Monday, September 13, 2021

September 11 Memorials, Past and Present

 
By Bixyl Shuftan

The September 11 2001 attacks are one of those few events in history in which people remember where they were when they heard the news. Like Pearl Harbor decades ago, it led to war. And thanks to the Internet, many many thousands shared images and personal stories. Second Life wasn't around yet when 9/11 happened. But once it was, memorials and other tributes began appearing very early in it's history as soon as 2004 (New World Notes article). 


Over time there have been a number of 9/11 memorials. One of the largest and best known was the one a quarter-sim in size by Alliez Mysterio. It was up for only two or three years, but it was well-attended.

(Click here if the video fails to load)

 Another one that got attention was the memorial at the New York City Block sim. Owner and creator Cheri Bing was from Brooklin New York City, and 9/11 had been very much up close and personal. A firefighter group would hold an event there to honor the fallen. Alliez's memorial would last until about 2009. The New York City Block memorial would stay up until the sim closed in early 2011. 

Areo Pines Park had a "Stairclimb Tribute" in honor of the fallen firefighters. Cindy Bolero would have it up each September for several years. These were two transparent towers in which one could get and wear a free fireman's uniform and climb the 110 stories to the top.

Stagg Island had a well-done marble memorial with plenty of detail, such as the two square waterfall fountains meant to represent the Twin Towers. On Sept 11 itself, people would gather for remembrance events. 

The Stairclimb would be up each November for several years until the shrinking size of Aero Pines park eventually meant there wasn't enough room and the park would eventually close in 2018. 

Also in 2018, the Stagg Island memorial would move to the Yellow River sim after the death of it's builder Fazio Magic. Geena Zackerly would keep it running for a couple more years, but 2020 would be it's last year.


Currently the largest detailed memorial in Second Life is the replica of the real-life Flight 93 Memorial, over Copperhead Road, which was made last year in 2020. Owned by Paul Woodrunner, the main part is the "Tower of Voices," a 93 foot metal structure with 40 wind chimes. 

But since last year, more work has been done on the place. The memorial has doubled in size to include the marble "Wall of Names," of which an event was held at the one in real life on September 11. There's also the visitor shelter and a replica of the gate to the crash site.


One other memorial was "Always Remember" which this year was in Gold Haven. Dropping by on September 11, I ran into the owner Bryston Vanvleck. "I appreciate you visiting all these years," he would tell the people there. Asking when the memorial first came about, he told me, "Well, I started building my NY lofts back in 2007, I believe it was 2008 or 2009 when I first held a memorial in the store. (The) following year, I started building this and it has evolved over the years. ... I have thought about replicating the real-life New York memorial many times. But people do appreciate the intimate simplicity of this one."

When it was brought up just about everyone could tell where they were when they first heard about 9/11, Bryston responded, "That is what this place is for, to reflect and share your stories. I meet so many good people with heartbreaking stories they share. But anyone who was alive will tell you exactly where they were that day. I visited ground zero 3 weeks after it happen and it had a profound effect on me."


Among the stories was, "I was riding the bus down 16th street to go to work when dozens of fire and police cars zoomed past us. The bus was full and everyone's phones started to buzz. That's when I heard someone flew a plane into the Pentagon. The father of a friend was on that plane. What was scary was not knowing what would happen next. Rumors circulated vans were filled with explosives, etc. Surreal indeed."

As this year marked the 20th anniversary of the attacks, it's noteable that Second Life not only has residents whom were young children when they happened, but is getting residents whom hadn't been born yet. Plus some older residents whom were around when it was just a few years before have passed on or otherwise no longer able to get online. The event is transitioning from recent history that practically everyone witnessed to history that more and more people never saw for themselves but know only from recorded media. And of course from memorials, both in real life, and in Second Life.

Video source: Hamlet Au

Bixyl Shuftan
 

Thursday, August 26, 2021

"How Does Your Club Choose Its Themes?"

 
By Bixyl Shuftan

This is a question we hear once in a while, but not that often. Usually when we hear "How does that club choose it's themes?" it's a reference to some other club.

The Happy Vixen strives for a variety of events. But we also make an effort to talk on occasion to the DJs and hostesses for ideas. Over time, they've come with some great suggestions. We also take suggestions from you the fans. The majority, we (Snowy and I) come up with the themes for the next week every Monday night.

Our guidelines are not to repeat the same thing too often. So once we've had a theme, we usually wait at least two or three months before having it again. We keep track of what theme's we've done and when we last had them. Lately, we've also been making an effort to keep track of attendance to better help which themes are best liked. It's not perfect as some of our slots are outside "prime time" when not as many people are logged onto Second Life, but it does the job. Events with a lot of people are naturally more likely to repeated sooner.

As most of our regulars our furs, we often have avatar themes such as foxes and bunnies. Most weeks we have at least one color theme, such as Best in Red. Some any avatar can take part in such as Ears and Tails. Some are fun themes such as Videogames and Hollywood. Some are funny such as Tacky and Worst Superhero. Being a beach club, we occasionally have Swimwear and beach party, but we try not to overdo it. And some are on the teasing side such as Lingire and Cute & Sexy.

And we occasionally experiment. There have been times one event a week is a "Come As You Are" or CAYA. This saves those coming over from having to change outfits and avatars for one party.  

A few months ago, we were asked by the community chief to help run a second club, "I want a bunny club." And so the same minds behind the Happy Vixen were tasked with the Bouncing Bunny Beach Club, with two weekly time slots moved from the Happy Vixen to there. So what does this mean as far as theme choices go?  Not much, although an event that appeared in one club will occasionally be at the other the next month.

We know some clubs have something only they do. Club Cutlass has it's Wednesday "Alphabet" events. The Furry Fashion Lounge has it's Friday Late Night. We've heard of others having "Topless Tuesday" parties every week. What's special about us? Well, we try to be not just the beach club of the Sunweaver community, but a nice little place to relax and have fun in. And of course once the party is over, feel free to play a game or watch a movie. 

Addition: I originally finished this article a few weeks ago, but delayed publishing it when real life stepped in. While I can no longer be at the events as often as I could (at least for now), I still help choose the themes.

