Monday, December 30, 2013

The ISM to be Officially Incorporated

By Bixyl Shuftan

The Sci-Lands have been a cornerstone of Second Life's science community. The most well-known place there is the International Space Museum, often called the ISM for short, it's circle of rockets at Spaceport Alpha an unmistakable feature among well-traveled residents of the Grid. The director of the location and group is Kat Lemieux. Shortly after their Christmas music event about a week ago, she met up with Second Life Newser to discuss an upcoming move that will take place this week, one that will benefit the museum.

Kat told me that the ISM would be officially incorporating, "I'm talking to the lawyer Monday. He's also going to handle our 501c3 application. ... 501(c)(3) is US federal tax exempt status, so our not-for-profit company can be officially nonprofit.That way, US donors can deduct their donations on their taxes. For non-US people, it basically says we are a legitimate, recognized nonprofit."

Kat told me this was not the first time the ISM had attempted incorporation, "We had applied before, a couple of years ago, but were denied. I think it was because the IRS agent couldn't grasp the idea of a museum without brick and mortar. There were other virtual museums at the time, but they were all connected to real-life museums. Having one with no real-life component was just a bit much to swallow, I suppose. Also, I was trying to do the application without any legal help that time, and probably did some things wrong. Having a lawyer this time out should help. In fact, that''s why we're having him handle our incorporation, too. to make sure we get all the i's dotted and t's crossed for the IRS. Just creating a corporation is not a big deal. I've done it several times. But doing it right for a 501c3 can be a bit trickier. The by-laws and articles of incorporation must meet IRS standards. However, we have a good board of directors, and more volunteers, so I'm confident this time will work out."

"Once we have the tax-exempt status," Kat stated, "we can apply for grants from corporations and big donors. Then we can really go to town! We have some ambitious plans." "What plans did you have?" I asked her. She answered, "Well, one thing we need to do is rebuild almost everything in our Second Life museum. ... A big problem we've had with development is that over time a lot of our volunteer builders have left Second Life. Life goes on! But we don't have 100% rights to everything." That a number of objects can only be updated, modified, moved, or changed in any way by residents whom are no longer around can be a problem, "For instance, the Titan II/Gemini 4 rocket that goes up to our LEO platform can't be changed. The creator hasn't been in SL for years now, and we can't change the script to adjust the text." The only thing that can be done is rebuilding the objects in question entirely from prims and code, "We will simply have to redevelop a lot of stuff. But when we do, we are planning to do them as work-for-hire, so we own the copyrights as well as have full perms in Second Life. The lack of  'assets' and copyrights was one thing the IRS questioned last time out, so it's important from that aspect as well." They do have some people offering their talents,"the whole museum has been built by volunteers ever since 2005." But they also want to attract more, "Right now, we do have some commercial builders we're planning to work with, once we have the new corporation that can make contracts, and of course some additional funding."

Kat explained they also wanted to expand to other Grids, "We want to be able to use our assets in other virtual worlds, like Kitely and other OpenSim grids. And we also want to create a standalone version using OpenSim. In fact we already have a presence in Kitely. It isn't much yet, for lack of content, but we're working on it. It was created nearly a year ago. But so far it has taken a back seat to our Second Life and business development. When we rebuild exhibits, etc. they will all be crossplatform. Then we will use them in Kitely and other grids." She also mentioned, "For educational purposes, we would love to have an OAR file we can give to teachers, for instance, so they can let even underage children visit a version of the museum safely."

For additional funding, the ISM is planning some Kickstarter campaigns, "our first one will be simply to fund the 501c3 application and incorporation," Kat told me, "There are fees, and of course the lawyer to pay." What will the museum be offering donors? "We have a collection of real-life space memorabilia that has been donated to us," Kat answered, "Those will be our first premiums (gifts for the largest donors). For the rebuilding kickstarter, we will probably offer an early copy of the OAR file, among other things. And of course, recognition, etc. We have some experience recognizing big donors." They are still going over ideas for smaller levels of donation, "We're open to suggestions. Like a visitor indicated earlier, rockets one can ride are a popular item with people in Second Life."

Kat told one story from early in the ISM's history, "When we first started the museum, we used some borrowed land on the mainland. We had a building somebody gave us where we were having a meeting, with lots of glass walls.This noobie came flying by, and crashed into the wall!" After a shared chuckle about a mental image of a squished face against the wall, the director went on, "We invited him to the meeting, and it turned out he knew something about graphics, but had not done any Second Life building. So I gave him a few pointers, and together we built a few rockets. It turns out in real life he made decals for models as a business. That was a sideline for him, since he's an engineer for a living. But he had quite a knack." It was a lucky coincidence, "Anyway, after figuring out the basics, he took off and became a real expert, and got into scripting, too. Most, but by no means all, of the rockets here are some he built. And the models I was firing off earlier are some he made."

"Our first and largest rocket, though, was built by Davinci Doctorow," Kat explained, "That's the Saturn V on Spaceport Bravo." She pointed to a tall rocket in the next sim, next to a truly massive building, "An interesting point about all our models is that they are full scale. That was really the first objective I had, to be able to show people the actual size of real life rockets, etc." She pointed to building, "The VAB is also accurately scaled, which took some doing since that building is still, to my knowledge, the largest by volume in the world. It's so big, that rumors when it was being build were that its own weather was created inside. My Father, who was a chief engineer at the Cape then, said it was probably just condensation from the ventilation ducts, but he concedes that it could have been clouds forming and raining in there."

"The volunteer who built our VAB works for the Air Force museum there in Central Florida in real-life so he had access to lots of good data." Kat then pointed to a map, which at the time had been coated with ice, "He also did this map of the Cape area, which we turned into an ice skating rink. It works pretty well. I tried it out awhile ago. When it isn't covered in ice, it has some neat features. All those little spikes are notecard givers with info about the features they mark.

"We've been very fortunate to have some very creative people working here over the years," Kat reflected. I asked if there was some recent talent she wanted to mention. She thought over her answer, "Hmmm.... Some of our most recent people include Rachel Corleone, Banker Tomorrow and Shanna Starship." Shanna had made the decor for the Christmas event, "and made this airpot and coffee mugs. Banker is, as his name implies, a business guy rather than a builder. We seem to attract people for the kind of work we have to do at any particular time. Banker has worked in real life with some large nonprofits, so has lots of insight to share with us about how to structure our new corporation. He's on our board of directors, in fact. We have every intention of doing this in a professional manner."

The ISM director went on, "Another one of our directors is Gus Plisskin. ... His company, Firesabre, is a long time SL building contractor/developer. Firesabre has its own education-based OpenSim grid, too. So he's certainly been helping us on that front. Another director of ISMuseum is Patio Plasma, of the Exploratorium. ... Which reminds me, one of the important projects we'll be working on next year is to develop a metadata scheme for 3D objects, esp. useful for virtual museums. I took a class online, a MOOC from Penn State, about metadata. The idea of a metadata scheme is pretty ambitious. But Patio, for one, is quite interested. She's looked for something preexisting, but hasn't found any yet, So we will be breaking new ground. We will, of course, donate the results to the open standards group who handle such things."

