Thursday, December 29, 2022

SL Fiction: Christmas In The Deathlands

By Bixyl Shuftan
It just wasn't his day.

Melvin Cooper poked at the trap. Empty. A few weeks ago, he was getting an occasional rabbit. Now it seems even rats and mice were getting scarce. Fried rat had been unpleasant enough when he first arrived on the Deathlands. Now it seems he was going to have to resort to eating cockroaches soon. And right on Christmas Day too. His smartphone was displaying December 25.

Looking around, snow was still covering patches of the desert ground still in the shade. The good thing about this time of year was it was no longer broiling hot at midday. The flip side was it got more bitterly cold than ever at night. Thankfully he was able to make some shelter from the wind, keeping himself somewhat warm in ragged leftovers of blankets. He recalled the dreams he had of that high-tech city in which for a time he was limited to a "capsule" to sleep in, a space not much bigger than he was. That was luxury compared to all this. Mile after mile of desert and dry grassland, with the occasional wreck, ghost town, and watering hole.


Melvin spun around. A mutant! They varied wildly. Some were almost as smart and reasonable as humans and furs. Most were of limited intelligence and hostile. This one looked almost like a zombie, with skin peeling off part of it's face and several teeth fallen out. It sported a two-handed axe. Probably slow, but very bad news if it got the drop on him.

Where was his weapon? Melvin looked around. He thought he had it in a certain place, but it wasn't there. Dammit!

"Raaaaarrrrr!" The mutant raised it's ax, and rushed forward, faster than Melvin thought it could move. He stumbled out of the way. The mutant continued to charge in a straight line and the ex-burglar was already well out of it's path when it moved past. It wasn't until it had gone twenty feet further before it stopped and turned around, "Raaaaaarrrrrr!"

Melvin still hadn't found his weapon, he looked at a pile of old junk cars. He only had a short time to look before he saw the mutant charging again. Once again, Melvin ran out of the way. Unable to stop, the mutant charged and ran right into the pile. It hit hard enough for the top of the pile to fall on top of it. The mutant was buried.

The former bandit could hardly believe it. With no sign that the mutant was still moving, he decided to see what the toppling of junk had exposed. He noticed the wreckage of a delivery truck that had been in the middle of the pile. Going inside the crumpled cab, there were several smashed packages. But one caught his attention, "Freeze-Dried Meals." He opened the box, and could barely believe it. There were over a dozen foil-packets of dried turkey, ham, potatoes, corn, and cherry pie. Thankfully he saw a thermos, and looking inside, there was water.

Melvin was relieved. At least for now, his food worries were over. He was about to tear into one, then he noticed more movement. Looking over, he saw not a mutant, but ... a child? This looked like a young fox kit.

"Um, hello?" He greeted the boy, at least he thought it was a boy.

"Please," he heard the youngster say. Then there was the gurgle of hunger.

Melvin felt his heart ache. The Deathlands was hardly a place for a kid. Let alone one on his own. He motioned the youth over, followed the instructions on the packet, putting in a little water and shaking it, then handed it to the youth with a plastic spork. But instead he gulped it down from the container.

"Whoah! Take it easy! There's plenty more. What's your name, kiddo?"

"Ar, Arthur."

"Well, pleased to meet you Arthur. My name's Melvin." The ex-burglar fixed a packet of his own, and slowly ate the contents with another spork.

"How you, find?"

"I guess I was lucky. Where's your mom anddad?"

"Mom? Dad?"

"The grownups who take care of you?"

"Uncle Giz. Not know, where."

The two sat there for a while. Melvin tried to talk to the child, but he would say little. Eventually, he decided to start a fire. After he got it going, he thought he saw some movement ...

And then he got knocked backward

"Stay away from him!"

Melvin looked up, and saw himself looking at not the fox kit, but a full grown one, and angry.

"Don't you dare hurt my nephew!"

"Your nephew? Oh, wait! I wasn't trying to hurt him."

"Like hell. You know how many times I've tried to keep him from slavers! I should - "

"No! Uncle, stop!"

The fox looked down, and Arthur was tugging at his pants, looking up with a pleading look in his eyes.