Bixyl Shuftan
 

Wednesday, June 30, 2021

RFL Season Concludes


By Bixyl Shuftan

Wednesday June 30 was the last day of the 2021 Relay season, and the last the Relay kiosks were accepting donations. Usually there's an official "Relay Wrap-Up" event at the season's end in which the Spirit of Relay winners are announced. This year, the announcements were done at the "Sink the Sims/Flood Party." So no last event at the seasons end was scheduled. But the Relayers held one anyway. Their season total was already close to the highest they ever made, a couple thousand USD short of the $415,000  that was made in 2014. So they decided to hold one last, and unofficial, event, to beat the record.

Gem Sunkiller would post the following: 

You are the most dedicated group of individuals who are determined to change the world!
I know that we can make this season even more of a record breaker.....as one team unified.
If you are close to a kiosk, pitch in your loose change, but when you do that also ask a merchant or club owner for a donation.  We have until 11:59.59 PM SLT on June 30th, a little more than 24 hours to go.  We need 1641 USD .......  We can do this!  WE ARE RELAY!  LET'S GO!!!!!!!!!

 
So without any plan, people began gathering at the American Cancer Society sim. A kiosk was rezzed, and people began dancing away as Trader Whiplash was playing T-1 Radio for the Relay one last night. There was plenty of encouragement to donate in both the group chat and the Discord channel. Finally, Stingray Rainmaker announced the goal had been reached.

Congratulations to everyone involved in the American Cancer Society in Second Life for making our 2020-2021 fundraising year the most successful we've ever had in our 16-year history in the virtual world. This achievement is a testament to how strong our community is and how dedicated we are to funding the lifesaving mission of the American Cancer Society.

Every moment throughout this year, you've reached goals, set new goals, and reached them, ultimately leading to this moment where you've now set a new fundraising record in Second Life. Thank you all for being the passionate, competitive, proud, and unique cancer-fighting warriors that you are.

The total would continue to rise, eventually reaching  $417,122. The people would also continue to dance and congratulate each other for a job well done. Fireworks were going off over the sim. The partying would go on until shortly after 7PM SL time, with Trader Whiplash signing off for the last time this season, "Good night Relay."

After the event, the kiosks were turned off, and would show only off-season totals. On the website, the team totals page was redone so the 149 individual teams no longer showed. 

Three teams made Purple, (1) Relay Rockers - 5,204,852 L, (2) Camping for a Cure - 4,298,763 L, and (3) The River of Life - 3,768,844 L. Four teams made Diamond, (4) Cure Chasers - 2,857,661 L, (5) Aether Chrononauts Tiny Steps (ACTS) - 2,378,420 L, (6) Goreans in Relay for Life - 2, 145,225 L, and (7) Roos With A Dream - 1,815, 173 L. Two made Topaz, (8) Our New Paradise - 1,628,649 L and (9) Seekers of Hope - 1,569,633 L. Four teams made Emerald, (10) Cancer Gets Stung - 1,154,777 L, (11) Harmony of Hope - 1,121,385 L, (12) One More Light - 1,112,401 L, and (13) Sunbeamers - 1,013,871 L.

It was a big Relay season with many stories told, and some yet to be told. People are encouraged to share theirs with the Second Life Newser as reader submissions. As for the future, some are looking forward to Making Strides and the Christmas Expo. Others are looking forward to Feb 2022 for when the next Relay season begins.

Go Relay!

Bixyl Shuftan
 

Monday, May 24, 2021

Oldesoul's Jail and Bail Events

 
By Bixyl Shuftan

Oldesoul Eldemar is a noted figure with the Relay. Though with the him taking part in the recent Fantasy Faire as a tiny member of the "Pawlice" arresting people for the various "jail and bail" events, it may have only been a matter of time before someone decided turnabout was fair play. And on the night of Saturday May 22, that happened.

At 6:31PM on the Relay for Life Volunteers group chat, Selene (Selene Jashan) called out, "Heyyyy Olde??????  We have a warrant out for your arrest!!!! Reason for Arrest: Many, many, pawsome acts of Relay." The warrant had been issued by her and Gem Sunkiller-Shadow, "Don't make me suit up and come for you, buddy!" Wateru Kohime announced, "I've got $L100 I can put towards Olde, for keeping him in longer that is." Olde couldn't believe it, "Wateru, I have been soo kind to you." Wateru and Gem just laughed in response, "I am evil tonight Olde." Wateru then conceeded, "Ok fine, I've got another $L100 to get him out too. So you break even." Selene laughed, "Uumm he needs a lot more than 100L."

Gem commented, "We will need to put you in the cell, and lock the door.  I'm sure you have friends who can front your bail. Selene laughed once more, "He needs 4k." Time went on, with the chatter turning to the Sunbeamer's Medieval Fun Fest at times, and Selene encouraged people to donate, "Who is going to come help bail OldeSoul out of jail, I know lots of you will come look just out of curiousity!" Gem added, "He looks so sad!"

It was then Selene posted a link to a picture in Relay Chat, that of Oldesoul in a tiny cage not tall enough for him to stand up in, with a policeman bot standing by, "Has his own personal guard." Cynthia Farshore of team Sunbeamers mused, "He looks right at home," then she went to the point, "I'm DJing, so stuck here. Where do I toss a remote?" Oldesoul answered, "Gem Sunkiller or Selene." Cynthia then sent the cash, with Olde saying, "Thank you Cynthia. I am free!" The Sunweaver answered, "Welcome, but warning if you show up at the Sunbeamer Medieval Fair you may be arrested there too!!"

Selene is with the River of Life Relay team. Gem is the Relay for Life's Season Lead for 2021.

