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No one should misread this, I am not looking for sympathy.  This is more of an apology for those who have to put up with me during this season.  I have never done well with this time of season.  The absolute worst parts, at least in reason years, is that there are no reasons for it coupled with it’s absolute predictability.

I have no reason to be depressed this year, or really for several years or the last decade really.  I have a good people around me that are a good family.  People who care about me both in real life and Second Life that are close to me that love me, that I could not see being without, even if I wish I could spend more time with some of them.  These are people that are in stark contrast to the people, like my mother, where my most frequent Christmas memory of is of her saying “I’m sorry; I can’t leave him; maybe he won’t do it again” I actually look forward to seeing them.  I look forward to picking out things for them and making things for them, all the while complaining and getting worked up because I worry that I am not going to do a good enough job and so I cloister myself and get sick to my stomach.

My life is good, and so I feel guilty about it.  It happens every year.  It’s a psychosis.  I know it.  The absolutely worst thing that happened this is .. well, nothing really.  I mean, I got a promotion and a decent raise in an economy that others are losing their jobs in. What the frak do I have to compain about exactly?

This is what I am talk about?  I have no reason to punish the people around me and why I don’t talk about it to anyone else. I’m sorry if I’ve been a jerk to you or worse.  The good news is in recent years about this time of years I’ve been seeing a bit of a ‘clearing of the decks’ and by Christmas morning I can sort of enjoy myself.

Thanks for listening to me feeling sorry for myself, and I’ll try to be a better friend in the future (less emo-ish).  In the meantime take a listen to my favorite Christmas carol

Every once and a while I am working and just come across a layout, a pose, or something else that I like.  The above is one of those pictures.  I’ve been working in the Zhukovsky, a house I’m working on, I’ll post some pictures once Alyson and I finish it up, but I think the general consensus of it is that it’s coming along pretty well.

Lot’s have been going on since I last posted, mainly personal stuff.  After a long time alone I’ve somehow found myself in a relationship with someone in SL.  This came as a total, very pleasant, surprise.  While I don’t believe in jinxes or anything of the sort, I am private enough that I don’t like to post lots of personal details about things in public.   For me to say that things are working out very well is for a normal person to say they are ecstatic, those close to me can ask me what’s going on and I’ll give them all the details.

I’ve sold land here and there and am down to land given to me for free from a dear friend.  It’s very liberating and gives me much more time to focus on other, more personal things in SL.

I’m running The Spice Report in Splintered Rock as ‘Guild Propagandist’, basically a young idealistic reporter who doesn’t see anything wrong with the overreaching bureaucracy she works for.  If you’re looking for some casual roleplay to do you should really stop by.

Finally, in InWorldz I have a friend beta testing a second product I’ll be porting over, probably in the next day or so.

This is pretty much it, just a status update on what’s going on in my life.

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Relationships & Truth

So I find myself in the position of striking up a relationship with a girl in Second Life for the first time in probably over a year.  Part of the reason for this includes some bad-ish relationships, and also partially the fact that I always felt, at least on some level, that I was forcing myself to be someone else when I was with these people.

So here I am thinking of all of these things and, very slowly, possibly getting involved with a girl when a meme of supplying Real Life pictures for Second Life avatars starts going around. When I started my first SL account several years ago, there were a few rules I made for myself, including no pictures and no real life name.  I’ve stayed with these rules and a few others I’ve created for myself almost perfectly.

In the beginning I created the rules because it was ‘Second’ Life, not ‘Real Life+’ and I wanted to keep them separate.  Now I keep them partially for the same reason and partially because there are things I do in Second Life that I do not do in Real Life and would not imagine doing. If you think I am shy in Second Life, you have no idea how I am in Real Life. Rules help me cope as well as I do in Second Life.

There are things that I do not tell people when I meet them simply out of habit, partially because I think they will not believe me, and partially because I want people to like me.  For the record, I don’t keep anything especially shocking or crazy a secret.   I am not an alien axe-murder.

I’ve let some people know my ‘secrets’ and for the most part they haven’t cared.  It doesn’t mean that when I begin to get close to someone I start asking myself ‘what should I tell them?’ I guess I’ll find out soon.

I first heard we were going to get the ability to have ‘display names‘ yesterday on plurk.  There was a lot of concern, but in general I think this will be one of those things the community will adapt to and probably embrace whole heartily.  Knowing what I know about technical issues and the way software is put together I cannot imagine this needs to be implemented in such a way that will break much (OK, so my faith in LL is not unshakable, but it’s hard for me to imagine a scenario where they screw this up too badly) .

