New avatar bodies in Second Life

I sometimes visit a world called Second Life, which is kind of a big 3-D space where you can hang out, build stuff, and fiddle with your avatar’s look. I’ve been a member since 2007, and in that time, I’ve seen the look of avatars change a lot.

When I first started, this was my avatar. I controlled its look through the use of slider bars for every part of the avatar, from body height to amount of fat to face shape. I think there were 15 sliders just for the face alone. There was plenty of room for error, and you would see these freakishly tall avatars walking around with little tiny feet and huge breasts.

Second Life Sylectra 2008
The 2008 version of my avatar, achieved only with slider bars.

 

second life sylectra willy 2008
Willy and I met up from time to time to use the dance halls. It was fun getting dressed up, though time-consuming.

As I made friends and they showed me some cool new things, it was possible to buy skins, and later, shapes. My friend Nostrum Forder gave me her shape which was a more realistic height. Skins were expensive – about 500 – 1000 Lindens each. (1000 Lindens is currently about US $4) My complaint at the time was that most of the skins you could buy had overly made up faces, garishly bright and unnatural looking. I chose one that was pretty basic, compared to those other users selected.

Sylectra (without hair that day, apparently) with friend Nostrum Forder, one of the legendary personalities of Second Life and a resident of Organica. Nostrum, aka Jim, is now my husband.

In the pic above, I had a fairly good purchased skin and a mix of free and purchased clothing. Note the skirt – it’s a Second Life avatar skirt with prim ruffles for bounce and movement. A nice compromise. Nostrum preferred to go as female and had an amazing feel for shapes, skins, hair and clothing. In real life, he’s a regular guy with regular fashion sense.

My friends Steven (Stevenaia) and Cinco, two people that made Second Life a great place to be.

Skins made huge strides in 2010, 2011, and 2012. I had a DrLife skin that was worth every penny in the pic below. Outfits were still made mostly of flexi prims which ate up bandwidth and slowed down Second Life regions.

This skin was slightly green tinted but it was absolutely beautiful, like a painting.

 

Lately, it’s possible to buy mesh feet, hands, bodies, and heads – separately if you prefer. Then after you have a mesh body, you can buy mesh clothing, which is a snap to fit. Where before I had to use resizing scripts (that ate more bandwidth) or manually adjust prims for a better fit of hair or clothing, now I just add the item and it knows how to fit. Once in a while, some skin shows through the clothing. I can make that area invisible and – voila! Perfection. The only drawback is that it’s harder to look unique. Everyone now looks like a Barbie doll.

Here’s a pic of my avatar Psyche with her new Belleza Freya body.

Psyche’s new mesh body from Belleza.
The trouble with mesh bodies, is that if you don’t also buy a mesh head, you have to use the body sliders for skin tone to try to match the head.
Sylectra with a Maitreya Lara body and Lamb hair (awesome free gift for joining the group). She’s wearing Belleza Belle skin and the face shape is my own slider bar creation.

It took me about 5 hours and 5,000 Lindens to learn how to use mesh bodies and clothing, but it’s a fun new thing to play with. I have a huge inventory of items, most of which is clothing and hair (17,247 items after the latest purge). Most of my clothing won’t work with mesh bodies.

 

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Spring’s coming! Time for beer and wine events in Portland

This Spring is starting early with some events to herald warmer weather and blossoms. In Portland, that means celebrating with food, beer and wine!

I attended the Golden Valley Brewmaster’s Dinner on Saturday, March 3 with Jim. They had set aside their party room in Beaverton for the occasion and we were among about 53 guests. We felt like the price was a great value for this 5-course dinner at just $55 each. We have attended beer dinners that were $75 each. My favorite food was the scallops. A beer was poured with every course and, before the dinner, the wait staff was generous with beers. Our table companions were friendly beer enthusiasts (it’s a thing in the Portland area).

My favorite beer was the Tickle My Dickel (LOL).

Brewmaster Jesse Shue spoke to the gathering about the featured beers.

