I generally try to avoid trumpeting myself in these pages, so I hope folk will forgive me for doing a little tooting of my horn here.
Back at the start of 2022 – January 4th, in fact – Strawberry Linden extended an e-mail invitation to me to participate in Spotlight, the Lab’s weekly official blog post series that highlights the work and lives of Second Life residents, and which originally kicked-off with Bryn Oh back in November 2021.
I’m not sure what happened – crossed wires, lost e-mail or something else – but the invitation went AWOL somewhere along the way. So I was both pleased and flattered to have the opportunity to participate again, Berry kindly forwarding her original questions to me once more, and inviting me for a photoshoot for the main profile image in the piece.
The finished article appeared on April 13th, 2022, and if you’re so minded, you can read it here. I’d just like to thank Strawberry for the original invite, producing the profile photo, and putting the piece together.
A this blog shows, I enjoy playing around with houses, either building my own or kitbashing those I purchase; another thing I enjoy is landscaping and “SL gardening”. I love fiddling around and building an environment around my SL homes that both fits with them and adds ambience to them (at least in my eyes, others might think otherwise!). I’m not sure what the attraction is; perhaps I’m compensating for the fact that in the physical world, the only manner in which I’m remotely green-fingered is when I dip a hand in in tin of paint…
In February, I picked up the InVerse Orlando House (see: The InVerse Orlando House in Second Life), which just happened to be of a length and height such that it pretty much “slotted into” the split-level landscape I’d established from my previous InVerse house, the Tarzana (see: An Inverse House in Second Life), and which (at the time) I didn’t want to change too drastically.
However, the hands of the clock march inexorably forward, and the itch to re-develop the gardens more in keeping with the Orlando – with it’s mansion-like presence of tall columns, shading terraces and railed verandas – grew. So for the last week and as time has allowed I’ve been gradually re-working things to both better present the house and better integrate the Mesh Romance Flower Cottage by FelixvonKotwitz I’d picked up roughly around the time of the Orlando purchase (see: A Romance Cottage in Second Life) that has made a cosy little summer house-come-garden folly.
Over the years, I’ve been fortunate enough to gather something of a library of landscaping kits, tools, plants, and so forth, and have developed a number of “go to” creators I most frequently turn to for my needs. These include (as they have the most relevance here):
Alex Bader: I don’t think anyone does landscaping kits as comprehensively as Alex under his Studio Skye brand. Landforms, cliffs, shorelines, beaches, rivers, streams, waterfalls, ponds, woodlands, forests, plants, and so on; together with a host of buildings, structures and textures to boot, Studio Skye can be a one-stop shop, and I’ve been using Alex’s items for over a decade.
Cube Republic: Cube is another creator with a prolific output that is coupled to at eye for detail and a solid sense of care in working with mesh. His plants are second to none, and he also offers a range of landscaping kits and has venture into the world of EEP settings as well. Like Alex, he also offers texture packs and structure kits such that between the two of them, I can pretty much always find what I need.
Sasaya (Sasaya Kayo): through her HPMD (HappyMood) brand, Sasaya offers a range of general trees and shrubs that are well-optimised, look good and relatively low LI. Her shrubs and flowers / grasses are often ideal for landscaping / wild gardens.
Kriss Lehmann: again, Kriss again offers a range of plants and garden kits through his Botanical brand, together with structures of assorted types (his Forest Ruins Tower has been a long-standing part of many of my past landscaping) and items that help bring a garden to life.
There are other brands I use – We’re Closed for trees with LI is a factor, for example – but the above tend to by my go-to brands. I particularly like Cube, Alex and Kris, as their items tend to be optimised such that linking parts of their kits can help in managing LI (indeed, I’m surprised as to how many don’t understand the benefits of considered linking to help manage LI, but that’s a subject for another blog post I’ve had sitting in my Drafts folder for so long, it has probably taken root).
But, back to the garden. With the previous house, I’d focused on using the Studio Skye Zen Garden Kit to give something of a wild garden look. For this time around, I’ve kept some of this, but also opted for a more formal approach with lawns and planters to the front of the house, some of which extends to the back garden, with the Zen elements mixed in, together with a wilder look to the rear. For this I focused on kits from Studio Skye – notably the Tiered Garden Wall Building Set, which offers a lot of flexibility when using wall shapes to break up a space and to create planters.
