Monday, July 30, 2007

A year in the (second) life

One year ago today, I joined Second Life. One year ago today, Veronique was born. Or rezzed. Today is Veronique's first rezday.

It's been an interesting year, sometimes even an amazing year. I never really thought of SL as a game, but I did think of it as entertainment when I first started. I didn't realize then just how much more it could be.

Through SL, I have acquired new skills. Some are only useful in world, such as building and scripting, but I'm sure they exercise the brain in good ways. Scripting is a lot like what I do for a living in first life, but building was a whole new thing. I haven't done a lot of it, but I've enjoyed building my various offices, and I'll probably build more in the future.

SL has allowed me to DJ, something I haven't done since back when I had a radio show at university. Even though I'm not young in first life, I've never been one to get stuck listening only to the music of my youth. I have always been interested in new music. Yet I wasn't really finding much I could connect with until I had to go looking for music in order to DJ. That process led to me discover several bands I had not previously known about, such as Bloc Party, the New Pornographers (from my own city), and Yeah Yeah Yeahs. DJing has also got me more excited about music in general. And it helped me realize something important: much as I love playing my own music, I can now be happy showing off the music of those more talented than I and artfully sliding from song to song. I much more at peace about being a failed musician than I've ever been.

I had the nerve to set up a counselling practice in SL and actually charge money for my services, while being up-front about the fact that I had no training at the start and only a little training later on. I've had a number of satisfied clients, and I found it very fulfilling to be able to help people in this way—mainly by being a non-judgmental listener. The fulfilment was such that I am now in pursuit of a new career in first life as a counsellor. I passed a prerequisite course in April, and I start on the certificate program in September. For the last 20 years, I have worked with software. If all goes according to plan, in about a year I will be working with people.

More than anything else, living a second life has taught me a huge amount about myself. I found things in myself that I didn't know where there, or had only a hint of. I have made personal changes as a result of interacting with other human beings in SL and learning from them, no one more than my SL wife and partner, Patrice. Because of my relationship with her, I gave up something in first life that I had previously been unable to admit was hurting me and holding me back. She is still teaching me about myself and about how I relate to other people. It's the same for the many others in SL who have been and are still my friends. I have shared genuine concerns with them, and they with me. And they have responded as true friends—sometimes with compassion, sometimes with a firm talking-to, and always with love.

SL is an experiment not only in technology but also in humanity. My goal in my second life is pretty much the same as in my first life—to learn every day, to grow, to reach out to others, and to become a better human being. Well, I like to have fun in both worlds as well. And if there's something in my second life that seems to be good in general, I can then incorporate it into my first life. What a privilege that is.

So on my first rezday, thanks to all my friends, and thanks to Linden Lab. Even though it just so happens that Second Life is in terrible shape today (or at least was last night and into this morning), and my DJ shift tonight might be a complete disaster as a result, it's still the best second life I know.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

The doctor improves

First life news. I will be starting school in September, part time. This is a year-long (roughly) program in which I will be working to earn a certificate in counselling skills. A certificate isn't much, but it's a start, and hopefully will qualify me for some kind of social service job at which I will make poot for money but which should be good for me personally and professionally. It's also possible that I will keep going toward a master's degree.

Given two nights a week of school, extra time for one course (video recordings of practice sessions), at least three evenings a month of counselling-related volunteer work, plus the usual overhead of first life, it will be difficult to carve out time for Second Life. But I'll work it out somehow. My time in SL and my connections to people I know in SL are too important to lose. I just have to work on balance, as always.

One thing I want to keep up in SL is my counselling practice. Things have been rather quiet for a while, but I do see a notecard leave the dispenser every few days. Maybe someone will IM for an appointment. I'm doing professional development, kids! So I'll be less of an amateur and more qualified as time goes along.

It's still weird and cool how I might not have got to this point if it hadn't been for SL. And that goes for a lot more than counselling.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Renewable energy

This seems to be my hundredth post. That's kind of a milestone!

EnelPark4 opened today. This is the four-sim Italian island that Patrice has been terraforming, building, and tweaking (along with flopsie and others) for months. At least it seems like months.

I messed up though. I was supposed to meet Patrice there at noon SL time. I thought we were meeting at 3. When I went, there was no more opening-day hoopla. I had been there several times during construction, but since the region was now finished and officially open, I gave myself an official tour.

EnelPark4 is a showplace for renewable energy. There are wind turbines all over the island. There are other exhibits for various kinds of energy generation. The houses have solar panels on the roofs. I think the energy generation exhibits are the main point of the island.

At the same time, it's a beautiful place for relaxation and to have fun. There's a beach. There's a beach club. There's an outdoor concert hall. There's an amphitheatre. The landing point is in the middle of a reflecting pool with fountains. There's a dockside area with little houses elevated above the water on a stone-lined pathway, with bicycle leaning against the wall and a gelato vendor in one corner. I know there's a tunnel somewhere, where I rode my Bispa scooter when it wasn't quite finished. There are also more features that I'm sure I haven't discovered yet. I'll need a real systematic tour. One feature is the amount of open water between the land and the region boundary. Patrice says there will be sailboat races at EnelPark.

