Monday, December 31, 2007

Non-Predictions for 2008

Something about artificial boundaries makes people want to celebrate or make predictions.

If you celebrate getting through another year today, I hope you do it safely.

I don't think I can make worthwhile predictions, at least about SL... but I can say what I hope for.

Improvements in appearance: just compare the appearance of SL to that of any traditional game. (UPDATE: make that "current game"; we can all agree SL beats Pong all to heck when it comes to graphics...) Windlight is a great advance, as are sculpted prims, but SL is still full of cardboard cutout landscaping and infamously low-res avatar shapes, and the drawbacks of implementing clothing as painted-on textures are well-known.

Improvements in performance: I've not studied how SL works, and have no idea of where bottlenecks might be, but I do wonder about one thing: if much of the time, most sims are empty or nearly so, wouldn't it be possible to share resources among sims as long as it can be done in a fair way? I'm sure of another thing: compiling scripts down to a bytecode that is both more efficiently executable and already has serious optimization work done for it desperately needs to happen.

Improvements in user interface: There's work being done on this already, but I'm hoping that there will be even more. One thing I'd love to see: a data glove UI, so that Deaf SL residents can communicate with one another in sign in SL.

Improvements in reliability: There are enough people clamoring for that, lamentably, and IMHO misguidedly, to the exclusion of all else... so I don't have to.

Not Burke's Law, Brooks's Law...

(Boy, am I showing my age with that title...)

Fred Brooks will forever be known for having the misfortune of managing the development of the obscenity that is OS/360, and the genius to write one of the essential books about software development based on his experiences with that obscenity, The Mythical Man-Month.

I've referenced that book, and in particular Brooks's Law ("adding people to a late software project makes it later") in arguing against the "Open Letter" notion of bringing LL development to a screeching halt and putting everyone to work on bug fixes.

Other parts of that classic book also apply, though: "Plan to throw one away. You will, anyhow. The only question is whether you deliver the throwaway to your customers." (Apologies to all, and especially Professor Brooks, if I don't have that correct; I'm working from memory.) We as SL residents are currently using that throwaway. No offense to LL intended--I don't think that a system like SL can be designed all of a piece, perfect from the start. Not yet, at least. (To quote the title of another classic paper by Professor Brooks, there is "No Silver Bullet.") The question is, who's designing the non-throwaway: LL, or someone else? (Those of the "Open Letter" school are implicitly saying it shouldn't be LL, which will be the death of SL.)

That said, whoever is doing that designing had better also heed Brooks's warnings about "second system effect," in which designers, fresh from doing something the first time, all have their wish lists of things they couldn't do the first time... and throw them all in the second time around, to disastrous effect.

SL, for mass appeal, has to "just work." The average user simply will not put up with and doesn't want the collaborative environment that agile software development demands. So, who is willing to put up with it... and where can I sign up to do so? :)

P.S. If you look at Professor Brooks's curriculum vitae, you'll notice a paper on VR, and that virtual environments are among his research interests. I wonder what he thinks of SL?

Not your father's web

Google Analytics shows a bunch of interesting data. One is "Operating Systems". Browsers identify themselves via a string that can also mention the operating system that they're running under. (That string can't always be believed. You can tell your browser to fib about itself; one notorious use of this is to get past lazy web site creators who refuse to deal with anything but Internet Explorer.)

So, Dear Readers, Google Analytics say that 79.05% of you use Windows. (Sigh... I hope you'll at least consider dual booting.) 12.80% of you use Linux (yay!), and 7.79% of you use Macintoshes (welcome aboard...). That doesn't add up to 100%.... and indeed, 0.07% don't say what OS they're using. Maybe their browsers don't give that info by default, or maybe they just like their privacy.

But wait... that still doesn't get everyone. Four of you are doing something else altogether, for the "operating system" strings Google Analytics sees are
  • Danger Hiptop
  • Nintendo Wii
  • Playstation Portable
  • iPhone
How cool is that? I don't even know what a "Danger Hiptop" is. :) (OK, now I do. It's an Internet-capable cell phone, also sold as the T-Mobile Sidekick.)

I'm happy you're all here, whatever system you use.

UPDATE: OK... the day I will celebrate is the day that I see someone is using OpenMoko to read my blog.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

A must-read at 2nd Sex

Lillie Yifu's 2nd Sex blog is always worth reading, but her latest (at the time I write this) is especially so. It speaks to the ongoing "augmentation versus immersion" conflict, and to the move of RL commerce into SL. (Yes, at least some are watching the initial "We're a famous RL company, and we're here... what more do we have to do?" fiascos and learning.)

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Modesty through Procrastination

My very favorite prim breasts are Foxbean Laboratories' "Nadine" breasts. They're sculpted, which makes it far easier to clothe them by texturing... but I still haven't sat down with GIMP and Natalia's wonderful tutorials and tried to do a non-trivial texture for them.

(They say there are classes on how not to procrastinate, and one of these days I'll take them.)

So... these days, you will mostly see me in tops with no neckline whatsoever, much less décolletage, and either solid colors or sweaters. When I'm daring, it's by displaying my shoulders, or my back, or my legs.

Perhaps that's good, in a way, or more realistic. We're taught that a large bust is a "figure flaw" to be camouflaged, or feel the need to dress to distract from it for fear of others' reactions or to conform to expectations.

I promise I will set to work with GIMP, though, and then things will be very different indeed... at least part of the time.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

As Hall and Oates put it so long ago...

And I'll do almost anything, that you want me to, ooh,
But I can't go for that, (No can do)
Tiessa has tagged me for the "Naughty Nine" meme... but while I'm willing to give out eight random facts about myself, I'm not willing to go there, or as Meat Loaf ("Mr. Loaf, may I call you Meat?") put it,
I would do anything for love, but I won't do that...

OLPC in Peru

A brief trip into First Life: from CNN Technology, "'One Laptop' a hit in Peru."

If you can afford it, there's still time to participate in the "Give One Get One" program; it's continuing through December 31. The One Laptop Per Child program merits your support.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Group Membership

If you're like me, you chafe at the limit on the number of groups you can be a member of at any one time.

SL vendors just about always have a group for those who like their work and want to be notified of new products or sales, and often the vendors sweeten the pot with giveaways to group members... but it doesn't take long at all to run up against the 25-group limit in SL.

There is a JIRA proposal to increase the limit, MISC-208. I hope you'll vote for it. The limitation on groups appears to be motivated by group membership being coupled in many cases with access permissions... but so many groups exist solely for notification and freebies that either the limits should be increased or some other mechanism created for the "fans of/shoppers at X" type of group.

If you find JIRA difficult to use, Cherlindrea of the excellent Fabulously Free in SL has an article on MISC-208 which includes instructions on how to vote for it. Please do check it out, even if this particular issue does not move you to action, because you should express your opinion on what problems are important to you and what you'd like to see improved in SL. (You might even want to vote for VWR-1258 or VWR-1080... Sorry, I couldn't pass up the opportunity.)

Thanks to Vint Falken for her post about MISC-208, which provoked me to mention the issue.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Megaprims revisited

Good news from Massively: megaprims will remain in SL.

Until they can be done right, the status quo will remain. "Done right" in this context means:
  • letting landowners move/return prims that intrude upon their property
  • letting residents know when they're moving prims onto others' property
  • letting landowners flag property to specify who they don't want moving prims onto their land
That done, size restraints on prim size may be lifted, subject to the above constraints.

