Wednesday, January 31, 2018


Written 31 January, 2018

When I first came in world I ran around everywhere with avatar "shoes" on. My feet looked as if they had been beaten with sledgehammers.

Here's my first pair of blingy prim shoes. I thought they were wonderful.

I was fortunate enough to get a photo when the shoes weren't blinging. Thank me for sparing your eyes.

Or don't. check out these blingtardy shoes. Every prim has a bling script!

I can't be ENTIRELY certain those aren't my shoes, but I don't THINK they are. Surely I would remember a fashion disaster of that magnitude.

Shoes have come a long way. Second Life has come to a place where it's difficult to get clothes and shoes for avatars without mesh bodies. Now that 95% of my shoes are broken, I wonder if I'll take the trouble to create masks for my favorite old school shoes or just take the plunge and go mesh.

Stay tuned.

What is UP with My Feet???

Written 30 January, 2018

Those are my avatar feet, above. I know they don't look great, so I wear nail color to distract those like tinies and foot fetishists who might look at them.

Your lower appendages are much the same unless you have invested in a pair of mesh feet. And of course you have made that investment. You're vain, just like me. Admit it.

When Second Life was new, shoes were created by distorting feet into a rude approximation of heels-- like this:

Yeah, not pretty.

Believe it or not, in the early days, these were considered avatar shoes. The best you could do with them was to cover them with socks in a dark color-- but they will still look like Chinese foot torture.

One of my friends set out to be a prostitute with those misshapen avatar feet. "How's it workin' out for you?" I asked. "Not good," she said. I gave her a pair of prim shoes and she went on to make a fortune-- although I think it was her rude gestures rather than the shoes that made her popular.

So anyway, the ugliest shoes anywhere; that was our lot. But then Second Life entrepreneurs, always fast to sense a potential market like scripted penises and breedables, began to create shoes made from primitives. You know, like that cube you rez by mistake from time and time. There were, after all, no sculpted prims and mesh was only a gleam in IWISHTHERWASSOMETHINGBETTER Linden's eye.

Some prim shoes were beautiful, but unless they were without heels, they required that deforming foot form to be worn. This raised the top of the feet so they would be angled right for heels-- but that didn't quite work. Why? Because that ugly avatar foot stuck out all over the place, ruining everything. Like this--

Those are my Maitreya ChiChi pumps, which were great for more than a decade and are now broken. Most of my old school shoes (and my collection would put that of Imelda Marcos to shame) are similarly affected, unwearable because of protruding avatar feet.

I was shocked when I discovered I had been walking around with screwed up feet. No one I knew well was online to freak out to, but there was an incoming IM from Annie Brightstar with a comment about my blog and she was nice enough to tell me what the problem was and give me a folder of alpha masks to try.

So here's the problem. Invisiprims are broken. The Lindens broke them. More specifically, Materials broke them. When Advanced Lighting is on, invisiprims no longer render properly.

 Since shoes made from prims worked only because of a workaround-- invisiprims-- they are now all broken.

Invisiprims were small prims textured with one of two (apparently the same) textures that could be set only by scripts (as if the Lindens would have to kill you if you were to accidentally see the texture in its actual form). They were, as their name suggests, invisible, and they had a special attribute: they blocked any object which used total or partial alpha (invisibility). Since avatars have alpha, properly sized and positioned  and attached to a prim shoe's linkset, invisiprims effectively blocked misshapen avatar feet-- the very parts that protruded from the shoes. They made prim shoes work.

Here's me, standing beside a highlighted invisiprim, with Advanced Lighting turned on.

I'm visible, even though the lower half of my body is screened by the invisiprim.

Now look at this photo from the same angle with Advanced Lighting turned off.

See what happened? My body isn't visible. If you look closely you can see my jewelry, but not my body. The parts of my hair with alpha are gone also.

This is bad news for shoes of the old school. The invisiprims no longer screen the parts of the foot that stick through the shoes. Hence my freakout.

