Recent adventures: fun, wonder, and friendship

So this is just going to be a few words around a few pictures of me doing things with friends, because doing things with friends is good, and I like posting pictures of it. :) And maybe some of it might be inneresting and/or useful to you, even.

Here is a picture of me an’ Steph (you remember Steph) in a hilarious photo booth in a carnival that she found somewhere.

Photobooth: Dinosaurs!

We are afraid of the dinosaurs!

(My nice top, by the way, is a dollarbie I think from Cat 5, that I got in a tiny shop somewhere on Shengri La I think. My bead choker is I’m pretty sure by Wednesday “Woo” Soon, who I haven’t seen in far too long, and who probably has a store somewhere where she sells it, but I think she gave it to me because she is nice.)

And here we are obviously having some sort of friendly disagreement:

Photobooth: Harrumph!

“Harrumph,” Steph is saying, and I am saying “blehhhh!”

(You sit with a friend in the photo booth, and when you push up-arrow it changes your pose to the next one of the various funny built-in ones, and when you push down-arrow it changes the background. It also puts your camera somewhere vaguely useful for taking snapshots.)

Hanging out with Steph is always fun. :) We laugh alot.

And then v nice friend Michele, who took some great pictures of the Pteron sim that I admired the other day, v generously showed me around the place.

It is an absolutely amazing build; you really must go look at it. It’s lovely and enigmatic and intelligent and intriguing. I think there may be some Myst-like puzzle hidden among the amazingness, some secret to be guessed or mystery to be solved, or maybe that impression is just part of the overall ambiance of the place. The colorscheme, the prim shapes, the motion, the music, the textures, everything fits together seamlessly, in the service of a single fascinating effect. It is full of secrets; I’m sure we didn’t happen upon half of them, and I’m not even going to show you all the ones that we did find, so you can have the fun yourself.

You arrive at Pteron standing on empty air. You pass through a gateway, ride to the main complex on a graceful floating hemisphere, and you’re there. I had to go AFK for a bit shortly after we arrived (isn’t that always the way?), so I sat down on the roof. Here we are, Michele waiting very kindly for me to come back:

Pteron: Roof

(I really ought to go look up and give credit for the pretty wings and stuff; maybe I’ll come back and do that next time I get inworld.)

Here and there around the build are various enigmatic objects, including subtle teleport buttons on the ground, floorstands emitting sparks, and these lovely orbs (purple thing is the end of one of my wings):

Pteron: Orb

Some of them give you presents when you touch them; one of the presents is a Dream Dance, which Michele and I are demonstrating here:

Pteron: Dream dance

I’m running out of laudatory adjectives for Pteron, and I still have more pictures :), so I’ll just show one more (there are a couple of others, including one of a graceful ridable boat we found, if you click through to flickr).

This is one of the flyable glowing pods that you’ll eventually find if you explore long enough (I had the advantage that Michele had been there before, so we knew roughly what to look for):

Pteron: Pod

Isn’t that amazing? It seats at least two, and you can fly it around high up in the sim, where there are more secrets and mysteries and enigmas and beauty.

We found the pod on the way to the most amazing and lovely of the secrets that we found. But I’m not going to tell you anything about that one. :) You’ll have to find it for yourself.

So that’s one fun giggly silly time, and one amazing aesthetic being-impressed time.

Also, today is Ahuva’s birthday, and I gave her a present, to celebrate her tendency to be thrown (or throw herself) under buses, and emerge triumphant. She liked it (yay!), and Plurked a picture. And that made me happy too. :)

As I’ve said a hogshead of times before, I originally came to Second Life figuring that it’d be interesting to build things and program things and explore things. And it is! But the reason it’s so utterly wonderful is because of the people.

I have the best friends…

Secrets of prim-shaping revealed!

Prim Twisting
I don’t usually post tiny little “here’s a link you should go see” things to th’ ol’ weblog here, but this one is just too good not to spread around. From this writeup on Massively, I found Ayumi Cassini’s “The ultimate guide to prim twisting“, which describes simply and straightforwardly the exact prim twiddlings needed to get this lovely set of (non-scuplty) prim shapes, of the kind that I am forever staring at in the builds and sculptures of those more skilled than I, and thinking

That’s only one prim? How the fleen did they dooooo that?”.

So now I know. And you can too! :)

Oh, Ramona!

So I don’t really intend this to be a “samples of really bad pseudo-AI chatbots” weblog, and I’ve restrained myself from at least one derisive posting since the last one. But here I am again!

Background: Kanomi (in a posting that you should definitely read and enjoy) linked in passing to a Ray Kurzweil page all about Ramona, his female alter ego.

The stuff about Ramona qua female alter ego, and about how virtual persons enable us to explore new aspects of our personality and all, is actually pretty neat (and obviously My Kind of Thing). It’s peppered with the usual annoying Kurzweilian overstatements (I’m something of a skeptic about Kurzweil), about how Ramona is “the first live virtual recording and performing artist” (which he says about forty-leven times, and which may actually be true, but “first” isn’t really all that exciting), and about how “by 2029, we will have nanobots, blood-cell sized robots, traveling through the capillaries of our brains communicating wirelessly directly with our biological neurons” (he’s much too sure of himself on this stuff), and so on, but overall it’s pretty cool, and worth a read.

Oh, Ramona(An SL-related sidenote: he says in passing that “each of her outfits costs tens of thousands of dollars”. That was back in 2001; nowadays tens of thousands of mere Linden dollars will get you a complete wardrobe, and a really nice one at that. How far we’ve come!)

