Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Photo finish

Ever since I found out that the Second Life client had a facility for doing screen captures—i.e., taking photographs—I've enjoyed using it, at least when I remember to do so. I have a bunch of SL photos on my hard drive, and I've uploaded some to my Flickr site as well as to this blog.

For portraits and fashion-type shots, though, I got tired of having so little control over backgrounds and lighting. You can take only so many shots on the beach at dawn. So since my office is VLP (very low prim), as is most of the furniture up there, I built a twelve-prim photo studio down lower. It's not much. I haven't even really finished it. It's still ugly plywood on the outside. But it gives me a place to experiment with what is becoming a fun hobby for me.

As usual, I don't know what the heck I'm doing yet. I haven't consulted with anyone about how a studio should be built, how to configure the lighting, or even how to set up the shots I really want. I am in desperate need of a system for doing multiple poses, not to mention in desperate need of better poses. But it's a start, I'm under no pressure to do great things, and I'm having a blast.

I have some First Life photos of Maui that I'm using for backdrops, as well as a purple satin thing that came from who knows where. Clearly, more backdrops needed. I created a couple of light balls and positioned them a little in front of and on either side of the wall I shoot against. Refinement probably needed there.

I found out last night that it's much, much easier to do self-portraits than it is to work with a model. When you're shooting yourself, you basically position your avatar, turn the camera around, get the right angle, and shoot. Easy peasy. But with a model, you have to get yourself out of the picture. That might involve using mouselook, an inexact tool at best, although handy. More likely it involves using the camera controls to carefully position the camera where you want it while staying far out of the picture. That takes a bit of time.

Patrice was so good about modelling for me last night, patiently standing there whilst I fiddled and fussed. And the results aren't bad so far, if I do say so myself. I took several other shots, but I wanted to find one that was more-or-less PG rated! Thus, Patrice in her armour, not in her see-through chain mail slingshot outfit.

I will enjoy learning more about this.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Hunka hunka burnin' love

Another Sunday, another Second Life wedding! This time it was our friends and next-door neighbours Bjerkel Eerie (in purple) and Karin McElroy (in white). They were married in the afternoon just outside the First Second Life Church of Elvis, high above Iron Fist, with the Very Reverend Elvis Faust himself officiating (using the powers vested in him by, among other things, the Nevada Gaming Commission).

Oh, it was an SL wedding all right, complete with warnings from Robin Linden of impending doom due to the usual database overload. However, the sim did not crash! I did, more than once, but that was just my lame computer crapping out when I tried to take a picture.

I had a better picture in my sights than the one to the left, but I never got to take it. As you can see, Patrice was the matron of honour. flopsie McArdle was the best (wo)man, but I was unfortunately unable to capture the actual moment of truth, and flopsie had not yet arrived when I shot this. I am at the right, standing in the wrong direction. Elvis had tried to get all the pose balls on the cake lined up, but did not quite succeed. (Just so you know, the guy in front in the kilt, whom I do not know, was away from his keyboard, not praying!)

Once the vows were spoken and the bond sealed, the cake and its passengers took off from the sky-church and floated slowly to the ground, as planned. What was not planned, however, was that Karin and Bjerkel, of all people, were left behind! As was I. Should have got a picture of that!

The reception was a small but pleasant affair down on the docks at Bjerkel and Karin's house, right next to their cool houseboat and schooner. Pogo sticks and water guns for all! I guess I wasn't the only one who didn't unpack her gift right away, although I did see Karin pogo-ing around, after removing her huge white train. Neighbours Bernie and Sari filled in on twin fiddles while Illya helped Bjerkel get the music going, although in typical SL fashion, the dancing had already commenced.

I was double booked, but I did stay long enough for the cake cutting and feeding, plus a bit of champagne. Félicitations, mes amies! Glad to have been part of your wonderful day.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

If I lay here...

Saturday morning is food shopping day for me in First Life. I was just leaving the deli when a song came on the radio:
If I lay here
If I just lay here
Would you lie with me and just forget the world?

I teared up, in a good way, as I do every time I hear "Chasing Cars" by Snow Patrol. Whenever I hear that song, I think of Patrice.

Four months ago, on September 27, 2006, Patrice and I discussed our relationship. We'd known each other for barely three weeks, a long time in Second Life but still not very long. We agreed on some ground rules having to do with both FL and SL. In the end, we plighted our troth, as they used to say. Patrice went to the Second Life web site, and a marriage proposal showed up in my e-mail. I had no hesitation in accepting. Our in-world partnership was formed.
I need your grace
To remind me
To find my own

When I joined Second Life, I didn't really have a plan. I just wanted to see what this virtual world was like and what living a virtual life would entail. I leaped at the opportunity to have a second life different from my own. I met people and made friends. I learned some building skills. I worked out my basic appearance. I went to clubs. I went shopping. I had sex. I made love. I got my heart broken.

