Friday, August 31, 2012

Life On The Road

The day was winding down and I'd been riding my bike along this cobblestone road far too long. Fortunately, a truck stop appeared just when I needed the rest. Time to fill my tank and my bike's, too. It might also be good to grab some rack time before heading up Route 1 any further.

The prices at the pump are high even for this economy but if I don't put some prims in the tank I won't be going anywhere. By the looks of things, this area is pretty sketchy. Of all the lag joints in all the world, why did I have to ride through this one?


The shop is pretty sparse on road trip supplies – not that I can carry much on the bike, but still – and the magazine selection is very limited for a typical truck stop. Still, I should grab one to keep me occupied later when I get a room for the night. Maybe some toiletries, too. I'll have to ask the clerk why this text won't let me left-justify it, too. Like I said, sketchy.

Taking a pass on the Chili Con Molé, I opted instead for a a mystery prim sandwich and a banana shake. Typical diner fare, I suppose, as bland as the decor. Just some prim slapped between two prims and nothing fancy, but filling nonetheless. The shake was surprisingly good and I got another to take back to the room.

The room *sigh* The TV was broken, no better than just a blank prim. The bathroom. I won't – can't – think about it. And the bed was stiff as a prim. As tired as I was, though, I would have curled up with my milkshake and magazine if there had been curtains. When you ride a bike like mine with just a leather vest and no shirt underneath (yes, go look at the 2nd picture again ... like you haven't already) a girl can't claim to be too modest, but this is beyond the pale.

So tossing the keys back to the clerk and grabbing my refund, I headed back out to the long and lonely road, prepared to ride through the night. I hear that along the way there is a nice town called Bay City where a girl can return to traditional values, a wholesome lifestyle, and the sort of morals my father would have wanted for me. I'll have to get a map somewhere so I can steer well clear of that place, but this "Zindra" that I've heard of ...

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Pit's Truck Stop (SLurl) is a nice, basic LDPW build along Route 1 on the Mainland. It shows some of the typical Mole cheek we've come to expect from our fuzzy friends. I wish The Lab would do a better job of promoting their infrastructure. "If you build it, they will come" is a movie tag line, not an effective marketing strategy.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Get Well Soon, Hyper Mole!

Hyper Mole, a star at the Linden Department of Public Works (LDPW) has taken seriously ill in Real Life so as a great Friend of Bay City (and all SL, really), many folks are really sad about the news. Hyper is one of the builders behind the fun at Bay City and across The Grid so many of her friends have gotten together to make a Get Well video.

Many thanks to everyone who participated, especially Pyewacket Bellman of NITWACKET (go, sheep!).

(No, I'm not in the video. I was invited, but my RL intervened.)

Monday, August 27, 2012

Time to Think

A recent real life mishap gave me time this last week to lay in bed or on the couch, comforted by pillows, some pretty good pain killers, and a few bargain books. During that time I was able to pop into Second Life at times or sit and watch my brother log into SL often and build things in-world (as he needed to stay at home and assume some of my responsibilities he also got some leisure time).

Fortunately I was able to attend Marianne McCann's weekly fireworks party, a Summertime tradition.
All-in-all I started to wonder what I should do in-world now that the Isle of Lesbos is gone. Basically, I used to build things, landscape, and be somewhat helpful. In Bay City I have a shop to fill with wonderful horticultural creations (at my brother's suggestion – he put in a greenhouse/shop) but that doesn't strike me as something I wish to do right now and it would take more of a cash investment than I have at the time. More importantly, I can't think of what I could do that would be different from the hundreds (thousands?) of other green thumbs in Our World. Maybe another gardner isn't needed. But what can I do in-world that is unique enough to fill a needy niche?

I spent a fair amount of time at Hot Bay City Nights, a charity auto show, car wash, and gathering. Sometime today it was announced that the total amount raised was just over L$40,000 for Child's Play (Web).
I'd like to find a way to fit into Bay City, the mostly-planned mainland community with a late-mid-century American theme (give or take, more or less, you know how things in SL are, huh?). Yes, the garden shop could fit, but .. meh. I just am not cut out for retail. But what things are needed? There's a TV station that appears in Ever Dreamscape's MySL feed. Marianne McCann does a wonderful job keeping things organized. Several entrepreneurs have restaurants, bars, and other businesses.

