Monday, May 30, 2011

Ponkotsu and an Aside on Avatar Physics

Ponkotsu is a combination sandbox and post-apocalyptic Steampunk build. Many of the signs are in Japanese (some are in English), so I don't know whether there is a backstory to the place or the designers just liked the look, but the half-ruined buildings and rusting iron are interesting to wander through.

There's a floating laboratory:

And, of course, what self-respecting post-apocalyptic Japanese sim would lack an enormous monster?

One young lady was in the sim with me, an attractive lass with a Japanese avatar name and some odd tastes in both attire and settings. She wore a cropped tank top that was pulled up to expose her breasts (which had little "x" pasties on them), and a pair of ripped jeans that looked normal in front - but fully exposed both buttocks. (Hence no picture.) She had one of those annoying fidgety AOs, so she was in constant motion, which demonstrated that she had Avatar Physics turned on in Viewer 2, and the breast sliders slammed to the right. Every time she moved, her breasts jiggled; when she moved more than a few inches, the girls seemed like Slinky toys trying to escape. I was transfixed - it was like watching a car wreck.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Port Caledon Remodeling

Although I was in Port Caledon for the Airship Rally, my eyes were focused on the sky, not the ground.

This time around, I noticed several significant changes. Mr. Ambiant Kukulcan has downsized and relocated his Warehouse 13 (below, left). In its place stands the imposing structure on the right, owned by Jaeger Mavromichali Szondi.

The row of shops that had stood next to the cathedral since my arrival in Caledon is gone, replaced by Miss Popstar's Masquerade Masque Shop and Ballet Shop (not show, but to the left of the picture below), and by Mr. Xerxes Jigsaw's home, pictured below (with Emphatic Eccentricia shown behind it).

And every time I come, M. Ember's airship showroom seems to have expanded!

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Bad Planning on Your Part...

...Does Not Constitute an Emergency on Mine.

I don't recall where I first encountered this delightful phrase, but it has stayed with me ever since. True emergencies do arise, and employees should be prepared to deal with them, but most of the business, academic, non-profit, and government worlds operate on a more predicable schedule. When someone comes demanding a rush job, bad planning is the far more likely culprit.

Mind you, this phenomenon is by no means limited to government, but I can only speak from direct experience. That experience says: when gasoline prices are high and the electorate is unhappy at their officials, it's time for the silly season to start, the season in which craven politicians hoping to keep their jobs want a scapegoat, and they want that thing baa-ing yesterday. Looked at from a distance, it would be fairly amusing. Up close, it's not quite as funny. Everyone gets stressed, especially when one such politician starts out a statement, "As the ranking member of the subcommittee that controls the agency's budget..." (Please, sir, work at making future threats more subtle.) Everyone gets a little testy.

The part that is funny is that there are essentially two ways of responding to a demand request for a report on a complex subject: do something quick with public information or do a thorough job, including documents and testimony from industry participants, which takes a long time. Choose the second option and the politician complains that the report isn't being done in a timely manner. Choose the first and be told that the report is "nothing more than I could have found out from the newspaper." I shrug at these things, but that's why no one lets me near an actual politician.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Anna's Many Murders

Artist Bryn Oh's new exhibit, Anna's Many Murders, is a delightfully macabre romp about a girl who, upset with the increasing isolation of those around her, snaps and embarks on a murderous spree.

The exhibit starts in an anteroom where Miss Oh provides instructions for a custom Windlight setting that sets the dark, foreboding mood for the remainder of the exhibit.

In the first room, we are introduced to Anna, a "quiet girl" who "appeared to be quite meek," though "inside she harboured a darker streak."

Following paths and doorways, one encounters other brief poems, often describing how Anna dispatches a victim. (Several places have links to brief machinima by Miss Oh.)

The story is like something taken from a Nick Cave song, in which the gleefully wicked Anna finds different ways of killing those around her. The exhibit starts in the cloud layer, at 200 meters, and largely descends - sometimes quite abruptly.

I advise the visitor to tread carefully: the sim is damage-enabled, no-fly, and the occasional narrow pathways and long drops could lead one to be an inadvertent victim of young Anna. (I may be in a blooper reel somewhere, as I missed a target three times by overthinking it, resulting in a swift death each time.)

Sunday, May 22, 2011

The Leviathan of the Vernian Deep

I had docked in Port Babbage for some minor repairs to my airship. Once those repairs were complete, I thought it best to try some low-stress flying to ensure the repairs were satisfactory and the craft was able to withstand the voyage back to Caledon.

The Vernian Sea looked like an inviting spot, the night breeze enough to gently rock the airship but nothing to worry about. I love flying at night, particularly over open water. The ship felt faster in the blackness, and I could be lost in my thoughts.

In the distance, a large swathe of purple in the Vernian Deep caught my eye. I had read of the sudden outbreak of purple in the city, which made me curious. I pushed the throttle forward and felt the throb of the engines increase, closing the distance to the object in little time. It turned out to be a giant airship moored on a floating dock. Throwing caution to the wind, I decided to investigate further.

