Friday, August 30, 2013

Motorcycle Mania on Route 66

By Becky Shamen

Motorcycles. This mode of transportation, and a life style to go with it, is very popular in Second Life. Motorcycles come in countless styles and prices. Styles include classics, antiques, steam
powered, contemporary, and even futuristic designs. You can even have them custom made to your specs. The cost is anywhere from free to thousands of Lindens. You probably already have at least one, in your inventory. When you have a motorcycle, your next concerns will be where to ride and what to wear as you do. It's no fun crashing into things or into the water. It wouldn't look right to go for a ride, wearing a ball gown either. 

When I first began riding, I could hardly keep it on the road. To practice safely, I would go to the Australian Outback, where there are no roads and few things to bump into. It was a good place to learn, but being a single sim, I soon tired of going back and forth or in circles. I began searching for areas that were made for riding motorcycles. I found and joined a club, called Regent Riders. It's one of the few clubs that I've joined that cost to become a member. The current, one time, membership fee is $299. Members are allowed to travel between 12 connected sims. Non-members can ride on these sims, but cannot cross sim borders, unless they de-rez their bike, TP to another sim, and rez another bike. The connected sims have a Southwestern USA, Route 66 theme. I had been to all the locations, years ago, but just took another road trip, so I could give a report of what you will find, should you go for an adventure.

In previous articles, I have provided the SLURL for many of the sims reported on. I have also explained how I find locations to explore, by using the destination guide and world map. Finding these places is part of the fun of exploring them. For this report, we have produced a composite illustration of all the sims in the Route 66 collective. We shall leave finding and getting to them to readers, to maximize their enjoyment.

Getting Your Kicks on Route 66

As I said, you can go to these sims individually, but to take the full tour, start at the bottom and work your way to the top, South to North. The 12 main sims run in a straight line, with 2 additional, residential sims, on the East and West. We shall travel them in this order; Motor World, Death Valley, Route 66, Sunset Crater, Cadillac Ranch, Twin Arrows, Flagstaff, Two Guns, Mojave Desert, MLCC, Diablo Canyon, and Santa Monica. They are all strict about motorcycles only, but, being a western theme, riding a horse is tolerated and appreciated. Every time residents saw me on my horse, they wanted to show me theirs and compare notes. Route 66 does not run in a straight line and there are many side roads and there are no rules about staying on the road. You'll get a lot of good practice, using the world map and mini-map, in finding your way around. Let us begin now, with the first sim.

Motor World

Before starting my road trip, I began here on foot. As I waited for the textures to rez, I opened my radar (mini-map), to locate where avatars were gathered, so I could introduce myself and ask questions about local rules and customs. If you don't know any "bikers," approaching and having a conversation with them might seem a bit too scary to attempt. Let me reassure you, having met many of them, in real-life and SL, those hard outer appearances are just a mask, hiding a lovable soul within.

In the parking lot of the local hang-out, I saw a member of the Hell's Angels Nomads named Blacky Braham, sitting on his chopper, with his AFK girlfriend/property standing within arms reach. I greeted him and said I was a reporter from SL Newser, doing a story about the area. In my short time as a reporter, I have already discovered that telling folks you are a reporter makes them friendly and helpful. Blacky said he would be happy to answer any questions he could. My plan was, since horses are slower and easier to control, to tour on horseback, enabling me to see more without the hassle of trying to keep my ride on course. When I asked him if horses were allowed, he jumped off his bike and rezzed his beautiful black stallion, which was from AKK Ranch, as is my white one, named Blue. We agreed that AKK horses were the best, so felt like instant old friends.

 I rode off to the top of a nearby hill, to get a panoramic view of the sim. From my vantage point, I watched as the handful of bikes circulated and attempted to break the record on the "Scary Jump of Fire and Death", located across the road from the hang-out. There was a scoreboard, on the side of the jump, with the top score being the smallest number. I can only speculate that the scores must represent how long they had to stay in the hospital.

I also spotted a shop that sells MLCC motorcycles. Most of the sims I visited had bars, but they were always empty, probably due to the fact that I don't explore between 6-10 PM SLT. Those hours are reserved for hanging out with my friends, at my favorite clubs. From my hilltop perch, I spotted the bridge and headed for the next sim.

Death Valley

The main road here runs straight to the next sim, along the West side of the sim. I found myself at the crossing to the third sim and had to turn around to tour it. If one takes the first right after entering from Motor World, it becomes a maze of mountain roads, with sharp turns and great views. One road is a dead end, where you can dismount and chill in privacy. I pictured Moses, riding his chopper here to jot down the ten commandments. I saw little else here to report on, so retraced my steps and headed for the next sim after passing through a long West to East tunnel on the North side of Death Valley.

Route 66

There are two large clubs that I saw. "The Sons of Anarchy" was empty, but "Tobacco Road" seems to have folks in it all day long, with as many coming as going. I stayed for a while, chatting with the locals, dancing and playing trivia, before continuing my exploration. There is a motorcycle shop, called CC Custom Choppers. Their bikes cost in the $2800 range and are beautiful. Out front, they have a rezzer which gives a drivable demo of the bike you want to test drive. Nearby, I spotted a warehouse shop called "Nemesis Firearms." I looked inside and could easily see how well the shop name fit the hardware inside. There were other motorcycle clubs and shops. When I saw a small shop, at the north end of the sim, with a sign saying Beer-Ammo-Bait, I thought I had died and gone to redneck heaven. I came back to my senses and rode off to the next sim.

Sunset Crater

I only spotted two buildings on this sim. It's easy to see why. A huge, active volcano takes up most of the sim. There is a spiral road to the top, but drive slow to avoid spots where cooled lava partially blocks the way. Arriving at the caldera, I found myself wondering if I could walk on the bubbling lava. After all, had I not been to the moon, in shorts and Tshirt and the bottom of the ocean, without scuba tanks and jumped off the Eiffel tower, without a parachute? I decided, the best way to answer this question would let you try it first and report back to me. I had forgotten to pack my asbestos flip-flops, so quickly made my way to the next sim.

Cadillac Ranch

This sim gets it's name from the real Ranch in Texas. Years ago, when I came here, I saw a collection of Cadillacs, nose in the dirt, tails in the air. But on this visit I cris-crossed the whole sim without finding them. Perhaps, in compliance with the no cars rule, they had been replaced with a row of old motorcycles, painted gold and half buried in the dirt. There were some bars and lots of small homes. The roads were gravel, instead of black top. They did a good job of creating the feel of life in rural West Texas. It made me thirsty for a cold beer. That's pretty good, considering, I don't drink beer.

Twin Arrows

It's not hard finding the crossing to this sim. Two giant arrows, sticking out of the ground, are visible, even with your draw distance set at minimum. Par for the course, the first building you see is a bar, followed by a gas station and a cafe. Better fill your tank, because this is one place you don't want to run out of gas. This would be a great location to film a cowboys and Indians movie. Howling winds fill your ears and the only movement, other than you trying to get elsewhere, is the tumblin' tumble weeds.

On the Northeast corner, there is a biker hang-out, called the "Voodoo Lounge." In real life, I've driven from Texas to California, twice and, both times, promised myself I'd fly next time. This is like the old question of what is the sound of one hand clapping. In this case, what does a whole lot of nothing look like. Almost to Flagstaff, I saw a pair of mountain lions. If they could speak, they were probably saying, "We knew you wouldn't stay for dinner."


Sandwiched between Twin Arrows and Two Guns, Flagstaff is like a virtual oasis. The grass is greener, there are lots of interesting shops and you can rent a house, as opposed to buying land. Downtown, check out BUR Classic Motorcycles, for affordable bikes with test drive demos. Next door is V-Twins, with great clothing and even prefab houses. On the East side of town is Highway 420. Along this road, you'll find Neximus Racing and Drag Strip and Jumbo's Rockin' Biker Bar.

Going North on 420, you'll pass an outdoor stage, called C.H.M.C. Rock Yard, with a motel across the street. On the next block, to our left, a building announces a soon to open Burlesque show hall and across the street, on Hwy. 420, it comes as no surprise to find the "Moms4MJ" head shop. The door to Moms was locked and a large sign in the window provided a long lists of days and times that they may or may not be open, depending on if they felt like working. Dang hippies!