At least, that's how I understand the Massively article.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Smashing Prims addendum

As I promised, a photo showing the lovely texture of the flexi prim skirt. Not a great photo, but it serves the purpose...

'Tis the season for early music

It's Christmas time... and though you may not know it, you're listening to songs from several hundred years ago:
  • the Coventry carol, from the 1591 pageant of the Shearmen and Tailors in Coventry, England
  • "Ding Dong Merrily on High," which borrows the tune of the Bransle L'Officiale from Arbeau's Orchesographie
  • "Riu riu chiu," a 16th century Spanish villancico
  • "The Friendly Beasts," which lifts the tune of "Orientis partibus," a macaronic Latin/French song of the 13th century
Merry Christmas... and good music.

UPDATE: Silly me... how could I have forgotten "What Child is This?" (to the tune of "Greensleeves") or "In Dulci Jubilo"?

Saturday, December 15, 2007

"I feel pretty..."

A little while ago I signed on and a blue pop-up window appeared.
Raven Ivanova has offered you 'Merry Xmas Melissa - from Raven @Smashing Prims' in Second Life.
Startled, I clicked "Accept" and peeked inside. There was a very sweet note from Raven... and gowns! Raven has come out with gowns that have prim breasts, textured to suit them.

Now, this picture doesn't show what it will look like on you, for a couple of reasons... OK, one reason, actually: my inclination to go to extremes. The prim breasts you see here are edited to make them larger, and I will have to edit the skirt to make it full length, given my avatar slider settings.

As with my previous post about Smashing Prims, you can't see the jiggle, and another thing you can't see is the very easy-to-use UI. Just click on the breasts, and a pop-up lets you set their behavior to suit your wishes.

What you can see, though, is the lovely detail:

I can't describe how wonderful it feels to wear something so beautifully detailed and above all designed to suit the way I want to be. Not being ignored after being a fashion outcast is a very nice feeling.

A while back, fashion blogs started mentioning for each item they write about whether the designer/store gave it to them. I have no delusions of fashionistismo (or is that fashionistidad? fashionisteza?) or of this blog being anything but whatever strikes my fancy to write about... but it doesn't matter that I was given this dress. Had I not been given it, I'd have bought it on sight. It's the most beautiful clothing designed for prim breasts I've yet seen in SL, and if I dare hope, the first of many more. Thank you, Raven.

P.S. Those photos do no justice whatsoever to the texture of the skirt. I will correct that omission soon.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Forsaken by night

There's something magical about walking on a snowy night. Most cars and people are at home (or, as some might put it, the sane people are at home). The snow covers imperfections, and decorates otherwise bare trees. If you're really lucky, it will be dead calm, and the snowflakes will be perfect little six-sided panes of decorative ice, and the street lights illuminate cones through which the snow falls. (Once I saw a nearby night club running a skylight on such an evening.)

Forsaken isn't quite like that. The trees are clear of snow, and the snow is less distinct... but it's still pretty darned magical at night. Where else would you find a holiday carousel?

Elsewhere, a forlorn peacock waits for the last train...

...and a torii beckons.

You really, really should visit Forsaken.

Kicking myself again...

Kind readers let me know where I could find a heel click sound to override the default SL walk sound. Now, perhaps you will once again save me from my forgetfulness.

Some time ago, I happened across a corset in SL that used transparency to give one's avatar an amazingly tiny waist, like the famous Mlle. Polaire. I didn't save a landmark, so now, I can't find it. If you know of such an object, I'd appreciate it greatly if you could let me know where it can be found. Thanks.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Cory Linden leaves LL

The news is out, on Massively, New World Notes, and even C|Net: Cory Linden has left LL.

Cory was there from the beginning, is responsible for LSL, and pushed heavily for the open sourcing of the client and, eventually, the server. I wish him well, and hope that his departure will not slow or, worse, stop the move to open source for SL.

"Tertin, tertin..."

SCTV had a segment titled Monster Chiller Horror Theatre, in which the long-suffering Count Floyd had to try to persuade the audience that all sorts of non-scary movies were scary. The one that sticks out in my mind was Whispers of the Wolf, a hilarious Ingmar Bergman sendup. It starts with Catherine O'Hara, doing her best Liv Ullman, entering a hotel and asking for the room her sister is in. In the faux Swedish of the skit the ominous room number, 1313, comes out as "Tertin, tertin."

What does this have to do with anything? Nothing really... I was just reminded of it when I saw on Google Analytics that this blog got 1,313 visits over the past thirty days. Actually more, because the two days before I realized that changing templates chucked the Google Analytic insert are still in the thirty-day window... though by Friday they will have fallen off. Even with that, I think that's the most visits I've gotten over a thirty-day period. Very small potatoes indeed in the blogging world, but a high point for me, and thank you all for stopping by... even if you're just looking for cheesy phrases.

(Ms. O'Hara did a really good job. I remember seeing the cover of Liv Ullman's autobiography once; she's a beautiful woman, but somehow in that photo she has a look that tells you she's seen nothing but disappointment and suffering in life, and is cringing, waiting for the whip to fall again... Ms. O'Hara nailed that look.)

Sunday, December 09, 2007

How to? Check Tweaktocracy...

I remember long ago reading a study of text editor user interfaces. it found that the subjects of the study tended to learn a subset of the available commands and use them, even when there were alternatives that might be quicker. For example, though there was a keystroke to move a word at a time, people would simply use the keystroke to move a character at a time repeatedly. They learn a minimal set of comands that, as they say in the linear algebra biz, spans the space of things they want to do.

I know I do that. In SL, I know there's a command to make my avatar run. I have yet to look it up and remember it. I've seen avatars jump short distances, only to try to fly it myself and overshoot the target repeatedly.

In those ways and many others, I need to learn to better use SL... and I'm sure that by reading Tweaktocracy, a new blog from the very capable Cheyenne Palisades and Exuberance Lafleur, I will learn many ways to do so. I hope you'll check it out.

"It's comin' on Christmas..."

...and all the ads and store displays that have been up and running since well before Halloween have me burned out on it.

Time to take a deep breath and listen to the music that always serves to get me seriously in a Christmas mood:
  • Gustav Holst's breathtakingly gorgeous setting of "Lullay My Liking"
  • "Qui creavit coelum," also known as the song of the nuns of Chester; if you can find the Ensemble for Early Music's album Christemas in Anglia, then you have my favorite recording of it and of many other songs--don't miss the trope "Rex virginum amator"
  • "Edi beo thu" (Anonymous 4's version is wonderful... but then, Anonymous 4's version of everything is wonderful)
  • "Nowell/Tidings True", which is a lovely song of the Annunciation. This and an incredible setting of "Alma redemptoris mater" are on an old New York Pro Musica album of Christmas songs. (The link I give shows up a mistake made in the track listing for the NYPM CD, because one of the links for "Nowell, Nowell" actually takes you to "Alma redemptoris mater"!)
  • "Mary Was an Only Child," from Art Garfunkel's Angel Clare album.
  • "I Believe in Father Christmas," which I think first showed up on ELP's Works vol. 2. I love the way they use the "Troika" from Lieutenant Kije, and I love the skeptical point of view of the song.
I hope all of you who celebrate at this time of year have a wonderful time, be it in First or Second Life.

Winter on Forsaken

I was surprised and delighted to find snow on Forsaken. (I was also surprised that googling "palm tree" and snow turns up a fair number of images... but I have barely visited places with palm trees, much less lived there over a winter.)