The platform was ringed with searchlights and high-powered weapons.

The dock held secure the rudder of the airship. I craned my neck to see the leviathan, but most of the airbag and all of the cockpit was lost in the fog.

I adjusted the controls and released some of the gas in the airbags of my own craft and watched the leviathan grow ever larger as I ascended toward it. The decks were the size of an ironclad warship - and seemed nearly as heavily-armed.

Who could be building this weapon of destruction? For weapon it surely was; the ship was too impractical as a peacekeeping tool. I shuddered to think what would happen if its cannon were unleashed on an unsuspecting population. Fortunately, the vessel was still under construction.

As I reached the flag flying proudly atop the ship, my heart sank as I recognized the all-too-familiar logo of Doctor Obolensky and his motto: "Ego sum melior quam vos" - I am better than you.
What can he be up to?

Friday, May 20, 2011

HealthLink New York, the Horseless Carriage, and Me

I found myself in Hudson New York, a quaint and quiet area, when I saw what seemed to be a horseless carriage. It was unlike any I had seen before.

I had always wanted to drive one - I saw others doing so, and it did not look terribly difficult. No one was around, and a shiny set of keys dangled from a slot near the wheel. Looking about furtively, I gathered my skirts around me, got in the car, and turned the key. The engine exploded into life with a roar.

With more difficulty than I had anticipated, I managed to make the beast work, and drove about the area - mostly on the road, sometimes on the railroad tracks, and occasionally on the grass. Sorry about the tire marks!

The paddlewheeler below seemed like an inviting spot to enjoy a cool drink on the deck as warm summer breezes wafted, but I kept moving.

The train station signaled the arrival of another small town.

Horseless carriage or not, I had the occasional reminder of home. This building would not have been out of place in Caledon:

I finally reached a spot called HealthVillage, and there my inexperience behind the wheel caught up to me. My first effort at Grand Theft Auto and a joyride ended most predictably: I lost control of the vehicle, the tires spun a little in the wet grass, I turned the wheel too hard, and ended up nose down, in a ditch.

I left the carriage in an undignified manner and assessed the damage. I was unhurt, but the vehicle was quite the worse for the wear. If it were a horse, I would feel compelled to put it out of its misery. After making sure no one heard the wreck and had come out to investigate, I snuck off, whispering "Sorry!" at the metal beast.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Aether Salon - Language!

May's Aether Salon featured a woman of many roles: Mrs. Diogenes Aurelia Kuhr of Deadwood/Miss Diogenes Pentheseila Kuhr of Hogwarts, and Diogeneia, Freifrau von Kühr - among others. Miz Dio is also the author of the wonderful Aetheric Journal "The Ephemeral Frontier," wherein she recounts some of her adventures in Second Life and provides high-quality stories of her days in Deadwood.

The subject of the day's Salon was Language - specifically, how the use of language, both in terms of words appropriate for the time and place and in terms of the choice of words and dialect, can help create a believable character and contribute to good roleplay.

Miss Viv Trafalgar introduced the Salon, while it fell to Mr. Jasper Kiergarten to introduce the speaker.
Miss Trafalgar, center front.

Miss Sera Puchkina

Mrs. Diogenes Kuhr

Miz Dio expounds

I listen intently

A rare appearance by Doctor Obolensky!

Dame Kghia Gherardi and Mr. Simeon Beresford, hosts of the "Off the Shelf" show

Mrs. Kuhr had a number of suggestions for how role players could learn about the language of their time, from Internet research in order to avoid anachronisms to reading books of the period in order to better understand the syntax and dialect that would be appropriate for the period.

(As an aside, I was tickled by the term "temptation bumps," which Mrs. Kuhr assured us was Civil War-era slang for female breasts. Quipped Dr. Obolensky, "That's going to end up as someone's display name, just watch.")

Miss Bookworm Hienrichs

One of Mrs. Kuhr's recurring themes in her Journal, and repeated at the Salon, was the idea that role playing is an excellent and underappreciated form of group education. Each player conducts her own research to become a better player, and group members learn about the period from one another. Because this learning is voluntary and, with any luck, fun, it may be a more effective method of learning than a purposefully "educational" sim.

The talk - punctuated by some of the lady's trademark colorful expressions - was delivered to an appreciative audience. After some discussion during the question period, the Salon presented its gift to the audience: appropriately, a dictionary, from which we can choose the precise words for any occasion!

Monday, May 16, 2011

Airship Rally Across Caledon

Saturday saw the great Time Essential Airship Wreck Rally, organized by Miss Darlingmonster Ember and Miss Solace Fairlady, and originating and ending in Port Caledon.

Three plucky fliers took part: Mr. Nathaniel Lorefield...
...Miss Jed Dagger...
...and Mr. Lucien Brentano.

The goal was to hit nine marks across Caledon, and to drop a piece of the airship on a target at each location. Points were given for speed and accuracy.

