Isolated musings

One might think that our current circumstances, while clearly troubling, would at least provide some encouragement to bloggers, especially those inclined towards philosophical speculation, as the enforced idleness allows plenty of time for writing, and the situation naturally inspires commentary on all sorts of deep topics, like the nature of society, the limits of scientific knowledge, or the ultimate meaning (or meaninglessness) of life.

And, who knows, perhaps some bloggers are seizing this opportunity to compose memorable posts, but, as readers may have noticed, I am not among that number. I’m actually a good bit busier than usual, as the health service gears up to meet the challenge of the anticipated wave of infection. I’ve been redeployed into the sort of forward position that I haven’t occupied for a couple of decades, so I’ve spent the last week or so furiously refreshing my basic skills, which has at least kept my mind engaged. I’m glad to have the routine of work, which gives me an excuse to get out of the house, keeping me anchored to some sort of normality, though it also allows me access to information indicating that we are not quite as prepared for the coming storm as the the government would like the population to believe, which makes me think the immediate future may get quite rough.

So, it might be difficult to find time to post much over the next few weeks, but I guess I should try to make the effort, because these are the kind of times that’ll I’ll look back on in the future, and be glad that I recorded my contemporaneous impressions. Perhaps, if I live through this, I may even produce my own version of La Peste.

Six hundred

Before we unveil the new, reinvigorated, Second Life Shrink, we should note that this is our six-hundredth post. The latest century has taken us a little under two years, much faster than the last one, but not as quick as we were back in our heyday.

According to the ever-informative WordPress statistics page, the 599 pieces preceding this one have contained a total of 176,801 words. If one believes the advice given to would-be writers on the internet, that would equate to roughly two novels. I will leave it to you, dear readers, to decide if the contents of this blog are adequate compensation for those potential masterpieces that the world will now never see…

2020 vision

[I guess it bodes ill for my serious writing career that I have been unable to resist such a painfully obvious title for today’s post, but I was up late last night, so I think I can be excused.]

What lies ahead for SLS as we enter the new decade? I expect that we will feel compelled to continue commenting on the unfolding political situation, on both sides of the Atlantic. My prediction is that the Brexit question will actually calm down a bit now that Boris Johnson has a solid majority and, no longer beholden to the ultras in his own party, is able to negotiate a sensible trade deal with the EU. Things are likely to get more lively in the US though, since the long-awaited impeachment process has significantly raised the already-high stakes in the 2020 presidential election. Donald Trump will be going to jail if he loses, giving him the motivation to abandon the scant regard he has for constitutional niceties, assuming he allows the election to go ahead at all.

Away from politics, I would like to start posting longer, more considered, pieces on broader cultural topics, perhaps once a month or so, but that’s an ambition I’ve had for several years now and it’s never happened yet, so we’ll see.

And Second Life? I did renew my annual subscription back in October, which cost about $90, even though the only way I have of accessing the grid these days is via an old copy of the now-defunct Lumiya app on an elderly tablet, which, unsurprisingly, doesn’t produce a particularly satisfactory graphical experience. Theoretically that shouldn’t matter too much if I just wanted to interact with people, but the perennial SL underpopulation means that one has to wander around for ages before bumping into anyone, and it’s difficult to stay interested without something pretty to look at. I should try to get back into virtual living again, because I’m sure SL will just disappear one day, and I’ll miss it when it’s gone. It might be quite interesting to compare my thoughts about it now with my first impressions from back in 2007.

So, politics, culture, Second Life, that should keep me busy for the next twelve months. I may even find time to cover our other main neglected category, psychology. I could do something tomorrow on avoiding procrastination….

2019: The year in review – Part 2: Blogging

In some ways 2019 was very successful for SLS; we posted a total of 66 pieces, making it our most productive year since 2010. On closer examination though, it can be seen that practically all these posts addressed UK politics, specifically the Brexit question, and that very few of them were particularly insightful, serving mainly as an outlet for my angst about the increasingly desperate situation rather than providing any useful analysis of it. As the year closes I’m still in a state of post-election paralysis; it may be some time before that passes.

Anyway, here are our ten most-read posts of the year:

  1. Second Life demographics – a brief review
  2. Questionable things
  3. Watching the Okhrana
  4. Irresolute
  5. There is no land beyond the Volga
  6. Two Galleries
  7. Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating in Space
  8. Incassable
  9. Won’t you please be my friend?
  10. Maintaining perspective

The demographics post has been a reliable chart-topper since it was published back in 2010, but the rest of the list is a rather inexplicable mix of old and new.

Here are my personal favourites from this year, in chronological order:

And, for completeness, a note of our international appeal. We had visitors from 34 countries; here are the top ten:

  1. United Kingdom
  2. United States
  3. India
  4. Canada
  5. France
  6. China
  7. Netherlands
  8. Australia
  9. Japan
  10. Mexico

That’s a little less Euro-centric than in previous years, somewhat ironic given that most of our content in the last twelve months has been about Europe, but perhaps it’s just a sign of the more detached future that the country faces.

Things may change, but we’re still here, looking forward to the next decade with some trepidation, but mostly optimistic that humanity will continue its progressive course, despite any temporary setbacks. A Happy New Year to all our readers, and we’ll see you in 2020.

Tweeted out

Earlier this week Twitter announced that they intended to free up some server space by closing down inactive accounts, purging anyone who hadn’t logged on in the last six months.

There are two Twitter accounts associated with this blog; our original one-tweet @slshrink, and the slightly more active @johnny4sls. Both were in danger, since the last activity on them was in 2009 and 2014 respectively, so I rushed to log in and save them for posterity.

