Making up time

Today is going to be one second longer than usual, and I feel I should use the extra time to catch up on my blogging duties. There are two obvious stories that we really should have covered in the past month, but, for one reason and another, never got round to. The first one is the tale of Rachel Dolezal, which is right up our street, concerning as it does issues of social identity and personal reinvention, which we’ve considered many times in the context of virtual worlds. The second, and I think rather more important, is the unfolding situation in Greece, which looks set to come to a head with the referendum this weekend, and is likely to have knock-on effects across the continent, not least on the ongoing debate on EU membership in this country.

So, plenty of work to do. I’ll get right on to it tomorrow…

Total eclipse of the blog

I did manage to catch a glimpse of the partial solar eclipse last week, as the thick grey cloud that habitually blankets the sky at this time of year briefly parted. Though my view of it only lasted a few seconds it was quite impressive, a reminder of the eternal procession of the celestial host.

Except of course it’s not eternal. In about six billion years, the sun, the moon and the earth will all be gone, along with every trace of humanity and its works.

When you think about cosmic time scales like that, a month between blog posts doesn’t seem so bad…

Will this do?

Back at the start of this month I renewed the secondlifeshrink.com domain for another year. As I handed the $50 over to WordPress I resolved that I would try to start posting regularly again, confident that I could manage a long, thoughtful essay every couple of weeks or so.

Yet here we are on the evening of the 28th, and I’m hurriedly penning yet another apologetic space-filler. It’s not for want of inspiration; at various points in the last few weeks I have mentally composed pieces on some of our favourite subjects, like the effects of internet addiction and its treatment, the unreliable nature of memory in the digital age, and the political situation in Europe, but none have made it into print. Normally I would plead overwork as an excuse for this lamentable state of affairs, but I’ve actually been off work most of the last month, and, perhaps predictably, my productivity hasn’t been improved by a strict regime of getting stoned and reading comic books.

Anyway, onwards and upwards. We do have a potentially exciting election coming up, which should give me something to write about, and I’m planning to stay straight for the foreseeable future, which will help with my focus, so I’m sure SLS will soon be back on track…

2014: The Year in Review – Part 2: Blogging

This has been the year that I’ve had to face up to the fact that this blog is all but dead, and I can no longer honestly call myself a blogger. Gone are the days when, on hearing an interesting piece of news, or reading an intriguing article, my mind would immediately start working on a post for this space. I am still occasionally inspired by events to turn out a few lines, but, more often than not, I let the thought slip away. Consequently I’ve managed a mere 20 posts over the last 12 months, including this one. I’m happy with most of the individual pieces, but there are not enough of them to fully record where my head was at this year, which is the whole point of having a personal blog. I’ve completely ignored some momentous events, in my internal and external worlds, and while I have noted my reactions to these in other places, it would have been nice to have them collected here for posterity.

Anyway, on with the review. We do still get a steady stream of traffic, though I suspect a lot of it must be robotic; certainly all the comments we get are spam. Here are our top ten posts for the last year:

  1. Second Life demographics – a brief review
  2. On Second Life and addiction
  3. Free Pussy Riot!
  4. Ferrisburg, Vermont
  5. Like Pompeii (or Herculaneum)
  6. Second Life, with graphics, on the iPhone?
  7. Win some, lose some, it’s all the same to me
  8. A Radical Game
  9. What’s up
  10. Bastille Day 1989

All of these are years old. The posts on demographics and addiction have been at the top for a while; they got linked to quite a bit back in the day, which must still be drawing in some hits. I have no idea why the other posts should be more popular than the rest of the stuff in our archive though. I suppose I could study our referral patterns to glean some clues, but that seems significantly more trouble than it would be worth.

Of this year’s posts, these are my favourites:

We still get traffic from all over the world, 95 countries in all, including China, which I’m sure used to block us. Here’s the top 10:

  1. United States
  2. Brazil
  3. United Kingdom
  4. Canada
  5. France
  6. Germany
  7. Australia
  8. Italy
  9. Mexico
  10. Netherlands

Topic-wise it’s been mainly history, politics, culture and nostalgia. Only one post this year directly concerned Second Life (though another one alluded to it), and my total time spent on the grid has probably added up to a couple of hours at most. Despite this I did renew my premium membership in October, but I can’t for the life of me think why, since my interest in the virtual world is practically nonexistent these days. Perhaps the original spark will reignite.

So what of the future? Every year around this time I resolve to be more productive, and it never happens; maybe it’s time to admit that this project is finished, and to move on to something else. We’ve been going close on eight years now though, and I do look back fondly on my past scribblings. Even this year hasn’t been a complete write-off – I think my New York nostalgia post from July is up there with our best – so I guess I’ll manage to keep plugging away…

Turn The Season

Well, that’s midwinter past (though, interestingly, the mornings will keep getting darker for a while yet), and Christmas is upon us, so I guess it’s time to come out of hibernation and start thinking about reviewing the year gone by. Though there’s surely time for a few beers and a mince pie or two before I get down to work…

(Here’s a song link, something we haven’t had for ages.)

