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Moriash Moreau: My Second Life
Tuesday, July 31, 2007
Well, the Relay for Life has come and gone. Long and short of it, we collectively raised US$115,000 for the American Cancer Society. About $17,000 of that came from our group, McDunnough's Relay Gang, something like a third of which was raised in the Jail an Avatar event on the day of the Relay. I attribute the success of the Jail an Av event to the organizational skills and social engineering savvy of the Gang. The tech was relatively easy. But bludgeoning and wheedling dozens of people into spending hours and tens of thousands of Lindenbucks for a cause, with no reward beyond simple altruism? That's hard, and a skill I know I don't have. Gang, you're awesome!

Here's the kickoff, in front of the Survivor's camp. This year, they did it a little different, in that the "caregivers" (friends and family who have helped other people deal with cancer) were included. I thought that was pretty nice of them to extend the recognition to include those folks. I'm the guy with the black sphere embedded in his lower back. This was the attachment for my RL miles pedometer.

Interesting side note. As we were gathering to start the survivor's lap, my mother was starting her first chemo treatment. She insisted that I go ahead with the walk, or I would have been there with her. But, instead, I was walking. Were I a more introspective sort, I expect I'd have found some kind of symbolism or meaning in this. But, well, at this point it just is.

I expect this is the last I'm going to say about mom and cancer on this weblog. This is my Second Life blog, and that is decidedly a First Life issue. I've said a bit more about it on my walking in SLRFL page, which should remain around for a while longer if anyone is interested.

Here are Tayza Abattoir and I on Mo-Tech pogo sticks, during the "Bald is Beautiful" lap. Tay was very kind to me throughout the Relay, always checking up on me. This is pretty much the only time I tried to stick with anyone while I was walking on the treadmill. It's deucedly difficult to keep up a typewritten conversation while walking on a treadmill! I did walk with the Gang during the final lap, which I performed from my keyboard. So, at least I was minimally social, in any case.

Sadly, I didn't get many more pictures from the Relay itself. Most of the time, I was concentrating on other things... Usually something along the lines of "ow, my feet, owie, owie, ouch."

Here is my backup movement device. I've been having issues with my treadmill interface lately, specifically with the forward key switch. (The other keys still work fine.) I don't know if the reed switch is going out, or if the actual keyboard is wearing out. Either way, I expect closing and opening a switch several hundred times a minute (see this entry for details) for hours on end is a little hard on the equipment. So, I made the above provision in case of failure during the Relay. Fortunately, it didn't prove necessary. Still, I'm pleased with how well the alternate worked out. It's nice to be able to bash out a perfectly functional hack like this, from spare parts in under a half an hour.

I suppose I should dust my keyboard someday.

And this, I confess, was exactly what I envisioned when I thought about the Jail an Avatar event. Bad Moriash, no cookie. Here are famed SL DJs and bon vivants Bcreative Wilde, Naydee McGettigan, and Chelle Moore, (un)dressed to bring in the donations.

And, here's the final results! Overall tally? I walked 23 real-life miles, and something like 85 kilometers in Second Life. Not too shabby for a career swivel-chair jockey! We raised a heck of a lot of money, and had a little fun in a process. I guess I'd have to call this whole thing a success.

I've been asked this a couple of times, so I suppose I should clear it up: this was 23 miles spread out over the course of the Relay. I broke it up into short (an hour or two) walks, alternating with equally long breaks. This added up to about nine hours of walking spread over approximately 15 hours. Trying to do that all in one go would have been insane!

Addendum #2
Over the course of the fundraising period, this stunt raised US$310. Less than I hoped, but more than I expected. I honestly have no idea how much the proceeds from my shop raised, since I was immediately depositing every sale into a donation card. Next time, assuming there is one, I'm keeping better books.

Thursday, July 26, 2007
Relay This Weekend!
Well, the day I've been planning for for the last few months is finally almost here. This saturday afternoon, the SL Relay for Life begins! Should be fun, aside from being awake for something like 24 hours straight, and walking on the treadmill for much of that time. Teams are frantically putting the finishing touches on what are turning out to be some pretty amazing builds. Even if you're not participating, you should drop by and take a look. There's some great things afoot in the RelayForLife sims!

