Saturday, July 26, 2014

Helping Others in Second Life II


No one has ever become poor by giving.

Anne Frank



          Those of you who are regular readers (My thanks to both of you!) know that I’m very interested in how virtual worlds like Second Life (SL) interact with Real Life (RL). (Significant Other gives me that warning look that SL had better not ever show up at our front door.)

          For many, this involves hanging out with friends, music, dancing, parties, sex, and lifestyles like BDSM or naturism.  (I should know, I’ve blogged just about all of them!)  All of which contributes in one way or another, fairly or not, to how some in RL perceive SL.

          I’ve always felt that the positive aspects of SL such as friendship and community bonding don’t get the proper attention and respect that they deserve.  One of the reasons I’ve marooned myself inworld instead of going out across the Metaverse was that I found SL and its residents and their lives to be so fascinating.  They have to be great people no one’s kicked me out yet.  (Well, there was that one time.  But, it was a misunderstanding.  Better yet, let’s just not bring that back up again.)

          One aspect that I’ve found particularly engaging about SL is how willing people are to go out of their way to help others.  Recent examples in this blog include Relay for Life (RFL) raising money inworld for cancer research in RL.  (Which as of this writing has collected over $400,000US.)  The Mieville sim had a yard sale to help raise money for a member suffering from leukemia in RL and who didn’t have health insurance.  (Which has surpassed its goal for its member in need.)  Finally, First UCC maintains a ministry inworld helping congregants, and anyone else who needs it, with their spiritual and other needs. 

          There are many others and I don’t wish to slight them.  These three groups I’d just stumbled across in my wanderings across the Grid and became aware of their activities.

          Recently, while hanging around with the First UCC crew (The only places in RL that I have yet to thrown out of are churches and Starbucks.  Since there are none of the latter inworld, I tend to hang around with the former.  It’s safer.)  I learned about their upcoming fundraiser to support a child in RL.

          Yes, you heard me correctly.

          A church group in SL is raising funds to support a child in RL.  Not only that, but this is the second time they’ve doing it!  I had to learn more.

          Reaching out to my SL friend, Becca Kellstrom, a minister in both worlds, I asked about the possibility of an interview.  She promptly connected me with YoYo Rez, one of the two non-clergy staffers at First UCC and who is also responsible for running the program.  (Significant Other suggests the promptness may have more to do with not wanting to be seen with the likes of me.  I politely remind Significant Other that but for the likes of me, folks like Bec would be out of a job.)    

          YoYo and I were able to schedule a time to meet and to discuss the children’s aid program run by the church. 

          What follows comes from that interview and materials that YoYo was kind enough to send to me.  (BTW, YoYo’s a big time Buffy the Vampire Slayer fan.  We hit it off from the get go!) 

          The program is called RealReach by First UCC and is run in RL under the sponsorship of an organization called Children International. 

          YoYo was originally attracted to their program because they are not a directly sectarian effort tied to a single denomination.  They had strong ratings through charity tracking sites, and she liked how they tied education and skill-building programs into their outreach efforts.  They actively involve the families of the sponsored children in in-country community efforts.  They are not just a drop-off-the-food-and-clothing kind of place.  They have programs right in the neighborhoods they serve, and they interact daily with those they're helping.          Children are normally supported until their eighteenth year when their education ends.  Although, YoYo cited as an example a young person she sponsors herself whom she supported until his nineteenth birthday so that he could complete technical training. 

          To me this sounds like a very effective program.  (Look, I’m not going to pretend that I’m some sort of expert in helping others.  (We won’t go into Significant Other’s observation that I can help best by staying away.)  But, my limited experience has taught me that getting and staying involved with folks who need help is beneficial for all concerned.) 

          The cost per child is approximately $350US annually. 

