Monthly Archives: December 2010

New Minnesota Modern House – Grand Marais

All of the Minnesota Modern homes so far have been inspired by the north shore of Lake Superior. It’s a rocky place, prone to storms, heavy snow and bitter cold. Its also a very popular place for outdoor recreation both in summer and winter, and home to some very rustic lodges.  Close to the Canadian border, Grand Marais is one of the largest towns that lie along the scenic northshore highway, between Lake Superior and the dense forest that stretches up into Canada. So it is fitting that I have named the third and largest cabin in my Northshore series in honor of Grand Marais.

I have furnished this home so you can get a better idea of the scale, and perhaps receive some inspiration from the beautiful paintings of caca Drevnerussky. None of the furniture is for sale, at least not yet. The contemporary forms along with the natural materials mean that either modern or rustic furniture (or both!) will look good in this house.

The house has 179 prims, and comes bundled with a 7 prim log fire and and 20 prim bathtub with couple’s pose. It will set you back only 2400 L$.

Come and see it at my showroom on Toor:

Also available through my Second Life Marketplace store:

caca Drevnerussky has a small gallery called Kalavinka where she sells a rotating selection of her work. I’m a huge fan, so make sure you pay her gallery a visit:


Active Worlds


For our latest Wednesday Gridstalking, Merry and I set out for ActiveWorlds.

I’m going to apologize in advance, because five whole, long, busy days have passed since we went into ActiveWorlds, and, to tell the truth, this afternoon I couldn’t remember the name of the world. I called it Alphaworld or some such. Maybe I’m that old. Maybe we only spend about 2 hours in a world, so we never get past the stage of trying to find our shoes. Maybe, because many of these worlds don’t have a Mac version, I have to use the PC in the living room, which is regularly invaded by leprechauns demanding to try the world for themselves, and asking if there are motorbikes.  Or maybe, just maybe, it wasn’t all that memorable. Read on and judge for yourself.

Activeworlds has a very small download, basically a sort of internet viewer that works in the 3-D world. Its fast to download, open, and voila! You are rezzed in the “immigration” area, which feels like a nice bus station, complete with soothing background music. Everyone starts out as a “tourist,” with a Hawaiian shirt clad avatar to match. For a small fee you can upgrade to a “citizen,” which gives you the functionality you really need to operate in a virtual world, such as keeping a friends list, teleporting places and people, etc. Hopefully, becoming a citizen also gives you an inventory, because I didn’t seem to have one.

I did, however, have the ability to customize my avatar quite extensively, and I ditched the tourist garb in favor of a neutral shirt and pants, as did Merry.  They were very neutral, as we didn’t feel like taking the time to select a color for each of our body and clothing parts. We were anxious to get out and explore the world! So Merry and I were grey people for the duration of our time in Activeworlds.

Merry :

Activeworlds ( has got to be the oldest surviving virtual worlds in existence and the sheer size of it’s flagship Alphaworld speaks volumes; it’s over 400 square kilometers in size (no sims here). ActiveWorlds can trace it’s roots back to 1994 when Ron Britvich created WebWorld in his spare time.

A user can enter the world for free as a ‘tourist’ which gives you a basic but usable avatar and also some basic rights. For a small monthly fee you can up your membership to ‘citizen’ which gives you the right to unlimited access to hundreds of virtual worlds, Reserve a unique citizen name for your use (as a tourist, your name is not yours to own), build and own property in any of the many worlds open for building , your property remains under your control and ownership, and cannot be deleted by other users which can happen when you are a tourist, send telegrams and files to other citizens (private messages), locate and join other citizens anywhere in Active Worlds and use Voice Over IP to talk to other users in real time.

ActiveWorlds appears to make it’s living from hosting and creating ‘worlds’ for users to rent from them; these start at 4,000 metres square to an amazing 4 million metres in size, mind boggling to those of us who use 256 metre square sims. And that is thier small offering, the universe servers can, in theory be unlimited in size.

But enough history, let’s go roaming.

The ActiveWorlds viewer is a paltry 8Mb in size, and can run in a webpage or standalone so  it takes no time at all to dive right in.

The starting point for a visitor is an airport like room, very spacious with rooms off to the sides with tutorials and information pasted to the walls. But the first thing that his me was the awful tongue-in-cheek avatar they land you with as default;


Yep, that’s me. Note the hourglasses in the background, that’s how objects are ‘placed’ before they resolve into objects, which is neat.

A mouse across the toolbar tells you that custom avatars are available, and judging by the other avatars available, they don’t look too bad;


Although selecting the custom avatar menu item is a bit of a shock


However, after finding the right button you can customise your look, and here’s how your heroes looked after working their way through the drop down menus that come up. Interestingly, the ‘look’ of the avatar is saved on your local machine, in fact neither Jodi or I could find a personal inventory at all.


The blue and green teleports behind us are for tourist use. One of the constraints to tourists is that they can’t go to any world, only those that are open to them.

So which one to look at first? After much discussion we plumbed for a ‘fantasy’ world created by one of the residents.


