Thursday, October 29, 2009

Temporary moratorium

Feldie (Feldspar Epstein) is helping me migrate my blog to, and a nifty new CSS-y template that will let me be more certain images are beside the relevant portions of text, and all sorts of neat stuff like that.

However, she would like me to avoid writing thirty new tutorials for her to migrate while she's working!

So I'll focus on my shop stuff, some animations I promised for Gianfar, and my NCI work, for a little while. Then tutorials will resume.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Changing my permissions

In the past, I've provided many objects full perms. Unfortunately, some people have taken to using full perms items as a way of concealing their culpability in making collections of stolen goods, or making griefer tools.

If you receive an item which purports to be from me, but doesn't seem like my usual style, do not trust it!
Also, do not trust a scripted item which claims to be from me, but did not come from one of my stores*, Xstreet SL (with me listed as the seller), NCI, Primwynly or Twisted Thorn Textures.
* My stores are listed in my profile picks, and on this blog.

Unfortunately, this means that as I change things over, those will be the only places from which you can get my full perms freebies. Some no-mod/copy/transfer items (especially information notecards) will continue to be available for free duplication and spreading around SL.

Regrettably, I have to recommend to other creators of freebies and useful items that they do similarly. This is, quite frankly, dreadful because it limits how easily people can spread innovations.

I recommend that scripters who want to share knowledge make use of the scripting library forum at - this way, the information is there, but if someone abuses it and creates malware, your name is not on it.

Provide goods for sale as "copy/no transfer" or "no copy/transfer" - modify or no modify as you prefer, though think hard before making cheap "modify/no copy/transfer" items.

Provide freebies as "modify/copy/no transfer", "no modify/copy/no transfer", or "no modify/copy/transfer".
When providing full perms freebies to centres of freebie-giveaways, such as New Citizens Inc or The Shelter or Yadni's Junkyard, ensure that the person you are giving it to knows which permissions you want it distributed as, and will change them accordingly.

Note that textures and sculpt maps have to be downloaded to be modified, then re-uploaded under the modifier's name. Animations and sounds can't be effectively modified. Thus, all of those are safe from the malware-with-you-as-creator problem, though the reselling problem is still there.
Unfortunately, I know of no way to protect items sold as components - they have to be at minimum copy/trans to be useful. I hate that.

The goal is to reduce the likelihood that someone will get an item of yours that is both modifiable and able to be given away: only one of those sets of permissions fits that bill, and they have to buy each and every copy.

Items which are not modifiable and able to be given away are safe to be out with your name on, even if they are both copy and trans, since they can only be given out in the original condition.
Items which are no trans can be modifiable, because the modifier cannot then give it out. (It is possible that the owner can make a griefing tool from it with your name as the creator, but the Lab can compare that with other copies of your item and see it for the blatant lie it is.)

I really, really hate having to look at my products and worry about how they might be misused. And I hate having to advise you all to do the same. But alas, no world is perfect.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Tileable Textures

Lane Luke made these great fruits - a persimmon and a pomegranate. They look fantastic, don't they?

Now let's turn them around. Oops.

Lane asked for my help - and was generous enough to offer to wait while I made it a tutorial for everyone. :) Kudos for Lane! So let's use Lane's problem as an example for the common problem of texture tiling.

Here are Lane's textures for the fruits. As you can see, the right and left sides of the textures don't match at all.

Note that both the textures and the sculpts themselves belong to Lane. You are licenced to use the textures for study purposes, but not to sell either as textures or as part of an object. Please respect Lane's generosity in providing these as examples.

You can test the edges of the textures (if you use these ones) with a sphere: the results, while not identical to those in my 'final' images, will be quite similar.

Back to the problem. There are several ways to fix the left/right disparity. One method is to use the Gimp's 'Tileable Blur' feature. You find this in "Filters->Blur->Tileable Blur". For this purpose, you want horizontal blur only (we're not trying to wrap the top to the bottom, just the sides to each other).

It helps, but not enough. A wider blur will help more, but will also blur details in the fruit texture. Using the tileable blur tool is always a tradeoff - it's up to you how much you want to trade.

But there are other options.

The one I prefer is fairly simple in concept. I divide the image in half right/left, and swap the halves.

This puts the bad edges together in the centre of the image where I can play with them with smudge and blur tools and smooth them out to make them look right.

Here's the persimmon, first straight, then swapped, so you can see what I mean.

To swap them, first grab a guide with "Image->Guides->New Guide (by percent)".

Use a selection rectangle and let the rectangle snap to the guide, then select the entire left side of the image. Copy the selection, then paste as a layer with "Edit->Paste as->New Layer".

Then do the same with the right side.

Your layers dialog should now look something like this. (Note that I have two copies of the original image - I always keep a second copy, in case I screw up. It means I can always start fresh.)

Select the alignment tool. Click on the left half-image, and use the alignment tool to push it right. Do the same (in reverse) with the originally-on-the-right half-image.

One trick with the alignment tool is that it selects the topmost visible part of the image under the cursor. If you end up with the half-image you want to move underneath the half-image you've already moved, use the 'eyes' in the layers dialog to make the top one invisible while you move the bottom one.

Your image should now have the right half on the left, the left half on the right. You should have two pasted layers in your layers dialog, one for each half. Right click on the top one of the two and select "Merge Down" from the menu that appears.

This will give you one layer, with each half swapped. Duplicate this layer (right click on the layer in the layers dialog, and select "Duplicate Layer") to ensure that if you mess up, you can just duplicate that backup and try again.

The guideline in the middle might bother you. (It often bothers me.) Go to View->Show Guides and untick it.

Now comes the part where if you don't have a drawing tablet, you decide to hit ebay and see if there's a cheap one. Mostly because this part is easier with a tablet than without one.

Study the image you're planning to make tileable. Look for patterns of light and shade, and decide where the light should flow across the border, and where the shade should.

