Tuesday, July 31, 2007

The Future

(We aren't interested in the Ugly...)

Prim breasts, like other non-standard avatars, are tributes to the ingenuity of SL builders, but they force you to choose between being well-dressed and being well-endowed.

(And then there are the IP issues. Adapting prim breast tops to a standard top, or prim breasts to a skin, will almost always involve replicating a texture or pattern, either by hand, by snapshot, or with a tool that captures textures on the way to the graphics card. Sometime around or before I first entered Second Life, there was a huge brouhaha over a skin which was bought, and then modified purely for the purchaser's personal use. I sincerely believe that falls under fair use, but I expect that any such fair use is something you will have to do yourself rather than commissioning.)

So, we have various factors that combine to make life with prim breasts a pain:
  • They preclude access to much of the SL fashion world.
  • Their custom nature makes it difficult to (financially) justify going into the business of making tops that work with them.
  • Prim breast makers necessarily can't devote their efforts to really good clothing.
  • To use them effectively, you have to do a lot of your own editing.
All this keeps the market small.

So, what lies in the future?

First, we're starting to see prim breasts made from sculpted prims. This makes it easier to paint them with top-as-texture as standard avatar tops are done. Prim breast makers are also looking into better user interfaces, which is nice.

Major advances, though, will have to come from, or as a side effect of, a change that improves the avatar in general; the "no new features" frenzy exemplified by the "Open Letter" will make it hard to get even a universally beneficial improvement. (For example, sculpted prims make many things possible in SL, not just improved prim breasts. Had LL been petitioned to add some specific new prim shape just of interest to breast makers, nothing would have happened.) I'm not sure what that will be; VWR-1258 comes closest of the proposed changes.

Several times, I've been asked a question that strikes me as the silliest possible question to ask in a virtual environment: "Are those real?" Come on... SL is Strawberry Fields, right? "Nothing is real." (Though come to think of it, there seems to be plenty that people get hung about... ) On the other hand, I've seen prim breasts called "implants," and in fact one prim breast maker calls his establishment "Implant Nation." They have the same connotations--and those connotations aren't good.

Perhaps "real" for SL body image is defined as "achievable with the sliders"... but I've never heard anyone in SL call prim hair a "wig" or "toupee." I think that's because nobody wants to think of herself as wearing a wig, or himself as wearing a toupee. Being revealed as wearing a wig or toupee is a standard comic turn in movies and TV, belittling the person exposed, so in SL you never hear the W-word.

[UPDATE: Looking at the Wikipedia page for "toupee", the discussion page indicates that the page once had a list of toupee-wearing famous people. The list was removed, and some of the discussion concerned possible libel suits over such a list, which indicates just how little people wish to be known as toupee wearers.]

I hope that prim breasts will become unnecessary, that we'll be able to make our figures as we wish and then go shopping, secure in the knowledge that we can buy and wear what we will. That day is not here yet, alas.

Monday, July 30, 2007

The Bad

OK... having covered the advantages, now for the disadvantages.

The big disadvantage: clothing. Or to give it its proper emphasis, CLOTHING.

After all the drawbacks of clothing-as-texture I cited, why is this a disadvantage?

Prim breasts are attachments, and SL assumes that all attachments are meant to go on top of clothing. That's fine for jewelry, but not so good for body parts. So far, prim breast makers haven't used textures for clothing; instead they build them from prims. Such clothing and breasts have to be built together in one attachment, because there can be at most one attachment at an attachment point. Thus if you want to be clothed sometimes and not clothed other times, you have three choices:
  1. Do without them when undressed.
  2. Have two versions of the breasts, one clothed and one not.
  3. Script the breasts so that with a command the clothes can be made transparent. At least one breast maker does this.
UPDATE: Oh, yes... because prim breast clothing is made of prims rather than painted on, it shows up problems with SL's rendering:
  • SL has a way of throwing away details as you move away from things. For tops built from prims, this has the startling effect of making holes appear in them when viewed from afar.
  • Tops and breasts made in the pre-sculpted prim days have to be pieced together to get the desired shape. The places where the pieces join are just about impossible to make smooth, i.e. there's a slight corner where they meet. SL lighting makes this corner stand out. I would love to see Foxbean Laboratories' "Marie" model with laced top remade with sculpted prims to avoid this problem.
Because prim breasts are unique; clothing that works for one pair doesn't work for another. Prim breast makers must therefore divide their attention between the breasts and clothing, and clothing necessarily gets short shrift in comparison with standard clothing, which has a multitude of sources and levels of quality from basic to exquisitely detailed.

The mainstream clothing designers need "only" create one texture for a top, and it will work, more or less, on any standard avatar, no matter how the sliders are set. (Only in quotes because doing it well is not an easy task!) They understandably don't consider it worth their while to create over a dozen different versions for a relatively small market.

