Saturday, March 31, 2007

Deep space office

I wrote a few days ago that I had completed a new combined office and studio and set it around 500 metres above my first land. I can't believe how quickly it went compared to when I was just feeling my way through building. At one point, I realized, OMG, I'm done! It felt as though there should have been more to do.

As you can see, I did modify the original design of two linked cylinders. That just wasn't going work or look good. I ended up creating two half cylinders linked by straight walls, with roof overhangs. I think it still looks a bit space-station-ish, certainly more so than the old design, but it does give me some flat walls to work with—not to mention a few more square metres of space!

The entrance faces south now instead of north, and directly above that entrance is a tiny apartment. That's not what you see when you go in, though. The downstairs entrance leads into my photo studio, which is totally nothing to look at, but that's how photo studios are. I change the backdrop to various things, but the rest of the room is quite nondescript.

A rubber-covered ramp (possibly a bit steep for a wheelchair) leads from the studio to the office in back, which faces north. I finally sprang for some matching furniture. It's quite low-prim but looks decent, and it has pose balls so I and my clients can sit with more ease than before. I do need to make those lamps look better, though, or else buy some. The office-studio itself is made of only 18 prims, which is actually one less than my old office alone. I still have something like 38 prims remaining after doors and furniture and artwork and such.

I modified a sliding door script to fit my needs for both the front door and the door to the apartment. I figured that a space station needs sliding doors, like in Star Trek. I'm currently trying to upload the Star Trek door-opening sound (or maybe the Deep Space 9 sound), but Second Life is very fussy about the sampling rate. Every door sound I've found so far was done at too high a rate! I'll keep working on that, though, because it would be cool to have Trek doors. Doors that don't make any sound when opened and closed aren't nearly as much fun.

As you can see above, at 500 metres above sea level, there isn't really anything to view from the apartment. Great for seeing the sun and moon rise and set and for seeing the stars, though. I have finally managed to get some "elbow room," as Daniel Boone said. He liked it best when neighbours were several miles away.

[Addendum: Woot! I got the door sound working, thanks to software from a company called PolderbitS, which I use to convert analogue material (such as music on old cassette tapes) to MP3 files. Turns out it saves .wav files as 44.1Kbit/sec files, which is exactly what SL was looking for. So now my doors sound like the ones in the original Star Trek. I love it!]

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Banned in Boston, or Buggery and skulduggery

I have been banned from a commercial parcel in Second Life. How, you may ask, would a sweet girl like me get banned from anywhere? Well you may ask such a question! It's a long story, and you're not going to hear all of it. Names will be withheld to protect the guilty.

See, I was talking to a friend at my friend's house and happened to mention a certain parcel owner. I can't remember what I said. It was late on a Saturday, and I was, well, let's say deep in my cups. I know I didn't say anything scathing. I don't know this person well, but the person has always been kind to me, which I appreciate. I know for sure that one thing I said was quite innocent (and later misinterpreted), but I might have said something else that was less than complimentary about a specific situation, something I shouldn't have said. Hey, I might be virtual, but I'm humanly virtual, or maybe virtually human. In other words, I ain't perfect and never claim to be.

None of this would have mattered except for one thing: my friend's house was bugged. Bugged! Yes, such BS actually does go on in SL. A certain someone who also will remain nameless bugged my friend's place to spy on my friend. The bugger, seemingly intent on causing trouble (I don't really know the bugger's motivation), then passed this private conversation on to at least one person, the parcel owner in question. No idea where else it went, which is a bit disturbing. Anyway, the parcel owner took issue with what I said, which was only quoted back to me out of context. I politely refrained from reminding the parcel owner that the information came from a private conversation that had been bugged and then distributed, calmly absorbed the IM abuse coming my way, and apologized for any offence I had given, offering explanations where possible.