As luck would have it, or perhaps Cynthia's suggestion, this was not the end of Oldesoul's troubles. At the second day of the Medieval Fun Festival the following day, the Sunbeamer's captain Rita Mariner announced in Relay chat, "Olde, you are to report to Caledon Downs immediately, You are under arrest.  For bribery of waffles to tinies and Patch Linden almost being eaten by a teddy bear." The charges were about the antics of the "Pawlice" at the Fantasy Faire, notably Patch Linden's jail and bail inside the belly of a giant teddy. Nance Clowes asked, "Whats it gunna take to bail out ... Olde?" Rita answered, "After Olde spend time in my gibbet, we can talk 'bail/ Bribe.'" Olde's response was, "Ms. Rita - I am meeting with my build team, may I make a rain date?" Cynthia commented, "Evasion from the law, another charge!" Rita's response was, "Yes, now life in my gibbet." Olde countered, "Have you spent time with my builders?" Rita answered, "No, but I can lock them up with you." "You know them, silly one! I will be down in a bit." 

Eventually, Olde announced he was ready, to which Alison Flow went, "Lock him up!" Gem Sunkiller grinned wickedly, "Who are we locking up now?" At Caledon Downs, Olde showed up and Rita showed him the cage, "Ok criminal, in you go." Cynthia was there, "HAAAA nab him!" Olde went in, "Welcome friends, I think." "So until someone feels pity on you and pays the crown to bail you out." Then Rita got some Lindens from someone, but not to bail out, "Oh my you really upset someone. They paid extra to extend your stay." It was then Gem Sunkiller showed up. "Hi Gem," Rita greeted her, "It has to be a HIGH BAIL! Some one paid extra to keep him locked up longer." Olde tried to look sympathetic, "We are friends - and I just spent hours with your friends." "Need at least 3000L to bail him out. Is he worth it? ... They paid 2500L to lock you up, 3000L to bail you out."

In Relay chat, Nance mused, "I heard Bixyl has been saving up for seven years in case he needed to be bailed out." Gem mused at the sight of Olde, "Awwwww, hanging in a birdie cage." Cynthia added, "Well well now lookey what we have here. We got Olde in the pookey, Looks like he is in bad need of help right now . Caledon Downs (49,163,23)." Olde called out to a friend, "Trader - have a Linden?"

Back at Downs, Olde stated, "Someone decided you have been soo kind to ACTS." After a moment, Rita announced, "Ok, bail is paid, your debt to the crown is settled, your free to leave." Olde stated as he got out, "They paid the rest. Off to work." "You are now free to enjoy the faire." "Thank you ladies and gents." "Free to go," one other spoke, "at least until we hear about any other waffle incidents."

So Olde was part of two jail and bail events that brought in a total of 7000 Lindens, the 4000L going to Team Sunbeamers part of their two day total of 73,675 Lindens (117,675L going to the 'beamers and Roos With A Dream teams combined). How long will the suffering Oldesoul Eldemar avoid any more "cagey" feelings? Time will tell.

First picture from Selene (Selene Jashan)

Bixyl Shuftan
 

Thursday, April 1, 2021

Five Past Online Comics

 
By Bixyl Shuftan

I've been reading online comics for over twenty years, since the World Wide Web was just a few years old. A few from the earlier days of the Internet have gone on to today (link here). But many have not. Some were forgettable. Some mildly interesting. Others I occasionally recall and think about. Here are a few that I once read but for various reasons have stopped and become part of online comic history.

Haul Trek/Freighter Tails

Written by Paul Gibbs and drawn by Bill Redfern, the strip was originally "Haul Trek," a comedy tribute to Star Trek done from 1998 to 1999. The central character was Lt. M'Iskiti, a Caitian lady officer whom gets sent to a Starfleet garbage hauler following a prank on her previous captain. While things certainly look poor at first, the more she sees on her first day, the worse things look. The tone of the strip was comical with nothing too serious or threatening, aside from one's clothes and rubber mouse getting zapped by a stray gun shot. The poor kitty's big challenge however was keeing from going nuts and exhausted from things falling apart around her.

Paul Gibbs as it turned out wasn't just the creative force behind Haul Trek doing the story. He was a science fiction writer. He had written a novel centered around Animated Star Trek's Caitian character Lt. M'Ress and tried to get it published without success. He gave up after being told as it focused on someone other than the three main characters and had lasting consequences, the chances of it being published were nil. So for some time it was available online for anyone who read it.

Eventually, Gibbs and Redfern talked about the possibility of selling Haul Trek merchandise. But there was a problem. Since it was a Star Trek themed comic, legally they couldn't make any money off of it. So the comic was put on pause while they thought about a solution. They finally came up with one: remove the Trek elements and replace them. Gibbs did much the same with the novel and a sequel he had been doing. The strip's name was changed to "Freighter Tails." The character's name was changed to Mzzkiti and her species renamed to "Moggian." Instead of Starfleet, she and the ship were with the Space Protectorate Forces. But it was still the same "ship of fools" in which there was seldom a boring moment. It started up in 2001, and was updated roughly once a month.

Then on January 31 2002, Paul Gibbs died. He had been admitted to the hospital only one day earlier. A mutual friend told me it was pancreatitis that did him in. With Gibbs gone, the comic would continue for a little longer. But without his partner, Redfern lost his motivation. There would be only two more strips after 2002, 2003 and 2005. The last entry on the comic page is from 2008.

But Mzzkitti as a character wasn't truly gone. She would get some guest appearances in the "Cross Time Cafe" comic for several years. She was also part of a few crossovers over time, as part of "Haul Trek" and "Freighter Tails." The comic was also an influence on a comedy Trek sim I was in at the time.

The comic can still be found at (http://www.mzzkiti.com/) and is pretty much G-rated, though some scenes might rate PG to some (blanked profanity).

Gibbs' work remains up at his website The Sah'haran Embassy (http://www.sahaaran.com/), maintained by a friend as a lasting tribute.



Dela The Hooda

Done by Style Wager and Greg Older, this was the story of Dela, a foxlike lady from another world whom ends up on Earth due to a mishap and ends up secretly living with a human friend. Wager was the artist of the strip. Older was a writer of fantasy games. One of his games was "Mhar: The Final Frontier," which is the story universe Dela comes from. The story went from about 1999 to 2012 on the comic's website.

