Sunday, December 31, 2006

Xaxoqual (Happy Birthday!)

I've written a few times about bad experiences I've had in SL, but I'm happy to say that they are far outnumbered by the wonderful experiences and people I've met... and I'm remiss in not having mentioned Xaxoqual Mandelbrot, and meeting her, among the latter sort.

Xaxoqual is a beautiful mourning dove. OK, I'm being ambiguous there, because there's the American mourning dove and the African mourning dove (which is she, American or African? Uh, I don't know... AAAAARRGH!) and there are five species of the former. Whichever species she is, she has a lavender crest and lovely, delicately lavender-tinged plumage (or are they magenta? ummmm...), and excellent taste in clothing. She tends towards the formal (we're kindred spirits in that way, I think), but is just as attractive and tasteful when less formally clad... and we have the pictures here as proof!

(OK... actually, I do know she's an American mourning dove, because the African mourning dove is very brown. I just couldn't pass up the chance for a Monty Python and the Holy Grail reference.)

She's also a delightful conversationalist, and I spent a wonderful time talking to her over tea in the teahouse.

Also... today is not only New Year's Eve, it's Xaxoqual's birthday! Happy birthday, Xaxoqual; I'm honored to be able to count you as a friend.

UPDATE: I definitely don't know my mourning doves. The above isn't her mourning dove avatar. Here is a picture of us with her in mourning dove avatar (American; she told me the Linnean name). Another correction: there are five subspecies of American mourning dove. (Sigh. Kind of sad when one doesn't pay close attention to the Wikipedia page.)


The torii is a gate, typically painted red, traditionally placed at the entrance to a Shinto shrine. Mordecai placed one so that the rising sun shines through it and into the teahouse he built.

I decided I should dress appropriately for a picture there, and found a lovely kimono and appropriate hair. (Hmm. That obi looks like it could be uncomfortable if SL physics were more like RL...)

There's a gorgeous place based on the Heian period that I'll write about later. I have some pictures from there, but the kimono really isn't appropriate; it's from a much later time. For it, I should be in the wonderfully flowing juuni hitoe or karagina mo (check out this web site for lots more information).

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Scary Real, Part Two

I got to go up in the Muse with Mordecai... what a lovely airship! (Note to all balloon/airship designers: please consider some models with loveseats...)

We ascended into the sky to look at the end of The Chain... and suddenly I noticed that the pan and zoom were insanely smooth. View>Statistics... and whoa! 25 fps!

I presume it's because at that height, there's very little to actually render; very few prims are visible, just as in Cheyenne's House of 1,000 Pleasures there aren't (or weren't, at the time she showed me around) many things present and we were in an enclosed area. Hence the sweet graphics performance on my humble Socket A Sempron 2400+ and nVidia 5500.

Would that SL were like that all the time! Sigh...

Friday, December 29, 2006

Fantasy art

If you're a fan of fantasy art in the style of Frazetta (OK, he says Vallejo, but I don't see any self-portraits! :)), take a look at the Elven Egypt Beach Gallery in Seashore Estates, where a friend of mine, Osiris Acropolis, exhibits and sells his work. It's not all muscular barbarians and sword-wielding Amazons... there's also wit and even pathos ("Lost Kitty" made me cry).

The building itself is a work of art, and a lovely setting for the paintings.

Proposition 2072: realistic female shirt fit

If you read this blog, you've probably read my complaints about the way shirts are rendered more than you care to think about. Just as there is a Proposition (Proposition 125) for my other pet peeve, there's one for this issue now as well.

I hope you'll check out Proposition 2072, and consider allocating some of your votes to it.


Cheyenne Palisades, a wonderful friend and lady (in the Platonic heaven, the archetype for "class" is missing...), said many wonderful things about me in a recent entry in her blog. Among them was...
She dresses elegantly but modestly... I’ve never seen her in the skimpy outfits so many female avs seem so fond of.
Then yesterday happened... I was (once again...) shopping, and happened across a couple new to SL. I mentioned the ongoing (not for long; it's been extended to January 1st) 50L sale at Pixel Dolls, and offered to TP there and then offer them a TP in turn. They accepted, the TPs took place, and after a bit of conversation I begged my leave, so they weren't bothered further by me (and nudged them to check out all three floors). Then I looked over and saw The Outfit. PixelMuse Metalily Sunset, all purple and gold, with gold filigree that looks like it's part of your body when you have it on, and showing rather a lot of skin above the waist.. It was only 50L... and I was entranced. I succumbed.

Later I signed on, and Cheyenne was on, too, checking out a wicked-looking shape-shifting transportation device by the !Meta Group. She was nice enough to offer me a TP to take a look...

