Friday, November 29, 2013

Winter Wonderland in Second Life

Snow flurries began to fall and they swirled around people's legs like house cats. It was magical, this snow globe world.

Sarah Addison Allen

          Seems that no sooner did I blog about the Holidays in Second Life (SL) then I ran into my good friend, Lisah Lorefield, inworld who gave me an update on some of the things happening over at Utopia Naked Isle Resort where she resides mainly when she’s in SL. 
          One big, new project recently completed and which will open to the general public shortly is the Utopia Winter Wonderland.   
          Management at Utopia is always looking to improve and expand their sim to enhance the experience for their guests.  Winter Wonderland is no exception as I discovered when Lisah gave me a sneak peek at what’s to come.  (I just wish I could get these perqs in Real Life (RL)!) 
          Lisah TP’s into Winter Wonderland for my tour.  She is dressed in a lovely fur jacket (Remember this is SL, no animals were harmed in the production of this story.  For the record, I’m animal friendly.) and a matching pant suit.
          Well, since I was at a nudist sim, I figured I should go nude, right?  That’s the nice thing about SL sometimes, no weather.  (Significant Other is beginning to worry that I’m starting to enjoy running around in my birthday suit too much.)  Fortunately, Lisah is nonplussed about these sartorial gaffes of mine and we proceed. 
          We’re standing in front of the Pavilion.  An imposing, open air (Remember, no weather!) structure intended for ice skating, dancing, and large functions like concerts.  It dwarfs many such creations inworld and is worth the trip for this view alone. 
          Lisah guides me through the rest of Winter Wonderland and I’m impressed.
          Facilities are included for skiing, sledding, and other winter activities.  Free skis, skates, and sleds are available.  (Although, I personally find skiing inworld as difficult and embarrassing as it is for me in RL.)  Lisah shows off her skills effortlessly.  Show off!  However, since her typist comes from Holland, I believe she had an unfair advantage on the ice skating rink.  (Apologies to any Dutch who may be offended by my politically incorrect and insensitive reference to Hans Brinker.  Stereotypes die hard for Americans.  (And apologies to my fellow Americans who… You get the picture.)) 
          As we walk through the sim, I notice just the right amount of Christmas decorations and wintery effects.  Winter Wonderland is not overdone like some sims where everything that is not nailed down, and a few things that are, are covered in either holly or decorations. 
          Realism is high.  Our feet sink into the snow as we walk.  Flora and fauna are lifelike and the ecosystem doesn’t threaten all other forms of life in the sim. 
          Another noticeable feature is the large scale of just about everything.  For example, the ski lift and runs are impressive.  Some RL ski resorts aren’t as good. Also, activities like skating and skiing are readily available and don’t involve hoofing across the Great Plains to get anywhere.  Rope bridges facilitate moving from one peak to another.
          A circular walk through the woods and snow gives us a nice tour of Winter Wonderland in a reasonable amount of time. 
          Of course, let’s not forget that Winter Wonderland is part of Utopia Naked Isle Resort.  Besides nudity (Just to be fair and for full disclosure, it is clothing optional.)  there are many opportunities for those so inclined to go off privately and enjoy themselves in a more intimate fashion.  Cabins, gazebos, fire pits, and even pup tents abound for such folks.  (Somebody must be using these or they wouldn’t be building them, would they now?)
           I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the Naughty Santa Korner.  (I won’t go into details, I’m still not that kind of blog.)  There are also a few hidden corners away from the maddening crowd where visitors can go for even more private, intimate moments.  (No, I won’t tell you where they are.  I do this for two reasons and none of them are cruel.  First, it’ll good for you to go out and explore on your own – ideally with someone else.  Second, if I do tell then Lisah is going to get mad at me and, trust me on this, we don’t want that.) 
Lisah and I come to the end of the tour.  I know she’s busy working on all the last minute details so I thank her and take my leave. 
For anyone who is looking for a Holiday themed sim to visit at this time, I can heartily recommend Utopia Winter Wonderland.  The sim is enjoyable and realistic.  As past visitors will already know, the team and guests are always welcoming to newcomers and inappropriate behavior is frowned upon.  Their sims are always being modified and enhanced so visiting frequently is a good idea to stay current. 
The official opening to the general public will be on December 7, 2013 at 2:00PM SLT.  Wayne Davis, the singer, will be headlining the entertainment. 
Winter Wonderland will only be open for a couple of months so I encourage you to get there soon and don’t miss all the Holiday festivities.  I know I’ll be there and maybe I’ll run into you!
For anyone who may be visiting regularly, I recommend joining the Utopia VIP Group whereby you can attend the members only function like the private party for Winter Wonderland’s opening. 
I would like to thank Lisah for once again giving me a tour and answering my oftimes na├»ve if not dumb questions.  She does a wonderful job and is a great representative for Utopia. 
I’ve included a few pictures from my tour around Winter Wonderland.  But, please go and see the sim for yourselves and have a good time!  You’ll be glad you did.
As always, I’m grateful to all inworld for their kindness and time in stopping to talk with a stranger who was passing through their lives.    
I welcome feedback from readers, please either comment on my blog or e-mail me at . 