It was at this point Shanna Starship found us and walked over, and there was a bit of discussion between the three of us. "I'm glad that Patio is interested in the (metdata) project," Shanna spoke with a smile. "I'm going to probably give some classes about metadata in SL for people interested in helping," Kat added, "Before that, I plan to write something for our wiki, to give people some background and links. But the incorporation effort has pushed that to the back burner for now. Once that is out of the way I'll have more time to devote to it. I probably ought to review the videos from the MOOC before attempting to teach it to anyone else. But I had got a lot of links collected during the course, and found some other info outside of it as well. Being able to have consistent, completely descriptive 'tags' to connect to all our content will make life much easier in the future. We could even use the metadata to generate XML based catalogs as well. If we do a good job of the schema, it could create a good reputation for us among scholars. It's something that goes beyond just Second Life, of course. There are some unique features to 'objects' in virtual space that existing metadata can't cover. So what we can bring to the table is some in-depth knowledge of what those characteristics are, and how they all fit together."

"The whole object of metadata is to describe unique objects so they can be discovered by others. So, for instance, a painting's metadata could include the artist's name, the medium, who owns it, where it is housed, when it was painted, where, etc. For things like our exhibits, the metadata would include the builder, possibly both real life and Second Life names, when it was made, what real-life object it represents, info about the real-life object, whether it is full scale, where it is located in Second Life or other grids, what permissions exists for it, and so on. All these data have to be expressed in a formal way, both machine and human readable."

I commented the metadata project sounded like it could be quite an effort. "Yes, I expect it will be," Kat explained, "It may be the subject of yet another Kickstarter campaign. Or maybe we can get a grant from someone to do it. Not impossible I imagine.  Once we apply for our 501c3, that is a very legitimate project for that kind of funding. What we have discovered in the past is that without 501c3 status, most corporate donors can't even talk to us. They have regulatory restrictions to worry about, too. So just about everything does come back to the business aspects of running a museum. We've done a lot in the past eight years, but to take it forward we really need to go the next step to becoming a real nonprofit corporation."

Kat reminded the ISM was always willing to take in new volunteers, "Also, we have a couple of SL groups besides the Museum Planning Group. Spaceflight Museum Happenings is an announcement group. And our newest one is called 'ISM Boosters.' Members of that one pledge to donate L$1000/month toward museum operations and growth." Kat grinned, "Yeah, we need to have a launching party for that. We just started it a couple of weeks ago." The date of the Boosters' launch party would be scheduled some time "after the holidays."

It was about then that Kat and I went our seperate ways.

So stay tuned for some new builds and new events at the International Space Museum. For more information, the museum's blog is at:

Bixyl Shuftan

Monday, December 2, 2013

Sha's Thoughts: Josh on His Own

By Becky Shamen

 This is the new member of my avatar family. His name is Joshua Xavier, but it didn't start out that way. He began as an alternative costume for Sha, after hearing from males that it was so much easier for females in Second Life. Like wearing a furry, she would wear him and go about experiencing the flip side. The problem was, the disguise had one flaw, in that, even when attempting a made up name tag, people could still see the real name of Becky. To get around this, a second account was opened, using the gender-free name, Bach Shamen.. Bach made a great start as a man and even attracted some girl friends, As Sha's younger brother, he lacked a mission of his own and was caught up in fulfilling the dreams of other males, making money and finding love. After proving that SL men could make money and date pretty women, he returned to the nest, so to speak, by becoming Sha's sister, almost a twin, save a darker shade of hair. For a while, they worked at the same club, on alternate nights. Since the computer could only handle one at a time and there was little difference between them, Bach soon fell out of use.

When Sha became a news reporter and adopting characters to fit the sims  and lifestyles of the places being explored, it began to make sense that some stories are best told from a female perspective, while others from the male's. Sha's male avatar was dusted off and used in two stories, as a narrator for topics that required no exploration to write and were suited for a more authoritative speaker. By using trick photography, the two could even seem to be two separate people. He was given the name Joshua Xavier, to give maximum polarity from his progenitor.

When a new account was opened, Sha donated L$3000, to let him shop for macho clothing, like airship captain, knight in shining armor, and leather jackets. Perhaps there will even be a motorcycle in his future. As yet, there is no sharp line between what stories will be taken by Sha and Josh, but in general he will gravitate to the science/philosophy, mental end of the spectrum, while Sha shops the feelings, desires, heart side of the street. It will be an educational experience for their player/writer (moi), developing the flip sides of the coin.

Becky "Sha" Shamen

Sunday, November 17, 2013

A New Computer

By Bixyl Shuftan

In Spring 2007, shortly before I began going to Second Life on a regular basis, I was in need of a new machine. At the time, new PCs were coming with not the fairly reliable version of Windows at the time, but Vista. I'd knew it both by it's reputation, in addition to someone I knew who had the misfortune of getting the relatively new system. And it was buggy as heck. It was clearly released before the bugs were worked out, resulting in the joke of early users being known as "gamma testers."

"Vista is the best advertising Mac has," people joked. And it was more than just a joke. I'd grown up with an Apple 2 in the house, and with "Beastia" making computer users tear their hair out, it was time to go "back to Mac." So going to the local Apple place, got an iMac. It was faster than the PC I'd been using, both on World of Warcraft and Second Life. And this was the machine that I began as a reporter inworld, and then editor.

But over time, Second Life was updated, as well as other things across the Internet. The new kind of official viewers didn't work so well, and neither did the later versions of Phoenix and then Firestorm. And after server-side baking, things began to slow up more. I was eventually at the point the viewer would freeze momentarily in the middle of me typing a sentence.

So after more than six years, it was becoming clear I was in need of a new computer if I wanted to go about inworld without trouble. So over time, I began saving up for one, one with a better graphics card so lag would be less of a problem. In short, I needed a "gamer PC," which would cost more. And as a blue-collar worker in real life with a mortgage, getting the money would take time. It's no wonder to me why many Second Life users continue to cling to old machines rather than get something new.

One catch, I'd need to have the old Windows 7 installed as Windows 8 was having problems not unlike Vista. The person who'd talked to me about his seemingly endless problems with "Beastia" some years before had recently gotten a computer with the new Windows. And once again, he'd gotten burned. After a few months of use, the machine locked up, and the local computer shop couldn't save it. He had to get another.

It took some time to save the money, but eventually, I got my new computer. My celebration had to wait though as the first one I got didn't work. Sending it back to get a new one would take about a week and a half. But once the new machine was hooked up to the Internet, I was in business.

I'd had experience with using PCs at the workplace, plus when I owned one a few years before. So I didn't have as much of a "culture shock" as a Mac owner. Connecting into Second Life, the results were a big improvement. The annoying "chat lag" was gone, at least the other kind I was getting. And the scenery loaded faster. For instance, when dropping by at Luskwood on the older computer, the appearance of the place and avatars could take twenty minutes to load. Dropping by on the new one, everything and everyone could be clearly seen less than five minutes. World of Warcraft also ran a bit faster, though not as big a difference. As time went on, the differences weren't always as big as my first look at Luskwood with the Gamer PC, but they remained better.

So my Second Life experience was saved. Not sure how much longer it could have gone on with the older machine. A number of friends have taken an interest in Inworldz, which happens to have less of a lag problem than Second Life, and my older computer can handle the place okay. So it's possible I'd end up spending more time there.

