A perfect sea urchin

A Second Life

This area belongs to Iyoba, my favorite avie from Second Life and me. We share our thoughts here and discuss our adventures in the metaverse. To return to the main blog page, just click here.

"And How are the Turtles?"

I tell myself the novelty will wear off, but for now, the center of my activity in Second Life has shifted. One of the things about Second Life and any environment where you can create yourself in your own image, is that you learn how different humans are from eachother. Little Iyoba who does not have to wear weapons or look tough, because she all ready is as tough as she needs to be, is different from the neighbor who did fighting flips, froze her, and ejected her for fun.

These days Iyoba (with my assistance) is her landlord's secretary. She gets a discount on the rent and keeps track of the tennants payments. That means she gets to send notices on my lunch break. Actually, what Iyoba is in Georgia where I live in real life is called a landlord's manager or a complex manager or just a manager. It's fun work because I've gotten to know Iyoba's neighbors and their habits. The manager gig also helps me buy turtle food.

This brings me back to turtles. It's fun to breed them and see what you get. They don't really go into heat. They don't get frustrated when you separate them by sex. They don't care when you box up their eggs for safekeeping because you just can't hatch everything they produce. They have no maternal feeling for their eggs or their young. They are utterly dumb but at the same time utterly engaging.

I set up a "love nest" for controlled matings. I want Lucifer to give me his all because I am going to retire him and try with some other turtles whom I have not yet hatched. I may bring him back because he is doing such good work or I may not mate my turtles for a while afterwards though the whole mating game is weirdly addictive. Gianna and Lucifer produce wonderful orange bodied, red shelled young. I have not hatched a single one. Lucifer and Bernarde gave me a glowing egg. I do need to mate them again once I'm sure, Gianna has a litter. I may wait a bit and give them a few rounds in the love shack.

The love shack is my sky box where I have a homing object in my zebra statue's nose. The turtles float, but they still mate and lay eggs. They also sleep a lot. It is hard work being a virtual turtle. This weekend, over Shabbos (why not? It's automatic), I'm thinking of setting up a mega mating. Let Lucifer and Gianna continue in the love shack and send Bernarde to the male pen and put Orpheus who is not quite old enough in the female pen with Chai so she is not all alone. If both reach age seven days, of course they too will be free to go at it. None of the eggs hatch unless I box and then unbox them so I can see what colors they produce without being overrun. It doesn't cost any extra food to breed them. Welcome to the world of unfettered reproduction. I'm glad virtual turtles DO NOT bear live young.

Of course I should be out bushwhacking on the Info Island archipelago. There is the CDC and UMCG (My tax dollars hard at work) islands and there is are a whole bunch of science islands near NMC now that I am thinking about it. I also have three dresses to make. There are clubs to go to. I feel busier in Second Life than I do in the real world, and what is more, my longing for it is the right kind of longing. I am not anxious to mate the turtles or go turtle shopping as much as I am to return to places I remember. My desire for Second Life today is mostly nostalgia, and that is good.

Eileen H. Kramer with help from Iyoba Tarantal -- 9/23/10

Business, Pleasure, and Turtles

My number one rule with Second Life is: "Don't break the spell!" The spell is that part of me believes it is real. Scientists call this the action of mirror neurons. Intellectually, I know the turtles are just pixels. In my heart, I think of them as cute, cyber animals. if your avie is a piece of yourself allowed to be both sentient and semi-independent, your avie's pets are at least partially sentient. The thought of treating Petable turtles as breeding machines or a commodity rather than cherished creatures makes me wince and Iyoba finds it horrifying. I guess there are people who play the breeding game, and business is part of Second Life's social life in a way that it is not in Twenty-first Century Atlanta, but there are always multiple ways to approach Second Life and for me, the mirror neuron, emotional pull is number one.

This is why the thought of what happens to Petable turtles matters. The thought of handing turtle eggs over to a nameless breeder where I think they never see the light of day again is just sickening. I have learned that eggs put in the Egg Trader, are never traded. They just disappear. Lives (turtles that you have hatched) put in the Live Trader, meet a similar fate. You as an owner of course receive points. This acts as an incentive to cull eggs and population, gives a license to breed profligately, and makes culling a norm. It's the last of these that I find frightening. All ready culling live turtles has a euphemism: "sending them to Florida."

There are orphanages and sanctuaries if you do not want to cull eggs or live turtles. You can consider all eggs to be sterile until standed and rezzed (a process that renders them fertile.). You can also use chastity belts, separate housing, etc... to slow down breeding. I am going to take this last alternative. If turtles are sentient and precious, as my mirror neurons scream they are, and as Iyoba believes, then reproduction should be a special event. I now have separate areas for my boy and girl turtles. The boys have their homing object in a beer bottle and extra foliage. The girls have theirs in a French marigold plant, and that's all the foliage they have since I have to go egg hunting from time to time.