Using the smear tool and the largest fuzzy brush, roughly smear the light and shade across the border. There is no 'right' or 'wrong' for this, just whether it looks natural or not.

Using a smaller fuzzy brush, smooth some of the roughness in the early smears, and try to 'soften' the edges between shades of colour.

Upload this stage to SL (using the preview grid or the temporary upload feature of some of the third party clients) and see how it looks before you move on to the next stage. (Note: the 'seam' will be on the other side of the prim - you may want to either look at the other side of the prim, or offset the texture horizontally by 0.5.)

While this looks a lot better than the original, I think the lower dark patch has extended too far into the light patch. Personal taste. I'll smear that away. This sort of personal taste thing is why I recommend checking it in SL at this stage.

From this point, you just use smaller and smaller fuzzy brushes to smear the edges smoother and smoother until you like how it looks. You can also use the 'blur' tool, once you have the major colours in place and need only to blend the edges into each other.

In the detailed brown part at the top, only use the small brushes - otherwise you'll lose the detail.

During this stage, upload to SL every so often until you're happy.

I can't give you exact instructions - it's very dependent on your personal artistic view.

Above are the original and final persimmons, and to the left is the final texture.

So now what about the pomegranate? Look at all the detail you'll smear away if you treat it like the persimmon!

Start the same way. Split it in half, put the outer edges together. Get to the stage where the texture looks like this.

Now protect all that lovely detail. Duplicate the swapped layer, so we can play with it later. In the duplicate, go ahead and smear just like you did for the persimmon. Don't worry about losing the detail - we'll get that back later.

Once you're happy with the smearing, we can restore the detail. Move the original swapped layer above the smeared layer, and make both visible. With the original layer selected in the layers dialog, set it to the layer mode "Difference" (there's a dropdown menu at the top of the layers dialog). Select "Copy Visible" from the Edit menu.

Use "Edit->Paste as->New Layer". Make the original swapped layer invisible again. The new layer you just pasted should be black, with reddish parts and greeny-white parts.

This layer contains - surprise surprise - the differences between the unsmeared and smeared layers. Which means it has all our detail! Unfortunately, it also has all the unsmeared background as well.

To see what we're going to do, set that new layer to 'Addition' mode. You'll see the original unsmeared version of the swapped layers show up. All we need to do now is remove the bits of red that replace the smears.

I wish it was as easy as just selecting the red parts out - but set the new layer back to 'Normal' mode and study the red. In some sections, the detail is all different shades of red. I experimented with a bunch of options, and here's what I came up with.

Go to "Colors->Levels". Select the Red channel, and play with the input and output levels. This removes the red tones, bringing them down to blacks and greens. You want to get as much of the reddish background to black as possible, while leaving the detail in greens and pale tones.

Now we make this reddish again (the former background red will stay black, only the greenish/whitish bits will go red). Go to "Colors->Colorise" and change the hue down to a red shade - somewhere between 0 and 15. To keep this from becoming intensely bright, bring the saturation down as well. I chose 20.

Finally, set the mode to Addition. This should give you a pomegranate texture with lovely detail and smeared-out lines.

There is still one minor problem: you will notice some slight seaming where the details abruptly change. Fixing that has to be done the tedious way of zooming in and using cut/paste or pencils/paintbrushes to put details from one side of the seam into the other side of the seam. But at least you have most of the work done!

Friday, October 9, 2009

Using a pre-made texture in SL clothing

This is a more advanced technique, that belongs in the "Making a Tshirt" part of the "How to make SL clothes in the Gimp" tutorial series, but which I fear might confuse total novices if I put it in there directly.

If you haven't read any of that series, you can start at the beginning.

Click here for the exact position of the "Making a Tshirt" tutorial that this mini-tutorial fits in.

1. If the texture is in SL, download it to your hard drive. Open the texture, go to the File menu (up in the top left of the screen), and "Save Texture As..."

2. Open the texture in the Gimp, and paste it into your image as a new layer; or if you're making it from scratch, create it in the Gimp on a new layer.
You may need to 'Scale Layer' to make it the correct size. You can find that in the Layers menu.

3. Go to the 'tshirt' shaped layer of your image. In part 2 of my tutorials you can see some clear pictures of that layer. Make sure to select this layer in the layers dialog.

4. Use 'select by colour' to select the transparent parts of that image: we're doing that to tell the Gimp what to cut away from the texture layer.

5. Move to the texture layer.

6. Use 'cut' to cut away the selected parts from the texture layer.

7. Turn off the colour layer (you won't need it now) (don't delete it - you might want to use it again for a later texture.)

8. Proceed as stated in the rest of the tutorial.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

How to make SL clothes in the Gimp (part 4)

In part one, we collected the tools we'd need to make clothing. In part two, we made a basic shirt with no features. In part three, we added highlight and shadow.

NOTE: Enough people have expressed their hope that I get this one finished soon, that I'm putting it up half done. The images will be done soon, in the meantime, feel free to read the text.

In this tutorial, we'll cover seams - both sewing and avatar seams. Wrapping flat pieces around a rounded body creates seams, whether the flat piece is fabric or a digital piece of art.

Avatar seams are the seams that inevitably happen when we match the front and back of the UV maps together around the avatar. I've coloured each UV map section a different colour, to make the avatar seams more visible.

Sewing seams are the representation of seams down the side of fleshworld clothing, and at the shoulders, the hemline, the collar, and everywhere else the fabric is pieced together.
In the example photo, the animation has distorted the avatar shape in this image - usually that seam will hang vertically. The sewing seams are the faint grey fuzzy stripes under the arm, and down the side of the body.

Avatar Seams

Avatar seams are the places where the UV maps meet.

The front torso meets the back torso, both of those meet the head map, the head map has a seam down the back of the skull. The arms actually have a kind of 'top and forward' part, and a 'bottom and back' part. The torso meets the hips, and the legs have front and back sections as well - and the feet are yet another piece.

