Appearances DO Matter

yep-thats-me-tooTwo of my favorite bloggers have touched upon one of my favorite topics: appearances in a virtual world. I blogged about this waaaaaay back in my truly early days, when I asked Is a Virtual World a Good Thing? (July 7, 2008) The true irony is that in THAT post I was whining about not wanting to fuss about details such as my hair, skin, etc. Well, well, well, how things have changed, no? By the way – this first picture…. that is me. Changed. I made that brown hair. 🙂 That’s the truth.

I was born into SL. early-daysThere is so much free content here that allows you to customize your avatar. Without much effort you can change your hair, your skin, your walk, your sit, your clothes, your shape, your gender, your fur, your wings, your tentacles…. I think you understand. Even more to the point – you have some very good choices for default avatars. As I watch newbies coming through the gateway, wearing MY original avatar, I am still impressed by what a relatively good avatar that is. Yes – I STILL like the hair. But I’ve been working in Opensim a LOT lately. I have become such an appearance snob that when I had to create an avatar in OS I refused to use my name. I vowed that Ahuva Heliosense had a reputation to maintain and she would NOT be found in OS until her boots, hair and AO were there with her. 🙂 Aren’t I totally ridiculous??? But I mean it – if you see what her poor sister Summer looks like – omg – what a real dweeb. And she walks like a complete and utter newb. summerBarefoot. I absolutely cannot stand how Summer looks (sorry, Hon, but you really are somewhat of an embarrassment). Because I can’t stand watching Summer, I really do not enjoy my time in Opensim as much as I could. The appearance detracts from the experience and I do NOT go there as often as I should/could. Let me mention again the Stanford Study (research done in 2006 by Nick Yee. ) and its conclusions about avatar appearance on the real-life person.

I am not unique. Although the techies with whom I associate don’t seem to be as perturbed by their appearances as I, most of the world are not techies. *grin* Honest – that’s the truth. Corporations who are trying to do business in virtual worlds just-2-weeks-agoneed to understand that appearances matter, realism matters. If the users are not enjoying the experience – it’s going to fail. The avatars need to look good, move well, and have textured, well-made content. As Honour would say – textures are the foundation for SL. If the content does not have good textures – no one is going to enjoy the view. And if the customers don’t like the view – THEY LEAVE.

There is a continuum of life-like appearance. Back in July I found Ariane Barnes and her post on the Uncanny Valley. Prad Prathivi is talking about the Uncanny Valley also. Prad mentions his own reaction to life-like avatars and how the reaction changes. Someone offered to take a RL picture of me and make my avatar look like me. THAT life-like I don’t want. But I have colleagues that DO want that. The continuum will be different for each of us. We need the ability to customize our avatars ourselves, easily, in order to make the virtual world a world that fits OUR needs.

Shenlei Flasheart is writing about Business-to-Consumer corporations (B2C) moving into virtual worlds. Fashion Research Institute has been contacted by corporations wishing to provide contact to their virtual world employees. sl-blog Unfortunately, most of the people driving the projects for these corporations have no idea of what is involved to provide good, realistic content. Apparently they do not budget for that and are stunned when someone gives them a realistic estimate of the time and effort involved (read: “cost”) to produce content that will satisfy their employees. If the employees think that they look like unattractive, stiff dweebs – the employees are NOT going to participate wholly and the project will FAIL. Several friends have pointed out the case study that LL has posted on the SL blogs. This case study shows how IBM “got it” about making the employee experience a good one. Which means that it was a SUCCESSFUL experience and IBM benefited. If they can “get it” – let’s hope other companies can as well. I sure hope someone is listening out there.

