July 15, 2009

Second Lives and Second Jobs

I swiped this image from CNet, but they got it from the publisher.The Entrepreneur's Guide to Second Life: Making Money in the Metaverse by Daniel Terdiman (Wiley Publishing, 2007, ISBN 978-0-470-17914-7)

This book was written by: Daniel Terdiman, a journalist and second life enthusiast. It was a bold step for Mr. Terdiman to write a book about making money in a world where "economic activity is conducted in a make-believe currency which, though it can be directly converted to hard currency, is definitely not legal tender"(p.10), especially considering his declaration that "I've never been a successful Second Life entrepreneur." But you don't have to be a successful parent to tell other people how to raise their kids.

What is in this book: A guide to the business side of Second Life, an online computer environment that is "not a game. After all, it doesn't have a goal"(p.141), but it does have "very visible subcommunities whose members walk around chained to each other or dressed like dragons or who may be having sex in a public place"(p.143). Mr. Terdiman walks readers through some of the largest market segments in this world that is "beset by seemingly never-ending bugs, crashes, rolling restarts, user-interface problems, and many other issues"(p.264), discussing the resources available and skills needed for entrepreneurs looking to start businesses in some of the most popular industries catering to Second Life residents—including the sex industry.Terdiman's SL avatar, as shown on page 187.
While there is a rule prohibiting "'age play,' defined somewhat broadly as sexual behavior between two or more residents in which at least one is using what appears to be a child avatar and the other is using an adult avatar"(p.162), (which means that everything Law & Order: SVU taught me WAS A LIE), there is detailed information on other opportunities in the adult services industry including sex fasion, sex clubs, sex animations, and sex furniture. For example, "escorts can earn from US$3 to US$14 in an hour. Again, over time, and with volume, it adds up pretty quickly"(p.17), or you can sell "a wide range of penises and vaginas in various sizes and levels of functionality and complexity"(p.165), and "there's also fashion for all kinds of specific subcommunities, like furries"(p.16).
Other chapters cover topics such land sales and construction, but they don't have phrases like "people whose job it is to manage the escorts,"(p.166) which is nicest way of writing "pimps"(p.167) that I have ever seen.

Terdiman's SL avatar, as shown on page 18.What is not in this book: Instructions on how to get rich by teaching people how to make money in Second Life. That's a shame, since telling people to come up with new ideas sounds a lot easier than coming up with the ideas themselves, especially when considering the market's relaxed attitude towards intellectual property laws—as illustrated by Terdiman himself. "As a small, relatively unknown DJ in Second Life, you could probably get away with not paying royalties because you almost certainly wouldn't get caught"(p.214). It's equally tough to catch people stealing from you, "in much the same way that a store in real life could be broken into. The best defense? Keep coming up with ideas"(p.19), which you have to do anyway because "you have to find ways to make your business and your products or services stand out"(p.68). In a world where public dragon sex is the norm, you've got to take it one step further. "If all you do is create a new kind of sex bed, you're just one more entrant in the vast sex-bed market, and you'll find it that much harder to set yourself apart"(p.181).

Would you recommend this book to P.T. Barnum? Yes, because there's a sucker born Second Life resident signed up every minute, despite the fact that "Second Life uses a huge amount of your computing power, and even in the best-case scenario, with the fastest computer, the most memory, the fattest Internet pipe, and so forth, you're still looking at software that is waiting for hardware to catch up"(p.22). Considering these new arrivals, "some might worry that so many extra people coming into the virtual world might erode the opportunities to make money, but I see the reality as just the opposite: the more people there are, the more potential customers"(p.iv).

Would you recommend this book to John Smith? Yes. I know he's upset that he won't gain notoriety through his financial exploits because his name is not a distinctive one, like Branson, Murdoch, or Trump, but Second Life will let him use a new name that more clearly reflects his business acumen. He can follow the examples set by Second Life heavyweights such as Munchflower Zauis (p.73), Wynx Whiplash (p.199), Fallingwater Cellardoor (p.75), Alphazero Sugar (p.189), and Stroker Serpentine (p.171). In fact, I'm starting a business with my avatar, Weeaboo Hazington XIV. I expect great things from him.

What was interesting about this book? No discussion of the Second Life financial landscape would be complete without mentioning the scandal that ensued when some of the largest Second Life banks were exposed as Ponzi schemes, triggering Linden Lab to impose a ban on all virtual banks. While the book's publication schedule made it difficult to include that information, Mr. Terdiman points out that "some would say that Second Life's economy is actually more stable than that of any new country"(p.4), an argument that has merit when you consider that the "F" rating from the Better Business Bureau was actually given to Linden Lab and not to Second Life itself.
These days, "there is great opportunity for new businesses, and for more people to make money in Second Life than ever before"(p.264), even in a tough economic climate. Every large Second Life–based business that fails spectacularly is good news for new entrepreneurs, because it means someone else can step in to fill the niche. "Indeed, nearly everywhere you turn in Second Life there are signs of the strength of the economy: stores of all kinds are ubiquitous, the number of private sims is skyrocketing, and week in and week out, residents of the virtual world are trading millions of US dollars' worth of goods"(p.264).