I had no idea when I joined what I was in for, the kind of self-discovery living in SL would allow. I knew things about SL before I joined, but experiencing it is so different from reading about it. I did know about love and sex and partnerships, but I did not think these would become such a large part of my time in-world.
Those three words
Are said too much
they're not enough

During our time together, Patrice and I have had our share of, well, let's call then learning experiences. We have laughed, cried, caused hurt, been hurt, made up, and gained insight. We have had noisy times and quiet times. We have talked about so many things. We share our Second Lives. We love passionately.

Some people's SL relationships turn into FL relationships. This sort of thing has been happening with chat and e-mail and online forums for many years. Patrice and I agreed from the start that our relationship was in SL. We each have FL partners. We each have first lives. We have our e-mail lifeline, but basically we rely on Second Life to allow us to be together. I think that's why I get weepy from time to time, seemingly for no reason. To paraphrase Quebec singer Luc de Larochellière, La seconde vie est si fragile.
All that I am
All that I ever was
Is here in your perfect eyes, they're all I can see

My first life isn't perfect, but it's very good. I feel blessed. My SO and I have a deep and abiding relationship. I'm pretty happy. Second Life, especially an SL relationship, can sometimes be painful. Sometimes, it stirs up things that are difficult to deal with. Why the heck do I need that? Because the joy far outweighs any pain, and the growth opportunities are to be embraced, not avoided. And not only do I have a second life. I have a second love. How weird and wonderful is that?

Happy four months of partnership, Patrice. May there be many more to come.
If I lay here
If I just lay here
Would you lie with me and just forget the world?

Friday, January 26, 2007

Off the deep end

I've seen "best in swimwear" contests in Second Life before, but I've never known of one where the club owner installed an actual swimming pool in the club. That's just what Push did last night at the Velvet. I came online a bit later than usual, so when I joined Patrice at the club a little after 8 p.m., a rockin' pool party was in full swing.

This time, I remembered to take pictures. The first time I tried, however, my SL client crashed. You don't suppose it was due to an excess of hotness in and around the pool, do you? You'll have to judge for yourselves. I'm keeping it to a couple of small samples here. I'll post more on my Flickr site when I have a chance. Ezerbet Nietzsche was dangerously fetching in a minimal purple number edged with swooping lines, almost like a tattoo (and she was tattooed as well). Vampire in a bikini—sounds like a '60s novelty song. Patrice was co-winner of the contest—woot!—and promptly doffed her top in celebration.

Lest you think there were only women in attendance, I am including a shot of Bellish Valois floating in the pool, perhaps overcome by the sight of the lovely ladies lounging nearby in their inner tubes. If you look closely, I think you can see his blue mohawk. For me, blue mohawk and pool party make a particularly amusing combination.

You can't tell from these shots, but the place was jammed. It was all I could do to stay on the blue floatie thing whilst dancing. DJ Vivianne was serving up a somewhat more classic mix than is ordinarily heard at the Velvet. I couldn't believe she actually played "Free Bird"! You can be sure I turned my speakers way down for that one. But just before I had to leave, she played Bob Mould's "Wishing Well," not something you hear in SL (or anywhere) every day, so I'm not sorry I tipped her. But I should have tipped her into the pool for digging into the Southern rock vault!

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Sweatin' to the oldies

Patrice was late coming online last night, so I broke out of my usual rut and popped over to the Bubblegum Music Factory. This is the club where Sorcha hosts (see blog listing at right), and she was working last night, hosting a "best in red" contest. The room is a funky wooden place, plastered in rock music posters, and last night it was quite full of friendly, dancing people. The new girl was warmly welcomed! I know Sorcha, of course, and Anastacia, whom I know a little from the Velvet, was also there (and won the contest, looking très sexeh), but there were friendly greetings all around.

Ah, the music of my youth. Well, one or two of my youths anyway. It was great to hear the Beatles' "Taxman." Styx, er, not so much. I try my best to pretend all the bloated so-called rock and horrid disco of the 1970s never happened, thanking any and all deities for the Ramones and the Sex Pistols and what followed. But heck, it's not like I've never lowered the volume for certain songs at the Velvet. I will have to go back to the Bubblegum some other time when Sorcha is hosting. Who knows, I might even win a contest!

(Silly me, I did not take any pictures.)

