Thursday, September 30, 2010

The Bob Saga: II: The 911 Diaries

Written 30 December, 2010

The Bob Saga

II. The 911 Diaries

The following are official transcripts of Cheyenne Palisades' calls to the Linden Concierge Line on the evening of 29 September, 2010.

[Click MORE just below for the rest of the post]

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

The Bob Saga: I: Bobnapped!

This giant tiki drinking bird was discovered by Cheyenne Palisades
and Exuberance Lafleur when they found themselves on the shores of Whimsy
after a "routine downtime" teleport accident. They were so enamored by Bob,
as they called him, that they vowed to return and live
on the Whimsey archipelago. And so they do.

Posted 30 November, 2010

The Bob Saga

I: Bobnapped!

Oh, my God!

Where's Bob?

Where's Bob!?

Have you seen Bob?

Yeah, Bob, our giant granite Paleolithic drinking bird. He's missing!

He was there just an hour ago!

Oh, noooes!

Bob, Whimsy's mascot, is missing!

We don't think he's wandered off; we think he's been abducted. Bobnapped!

Bob is family! Bob is special! Bob is-- gone!

Bob Was There...
... And Then He Wasn't!

Intelligent Sim Design: Whimsy Secrets

Written 29 September, 2010

Intelligent Sim Design: Whimsy Secrets

Someone asked me yesterday to tell them our secret. What did Sweetie and I do to make Whimsy so vibrant, so much fun.

After thinking about it, here's what I told her.

Chey Wanted Whimsy to Look
Like the Inset Photo of Hawaii
1. Planning. Rather than plonking down a bunch of prims on flat ground, Sweetie and I spent a couple of days pushing prims around on a board, discussing just what Whimsy would be. I sure wish I had taken a photo of that board.Oh, wait! I just found one! (see above)

No Checkerboard Map Here!
2. Terrain Design. The last thing we wanted was another flat, boring sim-- not that flat is necessarily boring, but often, it is. Now did we want a sim cut into square chunks divided by a narrow channel of water. We wanted to mimic natural terrain, and our target was the volcanic equivalent of an archipelago (archipelagos are formed techtonically). The volcano was a foregone conclusion because I had promised the volcano goddess Pele a home.

3. Terraforming. Using Second Life's land tools, I shaped the land into an approximation of our land design. Then, using the Estate Tools, I downloaded the terrain as a RAW file and e-mailed it to Sweetie. Upon receipt, she loaded the file into a free Mac program called Backhoe and re-shaped the land. Backhoe allows much more precise elevation control than does the Land Tools, so she was able to achieve precision with the terrain. Then she e-mailed the file back to me and I uploaded it. After upload, we tweaked it with the land tools.

Whimsy's Waterways Are Boat-Friendly
4. Waterways. When we got Whimsy, we had no plans to ever acquire another sim. And so we planned waterways around the perimeter that would easily accommodate the sailboat The Flying Tako. We offset the land by a few meters all around to allow a boat channel.

Landscape Textures Set the Tone of the Land

5. Land Textures. Of many potential regions (arctic, desert, forest, meadow, tundra, prairie, urban), we chose Polyasian. The terrain textures we selected, from lowest elevations to highest, are standard beach sand, two types of grass purchased at Botanical, and the black lava texture from the Library. We toyed with the idea of black sand (which would be appropriate for a volcanic island), but chose to use standard blonde.

Heights Create Drama
6.  Drama. Our terrain design was planned to allow sweeping vistas and include dramatic land features. Pele, 70 meters tall and volcanically active, took care of the drama on the southwest quadrant. To draw the eye, Sweetie created the Whimsy Sungate to the northwest. The ocean provided drama along the beach to the northeast, and a small island on the sim edge created a bit of drama to the southeast. In the center of the sim we created underwater lava beds.But perhaps most dramatic of all is the hollow center of the volcano, through which our train runs.