While terraforming can be used for hills and raised areas, particularly in private estates where terraforming is allowed, it can also be problematic if you don’t have terraforming rights, or where issues of texture matching, smoothing, etc., are concerned. To this end, I opted to use the Studio Skye Land Forms Building Set One to provide clifftop hills and slopes running down to the house and around it. While mesh forms like this will inevitably lead to somewhat angular slopes in places, with care and blending, a reasonably consistent finish can be obtained, and without spending hours in smoothing terrain and facing the potential for blurred-looking ground as a result of morphing and raising the terrain.
Alongside of these came elements from Kris Lehmann, such as his Edged Brick Path (which sits will with the likes of Studio Skye Tiered Garden Wall set, with shrubs from HPMD – although for flowers, I admit I opted for Kayle Matzerath’s ~*GOD*~ Lumenaria Flower Fat Pack, which offers (me, at least, as I’ve been using them since encountering them at 2013’s Fantasy Faire) a good solution for garden flowers in planters, although they can decimate at moderate camera distances.
Something that can add a good deal of depth to a home setting is the use of wildlife / animals. This does have to be excessive – but the sight of song birds here and there can really help with bringing a garden to life – particularly if you’re using an ambient sound scape that includes bird song. Two of my preferred creators in this regard are:
Morgan Garret (Fishgod): while I am not sure if he is still active in Second Life, Morgan Garret created the Grizzly Creek brand that includes some of the most detailed birds from around the world I’ve owned. They are naturally animated, their song works with that of any ambient sound scape, and they are incredibly life-like. At 3LI apiece, they aren’t going to eat into your land capacity.
│T│L│C│Animals: operated by Lautlos and True Redrose, this is another excellent source of birds and fish – and other animals. Some of their waterfowl might need a little resizing, but if you have a pond or lake, I cannot rate them highly enough – particularly as their ducks, geese, fish, etc., can be set to swim on / under both Linden Water or other water planes.
Obviously, there are other brands out there as well – JIAN being one – just as there are for landscaping and plants. The ones I list above are the ones that suit my needs and have allowed me a happy week of playing with kits and landscaping at home. Which in turn has given me the excuse for writing the above 🙂 .
So I ended up back at Novocaine Islay’s InVerse store recently, where I was supposed to be there helping her make decisions about a new house she’d been considering. But, unfortunately for you, whilst paging through one of the rezzers there, I came across a house design that piqued My curiosity. I say “unfortunately for you”, because after carrying out so checks and measuring, I realised it could be a good fit for the home island – and so here you are, wading through another house review 🙂 .
The house in question is the Orlando, modern style of house that has a certain look to it that whilst not “Scandinavian” per se, has a look that is well suited to somewhere like Second Norway. I’m not sure how long Novocaine has had it on the market, but it is currently only available via the InVerse in-world store. The living space is split over two full floors, each split into two rooms, with additional space provides by balconies and terraces, including a covered one to the side of the house that includes a swimming pool sheltered by the extended roof of the house.
The overall footprint for the building is 26 metres wide by 22 deep, with added “tongue” to the front aspect forming a large step that brings the overall depth of the building out to almost 26 metres. Within this footprint, the interior living space is just under16.4 metres in width and some 18 metres in depth. The ground floor, served by a single front door, presents a lounge area running the full width of the front of the house and some 8.2 metres in depth, with the staircase to the upper floor to one side and large picture windows to both the front aspect and to the pool patio. Behind this sits a kitchen / dining area approximately 12 metres wide and 8 metres deep and with windows overlooking the pool to the side and to the rear aspect.
On the upper floor are two interconnected room, each approx. 8.2 metres square, and both individually served by a landing that runs to one side of them. One of these rooms has a balcony to the front aspect, and both have windows overlooking the covered pool, a large skylight in the roof over the pool allowing ambient light into both. The second room also has windows to the rear aspect, and the upper floor is completed by a side balcony also accessed from a door leading off of the front-to-back landing hallway. The entire default finish of the house is a mix of wooden framing, white brick and grey and white stucco, with a tiled and highly attractive waveform roof.
As with many of Novocaine’s houses, two versions are included in the exceptionally modest price of just L$349. One of these is the bare-bones house with controller, and the other comes will furnishings and additional décor. Which you option to use is a matter of choice; the furnishings supplied are acceptable enough for those looking for an out-of-the-box home, although the style is perhaps more towards low LI than the finer aesthetics of design (although this didn’t stop me from using some of the elements from the furnished version!).
