Friday, August 29, 2014

Anatomy of a Blogger

Candlelight and Sunset

Nigel Riel has an interesting post on types of bloggers, which got me thinking about my own style. He posits four types of photographers (The Unedited Snapper, The Pop-Out Photographer, The Cleaner, and The Artist), and five types or writers (Wait, I had to write something?, Be Brief, Be Gone!, The Storyteller, The Babbler, and The Complainer), which can mix and match but have some inherent trends. I am an Artist who alternates between Being Brief and Babbler and who often brings my offline experiences, thoughts, and opinions into Second Life because I feel a continuous thread throughout. I do have some additions to make to his categories, though.

Muted Rainbows

I personally think "The Photo Manipulator" can be broken out of "The Artist" into it's own category, since it's possible to do full on artistic setup and yet not process the image - that's what I try to do, though often I feel like I fall rather short of artistic - and processing is it's own set of skills. That would require being able to be in double categories, which I think is possible - I know of a few people who are Snappers and yet use a lot of photo manipulation to clean up and improve an image, though I think that is rarer than full on Artists. Likewise, I think there is a category of "The Critic" which is in between Babbler and Complainer; while it is rare in Second Life's usual slew of loving blogs, including my own, there is deep value to critique both of specifics and of general themes within a given community and set of artists. Granted, a lot of the commentary in Second Life could be seen as drama-mongering, even my own "How NOT to..." series, but I am sensitive to the importance of a community have ways and means of tolerating and assessing dissent or it becomes calcified around a few strong personalities, who grow used to living in a world where they are always in the right. I feel like there can and should be some sort of middle ground, where insults and cruelty are not tolerated, but dissent is.

Tracks

Indeed, one of my friends' responses to my "How NOT to..." series got me thinking about whether it is an appropriate critique of people who approach me and are in the wrong, or if it is my expressing cruelty to a helpless target. In specific, his fear was that if we spoke in world I would turn my admittedly sharp wit and sometimes scalpel of a mind onto him. In the specifics he was inaccurate - all but one of the people I have blogged about in this manner have been complete strangers when they contacted me - but in the general, a fear that what one does toward one target might be aimed at friends is a valid and reasonable one. I don't have much to give as a reassurance. I have a temper, and when I'm riding the edge of it I can be ruthless. I like to think of myself as kind and gentle, but enough friends have told me they're a little scared of me to let me know how close that is to the surface. I can be kind, but I have a cruel streak in me - and it's in my best interest to keep that in mind, even if I do continue to sharpen the scalpel of my mind.

Moment in Time

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Genre: Sweet Tooth

Something Little and Sweet

I'm back with more petite flash from Genre, and this time I'm showing off the sim Genre is set in as well - which had a drop off point on top of a glorious table of treats. It's large for a full sized avatar, and enormous for a petite, which makes fun at every size. One of the fun things about recent Genre events has been how the sim has transformed to match the theme - often in a very photogenic manner. I love the giant treats, the enormous pig in a teacup, and all of the cupcakes I've seen at so many different events recently. Even if you don't have a petite avatar, I'd encourage you to check out this table straight from Alice's stories. If you do have a petite, you can build several completely looks from the offerings on the ground around the table.

Layers of Snax

I'm wearing this adorable hair from Bliensen + MaiTai which makes a hat out of a bottle cap and some matches. One thing I have loved about petites is how virtual "found objects" can get reworked into clothing for the much smaller size, to fit in with a Borrowers aesthetic, and it's wonderful to see that echoed here. The hair itself comes in a number of different shades all with the hat incorporated, and you also get the hat on it's own so you can wander off on your own. I paired it with an adorable caffeine molecule necklace from Squishy Fluff, a new-to-me store (Pins and Needles is Skyler Glasswing's other store; I couldn't find any marketplace or in world presence for Squishy Fluff). I love molecules, being the daughter of a physical chemist, and caffeine is a really fun one. The necklace is color changing via a HUD, which makes it versatile and fun.