These seams can look ugly and messy - or can be invisible. Most clothing and skin makers try to make them neat, at least. I like to not just make them neat, I like to conceal them.

Not everyone agrees with me. Some designers point out that it's a fact of life - the seams exist, we have to just accept them. I feel that if you can hide them, your products look better for the effort.

Edge Matching

Robin (Sojourner) Wood's and Chip Midnight's clothing templates have edge match guides. Using those will get you very close to a perfect match, but I've never had a pixel-perfect match from those.

I make the garment using the templates to get close to a match, then trial it on a clothing previewer. I then shave a few pixels off the longer side, or add them to the shorter side, and try again. Yes, it's tedious, but it works.

Another thing to be aware of is the fact that the avatar mesh stretches and shrinks when the shape changes. You will get the neatest edge if you design your clothing so that the avatar seam is crossed on a line in the mesh, not in one of the gaps.

FIXME: show crossing a seam on a line, show crossing a seam in a gap, show on two different sizes.

Wear the various shapes in the Designer's Toolkit while previewing your clothing, to see how your avatar seams look on the various shapes there.

Pattern or Design Matching

If you're using a fabric with a pattern or design, making the avatar seams match is one of the trickiest things to achieve. If you can pull it off, it's fantastic and I salute you. (I usually try to!)

FIXME: Show the Rowan design match.

Some are easier to match than others. When I'm making an abstract, like my Rowan leather outfit, I play with airbrush and smudge and cutting and pasting to make the seams look as if they match.

FIXME: Show the Cameron belt pattern match.

With the Cameron belted pants, I could hide the 'broken' repeats under the belt overlap: and noone expects a belt to repeat a perfect number of times around a human body anyway.

FIXME: image where design carries across av seam, breaks on sewing seam

Another option is to carry the design across the avatar seam and break it on the sewing seam. This not only disguises the avatar seam, it attracts attention to the intentional detail - the sewing seam - instead.

When I'm doing this, I start by cutting and pasting - I put the design on one side (usually the front), and lay the UV map over the top of the design layer.

FIXME: image of this stage.

Then I look at which part of the design crosses the UV map outer edge, and paste the design onto the other side (usually the back) so that, as far as possible, the design crosses the UV map at the same point.

Side note: Planning to have a centre back sewing seam is VERY useful when you're trying to match the side seams, by the way. If you're doing this, work with a different layer for each side of the back, so you don't wreck the left side while you're placing the right.

The paste is never completely right - you're going to have to modify the back to make it fit properly. So preview the garment with the approximation, and notice where you'll need to modify it.

FIXME: try to make an image showing modifications.

Usually, the modifications are just extending or shrinking the pattern enough to make it look almost right. Imagine that you're fitting a lycra swimsuit on a particularly curvy woman - think about how the patterns on such a swimsuit are stretched or shrunk when you look at it.

Once again, the key is experimentation, trial and error.

Sewing Seams

We'll be using the tutorial shirt again. This time, we'll be drawing in the sewing seams.

Try to design your main sewing seams once, and use them over and over again for different garments. Well-fitted, well-sewn garments almost always have the same key set of seams, with variation only for different types of garment construction.

Standard seams

FIXME: diagram of standard seams

Side seams in a well-fitted garment should fall vertically from the armpit to the ankle, down the line that starts from the point of the shoulder. (Almost as if you'd dropped a plumb line from the point of the shoulder.)

The centre back seam should also look as if you'd dropped a plumb bob, this time from the top of the spine.

Seams across the shoulder should go from the point of the shoulder to the one on the other shoulder, as if there was no head or neck in the middle (but, of course, interrupted by it!).

The armhole seam has the most variation of the 'standard' seams. However, the 'default' armhole sleeve starts at the point of the shoulder, drops vertically down the front and back until the halfway point, then curves smoothly to meet under the armpit, only a short distance below the actual meeting point between arm and body.

The crotch seam is another which can have a great deal of variation, but the SL version is a lot easier than the atomic-world version! In SL, just draw the crotch seam as a vertical line down the UV mesh - any shaping it needs happens automatically when you modify the 'pant looseness' slider.

Finally, all the cut edges of the garment need to be hemmed, unless they're on a selvedge. So draw in hem seams, or make a slightly different coloured edge to represent selvedge.

FIXME: make a diagram of optional seams

Variations on seams

Both Feldie and I sew, and we have fashion design books that contain diagrams of the many, many seam and garment construction variations that exist in the world. I strongly recommend hitting your local library (yes, atomic-world library rather than digital) and at least flipping through the pictures.

The diagrams you want will look something like this.

FIXME: diagram showing sleeve types, or cuff types, or bodice variations, collar variations. Maybe a blend of several.

I looked for similar diagrams online, and haven't found any. If anyone does find some, please add the URL to the comments.

Drawing seams

Once you have decided where on the body the sewing seams should be, make only the UV map layer and a white background visible. If you're doing hems, edges, or anything where the outfit outline is important, include that as well.

I find it's easiest to do seams without any distracting details.

Make a seams layer. If you're like me, make a bunch of seams layers and do each seam set on a different layer. If 'too many' layers confuse you, just have a single seams layer.

FIXME: example of seams 'placement' layer over UV maps and shirt outline.

Draw a marker where you think the seam should go. A line about four or five pixels wide will do fine. Bright red if you want it to show up clearly. This is just for placement: it's not the final seam!

Next you spend ages flipping between your previewer and the Gimp, working out that this part of the seam belongs between those UV lines. Don't worry that it looks wonky and distorted on the flat page - make it look right when wrapped around the avatar framework.

Finally, once you've placed your seams, make another new layer. Above the red line of the seam placement guides you've made, draw your seam.

