Archive for June, 2008

Can This be Love?

Monday Evening, June 30

I manage to avoid SL until after dinner. Dishes are done, paperwork is semi-ordered, pets are taken care of, husband watching a ball game. Maybe now would be a good time to finish ordering my folders. I really do NOT like how unorganized my inventory has become. I logon. No Melissa. That’s good. I jump to the money machine but it’s empty. I try searching for other money trees but don’t seem to find anything useful. I teleport back to “my” beach chair in Fishermen’s cove.

I start cleaning up the folders – grouping items, moving things. Lingerie in a folder under clothing, Tuxedos and evening gowns in the formal wear folder, poses and gestures in the “Suggestive” folder. Oh yes – I finally am investigating that magic box of goodies. I have all sorts of gestures and poses. The names alone alarm me. Now let me be clear – I am not really a prude. At least I don’t think I am. I can be fairly risqué and daring. Adventuresome. But I’m not ready to turn this all into a sexual experience. After all – I’m still having trouble walking across the virtual room!!! Can you imagine what a lack of control could do for more intimate situations? If I’m going to have SL sex, I’m going to have to be much better at moving my avatar, and I’d better find some genitalia. Until then all those poses, gestures and objects (like the love bed, the love chair, the pose ball) are going into the Suggestive folder.

I have finished tidying up my folders when Melissa logs in. There she is – in ‘her’ beach chair. How companionable! She tells me she has SL questions she needs answered so we head up the boardwalk. We met a nice Land Officer there the other day and I’m hoping she will be there again. Indeed, we soon encounter a group of people sitting on the benches on the boardwalk. Ahuva starts to chat with them all. Melissa as usual is way too impatient to talk. She keeps moving in and out, checking out the various signs and objects in the vicinity. Ahuva tells the group that she has questions and they encourage her to ask. The conversation is good-humored and light-hearted and yet they are giving her the information she needs. Melissa decides to go shopping with Nia. Various others start moving off to things. An attractive young man invites Ahuva to come see his house. Heh, heh, heh. Ahuva may LOOK like a Barbie-doll but she does know a thing or two.

I ask what my mother would think if I teleport off with him. He claims that the 3rd person with us will vouch for him. Actually, that person DOESN’T vouch for him, but it’s a tease. I have been assured that no one can do anything to my avatar. I’m not too worried about bopping around the world with a stranger – he can’t actually hurt me. I know enough not to touch things or take things that could animate my avatar in a way I might not want. (Perhaps I should have named myself Alice, not Ahuva, considering all the “Drink Me” and “Eat me” signs I see.) Just as we are about to leave, a beautiful white wolf (I think it’s a wolf) joins us. We teleport to A’s house. It is absolutely stunning. I look about, A’s pointing out objects. It’s on the beach. With sand, and a dance floor and a bar and chairs and plants and water. The wolf, S, is with us. A suggests a walk. I look about and he’s gone. So is S. I am confused. This is like being a teenager again. I THOUGHT he was going to hit on me. I thought that would be pretty cool. I figured I could maybe handle a pass. So where the heck did he go???

Aha – I finally see him in what appears to be another beach pavilion. I run over there and join him. But he’s still not talking. He disappears but a teleport box opens up. I teleport to him and S. Still not saying anything. I’m talking, but he’s not answering. I am completely confused. Am I doing something wrong? Is he weird? Is my machine broken? S seems to hear me. When A disappears yet again without talking I tell S that maybe I’ll join Melissa, who has been IM’ing about the incredible warehouse of freebies she is visiting. Then suddenly I realize that my IM box has TWO tabs with A’s name. I click on the second tab and PRESTO! THERE he is, chatting away. I apologize, explain what’s been happening to me. A and S are very understanding, claim it still happens to them as well.

