Archive for August, 2011

We Interrupt This Program

The earthquake was amusing but did not do any damage. It was fun to swap stories with friends. None of us, thank our lucky stars, suffered any ill effect. Hurricane Irene decided to remedy that. The good news is that all of my preventative measures worked. The bad news is that we lost power and the sump pump failed and the basement flooded. Yes, it was a carpeted “finished” basement. We didn’t lose any of the electrical appliances: washer, dryer, refrigerator, treadmill, rowing machine. The dryer seems to work, but I don’t think there is any heat. I think that is a matter of getting the pilot light relit. Or something. The carpet is a total loss. I’m tossing the couches as well. I think the bookcases and desk will be okay once they dry. I’m not as sure about one of the cabinets. All told, that’s not so bad. There are still people without power, which often means no water if they have well water. Now that the carpet is out of the house, I’m hopeful the stench will clear. I tried to get a cleanup company to handle the job but for some reason, they’ve still not called back. It’s been 2 days (yes, I called each day and will call again today.) I wonder what could be keeping them? 🙂 I still hope to get them to come and do a major cleanup and disinfect the place before I try to put things back. I can’t clean/disinfect under the big appliances. In the meantime I will spray some bleach and mop the areas where we walk.

All in all, it wasn’t that terrible. Yes, I’m exhausted and aching. On Monday and Tuesday when the last of the adrenaline rush had faded, I was somewhat dispirited and emo. I think I have an ulcer again. I seem to recognize that familiar pain in the gut and back. It’s still hard waking up and realizing that the mess is still there and there is still more I have to do.

On the other hand, it could have been much, much worse. I could live in Burlington County, NJ. In the space of 5 days we had an earthquake and a hurricane. But Burlington – that wasn’t good enough for them. The hurricane spawned a tornado. Can you imagine? After a summer of killer heat, to have an earthquake, hurricane and tornado within 5 days. I’m feeling fortunate.

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Blurred Vision

Vision can be blurry because something is interfering actively or because the focus has not yet resolved. When I look at the future and virtual worlds, my vision blurs from both causes. This post was triggered by my reaction to Gwyneth Llewelyn‘s post “Innovation, yes, but wrong turn“. Gwyneth is one of my favorite bloggers. I find her comments to be sound and well-supported, and her tone is always equable.

I still believe that all of us will have an avatar in virtual worlds in the fairly near future. I believe that more and more business meetings and collaborations will take place virtually. There will always be a need for face-to-face. But the workplace is global and for short-duration meetings and conferences, unless we have a major breakthrough in transportation costs (“Beam me up, Scotty!”), the most cost and time efficient solution will remain electronic. I no longer believe, however, that SecondLife/OpenSim will be that virtual means. And therefore my vision is blurred from the unshed tears in my eyes. I am still unable to articulate why my SL avatar resonates so strongly for me. I am unable to identify which particular aspects make the experience so powerful. I have tried to bring friends and coworkers into SL. I’ve failed. I introduce them to friends. To live music. To building. To the ability to hold business meetings simply. Many many things. (No, I didn’t try introducing them to Zindra. Was that the problem?) But to date I have failed to convince anyone to see it as I do.

I think that not only is there something in my eyes, but I think the view-finder has not yet been turned to the correct focus. At the moment the virtual world is beset by a storm about anonymity, pseudonymity and “real identity”. I tend toward seeing the pessimistic future and I fear that we, advocates for pseudonymity and anonymity, are going to lose this argument. But moving beyond this moment, I think that the business world has still not identified why it needs virtual worlds. Because of that lack of vision – the WHY – virtual worlds still lack the WHAT. I think we have the “HOW” – we can get there. Once we are there, however, there’s little to do. There’s no “HOW”. We need TOOLS in the virtual worlds. Those tools are coming. But not fast enough and not “sexy” enough. We need tools that allow our avatars to do that which our organic bodies do: easy note taking, modify the same objects (think whiteboards, sketching). Picture yourself in an organic conference room in a brainstorming, problem-solving session. Now, imagine your avatar doing the same thing. The trick here is that all of those tasks that are seamless in the organic world need to be as seamless in the virtual. So yes, there are whiteboard tools and there are ways to modify the same object, etc. But they are not seamless to the avatar experience. The business world and LL only thought to the point of getting people IN.