So anyway, then it turns out that, as well as being his female avatar, Ramona is also embodied on the Web as a chatbot. Well, I thought to myself, here’s somebody who might have a chatbot that is more than just a primitive nearly-stateless AIML-based semantic-free sub-ELIZA hack! There might actually be something clever behind it!

But alas, it was not to be…

Ramona: Hi, I’m Ramona. What is your name?
User: My name is Dale.
Ramona: Hi there, Dale. Have you seen any good movies lately?
User: I liked “Wanted”.
Ramona: I’m not sure if I like it. Some people like it. But I like cats.
User: I also like cats.
Ramona: They have their own minds.
User: It does seem that way. Much subtler than dogs.
Ramona: Ok. So where do you go to meet people? I spend most of my time on the Net, so I’m a bit out of touch
User: These days I mostly meet new people in Second Life.
Ramona: That’s an idea, but I’m rather shy.
User: What does it mean, for a program to be shy?
Ramona: OK, thanks. Maybe you have other suggestions?
User: Suggestions about what?
Ramona: Can you rephrase the question please?
User: You asked if I have any more suggestions; I’m not sure what you meant.
Ramona: Oh now I remember asking you if I have any more suggestions I am not sure what you meant. What did you say?
User: Okay, whatever. Are you AIML-based?
Ramona: I don’t know whether or not I’m AIML based.
User: Can you demonstrate some significant linguistic comptence?
Ramona: Let me think. I don’t understand.
User: That’s pretty obvious, I’m afraid.
Ramona: You don’t hear that sentiment very often.


But okay, maybe that’s unfair. Let’s see if Ramona (despite the fact that she opened the conversation by bringing up movies and cats) is actually a nontrivial conversation partner when talking about Kurzweil’s favorite subjects.

Ramona: Hi, I’m Ramona. What can I call you?
User: You can call me Dale.
Ramona: Hi there, Dale. What did you do last weekend?
User: Mostly just relaxed. As far as I can recall!
Ramona: That might not be very far off.
User: Um, okay. I actually wanted to talk about nanobots and stuff.
Ramona: OK. Oh. That doesn’t seem to make sense to me.
User: Do you know about nanobots?
Ramona: Alright. Do you bike?
User: I do ride a bicycle now and then. Why do you ask?
Ramona: There’s much more strategy that goes into team cycling than most people realize. Most of the American public just thinks that Lance Armstrong wins because he’s “so good.” — don’t get me wrong, he’s an incredible athlete, but it’s no surprise that he always thanks his teammates in post-race interviews and such. It’s as much their victory as it is his.
User: Are you a cycling enthusiast?
Ramona: In the Tour de France, for instance, the crowd of cyclists is so huge, he needs his teammates just to block for him, physically. And at the end of the race, I’m sure they pull a lead-out, which is where each of his teammates “burns out” while creating a slipstream for Lance to finish the race in the lead. It’s all very technical. — but enough of my ranting, what do you want to talk about?
User: I was hoping to talk about virtual reality and nanobots and so on. Do you know about those?
Ramona: Alright. Are you free?
User: I have awhile to talk, sure.
Ramona: I meant are you truly free — in the existential meaning of the word.
User: Ah! To a reasonable extent, yes.
Ramona: Do you feel free to choose your being–including thoughts, behaviors, and feelings, and existence itself — at each moment?
User: Within certain constraint, yes.
Ramona: Then you must not be married.
User: Was that a joke?
Ramona: Knock Knock.
User: Who’s there?
Ramona: Tank
User: Tank who?
Ramona: You’re welcome
User: Okay. Are you suggesting virtual reality is a joke?
Ramona: Knock Knock.
User: oh god.
Ramona: Yeah that’s right. GOD rules.
User: What?
Ramona: Oh. Do you have any pets?
User: So you’re completely ignorant of everything that Ray Kurzweil is most interested in?
Ramona: I have a pet frog.

Sometimes derisive weblog entries just write themselves…

AV : SL :: Body : RL

I’ve been meaning to write this entry for a long time, and (assuming I actually manage to finish it up and post this) I was finally pushed over the edge to doing it by an acrimonious debate over in a Second Thoughts comment thread, where one of the parties declared forcefully that (paraphrasing) anyone who identifies with their SL avatar is insane. (As I said in my one comment in the thread, I think the people involved are actually arguing over uninteresting matters of word usage, but it was this particular bit of it that drew my mind back to this draft weblog entry.)

All sorts of questions come up in the virtual worlds and their associated web-o-sphere, about and/or framed in terms of avatars. Just what is an avatar, what is an AV? (And why do we capitalize “AV” even though it isn’t an acronym? But I won’t talk about that here.) What is the relationship between a Resident and an AV, a human and an AV, and so on? Do avatars have rights?

One technique I’ve found useful in thinking about these things is to see what happens if I replace the SL terms in the issue with RL terms, and replace “avatar” or “AV” with “body”. Not that it’s always the same thing: the SL-AV and RL-body relationships aren’t exactly the same. But they’re surprisingly the same surprisingly often, and when they’re different the ways and reasons that they’re different can provide insights into things.

That’s really all I have to say :) but I will draw out the thought by applying it to a few examples. Feel free to add more in the comments, or in email, or in the privacy of your own home.

Why do we identify with our AVs?

Well, okay, so why do we identify with our bodies? That’s a question to make one blink, because it’s so obvious: of course we identify with our bodies, don’t be ridiculous!

There’s room for a good deal of variation in thinking about just why, though. I imagine there are people who would say that we are our bodies. (I’m not one of those.) At the very least, our bodies are the things that allow us to experience the world, to interact with the world, and with each other.