"Arthur! Are you okay?"

"Melvin fed me. Best meal in long time."

"What?" The fox's expression softened.

"I came across some food, he happened to show up, so I shared it."

The fox looked remorseful, "My apologies stranger. Very seldom have I seem a helpful soul around here. Granted things are not as desperate as they were in the past, but this is still not a place known for mercy."

"Apologies accepted. Since you're taking care of him, well, maybe I should give you a share as well."

"You really mean it?'

"Yeah, I do. Merry Christmas."


"It's a holiday where I'm from, on this day."

"I know what it is, but what's so merry about it?"

"We usually celebrated with dinner, giving gifts."

"My Father would tell me tales of Santa Claus kidnapping children to work as slaves, making gas masks and other things."

"Huh?" Melvin blinked, then chuckled, "Nah, Santa doesn't kidnap kids, he brings them gifts. I did hear about some other guy, Krampus, who punishes naughty kids. But they're different."


"Yeah, Santa's evil counterpart. I guess there's been some kind of mixup over the years."

The fox looked intrigued, "I would like to hear more." Then his stomach rumbled.

Melvin chuckled, "I guess the gift-giving starts now." He got another packet and handed it to the fox, "Merry Christmas."

"Thank you, I, think."

"Welcome ... no, you don't eat the powder, you need to mix it with water. I'll show you .."

Before long, the three were sitting by the fire, eating more of the dehydrated food. Melvin thought to himself. This place still sucked. But at least he could take a moment to relax and end the day with a full belly, and he had made some new friends.

Bixyl Shuftan

Monday, October 24, 2022

Clumsy Cooper's Halloween Tale

By Bixyl Shuftan 

It seemed like a simple enough job.

It wasn't like he was going hungry or needed a place to stay. Since falling asleep in a railroad car somewhere in the Deathlands and somehow waking up in this place of high tech called Montecito Bay, Melvin Cooper had been able to make a few bucks here and there doing simple service jobs. And after running into "The Moff," who while no longer the Mayor was the city's most popular resident and still had plenty of influence, he'd gotten a tiny but comfortable apartment he could stay in for a short time for practically nothing until he could get other accommodations. 
But something, wasn't right. He was a little tired of microwaved meals every night, with only the occasional dish at a ramen stall for freshly-made food, and he wasn't making enough money to get snazzy clothing and pay for a hot car to pick up women. But there was, something else. There were tales of some megacorporation moving in with more in mind than just making a few dollars, but saw the city as a base of operations for some secret plans. Maybe it was simply getting around some rules and regulations to save a few bucks, or maybe it was for something far more sinister.

He'd been approached by some mystery figure, saying he was a friend of Moff and a "concerned citizen" who had the means to stop these characters if they were up to no good, but only if he had evidence. And since Melvin Cooper had some experience of being a "liberator of assets," perhaps he could uncover something, "I'll make it well worth your while if you discover something of value. Don't bother getting a second opinion from Moff. To make sure he doesn't get in trouble, he is not in the know."
So it would seem his old skills would come in handy once more, saving the city and making a few dollars for himself. He snuck into the corporate quarter after hours, despite the curfew that was enforced by a few private guards. And despite that it was the night of October 31, which gave him a few willies. He brought a few donuts to them, saying he had run an errand and left his phone in the area. So they let him in. Looking around, he saw a robot, some kind of drone hovering just over the ground, moving some crates. Maybe they might hold something? He waited until it was gone, then made a move on one of the crates. Thankfully it was light. He would take it to some corner and open it ...

"Halt! You are not authorized to transit that object!" 

Melvin turned, and there was another drone, heading at him. He'd been discovered! He turned tail and ran! The thing fired a taser at him, and missed.

"Alert! Unauthorized personnel, Sector C! Alert! Unauthorized personnel ..."

Melvin ran and ran. It shouldn't be *too* long before he'd be back out of the corporate sector. But he kept hearing a whirring mechanical sound behind him. He turned, and the drone was still after him! Spurred on my adrenaline, he ran even faster. But the machine kept after him.

