Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Sha's Thoughts: Sha Anouki

By Becky Shamen

Anouki comes to us from ancient Egypt. It is another name for Isis, "goddess of life." It's root is Ank, "life." With the added personal suffix, it becomes  "my life," my being. In exploring Second Life for it's seemingly endless supply of new experiences and entertainment, for nearly four years and writing about it for the last three and a half months, the end of the road has ever receeded from view. I have become adept at pushing farther and deeper into life, in both the real and virtual world. Contemplating new places to explore and interesting people to meet, it dawned that I had overlooked one that was literally right under my own nose. For a large portion of the time I have lived in Second Life, I have had my home in Sunweaver Estates. I was one of the first few to move to Sunweaver Bay and got my choice of location. I built my house on a hill, overlooking the bay. After trying several houses, I have just recently completed one that takes full advantage of the great view. It couldn't have come at a better time, because the owner, Rita Mariner, has done a wonderful job of upgrading the scenery. Living on the bay is a constant source of joy. With it's personallized custom textures and decorations, the house has become an external part of myself. Seeing inside my house is like seeing inside of me. Even so, it can't tell the whole story. I try to live my life as an open book. Let's go inside and see what is written there.

Approaching the entry, you quickly notice, this person is into wood carving. More than just owning and looking at them, I love making them. I have carved and whitled since childhood and have made many notable works. Without a doubt, the most impressive hack jobs I ever did happened when I worked as a professional carver. I had to carve a scallop shell keystone for the interior moulding of a large entry door, in a thirty million dollar mansion. The main part of the carving was done in the shop, but the bottom, where the arch meets it, had to be carved after the keystone was installed, because it had to turn the tips of the arch into a fiddle scroll, like on a violin tuning head.  When I went to finish the carving, there was scaffolding in the entry hall, which was topped by a dome. At the keystone area, thirty feet up, there was a narrow tongue deck, leading to the carving. Taking out the needed tools, the tool box was placed on the deck and I sat on it while carving for the next four hours. As I worked, I kept imagining this was how it felt to paint the Sistine Chapel ceiling. I knew, after this Michelangelo moment, everything else, from there on, would just be humdrum work, compared to this ultimate adventure.
The doors on my second life house came with carved textures, but I wanted fancier carvings, which I found on the internet, along with other images used for making the Chez Sha plaque and stair rail.
As we enter the house, I am reminded of a "Michelangelo moment," experienced in my early days in SL. To make money, to buy clothes with, I would dance, freelance, at Escort Oasis. One night, I received a rather large tip from across the room and I responded with the "/me thanks _____ for his generous tip" (emote), as I searched the room to get a look at him. He was a tall, pale av, dressed in gothic vampire outfit, which made me a bit nervous at first. During the next half hour, we chatted, I accepted his friend request, and he kept giving large tips. When he said he had to go, I was somewhat relieved to get out of his "dark shadow" and amazed and shocked at having received..... L$12,000 , in only 30 minutes. Needless to say, the next day I went on a shopping spree and, within a week, had built my first mansion in SL. Shortly after, I got my first job, as an exotic dancer, in a club called "the Tiity Bar." I got rich, practicing my new profession, but never made as much, as quickly, as that night in Escort Oasis. One of the dancers at the Titty Bar had learned to make clothing textures for the prim breasts, that we had to wear at work. She taught me how to do it and, within two months, I rented my first clothing store. Within weeks, my shop started showing up on lists of the best places to buy clothing for implants. Ultimately, the owner of the most popular brand of implants invited me to have a free space in his main store, because many of his customers asked where my shop was located.

As we enter my new house, at Sunweaver Bay, and turn right, there is a large picture frame on the wall. The image in the frame changes every 30 seconds, like a slide show. Before buying this frame, I had paintings all over the house, that used a large number of my prim allowance. By using the new frame, I was able to gain 24 prims, to use for other furniture. The frame shows pictures of friends, wood carvings I have done and illustrations I have created in SL.

