Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Emilin Nakamori’s Physical Machines

I was in Second Life Friday night when I got an IM from someone, an Emilin Nakamori, “Good evening :) I believe I may have a story that your newspaper may be interested in.” She told me she had made a machine in Second Life that moved without the need for scripts, “specifically, a weight-driven pendulum clock escapement (an escapement keeps the pendulum swinging).” Curious, I chatted with her for a few minutes via IM before heading to where she told me she was, in the sandbox in the Whitmyre sim.

What she told me sounded familiar, and it was. I had met her at her exhibit during SL5B at her exhibit just across the path from the newspaper’s (Events June 27). Meeting her again, I came across a dark-haired lady wearing a Victorian dress with a necktie and Steampunk-style glasses on her head. We greeted one another, her having added a laptop with a Victorian look to her typing animation. Bringing up our last encounter, she told me, ”Oh, the gear demonstrator I had at the SL5B was driven by a script; the excapement is entirely mechanical. I had to set up a pendulum and time its movement to find the proper length here. I apparently got it wrong nonetheless; Sidewinder Linden said I probably didn't make allowances for time dilation :P ... It’s performance is unfortunately erratic; Sidewinder Linden could not offer a possible reason, but, as the saying goes, ‘The wonder of a dancing bear is not how gracefully it dances, but that it dances at all.’ ;) “

She then rezzed the pendulum machine, which slowly went in motion, “Theoretically, that pendulum should have a period of 6 seconds; the mechanism pushes it into a faster period, however.” She had been working on it since late June, and still had to have it assisted by a script. She rezzed another machine, “That is the mechanical clock movement I have worked up; I need to find a constant supply of power to mate the escapement to the movement to have a complete mechanical clock.” She had heard of sailboat races driven by simulated wind in the sims, and wondered it that could be a possible power source, “if the SL ‘wind’ can move a sailboat, why not a windmill?”

Emilin went on, “I have been considering a ‘waterwheel’, which uses temporary physical prims as weights on one side of a wheel. I have a proof-of-concept...” She then rezzed a wheel and ball-dropper that dropped metallic balls on the wheel’s cups, spinning it, “As you can see, there is inertia, but it dies out very quickly.”

I asked Emilin, “Has the changing of the Second Life viewer altered the performance of your machines, as it does some AOs?” She told me, “Not that I know of. I believe Havoc 4 was a much greater factor; several people told me at the SL5B that they had tried working with gears, but they were too unstable to hold together long enough to function.”

She then mentioned another physical machine that had been well received by others, and rezzed what she called a Physical Chain Demonstrator Base, “You click on the rotating arm to start or stop its rotation. If you change the orientation of the base, the script malfunctions.” Commenting at one point, “Unfortunately, I am no scriptor; that is why I got into physical machines ... Perhaps I should have gotten fascinated by something that isn't too ephemeral to sell ;) ... Sooner (usually, alas) or later all of these machines break, even if not left running. The important thing, to me, about these machines is that they interact with the SL environment AS AN ENVIRONMENT, not as a computer program, as a script does.”

Going on, “Designing these machines is a constant juggling of a need for precision and having to allow enough space for collision avoidance, with a bit more thrown in to allow for lag. These machines use server physics time; put a few of the chain demonstrators in a sim and start them up all at once and it would probably crash the sim ;) The first version of the clock movement used 10.1ms physics time; I reduced the gear count and it fell to 5.6ms.” The then noticed one of the machines had stopped, “Foo. The clock's already broken :/ “

Emilin then mentioned, “Desmond Shang, founder of Caledon, decided he wanted me to build him a steam engine, so I made him one.” She then rezzed a piston steam engine about 25 - 30 ft high with the name “Desmond’s Folly,” “He liked the name, anyway; he decided it was too small... “ “So he wanted a more massive engine?” I asked. “Yes.” She then brought out a giant of a machine that must’ve been over a hundred feet tall, “He told me to throw it back and bring me its pappy.” “Whoah! Or the Mother of All SLengines.” I commented. Emilin grinned, “Oh, this is probably one of the largest objects ever made in SL that consists of linked parts.” I saw one of it’s two cylinders fly off, taken off my Emilin, “It DOES work better as a single-cylinder, although once it ran for about 45 minutes :)” “Well, the biggest engine like this that I've seen .... yes, I saw the second one coming apart.” “I ran into the limits of how distant parts can be and still be linked.”

At this point a Bubblesort Triskaidekaphobia walked up, “Still working on it, Emilin, or just showing it off?” “Showing this one off. Its successor is too large to move; I am going to try Rez-Foo. It has a 55m diameter piston...” “Wow! That's crazy! Where did you put it?” “3km over Saint Kitt Islands ... It's not open to the public as yet.” She then rezzed a picture of another engine, a single piston one. But the one clue to it’s *massive* size was standing on it’s wheel, “See the little black speck on the flywheel? It is I ;) ” She told is it was, “Somewhere around 100m tall; its base is 100m square. It would JUST BARELY fit into this sandbox ... Actually, it would have to be taller than 100m; the trapezoidal supports are 60m tall, on a base that is 8m thick. So it must be over 150m tall. A small skyscraper.”

Bubblesort asked if a train could be made. Emilin answered, “That is what Desmond Shang wants to do, eventually; he has someone working on scripted physical ‘steam molecules’ that would expand and contract at a set rhythm in the cylinders to push against the piston; it would have to be a multicylinder engine, though, as a flywheel is essential to keep a one-cylinder engine going past dead center, and with inertia as damped as it is in SL, a flywheel is really just a decoration.” “Could it be done without making steam like that?” “Oh, certainly; these engines here are spun by a rotation script, with the pistons and tie rods moving strictly by physics.”