The story begins with Dela starting a job as a programmer at a university on her homeworld. Unfortunately, she ends up working in the lab of a mad scientist whose experiment ends up accidentally sending her to our universe and to Earth. Ending up in Peabow Canada, she quickly makes friends with Sue, whom agrees to take her in. Arriving at the house, Sue's neighbor Jake sees them. Fortunately he agrees to stay quiet, but unfortunately he quickly shows a womanizing streak and isn't put off by Dela's fur and tail.

Dela's time on Earth has various mishaps and misadventures. As it turns out, she can still make limited appearances in public as people refuse to believe they're seeing a "giant fox" on two legs or think nobody would believe them if they spoke anything. Though going too far once gets the attention of the MiP, the "Men in Plaid" (Canada can't afford the suits the MiB can). The mad scientist whom caused her to get lost makes an effort to find her, though doesn't have much luck for a while. By accident, Dela finds a boyfriend. And later on finds she isn't exactly the only person not of this world on Earth. While there are occasional threats, the overall tone of the strip was comical and not too serious.

The comic's main webpage at (www.delathehooda.com/) showed the newest few strips. Checking out older ones was more easily done on the mirror website at (www.belfry.com/dela.html). At first, the comic was updated about once a week, but after a few years started to slow down. Eventually the mirror stopped updating at 2008, with the main website continuing until 2012. Both sites were eventually taken down, visible now only through the "Wayback Machine/Internet Archive." As it turned out, Wager's page on an art website had a few more strips with the last one at 2016 with no sign of a conclusion. He would state he's no longer working on the comic.

I found the comic a bit edgy such as a bedroom scene or two, occasionally a bit silly with people pretending not to notice Dela and the "Gelfs," but entertaining as I wondered what was going to happen to the vixen and her friends next. My only real complaint is the lack of a satisfying ending.

The strip itself rated PG-13, with occasional profanity, sexual humor, and adult situations.

Dominic Deegan: Oracle For Hire

"Dominic Deegan: Oracle For Hire" was written and drawn by Michael "Mookie" Terracciano. It was the story of a seer whose visions help out him and others on numerous adventures. Taking place on a fantasy world that humans share with orcs, elves, werewolves, and other beings, magic does there much of what technology does in ours. There are numerous threats some violence, and occasionally someone gets killed. But there's also plenty of comedy.

The story starts with Dominic scraping by as a seer telling fortunes for a living in a small town. Most customers have mundane requests, which doesn't help his grumpy manner. Then a vain woman whom doesn't like being told what she doesn't want to hear puts a mild but annoying curse on him. In his effort to get rid of it, he meets Luna Travoria. The two form a friendship that eventually leads to love. As it turns out, Luna is a talented mage whom was held back only by her lack of self-confidence.

As time goes on, other characters are introduced. Dominic's younger brother Gregory is a healer, but crippled from a magical attack that will take a while to overcome. The older brother Jacob however was fascinated with necromancers and became one. Their mother is one of the most talented mages in the land and the father a noted bard (and the one whom Dominic got his uncanny knack for puns from). There's the two bumbling thieves Stunt and Bumper, whom get into a number of amusing mishaps. One villain is an infernomancer with demonic powers. Another character when fighting demons ended up becoming one. Dominic also befriends orc shamans. And many other characters add to the story.

Over time, Dominic's opponents become more dangerous and sometimes otherwordly terrifying. Occasionally the villains and heroes aren't what they first seem to be. Sometimes not everyone makes it to the end. And the adventure doesn't always end with a happy ending for everyone. In his final adventure, Dominic pays a price for his efforts.

The strip would run from 2002 to 2013. For a time, Terracciano would work on other projects, notably the superhero and space adventure comic "Star Power." In 2019, he started a sequel, "The Legacy of Dominic Deegan." It takes place 200 years after the events in the first story, is told from the point of view of a deaf character, and there's nudity. So it's a different story in a different style in the same story universe, and I consider "Oracle For Hire" a separate comic.

I found the strip entertaining for both it's plots and the humor, yours truly never able to resist a good pun. While it could be violent at times, it was to demonstrate the viciousness of some characters. It was good enough to mention here despite the "R" rating of it's sequel.

"Dominic Deegan: Oracle For Hire" (by itself) rates a PG-13 due to it's violence and blood, as well as occasional language. 

To read the first strip of Dominic, Click Here (CAUTION: clicking on the main page may occasionally show nudity, so it's Not Safe For Work).


Roomies

Drawn by Dan Canaan aka "Flinters", "Roomies" was the tales of Flinthoof and his friends. It takes place in an ordinary neighborhood in which the only big difference between it and our world are the anthropomorphic people, tigers, rabbits, horses, etc. But ordinary doesn't mean boring as all sorts of things can go wrong, as well as occasional weirdness.

Flinthoof Ponypal, or Flinters as he was sometimes called, was the main character of the strip. He was an anthro horse whom made a little money through various odd jobs with computers and cars, and had a serious mint addiction. His best friend was Tibo, a green tiger whom had a job as a programer but had a hobby fixing old computers. Tibo's best lady friend was Rhonda, a cute tall bunnygirl, or "Bhuuunnnnnny" as Tibo sometimes mutters when starring at her. Then there's her mother, known to the others as "Rhonda's Mother" or "RM," an aggressive doe rabbit whom is often the more sensible of the cast of characters, at least when not trying to correct her daughter. Other characters include Alex, a ditzy lady wolf with a love for toast.

The comic started in 1999. Most of the stories involved the characters getting by and trying to get through life, with reoccurring gags such as Flinter's mint addiction and guys going slackjawed and muttering "Bhuuuuuunnnnnnyyyy." But there was some occasional strangeness. One ordinary ferret gets mutated into a fully intelligent anthropomorphic one. Cultists kidnap one of the characters and end up foiled by one of the rabbits, "Naked bhuuuuunnnnnyyyyy." "I saw the bunny, and it was good." At one point a team from the future arrives to detain Flinters for supposed crimes that have yet to take place. And then there are the Cyantians. Canann would do a crossover with Tiffany Ross's Cyantian Chronicles with her character Rhonda making an appearance in one side-strip of Ross's, and Darius and others making appearances in Roomies. While there were minor threats in the stories, the tone wasn't serious and no one gets badly hurt.

