Sunday, August 31, 2008

Sailing, Sailing Over the Bounding Main

Miss Autopilotpatty Poppy has applied her ample talents to celebrating the anniversary of the Firth of Caledon. The photos of a variety of seagoing vessels - available until Sept. 4 only - demonstrate Miss Poppy's virtuosity with Windlight, and exhibit the most amazing colors. Windlight certainly expands the color palette available to the artist. As the reader - careful or not-so-careful - can tell, I am a fan of Miss Poppy's work.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

A Visit to the Consulate

I travelled to Antiquity Township to see the new Europa Wulfenbach consulate and pay my respects. I started at the visitor center, which I recalled from my last visit, when I also took part in the CSI: Antiquity puzzle (well, less a puzzle and more a travel brochure).

Yet so much has changed since then that the town hardly looks like the same place! The miniature railway,...

the carnival rides,...

and much more are all new – or at least my befuddled memory does not recall them. The trolley, on the other hand, seems quite familiar to a Caledonian.

Having some time before my appointment at the consulate, I stopped in the large and airy library and spent some time with a good book.

At last it was time, and I toured the new consulate, which has much to offer the casual visitor, including information on historical figures and a number of free items. The building itself is beautifully designed.

I must say, though, that Antiquity is an awfully…dry place. After my tour of the consulate, I quenched my thirst with a cup of tea, but it’s just not the same as a tall glass of absinthe.

The land simply grows, and I can hardly do justice to it in one or two visits. I will come and explore more. And pack my own absinthe.

Friday, August 29, 2008

On the Playing of Roles

Here I am, stopped at the border to Tombstone. Why do I not pass through? I am told that Tombstone is a “role playing” area involving gunplay. Mind you, I am not shocked by gunplay, and I have no animosity toward those who enjoy role playing; it is merely that I prefer not to combine the two. You see, the concept of “fair play” when it comes to violence is an odd one to me. If, hypothetically, I should draw the conclusion that person X should no longer live, and that, for whatever reason, I must be the cause of his demise, the last thing I want is a fair fight. I want an overwhelming use of force. I want stealth. I want subterfuge. I want Ordinal Enterprises behind me. Ideally, Person X should depart to the next world without knowing what hit him.

Fortunately for all concerned, I try to maintain a cheerful demeanor and good relations with all around me so that the subject does not arise all too often. For example, the sign does say "kindly," which takes out a little of the sting of being unwanted. As does this picture, taken much earlier, from inside the forbidden zone. (Shhh, don't tell!)

Thursday, August 28, 2008

CaleCon: Some (Mostly) Out of Character Musings

I would like to extend my best wishes to those attending the (forward-lookingly-named) First Annual CaleCon convention this weekend.

I will admit to having mixed emotions about such an event, and I suspect those feelings are mixed precisely because I straddle the line between the two (largely conflicting) rationales for having one’s typist devote large blocs of time to our fair land: role-play versus social networking. To a role player – any Evil Scientists reading this, this means you – it’s not clear why one would particularly value a weekend that is, ahem, largely out of character. Yes, of course it’s nice to meet the typists behind the characters with which one interacts, but is it really important? Worse, would it not detract from the enjoyment of the role-playing to know that one’s arch-nemesis is really a gap-toothed elderly woman who wanders publicly in a tattered floral-pattern dressing gown?

Conversely, if one enjoys the social networking aspect – chats about books and Dr. Who (whoever he might be) and one’s children (or “wee beast” as one young lady who shall remain anonymous so aptly put it) and movies and enjoying chocolate cake and… – of interacting with like-minded people who may live hundreds of miles and many times zones away, then of course an in-person gathering, if only for a weekend, makes perfect sense, strengthening bonds forged on line. In that case, the surprise that one’s typist does not look as expected is not necessarily a negative.

Of course, we rarely live in a binary world. (Well, we do live in a binary world called Second Life. But you know what I mean.) One does not have to be either pure role player or pure social networker. A recent discussion on the Forums regarding the existence and purpose of alts underscored that some like to do both, and keep those identities separate. I am left imagining the naughty things the alts of very proper Caledonians get themselves into, but that is an entry for another day… I wander in and out of character as the mood strikes. Meeting typists would be nice. And I thought I heard something about a pub crawl… On the other hand, if one has helped create the magic of Caledon, or participated in the process even to the small extent that I have, is it worth it to meet the creators? Isn’t something of a willing suspension of disbelief required to be able to roam through a land of Tesla towers, Nekos and vampires, Mad Scientists and Girl Geniuses?