          There are benefits accruing from this program other than just caring for children.  YoYo observed how this effort unifies everyone in First UCC.  It focuses them and draws them together as a community.  Naturally, they grow in unity through their services and their prayer times, but there are very real friendships and relationships being forged here.  Many of the members have already met in RL.  Some have made decisions about moving to be closer to other First UCC members and to join their worship communities, and are beginning to visit one another from across states and across the country.  So certainly, First UCC gets a direct benefit from joining in projects that never could have united them without a virtual world community.  They never would have met.  This extra good would never have been done.

          Now, for the good part, how can we help!

          First UCC is having its next fund raiser to sponsor a child on Saturday. August 23rd, from 11:00 AM SLT to 1:00 PM SLT at their inworld location. 

          It’s going to be a “Battle of the DJs.”  There will be four DJs and each DJ will receive thirty minutes of allotted time.  At the very start of the event, YoYo will trigger a device that spits out rolly balls with a single word on it.  She’ll do eight of these.  The DJ must play up to eight songs with that random word in the title.  The person who goes first has less time to think about it ... but those who go last might see the song they want taken by an earlier DJ.  (Sure beats the old bake sale idea, huh?) 

There will be four donation stations, and people can donate to the DJ they want to "win." And of course, the real winner is the sponsored child, although the DJ who wins walks away with bragging rights.

Sounds like a plan! 

          At the first fund raiser, expectations were modest.  YoYo and her colleagues didn’t expect to raise the full annual fee for the sponsored child.  They were stunned to not only hit the goal but to exceed it.  YoYo admits freely that she cried for joy. 

          If you want to want to make a difference in the world, the real world, and help a child then I’d recommend you join YoYo and First UCC on August 23rd and join the fun.  If you can’t make the date how about dropping by some other time to make a donation?

          Remember no donation is too small.  (The widow’s mite is one of my favorite parables!) 

          At a time when so many children seem to be suffering in this world either dying of thirst in a desert or hiding in basements from bombs, here’s a chance to make a difference in the life of at least one child.  

           I’ve included a few pictures of my interview with YoYo and the First UCC sim.  Drop by and walk through the gardens there when you find yourself in need of a quiet moment. 

          I’d like to thank YoYo again for taking the time to meet with me and answer my questions and Bec for arranging for us to meet! 

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.   

My Twitter handle is @webspelunker.  Please feel free to follow me and I’d be happy to follow you.

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. 1 YoYo Rez

Photo No. 2 The Interview

Photo No. 5 Church Grounds


Saturday, July 19, 2014

Can Second Life Be More Like Real Life?


If good things lasted forever, would we appreciate how precious they are?

Bill Watterson



          Recently, a lot’s been happening in and around Second Life (SL) which has got me thinking.  (Significant Other always claims to begin worrying about now.) 

          In no particular order, there has been SL Go, the new mobile app for SL.  Oculus Rift has been offered up as a 3-D immersive SL experience.  Philip Rosedale is doing something over at High Fidelity and Ebbe Altberg is promising a brave, new world with SL 2.0 (or whatever it’s going to be called!)  I even stumbled across a device that gives the experience of holding hands with a loved one over the Internet! 

          This is where I began to think.

          What’s the end result of all of this development?

          Could SL become more like Real Life (RL)? 

          Yes, I know.  Some of you are going to begin moving towards the exits right about now.  But, for the rest of you, humor me please.  (Significant Other says it’s the best way to handle me.)

          Just think about this for a moment.

          With all these potential new products and what will come after them, and there always is something to come after, where do we end up?  There’ll probably be better graphics with less lag.  Improved interfaces with more tactile abilities.  Open standards with social media applications like Twitter, Facebook, and Google+.  (The latter which has by the way now permits avatar names to be used.) 

          Alright, you may say, so what?

          Well, we may have a highly realistic virtual world that might be difficult to distinguish from RL under certain circumstances. (I’m not talking about being under the influence either!)  We might be crossing the point where reality is indistinguishable from virtuality.  (Yes, I know, I just made up a new word.  You heard it here first folks!) 

