Posted in Second Life

What To Do With a Second Life Subscription?

I’ve been subscribed to SL with a premium membership on and off over the time I’ve had an account here. I made my avatar back in 2004. The most recent subscription streak for me has been since I returned in March 2018.

But that may be coming to an end this summer.

What happened two years ago that brought me back to SL? They doubled the amount of land tier afforded to premium members. Since the major aspect I love about SL is owning land and decorating it, this was a huge draw that pulled me back to sub instantly.

I picked up my first parcel in a rather historical area of SL in Gandymede. Then, when my next door neighbor sold the lot right next to mine, I picked up a second lot, for twice the amount of land. You can see that pictured in the header.

Now, to own double the land meant that I paid my sub and some cash monthly on top of it. But at the time, I was paying $7.50 a month (with a quarterly sub), and grandfathered into a good weekly stipend of L$. In fact, I almost broke even on my sub from the stipend alone should I have cashed out the L$ for money — something that was the case for many, many years.

I then discovered Bento avatars and eventually Water Horse rideables. There was a fun community of folks surrounding the Water Horse product, and I learned how to make coats and accessories for the horses and unicorns. I set up a shop in the mall, and started to do fairly well at moving product.

I was pretty happy with my land setup and a creative outlet that would more than support what I wanted to do in game.

But then…

Second Life Price Hike

Last year, SL dropped the bomb on premium members that there would be a substantial price hike. They tried to pad it by saying they added more value to the sub through more groups and IMs and whatever.

I’m not a super social person in SL — as I said, land owning and creative things are my draw there. So I don’t care about the number of groups I’m in or how many IMs get capped (others might care, of course).

My quarterly sub just jumped up $10. That means that SL would cost me $40 more a year. Plus, they’re trying to phase out the quarterly sub on top of it. Monthly and yearly alone really aren’t good options.

But to further soften this blow, they allowed current members to lock in the old pricing for one more renewal. I opted to lock in a year at $72. But come July, I’m going to get hit up for $99 if I choose to sub again.

Dropping Land

The first thing I did when I saw the price hike last year was sell half my land. Since they were going to hit me up for an unexpected $72 dollars for a yearly sub (I never sub yearly to anything), I opted to drop the extra land fee. This was about $7 a month on top of the sub — so that almost came out even.

I was lucky that my neighbor bought the plot up really quickly. Sometimes when selling mainland, you can sit there and wait and wait and wait for months before someone buys. The only other option is to abandon it — you get no L$ because you didn’t sell, and then the land goes into this limbo of being owned by the Lindens until it gets parceled back out to use again.

I am waiting to see if LL will do anything to make a price increased sub worth it to me this year. So far, they haven’t. It’s February, and I have until July. However, as I noted before, selling land can take a long time to come to fruition. So, in preparation for going free to play, I sadly put the last of my land up for sale last week.

My plot cleared and up for sale:

I’m going to miss the good times we had there, but really, we haven’t been using it all that much the past year or so.

Luckily, my neighbor again snatched it up within a few days of putting it up for sale. She’s now got it rebuilt into a nice forest path. So I’m glad my plot will be enjoyable to someone else.

Same land, just with trees and a brick wall

Cashing Out for Free to Play

The second thing I did, after putting my land up for sale, was cash out a significant amount of L$ I had in my account. This turned out to be $453 worth… which they took a chunk out of in fees (oh yeah, they also upped transfer processing fees during this price hike).

So in the end, my PayPal got a nice $428 credit after all of the products I’ve sold and monthly stipends have built up over the last two years. I think that mostly pays for what the sub cost was… maybe even a bit of a profit (though that was never my intent).

Don’t let anyone tell you that L$ isn’t real money

The Future of SL for Me

I still rent out a shop at the Water Horse mall, which is a fairly reasonable weekly cost. As long as I continue to sell products that cover the cost of my rent there, I will continue to sell there. I’m not sure how long that will be.