It was not enough for the parcel owner. I was banned, not only from this person's club but also from several stores that are also on the parcel. So not only can I no longer leave generous tips to the dancers at the club, as is my wont; I can't buy anything at those stores either. Now that is truly brilliant. It reminds me of a saying about cutting off one's nose to spite one's face.

I find that I am in good company on the banned list, however. Oh sure, a bunch of the banned folks are griefers. I can tell by the names. But several of my friends are on the list as well, and they are certainly not griefers. Fine, upstanding citizens of SL they are! And now I am among them. If at some point I get unbanned, well, I'll just have to live with the shame of that, unless I can manage to get myself re-banned. Meanwhile, I shall continue to tip generously and make purchases at places where I am welcome.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Ariadne's thread

Patrice managed to get into Second Life last night. She should not have done so, but I'm glad she did. My darling is under stress. She is full of anxiety. I wished so much that we actually could have touched, that I could have held her in First Life. She needs to be held. But we made do with our only contact, through our avatars, that fine thread snaking through the labyrinth of the Internet and Second Life.

She showed up wearing a black kimono and some Japanese-style—but flaming red, as is her wont—hair, which is very complimentary. I could see a bit of purple tattoo on her upper chest. She never wears tattoos, but I love them. She had worn it for me. When I saw her, I just melted.

She wanted to go shopping. We haven't been out shopping in quite a while. She looked so beautiful, however, that I convinced her to head to my studio first. I haven't done any studio photography recently, and had not yet tried out the new studio with its curved wall. The session was a bit frustrating. I can animate a model with my Huddles EZ-Animator Plus, but it wasn't working right for me. I could see the animations only some of the time, even though Patrice could always see them. Actually, the animator was working fine, but my client was borked for some mysterious reason. Who can 'splain? I should have logged out and then in again, but I didn't think of it at the time. I still managed to get some nice shots, which I will post on my Flickr site.

The photo session chewed up the time we could have used to go shopping. I'll have to make sure that happens at the next opportunity. We went upstairs from the photo studio to my office and from there into the apartment behind it. Using my underpowered Sexgen rug on my home-made bed in my little wee apartment 500 metres over my grotty first land, we made the sweetest love. It felt like when we were new, when life was simpler, when we had little but each other. It was wonderful.

We could not just fade out on the bed, unfortunately. I had a late meeting with Cheri Norton, publisher of PixelPulse Magazine. More on that as things develop. So Patrice and I had to break our embrace until the next time, whenever that will be, maybe tonight, maybe later. Sometimes when there are things going wrong, when the thread seems to be stretched very thin, love becomes even more intense. We will make it through.

[Addendum: Yoiks! The date did not ring a bell. Must have been that brief vacation and anxiety over my counselling course (which I passed) getting me all disoriented. On this day, six months ago, Patrice and I became official Second Life partners—plighted our troth, as it were. How appropriate that we had such a simple, lovely evening. O happy six months!]

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Steady as she goes

This is just a brief entry upon my return from a few days' holiday in First Life. It was nice to get away for a bit, but nice to be home as well. One of the first things I noticed upon getting back to this computer is that after four days of driving, walking, touring, clothes buying, book buying, gourmet eating, and hanging out in brewpubs, typing is not so easy! Somehow the fingers aren't working quite right.

Happily, I saw Patrice briefly this evening. I alluded in the last entry to some changes. I will probably not be seeing much of her for a while. It has to do with her FL. She is in good health, so it's not that, but it is not my place to say more. She will still be getting online earlier in the day to take care of her terraforming work, and she will probably be posting about it. You might think this is weird, but rest assured that our relationship is in very good shape, after nearly six months, and you can confirm that with her if you know her. I love Patrice dearly, and I have no doubt that this reciprocated.

Still, things might be a bit strange and disorienting for me for a while. I might sign up for more shifts at Activ8. I do need to pry myself away from Second Life to do some work in my FL perennial garden. It's that time of year. I also have friends in SL who care about me and for whom I am ever grateful. I would like to spend time with them. And hopefully I will be writing for more than this blog soon. I'll post more on that if it happens.

