Thursday, June 30, 2011

SL8B and a Tour of London

The highly anticipated Second Life 8th birthday party became accessible to curious residents on June 20th. Days before the official opening, the birthday group was already buzzing with preparations and concerns.

Whatever perspective we teleported to, we were greeted with a fair-like setting, complete with unique builds. Some so large, one had to adjust the camera controls skyward. To explore this cooperative effort would clearly take days of weaving in and out of the twenty plus sims. A major obstacle that took patience to deal with was the lag, but for many, it was worth it. It was the perfect opportunity to be entertained by popular Second Life musicians and to speak to various designers, educators, and Second Life magazine and television representatives.

To meet anyone in Second Life, you merely go up to them and say hello or do it through a group message. That's how I met Debs Regent, of London England, Hyde Park, Mayfair and Kensington in Second Life. The London Sims are owned and operated by Regent’s Virtually-Linked.

Regent and I were standing in the Bell Tower surrounded by clock faces.

"I thought one of these rooms would be most appropriate as it represents the magic we offer, which is the inspiration for others. Many versions of London have been created because of the original one. Both are in Second Life and other platforms," she stated in response to the best photo opportunity.

Regents added that many people started their Second Life lives in the London sim. The creators pride themselves on being a "safe place" for its residents and visitors. Media events, educational conferences, shopping and exhibitions are all popular and are based around London themes.

"We hold events and create high quality events and builds for clients such as The Daily Telegraph, DGMT, and Premier Nunez/Coldwell Banker," she said. "More recently we have worked for a real record label to produce a machinima video for a major single.”

Our conversation continues in Kensington. A teleport invitation leads to a very impressive representation. Both of us have to step up on the curb so the tour bus can pass. As the bus tells us to "visit the magnificent St. Mary Abbot Church, Regent explains that we are standing outside of Wholefoods and a line of other quality created stores.

Our next stop is Kensington Square. There are 61 rentals. I found one to be $1,725 a week for 117 prims. My new tour guide is Sim and Infrastructure manager, Rob Fenwitch. He leads me through the rental.

"All the houses are in Kensington Square," he states. "There are three loft apartments around the corner, but this is the main residential area. You get the best houses in London. It's quiet here and the Sim builds are of the highest quality."

He explained that all of the homes have Hippo security and a radio included. The doors and security are integrated with the rental system so the tenant has full control of them. They also offer a retexturing service for the walls. There are two rooms and a balcony in the model I viewed.

"There is a pub at the end of the square, which is a facsimile of the real pub," he said. "At the moment there are three live DJ sessions per week also available for chilling out."

The Kensington Arcade building is the next stop of the tour. Fenwich states that this building and the area surrounding it tend to be the busiest. Most of the builds were created by TD Reinard. This one took three to four months to build. There are three floors of conference rooms. The office suite I saw cost $499 in tier and allowed 30 prims. The building is headquarters for the Daily Mail Transport and a number of magazines.

"In the Kensington building we do fashion shows and occasionally a wedding. The parcel is 6896 sm. It has a roof garden, too,” he said.

Fenwich feels this is the most realistic representation of modern day London. You will enjoy visiting the many structures, but watch out for the busy tour bus traveling around town.

By Netera Landar

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Scenes from The Lost Gardens of Apollo

Last weekend was the final chance for people to stop by the Lost Gardens of Apollo before it vanished. Here are some of the pictures I took.

A sculpture near the entry area, showing a demonic being reaching from a tar pit to grab an angel-like being. The wing and skull on the ground suggest one other angel wasn't able to escape.

Samlowry Hawks, one of the sim staff, sporting a white suit and pair of wings, leading a tai chi group.

A shopping area, now devoid of customers.

A spot for couples to relax. The place had a number of them.

One of the towers of Apollo, with a cuddle spot high over the ground.

The towers of Apollo, seen from below.

A few people spending one last chance to dance at one of Apollo's platforms.

