Tuesday, July 31, 2007

The Road Goes Ever On

Hullo all, I am hardly gone, but many may have noticed I am not on Second Life as much, far less feverishly making a dress/horse/airplane a day. Well, truth to be told, I am unlikely to ever return to that level of presence, and will mostly be coming by for an hour or three in the afternoon/evening.

While maintaining my customary vagueness about real life details, I have been caring for a sick family member, largely by myself, for the past few months. Second Life--or I should say, the people I know in Second Life-- has been a balm to me in fairly difficult times.

But more relatives of mine have moved into town, and now have taken over most of the care taking. So, I am back at my non-writing job, the one that can pay the bills. And, part of that work takes me on the road quite a bit. In fact, in the catching up or the mundane, I haven't been home but four nights out since mid-July. Hotel connexions work intermittently, and I confess that when I am on, I usually feel more like chatting than building.

It's a strange thing to be independent again after casting oneself in the role of "caretaker". In a way, that label becomes one's identity. Despite not sleeping awfully much and frequent bouts of difficulty, if I am to be truthful, said identity was a prideful thing for me. "Oh, look how well she is bearing up!" and "You are so good to take care of him!" made me sit up straighter and perhaps imagine myself a better person for it. Pure vanity, of which I am ashamed of.

But such vanity is frustrated when older relatives, more seasoned in this sort of thing, show up and are far better at things than I am. And the patient in question has the nerve to be well enough to perhaps not need me around all the time, besides! It was time for my life to return to normal.

So, I find myself back at my old job. I do the things I do, at which I am apparently good enough that the corporation was willing to take me back. And I fly from town to town, and I suppose look every bit the professional. I think I need it--my own health has suffered recently, and I know I look more rested now then I did a week or so ago.

But I feel oddly uncentered. For a few months, I was useful, and now am just, well, not. How selfish a sentiment, and yet it is there.

A few days ago, I was in an airport and a little girl of all of five or so was looking at me in that direct way children have. "Where are you going?" she asked, and I told her. "That's my home! I am going there!" she yelled, then asked "Is that your home?" I had to allow that it wasn't, but that it was a very pretty town. She looked very sad for a moment and offered "I'm sorry." I had to excuse myself, as I try not to get moist eyed in public.

But the truth is more than that. I'm home at the moment, but it is not the same home as when I was sole caretaker. It's simply a place to sleep, and play with my dog (who is also in love with my older relatives). I think I have wrongfully associated Place (this RL location) with Home, when in fact it was the shared compassion that gilded this environment with that feeling.

But when I visit with relatives or friends, here in this Real World, or in SL, I feel "home". Home is not really a place, is it? The cliche would have it that it's a state of mind, but I would offer that it is comprised of those we care about. And perhaps, as busy as I find myself these days, modern technology allows me to sneak of to home at the end of the day.

Why are there so many songs about rainbows
And what's on the other side?
Rainbows are visions, but only illusions,
And rainbows have nothing to hide.
So we've been told and some choose to believe it
I know they're wrong, wait and see.
Someday we'll find it, the rainbow connection,
The lovers, the dreamers and me.

Who said that every wish would be heard and answered
when wished on the morning star?
Somebody thought of that
and someone believed it,
and look what it's done so far.
What's so amazing that keeps us stargazing?
And what do we think we might see?
Someday we'll find it, the rainbow connection,
the lovers, the dreamers and me.

All of us under its spell,
we know that it's probably magic....

Have you been half asleep
and have you heard voices?
I've heard them calling my name.
Is this the sweet sound that calls the young sailors?
The voice might be one and the same.
I've heard it too many times to ignore it.
It's something that I'm supposed to be.
Someday we'll find it, the rainbow connection,
the lovers, the dreamers and me.
La, la la,
La, la la la,
La Laa, la la,
La, La la

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

My Inner Daemon

Well, this is completely silly, but one has to acknowledge that that does not make it stand out on this blog, does it?

By inner Daemon, I do not mean the one that encourages me to take the last biscuit in the house without asking (who requires a Daemon to do that, besides?). No, it is a product of the story "A Golden Compass", which shall soon be in all the cinemas. It looks happily SteamPunk with a bit of Tanglewood flavour tossed in. Aforementioned phantasies include the notion that everyone has a "Daemon" about, a fuzzy creature that reflects the inner you. Colonel O'Toole pointed the way to a "Daemon Test", somewhat akin to all those Cosmo tests that purport to determine interpersonal skills in twenty odd somewhat slanted questions. Unlike those pretentious questionaires, however, this test comes with pretty graphics and is far less determined to be insightful. It is more a "what do you think of yourself" and then allows one's friends to adjust it according to their (no doubt more objective) perceptions.