By fortunate turn of fate, I came into possession of an abandoned team sim (thanks to Tayzia Abattoir for procuring it for me), for use as my official HQ. It was short notice (the previous team backed out at the last second), but I think I've come up with a reasonable base camp. I've moved over a modified version of SkyLounge Tower, as well as a few picnic tables and a nice little pond. There's an annex of my shop in the base of the tower, as well, in hopes of raking in a few more charity Lindenbucks on the day of the Relay. Of course, all sales go to the SLRFL. If you're considering donating, you might want to drop by my camp and see if anything catches your fancy. There's a donation kiosk available as well.

I've also created a webcam to monitor my walking progress. Said cam is streamed into the camp, both on the screen shown above (located behind the pond) and on multiple screens at the top of the tower. I'm tentatively thinking about doing a two-hour-on, one-hour-off schedule for as long as I can manage. We'll see how long that lasts.

Unfortunately, I'm stuck with a rather crappy webcam. Apparently, cheap cams nowadays don't come with focus controls. They're all fixed focus at about 36 inches. This is fine for its intended use (video conferencing and such, with the cam sitting on your monitor), but not so good for recording across a room. I opted to stick with my old camera, in spite of its poor quality, because it has adjustable focus. Given that I'll likely never use this thing again, I'd rather donate the money to SLRFL than buy an expensive webcam with better quality and focus controls.

Besides, there's less chance of me becoming a LOLcat or some such if the image is this poor. Have to plan for those kinds of things on the modern Interweb.

If you'd prefer, you can also watch the webcam, as well as read a bit more about the project, at my Walking in the SL Relay for Life page. This page also tells a little more about my personal reasons for walking (and, incidentally, explains in part why my weblog posts have been so sparse lately). If you're interested, please take a look at the FAQ on that page.

You can see the measures I've taken to document my walk, and prove that I'm actually doing what I claim. (I've yet to figure out what people think I'd have to gain from faking this, but many folks seemed to think this project would be a failure if it wasn't recorded and documented. Odd.) Each picture (updates every 15 seconds, in deference to my mediocre bandwith) is timestamped. There's a matching analog clock in the frame, as well. (I ended up having to tape black strips of cardboard on the clock hands, so that they'd show up on my mediocre equipment.) I've rigged a simple pedometer HUD to track my SL and RL mileage, and periodically e-mail my RL miles back to the base camp counter, so that my throngs of adoring fans can cheer every mile. I've also added a dry-erase board behind me (not shown in this pic- added later). Drop me an IM if you'd like me to say "hi!"

As an aside, I probably won't be able to have any extended conversations during all this. It's surprisingly difficult to type and walk at the same time!

Unfortunately, I had to make some concession to reality. The mileage counting HUD is based on a timer and a programmed miles-per-hour rate. I couldn't come up with a way to directly interface the mileage or speed readouts from treadmill to SL. So, instead, I'll have to constantly update and correct my speed and distance numbers, by reading it from the treadmill controls and correcting the pedometer HUD manually. Vexing, but it's the best I could do for now.

So I suppose I could be a dirty, dirty liar, and be walking slower than I claim. Or, I could come up with some kind of tricky programming to recycle the same images, with faked timestamps and analog clock readings (although the sub-par quality is working in my favor on the latter- harder to simulate convincingly). Just take my word for it. I'm not.

But, enough of that. 48 hours to go!

Addendum, July 30-


More later!
Thursday, July 05, 2007
Porn is War
Following is an excerpt from an old e-mail, written a few months back. It was sent in response to a missive from a friend, asking about the prevalence of sex in Second Life, at least as portrayed by mainstream media.

Honestly, as distasteful as I find the porn [in SL], I have to applaud its presence. Once porn shows up, you know the technology has mainstream acceptance. Think of books, paintings, television, movies, etc. Pornography is to information technology what warfare is to more concrete science and engineering. Everyone agrees it's regrettable, and the majority of people don't want it to happen, but you can't deny the huge technological improvements that invariably come with it.

Given my previous post, it seemed appropriate. As many people have pointed out before, pornographic content creators are often the first to embrace new media technology. Or, as Gerard Van Der Leun said in the first issue of Wired, "Sex is a virus that infects new technology first."