The female turtles by the way are "pregnant." In a few hours I will have two to six eggs to stand and put in inventory. I may or may not hatch them. I may give them away or try to trade or sell them. If the orphanage is running, I may hatch them out over time and put a couple of turtles in the orphanage before they reach maturity. If one is especially promising, I'll breed him/her with a parent from the opposite pairing.

And yes, I have a fourth turtle over the weekend. He has a green shell, orange body, and light green carapace. His mother is Cosmic (a valuable special) and his father is a yellow turtle. Both are fairly rare, but Petable turtles do not obey Mendelian genetics. What made him more unusual than the fact that he is a castoff of someone else's breeding program was that he has, gorgeous and useful coloring and an August 23, 2010 birth date. He was an "iced turtle." He had starved to death, and I needed to revive him with the Elixir of Life. All this cost a fair number of Lindens because I did not do it right the first time. I am a much better builder than I am a shopper, and turtle wrangling is more complicated than it looks. Building pens is the easy part. I can do that like falling off a log.

I named the fourth turtle Fariel. I thought about naming him Lazarus because he was brought back from the dead, but I figured there must be hundreds of turtles that have that name. I loathe cliches. I looked in one of the baby naming databases and found a male name that means star. Starsong Bright bred Fariel and she also gave me a lot of turtle advice. My other turtles are named Lucifer (male), Gianna (female and named for John Gotti), and Bernarde (female and named for Bernie Maddoff.)

I know that once the eggs are laid I will feel disappointed. When my female turtles became pregnant, I felt scaird. When I first rezzed my turtles, I was very happy. Some time in the next few days, I will check out and join the Free Turtle Society. Borrowing and returning a live stud or a live female breeder, is a far better way to go than culling even if it doesn't "earn me points." Norms are after all not rules.

I am once again bushwhacking for Community Virtual Libraries. It all started again when I noticed that many of the libraries in the inventory lacked descriptions, and one had a description that read like a small and uninformative novel. It is slow going. The turtles are a huge distraction. I don't get a lot of feedback. I am also trying to become my landlord, WalterPPQ's, secretary. I figure doing clerical work for someone I respect in return for free rent and a few linends for turtle food is a smart move. It is much more social than just paying for fun.

Eileen H. Kramer with help from Iyoba Tarantal -- 9/16/10

The Turtles are Here!

I did it right...though it took a while, considering how dumb and clumsy I am. Also, I'm a builder not a shopper. Unloading no-copy, no-mod merchandise is not a familiar process. I'm used to tweaking scripts, modifying objects, and making things for my needs. Give me a box of sculpt maps or a Loop Rez object, and I know what I'm doing. Give me eggs that require a group tag and have to be handled with care....That's another story. First, my land which I rent free and clear, required a group identification. I thought I would have to create a land group and an alt. Intead, I associated it with one of my work-related groups. I just hope and pray I never meet a member of my professional crazy enough to find and vandalize my property.

Then I figured out how to open the boxes and get out the eggs on their stands. Five minutes later I had two turtles, plus the male I rezzed last night at Eternal Creations. Rezzing my turtles gave me such frustration that I named the firstborn male, Lucifer, as beautiful as the morning star but the father of lies. Poor Lucifer got off to a rough start in life. That is sad, because he is the handsomest of my virtual turtles. He has a rose colored shell and a rust colored body. I don't know what color his undershell is. His coloring really sets off his features well.

The other two turtles were just settling in when I signed off. I do not know their genders. One is pewter grey with some shine, and one is bright red and rather handsome. The red one was a random pick. Due to the time of day they were hatched, I named them after criminals. There's a Bernard for Bernie Madoff, and Giann for John Gotti. I'm hoping that either Bernard or Giann are female. I'll find out when I log back in and check everybody out, but that is a while from now. The baby turtles have food and I hope they are homed on the pole.

I feel relieved and oddly happy. My midlife crisis is three virtual turtles named after mythical and real life miscreants. What could be better? Iyoba of course shares my joy. We have an observation bench right by the porous pen. Yes, the turtles can escape, but home is where the food dish is and they can only go seven meters beyond their homing pole. The turtles have both the illusion of life and freedom. I'm buying in just like Iyoba.