...and in mid-TP I realized I had on The Outfit, and thought back to that blog entry. Oh, dear. I told her that I was about to disillusion her.

She only ribbed me about it a little. :) (Told you she's wonderful.)

So, here's Attack of the Fifty-Foot Melissa, Part N+1, taken at Digeridoo Designs while waiting (double sigh...) for the main grid to come back, in Metalily Sunset. Am I at least skimpily dressed in a ladylike way?

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Civilized Snow

In Watership Down, Richard Adams notes in passing that people say they like winter, but what they really mean is that they enjoy feeling proof against it.

As a child, I loved snow. Age and having to be somewhere despite snow have tempered my attitude towards it. I like looking at it but not having to be out in it, with a few exceptions (namely those rare occasions when snow falls in a dead calm, so that your coat is covered in perfect little panes of ice and the space beneath traffic lights, and, if you're very lucky, atop spotlights/searchlights, becomes a light show

So, this is one occasion where SL's deviation from authenticity is a pleasant thing. In the photo, I'm admiring the winter scene at the very end of sunset outside near the Stardust Ballroom.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

More Christmas Music

Another song that you should check out: "Watchstar," by 3 Blind Mice. It is featured on the Goddess and Banana's Christmas music show of December 16th (I think mislabeled on the G&B web site as "There You Are"). It's a very special song: quirky, beautiful, and oddly moving.

Listen to the whole show; it's well worth it. (Matthew Ebel kicks serious posterior.)

Friday, December 22, 2006

Spiffy T-shirts and more

I was looking for something else when I happened upon the shop of Masterblaster Ay, and serendipity struck.

He makes and sells T-shirts with some very neat abstract artwork, often SF-inspired. He offers both generic T-shirts and women's T-shirts, and in these pictures you see me in my two favorites (so far).

Time for me to rail once again about SL's choosing the "vacuum sealed" approach to rendering clothing, as opposed to having the fabric assume the minimum energy position as in RL. I really do not do "Warp Space" justice, and I apologize to Masterblaster Ay for it. Guys... check out "Warp Space" yourselves and admire the detail... no, not my detail, the art. Go to the store, OK? It's worth the look. (SL... please do something about the rendering of clothing!)

Mr. Ay IMed me today and showed me his new store; he's expanding into selling his artwork in a form one puts on the wall. It's abstract art, and I like it very much. Do check it out.
  • T-shirts: Ay! Designs, Pacific Hills Plaza, Lugubris (100, 138, 32).
  • Hangable art: Spaceport Art, Pacific Hills Square - Quality Shops!, Electra (157, 152, 80)

Thursday, December 21, 2006

"And the glass... a riot of color in a dreary gray world."

Fizzdrake Castle is an imposing and indeed dreary gray building (on sale for L$14K if I remember rightly), but the gray is relieved in spots by wonderful wall hangings and stained glass.

It's a fascinating place, and this photo of course doesn't show the half of it, by far. Do check it out.

P.S. Oh, my... look at me, without a hat. What a shameless hussy I am!

The Department of Cheesy Phrases

So... how many phrases can one do SL takeoffs of?

I thought that "My So-called Second Life" was clever. Google turns up 1.2 million hits on it. After I started my blog, I found someone else had used "livin' la vida segunda." Just now, I looked, and most of the hits are on my blog or links to it, so I guess not as many people thought of it.

I'm still the only one to parody the old Joe Walsh song, with "Second Life's Been Good to Me So Far." (So far.) Maybe I'm showing my age.

Surely some Bond fan has riffed on "You Only Live Twice," or a Trekker "Live long and prosper...again." Oooh... how about Sinatra: "That's (Second) Life."

Clearly this shows the dangers of blogging at some insane hour of the morning. (I'm a teetotaler, so I honor the warning "You should not drink and blog," but OTOH, being very tired has similar effects, sad to say for people who try to drive insanely long hours, which some may be tempted to do during this holiday season. Please take a nap or stop for the night... I'll be on the road, too, and we don't even want to start meeting like that.)

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Christmas Music

I have a hard time with a lot of "contemporary Christian music." It seems mindless, simplistic, one-God-fits-all. Life doesn't seem to me quite like that.