Ivory Tower Library of Primitives

itlp1Honour has been suggesting to me for a long time now that I should visit the Ivory Tower Library of Primitives and learn some building fundamentals. Hmmm. Perhaps she phrased it more strongly than a suggestion. 🙂 I kept insisting that I am a scripter. But lately I’ve needed to do a lot of building-type things – offices, graphs, malls. So I finally decided that Honour is right and I need to learn some of this already. Ever lazy and always enjoying company, I coereced Dale into joining me. I figured Dale would give me fellow-scripter support. We’d both been playing in our respective inventories, so I may be sporting a bit of a different look in these pictures. 🙂 Trust me – I sure did my best to crop them.

We made it to ITLP uneventfully. itlp-welcome-committee It is a very pretty sight, even for one dreading what she feared would be an ordeal. *grin* That would be me. We wandered from the landing site to the entry. There was an adorable whatever there to greet us and explain how the ITLP worked. I’m cheating. I’m too lazy to write up a description of ITLP – I’m going to steal relevant information from the first notecard. ITLP is an on-going project by Lumiere Noir. At this time Linden Labs has underwritten the costs of the sim.

start-hereI made this tower in the hopes that it would give you a substantial headstart on your arrival here. It contains a lot of tips and tricks of the building system that have taken a good while to develop and collect. Over time I’ll include a vehicle tutorial on building and scripting vehicles and a website (both in the works as I write this, go to for the website), a module on sound, animations, station-5avatar customization and attachment building. That’s in planning for the forseeable future…maybe a month or twelve away (this was written July 10, 2006). Long term I’ll include an extensive module on scripting, script building, weapons making…and…more advanced building techniques. Don’t hold your breath, all of that is still just the gleam in the milkman’s eye for right now!
twist-and-shout-in-frustration What the tutorials are: The tutorials are a thorough grounding in the properties of the different primitive types (building blocks), and the editing tools that are used on those primitives. Several techniques to make building with prims more easily are described in detail.

Far from being an ordeal, the tower is actually very interesting and informative. I was pleased to realize that I knew most everything in Module 1 (the first floor). maybe-its-time-to-build-a-chairThings got a bit more complicated as we went up the tower. I knew a good bit of Module 2, but certainly not everything. So I began collecting the notecards and reading the exhibits a bit more carefully. At least ONE of us was paying attention to the exhibits. One of us was playing on the exhibits. I don’t really learn this way – by reading. That’s why I have Hell as my scripting teacher. I learn by doing things. By having actual goals that I need to achieve. That’s why I keep throwing myself under that darn bus. 🙂 I’m not going to learn building by reading note cards either. That’s why Honour gave me a building assignment (yes, yes, yes – I KNOW I owe you that box…. 9 prims… I remember). But these cards and the exhibits will definitely be handy when even-horses-need-to-buildI need to remember where to find various edit commands, and what kind of functionality is available.

Everyone comes to the ITLP. Do you think the horse (yes – that horse is an avatar) is building a barn or a race track? Or something else entirely?

Weekend Wanderings

can-i-interest-you-in-this-modelThe problem with spending so much of my work week in virtual worlds is that I am now finding it much harder to work on the weekends. I used to script on the weekends. I got a lot done. Now – I IM and I shop and I try to hang out more with friends. And all the while I whine about how I SHOULD be working. It’s a wonder they don’t back-hand me across the sim. Thank you all for that, by the way. 🙂 I appreciate your self-control.

The other day I took Hell and Nat is-that-a-mosh-pitto one of the interesting places I have found (Thanks Krissy, for pointing out a fun, new place to explore Krissy always IMs me to tell me neat builds and sims that she is exploring!). I like the cool vehicles that people have created in SL. We looked at the bikes and other toys for a bit. Hell and I both want that bike, but suspect that it falls outside our disposable income. 🙂 And we’d need someplace to race them. C’mon all of you – I am SURE that there is some speedway out there where we could take our cars and choppers and whatevers and race. I mostly hang out where there is beach and water and flowers and trees. But I could really be persuaded to landmark a speedway.

makes-me-smileSo from the roaring exhaust to the quiet peace of another land. On one of my many attempts to find land and a place to call my own, my “realtor” showed me this build. Perhaps it was the color (have you noticed that I like red?) or perhaps it was the style, but I really liked it. Unfortunately, it didn’t suit my purposes and so I kept looking. I’ve kept it in mind however and saved the lm in case it should ever be the answer to the question.

