Freitag, 30. Januar 2009

Linden Lab, Xstreet SL and OnRez: designing the future economy

Linden Lab announced their acquisition of Xstreet SL and OnRez (and plans of consolidating them under Xstreet SL brand), and immediately a wave of criticism swept through the SL blogosphere. I've read a few positive opinions about this move but they vanished in the sea of accusations, gloomy predictions and conspiration theories. The announcement came a bit sudden, which may explain the negative response, but I'm sure many residents will change their tune over time. People, especially when surprised with something, tend to look at things from one perspective, and that is from their own perception of the situation. I think you should look at things from three perspectives: your own perception (what effect the situation has on you), the opposite side of the argument (why they have a different opinion and what effect the situation has on them) and the perspective of a person who is not involved in the situation at all (a passive observer). Only then you have a full picture of the situation and your judgement is more fair and balanced. So, if you look at this acquisition objectively, it perfectly makes sense. It brings good to each company involved and to the residents of Second Life as well. How is that?

Linden Lab, Xstreet SL and OnRez

First: OnRez would be shutdown anyway. It's not a big secret that the Electric Sheep Company (who ran OnRez) is slowly pulling out of SL. This was a perfect opportunity to say 'bye' gracefully and to make some extra money on it. Second: It seems Jay Geeseman (more known by his avatar name, Apotheus Silverman), the founder of Xstreet SL, was looking for some capital to expand the company. So Xstreet SL gets the needed capital, and since Apotheus and key members of his team will continue to work on Xstreet SL at Linden Lab, and will be integrating the platfrom into SL, I don't think the quality of service will change, except for better. Third: Linden Lab is a company, and a company should make profit off their business activity. Remember that proft for Linden Lab is your assurance that tomorrow you'll be able to log in to SL - perhaps with faster and more reliable asset servers or improved graphics. But you need money to invest, non? It's only natural they wanted to involve into web-based Second Life e-commerce. They could have decided to create a new web solution for SL merchants, but instead they chose a better way - not uncommon in business world - acquire a trusted and successful company in the field they want to expand to. It's better, because a company that already operates in certain field has got experience and know-how, which otherwise would need to be gained in more difficult and much more time-consuming way.

But what are the benefits for the residents?
  • Less work to do
    Once things are integrated, there will be no need to do the same work three times when releasing a product (set up in-world, set up on OnRez, set up on Xstreet SL). Doing the listings is boring and time consuming. I'm sure many of you would agree it's the most tedious task of a designer. In fact, I know people who don't list their products on SL e-commerce websites because they find it too tiresome. They just prefer to have smaller sales than dedicate their time and energy to putting up merchandise on these platforms. I own three brands in-world and I still don't have all my products listed - it's just too much to do. I don't know how deep and broad the integration will be, but I'd love to see deliveries straight from avatars' inventories and listings done by right-clicking the product and choosing 'Send to marketplace' option, or perhaps by moving the product to a special inventory folder. I'm so tired of Dropboxes and Magic Boxes. But even if they stay, there will be just one! Until a new marketplace opens, that is ;)

  • More customers
    Currently a lot of people are not aware they can shop for SL items through web (T Linden says this number is around 80% for residents who are economically active, and around 97-99% for other residents). As the integration process advances, more people will use the service, which means better visibility of products to SL community and higher sales.

  • More fair and equitable competition environment
    Thanks to web-based shopping little businesses (especially those who don't have an in-world store at all) will be able to compete with big brands on same level. It's true they can list their products on e-commerce sites now, but only after the integration these products will get similar exposure as big brand products in-world. It won't matter that much whether you own a full region or a small store - if your products are of same quality, you'll compete on equal terms. I think competition in general will become more intense but I consider this positive, since it can drive development and lead further into more vibrant SL economy.

  • Bigger choice of products
    At the moment there are a lot of brands who operate in-world only. If the web shopping service gains popularity, and perhaps have some kind of impact on in-world search results, these businesses will most probably enter shopping sites to compete more effectively and to gain a new stream of profit. Also, when people become more aware of web-based shopping and realize they can sell their creations without the need of finding money to open an in-world store, a lot of talented residents might decide to try their hand at running a business. This might also mean a flood of 'beginner products', but hey, we all had to learn at one time, and you can always sort your search results by popularity or rating.

  • Better shopping experience
    Believe it or not, there are still a lot of residents who don't have new fast computers. Possibility to browse items on a website let them avoid lag and enhances their shopping experience. People with slow computers will naturally choose to shop on a website (as Gwyneth Llewelyn nicely puts it, lagfree shopping), which means less people in a sim and less lag for those who like to buy items in-world. Take Armidi for example. Their sim was always extremely laggy due to a high number of avatars shopping. It took an awful lot of time to load and moving from one place to another was really slow, even on fast computers. As a solution they introduced, an online shop for their creations. Now residents can conveniently shop online or go to a lag free sim (still full of avatars but not packed with them to the extreme). And all of them get a nice experience. I think something similar is going to happen after integrating Xstreet into SL, but this time it will be a grid-wide process.

  • Easier gifting
    Currently you can't send gifts to people who are not registered with Xstreet SL and OnRez. With web shopping integrated into SL you'll be able to send gifts to any avatar you want. And with easy gifting process, I guess more people are going to buy gifts on impulse, which means higher revenue for merchants.

  • Linked Linden balance
    Hopefully the in-world Linden balance will be integrated with web shopping platform and there will be no need anymore for additional money operations. This means no more depositing money, no more withdrawing, no more searching for terminals or wallets. Just sell and buy.

  • Easier searching within Second Life
    I'd say the majority of people who shop at SL's online marketplaces use them because of powerful search engines. It's much easier and faster to look up something you need on the web, and then, if needed, follow the SLURL to the shop (to see the item in person) than to try to find that item through in-world search engine. Acquired websites, especially Xstreet SL, allow for more convenient browsing and comparison of products (sorting by price, by rating, by popularity etc.), not to mention descriptions, presented in more readable form than a notecard. If this search engine was integrated into Second Life, I'm sure in-world search experience would significantly improve.