The bare bones house tops-out at 83 LI (including lighting and house control system), with the furnishings increasing this by a further 77, in the process offering drapes for most of the windows, plants, a lounge suite of sofa and armchair, a galley kitchen with basic 4-place tabled and chairs, a large bath with bathroom vanity fittings, a double bed with side tables and lamps, a fireplace with scripted fire and various sideboards and with rugs, plants and picture throughout, a basic web TV, with the majority of the fittings complete with animations – including for the kitchen and even in one of the rugs!
Something new to me with this design is the inclusion of an additional control element in the furnished version: a texture changer than allows the user to turn the shadows cast by the furnishings on the floors on and off. This is only practical if you don’t move the supplied furnishings around (or replace them), but it’s a novel idea. A pity it didn’t also extend to the baked sunlight / shadows on the floors as well.
What attracted me to the Orlando lay in the overall build quality, which – with the odd caveat here and there – is pretty darned good – and the fact that, like the Tarzana I picked up in October 2021 and reviewed here, it is ideal for modding and tweaking. For example, for anyone who has a waterfront home and who may not want the included swimming pool, it and the patio area under the roof can be removed, and, with the addition of a new house base and additional support under the outer wall of the pool space, a small, covered dock can be made. I found it offers sufficient space for a pier and a boat up to the size of my Bandit 460AK cabin cruiser (reviewed here) – and I came close to actually using the house in this configuration on the waterfront of Isla Myvatn.
However, and (again) as I’ve covered in these pages, I’ve spent a far amount of time building a stepped Zen garden and elevated spots at one end of the home island, integrating them with the upper floor of whichever house I’m using, starting with Fallingwater and then continuing with the InVerse Tarzana house.
On measuring things like floor-to-ceiling space, and overall size, I realised that the Orlando would more-or-less slot right into the space that had been occupied by the Tarzana and aligned with the paths of the elevated garden. All I needed to do were a couple of minor adjustments to the lengths of walls in the garden and add an extension to the garden down one side of the house to replace the pool terrace I put together for the Tarzana. The design of the Orlando also meant it was easy to install an additional door at the back of the house to access the gardens. Such was the fit, the mods and adjustments (with some re-texturing) took less than an hour to complete – so, lucky me!
The re-texturing was largely due to me watching to remove the baked sunlight and shadows from the floors to the front of the house, plus some roughness of some of the wall and ceiling textures. Doing so isn’t essential, it was just a personal choice and down to the niggles I have with things like “sunlight” being baked on surfaces. Use of specularity is also a little odd in places – such as on the roof – but again, easily fixed by setting it to None on those faces that do look out-of-place.
However, given the price of the unit, dwelling on the negatives is a little churlish – we’re talking the price of a cup of coffee overall! – and the attractiveness of the design is hard to overstate. Those looking for a house that offers cosy living space with some flexibility and a pool with poses, the Orlando could be just the thing.
As regulars to this blog know I like playing with my home islands and land, frequently swapping house, kitbashing and modding units I’ve purchased to create something if not unique, then at least comfortable to me. As such I’m always on the lookout for units and builds that appeal, be it by paging through the Marketplace, visiting in-world stores or in writing about and photographing regions across Second Life.
It was whilst doing the latter – writing about and photographing a region – that I spotted a build that lodged itself in my head.
The region in question was Carrowmore, a fabulous design lead by Pleasure Ò Raigàin (vVEdanaVv), as covered in A trip to an Irish corner of Second Life. Within that region, Pleasure had tucked a building by FelixvonKotwitz Alter: the Mesh romance flower cottage. True, a good part of the appeal within Carrowmore was the manner in which Pleasure had blended the cottage and its surrounds into her setting – but there was something about the cottage itself that attracted me and set my mind towards integrating it into the home island.
The cottage actually comes in a number of variants – autumn, winter, a version (Maple Tree) with a different landscape layout – and the one I plumped for after seeing it at Carrowmore: what might be called the “summer version”, which comes with the highest land impact (193) largely due to the included plants and flowers (all of which are mesh models rather than low-poly textured faces) – something which plays in its favour for those of us who cannot resist kitbashing.
And when it comes to kitbashing / modding, Fleix has put together the perfect package with this cottage. The core of the model comprises a base that combines a grass and flower textured outer element and a central cobbled section complete with a path that passes over the “grass”. Atop this sit the circular, brick-built cottage.
