Wednesday, July 24, 2013
By Bixyl Shuftan
It was July 20th 1969 that the first Moon Landing took place. Forty-four years later, space enthusiasts in some places took the time to celebrate. One such place was at Second Life's National Space Society, at the sim of the same name. They had planned a building contest, but instead it turned into an afternoon of music and conversation.
To begin with, the National Space Society is an organization that promotes the lasting presence of humans in space, in space stations, and eventually on the Moon and beyond. The organization is divided into smaller chapters, including one here in Second Life. Naturally, it made it's home in the Grid's region of science-oriented sims called the Sci-Lands.
"We planned on holding a building contest," Ariel told me, "but it doesn't look like we gave it enough lead time or publicity. … we didn't get our minimum of 5 entries for our Lunar Robotics Contest by the deadline." Only a few builders had entered, notably Asterion Coen, noted for his builds in Second Life science sims whom was clearly the best one. So the lunar building contest itself was postponed for another time, but the party went on. There was a dance animator, and a selection of space ballads and other Space Age themed songs, including "Fire in the Sky," "Dog on the Moon," "Queen Isabella Where Are You Now?" and the Sputnik song "Surprise" from 2007.
Remember the fifties, those fat complacent days,
when the future seemed a century away?
Then up went Sputnik,
gave the world a butt-kick,
and made it clear tomorrow starts today.
Beep beep, beep beep, hello there!
Sputnik sails giggling through the sky,
Red Flags, red faces, jump in the race,
as the Space Age begins with a surprise.
There was quite a bit of science-related talk, notably space science. This included Pluto's "demotion" from planet status a few years ago, when humans would return to the moon, having a moon base with rocket launcher capability, space elevators, Apollo 13, the Voyager probes, "Did you all know that the majority of Voyager data has still not been actually looked at?"
It was also brought up that this was the first Moon Landing anniversary since Neil Armstrong had passed away. "What is also sad is that we still aren't back to the Moon," Ariel commented, "and it looks pretty certain we won't be until well after the passing of all of the original moonwalkers. It was also brought up there was a bill in the US Congress to designate Tranquility Base as a national park. There was some debate as to how practical a move it was, but everyone agreed about the intentions, the preservation of a historic spot.
At one point Asheron razzed one of his lunar vehicle concepts, and drove it around. He would later put down some markers for the future building contest.
The Moon Landing Anniversary party was near the NSS Library. "Through the door to the Archives is a very large NASA archive / museum," Ariel told me, pointing to a doorway out of the party area. Archivist and I talked about it for a while. The NSS chapter in Second Life was started by Rocket Sellers in Dec 2007. As for the library, "The library started, sort of, when I came into SL in Nov 2008. It started as a smaller library. Then I wrote a proposal to NASA using that small exhibit based on women in space, to be expanded. They gave me land on CoLab Island, which was run and administered by NASA JPL (Jet Propulsion Labatories). That was … 2009, a few months later, when the library became (what) you see today. CoLab island closed in 2011, and the library was relocated here on NSS Island."
Of the library's contents, "The second floor of the library has the second floor dedicated to the first moon landing. It is told in a chronological order from Sputnik, to crew selection, to liftoff, landing of the Eagle, science experiments on the moon, and return to Earth with a tickertape parade. The exhibit on the second floor was inspired by the real-life Armstrong Air & Space Museum in Wapakoneta, Ohio. I used to work at that museum assisting with educational projects and giving tours. … The Apollo 11 exhibit was inspired by the museum and it's layout. I learned which images were most important, why, and to create an exhibit layout that told a story in chronological order. Because the museum gift shop in real life sold post cards that were popular images and also because the museum layout was also chronological."
Archivist went on, "We sometimes have special exhibits in addition to the permanent exhibits. For example, we have had exhibits on the Hubble Space Telescope, Mars, and CERN's LHC." There had also been some interesting events over the years, such as "Send Your Face to Space. That one was to take a photo of your avatar and upload it to a NASA site, and it was carried on the last two space shuttle missions" on a microchip. She had met one of the astronauts from the last shuttle mission, and was able to shake his hand, "He recognized me from my photo on FB and talked to me for a bit."