I had been chatting with friends during my looking around. A couple came with me, and we decided to check out one of the pools.

Apollo was truly well built sim. It was a shame to see it go. Perhaps it will reappear in some form in the future.

Bixyl Shuftan

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

SL8 Fantasy and More

SL8 has something for everyone: art, education, music, and fantasy. I saw so many great exhibits over the weekend that it was hard to pick which ones to write about first.

Since I love animals, I’ll start with the Tropical Creation exhibit located at Tropical Creations Interactive D, SL8B Spectacular (38, 60, 21). Here you can swim with the dolphins. Different poses are available for you, and they are all fun. In addition to being tame, the two dolphins are very talented. After they perform tricks, you can reward them with fish from the bucket. This exhibit is paws-down my favorite place. I kept returning to ride the dolphins and gave the LM to friends.

After indulging one of my fantasies, I took a nostalgic look at one of my RL childhood memories. I grew up on a farm, and going to the fair was the end-of-summer treat. The Virtual State Fair is so real I kept looking out for cow patties. You can find it at Virtual State Fair at Dazzle - 28, SL8B Dazzle (146, 65, 21). Every fall there is a huge SL Virtual State Fair, and this exhibit gives you a little taste of what you can find there.

Farms and farmers are important to anyone who eats, and the Virtual State Fair creators did a good job of balancing fun with facts. A hot buttered corn stand gives you fresh corn on the cob to eat. Gertrude the cow is a bit static, but cute. There are a few rides and games for the kids, and educational Extension exhibits for the grown-ups.

In addition to fun, this exhibit has an educational multi-media presentation on organic gardening and another one on honey bees. The bee hive opens up, too, for anyone who has never seen inside. There’s a few bees buzzing around, but they won’t sting. On the serious side, there is information about a real-life bee issue, colony collapse.

There are many gardens in SL8, and one of the most calming is the Apocalips Japan exhibit, "Zen Zabuton". A small stone walkway takes you into the meditation gazebo, which is located at Heisei (Serenity), SL8B Dazzle (203, 61, 21). Surrounding you is a calm pond filled with koi and lotus flowers. Meditation mats, incense, and a calm atmosphere offer a respite from the excitement of SL8.

Enjoy a little Zen while you rest up for another round of celebrating SL8.

Grey Lupindo

Friday, June 17, 2011

The “Crooked House,” a Brilliant Build in Danger of Leaving Second Life

This is what happens when a math genius builds something in Second Life.

I recently heard about a particularly clever build, the “Crooked House.” To begin with, the inspiration for it was a short science fiction story by Robert Heinlein. A man builds a house in a strange eight-room “inverted cross shape.” Before he can show it to friends, an earthquake causes the unusual structure to fold onto itself to become a true four-dimensional shape, or tesseract. Looking inside, they find the stairs and doorways leading back into other rooms, forming a closed loop. And from there, things get stranger.

The SURL I found let to a teleport to the place with a sign next to it with the following:

“Make sure to ‘take focus by touching the control on the table of the room you arrive in, then explore the house. Doors will open on touch if you are close enough. If you are with a friend, only one person can be the focus. So either follow them of take a seat to avoid getting lost in the fourth dimension! Hit the reset button if it all gets too much. Oh, and sometimes it helps to be short! Have fun! Seifert Surface”

Getting to the structure, I found a well designed interior with 19th century furnishings, pressing the red button on the table as asked. Looking around, things seemed normal from the inside at first. Panning out, it looked like I was at the middle of this eight room structure. But as I went from room to room, things begin to get strange. Going to the next room and opening a door that should have led outside, it instead led to another room. And going to that room, there were more. Although a few doors were locked, there were always some open leading to an endless loop of rooms. And soon the rooms themselves begin to appear at odd angles. It looks like at first the furniture is on the walls or the ceiling. Then I noticed it was me seemingly on the wall, or looking down from the top.