You should be sure of exactly what you're buying. If your prim breasts don't come with a specially-made top, you have three choices:
  1. Go topless.
  2. Commission a top.
  3. Build one yourself.
The first is a bit impractical in most places. The second will be quite expensive, being custom work. The third is good if you have the time and skills involved.

All this means prim breast wearers are cut off from the vast majority of the cornucopia of mainstream SL fashion, because many tops won't match up with the specially-made tops. Tops typically require adaptation or editing to match up reasonably with those standard tops they can be made to work with. Sometimes you can't tell whether the standard top will work without putting it on--but by then, you've already bought it.

Other things you should keep in mind:
  • SL treats all attachments the same way. If, as most residents do, you wear prim hair, you've had the experience of arriving bald and waiting for your hair to rez. Prim breasts and their tops are the same, so you'd bettter have on a standard top to avoid major embarrassment.
  • You've also probably had the experience of attachments appearing between your legs when you arrive... yes, it happens for prim breasts, too.
  • Adapting prim breast tops to standard tops requires modify permission--and as a practical matter, copy permission unless you like doing the same customizations over and over again and are perfect, never making mistakes you can't undo. Be sure to check the permissions on what you buy.
  • Poses and animations assume particular body proportions, and prim breasts are pretty sure to violate those assumptions.
  • Clothing isn't all you have to adapt prim breasts to; there's also your skin color.
P.S. JIRA entry VWR-1064 asks that attachments have an attribute to indicate whether clothing should be drawn on top of them.

The Good

About a month ago I wrote an overview of prim breasts intended to be put on a notecard to give out to people. That may yet happen, but in any case I shall post first a list of the advantages of prim breasts, and then a list of disadvantages, along with JIRA entries that might shift the balance. Here, the advantages:
  1. Prim breasts bypass the limits on breast size in the standard female avatar, which don't come close to accommodating the natural variation that occurs in real life. (JIRA entry VWR-1258 requests that SL extend the size limits on body part sizes in the standard avatar, and I hope you'll all go vote for it, but one has to admit it's probably low on LL's priority list.)
  2. The standard avatar shapes use relatively few polygons compared with other computer representations of the human figure, so that at the limits, breasts on the standard female avatar look blocky. Prim breasts are built of prims with curved shapes (or more recently, sculpted prims with curved shapes), avoiding that problem. (JIRA entry VWR-1258 also speaks to this issue.)
  3. The standard avatar has no nipples; they are at best painted on with the skin one wears. Prim breasts have nipples.
  4. The standard avatar cannot lactate. Prim breasts can include particle generators that allow lactation and scripts to control it.
  5. Humans usually have two breasts, but there are mammals with more. Prim breasts can be found in sets of four and six for furry avatars.
  6. Standard clothing, being a painted-on texture, shows its non-realism most severely with breasts. T-shirts look vacuum-sealed to your body, distorting art and text beyond recognition. Straps don't look like they're supporting anything. Clothing for prim breasts, on the other hand, is built from prims, and can act more like real clothing in those respects. (OTOH, JIRA entry VWR-1080 proposes a control to allow standard tops to span cleavage, and again, I hope you'll all go vote for it.)
There... Next--the Bad!


Perhaps people are taking the advice of the Bee Report and going out into First Life to enjoy the summer (or winter, depending on your hemisphere). Goodness knows with the problems that the Grid has been suffering, sheer frustration may be keeping people elsewhere.

Or perhaps it's just me.

For whatever reason, Google Analytics says that nobody at all looked at this blog yesterday. [Imagine chirping cricket sound effects...] I hope this is just a temporary state of affairs.

UPDATE: It's not just me; Google Analytics seems to be showing no traffic yesterday for many web sites. (Thanks to Jay Harper for the info.) I hope the problem is corrected soon.

STILL MORE NEWS: Google Analytics now shows that there were visitors yesterday. Whew!

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Random Thoughts

I saw an announcement of a new SL-related podcast the other day, and was immediately reminded of Neal Boortz's explanation of the relative failure of leftist talk radio: that their hosts' assertions can't survive the feedback and questioning that comes from having callers, so they are reduced to either verbal abuse or filtering out callers who disagree--and hence they only succeed in one-way communications media. (I can't quite agree with Mr. Boortz, because that failing is not exclusive to the left.)

Speaking of podcasts... I have falled way behind on podcast listening, and was saddened to see that The Goddess and Banana Show is on hiatus. I hope all goes well with them in First and Second Life, and will be happy indeed should they return to the virtual air.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Dancing in Yedo

Lillie Yifu, author of the 2nd Sex blog, is a multi-talented lady. Today I went to see a ballroom she recently created and opened in 22nd Century Yedo.

It's an enormous, breathtaking place... not what you might expect from the name (that of the town that first became Edo as Japanese ditched the ye syllable, and later was renamed Tokyo), but more like a cathedral or the rotunda of a state or national capital.