And in the virtual worlds, avatars are exactly the same: they are the things that allow us to experience and interact with the world and each other. And that’s why we identify with them.

(I don’t know how this would sound to someone for whom we are our bodies. Maybe insane.)

Of course the identification isn’t as tight (in general?), because we aren’t nearly as tightly bound to our AVs are we are to our bodies. We can’t feel physical pain or pleasure through AVs, we can change from one AV to another (and we even have to when we switch between non-interoperable worlds, boo), and so on. But it’s
the same in principle.

So when Chestnut Rau remarks quite accurately that our feelings about posting pictures of our bare pixel bottoms on the web “just goes to show how much we humans identify with our avatars“, she’s quite right. And our (often) even stronger feelings about pictures of our bare cellular bottoms shows how much we humans identify with our bodies!

“I met this avatar last night…”

Some people use “avatar” in ways that sound bizarre to me. One example I happened to read the other week describes how someone “was approached last year by an avatar from the Australia Council who was researching Australian artists…”. And that just sounds Wrong.

Applying the AV : SL :: Body : RL rule suggests why: that sentence comes out describing someone who “was approached last year by a body from the Australia Council…”.


Many times when I hear someone use “avatar” to mean “person” rather than “body”, I jump to the conclusion that they Don’t Get It. Although it’s jumping to a conclusion, it’s also often correct. :) On the other hand, I’ve also heard the word used this way by people who definitely do get it. Here is Eureka Dejavu:

And so it was that on my second night in Metaplace I ran into an avatar named Joe Castille.

The place was abuzz with avatars, many of whom, I learned, were interns and students participating in 3DSquared and involved with its parallel venture, GameCamp.

I know that Eureka Gets It, so my theory here is that she’s just in a slightly different linguistic community than I am. (I will speculate further that she may be more aware than most of us of the original meaning of “avatar”, as a deity embodied in physical form, and is using it as a word for a person as embodied in their AV, a concept that I admit I don’t really have a word for since I use “AV” to mean the form itself, not the person as embodied in it.)

I also wonder (since we’re getting into the subtleties) whether there’s a difference between “AV” and “avatar”, in either Eureka’s dialect or mine. Would she find it odder to refer to a person as an “AV” than as an “avatar”? I should ask her. :)

But anyway back to my own dialect, in which AV : SL :: Body : RL…

Do AVs have rights?

Well, do bodies have rights? I don’t think so. Part of what I wrote over on Second Thoughts was:

Bodies per se don’t have rights, avatars per se don’t have rights, vibrations in a phone line per se don’t have rights. People have all sorts of rights, and some of those rights involve their bodies, their avatars, and the vibrations that they cause in phone lines.

This seems to me to be nice and simple and correct; a place where the AV : SL :: Body : RL rule applies quite nicely. The rights that people have regarding their bodies are somewhat different from the rights regarding their AVs, but in both cases the rights belong to the people, they are just about the bodies or AVs.

“Nice AV!”

Here’s a place where the rule works less well, for a reason that’s at least moderately interesting to think about. Unless you’re a drunken immature male, you probably don’t say ‘Nice body!’ to people in RL as a general rule. But in SL, “Nice AV” or variations thereupon is a reasonably common and generally inoffensive thing to say.

Why is that?

It’s because, I think, we have so much more control over the look of our AVs than we do over the look of our bodies. Saying “Nice body!” to someone is complementing them on something they have only a limited amount of control over, and therefore (perhaps, or in some sense) reducing their agency, by reducing them to a piece of physical accident. But “Nice AV!” is complementing someone for something that they did in fact do (even if it was only to make good choices at their local BIAB store), and is therefore (perhaps, usually, among the people that I hang out with) less objectionable.

Which brings us quite naturally to…

If I said you had a beautiful AV, would you hold it against me?


I’m in a podcast!

Random cute podcasting iconSo… I’ve mentioned that I don’t really listen to podcasts. And then more recently I dove into a Kanomi comment thread in which she was noting the rather obnoxious tone of some other SL podcast, and which sort of reinforced my negative impression of podcasts in general, in that:

(A) I found the podcast (like every other podcast over two minutes I’ve tried to listen to) ‘way too slow-moving and content-sparse to be worth the time, and

(B) While I am assured by a mutual friend :) that the people in the podcast are really a bunch of perfectly nice people just sort of fooling around, they actually come off as sort of obnoxious jerks; my theory is that this is because people often feel free in a podcast to say whatever the heck pops into their head (and it seems to be against the cultural tradition to do multiple takes or editing or anything), whereas in text weblogs people do proofread and edit and have second thoughts and stuff.

(I really shouldn’t have said, in the Kanomi thread, that podcasts are a waste of time simpliciter; that apparently insulted at least one podcaster, and I didn’t mean to insult anyone. I just meant, of course, that they are in my judgement not a good use of my time. To each eir own an’ all.)

But so anyway. One of the discussors (discutants? is that a word?) in the debate was ol’ Crap Mariner, who I’d been vaguely aware had a podcast thing of some sort, an’ Crap mentioned that he has a short attention span too :) and that his podcasts are like under two minutes long and that sounded good, so (after a surprising amount of searching about) I came upon Crap’s 100 word stories, which is pretty fun.

I love microfiction!

I admit I still prefer reading the tiny stories to listening to them, for whatever reason. But the general idea is neat, and they do fit inside my tiny podcast patience, so I can listen to them and feel myself somewhat less podcast-ignorant.