What is refreshing here is that Felix has avoided baking shadows into either the building or the base; this means that while the cottage is intended to sit within circle of cobbles (so they almost form a narrow footpath around the cottage). But if required, the cottage can be moved around on the base – something that turned out to be important for my design.
Surrounding the cottage is a ring of grass and moss-topped rocks on and over which Felix has placed those flowers and trees, to present a secluded setting ringed by rocks and plants that embrace the cottage, welcoming people into its two rooms – ground and upper. These are not large enough to make for a primary house, but they does make for a nice little romantic retreat or garden summer house, as I have. And with its alcoves and offset staircase, the ground floor has enough room to make it cosy hideaway, whilst the fact the semi-circular stairway is offset means it doesn’t intrude into the circular upper floor room.
What’s more, the rock formations, plants and trees are all individual, making it possible to change it up as required; plants can be removed or replaced to reduce LI, the rock formations can be moved around to create a larger space, if required. In the case of my home island, the modularity of the model allowed me to open-out the rock formations a little, reposition a couple and use a copy of the base mesh and prim to create a second secluded spot as a little outdoor annex for the cottage, the two connected by path and rocky arch.
At L$695 (or L$595 for either the autumn or winter versions) and available both in-world at Felix’s store – where you can also view it through a rezzing system – and on the Marketplace, this is a superb little model, excellent as it stands or as a model ready for modding.
I was recently asked if I’d ever written a piece on how / why I chose my Second Life name – and the short answer is “no, not in one place”. But, for what little it might be worth, I thought I’d sketch out the core influences in how I became “Inara Pey”.
As some (many?) have likely already guessed, the short answer is my first name was lifted directly from the character of “Inara Serra” in the short-lived TV series Firefly, and as portrayed by Morena Baccarin in her first television series role. However, there is a little more behind the exact reasons for the choice.
I’ve made so secret of the fact that this account was not my first plunge into Second Life – I’d signed-up previously, paddled around for a while without really being sure what I was doing or why, or even really understanding much about the platform. I’d also put zero effort into my avatar name, simply picking pretty much the first name that popped into my head whilst looking at the sign-up pages, and then paring it with the first name that was shown to be “available” from the provided list on the page. As such, I never really grew into the name.
So when I decided to give things another go several months after I’d initially stopped logging in, I genuinely gave thought beforehand to the kind of first name I am could feel at home / identify with, and which might help serve my desire to spend some of my in-world time poking at areas of the platform I’d since learned about, rather than simply bumbling around like a square peg in a round hole. In this latter regard, I’ve also made no secret of the fact I have been involved in adult D/s, including having several essays and assorted pieces published on the subject of D/s relationships and the psychology of D/s personalities, and so wanted to see how this world translated into SL.
These factors combined with my love of all things science fiction – including thoroughly enjoying Firefly – caused me to somewhat gravitate towards the name of Inara Serra. I already appreciated the character’s nature – strong, independent and insightful, and with a clear lean into Buddhism – and her backstory. As sometime who also likes to read / learn about mythologies, the name also had appeal due to its (primary) link to Hittite–Hurrian mythology (as the goddess / protector the wild animals of the steppe, a deity somewhat corresponding with the Greek Goddess Artemis) and because in some circles the name is said to have equated to “Exquisite Hero” in Ancient Egyptian.
Thus, not only did the name fit with my thoughts of what I might like to poke at in SL, it lay well within the sphere of several on my own interests, and the nature of “Inara Serra” was one I genuinely liked and could potentially identify with without wanting to simply appropriate it for the needs of any form of role-play, sci-fi or otherwise.
The explanation for “Pey” is much simpler. As noted at the top of this piece (and most users are probably aware), back in those days, anyone joining SL could select an account / avatar name through the use of the free selection of a first name and the one-time selection a last name from a defined list that LL would periodically update. “Pey” was a name that was available and which I liked. And so, Inara Pey was born.
If the above does sound long-winded, I would say the fact that I’ve remained engaged with Second Life for the last 16 is – in all honesty – thanks in no small part down to the fact I found the name some comfortable, and have thus been able to inhabit her to the point I cannot conceive of being without her presence in my life.
