29 May 2007


Going to be a LOT busier these next few days starting today. I've set up no-build and/or autoreturns on all of my holdings in Second Life - please don't think you can do anything funny while my back is turned, the lot of you.


28 May 2007

Turning Chinese in SL #2: Help = Sugar Rush

I admit right now that December was a bit of an awkward month SL-wise. I should have been relaxing, getting a RL job, regrouping.
Instead, I was hanging out in Second Life a lot. Days where I would be in at the stroke of midnight to the stroke of midnight (the next day obviously) came around two or three times a week. These were wasted on exploring the sandboxes, the casinos (I spent a small sum on last-minute Slingo raids, but only what I could afford.), the furry fandom and gorean cities, the institutions and Svarga. Friendlist growth (and a couple of pares, I'm not ashamed to admit)
I spent enough time that I started getting comfy with my wildcat self and it showed when I got back to college from SL. I used to be fearful of interaction, often preferring the company of others considerably older and wiser than me. Having the feeling I could reach out and maul hard (even if only in spirit) gave me excuses to speak more to my classmates in non-professional matters.
Some wise dolt once said the next stage of progression from ceasing to fear others is to start making others fear you. I strongly disagree with this negative view of any world. The next thing is to offer help. I started to learn more and haunt other places. Help Island and Orientation Islands Public. Shovelling through the knowledge base regularly for help.
I put in an application.
Initially it was just to cover the bases - there had been horror stories where willng participants formalising their assistance towards others became a matter of waiting for months on end.
I got a lot of work done in the end though, throughout those days. It eventually became a matter of point where someone up there felt I should start running with the people in Live Help (later retermed Help Request, subsequently retired from public (ab)use).

At this point, I have something really personal to say. Shortly after I first badged up, in the midst of the congrats and the regular buzz-ins, someone tried to make me feel very unwelcome and unwanted. You took one look at my tag and my age while I was working hard, and dismissed me as a advanced hire into Second Life's concentrations and networks of power.

You managed to sledge the people who decided for me, the people who said I should apply for the job, and even a handful of people who were publicly my friends. The way you did it was perfectly legal, but it hurt. It hurt very badly.

I've kept one eye on you since then, and your behaviour has gotten no better since then. In fact, it seems to have gotten worse.

You should be ashamed of your self. You know very very well who you are. You spend thousands of dollars on land every month, partly to poison the ears of newcomers every passing day. You pass on values that, long-term, only lead to more suffering.

You're feted, but only amongst the very sort of people you claim to eschew.
In short, you are the sort of trash whom nobody would mourn for long if you slipped up one day and got hauled for it.

Don't let me be the one to help you over the edge.

The months seem to have gone by very fast. I eased up on the throttle to avoid burnout, but I still got into the world with a passion.

Several hundred thousand other people would seem to concur with me. Just look at the 60-day login figure that comes up here...

All sorts of nationalities in that mix. Agni was once primarily a place filled with people from the western hemisphere (if that actually exists), people whose main choice of language was English, or japanese, or some European language I can't parse for gobbledygook.

Amazing what a difference a year makes. It say something when Max Case actually gets rejected from Yahoo Pipes and Google translation services suddenly after months of working on his Babbler translation software...

And some of these guys were Chinese. Setting aside the fact that Anshe Chung started from a very very low position (in more ways than one) in Second Life, China should be proud that it has a daughter who has reached out and grabbed her fortune in the "damned-if-I-don't" manner that only Chinese hunger can manifest. Publicity about her would have become an obvious thing.

And some of that would spark minds. While most of China labors under what can only be charitably described as dial-up on chewed copper wire mesh, there are some parts that have access to broadband. and computers with good 3d accelerators.

Get them into the hands of the curious and the interested, and you have visitors. Get visitors into Agni, and you have people who can't leave. Sure there's churn, but any online service has churn.

My first call in Chinese came through one quiet April evening. Prior to that, I had only noted my ability to handle Chinese as a matter of fact, and not even a given - half the incoming Chinese diaspora was educated in countries and ages where people didn't consider putting over ten strokes into a single character a waste of time or money.
It was a pretty interesting call. it was mundane, the usual call people put in asking for ways to make money in SL. But it was in Chinese.
Help Request may be dead, but I haven't stopped getting those calls. Two chinese phrases come to mind that keep popping up half the time:

兄妹,朋友。(sisters. Friends)

It's an odd Chinese habit. you tend to leave China for anywhere. Paris, Egypt, California, Nanyang, Hongkong... anywhere but your home.
You don't even have to be a Hainanese (客家人,'guest people' - something like Chinese for wanderer). You just have to be Chinese, and in a position where things could improve for yourself and your family (which basically covers everyone living and breathing with Chinese roots)
You get out there, often become native - you learn the local rules and rites, the local language, the local demands and the ways you can contribute to society. You might forget your native language in whole or in part. But one thing remains:


When partaking of water, one considers the source. One forgets, but one doesn't forget totally. I remember being Chinese and of late, I've been finding more excuses to read it when time permits.

I've been rifling through my Besta. It is not a power workstation - hell, it doesn't even cope well with most things a Windows CE can do. But it IS a window into learning Chinese. (Bonus - if I get bored ever, I can learn Korean and Japanese later on with it as well xD) I spend an hour on it every day, and leave it to recharge once a week, and learn something random every day.

