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Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Dead and Gone

Last night, I dreamed that I was dead. Not dead-dead...but in my dream, everyone THOUGHT I was dead.  Including the government.  And including Linden Lab and Second Life.

My savings were gone.  My accounts were closed.  My credit cards were canceled.  My Social Security checks stopped coming (well, they haven't STARTED coming yet...maybe this dream was set in the future!)  No one would talk to me except for one lawyer, who advised me that rather than trying, probably unsuccessfully, to get the world to admit I was still alive, I should pretend amnesia, throw myself on public assistance, and start a new life as someone else.

As if being dead in Real Life wasn't enough of a problem, I had some real problems in Second Life too.  I own a sizable chunk of Mainland, and I have a sizable store of $L  I have tenants who pay me rent every month.  Not to mention my various jobs and duties and commitments, and my 50,000 item inventory.  That money was about to vanish into thin air, and that land was going to be reclaimed by Governor Linden if I couldn't do something about it.

As scary as this scenario is, it could actually happen, except for the still being alive to experience the frustration part of it.  In fact, someday it WILL happen, it's inevitable.  Only the specific date is uncertain.  Any of us can die at any time.  It will happen to me, and it will happen to you.

So...have you made plans for it?  Any lawyer can help you draw up a will, or you can even do one yourself that will (probably) hold up in court, using the helpful resources of the Internet.  You should do that, and you should also write down a list of all your bank accounts, investments, credit cards, pension plans, mortgages and debts, insurance policies and last year's tax returns.  YOU know how to find all this stuff, maybe with a little digging through the files.  But will your heirs know?  Write it down!!  Current contact information for all your relatives and close friends will be a big help to them, too.

But planning for what will happen to your virtual life when your real one ends presents some unusual challenges.

Linden Lab will do nothing with your account, until one of two things occurs:
  1. Your payment method becomes invalid through expiration or cacellation, and they can't collect your tier and other bills.  Then they will simply terminate your account and confiscate your land.  
  2. They are contacted, in writing, by your executor who proves she is authorized to settle your estate with copies of your death certificate and her power of attorney.
Here's what I recommend:  Talk to someone you know in Real Life who understands Second Life and how it works, or at least understands computers and the internet.  This could be your computer-savvy teenager, your spouse, or a close and trusted friend.  Tell them where they can find your Final Instructions.

Then write down those final instructions, and store them somewhere safe.  Include your account names and passwords, your payment method and the password or PIN number for it.  State what you want done with your land and your transferable inventory, which of your friends you want notified, and so on.  If your Trusted Person is unfamiliar with SL, either include links to guides for the newcomer such as Linden Lab's "Quick Start Guide" or the name of a helpful friend in world.

Be sure and review your Final Plans, both RL and SL, at least once a year and update them as needed.

Maybe you have, shall we say, a tricky personal situation...your wife is your executor in Real Life, and you have a Second Life partner too...that you never got around to telling your wife about.  I will leave how to plan for your demise in this scenario as an exercise for the student.  But you know what?  Maybe you should just let LL terminate your account.

Monday, December 29, 2014

Ice Skates!

I don't review specific products here very often, but there's one that I think deserves special mention...the wonderful ice skates sold by Abranimations.

These skates were given away free as one of Abranimations' Advent Calendar gifts.  But if you missed out on the gift version, you can still buy a pair for yourself, and in my opinion they are well worth the $L250 price.  I have some other skates that cost much more...they will do more tricks, but they also take a lot of effort to use.  The Abranimations skates are mostly just wear, go, have fun!


The skates come with a HUD.  It lets you choose from among 9 different colors, so your skates can match just about any outfit.  Once you have selected your color, you can minimize that portion of the HUD so it does not take up too much screen space.

You don't need the HUD at all to simply skate.  Just use the arrow keys as you normally would to walk, either forward or backward, and your avatar will do a skating animation.  You can either make this a wobbly beginner skate animation, or a skilled glide.

