Wednesday, May 25, 2011

May 25th 2011- WORLD MS DAY

Today is World MS Day!  

It is believed roughly 2.5 million people worldwide suffer from Multiple Sclerosis.  Some say that number could be as high as 4 million if one takes into account the misdiagnosed and undiagnosed cases.  There are approximately 400,00 diagnosed cases of MS in the United States, with an estimated 200 new cases diagnosed every week.  MS strikes women twice as often as men, though men seem to progress in the disease faster than women.  The average age of diagnosis is 30-40 years old, with symptoms starting between 20-40 years old.  Diagnosis is often delayed because of the sporadic, unpredictable nature of the disease.  Multiple Sclerosis can effect anyone, of any race, gender, or age.

There is no cure for Multiple Sclerosis.

Multiple Sclerosis is a debilitating disease, believed to auto immune in nature, in which our immune system mistakes proteins within the myelin sheath around the brain and spinal cord as an invader to be killed, causing lesions and subsequent scarring where the attacks occur.  To better explain the role of myelin, here is a favorite analogy of mine: Picture a plastic coated power cord, now scratch off some of the plastic.  It may spark, it may work sometimes but not others, eventually once that exposed wiring rusts it stops working altogether.  Now picture that coating is the protective layer of your brain, and your brain is the copper wiring.  That is essentially what happens with Multiple Sclerosis.

Once the myelin is worn away, the brain's signals to the body don't work correctly.  Because of this, virtually any and every part of your body could potentially be effected by the disease.  Here are a list of some of the more common symptoms of MS:

►Muscle symptoms:
    Loss of balance
    Muscle spasms
    Numbness or abnormal sensation in any area
    Problems moving arms or legs
    Problems walking
    Problems with coordination and making small movements
    Tremor in one or more arms or legs
    Weakness in one or more arms or legs


►Bowel and bladder symptoms:
    Constipation and stool leakage
    Difficulty beginning to urinate
    Frequent need to urinate
    Strong urge to urinate
    Urine leakage (incontinence)


►Eye symptoms:
    Double vision
    Eye discomfort
    Uncontrollable rapid eye movements
    Vision loss (usually affects one eye at a time)


►Numbness, tingling, or pain
    Facial pain
    Nerve pain
    Painful muscle spasms
    Tingling, crawling, or burning feeling in the arms and legs


►Other brain and nerve symptoms:
    Decreased attention span, poor judgment, and memory loss
    Difficulty reasoning and solving problems
    Depression or feelings of sadness
    Dizziness and balance problems
    Hearing loss


►Sexual symptoms:
   Problems with erections
   Problems with vaginal lubrication


►Speech and swallowing symptoms:
   Slurred or difficult-to-understand speech
   Trouble chewing and swallowing


►Fatigue is a common and bothersome symptom as MS progresses. It is often worse in the late afternoon and 70% of MS patients suffer from fatigue.

Statistically speaking, everyone will know at least one person with MS during their lifetime.  If you're reading this blog you, you already do.  Me.

Please help bring awareness to a greatly misunderstood and underestimated disease today, World MS Day.  My prayer is by raising awareness maybe one day we'll even find a cure so no one has to sit in their doctor's office and hear the words "you have MS" ever again.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Life as a Newbie: Theia 2.0

So over 5 years after being a true noob in Second Life, I decided it was time to find out what it's like to be a newbie today.  First, I made a new avatar this morning, complete the horrible lack of surrname (I won't even get into that at this time, ugh).  Next, I downloaded the standard Second Life viewer.  Finally, I logged in.

I must say, the initial landing point into Second Life has vastly improved since I was a newbie.  They actually teach you how do things like cam in on things and how to sit on a prim.  They also got rid of the ridiculous HUD tutorial they implemented some years ago.  But once you walk through a rather short demonstration area, you end up being given directions how to open the Destination Guide to teleport off into the world.

Really?  The Destination Guide?  That's the end of 'help'?  That explains why it's now common to see avatars only an hour old wandering lost at events and clubs. Being as many newbies still end up Orientation Island and Help Island, I made Orientation Island my next stop.  Wow...what an experience.

