Wednesday, June 26, 2013

YOU ARE CORDIALLY INVITED to Sweetie's Gala Seventh Rez Day Party

What: Gala 7th Rez Day Celebration for My Mysterious Sweetie

Where: Whimsy Dance Platform

When: Saturday, 29 June, 2013, 5-7 pm Linden Standard Time

Attire: As You Wish

Music by Sparrow Letov-Meredith

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Zoom In (and Out!) With Your Second Life Camera!

Above is a perfectly ordinary shot, taken at sunset on the Whimcentricity sim. In the foreground is a rusted-out boat by Wagnhorne Truss. Far away, in the background, is a lava flow on the volcano Pele.

Nice, shot, but wait. Let me zoom in my camera...

Click the images to zoom.

What the...!

Callie! Get out of my picture! Your eyes aren't rendering and it's creepy! Move along!

Click READ MORE to learn how to zoom your camera in and out.

Now You See 'Em, Now You Ah, Kinda Don't See 'Em

Sweetie and I loved this humorous display on the history of invisiprims.

Above,  leftomost, you can see the prototype-- a regular plywood primitive. Then it's gone (hence, invisiprim) until 2009 (in the distance), when you can catch a glimpse of it due to a supposed glitch.

As you no doubt know unless you're relatively new to Second Life, until the introduction of alpha masks with Viewer 2.0, invisiprims were used to hide parts of an avatar's body. They were widely used in furry communities and by makers of high heels.

Invisiprims worked fairly well, but they had a difficulty-- objects with alpha, including the waters of the seas of Second Life, are rendered invisible if they are behind an invisiprim. That's why there appears to be a hole in the water when you hover over the oceans in your legacy 7" CFM pumps.

I didn't know this until I read the wiki above, but there are two special invisiprim textures, "38b86f85-2575-52a9-a531-23108d8da837" and "e97cf410-8e61-7005-ec06-629eba4cd1fb", which can be set only via script. No wonder I was unsuccessful at my shoemaking endeavors!

Invisiprims were rendered obsolete with the advent of alpha masks, but still worked. Deferred rendering (enhanced lights and shadows) breaks them.

A lot of legacy furry avatars and shoes use alpha. In the case of the furries, I should think, simply wearing a full-body alpha mask would fix the problem-- except I'm sure the invisiprims are attached to the various body parts and would require some degree of skill-- and modifiable body parts-- to trick up. Ditto for shoes.

I now include an alpha mask with my robot avatars. I didn't use invisprims before (mainly because I didn't know how to make them. Instead I used a body crusher animation to keep arms and legs inside.

I suspect a lot of my shoes will be broken when the new materials rendering system comes online (and I believe it just did). That's sad.

Monday, June 24, 2013

It's a GOOD Life

About a year ago, Anthony had gotten mad at her, because she’d told him he shouldn’t have turned the cat into a cat-rug, and although he had always obeyed her more than anyone else, which was hardly at all, this time he’d snapped at her. With his mind. And that had been the end of Amy Fremont’s bright eyes, and the end of Amy Fremont as everyone had known her. And that was when word got around in Peaksville (population: 46) that even the members of Anthony’s own family weren’t safe. After that, everyone was twice as careful.
Jerome Bixby's short story "It's a Good Life" is a gripping tale of a three-year-old boy with the ability to do anything he wishes to anything or anyone. People in his small town of Peaksville, Ohio are rightly terrified of him because if for some reason he were to become irritated with them...

Despite his powers, Anthony Fremont isn't an evil child-- and that's what makes Bixby's tale so gripping. He's an otherwise normal child with a normal three-year-old's emotions and understanding-- that is to say, he's far from mental and emotional maturity. One wouldn't want to live in Peaksville. In fact, those who do live in Peaksville desperately desire escape-- but there is no escape because their world ends at the city limits signs. They're unsure whether Anthony moved Peaksville off somewhere by itself or whether he destroyed the rest of the world. Scary.

