Saturday, January 31, 2009

Mea culpa, mea maxima culpa

If I have managed to get anyone on the receiving end of email from "FanBox", I am very sorry. I urge anyone who receives email from FanBox to run, not walk, to mark it as spam.

UPDATE: more info here.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

To drive the cold winter away...

It's barely past the true beginning of winter here in the Northern Hemisphere, and it's been very cold. (Al Gore just got through talking about global warming in Washington DC during a winter travel advisory with travel not advised thanks to the ice and sleet on the roads.)

I am therefore very grateful for places like Whimsy, where winter is well-behaved and mercifully short, and flowers, in RL an evanescent symbol of mono no aware, can be around just about any time... Thank you, Cheyenne.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

"When you're weary, feelin' small..."

...go to Micro City, high above Northstar. You may still be weary, but at least you won't feel small any more:

Micro City is a small area built at scale, sort of like Madurodam in Holland (though far less detailed, alas). It's mostly urban. The relatively small area means you have to be careful with your composition, but if one of the formative moments of your childhood was watching Attack of the Fifty-Foot Woman, you can realize your fantasies a bit.

I succumbed to temptation and got Selsey Seelowe's "Supersize Me!" package, which has an animation override with an on/off arrow in the display, a shape, and a pair of boots. Something about the animation or a pose that comes with it stretches your avatar past the usual limits, and then applying the shape bulks one up to compensate for the stretching. Since the shape parameters only go so far, the stretch is limited to what the maximum shape sizes can compensate for--and while I didn't use a height-measuring device, I can believe that I reached the claimed twelve feet in height.

(The boots are necessary because the foot size 0 that shoe makers target is far too small for the stretched avatar.)

I adjusted the shape as best I could to try to preserve the proportions of my unstretched shape; I couldn't pull it off. Animations that work for you normally will have to be modified to work at the new height... and believe me, you do not want the walk animation that comes with the package. I hope it's possible to override or delete one of the standing poses; I have never stood around with my arms raised above my head, crossed at the wrist, and I don't want to start, even in SL. Speaking of standing poses, you'll note that in the following photo, my bootheels have gone wanderin', as Bob Dylan would say, underground. [pause to fight off the urge to reference "Subterranean Homesick Blues"]

Now, I hasten to add that I think Ms. Seelowe has done an amazing job of overcoming the limitations built into the SL avatar. (If I may nudge you once again to vote for VWR-1258... again, it's not just about breasts.) Moreover, it's been improved already. I hope that it is or becomes more customizable, and perhaps another style of shoes could accompany it. If you wish to move up in the world, give it a try.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

New blog feature

I wonder whether there's an RSS feed or something similar to notify one of new Blogger features when they come out.

You can now add a list of (public) followers of your blog and give people the ability to, with a single click, follow your blog... and that feature is now here.

Thanks to Cheyenne Palisades, who knew about it and took advantage of it before I did; I saw it in her blog.

P.S. Yes, I split an infinitive, but the alternative made it unclear whether the blogger or the would-be followers were doing something with a single click.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Eek! Problems with the profile picture

Apologies to everyone about the recent profile picture change.

It looked nice at a larger size, but when it is shrunk for display, it looked like I was getting ready for a remake of the second ST:TOS pilot or some bad horror movie, with my eyes glowing. Creepy.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Decisions, decisions...

The kerfuffle over LL's acquisition of XStreetSL and OnRez has had one happy consequence for me--I discovered the XStreetSL forums. Or perhaps I rediscovered them; when I tried to sign up, I found that I'd already done so and forgotten about it! (So if I'm any indication, perhaps the prim-and-mortar stores have little to fear...)

I found the "Wanted" forum, and posted a request for something that, looking back, I'd been after since December 2007, for heaven's sake: an extreme corset that uses transparency to shrink one's waist past the limits of the stock SL avatar. (May I refer the Gentle Reader once again to VWR-1258? It's not just about breasts...)