And next time I post here, I will try to make sure it is more interesting than this entry!

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

First things first

Sometimes, First Life asserts itself and pushes Second Life aside. That's as it should be. Much as I love my alternate existence, FL has to come first. After all, without FL, there is no SL.

So I'm a bit behind on this blog, which I try to update every couple of days. I haven't written that Patrice and I had a lovely time on Monday night dancing at Jade's Jazz Lounge, where of course I forgot to take pictures of us looking très elegantes in our beautiful gowns, tripping the light fantastic. I haven't written that I finished the combined office and studio and even put it up near 500 metres, above my flying neighbours on Bluenose.

And I haven't written about another First Life thing that might change my SL world, might turn it upside down. I'm not ready for that yet. I'm waiting to see how it actually plays out.

Meanwhile, this blog is going to lag a little again. I probably won't be able to post another entry until at least Sunday. And right now, I need to finish the final assignment for my counselling course and go to the penultimate class this evening to hand it in. I also have an interview coming up for a volunteer gig that I need in order to be admitted to the counselling certificate program in September.

So much FL! But I'm not done with SL. Not by a long shot. Ciao for now.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Squeeze play

One hundred seventeen prims. That's how many prims—basic building units (primitives)—you get on 512m2 of land. My original first land is all I own (Patrice and I have technical ownership of our beach land, but we really rent it from flopsie). I have considered buying more, something between 2,048m2 and 4,096m2. However, land is still pretty expensive, and I would have to pay monthly tier fees on any land that I owned after the first 512m2.

I don't really need more land. I'm happy with Patrice at our beach house. I have my counselling office and my photo studio squeezed onto my first land, floating at two different heights in the sky. Anything more would be an indulgence. Now, there's nothing wrong with indulgence, but I think I'll stay cheap for now. It lets me waste money on clothes and give good tips.

So that means continuing to squeeze the most out of my ugly parcel. My office has only about 19 prims. My photo studio has even fewer. Yet when you start to put furniture out, even low prim furniture, it's not long before you're pushing your 117-prim limit.* On a parcel that size, there is barely room to turn around, in more ways than one. I can't even work on my Huddles EZ-Animator Plus at the office. So I decided to try to make an even lower-prim combined office and photo studio. When one person's ceiling is another person's floor, that's a couple of prims saved!

I hadn't been down to my "workshop" on the surface in quite a while. How things have changed! A lot of Bluenose, at least at my end, seems to have been cleared out, as you can (sort of) see in the photo above. I know there are quite a few buildings in the air, but it's odd to see how empty things look below. Next door, Seraph has removed his teahouse and has put the land up for sale. No, I don't want to buy it, because that spot on the high edge of the sim is not very nice. I wish I'd grabbed a parcel at least one row away from the sim edge, but at the time I had to move very quickly. If I'm going to buy land, it's going to be better land. Worst of all, the antique dealer in next-door Kootenay has built right up to the edge of that sim, right up against my "lot line" (second photo). The surface at the northern edge of Bluenose is no place to be.

For the new office-studio, I decided to try a cylindrical design, both to save prims and to make the building look a bit more futuristic. It's kind of odd having a little old-fashioned house flying in the air, but something that looks a bit like a space station seems to fit better. Round with all glass will cause difficulties for putting up artwork, but I'll deal with that somehow. Ultimately, I might find that I am more comfortable with corners, but I'm going to experiment with this and have fun while I do it. So if I'm in world and you can't find me, I might well be in the workshop, trying to make the pieces fit.

*A prim is a basic three-dimensional object: tetrahedron, cube, pyramid, sphere, cylinder, torus, and a few more, all of which can be manipulated in various ways (such as twisted). Even the simplest furniture takes a good three to five prims, and the more detailed something is, the more likely it is to be made of many prims. Textures—drawn or photographic images—help with the illusion of detail, but it's still hard to make anything nice with only a few prims. Even a crappy floor lamp I made has four: base (flattened cylinder), pole (skinny cylinder), bulb (light-emitting sphere), and shade (cone with its head trimmed off).