The wall, to the left of the picture frame, has a large bookself, which covers the length of the wall.
This looks like a lot of books for one person to own, but it's only about half as many as I have had in my real life library. Unlike some, who like to display books to give the impression of being smart, I have actually read all of my books and retain the information in my brain. If I say that I read something, on a given topic, I might not remember which of my hundreds of books it came from, but I will remember all the details.
 Close to the bookshelves, I have a computer desk. This is symbolic of my SL position as a newspaper reporter, but also fits my real life as well. I began using computers in 1967, long before the invention of the PC. The first PC I used was one by Heathkit, which we built in the basement. I made the case for the keyboard from hand carved black walnut. Before I learned of SL, I had taught myself how to make 3D illustrations and videos, using various software packages. On seeing some of my creations, a friend told me I should join SL, a game that she enjoyed playing on line. I told her that video games didn't interest me, but she said it was not like those kinds of games. She brought over her laptop and walked me through the steps of getting an account and getting in world. We met, in world and she taught me things that take most noobs weeks or months to learn. She also turned out to be a vampire in SL and I got bitten in my first few moments in world. It took a year, before I finally got the wormwood treatment, to remove all traces of the bite, which bloodlines users can see. Since then, vampires have always been a turn off.
On the other side of the first floor, we find my music/livingroom, where the piano and harp can be played. This area has a large bay window, providing an awesome view of Rita's artistic landscaping. In all the homes I have seen in SL, I have yet to find any with a view to match mine. Thank you Rita. She improved the scenery, in hopes of renting out more lots on the sim. I hope, by writing about how much I like living here, that others will come see for themselves and decide to build their homes here.
 Both the harp and piano contain animations and sounds. If you come to my house, by all means, try them out. I have been a musician all my life and have written dozens of songs. Having instruments in my SL home illustrates their importance in my real life and the joy they bring.
Across from the piano and harp, and sharing the same view, I have a couch and chair, each only one prim, from Primpossible. This provides a great place to chat with good friends. I have often written about the importance of chat, for developing Oneness and community. In real life, I am the founder of several on-line groups, including a classroom of ancient wisdom, called "The Keys of Knowledge." Behind me is the Stairs, with handrail made with a photo texture of carved palm tree. We will also find palm trees outside in my garden. These symbolize the fact that I now live in Southern California. 
Between my group friends and SL friends, I have nearly 1000 on-line friends, many of whom speak other languages. Good communication is very important, to me, so, as an aid I keep a pile of language dictionaries by my keyboard. My SL neighbor, the fire chief, lives in Northern Italy and is also a fireman there. I bought the Italian dictionary when he moved to Sunweaver Bay.

Upstairs is a slightly more private area, furnished with a snuggle love seat and my custom made round bed, in which I have added a TNT sex engine. I tell everybody that it is the best in SL. After testing it out, or looking through it's menu, nobody has ever challenged my claim.
On the walls, I have photos of my three real-life daughters and one of my grand daughters and well as a portrait of me and a painting, both done by my dear friend, Shanti Bright.
On the balcony, there are two bean bag chairs, which are good for chats and meditation with friends. The balcony has the same wonderful view as the music room and also wraps around to the side of the house that faces the fire station to which I donated a fire truck.
Outside, I have a garden, with palm trees and flowers and a meditation area that seats four. Although I contemplate, as opposed to meditate, in RL, doing so in SL shows the importance I place on developing soul contact, as a means of bringing heaven and earth together.
I hope you have enjoyed the tour of my home and getting to know me better. If you come to Sunweaver Bay, whether I'm home or not, the door is always open. Feel free to enter and enjoy what it has to offer. If you meet me, offer friendship and I will accept you into my family.
Becky "Sha" Shamen

Friday, October 18, 2013

The Forest

By Becky Shamen

In the previous article, I wrote that Tempura Island is, "one of my most valued LMs." To be more accurate, I should say that it shares the number one rank with "The Forest." In writing these articles, many old memories have been brought to light. Piecing these together has not only aided in writing these stories, it has revealed a hidden back story, that answers certain questions. Why do I love these sims so much? Why does a person that has no interest in meditation, in real life, place so much importance on it in SL? Have I been hiding something important, from myself and others? I find that it is impossible to continue extolling the virtues of these sims, without first revealing a bit of my own history in SL.