What’s the secret to this extra-dimensional enigma? A Youtube video shot from outside tells the tale. As long as someone is the focus of the build, the house will rearrange it’s rooms around the person as he/she moves from one to another. For anyone else, the house will remain static, and if it moves around someone whom is the focus they might fall unless sitting down.

The Crooked House has been around at least since June 2006 when Hamlet Au wrote on it after being told about it by Torley Linden. Seifert described the script algorithm as, “[B]asically the focus cube tells all the rest that it’s [the] focus, and where it is, and what its rotation is. And the other cubes move to match up.” Trying to explain further went over Hamlet’s head, whom then asked if it could simply be thought of as like “a 3D Mobius strip.” Seifert answered, “that’s a pretty good way to think about it, except Mobius strips have a twist. And this doesn’t. ... the formal term would be ‘ orientability.’ The Mobius strip is non-orientable, this thing is orientable.“

Originally in The Future sim, the Crooked House was later moved to the xyz homestead for anyone whom wanted to visit it, along with the Sculpture Garden. But now, the Crooked House is up for sale. And unless someone comes forward, the place will fade from the Grid.

"I think [Linden Lab's] tier day is the 20th of each month,"Seifert told Hamlet in his recent article, "so I'll leave it until July 20th... it isn't worth $125 a month to support ... I thought people might like a chance to see it before it goes." The homestead also his the distinction of having former Linden Qarl Fizz as a neighbor. Seifert was also willing to move the Crooked House on someone else’s place, if they have enough space for the “just over 700 prims” structure, as well as a wide-open sky.

So unless someone steps forward, like the house in Heinlein’s story it will vanish.

One can read more about the Crooked House through Hamlet’s 2006 article, and his more recent update. On Youtube, I found a voice narration of Heinlein’s short story that inspired the build in two parts, the second ending when the main character realizes what his house has become.

Once again, you have until July 20th to visit.

To get to the teleport to the Crooked House, Click Here to go to xyz (128, 55, 500)

Sources: New World Notes, Wikipedia

*Update* Veritas Raymaker sent SL Newser a message that the Crooked House is now listed in the Second Life Destination Guide:

Bixyl Shuftan

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Feed a Smile at the Lavender Field

One of the more unique charities operating in SL is “Feed a Smile” at the Lavender Field. In RL the charity is Live and Learn in Keyna (LLK), a German based organization that has existed for nearly 10 years. Since 2010 it has had a presence in SL. It is located at The Lavender Field - Feed a Smile for LLK, Tohono Island (142, 81, 21). In addition to providing a relaxing and fun environment, this site has a worthy goal: to feed and care for needy children in Kenya. Every $100L provides a meal to a child there.

Resident Brique Topaz is the chairwoman of both the German and International organizations of Live and Learn in Kenya, and the driving force behind the Feed a Smile in SL. When a friend introduced her to SL and the Nonprofit Commons, Topaz quickly recognized that SL could be useful in promoting LLK’s mission of helping children. Topaz said that since July 2010, 1,454,561 Linden dollars have been donated.

The site is beautiful and relaxing. When you first arrive, you find yourself in waist-high lavender. Hummingbirds and butterflies flutter around the flowers. You can almost smell the fresh scent of the lavender. While the lavender has no connection to Africa, it provides a beautiful and colorful backdrop for the concerts.

A torch-lit path leads to a village area where there are little shops, hammocks, a relaxing campfire, and other amenities. A stream meanders around the village and down to the beach. Exotic animals and birds add a fun touch, and even the buzz of the insects sounds real.

The site is large, and the landscape is lush and beautiful. But residents don’t have to worry about their donations being used for the site instead of the children. Brique Topaz said, “Every Linden that is donated goes directly towards meals. I pay the transfer costs as my own donation.” She went on to explain that nearly everything on the entire site has been donated, the land, the amenities, and even the sale items.

The land is being donated by OT Rentals, owned by Tomac Sewell and Ofelia Lavel, and Maria Binder. Dolly and Lilith Heart, owners of Heart Nursery, donated the plants, trees, waterfalls, campfires, and other landscape articles. All of the musicians perform for free, and many even donate Lindens as well. Both men and women’s clothing can be bought in the village, and all the Lindens go to the charity.