The next weekend, I joined a group of friends to visit the Sip! McMinnville Wine & Food Classic at the Evergreen Space Museum in McMinnville. Parking was $7, which is kind of a lot for the area, and tickets were about $21, if I recall correctly. Admission includes one free souvenir glass and a coupon for a free tasting at one of the booths. Tastings were $1-$2 per pour, or $5 for several varieties in the tasting.  It was interesting to taste the winners of the wine competition, but I have my own groove at these things so I didn’t buy any award winners this time.

I bought a Gewurtztraminer, a Malbec, and a Tempranillo.

I also bought a light switch cover and a clock from Paperwings.

Golden Valley Brewing had a booth where I got a delicious beer to go with my lunch of fish tacos. The company was stellar. This is a great way to taste a lot of wine without having to drive a lot.

Last Sunday, after a lovely dinner with my brother and his family at Pacific Growlers Taphouse in Beaverton, Jim and I went to McMenamins Cornelius Pass Roadhouse to walk the fairy-lit grounds and sit at the fire pit with other friendly folks. I found and petted two Corgis.

 

What’s Next?

Some of my friends are going to the PDX Tequila & Tacos festival on March 24 at Portland Expo Center. Sounds delicious!

 

I noticed Yoga + Beer Beaverton is happening on April 2 at Golden Valley Brewery. If you can get there by 6, the event begins with yoga for all levels, with a pint included at the end. $20 includes the pint of beer. Yes!

 

Whatever you do this spring, I hope it’s fun and helps lighten your heart.

 

 

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Not so dark and deep

Today Jim took me to Forest Park, a large urban forest in the hills overlooking downtown portland and Vancouver, WA.
 
 We were at the highest point in the park today – 1,100 ft. Nice clear day at about 65 degrees. We hiked about 3.5 miles.
 
 Forest Park, a municipal park in Tualatin Mountains measuring 5172.14 acres in size, is a gem right in the middle of the Portland metro area.
 
 We saw a chipmunk, mole, and slugs in addition to the common fauna.
 
 Best part was when the view opened up to Vancouver. It was a beautiful clear day.
 
 Without further ado, the pics:

 The forest awaits! Beginning of Fire Lane 7 trail.
 


My love makin tracks.


Weird dwelling cleverly constructed.
 


So many beautiful flowers. Is this a trillium?


You can see Vancouver through the trees.


Obligatory selfie. (left) Syl. (right) Jim.


Mosses, flowers and ferns on the forest floor.


A slug. Jim says the moles eat them but I don’t know. Who could eat a slug?

Location:Forest Park,Portland, OR

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NJ to Oregon travelogue, day 4

Tues, Oct. 4:

Started the day with 1700 miles to go and ended with 1200 to go. Had a call with Phil,  our mover, to update him on progress. Basically if we cannot be there by Friday morning he initially said he wouldn’t be able to deliver our stuff until Tues or Weds. Sigh. But then he called back and said he might be able to do Sat.

We had a big line of storms we would have to go through. They had the potential of producing strong winds and hail, but we crossed it to the other side without incident.

We had a great but short visit with Erin, Art, Ryan, Sam and Gracie. It was interesting learning how they were doing and what they were up to for the Fall. Erin and I talked about the challenge of finding Stuff to write about.

We then proceeded to Irv and Janet’s place in Omaha. Because we were running late, Janet was already at work and we didn’t get to see her, but had a really nice visit with Irv.  

It rained a few times but got through the line of storms pretty fast.

Then we assessed the miles between us and Ft. Collins, where we were going to stop for the night. No go. So then we chose Cheyenne, WY. By 4 pm it was clear that we would be driving until 10 or 11 pm if we kept that course. So we ended up reserving a room in Sidney, NE, about 3/4 of the way between Omaha and Cheyenne.  Folks, this is a long drive when you have a dog and cat in tow.

Got into Sidney, the home of Cabela’s, around 9 pm, but it was actually 8 because we had crossed a time zone. 

