Monday, February 28, 2011

Dio's public service announcement no. 1: don't force an SL content maker to slap you silly

Dear Reader:

The following is a public service announcement, brought to you by the Dio Kuhr Department of Useful Things and Stuff You Should Know.

Please study the image below:

Have you studied the illustration?


Does anyone in the illustration remind you of YOU?

If so, then please continue reading.

I have been asked by content makers in Second Life to convey this useful bit of knowledge:

If you are someone who does roleplaying in Second Life -- oh, say, someone like The Royal Personage of Great Self-appointed Hoohah-ness and Mighty Bling, or maybe the evil Herr Oberslchonger von Grossestuckuppenderarsche -- when you contact a vendor or content-maker to discuss a customer service issue, do not...repeat, DO NOT try to stay "in character" while doing so.

What will happen is that the vendor or content maker will get very, very irritated with you (see above illustration, again). They may not actually slap you, but they will want to do so very, very much. And that which we do in our hearts, we have done in reality, yes?

Furthermore, (and this is just a hunch), you may also find that you get better customer service if you DO NOT try to stay in character while seeking to sort out whatever the problem is with whatever you bought from them.

Yes, yes...we know you are a person of Power and Influence within a certain make-believe context. Yet there obviously are vendors and content makers who don't give a rat's left testicle that you are a person of Power and Influence within that certain make-believe context.

Does this lead you to conclude that said vendors and content makers are mean people?

Well, yes...more than likely, they are. But many of them got mean because of having to deal with mud-eating knuckledraggers like you.

So it all kind of evens out, doesn't it?

Look...just do us all a big favor and simply talk to the vendor like a normal person when you want to let them know that the screaming snake-hair multi-color fatpack you bought from them didn't get delivered.


Thanks for listening...

...and have a nice fucking day.

- Dio


Monday, February 14, 2011

The "Welcome to New York" effect in SL

The first time I went to New York City, late in 1997, the circumstances associated with my arrival there were pretty much a spectacular three-ring goat screw. The whole mind-blowing festival of Shit Going Wrong featured late arrival of my flight, public transportation from JFK airport shut down for some ludicrous reason, and a nonexistent hotel reservation.

The woman at the hotel front desk (whose level of concern for my situation was approximately the equivalent of the merest microscopic portion of a rat's left testicle), waited until I had completed a relatively inspired railing against the gods and fates. Then she looked at me for a moment, shrugged, and said in a deadpan manner that to this day, I consider the epitome of the genre...

"Welcome to New York."

That experience came to mind for me a couple weeks ago when I was hanging around in the vicinity of the Royal Court of Prussian King Friedrich der Grosse, (I have been on an 18th century kick lately--I shall endeavor to write more about this current fetish of mine at some other opportunity). Anyhow, there I was standing around in my small-town "freifrau" outfit, smoking my clay pipe and trying to rouse up some convo with the local gentry, when I was approached by a young lady who asked me if I could direct her to a place to get a proper 18th century court gown.

The lass, who was very polite--though she typed her chat in a manner that suggested she was not a native speaker of English--had apparently been in SL every bit of three days. And she was at the point where some assistance and guidance was in order. Her hair and dress were in fact in need of some improvement, though in actuality I have certainly seen far less attractive outfits on much older avatars. Anyhow, no one else seemed inclined to be of much help, so I figured I might as well give it a go.

Josephine, the young lady, turned out to be from Poland, and once I switched over to using the English to Polish translator built into the chat preferences gizmo, she could do a pretty good job of guessing what I meant as I jabbered at her. Bless her heart, she was struggling a bit with SL, but by damn, I sure do give her credit for how far she had gotten in three days. Her primary enthusiasm is 18the century European life, art and culture, and she had somehow managed to find places like Old Fritz's palace of Sansouci and a dress that was kind of cute, even if slightly inauthentic.

We went shopping and talked some, and together we made a bit of progress. But a real low point hit the next day: she sent me a pathetic email asking for help. As I was in the middle of some rp, I told her I would be there as soon as possible. She politely said ok, she would wait...and when I finally teleported to her location...

