Voyages to the planets, treasure, and a satirical poke at 1960s bureaucracy

It’s time to kick-off another week of fabulous story-telling in Voice, brought to Second Life by the staff and volunteers at the Seanchai Library SL.

As always, all times SLT, and unless otherwise stated, events will be held on the Seanchai Library’s home on Imagination Island.

Monday November 25th, 19:00: Science Fiction: The Planets Series

With Gyro Muggins.

Tuesday November 26th, 19:00: Food! Glorious Food!

With Derry McMahon.

Wednesday November 27th, 19:00: Treasure it the Heart of the Tanglewood

Faerie Maven-Pralou continues her reading of Meredith Ann Pierce’s 2001 novel for young adults.

TanglewoodHannah lives by the fearsome Tanglewood with a few talkative companion animals. She doesn’t age, and she has no memory of anything but this life of isolation. Once a month she plucks the flowers that grow from her head, a painful process in which “each yank made her whole scalp ache”, and brews them into a tea for the wizard who lives deep in the woods.

When Hannah falls in love with one of the many knights who seek the treasure of the book’s title, she starts to question the wizard’s motives, finding he has turned the knight into a fox.

Escaping the wizard’s manipulative grasp, Hannah sets out to find a cure for the knight, an adventure in which she discovers her own identity and the repercussions of some of her actions while under the control of the wizard.

Thursday November 28th, 11:00: Alice’s Restaurant Massacree

Image via wiki commons

You can get anything that you want
At Alice’s restaurant.
You can get anything that you want
At Alice’s restaurant.

Walk right in, it’s around the back,
Just a half-a-mile from the railroad tracks
And you can get anything that you want
At Alice’s restaurant

As Thanksgiving arrives in the United States, Shandon Loring presents singer-songwriter Arlo Guthrie’s famous 1967 musical monologue, Alice’s Restaurant Massacree (also popularly known as Alice’s Restaurant, and the inspiration of the 1969 Arthur Penn film of that name, starring Guthrie himself).

Aside from the opening and closing chorus, the song is delivered as the spoken word accompanied by a ragtime guitar. The story is based on a true incident in Guthrie’s life when, in 1965, he (then 18) and a friend were arrested for illegally dumping garbage from Alice’s restaurant after discovering that the town dump was closed for the Thanksgiving holiday.

What follows is a complicated, ironic and amusing story told in a deadpan, satirical tone, which encompasses fines, blind judges, guide dogs, 27 8×10 copiously annotated glossy photos related to the littering, frustrated police officers, the Vietnam War draft and, ultimately, the inexplicable ways in which bureaucracy moves to foil itself, just when you’ve given up hope of foiling it yourself.


Please check with the Seanchai Library SL’s blog for updates and for additions or changes to the week’s schedule. The featured charity for November and December is Reading is Fundamental.

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Fitted mesh: “LL’s assessment here is mostly good” – Qarl

The major topic of conversation during the course of the week has been the Lab’s announcement that they have released a new project viewer which can be used to make suitably rigged mesh garments deform to match an avatars shape as it is adjusted using the viewer Edit Shape sliders. It does so by using a modified version of the avatar skeleton and collision bones, as I was able to preview just before the project viewer was launched.

Rigged mesh deforming to changes to the pectoral sliders in the Fitted Mesh project viewer
Rigged mesh deforming to changes to the pectoral sliders in the Fitted Mesh project viewer

Since the Lab’s announcement, the response from various sections of the community have been mixed. Some have welcomed the new with open arms; some have questioned the overall flexibility of the solution compared to others, some have regretted the “loss” of the deformer and some have reacted in outright hostility towards the Lab.

In terms of the technical aspects of the solution, Karl Stiefvater (Qarl Fizz), who coded the mesh deformer, took time out to leave a comment on STORM-1716, the JIRA for that project, which reads:

Several people have asked me – this seems like the best place to answer.

LL’s assessment here is mostly good. In almost all situations, the simplest solution is the best one – and collision bones are indeed MUCH simpler than the mesh deformer. As I see it, collision bones have two downsides: 1) they are substantially harder to use for the person creating the garment and 2) probably don’t track as well to the avatar shape.

In the end, the evaluation must be made by the content creators who use the tool.

I will reiterate that the two-year delay and refusal to communicate are unacceptable.

Avatar collision bones (image courtesy of Gaia Clary)
Avatar collision bones (image courtesy of Gaia Clary)

This would seem to be a reasonable assessment. The use of collision bones is technically easier and, as noted elsewhere, is less reliant upon a large amount of code being added to the viewer which then needs to be managed and maintained as the viewer evolves, but it does have some drawbacks.

Commenting further on the subject in the Metareality podcast on Friday November 22nd, Karl added:

It [the avatar skeleton] already had a bunch of these bones in it for collisions. I have never, ever notices that someone shoots a bullet at me, and my avatar is fat, it actually hits me as if I were fat … It’s incredible that they put that kind of detail into it ten years ago. But, OK, they did. So my feeling – just to head-off any drama – is that it’s a nice solution. It is definitely a simpler solution, which is preferred in all software engineering, and probably all of life.

He went on to reiterate the fact that a downside of the approach is that it can making creating and rigging mesh garments harder, although as William Reed Seal-Foss observed:

Well, speaking from an artistic standpoint … and knowing how to rig, that’s already not fun, and it’ll make it more not fun, but it’s not going to be like you have to learn to do something new.

Pressed on the matter, Karl reconfirmed that while the Fitted Mesh approach may have weaknesses, he does feel that it is a good solution, noting, “Obviously, I’m invested with the one that we did, but this is good. This is good,” before also noting that as a technically simpler approach, Fitted Mesh is likely to hold-up better over time when compared to the deformer.

This still leaves the question as to whether personality may have played a part in the Lab’s decision. In the podcast, Kimberley asks Karl outright if he believes this to be the case, and he indicates that he believes so, stating, “I heard back from two different people inside the lab that told me that Linden Lab would never accept my code.” One would very much hope that matters weren’t influenced on the basis of personality; but the fact that the Lab previously rejected code from Karl for reasons which appeared tenuous at the time, would seem to be point to there being an issue of some description.

The debate over the pros and cons of each system will doubtless carry on in some quarters, as will the theories as to why one was selected over the other. In the meantime, feedback on the Fitted Mesh viewer is being generated and the Lab is working on updates. In terms of the technical aspects  / limitations of the system, it remains to be seen how they may impact things. As it is, the approach has arguably been used to good effect by the likes of Redgrave and other designers and has proven popular among consumers. Hopefully the same will prove to be the case as this solution proceeds through to a release status and as it is adopted by third-party viewers.

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