Flying Free

flying woman 2

In my dream this morning I found myself in a 2-story shopping mall and remembered I could fly. I see my friend Joey and tell him he can fly too. I tell him and another woman to stand like a superhero about to fly, then jump up. They both fly easily, which not everyone in my dreams who I try to teach to fly can do. (Some look at me like I’m crazy and won’t even try.) I tell them both that the most important thing for being able to fly is believing you can. We all fly outside, and it feels so nice and empowering. I tell them they can try flying in different ways if they want, but I don’t tell them they have to do anything in particular.

Dreaming of flying generally means you feel empowered and free. When I was in high school, I often dreamt of trying to fly, then having my mother hold the hem of my clothes and tell me to get down before somebody saw me. In my dreams, it felt like she was afraid of standing out or having me stand out. It seemed like she was afraid of what other people would think, while I really didn’t care about their opinions.

I thought after I woke that maybe going online is kind of like flying in dreams. I feel so free once I go online that it’s easy to get distracted by what’s interesting, rather than just doing what I need to do. I feel much the same when I go into Second Life, except that’s more immersive and more fun.

Lately I’ve felt limited by only having 10 GB of higher speed data to use per month on my mobile hot spot. This isn’t enough to play in SL or watch Netflix. It’s barely enough for my job search and watching a few short YouTube videos. When I first get online, I spend a couple hours clearing out email junk, which is not fun. If I go on Facebook, I feel trapped by other people’s posts, like I have to “Like” or comment on them. I feel like I have to use my precious data allotment on making other people feel better. Then I get annoyed by the algorithms that Facebook, YouTube and Google use to feed me suggestions for things I might like, while hiding posts and videos that I might actually want to see.

When I’m in Second Life I don’t have these annoying feeds. My groups might post teleport links or notices for events, but I can turn these off easily if I wish. I’m free to explore where I want to go, to follow my own impulses and ideas.

In physical reality, I can get in my car and drive places, but then most of the time I’m still being led to spend money on something. It’s hard to find pleasant things to do in the physical world that don’t cost money. I could read a book, but that’s going within, not going out. Reading doesn’t take me out into the world around me. Going to a movie costs money and doesn’t really take me out into the world much either. It just takes me into the world of the movie, rather than into the world of a book or TV show.

Going to a park or river with my dog lets me experience the real world around me, but then I feel like I have to be careful so other people won’t think I’m crazy for being out alone with my dog. When I was homeless for a month, people might even pick up that homeless person vibe. I once had a small child ask why I was sitting in the park. I said because it was lunch time. People seem to think it’s odd to be out in a park on a weekday, especially if you’re not there with another person.

Shopping allows me a way to go out into the world without other people judging me too much, because shopping is a more socially acceptable activity than sitting alone in a park or mall. Shopping at a farmers market or pagan fair are socially acceptable ways of going out into the world, much like going to a mall, but in these places I don’t feel out of place because I’m poor. I can use CalFresh (food stamps) credit at the local farmers market to get fresh food for half price, which I otherwise wouldn’t be able to afford. People at a pagan fair also don’t seem judgmental if I’m sitting at a table and watching people while I wait for a lecture or something. The only negative vibe I got at the last pagan fair was when I was sitting at a table near a food vendor, eating food I brought instead of buying the food for sale.

When I’m in Second Life, on the other hand, my poverty, weight and age are all invisible. My avatar looks pretty good – not like a newbie anyway – and my text and profile represent me as someone with intelligence and varied interests.  I can go wherever I want in SL without feeling judged or like I don’t belong. I can “window shop” without feeling like I’m expected to buy something. I can go to a beach, a private island, a city in another country, an art exhibit, a fantasy land, or even an adult club. If someone bothers me, I can teleport away. If I don’t mind chatting with someone, I can do that. And if I get annoyed by feeling like I “have to” chat with a friend when I really want to be alone, I can log out and pretend like I crashed out.

Virtual Reality – Another Perspective

Black Basalt Beach - Lighthouse

It’s overcast and windy today. Looking out to our backyard from the kitchen window this morning, I was reminded of being in Mendocino or Fort Bragg, the Northern California Coast. When I see the wild roses and green vines growing over the old wooden fence, the weedy lawn, the flat grey sky framed by the fence and telephone poles on either side, I feel like I’m there. In memory, for a moment, I’m there.