It is no secret that one of my first jobs in SL was as an exotic dancer. No doubt, at that time I was learning the errors of allowing the purse to overrule the demands of the soul. One night, as I danced on my pole, I met a man named Shanti Bright. He was a photographer and lived in France. We became friends and set up a photo shoot. When he opened a photo gallery, I was invited to the grand opening, met many of his European friends and became an international celebrity. I was invited to attend weekly group meditations, in the garden of one of his lady friends. Before and after meditating, we conversed, mostly in French and Spanish. This was a great delight for me, because my family originally comes from France. 

When the group hostess left SL, Shanti and I began finding other locations to have group meditations. Other members of the group were hit and miss, but Shanti and I continued to meet every Sunday, at noon, for years, at the Forest sim. Initially, we met at the central meditation area, which seats four. On weekdays, I explored the rest of the sim and discovered several private meditation spots. Eventually, we chose a wooded hill, on the Northwest corner of the sim, as "our place." We knew each other's real life names, shared our real photos and even spoke on Yahoo messenger, when he tried to teach me Esperanto. And even though the technology does not yet exist, I think we could even smell each other. 

When Shanti moved, from his country home to the, for him, big city of Clermont, he became progressively involved in local business and government. The day came when he announced, he would no longer come play in Second Life. I think you can see why the Forest is more than just another sim to me. It is the place where love grew.

Allow me now to tell you of the wonders you will find, when you visit the Forest. On arrival, it may take a couple of minutes for all the sights to rez, but your senses will already be treated to the sounds of peaceful music and the abundant wild life. Everywhere you go, you will meet animals of all kinds, roaming freely about the sim. You can fly here, but the forest canopy is to thick to spot landmarks from the air. It is much better to just walk around, in what ever direction your eyes take you. 

Regardless of what direction you go, there will be something wonderful to find. There are fewer people here than on Tempura, so the lag is also less to deal with. There is every kind of tree and plant imaginable and they have a doorway to a shop where you can buy them, for your own home or sim. If you see a harp, sit and play it. I bought one there, for my house, and everybody that visits loves to try it. There are a number of meditation spots, as well as Tai Chi areas. There are also many romantic places for couples to sit and chat. It's a great place to bring a friend or lover and make a good impression on them. If you go solo, you will not feel alone. Anybody you meet here is sure to be friendly and open to chatting and exploring with you. 

 The Forest is not static. The hills and vales stay the same, but the trees, flowers and structures are often updated, an artwork in progress. If the pressures in the real world or Second Life are wearing you down, a visit to the Forest is like a return to the garden of Eden and will heal your soul.


Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Tempura Island

By Becky Shamen

Long before I knew of the Destination Guide, from my earliest days in SL, I have known of and loved this sim. Back before my first job, one of my longest friends invited me to come enjoy a visit to Tempura Island. It has remained one of my most valued LMs, to this day. It is only a single sim, but it contains more than just adventure. If you allow it's magic to work, it will open a gateway to the realm of soul. On May 25, 2013, Tempura celebrated it's 5th anniversary. In the three plus years that I have been going there, it has changed little. It doesn't need to change. It was always perfectly complete in doing exactly what it was meant to do. It has become so popular that, regardless of the time of day, you will find 40-50 people there. It doesn't need my help to promote it. Most people I know, unless they are new to SL, have heard of it. If you have never been there, it's about time you discovered why it has become so loved by so many.
Looking at the map, we see a large, central cross shaped structure. The circle at the bottom of the cross is the landing point. As soon as you land, you need to take a few steps forward, because you probably landed on top of someone and another will soon land on your head. Yes, it's that popular, so, if you need time for things to rez, find a nearby space to do it. If you like meeting new people and making friends, you will have many opportunities on Tempura. Returning to take a few photos, for this article, I made several new friends. The landing point is in a gazebo, located in the wooded hills of the southern part of the island. Paths lead through these beautiful woods, with it's many, peaceful sitting areas, You may find yourself thinking you aren't in Kansas any more and wondering where the yellow brick road is.
The center arm of the cross structure is a bi-level bridge, that leads to the large building on the northern part of the island and has stairs down to the East and West arms of the cross.
The right, or Eastern stairway leads to the Tai Chi isle. I have yet to meet anybody that did not enjoy this exercise. There are, at least, a dozen pose balls and I have never done it solo. It's a great place to chat and make friends and watching it is, somehow very stimulating to the soul. I know some ladies that tell me it also is somewhat of a sexual stimulant. Great place to take a date (smile).

