Tumbling Tumbleweeds: My Blogging Drought

Ever go through a creative dry patch? (Photo by Juli Kosolapova on Unsplash)

I admit it: I’m having a dry spell. (Oh, like you haven’t noticed.)

Or, to be more accurate, a dry year. At the moment, I have no less than 31 draft blogposts in various stages, which are waiting for me to finish and publish (see image, right, from my WordPress blogging software). I keep waiting for inspiration to strike, and it just never seems to come lately. And, as somebody who used to push out as many as 6 or 7 blogposts in a day, this creative desert I am experiencing is something new and unexpected.

Frankly, I’ve been feeling a bit overwhelmed in my life these past six months, which is part of the reason why I am just not feeling that spark. I come home from my job as an academic librarian, and most evenings, the last thing I want to do is blog.

And it’s not like there is any shortage of news in virtual worlds, social VR, and the metaverse to report on or editorialize over, either. If anything—even though last year’s metaverse craze has clearly been traded in for this year’s artificial intelligence hype cycle—the number of things happening out there for me to react to, or pontificate on, is still quite a steady stream. Zero shortage of news and events.

I feel tired and burned out, and more than a little overwhelmed by it all, to be honest.

The virtual reality lab project my university library system is working on (an initiative I am involved with) is moving ahead, slowly but surely, but I’m having trouble feeling excited about it. (Or perhaps, it’s more accurate to say that I am 50% excited and 50% terrified!) Even though I have been working with virtual reality since December 2016/January 2017, I am struggling with a massive case of imposter syndrome. I remind myself that there’s literally nobody else in the University of Manitoba Libraries system who has the right kind of background and experience to work on this, but some days are a struggle nonetheless. Perhaps it’s the late summer doldrums; I don’t know.

I know that part of the problem is that I’m just not feeling that sense of wonder and magic that I used to, when I slipped on a VR headset. Perhaps what I really need to do is to go seek out that magic again, actively look for it. I know that there are some truly wonderful projects out there that people are working on, projects that I have started to write about, and then somehow they still sit in my WordPress drafts folder, unfinished.

It’s a mystery to me. Maybe it was inevitable after five years of break-neck blogging, that there would be a dry spell, a pause.

I’m not sure when I will be back. I find myself escaping into Second Life a lot lately, my first love and my first introduction to the power and potential of virtual worlds. I do feel a bit guilty that so much of my recent coverage has been about Second Life and its 20th anniversary celebrations, but I do consider it a significant milestone that was worthy of the attention. But it bothers me that I have not paid nearly as much attention to VRChat where, for example, I have recently had some wonderful experiences exploring the delightfully bizarre worlds of DrMorro, a talented Russian world-builder with a vivid imagination.

Perhaps the problem is one of format. I know a lot of people don’t follow blogs that much anymore; some consider them an outdated form of communication (which I disagree with). But maybe a blog just isn’t the best way to cover everything that’s happening in the metaverse. Maybe a switch to a newsletter, or a podcast, or perhaps a resurrection of the moribund Metaverse Newscast, is in order?

But I digress; I am rambling. I will end this post here.

See you on the other side of my dry spell!

Tumblin’ tumbleweeds… (Photo by Luismi Sánchez on Unsplash)

UPDATED: Playing Barbie in Second Life

HOUSEKEEPING NOTICE: I am off sick from work today, treating a pinched nerve in my neck with rest, heat, some strong painkillers, and muscle relaxants, which is another reason why I have gone missing from this blog. My body is a bit of a mess right now, folks! Working at a keyboard (both at home and at work) makes it worse, to the point where I have numbness and tingling along my right arm and hand.

So I have been visiting my local physiotherapist once or twice a week over the past month, and I have received some daily exercises to stretch my tight neck, shoulders, and back muscles. I’ve also bought a new mattress, new pillows, and a new backpack, and I also had a professional fitting for a new, ergonomic desk chair for work, which I hope will arrive soon.

Thank you for your patience. I currently have about 20 draft blogposts in various stages of editing, on a variety of topics, and I hope to be back sooner rather than later.

The White Pearl Salon (which I wrote about here) has thoughtfully provided this splendid Barbie box photo prop for Vanity Fair!