Make sure your canteen is full, because we are headed back into desert in our next sim.

Two Guns

The name itself suggests that the only difference between it and Twin Arrows is that this is it's polar opposite. Always looking for the silver lining, I can tell you one good thing about this place. You'll be glad that you didn't bring your kids with you, because, by now, they'd be driving you nuts with, "Are we there yet, are we there yet....." Oi, on to the next sim.

Mojave Desert

At long last, we have reached Southern California. Is there a ray of hope, or was it just a small cloud, momentarily blocking the relentless sun, that brings a smile to our parched lips? On the North end, we see two large shops, suggesting we are headed back into civilization, relatively speaking. The next sim looks more promising, in the way of entertainment.


I can't decide if MLCC is the name of a corporation or the roman numeral for 1150, but the southern half of this sim is it's world headquarters. It's the place to go, if you want to buy land in the Route 66 sims and the ground floor is a museum of motor vehicles, including even four wheeled ones. North of it, you can be sitting on the dock of the bay, looking at all the pretty sailboats. Looking out in the bay, you discover why these sailboats are all securely moored. The bay is home to the biggest wave I've seen in SL, headed for Loon Beach. Pack your swim suit, if surfing and sailing is your idea of the perfect vacation. At the South end of the beach, you'll find the entrance to Loon Tunnel, which runs under ground for the length of the beach and exits on the next sim.

Diablo Canyon

The western third of this sim is sandy beach. The eastern portion is a lush green area, with a beautiful private estate or two. A large house is built on stilts, above a marshy, protective moat. I couldn't help but feel, this might be the retirement home of a notorious Bonnie and Clyde couple. On the north end of the marsh, two alligators stand guard and will snap at you, if you get too close. The gators were facing a two story, three bay garage. Two of the bays were empty, suggesting the couple had gone down to the Route 66 sim for some dancing and gambling. My 6th sense told me to turn my radio down and tip-toe to the next and final sim on the tour.

Santa Monica 66

As I crossed the bridge, from Diablo, I remembered that, while making a map for this tour, this sim looked as if it was some kind of race track. It turns out, I was right, but what kind of race track is anybody's guess. The entire track is on towers, above the ground. Before attempting it, I had a look about the sim. The track is boxed in by mountains. On one peak, to the northeast, I zoomed in on a cool sculpture of an angel, seated with it's head on it's knees. I couldn't tell if it was meant to be sleeping or feeling shame, but the pose did not suggest it to be strong or protective. On a northeast peak, I spotted a large gargoyle statue, posed for an attack.

Walking about the grounds, I found five run down buildings. A sign on the largest building proclaimed it to be "Maggie May's Salloon." A quick look, over the top of the swinging doors, revealed that the establishment might still be used for gatherings of roving biker gangs or the souls of the departed, that had neglected the announcement of "Last Call." Either way, I was not brave enough to set foot inside. On the West side of the grounds, I spotted a couple of houses. Peeking in the first one, it was unfurnished, but there was a dirty old mattress, dragged close to the fireplace with a roaring fire going in it. Somebody was here and must have left when they heard hoof beats coming. Seeing a dog, leached to a stake near by, added to the mystery.

I rode over to the other house and looked in the front window. There was somebody sitting, motionless, in a rocking chair, wearing a long dress. I didn't see a tag overhead, so panned my camera around to get a front view. Imagine my shock, when I discovered it was a skeleton! What started out as an innocent road trip, was turning into a Nancy Drew mystery.

I decided to ride over to the ramp to the race track, to give my horse a little exercise run. The first ramp that I approached had One Way-DO NOT ENTER signs on it. Being the only one on the sim (according to my radar), it shouldn't have mattered, but the girl scout within insisted I take the other ramp. At the start, I hit Ctrl+1 to run and M to switch to mouselook, I took off and ran the whole course, without a single pause. I even got around the remains of a wrecked car and motorcycle, without any problems. At ground level, I detached my horse and stood in the center of the sim for a good 10 minutes, enjoying my double victory. I had completed the race course and my tour of route 66.

I have to compliment the creators of these sims. Having been through the South West, in real life, I know this simulation of it is well done. I've always lived in big cities and the locations and life styles, depicted in Route 66 are not my cup of tea.

However, I am a seeker of new things and knowledge, so loved the adventure and writing about it. There are many other SL locations for going riding on motorcycles and horses. I hope I have stimulated your imagination to go out and have a new adventure. In time, you will discover why Willy Nelson was so happy to get "On the Road Again."

Becky "Sha" Shamen

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Second Life Underwater: Getting in Over Your Head

By Becky Shamen

There are four things that we, as real life humans, must do to stay alive and healthy. The amount of each will vary with each individual, but none of us can do without. We need at least a few hours of sleep each day. We need to eat food, now and then. The result of eating will, sooner or later, be followed by a trip to the bathroom, to eliminate waste. Last, but not least, we all need to breathe air. With training and practice, a pearl diver can hold their breath for several minutes, but most of us can't do it for a full 60 seconds.

In Second Life there are simulations that enable us to do these things, but none of them are required for a long and happy life. There are beds with animations for sleep and other bedtime activities. There are foods and restaurants, to satisfy your need to nom. There are bathrooms, with working tubs, sinks and toilets, although, like me, you may have noticed that bathrooms in SL are as rare as pots of gold at the end of the rainbow. If you go to a sim, where air is in short supply, such as outer space or under water, you might want to wear a space suit or scuba gear, but it won't hurt you to do without. Hold your nose and jump in. The water is fine. Join me as we explore Second Life Underwater.

A quick search on the net or SL's Destination Guide will reveal that a great many avatars spend most, if not all, their time under water. Long before I began writing for the Newser, I collected a group of LMs of mermaid sims and went to quite a few of them. It wasn't because I wanted to be a mermaid though. Some how, I had acquired a couple of mermaid tails and a swim AO and was looking for a good place to use them. Although I did meet and befriend one merman, for the most part that series was pretty fruitless, as adventures go. For that reason, this time I expanded my search from "mermaid" to "underwater." I don't have the time or space to tell you about all of the places I visited, but will report on those that made a good impression and are worth a visit.

The World of Mermaids
This sim was first on my list of sims to explore. It was not the best, but there are a few points worth mentioning. I have found most merfolk to be reticent and, even if your radar shows many in the sim, you are not likely to meet them if not wearing a mermaid or merman avatar. At the landing point of this sim, you can get a free male or female mer avatar, to get you started. There is a seahorse you can ride, a harp you can play, and some cool dance animations. There is also a spot for some romance, but keep in mind, this is an adult sim. In my notes, I wrote, "not a lot to explore, but a good place to take a date".

The next few places I explored were not worth mentioning. Three duds in a row began to remind me why I had given up the mermaid theme previously. I pulled out my red pen and crossed these sims off my list. At this point, I paused to send an IM to the merman I had met at the statue of liberty, asking if he could recommend any good sims. He wasn't on line, so I proceeded to the next place on my list, called "The Mermaid Temple." Panning and zooming my camera around, I discovered this sim was only a shop, but the whole time I was there, the only other person on the sim was, like me, not moving around. Zooming in, I saw that it was a mermaid, who was either trying to decide which new tail to buy, engaged in IMs or AFK. I walked over to her, introduced myself, said I was a reporter and asked if she knew of any good places to recommend. After a few moments, she responded. She said she was there because it was a quiet spot where she could engage in a number of IMs without other activities to engage her attention, but if I gave her a few minutes, she remembered one place that I might find of interest, but was not sure of the name she had saved and would TP there and, if it was the one, would send me a TP to join her. With a flick of her tail, she poofed and I stood with my fingers crossed. Moments later I received the TP invite and promptly clicked it.