After the redesign of the mall last year, traffic has significantly dwindled. I don’t know what all happened, but it seemed to be some kind of upset in the community… I just know there’s hardly anyone there when I visit, and there’s more shops vacant than in use now days. However, I’ve still been earning enough from shoppers to make it worth my rent there. So I will stay.

I still want a place to put down a house and sell a few kittens. So I did some searching and found a nice land rental platform at a place called Fernynook. The cost vs. the prims is acceptable. While I haven’t fully decorated just yet, I have put a house down, along with my virtual cats.

This will be enough to keep me happy for now.

Since I still have a few months left to my sub in which I have a land allotment, I decided I might as well use it. One thing I’ve wanted to look into, but haven’t had a chance to until now, are the new Linden homes.

These made a pretty big splash last year, especially since the supply didn’t meet the demand for these houses. They’re quite nice, fairly customizable, the land around has been nicely formed, and most of all, there’s a strict HOA type set of rules of what you can and cannot do with it. So no gaudy flashy floating prims all over the place allowed.

But also no shops or commerce — which is why I needed a rental somewhere else to sell my kitties.

These houses are pretty hard to get your hands on. You have to stalk the Linden Homes page and refresh, hoping that someone who currently owns a house will release it.

Well, I lucked out. Not even half an hour after I realized my land had sold, I managed to snag a new Linden Home. I haven’t fully explored the area yet — it’s on a corner lot right across the street from a forest campground that I’d like to ride through one day.

I’ve done a little bit of decorating with it, and I’m happy with the location and how the neighborhood looks. But I’ll be honest — I was hyped about these houses last summer. Now that I have one, I’m going to be very seriously weighing whether my sub is going to be worth this house… as it’s the only thing I will lose when I go free to play.

Right now, as nice as the house is, it’s just not going to be enough. I can release the house with no pain on my part since it’s not like land that you have to buy and sell — Linden Homes are free to your account as long as you have the land allotment to use on them. If I ever wanted to sub again, I can just pick up another house after I hunt one down.

I’m really sad that it’s come to this, to be honest. I know there are hard working people in SL, like the Moles who are diligent in bringing out new Linden Homes. I know that they’ve continued to try to improve SL with things like bakes on mesh and animesh releases.

But for a rather aged and often laggy system, I’m having a hard time justifying a $30-$40 price hike each year. Especially given that I pay a sub for FFXIV, and that’s not going anywhere. On top of things like Netflix, etc…

Now, if they surprise my by July with something that absolutely delights me, I might still reconsider. But as of this time, I’m on a track to drop my sub come this summer, and just keep my shop and rental platform with the L$ that I still have stowed away from selling my land. That will keep me doing well enough for quite a while.

Posted in Fiddle, Fiddle Resources and Tools, Learning to Play Fiddle

Warming Up For Fiddle Practice

Like when you do any exercise, warming up for fiddle practice is beneficial.

Yesterday, Violinspiration released a new video titled The Most Effective Warm Up for Beginner Violinists. Much of this I’d learned through the lessons at her violin academy, but I didn’t really think of it as a warm up, so to speak. Until now.

This video goes into a lot of detail, even showing how to play a scale and demonstrating the bowing exercises. But to summarize, she touches on scales, long bowing, slurs and bowing across strings. She even suggests the following scales for beginners:

  • A Major 1 Octave
  • D Major 1 Octave
  • G Major 2 Octaves
  • C Major 1 Octave

I’m quite pleased because I started adding these scales to my practice before Christmas. So I have part of the warm-up already built into my weekly focus! I think the rest of her advice is very good, so I will be adding more bowing exercises and slurs to my focus, and including a warm-up section starting next week!

Posted in Gaming, Nintendo Switch

Organizing My Switch Backlog with Deku Deals

One of my goals for this year was to find a way to organize my Switch backlog, which is getting quite large now. If I know what I’ve bought, and can see it at a glance, then I can remove games from my Switch that I’m not currently playing, and download them later when I’m ready to do so.

