February 2007

Second Life, the “brilliant metaverse” that achieved its 4 millionth signup earlier this week, will soon have voice communication possibilities, according to an announcement made by Joe Linden on the Official Linden Lab Blog. Now, Prokofy Neva of SL Herald asks (as the devil’s advocate here for some) if voice features are really needed in SL. She (“he”) says:

We all know who “needs” voice. The Lindens do, first of all. They need it because they want to be like There, WoW, X-Box, and whatever else is out there that either has voice right in the client or uses voice services more routinely than Second Life. They also want to sound like they are really Business-Ready and Business-Savvy and nothing says “Business” like “A Conference Call”. But when Second Life turns out to be nothing more than a conference call, will it be as cool?

And we all know who doesn’t need voice — the deaf, the transgendered, the shy, the insecure, the old, the foreign. That is, all the people who have Second Lives unlike their first lives — and we’re about to find out just how many of us there are like that.

Prokofy Neva casts her (“his”) doubts about the voice feature being “Vox Populi” (Voice of people) or “His Master’s Voice”. I myself have some very different concerns and in fact, don’t feel interested with all these voice stuff. I have been asking just one thing since the very first day I joined Second Life:

“Do you pay a rent for the land you own in real life? So what the f*** is this tier payments thing?” If you believe it’s a kind of “real estate tax”, then come to think of it again and answer this: Do you know any country with a real estate tax which doubles the price you paid for the property in less than a year? Is there a 210 % payment for the land you own, anywhere on this earth?

You don’t own land in SL, you actually just rent it. And if you fail to pay your rents (a.k.a. “Tier Payments“) you lose your land completely, without a refund of the amount you paid when you purchased it.

So I really don’t care about “voice feature” or anything that sound “innovative” for some, unless something is done about this unfair system. Almost everything about land (from the unfair, inflated land prices to the tier payments) is connected to a kind of “robbery” in SL, that’s all. Now you can have and enjoy your “voice” if you have the right to “speak” against this “Tiers for fears“.

clipped from www.secondlifeherald.com


The Lindens’ announcement that they’re going to add voice to Second Life will likely be met with mixed responses.
In the typical upbeat LL fashion, the Blob tells us that “many” residents wanted to have voice, but in fact this isn’t something we can determine accurately that “most” wanted. Those who truly need voice within SL tend to use Skype, Shoutcast servers, Ventrillo, etc. already. But having it Always On will pose problems for significant numbers.
It’s a sad day when a virtual world, which is supposed to be special, which is supposed to have a magic circle even if it isn’t a game, which is supposed to be about freedom and creativity, makes you do something against your will. There will be many, many others more anonymous than me who will keep typing and therefore endlessly invite suspicion and speculation.
Check out the Features Voting Tool and it tells the story about “Voice” in Second Life.

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Since last week, you have been seeing my blog entries that have a “different style”, namely, “The Clipmarks style” with a clipped content in a blue box below each post. There have been a number of “off-topic” comments asking me about it, saying “Hey Vic, how you post a clip content to your blog?” Well, now you know it I suppose.

The answer is simply “The Best keeps getting better“. After a short beta test, Clipmarks officially announced version 2.0 this morning. It has many new cool features and “clip-to-blog” is just one of them. After installing the new extension, you can now post the clip contents directly to your blog, along with your remarks and introduction. Is it very cool or what?

What else? Well, you need to see it for yourself but I can give you some very short clues now: Clipping tool is fine tuned and now you can select and clip individual sentences! Plus, what would you think if I say “Now you can add videos to your clips”? Yes, Clipmarks has a “Videos” tab now and you can directly post the videos you find on the web to “Clipmarks Videos”!

Once more, many thanks to the great Clipmarks team for keeping up the excellent work. “3 Erics”, Derek and Adam; you guys are writing a history on that site!

Update: Don’t forget to watch the video interview with Clipmarks co-founder and CEO Eric Goldstein, on the Scoble Show. You can see it on my VodPod, on my VodPod widget on the main page or you can directly go to Scoble’s site. You may also want to read Davis Janowski‘s review of Clipmarks 2.0 on AppScout site.

clipped from clipmarks.com

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A new “comedy series” takes place, in which the main actors are the Oscar-winning director James Cameron, the academic world’s instantly nay-saying “science bureucrats” and some Christian clergy that firmly believes “you cannot find the bones of the God.” The plot of the story focuses on some coffins and bones that were found in Israel and claimed to belong Jesus (a.k.a The Christ) and his family. The most funny thing is, some serious “scientists” enthusiastically bother to discuss an “archaeological find” about a “mythical figure” that had never existed in the real world but only mentioned in some “scriptures” which were obviously a synthesis of various ancient sources and myths that were borrowed during Constantine‘s reign in the 4th century. It is even certain that the city Nazareth was not existed before the end of the 1st century so there could never be a “Son of Man” that was known as “Jesus of Nazareth“.