Now I found myself in the "Roddenberry Dive Team" sim (secondlife://WYRLDMAKER/128/81/22). As I stood there, waiting for the sim to rez, she provided me with another LM, told me to get the free scuba gear and then use the yellow anim ball, by the dock. With that, I thanked her and she vanished. I picked up my free scuba gear, but since I was already wearing my Lara Kroft wet suit decided to make a stop home, to open my package, before going to the next sim. Nearby, was a dock with signs that explained the sim's features. It was all dedicated to the Star Trek theme, with the nearby water devoted to the episode where they saved the whales. The scuba theme ties in with Gene Roddenberry's son, "Rod", who is an avid scuba diver. At the right side of the dock are two yellow pose balls. They are linked, so you can take the tour with a friend. As soon as I clicked the ball, I checked the clock, to get an idea of how long the animated tour lasts. The leisurely swim around the lagoon was beautiful and, at 8 minutes, much longer than I expected. I give it two thumbs up. Back on land, I noticed they had more things to explore, if you go up the hill, but since I was here for the under water parts, I went home, unpacked the scuba gear and proceeded to the other LM that the mermaid had given me. Note: I took a pause from writing and returned and got a free Tricorder, from a booth at the top of the hill.

Haven of Mermaids
or secondlife://HAVEN%2520OF%2520MERMAIDS/54/154/4
The LM I got from the mermaid was for a skybox shop, 901m above the sim. Those given above are for in the water below.  I might have excluded the shop here, but the tails they sell were so beautiful and unusual, I felt readers might want to have a look see. After looking around, I went up to the balcony, put on my mask, flippers and swim animation, and jumped over the rail. You could easily spend many hours exploring here. I spotted many exotic underwater homes and, regardless of what part of the sim I was in, my radar showed at least a half dozen Avs, at various depths, around me. I could tell they were checking me out, because I'd see the blips move toward me, then away. I did actually see one, from a distance, but suspect I would have met them, had I been wearing a tail, instead of scuba gear. I'll return again soon, dressed to suit, to test my hypothesis. The photo, included with this article, was taken here. You can tell from the smile on my face how much fun it was.

While on a break from exploring in SL, I Googled the Haven of Mermaids and discovered it had a big following. If you want to do the mermaid thing, this is probably the best place to start.

The Jules Verne Museum
This sim won't require a tail or scuba gear, even though you will be under water for most of it. The landing puts you on the side of a steep hill. You can walk down or ride the near by cable ride. At the bottom, take the elevator down, then continue down on the spiral stairs. From here, you'll travel through a maze of glass tubes and chambers, allowing you to view the aquatic life while keeping your powder dry. In the chambers, you'll find animated signs which tell of the life and writings of Jules Verne. After visiting this under water museum, it's just a short jump to the modern submarine. You can explore the multiple levels, halls and compartments within. A word of advice though. Space is tight. Use an avatar that is under 1.9m tall and use mouselook inside the sub.

When visiting new places, I always open my world map and zoom out to get an idea of where in the SL world I am located. Doing this, I found the Jules Verne museum is located on the southern shore of a large, inland waterway, known as "The Sea of Fables", which is found in the north-central part of the original mainland, Sansara. With a name like sea of fables, since I was looking into under water adventure, I spent a little time panning the map for terraformed sea floors and investigating them. In the middle of one water sim, called "Azov", I found a large extinct volcano. Rising from it's black caldera were eight giant, purple octopus tentacles, waving about menacingly.  At first, I stayed clear, but the adventuring spirit brought me closer, one step at a time. I finally walked right across, safely, but I can't make any promises as to what would happen if you swim or boat above it. On another Sea of Fables sim, called "Sulu", I found a giant, ancient green statue of a Titan, with it's head laying in the sand at it's feet. I've mentioned Azov and Sulu, because neither is mentioned in the destination guide or advertised. Like real life or Star Trek, there are plenty of new things out there, waiting for you to discover them.

In real life, we call large bodies of water oceans or seas and we give them names, like Atlantic, Pacific, Mediterranean. Exploring the water sims of SL, I have, so far, only discovered the names for two regions, the Blake Sea and the Sea of Fables. Between the continents of Nautilus and Corsica, there is a sea, the name of which I have not yet discovered. In my first Newser article, I told of finding a place called "Treasures of the sunken city", located in this un-named sea. It is to this sea that we now return, for my last two areas of underwater adventures.

Suboceana Scuba Diving
This LM finds us landing on a dock, at the southern end of the Wyrldmaker sim. If you go east on the dock, you will see a sign on the right side, which shows under water points of interest in the surrounding 20-30 sims, collectively known as "Suboceana". I have included a photo of this sign with this article. Exploring this area, we find sunken ship and plane wrecks, caves, reefs, ruins and treasure chests. You can explore it as a scuba diver, mermaid, in a submarine, or come as you are and walk on the sea floor. No matter how you travel, the area is way too big to see it all in just one visit. If you see a treasure chest, be sure to click on it and receive a free gift. I've found three, so far. If, after days or weeks, you feel you've seen all there is here, there is another area, just to the West.

Pravatch    (near S. Corsica)
This location and the areas surrounding it, is also listed in the destination guide under underwater places. I did not explore it, but have included it here as a segue to my closing comments.
There are millions of square meters of water sims in SL. On the surface, many areas seem to lack any island or other interesting things to see. Every sim in SL has two things in common. Either Linden Labs or an individual is paying money to own and maintain it and it has an allotment of thousands of prims. If you look below the waves, using the world map or by diving in, the odds are in your favor that you WILL find something interesting down there. In Second Life, as in real life, to get the  maximum experience, sometimes you have to leave the safety of your little boat and jump in over your head.

Becky "Sha" Shamen

Monday, August 26, 2013

Africa Live

Bixyl Shuftan

While at the Virtual Worlds Best Practices in Education Conference, I met a Joanne Kimono. Joanne told me she was with a place in Second Life, Africa Live, and offered to show me around.  I answered yes and agreed to meet later.

The landmark I was offered took me to a platform over the Estings sim. Showing up a little early, I ran into a feral avatar. While resembling a lioness, the name suggested an American critter rather than an African one. "Hello," Puma Clarity greeted me, and was happy to tell me about the place, a number of shops, with some freebies, around a three-dimensional map of Africa. Over where Ghana, Togo, Benin, and Nigeria would be was a teleporter to the sim below. Puma explained there was a village there based on a real-life one: Ganvie.

It wasn't long before Joanne showed up. Chatting with her, she explained that not everyone in the Africa Live group speaks English, some spoke only French. She described the "Africa Life" group as for "a number of real-life African people, as well as lovers of Africa." She explained the major builder of the place was Bafana, whom was from Africa but currently in France, "he has given meticulous care of Africa Live group." Another leading person there was Solylence Houston, "African lady, great Second Life designer of fashion."

The skybox area itself was called "Imagine Africa," and looking up had a poem in French over it. "A great deal more is below here," Joanne explained, "a village on the water." Going down to the surface, the village was indeed built over water with the buildings, many of them with thatched roofs. We were next to the largest of the buildings, "this is the Cafe concert where there are poetry readings … the group holds DJ and live music parties here." The club had a large dance floor area, and stairs leading to a second floor, "above us are real-life photos from Africa in the gallery."

"There (is) nature around as well," Joanne explained, "ecology beside us is Artemisia Mathy's land. Terrdemoise has a beach, and  Tubal Amiot, also Africa Live french member, has store and dancing." She explained Artemisia was one of the Africa Live group's co-owners. In the background, much of the music played was by musicians with French-sounding names such as C' La Radio, and Ben L'oncle Soul.

For touring around the place, Joanne and I went to an "areo-putter," a basket with two balloons, and a prop. We got in, and it took off, "Great off we go. This is beside the Linden Sea protected land." She then pointed out among the thatched-roof buildings, a blue one, "This tikki is called Blue Mansion. (It) has nice french poems from member Iphi." On a beach island reachable by walkways, there was a group of pictures, "Ahead is the AIDS art exhibit," a reminder that the Pandemic still has a hold on Africa, "we did have a DJ who is involved in effort to educate people."

"We wish to keep the community a water village," Joanne told me, "there are homes for rent that Tubal Amiot offers for those who do not have a premium membership to own land here." She told me it was modeled after Ganvie, but was unsure how common these kinds of villages were in Africa. She pointed to a body of water, "also, here is a good place to go sailing. Tubal offers nice Yacht free to sail here. I was sailing earlier today here, is fun." There was also a zipline, which Joanne called, "my favorite."