How was he going to get away? There had to be something. He then thought he saw a shadow ...
Then the next thing he heard was a crash of some kind. He turned, and the done was now smashed against the wall. In the middle of the alley was a huge wolf, almost twice his height, and without clothes. A werewolf?

"The boss told me you might need a hand, so I dropped in. What did you find?"

Still fueled by adrenaline and fright, Melvin didn't find relief in the wolf, only fear. He looked for a place to hide. He ducked into an alley, and in some out of the way shop saw a car of some kind, an odd silvery one. He ran over, opened the door, which opened not out but up, and jumped in. Then the next thing he knew, he heard the engine started, the car started to hover, and the next thing he knew, it was zooming out of the shop, with hover-engines. 
He had to give the vehicle's steering wheel a hard left to keep from running into the wall. It then began rising in the air, and increasing speed fast. He looked over the controls. He noticed two dates on the control panel, and saw two dates, one marked "Destination." It was on October 31, 1899. What did that mean? Glancing again at the speed, it was going past 60, 70, 80 ... and at 88 miles an hour, there was a flash in the air ...

The next thing he knew was a brief sensation of falling, then landing in some bushes. Groaning a bit, he got up and looked around. Instead of neon lights, glass, and steel, he saw streetlamps, brick walkways, and brick and wood buildings. This was somewhere else, but where. Eventually, he saw a sign, "Caledon."

He recalled reading the place was a major community in the Victorian Era. Melvin had somehow ended up in the Steam Age!

He was wondering about his next move. Then he thought he heard a scream. He ran a short distance, then saw two humans, a woman dressed in what looked like a second-hand dress. The other was some man dressed all in black, with a cloak over his back and a dagger in his hand. He had the woman by the wrist, and the dagger pointed at her.
"Please, let me go!"

"You wretch! I'll finish you off here and now!"

Realizing what the man was up to, Melvin forgot about his fear. Instead, he picked up a rock, and threw it at the dark man. It hit him in the head, causing him to let go of the girl, who promptly wrenched her hand free and ran off. The figure then turned to face him, with piercing dark brown eyes, almost as black as his clothes, "I don't know who you are, but that was your last mistake." He then began advancing at Clumsy.

Clumsy's reaction was to retreat, but not run. With all the iron fencing around here, maybe there was a loose bar he could use as a makeshift weapon. Then a shape zoomed down from the sky. Melvin could only make out that it was black, with wings. It charged at the man in black, who turned tail and ran. He ducked into an alley, and the whatever-it-was flew after him. Melvin thought he heard a male scream and some kind of scuffle, then silence. 

The ex-burglar decided discretion was the better part of valor and quickly headed away. But not knowing this town well, he wasn't sure where to go. While on the move, he thought he saw a few policemen running his way. Deciding to hide, he ducked into a wooded park. After well, inside, he was having second thoughts as the place was dark and spooky. Just the right place for something to ambush ...

His thoughts were interrupted by a sound, he turned, and something pounced him, wrapping him up in dark wings. There was a strong musky scent from it, and the smell of blood. Melvin, almost freaked, then to his surprise the dark figure kissed him. It was then he noticed it's feminine shape and bosom. It was a vampire batgirl of some kind, dark red and black.

"I wasn't sure I could help that woman in time," she told him in a raspy but still female voice, "I smell a good deal of recent fear on you, but you put that aside and helped her. Oh, and if you're wondering, the Ripper is still alive. I simply flew over to a constable I know and told him. Well, after having a pint or two first.

"But, I also smell, sadness? loneliness? Aw, poor little hero." The batgirl seemed to smile, "I'll stay with you tonight."

Melvin got very nervous. While he wanted the company of a woman very much, he wasn't so sure about a scary vampire batgirl. She almost seemed to sense his fear, giggling and nuzzling thoughts of bloodsuckers from movies raced though his mind. Then he felt her licking his neck. That was too much, and he fainted.

Eventually he came to. He found himself not on the ground of some spooky wooded park, but sandy ground next to some rusty jeep. He got up and looked around. He was back in the Deathlands. 