Unless you have been living under a very large rock (or perhaps somewhere in a dark cave), you are probably aware that there is a Barbie movie being released today. And—let’s face it—a lot of what I, and hundreds of thousands of other people, do in Second Life is play with digital Barbies of various kinds. (Hey, no judging; we all have our weird, obsessive little hobbies that help keep us sane! I still get a lot of personal satisfaction from completely styling a wide variety of Second Life avatars from head to toe, as I have written about before on this blog.)

One of the keys to the success and longevity of Second Life, as its blow-out 20th anniversary celebration wraps up, is the lucrative fashion ecosystem which has sprung up around the platform, with tens of thousands of creators selling mesh bodies, heads, eyes, hairstyles, apparel, footwear, tattoos, etc. There are even stores which specialize in fingernails and toenails for your avatar! All this contributes to a vibrant economy with an annual GDP of US$650 million, which is more than some real-world countries (e.g. American Samoa, Dominica, Tonga, and Micronesia).

One thing that I have been paying attention to is that nothing ever stays the same in Second Life fashion. Much like the real world, fashions, fads, and trends come and go. At one time Catwa ruled the mesh head market, but now it seems that everybody you run into is rocking a LeLutka Evo X mesh head. I myself have purchased an Inithium Khara mesh body for my main avatar, Vanity Fair, who normally wears Maitreya Lara (there was a one-hour flash sale at the Inithium Event, where I was able to snap it up for L$1,000, and you know I love a good bargain!).

Vanity is wearing the Khara mesh body in the picture above, along with the Catwa Kimberly head she has been wearing for many years now (some things never change). All I had to do was buy a new, matching Bakes on Mesh skin at Vanity’s skin store, The Skinnery, and she was all set to go!

Anyway, my neck is still bothering me, so I will end this blogpost here. I’ll be back soon, I promise!

UPDATE July 22nd, 2023: I neglected to mention that many stores on the grid are giving away new group gifts or throwing special sales to mark the release of the Barbie movie. For example, the womenswear store Glitzz has a new Barbie-themed group gift out, and they are marking all pink items in the store to only L$50 each, from July 20th to 30th, 2023. If it’s pink, hot pink, bubblegum pink, or blush, it’s on sale! The Glitzz store group costs L$300 to join, but you can pick up many previous group gifts on their generous gift wall:

The group gift wall at Glitzz

The Barbie-themed Baby Set outfit includes the top, the matching skirt, and the (rigged) pink neck ribbon, and comes in sizes to fit the following mesh bodies: Maitreya Lara, Petite & Smash Boobs; Meshbody Legacy, Perky & Push-Up; Inithium Kupra; eBody Reborn, Juicy & Waifu; and Belleza GenX Classic & Curvy.

At the entrance to Glitzz is a large sign announcing their Pink Week sale; all pink items are only L$50 each!
I even found a Barbie Dream House for this picture and the next, to show off this Glitzz group gift!
Of course, you’ve gotta make sure that your feet are always ready for high heels! 😉

UPDATE July 23, 2023: Another store with a Barbie-themed group gift is Ewa Boutique, which you can pick up if you join their store group for L$300. There’s also numerous other group gifts on their gift wall, plus a Daily Prize Board with a L$400 gift card!

Ewa’s Barbie outfit includes everything you see here: top, skirt, belt, shoes, purse, even the funky hot pink rectangular fur earrings! The purse includes the Bento arm pose shown in the picture. Sizes: Maitreya Lara, Meshbody Legacy, Belleza Freya & Isis, and Slink Hourglass.


Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes (turn and face the strange)
Ch-ch-changes, oh, look out you rock ‘n rollers
Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes (turn and face the strange)
Ch-ch-changes, pretty soon now you’re gonna get older
Time may change me
But I can’t trace time
I said that time may change me
But I can’t trace time

—Changes, by David Bowie

You may have noticed that my pace of blogging has slowed markedly over the past few months, well, actually, for far longer than that. More like half a year, or almost a full year.

Life has been throwing changes fast and furiously at me lately. Big changes and small ones. Changes that I deliberately started, and changes that kinda just happened to me, when I wasn’t looking. There have been so many changes in my life, that I am feeling a bit overwhelmed at times. Sometimes, a lot overwhelmed. Some days I feel that I am doing well, rolling with the punches, and other days, I feel depressed and hopeless, barely able to get out of bed and face the day.

