Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Virtual Museum of Architecture Closing It's Sim

 By Grey Lupindo

On October 31, 2012 the Virtual Museum of Architecture plans to close its sim, located at Purdue University (69, 55, 35).   The VMA will still remain in Second Life, however.  Djinn Dasmijn, Co-Director  of the Museum, said the group plans to focus on the educational aspects of architecture through lectures and Build-offs.   
     The VMA celebrated its achievements and allowed its friends and supporters a final party on Saturday, October 27.   Bluemonk Rau served as DJ.   The plaza area was decorated for Halloween, with ghosts, spider webs and a revolving pumpkin dance floor.   Most partiers came in costume, and many participated in the best costume contest.   A lot of residents attended, including my former neighbors and friends, Erin Fensen and Asana Trudeau.   Asana had initially worked with the Frank Lloyd Wright Virtual Museum.     
      Like many organizations in Second Life, the VMA has been struggling with the high cost of maintaining a sim.   The reorganization will allow it to continue with its prime objective of education.   Rosalie Oldrich, who is the other Co-Director, stated that Builder’s Brewery is providing space for the lecture series that will accompany future Build-Offs.   
      During the party, Djinn Dasmijn and Katsii Tennan invited supporters to take a final tour of the sim. The next day I decided to do that.  I went back to the Museum to take a closer look at the offices and snap a few photos.   The offices are in a three floor structure that is a model for what real-life offices should be.  There are skylights and large windows to let in light, fountains to provide soothing water sounds, and even a small urban garden.    The interiors were modern, yet warm and inviting.    
      While I was there I ran into Sandi Glas, who has been a long-time supporter and builder.   She had also been associated with the Frank Lloyd Wright Virtual Museum.   Sandi has participated with the VMA since its beginning.  She told me she competed in their first Build-off and has continued to compete in all of them except the “green” build-off.   But she jokingly said that everything she builds has a 0 carbon footprint.
        The next Build-off is scheduled for March 1, 2013.   Djinn Dasmijn will be announcing the theme soon.

Grey Lupindo

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Pets Sanctuary

I recently was contacted by Restless Roizman. For those who remember SL Newser's predecessor paper SL Newspaper, Restless had worked with them very early on (link). More recently, he's been running a place called Pets Sanctuary.

The Pets Sanctuary is at the southeast corner of the Atlantis World sim, a storefront shopping mall of pet shops, with many of the critters you can get in the stores free and moving about. "More like a menagerie here than a pet shop," Restless joked. Looking around, there were rabbits, prairie dogs, even pet rocks that were rolling around. "They talk to you to," Restless told me, then directed my attention to one prairie dog, "I am a Prairie Dog, not a Prairie Cat."

When asked how he got started, Restless answered, "Originally it was just Precious dragons. Then we expanded with other pets. The dragons decreased to one small shop, and the running bunnies and rocks and other things expanded." Restless says new pets come in frequently, "There are new pets all the time. We try to keep a stock of older ones too. People search everywhere for turtle food or bat food." He showed me a store which had vendors for both breakable bats and spiders, as well as food and related items, "all the supplies. We try to stock most (of the items for the pets we sell). if we don't have it, we will try to find vendors."

He then rezzed a dragon, "That's a Bregon. We have loads of eggs.  If it isn't out, it's in my inventory." He mentioned the creator of the Precious dragons had been keeping track of sales, and told him he had over 1500 eggs of his dragons alone. Restless had most of the dragons in his own inventory while his partner Sudidi Surya had others, "she owns the rabbits, and has several other pets." She had about 27, "not including ducks and Poneexz." He then drew my attention to one shop with greenery, "And then there's the plantpets." Being plants, they don't move, But they do grow, "and produce seeds. They do need to be watered. If the water level is kept above 20% and below 90% they will produce a seed every 51 days"

Restless' favorite pets were those from Ranio Tenk, "They're the funniest we have seen, so we leave them out. Most say 'I'm hungry' or 'I want a cuddle' or 'I'm starving.'  These say stuff like …" He directed my attention to one of the prairie dogs, "A french fry walks into the bar and says to the bartender 'Hey, could I get a beer please?' The bartener looks at him shaking his head and says 'No, we don't serve food here'." After a few chuckles, Restless added they only needed food if you wanted to breed them.