Friday, March 16, 2007

The Ides have it

The Ides of March were a bummer for Julius Caesar, but they were berry berry good to me.

For starters, I had a client in the afternoon. The counselling thing has been slow lately. I even lowered my rate. So it was good to have a session.

Then later, I got the Velvet announcement in my email. As I read it, all about the Ides and Caesar, I thought it was going to be a toga party. I thought, cool, I don't have a toga, but I could use an excuse to buy one. Especially those sandals that lace up the leg. I have always wanted a pair of those.

But it turned out to be a "best in red" night, red being the colour of Caesar's and everyone else's blood (except Mr. Spock's). Actually, it was a sort of red/pink/toga night, with pink in there because DJ Vivianne is into pink, not red. So maybe red or faded red. At any rate, I might not have a toga, but I have tons of red. Since sex sells, I pulled out the Dolly Rock red dress unzipped down to there (a First Life impossibility, at least without some kind of tape) and with a skirt up to here, plus a full body tattoo coloured red (from L.A.M.E. Designs), my Coconut Ice party shoes with red laces, and the shamrock gold jewellery set that Patrice just gave me (goes as well with red as with green).

In the photo with me are two of my favourite people in Second Life, Emma Nowhere and Mischief Fairymeadow. We had a kind of symmetry going, since Emma was on the same dance ball as I was while Mischief, in the middle, was on a different one. Not sure who the guy in the background is.

I thought the contest winner would be the person whose avatar for the evening was a giant pitcher of red Kool-Aid. I mean, that was a really good gimmick. But maybe she got a bit too annoying with the five-metre-long red penis that she periodically attached to the avatar. It didn't really whack anyone while we danced, but it kind of felt like that. When the votes were counted, I was surprised and pleased and gratified to learn that the winner was yours truly.

And finally, if that wasn't enough, Patrice came online! She was pretty tired from her return trip, but not too tired, nudge nudge. It was so good to see her after eight days without her.

Oh, and the two gigs of memory seem to be doing a great job. The Velvet got pretty crowded last night, and my client software was behaving quite well. Sometimes, (second) life is good!

Thursday, March 15, 2007

The name's Lalonde... Veronique Lalonde

Hey, it rhymes with Bond!

On Tuesday, with Patrice still away, I took a shift as a dancer at Activ8. Yes, I signed up with Activ8 to work as a model. No, there hasn't been anything in the modelling area since that tattoo shoot. Yes, this is a bit disappointing. At this point, the Activ8 organization seems to have its focus on the club scene, first with the Activ8 Club (kind of a disco), and now with the addition of the Activ8 Pub. So, I try to sign up for some dancer or greeter shifts, to help where help is needed, to make money, and to try to keep myself well positioned for modelling gigs whenever they happen.

The theme on Tuesday was spies, so I came dressed in my 1960s black minidress (Carnaby Street) with '60s blond hair (ETD), shades (DTK), and a pair of long black gloves that Patrice gave me. OMG, I don't even look like myself! Must be a good disguise. New DJ Ern alternated between music I loved and music I hated, but that's bound to happen given my particular tastes in music. The club got pretty full, and I crashed at one point while trying to manoeuvre my camera to get a better look at the contest board. It wasn't a Second Life crash. It was my SL client getting completely hosed from too much swapping to disk. That's when happens when there is a ton of visual information and your computer has only (only!) 512 MB of memory (the SL web site still says 256 MB works as a minimum, which is a bit of a joke).

I had fun though. 3corner dropped by for a while at the beginning of my shift. Later, first Tatsuko and then Govindira came to keep me company. Host Ana was in an almost perfect disguise—surrounded by an invisible prim! Her name was still floating above her head, though. There were a few men in tuxes, but I think there should have been more, and definitely more femmes fatales. Let's get with the program, people!

