UPDATED! Coronavirus Pandemic: What You Are Feeling Is Grief (And What You Are Seeing Is Plagiarism)

I make no secret of the fact that I have been struggling emotionally during the coronavirus pandemic, which is why I found the following five-minute YouTube video to be comforting. Psychologist Dr. Sarb Johal tweeted it with the following comment:

We feel the world has changed, and it has. The loss of normalcy; the fear of economic toll; the loss of connection. This is hitting us and we’re grieving. Collectively. Here’s what’s going on and what you can do.

Now, this is not something that I haven’t already heard from my psychiatrist and other people. But there’s just something about the way Dr. Johal puts it.

If, like me, you are struggling, you need to set aside five minutes and watch this:

Thank you, Dr. Sarb Johal! I thought the least I could so is repost this video, since at the moment it has a criminally low 44 views! So get out there and share this. Thanks!

UPDATE 10:45 p.m.: One of my regular blog readers, Brinlea, just shared with me the following article from the Harvard Business Review: That Discomfort You’re Feeling Is Grief, an interview with renowned grief expert David Kessler (thanks, Brinlea!).

Hmmm, this article was written March 23rd, over three weeks ago, and Dr. Johal posted his YouTube video just six hours ago. And the HBR article is pretty much the exact script of what Dr. Johal said in his YouTube video, right down to the examples used. Even the text of Dr. Johal’s tweet (which I quoted up top) is lifted verbatim from the article.

Hmmm… I think at the very least, the good doctor should have credited where he got his information from. Read the Harvard Business Review article and then watch Dr. Johal’s video and you’ll see what I mean. And I wouldn’t even have known about it if it weren’t for Brinlea.

So I will take back my earlier praise. This is still useful information, engagingly imparted, but this is also plagiarism. Dr. Johal basically lifted, almost verbatim, what David Kessler said in his interview with the Harvard Business Review. As a librarian who teaches proper citation style to university students, this is a major no-no.

Not impressed. If you’re going to steal another person’s words, then have the guts to cite your sources. (Do not fuck with the librarians, we will catch you out!)

And if you are looking for some properly cited sources of information about mental health during the pandemic, here is a blogpost I keep updated—to which I have now added two excellent articles from the Harvard Business Review.

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Second Life Steals, Deals, and Freebies: Pale Beauty

I am in a resolutely foul and cranky mood this evening, for two reasons.

First, I realize that I have spent EIGHTY CANADIAN DOLLARS to change the name of one of my Second Life avatars, which, even for someone who loves SL as much as I do, is an filthy, obscene amount of money; and…

Second, I am still struggling with bouts of anxiety, depression and anger at having to self-isolate in my apartment because of the coronavirus pandemic. I started working from home March 16th, 2020, and I feel as if I am slowly starting to fall apart at the seams, and it hasn’t even been ONE FULL MONTH YET. And today Helen Branswell reports for STAT:

A modeling study on the new coronavirus  warns that intermittent periods of social distancing may need to persist into 2022 in the United States to keep the surge of people severely sickened by Covid-19 from overwhelming the health care system.

The research, published Tuesday in the journal Science, looked at a range of scenarios for how the SARS-CoV-2 virus will spread over the next five years. Those scenarios included variables like whether people who are infected develop short-term immunity — less than a year — or longer-term protection. But, overall, the research concludes it is unlikely that life will return any time soon to the way it was before the virus’ emergence.

2022? 2022?!??

And, just to add insult to injury, I have developed an ugly, painful reddish-brown rash on the backs of my thighs from spending 16-to-18 hour days perched in front of my personal computer, sitting on one of my wooden kitchen chairs, and it has has just made me even more cranky, upset and ill-tempered. (I plan to drive out to my office in the science library tomorrow, to pick up my lushly upholstered and much-missed executive office chair, praying to God that I can fit it into the back of my subcompact car, so I can bring it home.)

As a virtual hermit who largely lives his life on the internet, all of a sudden I can no longer sit for long periods in front of my computer! (So much for my admittedly unhealthy coping mechanism.) In between sessions on my PC, I lie on the sofa, with my legs propped up, rubbing a corticosteroid cream originally prescribed for my eczema on my thighs, seething.

So, no, I am NOT a happy camper today. I am not a happy camper at all.

However, I still take some small amount of pleasure from my weird little hobby of designing a complete Second Life avatar look from head to toe. So tonight, I have plunked down an avatar at the side of the (New) Frank’s Jazz Club, listening to the music stream as I lie on the sofa:

Here’s a few more shots of my avatar from the front:

This avatar is wearing:

Mesh Head: The Limited Edition Bento head from Akeruka (L$1 group gift; the Akeruka group costs L$150 to join, and I would strongly urge you to pick up this Bakes on Mesh head before it’s gone, which comes in eight different skin tones and with matching skin appliers for Maitreya, Belleza, Slink, and Omega-compatible mesh bodies included). The beautiful mesh eyes are also included in the package.

Mesh Body: Juliet by Altamura (a limited-time group gift from Valentine’s Day 2019, which I turn to again and again on this blog; at the time I joined the Altamura group it was only L$50, but it now costs L$100 to join their group; this Juliet body is now for sale at the full price). In order to use the Serenity II skin below, I needed to buy and install the Omega system kit for Altamura (available for L$99 at this exact SLURL), as well as use the free Bakes on Mesh relay available at the Altamura store.