          Think about this for a moment.  We will have arrived at the The Matrix before we even got to Mars!  When people first started predicting space travel to Mars, no one even had imagined virtual reality yet! 

          But, (There’s a “but” isn’t there?) would this be a good thing?  (Significant Other feels I play devil’s advocate so much that I’ve forgotten whose side I’m on.)

          We would have a virtual world separate from RL which would offer us pretty much everything our cerebral cortex may require.  (I’m staying away from nourishment for now.)  Though would this be more a game than a community?  Would it even be real?  What would this mean for RL people?  Would they spend more time inworld?

          Or, instead of being a standalone environment, could this new virtuality (Sorry, I really like this word!) become an extension of RL?  (Significant Other mumbles something about cutting me off.)

          Just a couple of examples.  Relay for Life (RFL) raises money inworld for cancer research in RL.  The Mieville sim recently had a yard sale to help raise money for a member suffering from leukemia in RL and who didn’t have health insurance.  Finally, First UCC maintains a ministry inworld helping congregants, and anyone else who needs it, with their spiritual and other needs. 

          Some may dismiss this out of hand as simple charity.  (Which I might argue is the best kind but I’ll save that argument for another time.)  However, I see a blending of SL and RL activities.  Virtual faces are given to RL activities.  There are RL consequences to SL actions.  Monies are raised, people are counseled and helped, and communities start and begin to flourish. 

          How do we do this?

          We do it anonymously in most cases, on a global basis, and much of it is experimental.  We make the rules up as we go. 

          As I’ve blogged about before, I do believe a scalable virtual economy which permits transactions, has free exchange of currency (Bitcoin perhaps?), and protection of intellectual property rights is necessary for this to happen. 

          Things are still in the early innings.  Who knows how any of the initiatives I started this piece with will turn out.  A lot is going on.  Most of which many of us have no clue about.  Social media is still a wild card in my mind.  Will Mark Zuckerberg really launch into virtual worlds with Facebook?  Events presently unknown will probably have the biggest impact in all likelihood. 

          I opened with a question and I’m not sure of the answer.  All I know is that things won’t be the same! 

I’ve included a few pictures of some SL events that approximate RL ones.  Just some food for thought! 

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.   

My Twitter handle is @webspelunker.  Please feel free to follow me and I’d be happy to follow you.

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. 3 Mieville Yard Sale


Saturday, July 12, 2014

Back to the DaVinci Gardens in Second Life


It is strange how we hold on to the pieces of the past while we wait for our futures.

Ally Condie



As part of my campaign to focus on the positive in Second Life (SL) and to avoid becoming the sort of crank whom readers avoid, (Significant Other’s eyebrow arches at the word “becoming.”) I’m blogging about the better aspects of SL now.

I may have gotten away from one of original blogging principles which was to avoid negativity because there seemed to be way too much of it around when I first began writing. 

So, as I did last week when I blogged about the sixth anniversary celebrations in Mieville, I’ll blog presently about the fun and wonder of SL which brought me inworld originally. 

To this end, I return to DaVinci Gardens in Kalepa.  A sim discovered originally by my Research Assistant, Tera Trenchcoat, a while back.

Two earlier visits were recorded in my stories about flying the different “devices” and dragons available to visitors there.  I was taken by the clever adaption of the ideas of Master DaVinci himself and from fantasy into the reality of SL.

I promised myself and my readers that I’d return and now seems as good a time as any.  So, I’m off!

I rez into the DaVinci Gardens landing zone and am facing the teleporter board.  Eighteen destinations await me.  The diverse offerings impress me.  Everything from the ancient pyramids to the Charleston to outer space. 

After having spent my previous visits in the clouds here at DaVinci, I decide to stay on the ground. In fact, going to the root of my name, I decide to go spelunking!  I select the Dripstone Cave and move along to the next stage of my journey.  (Air travelers in Real Life (RL), like I once was, would really appreciate the ease and safety of a teleporter to say nothing of avoiding the TSA and airline fees!)