Zot! In well under a day, I received many responses, and now I know about the wonderful products of KaS Designs, P.S.Y.C.H.O, and the House of Alisha--and a quick overview of how to do it myself.

The KaS Designs corset emulates the RL process of gradual shrinkage. Alisha's outfit lets one shrink one's waistline down to as little as one inch, or 2.54 cm for those using rational systems of measurement, with a few clicks. (It also is far more than just a corset.) All are beautifully wrought (and P.S.Y.C.H.O. has multiple styles, some on the scary side).

Of course, sufficiently large prim breasts get in the way of the effect, so I won't be emulating Mlle. Polaire every day... but it's a joy to have the option. Thank you to everyone who responded to my query, and especially thank you to those who make such fine products. (Not to mention that as a great side effect, I found out about Alisha's gorgeous historical clothing.)

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Breathtaking historical reproductions at the House of Alisha

The delightful Alisha Ultsch was kind enough to demonstrate for me some clothing she makes that will let me realize yet another fantasy I've had for a while. I went to her store, the House of Alisha, and while SL acted up again so that I couldn't buy the item I was specifically there for, while looking my mouth fell open... There were rooms full of lovely historical reproductions of medieval and Baroque era clothing.

It just goes to show how little of SL one can know after years on the grid, and how much there is to see. If you have any interest in that sort of clothing, by all means go there. You'll be very impressed.

UPDATE: Take a look at her flickr photostream.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Standing out from the crowd

Back in the Cretaceous Period, when I was a child, I puzzled over something I saw every so often in the newspaper classified ads:

White Space
Increase Readership!

Later, I realized what was meant--in an otherwise densely-packed classified ad page, an ad that had some white space would stand out from the crowd and get people to read it. (OK, it would increase the newspaper's ad revenue, too, but I'm sure that was just a coincidence. :))

I was reminded of that when I looked over the comments on this post, and had to smile. Somehow,

Gigantic [Breasts]
Increase Readership!

just doesn't have the same ring to it, though.

(Thank you, Andrew.)

Playing with GIMP

I found a lovely stairway in Midnight City and had to take a picture. The austere black and white background asked for a black and white image... almost.

"Been shopping?" "No, been shopping!"

So, LL has acquired XStreetSL and OnRez. In a curious parallel to RL, there is much talk about how this will affect prim-and-mortar stores.

Initially, not much, I'd say. Only a fifth of "heavy Second Life users" regularly shop via XStreetSL. As others have pointed out, shopping in SL can be a social activity; also, there's nothing like actually seeing something you're thinking of buying. Photos of clothing can hide a multitude of sins that the careful shopper can check for on an in-store model. ("I wonder what this looks like at midnight/with Torley's Watermelon Sky Windlight setting/etc....") Were I in the market for a house or furniture, I'd certainly want to walk through it or sit on it.

On the other hand, it can be amazingly difficult to find something even if you know the seller, or even if you've seen it before and are trying to find it again! If they can provide a decent search, it will be great for comparison shopping--though in a reversal of RL, that might mean people will use the web site to narrow the possibilities down, then go to the prim-and-mortar store for a final inspection and purchase. (That doesn't bode well for SL malls.) Also, people might go to a web site purely out of frustration at waiting for textures to trickle into the battleship gray world that SL stores all too often are when one teleports to them.

It will be interesting to see whether SL residents shop more via the web site that results--if they don't, can LL afford to keep it going? I would seriously consider subscribing to a web site that provides a really good search and comparison shopping facility, but would still go to stores in SL for the final purchase.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Thank you, Whiteraven Slade!

Her post "Second Life Culture: Preface" should, I think, be handed to new residents. (And the reminder was good for me, too. I have to watch my tendency to evangelize sometimes.)

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

The Black Dress

I always seem to come back to the black dress, little or otherwise. Maybe it's from watching Breakfast at Tiffany's; who can forget Audrey Hepburn in that wonderful dress? I know I can't... so when Lemania Indigo came out with, as she puts it, THE DRESS, I snatched it up. I'm still looking for pearls and a tiara, which shows that I, to my shame, was unaware of Ms. Indigo's blog until I started writing this very entry, as she mentions where to find them.