She also pointed out another area for education, "Here is ecology about (the) Fukushima disaster in Japan. This is the beach (of) Artemisian TerreDarmoise. Arte is french lady who is conveying educational ecology info here." Pointing out one two story building, "inside the second floor are real-life photos of war in Africa."

The areoputer ride soon came to an end, though resulted in an accidental dunking, "Sorry about the dunk. You are now baptized (giggles)." She told me there were some free clothes here if I felt a need to dry off in a hurry, "this wall has a nice balloon outfit which another avatar can rip off your body, sort of fun." There were also some summer outfits, photos of the real-life Ganvie, "as well as nice view of the Linden sea. (smile)" There was also a free wood canoe, "called pirogue. It is an excellent way to see the village. It will propel itself, and will not poof. So please … take the pirogue back when done (smile)."

Africa Live's social area holds regular events, "is open to hosting DJ parties." Joanne told me they are looking to hire DJs. While fluency in French isn't a requirement, it is a plus in a group with a number of Francaphones.

Africa Live has been in Second Life since at least 2007. When Joanne joined in 2008, the group only had an art gallery selling African art. Since then, it expanded over time to what we saw."

Joanne and I talked for a while. I had wondered if many stopping by had misconceptions about Africa, but it was her observation most had their facts more or less correct of the basics." She had heard of Grey Lupindo's African Safari article, and was happy there were other places offering information about the continent.

The entrance for Africa Live is at Estings, (220, 130, 143). Don't forget to take the transporter down.

"We could go on for days … great kingdoms of culture, and art, for now we got plenty, and welcome all. The future looks bright. (smile)"

Bixyl Shuftan

Thursday, August 22, 2013

NeverLand Valley - A Tribute to Michael Jackson

By Grey Lupindo

      I have attended many concerts by tribute bands in SL, but this was my first visit to a tribute sim.   Created by MICHAELjackson Follet, NeverLand Valley is devoted to honoring, remembering, and celebrating the best of Michael Jackson’s life.   It is located at NeverLand  (247,250,25).  This isn’t a new site, but it was new to me.

      The site is amazingly true to the RL Neverland Ranch that existed in Los Olivos, California from 1988, when Michael Jackson purchased it, until 2005.   During those years, the 2500 acre Neverland Ranch was Jackson’s home as well as a wonderland for visiting children.  There was a petting zoo, amusement park, two trains, and other attractions.  

        In the SL version MICHAELjackson Follet has recreated the amusement park, zoo, a train, a large home filled with Jackson memorabilia, and beautiful gardens.     Make sure your music is enabled when you visit.   While I was there I heard  "We are the World", "Things I Do for You", "Another Part of Me", "Bad", “You are My Lovely One”, “Dancing Machine”, and others.    

       There are reminders when you enter that this is a unique, memorial site.     A note states, “Neverland is my Home...I created Neverland as a home for me and sharing with others. (MJJ).   Respect each other and you are the most welcome.  Feel free to go around, play, enjoy or simply relax.  It's all for love.”    There is a reminder that visiting residents may experience different emotions when recalling Jackson’s memory, and visitors are urged to respect their privacy.  There were other residents there on the three occasions that I visited, but no one was chatting.   We each seemed to be content with remembering this special and talented man.    

        When you enter the gates you can pick up a free Smart Car to drive or you can walk on the stone walkway to the house.   The two-story house is huge, with a library, multiple sitting rooms, pianos, and many portraits of Michael Jackson on display.   Upstairs there is a bedroom with Shirley Temple photos and other children’s items.  In one of the offices there is a framed copy of a RL legal document relating to the Ranch hanging on the wall.    My only criticism is that I wish there had been a few notecards describing some of the items.   Everything is very interesting, but I left wanting to know more. 

          The gardens surrounding the house and open areas are beautiful.   There are bridges to cross and ducks and swans to watch.   Benches are available, too. 

           In the amusement park, MICHAELjackson Follet provides SL residents with many of the same type of rides that Michael Jackson owned.     There’s a Galleon swinging ride, the kind that always makes me sick in RL, a huge Ferris wheel, Merry-go-Round, Lollipop carousel, and a few more.   I rode these rides, and they are great.  

            Nearby there is a theatre, too.   In the entry are images of toys and characters from favorite children’s stories such as Snow White and the 7 Dwarfs, ET, and Pinocchio.     In the theatre section there are plenty of comfortable seats.  Unfortunately I couldn’t get the video to play, which I’m sure was caused by my system limitations.        

        I was able to view many videos created by MICHAELjackson Follet on his website,   My favorite video is the one located on this first page.  Entitled “Forever Neverland”, it shows images of both the SL site and RL photos of Michael Jackson.   While the images are shown, Michael Jackson sings “Have you Seen My Childhood?” and “Smile”.   Although I only know a little about the abuse and loneliness he experienced as a child performer, I found the video to be very moving. 

          Next to the amusement park is the zoo, found at NeverLand (52, 96, 22).  As you walk toward it, moneys wave and birds fly by.  Be sure to approach the animals slowly so that they have time to become animated.   Touch them to hear their sounds.     Michael Jackson would have loved the SL version of his zoo.  There are no cages, and while the lions and tigers growl, they don't bite.

         Another amazing thing about NeverLand is that everything here is free.   There are no tip jars and almost nothing is sold here.   Inside a building located in the amusement park there are a few children’s items that appeared to be for sale, but they are discretely hidden away.      All of the rides, cotton candy, and other items are free.   

      The site and its members do support a RL charity in Haiti.   Tucked against one side of the sim, at NeverLand (142,247,26),  is a display where donations for “Haiti’s Children” are accepted.   There is a picture of Mideau Pierre, a child that is being supported by Neverland Friends and donations from other SL residents.    They have been supporting him since 2010.   At the time of my visit, they had collected  $44,169L in the donation box located there. 

     SL NeverLand Valley is a unique site that honors and celebrates the life of one of the most talented musicians of our time.
Grey Lupindo
 Editor's Note: Following the death of Michael Jackson, a number of tributes were created in his honor, one of which was featured in Second Life Newsepaper. Neverland might have been among them, but most of the others are gone. As for the real life Neverland Ranch, it was sold in 2008 due to Michael Jackson being deep in debt, and fell into disrepair following his death. Recently there was a partial restoration with what was left of the amusement park rides replaced with a zen garden.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Play Knight - Medieval RP in SL

By Becky Shamen

I had mentioned finding a shop at Mont Saint Michel, in my previous article, that sells great medieval armor and how I just had to buy some. When I finished my explorations there, I went home, unpacked my souvenir and put on my shiny new armor. It's nearly perfect, but for one small problem. I was now faced with the age old dilemma of being "all dressed up with no place to go.. In my many adventures, I had been in a few medieval sims, but never crossed paths with any Chevaliers [French for Knights]. Perhaps, I thought, there would be RP sims where knights gain fame and honor, by kickin' canned cans. By now you know, my next move was a visit to the second life destination guide.

A word of warning, before we take one more step here. In the last month, has become more scary than any sim inworld. They now are filled with pop-up adds, that will infect your computer with a host of malware. DO NOT GO THERE without protection. OK, public service announcement done, let's move on.

I did a search of places, using the keyword "knight". That produced a list of about four dozen locations. Of those, the majority seemed to be places to shop. I trimmed the list down to eight places to explore. Two of them actually said they were for role play, with the remaining ones being of questionable value. One was called, AKK Horse Ranch. When playing chess in Texas, the knight is often called a horse, so if I'm looking for knights I better check out horses while I'm at it. Having opened that can of dogfood, I might as well start with discussing horses first.

About  AKK Horse Ranch horses, unlike "breedables" these horses do not require feeding. Knowing that I would not be engaging in any actual RP, just reporting on it, I was only here to see how they looked and how much they cost. Most of the horses come with either a western or English saddle and cost L$2000. They also had a group, called EZ Start Horse, for $500. Their most expensive horse was a skeleton (literally), for $4000.