It was not my intent to offended anyone, least of all participants in this event. Freedom of choice is a wonderful thing. Again, I hope everyone has a wonderful time.

I’m told this event is taking place in the land called Canada, and another reason I have for avoiding the gathering is that the Jameson girls are not entirely welcome in that nation. I swear it never happened, and anyone who says differently is a liar. If it did happen, Kathy was the one who did it. And we certainly didn’t mean to lead the police on that lengthy chase; it was all a big misunderstanding. But anyway, Canada is out for the foreseeable future.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Get a (Second) Life!

Dispatch from Mainland reporter Kathy Jameson:

For quite some time I was too busy - or too lazy - to switch my "Home" location from the Welcome Area to which I found myself when I first arrived on the Mainland. Although I never stayed long, my impression was that there were long-time residents who just liked to linger at the Welcome Area...for no purpose other than to impress the Newly Arrived with how clever they were. ("Clever" being in the eye of the (usually sophomoric) beholder.) The whole grid to explore, but they chose to stay to play with - and often grief - newcomers.

I decided to do an unscientific study of the situation. I hovered above Ahern and then Waterhead Welcome Area, took pictures, and checked the profiles of as many in the area as I could. I note two caveats: first, a substantial fraction of people at both areas were new (rezzed within the past two months, which I thought was a fairly generous definition), so the grizzled old residents shown below are by no means the only habitues of the areas. Second, although I excluded anyone with a "mentor" tag or with a mentoring group in his profile, it is possible that some were engaged in mentoring activities anyway.

Without further ado, I give you the Welcome Area Hangers-On Gang:

First up, from Ahern, we have the delightful Martian in the center of the picture, with a space helmet on, carring a ray gun of some sort, smoking...well, it's clear he's smoking. The cigarette does not appear to be tobacco-based. Rez date: 3/7/08. The woman next to him dressed like a lady of the evening has a rez date of 3/13/08.

Also at Ahern, this woman rezzed on 5/29/08. It seems that she has spent the intervening months stretched out on the rack, giving her the Gumby-like appearance. Her blouse is also stretched, suggesting she did not spend much time searching for fashion. Or hair. (The horse in the background is described as a mentor.)

This gentleman at Ahern has a rez date of 6/30/07. Just hangin' around the ol' Welcome Area after a year. Other rez dates observed: 2/16/08, 1/24/08, 1/30/07, 12/9/06, and 9/3/06. Wow, and I thought I had no ambitions!

Moving over to Waterhead, we find this twosome engaged in conversation. The woman on the left rezzed 11/20/07 and the cat woman with the Hannibal Lecter mask rezzed 11/19/06.

Finally, we have this group below. The zaftig young lady on the left has a rez date of 7/31/06, making her the winner this evening, over two years old. The lady with the tail is a comparative child at 5/31/08. The man in black - also carrying a gun (what is it with being armed against noobies? They can hardly shoot back) - arrived 3/3/07. And another oldie but goodie, and one who clearly has not learned any manners in the 21 months since he arrived, has a charming tag that reads "I Mute [Name of Major U.S. Political Party]". Then again, I found that to be useful information, as it saved me the trouble of being polite to him.

For goodness' sake, folks, get a life! Move on!

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Ban Lines are Uncivilized

At the risk of wading into a touchy of the things I like about Caledon is the prohibition on ban lines around properties. This is one of the many frustrations with the Mainland - one can hardly move around thanks to all the ban lines. I was surprised to find two properties in Steelhead with ban lines (one of which was apparently because I did not have payment information on file with a certain Lab - I ask you, what's the point of that?). The whole thing seems quite anti-social, even for a loner like me. Residents using this device should really reconsider.