Bubblesort soon left, and Emilin turned back to me, “The big engine is still going, as a single cylinder. ;) Half an hour, now.” She then told, “The main reason I would like your paper to feature this is so others can find out about it and hopefully work on it themselves; I started a group, Virtual Mechanics, for interested people. I am hoping there are people out there who will take the idea and hit the ground running with it ;) Well, the really big one is under development (basically, it doesn't work, and may never do so), but the one here has been shown to the public. ;) “

“But really,” she looked back at the first machine, “I think the escapement is the important thing, as it does not use scripts at all, yet functions.”

I thanked her, then noticed she had changed the title over her name to “Madgirl.” Being a reader of online comics, I asked her if she was a reader of “Girl Genius” by Phil Foglio. She smiled, and after talking a little about the comic, she gave me a replica of the Heterodyne trilobite emblem.

It was then that the two of us parted ways, presumably the maker of these physical machines, part science and part work of art, going back to business.

Bixyl Shuftan

*  *  *  *  *

This remains a favorite article of mine of my SL Newspaper days as I hadn't seen anything like Emilin's monster machines before, or since. She was clearly one who sought to see how far she could push the limits.  I never did come across her again, but did hear she was the Winner of the June 2011 UWA 3D Art Challenge. Whereever she is now, no doubt she's staying busy.

Friday, September 5, 2008

The “Crazy Tinies” - Loco Poco Avatars

The subject for this week's avatar article is a new brand of tiny av: Loco Pocos. Created by Damien Fate, these tinies were first available earlier this summer. Considering the uber-cutness of the avatar and the variety of facial expressions and emotes, the Loco Poco can only be called first-class, possibly *the* best tiny avatar in Second Life.

Tiny avatars I’ve seen are designed for a cute-factor in mind. Loco Pocos excel at it. The avatars are also designed to be easily customizable, the avatar able to change it’s coat and eye color, as well as able to wear wings and other attachments.

But what sets them apart from others is the ease of use of their animations, coming right with the avatar. The HUD unit allows the player to express a number of facial expressions and full body emotes. The facial features are not static, but change to reflect emotions. Plus they often make sound when emoting. With a press of the button, the avatar can look angry and “grrr,” to laying on the floor and snoring, to crying a shower of tears, to throwing a kiss with a “mwaah,” to a hearty belly laugh, and more.

The name Loco Poco translates to “crazy tiny” in Spanish, appropriately enough. The instructions are also in several languages. It’s also noteworthy that Torley Linden was among the beta testers of these tinies. The store is just in front of the main porting entrance. Avatars are sold in the center, accessories on the edge to the right of the door when entering. Their avatars cost 350L each, most of the accessories 100L. They also advertise an Avatar Rendering Cost (how much computer power it takes to make your avie appear) of 640.

After some thought, I decided to try out the Loco Poco fox. Showing it around to my freinds, they were amused by the versatile tiny, going “Awww” at the sight of it’s emotes. One told me he was thinking of getting one.

Besides Loco Pocos Island, you can also get the avatars at SLExchange.

Loco Poco also has an adventure-filled island, made with these avatars in mind. One that can provide hours of fun. Look for a detailed article of the island in the near future.

A charming little avatar.

Bixyl Shuftan

Dana Vanmoer: September 8, 2008 at 3:30 PM
such a cute avatar even when crying

Monday, August 4, 2008

Michi Lumin: New Luskwood Avatars In Development

Dropping by Luskwood the other day, I found a couple of changes to the place. One was that the rest poseball rug at one side of the platform had been replaced by a few beanbags and a couple couches. Next to them was a vertical chess game. On another side, a small bar had been set up, with two inside acting as bartenders.

After a while, Michi Lumin, one of the four Luskwood founders, showed up. She was not in her Lusk purple dragon avatar, but a skunkgirl avie in a top hat and a dark tomboyish outfit, "... not sure if I want to show anyone ... but, I also want to let people know that 'we're not dead, only resting.' " Michi then rezzed a picture of two avatar heads: hyenas.

Although Luskwood has made some avatars this year, they have been all of the "Bunkies" line. The older "Luskwood Creatures" company's last products were the fruit and vampire bats. Michi commented the "peanut gallery" was saying Luskwood had stopped making avatars, "we're not intending to comply with it. ... This av, the hyena, is also not the only one we're working on."

Of claims by some that the crowd at Lusk could be a little dead, Michi answered there were some upcoming changes that should help the social scene at the Luskwood tree.

Bixyl Shuftan

Friday, July 4, 2008

SL5B Further Journeys

Going back onto the Second Life Fifth Birthday exhibits, I had heard about the Rezzable Greenies exhibit, so I went over to check it out. Teleporting over, I found myself next to a barbecue area of one of the little green men roasting something over a fire. Nearby is a stand with a robot next to it, where one can pick up a free robot of his or her own. From the campfire some stones lead to a huge birthday cake, which a Greenie UFO crashed it, the same cake featured on the “We’re Turning Five” celebration picture on their website. Not far from that is a large Greenies statue in front of a small public gathering area. According to the rezzable.com website, it’s a “Church of Greenies,” the site of some celebrations during the first week of the two week event.

Just across the road was a Tiny exhibit by Raglan Shire. Inviting visitors to “take a walk on the tiny side,” a few free tiny avatars and items for them were available. Further exhibits showed scenes of Winterfest, the “Tiny Olympics” (July 12 2008), a Tiny Science-Fiction area, and other places. Nearby was also a Tiny airport with free airplanes. The Japanese tinies had their own exhibit next door with some free items.

Not far away to the west was the “Furry Pride” exhibit, presumably from Northstar as when I clicked on a replica of the 50 foot huskygirl macro avie, which sported a short-skirted schoolgirl dress, I got a notecard with some information about them and a landmark to Northstar Islands. Behind the macro is a “Megastompolis City” game in which two players act like movie monsters on a city block, seeing who can smash the most buildings. In front of the macro is a building with a bulletin board one can post pictures on.

