Editorial: Taking Time to Reflect

Please note that I am taking a vacation from the blog for the next two to three weeks, except for sponsored blogposts (with the occasional exception, like this editorial).


It’s important to take time to stop and reflect on where you’ve been and where you’re going (Photo by Elijah Hiett on Unsplash)

My goal with this blog has always been to turn it into a paying side-hustle when I finally take my retirement from my full-time job with the University of Manitoba (at the moment, I am planning to retire in three and half years, when I turn 60 years old). I can think of nothing that would please me more than being able to work in social VR, virtual worlds, and the metaverse full time!

I do earn a small amount from my sponsored blogposts, advertising on my blog, and from my wonderful Patreon supporters (thank you so much!). Whether or not you are a patron, thank you for your continued readership and support! It means the world to me.

But every so often, I have to hit pause and ask myself: should I write about something if what I have to say is negative? This happened most recently when I wrote an unfavourable review of Forbes VR writer Charlie Fink’s latest publication, Remote Collaboration and Virtual Conferences: The Future of Work. This is a book which I feel was rushed through the proofreading process, and was filled with typesetting problems throughout. I also had problems with the selected content, notably how poorly it was organized.

After writing and publishing my negative review, I went back and reread it and thought: Damn, that’s harsh. And I asked myself: how would I feel if I had written this book and got this kind of review? Not great. So much for the Golden Rule.

So it comes down to this: do I hold back when I have negative things to say about a product (or a platform), or really tell people how I feel about it? Up until now, the answer has always been easy: tell people exactly how I feel, and why.

But, as my blog becomes more popular, and as more people begin to approach me with sponsorship and other business opportunities (or just to pick my brains), I am starting to wonder if that is indeed the wisest approach going forward. As I said, I hope to make this a more lucrative full-time job, after I retire from the library.

And a lot of that business relies on positive word of mouth. Charlie Fink is considered a heavyweight in the world of writing about VR/AR/XR, well regarded for his wide-ranging, continuing coverage of this continually-evolving marketplace, and I’m quite sure he is not happy with my book review. Should I be holding my tongue more often, and keeping my opinions to myself, now that I am starting to establish a name for myself, and to build a brand?

I have no end to the number of people and platforms who feel that I have been less than fair to their products on my blog, or who feel slighted in some why by what I have written here. (I’m not going to bother naming them; in most cases, they already know who they are, and what their complaints are with me.)

You should know that I do have an agreement with my major sponsor, Sinespace, that I can maintain my editorial independence on the RyanSchultz.com blog, while writing sponsored blogposts for Sinespace. I have criticized Sinespace in the past (yes, it has happened!), and I still reserve the right to do so in future if I think they are screwing up. (I am also currently also writing blogposts for the official Sinespace blog, filling in for someone on maternity leave. Obviously, the rules there are completely different. I make requested adjustments to those blogposts all the time. Their blog, their rules.)

Another complicating factor is my overall emotional makeup. Compared to other, calmer bloggers like Inara Pey (whom I admire a great deal), I am a pitchy blogger: sometimes I write things when I am in a bad mood, and it shows. I have sometimes wondered if I should institute a 24-hour cool-down period after any blogpost I write, just to give myself time to review it for tone and mood (and possible bias), before I hit the Publish button.

And yet another factor is that many of my readers have taken time out to tell me that they value the unfiltered, unvarnished, calling-a-spade-a-spade approach I have taken on my blog. (Of course, I hear far less often from the people who wish I was more polite, measured, and circumspect in my approach.)

This is just something that I have been pondering today, as I enjoy my continuing vacation from the blog—the first real vacation I have allowed myself in nearly three years. I still haven’t come to any firm conclusions or resolutions as to what I should do going forward, but I aware of this particular issue, and the role which I play as an increasingly popular social VR and virtual worlds blogger, and my responsibilities as a journalist.

Back in September 2019 I wrote the following:

I’ve been doing some thinking about all the crazy things that have happened this week on various social VR platforms and virtual worlds, and in the communities that spring up around them. And about how I have covered them here on this blog. Sometimes you have to take time to reflect on what you’re doing, and how you’re doing it. Otherwise, you are blundering on, making the same mistakes over and over again.

Trying to find balance as a blogger is difficult. You can write something that, to your eyes, looks like it’s a balanced treatment of something, and be criticized by someone who thinks it’s unbalanced, biased, and unfair. You can quote somebody, and then be accused of spreading misinformation by someone, because that’s not how they see things!

Look, people. The best I can do is my best, and that will almost certainly fall short of somebody’s expectations. I’m only human, I have my own set of biases, and when I f*** up, I own it, I admit it, and I apologize to the person or people I have offended, and move on.