A’s home is fantastic. If I could have this in RL I’d want for no other material possessions. Ocean, beach, trees, streams, pool, tree house, beach pavilion, dance pavilion with bar, crow’s nest. S says that he (she? I have no idea.) is tired and heading back to the boardwalk to nap. I’ve already told A and S that I need to go soon, as it is a work night. But I tell A I want to see the pool first. It’s a natural pool (isn’t that a funny thing to write – I’m calling it natural and it’s virtual), with a waterfall and a stream. We stretch out side-by-side on beach blankets. This is absolute heaven. I tell A how wonderful it is. Then A says something that freezes my RL blood. He mentions a RL location that he loves. It happens to be a place that I know well and visit whenever I can. I am freaking out inside. Does he know who I really am????? I answer back guardedly and we exchange a few more sentences on a related topic. A says that I am freaking him out with my replies and I tell him that he is creeping me out completely, that I think we need to drop this subject. He agrees and we talk about something else. If this were a story, it would turn out that A was really my husband, who unbeknownst to me was upstairs living his own life in SL. The whole world of people to meet and I meet someone who knows a RL place that I go? That is unsettling.

I really need to shut down and go to sleep but I follow A to the dance pavilion. Friends of his are arriving and the music goes on and the dancing starts. I keep trying to touch the dance ball and animate Ahuva to dance, but nothing is happening. Everyone else is chatting and dancing and I am clicking away getting nothing. I say goodnight and get ready to leave when a song comes on that I really like. Can’t leave with THAT playing I tell them. FINALLY Ahuva starts dancing. This is such fun!! While I’m dancing, A sends me an invitation to join his group. I’ve been warned not to accept any group invitations without researching the group, but I throw caution to the wind and accept. (SEE – I SAID that I could be adventuresome at times.) The song ends, it’s 11pm real time, and I teleport back to “my” beach chair, stretch out, and shut down. I figure I’ll research the group the next day. I’m sure that everything is just fine.

Sex and the Office

Monday morning, June 30

Back to work after a week’s vacation. I can’t wait to tell my coworkers about how much fun SL is. I walk down the hall to get my coffee. W sticks his head out of his office and calls “Naked and alone on Orientation Island with my son!” Uh oh. B looks up. “Hey, good to see you’re dressed! “ The summer intern looks up at me with a somewhat stunned expression. Maybe I shouldn’t have emailed my manager M last week when I was trying to get SL underway. I should have realized that there are no secrets in our office. Apparently M announced at the lunch table that I had sent him an email stating that I was alone and naked on Orientation Island with my son. It’s true. I did. The fact that I really WASN’T naked is never going to have any credibility, I can see that now. Oh well, this is one of those times you simply grin and make the best of it. Since we are all good friends, that is easier than it could be in other circumstances.

I tell M and W that I have written a blog. They ask for the location. Well, maybe blog is the wrong word. How about “I’ve been keeping a diary”. They scoff. “THAT’S not a blog” they say. So tell me where I should put my diary so it IS a blog. I work with software developers, all male. Asking such a question is akin to asking women about best places for shopping (I apologize if that’s too sexist for anyone – I confess that I am somewhat stumped for a good analogy here). Everyone else around joins in and I hear a dozen possible blog spots. Stop, stop, STOP!!! PICK ONE! A consensus is reached. Now I have to turn my diary into a blog. Maybe I need a new blog – Ahuva’s adventures in Blogdom? With any luck, I’ll do better at plunging into a blog than I feel I’ve done plunging into SL. And that seems to be the case. It only takes me about 2 hours to turn my diary into this blog.

I try to reach SL from my desk. I want to show everyone how it looks (no one has done this yet but me). I want to tour our company’s land in SL. But I can’t get there. We are behind a firewall that prohibits access. We have some connections in our kitchen that are not behind the firewall. We have them for guests that may need to access other websites. At lunch I take my laptop to the kitchen to show everyone SL. I remember that I went to sleep at Fishermen’s Cove wearing a little slinky top. NOT proper office attire. Ahuva throws on a shirt before I call everyone over to meet her. After all the “that’s YOU??” remarks (hey, I told you Ahuva was hot), I teleport to the corporate visitor center. It’s just my manager and I now. We start up the tour. M is really paying attention. I’m pointing out how this is used for real business needs. But then he is called away for important business – the lunchtime card game. Hey – we have our priorities in this office. The men all play cards at lunch and the admin and I walk. So instead of walking, she and I check out Ahuva. Ahuva takes off the sweater to show her slinky top. I demonstrate how to change shoes, change hair. Uh oh. I did it again. I lost the hair I had and can’t get it back. But in my magic goody box there are 5 hair styles each in a wide range of colors. We pick one we like. As we are doing this, the men are wandering in and out of the kitchen, peering over our shoulders at Ahuva. Of course there are remarks about the slinky top, the shoes, the jeans. Most embarrassing of all is “The Encounter”.