Shannon Bohle as she's known in real life, was at the Armstrong Air and Space Museum earlier that day, "hat an enjoyable afternoon, despite the rain delay, at the Summer Moon Festival at the Armstrong Air & Space Museum. It was a great pleasure to meet Astronaut Greg H Johnson and hear his "Astronaut Tour" talk at 4 PM. My talk on the Curiosity Rover followed his, around 5 PM. (Actually I was a somewhat last minute fill-in speaker after General Joseph Lanni cancelled). While not the focus of my talk, I mentioned a little about Curiosity's AI capabilities and some of my background in AI --including winning 2nd place in my category in a DoD-sponsored international Artificial Intelligence contest advertised by The White House, the theme being a simulated 3D Mars environment including NASA's satellites and rovers such as the Curiosity MSL rover. After my talk, the audience went outside to see and drive a scale model of the Curiosity rover."
Archivist had slides from Second Life in her presentation at the Armstrong museum (link). She had planned to stream the talk in to Second Life, but there were connection problems. One can find articles written by her in the SciLogs blog (link ).
Ariel explained they were at the Second Life Birthday, "We had an exhibit at SL10B that we had fun with. (smile) … We really got very lucky by being on the least laggy sim of the event." Asterion, who was also at the SL10B, commented, "Yeah, all visitors went to (the) NSS plot and not in mine! I was thinking to send one of my rockets there, but it failed at launching." Archivist also has an entry in the VWBPE conference about real-life/Second Life journalism.
The National Space Society in Second Life holds meetings every Monday at 3PM SL time at National Space Society (128,152,1261). The national organization's website is: http://www.nss.org/ .
On a final note, Second Life has been the scene of some impressive Moon Landing builds. One is the Saturn V rocket at the International Space Museum in Spaceport Alpha. On the fifty year anniversary in 2009, there was a flyable SaturnV that launched every half hour that took any pilots aboard into orbit (link).
Wednesday, July 17, 2013
By Bixyl Shuftan
Saturday July 13th to Sunday July 14th marked the high point of the Relay For Life's fundraising season: the Relay Weekend. Across the forty-some sims of the Relay track, hundreds of avatars walked, occasionally stopping at the dozens of exhibits made in the teams' camps. Numerous smaller events took place, both in and out of the Relay sims. Like other Relays, it was a time to both have fun and celebrate successes, in addition to reflecting on friends whom were lost. For this ninth Relay, some milestones were set, including one fundraising goal for the Relay as a whole.
At 10AM SL time, the Opening Ceremonies took place at the meeting point of the four RFL Activities sims. People were dropping in before the event, and for good reason. More than 150 residents appeared at the building there, noted for it's towering upside-down "Y" shaped structure of glass on top, which lit up when peoples' viewers were at Midnight. And with all the residents present, came the inevitable lag, which meant for most the screen was filled with clouds, gray avatars, and the occasional mesh glitch for a while.
Seated in the center were the Relay Committee. They thanked the various teams for their efforts at raising funds, and individuals for their teamwork. They touted Second Life as a means for people to get together, dismissing those who see the Internet as a land of deception. Then described how it could be used for a cause, the fight against cancer. Then some inspirational speeches were made, which at times brought some residents to cry, "Oh my God, this woman has me in tears." Following that a list of the Relay teams was read out. At the end, the Committee gave the all clear to head to the track, "Now let's go Relay!" The crowd erupted in cheers, as the radio switched to Elton John's song "Still Standing."
One recent change in Second Life got some talk among the Relayers, "Project Sunshine." This effort by Linden Lab to upgrade the Grid meant that those with older viewers would have more problems seeing the details of other avatars, as well as appearing gray to others as well. And as the avatars went down the track, most appeared gray, getting color only if they paused or had passed the camp.
The way the Relay sims are set up, a sim can only have so much traffic before it is "closed" and appears to those outside as just water. This happened a number at times, and the result was a "pile up" of avatars at sim borders on the track. Some just waited for it to reopen while others skipped ahead to the next one. A few sims crashed and were outright offline from the Grid. Fortunetly, a few Lindens were around to remedy these problems. And with the lag, residents were crashing quite a bit. One Relayer jokingly called it, "Crash For Life."
But the reasons for the lag were that so many friends were around, and others joining in the Relay's cause. So few complained much.
The first race were for the "Tiny Giant Snails," and I stood out with my freebie red one that I had picked up. I had a bit of a slow start due to forgetting to press the "always run" option for my viewer.While going on, there was a slingshot that allowed one to zip ahead if stepped into right, as well as obstacles like bouncy mushrooms and a twisty maze. I got lost in the maze, and ended up coming in last place.
Second race, it was time for the standard Giant Snails. I had an old one, so got that out. It certainly wasn't as dressed up as those of the girls who regularly raced. It took a little getting used to. To those watching, the giant snails were an amusing sight as they waddled around as they raced, spewing bubbles from their mouths. "Tiny giants" just zipped down the track. Not surprisingly, I came in last place again.