FIXME: examples of both types of seam

I like to make a path along the seam line, then use the airbrush with one of the fuzzy brushes, and a dark grey. When I'm making a light garment, I make the seams layer mostly transparent. With a dark garment, I leave it more opaque. This way I have a bit of shadow along the seam line, but it's not overwhelming for the garment.

If you want to go into detail, try making a line of highlight, a line of shadow, and some 'stitches'. Make sure the highlight is where light would fall on the slight 'bump' where the seam rises, and the shadow would be in the slight 'dip'. Study atomic-world clothing seams, to get the exact placements.

For even more suggestions, check out the thread on seams from the Texturing forum.

And don't think you're finished yet! Preview your seams. You'll find that in some places (such as the crotch) the seams are stretched all yuck. And in other places, they've been shrunk narrower.

Again, there is no magic bullet. Modify, preview, modify, preview, rinse, repeat until done. BUT! Once you've done it once, you'll be able to use the same seam layer on many of your clothes - and use it as a template for other seams on other clothing!

FIXME: seamed, patterned shirt seen across the side-seam, showing both concealed avatar seam and sewing seam.

And .. that's it. That's how to put seams on clothes.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Pain Management Aftermath

The pain management program had four more weeks, with different fellow sufferers. A is a comedian, larger than life and with a theatrical way of talking and behaving. M is a fairly withdrawn man, very quiet but when he does speak he's been thinking about it. V is gorgeous, a lovely woman with myriad medical issues, who has led an amazing life.

C had surgery, which has left her in pain and with nerve damage to her foot, she started the program with a tendancy to obey doctors and believe in them having authority. By the time I'd finished, she'd decided that she'd delay the further surgery her surgeon wanted, and was working with our physiotherapists to regain proper function in the foot - and was having significant success there!

The physical side of the program got harder and harder, but kept just below the point where I would begin to flare. At the end, I was doing the hydrotherapy with resistance boots with fins in all directions, and finned water dumbbells. I moved to the weights, and then to free weights, in the dry land physiotherapy.

The other subjects were much the same - oh, different topics for each week, but still the same basic thing.

I finished the program a lot healthier and more functional physically - and exhausted and emotionally drained.

Then we tweaked my medication. I'm still in the 'let's try to get this right' medication adjustment phases, and feeling like utter crap. But the long term benefits should be worth it. Right?

Friday, July 17, 2009

Pain Management: Weeks Three & Four

Weeks three and four went by similarly to weeks one and two. Hydro and physio were very much the same - I increased resistance in the physiotherapy, and Justin has me walking the dog every day: not far, but far enough to count. To the corner and back. Relaxation was very much the same as the first two weeks - still something I know how to do. The key is to actually DO it.

The Tuesday OT sessions were cooking and craftwork (mosaic). Mosaic, apparently, is excellent for fine motor skills - for the rehab patients, it's a way of giving them fine-motor exercise without boring them to tears.

For us, it was an exercise in learning to pace ourselves, and reinforcing the various techniques we picked up in cooking. Bench height, positioning, looking down at our work by bending the neck, not curling the shoulders. Reaching for things by shifting weight, when possible, rather than having the arm at full extension.
Also, when doing kitchen work, open the cupboard and put your foot on the bottom shelf. This gives your body a more relaxed position to work in.
When kneading dough, use the weight of your body, rather than your arm muscles. And don't bother looking with your eyes - your hands know exactly where the dough is.

And a bunch of etceteras. Including:
* use pre-cut frozen veg, it's not only easier, it's probably been snap-frozen within hours or even minutes of picking. Supermarket 'fresh' food (even some greengrocer 'fresh' food) has probably been in storage for days or weeks.
* similarly, go ahead and use frozen pastry rather than making your own, unless you particularly enjoy it.
* prep your food over the whole day, don't try to do it all in a burst all at once. It won't hurt the carrots to sit in the fridge chopped for a couple of hours.

Individual psych on Tuesdays continues to be ... interesting. I'm not sure if it's helpful or not, but based on the mood I'm in on the Tuesday trips home, it probably is. We're digging out stuff like how I feel about my body, and he's giving me 'helpful ideas' about my body that are TRUE.

You know how self-help books and counsellors and psychs say stuff like 'don't think negative thoughts, think useful helpful ones'? Well, my psych listened to me talk about that, and pointed out that you have to believe the helpful thoughts you think, otherwise you're just going to get cynical about your own thoughts.

So he agreed with me about some things about my body: it's broken in a lot of ways. It's not fair. It's hard to do things I want to do.
Then he gave me true things to think about when those things creep into my mind. "Yes, all that is true, BUT:"
* But my body enables me to hug my pets, and Tateru, and Feldie.
* But my body enables me to help Feldie with her hair and makeup.
* But my body enables me to type to my friends, and write tutorials, and so forth.
* But my body enables me to take Vi (the dog) on walks. Albiet short ones. And the physios and I are working on that.
.... and so on.

The Thursday group psych sessions are a bit less helpful to me than the individual stuff, since a lot of it is stuff I already know. However, like the relaxation stuff I already know, it's a matter of putting it into practice.

Thursday education session on week 3 was on community services and supports - neighbourhood houses, TAFE short courses, respite services, disability pensions. Nothing entirely new to me, but some of the specific places were new to me. After the course, I'll sit down with the sheet and start calling around. If I can control the anxiety. :(

Week 4, it was on relapse prevention. Which, essentially, amounts to 'make sure you keep doing this stuff, and when-not-if you have a slack day, or a slack week, or even a slack month, forgive yourself and keep going'. It included techniques like making appointments with yourself in your diary, and letting other people help you - once again, nothing surprising and new.

And sadly, I no longer have C and M and S working with me. The other S, who started with me, stopped showing up. We think she's dropped out. But C, M and S were on their week 5 when other-S and I started: so my week 4 was their week 8, and they've finished the program.

So Thursday was happy-sad, and I hugged them all, and - well. Said goodbye.

