UPDATED! Pandemic Diary, November 17th, 2021: Some Uplifting Music to Get Through Difficult Times

I am now in the third week of a union strike by professors, instructors, and librarians at my university, during the rising fourth wave of the coronavirus pandemic here in Manitoba, and having just been blasted with our first big dump of winter snow.

In other words, I am completely stressed out.

One of the reasons why I have been blogging almost exclusively about Second Life lately, and not about what’s going on in the broader metaverse, is that SL is my happy place, where I go to escape messy, chaotic, and painful reality. Second Life (plus the RuPaul’s Drag Race and Dragula franchises) are helping me stay sane and get through this time of high anxiety and high uncertainty!

I wanted to share a short playlist of five songs which I have been listening to, when I feel anxious, upset, and stressed. I know that many of you (including the faculty, staff, and students at my university) are feeling pretty stressed out as well, and I sincerely hope that listening to this uplifting music helps in some small way. Maybe you’ll even find a new song to help you get through the tougher times in your life!

YouTube Music: https://music.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLgsEMkuBXPb9EGepUhCOmpNwsyq77546i&feature=share

Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/playlist/173526c5AnIurL6sFH2MA3?si=360ddc00f51e4b95

Here’s my playlist:

Rise Up – Andra Day

This Is Me – Keala Settle

(Something Inside) So Strong – Labi Siffre

You Gotta Be – Des’ree

Proud – Heather Small

I hope this music cheers you up during your stressful times!

P.S. I am open to suggestions of other songs along this vein, so if you know of a great uplifting song that you think should be added to this playlist, please leave a comment on this blogpost, thanks!

UPDATE Nov. 19th, 2021: I have had another suggestion for another great song to add to my playlist. Thank you, Scott Forbes!

I Won’t Back Down – Tom Petty

Editorial: How Global Supply Chain Disruptions Are Going to Impact Social VR Platforms and the Building of the Metaverse

It’s not just apples that are unavailable lately—it’s just about everything!

You probably have noticed it when you were shopping, either online or in a bricks-and-mortar store: some items are completely unavailable, and when they are available, they are more expensive. What’s going on?

The global coronavirus pandemic has hit manufacturing supply chains hard, and experts are saying it could take as long as two years for the mess to sort itself out. The New York Times reports (here’s an archived version if you get stopped by a paywall):

The challenges…are a testament to the breadth and persistence of the chaos roiling the global economy, as manufacturers and the shipping industry contend with an unrelenting pandemic.

Delays, product shortages and rising costs continue to bedevil businesses large and small. And consumers are confronted with an experience once rare in modern times: no stock available, and no idea when it will come in.

In the face of an enduring shortage of computer chips, Toyota announced this month that it would slash its global production of cars by 40 percent. Factories around the world are limiting operations — despite powerful demand for their wares — because they cannot buy metal parts, plastics and raw materials. Construction companies are paying more for paint, lumber and hardware, while waiting weeks and sometimes months to receive what they need…

The Great Supply Chain Disruption is a central element of the extraordinary uncertainty that continues to frame economic prospects worldwide. If the shortages persist well into next year, that could advance rising prices on a range of commodities. 

Consumers are getting a painful lesson in the intricate interconnectedness of markets, where shortages and delays in some products have made it impossible to manufacture others, causing cascading failures in the global supply chain:

A giant ship that became lodged in the Suez Canal this year, halting traffic on a vital waterway linking Europe to Asia for a week, added to the mayhem on the seas. So did a series of temporary coronavirus-related closures of key ports in China.

The world has gained a painful lesson in how interconnected economies are across vast distances, with delay and shortages in any one place rippling out nearly everywhere.

A shipping container that cannot be unloaded in Los Angeles because too many dockworkers are in quarantine is a container that cannot be loaded with soybeans in Iowa, leaving buyers in Indonesia waiting, and potentially triggering a shortage of animal feed in Southeast Asia.

(I’d encourage you to go over and read the entire NYT article; it’s a great read.)

So, what does the Great Supply Chain Disruption mean for the metaverse? Well, it’s been getting harder and harder for some companies to reliably source computer chips and other components for devices such as VR and AR headsets. It’s also been difficult to get CPUs and GPUs for higher-end gaming computers needed to power PCVR; the rising demand for these chips by cryptocurrency miners around the world has only exacerbated the shortage, and driven up prices.

I know that I have been dismayed at the relative lack of products as I seek to replace my now four-and-a-half year old desktop computer. And the worst part is this: nobody can predict when this situation will improve, and it might even get worse before it gets better! If I were you, I’d be doing my Christmas shopping NOW, and drawing up a Plan B should the gifts you want to buy are unavailable.

Steel yourself that we will be continuing to go through a period of uncertainty and unpredictability when it comes to metaverse products, both hardware and software. Expect timelines for the development of many social VR platforms to be impacted (even if it’s something as simple as being unable to obtain computer equipment for the developers to properly test things).

Kickstarter has a page of advice on how to handle the disruptions. Here’s a summary:

  1. If you haven’t launched yet, build shipping delays into your plans.
  2. If your campaign is live or you’re currently working to fulfill your project, over-communicate.
  3. If you’re a backer [of a Kickstarter project], extend your support.

Be patient! We will get through this. Remember: it’s not a struggle, it’s a wiggle 😉

UPDATED! We Met in Virtual Reality: A New, Feature-Length Documentary Filmed in VRChat During the Pandemic Lockdown

A still from Joe Hunting’s new documentary (image source)

Joe Hunting is a documentary filmmaker whose passion is to create movies in and about VRChat (I wrote about him in August of 2019 when he released his mini-documentary A Wider Screen). He is now working on a new project, a feature documentary called We Met in Virtual Reality.

