31 August 2008

Some things are important

Some things are important, or why I got nothing done today.

If you're not outraged then you're not paying attention.

By the way, according to the search warrents in question, possession of any of the following items, on your person or in your home, could indicate that you may be engaging in potential criminal if not terrorist activity:

  • computers
  • cameras
  • cell phones
  • any electronic devices
  • paint
  • alcohol
  • street maps
  • glass or plastic bottles
  • cardboard boxes
  • paper products
  • cloth or fabric
  • feces
  • urine
  • free speech

So watch carefully that person who puts out their recylcing each week, or (*gasp*) has a bathroom in their house, because you never know.

You know, suddenly my last post is a whole lot less funny ...

Vice President Airlock

For those of you who think one of our potential first ladies is really an alien bent on world domination, more fodder for you ... could one of our candidates really be a Cylon?

From io9.

30 August 2008

1737 Thieves' Cant

Need to know how to talk like a thief 250 years ago ... well here you go.

Hmmm. "School" seemed to mean something else back then. Though you'll be glad to know some of the baser slang hasn't changed a whit.

Builds 15: Critters

Normally I am not a fan of sculpties. At least not until the Internet and the Second Life Servers are both much, much faster. Blob world just doesn't do it for me.

The only sculpties usually found around my work are trees, since they do make for very nice, if prim heavy, trees. But these critters are just to cute to pass up. It looks like they snuck into my garden while I was off doing something else.

The pictures don't do them much credit because they are both beautifully scripted. The bunny is worth it just for the twitchy nose.

No, I didn't make them, just wish I did.

29 August 2008

Hamster Valediction

Come to the dark side, we have satire. You know you want it.

From boingboing gadgets.

Copy to the Check

Okay, I said I was going to write about my being summarily dismissed for speaking my mind, if a little adamantly, and have been dragging my feet.

Perhaps, in part, because I just lost my steam. Perhaps, in part, because I think getting fired for speaking my mind is a feather in my cap. Perhaps, in part, because there are so many other interesting things in this world. But I suppose that what I want to say is important, and I need to say it.

So allow me to start with an easy one (in terms of not going on a tirade for the next few hours) and make a truly controversial statement regarding education:

Most faculty who say they are not compensated for developing course content on their own time are, to put it simply, lying.

I know, an amazing thing for a professor to profess. But it is, alas, true.

Are they knowingly lying? Probably not. They probably firmly believe this to be true. But firmly believing something to be true doesn't make it so. More commonly it means one is deceived, deluded, or lying to one's self. To put it more gently, it is a self serving argument with no foundation in reality.

Here is how people's mind's work on this topic:

I am getting paid $nn thousand dollars a year to teach. However, this is a salary and is not earmarked out between class time, grading time, and development time. Since this is not being spelled out, and there is nothing elsewhere in my contract specifically saying that part of my compensation relates to developing course content for course, I am therefore not getting compensated for my course development work.

Does anyone see the problem with this line of reasoning?

I hope so.

If you don't, let me give a concrete example. Note that the numbers are intentionally altered to protect the innocent, but they are close enough for rock and roll.

Let's take a woefully underpaid adjunct faculty member, like I almost was.

Let's say I earn $875 per credit hour for each course I teach. That is 15 weeks of a one hour class commitment, but the external supporting work. A meager sum for the amount of work involved, which is usually at least two hours of desk work for every hour of class time, or a minimum of 45 hours divided into 850, means it is under $20 an hour. Not a terrible salary, but certainly low for a professional field inhabited by people whose student loans debts are second only to doctors.

Now, at the same school, as a full-time faculty member, if I am asked to sit in on a class for another faculty member, I will get $25 for that hour, on top of my normal salary. Now, if we multiply that by the same 15 hours, we get $375. So that is $375 for 15 hours of class time, versus $875 for, ummm, 15 hours of class time. So what is that other $500 for again? Said it above, work outside of class, including course development and grading. And that is for lowly adjuncts. The faculty earn anywhere from a little more to significantly more than that.

Undercompensated perhaps, but not uncompensated. A critical difference. It is the difference between doing something for less than you think it is worth versus doing something for free. Being undercompensated may make us feel like we are uncompensated, but that doesn't make it so.

Why is this relevant? Well, when I asked if I could borrow course materials from another faculty member, they lectured me on how I should be doing my own work because they weren't getting paid for developing the course materials, so why should they share them?

Well, ignoring the fact that the course was originally mine before I left said school ...

In any event, all schools should always require as terms of their faculty being hired that

  • course development is part of the work they are expected to do and is included in the determination of their salary, and
  • while acknowledging that faculty own the content they create, in paying them to create it, the school has the right to chose to share it with other faculty to ensure course consistency between sections.