I heard about a place called “Down the Rabbit Hole,” so I went over there. It was little more than a hole and a sign. Going down, I was confronted with scenes from out of “Alice in Wonderland.” Clicking on “Drink Me” teleported me to one room, and in there “Eat Me” sent me into a normal looking bar, of which the door led back outside.

I also checked out the Caledon exhibit. The place featured a town in Victorian style architecture, next to a small woodland. Flying overhead was a steampunk zeppelin, pouring out smoke. Going inside the buildings, there were a few humorous pictures, and a free cottage.

These are just a few of the exhibits in SL5B, so go over and see them for yourself.

Bixyl Shuftan

Monday, June 30, 2008

Going through the SL5B Exhibits

It's not every day SL has a birthday celebration, so I thought looking around at the exhibits might be nice. And where to start? My newspaper's own was as good a place as any. Modeled after our red newspaper box, it stood out from the others. Inside, one could see on the media screen what was on the front page, which on Monday was my cartoon for the day. Heh. The following day, it was even taller, with the nameplates of various reporters along up the winding path.

But there was much more than our own. Just across the sidewalk was a series of gears, a "gear train." The lady there, Emilin Nakamoi, explained this was a mechanical engine that turned not by scripts, but by the motion of the gear on one end, "This machine works with the SL environment as an environment, instead of as a computer program as scripts do." The problem was, in places with a number of people and lag, it often had trouble.

Walking along, I found others by various sponsors, Alcoholics Anonymous was here as was another group for autism. I found a Florida exhibit that looked nice, with the various critters around. The Red Mesa exhibit also stood out with it's rocky hills and Native American object designs.

As I was going on, I got in contact with my friend Kanashi, and hearing where I was she asked for a teleport. I wondered what was up when it was taking a while to rez, then I saw her appear, as a fifty foot macro. We walked for a while longer, then she spotted an exhibit that was also a dance area for an elven group, Elf Circle. Walking over, her huge stature made our winged friends look more elven than ever, indirectly adding to the element of the place. Her size made her unable to dance with that low ceiling, so she just sat down as the elvenfolk greeted her, or tickled her outstretched feet. It was clearly a friendly meeting.

"Come back again. We elves are notorious dancers."

Bixyl Shuftan

Friday, May 30, 2008

Heaven's Sky Garden Village

All cottages have been placed with care and attention, none are within the 20 meter chatting distance to ensure privacy and all cottages have been picked based on their look and design ensuring beautiful homes for every renter. Prices vary on the size of the houses and prims allowed. After all it is *your* home and should look and feel warm and relaxing. The Village consists of various different styles of cottages and for one lucky person a gorgeous treehouse with its own pool.

 There is also different social areas, the main one being the waterfall area for residents to enjoy.

No premium account is needed for here as We pay LL ourselves and you pay us ensuring everyone in second life gets a home (providing you can afford it of course)

To rent here, check the sign in front of each cottage, the fantasy picture with the house number. This is the rental box too. If it is available, it will say so above it and if it is already been rented the tenant's name will be shown instead. Simply pay the sign to begin your rental and IM either Fortunas Sands, AngelKitten Dreamscape or Schism Kappler to be added to the Heaven's Sky group. Without this any objects you place will return you need your group tag on for things to place down properly and also to set your home position here. Rent can be paid from either one week up to a month.

We are a community  for all whether you be furry, human  or whatever , this place is friendly and open to all, no harassment to anyone because of beliefs/looks will be tolerated in any way.

Heavens Sky, Devoted, (131, 247, 21)

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Mars Landing Broadcasted in Imzadi Sim

The Mars Phoenix Lander, the latest of NASAs craft to explore the red planet, was confirmed to have made a successful landing on the northern ice cap at 4:54 SL time. Besides at the ISM sim, the landing was also broadcast at the Star Trek themed sim Imzadi.

At the Star Trek Museum Drydock at Imzadi (133, 125, 609), a screen broadcasted footage of NASA TV. Some computer images simulating the lander were shown, but most of the broadcasts were of the control room and it's personnel. At 4:46 PM, the craft began its entry into the Martian atmosphere, and the controllers (and the audience in Imzadi) anxiously waited, knowing that more than half of all landing attempts end in failure. Seven minutes later, the craft activated it's retrorockets, and touched down in a smooth landing, much to the relief of the controllers who burst into applause. So did the audience watching from the Trek sim.

Wabisabi Matahari, the Curator of the Star Trek Museum, as well as her real-life mother, were among the audience. So was Wabisabi's "helper" Edconnect Gulfer, who explained a few facts about the lander.

The Phoenix Lander is considered the best effort to find evidence of life on Mars, designed to examine the soil for life-supporting conditions. It traveled 422 miles over nine months to get to the planet. The craft cost 420 million dollars, not counting an additional 37 million spent by Canada. It was originally scheduled to launch several years ago, but was delayed by budget cuts. The landing site is at 68 degrees north latitude, 233 degrees east longitude in Vastitas Borealis, the Martian arctic. Temperatures will vary from -73 C to -33 C (-100 F to -28F) in the course of the 90 day primary mission.

Bixyl Shuftan

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Second Life Tours Takes a Break

Some of you know about Sean Voss's Second Life Tours group, which once a week went to places in Second Life which got his attention from being unusually detailed, interactive, thought-provoking, or just plain odd. They have been a source of some of my "Explore" articles. I found them to be quite fun and enjoyable.

But on Monday, May 5th 2008, I got this notecard from him.

My beloved tour group! Apologies for not getting a notice out to you earlier today. Spidey told me lots came by for the tour and she had to deliver the bad news. Due to an over active first life with work I'm not able to login to SL much these days. The ongoing technical problems have also been a major issue as well.