Walking in the Rain

The wind picked up and the waves crashed to the shore with increasing force as I walked along the beach. Daylight was fading, and in the purple twilight I could tell a storm was brewing; it would not be long in arriving. Still, I walked on, alone in my thoughts as well as alone in fact, as I could see no one else on the beach. Even the hardy fishermen had called it a day and packed their gear, hoping for better luck tomorrow after the skies cleared.

I was in a melancholy mood, though whether the atmosphere determined my mood or was merely sympathetic I could not say. Nor was the cause of my melancholia clear. As I reflected, it seemed to me that it was that I felt I was Alien - that I am of the community but not part of the community. Others create buildings and caves and, yes, beaches. They animate and script. They produce clothing and accessories. They run clubs, DJ events, create art, produce magazines. Heck, if I'm tallying useful and marketable skills, some work as dancers, or escorts, or "escorts." Me? I wander, I observe, I write - though perhaps I write for an audience of one, my words spiraling into the Aether and continuing infinitely without encountering another soul -and I stimulate the economy by shopping. Others host social gatherings and hold the community together. I contribute mots on ISC chat.

The first raindrops fell, and cleansed my mood. Each sting of rain on my face made me feel real and alive. Ultimately, we can strive to please God, and strive to please ourselves, but to strive to please others is mere foolishness. I am what I am, and live content with that. I enjoy the rain and, almost always, the solitude. I turn for home, arranging my shawl to divert the trickle of water away from my neck, and realize I am, for no reason at all, happy.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Steamperk Coffee - The Pause that Refreshes

It was late, and I badly needed a little caffeine to stay away long enough to type my copy for the evening, or my editor would have my hide. I decided it was time to visit the new Steamperk Coffee shop in the Steampunk Resource Centre.

As I mentioned earlier, the shop is located conveniently across the road from my humble abode - the yellow house that can be seen outside the entrance.

It was but a minute to stumble out of my house, red-eyed and grumpy, and get a steaming cup of coffee in my hands.

I spent a few moments chatting with Miss Beaumont, the proprietress (the steampunk angel in the background of the picture below). I complimented her on the redesign while practically inhaling the coffee. My visit was a little less harrowing for the proprietress than that of a prior customer .

Thus re-energized, I went back to work before nodding off at my desk...again. Sometimes I wonder why I have a bed?

As it turns out, the coffee shop is not the only new addition to the SRC. On the ground level, just outside the entrance, is The Magic Mirror, an Artificial Intelligence, of some sort.

Now, it's clear there is a great need for additional Intelligence in this world of ours - just look at the amount of bling out there - and the Artificial sort might just be an improvement over the God-given variety. I shall have to try it out shortly.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Calling Mr. Drinkwater - Cleanup on Aisle One

One ordinarily thinks of libraries as neat, orderly places. Certainly this is the bar that Sir JJ Drinkwater has set for Caledon.

Sometimes, however, even librarians show their messy sides. I came across the future home of the Caledon Welcome Center, in Victoria City:

Looking inside, I found the most amazing mess. Books strewn everywhere!

The volumes were hardly filed according to the Dewey Decimal System. Oh no indeed, I think not.

Friday, August 22, 2008

A Sorry Commentary on Educational Standards

I was at the Burning Leaf pub in Southend the other day, having a drink with my old friend Ephesius Brachnid. Don’t ask, it’s a family name. (As an aside, I understand Miss Lavendar Beaumont sold the property. I don’t want to whine too badly, but it’s a very convenient pub for me: outside of my own drinks cabinet, it’s effectively my local. The Burning Leaf closing would be like a death in the family. (Admittedly, perhaps a death of a distant, and not terribly well-liked cousin, but still…) And the Leaf features in a forthcoming tale of mine, which will make it a tad strange if the pub no longer exists. Ah well, “things change” should be the motto of Caledon.)

Things were going well, until Ephesius happened to mention the slowing economic conditions, not only in our fair land but elsewhere. “Rhianon, the Guvnah’s got to do something about it! Businesses are suffering – heck, people are suffering.”

I smiled sweetly at him. “That may be so, Ephesius, although, judging from the lag at Gurl6 the last time I was there, the economy seems to be holding up pretty well, thank you. But what do you think the Guv should ‘do’ about it?”