Even so, I'm delighted with the results.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Yet another SL viewer

Check out omvviewer. It's especially nice for Debian and Ubuntu users because there are repositories for those Linux distributions, making it as easy as using synaptic or typing "apt-get install omvviewer" once you've put the appropriate repository on the list.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

It's a bird! It's a prim! No, it's...

I was chatting with a new friend and she referenced something that turns out to be a file that describes the parameters that affect avatar appearance (to you, since it's just used by your client software). It's the "Linden avatar definition" file, and that phrase has the obvious acronym lad, so the file's name is avatar_lad.xml.

I'm sorry, but I have to laugh, because it sounds like the name of a superhero, or maybe a superhero's sidekick.

In any case, it's an interesting file, and I'm grateful to my new friend for pointing it out to me.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Another SL machinima request

A while back I wished out loud that someone would do a machinima to back Ishmael Reed's glorious cultural mashup of the Old West and Ancient Egypt, "I am a cowboy in the boat of Ra."

Now I have another wish.

Goodness knows that lots of people have done riffs on Pachelbel's Canon (you recognize it in Blues Traveler's "Hook", don't you?), and when you hear the main theme of "Sanvean", you settle back and think you're in for a pleasant, familiar trip... but the very first time through it diverges from the familiar chord progression, and then it goes off in a very different direction. The vocalise prevents any definite interpretation; is the climax triumph? Keening? No clue is given, so it can be used in many contexts.

I'd love to see what machinima people might come up with to accompany it.

Hollow hair

"We are the hollow men
We are the stuffed men..." --T.S. Eliot

I happened to be at a store when the owner/designer was there demoing one of the outfits in person. Lovely lady, with phenomenal hair. I IMed her asking where she got it, or did she make it, in which case I'd buy some right away? She gave me a landmark. I thanked her, and after buying an outfit, I headed to the landmarked spot.

Sure enough, it was gorgeous... until I tried on the demo.

SL has some kind of bug having to do with dueling textures with alpha; it doesn't get the occlusion (which one is "in front" and hence blocks the other from sight) right, with paradoxical looking results that would make Escher proud. This hair must trip up that bug, because as you pan around yourself, checking the hair out, tresses vanish and reappear in a way that breaks verisimilitude badly.

Were it not for that bug, I'd buy the hair in a heartbeat. Please, LL, could you fix it? [Wanders off to the JIRA...]


I'm not a redhead in SL; SL is how I wish I were. In RL my hair is gray.

But in SL my hair can be gloriously, outrageously red. There's a flickr group for SL redheads, the very reasonably named Redheads of Second Life, and it has some glorious photos. Do give it a look.

(Of course, no discussion of redheads in SL could omit Codebastard Redgrave, photographer, scripter, and maximally callipygous resident of SL.)

So, RL redheads, know that I envy you, and I hope you don't begrudge my partaking of a bit of that aura in the virtual world. (Don't miss this collection of redhead history, legends, quotes, and images.)

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Word of the day

My command of Spanish is so-so. My vocabulary is mediocre, and I'm still fuzzy on the subjunctive (among other things). Back in the day, I would spend some time rummaging through the Spanish section of a Spanish-English dictionary, looking for idioms and words that struck my fancy.

Nowadays, I have a vast corpus of text available to at least try to read, thanks to the web... and I had the pleasure of finding a wonderful word in an SL blog that, while largely fashion-oriented, has the occasional essay: I started the joke... by Eden Forwzy. In particular, it's from the article title "Bienvenidos al locodromo!"

(Are the inverted exclamation point and question mark on the way out? I hope not. Spanish would be the poorer for it. In English, just having the ending punctuation mark means that you can't indicate that only part of a sentence is exclaimed or interrogative, right? In Spanish, the equivalent sentence would end with ¿verdad?)