And since it's a PC, some of my virtual neighbors have been asking me to join them in "World of Tanks," "War Thunder," and other MMOs that require a machine with Windows to run. So will be joining them some, and I just might write a review on a few.

It's not completely without problems. I'll still crash with it once in a while. Curiously, I'll crash while going about on InWorldz with it, while on the Mac I seldom do. Some friends tell me unless the graphics card is just right, Second Life may have some issues with it. Guess you can't win them all.

As for the iMac, I'll still be using it. It's better with editing screenshots than the PC is, such as lightening up a screenshot that's too dark, or cropping someone's text. And as I mentioned, it can handle Inworldz just fine. So I'll still be using it. Although it can't run Second Life without stalling from lag, the old machine still has plenty of life left. But unless the PC is down for a few days with a problem, chances are when you see me, I'll be using the new PC.

Bixyl Shuftan

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Sha's Thoughts: Cyclopean Pursuit

By Becky Shamen

Scattered through the books in the library, one will find certain phrases, verses, paragraphs or chapters that make a lasting, lifetime impression. We remember them word for word, what book they came from or even what page they are on. In unexpected moments, they come back to our attention. They may even have a strong effect on the direction of our lives. 
In a book titled, "Eternal Words", The Immortal Series, Book IV, by Author/Teacher J. J. Dewey, there is just such a passage. In this somewhat science fiction story, the main character meets and works with an individual who is the most powerful being on the planet. Like a Wizard of Oz, few people have ever seen this being's face. All that changes, when Joe gets to see his face for the first time. On page 241, we read these two paragraphs: 

  I thought about his comments on beauty as I gazed upon his face having, not two, but one great eye in the center of the forehead! This was the only visible feature that set him apart from the features of a regular human.

   My reaction to this sight was much different than I would have previously guessed it would be.  The reason was that any previous image I had seen of a one eyed person, or Cyclops. was portrayed as abnormal and subhuman in beauty, but this being was different. Instead of being abhorred by the difference, I found myself captivated by it.  It's difficult to describe, but his face was put together in such a way that the eye became a royal diadem, a thing of great beauty, like the jewel in the lotus.

 I can see how it would be difficult to describe. Even with a great imagination, it is hard to picture this in my imagination. I had to, as an artist, get something on paper.  Here (left) is an early attempt at photoshopping a photo of my old friend Rick. He's a friendly, soulful guy and the loss of one eye doesn't take away any of that. If anything, it would peobably make him even more popular than he already is. Picture him, at your next party. There would be a crowd, gathered around him, captivated by every word that came out of the one eyed guy's mouth. Nobody would even notice that brand new dress,  you bought for the party.
While exploring Star Journey Island, Joshua got a free package of Mardi Gras masks. Instead of being worn like a face tattoo, these were flat objects with a texture on them. The object is worn on the nose and gives the impression of being a form fitting mask. Because of the 3D shape of the face, it's hard to create an avatar with only one eye, using skin or tattoo textures. This technique seemed like a good way of doing so.
A photograph of an eye was chopped, mirrored, and pieced back together, to create a symetrical, single eye and then was uploaded to Second Life. The texture was applied to a prim, attached to Sha's nose. Then the texture and prim both got sized to fit her face.The result was photographed and touched up, to smoothly blend it together, for the above image. Not bad for a first attempt. We'll have to experiment more with the idea. As is, we begin to see that it might be possible to create a beautiful cyclops. Perhaps the SL Newser could host a contest, challenging SL artists to create the most beautiful cyclops. The contest would be open to everyone, unless you are an Argonaut, calling himself Noman.
Becky "Sha" Shamen

Friday, October 25, 2013

Sha's Thoughts: Ancient Furries

By Becky Shamen

In my exploration of the sims in Second Life, there have been a few which, I was sorry to discover, do not allow furries. This reporter has as many furry friends as humans and can often be found in the form of a rabbit, fox, raccoon or bat herself. As such, I join my friends in protesting such attitudes, that prohibit anthropomorphic critters from visiting these places. One cannot hope to change attitudes, without understanding the thinking behind them. It is perfectly acceptable for groups and sim owners to make their lands accurate, as regards speech, clothing and inhabitants that fit the theme being enacted there, but they sometimes, conveniently, forget to ask key questions. Are furries entirely make believe? Did they only come into existance, begining with Mickey Mouse? Do they have no ancient history? Are there no furries in real life? It might be said that ignorance is bliss, but it is equally important to remember that, those that do not study history are doomed to repeat it. Let us join Mr. Peabody (a furry), in his wayback machine and see if we can find answers to these questions. We will be looking into some mythology, but keep in mind, myths are not invented. There is always an element of truth in them.

Sentient life

Some of you may be confused by what I have to say next. Most of you have been told of only two theories of creation: Darwin and the Christian Bible. Imagine if you will another theory. Esoteric literature reveals that most planets serve the purpose of evolving sentient human beings. Before the humans come on the scene, there is a period when the sentient life forms are reptilian. The most highly evolved beings on earth are known as Kumaras. The related word, Makara, means "Dragon." Masters of ancient wisdom are called Dragons. If you want to read more, I recommend the works of Rudolf Steiner and H.P. Blavatsky.

In Genesis, we read that humans, represented by Adam and Eve, did not have knowledge of right and wrong and self-consciousness, until they ate the fruit, offered to them by a walking, talking serpent, a dragon. Amazing! We found the first, non-human, sentient being in Judeo-Christian history, within the first few pages of the Bible. To keep it simple, we will refer to all non-human, anthropomorphic animals, as "furries," from here on.

Can we go back farther and find other furries in history? Yes, indeed. Before the Jews were united in their religion and culture, they lived in Egypt. The Egyptian pantheon had many furry gods, including; Ra, Anubis, Seth, Khnum, Horus, Thoth and Sekhmet.

The ancient Hindus also had furry gods, including Hanuman (monkey) and Ganesha (elephant). In fact, if you study your ancient history, nearly all people on earth, at one time, worshiped furry gods. They can be found in the pantheons of the Greeks, Romans, Mayans, and Aztecs as well.

Keep in mind, before Mickey and Donald made the scene, there was "The Chronicles of Narnia", with it's furry residents and their chief deity, Aslan.

The next time you hear of furries being excluded anywhere in Second Life, you can, armed with the truth, show that they should be shown respect, because they were here first.

Becky "Sha" Shamen

[credits: The art was collected from the internet, the first is based on an illustration by "Flash". The second by unknown artist]

 *Editor's Note* Perri Prinz recommended the essay "Pervasive Anthropomorphic Culture" if one wants to read about the influence of anthropomorphism on human history from ancient times to the present. Plus she has her own "Furry History Project," describing the history of anthropomorphic characters in stories, and how "Furry" as a genre came to be.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Sha's Thoughts: Second Life and ESP

By Becky Shamen

In our article on DNA morphing machines, we talked of a future that allows us to imitate second life, by changing real bodies as easily as we do our avatars. Is this a two way street? Are there some real world abilities that second life needs to learn?