He played with his empty glass for a moment, and the reflections from the dying light outside created a bright glow on his face and made him appear to be quite mad. Which, perhaps, he was. “Bold moves, that’s what we need! The Guvnah should distribute Lindens to everyone in Caledon – a big wad of Lindens – with instructions to go out and spend. The government needs to stimulate the economy with cash.” He followed his own advice by catching the barmaid’s eye and asking for another gin. I noticed he didn’t order me one.

“Ephesius, that’s the dumbest idea I’ve heard in quite some time. Even by your standards that’s silly.”

“Why? What’s wrong with my plan?” He looked hurt. I had forgotten how sensitive he was, like a little boy.

“For one thing, ‘the government’ doesn’t earn money, so ‘the government’ is in no position to give it away. Shopkeepers and landowners earn money. If I understand your plan, you want the Guv to rob the very people who keep our economy running, give the money to the rest of us like some modern-day Robin Hood, so that we can go out and give the money back to our landlords and our favorite shops. Now, how does that make sense?”

Ephesius had the good grace to look a little chagrined. “When you put it like that, it doesn’t sound quite as remarkable. It seemed like a good idea, though – and I stole it from a respected politician!”

I turned a palm over. “Well, there’s your problem. Don’t steal ideas from politicians; that will only get you in trouble. And the whole concept of a respected politician seems to be an oxymoron.” I patted him on the hand. “Drink up, Ephesius, dear, and don’t do so much thinking. We’re both better off that way.”

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Bridges and Trains and Steampunk - Oh My!

My wanderings took me through the Dunchies of Glamorgan and Greystoke last night, and I discovered a new structure: a massive rail bridge connecting Glamorgan with Greystoke.

Although the railway appears to be in the testing stage, it has a steam engine ready to roll on the tracks:

For those who want to stretch their legs, the bridge has a pedestrian walkway as well. One can look over the side, at Duke Ambient's pirate ship and wonder if there is any connection between the ship and how he became wealthy enough to afford a duchy...

Of course, that kind of speculation is silly. The Duke has a thriving business selling steampunk-themed gear and airships. I'm certain he would have nothing to do with piracy!

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Caffeine Addicts, Unite: Coffee and More Come to the SRC

While I sit here, fruitlessly attempting to gain access to the grid ("Due to higher-than-usual load, logins to Second Life have been temporarily disabled. We anticipate logins will be disabled for only a short time." - well, at least 20 minutes now, as I've watched the number of users fall by 10%), it occured to me to make a note that there have been some changes afoot across the street from me in Caledon Downs. The Steampunk Resource Centre, under the direction of Miss Sea Beaumont, has remodeled. The two principal changes are the addition of a coffee shop on the top floor, and the addition of steps in place of a teleportation system between floors.

Although Miss Beaumont is still taking the name of the coffee shop under advisement ("Steamperk" appears to be the runaway favorite at this stage, but we must make allowances for a dark horse late in the race, and the preferences of the proprietress have yet to be made known), I look forward to the shop's arrival. I had been thinking that the Downs lacked such a shop - it also lacks a proper pub, another shocking delinquency in what is otherwise a fine location; I find it hard to believe that my fellow residents think there are too many pubs already in Caledon - and now I can indulge my addiction any time I am at home, for I can merely stumble out of my door and into the shop, assuming I do not misjudge and tumble down the hill. Well, these things happen. I poked my head into the construction zone, and it appears cakes and other sweets will also be available, which means an assault on my waistline. *sigh* The sacrifices I make for neighbors!

The stairs are also welcome, if only for the opportunity to work off a few of the extra calories from the sweets. I found nothing wrong with the teleportation system, but Miss Beaumont noted that more than one guest departed the Centre under the mistaken belief it contained but one floor. I took the uncharitable view that anyone who could not operate - or, indeed, fail to notice - a teleportation system was not the ideal candidate for the steampunk lifestyle, but Miss Beaumont is a kind soul, and arranged with her partner Miss Molly Lundquist to install the stairs (between the second and third floors) and the ladder (between the first and second floors).