If you've not visited Forsaken, this is a wonderful time to do so.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

"...I'm just rendered that way."

This time of year there's a cornucopia of freebies in SL, one being the lovely "Christmas Girl" dress from Ingenue. It's a sweet, demure dress, not at all like the slinky, slit up to there!? gown Jessica Rabbit wears in Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, but wearing a fire-engine red dress just did something to me...

I headed over to Raglan Shire, a sim that caters to tinies. (I keep wanting to type "Lagan"... they both have "a", "n", and "l", and appear in titles of Irish songs, and IMHO "My Lagan Love" is far more beautiful than "On Raglan Road"; what can I say?) What few others were there went about their business and on their way, and I headed into a lovely store, all wood and stained glass reminiscent of Piet Mondrian:

I went on up the stairs and found a tiny-sized grand piano, and found myself wishing for a Fabulous Baker Boys-inspired poseball:

Finally I went out onto the balcony to admire the quiet and the surroundings.

It was the dress, I tell you!

P.S. Of course, the prim breasts are not part of the dress...

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

I'm "it"...

...not to be confused with Clara Bow.

Raul Crimson has tagged me. Here are the meme's rules:
  1. Each player starts with eight random facts/habits about themselves.
  2. People who are tagged need to write a post on their own blog (about their eight things) and post these rules.
  3. At the end of your blog, you need to choose eight people to get tagged and list their names.
  4. Don’t forget to leave them a comment telling them they’re tagged, and to read your blog.
I propagate neither chain letters nor memes, so I'm going to violate rules three and four, but here's (2), which implies having completed (1):
  • I cry at the drop of a hat when reading, listening to music, or watching movies.
  • I had the privilege of meeting Admiral Grace Murray Hopper. Alas, I didn't get one of her "nanoseconds".
  • I'm stereo blind. 3-D glasses are wasted on me.
  • I'm a terrible pack rat, and disorganized. (One look at my inventory would show that.)
  • I never willingly use Microsoft Windows.
  • I have significant coupling between my ring finger and pinky. Fortunately, I know better than to pull a Schumann. Unfortunately, I'll never be as talented as Schumann.
  • Languages, both human and programming, fascinate me.
  • Fall, or autumn if you're outside the US, is my favorite season.

Google Analytics revisited

A while back I noticed that the main search query that took people to my blog was "cheesy phrases." "yedo yifu" has taken over first place, but I was very surprised indeed by number three: "cali lewis bikini".

It turns out that a blog entry mentioning Cali Lewis of the excellent Geek Brief TV podcast appeared near one in which I expressed concern about whether my bikini top had rezzed. Apologies to those looking for images that they won't find on my blog... though I have a photo of a Geek Brief meetup in SL.


A dear friend gave me a landmark for LeZoo. Francophones are probably cringing at that bit of franglais, but I don't think people would be willing to type "Le Jardin Zoologique" when searching for the sim...

It's an interesting place, with large sunken exhibits where the animals can be seen, and underground caves that I've yet to explore. If you wish, you can take a tour in a small car.

Clothing shops line the edge of the area, and opposite the entrance is a building that at first I thought was a church... maybe it is a temple to fashion, as it's the new Second Style headquarters. At one corner there's a prop Second Style cover and poseball, so that you can put yourself on the cover. It's probably as close as I'll ever come, so I succumbed to temptation:

Hmm... they could put a transparent object in front with the lettering so one could model dresses, but positioning would probably be a lot trickier.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Gifts for your favorite geekette (is that a word?)

Girls Gone Geek has posted a list of gift suggestions for those considering what to get the geeky girl/woman in one's life. I certainly wouldn't mind an eee under my tree (no, I'm not dropping hints... I have too much stuff already)... a couple of comments, though:
  • Maybe I'm showing my age, but... I gulped hard when I saw the $250 item on the 'penny pinchers" list. Eep! Inflation hasn't upped the ante that much, has it? I mean, for that you could buy someone that $200 Wal-Mart Linux desktop box and a decent amount of RAM.
  • Crank radios are neat (No, that's not a radio that only picks up Art Bell's show...), but I've owned and given the original Freeplay crank radios, and they have a problem: whatever governs the spring's unwinding must take considerable stress. It breaks before very long, so that when you wind it up, it unwinds frantically, sounding like it's about to explode, and you don't get to listen for very long at all. Do check whether the construction has improved in that regard.
It's worth a look.

P.S. Actually, maybe you can't get that $200 Linux box at Wal-Mart. I hear that they've sold their inventory, and I can't find it on the web site any more.

UPDATE: Thanks to commenter
Rohan Jayasekera for info about the improvement to Freeplay radio construction.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

NinjaDay2007... are you ready?

...actually, it doesn't matter. Nobody's ready for a ninja.

I was watching Ask a Ninja the other day, and found out that December fifth is the International Day of the Ninja. (Do check out Ask a Ninja if you haven't heard of it.) So, I set out in search of a ninja suit... and found one.

Alas, I'm having a hard time moving stealthily without being noticed... and the weapons are proving difficult. Not to mention that falling face first on an uiguisubari is very non-stealthy...

In any case, have a wonderful Day of the Ninja. A ninja may be watching to make sure you do.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Smashing Prims

I received email this morning from Kiera Jensen, referring me to a store called Smashing Prims. I'm very much in Ms. Jensen's debt, because Smashing Prims features not only lovely dresses, but dresses designed as a whole to work with prim breasts. I can't give you the full effect, because I can't capture the jiggle in a still photo.

The prim breasts are sculpted, and can, within limits, be enlarged:

Though the limits are less than I would personally like, I am still very impressed, and will, I'm sure, spend far too much money there.

Even if you have no interest in prim breasts, you should still go to look at the skins and the dresses that have no prim breasts, especially the lovely gowns. (And if you do share my interest, you should know that we may be seeing such a gown with prim breasts designed to go with it in the future.)

Smashing Prims designer Raven Ivanova is doing wonderful work for prim breast wearers, and deserves our support.

Sunday, November 25, 2007


Wilhelmina Yoshikawa's blog has a very good entry about body proportion... though I fear my avatar serves as a bad example of the things she discusses.

One thing she did that I wish I'd known about earlier is to officially propose that the height slider should display the SL height that corresponds to its position, not 0-100. Under the old scheme, it was proposition 2133... but since a search of JIRA turned up nothing like it, I have entered VWR-3441, "Display virtual measurements for avatars when sliders affectng those measurements are being adjusted."

Whatever one's inclination about body size and shape, it would be very helpful to see the "actual" values for height, bust, waist, hips, etc. rather than a 0-100 slider value, or at least in addition to it.... so in addition to the other JIRA proposals I've made, I hope you'll consider voting for VWR-3441.

UPDATE: It turns out that I didn't search well enough; VWR-1094 effectively asks for the same thing. So, I've marked my entry as a duplicate and closed it. Please vote for VWR-1094 if you voted for VWR-3441... thanks.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Java Jive

In a, um, discussion of search facilities for Second Life, the question of "coffee pot" came up.

The old SL search simply looks for entries that have any of the words you type, presumably avoiding or including entries marked "mature" depending on your choice, and orders the results by traffic (hence the obnoxious phenomenon of camping), so a search for "coffee pot" is liable to turn up many establishments having more to do with marijuana than with the production of coffee, and indeed, one person tried searching for "coffee pot" with the old search, and said the result was "junk".