  • Other
    Sharable wish lists, gifting to non-residents, scheduled deliveries - these few were mentioned by T Linden.
It all doesn't look all that negative now, does it? Personally I'm hoping Linden Lab will do their best to integrate all the top features of each acquired site into one comprehensive, effective, user-friendly platform. We'll see over time how all the integration goes, but I'm guessing in the long term it will have a positive effect on SL economy and on SL in general.

A type of hero: a brush with greatness.

I think many people as they are children, as they grow up, pretending at heroes, or reading about heroes in comics decides they want to BE a hero. I think of the story of one woman who had heard so much about Abraham Lincoln and admired him that when she was finally shown him close up pass by the woman said, “Well, he’s not much to look at is he?”

There are different types of heroes. Yes, there are those who train to go into burning buildings, who we call upon in times of need, who are there for our medical and other emergencies. That is one type of hero. I have to admit I was attracted to the Welsh police for if not for the stupid hats the women are required to wear.

Then there are the types of heroes that change lives in quiet ways, those like David of the Japan Cat Project, like Tammy with her Cat Refuge and Shelter; like the teachers, parents, the pastors, the people who by day to day work make this world a better place. Those who change lives by reaching out, by noticing the quiet child or the acting out child and work to help them instead of label them a problem. These are heroes and a lot of us have memories of a teacher who made a difference, emotional, intellectual, the gift they gave change from person to person but those people are heroes too.

Someone today said that often people choose the easy answer over the complex one. That’s how we like our heroes, to be Supermen, or people with extraordinary ability. People tend not to think about what someone like Stephen Hawking had to overcome to educate and revolutionize the way we understand our universe.

In the film To Kill a Mocking Bird there is a scene after Atticus has fought hard, fought clearly in a trial against a black man sexually touching a white woman. The courtroom is empty except for the gallery where his two children young female Scout and her older brother Jem are with the black community. “Get up,” one man tells Scout, and she looks at him in puzzlement, and he just says, “Your father is coming.” And as Atticus walked out of the courtroom, empty but for the gallery where every person rose to stand as Atticus passed by. He was a man who spoke for those who were denied a voice; a person who would not relent or compromise himself to public opinion, a person who gave it all, even when the outcome was predetermined from the onset. He was a hero. A rare and special type of hero, and for once, while still living, he was recognized as such. He, for a time, wore the cloak of greatness.

I knew when I read that book and saw that film, what kind of hero I wanted to be. The hard kind. Don’t mistake me, the people who do all those things, day after day for 10 years and change the world, they are heroes, unacknowledged heroes. But to act, because you know it is right. Not because you believe it is right, but because you KNOW it is right, and everyone else knows it too, but no one else will act, and you do. That is hard. That is greatness.

I know the feeling because there is total terror inside. Because you have no idea what will happen next, and that is terrifying. And yet you still have to act. Perhaps, probably there will be violence against you, perhaps, probably you will be hated, spurned, rejected.

When I was a child and I was being hit, and cut, and tortured and raped, I waited, I BELIEVED that someone would come. That a hero would come and I would be saved. No one came. I have ached looking out over the city to be the person to break down the door and save the girl or boy who is lying there thinking the same thing. They have been told they will be protected, or that God is watching over them, or if there is trouble the police will come and yet no one comes.When I started to talk about my sexual abuse experiences, I talked to my therapist/counselor about talking about it, and I was warned, told that I could be physically attacked. I was told that it is not uncommon for mothers to try to shut up the voice that is saying what they don’t want to hear so badly that they try to strangle the person. That the family would rather believe the person crazy than it is the truth. That idea is EASY, the truth is complex and difficult. But for every man or woman who writes, or speaks, or publishes about this; 5, 10, 100, 1,000 – I don’t know how many children won’t have to lie there begging inside for a hero to come. That’s because one already stood up; they took the abuse for talking about it and the anger from the family and society about this taboo subject so that the world would change. They speak for themselves but also for those who have no voice. They speak to give fear and pause to those who would sexually exploit or rape, that what they do in darkness will be examined in the light.

Talking or writing about it gives you panic attacks; it makes you feel like vomiting as you do it (at least it does me). And when you realize that the people you are talking about would rather kill you than hear you it is terrifying. But it isn’t really for them. And yes, the parents, the protectors often would rather hurt you, any way they can, from abandonment, to gossip, to verbal and physical attacks in order to just SHUT YOU UP. There is ALWAYS a reason for ‘not now’ or to not talk about it. What reason is there for the children who lie tonight praying for a hero? What is so important, what reputation, or unpleasant, or social taboo subject is so important that a person really has a valid reason if 100 of them live without that hell, if 50 could, if 10 could, if 5 could, if just one life could be changed?But to speak, to write, to change the world, until there are no children or others to need to wait for a hero to come and save them from that particularly hell, that makes these people are heroes. They save lives. Yet no one will say, “Stand up, SHE/HE is passing.” But heroes all the same.

I have only wanted to live and die in service. To die knowing that the other person was safe. I learned late that simply living the truth, and refusing to give in to demands to shut up about it (whatever ‘it’ happens to be this time) or pretend otherwise can produce the most extreme reactions. Day upon day and month upon month of vicious attacks simply because you are still alive. I am finding that when my care agency threatens to remove all care because I call the police on a worker, that maybe there is another group which has no voice. That people seem to think ‘keeping my job’ is more important than ‘doing my job’ and when not doing the job causes potential injury or suffering to people, a person who speaks about that is hated by all those ‘keeping their job’. A person, like me, who opens up investigations by the government branch against their own care manager DOES feels a bit sick in the stomach. Particularly when the care manager tries four times in one meeting earlier this week to get me put into care; a care center where I would be younger by 50 years than others and bound to my bed and finally UNDER CONTROL. I mean, under care.

