Pandemic Diary, March 5th, 2021: Broken Together

One of my favourite songs is a duet by Amy Grant and James Taylor called Don’t Try So Hard (even though I consider myself an agnostic, I still love Amy Grant’s voice and I am still a big fan of her music, which I listened to endlessly as a teenager in my church youth group days).

So, I tossed it into YouTube Music to spin up a radio station of related songs, and up pops a song from Casting Crowns, Called Broken Together. It’s actually a good song:

How I wish we could go back to simpler times
Before all our scars and all our secrets were in the light…

Maybe you and I were never meant to be complete
Could we just be broken together?
If you can bring your shattered dreams and I’ll bring mine
Could healing still be spoken and save us?
The only way we’ll last forever is broken together

And “broken together” seems like an apt two-word description of what all of us, collectively as a society, are going through with this soul-crushing, dream-deferring coronavirus pandemic. I find myself wandering through my rarely-left-behind apartment like a zombie. I pause on my way to the kitchen to refill my coffee cup, and suddenly feel the weight of painful reality come crashing down upon me again, and I lean against the wall and close my eyes for a minute, and steel myself to continue. Keep going, keep moving, keep breathing. Keep living.

The next three to six months of the pandemic are going to be hardest stretch of the marathon yet, I fear. It doesn’t help that I have little to no faith in Brian Pallister’s incompetent, pompous, and adversarial Conservative provincial government here in Manitoba, which has largely mismanaged this crisis almost from day one.

For example, take a look at this map showing the locations of vaccination clinics in two neighbouring provinces, Saskatechewan to the west, and my Manitoba to the east:

God, when you wish you were living in Saskatchewan, you really know your life is going sideways. 😉

(OK, I was joking, people. It was a joke. Check the emoji! Please put your pitchforks and your tar and feathers away. I already got almost-cancelled last week, and I have zero wish to repeat that experience.)

Sometimes my anger, verging on pure volcanic outrage, is the only thing that gets me out of bed in the morning, the only thing that propels me through my day. But anger is exhausting, and I am already bone tired. So sometimes—often—it slips into depression. I took three sick days from my paying job last week, something I am not proud of. But it was necessary. I need to take care of myself. I am broken.

So many of us are now feeling broken, yearning for the simpler, pre-pandemic times, and that brokenness, and that need to connect, is expressing itself in society in unexpected and weird ways. We now gather and commiserate on Clubhouse and in Twitter Spaces instead of our local community bars and coffee houses.

Last night, as I was listlessly scrolling for some much-needed socialization on Clubhouse, I came across one room with Lindsay Lohan and her acolytes, and a second room where Paris Hilton was presiding over her minions (what, is this 2006 again?!??). All we need is for Britney Spears to pop up on Clubhouse (Free Britney!) and then we’d have the Unholy Trinity riding together again…I mean, if that isn’t a sign of the impending apocalypse, what is?? (Thank God, Margaret Cho was discussing female comedians and comedy with her usual acerbic wit in another room. Some sanity still prevails.)

Everything old is new again: two-thirds of these people were in Clubhouse rooms last night (surely this must be a sign of the impending apocalypse)

Use whatever technology you can muster—Clubhouse, Twitter, FaceTime and Zoom, and yes, even social VR and virtual worlds—to maintain our connections, our togetherness, in this time of brokenness. Reach out to each other. Comfort each other.

We can be broken, together.

Stay safe and stay healthy!

MATERIA.ONE Update: Land Auctions Have Been Postponed

Staramba land auctions have been suspended

Earlier this year, I was invited to take part in the beta test of the virtual world called MATERIA.ONE, by a company named Staramba, which is better known for its 3D scanning systems and motion capturing. I signed a strict NDA (non-disclosure agreement) as part of that beta test, so I cannot share anything that I saw when I paid a visit to the platform. You can read more about the demo here on the Staramba website.

If you don’t remember, MATERIA.ONE (formerly known as Staramba Spaces) is banking heavily on celebrity endorsements, including Paris Hilton and Hulk Hogan.

It would now appear that Staramba is among the companies who have been impacted by the slower-than-anticipated consumer uptake of virtual reality. Today I got an email from the company, which stated:

We announced some time ago that we are going to launch our next auction for spaces in our VR world called MATERIA.ONE in summer 2019

As we announced in our corporate news earlier this year we need to adapt our strategy. As current market research shows, VR is growing strongly, but it is yet to become a mass market. So in line with our mission to create the best VR world for our community and to enforce our USPs against competitors, we decided to postpone development of certain product features into the near future. As a result we will also not organize another auction of virtual spaces this year or in the near future.

This does not mean we will not do any auctions in the future at all, but rather at a point in time when it makes sense for you as current and potential investor in such property. We will keep you posted.

Now, I have absolutely no idea what “USPs” stands for. From the context, it would appear to be something associated with intellectual property, perhaps? I don’t know.

Look, I am just going to come out and say it: I don’t believe that Staramba is ever going to be able to get MATERIA.ONE off the ground. Being good at 3D scanning and motion capture is one thing; building a virtual world from scratch is another. The whole idea of buying virtual parcels of land associated with celebrities was a crazy one to begin with. Why would anybody spend their hard-earned money to buy MATERIA.ONE’s cryptocurrency and then spend it on so-called “bidding rights” to virtual plots of land associated with Paris Hilton, Hulk Hogan, or some soccer star, with absolutely zero guarantee of any interaction with the actual celebrity?