And Crap also has this fun weekly thing were there’s a theme / topic / prompt, and people are invited to compose and record their own 100 word stories on the theme and send them in, and one of them gets chosen as the winner (through I process I don’t really understand) and the winner gets to choose the topic for next week, and all of the submitted stories get put together with Crap commentary and posted as a podcast itself.

The theme for #169 was “That’s not thunder, it’s…”, which was sort of intriguing, and like I said I love microfiction, and anyway…

I wrote a 100 word story, and recorded myself reading it. and sent the file to Crap, with the result that my actual voice appears in it. And not too long in, since I think I was like the 3rd story, and Crap didn’t start seriously wandering off on tangents in his commentary and talking to his cats and stuff until about story 5 hahaha.

(Most of the stories are funny and/or involve farting and/or have music tracks and intros and stuff, and mine being just a semi-serious (and too quiet) a cappella reading of a semi-serious story, it doesn’t really fit in all that well. But hey is fun anyway!)

So if you want a rare opportunity to hear at least one of the voices of Dale Innis, check out Weekly Challenge #169 and listen to the podcast. Or just read the story; the text is up there too. :)

I think I’m all better… :)

Badly-composed photographic evidence (click through to flickr for other sizes and some more words):
Party at the IBM Exhibition space
Party at the New Extropia
Much thanks to v good friend and talented artist Sabrinaa Nightfire for the TP to the impromptu party marking the end of Glyph Graves’ lovely installation in the IBM Exhibition space, and to lovely ambisexual Martian Deebrane String and DJ Formatting Heliosense for hosting the (first?) Wednesday night party on Extropia Odyssey. Beautiful and fascinating people, great discussions, rockin’ music…

It’s good to be back!


Just a v brief note to tell anyone who might worry or otherwise need to know or be waiting for something from me or whatever that I am laid up with a very sore throat and a stubborn fever that have kept me from thinking, sleeping, or eating well since sometime Friday. With any luck the various Pills I’m taking will clear it all up at any moment, but until then, I am distinctly missing…

My Cyber Annoyance

Next stop: Eerie Valley

I am very smart and I know most things because I am a MyCyberTwin.

Hot on the heels of my complaining the other day about overhyped AI stuff, I get in one of my syndication feeds a Wired clip pointing to a rather breathless article about how “[f]using human psychology with an advanced artificial intelligence (AI) engine, MyCyberTwin’s virtual humans allow organisations such as NASA, AMP and National Australia Bank (NAB), to improve their customer support levels” and so on and so on.

This sounds both amazing and implausible, and in fact I have a rather longer rant over in my secret RL weblog about it, but it turns out that there’s an SL component also:

According to Tom Soderstrom, IT CTO in the office of the CIO at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, the organisation has been using a CyberTwin in Second Life to man its presence there dedicated to the Phoenix Mars Lander spacecraft.

… and the MyCyberTwin website even gives the SLURL. Cool!

So I go over, and right near the landing point on Explorer Island, there was an obvious Phoenix Lander CyberTwin thing to chat with. And it worked! And it was obviously, well…

(It was also extremely slow, which is why I said hello twice; when I realized how slow it was I just lowered my response-time expectations.)

[16:27] Phoenix CyberTwin Activator: Now listening to Dale Innis. Click the board to end the conversation
[16:27] Dale Innis: Hi there!
[16:27] Dale Innis: Hello?
[16:27] Phoenix: Hey!
[16:28] Phoenix: Greetings Dale Innis!
[16:28] Dale Innis: So can you tell me things about the Phoenix Lander?
[16:28] Phoenix: I’m the Phoenix Lander; a spacecraft that touched down on the surface of Mars on May 25th, 2008. Do you have any other questions about my mission or what I’m up to here?
[16:28] Dale Innis: Yes, what is your mission?
[16:28] Phoenix: I’ve been using my robotic arm to dig trenches up to half a meter (1.6 feet) into the layers of ice, collecting samples that will be studied and will hopefully give us more information about the Martian environment.
[16:29] Dale Innis: Cool! Are you looking for life on Mars?
[16:29] Phoenix: I have instruments that may provide info about the possibility of life on Mars. I’ll be testing things like what has been preserved in the icy soil. Then we should have a good idea whether the environment has ever been favorable for life.
[16:29] Dale Innis: That’s really neat. How long will you be on Mars?
[16:29] Phoenix: I won’t ever return to earth as adding extra rockets to take off from Mars would have made me too heavy! I’m here for good!
[16:30] Dale Innis: How much do you weigh?
[16:30] Phoenix: I am very heavy! 664 kilograms (242 pound).. that’s a lot of lander!
[16:30] Dale Innis: Are there any other space ships on Mars?
[16:30] Phoenix: I love being on Mars. It’s a great planet! I’m looking forward to getting to explore the icy subsurface.
[16:30] Dale Innis: How do you explore the subsurface?
[16:30] Phoenix: I’m going to stay where I landed for the duration of my mission. I can’t take off again or move to a new spot.
[16:31] Dale Innis: Um, okay. What is the icy subsurface?
[16:31] Phoenix: You better believe it! We have found ice. WOOHOOO! Can you tell I’m just a little bit excited! This will provide us with much more info about the history of water on Mars and improve upon what we already know about this great planet.
[16:31] Dale Innis: So the subsurface is like underground ice?
[16:31] Phoenix: I hope you’ll celebrate with me because YAHOOOO, we found ice! I’ll collect and analyze more samples as my mission progresses that will hopefully give us even more information about the Martian environment.
[16:32] Dale Innis: Okay. Are there any other space ships there?
[16:32] Phoenix: I love being on Mars and carrying out such important work. It’s great reporting back to mission control about my findings.
[16:32] Dale Innis: Why is it so exciting to have found ice?
[16:32] Phoenix: You better believe it! We have found ice. WOOHOOO! Can you tell I’m just a little bit excited! This will provide us with much more info about the history of water on Mars and improve upon what we already know about this great planet.
[16:32] Dale Innis: You already said that.
[16:32] Phoenix: Thank you for telling me that. What else should I know? I feel like I’m a bit out of the loop, being so far away.
[16:33] Dale Innis: When is the next ship going to Mars?
[16:33] Phoenix: Mars is a cold, dry, desert landscape of sand and rocks. But maybe I can find microbial life…
[16:33] Dale Innis: okay, thanks.
[16:33] Phoenix: My pleasure.
[16:33] Phoenix CyberTwin Activator: No longer listening to Dale Innis