I considered making a spreadsheet to do this, and it was even part of last month’s goals. But I never quite got around to doing it. Until now.

I found an organizational tool in the most unlikely of places — a website called Deku Deals.

Now, I’ve been subscribed to Deku Deals for a long while now, and mostly used it as a way to see what’s on sale in the the eShop. But what I didn’t know is that if you have an account there, you can not only set up a wishlist, but you can create a collection of games that you already own.

I’m still working on setting mine up, but here’s my collection page if you’re interested!

It’s a little bit like Steam in that you can choose to mark a game as completed, currently playing, want to play or even abandoned. You can also indicate which games you have physical vs. digital.

As you’ve seen above, you can copy the link to your collection and share it out.

Not only that, but you get a lot of information about individual games on their pages.

This includes where to buy it, the price history, Metacritic scores, How Long to Beat, screenshots, trailers, and pretty much anything you’d need to make a choice on whether the game is worth picking up.

So what used to be something I’d use just to watch sales, is now going to be my backlog organizer for the Switch. I’m really stoked to be able to find something much better than a spreadsheet for this!

Posted in Fiddle, Just Fiddling

Taking a Step back – Playing WIthin Your Skill Level

Last week, I took a step back and had a hard, long look at my practice.

While on one hand, I know that practice should not always be easy, I started to really think about the songs I was trying to polish up. I tend to always finish a session with “Well, it’s not perfect, but will keep working on it.” But never truly feeling I’ve got the song sounding pretty good.

Some of this was due to the fact that I got Cripple Creek as a random practice tune review one day the previous week. I also got O, Holy Night one of those days, too.

The idea behind having a tune review is that you’re supposed to be touching on tunes you already know. Just to keep in practice with them.

But when I ran across these two tunes – both that were always difficult for me to play – I’d either forgotten most of them, or I played them so poorly, that most of my time during that practice went to the frustration of trying to relearn what I thought I already knew. And even then, I still didn’t play either song anywhere near satisfaction.

That shouldn’t be the case. A review is a review. The learning part should be focused on the newer tunes, not things you were supposed to already know.

So this told me something: I previously didn’t really learn these two songs very well. And that’s frustrating, especially in the case of O, Holy Night, because I practiced that for two months before I thought I knew it well enough to put on the review list.

Cripple Creek is a song I was supposed to have learned some time last fall. But apparently, I didn’t. So I chose to put Cripple Creek as the tune review for every day last week in attempt to try to improve it. Again… that’s not what review is really supposed to be about.

Halfway through the week, I’d improved somewhat, and remembered the song a lot better. However, it was obvious that it would take a lot more than a week of practice to get it sounding like it should.

This just causes frustration. It’s easy to start blaming yourself, or your bow hold, or any number of things, when you can’t quite “get it.” I did all of these things for a bit… then I took a step back and had a realization.

Playing Within Your Skill Level

I’m over a year into learning to play fiddle. As an adult, my mindset is that I should be able to pick up a song, and sound good (quickly). But the reality is, I can practice until I’m blue in the face, but if a song is outside of my skill level, it’s going to take all that much more time to make it sound good.

Is it possible? Yes.

Am I that passionate about Cripple Creek that I want to set everything else aside to master that song in particular?

Not really.

It was just one of a list of tunes that was in the American Fiddle Method as I worked through it. But I have no burning love for it – it’a good tune, don’t get me wrong, but you know what I’m saying.

I’m not willing to sacrifice my progress in everything else… because sitting here working on mastering one song that’s out of my skill range is going to require that kind of dedication and time. I’m doing this for the fun of it, and while practice should challenge, I shouldn’t be struggling this much.

In fact, the newest video by Julia at Violinspiration included this in her tips for looking more professional of a player than you actually are. Take slow, small steps, and work up to harder pieces.