Though some schools do exactly this already, those are, almost unbelievably, heretical assertions for many faculty at schools that don't. But there is a very good reason for them, and I don't mean because that way the school covers its legal butt. To put it simply, sharing is important to education, in fact it is critical. Hiding your work under a rock and hoarding it to yourself is not an effective way to educate, to learn, or to grow. We will start to address that next time, because, well, that is the entire point of this.

28 August 2008


Or why we should bring back Scholastic Rock.

Check it.

You know, we used to learn and remember throught music and poetry. The Scientific Revolution set about rationalizing and stamping out such antiquated notions. Perhaps that was a mistake.

Perhaps what we need for students to lern is to return to teaching through poetry, song, art, and hands-on interaction. Rather than hiding in our hallowed halls and putting to paper obscure treastises in even more obsure language in an attempt to create a totality of clearly defined, categorized, and indexed rationality, subsuming the world in an unacknowledged belief in the mystical powers of names and numbers.

While you're at at, puppet socks discuss the free market, from boingboing tv.

Builds 14: More Airship

A shot of the airship overlooking the sim. It is at times like this that you realize how small Second Life is. Each sim no bigger than a high school athletic field. Here we are with the camera cranked to 512m and four sims in the picture, yet it all encompasses only a third of a mile or so.

And the interior, which I am working on. Found some nice wallpapers that look right when deformed by tapered prims.

27 August 2008

Builds 13: My What a Big Tower You Have

All the better to see you with my dear.

Okay, really just built it to see how big it would be in Second Life. Thanks to a few huge prims (40 meters each) it is only 49 prims so far. Given the odd angles it wouldn't be possible with smaller prims due to round error issues coupled with maximum link distances.

Even so I couldn't get the corners to match right, especially since that would require tapering in three dimensions instead of two, not something supported by the Lindens as of yet. And for some reason when I tapered the prims, they shrank by one centimeter in height, reducing them to 3999cm and meaning I had to juggle with the ones that were still a full 40 meters. The problem is that the base is a four point star and not a square. Those corners are canted out at 26 degrees in one direction and 1.25 degrees in another. So there is corner overlap on the ends. Well, better than pixel panic I suppose.

It is a real tower, called the Shimonoseki Kaikyo Yume Tower and can be found in Shimonoseki, Japan (山口県下関市).

My version is still very much a draft and likely to stay that way unless I get really inspired. The problem is, where would I put it? Anyone want a reproduction of a 150 meter tall tower with almost no usuable interior space?

The interior of the original is all support structure for the ball at the top, which houses two observation decks (the lower one being a museum with historical information of what you are looking at), a gift shop and a small restuarant. The elevator runs up one of the legs. One of the others houses emergency stairs.

Although it says 153 meters in the overview, it is not clear whether that includes the hill and the platform it sits on, since it is a three storey climb just to the front door, past a conference center and performance space.

It is one of the three Japanese tower stamps (and keychains) that I have to my name. The second is Kyoto tower, and the third is from Osaka. Gotta catch 'em all!

26 August 2008

Builds 12: Small Electropunk Aircraft

There, I coined a new word. Not as evocative as steampunk though.

Shots of the little vehicles inside the hangar bay seen in my last builds post.

Will add som better shots of them on their own later.

First, the electroskiff, for ferrying passengers and cargo to and from the ship. Okay, so a little lacking in guard rails. Don't worry, it is woefully underpowered and moves very slowly.

Second, the escape pod, with me sitting in it.

In spite of the small size, it comfortably seats three, two passengers and the pilot. I still have the finish the pilot seat. Need to find a motorcycle pose first though. Then it is time to start playing with scripting it to really fly.

Don't need the name "escape pod" fool you. It is designed to fight its way to freedom if necessary. Aside from a slug gun on the top, the pointy bit on the front is more than decoration. It is part of a system that allows the entire ship to act as a plasma weapon. Sort of a targeted EMP with enough power to burn holes in anything in front of it. Use it sparingly though, takes alot of electricity to generate fields that reach plasma state. The main ship can do the same and has the benefit of not having to be pointed at its target like this little thing. Of course, the EMP itself isn't quite as devastating in a world that has not yet invented the transistor. Difference engines don't really care about electrical disruption, though it can magnetize any magnetizable parts and keep them from interacting properly. Still, don't want to be right in front of it when it goes off.

25 August 2008

Welcome to the Arcology

Paolo Soleri may finally have his day.

From inhabitat.