A few months ago I dreamt I was in Mendocino. I knew I was dreaming as I looked across from a perpendicular side street to the horizon before me. I couldn’t see the ocean, just the open meadow in front of Front Street that is the beginning of the Mendocino Headlands State Park. The land drops off here to rocky cliffs and sea spay below. Then there is nothing but open ocean for miles and miles, as far as the eye can see or the mind can fully imagine. I could feel the presence of the ocean in my dream. I felt cool air and open space, and knew I was not only next to the sea, but at this particular place near it.

These two experiences made me think that what makes reality “virtual” has nothing to do with computers. Humans have been creating virtual realities for as long as we’ve been telling stories, creating art, even as long as we’ve been able to dream. What makes something “virtual reality” is it’s ability to evoke a sense of immediate presence in our minds. Memories and dreams are not defined as virtual reality, because they exist only within our own minds. A read or spoken story isn’t defined so, because the part that feels real to us is also unique within each reader’s or listener’s mind. Movies aren’t defined as virtual reality, maybe because they exist on a flat screen in front of their mostly passive audience. When a digital creation seems to the viewer to exist in 3 dimensional space around them – and also evokes a feeling of realism and immediacy for them – then it can be defined as virtual reality. By definition it also has to be able to be experienced objectively by different people – even though the memories evoked for each person by this creation will of course be unique for each of them.

Technically speaking then a memory or dream is not “virtual reality”, though it is for the person experiencing it. It feels real, so to our mind it is real. When we get immersed in a book or movie, we also experience a kind of virtual reality. We are transported into a semblance of a world imagined by the author or director. Think of your own thoughts after reading a good book. Don’t you feel like you were just part of a different world than the one you normally live in? When you think back on a favorite move or movie franchise, doesn’t that world seem like it really existed or exists somewhere?

Even though I haven’t been in Second Life nearly as much as I used to be and haven’t been there lately for over 2 weeks, I still find myself spontaneously remembering places and people from that virtual world. These are memories without scent or taste, but they still seem very real to me – more real than memories of a book I’ve read or a movie I’ve seen. I feel like that place and experience was a real part of my life. It’s odd to be driving my car, look at a building in physical reality, and feel a longing for the virtual buildings of Second Life. I’d love to be able to stand on the shore of the real Pacific Ocean, but I also long to stand as a avatar on the virtual cliffs and beaches of Second Life.

Beauty is beauty, whether it’s created by nature or by the mind and hand of human beings. It calms or stirs our soul either way, and it resides in our memories as something real, whether it’s built from physical molecules or digital data, pixels and photons.

 

Technical Difficulties

I posted earlier on my Facebook page that my life is having technical difficulties.

I was using an unsecured Xfinity account for wifi and occasionally using the unsecured wifi at my local library. One day, I tried to connect at the library, but it was impossible. I took my laptop to Office Max to find out if it had malware on it, & sure enough it did, which they charged me $ 150 to remove. Then I upgrade my cell phone account with Verizon to include wifi for my computer. I thought this would only cost me $ 10 more than having my previous phone service & paying $ 55/ month for wifi through Xfinity.

So great. My new service was faster & secure, but it seems to not be truly unlimited, since I got a message saying I was nearing my limit, then one saying my next bill would be $ 199! I stopped using my Verizon wifi, came to the library to use their computer, but couldn’t log on to my Verizon account to see what my charges really are. They wanted an answer to a secret question that I had never given them & didn’t recognize my zip code as belonging to my phone #.

Meanwhile, I’ve been driving my roommate to her job because her car isn’t working, but she’s not paying me enough for my gas & time. I also used my EBT (food stamps credit) to buy food for our household at the local farmer’s market. My landlady & roommate said they’d reimburse me for their part, but they didn’t.

Our landlady finally got central air conditioning put in before the temperature hit 100 degrees F., but before this happened, we had a contractor put in screens on our windows & some other minor repairs. On Monday, May 8, he was finishing up his work when he had a heart attack & passed out. Luckily my roommate knew CPR & was able to keep him alive until the paramedics arrived to take him to the hospital. His car & tools were at our house for a week until his brother picked them up. He’s still in the hospital. Our landlady still owes him money for his work.