I like songs that, as one of the First-walkers said in Tailchaser's Song, have a little less fluff and more bone. (While it's got little to do with Christmas, I'm also a sucker for love songs that leave the "eros or agape?" question open, like Foreigner's "I Want to Know What Love Is.") So, here's my Christmas song list:
  • "Mary was an Only Child," Art Garfunkel, on the Angel Clare album (go ahead and listen to "Woyaya," which it fades into)
  • "I Believe in Father Christmas," ELP, Works vol.2
  • (spoken word) "The Journey of the Magi," T.S. Eliot
  • "Lullay My Liking," set by Gustav Holst (heartbreakingly beautiful!)
  • "Star of Wonder," the Roches, from their We Three Kings album
I'm sure I've said before that I cry at the drop of a hat... and that last song is a perfect example. Terre Roche, the song's composer and lyricist, writes on the group's web site that she just considers herself the "channel" for the song, and that she encourages anyone wanting to sing it to do so (see the page with the lyrics and music), so I hope she won't mind if I quote the lyrics here (if there is a problem, I'll edit it out and leave the link):
Star of wonder in the heavens
Wonder what you want of me
Should I follow you tonight?
Star of wonder, star of wonder

I am just a lonely shepherd
Watching from a distant hill
Why do you appear to me?
Star of wonder, star of wonder
If you will

In the morning, they'll come looking
For the shepherd on the hill
What would make her leave her flock
For surely she must love them still

Star of wonder in the heavens
Are you just a shining star or
Should I follow you tonight?
Star of wonder, star of wonder
Shining bright

—Terre Roche, ©1991
That took me longer than it should to type; I always break down at the B section. (Do buy We Three Kings; it's wonderful, and not nearly as somber as this great song might suggest. The Brooklyn accent-soaked version of "Winter Wonderland" is a hoot, and the other Christmas original, "Christmas Passing Through," is a delight.)

I wish you a joyous Christmas.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Christmas, Creative Fantasy style

The amazing people at Creative Fantasy have many things on display and for sale, including some incredible houses. Some are decorated for the Christmas season and the area is all snowy (with amazing animation and sound effects).

One house in particular is so beautiful that I had to take a picture. Of course, you can't hear the carols in the for the full effect, you should visit it yourself.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Melissa Evolving

As I've written before, I'm the sort who is attached to my avatar, and I don't really change it on a whim. That said, it struck me that I should take a look at how I have changed so far in SL.

First, we see the photo I first used
with this blog. Generic skin, and I think I hadn't discovered prim hair yet. Pale lipstick, or maybe I'm not wearing any at all. Minimal eye makeup.

Next, I'm headed for the ceilidh... or however it's spelled. By now, I've discovered prim hair... or have I? and the Vanilla Rose skin is in place...or is it?

A little bit more dramatic lighting and a black dress later, and I've definitely got the Vanilla Rose skin on.

Finally, a photo taken today (making use of Celebrity Trollop's advice--thank you again!). Paris Athletic Light skin adds to the effect. (It's grown on me ... uh, maybe I shouldn't have used that phrase... to the extent that I am leaving the color as is. I like it very much.) Oh, yes... don't forget the cleavage.

I think I'm getting there.

Scary Real

That's a phrase that Cheyenne has used a couple of times to refer to the verisimilitude of her avatar.

I didn't really understand it until last night (OK, insanely early this morning) when we visited, and due to some combination of factors...
  • not many people, due to being insanely early in the morning
  • not much to render, being in an enclosed area
  • a new client
  • a good tailwind?
poor little Melissa with her Sempron 2400 (yes, that's 32 bit, Socket A; shoemaker's children and all that) and nVidia 5500 graphics card was managing to get 22 frames per second or maybe 24.

Cheyenne's motions as she typed were so fluid... I couldn't look away. Now I know. That's scary real. Wow.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Take enough pictures...

...and one of them will come out good.

Here's a fortunate and fortuitous combination of sunrise, a landing on the beautiful Stairway of Unusual Size in the beautiful region of Lothlorien, and the beautiful "Naughty" dress from Dazzle Haute Couture in gold, which matches said Stairway nicely. The gods of photography were smiling.

Speaking of photography, I had a "duh" moment. (That's an "Aha" moment for something that should have been obvious.) To get portrait mode, make the snapshot the size of the window, and make the window tall and narrow.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Maybe I'm Getting the Hang of It...

I was reading a good friend's blog, and recognized myself in one entry... in association with some very complimentary text.

Now I know what it feels like to accept compliments... and it feels awfully good. Thank you, my friend; that's a precious gift you gave me.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Schroedinger's Cat's Skin

OK. Now I will have to fiddle some more with skins, because I've found that I didn't give some a fair shake.

Here's what fooled me: when you change skins, it doesn't happen right away. Instead, the SL client passes through an intermediate stage where the new skin and the old skin are superimposed on one another, out of focus. During that time, you look like I imagine a corpse that has been floating out in the water for a while must look. (Quick! Get Jerry Bruckheimer to do an episode of CSI in SL!)

