Valentina E.'s ZigZag Dress

Valentina E.’s ZigZag Dress; please click on the picture for a larger version (opens in a new tab / window).

Yes, I know: You can really hear the crickets in my blog, as the intervals between posts are now in the region of months. It’s true that I don’t blog anywhere near as often as I used to, as I have neither the time nor the willingness to give my SL blogging the effort I used to. I’m far too busy in RL and, truth be told, the things happening in RL make all the SL-related drama look like the bitching about First World Problems it really is.

I know this will offend a bunch of people, but when people are driven to suicide by the chronic unemployment to which they’ve been “sentenced” by the neoliberal psychopaths in charge, when people in our neighbourhoods become homeless overnight because the “bailout” programmes have made even renting a small apartment untenable, I really can’t be arsed to give much thought to the technicalities and intricacies of SL, Sansar, High Fidelity or whatever. Thus, until further notice, this blog shall remain a mere pastime for me, whenever I feel like blogging something.

Truth is, I don’t venture into SL that often anymore; I might log on twice a week or thereabouts, and I’ll spend up to thirty minutes in a sitting – no more than that. It’s not that I don’t like SL anymore, but I’ve put things into perspective and I’ve come to the conclusion that I don’t want SL to absorb the amounts of time and energy I used to allow it to absorb in the not-too-distant past, and I really can no longer justify the expenditure it used to represent for me. Even on Plurk and Twitter, one could say my presence has become the definition of boring, because I can’t really be bothered to discuss SL matters, and, quite frankly, I find it hard to relate to many of the things other people write about.

But really, I’m not complaining: Regardless of the fiscal and (geo)political circumstances in RL, I’m quite happy (at long last) with my life, and I’ll leave it at that, as the friends I have in SL already know the things I wanted to tell them – and I’m not too keen on allowing lower forms of online life to dissect my RL. Sorry if I sound blunt, but that’s the way it is.

Anyhow… Writing this post, which is my second fashion-related post in a row, feels a bit odd, as I’ve never actually thought of myself as a fashion blogger. I’ve become known for my often long, in-depth analyses of all matters SL, and I’ve never wanted to be a fashion blogger. But still, it’s all I can be bothered to write about these days. Does this make me lazy or something? Maybe, but I don’t care. After all, I’m just taking a break from my RL activities to write this post, I’m the one who makes the decisions regarding my blog, and who knows when I’ll find the inspiration, the willingness and the time to write my next one?

Valentina E. ZigZag Dress

Please click on the picture for a larger version (opens in a new tab / window).

So, after this lengthy prologue, I shall proceed to the main topic without further ado. Yesterday, Valentina E. announced their new “ZigZag” dress, which is available at the Shiny Shabby event, and comes in versions compatible with the Maitreya Lara and the Slink Physique and Hourglass mesh bodies, and two “standard sizing” sizes (small and medium).  Upon seeing this dress, I had to have it. I love risqué clothing, both in RL and SL, and garments that allow for a bit of déshabillé really push my buttons. So, I teleported to the venue and bought it, and also took a bunch of photos to show you all. Flickr album will come lateris here.

What I’m wearing and using…

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Shortlink: http://wp.me/p2pUmX-Mx

My new look for this springtime

My new look for this springtime; Please click on the picture for the full-size version (opens in a new tab / window).

OK, so I decided to update (once again) my look for this spring – and it’s been quite a bit since I last posted anything here. So, without further ado, here’s what I’m wearing:

And here‘s the album on Flickr!

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Shortlink: http://wp.me/p2pUmX-Mp

2015 was a year with many ups and downs, both in RL and SL, and there have been numerous ways in which RL affected my SL and vice versa – and not always in a favourable manner. At any rate, what matters is that I’m still around, and have managed to improve several important parts of my RL.

One of the things I describe myself as is an amateur builder; although I don’t have any proper 3D graphics skills, I do dabble in modifying all sorts of stuff I can get my hands on, provided it comes with the appropriate permissions. I might want to personalise something and make it fit in with a certain project or look I have in mind, or I might want to make it look more realistic, especially when it comes to scale; either way, I don’t usually leave modifiable things “stock”.

With Second Life prefab builds, scale is one of my pet peeves. As both I and Penny Patton have explained before (my post and Penny’s), the viewer’s default camera offsets give a skewed perspective and this leads to oversized, poorly-proportioned avatars, and we design our builds accordingly, i.e. small homes with ceilings 7 meters high, doors 5 meters tall and 2.5 meters wide, and don’t even get me started on things like staircases.