Skin: This beautiful pale Serenity II skin with blonde eyebrows is a Bakes on Mesh skin by Alaskametro (available for free from The Free Dove freebie store). This was my inspiration to get creative tonight!

Hair: This elegant updo is called NO.KEY and is by NO.MATCH (it was a freebie during a short period of time last year when the store was giving away a free gift each day).

Dress: This truly lovely retro Celebrate Spring! dress in opal is by steampunk/historical roleplay outfitter Cog & Fleur, and it was a free hunt prize in their recently-concluded Good Eggs hunt.

Shoes: Jai pumps by Rowne (free group gift; unfortunately, the Rowne store seems to have disappeared from the grid).

Necklace: This is an oldie but a goodie: the Glazed Heart necklace from Eolande’s (remember them? they have long since closed up shop).

TOTAL COST FOR THIS AVATAR: L$300 (L$151 total for the Akeruka head, L$50 to join the Altamura group to get the Juliet body, and L$99 for the Altamura Omega system kit)

Editorial: An Outrageous Price for Second Life Avatar Name Changes, Particularly for Non-Americans and Those Suffering from the Economic Shock of the Coronavirus Pandemic

The strength of the U.S. dollar vis-à-vis other currencies is making
the new avatar name change feature outrageously expensive
(photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash)

I have had a chance to do some serious thinking, now that I have gone through the process of changing the legacy avatar name on one of my alts in Second Life. It was an easy, painless process, for which I thank Linden Lab. They seem to have done a good job of implementing this much-requested feature.

However

I knew that it would cost me, but I am shocked at just how much it did actually cost me. This is an avatar whom I upgraded from Basic to Premium, both to take advantage of the new name change feature, and to snag one of those lovely Victorian Linden Homes.

But if I had just wanted to change my avatar name, how much would I have to spend at minimum? I would have had to upgrade from Basic to Premium for one month on the Monthly plan (US$11.99 per month). Then, I would have to pay a one-time name change fee of US$39.99 to be able to change my avatar’s first and/or last names. Then, I would have to cancel my Premium membership once I had changed my avatar name (at least, that’s how I understand it would work).

That works out to a grand total of US$51.98. Now, factor in the exchange rate between the Canadian dollar and the American dollar, and that works out to an eye-watering CA$78.99 (I used today’s exchange rate for the US$11.99, and added the CA$62.33 Linden Lab actually charged me for the name change fee.)

Yes, you read that right—ALMOST EIGHTY DOLLARS FOR A NAME CHANGE. That is approximately double what I was expecting to pay for such a feature. This is outrageous.

I spent TWICE as much as this to change the name on my avatar.
(photo by Michelle Spollen on Unsplash)

Because of the economic damage wrought by the coronavirus pandemic, many non-American currencies are losing value against the American dollar, which has traditionally been seen as a “safe haven” for investors (along with gold) during times of economic distress. The Canadian dollar has gotten hammered, and it makes everything I do in Second Life much more expensive than it would normally be: the cost of a Premium membership (I now have three), buying Linden dollars, etc.

In a recent interview on Lab Gab, Linden Lab CEO Ebbe Altberg was asked about those people who are experiencing difficulties in paying for sims due to pandemic-related financial difficulties (with Second Norway being a recent example, where the owner cited the failing Norwegian krone exchange as part of his problems making ends meet). Ebbe encouraged those users to call the Support team to discuss their particular situations, which would be dealt with on a case-by-case basis.

Well, that might be well and good for major landlords in Second Life who are struggling to make ends meet. But I rather doubt that the Second Life Support team is going to help me out by offering to lower the cost of an avatar name change because it’s so goddamn expensive in Canadian dollars

Obviously, Linden Lab is going to make some serious coin off this new feature. They have a decade of pent-up demand, after all. But non-Americans, whose currencies are suffering in comparison to the mighty U.S. dollar, are getting walloped. I really don’t see how many people around the world can afford this service.

I mean, for eighty Canadian dollars, I could outfit my avatar from head to toe in a new mesh head and body, and still have money left over to go shopping for new hair, clothing, and shoes. What’s the better use of my money in SL, my appearance or a name change? You’re going to have to have some seriously compelling reasons to spend that much cash, just to change what other people see when they look at you in their SL viewer.

And, at a time when many are facing mounting economic hardship, when people are losing hours of work, gigs, or even entire livelihoods during this pandemic, these fees seem particularly harsh, tone-deaf and out-of-touch.

And it’s not just non-Americans I am thinking about here; many Americans now face unprecedented economic hardship, too. A virtual world like Second Life is probably not going to rank too terribly high when people are more worried about how to pay their mortgage or feed themselves and their families.

Frankly, this just makes Linden Lab look greedy. Not a particularly good look at a time like this.

What do you think? Do you think these fees are outrageous? Should Linden Lab take into account that many foreign currencies are getting hammered, and make services like this less expensive for non-Americans? Should Linden Lab consider the economic shock of the pandemic in setting their fees going forward?

Please feel free to leave a comment below and tell me what you think, thanks.