Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Presented Without Comment

A Soft Breeze

Some days, the best thing to be said is that they ended.

Modelling

Monday, September 15, 2014

Genre: Time with the Elephants

Teal Flamingos

Genre's back again and covering Southeast Asia, which not only encompasses a lot of India, but touches lightly on Indonesia and Thailand with some charming mashups around the edges - all set to the sound of screaming peacocks showing their feathers. My Luminary dress, a lovely calf-length fall of skirt with an empire waistline, is reminiscent of a long Kameez without the accompanying pants and scarf that would make it a Shalwar Kameez, which is found across Southeast Asia as a comfortable and beautiful type of outfit meant for both men and women. This is a more girly cut, though, low in the bodice with an empire waistline, and with a modern, calf length. I love the fullness of the skirt, with big loops of fold which move in an interesting way with various poses. The mesh edges are finished well with the texture going well up under the skirt, high enough even for the most finicky photographer.  One touch I really loved is how seams are included into the texture, giving it a real verisimilitude, and the additional gems set into the front and back make it really unique and fun. For shoes, I really couldn't do better than the toe loop sandal from Bliensen + MaiTai in a variety of bright colors and patterns. I simply adore the textures here - layers of bright, contrasting shades which offer up some real variety in what they can be worn with, and a velvety-seeming base in a variety of shades as well. I also really like the style; many sandals of this style have bare to no coverage on the front of the foot, but in this case there is a wonderful triangle of brightness in the middle of my foot which is quite cheerful. It comes for the SLink mid foot, and also for CMFF and The Mesh Project.

At Cross Patterns

My accessories are numerous and gorgeous, and all pretty much come from Genre this month. Across my brow and set carefully into my hair is a gorgeous, color-change, low-set diadem which can be worn high along the hairline, or lower as I am so that the large jewel in the middle sits right between the brows. It's a new release from Souzou Eien, and combines simple chain with a profusion of beads and the large, central medallion. The color change part is the chain and the gems; the black beads hanging down appear inexorably jet. It matches the additional jewelry from A:S:S nearly seamlessly; both combine circles and dangle in the same charming manner. I'm not normally a nose-ring sort of girl, but with ones this lovely I might well change the habit! I'm also wearing A:S:S nails, though they're part of an older pile of gorgeousness and not a new release. My eyeshadow is dark with bands of bright color across the lids, a release from #adored which adds real drama to any look; I love the smokey edges and solid liner. Added into my hair is a lovely flower from NSP Florals - one of a whole slew of colorful hibiscus flowers set upon delicate gold leaves. My necklace is from yet another choice store, Storybook, and it is a fantastic collar style with large openings and uneven edges which give it a natural, crafted air. The circle of pure metal below the chin is a fantastic touch as well, and echoes the overall "circles in jewelry" theme I have going. Completing the jewelry, on my wrists are the thickly soldered rings of stones from Sad Harlekin, which echo the same colors but offer in more irregular yet still rounded shapes. They are all of a piece with varying sizes up the wrist so that they sit well on my forearms.

Arise!

The main European touch is this fun hair from Asset, shown in blond in complwte defiance of all of Southeast Asia. The large, loose braids over the skull are really fun and work seamlessly into the long braids over the chest and held with metal bands. It doesn't quite fit around my ears, but that's a minor note for such cool hair.

Fit for a Princess: Sakura in the Weeds

Image Description: Girl with pink-tipped blond hair standing next to a stand of short bamboo in front of a lake.

This is my first post on my new computer, and it's amazing the amount of things I had to do to get things pulled together. Somewhere in this apartment is a box with Photoshop in it - but it's no where near findable, and so I cut my teeth, and my photos, on Gimp. I can run shadows much more easily on this new setup, which made taking pictures a dream. I've also not had much in terms of crashes despite running very high graphics so far, which makes things a lot more fun. Having an all but naked computer is always interesting in terms of deciding what one needs for day to day running, and one remains on the archival hard drive, and also seeing what a new setup with different costs in the build period has in store for me. So far I've installed a bunch of other games, a bunch of free programs, and Second Life - and all of them are running splendidly, often at the same time. I've also been in a state of bliss from being able to type exclamation points again; for the past nine months I've had to cut & paste several symbols and numbers, which was tolerable most of the time, but I lamented the loss of my favorite punctuation.