We explore our worlds. using our senses of sight, sound, smell, touch and taste. Any of these can, with practice, be improved. Alas, in the virtual world of Second Life, we seem to be limited to sight and sound. Are there techniques, we can employ, that will enable us to refine our senses? In the real world, there are additional, higher octaves of our five senses, which are collectively known as the sixth sense, including clairvoyance (seeing) and telepathy (hearing). We all have these abilities, but few learn to use them fully. Our extra-sensory-perceptions tell us things, about others, that we are unable to explain how we know. We use expressions like; He gives off good vibrations, Her smile lights up a room, He was green with envy, so angry I was seeing red. Those that have developed these higher senses, called "seers", explain that we all have energy fields surrounding our bodies, called auras. The etheric aura radiates information about our physical health. The colors in our astral aura reveal our moods and desires. Our thoughts create objects which float about in the aura. By looking at these "thought forms", a seer can tell what things you spend the most time thinking about. Like our basic senses, these higher senses, with practice, can also be improved.

In Second Life, most of the things that others know about us are seen, in the choice of avatars and the words we type in chat. If you have a computer that can handle Voice, you also get to hear how they sound. How is it that, with such limited data, we can, almost instantly, tell that a demon or big bad wolf is someone we would like to be friends with, or that a cute little pony might not be invited to your parties? Does the energy in our auras find it's way through the internet and into our avatars?

In real life, there are two compliments that I often receive. The first one is, I have great legs and, looking in the mirror, I have to agree. The other is, I light up a room, but that's not as easy to see. In Second Life, I buy my avatar's shape and skin in the same stores as others. I find most people I meet to be extremely friendly, helpful and generous and wonder if others, wearing the same shape and skin, get the same attention. I do have one unique feature, that might set me apart. I made a custom texture for my eyeballs, which I have never shared, so am the only one in SL that has them. The eyes are the smallest detail on the avatar and, more often than not, I am dancing on a pole. Unless people are zooming in on my profile picture, my eyes can hardly be the reason for being so popular. I begin to suspect the light, that people sense in real life, may have found it's way into the virtual world.

In Real Life, any senses beyond the standard package of five would be considered to be ESP. On the other hand, in Second life, having only sight and sound to guide us, there is a far greater range for potential ESP. This writer's opinions are but one drop in a vast ocean of players. We must leave it up to our readers to answer these questions for themselves. Does ESP exist in Second Life? Can we touch, taste or smell things there? Out of tens of thousands of players, is some small percentage of them able to see the higher realms? Do avatars have auras? Can we communicate with each other, telepathically, without using our keyboards to chat? If you have answers, contact me and I'll be all ears, especially when I'm in bunneh mode (grin and wink).

Becky "Sha" Shamen

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Minecraft: Building Around Angels Villiage

Since the new Angels Village in Nydia's Minecraft servers was built, the place has taken shape, with walls going up and buildings inside the walls. Then the building began going outward, such as the SL Newser office building there. But the building didn't stop there.

Jasmine's a fan of the "My Little Pony" show, or a "pegasister" in pony fan slang. So she built this tribute, "Luna Sleeping."

How many of you have heard of "Hogzilla?" Well, he just showed up in Minecraft, or rather, this statue of him did.

Another build was this double tribute to the mob Minecrafters love to hate: The Creeper. There was this creeper statue, and a creeper temple built.

And if mobs weren't enough to scare someone at night, we started spinning yarns about what else might be out there, such as the Minecraft legend of Herobrine, the ghost miner who supposedly digs all those tunnels we find underground. Note the arched bridge and the beach picnic areas.

 The building wasn't just out from the village, but also down. Inspired by the Dwarven City in the "Lord of the Rings" Minecraft map, Valkyrie was inspired to build her own. And it was quite an impressive sight. Just ask first before digging in the mines next to the place. Dwarves aren't keen on strangers digging on their turf.

There was one other building outside the village build, a horse track, presumably in case we ever decide on a horse race. But I was waiting until daylight to take a picture, and had to go before sunrise.

 And a statuesque tribute to four of the players of Angels Village. From left to right: Jasmine (vixen with diamond minepick), Kryxia (wolfess with diamond sword), Skye (horse with diamond sword), and Phy (pony with golden carrot).

 Jasmine however wanted to build one of me. So she took a few screenshots, with my armor off, and got to work.

 Not a bad likeness ... of my 8 bit self.

So what would my statue carry? Well, others had picks and swords. So what else did I use a lot? My compass and map (ask a girl how often men will speak up and ask for directions). So Jasmine made one on the statue's hand.

The building continues around Angels' Village. There was a subway entrance made, with plans to connect it to somewhere. Then people started digging down and then out. Looks like if there's nothing in the distance to connect to, we'll dig and make something to connect it to when we surface.

That's all for now from Minecraft. Until next time, happy digging.

Bixyl Shuftan

Monday, October 14, 2013

Creative Fiction: The Morph Machine

By Becky Shamen

We have told before of the joys of changing avs. In Second Life, there is no limit on how many avs and alts you can keep in your closet. In real life we have perhaps the greatest morphing festival ever created, called Halloween. For one day per year, society puts on the blindfold and allows us to be any freakin' thing and/or gender that tickles our imagination. You could say, Halloween is a worm-hole, between SL and real life. However, in reality when we change, we are only changing a costume, like an outfit of clothing. In Second life, if you present yourself as an anthropomorphic fox, the pun telling, mild mannered reporter and editor of a major newspaper, you are in fact, body and soul, right down to your DNA, exactly THAT, and probably the guy we call chief.

If a little of SL can leak into real life, can we, safely, predict that the day will come, when science finds a way to change our real life bodies into any freakin' thing we want? Predictions are rarely 100% accurate. There's too much free will involved. We can improve accuracy by lining up a series of related, true facts and extrapolating what comes next. When we look at an arrangement of standing dominoes, lined up around the floor, we ALL know what's next. In the "real" world, I have been in the position to learn of technologies, already tested, that are decades in advance of what most people are aware of. Let us see if we can line up bits and pieces, of known technologies, to see if a machine could be made to turn you into a real life fox <(insert av here).

Electronic signatures *:-.,_,.-:*'``'*:-.,_,.-:*'``'*:-.,_,.-:*'``'*:-.,_,.-:*

I have seen a rough scematic for an electrical circuit that can detect a unique electronic signature for any sampled substance. It is one of the strangest circuits I've seen, because one of the components is a tunable glass prism. The recieving sensor of the circuit is a flat wound antenna, upon which objects to be tested are placed. By adjusting the dials, to get the strongest signal, the read out will give you the unique electronic signature of the test subject. It can even distinguish between individual people. The test subject needn't even be present, to be tested. It has been shown to be just as accurate, by substituting a photograph of the subject. Regardless of the distance, between subject and photograph, the circuit gives a real time reading on the subject. With a photograph of an astronaut, even if he were on the back side of the moon, outside of radio contact, you could monitor his life signs, faster than the speed of light. Whatever it is, that creates this electronic signature, seems to exist everywhere in the universe. It is not limited by time and space.