The left, or Western stairway leads to the meditation isle. I've never seen any rules on meditation in SL, but for best effect have always done it in silence, for around 30 minutes per session. I can't say what this experience will do for others, but it led to a best friend and I meeting at noon, every Sunday, for years, here and at other locations, meditating together in silence. I have also provided two places, in my own home, for meditation.

A large, ornate building is located at the North end of the bridge. The central hall is a ballroom, with dance balls for singles and couples. On my last visit, a lady asked me to dance with her boyfriend, as her feet were getting tired. The two side wings have stairs to the roof and sitting rooms on each level. The Northern half of the island has scenic paths, beautiful trees and several points of interest, as well as places for couples to sit and chat.

My LM for Tempura is kept in a folder, called "Romantic Getaways." I'm sure you will find this location to be a great place to share with good friends or take your next romantic date. Even if you go alone, you will probably love it and tell others.

Becky "Sha" Shamen

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Snow Job: A Tour of Sansara's Winter Lands

By Becky Shamen

The Southwest portion of Sansara, the original mainland, is all covered in snow, year round. I confess, having lived one third of my real life in Northern climates that get plenty of snow, I only like seeing it on Christmas cards now. However, the mainlands also feature roads that span great distances and this was something I wanted to experience and write about. I decided it was time to plot a course and see what I might discover. I started North of the snow lands and planned on following a road, all the way to the South end of the continent. This trip would take me through 20 sims; Whiskey, Steamboat, Jernberg, Rothenberg, Monti, Mieto, Koss, Zermatt, Moritz, Wengen, Oberstdorf, Valmore, Eagan, Heaton, Ohno, Skari, Benham, Okemo Gorge, Okemo Canyon and Nakiska. The one thing I expected to see lots of was whiteness. As an artist, there are two things I really like about white. It contains all the colors and a new sketchbook, with all white pages, has the potential to include any picture that could be drawn. In keeping with the white theme, I wore white clothing and hair, and, not knowing what road conditions I would find, road my white horse.

I began my trip by a TP to Clarksburg, just North of the snowlands. As I turned South, to start my trek, the first thing I see is a warning sign; BRIDGE MAY BE VIRTUAL. What the fox does that mean? Isn't EVERYTHING in SL virtual? Not wanting to risk begining my adventure with a dip in the icy river below, my horse and I decided to fly over to the other side. What follows are some highlights of things I found in sims along the way.

In Steamboat, I passed a place called Phantasmagoria Theater. On the marquee, "31 days of horror", suggested that they were doing a Halloween theme, for the whole month. Zooming my cam inside, I see they have a movie screen, for watching videos. Alas, my computer and viewer can't do video in SL, so I'll leave watching the movies to you.

In Rothenberg, I passed a fenced graveyard, with a zombie vault crypt. I didn't see any zombies, but figured October was probably their busiest season and they were off looking for brains to eat. Tip-toed past, a little farther on, I found a LM giver for "Furious" Star Wars Avatars, which I grabbed for later exploration.

In Monti, I spotted a building called 3RG. This place was promoting a new virtual world, called 3rd Rock Grid, which is like SL, but smaller with fewer people. They gave a website, which I went and looked at. I didn't join, yet, but might soon, for a look-see. The viewer needed for 3RG is "Cool VL Viewer", which works in SL as well. I downloaded the viewer, to see if it worked on my computer and it does. I've been exploring SL for almost 4 years and have barely made a dent. It's not likely that I'll be going to 3rd Rock soon.