For the rest of my look I went very pink. First of all, these completely adorable wings from Distorted Dreams with the flowers spaced in the center, and a ribbon-like underlayer. I love the Flowers in particular - they have a lovely shape and fade. The shape of the wings is also sweet, with shiny and glittering arcs of light curved onto them. And finally, there is my dress. Sent with several skirts, this is a Spyralle classic. The fractal pattern of the dress has rough edges outlined in black, with a flirty cutout on the hip and irregular ends on the pants. This is one of those outfits which couldn't exist outside of Second Life; it needs the stability of artificiality to not end up ribbons on the floor. I love the irregularity and layering, and how ragged the skirt edge is. It's reminiscent of fish fins or ragged leaves, though the color is paler and softer than either tend towards. The skirts are flexible prims, which is rarer these days, but the effect is charming and flowy. I'm showing the knee length skirt, but there is an ankle length and you can also wear it alone as a pants outfit.

Truffles and Trifles

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Take a Moment, Take a Breath, Engage

A Single Light at Night

Sian has an amazing post about social media and levels of interaction in each others lives. This seemed to vibrate gently with two recent posts she also linked to - one on stopping liking things on Facebook entirely, and one on liking everything on Facebook - both of which highlighted how linking things (on Facebook, at least) has become commercialized through the use of the "like" symbol being fed into algorithms which determine how close or distant we are from each other. Liking on Flickr is a bit different; it is more of a measure of eyeballs and doesn't determine who you are fed next, except maybe on the sidebar, and I'd suspect that's similar with any social medium which has subscription feeds instead of algorithm driven feeds. Liking, starring, or otherwise offering some kind of unspecific approval is available on most forms of social media, and it is tied into algorithms which have a variety of effects, for the self and others. This is all the technical side, though, and what all three meditations on social media and how we interact with it point to means of distancing ourselves via social media, and means of becoming closer.

Within my Own Embrace

Brief responses, with their additional algorithmic effects, are inherently distancing - they are about doing the same thing over and over again in response to a stimuli. They do actually exist outside of a programmed environment where liking is possible; a lot of community social interactions are similarly proscribed - "Hello", "How are you?", "Good", "Please?", "Thank you", "Have a nice day." They're meant to lubricate interactions and make them pleasant for everyone involved, which is why "Really awful," and five minutes discussing your digestion usually isn't usually done, even if it is accurate. Similarly, if you read through some of my How NOT To... series, you'll quickly notice a lot of the men who try to pick me up have a script that is remarkably consistent between them. Their questions largely have to do with Age, Sex, and Location, all offline. Their responses are largely agreement, even to questions asked of them. It can feel like engaging with a chatbot rather than another human being. In contrast to the "social lubricant" situation, when one person approaches another for a conversation there is more of an expectation of sharing information, rather than skimming over the surface as one goes about purchasing one's milk.

Spiderweb and Dew

And that is what engagement means. It means reading for content and thinking before responding. It means showing authentic interest. It means opening oneself to be changed by what one encounters. And this takes, to put it honestly, both time and emotional ease. It's not something which can be done under stress or in a rush; it requires taking several breaths to pause and enough interest. Interest can be directed, but it's easier if it's also natural - I have an interest in museums, and flowers, and weather, and unusual people, but if something is important to someone who is important to me, interest tends to come along with it. This is a somewhat gendered thing - women are more often expected to pick up the interests of their partners than men, just as women are expected to support their partners more than men are - but I think it has a lot of advantages, especially in terms of adding variety to peoples' lives. This kind of interest and engagement is about building and maintaining a relationship as well; in contrast with the brief interaction of a like, really engaging with someone else's interests means learning about it and why the person we care about cares about it. This is one of the ways in which personal relationships can bridge ideological divides as well; when we have an emotional connection we want to maintain, we're more motivated to get and remain engaged even when there are disagreements.