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

...or ship out

This is the last post on shapes, at least for a long time, I promise. But dig this. I posted my plaint about not being able to find shape information on Friday the 19th. Today, I head to Linden Lifestyles, because I hadn't been there in a few days, and what do I find, gentle readers? There it is, an entry dated Saturday the 20th, all about shapes. The universe unfolds exactly as it should!

Salome did not mention Nana but offered her only recommendation for shapes, Colette's Body Shop. Very interesting. Modifiable. So much for so few lira. If I become unhappy with little Akaso or Mikka, now I'll know where to go.

It was good to know I wasn't the only one who would not want a shape that can't be modified. It was also interesting to learn that shapes should not cost a lot of money. You're basically buying a particular set of parameter values. Now, don't get me wrong. I don't mind shelling out 200 lira for a nicely done set of parameter values. Not everyone with sliders and numbers can create a really good body shape, any more than someone with font design software can create a readable typeface. Just having the tools doesn't automatically convey talent, or a good eye, or specific knowledge of what works and what doesn't.

Many of the comments were enlightening as well. Along with Melissa's comment on my original post, I now feel that I know a lot more about shapes than I did. Next time the Velvet has some weird contest, I might just create my very own monster!

Final final note. Never get impatient when posting a comment on a monitored blog. I saw my comment appear, then disappear. I posted a polite but pointed note asking why. Oh, the shame! Of course my comment reappeared in due course. All kinds of things go wrong when you move too quickly. Forgive me, Salome and Sabrina! I promise to behave myself from now on.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Getting in shape

A brief follow-up on the previous entry. It wasn't long after I added the postscript that I did some Googling and found a resource for shape information—, of course. Duh! I don't really like shopping through SLBoutique. I prefer to shop and buy in world. And its search function is crude at best. I mean, search in body parts for female shapes and try to figure out how those male shapes got in there! As well, I hate how entries get repeated over and over again. All these objections aside, however, this is still the only place I know where you can see an entire category of items in one place. I also like the pop-ups. Armed with SLBoutique information, I can do more targeted in-world shopping.

I'm still sticking to the modified Akaso for now. One shape designer in the SLB listings made a good point, however, about how some dresses make butts look huge. Who hasn't noticed that? I might have to create two modified Akaso shapes!

Friday, January 19, 2007


I've found a lot of information about clothing, shoes, eyes, skins, and hair in various Second Life-related newsletters and blogs, especially Linden Lifestyles. But information on shapes? For me, at least, it's been hard to find.

A shape defines what we look like even more than skin or hair. I think that its default settings give a general outline to eye shape, nose length, mouth size, and even such things as forehead height, as well as all the various body measurements. The default is the starting point. If a shape is modifiable, all these settings can be changed, but the shape defines the range in which that change can occur. I think.

(Of course, I might be completely wrong about that. Maybe any shape can become any other shape with the right manipulation of the sliders. I need to buy the book!)

As anyone in SL does, I have changed pretty much everything from my generic beginning as Female Shape and Outfit. Until yesterday, however, the shape I was using was a modifiable freebie from Opium, a line by Alaska Metropolitan. I think I got it when I bought my first skin, also from Opium (from the old 1.0 starter range). It's called Centerfold. When I first put it on, or put me on it, I was startled by the change from my previous skinny shape. Boobs out to there! I toned those down rather quickly, partly because I didn't want centerfold-sized boobs and partly because I have not yet found a shape, modifiable or otherwise, that does large breasts very realistically (in my not-so-humble opinion). I went in the other direction down south, giving a boost to both bum and hips. Ye gods, centerfolds are no longer rounded! These days, Marilyn Monroe would probably be considered to be on the chunky side.

Even more importantly to me, I modified the facial characteristics. Because my fictional back-story is that I am a Métis princess (the Métis are descendants of French settlers of Manitoba and Saskatchewan and the Indian women they married), I increased the epicanthal fold of the eyelid, set the outer eye corners to 100 (up), and raised the cheekbones. Combined with my non-white skin and generally dark hair, the overall look seemed reasonably effective.

Once I was happy with those settings, I was reluctant to change. Yet I wondered if a shape that cost money would somehow be better than a free shape. You'd think so. My one foray into the world of non-modifiable shapes, however, was a disaster. I can't remember which store I was in, but it had four lines of shapes: petite, medium, full-figured, and pregnant. That was the day I found out that in SL I am petite, despite being the equivalent of nearly six feet tall. I bought (no demo) a medium shape that seemed to have the look I wanted. Whoa! Nothing of the sort! Not only did I become unrecognizably large; I also got a completely different face shape, which had not been apparent from the model. After that experience, I held onto my free modified Centerfold, tweaking it from time to time.

