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Moriash Moreau: My Second Life
Monday, August 18, 2008
Get a First Life... Yawn.
So I wrote the following comment on this article in New World Notes. I made it as far as positioning my cursor over the "Post" button before I realized it's just pointless ranting of no particular insight or merit, and changed my mind. I think Hamlet (name dropping!) might be surprised at the number of times I've written comments like this on NWN, only to delete them un-posted in an effort to marginally improve the resulting average intellectual value of the discourse there. (If only everyone was so civically minded. You're welcome.) I'll leave the question of whether he'd care as an exercise for my loyal readers. In any case, this one amused me enough to copy-paste over here, instead of just zotting it outright. After all, this blog is primarily for my own amusement, anyway.... And nobody has any illusions about the intellectual value of the content here.

There really should be a stupidity fine charged to every TV or print media figure who makes the blindingly obvious and hackneyed "hyuk, hyuk, they should get a first life" comment. Maybe we could use the resultant profit stream to fund a money tree for the rare individuals who actually take the time to check SL out before speaking... Or fund a chain of educational islands with full-time paid press liaison staff, given the number of times I've seen it.

If nothing else, it just proves they haven't taken the minimal effort to install a client on their machine, or even do a quick Google or YouTube search, before shooting their mouths off. I mean, seriously, when is the last time you logged into SL for more than five minutes and DIDN'T see something sadly hilarious or deserving of such derision? (SL is like the web that way, come to think of it. Imagine that!) But all they can find is "Heh heh, they put 'life' in their name... I'll bet I can make a totally original 'get a life' comment that nobody on the entire planet ever, ever thought of before!"

We can take the derision, guys. SL is populated by some of the brightest, or at least the most tech-savvy, individuals in the world. By and large, we're well used to the knee-jerk put-them-in-their-place-before-they-become-our-bosses scorn that membership in such a group inspires. But please exercise the minimal intellectual horsepower required to be original about it!

Ahem. Well. Gonna climb down off this soapbox now, and crawl back into my parents basement where I reportedly belong.

Monday, August 11, 2008
Zero Point
I guess I'm late off the mark here, but I wanted to join the other mourners in expressing my condolences and outrage for the loss of a Second Life artistic landmark, Zero Point. I've been a fan of Sabine Stonebender's megalithic, psychedelic art for over a year now (practically forever in SL terms). Zero Point was always on the top of my list of beautiful and inspirational landmarks to pass on to newcomers, and I know I'm not alone in that. And now, due to some kind of administrative snafu, it's evaporated from the face of the grid. And yes, returned, even in coalesced form, pretty much means destroyed in cases like this. It's like kicking down a sandcastle, then handing the builder a bag of sand.

Now all that remains of the Point are our memories, and a few handfuls of pictures which don't come near to doing it justice. I'd always meant to go back and take better photos, myself, as all I seem to have is a single picture of one of the smaller and more obscure works tucked in an unregarded corner of her parcel. [Addendum: Actually, that was a Starax Stratosky, not one of Ms. Stonebender's works.] There always seems to be time for that kind of thing tomorrow, though, doesn't there?

While Ms. Stonebender is of course upset, she seems to view this as an opportunity to rebuild. I admire her optimism, and eagerly wait to see what will rise from the ashes. In the meantime, I suppose all we can do is wish her luck, check our billing information again (not that that would have helped Sabine), and look warily at our own comparatively feeble builds. Once again, we're reminded that our shared new world is built on shifting sand.
Tinkering and Calculating
Just a quick update on the tinkering front. A while back, I decided to pare down the inventory in Mo-Tech industries, converting some older items to freebies, and taking others off the market altogether. (The latter group included poor sellers, as well as items broken by recent changes that I didn't feel were worth fixing.) This reorganization effort allowed me to consolidate two largish, unattractively empty floors into one nicely filled (but still not crowded) space. Somewhat better, from a marketing standpoint, and it doesn't require the use of an elevator to see the rest of my wares. I will never understand why it's so difficult to figure out you should press the big green or red buttons labeled "UP" or "DOWN" to go, well, up or down. Have these people never ridden elevators before? I suppose I should make explanatory signage, but it galls me to have to hit folks over the head with the obvious.