By the way, the photo illustrates when happens when you forget that you've left "include interface" on. I don't usually take pictures with all that stuff in the frame, except for a special reason. Oh, and about that memory. This machine is now turbo-charged with 2 GB of RAM, the maximum that the motherboard will hold. Same old recommended but not stellar ATI graphics card, same DSL, but at least I should be able to handle full clubs and visual overload better. We shall see next time I'm at the club.

Come on by the Activ8 Club, and if I'm working, look for the Canadian flag tip jar up by the DJ booth. Consider it the Veronique Lalonde shopping fund, through which I plow money back into the SL economy. It's all good!

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

[Your ad here]

Is this not a totally cool thing? Just like in First Life, the Second Life hockey arena has ads along the boards. So Patrice made up a nice professional ad and bought space.

The SL Hockey League blog doesn't get updated very often, but I checked the standings at the rink. Looks like the Whales are still tied for first place with the Moose, both clubs at 7 wins and 3 losses. I'm sure Patrice is dying to get back on the ice!

And hey, I learned how to capture a SLurl, so here's one for a landing point just outside the rink. So check out a game some time, but don't forget to remove all your prims, animations, and scripted devices first!

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Tee time

So I did go play some golf with Looky yesterday, and she was right—it is beaucoup fun! I got online later in the afternoon than I expected, with less time to spend. By the time I'd read all the preliminary material and done a bit of practice on the driving range, we had time for only a couple of holes. But with Looky's help (I'm sure I would have learned much more slowly without it), it was enough to show me the basics of how SL golf (or floG, as the HUD says) is done and to know that I want to block out time for more.

The simulation is very good. Indeed, it's a lot like golf in First Life. Smacking a long drive straight down the fairway takes some practice, but it's not too hard, even with the breeze influencing the direction of flight. But the closer you get to the pin, the more finesse is required. I had the benefit of Looky advising me on club choice, but when you're down to a pitching wedge or a putter, it's hard to figure out what percentage of force you should use. And that's exactly right, as anyone who has been on a putting green knows. On the first hole, I actually made the green in two, but then I three-putted. I think it took me three strokes to hit the second green, but again, two putts. Still, I can't feel too bad about two bogies on my first two holes ever. At least they weren't double bogies.

Second Life golf is like FL golf in other ways as well. It's not cheap, although I got a lot of enjoyment out of what I paid. I think you save money by joining the club. As well, it's not fast. It's quite leisurely, which is how golf should be. Unfortunately, that means you should plan on a fair amount of online time, not always easy for me to do. I also find it interesting that the scorecard does not work automatically. So there's one more way in which this is like FL golf—you can cheat.

I'm looking forward to when we can get a foursome together. Patrice really should take this up. It's practically traditional for hockey players to play golf in the off season!

So why, you may ask, did I not take any pictures? Well, think lag. They are really serious about lag. That means I divested myself of every prim that was attached to me—not just skirt, shoes, jewellery, and various devices. We're talking prim hair as well! So I was not about to illustrate this blog with a shot of Looky with her texture hair and me, since I loathe texture hair, completely bald. You'll just have to imagine.

[Addendum: OK, Looky insisted that she be allowed to illustrate this entry. She was an excellent golf instructor, so who am I to deny her? Notice that there is no bald Veronique in the shot, thankfully! I think this picture is Looky watching the trajectory of one of my awesome beginner's luck drives.]

Friday, March 9, 2007

Filling the void

I tend not to spend much time at home when Patrice is away. It's not that it's such a big house. It's quite cozy. And there's the veranda, the beach, the diving board, and the lovely teahouse. But I feel her absence.

So I spend more time at my office. It's about the same size, but I guess because I'm used to being there alone, or with a client, it feels more normal and less lonely to me. When I'm there, I still miss Patrice, but a skyhouse, especially with a loft, is a good place for gazing out at nothing (except some too-close neighbours) and thinking.

