UPDATED! Pandemic Diary: June 29th, 2020

Today is Day 106 of my self-imposed isolation, since I started working from home for my university library system since March 16th, 2020. The weekend before last, while taking out the garbage to the nearest bin at my apartment complex, I was surprised to find a dragonfly stubbornly perched on the outside door frame of my apartment:

I leaned forward to peer at its closely, and it did not fly away. Ironically, that is the closest that I have come to another living being in three whole months! (Although I have visited with my elderly parents and my best friend, practicing the proper social distancing guidelines of 2 metres/6 feet.)

We up here in the Canadian province of Manitoba (population 1.272 million, the majority of whom live in and around the Winnipeg area) have dodged a bullet so far: only 324 cases of COVID-19 in total, no individuals currently in hospital or intensive care, and only seven deaths so far in the entire province:

Manitoba has been spared the worst of the crisis (so far)

Compared with the absolute clusterfuck that is currently happening down in the United States, we Manitobans have been truly lucky (the following image comes from a recent New York Times article that outlines the spread of the coronavirus from its first cases, documenting how the U.S. has fumbled its response to the crisis):

Newly-confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the United States, June 9th to June 23rd, 2020 (source: How the Virus Won, The New York Times)

The border between Canada and the U.S. has remained firmly closed to all except essential workers such as nurses and truckers hauling goods, although a few incredibly selfish and stupid American tourists have been let into the country by using the “Alaska loophole” (if they lie and tell the Canadian Border Services agents that they are driving through Canada to Alaska, apparently they cannot be forbidden from entering Canada). The RCMP has already issued tickets to U.S. tourists discovered in places such as Banff, Alberta.

I have settled into some sort of a regular daily workday routine: getting up at the same time each day, having a shower and applying deodorant (even through there is nobody around to smell me), getting dressed, brewing a large pot of black coffee, and settling down in front of my home computer to sign into my work email and my university’s virtual reference desk software, to face the day. Committee work continues despite the pandemic; some days I have as many as three or four back-to-back virtual meetings using Microsoft Teams or Cisco Webex.

I have decided to take a “vacation” from blogging, except for sponsored blogposts for Sinespace (although I find that I have started backsliding on my resolution, making more blogposts lately about Second Life, which has become my preferred means of escape from the pain, suffering, tragedy, and farce of the real world).

And, as someone who routinely went out a restaurant at least once a day for meals, I have discovered the joy of cooking for myself as a result of the pandemic. I keep things pretty simple: pots of homemade Weight Watchers zero-point vegetable soup, baked potatoes with salsa, Hamburger Helper lasagna, Kraft macaroni and cheese, spaghetti, brown rice with a can of heated-up Campbell’s Chunky cream soup poured over top (Butter Chicken and Corn Chowder work well for this). I have even made my first attempts at baking (homemade biscuits, which turned out not too bad with some margarine and honey).

And I have actually lost weight! I have taken in my belt at least two notches over the past three months. I credit two things: not eating any fried, overly-processed restaurant fast food since mid-March (no French fries!) and deliberately not buying junk food as part of my pandemic preps: no popcorn, no potato chips, no chocolate, no ice cream. (I had bought a bag of chocolate chips as part of my pre-pandemic shopping in February, in order to bake cookies, only to stress eat the entire bag one evening. I simply cannot keep away from it if it in the house, so I simply don’t buy it.)

I had bought three large bags of skin milk powder as part of my pandemic preps, and I have discovered I quite like the taste of reconstituted skim milk powder. The taste somehow reminds me of a milkshake, so I mix a large beer mug of this milk with a teaspoon of vanilla extract and three teaspoons of sugar to make a “milkshake”, the only “junk food” treat I permit myself sometimes in the evenings.