In the following discussion, this claim was made:
If you were to type "coffee pot" into Google, it would [sic--I presume "wouldn't" was intended] turn up anything for you in Google you needed, either. You might have to put in a different term, or more terms.
I couldn't resist... so I handed Google "coffee pot" (without the quotes, thus giving Google greater leeway to make the same kind of blunder the old SL search made) and clicked to get the results.

Here the first few are, in the order they appeared:
  1. A link to an page advertising a coffee pot.
  2. The Wikipedia "coffeemaker" page.
  3. Howstuffworks "How Coffee Makers Work"
  4. How to brew beer in a coffee pot
  5. How to brew a pot of coffee
  6. Two links to sites advertising coffee makers
  7. A page about tourist attractions in the shape of giant coffee pots.
  8. A page about one such tourist attraction in particular.
That's the first page of results. If you want to buy a coffee pot, there are three useful results, one of them being the very first one. Even if I were desperate for a coffee pot, I'd be likely to go look at the others, both out of curiosity (beer in a coffee pot?) and to better use the coffee pot I buy once I have it.

Google is looking pretty good to me.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Prims and electric pianos

Once upon a time, people tried to create an electric piano, an instrument, ideally small and portable, that had the characteristics of a piano: velocity sensitive, polyphonic, with the kind of controls a piano has, most notably a "damper" (sustain) pedal. Various companies tried: Wurlitzer and Rhodes with mechanical methods, Yamaha later with FM synthesis. The resulting instruments didn't sound very much like a piano at all--but now you will find synth patches that do their level best to reproduce those sounds. What you won't, and probably never will, see are patches that do their best to reproduce a sampling instrument. They're not wrong enough to be of musical interest in their own right. It's a musical "uncanny valley," if you will.

(I take that back. The Mellotron was an early sampling instrument that played taped samples of instruments, and Mellotron strings are very tied to the 60s, in things like the songs of the Moody Blues, or Black Sabbath's "Changes". That's the one sampler someone may try to reproduce the sound of.)

I thought of that just now when I looked over the blog and saw the statue of the Buddha. It is very much an artifact of its time and of geometrical prims. Sculpture made from them has a style imposed by the constraints of the tools. (Not a new thing; see Oscar Ogg's book The 26 Letters, an entertaining, insightful, and beautiful work.) It encourages results reminiscent of the 1930s and streamlined objects. A Buddha made of sculpted prims would be very different. Closer to RL statues of the Buddha... but not necessarily more or less beautiful than what is now in Varosha.

It's not a good thing, really...

[Oops! There was originally a link here with a graphic claiming that the text of this blog is written at college level or thereabouts, but I guess the web site went away, and it now takes you to some generic filler site with advertising.]

It really isn't. If you want to communicate, especially to an international audience such as populates SL, you want people to concentrate on the ideas, not on keeping track of subordinate clauses other grammatical caper-cutting. If I had the time... yes, like whoever it was (St. Exupery?), I lack the time to make this short... I'd run the text through the kind of complexity measuring code the above link uses to rate the prose, and rewrite to a high school level. The goal is communication, not showing off one's command of sentence structure.

Thanks to Lillie Yifu at 2nd Sex for her blog entry pointing at the rating service.

A place of great calm

Something this morning provoked me to search for "Buddhist". A few seconds and one TP later, I stood at the entrance to the Buddhist temple at Varosha, ironically in the "Crazy Devil" sim.

There are notecards about Buddhism: the Four Noble Truths, the Eightfold Way... and a free prayer mat and lotus. The lotus is lovely; I carried it with me for a while, then detached it--somehow, detachment from things seemed appropriate.

You're welcomed via the audio stream. It's very nice; the welcome is played twice, and then it returns to a gentle background drum. Prayer wheels spin serenely. You're asked to wash your hands before entering the temple proper...

...and you enter to see a statue of the Buddha in contemplation, lotus in hand:

Before the statue is a spot one can sit in contemplation, with the mantra "Om mani padme hum" recited in the background.

The lotus itself is eminently worth contemplating, lovely in its symmetry:

Before the Buddha is not the only spot for meditation; there are many places at the temple, all calm and beautiful.

They have a shop at which one can buy things such as a home shrine; all profits go to support the shrine, and they accept donations gratefully. If you need a respite, a place of peace, this is definitely it.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

A Thought About Sculpted Prims

Sculpted prims are a major advance in economically making objects of a wide variety of shapes, especially organic shapes not readily built from the simple geometric shapes of the original prims. At the moment, at least, one has to create them outside SL, using any of several 3D modeling programs and converting the result to the pseudo-texture that represents a sculpted prim's shape.

The converters that have been written so far, at least the last time I looked, count on one's starting with a sphere--sort of like a globe, at least if there were only 2n-1 degrees of latitude and 2n degrees of longitude (or is that the other way around?); maybe a disco mirror ball would be a better image--and performing only operations leaving that invariant; you can shove the points where the lines cross around, but not delete or add points.

Surely to users of 3D modeling programs, that's like having one hand tied behind one's back. Tutorials and texts for those programs aren't written from the point of view of creating sculpted prims, and don't limit themselves to those operations that leave the conversion to a sculpted prim trivial. To make it easier to create sculpted prims, the converter has to be smarter, taking a shape made by whatever means and finding the sculpted prim pseudo-texture that comes closest to matching it. That may not always be possible, but I bet it is often enough to be worth trying.

"So write one" is the correct response. I haven't. Not yet, anyway. It ought to be doable; something like adaptive integration, but in 3D, and having to limit the number of subdivisions to match the limits on the sculpted prim pseudo texture dimensions.

Comments, especially of the form "Duh, look at [insert URL here]; someone's already done it!", greatly appreciated.

UPDATE: I delightedly announce that I didn't know what I was talking about!

Check out
Sculpted Prims: Resident-made Tools in the SL Wiki, and note in particular what at the time of this writing is the last five or six entries: in-world sculpted prim creation tools. So much for sculpted prims being the exclusive province of an elite, or of being "unfair."

Friday, November 16, 2007

Cieli Toscani?

Sure, if you wish... or any other, for that matter.

Windlight is back, in the form of a First Look SL client. The results are gorgeous, as you can see from this photo of Forsaken:

You will, however, want to fiddle with the settings. I didn't go totally crazy running the sliders to the max, but still ended up at two frames per second on Apollo. It will take some work to get the best compromise... and I'm looking ever more longingly at my wish list on

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Speaking of ditzy...

OK... I changed the blog template; the blue of "Denim" fits better with the Fianna's Frocks window backdrop, and I didn't like the wasted space.

Oops... two days of no apparent readership later, it occurred to me that Blogger didn't preserve the Google Analytics script insert when I switched templates.

Might be worth a suggestion to Blogger.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Thank you

I hope that all have taken a moment today to contemplate what we owe all those who have fought and died on our behalf.

Here you can find not only the moving poem "In Flanders Fields" but also the story of how it was written and almost lost.

Why me?

OK, so was a bomb... surely I can get on to this cheesy site!

Well, I could, but... just has a little notice reading
"COMING SOON! The newfangled, greatly improved, totally updated, 2.0 version that lets you ELF THE HECK OUT OF YOURSELF!" which, if you click on it, just takes you to the Office Max web site.

As a programmer, I understand about the last 10% of debugging that takes the second 90% of the time... but I was hoping I could be a user this time.

