QC-L Version 4.0

Yes, welcome to my lair of evil thoughts and incorrect speech where I don't let go and move on and I talk about whatever I please. On a blog no one ever tells you to shut up. If you don't like what I say, just go elsewhere.

This blog now has a new background and a new theme. It is also using a remotely loaded style sheet. That is a first. It is lush, heavy, and uses a background that has a theme I have never used here before, though I have used it for pressies. Let the show go on! It always does anyway. And yes, we are powered by Blogger.

I am putting a temporary illustration here until I have a logo for this design. Watch this space.

temporary illustration


The Backfile: this blog's archives.

Ajayu, home of my story, The Sneezeweed Chronicles. Yes, I do fiction.

It will have Oneiro, my own little role play.

Unfettered Soul, my flagship site.

The Silk Purse, my play pretend Brainstorms.

Failed Messiah Religious news never sounded so good.

New York Times. Read the news and be smart.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

by Eileen Kramer

Where I've Been

I've been struggling to write Koré in New York and haven't had time for the blog. The reasons I've been away are largely good. I can't share them, but in a way it's good. I miss this blog and now feel compelled to return. I am going to try to write more often. The fact, is I am a person with something to say.

Shadenfreude with a Cherry on Top

Second Life can bring out the worst in people. Currently, I am waiting patiently in line for some Shadenfreude with a cherry on top. I'd add whipped cream if I liked whipped cream, but I loathe it. Here is the back story. A certain not-to-responsible landlord who is a capable DJ and who has a sense of adventure stole 600L from me. I rented a store from him, paid him a month's rent, and found that the mall in which I rented vanished within forty-eight hours. I rebuilt the store as a kiosk, took pictures, laughed, and then of course, Mr. DJ got in touch with me and promised everyone in the rental group replacement stores when he rented his new island.

The first problem was he had nothing to offer me of comparable size. The second problem was that the new sim was zoned adult and I was offering freebies. You need payment info on file or used to access an adult sim. Saying a sim is adult as a political statement or because you have fantasies as in wishful thinking, is bad business. Third, the new sim was zoned homestead which meant the club could hold only twenty to thirty avatars depending on whom you believe. Homestead sims are not the places for malls or for that matter clubs. Fourth, and yes, there's a fourth, the new sim only lasted a week anyway. Mr. DJ then tried to sell me an island. I ended up renting a 2048. That is plenty of land.

Meanwhile, I kept an eye on Mr. DJ. As a DJ he is extremely competent. If he would stick to playing music though, he'd be just one more DJ. I might still be a fan of his. I'm not sure. I've kept tabs on him due to the theft and my anger. I even tried to accuse him of content theft. He can't and doesn't build. He legitimately owns the prefabs he and his friends buy. Put another way, Mr. DJ doesn't even have brains to steal. Stupidity though is dangerous. It is also fun to watch.

Mr. DJ's newest adventure is a combination, club, shopping mall, and rental of furnished prefabs. I won't say what it's called or where it is. The club is out of doors. It runs 24/7 with endless group teleport requests. It is multi-lingual. The music is house which I find agreeable. Iyoba visits a lot and goes dancing there every chance she gets.

Most of the guests at the club are other DJ's either at the club or elsewehere. A few of them may be bots or alts. The place, however, had close to thirty avatarim in it around one in the morning when I went to bed. Nobody ever seems to sleep in Second Life.

Now, I could be wrong. The DJ's, the ones who are not alts or bots, may be in a position to network socially and may bring their fans and friends. These in turn may bring folks to rent the retail stores, and the prefabs may be a big hit. Fancy, boxy prefabs with their furniture installed, and lots of scripts and built on a beach, may prove a hot item. If I am wrong, I deserve to be.

Yet, I don't think I'll be wrong. It is only a question of when Mr. DJ's sim is going to fail. Here are the reasons: The club is the only original part of the build. Remember Mr. DJ can't build. Neither can his friends. Builds out of a box are boring. The mall is charcoal metal. The houses are all alike and the only vegetation is grass and palm trees. There are a hundred builds like this and the prices are about average so they aren't competing on price.

Second, Mr. DJ and colleagues have all the business sense of a sodden litter pan sponge. The sim is always in darkness. They have frozen estate time. This means any one who goes shopping shops in the dark and any one who rents a house rents one in perpetual night. Now if the sim had an arctic theme or a lunar theme, the darkness might work. Darkness is great for the club, but who wants to shop in the dark or live in the dark? What goes for shoppers goes doubly for perspective tennants. Who wants to rent property that they can't see unless they mess with the environment settings? Remember this unoriginal build feature no lanterns, glowing trees, or other lighting to brighten up the malls or residential areas.

Third, no one ever sleeps in Second Life, but it takes real life people to power Second Life avatarim. In short, no one can keep up the 24/7 schedule for long. And DJ's and club hosts fight. No one makes money running a club. A club is a public utility. People have fantasies about DJing just like they have about growing plants or having sex or playing sports. Expecting other people to pay for your pleasure adds to the tension.

Don't ask me how long I think Mr. DJ's sim will last. I am still reeling from the disapearance of Hedonism Island home of Club XxesS. The club was an exciting innovative build that was part of an equally innovative group of islands. If you build it they don't always come, but at least you've tried. DJ fighting and lack of either rentals or commercial rentals drove Club XxesS out of business.

Now you can ask me what I'd do differently. First, I might start with a quarter sim. If I wanted to play music and ask everyone to chip in so we could rent it for six months. I'd have my club and place to DJ and there would be enough fun to go around.

Second if I wanted to try to make a go of a larger space, a half or a whole sim, I'd do an original build. If I had a mall, I'd try to make it visuall interesting with buildings clustered in a circle facing outward or with openings on alternate sides of the bay and the rear sides of structures and flat roofs used perhaps as green roofs or for additional retailing. This gets rid of the ugly backside of the building problem.

The landscaping would be interesting, especially the species of trees I chose. I might go with a temperate rather than a tropical build. I've done both. There are advantages to both.

If I had residential rentals, I'd rent quonset huts or trailers. They're not as plentiful as boxes.

Though I'd really like to emphasize the third place aspect. Second Life needs third places. Third places are neither home, nor work, nor high intensity retailing. Sandboxes in Second Life might be third places. Clubs that are not overrun with chat spam qualify. The greenhouse behind Info Island International's main library is a third place.

The problem with third place builds in Second Life is that they are NOT profitable and land is expensive. The one functioning Third Place that I frequent is Arare Cafe in Akiba. It is Japanese and always busy when people are available. It is not even a quarter of a sim in size which makes the rent manageable for the long haul. Japanese are far more financially conservative than Americans, Brasilians, or Arabs. Arare Cafe also does not include a disco and no DJ's. They are, however, the successful model.

Meanwhile, I'll probably be heading to Mr. DJ's club though I should be working on my own builld. I'd love to help him with some plants or maybe even design work. He knows enough not to ask me. That is probably just as well. If I work for him, I get sucked in. Not in my wildest dreams, do I imagine that he can succeed. And yes, I deserve to be proven wrong.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

by Eileen Kramer

Long Time No Blog

I wish I could explain to everyone why I have been gone, but it's private and it's not all half bad. I've got a big and rather interesting project going on. I guess that is a good thing, but I miss this blog and I wish I was writing more fiction since I have a fair amount to say.

The Pantry Corner -- Childhood Obesity and the Grownups

This ought to be a no brainer, but it isn't. As I've written on this blog numerous times, free will is questionable. Most of us have it compromised at least some of the time. That is a taboo statement and it is even a taboo statement for our First Lady who has launched an assault on childhood obesity. OK, a third of kids are overweight and a small minority of them are morbidly obese. Yes, kids should have nutritious food available at school and the government, including local schools, should not be in the junk food business, but none of this is going to make kids skinny and keep them svelte for a lifetime.

I am no expert, but any one taking a look around can confirm my observations. First, we have vending machines in some schools. Qu'el scandale! Kids eat what is there. The machines prey on vulnerable kids. The same is true of fast food, junk food, big food...I could go down the obvious list of culprits and villify them except there is something wrong with this picture. Unlike the pusher in those evil "just say no!" movies we had to watch about drugs in school, the vending machine company, junk food makers, fast food restaurants don't even give away free samples to get kids hooked. If you want free samples, go down to Whole Foods.

In short, kids like everyone else pay for their pleasure. Now if this were 2006 or maybe even 2007, some of the high school kids worked and earned pocket money for their treats. Teen unemployment, however, is rampant and kids under fourteen are pretty much dependent on their parents for spending money. Therefore, it's the kids who put the money in the machines and belly up to the convenience store counter, but the money comes from....

Oh but you can't accuse parents of being bad! Unlike kids who have no status and also no social capital by the classic definition and the Brainstomrs definition, parenthood is sacred. Parents are busy. There are two career families. Cooking is a terrible chore. Fast food is so cheap too!

I'll save this last for a different blog because costing out is great fun even if it is fraught. Suffice it to say the last is just not true. The time myth is also equally untrue. Now, I'm not going to suggest that everybody ought to bake their own bread. They can if they want. It's great fun, but I don't have to suggest that. Instead, I'm going to invite you into my kitchen before I kept kosher. You can watch me pack a bag lunch or fix a fast dinner. Out comes the bread. Out comes the cheese and maynaise or the peanut butter. In five minutes I have a sandwich that I can either consume immediately or take to work. If I want a side dish there are frozen vegetables in the freezer. There's extra bread and apples for dessert. Total meal preparation time is less than a half hour. The sandwich is fresh or reasonably so and the meal includes fruits and vegetables. If you want to spend more time, make cole slaw or some other sort of salad or roast a winter squash. All this is easy and fast. It's also extremely healthy.