So what skills do I have?

Dune buggy driving? No. Dune buggy crashing? Yes.
Basic building skills? Yes. I can bang prims together and make decent textures. Not sculpties or mesh, mind you, unless they come in kits. Five years ago I could have been a minor goddess with these skills, but not today.

Organizing? I suppose I could organize things, but I have to admit I don't enjoy parties or events in SL. I prefer sitting around rather than watch a script make my avatar move in ways my real life body is not certified to mimic.

Writing? Hopefully I write well enough that you have made it to this point without injury, otherwise I must either congratulate you on your tolerance or wonder what sort of judge would provide reading my blog as alternative sentencing.

Sitting around on tropical beaches and looking at pretty women? Probably my best skill at this point so I guess that settles the matter. Surf's up! See you in the sand.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Where's Uccie?

Mostly laying down since becoming one big bruise after heroically catching my mother as she fell. Taped up and drugged up (Dilauded is almost as good as morphine). Even the iPad is too heavy hold sometimes. Until I can blog lots again you might not hear from me much, but I am alive. And I'm looking at changing my blog to WordPress if I can figure out how it works. Until I'm back, here's a funny picture:

For about a week, Angela's wolf-pet Shadow would leap to my side anytime I was in the same region, even if I was in a canal on a boat. A very miraculous wolf, to be sure. We solved the problem without neutering either of us.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Best of MySL This Week

For a while now I've thought about a weekly post on this blog about my other "blog," the My Second Life (AKA MySL; Web) snapshot feed. Since there is no way that I know of to integrate the feed into any blog and one needs to log into the Second Life sites to see any feed, then manually posting some of the pix  might be the solution. So, in no particular order, here we go ...

I bought a few outfits at the retro style shop Artileri and this hair style. Yes, I'm wearing pink. Angela picked it out. But I'm not giving up my non-retro ePad. At least not until I can find a way to bring my actual iPad into Second Life. I'd love to be able to curl up on the couch in our house or on a nice beach and read or play games.

This is a project I've started, a gasoline station pattered roughly along the lines of the toy in the picture. The windows and doors are sculpties. Not happy with the front door proportions or those of the door inside between the waiting area/shop and the garage bay. Not pictured is a custom-made sculpted car lift. Not sure what to do for pumps yet. I found a really nice one in the Google Sketchup library, but to import it to SL would be some L$174 with a Land Impact of 17 prims. I'm in no hurry.

Snuggle kissin' at home with Angela. InstaWIN ever time.

Hot Bay City Nights (HBCN) started last week (see here). Ever Dreamscape, Pygar Bu, and Marianne McCann went overboard, as usual, but someone left the beer truck unattended. I had to sit there for hours to keep the kids away. It didn't occur to me to take the beer home ... for safe keeping.

The car wash was lots of fun at HBCN. We actually had a couple cars other than this late model Pachyderm. Since it was a G-Rated sim I had a bikini top on under my wet shirt. We got one tip that I saw, but I bet more skin might have helped. At least I got a "nice ass!" compliment. Since there were no donkeys around, I assumed he meant me.

A highlight of Saturday at HBCN was a bikini contest. A few of the entrants kept to a vintage theme and a few got really silly. I hope everyone had a good time. I was one of the judges. Pygar Bu did a great job as Master of Ceremonies.

My Angela was the winner. Since I scored most of the contestants pretty close I'm happy to think that the other judges picked my girl. That is a really, really retro outfit I found for her and she did great accessorizing with period hair and skin. that pink automobile behind her was the grand prize for becoming Miss Bay City.

Pretty busy week overall. I have no big plans for the coming week. Maybe I'll work on the garage a bit. It still needs an interior and a gas pump area. Maybe I'll just lay around and figure out how to import my iPad.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Hot Bay City Nights

Hot Bay City Nights!