Discuss amongst yourselves.
Sleaze on Trial
Dammit, why do all of the SL legal precedents have to be based around something seedy? And people wonder why I'm so hesitant to cop to my Second Life in front of my RL friends! Every time SL comes up in the news, it seems, it's all about griefing, fraud, or sex.

First we have the Bragg case, in which some guy sues because he employed an exploit on the SL auction website to obtain cheap land in Second Life, then got banned and lost his in-world assets as a result. Sure, there's some ramifications: can LL summarily confiscate assets with real-world value? Can the TOS's claim that LindenBucks have no intrinsic value stand up against the fact that multiple services routinely change hundreds of thousands of US dollars of "real" money for "fake" money, and vice versa, every day? These are important issues, which could set legal precedents for in-world resident sanctions for years to come. Is banning effectively illegal seizure of assets? But, ultimately, it's coming about because some guy got caught committing outright fraud, and is suing because he was punished for it.

Then we have the Familles de France case, about availability of adult content in Second Life. I confess I haven't been following this one very closely, beyond noting their accusations that LL is endorsing pornography, bestiality (Furries), pedophilia, drug use, and quite a few other "Won't somebody think of the children?!" issues, and making such material available to minors. Again, there are some points that need to be resolved, one way or another. Do we need "adult check" services on an age-restricted grid? Or is the age restriction so diluted and unenforceable that such additional measures are required? Eventually, due to evidenciary irregularities, the French courts ruled in favor of Linden Lab. But, yet again, we have the entirety of SL portrayed as a massive virtual den of iniquity in the global press.

And now? Now we have one player suing another over theft and resale of virtual goods. Basically, the defendant somehow obtained copies of the normally no-transfer in-world luxury goods, and was allegedly selling them at a fraction of the plaintiff's price. (Original: L$12,000, or a bit over US$45. Stolen Copies: as little as L$4,000, or US$15.) Quite an interesting case, and one that could, again, set important legal precedents. In particular, he's effectively suing an in-world persona, and subpoenaing LL and Paypal records to obtain real-life identity information. Then there's a variety of copyright and intellectual property issues to sort out. Of course, it's all over ultra-high-end, sex-pose-packed Sexgen beds. Why did it have to be about cybersex toys?!

At the end of the day, the issues behind these cases will need to be settled. And said resolutions could very well shape the future of the 3D Web (always assuming that SL is more than a footnote in that future history). It's just a shame that they have to come out of cases that are so inherently sleazy.
Monday, July 02, 2007
SkyPod 3 RIP
This entry is mostly for my own benefit. Someday, a few months or years from now, I'll be thumbing through my old weblog entries and see this one. Then, I'll get all nostalgic for about 3.2 seconds and move on. If you're not, well, me then this entry probably won't mean much to you. (As opposed to the cogent and deeply meaningful content normally posted here.) Feel free to skip this one if you're not interested in hearing me prattle on about a building that no longer exists. And, now that you've read all this, your browser has had time to download the inordinately large and numerous pictures. My nefarious plan has come to fruition.

As mentioned before, I'm in the process of primming down in the Garden of Mo. This involves, among other things, removing some of the ancient builds that I never actually used, but was maintaining out of a misplaced sense of nostalgia. This time, I'm taking down SkyPod 3, otherwise known as the Mo-Tech Industries shop. I've recently relocated the shop to the semi-new Mo-Tech Tower (formerly known as SkyLounge).

It sits about 500 meters up, threaded on the tall, skinny stack of cylinders like a bead on a wire. It has a simpler, cleaner appearance than the old massively-grained-rosewood-and-brushed-steel look of the old shop. I suppose I should install some exterior signage, in spite of the fact that it's well above the casual flight path. It looks a little bland from the outside, but it seems to work pretty well from the inside. The modern, charcoal grey interiors provide a nice backdrop for the (supposedly) high-tech products I'm hawking.

Here is the last photo ever taken of the old Mo-Tech shop, appropriately taken at sunset. I remember spending hours working out the textures for the wood grained panels on the exterior face. Since the Brazilian Rosewood freebie texture is not a seamless pattern, I ended up going with a single repeat per face. Someone with common sense might have gone with a different texture, but that just wouldn't have been me. I ended up going with flipped and mirrored textures on adjacent prims, in order to conceal the seams. The net result was a series of 20 meter long Rorschach tests, constructed from absurdly out-of-scale wood grain. Probably not the best choice, but it seemed like a good idea at the time. I never got around to upgrading it.