But thanks to Dan Brown‘s “Da Vinci Code“, people learned quickly that sensational claims about a fictituous Jesus and Mary Magdalene could “sell well”. Mainstream media can jump on such stories but we expect scientists to be more cautious, while it is now widely accepted that “Maria of Magdalena” was not a flesh-and-blood woman that lived in the first century but the name was an “epithet” of the “Mother Goddess” of the Near East, who was also known as “Mari-Anat of Magdala“, where “Magdala” meant “towers”, defining a special temple in Levant that had three big towers in it. Read on the “comedy” about the “DNA of a non-existent god”… *sigh*

clipped from www.cbsnews.com

Film Challenges Christianity

(CBS/AP)�An Oscar-winning director is about to challenge the most elemental tenets of Christianity, claiming the bones of Jesus Christ were found in a Jerusalem tomb, but many archaeologists and clergymen have been quick to cast doubt on the movie’s assertions.
James Cameron’s “The Lost Tomb of Christ,” which the Discovery Channel will run on March 4, argues that 10 ancient ossuaries — small caskets used to store bones — discovered in a suburb of Jerusalem in 1980 may have contained the bones of Jesus and his family, according to a press release issued by the Discovery Channel.
The tomb bears the names Jesus, Mary and Joseph and one of the caskets even bears the title, “Judah, son of Jesus,” hinting that Jesus may have had a son. But scientists argue the names were extremely common during that time period, and in no way prove the Jesus buried at the site was Jesus Christ.

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If you don’t own your home, there is no “American Dream”. Owning their own house has always been the primary indicator of welfare for the Americans, since early 1950’s. But Rick Wolff writes at MR Zine, that present mortgage system is reversing the dream badly. “Traditional mortgages were the crucial means whereby millions of American families changed,” writes Wolff, “especially after World War 2, from tenants to home owners, thereby realizing what came to be known as the American Dream. Today’s reverse mortgages are a new means for liquidating that dream. They would better be described as ‘wealth-transfer’ than ‘wealth-management’ tools.”

Below are some excerpts from this interesting article:

clipped from mrzine.monthlyreview.org
As all statistics show, the only significant asset that Americans accumulate during their working years is their home. �The economic realities of our times now require drawing down that asset via reverse mortgages to fund their post-retirement years. � They will thus not leave their homes to their children. �Meanwhile the mass refinancing of home mortgages by Americans during their working years is also reducing their home equity as they approach retirement. �The combination of refinancing and reverse mortgages is quickly eroding the historically short-lived period of mass home ownership in the US.
No data exist on how many seniors choose reverse mortgages to avoid burdening their children for ongoing support in their final years. �Likewise no data exist on how many of those children will not discover the cost of reverse mortgages until their parents’ estate is debited to repay the reverse mortgage lender. �Yet we know the importance of home ownership to Americans’ sense of well-being.

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“In the past few months, as the situation in Iraq has deteriorated,” writes Seymour Hersh, “the Bush Administration, in both its public diplomacy and its covert operations, has significantly shifted its Middle East strategy. The ‘redirection,’ as some inside the White House have called the new strategy, has brought the United States closer to an open confrontation with Iran and, in parts of the region, propelled it into a widening sectarian conflict between Shiite and Sunni Muslims.”A very interesting article, underlining the Al-Qaeda links and asking intriguing questions. Read the entire article at The New Yorker – some excerpts are below:

clipped from www.newyorker.com
To undermine Iran, which is predominantly Shiite, the Bush Administration has decided, in effect, to reconfigure its priorities in the Middle East. In Lebanon, the Administration has co�perated with Saudi Arabia’s government, which is Sunni, in clandestine operations that are intended to weaken Hezbollah, the Shiite organization that is backed by Iran. The U.S. has also taken part in clandestine operations aimed at Iran and its ally Syria. A by-product of these activities has been the bolstering of Sunni extremist groups that espouse a militant vision of Islam and are hostile to America and sympathetic to Al Qaeda.
One contradictory aspect of the new strategy is that, in Iraq, most of the insurgent violence directed at the American military has come from Sunni forces, and not from Shiites. But, from the Administration’s perspective, the most profound—and unintended—strategic consequence of the Iraq war is the empowerment of Iran.

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In a very interesting and thought-provoking interview, Noam Chomsky told Michael Shank about his opinions on several “hot” issues like Iran, North Korea, Iraq, Cuba and of course, Venezuela. Chomsky outlines the US foreign policy as “not tolerating independence” and said “it has an axiom that it must control Middle East energy resources”. Regarding Iran, Chomsky recalls the 1970’s – the days of loyal US ally tyrant Shah Reza Pahlavi:”The United States, as we know, overthrew the parliamentary government, installed a brutal tyrant, was helping him develop nuclear power, in fact the very same programs that are now considered a threat were being sponsored by the U.S. government, by Cheney, Wolfowitz, Kissinger, and others, in the 1970s, as long as the Shah was in power. But then the Iranians overthrew him, and they kept U.S. hostages for several hundred days. And the United States immediately turned to supporting Saddam Hussein and his war against Iran as a way of punishing Iran. The United States is going to continue to punish Iran because of its defiance. So that’s a separate factor.”

More excerpts from the interview are below, but I do recommend the complete feature:

clipped from www.alternet.org
Shank: Venezuela has been successfully defiant with Chavez making a swing towards socialism. Where are they on our list?
Chomsky: They’re very high. The United States sponsored and supported a military coup to overthrow the government. In fact, that’s its last, most recent effort in what used to be a conventional resort to such measures.
Shank: But why haven’t we turned our sights more toward Venezuela?
Chomsky: Oh they’re there. There’s a constant stream of abuse and attack by the government and therefore the media, who are almost reflexively against Venezuela. For several reasons. Venezuela is independent. It’s diversifying its exports to a limited extent, instead of just being dependent on exports to the United States. And it’s initiating moves toward Latin American integration and independence. It’s what they call a Bolivarian alternative and the United States doesn’t like any of that.

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