Monday, July 9, 2007

Pappy's cousin LuciferLee

They wouldn't let me in the club in my earthy condition, but I was able to get a picture of Pappy's coustin, the Rev. LuciferLee Enoch, as he was practicing on the piano.

It was a classical piece, Bach I believe, but I was surprised to see him play such a peaceful tune after the fire-breathing sermons I've heard him give!

He's Pappy Enoch's cousin and so a member of the Hellbilly community but since the Rev. went to Bible College he lack's Pappy's distinctive backwoods dialect - though a bit of grit slips through now and again!

When I learned he was a Reverend, I was sure he'd think I was some kind of Swamp Demon and try to banish me or exorcize my muck-n-moss, but instead he greeted me like a brother with a big squishy hug.

Now, I'm not an expert on theology but Rev. Enoch says that most church folk got it all wrong, and that Lucifer is the brother of Jesus, not his nemesis! It sounds crazy, I know, but etymologically "lucifer" means "light bringer" or "shining one" and Jesus is called the "light of the world" and was sometimes described as emitting light....hmmmm. Who knows?
Maybe the Devil isn't the bad guy after all?

According to the Rev. Lucifer taught Jesus how to do the wine thing and that Jesus' priorities were evident in his first miracle where he created a huge 30 gallon jug of good wine for a party.

That's one preacher that makes even my muddy mind work overtime!

Sunday, July 8, 2007

It came from the pit!

IS "Beeble Earth" really a 'new look' or is it a clever cover for some kind of mucky swamp-thing?

Things have been getting mighty wierd around Pappy's place lately...

Rumor has it that it came from the pit of Pappy Enoch's outhouse and is now out to "git" him!

It may be something that spontaneously generated when ol' Pap dumped a bad batch of moonshine down the hole...ah, the perils of unplanned experiments...

Some say that Pappy can just shoot him with his double-barrel shotgun, but we all know what happens when bullets hit that which comes from the pit! (it's worse than when 'it' hits the fan)

And as for advances in outhouse technology, the only one I ever used that had absolutely no smell and no flies was a raised outhouse at earthaven ecovillage.
The outhouse they built were a few steps above ground and rather than using a collecting pit, waste is collected above ground in an open-air cage. Combined with scoops of sawdust or bunches of straw, the waste dries and composts with the added material and leaves a dry, odorless material that can be buried or used as fertilizer for plants not meant for food.

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Language as technology: voice versus text

Normally I try to avoid advertising for companies, but the Lindens and other creator-residents of Second Life have contributed SO MUCH for free, I think they deserve an exception - and besides, I'm not advertising for their headsets so much as referencing their announcement to begin a conversation about what bringing voice to SL might mean.

Though we don't know for sure when humans first started using spoken language, some estimates are between 40,000 and 250,000 years ago - but there is no way to know for sure without written records! Of course, written records don't always lead to definitive answers either, but at least they provide an artifact to examine and debate. The origins of language may be obscure, but language and particularly the differences between spoken and written expression are more relevant than ever in the digital age.

Second Life began as an image & text-based format where participants type messages to one another's avatars. The conversation appears on the screen and can be logged for future reference. When an avatar is communicating, its hands come up as if it were typing, thus providing a visual cue and the familiar sound of the clacking keyboard adds a sonic cue for participants. Conversational coordination, just like in verbal exchange, is often tricky and related responses rarely follow immediately.

Just as in email and text messaging, some SL residents textual communications are abbreviated or accentuated with emoticons or other semiotic adaptations. And, just as in email and text messaging we never really know for sure who is on the other keyboard - it is *always* an act of faith. Anyone with sufficient technical skill can represent themselves as anyone else and only a close reading by an intimate friend would be likely to detect such deception.

Oral communication on the other hand is more difficult to fake, particularly since human hearing is quite adept at detecting subtleties of sound. Voice recognition has been one of the advantages of spoken communications over electronic media, and could provide certain identification since the pattern of our vocal expression is as singular as our finger print. Though fingerprinting or dactyloscopy has been around since the 19th Century, the science of biometrics is booming in our timid, terrified post 9/11 world. From entry gates at the local gym to forensic analysis, biometric technologies are being widely deployed for identity detection.

Thought I'm not certain whether the voice choice in SL will relay our spoken expression with accuracy and an identical voice print via spectrographic analysis, simply introducing the option of vocal verbal communcation will be a fascinating change offering many opportunities for intriguing intellectual discussion.

VUI (voice user interface) design and ASR (automated speech recognition) may combine to provide an accurate and unique transmission or rendition of our spoken communications such that we will no longer have to make that "leap of faith" that has become our default response when communicating via typed text. Further, if SL includes the option of an audio log as it does for text communications a heightened level of security or certainty may be possible.

While this is appealing, and perhaps an answer to the prayers of the most frightened, like all policing technologies, it may have an ugly underside. Since the human brain has had the longest "imprinting" with spoken language and most of us learned how to speak before we learned how to write, our oral composition skills are so automatic that we hardly notice them. Because of this, most of us speak freely and spontaneously, and sometimes to our great regret. What would a world be like that recorded every word we ever spoke?

I trust the Lindens more than I'd trust the government, so I doubt that Second Life will devolve into such an invasive policing technology, but the introduction of voice communications will certainly revolutionize this new exciting realm.