Next, you'll need the armor, sold separately, ranging in price from $600 to $3600 for beautiful, ornate unicorn armor. They had a floor model that you could sit on, which I did for the included photograph. The sign says it can be resized to even fit tiny avis and the cost of this ready made war horse was a mere $3500 (ouch) and it only came in the one color combination shown. I confess, although I promised myself, after having bought armor, not to spend another penny on this theme, I did return, several more times to drool over it. I saw a free demo, one to customer, good for five uses, which I got and tested. Still in sticker shock, I went back to the marketplace and got demos for four other brands of horse, the working models of which ranged in price from $475 to $1,999. Ultimately, kicking myself in the butt all the way, I returned to AKK Ranch and bought, separately, the AKK '09, in white, for $2000 and Silver chainmail tack for $750. I saved $750 and got the colors I wanted. I figure I got three horses for the price of one, given that I can make copies and have one with armor, one with western saddle and one bareback, which will be handy when I go riding on my property in the Everglades, heehee. Enough about my spending habits. Let's get back on the topic of RP sims.

First of all, when you find a RP sim that sounds good, in most cases, the LM won't take you directly there. Your first stop will be a "Gateway" or welcome area. Clicking signs there, you will get notecards, explaining their history, the rules of play, the type of battle meter required, if any, ie, , , etc. and most will require you to wear a visitor or observer tag, provided free, to be worn until you are a member of their group. Finding only a few good sims to explore, I returned to the destination guide, this time searching "Medieval RP". That search provided many more locations to round out my perspective of this genre.

Our first stop is "The White Armory." This is a large shop with clothing and weapons, which is the gateway to the RP areas. Don't be tempted to use the TP on the right of the entry, labeled "Knight Life Portal". That will only take you to a lame skybox with a horse ride, on a horse that won't follow directions and a carriage ride to a beautiful ballroom that has no dance balls. Instead, walk about the shop, check out the merchandise and look for TP discs on the floor. These discs allow you to select from a list of areas, including; Tipping (jousting), Battlefield, Arena, Cathedral, 99L and Armory. Some of the areas can only be selected by members. They don't sell horses here, so you will need to bring your own. The combat arenas are typical of most other RP sims, with seating for spectators and a scoreboard, showing standings of the contestants as they progress up the levels, as in many sporting events.

Our next stop is called "Usk Medieval Market / Role Play" at Realm of USK (5, 166, 501). These guys are strict about your playing by their rules, so be sure to get and read the notecard. Pay attention to it's governors, the Earl, Elders and Knights. Events and training include Jousting, Archery and Sword. To enter the RP area, you must dress and chat in character and click that you agree to follow the rules. By the way, this realm is humans only, with no Gor, Slavery or flying. I guess that's why I didn't see any of my friends there (grin).

Moving on, we come to "Avilion Nexus: Medieval Fantasy Role Play Community" found at Avilion Nexus (128, 128, 251). To combat here, you will need a combat meter, either Spell Fire, or ACS Avilion Combat system. Both meters are available, for free. You can compete without if it is with a friend and you agree, before hand to do so. Combat areas include a sword fight arena, archery range, mage arena and jousting arena. They also sell weapons, including some mesh ones.

I explored many other sims, but I think I have already given a good picture of this genre, so will close with one last location, for the benefit of my furry friends: Drekiheim - Medieval Fantasy Roleplay (furry friendly) at Turquoise Island (86, 130, 1255). Most of my research is done between midnight and 5am, so it isn't often I meet the locals. At Drekiheim, somebody I never got to see face to face sent me an IM welcoming me as a new face at the sim. I took advantage to ask questions, clarifying things I read in the notecard. This sim has a Nordic, Viking flavor to it. They are "free form" combat, anything goes, provided it fits the historic period (no guns or light sabers please). Battles can take place anywhere but in the Gypsy camp. There are two opposing camps you can join, but that isn't required. However, to get in on the head bashing, you do need to fill out a "Character Sheet" and put it in the dropbox at the welcome center and get approved. A sample sheet can be obtained, to help in creating yours.

If the medieval thing gets you hooked, you might find yourself wanting to live in your very own castle. There are quite a few places that sell them, but I'll just mention two, briefly here. One is Skye Castle Showroom Prefab Castles. These castles are very ornate, have many prims and are expensive. You probably won't want to buy one, but they are worth looking at. The smallest ones start at $2950 and are made from 200 to 300 prims. The other end of the scale cost more than I can count to, are big enough to take up most of a sim and use most of it's prims. My favorite castle showroom is
CASTLE Q Castles: HALF PRICE Birthday Sale Medieval and Gothic. In the past, I bought and lived in both the Q1 and Q2 models. I really liked the two I lived in.

You are not likely to see me engaged in combat, at any of these sims, as I'm a peace loving hippy at heart. But, if you see a cute girl, in silver armor, riding a white stallion, by all means, come chat.

Becky "Sha" Shamen

Monday, August 19, 2013

Birth of a Town: Salt Lake City

By Gemma Cleanslate

Are you into role play? Have you ever tried it? I have met people who say “oh no, I would not like that !!" and when they try fall in love with it! Though I have been visiting Tombstone, Arizona as a traveler and like it very much, I was interested to see the birth of a new role play region called Salt Lake City. I joined the group as a traveler so I could see how it evolves. 
The history period is the 1860's,  a most interesting time in the western USA. It is  in one sim so far and is collecting members who want to be in certain roles or just live there as citizens. The owners hired a custom builder to be sure it would be authentic. The grand opening was August 10 though the building continues. There is a Cavalry already with an imposing fort. One of the first places to be opened was the orphanage with a nun to take care of the poor orphans. There will be a native camp, forest and mountains already surround the town. Of course, there is a saloon complete with poker and other games, and the bar is open for business.  
Over the past few days it has been a busy time for the owners who seem to be deluged with questions and IMs just to talk. The hotel is open for daily rentals as well as some small homes in the town , furnished and unfurnished. There are strict rules in the roleplay with fines or jail time for breaking them. I saw some big guns there so I think there will be serious outlaw arrival. The sheriff is working and has a female deputy,  so that will be interesting. The country church is ready for weddings and services. Roles still open at this time Judge, Blacksmith, General Store Owner, Saloon Owners. People who role play in other places are invited to join the group or anyone interested in becoming involved in role play for the first time. There will be mentors and classes to help them orient to that historical period in the old west. 
I believe there is already a war between the Native tribe and the newcomers. Good thing the Cavalry is already there. The Navajo Nation is setting up camp in the mountains, well hidden from the town, though I encountered several in town when no one was around. That may be why the 15th US Cavalry is doing heavy recruiting.
The banking business is getting ready and I am sure will be robbed first thing. There is an extensive shopping area at the arrival location with clothing and arms to outfit you for your life in Salt Lake City.  Co-owner, Zaclegend Usher sent this notice the other day, “Well its that time again where students are gearing up to go to school again and we are starting our brand new course here in Salt Lake! Introductions To Roleplay! We have mentors which are here to help you and we strongly advise our newcomers to stop on by! Feel free to stop on by and get back to school.” I also met one of the co-owners, Keneu Karu, who is enthusiastic about the new city and has experience with role play. If you are interested you can travel to the entrance and take a look around . Meet some of the citizens  .

Addition: Contacts for the roleplay are Zaclegend Usher, Tessa Danube, and Kenau Karu.

Gemma Cleanslate 

Friday, August 16, 2013

Becky's Top Ten Real Life Locations in Second Life

by Becky "Sha" Shamen

In real life, I have always been a Designer, Artist and Builder. I have also been big on learning and doing new things. I am the same way in Second Life. From the very start, I have tried new occupations, ever seeking the next been there, done that. I began earning Lindens as a Dancer and in a short time, was breaking club tip records. A Dancer, at one club, showed me how she made a Tshirt, with the club logo on it. Within two months, I opened my first clothing store, for ladies with implants. When you strive to be your best, extra impetus comes frome those that would be "king of the mountain" in your place. Eventually, I had a fat account and had been run out of more clubs than I could keep count of, so it was time to move on. These days, you'll find me at the clubs I call home, sometimes furry, sometimes human, always dressed for the theme and entered in the "best of" contests.