Invisprims weren't perfect. When I would fly above water while wearing them, they would have a strange shimmering effect (because the water has an alpha component)-- but they worked wonderfully in most circumstances. It's such a shame they had to be broken, rendering millions of pairs of shoes unwearable.

There's a workaround, of course. There are always workarounds. Avatars can now wear alpha masks which can accurately render any area of the body invisible. Unfortunately, the ability to edit them in world seems to have gone away. Several years ago I could make an alpha and move a slider, progressively disappearing or revealing portions of my body until they were just right for my purpose. Now, apparently, alpha masks have to be made off world-- and to make matters worse, most shoemakers haven't gone to the trouble to make an alpha mask that would make their shoes wearable again. Instead, they have taken them off the market and conveniently ignored their customers, this even though one or two or maybe three masks would have worked across their entire inventory of shoes. Customers are left to their own ends; they can invest in a new shoe wardrobe or find or create an appropriate alpha mask. The latter choice, of course, requires skill with GIMP or PhotoShop.

I'm sure not all shoe makers have neglected their customers, but so far I've had no luck at places like Maitreya. I'm pretty pissed, I tell you, more at the shoemakers than at the Lindens.

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Just When Things Are Going Smoothly-- I Look Down

Written 28 January, 2018

I was just patting myself on the back for adjusting to Second Life after three years away.

I mean...

* Every since script I created-- and there are hundreds upon hundreds-- were running perfectly.

* All the prims on Whimsy and Whimsy Kaboom were in place, save one-- my conveyor belt, which somehow got rotated ninety degrees.

* Aside from a few dead fish, the many birds, reptiles, amphibians, fish, and nonvertebrates on Whimsy were doing fine. Some were angry with me for not feeding them but shut up when I reminded them of the terms of their contracts.

* My wardrobe was intact and I still looked fabulous.

* Many of my old friends were still around and active.

* Many of my favorite places were still in existence.

* My new and quite inexpensive laptop ran Second Life better than all my previous machines

And then, damn it, I looked down.

Why, oh, why did I have to look down?

Saturday, January 27, 2018

The Ivory Tower Library of Primitives, Part III. The Building

Lumiere Noir, Creator of the Ivory Tower Library of Primitives
Written 27 January, 2018

The Ivory Tower is an impressive build, prim-heavy, but elegant. It was made using a recursive building technique. Lumiere didn't invent the method, but certain put it to good use. Here's his description:
Modular building is creating a single, or a set of building elements made up of two or more prims each.
That's it. You can rez a prim, drag copy another and place it a few meters from its parent, and link them.  The root prim will become a pivot and the child prim will move in a circle as you rotate it. By making copies, moving them back to their original location with CTRL-Z, and rotating the linkset a fixed number of degrees with each repetition, you can achieve amazing results.

After the circle is closed, you must unlink and delete all of the central prims-- although for insurance (in the event I need to work on the building in the future) I like to keep one linkset as is. I make the root prim invisible and turn it phantom by using a script that affects only the prim it's in.

Here's an admittedly butt-ugly structure I made using the recursion technique. I used it for the first iteration of my store, Flights of Fancy.

I created one section of wall and one section of floor, linked them to a prim and what would become the center of the building, , and used the recursion technique to square the circle. All the parts fit perfectly, with no prim flicker.

Compare that to this build, which is the site of my new store; it can be found 4000 meters above Whimsy:

The repetition here is created by texture repeats. The entire wall is one huge and hugely tortured 100 x 100 x 100 meter cube. So yeah, there are other ways to create repetition. One uses all the tools in one's toolbox.

Unlike me, Lumiere used the recursion technique to great effect. He could throw up a huge build like the Ivory Tower in only a couple of hours.

Here's an inside view of the roof of the Ivory Tower. Can you see Lumiere's use of the recursion technique? I can.

Lumiere used the technique all through the tower, as in the staircase pictured above, and in this guardrail.