I’d heard there was a lot of sex on SL. Let’s be real – there’s a lot of sex on the internet. Oh heck – there’s a lot of sex EVERYWHERE. Sex is fine, I have no problem with that. But I’d really prefer not to be involved in that in the office kitchen. There is a time and a season to every purpose, and sex in the office kitchen is not, in my opinion, a great idea. I’d been on SL for 5 days – Thursday through Monday. NO SEX. Nothing. All very innocent (well, mostly). So there I am, showing people how Ahuva moves, how to change clothes, her appearance and what happens? A woman walks up to Ahuva and IM’s her. She says “Sit on me and you can use me”. This is NOT the kind of invitation I typically receive. I look at the faces that are there and think “this may be worse than ‘naked and alone’”. I IM back “not interested, sorry” and close the IM box. The woman winks out and Ahuva is alone once more. I teleport back to my beach chair, stretch out, relax and shut down.

The Siren Call

Sunday evening, June 29

Ahuva! Aaaaah – huuuuuu- vaaaaaaah! It’s calling to me. Unlike Odysseus, I am not lashed to the mast. I can see the laptop on the table. It wants me. I want it. But RL is insistent as well. There are bills to pay. Dinner to cook. My husband and I are alone for 6 weeks, with our son away at camp. But we’re not alone. There are three of us. Him, me and SL. Today I suspect my husband is not as amused by my infatuation as he was the day before. So I ignore the siren call and do every day RL things. Then finally, the lure is too great. I’ll log on for just a moment.

The moment I am logged on, Melissa IM’s me. “Hey! Where are you?” She asks. “Wait til you see all the cool stuff I’ve found.” She’s already been on for 4 hours. I meet her at the money tree so we can compare notes. WOW! She looks great! She’s changed her clothes and she’s got WINGS!!! Not to mention a really great necklace. We teleport to a Ladies Changing Room. By now we know that it is incredibly uncouth to change cloths and appearance right out in public. So we are in the changing room and Melissa starts showing me all the freebies she’s picked up during the day. Ahuva is playing with her hair and her skin, trying to recreate her original look. Melissa is showing off all her different outfits, including different sets of wings. Wings for every outfit. My husband comes by to check out the lingerie. I have to warn Melissa to turn around. It really wouldn’t be appropriate for him to see Melissa without her clothes. (I get the feeling that we may be losing the line between reality and pretend. These are digital representations that do not look a thing like our actual selves. They don’t have any genitalia or body hair. My original Barbie and Ken dolls were more detailed than our avatars. And yet none of us think it is strange that Melissa shouldn’t be seen by my husband. Do you hear the Outer Limits music playing?)

At some point in this process, Ahuva’s skin turns black. I don’t mean she becomes African-American, or very tan, or any other recognizable entity. I mean black, from the tips of her fingers up to a line at the base of her neck. It might be attractive if it was all her skin, but the fact that it stops and her neck, face and feet are still, – oh gee, I guess this would be Caucasian – beige, makes her look odd. If I wanted to look odd, I wouldn’t have picked a humanoid avatar!!!! I now begin trying to adjust the skin tone. No luck. Sometimes I make the black go away, but then everywhere else turns gray. I can’t tell if something is wrong or if I’m being impatient and it hasn’t stopped rezzing (that’s SL slang for having the picture resolution finalize), or if somehow this is my new “look”.