So, with no further ado, I present Tibbles, my Inner Daemon (the site gave me another name, but I like Tibbles):

Feel free to correct my misperceptions--Tibbles is currently a stately Snowcat, but no doubt, I am more akin to a Hedgehog or some such.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Testing Animations and Test Flying

Well, I've been rather busy writing a two person couples animation device thingee for Ms Vicky Christensen of Second Frame Animations. In essence, it's a device that allows two people to move about the land together, whilst playing appropriate animations as they walk, jog, chat, run and such. It's mostly for a hand holding animation right now, but she promises clever things to come. And I very much believe her, as you can see her work in this clever clip here:

Well, Ms Christensen was beyond easy to work with, but I do like to have my own silly projects as well. The other day, I was chatting with a customer of mine about old aircraft. Usually, I am worried that I might be losing the interest of my unfortunate audience, but she was far more knowledgable than I about the subject. Towards the end of a fascinating chat about the "firsts", she enthused that I ought make a copy of Santos-Dumont's Demoiselle.

Who was Santos-Dumont? For shame that so few outside of Brazil and France know this fellow's name (unless they are aviation buffs). He designed the first practical dirigibles, and in 1901 won the Deutsch de la Meurthe race that famously looped about the Eiffle Tower. He was the toast of all of France, not the least because he quite looked the part of a dashing, devil may care aviator.

He then moved onto heavier than air flying machines, the most famous of which was the Demoiselle. Several designs of this craft were made, but they were all quite sprightly, capable of three axis movement, and (by the standards of the time), practical. Some still think he was the first to fly an airplane--I have my doubts, as he was quite busy with the dirigibles when the Wrights were making the Flyer. But there is no question that the Demoiselle was no longer a kite dragged along by a motor. It truly flew. Leave the "who was first?" question aside, and let us respect the genius and bravery of all the pioneers!

Well, I found a three way schematic of the Demoiselle and set to work. I chose the tailskid only version, but happily found enough prims about to put the lovely little fuel tank on--it looks so "Buck Rodgers".

Then it was off to flight test!

The first run went well enough, but I discovered a few stability issues. Fiddling about with vehicle buoyancy helped, then I promptly discovered that flying close on to castle walls can lead to a few, *cough*, snags.....

I really need mind that tail skid!

But soon, I got everything swimming along, and I am happy to say, while a simple device, I am proud of it. I have made it rock simple--one simply advances the throttle, and the engine leaps to life with a smokey sputter. No handproping necessary!

(DON'T do this at home!)

Handling is appropriately "old aircraft" in feel, though I have left the power unrealistically plentiful (a realistic simulation would be to merely turn the power on to 20%, or off. Those were the only settings at the time!) It is hardly a speedster, nor as aerobatic as the orni, but it is nicely stable. And with a bit of work, I have managed a loop.

But mostly, it is for watching the countryside move slowly by under your feet. After all, if I wanted to get somewhere quickly, I'd teleport!

Sunday, July 8, 2007

Just what I needed--ANOTHER way to waste a bit of time!

I freely confess my affection for short little computer games. Well, the following violates that rule a bit, as the playing sessions are closer to about 15-20 minutes in length, and thus not precisely in conformation with my previously stated guidelines of a ten minute work break.

Yet, how could I, as a Caledonian Steam Punk citizen ignore the obligation to show you this little gem, called Steam Brigade?

Essentially, you play the brave young lad who is in command of his father's Steam Brigade, fighting the evil someone or another, who is no doubt interested in destruction of the world as we know it and putting up ad farms. Or some such. There's a bit of a story line (with admittedly atrocious poetry), and to be honest, I didn't really pay it much mind. I was far too distracted by the lovely blimp the boy gets to fly about, the steam helicopters and the stout engineers who bravely man all the emplacements.