You can use the HUD to do tricks!  You can spin, leap into the air, even fall on your face.  In fact, there seems to be a random "fall on your face" that happens every once in a while regardless of what you actually command.  It's funny!  You can also buy ramps that will make you perform a spectacular jump.

Best of all, you can use the HUD even if you are being animated by something else at the time, like a dance ball or a skating animation at a rink.  The HUD's animation overlays the other one very nicely, and you can produce some very professional-looking moves in this way.

Find these skates in the vendor at the Masocado Resort...
Masocado Resort Ice Rink

...or The Blind Pig Music Co.
 Blind Pig Skating Rink

...or at the Abranimations main store.  Go in, turn left, walk about halfway down.
 Abranimations



Saturday, December 27, 2014

Ukraine????

I was looking at my blog statistics today, and wondering why my popularity has taken a huge upswing.  Not that I'm complaining you understand, but the blog's been cruising along for months with a daily view total of somewhere around 100 pages.

But suddenly I've started getting 300, even 400 page views per day.

Most of them seem to be coming from Ukraine.  Page hits from there are ten and twenty times the rate from anywhere else, even the USA.

I want to tell the National Snoopy Agency right here and now that I have NO IDEA why the Ukrainians (or maybe the Russian invaders...go home, you guys!) are taking such an interest in my little blog about virtual worlds.  Hello, NSA...you there?  Silly me, of course you are.  Jerks.

All you spies:  Go Away!  Shoo!  Nothing to see here.

Friday, December 26, 2014

It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Miss-Mas...

I admit it, I'm a world class procrastinator.  Every time a holiday looms up on the horizon, I put off and put off preparations, until I have to rush around in a last minute scramble, and then I wind up only being half-prepared.

In fact, I never really feel that I'm "ready" for a holiday until a day or two after it's over.

This year, I promised myself, it would be different.  I'd do things well ahead of time and be ready to relax and enjoy Christmas when it got here.  And I really did keep pretty much to my vow.  In Real Life, the house was decorated a week ahead of schedule.  The baking was all done.  The dinner was under control.  The presents were all bought and wrapped and under the tree.  I went to midnight church services on Christmas Eve without feeling frazzled.

In SL, the region's winter landscaping was all put in place three weeks before C-Day.  I got a present for my partner (well, I took her shopping and let her pick out something she liked!)  I had plenty of Christmas outfits ready to put on for any holiday occasion.

I was READY, baby...and on time for once!  And, when Christmas Day arrived, along with family and friends, I had a good time.

So why...Why....WHY do I feel like I missed Christmas AGAIN, now that it's the Day After?

By golly, I'm going to start campaigning for holidays that last at least three days.  A single day is not enough time to enjoy them.

I hope you were able to enjoy YOUR Christmas, or at least wave to it as it flew past.  See you next year!

Monday, December 15, 2014

Blame

When things go wrong, the natural tendency is to blame it on someone.  In Second Life, it's not always clear who that someone is.  Take what happened to me just today...

A few days ago, I'd bought a sexy new pair of boots from the high fashion creator, LivGlam.  These were Mesh boots designed for SLink feet, which were also new to me even though I'd been using SLink's mesh hands for several months now.

When I got home, I unboxed the boots and the feet and put them on.  The feet were great, and worked just as expected, but the boots...something was wrong.  They showed as "Worn" in my inventory, but I couldn't see them.  Then I COULD see them, but they were just shapeless white clubs at the ends of my feet.

I should add that at this particular time SL was undergoing some "unscheduled maintenance."  This is Linden Lab's euphemism for "ye gods, the system is borked big time!"  I logged off and decided to come back when things were back in working order.