In the midst of this, 2 other characters teleport into the dressing room. This would be alright, except that they both appear to be male. Well, one of them appears to be male. The other appears to be a bunch of boxes stuck together. An interesting “look”. At least he is color-coordinated, so who am I to criticize? The ensuing conversation verifies that they are both male. We tell them they have to leave – this is the LADIES dressing room. We’re in luck – they do indeed leave after a little more chit-chat. At a point when Ahuva is gray and beige, we also leave the dressing room. We find a land officer and I explain my problem. She tells me that the gray has to do with resolution (I have GOT to get a new machine!!!). She says the way to fix it is to put on a new skin. Oh great. That sounds totally creepy. I can deal with changing my hair, changing my breasts, changing my body shape (hey – I’m a woman – I do that every darn day of my life!!!) but changing my skin? Other than tanning at the beach and trying to avoid pimples, I don’t do much with my RL skin except moisturize it. But it’s change my skin or stay gray and beige. That’s not even good for school colors.

So I look into my magic box in my inventory and sure enough there are some skins. “Lightly Tanned Skin”. Okay, beats “Sunburned Skin”. No – that wasn’t an option. At least not in MY box. Maybe someone else actually has that option. So I send a brief plea to the internet cloud and click on “Lightly Tanned Skin” – wear. Alright!!! I’m all one color. I think that it’s at least a medium tan, not light, but that’s even better from my point of view. And there’s no bathing suit line! I must be going to the nudist beaches in SL. My hair is still nothing like my original hair (it was soooo cute!!), but it’s acceptable. Melissa starts teleporting me to find the same freebies she got – the necklace and the wings. I’m getting better at moving about. I’m not as good as Melissa, but I can follow her for the most part. And when I get confused or when my keyboard seems to lock, there is always the “teleport” option. Melissa has that down cold, she has to rescue me so often. (Have I mentioned that I need a new machine?) It’s getting late, my husband has already disappeared upstairs to sleep, and I tell Melissa that we need to call it quits. I’ve been on for 3 hours and she’s up to 7 hours. So she takes me to Fishermen’s Cove, where there are beach chairs, a water slide, a hammock, dolphins splashing in the water, soothing music and a lovely view. We each stretch out in a chair, kick off our shoes, and say “goodnight”.

Lost my connection to the REAL World

Sunday afternoon, June 29, 2008

Oh my heavens. This has spiraled completely out of control. It’s not even 72 hours and it has taken over my life. I was supposed to meet a friend for brunch at 11. I’m talking a RL friend. It takes a minimum of 45 minutes to get there. I logon to SL at 9am, no problem, I have an hour, I figure I can clean up my folders, maybe go get my free daily stipend. My husband cruises by at some point and asks about brunch. Yeah, yeah, I say abstractedly, I don’t have to leave til 10. Hey!  The money machine won’t give me money. It says I already got money today. Hmmmm. I wander about, find an NCI Land Officer, Phoenix. I ask for help and begin chatting with her. I’m telling her about the money, and asking other questions.

My husband comes by again. Aren’t you going to brunch? Yes, I say. I continue chatting online. He persists (how annoying!!!!). Was your brunch cancelled? I finally look at him. What are you TALKING about??? He says, weren’t you meeting C at 11? I say yes, I don’t have to leave til 10. And I look at the clock and yell – oh no!!!! It’s 10:45!!!!! NO WAY am I going to make it on time. I interrupt my chat and say YIKES I’m missing a RL date. Phoenix laughs and wishes me luck.

I try to shut down the computer while I dial C’s number frantically. I think I reach her but hear nothing. I try her home number, I try to leave a message. I’m going crazy, I’m moving in the Real world thinking about the SL world.  I’m running about my house grabbing my shoes, my jacket, my bag, my keys, WHERE are my KEYS???? Finally I reach C. I can’t really hear her but I’m yelling – I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m on my way!!!!! I’m leaving now!!!! I run out the door yelling goodbye to my husband, jump in the car, plug in the cell phone and head out to the highway. I call my sister and say “Run away while you still can!!! Don’t log back in!!! Forget you ever did this!!!!!” She is laughing. She says “I TOLD you SO”. She hangs up, laughing. Sisters.