The above photos show the same section of the roof. I have highlighted a single prim in the second photo. Imaging placing just this one prim in correct position and rotation by eye or by calculation-- and the roof has hundreds of prims!

I will leave you with this detail of the windows of the Ivory Tower. Nice effect! Reminds me of  a gothic cathedral.

The Ivory Tower Library of Primitives, Part II: The Ivory Tower

Written 25 January, 2018

The Ivory Tower is a great place to learn the essentials of working with primitives in Second Life. I learned not only what can be done with prims, but important building techniques.

I mean yeah, mesh is all the rage in Second Life, but prims provide a quick in-world way of creating things. Moreover, they are a great leveler of the playing field. Anyone can rez a prim. You don't need an expensive program to build with them, and you don't need to leave Second Life to work with them. Not a day goes by when I don't create or edit prims. I can't imagine my Second Life without them.

So yeah, Marcov Carter's Statue of Liberty, which stands in front of the ITLP, speaks to me.

The ITLP has some three dozen work stations on four floors, each with a notecard available in seven languages and each with examples of the primitive characteristics under discussion. Lessons begin with basic ways to work with a single prim and wind up teaching recursive building techniques that allow precise placement of dozens, hundreds, or even thousands of prims perfectly aligned with one another. This is an amazing and handy thing to know and it's the technique used to build the library itself.

The notecards are instructive, and better, they are funny, at least the ones in English. Use of color in the example prims help learners visualize the lesson, and replications of the blue, green, and red rotation and linear movement indicators show axes of movement. They are also made of prims and replicate exactly the look of primitive objects when Edit is selected. Check out the photo below:

Nope, my Edit window isn't open. That's the way the ITLP displays actually look.

Assiduous students will learn how to cut, hollow, skew, slice, taper, color, texture, and otherwise torture their prims, how to deal with the ways primitives behave in relation to their rotations, and, as they move through the work stations, how to create light and flexible objects, and, eventually, to builds like this spiral staircase:

A few months before my Second Life birth date of October 24, 2006, Lumiere Noir, the creator of the ITLP, moved it from the region Noya to its current location in Natoma.

I'm not certain whether Lumiere's avatar is the spy before or the spy after the vs. in the Mad Magazine cartoons, but whichever, it was apparently his usual avatar.

Lumiere died unexpectedly in August 2015; the Ivory Tower has since been lovingly looked after by Avi Arrow, who was kind enough to give me the sound for the little squeak every notecard giver at the ITLP (and now at Whimsy) makes when touched. Avi confirmed this when I asked her to fact-check this blogpost. She wrote:
The black spy was his most well known avatar and is the one most used when he was here full time.  This is why I use the black spy image in several places (including the sky) in order to keep Lumiere's presence connected to the Ivory Tower Library of Primitives.  Lumiere had many custom avatars before and after the black spy, but when he returned in late 2014, he started working on his last avatar named "Smirk" which he used for his Acid Trip display name character.  This avatar can be seen in statue form about 10 meters north of the landing point for the Ivory Tower which is the last place Lumiere was rezzed (where he last logged off).

That's Lumiere's Acid Trip avatar, above.

Avi writes:
Lumiere and I were partners in land and enterprise since late 2006, but Lumiere is the one who created the Ivory Tower Library of Primitives (or ITLP for short).  I am the one who has primarily managed the property and the Ivory Tower of Prims group, which freed up Lumiere to do what he loved most-- to create (or doodle as he called it), and to hold classes.
I'm glad Avi has taken on the responsibility, for the Ivory Tower Library of Primitives is not only a valuable place to learn how to work with prims, but a valuable piece of Second Life history.

Here's to you, Lumiere! And to you, Avi!

Teleport to the Ivory Tower

Next: The Ivory Tower Library of Primitives, Part III. The Building

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Ivory Tower Library of Primitives, Part I: The Region

The Man, Natoma
Written 25 January, 2018

When I was new in world and found everything a challenge, Sweetie took me to the Ivory Tower Library of Primitives in the Natoma region and bade me stay there until I could rez a prim.