So I need to take a break for a few months and hope to return again then. I'm hoping you are able to stay in this group and join us again in the future. The tours have always been a great pleasure for me and want to thank anyone who has come along for one. I'll send a notice if anything changes and a tour is upcoming and when possible forward on any new landmarks that come my way.

Thanks again.


I'll miss your tours Sean. I had other ways of finding out about new places, but you had the most enjoyable way of showing them.

Bixyl Shuftan

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Thanks, Lindens

It seems there's been no shortage of troubles in Second Life. Griefers, lagging, blackouts, and all kinds of bugs have plagued the system from the time I first came here. And sometimes I've wondered if the designers, the Lindens, had lost sight of fixing the basics while pursuing fancy new viewers.

But what does one say when a problem that's been with you for months finally disappears?

For as long back I can remember, porting from one region to another had a chance of my avatar not messing up. Everything on me but my clothes would suddenly appear at my midsection, so my head appeared to be up my rear end, my feet were in the front of my pants, etc. It appeared on others, but for a furred avatar like mine, the results were more extreme. I called it "Porting Sickness" or "Motion Sickness." Others had a name for it more to the point, "Headcrotch Syndrome." So quite often, about half the time I ported it seemed, after greeting my friend, I'd say, "Oh, blast. Excuse me a moment, I need to clean up my avie."

It was annoying as heck, and pretty darn inconvenient. Not just for me, but those I went to talk to in-person (or is that in-avatar) other than chat through IM. But there wasn't much I could do about it other than re-rez my avatar and wait. And that's how it went for months.

Then a few days after the new version of the viewer was released, I noticed something. I hadn't had to re-rez my avatar in a while. No porting sickness. When you take a convenience for granted, one certainly realizes when it goes away. A nagging inconvenience that can pop up the next time you travel or not until several times later, well, you may not notice it for some time.

So thanks Lindens, thanks for getting rid of this darn nuisance.

Now, about my friend's inventory issues, could you get rid of the bug that makes her unable to wear her skirts?

Bixyl Shuftan

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Relay Raiders Charity Dance Goes on Despite SL Troubles, Makes Goal

At  Haute Style & Co. in the Haute Couture  sim, Nevar Lobo, Bcreative Wilde, and the Relay Raiders held a charity dance for Relay for Life. But events made it more than just a simple fundraiser.

An announcement Nevar made gave the fundraiser extra meaning, the passing of Teri LaFollette, "... most of you know a very good friend of ours passed (away) on Thursday ... this event is to help celebrate her life..."

The dance began at 6PM April 4th Friday, and continued through the night with Bcreative as the one and only DJ. Then on Saturday came another problem. The dance had the ill fortune to be scheduled at the same time as  the login mess as the Second Life gird began going haywire at 7:30, and soon after no one else could get in. "I was one of the lucky few who was stuck online," Bcreative explained.

Nevar spoke highly of Bcreative, "she got almost 200 US dollars in online donations for the Raiders ... on top of what is (already) here. She had them listening on winamp and we managed to stay online until they finally closed the grid."

At 9 AM Saturday, those still on were booted out. It wasn't until about 1 PM in which people could log back on, and there were still problems for some hours. Despite this, the Raiders came back on and continued the fundraiser, calling on people to come over and donate for charity.
Pips Fetid remarked, "When the Raiders have an event, they have an event, whether or not SL cooperates."

At 6:30 PM, the Relay Raiders made the goal of passing what the McDunnough Team raised in 2007. By 7 PM, they had passed 300 thousand Lindens. The final total was 304,121L.

After staying up for the 25 hours, BCreative finally hung up her virtual headphones just after 7PM SL time, "(I) was begining to think this was going to be a big flop, but you guys pulled through in the end. ... I love you guys. You guys are my heroes. ... We were up only a quarter of the time. I almost did quit. But you guys kept me going."

Bixyl Shuftan

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Space Shuttle Landing Viewed at ISM

While the Space Shuttle Endeavor landed at Cape Canaveral at 5:39 PM SL time, March  26, at the International Space Museum (ISM) the landing was seen by those watching the live NASA broadcast shown there.

Set up in the middle of the "Spaceport Alpha" sim, the stage has two viewscreens visible to those whose computers can use Quicktime. Space shuttles and landings are shown when they happen.

The landing had originally been scheduled at 4:05 PM SL time, but weather conditions briefly postponed it. This was probably the reason for the small attendance, "Let them know there were some space gurus here, and could always use others. They'd have a great time, great learning experience."

The Shuttle Endeavor STS-123 mission launched on March 11, at 11:28 AM SL time. Here at the ISM, people had been gathering over an hour before the launch, though the launch time was too late for some (including this reporter) to watch the actual takeoff.

Bixyl Shuftan

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Therapy in Second Life - Support for Healing

I recently stumbled across a mental health therapy group in Second Life - "Support for Healing," based on the sim of the same name: SupportforHealing.

Stated on their card: "Supportforhealing is a group of people that believe that recovery from depression, emotional trauma, and mental and physical illness can be greatly enhanced by loving kindness and friendship. We are not aligned to any religion (our volunteers come from all spiritual backgrounds) and believe in the equality of all people."

Making some inquiries, an interview was arranged with one of the leaders of the group, Industria Dowler.

Bixyl Shuftan: So when did you first get the idea of a support group for mental health in Second Life?

Industria Dowler: Well, the founder, John Palmer (Zafu Diamond in SL) started SFH as a website forum. He figured that people get treatment from professionals, they have families and friends, but sometimes they go home to an empty house and need additional support.

Industria Dowler: At some point he heard about SL and decided to start SFH here.