Another pet Restless liked were the Zwickies, "They're apparently aliens. They fly, and have a great light show when they breed. … We seem to have the most niche pets here." They had a few horses in their inventory, but none running about. Some shops he and his partner own. Others are rented out to others. If a renter is selling a pet Restless or Sudidi have, it's their policy to remove it from their own stores.

As for what's selling the best right now? Restless told me on this one particular day, plantpets sold more than anything else. But over the past week the big sellers were breedable spiders and vampire bats. He reasoned people were getting them because of Halloween. "One thing I never had was meeroos," he told me, though explained one could get them in a friend's sim.

The remaining three quarters of the sim is a mix of private homes and public spots, "The rest of the sim is rented out to all sorts. (It) is a mixed commercial (and) residential." A little space is for some garden pergolas  and trees he makes. A group has meetings there, the "Respect Yourself" group. There's also a club, SpiritValley Studios owned by Timber Wolfenhaut. The club at one time resided in the Sunweaver Estates before it temporarily closed it's doors. The club is a couple thousand meters in the air, but it has a smaller building on a ground with a teleport that takes you up to the club.  There's also a number of private residencies on the sim. Most are considered private property.

Restless Roizman manages a number of other sims. But Pet Sanctuary is his own.

The Pets Sanctuary is at Atlantis World (215, 28, 22)

Bixyl Shuftan

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Virtual Hallucinations

Schizophrenia is a mental illness that many people know little about. In Second Life, an exhibit was built in the Sedig sim to help visitors gain some understanding of what those who suffer from the condition go through. Recently Gentle Heron took people on a guided tours through the small but informative facility, one of which I joined.

"Schizophrenia is a severe mental disability," Gentle addressed the small group, "People with schizophrenia have trouble determining whether their life experiences are real or not. In the classical stereotype, they hear 'voices' giving them negative information and directives, and they don’t know whether to trust them and follow those directions or not. Of course this means that people with schizophrenia can’t think clearly. In order to be a clear thinker, you need to trust the information you receive. It also means that people with schizophrenia often don’t act normally in social situations. They won’t have predictable emotional responses to stimuli, because they don’t know if those stimuli are real or not. People with schizophrenia may have trouble keeping friends and staying employed. They may also have problems with anxiety and depression, and often have suicidal thoughts or actions."

Gentle described schizophrenia as falling into four types. With paranoid schizophrenia, people afflicted can feel anxious, angry or argumentative, and that others are trying to harm them or friends/family. People with disorganized schizophrenia may have problems thinking and explaining thoughts clearly, show little emotion, and display childlike behaviors. Catatonic schizophrenia can mean lack of activity, rigid muscles and posture, odd facial expressions, and being unresponsive to others. Fourth is undifferentiated schizophrenia, which may include symptoms of more than one of these.

"Schizophrenia is an equal opportunity disability. It affects both men and women, and usually develops in late teens or early twenties. It develops slowly, with the severity of symptoms increasing and decreasing. It is difficult to diagnose. There are no medical diagnostic tests for schizophrenia. Usually, a psychiatrist makes the diagnosis based on interviews with the patient and family members. Antipsychotic medications are the most effective treatment for schizophrenia. These drugs change the chemical imbalance in the brain. That is how they help control symptoms of schizophrenia." Gentle did note medications can have "significant" side effects.

"When the schizophrenia is active, termed an 'episode,' the person may need to be hospitalized for their safety. When the disorder is less active, support groups, behavior therapy, social skills training, and support and education for family members of persons with schizophrenia are all important. What causes schizophrenia? Nobody knows. It does appear to have a genetic component. If you have a relative with the mental disorder, you are more likely to develop it. And people who have the genetic susceptibility seem to respond to triggering events."