I’m only 30 minutes late and C forgives me. We catch up on our news. I can’t seem to stop talking about SL. Her eyes grow wide when I say that my sister and I spent 10 hours online doing this. Now she’s laughing too. I’m glad that I can amuse people and bring joy to their lives. When we go back and hang out with her husband H, I tell him all about it as well. Our conversation gets more technical as we discuss my connection issues, routers, WiFi. I tell both of them about the threads on the forums discussing prototyping RL items in SL – what about patent protection? I think H may be getting intrigued. He has his own favorite chat boards. And when it’s time for C to go to work and me to go home, she laughs and says “Are you heading straight back to the computer?” And although I’m embarrassed I confess that yes, I probably am. This has overtaken my life. Am I the same person who ten days ago IM’d that I couldn’t see why anyone would want SL?

My Sister is Hooked!

Saturday, June 28

My sister and I go off for some RL fun. I tell her I got an email from D who has explained to me that I can’t pick up anything I don’t own. So maybe I’m not as totally awkward as I fear. My sister tells me that she tried to join SL in order to see if she would have the same difficulties I’ve had. She couldn’t even get the software loaded on her machine – too old and slow a processor. She describes how she logged on, and her password was emailed to her, and she went to something called Blue Azure. Huh?? This is NOTHING like how I joined. I clicked on the big “Join Here” button at the top of the page. She scrolled to the bottom of the page where she had a choice of worlds. She had more last names from which to choose. I got to pick a starting avatar. We go back to my house and logon to her avatar, Melissa. It’s Melissa’s first time, so she starts on Welcome Island (I started on Orientation Island). At first we try to be on two machines at once. I have my work computer up and running and I’m hoping to give clothing to Melissa, much the way L helped me. But we soon realize that this will never work. There is nowhere near enough bandwidth for 2 SL sessions. Both SL sessions crash. We shut down the work computer and stay on the Dell. We logon as Melissa.

Melissa is MUCH braver than I – she’s an alumna of chat rooms from way back in the day. I know how to bring up menus and move the avatar, she understands the stream of conversation that we see. Together we are almost competent. I bring up the Search menu. She types in clothing (Melissa is wearing jeans and a shirt, nothing exciting). She then clicks on a dropdown menu for category. She finds a category “Newcomer Friendly”. She clicks, a list of places is displayed. We teleport to the first one, NCIKuula. We wander a little. We see a group of ‘people’ (some are definitely NOT humanoid). We stand and watch awhile. Melissa teaches me how to understand the chatter. We both watch characters wink in and out, come and go, explode into flames, bubbles, and other interesting occurrences. Melissa is brave, she tries to fly to get closer (we are still having major problems trying to move about). We manage to get closer. We greet the group. They start discussing free money for Newbies. YES!! We could use that too! Apparently for the first 45 days, Newbies can get a L$10 stipend daily (L$ are Linden Lab dollars, the currency in SecondLife). This is very welcome news. They tell the other newcomer to go over the bridge. We don’t see a bridge, we don’t move well. We ask for the directions again. They tell us it’s north of us. North? We’re supposed to understand directions like north? Finally an avatar named Latha asks if we want to follow her, she will leave a stream of bubbles for us. Latha will be turn out to be our SL Angel for the next few hours. Yes, that’s right, hours.