Days Inn is fine, but the surrounding parking lot is a bit sketchy and there was nowhere to walk Sophy. 

Went to Wal-Mart and ended up at Applebee’s around 9:30.

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NJ to Oregon travelogue, day 3

Monday, Oct. 3: We have 1,966 miles to go. Will reach halfway point tomorrow. The journey has included seven states – New Jersey, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, and Iowa. 

Tomorrow we will go into Nebraska, weather permitting, and see Irvin and Janet and Erin and Art.

We drove a long time on this day and stopped, exhausted, at 7:30 pm. By the time we checked in and had thw pets cared for, it was 8:30 and we were able to go for dinner. 

We stayed at a Microtel, which was clean and comfortable.  We ate at the Beer house Restaurant. I had a decent grilled chicken with avocado and Jim had the Beerhouse sliders. 

To my great relief, Silver used his litter box right after we got him settled on the hotel room. Overnight, he continued to use it :-).

So I feel less guilty about having him in the carrier for ten hours. And I have been walking him too. 

Sophy is actually doing better than she did at home, with regular walks and food. No accidents so far.

Jim had a rough evening because we pushed too hard to get there. Basically, moving is hard because we don’t have any of the usual comforts or enough down time. You’d think that sitting in a car while your partner drives gives you lots of down time, but it’s not focused time because of all the things we have to look after.

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NJ to Oregon travelogue, day 2

Sunday morning, Oct. 2: Left at 10 am. Silver was good all night (slept on the bed) and Sophy slept well. So did we, despite having a smoke smell in the room. Silver didn’t have a BM so I walked him on his kitty harness when we stop. Although he walked well and was super cute, he didn’t do anything. I guess he can hold it for a while longer. I offered him water in his kennel and gave Sophy some, too.

Went through lots of tunnels:

Blue Mountain

Kittatiny Mountain

Tuscarora Mountain

Allegheny Mountain

The views are beautiful but there is a low fog on everything. Bucolic. Pastoral. Like a Charles Wysocki puzzle.

Thinking in a couple of directions today – gratitude for the wonderful send-off by friends and family members, and concern about remaining logistics.

Before we left, we were able to visit some of our favorite places and see some of our favorite people again. One of our favorite places is the Raptor Trust, a sanctuary for injured and sick birds like falcons, hawks, owls, eagles, and ravens. The Raptor Trust is next to The Great Swamp, between Berkeley Heights and Morristown. I spend a lot of time there or driving through it, just enjoying how serene and beautiful it was.

I got to go out with several of my favorite work friends and they treated me so kindly. Their good wishes have buoyed me as we go through this tough journey.

I also spent time with dear friends that I knew from outside of work. I am so glad to have been able to visit with Don and Claire Kissil, just to name a couple.

As we get through more of these marathon days, my concerns are, for the most part, settling down. The dog is doing fine and the cat is not complaining at all.

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NJ to Oregon travelogue, day 1

Jim holding the bag
Jim holds a bag of our stuff so I can put on my seatbelt in our overloaded Corolla before heading to his mom Marilyn’s house. We would need to further downsize to begin our journey to Oregon.

Saturday, Oct. 1:

Got a late start around noon because we needed to cash the security deposit check and trim down what we are bringing with us. Heartfelt hugs with Marilyn and Jessica, who is staying a couple weeks and flying to Portland from DC.

iftttfacebook-october-01-2016-at-0803pm
Our feast at Troegs. I loved the beet-marinated deviled eggs and the margarita flatbread. He had the charcouterie and cheese plates, and spiced roasted almonds.

Silver was quiet and well behaved and used his litter box like a good boy. The cat pan liners are a win! So easy to clean up. He did not try to escape even once, and did not disturb Sophy. He seems to really enjoy staying at Marilyn’s home.

Sophy was also great. Happy to report no accidents.

We stopped in Bethlehem and visited Marge, Nick, Chris, Paul and Cherie. Nick said a prayer to wish us well, a gesture i found very touching.