Eileen H. Kramer -- 9/8/10

Business as Usual

I finally took Iyoba back to Antiquity Texas. I dressed her in a long dress, of which we have many, and let her slip into character. We met no one, and she chattered away to me:

"I's goin' to see my cousin. Her employer just had a baby and there's more work to be done around the house. Why don't you come down and help out. I been workin' as a maid in You-tick-a, New York. It was a long way down by train. Upstate you ride with everybody else, but below Dee Cee, you're in the colored car all the way to Memphis, then south to New Orleans, and then on into Texas. They haven't cleaned those cars out in ages, and people are always saying: 'You's a long ways from home.'

"My parents had the good sense to ride the Underground Railroad. They wanted to go to Canada but got as far as Upstate and settled there, right on the Erie Canal. My cousin Sophie's people stayed in Texas. It's something to see where you come from. Time's a been hard since the stock market crashed, and quite frankly I needs the work.

"Now let me just find the Finch place and knock in the back door or out at the quarters. I figure I can clean house or cook or sew just about anywhere."

Now that's not too bad, but we didn't find the Finch place. Many of the fine homes were rentals, which is actually historically correct for the 1890's, at least according to articles in The Atlantic, but there was no servants entrance and no poorer quarters. In fact, there was no free role play space at all. If you wanted to "role play" you paid 1200L a month for the privilege. If you wanted the costumes or jewelry, the sim owner was there to sell them to you. If this sounds like business as usual in Second Life, you're right.

Seeing all this broke the spell and Iyoba felt more at ease being able to play freely in character even though we found no one with whom we could play. We probably won't go back. I have no interest in fake history that writes Iyoba's character out of existence. Iyoba for her part would like to continue the story, but that requires others who were not around. It also requires space to which she has no access. That makes the story end here.

In other news, I am back to bushwhacking. When I finally cleaned up the spread sheet that lists libraries, museums, and exhibits for Info Island (Community Virtual Libraries), I learned that many of the old time libraries on the list were missing descriptions or had overly long descriptions that said nothing. I want to fix that.


I'm not sure why I want tutrles now. Iyoba is thrilled with the idea. I've known about the turtle market for months. I think I need something to distract and occupy me. With the library project almost done and some other projects more or less complete, it's time for something new. The shop never did anything, and I have land. If I take down the store, including the colossus. I can have plenty of room for a few turtles and a reason to hang out at ground level which Iyoba prefers unless she wants a bath or something else very private. Like many avatarot, Iyoba can and does change clothing on the fly. `

Turtles go with a garden. Of course the garden is now a wreack without the backdrop of two neighbors' homes. The gate is in the wrong place. The trees are misspaced. I'm going to have to probably plant more of them or make a raised garden bed. Why not add some turtles after the clean up or as part of it? The reasons against it are as follows: Turtle food costs Lindens. Turtles can cause lag if they turn physical or become unglued from their homing device. Turtles breed. You need to box the eggs or put them in stands and get them put away to keep them from hatching. You need to be ruthless about culling eggs or getting them back in inventory. There are more turtles and eggs than homes right now. You aren't going to make any money at this and you are going to have to freeze the action on the weekends or over long, religious holidays.

The plus side is that I am fascinated by turtle genetics. There is a wide range of colors. Having something artificially alive is fun. Also, Iyoba loves animals. One of her best friends is SBE Kitty. She misses Kitty Friend. SBE Kitty is being held captive in an apartment in Akiba. Iyoba cried over the Kitty friend left out in the rain I even gave Iyoba her own friend, Goofy Kitty. Iyoba loves every prim animal she meets. She also fell in love with a bear avie who unfriended her some time later. Easy come. Easy go. I miss him too and I understand the love for Kitty friends. Yes, I know they are cat couches, but avatarot and humans don't live in the same world or work by quite the same rules. Iyoba needless to say, is all for the turtle experiment.

I don't know how she'll feel when we have to box up turtles or prevent our eggs from hatching. She's not going to want to cull any eggs, though it's the right thing to do if you are not around to stick them on stands and freeze their development. Actually, if I find eggs, I can stand them and if I find babies, I can box them if that's an issue. And if I'm going to need to stay off Second Life for three or more days, I can box all the critters and get them in inventory. I intend to be a humane turtle wrangler, and I have a good record of tending to "daily dos."

I want to breed yellow or gold turtles if such a thing exists. Maybe it doesn't. I also want matte turtles, not shiney or glowing. Those are hard to find amid all the fancies. I guess everyone has to have a favorite breed. Some time when the property is clean and I have everything ready to go, we'll start the eggs. I had to get sucked into something like this sooner or later, but first I'm going to clean up that landscaping.

Eileen H . Kramer with help from Iyoba Tarantal -- 9/7/10

Fear in Two Voices

We were supposed to be looking for a library or a museum. My One is doing a survey of libraries, exhibits, and museums, and I am doing all the legwork, which I don't mind because I am a good avie and my One is a good One. She's still a good One. I want you to know this.