One thing has not changed. From the start, I have enjoyed finding and exploring new sims, that are virtual reproductions of adventures in the real world. Face it, if you have a DJ, dancefloor and a friendly crowd, you have a good nightclub, but if you're going to build Rome, we've got to come away wearing a toga and speaking Latin.

For this article, I searched the Destination Guide for a number of sims, based on real life places. Some of them I had seen in real life, but most I only knew from pictures and stories in books and magazines. I compiled a list of 15 sims, several of which I had already seen in SL and several I had seen in RL and the rest I had only seen in print. I visited all 15, but, for various reasons, culled some of them from this report. Here then are my top ten places and their SLURLs that I'd like to share.

Virtual Oval Office

This link is a gateway to a number of places, made by the same creators. Use the TP cube to get to the Oval Office. There you'll see a small building that contains one room, the Oval Office. Entering, you discover why it's called Oval.

There is furniture, pictures on the wall, and the chief's desk, all made to look as the room is today, with a few twists thrown in. The table, behind the desk, flanked by two flags, has five photos on it; George, Abe, the face on mars and two SL residents, Freecilla Huhn and Michelle Oxygen. You can sit in the president's chair and get an idea of what it's like, being head of the free world. On the desk, there is a phone and a computer. On the computer screen, it seems the prez is downloading the latest version of SL.

On the wall, to your left, is a bookshelf. On the bottom shelf there is a yellow book, that looks out of place. Zooming in, the title is "How to be President, for DUMMIES." Across the room, we see a grandfather clock. The clock doesn't work. It's not keeping up with the times. In the center of the room is a seating area, with 2 couches and chairs and a coffee table. On the table, there is a bowl with three apples (forbidden fruit?).

The Alamo

Having lived 2/3rds of my life in Texas and visited the real Alamo, this was a must see for me. The sim is produced and maintained by members of the University of Texas at Arlington. I tip my cowboy hat to these guys. It's a perfect reproduction of the real deal. Throughout the exhibit, clicking on signs gives you detailed notecards, about the people, things and history that make the Alamo an unforgetable place. I spent a longer than needed time there, in silence, and signed the guestbook, "I remember, Sha".

St. Paul's Cathedral in London

I have had a life long love of the design and construction of large cathedrals and temples. When I spotted St. Paul's, in the destination guide, I just had to add it to my list. When I arrived on the steps of the cathedral, I waited a few minutes to fully rez, before entering. Looking around, I noticed a courtyard below, with some shops. A sign indicated that this build is located on a "SL Public Land Preserve." It also informs that the cathedral can be rented for weddings.

The cathedral is a large stone building on the outside, but it's real beauty awaited me inside. Inside the doors, to the right, is a sign which provides a notecard which lists SL Sacred Places. The list is huge and covers many denominations. If I ever run out of places to explore, this list could keep me going for years. All of the interior surfaces are covered with colorful mosaic tile artworks of Christian themes. If you are planning a wedding in SL or just like visiting ornate churches, by all means give this place a look.

The Statue of Liberty

If I've seen one, I've seen a million pictures and small copies of the Lady Liberty. This was my chance to see a full size 3D replication of it. Alas, the statue was there, but without the island which the real one stands on. The TP landing put me under water, with my cam above the surface.

Before hitting the Home Key, to fly out of the water, I was panning my cam around to see in which direction I would find it and suddenly, in local chat, comes the message, "A fox in water???". Adjusting my cam to see who was chatting me up, I found myself face to face with a cute merman. I have several tails and have explored some of the mermaid hangouts, so took the encounter as a way of learning more about their culture. We chatted for about a half hour and I told him of my previous article about the Blake Sea and gave him a link to the SL Newser. He said he hadn't been there, but the article inspired him to go explore it for himself.

When it was time for him to leave, I flew up to explore the statue. It looked OK from a distance, but, up close it was a bit off. It was like a SimCity avatar, compared to ones in SL. Up close, the size was correct and it did not bother me that it is smaller than it looks in photos, since I already knew that. It might not have made the final cut for this article on it's own, had I not made a new friend there. To quote the Rolling Stones, "You can't always get what you want....."

Acropolis in Athens

Unless you live under a rock, you have probably seen pictures of the Parthenon. Next to the great pyramid, it is likely one of the best known ancient structures on earth. It and the Erehthion sit atop a flat topped hill, in Athens Greece, known as the Acropolis. The Acropolis is the centerpiece of a sim named Greece, which is connected to three other sims, Macedonia, Aegean Sea and Hellas. After inspecting the Acropolis, I did a quick flight around the other sims. They all appeared to have a modern setting, although I could see many avatars on my radar, located at skybox elevations, in Macedonia. I suspect they might be in ancient RP mode. Perhaps one day I'll put my toga on and go have a look. This time, I was only there to see the Acropolis. The rest is, as they say, all Greek to me.

Machu Picchu

I have had the LM for Machu Picchu for years, but returned to take notes for this article. This sim is the work of the Universidad de San Martin de Porres. Since my previous visit, they have added an information center, conference seating, an outdoor  movie theater and a gift shop, with lots of freebies. I suspect the school uses the sim for online classes. Near the landing, you find a box of free helpful stuff, including a panoramic view picture, an area map and interactive HUD, all in Spanish. All the photos that take in the whole site seem to have been taken from the same hilltop location. Flying is allowed, which makes it easier to see it from other angles and check out individual areas.

RMS Titanic (semi formal dress code)

This is another LM that I've had for some time. When I mention the Titanic, I often hear, "Is that sim still going?", to which I reply, yes and as impressive as ever. And guys, if you, like Mick Jagger, can't get no satisfaction, let me give you a valuable tip. Nothing will impress her more than buying her a formal gown and taking her ballroom dancing at the RMS Titanic. This ship is the length of the whole sim and, if you saw the movie, you know, the decor is as fancy as it comes. Signs in a dozen languages announce that the dress code in the ballroom and stern is "strictly formal". Looking for the latest tux or gown, there are pleanty of shops on the dock and on board.

There are other things to see as well. There is a swimming pool, dinning hall, suites to rent and a tour of the ship. The one thing they didn't include? You won't find any pesky icebergs here. And, if fancy cars are a turn on, be sure to take a look at the 1912 Renault CB, on the dock, for a mere $600. I have boats, motorcycles and aircraft by the dozen, in my inventory, but no cars yet. If I decide to go on a continental automobile tour, THAT car will be my choice.

Eiffel Tower and other tourist spots in Paris

This is one of the first adventure LMs I ever added to my collection. Unlike the Statue of Liberty, this structure is WAY bigger than any photograph makes it look. The top level is 247 meters high and the tower is located in the middle of a 4 sim collective of Paris 1900. You can dress the part, but there is no dress code other than no nudity. At the SE leg of the tower, you'll find an elevator TP to take you up to the three levels of the tower.

On level 1 you can find manikins, dressed in 1900 attire, to customize your home or sim, or a scale model of the Eiffel tower, in 6 sizes, 10,20,30 40,50 and 100 meters tall. On level 2, you can read the history of the tower, but only if you read French. From there, there is a spiral stair that leads to another floor where there is clothing for sale and free. On level 3, the top, there is a plank that sticks out, from which you are encouraged to jump off. Free parachutes are given, for those that want a slower descent. I don't think that feature can be found on the real tower, so the SL one is even better than the real thing.

Sistine Chapel
secondlife://VASSAR/166/88/25 (inactive)

This LM has also been a long time favorite of mine. It is, without a doubt, the best thing I have ever seen in SL. Searching for more information, on the net, showed that many others agree. Years ago, National Geographic featured a great article on the real chapel, complete with a fold-out photo of the ceiling. Visiting it in SL is even better, because you don't have to deal with crowds of other tourists. Each time I went, I was the only one on the whole sim. The other advantage of seeing it in SL is that you can fly up to the ceiling and see it as only Michelangelo could.

In preperation for this article, I attempted a TP for another look, to get additional inspiration. SL would not allow the TP, the first few times, which is not unusual, so I tried for a few more days, but got the same result, so I looked for it on the map. The sim was totally gone. Normally, as this kind of thing happens all the time in SL, I would just say, c'est la vie, but not this time. I was so outraged, I wanted to join a protest group, carry signs, wear an "Occupy SL" Tshirt (I actually have one), and roll around, kicking and screeming on the floor. That gives you an idea of just how great this sim is, or was.