I realize that I am not exactly going to be killed leading the charge of the resistance, or saving a drowning child. That is not my fate. That for me now, staying breathing is often the battle. That degenerate diseases and disabilities have their own battles which are unseen, unimagined. Yet, oddly it is here, that I can honestly say I have met heroes. People who, in pain, affected by disease and impairment, go on, regardless and bring purpose and joy to others. It does not diminish the pain, the fatigue, the progression of the symptoms, the medical debt, the thousand little things that drain away energy. No, but they continue on, doing their jobs, or waiting lying in beds, building, planning for the days they emerge again, because they have a heroes spirit. Just because they are trampled, they are crushed under the weight of social alienation and medical conditions beyond bearing, not for months but for YEARS, for DECADES and yet they go on. Sometimes just surviving the day is going on, sometimes preparing just ONE MEAL for another is going on, sometimes they take care of others if only just for a day. Or for some days they have a job, they share part of themselves. They resist the call to give up. I find myself in a company of heroes, in wheelchairs, in braces, in scooters, in beds, in hands covered with bits of superglue.

No, you will not be recognized for your actions. Nor your resistance, your going on. Instead you will pitied, or looked down upon. But I can see who you are. And while you will not likely receive it elsewhere in your life; know this, that inside I am standing because I recognize that a touch of greatness is passing by.

Mittwoch, 28. Januar 2009

Detective Comics #385

Detective Comics #385 (On Sale: January 28, 1969) has a cover by Neal Adams.

"Die Small -- Die Big" is by Robert Kanigher, Bob Brown and Joe Giella. This may be the only Silver Age Batman story that Robert Kanigher wrote. Mailman Herbert Small learns that he will die in less than a month from a incurable medical condition. When he overhears crooks conspiring to kill Batman, Herbert decides to sacrifice his own life to protect the Caped Crusader.

While disguised as one of the conspirators, Small tells the crooks that he has discovered Batman's secret identity, Herbert Small. Small then delivers a message to Bruce Wayne's birthday party which tips off the real Batman. The crooks track Small to his home. Batman gets there before they can kill him, but Small takes a bullet that was intended to hit Batman. The Caped Crusader grants Small a dying glimpse at his real identity in gratitude for saving his life.Reprinted in Batman #257 and Showcase Presents: Batgirl Vol. 1 TPB.

The Batgirl back-up is "Hunt for the Helpless Hostage," by Mike Friedrich, Gil Kane and Murphy Anderson. Continuing from last issue, Batgirl tracks down Mark Hanner who has passed out from diabetic shock. She rushes him to the hospital where he makes a quick recovery. Mark works as a private detective and has gathered evidence against gangster Web Foote. The crook has now captured Sharon, his sister. Batgirl and Mark work together to rescue Sharon and capture Foote. The next Friday at the library, Mark asks Barbara Gordon on a date. Reprinted in Showcase Presents: Batgirl Vol. 1 TPB.

Edited by Julius Schwartz.

Adventure Comics #378

Adventure Comics #378 (On Sale: January 28, 1969) has a Legion of Super-Heroes cover by Neal Adams.

"Twelve Hours to Live" is by Jim Shooter, Winslow Mortimer and Jack Abel. At a celebration of Brainiac 5's birthday, five Legionnaires are poisoned. Brainiac 5 analyzes the poison and determines that it will kill each of them in twelve hours. Brainiac 5 uses the time to find a cure. Superboy returns to the 20th century and attempts to stay busy. Duo Damsel returns home to visit her parents for the last time. Karate Kid tracks down the Fatal Five on a suicide mission. Projectra mopes around the city until she meets Myron Marks, who lifts her spirits.

As the twelve hour period comes to an end, the poisoned Legionnaires return to headquarters. Brainiac 5 admits that he could not find an antidote. The Legionnaires then compose a will, before each succumbs to the effects of the poison. Brainiac 5 makes one last effort to save them using the Miracle Machine, but he runs out of time. When all the Legionnaires fall unconscious, their killer gloats over his victory. Reprinted in Legion of Super-Heroes Archives Vol. 9 HC.

Edited by Mort Weisinger.

Action Comics #374

Action Comics #374 (On Sale: January 28, 1969) has another brilliant cover by Neal Adams. Before Neal you would never see anything even close to this dramatic in comics.

"Alias Super-Thief" is by Otto Binder, Curt Swan and Jack Abel. Continuing from last issue, Superman is still unable to recall his secret identity after being exposed to an amnesia ray. Police inform him of a Super-Thief named Jud Blake who has been missing for weeks. Superman follows one of Super-Thief's men back to his hide-out and discovers evidence which convinces the Man of Steel that he is actually Super-Thief.

Using a rubber mask, Superman becomes Super-Thief and helps the gang with a robbery. Superman is conflicted about his role as thief and hero. After a second robbery, Superman returns to the hide-out and discovers another Super-Thief. The two men are then attacked by three criminal fences. Superman stops them, then learns that the other Super-Thief is really an FBI agent who was setting up the fences. Superman realizes that he is not the real crook and must resume his search for the truth.

The Supergirl back-up is "No Mercy for Supergirl" by Leo Dorfman and Kurt Schaffenberger. Supergirl is abducted by an alien from the Sarkon galaxy. The alien known as the Avenger explains that his race values life at all cost and no one is allowed to take a life for any reason. He has come to Earth to enforce these laws on fellow super-beings including Supergirl. He witnessed her cutting a rose and killing a butterfly in her college classes, so he charges her with murder. Supergirl is unable to argue her way out of the situation. She then shows the Avenger that he himself was responsible for the death of some microbes. Believing himself a killer, the Avenger kills himself as punishment for his own crime.

Edited by Mort Weisinger.