Would you like to do it again? In the fridge we have some milk (or it's powdered milk made up in a jar. I'm a big fan of powdered milk.) In the cupboard we have your favorite whole grain cold cereal. We also have some raisins or these days craisins. Wheat Chex, Grapenuts Flakes, Wheaties, Cheerios, etc... are all good cereals. Make up a bowl of cereal, add milk and fruit and some unsweetened tea or water with lemon and sometimes a piece of fruit, and you have a very fast and very healthy breakfast or midnight breakfast.

Moreover, in most areas (There are some places without supermarkets but they need big supermarkets not Farmer's markets) nearly all the items for this fast meal are readily available in local supermarkets.

Most adults, including parents, have abysmal eating habits. All it takes is eating lunch at other people's houses to see what they put on their menus. It's what you don't see that is more shocking than what you eat which is often combinations of white flour and fat, rather than whole grain products that are readily available. One almost never sees pearled barley (OK this is a partial whole grain), whole wheat pasta, brown rice, etc... One occasionally sees partially or fully whole wheat bread. There is no bean salad or very seldom bean salad, and there are no green peas, zucchni. Carrots and string beans seldom make an appearance, and one has to twist arms to get fresh fruit for dessert.

Now the neighborhood where I eat lunch has very few fat kids. The reason for this probably is that people may eat more judiciously when they don't entertain or more likely the kids in this neighborhood have a lot of activities, many of them physical. Michelle Obama would be proud, well maybe half proud.

I'm not sure why so many adults are ignorant of easily available healthy options that taste good and don't break the bank, and are absolutely consistent with religious dietary laws. Actually, I sort of have a clue.

Back in the summer of 2006, I ate with a family where the wife apologized for not serving pastry. She said the family was on a diet and they were going on a long vacation early in the week. I expected a lean Shabbos feast. Instead, I found mmyself treated to course after course. There was cucumber salad and carrot salad which I adore (Yes, carrots are rare things where I eat lunch!) and chopped chicken livers, delicacy of delicacies, and there was a smoked salmon taco salad for a first course. Finally the desert came, bing cherries. For what did this woman apologize?

The woman of the house with the feast had broken a norm: Shabbos lunch must include pastry or cake, even though fruit tastes every bit as good and sometimes better. Do we have an entire generation of adults that have been "normed" out of eating nutritiously?

We may also have a geneation "normed" out of cooking to the point where they have lost the skills and have to learn from friends. My Mom who is a good cook from whom I inherited a lot of my food attitudes, is shocked to see how "young people" don't cook and what passes for "cooking" among them.

I know many of the ideas about food in the food press such as at the Atlantic and at the New York Times are fun to read, but they aren't exactly practical or constructive. I don't think you can trash a norm by shaming those who adhere to it. Also the columns at the Atlantic set an unattainable ideal so those following the norm have the glorious out of paying lip service to these ideas, feeling guilty, and not implementing them with good excuse. Suggesting that we all eat organically raised or locally raised fresh produce and meat is just.... or that supermarkets don't have healthy foods is just not workable and not true.

Maybe the place to start is home ec which taught my great grandmothers and grandmothers to "cook American." Maybe having cooking classes at county fairs and other similar public places is another start. Another approach would be for the government to buy time on the Food Channel and have shows on nutrition and cooking, and follow it up with a group on Facebook or a fan page with discussion or even its own social networked community so new healthy cooks get the support they need.

One place I'd start with are fruit desserts, something as simple as citrus smiles (different colors of oranges and grapefruits sliced into easy to eat pieces) and apple chips (a way to serve apples without having them go brown or giving everyone a whole piece of fruit). There may be other nonbrowning apple slice recipes. The Atlantic had a great recipe for roast pears. Are you getting the idea?

Another first lesson is teaching people how to fix dried beans. This is NOT HARD, nor is it as time consuming as you think if you use the beans soon after you buy them, and soak them the day before you boil them. Cooked from scratch dried beans taste great, are not expensive, and you can use them in salads and casseroles s well as soups. Here in the South, the lesson should extend to shell beans and field peas. Everyone should know how to shuck beans. Bean salad (or pasta and bean salad, barley and bean salad etc...) is a make ahead dish for busy nights.

Of course I'd inculcate a few of my own prejudices if I were dictator of the program. I'd encourage people to use powdered instead of liquid milk. It makes up fresher and it's nonfat, 100% whole wheat bread, and lots of apples and oranges. If all this feels a bit like poverty food, it is because I learned to cook as a poor exstudent and a poor graduate student.

I'll try to cover some of these ideas more fully in future blogs. I also want to get to doing a cost out, not that they prove much. Getting adults to think rationally again is hard work.

Thursday, February 04, 2010

by Eileen Kramer

Once Money Talks -- Second Life

In some ways monetization is a very good thing. That is not what I mean. I hate monetization. I think it exerts an ugly and poisonous effect which you can see any time you walk on the main land or anywhere else that isn't "zoned." What has brought all of this on is that I'm thinking of retrenching my land ownership and going back to just a 512. I have good reason for this. It just plain costs too much if I'm not going to run a real retail operation and retailng is something for which I do not have the time or inclination.

This is sad in so many ways. My landlord likes my build. I am giving him my trees. Where I rented was not zoned. I like to build freely and did not want to be told that my tube house was an eyesore or that I couldn't have retail boards. The rat-tail parcel was a challenge, but an easy one. If everybody built like me, Second Life would be fun and walkable.

The sad truth though is that even I can't build like me. Monetization makes good, public builds impossible unless you are a wealthy Arab or a Japanese person working with a group. Every build in Second Life, from the 512 built with an annualized premium membership to whole private, islands is one set of car repairs or medical bills away from disappearing. Building on someone's yearly educational grant or hobby money is not the way to develop decent land with plenty of external economies. The more land costs the more fragile the build and the more incentive to make it profitable rather than simply beautiful and useful. This leads to some ugly builds, notably big box malls with blank backs and sides and the infamous "expletive-deleted you!" school of building that features jungle walls, ban lines, and security orbs. Well, it's the owner's land. He or she paid for it, and expletive-deleted everybody else!

If Linden Lab cares about making Second Life "nice" or interesting for the rest of us, rather than plunking new Premium members in prezoned communities for those who do not want to build, or selling themed land, why not set up a bid for project system similar to that at Love Machine for creating public works projects. You put in a bid. You get the land, and you get X number of prims to build your project. Your 512 or your rented build acts as your portfolio to show you can do the work or maybe it is first come first serve. If Linden Lab subsidizes enough of these "public interest builds" then this sort of building becomes the norm. I'd also give away free 512's for budding builders as well so that everyone had a chance to learn building who was interested too, but that is another story.

Right now I want to keep my rented land. I gave Walter four weeks notice and halve two to three weeks left. I can always pay more rent and the land stays with me. I am thinkig of attempting a nice public build, a platform with ramp to see how those are put together. This land is large enough accomodate that and I'd landscape the whole business so I'd have more room for trees. I have funds set aside to stay for two years. My original plan was to rent a 4096 for one year, but I found I really could do as well with a 2048. This extends the project a bit too or would have. The money for the rental comes from a Christmas present from my father. If I receive money on my birthday (a possiblity since gifting your children while you are still alive dodges the inheritance tax.) I could set aside some more of it for an additional two years.

Four years in Second Life is an eternity. Also stretching out my stay to four years is as permanent as anything gets but of course remember what I wrote above. The car payment, medical emergency (though less so in Europe or Canada which have health care reform!) rule applies to my landlord. How I wish Linden Lab would pay for beauty but they don't and they won't.

By the way, my notion of beauty which I imagine Linden Labs adopting does not necessarily include photoralism as the standard. My build which is NOT photorealistic apparently escapes being an eyesore. "Murling" works as does Ndebele style muraling, and handpainting works for trees and most landscape items. Moya and Pandemonium are both great examples of nonphotorealistic builds. The labyrinth at Diamond is another great idea as are the tunnels at Suffugium.

Second Life -- Tribes and Subcultures

Both I, Avatar and Designing Your Second Life talk a lot about subcultures and role play in Second Life. As a nontypical human, Iyoba appeared for the longest time to belong to no particular subculture or tribe. Not everyone has the energy to role play or wants a fantasy bought off the shelf. I told myself that I fit into this last category.

It's taken me a couple of days to realize that I was absolutely dead wrong. Now, I still find Gor weird and vampires weirder. Neko and furry is a bit better, and quads and tinies no how to make friends and influence people. It took Nascera which on this blog is a dirty word, to show me how different I was. I'm not sui generis. Advertising would never work if people did not run to patterns or several patterns. I knew I could not be unique.

Nascera showed me the way. Even as a newbie desperately considering going premium and salivating over land, Nascera would have repelled me. "I don't want somebody else' house," I would have said. "I'm working on my own. I want land where I can put up my house and a garden with plants that make fruit and seeds." Flat green land was my kind of land, and I had a tribe. After building on the steps by the NMC classrooms and on some poor, hapless, rich person's private island (I did clean up after myself), I found my way to good, quiet, mainly academic sandboxes. I also found my way to GIMP to make my own clothes. I even figured out a way to make hair.

I did not know I had my tribe. I still would like to make better social connections in it, but I also like dancing at clubs. The nice thing about building is you can use your groups for things other than stores, but I need to find more builders.

My other tribe is nonprofit/educator. My two hours a week volunteering gives me access. Of coruse my exploring habits and "wide range" sometimes put me at odds with this tribe.

It has taken me a long time to realize that most folks never think of joining the builder tribe. I've read other builders' stories and they are similar to my own. Early in their life on Second Life, long before the magical Day 30 when it was considered OK to get land, they found their way to a sandbox and started shoving prims and tinkering with scripts. This seemed so Second Nature to me that I assumed that everyone I met had their own sandbox moments.

When I started looking for land, I costed out everything on a spread sheet. Conversion of dollars to Lindens is confusing. I soon learned that rentals on islands were both too large and way too expensive and renting something someone had made was even more expensive. A 512 on mainland was the cheapest way to go and it let me build with lots of prims. I still think it's lots of prims.

