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!


Thinking blogger award meme

Posted by jerry on April 29th, 2007 — Posted in Journal, New media, Technology, Theory

Many thanks to Linn Skinner of The Embroidress fame for tagging me with a ‘thinking blogger’ award 🙂

thinking blogger award

Here’s what she said:

Another blog that takes me to realms not always familiar to me is Jerry Everard’s Mindsigh Jerry has a way of making rather lofty academic approaches to philosophic thought within my grasp without “dumbing down” the concepts. It is his clarity of expression that does the trick.

So what’s this all about? The meme originated with The Thinking Blog and the idea is simple – you tag five blogs that make you think. The rules are:

1. If, and only if, you get tagged, write a post with links to 5 blogs that make you think,
2. Link to this post so that people can easily find the exact origin of the meme,
3. Optional: Proudly display the ‘Thinking Blogger Award’ with a link to the post that you wrote (there is an alternative silver version if gold doesn’t fit your blog).

This is a great way to find out about other blogs that make you think – by getting others who people tag as ‘thinking’ to give their selections – making it a form of social bookmarking.

A meme is “n. A unit of cultural information, such as a cultural practice or idea, that is transmitted verbally or by repeated action from one mind to another (analogous to the transmission of biological information in a gene).” a term coined by British biologist Richard Dawkins. So the thinking blogger meme is a way of tagging someone and saying: “You’re it – pass it on”.

And so to my selections. The first goes to Sharonb – my inspiriation – what more can I say? for her blog Mindtracks which discusses new media and visual culture.

The second is Angela Thomas’ blog which explores issues of identity – particularly with respect to SecondLife, and the question of the new literacies required in the digital age.

The third is Colin Lankshear and Michele Knobel’s blog Everyday Literacies which is also a new media blog by a couple of wonderful educators on the subject.

The fourth is Writer Response Theory where there is always some innovative discussion on aspects of textual arts.

And the fifth… Makezine! These folks adapt/re-cut/re-mix technology to make it do stuff the designers never thought of – and the results are amazing. Build your own cloud chamber or turn your laser pointer into an optical communications device – you name it and it’s been done on Makezine.

The meme is out there – pass it on….


Bandwidth theft and constructed identity

Posted by jerry on April 27th, 2007 — Posted in Journal, New media

I was doing that rare thing this morning – checking my Technorati ranking when I noticed that some of the blogs that linked to me had links that just said [IMG] – so I clicked through and found images from my blog with neither attribution nor a link back to my blog – just when you load the image it is loading from my site – and using my bandwidth for no gain through attribution or link for people to click through!

I chose two strategies. The first was to go in and change the name of the image on m blog and then I edited the link in the post so that the bandwidth pirate’s blog simply shows no image, while mine remains unaffected. The second strategy, where the person is clearly and actively disregarding any netiquette through profligate bandwidth theft – is to out them.

I found a whole blog category devoted to purported travels of Christopher Clark – but not a single image was his – every one of them came from a different source – each drawing a little bandwidth from the other blogs or websites. The thing is, the photos were used and written up as though they were his! Was this a case of constructed identity? If so it seems a relatively rare occurrence. But for someone who purports to be something of an artist, he seems to have scant regard for intellectual property. Perhaps he – if it is a he – is simply a fraud. There is no email link from his blog so I couldn’t just write to him. So in my small way I’d like to draw attention to a bandwidth thief – one who parasitically draws on the resources of countless servers like a spammer.

Of course the proper way would be to seek permission to use the image and/or to upload a copy of the image on his own server and place a link with acknowledgment back to the source site. That way when his page loads it is only drawing on the resources of his own server/provider, while acknowledging that the intellectual property belongs elsewhere.

Did he really think that no-one would notice that he had linked to their images? Or that the little bit of bandwidth wouldn’t be missed? The thing is, if it were just one image, perhaps it wouldn’t matter too much. But imagine if his site were really popular – then every time his page loads, there is a download of the image too – each time gradually eroding the remaining bandwidth and forcing up the costs for the original host. A hundred images being hit a hundred times a day is a lot of hits for no gain for the original host. It is almost as bad as a spam attack.

So I have a little plea – by all means use my images – but if you do, please acknowledge and put a link back to my site – not just an [img] embed.

So endeth the rant


Electric fiddle – modified

Posted by jerry on April 25th, 2007 — Posted in Journal, Music, Woodwork

Many of you will know that when we were in China I bought an electric violin – a fine piece of Guangzhou engineering – great sound for recording, but tiring to play for any length of time because it’s quite a bit heavier than a normal violin.

Electric violin

That set me wondering about how I might reduce the weight – I thought about putting in some tasteful holes in the side to give it that ‘industrial’ look, but after liberal application of the forstner bits it wasn’t aesthetically pleasing. So I had a re-think. I would need a stub wing on the right for position work and I would need enough belly to hold a shoulder rest – but was the rest of the superstructure really necessary?

Electric violin

The whole thing is made from a fairly dense craftwood so I set to work with the bandsaw and removed segments of the skeletal violin shape – that was a bit better on the weight. And so to the main strut to which the neck was attached. There is a fairly crudely routed box section for the electronics, but the rest seemed to be a solid plank.

