Sunday, February 28, 2010

Caledon Pangur Ban

No sooner had the ink dried on my initial observations of Numantia then I saw yet another new land mass: Caledon Pangur Ban. Aerial surveillance suggested that the area was nearly all water.

As one cannot be too careful about what lurks beneath the waves, I boarded the ironclad and steamed forth.

Indeed, the area was entirely aqueous, other than a small island. As I approached the island, however, it disappeared!*

* It turned out a brave Caledonian was experimenting with island-building. I felt better knowing that the explanation was other than (a) a Brigadoon-like temporary island, (b) an evil charm upon this new part of Caledon, (c) my eyes playing tricks upon me, or (d) my brain playing tricks upon me.

The name - undoubtedly chosen by our esteemed Guvnah - comes from an 8th century Irish poem, written by an unknown monk. "Pangur" is the name of the cat in the poem, and "Ban" means "white." Thus we have:

Pangur Ban

I and Pangur Ban, my cat,
'Tis a like task we are at;
Hunting mice is his delight,
Hunting words I sit all night.

Better far than praise of men
'Tis to sit with book and pen;
Pangur bears me no ill will;
He, too, plies his simple skill.

'Tis a merry thing to see
At our task how glad are we,
When at home we sit and find
Entertainment to our mind.

Oftentimes a mouse will stray
Into the hero Pangur's way;
Oftentimes my keen thought set
Takes a meaning in its net.

'Gainst the wall he sets his eye
Full and fierce and sharp and sly;
'Gainst the wall of knowledge I
All my little wisdom try.

When a mouse darts from its den.
O how glad is Pangur then!
O what gladness do I prove
When I solve the doubts I love!

So in peace our tasks we ply,
Pangur Ban, my cat and I;
In our arts we find our bliss,
I have mine, and he has his.

Practice every day has made
Pangur perfect in his trade ;
I get wisdom day and night,
Turning Darkness into light.'

[Translation by Robin Flowers]


Numantia Rises

To the west of Westmoreland now lies new a land, Numantia. (Say, wasn't this where Atlantis rose, then fell again?) Though largely undeveloped as yet, this territory has both low lands, with a stream and beaches, and higher elevations, with terraced hills.

Numantia was the name of an Iberian settlement of Celts. In 153 B.C., the city allowed in fugitives from another Celtiberian tribe, drawing the anger of the Romans. A subsequent siege of the city was unsuccessful. Twenty years later, however, the Roman Senate sent another general to undertake another siege, and this one was more successful. The general erected "a nine kilometre fence supported by towers, moats, [and] impaling rods.... After 13 months of siege, the Numantians decided tok burn the city and die free rather than live and be slaves."*


The modern version is owned by Miss Stonehedg Magic, and is being developed with Mr. Wordsmith Jarvinen. One can only hope it has a happier ending than its predecessor.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Hypnosis in Cape Wrath

A new establishment opened in Cape Wrath the other day: the Hypnotic Shoppe, owned by Miss Wendyslippers Charisma.

The store is stocked with a variety of devices that facilitate hypnosis (as one might imagine), as well as devices that involve involuntary restraint, and apparel made of a material called "latex."

I tried a hypnosis machine, but, I must report, I felt no particular compulsions afterward. Cluck! (Just a little humor there.) Afterward, I had a lengthy discussion on the subject of hypnosis with the lady pictured above.

I welcome the latest entrepreneur to our fair lands. Although her goods are doubtless...unusual for the staid, reserved residents of our community, I have no doubt that the famed Caledonian spirit will provide a warm welcome to Miss Charisma.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Just a Sleepy Coastal New England Town

I was tired, and I had not been away for quite some time. I asked my travel agent where I might vacation for the pittance I had saved for such a trip. She considered me carefully for a long time, then sighed and said, "There is one place that would fit your budget. A sleepy coastal New England town by the name of Innsmouth."

I had never heard of the place, but I accepted the brochures the lady offered me. It seemed quaint, it seemed quiet, and, perhaps most importantly, it seemed cheap. What could possibly go wrong?

The town had clearly seen better days. I disembarked near several stately mansions, but all were in ruins.