Tuesday, I get to be the experienced one in my week 5, while three new people start their week 1.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Pain Management: Week Two (& Thursday Week One)

The pain management course is taking up almost all of my energy right now - it's great, it's helping me a lot, but it's also very exhausting.

Thursday Week One

Thursday sessions start with group psychotherapy, then hydro again, lunch, a half-hour 'education' session on various topics, physiotherapy, then relaxation.

The group psychotherapy last Thursday wound up being largely an introduction thing - Kon talking about what the therapy is about, getting to know us, us knowing him. He introduced the 'helpful thinking' concepts, and the underlying concept of CBT.

That concept is: events happen. How we think about these events affects our emotional reactions, and our behaviour. For instance, if you miss the bus, you might think 'oh my god, I'll be late for work, I'll get fired, then I won't be able to pay the rent and I'll end up homeless'. Or you might think 'oh well, no big, I'll have a few minutes to relax now and I'll be in a better state for work when I do get there'.

Same event, different thoughts. Of course, if your boss really is going to fire you, the second set might need to be modified slightly! Possibly to 'well, this guy was crap to work for anyway, maybe I'll stop in at the newsagent and check the job ads while I wait'....

So. Next was hydro - still a lovely warm pool, I still really like it. My side was aching somewhat by the time I finished, but the reason for that was probably hormonal. The ladies will know what I mean ...

After lunch was a talk about sleep, and 'sleep hygiene' - all pretty standard stuff if you're familiar with the 'sleep hygiene' thing. If you're not, a quick Google search showed a couple of .edus that talk about it. Sleep Hygiene from the University of Maryland and Sleep Hygiene from Stanford

Physiotherapy was more difficult than it had been on the Tuesday, but again, it was due to hormonal cramping and not the physiotherapy itself. I mentioned the problem, and Justin pointed out that this is still a pain issue, even if it's not my major pain problem. So we treated it as an opportunity to find out what my exercise tolerance is while in pain.

The relaxation session was very, very welcome. The techniques they're using are all ones I'm accustomed to, but the regular and extended relaxation sessions are doing me good. I need to make a point of doing this myself.

The drive home, however, was pure torture. The cramping was very, very bad, and every expansion joint, crack in the asphalt, speed bump, or other non-flatness in the road jolted the cramping muscles and caused a spike of pain.

This, along with anxiety attacks and continued cramping over the weekend and on the Monday, meant that by Tuesday, I was a mess.

Tuesday Week Two

I'd had a panic attack on the Monday night, was in pain, and was in a state where I could barely think. All I wanted to do was curl up in bed and pretend the world didn't exist.

But I went to the course. I was terrified that they'd tell me to 'buck up', 'keep a stiff upper lip', or even accuse me of 'putting it on' or 'acting sicker than I was'.

All of these, of course, are the usual responses I get. Even from family members (not Feldie and Tateru, though!).

I didn't get them from the pain clinic people. I was so relieved. In fact, they were very pleased I was there, and pleased to be able to actually see the difference between me-normal (Tuesday week one) and me-sick (Tuesday week two).

The OT (occupational therapy) session was on shopping, and quite frankly I remember very few of the details about it! But shopping, when you look at it from an OT point of view, is a massive task! It's also one that is very difficult to pace - to divide up into smaller units and take rest breaks between the units.

You have to dress, which itself can be a considerable effort. Travel to the shop. Select a trolley which won't make things worse for you (they recommend bringing your own shopping trolley!). Then you have to select the goods, which includes a lot of bending, lifting, even carrying. And a fair bit of walking, which is strenuous for some. At the checkout, there's concentrated bending, lifting and carrying. Then bagging (sometimes), and getting the things to, then in the car, going home, getting them out, more lifting and carrying, and finally putting the cold stuff away. Then collapsing on the couch while the nonperishables wait for you to have energy again.

Online grocery shopping can be a godsend.

So. After that, hydro - I didn't even have the energy to play in the water. I just did the exercises, had a shower, got dressed, and collapsed for lunch. The physios supervising the hydro kept an eye on me, I think they were a bit worried.

I also rested in the relaxation room after I ate lunch. I think I slept.

Justin and Erika (Catherine was away) controlled the pacing of my physiotherapy, sending me for regular rest breaks. And I was not to worry about trying to get the whole program done - anything would be good enough.

The relaxation room was very, very welcome.

I think I was almost incoherent at poor Kon (my psychiatrist). I don't remember much of what we talked about, except that he very carefully probed to figure out whether my depression and anxiety are most likely to be biological (anatomic or neurochemical), circumstantial, or simply lifestyle based. (As in, if you don't put yourself in positions where happiness is possible, you're not going to be happy.)

He's talking to my pain doctor, and they're going to work on appropriate scripts for me. He's pretty damn sure that at least some of it is biological.

I don't remember much about the trip home on Tuesday. I may have fallen asleep while Feldie was driving me. Maybe not. I was drained. Not just exhausted, but I had nothing left to give.

Thursday Week Two (today)

After the sleep Tuesday night and a fairly relaxed Wednesday, I felt a lot better. Though Feldie points out that I did a lot of housework on Wednesday. And I baked.


I love baking. It's very relaxing, and it produces yummy goodnesses. And since we moved into this house, we've not had an oven. The one that came with it is, quite frankly, so old and rusted we're sure it's dangerous and have never dared use it. The grill is equally off limits, being part of the same unit. One of the stovetop burners, we've taped over the dial to prevent us from forgetting and using it, the other three we do use - but carefully.

But now we have an oven! It's a little benchtop unit, and it was on sale for something like half price. And I love it! And I made my special recipe - passionfruit bikkies (cookies for the Americans). Anyway, I took some with me today, and shared them around.

Okay. So. Psychotherapy, we continued with the Helpful Thoughts thing. Hydro was lovely, and I spent a bit of time relaxing, and a short bit of water-play, as well as my exercises.