We can only hope that the problem is temporary, a hardware problem that they are trying to fix, or a financial problem that donations will soon remedy. If it doesn't come back, perhaps we should all bow our heads and say a silent prayer, then go tar and feather those responsible. But, by all means, if you can't see it in SL, Google it and see what you missed.

Mont Saint Michel in France

When I found this location in the destination guide, it went to the top of my "must see" list. I also knew, intuitively, that I should save it for the last place to research. I could, easily, spend as much time exploring this one sim as I did the entire Blake Sea. The first time I went there, my first impression was, "OMG, this is like a 3D puzzle with a million pieces." It took a long time for my surroundings to rez and I could barely move and checking the stats, found I was dealing with .4 FPS. My normal reaction to this kind of sim is to click my heels three times and go back home, but this place had me hooked, before I ever got there. I was on some kind of grail quest. I adjusted the rabbit ears on my wi-fi antenna, did housekeeping in my inventory, deactivated all my gestures, went only between midnight and dawn, and anything else I could think of to improve my laptop's performance.

I was possessed with getting from the landing to the Chapel at the top of the hill, without flying. I even searched the net for street maps of the real place, to assist my journey. I learned that the road to the top is called Grande Rue, but it's more of a foot path than a street. The rue is narrow, has places on it that climb stairs and is lined with interesting shops. One of the first shops that captured my attention, and, eventually, a good chunk of my change, sells knight's armor, for male and female, that is the best I've seen in SL. I don't do medieval RP, so it's hard to explain why I have a collection of armor.

Lord knows how many hours, nay, days it took, but I did get to the top and made a composite photo to celebrate my victory, showing me at the altar in the chapel and it's location on the mont. However, that's not the end of my exploration. I've still only seen a small portion of the sim. If you go, keep an eye out for the cute girl in shining armor, still searching for the Holy Grail.

Becky "Sha" Shamen

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

The First Sims – Welsh

DrFran Babcock

Although there is little that I will say about Welsh that may not have been said before by the late Lalo Telling or Alex Hayden (see  links below), I still went to Welsh. I did this because of all the sixteen original sims of the original post-Beta Second Life™, Welsh is the one that retains more antiquity than any other place on the grid.  Welsh also seems bigger than most sims, maybe because it has a lot of parcels on it, and a lot of water between them. Each time I thought I had finished my explorations I found something else I hadn’t seen before, even builds by the resident avatars of Linden Lab employees! It seems that back in 2005 it was permissible to have an alternative account that was known to other residents, even though its owner was actually working for Second Life™. Imagine interacting with someone on the grid in a social way, and knowing they ran the show. I am sure some of you remember those days, but most of you will read this in disbelief. Please read on for more, because Welsh holds more secrets than I could unearth.

History of Welsh

As always, in preparation for these articles on the early sims, I conduct “research” on their history. This is not always easy to find, and in the case of the Welsh, I really had a difficult time digging up information. I always check the photos on Snapzilla, but these only go back to 2005. However, the views of Welsh depicted in the photos there show a sim that is barely changed from its origins. Here is the reason why: The majority landholders on this land are the same as they have always been, and include the very first public, non-Linden resident—Steller Sunshine.

Who Lives Here?

Steller Sunshine, born March 1st, 2002, was a Beta tester, and has left a mark on Second Life™ that persists to this day, with prim builds scattered throughout the grid, but focused primarily on Welsh. I have never seen her in world, but I have been told that she still logs in occasionally. Somehow, Welsh has managed to remain mostly in the hands of the original members. Some of the Welsh Land group members are very early adopters:

Buhbuhcuh Fairchild 10/09/02
buTTONpUSHER Jones 10/10/02
Zebulon Lynch (aka starseeker) 12/12/02
Tweke Underhill 1/23/03
Maggie Miller 5/17/03
Dawson Murphy: 5/21/03
Saaz Roentgen 8/30/03

What is so astonishing, is that many of them are still around, and still have builds that date from 2002 through the present, comprising some of the oldest builds in Second Life™. Some of these builds were actually saved from the Beta Grid and rezzed in the first sims when they came on line.

The Climbable Beanstalk and Steller Sunshine

Steller Sunshine’s masterpiece of building and gaming is the Climbable Beanstalk built in July of 2003 (NOTE: Actually it was built in 2002 in Linden World, and re-rezzed when Second Life™ went into Beta), and still standing and taunting those who would try to make it to the top. I have met many residents who have tried to climb to the top of the beanstalk, but none who said they had done it. If climbing and failing is not for you; trying to play tic-tac-toe might work. Whatever you decide, please remember that this build was completed without mesh or sculpties, and it still has a sophisticated look. Did I mention it’s a real challenge to climb it without flying?

There are many other objects on the island that were created by the first resident. My favorite is a giant View Master that is for sale on the sim. I remember this object from my childhood, when it seemed so futuristic. Back then I dreamed of virtual worlds, but they were the stuff of science fiction, and not something of which one day I would be a part.

Dawson Murphy – Beta to Now

Dawson Murphy was an early adopter of Second Life™, but not as early as many of the residents on the list above. However, his footprint is large and remains on the sim. Dawson’s home, Dawson’s Dive, is a museum of old prim builds, and a few political references. A large Republican elephant flag and American flag fly over the simple cabin on stilts, and the inside contains items that range from 2002 to 2006. There is a portrait of Dawson and first resident Steller Sunshine (who provided the 2002 chair in Dawson’s dining room), and a THiNC book with an autograph of Newt Gingrich. A textbook on dynamic HTML shares shelf space with leather bound classic volumes like Anna Karenina. You can also view Alberto Linden’s October 2002 glass and chrome coffee table in the living room.

Below, I talk about how nice it was in the days when the Lindens interacted with residents, and you could call upon them for help. At the time of my visit there was an alpha megaprim rezzed over much of Dawson’s land, that I abuse-reported, but upon last check it was still there. Sigh.

Pete Fats – Jokester and Charter Member

Pete, a Charter Member born April of 2003, has some prims on Welsh that were created in 2010. They seem to be the makings of a waterslide, but remain unfinished. There are many of his prims littered about the parcel. I found this very funny as one of his claims to fame was a test of the Linden’s anti-griefing attempts, that took place in 2003. I came upon an archived forum stream ( )on the subject. Apparently, Pete rezzed some self-replicating ants, logged off, and waited for the fun to begin. Early residents, such as Maggie Miller (May 2003), delighted in recounting how two Lindens had to come and clean up the ants one-by-one. Reading this made me nostalgic for the days when you could enlist the aid of a Linden in real time.

Pete’s influence is seen subtly throughout Welsh in the chairs from 2003, and other items on the sim. I spent some time sitting on one of his rocking chairs atop a new, for this sim, water tower created in 2007 by Steller Sunshine.

Saaz Roentgen – Early Games and Teleports

Saaz was born in August of 2003, and two of his builds endure on Welsh. One is the Sand Castle, and the other is a Whack-a-Mole game, at which I failed. The Sand Castle is a simple build, with great historic value. If you find the two bright green arrows just over the door to the castle, you can teleport up to a sandbox platform, that is filled with items from many residents, or to a “particle-thingie” which seems to be a control panel that has yet to work for me.

Saaz also has a tropical home on the sim, but my favorite part of Saaz’s parcel is the lounging tree he has. You can bask in the shadow of the beanstalk, and listen to the birds, and feel good about doing nothing.