          If you would like to read about my other adventures in Second Life
please click here.


Photo No. 2  Fire Pit

Photo No. 3  Naughty Santa Korner

Photo No. 5  Pavilion in the Distance

Photo No. 6  Ski Lift

Photo No. 8  Ice Skating Rink

Photo No. 9  Cabin Interior

Photo No. 10 Gazebo

Photo No. 11 Igloo

Photo No. 13 Camping Out

Photo No. 14 The Pavilion


Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Doctor Who in Second Life

You want weapons? We're in a library! Books! The best weapons in the world!

The Doctor

          I have a confession to make.
          I’m a fan of The Doctor.  That’s Doctor Who to you. 
          Yes, I know.  Being an American, I shouldn’t know about him and should have an unconditional bias towards Star Trek.  Well, I do like Trek.  (Preference for ST:TNG, Significant Other prefers ST:TOS and can’t understand any feelings towards The Doctor.) 
          But, those of you who follow me, both of you (Don’t worry I won’t out you just keep the funds coming to my PayPal account and your secret is safe.), know by now that I’m something of an iconoclast.  Long ago on US public television, I discovered The Doctor and have been a fan ever since.  (May also have something to do with that special relationship our British friends are always talking about.) 
          Then I turned around one day and learned that the fiftieth anniversary of The Doctor first appearing was upon us.  Fifty years. Has it been that long?  OK, where I come from that’s a long time.  Where he comes from not so much.  I get it. 
          Just the other day, I saw the fiftieth anniversary show along with some of my closest friends from the seventy-five countries where is was simulcast.  I loved it!  (Don’t worry no spoilers for the couple of folks who missed it, I think more people saw it than saw the last Royal Wedding.) 
          With some time on my hands, I took some time off for Thanksgiving, I thought about this anniversary for a bit.  I began wondering how much of a presence The Doctor had in Second Life (SL).  I’d run across the odd Dalek or two in my wanderings inworld but I’d never really investigated The Doctor.  (Purists don’t worry, I’m not about to go looking for any BDSM connections.  Any secrets The Doctor may have in SL are still safe.) 
          So, one day when Real Life (RL) was quiet, I began my search for The Doctor inworld.
          I started off in New London.  Where else?  (Remember, I do believe in tradition. Auntie Beeb is based there after all and The First Doctor first dropped in here.)  While the overall references to The Doctor were light.  There were fiftieth anniversary banners waving and the TARDIS was shown being transported to Trafalgar Square by UNIT just as in the movie.  (Whoops!  I’ll be more careful.)
          My next stop was Hands of Omega TTC where I found a retail establishment dedicated to all things TARDIS and a few extra.  I think every possible configuration of the TARDIS for all The Doctors can be found here including the Master’s and the Rani’s. Components for interiors and exteriors are available along with models of all the different types.  Be careful, a true Whovian could lose a lot of time here. 
          The third sim I rezzed into was Who’s Who.  This establishment is dedicated to costumes and skins from characters from the series.  A picture of the late and much beloved (and missed) Elisabeth Sladen who played Sarah Jane Smith in the series is prominently displayed next to one of her costumes. 
          Weeping Angels are available here as well. (Significant Other always startles whenever they appear onscreen.) 
          TARDIS Quay is my final destination in my search for the world of The Doctor in SL.  TARDIS accessories are available along with sonic screwdrivers, Daleks, K-9, and The Doctor’s snapping finger gesture.  Even Bessie, The Third Doctor’s favorite means of transportation after his TARDIS is available for sale.  (Anyone remember her license plate number?) 
          Wandering around inworld looking for signs of The Doctor brought back many fond memories for me of watching those old reruns and remembering the various regenerations of The Doctor.
          I was pleased to see that much of the Whovian materials available in SL are up to date for the new shows. 
          The Doctor is a character endeared by many in SL.  Even Frau Jo Yardley   permitted his TARDIS and a DALEK to be on the streets of 1920’s Berlin for his fiftieth anniversary.  (And we know what a stickler she is for historical purity!) 
          For all fans of Doctor Who I encourage you to visit the sims I’ve mentioned and the ones I couldn’t to show your support.  RP groups are inworld to let you travel along just briefly as one of The Doctor’s Companions on his adventures. 
           I’ve included a few pictures from my trek (No pun intended.) across the Grid looking for The Doctor’s presence.  But, please go and see these places for yourselves and have a good time! 
          Oh, and because I know someone will ask.  Who is my favorite Doctor?  I know I should shy away from this controversial subject but it’s The Fourth Doctor, Tom Baker.   Why?  Who knows. 
As always, I’m grateful to all inworld for their kindness and time in stopping to talk with a stranger who was passing through their lives.    
I welcome feedback from readers, please either comment on my blog or e-mail me at . 