(No, I won't include a picture of it!)

On earlier attempts to change skins, I anxiously zoomed in on my face, eager to see my new look... and saw that! I always freaked out and immediately switched back.

This time, though, motivated much the same way I was when I finally bought a piano, i.e. by the voice in my head saying "You spent how much on that, and you're going to let it sit there?!", I bit the bullet and tried to stay calm, which I did. Mostly. Long enough to see the SL client settle in and fully render the new skin.

Thank goodness I did.

So, if you're reading this and haven't tried a new skin before, learn from my silliness. It'll be OK, really.

The Good, The Bad, and The Santa

If you don't listen to The Gomem Show, I urge you to start by checking out this week's episode, #27, because it includes a hilarious send-up of Ennio Morricone spaghetti western soundtracks, "Fistful of We Three Kings" by the High Balls.

(Once you hear one episode, you'll want to keep listening; Gomem Desoto is a nice guy with a good ear for music and a dry wit.)

Have a merry (and twisted) Christmas, everybody.

Skin: The Next Generation

Many thanks to Celebrity Trollop. I bought the Paris Athletic Light set, and put on Paris Athletic Light (Berry), which has the lip color I prefer. Here are the results, which I like very much.

UPDATE: According to the Naughty Designs blog, the Paris skins can have their skin tone changed, so I will be experimenting a bit. Keep your fingers crossed.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Twisted metrics in the age of the Internet

In RL, I live in a condo. I barely know any of the people who live in other units here, despite having lived here the better part of two decades. I could tell you much more about the dear friends I've made in SL who actually live thousands of miles away.

Having been a programmer since my sophomore year in high school (that's thirty-five years), and thus living through the BBS era as well as the Internet, I should be blasé about that, but I'm not. It still amazes me.

Speaking of friends, among the dearest I have (SL or RL) is Cheyenne Palisades. I hope you'll take a look at her blog. She's beautiful, witty, insightful, a very good writer, and a wonderful person.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Of Skins and Avatars and One's Attachment Thereto

As many have noted, SL residents seem to come in two flavors. Some folks think of their avatars as people think of clothing: something to select based on where one is going, or even one's whim.

I'm of the other sort. My avatar is me, in SL at least. I had some fun being a she-raccoon once, but I mostly take changes to my avatar very seriously, almost as if I were contemplating cosmetic surgery.

I knew most of what I wanted from the beginning: I love red hair, so I wanted it. Ditto for green eyes; long ago, a beautiful woman with eyes the exact color of Palmolive dishwashing soap was a coworker, and I never forgot those eyes... so I jumped at the chance to have them. Ditto for a long, slender neck, and impossibly long legs (so much so that despite wanting to be as tall as possible, I held back on torso length to keep the emphasis on the legs). Pale skin goes with red hair, of course, so there you go.

Breasts? [nods sheepishly] Yes, I ran the slider all the way up, biting the bullet of bad rendering at the extremes. (If this bothers you, too, I hope you'll take a look at Proposition 125, proposed and cogently argued by Snakekiss Noir.)

I mostly like the results, though when I see my unclad or less-clad SL self, I think I look like a scarecrow and wonder about being a bit more zaftig. (See what I wrote? Not "that avatar with little or no clothing," but "my unclad or less-clad SL self." I didn't think about how to write that; that's just how it came out, and it shows how attached I am to my avatar. Fans of Bertrand Russell's theory of descriptions will point out that just writing "my avatar" like that folds in an assertion that there's only one.)

Along the way I found a skin titled "Vanilla Rose," put it on, and liked it a lot... and more importantly, didn't care too much for the other skins I tried, until I read Celebrity Trollop's inaugural Celebrity Couture Culture column, "Navel Gazing." More accurately, until I saw that first picture!

Now I am looking for a skin with those "digital abs of steel," to use Wagner James Au's felicitous phrase. [Correction: to use Celebrity Trollop's phrase, as Mr. Au did!] Of course, I also want to keep the skin and lip color I like from Vanilla Rose... and now I think I can, thanks to this entry in Ms. Trollop's Second Style Fashionista blog. It's close enough to my current skin and lip color, and has the detail I'm looking for. Ms. Trollop helpfully mentions the skin in the video... so next time I'm online, off I will head for Naughty Designs. Thank you, Ms. Trollop... I have my fingers crossed. starts a podcast

Have I gushed about here before? In case I haven't: it's a result of the Music Genome Project, in which a large number of attributes were defined and a database of lots of popular songs and their attributes created. gives you a Flash-based front end to that database, and once you enter a song or artist you like, it will start playing songs that, based on your input and the database, it thinks you'll like. If it's right, give the song "thumbs up"; if it's wrong, give the song "thumbs down" and it will stop playing the song. In either case, it refines its notion of what you like and hence what it will play for you in the future. (You can thank the RIAA for "thumbs down" only working so many times an hour; they fear that if you can give thumbs down too often, you may be able to cause pandora to play a particular song...and that's a very expensive thing in the RIAA's eyes.)