The concert area has information, a stage, and plenty of room for residents to relax or dance. I caught the last half of CraigGore Redfield performing live for about 20 residents. Like all the musicians who perform here, CraigGore donated his talent to the cause. (He even donated some Lindens, too!) His meaningful lyrics and excellent guitar skills were crowd pleasers. I was sorry I didn’t arrive in time for the entire show, but I was able to enjoy many of his selections, including “Ballerina.” “Diamonds Along the Way,” “High, High Places,” and the closing song, “Redemption.” His was the second concert of the day, and a total of 24,000 Lindens were donated that day.

For residents who want to do even more for the children, there is a RL sponsorship program available. More information about this program can be found at the site or by contacting Brique Topaz. One sponsorship has already been established because of the SL site, and other residents have shown an interest in the program. Sponsorships, however, operate outside of SL. Topaz explained that because the sponsorships are real and involve contact with the children, they cannot be anonymous.

The RL city where the children reside is Nakuru, a fourth largest city in Kenya. The area where the children reside is extremely poor and faces many challenges. Brique Topaz’ RL counterpart visits there at least once a year. Although it is not a fun or typical tourist trip, going to Nakuru keeps her knowledgeable about the needs of the children and the ways that the organization is helping them. More information about the RL site, as well as the organization, can be found at

Grey Lupindo

Friday, June 10, 2011

The Linden Memorial

It’s been a year since the “Restructuring” of Linden Lab was announced. About a third of it’s employees lost their jobs, including many of the Lindens we saw on the Grid. This included some popular figures most Second Life residents seemed to hold apart from the usual love/hate relationship they had with the Lindens as a group. Indeed with the layoffs, the residents stopped referring to “the Lindens” as those to blame for their problems. Instead residents felt sad for those whom lost their jobs, those whom wanted to blame someone pinning it on M Linden, who would step down himself a couple weeks later.

CodeBastard Redgrave, the owner of a nightclub, did more than just express her sadness. She constructed a memorial to the Lindens whose avatars had died with their jobs. Placed at the Rouge sim, CodeBastard expressed plans to move it to another place at a later time.

One year later, CodeBastard still has a memorial up. But it is in the Bowness sim. The flat headstones are gone and replaced by dark polished marble posts, many with flowers and other tributes by them. In the middle was a central structure, which included a sign.

Thank You Memorial

This Memorial is a Resident-Driven Initiative to Thank All of Those Linden Lab Employees We Loved And Admired.

We Will Remember They Shared Their Time, Efforts, Humanity, and Dedication for the Good of SecondLife and Residents.

Near the sign is a box one can drop notecards, the “completed memories.” There is also a tiers donation box. The sign goes on to describe residents can leave flowers by the monuments by making a cash contribution, and clicking on the marble posts enable comments left by other residents to be read. Objects other than flowers can be placed by the graves, but they have to be sent to CodeBastard Redgrave and need to be “very low prim.”

The Linden Memorial is at Bowness (218, 25, 32).

“We thank you in advance for supporting this community-driven initiative.”

Source: Daniel Voyager’s Blog

Bixyl Shuftan

Friday, June 3, 2011

Raglan Shire, and the 2011 ArtWalk

In May, the Raglan Shire area had it’s annual art show, or “ArtWalk.” The sims are most noted for being the home of Second Life’s best known community of “tinies,” but the ArtWalk attracts attention throughout the grid. The “sim cluster,” as the Raglan region called itself, boasted an open-air art show with “the works of 120 artists over two sims. ... Artists gridwide have converged to exhibit their RL photography and art and SL photography and sculpture in this annual arts festival.”