I notice with amusement that over 254 spaces are still up for grabs in the Paris Hilton sector. (The last time I checked, it was 412, so obviously somebody has thought that investing in this was worthwhile. I am of the opinion that greedy crypto investors will put money into anything if they think they can make a buck off it. Hellooo, CryptoKitties?)

Given the lacklustre response, I can understand why Staramba has called a halt to the proceedings. This whole project needs a complete rethink.

If you’re interested in following the progress of MATERIA.ONE, you can visit their website, or follow them on Facebook and Instagram.

Staramba Spaces Launches Their Shop: Act Now, There’s Only 412 Coveted Spaces Next to Paris Hilton!

Staramba Store 6 Oct 2018.png

Staramba Spaces (you remember, the social VR space/virtual world with links to celebrities such as Paris Hilton and Hulk Hogan) has launched their online shop, where you can buy… well, not much, yet. All they offer for sale right now are “bidding rights” for various sectors:

  • Celebrity Sector
  • Soccer Sector
  • Tennis Sector
  • Hulk Hogan Sector
  • Paris Hilton Sector

They explain, in the product description of the Paris Hilton Sector:

Plot Bidding Right for the Paris Hilton Sector. This early access Bidding Right enables you to bid for your own real estate plot in the Paris Hilton Sector of the celebrity cluster Primus of STARAMBA.spaces. You will have the opportunity to participate via your Staramba Tokens in the non-public Investor Phase (starting in November 2018) before any public bidding begins.

Be the first!

Bid for a real estate plot with your Staramba Tokens before the public bidding begins.

Next to YOUR star!

The plots will be in Paris Hilton Sector in the celebrity cluster Primus on our first planet, Pasyra.

Here’s a picture of what the planet Pasyra will look like, with the location of the Paris Hilton sector:

Planet Pasyra 6 Oct 2018.png

I note with amusement that these “bidding rights” are limited to one per buyer, and there are “only 412 left in stock”:

Paris HIlton Sector 6 Oct 2018.png

I’ve been trying to figure out what the bidding cost (25 STT, or Staramba tokens) works out to in US dollars, but I haven’t had much luck in finding a website that will do the conversion for me. All I can find is this rather long-winded Medium post explaining the projected lifecycle of Staramba tokens, with the following less-than-helpful timeline:

Staramba1.png

Now, I also follow the chatter on the Staramba Telegram discussion forums, where someone posted the following information:

After the ITO: restricted trade and trade of STT

In November a restricted trade will be possible depending on regulations. This trade is only possible inside the Leondrino Wallet. It is most likely, that initially trade restrictions must be followed: on a daily, monthly and yearly basis as well as per transaction. These specifications are imposed on us by the competent authority in Germany. This means that the STARAMBA.Tokens can be offered and bought once. The price can be made by the seller or the buyer but cannot be lower than 0.25 USD per STT, which was the last price during the ITO. As soon as the STARAMBA.Tokens changed the owner or wallet, the new owner cannot resell those tokens until token class A was reached.

But you can still use them to buy services and products in the STARAMBA.spaces shop.

Tokens which were not sold during the ITO will be offered by Staramba as sell orders (instant exchange) for 1.00 USD per STT, as this is the value per STT reflected in the shop offers, to give all interested parties the possibility to fill up their STT account and afford desired products and services in the STARAMBA.spaces shop.

The token class B will be the next step and an “advanced” restricted trade will be possible.

At this time trading on other exchanges (selection process has already started) will be possible. Furthermore, the possible limits defined for the restricted trade might be loosened.

That means that today, no exact date can be provided when token classes B and later A will be reached. Every step is made due to all regulations and has to be approved by the regulator in advance.

The aim is to have the STT listed on exchanges that meet all regulations. Therefore, we are in close contact with the regulator to get information about which licenses are needed. At the moment, there is no final decision on regulations regarding trading tokens on exchanges from the side of the Financial Supervisory Authority, but we know that they are setting them up and we are in close contact with them to meet all requirements with the highest precision.

Depending on the time it takes until regulations are defined, we cannot tell you when the STARAMBA.Token will be available on exchanges or which exchanges are approved by the Financial Supervisory Authority.

Our goal is to get the STT listed on established exchanges as soon as the applicable regulations are in place and to make the STT as liquid as possible by October 2019. Nevertheless, our product development team of more than 70 people is working on STARAMBA.spaces and the whole company with more than 100 employees is doing its best to have a successful STARAMBA.Token.

If you should have any further requests regarding regulations or trading of the STARAMBA.Token feel free to contact us and we try to answer all questions as good as we can in the next newsletter.

So, you got all that straight? You basically need a Ph.D. in crypto to figure this thing out.

And for what?!?? A coveted space next to Paris Hilton or Hulk Hogan?? Or rather, a possibly-animated “lifelike scan” or “lifelike 3D avatar” of Paris Hilton, or Hulk Hogan, or some soccer star, or Gene Simmons from KISS?

KISS 6 Oct 2018
Image from the Staramba website

I’m sorry, but this simply makes no sense to me at all. Caveat emptor!