It displays some discreet advertsing unless you decide to subscribe to the service; I personally have never found the ads bothersome.

So, what's new? has decided to start a podcast that goes into some of the theory and how music is put together. The first episode deals with vocal harmony technique, and while it's very much a 30,000 foot overview, it's still fun and educational. Check it out.

"...and dreamt me some tremulous dreams..."

It's been a while since I've had a dream I really remember, but I've had some SL dreams since the last one I mentioned here.

In one, I remember seeing myself in a sweater and noticing that
  1. It seemed a bit chilly.
  2. The rendering of the sweater was more realistic than I recalled seeing in SL.
Before I could find out how it was done, I woke up.

This morning, I had a strange dream during a nap. I could see IMs appearing before my eyes, but knew I wasn't online, so I must be dreaming... but I still felt that I should respond to them somehow.

I have no idea what it means.

P.S. The title is a quote from the immortal (but, alas, no longer among us) Lord Buckley's monologue "God's Own Drunk." If you've not experienced his work, I hope you'll check it out.

Romance Bridge

If you want to take someone special somewhere special, please consider the Romance Bridge at Serenity Falls. (I promise that when next I'm in SL, I'll verify the name and add the location... please, LL, get search working again!)

It's a beautiful, vine-covered bridge where dolphins cavort... but better I should show you. Here are pictures of it, and of Mordecai and me there.

P.S. Honesty compels me to mention that I stumbled upon it purely by fortunate accident. What I was looking for was something more wintry... not that I'm complaining. The people at Creative Fantasy do amazing work.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

"Don't I know you? Haven't I seen you somewhere before?"

Before I was SL, at least... New World Notes had an article about residents using to find out which celebrities their avatars most resemble. (A followup commented on the seeming prevalence of Bollywood stars in the results.)

I couldn't resist, of course... so I gave it a try, and the image here is the result. I'm not sure what Blogger will do with the image, so just in case:
  1. Uma Thurman, 97%
  2. Amisha Patel, 90%
  3. Beyonce Knowles, 83%
  4. Ayumi Hamasaki, 83%
  5. Kyoko Fukada, 78%
I suppose I continue the tradition to some extent, but only a little. Seeing two Japanese women on the list surprised me.

(Oh yes... the title is from "Cold Rain," on CSN's CSN album. No, that's not a tautology...)

Saturday, December 02, 2006

The Problem with Straps

You'll recall that, back during the CopyBot brouhaha (which I must admit to having overreacted to), I wore a couple of CopyBot protest T-shirts. You'll also notice that they looked utterly unlike such T-shirts would look in RL or, more to the point, with software that more accurately models how clothing behaves. Like everything else in the physical world, they tend to assume the position with least potential energy. (In brief: everything is lazy.) In the real world, this means that a single piece of cloth will tend to conform to the convex hull of the body wearing it.

(So, the mathematical definition of one's bustline is the perimeter of the convex hull of a horizontal cross section of one's torso taken through the largest part of one's bust. I have to wonder what my professors would think about this application of math...)

In SL, on the other hand, clothing is rendered as if the cloth were vacuum sealed around one's body. Some, to be sure, rather like this, but if you're a T-shirt designer trying to get your message across, it's a problem.

The other place that the problem shows up is with straps. Take a look at the photo. Those straps look like they're about to fall off. (Yes, straps do fall off, but only after they somehow get over the hump of one's shoulder, which requires some energy input or some movement on one's part to smooth the way to the really low (and embarrassing!) potential energy level.) They don't look like they're holding up anything, either. In a more accurately modeled world, they'd touch me at the shoulder and at whatever point on my bosom is on the convex hull of a vertical cross section through my torso, and if you looked close, you could see the gap. (UPDATE: On second thought, I might be flattering myself rather a lot by saying that.)

At some point someone decided it was too computationally intensive to do it right, I guess. SL clothing rendering pretends that we're all convex, or at least flat-chested. That's probably why you don't see much clothing like that in the picture; instead, straps are edited out (as the fine folks on The Goods, far more perceptive than I, have mentioned) or made short and kept away from the breasts.

So, cry Havoc 2, and let slips (and bikinis and bras and dresses with straps)... oy, I can't believe I typed that. I'll go quietly, Mr. Shakespeare.