All along my route, I was often passed by driverless cars and trucks. You can click these and ride them. I assume they take you on a pre-programmed route. In Koss, I came to an intersection that was covered in snow and the driverless vehicles were having trouble getting through. I was glad that I had decided to travel on horseback. I paused to take a snapshot of a red car, that was stuck and spinning it's wheels, before continuing on.

I have already tried and enjoyed downhill skiing in SL, so it came as no surprise, in Moritz, to find a ski lift that gives free skis and poles. If you haven't tried this before, I highly recomend it. In this sim, there is a rail station, giving free rides. The tracks followed my route from here on.

In Eagan, I saw a sign that said REZ ZONE and a map of a scenic side trip. I assume the rez zones were so you could rez your vehicle of choice. Here's the map.

In Ohno, aside from the unusual sim name, they had a shop that sold ice skates and rinks, but my horse said they were too hard on his ankles, so we continued on.

In Benham, the road came to an end, leaving the train or flight as the only way to get through the last three sims on my itinerary. We took to the air, for a birds eye view, but saw nothing to attract our attention. With that, my horse started mumbling about some cute philly, he saw several sims back and that maybe now would be a good time for me to check out that Star Wars shop. I had to agree, after this much snow, I needed a cup of hot chocolate, by a warm fireplace.

Becky "Sha" Shamen

Monday, October 7, 2013

Learning Island: Second Life's New Starting Area

By Bixyl Shuftan

In September, I found out about a new place set up for those entering Second Life for the first time: Learning Island. Combined with Social Island, set up at the same time, the result is an improved experience for newcomers.

Since the beginning, Linden Lab had set up a place for those brand new to the Grid to learn the basics. First there was Orientation Island, which was a nice beach area with music and a trail that led to various tutorial stations. But with only ten percent of people registering bothering to finish, the Lab looked for something better. In 2010 came the Welcome and Discovery Islands, where the beach look was replaced with high-tech looking white buildings. The reviews on them were mixed.

In March 2012 came Destination Island. This was the simplest setup, where newcomers found themselves in a circular arched building with a "Tutorial" window popping up and giving them basic instructions. Newcomers had a choice of several portals to walk through, each which would teleport the newbie to one of the sims of the portal's category, "Music," "Art," "Roleplay," etc. Not much of a start before going out into the virtual world. In July 2013, Uccello Poultry wrote about a new process, one that she felt had gone from "horrible" to "something even worse." She described her new newcomer alt as being simply dumped in a shopping area.

The new Learning Island resembles the old Orientation Island than the other previous starting places. Or if one wants to get technical, Learning Islands. There is a group of several to the northeast of the Heterocera Atoll continent, with lone ones to the west and east. These are open only to brand new accounts. So once again, it was time to create an alt.

 My alt Rezzdarnit's first view in Second Life: Cloudy with ocean all around. Note: I was using Singularity as the official viewer doesn't work on my machine. The majority of new accounts would most likely use the official one. So perhaps this would simulate a new user who did a little research, found many older users disliked the new viewers, and went with one some preferred.

After about a minute, everything was rezzed. Looks like someone else came in just after I did. And for the lady to the right of me, she had to take care of something while logging in.

More people logging in before the one just before moved. Reminded me of the avatar stacking at Luskwood some years ago, though the physics were different then.

Like Destination Island, there's a tutorial window for you to follow. The difference this time, there's room around to get your virtual feel wet. Literally if you go into the water.

The island had some detail, such as ripples in the sand, lumps in the rocks, palm trees, and this shipwrecked sailboat in the rocks. Something a newbie was liable to check out when testing out flight mode.

Going on, one goes around a corner and to the left.

Most avatars spoke nothing as they went about, even though the tutorial encouraged it at one point. Eventually though, someone finally needed a little help and asked.

Avatars start out with more than just the clothes on their backs. The tutorial tells newcomers to check their inventory for something they might find interesting. In this case, looking like one's ready to go adventuring.

I also found the other avatar sets, skins and outfits, in the newcomer's inventory.

And eventually, someone sent me a friendship request.