Ah, well... there are enough SL residents who do that kind of kvetching, so I'll look for something else to do.

Speaking of jewelry...

Cheyenne Palisades, classy and multitalented person that she is (if you've never visited Pele, for heaven's sake do... see her blog for details), is setting up shop to sell her lovely jewelry and artwork. I promise to give a location when I can (sigh... I'm not sure whether I would prefer being absent-minded or ditzy). For now, here's a photo of the welcoming sign. It doesn't do justice to her wonderful landscaping, I fear.

I guess it's catching on...

Numb3rs had an episode featuring an MMORPG last Friday. Not SL, but a fictional more "traditional" game with an official goal designed into it, and the players, aside from Amita, were depicted as the stereotypical "get a life" sort. On the whole, though, pretty good. (Favorite scene: when "Kali" didn't let "Spectre" win.)

Of course, I'll forgive a lot for a series that shows mathematicians as human and math as the fascinating, beautiful, and useful field it is... just as I forgive David Krumholtz's occasional mispronunciations. (Oh, yes.)

P.S. I don't want to spoil the epsiode, but there's a concept at the end that is interestingly reminiscent of SL.


I finally got around to putting an image behind the blog title. I know, a further plunge into narcissism, but the contrast between the hair and the background was too nice to pass up.

(The photo, BTW, is taken at Fianna's Frocks, which has lovely dresses; also there is the wonderfully named "Ooo, Shiny!" jewelry.)

UPDATE: I did what I should've done first, namely found the aspect ratio I had to work with rather than just guessing.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Sad news

Last Call was recently closed for a short while and then reopened.

Sadly, the blog reports that one of the people behind Last Call and Dazzle Haute Couture has passed away unexpectedly.

Throughout my time in Second Life, Dazzle and then Last Call have been sources of breathtaking clothing of many styles and sorts, setting the standards. My heart goes out to the people of Last Call and Dazzle in this sad time.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Cannery update

Sigh... evidently even the book about the Cannery exhibit will go away soon, so if you want a memory of it, or if you didn't make it to the Cannery and want to see what it is/was all about, best get it while you can.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Obscenity of Gor

Back when I was in college and minimally involved in the fannish world, once or twice the topic of John Norman's Gor series of books came up. It went down almost as soon as it came up. I never bothered to read any of them, though I saw them in copious quantities in the SF section of used book stores, all titled [Fill in the Blank] of Gor. The general opinion was that they were wretchedly written potboilers, not worthy of attention save for a few who took the time to parody them.

Because I didn't read them, I was blissfully unaware of the loathsome philosophy they promote. In SL, I came across a store selling silks, thought "how pretty!" and bought a set... but then I discovered their connotations as the dress of a Gorean kajira (slave girl), and I will not wear them again.

In the world of Gor, man's rightful place is dominant, while a woman is only truly happy as a man's slave. There are some free women, but they are subject to enslavement—after all, according to Gorean philosophy, it's for their own good.

A dear friend, Foxbean Liebknecht, is making T-shirts that express one opinion of Gor... and from the above, I dare say you can guess what that opinion is. It features the stylized lower case "k", called "kef" by Goreans, that starts the word kajira, with the international traffic sign symbol of prohibition. (The "kef" is one of the symbols that kajirae are branded with.) Here I am, shape adjusted to overcome the problems of the SL avatar shape when it comes to T-shirts with art or a message, wearing a beta test version of the shirt:

Foxbean plans to give this version of the shirt away. I hope it becomes extremely popular.

P.S. I will take advantage of this opportunity to remind you of Second Life JIRA entry VWR-1080, which requests a way to overcome the problem of SL clothing and non-convex portions of the avatar shape. Please vote for it.

Saturday, November 03, 2007


The SLart at the Cannery exhibit is over, though I hope that it's not the last such exhibit and that even more amazing art is to come.

Thank you to Shoshana Epsilon and Vint Falken; I'm still amazed that you saw something worthy of display in one of my photos. Thanks to all who went to see the exhibit, and thanks to the artists whose incredible work was on display.

UPDATE: I spoke too soon! It's open until next Wednesday. If you haven't seen it, please do. It's a wonderful collection of art.

UPDATE #2: The first exhibit is over, but the call is out for images for the next one... yay! Keep an eye out for more news.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Not a happy camper

As I write, traffic is still taken into consideration as a measure of popularity or relevance in SL. Unfortunately, this has given rise to attempts to drive up one's traffic rating by means other than offering compelling content and goods.

They do this by setting up poseballs so that whoever sits on them is paid a pittance to just sit there (or in a few cases to be animated to scrub the floor, wash a window, or play a guitar). As you know if you've spent much time at all in SL, this is called "camping," and chairs equipped with such poseballs are called "camping chairs."

Camping is a blight on SL; campers consume server resources and increase lag for those who are actually trying to do something.

I've just discovered camping has been set up in a place I visit fairly often. I'm surprised, because it's near a store whose owner is making major advances in the state of the art in the products he sells. A hair vendor whose products I love and buy more of than I really should has also set up camping chairs--those who sit there long enough can get hair... to be fair, I think the equivalent L$/minute is considerably better than the average camping chair.

So... I'm driven to the point of announcing that I will stop doing business with establishments that have camping. It will take many people doing so to be noticed, and even then I think it will really take LL's abandoning traffic as a measure of popularity or relevance to put a stop to it... but I can't implicitly condone camping by rewarding those who cause it.

P.S. I just noticed that this is post #300. Good heavens! Thanks to all of you who've read my meanderings.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

What did you learn today?

As one who lived through the 1980s, I of course read Leo Buscaglia's Love, saw tapes of his lectures, and read his wonderful tribute to his father... and hence I remember the story about his father's asking him every day "Felice, what did you learn today?" which could prompt a frantic scan of the encyclopedia if nothing came to mind before supper.

Today I read Penance Sauterau's article in the Second Life Herald on "identity hunting" (well, at least the part where you find clothes suited to your identity), and she mentioned the place to find neko ears: Jungle Voodoo on Temenos Island.

I did a double take--"temenos" looked to me like Reverend Spooner in first year Spanish--but then, unable to let it slide, I looked temenos up, and was happy to have learned something very interesting!

Thank you, Ms. Sauterau, and thank you Dr. Buscaglia, wherever you are, for reinforcing that urge to find out.

Monday, October 29, 2007

(Second) Life is but a dream... least it is for me these days. More specifically, a dream I had long ago in which I could fly, but had minimal control over my position and couldn't land.

Yesterday and on into this morning, I've been stuck in the air in the "falling" animation, arms and legs flailing. Sitting down works, but stand up again, and away I go. This has happened to me once before, and similarly nothing I tried had any effect: teleporting, flushing cache, using the RC client or the "official" client. Beta works, but has its own problems... the biggest being that my friends aren't there.

Nothing to do but wait it out and go looking for similar bug reports, I guess.

UPDATE: putting on a saved shape somehow stopped the problems. I'll remember for next time, but should still go looking for similar reported bugs.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Gutsy Gibbon now running...

As I type, my computer is now running Ubuntu 7.10 aka "Gutsy Gibbon". It at least seems perkier (ick, my computer is like Katie Couric?) than before. Even with trackerd chugging along and cataloging my files, things are snappy. So did SL, but it's the dead of night, and conditions vary so much that I wouldn't take that as much evidence.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Disappointed Goreans

I was at a store this morning. It's fall in the US (and autumn elsewhere in the Northern Hemisphere :)), and the harvest decorations were out in force... as you'd expect in Iowa. Pumpkins, squash of all colors, and dried out stalks of corn. Very festive...