          If you would like to read about my other adventures in Second Life
please click here.

Photo No. 2  TARDIS Grabbed by UNIT

Photo No. 3  TARDIS for Sale

Photo No. 5  The Panopticon

Photo No. 8  Who’s Who Main Store

Photo No. 10 Weeping Angels

Photo No. 13 K-9 and Some Extras

Photo No. 14 Sonic Screwdrivers

Photo No. 15 Daleks for Sale

Photo No. 16 Another Old Friend

Photo No. 17 Road Sign

Photo No. 18 TARDIS  

Saturday, November 23, 2013

The Holidays Are Coming to Second Life or Are They?

I once wanted to become an atheist, but I gave up - they have no holidays.

Henny Youngman

          I hope I haven’t seemed too self-absorbed lately.
          My last two posts to this blog have been about life and living in Second Life (SL).   Why?  Don’t worry I’ll avoid the snarky reply of “because it’s my blog”.  But I have been engaged in a bit of navel gazing as of late (Significant Other smiles and says why should SL be any different from Real Life (RL).) and this story may be in the same vein.  (Spoiler alert!)
          So, back to the question, why? Maybe, and this may sound lame, it’s because the end of the year seems to be approaching too quickly again and with that the Holidays. 
          For me as an American, that means I’ve just gotten past Halloween and Thanksgiving is staring me in the face and Christmas is not too far behind and how did Hanukkah sneak up right after Thanksgiving this year?  (Why can’t all holidays stay in one place and play nice like July 4th does? BTW, be warned, this story is going to have a very strong American, NYC bent to it.  I yam what I yam and that's all that I yam as Popeye would say.)    
          I’m sitting here, immersed inworld, thinking big thoughts about the convergence of SL and RL, and just over the horizon is the oncoming freight train of the yearend Holidays. 
          In RL, this means getting together with family and friends, turkey (especially the drumsticks), the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade (Yes, I am a sucker for sentimentality.), shopping, gift giving, and everything else that the Holidays represent to us in our late consumerist society.  And, in case, you’re wondering, I’ll be charging off at midnight on Thanksgiving to hit the stores.  (Don’t worry, I’m only there as an observer.  Online shopping and gift cards have been a godsend for me. Did I say that I was a traditionalist?)
          Back to SL.  Do we experience all this inworld?  Do we have holidays in SL? At one level we do.  My good friend, Perryn Peterson, hasn’t met a holiday he doesn’t like and can’t pull a legs up social event around inworld.   
          But are we really having holidays inworld?  If Perryn and his merry band weren’t there, would we be celebrating inworld? 
          Yes, I know, if we wander through SL, we’ll come across any number of sims that have Christmas trees, lights, Yule logs, and a Santa Claus somewhere.  But, that’s like the department stores that trot out their decorations every year.  For me, this is the virtual equivalent of kissing your sister. 
          I think what I’m getting at here is along the lines of what comes first the chicken or the egg. (This is where Significant Other’s eyes roll and I’m reminded of Freud’s old dictum that sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.  But, I digress.)  Would we have holidays inworld except for the efforts of a few? 
          Granted that many are too busy with their own RL lives to go carousing inworld during the Holidays but do we, can we truly experience the Holidays inworld?  Some might ask if we even should.
          Are we merely mimicking our RL Holiday traditions inworld or are we actually engaging in community activities which have a life of their own?  Of course, one might argue that a party is a party and to just get on with it.  But, there’s more to it than just that.
          Traditions and oral histories are important part of communities and pass down from one generation to the next.  There are minor changes along the way.  (Like, thankfully, eggnog seems to be going away along with the unfortunate demise of mince pie.)  But, they are self-sustaining. 
          A few times in my blog, I’ve talked about SL’s long term viability.  Whether it can be something more than just a cyber haunt for those lost in the Metaverse or can it become something more.  Celebrations and festivities will need to be part of that, IMHO.  RL holidays needn’t be brought over, SL could evolve its own. 
          I hope I haven’t gotten too heavy as the Holidays approach us but I like to call out what I see as anomalies from time to time because they will be important to those of us who reside inworld and want to see SL live up to its promise. 
          I’ll be wandering around inworld as the Holiday season approaches this year and will report back on the festivities.  If you’re sponsoring or participating in any Holiday functions as we approach the New Year then please give me a shout out and I’ll do my best to join you!  (Or, if you don’t want me hanging around then either tell me outright or don’t tell me about your fun stuff.)
          Happy Thanksgiving! 
As always, I’m grateful to all inworld for their kindness and time in stopping to talk with a stranger who was passing through their lives.    
I welcome feedback from readers, please either comment on my blog or e-mail me at . 

