Friday, December 19, 2014

Our First Lives March On

So... after years of looking for a house in Rockland or Orange Counties in New York or Bergen or Passaic in northern New Jersey, Sweetie and I finally found one. We couldn't quite afford it, but unlike every other house we had looked at, it wasn't 1) falling down; 2) more than an hour from Sweetie's job; 3) reeking of black mold; 4) on the top of a steep hill; 5) tiny, or 6) have parking for only one car. Moreover, it met Sweetie's criterion, and mine. Her criterion: master on main. My criterion: our putative house had to have character. It had to be cool. Just another tract house in a suburb? Unacceptable. And finally, it had to be (she jokingly says) affordable.

Now, I live in Atlanta. Nice houses can be had for well less than $100,000, and my property taxes are less than $1000 a year. That means by comparison any house in the Hudson Valley in New York or in New Jersey will have an astronomical cost and astoundingly high property taxes. Our house was no exception, but it was at the lower end of the market, was less than ten miles from Sweetie's job, had plenty of room for both of us and our stuff, had no major problems, had the master bedroom on the main floor, and the area had character.

We have black bears! Tell me that doesn't show character! Not the sort of character many of my readers might appreciate, but I certainly do! We will have to keep our trash inside the house or locked away in a wooden enclosure. What could be cooler than that!

"I smell breakfast!"
Which reminds me of the time I stared down a black bear on the Appalachian Trail. I had hiked from Fontana Dam to Spence Field in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The distance is 18 miles, and experienced long-legged hikers can do it in a day if they push it, but I, with my short legs (28" inseams) and out-of-shape body had spent two days and three overnights (I left Fontana at dusk, so it really took me only two days). I had been eating dehydrated meals, saving add-only-water buckwheat pancake mix and maple syrup and country ham for my last breakfast before hiking down the mountain to Cades Cove. I'd been thinking of that breakfast since I left Fontana and was having a fun time cooking it on the fire pit that stood just outside the shelter. When the pancakes were done and the ham was sizzing, I looked up to see a big bear standing on its hind legs not ten feet from me. It was clearly saying, "I smell breakfast!"

I was holding the pan with the ham in my right hand. I grabbed the plate with the pancakes with my left and straightened up and said, "I know you're hungry, but so am I and this is my breakfast." I was prepared to dash for the safety of the shelter, losing the food if I had to, but the bear, which I think understood what I had said, sank onto all fours and ambled away.

But I digress.

So anyway, I respect bears, but I'm not afraid of them. New Jersey is overrun with black bears and I'm happy to share space with them and smart enough not to get between them and food-- except, of course, for that time on the AT-- so bears are a big plus in my coolness category. So is the lake that's two blocks from our door. The beautiful NJ State Botanical Gardens are even closer and are a joy to walk.

The location, by the way, is Ringwood, a town of 8000 that was created as a resort when the region's iron mines played out in the early XXth Century. The town is separated from flatland New Jersey by a thousand foot-tall mountain. It's rustic and peaceful and yet not far from shopping and is only an hour away from Manhattan by bus, which I can catch at the library, just a mile from the house. And then there's Cupsaw Lake:

So yeah. A location that meets my coolness criterion.

My house in Pine Lake, GA was built in 1936 as a one-room cabin. Our house in Ringwood was built in 1940, also as a cabin. It had more than one room in its original form, but I won't quibble. My house in Atlanta had several additions, and so did the Ringwood House. The photo at the top of this page shows the living room, which is in the new part of the house. That's not our stuff in the photo, by the way. It's a photo from the real estate listing. The beams are original to the house.

Here's a beautiful free-standing pine staircase that leads two two huge rooms upstairs. The largest is 24' x 17', the smaller (which will be my office) is 13' x 17'.

There are three bedrooms and two baths, a huge kitchen and dining area with a pantry and a large, dry concreted and framed basement with four rooms. So yeah, the inside of the house meets my coolness criteria.The house is plain on the outside, but Sweetie is already developing plans for fabulousing it up.

A few days after we closed on the house we moved Sweetie and her stuff in. We were not so great with our orchestration of the relocation, and so wound up renting a U-Haul van to get the stuff we left in her apartment when the moving van came. We loaded the U-Haul in a cold rain and made ourselves sick as a result.