Three things the world needs, starting with Victoria Secret lingerie and me

I went to the doctor today after only a few hours sleep (long story but short oxygen capacity), and it turns out, that I am really, really, really, REALLY, REALLY SICK. Wow, I know, could have knocked me down with a feather, well, you can do that most days but you know what I mean. So, I am going to see a whole bunch of specialists or get referred because my health needs to be taken to a whole NEW level of ASS-covering, I mean the care and doctor’s oath and non-malpractice suits. By the way, if anyone in BC wants to sue me for libel of our fine system, please due so, I will be representing myself at the BC supreme court from inside the tin can (‘urn’ Linda says).

So while I am going to see all these specialists, lets instead look at what you really came for: yes, me and lingerie. So, without further ado, here is it, me, rooting away, looking for the tastefully sex depraved look (or was the sex-DEPRIVED look!) at Victoria Secret. I know, you wanted to see me IN the thongs, well, don’t worry, that is coming, this is called: foreplay.

By the way, I am in very bad condition, as in, I can’t do a blog I have been working on for two days, but try again tomorrow, okay. So this is the filler. Because I really am in VERY bad condition: seizure cycles and all sorts of fun stuff, like falling over sitting down and I think there was having my head spin around and pea soup come out, and then crawling up the wall like a spider….no wait, remind me to tell Linda NOT to play the film The Exorcist when I am sick.

So I am taking it easy because while the first thing the world needs is more of me in Victoria Secret (and manga – hint hint – wishlist – hint, hint!), the second thing the world needs more of is me. Yeah, that’s right, meglo-maniacal me! I think this place is better with me in it. It is a personal opinion but one I sit by. Also, when I am dead, we can test it out whether I was right or not. Plus, who else but I gets to wake up in the morning to this as a response to an essay I wrote following my trying to break up Pedophile Rings with the London and Cardiff police:
“This is coming from a homo-SEXUAL. Dear, you've put your sexual desires ahead of morals too. It's like listen to an pot-head lecture about crack addicts. So please, enjoy yourself till Judgment, and stop judging.”

Wow, I love being on a continent where someone can not only condemn me, tell me THEY will be there to judge me but imply that there is nothing wrong with THEM having sex with 8-10 year olds because they are CHRISTIANS (and fundamentalists to boot?). Dude, when someone is smashing a TV with a baseball bat, it isn’t “judging” to say, “That’s bad for the TV.” So when someone does the same sexually to a child, it isn’t judging to say, “Maybe you are sick in the head and need the kind of counseling the Metropolitan London Police can provide!” So that was my wake up mail, sort of an honor in a way, to meet the only person never to masturbate ever (that’s what ‘put your sexual desires ahead’ meant right? Or was it the sex between two legally married people? Or sex at all. I am always confused how the people who are the most AGAINST all the types of sex think the world gets populated anyway?.... it is with lesbians and fertility clinics, that’s how!)

Anyway, we can leave all that behind us and focus on what else the world needs, and that is more Catgirls. I have to love this one because this is Catgirl is either going to first year or getting ready to go to college/Uni – yup, our punk leaning Catgirl who wears the cut off Collar just to make the older Catfolk turn and tut-tut this young Cats today what with the piercings, the painted nails, and the general attitude. Well, it really takes us back (except for people who are AT uni teaching them every day, sorry, they do grow out of it). Look at me, I am almost out of my goth/punk/tramp stage!

So, if I sit REALLY, REALLY still tomorrow, I might be able to get the blog done. You will like it, I assure you. There is nudity! Woot!

Montag, 26. Januar 2009

Lesbians, catgirls, cabin fever and kittens

First off, a blog post note from Linda about how we are CUT OFF!!!! That’s right, total cabin fever in the winter. Living on an island, no way to post for 10 days and no way to the Hello Kitty store....yes, it was only a matter of time until I snapped and was reduced to this: Making miniature snowgirls.

I have NO idea why the animals, like cute bunnies, hang around me, or off of me, of course it COULD be the warm buns I was carrying (and accidently dropping)? No, I am sure that was a coincidence. These images are from my favorite set of images from the game Snow. I don’t like snow atually (frostbite!), but the girl and the bunnies sure are cute, no?

Okay, so when the boat runs again in 12 days, we are going to be tweaking for entertainment pretty bad, which is why I did an update for everyone of the Wishlist. I focuses on entertainment like some more light romances (the fluff stuff) for Linda and the same sort of manga for me. And a couple TV series on sale that are highly recommended. There is actually a book there that is 450 pages long, so that would be good to help me try to read more each day: I admit it is manga, but hey, if I START with pictures, I will work my way up to words, right? What, what, don't leave, there is also a REAL book, okay it is a TEEN book but those are the best! It is called Memoirs of Teenage Amnesiac, and as a person with large sections of years missing I have strong interest in this book. Naomi (main character) hits her head and loses several years of memory. She lives without memory, falls in love and reexamines her life as a stranger. Except now the memories are returning and she already HAS a boyfriend, and a bunch of friends of habits and ideas that the 'new' Naomi doesn't. So who is real, the Naomi now, or the Naomi of her memories? As a person who constantly has people project who I USED to be or versions they knew of me onto me, I can definitely relate to learning about your own life second hand. “I did what? I said what? No, there is no way I said that?” Is a common phrase by me in our house. What if you could only remember a day, how much would you have to believe or trust others interpretations of who you are? Welcome to Elizabeth Land! You can get the book for a $5 plus postage (send it to me when you are done!).

Please take mercy on Linda, and order her books (1 cent a book?), as after two solid weeks trapped on an island with ME, pure concentrated undiluted ME and she WILL need some fantasy land relaxation.