It is nice to have time to catch up with friends. When I left work last night, I met up with Emma at the Velvet. Emma is a fairly new friend who was an acquaintance for a long time (from all the way back in the Wet Kitty days). Now we are getting to know each other better. I was also in IM with my friend Envy, whom I don't see often enough but who loves to tease me by sending sexy pictures of herself. Today, I IMed an old friend named 3corner and got him to drop by my studio so he could finally have a picture to put in his profile. He returned the favour by taking me to see his friend Angela's "fire jewellery," simple pieces that glow rather than bling (in the photo, I'm wearing a choker I bought there).

My beloved Second Life sister tree has been busy with Raul and their new home, but she is always willing to give me time. I'm hoping to go golfing with Looky on Saturday, since her sweetie will be busy in First Life. Looky tells me SL golf is way more fun than golfing in FL—we shall see! I haven't seen Tatsuko in a while, but she's been busy with a new love, and it always makes me happy when she is happy. Tethys (another beautiful name for a beautiful girl) has also been rather preoccupied, but again, that's a good thing.

I have great neighbours as well. Mischief leases the second house on our land. A while ago, she gave me a terrific present—a drawing she made of me as Lucy Van Pelt (from the Peanuts cartoon) in her psychiatrist booth being jawed at endlessly by a client. In the other direction live Bjerkel and Karin, whose wedding I wrote about several weeks back. Illya, who's kind of my boss right now at Activ8 but still a friend, has a skybox high above the land nearby, and of course flopsie surveys all from her castle on top of the mountain. And I meet and chat with so many other people at the Velvet across the island—Push, Lolo, Barely, too many to list.

Speaking of a psychiatrist booth, Cala gave me a 3-D booth she made a while back. I'm serious about my counselling work so I haven't set it up, but it's very funny. You can even click on the little sign to make is say that the doctor is in or out.

I can't forget Kiera, who first caught my attention with a wicked flirt at the Wet Kitty. Or Davika, one of my oldest friends (a male, despite the name—OMG, he took my SL maidenhead!), who has recently moved into a former dungeon. I need to see what's up with that! Or Athena, whose birthday party I attended recently. Or Anwen and Merik, two wonderful and generous women with whom Patrice and I sometimes go dancing. Or ComradeX, who told me how DJing is done. Or Bailey and Sorcha, my fellow bloggers. Or Charles and Cahide, my former bosses who are wonderful and charming people. Or Cell, another DJ and musician, who turned me on to Kin hair, and with whom I must catch up soon. Or our old neighbour Bella. Or Leticia, with whom I have deep conversations. Or Wendy, who invites me to cool parties. And I'm sure I've missed someone. I beg your forgiveness in advance!

Even though I am missing my darling, I am still a fortunate little avatar in Second Life.

Thursday, March 8, 2007

Double celebration

Today is International Women's Day. It is also six months to the day since I met Patrice. How's that for a double celebration? Today, I will honour all women and my special Second Life woman. I think I will wear my sari today, because while International Women's Day is important all over the world, it's especially important in places where women have not yet achieved full human rights (not to single out India in particular, but the sari is what I happen to have at this point).

(Indeed, I am wearing my sari in this picture, from anti-Oscar night at the Velvet, in honour of Deepa Mehta, director of the superb Oscar-nominated film Water. Patrice, looking fabulously chic in her bobbed hair and slinky gown, won the contest that night.)

Unlike First Life, women seem to dominate Second Life. While many SL men are playing a game, many SL women are running things: real estate concerns, fashion houses, clubs, stores, a great many of the things that make money in SL. Patrice has become fairly prominent in terraforming (land shaping), and the other terraformers she knows are women. I know I tend to run in somewhat testosterone-challenged circles, but I do see this trend everywhere I go in world. A little has been written about this distinctly SL phenomenon, but maybe it deserves to be looked into further.