It will be his birthday tomorrow and Marge’s on Oct. 3. I hope they have very happy birthdays.

We stopped at Cabela’s to get Jim a rain coat. It rained on us as we left the store.

Didn’t make much progress today but we stopped for the night at the Econolodge in Harrisburg then drove down to Troegs Brewery for dinner. We had Sophy in the car and Silver remained at the motel. All was well when we returned.

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Male-female duets remind me of ephemeral beauty

On waking this morning, I found that a song was living in my head. The song is “Dust to Dust” by The Civil Wars, a duo that is no longer together. Listen on Spotify – https://open.spotify.com/track/5P6ZBMWS66FVo6deJaDdHy.

The Civil Wars
Joy Williams and John Paul White, The Civil Wars, were an amazing duo.

I discovered this amazing group too late, it seems. The haunting acoustic melody has a stripped-down feel and perfectly showcases the incredible voices of Joy Williams and John Paul White. The lyrics are also amazing:

It’s not your eyes
It’s not what you say
It’s not your laughter that gives you away
You’re just lonely
You’ve been lonely, too long

All your actin’
Your thin disguise
All your perfectly delivered lies
They don’t fool me
You’ve been lonely, too long

Let me in the wall, you’ve built around
And we can light a match and burn it down
Let me hold your hand and dance ’round and ’round the flame
In front of us
Dust to dust

You’ve held your head up
You’ve fought the fight
You bear the scars
You’ve done your time
Listen to me
You’ve been lonely, too long

Let me in the wall, you’ve built around
And we can light a match and burn them down
And let me hold your hand and dance ’round and ’round the flames
In front of us
Dust to dust

You’re like a mirror, reflecting me
Takes one to know one, so take it from me
You’ve been lonely
You’ve been lonely, too long
We’ve been lonely
We’ve been lonely, too long

We’ve all been there, haven’t we? It seems to me sometimes that the older I get, the more kinds of loneliness and sadness I know. Is it because experience teaches us the many variations that life can bring? Or that we simply endure more as time goes on?

This isn’t a negative post – these emotions are simply part of the mix that goes with being a human. It’s how we see beauty for what it is.

Hopefully you listened to the song and agree with me about its beauty. Knowing that they broke up makes the song even more precious to me.

I have a playlist on Spotify titled “Male Female Duets,” because what I have experienced with The Civil Wars was also the case with so many others.

Nat King Cole and Natalie Cole’s duet, “Unforgettable,” is one of the best examples. The father/daughter blend of voices is silvery and perfect, making me wish they’d had years of recording together. Nat King Cole originally recorded the song in 1951. Natalie sang for the remastered duet in 1991 – twenty-six years after his death. Natalie died in 2015. Sigh.

If you want to hear my playlist on Spotify, it’s at https://play.spotify.com/user/sylectra/playlist/538pZ9JkUM6XjKyIiIhZt9. Maybe you can suggest some other wonderful duets to add?

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Big and tall clothing store needs an in-store makeover

I visited a men’s clothing store with my husband today. He was there to buy a suit for a job interview (he had lost weight and the old one was too big). My husband is a big AND tall guy – a real teddy bear type. He’s hard to buy clothes for.

Teddy_Roosevelt_portrait
Teddy Roosevelt. (Image source: Wikipedia, https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Teddy_Roosevelt_portrait.jpg)

I had never been in one of these stores, and it was an awakening for me. The staff was friendly and helpful and the selection was fine. However, they were missing some key opportunities to sell more clothing. Here is my list:

  1. Store employees – all men – should wear something other than polo shirts and jeans. They should be demonstrating that big and tall men can look sharp with a little effort. How about showcasing some of the merchandise?
  2. When a husband and wife come in and explain they need a job interview suit that sets him apart from the usual fashion-challenged tech worker, it’s an invitation to take charge of the situation. Don’t simply go along with the husband’s suggestion of a black suit. Or do so, but also suggest another color that is not quite as….funereal.
  3. Design your store so that customers don’t have to brush against the racks of clothing or each other as they move around. Big people feel awkward about that stuff already.
  4. Be ready with options for tailoring. Don’t just admit that your store doesn’t have it. Offer to hem pants for free with a purchase over a certain amount. These men don’t want to spend any more time fussing over their clothes than absolutely necessary, and they probably waited until the last minute to make a purchase decision because they hate trying on clothes in stores.

