Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Fresh New World

Today is going to be most exciting. I finally got the go-ahead to register and download Blue Mars.

Let's see if they can top all the myriad imaginative ways to crash my computer as LL has.

Saturday, September 26, 2009


I haven't seen 'Surrogates' yet. My first impressions were "Second Life in Real Life" although the actual film is probably nothing of the sort. It's a conceit reinforced by one too many months playing Second Life, although the commercials don't attempt to dispel the notion.

"You can lead the life you've already wanted," it says and with no fear of consequences. Go ahead and screw your brains silly for automatons cannot get pregnant nor can they contract HIV. Go ahead and recreate Columbine, the 'dead' can always buy new surrogates and no one's the wiser. Provided your real life body remains safely tucked away safely in meat space, you're invincible.

Everyone is pretty fixated upon the entire 'no consequences' deal. The ability to do whatever the hell you want and bring internet anonymity out into the world. No one ever need know your true self behind the mask.

And to look perfect while doing it! Because you can look perfect. That mask can be made to be oh-so-pretty. You can become just like you wanted. It's the furry and transgender and elf's dream. I, for one, am looking forward to dogs which bag their feces because I'm pretty tired of walking into a park and finding surprises all over the grass.

But I think my brother pegged the not-so-obvious: Sure, we're gushing over all the special abilities and possibilities, but it also hides a fear and that is the fear of death.

They stay cooped up in their homes. Everyone. From what I've seen in the trailers when the power is cut, everyone drops. Not one soul, not even the homeless guy in the alleyway. They've all chosen to create a surrogate. They get into their comfy control chairs and never emerge again.

Touchable only by time, they stay cooped up. There's a perverse pride in the eradication of murder (much like that movie with the psychics who could predict and stop future crimes before they happened). And death is conquered. The millennium long dream of eternal life is more-or-less granted. I'm thinking life expectancies at least to mid-nineties (have your surrogate chow down on cake and chocolate).

To me, that takes the fun out of life. It makes life boring. Granted, that's quite a charge coming from someone who immerses into Second Life. But I do live a life outside of it as well. Frankly, these days I spend more time out of it than in.

In any event, what's the point in sky diving if the fear of smacking into the good earth at free fall is gone? How much fun can swimming across the Atlantic be if in the back of your mind there's the knowledge that if you stop paddling, the worst scenario is an interesting visit to the Titanic? In fact, why not just take a stroll across the ocean floor?

But I suppose I'm not everyone, and the allure of nigh-immortal life appeals to some (if not all).

And besides, who wouldn't want to live through an avatar which can fit into a size 4 dress?

Friday, September 25, 2009


I stand on the edge of a river so choked with dredge and waste,

only catfish can eke an existence, bodies riddled with Nunchuck only knows how many heavy metals,

Blessed with the tea leaves of oil and cruft leeched from broken freighters and cruisers,

In the light of the towering oil refineries, burning their wastes in emulation of the ancient Pharos,

illuminating the night sky like a comfortable childhood night light,

and coughing yellow clouds water coloring the skies and with all the charm of rotten eggs,

Under city hall who must beg for scraps and dribbles from the state to maintain the meagerest of civil services

while libraries close and schools groan under the weight of neglect and abuse,

while being attacked with screw drivers, too poor even for knives and yet everyone still gets guns,

Which seem to so enjoy flirting deadly paths into the populace, delivering quick vacations to the afterlife,

weeds poking through the sidewalks, sidewalks slowly breaking up under the passage of time,

And home to many without a home, nomads walking through these ruins,

And as they pass by, berated for sloth,

why not just get a job? They say on the way to their suburban homes erected far far away,

Bridges rusting away,

Piers lying abandoned to the sea,

Power lines stretch across the buildings like black spiderwebs,

Above buildings hollowed and forgotten,

Little more than place holders for future empty lots,

Torn down into impromptu parks and parking lots,

Or into dens for the abuser and the abused,

All of it covered in grime from glorious broken industries and diesel trucks,

Else in graffiti, tagged in every corner announcing the existence of its creator, "JD RAW",