We manage to follow Latha to the money machine. Could never have done it without that stream of sparks she’s putting down for us. Latha explains that we need to touch the blue globe to get the stipend. Success. Then she asks if we would like to sit down for a chat and learn things that might be useful. Since I have control of the avatar at this point, I say yes. (My sister prefers to stumble about, trying things, listening in. I prefer getting explanations.) So we sit down to chat with Latha. I want to confess that there are 2 of us there. My sister goes nuts and won’t let me. She says we will simply confuse Latha. I don’t see why that should be, but I agree and stop my typing. Latha proceeds to give us a box full of goodies. She teaches us how to open a box, move the items into inventory, take them out again. She tells us to reduce our resolution in order to make the graphics display more quickly (if not as detailed). That does seem to make a difference. She introduces us to her dog. She shows us her cars. She teaches us to fly and points out that it is very useful for seeing the landscape and getting a sense of where we are. She teaches us to drive the cars. This is hilarious. My sister and I are laughing so hard we are crying. You can actually watch the avatar fold and shrink herself into the car. We don’t drive any better than we fly. Worse, actually. Finally Latha says she needs to leave. We thank her profusely. She’s gone. We wander about some more, getting oriented to NCIKuula. We find Latha back on the lawn where we started originally. We find our way from there to the money machine and landmark it. We are quite triumphant. My sister says she needs to go home. We’ve been doing this for 5 hours. She’ll go home and logon a different machine and maybe we can both be on together.

I logon as Ahuva. My RL phone rings. Melissa is online. We spend another 5 hours online together. My ear and arm are so sore from holding the phone that I switch to my cellphone with its speakerphone option. We figure out how to extend friendship to one another. I manage to teleport to Melissa. I get MY free stipend. She shares the box of goodies with me. We teleport back to Vienna (L took me there originally) where I’m able to buy shoes. FINALLY. And then, as has happened perhaps 10 or more times already that day, my SL session crashes. Since it’s already 11:30pm, I say goodnight and go to bed

Fun and Frustrating Friday

Friday, June 27, 2008

I wake up thinking SL thoughts. I want to run to the computer and login. But I control myself and take care of some RL business. But finally, it’s time. I login to my Thinkpad to see if anyone has contacted me, the Dell sitting quietly beside. YES!!! L wrote to me!!! She has some suggestions for fixing the resolution. And ideas for where to find more interesting clothing. And names of other contacts. I email back, thanking her. And she starts sending me emails of inventory. A true friend – we’re going to handle my wardrobe first!! (I LOVE shoes, I hope there are cool shoes in SL).

Friday night, June 27

This is frustration Friday. I have changed my clothes (thanks L!!). I found the free shoe store. But I can’t buy anything!!! I click, the box comes up, but BUY is never enabled. I do this over and over and over, proving  Einstein’s dictum of insanity. And I certainly feel crazed. I don’t know where to go, what to do, how to do anything. I’m sure my graphics card is bad, my connection is bad. Why would anyone want to do this SL stuff anyway? And L and D are crazy too – this is NOT easy.

Calming Down and Getting it Right

Thursday evening, June 26

My family arrives home and I wish to prove to them that I do indeed have a good-looking avatar and I can move about. So after dinner I logon to SL. There I am, on the hammock. I try to move to the couch to show them the kitten. After several false starts, I get there. And look – the wine glass is now on the table. How did it get there???? I still can’t pick it up. Sigh. Our time is limited, so I make my way back to the hammock, stretch out, and exit. Hey. I never got my invitation to join the group. Or maybe I got my invitation but didn’t see it or recognize it. I can’t believe D and L said this was easy. I have to say that very little of this is intuitive for me. This is hard and it is work. But despite that I admit – it’s a blast. I want to do more. I NEED a gaming computer!

So here it is, nearly 1am. I’ve been writing this account for nearly 2 hours. I sent off an email to D thanking him again for his hospitality. I told him I figured it was time for me to move on, if I only knew how. If I can join the company’s group, I can get some new clothes for free. I asked D where the homeless and poor go to hang out in SL. Maybe there’s a library somewhere that I can park myself when I’m not doing whatever it is I’m going to do in SL. I’d like to go hang out in a bar or coffeehouse or some place social to chat with people, but I don’t have any money (do i?) to pay for anything to eat or drink. There’s so much to learn, so much to master. So many questions. And a recognition that I have probably just embarked on an adventure that is going to consume hours and hours of my time. To think, just one week ago I was scoffing at all this, wondering who in the world would want to join SL. That at least, is something I DO know. I can’t wait for tomorrow.

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