Awesome Ship

Found this totally amazing ship in SL. I am jealous. Of course it is also a total prim hog. All of those panels are separate prims.

Still, amazing to behold, and only 5 meters beyond a no trespassing sign so I couldn't poke around it properly. Oh well.

24 August 2008

Reviews: Peregrine Singh

Peregrine Singh is a novelty in Second Life. He is not another blues singer or guitarist or singer song-writer or person with karaoke machine. You are not going to hear covers of your favorite tunes from him.

Instead, he is playing how own music in his own way, and it is just awesome. A sedate, ambient awesome, but awesome.

Peregrine Singh plays his guitar to beat-box accompaniment in ways that explores the realm of world beat music in new and interesting ways, taking us on ambient trips to other realms, his notes evoking moods, feelings, and even images of places kicking in the back of our heads. He pulls in musical threads and beats from around the globe and arranges them into captivating musical ambiance. Simply, he performs musical poetry.

If you promise not to fall asleep during an hour of the truly mellow, he is a must listen. Remember to load up your HUD with the slowest, most rapturous dances you have.

23 August 2008

Reviews: Noma Falta

I find I don't have much nice to say about female vocalists in Second Life. Not that I don't like female vocalists, and not that there aren't plenty of good ones out there. There are way more women in my personal music collection than men. Of course, my fascination with J-Pop and Eurodance may be skewing those numbers a little. But in SL, the female vocalists just never seem to thrill me. Don't know why. Maybe the technology used to stream live performances in Second Life was only ever optimized for male vocal patterns making female voices sound somehow off. I have no idea. Not beyond the realm of possibility though.

Noma Falta though, is a just plain amazing singer. It is hard to tell whether she is singing karaoke or playing at least one instrument on her own with synth accompaniment. But if she is running a karaoke machine, I'm not going to hold it against her. Especially when she sings many of her tunes acapella.

Her deep, dusky renditions of the blues and of anything she chooses to sing is well worth the listen. There aren't many SL musicians out there who can hold your attention on unaccompanied voice alone. The quality of streamed audio sees to that. You have to be better than good to overcome the limits of mediocre equipment.

Some of my favorite musicians, including some already reviewed here, are to be found at her concerts, also listening. Musicians that attract other musicians is always a good sign.

Keep an eye, and an ear, out for her.

22 August 2008

Claymation Horror

Some Claymation Horror from Japan.

Courtesy of boingboing.

This is pretty cool too, for those of you in the Obama-loving D&D crowd.

21 August 2008

Life Imitates Life

Ouch! Had a knock-down, drag out fight on Second Life that fortunately ended sort-of well last night.

Got invited to a friend's rez-day (birthday) party and things were going really well until the manager got bent out of shape and accused me of having an underage avie in the club.

I should point out at this point that I am one of those weird people in Second Life who has made an avie that is a proportional, normal sized human. Which may seem like an odd statement except when Linden Labs created the system, for some reason they set the default high on avatars to 2 meters, or roughly 6'3". Since there is about 50 centimers of give in either direction that means avatars can range from roughly 4'8" to 8'6" or so. Playing a little more with torso length and leg length and you can get that up to over 9 feet tall. Most of SL is probably at least 3 standard deviations from the mean in terms of avatar height versus normal human height. This, along with the default camera position, causes interesting problems with trying to build anything to scale.

Many people who come on to Second Life, perhaps feeling some odd insecurity about their height, I have no idea, like to crank the height of their avatars. This means that as a properly proportioned 5 foot tall avie, well ... let's just say I don't even have to bend over let alone get on my knees. (Don't get your hopes up, it is meant as a visual, not an offer.) I am actually interested in what makes people want to be giants though.

So, in the face of that, why be so small? Well, there are a fair number of us who really take pride in the fact that we have worked really hard to build an avatar this is humanly proportional and could pretty much walk into the real world as is and nobody would bat an eyelash, or look at them funny (except maybe to wonder why their hair looked all clumpy like that). Many of us have built avies that look very much like our real selves (not me, I confess, my avie looks like one of my college roomieswith a touch of Asian spin added, because, well, she's cuter than I am ... and at 40 she has not gotten any taller, or showed even a fraction of sag *grumble*).

Get me on a tirade and I'll say it's because we don't like looking like freaks. Though more to the point, most of the really tall female avies in the game look sort of like Mattel had decided to do an Amazon line of Barbies. Not a characture of woman-hood I have any interest in subjecting myself too. My avie is 5 feet tall, a B-cup, and I am proud of her. And as with many people in such a position, I don't go changing the appearance of my avatar on a whim.

Anyway, I get an IM from the manager of the club telling me that there are no child avies in the club. And I say that is just fine because I am not a child avie.