Contrast this with my positive experience in a Lane Bryant. Employees there did these things right:

  1. The employees gave women a little emotional space in the dressing room area – they know we would like others to pretend we don’t exist while trying on clothes.
  2. They avoided commenting on clothing that customers were browsing with comments like “that’s very slimming, it would look great on you.”
  3. Store designers spaced the racks far apart to allow customers personal space.
  4. Employees (all women) dressed nicely in the fashions on display in the store and were not all a size 2.
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How my delivery of groceries saved me some energy – and the value of that

E-mail sent to A&P Fresh Online regarding a grocery delivery I received yesterday:

Hi, I just received my order – delivery service was timely and polite – thank you. I am wondering why you do so many substitutions? Of my 42 items ordered, 10 of them were substituted. Most of the substitutions were fine, but in a couple cases I didn’t agree with the choices. I know I selected “allow substitutions” – if I do not allow them, does that mean I would only get 32 of my 42 items?

How can I select items that are more likely to be in your inventory? Why does your inventory match up so poorly with what you are offering online?

If I keep allowing substitutions, how can I get substitutions that are more likely to be satisfactory? Should I choose middle of the road pricing to allow the packers more flexibility?

Thank you,

Sylvie Dale

What I was trying to do was not spend a lot of my precious energy picking out, bagging, loading in the car, unloading from the car, and putting away groceries. I find this to be an exhausting and thankless task and frankly, I hate it. Some people love picking out their food. Not me – that is, not if I have to shlep it repeatedly from place to place. So when my work schedule swelled because of a major project and the house ran completely out of food, I spent half an hour on a grocery shopping site and had the groceries delivered.

Logistically this worked well, because there is almost always someone at home to take delivery. But the substitutions they selected are enough to make me re-evaluate my decision. One-quarter of the items I selected were substituted – that seems kind of high, doesn’t it? I won’t bore you with granular details, but give you just two examples: for people who prefer white NY style cheddar, yellow cheddar just isn’t acceptable. Substituting a box of raisin bran for a box of bran flakes is not a great idea if I already ordered a box of raisin bran in the same order.  So I am looking for a way to use the shopping site smarter, so that I have fewer surprises when the food arrives. And I may try the other service, Pea Pod, to compare how they substitute.

I read an article by the Harvard Business Review that you should manage your energy, not your time. This is a concept that makes a lot of sense. When you’re working as smart as you possibly can, it’s time to look at your energy. You may not realize it, but little dribs and drabs of your time are being stolen away due to spotty attention span or fogginess caused by being tired. If you are fresh and rested, your ideas are more brilliant, your remarks more on point, and your work is much faster.

Multitasking, hailed in the 90s as a great way to get lots done, is now being understood as a time waster for some types of job roles. I am a trainer, so part of my time is spent developing curriculum in PowerPoint and also in an e-learning format. I must also keep track of student records and training schedules. These are tasks best done without interruptions, so it’s counter-productive (and tiring) to multitask when I do them.

I was a gardener when I lived in Oklahoma. I read about how plants do what they do and why, when you pick the dead flowers off a blooming plant, you can expect it to stay in bloom longer, and how sometimes a root-bound plant will flower better than one with plenty of wiggle room in the pot. It turns out we are like plants. We only have so much energy, and it gets channeled where we allow it to go. If we cut off an energy-wasting channel, like the pointless and aggravating task of grocery shopping, it naturally flows into the other channels that are still open, such as my work.

While the grocery delivery was not perfect, it did save me a lot of effort. Maybe A&P Online will give me some good pointers on how to use their system for best results.

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