Who buys these non-modifiable ones? How could I become someone else's idea of how my face and body should look? Jeez, the celebrity ones I've seen don't even look like the celebs, judging by the comparison pictures in the displays. I know that Patrice's shape can't be modified, but it's a custom creation, made just for her. Is that what many people do?

I can't bring myself to ask. It just seems too personal a question, even for my close friends. It feels like inquiring if they've had a boob job or liposuction. So I muddled along in ignorance, wondering if and how I could improve upon what I had. I visited stores that included the keyword "shape" in their list. At many of these, I couldn't find any shapes. At others, I found only non-modifiable ones.

Finally, I found a Japanese store called Nana. And I found modifiable shapes that I liked! I'm not sure if 200 lira is enough for a shape, because I have nothing to go on. But I bought two: Akaso, a petite but still rounded Japanese shape, and Mikka, a Blasian (black-Asian) shape. I modified Akaso and saved the modification separately, and that's the one I'm currently using.

Is a 200-lira shape better than a free one? Am I prettier and sexier? No idea. The three photos above are my new Akaso shape, modified; my old Centerfold shape, modified; and Mikka, unmodified. I can't decide which I like better, and indeed I can't see a lot of difference (except in Mikka's eye shape). More experimenting needed. I doubt that my quest for the shape that's right for me has ended.

Postscript: OK, I see more differences now. The most noticeable to me is the Akaso nose, which looks better to me than Centerfold. As well, the face of both Akaso and Mikka is a bit longer, less round. That could be adjusted on Centerfold, but it's nice that it's there already in my new shape. Mikka is clearly the most different, with even more exotic eyes, a broader nose (as expected), and a larger default breast size. I like her, although I'm not sure that she's me. I will stay with the modified Akaso for now.

Thursday, January 18, 2007


Sometimes I need counselling too. And sometimes, Dr. Phil actually has something useful to say.

Things in my Second Life for which I am thankful:
  • Patrice, my beloved wife, who loves me even when I'm not lovable, who always wants the best for me, who shares so much with me, who challenges me to do more than I think I can, and whom I love truly, madly, deeply

  • tree, who has been my friend in SL for longer than anyone, whom I met when we were rezzed on the same day, who never forgot me even though she went to the mainland way before I did, and who has done so much for me

  • Many other friends who love and care about me

  • The house on the beach in Iron Fist where I live with Patrice

  • My counselling practice, which isn't much of a business yet but is still something

  • My tiny parcel of first land, a grotty little piece of sloping grey nothing on the very edge of Bluenose sim, but hey, it's mine, and no maintenance fee

  • The hundreds of vertical metres above my parcel that I also have use of

  • The humble but serviceable very-low-prim counselling office that I built and lifted above the grotty grey slope into those hundreds of vertical metres, where I can watch the sun and moon rise and set, and where the stars are beautiful

  • The skill I am slowly acquiring as a builder, which affords me hours of pleasure and (sometimes) results in a product that I can see and use

  • The Velvet, a real rock club, the funnest club in Second Life, just down the beach from our house, which means we can even get there when teleporting is broken

  • My ever-expanding wardrobe, not just clothes and shoes but hair, eyes, skins, and accessories

  • The fact that pretty much everything in that wardrobe fits, even if I decide to exercise another option for which I am thankful, shape modification

  • The fact that I am able to afford to buy this stuff, pay my rent, and tip DJs who play cool music and other staff, even though my SL income is minimal at this point

  • All the presents that Patrice and others have given to me

  • The myriad and totally cool creations of talented people who sell their wares in SL, from clothes to textures to scripts to space ships
  • The many and varied things I can do in SL

  • The fact that Second Life exists at all, that it runs most of the time, and that I, Véronique, am alive

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Sober second thought

That's me looking, and feeling, contrite, hiding under my bangs.

I just did something that I had not done before—deleted a blog entry. I'd posted it just this morning, but it made me uncomfortable. Refining it didn't help. In the end, I determined that it was selfish and self-indulgent.

I work stuff out in this blog. Some of what I write is not pretty. Some of what I think is not pretty. Sometimes I have fears, insecurities, and bad thoughts. But this time, I will just keep them to myself.

I jokingly blame Linden Labs. If Second Life weren't down for maintenance, I wouldn't have too many thoughts running around in my brain.

Sorcha likes to post song lyrics in her blog. Here's a less-than-flattering one for me:
you're fateful i'm hateful and i ruin any kind of fun you have in mind
"When Our Love Passed Out on the Couch" by John Doe

Self-flagellation over for now! Never fear, dear readers. I'm sure there will be more dirt here soon enough.

Monday, January 15, 2007

We have lift-off

Look! Up in the sky! It's a bird! It's a plane! It's... Office 2.0, 340 metres above sea level, floating on nothing.