Usually at this point the manager says "oh, okay, sorry to bother you then," but not this person. She insists I am clearly too short to be an adult avie and I have to grow a few inches or leave. Well, first off, I am not entirely clear how this is different from being told I have to lose some weight, or change my skin color, or leave. Anyone can not only look at me and tell it is a mature avie, but if it became some big legal issue they could even request that Linden Labs review my entire inventory. I don't even have any child avatar shapes or skins in it.

So I did the expedient thing, which is I moved the discussion over from IM to general chat. Where a.) I quickly found that she was also harassing my best SL friend, who is also short, b.) I got reprimanded by the manager for making the discussion public, when, in fact, the (successful) intent was to get the support of all my friends at the party, who will all attest to the fact that I do not play child avies (it's all about having witnesses), and c.) was reminded how many of my friends are drama queens (sorry, you all, but it's true). I didn't even have time to apologize for creating a row before the birthday girls and the person who had organized the party had teleported out and were sending us all invites to come over to a different club.

Then, apparently, a few people flooded the owner of the previous club with complaints about the manager. Who apparently got fired. Not for hassling me, mind you, but for calling the owner an idiot for disagreeing with her on this. I go off easily when I'm annoyed and even I know better than that.

In the meantime we had a wonderful party somewhere else.

Which may seem like a happy ending, but I do feel a little guilty. I really didn't want to be vindictive and get someone fired. I just wanted them to acknowledge that height does not determine age in the game, any more than how much weight we have on our hips, how big our breasts are, or even our skin color. (Of course, that might explain why people are so long lived in so many Asian cultures ... they never get tall enough to get old.) SL is a virtual world where people get to be who they want. If people want to be normal height they should be allowed, and not have to style themselves to be a freak of nature just to fit in.

I find it kind of disturbing that so many people want to be giant Barbie dolls, but I don't go around forcing them to change just because they are not what I expect avatars to be. Playing by the rules and having someone still tell you that you are not allowed to be who you are is downright insulting.

A Short Addendum


In case people were wondering, I am available for design work for hire.

Okay, so it will not be as awesome as someone who will charge you tens of thousands of Lindens, but it will be quirky and it will not be another dull, bland cube on the landscape.

And if I have any say, it will be cozy and intimate. One of these days I am going to build a house 100% to scale just so people can understand a major problem with design work in Second Life. Between the camera angle being very far out and most avies being really tall, everything has to be much larger than life to be navigable.

And just for reference, those tools that measure your height under-report it. If you make yourself exactly five feet tall (roughly zero on the height slider) according to the height tool, and then make an object that is 1.65 meters tall (a little over five feet), you will still be a good 3-4 inches taller than the object. And no, that is not all hair.

I would love it if the default camera angle could be adjusted to persist, and if the height tools gave real measurements that could be toggled between inches and centimeters. For instance, height and inseam, instead of height and leg length. Then again, I wish there were many things that could be done with the avie settings that can't be done. People may not think twice about sliding the slider to 100%, but they may hesitate to set it to 250cm or 100 inches (that 8'4").

20 August 2008

Builds 11: The Airship

Some more of the current work in progress, an electro-steampunk airship.

Okay, have to say that shopping for clothes to go with the airship is as much fun as building it. And it is probably going to make me go broke. My favorite to date is a toss up between ~silentsparrow~ and BareRose. Current best outfit is a toss up between Black Mist and ~thorns~. Though the new underground ~silentsparrow~ store definitely wins the battle for innovative design, assuming you can figure out how to get in. (Gee, is that a storm on the horizon? Maybe you should look for a place to take shelter ...)

Anyway, two undercarriage views, with some prims that look to be out of place. I'm going to have to check on that tonight. The second shows the inside of the hangar bay.

19 August 2008

Open Source College Textbooks

Open source college textbooks, from slashdot.

Original artical in the L.A. Times.

Oooh, and bribes for not going to the open-source side from publishers desperate to push overpriced products.

You too can sign the statement to make textbooks afforfable by taking advantage of open source resources.

And check out the following resources. Even better, contribute.

And let me end with some interesting thoughts on money ... from Princeton via the Japan Times.

The most wonderful thing about the Internet is finding out how many other people share your point of view when you're in a funk and feel like a lone voice in the wilderness.

First Hint of the Rising Sun

I got my fist hit from Japan.


It's the little things that make me happy.


It's all about the prunes.

From youtube via boingboing.

18 August 2008

Copy to the Door

You know, after having been a tenured professor for a period, and then, after some time away returning as adjunct faculty, I overlooked an important point.