A large, enthusiastic crowd gathered at the starting platform. Lady Gabrielle Riel, the Duchess of Carntaigh, provided excellent commentary throughout the rally, with more than a half-dozen judges providing updates to her as the racers arrived at the checkpoints.
L to R: Captain Wildstar Beaumont, Miss Ember, Miss Callipygian Christensen, Mr. PJ Trenton

Of course, the event was also a fundraiser for RFL. Both the pilot entry fees and spectator contributions went toward Team Caledon's RFL donation.
L to R: Captain Beaumont, Miss Christensen, Mr. Trenton, Mr. Geoffrey Xenobuilder

Mr. Xenobuilder, Miss Solace Fairlady

Lady Gabrielle, Miss Bookworm Hienrichs

Miss Dagger's ship hits the starting target

Miss Fairlady, Miss Christensen, Miss Rowen Derryth

Mrs. Breezy Carver Fabre, channeling her inner Mary Poppins, Steampunk-style

Mr. Lorefield's airship returns to the starting point, a little worse for wear

The race was an exciting one. Mr. Brentano started by dropping himself on the initial target, scoring a direct hit that was perhaps outside the intent of the rules. He later suffered an all-too-familiar mishap at a sim crossing and vanished from the world. He was last seen hurtling off the grid at a high speed. We had a moment of silence for the fallen participant.

Miss Dagger went off with a quick start and at one point caught up to Mr. Lorefield. (The racers had staggered start times.) She had a little bad luck with the targets, dropping parts of her airship with great accuracy, only to have them bounce off the target and land clear.

Mr. Lorefield, the eventual winner, made it through the first seven checkpoints with little difficulty, only to run into a full parcel around checkpoint eight, losing his entire airship back to inventory. (Ah, problems that first life rallies lack!) He eventually made it back to the course and to the finish line.

A great day for flying, as well as for RFL. Well done!

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Maryland Steampunkery

The state of Maryland is no stranger to Steampunks. Miss Brigid Ashwood resides in the state (though she also has a shop in Caledon Cape Wrath) and is a creator of "winged things & improbable machines," as her blog is subtitled. She "paints steampunk bugs, clockwork dolls, fairytales and vinyl toys" and "seek[s] to reinterpret mythic and fairytale worlds and heroines for a modern audience."

I received the May/June 2011 issue of Montgomery Magazine, focusing on Montgomery County, Maryland. The cover story, "Jet Packs and Ray Guns and Time Machines, Oh My!", features local artists Mr. Daniel Stuart and Mr. Ed Kidera.

Their website, The Steam Emporium, provides information on the two gentlemen, The Society of Strange Technologies, Enigmatic Artifacts, and Mechanisms (S.T.E.A.M.), and the mysterious inventor, Bernard Maets. For those with deep pockets, the site also shows artifacts for sale!

I've scanned the article (4 pages, but 7 MB) to Google Docs for anyone interested in reading the whole thing.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Mad Scientists, Bad Brains, and Gravediggers

This past weekend was the Fourth Annual Mad Scientists' Convention in Steam Sky City. The assemblage of scientists and engineers (mad or otherwise), Misunderstood Geniuses, Villains, and hangers-on (Yours Truly) was impressive.

Below, some of the participants gathered at Mr. and Mrs. Volare's welcoming event.

As an added bonus, the same weekend saw the annual Steam Sky City spring hunt. The goal was to find the seventeen brains scattered about the city:

As is traditional, the Volares had thoughtfully prepared clues to the locations of the brains. As is also traditional, these clues were not precise roadmaps to the destinations. To quote the brochure:
These clues are sold for amusement only and are not intended to actually direct you to brains, provide advice for life, nor instruct in self-trepination techniques.
Indeed so.*

I managed a respectful 10 out of 17 brains.

I missed the Manifesto Rant this year, sadly. The event attracted quite a number of wannabe overlords, including Miss Stereo Nacht, The Master, Miss Darlingmonster Ember, Miss Nyree Rain, Miss Magdalena Kamanev, Miss Kimika Ying, Miss Glorf Bulmer, and Miss Jed Dagger. (Where are the men? Have they no ambitions?) The Master won the contest, while Miss Ember received the "Who's Laughing Now?" award.

Mrs. Volare had the best approach, though, noting that bragging before the fact seemed fraught with the danger of failure (one becomes a laughing stock to one's prospective subjects) and, indeed, might precipitate failure, should a do-gooder take the opportunity to Save the Day. Surely the optimal approach is to implement the plan and let the subjugated populace wake up to their new overlord. Fair point.

I thought I would take the opportunity the following day to have a good rant of my own:

What's this? She looks awfully familiar. In fact...wait a minute...My speech didn't go over well?

In addition, the weekend had a gravedigging event: participants needed to locate and dig up body parts, then assemble a creature, giving it life and, one presumes, letting it run amok until the villagers locate their torches and pitchforks. My effort:

I thoughtfully placed it just at the entrance to my home in Caledon Downs, there to greet unannounced visitors.

*This is a little unfair. The Unhelpful Hints often do provide some guidance where to look, particularly to the hunter who knows a little something about Steam Sky City. It is certainly true, however, that the clues are more enlightening after the fact than before.