I have not set foot in a retail store for three months (except for one early-morning visit last weekend to my local Starbucks, wearing a cloth mask as required and following all the social distancing protocols, to pick up a tall blonde roast, which I enjoyed on the deserted patio outside, where each table was clearly demarcated by tape on the concrete to indicate isolation zones). I order my groceries online via Wal-Mart, drive to the store to have the back of my car loaded up by the staff there, and drive home without entering the store. I call in my prescription renewals and have my medications delivered to my door. I have absolutely zero need to go shopping, or set foot in a store or mall.

And so it goes. I don’t expect my situation to change significantly until there is a viable vaccine, and that is going to take at least another twelve months, if not longer. Everybody knows that, given my underlying health conditions which put me at risk of a severe, possibly lethal, reaction to infection by the coronavirus, that I will be among the very last people to return to working on my university campus. And, by and large, I have accepted that social distancing and all the other precautions are going to be a constant part of my life for the foreseeable future.

My university has already announced that all September classes will be conducted remotely online. An information literacy course for undergraduate science students, which I and my librarian colleagues will be team-teaching, will also be done completely online. It’s the first time we have ever offered a for-credit course as opposed to shorter, in-class orientation sessions for students. I expect that I will be very busy over July and August, working with another librarian on three weeks of content for this fall term course, as well as other projects to which I have been assigned.

I have been enjoying my self-imposed vacation from the blog. It’s been great to just give myself the permission not to obsessively write about every single piece of news about social VR and virtual worlds that comes my way (and, quite often, I don’t even have to go looking for it; it often comes to me now!). I have been reading through my backlog of murder mysteries, exploring Second Life, and venturing outside to enjoy Canada’s warm, all-too-brief summer.

My avatar standing next to the dance floor at Frank’s Jazz Club, listening to the music stream

UPDATE 11:17 p.m.: Well, I suppose I asked for this. One of the regular members of the RyanSchultz.com Discord, itoibo, cheekily posted the following picture:

LOL! Come to think of it, that could indeed be why he was hanging around!

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Second Life Steals, Deals, and Freebies: How to Do Drag on a Dime in Second Life!

As my regular blog readers know, I have a drag queen avatar in Second Life, named MissDrag, and I have written about doing drag in SL before (here, here, and here).

Now, in the real world, I have never (yet!) picked up a makeup brush or cinched my waist (as if!) to fit into some eleganza extravaganza ballgown and lipsync for my life, but despite this lack of real-life experience, please let a truly seasoned DIGITAL drag superstar (well, in my own French vanilla fantasy, anyway) share a few tips on how to get started in Second Life drag.

First, understand this: THERE ARE NO RULES IN DRAG. RULES ARE MEANT TO BE BROKEN. DRAG WAS AND STILL CAN BE A TRANSGRESSIVE ART FORM. So feel free to break some rules about what a drag queen (or drag king!) should look like.

I mean, in the recently-concluded Season 12 of RuPaul’s Drag Race, one of the finalists dressed up as a piñata who occasionally farted out confetti!

Drag queen Crystal Methyd, dressed as a piñata 

Given the virtually endless avatar customization options in Second Life, your drag can be anybody (and anything) you like! Start with a male body, start with a female body, start with something in-between, or start with something completely different: a mermaid, a centaur, or a technicolor whirlwind of animated pixels! Whatever you can dream up, you can create for your own unique, signature look!

I mean, if you stop to think about it, everybody in Second Life is already doing drag. It’s actually a lot harder to recreate your actual, real-life look than it is to start from scratch with a blank canvas! (Although if that’s your scene, more power to you, boo. It’s your Second Life; make it what you want!)

Well, I woke up one morning
Flossed my teeth and decided
“Damn, I’m fierce!” You look good!
You can be just like me! A goddess? Yeah!
Don’t just pussy foot around and sit on your assets
Unleash your ferocity upon an unsuspecting world
Rise up and repeat after me: “I’m beautiful!”

