Sunday, December 16, 2007

Second Life

Ok people, today I'm going to talk about a world I have recently discovered. I affectionately call it "middle aged fat chick paradise," but most people just call it Second Life. No, it's not some new church, it's a facinating multi-player game on the internet. Sounds weird, huh? What's a 40-something, relatively intelligent, single woman doing playing a video game on the internet?

Having a ball.

Second life (SL) is what is referred to (in layman's terms) as a "virtual world." Believe me when I tell you that anything you can do in this world, you can do in SL and then some. For example, in SL you can fly or teleport from place to place, like something out of a Star Trek can ride a flying carpet, battle a dragon, drive a bumper car, dance a waltz or a hot salsa, or be a Cruise Director on a virtual ship! You can also rent a virtual condo, a virtual escort, or hang out on a nude beach.

SL has an economy and it's own currency, which can be purchased online either through PayPal or your debit card at the present rate of 1000 Linden Dollars for approximately $4 American, and the residents are actually allowed to keep their intellectual property, i.e., whatever they might create in this virtual environment, which can be in the arts, music, fashion and even things like engineering and medicine belongs to them, not the creators of SL (Linden Labs). Harvard actually conducts classes in SL, and companies like IBM have meetings in virtual conference rooms where the attendees are represented by what is known as an Avatar or AV.

An AV is the virtual manifestation of you. The picture above is my AV, Duchess. She's a leggy, lovely blonde with great personal style and a huge collection of clothing, and the other is Duchess and her boyfriend, Gat. It is essentially a cartoon, but it is a cartoon that the player puts together, limited in scope only by their own imaginations. You can be a humanoid, an animal, a robot or any combination of all of them. You choose your skin, your shape, your clothing or not, and you learn at your own pace. Word to the only get one shot at your name, so think carefully before you push that button to name yourself. I once met a guy who called himself Pimpin8ez, and he couldn't understand why I didn't really want to talk to him.

There is a huge learning curve, so it's very easy to get frustrated and quit, but if one sticks it out and learns, it opens up a world of opportunities that average people might not otherwise have. There are people from all walks of life, and all the countries of the globe traversing SL, meeting under circumstances that were unavailable to past generations, and possibly opening the eyes of us all to other cultures. I declare it marvelous!

The basic premise of SL is willing suspension of disbelief. It can be a fantasy world or a world of dark torture. The player chooses everything and essentially controls the quality of the experience. SL is basically a sophisticated chat program, like Yahoo Messenger or Skype, but with the most amazing graphics and gadgets! You can have a virtual home, a virtual car, horses and even a baby! I cannot describe all the experiences you can have in this relatively small blog post because to describe it completely would require a book....which exists already. Hopefully my words will tickle your curiosity bone and you will investigate it for yourself.

And did I mention shopping??? Ladies! Lemme tell you.....I got hooked on SL when I got my first ballgown. I's like being 12 years old again, and actually getting to BE Barbie! With an unlimited digital wardrobe, to boot! There are the most amazing ballrooms where you can dance the night away in a lovely, designer ballgown, have scintillating conversations with handsome men and never leave your living room! You get a huge bang for your virtual buck, and the designers are incredibly creative, and friendly! They'll actually talk to you, and are interested in your feedback....

There is also a live music component in SL. I have been to symphonies, classical recitals and blues rock concerts. The musicians stream their music live into the game, and the AVs are gathered in one venue or sim (short for simulator) to listen and dance. There are slam poetry venues, DJ venues where there is a live person choosing the music, and even a ballet company. Some of the more popular musicians and merchants actually cash out of the game at the end of the week. It is possible to make real money in SL, if you have a marketable skill or talent.

It's truly a world worth exploring, as there is a surprise around every corner.

Universal Health Care is a Pipe Dream

This morning I watched on television as John Edwards chirped away on the necessity of universal health care in America. I am all for it, provided that guys like him, all the rest of the liberal pack running for the presidency, and all members of Congress have to go to the same public clinic that they would doom the general populace to. Otherwise, forget it. I'll take my chances with the system we have now. Where do Canadians go when they need elective surgery? Uhm...they come to America! They have universal insurance...why not stay in their own country? Because the line is too long, and you have to book your surgery before you need it, several years in advance! The pols hold up the British system as the beau ideal of the socialist health care system and the British have made medical tourism a new business, because of the same overcrowded system in their own country. Hillary Clinton and her peers running for president would see us in the same broke down system! What are they thinking?

Here in Texas we have what is called the Medical Assistance Program, or MAP. It is a series of public clinics, co-payments on a sliding scale, intended by the good liberals of Texas to service the underinsured or the uninsured...basically poor people and illegal aliens, most of whom have at least one anchor baby and are thus qualified to receive public assistance. The clinics are so overcrowded that getting an appointment takes a month or more, and you can forget a same day appointment if your kid has a cold. Go to the overcrowded emergency rooms and sit for hours, waiting for the medical personel who are busy patching gunshot wounds and fielding heart attacks to find time to treat your kid's mere cold. The good liberals like the present Democratic pack running for office are all for turning our entire country into either a system like MAP, or worse yet, the VA! I don't know a single veteran who is satisfied with the treatment they have received fromt he Veterans Administration, yet the universal health care pushers want to create yet another bureaucracy to supervise the bureaucracy!

The problem with all of this, of course, is that these liberal politicians, nay, all politicians and anybody with an income over a certain amount have the economic luxury to go to private doctors and hospitals, thus being able to bypass whatever horrible system (and it would be horrible, I can pretty much guarantee it) they foist upon the "little people." The wealthy are not bound to use the same facilities they decree for us, therefore they do not suffer the consequences of their political follies and social experiments. We, the People, do.

Perhaps our free market system isn't as fair as it could be, but who said you have a "right" to a fair life??? Nobody. You want good insurance? Get an education, get a job, don't have 12 kids you can't afford and you'll live a nice life. It's really not that difficult, and anybody who says it is, probably doesn't have an education or a job, or has 12 kids. The free market system encourages research and development, as well as the high quality of care that Americans are accustomed to. If the system is socialized, the incentive to excel, or to discover something new will be stifled because why should anybody excel when the government will confiscate their ideas? Why shouldn't the pharmaceutical companies turn profits on new drugs? They paid for the R&D, not the government, so they are entitled to recoup those losses for a time.

The free market economy isn't the perfect economy, but I've said it before and I'll say it again, it's the only ISM that works. Communism and Socialism do not work in countries with populations that are not relatively homogeneous. America will not work on the Swedish or the British, or even the Canadian models. The free market health care is the best health care, and we should not fix it if it ain't as broke as everybody else!