Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Celebrate Automata at the Clockwork Ball

The Primgraph magazine and Emperor Steelcobra Calamari of Steeltopia are hosting an event they have dubbed the Clockwork Ball,* celebrating the upcoming issue of The Primgraph, which will focus on the wonders of automata. (And, one fervently hopes, the fact that these creatures so often turn on their creators.)

In fact, there will be not one but two balls, both held this coming Saturday, April 2: one from 2-4 pm SLT and the other from 7-9 pm SLT. The Primgraph notes that "Prizes will be awarded for the attendees whose appendages and / or apparel most please the eyes of our judges."

Alas, my typist will be out of town this weekend, but I hope to see visual evidence of the event, including any cataclysms should the assembled machinery run amok.


*Listeners of the Clockwork Cabaret radio show will know that the Davenport sisters hold an occasional Steampunk event dubbed the Clockwork Ball, generally held in or around Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Mixing up the two events could lead to hard feelings somewhere along the line, so I urge caution. However, anyone providing a moving picture record of a performance of the Interpretive Whale Dance at this weekend's event should post the video in a prominent location.

New Babbage Oiling Festival

Strolling along the piers in Port Babbage, I enjoyed viewing the entries into the building contest for New Babbage's third annual Oiling Festive.

Mr. Nathaniel Lorefield's power plant:
Miss Kimika Ying's steam crane:
Mr. Edward Pearse's Steampunk fax machine:

And Miss Cutea Benelli's steam organ. (Hmm, top hat, mustache - does that remind me of anyone?)

An all-around impressive display of engineering ingenuity!

Monday, March 28, 2011

City of Pirate Treasure

I was in my airship, attempting to find a shortcut back to Caledon Downs from Steelhead, when, naturally, I got lost. Some shortcut. To make matters worse, a late-season hailstorm punctured the airship's gas bag in several places, causing me to lose altitude. Repairs would be needed.

Looking down nervously, all I could see was open water, and that water was getting nearer to the airship all the time. Just as I thought all would be lost, I saw a distant speck on the horizon. As it drew nearer, the speck became a tropical island,* and the island contained a man-made port. And buildings. And white wisps of steam. Civilization!

I landed the airship at the port and looked about. Wherever I was, the residents were clearly familiar with the Steamlands - their naval vessels were purchased from New Babbage. How intriguing.

I repaired the gas bag from my kit and prepared to re-inflate the bag when I noticed I was surrounded by several men wearing pirate costumes. Did I miss a holiday? I wondered. Perhaps a costume ball? "Welcome to New Barataria," said their leader, a tall man with a scruffy beard and a patch over his eye, "Steampunk City of Pirate Treasure." A wisp of steam rose from near his waist and I could see that he had an artificial leg as well. A small steam engine provided power to the leg.

"Uh, greetings, gentlemen. My apologies for arriving unannounced but, as you can see, my airship had a bit of difficulty. I'll be on my way once I inflate the gas bag. By the way, would anyone have a chart you could lend me that shows the way back to the Steamlands?"

The one-eyed man guffawed. "Leave? Of course, m'lady. Just walk away - we'll keep your airship nice and safe, as well as any valuables you might have on your -" He leered. "- person."

One of the smaller pirates piped up. "Cap'n, can't we keep her? We could use another serving wench at the tavern."

This conversation was not going as well as I had hoped.

Another pirate made a pointed suggestion about staffing the local brothel. I shuddered.

"May I say a word, Captain?" He nodded, and I stepped toward him, stretched up, and whispered something in his ear.

He blanched. When he recovered his composure, he said, "Why didn't you say that right away? Welcome, honored guest."**

The pirate captain gave me a personal tour of the town, including the aforementioned bordello and saloon.

While we were walking the streets of the town, his minions finished the repairs on my airship and gave it a good cleaning. When we returned to the docks, the captain presented me with a chart showing New Barataria and Caledon. I thanked him and his crew and was off.


If that sounds implausible, a consider the following information pamphlet:

Welcome to New Barataria

First a little real life history, riddled with legend and adventure:

In the early nineteenth century the pirate/privateer Jean Lafitte founded a colony of smugglers and pirates on the island of Barataria, in Barataria Bay, which was located beyond a narrow passage between the barrier islands of Grande Terre Island and Grande Isle near New Orleans. Barataria was far from the U.S. naval base and ships could easily smuggle in goods without being noticed by customs officials. For years Lafitte operated much as a legitimate businessman selling stolen and smuggled goods as well as African slaves to the merchants of New Orleans. The colony was quite successful but eventually even after being pardoned by President Jackson for helping the US army win the War of 1812, Lafitte fell into disfavor and was forced to give up the island, which he did peacefully, sailing to modern day Galveston where his colony settled and prospered once again. Eventually one of his pirate captains attacked an American merchant ship, which brought the US Navy to Lafitte’s door again to remove him and his pirates from the Gulf. He left peacefully on his flagship, the Pride, burning his fortress and settlements and reportedly taking immense amounts of treasure with him. Lafitte sailed off again and no one really knows what happened to him, in spite of many theories and none of the treasure has never been found.

