Monday, July 30, 2012

A Tuscan Summer

         If you’re looking for a romantic vacation at an Italian villa, visit “A Tuscan Summer” at Cap Estel (13, 16, 28).   This site is another wonderful creation by Maurice Messmer, who is known for his beautiful landscape destinations.     His other creations include Cap Estel Goes Safari, reviewed on February 21, 2011, and Cap Estel Natural Lake Park, reviewed on November 24, 2010.   This time he has re-created the Tuscany region of Italy, a RL area known for its beautiful landscapes, villas, and artistic history.

At the SL entry point, a meandering path leads you past golden grasses and grazing Blackface sheep.   Be careful where you walk--the sheep and donkeys use the path, too.     Where the path split, I chose to follow it up the hill.   Either way makes for a beautiful journey since the path loops around the site.

Take your time at this destination because a Tuscan summer is made for strolling.   The lush landscape is filled with wildflowers, lavender, poppies, and a vineyard.   Bales of hay dot the hillside.  In fact, the bales are so big you can sit, lean, and even hide behind them.    Mountains with fog covered valleys are visible on the horizon.     You can hear the sounds of summer birds and insects, too.  

The highlight of the site is the grand Tuscan villa at the top of the hill.  Polished marble and Italian art combine to create the perfect ambiance.   Messmer has provided every comfort for his guests.   Inside are complimentary appetizers and drinks, including fine wines.     Chairs surround the fireplace, and there’s a grand piano to play.    Three terraces extend off of the main villa, all of which have great views of the countryside.  One terrace has chairs and a table where you can relax with a friend.  

At the doorway there is a guest book that you can sign as you enter or leave.  On the day I visited, over 168 residents had already left comments about the villa.  Many residents thanked Messmer for creating and opening the site to all of SL.      

RL Italy is known for its fountains, and SL Tuscany has two.   The formal one contains a reflecting pool, stately topiary, and the Sacred Sisters Wishing Well Fountain.   On the other side of the villa is the Gargoyle Wishing Well.   This informal area has a picnic blanket and goodie basket available for couples who want to linger.              

Another romantic area can be found at the bottom of the hill behind the villa.   There is a patio for dancing and a nearby stone ruin to explore and enjoy.   The ruin is situated on the coast so watch out for the sea gulls.   The sounds of the crashing surf, however, are wonderfully relaxing.  

            A Tuscan Summer feels so real I expect to meet Michelangelo or Leonardo da Vinci on my next visit.

Grey Lupindo

Thursday, July 26, 2012

La Plaza at Glendale Community College

One of the things I love about SL is its ability to expand the reach of the real-life world.  Glendale Community College, a small college located in a suburb of Phoenix, is using SL in just that way.  It is reaching far beyond its geographical limits through its facility at Mountain Preserve, GCCAz (74, 159, 34). 
 There are two parts to the SL Glendale Community College.  The Mountain Preserve site is a typical student center with a bookstore, coffee bar, and some comfortable seats for crashing and studying.   The Bookstore has some freebies to help newcomers, such as skins, shoes, hats, and other items.  There may even be a few things that older residents have missed.  I picked up a small stack of books for $5L to make my study look like I use it.
Outside, the area is a restful retreat.  It has a nice fountain, flower gardens, and a great ocean view.   There are a few other buildings that may be used as classrooms, too.  The large Communications Lab was locked, but there were candles burning inside, and it was nicely decorated.   
On the beach was Mariposa Oh's Writing Pen.  The Writing Pen is the creation of one of the real-life educators at Glendale Community College.   It’s a fun place to get inspired to write.  Colorful pencils form a fence around the patio that keeps the student writers from diving into the water for a dip with the dolphins.   Mariposa Oh has been a SL resident since 2007. 

The second part of the college is an interactive Spanish village, located at La Plaza, GCCAz (65, 90, 24).   La Plaza is the creation of SL resident Calisto Encinal, who is James T. Abraham, Ph.D.  in real-life.  His profile states that Dr. Abraham is a professor of Spanish at the RL Glendale Community College.         
The Plaza is a colorful, fun place to practice Spanish or simply enjoy the culture.  In the center of the Plaza you can pick up a HUD to help with all of the features of La Plaza.  The colorful buildings are based on the types of shops that would be found in a typical Mexican city like San Miguel de Allende.  There’s a pharmacy, a restaurant, a market, a bank, and a hotel.  In each location there are signs that give out information or let you play learning games with the Spanish vocabulary.     I thought the pharmacy was the most difficult to use because the vocabulary of symptoms and illnesses is hard.  The market was much easier for me.  Be careful at the bank.  If you don't write the correct Spanish word for “money,” they might call la policia. 
“Mi Casa es Su Casa” is the most ambitious of the builds created by Calisto Encinal/James T. Abraham.  The large house is labeled with the Spanish word for most of the items located inside.  It asks you questions about the items, too.  In order to progress through the house, you need to write the correct Spanish word in the chat. The green ball in the center of the house controls the games. 
The Plaza and house are a great use of SL to teach a foreign language in a fun and entertaining way.  Dr. Abraham received a grant to build Mi Casa Es Su Casa, and he was able to expand it while on a sabbatical.