In any case, this left me with three floors (I had two empty floors for future expansion to begin with) in which to tinker. So, I'm proud to announce (somewhat belatedly) the somewhat grand-ish opening of Mo-Tech Gallery! At present, the Gallery is divided into three floors. The first floor contains screenshots, photo-shop manipulations, and other forms of 2D electronic graphic art (putting aside the black velvet Elvis and the dogs playing poker- they're just placeholders). This includes several works by my departed (from SL, not from life in general) friend, Laura Ingersoll, as well as some other works I've collected (or created) over the years. (Basically, the theme is "pictures I had in my inventory that I never got around to hanging" at this point.) Level two contains three dimensional works (currently centered around the theme "low prim things I had in my inventory"- already regretting tiering down), and features sculptures by MenuBar Memorial and Zero Ball, as well as others. Both floors are worth spending a few minutes to browse and admire.

Level three is the one I expect to see the most work on in the future. I've decided to turn it into a gallery of old or failed SL projects and experiments. I've often referred to Mo-Tech Tower as a monument to my own ego. Might as well continue with that theme! Mostly, though, I'm using it as a dumping ground for my old work, as an aid for my ongoing project of letting go of my SL past and gradual end to general laurels-resting. If I dump it there, I can forget about it and move on. Kind of a physical representation of closure, I suppose.

(Speaking of closure, Monica and I are working on a project to close the book on Plywood. Nothing too exciting- and no it's not more comics- but it should be interesting, anyway. I'll make one last post about that when it goes live.)

In any case, this gallery currently includes a mockup of the heli-bike designed for the still ongoing, if substantially neglected, bicycle integration project. (I need to get back to that one. It was kind of fun.) Also shown are a couple of pieces from Babel Two, and one of the versions of the particle contour mapper. Ultimately, I'm going to add samples of the other, more photogenic and/or interesting projects littering my "Projects-Experimental" folder. I'm also going to add a couple of rotating exhibits for some of the excellent props Monica Young/Chrestomanci Bard made for Plywood, as well. A ton of work went into those, and it seems a shame to let them disappear with nothing but photos to remain.

So, anyway, that's one of the things I've been messing with, off and on, for the past few weeks. In other news, I was thinking about SL years verses real-time years, and something occurred to me. Going by the movement of the sun in the virtual sky, an SL day is four hours long. So six SL days pass for every one RL day. That means, by my calculations, avatar Moriash turned 21 on around July 1 (give or take a day). And I didn't even take the poor fellow out for his first legal bender! (Of course, given some of the mind trips I've taken the poor fellow on during his formative years, I'm guessing he'd find mere booze pretty tame, anyway.) I'd say that my rez-day is also about the youngest (give or take a few RL months or SL years) that earns a modicum of respect solely based on longevity. Not ancient or venerable, by any means. But I've occasionally been referred to (if not deferred to) as one of the SL elders in many a group. And, yet, in many gatherings I still feel like a young tyro, a kid. Again, that slots in rather nicely with my calculated age. Still all-but-a-kid, but now with the figurative, metaphorical ability to buy booze for my younger friends. (Don't do that, folks. It's illegal. Unless you mean in SL, then knock yourself out.) Solely by virtue of my age and experience, there are quite a few things I can do, and even places I'm invited to go, that my younger cohorts cannot.

By my calculations, that pegs Steller Sunshine, Second Life's first resident, at the ripe old age of 38. And, depending on how you count it, few of the Linden av-family would be much into their forties. Mind you, this is only pointless numbers juggling, of limited use or meaning. Nonetheless, I find it somehow encouraging. Second Life is still a young world.