Now, many of us have bought prefab buildings at one point or another. Most of them, sadly, are made for SL’s typical gigantic avatars and waste too much virtual estate, plus their sense of place generally sucks, simply because of their proportions. A few are spot-on. Others are a mixed bag.

A case in point is the build I’m presenting today: Trompe Loeil’s Iona Conservatory. Released at January 2015’s Collabor88 event, it’s a gorgeous build, generally well-dimensioned, enhanced with materials (specular and normal maps), and I highly recommend it – it even comes at a very attractive price. It would make a gorgeous greenhouse, art studio, office, or whatever for your region.

Trompe Loeil's beautiful Iona Conservatory build. Image credit: Trompe Loeil

Trompe Loeil’s beautiful Iona Conservatory build. Please click on the picture for the full-size version (opens in a new tab / window). Image credit: Trompe Loeil

However, it has two of my pet peeves: The entrance’s stair steps are a bit on the high side, and the doors are exceedingly tall (the handles are near my chin, and my avatar, wearing high heels, is 179cm tall; not exactly what you’d call “short stuff”).

The Iona Conservatory as you see it when you rez it. As mentioned, its doors and stairsteps are a bit on the high side, but thats nothing that cant be fixed. Again, please click on the picture for the full-size version opens in ne w tab window).

The Iona Conservatory as you see it when you rez it. As mentioned, its doors and stairsteps are a bit on the high side, but thats nothing that cant be fixed. Again, please click on the picture for the full-size version (opens in new tab  / window).

Honestly, though, these are things that can be fixed. Being the die-hard tinkerer that I am, I set out to work on this build. First, I set out to resize the doors, as per the dimensions I gave in my scale-related post from 2014. The target height was 280cm (2.80 meters). Obviously, resizing the doors would leave a gaping hole between them and their surround. So, I needed to fill that space with something. Before resizing the doors, I noted down their width and height, as these would help me determine the “filler”‘s dimensions. Then, I set out to make (with prims, and then create the mesh with Mesh Studio) a new frame of sorts. After resizing the doors, I performed the necessary calculations for proper positioning the various bits, and then, after creating the mesh, I imported it back into SL. Each door has its own extra frame, and the LI for each side is 7. Let’s have a look at the door frames, shall we?

As said, my avatar with these shoes on) is 179cm tall. Now that the doors are 280cm tall, things are much more proportionate.

As said, my avatar (with these shoes on) is 179cm tall. Now that the doors are 280cm tall, things are much more proportionate. Again, please click on the picture for the full-size version (opens in new tab / window).

Originally, the doors were set to open outwards, robbing the little porch in front of them of some useful space. I opted to rescript them with Kool Door scripts.

And now the doors open inwards...

And now the doors open inwards… Again, please click on the picture for the full-size version (opens in new tab / window).

But the steps are still a bit high; these will be taken care of soon enough.

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The steps are still rather high, but I’ll take care of them soon enough. Again, please click on the picture for the full-size version (opens in new tab / window).

Now comes the interesting part. What do you do to texture this thing, especially when you don’t have the original textures? If you can’t get the creator of the product you bought to help you by providing sample textures or AO maps, you have two options: One is to take a bunch of snapshots and start working on them in GIMP or Photoshop or Paint Shop Pro or whatever; the other is to use a tool like the SL Cache Viewer to locate the textures you need in your viewer’s cache, open them in your favourite graphics app and make new textures that will fit in with your modifications. Whichever course you take, don’t even think of selling the modified textures. You must always understand that there’s a very thick line between modifying a product for your own use and enjoyment – you have every right to do that – and infringing on someone else’s work.

Now we come to a way in which prefab designers could make themselves a lot more helpful: Offering, either bundled with the build, or as an additional product (with its own price), the textures, UV and AO maps for that specific build, they could encourage people’s creativity and gain extra credit for customer service. And I do believe they’d be safe when it comes to their intellectual property, because mesh builds come with their own AO maps that are applied on the various textures, and trying to use the new, modified textures with different builds is completely useless.

At any rate, I sat down and created textures for the windows and irons of these new frames. Here’s the end result (for now):

Not meaning to brag, but I'm pretty pleased with how these extra bits turned out. Again, please click on the picture for the full-size version (opens in new tab / window).

Not meaning to brag, but I’m pretty pleased with how these extra bits turned out. Again, please click on the picture for the full-size version (opens in new tab / window).