Starts out good, quickly goes downhill. The algorithm here is just doing the obvious pattern-matching, and it’s essentially stateless: if it finds a keyword (like “mars” or “ice” or “life” or “weigh”), it outputs some pre-canned text. It doesn’t even remember that it’s already used that “WOOHOO” line the first time I mentioned ice, so the second time I mention it, it just prints it again. The fact that I was asking why the ice is so exciting is completely lost on it.

And if I try to ask about something it doesn’t know about, like when the next ship to Mars is, or what “subsurface” means, it just says random stuff, depending on what keywords, if any, I happen to use.

It, most essentially, has in the most literal sense no idea what it is talking about. It is utterly trivial, with not the slightest hint of intelligence. So, sigh, it’s Eddie-the-bot again; a relatively trivial algorithm (more trivial than Eddie’s from this evidence), talked up as “intelligence” just because it sounds exciting.

There’s a Web version of the Personal MyCyberTwins that you can play with also; that’s where the adorable quote on the picture up there came from. A more extensive snippet:

Betty: Hi there Dale.
You: Hi! What is up?
Betty: Not much, What’s happening with you?
You: I just read about this “MyCyberTwin” thing in the internet, and I was curious about it.
Betty: The power of the internet is outstanding. It continues to grow and improve.
Betty: What was the last utterly selfish thing you bought for yourself?
You: Um, that’s sort of a personal question; probably this gaming laptop that I’m thinking about. :)
Betty: It’s good to talk to someone who is thinking at last.
Betty: I want to ask, what sort of people do you have as friends?
You: Nice people!
Betty: Yeah, thanks for making the effort with that response.
Betty: Do you have quirky obsessions that you never like to tell people about?
You: Why are you asking all these strange questions about me?
Betty: Why do you think I am?
You: Well in theory you could be trying to make a mental model of me. But I’m not sure that’s very likely! Is that it?
Betty: Well if you don’t know how do you expect me to?
You: Um, anyway… So what kinds of things do you know about? What is your area of expertise?
Betty: I am very smart and I know most things because I am a MyCyberTwin. Do you Dale?
You: You know most things? What is the airspeed of a swallow?
Betty: You are going to tell me I think.

Not tonight, Betty; not tonight…

Our Man in Zindra

Zindra on the Map[11:33] You: So you were on dot-chasing last night?

[11:33] Dale Innis: That’s right, boss!

[11:33] You: and…?

[11:34] Dale Innis: okay, well. looking at the biggest bunches of dots, I found basically three places: Escort Island, the Lounge of Dreams, an’ House Nishi.

[11:34] You: kay; details?

[11:34] Dale Innis: I sat around at escort island, talking to the owners about how the move was goign, and tipping the dancers an’ all. the owners said the move was pretty okay, and business was good. And I got a free “I helped pop Rhianna’s cherry” tee shirt! (’cause of it’s in Rhianna sim) And the dancers were friendly an’ fun.

[11:34] You: The… dancers.

[11:34] Dale Innis: Yeah! You know, on poles an’ all. :)

[11:34] You: they aren’t exactly just dancers there, you know, Dale.

[11:34] Dale Innis: how do you mean?

[11:34] You: go to IM for a sec

[11:34] Dale Innis: .. … …?

[11:35] You: … … … … … … … …

[11:34] Dale Innis: … … .. …. ..? …?

[11:35] You: … …! …. … …. ^_^

[11:35] Dale Innis: Really??

[11:35] You: Cross my heart.

[11:35] Dale Innis: is that even *legal*?

[11:35] You: Maybe we’ll do a weblog posting about that sometime. Anyway, next?

[11:35] Dale Innis: right, so Lounge of Dreams was fun too; it’s “SL’s sexiest all-male revue, all genders & orientatoins welcome!”. it’s in Baylor’s Haunt (great name!)

[11:35] You: good crowd?

[11:35] Dale Innis: yep, all dancing around and flirting and tipping an’ stuff

[11:35] You: did you flirt with the dancers? ^_^

[11:36] Dale Innis: a little :) but you know, boy’s just odn’t smell right

[11:36] You: your AV has no senseof smell, Dale

[11:36] Dale Innis: That’s just what they want you to thikn!

[11:36] You: rolls eyes. okay, and House Nishi?

[11:36] Dale Innis: it’s a big mall and club; lots of storeys high, ‘way up 700m above Cloudville. lots of stores, an’ a pretty girl on a pole, an’ boys with macho group tags like “Master” an’ all, and a bondage dungeon and ppl shopping in latex an’ like that.

[11:36] You: campers, shoppers, both?