I’m relatively excited about this as well.  When I first signed up for my account I used the name ‘Alidar’ simply because I had used it for years in settings where gender was not an issue.  There were no pictures, genders, etc.  It seemed rather gender neutral, I liked it and so it followed me throughout the years.  Second Life was the first time that I really started identifying with someone named ‘Alidar’ and by the time that I realized I was identifying myself as her I was wishing I’d have chosen a somewhat more feminine name.  By that point of course it was too late, I had identified with her, made her my own, made friends and way too much of a giant inventory.  I just started telling people to call me ‘Ali’ and not worry about.  I assume other people have similar stories.

Will there be a couple of jerks who try to impersonate others, just like in real life, the difference here is that while it may take a couple of clicks to find the person’s real name, in the real world you may never find the person.

This is not the end of the world, ultimately this will not be the end of the grid as we know it.  The grid will adapt and we will forget the controversy, just like we did when LL started allowing people to buy islands, or Lindens or any of the other things we thought would be the end of the world.

So I’m currently toying around with the idea of buying some mainland and have it narrowed down to a couple of plots.  I’ll probably make a selection today or tomorrow morning.  What could bring me to want to do this you may ask?

A couple of things, but mainly the idea that maybe I want to open a place for quiet people to come and hang out and relax and talk, sort of a chill spot for my Introverts of the Grid group ().  I know, this sort of seems doomed to fail, but there are times when we would like to hang around each other if only to watch each other read or say ‘hello’.

Some things surprised me about the mainland.  The first was that it seems prices may have fallen a bit since I purchased last (it has been a while), one was the sheer amount of land available that had views of water or roads, and another was the number of people who will lower a bit land and call it ‘beach land’.

I guess, more updates as they occur.

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Stuff

I have been suffering a bit of malaise a bit lately as it pertains to SecondLife, as I think many people have, but I do feel mine has been building for a while.  I have never been one to have a large number of friends, partially because of my introverted nature, and because sometimes I tend to get a little laser focused on a project or another and tend to retreat for a while.  I think it’s a hangup or some type of mental problem because it happens both in world and out and it is something that happens without me realizing it.

In Real Life I am lucky because I have some core friends that have stuck with me forever and I’m sure will forever.  While I do have this core, in Real Life I even admitted to someone that the set of friends I have now is most likely the group of friends I will have forever and I think my personality has made it difficult to make new friends.  I am somewhat luckier in Real Life because my friends can see that I am still around, still doing this and that and, I think, more likely to call me up and say ‘hello’ or send me something and that it is not going to bother me or upset me.  They can also see my social awkwardness through my body language a bit and see that I am not the automaton that I sometimes seem to be.

This sort of carries over to Second Life: I have a core of friends that I made years ago and it has not expanded much.  Heck, in Second Life I even have a group of people I watch from afar because I have been afraid to approach for years.   When I first joined Second Life, there was something liberating about being someone else, but I slowly realized (or allowed it to happen, I’m not sure) that although I never told anyone my real name, thus is my mind keeping them separate people,  my avatar was collecting some of my habits and predilections to solitude that I had in real life, and that was never my intention.   I know that I pushed some people away in SL because of my awkwardness.  I did a few things to try and overcome this, from starting this blog to joining Twitter, Flickr and Plurk.  I finally realized that basically none of those tools actually worked and essentially I just did not have that ‘something’ that caused those tools to work the way I wanted, that I was still the loner that I had sort of made myself into.

Recently I tried an experiment: I just stopped.  I stopped blogging for a bit (not that I have ever been a constant blogger), I had stopped posting to Flickr quite some time back, and I stopped posting to Plurk (and I have stopped checking it).  I wanted to see if I was making any sort of impact on the grid.  With two small exceptions, the results were about what I expected (no-IMs, PPs,  etc, etc)*.  I have to admit that I spent about two weeks or so being a little hurt and then a little angry (at myself).

Then I decided I had the power to change such a thing.   I have to admit, it’s tough, but I think all such efforts need to be in order to be successful.  Step one has to be to reconnect with why first got into SL, and it involves Roleplaying (so if you are one of 5 regular readers expect to see some more posts on that in the near future).  Another step involves looking at ways to reconnect and find places to hang out with friends.  I have found that I am just as afraid in SL as I am in RL of walking up to someone and saying ‘hello.’