Before going into the exhibition, Gentle warned us some people found the experience deeply disturbing, as it was meant to simulate the hallucinations schizophrenics have. Getting the experience involved clicking on a yellow can, getting a yellow badge, and wearing it. Once inside, activating the badge fully meant clicking on another yellow can and choosing male or female. It was then that the badge I wore began spouting voices, full of negativity and depreciation, "you're worthless!" "You disgust me!" "Kill yourself."

Gentle told us for anyone who found the experience too much could always detect the badge to stop the voices. The exhibit had several rooms, with occasional blue cones that when clicked explained some of schizophrenia's symptoms. Gentle told us the place was built from actual patient experiences. One room showed laptop computers flapping open and shut. With one poster, the words seemed to change to from a similar-sounding obscenity. One room described an incident in which one
schizophrenic was urged by his voices to pull a gun on some police. The voices went, "you have five seconds to get the gun, get the gun out of the holster, get the bloody gun and shoot yourself … shoot all the bastards."

"How would it be to live like this," Gentle asked us, "with no knowing if it's real or not?"

One lady in the group described one family member who had the illness, "(I) had a brother who heard these voices. (I) took care of him all my life. He also saw things. All this was real to him. He did not ever hear the voice to hurt others. But he did hear the ones directed toward him." When asked about what advice she had for others, she answered, "understand they do not have control over the voices. Sometimes the voices tell them not to take the medications too." She described at times having to urge him to bathe, shave, and eat, despite that she was almost to feet shorter than he. At one point, he disappeared for almost two years and was found in Alaska in the dead of winter in December.

Virtual Hallucinations was built by professors and honors students from the University of California, Davis.

Sedig (27, 44, 22)

Bixyl Shuftan

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

FMODAKFAP: Fairy Magic Occult Dark Arts Kissy Face Action Party

FMODAKFAP, the latest Syzygy installation, is an imaginative treat created by Elric Anatine.  It is located at Syzygy Nyx (113, 141, 2357).    The letters stand for Fairy Magic Occult Dark Arts Kissy Face Action Party.   When Lady Pipsqueak Fiddlesticks, Anatine’s SL companion, described the site as a Fairy Magic Occult Dark Arts Kissy Face Action Party, Anatine knew they had found its name.  
FMODAKFAP is a wonderland of changing colors, swirling stars, soothing chimes, and other fantasy objects too numerous to list.  A notecard explains that Anatine was inspired by his recent purchase of the Wishmaster HUD on SL Marketplace.  He wanted to create an “immersive fantasy photo environment,” and he succeeded. 
Anatine’s notecard, which you can pick up at the landing point, lists the interactive photo spots that he has created.  They are all interesting, but in the Enchanted Fairy Circle, you can fly like a fairy.  My favorite spots include sitting atop magical mushrooms and inside one of the cocoon-like white chairs. The chairs include different poses, including a yoga meditation one.  
When you are finished exploring the landscape, climb the wooden ladder to the fantasy structure that is uniquely Anatine.  Two circular rooms are connected by another ladder.   In the spooky Victorian library you will find chairs, a sofa, and a nice pot of tea.  But keep a sharp lookout for witches, ghosts and goblins.  Boiling cauldrons, a crackling fire and a stack of books about magic spells mean they must be close by.     
This fun site is filled with imaginative flowers, crystals, lighted trees, and other fantasy objects.  I was inspired on my second visit to take some photos wearing a pair of fairy wings.  Anatine encourages visitors to use their own poses, special effect HUDs, and to thoroughly explore his creation.  At the end of their trip, visitors will find three souvenir gifts that Anatine made to remind them of their magical visit to FMODAKFAP.   

Grey Lupindo

Monday, October 8, 2012

Creations for Parkinson's

When I went to the Sunday Night Demo Derby in Random, I ran into a lady named Barbie Alchemi. She explained to me she ran a place called Creations for Parkinson's. "Our sim is set up to raise donations and awareness for Parkinson's," she told me, "and we have a wonderful support group. But the most important thing we do here is have fun!"