Okay on to the serious, I have to make amends, because I made a promise here, on this blog and I intend to fulfill it, or as close as I can right now! I warned you that I would reveal all, that I would show the delectable I collected in Seattle (actually I am wearing Hello Kitty Panties this minutes, which I received through the mail? So yeah, keep the lingerie coming! And I will keep the pictures coming!). So here it is, me, exposed, as from my last ‘official’ school picture day: Yes, I am sticking my tongue out and wearing a bathing suit but it is SPIRIT of shocking and appalling everyone that matters right? I honestly will try to put up a picture tomorrow of me, the real me, rooting through the Victoria Secret skimpy panties hoard (I think it was in a special pile next to the Slut, Thong, and Eatable baskets of panties).

First off let’s check in with Linda and myself, because we have a serious topic to discuss with you; one involving community, life, love and …………BOOBIES? Hey! Yeah, you two! Try to limit that kind of stuff for the bedroom, or at least the park, the car, the little fort at the top of the children's slide, the trails in the forest (remember the time I tried to convince you to take off your clothes and use MOSS as a mattress?), the restaurants, and on the lawn of anyone who has a “Love the sinner; hate the sin” bumper sticker! Golly, Linda’s boobies are so soft and delectable, I could chase them all day. Seriously, they are miracle boobies which change every time I grope, fondle, grasp and enclose them. Firm but with just the right amount of give, and unlike a cantaloupe you don’t need to thwack them with a finger to hear that hollow sound. If I do that she thwacks my head.

Okay, now that the small fun is out of the way we move on to the serious fun which is introduced here by our snow girl with kitty ears who is eating MEN’s Pocky! Food is actually gender segregated in Japan (seriously) so dark chocolate is listed as “men’s” ergo dark chocolate pocky is ‘men’s pocky.’ It is assumed that men like BITTER things and girls like sweet things, so if a guy ordered a parfait in a restaurant, they would likely pretend they didn’t hear him. Girls get milk tea, guys get COFFEE. This is a mainstay joke of anime or manga that if anyone changes gender they immediately head off to the nearest café and eat all the food they aren’t normally allowed due to social custom. Hey, I don’t make the rules!

Now a while ago I suggested for an upcoming weekend, that people go out and DELIBERATELY do something for someone else. Not a spontaneous act of kindness, but planned. One of my readers, Tammy (she comments!) sort of went overboard and as things fell into place the Grant County Cat and Kitten Rescue was born. Yeah, she started an animal shelter. Talk about an overachiever! She rescues cats with disabilities, deaf cats, and cats with depression issues, she went to a neighboring town to stop a cute calico cat from being put down and killed by the shelter there. She adopts cats out after paying for testing, spaying and neutering HERSELF (sort of keeps her working...a lot). Right now she is struggling, like any start-up; her tax-free charity papers are in the system and she needs to find rent for the building next to the vet clinic because she has 19 cats and three kittens to look after, along with her volunteers and helping vet. Sorry, that should read 19 cats, three kittens and one human to look after. Yes, I was adopted into Tammy’s Rescue Program. She is a sucker for those damaged and despondent. So she has adopted me and given me a job; name the kittens that just were born. And here are our heroes:
The first is a grey female who mews for food are not only louder than the other kittens combined but LOWER than the male. Well, that sounded like a girl who would end up riding a motorcycle to me. There really has only ever been one name for the bossy, louder, take no sass grey: Kate. So, in making me part of something outside of my little room, it gave me a reason to keep on living. Here is Kate trying to get some privacy and some sleep. She eats the most and is still the loudest. They are only just now struggling to open their eyes, so soon we will know what color eyes they have.

The second kitten was a boy with white feet and while I was NOT going to suggest Socks I was trying to find a name that was like Soot or Chimney Sweep. But I ended up giving two names and the winner was Wyn, a common male welsh name for males that means white or pure seemed the best fit. You say it like Wind but without the D at the end, Wyn. The kittens have just mastered purring. I find it interesting that they learn how to purr before they can open their eyes.

But there was a quiet sweet female who always waited silent and patient to be fed. She has a sweet and kind soul, and while she isn’t the runt, she sure isn’t KATE. In the end, I gave some options but it ended up being (I know I am going to get comments about this), Qwen. Qwen is a Welsh female name that means Fair (meaning pretty) and pure. So she is Qwen. She was also the first to learn to purr, and purrs as soon as you touch her and while she is quiet in demanding attention she has the loudest purr. Here she is snuggling up to Wyn.
So that is the stories so far of these these three kittens (who won’t be up for adoption for several weeks as they need to have solid food first!). I was hoping you could give TAMMY your comment (for all the nighttime feeding she has done, just for THESE three) for her work to create the Cat and Kitten rescue. You just have to click here, then hit ‘Sign In’ and leave a comment. Everyone likes to get feedback, particularly on our work of love!

So that was how Tammy sucked one human into her adoption project. And if you are in the USA, you can slip into the post anything from dried food to catnip, from pet stain remover to Frontline to her. Certainly there are some cat owners with unused kitten supplies, who can slip it in a $3 first class envelope. Some of it might even qualify for media mail. Her wishlist is HERE, and if you scroll ALL the way down to the bottom you can make a paypal donation. I don’t know if it is tax-deductible yet (those forms take a slow move through the government bowels) so I recommend only donating your $50-100 now and then come back to donate the thousand dollars later. What? It’s TAX DEDUCTABLE!

Seriously there is something amazing about cats, maybe because they have the honestly we don’t. Like this catgirl at a festival and his disappointment. They let you try to catch goldfish with a paper scoop at the festival and if you go too fast, it breaks. This catgirl is very sad, but I am not sure if the goldfish shouldn’t be glad. Cats always seems very, um, interested in fish.

Here is a scene that anyone who has had a cat can recognize. No, it isn’t the girl is staring off in silent contemplation, it is that the kitten has started playing with the ‘food giver’ and then decided that this nice plushy thing would be great to extend her claws on! Yes, the breast attack! That look on the face and the book completely secondary to these INTENSE sensations, as a friend of mine would say as her cat jumped on her lying down, “Not the claws, not the claws!” For guys, imagine a kitty jumping in your lap and then needing to knead and extend her claws a bunch of times before making herself comfortable. Ahhhhhhhhhh! Not the claws!