How many of the SL women running things are biologically female is left to the imagination of the reader, but you know they aren't all men. And on the day to celebrate the achievements of women and to remember the continuing struggle for equality, it's important to keep in mind that not all women are feminists, and not all feminists are women.

Tuesday, March 6, 2007

Tool making

Earlier in my Second Life, I started to become familiar with the Linden Scripting Language (LSL). In First Life, I am a software developer, so learning a new programming language is not a big deal. I didn't get very far at the time, though. The list of functions is right there on the LSL Wiki, and the language syntax is pretty much like C++ or Java, but the best way to learn how to apply such knowledge is by having specific tasks to accomplish. Since I didn't have that, I didn't get much past experimenting with individual functions.

As well, I must admit, since it's so much like my FL work, I kind of lost enthusiasm for yet more programming.

A short while ago, however, I noticed Patrice's notecard dispenser, which she has outside her terraforming office. Anyone who uses the posted landmark and drops by the office can click on the notecard dispenser and get information on the services Patrice offers. I have noticed that people also teleport to my office when I'm not there. I figured it was long past due to give them something more than a stained glass window to look at. I was missing potential business opportunities.

You can buy notecard dispensers, but I figured it couldn't be a very complicated thing to program. Turns out it's dead simple. I even added a feature. When someone touches the ball, not only does the person receive a notecard, but I receive a notice of who took the notecard. Cool and useful. Don't worry, I won't be tracking anyone down to badger them about setting up an appointment! For informational purposes only. I made my alt useful as well, as a tester. Sometimes a script will work for the owner but not for others, so alt-boy verified that he could receive notecards as well.

The other night, I was working at the Activ8 club as a dancer for the evening (yeah, I signed on to model, but there hasn't been any modelling work since the tattoo shoot). Not everything is yet set up at the club, and there are no tip jars for hosts and dancers. Yaeh pulled out her own tip jar. I didn't have one. Whine whine. Illya, sweetheart that she is, gave me one. This shamed me into realizing that I could probably build my own quite easily.

A tip jar isn't quite as simple as a notecard dispenser, but it's not much more difficult. It requires a couple more functions, and again I added some features. If you left click on (touch) the jar, it provides instructions on how to make a payment. Help for newbies, should any of them actually have any money to tip. And if anyone sits on the jar, it boots them off. Can't have someone obscuring my tip jar! I also put in a more effusive thank-you message for particularly large tips. Again, alt-boy did the testing.

My latest project was spurred by reading about Chey's trouble with intruders. It's a script that finds all agents within 96 metres (maximum distance) and asks whether the agent should be ejected from the land. It's designed to give the land owner more time to ban the griefer. I don't know if it's faster than going straight to banning, but I think it probably is. This project is still in development.

These are all tiny projects. It's more difficult to design and implement larger projects, and I haven't figured out one to work on yet. However, this is a start, and I've finally done something more useful than determine the height of an avatar.

I might get distracted from further scripting by something I want to use the tip jar for—DJing. My friend ComradeX showed me the ropes, so now I need to rip a bunch of music onto my computer, where it does not currently live. Then maybe someone will let Véronique's Vault come to life. If that happens, don't expect any between-song patter. :)

Sunday, March 4, 2007

Rebel, Rebel

You've got your mother in a whirl
She's not sure if you're a boy or a girl
I recently received my copy of Second Life: The Official Guide. I'm sure I'm going to find much that is of interest in there. I've been in world only since the end of July 2006, and there is still a great deal I do not know. I must say, however, that I am disappointed with the simplistic treatment given to the issue of gender.

As you might expect, in my role as a counsellor, I run into people who have gender issues. It's one reason people come to talk to me. And one thing I know from having spoken to people and from having done my homework in this area is that it's not as simple as either female or male. So to say flat out that those whose avatars are of the opposite sex as their First Life selves have to come out to their friends, and that's that, seems to me to betray a lack of understanding of the issue.