Flowers and Gloss

Monday, August 25, 2014

Monday Meme: My Computer Specs

Strawberry got a new computer, which leaves me feeling very jealous as I do most of what I do on an old laptop which has some numbers that no longer work.

Stairway to Nowhere
  1. Share any of your computer specs (video card, memory, etc..): I got my computer a couple of years ago, on sale. It's a HP Pavilion dv7 Notebook PC, with 4gig ram.

  2. Which viewer do you use most often? I use the Firestorm browser almost exclusively, and the Radegast browser when I need multiple avatars. Radegast is text only, so it uses up a lot less in terms of resources, meaning I can log in the Alphabet alts easily.

  3. What is your FPS (Frames Per Second) when you have your graphics on ultra? My FPS is around 10 with shadows on and everything. I would love Strawberry's much nicer stats.

  4. How often does Second Life crash for you? Is it usually just a viewer crash or your whole system crashes? What are you usually doing at the moment of the crash? I crash if I am in a place with a lot of other avatars at some kind of event. Sometimes I would swear that it varies by night as well; one of the event sims I went to recently had only four or five other avatars on the whole sim, but I crashed about five times through the course of trying to shop.

  5. Do you know of any tips or tricks in the settings that would improve performance? I am a huge fan of Firestorm's Troubleshooting page. Baring that, I'll join the Firestorm chat and ask questions - they've always helped me in the past. When I'm in a big event, I turn off basic shaders and drive down full avatars in favor of avatar imposters.
Falling Papers

I'm sad Strawberry's doing Monday Memes more infrequently now - I had such fun with them every week. I've been considering trying a weekly or two-weekly challenge for myself, now that all of them have faded away. I got started regularly blogging thanks to the Color Challenge; probably my favorite, though challenging, series was the Single Word Stories, which really pushed me to focus on the emotive quality of my images. I'm still in the "thinking of it" stage, though.

( More pictures here. )

Fit for a Princess: Ice Princess in a Tower

All the Accoutrements

There is less than twenty four hours left for Fit for a Princess, so if you were planning on checking out all of the awesomeness, now is the time to go. It closes at 3PM on Tuesday the 26th, though many of the items will be rapidly winging their way toward stores everywhere. My awesome set pieces are all from Fit for a Princess; first there is a fantastic table with a filled goblet on top of it from the Jewel Garden. It's 7 land impact made up of a variety of different pieces, and it is editable so that you can shift things around to fit your individual style. The goblet itself, it's stone filling, and the flower tucked against the side can all be moved around or used separately, and they are quite lovely both together and apart. The scroll I show on the wall is one of a set, all wit images and beginnings of fairy tales on them. They are made by the Second Star and are both perfect for being piled up on a desk, and hung gently on a wall as decoration. I love the artistic flourishes - a rose for Beauty and the Beast, or a tower for Rapunzel. The lovely light fixtures, which come in three different styles and one with three different heights, are all from Alouette and they give off a gentle glow. I love the different styles and the gentle glass holding the candles, each with a flickering flame. Each is freestanding, and they work extremely well against wood and stone.

Running to the Second Floor

My look was inspired by the blue and white gown from Les Femmes à Barbe, beautifully colored on a well made mesh basis. I love the Celtic pattern along the neckline and hem, soft gold layered over the blue of the outfit. The ribbons wrapped around the torso are actually a separate element, so you can show the dress with or without them - a lovely touch which can let you customize it for a variety of situations, and there are also arm ribbons in a similar style up to the elbows. The dress is pretty well rigged - tied to the legs but loosely enough that it doesn't distort too badly with unusual leg configurations; the wrists get a little hinky here and there, but that is likely because I wear SLink hands. The final piece from Fit for a Princess are my amazing shoes - a new release from Eclectica. They are astonishingly three dimensional, especially with the jeweled pieces over the toes, and the texture is layered and sumptuous. I highly recommend you run over to Fit for a Princess before tomorrow - this is only the tip of the iceberg of awesome.