So the 3 of us hung out there, party-plannerschatting and taking pictures. (I wonder if I will ever have the patience or time to learn to take photos as lovely as Nat’s? She was kind enough to get me as well.) As we relaxed and realized that there was no one around and how large the space was, we realized we had mission: PARTY!!! Oh yeah, we are going to throw a party there. 🙂 It’s a bit laggy, this is true, and there are some issues with rezzing things, but we have already begun figuring a way around it. If there are no neighbors – well, there’s no one to call Security and get us evicted. LOL.


all-the-pretty-poniesWe were both having a hectic week. A lot to do, deadlines, not much time. The beauty of living in a virtual world is that it takes no time to commute. We can say – I have 15 minutes now – do you? And if the answer is yes, well, there we are. Together. So we got lucky amid our respective craziness shengri-la-sunsetand I tp’d to see all the possible ponies that you can rez at Shengri La. We each picked a pony and set off for a gallop. We galloped til we both crashed. 🙂 Hey – it’s like running or working out. Do it til it hurts. No pain, no gain. I love the ponies of Shengri La. Thanks, Shen.


Will the Male Impersonators Please Stand Up

kayla-hawkeyeI can’t believe it. Now even my son has a female avatar. He started playing Guild Wars. Oh yes, he has the expansion pack as well. After all, when I am addicted to MY virtual life, who am I to refuse the use of my credit card to him? The graphics in GW look much like SL. Each time I catch a glimpse of his screen, I blink in confusion, because I know he isn’t in SL, but it looks like “home” to me. Anyway….. So he’s got a female av. (He’s 18, I can’t stop him. LOL. Happy Birthday, my wonderful boy!) I just looked at him when he showed me. You know that “look”. The one mothers give their sons. THAT look. He said “Mom, I know why all your friends have female avs. The guys just look stupid.” Oooooohhh-kaaaay. Sure. Of course. I said “So you too are spending hours staring at a female derriere (that is not the word I used, in case you are wondering). So HE made the “son” face back at me. You know that one too. That long-suffering “how many times do I have to make this woman see reason” look. He repeated that the guy avatars looked bad BUT, he hastened to assure me, when he plays a wizard, THEN he uses a male avatar, because the beards are cool. ROFL. Yeah, the first thought of a wizard IS Merlin or Gandalf, this is true. Quick thinking, hon.

I may have once agreed that the male avatars are blech. But not anymore. I have seen some VERY good looking male avs in SL. Even more than good looking. A friend sent me a pic of her partner. He was downright hot. So guys – I’m simply not buying that excuse anymore. ‘fess up.

So. Here’s my question to you all. Do you know ANY females with MALE avatars? They have to be that av more than 25% of the time. That male persona has to have friends, inventory, history, etc. Come on – tell me you are or that you REALLY know a female living in SL as male. I have not, to the best of my knowledge, met a single one. I think it’s an urban legend.


the-party-gets-startedI love when my friends do fun happy things. This time it was Nat & Hell throwing a house-warming party at their new home. I got the invite the day before, which was great. I had time to block it out on my calendar. Lately if it’s not on my calendar – it doesn’t seem to happen. I’d not partied or socialized or relaxed all week. I knew that I had to be with this group of friends to kick off my weekend. 🙂 So an hour before party time I packed up my stuff and actually LEFT THE OFFICE and went home.

cook-the-food-not-the-guestsOf course, I left wrapping the present til the last minute. But I’m getting good at this! I’d already practiced wrapping a gift so that it would give a card and the present smoothly. So I grabbed my handy-dandy gift box, modified it a bit, wrote up the card, and made TWO packages!! One for Hell and one for Nat. 🙂 Hey, everyone likes getting presents. And since I had 2 gifts (one high prim and one low) I figured they could each have the fun. I am quite impressed with myself. I managed to change the color and texture of the box. I reminded myself of what the script did (Okay – honesty compels me – the script was so easy to understand because Hell wrote it for me the other day. LOL. That’s also why it works!). I packed up those 2 boxes and called for the taxi. To my great joy (and a little surprise) – both packages worked exactly as planned. Yay!!! What were they? Plants of course. I’m a gardener, remember? I love flowers.