Although quite pretty, the world seemed crude when compared to some of the modern worlds we have been to before. This carriage looked the part but you couldn’t sit in it or ride around.


But ActiveWorlds, like Blue Mars does use robot avatars and has special scripts which enable them to act as greeters or do nothing, like these two.


Most of ActiveWorlds builds appears very square, mostly right angles and no curves – the only place that bucks the trend being the start area. But with a little imagination and good use of textures, it can still look quite stunning.

Minnesota Modern is Live!

I am so, so proud (and relieved) to announce that my new Second Life business venture has launched! Minnesota Modern features homes, furnishings and accessories inspired by my beautiful home state of Minnesota. Minnesota is a place of lakes, forest and prairies. No matter where you live nature is just a step away, beckoning for you to come play, ready to drown you in sunlight or bury you in snow. And everyone, EVERYONE, has a cabin! Except me.

So I made myself a cabin, and then another one, and I’m currently making a third. These aren’t your tar paper and 2×4 cabins. These are sophisticated, urbane cabins that use natural materials in a contemporary way. They are inspired by the dozens of real-life cabins and lake homes I have designed over the past 12 years.

The two models currently for sale are the Finland (only 67 prims, including the log fire) and the Hovland (83 prims, including fire.) 

Come and see them at my showroom on Toor:

While you are there, help yourself to a Christmas gift, a beautiful candle wreath I made just for you! Finely crafted of 100% pure platinum, encrusted with silver and diamonds, it will look beautiful in your new Minnesota Modern home.

Also available through my Second Life Marketplace store:


Merry Gynoid and I have a standing Wednesday appointment to explore other grids. I am then supposed to blog about our trips. Being terribly busy with procrastination, I never do.

Recently he sent me three separate tweets. “When are you gonna blog about Blue Mars, when are you gonna blog about InWorldz, when are you gonna blog about…” etc. My answer: never! How about never Merry, is that too soon for you? Never works for me.

Ok. Sigh. TWINITY. I have a problem with the name. It sounds not serious, like a cross between Tween and Twinky.  And the web site is all colorful and happy. I have a problem with that. And, it only works on Windows. Serious problem, as I only work on a Mac.

But, Merry insisted that I meet him in Twinity. So I went to the downstairs computer, and I downloaded, and I installed and I opened, and I registered and promptly misspelled my user name. The same unpronouncable user name I have been stuck with  for two years in Second Life, further borked by the fact that I am driving they keyboard on a Ford instead of my usual Fararri. I looked all around to see how I could correct this, to no avail. Contacting customer support, always a last resort, was inevitable. I sent the e-mail to customer support. Nothing happened. So I went to bed.

The next day… an e-mail from Twinity customer support with friendly, concise instructions on how to access my profile and correct my mistake. Wow!

Everything set up, Merry and I jumped into Twinity.

My avatar is relentlessly cheerful. She smiles all the time.

My avie came with a few complete outfits in inventory. The inventory is accessed easily by right clicking on the avie. Each item in inventory is shown on a large button, similar to those big-button cell phones you buy your grandparents. I could recognize all my inventory items without my bi-focals!

In the welcome area were more clothes you could take. That’s where I got the cute khaki jumpsuit I’m wearing. I’m all ready for my job at the car wash.

The first person I met was Glenn. Glenn was very friendly, but sad because he didn’t have a girlfriend. Awwww. Poor Glenn.

As I walked around, I was sent IM’s from Twinity with tasks for me to practice. Walk forward, walk backward, turn around. Cha-ching! I was rewarded with Globals, the local currency. I have to say, this is one of the most clever orientations I have every experienced. And, as you progress in Twinity, you are given rewards for accomplishing other goals: making 5 friends for example, or walking a kilometer in the Singapore sim. They are kind of like earning Girl Scout Merit Badges. By the time Merry arrived and we left the orientation area, my bank account was heavy with Globals and other loot earned by merely bumbling around and pressing various keys.

One of the rewards  I earned was an apartment. Apparently, everyone in Twinity has an apartment. Off to my apartment!

My apartment was in Berlin, and had no furniture. I was delighted to look through my inventory and see all sorts of furniture! But no, the furniture was not really in my inventory, it was in a sort of marketplace adjacent to my inventory, ready for me to buy. This is one way of buying things in Twinity, through the “Store” tab on your inventory. I bought a Chesterfield sofa, and dragged it into the apartment. We sat down. Here we are having fun in my apartment:

Soon we were joined by Monica. Who is Monica, and where did she come from? We don’t know. She just showed up in my apartment and sat down.

Soon we’d had enough fun in the apartment, so it was off to a club.

We had received several messages with invites to a certain club, so we decided to check it out. Here we are sitting in the club, having fun. The most amazing thing about the club? The mirror in the background.