As I walked the gray streets, night closed in. I had the uneasy feeling that this was not the sort of place one wanted to wander after dark. Though I saw few people, I sensed the presence of something else, something ancient and evil.

Even the sight of a children's playground did little to comfort me. The equipment was rusted, as though it had not been tended to or even used for years. And I saw no children.

I tried several doors, but each was locked. One opened into a damaged theater. Once upon a time, it had been elegant and stylish, with as much attention paid to details far overhead as the stage itself. Now it was a neglected ruin. Torn between staying in this drafty, mildewed space and heading back into the dark, the sound of several large rats scurrying on the flooring decided the issue for me. I moved on.

The next building to which I gained access did not settle my agitated mind. This appeared to be a temple to one of the Old Ones, a god of unimaginable mystery and powers...and no doubt unimaginable cruelty. Not that I believed in the Old Ones, mind you, but why take chances?

At last I found refuge: the local tavern. True, the calendar on the wall was dated several years ago, and the wine had long since spoiled. But the place had an ample whisky supply and no pesky bartender. As outside the wind howeled its unearthly moans and a mysterious fog descended, I settled in for the night.

The next morning, I was pleasantly surprised to find myself still among the living...though, standing up, my head pounded so hard that the pleasure diminished just a tad.

As quickly as I could, I made my way to the harbor and bribed a local fisherman to take me away from town, as far as he was willing to go. My travel agent would be hearing from me shortly...

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

One Day I'm Gonna Learn Blogger

I seem to have scheduled three posts yesterday. How did that happen? Most likely it was just plain confusion about what day it was. Possibly I can't figure out simple commands in Blogger.

On the other hand, I've been a tad distracted, and when that happens, mistakes also happen. The snow was...unnerving. (Also annoying, but what's the point of whining about, any more than I already have.) I'm not entirely sure why the mindless work of moving snow from Point A to Point B precluded actually using my brain in between time, but suffice to say it did.

The week everyone was essentially snowbound was also the week my office division was supposed to move to a different part of town. Packing was to be completed by Friday, and the move itself was to take place over the weekend. The snow postponed that move for a week, so last week was the last-minute packing episode and this past Monday was the first day in the new location. As with the snow, I have no idea why the mindless work of moving files from Point A to Point B precluded actually using my brain in between, but it did.

This week, despite the strangeness of the new office and the need to unpack and set up the office quickly, I started to clear out old projects. I haven't had a great deal of time, but things have been moving. The brain has been moving...just a little. We'll see if that translates into more focus in this Journal, including getting out some tales that have been percolating for a while.

If you've read this far, I'll add another personal observation. I think I've always been a creature of habit, and disruptions to routine bother me. But, dammit, it's been getting worse over time. I don't recall this kind of anxiety eight or so years ago when I moved offices the last time. How people change jobs regularly is a complete mystery to me. (We can talk about my obsessive-compulsive tendencies at some later date.)

It's not all dire. The more rational part of me recognizes that this whole office move is a cool adventure. I can interact with a slightly different set of colleagues, in a building with interesting aspects to explore, in a neighborhood that's very vibrant, especially compared with where I was was. (Let's not get too excited: another move is coming in 2012. Bummer.)

So: three posts in one day, mea culpa. Here's hoping for more competence and better focus in the days to come.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Clanks and Kraken in Caer Firnas

I had heard a rumor that Caer Firnas had been infested by zombies and air kraken. Never one to shirk my civic duty, I visited the duchy, heavily armed.

I saw no zombies, though I did see several air kraken, patrolling near the cloud layer.

Oddly, however, Caer Firnas seemed to be guarded by a population of clanks. I first encountered the unusual sight of a steel cloud, raining on this lonely snowman:

This creature stood tall on enormous legs...

...while this one stood guard, showing his patriotism.

As I said, I saw no zombies, but perhaps this is why: a freshly-dug grave. Was it full of zombies?

Or perhaps the Volares got rid of a few other unwanted guests?

Monday, February 22, 2010

Neighbors, Yet Again

Just a quick update this time: in my little corner of the Downs, where it meets Glengarry, more changes in real estate ownership. First, in Glengarry, the former site of the Gothlys is now owned by Miss Gerr Huntress and Mr. Rachire Andel, and has a small waterfall (behind the house in the picture below) flowing down from the hill behind the house.