Unfortunately, to make room for the shop, the Centre no long has its cozy reading area. Of course, Caledon does not lack for library space, thanks to our energetic librarian Sir JJ Drinkwater and his associates, and Miss Beaumont will likely look the other way if one lingers over a cup of tea while perusing the latest offerings from Mr. H. G. Wells. Progress undoubtedly pushes the past firmly behind us, and this is not always a bad thing. I must realize we are no longer living in the eighteenth century, and embrace this modern age.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Would You Buy a Used Survey from This Man?

“Don’t worry,” they said. “Trust us, it’s safe,” they advised. “Never mind waiting for that detailed geological assessment,” they proclaimed, “we’ve got a 24-hour turnaround from a survey firm who first asked us what the answer should be. Party on, Garth!” (Pardon the anachronistic reference.)

Yesterday, Caledon celebrated the declaration that the Saint Kitt Islands were volcanically inactive – yes, it doesn’t take much to generate a celebration around here – with an old-fashioned beach party. Sadly, the celebration turned out to be premature as the volcano erupted with sufficient force to nearly level the islands. Compare the “before” and “after” pictures. Before and After:

Quite a difference, eh?

Fortunately, according to early reports, there was no loss of life, thanks to the preparation of the Middlesea Fleet. Three cheers to Captain O’Toole and his sailors! (Even more fortunately for me, commitments kept me away from the beach – otherwise, I would have been strutting in my tankini, working on my third or fourth mai tai, as the explosion occurred. And I’m pretty slow on my feet even during the best of times. I can just see it now: everyone else gets out fine, and poor Rhianon gets nailed by a chunk of molten rock.)

Hey folks, I hate to say I told you so, but, well, I told you so (item 3), as did others .

Sadly, even though the revelers came through without loss of life, the destruction of Saint Kitt yielded a tragedy among the rescue fleet, but that is a story for another day.

Edit 8/20: Mr. Woodget has informed the Caledon Forums that, alas there was one casualty on the island itself: Mr. Jayleden Miles is missing and presumed perished. A party, er, memorial service will be held Thursday, unless the search party finds Mr. Miles alive and well, finishing off a cask of rum by himself in some cubbyhole protected from the destruction.

Monday, August 18, 2008

The Cheerful Goth

I live on the wrong side of life,
I’m the one you fear as you hold your wife.
I run where the darker crowds run,
On the rain swept streets where black rain runs.

I’ll admit it: I’m a creature of the night. No, not one of those creatures of the night; sunlight does not destroy me, nor does a crucifix or a clove of garlic affect me. (My breath, perhaps, but not my physical well-being.) (A silver bullet probably does the trick, but, then again, so would a garden-variety lead bullet, and I’m not anxious to test the proposition.) I enjoy wandering at night, cool breezes moving over my hair, my face, my body. Direct sun makes me sluggish – and wary, as though God is dazzling me with the brilliant light to direct me away from the things I’d rather see. Perhaps paradoxically, the dark often shows a thing in its true light. Or a person in his true light. I prefer it that way.

And, of course, the dark is more soothing if one happens to be hung over. Not that this happens to me, but I’ve heard rumors.

As part of my becoming one with the dark, I often dress as a creature of the night. I blend in. If I have a style, it’s gothic in nature – Dark Shadows more than medieval cathedrals, however. Lots of black, and deep purples and reds. The Cure on my mental soundtrack. Of course it’s partly an affectation, but one with which I’m comfortable. Take me as I am, as they say.

But this lifestyle seems to be a bit on the…ah, depressed side, shall we say? Lots of fog, no problem. Dark, brick buildings, crumbling at the corners, with vines working their way into the mortar, works for me. But all the graveyards, and vampires, zombies, dead and undead…sheesh, and all so serious. C’mon guys, crack a smile some time! This is supposed to be fun!

So next time you see me, say hello and smile. I might even smile back.

I see things the darker kids see
Though you wouldn’t believe all that’s happened to me.
I’ve been to the backside of hell,
And I’ve played with your fear and enjoyed it well.

(Abney Park, "The Wrong Side")

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Peated Whisky in Months Without an "R"

Business took me to Cape Wrath, and I had a little time on my hands, so I stopped in Mr. Roy Smashcan's pub, The Norseman. As I sat on the barstool, sipping on a nice Laphroig despite the unseasonably warm August day, I reflected on the terrible prejudice against heavily peated whiskies during warm months.