After lunch we had a session with CRS - Commonwealth Rehab Services. They're the government-run thing for getting disabled people back into the workforce. They might be helpful for after the program, or maybe someone else would be better. I don't want to be pushed into work too soon for my body. :(

Then physiotherapy, and Justin and Catherine were delighted that I hadn't had a pain flare after Tuesday! And Catherine gently scolded me when I went through my program too quickly - I must learn to pace my stupid body. Give it enough rests between bits of work.

Relaxation again. And then home. And once again, I napped shortly after I got home.

The Passionfruit Biscuit/Cookie Recipe

125g butter or margarine
1/4 metric cup of caster sugar (finer than table sugar, coarser than icing sugar)
1 egg, beaten
1 1/4 metric cups of SR flour (or plain flour + baking soda, to make it rise)
1 or 2 passionfruit OR 1 small tin passionfruit
Milk (optional)

Baking tray
Extra butter/marge or baking paper to grease/line the tray
Wire cooling rack
Sieve & bowl
Scales if possible
Measuring cups
Mixing bowl
Powered blender (ideal) or fork (and patience, and strong stirring arms)
Oven! (You'll want it at 180C or so)

  • Grease a baking tray with a little bit of extra butter or margarine, or paper it with baking paper.
  • If using a tin of passionfruit, put the contents into a fine sieve, catching the syrup in a bowl and the seeds and pulp in the sieve.
  • If the butter is hard, put it in the microwave or in a bowl in some warm water, until it's soft. Not liquid, just soft enough to beat easily.
  • Beat the butter/margarine and the sugar together until very, very fluffy. You want them thoroughly mixed, with no lumps of butter.
  • Add the egg, and beat until that's thoroughly mixed in too.
  • Gently fold in the flour. Just tip a bit in, stir it through, repeat until all the flour is in. It will become a rather dry dough, and tend to be lumpy, but try to get all the flour mixed with some butter/egg mix.
  • If you can't get all the flour blended with the butter/egg stuff, add a little bit of the syrup from the tin, or milk if you aren't using tinned passionfruit.
  • Tweak the dough mix slightly: if you tend to like 'soft' cookies, add a little bit of milk or a bit more syrup (a teaspoonful). If you tend to like 'dry' cookies, add a tiny bit of flour (a dessert-spoonful). As you get experience making this recipe, you'll learn to tell how it'll turn out by how the dough looks at this stage.
  • If your oven is slow to heat up, preheat it now. You'll want it at about 180C - tweak according to how 'hot' or 'cool' your oven is.
  • Take a teaspoonful (or slightly less) of the mixture and roll it into a ball. Place the ball on a greased or papered baking tray. Repeat, leaving a bit more than a centimetre (or half an inch) between balls to allow it to spread.
  • With a clean thumb, or the back of a teaspoon, put a dimple into the top of each ball of dough. Drip just enough passionfruit pulp and seed into the dimple to fill it - between three and five seeds works for me.
  • Bake in the heated oven for 15 to 20 minutes, until they're a lovely golden-brown. Again, practice with the recipe will tell you when to take them out - a shorter time leaves you with a softer cookie, longer gives you more crispness.
  • Place them on a wire rack to cool. Cover them with a teatowel, and ban any cookie-thieves from the kitchen!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Gaia invites 3D artists to check out Frenzoo

Guest post from Gaia

Frenzoo is a fashion and style community, in which 3D avatars are used as a medium through which to communicate, and to show off one's individuality. A new program is being introduced: the Pro 3D Creator program. As a part of this program, you will be able to create, and easily import into Frenzoo, 3D fashion items. Later on, there will also be the opportunity to import animations into Frenzoo.

I would like to invite anyone who makes models (eg sculpties) in Blender, 3DS Max or similar programs to come and check out the program.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

First day at pain management

Today was my first day at the pain management program I'm doing.

The good news is that everyone was nice and friendly and helpful. The bad news is that I'm EXHAUSTED!

So I'm not sure when I'll be able to finish the things I've promised people. :( That includes finishing the images for the latest tutorial, and finishing the clothing-for-novices templates I promised. They will get done, but I'd say check back weekly (rather than, say, daily) for a while.

Anyway: back to the pain clinic stuff.

The Tuesday pattern is a session with occupational therapists, a session of hydrotherapy, lunch, a session of physiotherapy, a relaxation session, then a personal appointment with a psychologist.

The OT session today was on personal care. Hygiene, grooming, dressing, and so forth. Tricks like shoehorns and sitting on the bed to get started putting pants on and petalback bras and shirts.

Hydrotherapy - the pool is HEAVEN. If I win the lotto, I'm installing a heated swimming pool just like that one. I WANTS IT MY PRECIOUS! It was warm. Not just 'not-cold'. Actually warm.
But they wouldn't throw dive toys for and let me free swim. :( Waaah. Instead, I had to do the prescribed exercises. Oh well. I swam underwater whenever I shifted sections of the pool. I love swimming.

At lunch, we patients spent some time getting to know each other. There are five of us in this group, all with pain problems of some sort. I don't yet know what happened to most of them, one started with an injury, mine is illness.

Then physiotherapy. If the pool is Heaven, this is Purgatory. At least it's not Hell. Justin (the physio who was working with Sherri and I) was kind. He made sure we understood the goals of the physio program, and understood what he was doing. Today and Thursday, he's establishing a baseline. Finding out what gives us effort - checking heartrate on cardio exercises, looking for signs of muscle strain in physical exercises, ensuring our stretches actually felt stretchy.

He's wanting us to go just to the point of effort, not any further. Going too far can well cause a pain flare, which makes it emotionally much harder for us to actually sustain doing the exercise - and can sensitise the body's pain signals, apparently.

Anyway, pain flare bad. Sub-flare-causing effort good. Until Justin and Catherine (the other physio) know exactly how much exercise is sub-flare-causing effort, we go very slowly and carefully.