Image Description: Girl in a pink and black dress reaching down toward her shoe.
I'm happy to show off this sweet pink look, though I can only hope I got all of the settings correct - apologies for any errors! I'm decked out in things from the latest Fit for a Princess from literal crown to toes, which is always a fun way to show off the sheer variety and ingenuity in Second Life. My starting point was this adorable dress from Nomi which comes with black and white banding on the bodice, underskirt, and lacing, and a variety of sweet pastel colors for brightness. I went with pink and black, but the purple and white was a very close thing! The narrow ribbon over the shoulders is a delicately sweet touch, and one which highlights the advantage of mesh. The textured equivalent never looked good, cutting jaggedly across the shoulders even int he hands of the best creators. Mesh allows for a smooth line, though, with a delicate bow at the top of the bodice. It's rigged well, keeping close to the body, and the skirt itself only goes a little jagged around the edges with some of the more energetic leg poses.

Image Description: Closeup of black, slip on shoes walking over large bamboo ribs.

It was the hair - an adorable bow style from Sweet Thing - that cemented the pink. I bought the blond set and it came with pastel tipped edges, the pink already in place; I was in love in seconds. There are tiny tendrils along the back of the neck which add verisimilitude, and the curve of the hair around the temples is lovely. It isn't editable, but the included editing script allows for single axis adjustment as well as more universal resizing - useful for me, as my head is wider than most. I perched a delicate crown from Krystal on top of my head, and I haven't loved a tiny crown so much since Kyccie's was open. It's from a gacha, as is the lovely not matching but equally lovely armband, and both the price (25$L) and the variety (at least twenty shades of gem, all set in platinum) made it fun to try to get a matching opal set. I have a few more sets, and may very well go back and try to capture a ton more jewel shades simply because I adore the crown so much. The final touch were these adorable pump shoes from Stargazer Creations, also a gacha prize but again a quite reasonable one. It also had the bonus of giving me a wide variety pretty quickly and easily, including both the black and white ones - which means I'll be able to use them with a bunch of different looks. The flowers are separate from the shoes, so you can wear them either with a simpler band or with a more complicated clip-on; fantastic versatility.
Image Description: Portrait of pink and blond haired girl in front of water with fish swimming in it.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Bluebeard's Final Wife

He Went Away

The mists came when he went away - as if trying to keep me from looking outside the castle, or wander too far. It echoed wetly through the hallways, and followed me around as I minded the Chatelaine and Seneschal, both too polite to point out their superior knowledge of how things worked. Piles of papers flew in my wake as I walked the long hallways, fingering the many keys he had left me, the smallest of ruby glinting in the light like a secret. He had shown me the door like a dare, and while I had always lept to every challenge as a child, youngest of six and the only girl, something in his manner made my blood run cold. It was easy to remember my father had sold me to discharge his debt, carefully, one summer day while my brothers played courtiers in the city. 

Weeks later, it would be them I hoped would come for me, standing high on the walls and looking through the mists as if my glory might be found there, but in these early days I knew only the chill of father and husband both, and the transaction which sold me between them.

A Small Moment of Sun

Friday, August 29, 2014

Anatomy of a Blogger

Candlelight and Sunset

Nigel Riel has an interesting post on types of bloggers, which got me thinking about my own style. He posits four types of photographers (The Unedited Snapper, The Pop-Out Photographer, The Cleaner, and The Artist), and five types or writers (Wait, I had to write something?, Be Brief, Be Gone!, The Storyteller, The Babbler, and The Complainer), which can mix and match but have some inherent trends. I am an Artist who alternates between Being Brief and Babbler and who often brings my offline experiences, thoughts, and opinions into Second Life because I feel a continuous thread throughout. I do have some additions to make to his categories, though.

Muted Rainbows

I personally think "The Photo Manipulator" can be broken out of "The Artist" into it's own category, since it's possible to do full on artistic setup and yet not process the image - that's what I try to do, though often I feel like I fall rather short of artistic - and processing is it's own set of skills. That would require being able to be in double categories, which I think is possible - I know of a few people who are Snappers and yet use a lot of photo manipulation to clean up and improve an image, though I think that is rarer than full on Artists. Likewise, I think there is a category of "The Critic" which is in between Babbler and Complainer; while it is rare in Second Life's usual slew of loving blogs, including my own, there is deep value to critique both of specifics and of general themes within a given community and set of artists. Granted, a lot of the commentary in Second Life could be seen as drama-mongering, even my own "How NOT to..." series, but I am sensitive to the importance of a community have ways and means of tolerating and assessing dissent or it becomes calcified around a few strong personalities, who grow used to living in a world where they are always in the right. I feel like there can and should be some sort of middle ground, where insults and cruelty are not tolerated, but dissent is.

