I’ve been hopping into Second Life from time to time over the past month. Mainly, when an old friend IM’s me, I’ve headed inworld to hangout, chat, and go dancing. We don’t spend more than a hour or two at a time, but it’s really nice to be with this old friend again. I don’t know how long this will continue but our virtual experience has changed so much since the early days when we naively roamed the grid, wide eyed, and full of great expectations.
Anyway, as the saying goes: A friend is someone who likes you. So, it’s a real treat to reengage after so many years apart–over a decade. I don’t know his real name or age or much about his real life, and he doesn’t know me any better, but I think we know everything we need to know about each other. We do talk about shared interests and experiences, but mostly we talk about a wide range of subjects. And somehow the sharing of these points of view seems to have built a connection between us. It’s not like this will ever develop into a real world relationship, but it is an enjoyable virtual relationship.
This is just a whimsical little story I gushed out a couple mornings ago. It’s inspired by a very small, very old book titled Flatland, although it’s nothing like the book. It probably means something to me and hopefully I’ll figure that out someday.
The Room with the Giant Loom
The Girl wasn’t an ordinary girl although she might have seemed ordinary, but she had her own shark. She also had a pack of squirrels and a one big, opinionated cat. She didn’t know the dream weavers personally, they were always out of sight, but she knew they were there.
The Shark wasn’t an ordinary shark. This shark lived in the Sea of Information. He wasn’t the kind of shark that ate people; he was a very inquisitive shark and had a natural instinct that kept him connected to The Girl’s interests. Each day he would swim out in the sea and search for information for the girl. When he found something of interest, he’d snatch it quickly and quietly. The Girl was always interested in something new, so he gobbled up new data voraciously.
The Girl didn’t know The Squirrels very well, but they knew that she wanted the information stored so she could study it, and when The Shark returned home each day, the squirrels would take the new data then scurry hither and yon, storing his discoveries in a huge bank of old-timey mailboxes. Sometimes they’d have to move information to different boxes if The Cat didn’t like where they put it, so they were extremely busy squirrels.
The Cat was a big tabby cat and one of The Girl’s closest friends. He was a persnickety fellow and very particular about doing his job. Like most cats, he pretended to be lazy, but he had a keen sense of where the data should be stored. He also had no tolerance for fake information and he would yowl loudly at any squirrel who put fake data in a mailbox. He told the squirrels that bad data would cause The Dream Weavers to make a mess of The Tapestry.
When fake news and data was discovered, it was placed in a large basket and the basket was tossed out every few days. However, The Cat was wily and had a knack for spotting items that piqued his curiosity. When that happened he’d take it into the box where he liked to sleep, and use the data to pad his bed. In fact, he’d leave it there forever unless something new caused him to recall the odd item. And it did happen from time to time, and The Cat would grab the item, jump to his feet, and dance around in the special way that cats do when they are happy and crazy. For him, these were gemstones.
The squirrels were scared when The Cat danced crazy, but they dutifully obeyed him and rushed to put the data into the proper mailbox. The Cat always smiled at the squirrels when they did this, and that made them beam with joy.
No one ever saw The Dream Weavers. Everyone knew that they only came at night. The Cat was sure that he had glimpsed the weavers’ dark shadows swishing around the mailboxes, but he could never actually describe them, so no one believed him; not even the squirrels.
Each night, The Weavers grabbed as much information as they could then rushed off to The Room with The Giant Loom, and worked all night: weaving, unweaving, reweaving. Each weaver was responsibility for a different part of The Giant Tapestry and as they worked, occasionally they’d find themselves in disagreement with one another. When that happened, their frustrations poured into The Girl’s dreams. Nonetheless, they redid their nights work until every tiny piece of was in the right place. No matter how well the work went at the end of each night the weavers were never able to complete the work.
The Master Weaver told the weavers: The Tapestry is everything that makes the world work! It must constantly be changed, as life itself changes. So, do not fear, if it is never complete.
The Shark, The Squirrels, and The Cat knew that the tapestry was the property of The Girl, but all of them felt their own sense of pride in their contribution. The Shark boasted that there would be no information if it wasn’t for him. The Cat snorted at The Shark and advised him that The Tapestry would never be correct if he wasn’t there to get rid of fake data. The Squirrels were just happy to be part of the conversation, and not get eaten by The Shark or The Cat. The Girl appreciated and loved her friends because they helped her figure out the world.
Following the wipeout of a game I had been playing since 2019, I made a concerted effort to resolve several key issues I had been having with a new download of Fallout 4 (ver 22.214.171.124).
Bethesda support was very helpful and escalated my issue to their Advanced team, but after several days they couldn’t resolve the issue. I also worked with Microsoft’s Xbox Support but they couldn’t or wouldn’t help; by “wouldn’t” I mean, it was pretty clear to me that the version was being rolled out by Xbox Services and Microsoft wouldn’t pursue the problem that far. I’m not angry about this because I trust that Microsoft is still trying to deal with the problems created by the SolarWinds hack. So, I decided to try to live with the new version despite the fact that it is inferior across a broad list of categories. Nonetheless, it is stable…so far.