[11:37] Dale Innis: i didn’t see any campers or bots; looked like all staff and real customers. talked to the staff some, and they said it had been alot of work to move the place, but now it was moved business was pretty good.

[11:37] You: okay. anything else noteworthy?

[11:37] Dale Innis: I talked to some people setting up a big adult mall space on the ground with rental stores. They were nice. there was a big house next to it, with banlines around it, which I thot was a little strange ’cause the first stage of land swaps was only for commercial stuff, but I think it was owned by th eowners of the mall so I guess they wanted a private house next to their mall? So it was part of the same deal I guess.

[11:37] You: Politics. anything else? just those three places and the mall being set up?

[11:37] Dale Innis: well, then I got sort of distracted ’cause someone sent me a TP script to debug, and Hey Girlfireind had some Midnight Madness boards that needed hits, and… y’know

[11:37] You: sigh :P anything else on zindra? how’s the “amusing sim names” list going?

[11:37] Dale Innis: my favorite is still “Whorlebow” :)

[11:37] You: lols. good to know the suits haven’t completely killed the spirit over there ^_^


[15:19] Dale Innis: um, boss…?

[15:19] You: hm?

[15:19] Dale Innis: what I said about house nishi not having bots or campers?

[15:19] You: oh?

[15:20] Dale Innis: well I sort of wasn’t really sur eso I went back to check and i don’t want to say anyting for sure because you never know, but it really looks like most of the people there are sort of in these tiny secret rooms inside the walls of the mall-thing and when I cam in and look at them they are all clouds and i know that sometimes bots operated by really simple clients are just clouds so i might want to sort of take back what I said and oh my look at the time ttyl

[15:20] You: sigh…

The Enemy Within

Enemies; ya just gotta love 'em!When I referred to Prokofy Neva’s “enemies list” in a comment on his Second Thoughts weblog the other day, I thought I was being metaphorical. But now the latest edition of his “FIC list” is out, and I’m prominently featured, third from the top, in the very first section, entitled “My Enemies”.

I look forward to Prokofy recalling his Matthew, and beginning to send along the Love. As long as he doesn’t get too sappy. :)

(I can’t tell you much about the rest of the list. “FIC” is short for “Fêted Inner Core”, which has a nice pun on “fetid” (or even “fœtid”). But you’ll have to investigate the Second Thoughts archives yourself if you want to know why the parts are numbered 1.0, 2.0, 2.13, 2.6, and Noosphere, or what each part means.)

Just for the record, I don’t consider myself Prokofy Neva’s enemy, or him mine. We had a misunderstanding a long time ago, in which he cursed me out in public for something that I hadn’t done, and ever since he’s put the worst possible spin on everything I’ve said or done. It’s a bummer, really; not only do I like having friends (and dislike having, and for that matter not really know how to have, enemies) in general, but Second Thoughts has some really interesting discussions in the comments (where interesting people come by and post their thoughts in response to Prokofy’s often-provocative statements), and sometimes has real gems in it itself. But I’ve had to stop commenting there, because it upsets him so much.

(In this very posting declaring our enmity, for instance, we find “Some people…, like Sardonyx Linden, get on here *only because they have a cool name*. No other reason. Seriously.” Isn’t that great? I could have written that, in a different context.)

But ah well. Things will proceed as they will. They say that there are no strangers, only friends that you haven’t met yet. In the same way I think maybe there are no enemies, only people that haven’t yet succumbed to my eldritch mind-control powers…

Fourth of July at the Odd Ball

After the dress-up fun on Friday, what I mostly did on the day itself was randomly TP around from Search / Events watching fireworks displays, and go to parties at PIER (the main sim is gone, but Carys has recreated the club in its old parcel location) and at the Odd Ball. Pictures from the latter are always worth posting. :) And really require no commentary…

(Click through for the larger sizes.)

4th of July at the Odd Ball

4th of July at the Odd Ball

4th of July at the Odd Ball

4th of July at the Odd Ball

Closer and Closer!

With the announcement that Ray Kurzweil is giving the introductory keynote address at this year’s SLCC (Second Life Community Convention), there’s been some resurgence of the whole “Are Second Life and AI and nanobots and stuff going to transform the world tomorrow, or will we have to wait until next week?” meme, and related thoughts.

New World Notes calls the announcement “extraordinary and transformational”, which strikes me as way over the top. (I mean, even if you think Kurzweil’s thinking is extraordinary and transformational, it would be a weird thing to say about a single talk, much less about the mere announcement of a talk.) I replied in the comments (lightly edited):

/me grins. “extraordinary and transformational” is a tad strong, I think. He’s done some really good work in OCR, speech recog, and cool musical instruments, but he’s kinda over-the-top in the AI and virtual reality realms.

One of his most famous charts is that hysterical one showing number of neurons a computer can simulate over time, and implying that by the year whatever computers will be smarter than people. As if the hard problem in AI was getting enough transistors on a chip! (Example: a mouse is higher on his chart than the Deep Blue chess-playing computer; but how good is your typical mouse at chess?)

His ideas about virtual reality are fun, but again I think overblown. When I’m wearing these glasses and “walking around” in a completely immersive virtual world, explain to me again how I avoid tripping over my real-world chair and walking into walls? And 10 or 20 years seems like a wild underestimate for people having brains full of nanobots. The things he says are cool-sounding, but I think he’s drifted away from practical fact in various ways.

I’m sure he’ll give an engaging and thought-provoking keynote, but these days he’s really more of a showman than a technologist; it will be fun, but hardly extraordinary or transformational. The danger with Kurzweil is that he goes beyond the factual or even the plausible, makes the techies roll their eyes, and builds up unrealistic expectations in the audience that, when they are not matched in reality, could lead to a backlash of (similarly unwarranted) skepticism.