The term transgender is very broad and encompasses several different gender-identity phenomena, so without further specification, it's not terribly useful. But it does get us started with the notion that not all people see themselves as having the gender that is assumed to go along with their biological sex. A biological male might see himself as female, or both male and female, or neither, or some combination of the two, and you might never know it by looking at him. Same for a biological female. Transsexual is a subset of transgender; not everyone whose gender identification is outside the norm undergoes sex-reassignment surgery (SRS).

After films like Boys Don't Cry, you'd think that Second Life would be part of the solution, not part of the problem.

Now, no one likes to be deceived, and most people do not like being deceptive. I'm sure that among those who participate in SL using an avatar that does not correspond to their biological sex, there are some who do it to deceive and some who do it as a lark. But among those who choose an avatar of the opposite sex, there are some, perhaps even many, who do so very purposefully for one reason: because they feel themselves to be that sex, wholly or partially, yet for various reasons cannot live their First Lives as a person of that sex.

What if a man in FL goes through the full change, complete with SRS, and the result is good enough that she has no trouble passing? Is she forever obligated to tell sex partners and other intimates that she was once a biological male? Does it mean that she is not a "real" woman because she grew up biologically male? In SL, if someone has the right personality and commitment, "passing" physically is no problem (the beauty of the pixelated sex change). Is a person who is committed to living as that avatar and successfully "passes" still not a real woman or man?

There are openly transgendered people in SL. If they want to be treated as transgendered, that's not a problem. But if they want to be treated as the gender they visualize for themselves, forget it. A female avatar who comes out is no longer female but transgendered. A male avatar who comes out is no longer male but transgendered. Complete acceptance as a genuine male or female by one's friends? Well, maybe, and maybe not. To the SL world at large, not a chance.

So there's the choice. They can be honest and despised or treated like freaks, just as in First Life. They can come out to their friends and, in all likelihood, no longer be treated fully as the gender they see themselves as, except perhaps by an enlightened few. That is the price of honesty. They might as well give up the fantasy and stay in FL. Sadly, in order to live the cross-gender life they can't live in FL, they have to keep a lot to themselves and perhaps even deceive their friends (if that's how they see it). That is the price of living fully as a person of the opposite sex. They have to pass.

It's not a happy choice. It's not an easy choice. And it's a lot more complicated than the SL book makes it out to be.

Thursday, March 1, 2007

Game on!

You've heard of golf widows, right? Well, I am a hockey widow!

As I mentioned a couple of posts ago, Patrice is playing for the Whales in the Second Life Hockey League. There are four teams competing for the SL equivalent of the Stanley Cup. I was kidding about the hockey widow part. All of her practices and many of her games are at times when I'm not online. When my online time and a scheduled game coincide, I love to go watch.

She practises hard to get better. It's not an easy game to play, especially if you're on defence. The animation does not allow skating backwards—yet. It's often difficult to see the puck, even when you're on the ice. It's difficult to check someone off the puck, and it seems to be all too easy for a puck carrier to waltz in and shoot before the defence has even had a chance to react. I'm beginning to realize that an accurate shot is one of the most important offensive skills to have.

If it's hard sometimes for players to see the puck, it's even more difficult for spectators. Sometime what I'll do is use the camera controls to zoom in on one of the players and let him or her drag my view around the ice. If you zoom in on a hot forward, you are likely to find that elusive puck on her or his stick!

For the players especially, there is often lag to contend with. Anyone who comes to a game, please remove anything scripted! That includes jewellery (often), animation overrides, and many other toys. They probably need a script bouncer like many live concerts have. I tend to fly in to the rink itself from the landing point. I detest the default female walk.

The rink is located at Jericho Hill. It's easy to find a landmark if you look up SL Hockey League. Sorry, I still haven't learned how to post a SLurl!