Just because adjuncts are accorded intellectual property rights does not mean they are also accorded civil rights. Especially that one involving speech.

The probably didn't like the bit about how hoarding intellectual property instead of developing it collaboratively and sharing it with everyone in the school is inimical to effective pedagogy. All it does is duplicate everyones work load and breed inconsistencies between course sections.

I would be downright enraged if it weren't for the fact that the most energetic response I could muster was "Well, that's going to be inconvenient." Perhaps because it was not only a paycheck, but a meager paycheck that would bring in just enough to allow be to avoid hunting for a real job, or even better starting a new career path.

Yep, yep, you all probably guessed by now that I was canned for speaking my mind about a policy I had issues with. I mean, ignoring the fact that I probably just plain have issues, and my e-mails can be most flame-ridden. Still, no discussion, no counter-arguments, just shut up. Policy should not be questioned and therefore there is nothing to discuss apparently.

I will still be posting my arguments on the topic. After all, I have time to give them even more thought now.

So if anyone needs a firebrand (in the proper geeky sense of effective communication through sniping, harping, bickering, and flaming) who is a social theorist and annoyingly intuitive programmer (don't ask me what I just did, I don't know, it just sort of happened, but it works), you know where to reach me. Looks like my real-life alter ego will be hitting the job boards this week. Well ... next week. I am still wrapping up some summer work this week.

P.S. -- On the intuitive programming. I mean that. I can write code I can no longer understand seconds after I've put it to pixel. It just sort of flows out, like automatic writing. It is usually preceded by my complaining about how finding and easy and elegant solution to the problem, or any solution at all, will be impossible. A little freaky at times. But I only worry when I start to dream as code ... no, not of code, or in code, but as code. Ummm, it's sort of like being an airplane ticket. Not that that probably helps any.

The BoardGame on Terror

Police seize War on Terror board game because its ski-mask "could be used in a criminal act" from boingboing.

Yes, you too can randomly join the axis of evil!

17 August 2008

Reviews: Jano Runo

Something about the Latin-style on acoustic guitar. Jano Runo both brings acoustic guitar but also appears to be in a band that provides, in their words, a range of Bossa Nova, Samba, and Tropical music. I have only heard him play solo, so I can't speak to that, but here is the myspace site. He hails from Mexico.

Although I was thoroughly enchanted with his guitar playing and highly recommend him for a good listen, I have to give him a mixed review. When I went to see him, he was very much singing off key. It was that sort of off key one gets when they are used to using a monitor, or have a cold, and can't hear themselves as well as they would like.

Still, the masterful guitarwork easily covered for the ocassional bit of flat notedness.

Look him up, he's worth your time.

Builds 10: The Airship

More airship.

No, I'm not house proud. Not in the least. Why do you ask?

This is a nice shot looking into the main entrance foyer. You can see the folded-up gangplank as the grill on the far inside wall.

A nice view of the top of the engine wheels as seen from the passageway connecting the front and back of the ship. They are also connected on the level above where you can walk across the open deck, but this is not recommended at high atmospheric elevations where the air is thin and the temperature very cold. Besides, aside from a hatch locking down the hangar bay on the bottom, there are no air locks on the ship. It is not really designed for space flight. Though the techs at the research lab are working on a field to create a self-contained bubble of air around the ship. They have gotten as far as moving the air with us in the engine field, but it bleeds off far too rapidly, give at maximum two hours of external air when beyond the breathable atmosphere. Only really useful for speedy emergency rescues ... mostly of lab techs getting cocky about the integrity of their new high atmosphere flying devices.

16 August 2008

Copy to the Left, Copy to the Right

Had a most interesting if rather galling experience recently.

I had the opportunity to pick up some distance learning courses at a school where I used to teach to offset a little underemployment. All courses I have taught before, one of which I wrote myself from scratch.

So I went into the online course shells and found them blank.

So I did what I did every semester I had been teaching there and asked about having the master shell from a prior semester copied over (usually just an active shell from a faculty of record, though they were getting master shells set up). I was told they couldn't do that without the express permission of the person who created that course, even though one of them was my own course and most probably still quite derivative thereof. This was new. Annoying, but new.

So I complained to the few key people about the apparent poor implementation of a rule, the conflation of ownership and usage right, and the need for departments to clarify and track who does and does not want to share so that no one has to scramble to track down owners (especially if resigned, deceased, or otherwise indisposed). I also sent out e-mails asking everyone who had taught the course last semester or was teaching it this semester if I might have a copy of the course materials for the online shell. My hopes were not high because it was two weeks before the beginning of the semester. How many full-time faculty are answering their e-mail at that time?