Had it all been some kind of dream? Melvin sighed. At least in Montecito Bay, he had a soft and clean place to shower and sleep and didn't have to worry about going hungry, or at least not too hungry. Now it was back to catching rats and drinking brackish water. 

He looked the jeep over. While rusty, it looked like it had been recently running. He had vague memories of tinkering with a few vehicles he found to see if he could get one running with parts from the others. But it seems something blew, and the car toppled, knocking him out. 

He was pondering his next move, when he saw a couple things on the ground. One was a jug of water, about a couple gallons. The other was a small water purifier. There was a wadded paper tucked into a slot on it. Looking at it, these were simple instructions. This could purify unsafe water, salt, germs, even radioactivity. 

Melvin wasn't sure how he had come across this purifier. But in the wasteland, it would certainly be very useful. At least he had somehow come out ahead. He recalled where he had set some traps, and began walking to them. Fried rat wasn't the tastiest thing to eat, but at least he wouldn't be hungry. 

*  *  *  *  *

"Are you sure we should have left him there, Doc?"

"We didn't have a choice, Marty. That would be taking a chance with breaking the space-time continuum."

"But to leave him in the middle of a desert?"

"That was where he stowed on the steam machine. We did leave him with a little water, and something that will help with water in his future."

"Yeah, but still ..."

"I took a trip a few years into the future after that. He'll be okay. A few scares along the way, but eventually he'll be back in civilization, eventually." 

To be continued

Bixyl Shuftan

Friday, October 7, 2022

Whole Brain Health with Dr. David Arguna

By Dancerina Starlight

What is Brain Health?

Brain health is the state of the brain functioning across cognitive, sensory, social-emotional, behavioral and motor domains, allowing a person to realize their full potential over the life course, regardless of the presence or absence of disorders.  For example, one of the most common disorders among millions is sleep deprivation. Yet, sleep is the most important thing you can do to reset the brain, allow it to heal, and to restore mental health," says Romie Mushtaq, MD, a neurologist and integrative medicine specialist.

Dr. David Arguna offers a weekly Question and Answer on the brain, using his 3-D facsimile of Brodmann's Brain to illustrate his answers. Participants prepare their questions, and he shares his knowledge as a research neurologist. This weekly educational session allows participants to continue their self-education in well-being.

Each week in Second Life, you can find Dr. Arguna encircled with knowledge seekers, expounding on matters of the brain, health, and wellness through query. 

Today, October 3, 2022, I followed Wisdomseeker's link to the discussion. Though I arrived for the last 25 minutes, I immediately followed the discussion and was intrigued to learn that categorically memories are either general knowledge" or "episodic/autobiographical."  General knowledge, also known as Semantic Memory, involves the recall of ideas, concepts, and facts commonly regarded as general knowledge. Episodic memory, on the other hand, involves the recollection of personal events or episodes in a person's life, such as birthdays.  According to Dr. Arguna it is conscious memory of a previous experience.

Dr. Arguna discussed there is "short-term" memory which is synonymous to immediate recall and working memory. Then there are stored memories, which comprise processes of converting an experience into a memory and a process for retrieving that memory.  Thus, as mentioned earlier, 'autobiographical memories' and general (saved) memories are categorized as either general knowledge" or "episodic/autobiographical" whereby general knowledge would be facts and language, episodic or autobiographical would be our experiences, the actual sensations we had at the time that got saved because these sensations/experience is "salient" and valuable.

When asked by one of the participants, Hannah, "Are the general and episodic memories stored in different parts of the brain or same location or do we know,?" Dr. Arguna stated that 'even the top memory researchers, like Larry Squire at Stanford, have not tackled that question but believes the distinction is clear.'  He stated, for example, that at an early age we were exposed to words, however, now we no longer remember the situation we were in when we first heard a given word.  He clarified that words become separated from sensations though he thinks his granddaughter remembers saying "No!" This is fascinating information which helps us to better understand who we are in Real Life and in Second Life.  It would be interesting to note how the brain functions in both phenomena because though we are avatars in Second Life, we are real people in the Real World with real brains.