Canaan would continue the comic until 2008. The final strips would show the characters with the Cyantians and on their way to Mars. On his art page, he would explain it was time to bring it to a close, not wanting to continue to the point it stopped being funny. For those wanting to check out the comic today, sadly a glance through the "Wayback Machine/Internet Archive" didn't show any strips at all. Anyone wanting to read the comic will have to buy his book online.

The comic was entertaining, though probably the main reason it stuck with me was "RM." In Second Life, among my group of friends is Rita Mariner, an aggressive alpha female doe bunny. While she wasn't a reader of the comic, she certainly acted like her "RM" was based on the RM of Roomies. But it turns out Rita never read the comic.

"Roomies" was a mostly tame comic, rated G with occasional PG.



The Cross Time Cafe

The Cross Time Cafe was a unique strip among online comics. Instead of the efforts of one or two artists, it was the combined efforts of several. Originally planned as a six-strip joke between a few artists on a mutual friend, it turned into a place where artists could have fun with their characters in a place outside the continuity of their own stories, and went on for many years. It is hosted by Scudder "White Pony" Kidwell on "White Pony Productions."

Of how the Cross Time Cafe got started, contributor "Sleepy John" described it as "It started with a hug." Around 2003, ne of the posters of the Freefall forum asked readers to post pictures of hugs, which lead to pictures of couples and other pairs of characters hugging or otherwise in scenes of friendship. Then a user named Hortmage suggested Freefall artist Mark Stanley draw a hug picture of the character Sam Starfall. Other readers quickly egged Stanley to draw Hortmage getting a face-hug from Sam. That led to a six strips drawn by Stanley in which several characters got together in a "Cross Time Cafe," and in the last one Hortmage got the long-asked for face hug.

And in Sleepy John's words, "and then it got weird." White Pony started hosting the strips on his website, and Scott Kellog of "21st Century Fox" and Kidwell added some strips of their own. Then Redfern gave the okay for his character Mzzkiti from "Freighter Tales" to be added. It was fun and silly games for a while. Then things got into the "Construction Period" in which robots from "Freefall" came in "with their own attitudes, tools and rotten puns." Kathy Garrison joined the artists and Kathy Grrson of "Carry On" joined the characters. Eventually other artists would join in, and even more characters were added. The results were often chaotic, but also fun.

The Cross Time Cafe would go on for fourteen years and hundreds of strips. But eventually the various artists would end up with less time to write. The last several were comupter images made by Kidwell, one character saying, "In the beginning, our world was overseen by a council of creators. Now our world of the Cafe is protected by only one creator - the overseeer. The overseer foresaw this and made arrangements for a new environment." And so in December 2017, the Cross Time Cafe would have the final strip with the last character taking a bow. But this wasn't truly the end as Kidwell would start a sequel, the CTC-Annex (link here)

While I perhaps didn't quite enjoy the Cross Time Cafe as much as the main strips of the artists, it was still entertaining. Perhaps there's just something about seeing characters just get together to have a little fun. 

On another note, I would meet many of the people in 2008 at the "Pony Con" (no relation to MLP) when we decided to get together at the town where the Kellogg farm was near. We had fun visiting the nearby Green Bank Observatory, which had the country's largest steerable radio telescope, went to a nearby train museum, and had lots of fun. The most memorable moment was  the picnic, and someone brought a "Sam Starfall" pinata. But the first guy to take a swing at it, well, let's just say swinging down instead of across was not a good idea (owie). Someone brought over a couple dozen books of the first 1024 Freefall strips that he had made at his expense. I ended up with a signed copy as a souvenir of my trip.

The strip rated G with occasional PG.

To read the first strip, Click Here.


There are plenty of others that I read that I fondly recall, such as "The Class Menagerie," "Absurd Notions," "Apollo 9," "The Suburban Jungle," and others. But any reviews of those will have to wait until another time.

What online comics of the past do you fondly remember? Feel free to leave comments below.

Bixyl Shuftan
 

ApRiL fOoL!!!

 

Happy April Fools Day from the Second Life Newser!

May your April Fools Day be filled with joy, merriment, and general foolery.

For previous April Fool jokes, check out 2020, 20192018, 2017, 2016, 2015, 20142013, 2012, and 2011.
 

Wednesday, March 10, 2021

Reaching Out and Remembrance

 
By Fritter Enzyme,

Depression is inevitable.

With things the way they are now it truly is. All of us are effected. I see so many online seeking friends to talk with. So many want to help, real problems require real assistance. I must state at the start, seek professional help. Below I will list some resources. They will lead to others. Depression comes to us all but not en masse and for this long. Other than wars we haven't dealt with times like these. There is much help is online, but as we recoup our lives we can again meet face to face. I hate to even mention the loss of pets during this time.

Holidays have been disturbed, traditions dropped, loved ones separated. Not like there isn't plenty of craziness other than the virus. We will want to have the past back, but things will not be the same.

Hot lines are a good way to seek help, if not in person. They can give you resources to fit your life and needs. But again, trained professional workers.

Some have told me they have no insurance. When I was without insurance I went through my county health department. Call 411 for First Call for Help. They can lead you to agencies to work with. Call 911 if it is an emergency!

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline

1-800-273-8255

https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/

Survivors of Suicide in Second Life

SOS - Survivors Of Suicide, Legenda (46, 58, 22) - Moderate

https://www.survivorsofsuicidesl.org/

Veteran suicide prevention

To connect with a Veterans Crisis Line responder anytime day or night:

https://www.va.gov/health-care/health-needs-conditions/mental-health/suicide-prevention/


There are places in Second Life to grieve and set up memorials:


Linden Memorial Park Candle Beach, San Michele (76, 152, 20) – General

http://maps.secondlife.com/secondlife/San%20Michele/77/152/21


CARTHAGE MEMORIAL, Carthage (51, 149, 46) – Moderate

http://maps.secondlife.com/secondlife/Carthage/51/149/47



Living Memories Memorial Garden, The Sardar (6, 101, 21) - Moderate

http://maps.secondlife.com/secondlife/The%20Sardar/6/101/21

Fritter Enzyme

Friday, February 26, 2021

Philip Rosedale's "Ask Me Anything" on Reddit

 
By Bixyl Shuftan

On Wednesday Feb 24 at 11 AM, Philip Rosedale, the founder of Linden Lab and Second Life (still remembered here as Philip Linden) held an "Ask Me Anything" session. While he was more interested in his current company, High Fidelity, he was still willing to accept questions about "the virtual civilization ... populated by one million active users."