Manipulating DNA

DNA is a collection of protein molecules, duplicated, in every cell of your body. These clusters of molecules are so tiny, you can't see them without a microscope, yet so powerful they can gather and organize millions of their kind into a walking, talking being. The electronic signature of these proteins is what distinguishes one of your cells from one of mine, or any other creature's. In the decades since DNA was discovered, scientists have been mapping out these proteins and learning ways to manipulate them. By cutting and splicing sections, they can create whole new creatures, some useful and some monsters. Playing God, you say? Yes, but are we not asked to be one with our Father? Lately, I've seen where they are learning to manipulate DNA with sounds or frequencies. If a single cell radiates enough of a signal to allign itself with billions of others, what would happen if that cell were bombarded by a signal, the strength of billions of cells, of a different DNA mix? Would the amino acids, from which DNA is made, sympathetically attune themselves, by rearranging their place in line? I have not heard of any experiments in this direction, but if it were tested and proven, it would make possible a whole new kind of machine

The Morph Machine

Fast forward to the year 2033. Our friend, let's call him Aaron, doesn't like his lot in life. He wishes he had a better paying job and more friends that liked him. He goes to his neighborhood adult bar and sees all the cute, buxum bunnies, kitty cats and foxes, dancing on stage, being admired by all and raking in the big bucks. He knows they weren't always this way. They had gotten a morph job, overseas or in Colorado, and were now dreams come true. Aaron has read about these clinics, but they cost too much for his meager budget, so were little more than a fantasy. 

Then, one day, his old uncle passes away and leaves him some money. It's not a fortune, but it's more than enough for a morph job. Aaron goes to the local morph clinic and looks through their photo catalogue. He picks out a tall, buxom female bunny and asks, "Does it come in purple?" "Of course sir, we can fine tune it to your exact specs," comes the technician's reply. Information gathered, the tech takes Aaron to another room and shows him the machine. He inserts a photo, in a slot, turns a few knobs and pushes a few buttons, then motions Aaron to a door, leading to the morphing chamber. 

In the center of the room there is an operating table. The walls of the room are covered with parabolic dish antennas. As the tech secures Aaron on the table he explains that the changes aren't instant. Some will show up in days, others, like long ears, fur, fluffy tail and bone structure, will take longer to grow in. The one thing that will stay the same is the synaptic connections in the brain and it's memories. The tech goes to the control room and throws the switch. Aaron hears a soft hum and soon falls asleep. About an hour later, the tech wakes Aaron up and informs him that tests show the morphing was a success and that he could go home now. 

At home, Aaron goes straight to the mirror and looks at himself and sees the same old body. But not for long. Within a few days, he notices the color of his skin is changing, a soft downy fur is growing all over and his ears and breasts are sensitive. Over the next few months, he notices all the other employees are much friendlier and want to chat at the water cooler and break room. They always ask if he had picked out a new name yet. Even before the changes were complete, people began calling him Miss. 

Within nine months, the transformation was such that it was time to go to the court house and have the paperwork done, to make it official that he was now a female rabbit, named Miss Rosie Martin. She started working evenings as a dancer and soon quit her old job. Eventually, she opened her own nightclub, where all the dancers and clients called her "Mom".

And, she lived happily ever after,

Becky "Sha" Shamen

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Wingless Avatars in Inworldz

By Bixyl Shuftan

With the controversy over Linden Lab's new Terms of Service directed at content creators, alternative virtual worlds to Second Life have been getting more attention. Second Life residents have been dropping over to look. But what about Second Life residents who prefer furry avatars? Going over, unless one was a content creator, he/she'd have to go tailless.

But for those visiting Inworldz, some good news. There's a package of freebie furry avatars available for anyone to pick up for free.

The package is available in the Amber sim, at the Furry Welcome Center in Amber (114, 92, 23). Turn around, and head to the tables. One has three cubes, one labeled Wingless Emoto Avatars. Click on that to receive a copy. For those interested, there's also a pony avatar and house.

For those who don't know, Wingless Emoto is an avatar designer in Second Life. Some years ago, he had a dispute with the retailer he was selling them through, and since the contract stated he couldn't sell his avatars at the time through anyone else, he made them freely available to all. Many residents have kept a copy of a package of the avatars on them to give to others wanting to try a furred avatar. Even after several years, although other avatars have been available for free, no other package that can be held to give to others has emerged. There was a package of newer free avatars available at the AnthroXtacy store recently, but with the company closing down, those avatars are not known to be available.

Like the package in Second Life, the InWorldz Wingless avatars come in a variety of anthro fox, wolf, horse, and hyena avatars in a variety of colors, red, white, blue, pink, etc. But the cube passed around in Second Life was mostly fox and wolf while the InWorldz package has a roughly equal number of the four, plus a few reindeer and werewolf avatars. Like the avatars in Second Life, the Wingless avs in InWorldz have both male and female skins (except the werewolf), and both parts for plantigrade and digigrade feet (except the werewolf and reindeer, plantigrade and digitgrade only respectively), and options for large and small hands. But the Customization and Control HUDs are not in the InWorldz Wingless avatars. A notecard included with the avatar package stated this was a first release, with another one planned later with HUDs.

Like it's Second Life counterpart, one doesn't have to wear the whole avatar. One can just wear the ears and tail (and feet) for a kitsune-style neko look. There are also a few hairpieces included.

So for those in Second Life who prefer looks with a tail, the option for furred avatars is available in Inworldz.

Inworldz Grid, Amber (114, 92, 23)

Bixyl Shuftan

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Minecraft Games

By Bixyl Shuftan

Following the pirate ship battle in mid-September, Nydia wanted to do more group activities with her new server set up for uploaded maps. She found a couple more she liked, and on two different occasions invited residents in the HV Community sim group and her friends in the Angels community to take part.

On the evening of September 22, she uploaded a "Lord of the Rings" map. It was meant to be seen with some additional textures uploaded, so mobs could be seen as attacking orcs, etc. And the "swiss cheese" texture seen on some builds led to a few jokes. But there was quite a bit of detail, especially in the palaces and towns.

Nydia took on the role of a dungeon master for this game, leading the party down the path after leading us to a chest with a little gear, giving us a few rules and reading the introduction. We soon had to go through a dark cave, and when mobs attacked many of us lost sight of one another. Nydia ended up having to port those behind to the group. Our journey went across fields, mountain passes, towns, underground passageways, and more. Every so often, we would come to a chest with a notecard describing the next chapter in the action, such as having to carry a message to a leader.

One of the more thrilling parts of the map was the mine area, complete with a fast-moving minecart ride, which got a few comparisons to the one from "Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom." Unfortunetly, if anything went wrong, the character would end up off the cart, and one wrong step off the track and into the darkness. I myself ended up in a cavern under the rail, and had to find my way back, and go down the track until I finally found the cart.

Probably the scene that gave us the most headaches was having to go through a mob-filled town. The action was harrier than Nydia had expected, and she passed us chainmail armor, and then diamond. But we ended up getting split up again, and Minecraft veterans can pretty much guess what happens to players who get repeatedly assaulted by attackers. I was among them, but managed to find a two story house where I could wait for Nydia to port me over. Others weren't as fortunate.

The adventure for me lasted a few hours, and over 25 levels of experience from clobbering mobs.  Before it was finished, players began to drop out as it was getting late in the evening, and we had real-life work or college in the morning. Perhaps Nydia's next map adventure will start on a weekend afternoon.

Nydia's next map was "Race Fo Da Wool." This  would be a competition between two teams: red and blue. Each had an identical obstacle course to search for three colors of wool: blue, lime, and magneta. The base had receptacles for one of each of the wools, with trunks nearby with armor, weapons, food, and torches.