Editing appearance, something those experienced are quite familiar with. Those coming in for the first time would notice quite a large variety of options. Note the default height of 6' 10". Although quite tall in real life, it's no secret the majority of residents have been tweaking their height to be taller. So perhaps Linden Lab was saving newcomers some of the trouble.

 The Search function. If a newcomer was told about "The Shelter," it comes up. I forgot to do a search using "new" or "newcomer."

Going on, eventually one comes to a bridge.

And then a second bridge, in which one has the option of flying up, jumping up, or walking up using the steps.

Going around another corner. Uccello Poultry in her observation of the island reasoned that many of the details on the island "are not custom-created items for this build, but are pre-fabs anyone can buy in-world or on the Marketplace."

 Going under a waterfall.

The path ends at "Escape The Island" where newcomers find an arched structure much like the one at the old Destination Island. But there's only one portal this time, just behind the Second Life logo.

The last thing a newcomer sees before his/her next stop: Social Island.

I found the experience a world of difference from Destination Island. It is far, far, better. Compared to the old Orientation Island, one doesn't have to wait for signs or hologram hands to rezz before the next step of the tutorial. I casually went through in about fifteen minutes. Uccello thought a newcomer might take 45 to comb the entire place. She also gave it a positive review.

One of the better improvements: newcomers are not simply cast out into the virtual wilderness, but are ported to a newcomer friendly place where they can relax and get help from volunteers. This will be covered in more detail in another article.

Finally Linden Lab has it's improved newcomer experience.

Hat Tip: The Poultry Report 

Bixyl Shuftan

Thursday, October 3, 2013

ZZ Studio’s Haunted Madhouse

By Grease Coakes

Halloween is the time for ghosts and goblins and trick and treaters. Most everyone finds a costume to celebrate the spooky time of year. But for ZZ Studios, the furry adult themed movie studio, they plan well ahead of time to create an excellent haunted house to scare the skin off your bones. Cindy "Zig Zag" Babii, the main skunk of ZZ invited me down to check out her haunted house at Her Haunted house is featured in the SL group Top Haunts. For the past few years Cindy Babii and her amazing staff have put together a great haunted house.

Last year it was a fun zombie hunt as the zombies could actually kill your avatar. There was an also a great madhouse to get lost in with very good sound and visuals. A lot of the hard work and credit goes to Darkefur Fraker a long time fox of SL and a super builder and scripter. Cindy also gives credit to herself, Rhin, Jeremy, Hojo and Kehf. Their hard work also made the haunted house spooky.

This year you got to download a HUD to change your windlight settings along with a flashlight. Some areas turn off your flashlight depending on where you are. The inside of the madhouse looks a lot like a horror movie environment.

Keep your eyes open as there are special effects that you might see in a movie or just random goings on like a TV suddenly turning on or a piece of furniture on you. Cindy had this to say as I was exploring the sick madhouse, "I’ll give you a min to change your pants. (giggle)"

Some of the effects certainly were scary. Last’s year madhouse was more like a maze to figure out how to get to the top with a glass maze to confuse you. This time around Cindy and Darkefur put more energy to make it scary.

I told Cindy that she should get an award from top haunts for the quality of her madhouse. She had this to say, "We're usually top haunted house for SL though traffic wise." I told, "By the look of it I think you should get an award Darkefur and the ZZ staff did a great job." Cindy, "Thanks hun."

Like last Halloween ZZ studios model trading cards will be given out through random givers. I was one of the trading cards the previous year with Justin Foxchase. Sadly however I missed out for 2013 and I missed my chance to be on one of the cards. There’s also an impressive sharknado and some tentacle beast at the beach in ZZ studios. It doesn’t look safe to swim in these waters.

Cindy also welcomes humans to ZZ Studios to check out her haunted house and her very own sharknado.

Seeing the pictures is one thing. If you need a good scare stop by ZZ Studios’s Haunted house and get a good scare. A change of pants or underwear not included if something scares you. Cindy says it will be up for a few days past Halloween so there’s plenty of time to stop on by and get chills and thrills.

ZZ Studios (113/119/26)

Grease Coakes