The responses to date, though few in number, have been most stunning. A few faculty have actually become offended that I would have the temerity to ask to use the materials *they* had developed for *their* classes. One replied with a bit of jovial condescension that reeks of that academic arrogance that will some day drive me out of academe. And more importantly, my department chair got an angry call from the administration for my having the gall to question the academic integrity of this rule which was not set by the administration, but by the Faculty Association itself. To their defense, I was probably overreacting a little, when it is now one week out and I suddenly discover I have to create three courses from scratch.

My former office mate (old classrooms split into faculty cubicles), who has also taught the course I developed did offer me his copy, but we couldn't find a version of it in the online archives, and others have taught it since then.

This is a large school and the courses are entry level. One of the courses has ten different faculty members teaching sections this Fall. So it is not an issue of one person controlling the course and being jealous of a section farmed out to an adjunct. Moreover, as I noted above, one of the courses I have been refused a copy of is one I created myself and openly shared with any faculty who were teaching it. I would even mirror it on a public Web site so that the information was not locked away in proprietary course management software. It is this last element that really got me miffed.

I should point out that to date no one has replied with any counter arguments to my arguments beyond the administration telling my chair to shut me up, which does not, so far as I recall, qualify as a reasoned response.

So, rather than going on a tirade here, I am going to itemize my arguments over a series of postings. Suffice to say for now it revolves around conflating ownership rights and usage rights and the problem of faculty failing to communicate and share resources in order to ensure academic integrity and continuity between course sections. It seems the school has everyone jealously doing and hoarding their own work, thus increasing the workload of all faculty due to duplication of effort, and selling it to them as a benefit for them, at the cost of both the growth that comes from the interaction of ideas and minds and of the potential quality of education being provided to the students.

Hope that threat is enough to egg you on to read through the rest of the series. It is goign to be mixed with other things. I still have over a week of stuff queued up to post. I've had to step up to twice a day to get through it all.

For my own part, I have stopped asking for copies of the online materials from anyone and am rewriting the courses from scratch (Did I mention I was underemployed this Fall? Okay, and I found an archived copy of my old course that still uses the same texts, complete with all support materials ... which is good because I had to fight tooth and nail to get the publisher to provide me with a Mac-compatible version thereof.) with a specifically stated Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike license on all materials. That means my permission to copy the course materials into new sections is inscribed right in the documents, and it means that permission to copy course materials and any derivatives thereof remains with any copies made. May ruffle a few feathers, but it is an approach that has just recently survived its day in court, so I intend to stick with it.

Last time I checked, being and educator is about sharing knowledge. I know a bunch of people who are getting copies of Everything I Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten this Christmas. Or maybe The Missing Piece.

Laser Parking

Laser parking from the treehugger waste of energy department.

The question I have is not how much energy it uses, but does it have a disintegrate setting for when someone else tries to steal your space?

15 August 2008

My Phallic Symbol is Bigger Than Yours

All in all, worth it just for the title.

From treehugger.

Where Baby Tardises Come From

Where baby Tardises come from.

Very clever, disguising a Tardis as the London Underground. Very clever indeed.

For those of you who have only ever seen the new Dr. Who, feel free to ignore this reference.

The source: modernmechanix.com

What is the plural of Tardis anyway? Tardii?

14 August 2008

Builds 9: The Airship

Some more shots of my airship in progress.

First is a view out from the engineering control room onto the engine. Yes, the control board has no controls on it yet. I am looking for some good control panel textures that don't involve things like bakelite knobs and backlit dials.

The glassy sphere in the middle is a battery that is made of a substance I am not allowed to discuss, but that has a very high capacity. It can keep the ship aloft for weeks without a recharge. As it expends it is consumed from the middle out. When it starts looking like a transparent hollow glass bauble, worry.

It is linked directly to the drive system, which draws the most power, and there is a reciprocating electric engine on the far side (need to get a picture of that) to drive the mechanicals on board the ship.

It is hard to see on these shots, but the entire power source and engine arrangement rests in a cradle that looks a little fragile. In part this is because the engine does not push or pull the ship, it moves it as a unit. A benefit of field-based drive systems. It is also in part because the engine and power source are not as stable as they could be, so the cradle and lower girders are rigged to be blown out in an emergency so the engine can be ejected. Reserve power should be enough for a semi-controlled landing by carefully destabilizing the antigravity field generators. Try to land on water and try to evacuate any small craft from the lower hangar bay and seal all hatches before hitting said water. Mobility and buoyancy are both good things.

13 August 2008

Living Small

One problem with living in Second Life is there are scale issues caused by the rendering engines which make builds that are scaled to normal Real World size. That means every place is huge and drafty.