Just in front of the base was a forest area, which had some underground caves one could dig down into. Getting through the forest was a building a few stories tall. But getting through it, or up it, one had to get through a number of mob spawners. Past that was a chasm in which players had a choice: build a bridge across it, or go down and then back up, across a number of mob spawners. Getting past that was a thin bridge over a lava pit, followed by a vertical maze in which one went up and down some steep ladders. One wrong move near the top and one would plummet to their avatar's demise.

If one croaked, one had to take a waterfall down. To keep from drowning, one had to poke out just enough to breath, but not so far as to plummet. Player versus player action was allowed, either arrows or the cannons at one point on the course. But in the games I witnessed, the players concentrated on the mobs and getting through the course. For one player, the vertical maze part was the hardest, "Gaaah! I'm afraid of heights!"

We had choices to make, such as taking the time to destroy mob spawners or take chances and try to speed through. During the day, the mobs couldn't usually get far from the building. But at night, they could sneak through and attack the base. And for a newly respawned player whom was alone while the rest of the team was deep in the obstacle course, the relentless waves of zombies, skeletons and creepers could send them back to the respawn point before they could so much as grab a weapon. Players who respawned at night began to wait until daybreak to go back down.

I took part in two games, both which took well over an hour. In one match, I had found one of the wools, and was on my way back, only to find nightfall  had come, and ended up pushed off the edge by attacking mobs, and therefore loosing the wool that had taken me a while to get. My team lost that match.

Despite the frustration with getting clobbered and having to respawn repeatedly at times, everyone had fun. And the player who was afraid of heights, by the end of the game wasn't so afraid.

In the meantime, progress continues in the new Angels Village, with players spreading out again and making new builds. But this is another story.

Bixyl Shuftan

Monday, September 30, 2013

Reader Submitted: "What IS Second Life?"

By Nydia Tungsten

What IS Second Life?

Is it a game?

Webster’s Dictionary defines a game as : a (1) : a physical or mental competition conducted according to rules with the participants in direct opposition to each other (2) : a division of a larger contest (3) : the number of points necessary to win (4) : points scored in certain card games (as in all fours) by a player whose cards count up the highest (5) : the manner of playing in a contest (6) : the set of rules governing a game (7) : a particular aspect or phase of play in a game or sport kicking game> b plural : organized athletics c (1) : a field of gainful activity : line (2) : any activity undertaken or regarded as a contest involving rivalry, strategy, or struggle ; also : the course or period of such an activity (3) : area of expertise : specialty  

And let’s be honest, Second Life (or SL as it is known by many) just doesn’t fit into that. 

So what DO we tell people what it is? Some have heard about SL and you get THIS response “That’s the orgy game right?” Or “You mean the cybersex game?”

“I will not lie to you and say there is no sex going on,” I tell them, at which point I get a lot of snickering and comments about “one handed typing” or “Sticky Keyboards,” or the other Direction “SICK BASTARDS!” It is at this point I try and explain the virtual life I live. SL is TOTALLY created by the users, from our avatars and the clothes we wear to the homes we live in, there is so much more to SL than sex, let’s take a look at the “real” world.

How many of us have porn shops in our area that we live? More than one I bet! But do we all go to that area JUST for porn? NO! The whole area is a community that just happens to have a porn shop there for THOSE THAT WANT IT. You wouldn’t condemn a whole state as Perv’s and degenerates because they have a few shops or theaters? Only if you’re a narrow minded Zealot that thinks they have “God's personal thought in their hearts.” (9.9 eyeroll 9.9)

Yes there is sex in SL for those that want it, just like real-life. To me SL offers so much more than ANY other media out there! I have friends in almost every corner of this earth, something I could never have done in ANY other MMO to this scale. Real people, real problems, real emotions, only the avatars are virtual. That brings us to the “residents” that work and play here.

Yes that’s right, there are people that “work” in SL most are very talented creators and builders of the items we use every day. Then there are the “Scripters” that brings those objects to life, like cars, motorcycles, sailboats, planes and so much more! But most new people go looking for the “Sex Sims.” “Why?” To get it out of their system I suppose, until they learn the correct etiquette of being with someone intimately online, (yes there IS a proper way).

Let’s look at sex, it is a physical act of gratification experienced by two people (normally but not always). Now the mark of a GOOD lover is one that cares for their partner’s needs. Now let’s examine this even MORE closely, the act of Sex while physical is MOSTLY MENTAL anyone that says otherwise is either A. selfish lover or B. inexperienced. Our body reacts to mental stimulation FASTER than the physical and those that want to argue the point I say LOOK IT UP, I have proven to so many the “tease” is more important than the actual view of a nude partner. So, when we do
“cyber” for some here it is their only outlet, due to physical or social limitations.

Then I get the question “Well have you ever....” And they leave it hanging there, so I answer “Yes, I have been lucky enough to have some that actually put my needs before their own.” But just as in the “real” world, I don’t live in a bed. While they are thinking about that I ask them what do THEY enjoy doing? And of course I get a lot of different answers to which I answer “I can do that too in SL” Normally this is when I see a true spark of interest and curiosity.

If I am at a computer I show them some of the videos made BY the residents, I show them pictures of the clubs I run.“YOU OWN CLUBS?!?” they ask shocked and I tell them yes I do, I also run a small radio station but my biggest project is “Land rentals.“ And I see the confusion in their eyes and hear the next question before they even ask it.

“What land? It is all in a computer” at this point I explain that the “land” is actually a simulation or “Sim” for short and what they are renting is resources for that sim owner in which they can build anything up to their limit of resources they have rented, at which point I turn on SL if I am able and show them a whole new world they never knew existed, so I have brought a few to SL, and some enjoy it, some decided it wasn’t really for them, but they leave with a new understanding that SL is NOT a 24/7 orgy, but whatever they made of it and THAT is what SL TRULY is.

“Whatever you make of it."

Nydia Tungsten

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Minecraft Ship Battle

By Bixyl Shuftan

On the evening of Wednesday Sept 18, the night before "Talk Like a Pirate Day," Nydia Tungsten wanted to do something with Minecraft. She mentioned she was uploading a "map" onto a new server, and invited people over.

Logging on, I found myself in the water, and had to swim for it. Getting to the surface, I found two ships, one with a pirate flag, the other with an English one. Both had four large openings on each side. I swam to one, and was told this was going to be a battle between the two ships. How would the ships fight? Looking around on the deck, I found above each of those holes I saw were loading mechanisms and buttons. On the other side of the deck were chests full of dynamite.

What we were supposed to do, at least once the signal was given, was to load the dynamite into the bottom part of the "cannons," press the piston button, then repeat a few more times. Then load another couple pieces of dynamite on a hole on the side. To fire the "cannon," one had to press the button to ignite the stacks of dynamite down below, which was to act as propellant, and *quickly* ignite the dynamite acting as the "cannonball" before it was launched, and scramble back a few feet. If all went right, a piece of ignited dynamite would be launched toward the other ship, where it would do some damage if it hit or blew up close enough.

But it was tricky to use, and I don't think I really got the hang of it. Once I figured out what to do, well, what came to mind was the expression "knowing just enough to be dangerous." I ended up blowing up the cannons when I fired them the way the girls were, leaving a huge hole on the side of the ship. It seemed to be safer to just fire the propellant, and wait for the gunner on the other ship to slip up and go boom. It seemed to work, as more often than not the other ship would end up unable to fire before ours was. The result was one or more of the other crew grabbing a sword, and swimming over to board us. I never could find the crate where the swords were, but the others on my team were able to beat them back. The exception was the "guys vs girls" round, in which the girls were just merciless with the stickers.