Then again, I suppose you could look at this another way. Most avatars won't live nearly as long as Ms. Sunshine. Statistically, the vast majority die off, as their typists get tired of SL, or otherwise move on, long before they reach their teens. Maybe this is more like the harshest days of the early American frontier, or perhaps even the middle ages, where a rare few live long enough to reach adulthood, and the village elders are only in their thirties. But I'm starting to hear the sounds of a tenuous, muddled analogy approaching dramatic tensile failure, so I guess I'll leave it at that. Still, food for thought. Maybe there's something to the 6-to-1 time ratio, in terms of the growth and development of avatars, and of SL in general.
Thursday, August 07, 2008
Things To Do
Last night, I logged into Second Life discouraged and disheartened. If you've followed this weblog at all, you're no doubt tired of hearing about Mo-Tech Tower and the SkyLounge. This 4+ kilometer tall monument to my own ego was my pride and joy, and at one time I considered it one of my greater technical achievements. [Addendum: Okay, "pride and joy" is overstating things. But I really like it, anyway.] Stop me if you've heard this before, but up until very recently it was a serious pain in the rump to build anything above 768 meters. Beyond that, conventional object editing stops working (objects jump to 768 meters if you try to move them with the build tools). You can still rez objects in place, and have them remain indefinitely, though. So building at high altitudes requires a scripted system of automatic rezzing tools. Build the tower at ground level, tuck them in an automatic rezzer, and let it dump a copy for you at the right altitude. Worse, at one time any object left above 2000 meters would be returned or deleted every simulator reset (this actually changed a few months ago, not long after the advent of Havok 4 physics). So add the complication of scanning for simulator crashes and re-assembling any missing pieces automatically. Really quite a bit of work for a dubious architectural achievement, but I was pretty pleased with having one of the tallest (if not the tallest- it's hard to say for sure) structures in Second Life.

Well, as of a week or so ago, all of that changed. See, as of client version 1.20, objects can be moved and edited all the way up to 4096 meters, using the same build tools you'd use at ground level. Now everyone can build as high as they like, with no special technical jiggery-pokery required. And this is a good thing, really. Much more convenient for me, too. But, suddenly, Mo-Tech Tower isn't such a big deal anymore (if it ever was), and I'm left with the vague feeling that I used to be cool. "Waaay back in the old days, we couldn't just dump our houses wherever, all willy-nilly! If'n you wanted ta' build at the edge of the world then, by gum, you had ta' earn it! An' I had to walk all thuh way ta' ANWR ta' get my prims. Up hill! Both ways! You kids, git offa mah lawn!"

So that's where last night found me, logging in late in the evening to experiment with giant invisiprims and occlusion culling to see if I could build a screen to block out the view of all the new 4000 meter skyboxes I was certain I'd find on my doorstep by the end of the week. Depressing. But, as I flew up to my workshop, I received an e-mail from Jenn Hienrichs, founder of the SL Things to Do website. Apparently, Mo-Tech Tower was featured as the August 6, 2008 Thing to Do! As we chatted, Ms. Hienrichs dropped the landmark to the Things to Do group. (Which is eminently cool, by the way. Go. Join it now. So sayeth Mori.) Soon, the Tower was flooded with dozens of tell-tale green dots, all come to take a gander at the mighty Tower.

As more visitors than I'd ever seen at once flew up the elevator, I read the Things to Do write up, written by the well-traveled Caliburn Susanto. (As I later discovered, Mr. Susanto found the Tower over a year ago, on one of his frequent balloon trips across the grid.) The last line of his excellent article really struck home for me. I can't imagine a more flattering or inspiring epitaph for the project. "The Mo-Tech Tower is a landmark in Second Life and a tribute to the early builders and scripters who pushed the limits of the platform in their efforts to create unique content (or just do cool stuff!)." Needless to say, I was stunned.

That one line, whether my work actually deserved it or not, changed my whole outlook on Mo-Tech Tower. Sure, the achievement, such that it was, has been obviated now. Once, it was kind of clever. Now? No big deal. But that's not the end of it! How long can I rest on my dubious laurels, anyway? Maybe it's worth a plaque or something.

Mo-Tech Tower and SkyLounge
Established April, 2007 and December, 2005
Back when this was hard!