As I flew over in the Hangover Two, the Caledon Air Transport airship was passing overhead, making for this interesting shot:

On the edge of the Downs, Miss Doris Frostbite is constructing her lair on the site previously owned by Miss Lavendar Beaumont. Construction notes suggest one of her interests is World Domination, so I will keep a close eye on developments in that parcel. Others who share her interest may consider themselves on notice.

Miss Parakeet Unplugged sold her property to Sir Thaib Yosuke and his wife, Lady Dawn Starbrook, and they erected this cottage:

The guard dog turns out to have a bark worse than his bite. Perhaps I simply intimidated him.

Aether Salon: Haberdashery!

The 15th Aether Salon featured Lord Primbroke, Mr. Edward Pearse, on the subject of Haberdashery. The Duke has been crafting fine men's fashions in the Steamlands for a number of years, and has wide-ranging knowledge of Victorian- and Edwardian-era fashions.

Miss Serafina Puchkina led off by introducing the Salon, even as she manned the sweets table:

Miss Viv Trafalgar and Miss Jed Dagger discussed upcoming events and introduced the day's speaker, Mr. Pearse.

Mr. Pearse briefly noted that Napoleonic fashions were skin tight, while later garments, though still closedly tailored, were less constricting. He touched on the fashion for black, particularly after Queen Victoria went into mourning, and then discussed changes in styles over the decades. While the basic combination of shirt, waistcoat, topcoat, and trousers remained unchanged, the specifics did: knee breeches and hose gave way to white tie with tails, which ultimately gave way to the tuxedo.

Interestingly, parts of garments took quite a long time to disappear once they became entrenched as part of the wardrobe: spats, for example, to protect against mud spatter, or jacket sleeve buttons, which remained long after jackets no longer buttoned at the sleeve.

Although the principal male "uniform" left little room for self-expression, Mr. Pearse (pictured below) noted that men used accessories, such as tie pins and cufflinks, to show some originality. In addition, he noted that the choice of fabric could provide a subtle signal of wealth; for example, velvet collars wore more quickly than satin, and hence were a display of wealth.

Mr. Pearse made use of several props to illustrate his points.

And what discussion of men's fashions would be complete without mentioning facial hair? Mr. Pearse observed that the style for facial hair became thicker during the Crimean War, but that facial hair of various types remained in style well into the 20th century. The chart below shows different facial hair types; one could discuss with one's barber the desired look.

Dame Ordinal Malaprop paid a visit; it was good to see her back in the Steamlands. The Salon also had a bit of excitement when the Babbage Palisades sim crashed - taking the speaker with it! Order was soon restored, and the Salon continued with no more than a brief pause.

Another success for the Salon!

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Caledon Newcomers' Association

The Young Women's Caledon Association may have closed, but Mrs. Fogwoman Volare (nee Gray) has not slowed her efforts to assist those new to our fair lands. She has converted a spacious Four Winds house (designed by Miss Koshari Mahana) on Aether Isle into the Caledon Newcomers' Association.

The house opens into a clubby parlor (complete with an armchair for tinies!) with an inviting tea trolley. A perfect location for listening to old-timers swap lies about how great Caledon used to be. :)

The next room contains information about Caledon and Steampunk, including a set of mushrooms and minerals, and a kiosk with information about Steampunk gadgets, movies and television shows, and books.

Upstairs, one room has a number of free items - generally the items from the Looters' Emporium in Steam Sky City, and Dame Ordinal's free items from her late, lamented store. Note the authentically eyeball-scraping wallpaper.

The other room upstairs contains a nook with a bed (sorry, newcomers - the only thing one can do in this particular bed is read a book) and a vendor with free poses and animations (!).

The only thing lacking in the house for newcomers is a sign warning them to stay away from the basement of the Little Sisters convent next door...

Thursday, February 18, 2010

The Wrong Side of the Tracks

I shouldn't have been walking in that neighborhood, possibly ever, and certainly not after dark. My landlady told me to stay away, that the rough element ruled the streets, that the law was ineffectual - or, worse, part of them.

Curiosity got the better of me, as it always does, and as darkness fell I crossed the tracks to the part of town known as the Missing Mile.