No, not Microsoft Office. My counselling office. I built version 1.0 a while ago. It came out OK, but I figured out a few things in the process and decided to use it as a template rather than as a finished product. So, after studying the Archer house and some other construction, I started work on version 2.0.

One big change I made was to make walls 0.3m thick rather than 0.1. In First Life, a foot would be rather thick even for external walls, which are generally made with frames constructed from two-by-six lumber. But in Second Life, it just looks better. It also makes joins and overlaps easier to manage. I made the floor even thicker, 0.5m, again not for any structural reason—none of that in SL—but simply because it seems more substantial.

The plan of the house did not fundamentally change. I thought about making the roof peak run in the other direction, the long way, with additional peaks to maintain the east and west views. It would have looked nice (if perhaps a bit like a church) and made the loft a lot bigger, but it would have cost too many prims. This house isn't beautiful or elaborate, but it has only 17 prims in it, which leaves 100 for furniture, artwork, and whatever else I decide to put in the office. It also leaves the possibility of putting a garden or something similar on the land below. Bluenose sim could use more of that.

As you can see, I added a railing around the landing pad. I also changed the outside from nondescript granite to slightly-less-nondescript brick. The inside walls are still one-way glass, except for the stained glass wall.

You can teleport to the office, but you can't fly up unaided. Flying requires a flight feather or flight ring or a jet-pack. Or maybe a helicopter. This has created a bit of a problem with the loft. I can't just fly up to it without the flight feather, which tends to be even less precise than normal flying. I keep bumping my head. I might need to add a ramp or something similar. I wish avatars could climb ladders! I love spiral staircases, but there's that prim count again. If you have a nice parcel of land with some space around you, there are a lot of benefits to keeping your office (or house) on the ground.

Still, the view of sun and moon and stars from up there is lovely. I only wish it were really pristine. My parcel on Bluenose is near the plateau that makes up Kootenay sim and is already 99m up, so even 150m elevation isn't that high. At 150m, Golam Amadeus's tower advertising his art gallery is smack in the middle of the view. There is no zoning on Bluenose! As I tried higher and higher elevations, I ran into many more skyhouses and skyboxes and sometimes just plain junk. Even at 340m, there is stuff in the view, but I decided I just wasn't going to go any higher, for now at least. In case you don't know, doors, furniture, and artwork aren't actually attached to anything. They are simply placed at coordinates. So if I change the position of the house, everything has to be packed up and placed again.

Which leads me to an important lesson I just learned—don't build inside your house. I was making a modified fountain partly from pieces of the fountain I already have. I was happy with the result, and I linked the three prims together. I wanted to take it into my inventory. I saw that it somehow had 20 prims. It didn't register that three for the fountain plus 17 for the house makes 20. I took the fountain, and the entire house came with it. I must have clicked on the house in the process of linking the fountain, but I didn't do it on purpose. There I was, about to plummet 340 metres, surrounded by floating furniture. I quickly grabbed the flight feather and fired it up. When you've done something stupid like this, it's possible to put a house back exactly where it was, without having to move any furniture, but believe me, it's not easy, or quick.

Lesson well learned! But I'm sure I'll keep finding new ways to do things wrong. Meanwhile, I am once again open for business.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Why do fools fall in love?

On October 13th, three months ago, Patrice and I celebrated our wedding at our house on Iron Fist. January 13th ended with misunderstanding and miscommunication, mostly on my part. I'm not going to go into the details of what led to it. I bare my soul and occasionally some skin in this blog, but some things I'm just going to keep to myself.

I went onto Second Life very late, after First Life dinner guests had left, just to make some final changes to my new sky-office (more on that later). I didn't expect that Patrice, who is three time zones east of me, would still be online. She was, but she was very tired. I got upset about something that should not have bothered me. I tried to settle myself but only made things worse. Finally, I thought I was saying the right things and not a lot of nonsense. I was about to give Patrice a hug when she said she had to go and suddenly vanished.

Ouch! I wrote an apologetic e-mail (we have an e-mail lifeline). I went to bed worried. I was so tired that I slept OK, but as soon as I woke up, I was filled with anxiety again. I couldn't eat breakfast. I went into SL. I wrote another e-mail. Did I write two? I went into SL again. Patrice had not logged in since the previous day. I logged out and tried to distract myself with FL work that I really needed to do anyway. I kept checking Hotmail. Finally, I got a message from Patrice. She had vanished so quickly because she was exhausted, and it was very late. I went in world and talked to her. All the craziness was mainly in my own head.

It is so easy for this sort of thing to happen in SL.

