The Endless Knot

Life, Buddhism, and Me

05 May 2007

Moving Day


I'm a bit sad today, since I've decided to move my blog to WordPress from Blogger. I'm the loyal type, and it is with some discomfort that I came to this decision. But I was frustrated that I couldn't trackback other blogs from Blogger. My favorite offline blog editor program won't work with Blogger, either. Those two things have been irritating me for some time now.

I really discovered WordPress after Linden Labs started using it for the official Second Life blog. Though, I've been aware of WordPress for quite some time -- way back when I had a blog on my own host, using Movable Type. WordPress was the new kid back then.

You can find me now at this address:

I hope to see you there!


lotus dingbat

01 May 2007

(Not) Hatin’ Linden Labs

Linden Labs late yesterday acknowledged receipt of the open letter drafted by Christiano Midnight and others regarding the current serious issues in Second Life. I became aware of it yesterday in a news item on Reuters Second Life news page.

I hesitated before signing the letter, because I trust that Lindens are indeed working very hard on issues. At the same time, I know that some issues have affected me and my small group of stores — namely the llEmail bug from last week that seems to have been resolved.

I have never experienced inventory loss, though if I did it would be devastating. Other things to me are more on the level of “glitches” than major problems. Things like the friends list not working, or the problems with group instant messages. At least with the latter, Linden Labs has communicated clearly what they are doing and what is required to fix the issue.

In the end, though, I did sign the letter because I do not want my customers to lose inventory, and then for me to try to find a way to confirm if it should be replaced — though my JEVN server does send logs every day to me of sales, I worry that they may not get through. I would like to see the glitch-level issues addressed as well, not continuously pushed to the back burner.

This brings me to my next topic, and the title of this post. I’m so tired of people complaining in an incredibly rude manner, and with posts laden with a sense of entitlement. One that struck me was a comment directed to Heretic Linden on the official Linden blog and the comment read in part, “You are a liar and you don’t care about who you hurt. You are going to hurt a lot of people and I hope bad things happen to you and your deluded friends to make you wish you never heard of secondlife[sic].” (This comment has since been deleted from the blog.) All this in a post by Heretic about a contest for new gestures to be triggered with the new voice chat tool coming to Second Life.

On the milder side are the shrill cries that bringing voice chat to Second Life will destroy Second Life, and that no one wants it. What people forget is there was a feature request in an old feature-request tool long ago, and that many, many people had indeed requested voice chat in Second Life. Most people complaining about voice chat are convinced that this is something Linden Labs is foisting upon us unwanted, when in truth Second Life Residents had requested it even before I became a Resident a year ago.

One thing that is telling to me is that many of the loudest complainers have no technical understanding of how voice chat will work, though Linden Labs has explained it repeatedly. The complaint I hear is, “ Voice chat is going to severely lag the servers.” Linden Labs has tried to explain, in various locations, that voice is not handled by region simulator servers at all, but by a third party. Still, this is the number one complaint that I’ve encountered about voice chat.

Another is that voice chat in Second Life will relegate to “second class citizenship” people who cannot or choose not to use voice. I really don’5 see this happening. Maybe I’m different from other people, but I like talking to everyone. So if they want to chat via voice, I’ll do that. If they want to type, go for it! There are instances where I think voice chat might not work so well, but I have yet to see it in practice. That being dance club environments. I could be wrong though, and chat in clubs could turn out to be excellent fun.

The new sculpted prims have engendered a similar fearful response, but this time of people afraid that only “3D professionals” will be able to use the new prim type, and that they will be pushed out of content creation. To that I counter with the Residents who’ve begun to step up to the plate to produce tools for people to generate sculpted prims with tools like the free, cross-platform Blender. Another important point is that the prior prim types have not been removed — they still exist. But yes, sculpted prim creations might become more popular than old block prim creations.

It is true that creating object with sculpted prims is harder than using the old box and sphere and other primitive types. But should Linden Labs not introduce this new tool (grid stability issues aside) simply because some people fear that they cannot use it? Should Linden Labs similarly not introduce voice because some people don’t want to use it? How then should Linden Labs enhance (again, grid issues aside) Second Life to keep it competitive with other 3D worlds that already do or plan to offer similar features?