The picture gives you some indication of the scale; I am dancing there with Susan Usher, who works at 22nd Century Yedo. (I arrived a bit early.) Her elegant hair and dress deserve to be seen, so...

Also deserving your view is the dome, which you only got a taste of in the first picture:

I had a lovely time... enough so that I went back later to dance some more; I was fortunate that my dear friend Foxbean Liebknecht was on the grid, and I got to dance with her.

I will return when I have time... at the very least I want to explore the dome, but I'm sure I will again meet delightful people and have a wonderful time.

Monday, July 23, 2007

"...and the click of high-heeled shoes...."

A week or so ago, I stumbled across a blog entry that mentioned some nice accessories, one being a click of high heels to replace the standard clump-clump of walking in SL. I left the page up, promising myself I'd return later, grab the location, and get the sound... but things happened, and I couldn't find that web page again!

So... once again I learn to bookmark things right away, and--if someone could point me at that sound, I'd be in your debt.

UPDATE: Many thanks to bcwhittle for his comment! The place to go is Jezebel's, Nyokoland at Baker
(138, 148, 39), and it's in a free box that I guess was once labeled "slutty stuff" but is now labeled "sexy stuff". You attach one sound to each leg; beware of other things you might have attached there--I had to move a walk animation override....

...and that done, I proudly took my first walk with clicking heels--on sand, to visit a nearby friend, and clicking all the way... sigh. My friend suggests that Pele does something to the sand near her temple. :)

P.S. I was going to title this entry "The Low Spark of High-Heeled Boys," but decided on what I thought a more apt quote.


I have a little system monitor applet running on the panel, and when the SL client is running, the CPU meter is always maxed out. I understand that the SL client is necessarily CPU-intensive, but OTOH, have you noticed this? When the client first starts up and is waiting for you to decide to either sign on, change where you will first appear, or quit, in theory, the SL client should be sitting there, doing nothing, queued up for either a mouse click or typed input--but at that moment, the CPU meter is still maxed out! What on earth is it doing to chew up all those CPU cycles while waiting on you?

Well, this morning, once logged on, I had to go away for a bit, so I clicked on the "show away"... and my avatar went limp. The CPU usage didn't budge... but then I minimized the SL window. Then CPU usage dropped to near zero.

So... that's what it takes. Minimize your SL client window to really idle the SL client.

"Starry, starry night..."

In a recent Linden blog entry, Torley Linden mentions and links to an amazing machinima by Robbie Dingo, Watch the World. Mr. Dingo's blog entry has several versions at different resolutions; the highest quality version is 97.6 MB, and worth every single byte.

Every once in a while, it's important to rise above the kvetching and remind yourself of what (second) life can be. I urge you to watch Mr. Dingo's work.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

"You spin me right round, baby, right round..."

I tend to think of alt-mouse as being used to pan... but it's more than that. What it really does is fix your POV on an object, so that you track it if it moves. (You can't directly alt-mouse into the sky--there's nothing there to fix your gaze on, SL thinks.) Every once in a while I happen to fix my gaze on someone rather than something, and then I am startled when that person heads out the door. :)

I think I've learned better, and what finally drove the lesson home was a contest I went to a while back, for best masked costume. (I had to go get a mask, and I thought I looked pretty good in it with the luna moth wings and pale green Empire dress. I didn't win--pout--but I did come out ahead after a couple of fortunate iterations of the low-stakes sploder.)

The contest took place at a club with dancing... and with dancers. They were kind of off to one corner, so I didn't notice them until someone mentioned them. I was curious, so... alt-mouse to the rescue. "Ah, there they are," I thought, and admired their lovely costumes...until I noticed the room slowly churning in the background, and my RL dinner gently called for my attention from its location in my RL stomach. They were dancing on a rotating dance floor, and from my position off that dance floor, I got to see the room move at a varying rate of speed.

Since then, I'm a bit more careful with alt-mouse...

Sunday, July 15, 2007


One of the things Google Analytics tells you is how people get to your web site... if you're serious about such things, it can let you know perhaps what people who visit are interested in. In particular, Google Analytics can tell you what people who went to your site as a result of a search (on Google, presumably...) were looking for.

So... I can tell you how most people got here via Google, and the results are pretty consistent over time. You might think you know, given what I tend to go on about, but in fact, the big search phrase to get to my blog is this:


Yes... I have the #2 and #3 Google hits for "cheesy phrases". (That's because I changed the blog title to use a real "curly quote" for "Livin'" rather than being lazy and leaving it as good old U+0027 APOSTROPHE, and Google thinks the old and new versions are different.)