I arrive in a subterranean cavern with bats flying around.  The ceiling is low.  Stalactites and stalagmites are in view.  Water pools in depressions in the floor.  I begin to rethink my idea to start at the bottom.

Looking across the cavern, I see paintings on the wall.  They are copies of the images from the Lascaux caves in France.  In fact, walking through some of them produces the link to the relevant Wikipedia article.

This may be a reproduction of a UNESCO World Heritage site but I’m starting to get claustrophobic!  (Which I normally don’t know matter what Significant Other smugly says!)

I move through the cave, dodging bats (pesky buggers!) and arrive at the edge of a body of water which seems to lead out to daylight.  Fortuitously, one of those SL devices is at hand which permits a gondola to rez and which I can ride in.  (Yes, I get the incongruity of a gondola in a cave filled with prehistoric drawings!  Please remember that I only call ‘em as I see ‘em!)

The designers in the DaVinci Gardens always seem to be able to marry the beautiful with a touch of whimsy.  Drawing on our ancient past and throwing in Venice does make for a fun trip.

As I suspected, the gondola floats down a stream which takes me to the outside world.  The stream banks are covered with colorful flowers, shrubs, and trees.  Visitors stroll through the fields. 

Small cottages reminiscent of those from fairy tales are on the embankment.  Smoke curls from chimneys.  Overhead, the cerulean skies of Kalepa look down on me as do the falcons which I’d noticed in my earlier visits.  I glide through the waters. 

All is at peace with the world.  (At least inworld!) 

Ahead of me loom the erupting volcano and the castle ruins.  Somehow from down here they seem even larger than from above.  In the distance, majestic towers rise and I can see the observatory with its telescope.

I continue down the stream and disembark at a small, aged stone pier jutting into the water.  I return home.

I promise myself to return again.

How can I not?

Once again, I wander through a small world lovingly built and cared for by someone or someones.  (I’ll track down whom for a future story.)  The attention to detail, the flights of fancy, and the wild spread of ideas tell me that some very creative people are behind DaVinci Gardens.

Places like this should be visited and experienced by anyone who calls himself or herself a resident of SL.  Sims like this just don’t appear.  They’re the result of hours spent researching, learning the tools, and then finally building it.  I can only guess at the monetary cost for tier fees. 

I encourage all to go and enjoy themselves at DaVinci Gardens.  I promise you that you won’t be disappointed! 

I’ve included a few pictures of some of the beautiful sights in DaVinci.  My photos do no justice to what awaits the visitor.  Go and see for yourselves! 

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.   

My Twitter handle is @webspelunker.  Please feel free to follow me and I’d be happy to follow you.

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. 6 Underground River

Photo No. 7 Gondola

Photo No. 9 Riverside Cottage

Photo No. 10 Outside!

Photo No. 11 Riverside Flowers


Saturday, July 5, 2014

An Anniversary Celebration in Second Life!


Life is celebration, for those who know how to celebrate every moment.

Bharat Zanvar


After the gloom and doom that I engendered with my last post about the future of Second Life (SL).  I decided it was time to cheer up a bit.  The world’s not ending.  (At least not yet.)

So, after an intervention by some well-intentioned SL friends (Significant Other is giving me that “I told you so!” look as I write this.)  I decided to return to the happier events which surround us inworld.  (But, have no fear, I haven’t abandoned the Cause.  More to come!)

Fortunately for me, there is always cause for celebration in SL!

In particular, my very good friend inworld, Perryn Peterson, reminded me that this month is the sixth anniversary of the founding of the Mieville sim in SL.   Perryn, who is one of the most impressive impresarios whom I’ve met in either SL or Real Life (RL), is pulling out all the plugs for this one.