Then, something strange happened. Wandering around the club, we stumbled into a bedroom. There was a bed and I decided to see what would happen if I tried to lay down on it. Then….CENSORED!  OMG! And then Merry said “OMG!”And I said “OMG make it stop!” But I couldn’t make the animation stop. Then other people came in and started “participating” in the animation. Frantically stabbing at menu choices and keyboard combinations, I finally got the animation to stop. Merry and I ran out of the bedroom to the outside area of the club, where there was dancing. We had apparently just made quiet a few new friends, because they all followed us. Merry pointed out that the lower age limit for Twinity is 13*. OMG again!

(* EDITED TO ADD – The fine folks at Twinity have clarified that “you have to be of legal age in your country of residence to become a Twinity member.” This is clearly stated in their terms of service. However, I did not have to submit any verification of my legal age to download the client, access any of the locations within Twinity, or participate in any of the activities I participated in. For the record, I am of legal age in the United States. However others may not be and you have no way of knowing this. Be aware.)

Unlike in Second Life, this dance floor had no dance balls or dance machines. Everyone did their own dance, accessed from their own animation menu. It was easy to find, and easy to use. Merry thrashed around, while I suavely did the dance from Saturday Night Fever.

Soon I realized we had been in-world for at least a half an hour, and I hadn’t done any shopping! We headed off to find something to buy. It proved quite easy to find a store with some very nice women’s clothing. As all the clothing is mesh, and it is rigged to the mesh of the avatar, it all fits perfectly and moves quite nicely with the avie. And, you can demo the clothes, trying them on only in your viewer so that only you can see them. I took off all my old clothes to put on a new shirt, and had a moment of panic realizing that I would be nekkid from the waist down! Twinity took care of the problem, making sure I automatically wore a pair of pants from my inventory. Thanks Twinity!

Merry was disappointed because, as usual, we couldn’t find any clothes for men.

Whatever. I donned my new clothing and off we went to find something that Merry could buy.

Now, all of this sounds like it is happening quite smoothly, but the truth is that I was crashing constantly. Every time we tried to teleport to a new region, I would crash. Consequently, Merry had twice the adventures that I had (really interesting ones, too) and when I came back from my latest crash, Merry had found vehicles.

They were very highly-detailed vehicles, and Merry patiently explained that the blue car was his favorite car in all the world, some sort of German something racing car with a zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz…………

After much thought and debate, he bought a motorcycle. I though it was a Moto Guzzi, but no, he said, it was actually a German thing called a (yawn) German kind of bike zzzzzzzzzzzzzzz…….

Because I had spent all my Globals on clothes, he bought me a non-Moto Guzzi too. A red one 🙂

Then we went to Miami.

Now in Second Life if you want a friend to join you in your location, you invite them to teleport to where you are. In Twinity, this is reversed. People can search for you and teleport to your location. Uninvited. This can’t be right, but there it is. When we got to Miami, somehow some of the people who had been in our X-rated adventure at the club found us, joined us, and wanted to hang around with us. So we jumped on our Moto Guzzis and raced away.

After a short time spend racing up and down the streets of South Beach, it was time for us to depart from Twinity. In about two hours we had arrived as newbies, furnished an apartment, explored clubs, made friends, had group sex, danced, shopped, and raced finely tuned German machines through Miami. Amazing good fun.

Merry’s Bit

Unlike SecondLife, Twinity seperates interior spaces from exterior. London, Berlin and the other cities are very good copies of thier respective real world counterparts which you can wander around but if you want to enter a building, you will not walk through a door but ‘teleport’ to an interior space.

To a Secondlifer or anyone using OpenSim this is a bit of a jolt, we are so used to wandering in to a club or house, that the sudden ‘building’ bar is a shock. At first I thought this was a shortcoming but now I realise that it keeps thing smoother for the user; let me explain.

A sim – think of it as an island – in secondlife can, in theory, hold one hundred avatars but as we know, more than twenty or thirty and you suffer what is called ‘lag’, a slowing down and time delay which makes the virtual world experience become ‘meh’. So if you have a successful club with thirty avatars using scripts and lots of flexi-hair, the whole sim suffers even for those avatars not dancing.

Not so with Twinity, because the interior spaces are seperate, the exteriors and other interiors are not affected so the user experiences little or no lag. Neat.

The website,, has a very well written set of tutorials which are worth reading, especially the section on content creation – making your own stuff – which is biased towards 3dMax, though other free 3d packages can be used to provide the Collada file that Twinity imports. You can also import textures and set interesting ‘modes’ for objects such as a light source, a radio (internet stream), a chair, a web browser or mirror.

Experts will want to try animations and animated objects and objects that animate the avatar in the same way pose and dancing balls do in SecondLife.

Overall I liked Twinity and enjoyed the more than one evening I have spent in there with a tiny reservation. In SecondLife and OpenSim, you can alter your avatar to look as you want and even buy your look from a store. In Twinity this doesn’t seem to be the case and though you can alter the look, it isn’t by much and everytime I try the avatar comes out more ugly that the default one you start with. Maybe I just need lessons….

One more thing and something that came up in DiJodi’s blog; the Twinity company are great. If there is one thing single thing that should draw you in, it should be the passion the company has for the product and the customer focussed way they run thier business.