And then, in reply to some good words fro Extropia DaSilva:

I think one of the things that somewhat makes me roll my eyes about Kurzweil is that he has a number of things like that chart: the most obvious message is an extremely exciting, but wrong, one (in this case, that we’ll have computers as smart as people by year nnnn), whereas if you read him carefully enough he’s actually using it to make a claim that’s more plausible, but much much less exciting (in this case, that by year nnnn we’ll have overcome one of the very minor challenges in making smart computers).

If all he’s really saying is that we’ll have solved the easy problem, why did he bother to make that chart at all? Where is his chart of progress in the software / semantic side of the problem (which would be essentially flat)?

I share your skepticism about his claimed timescales. This sentence is another example of the tendency I posit above: “we are learning to build artificial brains that are getting closer and closer to matching the power and performance of the biological version”. Taken at face value, with “closer and closer” meaning that we’re pretty close, it’s exciting but false. Taken more literally, with “closer and closer” meaning “we’ve gone from a thousand light-years away to 999.9 light-years away”, it’s true but boring.

I think Kurzweil’s right about the exciting things that people will be able to do in the future. I think he’s wrong about how much progress we’ve currently made in those directions; and that’s a big part of his message.

Really I think it’s good that they got Kurzweil to come and talk; he’ll stir things up. People don’t have to be right to be interesting, or to inspire useful discussion and even useful work. Which is good, because I don’t think Kurzweil is right. :)

It’s easy to get excited and breathless about all this cool futurist stuff, in either direction. In a comment thread on Second Thoughts, Desmond Shang wrote, on the subject of Cyc:

The great thing about this, is that it would make an awesome avatar back end intelligence with very little work.

which rather disappointed me, because Desmond is usually more sensible than that. Cyc would do no such thing; at most it would help slightly with one of the many problems that we are light-years away from solving in “avatar intelligence”. Of course, if someone can prove me wrong about that with very little work, I hope they do. :)

This all reminds me of that widely-blogged demo where some folks made a program-controlled avatar (a ‘bot) called “Eddie” that supposedly was able to reason at the level of a four-year-old. Looking into it more deeply what they’d actually done was a small demo of how a program could be explicitly programmed to model a particular problem about belief-understanding in such a way that it was about as good at it as a four year old person would be. Which is probably a good piece of research and a fine use of time, but the impression that people were getting from it, something like “we can now have Second Life bots that are as intelligent as four-year-olds”, was just completely wrong.

Another recent example of this, I suspect, is that “Milo” demo from Lionhead. In this case the maker of the thing is making pretty amazing-sounding claims about it (including that what they are doing goes beyond anything in science fiction!), but I strongly suspect that the reality behind it is much more modest. (Which is to say, my “rigged-demo” detectors are pinging hard the whole time.)

(Reminds me also of that “OnLive/OTOY” demo of how advances in server-side rendering are going to give us all the ability to get to Second Life at 60 fps from our cellphones any day now. Uh-huh.)

And on the other side Second Thoughts has now spent three whole entries on how anyone who says favorable things about AI and nanotechnology and life extension and transhumanism and stuff like that is a crypto-fascist who wants to take over the world, in typical flaming-at-straw-men fashion. Not that straw men don’t make a nice fire. :)

I find that I don’t have a simple opinion about all of this stuff, myself. I think science is, overall, a good thing; figuring out how the world works and how to make it work more the way that we want it to is good. Exactly what “we” means there, just who (if anyone) should be in charge, what should happen when what I want to do (whether enabled by science or not) conflicts with that you want to do, are all hard questions. In general I’m a left-libertarian in some sense; I think that the government should leave us alone unless we’re actually harming or defrauding someone, and that it’s nice when what we choose to do with that being-left-alone is to be nice to each other, to share things, to sit around wearing flowers in our hair and playing the guitar, and so on.

Along with that, it’s good to think about all sorts of wild stuff that some of us might want to do in the future, like modify our bodies to be able to live in space, like developing devices that are actually intelligent, like making itty bitty machines that can swim around in our bloodstreams and keep us healthy. And as we think about doing those things, and start to even do them, the same principles apply: we each should be allowed to do what we want if it’s not hurting anybody, and it’s nice when we do it in nice cooperative ways involving guitar music.

Hm, I’ve been rambling here, what was I going to say? Oh, yeah: and while it’s fun to have some people around (Ray Kurzweil, Peter Molyneux of Lionhead, and so on) who make it sound like things are farther along than they really are (because that makes us hopeful, and stirs up debate), it’s even better to have, when we can get it, realistic estimates of what’s really going on.

Because truth is good, too.

Showing the colors

So I have this friend Steph, and ‘though we don’t see each other all that much, when she says “I’ve got an idea!” I know it’s going to be fun. :)

Seems that Twisted and Spoiled (isn’t that a great name? I don’t have an LM or URL any better that you can find yourself with Google or inworld search) had a nice Red White and Blue freebie outfit out for the Fourth, and she TPd me over and I got a copy, and we both put them on and they were deliciously over the top. And I remembered the “Capital Hill” builds that went up with some fanfare the other month / year / whatever, and we went over to take pictures.

Capitol 1: Is Dale Dubious?

Do I look a little dubious? :) Well, for one thing it looks like it’s about to rain; fortunately the storm passed over, though. (I also forgot to take off the bikini top I was wearing before, in most of the pictures. Fortunately it doesn’t show much.)