          If you would like to read about my other adventures in Second Life
please click here. 

Friday, November 15, 2013

More about Life in Second Life

 In the end, it's not going to matter how many breaths you took, but how many moments took your breath away.

Shing Xiong

          In my last blog, I wrote about how we live in Second Life (SL). 
          Let me forewarn everyone, I’m going to blog some more about life inworld with this story.
          (Don’t worry, I won’t reply with “Why not?” which as a university instructor once told me and an equally frustrated group of undergraduates is perfectly logical and acceptable if somewhat aggravating to enquiring minds.)
          I’m blogging about life inworld again for a variety of reasons.  First, I’m having many changes in Real Life (RL).  (Don’t worry, all is well, change is good.  Even if Significant Other does wonder how much is my doing versus chance.)  Next, RL has a lot going on too.  For example, the woes of the mayor of Toronto.  (Sorry Rob!)  Then there’s the tragicomic rollout of the new US healthcare website,  (And we thought Linden Lab (LL) had issues!)  Finally, the tragedy that has befallen the Philippines with Typhoon Haiyan leaves a sobering reminder of hard RL can sometimes be. 
          All these events have me thinking about what RL means to all of us. 
          Within SL, we come together from our real lives.  Are we escaping?  Are we simply interacting with one another in the same manner that we would in our local pub, Starbucks, or wherever we come together to solve the world’s problems and to seek solace and support from each other? 
          In earlier posts, I’ve blogged about who we are inworld, the trust that develops among us, and our identities.  I came away feeling, and still do feel, that we can and do form lasting friendships in SL.  Some people have even carried this one step further and have taken their relationships into RL ending up married with children. Good for them! 
          Other times, I’ve written about community in SL, simply walking around the neighborhood, the losses we experience, the friends once thought lost who return to us, and the social lives that we have built for ourselves inworld. 
          I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention what we all do inworld.  Whether it’s visiting historical sites, going to fairs and parties, not to mention the sex and all the running around nude that goes on.
          And, yes, the bad has to go with the good like bullying and SL’s dirty, little secret. 
          What does all this leave us with?
          We’re here after all.  We’re obviously doing things.  But, where does all this take us?
          Does SL have a future in our lives?  (I mean the real ones  here.) 
          What keeps us inworld?  What would bring our friends who have left us back?
          What value does SL provide us?  Is there even value being inworld?
          In one humble resident’s opinion, I do believe very strongly that there is value in SL. 
          Why?  (There’s that question again!)
          The value provided is us, the residents of SL.  (Humble, aren’t I?)  At the most basic level, we are the building blocks of the communities that comprise SL. 
          Don’t believe me?
          Just look back over the stories I’ve referred to.  Something’s obviously going on inworld that brings people back continually.  Yes, I know, participation does vary but we don’t seem to be anywhere near collapse anytime soon. 
          That being said, our communities can’t be taken for granted.  Any civilization must change and respond to their environments in order to continue to survive if not thrive outright.
          Improvements like a viable economy, intellectual property protection, social media, and support for mobility would all help greatly.  Some of these are being worked on to some degree but I’d like to see more genuine progress across all of them. 
          Please excuse my ramblings about life inworld but I feel very strongly that virtual communities like SL can and should thrive.  They offer a chance for all of us to meet and be ourselves (I personally feel that our avatars’ personalities are not terribly dissimilar to our RL ones.) and to step away, if only briefly, from some of the harum scarum that surrounds us in RL. 
As always, I’m grateful to all inworld for their kindness and time in stopping to talk with a stranger who was passing through their lives.    
I welcome feedback from readers, please either comment on my blog or e-mail me at . 