I found she was utterly and horrifically Ruthed.

Ohmyfuckingawd, even in poorly translated typed chat, I could tell poor Jospehine was nearly in tears. Well it took some work, but I got her sorted out, got a decent skin and shape on her, found her a bald cap to kill the dreaded Ruth hair, and we put a nice dress and powdered wig on her.

At this point, I wasn't sure how she felt about how things were working out, but after a long pause she said,

"oh...I look beautiful!"

And bugger me senseless if she didn't. It was just such a charming moment.

Josephine and the Freifrau von Kühr at Chenonceau

Sooooo, anyhoooo, we did some more shopping over the next few days, and talked about history and life and got to know each other a little bit, and we explored other 18th century sims. Among the places we went to was Chenonceau. It's a great build, though it never seems busy. And Josephine introduced me to a recreation of the Polish royal palace, where she and some other Polish rococo enthusiasts hang about. It's pretty freakin' impressive.

Along the way, I tried to help her figure out how to use different elements of the viewer, but this effort was perhaps the least successful of our interactions. I periodically seemed to just puzzle and confuse her further with my explanations and instructions. I think Josephine was starting to get pretty frustrated with me, when I realized that a huge part of the problem was not just one of language and marginal translator programs... was the fact that I was on Phoenix and Josephine was using Viewer 2.

Beelzebub's blazing bunghole! No wonder we weren't connecting on most of these issues! I was telling her to look for buttons and other shit in locations that were totally different from where they lived on her viewer.

I can't believe that it took me so long to catch on to this simple reality. Just one more proof that this ol' girl's headguts ain't firin' on all cylinders.

So I switched to Viewer 2 to see if I could be more help to her from there...and goddamn, it really didn't help that much. I have eschewed the use of Viewer 2 since the first week it was out when I tried it and found it to be a clunky, cluttered mess. I know some folks love it because it gives you more attachments points and hell, makes espresso, or some silly shit like that. But especially for role playing and combat where you need intuitive controls and a view that is as uncluttered as's a piece of weasel-squeezing pig snot.

Overall--other than our confusion related to the different viewers--the experience with Josephine has been a very positive one. I like her very much and hope she enjoys her time in-world. But it inspired me to ponder what starting out new on the grid had been like back in 2004-5. It wasn't a particularly fast process, it sure as hell wasn't all that much fun, but at least it was made easier by the fact that I came over to SL with the migratory herd from The Sims Online, so I had people to help me.

My heart really goes out to people like Josephine who come to SL nowadays without a support network like that--unless they run into someone who takes pity on them and decides to help like I happened to (guess she caught me on a good day). But you add into the whole "Welcome to New York" mix the fact that the new folks have to try to work with Viewer 2....and I have to ask myself, how in the name of St. Joe's toolbox does anybody make it past the first 15 minutes in-world? The hell with worrying about the first hour. I'm guessing far too many folks don't get anywhere near that point without tossing their monitor out the goddamn window.

Which brings me back to "Welcome to New York."

New Yorkers say that because...well...they're painfully aware that there is a certain Darwinian natural selection process that goes on in the city, and if you're going to stay there any length of time, you have to put on your adaptability galoshes pretty fuckin' quick. But in our virtual world, does it really have to be like that? I know the old mentor program was apparently flawed and for some reason the Lindens felt compelled to take the durn thing out behind the shed like Old Yeller and put a .44 round 'twixt its goddamn eyes. But nothing can really replace a human connection and the application of just a bit of some tolerance and kindness. Does it really take that much time away from our busy schedules to make an effort to help each other to be able to look in the mirror and say, "I am beautiful?"

So what inspired me to randomly decide to assist this one gal? In all honesty, it helped that Josephine was very polite, intelligent, and patient, and didn't beg for money or do any of the other hundred little noobish malefactions that lead an old fart to shrug and shove 'em back over the railing into the river full of piranhas. But what would encourage us to regularly help more people to get up on their feet and run with the platform so as to enjoy it the way that us ancient fuckers do? And what about the people who aren't as nice as Josephine? I suppose you could argue that even the annoying gits deserve some kind of help when they are newly minted avatars--an opportunity to move beyond their initial gitliness?