Finding a Comfortable Level

So this week, I dialed it back some. It helped that I also decided to jump in and try a new learning track made just for Irish fiddle. I wish I’d found this earlier, because I think I would have been a happier fiddler last year if I had!

Now, I don’t need Twinkle level difficulty. I am way past that. But, I need something between that and the level of mastery demanded from the AFM tunes.

Thankfully, this school started with Maggie in the Woods, which I feel is just about the right level of difficulty for me. I picked up the tune quickly, in a few days had it memorized, and now I’m working on starting to get comfortable with it.

Overall, I feel a whole lot better about my sound and my practice sessions since I dialed it back. And when I feel better about practice, and like what I’m playing, that means I’ll stick to my practice more consistently. And, likely, I’ll hopefully get more out of my practice than being frustrated with my sound and “fixing it tomorrow.”

I’m very glad that I took the time to think about what was going wrong with my practice and progress. I just figured, “It’s the next song in the series, so I should be able to play it.” That’s not always the case.

When you’re learning on your own, you have to be your own teacher. And part of being a teacher is recognizing when the student is overreaching to a point that it’s detrimental. For me, I guess it’s one of those trial-by-error things.

I still learned a lot, either way, so nothing was lost.

-Image Credit-

Posted in Fiddle, Fiddle Progress Report

February Fiddle Progress Report

Starting this month, I’m doing Progress Reports a little differently.

Since I’ve hit my year mark last month, I really don’t feel like there’s a need to keep counting the months the way I did last year. It’s a little odd to be like: “One Year, One Month.” But I still want to sit down and think about things each month on the 15th like I’ve made a habit to.

The Month In Review

First of all, I’ve stuck to my Fiddle Focus practice plans each week, and I feel like it’s a huge improvement to structure my practice time. I cover more during practice. I look at the clock less — since the mindset is no longer “I need to practice for 30 mins,” but rather “I need to complete as many things as I can on my focus list – all of them, if possible.” And I can set aside a week to really focus on a tune if I feel I need to do better with it.

My consistency with practice has been really good, especially since the beginning of February. I’ve promised myself a little reward at the end of this month if I don’t miss a day of practice — not quite sure what it will be yet. I’m actually looking into programs that can turn simple sheet music into MIDI, because it helps me to be able to hear a song along with trying to read sheet music. Maybe that’s what I’ll pick up.

I’ve gone back to reviewing reading notation using EEI again. This week focused on the D string, which is the very first string in that method. Next week, I’ll add another. I’m remembering it fairly well – at least on one string – and I feel like I’ll be able to pick it up again if I keep setting aside time to focus on it.

I finally added the random scale generator on my Tune List this month! I think even if I shake up my practice focus, I’ll still be working on these scales.

When Is Challenge Too Much?

Now here’s the tricky part. In returning to the old exercises in EEI, I’ve learned that I play them quite well. I mean, they even sound pretty good. Especially compared to my attempts at some of the tunes I’ve floundered and struggled with in AFM and at Bluegrass Daddy.

I love Bluegrass Daddy, don’t get me wrong, especially when there’s a random tune I suddenly wanted to learn, and he has a lesson just for it! It also turned out that As the Deer was a pretty simple tune to learn, and I’ve made more progress on it than other tunes I had practiced for weeks before. But it’s hard to tell how difficult one of the “beginner” tunes is there until you try it. As the Deer has been great, while O Holy Night is still a terror. XD

I’m starting to recognize one thing: Maybe I’ve been pushing myself to play songs that are beyond my ability range. And because of that, I’m struggling to get a decent sound, even half a year after starting to work on them.

Back when put the fiddle down for a few months, I returned (in August I believe) using the American Fiddle Method. I did this mostly because I’d paid for an account there – you have to pay for a three month block – and it felt like a waste to never have used it.

In retrospect, it was a good thing because it got me into playing “fiddle music.” I learned about the A Part and the B Part. I learned how to memorize a tune. I learned quite a bit, and I think the method is great!