It's August and it's hot Hot HOT! What's better than hot rods, bikinis, music, dancing, drinks and dawgs?!? Nothing! That's what!!! Welcome to the grid's most Rockin' vintage auto show... Hot Bay City Nights; August 18th through 26th at the Bay City Fairgrounds. Come get your cruise on!!

Schedule of Events:
August 17 midnight SLT, Hot Bay City Nights opens.
August 18 1-2 PM SLT, “Miss Bay City” Bikini Contest with Master of Ceremonies, Pygar Bu.
August 18 1-3 PM SLT, Dancing with DJ GoSpeed Racer.
August 18 4-4 PM SLT, Live music and dancing with Rosedrop Rust.
August 22 10 AM – Noon SLT Car wash. Pygar Bu, host.
August 22 6-8PM SLT Car wash. Ever Dreamscape, host.
August 25 2-4PM SLT Car wash. Ever Dreamscape, host.
August 26 5-7PM SLT Closing party with BennyThe Boozehound!

The event is free and open to the public! Bay City Fairgrounds is G sim, fun for the whole family!

The charity car wash is to benefit

Bring your bikini for a chance to be crowned "Miss Bay City"! Greeter's United and Bay City residents will be on hand to greet guests and wash cars. To volunteer or get more information, please contact Marianne McCann or Ever Dreamscape. Donations are needed to help with entertainment expenses, and can be made to BayCitySL Resident.

This event is hosted by the Bay City Alliance.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Volcano Sacrifices

A few nights ago several members of the Bay City Alliance visited Mount  G'al (SLurl), a prominent (pun intended) volcano on the Mainland and sacrificed a few avatars. Sadly, I wasn't there but I visited the next day and posted a few pics on MySL (here, here, and here for a few). The Linden Department of Public Works (LDPW) has a thing for volcanos. I've previously mentioned the one at the Zebrasil Infohub (Web), the only erupting volcano that I know of in Second Life. Here are some pix of another one that I know about, discovered by my brother and the place where he always logs out his alt. It is Okeanos on the Coastal Waterway (SLurl).

Looking into the caldera. I have to admit I used a special Windlight setting to make this more dramatic. The volcano is nowhere close to being dangerous and you can even safely climb down to the lava dome.

Of course, this view is more dramatic, too, but if someone puts a diving board out at a volcano, I have to walk it.
At the base of the hill is a little shack and a rotting boat dock. Who knows why the LDPW builds these little places. I've even seen whole villages built up and not used by anyone. And by "anyone" I mean it is so rare to find anyone around that I wonder if all these sites are a waste of resources. It would be nice if non-premium accounts were allowed to set such sites as their home spot.

I mean, who wouldn't want to live here?

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Photo Woes

Last night I was lounging at Bare Sun (SLurl; Women Only) and waiting for my Angela when I noticed that the Moon had popped up and the basic composition was nice. Before I could make too many adjustments, Angela logged in so I took a quick snap to look at later and figure out how to make it better.

Pole Position The pole is just in a bad spot. It intersects the body in too many places. Moving the camera around a bit might be a solution, so long as the general look of the composition isn't changed.

Which brings up the most important photography lesson I have learned: Always think about what prompted you to take the picture in the first place and then take the time (if you can) to rework the shot to emphasize your intent. Was it a key color? A specific person or situation? Something else? In this case, it was the composition. The reversed L pose with the island in the background and the moon. Moving the camera to fix the pole problem might ruin the composition. Removing it post-process is a potential solution. The pole is too close to the subject to let it blur out with depth-of-field, though I'd probably use that to soften up the island and moon a bit.

Deformation, Back Bulge, and Belly Bend The Second Life avatar can mimic any pose you can imagine, but poorly worked joints in an animation can cause your avatar to look very unnatural. Having a Mesh body can help this as at times the strangeness affects only the skin texture, but even "wonder bodies" can fall victim to sloppy animator habits.

Hand Occlusion Animators, though, do have limits. Poses that work for the default sized avatar often give taller, shorter, or wider avatars problems. My hand, for example, is stuck in my thigh. I bet if my avatar were shorter the hand would tuck neatly under the thigh. I could also shrink my leg muscles or lengthen my arm, but I hate to make such radical changes for a photo. I'm not above adjusting prim attachments (Ctrl-Z usually puts back any moves), but using body sliders is a no-no for me.