The next day, I tried the boots again.  They came, like most Mesh clothing, in several sizes, and I am a Medium.  The other sizes showed up fine, but the Medium boots were flat out invisible.  So I decided to go to LivGlam and contact their excellent customer support (they have actual live helpers at the store, an unusual feature for Second Life merchants.)  I complained about my "faulty product" and asked for a redelivery.  During my discussion with the representative, it turned out that she saw my boots just fine, while I did not.

At this point, it occurred to me that maybe the cached texture of the boots had gotten messed up during the technical difficulties of the previous day.  So, I logged off and cleared my cache.  When I logged back on, lo and behold, there were my boots!

There are a couple of morals to this story.  One might be, "Get a second opinion before you jump to conclusions."  Another is probably, "Don't blame somebody for messing up until you've checked ALL the possible explanations."  And a third one is, "They really mean it when they say don't rez stuff during times of grid issues."  The real bottom line is, LivGlam wasn't to blame, Linden Lab wasn't to blame.  It was (gasp!) All My Own Stupid Fault.

My thanks to Lanna at LivGlam who helped solve the Mystery of the Invisible Boots!  Oh, and here's a picture of me wearing them.  The boots are "Anne" by LivGlam, the dress is "Rockette" by Thera, available in her Venice store.

I'm Under the Tree...Unwrap Me!

Sunday, December 14, 2014

FLASH! Missing Animations and Dances

A lot of people have been complaining that dances and animations that they've bought from reputable SL merchants like Henmations, Akeyo, and Vista have been removed from their inventories.

When someone submits a DMCA notice to Linden Lab, alleging that another person has infringed their intellectual property rights, LL removes the allegedly infringing content from Second Life...including from the inventories of everyone who owns it.

However, sometimes the DMCA notice is wrongfully made.  Also, sometimes, the LL intellectual property police make a mistake and remove things that are NOT a subject of the DMCA action but that only have a similar name.  It appears that this may have been the case in this instance.

Once the mistake is straightened out, the missing items should be returned.  However, if you are not content to wait and see if this happens, go to the store where you bought your deleted content and make use of their re-delivery terminal, if they have one.

For current discussion of the issue, see this forum thread: http://community.secondlife.com/t5/General-Discussion-Forum/Firestorm-AO-in-viewer-animations-abscounded/td-p/2874423

Friday, December 12, 2014

Losing It

A while back I told you, Gentle Readers, that I intended to improve my Real Life by adding back diet and exercise.  I'm not going to bore you with an endless play by play, but I am here to tell you that it's working!  I've lost 11 pounds in the last month, my clothes are fitting better, and I feel great.  And that's just with dieting, I haven't even begun my exercise program yet.  AND it includes the Thanksgiving Dinner and assorted leftovers.

I can recommend the Atkins Nutritional Plan (a low-carbohydrate approach) without reservation.

As Porky Pig says, "Th-th-th-that's all, folks!"

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Keep Those Cards and Letters Coming!

Ever since I've been in Second Life, one of the perennial complaints about Linden Lab is, "they never listen."  People would make suggestions in the forums, in open letters, on blogs, and at in world Office Hours, and nothing ever seemed to come of any of them.

Yesterday, Linden Lab announced a new "Suggestions" page on the Second Life website.  You can read the official blog post here: http://community.secondlife.com/t5/Featured-News/A-New-Way-to-Share-Your-Suggestions-for-Second-Life/ba-p/2867935

And here's the direct link to the new Suggestions page: https://support.secondlife.com/suggestions/

I won't say that LL will actually DO anything about any suggestions submitted.  But I have to say, it's another indication that the Lab is actually making an effort to improve communication with the Residents.  This is the FIRST TIME EVER that they've ever said officially, "we want you to send us your ideas."

I hope you all will put some thought behind the suggestions you leave there.  A lot of impractical suggestions like "free land for everyone!" could make them back off their new open approach.