Twerke Underhill – The Merchant of Welsh

The Hat Tree stands on Welsh where it has stood since the earliest days of Second Life™. Twerke Underhill has never wavered from his commitment to provide classy chapeaux to the fine residents of SL, and to do it in a build that I found delightful and fantastic when I was a newbie. The tree that houses the shop shares the skyline of Welsh with, and adds a nice counterpoint to, the Climbable Beanstalk. It sits atop a small island accessible from a charming, legacy prim footbridge. The most recent hat dates from 2006, with most of them from 2003. Thus, if you buy a hat—most of which cost less than 15 Lindens, you have bought a piece of history. The tree itself seems to have been renovated in 2006, but the upper branches are from 2004. This leads me to believe that a different Hat Tree stood here, before Twerke rebuilt it. A little research on Snapzilla shows a store that is a bit different, and more isolated on the sim: . (Thanks, Torley)

buTTONpUSHER Jones and The Secret Labs

I stumbled upon the ominous-looking laboratory of buTTONpUSHER Jones (2002) as I wandered Welsh. It is nothing more than a pile of black boxes climbing into the air. I walked around it until I found a small door, and walked into a mess of projects and moving items. Obviously, buTTON is a mad scientist, and his work is all around. Historically, he is famous for his XYChess game, which is available free in his lab.

I would have never known about another part of this parcel had it not been for my attempt to return to the lab, and an inpatient rush to be inside it. I couldn’t find the door quickly, so I cammed into the lab, and saw the seat icon pop up near a small tree stump amongst the many prims. I clicked to sit, and found myself up in the air at 286 meters, on a lovely suspended island filled with more moving parts. This was a happy accident that I recommend.

For a look into some of the earliest days in Second Life™ you can browse  buTTONpUSHER’s Flicker stream. Sadly, many of the pictures lack descriptions, but there are some from Christmas of 2003:

BuhbuhCuh Fairchild – Living A Double Life

Just as I was about to wrap up my explorations, I realized that the ethereal cathedral-like build that was in the background of many of my photos was actually located on Welsh. The builder BuhbuhCuh Fairchild, or BBC, was a name that seemed familiar. The build itself, seems to be a FIC temple. FIC, or Feted Inner Core is a name given to those residents who seemed to have a very close connection to the Lindens, and were granted special favors.

There is an odd sort of irony to this build, as my research seems to indicate that BBC is actually a Linden himself. Seems that in the early days of SL it was fine to mingle with the residents, and to have an alt that was known to be a Linden by other residents. This entry in Buhbuhcuh’s profile was the first thing that made me wonder about him:

“I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe. Attack hippos on fire off the shoulder of Ahern. I watched Lindens glitter in the dark near the Heteroceran wall. All those moments will be lost in time, like scripts in the asset server.”

Buhbuhcuh even had a blog of his own in which he spoke candidly about the lab, astonishing now for its transparency. Here is a small piece:

“I plan to use this blog as a place to publish some of my thoughts about LL and SL, but I also want to use it to help people understand how and why we Lindens do what we do.  I’ll be happy to answer any questions I can here, and if I can't answer them, I will tell you why.”

Oh, and by the way, Buhbuhcuh is actually Ben Linden. Surprise!

Odds and Ends: Newbies on the Sim

With all of these oldbies on the sim, it’s strange that residents from 2006 are considered newbies. That said, Chloe Mineff’s Water Gallery is a worthy place to park your avatar. There are works from several SL artists, among them Bryn Oh, and the simple seating in the center of the build allows one to look at the work and rest those weary feet. I really liked the way the semi-transparent curtains that surround the build waft delicately, adding a nice feel to the whole place.

The End?

I could go on forever about this sim, but if you are a history buff like me, you will make sure it is part of your travels. Come live the early days of Second Life™ on Welsh.

Visit Welsh:

Alex Hayden on Welsh:

The Late Lalo Telling on Welsh:

Buhbuhcuh Fairchild’s early SL blog:

DrFran Babcock

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Reader Submitted: The Blake Sea

By Becky "Sha" Shamen

This is my third article, in a series of reports on adventure tours in SL. Since starting SL, over three and a half years ago, I have always enjoyed discovering new things to do and see here. One of my favorite viewers is Nirans. On each start up, while the program loads, they post "tips." One of the tips says that Chuck Norris has completed SL 3 times. This always makes me ask, how is this possible. Every time I think I've done everything there is to do in SL, along comes something new, to me. There seems to be no end to what you can do here. I once wrote, in a song, "Each time I do discover is like love to me. By the time there's nothing left undone, what a lover I'll be". And so, with love, I offer my report on the Blake Sea.

I mentioned, in a previous article, the Blake Sea is a collection of sims which connects the continents of Satori and Nautilus and extends eastward from there. This eastern portion contains 195 connected sims, covering 12.78 million square meters. We will confine this report to the eastern portion. My expeditions began there after I got a free sailing ship from the marketplace. The ship is a large privateer, called Minerva, with three masts, stay sails and square sails and 18 cannons. It is propelled by the winds in SL.

I needed an area with lots of room, in which to master it's use. Checking the Destination Guide, I found a number of ports in the Blake Sea, from which I could rez my ship and set sail. I found a port, called Diego, which had a pirate theme, which seamed to go well with my ship's design. It didn't take long to discover a couple of drawbacks that came with this choice. For one, there is a sea monster, called Kracken, that frequents the western end of the harbor. Once I found my way around him, I immediately discovered the next peril.

There are four sims, on the West side of Diego, which when entered, announce, in the title bar, their sim name and the warning, "Caution-Pirate Zone!" Later, I learned that these water sims, Kendra, Beaufort, Cannonade and Thunderer, are part a 13 sim group involved in the "All Seas Battle Group." In the shopping area, on Diego, you can join this group, check the schedule of planned battles, as well as buy pirate clothing, ships and other accessories. If you are sailing in the area, in a period ship and have cannons aboard, you are fair game for any ship that wants to use you for shooting practice. Cannon balls are objects that must be rezzed and many of the other water sims don't allow them. On the dock, bellow the shops, there are a number of ship merchants that provide docked show models, so you can see before you buy.

If pirates aren't your thing, you might consider hooking up with the United Sailing Sims, which has numerous yacht clubs in the Blake Sea and hosts regularly scheduled sailboat races, for all classes and sized boats.Want to just sail, without racing or battles?  Blake Sea is open to all and there are many places where you can rez your boats, be they wind, gas or steam powered.  I should mention here, there are rules to follow on the sea. Mostly, they are based on the SL TOS rules, but there is one I should mention. Sailboats have the right of way. Also, you must power down or steer clear of any races in progress. There are hundreds of islands to visit. Some have towns. Many are small and have only one or two homes on them. If you are interested in living by the sea, there are many places available.

Travel on water is not the only way to get around. The Blake Sea is also a great place to fly and there are a number of airports to be found. I even visited an aircraft carrier, just west of the pirate sims. The skies are full of planes, seaplanes and helicopters. I turn heads, when I fly in my Tesla UFO or my H.G.Wells time machine. If it flies, it's allowed. In most areas, you can also free fly, like Superman.
Look in the title bar, at the top of your viewer, for the icons that tell what is not allowed at any given location.

In addition to travel, Blake Sea also has a number of sites of interest. At the South end, you'll find the largest ship in all of SL, the SS Galaxy. The Galaxy is host to many events and, if you are laden with a chest or two of doubloons, you can rent a suite there. In my travels, I came across a large sim, called "Greenhouse", which features every imaginable plant, flower and tree under the sun. When I plan a trip to places, I often use the world map to pan around looking for unusual features. Unlike when you are on the surface, the map lets you see the sea floor. While preparing a map, for this article, I kept noticing an un-natural looking sea floor, just west of the Galaxy. I finally decided to go explore the cause of the appearance. I placed a marker on it and teleported there. On arrival, I found myself under water, surrounded by ancient stone buildings. A glance up at the title bar told me I was in a place called, "My Atlantis". One of the buildings seamed to be a home, was unlocked and nobody on the whole sim, so I went in for a quick peek. Signs revealed that this was connected with "Bloodlines", so I was all the more rushed to get back out. Never the less, it was all a very attractive build and worthy of mention here.

I spent the better part of a week exploring the Blake Sea, in preparation for this article and will surely go back many more times. I could tell you more, but want you to have the joy of discovering it yourself. There are still many islands I have not visited yet and, like many, I find it's just fun going sailing and flying on the Blake Sea. I've provided a map, showing some key places, to help plan your visits. The map shows only the East end of the sea. It continues at least three miles to the West, but that will have to be another story. Have a bon voyage, keep a lookout for me and please don't point any cannons in my direction.