Upon my return to Georgia, my plan was to clear some of the clutter out of my house so I could show it-- but I had let it be known around my little town of 800 that I would be selling, and when I arrived people lined up to see it. The first couple to walk through bought it. Here it is, by the way:

I've been packing boxes for some ten days now. I favor the 12" x 12" x 16" boxes Home Depot sells for $.74 each, for they hold a good bit and are easy to lug around. I've packed some 150 of them and expect to pack about 50 more. 200 boxes will take only 300 square feet in the 1650 square foot U-Haul truck I'll be renting, leaving plenty of room for my couch, chair, table, futon, bookcases and bed, the boxes I have in a rented storage facility, and, hopefully, my 17' canoe. Some time in January I expect to be headed north. When I arrive in New Jersey, Sweetie and I will be married in real life.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Update on My First Life

Sweetie and I at Salazar Jack's great grandfather's shack in early 2007.
What, we are wondering, will the future bring?

If I've been inactive on this blog of late, it's because in real life the notorious avatar known here as Sweetie and I are purchasing a house in Ringwood, NJ. Closing is scheduled for noon on Monday.

It's been a struggle. The house is barely with our means (prices for homes and property taxes are notoriously high) and there has been drama with inspections. Will the 40+ year-old septic system have to be replaced? Who will pay for mitigation of the high radon levels that were discovered. Will the bank approve the loan? OMG, the huge french door refrigerator won't fit through the front door? Or will it?

Next week will be a whirlwind, what with cable/internet installers, carpet cleaners, appliance deliveries, and packing up Sweetie's apartment so we'll be ready when the moving truck shows up at 9 am on Friday.

After we have unpacked enough to make Sweetie comfortable I'll be driving home in my Miata to pack up my house and put it on the market. As a first step I'll move about half my stuff into storage so the house will be uncluttered when prospective buyers walk through it. I'll be in New Jersey for Christmas and New Year's Day and will stay here for a month or so before returning to Georgia. The holidays are a bad time for home sales, but spring comes early in Atlanta, and with luck I'll be bidding Atlanta adieu in early 2015.

Sweetie and I will marry some time in January in New York, where our marriage will be legal.

I am missing Second Life (as is Sweetie), but we should be back in world soon.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Counting Train Rides-- Update

Since I installed this sign on 28 September, the Whimsy steam train has made 206 trips (many with multiple avatars). The current count stands at 23,651. That's an average of 5.6 trips per day-- about what I estimated.

That would suggest some 13000 trips since Whimsy was born in April, 2008. Since at least half the trips carry more than one avatar, 23,6521 trips seems a reasonable guess. I'm leaving the sign as is.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Counting Train Rides

I've been meaning for a while to make a sign that tells how many times the little steam train at Whimsy has been ridden. Tonight I did it. It took about an hour.

Using Google images, I found an icon of a steam locomotive and, with the free program GIMP created a sign that read "...Train Rides Since April, 2006." Whimsy was born in April, 2006.

I used the free XY Text scripts as the counter. One script transformed a cube into an almost-flat prim that can display six numbers, then deleted itself. A second script sends text to a third script, which changes the visible message--in this case a number between 0 and 999,999 that displays against the image of the locomotive, like so:

I'd used the scripts before in my altimeter, so it was easy to modify them for use as a counter.

Because Kitto Flora's train is now phantom, I was unable to use a collision event, so I recycled the same scanner I used earlier to trigger messages for train riders. A script checks every three seconds to see if  one of Kitto's engines is close by; if it detects an engine, it tells the sign to add one to the number of rides. I set the appropriate XY Text script to listen for and respond to the message, and all was well. Every time the train passes, the number increases by one.

I've been saving messages from the train and did a tabulation, extrapolating back to 2006. I set the script to start with 23,400 rides. That's almost certainly an underestimate, but I'm certain it's reasonably close to the actual number of trips. For most trips, more than one avatar is riding (sometimes as many as five!), so the number of people served is more like 40,000 - 50,000. I might in the near future revise the script to count avatars rather than respond to the engine, but for now I'm satisfied. 23,446 rides it is!

Thursday, September 25, 2014

It's Official!

I'm happy to say the offer Sweetie and I made on a house in the highlands of New Jersey was accepted today. The high taxes and high sale price scare the shit out of us, but at long last the relationship that began when, in 2006, I saw an avatar building a fountain on a hillside, has reached its logical conclusion. When the NJ house closes, my cute little lake house in Atlanta will go on the market. Some time before the end of the year we will be married in New York or New Jersey, since both states will recognize our marriage.

 If anyone reading this is yearning to become a snow bird, I have a great cottage in a quirky little community. It's (literally) feet from the beach at the lake, yet only ten miles from downtown Atlanta. It rarely snows, and when it does it's almost always gone within five minutes, and summers are surprisingly moderate. Lows during the hot months range from 68 to 72 F and this year the hottest it got in my little community was 91 degrees.  When the weather gets hotter than that, it's because the entire eastern seaboard is having a heat wave. It's not uncommon for our highs to be lower than those in New York, which is 800 miles to the north.

You might be surprised to discover how little I'll be asking for my delightful little house.