All while everyone passes on the Interstates, windows up, zoned out tuned in to their iPhones and iPods,

wondrous fumes swirl from their traffic into the hazy smog wrapping us like a warm blanket,

And filling our lungs with ever pleasant ozone,

And they fly over in their jets, screaming all hours over our heads and writing their lines in white ink across the skies,

A constant klaxon alerting the dreamless,

Always we stand in the shadow of the proud and divine silver towers of Center City, even through the ice and snow,

Sparkling they shine over the city of poverty,

In their shadows,

I stand by the river in all this, my city, and yell,

"God Bless America!"

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Mother Leash

Tying kids in a leash is tame. I would use cattle prods and possibly police batons. I would put on those electric collars which shocks them if they went beyond four feet from me.

I would make a good parent.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Gimme an A... OR ELSE

A student decided to strike back at the evil meritocracy of the school board by threatening to kill and rape a teacher unless she granted an A++ to everyone in her class (of which he was part). This was certainly a new way of thinking 'outside the box' (whatever that means) and ingenuity. Unfortunately, it is also kind of a terroristic threat and kind of illegal so his extra credit idea comes to naught.

His actions are clearly wrong. There is no disputing that. Yet, we must also take a good and long look at how we have come to evaluate our students.

It seems, no, it is the case that you must get an A. B is acceptable but seen as among the 'average'. C is downright unacceptable. And if you earn a D, you might as well resign yourself to wages and job satisfaction comparable to a third world sprocket stamper or Linden Lab employee. Get an F and the best employment will be Linden Lab liaison with the residents.

And how do we ourselves label these letters? A is exceptional. B is above average. C is average. D is sub-par, and F is failure. C is average! C! C should be plopped right at the top of Mount Bell Curve. Everyone should be able to wake up in the morning, and say to themselves: I got a C. I've done well.

But that's not good enough. Everyone wants to be a genius and be 'above average'. And so it is more or less granted. To the point where we expect everyone to get an A, and anything less descends into varying degrees of intolerable. To the point where failing to do so results in one's guidance counselor pontificating upon the virtues of busting a gut vessel or else you'll regret it.

In short order, undue stress.

In high school, an acquaintance (one of those 'hey, I see you around' deals, but you don't talk much, but you stay friendly, because they're alright) broke down and cried as her GPA was murdered by a poor grasp of AP Calculus. In the end, it was busted down to a 3.3 for which she was perpetually grilled in interviews with prospective schools. Because it's just not acceptable. Not to mention that my peers (I hesitate to even call them 'acquaintances') lambasted her and frequently claimed that she was ditzy and obviously must have cheated. How could someone have had little trouble with algebra struggle with calculus? Obviously must have cheated.

Why? Should 3.3 be enough? Does that not prove enough competency of the student? No, because a good 40% of my class scored above 3.5, 15% of which managed to hit 4.0 and above. Yes, in my high school you could manage to mark above a 4.0. It should not have been possible to score above above average. Was my suburban public high school really that elite?

The key, you see, lay in something called the 'curve'. The almighty curve. If you took an honors course, your grade was boasted by 1%, AP by 1.5% or something along those lines. Thus, someone acing AP courses could manage to get a 105 or so as a final grade which could bump your GPA above 4. It was an unintended consequence of attempting to correct the fact that 'general' level courses were getting higher GPAs than the 'college prep' students.

I would personally think that such a thing would be represented on your transcript and would not need 'correcting' and 'curving'. Wouldn't a B in AP chemistry at a high school level be sufficient? No, it is not. They need higher grades, or else they can't get into college (which everyone, for some reason, aims for).

And so students demand A's. All this pressure to get A's. And whenever something is valued, some do anything it takes to get it. Which leads to cheating. And demanding it (even when undeserved). And threatening for it. Teachers, whether through pressure placed on them by their superiors or through a genuine desire to see their students attain the American dream of getting the all important stamp of approval from an accredited university, tend to cave. Which then leads to wonderful entitlement attitudes. Which causes even more desperate measures to obtain it.