          If you would like to read about my other adventures in Second Life
please click here. 

Saturday, November 9, 2013

How We Live in Second Life

 It is nothing to die. It is frightful not to live.

Victor Hugo

          Recently, I’ve been running around a lot in Real Life (RL).
          Nothing out of the ordinary, the usual stuff that we all have to deal with in one form or another.  Relationships, family, career, health, and all the hum drum things that comprise the human experience.  (Sounds awfully boring when I say it that way doesn’t it?)   
          Don’t get me wrong.  There are many things going on in my life that make me feel great every day.  Significant Other, friends, having a job in this crazy economy that we live in. 
          In the midst of all this running around, I somehow manage a few moments to stop and think about my other life, the one that I have in Second Life (SL).  (Significant Other pats me on the head, smiles indulgently, says “Whatever!” and exits the room.)  I ask myself (Don’t worry, I may talk to myself but I never argue with myself.) how do our real lives differ from our second lives inworld or do they even differ?  (Notice how I subtly switched from the singular to the plural and included all of you in my cerebral meanderings?)
          Are our lives really that different inworld from whom those we lead out here in reality?  (Now, you know why Significant Other left the room.) 
          What are our real lives about after all?  How do they affect our second lives?  If they even do. 
          I believe that are three aspects to our lives, the social, educational, and economic.
          Social involves the interaction of the individual with the community including the immediate family and extended social groups (real as well as virtual).  Sexual relations would also be lumped in here as well. 
          Educational involves how an individual learns to exist in the world around him or her and to survive once they leave their families.  This includes both formal and informal education.  Common sense and what Americans like to call “street smarts” would be here as well.
          Economic is how an individual supports himself or herself from either a subsistence level or all the way up to the level of the “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous”.   
          We do all of these in RL.  For those of us who are in SL, we do many of them as well. 
          How many interact with others inworld either at parties, dancing, or other group functions?  How many have found either friends or partners in SL?  Some have gone so far as to transfer their relationships from virtual to real and have married in RL and now have children.  I think I’ve blogged enough about sex in SL that I can safely say it’s there and thriving. 

          Educational pursuits are followed inworld as well.  At the most basic level, residents learn the scripting language that creates all the objects and prims that comprise SL.  There are literary forums in sims like Book Island and 1920’s Berlin.  The latter also is an educational forum about the RL historical period of the city of Berlin.  Recently, I’ve met residents who have told me how they have used SL to learn English as a second language and they are fluent in their interactions with me. 
          As for the economic, earning a living is not really necessary inworld.  Most folks when they need money in SL simply buy more Lindens with RL money.  I’ve met a small number of people inworld who claim to earn a living there, usually just covering their costs, but many others simply go through the motions.  More often than not, they’re mimicking RL.
          Now, there are some things where SL and RL don’t really equate.  I haven’t met too many people who sleep inworld.  (We won’t talk about residents who have fallen asleep in RL while listening to one of my SL monologues.) 
          Despite some very impressive displays of food and drink inworld, we don’t eat.  At least not for sustenance.  (An interesting idea if there is ever a next generation of SL.) 
          Or, how about this one, travel. While planes, trains, ships, cars, and virtually every other form of transportation known to man in RL exists inworld, most simply teleport to get around. 
          So, to bring some order and a conclusion to these meanderings of mine, while our real and virtual lives overlap in SL, many seem to be extending their real lives inworld.  Of course, many are also trying things out that they can’t in RL for one reason or another. (BDSM comes to mind.)   
          My question is are we simply avatars existing in a virtual world or are we extensions of our RL selves into a virtual world?
          I’m still puzzling this one.  What do you think?    
As always, I’m grateful to all inworld for their kindness and time in stopping to talk with a stranger who was passing through their lives.    
I welcome feedback from readers, please either comment on my blog or e-mail me at . 

          If you would like to read about my other adventures in Second Life
please click here.