I am forcing myself to stay off Neopets. I know this sounds like an alcoholic saying she can quit whenever she wants to. The secret is I'm not quitting. When I get five tasks done at work tomorrow and two nonwork tasks done at work tomorrow or tonight at the house, I can come back on. Those five tasks are:
- Writing to GCIS for a new password. We let the present one expire. No one has asked for it all semester.
- Taking care of the droopy handouts at reference. This sounds like less work than it is since it means getting hold of some fairly esoteric supplies, and dealing with the this is what you get paid for attitude.
- Taking care of the paperwork for my trip to Milledgeville where I am giving a presentation on the 26th of July.
- Doing 250 data entries on the new pile of interloan data.
- Writing up talking points for presenting the pivot charts for the old interloan data which used to be new.
The two nonwork tasks are writing to Donna and writing to Gene. As part of my revenge against Brainstorms and all it stands for, it is important to support low status individuals and befriend them. Brainstorms used the term "social capital" for status. That is slang as far as I know. I'll Google it again to make sure.
Anyway, I want to talk a bit about Neopia. That's where Neopets is. Yes, I know it's on my computer and it's nothing but a huge database, an internal messaging, system, a lot of graphics and a bunch of e-boards. Like Brainstorms, Neopets is closed and large, but unlike Brainstorms kids, working class folks, and inarticulate people are welcome.
Neopets is commercial and accessible. It is big, bright, and busy. It is shrill and nobody worries about identity or asks a lot of questions. That is doubly why I like it.
OK, it's got problems, especially since it bills itself as a community that is good for children and teens. That is something Neopets is NOT. And yes, I am taking this seriously. Neopets teaches a lot of the wrong values.
To start with, Neopets still has its anomie problem. There are less than a hundred staff for over a million users. That means a lot of garbage can happen without the users being caught. Added to the anomie, Neopets, provides very little good opportunity for socialization of new members. There are about fifteen web boards for a community that numbers in the millions. You can guess what happens to posts on the board.
With luck one finds a guild. I haven't had that luck. One guild I joined was utterly dormant and the other imploded and was gone three days later. I started my own guild to get the board where I can leave myself notes. A guild board moves more slowly and people can write to each other on it with the messages still visible hours to days later.
With luck, one finds a Neofriend. I have one and she is partially a mentor though I don't know her very well. There are not graduated penalties for breaking the rules. There is a constant threat of being reported and having one's account frozen. This is a serious sanction because nearly everything created at Neopets is on THEIR SERVER. I should download my pet pages to my hard drive as a precaution. They are largely my own code and will work on any server.
All mail in Neopets is Neomail. If you are kicked out you have no way to contact your Neofriends unless they gave you an outside email address.
Then there is the economy. Neopets has created a consumerist capatalist system with all its vices. When I was on Neopets in 1999-2000, pets actually starved. Food was scarce and often overpriced. Well, the bottom has fallen out of the food market. Pets now also take several days to get hungry.
The feeling of scarcity though, is worse than ever. First, a portion of the food is rotten, half-eaten, spoiled, or just unappealing. Food we take for granted such as apples, carrots, or brocoli commands an outrageous price. Walking into Publix after several hours of Neopets I boggled at the array of affordable beautiful food. I can think in Neopian for what it is worth.
Then there are the high priced goods. For a newbie these are everything, and one finds oneself constantly bombarded with these high priced goods. They include a Neohome which doesn't look that great and which demands more purchases of furniture and garden supplies. They include petpets, pricey additions that can cost in the tens to hundredsof thousands of Neopoints. A pricey petpet is an investment that you can sell in your shop. Yes, nearly everyone has a shop. Mine is a real money maker when I have the time to restock it, but I'll get to that. Then there are paintbrushes. The result is, I always want more.
I also think though I CANNOT prove that the presence of subsidized long term users or perhaps shils adds to the artificial scarcity. Poverty is relative and the shils/subsidized long time users are rich as Croceus. There may even be a bot on the board that says it has a multiple of ten thousand Neopoints to spend on goods.
Then we have vice....perfectly legal vice. There is no booze, cigarettes, drugs, or sex on Neopia. Even the pets are sterile, but that leaves plenty of room for vice. The first vice most newbies encounter is gambling. There are lottery tickets, Diceroo, Tombola, BlackJack, Poogle Races and more. The most deadly of these is something called the Wheel of Excitement. You can win from two hundred to one thousand Neopoints, but you can also make your pet quite ill. Yes, you are gambling with the welfare of your pet. This is something I did and I watched my white grundo, Shanti, suffer. This is something that would clearly NOT be OK in the real world.
In addition to gambling, there is theft. This is a sophisticated vice and I have been practicing it with abandon. The Shop Wizard is a device that searches segments of the many small shops for the lowest price merchandise. If you can work the wiz you can find food at surprisingly cheap prices. For example, a box of wheat flakes costs 1NP. I take that box over to my store and sell it for 20NP. Call it mark up. Call it profit margin. Call it what you will. People buy the stuff and over time on volume, my store makes a profit. Of course my prices are inflated and chances are good, I am busy ripping off fellow newbies.