I thought of an analogy, regarding sculpted prims at least, that puts into perspective these fearful objections to new features. Put yourself in real life. You own a company that makes widgets. You make widgets that are popular and are of excellent quality. A new company appears with a new kind of widget that is also of excellent quality but with better features than yours, created using a new technology freely available to anyone. What do you do? Do you take this technology to make your widgets better or do you rail against this new technology for suddenly changing the playing field?

Business 101 classes tell us the answer to this one: adapt or die. We Second Life content creators have a new and powerful tool to make wonderful new objects. We ignore these and other coming tools at the peril of our virtual businesses.

In the end, I’m glad I signed the open letter. I do want the difficult issues before us to be resolved by Linden Labs. I signed it because I do want Second Life to be better. I also don’t want the Lindens to stop working on features — indeed, I know they cannot because of competition. More importantly, rather than just signing an open letter and wailing in forums and blog comments, I’m trying to do something about it. I log in to JIRA and at least try to tidy up things. I vote on issues I think are critical, close duplicates, resolve issues I know the answer to, reproduce bugs, and try to produce patches (so far unsuccessfully). Linden Labs has given us the tools to help them make Second Life better, and also for us to make Second Life better.

Rather than complain loudly and incessantly, rather than hatin’ Linden Labs, do something to make Second Life better.

lotus dingbat

14 April 2007


Warm sun, fresh green leaves
Fluttering against blue sky —
Spring’s jubilant dance.

The other day I was driving home from work, and it was a glorious late afternoon. Here in South Georgia, this is late spring. All the spring bulbs have done their thing in February, and the summer flowers haven't yet kicked in. But spring is still fresh and new, and the landscape is a palette of every possible green. This particular afternoon the sun was golden, which enhanced the colors all the more. I was inspired to write something... words that took a haiku-like form came to mind.

To me, haiku is perfect for capturing a moment — a verbal photograph. I went to Wikipedia and refreshed myself on the traditional haiku form, and learned a bit about the history of haiku. What struck me was a quote on the page: “One Western critic who arrived at an understanding of haiku was Roland Barthes. In his 1970 work Empire of Signs, Barthes wrote that the haiku has the simple meaning of a child pointing his finger at something and saying, ‘this is how it is.’” This is exactly how I felt in the moment.

(It’s funny to look at all I just wrote, and how short the haiku is in comparison. Maybe I would have done better to just let the haiku stand on its own.)

lotus dingbat

27 March 2007

Death threats and rotten apples in the blogosphere

Via Slashdot, a horrifying story. I’ve never heard of Kathy Sierra before, but now I know that she’s a respected author of books about Java. Apparently that frightens people. Yeah, I can’t figure that out either. So on a couple of blogs that have now been taken down, and on her own blog, she started receiving death threats. Vile, disgusting, horrifying threats. Apparently some of the people on those sites have in other places been crying, “But it’s free speech, man!” Sorry, threatening or suggesting that someone die ain’t protected.

I don’t know who the “siftee” person, or the “Joey” person, or the “Rev ED” people are, but I hope that they get what they have coming. See, there are lots of places that this kind of stuff falls into the “making terroristic threats” domain, and that’s big trouble.

Kathy has had to cancel speaking engagements because of the fear that has fallen upon her. Whether it was a person or people who thought they were being funny or that they had some right to speak this way though they didn’t really mean it, or it was someone who really intended her harm, the fear she feels is still just as real.

What saddens me most is that apparently any idea of civility has completely left at least a part of the blogosphere. Chris Locke, one of the people wound up in this mess, seems to be truly puzzled as to why people might consider him “acerbic and misogynistic” but I offer this: Apparently he was let go as the person helping get the Kat Herding blog up (caution, annoying embedded music player). The post on Kat Herding is relatively mild, the strongest being that he was “sort of an oddball and quite difficult to work with.” Locke’s response on his site was, “the bitch fired me! can you believe it? Of all the low down dirty stinking moves. That little crack whore fired me!”