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July 1, 2009

Communicating with Orcas' Reproductive Organs

Telepaths, space porpoises, and orca facialsCommunicating with Orcas: The Whales' Perspective by Mary Getten (Hampton Roads Publishing, 2006, ISBN: 1-57174-466-5)

This book was written by: Mary J. Getten, who interviewed a number of whales with the help of her friend, Raphaela. Raphaela and Ms. Getten communicate with the whales telepathically, which is not unusual because "all humans are born with this ability, but in the 'civilized' world we have lost these skills through socialization"(p.35). Statements made by the whales are in italics, and Getten notes that "everything in this book is true," even though "I have taken some liberties with the order of these conversations, and who said what to whom, but the words remain intact"(p.ix). It's just like the time I told a police officer that he was under arrest for disorderly conduct, and he called me a stinking fascist and screamed at me to waddle my filthy pig ass back to the donut shop.

What is in this book: Whale penis. Actually, "in the business [...] a whale's penis is known as a sea snake"(p.79). A whale wang sea snake is "prominent and easily seen, [but] it can be floppy when distended."(p.83). "A sea snake is about six feet long and six inches across, if you can imagine"(p.79), and most visible when "males roll at the surface with their penises extended"(p.90). However, it's difficult to tell when whales are mating. "If you're lucky you glimpse an erect penis flailing above the water, but that's about it"(p.81)
Ms. Getten is an avid student of marine biology, noting that a sea snake is "an absolutely awesome sight!"(p.79) Unfortunately, not all of her whale-(penis-)watching trips yield results, and at one point she complains that "it's not fair, Granny. I went out on over a hundred trips this year and never saw any action"(p.82), lamenting the fact that "I didn't see any [sea snakes] this summer, that's why I'm complaining"(p.79). Ms. Getten also relates an anecdote where a passenger on her whale watching boat said she saw a set of snakes "flopping around so much I was afraid I was going to get hit by one," and Ms. Getten earnestly states "I would have given anything to be hit by one"(p.90).

What not in this book? Whale rape, statutory or otherwise. Yes, whales are "fascinated by the sound frequency emitted by screaming girls"(p.74), and when questioned about it, one of the whales explains that "I enjoy their growth and visit them in their dreams"(p.75). Getten writes that "I didn't like the way this conversation was going. Frankly, it was a bit too creepy for me"(p.75), but it could have been worse. It's not like whales are building secret torture pens in their basements, and it's nothing like the video Ms. Getten watched that "showed very aggressive male dolphins working together to gang-rape females"(p.89).

Would you recommend this book to Fox Mulder? Yes. Not only is the truth out there, it has been loitering in our harbors and clogging our commercial fishing equipment for some time now. Ms. Getten "saw harbor porpoises traveling through outer space!"(p.143) Porpoises are taking to the stars because "they are not originally from this planet. They have fulfilled their time here."(p.143).

Would you recommend this book to a member of the International Whaling Commission? Yes, but it might not be exceptionally helpful. Although readers of the book can gain an increased understanding of the whales' perspective, the whales never explain why they're so delicious.
I'm sorry, that was uncalled for. Killing and eating marine mammals is just gratuitous cruelty—unless you're talking about spacefaring porpoises, because they're totally asking for it:

The battering continued for several minutes. The poor porpoise was struck again and again, and then finally an orca surfaced with the porpoise lying crossways in her mouth. She and the others dove down and did not reappear for five minutes. We never saw that porpoise again.
"Do the resident whales ever eat porpoises?"
"Yes, they are quick. This is not a staple, not something that we do every day, but it does happen from time to time. We ask them, and they offer."

Would you bone Jesus? Inquiring whales want to know, "What if your Jesus came to earth? [....]Would you feel entirely comfortable having sex with him?"(p.183) I think that leaving the son of god with blue balls must be some kind of sin, but I'd need at least a few boxes of wine and some Marvin Gaye records before I could give him a happy ending.

What was interesting about this book? It is remarkably difficult to get a whale pissed off. Noisy boats? "We get relief at night. We adapt, as you do"(p.32). Their brothers and sisters taken captive and penned in small tanks? "These beings are heroic. Some came into captive bodies with the intent of working with scientists and researchers"(p.181). Pollution the ocean that kills them along with all the other sea life? "This is not doom, our deaths. [...] Our deaths are no different from a human's heart having an attack, signaling that care of the body needs to change"(p.249). Overall, "I find these whales to be incredibly tolerant"(p.32).

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