolting to me as arrogant and nasty group who destroy innocent people and claim it’s for the ‘greater good’ or that they ‘taught a lesson’. Go to hell. On second thought, hell is too good for these people.

Let’s look at a movie which tries to pull the same idea but does so much more successfully. “Meet the Parents” places a guy in a house with a soon to be father in law who really really hates him and works against him during the entire course of the movie. It does what “Duplex” should have done.

First, nothing in the movie does permanent harm. The only thing that was really on the line was the love of his fiancĂ©e, but that was never seriously in doubt. They just had the same arguments every bride and groom go over concerning in-laws. They loved each other in the movie enough that there was no way they were going to be split and the movie establishes this nicely. What was really on the line was getting the girl’s family to accept him as part of the family and that wasn’t necessary. They could have gotten married whether the father wanted to or not despite whatever the girl said, since she frequently went at odds with the father. This groom was ‘the one’ and I have a feeling that if the dad had said ‘no’, they would have eloped.

And once that’s established, all the situations in the movie are more relaxed. We can laugh easily as the soon-to-be groom smashes an in-law in the face and as the father gets him held up in an airport. In fact, the most serious scenario was that airport scene, but unlike duplex the consequences are played off and ignored (he would have been arrested) so we laugh at his outburst. ‘Duplex’ would have had him going through a grand jury and be up for years in prison. ‘Meet the Parents’ used it to laughs and keep the protagonist in the area long enough for the climax/resolution to take place. It also wraps up everything nice and concisely. At the end of the film, almost everything gets resolved and despite it all, no actual harm has been incurred. To me, it was a successful example and a counterpoint to the type of film ‘Duplex’ tried to be.

I have had people tell me that ‘Duplex’ was supposed to be a dark comedy. No. No, I don’t accept that. I have watched black comedies before and they have made me laugh and resolved much better than ‘Duplex’. ‘Fargo’ was funny. There are others I can’t even remember. My point is that if you claim that I can’t judge it because I pegged it wrong, you are wrong. In fact, you’re the one evading the fact that even if we ignore the feeble attempts at comedy, the basic plot itself is so lame it’s on life support. And dark comedies are supposed to have, uh, actual humour in them too. Hence the ‘comedy’ part of the genre name.

To conclude, ‘Duplex’ fails miserably on so many levels I could write a small novel. Its humour is weak and poor and is eligible for welfare, its plot has more of a downward snowball effect with no resolution, and it should have been strangled in its crib. I can only hope everyone was high or drunk or GHB’d when making this, and may the Lord have mercy on their souls.

As a side note, to those who feel my ranting and comparisons between films that are almost ten years old, I’m not an avid movie goer/TV viewer. Please forgive me.

Monday, September 22, 2008


I was almost run over by four bicycles this morning going to class.

This means only one thing.

Bicyclers should be banned from walkways. Or have to get a license. Or have speed limits. These incidents occurred in a single day. On average, I’ve almost been hit by bikes about… 0.669 times per day. That’s just me alone. If we’re counting people who I’ve observed almost/actually get hit by bikes, it becomes about 1.04.

What is really nasty is that they don’t kill you. At least when a bus or a car hits you, you die or get so horribly injured you separate from it all. Most of the time, anyway. With a bike, it’s more like a maiming. The bicyclers get pissed at you, of all people, because you broke his bike and injured him! How dare you! As your lungs are filling with blood due to the recent impaling by spokes, they’ll stand over you with their broken humerus indignant that you dare walk on a walkway!

They’re real jerks, too. They weave between cars on major throughways, acting smug due to a combination of their pluck in accelerating to twenty miles per hour (convert to metric) and a sense of disdain for those motorists polluting our precious atmosphere. In reality they’re a pain in the ass because traffic is sometimes brought to a crawl as they yield right of way to some slow cyclers who can’t seem to figure out where the dedicated bike lane is. And again, when they get smashed by a car, they are absolved of all sins despite clearly asking for it and in the chance they survive they sue the driver for not stopping on a dime because the cyclist swerved in front of him. Jerks.