In FL, I am fairly calm and rational. I have strong emotions, but they do not rule my head. I am in a stable yet still fun and exciting relationship even after [mumble] years (more than I'm going to tell you). The only drama I like is on screen or on stage. Yet in SL, my emotions sometimes get the better of me, and I make things worse before they get better. I act like an idiot. I want to be a good wife, partner, lover, and friend to Patrice, but instead I become a liability.

And I can't even blame hormones this time.

Patrice is forgiving. She is understanding. I am so lucky to be with her. I hope I do a few right things before I do something wrong again. Truth be told, each of us has had times like this, when insecurities get the best of us, when we doubt ourselves. Thankfully, so far, our down times have not coincided.

This evening, we will dress up fancy and go out dancing with friends to Jade's Jazz Lounge. I will be strong. I will tell those demons to take a hike. I will try not to make the same mistakes again. If I make only new ones, then I know I'm learning!

Friday, January 12, 2007

Life imitates... Second Life

Fairly early in my time in Second Life, I discovered something about myself, something that's either less true or simply not exercised in First Life. I discovered that I am a good listener, that I have the patience to hear people tell their stories. Sometimes I can give them advice. More often, I just help them sort things out for themselves.

And I needed an occupation. I have not found it easy to make money in SL. Until recently, I was never much of a builder. I don't make items that can be sold. I do not aspire to be an escort. I have been a stripper, but I did not make much money at that. I am currently a host at a club, but the club has yet to take off among the myriad other clubs in SL. So I decided that instead of offering goods for sale, I would provide a service—counselling for the troubled avatar.

I did a search for counsellors on SL, and found only a few. I did chat with a very nice gentleman who is a counsellor. He said he wasn't very active in it any more, but he indicated that there might be a call for it in SL.

I am not trained in counselling. I do not claim to be. I am simply someone with a knack for doing it, which is confirmed for me by the positive feedback I receive from my occasionally troubled friends. I am not qualified to treat serious pathologies. If anything like that were to come up, I would strongly suggest that my client seek a qualified therapist in FL. But I'm pretty good at helping people deal with such things as relationship troubles, SL addiction, and gender identity issues. I find that people often know what they need to do about a situation. They just need a friendly, confidential ear and a bit of clarification.

Since I am untrained, should you give me your money? Well, yes. My rates are reasonable in SL terms, far less expensive than counselling in FL, and I really can help. A session with me is more effective and less expensive than shopping for a new outfit! I am an impartial, nonjudgmental listener. And anything you say to me is kept in strict confidence.

So far, business has been slow. I have had one paying client. One appointment was broken, and I have not heard from the person again. Some people have inquired but gone no further. Some people have IMed to set up appointments, but then I did not succeed in getting in touch with them. I can't be online all the time, and I'm finding that when people feel they need to talk to someone, they tend to want it now. Later, they've either found someone else or decided they don't need (or think they don't need) counselling after all.

But get this. I said I was not trained, right? Well, I just started a college course called Basic Counselling Skills. Why? In First Life, I am a software developer. The money is great, and I like the work, but it has always been an accidental career. I did not aspire to be a software developer. I'm a bit of a geek, but programming has never been a great fit for me. I did not succeed as a musician or an actor, and I've long been searching for a path that I can follow with a passion, the kind of passion I used to have for music. So I am exploring the possibility, rather late in life I'm afraid, of getting a certificate in counselling. If this prerequisite course feels right, I will probably work toward the certificate. Who knows? Eventually, I might even try to get a Master's degree in Counselling Psychology. If I live that long.

It was funny trying to explain to the instructor and my fellow students how I came to be taking the course. Many in the class have some related training (one woman is a life coach), or volunteer experience, or simply find themselves doing ad hoc counselling in their work. Me? "Well, er, you see, I found out that I like doing counselling in Second Life"—a virtual world, a world of computer-aided imagination. I think I puzzled at least as many people as I enlightened.

Now it's up to me to find out whether Second Life really is showing me something significant about myself, whether I want to become a counsellor in my First Life as well. If so, that will really be something!

Monday, January 8, 2007

Being and somethingness

To do is to be -- Camus
To be is to do -- Sartre
Do-be-do-be-do -- Sinatra

There seems to be a fundamental philosophical divide in Second Life. For some, this might be expressed as a desire to do things they can't or won't ordinarily do, such as fly (unaided), shoot powerful weapons, or turn tricks for a living. For others, it might be expressed as a desire to be someone they cannot or will not be in First Life—an animal, a faerie, a ninja; a dom(me), a sub, a master/mistress, a slave; gay (if you're straight), straight (if you're gay), bi (if you're not); sexier, more beautiful, more buff; or a different gender entirely (not as simple, in FL or SL, as "female" vs. "male").

