Tuesday, August 30, 2011

NOAA Island - Virtual Weather

I first reported on NOAA Island in March 2008 for Second Life Newspaper, set up by the The National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration, the government agency in charge of research of the oceans and weather. The Meteroa sim, about a year old at the time, was interesting then, and three years later still has much to offer those wanting to know a little more about meteorology and oceanography.

To get there, just type "Meteora" on your map and teleport over. The sim will automatically place you in the entry point. Just north of the entrance is the Real-Time Weather map. A map of the United States (save Alaska and Hawaii) shows the temperature and cloud cover & rain over the country. The map is not static, but updated as conditions change about every eight minutes, the data recieved by NOAA.

South of the Weather Map is Science on a Sphere, which contains a hologrpahic display sphere viewed from inside. To the east is the Tsunami simulator. Activating it, a siren goes off, and under the surface the ocean floor shakes. This is followed by the water drawing away from the beach, then a massive wave crashing down and wrecking the nearby buildings. This is probably one of the more entertaining places on the island, and I've seen at least one youtube poking fun at it.

To the south is the Sea Life area, where one can take a sub to observe plant and animal life, a hydrothermic vent, and a cave. To see inside the cave though, you need to either exit the sub or pan around in. The southwest corner of the island has the glacier simulator. Activating it, the hillside (and anyone standing on it) get encased in ice, and the water level nearby drops.

The northwest part of the map has the Hurricane Plane Ride and the Weather Balloons. By grabbing a balloon, or getting on the Orion hurricane hunter plane and taking off, one can fly up to see the hurricane high up in the air near the island (or you could just fly up their on your own).

Both the submarine and hurricane plane can be quirky. The first time I used the plane, somehow it got it’s tail caught in the hangar and would not move further. When I tried it more recently, it took off normally, then in mid-flight near the hurricane, it vanished, leaving yours truly to free-fall into the water below. The sub was stuck in the docks when I got there, so couldn’t use those either.

What has changed since March 2008 is the sim now has some neighbors. North of Weather Island, one can take a look at an Alaskan port and go on a virtual crab fishing trip. To the west is Okeanos, or NOAA Second Island. There, one can go on a survey vessel, clean on oil spill, study algae blooms, and look at coral. There was also an archeology dig. Curiously, there were some purple "streamers" nearby, but I didn't find out what they were for. South of Okeanos is the Second Earth sim, which offers a gigantic globe.

To the east of Meteora is Energy Island, which had what looked like a supercollider wraped around the place. Strangely, the Island was blocked from entry. There was, however, a smaller floating island overhead with a few exhibits. Why the main island would be blocked to most if the purpose of the place is education is unclear (though probably one can work in a joke about government agencies).

Despite those small flaws, the NOAA region can only be considered first class, even after a few years. It is a must-see for any Second Life resident even remotely interested in science.

To get there, head to Meteora (176, 160, 27). You can also find it in the Destination Guide.

Bixyl Shuftan

Friday, August 26, 2011

Mars Institute Island and the SEEDS Project

Mars Institute Island is a work in progress, just like the real-life Mars exploration project. The Second Life site is located at Mars Institute (127, 128, 27). It’s a good place to visit if you are in the mood to see a serious rendition of exploration of the Red Planet. Modular buildings are being constructed for study, lectures, work, and living. The Spartan buildings, with their tinted violet windows and airlock doors, have a genuine feel to them. A clear glass building is an auditorium. The barren, rocky terrain looks authentic, too.

According to its notecard, the Mars Institute was created to establish an independent nonprofit organization whose purpose is to advance the scientific study and exploration of Mars. They emphasize high quality, peer-reviewed research and share their knowledge and experiences of Mars exploration with students and the general public worldwide. The RL Mars Institute is found on the web at http://www.marsinstitute.info/ .

The Second Life site is owned by Kenji Aero, and many of the structures have been developed by Selenus Bracken. According to his profile, Selenus is a RL British scientist who is living in Canada. The real-life Mars Institute has been incorporated as a non-profit corporation in both the U.S. and Canada. It was founded by many scientists, including Marc Boucher, Charles Cockell, Pascal Lee, Stephen Braham and others.