Not only are we lacking the tools, but there are not enough people being encouraged and supported to envision. I state quite clearly – I am NOT a visionary. I am the person who can get your vision done. But we NEED the people who will look at the conference room I described, will look at the work being done, look at virtual worlds, and make the leap that says: ah, because we are freed from the constraints of the physical world, we can visualize the problem THUSLY. I had the good fortune to work on a project with people who ARE visionaries. We began work on such a business application tool. Unfortunately, we couldn’t get the backing (substitute “funding”) to keep working so that they had time to learn the virtual worlds sufficiently to make that quantum leap into hyperspace.

In her article, Gwyneth Llewelyn says:
However, I still think that LL (and not only Rod; he’s just starting to think like the rest) is working from a totally wrong assumption: that virtual worlds with user-generated content are somehow a mainstream product, if only “done right”, and that the trick is how to figure out to “do them right”. To be very honest — and you can check it up on my blog — I used to think like that as well. But the more time passes, the less likely I believe this is going to happen.
… I’m quite convinced these days that Second Life (and these days there is nothing else that compares with SL; I’m considering OpenSim to be just a variant of SL running under open source software, of course) is simply a niche product.

I’m sad to say that to a great extent, I agree. I think that SL/OpenSim is a tool, an environment. Now take that tool and customize it to what you need. Businesses need specific business tools, specific ways of manipulating data. Businesses need specific ways of interacting. Like the government, corporations have specific concerns that drive innovation. Think of how many inventions and every-day appliances we now have due to the government needing a tool. If business took virtual worlds seriously, used them, put the energy into adding tools and applications and seamless integration, virtual worlds would have a bigger niche. I believe that once such tools are there, other people will take them, bend them shake them and leap them into the future. As that happens, the niche expands to a mainstream product.

Collaboration

It’s odd, I suppose, but for me the first association with the word “collaboration” brings up thoughts of WWII and “collaborators”. No, I’m NOT that old, so I don’t know why that is what comes to mind first. The first associations SHOULD be with business, work, buzzword. Ah well, the human mind is a very strange place.

Another strange place is my office. Last Monday I was at the office and all was fine. Last Tuesday, I was at the office and became ill. By the time I got home at the end of the day, I was very ill: headache, sinus pressure, scratchy throat, upset stomach, aching eyeballs. Sounds like allergies or sick, no? So I worked from home on Wednesday and all cleared up. Back to the office on Thursday and wham! I could smell the chemical smell the moment I walked in. Discussed it with some coworkers and some could smell it, most couldn’t, two others were suffering almost as badly as I. Apparently I am their canary in the coal mine. It seems to hit me first and hardest. I tried to go back to the office yesterday but I could smell whatever it is as soon as I walked in the door. I tried sitting in other places in the building but it was there too. So I’m home until they fix it. (Supreme irony: my next-door-neighbor’s lawn service came this morning. The ride-on mower was spewing gasoline fumes and gray clouds for 30 minutes, not to mention the NOISE.)

You know that I am a strong advocate of collaborating in virtual worlds. I helped create a collaboration tool for use in opensim. I suggest that we hold meetings in SecondLife. I helped furnish and customize virtual spaces for business conferences. I believe that the workplace is international and virtual. But….. I miss my coworkers. 😦 Despite all my support and belief that work can be done productively and effectively from non-co-located collaborators (ouch, that word) I miss my office mates. I believe that being in the same space, face to face, improves the working relationship. Improved work relationships lead to greater productivity. Synergy. Most of my work depends on consulting with my team mates. While I CAN do that at a distance (email, phone, IM, virtual world), sometimes there is no substitute for strolling over to someone else’s desk and saying “heya, I have a question”. For my “real” job, I am more effective if I can corner my coworkers when need-be. *grin*

I’m torn on this issue. Whereas I love the ability to work from home (avoid that awful commute, sleep a bit later, roll out of bed and workout instead of racing to get out of the house), I love going into the office and laughing and talking and solving problems with my coworkers. I need that socialization. I need to know their faces, the inflection of their voices. On the other hand, Oura and I helped out a friend of mine this past spring. He makes many presentations on software architecture. He likes to use SecondLife for these presentations as otherwise he’d be traveling all about the world non-stop (literally). We built an image of a computer for him to use in his presentations, to help provide greater immersion and detail for his talks. The 3 of us live in different locations, different time periods yet this made no difference to our ability to work together. We met in SL and had no problem meeting (exceeding) the goal. So not all work needs co-location.

