Thursday, March 29, 2007

The right tools

As most of you probably already know, I like to chronicle my SL experience with photography. It's a natural extension of my own photography skill and experience irl; I went to school for photography and worked as a professional photographer for a while, then moved to the graphics/printing industry with prepress production, graphic design, and most importantly, scanning and photo correction and retouching, which is my forté. At work, I have a very nice, top-of-the-line 22" Mitsubishi CRT to do color correction on, but at home I never had anything even remotely as nice. Until now, that is.

I recently purchased a very nice Acer 22" widescreen LCD, which was a huge improvement over my cheapie X2Gen 19" non-widescreen monitor. The only problem I've had is that LCDs seem to be more difficult to manually calibrate than the CRTs I'm used to. I got a reasonably good calibration out of it manually, but if I wanted to be serious about doing photoshop work at home and taking consistent SL photos, I had to bring in the professionals. So, I bought a Colorvision Spyder 2, which arrived on my doorstep yesterday.

For those of you who don't know, the Spyder 2 is a combination of software and hardware. The hardware portion is a sensor that mounts on your monitor and plugs into a USB port. The process takes about 5 minutes and is easy enough for even the most novice user and requires a minimum amount of input during the process. Once it's finished, it gives you example images that you can view "before and after" with your old settings and the new, calibrated settings. You can use the Spyder 2 on a CRT, LCD or even a LCD projector.

Let me tell you, after calibrating, the difference is striking. There's no way I would have been able to calibrate the monitor this accurately manually. I highly recommend this to anyone who is into SL photography, using photoshop, or regular photography or scanning. The model I bought was only $57.99 from (whom I highly recommend for computer parts). At that price, there's no need to struggle with inconsistent color. Just buy it, spend a few minutes calibrating once a month, and you're done. I might bring it into work to see what it can do on my "pro" monitor since it did so well on my reasonably high-end LCD at home.

Monday, March 26, 2007

The evolution of an avatar

I'm going to cheesily start off this post with a dictionary definition. Don't you hate that?

Pronunciation: 'a-v&-"tär
Function: noun
Etymology: Sanskrit avatArah descent, from avatarati he descends, from ava- away + tarati he crosses over -- more at UKASE, THROUGH
1 : the incarnation of a Hindu deity (as Vishnu)
2 a : an incarnation in human form b : an embodiment (as of a concept or philosophy) often in a person
3 : a variant phase or version of a continuing basic entity
4 : an electronic image that represents and is manipulated by a computer user (as in a computer game)

I take the definition of the avatar very literally when it comes to Second Life. As you may recall from my first post, I originally made my avatar to match as closely as I possibly could to what I look like in real life, given the obvious limitations of the sliders and built-in options and clothing. That didn't last long. After probably a week (at the most) I went on SL after drinking and smoking up, and thus little white October was born (click on any of the photos to see a larger version):

October Hush

My outfit didn't really change, because that's basically how I dress in real life, but obviously every other aspect of how I look was changed. Why white? Why a mohawk? Ummm...well, I'm quite pale in real life, but not white of course. I just thought it looked pretty and striking, and it just felt right. And the mohawk...well, I can't get away with having one in real life (I doubt it would look good) but it sure looked good on my avatar, so why not? Surprisingly, my painfully newbie (but different-looking) appearance actually garnered me quite a bit of positive attention.

Since a lot of my early days in SL were spent clubbing, my wardrobe reflected that:

October Hush

I wore a lot of vinyl and I did wear wings a lot because that was the thing to do at Club Ambience. I was really proud of that second mohawk I got at the time, but I'd never wear it now. This one is way better, and I still wear it now:

October dancing

I'm looking a bit more refined there, for sure. Obviously, I'm spending money on clothes and hair. The next big change for me was when I figured out how to make my own clothes. Clubbing also started to become less and less important to me, so my wardrobe reflected that too:

October Hush
I made the top and pants I have on here.

Veruka & October
Still a club photo, but I also made the top and pants I have on here.

I also then decided to add a couple of tattoos to my body. The one on my back is an illustration by Vaughn Bode. I didn't buy these tattoos, I made them myself:

October's tattoos

Around the same time, I also started wearing the neko parts. It was something I did with caution, because I didn't know any other nekos at the time, so I wasn't sure how others would act towards me for being a neko. As it turns out, people were fine with it, and in many cases they celebrated it (and still do). For me, being a neko is more than just an appearance; it's a manifestation of a big part of my personality. Once I felt more comfortable with it, I embraced that part of me and let others see it too. Here's one of the earliest pictures I have of me as a neko. I'm also wearing clothing I made:

October & new top

The next biggest change for me was a new addition to my tattoos...gray leopard spots! They cover half of my arms and the front and back of the upper parts of my legs. Again, I made these. Here's the earliest photo I have of me with the new spots. I think by this time, I was pretty much always neko. I believe I had also made some minor changes to the shape of my face as well:


Now, I had a bunch of hair, but I usually wore the dreadhawk most of the time. That changed once I visited Kin Hair. I own...I think 5, maybe 6 of her hairstyles. They're so cute, I can't resist them. So then I started wearing those a lot. I haven't quite ditched the dreadhawk though. Here's a photo of Kriss Lehmann and I. I have on Kin hair and am also wearing a top I made:

Kriss & October

The next changes were big ones. With the help of Kriss, I revised my face even more to help get rid of a couple of "issues" I was having with it. She had proposed something more radical which looked a lot different, but I didn't want to change so much. I came up with a compromise which still looks like me but with a few important changes that really help my face look better. Unfortunately, I don't think I have a photo that illustrates this particularly well, so you'll just have to take my word for it.