Speaking of their smugness, I loathe it. “I’m holier than thou because I am riding a non-carbon emitting vehicle,” they will proclaim to you, the disinterested party, despite the fact that the rider him/herself is exhaling carbon, the iPod that is a permanent fixture in their eyes sucks up electricity from a coal burning power plant, and the steel used to manufacture the frames, bearings, and gears of their bicycle were made in some atmosphere destroying mill in China (they claim all bikes are ‘Made in the USA’, but what they probably mean is ‘some guy assembled the thing after all the parts were crafted and shipped from India’ thus they can claim it was made here when actually it was all but completed overseas). I’m not saying that automobiles get a free pass as they wreak much more havoc, but at least they don’t claim they are ‘saving the earth’ by ‘not using as much gasoline/diesel as a SUV.

What to do? If they won’t be responsible riders (and they’re damn lucky, they don’t have to apply for a bicycle license and learn all those silly regulations that are beneath cyclists), then they’re banned from at least walkways and major arterials. Since they’re tricky devils, we’ll have to lay spike strips along foot paths to shred their tires, and obstacles that only pedestrians can get through. Grassy areas will be loaded with pits that won’t obstacle the regular passerby, but get a bicycle stuck by being just steep and narrow enough to prevent escape. Dedicated bicycle parks will be made for those who truly won’t quit, and no one’s stopping them from riding around their local streets, just not on public walkways and major highways and roads. So no riding full bore down Chestnut Street and expect cars, buses, and pedestrians to get out of your way (and, as I’ve seen, have the ability to run red lights and stop signs).

Stupid bicycles.

Monday, September 1, 2008


Recently, Linden Lab added some new categories into abuse reporting. Most of these were simple clarification or classification such as breaking down 'age' into ageplay and teens/adults crossing into each other's grids. There were a few, however, that made me blink twice, and I'll put them here. I'll go through them each:

Assault > Combat sandbox / unsafe area
Assault > Weapons testing sandbox

This one confuses me. If one is in an unsafe area or a sandbox dedicated to combat, what exactly defines assault? "Assault Weapons Testing Sandbox" is equally silly. Putting out a sandbox for weapons testing and then not monitoring it is inviting trouble. The Lindens should not add an AR category for that, they should put out an overseer or get rid of those sandboxes entirely.

In real life, at any weapons testing area, there's a range master whose tasks include preventing the people from blowing each other's heads off. He may give a quick quip about the importance of gun safety and the rules involved in it. He makes sure (or at least, he's supposed to make sure) that no one brings in an M82 for a small BB gun range and vice versa. In short, he monitors the place. Imagine if he just opened the doors and left, letting the range to itself. Do you honestly think everything would run smoothly?

So it goes for Second Life ranges and weapons sandboxes. While the danger of actually killing someone is removed, the point remains the same. Order in such an environment requires vigilance and oversight, not a distant abuse report.

Not everyone is gun happy and probably many in such places work towards keeping order, such as it is, in these places without Linden help. But it's not their jobs. They shouldn't have to work to enjoy and test their weapons.

Copyright or intellectual property violation
Trademark violation

This one is unusual. Before these came into existance, any discussion of any TM or IP violations was deflected to legal and you were told to file a DMCA. You were told that Linden Lab wasn't going to process such things in world unless there was a clear legal case such as Stroker what's-his-last-name's Sex Beds.

I believe this is actually directed not towards resident's complaints but to the actual big wig violations of such. You know what I'm talking about. The other day I was flying by and encountered a store selling Star Trek mechandise. I'm sure Paramount (or whoever owns the Star Trek brand) wouldn't be pleased to see someone ripping their franchise to earn a quick buck in Second Life.

That's just one example off the top of my head. There's many others. I hope to impress the idea upon you that these series of categories are likely for big companies and such coming into Second Life and getting offended that someone has already made their product or what-not. I'm sure there's probably all sorts of things wrong with what I'm presenting here, but I would not put it past Linden Lab to implement such a feature to placate their bigger customers.

Commerce > Failure to deliver product or service

This one has had much made out of it, and it's already being ridiculed in a variety of places and blogs. It's become something of a joke and it'd be hilarious if it wasn't true and it wasn't an actual policy.