I’m Beautiful, by Bette Midler

In real life, I am a 56-year-old, gay, divorced academic librarian who spends waaay too much time on the Internet, and is significantly overweight, asthmatic, and sometimes struggles with clinical depression, but in Second Life, I am Vanity Fair, the absolutely fabulous former supermodel 😉

I mean, if this is not drag, then what is? I just choose to unleash my ferocity upon an unsuspecting virtual world instead of the real world!

My main avatar Vanity Fair: Everybody in Second Life is doing some form of (digital) drag. (This delightful Lou belted minidress is a free gift from Asteria, by the way!)

Now that we have firmly established that there are no rules, there are, however, a few general tips and guidelines. First: BIG HAIR, mawma! (Although many well-known real-world drag queens like are rocking the bald look, too!).

The higher the hair, the closer to God.

—Dolly Parton

If Dolly speaks the truth, then this next hairstyle is truly divine! This is the Hunny wig from Zsa Zsa’s House of Beauty, home of the finest drag queen wigs on the grid.

It comes the fabulous wig wall at Zsa Zsa’s Haus of Beauty (exact SLURL, open your map and follow the red arrow from your initial spawn point on the Tableau sim):

Here’s the full look, from head to toe:

Another guideline which can be observed or discarded as you see fit: accessories are all-important.

Purse first!

—Bob the Drag Queen

This wonderful purse is the Love Loca handbag from Vive Nine/Ryvolter (here’s the exact SLURL):

This purse comes in various versions with different Bento poses, hanging from your shoulder, elbow, hand or even just one finger!

This avatar is wearing:

  • Mesh Head: Freya by Catwa (free group gift, no longer available for free; more details here)
  • Mesh Body and Nail Polish: Romeo by Altamura (this was a free group gift for Valentine’s Day 2019; the Altamura group costs L$100 to join, but I had joined back when it only cost L$50)
  • Hair: Hunny wig by Zsa Zsa’s House of Beauty (L$235)
  • Eye Shadow: Pride Galaxy eye shadow by Dotty’s Secret (free group gift; group costs L$75 to join, but I took advantage of a free group join period in the past)
  • Lipstick: the high-definition lipstick is included in the Catwa Freya package
  • Dress: this green Liam dress was a freebie from the SL Marketplace! It comes in just the Signature Gianni size, but I was able to make it fit the Altamura body using the alpha sections on the HUD.
  • Purse: the Loca Love handbag in black from Vive Nine/Ryvolter (L$249 per colour)
  • Shoes: I picked up these female sandals and tintable feet by Ydea (which completely replace the masculine feet of the Romeo mesh avatar!) from The Free Dove, but they are no longer available there, and unfortunately, I cannot find them anywhere else in-world or on the SL Marketplace. No matter. I’m sure you can get similarly creative for your own drag look!

TOTAL COST FOR THIS DRAG LOOK: Only L$534! (L$50 to join the Altamura group, L$235 for the wig, and L$249 for the handbag)

Now we turn from day wear to evening wear! Check out this sickening lewk!

This avatar is again wearing the Freya mesh head by Catwa (which includes the lipstick you see here) and the Romeo mesh body by Altamura, plus:

  • Hair: Eleganza wig from Zsa Zsa’s House of Beauty (L$180)
  • Eyeshadow and Eyebrows: Vanilla makeup set by Dotty’s Secret (L$200)
  • Choker: the Nefert golden choker was a free gift from Poison Rouge at the recently-concluded 5th anniversary round of the Très Chic shopping event
  • Dress: This gown is my own unique creation! I bought the full-permissions Men’s Long Sleeve Skirt Dress from White Canvas Templates from the SL Marketplace for L$200, and textured it myself using a red bandana pattern I already had in my inventory, adjusting the tiling (i.e. how often the texture repeats) to get this look.
  • Purse: the Loca Love handbag in red by Vive Nine/Ryvolter (L$249 per colour)
  • Shoes: The same Ydea sandals and shoes as above (no longer available)

TOTAL COST FOR THIS DRAG LOOK: Only L$879! (L$50 to join the Altamura group for the Romeo body, L$200 for the Vanilla makeup, L$180 for the wig, L$200 for the full-perms gown, and L$249 for the purse)

So, what are you waiting for? Get out there and put together your own drag on a dime! And feel free to send Auntie Ryan pictures of your eleganza extravaganza!