Lafitte left Galveston and doubled back north along the coast of Galveston Bay, where New Barataria was founded on an out of the way, uncharted shore around 1825. Lafitte setup the same government he had before on his earlier colonies, where he was governor/dictator, with his lieutenants assisting and a 13 man jury with himself as the judge. Theft could cost you a hand, taking advantage of women could cost you your life. He retired on his fortunes and lived peacefully, managing to keep his citizenry of pirates and smugglers out of trouble until he died.

Wind the clocks forward to 1880:

Throughout his life he had many children by many women, one of whom bore the child named Jeanie who has inherited the leadership of the colony which has grown to busy seaport. Together with Darkstar she rules the city according to her grandfather's creed. The old pirate's ship has been converted to steam with blimp technology and still hovers at anchor over the northern coast.

This is New Barataria, where you will find old west saloons, horses and wagons contrasted by steam trains and blimps as well as other little known steam powered gadgetry in an 1880’s neo-Victorian age.

All I can say is: some shortcut.

* A hailstorm and then a tropical island? I know, it seemed improbable to me, too. Recall that this was supposed to be a shortcut. A little warping of space never hurt anyone, right?

** Fine, I'll tell you. Just between us, though, okay? "I'm sure you wouldn't mean any harm to a friend of Mr. Vivito Volare, would you?" He may be long retired, but his name was still feared.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Steampunk Comes to Teens

While perusing the selection of out of town newspapers I take in order to keep abreast of activities elsewhere in the Steamlands, I came across reference to an establishment called the Queen Victoria Hotel in what was described as the "teen sim of Epic." This was not a part of the Steamlands known to me, so I made a point to pay a visit as soon as I could.

Indeed, this was a destination far from the Steamlands. The sim caters to the young (as well as the young at heart, I suppose), with a dancing establishment featuring garish colors, scandalous clothing, and an advertisement for "Awsum" attire. Excuse me while I shudder yet again. However, one spot stood out as a beacon of sanity.

The hotel had a very familiar look. I couldn't quite place it. Somewhere in the Steamlands. New Babbage? Then it came to me: this was a dead ringer for Babbage's Hotel Brunel. And, indeed, the Queen Victoria was owned by none other than the Brunel's proprietor, Mr. Victor1st Mornington.

I was attracted by the aroma of coffee inside, past the lobby. As I looked at the machine, wondering what levers to pull in order to procure a cup, the hotelier himself, Mr. Mornington, happened by. We exchanged greetings, and he explained that he wanted to bring a bit of the Steamlands to the young people of the grid, which I thought was a most noble endeavor.

The wall at the top of the second-floor landing had various pictures of the Hotel Brunel, perhaps to entice guests to make a tour of New Babbage at some point.

Rooms at the hotel are to let for quite reasonable rates. "Awsum," I thought.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Nova Albion's Seventh Anniversary Parade

Mr. Headburro Antfarm mentioned that, on Saturday afternoon, Nova Albion would have a parade to celebrate its seventh anniversary. Who can resist a parade?

Like most parades, most of the time was spent milling around, getting ready. Well, it's hard to imagine the giant snail would have been moving terribly quickly in any event.
As befits a town turning seven, these were the oldest collection of residents I had ever seen gathered in one place - everyone was at least three, and several were over six years old! (Senility was surely setting in on those oldest. No offense, Mr. Salazar Jack.)
Sadly, I missed Mr. Antfarm, who arrived for the music later.

It's a law that every parade needs vintage vehicles.
And they're off! I'm not sure riding an animal counts as a vintage vehicle, although perhaps this really turns on the age of the animal.

As with every parade I've seen, lag rapidly became unbearable and the participants quickly separated. Happy birthday, Nova Albion!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

In Chakryn Forest

Chakryn Forest was recently updated. (The first five pictures below are from the original, and the last three from after the update.)

The tall trees, the way the rays of light play off the water and the forest floor, the palpable sense of the water rushing off the waterfalls all create a romantic place to walk.

Romantic, except that one occasionally encounters something a little different. No, an eye that follows your movements is not unnerving at all, it it? I'll just slowly back away.

One of my fellow wanderers:

Steampunk statuary:

For the more goal-oriented, Chakryn has quests! Find various objects, return them to the right spot, claim your reward. Several hidden goodies await as well.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

The Diary of a Day of Working at Home

People who work in an office often have a dream of working at home. No commute, no annoying co-workers, one's own coffee machine for cheap refills... and no doubt some of that is true. On days with bad commutes, where I waste several hours in transit, only to freeze on the walk from the Metro station to the office, I allow myself the luxury of daydreaming about how nice it would be to avoid all that mess. But here's a cautionary tale.*

The alarm is set for more or less my normal time. Thanks to the evil and misnamed Daylight Savings Time, it's pitch black out. Hit the snooze button. Twice, I think, but it's hard to remember.

Take out the recycling. Make coffee. Shower. Listen to a couple of podcasts. That's sort of productive, right? Breakfast. I'm sleepy - is it socially acceptable to nap at...good lord, is it 8:45 already?