Even Simple Circling Animals Catch the Eye
Pictured: Julie Hathor's Bald Eagle
7. Movement. To keep Whimsy from being static, like a photograph, we created movement in a number of ways. First, we made liberal use of flexible prims, which sway gently in the Second Life wind. Second, we added birds above the land and sea creatures under the water. Some merely circled; others patrolled, but all caught the eye. Along the land's edge, we placed waves and eddies, simulating the interaction of ocean and land. Finally, we used particles-- liberally at the volcano and in the underwater lava beds, and more sparingly elsewhere.We placed tiki torches here and there, providing not only moving flame, but local light.

Intermittent Sounds Enhance The Immersive Experience
8. Sound. Many of Second Life's sims are eerily silent. Not Whimsy! Above ground, one hears bird cries, the sounds of insects, frogs, and sounds of flowing water. When near the sea, one hears wave sounds. Underwater, one hears bubbling sounds. At the volcano, one hears lava percolating. The campfire at the beach crackles happily, and the mast of the sunken pirate ship creaks in the wind. In the lagoon, the humpback sings. The steam train chugs happily as it passes. All of this adds immersiveness, helping our visitors imagine they really are on a tropical isle. Oh-- and we keep a radio stream available playing-- you guessed it-- Hawaiian music.

Chey Just Loves to Watch a Good Argument
8. Interactivity. Much of Second Life is wonderful to look at, but sterile. You can't do much more than walk around admire things. We wanted visitors to be able to interact with prims while on the land. Consequently, we added a few couples poseballs and some singles poseball. We installed Intan couples and singles dance systems, with remotes here and there around the land; made signs that, when touched, give notecards providing details of Whimsy's fictitious history or give freebies like SCUBA gear and  boots that glow and hiss when they come in contact with lava. Pele can be convinced to erupt and throw hot smoking lava rocks. Underwater, piranha will be happy to eat you.

Kitto Flora's Steam Train is a Favorite of Visitors
9. Playfulness. We wanted to appeal to the imaginations of our visitors, and to bring out the kid within. Consequently, we laid an extensive route of Kitto Flora's steam train (people come to Whimsy just to ride it), added two canoe rezzers, a hang glider rezzer, and a jet ski rezzer, and put playground rides on the beach.Visitors can dive from cliffs, fly above the volcano, or canoe or swim all around the sim.

10. Humor. We wanted to make Whimsy a sim with a sense of humor. Consequently, the land is sprinkled with "historical" markers which describe Whimsy's fictitious history, complete with the nefarious actions of the Whimsy Transportation Authority. For 10L, visitors can buy a riotous Whimsurance policy from vendors. Even the covenant is funny.

11. Safe Space. We wanted above all for Whimsy to be safe space for all avatars. Except mimes. Just kidding. Mimes are allowed. Consequently, we make it clear in the covenant that all avatars are welcome, even ones we might find distasteful. Our rules are few; we ask avatars to remain clothed and not display private body parts (because we're PG), to pick up any prims they might rez, and to be courteous to other avatars. Harassment and griefing aren't tolerated. The only other requests we make of visitors are not to display slave/owner tags and to stay out of the few zones marked private.

12. Drama-Free Zone. We've never had any drama on Whimsy-- nor do we wish any. Our residents are mature and considerate, and we take pains to show them and our visitors every courtesy. People who act like idiots-- they're few-- are asked to behave properly, and banned if they refuse. We patrol the land daily, returning the few prims which are left on the land. We also work hard to make the sim stable-- there have been no dramatic changes of terrain or theme or feature. All of this makes Whimsy a great place to visit or upon which to live.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Diving Deep

Written 28 September, 2010

Diving Deep

Sweetie and I have long lamented the scarcity of attractive underwater areas in Second Life.

Like just now I just mapped to Moose Beach to see what's up and I landed underwater and there's not a damn thing in sight.

The Linden Moles have made some nice underwater areas, and there are places for merfolk and any number of landowners have developed their seabeds, but still, nice aquatic areas are hard to find.