And this still holds as true today as it did when I first wrote it. So, I ask you to please bear with me as I continue to ask myself these kinds of questions, processing both the informal and formal feedback I have received to date. I plan to use this time off to reflect and make some decisions.

Thank you, as always, for your readership and your support.

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Sinespace Pick of the Day: Wonder Art Gallery

Please note that I am taking a vacation from the blog for the next two to three weeks, except for sponsored blogposts (with the occasional exception).


Today’s Sinespace Pick of the Day was submitted by Konstantin Startchev (a.k.a Kokostar), and was taken in his region, called the Wonder Art Gallery. He says:

The picture is from my region (Wonder Art Gallery) where the Swiss artist Isis Sangaré just started.

Konstantin wins 500 Gold (Sinespace’s in-game currency). You can win some money, too!

Here are The Sinespace Pick of the Day photo contest rules:

  1. Pictures must have been taken by you, of a region within Sinespace. It must be a picture primarily of a region, not an avatar (although you can certainly include avatars in your picture). You may submit a picture of your own region, or of a region created by somebody else.
  2. All pictures must be of high quality, and high resolution, but no larger than 2.1 MB in size (otherwise, they will have to be resized to fit on the official Sinespace blog, and then they will then have to be reduced in quality).
  3. IMPORTANT: You must email 1) the picture to ryanschultz [at] gmail [dot] com, along with 2) your avatar name (for the photo credit), and 3) the name of the region where you took the picture. If you do not include all three items in your email, your entry will not be considered for the contest.
  4. Creative use of the built-in Snapshot tool in the Sinespace client is encouraged! Here are a few examples to give you an idea of what you can do

If I select and run your submitted picture (on the RyanSchultz.com blog and/or the official Sinespace blog), you win a prize of 500 Gold to spend as you please on the Sinespace Shop!

So let’s get creative, and showcase some of the beautiful worlds in Sinespace!


This blogpost is sponsored by Sinespace, and was written in my role as an embedded reporter for this virtual world (more details here). 

UPDATED! Pandemic Diary: June 29th, 2020

Today is Day 106 of my self-imposed isolation, since I started working from home for my university library system since March 16th, 2020. The weekend before last, while taking out the garbage to the nearest bin at my apartment complex, I was surprised to find a dragonfly stubbornly perched on the outside door frame of my apartment:

I leaned forward to peer at its closely, and it did not fly away. Ironically, that is the closest that I have come to another living being in three whole months! (Although I have visited with my elderly parents and my best friend, practicing the proper social distancing guidelines of 2 metres/6 feet.)

We up here in the Canadian province of Manitoba (population 1.272 million, the majority of whom live in and around the Winnipeg area) have dodged a bullet so far: only 324 cases of COVID-19 in total, no individuals currently in hospital or intensive care, and only seven deaths so far in the entire province:

Manitoba has been spared the worst of the crisis (so far)

Compared with the absolute clusterfuck that is currently happening down in the United States, we Manitobans have been truly lucky (the following image comes from a recent New York Times article that outlines the spread of the coronavirus from its first cases, documenting how the U.S. has fumbled its response to the crisis):

Newly-confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the United States, June 9th to June 23rd, 2020 (source: How the Virus Won, The New York Times)

The border between Canada and the U.S. has remained firmly closed to all except essential workers such as nurses and truckers hauling goods, although a few incredibly selfish and stupid American tourists have been let into the country by using the “Alaska loophole” (if they lie and tell the Canadian Border Services agents that they are driving through Canada to Alaska, apparently they cannot be forbidden from entering Canada). The RCMP has already issued tickets to U.S. tourists discovered in places such as Banff, Alberta.

I have settled into some sort of a regular daily workday routine: getting up at the same time each day, having a shower and applying deodorant (even through there is nobody around to smell me), getting dressed, brewing a large pot of black coffee, and settling down in front of my home computer to sign into my work email and my university’s virtual reference desk software, to face the day. Committee work continues despite the pandemic; some days I have as many as three or four back-to-back virtual meetings using Microsoft Teams or Cisco Webex.

I have decided to take a “vacation” from blogging, except for sponsored blogposts for Sinespace (although I find that I have started backsliding on my resolution, making more blogposts lately about Second Life, which has become my preferred means of escape from the pain, suffering, tragedy, and farce of the real world).

And, as someone who routinely went out a restaurant at least once a day for meals, I have discovered the joy of cooking for myself as a result of the pandemic. I keep things pretty simple: pots of homemade Weight Watchers zero-point vegetable soup, baked potatoes with salsa, Hamburger Helper lasagna, Kraft macaroni and cheese, spaghetti, brown rice with a can of heated-up Campbell’s Chunky cream soup poured over top (Butter Chicken and Corn Chowder work well for this). I have even made my first attempts at baking (homemade biscuits, which turned out not too bad with some margarine and honey).