In 1970 the Science Fiction Writers of America voted "It's a Good Life" one of the twenty best science fiction short stories ever-- and it appears on other short lists of best stories.

"It's a Good Life" was first published more than sixty years ago in paperback by Ballantine Books. Star Science Fiction Stories No. 2. would be difficult to find, and probably expensive if you could find it, but fortunately you can read Bixby's story here.

The late Rod Serling had a great eye for powerful fiction, so it's no surprise he picked Bixby's story for the third season of his television show The Twilight Zone. Starring a young Bill Mumy as Anthony, and with Cloris Leachman as his mother, it's a great episode.

Click READ MORE to see how and why "It's a Good Life" played an important role in the early years of Second Life.

Farewell, SLB10

The Second Life 10th Birthday Celebration closed today. Featuring 22 sims crammed with citizen-based art, performances of all types, and, because it's the Decennial, a heavy dose of history, there was too much to do. Sweetie and I settled for a sampling.

Marianne McCann (who points out in her blog her being denied involvement in SLB5 because she has a child avatar, was a sim coordinator this year and did a marvelous job tracing the history of Second Life from its conception to its beta through today via billboards and objects dating all the way back to the beginning of the world. I was so immersed I forgot to take photos. Fortunately, the sims were open when, just after midnight, I jumped back to take the photos above and below this paragraph.

Here's a recent interview of Marianne by SL Newser. She tells DrFran Babcock she was inspired by the 1933 Century of Progress Exhibition in Chicago:

Friday, June 21, 2013

Meanwhile, Back at the Volcano...

Before: 18 Prims for the Lava, and the Seams Sometimes Showed
After: 3 Prims, No Seams. That's a New Texture on the Solid Lava at Right
Rebuilding the volcano wasn't all about the scripting. There were primitives to modify.

The biggest change was to the lava bed. It was made before we could stretch prims to 64 meters. Each of the three semi-transparent layers of lava were comprised of six prims, for a total of 18, in total. I removed five of the prims from each layer, saving 15 prims, ta daaa!

I had taken pains with the original layers, making the edge transparent and aligning them perfectly via mathematics, but the seams sometimes showed-- especially with all the smoke particles. Now the entire pool is without seams. Yay!

My final post about the volcano will be about the temple, which I am now preparing to rebuild. I expect it will take a while to meet Sweetie's strict specifications.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Breaking News! Dwarfins Turn to Stone!

Our little colony of drawfins on Whimsy Kaboom ran out of food and have turned to stone!

The end of the beginning was when Sweetie bought a ham that should have fed them for two weeks. It wasn't delivered, and so we didn't put out food to replace the nearly-consumed ham on the land.

The result was predictable.

It's time to declare our little experiment over and take the critters back into our inventory.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Full Erupt Mode: Part IV. The Hard Part

Scripting is a bitch!

I mean ONE little typo and...

The scripts I write aren't full of the estoteric database calls the whizbang kids use, but they're complex. My scripts create sounds, particles, and movement, and only when they're supposed to. Before, every prim that needed to act required its own simple script. Since Linden Lab introduced the llSetLinkPrimitiveParams and llSetLinkPrimitivePramsFast commands, I'm using one script per linkset-- and it has to talk to its child prims and to other linksets as well.

It's complicated to, say, script a broom that grabs itself and sweeps the floor or a rocket that blasts you into the stratosphere or a giant electromagnet that grabs a robot, moves 80 meters, and drops that robot into a bin, then moves back to its original position, ready to do it all again.

I do use listens when linksets are far from one another, as in the electromagnet, which is is a couple of dozen meters from its controller. I used quite a few-- twenty, maybe-- at the robot sanatorium, but then it's one of the most highly interactive places in Second Life. I used, I think, four for controlling the volcano Pele.