The first thing I noticed when landing was a couple people fighting on voice.  If I was a newcomer and the first interaction I had with another resident was hearing two idiots call each other "asshole" and curse each other out on voice, it would definitely make me wonder what the hell I'd gotten myself into.  But I remained despite the voice drama.  I stood around for about 20 minutes, waiting to see if someone would offer assistance, with no luck.  So, I decided to ask in local chat.  You will not believe the response:

[12:45] Theia 2.0: does someone know where I get what the sign gave me?
[12:45] Oldtimer Troll: I WANT TO DO TEH SEX! 

I'm totally not kidding.  That is the response I got to my question.  28 people in the sim and that is "help" I received when asking for it. *sighs*  Thankfully about 4 minutes later someone briefly told me to where to look in my inventory for the Notecard.

If that's not bad enough, about 5 minutes after that stimulating exchange, I got this IM:

[12:51] Fucktard: hi
[12:51] Theia 2.0: hello
[12:51] Fucktard: how are u?
[12:52] Theia 2.0: fine thanks, and you?
[12:52] Fucktard: good
[12:52] Fucktard: u need someone take care of you
[12:52] Theia 2.0: well no, but can you tell me how to change my hair color?
[12:53] Fucktard: you no BDSM? 
[12:53] Theia 2.0: huh? 
[12:53] Fucktard: you can be my slave
[12:54] Theia 2.0: Your slave? How about I make you my bitch instead? What kind of loser trolls noobs for freak'n slaves?  In a G sim no less? Unreal.
[12:54] Fucktard: what?  stupid bitch
[12:55] Theia 2.0: Yes, I am a bitch, but I'm not stupid nor am I a noob.  I've been here long enough to know a douchebag when I see one, and you're it.  Man up, grow some damn short hairs, and quit trolling noobs because you're too pathetic to get a woman who's not new and confused.

Unfreak'n believable.

Since Orientation Island was an epic failure, after a brief log into RL I decided to move onto Help Island Public.  There were 39 people in the sim when I landed.  This time I landed to people fighting and calling each other names in local chat. (why does everyone argue at these places?)  I spent another 20 minutes waddling around aimlessly, and no offer for assistance.  I once again asked for help in local chat:

[13:20] Theia 2.0: how do i change hair color?

 No response.  None.  No one even attempted to help.  They just continued to gesturbate, banter, and argue in open chat.  It was like I didn't even exist.  Another newbie was also asking for help, and received the same non-response I did.

Mind you, had I been a real newbie, I'd have thought "screw this" and logged off LONG before now.  But, there was a light at the end of dreary tunnel.  Right as I about to log, I received this IM:

[13:35] Nice Newbie: hi
[13:35] Nice Newbie: we meet before
[13:35] Theia 2.0: i dont think so
[13:35] Nice Newbie: did i take you to the school
[13:36] Theia 2.0: what school?
[13:36] Nice Newbie: about how to use the virwer 2
[13:36] Nice Newbie: and the game
[13:36] Theia 2.0: oh no, how do I go there?
[13:37] Nice Newbie: i give you a land mark
[13:37] Nice Newbie: ok
[13:37] Theia 2.0: what's that?
[13:38] Nice Newbie: now click the land mark and go
[13:38] Theia 2.0: the globe thing?
[13:38] Nice Newbie: 2 click
[13:38] Theia 2.0: ok ty
[13:39] Nice Newbie:there some shops
[13:39] Nice Newbie: free shops
[13:39] Nice Newbie: when yoy finish there
[13:40] Nice Newbie: call me
[13:40] Theia 2.0: oh ty

Ironically, the only person to actually offer me assistance was a fellow newbie, born in February 2011.  He gave me a Landmark to the University of Caledon Oxbridge, a place I am finding out is wonderful for helping newcomers.  I didn't 'call' the nice newbie afterward, but I do plan on looking him up on my real avatar (Theia), explaining who I am, and offering to return the favor by taking him shopping (my treat) to un-noob himself.  He deserves it.

This was my first day as a born again newbie, and it was not fun.  As I stated earlier, had a been a real newcomer, I'd have logged out of Second Life forever without ever leaving Orientation Island.  Is this really the experience Linden Lab wants newcomers coming into Second Life to have?  Is this the image they wish to portray to people first entering their virtual world?