...and then I looked more closely and saw a little sign attached to a stalk. "Silks available in the Floral Department." I burst out laughing at the image of a kajira heading for the Floral Department, only to be handed a dried out cornstalk.

Thursday, October 25, 2007


Well... last night's episode wasn't bad; SL residents weren't all painted as perverts, and they didn't take very many liberties. (Would that SL were as lag-free as on the show, and teleports as quick.)

(Sigh... kind of sad when one is relieved that all they did was portray one resident as a hired assassin.)

I was online in the dead of night US time, and visited one of the CSI:NY sims. I didn't spend much time there, and as a Linux user I couldn't try the special version of the client. I wasn't able to hear the audio clips for some reason (though in a very nice accomodation of deaf users, you can click on a spot on the CSI HUD and see text). There did seem to be a respectable number of people there for the time--an insanely early hour on a weekday.

How many will come to SL, and how many will stay? I don't know. Some are rather eagerly predicting a flop. I won't predict one way or another, save that I suspect that those who stay will not be sheep herded by their version of the client. People are more resourceful than that.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

"You woman!"

Long ago, Des Moines had a wonderful radio station that you could only hear if you had cable TV. At the time, the local cable TV franchise offered an FM hookup that not only gave you a good signal for local stations, but also brought in other stations as well, like Chicago's magnificent WFMT, and inserted a signal that never hit the actual airwaves, but went by the made-up "callsign" KBLE.

KBLE eventually made the move to actual radio with the call letters KMFG, and all was well in Des Moines radio until, shortly after the flood of 1993, one morning KFMG listeners discovered that the station had been sold and switched to a format featuring nothing but metal. It was the death of worthwhile commercial radio in Des Moines, and the corpse is still rotting.

All that is to explain how it was that I came to listen to "Mancow's Morning Madhouse." I didn't listen to it for very long, or perhaps very long at a time is the better term; I tended to cycle among the alternatives until I remembered why I despised them. In the case of Mancow, it was his being of the sick David Letterman school of "humor" in which the perpetrator features someone who is made to look stupid so that the audience and the emcee can feel smugly hip.

One thing stands out in my memory, though. Sometimes Mancow would include a person he at least said was his grandfather, and in one taped bit, this old man was berating someone, calling him names, leading up to his ultimate insult: "You woman!"

What kind of person must he have been, what kind of upbringing did he have to give him that sort of view of the world?

I'm reminded of it after seeing similar put-downs from a male avatar in SL. If the human behind the avatar is a man, I have to wonder the same thing, perhaps more so if he's younger than Mancow's grandfather--isn't this supposedly a more enlightened age? OTOH, if the human behind the avatar is a woman, I suppose it could be an attempt at verisimilitude by affecting the worst stereotypes of men, but if it isn't, what does that say?

UPDATE: KFMG has made a reappearance on MySpace--they have reincarnated yet again, this time as an Internet station!

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Women In Art


A beautiful bit of video... would that they had added at least one CGI image at the end. Isn't SL an interactive art form?

P.S./ObSL: Now there's a source of shapes I'd buy! Wouldn't you like to have a Mona Lisa avatar, or Lady with an Ermine, or...? (Hmmm... probably not many takers for Les Demoiselles d'Avignon.)

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Le Ubuntu Nouveau est Arrivé

The day has arrived. You can now retrieve and install Ubuntu 7.10, code name "Gutsy Gibbon," or if you already have Feisty Fawn, make sure you have the latest update-manager package, and it will offer to upgrade you to 7.10. It is very likely to be a slow process for the next few days, though, which is why many recommended downloading the RC (Release Candidate) CD beforehand, and installing/upgrading from it.

I will be upgrading when I can...after backing up my data, of course! I will also report on how things go.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

medieval/Renaissance clothing

I've seen the occasional ad in SL for a "medieval" or "Renaissance" gown. The items have often been beautifully done, but it's not clear to me that they're really based on clothing of that time.

I want to wear a houppelande in SL, or a cotehardie. Is that possible?

UPDATE: Mordecai Scaggs, whose blog you really should read, has graciously sent me a landmark for Avalance, Lightfoot, and Sputnik as a possible source. I went there last night when I woke up at a ridiculous hour. I looked for the outfit he specified, i really did... but spent so long admiring the other lovely clothing there that I had to reluctantly leave before I found it. I will return.

The "Sputnik" part of the name perhaps refers to the presence of some items of popular culture and SF. I couldn't help but notice the aliens from that classic Dr. Who episode, "The Loch Ness Monster," which has my very favorite Dr. Who line of all time, spoken by one of said aliens about the Doctor:
He was a formidable opponent, but he underestimated the power of organic crystallography.
UPDATE: Oops... evidently it's "Terror of the Zygons." Sorry.

Stage whisper

What do you call someone who speaks three languages? Trilingual.
What do you call someone who speaks two languages? Bilingual.
What do you call someone who speaks one language? American.
--old and inaccurate joke
I was window shopping for hair a while back, looking at the lucky chairs along with some other folks. Not much conversation going on, or perhaps it was all in voice; voice has yet to appear in the Linux SL client.. and then the occasional remarks started:


If it really didn't bother me, I wouldn't feel the urge to write about it, so congratulations, whoever said that.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Second Life Herald features prim breasts

An article titled "Second Life Inflationists Filling Up Fast" features an inflationist who uses a pair of "Implant Nation" prim breasts. Nice to see the topic under discussion--the last time I've seen mention of it in a mainstream SL publication is the interview that the SL Newpaper very kindly did. I hope it will bring the matter to more residents' attention.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

When you're on network TV...

...then I guess you've arrived in the general public's consciousness. The only problem is whether the portrayal is misleading, as the CSI "Fur and Loathing" episode, and the Law and Order hatchet job done on SL, were, or not. I have hope for the upcoming CSI:NY Second Life "story arc" (gosh, I hate that term).

All I can say is, the grid had better be ready for the influx.

T-4 and counting...

I've been remiss in explaining the little graphic that I've added to the blog.

At the time of this writing, at least, it shows the number of days until the release of Ubuntu Linux version 7.10, or as it's popularly called, "Gutsy Gibbon."

If you don't know what Linux is: briefly, it is an Open Source operating system, largely compatible with Unix, that runs on a wide variety of processor architectures and systems. Follow the links for more details... I want to list some of the reasons to switch to Linux.
  • Performance: Windows Vista is a notorious resource hog. The "Aero" UI effects take vastly more graphics horsepower to give the same kinds of effects that Compiz provides under on Linux. Big box office supply and electronics stores are heavily pushing huge USB flash drives to support the so-called "Ready Boost." Vista is memory hungry enough that it wants a cache faster than a hard drive with mechanical parts.
  • Choice: Henry Ford said of the Model T, "You can have any color you want as long as it's black." Similarly, Windows gives you a UI, and you had better like it. Linux doesn't depend on one specific GUI; indeed, you can get along without one--as many embedded systems running Linux do. (If you have a networked hard drive system, chances are it runs Linux.) With Linux and, you have a wide choice of windowing environments, some simple and lean, some with lots of eye candy and hand-holding. Pick the one best for your situation.
  • Owning your own data: If you enter your data into a program that stores it in a proprietary format, in a very important sense your data is held hostage. You are at the mercy of the owners of the software that understands that format. The most obvious case is of software that one rents--a model that Microsoft would like very much to move to--but there are other examples as well, such as mistakes in software that checks whether you own a legitimate copy of the software that understands the proprietary format.
  • Security: If you use Windows, I need say no more.
Friends who have tried both Windows and Linux on the same hardware tell me that the Linux SL client performs better. I've not looked at or profiled the client source code, so I can only guess at why this is.