Eventually, it was time for some of us to go to bed, and the Minecraft ship battles came to an end. At least for now. Perhaps another day, It'll be time to once again "strike the colors."

If only I could get the hang of firing that blasted cannon.

Bixyl Shuftan

Sunday, September 15, 2013

"Feed The Beast" and The Minecraft Building Contest

By Bixyl Shuftan

Since the Minecraft "Angels Village" server was updated, and it's contents wiped away, the attention of the game's players in the Sunweaver and Angels groups switched to the FTB, aka "Feed The Beast," servers set up by both Kit Repine and Nydia Tungsten. Kit's initial server went from a shack set up near the spawn point for anyone unfortunate to drop in at night to a small stone fort with an ever-expanding underground chamber and tunnel network. Valkyrie McGil built an impressive build on the cliff next to the fort.

Jasmine quickly noticed the wide variety of tools the FTB version of Minecraft offered, from robot miners that could clear out sections of underground for stone and ores, to better suits of armor, including one with limited flight ability, and some nifty gadgets. One I found useful was a mechanical arm that acted like a combination diamond pick and gun. One could use it against zombies and creepers, but it had a strong recoil. Another was a pair of boots that kept one from getting hurt when falling from a great distance. It's a safe bet most Minecrafters ended up back in their bed after making a misstep at least once. One gadget some players had fun with was the "Portal" gun, which acted like the one in the game. One fun thing that came later were the funny hats that one could collect from mobs they appeared on at random.

But building these tools and toys required machines, machines that required energy. Exploring around, I came across a few oil fields some distance away. Those were one source of energy. But Jasmine's bigger machines required more. One interesting feature of "Feed The Beast" was accessing other worlds, or overworlds in Minecraft jargon, besides the Nether and "The End." Some of these places were quite strange, such as one in which players could end up damaged from sunburn if not wearing certain types of armor, which put us in the same position as a zombie or skeleton. These worlds could be accessed through portals, but they could also be traveled to and back via special books, leading to this part of the game being called "Mystcraft," after the popular computer game Myst in the 1990s. Besides places to explore, Jasmine used them as a source for mass quantities of energy-supplying lava and lots of ores.

All these features were certainly a contrast from the Minecraft we'd first set foot it, and it came with a price. Lag began to become a problem. And then, the servers would start to occasionally crash. This became quite frustrating to players and server owners alike. As it turned out, "Feed The Beast" was the combined result of over a few hundred Minecraft modifications cobbled together. Little wonder it could get unstable at times. And then came the server updates, which would sometimes wipe out what was made.

Despite the bugs, interest in Minecraft persisted. Nydia took some time to clean up her new FTB server before inviting her friends over. Once she thought it was ready, she wondered how it could be tested.

"I wanted to test the latest FTB server, see if the problems were solved," Nydia told me in a conversation, "so … I thought what a better way to test it than to have my friends go NUTS with their builds." Nydia decided to hold a competion to see who could come up with the best build, "So I turned them loose with OP powers and kept an eye on the server." The rules were fairly simple, build a town a small group of players could reside in, " purposely left the build requirements vague, I wanted to see how they would be interpreted, and I must say I was NOT disappointed in the creativity that was generated. (I wasn't the) only one impressed either, the builders were as well when they got to see each other's builds."

The competition attracted a number of players, "We started with over eight builders, but due to their real-lives, some had to drop out, which was a shame really. The beginnings of their builds looked so promising. We had futuristic to medevil and even fairy tale fantasy. We even had some Anime thrown in, but unfortunately that one wasn't finished. … This will sound obscure to those not familiar with the series 'Girls und Panzers' it was going to be a city ship," a ship with a city built inside, "It qualified for the contest (laughter)."

"The way it was judged was very unique as well," Nydia explained,  "I have never heard of (Minecraft) being done like this at all. I left some of the judging be done by the builders themselves. The only reason I did it that way was I knew all the builders and knew they would be fair. They would judge the others, but not themselves. And I had 2 people here with me in real life that don't play MC (yet) to help me with the judging. And yes I did the live broadcast the event to help." Nydia put a live feed of what she saw into her video channel on the day of the judging.

One problem the contest had was the unstable nature of FTB Minecraft, and the contest was suspended and extended a couple times due to the server crashing, " I run it off my same system I use I thought it could maybe it could handle it this time, cant. … I wish I could invite everyone on to view the builds, but itwas just too hard on my system, I have 8GB of RAM with the server and (with) Second Life running, it would climb up to the 80% used area. If I was linked a would go into the 90s. More than once it got to 98%, if it went higher I would crash." Still, she persisted, "But we were able to finish the contest and have a lot of fun in the process."

Of the winners, Skylark's village came in third place. Valkyrie was second "by only a few points." Her village was near the server spawn point, and had crop and berry bush areas, with miniature golems gathering the fruit. For first place, it was "a tie between 2 good friends and Angels Jasmine and Shion (Winkler), it was so close it was almost a 3 way tie!"

Jasmine's place was a treehouse village with buildings set up on super tall trees, "t was a fully function town any elf would DROOL over with all the tech any mage would envy and then it had the walk ways between the massive trees to count as a city in itself." Jasmine tapped into another overworld via "Mystcraft" for the lava to power it, "Val went into the Nether to power all of her computers and tech as well." Jasmine's village had a diner in which automated machines could dispense a variety of foods with the press of a button. Kryxia Silverfall helped her out during the building.

Shion's town was build around a cathedral, as were some Medieval cities. It was the most detailed building, both inside and out. It had a harbor with ships, and a balista and a number of cranes around, to give it the look of a place still in construction.

For the winners, Nydia had a prize, "I kept the prize secret until the day of Judging I was able to offer the winner $50 USD or split it as it turns out, but they both turned it down. Sooo, I donated it to 'The Furry Gamer' group to help some of our members get into the rest of (the games we play). They wanted me to use it for my Angels, which I will do if it is needed. But I think it could do better for a group dedicated to having some fun. Thats what this was all about, having fun."

As good as the builds were, Nydia had to take the server back down. The FTB was just too much on her systems to keep up without crashes. But her new "vanilla" server, updated to Minecraft 1.62, was available. This newer Minecraft is commonly called the "horse update" due to its now including horses. They can be fitted with a saddle and "broken" for riding.

So how to build a place for the Angels there? Nydia soon had her answer, "that night when I finally had all the votes, I brought them all to my office at home (in Second Life) and told them who won, well, they started talking about each others builds, and before I knew it I had a build crew on my hands for the new Angels Village. … once in and started they met up with 'Hojo' another builder from the last world we had and he joined in"

Dropping in for myself at Jasmine's invitation, the place wasn't too far from the spawn point. Just walk down the road for a few minutes, and one would soon see the place, encompassed by walls. Inside, they had built a barn for horses (by Jasmine) and other critters, a town hall, an inn, an outdoor market, a mages tower (by Valkyrie), a cathedral (by Shion), a harbor with ships (also by Shion), and more. When Nydia saw it for herself, "I can sum it up with one word: 'Whoah …' "

So what was next for Nydia and her Angels & friends in Minecraft? She does have some plans, "in the future I am planning on having adventure maps for group play. I have a bit to learn still before I can start hosting events but it IS planned for in the future. We have had 'End raids' in the past and those were a LOT of fun."