Electric violin

I tested with a couple of discreet drill holes and found it was indeed solid MDF – no wonder thing thing weighed so much! I took to the main strut with a couple of sizes of forstner bit in the drill press and took a series of impressions. Then I joined them to make a cavity – not all the way through, but about two-thirds so there would still be plenty of strength. I still need to do a lot of finishing work on the back, but you’ll get the idea.

Electric violin

A LOT of shavings later and the fiddle is now substantially lighter – not quite as light as the kevlar Guscott ones, but certainly light enough to use in performance without putting my neck out 🙂

I agree that it has lost some of the aesthetic quality, but it will work well as a good workhorse electric fiddle


St Albans Folk Festival

Posted by jerry on April 23rd, 2007 — Posted in Journal, Music

Another wonderful St Albans Folk Festival 2007 has come and gone. Highlights included the delightful crowd that attended my fiddle workshop and the really responsive crowd at our Full Circle concert at the Fickle Wombat restaurant. This is a really friendly folk festival – small enough to meet old and new friends, and big enough to hear some great musicians.

The setting is delightful – nestled in a gorge not far from Wisemans Ferry in NSW (about an hour from Newcastle) and the morning mist makes the place quite magical as the first morning flutes and fiddles announce the new day.

We found a campsite conveniently opposite the Fickle Wombat venue


The first stop after setting up camp was to head off to the main festival ground and get a good hot cup of coffee – and a bacon and egg sandwich. Both were warm wet and filling.

But the folk/blues coming out of the main marquee quickly set the scene for a night of great music. I ran into the excellent fiddler Tony Pyrzakowski and he was keen to play a session after his gig with the inimitable Wheeze and Suck Band. They’re terrific if you haven’t heard them – and great to see live as they really get the audience going. You’ve got to hear Tony’s new five string electric fiddle – it’s light; it’s got a great sound; and it has the viola C string as well as the normal violin ones. And in Tony’s hands he makes it really sing. That’s a Guscott fiddle – light weight (the pre-amp goes on your belt, not in the fiddle – and the fiddle is made from lightweight kevlar).

We had a blistering ‘dueling fiddlers’ session at the Settlers Arms pub – a grand old country pub – perfect spot for a music session. There was trad session in the back room then when the pub closed it was everyone on the verandah until the wee hours. Tony and I played and members of the Mothers and Wheeze and Suck and Full Circle – it was terrific and there were several other fiddle and whislte players joining in – and that’s what it’s all about – the sharing of the music. I had a few songs with Nigel ‘Muddy’ Waters – great guy.

Settlers Arms
Settler Arms Hotel, St Albans

When the cool damp air started playing havoc with my bow – the wood expanded until the bow would no longer keep the hair stretched tight – it was time to call it a night.

Next morning with the light mist keeping the dust down Sharon and I headed up to the Fickle Wombat for the Poets breakfast and then over to the Gallery – where my fiddle workshop would be held – and had a lovely fresh brewed plunger coffee and chocolate slice for morning tea, then after checking out the paintings and handcrafts we headed back to the main venue to hear some music and take a few photos.

The fiddle workshop was well attended and I took them through some technique training and some stretching exercises

fiddle workshop St Albans 2007
Jerry’s fiddle workshop, St Albans Folk Festival

fiddle workshop - St Albans

Then it was down to the pub verandah for a bit of a warm-up session with the rest of Full Circle Band before grabbing a bite to eat, some music at the main marquee and then off to get our instruments to the Fickle Wombat ready for our concert.

Fickle Wombat Restaurant, St Albans NSW
The Fickle Wombat, St Albans NSW

These guys deserve a lot of praise as they supported the festival throughout and worked 18 hour days tirelessly to keep everyone fed and coffee’d – Well done!

Other highlights – the Mothers of Intention with their Karifolkie (see it to believe it!) They played at the Fickle Wombat before us and set the scene for the concert to follow

Mothers of Intention - Karifolkie
Mothers of Intention – Karifolkie

Then it was our turn, and we soon had the crowd stomping and dancing and singing along. Tony told me after that as he was walking away to do a Wheeze and Suck gig he heard us start up and he kept wanting to go back and listen to us! We played for a good two hours – which flew by – it seemed like half an hour to us, and the packed audience were really responsive – a truly lovely festival crowd. We were called back for three encores and it was a real high note to end the concert.

The old van went well – with the minor irritant of a short circuit in the headlights to make our arrival in the evening a bit interesting. And we passed a milestone on the speedometer – 400,000kms – in the the van we’ve had since new


With the final morning dawning it was time to pack up the camp, listen to the poets breakfast and say a few farewells before heading back up the road via Wiseman’s Ferry and homeward to Canberra. Interestingly, Wisemans Ferry is the oldest continuously operating ferry service in Australia having run since 1827.

Wisemans Ferry NSW

Wisemans Ferry

… and that sign is in miles! It’s actually 21 km to Wisemans Ferry.

Anyhow, congratulations to Alison Boyd and all the organisers for a great festival – hope to see you all there next year!