Most would be renters/premium members never do this or if they do, they use a completely different financial calculus. Apparently if you can buid, you can use much cheaper land, and blank land is the best land. If you don't build my guess is all this changes. There must be people out there who, and yes I find this strange, impulsively pay for a pretty box even though when you see one photorealistic box, you've seen them all. They have no desire to find out how boxes are made or whether a box is the best way to build a shelter.

Maybe these folks who pay through the nose for boxes and palm trees or prefurnished prefabs nestled on top of one another (Usually these are two story town houses) or absolutely isolated skyboxes, would also go for houses on Nascera. These folks don't speak my language of aesthetics or aspirations and they don't speak mine.

The Pantry Corner -- #2

I have an unpleasant memory from my life back in Columbus, Georgia. My drain was again stuck, and yes my garbage disposal was again on the fritz. I hate garbage disposals. For God's sake, it's not that hard to walk your bag of wet kitchen garbage to the dumpster or if you can keep a compost pile, to walk the bucket of moist, kitchen waste to the pile. Same difference, you walk the stuff and dump it. The pile needs turning and an occasional infusion of excrement, but even that is not so bad.

But my rental in Columbus, came with a garbage disposal and I broke it several times. Now I was not malicious. I did not dump bones or glass. I scratched my head to figure out the culprit. It turned out to be rubber bands. It was fairly easy to figure out how the rubber bands entered the system too, which was the really baffling point. Every week, I used one to two bunches of scallions. Georgians call them green onions. Each bunch of scallions came with two rubber bands. The rubber bands slipped off and... the garbage disposal took a hit. My "green onion habit" made me a bad, careless, and destructive tennant.

Of course, I felt like I was being singled out unfairly. Machines broke, and people washed their scallions in the sink, didn't they? At one point I asked what happened in other apartments. I should have known the answer to that question before I asked it by looking in my sink. There should have been screen in the drain with the garbage disposal to keep out errant rubber bands, but there wasn't. Clearly everybody did not buy their weekly ration of "scallions." I was the only habitual scallion eater in the complex and also a miscreant as far as the stupid garbage disposal was concerned.

I've written in other places on this blog that independent adults who pay their own bills live in bubbles. If you join an online "chat group" or eat at other peoples' homes regularly, you will see others bubble doors open and get a peek inside. Otherwise the bubbles stay locked. In other bubbles people do not eat scallions each week. They don't make salads or much of anything from scratch either.

Another thing most people don't eat except for the little pre-peeled ones is carrots, or if they eat them, they do not consume them in the quantity I do. I eat from two to five pounds of the thing a week. They become the grated carrots in slaw or pasta salad, copper pennies (blanched carrot slices also called carrot money) in pasta and other salads, or slices roasted or sauteed in medeleys. This week, I even made carrot bread that required a pound of grated carrot per loaf. I sometime joke that if carrots were rare and scarce and cost four dollars a pound, they would be a delicacy like morel mushrooms or truffles.

People also sometimes think carrots have no taste. Just because a vegetable is mild does not mean it is tasteless. If I eat in homes where people don't bother to peel and cut or grate carrots, and that is most homes, I notice the absence of carrot in the food right away. The bright, sweet, flavor is just plain good. Carrots for me are a good tasting, beautiful, and staple vegetable that are a kind of unsung hero of the kitchen.

If you want to fix dishes with carrots, you do need to have some tools on hand. You don't really need a lot of patience. Carrots peel easily and the carrots in the bags or sold loose are often old enough to need a peeling for genteel dishes. You can eat a carrot raw right out of the bag without a problem but somehow for casseroles, salads and other dishes, carrots ouught to get peeled.

You will need a sharp paring knife for nubbing and cutting. You will need a peeler and a good grater (You can use a food processor too, but a grater is easier to clean.) You will need big bowls and a blanche kettle (a big tall sided stew pot.) Then there are the roasting dishes. Carrots end up in roast vegetables. I don't like prepeeled carrots. I think the baby carrots have less taste than their bigger relatives. Pregrated carrots scare me. A little bacteria in that nice, warm bag and all that carroty surface area goes a long way.

Buy big, stiff carrots. If they come in a bag, look for a bag with the baseball bat roots, not the skinny, scrawnies. If you buy carrots loose, the bigger the better. I like ox-heart carrots, the really fat ones. You can always cut them in large pieces before slicing and grating them and there is more carrot and less peel and less surface area, so the carrot stays fresher and tastes better.

Carrots use up quickly. Most of my recipes use four to eight medium size carrots or three to four really big ones. Carrot salad of course uses two to five pounds of the things, but that's fine with me. Give me carrots any day!

Saturday, January 30, 2010

by Eileen Kramer

The Pantry Corner -- I

This blog is getting a new feature. I figure if those folks at the Atlantic can write about food, and if a friend of mine can do it, well I can try my hand too. Besides, the world needs one more food column. Actually, it doesn't, but it is stuck with one anyway.

Part of cooking and stocking your kitchen is knowing when to splurge and when to srimp. Sometimes that extra money goes a long way and sometimes it is best to stay in the bargain basement. A lot of what I have been cooking since I recovered from my stomach virus and came down with an ugly cold has been a combination of top shelf and bargain basement. The results have been fantastic. Now, if you have ever had a cold, followed by a stomach virus, and then another cold with no time spent being healthy in between, you get sick of "sick food" very fast, so I haven't made soup in over a week. Soup in this house means "red soup" with a tomato based stock. I'll write a "red soup" column some time, but I'm sick of the stuff for now.

What I wanted was the food that the stomach virus had diverted. I had planned to make curried pasta salad. Curried pasta salad is an odd dish, because most restaurants don't serve it and most delis don't make it. In fact, one of the few places you are likely to encounter a curried salad is either an old school cookbook, someone's home, or a college cafeteria which is how I learned about curried bean salad in the now defunct Sage House. I also learned about curried tuna salad when I took home ec in middle school, and made curried eggs when I was in college. Yay Settlement Cookbook.

Well I wanted curried pasta salad with green peas. The peas were in the freezer. They were a bargain basement item, a two pound bag of Kroger's For Value green peas. The pasta, however, was top shelf, Whole Foods 365 whole wheat shells. These really weren't so expensive. They in fact cost less than Kroger's Private Label.

Spending a bit extra for pasta makes sense. You get a better choice of shapes. The really cheap pasta is not made with 100% semolina and you also get access to flavors like spinach and whole wheat. Also, if you buy at Whole Foods, thhe flavored pasta is very reasonably priced.

The other ingredients in this salad included: blanched carrots and white turnips, scallion tops, and roast peppers and of course mayonaise and spices. If you make salad dressing from mayonaise, it makes sense to buy the cheap stuff. My mayonaise is Kroger's For Value. It's actually very good.

OK here is the recipe.

Curried Green Pea and Pasta Salad


4 monster size carrots (Six ordinarily large carrots)
2 good size turnips (Three smaller turnips)
1 lb frozen green peas
The green part of a bunch of scallions (Save the white part for cooked dishes unless you want dragon's breath.)
1/3 of a jar roast pepper strips
8 oz of your favorite pasta (small shapes)
Salt to taste (a bit more than you think.)
Ginger powder to taste (a bit more than you think)
Curry powder to taste(a bit more than you think)
3oz unpasteurized cider vinegar (Get this at your healthfood store.)
3oz mayonaise
Water for blaching and cooking.

Peel your carrots and turnips. Cut them into small pieces. Set a blanch kettle (a great big stew pot) half full of water on the stove at high heat. When the water reaches a crazy boil, dump in the carrots and turnips. Cover and let boil for three to four minutes. Do not leave the kitchen. You need to grab these vegetables fast. The object with blanching is to lightly cook the vegetables to get them to absorb more dressing and become milder and easier to chew. Dump the boiling vegetables in a colander and run some cold water over them. Put the colander on top of a small bowl and get it out of the sink. Veggies can cool on the table or in the fridge.

Dump your vegetables in a big salad bowl when they have cooled a bit to free up the colander. The colander gets a work out. Heat a pot of water and cook your pasta until al dente and then dump it in the colander. Rinse it and let it cool a bit and add it to the salad bowl.

Cook the peas in the pasta pot. Dump in the colander when done. Cool and add to the salad bowl.

Cut up the green parts of the scallions and add them along with the roast peppers to the salad bowl.

In a graduated measuring cup, line the bottom with salt. Add the curry powder and ginger powder. Aadd the vinegar. Stir. Taste. Adjust seasonings. Add the mayonaise. Stir. Taste. Adjust seasonings. Dress your salad and put it away.

Yes, you wash your blanch kettle once and your big pot twice. Purpose making dishes that are often made with leftovers just means many trips with pot and colander but this salad tastes great and won't bust your budget and you won't find it in any restaurant, so in a way this dish saves you money and in another it is priceless.

And yes, I'm still pondering words of advice on when to go top shelf and when to head for the bargain basement in the supermarket or Farmer's Market. I guess my rule of thumb is do I still get good value? Some vegetables and other products taste better, look different, are higher quality, and cost more and the cost is worth it. Good pasta is a necessity. I eat a lot of pasta salad, and the right shape or a new flavor improves the dish for only some silver.

Likewise, there are gourmet vegetables and fruits that are in season that also add a special flavor. Fingerling potatoes, yellow beets, and black radishes come to mind. Blood oranges, Mandarin oranges, and heritage apples of all sorts are worth the extra cash. Fresh herbs do not break the bank and give a big return on flavor.

What I consider rip offs are pasta sold in less than one pound packages, ready made items, and out of season items. Kroger's whole wheat pasta falls into this category as do strawberries and peaches. It's February here in Atlanta and not strawberry season. Ready made, preflavored pasta or noodles, is also a foolish expense. Learn to create and flavor your own dishes, and if you want to spend a bit extra on quality ingredients, go for it.