Thursday, April 7, 2011

Newcomers in Second Life- Dazed and Confused

Back in the day, on my first avatar, I was a Second Life Mentor.  I would often spend time on what was then a private island where newcomers where would land.  These islands could only be accessed by newbies, Second Life Mentors, and Lindens.  It made the entrance into Second Life a non-threatening experience for newcomers, free from griefers, spammers, and general idiots that might harass them.  As a mentor, I also had the ability to ask for help in the Second Life Mentor channel when I was too outnumbered by newbies, and others would come to help.

Then, a couple years ago, that all changed.  Linden Lab disbanded the Second Life Mentors group, and newbies began to rez into Second Life on publicly accessible land.  What's worse, they are even dumped into locations like Waterhead and Ahern when the Help Island Public sims are full.

What's Ahern?  What's Waterhead?  Welcome Areas.  What's wrong with them?  They're in inhabited largely by people with zero interest in helping newcomers- and would rather spend their time making fun of them.  This, of course, is when they're not busy acting like foul mouthed 12 year olds in local chat or screaming at each other in voice.  

When I was on a Help Island Public last night, I had Tweeted what sad shape it was in.  Within minutes, Wizard Gynoid landed after seeing my Tweet.  Her response?

[00:49]  Wizard Gynoid: this is a lot like the ahern sim.
[00:50]  Theia Magic: I know :(
[00:50]  Wizard Gynoid: people hassling noobs


The truth is, Help Island Public isn't any better than Welcome Areas these days.  These are PG regions, where it's not at all uncommon to land in the middle of scantily dressed chics and a lot of foul language in local chat.  I've seen wannabe content creators standing near the landing zones, spamming their group tags to every newbie that rezzes in.  I've seen particle griefing, and last night was I even griefed by a blue drop down box spewing obscenities.  I've seen newcomer after newcomer laughed at and berated when asking for help, and I'm quite certain more than a few decided that Second Life wasn't for them because of it and never logged in again.

Did I mention this also where Linden Lab finds it acceptable for the Teens to log into Second Life?

Something desperately needs to be done about the way newcomers are introduced to the Second Life experience.  Had I landed in Help Island Hell as it is today five years ago when I joined Second Life, I can honestly say I'd have said "screw this" and never logged in again.  The Second Life Mentors may not have been perfect, but at least they tried to help newcomers in safe areas that the general public couldn't access.

I'm going to make the same challenge others have in recent weeks- go to Help Island Public and help a newbie.  While you're there, take note of the chaos newcomers are being dumped into and then make it known.  If Linden Lab wants to draw more people into Second Life, let alone make it a safe place for teenagers, then they have A LOT of work to do.



Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Gett'n Jiggly With It

Well it was suggested I make a video of the jiggly features in the Snowstorm Viewer. What, you mean you haven't heard? The new build has not only breast physics, but butt and belly physics too. That's right, it's time to get jiggly with it!

I've never used this viewer until today, and I've never made a video in Second Life before today. Calling this 'amateur' is a serious understatement. So please ignore my giggling and antics ;)
Enjoy!

Thursday, March 31, 2011

*ZED*- A beautiful surrealist adventure

I have been in Second Life for over 5 years now, and every once in awhile I still find a sim that makes me have that "wow" feeling of seeing something new.  *ZED* is the sim I found this week.

Created by the talented Azee Resident, it's a surrealist adventure inspired by the works of artists such as  RenĂ© Magritte and Salvador Dali.  I spent a long time roaming Azee's location, and it's truly a "must see" in Second Life.  It has a light hearted whimsical feel yet the beauty captured is breathtaking.  I highly recommend playing with Windlight settings on your visit.  If you're into Second Life photography (as I am) you will absolutely love it.  Here's just a couple shots I captured while exploring.  These are the raw, untouched images I captured using only Windlight:

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Linden Lab is Slacking on Media Security

It seems most people have gotten back to business as usual in Second Life.  The atmosphere is one of optimism, music venues are once again starting to flourish, and retailers are enjoying a new surge of shoppers enjoying a sense of regained security.  But is this sense of peace really just a case of too many wearing rose colored glasses?  Yes.