Pele has four modes-- extinct, inactive, active, and erupt. The rocks and lava have a distinct texture for each mode. The lava is solid when the volcano is inactive or extinct, and phantom when she's active and erupting. Pele creates hissing and rumbling sounds when active (and a huge roar when she's erupting); inactive and extinct modes are silent, with no particles. Active calls little puffs of light gray smoke, and erupt mode makes huge clouds of black smoke.

Above the caldera, five tiki masks hold stones in their mouths, letting onlookers know their function. Touch the tiki, and you change the mode. The mode remains set for three minutes, then Pele becomes active again. I like her best in active mode.

The fifth mask makes Pele throw huge smoking, steaming boulders dozens of meters into the air. It functions only when Pele is in active or erupt modes. The launchers, phantom and invisible, are inside the lava pool and the rocks can't escape when the lava is solid. That's why the rock launcher is turned off in active and erupt modes.

Touching a mask makes a number of things happen. First, the lava in the caldera is set accordingly, and smoke and sound turned on or off, as appropriate. Texture animation is switched on or off. Liquid lava moves; solid lava doesn't. The rocks lining the volcano also change texture-- and as of the other night, the lava flow that falls 60 meters to sea level changes mode accordingly

Scripting all this required a lot of attention to detail, and it was complex, but not all that complicated. By that I mean a lot is going on, but I'm really changing only a few characteristics of the prims-- color, texture, texture movement, transparency, brightness and glow, and switching sound and particles on and off.

When a mask is touched, it chats a command word. A script in a sixth tiki mask hears it and relays the command the three linksets that change the rocks and lava. Then it sets its timer to zero. If it hasn't heard another command by the time the timer reaches 180 seconds, it sets the lava to active mode. Three linksets-- the lava in the caldera, the rocks in the caldera, and the prims in the lava flow, listen and change the prims when they hear the command to change mode.

In Pele's initial erupt mode on Whimsy, I didn't include the relay. Poor Pele grew confused when masks were repeatedly touched. Each mask did its own counting, so if a visitor selected inactive and then, 160 seconds later, extinct, Pele would go active just 20 seconds later. Now the modes last the full three minutes, unless another mask is touched, in which case the mode will change immediately and the newly selected mode will last for three minutes.

I'm happy to say the scripting is all done-- it took perhaps four hours, but then the already existing erupt mode provided much of the code. Barring weirdness like solid rock moving or liquid rock not moving, smoke where there shouldn't be smoke, and silence where there should be sound, Pele has a new and improved erupt mode.

Full Erupt Mode: Part III. The Volcano Goddess Moves to Whimsy

The Lava Pool of the Volcano Pele at Whimsy

"There? You want to put me there?"

Pele the volcano goddess was not happy with my first snapshots of Whimsy.

"It will be great, I promise. First we'll raise the land."

"High? Really high?"

"Really, really high. And then we'll create the caldera."

"Will there be lots of lava?"


"Really lots? I'm thinking I should maybe stay here at Forsaken."

"Thousand of years of Polynesian history will be squashed flat as a pancake if you stay here. The first idiot who buys the plot will level the land and put up an ugly cabin. And on Whimsy no one can throw up a vampire castle next door that's taller than you are."

"For real?"

"For real."

"Good. I can't see myself living next to an ugly castle--especially if it's bigger than I am. That would be ungoddesslike."

"I can't see that either. We're going to treat you right on Whimsy."

"Will I have a lava pool?"

"Of course you will. Hot and red."

"Will I have an erupt mode?"

"The best ever."

"I liked the last erupt mode. It will be difficult to beat."

"Trust me."

"Will there be a lava flow down the mountain?"

"Sure there will. Two, if you want."

"And a temple?"

"Yes, a temple. And I have something special for you."

"You're not going to try to make me accept sacrifices again,are you? You know I'm not that kind of volcano goddess."

"No, no, nothing like that. The knife and bloodstain on the altar were, er, just for show."

"What special thing do you have for me?"