BUT.

I also think I was biting off more than I could chew. I jumped from EEI, which was quite simple exercises, to full on fiddle songs. And I lamented day after day how I did a little better, but just couldn’t get a good sound. Honestly, that hasn’t changed in all these months.

I can play Cripple Creek (sometimes), Angelina Baker, and Cindy. But I don’t play them well, especially not at speed.

You might say, well, it’s good to challenge yourself! And that’s true. You don’t want to only play things that are easy for you. But there comes a time that you have to be real with yourself and realize you don’t have the basic foundations down well enough to tackle the challenges you’re throwing yourself.

Focus on Foundation

That’s part of the reason I was drawn to Julia’s Violin Academy. I knew I needed things like scales and arpeggios, but didn’t know where to start. I have learned so much from this method – including structuring my practice! – and those foundations have been very worthwhile to me.

However, JVA is also pricey at nearly $40 a month. And a lot of the benefits that come with this online school are the social interactions through the Facebook group. There are live lessons, practice sprints and group practice. If you’re involved in the community, then the price may be well worth it.

This is great if you have the courage to get on a webcam (which I don’t even own one!) and interact with a group. But I’m not one of those people who can (I might be able to do one-on-one but not a group). Not to mention, often things happen when I’m at work, or at odd hours, since they are accommodating people world-wide.

So while the online instruction is really good, I’m starting to consider something less costly. Especially since you can’t really download the videos, and there’s no play along MP3 tracks like at other sites. They do provide PDFs of each section, but I need to hear things as well as look at them. And not having at least a backing track or a MP3 download is difficult – I was spoiled by EEI.

Irish Fiddle Basics – Shifting Methods

All of that background just to lead up to this announcement! Sometime this past week, I discovered a set of online lessons for the beginner level specifically for Irish fiddle at the Online Academy of Irish Music. This is EXACTLY what I’ve been looking for!

There’s a 14 day free trial to see if it’s what I hope it is. Not only that, but for $20 a month, you get unlimited access to all the academy, which includes many more instruments!

I do own a mandolin, guitar and tin whistle. So maybe one day I could dabble in some of those classes, too.

But the coolest thing is that there’s fiddle classes beyond just the basic.

So this would likely take me all through my progression… if I ever could reach intermediate, of course!

I watched a sample video, and was impressed at the string overlay they use on the left hand side. I like that they provide the notation letters on the strings, which helps reinforce my desire to learn not just by ear but by note.

And, to top it off, sheet music and MP3s are there to download.

I’m really excited about diving into this new method. I’m going to start the trial probably tomorrow, just to look around and start structuring next week’s Fiddle Focus around these new lessons. For now, I’ll see out my current Fiddle Focus. But next week, I hope I’ll finally be jumping into the genre that I’ve wanted to from the start!

Posted in FFXIV, Gaming, MMORPGs

FFXIV: Just Little Things – Hildibrand & BLU

After finishing up everything for my Mogtome runs earlier this month, I’ve been taking a bit of a break from dungeons and raids in FFXIV. I know that things will start back up next week when the new patch drops, and new tome farming is often a tiring thing for me. So I’m resting while I can.

One thing I have been doing is clearing out little odds and ends that I’ve been meaning to get around to, but tend to forget about. I’ve checked off a few job quests on an alt, and have finally finished the ARR section of Hildibrand for Amon. Pictured above – the Manderville dance.

Amoon and I found that it wasn’t very difficult at all to unsync the trials to complete all that. I soloed the first Greg fight without issue, but decided I might need some assistance with Dragon’s Neck and Battle in the Big Keep. We took both down without much issue at level 80.

I do plan on working through the rest of the Hildibrand quests, and hopefully not putting them off as long as I did the first set!

The other thing I started working on again was Amon’s BLU mage. A bunch of BLU content came out last patch, and I haven’t made a move to touch it. Sadly, I haven’t even started leveling BLU on my main, either.