I arrived at the party to glad-i-am-not-the-maidfind that we were starting outside. Some beef on the barbecue and a bit of brew. I’m not exactly sure why Hell was wearing the cooler, but he was, so that’s the big brown thing you’ll see in the pictures. Also – a word of advice to you all. Should you be invited for dinner – I’d ask for sushi. Or take-out. Or anything that does NOT require Hell to fire up the grill. As Phin found out, Hell has a bit of difficulty getting that grill to light. A flame-thrower is NOT the answer to this question. You were supposed to cook the food on the grill, dear, not the guests…..

safe-above-the-spammingAfter a bit we all moved inside to see the place. Since it would not be a party without being bombarded with “things”, we had the obligatory beach ball blast, with newbies thrown in for a little variety. 🙂 We all had our own little ways to avoid being buried. Some rose above the mess, some of us waded through to a quiet corner. That would be me, actually. 🙂 I found a spot in the corner to sip champagne, to watch the craziness and to take a zillion pictures. Go see them on flickr.

More folks came in to join us friends-just-hanging-outand we had the usual banter and fun that we always do. We ran out of seats fairly early on so Nat and Hell rezzed out a bed. I know that this is your first house together. Let me give you a word of advice. You feed people, you make them comfy, you amuse them – the next thing you know they’ll have moved in. 🙂 Like stray cats. You may not want to be such accommodating hosts, you know? 🙂


the-party-beginsI love dancing. I really love waltzing. The waltz is a difficult dance to do well. In RL I used to do competitive dancing. /me smiles at happy memories. Oh yeah, I love dancing. My teacher Emilio was the best. The man could move like water. Like wind. Like the sexiest creature in the world. He had a grip that would not allow a woman to set one foot wrong. We competed in all the dances. Our rhumba steamed. We did a great hustle dancing-amidst-the-roses(my husband and I still hustle and burn the floor). Emilio and I did dirty dancing that had me bent backwards with my hair sweeping the floor. *grin* Ah yes, those were the days. We pulled in golds in nearly all our dances. Except waltz. I never once did better than silver. Waltz is hard. You need to hit your lines just so. Every move needs to be smooth, elegant, elongated, fluid. Watching a room full of waltzers is as soothing and mesmerizing as watching the ocean waves.

lul-and-ahuvaIn SL – I hit all my waltz lines. 🙂 Nothing like a good pose ball , is there? Shenlei hosted the Cupid’s Dream formal ball at Victoriana the other day. It was a lovely weekend afternoon, extending the Valentine’s Day celebration. I needed a break from all I’d been doing and thinking. So when the reminder came popping up, I knew it was just what I needed. I changed into my beautiful Debutante gown: Louisa in red. I put up my hair, slipped on my dancing shoes and hailed the taxi to Victoriana.

I had the great good fortune music-by-victrolato arrive at Victoriana Carnivale at the same time as my friend Lul. Yes, you’ve seen Lul here before. Go check out Santa’s sleigh and the opensim/SL chatbridge. I can report that not only is Lul smart, witty and sweet, he is also a wonderful dancer. 🙂 We followed the rose path to the party site. Shen had outdone herself with the decorations. Music was provided by Benton Wunderlich.

view-from-aboveLul and I slipped onto a pair of dance balls and began waltzing. Ah, it’s so wonderful to dance in SL. I’ve had so many wonderful times dancing in SL. I don’t know why it works. I would have thought that since I really DO love to dance, that dancing in SL would be hollow. But it’s not. For some reason, watching myself dance feels internally as if I am dancing. rez-and-shenleiI hear the music. I feel the arms of my partner. My brain shifts gears and once again I am twirling and spinning and gliding across the floor, in harmony with my partner and the music. I am as happy dancing in SL as I am in RL. And it’s easier on my poor knees (which are hurting as i write this because, sigh, I started pushing the running again – upped the treadmill this week). So Lul and I danced and chatted and waltzed away the afternoon.