So, that’s it for now! The stairsteps will be handled soon enough. I’ve got plans for this build, along with others. There’s this project I’ve got on my mind, and I’ve located some buildings and mesh creator kits that have caused a rush of ideas I’ve experienced only a few times before in my life.

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Shortlink: http://wp.me/p2pUmX-Md

From the recent movie "The Martian". Image credit: 20th Century Fox. Please click on the image for full-size version (opens in new tab / window).

From the recent movie “The Martian”. Image credit: 20th Century Fox. Please click on the image for full-size version (opens in new tab / window).

The discovery of flowing water on Mars, along with the theatrical release of the movie “The Martian“, caused a wave of renewed enthusiasm and hope for a manned mission to the red planet. But I think this discovery is actually more likely to put paid to any prospect of manned exploration of the planet.

On 28 September 2015, NASA confirmed what had been known among scientists for about forty years now, i.e. that liquid water flows on Mars. The surface of the red planet’s north pole contains ice made up of water by 70% and with a total volume of 1.6 cubic kilometers, with about the same volume being contained in the south pole. To give you a little perspective, Greenland’s ice cap contains 2.8 cubic kilometers of ice.

So no, that’s not really news, not by a long shot. Many researchers believe that the northern plains of Mars were covered by an ocean whose depth was some hundred meters, perhaps the same size as the arctic ocean. The findings of the various rovers sent by the US to Mars, and especially the abundance of deuterium, tend to support the hypothesis that, in its ancient years, Mars had water in abundance. Of course, the existence of liquid water on today’s Mars makes it more likely for some indigenous form(s) of life to exist on the planet. The probes that have explored the planet so far (and still explore it) have proven it is not exactly as hostile to life as we once thought.

All right, then. Now, the proven existence of water, the increased likelihood of the existence of life on Mars, and the increased interest, due to NASA’s internet-centred PR and the hype of “The Martian” could be considered by some as strong enough factors to bring the United States’ comatose manned space programme back to life, and possibly be the catalyst for the long- and oft-proposed manned mission to the red planet. Well… Not exactly, and I’ll explain why.

Vague promises, but, when money talks, bullshit walks

Already, in the summer of 2014, we had the National Research Council’s report “Pathways to Exploration – Rationales and Approaches for a U.S. Program of Human Space Exploration“, which was a carefully considered, “balanced” report, neither outright stating that the United States shall be henceforth earthbound, nor announcing any ambitious, daring plans. After all, given that the United States, in step with the rest of the world, prefers to waste taxpayers’ money on bailing out irresponsible, profligant, outright criminal banksters instead of paving the road to a future, it makes far greater sense for the American manned spaceflight programme to remain in a vegetative state, setting vague targets, conveniently placed somewhere in the distant future, with an horizon of more than two decades. So, both Washington and NASA are happy: NASA’s bureaucracy survives, and Washington gets to sort-of maintain some kind of sense of national pride for the plebes; and, to top it all off, no government runs the risk to have to commit to something that will be done during its tenure.

The logo of the Constellation Programme, which has been killed off by US President Barack Obama.

The logo of the Constellation Programme, which has been killed off by US President Barack Obama (click on image for larger version – opens in new tab / window).

The Obama administration killed off the Constellation programme, which aimed for a return to the Moon by 2020, and the Space Shuttle. Since then, the US manned space programme is, as I said earlier, in a coma. NASA follows the “flexible path”, i.e. the development of technologies that might be useful for missions to a nearby asteroid or for missions whose destination lies in the vicinity of the Moon, but everything is written so that no American government will ever have to commit to any expenditure. This was confirmed on 8 October 2015, with the release of the report titled “NASA’s Journey to Mars – Pioneering Next Steps in Space Exploration“. All this “creative ambiguity” is because Washington is completely averse to the idea of spending the billions of dollars manned missions to the Moon, or to Mars, would require. Of course, they have already wasted a trillion dollars on the jalopy known as the F-35 Lightning II, and they keep on allowing the 1% to effectively not pay taxes, but these things are easier to sell to the voters, as jingoism and the idea that the rich deserve more than other human beings sound more “natural” to the plebes.

Of course, even Baldrick from Blackadder the Third can understand that, without a significant increase in NASA’s budget, the space agency is doomed to linger in our planet’s orbit, even when  (or, I should say, if) the Orion is finally built. The harsh, bitter truth is that a manned mission to Mars will cost more than what the entire International Space Station has cost so far; its realisation shall require years, if not decades, of hard, committed, continuous, dedicated work, while the risk of both failure and – yes – casualties is significant.