I might also do something serious with the ‘Introverts’ group I created some time ago.

I think I’ve come to grips with what I am and am now just trying to fix it.  If you are someone I know, I would thank you for your patience.  If you are someone I might have caused some hurt, I apologize.

* I do not blame anyone for this, honest, I have no desire or need for drama.

Some ideas, it seems, are just not meant to be.  One of them was the project I had previously announced the need for a Website Developer for.  Based on the lack of responses either I do not know how to write such things (a distinct possibility as I tend to write technical documentation from day to day) or people are just not interested in doing projects in Second Life.

The latter got me thinking about the scope and size of the project as a whole, comparing the amount of work I had put into it vs the amount of work left to be done and I decided that without help, it would go on hold indefinitely.  My lack of posts is simply me feeling a bit disappointed with myself about the whole thing and feeling a bit like I left myself down, but I just do not wish to get involved with something that may not go anywhere.

Yep, I’m still alive and kicking, just looking for other things to do.

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Limbo

I considered naming this post ‘I hate computers’, because anyone who knows me really well knows it’s true. I hate computer hardware with a passion and tolerate it only because it enables me to write software.

Last Thursday I got home and my girlfriend said ‘your computer died, their was a blue screen and it turned off and,’ etc, etc. I know a lot of computer people find out they get to tinker with their computer and think it is great. I find out a part of my computer died and think ‘there goes my evening’. Another aspect of my nature is I just don’t keep up on things like the latest video cards and sound cards, I typically do a ton of research when I need to buy one and then promptly forget it all when I have it installed and running.

Back to the story, I booted up the machine and got a blue screen when an NMI / Parity error and I know enough about computers to know it’s a memory error so I begin pulling RAM chips one at a time. No luck; blue screen same error every time. I then think ‘awesome, now for one of the other things with memory on it in the computer. Luckily I had a spare video card (some nVidia with 256 MB of RAM, a couple of years old out of a torn down computer) so I swapped it out and lo and behold, no issues.

Following my troubleshooting skills honed by years of training and experience as a software developer I put the old video card back in, prayed, and hoped it wasn’t actually the video card or that just booting up once successfully would be enough for the machine to undo whatever was wrong.  Again no luck, but at least I counted myself lucky to have found the problem and after a short sojourn online to make sure I couldn’t just disable parity checking in my bios (I couldn’t) I resigned myself to using a video card 2-3 generations behind what I was used to and with half the video RAM.

While this got me up and running it meant that

  1. Second Life sucked visually
  2. I could not hook my computer into my TV (as I do not have cable this is sort of a big deal)

Because of (a) above I put a building project on hold and some other things that I was working on in Second Life, which I already feel like I’m behind in because of my 2.5 weeks I had to be away from the computer.

The only upside I can find to this whole thing is that I have to buy a new video card and will end up getting something like a Radeon 5770 1GB, my only real questions being things like “is it ok to save a bit by going with ‘Sapphire’?” and “am I missing something? this will work well with SL, right?”  I like that it has the ability to plug into my TV via HDMI and still connect to two monitors and some of the other features.

Any who, until I get my act together and get the card I just feel like I’m in sort of a SL limbo.  I can see my friends on Plurk and some on IM and still do other things on the computer but can’t actually get to them.

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The Fun of Vaction

To go along with my [permalink href=”215″]other post[/permalink] I thought I would talk about some of the fun I had on my vacation in Florida.

First, I scheduled my vacation, sort of, so I could go to Megacon and it was a lot of fun. I met Ricard Hatch (Tom Zarek/Apollo from BSG) and I have to say he was the nicest guy there. He wasn’t charging for autographs and he talked to me for at least 20-30 minutes about everything from where I lived to Farscape to Firefly to BSG and Caprica. It was the highlight of the day. Of course I also walked out with a set of Steampunk goggles and hat, some RL Neko ears, a Death Note, and some other cool stuff.

Also, for those of you who did not know, I’m sort of a Disney nut. There is something about a place that on one hand makes people feel like they are a kid in a fantasy land and makes you feel like you are not getting ripped off. When I was younger this was fascinating because I lived so close to such a place and as a I was older I got a sick fascination from watching things from a system analysis point of view. I went to Disney this time on a Tuesday (I know how to pick my days) and we did not stand in line for more than 45 minutes for anything. The only disappointing part of the day was that Pinocchio’s restaurant no longer served hamburgers. My friends and I had a great time, even if they were hesitant to go to the Magic Kingdom again.