Bixyl Shuftan.: Did those on the website all come here, or did it start small and grow?

Industria Dowler: I think it started small and grew. Not everyone who uses the forums comes to SL and not everyone who comes to SL uses the forums. But they are both available for people who need them.

Bixyl Shuftan: How many people usually come to the support groups?

Industria Dowler: For the depression groups I run it ranges between 5-30. There are usually more in the beginning of the meeting and they tend to leave slowly and more come in.

Bixyl Shuftan: Are there other groups here?

Industria Dowler: Yeah, there are groups for anxiety, weight loss, relationships, women, and GLBT (Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender) issues.

Bixyl Shuftan: The island itself is pretty detailed. How long did it take to build?

Industria Dowler: I'm not sure. It was mostly built by Luna Bliss along with Zafu and a few others. I know it's gone through changes since I've been here. I imagine there will be future changes at some point since there is some unused space on the island.

Bixyl Shuftan: Do you think the environment helps with the people in your group?

Industria Dowler: I think to some extent. It's easier to feel comfortable in a nice environment. And when people are comfortable they are able to share and can get the support they need.

Plus it's a good place to relax and many members say they feel creative when they are here.

Bixyl Shuftan: Creative? People can build things here?

Industria Dowler: They used to but we've had issues with griefers and people leaving things behind. At some point I plan to make an area on the island dedicated so people can build and whatnot. But people were leaving things all over and it took away from the general aesthetics.

Bixyl Shuftan: Does anything happen on your island besides the group sessions?

Industria Dowler: People often hang out here. Occasionally, we've had other events. Last year we had a celebration for summer solstice and we had a DJ and there were other events.

The Thinkers host their meetings here although they aren't affiliated with us. The founder is a Buddhist so he has a small parcel dedicated to talks about Buddhism. There is also a member who hosts a discussion group about Buddhism occasionally.

Bixyl Shuftan: How did the Celebration for the Summer Solstice turn out? Was that the most unusual thing that happened here?

Industria Dowler: Apparently, there was a great turn out and they said it was a lot of fun. I couldn't make it myself. :(

Unusual? Probably compared to the typical support groups. We try to do something fun and relaxing once in awhile. I'd like to set up a part of the island for people to play and hang out. No set plans for that yet, though.

Bixyl Shuftan: Back to the sessions, what would you say were among your more unusual cases?

Industria Dowler: Well, I don't like to go into detail about other people's personal things but we deal with the whole gamut. Mild symptoms, severe symptoms, medication issues and questions, questions about therapy, people feeling suicidal. But we always encourage people to see professionals because we can't take the place of that. We can only improve the healing process by being here for people to talk or listen.

We get people with serious RL issues, people who want to discuss SL issues, and of course griefers.

Bixyl Shuftan: I take it the griefers can be downright annoying.

Industria Dowler: They can, but we take care of them quickly.

The group's website is www.supportforhealing.com . To join the group in Second Life, just use the Search for it, and join. The current membership was listed at over 850. The group also accepts donations, "any donations, even a single linden are welcomed. You can make donations on the island via the 'wells', Zafu Diamond, Twickle Rosebud, Specky Zaftig, or Industria Dowler.  Also look for our fundraising vendors on the island where you can purchase items and the proceeds go to SFH."

"Thank you so much!"

Bixyl Shuftan

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Baron and I, Part Deuce

When my fellow newsies and I had our scheduled meeting, one of the sticking points was Baron DeSantis being in the slammer in Ghul Prison. After IMing him through the cell phone he managed to find, we decided to try to teleport him over. It worked, and he was able to stick with us part of the time, including the group photo in which he sported a collar. With other furred folk often sporting ones of their own (much more comfortable ones) and myself not usually having one, I couldn't help but find some amusement in it.

But Baron couldn't help but look over his shoulder. I suggested that he just avoid the Ghul, but he felt he couldn't avoid them, so the best thing was to teleport back into his cell to avoid a serious pummeling. And if he wasn't spotted, he'd get off scot-free. So we sent him back, hoping this was the case.

Later on, I got a call from him via the IM. After initial greetings, it seems he hadn't made a clean entry after all.

Baron DeSantis: I've been a bit tied up (no pun intended) at the prison. Got really in trouble when I got back from the newspaper meeting. A judge saw me TP back and went ballistic.
Bixyl Shuftan: Oops.
Baron DeSantis: Big oops, he was the one that slammed me in iso in the first place.
Bixyl Shuftan: Not often someone gets in trouble for breaking IN.
Baron DeSantis: It was the 'going out' that did it (laughing out loud).

It was then that he spotted that very judge approaching the cell, so he had to hide the cell phone. He called me later with an update on his situation.

Baron DeSantis: Jeez, he's letting me out of iso EARLY, 2 days early.
Bixyl Shuftan: Well, a little good news.
Baron DeSantis: Yes but why is the worry.
Bixyl Shuftan: Hmmm, hopefully just to make you wonder why.
Baron DeSantis: Scary place the tower. *shivers*

We talked about options on what to do. With the gun turrets and attack helicopter, it was unlikely an aircraft or dragon could get anyone out from the yard. With escape unlikely, perhaps he could at least find out about those who tried to pass the time.

Bixyl Shuftan: Hmmm, I suppose for a story,  you could always ask the prisoners about the more spectacular escape attempts.
Baron DeSantis: great idea. I was given an inmates confession, but it's too much, even for red light. *shivers* ... she is a cannibal you see.
Bixyl Shuftan: Uh oh.
Baron DeSantis: Keeps trying to hug me an' give me a love bite - aaaaarrrrrrrrrgggggggh.

It would seem even if he does get out, arranging a date with him and a vampire batgirl would not be a good idea.