It's essentially a 2D tug of war: aforementioned lad makes steamy vehicles and whatnot with his limited funds, sends them out, and is confronted by the Evil Sorts. Chaos ensues, and hopefully you push your lines far enough forward to sneak a Clever Engineer into the opposition's factory and have done with it. I must admit, there is a lot of plaintive "omphs!" from the pixel fellows, which unnerved me for a bit. But it's only a game, as they say, and you don't see little pixel corpses or anything nasty like that. They simply disappear, and if you are like me, you entertain phantasies that they all were safely shipped back home, perhaps with a limp and a tedious story to tell to the Grand Children. Well, yes, that is unrealistic, but this is hardly a historic reproduction game!

The chief draws for me were the lovely graphics with a sky that Windlight might find itself proud of, and cheerful background music. I should add that one need download the demo, and most sensible people will find themselves done with this silly game after that. The foolish might actually order the full version, which is not terribly expensive, but still more than a lunch at the local. Well, speaking of the foolish, I think I want to play the scenario against the Mad Sea Captain again, as I am sure I can do better than Cadet level.

Download here:

Friday, July 6, 2007

One If By Land, Two If By Sea, Three If By Air?

Well, no doubt those of you who suffer from such a surfeit of spare time that you actually follow this collection of my musings have been biting your nails to the quick as you ruminate on the burning question of just when Professor Avalanche was to make good on his bought and paid for promise to take your blushing narrator out on a date?

If you recall, I had somehow managed to outbid the other women for the privilege of the gentleman's company for an evening. Now, despite the fact that I chat with the big lunk (American for "gentleman") on a daily basis, somehow we always found ourselves tinkering with various, occasionally exploding devices. Mind you, I love that sort of thing, but it's scarcely the sort of thing that one finds described in the well worn pages of a good tub read, n'est ce pas?

So, I was completely delighted when he proposed an afternoon out. Yesterday found me in the upstairs of the Coaching House, desperately fishing through the closet for what to wear, besides deciding to go for a summery casual look. As I was to discover, such informal attire was just the ticket for the upcoming events!

Coming downstairs, I discovered that Professor Avalanche, to his credit, was actually in his evening, so he arrived in his tightly stretched evening jacket. A few awkward moments in which I said brilliant things such as "Um, so, this is, er, a date then?" We sat there, shifting feet for a bit until he coughed and asked if I might, just possibly like to go for a curry. Well away, I am never adverse to a bit of Indian food, and far less so than when he announced the means of transport! To wit: un Montgolfier!

A leisurely half hour over the beautiful county of Eyre ensued, punctuated only by the occasional scream of "AAAAAH!!! Professor! Mind the steeple!". Completely unnecessary hysterics, of course, but it did serve to keep the pulse up, which I am told is good for one's circulation. Be as that may, I can recommend ballooning as unreservedly one of the better "date activities" out there.

Perhaps sensing a need to keep things proper, a random self-appointed chaperon popped in, just as we were making the crossing into Tanglewood.

A gentle soul, the Professor did not give the fellow the boot, but instead toured the beanstalk.

Perhaps overcome by the vertigo of it all, we lost our chaperon, and set down in the thick woods of Tanglewood. Chaperoneless, I considered it time to do the racy, the daring, the never heard that would raise eyebrows should it be heard of in my home town. Yes. We....surfed. Specifically, Sky Surfed, using Colonel O'Toole's clever new invention, the Steam Surfboard Duuuude (According to the well travelled Colonel, "dude" is a form of articulated punctuation common amongst certain South Sea Islander nations)

Whizzing through Tanglewood, and after a few nasty slaps from branches, over said woods, we sported about the Island of Lionsgate for a while, flying about the towering volcano and under the high stone bridges, having just good silly fun. Then I proposed a race to the Sky City hangars, and we were off to the South again.

We made it to the hangar, whereupon, I learnt that the Steam Boards have a certain lack. They haven't brakes. Whilst I surveyed the bent up board, Professor Avalanche went to the docks to secure a more proper mode of transport.

The Caledonian Queen proved a fast ship, and we were soon taking in the sights along the South Coast. We were compelled to remark in wonder about the talent and skill of our countrymen. It seems everytime we pass through our lovely kingdom, we see something new and exciting that we had never seen before. Including a rocky breakwater on the coast of the Moors. Professor Avalanche stoked the boiler, swung the helm with all his might and...

Ran aground. I suppose I could have been of more use, besides yelling "Oh, look! Rocky bits!" Well away, we sadly waved good bye to the sinking Caledonian Queen and trudged up the hill to the railway station and waited.

And waited.