Cats and I have a lot in common; we both cough up hair balls, and we both like having our fur petted the RIGHT WAY (okay, that sounded REALLY dirty), and we both don’t like the water. But here is a catgirl who sure must love someone a LOT as she waits in the rain to give an umbrella to her love. See, that’s one good things cats are good at (besides making you give them food); loving. I think that is why lesbians like them (and dogs!).

And here we have our two junior lesbians out on a date which has gone slight wrong, with a bit of slip. The one laughing I’ll bet is named Kate! Anyway, this will be a good memory later in their life, meanwhile the kitten is going, “Help! Hey, get some control down there, this is SERIOUS! WATER!”

Of course, then we get into the lesbian catgirls. This is the kind of askew that I can never get my clothes to look, that sort of sexy, perfect askew. They both look like they are post SOMETHING but she has perfect stockings showing, they aren’t even pushed down? Oh well, they say that practice makes perfect....get over here Linda.....BOOBIES!

We leave the cats to the world that they inhabit and we get to share. They are mysterious, they are loveable, they are independent, they are cats. And it would be a poorer world without them. Due to Tammy I don’t know how many but many cats have been adopted after love and medical care. Thank you Tammy.

Samstag, 24. Januar 2009

A trip to another world(s)

It all started in the Forbidden City

Imagine yourself in the middle of Beijing, China. You're standing in front of The Meridian Gate - the largest gate of The Forbidden City, built around XV century. Behind it a magnificent complex of characteristic traditional Chinese imperial buildings spreads out. The sky is perfectly clear and the rays of sunlight cast your shadow on the clean cobblestone square. Nice eh? Well, it would be, if not for the loud Chinese zither music that you can't turn down or off. The music would probably blend in well if it was RL, but the place I'm refering to is the Virtual Forbidden City, which I visited together with Uzi and Sql (the originator of the trip). We've been on Skype conference together and the music effectively prevented us from communicating with each other. But first things first.

The Forbidden City: Beyond Space and Time is an initiative by IBM and Palace Museum in Beijing 'to provide the means for a world-wide audience to celebrate and explore aspects of Chinese culture and history'. Basically, it is a virtual world dedicated to educational purposes. The project launched on October 10th and is pretty fresh, which probably explains the technical difficulties we've encountered. I don't like to pour cold water on new projects, so I'm not going much into details, but the situation looked more less like this: when we logged in as guests, things worked quite OK, but we couldn't use some of the features of the software. We were also scattered on different servers, so even when we were in the same place we couldn't see each other and we couldn't explore together. On the other hand, when we logged in as registered avatars, we could easily find each other and had nice avatars, but game menus were missing or were entirely transparent except for some captions. So basically we couldn't explore the world neither as guests nor as registered avatars. After 2 hours we grew tired, closed the viewers and went to SL to find the Forbidden City in there.

We came back, though, to give the project another chance, since we figured out these:
  • You can bring Options menu by pressing Ctrl + O, and you can turn off the music from there. Once the music is turned off, The Virtual Forbidden City becomes a very peaceful place, full of balance and harmony, and continuous sound of Chinese wooden shoes against the cobblestone (which later becomes irritating too and I'm sure sooner or later you'll turn down the volume of sounds as well).
  • The solution to transparent menus is quite hilarious: you need to change decimal separator in your OS regional settings to decimal point (we use decimal comma in Poland, and most of Europe actually). I'm not sure why the menus work fine when you're a guest. This might be the first case where a user of a virtual world can do more as a guest than as a registered avatar. Nonetheless, this is failing to fulfill a part of project's mission statement ('for a world-wide audience').
Once the technical difficulties are resolved, the place gets more interesting. You can explore the city on your own or follow one of the numerous tour guides, who will show you the highlights of the Forbidden City. These tours are really interesting with my favourite being 'Feng Shui in the Forbidden City' - be sure to check it out if you visit the place.

Apart from exploring you can also watch 'Scenes' depicting everyday activities of Qing dynasty and join 'Activities' which teach you further aspects of Imperial family customs. All in all, it's worth checking out - it's not everyday that you get a chance to visit Imperial Palace in China ^^

As I stand in the Imperial Garden, admiring the scenery and pondering over the possibilities the Internet provides, a man comes from across the alley. Before he walks past me, he stops for a while and bows politely in front of me. There is something about this place that makes you immerse into the imperial atmosphere. Try it.

The Forbidden City 01
The starting screen

The Forbidden City 02
From left to right: random avatar (in green), me as Imperial Consort, Sql as Imperial Guard and Uzi as Imperial Woman; in the background the view on Golden River (note the transparent menu bug on the top left of the screen)

The Forbidden City 03
Following one of the Tour Guides

The Forbidden City 04
One of the scenes: Court Painting

The Forbidden City 05
One of the scenes: The Emperor Having Dinner

I'd probably finish my blogpost here, if not for Sql. About two days after the trip to the Forbidden City he innocently mentioned he's going to check out Entropia. I said I always wanted to check out Kaneva. One word led to another, and before we realised we ended up checking other worlds and MMORPGs throughout the next few days. That was the time I decided to write a short review of each one, and that's what occupied my 'blogging' time through last several weeks.

Rave it if it's cool

We chose Kaneva as our starter. The adventure begins in a tutorial world, where a nice male voice says: 'Welcome to the world of Kaneva where you and your friends will experience a totally new way to hang out and share media together'. Well, remember these words, cause it seems there's not much else to do in Kaneva (more on that later). The tutorial is really well done and guides you through the basic aspects of Kaneva, i.e. how to walk, how to interact with things, how to chat with people etc. It's short, concise and easy - you just follow the yellow brick road... erm... I mean the green arrows. What I miss though are other newbies trying to find their way in a new world, as it is in SL. I always find conversations in starting areas of SL cute, but in Kaneva you're completely alone at that point. In this case (and many other actually too) SL wins, as you can help each other and start social interaction with fellow avatars from the very beginning.