He was silent for a few more minutes, then:

Baron DeSantis: Sorry, was talking to head guard, has come to take me back to general population yippee
Bixyl Shuftan: Hopefully that's good.
Baron DeSantis: Free, well kind of (laughing out loud).
Baron DeSantis: Back in the sun and fresh air.

It was then he got a look outside.

Baron DeSantis: Jeez, they have made the walls even higher now.
Bixyl Shuftan: Oh? Hopefully you still have showers and sink.
Baron DeSantis: Need a shower for sure, damn better check the sink ... oh and they even put in a washing machine because I complained my prison uniform was smelly (laughing out loud).

It was about this time I had to depart, and had to cut the call short. Baron didn't mind too much, with his luck having gotten a little better for now, "See you later, boyfriend."

Boyfriend? O.O *meep*

Somehow, the lady cannibal doesn't seem so scary now.

Bixyl Shuftan

Friday, March 14, 2008

Sparks Ignite Reopens

Sparks Ignite was originally opened in the Star Bright sim by Sparklin Indigo in January 2008. Part of the inspiration for it's name came from the dance floor, dazzling stars and lightning arc effects. It did well, and hosted parties almost every night.

But at March 1, Ignite had to close it's doors and move. "I'm going to miss Star Bright," Sparks told me, " 'Sparks Ignite and Star Bright' had a certain ring to it." So she found a new place, at the Deyo sim, which may make some think of that one Jamaican song, "Daaaayyyyyo." Sparks went to work on rebuilding the club. And on Sunday March 9th, it officially reopened, with StormShadow Maertens as DJ.

The club as the same dazzling dance floor as before, along with the dance ball and several pairs of dancing poseballs. It still has the couches where one can sit between dances, able to adjust their position on them. But it also has something new, a couple of floating platforms which one can hop on and dance on as they tilt.

The parties at Sparks Ignite can range from mild to wild, themes ranging from Country Music Night, to silk dances where little is left to the imagination. The Truth or Dare question machine can certainly make for some candid moments, and a few of the regulars are known for pushing the limits with skimpy costumes during certain themed parties and occasional antics. But outright gratuitous nudity and obscene behavior are grounds for being asked to leave.

And the DJs Sparks has over are first class, from StormShadow, to Blarion Gazov, OtisDriftwood Vollmar, Nelliehope Heron, Pixiedust Darkstone, Mawam Klabov, and others.

Says Sparklin, "I want Sparks Ignite to be a place that everyone that comes here, has fun, and knows that they are among friends!"

So for a dance party with lots of spark, head to "Ignite."

Bixyl Shuftan

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Opening a Can of Wyrms

When I had heard about Baron DeSantis getting arrested, I was as outraged as anyone else. I thought of giving him a visit, but not exactly looking human, thought those Ghul jokers would lay charges on me for being an illegal alien. But as they were willing to let him go if enough was donated to the American Cancer Society, I went ahead with a contribution. I guess it was enough, they let him go.

After finishing up some business in my office, I thought about IMing Baron to say hello, see how he was doing. But someone called me first, my friend Sparklin Indigo. She invited me over, so I agreed and was teleported over ...

And I found myself not next to a tall beautiful blonde (a smart one), but a huge golden dragon. The next thing I noticed was that it seemed to be dancing to the music around us. There was snow on the ground, and nearby three Easter Island style statue heads dressed up whimsically with hats and scarves.

The dragon smiled, and spoke in Sparklin's voice, "Hi there, it seems wherever I go, people want to have a party." Around us, I could see other dragons, some large, some small, also dancing away. Other than one winged pixie, I was the only non-dragon here. Or rather, non-wyrm. A nearby sign read "Isle of Wyrms."

Sparklin had gotten herself a charm that allowed herself to take on the form of a dragon. And as everyone around us just wanted to have fun, I went ahead and joined in the dancing. It must've been quite an odd sight, a pixie, a foxfolk, and all those dragons dancing away.

Sparks and I talked about a few things, including Baron getting arrested and being let go after enough cash was donated to charity. I went ahead and IMed him again to see what was going on. I didn't get an answer right away, but he eventually did. I greeted him, and asked how he was now. Baron answered he was okay, all things considered, but was worried about the Ghul-ish police. It seems he had made a friend among the prisoners he couldn't turn his back on, and smuggled in something to help the inmate. He was now worried he might have been found out.

Concerned, I suggested to Baron he go somewhere the Ghuls couldn't reach him and contact legal help. He didn't think it was that simple, feeling that he'd have to keep looking over his shoulder. Then I heard him scream, "Noooooooooo!" Fearful he was going to go through that nightmare all over again, I tried to offer him a teleport, hoping the magic of this land would allow it to work against whatever those Ghuls had. Then I saw him appear in his tuxedo in front of us. He was safe.

So I thought. "Where am I?" he asked, looking around worriedly. "This is the Isle of Wyrms" I explained, telling him everyone around was friendly. It was then I realized he might still be in a little shock from his experience. And suddenly being dragged off to being in the middle of a bunch of big dragons, with sharp teeth and claws, might not be exactly comforting to his mind. I wondered if he might run away screaming. But instead, after making a few barely comprehensible statements about the cops closing in, he fainted.

Sparklin soon had to go, another friend of hers needed a hand, and then I noticed the pixie pushing Baron off to the direction of the river. I got between her and the ice-cold stream, "Where are you taking him?" She just winked at me, "I was only going to show him the fishies." Maybe the magic in this land would allow him to breathe, but even if so, I doubt waking up underwater would be the best thing for Baron's psychological well-being. So I wouldn't let her through, and she pouted and walked off. I pushed my fellow newsie a short distance to safety.

Seeing a nearby store, and thinking Baron was safe, I went over to check on something. Maybe it had a charm that would allow me to take on the form of a local for a decent price. I didn't find anything I needed for the moment, so I went back, and Baron was gone. He wasn't in the river, so apparently he had woken up and ran off.