Hi Reddit!

I am the founder of the virtual civilization Second Life, populated by one million active users, and am now CEO and co-founder of High Fidelity — which has just released a real-time spatial audio API for apps, games, and websites. If you want to check it out, I’d love to hear what you think: highfidelity.com/api

High Fidelity’s Spatial Audio was initially built for our VR platform — we have been obsessive about audio quality from day one, spending our resources lowering latency and nailing spatialization.

Ask me about immersive spatial audio, VR, virtual worlds and spaces, avatars, and … anything.

Some of the questions were irrelevant ones, "What are your thoughts on flying penises?" But there were plenty of relevant ones, many of which he answered. Here are the majority of them.


DrNarf

Philip, I have tried your High Fidelity 3D sound many times, and it's stunning. I wonder, however, if you still have dreams/plans for another metaverse? Thanks. DrFran

PhilipRosedale

I love virtual worlds and plan to keep working on them in one form or another until I die!

 

Grimegang_Cody

Whats going to be the next big step in vr?

PhilipRosedale

Typing at normal speed (probably by using see-through camera to show you a real keyboard) is the biggest change that would make VR devices usable for general computing.

Next would be reduced weight and greater comfort for longer sessions.

The 'big step' is simply to get to something that everyone is comfortable using.

 

SenatusSPQR

Hey Philip. Cool to see you doing an AMA. If you were rebuilding a virtual world today, would you be including cryptocurrencies in there? What's your take on the timeline to making virtual worlds so realistic that people start being unable to distinguish them from reality?

PhilipRosedale

Yes I would use cryptocurrencies, but NOT using proof-of-work as the consensus mechanism, since this puts the environment at risk. The consensus mechanism cannot trade units of the currency for electrical power - that is a recipe for global disaster. Fortunately there are many other ways of maintaining a distributed record-keeping system.

 

Trigit_VR

Do you think a shift in consciousness (social or spiritual) could be triggered through VR? Did you see any signs of something like that yet?

PhilipRosedale

The internet (and VR specifically) has the potential to deeply connect people. But it can also disconnect and separate people. The difference is in the choices we all make about the products we build. But sometimes maximizing profit does not maximize public good. We are going to have to make the decision to use it for good, at a cost.

 

TRIZnik

Why do you think Facebook is keeping Horizon so closed in testing?

Could they be worried about anti-trust action if/when social VR starts dominating the VR software market?

(I've been bullish on social VR engines "swallowing" games since at least 2012)

PhilipRosedale

I don't know.

Social VR needs to be larger than one app or company or we are all at great risk.

 

bubblesort

I love virtual worlds, and I've been an SL resident since the early years. My work study in college was in SL.

This probably sounds like a dumb question, but... one thing I don't get is why HMD adoption is such a big deal.

I've used HMDs, I think they are cool, but I can't think of any content I really want to use an HMD for. Maybe a flight simulator, where my head can be another axis of control for guns as my hands control the space ship, but other than that... I just don't think it's necessary.

Why should I make the jump from developing content in SecondLife to develop for HMD platforms?

PhilipRosedale

You should wait until there is a large diverse set of people using HMDs. There isn't yet. HMDs need to be accessible and comfortable for everyone: across age, gender, and race. They aren't yet.

 

VRMeg

Years ago I saw you do an interview where you created an avatar in AOL and jumped into the Sims I think. But your goal at the time was to make it so people could have avatars to jump from site to site. In second life, people jumped from unique created world like the sims to sim. And in high fidelity it was more jumping specifically to a URL. Are your creations getting you closer to that end goal?

Also, in High fidelity with spatial audio, how do you make a grid with entities horizontal and vertical where depending on where an avatar stands, they would sound different in reference to another avatar. Or the sound of a fountain as you get closer to it gets louder. These are all perceptions to make things seem more real as we know it. What will be the new reality we will experience in a virtual world. i.e. what is next?

PhilipRosedale

The hard question, I think, is why we will want to jump between these worlds or share a larger world. Most games are intentionally holistic - it doesn't really make sense to jump between them. You don't want to drive a car from GTA into Among Us. So the big question about "what is the metaverse" is what sort of space(s) we want to share, and why? I don't think anyone has very good answers to this, myself included!

 

mrvladnov

What are your thoughts on the dapp economy right now? From your experience in Second Life, do you see a world in Earth's future where people sustain themselves by making income as worker-consumers in a virtual world fulltime?

PhilipRosedale

Yes: A few thousand people make their living today in Second Life, and that is a place that typically has around 50,000 people online. So absolutely people will sustain themselves increasingly as time goes by from work in virtual worlds.

 

westrajc

Greetings Philip! There is a ton of 'buzz' lately about NFTs and Virtual Worlds. As someone who has created virtual economies from scratch and understands the desire of creators to control and derive value from their work, do you see a future where there is a standard, secure, privacy-focused #Metaverse currency? If yes, how can we avoid the negative ecological effects of current Crypto offerings?

PhilipRosedale

Love the idea of NTFs as a durable way for art to move around and create more income for artists. Have seen similar things already in Second Life, which had transferrable/resellable secure digital assets from day one and a really big GDP in part because of that.

But... we can't use cryptocurrencies with Proof-of-work move them around because of the ecological impact. But of course there are alternatives to POW so that's great. Strictly speaking, a provable NFT doesn't strictly require a blockchain. Web of trust + signed proofs would suffice. But I love the overall progress so far and idea.

 

timf5758

My question is:

  1. Apple is developing AR technologies. Do you think VR will eventually replace AR or do you think they can coexist in harmony.

  2. Do you think VR is essential to virtual worlds? And how far away are we in terms of technologies to develop a fully rendered real-life-like cities that players can join.