Of course Neopets itself rips off users regularly. The rip offs are called quests. I used to do them for Jhudorah and the Kitchen Quest. The first Kitchen Quest had an excellent prize, but the second one cost me 3,000 Neopoints and returned a prize worth one third of that. Jhudorah's quests cost me around 300 Neopoints and returned a prize worth one or two.
Now, those who run Neopets insist there is choice. They will tell you the whole thing rests on free choice. They are right. You can first of all not venture into Neopets at all if you don't care for the way it is run. You can always leave and even if you stay, you can avoid the gambling games, play only games of skill, keep saving your money in the Neopian National Bank and just enjoy the site. You don't have to own everything fancy or buy everything that comes your way. You can do role playing on the board that they have for that and email your Neofriends or talk in your guild or whatever.
There is, however, very little incentive and many road blocks to being good on Neopets. First, is the above described anomie. Finding people to just spend time with rather than get and spend is hard. Second, Neopets is a totalitarian world on private property. Those who run it make the rules and if you don't like it go elsewhere etc... and the rules make it hard to be good. The safety tips actively DISCOURAGE cooperation. They warn against user created contests, games, and giveaways. This encourages users to distrust one another and to think twice before giving or receiving charity.
Neopets, also heavily censors conversation. You can not discuss politics or religion, yet McDonalds, General Mills, Glophone etc... can all advertise. The advertising is built right into the site. Being unable to discuss politics or religion means that you have to be careful if writing historical fiction or role plays. You can not discuss current events, and a bunch of Neopians can not gather for a prayer circle or to discuss the weekly parsha. For all that they can lead to fights, discussing politics and religion, are valuable alternatives to getting, spending, gambling, and stealing.
I am going to stay with Neopets a while longer. I do have an alternative guild set up but right now my shop is eating all my time. That is going to stop. That has to stop. I want to buy two very expensive petpets or atleast one and then just give them to my pets, Rosalita and Shanti. If someone picks up my userID, they won't see much initially but let them click on my pets and they'll get an eyeful. I want to be filthy rich and fairly discreet at the same time. Give me a pile of excrement and I will want to climb to the top.
Neopets does a job on my buttons and switches. I have spent the last ten days feeling them pushed and stroked and knowing that I am being manipulated and unable to resist. It's not going to stop tonight. I told myself that if I did not want Neopets to get me in trouble, it had to stop for a few hours. I miss it a bit tonight but I know it is not going to be gone forever. Tomorrow on my lunch break at work, I'll be back earning Neopoints.
The cats are sleeping somewhere in the apartment. It is nearly 2am but blogging is important. When I got kicked out of Brainstorms (no euphemisms here!) I swore I would not be silenced.
Hertzel is in a white kitty hunch up. He is quiet now. Earlier I had a bath, and both kitties stopped by to drink from the tub. They stood on the tub ledge on their little paws and leaned into the water and lapped. Georgia, my seventeen year old blue cream half Siamese alpha female kitty, even greeted me with a little burble before she found a comfortable drinking position. About six months ago, Georgia fell into the bathtub while trying to drink from a half full tub so she is a bit cautious.
I bought cat food tonight, cleaned litter pans, and cleaned up barfed hair balls. Remember, Georgia is old and has a weak stomach. Hair balls probably mean some form of inflamatory bowel disease but the food she is on stays down most of the time and she doesn't lose her appetite and maintains her slim seven and a quarter pounds.
I did not do as much cleaning as I would have liked but that is OK. At work, I found out that a password we occasionally use is out of date and I'll have to write to get another one. I'll do that in the morning. By write, I mean email.
Last night I made TVP rissoto and I also roasted a buttercup squash by seeding it, cutting it in manageable pieces and coating the pieces with olive oil. It came out sweet as sugar. I can't resist scarfing it. I adore winter squash. It is the Upstate New Yorker in me coming out all over, and Publix had buttercup squash last week for .89 per pound.
Georgia just settled in over by some plastic shelving. She is in a side cur. She looks wary. I think she would like me to go to bed.
I'll do that in a while, but I want to write a bit more. I had to deal with a half-working xerox machine at work today. I am involved with a big interloan project where I do a ton of data entry, make pivot tables and present results at meetings. I just got done with a pair of pivot table charts and put them in Word documents, but when I tried to get them xeroxed, one of the pages came out upside down and the second time I tried, the title of one page partially got cut off. I got sick of wasting paper and just collated the whole business. I guess that will be OK. The meeting is Monday. I'll need my talking points. I even wrote to Callie, the boss, and got an agenda item.
I also mounted my page for my presentation at BIG today. If you want to see it, it is at http://facstaff.colstate.edu
/ehkramer/bigtroubles.html Yes, this is what librarians discuss at meetings. The weird part about this is that I don't have an education or an information literacy background, but I've taught that one credit course five times. I guess that is good for something. I always said it would be good for a paper one day, or at least a presentation.