"How would you like to have the ability to throw hot, smoking, sizzing boulders eighty or ninety meters into the air? Dozens of them."

"Are you kidding? I'd love that! Please tell me you're not talking about particles."

"No, no, prims. Big prims. The smoke particles just supplement them."

"I like the idea of throwing boulders. Can I start now?"

"Not quite yet, old girl. Let us build the volcano first. And let me tell you about the best thing of all."

"What's that?"

"When everything is finished we're going to blow out the back side of the mountain. The entire back side."

"I'll be hollow again like last time?"

"Better than that. An entire flank will be open to the air. Your backside will be gone."

"I'll feel naked."

"No you won't. You won't even notice." We'll use prims to cover everything up.

"I get right to final approval. It's in my contract."

"You'll love it. I promise."

I gave Pele everything I promised.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Full Erupt Mode!: Part II. Whimsy Arrives

Cheyenne Does Acrobatics Above the Volcano Pele on Whimsy

Five years and two months ago we purchased our sim, Whimsy.

We had our choice of default terrain designs, from perfectly flat to mountainous. We chose mountainous.

Here's Sweetie's photo of us lying on a spit of land on the newly-arrived Whimsy.

We spent two days rezzing every stupid high-prim object in our inventories...

... and then returning them.

On a little platform one hundred meters or so above the land, we created a grid and pushed prims around to simulate terrain shapes.

Once the design was fixed in our minds, I flattened the sim and terraformed it to approximate our vision. Then Sweetie used the Mac program Backhoe to complete the design.

Our goal was to create a tropical archipelago much like the Hawaiian islands. In fact, Hawaii was our ideal. Here's a photo of one of the island with the newly-terraformed Pele volcano behind it.

We were, of course, working on a hugely smaller scale, but I like to think we got the feel of the islands just right.

Sweetie's idea was to have the highest spots on the western side of the sim, with decreasing elevations as we worked westward. This would, we hoped, make for stunning vistas. When we started adding prims, we got just what we had hoped for.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Full Erupt Mode!: Part I. Pele at Forsaken

The Caldera of the Volcano Pele at Whimsy: Active Mode
Pele, the Polynesian goddess of fire and rebirth, resides, at least in her virtual virtual form, in the volcano on my Whimsy sim. She manifests from time to time, throwing hot rocks and lava and sending thick clouds of black smoke into the air, but usually she burbles along happily, tossing the occasional boulder and making contented little puffs of smoke.

I first made Pele's acquaintance back in 2006. She looked like this:

Thursday, June 13, 2013

My Movie Poster

Over at New World Notes I read about Strawberry Singh's challenge to other bloggers: put our avatar into a movie poster. The movie can be real or otherwise.

How could I resist that?

I spent a couple of hours this evening-- time when I could have been building jewelry or repeatedly falling out of the sky-- to create the above poster. It's a reasonable copy of the poster for the film Emmanuelle:

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

I Don't Socialize Much

Cheyenne, in Formal Attire, Contemplates Her hippoTech Servers

In October 2006, when I was new in Second Life, it was all about my social life. I owned nothing except a bunch of not very good freebies, but I was meeting people right and left in my wanderings and at the Ahern Infohub, which was my home.

A month later I owned a 4096 plot in Dreamland and was falling in love with an avatar I met on my first search for land. It was, yes, the mysterious and illusive Sweetie, the love of my virtual and real lives. She was standing on a hillside, tweaking a beautiful water fountain she had made. Next thing I knew she was building my house and I was falling head over heels for her.

For the next two years we were in world a lot together and socialized with a small but interesting bunch of friends-- but with time, we diverged. Quite a few stopped coming in world. A few went down paths in world that kept them busy and were just outside our spheres of interest-- roleplaying, for instance. As for us, we bought a sim and spent a hectic year developing it.