I think I’ll leave @slshrink alone in its zen-like purity, but I might start tweeting out links to new posts on @johnny4sls again; that used to generate a few hits, back in the days when we actually had some traffic. Despite five years of silence I still have 63 followers; I might yet be able to carve out a career as a micro-influencer

Back to work

I managed to wangle myself a fairly extended holiday this year, but all things must end, and I’ll be resuming my quotidian routine tomorrow, which, I fully intend, will include my blogging duties.

UK politics has been essentially deep-frozen over the last two weeks; the Brexit debate in Parliament is set to start up again on Wednesday, but with no sign that there has been any significant shift in the number of MPs willing to support the government position. It seems inconceivable that the vote could be put off again, but it was equally inconceivable last time, and it still happened. The appetite for compromise, at Westminster, and in the country as a whole, seems to be shrinking fast, and it looks as if there are only two possible outcomes; no-deal, or a second referendum. Of these the former appears far more likely, since there is so little time left to arrange an alternative. It’s all very disheartening.

Meanwhile, the crisis that has been brewing in the US since the midterm elections seems to be coming to a head, as the government shutdown drags on, and Trump hints at declaring a state of emergency. Such an autocratic move would be blatantly unconstitutional, and I’m fairly sure that the US ruling class isn’t really up for the chaos that would ensue, so I expect that the President will be forced to back down.

Anyway, there should be plenty to write about over the next week or so; perhaps my New Year resolution will make it to the end of the month after all.

Irresolute

I’m not a huge believer in New Year resolutions; experience has taught me that, once you get past about 30, making a serious change to your life takes more effort than simply deciding to do it, and being too ambitious just sets you up for disappointing failure.

However this time last year I did resolve to alter my behaviour, albeit in a fairly trivial way, by giving up looking at Facebook, which had been consuming an inordinate amount of my time for very little reward. I’m pleased to report that I was entirely successful in this endeavour, having maintained my abstinence for the last 12 months. I didn’t take the obvious precaution of deleting the app from my phone, figuring that maintaining some temptation would make the achievement more satisfying, though I have got rid of it today, just in case complacency undermined my forbearance. In celebration I’m allowing myself this one post to crow about it, but I promise that I’ll never mention it again.

Buoyed by this minor act of self-improvement, I’ve been trying to think of a resolution for this year. Unfortunately, very few of my remaining shortcomings, which are legion, lend themselves to so straightforward an answer.

It’s a well-recognised psychological maxim that the best way to stop unwanted behaviour is to substitute some more positive action, but that tends to work best for circumscribed habits like smoking, rather than more nebulous problems like “being a slacker”. I’m leaning towards a target of doing more writing, but I’m sure that my subconscious is making up excuses for my failure already. I guess that I could see how my blogging productivity holds up over the next few weeks before deciding whether to start working on a novel.

2018: The Year in Review – Part 2: Blogging

We’ll start with the facts; our top ten posts of the year, by traffic:

  1. Second Life demographics – a brief review
  2. Free Pussy Riot!
  3. Watching the Okhrana
  4. Five Hundred
  5. There is no land beyond the Volga
  6. From Off the Streets of Cleveland
  7. The future is now
  8. Drone on
  9. Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating in Space
  10. On Second Life and addiction

As has been the case for the last few years most of these are from the archive; the demographics piece is perennially popular, but I have no idea why some of the other posts are still getting hits, years after they were published. Three entries from 2018 did make it onto the list, including our look back over our first 500 posts, and what I thought was our best piece of the year, my reflection on the passing of Ursula K. Le Guin. I can’t say that any of our other posts were particularly noteworthy, except perhaps our celebration of Marx’s birthday, or our obituary for Pete Shelley.

We received visitors from 47 countries, the same as last year, but down a bit from the global reach we had back in the day; here are the top ten:

  1. United States
  2. United Kingdom
  3. Canada
  4. China
  5. India
  6. Germany
  7. Belize
  8. Australia
  9. Portugal
  10. France

These are more or less the places we have always been popular, apart from Belize, from where we had an inexplicable surge of traffic for a couple of months in the summer. I’d like to think that there’s a small community of hard-core SLS fans hiding out in the Central American rainforest, but I guess it’s more likely to have been Russian hackers trying to infiltrate WordPress to subvert the US midterm elections or something.

Readers will have noticed that this blog has undergone something of a renaissance in the past few weeks; we’ve posted more pieces in the last month than we managed in the previous eleven. This has been fuelled by anxiety; as we’ve noted a couple of times in the past blogging can be a therapeutic response to situations that are outwith our control. Since there is no indication that the political crisis is going to get any better in the new year, I expect our current purple patch will continue for a while yet.

So, on that sort-of-happy note, I’ll wish you all a peaceful and prosperous New Year.

Happy holidays

Well, we’re going to take a break from fretting about the state of the world, and lose ourselves for a day or two in a haze of intoxication and gluttony; I’d strongly advise everyone else to do the same. We’ll be back before the end of the month with our review of the year.

The March of time

There were a couple of topics I thought about writing about this month (the sad demise of the NME, and the Facebook/Cambridge Analytica scandal), but hey, here we are on the 31st, and, unsurprisingly, I’m cobbling together a lame piece of filler, just so I can kid myself that I’m still an active blogger, though why I should want to cling on to that identity is a complete mystery, as “blogger” hasn’t been an aspirational career choice since 2005 at the latest, if it ever was, and anyway I don’t have any particular talent in that direction, unless you count the ability to produce long meandering sentences that a decent editor would cut without hesitation, though perhaps the point is moot, since I’m sure any reader unfortunate enough to randomly encounter this composition will have lost the will to continue long before they reach the end.