This site has great potential, especially since NASA is planning to launch an exploration of Mars later this year. The RL landing on Mars is expected in August, 2012. A six-wheeled rover, Curiosity, will be used to explore and gather rocks. One can easily imagine a SL version of Curiosity.

The site next to the Mars Institute is the SEEDS Project, located at The SEEDS project, EDAKent (79, 216, 24). This site continues the space exploration theme, but its emphasis is on sustainable communities in space. The site has crops, a fish farm, duckweed and algae ponds, and a floating greenhouse.

Through the use of notecards and other devises, the site asks important questions about how people will be able to live and thrive in remote space stations. It raises social and psychological issues, as well as similarities and differences between space colonies and small communes.

Together, the Mars Institute and the SEEDS Project offer Second Life residents an informative and interesting way to learn about space exploration.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

The 8-Bit Area

A few weeks ago, I got hungry for cleaning out my landmarks folder and went to visit some of the oldest landmarks I had to see if they were still up and running. One of these places was the "8 Bit Area", over in the Leiter sim. Originally it was a place where you could walk around in a floating 8-bit land, complete with [?] Blocks, coins to pick up, a chain chomp bouncing around, and a small store with various 8-bit items inside. There was even a "death" function, where if you fell off into the water, or got crushed by a Thwomp, you'd "die" and thus get teleported home. Anyone got a 1-Up handy?

So on this trip, I found that the place had been regulated to "archive" status. No longer active and down what appeared to be about half its land, now there was a "landmark block" sitting in front of the store. This led to a place called Electrobit City, on the Electrobit City sim.

Teleporting there, it was quite the surprise. Decked out with a Super Nintendo (well, Famicom) as its centerpiece, the place has what appears to be a club inside it, and various nooks and crannies to explore. Wandering around, I found what seemed to be a tutorial "pole" that when touched, created a little "buddy" that showed you around the place and explain a couple of things to do (like climb the pole, or stand in certain areas to make "!" symbols appear that you can click on).

Then, there was the "VR Node" in the corner. Clicking on the picture on its side activated it, and when the "!" appeared to click on, I was whisked away to a REAL 8-Bit area. There are many pipes to jump into and around (some with "!" you can click on to go from one pipe to another)... there are Goombas to squish, Thwomps to avoid, coins to collect. If you're hit by a Thwomp it sends you down a long shaft of death where you're sent back outside to the front of the Famicom at the start of the sim.

I'll say this right now. Five Dragon Hoards out of five, immediately. The effort put into this really shows and there are a lot of things to see and do. I'd known the original creators had been wanting to do a LOT with the original 8-bit area up in Leiter but after so many years of being in "stasis", I'd thought the place abandoned. It's really good to see that it was not given up on and that something like this now exists on the grid... with a lot more to come, I expect. There are two "lands" right now, but I figure there will be more as time progresses.

I'm currently in the process of tracking down the creators for an interview, and when I have it, I'll post it here.

Xymbers Slade

Friday, August 19, 2011

Railway Sidetrip

Since I wrote about the SLRR before I finished the route I thought I should take you a little farther. I decided to check out the “other” rails. I took my hobo engine to the GLSR to see the sims there. The engine passes along very nicely I was happy to find. At the end of the line I saw a sign for a ferry and there it was, arriving.

I hopped off the engine to take the ferry across the channel for a new adventure. Again, I was sidetracked by the sight of huge working oil rig sitting in the middle of the channel. Since the ferry stopped there for 60 seconds I decided to debark and check it out. I discovered that this ANWR rig is pumping out the basis of Second Life! I watched while prims came tumbling out and landed on a conveyer belt and down a holding place to wait for distribution when you need one.

After looking around for a while I went back down to wait for the ferry. You would think they could put a bench there at the waiting area. The ferry did not appear so I teleported back to origin and started over. I crossed the ANWR channel and landed at Cecropia on the Atoll. It was an interesting and enlightening side trip.

Wondering about that ANWR rig, I searched and found the answer in video you might like to see. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=df--_BTXdK8 .You can also find more about the rig in the wiki. I plan to continue my journey and let you know about more of my adventures.