PhilipRosedale

I think AR and VR are very different things. AR requires approaches that blend information with the real world and balance attention. VR is the opposite - total immersion. Both the hardware, software, and economic/social/moderation implications are very different for the two.

I don't think VR (if by that you mean HMDs) are essential to virtual worlds. We interact with virtual worlds with whatever interfaces we care to. We will probably never be 'natives' to those worlds through our interfaces, however good, btw.

 

dale_glass

There's one thing I wondered for a while: how on earth did you manage to make High Fidelity (the original, 3D one) happen? I mean, it was a platform that was fully open both on the client and server side, heavily distributed, with a cryptocurrency and made in such a way that made central control difficult. I have a very hard time imagining how one makes a business pitch for that. How do you convince people to invest in something you're allowing people to just take and do whatever they please with?

But however it happened though I'm very happy it did -- there's some excellent work in there, and we hope to keep it going.

PhilipRosedale

Thanks! For a while there (2013-2019) it seemed like we would have hundreds of millions of people with immersive VR devices by 2020. That was a sound thesis for investing in a project like High Fidelity - especially given the success of Second Life in delivering many of those things to the desktop.

The failure of the VR HMD to reach mass-market (I think it is going to take about another 5 years) made it too long a project to keep pushing forward. And this kind of open / social experience would require mass adoption of the headsets.

 

patrapp

What's a good entry point for VR gear that will work with High Fidelity?

PhilipRosedale

The current version of High Fidelity is audio-only, so you only need a browser and (hopefully) some good wired headphones. We work on mobile and desktop, too.

 

Voicebotai

Hey Philip. I had the chance to try out an HF demo last summer and think it is a very interesting concept for developers to build immersive, interactive spaces. I have two questions, you can decide if they are related.

- You oversaw the creation of one of the most immersive interactive spaces to date. Why do you think someone else will come up with something better than you as opposed to just building it yourself using your technology?

- We are seeing a rapid rise of virtual humans along with easier methods for people to create their own avatars and an increased interest in spending time in virtual spaces. When should we expect a new space where humans via avatars and virtual humans congregate and interact on a regular basis and when do you expect that space to reach some significant scale?

PhilipRosedale

I think these are different questions:

There are 100+ apps/sites right now that are trying to create social spaces of one kind or another with a ton of highly specific features for different verticals, like customized buildable objects or shared whiteboards, or avatar pickers. That's a ton of people working on new worlds - hard to compete with them all. But none of them have audio that is even close to doing what we do with spatial audio. So enabling all of them to move forward faster (with our API) seems like the right move overall if we want to see more spaces out there.

As to virtual humans (powered by AI) - I think that AI is emerging as the most important and potentially dangerous area of human progress. We've done work on virtual humans and there are a ton of big problems still - we are very early. Visual representations can still be very uncanny. Another huge problem is bias, racism, and polarization coming through in their behavior and communication. As much as with AI as with ourselves, this is something we must address before moving forward. So I don't think we want to congregate with our digital children,

 

VRMeg

You have been working on sound, curious what other senses might be added in future to make a fuller experience? Many times I wish I could smell a candle, or a campfire or rain on pavement. Do you think some day we will be able to smell things, because as someone create a candle they could add the smell of watermelon to it in creation?

PhilipRosedale

I love the idea, but I think the physics of simulating smell may never be possible.

But an even bigger problem is touch: We can't use our body's largest sense in virtual worlds. We can't 'feel' our bodies there. Our body is basically a part of our brain - pretty inseparable - when it comes to feeling things and moving around. I think there are some ideas yet to try (we built one called 'the rig' that was actually the first project at Linden Lab, before Second Life), but this is what we really need to make work - touch.

 

Badger_Druid

What good things do you do with your wealth, power and influence in the real world? Or are you just another member of the self preservation society?

PhilipRosedale

I give to local charities to help people near San Francisco get by during and beyond the pandemic.

I am also devoted to using both money (funding) and my time and skills to make virtual spaces that are of a benefit to people, particularly in addressing racism and polarization.

I think that it is vital that those who have any degree of influence or power use them now and use them carefully to help steer the world toward greater compassion and connection.

 

zenzealot

What surprised you about how people acted in second life?

PhilipRosedale

Lots! But I was deeply moved by how people came to know each other through their avatars, despite being unable to hear or see each other. I built Second Life with a focus on the 'lego kit' / Minecraft dream of building a simulated world and seeing what people would make, but I came to regard the connections between people it enabled as the most important thing.

 

DaemonBlackflag

Hey Philip! I'm an entrepreneur since 18 (33 now), and most of my successful business ventures reside within Second Life (Fennux, Fawns, Kreatures.)

Do you ever have a vision for something that no one else seems to really grasp? Maybe you find it hard locating others that share that same vision?

If so, how do you deal with that? (Clearly you still make things happen.)

If that's not an issue, what's your secret to attracting those that share your vision? Thanks!

PhilipRosedale

Don't let it get you down. Sometimes you can see something (or an opportunity) that others can't see. When I was younger I would blame myself for being unable to communicate it, or get mad at people for not hearing me, or funding me, or whatever.

Now I relax and realize that we all have gifts to offer, we're all different, my gift is (sometimes) to have these strange ideas, and it's OK if those gifts are not always accepted.

 

Usernombreuno

Thanks for taking questions, Philip. I’m curious what you think about the potential for using VR spaces in education, particularly in support of students with exceptional needs (e.g. non verbal, students with autism)? If a teacher and student(s) can have avatars interacting in a virtual world, I presume we could eliminate a number of limitations we have in the real world. Do you have any insight into who might be already doing this well or where the technology is going in terms of serving students with special needs?

PhilipRosedale

There were remarkable studies done in SL with adults with autism that you might want to look up. A guy named John Lester, aka Pathfinder Linden did some of the early work, but you will find numerous academic papers on the subject.

 

financeandf*cks

What are three core features / capabilities that you would like to see built out in Second Life over the next few years, and why?

PhilipRosedale

I'm not running Second Life, so I don't have specific answers there. Some good recent changes have made it faster at the simulation layer (things like faster region crossing) - I know that is something people value and that I'd like to see get faster and faster.