And don’t forget to hit the SL Pride Festival to pick up some free gifts to help you create that signature look; the festival closes today! Here is more information on the Pride Festival.

Second Life Steals, Deals, and Freebies: Where to Find Free Mesh Eyes and Free Textures for Bakes on Mesh Eyes

They say that the eyes are the windows to the soul. A realistic pair of eyes can make a big difference in how lifelike your avatar can look. For example, I actually went out and bought the eyes from the styling credits, after seeing this stunning Second Life avatar portrait!

These eyes are not free; they are the Darcey eyes in forest green by Suicidal Unborn

Many people, even after they upgrade from a classic, system avatar to a mesh body, opt to keep the system eyes. Others choose to use the mesh eyes that come bundled with the Bento mesh head they have purchased (Catwa, The Genus Project, Akeruka, etc.). In many cases, those mesh eyes now support Bakes on Mesh, which means that you can wear system/Bakes on Mesh textures on your mesh eyes.

Today, we are going to look at places to pick up free mesh eyes and system eyes that will work well with Bakes on Mesh-compatible mesh eyes!

Ajuda SL Brasil

First, teleport to the Ajuda SL Brasil, home to the biggest and best freebie store on the grid, and pick up two sets of mesh eyes, which can be found opposite the Altamura Valentina mesh body:

Now, I must admit that I am not a fan of mesh eyes unless they already come bundled with a specific brand of mesh head; if they are standalone mesh eyes, I have often found that you have to go through an aggravating adjustment process until they look right in any given mesh head. Also, you will have to hunt down an eyes-only alpha when using these mesh eyes to replace your system eyes (if you were lucky enough to pick up the recent free group gift of the Freya unisex Bento mesh head from Catwa, there is an eyes-only alpha in the “CATWA BOM Skin A Makeup Alpha Pack” box, which you need to unpack in order to use).

In the bag on the floor at Ajuda SL Brasil are these beautiful Yuitza mesh eyes in a light brown colour:

And here are the Dossier realistic mesh eyes, which come with a HUD with six colour options:

Free Eyes from Shopping Events

One place where you can often pick up free eyes is at regular shopping events. For example, at the Gift Boardwalk for Second Life’s 17th Birthday (SL17B) celebrations, you can pick up a set of six dark-coloured eyes from ND/MD:

Here is one of the six colours, which come in both system/Bakes on Mesh eyes, mesh eyes, and an Omega applier:

And just look at these absolutely gorgeous Sahara eyes by Avi-Glam, which come in two shades of light brown and are available at their booth here at the SL17B Shop and Hop event. They come in both classic system and mesh versions (Catwa, Genus, LeLutka, and Omega). 

The Second Life Marketplace

Another place to get free mesh eyes is the SL Marketplace. For example, you can pick up this Sunrise set of mesh eyes in eight different colours from Eyden & Yves for zero Lindens (see image, right).

Lu Cosmetics has a number of free mesh eyes available in the SL Marketplace as well.

Sweet’s also has a nice set of free system and mesh eyes.

There’s also a free wearable demo of the Vermeer mesh and system eyes in amethyst purple, which come in four different iris sizes (the mesh eyes are HUD driven).

Eyes from the Second Life Starter Avatars

One of the places which people constantly overlook when searching for free eyes are the set of starter avatars which Linden Lab provides to Second Life users! Please note that, in order to use these eyes, you will first need to select and load the starter avatar (remember to save your current avatar look before you do this!).

If you are using the Firestorm SL viewer, just select Choose an avatar from the Avatar menu in the upper left-hand corner of your screen:

Then just click on the button under each avatar to load it up and wear it.