By the way, the corporate attitude of "we are NOT listening" is very pervasive in business these days.  Many corporations are forbidden from considering any ideas submitted from outside, for fear of later legal complications.  If they come out with a new product, they don't want some jerk filing a lawsuit claiming "hey, you stole the idea I sent you a few months ago!"  So it's even more gratifying to see the Lab opening their doors...and, one hopes, their minds...to ideas from the Residents.

In other news, Masocado has its winter clothes on!  There are frosty trees, polar bears skating on the rooftop pool, snow falling all around, and a skating rink to enjoy.  If you visit, set your Windlight sky to either Midnight (for a nighttime look) or "Raymond's Bright&Hazy Day", and your water to [TOR] Ice-like.  Photos and machinima are permitted, but please give a location credit.

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas!

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

A Sad Day on Campus

Today I learned that two of my friends, both Deans at Caledon Oxbridge University, are leaving the university due to Real Life commitments.

Ravelli Ormstein and Martini Discovolante are two of the founding members of COU, and have contributed their building, teaching, and management skills to provide free help to Second Life residents for over five years.  They've created a space that's both incredibly informative and fun to explore and just hang out in.

Their departure is a heavy blow to COU, and they will be sorely missed.  Both for the huge hole they leave in the staff, and for themselves alone.

Rav, Martini -- thanks for everything!  We'll do our best to soldier on, and can only hope our efforts will do you proud.  And of course, we hope you'll come back when you get that pesky RL thing under control.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Manglage

The internet and texting are killing the English language.

Or maybe it's our wonderful public non-educational system, or the TV generation.  Whatever the reason, kids today (and plenty of adults too) have no regard for spelling, grammar, punctuation, or sentence structure.

As a semi-professional wordsmith, this gives me great pain.  Not because I'm picky.  Not because I'm a grouchy, blue-haired old schoolmarm.  Well, OK, I am both of those things, but the sensibilities of one old fashioned lady are not the issue here.  The issue is communication.

I mean, here we are in the digital age, the age of Instant Communication.  Ideas and news, pictures and videos, can flash from one side of the planet to the other in mere seconds!  But with all that, we've raised an entire generation and more of people who cannot communicate!  That's a truly bitter irony.

wtf do i mn?  Just go to any crowded Infohub or one of the Social Islands in Second Life and pay attention to the local chat for a few minutes.  The overall impression is one of remarkably foul-mouthed fourth graders, even though everyone there is (supposedly) at least 16 years old.

sup my nigga?  were cn i get cloes 4 my av?  RU a reel person?  Rly!  ty.  yw.  A/S/L.

Arrrgh.  I understand the need for speed and brevity, truly I do.  Especially when you're in a messaging application and using a tiny phone keyboard.  But Second Life is not a texting app.  If you want speed, practice your typing skills.  If you can't spell, take a remedial English course or two.  Or at least use the built in spell-checker!

Yes, English is a twisty and difficult language, even for native speakers.  To, too, two.  Their and they're.  Were, we're, and where.  I before E except after C.  But these things must be learned, not ignored.  They matter.  The correct, precise use of language can convey thoughts, ideas, and even emotions with remarkable accuracy.  Those who can use language precisely are perceived as being more intelligent than those who can't, or who don't bother.

And it works both ways.  If you can communicate well, you also know enough to be critical of what you hear.  You can more easily tell when you are being lied to or bamboozled.  Our politicians are masters of appearing to say one thing while saying nothing at all, or actually saying the opposite.  It's gotten to the point where I assume that the intent of any particular new law or regulation is exactly the opposite of whatever its title says.

How can you combat this creeping degradation of the ability to communicate and to understand?  Two words:  Read.  Books.  Take some time away from the web, videogames, email, texting, social media, TV and movies.  Open a book and read it.  Start at the beginning and go on to the end.  Then do it again with another book, and again and again.  They don't have to be great literature.

And if you have kids, read to them every day.  Teach them to be bookaholics.  A kid who loves books and reading will do just fine, even in today's ever-increasing flood of drivel.