It was the final day of the ArtWalk in which I was able to port over to see things for myself. Raglan itself has an appearance that reminded me of a storybook with it’s treehouses, small homes and furnishings, and all that greenery. There was quite a bit of hedgerow around, which the two-dimensional art was displayed on. At the spot I ported to, there was a rezzer for a “hedge boat,” with one seat for tiny avatars, another for normal-sized. One could use it to take a little tour around the part of the sim with the show’s paintings and photographs. There was indeed *a lot* of artwork on the hedges.

Besides the paintings, drawings, and photos, there were also some examples of three dimensional artwork. In the Heron Shire sim, there were a number of sculptures. Some looked like what one would find at an art museum. Others were designed in part to be interactive, such as a four-chambered meditation chamber. I would later be told there were about “70 sculptures from 24 artists.” The third part of the exhibit was the Director’s Show in the Raglan Tree Gallery. There were two artists featured there, Teal Freenote, and Tia MacBain, both from the Tiatopia sim (which featured an autism event last year). Among the art was a hollow globe which was cracked open and a crystaline figure peeking out.

While looking around, I ran into one of the tiny feline residents, Jillian McMillan. Talking about the art show, and it’s hedgerows, “we love our hedge!” she mentioned the greenery had it’s origins from a real life art show, “The entire ArtWalk idea was inspired by Raglan owner Zayn Till's visits to Seattle's Art Walk. He wanted to recreate the experience, art in a park.” Another tiny, a bunny, soon stopped by, Karmagirl Avro. Asked by Jillian if she knew more about the art show, “Yes, I know a ‘ tiny ‘ bit more. (grin) That a joke.”

Karmagirl told me a little more about the displays, “I myself have a few pieces of real-life photography, one real-life painting, and several Second Life photographs up.” Karmagirl also mentioned some artwork was up for sale, and she had spent quite a bit, “anything that makes me smile and laugh out loud, I buy.” She pointed to one section, which had a number of elephant faces, including a spoof of “American Gothic,” “ I bought this whole collection here. It’s just so whimsical, it catches the spirit of the Shire: funny, creative, silly, very well paw crafted. Two paintbrushes up. Wayyyy up!!”

Karmagirl offered to teleport the artist over, saying of the elephant faces, “that is her avatar,” saying she had worked herself virtually into the artwork. And soon the tiny elephant appeared, with a golfing bag over her shoulder, “oh, she was golfing, look at that.” The tiny pachyderm introduced herself as StainlessSteelRat Solo. Karmagirl commented, “StainlessSteelRat is one of the newer tinies here, but fits in quite nicely. She won the ornament contest for the Winterfest. ... we here in the Shire encourage everyone to participate, explore, and create.” “Especially flaming cheese!” StainlessSteelRat commented. When I asked what she meant, the small pachyderm produced a stick with a wedge of cheese stuck on the end with tongues of flame licking from it. It seems peppers worse than habenaroes were mixed in. “On a stick!” Jillian quipped, “keeps the fur on our paws clean.”

There had been something else going on besides the art show, Karmagirl saying, “Today we had a SL weddin’ of a couple who met in Second Life and got married in real life a few weeks ago.” They also mentioned a “Prehysterical” event, “ Prehistorical - but in Raglan, everything is a bit hysterical.” “It was basically dinosaurs and cavetinies.” “We have events continuously.” “We always have something new.” They mentioned a “Haiku Speed Build” event, and a “prim charades” game.

They also mentioned they had classes available at a building christened Raglan U, “Loads of classes n’ stuff. Last class I went to, was to make your own fireworks.” There was also a place at the Artwalk in which freebies and near free items were available, including freebie tiny avs, “... our assimilation of the grid is nearly complete!” “One of us ... ONE OF US!” “Your culture will adapt to service us, resistance is futile.”

There was a bit more funning around with the three tinies before we parted ways. For those interested in the next event in Raglan, there isn’t much longer to wait. June 10 marks the start of the “Tiny World Fair” in Raglan Shire, which lasts until June 26th.

“Tinies are the most creative helpful bunch in all of Second Life.”

Bixyl Shuftan