Shoes of Gold

My necklace is from tea.s, and is one of the items you can purchase to get stamp cards for the Enchantment Event this month, which also likely will be ending sooner rather than later. It's another event i highly recommend you check out, as many of the items are simply divine. I ended up with an enormous folder of awesome things, and I'll try to show more of them off soon. It's been a busy month. My final note is something just starting, though - Devae, formerly Rue and always awesome, is having a 75% off sale at her main store in preparation for reworking her store. My amazing nails are one of her releases, and I got them for pennies you guys - pennies. Everything currently released is there, including her completely saturated skins of many colors, some wonderful horns and eyes, and even a little clothing - a tempting example of what she can make if inspired. I live in eternal hope for her to turn her alien eyes toward something rainbow, but even if she keeps with her usual entirely gorgeous textures, I will remain a happy faerie.

Light through a Window

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Genre: Smaller Deos

Meet My Little Friend

This month's Genre is petite based, and gave me an excuse to break out some of my favorite avatars again to snap some shots. When you go to visit you'll be dropped on the cutest tea table ever, so don't be surprised! My base avatar, and the shoulder and stomach details, all come from Fallen Gods and aren't part of Genre - but they meld beautifully with this gorgeous outfit from Kastle Enchanted that comes with hair and textures for modifying a petite avatar to match - you can do so using the default Yabusaka avatar; most other avatars sold are non-modifiable. I love the flowers on the skirt and how they smoothly meld into the chain over my hips, holding the whole thing up, and the staff included is simple but lovely. The best touch is the roots, though; thin and fibrous, they work beautifully even with a skin that's not made for them and add real charm and whimsy into the look. Looking at them, I just want to plant myself somewhere grow toward the sun.

Dangling Above it All

 My hair is a fantastic confection of curls from Alli & Ali that fit perfectly on a petite head. I love how they catch the light puff out like a dandelion head. The hundreds of mini curls are a perfect setting for the flower crown from NSP Florals, which released a ton of different colors for very reasonable prices, and perfect for petite adornment everywhere. The flowers are all individual mesh pieces, which means they can cast lovely, dappled shadows and they fit beautifully in complicated hair.

My poses are all part of the props they come with - either rezzable or wearable - from HopScotch. The flower has extra fun - a floating bee who interacts with you as you move between the six different poses, with a wide variety of moods - from a fairy catching a bee, to a bee guarding a fairy as she sleeps. It's an adorable idea, made all the more fun by the moving bee. The moon is simpler, but still has a variety of playful and serious poses. I love the one which looks like you just got caught on the crescent, butt in the air and looking down over the landscape. It would be a fantastic addition to any sky, with the added bonus of luring petites to your shores. In contrast, the variety of rockets are wearable which means they can be ridden through the landscape even when you don't have rezzing rights. I really adore the surfing pose, but others - like hanging form the nose, or even a relaxed ride - are totally fun as well. These are adorable accessories for any petite, or petite friendly location.

Riding the Rocket

Friday, August 22, 2014

How NOT to pick up a chick in Second Life - Episode 13

Relaxed on the Shimmer Stars

It's been a while since my last random pick-up, and this one... just was weird. And boring. And illustrative of the weird lack of engagement I experience on these random pick-ups; I have to admit I began to wonder if I was dealing with a chatbot, but he never asked for a single Linden.