Did I really help my friend? Maybe instead of the Ghuls, he was yelling from a figment in his imagination. Maybe what he really needs is a good therapist, minister, or bartender. And of course there's me. If he really is running from the Ghuls, they could try going after me for "aiding and abetting," as well as the kind of bovine by-product charge they slapped on Baron to throw him in to begin with.

I may have opened up a "can of wyrms" here.

Bixyl Shuftan

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Bank Business Revisited

Well, I have access to my money back, though there's a catch.

The bank I did business at, JT Financial, had briefly opened up withdrawals after the no-interest rule. But closed them again soon after due to large numbers emptying them out. Frustrated, I could only wonder if I should have taken it all out, stocks and all, after all. But the bank kept mentioning an SL Wallet, saying it would soon transfer their funds over to it. And so I waited, my attention going to other matters, and time to time checking on the account via the internet. I didn't go back to the bank itself as there was no use doing so, not wanting to deposit any more cash while unable to withdrawal.

Finally I heard SL Wallet had gone up, so I went to my account and found my password wouldn't work. I then IMed an employee for help, and he told me how to get a new password. So I went to the bank and the ATM, and it worked. However, there was this notecard I got from the sign that had been placed beside it while I was gone:

Please check your account balance via the website http://www.slcapex.com - all your L$ have been converted to SLW (SL Wallet) shares, due to liquidity issues and as per announcements on capex - most recent announcement is available here http://www.slcapex.com/home/story/system/1452
Please note that shares have been valued at 1.00. Recently the price has dropped because people have been in need of Linden, so they are selling at market price. If you do not need your funds straight away don't sell them right now, or place an order to sell at 1.03L$. To do this please refer to the SLCapEx Walkthrough that can be received by clicking the sign below that says 'New to Trading'.

Please note that shortly Arbitrage Wise will be doing a SLW share buyback at 1.03L$ - so if you can hold off till then, so you don't incur any losses.

And checking my portfolio, my stocks were fine, but these SLW shares had not just dropped but plummeted to just half their value.

Man ...

I'm not really blaming JT Financial, and I've given away in charities and tips far more than was lost here. Besides, it was just a fraction of the prize money I had won in a trivia contest. But this whole bank mess cost a lot of people huge amounts of cash, and in some cases their land as they found themselves unable to pay Linden Labs for their continued rights to it.

Bixyl Shuftan

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Reader Responses

Being SL Newspaper's "Fox reporter" has been interesting. Among the perks are the responses to my articles and cartoons. Usually the responses have been simple complements. But sometimes they've been a little more detailed.

In my screenshots, for cartoons but also for articles, for most the response has been a hundred percent positive. There was one misunderstanding though. I took a shot that included an object she made with a picture of her. Well, she saw it when we talked about the paper, and seemed to say she was upset before leaving. Thinking I offended her, I later apologized to her, and she explained there were no hard feelings. In the end, we became better friends.

Only once I ever did got a real complaint. I was with Sean Voss' tour group when it went to "Hilarious 2008," part of the Caricavatars sim, owned by Christopher Hugo, a French political satirist. A friend of mine in the tour group brought up an article by a Second Life tabloid that criticized Hugo, and Hugo promptly kicked him out. I did later make an attempt to talk to Hugo, but from what I had seen, and read in the article in question, doubted I would get a response, and as I mentioned before, he just responded to me in Chinese characters. 

So I went ahead and wrote the story. I thought that would be more or less the end, but it wasn't. A few days later, I found the following as a comment under the article when I was about to send the link to a friend:

Christophe Hugo said...

    As a result of your b**chy blog entry, Sean Voss and the entire Virtual Travel Hub group in Second Life have now been banned from Caricavatars.

    They will probably send you a Thank-you postcard for the lost business... Keep up the good work - and the slandering blog entries coming, while you are busy doing that, at least you don't do anything more dangerous or stupid.

    Peace on Earth,


I was tempted to respond to him "I love you too," but decided the smarter thing was to say nothing. One of my friends later came to my defense with a comment of her own after his, " ... why someone would take such offense is beyond me." I later mentioned the comment to Sean Voss, and he just chuckled a little.

Well, what can I say? I call 'em like I see 'em.

Then there was the article I did on the Valentines Day in SL that couple friends of mine, Zeny and Tim, had. I thought it would make a cute story, something to give people hope, and after mentioning it to them, I went ahead and wrote it. And my friends were thrilled to see it up. Other friends also thought the story was cute. But once again, I was taken by surprise. Someone told me there were a few comments, and taking a look, apparently my comment about still being single got some attention, "maybe we should start a campaign? 'find Bixyl a love.' "

Whoah! O.O

I could say a lot of things, but perhaps I should simply say I'm quite flattered.

Bixyl Shuftan

Monday, February 18, 2008

A Friend's Special Valentine's Day in Second Life

Sometimes Valentines Day is just a sad reminder of me not having found anyone, or as another avie put it, "Happy Stick It to Singles Day." But for a friend of mine, the holiday turned out well.

I had logged on to attend to attend a Valentines Day dance at Fortaelia. I doubted I would meet anyone for anything special, just a little time to relax. As the party called for red, white, or pink clothes (presumably only girls would be wearing the last one), I put on the fancy white outfit I had won at a contest recently, and ported over.

Shortly after arriving, one of my friends logged on and IMed me, Zeny. She had not logged onto SL for several days, and explained why. Her boyfriend and partner, Tim, was in the hospital. Although better, it was unsure when he'd be out. And it being Valentines Day, she felt alone and wanted to be with a friend.