Here’s an overview of the film, from his IndieGogo page:

We Met in Virtual Reality is an enchanting portrait of social Virtual Reality (VR) app VRChat, composed of intimate and hilarious moments inside global VR communities. The film presents an emotive impression on this new virtual landscape through a poetic collage of stories, exploring how VR is affecting the way we socialise, work, love and express ourselves; told authentically by the users of VRChat through a warm heartfelt lens. 

The overall narrative is made up of three distinct protagonists each presenting unique stories of discovering a romantic relationship through VRChat, and using VR to cope with poor mental health. These core narratives flow between each other in a linear fashion through Winter 2020 to Summer 2021, delivering a compelling journey amidst the more observational moments in other VR communities.

Filmed entirely inside VRChat using cinematic virtual cameras during the Covid lockdown crisis, this film captures a precious time in an underground cultural movement that will soon shape the world we live in; additionally highlighting contemporary subjects such as of coping with poor mental health, modern forms of sign language, non-binary gender expression and finding love beyond physical interaction. Everyone appearing in the film will be addressed by their virtual usernames without any real life imagery, immersing audiences into a new cinematic documentary experience.

The trailer for Joe’s documentary dropped yesterday on YouTube, and I must say, it’s looking really good!

Joe is running a crowdfunding campaign on IndieGogo to cover the costs of the post-production work on his documentary before it is released. If the trailer piqued your interest (as it did mine), then why not throw a donation Joe’s way? I’m sure he would appreciate it! I donated £15 to the project, just for the thrill of seeing my name in the thank-you credits… 😉

Joe explains the need for funding:

I have a beautiful rough cut of We Met in Virtual Reality already finished, but it is nothing without your support to get it polished and released! I am raising £10,000 to cover all the music licensing, which is necessary for the films release. Any additional funds will go towards subtitling and captioning, which is an absolute necessity as well, plus submission fees for film festivals eg. Sundance, SXSW, Hot Docs, Tribeca, Sheffield Doc Fest… and LGBTQ+, deaf and hard of hearing focused festivals. These festival screenings will help tremendously is securing the film on accessible streaming platforms for public release in the fall of 2022.

Your contribution can get you a number of special perks, including getting your name and VRChat avatar in the credits, tickets to exclusive screenings and producer credits! If I do not reach my goal, any funds received will still be put towards what is mentioned above, and I will seek further investment elsewhere.

I am quite looking forward to watching this full-length feature documentary when it is released. You can watch Joe’s earlier work, A Wider Screen, below:

UPDATE Oct. 10th, 2021: Joe Hunting sent me the following thank-you card for my donation, featuring an image from the documentary:

Pandemic Diary, September 17th, 2021: COVID-19 Worry and NFT Insanity

Well, folks, it’s been a week.

I delivered no less than seven different training sessions (online and remotely, either from my office at the science library or from home) to various classes of agriculture students. I have been fighting with computer hardware and software problems all week, starting on Monday when I couldn’t get my microphone to work, to yesterday when I got unceremoniously booted out of the the online class I was teaching using Cisco WebEx—TWICE. I am exhausted.

To add to my overall bad mood, the most recent data on breakthrough COVID-19 cases here in Manitoba are somewhat worrying. According to this report from CTV News, while fully vaccinated people are not being affected nearly as much as the unvaccinated, breakthrough cases are happening. And even more worrying, 16 fully vaccinated Manitobans have died of COVID-19 so far. That is not good news.

Mark my words: COVID still has the ability to throw some curveballs at us. For the love of God, if you have not already done so, GET VACCINATED! And please do everything you can—handwashing, face masks, social distancing, etc.—to stay safe and healthy. You do not want to catch this virus if you can avoid it!


However, I can still laugh at the continued silliness in the hothouse of the NFT (Non-Fungible Token) market. Everybody seems to be leaping on the get-rich-quick bandwagon.

I am currently blocking and deleting spam direct messages on Discord (people shilling for one blockchain-based scheme after another), at the rate of about one per day now. It would appear everybody and their dog has come up with some sort of harebrained NFT project to try and part you from your hard-earned dollar.

Today, I got the following spam direct message via Discord (blurred to avoid giving you his name and link addresses):

Hi. A new project Mint will begin in 7-9 days. There will be 10000 Covid themed NFT’s in total. Don’t miss your chance to get in on the start of an incredible cool project. FUCK COVID

Clicking through to the website (and no, I am not going to bother to link to it), and behold!

OMG!!! There’s only ten thousand NFT facemasks, supplies are limited so act now and get that rare collectible!

NOT.

Which reminded me of the following message I received recently via the feedback form on my blog:

Hello there, I’m David from Next Earth – we are the only blockchain and Earth map based metaverse 🙂 We’ve launched in the end of July and now only a few hours left until the end of land pack presale.. By now, more than 150.000 Dollars worth of land tiles has been sold and it’s increasing day by day, just like our community, so we are really excited about our future. It would be awesome if you could help us with spreading the word, and since you have quite a lot followers I can easily offer you a referral code with a fair amount of commission.. I’d be extremely interested in what you think and how we could collaborate, so please get back to me and let’s discuss our opportunities! Best regards, David

Image taken from the Next Earth website (no, I am NOT giving you a link)

Dear David:

NOT!!!

I wrote about what I think about Next Earth, Earth 2, and all the other “buy a virtual piece of earth” scams here.

And I swear to God: the next person who tries to get me to buy into their harebrained, lame-ass NFT scheme is gonna get bitchslapped into next Thursday.