When Whimsy was in its full glory we set out to build a home for the many malfunctioning mechanoids of the Metaverse-- our robot sanatorium. That took eight or nine months, with a three-month hiatus in the middle while I tried to figure out how to fit in a system of navigable pipes in the tight structure of Rosie the robot's head.

By the end of that time Sweetie wasn't coming in world much. We were spending a third of our time together and our connection in Second Life was no longer critical. I spent my time tweaking Whimsy and Whimsy Kaboom and, occasionally, exploring the world Our friends-- those who were left-- were doing their own things. We checked in on one another now and again, but rarely visited.

By 2011 I was spending intensive months on ridiculous and nearly impossible projects, alternated with months of standing around doing nothing in particular. I spent a good deal of time at Infohubs, ostensibly to help newcomers-- and I did a lot of that-- but mostly to entertain myself. It was low entertainment. Most of the people at the hubs are rude, or poseurs, or psychotic, or all three-- but it kept my chat bar filled. Then I would be off on another building spree on Whimsy or would just stand on the sea decks on Kaboom and watch the humpbacks cavorting.

Lately I've been on another building tear, getting my Flights of Fancy jewelry store up and finally running and re-engineering the erupt mode of Pele the volcano and listening to Hawaiian music. And I'm still not socializing much.

My mid-year resolution is to get out more. More on this later.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

What's the Story Today?

"I'm sure the new clubhouse is around here somewhere..."

One of my real-life friends has a heart condition that leaves her short of breath and unable to do even simple tasks like vacuuming. She is, happily, able to get around in Second Life. She's been in world five years.

Her interests in SL mirror her interests in the real world. In her first couple of years she made more than one thousand U.S. dollars dancing on a pole. Her wit made her a favorite with customers, who tipped her generously. Today she owns a sizeable parcel on the mainland and keeps trying to form community-- and specifically a community of Southern female bikers.

She has never suffered fools gladly and she frequently feels bad, which probably explains the following:

Chey: What's with the invitation? Didn't I already join?

Sprocket: Yeah, you did, but I disbanded the group.

Chey: Same way you did last time? And the time before that?

Sprocket: Yeah. You were probably offline when I ejected you.

Chey: Okay, I'll join. But I hope this one lasts.

Sprocket: Of course it will last.


Chey: Again? You kicked me again?

Sprocket: Someone griefed the clubhouse. I'm tired of this shit. I'm done. I closed the group.

Chey: Then why did I just get a blue menu with an invitation?

Sprocket: I just now changed my mind, okay?


Chey: You're resigning as President?

Sprocket: Yup. I turned over duties to Judge Camper.

Chey: You-- wait a minute! Judge Camper? Judge Camper? This Judge Camper?

Sprocket: Yes. Why?

Chey: Judge Camper's a guy. Or he used to be, anyway.

Sprocket: So? Half my ladies are guys. Maybe all of them.

Chey: I'm sure you're right. Second Life is confusing sometimes. But why are you resigning?

Sprocket: I'm tired of the shit.

Chey: I hear that.


Chey: What? You're back as President?

Sprocket: Yes.

Chey: I didn't know you could do that. Just take a presidency back, I mean.

Sprocket: You can when you own the group.


Chey: You resigned again?

Sprocket: I did.

Chey: That's what? Seven times in nine days? And I was kicked three times this week.

Sprocket: Four.

Chey: I never participate. Why do you keep inviting me?

Sprocket: You're my friend. I wouldn't feel right if I didn't invite you.


Chey: ANOTHER new clubhouse?


Sweetie: Chey, why are you in six groups with nearly identical names?

Chey: Don't ask.

Sweetie: And why do I keep getting invitations to join a motorcycle club?

Chey: Don't ask.


Chey: Sprocket, It's been a week now with no resignations, new clubhouses, mass expulsions, or group closings? What gives?

Sprocket: You've not given me any shit yet.

Chey: Er, Sprocket, how many people are in the group?

Sprocket: Two.

Chey: I thought so.