Tracks

Indeed, one of my friends' responses to my "How NOT to..." series got me thinking about whether it is an appropriate critique of people who approach me and are in the wrong, or if it is my expressing cruelty to a helpless target. In specific, his fear was that if we spoke in world I would turn my admittedly sharp wit and sometimes scalpel of a mind onto him. In the specifics he was inaccurate - all but one of the people I have blogged about in this manner have been complete strangers when they contacted me - but in the general, a fear that what one does toward one target might be aimed at friends is a valid and reasonable one. I don't have much to give as a reassurance. I have a temper, and when I'm riding the edge of it I can be ruthless. I like to think of myself as kind and gentle, but enough friends have told me they're a little scared of me to let me know how close that is to the surface. I can be kind, but I have a cruel streak in me - and it's in my best interest to keep that in mind, even if I do continue to sharpen the scalpel of my mind.

Moment in Time

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Genre: Sweet Tooth

Something Little and Sweet

I'm back with more petite flash from Genre, and this time I'm showing off the sim Genre is set in as well - which had a drop off point on top of a glorious table of treats. It's large for a full sized avatar, and enormous for a petite, which makes fun at every size. One of the fun things about recent Genre events has been how the sim has transformed to match the theme - often in a very photogenic manner. I love the giant treats, the enormous pig in a teacup, and all of the cupcakes I've seen at so many different events recently. Even if you don't have a petite avatar, I'd encourage you to check out this table straight from Alice's stories. If you do have a petite, you can build several completely looks from the offerings on the ground around the table.

Layers of Snax

I'm wearing this adorable hair from Bliensen + MaiTai which makes a hat out of a bottle cap and some matches. One thing I have loved about petites is how virtual "found objects" can get reworked into clothing for the much smaller size, to fit in with a Borrowers aesthetic, and it's wonderful to see that echoed here. The hair itself comes in a number of different shades all with the hat incorporated, and you also get the hat on it's own so you can wander off on your own. I paired it with an adorable caffeine molecule necklace from Squishy Fluff, a new-to-me store (Pins and Needles is Skyler Glasswing's other store; I couldn't find any marketplace or in world presence for Squishy Fluff). I love molecules, being the daughter of a physical chemist, and caffeine is a really fun one. The necklace is color changing via a HUD, which makes it versatile and fun.

For the rest of my look I went very pink. First of all, these completely adorable wings from Distorted Dreams with the flowers spaced in the center, and a ribbon-like underlayer. I love the Flowers in particular - they have a lovely shape and fade. The shape of the wings is also sweet, with shiny and glittering arcs of light curved onto them. And finally, there is my dress. Sent with several skirts, this is a Spyralle classic. The fractal pattern of the dress has rough edges outlined in black, with a flirty cutout on the hip and irregular ends on the pants. This is one of those outfits which couldn't exist outside of Second Life; it needs the stability of artificiality to not end up ribbons on the floor. I love the irregularity and layering, and how ragged the skirt edge is. It's reminiscent of fish fins or ragged leaves, though the color is paler and softer than either tend towards. The skirts are flexible prims, which is rarer these days, but the effect is charming and flowy. I'm showing the knee length skirt, but there is an ankle length and you can also wear it alone as a pants outfit.

Truffles and Trifles

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Take a Moment, Take a Breath, Engage

A Single Light at Night

Sian has an amazing post about social media and levels of interaction in each others lives. This seemed to vibrate gently with two recent posts she also linked to - one on stopping liking things on Facebook entirely, and one on liking everything on Facebook - both of which highlighted how linking things (on Facebook, at least) has become commercialized through the use of the "like" symbol being fed into algorithms which determine how close or distant we are from each other. Liking on Flickr is a bit different; it is more of a measure of eyeballs and doesn't determine who you are fed next, except maybe on the sidebar, and I'd suspect that's similar with any social medium which has subscription feeds instead of algorithm driven feeds. Liking, starring, or otherwise offering some kind of unspecific approval is available on most forms of social media, and it is tied into algorithms which have a variety of effects, for the self and others. This is all the technical side, though, and what all three meditations on social media and how we interact with it point to means of distancing ourselves via social media, and means of becoming closer.