Second Life -- Land and Space Blues

I wish I had images to go with this column, but I don't. I am writing on the fly tonight when I could be inworld. I read on a famous Second Life blog how much everyone has a craving for space which is one of the reason that Second Life population density is like that of Wyoming. It's not that simple.

What brought this on was a visit to a sim called Arab Land. Breathtaking is the word for this build, but what is wonderful about it is the absence of walls. There are plenty of stupid boxes that look wonderful, photo real, but in the end, they are just boxes. In Arab Land, there are endless open courtyards, no ban lines, and the whole place is walkable with ramps, stairways, and beach front with bridges. There are no malls, but the place is designed for group use and socialization. Space in Arab Land is utterly social and completely noncommercial.

In Japanese sims by contrast, space is tighter. Japanese rent 512, 256, and 778 prim plots and can live on those contentedly in a way that Americans never could. My experience with a 2048, which I have for two and a half more weeks, has taught me that I have the American propensity to sprawl even if I build prim-enomically. In fact, my careful use of prims makes the 2048 a bad buy which is why I need to give it up. I will miss it, but that is another subject.

In Japanese sims the gathering place is called a Cafe. The Arare Cafe in Akiba is a good choice but you have to go there late at night if you are on the East Coast in the United States. Japan is fourteen hours ahead of Georgia. The Japanese sit together without mass teleports or the need for loud music. They talk business, much of which involves group building projects. Sometimes they talk work. Even with machine translation, I won't understand everything.

Then there is the Dutch sim (I'll post its name). It's an elegant urban build with attention to walkability missing from most American sims. There are no banlines and there are bridges over the canals. The climate is temperate. It's a sweet place though not always the friendliest. The Dutch have clubs for dancing but they usually run in the middle of the afternoon which makes them hard to visit, but if you walk through the residential part of a Dutch sim, what amazes is how close packed the houses are. The Dutch clearly enjoy having neighbors and being close to business. The Dutch sims are as close to new urbanist as most of Second Life gets with the exception of the mainland. The mainland is a subject for another post.

A Proposal to Linden Labs

If you look at the statisics from First Opinion which I don't have at hand but which you can find, a surprisingly high percentage of premium members probably build. One statistic that stood out was that a third of high use members code HTML. That means you have a fairly computer savvy bunch, the kind who are willing to put in some sandbox time if not mess with LSL. I would guess that about one in five Premium Users are builders. Even if this is a bit lower, it is still a sizeable percentage of a big group.

And the new Linden Home plan does nothing for budding builders. Maybe the Lindens figure that these folks will eventually buy a 512 on mainland, outgrow it, keep it, whatever. That is sad because it is more than possible to offer budding builders the same community as those who find a Linden Home attractive.

Here is how it might work: There is an abandoned sim near where I live in Hartley called Oddi Freddi. Why not carve out a dozen 512 plots leaving the rest as road to facilitate walkability and then give away those plots (much like Linden Homes) to premiums who have never bought land but who want to build with the stipulation that they "improve" the land by putting up a shelter or platform and/or landscaping. This would make for neighborhoods of builders and eliminate the nuiscence of a budding builder who boards over his/her Linden Home, though hopefully such a person would know that Linden Homes weren't for him/her. I would have known. I was building my first quonset hut on the steps of NMC in the first week. One can always dream.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

by Eileen Kramer

Why I've Been Gone?

The main reasons I've been gone are Korê in New York and Second Life. These are good reasons as far as they go. I've been reading Designing Your Second Life by Rebecca Tapley though more skimming and skipping around. I have criticism to address to her and to most Second Life writers/promoters.

Korê is in the Caribbean at an American Plan resort that has about four thousand rooms so it is huge. It's doughnut shaped and completely walkable from one end back to the beginning.

Korê in the Islands

It took a lot of work to get Kor&ecric; to the Turks and Caicos. First, I did not know those islands. I thought they were part of the Bahamas. They are not and in a way that is great. I found where to put the resort and how large to make it. I have never stayed at a luxury resort in the Caribbean. I've stayed European plan. I have stayed at an American plan fishing camp and at a conference center in Lake George New York. I have never been to the Borsht Belt. I have been to Cornell Adult Univeristy/Cornell Alumni University to which Rialitee, my fictional resort, bears a weird resemblance. The food is just so good!

Besides eating, Korê is dodging a kind of staticky, low grade, social persecution and she is effectively locked out of all elite ECBAS activity. She makes no attempt to get in where she is not welcome. That is fine. She has become a bystander to frustration and heartache. At the same time if she gets talking, she may do some self discovery. I'm heading into spoiler territory.

The strange thing about writing these episodes besides the fact that they are really compelling (I want to write a third episode instead of this blog, but I need to get back in touch and document someof what I am doing.) is that the ECBAS characters, both adults and kids, render themselves gently and articulately. Now the Sidlow girls are just nasty because they've got it made and Hannah thinks Korê positively expletive deleteds as a roommmate and vice versa, but away from the villa something magical happens.

I'm not sure what happens next. Korê's service to Young Achievers plays a very different role than the not so benighted Klarissa's service to ECBAS, or for that matter Jean and Jared's. Support against adults is usually not an issue for Young Achievers. Most parents like having hard working kids even if the kid's nose is a bit too stuck in a book. There may be places in rural areas where kids have to be bused or provided with transportation or helped to get used to a boarding school, but in the larger cities, that just doesn't happen. Again, I am writing just a bit ahead of myself and musing.

There is also the possiblity that Marcus Sidlow and associates could tighten the screws on Korê or Korê could meet some very sympathetic adults. Remember Rialitee needs engineers to keep its world famous dsalinization plant, designed by Samuel Bihar, going.

Punishing Korê, however, seems very unrealistic. She is playing by the rules and has only come above the radar once. If someone wants to come down on Korê for studying, one of the Sidlow girls might do that or Kayla might break down out of pity, weirdly misplaced, but not exactly false. All the fun ends in a few days of course when Korê returns to the New York and....That's my secret.

Second Life -- Telling Only Half the Story

I haven't finished Designing Your Second Life but I am finding Rebecca Tapley's advice and coverage weird. There is nothing wrong and only a few things that are factually incorrect about what Ms. Tapley says and those can't be helped because Second Life now has an adult area that wasn't there when Designing Your Second Life went to press.

The problem is that Ms. Tapley (and for that matter Mark Meadows thugh less so) places a huge emphasis on doing things right, being the best, being the kind of avie whom others will look up to. She even suggests buying fine things like houses and prefabs and big chunks of land. Of course you will outgrow your 512.

Let's hold everything right here Ms. Tapley and you too Mr. Meadows. I don't believe Second Life is addictive though if you don't have a problem with the interface your mirror neurons will fire like crazy and your brain will believe what it sees on the screen is real. That makes Second Life exceedingly enticing. I want to spend as much time in world as I can. I'll admit that. Desire to be inworld and dreaming in prims and thinking of building projects and wondering what I would do if I was ever denied access all comes with the territory. I love Second Life, but even with all my desire, there is still only twenty-four hours in the day.

Say that three times fast. I have a job. I have other online committments. I can't spend nine hours a day inworld. Also I want to spend some of my time in world just exploring or having fun. I can't predict when I'll be in world consistently without a fair amount of advanced planning either. Here I am writing about Second Life instead of having fun there. What does that tell you.

Well, what it tells me is that I'm not cut out to be the avie to which other avies look up for help or leadership. What good is a leader who can't be counted on to be inworld or who is not inworld enough hours for significant responsiblities.

Third, just as I can limit the time I spend inworld, limiting the money I spend inworld is also possible. In fact, it is important. It's taken me a few weeks of a new semester at work to realize (Work got busier) that I do not have the inclination or energy to promote a freebie or paid retail business. I hate ratailing. if I can not promote a store and don't want to move my home, I need to return my 2048 that I am renting and dump the retail stall and consolidate everything on a 512. If you are a good builder, I don't think you ever outgrow a 512. You are just a prudent person who knows how much money he/she wants to spend on a hobby.

By the way a hobby is exactly what Second Life is going to be for most people and hobbies don't make money and rarely if ever turn into paying jobs. Hobbies cost but they should cost within reason.

My second set of criticism for both my Second Life authors is what they leave out about Second Life culture in their books. Both Tapley and Meadhows have an utter fascination with Gor. Meadows is partial to furries and Tapley seems to like certain kinds of Medieval role play. Neither of them talk much about neko or mermaids but fur comes close enough. What is missing from either of these authors' books is discussion of tinies, child avies, or quad avies.

Also missing is any mention of Christians. Christians are important, not because there are that many Evangelical Christians who play Second Life or trolling at Christian groups is not an ugly sort of sport as is heavy handed evangelizing too when you think about it. Christians are simply a stand in for more conservative life styles whose members are of any religion.

Face it, to a lot of people Gor is a freak show, and they also have no desire to be half animal, bite people, or engage in either prostitution or sadomasochism. They probably also prefer not to play act. Such people need to know there are areas where they will be welcome and like minded souls. I don't care if people on the SL Forums call such souls Disney clones, this is not an issue of censorship but rather letting folks know how and where they'll fit in.

Finally, telling people they'll outgrow their land and have to spend money or scrounge around for all kinds of items is a very sour note in any how to guide for Second Life. You don't ever need to spend money unless there is an item or animation you want that you can't make. You may need to spend to upload textures if you build. They don't ahve to be photorealistic or custom. There is also always the paint bucket. Time in the sandbox is a good use of time and it doesn't rquire a fixed schedule either.

I'm not sure how I'd write my own SL guide. I think I'd talk a lot about exploration and movement. I would try to include strategies that require neither shopping nor an outlay of Lindens as alterantives. Make a shape with sliders. Mix and match for clothes. Create clothes with weird textures from the library etc... for a first pass. I think it is more important for newbies to get what I call MU** sense. That feel for going walking. I'd suggest good walking sims to do this with an absence of ban lines nad soft spots. Falling through the ground is just plain demoralizing.