One thing that those in the former group tend to do is to create an avatar that looks very much like themselves, perhaps somewhat enhanced (the "doers" are not immune to the lure of beauty and sexiness). I've seen some FL vs. SL photos, and the ability some people have to duplicate their FL appearance in SL is remarkable. I'm not even sure how they do it! This is sometimes taken even to the point of things such as continuing to wear glasses, or having small breasts, or looking their real age or weight. They can make themselves look any way they want to look, and they choose fundamentally to duplicate their First Life look.

In the other group, you have a range from total fantasy to realistic but different. As far as I know, no human being is actually a wolf or a cat or a rabbit or a spider in First Life, nor a faerie or an elf or a vampire (well, maybe). Or Elvis, except for the late King himself. But in Second Life, why not? And for human forms, why should not a slight, nerdy guy make his avatar a handsome hunk or a strapping warrior if he choses? Why should not a plain, overweight woman make her avatar a Playboy bunny or a powerful dominatrix if she choses? Or indeed, as has been documented, a red-haired gay male into a powerful dominatrix?

Chacun a son goût. There is no right or wrong way to deal with SL, although differences in approach can lead to misunderstandings (maybe more on that another time).

There aren't many limits on what you can do in SL. Nor are there many limits on who you can be. And of course the doers are also, to a greater or lesser extent, fantasy characters, while the be-ers usually also want to do fantastic things. There is no simple divide, just general tendencies.

I love to do fantastic things. I am not qualified to fly an airplane in FL, but I can fly one (well, almost) in SL, and I love it. I love going up in Patrice's helicopter. I love skydiving from the Church of Elvis, trying for a pinpoint landing outside the Velvet. I love doing a triple flip dive that looks like a perfect 10.0. I love being able to construct things with what is basically a magic wand and a bit of arithmetic. And I love it when Patrice and I look as graceful and elegant as Fred and Ginger (or Ginger and Fred—we take turns leading) while dancing at our favourite jazz club.

However, although Albert and Ol' Blue Eyes might have words (or syllables) of wisdom, personally I'm with Jean-Paul on this one. The most important thing for my FL self is that I, Véronique, exist, that my FL self can spend a certain amount of time being me, living this second life as me, whatever I happen to be doing. Perhaps that's why there is a fair amount invested in me, both in terms of time and money (I'm not that expensive, but I do like nice clothes... and shoes... and hair...). Perhaps that's why I spend so much online time doing fairly ordinary things. It's not a big, exciting Second Life, but it's good to have it at all.

Sunday, January 7, 2007

Some friends tie the knot—literally!

Yesterday was a happy day in Second Life. Patrice and I attended the wedding of Tatsuko Hayashida, one of my oldest friends in SL, and Peas (Amber) Gray, a delightful women who, like Tats, works at the Wet Kitty. Patrice counted 49 avatars at the ceremony. Although the lag was vicious, the sim's server did not crash. Maybe host Emma Nowhere bribed someone. Or maybe celebrant Super Calamari (Cala) cast just the right kind of spells.

You can see in the photo that not all was perfect. I think that might be Cellside's hair just to her right, not on her head. I should have got a picture of myself with a rose not in my right hand where it was supposed to be but stabbing me through the chest. Ouch! But overall, things went remarkably well.

The ceremony was called a handfast, which Cala explained is a pagan wedding ritual. You might not be able to see in the photo that there is a cord that is looped around the right wrists of Peas (in white) and Tats (in black). Cala did a beautiful job leading the ceremony. Tats and Peas spoke—well, typed—their vows to each other, causing many a virtual Kleenex to be pulled out. Cala asked each of them a series of questions, such as whether each would hurt the other (yes) and whether it would ever be intentional (no). Cala ended the ceremony by reminding the couple that it was not the cords that bound them but their own commitment to each other.

I wish I could have stayed for the reception. I'm sure that good times and much hilarity ensued—I've seen some pictures. The gowns were fabulous and the women beautiful. But I'm glad I could at least be there for the ceremony itself. It was an honour and a privilege. Tatsuko, my love, it does my heart good to see you so happy. May you and Peas share a wonderful SL together!

Friday, January 5, 2007

Stolen Moments

My First Life imposes a set of "fixed costs" on time allocation: a full-time job, cooking and eating, household chores, activities such as food shopping, and, one hopes, a sufficient amount of sleep, not to mention the time that goes into keeping a relationship with my wonderful and tolerant SO healthy and thriving. That doesn't leave a lot of time for my Second Life. I steal time for SL by giving up things in FL. I'm not allowing enough time to read. I hardly watch TV. I don't play my guitar very often. I'm very bad at answering letters and e-mail. And sometimes the amount of sleep is not really sufficient.