The middle levels were modular, allowing me to easily add more floors to the shop as required. Turns out I never needed the space (one floor had nothing but "watch this space" signs for the entire time it existed), but the idea was sound. I've adapted it for the new shop.

This was the first floor shop. Not much to say about it. Those holes in the floor ended up being a theme in all of my builds. SkyPod 1, SkyLounge, and the new shop all have/had some variant, either with glass plates or with railings. It's a cheap decorative feature.

Here's the Butterfly Kit display area. I dropped the emitters inside a large potted plant, and built a lounge area around it. Every once in a long while, I'd see small groups of people sitting there, watching the butterflies (or fireflies, at the time this photo was taken) and chatting. I'm glad somebody got some use out of it, anyway. Like most of this installation, I built it then never used it.

Behind the plant was a Nutri-Matic Machine (dispenses hot, refreshing beverages that are almost entirely unlike tea) and a couple of cans of food pills. Both are now on sale in the new shop, and are featured prominently in the SkyLounge.

Here's the conference table, located on the third floor. The translucent black circle in the center was a "holographic emitter." On touch, it displayed text showing the current time and system performance stats. At one point, it also showed a floating particle map of Louise. I eventually took that part out, because I was too lazy to create up-to-date map textures. The chairs were an early scripting project. Using the strafe keys, the user could rotate the chairs. Why? I don't know. Seemed like a good idea at the time.

This was yet another installation I never used for its intended purpose. Did I really expect to have high-powered board meetings sitting around this table? I honestly couldn't tell you, now. Mostly I used it as a work counter for building small items, like HUD attachments.

You can see the Mo-Tech Tower out the window in the back.

Here is the upper observation deck. The lights were scripted to come on at night. The silver bulkhead at the left split and slowly opened when touched, allowing aerial entry from outside. This area served quite well as a hot air balloon dock on quite a few occasions.

At top you can see the "sky hooks," anchored within the cloud layer at ~180 meters. The particle effects made it look as if the hooks were pulling on the clouds. Well, sort of. I was always quite pleased with this effect. I don't think anyone ever noticed. Ah, well.

The aquarium on the top floor. Another early project, it was populated with a dozen or so fish on llTargetOmega rotors, swimming 'round and 'round on their circular orbits. The meditation pose was built into the aquarium. Another couple of lounging poses were built into the carpet. I doubt if anyone ever discovered them. I used to build all sorts of Easter eggs into my constructs, but soon realized that nobody ever even attempted to look. Unless it has an obvious poseball, or a bright red button with a sign, few people will try to interact with their surroundings. I find that kind of sad.

Here's the lounge area on the top level. The aquarium is just off the bottom of the picture. At lower right was a single-prim twisted torus sculpture, "Nightmare in Concertina Wire," by yours truly. At left was a few books from the Librarium. I don't remember what they were, actually. I never read them. They were purely for show.

Behind the screens was the useless bed. I don't know what possessed me to build a bed. It had a couple of freebie sleep poses built into the pillows, and was equipped with the jump-on-the-bed script. Of course, the ceiling was too low to really get a good bounce going. I expect there were a few concussions. Looking back, I wish I'd enabled damage under the bed, just to see what would happen.

My old halo rested on the bedpost, while a "mysterious red high heeled shoe" (contributed by Chrestomanci Bard) hid underneath the mattress. I never used the bed. The glass had a privacy screen built into it, also never used. I don't think I'll ever bother building another bed. I don't cyber, and avatars don't need to sleep.

Here's the main entrance to the shop. An elevator took visitors up from ground level, and maneuvered them through the bulkhead (which opened on command from the elevator) to the catwalk. I expect that the narrow, corkscrew ramp cost me a few sales from impatient shoppers. Spiral staircases are usually more trouble than they're worth.

And, well, I guess that's it. I suppose I'll hit "post" and leave this potential trip down memory lane as a gift for my future self. Guess we'll see.
Sunday, July 01, 2007
JJ Drinkwater, neighbor and proprietor of the Librarium, just pointed out Frequency Picnic's review of Mo-Tech Industries and the SkyLounge. Thanks, Frequency! The shop's still around, although it has moved about 400 meters up and 60 meters south.