I'll talk about the Ivory Tower Library of Prim in my next blogpost. In this one I'll talk about the historic sim on which it sits today.

Natoma is one of Second Life's original sixteen regions, created in those days of yore when Second Life was called Linden World. Before the Second Life beta began, Natoma was the site of the first city build, and when beta began Natoma hosted the first commercial area and the first welcome area for new citizens:
Natoma then became the location for the original Welcome Area which was given the nickname "Newbie Corral" due to its wooden fences around it.
                   --Second Life Wikia: Natoma

Most of the builds from those days are long gone, but two of Second Life's earliest objects are still present: the Man Statue and the Arch D'Linden.

The Man was created by oldjohn Linden in 2002. Check out what avatars looked like back then:

Handsome, huh? And so sophisticated!

Inspection of oldjohn's The Man shows it consists of just 10 prims-- and that includes the base! The prims that comprise the statue were created on July 19, 2002.

This is a bit of a mystery, as oldjohn himself wasn't created until September 1, 2002. Perhaps the Lindens have solved the mystery of time travel, but a more likely reason is the avatar age part of the profile wasn't created when old oldjohn was first spawned.

If you look closely, you'll see the current owner of the statue is Avi Arrow. More about her in the next blogpost.

The Man isn't hard to find; just go to Natoma and you'll see it. It sits on a hillock and is easily spotted. So too, unfortunately, is the ugly-ass rotating advertising sign that seems to have been created to spoil the view.

All I can say is thank the goddess for the ability to derender.

Another historic early build is the Arch d'Linden Grande, pictured below:

According to my x-ray vision, the arch, which weighs in at a whopping 34 prims, was created by Alberto Linden on October 18, 2002.

The current owner is Avi Arrow, who looks after and maintains the ITLP. The last owner was Torley Linden, who, I imagine, snagged a copy because he realized its historical significance.

There are other interesting things here and there on Natoma. At first I thought this starship Enterprise was circling around the huge ITLP.

I soon discovered that was a trick of perspective. It was primmy, but quite small.

Here's an interesting statue by Marcov Carter.

Marcov's statue symbolizes, to me at least, the right of every citizen of Second Life to create objects he or she then owns. It's something I fear will be lacking in the Lindens' new virtual world Sansar, which, as best I can tell, is designed to turn its citizens not into builders, but into consumers. Of course many people in Second Life, and perhaps most, don't create content, but I suspect it won't be easy or inexpensive in Sansar. So hurrah, Marcov, for capturing so well something essential in Second Life-- the prim. I can think of no better place for your statue to stand than in front of the Ivory Tower Library of Prim.

For a good read about Natoma by DrFran Babcock, click here.

Teleport to Natoma

Next: The Ivory Tower Library of Primitives, Part III. The Building

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Whimsy's Vistas

Written 19 January, 2018

Whimsy abounds with spots that let you look out (or up or down) over long distances.

The view above was taken at sunset from inside the balloons on the airship that hangs just below the 4096 build limit on Whimsy. It shows the mine car track that leads to the huge captured asteroid at 4000 meters, the balloons that hold the track up, the observatory below the asteroid, and the asteroid by itself. The view is better when the SL sun sets, for beautiful auroras play across the skies.

Here's a NASA supply rocket in low earth orbit (3000 meters above Whimsy Kaboom). The moon is visible at upper right, a comet is moving from right to left just above the rocket, and two satellites are visible (one is highlighted by the tail of the comet). The view of earth when standing on the rocket is spectacular.

This photo was taken from atop the giant rock that dominates the southwestern corner of Whimsy Kaboom. I once had a little hut up here, but it was situated on the sim Whimcentricity, which belonged to Leaf Shermer and which has now gone away. I will be setting a replacement structure here so visitors can stand and get this same view.

In fact, I just did! There's a little Japanese tea house there now.

Here's Kaboom. I'm standing on the flank of the volcano Pele, facing west. The caldera is to my left. Note the humpback whale breaching far below at center right.