Victoriana is growing on me, no question about it. I’m very glad that they are not a role-playing sim as such. I can go and visit and hang out without having to “be” Victorian. I enjoy putting on a ball gown every so often and being an elegant lady. I also like hanging out in my mayor-littleblackduck-lindsayjeans and enjoying all the amenities that Victoriana has to offer. I was there again today and was amused by the sight of the Seapot Racers. Too funny for words. Now that I know that there are formal balls every month, I just may have to get there on a regular basis and dance. I’m looking for a partner for the ball in March, if you’re interested in joining me!

Thank you

This past week has been a very full week. A bit of an emotional roller-coaster. There were definitely some points in this week that were a bit difficult. Things got better, however, as they usually do when you take a moment to breathe in, relax, breathe out. Many good things began happening, with perhaps the most exciting happening at the very end of the work week. I received some feedback on the work I’ve been doing. *grin* Positive feedback, in case you were wondering. I feel extremely happy and proud. I would even say “validated”.

validationIn my mind, I see a straight progression from the day I first heard about “SL” to the end of this week. The mind is wonderful that way. 🙂 It can make sense out of anything if it so chooses. I was talking with a friend last night, discussing everything. She made the point that I did the work. Yes, that is true. But in my mind and heart – I could do the work and push forward and stay determined because of my friends. Actually – these people were not my “friend” at the point where they reached out and offered a hand. (They are all my good friends today.) I see many people who could have simply shrugged and said “not MY problem” and ignored me. But they didn’t. Each one of these people made what probably seemed like a simply, easy gesture. But to me, the recipient – the combination of each of those little actions was life-changing.

It is so easy to be kind, to be helpful, to be generous. You can’t always see the consequences of your actions immediately. But it could be a life you are saving.

Perhaps you know this nursery rhyme:
For want of a nail the shoe was lost.
For want of a shoe the horse was lost.
For want of a horse the rider was lost.
For want of a rider the battle was lost.
For want of a battle the kingdom was lost.
And all for the want of a horseshoe nail.

I like the meter, I like the simplicity of the message of that nursery rhyme, but I don’t like that it’s a negative approach. I prefer to phrase things postively.

In response to an email a friendship was born –
Encouragement offered instead of just scorn.
In response to introductions more people were known
Volunteering accepted, a challenge was sown.
In response to distress call an offer was made
A task was completed and yes, “face” WAS saved.
In response to that project a new path was taken
A new life was picked, confidence still unshaken.
And all from the help of my friends.

Some People Never Learn

oncoming-bus2That would be me, of course. I volunteered. Again. For something that I did not know how to do. Again. I threw myself under the bus. I am getting quite familiar with the underside of that darn bus. Is there NO one who can save me from myself?????

So what exactly did I do this time? Well, I volunteered to manage a shopping mall in opensim. Now read that carefully folks. I said MANAGE. I did NOT say build. Sigh. But somehow, that became build. That became: you now own an entire sim, you are responsible for that sim, you need to build the mall, set up the stores, manage inventory for people who don’t want to run their own stores. This is worse than the trees.

I confess. I am writing this particular post on a night when I am tired and discouraged and have other things on my mind. So keep that in mind. Had I been writing this a few days ago, I would have been weeping. I really fell apart the other day and this was part of it. How the heck was I going to build a mall in a week, when I don’t know how to build at all?