Third race, I ended up briefly in the lead, though later heard when seeing the recording of the event that I had accidentally cut through the end of a maze hedge, "Has the fox traded in his fedora for a top hat and twirly mustache?" This time however, I went through the maze somehow avoiding a single wrong turn. I came in second to last place this time. RacerX thanked everyone, and told us we'd each get a trophy later on for participating.
At 7PM was the musicians lap, and at 8PM many residents went chrome dome for the "bald is beautiful" lap. At 9PM was a special hour, the Luminaria Ceremony. All chat out in the open ceased, and the track went Midnight dark, the luminaries lighting up the path. Many instead of walking sat at their camps, reflecting on family, or friends, whom had lost their struggle with cancer.
At 9AM was the formal hour, and at 10AM were the Closing Ceremonies. Once again, people gathered at the RFL Activities Center. The Relay Committee once again thanked everyone, and gave out various awards. DrFran's team tied for second place for the Cancer Education Awareness Award and came in third for the Best Theme-Decorated Campsite Award. First place for the Designer Sim Award was Ub Yifu's RFL Imagine and Journey.
There were speeches given, among them a funny one by "Stinky the Skunk," or rather someone speaking in his behalf with a "speeded up" voice ala "Alvin and the Chipmunks." There was also a serious one by Stingray, "The Empty Table."
"We call your attention to the small table that occupies a place of dignity and honor. It is set for one, symbolizing the fact that some of our loved ones are missing from this gathering. They have been diagnosed with cancer, and they are some of the names and faces behind luminaries. The chair is empty. Many of those who fought the battle with cancer are no longer with us, but rather than mourning their loss, we choose to celebrate their life. These people are unable to be with their loved ones and families now, so let us join together to recognize and honor them, and to bear witness to their struggle and their memory. … "
The speech went on, concluding with, "But, the candle represents the light of hope that lives in the hearts of all of us -- hope represented by cancer survivors and the hope for a cure discovered as a result of the detailed work of the medical profession made able through funds generated through events such as Relay For Life."
"Thank you for joining in this fight."
Following the Closing Ceremony, people went back on the track for the "Victory Lap," as well as seeing what exhibits they missed. People also went to various events across the track. At Trader Whiplash's T-1 Radio's location was one of the larger parties, the "I Don't Want to Go Home Party." There, a few dozen avatars whooped it up to the music. There were some team leaders there such as Fuzzball Ortega of the Steelhead Salmons and a number of other personalities there, such as DJ Madonna noted for her latex outfits. And Aryon Dagger, whom at one point donned an R2-D2 avatar, "Oh great, now we'll have to start bleeping out everything she says."
That would be the last event I was in that day. Eventually, the party ended, and we either logged off, or went back to exploring the track. Part of the time was spent welcoming back one Second Life resident whom hadn't been online in a few years, busy with both his military career and family. Needless to say, there were a lot of changes since he had last been on. He eventually had to go, and it was later on that my Relay Weekend came to a close somewhere on the track while exploring.
There were a very few residents in Second Life who did not share my enthusiasm for the Relay. These people felt the cure to all cancer already existed, but the powers-that-be were keeping it to themselves, either to squeeze money from the masses, or as part of some scheme to keep them dependent. But if this were true, why do the rich and powerful also get sick and die from cancer?
But more importantly, many of my friends and neighbors whom had been with the Redheads were either too sick or otherwise held up by real life matters to attend, or just plain burned out. The team had crashed hard, and some former members were still smarting. Perhaps next year they'll be ready to Relay with the Sunbeamers. But other neighbors joined me on the track, so I was far from alone.
The camps will be up for a few more days. The sims last until Saturday, and the builders were asked to clean up then or Friday. One might want to explore early if possible as a few builders like to pick up their exhibits early.
Already, the Relayers are talking about plans for next year. There's talk of a "Team Stinky" in honor of Stinky the Skunk. And next month more awards will be given out. at the "Wrap-Up" Party in August, including the "Spirit of Relay" awards for the most noted team and individual.
It was an exciting Relay Weekend.
First two images from DrFran Babcock
Thursday, July 11, 2013
By Bixyl Shuftan
On Saturday July 6th, the Steelhead community held their annual horse races for the Relay For Life. Every year, the steampunk community holds the event to raise cash for the American Cancer Society. And this year, a number people took part.