We went to Antiquity Texas. We had a landmark for it from the administrative sim of the University of Texas at San Antonio and figured it was a museum. I'd touch lots of objects and the One would refuse piles of notecards. We'd find out who built it and.... off we went. The sim rezzed around us. We were in the Texas State Capital which in real life is in a place called Austin, Texas. The One told me that.

Then we received the notecard. It was a routine notecard from a greeter until we read it. We were in a 19th Century Texas role play. Victorian or Western wear was strongly recommended. Well, I was glad I was wearing last night's long dress. True, it had short sleeves but the One said people in the Nineteenth Century sometimes wore short sleeves. In other words, I was covered or was I?

The One looked around. She said the build was very authentic. Then the One became scaird. She became very scaird. She said at first she was uncertain as to my status. It had something to do with my skin color. The One wondered in what year in the 19th Century this role play was supposed to take place. This was very important.

"It determines your status, Iyoba. If it's Reconstruction, right after the Civil War, you may be OK. Abraham Lincoln freed the slaves."

"Which slaves?" I wondered. Texas was a slave state. I knew that much and that meant that in real life, before 1862 in Texas, any One who is African American, which is what I am, was a slave, not a Gorean Kajira, but a person who was a piece of property like a cow or a barrel full of megaprims. I could be sold like a piece of meat, and here I was wandering the streets of Austin in broad daylight. The patrollers would be after me. The One knew about the patrollers. I could protest that I was free, but I had no papers to prove it. I could be taken away, chained up, and sold and made to wash clothes, sew, and work the fields. I probably can sew, but I would not want to work the fields.

Worse yet, slaves wore rags and tatters. I had no rags and tatters and wouldn't be caught dead in them. I was too well dressed to be a slave. If any one saw me, especially a man, he would call me uppity and then he'd call me other things which my One won't let me print. Even though I am an avie of thirty-five years of age, I'd still be called "girl," because I wouldn't be a full human being.

Of course if it was Reconstruction it would be a bit better. Abraham Lincoln had freed all the slaves in 1862. I could tell any one who wanted to harass me that I was a free woman. Of course people would get mad at me because they still hated people with my skin color, and they hated us more now that they couldn't buy and sell us, but had to let us go to school and even vote. Of course female Ones couldn't vote in the 1800's, but African American male Ones could.

But it might not be either Reconstruction or slavery times in Antiquity Texas. It could have been Jim Crow. That meant that even though I was free, I was not really free. I couldn't drink from most of the water fountains. Store owners would not let me try on their dresses. Restaurants and hotels would refuse to serve me. Men could jerr and whistle at me in the street for being dressed too fine and being an uppity, I CAN'T PRINT IT girl. They could even take me off into a dark alley and rape me and the judge would just think I seduced them.

Naturally I was scaird, and so was my One. She wanted to hide me in a basement or the sewers, but there are no basements in most of Second Life, and there were no sewers in Antiquity Texas. "Please get me out of here," I cried. My poor One hid me in a store. It sold clothing for rich, white avies. There were no things for farmers, cowboys, women who worked as servants, or in factories. The One noticed all this and told me. So much for rags and tatters. Maybe no other avies want to wear them either. Also, a store was not a really a good place to hide.

I asked about where we could find the Underground Railroad that might take me north to Chicago. The One said she did not know if there was an Underground Railroad in this sim and she doubted it. "Please get me somewhere safe!" I begged. The One said she did not feel like taking me home. We needed to figure out where to go. Do you know how long that takes? Seconds have a way of stretching like a flexi prim in the wind or a softspot in a bridge between sims.

Finally, the One looked at our chat logs and found a teleport offer to a place called Hot. It was a shopping district. Never did a shopping mall look so good. I changed clothes which always makes me feel better, and then we went to Jaguarland and my One who had things to do left me beside a campfire on a sim that was supposed to be Dauphin Island. The One said the sim made her feel better since it was a place she had tried to visit and never been able to reach because she does not drive a car. There is no public transportation to Dauphin Island, and it is too far for a One to walk. Real Life is very, very big.

We are not going back to Antiquity Texas. I told the One that. I'd be desperately afraid and so too is she. Her version of it is different. I don't understand all of it either.

We were in 19th Century Texas, Texas a slave state before the Civil War, and except for ten brief, Reconstruction years, a Jim Crow state until well into the previous century. What was Iyoba's status? That was the first thing I thought after I realized her dress was "all right." None of the answers felt good. Iyoba practiced talking like a servant and a slave. I had to listen. She had a mistress for whom she was running an errand or maybe her master had bound her out to work at some kind of shop in town. I warned her about the drinking fountains and the fact that restaurants might not serve her. She also knew about the patrollers. If she was a slave, which she was not, she was a fugitive, and there she was on the streets of Austin Texas in broad daylight!