Here's the view facing the other direction-- the volcano Pele!

Here's one of my favorite vantages. I'm looking at the hollow interior of the volcano Pele from a ledge far above the water that has filled the caldera.

Here's a view of the Whimsy train, taken just a few meters away.

And here's yet another view from the same place.

Here's a view of Whimsy from the top of the mountain...

...and a view of the mountain from a nearby hill.

Here's a view of the Whimsy Sungate from yet another hill.

I took these photos in sim daylight. Soon I'll post some photos taken at night. Whimsy looks great at midnight.

Friday, January 19, 2018

Accident-Free Since 2018!

Written 19 January, 2018

The right side of the cab of Whimsy's red train has long featured a sign that reads "Est, 2006. Accident-Free Since 20XX.

After we moved to Whimsy in 2008 I updated the sign every year. Every January first, I would change the year. There's a reason for that. The train has a horrible derailment on every trip. We cherish our safety record: zero percent.

I used an old copy of the page layout program Quark XPress, but it stopped working when Windows XP was released-- or rather, it would not work with XP. Since the program is expensive and I had no money to spare, I stopped updating the sign-- and then I took a vacation from Second Life.

This week I bought a perfectly up to date copy of Quark XPress 2017 and updated the horribly out of date sign. Our perfectly imperfect safety record is once again memorialized.

It occurs to me I should make a sign that reads "X Days Since Our Last Accident." The sign would, of course, reset to zero every time someone rode the train.

Yes. I'm going to make that sign.

[My photo, taken early 2007. The train is running its route on our property on the Dreamland sim Forsaken. On board are myself, Sweetie (as a dragon), and our friend Axel. That's the Polynesian goddess Pele in the inset.]

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Christmassy Second Life Dress


Here's a Christmassy Second-Life-style dress. It wasn't in Second Life, though, but at Palisades Mall in West Nyack, New York.

Sweetie and I spotted it at the same moment. "Mine!" I cried. "Mine!" she cried. I saw her glancing at her katana, so I backed off.

She didn't buy it, of course, although it's a dress she would gleefully wear in Second Life.

27k+ Train Rides? Oopsie!

Written 13 January, 2018

The little red train is one of Whimsy's most popular attractions. Made by Kitto Flora, it chugs happily along its track, above or below the water. With carriages added to the engine it can carry multiple avatars. We attach two carriages, making the capacity six riders.

The engine e-mails me whenever someone rides it. It makes me smile to see a message in my inbox, and it makes me happy to see the train chugging along in the distance or hear it when it's not in sight.

Back in 2014, in September, I created a counter that displayed the number of train rides. When the train would pass, it would increment the count by one. Here is the train rides sign a couple of weeks after its creation:

That's 23445 rides. Based on the number of e-mails I received  from the train monthly, I made an educated guess at a starting figure: 23,400. I took the photo the day of my blog post about creating the sign, 27 August, 2014. That's three years and four months and more, or 1227 days.

Since the count on 5 January, 2018 was 27837, that means the train passed the sign 4392 times since its creation in August, 2014, for an average of 3.58 rides per day.

The sign counts the number of time the train passes and not the number of riders. The train often has two riders, and sometimes more-- and of course sometimes there's a single rider. In retrospect, I wish I had scripted the sign to count riders passing by on the track rather than the number of times the engine passes, for what I'm counting isn't riders, as the sign suggests, but the number of trips. Oh, as they say, hindsight is perfect.

I bought the train some time in 2007 and it had a route established before the end of that year.  Between 1 January, 2008 and 5 January, 2014, there were 2430 days, for an average of, according to my estimate, 9.65 rides per day.

This means I considerably overestimated the starting count, as there's no reason to assume the train had more riders per day between 2008 and 2014 than it did between 2014 and 2018.

I therefore reset the counter to 8900. I took a dozen or so rides past to make sure it is counting properly.

I think 8900 is an honest number for the number of trips.

Sorry for making your head hurt with the maths.