Now, if you were to insist that I translate, the best I could do would be "Welcome to the madhouse!" But look closer at locodromo. Etymologically you should recognize the Greek root that goes into "hippodrome", a racecourse (dromos) for horses (hippos). (OK, horses would be hippoi, wouldn't it?) How much more vivid the image of crazy people running around in circles!

So, thank you, Eden Forzwy. You've made my world a richer place.

Retro SL from Torley

I don't know whether anyone knows who's taken the most pictures in SL, but surely Torley Linden is near or at the top of the list. His cheerful attitude and trademark watermelon color scheme always bring a smile to my face.

That smile is even broader than usual now that I've seen two of his many photos on flickr: "Second Life: the classic adventure game" and "You have teleported to HERE ISLAND." They are SL photos done up in the style of games on classic 8-bit computers, and for those of us who remember the days of the Apple II, C-64, Atari, or the Tandy Color Computer, they bring an instant wave of nostalgia and remind us of how far we've come.

Thanks, Torley.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Flowers and tai chi in Apollo

The Lost Gardens of Apollo, and the whole Apollo sim, is a popular and beautiful place that's been around for some time. There's one spot where, surrounded by flowers and flowering trees, people can participate in the graceful art of tai chi.

It had been some time since I'd been there, so I thought I'd pay it a visit... and I arrived to see a glorious shower of daisies and other flowers around a group doing tai chi, and I had to take a picture:

It's not SL related, but...

I was emailed by someone asking if he could link to this blog, and whether I'd link to his.

Well... it's not at all SL related, I have to wonder how many people interested in his blog (about places to see in Mexico) would really be interested in my ramblings, and from the extraordinary list of links on his blog, perhaps I should have replied "I bet you say that to all the blogs," but Mexico Vacation Travel Trip Tips has such lovely photos and interesting articles about places in Mexico that I couldn't resist.

Friday, January 09, 2009

Kali Isle

I saw a mention of photography at Kali Isle, and had to go see.

I found a lovely sim with excellent landscaping and architecture and things to buy... and also found a "photo garden" populated with "photospheres" (OK, really hemispheres, but who's counting?) in which one can pose and modify various things, e.g. the background.

I had to try it out... and when I saw one with a dance pole, I succumbed to temptation. I am not a dancer, but as an RL klutz, the way one can gracefully dance just by "sitting on" a poseball is very appealing.

Yes, I should have worn something contrasting with the background or changed the background to contrast with the black dress, but the "flame" background was so lovely...

I suspect that Kali Isle is famous in SL; there are 32 flickr photos matching "Kali Isle". But if you haven't been there, do check it out. (And donate, too.)

What a relief...

So... the new RC client was released the other day, and I had to upgrade to it. I signed back on... and found SL running like molasses at Point Barrow.

Signed off and back on. Same thing. Teleported. Same thing. 3.2 frames per second. I gave up in disgust and went about my business.

Thank goodness it must have been some problem with servers or communications. When I signed on later, things were back to normal.


Wednesday, January 07, 2009


You must see the magnificent photo in this entry in Shoshana Epsilon's blog.

Now, to show the difference between the really good SL photographers and putterers: I stumbled across similar lighting once while wandering around an island and happening across a very bright flame. My first thought wasn't to take advantage of it, but to pull out a face light--but it didn't work! That error in SL was nudging me towards a better photo, but I didn't listen, and didn't adapt and crop to put the lighting to best use.

So, this is a very good lesson for me, and I will learn from it and do better.

Return to ElvenDEEP

I couldn't resist TIGGS Beaumont's gracious invitation to explore ElvenDEEP further, so I went back to explore underwater this time, and it was a delight.

I wasn't really dressed to go underwater, but I took the plunge anyway; in SL you needn't worry about breathing, and your clothes never get wet. After walking through the rapids, there I was. The fish are gorgeous:

...and you can swim past other amazing things as well, like this giant oyster:

I will definitely be back to see what else awaits. Thank you so much, TIGGS Beaumont, and thank you as well to Bear Fangio, the creator of the wonder that is ElvenDEEP.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

How much for a nice SL computer, revisited

Out upon it! I have waited three whole months together...