I really don't think I'll get out from any of this funk ever. Not that I'd want to.

On that note, I think I'm done. I apologise for making you guys sleepy and yawning, but I simply had to let go of my neuroses for a while. The funny and stupid will resume shortly.

23 May 2007

Turning Chinese In Second Life #1: My youth, my first SL fling

I am writing this as I am in real life. No masks, no pretensions. But I've changed subtly in a way I didn't realise, until I read something I'd typed up for Hamlet.
I need to reason it out, and I don't see the damage in doing so in front of you, my reader...

It's not something I advertise much, but in real life, I have a bit of Chinese heritage. I don't spew classics like a person seeking a official post in feudal China, but I can write and read simplified JianTiZi (Beijing's idea of Chinese, less strokes, more speed) at a level that lets me read the weekly Perth Chinese papers without picking up my Besta dictionary more than once or twice a page, though I don't speedread in JianTiZhi the way I do in English.

My real-life father once bragged that knowledge of Chinese opened the doors to an entire new kingdom in a way few other experiences could match (No, fanboi, your copy of WoW Burning Crusade doesn't hack it). I was the last person anyone would ask to translate anything written in Chinese. As a kid, I was rebellious in a way that proved deleterious later on in life, and I chafed at my father's suggestion to read the classics and learn the language deeply. I regret a little now that my command of Chinese is barely sufficient enough to order a short-order cook to get me my favorite mock beef claypot (he doesn't have a good command of English, but apparently, Australia is short on good cooks, so... ^^;)

For most of life, I felt far from comfortable with this aspect of me. I confess to having flunked formal Chinese qualifications on several occasions in my youth. In Singapore, failure to meet standards of understanding in one's mother tongue led often to abject failure. Significant work was done to correct this, but only after my cohort, sadly - There is a recognition that some people *JUST* don't cope well with their mother tongue in a country where a unified language is a must-have, and that this is not necessarily a sign of stupidity on its own. But it was too late for me...

Following my obligatory years in service to my country of birth, this necessitated relocating my RL avatar to Perth for further studies, where Chinese was an advantage only half the time. Except for a couple of stumbles, I have found a certain calm in the way my studies were conducted (barring my contraction of Ross River Virus, something that still occasionally moves in and makes my life a living hell for a few days).
There were others like me - bonded in a knowledge of English rather than whatever their parents' patois was - Swahili, French, a million other languages, all bonded by the fact that they were anything but the Queen's English (or POTUS' English, come to think of it). I didn't feel like I needed to speak or write Chinese any longer.

And then I logged into Second Life on Halloween, in a country where the only cool thing about it was the opportunity to pub crawl while disguised as a demon from hell. I entered Agni, another world where being disguised as a demon for hell was something people sometimes did all their lives. (Garn Conover, you are one hell of a Cerebus, and one damned good shephard of newbies. Aryn Lassard, you are an accursedly patient scripting mentor. Charming devil too.)

They say people change Agni by the way they touch it. I'm proud to confirm it. But what most people don't consider is the fact that the favor is reciprocated! I would lapse back into a desire for my mother tongue as part of my new sickness, but that's telling the story a bit too fast.

At first, it was a couple of touches here and there. brief excursions into the world. often lasting less than an hour. I camped here and there while checking my mail and writing my obligatory educational stuffs. I may have indulged in some minor griefing (<-- spoken in an 'I may have inhaled' tone) at one or two points in time.

And then I got to know of the full extent of the world via a chance encounter with a older Resident. I believe you may already know her all too well if you have come here via references in the Second Life Insider or her own blog. If that doesn't chime totally: she wears her heart, but she doesn't bother to waste a perfectly good sleeve to mount it on. Why would she need to?

But I digress. Over the course of several drop ins, I learnt the fact that Second Life had beauty and power beyond anything one could imagine in the real world. Prejudice still existed in Agni, but the things that people could be prejudiced about were ideas and beliefs, not fixed constructs like age, sex, or cultural backgrounds. One could, given the right application of smarts and societal skill, become someone of significant note, or even wealth (take a bow, Aimee Weber, Starax William Niangao, Max Case et al.)

I would wake into Second Life every other day with a new landmark from someone who thought I needed to see more of the world... And I did.

Navora. NCi Kuula. Midnight City. Silk Waters Mountain. Samurai Island. New Paris.
A few others. I didn't pick any favorites consciously when I wrote that list... I think.

A landmark into Svarga pretty much clinched the deal. It is pretty funny how the things one takes for granted in the real world suddenly become important in Agni. Feeding the birds with virtualised birdseed scattering and listening to visitors turn Svarga into a celebration of Second Life on the region's own elven orchestra, right there in the virtualised morning sun of Svarga, I realised something important:

This is the best of all possible worlds.

I also realised something else:

Now and tomorrow, this is where I want to be.

Like a Red Gyarados on a Neo-Realms Epic Rod, I was hooked in Agni.

(To Be Continued)

Walk on Machinima part

This isn't Mel Gibson, but I did appear for two seconds at 00:50 in this celebration of the Chinese New Year by Oglivy One of China.

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