Now we are at the present time. For the first time, I adopted a new skin to wear in addition to my standard white one. It's a spotted neko skin from Hybrid. I'm wearing "natural-gothic" in this photo. No other changes have been made...just the skin:


As most people know, changing skins can have a huge impact on your appearance. In my case, it actually makes me look younger. It's also a very different look than the white skin. I didn't think I would like it as much as I do, but it's grown on me. I actually wear it a lot, and I get frequent compliments on it. Nope, I haven't ditched the white skin, but the new Hybrid skin is certainly a welcome addition to the evolution of my avatar. Who knows what the future will bring?

Friday, March 23, 2007

Rez 'em if you got 'em, part 3

Well, the first couple of months were a time of huge growth for me in SL. I was learning more how to do things, interacting with a lot more people, and of course altering my appearance and spending money. Veruka was and important part of all that. I referred to us as "buddies"; we shared a bond that went a little further than friendship, though it wasn't quite a relationship. We still spent most of our time either clubbing or shopping and occasionally exploring, and we pretty much always did it together.

October & Veruka
(click on photo for a larger version)

When Ravenwear was looking for models, we both applied and were both accepted. That was pretty exciting. However, Veruka also had an alt, who was an exotic dancer, and she gradually spent more and more time as her alt than Veruka. Here's one of the last photos I have of Veruka and I together:

Veruka & October
(click on photo for a larger version)

Unfortunately, our paths were diverging. She wanted to spend her SL as her alt and be an exotic dancer and stay in the club scene, and I didn't want to do that. Things are fine between us and we do still occasionally check in on one another, but we definitely live separate lives now.

Then I realized I needed friends, stat. Thank god for Flickr. Flickr was where I met two of my now-closest SL friends: Kriss and Jezebella. It was just the right change of direction I needed. This more or less brings me up to the present. My next "history" post will be about the evolution of my avatar.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Rez 'em if you got 'em, part 2

It didn't take me long before I was roaming around places other than Dublin. Actually, in the photo in my first post, I'm in New Paris. My friend Ostara was doing his own exploring and would tell me about places to visit, such as the Space Museum and Amsterdam:

Red light girl
(click on the photo for a larger version)

Yes, that's my tender newbie self in a "red light girl" booth. I'm wearing a Public Image Ltd. tee shirt which Ostara made and gave to me. Anyway, it didn't take long for the "pros" to show up and make me feel uncomfortable, so I tp'd away. That was probably the most interesting thing I found in Amsterdam. I'm not sure if I've been back since then, actually.

I did a bunch of exploring on my own, and it wasn't long before I went to a club. The first club I ever went to was The Vortex, and they were playing EBM that night. That's where I met my first real SL friend, Veruka, who was only a few days older than me:

Veruka and October
(click on the photo for a larger version)

Despite Veruka's initial uncertainty about my gender (??), we immediately hit it off and spent the night bouncing from club to club, finally ending up at Club Ambience. She also gave me a bunch of clothes so I would have something to wear other than the "defaults" I was sporting:

Veruka and October
(click on the photo for a larger version)

Clubbing, Club Ambience, and Veruka were three important parts of my beginning days on Second Life. Veruka and I quickly grew very close and did most things together, as you will see in my next post.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Rez 'em if you got 'em

Right...I have to start somewhere, so I may as well make it the beginning. After hearing my RL friend Ostara (that's his SL name) gush about Second Life, I decided to at least give it a skeptical try. I started my Second Life account on November 13, 2006, but I didn't really start using it until a couple of weeks later. I was limited to using my work computer (an Apple G5) during my lunchbreak because my home computer's video card was about 7 years old and wouldn't run SL. No, I'm not kidding.

After a couple of days I got the hang of things, but things really started happening for me once I got a new video card for my home computer. That meant I could be on for more than an hour at a time, in any state of dress and also intoxicated if I so pleased. So, one night after getting stoned and possibly drunk as well, I took my avatar from as close as I could possibly get to looking like I do irl (using sliders) to this rather cute (imo) ghostly cyberpunk chick:

October Hush

Yes, I thought I looked rather good, shut up. The photo above is the earliest photo I have of my avatar. The one that I used at the very beginning is gone forever. How sad. Not really.

I spent the next couple of weeks more or less stuck in Dublin at an Irish pub called The Blarney Stone, due to the fact that I didn't know how to get around teleport issues that we were having at the time. Obviously, I did finally figure that one out, and LL also fixed the issue eventually anyway.

And this seems like as good of a place to stop as any, to be continued sometime soon. I'm sure you can't wait.