Now I’m at the library, trying to use their computers, because I need to update my resume & work on trying to get a new job, but I’m still not able to get into my Verzizon account & I’m getting annoyed & jumpy from being next to this woman next to me. She’s an older Asian woman with newspapers on her seat & holding a paper towel over her mouse, apparently a germaphobe, but her paper towel is infringing on my personal space and sometimes it even touches my arm.

I feel overly anxious.  I’m trying to hold it together so I can get a new job, but I’m so worried about my Verizon bill that I’m afraid to use my laptop at home. I can’t really get enough done here at the library either though.

Elysion in Second Life

Elysion 4-17_014

One of my favorite sims to visit in Second Life is Elysion. This gorgeous Adult-rated sim is owned, managed and seasonally redecorated by Syn Baresford, who has a beautifully artistic attention to detail and romantic atmosphere. Note that Romantic doesn’t always mean bright flowers and sunny meadows. It can also be a little dark and melancholy, as the current theme seems to demonstrate. As I walked though her latest remodel, I at first noticed that many of the old venues have a more decayed look, as of the passage of years. There are spring flowers blooming, fireflies and bees buzzing about though, so it has the air of renewal after a period of great change and loss. I was also reminded of The Shannara Chronicles TV series, in which a post-apocalyptic world is infused with fantasy elements such as elves, dwarves and magic.

Elysion 4-17_009

The lighthouse is probably the most iconic feature at Elysion, so I had to include a few  pictures of it. The little river boat now lies broken and half sunk against the shore of the small island. Inside, the café has been replaced with old library cabinets, comfy chairs and other interesting bits of décor. (Exploring the little details on your own is one of the best parts of visiting Elysion.)

Elysion 4-17_007

Inside the lighthouse, as in the other buildings, there are plenty of spots to chat with friends or venture into more romantic or adventurous activity. This is an Adult sim, but it’s for paid group members only, so it’s not the sort of Adult area that gives SL a bad reputation. People here tend to behave as mature, polite adults, sometimes with leanings toward BDSM and voyeurism, but often just interested in scenic views and romantic snuggling.

Elysion 4-17_012

Most of the previous main building is gone, but a dimly lit, starry Observatory remains. The radio steam and dance ball rezzers throughout the sim encourage romantic dancing with a partner.

Elysion 4-17_016

The decaying Pool House is gorgeous, with giant water lilies and fairy-like firefly lights.

Elysion 4-17_019

Elysion 4-17_021

The Luxe has seen better days, but still draws people for a quiet drink or an entertaining show.

Elysion 4-17_023

The orchard paths allow one to find all kinds of interesting spots to enjoy alone or with a partner.

Elysion 4-17_025

Though there is a nominal fee to join the group and explore this sim, if you can afford a couple dollars, it’s a group well worth keeping. There are regular Friday night and Saturday parties, and even when there are not scheduled events, the sim is seldom completely empty.

How to Live (almost) Free in Second Life (part 8) – Spring Break

Snapshot_009Snapshot_005

I’ve been spending this afternoon looking for good freebies for Spring Break in Second Life.

Here Evan and Alycia are relaxing at CANNiBiA Beach (M) (formerly Black Basalt Beach). There is free rez here for taking pictures. Alycia is wearing the Maitreya Lara v 4.0 mesh body with Bento-enabled hands, the April group gift skin – Diana (Caramel) – from 7 Deadly Skins, the Sheena color demo hair from Lelutka, a March Twisted Hunt side hunt prize – “Rebel” shorts – from Anachron, the October group gift tank top from Blueberry and the Georgina work-out shoes group gift from Blueberry. Evan is wearing the Adam skin (Caramel) from 7 Deadly Skins (an old group gift), Rick hair from EMO-tions (not a freebie), a group gift T-shirt, shorts and leather bracelet from Cold Ash and the white mesh boat shoes group gift from Gabriel.

GizzA Creations

GizzA Creations is one of the better shops for free group gifts for both male and female avatars. Many past gifts are available and the group is free to join.

Snuggles_002.png

Here Alycia and Evan are in my skybox apt. wearing matching March group gift sweaters from GizzA Creations. The skin she’s wearing is Patience Christmas v1 from 7 Deadly Skins (a past Christmas group gift). The chair is Cooper’s Armchair, a former Fifty Linden Friday sale item from Consignment.

While my rental parcel isn’t free, it’s a very good deal at Happy Clam Island. The stipend I get from having 4 avatars with discounted SL Premium memberships pays for my rental lot with spending money to spare. My skybox is a customized mesh box with a Grim Death Co. Suites rezzer and some of the rezzer furniture replaced with nicer mesh furniture from my inventory.