And I have actually lost weight! I have taken in my belt at least two notches over the past three months. I credit two things: not eating any fried, overly-processed restaurant fast food since mid-March (no French fries!) and deliberately not buying junk food as part of my pandemic preps: no popcorn, no potato chips, no chocolate, no ice cream. (I had bought a bag of chocolate chips as part of my pre-pandemic shopping in February, in order to bake cookies, only to stress eat the entire bag one evening. I simply cannot keep away from it if it in the house, so I simply don’t buy it.)

I had bought three large bags of skin milk powder as part of my pandemic preps, and I have discovered I quite like the taste of reconstituted skim milk powder. The taste somehow reminds me of a milkshake, so I mix a large beer mug of this milk with a teaspoon of vanilla extract and three teaspoons of sugar to make a “milkshake”, the only “junk food” treat I permit myself sometimes in the evenings.

I have not set foot in a retail store for three months (except for one early-morning visit last weekend to my local Starbucks, wearing a cloth mask as required and following all the social distancing protocols, to pick up a tall blonde roast, which I enjoyed on the deserted patio outside, where each table was clearly demarcated by tape on the concrete to indicate isolation zones). I order my groceries online via Wal-Mart, drive to the store to have the back of my car loaded up by the staff there, and drive home without entering the store. I call in my prescription renewals and have my medications delivered to my door. I have absolutely zero need to go shopping, or set foot in a store or mall.

And so it goes. I don’t expect my situation to change significantly until there is a viable vaccine, and that is going to take at least another twelve months, if not longer. Everybody knows that, given my underlying health conditions which put me at risk of a severe, possibly lethal, reaction to infection by the coronavirus, that I will be among the very last people to return to working on my university campus. And, by and large, I have accepted that social distancing and all the other precautions are going to be a constant part of my life for the foreseeable future.

My university has already announced that all September classes will be conducted remotely online. An information literacy course for undergraduate science students, which I and my librarian colleagues will be team-teaching, will also be done completely online. It’s the first time we have ever offered a for-credit course as opposed to shorter, in-class orientation sessions for students. I expect that I will be very busy over July and August, working with another librarian on three weeks of content for this fall term course, as well as other projects to which I have been assigned.

I have been enjoying my self-imposed vacation from the blog. It’s been great to just give myself the permission not to obsessively write about every single piece of news about social VR and virtual worlds that comes my way (and, quite often, I don’t even have to go looking for it; it often comes to me now!). I have been reading through my backlog of murder mysteries, exploring Second Life, and venturing outside to enjoy Canada’s warm, all-too-brief summer.

My avatar standing next to the dance floor at Frank’s Jazz Club, listening to the music stream

UPDATE 11:17 p.m.: Well, I suppose I asked for this. One of the regular members of the RyanSchultz.com Discord, itoibo, cheekily posted the following picture:

LOL! Come to think of it, that could indeed be why he was hanging around!

Second Life Steals, Deals, and Freebies: How to Do Drag on a Dime in Second Life!

As my regular blog readers know, I have a drag queen avatar in Second Life, named MissDrag, and I have written about doing drag in SL before (here, here, and here).

Now, in the real world, I have never (yet!) picked up a makeup brush or cinched my waist (as if!) to fit into some eleganza extravaganza ballgown and lipsync for my life, but despite this lack of real-life experience, please let a truly seasoned DIGITAL drag superstar (well, in my own French vanilla fantasy, anyway) share a few tips on how to get started in Second Life drag.

First, understand this: THERE ARE NO RULES IN DRAG. RULES ARE MEANT TO BE BROKEN. DRAG WAS AND STILL CAN BE A TRANSGRESSIVE ART FORM. So feel free to break some rules about what a drag queen (or drag king!) should look like.

I mean, in the recently-concluded Season 12 of RuPaul’s Drag Race, one of the finalists dressed up as a piñata who occasionally farted out confetti!

Drag queen Crystal Methyd, dressed as a piñata 

Given the virtually endless avatar customization options in Second Life, your drag can be anybody (and anything) you like! Start with a male body, start with a female body, start with something in-between, or start with something completely different: a mermaid, a centaur, or a technicolor whirlwind of animated pixels! Whatever you can dream up, you can create for your own unique, signature look!

I mean, if you stop to think about it, everybody in Second Life is already doing drag. It’s actually a lot harder to recreate your actual, real-life look than it is to start from scratch with a blank canvas! (Although if that’s your scene, more power to you, boo. It’s your Second Life; make it what you want!)