Grey Lupindo

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Camp Hardknock

Marianne McCann and I were talking during a lull in SL9B and she told me she was getting ready to go away for a sleepover camp soon. Every summer 100 SL kids pay 1000L to attend Camp HardKnock, a  camp in Second Life where there are activities 24/7.  As Marianne put it , “That is *the* best SL kid event out there. They've been doing this since 2007.  That is some of the best Lindens I can ever spend in SL.” 

Immediately I wanted to visit. The SL kids have lots of fun everyday in Second Life, but this is the first time I heard of camp other than the boy scout camp. I learned there is a summer session and a winter session.  Jill Caldera, Gattz Gilman & Quincy Dyrssen are the camp directors. Right away I wanted to visit since I love to see the SL kids in action. When I first arrived, the children were sleeping in their cabins. I visited with Miss Jill who explained that they would be having activities later in the day. Of course  Linden Lab decided to restart the sims at that time so I had to leave, promising to be back again. 

Next time I visited, I found several kids playing Greedy. One brought me to the Events board so I could see all the activities for each day. The board was filled with many. I  went to visit the cabins where they slept. Each cabin had it’s own flag with its own logo. I learned that most of the kids make and decorate their own bunks. Nancy Chatterbox shared her cabin with me, and showed me the logo she had created as well as the sweet bunk she made. 

Several of the kids told me how much fun they had all day long and how much fun it was to try avoiding going to the showers and to bed. That seemed to be the favorite activity. Nancy told me, “Miss Jill and Mister Gattz and Miss Quincy and Miss Kendra, them all put lotsa time into camp to make it lots of fun for us and all the other counselers too, them all werks hard. This is my 4th time at camp." 

I had time to attend two events that were going on. One was a water balloon fight. Each kid grabbed a water balloon and got ready. I sat to watch but also grabbed a balloon. So dumb! Right away I was an easy target for balloon, but fought back! Some sneaky kid crawled around behind me and saved herself behind hay bales set out, but I was in the line of fire. All had a great time. 

I also went to the beach to check out the shell collecting. Everyone had a bucket full of shells they found and they did not go to waste. Most kids took their shells to the picnic tables outside the mess hall where Miss Kendal was waiting with a great craft. She gave everyone a frame to decorate with the shells and all settled down to do it. 

That is just a sample of the activities going on in the camp. The events board is full of things to do all day long. I looked at some of the other events listed on the board... cabin fights ..trivia..story telling..water activities. The kids will be walking the relay track this weekend. I look forward to visiting the winter camp to see how that goes! 

Gemma Cleanslate

Take a look at one of the kid's past visit: 

Friday, July 13, 2012

Sneak Peak at the Relay Track

The sims of the Relay Walk this weekend are closed to most until the event begins Saturday. But Second Life Newser was allowed an early peek at the builds. Some were still under construction. Others were complete or nearly so.

An Egyptian pyramid build just north of the Redheads.

 Inside were some details, and a few things not normally expected.

Team Steelhead Salmons was still working on theirs. Here's a few of the team, including Fuzzball Ortega on left.

A cat flying a salmon? Guess one shouldn't be too surprised to see this, considering this is the team that brought you "The Hair."

Yo ho ho.

 Team Circle of Life had a picturesque fairyland with energy fields.

The Efl circle camp, almost complete.

The Knights of Avalon build.

 The Dazzlers for Life build.

The Giant Snail Races exhibit. Note the "2" falling from the clock as the time changes to 1:03.

Free snail avatars (miniature giant snails?) just behind these images of RacerX Gullwing and his team.

The Dr. Who Fans build, the guys who come to mind with this season's theme, "Time for a Cure."

The campsite of Team Open Hearts, whose build has the letters "What Would You Do If You Had More Time" next to the track, and has pictures of various people's "bucket list" wishes (things you want to do before you "kick the bucket.")

The Green Lantern Corp's build.

Last but not least for this article, New Babbage's towering build.

These of course are just a few of the exhibits of the Relay Track. The Track opens to all on Saturday for the Relay walk, and will stay up for a few days afterwards.

For previous exhibits, check back in the SL Newser archives, such as last year's Winter Season builds, including one of it's most beautiful, The Snowglobe.

Bixyl Shuftan