That said, I was sweating and mildly more-sore-than-when-I-started when I finished. Probably another full stage on the pain scale.

Pain scale: 0 is no pain, 10 is enough pain that you can't think of anything but the pain OR your muscles totally refuse to function OR you go into shock. At least that's my pain scale. The normal pain scale is '10 is the worst pain you can imagine'. But I can imagine pain beyond those points - and have experienced all of those.

The final group session today was relaxation - which I'm sure is a deliberate decision. Get us going home with relaxed muscles and relaxed minds, as well as teach us meditation & relaxation techniques.
Tomorrow I'm going to go out and buy a mandala poster - as long as I'm well enough to go out at all.

Then I had a session with my psychologist. We each get an hour each week for a private session with a psych - severe illness typically triggers psych problems, even if only of the 'why me, God?' sort. In my case, it's very hard not to resent my body and loathe looking after it, which really doesn't help keep it functional. As I told him, if my body was a car, I'd either sell it, or find another car of the same make and use the two cars to make one good one.


Anyway, that's my first day at the pain management clinic.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Update to Highlights & Shadows tutorial

I discovered a new feature in the Gimp. Okay, an old feature, but new to me. It's amazing for highlights and shadows, so that's where I put it.

Check out the new "Other layer types" section near the bottom of the Highlights & Shadows tutorial.

Musing: national identity

Australians are funny people. Our national identity is wrapped up in strange things.

  • A song about a sheep-stealing vagabond (Waltzing Matilda).
  • A poem about retrieving a runaway horse (The Man From Snowy River).
  • A battle which was a disaster right from the planning stages (Gallipoli).
  • Genocidal convicts and exile-soldiers (the initial colonization - and the deliberate killing of many Koori* & other indigenous Australian people).
  • The very indigenous Australians our ancestors tried so hard to either wipe out or 'teach civilised habits' to.
  • Farmers and other workers in the Outback, despite the fact that most of us are urban coast-dwellers.

Sometimes I don't understand my own culture. We're weird.

* Koori is a term many of the indigenous Australians from the south-east accept as an umbrella term for those of their tribes. I am told that variations on the word mean 'people' in most of the languages south-eastern Australian indigenous languages.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Single-prim vendor selling in SL

Many people in Second Life sell their products in scripted vendors. Many more seem not to know how to sell their products at all.

However, Second Life includes a very simple, straightforward way to sell products, with no scripts at all - extremely low lag and reliable. It's built in to the prim editing system.

Preparing the items

To start with, you need something to sell. Making that something is beyond the scope of this tutorial - but I have other tutorials for some of that, and you can always check out NCI and other tutorial places inworld.

Once you have your product exactly as you want it, you should make sure its permissions are set for sale.

If your item is prim-based, set its permissions in the General tab, while it is rezzed inworld. That is more reliable for prim objects than setting permissions in the inventory.

For items that aren't prims, right click on the item in inventory, and select Properties. Set its permissions in the Properties window that appears.

In all cases, we are setting 'Next Owner' permissions - the permissions that the person we give or sell the item to will have. Those permissions can never be greater than the permissions we ourselves have.

When we create an item, we have full permissions on that item. If we give or sell someone else the item with a limited permissions set, then they give it back to us, we only have those limited permissions. Or even less, if they changed the 'next owner' permissions while they had it.

Permissions are Copy, Modify and Resell/Give Away. We usually call the third one Transfer.

If you give your customers COPY permissions, they can make copies of the item, they can keep backups in their inventory while a prim item is in world, they can make multiple outfits of clothing items, or make a full set of dining chairs from one sold chair.

If you deny them copy permissions, then if they accidentally break the item somehow (retexture it, distort one of the prims, delete a script), or if Second Life loses the item from its asset server, they have no backup and the item is lost or ruined for good.

TRANSFER (Resell/Give Away) permission allows the player to pass the item to someone else. Denying players TRANSFER permission means they can't use your item as a component of some sale product, and that they can't sell it when they're sick of it.

If you give a player both COPY and TRANSFER permissions, they can give away or sell it an unlimited number of the items. It is often necessary to do this if you're selling components to other builders - such as animations used in furniture, scripts for just about anything, sculpts for furnishings, buildings or jewelry, or textures used in almost anything.

When you give out both COPY and TRANSFER items, include a no-modify notecard explaining whether the person can resell the item as is or not.

When you give out freebies, include a no-modify notecard explaining that the item is to be a freebie, and whether or not you are willing to let other people sell it as is, or modify it and sell it.

MODIFY permission allows a player to tweak and adjust the item to suit them. There is very little reason for blocking modify permission of animations, clothing or skins created with graphics templates, sounds, and sculpties - the hard work in all of those is done outside SL. Even prim items can't be trivially duplicated - it's a lot of work to reverse engineer those.
Scripts, however, can be trivially duplicated by being cut and pasted, so I would recommend blocking modify perms for those, except for freebie or teaching scripts. In those, I suggest including a comment explaining what rights you pass on.

Preparing the image

Open your art package of preference. If you don't have one, The Gimp is free and available at Tutorials are available there as well.

Create an image that answers the questions your customers are most likely to have about your product. For most products, provide an image of what it looks like, or what an avatar does when the product is working.

The price is a good thing to include (though some prefer not to, to avoid having to upload another image when the price changes). I personally think that if having the price visible sells one extra copy of the product, the upload is paid for.

Most customers like to see the permissions at a glance, and many customers want to know what they can expect to get in the product package before they buy it.

Make your image the same shape you want it to be in world. If you want a circular sign, make a circle. If you want a square sign, make a square. If you want a 4:3 ratio rectangle, make that.

Once that's done, if there's any transparency in the image, put a background colour you like behind it. (I find that it never helps to have a sign with transparency. If you disagree with me, skip the background.) Now save your sign in the native format of your art program. .psd for Photoshop users, .xcf for Gimp users.