To set the stage for this next thing I need you to imagine for a second that you just landed in Juneau. You look around and notice something disturbing, not one chain restaurant to be seen. Ok, there are 3 Subways and 2 McDonald’s and a Domino’s or two, but they don’t count. Getting a ‘great’ hamburger in town is something you do on Friday night with your own grill and bacon. When I landed in Florida within an hour I had hot and fresh Taco Bell in my hand. It was awesome. It didn’t stop there, I went to Longhorn, Applebee’s, Friday’s, Arby’s, Long John Silver’s, Olive Garden, and others I’m sure I’m forgetting. This is not to mention the number of local places I simply had to go to because my friends wanted to take me there. I purposefully did not check a scale for 2.5 weeks.

I also went to a shooting range, which I seem to do whenever I am in town. I figured out I prefer the .45 revolver over the automatic. It makes me shoot more slowly and the shells don’t eject into my face. Don’t ask me what I was shooting, I don’t know all the models and there were all a friends. I know one was a revolver worn by British pilots and tank drivers in WWII (it was a single action so the hammer would not get caught on things) and I shot a classic Smith and Wesson from Cowboy movies that you had to load one shell at a time. The .45 auto looked like every .45 auto I’ve ever seen.

The golf range was not as dramatic, though the fact I have not picked up a real club in over a year was readily apparent as I could drive and chip a shot equally about 200 yards and my wicked rightward hook is back, but that trip was more about catching up with people that the golf anyways and the course was a mess (that part of Florida is experiencing a drought so the ‘greens’ are more like ‘sands’).

Lots of other fun stuff happened, thanks for listening to my rambling. I had a great time and will be trying to get back into SL real soon.

So I just got back from 2 weeks in Florida.  I must say that about 10 minutes after landing I realized that I no longer considered Florida home and about 45 minutes later I no longer even ‘liked’ Florida.  Don’t get me wrong it is not the individual people in Florida I dislike or the shopping malls or fast food outlets (those I really like), I think I just dislike the difference in the populations and the mindsets that they bring.

In Juneau, my current home, we have around 30,000 people.  This sounds like a reasonable number and it is, but it seems smaller when you realize that there are literally no roads in or out of the town.  Yes, we are the state capital, we are the center of government and the cruise ship industry for Alaska, but we have no way of getting out of town with out either catching a really long ferry ride and then a really long car ride or taking a plane.  This make 30,000 people seem very quaint.  Throw in the fact that everywhere you look there are mountains hemming in the flat areas of land and it makes it seems smaller.

By comparison the ‘Space Coast’ of Florida where I grew up has a population of 500,000 people.  This of course is several towns and cities all in one county, but the track of towns and other areas I called home still had a population of about 250,000.  This seems huge.  There are no hills in Florida and I swear it seems you can see both sides of the state it’s so flat.  You want to go somewhere else? Another town? Another State? Hop in your car.

What does this difference in population boil down to? Take traffic for an example.  In Juneau if you cut someone off in traffic there is a good chance you will see them again that afternoon or the next morning.  Worse, there is a good chance you see them out and about.  You might even sit down at a meeting with them.  Larger population?  Who cares? Cut them off.  I accidentally turned in front of a motorcycle just before I left (totally my fault, I just misjudged how fast he was going and how much space I had). I floored my car and tried my darnedest not to inconvenience him.  I felt so bad I apologized at the next light and waved it off as no big deal, I felt bad.

Within 20 minutes of landing in Florida and heading to my destination in a rental car I had been cut off 3 times and had to slam on my breaks several times.  I am not a bad driver, I can shift from being a defensive to aggressive driver as necessary having learned to drive among so many people, this was simply people thinking ‘I need to get to my destination as quickly as possible.’

Not everything is roses of course, I mean, getting good service in a restaurant in a town where unemployment is half the national average (and hence the burden would be on the employer to train and hire new help) is a bit tough, but in general the town just seems … calmer and easier going and that is something I severely missed while I was on vacation.  I had some great fun, which I will talk about in another post, but if I had to pick one of the two places to live, I’d still choose the 30,000 people.

I missed them all.