It's wonderful that Redzone and Quickware Alts are both gone.  It's also great the Sparrow Industries has removed all alt detecting function from their products.  My fear is that people have been lulled into a false sense of security.  The truth is, the media exploit that allowed devices like these to function is still there.  I would be willing to bet there's others just like these, trying to detect alts and worse, working discretely on the grid right this very moment.  Redzone was out there and 'in your face', so it was easy to know who the enemy was.  Now, because others have seen zFire's demise, they've learned from his mistakes to work quietly and slip under the radar.


Thankfully, Sione Lomu coded a media security patch that requires anything trying to access your media or music to gain permission.  This is a huge step in the right direction.  Currently, there are three viewers that are using Sione's patch:



Notice anyone missing from this list?  Yup, Linden Lab.  Why is it that the TPV's picked up the media security patch rather quickly but Linden Lab hasn't for it's standard viewer?  Wouldn't you think they'd be the first in line to protect Second Life residents, not last?  I'm sorry, but this is seriously wrong.  Linden Lab should've made their own security patch long before Redzone existed and Sione made his media patch, and yet they still don't even have the protection in their own viewer.

I find this particularly disturbing as all new residents entering Second Life use the standard viewer and have no clue there even is a security risk.  Can you imagine how many newbies have inadvertently put themselves at risk?  Or rather, how many newbies Linden Lab has put at risk with it's lack of security and information for newcomers?

This shouldn't be tolerated by anyone, old timers or newbies.  I find it more than a little ridiculous that we have to rely on each other for security help and information while Linden Lab remains irresponsibly silent.

I urge everyone to continue to take responsibility for your own security and pass that knowledge onto others.  I also encourage everyone to keep the heat on Linden Lab until they finally do the right thing and actually start proactively protecting all residents.

Some resources:
Media and Privacy by Inara Pey
Media Security Notecard offered by Inara Pey

Thursday, March 17, 2011

So what now?

It's definitely been a chaotic couple of weeks to say the least.  Sometimes I take a step back and look at the big picture, and I think to myself "how the hell did all this happen?"  Which of course, leads me to my next question "So what now?"


This entire privacy issue was truly a snowball effect of the worst kind.  It all started with a vulnerability in media security, and all it took was a few people to discover it and run with it.  The timing, of course, was impeccable.  Content creators all over the grid have been howling for years for better security (and rightfully so), then in swoops the likes of the CDS to save the day.  "We'll stop the copybotters!" CDS proclaimed.  The content creators of the grid oooh'd and aaahh'd, thankful for someone to finally be protecting them.


But then, some rumbling started.  Innocent people were being banned and had no idea why.  It was around this time zFire got his hands on CDS's script and realized with some modification, this script could do a lot more than catch a copybotter.  We all know what happened next- the alt detector was born and others like Quickware Alts and Sparrow Industries soon followed.


Of course, when this privacy issue first exploded, we had no idea the problem went beyond privacy violation and nose dived straight into internet security fraud.  I have to chuckle a little when I think of all the people who worked together to put the pieces of the puzzle together.  Seriously, have you looked at the epic Redzone threads over on SLU?  Forget Sherlock Holmes, we have the forumites over at SLU to handle the job! *laughs*  If you have a couple days to read (yes it's that long) you can literally watch all the pieces drop into place, ultimately ending with the zFire Xue's criminal history being exposed and him banned from Second Life.


Thankfully, as residents across the grid screamed louder and louder for our right to privacy, we even managed to get Linden Lab's attention.  In particular, Soft Linden, whom I think we all owe a major debt of gratitude to. Not only was the Community Standards changed to make revealing alts a violation, but both Quickware Alts and Redzone were banished from the grid.  


We also owe a debt of gratitude to Sione Lomu, the person responsible for coding the media security patch now implemented in various viewers.  Thanks to Sione, we can now better control what connects to us via media and music.


So I ask again... what now?  We're done, right?  Problem solved?


NO.


The problem, the very thing that started all this to begin with, still exists.  There is still a security hole in the media filter, which means changes to the TOS and Sione's patch or not, the vulnerability is still there for the next person to come long and try to exploit.  In fact, someone could be using that exploit right this very moment but discreetly so we don't even realize it's happening.


This is why I left the "how to protect your privacy" tab, because while it may be a huge relief to be rid of Redzone, as long as the security vulnerability still exists, our privacy is never truly safe.