After that I'd have the long paragraphs about time and money and keeping a handle on both. I'd also deal with the fact that Second Life is a public place. Even if the fashion is revealing and those around you believe anything goes, it doesn't. Look like a whore and....

I'm not sure where I'd go next. I think talking about what to do when you're bored and lonely or worse on the nights when you're antisocial and have just logged in for some escape. I'd write a lot on when to cut a lot of slack and what to do when you see something offensive or feel it. One of the most painful experiences I had as a newbie was getting bopped on the head by a big bottle carried by another dancer on a crowded dance floor. The other painful experience was getting my head stuck in a different dance floor. Both of these were glitches and no one meant any harm. I felt really out of sorts from both of these incidents though.

One last word tonight and unrelated, I've been walking around the Japanese sims and seeing a lot of empty spaces or unrented buildings. The same recession that hit the United States also hit Japan, but Japanese are far more conservative in the Second Life spending. They are NOT taking a currency hit by the way. I checked this. They just reign in their spending in bad times instead of saying "it's cheap entertainmnent."

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

by Eileen Kramer

Thadea Lives II

Thadea got accepted to two boards on Yuku. That means she is headed toward a conventional social life if she wants it. Most conventional social lives on the net are patently unsatisfactory. That is why replacing Brainstorms was an insurmountable task in the short run. In the long run I really don't miss it the way I did two or three years ago. Busy, well lit, spots where people aren't afflicted with... use your imagination.... are just not all that common.

So far one board has a self-clensing kick out mechanism. I love these because they really work with no hard feelings. Thadea discovered one of these somewhere in 2005 or so. It was a board run by lovely cordial ladies in California. All they talked was California and Thadea who lives in Iowa felt locked out. When the board changed design to make it hard to navigate, Thadea who struggled to stay relevant, gave up struggling, drifted away, and was purged for inactivity. This new board has English roots. If you bore the folks who don't fit in, they leave painlessly. It's that simple.

Board number two is political and Thadea may or may not be a good fit. She is normal, but only to a point since her roots are in me. As I am learning in Second Life, most normals and I don't think the same way. I have an interest in building and find its geometry irresistable. A normal wants to dress up like a gangster, rock star, supermodel and loves shopping. The whole, visceral, moth to a flame thing that symmetry and circular or radial arrangements of prims are for me, is a foreign language to most folks. The same pointless email jokes or pass it ons leave me cold. On Facebook I have to bite my tongue not to point out to the person asking everyone to change their profile to a message in honor of NAME YOUR DISEASE awareness because I've known someone who died of that disease that health and disease are private issues unless you are dealing with a contagious scourge or insurance, and that the people I know generally want their illness, loss, and grief kept to themselves. Not everyone shares the concept of "disease awareness." I don't think my family was fully normal either. I make a piss poor normal and so too does Thadea.

I have a right to wonder if throwing Thadea into Yuku boards is worth the work or the risk should either of us become attached. I remember Haldis getting psychoed in the fall of 2003. Stuff like that does happen. PLAY PRETEND can be a very safe alternative.

Meanwhile, I created my own profile on Yuku, a first step to setting up a board for Thadea and family, or maybe just for Thadea and me, and I made the style sheet for the board. It resides on a flash drive. It's a preliminary style sheet, cream background, black borders, unadorned black text. The irony is that the board has no name. This is where it gets hard. Off hand Pretend PSP Playhouse would be a perfect name, except Thadea and I are GIMP users. I don't have any business naming something PSP when there is no PSP involved. GIMP Playhouse or Public GIMP Playhouse all sound pretty good, but Gimp-a-torium or Gimp-a-teria sound better. The world needs more GIMP graphics boards. GIMP has poor penetration.

Then again, if I am going to choose a fresh name for this board, why not really make it my choice. This is all going to take some thought. The board also really lacks a grpahic theme. It has a blank slate style sheet and nothing else.

More Fiction(?)

I wanted to fool around with Invisionfree.com boards but didn't want to deal with dying role plays (They always die) and board bosses. I also wasn't sure I wanted to skin my own board for fiction. I went hunting for a board and came up with The Burbs which I am going to rename something better at least for the village where the story takes place. I plopped down a character. I suddenly had a setting that was so vivid I could taste it and a plot.

The setting is a railroad suburb that is sort of magically enhanced. Actually, it is magically realistically enhanced. There are buses, trains, plenty of old fashioned architecture. There might be a river walk. There is good shopping, a private air field, an amusement park, a livery stable and riding school, peacocks and possibly elephants and ghost deer which are not supernatural. They just have white coats.

Into this lovely environment come the characters, orphanned characters from roll plays and stories all over the web but particularly at Neopets. They are kids without a past who would like a future. Some come from other places besides Neopets and Invisionfree.com role play boards too which makes for a better mix. They get a check each month directly deposited from the Department of Character Welfare which occupies a lovely, historical building in downtown. The citizens of this suburban town don't much care for the character kids but let them live in six or so houses.

The kids go to school and think of the future and try to build lives, but all is not well in the little magically enhanced burb. Remember those heavy handed enemies of intellectual freedom on a certain virtual pet world. Well, they're coming to shut down the town and the story. Now the character kids and their suburban neighbors must fight to preserve their town the way they like it because it's their home. I don't have time to write this story, but this story wants to write itself.

Kore is Blocked

Kore is blocked because I want to send her to the Caribbean but I'm not sure how to create the social experiment resort without making it ugly or too easy or too boring or I'm not sure what. I see images of the place in my head. It looks more like Asbury Park, New Jersey rather than the images I've seen advertised in the Wall Street Journal. I have a hard time writing about places that I can not picture and Korê in New York has always been a very visual story.

It is a story painted in a pallette of greys and blues and blacks. The Caribbean in my mind is gold and tan. This makes the story even harder to write. I need some quiet space and I need to try to get the story back on the rails again.

In addition, and you're not getting a spoiler, I have to drop a plot bomb while Korê is in the Caribbean. That is going to make writing even harder. I've known this was coming for a long time. It's time to test all my characters' courage.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

by Eileen Kramer

Thadea Returns

This is not trouble. This is also one of the reasons I could not give an absolute "NO" to the people at Brainstorms that my then much more active family of avatarim would not spawn. They were starting to spawn Ithamar and Jacob and I just did not have the energy to handle five avatarim. Times have changed. I want Orelle off stage and inactive. I have room and....the world needs site fighters.

That is not a nonsequitur. Haldis needs to revise her team and upgrade its graphics, but her own site is several years out of date. Thadea's web site is also a mess, and best of all on March 17, 2010, Caltha Xantipe Myers-Bechstien, Thadea's oldest daughter turns thirteen, the age at which she may legally site fight. COPPA effectively knocked all the twelve and unders from competition. I'll spare you my COPPA rant.

I'm looking at four web sites, but my pride has been deeply pricked. Haldis recently accepted a new fighter on to her team. I think the recipes are copyrighted besides mostly not being very good and we both loathe those cheesey Toll graphics. What makes matters worse, this fighter is a staff member. She's taken a bunch of her pages and filled out the ranks. Well, if she can do it, Haldis has a family on which she can call!

Then Haldis has teammate. I can do it so much better. I should do it so much better. True, site fighting is dying, but it is not going down without a fight. I want the pages left in the wayback machine to be sublime or at least the ones I create. I owe it that much.

I've checked my access to Hopefulviper.us and my hands are healing from eczema, so I can draw again. I have a sketch diary and plenty of colored pencils. I am going to need a lot of images for this project.

It would be as easy as falling off a log if a lot of images were all I needed to bring Thadea more or less back to life, Haldis up to date, and give Caltha and the rest of her generation a running start. Caltha will present her own challenges. I have a pretty good idea what a thirteen year old is doing out on Web 1.0. Many of the options for kids her age pose serious intellectual freedom challenges and safety issues in terms of drama. The coding bench, sketch pad, and scanner are simply better alternatives suggested by well meaning and right thinking adults.

Haldis is the simplest job of all. She is working. She's been through a big bout of unemployment and she is switching careers and in graduate school. She is a bit too busy to administer site fighting, but none of the avatarot are going to engage in vote exchange. I'm not sure she's with her boyfriend. People at her age (She's twenty-four) outgrow their college and high school boyfriends.

Thadea is the biggest challenge. She left site fighting to help Haldis admin and then faded away. Her daughters grew. Her husband became more rooted in the university and community. Thadea's page grew out of date. Facebook must not have been her thing, though she could have pleaded being just too busy.

I know a bit more about what Thadea's life might be like at present than I would have known in Columbus. Weekly eating at families' Shabbos tables have given me a window into the lives of married people with children. It's not my life. It's a whole different world and Thadea has a whole different raft of concerns. We share politics and have similar undergraduate backgrounds and artistic tastes. We are members of the same religion, but Thadea never experimented with Christianity. We also both work full time which gives us some commonality, but there is still a whole world which society says Thadea is free to use to take precedence over everything else. This makes Thadea hard to write and her skin a bit of an alien place.

Second Thadea, like most people, has never reinvented herself. She also was not thrown off of Brainstorms in 2004 or QC-L in 1995. She never experimented with Christianity in college and high school before embracing her religious faith and feels no need to carry that faith like a knife in her teeth. Thadea is not a bala tshuva. This means that Thadea lacks many of the tools and weapons for which I can easily reach when things go badly.

I watched poor, normal, happy Thadea go helpless and unhappy today on Yuku. Thadea ended up on Yuku when she, Haldis, and I saw a fighter who used to be on Haldis' team with a resurrected version of her old MSN Group. I thought it might be fun to have Thadea join that group. This meant Thadea joined Yuku. This meant she got to skin a profile. The group apparently wants nothing to do with Thadea. She has a membership pending that will probably pend forever. It's a graphic group so it would be good for both the avatarot and me. In addition, Thadea tried to join three more groups. She now has three memberships pending. A fourth group told her point blank that she wasn't wanted because she had no posting experience in any group. Yuku's social control through group admission might make a great study.