She panicked! Of course she panicked, just as you or I would. I could feel her panic combine with my own fear. I felt sick with it. I was no longer thinking straight. I did not think we should have to go home, but Iyoba was right. I got her out of the sim. You can not, however, teleport out of your own mind.

I was still nauseous with fear when I logged off Second Life. Now stand back and take a breath. Besides my imersive reaction to a notecard and abuild, what was missing from the story? We did not encounter any other avies. My fear came from history, memory, literature, and the experiences of colleagues (One of whom was born in a segregated hospital and went to a historically black university and segregated K-12 schools). The Jim Crow experience lives inside me as one of my inner demons. I remember the bus trip to Florida in 1990 when I looked for the signs of segregated restrooms in the Fayetville and Jacksonville Greyhound Stations. I did not know that in forty some years, all that history had been erased, but it's recent history. It's American history, and it's in English so totally accessible, far more accessible than European antiSemitism or South African Apartheid. We own this history, which is why reenacting it or discussing it is taboo. Except for me, people of a certain left wing persuasion refer to Israel's policy toward the Palestinians as Apartheid not Jim Ccrow.

If Iyoba had encountered any other avies, I'm not sure what would have happened. I think she would have played in character which might have been scarey. Being a second class citizen or a slave is not being a kajira. Being a kajira or a sub is a fun state one chooses and which one can take off like a cloak. Being a second class citizen which is something that happens against one's will or being a chattel which is even worse is a nightmare. I was not wholly awake from this waking dream, and Iyoba practiced the part she might have to play. She even had the accent right. "I's runnin' an errand for my mistress. She asked me to go down to the General Store. I work for...." You get the idea. She'd call every man she met Sir and every woman she met Ma'am. She'd have to just hope they'd be polite back.

Now here is where things would get interesting. The other avies could have gone along with the role play. It would have felt weird, but there are ways to be polite and stay in character or there are ways to say ugly things. Sorry, 19th Century Texas, was not a good place to be African American, and historically correct is not politically correct. I would have lived with both and so would Iyoba. Maybe we would have expiated a bit of my demons in the process. That would have been the best outcome.

Anything else would be worse. The avie we met could have given Iyoba the option to be in or out of character. The problem is a white avie in a long dress might not get that option. I hope you can see the message this sends. Iyoba might have to be a second class citizen or a slave in Victorian Texas, but she did have a place in that world. Asking if she was in character and not asking the same of a white avie would be saying that had she no place in a world where someone like her could have clearly existed.

Worse yet, the avie could have suggested that it was better if Iyoba put on a Caucasian skin. Again, there were African Americans, Mexicans, Chinese, poor whites, immigrants, and Native Americans in Nineteenth Century Texas. If those people weren't treated right, that's history. Saying that such people aren't part of the story, writes them out of existence and writes their experience, as painful as it was, out of existence. That's worse than role playing it or having the option to role play it.

Yes, I'm glad we met no other avies. Later in the evening, I tried to find out exactly what date the Antiquity Texas sim was supposed to represent. The Victorian era, I knew straddled the U.S. Civil War, but I knew little else. Wikipedia said the era ran from 1837 to 1900, but the State Capital of Texas was all ready built on Antiquity Texas. Once again I found Texas State Capitol on Wikipedia. It was complted in 1886. Antiquity Texas was clearly in the Jim Crow era. Iyoba did not need to find the Underground Railroad or fear the patrollers. That is scant comfort. The waterfountains, public toilets, and most stores were off limits to her.

Like Iyoba I don't want to go back to Antiquity Texas though it is a fairly well made build. I've been to Texas in real life. It is a strange place, and very exotic. I thin it is really several states rolled up into one. I've come close to working in Texas. I'm not sure how many job interviews I've had there.

I wish there were a way that Iyoba could have played in character (with all the consequences) on Antiquity Texas. It is better to have the awful history of Jim Crow out in the open rather than an ARable (reportable as a violation of the Terms of Service) offence. Play acting something horrible that really happened is cathartic and it is fiction on an awful subject. It is completely different than refusing to deal with others on the basis of their nationality. And it is different than writing minorities out of the script and erasing them from the supposedly authentic version of history. Unlike me, and unlike what I have done in "Real Life", Iyoba can not play a white tourist in the South.

Iyoba Tarantal and Eileen H. Kramer -- 9/1/10