One of the oldest and best-known undersea gardens is at the Cave Rua sim, That's where Sweetie and I started our SCUBA adventures yesterday. It's also where I bought a wonderful squid which has been swimming around my property for nearly four years, inking any avatar who gets too close. The Vernian Sea is another great area.

We eventually wound up on the Dive World sims, which were wonderful, expertly landscaped and filled with plants and animals by Kaikou Splash. We had a great time exploring.

What made Dive World fun and interesting and friendly to the camera was its texturing and contouring-- that, and a water depth of 50 meters instead of the customary 20. This allowed a varied landscape, with gentle slopes and underwater cliffs and chasms, crevasses and folded canyons; shading of the land textures enhanced this effect. Fish were tucked into contours in the land, looking most natural. Sweetie was enchanted. No, more than enchanted. She told me just now, even as I was writing, "I'm jealous of that water."

The problem with having a sea level above 20 meters is that the ocean's edge doesn't visually match the off-sim Linden water, which is set at 20 meters. To mask the discontinuity, there needs to be some sort of camouflaging, either through use of land on the sim borders, or of off-sim megaprims, or both.

If we were starting Whimsy today, we would without a doubt have a raised water level. But of course Whimsy is a mature sim and it would be disruptive to change everything so late in the game, so it will have to endure with 20 meter seas. Still, how nice if our underwater areas could look like the photos of Dive World, below.

Click on More to see the pictures.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Prim Inadequacy

The Shrinkbot Does His Best To Help Chey Resolve Her Prim Envy Issues
Written 27 September, 2010

Prim Inadequacy

I have to admit, Sextan Shepherd's work makes me feel inadequate.

His builds are just so brilliant I feel like giving up.

As Sweetie points out, his sim is entirely different from ours, and others admire our work as much as we admire Sextan's.

Still, I admit to having a bad case of prim envy.

Nemo Just Keeps Getting Better and Better!

Written 26 September, 2010

Nemo Just Keeps Getting Better and Better!

Sextan Shepherd's FRANCE3D Futuna sim-- Nemo-- knocks my socks off.

Select Read More, just below, for photos.

Sunday, September 26, 2010


Written 26 September, 2010


Today I removed the long list of linked blogs from the left side of my home page and put it in the rightmost tab at the top, above the posts. I had to manually copy the URLS from the widget into a blog post, and it was a job.

I looked at a log of blogs in the process, and you know what? More than half of the seventy or eighty Second Life blogs I came across don't identify the author. Not anywhere.

I suspect this is an oversight, as AlexHayden Junibalya was all oopsie! when I pointed out his name wasn't present; he went right out and fixed it.

In some cases, the blogs without authors' names reprsents collaborative efforts or corporate ventures, but for most folks, I just don't think they realize their name isn't showing.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Midnight Sail

Written 25 September, 2010

Midnight Sail

Last night, after the concert, after I had picked up my fireworks prims and transferred land ownership back and forth between Leaf Shermer and myself (necessary for the concert), and reset all the radio stations. I flew to the beach platform on Whimsy Kaboom. There I found Sweetie with her Flying Tako rezzed. I hopped in and we had a few minutes of peaceful post-midnight sailing before we retired to the House of 1000 and then to bed in real life.

Well, MOSTLY peaceful. Callie the sea monster did attack us.


Written 25 September, 2010


Leaf's concert came off beautifully tonight.

For the past week she was fretting, as we were awaiting a move of the Whimsical Mischief sim to fill out a block of four. Mischief was delivered around midday (for me) the day before the concert, and that sent Leaf scurrying to take care of a wheelbarrow load of details.

I helped when I could--making signs and a landmark giver, sending notices to my groups, and, with Sweetie, popping off fireworks after the show, but Leaf did all the heavy lifting. For sure.

The concert was amazing. There were about 70 avatars on the four sims-- a good number, but fortunately, not enough to crash any of them. The band told her the previous two sets had resulted in crashed sims-- in one case requiring an emergency relocation.

The band was, of Course, The Follow, doing the final performance of their Virtual World Tour. They did a great set. It was the first time I heard their music (aside from a single song I had downloaded from their site), and I liked it a lot.