Yet again, my post is about my wonderful friends. I know the best people. Honour and Shenlei both volunteered to teach me to build. I even owe Honour a build assignment. Yeah, yeah, I’ll DO it Honour, I promise. Didn’t I FINALLY make it to the new store? But I’m a bit overwhelmed this week. There is soooooo much going on in RL. I am sooooo far behind on everything. So despite their kind offers, I knew I couldn’t build a mall.

a-little-tiny-mallJo to the rescue. Jo offered to build me a mall. I seized that offer as a drowning person grasps the rope. Not only can I not build, my mind is totally devoid of ideas this week. So when Jo offered a plan, and ideas, and an offer to build, I jumped.

Excuse me while I insert another “Lesson I Have Learned in My Life”. It’s no shame, no sin, to ask for help. I used to think that it was a sign of weakness or failure to ask for help, to not do everything myself. On a professional level, I was usually able to admit to gaps in knowledge or speak up and ask for assistance. In that milieu hiding ignorance and lack of skill seemed to be the greater error. But in my personal life – I felt obliged to be SuperWoman. Everything was MY responsibility. No one could do things as well as I. I have discovered, however, that my life is much better, my relationships much more enjoyable, healthier, when I say to people “I need help on this matter”. I have learned that accepting help from others makes all of us feel better. Them, because they feel good that they were able to help and brighten someone else’s day. Me, because I had time to breathe. Okay. We now return to our regular programming…..

I’ve not been there yet (to my sim in Opensim where supposedly my mall now exists) but I believe that there is a very small mall there – 8 stores. There are also 5 carts. I believe that I can change the textures and modify and landscape and bring in plants. As soon as I figure out how and find legally allowable objects.

Wish me luck. Yet again I have gambled my professional reputation. 🙂 Yet again I have thrown myself under the oncoming bus. Yet again my wonderful friends are coming to my rescue.

I love my life. I love my job. I am truly one of the most fortunate people I know. Yes, yes, Nana, avert the evil eye. 🙂 But I am learning so much. And I am so happy even though I am somewhat overwhelmed and over-committed.

More Newbies

their-first-sl-joyI was hanging about, doing some odds and ends when Shenlei IM’d me. She had some newbies who wanted to learn to ride. 🙂 Oh wow, twist my arm. An excuse to take time to go riding in SL? I am so there. So I tp’d into the gateway at Shengri La and met the newbies, Gaia and Annia. The 4 of us tp’d over to the stables. Shen and I were explaining SL nuances, assuring them both that all would be fine.

I realized as I listened to them how far I have come. I remember a friend saying to me that he wished he could go exploring with me because I got so excited and had so much fun. welcoming-gaia-and-annia-to-slThat he had lost some of that joy and excitement. I hate to say this but I think that perhaps I, too, am getting somewhat jaded. I listened to Annia and Gaia exclaiming and reacting, and I realize that I now take a lot of this in stride. I EXPECT there to be horses and carriages and animals and such. They were incredibly excited and pleased to hear the horses neighing to us. 🙂 I remember being that enthusiastic. Now I smile when I hear such sounds, but I am not stunned or delighted. I EXPECT those touches.

who-am-iThe thing that was truly disconcerting about this particular adventure was Annia. She chose the same default avatar that I chose. She went nuts over the horses. So much else of our conversation sounded as if I’d gone back in time and was talking with myself. Disconcerting because I “feel” the same inside, but I can see how I’ve changed. Annia is the Ahuva of 7 months ago. She looks as I looked, sounds as I annia-not-ahuvasounded, wants to do much of what I wanted to do then. LOL. Of course, I did manage to shock her, EXACTLY as *I* would have been shocked. After the ride, Shenlei and I were discussing the auction for Cancer Research UK and I was trying on outfits. Annia did not understand the auction at first. *grin* She thought I was actually auctioning myself off for well, I guess for nefarious purposes. As if. Shenlei and I both passed inventory to her: skins, AOs, clothing, hair. 🙂 It was so much fun to do for her what so many others had done for me. Paying forward yet again.