So despite "Feed The Beast" acting a bit beasty, the action in Minecraft from residents of the Sunweaver and Angel's estates continues.

Nydia has a video of the villages during the contest judging donwloadable in the following link (here - 498MB).

Bixyl Shuftan

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Commentary: The Oneness Principle

By Becky Shamen

In the short time that this reporter has been with the Newser, we  have explored seven great adventures in exploring the world of  Second Life. The number eight should be a step above, for more  than one reason. In music, it is the octave, the beginning of a new  scale. In principle, there is no beginning or end to scales. They  extend, up and down, infinitely. Oddly enough, the number eight looks  like the symbol for infinity, going up and down. It has also been, for  as long as I can remember, my lucky number. For these reasons, in  this report, we will take a break from exploring places, to exploring  an important universal principle and it's manifestations in Second Life, Real Life, and Universal Life.

I have a friend, in real life, that used to tell me I should get off SL and come live in the real world more often. I would patiently explain to him that he doesn't understand what SL is all about. Unlike many video games I have seen, where wannabe's run around with big guns, shooting everybody and thing in sight, SL avatars think and act like real people. SL is more like an extended life. Instead of thinking of it as second life, perhaps it is more like Life squared. While it is true that we sometimes are in RP mode, we also get to know our SL friends as well or better that real life ones. We tend to love to the degree that we know people and things. We chat with our friends in SL every day. That's more than some married couples communicate. Over time, we learn who they are and where they live in real life. We know the joys and hardships they experience. Our SL friends are just as real as our real life ones. Communication is the key to the principle of Oneness.

What is a principle? The short, dictionary definition is 1) general or  fundamental law, 2) rule or code of conduct or devotion to such a  code. Getting deeper, principles are eternal, unwritten rules that  transform chaotic, empty space into the universe of forms. Quite  likely, the whole reason the universe even exists is because of a  principle, "to be or not to be", going through cycles (another  principle). A picture tells a thousand words, so I contemplated  finding a way to illustrate principles, to go with this article. I recalled,  from reading about fractals and chaos, years ago, seeing a picture  that showed how recognizable organic shapes were generated by  assigning rules for each number that came up in tossing dice. This  sounded like just what I needed, so I ran out and bought a package  of dice.

The Rambling Knight

On the TV show, "Myth Busters", they always start by saying, "Don't  try this at home...". To the contrary, if you are patient, or just want  more practice in that virtue, by all means, try this experiment for  yourself.

I started a new image, measuring 512x512 pixels, to allow room for  whatever image would develop. Knowing this would take many hours  to complete, by doing it manually, I made the background a light  blue, thinking white would be too much eye strain. Two dice will give  11 possible out comes (2-12), so I made a list of 11 rules, such as  2=5up and 2 left, etc. Zooming in to see each pixel and count my  steps, I started with a dot in the center and started tossing dice.  After only an hour, I realized that looking up the rule for each toss  and counting on the screen would take way to much time and  patience, even for me. I needed a smaller list and smaller moves.  Having recently made a reference to knights on the chess board, it  occured to me that they are limited to eight possible moves of two  steps forward and one to the side. Even a blonde like me can  remember eight simple rules and count to three. They make 8 sided  dice, but where to find one was a mystery. To continue with standard  dice, I painted one black, to determine the side move. Odd numbers  would be left and even right.  The other die only needed to produce  1-4, so I re-tossed it if it came up 1 or 6. Using this arrangement, it  wasn't neccesary to check the list after each toss and I didn't need  to count pixels on the screen. Now the drawing progressed much  quicker. To keep track of where each move took me, I made each  new pixel white, then changed the starting spot to black. When I  needed to pause, I'd save the drawing and, on return, knew where I  had left off.

I hesitate to say how many hours I spent and dots I ended up with,  but I came to the point where I felt it was more than enough to  illustrate the concept. I cropped the image down to only the area  with dots and present it here. It does look like some kind of organic  form, but only Rorschach knows what. If this illustration shows the  path of a knight, he was either in no hurry to get back to the  chessboard battle field or had been to Route 66 and gave his horse  one too many buckets of beer. It does show the result of applying  priciples to random chaotic space. With that, we move on to the real  topic of this article.

The Oneness Principle

Scientist tell us that our universe is expanding and calculate that  everything can be traced back to a single point, smaller than the  period at the end of this sentence. The calculater on my desk only  cost $2.99 and could never figure out something like that, but armed  with just a piece of paper, a pencil and ruler, I can tell there is more  involved than just expansion. If you draw a dot, in the center of the  paper and then countless straight lines from it to the edges of the  paper, none of the lines will cross or join together. If expansion were  the only principle at work in the universe, after all those billions of  years the matter that is expanding would be so small and so far  apart it would be invisible. We wouldn't be here to see it any way.  Clearly, there is another principle at work. That principle is  "Oneness."

In the first fraction of a second, after the big bang, all the quarks in  the universe shot out on their seperate paths, but not for long. They  quickly acted as if consciously seeking out friends and forming  groups called sub-atomic particles. These united groups had more  powers and abilities than mere quarks. In comparison, they were like  super heroes or gods. In time, these new life forms also began  seeking others of their kind and forming atoms, a life form with still  greater powers and abilities. Long story short, this gathering of many  into one continues, forming solar systems, then galaxies, to the  universe as we now know it. Perhaps, in the far distant futer, our universe will also join up with other one.

As humans, we are governed by the same principle. Individuals  gather into families, which gather into comunities, then towns and  cities, states, nations. Whether you like the idea or not, the entire  planet is destined to become one government. This will be by the  free choice of it's billions of citizens, not forced upon them by a  tyrant.

Second Life also is influenced by the principle of Oneness. On your  first day in SL, you are a stranger in a strange land, standing in a hub  with a bunch of other clueless nubes. If you were lucky enough to  have been introduced to this world by a friend, they will soon find  you and friend you and introduce you to places and other people.  Even if you didn't start out with a friend, this virtual world, thanks to  the Oneness priciple, will quickly expand your friends list. Some of  your friends will even become like family to you. I know many people  that call me "mom."

As you discover Sims and clubs that you like to spend time in and  return to, more often than not, they will have "groups" that you can  join. Sometimes, just entering an area will trigger a message which  asks if you'd like to join. Other locations provide signs to click to join  their group. If you are in a nightclub, the host might ask if you'd like a  "tag", meaning join the group or you can ask for a tag. Most groups  are free to join. Often, group members can do things that non- members can't, in the club or sim. A big advantage of joining a group  is that you are now in a collective of many people that share some of  your interests. The next step towards Oneness in SL is  communities. There is no mechanical proccess to joining a  community and no tags to wear. Community members tend to work,  play and live together. Many will belong to one or more of the same  groups as others. One example of a community is one that I am part  of, called Sunnies or Sunweavers. In my article on Caledon, we find a community which spans over two million square meters.

Seeing the workings of the Oneness priciple, in the universe, real life and Second Life, it is not hard to make a prediction of what is to come. Some day, in the future of second life, we will all be members of one big group. We can only guess at what it will be called. Perhaps we will call it Second Heaven.

Becky "Sha" Shamen