He later disingenuously says to a journalist, in relation to the threats against Sierra, “Surely I've seen hateful stuff about women online, and when it is directed at women *because they are women,* I am disgusted by it. I have a 17-year-old daughter whom I love very much and I would not ever want to see her subjected to such Neanderthal views and behavior.”

What if said behavior is on your very own blog, Mr. Locke? Is it different because it’s all “just in fun?” How would people, like me, who have never been to your blog know that?

Labels: ,

lotus dingbat

20 March 2007

“What Barry Says” — Four years later and just as scary

Though it seems, from random readings on the net, that the neocons have lost considerable power with the huge disapproval of the American public for the current administration, it bears keeping in mind that the same ideas presented here are still very much in play. Corporatism in its worst incarnation, in my opinion, continues to drive our current involvement in Iraq. It ain’t about WMDs, it ain’t about bringing “freedom” to the Iraqi people. It’s oil profits and defense spending.

This video was made in 2003, and I downloaded a copy in 2004. In those years, it seems much of what Barry McNamera warns about is much more common knowledge — Bush is a figurehead, and corporate interests are calling the shots through Dick Cheney. As a commenter at StumbleUpon said just yesterday, “Watch out world.”

lotus dingbat

13 March 2007

WestHost Rails application deployment — What I’ve learned

After many days of frustration, my Rails app is up and running on our WestHost server. Getting the app uploaded was not so bad, but it appears that you simply can’t do it with Capistrano because SVN is not one of the installable applications on WestHost. I really didn’t want to load up gcc and install SVN by hand. But when I did try out Capistrano, it did partially upload my app — it populated the database!

What do you need to know to get your rails app running on WestHost? Here’s what I learned:

Just FTP it

Since Capistrano was looking like it would be an ordeal, I just decided to roll up the app in a tarball and upload it to the host by ftp. That worked well, and I added an Alias in httpd.conf so that the server would see the new Rails directory. I also updated the .htaccess in the apps Public folder, all as described in the Rails wiki entry HowtoDeployMoreThanOneRailsAppOnOneMachine.

#!/usr/bin/env ruby in the scripts doesn’t work

WestHost doesn’t have a copy of env in /usr/bin, so that little bit of portability is broken. I had to go through and change all the scripts to start with #!/usr/local/ruby/bin/ruby instead. I tried creating a symlink to env in /usr/bin, but it didn’t work. I probably did it wrong (prolly shoulda been a hard link), but didn’t feel like messing around with it any more, and I had already changed the scripts to use the new shebang.

Basic HTTP Authentication is different for Apache

I followed The Teenage Mutant Ninja Hero Coders method to get basic authentication in my app. When I was first doing development on my Mac with lighttpd, all was swell. Then after deploying, I couldn’t figure out why I couldn’t log in. Well, it was my ignorance of the part on the above page that says “If you are using Apache and mod_fastcgi, this method will likely not work out of the box.” After playing around, I edited my httpd.conf to look like this:

AddModule mod_fastcgi.c
# Added the following line to allow
# passing of http headers to fcgi
FastCgiConfig -pass-header Authorization

Ta da! Authentication works!

Still to do

I think I have some routing issues. I have to access the app by doing Actually, I think I need to play with the RewriteBase or something. And, if I leave off the trailing slash, the images used by the app don’t load.

Other than that, the app appears to be working well. I can do all the things with this basic app that I’m supposed to be able to do. All the CRUD stuff is working. All the goodies I put in, since it was so easy, are working too, like webcal:// calendar subscription and CSV export of the data.

I do want to change my report printing from just javascript prints to using PDF::Writer for more control over pagination. That shouldn’t be too hard now that the basic app is running.

The only big issue is normalizing the app so that it’s the same on the production server and the Mac I’m developing on. I think the biggest problem is the shebangs in the scripts folder. I think the best thing is to get env in /usr/bin so I can use that portable method of invoking Ruby.