So... I hope that you will try Linux. You can run it without affecting your computer setup, since it can be run from a "Live CD," a bootable CD version, though at some expense in performance. (Even better is to run it from a bootable flash drive, so that you can save your setup and configuration.) Even if you don't decide to install it, keep the Live CD around; some Linux Live CDs are stocked with tools useful for repairing scrambled hard drives.

(I must admit that a Live CD isn't the thing to try for running the SL client--to avoid touching your hard drive, the Live CD creates a "RAM disk" using much of your RAM, and SL is very RAM hungry...)

There are many Linux distributions; choice reigns supreme there as well as in windowing environments. However, I'd recommend Ubuntu to start with. The Ubuntu forums are friendly places. Women might also wish to look at the resources available at

UPDATE: Honesty compels me to admit that you can alter your Windows user interface, for a fee. Stardock offers software (that you pay for periodically if you wish to keep up to date) that permits such alteration.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Save the Megaprim

"Save the Texas Prairie Chicken." --Michael Nesmith

Prims were intended to have a limit on their size--in no dimension can they be more than ten meters across. However, people found a loophole that allowed the creation of larger prims. That loophole has been closed, but the megaprims that exist can be copied and distributed.

So far, Linden Labs has tolerated this--but there are concerns that griefers are using such prims for nefarious purposes. So, LL is soliciting comments.

Megaprims have legitimate uses: just for one example, walls, roofs, piazzas, any large space that would otherwise require a lot of smaller prims to laboriously build up--smaller prims that detract from the prim count that could otherwise be used for decoration or landscaping. Large hollow boxes can form a large part of a quick low prim count house.

Any builders and others who make use, or could make use, of megaprims for legitimate purposes, please make your opinions known to Linden Labs. The original LL blog posting is filled with comments; they've made a forum posting to allow more commentary.

Girls Gone Geek, and a minor rant

There's an interesting, fairly new podcast out: Girls Gone Geek. If your childhood heroines were people like
then it might not strike you as really geeky, but it's still very good, and fun, and they've had a pointer to, a neat way to introduce people to programming... and I hope they do more of that kind of thing in the future.

A bit of a rant... in the past, people have rightly taken the general public to task for its mathematical illiteracy, or, in a term coined by analogy with illiteracy, innumeracy. (See John Allen Paulos's fine book by that title, as well as that classic work on statistical fallacies and deception, Darrell Huff's How to Lie with Statistics.) Alas, it's not clear whether much has improved; people still fall for the Gambler's Fallacy, and misjudge the likelihood of various events horribly, with calamitous results in public policy. (Democracy, like the free market, gives even stupid people what they want... but I'll stick with them, thanks; the alternatives are far, far worse.)

These days, computer illiteracy should be added to the list. If you don't understand at least the basics of how computers function, or better yet know how to program in some language that won't inculcate bad habits, you might as well face up to not being able to participate fully in today's world.

I don't drive. I drove for a while, and then decided I'd be safer if i didn't. Because of that, I can't fully participate in RL. Do I rant about how RL is set up to favor the mobile? No. I face the consequences of my choice not to drive, and do the best I can.

So... if you're not a geek, I urge you to go out and learn about computers. There's been no better time to do so than now. Grab DrPython or DrScheme or Eclipse or Hugs, (or Alice!) and go to it. You'll be glad you did.

Actually... if you're reading this, most likely you are into Second Life. (Duh...) So, give some thought to learning C#. LSL is going to be retargeted to the bytecode that is used for C#, and I wouldn't be surprised if the language of Second Life becomes C# instead of LSL. I hate to suggest a language promoted by the Great Satan, but there is an implementation of it for Linux.

UPDATE: OK... that provoked me to visit, and there I saw an item about an "(un)conference," She's Geeky. (It sounds like it will be very good.) The urge to do a Rick James filk was almost overwhelming...

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Dankon, samideanoj!

In Esperanto, a samideano, literally "one with the same idea," is a fellow Esperantist... but a group of samideanoj in the literal sense that I've so far not written about are the dear friends I've made while exploring the world of prim breasts in SL... and I'm sorry that I haven't.

If I tried to name them all, I couldn't... women, some sweet, some mischievous, and all heartbreakingly beautiful, and men, some kind with a gruff exterior and some urbane and witty, some cute and some devilishly handsome. (And some furries ranging from cute to elegantly beautiful, or both at the same time.)

Among them are friends who have helped me through hard times in SL and indirectly in RL, and I am more grateful than I can say.

Monday, October 08, 2007

A New Skin...

I don't change my avatar often, aside from hair (and larger breasts when I can find or edit them... :)), but when I saw this skin I wanted it. I won't wear it all the time, but I like it a lot.

P.S. I swear I haven't chewed any gum.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007


Long ago, when the world was new (well, to me it was), a fellow named Don Lancaster was writing about strange things called "TV Typewriters" (hey, it was like a TV—it was some time before many computers had any graphics, much less graphics that needed more bandwidth than TVs could provide—and what you typed was displayed on it). He also wrote about starting your own business...

...and about self-publishing with print-on-demand. Computing and advances in printers made it possible to avoid the "vanity presses" and their fees (and scams, as the SWFA points out). Instead, you printed the books yourself at the rate you needed; no need to keep a huge inventory.

Things have gone even further, now; there are companies that will do the printing and shipping for you, in the same way that prints and ships T-shirts, mugs, and the like. For example, the Cannery exhibit in SL can be seen in printed form via a book available on

So... just as computers have made it far less expensive for people to do many other things once limited to a select few, they've made it less expensive to publish a book, and I hope this will have the same effects...

...but on the other hand, Sturgeon's Law does apply. Self-publishing isn't new, just a lot cheaper, and I found what turned out to be one example of it long ago as an undergraduate.

While rummaging through the stacks in an obscure corner of the math section of the university library, I found a small book, published some time ago--I forget whether it was in the early 20th century or the late 19th. It grandiloquently proclaimed that its author, a 33rd degree Mason (ooooh....), had solved the problem that had defeated mathematicians for so long; he had squared the circle! Except that he hadn't, really...

Squaring the circle, for the non-math majors, is, or rather was, a problem, and it dates back to the ancient Greeks: how, using standard geometrical constructions in Euclidean geometry, can you draw a square with the same area as an arbitrary given circle? Standard geometrical constructions means all you get to use is a compass and an unmarked straightedge. Mathematicians beat their heads against it for ages until, in the 19th century, algebraists described what geometrical operations let you do in terms of finding zeros of polynomials... and proved that pi, which is a factor in figuring the area of a circle, is not just irrational, but "transcendental," meaning it's not the zero of any polynomial with integer coefficients, so all those earlier mathematicians were beating their heads against the wall for nothing... well, except for all the math that resulted from trying to do it.