If you make doorways less than three meters some people may not even be able to walk through them. In fact, I have a secret hideout which is well protected from most everyone simply by having a doorway that is only 5'6" or so.

But that is just a kvetch. I am really writing this because I like small, elegant spaces. Perhaps one reason I liked Japan. Even an old 1950s tower packed with two room flats had an elegance to the minimalism (and doorways that were exactly 2 meters tall, less the lip).

So when something tiny and space efficient comes along, I like to share it. This is old news, but worth the look.

I would so live in this place. And I love how National Geographic is finally learning editing styles from MTV. Not that it is necessarily a good thing (or a bad one).

12 August 2008

Russian Steampunk

Russian Steampunk.

All the more interesting because it is based on a real tank ... thing ... objet d'art from right around World War I.

The image, with more renders, can be found at the Russian site livenet. Sort of makes you want to learn Russian, just so you can know what it is all about.

But never fear, the English version is here! Even better, it is a more detailed writeup by the WW I military history buffs and modellers at Landships.


Another Bill Bailey spoofy bit.

11 August 2008


Okay, I died laughing.

Now that I'm dead, that should leave me plenty of time for other things.

Tokyo Apocalypse

Found on boingboing and Pink Tentacle, post apocalyptic art of Tokyo street scenes.

Definitely worth a peek. For inspiration if nothing else.

10 August 2008

Builds 8: The Airship

Some more airship shots. Got quite a few. Will be posting them sporadically.

A clean viewing angle so you can get a better idea of what you are looking at. Yep, that sim it is sitting in is my sandbox, and there is a previous building sitting there in the next sim over.

Yes, the paddle wheels really are the propulsion system, but no they don't turn. They generate a field that creates thrust to move the ship. At some point I hope to create a glowing ball lightning animation that loops through the paddles creating a sense of movement.

Another moody view from the bottom which shows the forced perspective of the SL rendering engine very nicely. The angled metal plates are four field generators all at right angles to each other. For you conspiracy buffs, it is the basic format of Telsa's anti-gravity field generator, purportedly impounded and covered up by the U.S. and Polish governments. Okay, his drawings used rounded disks, but I like my design better.

09 August 2008

The Bubble Has Burst

This is it folks, the bubble has officially burst.

Pop Goes Mr. Bubble

So let us all pause for a moment of silent mourning.


And thank the gods that we still have rubber ducky!

How to Make Architecture Creepy

Some sniping back and forth on the level of pollution in China in the comments for the article Chinese Air Bars on BLDG. But that is old news.

The important bit is to look at the picture: a monolithic icon dedicated to media and modernism turned into a dark presence looming over the city. From an aesthetic stance, the transformation is worth far more than arguments over the air quality in Beijing.

Here is the original image.

And here for reference is an image on a different day. Borrowed from Neoliberal Fragements. The photo is from almost exactly the same distance at almost the same angle, the foggy foreground building on the left above appears to the center in the photo below for a sense of distance. Given the angle of the shadows in the shot, I would guess some of the haze could simply be the remains of a morning fog. Personally I love foggy mornings. Ironic that pollution will often make them more beautiful and not less.

Of course, and as with most architecture, the real thing somehow lacks the grace and aethereal beauty of the conception, which is presented in a shining clean city with shining crystal blue windows that are somehow oblvious to the fact that the primary lightsource is outside of them, surrounded by more shining buildings, and at a scale that hides the people scurrying off to work in its shadow, should they even be represented at all, let along the stray scrap of litter scurrying down the street in the wind.

Just found a better view with the same scene from further back and on high. Building also looks a little less intimidating in this one and better fit to the scene. The murky shot at the top seems to be from right inside that traffic loop. The image is from e-architect.

08 August 2008

Second Life?

Okay, this is old news, but I just came across it.

Pictures, and food, for thought on the nature of urban form and the nature of the people that live in those urban forms.

extreme rich-poor divides from deputydog.

Okay, the title probably needs some explanation. Unless, of course, you've spent much time in Second Life.

07 August 2008

Planet Mongo

Okay, this place is not mine. It is someone else's.

I am insanely jealous.

Anyway, the sim is called Planet Mongo and it is well worth the look. An amazing application of huge prims to create a huge build. Pretty much an entire sim for a single large superstructure.

I had to pan all the way out to 512 to be able to snap this shot.

It looks like it is still under construction and currently lacking many vendors, but that's okay, it is worth it just for the opportunity to walk around in a pretty amazing piece of art.