I restarted my game without any Creation Club (CC) items or Mods. I played quickly through the lower levels but around level 20 I started adding some CC items: dogs, back pack. I continued moving forward and eventually added more CC items, then a couple mods, then a couple more. I’m currently back to Level 50. I’ve also been very strategic in developing my factions, and I met with the Minutemen and took back Fort Independence (The Castle), but there’s a new problem.
The new problem: I’m reasonably certain that the version of Fallout 4 I’m running on Xbox does not notify me when my settlements are under attack. This would be something I might be able to live with normally, but after taking The Castle I noticed that the morale of all four of my settlements cratered 30 to 40 points. At Abernathy Farm, several settlers told me that they are “really in trouble here.” But it was not at all clear what I needed to do to help. I’ve played this game a lot over the years and I’ve never seen this level of morale destruction. So, here I am, once again, wondering where this will lead.
About a month ago I repurchased the Fallout 1st subscription within Fallout 76, so I’ll probably put Fallout 4 on the shelf for awhile and return to FO76. My hope is that at some time in the future, a new version of FO4 will be release that solves the many anomalies I’ve discovered. I really, really, really hope Microsoft/Bethesda comes through with better version of FO4, but it’s an old product and they may be putting their money elsewhere.
Along with a lot of people in this world, I’ve been suffering my way through the COVID era, and I’m sorry to say that I lost the handle on my novel writing. In fact, I’ve been more active as a blogger and social network commenter than I have as a writer. Now, I’m trying to get back in the saddle, so to speak.
I know what I want Book II of The Temporal Expeditions to be. I know how I want it to progress. I know that it will be at least 120k words, of which I have about 70k words in first draft format. But the completed work is the ending half of the novel, and I’ve been struggling to fully map out the first half. I call this writer’s block’s crazy uncle.
In the year and a half since I published The Temporal Expeditions, Book I I’ve lost the context of that book in my thoughts. I mean, it isn’t fresh because I’ve had to do a mental refresh several times, and that means I’ll need another refresh cycle. I’m planning to use Read Aloud to reread Book I to me. This will help me plunge into the writing of Book II. I use the reader because I’m dyslexic and spoken words enter my thoughts more easily than reading. Yeah, I know this is odd but dyslexia is weird.
BTW, dyslexic writers are not that uncommon. In my case, words pour out easily. I’m even a pretty good speller. But drinking the words into my thoughts through my eyes requires a lot of discipline.
I’ve added a new tab to this blog: My Writing. In general, I’ll be pulling in meaningful posts from my Journal blog, so all of my blogging activity will be focused here. I’m not sure this is going to workout well, but I’ve already added the first entry about the inspiration for The Temporal Expeditions.
I plan to continue writing about Second Life and Gaming in general. In fact, playing Fallout 4 and Fallout 76 put me in a mindset of existing in a world where all of our precious civilization is rough and raw. It’s abstract, but it lets my thoughts roam over a different landscape.
Okay, I know Barry Manilow is really old timey but he did so many memorable songs, like Tryin’ to Get That Feeling Again (go ahead, give it a listen, it’ll strum your heartstrings). Anyway, I’m feeling the sentiment of that song, even though there’s no woman or man in my lyric, just my second life or Second Life.
BTW, I didn't know Manilow but I've always liked "I Write the Songs" because a different songwriter I knew joked with him: "No, I write the songs!" And I think that joke became a thing among songwriters of that era.
Yesterday, I spent several hours checking my file of Landmarks, mainly looking for places that have live entertainment, and after tediously deleting locations that were either gone or had become something other, I discovered that I’d deleted two-thirds of my entertainment landmarks.
The good news is, many of the old clubs and scenic areas are still there and I’m thrilled about that, but I only found one favorite entertainer still doing live shows. There are probably plenty of new entertainers, but I’m feeling that: You can’t go home again thing.
So, seeking out new venues and new entertainers is certain something to feel excited about. And getting back in the cockpit of my Street Dancer (I think I used to call her, Seabiscuit) and racing around the Blake Sea is still cool. And there’s flying. I was never very good at it; I always was more happy just being a passenger. But I’m still thinking about that SR-71 Blackbird. And hey, there’s always a chance of falling in love again, kinda-sorta. For sure: I want to attend the Junkyard Blues 14th Anniversary!
In my last post, I was still thinking about keeping my SL premium account, but it expires in June and I’m not sure anymore. And then there’s Fallout 76 waiting with some new quests and adventures. Oh, yeah, and there’s that real life thing too. Like I just bought some old Hemingway books I want to reread, and I’ve also got to get past a new bout of writer’s block if I even intend to finish my trilogy. So…
...I've been/ Up, down, tryin' to get the feelin' again/ All around tryin' to get the feelin' again
It’s hard to comprehend where I was when I joined Second Life on April 6th, 2007. I vaguely remember seeing a report on CNBC that featured Philip Rosedale and the virtual world he’d created. I was fascinated by the idea of a virtual city and made my decision to join this new world. Before I knew it I swept into the scene with all it’s drama. In hindsight, it felt like I was in high school again with a new body, new clothes, and a tendency to do the crazy things that only make sense to teenagers. Yeah, I was nuts. Heh. It was so much fun though.