Within my Own Embrace

Brief responses, with their additional algorithmic effects, are inherently distancing - they are about doing the same thing over and over again in response to a stimuli. They do actually exist outside of a programmed environment where liking is possible; a lot of community social interactions are similarly proscribed - "Hello", "How are you?", "Good", "Please?", "Thank you", "Have a nice day." They're meant to lubricate interactions and make them pleasant for everyone involved, which is why "Really awful," and five minutes discussing your digestion usually isn't usually done, even if it is accurate. Similarly, if you read through some of my How NOT To... series, you'll quickly notice a lot of the men who try to pick me up have a script that is remarkably consistent between them. Their questions largely have to do with Age, Sex, and Location, all offline. Their responses are largely agreement, even to questions asked of them. It can feel like engaging with a chatbot rather than another human being. In contrast to the "social lubricant" situation, when one person approaches another for a conversation there is more of an expectation of sharing information, rather than skimming over the surface as one goes about purchasing one's milk.

Spiderweb and Dew

And that is what engagement means. It means reading for content and thinking before responding. It means showing authentic interest. It means opening oneself to be changed by what one encounters. And this takes, to put it honestly, both time and emotional ease. It's not something which can be done under stress or in a rush; it requires taking several breaths to pause and enough interest. Interest can be directed, but it's easier if it's also natural - I have an interest in museums, and flowers, and weather, and unusual people, but if something is important to someone who is important to me, interest tends to come along with it. This is a somewhat gendered thing - women are more often expected to pick up the interests of their partners than men, just as women are expected to support their partners more than men are - but I think it has a lot of advantages, especially in terms of adding variety to peoples' lives. This kind of interest and engagement is about building and maintaining a relationship as well; in contrast with the brief interaction of a like, really engaging with someone else's interests means learning about it and why the person we care about cares about it. This is one of the ways in which personal relationships can bridge ideological divides as well; when we have an emotional connection we want to maintain, we're more motivated to get and remain engaged even when there are disagreements.

Flowers and Gloss

Monday, August 25, 2014

Monday Meme: My Computer Specs

Strawberry got a new computer, which leaves me feeling very jealous as I do most of what I do on an old laptop which has some numbers that no longer work.

Stairway to Nowhere
  1. Share any of your computer specs (video card, memory, etc..): I got my computer a couple of years ago, on sale. It's a HP Pavilion dv7 Notebook PC, with 4gig ram.

  2. Which viewer do you use most often? I use the Firestorm browser almost exclusively, and the Radegast browser when I need multiple avatars. Radegast is text only, so it uses up a lot less in terms of resources, meaning I can log in the Alphabet alts easily.

  3. What is your FPS (Frames Per Second) when you have your graphics on ultra? My FPS is around 10 with shadows on and everything. I would love Strawberry's much nicer stats.

  4. How often does Second Life crash for you? Is it usually just a viewer crash or your whole system crashes? What are you usually doing at the moment of the crash? I crash if I am in a place with a lot of other avatars at some kind of event. Sometimes I would swear that it varies by night as well; one of the event sims I went to recently had only four or five other avatars on the whole sim, but I crashed about five times through the course of trying to shop.

  5. Do you know of any tips or tricks in the settings that would improve performance? I am a huge fan of Firestorm's Troubleshooting page. Baring that, I'll join the Firestorm chat and ask questions - they've always helped me in the past. When I'm in a big event, I turn off basic shaders and drive down full avatars in favor of avatar imposters.
Falling Papers

I'm sad Strawberry's doing Monday Memes more infrequently now - I had such fun with them every week. I've been considering trying a weekly or two-weekly challenge for myself, now that all of them have faded away. I got started regularly blogging thanks to the Color Challenge; probably my favorite, though challenging, series was the Single Word Stories, which really pushed me to focus on the emotive quality of my images. I'm still in the "thinking of it" stage, though.

( More pictures here. )

Fit for a Princess: Ice Princess in a Tower

All the Accoutrements

There is less than twenty four hours left for Fit for a Princess, so if you were planning on checking out all of the awesomeness, now is the time to go. It closes at 3PM on Tuesday the 26th, though many of the items will be rapidly winging their way toward stores everywhere. My awesome set pieces are all from Fit for a Princess; first there is a fantastic table with a filled goblet on top of it from the Jewel Garden. It's 7 land impact made up of a variety of different pieces, and it is editable so that you can shift things around to fit your individual style. The goblet itself, it's stone filling, and the flower tucked against the side can all be moved around or used separately, and they are quite lovely both together and apart. The scroll I show on the wall is one of a set, all wit images and beginnings of fairy tales on them. They are made by the Second Star and are both perfect for being piled up on a desk, and hung gently on a wall as decoration. I love the artistic flourishes - a rose for Beauty and the Beast, or a tower for Rapunzel. The lovely light fixtures, which come in three different styles and one with three different heights, are all from Alouette and they give off a gentle glow. I love the different styles and the gentle glass holding the candles, each with a flickering flame. Each is freestanding, and they work extremely well against wood and stone.