Dropping in on the place one Saturday with my partner Jasmine, Barbie was entertaining a mix of residents at a party on a deck on the shoreline. They were quite a lively bunch, including a small dragon who expressed his affections in an interesting manner, "I have a dragon licking my bum!" One guy named "Powerchairdude" was going around in a kind of hoverchair. Besides the regular danceable rezzer, there was a special one for wheelchair bound residents.  There was also a few games for those handing our between parties.

Barbie greeted us, saying there was dancing at the dock three days a week, plus three in the ballroom. We both hung around for a little while until it ended and the guests began going their separate ways. Barbie offered us the choice of looking around on our own, or getting a tour. We decided on the tour. The tour went down both dirt paths and sidewalks, our course shaded with lots of trees, golden from the autumn season.

One of the first places we came across was a club building, "This is another dance club we use sometimes, Michael J's." The place was named for actor Michael J. Fox, whom came down with Parkinson's later in his career, "We are a Team Fox member and 100% of all donations go to the Michale J Fox Foundation." She explained her family paid for the sim's expenses, so all of the income could go to the charity, "We have over 30 top designers who all give 50% of the sales from their shops on this sim."

We soon went to a pier building and docks, "here you can rez motor boats, sailboats, jet-skis, windsurfers, tubies, swim animations." She then invited us to jump in, "if you do not mind getting wet, we can jump in the water here and i can show you the underwater." Jasmine made a "smelling of wet fur" joke, but her words quickly changed when we came upon the scenery, "Oh wow! This is amazing!" While most places think little of what's under the water, Barbie had made what lies beneath a visual treat of plants, marble statues and structures, and lots of bubbles. "I am still working on this," Barbie told us, "and when I am finished it is my goal for it to be the most beautiful underwater in SL!"

We soon passed by what Barbie pointed out was her mother's cottage, "She is the one who has Parkinson's who has inspired this whole project. My Dad died with Parkinson's, and a year later she was diagnosed with it. So this entire thing is built with love for the two of them. … She never complains, and Second Life has been so wonderful for her, because here she is free of her limitations. So that's why we decided to do this in Second Life."

Barbie pointed out a palace that was a gift from Felixx Shepard of Da Vinci Gardens, "Every texture you see, he has taken with his own camera from his travels. … he is a big supporter of our project." She mentioned he had contributed a second castle on the sim. We soon came to a garden area, and she pointed out some pillows, "Here we have tai chi cushions. My mom comes here everyday with her avi to practice tai chi, which she can not do in real life. But by experiencing her avi do it, she has regained strength and mobility. The power of visualization is fantastic. The brain is capable to doing so much more than we realize."

Barbie pointed out an amphitheater, "for poetry readings and small productions." Jasmine looked around at the scenery, "I love this." "Thank you. We have many lovely places to experience here, and it is a great place for photos." "It feels just right to me." Barbie mentioned she had worked on the effects of the water and shadows, "I have done all the terraforming and decorating myself. But I am not a builder. So things like this are donations from the talented creators of Second Life. This and all the flowers you see are a donation from Bunnie Badger from Two Moon Gardens. She has also been a big support of our project."

We came across some small shops and boutiques, "We have some of the top names in Second Life. We are only four months old, so we are just beginning to get known." She pointed out the ballroom mentioned earlier, "Everyone loves to put on their beautiful gowns and dance here." The larger events were held at the roof top, which needed a teleporter to get to.

Barbie wanted to show us where support meetings were held, and we ported to a small yard and cottage that turned out to be a floating island high above the sim, "This is where we hold our support group meetings. And I know that lives have been changed as a result of these meetings. It is for these people that I work every day." The group held meetings every Thursday morning at 10AM SL time.

One member, she told us, was an architect in real life, as well as Second Life, "His name is DB Bailey, and he has created a fantastic new club for us. We will hold the grand opening in a few weeks. He is a true artist, and he changes this every day. Frolic Mills used this for the opening show of Fashion Week" She took us over, and the place was extremely colorful, like a kaleidoscope.

Eventually, the tour was done, "Please come as often as you would like to explore and have fun and dance with us."

Creations for Parkinson's is at the Solace Lake sim.

Bixyl Shuftan