Gemma Cleanslate

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Traveling back to Steelhead Shanghai

If you’re over 18 and looking for an unusual SL site to visit, take a trip to Steelhead Shanghai, an 1890’s Chinatown community located along the Pacific Northwest coast. The notecard describes Steelhead Shanghai as a community “built up by the oriental railroad workers of the old country. The town is darker than the rest of its beautiful neighboring cities, an ever present fog rolls under the streets over the water, junk boats litter the bay as a few merchants with heavily loaded small boats push their way through the water. Some boats are packed with fresh fruit to sell, others have more... nefarious dealings.”

I started my journey at Luminous Designs Gardens, located at Steelhead Shanghai (71, 70, 27). The garden is near a rushing creek, and wind chimes add to the ambiance. Luminous Designs, which can be reached from the gardens by either steep steps or a teleporter, offers interesting clothes and accessories for ladies and gents.

If shopping isn’t on your list of tourist activities, stay on the garden level and walk around the harbor area. Steelhead Shanghai is a mix of a working class Asian, Steampunk fun, and adult amusements. Zoning didn’t exist in the 1890s, which allows for a colorful, eclectic mix of buildings and enterprises on this site.

Near the gardens is the tranquil and sophisticated Tokaido Art Gallery, located at Steelhead Shanghai (42, 75, 29) Currently it is featuring "Bridge from Afar: Images of Old Tokyo and Kyoto", which are images and photographs by Steadman Kondor. In the front of the gallery, you can enjoy a cup of green tea as you listen to the narration. Kondor has also created original art depicting traditional and modern Japan that you can view. In the back room you can relax and watch Japanese dance performances.

From the Gallery, walk back toward the gardens and descend the bridge into Oriental Steampunk to tour the Steelhead Cannery. Hold your nose -- the table of salmon filets smells a bit, but they will taste yummy. Go into the cannery to see the steam driven conveyor belt and stacks of canned salmon. Outside the cannery you can pick up a free cold one, courtesy of Sylva's Animation Factory, to help wash down the fishy odor.

This area is clearly a working man's neighborhood. The streets are narrow and everything looks more than a little sinister. Follow the wooden planks behind the Cannery, and you'll come to a hog pen. Continue around the corner to find more workers housing and machinery. If you’re mechanically inclined, you can work a grinder in one carpenter’s shop. Barges are tied up here, and for $125L you can buy a flatbed barge of your own. But the area isn’t all work. You and your friends can play a game of Mahjong at Steelhead Shanghai (51, 221, 23).

Nearby is Shamian Alley & Shanghai Boardwalk, Steelhead Shanghai (50, 187, 23). This store sells beds, animations, and a most interesting device, Dr. Quicksand's Electro- Massage machine. This shop has adult content, so tourist beware. But for the curious adventurer, Dr. Quicksand’s device is very, shall we say, stimulating. Further down the Alley is the Shanghai Trading Company, where you can find oriental furniture, rugs, and wall hangings.

A large shrine sits in the harbor, reachable by bridges that link the different areas. There are notecards and information about Steelhead Shanghai here. The Shrine can be rented for special events, too. Contact Krystine Qinan for more information. Be sure to ring the Prosperity Bell for good luck!

The Shanghai Free Market is a site for the citizens of Steelhead to sell their wares, located at Shanghai free Market, Steelhead Shanghai (198, 75, 27). Open stalls are set out in rows, and a stage area is off to the side for local musicians to perform. The market looks like a dangerous place to be after dark, and I was glad I visited during the day.

Watch your step around the harbor area of Shanghai. Boards are rotted and the area appears to be a bit on the wild and dangerous side. I nearly turned back when I turned a corner and walked into a beautifully maintained Zen garden. A sweet cat named Beatrice seemed content and happy here. Rows of nicely maintained rooms surround the gardens and a koi pond.

Down on the harbor, I found a 7Seas fishing spot, located at Steelhead Shanghai (196, 132, 21). I wouldn’t want to eat any fish that came from this part of the harbor, but I caught a rare white jellyfish that I’ll keep as a souvenir. Not that I will need a reminder. Steelhead Shanghai is such an unusual concept, and so perfectly implemented, that I will never forget my visit.

Grey Lupindo

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Seasons of the Witch

Recently I traveled to the Witches Forest to view an art exhibit called Seasons of the Witch. The pieces promised to "explore the soul and spiritual side of life, whether it be 'real life' or 'second life'." The sim is dedicated to the ancient art of Wicca, or "white magic."