I have, rather deliberately, made a decision to cut back on my consumption of mainstream news media, as well as my formerly heavy use of social media. I was spending too much time learning about whatever the latest outrage was in the world, and getting upset over it, when in most cases, there was absolutely nothing I could do about it (particularly if it was happening in another state, province, or country nowhere near me).

I was also spending a lot of time—too much time—on the snark subreddits, a habit I am slowly weaning myself from (more on that here, in a blogpost I wrote in February). I did delete my Reddit account, and I also switched from the web version of Reddit to a mobile app, Apollo, using it without bothering to set up a new account, which makes it easier to avoid seeing news stories which might trigger me in some way. And I stay off the news and politics subreddits now!

I also learned that I had simply swapped my former Facebook and Twitter addictions with a Mastodon addiction (different platform, but the same problems), and I have therefore decided to cut back significantly on the time I spend on Mastodon, and use a mobile app (Toot!) that, again, allows me to avoid seeing news stories about whatever political outrage is currently trending in the U.S. or somewhere else, that I can’t do a damn thing about, and which only lands up enraging or depressing me.

The result of these changes is that I am feeling less depressed—at the cost of being a little more ignorant about what’s going on in the real world!

I have also decided to incorporate more physical activity into my life. The easiest way for me to do that is to replace my 10-minute car drive to and from work with a 40-to-50-minute walk (depending on how often I stop and sit down on a nearby park bench!). I’m still working my way up to walking both ways, both to and from work, and my legs and feet are often sore lately, but it feels good. I feel like this is a positive step (or, literally, steps!).

Speaking of transportation, I finally went and purchased a new vehicle after driving my old car for twenty years, until it was literally falling apart! In fact, it was an expensive throttle problem with my old car that forced me to start shopping for a new car a few months earlier than I had planned, and then I had to wait several months for my new vehicle to be delivered. I love my new car!

Also, three weeks ago my family helped pack up and move my octogenarian mother and nonagenarian stepfather from their condo in Winnipeg to Alberta, to live with my brother and his wife. This was a major, MAJOR undertaking, and I am still working through all the emotions relating to this change, including dealing with the new reality that I no longer have any immediate family in my home city (although I do have my friends, and some more distant relatives, here). That’s a big change.

So, as you can see, I have been dealing with a lot of changes in my life recently (including a few that I don’t wish to talk about here). What does that mean for the blog? Well, I do plan to continue blogging, but I’m not sure when I will return to my formerly blistering pace of blog posting! This is yet another change, this one the result of the other changes I have enumerated here (plus the few that I haven’t talked about, ones that involve other people whose privacy I wish to respect).

David Bowie’s song, which I quoted up top, is all about the impermanence of life and the difficulty of adjusting to the changes that come with it. I find myself identifying with this song a lot lately, and more often than not, turning to face the strange.

Housekeeping Notice: My Blog, WordPress, Privacy Badger, and uBlock Origin

I have been tearing my hair out since last night, when I noticed that my blog, which normally looks like this:

Suddenly started looking like this, with all the fonts wrong:

Now, I am very picky about my blog, and this is the kind of thing that drives me crazy! I spent half an hour in live text chat with a WordPress support person early this morning, and it turns out that I had to turn off two plug-ins I regularly use with Firefox, Privacy Badger and uBlock Origin (which I use to block trackers on most websites as I surf the web).

Privacy Badger is a program from the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF). It’s a browser extension which stops advertisers and other third-party trackers from secretly tracking where you go and what pages you look at on the web. If an advertiser seems to be tracking you across multiple websites without your permission, Privacy Badger automatically blocks that advertiser from loading any more content in your browser. uBlock Origin is an excellent, free-and-open-source (FOSS) ad content blocker, available for several of the most widely used browsers, including: Chrome, Chromium, MS Edge, Opera, Firefox and all Safari releases prior to 13. I can recommend both programs highly, but I sometimes run in trouble (like I did yesterday evening and this morning), when something stops working or doesn’t work properly, and I forget to check to see if either Privacy Badger or uBlock Origin is the source of the problem.

So, if you are visiting my blog, and it looks like the second picture instead of the first, try turning off uBlock Origin or Privacy Badger (or both) if you have them installed. (There are other ad blocker plug-ins like Adblock Plus, which might cause the same problem. I no longer use Adblock Plus, because I find uBlock Origin to be superior in every way.)