Scary Puzzle Box

A long time ago my brother gave me a puzzle box he had picked up during his time in the U.S. Navy.

I loved that box. It was showing some wear when, in the early 2000s, a burglar broke it. Bastard.

The other day Sweetie came home with a puzzle box from Capalini Creations.

Like the box my brother gave me, the Capalini box requires multiple steps to open. Above, the box is closed. Below, it is six or seven steps toward being opened.

After rezzing the box at our PG Den of Iniquity, Sweetie logged off, leaving it to me to figure out how to open the box.

Instead, I decided to play the Crossword game-- but I kept hearing spooky noises. It sounded rather like Gollum and Smeagol arguing in loud whispers:

"We hates the Whimsians!"
"Noooo, the Whimsians is niiice! We looves the Whimsians!"
"Whimsians is bad! We hates them! Nasty Whimsians!"
"Whimsians is our friends! Nice Whimsians!"
"We hates the nassty Whimsians! Hates them!"

I kept looking around to see what was making the periodic sounds, but was unable to find a likely suspect. Until-- unless-- could it be the box!

Yes, it was Sweetie's puzzle box!

Nasty puzzle box frightens Cheyenne!

Sweetie Does Important Flower Work

Sweetie continues her mission to bring mesh flower beauty to the grid.

Above, sunflowers, yellow and orange flowers, and a couple of mesh palms improve the upper gardens on Whimsy.

Here I'm almost lost amidst the foliage.

This stone figure isn't mesh, but adds drama to the landscape. Readers of this blog will already know Sweetie is all about drama.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

More Auroras

Sweetie and I were struck tonight with just how lovely the auroras are at 4000 meters.

Even when the photos are clicked to enlarge them, they don't do the auoraras justice.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Fans and Auroras

Sweetie and Chey Admire Antreas Alter's Beauiful Aurora Borealis
Yesterday Sweetie came back from shopping at Capalini Designs.

"What's that behind your back?" I said.

"Nothing," she said.

"Show me your hand," I said.

"The other one," I said.

"Now show me both of your hands at the same time."

That one perplexed her.

"Sweetie," I said, "you might have gotten away with it if you hadn't dragged the copy so large."

"It's not big," she said.

"It's the size of an SUV," I said. "Let me see it." She held it out.

Sweetie, it seems, had come home with a black metal fan on a rotating brass gimbal.

They're awesome.

There are now four of them creating a sense of drama at our sub-orbital asteroid retreat. Teleport here to see them.

The auroras are visible only during Whimsy's night cycle.

Trick of Perspective

If you click on the photo to enlarge, you'll see Sweetie seems to be holding a lantern. It' s a trick of perspective. The lantern is sitting on the wall. Sweetie's arm is up because she is tweaking a tree she just installed at our suborbital asteroid retreat.


A month or so ago Sweetie and I went on a hunt for more games for our PG Den of Iniquity.

We found several we liked and tracked them down. Two creators were kind enough to give me copies, We found the store that sold the game Crossroad, which I liked a lot. Crossroad is a sort of match/connect the lines game.

The name of the store is Lizail, and they sell, among other things, fabulous wall (and one floor!) aquaria.

And games! Did I mention games?

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Working on the Path to Pele

Sweetie and I have been tweaking the path that winds from Whimsy's entry to the volcano Pele.

We removed the Botanical sakura cherry tree that has bee in the above spot for years and she added these mesh plants...

... and this lava boulder, which helps define the path.

That gave me an idea.

This acute bend in the path was always awkward, but it added length to the path to the summit, which was desirable.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

We Are Beta Testers for Second Life Experience Keys

Linden Lab has selected us as second round beta testers for Experience Keys.

Experience keys allow avatars to grant global permissions to an experience. This makes inter-sim teleportation possible, allows temporary attachment of HUDS and things like backpacks and weapons, and allows interaction without an avatar having to sit. At our robot sanatorium we could, for instance, cause an avatar to slip and slide when he or she steps in the pool of oil spilled on the main floor. Until how we have had to rely on blue menus-- which rather detracts from the experience.

Sweetie and I have been staying up night thinking of ways to use the experience keys.

Sweetie Goes All-Mesh

Sweetie is thrilled with the plants at Hayabusa Design. They're mesh, offer incredible detail at a low prim count, and many of them sway realistically in the Second Life wind. Better, they're copyable and modifiable, so she can have her way with them. She has stocked up on flowers, shrubs, and trees, changed the arcane names of many of them into something she can recognize, and has been slowly placing them on the land.

We've removed some three-prim flat plane plants, but we're keeping many, as well.

Here's how Whimsy is looking these days.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Actual Mountain

In this age of colossal sim surrounds I assumed the granite peak visible in the distance from Port Seraphine was an object-- but no, it was terrain. Very cool.