Manhattan Apt. GDC Holodeck module_001

This inexpensive low-prim rezzed room is the Grim Death Co. Manhattan apartment. I’ve modified some of the interior walls to windows and different wallpaper. If you have at least a square 1024 m parcel, a Grim Death Co. Suites rezzer will fit nicely on it and allows you to change your setting with the touch of a button.

Manhattan Apt. Watching YouTube

You can even watch YouTube videos on the TV in some of the Grim Death Co. Suites modules.

 

 

 

Maintaining Order & Balance – In Second Life

Taunt the Mutant - The Wastelands_001

Life is messy, frustrating and often annoying. Second Life (virtual reality) can also be messy, frustrating and annoying. We develop coping mechanisms to deal with real life problems. We can also develop coping mechanisms for dealing with our virtual lives.

One of the most common problems for people who play in SL is managing their inventory. Our real life equivalent might be cleaning our house, but in this virtual world in which we can have nearly unlimited possessions, the tasks of finding and getting rid of things can seem like the unending tortures of classical mythology. One rule of Second Life is that it’s always easier to accumulate stuff than to get rid of it.

I’m a Virgo, so I try to maintain some order in my inventory by creating folders and sub-folders for my stuff. “Clothing” is a pre-set folder. Some of my sub-folders within it are “Mesh Dresses – Spring/Summer”, “Tops”, “Pants”, “Lingerie” and “Historical”. I indicate outfits that fit my Maitreya mesh body by adding ” – M* to the end of folder titles. For my male alt, I’ve started adding “- O*” to the end of folders that contain Omega appliers. I have several “To Sort” folders that are always full of things I haven’t sorted yet, though. One of them is just for things I’ve accumulated on various hunts, each hunt with it’s own folder, and each titled with the name, month and year of the hunt. Within those folders, I now make sub-folders for “Clothing”, “Body Parts”, “Buildings & Furnishings”, and “Miscellaneous”. After I’ve finished a hunt and unpacked the prizes, these sub-folders can then be easily moved into their proper folders in the main part of my inventory.

Another common problem is finding balance between doing things we need to do in real life and spending time (and sometimes money) in Second Life.  Time, money and energy are the 3 main resources we need to balance in Life. Doing all work and no play is mentally and emotionally exhausting, so we need to find time for things we enjoy in our lives, but not at the expense of things that need to be done to maintain our lives. It’s nice to be able to spend money inworld – which helps support creators and sim owners, – but we may also need to budget how much we can afford to spend on leisure activities. I’ve been active in SL for enough years that I’m pretty much an expect now on finding good freebies and figuring out how to live nearly free inworld, but for people who are new to SL, it’s easy to spend more money than one can really afford.

Getting rid of old inventory – especially ugly clothes, sculpted furniture, and dead Landmarks – seems to be a good way to reduce the inventory nightmare, but sorting always takes time. Using the “Sort – by date” option at the top of one’s Inventory can help get rid of older items, but one will probably still want to pull items out or try on clothes before deciding if they should be deleted or not. Boxing up seasonal items is a good way to reduce inventory. Clicking on “About Landmark”, then deleting dead LMs without having to teleport to them is a great time-saver too.

One technique I’ve used is to focus on reducing the amount of one kind of item at a time. When you’re trying on clothes or skins, you’re avatar is probably going to be naked for a good part of that time. When you’re checking out old LM’s you don’t want to teleport naked to most places, so these types of inventory sorting and deleting need to be done separately. Once you have most of your eyes or skins sorted, it’s also pretty easy to try on just those items and just keep the ones you like best.

Another technique that helps me is to have several alts for different purposes, each with their own style of clothing. My main avatar is Persephone, who has something like 60, 000 items in inventory, including many unopened packages. Because she’s my main, she has most of my buildings, furniture, landscaping, textures and building stuff. Alycia is my goth girl, so I try to get her only clothes and items that fit her style. For instance, I tell myself she likes clothes in black, grey, and blue, tights and leggings, short dresses, long sweaters, and ripped ballerina outfits. She also likes witchy stuff, skulls and dark, ironic messages on shirts, but she doesn’t like vampire stuff. Tasha is primarily my wolf-girl, so she doesn’t need much clothing and stuff. Since I model her on my wolf-dog who passed, I try to get her clothes mostly in white, beige and fur, and nothing too sexy or revealing. These alts have pretty established looks, so Alycia only wears pale skin with dark or brightly dyed hair, while Tasha has pale skin and is blonde. Persephone uses a few normal human skins that fit a middle-aged look, but also wears non-human, wild-colored skin like blue or green when I feel like presenting as an alien.