Waking from the virtual dream

Towards the end of 2011 I wrote a post about the different strands of my online life; back then this blog, and my associated Second Life persona, were by far the most time-consuming portion of my virtual existence.

Fast-forward to today, and we find SLS almost moribund, and my avatar utilised only sporadically. The total time I spend online is about half what it was, and my most active presence is the Facebook account which carries my real name.

Does this shift away from anonymity and virtuality have any deeper meaning? Probably not. My retreat from the (relative) depth of blogging into the shallows of social media seems to be in line with general trends, and there are various personal factors that have kept my focus on reality of late. I’m not sure whether these are good developments; the time I spend consuming mindless click-bait on Facebook probably would be better employed in composing thoughtful posts on this space, but I can’t say that eschewing SL interaction in favour of seeing my real friends a bit more has been an entirely bad thing. I am a bit sad that the liberation from corporeal limitations that Second Life seemed to promise never really materialised though.

I guess these things go in cycles. Perhaps come 2017 I’ll be be re-immersed in whatever iteration of virtual life is fashionable, and boring the world with my pseudo-philosophical pieces on the significance of it all. In the meantime I am going to keep on blogging – I’ve managed at least one post in each of the last 89 months, which seems too good a streak to break…

Seven Year Itch

I’ve not been paying much attention to this particular corner of my online life recently, so I nearly overlooked the fact that this our seventh birthday. I’d be prouder of keeping going this long if our content hadn’t been quite so lame recently. The anniversary might spur me back into action I guess…

This “Internet” thing might catch on

It’s a quarter of a century since Tim Berners-Lee submitted his proposal for what became the World Wide Web; I got on board in 1996 via a 14.4 modem, Compuserve, Netscape Navigator and Geocities, but it wasn’t until May of 2007 that the medium finally reached its full potential with the debut of Second Life Shrink. I think it’s fair to say that there have been no significant developments in online culture since then, but we’re working on it…

2013: The Year in Review – Part 2: Blogging

The less said about this the better probably; the liveliness and relevance of my limited output this past year can perhaps be gauged by the observation that close to half of the posts I did manage were either obituaries or concerned historical subjects.

Anyway, here’s our top ten posts by traffic:

  1. Second Life demographics – a brief review
  2. On Second Life and addiction
  3. Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating in Space
  4. Second Life, with graphics, on the iPhone?
  5. Free Pussy Riot!
  6. Zombie Epidemiology
  7. There is no land beyond the Volga
  8. What’s up
  9. Ferrisburg, Vermont
  10. The Social Network

Mostly old favourites, though I was glad to see that our commemoration of the heroes of Stalingrad made the list, since I think it was our best post of the year. I was also encouraged by the popularity of our “Free Pussy Riot!” message, which, who knows, may have been the crucial factor that persuaded President Putin to pardon Nadezhda and Maria (though I’m not entirely sure that everyone who viewed the post after searching for “second life free pussy” would have been similarly satisfied).

We continue to draw traffic from all corners of the globe; a total of 100 countries from Albania to Vietnam. Here’s the top ten:

  1. United States
  2. United Kingdom
  3. Canada
  4. Germany
  5. Australia
  6. France
  7. India
  8. Brazil
  9. Italy
  10. Sweden

So what of next year? Will I keep this blog going? I think so. I know that I have a guaranteed audience; my future self. I always enjoy looking back at my old posts, and reading what I thought about this and that. I’m annoyed that I didn’t write more this year; there were lots of stories that should have inspired me, and would have fitted in well with our general themes – stuff like the Chinese going to the moon, legalised pot in Uruguay (and Colorado and Washington), the omission of internet addiction from the DSM 5 (though Internet Gaming Disorder did make it into section III) – but now I’ll have to trust my unreliable memory to record my reaction to these events. That should spur me to more activity, for a while at least.

And will there be more Second Life content, like I promised not so long ago? Unfortunately my tablet broke down shortly after I posted that, so things will be on hold until I get round to fixing it. Don’t hold your breath…

Once more unto the breach

Back at the start of the month I renewed my SL premium membership, for about $80 (though it didn’t actually cost me any real money, since I never spend any of my monthly stipend, so I had accumulated enough Linden dollars to cover it), and for the last few weeks I’ve been wandering around the grid again, trying to get back into my virtual life after an absence of nearly two years.

I’d love to say that I’ve been as excited as I was when I first ventured into Second Life, over six years ago now, but sadly it’s all been somewhat underwhelming. This may partly be due to technical factors; I’m using the Lumiya viewer on a particularly cheap Android tablet, and the short draw distances and sluggish movement don’t make for a terribly immersive experience. Also, just about all the places I used to hang out seem to have disappeared, and the few friends I had are all long gone, so there’s no sense of familiarity.

I suspect though that the main problem is that, without the novelty and the hype of the early days, I’m coming face to face with the fact that virtual reality is actually fairly dull. I think that I’ve always sort of known that, but have been reluctant to admit it to myself, since it implies that this whole blogging project has been a complete waste of time.

Still, SLS is hardly the most egregious example of inefficiency in my life, so I guess I’ll keep plugging away. Who knows, I may stumble across something interesting again, and rediscover my joie de vivre virtuelle

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