My work is creative in a sense – I’m in a software development group. We are always adding new features, developing new ideas. But not all creation need co-location. (I wonder if I could copyright that as a slogan?) I needed to sketch out some ideas for work, draft a picture of how *I* would like a user interface to appear. I sent out a call to friends asking for recommendations on drawing tools. Several people suggested artpad at art.com. This wasn’t exactly what I needed, but by the time I went to look at it, I was on Skype with Oura and Shenlei. We collaborated on our drawing. *grin* We each took turns, adding to the same picture. Different locations. Working together. Producing masterpieces. *grin* What’s really cool about artpad is the ability to see what the other people have added. If you click the link, you can watch (at any speed) as each stroke is added. Here – go try it yourself and let me know what you add.

Co-location – the best way to share donuts, but not always necessary for creation.

Seven in the Sky with Platinum

As many of you know, getting my cat to take his meds can be a drawn-out process. I was waiting for him to finish ingesting and so of course I drifted over to the computer. If I’m on the computer, I may as well login and see who’s inworld, right? Dale was in world! We’d not chatted in a bit so I IM’d hello. (And Dale is used to me having to go afk to encourage the cat to eat more.) Dale was on a hunt. I groaned and covered my metaphorical ears with metaphorical hands. I do NOT need any more stuff. Most certainly I do NOT need to go on a hunt. I never even open most of the boxes I get on hunts. Even though I get some pretty fantastic things on hunts, come to think on it. And I know that there is a horse-y hunt coming up one of these days and I suspect I will do that.

Dale is doing the Platinum Hunt. He was in the ninth store on the list, which is No.07, a men’s clothing store. You can find it on Mushroom Island. number seven also sells skins. He’s not all that far along yet unless he’s hunted more since yesterday. This sounds like a high-class hunt as well as an interesting hunt. Many of the stores are places where I have shopped successfully. But even so, I wasn’t really registering the hunt part of our discussion until Dale mentioned that there was a freebie: I ❤ Plurk. Now THAT I had to have. *grin* I know, I'm odd. Love me anyway. So Dale sent the taxi and I hurried over and scored a freebie I ❤ Plurk shirt, heaven only knows why. Dale wanted to rez his Hunt prize so he wandered out of the store. I followed and found myself in a lovely lovely courtyard.

I'm not sure what makes this spot so special. Perhaps it's the warm glow of the lighting. Or the vines on the walls. Or the stones in the courtyard. Maybe the arches? The big tree? I saw the checkercloth-covered tables and I had to sit. Dale joined me and we both cammed about, pointing out features that pleased us. It was a brief visit, but thoroughly enjoyable. I would love to go back and sit and shmooze there again. Sip some wine, maybe have a little cheese and crackers. The merchandise was fun and good quality (check out Dale's new rolled up pants). Be sure to schedule your shopping trip so that you have time to sit and check out your purchases in the courtyard at number seven!

Riding for the Roses


I love horses. I love riding. I love water. I love roses. I love red. Mix that all together and you have another perfect evening spent in SL. Oftentimes the only thing that soothes my soul is the sound of hooves beating on the ground. Wind through my hair. Water splashing underfoot.

When Moonsorrow invited me to come for a ride I jumped into the saddle. *grin* Moon always claims that the rider needs to beware: that Moon will roll them, toss them, bounce them. It’s all a myth. Moonsorrow has an extremely smooth gait and is ALWAYS considerate of riders. Moon, Shenlei, Tyr and I went for a run through Carriage Trade. Stolas joined us for a bit as well as we toured. CT has begun a role-playing area and we took a look there. There’s been a lot of redevelopment and renovation since my last visit (which was WAY too long ago). It was fun to see the new shops, including the travel agency. *grin* Be sure to book a trip to visit CT.

I love the shadows in SL. I have a graphics card that can render them without crashing (that is, not TOO much – unless I try to take lots of pictures, in which case I do ultimately confuse the heck out of the graphics card and the screen goes black. I gather this is an SL bug.). So as we raced across hill and stream, our shadows flowed with us. Notice the shadow on the water! I was having a wonderful time trying to capture the shadows and the details, all of which add to the sense of really being there. I love how my brain can fool my body into believing we are somewhere we are not.