[17:07] [Four Month Old]: hiiiii
[17:07] Deoridhe Quandry: Hello. ^.^
[17:08] [Four Month Old]: why happy ?? ^_^
[17:08] Deoridhe Quandry: Uh, why not?
[17:08] [Four Month Old]: ok :)
[17:09] [Four Month Old]: where you from??
[17:09] Deoridhe Quandry: Second Life. Mostly I live on a sim called Imagine.
[17:10] [Four Month Old]: me too
[17:10] [Four Month Old]: 6_^
[17:10] Deoridhe Quandry: You have been to Imagine?
[17:11] [Four Month Old]: kteer
[17:11] [Four Month Old]: or u
[17:11] [Four Month Old]: ??
[17:11] [Four Month Old]: much
[17:12] Deoridhe Quandry: I have no idea what "kteer" "or u" or "??" means.
[17:12] Deoridhe Quandry: I have no idea what you're asking.
[17:14] [Four Month Old]: "ktee"r this arabic
[17:14] Deoridhe Quandry: I don't speak Arabic.
[17:14] [Four Month Old]: oi know
[17:15] [Four Month Old]: old are you
[17:15] [Four Month Old]: ??
[17:15] Deoridhe Quandry: My six year anniversary just passed.
[17:16] Deoridhe Quandry: And you're about four months old.
[17:17] [Four Month Old]: now ???
[17:17] Deoridhe Quandry: Yes. If you look in your profile, it will tell you how long since you rezzed.
[17:19] [Four Month Old]: -_-

I've tried a variety of ways of parrying the endless requests strangers have regarding my offline life. These days I tend toward answering with Second Life information only, though I've been more direct in the past. In this case, his very lack of elaboration seemed to make brief responses make more sense. I'm fairly certain English was his second language, but I'm also fairly certain he was making little to no attempt to be intelligible. Why he chose such... I have no idea. It seems counter-intuitive to contact someone and then make the contact almost completely obscure.

[17:20] Deoridhe Quandry: ??
[17:21] [Four Month Old]: no thing
[17:22] Deoridhe Quandry: Man, you "hit on random female avatars" people are boring.
[17:24] [Four Month Old]: i agree with you
[17:24] Deoridhe Quandry: Yeah, you lot always do.
[17:24] [Four Month Old]: yeah
[17:27] [Four Month Old]: what color is you hir??
[17:27] [Four Month Old]: hair
[17:27] Deoridhe Quandry: Couldn't you see while I was next to you?
[17:27] Deoridhe Quandry: Before you teleported out?
[17:31] Deoridhe Quandry: Or do you only care about offline things?
[17:34] [Four Month Old]: yeah

And it followed a familiar theme; agree with everything I say and add nothing of interest. I know they can't be operating from a literal playbook, but the pattern is so stable and predictable that it implies there must be something deeper driving this. If it really does cross language barriers, what does that mean about the socialization of men who solicit limited and offline-focused access to women and care nothing else about us? 

Strange Sunsets

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Fit for a Princess: Lacquer and Gilt

Stepping Back into the Sun

We're heading toward the end of the month and the wrapping up of Fit for a Princess, the romance edition, and I managed to make an entire outfit out of things available at the event. For instance, I'm wearing the cutest mini dress ever, from Nomi, with gorgeous detailing in the shape of elegant chandeliers and dangling chains. It's designed as overall style bands over either a white or black top, and rides the line between casual and elegant beautifully. The skirt and top look like different pieces but aren't, and sadly they're no modify, so you won't be able to tint your white shirt interesting shades of puce. The edges are extremely well done, however, with no jaggedness or oddness around the edges, and it's fully lined. It's also very well rigged and moves well in a variety of poses, even in the always difficult shoulder area. I also really liked the fit round the neck and over the bust - it's plunging without being indecorous, and necklaces layer well under it. It comes with a HUD which allows you to change the shirt color and skirt color - two colors for the top and four for the bottom. I love the growing trend of bundling colors under a HUD, even if it makes my sorting them more complicated. My largest accessories are all from Cila; the wings, bracelet, and ring all echo the same design and are pleasantly chunky. I really love the layered curves and curls which are reminiscent of wood carvings painted in gilt. They are a gacha prize, with gold as the rare set, and the other options are all pale pastels in red, green, orange, blue, and white - all lovely and tinted as if a soft lacquer was layered over them, ending up heavier in the cracks.