Oopsie With the Stunt PLane

"They say any landing you can walk away from is a good one," I said.

"I'm not unscathed. My head is killing me," said Sweetie.

"I can fix that," I said.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Friday, August 22, 2014

Cub Scouts, College Classes, and Bikers

Above is a photo sent to me by Christian Wells. His Cub Scout pack is about to explore our robot sanatorium-- those who have survived, at least. Christ told me a couple of scouts fell off the platform.

In the past month we have been visited by cub scouts, bikers, and a university class from the University of South Florida brought by instructor demarco Spatula, who was impressed with Whimsy's ways of engaging avatars. We are getting popular!

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Alien on the Moon Identified

The internet is buzzing about this image, which was taken from Google Moon, a huge trove of photographs made public by NASA. Is it an alien from space? Is it the long-lost Colussus of Rhodes (seriously!) Is it just a trick of light?

I know what it is. I'm certain. It's the gorilla/big/dog/whatever it is at the Cornfield.

Yeah, this gorilla.

Clearly someone hit it hard enough to send it to the moon, Alice.

Mystery solved.

Friday, August 15, 2014


Against the Night Sky Fireflies Look Rather Like Stars,
If Stars were Yellowish-Green and Flashed  Intermittently

One of the earliest scripts I came across in Second Life is called Foxfire. It was created by Ama Omega, whose birth date in Second Life was 12/11/2002. Foxfire produces briefly-flashing tiny yellow lights throughout the brief Second Life night. I immediately modified it so fireflies would appear both day and night. Since 2008 I  have had dozens of copies stuffed into prims all over Whimsy and Whimsy Kaboom.

Sweetie didn't say much about the fireflies until lately, when she complained they weren't the right color. "Fireflies aren't bright yellow," she said. "They're greenish yellow."

She was right, of course.

I rezzed a prim, put the Foxfire script in it, and asked her to color the prim to a firefly color she could live with. She did, and I changed the particle start and end colors in the script to produce a proper firefly color.

Next, we increased the radius of the firefly display from 3.0 to 4.5 meters and halved the number of fireflies visible at any one time. We also tweaked the length of time each flash was visible. When we were finished, the field of fireflies appeared across a greater distance, was not so densely populated, and produced flashes of a realistic length and color.

Finally, Sweetie convinced me it would be better to reset the fireflies so they appeared only during the Second Life night.

"But people set the sun position all sorts of ways," I complained. "Some have noon on all the time. Some, like you, live at midnight."

"True," she said, "but Whimsy is optimized to provide spectacular experiences at both day and night. We should let visitors know that."

And so I changed the script so the fireflies appear only when it's dark.

There's a scripting command called llGetSunDirection. It gives you x, y, and z vectors for the position of the Second Life sun. The z component is positive when the sun is above the horizon, and negative when the sun is below the horizon. It would have been a simple matter to use zero as the trigger, but in real life fireflies begin flashing when it starts to grow dark (Sweetie pointed out they are active for an hour or two and then shut down for the rest of the night, but I chose to ignore that and leave them on all through the one-hour Second Life night).

I decided to turn the fireflies on at dusk and off at dawn-- but to do that I needed to know what the z position of the sun was when it was just dark enough to turn them on and just light enough to turn them off.

To do that, I needed to know the z position of the sun at those times.

I made a script that showed in hover text the z position, set it to update every ten seconds, and watched as the z position changed. I re-watched season one of The Killing for a couple of hours as the day progressed until the sun set, and managed to determine a z of  +.1 was was just about the right time to trigger the fireflies.

For the record, the z vector slowly increases from 0 to 1 as the day progresses, then slowly decreases to 0 as the sun goes below the horizon. It decreases to -.5 (I think; I could stay awake no longer and went to bed) and then begins to increase.

So anyway, I produced a new and improved Sweetie-tweaked Foxfire script and today replaced the script all over Whimsy. If you would like a copy of the script, I'll be happy to give you one (with full permission). Just IM me or send me a notecard.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Whimsy's Concerge Bots: Part II: Specialization

Whimsy Tip Bot. Photo by Greg Paslong

Our tip bot transitioned to a concierge bot when, at Sweetie's suggestion, I gave him additional functionality at the geysers on Whimcentricity. I put his hat back on his head and added a panel that allows visitors to pay five Lindens to control the geysers. A sign in his hand allows them (at no charge) to rain hot smoking boulders down on the sim. I mean, hot smoking death rocks should be free.

When we added a second specialty tip bot at the train depot, we unofficially dubbed it a concierge bot. In addition to handing tips, he dispenses SCUBA gear and an engineer's hat. And so the idea of specialty robots (all from the same basic model) was born.