Well, I woke up one morning
Flossed my teeth and decided
“Damn, I’m fierce!” You look good!
You can be just like me! A goddess? Yeah!
Don’t just pussy foot around and sit on your assets
Unleash your ferocity upon an unsuspecting world
Rise up and repeat after me: “I’m beautiful!”

I’m Beautiful, by Bette Midler

In real life, I am a 56-year-old, gay, divorced academic librarian who spends waaay too much time on the Internet, and is significantly overweight, asthmatic, and sometimes struggles with clinical depression, but in Second Life, I am Vanity Fair, the absolutely fabulous former supermodel 😉

I mean, if this is not drag, then what is? I just choose to unleash my ferocity upon an unsuspecting virtual world instead of the real world!

My main avatar Vanity Fair: Everybody in Second Life is doing some form of (digital) drag. (This delightful Lou belted minidress is a free gift from Asteria, by the way!)

Now that we have firmly established that there are no rules, there are, however, a few general tips and guidelines. First: BIG HAIR, mawma! (Although many well-known real-world drag queens like are rocking the bald look, too!).

The higher the hair, the closer to God.

—Dolly Parton

If Dolly speaks the truth, then this next hairstyle is truly divine! This is the Hunny wig from Zsa Zsa’s House of Beauty, home of the finest drag queen wigs on the grid.

It comes the fabulous wig wall at Zsa Zsa’s Haus of Beauty (exact SLURL, open your map and follow the red arrow from your initial spawn point on the Tableau sim):

Here’s the full look, from head to toe:

Another guideline which can be observed or discarded as you see fit: accessories are all-important.

Purse first!

—Bob the Drag Queen

This wonderful purse is the Love Loca handbag from Vive Nine/Ryvolter (here’s the exact SLURL):

This purse comes in various versions with different Bento poses, hanging from your shoulder, elbow, hand or even just one finger!

This avatar is wearing:

  • Mesh Head: Freya by Catwa (free group gift, no longer available for free; more details here)
  • Mesh Body and Nail Polish: Romeo by Altamura (this was a free group gift for Valentine’s Day 2019; the Altamura group costs L$100 to join, but I had joined back when it only cost L$50)
  • Hair: Hunny wig by Zsa Zsa’s House of Beauty (L$235)
  • Eye Shadow: Pride Galaxy eye shadow by Dotty’s Secret (free group gift; group costs L$75 to join, but I took advantage of a free group join period in the past)
  • Lipstick: the high-definition lipstick is included in the Catwa Freya package
  • Dress: this green Liam dress was a freebie from the SL Marketplace! It comes in just the Signature Gianni size, but I was able to make it fit the Altamura body using the alpha sections on the HUD.
  • Purse: the Loca Love handbag in black from Vive Nine/Ryvolter (L$249 per colour)
  • Shoes: I picked up these female sandals and tintable feet by Ydea (which completely replace the masculine feet of the Romeo mesh avatar!) from The Free Dove, but they are no longer available there, and unfortunately, I cannot find them anywhere else in-world or on the SL Marketplace. No matter. I’m sure you can get similarly creative for your own drag look!

TOTAL COST FOR THIS DRAG LOOK: Only L$534! (L$50 to join the Altamura group, L$235 for the wig, and L$249 for the handbag)

Now we turn from day wear to evening wear! Check out this sickening lewk!

This avatar is again wearing the Freya mesh head by Catwa (which includes the lipstick you see here) and the Romeo mesh body by Altamura, plus:

  • Hair: Eleganza wig from Zsa Zsa’s House of Beauty (L$180)
  • Eyeshadow and Eyebrows: Vanilla makeup set by Dotty’s Secret (L$200)
  • Choker: the Nefert golden choker was a free gift from Poison Rouge at the recently-concluded 5th anniversary round of the Très Chic shopping event
  • Dress: This gown is my own unique creation! I bought the full-permissions Men’s Long Sleeve Skirt Dress from White Canvas Templates from the SL Marketplace for L$200, and textured it myself using a red bandana pattern I already had in my inventory, adjusting the tiling (i.e. how often the texture repeats) to get this look.
  • Purse: the Loca Love handbag in red by Vive Nine/Ryvolter (L$249 per colour)
  • Shoes: The same Ydea sandals and shoes as above (no longer available)

TOTAL COST FOR THIS DRAG LOOK: Only L$879! (L$50 to join the Altamura group for the Romeo body, L$200 for the Vanilla makeup, L$180 for the wig, L$200 for the full-perms gown, and L$249 for the purse)

So, what are you waiting for? Get out there and put together your own drag on a dime! And feel free to send Auntie Ryan pictures of your eleganza extravaganza!

And don’t forget to hit the SL Pride Festival to pick up some free gifts to help you create that signature look; the festival closes today! Here is more information on the Pride Festival.