During the tutorial you also collect coins scattered around on your way. Not that someone told you to collect them but they're gold and shiny, and if you ever played Mario Bros you just know you should collect them for some reason :) The coins give you Rewards - Kaneva money. There's also another currency - Credits - which are required to buy some of the available products. The only way to acquire Credits is either to purchase them with your credit card or earn them by selling clothes. I'm not sure if you can exchange Rewards into Credits, or Credits into RL money. Seems like you can't, and so, in this case, creating content in Kaneva doesn't bring RL money. To earn more Rewards you go to a club and play Dance Party Game, and this is one of the first things we did in Kaneva with Sql.

The dance game is fun in the beginning, but then it becomes boring. And I feel most of the things in Kaneva are this way, even though the tutorial seems to be promising a really interesting experience. The thing is everything becomes very repetitive. You always start from your home, and from there you either go dancing, shopping or chatting with friends. Visiting a new location always result in a progress bar ('Downloading Zone') appearing on your screen, making you wait before entire place is downloaded - and despite that, some things still aren't downloaded once you enter, so you need to wait even more. I definitely prefer SL's real time download on the go. Not to mention all those locations and hangouts are very limited as to what you can do in there. But if you find something you like, you can rave it. Raving another player, location, community etc. is a way of saying you think they are cool. The idea is quite similar to profile ratings that used to function in SL. The more raves, the better reputation.

You get your own apartment for free in Kaneva, which is something we don't get in SL, but that's not enough to keep the user in, right? I decided to look into content creation in Kaneva and I find the possibilities very limited, because the only thing you can actually create are clothes. The process is very similar to the one in SL. You download a template and you use your graphic program to create the clothing item (players can try them on before buing; pretty cool, we need that in SL ;)). But you can't create new furniture or other in-world objects. You can only re-texture the content provided by Kaneva creators - something that SL resident would find very limiting, non?

So I think Kaneva is all about people. If you make friends there, you'll probably want to come back to chat with them. Kaneva can be fun, but since it doesn't offer anything unique to me (I can do the same and more in SL), I don't think I'll be logging in regularly. I might check in from time to time, though, to see if anything changes.

Kaneva 01
Kaneva Dance Party Game

Kaneva 02
Testing emotes in my apartment

Kaneva 03
The basics of objects edition

Kaneva 04
Kaneva map

Kaneva 05
People dance in Kaneva all the time, even in malls

Beware the Young Combibo

I'll be honest with you - I don't get Entropia Universe at all. Neither does Sql. We visited EU a few times, but we didn't manage to understand 'the purpose'.

We started the adventure in a tech room where we customized our avatars' looks. I must say there's a lot of options to choose from - however, you can't change anything later without paying, so make sure you're happy with what you see before moving on. Once we finished, we were teleported to planet Calypso, to a place called Port Atlantis. Dressed in tight jumpsuits and cute sneakers, we set off to explore the area.

There are three main activities you can do in-world: mining, hunting and sweating... yup, sweating, but not in the sense you're thinking now. Actually, it's worse :P You collect sweat from animals called Young Combibos (there are probably more species, but we didn't come across them). Supposedly the sweat is then used to 'create Mind Essence used in Mindforce', but we didn't manage to discover how to convert sweat into Mind Essence, neither to find out what Mind Essence and Mindforce actually is. Also, we didn't try hunting and mining, since you need some tools, which, as I understand, are only available for money. It seems to me you can't do anything in Entropia without PED - Entropia's currency. The PED (Project Entropia Dollars) can be exchanged for real money, as in SL, but PED's value is higher relative to the US dollar than Linden Dollar's value and the exchange rate is fixed (10 PED = 1 USD).

As I said, there's not much to do without investing real money first, though 'investing' is a bit exaggerated word here - for me it seems more like a 'hidden subscription'. Not only do you need money to have an interesting gameplay, but you also need it to pay maintenance fees for objects and equipment you acquire, since they wear with use. So while Entropia trailer looks quite enticing, almost none of what's shown is available to non-paying players. I say 'gameplay' and 'players', cause Entropia generally seems to be more like an online game than a virtual world, more MMORPG than MUVE.

Content creation aspect was disappointing. It looks like it's the Entropia designers who add new content, not the users. As far as I know, users are only limited to setting up their venues using items already available in-world. And with design possibilities so limited, I don't think MindArk (Entropia developer) should use advertising phrases like 'a real economy, which offers a complete alternative to the real world'.

Sure, Entropia can be fun to non-paying players - as a chatroom or a meeting place, if you learn how to get around. But if you're looking for more, Entropia might not be your choice. But here's the thing. Sql and I had a slight presumption we might not have gotten outside Entropia's equivalent of SL's orientation island. My presumption got stronger during one of my many visits in-world. As I was chasing Combibos, someone attempted to steal my shoes. A minute later the ground shaken a bit and I saw a man in white underwear, running around and detonating bombs. That looks a bit similar to SL welcome areas, non? So all I have written here might not be very accurate and I suggest you visit Entropia yourself, and once you figure it out, explain it to me :)

Entropia Universe 01
The starting screen

Entropia Universe 02
The interface (note our cute sneakers)

Entropia Universe 03
Avatars close-up

Entropia Universe 04
Exploring the world

Entropia Universe 05
Young Combibos!