We concluded the show with fireworks, with Sweetie and I popping them off on all four sims.

The photos are below the fold.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

The Follow Concert On Our Sims!

Written 18 September, 2010

The Follow Concert On Our Sims!

Quick, write this down! Friday the 24th of September, 9 pm Linden Time, on Leaf Shermer's sim Eccentricity.

Here's the SLURL. Or you can just jump to any sim on our grid and find your way there. It won't be hard to locate!

The band The Follow will be playing live. Eccentricity is the final stop of their world tour in a day.

Leaf is expecting a considerable crowd, so the event will span four sims on our little block of six: Eccentricity, Whimcentricity, Whimsical Mischief, and Idiosyncrasy. Sound will be piped to all six sims.

Please plan to attend and rock out with us. And do come early and stay late.

There will be fireworks after the concert.

The Follow

The Follow, consisting of Troy Ricketson (voice and guitar), Amy Ricketson (bass and keyboards), and Mat Matlack (percussion), has been performing for more than twenty years and has released six studio albums.The band cites its musical influences as U2, Radiohead, and Pink Floyd.

The Follow has been in Second Life since 2009. The show on Whimcentricity is part of their eco-friendly world tour, five shows in five countries in one day!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Why I Will Never Be a Martian

Written 14 September, 2010

Why I will Never Be a Martian


Holy Moley!!! Hamlet Au Goes Insane!

The subtitle is caged from The Bot Zone blogpost which addresses well-known journalist Hamlet (Wagner James) Au's announcement that he's picking up his marbles and moving to another virtual world.

Hamlet hasn't exactly abandoned Second Life (or New World Notes), but he pretty much announced he's applied for citizenship in Blue Mars.

Hamlet cites Blue Mars developer Avatar Reality's promise that Blue Mars will eventually run properly on low-power devices like iPods and netbooks via cloud computing, already-in-use COLLADA-compatible meshes, a well-developed content creation system, and high-level management types who come from a gaming background as the reason for his defection from Second Life.

Did I say defection? I meant to say emigration.

Hamlet's fifth point-- compatability with Macs-- is specious, as getting Blue Mars to run on an Apple requires some under-the-dash tweaking.

Monday, September 13, 2010


Written 13 September, 2010


I'm flying home tomorrow, after being away for a month. Because I was stupid and clicked the wrong box, my flight is at 7:15 am. We have to get up EARLY!

But the change in the title refers to our little bloc of sims.

Our sim neighbor Leaf Shermer has been planning to add two sims-- a homestead and an openspace. When our friend Michel read of Leaf's plans (I sent a group message to Whimsy residents), she IMed me; she had been thinking of giving up her Whimsical Mischief sim and the upcoming change seemed timely.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Collecting Doorstops

Six Bits (and a Nail)

Six Bits
Written 9 September, 2010

Collecting Doorstops

Ten years or so ago a lot of people I know were contemplating buying their first computers. To a person, they all wanted the latest high-priced model, and were willing to put off their initial computer experience for years before finding enough money to purchase a ring-a-ding-ding machine. And to a person, when they finally got their computers they wound up playing solitaire and sending e-mail.

I tried to explain to them that any computer, no matter how old, does everything it did when people were once motivated to pay a thousand bucks for it. They didn't listen.

I still have most of the computers in the list in my previous post. My VIC-20 and several more, a number of Commodore 64s, two Commodore external floppy drives, and boxes of peripherals and floppy disks, all sitting in storage. One 1541 Commodore monitor does duty in my kitchen, where it's hooked up to cable TV via a DVD/VHS combo machine, and a second sits in my bedroom. My SX-64 resides in my bedroom also. I recently used it to retrieve a novel I had stored on it. I could have hooked it directly up to my PC, but I just printed it out and scanned the pages directly into text. It took some hours to find the mis-scans and correct them, but it gave me an opportunity to do a minor re-write. I had a hard time operating the SX-64 because the keyboard keys weren't making contact; this because I kept it for years in storage without covering it.