I have no answer--basic human kindness and consideration, unfortunately, doesn't seem to scale. At the same time, I am relatively confident that the answer can only be partially technological. Hell, maybe it's one of those things that if each of us helped just one other person...


Yeah, I'm probably not going to make it a regular habit of providing guidance to greenhorns, but by gawd, if you ever happen to see me shrug and tell someone, "Welcome to Second Life," that way... please just walk over and slap the shit out of me.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

The BIG BIG Contest: name Dio's new ship!


As you will recall from my previous post (taking the thoroughly unreasonable leap of faith that you read this ridiculous swill-pot full of humbuggery I call a blog), I have utterly fallen in love with my Greek "Kyrenia" ship from the folks at Ars Navalis (please refer back to the aforementioned previous post for the Slurl). At the conclusion of my silly little essay, I mentioned that I needed an appropriate name for my beautiful little ship. Then Iggy suggested in his comment that we have a contest to name the pretty little thing. So let's have a go...

And yes, feel free to blame Iggy for this....

Let's start by setting some parameters:

I intend to use this ship in the harbor of the ancient Roman sim, Alsium, so I will give more points to someone who suggests a name that is fitting and acceptable for the Mediterranean world of the second century, AD.

So yes, you can submit silly names like "Sir Loin of Beef" or "Fast, Fun & Easy"--and I assure you we will share such submissions and smirk mightily--but they are unlikely to win. So think ancient, if you actually have a competitive bone in your body. Hey, you can enter as often as you like--submit all the entries you want--so if you want to toss out some silly ones as well as ones that might actually win this mashugenah contest, knocketh thyself out.

Perhaps you can derive some inspiration from the backstory I have developed for use in Second Life's ancient era roleplaying sims. As I pointed out to Iggy in my response to his comment, the character I have created for ancient rp is the greco-egyptian widow of a wine merchant from Alexandria, in the Roman province of Aegyptus. So a Greek or Egyptian name would be plausible. This 2nd century AD incarnation of Dio is only marginally romanized, so maybe she'd go for a latin name, ...or...maybe not. I should also mention that in her backstory, she traveled a lot with her husband the wine merchant Sinuhe, before he didst snuff it. They went all around the known world, buying and selling wine--so she might also consider a Phoenician or Persian name, as this Dio speaks some of both those languages. I hope you also note that like most of my characters, this Dio has some chutzpah, and enjoys her independence. It is also worth noting that she is a devout follower of the Cult of Isis.

As for the jolly little vessel herself, I think you can see that she has oodles of personality and charm. Her lines are very clean and slightly elegant, and there is a brightness to her overall look that just makes you want to hug the damn thing.

I have taken her out on the Blake Sea and even there, I find she handles relatively well for an SL sailing ship. She can move quickly and turn on a sesterse.

So what do you think? Give it your best shot or shots.

Or not. That's ok too. I will think of something sooner or later if you goobers can't come up with anything that ain't too terrible.

So what will you win? How about one of my Hudson's Bay trade blankets with the "sitting cross-legged" pose, and some boxes of my 19th century cigars, AND I will take you out for virtual drinks in all of my favorite drinking establishments in SL. How's that sound?

So let's give this a week. Post your entries here in the comments section, or send me an IM if you're really goddam shy, or hell, post it on twitter if you want (but I might miss them there). Submissions will be judged on various utterly subjective criteria, such as creativity, originality, appropriateness and whether or not you're somebody I actually would want to go have drinks with.

So good luck, have fun, and think how good you're gonna look sitting on that ratty trade blanket.

Monday, February 7, 2011

The most beautiful thing I own in SL


Last night I bought what is undoubtedly the most beautiful thing I have ever owned in SL.