I walked all over the island, taking pictures. One thing the pictures can't capture is the soundscape, which I believe Patrice was mainly responsible for. As you walk along one path, you hear various bird calls from different species of birds. Down by the docks, there is a gull that flies about, making gull sounds, very fitting for the seaside (the gull also occasionally touches down, maybe right beside you). There was music emanating from the outdoor stage, where I played a grand piano. Well, I looked good anyway. The whole place has a great feel, like there's a quiet but real life going on there. The sounds really help that.

There are also lots of signs about with explanations for the various exhibits. The signs themselves are in Italian, but you can click on them for English notecards.

I missed the boat today, so to speak. I enjoyed exploring the island myself, but I wish I'd been with Patrice earlier. She's done with the project and might want to put it behind her. I know she is already working on a new sim. But I hope she will give me the real tour. Either that or I will have to continue to explore by myself, and get a few of those notecards to see what I'm missing.

Thursday, July 19, 2007


I'm feeling much more reintegrated into Second Life again. Patrice has been helping a lot, as have other friends. One lingering effect is a good one—SL seems fresher to me than before I left. I'm noticing things I was taking for granted, just little things like teleporting and seeing so many girls in the shops, all dressed their own particular SL-like way.

Patrice and I did some shopping last night. I had bought some new outfits from Eloria, my friend who runs Battered Boutique, and I coveted the shoes she was wearing. Naturally, they were from Shiny Things, my favourite shoe store. Cute T-straps! And a good price, although I would rather they were more expensive and colour-changing. Still, I could afford to indulge in a few colours. Great for summer.

The night before last, Patrice took me to a very interesting club called Flashmans. Its "subtitle" is "1920's opium den and bawdy house." It seemed to be abandoned when we were there, though. In fact, there were rats scurrying about. Still, no need to worry about virtual rats. The dance and stage poses were some that I'd never seen before, and the dance ball was loaded with vintage stuff like the Charleston. We amused ourselves mightily doing different dances, to the 1920s and 1930s music that was piped in, and taking the stage. Next time, I'll have to dress more appropriately! Those are some pretty sexy moves, and crop jeans aren't really the best fit. Something more glamorous and sexy, methinks.

We never did find the opium den though.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Just like starting over?

Yes, I'm back. It was a good vacation, even the family visit part. Well, mostly. The Quebec City part was definitely good.

We got back late last night, and I was busy with work today, so I didn't get to connect to Second Life until about five o'clock. I downloaded and installed the new client and fired it up. Immediately, I was struck by how strange everything looked. My flexi hair seemed to move in a weird way. Patrice popped home, and she looked different. Everything seemed more cartoony than before. It didn't help that something was amiss in the system, either in my network connection or somewhere else, so that motion was not as fluid as it ought to have been. Still, things were quite odd looking. I thought for sure that the graphics in the new client had changed, but that was not so.

After eleven days away, it was simply a matter of SL suddenly looking—and feeling—rather new again. I'd grown so used to it over the previous many months. A long weekend away in the spring did not have much affect on how I saw the world. But a week and a half certainly did. I felt somewhat disoriented and certainly a bit detached.

Fortunately, Patrice helped ease me back in. But it was an interesting experience nonetheless. More soon.

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Ferns and toadstools

Anyone who has been in Second Life for a while probably knows about Svarga. For some, it might be old hat. I still find it enchanting, though, and just a nice place to visit from time to time.

Svarga is a kind of fantasy island, all green and lush. It's got much more vegetation than most of the tropical islands in SL. Many parts look like the illustrations in a children's book of fairy stories—all ferns and giant mushrooms and exotic, brightly coloured tropical plants. There's an experiment in artificial life, an area of self-replicating flora and fauna. There are towers and catwalks between them, and rope bridges over chasms. There's also an area that makes music and rhythms out of things you type.

You take all of this in initially by hopping into a little pod and taking a tour. I did that a long time ago with my friend Looky Lu, but I recall that the tour was a bit rushed, and I didn't really take it all in. This time, by myself, I relaxed and kept mouselook on (except when I was saving photos), and had a lovely time looking at all the sights. There is narration with the pod tour. I'm guessing that at some point, there will be an option for that narration to be heard rather than read.

It's more difficult to describe how lovely Svarga is than to show pictures of it, so I shall let the photos speak for themselves. I'll probably post the rest on my Flickr site when I get a chance, and maybe even go back for more. Meanwhile, if you have never been there, check it out. If you're at all susceptable to this kind of thing, I think you'll enjoy a tour and a walkabout.

By the way, this blog will be on hiatus for a bit. It's first life summer vacation time, eh? Visit the family, who are far away, and have some fun. Alas my sad 20 pageviews a day will probably drop to zero, but it can't be helped. That is the nature of the one-person blog. Be seeing you!