The mere fact that you can't do it, though, didn't stop some, um, determined folks... including the wealthy man (and 33rd degree Mason!) who talked himself into thinking he'd solved it, wrote and printed a bunch of copies of a little book announcing his "triumph," and then sent them out to land-grant colleges and universities across the United States. There they were obligingly put into the stacks, a curiosity left to molder between occasional looks from curious folk like my younger self.

I have to wonder what, and how much, writing of this era will be read by people who will look at each other with a wild surmise... and then burst into howls of derisive laughter.

P.S. Why the constraint to integer coefficients? Well... if you allow arbitrary coefficients, trivially every real number r is a zero of the polynomial x - r... and WLOG (without loss of generality) you can always use integers instead of rationals--just multiply out by the product of the denominators, or their least common multiple if you're feeling miserly.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

"I may be totally wrong, but I'm a..."

Last night, a friend gave me some wonderful bling: four particle generators that leave an ever-shifting trail of sparkles at your hands and feet.

Well... that clearly called for the pale green Empire dress and luna moth wings (and desperately calls for a new shape--I want to keep my (lack of?) proportions, but scale them down; a 7'2" fairy just doesn't work...), but what then? Just standing there kills the effect. So... that means I have to move. Walking is kind of dull, so that means either flying or dancing, and seriously looking at grabbing video from SL rather than stills (though a well-timed photo could be quite striking).

But then, dance animations tend to be loops (and require another participant, and I certainly don't want to bug someone at length for such a purpose). Hmm... one could hide the repetition some by changing camera position and angle, but ideally you'd want something like what (gulp) actual dancers have: a repertoire of movements that can be combined at will. (You mean I can't just sit on the poseball, lie back and think of England? Oh, dear... I'll be as clumsy as I am in real life! Not to mention that I can't do that and keep track of the camera at the same time.) There's more to this machinima stuff than meets the eye.

People do manage it, though; there is actually an SL ballet troupe!

That in turn makes me wonder--has anyone come up with animations for aerobatics? Not the standard maneuvers--or not just those--but ones that would be appropriate for a person, or a fairy. Aerial ballet, I guess.

No pictures or video yet, but I would love to have something worthy of putting on YouTube. (Hmmm... it would be wonderful to do something aerial to Iron and Wine's cover of "Such Great Heights".)

P.S. OK, OK... Vaughan Williams's "The Lark Ascending" would be even better.

Thursday, September 20, 2007 is a blog that I can't always get to, alas; for some reason my ISP sends me off to some default "I can't find that URL" page about half the time.

When I can get to it, though, it's well worth reading. She's quite a photographer (and skilled with postprocessing), and posts very useful links to web sites of use to residents of Second Life.

She recently posted a quote from a blog entry by Bejamin Duranske concerning Benjamin Duranske and Prokofy Neva. Google is said to have made changes a while back to try to combat "Google bombing." but I wouldn't say this is on that level.

UPDATE: [slaps forehead] Sorry, Vint! I fixed the link. Everyone, if you want to read about Benjamin Durankse and Prokofy Neva, then you can do so.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Nuova Sicilia

I had seen mention of it somewhere before, but yesterday I visited Nuova Sicilia, New Sicily, for the first time.

It's a beautiful place, all broad cobblestone streets and colorful buildings, with many shops selling lovely clothes, jewelry, and pottery, and a church featuring mosaics--I don't know enough to say that they are from Herculaneum, but I heard "Ercolano" in a conversation there.

Not to be missed in Nuova Sicilia: the beautiful and talented Manuela Collas's exhibition of RL photos of Sicilian sunsets, "Sicily in My Eyes."

So... why did I only go there yesterday? Well, I was looking around for places to explore with a friend. He's from Sicily in RL... so surely he's been here already, I thought, but it was so lovely I had to offer him a TP over. In fact, it turned out that he hadn't visited it before, so this Iowa girl introduced a Sicilian to Nuova Sicilia. Only in SL...

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Portrait of the Blogger as a Young Woman

Some months ago, I bought child and adolescent avatars—not for ageplay, but to try to imagine what Melissa might have been like then.

Procrastinator that I am (or am I? Etymologically, to procrastinate is to leave things for tomorrow, in Latin pro cras, and unfortunately, I put things off far longer sometimes), I finally got around to taking a picture.

She looks wistful, perhaps contemplating her future. I hope that I've not disappointed her.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Watermelon--it's everywhere!

I went to a nearby Renaissance fair today. I saw a young girl in light green with a bright, saturated pink scarf... and had to imagine Torley Junior as a young girl.

A few minutes after, there was another girl in light green... wearing pink Crocs.

Is watermelon the new whatever, or am I just primed to notice the color combination from reading Torley's blog and watching Torley's video tutorials? I don't know... and they might both be true. I was just struck by the coincidence.

A user group?

I'm thinking of creating a group for those who use prim breasts. (After blowing one morning before work trying to find plural comparatives and plural ablatives, I decided against Latin, and will give it an English name...) I hope that as a group we can accomplish things we can't in isolation.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Lighting Followup

If you're interested in a more flexible personal lighting setup, by all means check out this post in Fashion Victim. (Fashion Victim is not your usual fashion blog...) The results you can get with it look very impressive.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

"I'll be back..."

Sigh. RL is keeping me off the grid rather a lot; I've been out and unconnected the past two weekends, over and above working.

I look forward to finally being back for a significant stretch of time this weekend. I've missed many dear friends.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Ave et vale

Penso che una vita per la musica sia una vita spesa bene ed è a questo che mi sono dedicato. —Luciano Pavarotti

"I think that a life for music is a life well spent, and to this I am dedicated."

It is indeed, and you were, as music lovers worldwide will agree.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

De gustibus

Ophelia Drowns is a blog well worth reading... and beautiful to look at, too. It would be darned near perfect if the sound clip defaulted to not playing.

(At this point you can just feel the "But..." coming. Why is it that we are so much more motivated to speak up to disagree or complain?)

I have to differ a bit with the recommendations in the entry "Picture Perfect," though. Yes, definitely turn on all the graphics knobs you can afford to turn on, and run those detail sliders all the way up... but facing full into the sunrise with a face light on makes your avatar look like a cutout paper doll, wiping out essentially all depth cues. Professional portraits aren't taken with the flash unit pointing directly at the subject for exactly that reason. That "full body 5 o'clock shadow" at least shows that the avatar isn't flat.

For example, this is taken on Apollo, full face into the sunrise... and darn, I wish I could remember whether I had the face light turned on.

Here, OTOH, the subject is facing north at sunrise. Now, whatever else one might say, the subject is clearly not a cutout... and SL being what it is, nasolabial folds and other wrinkles are of no concern to us!

Not to say face lights don't have a use; they are great as fill lighting. Silhouettes are great, but the only way I know of to get something like them in SL is a pseudo-silhouette you get if you ask the snapshot to show distance rather than color. Barring that, you need the face light for something like this photo, with the subject facing away from the sun:

...and often they're needed if you're shooting at midnight. (The face light is a special case of an invisible light source. If you're really into photography, you will want to roll your own and position them where you wish; Torley Linden has a great video with many photography hints, the easy creation of fill lights being just one of the techniques shown.)

Experiment, and choose what looks good to you. My preference for depth cues is just that, and your mileage may vary.

UPDATE: Duh! If I knew anything about art, then I'd have known that what I spent so much time talking around is chiaroscuro. Do you like yours subtle (Ms. Ophelia's "after" picture does have very slight shading indicating depth) or more blatant? Both have their places.