My Computers

Written 9 September, 2010

My Computers

For four years now this list of computers I've owned has been taking up space on the left side of my blog. It's time I retired it-- but it prevent it from going completely away, I'm making it a post.

So here, in order, are the various computers I've owned in my lifetime.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Emerald is Dead. Long Live Imprudence.

Written 7 September, 2010

Emerald is Dead. Long Live Imprudence.

Linden Lab Blocks Emerald Viewer

Hair Fair 2010

Written 6 September, 2010

Hair Fair

Sweetie and I went to the Hair Fair (briefly) on Sunday. Even though most avatars were being sensible with their attachments, the server lag was horrible. When I finally got a successful teleport to one of the sims, it took me forever to make my way to Sweetie. Then, when I tried on a hairdo, she couldn't see it. Even after a relog and cache flush and with other avatars derendered, she couldn't see it. So we came home.

It's unfortunate that the very success of something in Second Life dooms it. As soon as people start to show up, the experience becomes frustrating. I sure hope one day we'll be able to see bunches of people together and be able to move and have a good time without having to take off and turn off HUDS and attachments.

It's a limitation of the technology, I know, but still...

On the other hand, I DID get a fabulous new hairdo!

Monday, September 6, 2010

Labor Day Weekend (Stalled Once Again in SL)

Written 6 September, 2010

Labor Day Weekend (Stalled Once Again In SL)

Throughout my first year or so in Second Life, it was unthinkable to be away from the keyboard for (excepting sleep) more than a few hours.

Nowadays I find entire days passing with my logging on only to check Whimsy for errant prims.

My super secret project is near completion, needing only a debugging of the movement controls and the hooking up of a HUD controller unit (and, Sweetie insists, more comfortable and stylish seats)-- and I've barely looked at it for a week. Oops! Did I just give away its nature?? I've not even been in a mood for dropping by the Violet or Moose Beach infohubs to see twentysomethings act profoundly vacuous and stupid. I've not even been able to maintain interest in the mahjong table up at the sky pavilion.

I'm in a state of Second Life ennui.

Not a worry. It's happened before, and will happen again. I had an intense burst of creativity, and now, I suppose, my serotinin levels are low or something.

I am, happily, writing, but I've little to blog about here, since I've been such a vacant-head in Second Life.

So if you don't hear from me for a week or so, it's merely because I've nothing to report.  Move along, folks. Nothing to see here.

I'm having a grand time with Sweetie. We've had a lazy, happy holiday weekend, excepting a trek a couple of miles up a mountain to see some old iron mines on Saturday afternoon. Four or five hours on stony, steep paths left us footsore and happy to lie in bed and watch My Lovely Sam Soon, a most enjoyable South Korean drama. You can stream the series for free here, on HULU, or watch it on DVD from Netflix.

Recent drama. The water heater went out-- just as I was-- literally-- about to step in the shower. I just finished an invigorating (invigorating is Swedish for painful) cold water shower and a kitchen sink shampoo, with Sweetie pouring water warmed up on the stove over my head.

In other words, I'm absurdly happy!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Revisiting New Paris

Written 1 September, 2010

Revisiting New Paris

Second Life has no shortage of Eiffel towers, but my favorite is the one at New Paris. It was there I was kissed by a frisky rabbit on my third day in Second Life, and it was there that Sweetie and I first danced.

Shhh! Please don't tell her about the rabbit. It was meaningless, and I gave the 100 baby bunnies away for adoption. Don't worry, they went to a good home, the Wile. E. Coyote family.

The other day I happened to notice the New Paris landmark in one of my notecards (I am in my post-LM period; my landmarks are all in notecards these days) and took to jump to see if, four years later, New Paris was still New Paris.

It still is.

Defacing Others' Property

Written 1 September, 2010

Defacing Others' Property

Okay, okay, I admit it. I'm a tagger at heart. So when I found a can of spray paint on one of A.M. Radio's builds...