When I picked up where I left off on Amon, he was level 50, but I’d never finished the last quest. This requires you to beat Dirty Rotten Azulmagia – #25 at the Masked Carnivale. Considering I’ve hardly touched that content, and have only beat the first two fights in there, I had a lot of catching up to do.

This fight isn’t that terribly hard when it comes to the skills you need – I only used like 4 or 5 skills at the most. The mechanics are pretty straight forward — I understood what I needed to do, it was just a matter of doing it. There’s a lot going on and if you don’t have a proper strategy, you’re going to die pretty quickly in the third stage.

I read up on the fight on this page, but I didn’t use the skills he suggested. It seemed a bit overcomplicated, though I’m sure it could work just fine. Instead, I took what I learned from that article and used what I watched in this video.

Really, all you need is Water Canon, Drill Canon and Loom to get out of meteors. Just gotta stay aware of when he’s immune to magic or physical attacks, and once you’ve seen how to escape the meteors, it’s not too terrible to complete.

That being said, it took me my fair share of attempts to get it done. Probably about 10 tries.

But it is done, and I got a nifty BLU cane glamour. As well as the ability to head into the level 50+ job quests, which is what I really wanted to unlock.

I’ve already gathered a number of spells out in the field, so it’s just a matter of leveling and snagging what I can. Hopefully I can poke Syn and Amoon to run some unsynced dungeons for more, because I know Amoon would want to cap some of the new skills, too.

I’d like to get this finished before the patch drops, but we’ll see how motivated I feel about getting this done. I do enjoy BLU, but I have to be in a specific mood to work at grinding levels on the overworld. I’m almost level 51 from capping the few spells I have, so hopefully it won’t be too bad.

Posted in Fiddle, Just Fiddling

The “Hill” Special Steel E String

When it comes to strings, it seems fiddle players are always on the lookout for that perfect E string in particular. In fact, it’s not unusual to switch out the E string from whatever set they’re using for one that they enjoy the sound and playability of most.

I still don’t have the ear that a more advanced player does when it comes to sound and color. But I did recognize that the E on my Fiddlerman Master seemed to be really shrill to me.

I’m not absolutely certain what strings the instrument came with – Fiddlerman says they’re “whichever strings sound better on the specific violin (most commonly Kaplan Amo or Thomastik Vision).” But I’m totally down for experimenting with other strings going forward.

I’m a member of several fiddle and violin groups on Facebook, and someone was discussing having a shrill sounding E string. Several folks piped up and said they really love the Hill Special Steel E string in particular. And looking at reviews on Amazon, people really liked it there, too.

I checked out the price – it was only $6.38 + shipping at Amazon (no Prime option). I’ve seen it cheaper at places like Southwest strings – $4.89 + shipping – but overall, it’s an inexpensive string no matter where you get it. So I figured I had nothing to lose by trying it.

I’ve been using it for about a week now. Again, I don’t have the developed ear that more veteran players do, but I do feel like it’s fixed the shrillness issue that used to make me cringe when playing scales along with the playback videos. I spent time breaking it it the first few days – it really settled and stretched quickly, but that could be my fiddle helping it out, too.

Overall, it’s a nice E string for a good price. I might poke around to see what others sound like, but I’m content with the sound of this one. Far better than the shrill I had before!

Posted in FFXIV, Gaming

FFXIV: Patch 5.2 – Echoes of a Fallen Star Trailer

Today’s Live Letter brought us the trailer for the upcoming patch! There’s a lot going on in this trailer and I admit that I’m a bit confused at all of this — Yoshi-P did acknowledge that it won’t all make a lot of sense because there’s just so much story to this patch, they couldn’t put most of it in here (of course).

I’ve been reading the Live Letter transcripts – not done quite yet – and trying to sort through everything they covered in it. The one thing I do know is I need that Serpent of Ronka mount!