Rope looks like a flipper My first thought was that there was a bug that warped my avatar's foot, but the similarity of prim rope color and my skin color under the local lights fooled me. Most folks don't notice this kind of composition error until it is too late. You'll commonly see it as a tree growing out of someone's head, or similarly a lamp post or a sign. The photographer is too busy capturing their original inspiration to think about this sort of thing. Remember the lesson — reshoot after you analyze your first shot. That was hard during the days of film, especially if you weren't in a studio taking test Polaroids. With digital cameras in Real Life or with Second Life snaps, its much easier.

System Feet Nothing I can do there. I have yet to find prim feet I like. My pixy alts have lovely prim feet but those aren't made any more. Either way one still has to deal with the join between the attachment and the body. Same with primplant breasts. Retouching in post is the best fix for that (see here and here).

Thursday, August 2, 2012

The Sad Emptiness

Last night my wife and I sat for an interview with Ever Dreamscape, editor of the Bay City Post, and one of the topics prompted me to mention that the Premium Wilderness sims (Web) are at most any given time devoid of people. This holds true for wide swaths of Our World but it is especially sad that the Wilderness is empty since it is so beautifully executed.

The Linden Department of Public Works (LDPW) provides many wonderful spaces (Web) for Residents to  use, free, and yet they are seldom used. I guess it is true that you can lead a horse to water, but you can't make it drink. Unless it is an Infohub, those places that new Residents are often dropped at when leaving what now passes for orientation after sign-up. Those locations are often filled with bots hawking groups and venues and with trolls who like to simply mess with new Residents. Essentially, the Infohubs have become 3-D "AOL chatrooms" instead of being truly useful. A shame as many are actually entertaining. There is only a modest effort by The Lab to direct those leaving Infohubs to better experiences or to help them answer the most frequent question: "How do I play this game?"

Maybe the release of temporarily attached HUDs/objects (Web) could help, should The Lab choose. A simple tutorial and and guide attaching to each new Resident could help answer that question. At least better than the pop-up Avatar Picker that is now the first thing to appear (you'd think that the How-to pane would be the first pop-up). And the coming addition of Pathfinding tools to create more lifelike animals and maybe Non-Player Characters (NPCs) across The Grid could make life more interesting. I say "could" because The Lab is simply releasing the tools. It is up to the Residents to use them.

What Second Life's 9th Birthday party (Web) taught us, is that Community is the heart of the Second Life experience. That's what makes Bay City (Web) successful. These loosely-themed regions have a loyal following of dedicated Residents and if the Role Play plans currently being discussed by the most active residents happens, then I suspect that the Bay City regions will become even more popular.

This is the sort of thing that The Lab needs to implement if they want Second Life is to grow and thus increase corporate revenue – a focused activity. A "game," if you will. The Premium Wilderness was a good effort at being that, but once folks wandered around a bit and caught some fish, pretty much they didn't think that there anything else to do despite the area being ripe with possibility.

Second Life Residents, in my experience after some six-years on the Main Grid, like to be led. They come from games with a defined set of objectives that lead to a goal, whether that be like Skyrim (a game that made many of my friends spend less time in SL when it debuted) with it's 3-D world of activities or even something like Farmville. Just look at breedable pets in Second Life. The associated community is so huge that The Lab has even featured it on the log-in pages and other "soft promotion" spots. It is a game.

There will always be a core community of Residents that don't need to be led. Indeed, many are leaders – unpaid by The Lab – to make areas like Bay City and many "private" communities thrive. What we need to reduce the problem of the sad emptiness that the Premium Wildnerness has become is such leadership from The Lab.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Viewer Alert for OS X Users

According to a Grid Status Update today, there are "Issues Opening the Second Life Viewer in MacOSX" (Web). The post points to a possible fix at a third party site called OS X Daily (Web). I've had no troubles with the official Second Life viewer, despite a number of reports such as this JIRA (Web). I'm a member of the Macintosh Users group in SL and can highly recommend that all Apple users join. Good luck, fellow Apple Geeks!