Archive for June, 2010

Summer Around the Old Homestead

June 24, 2010

The Back Forty

In my fantasy life, I live on five acres with chickens and honeybees and a lamb or two, and an enormous garden that feeds me all year.  In my real life, I do what I can.  Since we just passed the solstice, I thought I’d post a round-up of the summer homestead news from here in the flatlands of Oakland.

After a long, wet winter and cold, wet spring, the plum report is a little bit mournful this year.  The fruit is small and slow to ripen, and we’ve got a little brown rot eating up some of the fruit.  That stuff can devour a full-sized plum in an afternoon.  Still, most of the crop is surely ripening, and I’ve already eaten a few.   They smell like perfume and taste like nectar, and I’ve never found a better plum anywhere. We’re warming up the jam-pots to get ready for harvest, which should start rolling in next week.

This morning, I found a ripe plum on the ground that must have fallen in the night, but some little critter had already chowed down.  I suspect the neighborhood possum, who’s also been known to sneak through the cat door to nab a snack of kibble.  It might also have the local raccoon, who’s been marauding around here for years. (more…)

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Avatars in a World Without Nature, or I Like My First Life Just Fine

June 16, 2010

If I were an avatar

Is having an avatar a waste of time?   Mac McClelland, writing for Orion magazine, suspected that it was.  But she joined up with Second Life anyway (SL, for short), just to make sure.  I hesitate even to write about SL for fear of sending recruits.  But for the three of you out there who don’t already know, Second Life is a cross between a self-directed reality show and an out of body experience.  By going “in world,” players can  project themselves onto the avatar of their dreams, even a raccoon with big, human boobs; live in a pirate ship; own waterfront property; teleport from one popular spot to another; attend real lectures with thousands of avatar friends; and become skilled enough at the controls that they can even blush and have sex.   After a fashion.

The avatar who gives McClelland a tour of SL is so enthusiastic about its virtues that she sounds like she’s hawking time shares in Cabo.  She argues that a virtual world peopled with avatars is so much more satisfying than a chat room, because it creates as “sense of presence” and “brings people together.”

So let me get this right: You switch on the electrons, log in and launch the program, create a representation of some alternate self, and thus regain the presence you’ve lost in a chat room?

It makes sense that people want to feel more present.  We spend way too much damn time online.   The night McClelland first went in world as “Girl Next Door” with the name Isis Askenaze (great name, btw), 47,758 other users were already there.  If by “there” you mean sitting at their computers manipulating simulacra of themselves inside a world built by computer code.   Here’s a thought: how about inviting your neighbors over for dinner, (more…)