I haven't returned to that subject... but with these results, maybe I should. We could cast our net farther afield: I am not among those who are perpetually griping about bugs in SL and what I see as LL's misguided priorities (OK, with one exception), so some might think me a Pollyanna; I could post something about "La deuxième vie en rose" (forgive me, Edith!).

Actually, the distribution at least starts out pretty flat, so it's not like you all just love me for my cheese *sob*, but I was still very surprised... and I had to take the following picture at the wonderful food and wine shop CAS:

UPDATE: Both "potentia" and "potestas" translate as "power" in online dictionaries I've seen; both, of course, come from potere (hence Spanish poder), only the abstract noun suffixes are changed to protect the innocent. Would love to hear from anyone more schooled in the classics which one Latin speakers would really use.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Close to the Edge

Things are grim for Internet radio. The courts have turned down an emergency stay of the July 15th imposition of crushing royalty rates that will destroy Internet radio.

If you are a US citizen, go to savenetradio.org and do what you can. If you aren't, pester all your friends who are to do so.


Thanks to Vint Falken and her blog for mentioning this, and above all thanks to Cel Edman for creating it: Sculptypaint, a Java-based package specifically for creating sculpted prims. I will try it out and report on my results--with luck, the specificity of the package will mean it's easier to use than more general 3D graphics programs like Wings 3D and Blender.

"Professional 3D modelers," indeed!

The Melissa Yeuxdoux Chair of Second Life

Sigh... would that I could fund a professorship to do something neat with virtual worlds.

What really is the case is this: I am once again seated on a real chair before my computer. Thank goodness! (Or, if you think I am normally too prolix, oh, no! :) But even so, recall the famous line of Blaise Pascal: "I made this letter longer than usual because I lack the time to make it short", and take hope.)

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Cyberspace's True Predictor

Much will probably be made of William Gibson's visiting Second Life next month. New World Notes calls Mr. Gibson "the man who gave 'cyberspace' its name and its imaginative texture" and says SL probably wouldn't exist without him (though ironically, those even more forgetful of history typically refer to Snowcrash as an inspiration for SL).

I must respectfully disagree. The real creator of cyberspace, though not of the word, is Vernor Vinge, with his novella True Names, which predates Neuromancer by at least three years. The vagaries of SF publication were such that the first two publications of it sank quickly into oblivion--at least it seemed that way to me when I set out to replace copies that I would lend and never get back. The Wikipedia article points to an online transcription of the 1984 edition with illustrations. Go read it, and see if I'm not telling the truth. You'll be glad you did.

Some of the details show the realities of computing in 1981, but the ideas are there: what we call avatars existing in a created world in the Internet, and user-created content is all there is. At one point, the two main characters even assume canine form--gee, did Vinge predict furries? :)

In some ways we haven't made it to the world of True Names yet. I'd love to have displays of the sort that the inhabitants of the Other Plane scorn, and we're stuck with LSL for now rather than programming more directly in Other Plane terms. Go read True Names. Even now, it will change your life.

My being an aging programmer who isn't really a redhead does not influence my opinion in this matter at all.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Life Imitates Life

Over time in SL I've acquired a couple of pairs of glasses that I wear from time to time. I like to think they give me that "cute librarian" look, silly as that may seem.

In RL, I now have new glasses, too... and the other day it occurred to me that they (there was a deal for two pairs) look rather like my SL glasses. I suppose it's not surprising--in both cases, I'm the one selecting them--but I did get a smile out of it... and it's liable to be one of the few times RL imitates SL for me.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

All the news, and background music, too...

I'm not sure whether it's what Second Life news would be if Bobby Short had decided to become a commentator, or whether it's the lounge lizard version of SL news, but... I really, really like The Bee Report.

It's news and commentary on SL, delivered with a seemingly endless improvised piano and organ background. Great fun; give it a listen.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

RL wins in the end

One of the things that always amazes me about SL is the way one is immersed in the virtual environment. I once had an uncomfortable chair, but lying in a bed in SL, I'd forget about it.

Alas, there's a limit to that. My more comfortable chair gave up the ghost, and I sit at my computer now on a makeshift stool pending finding better seating... and, as the title says, RL wins in the end... so to speak.

I've not been in SL for too long at a time for a couple of days, and that's a big part of it.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Live Music

A while back I felt incredibly stupid when I confused the band "U2 in SL" with the band U2. So, when I saw the announcement that Tony Moore, once keyboardist for Cutting Crew, was performing live as part of the SL 4th birthday, I was a bit skeptical...

...but TPed to the site anyway, and was (and still am) very glad I did, wishing only that I'd been there for the entire performance. His solo acoustic performance was amazing, the crowd both in RL (whose reactions we could hear on the audio stream) and SL very enthusiastic. He acknowledged some people in SL... and if I wasn't the one whose name he wasn't sure how to pronounce, please don't tell me. I'd like to keep the illusion, thank you!

If you have the chance to hear him, do not pass it up.