Space pirates and asteroids

EVE - a world far away in the future, whose history goes back to the discovery of a natural wormhole in space. Since the wormhole lead to a new astral system (New Eden), the discovery raised new hopes and new dreams of then society. Millions of explorers transported through the portal and started new colonies. One day though, the wormhole collapsed, separating new colonies from Earth's galaxy that supplied them. Among those who managed to survive five races emerged: the Amarr, the Minmatar, the Gallente, The Caldari and the Jovians. After generations of war between the nations, a truce was declared, and now these five empires are looking for prosperity and wealth in the farthest depths of space, in the times of uneasy peace.

Luckily, it's not a prediction of the future. It's the storyline behind one of the most popular MMORPGs in the world - EVE Online. I visited EVE with Sql and Uzi almost everyday of the 14 days of free trial. Sql became the captain and took me and Uzi under his wings, on our way to rule the space :)

EVE is definitely not a virtual world, but a game, and quite a good one for those who are into space, universe, planets and all that jazz. That's why Sql and Uzi were more fascinated by EVE, than I was. I never liked 'space stuff', except some great book series like 'Dune' and 'Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy'. But EVE was fun to me as well.

After completing the tutorial, you start with some amount of money and a ship. As you finish successive missions, you get better ships and equipment, as well as money rewards. You can develop your avatar's skills in order to use more advanced items. The missions are fun and quite narrative, and it seems the game is endless. If not for paid subscription, we all would probably continue playing EVE, develop our corporation and eventually rule the game ;) And then I'd talk them into becoming space pirates.

The only thing I didn't like was too much flying around. I'm probably used to teleports in SL, and going through all those stargates to get where I wanted was a bit irritating. So, when I needed to fly somewhere, I'd turn on the autopilot on my ship and switch to my web browser to do something constructive while the ship was on it's way to the target destination. The stargates, though, do remind of SL's telehubs in the past, don't they?

All in all, the game is worth checking out if you're looking for something fun to do online.

Eve Online 01
My avatar in EVE (you get to choose face, hair, clothes, background and lighting, but you can't change them later)

Eve Online 02
Character sheet

Eve Online 03
Home base

Eve Online 04
One of the many docking stations

Eve Online 05
Fighting the enemy: me and Sql on the front, and Uzi at the enemy's backyard

The wastelands

I must say I was very curious about HiPiHi. I read over at Torley's blog that it's very similar to Second Life and I wanted to check it myself. I wondered what my reaction would be. I had thought I'd either be critical for so much copying or I would really enjoy it, since it resembles the virtual world I like. Sql joined me as usual and well... here's how it was.

We somehow navigated through HiPiHi Chinese website and found English client to download. But then, when we installed it, it wasn't English at all. It was still Chinese. We googled for some guides but trust me - don't use these. They tell you to install Chinese fonts or change some of your OS language settings, but it's not needed at all. Just go to your HiPiHi folder UIData LocalSetting, find LocalSetting.xml file, open it in Notepad, change 0 to 1 and save. Easy. The interface is not fully translated into English, so there are some options in Chinese, but at least you can get around.

As we logged in, our avatars appeared on a meadow. After a short study of the interface, we decided to teleport somewhere and maybe see what other people are doing. But there are almost no people in HiPiHi. Perhaps it's because it's still in the beta stage. That's possibly the same reason why HiPiHi is so empty, like huge wastelands. On the other hand, we had a feeling things are not downloading properly, as if a lot of content was blocked for some reason. The locations we visited looked as if someone stopped working on them half way through. The emptiness is even more weird, when you find out that users can claim land for free in the beta stage (it will be taken from them once the official version of HiPiHi is released). And it's basically impossible to find land that's free to claim. Everything is occupied, yet empty.

As to the similarity to SL, it is the most visible in the content creation system. Almost everything looks the same, except HiPiHi has a few more prim types to choose from, and a built-in tool to add 'sitting' to chairs and other objects (though I didn't figure out how it works). And even though things look almost the same, I find SL content creation tools much more intuitive than those of HiPiHi. The similarity is also clearly visible when editing avatar's appearance. While the layout and the options are a bit different, avatar settings in HiPiHi bring SL to mind immediately. But you know what they say... If you copy, you'll never be ahead. However, they do have some stuff I'd like to see in SL, meaningly built-in swimming (which activates when you fall into water) and flexi skirts that don't get split into pieces when you walk or jump.

Generally speaking I expected more of HiPiHi. Maybe things will change over time - more people will come, the tools will become more intuitive, the translation will be better. But for now there's nothing unique in there that would keep me entertained. However, when I visited HiPiHi once again before uninstalling the client, I found a location that convinced me to try it again in future. It finally wasn't a wasteland, but a nice grungy urban location, built with attention to details. So I am planning to come to HiPiHi once again. I think, though, it will be more of curiosity than the willing to become a regular user.

HiPiHi 01
HiPiHi avatars - me and Sql

HiPiHi 02
Gestures - called 'actions' in HiPiHi

HiPiHi 03
Learning how to create content

HiPiHi 04
Someone's learning, someone's being lazy ;)

HiPiHi 05
Nice grungy urban area

As you probably noticed, my views on the reviewed MUVEs/MMORPGs are mostly critical. You might think it's because I'm so much into Second Life, but it's not like this. Actually, I was very open minded because I was thinking of becoming a regular visitor to one of these, if I get to like it. Not that I'm bored with SL - it's rather out of curiosity. Of course I did compare the worlds I explored to SL as they would need to give me something unique, different and interesting enough to draw my attention for a longer time.

I must say I understand SL popularity better now that I visited other places and I know why those who claim they're leaving SL almost always come back. SL offers better and more diversified experience in all fields: social, educational, creative etc. It just provides more possibilities, more things to do, more things to learn, more things to find out about and more things that can be useful in RL. And it looks better too. There's no alternative to all that. At least not yet.

Well, for now I'll be more often in good ol' SL :)

As always I'd love to hear your opinion, and if, by any chance, you're a regular user of any of the reviewed worlds, I'd love to hear about your experiences and your reasons for liking that particular one.
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