Now resize your sign to powers of 2. Make each side 128, 256, 512 or 1024: ideally 512 or less. This will probably distort your sign - ignore that, it doesn't matter. It'll get fixed when you put it on the prim of the right shape.

If you want to test the image, making sure it looks right before you spend ten Lindens uploading it, use the SL Beta grid, which is a test version of the SL grid. Go to the wiki page talking about connecting to the preview grid. Once there, upload the image as if you were on the main grid, and put it on the same shape prim you intend to use in the main grid.

When you upload on the beta grid, it will claim it's charging you Lindenbucks, but it's charging you beta grid dollars and not money from your actual SL account. Beta grid dollars get renewed periodically; and stuff in your beta grid inventory WILL vanish every so often - it's a test platform and nothing is stable. But it works great for testing your uploaded creations for free.

Once your lovely sale image has been created, it's time to upload it into SL. Make sure you have 10 Lindens (or more) in your account, then go up to the File menu and select Upload Image. A file browser window will open, and you can find and choose your nifty image.

Select it, and an image previewer will appear. If your file is not square, ignore how squished and ugly it looks - that's just the previewer squishing it into a square shape. Accept it, and it will be loaded into SL, into the Textures folder in your inventory. It can stay there for a while.

We'll put it on its prim of the correct shape a bit later.

Creating the box

So much for preparation work. Now we can actually make our box!

Start by right clicking on the ground. If you're on a prim surface, that's okay too. Just right click on something groundlike. You should get a pie menu with Create in the top right corner. If you don't, you're probably in a place where you can't rez things, and you'll need to move to a sandbox, or to land you own.

If you're renting a shop, make sure you have the group tag associated with that shop over your name. (Right click on yourself, look for Groups, select the appropriate group, hit Activate.)

Once you have the right group activated, or are in a place you can rez, left click on Create. This will change your cursor to a magic wand symbol, and open a little window we call the Edit window. (It might be larger than the one in the image on the right - if so, that's okay.)

Look at the top of the menu in the picture. See how the box shape is highlighted? If the box shape isn't highlighted in yours, left click on the box shape, then move your cursor back to the land.

If you want one of the other shapes, that's okay too. This tutorial is based on the box, because it's easiest and this is for beginners. Just choose the other shape instead.

Now left click on the land again. This will give you a lovely plywood box.

Don't worry, we'll change the plywood part later, and we'll also change its shape so it makes your picture look right.

Packing the box

There might be a MORE >> button in the bottom right corner of the edit window. Click that, and you'll get a rather larger edit window.

If you don't have the MORE >> button, you already have the larger edit window. Leave it that way.

Click on the Content tab.

Look in your inventory for the items you want to sell. (If they're rezzed inworld and you want to package them into boxes, you'll need to take a copy into inventory.)

One you've found them in your inventory, left click and hold, then drag the mouse to the large empty window in the contents tab of your prim's edit window. Release the mouse once you're there.

If you have copy permission on the item, this will take a copy of the item and put it inside your prim.

If you do not have copy permission, this will take the copy you selected from your inventory, and put that in the prim.

Setting the box for sale

Now click on the General tab. Fill in the name of the object in the Name field, and a short description in the Description field.

Then go down to the bottom of the General tab. You will see a Show in Search checkbox. You're planning to sell this, so you probably want to advertise it. So click that checkbox and put a checkmark in it. This box only works if you're on land that is listed in Search->Places, but it does no harm to have it checked even if you aren't.

Beneath Show in Search is For Sale. Put a checkmark in that box. That will enable the text box to its right, which is the price text box. Fill that in.

Beneath the price are three options, Original, Copy and Contents.

If you want the box you're packing to be sold - as in, this exact box goes to the customer, not a copy of the box - select Original. Limited edition items are often sold this way.

If you want the customer to get a copy of the box, select Copy. People who sell furnishings often sell Copy: they rez the furniture inworld, and use these settings to have the furniture literally sell copies of itself.

Contents is the most common setting. When a customer buys a box with the 'contents' setting, they get a folder that contains everything inside the box.

Beneath those settings are the permissions. I recommend setting them to the same permissions as the ones you set for the items themselves, back at the start. (in Preparing the items.)

Finally, there's a dropdown menu. It controls what happens when the customer clicks on the box. I recommend setting it to Buy object.

Technically, you could leave it at that. But a plywood box doesn't make a very good product advertisement!

Adding the image

Click on the Texture tab. Once you have, look for the box with the plywood image, and click on that. This will open a browser window for your textures.

Find the texture you want on the box, and select it.

Shaping and placing the box

Select the Object tab. Click on the Stretch button, and then you can see the little red, green, blue and white boxes around your box.

Click and hold on one of those boxes, then drag it towards or away from the centre of your box to shape the box.

If you prefer, you can use the X, Y and Z Size text boxes to enter the exact size you want the box to be.

If your image doesn't stretch with the box, make sure Stretch Texture in the top right corner of the Edit window has a checkmark in it. You can fix a texture that didn't stretch by going to the Texture tab and setting both horizontal and vertical repeats to 1.

Once your box is shaped to the same aspect ratio you made the image at, the image will look right. All the distortions we did will be undone.

Now you have a box that is shaped correctly, use rotation and position tools to place it in your shop.

The Rotate button provides red, green and blue circles around the box, and you hold down and drag each circle to rotate the box around the centre point.

You can also fill in degrees of rotation in the Object tab, at the bottom left.

The Position button provides red, green and blue arrows, which you click and drag. The Position numbers are also editable in the Object tab.

Additional notes

You can sell your objects in 'boxes' of any shape and size. Most people who use this method use rectangular single-prim boxes because it's convenient, easy, and you can put an informative sign on it.

But don't let that stop you from selling goods in teddy bears, lollipops, or bullwhips if you prefer.