And for what? An A. First to reach university, then to a job.

That's the why. Students clamoring for the almighty 4.0.

How did we come to this state of affairs? I have no idea. Probably some creep effect, where one person or institution relaxed their standards, which triggered a cascade down and resulted in what we have today. Or perhaps it just started all at once: everyone wanted to be at the top, so it became desired, and the seeming status quo.

Once upon a time, 4.0's were reserved for the exceptional. Those who really knew and understood the material. For instance, being able to calculate some derivatives might merit a C, maybe a low B, as that is the objective of the course. That is par for the course. High B's, A's, might be awarded to those intelligent enough to not only show proficiency in doing the calculation, but also able to show the how and why of getting from point A to point B and able to explain the theories and junk behind it.

At least, that is how it should be. But that's too much work, and I suppose at some point someone must have said, "Why not award high marks to everyone as long as they're able to meet the bare minimum of the objectives?"

And hey, look where we are. Students threatening their teachers. Tougher penalties enforced on cheaters in part due to increasing prevalence. And, on some occasions, the occasional bystander wondering wondering just how some of these honors students earned their grades ("you honestly do not know what an aromatic compound is?").


Monday, September 14, 2009

Blog Read Championship.

Recently, I found a giant list of Second Life blogs. Naturally, I am going to read every single one.

As of now, I have currently read through nine complete blogs. They were small (maybe only 20 or 30 posts to each one), but I think I'm on a good track.

Now, I just have 1,945 left to read.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Search Party

I think we should organize a search party for Jurin. Call on the bloodhounds!

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Your Build Is Bad

I am going to start a new feature. I will go across the grid and sample all the lovely new builds our Grand Department of Public Works and Utilities have erected for glorious promotion of Linden Lab.

Today's victim is the rail bridge running through the snow sims. This particular view was taken in Heaton.

First, I'd like to comment on the boring look. The design is reminiscent of the kind of Lego block bridges I'd build as a child: A simple platform held up by a few lame supports. Even the material induces a yawn (ooo, stone. Boring).

This is being built on Linden Lab land! It has tons of prims available for you to create a rail line. An actual honest to goodness rail line. And a bridge! Of all the bridge designs, you chose 'Nostalgic Stonehenge'? No, wait, strike that. Stone Age bridges were more pleasing to the eye.

I'd also like to point out the horrible configuration. Why cross the river? In the next sim over, the line scoots across the river AGAIN. It crosses this river for no discernible purpose. If they did so solely for the chance to erect a bridge, they have failed. Their bridge is ugly and boring.

They could and should have continued to run the tracks along the road, as they had for the previous ten miles. Someone wanted to get fancy. Too bad their imagination didn't match their drive.

Let's look at the nitty gritty details, shall we? You cannot see or tell from this snapshot, but there is massive texture overlap present. The prims flash like a Parisian neon signboard. These builders are supposed to be the 'best of the best', hired specifically by Linden Lab for creating lovely public builds. And this is the best they could do? I've cobbled together tacos textured better than this. In fact, even the newest of builders and sculptors I have talked to always do one thing first: make sure the textures look right. Failure, as Winter would say.

Of course, they can't manage to align the prims right, so perhaps it is too much to expect texture alignment. I can clearly see overlap between the support and the tracks. And the foundation is twisted off base of the support. Again, Stone Age cavemen (haha, Geico) could at the least make sure everything is centered. You could probably excuse the support/track junction (by arguing the support is forming a 'cup' in which the track sits), but there is simply no excuse for the improper and twisted junction between support/foundation.

This bridge is bad. The rail line is bad. Even though the builder isn't a Mole, it is built on Linden Lab land and set to the Linden Maintenance group, so this does indeed have the Linden Stamp of Approval. This is what they consider acceptable to show off on the main grid.

Grade: F


Tuesday, September 1, 2009

September First

September First.

The Dawn of a New Month.

Let's have fun.