It all came together for me at a tiny club named “PIER”, but unfortunately I didn’t know how to use the camera at the time and don’t have any pics of those early days. I used to go to PIER late at night, hop on a Salsa dance ball, and dance to the tunes of the many DJs that got started there. A few years later the PIER closed but in 2010 I rediscovered PIER had reopened. Below is a pic from that era. I guess the owner decided it was too much effort to keep it going, but she left it roughly where it had been in the beginning. It’s still there.
Anyway, I expanded out from PIER and raced all over the grid for the next five or six years. I found a real home at Junkyard Blues, but enjoyed several other clubs. I built numerous Zen gardens and expanded my Harvest Moon Café every time I found a newer and bigger plot of land. I remained active in SL until about 2013 when I moved on to other things, but there’s something about Second Life that always drew me back. And so it was about a week ago; I just wanted to see what was going on, who was still inworld, and what kind of changes have been made.
About a month ago, a viscous hack of Microsoft servers caused them to make some changes to mitigate the damages. I’d been playing on Xbox and a lot of things when wrong, so I’ve been reluctant to reengage. That’s partly why I’ve reengaged in SL during the past week, and I’ve felt the draw of Second Life again. There are so many things to do in SL that I’ve been scampering around, checking things out.
I even looked into buying an SR-71 Blackbird. Okay, some explanation: I once visited the flight museum near Boeing Field where they have one of the retired SR-71s. And let me say simply, if you’ve never seen an actual Blackbird, you have yet to see the most amazing aircraft of the past century. I was in awe of the enormous aircraft, but also about the story of when and how it was built in the early 1960s; built with slide rules, flying at speeds in excess of Mach 3, and altitudes above 80,000 feet! The SR-71 set a record: New York to Los Angeles in two hours. Below is an advertisement for a Second Life plane I’m still thinking about buying.
I did a lot of other things during the past week. I spent time on the Blake Sea where I sped across the open water sims with relative ease; most of the serious problems related to sim crossings seem to be resolved. And it is a thrill to go fast on open waters, it just is! Here’s a shot of me at rest; I forgot how to snap a shot while speeding around. I know.
I also spent some time over at the massive Bay City sim complex. It is a huge city right in the heart of Second Life, but I’m sorry to say that there weren’t many people there enjoying the many facilities that include an insane asylum, amusement park, stores, houses, hotels and so much more. The lack of activity is sad.
In Fallout 76, a multiplayer game, there are vast landscapes and post-apocalyptical cities and they are full of life in a sense because they have many Non-Player Characters (NPCs) and monsters. Of course, the monsters are ready do attack you, so you often have to fight for your life, but hey (*smiles*). That artificial activity gives FO76 a sense of life that is missing in SL, except at the SL clubs and a few sites. Perhaps, a city like Bay City would be far more enjoyable if there were some NPCs doing menial tasks, maybe even talking about their personal stories. It’s just an idea and would probably create a great deal of stress on SL’s underlying game architecture, but I saw signs that work is being done on something akin to NPCs. Just saying. OTOH, communicating with friend in FO76 is really difficult unless everyone has a headset and I rarely run into peeps wearing headsets.
One thing that caused me some consternation, a lot of my old shoes were broken. I thought I’d fixed this problem ages ago, but maybe a new problem has been introduced. When I left SL I had over 200 outfits organized in “My Outfits” and now I’m having trouble figuring out how to get a single outfit organized; this is on me, I just need to figure things out. Also, my Intan dance ball didn’t work. So, I’ve had some frustrations. I did some fun shopping though, kind of just weird spontaneous buying: Some military pants and some short-sleeved mohair sweaters. Here’s a new outfit.
To make a long story short: I’m kind of at a “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Night” (Robert Frost) moment.
The woods are lovely, dark and deep, But I have promises to keep, And miles to go before I sleep,
I’ve been so tempted to plunge back into SL with both hands and feet. I’ll keep my premium membership for at least one more year and all that. I’ll be around from time to time. But I still have promises to keep “and [hopefully] miles to go before I sleep.”
I keep dropping into SL and poking around, but today I teleported into the giant Calas Galadhon park, run by Truck Meredith and Tymus Tenk. I’d been there many times in the past and it was great to get back to the familiar vast forests and seas. I was delighted to find that the Mirrormere and Misty Mountains sims were very much the way I remember them.
There’s so much to do in Second Life that I’m feeling the draw. I’m also feeling the dread that I might loose sight of some of my important projects. As Lele would say: Time will tell.