I recommend just setting aside ten minutes in a quiet, in-world spot, and going through and loading up all the starter avatars at least once; that way you will be able to see what they look like, take notes on what components (hair, clothing, shoes, accessories, etc.) which you might be able to reuse, and all the system eyes will be available, each located in a folder with the starter avatar’s name under the Clothing folder in your SL inventory window (see image, right):

Once you have done that, you can elect to use only the system eyes from that starter avatar folder with whatever avatar look you are building, either as is, or as a texture for Bakes on Mesh eyes (as I have done here with the BoM eyes which come with the Cat Calm mesh head this avatar is wearing, from the Genesis Lab store).

Here are pictures of what some of these eyes look like (listed with the name of the Second Life starter avatar they were taken from).

Anna

Amy

Bitsy

I find I turn to the beautiful dark brown Bitsy eyes often, especially when styling a Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) avatar!

Carla

Chris

Daisy

Dylan

Elizabeth

Feng

Aren’t these eyes gorgeous??

Gabriel

Gretchen

Jesse

Kara

Leah

Leonard

Morgan

Petrol Sue

Rhiannon

Thomas

Wyatt

So, as you can see, you already have a great selection of realistic eyes to choose from, already in your Second Life inventory! Hopefully these pictures will help you choose the perfect pair of peepers for your avatar!

Another Fifteen-Minute Second Life Avatar Makeover: Professional Business Woman

Everybody is familiar by now with the Elizabeth businesswoman avatar, one of Linden Lab’s selection of starter avatars for newbies:

Well, today I decided to give Elizabeth one of my patented fifteen-minute avatar makeovers, and take her to a role-play hotel operating in Second Life for a business meeting! The Essencia Hotel (website; SLURL) is a hotel and convention centre, staffed by both NPCs and role-playing avatars (you can even apply to work here).

To book a room, you just click on one of the kiosks in the hotel foyer, which takes you to a website. Rates range from L$150 a night for a standard twin single, up to L$500 a night for the premium suite!

If you join the Essencia Hotel group for free, you can even pick up a free gift: some luggage!

Here’s what Elizabeth looks like after her head-to-toe makeover. And, like any savvy businesswoman, she knows the value of a dollar. Everything you see here was free! (In some cases I joined a group when they had a free group join period.)

Elizabeth is wearing:

Mesh Head and Body: the free Kalhene Ariadna female mesh body (which, unfortunately, has been pulled from the SL Marketplace because of a DMCA complaint; more details here; I hope that this is resolved soon, but as Elizabeth the businesswoman well knows, legal matters over intellectual property can take time to resolve!).

Skin: Creamy in the milk skin tone from WOW Skins (a free system skin from the gift box of all the previous group gifts, located next to the panel with this month’s group gift; I joined the WOW Skins group when they had a free group join period a while back; this is an older system skin, to which I added the fix to the fingernail bases from League (more information here) to work on this mesh body.

Hair: Kristen by Ade (free gift from the SL17B Shop and Hop; more information here).

Eyes: Sahara eyes by Avi-Glam (free gift from the SL17B Shop and Hop; more information here).

Dress: Office dress in black from Kaithleen’s (I picked this up for free using the gift card that was a Christmas group gift from the store last December).

Shoes: I have been meaning to blog about this fabulous freebie for a while now! These are the sixtynine pumps in black, a free group gift from the KOKOIA shoe store (the KOKOIA group is free to join). These lovely free pumps come in six different neutral colours to go with just about any outfit!

Briefcase: I picked up this freebie from the SpotCat booth at a past Man Cave shopping event. It comes with the Bento hold post shown, and I think it’s the perfect finishing touch for this professional look! (Note: if you go to the SpotCat store in-world and join their store group for L$100, among the group gifts is a set of three of these briefcases for men or women, in white, brown, and black.)

TOTAL COST FOR THIS AVATAR LOOK: FREE!


All pictures taken at the Essencia Hotel.