Light on my Feet

I paired the heavier Cila jewelry with a more delicate necklace, tiara, and earrings set from Cae. The design is curving metal woven in and out of each other in a lovely manner, with a single gem set in the larger pieces. Again, there is a fantastic HUD included; two sets of metals and a vast plethora of stone colors. The curve of the metal is the best part - smooth with delicately curling ends. I also love the idea of two sets of metals to mix and match for greater effect, though I chose a solid gold in this case. I echoed the gold in my delicate slippers, made for the SLink flat feet by Dysfunctional Designs. They are a simple round toe base with delicate metalwork over the top and down the sides. I ended up looking really closely, and those delicate balls sewn into the shoe? They actually are three dimensional. The texture of the rest of the shoe is equally well done, complicated enough to fade into interesting lights and darks from a distance, and simply lovely up close. Finally my nails, from an old favorite A:S:S, provide a variety of fleur de lis in a variety of colors, all of them simply perfect. Using just shades of a single color, A:S:S uses different shades to make the fleur de lis stand out and seem like it's shining of of each unrealistically elongated nail. Absolutely a class act.

Calm in the Bayou

The only part of my look, in the end, that doesn't come from the hallowed halls of August's Fit for a Princess is my Adore & Abhor hair, which was a Hair Faire release and is now available in their main store. It's a lovely, slick updo with the cutest hairbuns ever, and I completely fell in love. My favorite touch has to be along the back of the neck, though - always a challenging part of the head. In this Adore & Abhor hair, though, it is a perfect curve under my skull. It is also made up of a number of shapes, which means that if your head is not the same as the creator that you can resize things to cover the necessary ground. It also fits beautifully behind my ears, which is always a bonus with updos and pulled back hair. If you're looking for something cute and perky, this hairstyle is one to try the demo of.

Awe and Glory

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Kagami - Part Two Walkthrough

Story: A Second Beginning

The end of the first walkthrough left you at the end of part one, back at the mall having saved your friend Kasumi. The second begins back at the beginning - walk down the same path as before, but wearing the same HUD. A different set of pictures and information pop up - telling how Kasumi had no memory of what happened on the other side of the mirror, and you weren't sure what to tell her. After a while, she stopped coming to school again - this time telling you that she was afraid of the mirrors. You remembered the lucky charm Luca gave you and looked inside, where there was a lock of Luca's hair. That encouraged you to tell Kasumi about what happened and about Luca. After Kasumi thought about things for a day, she asked you to return to Luca and bring her a lock of Kasumi's hair.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

The Murder of Our Young Men

I Don't See the Light

A white police officer shot Mike Brown, an unarmed black teenager, after the officer harassed Brown and a friend for walking in the street. The friend, a witness to the entire event, has yet to be interviewed by police. Since his death, at least one more man was shot by police while somehow doing something they didn't like in public; his name is Ezell Ford. Violence and harassment from the police toward black men is normalized in the United States, and despite the fact that this violence is largely white-on-black where the black person is unarmed and in their neighborhood, the police officer(s) is(are) usually acquitted (as in the cases of Amadou Diallo and Sean Bell) or convicted of something milder than murder (as in the case of Oscar Grant). This is the legal implication of a far more damaging and persistent psychological reality - white and black people both assume black people feel less pain (study abstract).

The stories we tell drive our future actions, and the story of black men in particular is that they are adult, violent, and dangerous. This is reinforced by policies like stop-and-frisk, which reinforces black social inferiority and earmarks more black people for jail than white people (along with other judicial inequalities), which results in fewer opportunities for black people in general, and black men in particular. Even the language about the protests afterwards tends to focus on the anger of the black people as if it is somehow an over-reaction, while ignoring the things they have every right to be angry about.

I feel so angry, so disgusted, and so helpless. I can't even imagine how much worse it must be for people whose lives have been effected so personally and so arbitrarily.

The NAACP is working to address the systemic perversion for the justice system which results in the murder of so many young men. My heart is with the grieving families.

Growing Glowing Life