The action took place on a platform high above Steelhead Shanghai. People were asked to arrive at 5PM SL time or a little before. Dropping in, there were a few people there, with more coming as time went on. The entry fee for the race was fairly small, a donation of fifty Lindens in the Steelhead Salmon's RFL kiosk. TotalLunar Eclipse, the elven Steelhead co-owner, commented, "This is the first time I've done a race on my own," saying Fuzzball Ortega had some real life matters to attend to, "We'll have a specific 'horse race,' then an all animal race." The third race would be a "free for all" which was open to all, including avatars. Races would be first two races would be two laps. The third would have three. The winners would get trophies created by Lunar.
For the first race, the largest mount was a huge white stallion, "Ithax," belonging to Baron Klaus Wulfenbach (klauswulfenbach. outlander). Bringing out his horse, Lunar was greeted with some curious looks and a couple chuckles, a unicorn with a rainbow mane and tail, "He was a gift from Riven. … I'm riding 'Nyan Cat' horse." "I think he's pretty," Softpaw Sommer, a fairy catgirl commented. Her horse also stood out, purple and a little translucent. Garnet Psaltery of Babbage also took part with her horse "Daemon." Garnet stands shorter than the tall Lunar, but her horse was larger than the elven leader's smallish mount, "How funny to be able to look you in the eye, Lunar." Stereo Nacht was lent a horse by Sidonie Ancelin.
A practice run given to those showing up on time had varied results. The Baron's huge stallion proved stubborn. But Stereo's speed got a wide-eyed look from Lunar , "your horse is a bat out of hell." "Danke," the Baron spoke up, "he's from my stables." "She gave it some nitro beforehand," Lunar commented. Sidone grinned, "Isn't he a handsome boy. Pif is a *rocket!*" "I shall need him back," the Baron told her. Sidone protested, "Mine!"
"Okay, one more race," Tensai reminded everyone, "Anything goes! Cars, horses, kittens, whatever. … ANY vehicle or creature." Nobody brought in a vehicle, though Lunar changed to a pegasus avatar and entered himself. I myself entered with my "Shiave" raptor-like mount. Garnet entered Magnificat again. Satu entered the fire mount for the third race. Liam also entered once again.
There was a bit of funnery as Sidone grabbed Liam's hat. Liam briefly snarled, but shrugged it off, "De forst plaze trophy, Hy tink, goez to Klaus," saying he was just a jockey. The Baron answered, "Was? Bah! You did the riding. You can put the trophy up in Der Hut, though." "Dot vill vork. … It iz victory for all of Vulfenbach Jaeger, proofing dot horzez is indeedt hyuzeful for more den eatink, or ridink into fight."
The only problem for Liam was he couldn't take home two trophies, so the Third Race trophy went to the second place rider, me. Liam approved anyway and applauded, "Hy chust like ridink horzez … " Getting her trophy, Garnet thanked Lunar, "I'll give it a place of honor." Of his trophy with the red gemstone, Liam asked, "Doez de red part taschte like schtrawberriez?" He then tasted it, with the others chuckling or going "Eww." Liam looked up, "Vot?"
The fun continued with some people remaining on the track for a while. One bystander changed into another horse av, and began chewing on Satu, "Ack! MY head!" Another horse was brought onto the track to practice, Sephiroth, and Sidonie commented after seeing him rocket down the track, "The Baron will have to go get him."
Once again, the results were:
First Race: Liam Richter
Second Race: Garnet Psaltery
Third Race: Liam Richter
The races were part of the Steelhead Salmon's RFL festival, which went on until the following day. It would be among the community's last events before the Relay Walk the following weekend.
Friday, July 5, 2013
On the evening of July 4rth, Areo Pines held their annual Independence Day music concert. The place was crowded, close to fifty avatars present at times. The event took place at the Equus sim. This was the seventh year the virtual forest park has held these events.
Sorry for the late invite but the sim has been packed! Come experience and up close and personal High Quality concert with the EAGLES as we Rock in the USA!!!!
There were a number of lawn chairs set up for people to sit in. Or one could sit at one of the picnic tables and grab a hot dog. One of the park rangers was at a grill, serving up burgers and more franks. There were also dispensers one could pick up sparklers, and some of the people there had them in hand.
There were also some beer kegs about. No word on whether or not anyone was picked up for horseback riding while intoxicated.
Being a 4rth of July party, many were dressed in red white and blue. One was dressed in a "Wonder Woman" outfit. There was also a horse avatar walking about. And Areo Pines Park owner Cindy Bolero was there, dancing away with the group as the music from the "Eagles" played.
The event went late into the evening, the place still packed and all having fun.
Areo Pines Park has many events around the year. Plus any day people can come by for horseback riding, or just walk the forest trails at their own pace.