I know what my own reaction to Thadea's Yuku problem would be. No, I would not badger my friends to join Yuku. None of my friends like "that social stuff on the net." It's a shame because Yuku looks like a refined and clean version of MySpace crossed with the best of Invisionfree.com. I could always PLAY PRETEND that I was on Angelika's board. I'd make a PLAY PRETEND version and post and post to my heart's content. I'd show off my graphics. I'd discuss graphics and by having that discussion, perhaps with the avatarot, I'd clarify my thoughts and improve my product.

I would get to know Thadea, Haldis, and to some extent Caltha again by writing through their voices and reading their posts. This is important since none of them have created anything major in over a year. Also, Caltha at thirteen is not Caltha at eight.

Also the discussion would be rather pleasant. Sometimes talking to made up friends is a lot better than talking to random people you barely know or to people you know who are too busy and just obliging you. That there are times when real life friends, or sincere, close virtual friends are the best, is well known, but those times are by no means a hundred percent.

Thadea won't build her own PLAY PRETEND Parents PSP Playhouse. She is horrified at the idea. She thinks it's crazy for all the conventional reasons. I can't convince her otherwise. She's not me. She's way too normal. Now, I can build a PLAY PRETEND Parents PSP Playhouse and invite Thadea to join it. We can also do the entire exercise offline with just Wordpad and a double screen, the login as close as we can get, and then the Wordpad screen if we want to go that route. I would rather have a pretend board. That means I have two other jobs skinning. That's where all of this gets fun.

I tell myself that the work is going to be good for all four of us in so many ways. It's time to get back into web creation and be an owner or maybe a multiple group of owners. I just wish Thadea shared my resourcefulness and resilence. I wonder what she has that I lack.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

by Eileen Kramer

Second Life is Weird

Well it's true, but sometimes it takes a real "ahah moment" to drive it home. One of my friends bought a new shape and a new skin. She bought them for her avie, but a friend and a friend's avie can sometimes be one and the same. I don't have to tell you that in the real world we don't buy shapes or skins. There is plastic surgery and Spanks girdles, but that's not a shape or skin, it's reparative work.

Well my poor friend's shape featured breasts that looked like either watermellons or balloons. Now in real life would you care about your friend's breasts' shape? Well, in Second Life where one creates breasts using either the sliders that modify your shape or a store bought shape and sometimes prims which of course are store bought too. If breasts can be bought, they can be changed. If breasts can be bought or changed, they are objects. So too are eyebals, skin, bellies, and yes, penises. Men in Second Life do not have penises unless they are engaging in sex in which case they take a penis that they have bought or made and attach it to themselves. Usually the penis is store bought because the best ones include scripts.

Thinking of body parts as objects is just plain weird, yet Second Life residents do it quite frequently. They flock to Hair Fair, and stores sell skins and eyeballs. It's easy to think of all of this as normal if you are walking around Second Life. It's easy to forget the real world doesn't work like this.

Ironically, I don't feel any pressure to "look good" in Second Life. I can't picture myself or Iyoba in slut-wear. I do feel some pressure to be tall or feel that my avie is invisible. Outright height discrimination, however, makes me angry and determined to keep Iyoba short. Being thin and glamorous holds no allure fo me.

There are a number of reasons for this. I'm 5'3" in real life. I don't want to be a giantess. It took me a long time to get used to my height and shape. Let's just say I slew my body images issues and want them to say dead.

I entered Second Life with a healthy fear of harassment. There is such a thing as asking for it.

Third is something I call Screw Tape issues. Quite simply if everyone is beautiful as they would be in Screw Tape Hell, beauty means nothing because it is no longer remarkable.

There is also something more. About three months after Iyoba rezzed in Second Life, we found our way to a club where a dancer did her thing in the middle of a dance floor covered with mounds of soap suds. The dancer was tall, had wonderfully well oiled skin, and wore a lovely red costume that revealed more than it concealed. Her hair was flowing and red. In a land of beauties, she stood out as well made and gorgeous.

I examined her profile. Remember, folks, this is Second Life. It was dated 2006! I recoiled in horror. It was one thing to make oneself beautiful and be admired, but what happened next? Didn't being "hot" eventually get old? I mean we all graduated from middle school and after that we graduated from high school. Don't grownups want more and/or something else? I felt sorry for the beautiful avie in red. How much appetite for admiration do some people have?

That Second Life Questions

Actually I have two questions. The first one is the obvious one: "Who are all those people behind the masks?" Avies are after all sometimes only masks. Actually they are more than masks. Mark Meadows is right, but under the mask there is still a real person. The person dancing in the Club XxesS on Sunday afternoon is there in the office at eight or nine am Monday morning. Maybe there's a baby sleeping in the next room, and it's easier to go to a virtual club than to arrange for a sitter and go out with a husband.

Sometimes there's no way to get that mask off of the real person underneath. I'm still left wondering. Unlike talking about how to create realistically shaped breasts or the best color for eyes, it's another to ask: "Why, is this your mask? Why did you choose it?"

I've occasionally heard answers to this question: "Don't you want to be tall and slim?" as if everybody wanted that thing, or Antonus Jacobus' famous quote: "People want things to be better than they are in real life." Otherwise, "why" reamains a forbidden topic. Maybe it comes across as way too much of a challenge. "Why" after all comes with way too much disapproval at least when parents say it, even though I am not a parent, I'd be the one dumb enough to ask.

And this "why" leads to the second question: "Are some fantasies better than others?" Of course this is a judgemental question. Who am I to judge someone else' fantasy? I can judge the fantasy in the form of a mask when it is out in public, and clearly some masks are more original, more interesting, better made than others. Any Second Lifer who has cammed in to see the seams and collar work on an avie's clothes, knows what I mean, so we can judge fantasies.

Wanting to be slim, beautiful and twenty years old again may seem like a great fantasy until I get hold of it. Face it, it's fine for a month or so, or maybe a year, but how much admiration do you need, three years worth. Isn't it time to move on and learn something and invest something in yourself.

Also, no one can make the clock go backwards. It's fine to wish you were twenty. I was dumb as a box of rocks at twenty, but maybe some people weren't, but what does constantly playing twenty in a world that lets you be any age you want, say about your attitude toward your present age that is only going to get older? What does your attitude say about other women of a certain age? This is especially important because we live in a society where older women are devalued.

What about vampires? The vampire role comes with a nice dose of alienation like fries with a burger. Yes, vampires are sexy outlaws, but they are also outsiders. Does playing a vampire help build community in Second Life beyond one's clan or beyond other vampires?

Iyoba's fantasy is part nostalgia and also a yearning for power. The nostalgia comes with Iyoba's proper dresses. There are days when I imagine her boarding a Metro North train for a theater party in New York City. There are other days when she smells of the drawers under the bins of the underware department at Alexanders where they called bras bandeaux. I loved that word. I recognized it from my high school French. In some ways Iyoba is a creature of pre 1970 Westchester County.

In other ways, Iyoba reminds me of my former colleague-supervisor, Erma Banks. Iyoba is a mature, African American female. Like Erma she always dresses to impress in formal clothes and no slutware. Iyoba is small. Iyoba never carries weapons, but a night or two ago, a fellow librarian treated Iyoba like a supervisor even though she was not even wearing a group tag or on duty. One part of Iyoba's fantasy is being the boss. What, after all, could be sweeter?

Monday, January 04, 2010

by Eileen Kramer

Stage Door Johnnie II

Iyoba and I have yet to find Pighed Stonecutter, Yadni Monde, or the Dezier's from I Avatar. Shivar exists as does Yadni's Junkyard and land museum which is in the heart of the Old Continent which is a beautiful place. It is prime land and nearly roadside. I bet poor Yadni has to beat the land barons off with a stick.

Yadni's property includes a sandbox. I have it landmarked. I made four hair pieces there and lost one of them in a crash. Someone in the sandbox used absolutely the most disrespectful language I have heard in a long time. I did not notice because I was busy working, but then I saw it in chat log. I don't know if it was some programmed device or the person actually saying it. Actually, now that I think of it, the color of the text indicated the avie was saying that disgusting stuff.

I don't know what the attraction is. I was glad I was at home when I saw those words. Also there is a difference from a pile of expletives spouted in anger or in realistic prose or even a few in the bedroom, but this speech went way beyond that and it was not IM. Iyoba and I "heard" every stinking word of it.

Iyoba and I also met an avie with an attitude in Shivar. I won't publish her name. We are the same age. She complained about how she is harassed and caged all the time. It took fourteen months for Iyoba to get caged and at the time it was funny. It was funny because it was in the Berkman Sandbox which is run by Harvard University's Law School (sort of. The Berkman Institute is affilaited with Harvard Law.).

Normally, the Berkman sandobx is amongst the most lawful places in Second Life. There are deputies who police the place. Still the script kiddies showed up one day and caged poor Iyoba. We both had a good laugh. The cage was made of bronze and very Steam Punk. It was a classy cage. Iyoba was not caged long enough for the experience to grow old fast.

As for being harassed, I take the insults Iyoba receives very personally. I think she dislikes them, but we can go a whole week without hearing an insult. Yes, I'm thinking the ladies who get harassed are either looking for trouble or taking things personally. Alternatively, it could only take one creep to spoil a month's worth of experience.

I've been robbed and insulted, but never harassed. The closest I've been to really harassed occured over the break at a club on Hedonism Island. Iyoba suffered height discrimination there so for a while she was avoiding the place. Also the music was a peculiarly depressing Caucasian brand of oldies some of the time. It has improved, but after it improved, Iyoba dealt with the height discrimination. We've both been trying to give the place a second chance.