Well, no one has ever compared Governor Shang to Mussolini, I believe. And our land does present absurd difficulties in providing rail service. Nonetheless, we were presented with rail sans train. Fortunately, the Professor is beyond clever, and with the aid of surplus, "I am sure no one is using this" parts at the depot, soon threw together a lovely pair of possibly safe monocycles.

In no time flat, we made it to Victoria City Station, where the trains were, in fact, running. One might point out that the trains run awfully well in proximity to Governor's mansion, but no doubt, many would wonder exactly what one's point is.

Regardless, the train was there and waiting, and the Professor gallantly helped me into the carriage. Whereupon the train started up. Without him.

Well, I think it was somewhere in Carnaigh that the poor fellow caught up, necessitating a bit of a cinematic holding of the hand out by yours truly accompanied by a hurdler's leap by him. Overcome by all the excitement (or perhaps, by this point a bit of curry-less hunger), I had a bit of a faint.

Fortunately for this narrative, I came to with the aid of smelling salts. Vile things, salts, but hardly worse than the unpleasant, inexplicable dreams of some mechanical voice announcing "your account will be available at 2402 in a year or so, should we feel like it". Despite these ill omens, coming to, I saw the bright minarets of the Taj Mahal--aka Miss Vi Paravane's Curry Shop.

Bellies full and teacups in hand, we toasted a successful, if unexpectedly adventurous romantic excursion. Well, excursion--to be truthful, it was, in fact a Platonic Ideal of a date. Which suits us both fine, and no doubt, Miss Fuschia Begonia as well (his true love in RL and SL). In that spirit, after our toast, Miss Begonia and a bevy of our other friends showed up, filling the curry shop with banter and laughter. Truly, I can think of no better end to an afternoon out!

Pardon me whilst I adjust the moving cog corsage I have received this morning in the post (winsome sigh....)

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

To Bram Stoker, with all due affection

Well, that was a splendid weekend! For those of you who missed, we had the Grand Opening of Eyre. Mr Oolon Sputnik set up a marvelous little buffet and bar in the carriage sweep south of the Coach House, and things were wonderfully busy the whole day throughout. I must admit, I was too busy to photograph, but fortunately, Lord Bardhaven had his easel at the ready

Delightful Pictures Courtesy of Lord Bardhaven

I was particularly delighted to have secured the services of the young Oliver "Ollie" Grut (barely seen above in the coachman's seat), a bit of a rough-hewn scamp of 8 or so, but a dab hand with the horse reins. Ollie and his quieter sister Mary are orphans, and I have since put up some beds for them in the Carriage House. To be honest, I am a terrible housekeeper, and am glad for two pairs of hands to do the necessary shoveling and sweeping about the place (RL Note: Of course, the two characters are played by adults--all tips they get from their carriage rides go as donations to a RL orphanage foundation in the UK)

Photo Courtesy of Colonel Hotspur O'Toole

The weekend also saw the unveiling of the uniforms I made for the Caledon Lancers, based upon the 17th Lancers of Berg, a Polish Unit. I made a few changes, some due to the limitations of SL, some the aesthetic requests from Col O'Toole, some my own whimsy, such as the Bunny insignia :). But overall, the future Lancers seem pleased with both the uniforms and the Calvary HUD I threw together using Professor Avalanche's fantastic animations. Rather than cross post, here is Col O'Tooles overly flattering description of the uniforms:

Well away, just to prove that I am able do some photographic work myself, and not simply thief from other's journals, here is some of yesterday's sillyness. Miss Terry Lightfoot outdid herself again with a lovely dark dress, the box of which I think scarely the floor befroe I was eagerly tearing it apart to get at aforementioned frock!

But black...hmmmm.... Well, this weekend is a Dark Victorian Ball, in the spirit of Bram Stoker and all. Think misty evenings, dark fellows in long capes, and yes, dresses like this. I tossed on a pair of smoked spectacles and went about creating a little pet for the occasion. I present Batty, the bat:

And after the requisite posing about in the requisite graveyard, it was time to saddle up on my other weekend creation, the Night Mare, and head off into the moonset. One might recognize the Pegasus lines under this breed, but one might also notice little, subtle differences, such as the red sparks she strikes at gallop, the steam coming from the nostrils, the glowing red eyes which swirl, and just possibly a few minor colouration differences :)

So, I am more than ready for the ball this weekend, I do believe! But I think I might find a well starched, high neck collar. One does not wish to appear overly accessible, if you understand my meaning.