Postscript: I should have added this prior to publishing, and as part of the conclusion. I actually have an alt. It also has the first name “Inara”, and came about in 2008, after a severe issue with my account meant I was unable to stay logged-in for more than a handful of minutes at a time for a number of days – until LL support could clear the problem. Since then, that alt has never really advanced beyond a basic avatar, and while I use it for testing viewers, going to in-world meetings, etc., – as friends will confirm, I cannot identify with it to the point of referring it as “Ms. Breen” (note the sci fi connection again, this time with the last name…), as it feels like “someone else”. (and other folk can always identify me when I’m using it, as the avatar’s tag carries the cunning disguise “Inara Pey incognito”!).
Yup fifteen years as Inara Pey; I’m pretty sure that in SL terms, that officially make me a OAP – where can I claim my pension? 🙂 .
Usually I try to write something on the occasion my rezday, but this year I really don’t have a lot more to say than I noted in 2020, I continue to log in (pretty much daily), I’m still blogging – and appreciative of all who read my ramblings and take the time to offer comments / feedback. I’m still enjoying kitbashing, building, landscaping, exploring et al. So really, not that much has changed in the last year :).
Sadly, unlike many others this year, I don’t have any stats from Linden Lab that I can share about my on-line times, etc., (not that I set much stock by such things as they always seem to have an air of elitism about them (or maybe that’s me just being crabby 🙂 ). That said, were I to approximate the amount of time I spend in SL, the answer would likely be “too much!”, as I don’t think there has been a day in the last 36-ish months (at least!) when I haven’t logged-in.
I’m not sure if that reveals something about me or about Second Life – or both. Admittedly, a lot of the time when I am logged-in, I’m actually parked somewhere, either blogging about it or something else, or actually off away dealing with physical world matters (like stuff that pays the bills, given I work from home), but at least my avatar can impersonate an answer machine for catching incoming IMs!
I’ve certainly not got a lot to reflect on SL-wise or personally; things have chugged along on both front pretty much “as is” throughout the year. Platform-wise, as the work on “bedding in” SL at AWS draws to some kind of initial completion, there will hopefully be a lot more to play with and ponder in 2022, but we’ll see.
On the personal side, I did make the decision early-ish in the year (with thanks to Vinyl for giving me little nudges!) to re-engage in some of the things I was involved in years ago, and this has been fun. I’m still happily settled in Second Norway (with my Linden home as a useful bolt hole from region restarts and the like!); after some 15 months since moving, I have absolutely no hesitation the estate and Vanity and her team to anyone looking for a island parcel with plenty of open water access for sailing / boating / flying, but which maintains its own sense of tranquillity by being off the more regular boating / sailing routes.
Back in 2016, I pondered on whether a decade of virtual living was really enough, and that perhaps it was time to consider stepping away. Truth be told, I still have such thoughts from time-to-time; I think any of us who have been engaged in SL for an extended length of time has similar thoughts. Yet, here I am, half as much again beyond that point, still enjoying the many forms of freedom of expression SL offers all of us.
In this regard, when we discuss SL, much is made of its “secret sauce”, with people pointing at this or that. To be honest, I don’t believe there is a single “secret sauce”; rather it is – like many recipes – made up of multiple ingredients, of which one of the core items is that freedom of expression (which in some technical respects is also SL’s Achilles Heel). With all the hype and yack-yack around “the metaverse” we’ve seen this year, this freedom we enjoy in SL – be it to create, to generate an income, to role-play, to use SL as an artistic outlet, to socialise (and find romance) – is what really already separates SL from anything we might see spawned by the likes of Meta, Microsoft, Google, Nvidia, et all.
This doesn’t mean I think those “big players” won’t succeed – likely they’ll all end up with there own walled gardens of various sizes. Rather, I mean that I just don’t see any of them being remotely interested in offering such broad-based freedoms of expression we have with SL. Thus, and while such freedoms may not be something the vast majority are looking for in this age of instant gratification, I tend to feel that there enough people with a similar outlook as those of us who remain engaged in SL year-on-year such that if LL can find a balanced means to market SL and make initial engagement smoother for those who are out there who can appreciate SL’s potential, then there is no reason why this walled garden cannot continue to flourish in its own modest corner of the digital landscape for the enjoyment of users and the pockets of investors, unnoticed by those now rushing to put their own stamp of authority in “the metaverse”.
Obviously, whether or not I’m right in thinking this will be revealed in time. For now, I think I’ll just got on with getting the start of my sixteenth year in SL kick-started!