They played parodies of Christmas carols. I'm a traditionalist when it comes to religion, even when it is not my own religion, so I high tailed it out of there. Humorous carols have all the weight of lead ballons. Yes, there are folks who buy classic carols on CD. That's me.

I went back a third time and the DJ called out: "There's a short person out there." I heard it because I had the volume up and was not in the bathroom in real life. I thought: "Oh s*t! Iyoba's about to get proofed." I also wondered why the hostess wasn't handling this with some semblence of discretion.?

OK, I cold handle getting proofed in public. Iyoba shouted out: "I'm an adult! Please read my profile!" This is all anyone had to do in the first place. As a short avie, Iyoba carries the requisite statement of her adulthood and my own in her profile. This should end matters. In fact, they should never get started.

The DJ, however, was just opening up. He is not just the DJ by the way, he is the club owner. He called Iyoba "vertically challenged," and then he said she was a fashion disaster. Now Iyoba doesn't run around dressed like a slut. That is intentional. She had on a long sleeved knee length dress that I had just made. The dress was painted with a pattern of kunquats on it. I love fruit and vegetable designs. Think novelty prints. A lot of Second Life was still under snow, and Iyoba gets cold. When she gets cold, I get cold. I felt profoundly insulted.

Now, fool that we both are, Iyoba and I made one more visit back to this club. It was a regular party scene, no insults, and then I heard the music. Some hip hop with off color language is funny. Some is clever. This was neither. The "singer" kept repeating how he wanted to....I'm not going to sully the blog with it, but it was crude and then he hammered on the expletive a dozen times in a way that would have done any fourth grader proud.

Iyoba ran. I did not have to compel her to run and she did not complain as she sometimes does if I catch her dancing disrespectfully. She has decent dances in her inventory, so in that case it is simply a case of getting her disconnected from the dance ball. I wasn't shocked. I was disgusted. I thought adults got all of this out of their systems before they reached high school. Live and learn.

Yet, none of this is harassment. We didn't like the music. We met a rude DJ. Iyoba has only been caged once. The rude DJ by the way is what baffles me the most. This club does not have a huge number of customers. It is not because it is a bad club. It's not. It is simply that the competition is fierce. Shouldn't every customer, tall, short, dumpy, or gorgeous be valued?

Pighed/Meadows to the Rescue

Mark Meadows of course would have a great explanation of the whole "vertically challenged" incident at the club on Hedonism Island. He says that "avatar wars" take place at the edges of norms and help define community. Iyoba is squarely a human avie. Iyoba however is not a classically, Barbie style, beauty. She has a sweet face, but she is very short and needs to shed a few pounds though she's fine just as she is. She's also African American and wears no makeup, dresses conservatively. She fits in with the Brazen Shapes females; the old, balding man; the avie in the wheelchair etc... as an atypical human. She fits in but she doesn't. She is therefore a threat. Go figure on all of this given what I wrote above. Then again, I guess club owners have to decide what grade they want their virtual selves to be in.

Actually, why make war against one avie who is a customer. There are going to be different ways to interpret, for want of a better word, traditions. I remember exploring a Gorean sim. No, the rules have changed since 1997. Any one can explore most Gorean worlds or at least their shopping malls. Yes, they have such things. Does that tell you something? The rules usually say though that you have to wear an "out of character" badge. In this case, NOT dressing the part is helpful if you don't want to be in the role play.

I remember having to go back and get Iyoba an "out of character" badge and pin it on her and then she was free to wander. The gorean sim had a huge and elegant fortress with rooms with bear skin rugs and leather pillows and huge roaring fires in them. Iyoba sat herself down and then she turned on the music.

MoTown is not a popular genre in most of Second Life, but there in the fortress where everyone who was visiting had to wear a special badge, and where the ramparts were two meters tall with stockade fencing; for the Goreans meant business, MoTown blared away. Apparently, the Goreans liked to listen to Aretha Franklin, the Jackson Five, and the Supremes as they lolled about on bearskin rugs waiting for the next attack.

I suppose that somewhere more "authentic" Goreans might have resented the MoTown crowd, but why fight? Each side pays for its own sims and runs them. I know the Christians nitpick at eachother's dogma. I have a document from the now defunct Yesha jerks which states all the heresies they rejects most of which are variations on the theme of Christianity. Maybe avatar wars work that way.

Saturday, January 02, 2010

by Eileen Kramer

Stinky Stinky

I got the inspiration for this when I handed a rafflesia flower to my boss in the Suspect Group and realized this had to be the name for my new freebie store on Utopia Portugal XVIII. When life is stinky, modest clothing, well made texture plants, and low prim housing can make it better! It really is that simple. Sometimes, I think I am a marketing genius. Most days, I am a legend in my own mind. I know it but being a legend in one's own mind is better than being a piece of garbage in one's own mind. It's time for the photos.

Aerial Shot of the New Land

This is an aerial shot of Stinky Stinky. To the right you see a double mega prim on which there is a painted landscape of flamboyant trees. The landscape blocks out an "eyesore" which is a box with water in it. Someobdy could not afford to be near the sea so he created a bit of it. The long structure is a house of sorts. The round structure is the store.

Ground Level Shot of the New Land

This is a ground level view looking into the store. You can see the store is quite spacious and has three multivendors set up at angles of sixty degrees to form an equilateral right triangle. Each multi-vendor "sells" sixteen items, so I have forty-eight items. I put a landmark giver in my old store.

The new store is an airy, outdoor shopping experience, much nicer than most big barns or a typical mall stall. As I said I am a marketing genius or a legend in my own mind, but at least I am a legend.

Another ground shot

Here is a side view of my property through the trees. This was flat green land on a "rat tail" parcel. Did I feel sorry for this land or up for a challenge. The "rat tail" is now an arbor. Good landscaping does a lot for land. This is a bit of my Active Worlds experience shining through.

Inside the house

I made Iyoba a bed during the week. It is a twin bed made with two sculpties for sides. This makes it decorative. It has a pose pillow on it so she can lie down. Twin beds are rare in Second Life, but for a house as skinny as the one at Stinky Stinky, they are a practical and handsome solution.

Stage Door Johnnie

That was me last night and will probably be me again in a few hours, or according to Pighed Stonecutter or Mark Stephen Meadows, it is Iyoba. I want to find Pighed Stonecutter or one of the higher ups on Shivar, their private island. I know I won't find Sparrowhawk Perhaps (aka Carmen) because she is dead. She killed herself by skipping her meds.

I'm not sure what I'm going to accomplish by meeting Mark Meadows. He probably has given up on Second Life and moved on to better things. I'd like to ask him about all the stuff he left out of his book. He had a way of finding Second Life's most disrespectful cultures and showing them off.

I'd like to argue that it is the person behind the avatar that counts. Too many avatarim like too many Neopets are throw away. People aren't throw away. They have the money. They have the reputations. They can get sued or sent to jail. They are the ones who decide what music plays, what content gets created (sorry for the passive voice), and wheher islands continue to exist, because in a week to week rental economy, car repairs and medical bills come first, and avatarim don't have those!

I'd like to tell Mark that an avatar is a mask that dares you to rip it off. I remember chasing down the folks who rented Yesha both before and after they threw me off their island for trespassing (Ever hear of security orbs or door locks? They really were a bunch of jerks. I am glad their island is no more either that or they took it utterly private, a very good idea.) I assumed that since islands in Second Life cost big bucks and they really weren't renting out much of theirs, that a very rich organization had to be sponsoring them, and if the organization was rich, well... it had to have a real world footprint and a page on the open web. Let's just say it existed in Second Life only. The Yesha couple were the first legends in our own minds that I met.

In my first weeks on Second Life, I also tried to chase down Indra Bekker. I also vowed to do her one better which now eighteen months or so on, I think I have. Indra Bekker was also a creature only of Second Life. Mark S. Meadows is both a real world authority and a Second Life legend. Hey, that intrigues me. How do I get his autograph? I'm half serious here.

But there is more. There is always more. I want to see how Pighed reacts to Iyboa. This is not Be Cruel to Your Avatara week. Pighed more than once talks about hot female avatarot. He has no problem with women walking around in slutware. In fact, he adores it, but Pighed Stonecutter is no boy toy. In other words, he does not return the favor. How do you say double standard? Iyoba dresses smartly but modestly. She is little, dumpy, and middle aged. She is an avie of color who often uses Koolade on her hair. I wonder what Pighed will make of her. I wonder what he would make of her building. I wonder if he would have any advice for her other than that she somehow change herself.

You know neither of us are ever going to find Pighed or Mark. They've both moved on. Being a legend in the real world is much more important than being a legend in your own mind. And I need to build my Second Life in a social way in the worst way.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

by Eileen Kramer

Terra Incognita

I bought the land last night. I named it Kanatenah. I name everything Kanatenah which was the name of a huge, incredibly beautiful (to downstate eyes), seven story apartment building that burned to the ground in early March of 1998 in Utica, New York. The Kanatenah's twin, the Obliston, survives. The Obliston is run down but it is still good value. No one will ever rebuild or replace the Kanatenah. They don't rebuild them like that any more.

The Kanatenah is 2048 square meters. I pay 875L/week for it. I have enough money out of the gift I received at Christmas to rent it for two years. Two whole years is an eternity in Second Life.

I put the smaller version of the murled house on it and the canopy store structure which is also murled. I planted lots of trees, including a new species, a flamboyant or flame tree. I made a flame tree megaprim texture and put up a double megaprim to hide a neighboring eyesore. I planted lots of trees and some raffelisia.

I think I have species never seen before in Second Life. I'm going to confirm this, but I suspect I am the first with my new trees: the cacao tree (with lots of pods), the peppercorn tree (piper...), the milleta tree (wenge), and the Australian Christmas tree. These are a great alternative to palm trees and create a tropical feel that is authentic. In addition, I think I have Second Life's first raffelisia (not sure of the spelling), the world's largest flower, the one that smells like carrion. Oh it is good that smells don't exist in Second Life!