 

SirNicksAlong

What do you think of Decentraland?

PhilipRosedale

It's an amazing experiment to watch! For simulation, I definitely think that long-term there will be a distributed compute model that makes the physics of the virtual world some sort of inviolable consensus. I'd like to see Decentraland add our spatial audio API!

 

goblix

Have you ever watched Sword Art Online?

PhilipRosedale

Yep. The idea of being 'trapped in the simulation' is resonant for me. I think the 'boundary value problem' of how to make a consistent virtual world that nevertheless is acted upon by outside agents may turn out to be very problematic.

Look for example at things like Stephenson's 'Fall' - where a lot of how the world works is contingent on there being no way to influence the world. Important to think about.

 

MatterShim

Do you think a new virtual world will ever come along with a large focus on creating in the same way SL does? Why hasn't anything come along yet that overtakes SL in that way?

PhilipRosedale

Creating programmable objects that you can edit live in a big world where things can both move and teleport around at will is a really hard problem. We wrote a lot more code to do it than people think - and as SL people will tell you there are still lots of bugs and edge cases. I think this is why we haven't seen more things like it - we were really ahead of our time. I bet we'll see some amazing new projects soon (but I guess I've said that before and been wrong).

 

day7seven

When is Third Life going to be released?

PhilipRosedale

Not in my life. :)

 

DrNarf

Why not do some of this AMA in High Fidelity? It would be a great way to demo the tool for others.

PhilipRosedale

Great idea - We will do that toward the end so it's not distraction to typing fast!

 

 For the rest of the AMA, which includes after-event chatter, Click Here.

Bixyl Shuftan

Wednesday, February 24, 2021

Announcement: Rare Disease Day in Second Life

 

Rare Disease Day is a yearly awareness campaign in real life that is held on the last day of February each year.

Now, due to the COVID 19 pandemic, I will recreate this event in Second Life.

On Sunday, February 28th,  2021  from midnight SLT until Monday, March 1st, 2021 midnight SLT, we will have live artists and DJs playing live on our venue

http://maps.secondlife.com/secondlife/Tainted%20Island/156/206/2004


What is Rare Disease Day?  https://www.rarediseaseday.org/article/what-is-rare-disease-day

Rare Disease Day takes place on the last day of February each year. The main objective of Rare Disease Day is to raise awareness amongst the general public and decision-makers about rare diseases and their impact on patients' lives.

The campaign targets primarily the general public and also seeks to raise awareness amongst policymakers, public authorities, industry representatives, researchers, health professionals, and anyone who has a genuine interest in rare diseases.

Why is Rare Disease Day held each year? https://www.rarediseaseday.org/article/what-is-rare-disease-day

Building awareness of rare diseases is so important because 1 in 20 people will live with a rare disease at some point in their life. Despite this, there is no cure for the majority of rare diseases and many go undiagnosed. Rare Disease Day improves knowledge amongst the general public of rare diseases while encouraging researchers and decision-makers to address the needs of those living with rare diseases.

Key figures about rare diseases:  https://www.rarediseaseday.org/article/what-is-a-rare-disease
 

There are over 300 million people living with one or more of over 6,000 identified rare diseases around the world1, each supported by family, friends, and a team of carers that make up the rare disease community.

Each rare disease may only affect a handful of people, scattered around the world, but taken together the number of people directly affected is equivalent to the population of the world’s third-largest country.

Rare diseases currently affect 3.5% - 5.9% of the worldwide population.

72% of rare diseases are genetic whilst others are the result of infections (bacterial or viral), allergies, and environmental causes, or are degenerative and proliferative.

70% of those genetic rare diseases start in childhood.

A disease defined as rare in Europe when it affects fewer than 1 in 2,000 people.
Characteristics of rare diseases

Over 6000 rare diseases are characterized by a broad diversity of disorders and symptoms that vary not only from disease to disease but also from patient to patient suffering from the same disease.

Relatively common symptoms can hide underlying rare diseases leading to misdiagnosis and delaying treatment. Quintessentially disabling, the patient's quality of life is affected by the lack or loss of autonomy due to the chronic, progressive, degenerative, and frequently life-threatening aspects of the disease.

The fact that there are often no existing effective cures adds to the high level of pain and suffering endured by patients and their families.
Common challenges

The lack of scientific knowledge and quality information on the disease often results in a delay in diagnosis. Also, the need for appropriate quality health care engenders inequalities and difficulties in access to treatment and care. This often results in heavy social and financial burdens on patients.

As mentioned, due to the broad diversity of disorders and relatively common symptoms which can hide underlying rare diseases, initial misdiagnosis is common. In addition, symptoms differ not only from disease to disease but also from patient to patient suffering from the same disease.

Due to the rarity and diversity of rare diseases, research needs to be international to ensure that experts, researchers, and clinicians are connected, that clinical trials are multinational, and that patients can benefit from the pooling of resources across borders. Initiatives such as the European Reference Networks (networks of centers of expertise and healthcare providers that facilitate cross-border research and healthcare), the International Rare Disease Research Consortium, and the EU Framework Programme for Research and Innovation Horizon 2020 support international, connected research.
How can Rare Disease Day make a difference?

Rare Disease Day raises awareness for the 300 million people living with the rare disease around the world and their families and carers.

The long-term cause of the Rare Disease Day campaign is to achieve equitable access to diagnosis, treatment, health and social care, and social opportunity for people affected by a rare disease.

Important progress continues to be made with joint international advocacy efforts for universal health coverage (UHC), part of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SGDs) to advocate for equitable health systems that meet the needs of people affected by rare diseases in order to leave no one behind.

Rare Disease Day is the opportunity to advocate for rare diseases as a human rights priority at local, national, and international levels as we work towards a more inclusive society.

Rare Disease Day is a great example of how progress continues to be made, with events being held worldwide each year. Beginning in 2008, when events took place in just 18 countries, Rare Disease Day has taken place every year since with events being held in over 100 countries in 2019.

We hope to see you at our event for Rare Disease Day in Second Life on Sunday, February 28th,  2021!

Wesley Regenbogen