As I get farther, I’ll post updates. I hope this helps anyone who comes across this, and who is deploying to WestHost.

lotus dingbat

12 March 2007

My First Buddhist Pilgrimage — to Atlanta

This past weekend, I was in Atlanta to visit my boyfriend, and before the visit had mentioned to another friend that I would be up, and was hoping we could get together. In trying to arrange our mutually conflicting schedules, I mentioned that my boyfriend and I were planning on one morning to go to the Atlanta Zen Center. That sparked a recollection for my friend, that a friend of his had described seeing “some kind of Buddhist Temple or something” near the junction of I-675 and I-285. This obviously piqued my interest, so when I arrived at the boyfriend’s house Friday evening, I mentioned that I’d like to go look for this place.

Saturday afternoon we piled into the car to run some errands, find some food, and wend our way up to Midtown for maybe some good food and nightlife. After getting the errands out of the way, we headed out to find this temple thing. Being on the Jonesboro for the errands, we then took I-75 up to 285, then east to 675, and headed south. We drove and never saw anything remotely looking like a temple. Myself, I was looking for a chedi (the bell-shaped monuments common in some parts of Asia). We finally decided we’d gone far enough, and turned around.

A few moments later, from the northbound lane of 675, I spotted the temple on the west side of the interstate. How we missed it was a puzzle, because it was big and up high overlooking the highway. We resolved then that we wanted to get closer.

Since it was on the west side of 675, we headed back to 285 west, and took the first exit, Moreland Ave. The first major intersection came upon us pretty quickly, and we thought we needed to go a little further south. The second light was in just the right location it seemed, but there was a train running parallel to Moreland, blocking us from turning left back towards 675. We went a little farther, deciding we were too far (and still blocked by the train). We went back to where we originally wanted to turn, and waited for a very slow train to finally pass.

As we drove on, the boyfriend asked where I thought the temple was. Just as we were about to pass under 675, I said, “There it is!” We made a quick left turn, and up the hill was the grand temple

The sign read, “Wat Lao Buddha Phothisaram.”

At the bottom of the hill was what appeared to be a house converted into worship space — the roof fascias had been adorned with plywood cut in the traditional shapes found on Thai temples. It looked a bit disheveled overall, and though there was an SUV in the carport, it appeared no one was there. Up the hill a sort was was a steel building, then just below the crest of the hill was the temple. We drove up, and got out.

It looked like the temple was being enhanced with new landscaping — there were flats of pansies waiting to be planted, and stacks of inexpensive hollowed facing brick, some of which had already been placed as pavers around the temple. It definitely looked to be a labor of love, not one with a deep pocketbook. Behind the temple was a chedi made of plywood, and behind that what looked like a performance stage.

All of this was completely deserted, and the temple was padlocked. I wanted badly to see a monk come out of one of the buildings, offering to show us inside. Alas, it didn’t happen. We took a few pictures, one of which you see above, and after a few minutes headed further towards downtown Atlanta. We both felt a warmth knowing that a beautiful Buddhist temple is relatively close at hand — one that almost appears to have been transported magically from southeast Asia.

Since the picture from the cameraphone isn’t so good, here are some others I found:

This one is from Annie at Metroblogging Atlanta, who has been wondering about the temple since last year, and just got an answer last week!

That last one is from dennysmagicland’s flikr photostream.

lotus dingbat

WestHost Rails application deployment — Why is this hard?

I’ve written a tidy little app in Rails for work, and need to deploy it to our server. It’s really a basic program so using svn and Capistrano and all that seems like overkill. I just want to upload the folder where I did development locally on my Mac, and have it run on WestHost’s Rails installation. I do, however, want it to be in it’s own separate path, because I anticipate more programs coming along in the future.

I’ve been trying to get this to work for a week, and nothing is working the way it should be. I’ve added the Alias directive in httpd.conf to get it to see the new application directory, but after that, things just fall apart. Why is this so hard? Why does it seem that each hosting provider does this in a different way? This is frustrating.

So, in the full OSS spirit, as soon as I get this figured out, I’ll post my discoveries here to the blog. I hope that it will spare others some of the pain I’m going through at the moment.

Wish me luck!

lotus dingbat

© 2006 Simon Nolan

The End