Yes I know, I own some other things that come very close. Like my Kiergarten Armory Sharp's carbine. That is probably the second most beautiful thing I own in SL...and...oh, yeah...Ernst Osterham's boxlock shotgun...and Lockmort Mortlock's SAA Colt....

OK, ok... so I own a number of exquisite objects that have been crafted by SL content makers.

But those things are all tied for second place.

The hands-down most beautiful thing I have ever owned is this recreation of a 4th century BC Greek ship produced by Linteus Dench and sold at the Ars Navalis combination store, dock and museum, which can be found at

Lint and the other folks at Ars Navalis have been making ancient and Gorean sailing ships and galleys for a couple years. I have seen their work before and admired it. We had a couple of his static ship models--ancient Roman merchant ships--in the harbor at the old Alsium build, and I was truly impressed with their detail, historical accuracy and relatively low prim count (83 prims for a large and very authentic cargo ship). But I had not really considered buying one of their ships until last night. I was over at the Ars Navalis docks, looking at their products with my friends Amber and Caius. Finally I just decided, "fuck it, I'm gonna get one of these suckers."

I picked the fat pack of the "Kyrenia" ship, which included a static model, a "drivable" model, and a sailing model. The whole schmear was 2,500 Lindens. The ship is beautifully built, sails nicely in its sailing version, and it is only 26 fucking prims.

And it's FUN to sail too! Here my friend Caius takes a turn--he had such a good time he bought one of the other Ars Navalis ships the same night!

The only issue I had with it is that because I am such a dinky, delicate little creature, when I was steering my ship, my hands didn't quite reach the crossbars on the steering oars when I was in the steering pose. So tonight I got out my boat at the Ars Navalis docks and began making little handles to attach to my hands when I am steering, so that it would appear that the crossbars are long enough to connect with my hands...and lo and behold, along came Linteus, the owner, and he fixed the problem for me, then and there.

Thanks Lint! You're a real mensch.

And since he was there, I got to talking to him about their operation there.

It turns out that Lint is an archaeologist in his meatspace existence, and builds ancient ships in Second Life because he loves doing it. We talked quite a while about ships and history and how you make things like sailing ships work in Second life. It turns out that my Kyrenia ship is based on an actual wreck that has been excavated, and it took Lint about a year to complete the recreation of it to his satisfaction. Among other things, I learned that the basic style of ship I bought--even though it is based on a wreck dating from the 4th century BC--was used much earlier and continued in use considerably later than that era. So in fact, I can legitimately use it in our 2nd century AD Roman sim.

Linteus Dench and the Kyrenia ship.

They have other ships as well..war galleys, rams, Gorean fantasy warships, a 14th century BC trading ship, all for sale--some in versions that can be sailed, some that can be used in naval combat, and others that are simply static models (because they are too high prim to go sailing). Static models seem to mostly run in the 1000 Linden range, while sailing versions are around 2K.

The coolest thing however, is that in addition to the ships that can be purchased--and the availability of some open water so you can try out your new boat right away--there is a museum space with exhibits about ancient ships and information on the written and artistic historical sources that help us to understand the history of these ships. There is even a recreation of an underwater excavation of an ancient wreck.

Lint in his virtual museum

The ironic thing is that the other night Serenek and I went to visit a very official, institutionally-created "virtual exhibit" that was ok...but sort of crude and half-assed and oh-so-very-2007. In fact, the build had some recreated sailing ships..that again, were OK...but which were rather sloppily made, poorly textured and ridiculously high 100's of prims.

This particular "educational" sim apparently has never been often happens with didactic builds in SL , someone finished the project and walked away from it. And now it's just kinda embarrassing.

But at Ars Navalis, you have an example of someone who built their own museum, not as a project that they did as a "hired gun" content developer, or for class credit, but because they loved the subject and wanted to share their understanding of the story. Even better, they have continued to update and improve the build and its features, while selling you cool stuff they have built so you can really become engaged with the story that is being told. AND you can have some fun at the same time. stuff...nice and interesting people to talk to....all the things I love about this crazy platform.

Now I just have to think of a good name for my beautiful little ship.