And this is where the public sentiment comes into play. How willing is the American (first and foremost) public to accept the idea that they could spend a few hundred billions of dollars on a project that might be riddled with problems and cost lives, and whose benefits are not easily understandable by the average taxpayer?  Yes, I mentioned that the US has already spent a trillion on a turd that can’t fly, can’t turn, can’t climb, can’t hold its own in a dogfight (the F-35) and whose software is riddled with bugs and horrible security holes, but hey, Faux News’ talking heads can easily tell the plebes it will eventually “kill bad guys”, and this is a benefit that everyone considers tangible. On the other hand, the scientific benefits and other from a manned space mission are not as “immediate”. Yes, I know the American and international public loves space, but in an anodyne, lazy way, i.e. with Facebook “likes” and following space exploration-related accounts on Twitter.

Let’s be blunt: A manned space programme is far from becoming reality, especially in our times that are saddled with geopolitical and financial instability. A manned spaceflight to Mars requires a very well-specified plan regarding the kind of rockets, spacecraft etc. will be needed. And it also requires an awful lot of money, to the tune of $400 billion, and I think this is a conservative estimate. Those who can read between the lines understand that NASA pretends it can send humans to Mars with its current budget. But with current funds, adjusting for inflation, the summer 2014 report concluded that, until 2040, NASA will get only $100 billion for Mars-related work. That’s peanuts.

So, what do we make of “The Martian”? Well, it was an OK movie, which certainly helped get the hopes of the Mars-loving community up. But, every two or three years we see the same movie in re-runs. The existence of water on Mars is announced, then we are reassured that manned missions to Mars are just around the corner, just wait and see – a rinse and repeat process for a crowd with a goldfish memory.

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This topic keeps on giving and, even though I’m a big proponent of anonymity and pseudonymity online, there are things I need to tell all of you. Be aware that you might find my tone aggressive and take it personally. If you do take it personally, I’ll have to say to you what someone else told me: “I’m sorry you feel this way”.

First of all, most of you don’t give a damn about anonymity and pseudonymity online, and you don’t really care about freedom of expression. What matters to you is the “impressive” pseudonymity of your own online persona (in other words, your online trademark or brandname), which you can’t do without; without it, not even you would bother to read your own writings.

Now, let’s suppose for a moment that a social network that really allowed freedom of expression and pseudonymity actually existed. You wouldn’t use it. What most of you people want is a medium in which you, and only you, are pseudonymous, while everyone else is transparent, especially to you. How narcissistic is that?

As for the NSA, the GCHQ, the Mossad and whatever other secret services crop up in the discourse on privacy, let me tell you one thing: They don’t give a flying fuck about you. You can bet your bottom dollar that not a single millisecond of your online or offline existence occupies any space in their permanent storage. To them, you are useful only as some sort of statistic reference.

The same goes for your “sensitive private data”; they don’t give a flying fuck. Unless you think you’re the only brony with a massive whale-like penis equipped with Prince Albert piercings chained to your pierced nipples. Or unless you think you’re the only Mormon who faps to photos of iguanas mating. Or unless you think you’re the only SL-famous fashionista, blogger, or what have you.

Facebook doesn’t care much about your name, either. What Facebook doesn’t want is to become a medium that allows freedom of expression and pseudonymity. In which case, should anyone of you get in their radar, their “delete” button is only half an inch away from their finger, so you can be an example to others. And you can be sure this approach works astonishingly well for Facebook.

If, however, any of these “fine people” decide, for whatever reason, to actually give a fuck about you, you can rest assured they’ll nab you, no matter what pseudonym you choose to post your stuff on social media.

But really, the only ones who really give a fuck about you are the behavioural marketing analytics guys. But their models are so fucked up that, even if they didn’t give a fuck about you, it’d be exactly the same.

No, you are not necessarily spied or snitched upon. Your nickname is so crappy that it triggers a few hundred thousand algorithms, all over the planet. If your nickname was something like “Jennifer Smith”, you’d have been most likely under the radar. But that’s not really what you want. What you want is a brandname, what you want is a pseudonym that will differentiate you from the others.

Every language has a finite variety of first and last name combinations. If your chosen pseudonym is significantly different from the norm, you’ll become fodder for the most basic data mining on this planet.

Finally, people have been telling you about the risks from the use of proprietary, non-distributed media. So far, you (and even yours truly) have consistently showed you don’t care what they say. And even if you do care, the person next to you doesn’t. And you can’t have a social medium without the “person next to you”.

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Shortlink: http://wp.me/p2pUmX-LH