If you sometimes want to get away from people inworld, having alts is a good way to do this. Maybe sometimes you want to be social, but other times you just want to build or explore. Your main avatar can have friends and be social, but your alt might be an animal who can’t talk or an antisocial person who doesn’t feel like talking to people. Animal avatars don’t need clothes, so an animal alt won’t need to collect a bunch of inventory. Segregating different alts for your different moods can thus help you to allocate and use your time in SL to *your* best advantage. If you design clothes, you may want an alt that’s your model. That’s how I ended up with a male alt. Going into SL as someone who’s different than your usual real life self, can also reveal parts of your psyche that may not otherwise be obvious to you. For instance, my main avatar tends to be more respectable and responsible, but Alycia says and does what she wants, doesn’t worry about seeming weird, has become a representation of my survivor side.

Maintaining order in our real lives often requires us to keep to a fairly established and respectable persona, but in a virtual world like SL, order can be established by segregating the more unusual or extreme sides of our psyche into different types of roleplay or visual self-expression. If you’re feeling alienated or angry in real life, it’s perfectly ok to dress as an alien or ax-murderer in SL. The rules of social behavior are different in SL than in RL. There are rules, but how we dress is far, far more open in SL. It’s still not ok to annoy or abuse other people, but within certain roleplay venues it is acceptable to play the role of someone who is annoying or abusive. Boundaries are more flexible in SL than in RL, but they still need to be established between the individuals involved.

If you play in SL or other virtual worlds, how do you maintain order and balance for yourself in these worlds? Please feel free to comment below.

How to Live (almost) Free in Second Life (part 7) – Discounted Premium Membership, Free Skin & Free Hair

_ Jesray-v2 - caramel

Every few months Linden Lab has a sale on Premium membership that is actually worth more money in lindens (inworld currency) than it costs. The current sale goes until April 24th, so now is the time to go for it. Sign up for a 3 month Premium membership now for $ 11.50, get $L 300/ week in spending money (about $ 15 worth of lindens) and be sure to drop down to the free Basic Membership before your 3 months is up. If you sign up a couple alts at the same time, you can easily afford to rent a place inworld and thus help support a sim you like. You can also afford to join groups that have a small join fee and buy a few sale items from creators you like.

Swing Into Spring with Style – New Premium Gift and 50% Off Premium Membership

While you’re Premium, you can join up to 60 groups. When you go back to Basic Membership, you don’t lose the groups you’ve already joined, so join up to 60 groups for free group gifts and places where you can rez and unpack packages. If you want nice skin for free, I highly suggest joining  7 Deadly Skins. They don’t make great ethnic skins, but for Caucasian skin, they’re very good and make appliers for the most popular mesh bodies and heads as well. Once you join, hit their Midnight Madness and Mini Mania boards, try their lucky chairs, grab their monthly Group Gifts, and do their various hunts and holiday events. I think the group is currently free to join, but the group join fee will probably go back to a few hundred lindens after April. If you have a female avatar, it’s pretty easy to find nice group freebies, but 7 Deadly Skins is one of the few stores that has frequent free quality skins for male avatars as well as for female ones.

Above is one example of their male skins. Remember that these will look different on different body shapes, so if you use your own body shape, you won’t look exactly like the guys in the pictures.

For nice free female mesh hair, one of my favorite shops is Lelutka. Grab their free color demos, then join their group and pick up their free group gifts. Their color demos are fully wearable, without any “demo” signs, have color-change HUDs, and can be tinted by right clicking and calling up the Edit texture menu.

Finally, for free female mesh clothes, join the Legendaire VIP group. It’s only $L 99 now, which gets you a bunch of free mesh outfits with texture-change HUDs, as well as new outfits every month. These are similar styles with similar HUDs as LaVian & Co. used to sell (because the owner of Legendaire used to be partnered with the owner of LaVian & Co. and uses the same texture-change HUD system).  ( LaVian & Co. is no longer inworld and is now only available on Marketplace.)