It is true that the peat flavor, usually accompanied by the briny taste of many Islay whiskies, warms one nicely on a cold winter's day. It's just the thing for sipping underneath a blanket, next to your significant other.

At the same time, the whisky is delightful on a warm summer day, with a few ice cubes instead of water (go ahead, whisky snobs, and let the carping begin). Take a sip, put down the glass, watch the sweat bead and run down the side of the glass. Take another sip. A small trickle of sweat runs down the nape of your neck, then evaporates in the breeze. Another sip. You are perhaps wearing a short linen dress, and you fan yourself idly while thinking of a pleasant vacation you had. In contrast to drinking a Laphroig in the middle of winter, your summer Laphroig is better sipped alone, contemplating missed opportunities and lost loves as well as happier times.

Beware sipping too long, however. I cannot be responsible for your actions at that point.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Journey to Steelhead

Late last night found me on a long journey by rail. The train stopped in Steelhead, a 19th century U.S. Pacific Northwest town. I had several hours before we departed again while the train crew restocked the coal and other provisions. Finding myself in the commons, I sat for a moment in front of the train tracks and engine, wondering if the fog would lift. If so, I vowed to stroll through the town.
It soon did, and I walked the empty streets - or nearly empty, as I was to find out - admiring the architecture. Not surprisingly, perhaps, a number of the shops had names that were familiar to Caledonians.
The area is as much residential as commercial, and contained what appeared to be navigable waterways, and docking space for airships.
As daylight broke, I realized I was not truly alone. Mr. TotalLunar Eclipse, Manager of Steelhead Estates, came to survey the land. (Herein lies a valuable lesson: do not guess the gender of another until he or she has fully rezzed. I did so after seeing the long hair and...guessed incorrectly. Mr. Eclipse was good-natured about it, fortunately.)
The magnificent City Hall rises among the pine trees,...

...while even Elvis makes an appearance.
The town, though small, is enchanting, and well worth a visit - or an overnight stop on one's way back to Caledon.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

One More Reason to Prefer SL Over RL

Two words: no cavities.

While my typist is certainly grateful to modern dentistry for allowing corporeal beings to keep their teeth longer and to do so with less pain than in days of yore, I am grateful that I have no such needs.

I suppose, however, if I search long enough, I would find some prim teeth with scripted tooth decay...

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Meet Your Maker and Be Entertained

I'm stealing yet another idea for a sim visit from Miss Emilly Orr - eventually she will start charging me royalties, but she does visit the most interesting places. This is The Raft, where one can engage in all sorts of risky behavior, from standing nearby an archery target when the practitioner is not so talented... being impaled (the sign did warn me)... being electrocuted. Apparently standing in water while fooling with high voltage lines is not something that increases one's life expectancy.

And there's more! A toxic waste dump! A falling rock area! A veritable cornucopia of death! All in all, very handy if you need an excuse to get out of a social obligation. "Sorry, can't make it. I'm getting impaled in an hour."

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Saint Kitt Islands - If You Lived Here, You'd Be Home Now

Lady Gabrielle Riel reports that Guvnah Shang has declared Saint Kitt Islands geologically sound. This is good news indeed - although, not to suggest I distrust the Guv, the motto "trust but verify" would be appropriate here - especially for those who own land on the colony and have rapidly erected structures in the hope they did not build on molten rock waiting to erupt.

In honor of the occasion, I took a stroll and a swim - someplace where the geologic stability has stood the test of time.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Descension - Goth Goes Family-Friendly

I found myself in Descension, a gothic "community," as it bills itself, and lost in contemplation.

Perhaps I was contemplating whether I really wanted to abandon all hope. The dark mists are certainly conducive to it. But I rallied, and wandered about the community.

Like Caledon, it mixed residential structures and commercial ventures. A nightclub, a photography business specializing in "the darker side of imagery," a hedge maze, the obligatory BSDM/sex castle (not that I saw it in action, so to speak), and...a playground. Well, at least the children were a few meters away from the BSDM hangout.

Of course, what self-respecting goth community would lack a creepy graveyard?

And - who knew? - goths like En Garde, too!