The cross-country course has been redesigned as well. I’d spent some time here when it first opened. Fidget was kind enough to take me through. The course is now longer and more complicated and includes ten more jumps for a total of thirty hurdles. Moon did beautifully, only nicking a few of the larger jumps. I did my best to keep a light hand on the reins and let her take the lead. I know which of us knows how to do this best. *grin* I’ve included a photo from the time Fidget and I did the course. Not really the best angle perhaps for either of us, but I wanted to show the comparison of shadows on and shadows off.

The wind of heaven is that which blows between a horse’s ears. ~Arabian Proverb
There is something about the outside of a horse that is good for the inside of a man. ~Winston Churchill

There is something about time spent with horses that is good for the soul of Ahuva.

Bamboo’s Backpack

It’s fun to indulge a friend’s hobbies and passions. You may have noticed that I’m EXTREMELY fond of Bamboo, my shoulder pet. Even if you did not notice that, Oura and Calli did. They were shopping last week and found a backpack. Hmmm. Not really a backpack, but a shoulder bag, a baby bag. But a baby bag for baby PANDAS! 🙂 They both agreed that it was a perfect gift for me. At least that is how they TELL the story, but it soon became apparent that the gift was not for ME but for Bamboo. The shoulder bag is adorable, made by Akasha Wachmann and can be found at .:-CatniP-:. or on the Second Life Marketplace.

Bamboo hopped into the bag as soon as he saw it, claiming the panda toys for his own. He also claimed the bamboo shoot but I was not going to argue about them. The bag is adorable – baby pandas, baby bottles for the pandas, toys, bamboo shoots for snacking, a little cloth for cleaning up accidents. Even a photo. ‘Boo settled right in. Currently he’s deciding on names. I assume he will inform me when he’s reached a decision. Obviously tending to baby pandas is strenuous work, so Bamboo curled up and took a nap there with them. We are having our usual disagreement about my hair. You will have to look carefully, but I DID trim the ends a bit for him. I figured it was trim them myself or find them gnawed.

As I looked at Bamboo all cozy in his backpack, I remembered that I’d wanted to get him a set of motorcycle leathers for when we were biking. I thought: “Now THERE’S a business I’ve not seen in SL – outfits for shoulder pets.” I checked out the profile for Xiant Hax, Bamboo’s creator. Xiant has the store Animinimals in world (I think I have that correct.) Xiant is also associated with Desibo! Design Studios. I IM’d Xiant to express my wish for outfits for Bamboo and discovered that Animinimals already HAS a panda shoulder pet that can wear outfits!!!! See – everything IS in SL. Animinimals panda v.3 shoulder pet can wear outfits. *grin* You can buy the outfit pack from the Second Life Marketplace. I was thrilled except…. it would mean upgrading from Bamboo to v.3. And v.3 does NOT look like Bamboo. 😦 I did try to cajole outfits for v2.3, but Xiant is in the middle of a very big project right now, as documented on the blog. That’s why the store is closed temporarily. I’m hoping that when this major project is out in the open and the store reopens, I might be able to finagle bike leathers and a safari outfit for Bamboo. *grin* That way he and I can BOTH go hiking and biking in style!

Summer and Ice Cream

Nothing says “summer” in quite the same way as does the sound of the neighborhood ice cream truck. I was sitting at my computer, working, but I had my headphones on for my gaming computer and THERE I was sitting in my pool, relaxing. I had beach sounds playing in the headset – waves, seagulls, some wind, the sound of water lapping against my boat. Suddenly I thought I heard chimes, which drew my attention from my work as I attempted to determine from where the sound came. I realized quickly it was NOT from my organic surroundings but in my SL headset. I looked about my pool area, wondering if I had windchimes that I’d forgotten were there. I turned up the sound and the chiming grew louder. I was still confused. Then it hit me – it sounded like an ICE CREAM TRUCK!!!!! Of course….. AnnMarie Oleander’s incessant parade of automatically rezzed vehicles. I cammed out to the road and sure enough there it was – an ice cream truck.

Well, what would YOU do? I grabbed some L$ and ran out to the road, waving my arms, yelling “wait, wait!” *grin* So I am taking a quick break from work (hey – it’s nearly lunch time) to enjoy my chocolate chip ice cream cone. And the intrepid ice cream truck rolls on and on. (By the way – notice how cool it is to have shadows turned on. I really like that feature and I love that my one computer can render it. My other computer dies a slow and agonizing death when I try to make it render shadows.)


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