Well, almost three months, and my apologies to Sir John Suckling. (Yes, I know I blew the scansion.) But still, it's a good time to look at the "nice SL computer" again.

It's January, and AMD has come out with the Phenom II CPUs, so older CPUs have probably gone down in price. Maybe other components have as well.

You'll recall that we wound up with a price (ignoring shipping charges) of about $514. I saved the wish list from last time... but a straight then vs. now price comparison was impossible, because they don't sell the motherboard or graphics card any more.

OTOH, the RAM is now $40 instead of $60, and let's say we bite the bullet and go with a Micro ATX case and power supply for $100 rather than the separate components that added up to $170. That gives us $90 to play with before we get back to the $514 price. Not shabby, eh?...

But wait! A Jetway JXBLUE-N78V motherboard gets a good review save for the positioning of a heatsink relative to the PCIe 1x slot, and it's $63 versus the $85 we were looking at before, so now the difference is $112.

So... we could move up to a 9800 GT graphics card, perhaps. The XFG PVT98GYDLU is $130 (ignoring a mail-in rebate) versus the $100 9600 GT we looked at before, but that leaves us $80 to decide what to do with... as it stands we're around $430 rather than $514, with better graphics.

(Reviews say it's a large card, so it might not work in a Micro ATX case. If this were a more serious exercise, we'd confirm the board length and compare with what the case can handle.)

You could go with a Phenom 8750 2.4 GHz triple-core CPU for $120... that eats most of the $80 difference ($60 of it), but the added core and added cache should do nicely--if nothing else, it will let you go do something else while you're on the grid.

Sigh. Too bad I can't justify a new computer after less than a year.

Monday, January 05, 2009


While we're talking about beautiful things and places, I should mention ElvenDEEP. (Many thanks to Susyn Stenvaag for letting me know about it.)

The part of ElvenDEEP that I explored has an eerie glow in the sky, almost pointillist.

Elsewhere a pink tinge seems to be everywhere:

Giant flowers decorate the landscape:

I'll be back to explore further.

a last-minute trip to Winterfaire

I seem to catch things at the last minute. That's how it went with the Garden of NPIRL Delights, and the other day I caught Winterfaire while I still could.

I paid the price of tardiness; in no way could I have seen it all. That said, I saw some wondrous things, like this snowscape with skaters and a striking aurora borealis:

Even places that weren't designed for the event were made even more lovely by the snow. The Second Skin Labs building is beautifully lit without being garish:

So... someday I will visit one of the many gorgeous sites in SL well before its last day. I hope you had the chance to explore Winterfaire thoroughly.

Santa Baby...

Christmas has come and gone, but since I was away from the grid for most of the week including Christmas, and since he was still to be found, it seemed only right to get a head start on 2009. Santa was as jolly as could be expected after so much work, but was not sure he could get me VWR-1258 for next year.

Saturday, January 03, 2009

Gwyneth Llewelyn on OpenSim

It would probably save a lot of typing to just characterize Gwyn's Home as must-read, rather than individual entries. :)

Seriously, though, do read "OpenSimulator: the Choice for 2010". It's a comparison of the modular OpenSim design and the options that have been created for it with what we can infer about LL's server code from the glacial slowness with which changes occur and the way fixes to one bug seem to cause others, predicting that by 2010, OpenSim will be serious competition to LL. That discussion is combined with an honest assessment of the current state of OpenSim and the grids running it today.

A while back I quoted Fred Brooks's classic The Mythical Man-Month: "Plan to throw one away. You will anyhow. The only question is whether you will deliver the throwaway to your customers." Perhaps SL is the throwaway and OpenSim the way things will ultimately go. Gwyneth suggests in closing that LL adopt OpenSim and concentrate on adding value to it, and I hope they follow her suggestion.