I need to call the transit people. [Digression time. Cue the music.] Someone - maybe in the Dept. of Transportation, maybe Metro, who knows? - decided to discontinue the current inefficient system for providing a subsidy for mass transit (a topic in an of itself for another time), which involved picking up a piece of paper and later exchanging that piece of paper for a different piece of paper that would then be used as next month's rail pass. Instead, I needed to sign up for a service that would mail me the rail pass. This had pros and cons, but none of them particularly mattered, as I had no choice. Naturally, there was a snag in the system, and I had to fill out more forms and talk sweetly to get things done in time. I needed to call to confirm that everything was running smoothly by the deadline, which was today. Called the transit people, was told everything was working. Great. Nap time. Crap, it's only 9:30. I can't nap now.

Another cup of coffee would hit the spot. Check Twitter. Check email. Check work email. Send a reply to a work email - I may be on leave, but I'm still on the job. It's just how I roll. Anything new on Twitter? Look at several web sites linked to by various tweets. The coffee is getting cold.

Above, the glass-enclosed nerve center (as they say on WTOP). Caledon coffee mug - check. FIOS modem - check. Productivity software - uh, I swear, boss, I'm just checking to see if there's an update for the BIOS on the computer.** Time for some real work.

Finish off edits on another blog post. What's that crazy @SecondLie up to now? Anyone else with amusing tweets? Crazy idiot [fill in name of political party here]. Okay, let's stop messing around. I have things to do.

Futz about in Second Life for a while. It's lunch time, isn't it?

Lunch break! Read email. Okay, now it really is nap time.

Two hours later - this doesn't bode well for sleeping well tonight - I'm up. Tea. Tea is definitely what's needed. Get the mail. Retrieve the recycling bins. Turn on the TV - hey, it turns out that it's college basketball tournament time, who knew?

And so another day at home comes to an end... No commute, though.

* There are limits to what I'm willing to steal from my employer. The occasional paper clip or file folder is about it. I took the day off, so I'm essentially just wasting my time.

** See first end note. (And notice how I finally found a use for that expensive copy of the Handbook of Development Economics? What kind of a company makes a monitor without a height adjustment, anyway? Why yes, that does appear to be the H-P logo.)

Friday, March 18, 2011

Port Caledon, Part 2

Tesla continues his tour of Port Caledon:

After waking from my nap in the Steampunk treehouse, well-refreshed, I continued walking. To my left was the Takashi Labs Home Office. Such an innocent-looking building! Who knows what mischief goes on behind the doors?

Across the way was a spot called the Synergy Day Knoll, offering benches with a view of the sculpture. Naturally, I took advantage of a bench.

Next door was the new location for Emphatic Eccentricia.

The port is also the home to Mr. Carl Metropolitan's Museum of Resident Art, inspired by the Parthenon.

I also espied Nessie, lurking in the waters of the port.

At the edge of the port stands the Vicereine's cathedral, honoring Caledonians of eld in the windows.

In the central part of the port stands two buildings. The building on the left is shared by the Ballet Shop and the Masque Shop, while the Bookcase and Furniture Shop is on the right.

Standing nearly by itself, diagonally behind Warehouse 13 and to the right of Templar Creations, is Chimeric Arts and Fashions, carrying an assortment of masks for that perfect moment, at the masked ball, to whip off one's disguise, announce one's presence, and declare that the moment has come to claim one's rightful place as Master and Overlord of you pathetic rabble...

Ahem. Yes, well. One gets carried away at times.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Port Caledon, Part 1

Our friend, Professor Tesla Steampunk, reports from Port Caledon:

I had not been back to Port Caledon in many years, ever since the disastrous explosion that leveled a full block unfortunate incident as a result of my absent-mindedly leaving a burner on that was absolutely not my fault. Anyhoo...

I took advantage of the trolley to be whisked about the town in style.

My first stop was the Northeast corner of the town, with a charming warehouse and the long-standing Phase 5 Steamworks building.

Next door is Lady Stargazer Graves' farm, followed by Templar Creations (sensibly equipped with a gas bag for a quick getaway - I can't tell you how many times such a provision came in handy).

Across the street is the Marconi Wireless Telegraph Company, equipped with all manner of exciting equipment for wireless communications! I lost myself in the store for a long time.

At the head of the port is Warehouse 13, home to the famed Time Machine. I will admit I have not had the courage to try the machine, having once attempted a similar invention. My attorneys advise me to not go into details, but the machine was not a big success.

Next to Warehouse 13 is the DME Gadgets Factory, where Miss Darlingmonster Ember displays her fantastic flying machines.

This fabulous Steampunk house caught my eye and I could not help but climb up to investigate further.

By the time I made it to the top, I was out of breath and very tired. I'm sure none of the readers of this Journal have noticed, but I am no longer a young man. I borrowed a glass from the cupboard and poured myself a glass of water. After I quenched my thirst, I decided a short nap was in order, and I lay down on the couch only briefly...