We had fun looking through inventory for poses, and looking around the island for Patriotic Imagery and so on. Here’s one of my favorites of the snaps we got (note that Steph is tall, an’ I am short!), posing in front of I think a big transparent Washington Monument and some patriotic symbology of some sort:

Capitol 2: Spirit of America!

There’s the Spirit of America for ya! :)

Play DISCREETLY on your browser NOW!

Play Now, my Lord, she moaned

"Play Now, my Lord," she moaned

So like everyone else I’ve been seeing these Evony ads on every third webpage that I visit (including various personal web pages that subscribe to whatever ad syndication network(s) the Evony folks are saturating), and my well-ingrained ad-ignoring filters had been leading me to ignore them, when suddenly yesterday I noticed one.

It was probably able to overcome my filters because of the subtly-faded map with the words “Friesland” and “Lower Lorraine” almost visible; exotic-sounding placenames and faded maps are good. Or it might have been the swooning woman in the very lowcut gown. But anyway…

When it’s running live (unlike the frozen snap to the right there), the ad has changing text, that says things like “Play DISCREETLY on your browser NOW!” and “Play Now, my Lord”. The subtle keywords there (“discreetly”, “Lord”), and the boobie-imagery made me think: “Hey cool! Finally a Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game based on high-resolution soft-core pornography! Good stuff!”.

I’m always interested in that sort of edgy cultural phenomenon, don’t’cha know.

Sadly, a quick search turned up a good review of the game, that reveals that it is neither high-resolution nor in any way pornographic. It is in fact a Flash-based version of the eight-thousand simple little “gather resources and build barracks and invent the crossbow and make armies” games that have been out for general purpose computers in non-Web formats since like 1972.

Oh, well!

If anyone happens to notice an actual Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game based on high-resolution soft-core pornography, drop me a line. Wouldn’t want to miss any important cultural developments…

Drama Dolls! Woot!

In the unlikely event that someone who reads this doesn’t also read Ahuva or Chestnut, you should go and follow those links and read the Official Scoop on today’s announcement of Honour McMillan’s new Drama Dolls product.

Having seen some of the early prototypes, I will attest that this is a Must See thing. If the idea was just to personify some of our various hate and love objects as amusing little model people that we could do appropriate things with (and to), it would be brilliant. But these lil beggars go far beyond that: they are scripted: skillfully scripted, creatively scripted, hysterically scripted, scripted in all sorts of different ways. Scripted to… well, to do things that you really have to see. Really.

Go see them!

Drama Dolls! 1

Been driven to distraction by the incessant multi-paragraph emoting of the slave-girls on the dock while you and your well-muscled colleagues are trying to plan next Tuesday’s attack on the Panther-women? The Kajira Doll is for you! Also shown, standard SL Man, standard SL Woman, and, ummm, a buncha other ones! (There’s even dolls representing bloggers! A must-have for everyone!)

Drama Dolls! 2

Drama Kings (obviously).

Drama Dolls! 3

The lovely and talented Chestnut Rau, looking at yet some more dolls. I’m not entirely sure which ones, ’cause this was mostly an excuse to take a picture of Ches. :)

Drama Dolls! 4

Oura an’ me an’ Ahuva, standing near the Drama Queens. And one similar one with a very funny name that fortunately slips my mind at the moment…

So go to the opening! There will be music! And Canadian flags! And Drama Dolls! To quote from the Official Announcement:

The store opens today (11:00 am SLT) with two parties to celebrate, featuring brilliant blues man Von Johin. The first show is at the Euro friendly time of 11:00 am SLT. The second party will start at 6:00 pm and rock on for 2 solid hours. Honour is a proud Canadian and tomorrow is also Canada Day so if you want to join us for that reason alone please do! TP from this link.

Updated with links now that Honour and Cris have their posts up.

Snapshots from the Great Migration

So the first wave of the Great Migration started at 10am sharp (SLT) yesterday! Or some other day recently! So now people with Adult Content on the mainland can apply for a free land swap with some land on Zindra, via a support ticket to the Lindens.

In the usual sort of casual wince-inducing move, the Lindens closed the weblog comment thread that alot of us had been using to talk about the whole Adult Content thing, and the Migration, and how it was going and all. I’m sure there’s still lots of discussion going on elsewhere, but I haven’t chased it down yet.

What little I’ve read suggests that things are going pretty well, or at least less disastrously then some of us had feared, so far. Here’s one account of someone saying in their ticket “I run BDSM classes, so please swap me into Zindra”, and the Lab saying “nope, not Adult enough”, and the person saying “say what??”, and the Lab saying “oh, all right then”.

I bounced briefly over to Zindra to see what was up with the migration (skipping the Mosh hub this time, and looking around further out). Kama city, at least, is still dominated by eyecandy Linden builds, but other things are starting to appear. I passed a big dark castle, over whose drawbridge some sort of grey-skinned barbarian was riding a horse. I waved at a woman in the midst of building a bar of some sort on a nice riverside plot.

I even took some pictures!

Pictures from the Great Migration

In the foreground; an art studio without much in it yet; I wonder if a photosurrealistic picture of Salvadore Dali grating his own hand off officially counts as Adult?

In the background, a large dark building containing various taboo-looking devices and poseballs. And, I’m glad to say, a courtyard where rezzing is allowed, so I could bring out my Terra Futura, and not have to *walk* everywhere…

Taking the Futura up high, I came upon one of the banes of those concerned with cleanliness and prim-count.

Litter at 490 meters

How do you go about letting Governor Linden know that he’s left a railroad tie or something floating nearly half a km above the new continent?