The spirit of the law is that Linden Lab will kill con men. Get rid of those who would fleece innocents. And that's good. That's grand. Those who would engage in unfair practices should be brought to face the law and Terms of Service.

The problem arises from the letter of the law. "Failure to deliver product or service" could mean a lot of things and be interpreted in a variety of ways. There's the angle to avoid scammers, but I could also potentially report someone whose product was destroyed by Second Life on its way to me. I paid but never got it, report! Or what if I hire someone for a given service, and they fail to perform to my standards. They're failing to provide me with my expectation of their level of service. Good bye.

And that's just a few innocent misinterpretations of it. Imagine if I held a grudge against someone. Stores are common in Second Life, and enemies more so. If I really wanted to nail someone I hated, I could always hang around their store during a high concurrency or a period of Linden Lab spilling coffee on the servers and report the owner when the transaction is botched. And technically, I'd be right. Yesterday, I couldn't log in due to such failures in the servers and those who were already logged into SL were told to expect failures in inventory and such.

Be aware this isn't exactly an astronomically small probablility. Any time you enact new provisions into law or a terms of service (for RL and SL respectively), people will inevitably try to twist it to their own ends and a good portion will twist it maliciously. There's no room to establish any kind of precedent in Second Life because the Lindens aren't very public with any kind of AR enforcement. The police blotter is pathetic, giving only the AR category and the action taken. There's no way to know the exact way Linden Lab will carry out a type of AR unless it happens to you or precedent on their actions is carried by word of mouth as happened with their ad farm policy, where word quickly got out that they were only banning farms being sold for extortion which resulted in ad farmers closing off their sells and evading it .

And word of mouth is finicky. Sure, the ad farm deal was pretty public but mostly because the policy was openly announced on a hot topic that many were interested in seeing. The same thing will probably happen with this category too. It raises a thought on what goes on with other less explicit AR categories, however. One can only guessitimate the punishment based on the severity of the action.

Disclosure > Second Life information/chat/IMs

I can understand IMs. But chat? As in public chat? So I can't talk to Henry and learn he likes to paint, and then TP and tell Sally who is crushing on him to buy him a canvas and paints? That would be disclosure and be able to be reported?

This is another example of a policy that could be twisted and abused in the wrong hands far too easily. I yell and have a fight with Jane in public chat, and when I tell John about it and he goes and picks a fight with Jane, she can report me for disclosing our fight to John and John for implicitly disclosing to her my conversation with John. Confused? I sure am.

Does 'chat' mean 'IMs' , just in case someone doesn't understand what IMs are? And what exactly is Second Life 'information'? Real life info is understandable but doesn't apply here because that's a separate category. It'd be interesting to find out.

Fraud > Pyramid scheme or chain letter

Haha, so I guess I should report Linden Lab as being a pyramid scheme! That's if some people are to be believed. Nothing particularly wrong with this one, just wanted to make that crack.

Harassment > Defaming individuals or groups

Ah, so slander (or is it libel?) is now against the Terms of Service. Another policy that Linden Lab had better clarify before they get flooded with idiots getting offended with anyone criticizing them or holding a grudge against someone else.

Land > Encroachment > Particles
Land > Encroachment > Trees/plants

This is something that might be a tad hard to enforce. The stupid Linden trees and plants, and indeed all good resident-make trees and plants, can encroach just a tiny teeny tad into someone else's parcel no matter how hard or how far you place them in your land. You might make a nice little garden in a corner of your land away from your main house as a kind of 'secret garden'. But if one tree is waving (as Linden trees are wont to do) and your neighbor gets pissy, it's toast.

And particles? Oh boy. Everyone abuses particles, and lots of people hate them, but it was always something we lived with. I think the worst abuse of particles outside of outright griefing was the particle explosions in some AOs whenever its owner TPs in, TPs out, logs in, or logs out. It's worse in a club setting or a general meeting, where it blinds everyone. And I could have reported it. And now, I can get really specific in reporting it.

In general, the theme and idea I'm trying to push to the Lindens are to publicly explain the ideas behind each new category. Don't assume people understand that already and will dutifully follow it. Outline a clear set of case examples for each, and a clear set of punishments. Then you'll avoid masses of irrelevant and petty abuse reports.