As participants continued to show their interests and shared some of their autobiographical and/or episodic memories, Dr. Arguna continued to expound and clarify the difference between each participants' experiences and the associated concepts.  Primarily, he differentiated between thought and memory; discussing to be intentional about separating the two and avoid rationalizing, as thought is different from memory.  Memory is of visual and other sensations that occurred at the time. However, "feelings sometimes mean thoughts and sometimes mean the body sensations we had at the time" stated Dr. Arguna. We have to "reconstruct" when a memory happens, memory is not expandable. When asked by Wisdomseeker whether they were composite memories, Mr. Arguna explained that memories are not time stamped.

Why is it important to maintain brain health?

Brain health is a critical piece of our overall health. It underlies our ability to communicate, make decisions, problem-solve and live a productive and useful life. Because the brain controls so much of daily function, it is arguably the single most valuable organ in the human body. This is true whether we are in Real Life or Second Life.  For example, our behaviors in Second Life is a continuation of who we are, for the most part a healthy brain transcends into a fruitful and productive Second Life.

According to a well known doctor, there are “five pillars of brain health” that scientific evidence has shown to be “fundamental to promoting good cognitive function across the lifespan”; these are moving, discovering, relaxing, nourishing and connecting.

At Inspirational Island, you can find a composite of these pillars which will assist in improving brain health and wellness.

Today's session was deep diving and informative.  

Submitted By:
Dancerina OnPointe Starlight

Friday, August 26, 2022

Burn ONe's Waterworld

By Bixyl Shuftan

Over the weekend from Friday August 19 to Sunday August 21, Burn ONe's "Waterworld" event took place. The event was a tribute to the 1995 post-apocalyptic movie in which the ocean levels have risen to the point of covering the entire planet. Those humans that survived the dwindling amount of land had to adapt by living at and off the sea, some on ships and boats, others on floating communities called "atolls" that are often centers of trading. 

All the land from the Baker Beach build weeks ago was gone. There were two spots one could land on the sim. One was a ship known as "The Deez" (the old Exxon Valdez, which in real life would be sold and later scraped years after the movie). 

 The other was the atoll, which I never really heard a name for.

Quite a bit of work went into it. No single artist was involved, but a number.

Underwater wasn't forgotten, and some builds were placed there. 

The highest point, which was probably a lookout tower.

Boats would go in and out through the front gates. 

There was a game area, which was in use one time I dropped by.

"Home sweet hovel."

Not quite sure what the people in the "Waterworld" movie would have thought of video arcade games.

I guess one would be calling the other side of the town. 

More than just fish for food, thanks to someone being able to get dirt of the ocean floor.

Looks like some builder decided to get a head.  

Still able to have treats.

Looking at the gate from the boat area.

The edge of the event area. Those who didn't want to dance could sit. 

There were gifts available to people.

During the three-day event itself, there would be a number of dance parties, with DJs playing music. 

With avatars of different kinds showing up.

Some dressed up for a water party of a different theme.

Burners being Burners, there were a few fire bombs tossed around. 

Among the DJs there was Grease Coakes

Someone tried flying the float plane during his session. 

 At Midnight of each of the three days, there would be a showing of the movie.

Mia Wallace, who was part of the event, would make a list of others involved.

WATERWORLDS BUILDERS & CONTRIBUTORs  who all collaborated to co-create a Waterworld Art Installation @ Burn ONe!
Ray, Mia, Xiija, Belli, Trinity, Sophie, Miranda, Vesi, Cobbie, Seraphe, Minka, Laurelle, Grease Coakes, Wisdom, Vickie, Zoren, Beasil, Lyric & Magii, Ron & Mocha, Nim & Jce, ELBY, Xiled, larree, Herbie, Panda

The build will last a few more days, at least until Monday August 29. I haven't heard of any future plans for Highup. So it's possible with the presumed burning of the atoll, the sim becomes much like the waterlike void sims and soon joins them. 
As for what's next for the Burn ONe group, there's talk of a summer solstice event for next year. What will they do before that. That remains to be planned out.
Addition: More pictures of Bunrn ON's Waterworld :

The SURLS are
Bixyl Shuftan