Washington DC and One Nice Thing

Posted by jerry on May 7th, 2007 — Posted in Journal, Travel

Somewhere over the Pacific at around 3.00AM body clock time and unable to sleep I went in search of coffee. I had watched two movies and despite the gentle rocking of the plane – like riding over the sand where the waves had left tiny ripples – I found myself with a mug of coffee and a conversation with a businesswoman who was also travelling to the US.

After a few inconsequential remarks she says “So, what is your ‘One Nice Thing’?” The way she said it I could hear the inverted commas and the capital letters.

She took my quizzical look as a prompt and said that every time she travels for business she tries to take time out for one nice thing – some way to treat yourself, whether going to a favourite restaurant or a show, or exploring a new musuem.

The reasoning was that when you are old you won’t remember this or that business trip – but you will always remember the one nice thing. It’s a way of building positive memories for the future. What a great concept!

For me it will be to visit the National Museum of American Culture – part of the Smithsonian I have never been to.

What have been your one nice things?

While this is about doing one nice thing for yourself to actively build positive memories, there are other memes along these lines. For example, there is one associated with the concept of doing one nice thing for someone else – working on the ‘pay it forward’ philosophy. This is the concept behind Do-One-Nice-Thing.com. And a version has appeared on 43 things where people aspire to do one nice thing per week/day for someone else. I think it’s a reallly positive meme.

The Classic American Diner
In the meantime, the classic American diner is alive and well and living in Washington DC. I often wondered about the distinctive styling of the diner – with the corrugated metal cladding surmounted by continuous windows and styled with seat booths.

Then I saw the picture on the wall of this particular one that showed the original ‘Dining Car’ – a converted railway carriage – that explains it all in a nutshell. Even though the original rail car has long since been scrapped, the new simulacrum (not fake in a simple way) still references the classic railway carriage of the 1930s.


First foray into SecondLife

Posted by jerry on May 1st, 2007 — Posted in Journal, New media, Technology

After reading quite a bit about the virtual world SecondLife, Sharon and I decided to check it out and see what all the fuss is about. And what a fascinating space it is. After some preliminaries downloading the software (64mb for a mac) – setting up a virtual body (known as an ‘avatar’) we were ready to check out this virtual world. There’s certainly a knack to it – even walking has its isues so one starts off in a ‘newby’ area where you can learn to walk and talk and fly and drive a strange assortment of vehicles from a virtual ‘segway’ scooter to a road roller or a car. We were both pretty dangerous – luckily these were only virtual vehicles and the squished rats were only virtual animals…

After completing some simple tasks we were off to explore the new world. Sharon’s first stop was a gallery, mine an Irish pub – it’s amazing how even online real life (rl) tastes prevail. The gallery was well constructed and quite surreal – it took a while to figure out how we could sit on a sofa – but that’s part of the fun.

There are several academic spaces in SecondLife (sl) and several ‘movie’ screens where you can watch machinimas or animations from streaming video. Same goes for music performances and several bands have performed in sl streaming their sound into a venue – like the Blarney Stone Irish pub – and these are scheduled events.


Conferences are held here and as a distance learning tool I think sl has a lot to offer in terms of getting away from the constraints of space.

And there is a range of ways to animate your avatar – including dance moves which synch to the streaming music – you can buy dance routines with virtual money (lindens) or you can go to a dance venue, as I did with new media theorist Angela Thomas aka Anya Ixchel who pointed out that like any community newbies are either taken under someone’s wing or ignored. You can always tell a newbie by their stock avatar – yes you can obtain clothes or buy them from a fashion store – but the most expensive part is new skin – because of the work that goes into tones and shadows.

So all up a fascinating experience and clearly there is a lot to explore – watch this space!