Second Life can at times suffer from a crisis of imagination. I have the only friendly, modern, beehives. I shouldn't have them, but hey it was that easy. It is very possibly no one cared enough about authentic flora to create new kinds of tree. Palm trees were good enough, and stick a few maples or oaks in if you need leaves. I'll have to confirm all this by visiting some garden centers.

I also need to straighten out the details of paying tier with the landlords. There are two of them. They have been in business for a while and their sim appears successful. I am in it for the long haul. The Kanatenah is in Utopia Portugal XVIII. I'll get an SLURL for any one who is interested.

Burnt Cork

His name was Sizzlin Bacon. It really was. I saw it posted above his head as it flies above the heads of nearly all avies. He was tall. Most avies were tall. He was unusual in that he was African American as is Iyoba. He was dressed like a gangster, baggy pants, tons of bling, expensive sneakers. He did not speak to me (or Iyoba). He was busy with his girlfriend who was caucasian from what I could tell. I saw him in the Hobo Island Sandbox.

Sizzlin is typical of a lot of African American avatars I see, especially male ones. First let's start with his name. Bacon is meat. The meat is hot. Meat is slang for a male organ. Enough said. You all know the myth about black men and sex.

The name was imaginative, but as I looked at Sizzlin I realized that very few self-respetcing, adult, African American, middle aged adults (I've heard the average age at Second Life is thirty-five) would have an avatar that impersonates a gangster. How do you say stereotype? How do you say derogatory?

There are actually almost no real life African Americans in Second Life. There may be some morenas, but the Brazilian conception of race is not the American one. I would estimate the percentage of African Americans in Second Life at less than two percent. Here is how I figure this. I listen to the music. There is house, techno, and trance. There is some hip hop (some of it very ugly hip hop). There is top 40, but there is no old school, no gospel, very little MoTown with the exception of Michael Jackson. I have yet to hear a DJ play a set full of Earth Wind and Fire and The Sugar Hill Gang. It is kind of depressing that the way music divided us in college in the 1980's still divides people in Second Life, if we are divided. African Americans may not feel all that comfortable in Second Life. The music may be wrong. The avatarim sometimes are stereotypical, and there may be the occasional crack. I've heard some disrespectful language that is classist, and some very right wing talk. I wonder what you get when you scratch. Nothing in the TOS prohibits "code words" inserted in the right places.

The Hot Seat is Back

Mark Stephens Meadows. Welcome to the hot seat. You wrote I Avatar. I am reading it. I don't think it represents my journey through Second Life, but then again, I made sure to avoid disrespetful cultures and places. I was afraid of harassment and hazing. I also wanted a more conservative experience. I saw things Mr. Meadows hasn't seen. I also know that Second Life and the real world are inseparable. Monetization (paying for things with real money) provides the link.

A satisfied denzien of the Well, Mr. Meadows, made his peace with monetization (The Well is a paid service so it's monetized or it was a paid service back in the day.) before reaching Second Life. I felt uneasy about monetization, but it know it is a lesser evils than some forms of ad support. Think about all those "special offers" which are scams in disguise.

Anyway, I gawked a bit at Gor in the early days of the internet. I've run into a few Gorean stores and toured one Gorean sim in Second Life. I've been in Fur clubs. Both of these subcultures leave me cold. And Mr. Meadow there are REAL Conservative Christians and REAL Shintos in Second Life. The Japanese sims include temples and shrines. I don't understand them. I just see them.

The Conservative Christians have their own islands and their own "ministries." I have a lot to do with them because I am a frum Jew in real life and there are no frum Jews in Second Life or if they are, I have yet to find them. There is a mschitic Lubavitch display but that does not count as real frumkeit or real religious and halachic observance.

And yes, it is possible to be a frum Jew in Second Life, though Iyoba doesn't always act completely frum. There's nothing in Judaism that forbids dancing at clubs or listening to popular music. I stay off Second Life during Shabbos. I try to avoid places with disrespectful language and I try not to cuss.

Now there is a Jewish presence in Second Life. It's been featured in one of the big pupblications. They had a "seder" that featured Jack Daniels. Jack Daniels in real life is chametz! It gets even better, you're not supposed to be online during the first night of Passover. You are supposed to be at a seder in real life. Likewise, having live music concerts on Shabbos (Friday night!) is not shomer Shabbos. I dropped my Jewish group like a hot potato. I am not shy about fighting about religion, but these folks were beyond fighting. They could say: "Oh you're Orthodox...well we're not. I don't think there's an Orthodox presence in Second Life."

I deal better with the Christians at Eternal Creation. I'll leave out the story of the Christians at Yesha. The Eternal Creations Christians provide a sandbox. They accept nonChristians into their group. They used to have a nice dance club, and the language in their area is always respectful. That is important.

I don't have to worry about whether they are practicing their religion in the correct or standardized way or whether they have the best approach for reconciling their faith to Second Life. It's not my religion so it's not my problem.

That said, the Christians I know in Second Life have far less problem with Capitalism than Christians or people in any of the Western faiths should. Read the Bible if you don't believe me. It doesn't endorse laissez faire capitalism and has a rudimentary social safety net of sorts (loans from family and temporary debt slavery). The sabbatical and jubilee years also PREVENT the accumulation of wealth and the formation of a permanent landless underclass.

The Bible also takes a staunch stance against consumerism. One of the Ten Commandments is "Thou shalt not covet..." That is not "Thou shalt not steal..." One can work hard, save one's sheckels, and often purchase the coveted item or at least one that is similar. Coveting is the heart of a consumer economy. Whoops.... Thankfully, I'm not a Christian.

Christians in Second Life also fight with one another. I catch bits and pieces of it since I am clearly NOT in their inner circle. The club is gone. The ice skating rink is somewhere but I don't know where. I think several ministries have gone their separate ways. By the way, their sim plays Christian rock not gospel. What does that tell you?

Evangelical Christians have a vile reputation among some circles of mainstream Second Life. People tell stories of missionaries coming into bondage and sadomasochism sims and preaching that those amusing themselves there are going to Hell. I've never seen that but I did see a BDSM enthusiast asking the Christians to bless her slave via instant message. How do you say "troll?" That said, I've heard stories that Christians themselves told about doing missionary work in "occult sims."

I have to laugh when people say "There are no Christians in..." Usually this applies to MySpace, or Facebook, or perhaps Second Life. Christianity is the most popular religion on the planet, and the majority religion in the United States. Of course there are Christians in Second Life including the Evangelical kind. There are Christian everywhere. I wish I could say that for Jews.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

by Eileen Kramer

Lost Innocence III

Yes, as I promised you have a rink side seat to watch me "murl" my house. For those of you who don't know the house sort of exists in Second Life. The reason it sort of exists is that it resides in Iyoba's inventory. I don't have land for it yet. I also don't have land for my store structure either. The reason you get to see the house, is that I have rezzed it in assorted sandboxes.

I also decided to use only half the house. This means I can rent a smaller piece of land. That is good news. I don't need four rooms and neither does Iyoba. Furniture is not my favorite thing to buy or make. I'd rather make plants and Iyoba is out of doors most of the time for obvious reasons.

"Murling" is the art of covering a house or other item with a mural rather than a photo realistic texture. Murals are easier to make. This makes "murling" more fun, and makes building accessible to any one who wants to try it. Let's start with the "murling."

The "murling" took place yesterday, December 22, in the Berkman sandbox. Berkman belongs to Harvard University. Yes, they have a public sandbox. Let's start with the first photo. Here is the house prior to murling.

house unmurled.

The second picture shows just the door murled. It's not purple any more!

Now the door is murled.

The next pictures shows that murling is a multipart procedure. In this picture, Iyoba has removed the apple green coloring from one of the torii's surfaces. That is why it is white and it is ready to get the mural texture.

Ready to murl!

Here is the murling further along. Some surfaces still haven't received the mural.

Partly murled

Now here for a change is the interior view of the house. It's plain white in there. The interior and exterior torus surfaces require different textures and different murals.

Interior with bare walls

And here is an aerial view of a still partially murled house. Note, the ends have not yet received the texture. This house has about a dozen surfaces and is comprised of six prims. That is not a lot of shapes. In fact, those who classify such things would classify this places as ultra low prim.

Aerial view of the house, mostly murled.

Now here is a view of the end of the house. I have three mural textures but it is necessary to choose their size and offset to get the right effect. The ends of the house are also very slightly transparent. Translucent would be a better word.

An outside view of one of the murled house' windows

Now let's get back to the inside of the house. It too is murled but with a subtle wallpaper that picks up the outside mural's theme. The theme in case you are wondering is titan arums, one of the world's biggest flowers. I think rafflesia is bigger. You can faintly see the arums in the wallpaper. You can also see that the insides of the ends of the house are unmurled. I bet you are wondering how a house like this feels without windows. Well don't wonder. It has windows.

Murling the interior

And here is the interior with a window completed. The house' two end pieces are one way glass, transparent form the inside and barely translucent from the outside.

Iyoba does windows.

And here is the house fully murled. If you are a more conventional Second Lifer would you like to live next to a murled house? Would you want one for yourself? Would you like to try making one.

Murled at last!

Oh and I also murled the store. Let's start with the store structure in its original state.

Here is the store ready to murl!

And now here is the finished product. Say no more....

A murled revolution in retailing

Now is the time to get cold feet. I have land picked out. It is a "rat tail" parcel in...I'm not telling you where. I'm not sure I'll be really all that happy with more land. I still have a mess to unsnarl on XStreetSL. They don't get a link and you know why. I guess my innocence is gone and I should just accept it. I'm in deep. I'm spending money. I can keep this up for two years, and who knows where I'll be two years from now.