For those of you who are just joining us, Perryn is the mayor of Mieville, a collection of twelve sims in SL.  The theme is steampunk.  But, I’ve found them to be very open minded about what’s included in the genre. 

Perryn, whom I selected last year as one of the most interesting SL residents whom I’ve met, acts as the creative spark and organizer behind all that happens in Mieville.  I still don’t know how he balances RL and SL.  (There is a rumor that he only exists inworld but I’m not touching that one until I have some more facts.  I do have some standards you know!)

His career inworld began with Gor.  But he wasn’t satisfied there.  (Gor can be a demanding and rigid roleplaying environment inworld.)  Perryn didn’t feel that he was getting all that he wanted or could get from SL in Gor.  In RL, He’s always been fond of Victorian times and lives in a house built in 1892.  (For my non-American readers, that’s a very old house by our standards!)

When the Doyle sim became available six years ago, Perryn felt that he could do something with it. Initially, he was working with his STEAM: The Hunt project.  Perryn also faced a monumental task of replacing all the prims that came with the sim because title didn’t pass to him with the sale.  He says now he knows better.  The replacement of all the sims took years Perryn tells me. 

Ultimately, Perryn and his SL partner, Mike Olbracht, the landscaping wunderkind, left Gor completely two years ago to focus on Mieville exclusively. 

And, he does need the time because in addition to STEAM, he’s introduced the recurring Renaissance Faire and Hunt, and The Silk Road Hunt. 

In addition to these regularly scheduled functions, Perryn has special one off functions for Christmas, the gacha fad, a Tolkien Festival, and Route 66 to name but a few.  Regular followers of my blog know that by now few seasons go by without some sort of special Perryn function in Mieville.

Perryn also has weekly town hall meetings for the merchants and residents of Mieville.  He also sponsors weekly dances with different themes.  (Ebbe Altberg and Linden Lab could learn a few things from him but I digress.)

Mieville now comprises twelve sims.  Besides the original Doyle, Twain, Poe, Wells, Verne, Chesterton, Dickens, Lakes, Stevenson, Kipling, Shelley, and Pond have been added.  Tinyopolis now occupies one of these sims.  Another Perryn property is Renaissance Fairy Island which is on the mainland. 

Helping Perryn along the way were folks like Mike, Jalynne Ohmai, and Wyvern Dryke to name but a few.  (To those whose names I’ve omitted, my apologies, I’ll get you in my next story!) 

Now Perryn wouldn’t be Perryn if he didn’t have some sort of celebrations planned for this event and he does!

There will be a yard sale to assist a member of the community with RL medical bills.  Please be generous when you stop by here.

Airship races, a boat regatta, something to do with warbugs, a Victorian dance, a picnic, opening of a new public building, a chef’s cook-off, and much more!  There’s something for everyone.

          But, hurry!  The festivities only last until July 13th.  Come and meet Perryn and the wonderful people who make up the Mieville community!  Maybe you’ll even run into me!  (Please don’t use that as your excuse for not coming, Perryn won’t invite me back if you do!)

          The poster shown below will give you a detailed program when you click it inworld.  (A not so subtle way to get you to go in!) 

          Also, one final note for now, as part of the Mieville 6th Anniversary Celebrations, I with two brave companions will shortly begin a boat tour of the Mieville sims.  Stay tuned for more details as we prepare to cast off into the unexplored reaches of Mieville!  (Sorry Perryn, I just had to be overly dramatic here!)

           I would like to thank Perryn for taking the time to meet with me to answer my questions to permit to write this story.  As always, he is a most gracious and hospitable host.

Remember to drop by!

I’ve included a few pictures of some of the beautiful places in Mieville.  There are many more, go and see them for yourselves!

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.   

My Twitter handle is @webspelunker.  Please feel free to follow me and I’d be happy to follow you.

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. 4 Airships from STEAM 8

Photo No. 7 Yardsale I

Photo No. 8 Yardsale II

Photo No. 9 Yardsale III