And so we danced for a while at the party, chatting about things in both Second Life and Real life. As the Fortaelia party was starting to wind down a little, Zeny got an invitation from someone on her friend list to attend a wedding in Second Life. She was curious and wanted to go. I had been to some real-life weddings, including one with some ethnic traditions added, and had been to a couple roleplayed ones in the "Runescape" game. But I had yet to see one here in Second Life, so as I already had a fancy outfit over, I joined her in the teleport.

It took a little while for things to rez, the chair Zeny was sitting on among the last parts to appear. But the scene was quite detailed, with detailed white structures and flowers all around the walkway, which was next to a forested area. There were several bridesmaids there, as well as the best man and a few other guys. The seats, which were also white, were just about completely filled with guests, mostly dressed neatly though one lady in a formal gown still had a number of tattoos on. And of course there were the bride and groom up by the altar, holding hands.

They were waiting for the minister, and so we all waited, Zeny and I chatting a little about weddings. Then a few people crashed and disappeared, including the groom. So we waited for both them and the minister. They soon reappeared, and then came the minister. Finally the wedding could take place, "If there is anyone who objects to these two being joined, let him speak now or forever hold his peace." One lady typed *readies shotgun for anyone who objects.* And with that the wedding proceeded smoothly.

With people congratulating the couple, Zeny told me with excitement she had just gotten a call through Yahoo from Tim. He was finally out of the hospital. She was a bit quieter as she chatted with him, us following the others to the wedding reception dance. And we joined everyone else there, Zeny getting a blue gown out of her inventory.

Then someone else walked up, Tim. He had logged into Second Life, and Zeny had told him where they were. He went over to Zeny, who was next to a pair of dance poseballs, and they joined the others in the formal dance.

Together again, it was a Valentines Day for my friends to remember.

Bixyl Shuftan

Thursday, January 31, 2008

STA: Follow-Up

The STA sim may be gone (see Explore - January 27), but a piece of it lives on. Sparklin Indigo, one of the members of the STA staff, had the Orientation Island globe and a few sets of chairs and tables brought up to the roof of her club Sparks Ignite for "a little STA-esque hangout." On a nearby wall is a picture of the main STA building. Next to the globe is a screen flashing different scenes of the STA every few seconds, the images contributed by a number of people who took pictures.

And there's a DJ spot, made for the STA's #1 DJ in mind, Blarion Gazov. Next to the equipment is a sign, "No Thriller, No Green Day," two things people are asked not to request.

Former head of the STA GlobetrekkerBob Lane will not be around to see it for some time, though. He sent us a note saying he'll be gone from Second Life for a while.

Bixyl Shuftan

Sunday, January 27, 2008

STA - A Great Sim Comes to an End

Group Notice From: GlobetrekkerBob Lane

Guys, I am truly sorry to tell you that STA Travel decided to discontinue the SL project today, and will shut the island today as well.  Thank you all for everything, you have been the heart of this place, and I am going to miss having all of you here more than you'd believe.  This was one of the best jobs I've had, and I truly had hoped that we'd be able to continue on everything we accomplished last year.  If you have any questions, IM me, I'll be at the Orientation Island while it's still open.


Group Notice From: Eruanna Rossini

I just wanted to say my personal thank you to all of you for helping make STA such a warm and inviting place for the new residents and a fun place to hang out. I'll miss hanging out there, as we all will, but I'm sure we'll meet again, somewhere out there, beneath the pale SL sky.
And for those who want to keep helping new people, I'll be more than happy to add you to the Help People Group. Good luck everyone, and see you around!

Eruanna Rossini

I can't exactly remember when I first came across the STA, possibly August  2007 when my first close friend in Second Life sent me a teleport to join her there, and for the first time I saw the sandbox, followed by a run north to a bigger island to sit at a table and chat with her and her friends.

Since then, we continued to meet and hang out over there time to time. Sometimes it was for them to build something in the sandbox. Later on, we would attend the parties that began appearing there, even a couple special events. Often it was just to chat about going's on. It wasn't long before we ran into and became friends with GlobetrekkerBob Lane and Eruanna Rossini who ran the sim. They would always chat with voice while until recently we answered with just the keyboard. As Bob had been a world traveler, some of what he had to say was quite interesting. Then there were the staff, August, Aellyn, Gemini, StormShadow, Maccy, Blarion, Keli, Sparklin, Ivanna, Rashed, and others. Then there were others I met there and became friends with. It was also the place I took a number of my funny pictures for newspaper "cartoons." Blarion himself had the job of being the regular DJ every Monday for dance parties at the dorm.

For newcomers, the STA was often their first real location inside Second Life, a circular track set up in the center STA Orientation Island for them for learn some basic skills, with staff on hand to help them out. I would often join in with the helping out, and eventually Bob made me a part-time staff member as well, just keep on doing what I had been doing while there. While chatting with my friends at the tables around the globe in the center of the sim, say hello, offer help, and answer questions. And with the dorms, newcomers had a place to call home for a while. With the globe's landmarks to counterparts to real-life locations, newcomers and experienced had places to explore.

Problem was, the backers of the sim felt they were not getting their money's worth. Bob was getting hints of trouble for a couple months. Then at 9:00 AM on January 25, 2008 he got the news: the sim was being closed down. He and Anna told all they could who were on at the time what was about to happen, and they gathered one last time. Shortly after Noon, it was over. The sim was gone, nothing more than an image on the map to remind us of what was.

The STA is gone, but already plans are being made to make up for it's loss. "Shade" at the Empathy sim is planning a place of it's own for newcomers "to meet, greet and be informed in the spirit of The STA Community. They were good, let's try and make this better for all new arrivals in SL." Sean Voss, who's Landmark Island had partnered with the STA, will continue making his weekly tours in Second Life.

As for Bob, he's taking a few days off Second Life, then plans on coming back to try something new. Whatever it is, no doubt he'll succeed.

Bixyl Shuftan