Arriving at the TP point, I encountered a dimly lit gallery lined with various art work. In the center was a pavilion of sorts with a bright white cone of light shining straight up. Taking time to rez, I slowly made my way through the exhibit. In the pavilion was a poster depicting the Wiccan pentacle. This explains the various elements of the "religion." These five elements are invoked during many magical rituals, notably when consecrating a magic circle. The five elements are Air, Fire, Water and Earth, plus Aether (or Spirit), which unites the other four elements.

Most of the art spoke to the deeper, inner meanings of life. Most all featured moving imagery with printed inspirational words which we all can live by, whether Wiccan or not.

Following the path, I found a quite magical place filled with beauty and nature. I followed the signs for the Witches Fountain which led me to a sparkling fountain in the midst of a shopping area with kiosks lining the pathway. This is the most commercial aspect of the sim I quickly discovered.

Continuing in my journey through this strange and mystical place, I began following signs for the Witches Mountain. Along the way, I encountered many beautiful sights filled with spectacular color. The path seemed endless but I trudged onward. I finally arrived at a large volcanic void which seemed to be above the entire gallery and kiosks. The view was amazing and nearby was a mountain lake with a lone duck swimming in it.

As I have always been drawn to the idea of Wicca, this was time well spent. I'm sure all will enjoy the meaningful art and amazing, colorful landscape.

Shellie Sands

Monday, August 8, 2011

Riding the Rails - the Second Life RailRoad

How many of you have taken the SL railroad ride? I knew there was a railway but have never understood the length of the ride on Heterocera Atoll continent. I was amazed to find that the rail route covers 80 regions in Second Life with offshoots from the main line.

The railway has been around since 2005. The complete history of the railway is deliniated in the wiki if you would like to read about it all. http://wiki.secondlife.com/wiki/Second_Life_Railroad/SLRR_History. I found it interesting that the railway began as a means of transport when there were no direct teleports.

I went to the Tuliptree Station and picked up a free engine and set out on my adventure. What fun. At some stations you can rezz your own engine near the track, and it will find the track by itself. Then you become the engineer and take off to ride the tracks as far as you want. Blow the whistle! Ring the bell!! Speed up the train!

As you ride along you will pass many places to stop and visit if you like. As it meanders hrough the sims, you will see some lovely venues: fields of wheat, horse farms, skyboxes, industrial areas, so, so many scenes. I stopped off at some of the sites, art galleries, shops, and Stations. I read somewhere that the station designs were a result of a building contest.

At Hobo Station I ran into a friend, Douglas Runningbear, who hosts fishing contests. He has lived at Hobo infohub "forever" he said, and he sees trains passing and told me there was a museum nearby. I tried to locate it but could not, so plan to go back to search again when I have time. However. I did find a delightful Steam Train museum in …..another sim ,with information about the history of the early steam engines, some small models and some large steam belching engines.

At the Bhaga Station I found a marvelous building housing the S&O Bessemer Steel Company with a nearby round house of trains switching rails. The place is amazing with cargo being unloaded and put into containers for transport by truck. There is a ferry ride back to Tuliptree, but I did not catch it. It is an amazing tour. I cannot tell you all that I saw. It would take a book! If you are an adventurer, I think you should take this trip, perhaps a little at a time.

You can pick up the landmarks of the SLRR at Tuliptree, where you will find the headquarters of the Railway Consortium, your first stop.The Virtual Railway Consortium is a non profit SL railway related group of train enthusiasts who work closely with the Linden Lab on the Second Life railways. Their website explains their vision in Second Life: http://www.virtualrailwayconsortium.org/. If you have a sim and wish to have a railroad on it you can find guidance for building your own on this website too. It is here at Tuliptree that you will find the information and also your free engine.

No, I have not completed the ride. It will take me more time. I thought I should write the story before I finished or it will be weeks before it gets to the paper.

Well, if you are looking for a long term project, keep it in mind. You can do a little each week and sometime in the future you will have traversed the whole continent! Then you can move on to the GLSR on the Continent of Sansera and to the ONSR, where you will need winter clothes! Bring skis too! First try SLRR beginning here.

See you on the tracks! Tuliptree (152, 155, 31)

Gemma Cleanslate