Beyond that, it's time to move on. I don't think I'll be installing that invisiprim privacy barrier to avoid seeing my new neighbors. Not anymore. Instead, I think I'm going to pick up on some of the old projects I'd been putting off; projects I've been avoiding precisely because they used to be irritating to do at high altitudes. I've had a "holodeck" built into the third floor for over a year now, but never added anything beyond a simplistic conference room. Maybe it's time to add a few more programs. Maybe I'll add a high altitude vehicle dock and BASE jumping center, as Caliburn suggested. Maybe I'll convert that press conference room into SL's highest altitude movie theater, as Jenn mentioned. Maybe I'll work on poking and prodding Second Life into letting me dodge around the 4096 meter build ceiling, not to claim any records, but just to see if it can be done. Or maybe I'll pull out any of a dozen half-finished projects tucked in the forgotten recesses of my inventory, or work on something entirely new. In all likelihood, nothing I do will set the grid on fire, or even meet with any particular notice. Second Life isn't the little pond of early adopters and enthusiasts it once was. Dabblers and script monkeys like me aren't going to make so much as a splash in the vast ocean it's become. You know what? That's just fine. Time to stop worrying about that kind of thing and enjoy tinkering for its own sake again.

I guess I'll close by sending out a big thanks to Jenn and Caliburn, for accidentally telling me exactly what I needed to hear, exactly when I needed to hear it. I'm glad I ran into you guys.
2008 SLRFL
Well, I didn't have much to say about it this time (or anything else, lately- sorry about that), but I did participate in the 2008 Second Life Relay for Life this year. Not a whole lot of substance to add, really. The Relay fundraising volunteers put in an astounding effort, and raised over L$55 million for the American Cancer Society. That's over US$193,000!

My team, the Relay Raiders, pulled in over L$10 million, or about US$35,000. I wasn't able to participate as much as I would've liked this year, but between the proceeds from Mo-Tech Industries sales in-world and RL donations, I did manage to raise about L$169,000 (around US$640, over twice what I managed last year). Not too shabby, if I do say so myself! And, like last year, the Jail-an-Avatar event was a smashing success, raising a couple million Lindens between the five teams that participated. I only provided scripting and construction services for the jails, and technical support during the day-long event, but I'm still proud to have been a small part of it. All told, I think we can call this year's Relay a success.

On a personal level, I didn't get to do as much with the whole treadmill stunt this year. I'd actually planned on skipping it altogether, due to RL conflicts on the day of the Relay, but ended up hopping on the contraption and joining in late for a few laps. Since it was something of a last minute impulse, I didn't even try to setup the webcam and such (like last year). Shown at right are photos of the mileage and time readouts for two sessions. The top one was taken at precisely 99:59 into it, just before the timer rolled over to zero. A few moments after, I took a misstep off the back of the treadmill and twisted the heck out of my ankle. Nothing too serious, but it pretty much put an end to walking for the next few hours. I ended up logging out in disgust, and getting some sleep instead.

The bottom picture was taken at the end of the Relay Raiders' victory lap, the following morning. By then, the swelling had gone down, so I decided to run the final lap on the treadmill. All told, I walked about seven real life miles, and approximately 26 in-world kilometers (give or take distance lost to lag and poor steering). Quite a bit less than last year, and less than I'd hoped, but enough to make the point... Whatever that might have been. I suppose it was kind of a neat thing to do, the first time, but I'm just as happy I didn't make a big deal out of it this year. It's too easy to cross over from fundraising publicity stunt to self-aggrandizement. And I already have a weblog for that!

Incidentally, I'd like to offer a nod of thanks to Moo Money over at Massively for featuring last year's promo walk video on the July 20 Cinemassively feature. It's nice to be remembered! Not that it matters overmuch, but the 23 miles mentioned was spread out over the actual '07 SLRFL event. (Yes, I was stupid. My blisters had blisters.) I have no idea how many miles I'd actually walked before that film was made. As part of my morning exercise routine, I did somewhere between 2.5 and 3 miles a day, every day, for at least the preceding four or five months. I suppose that adds up to quite a lot, even if it was done in hour-long chunks with a day's rest between. I know I made at least one pass down every road on the mainland continents at the time. One way into the record books, anyway.