Yes, the red fuzzy bits below it are clouds. It is up pretty high, and is pretty tall itself. At ground level are the ruins of a once thriving civilization and the remains of a shattered island. Oh, and a slime processing plant. Though why you would add fruity flavoring to slime is a little worrisome.

06 August 2008


Okay, I so totally want one of these (photo below from the same).

Course, I really, really want one of these too.

I'd even settle for a full-scale, non-working figurine. Too too too cute.

05 August 2008

Builds 7: The Airship

My current build.

An airship. A steam punk airship.

Okay, so it is sort of lacking in steam, but thanks to Telsa's advanced in solid state batteries and field effects, it is a nice robust electric airship appropriately decked out for the Guilded Age. The entire front of the airship is even a formal ballroom, because, well, what's an airship without a ballroom?

It is still very much a work in progress.

First, a nice moody shot because I needed some new wallpaper.

And a simple side elevation for those who like boring mechanical views. The ship is roughly 70 meters long. The ballroom is at the front, with storage and and engineering below it. There is a working gangplank on the other side of the two story entrance foyer to the ballroom.

04 August 2008

Reviews: Von Johin

If you want good old school, dusky R&B in your Second Life experience, this is your man. I hate to say it, but I think I just found someone I like better than Komuso Tokugawa (don't tell him I said that though).

Von Johin is like a glass of smooth whiskey on a cool, quiet summer evening, if you like whiskey, that is. I mean, for those who do, I don't have to say any more. For those who don't like whiskey, kk, your loss. Okay, I confess, I have to be in a pretty foul mood to think whiskey tastes good. Maybe that is why it is a drink that goes so well with the blues. It is the taste of misery, and it sooths the heart to drink it.

Von Johin himself is not a glass of whiskey, though it is Second Life, so why not? But he is a serious performer, complete with corporate sponsorship. Okay, having family in the industry, I can say that means alot. Guitar companies don't encourage you to use their logo unless you can make people swoon to have a six (or twelve) stringed marvel of their own. And well, yeah, his playing is very swooney.

Definitely worth throwing those Lindens at. Book him at your next event so I can come and party. Okay, should probably let me know first so I am not off grocery shopping in Real Life though.

Ooops. This was supposed to be tomorrow's post. Oh well.

03 August 2008

Reviews: Joaquin Gustav

Okay, today's review is Joaquin Gustav. Spanish guitar in Second Life.

And just awesome. An intimate instrument like the guitar, softly played, lends itself to listening in a virual world, where the headphones only increase the intimacy, giving one the feeling that they are sitting in a small little club in Real Life listening to the music live.

Joaquin is a music instructor and performer from Argentina. One of the wonderful things about second life is that you can listen to someone live from France one hour, Argentina after that, and then finish up with a group of friends all thousands of miles apart all listening to someone performing in Toronto.

Anyway, Joaquin has a talent for taking any piece ever written it seems and turning it into a gentle tango that tugs at the heart chords. His music is gentle and soft and makes you want to hurt anyone with the temerity to launch an audible gesture. His riff on "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" is in and of itself worth the price of admission. But he has a talent for picking interesting songs that you would never think of as instrumental pieces for Spanish guitar until you find them in his capable hands.

Yeah, I know. It is not a Spanish guitar he is holding. Then again, it's Second Life. He could be holding a lute and the guitar sitting on his lap in the comfort of his home would still sound exactly the same.

Certainly an artist worth your attention. Okay, probably gonna say that alot in these reviews. Then again, if I think it is worth commenting on, then it is probably worth seeing.

In unrelated news, I was in attendance in Joaquin's concert in a new skin which was drawing some compliments, so here I am, looking a little more Indic than usual. I know, vanity, but it's not a bad look.

On a side side note, Googling him led me to the purevolume Web site. Way cool. Look at all those events in my area. Not with Joaquin, wrong continent, but still.

Addendum: Okay, helps if I spell his name right. At least I was consistent.

02 August 2008

Shanghai Sim

Okay, this is so totally worth a look: http://sh.edushi.com/

It is a virtual version of Shanghai, all rendered in SimCity axonometric style (ooh, I learned a new word, and here I was about to call is isometric). The detailing is awesome, though it looks much cleaner than the real thing, and it is full navigable in the basic Google maps way. It even has hotlink buttons to tell you where the McDonalds and KFC restaurants are.

Zoom in and all the bus stops, car parks, and metro lines are labeled, as well as all the street names. And if you get tired of all the buildings, the "2-D" mode functions like a standard street map.

Full screen mode seems to give it indigestion in Opera, at least the blocks would stop downloading correctly at times and would get confused on where to position themselves (Hey, let's all hind on the edge of the screen over here!), but still pretty neat.