It's difficult for me to find the right balance between FL and SL, yet I get so much out of SL, I hate giving it any less time than I can manage. Even in-world there seems never to be enough time! I love to spend time with Patrice, hanging out together at clubs (which is sometimes networking and not just dancing and chatting), going shopping, making love, just talking to each other, and finding adventures (we need more of these). It's more difficult to make time to keep up with other friends, to work on building projects, to learn new skills, and to explore—not to mention learn to fly my airplane without crashing, improve my skydiving accuracy, and do yet more shopping. There are so many possibilities.

It could be worse. There are numerous electronic publications about SL, such as New World Notes, the Second Life Herald, Second Style, and Linden Lifestyles. I try to keep up, but there is just too much information. OK, I do try a bit harder with Linden Lifestyles, just because I find so much great (and always entertaining) fashion advice there. But in general, I'm sure I miss out on many SL possibilities simply because I can't find the time to know they exist.

I'm also having too much fun blogging about SL to give that up—yet more time. I also enjoy reading other SL blogs (see links at right). Patrice's blog, fortunately, is more about pictures than text as I follow her terraforming career. Cheyenne's blog entries take a bit more time, but she's a creative and entertaining writer who finds more things in SL than I do, so I always want to keep up with her adventures. I love to read about what new insights Sorcha comes up with. Mordecai's blog contains romance and adventure, both entertaining and useful. And lately I've been trying to keep up with Melissa's entries as well. It's fascinating to learn of the ways in which SL is different for each of us and the ways in which it is similar.

I'm curious to know how other people manage their time, especially people who seem to find more for SL. I want your secret! Maybe someone has invented the Time-Turner that Hermione Granger uses in the Harry Potter books. If they have, no doubt I haven't had time to read about it!

Wednesday, January 3, 2007

Skin deep

Several weeks ago, a new person showed up at the Blue Note, a jazz club where the norm is to dress either in formals or something reasonably fancy. She was looking very newbie-ish—helmet hair, ill-fitting clothes, maybe even no shoes. People gave her lots of friendly advice about how to change all that, and about places she might like to go where she might feel less out of place. She kept saying that she'd hoped that Second Life would be beyond such shallow things as appearance, that we'd all just accept each other no matter how we looked. She might have been a griefer—someone just making trouble—but she did have a point.

In fact, it seems to me that SL is just the opposite. If anything, appearance matters even more than in real life. And I am as guilty of shallowness as anyone else.

In SL, each agent (entity) is represented by an avatar (appearance). We are basically cartoons. So why do I find some cartoons attractive and others not so much? Why do I get genuine hormonal rushes when I see an attractive male or female avatar and a complete lack of such rushes, if not their opposite, when I see an unattractive avatar? Why am I dying to have sex with one cartoon and completely unable to interest myself in another?

Part of it is that I appreciate the effort and skill it takes to create a pleasing avatar. If someone has not made that effort, it turns me off. Plastic Ken-doll hair just looks awful to me, especially when I know what is available for not much money. Awkward body shapes have a bad tendency to prejudice me against the person. I know it's wrong, but I'm weak.

It's more than appreciating the effort and skill, though. I know we're just cartoons, but some avatars are genuinely attractive to me. This might be ill, but I can't help it. It's a visceral reaction. Nice hair, beautiful skin, violet eyes to die for, a body type I would like in First Life (having a weakness for slender rocker types, I wish the default for men was not something similar to Arnold Schwarzenegger in his prime), and creativity in choice of clothing.

Just what is attractive (to me) in SL includes, as you might imagine, a somewhat broader range than in FL. I'm not particularly attracted to furries or space aliens, but I've seen plenty of cute ones. I've seen a green-skinned slave, and she is totally hot. We might have to blame Star Trek for that one—thinking of Susan Oliver's sensuous slave-girl character in one scene of the original pilot—but a friend of mine showed up once as a sort of blue faerie, and she was totally hot as well.

There are also exceptions to my shallowness. There are many people in-world whom I like regardless of their appearance. Even if the appearance is not particularly attractive to me, sometimes it's pleasingly weird. And sometimes, yes, it's the personality of the person that wins me over, just as in FL.

Even if a person has an attractive appearance, looks alone aren't enough. There has to be something more if I want to go beyond gazing. A total hunk or a hot babe who's a jerk is still a jerk regardless of how he or she looks. I adore Patrice's distinctively beautiful face, her green eyes, and her creamy skin (all of which she has chosen purposely), but I would not love her as deeply as I do if I didn't also love her as a person, the person behind the attractive avatar.

So I shall try to be less shallow, but I'm going to continue to enjoy the view.