Running to the Second Floor

My look was inspired by the blue and white gown from Les Femmes à Barbe, beautifully colored on a well made mesh basis. I love the Celtic pattern along the neckline and hem, soft gold layered over the blue of the outfit. The ribbons wrapped around the torso are actually a separate element, so you can show the dress with or without them - a lovely touch which can let you customize it for a variety of situations, and there are also arm ribbons in a similar style up to the elbows. The dress is pretty well rigged - tied to the legs but loosely enough that it doesn't distort too badly with unusual leg configurations; the wrists get a little hinky here and there, but that is likely because I wear SLink hands. The final piece from Fit for a Princess are my amazing shoes - a new release from Eclectica. They are astonishingly three dimensional, especially with the jeweled pieces over the toes, and the texture is layered and sumptuous. I highly recommend you run over to Fit for a Princess before tomorrow - this is only the tip of the iceberg of awesome.

Shoes of Gold

My necklace is from tea.s, and is one of the items you can purchase to get stamp cards for the Enchantment Event this month, which also likely will be ending sooner rather than later. It's another event i highly recommend you check out, as many of the items are simply divine. I ended up with an enormous folder of awesome things, and I'll try to show more of them off soon. It's been a busy month. My final note is something just starting, though - Devae, formerly Rue and always awesome, is having a 75% off sale at her main store in preparation for reworking her store. My amazing nails are one of her releases, and I got them for pennies you guys - pennies. Everything currently released is there, including her completely saturated skins of many colors, some wonderful horns and eyes, and even a little clothing - a tempting example of what she can make if inspired. I live in eternal hope for her to turn her alien eyes toward something rainbow, but even if she keeps with her usual entirely gorgeous textures, I will remain a happy faerie.

Light through a Window

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Genre: Smaller Deos

Meet My Little Friend

This month's Genre is petite based, and gave me an excuse to break out some of my favorite avatars again to snap some shots. When you go to visit you'll be dropped on the cutest tea table ever, so don't be surprised! My base avatar, and the shoulder and stomach details, all come from Fallen Gods and aren't part of Genre - but they meld beautifully with this gorgeous outfit from Kastle Enchanted that comes with hair and textures for modifying a petite avatar to match - you can do so using the default Yabusaka avatar; most other avatars sold are non-modifiable. I love the flowers on the skirt and how they smoothly meld into the chain over my hips, holding the whole thing up, and the staff included is simple but lovely. The best touch is the roots, though; thin and fibrous, they work beautifully even with a skin that's not made for them and add real charm and whimsy into the look. Looking at them, I just want to plant myself somewhere grow toward the sun.

Dangling Above it All

 My hair is a fantastic confection of curls from Alli & Ali that fit perfectly on a petite head. I love how they catch the light puff out like a dandelion head. The hundreds of mini curls are a perfect setting for the flower crown from NSP Florals, which released a ton of different colors for very reasonable prices, and perfect for petite adornment everywhere. The flowers are all individual mesh pieces, which means they can cast lovely, dappled shadows and they fit beautifully in complicated hair.

My poses are all part of the props they come with - either rezzable or wearable - from HopScotch. The flower has extra fun - a floating bee who interacts with you as you move between the six different poses, with a wide variety of moods - from a fairy catching a bee, to a bee guarding a fairy as she sleeps. It's an adorable idea, made all the more fun by the moving bee. The moon is simpler, but still has a variety of playful and serious poses. I love the one which looks like you just got caught on the crescent, butt in the air and looking down over the landscape. It would be a fantastic addition to any sky, with the added bonus of luring petites to your shores. In contrast, the variety of rockets are wearable which means they can be ridden through the landscape even when you don't have rezzing rights. I really adore the surfing pose, but others - like hanging form the nose, or even a relaxed ride - are totally fun as well. These are adorable accessories for any petite, or petite friendly location.

Riding the Rocket