I found an open bar - but no barman! This didn't seem so bad, I told myself, and poured my own drink. (I left money on the counter; I was raised right.) Rather than giving me courage, however, the drink seemed to drain it from me. What was I doing here by myself, with no one who knew where I had gone? I determined to return to my rooms and avoid the residents.

However, as I attempted to retrace my steps, I saw several men lurking in the shadows. My way was blocked!

Resolving to work my way around the edge of the neighborhood and back to my starting point in the other direction, I walked toward a convenience store and then a bank. "This must be a bad part of town indeed," I said to myself, "if they have bank robbing guidelines!" (And indeed they did.)

Famished, I took refuge in a small eatery. Perhaps sitting at a window table wasn't the best idea in order to keep a low profile.

The police station was a foreboding slab of gray concrete. Ignoring my landlady's warning that the police may not be my friends, I entered and explained my situation to the duty sergeant. He had me take a seat until someone was "ready for me." I sat listlessly. As I did so, the sergeant's words kept echoing in my head. What did "ready for me" mean, really? Before he could stop me, I leapt from my chair and darted out of the building.

After encountering the hospital - far too lighted and populated for me to linger near - and the ruins of a movie theater that appeared to be the headquarters of a gang, I saw this motel on the edge of town. The Lucky Motel? In that shape? I could only assume the name was intended to be ironic.

As I stood in the shadows, I heard a bloodcurdling scream, a woman's scream. "Help me, someone!" she called. "They're going to kill me! Please call the police." I stood on a wooden crate and peered into one of the motel's rooms. Two armed men had aimed their weapons at a woman on the ground. I was unarmed and out of my element, so I could do nothing but watch the scene unfold. A young man with a nickel-plated automatic came out of nowhere and ran up the stairs to the second floor balcony. Foolishly, he called for the gunmen to come outside. One did so, and the two men exchanged words, though I couldn't hear what they said. Gunfire was exchanged, and the would-be rescuer slumped, a pool of blood gathering at his feet.

The gunshots caught the attention of others in the area, and several people started to converge on the motel. I made my move then, hoping that the motel would be of interest, and not a lone woman. I ran as quickly as I could in my heels, arriving first at the municipal building and then to the train tracks. My luck held, and I raced back to streets I knew.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

In Steelhead Shanghai

The message came from Miss Terry Lightfoot that she had created a Victorian kimono bustle dress inspired by Steelhead Shanghai and, by extension, the fashion of the Orient. Billed as Victorian style meets Chinese fashion, the "Daughter of Shanghai" dress from To-a-T is available at Velvel's Shanghai Bazaar, pictured below:

I donned the dress and wandered into Ho Ping's pawnshop:

The details, as always, make the garment, from the lace cuffs to the contrasting waist band and bustle. I felt right at home in Steelhead Shanghai.

As I was in the neighborhood, I made the trip to the wilderness of Shanghai to see if my friend, Mr. Headburro Antfarm, was "at home." I put the term in quotation marks because Mr. Antfarm, contrary to doctor's orders, was convalescing in the forest. Alas, his camp was deserted, though the still-lighted fire suggested I had not missed him by long.

I stayed a moment to soak in the beauty of the area, and to say hello to Frank, the faithful steed.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

The Mother Road

I never got my kicks on Route 66, but the road has passed into legend. In-world, I saw an advertisement for the The Mother Road, and set out to investigate.

It's a sim that is part AM Radio's Far and Away, part small town America.

Really? I can die here? I made a note to be very careful.

The lag was deadly, so perhaps that's what the sign meant. In any event, I made it to the diner, where a serious flirtation was underway. I didn't interrupt.

The Texaco star was still rising high in this town.

What would a small town be without a small wood-framed church?

An America that is long gone, if it ever really existed.

Like the AM Radio installations, the sim is surrounded by barriers that provide the atmospheric lighting, so there is no need to rely on SL's default settings. Unfortunately, the barriers don't always fit tightly, so there are jarring effects as one border meets another. (I tried to crop pictures so these borders did not show.)

The Mother Road is a fun jaunt down a Route 66-like setting, if one ignores the terrible lag. It's only one sim, however, so the end of the road comes all too soon, and one has to return to one's own version of reality.