Monday, November 13, 2017

Commentary: Ten Years of Writing About Second Life


By Bixyl Shuftan

For most in Second Life, their big day is their rezzday. For me, I've had other milestones. There was when I first began logging onto the Grid on a regular basis, when I got my fox avatar, and most importantly, when I first became a journalist here, in November 2007.

My journey to Second Life actually started almost a year earlier. Although I'd been told about Second Life before, notably by an online friend who went by Kamilah Hauptman here, telling me how great the place was, that unlike an MMO one could build their own place and look how they wanted. But as I only had dial-up Internet at the time, I didn't think I could access the place. Finally in Dec 2006 I got high speed Internet and came here. Unfortunetly, Kamilah was suddenly unavailable due to new responsibilities. Going around, I found mostly just homes and ban lines, with no idea where the events were or how to find interesting places. There was no Destination Guide back then to look for them. So my visits became few and far between, spending more time in "World of Warcraft" with friends whom were available.

Things began to change in July 2007. Kamilah told me about the Relay for Life, and gave me the landmark for the Relay Track. Seeing many interesting builds, my interest in Second Life was rekindled, and I began to both learn more about how to go about and look around. I came across Luskwood, and began finding friends there. I soon ditched the starter ringtail for a red Luskwood Fox, and began looking over newsletters and blogs about the virtual world. The most interesting of these was "Second Life Newspaper," owned by JamesT Juno and edited by Dana Vanmoer. I found it more informative about what one could see and do in Second Life than certain other tablodish webpages. After reading it for a while, I saw a call for readers to send them stories and interesting pictures. So I sent in a few, feeling at least it would get me a little attention. It got me more than a little; James and Dana asked me in for an interview. During the chat, they were satisfied with what I could offer, and I was invited to join the team. With my first payment for a story, I bought an overcoat and a fedora, the classic reporter's garb. Combined with my avatar, it made for the "Fox Reporter" look that I continue to wear to this day as my everyday look.

I would write about all kinds of subjects in Second Life, it's people, places, and events. There were popular places and noted personalities, and there were out of the way locations that I found interesting and relatively unknown people whom had done things I felt were worthy of attention. There were many events, such as holiday celebrations, openings and the anniversaries of locations, the Second Life Birthday event, Burning Life, which was later changed to Burn2, the Relay for Life, and many more. There was the occasional personal experience that I found noteworthy. And there were the screenshot cartoons that I would send in every week. I was always able to find something noteworthy to write about every week, covering a little bit of everything, and was always finding scenes with potential humor. And we were a team, were I made friends such as Gemma Cleanslate, Grey Lupindo, Covadonga Writer, Shelly Sands, Nazz Lane, and many others. Eventually, I was giving the position of "Office Manager," which meant updating the paper when Dana couldn't.

Not everything went well. Sadly one of the first things I would write about in 2008 was the closing of my first hangout after Luskwood, the STA, and over the next few months many of my friends at the time would drop out of the Grid. Over time, I would be invited to be a part of other places and groups in Second Life, the Fortunas Club and Fortunas Estates, the Woodlin community (not to be confused with Woodland which had a different atmosphere) and the Star Tails club, the Foxworth community and the Blue Parrot Club (later known as the Bahama Beach Club or BBC). But all of these locations would eventually close and fade, with nothing left but screenshots and memories, and the treehouse I would take with me from Woodlin. It wasn't until Spring 2010 that I finally found a place that lasted, and became a part of the Sunweaver and Angels community, where I remain to this day.

By this time, my role in virtual journalism was about to change. In Fall 2009, JamesT Juno had to depart Second Life, and Dana Vanmoer wasn't able to give the time to the paper she once could. So she reluctantly made the decistion to close Second Life Newspaper. I along with the rest of the team was shocked and saddened. The newspaper had been such a big part of our experience in the virtual world, we couldn't imagine life here without it. So I talked with the others, and three others, Gemma, Grey, and Shelie, agreed to join me in the founding of a new paper that would take over from where James and Dana left off: The Second Life Newser. With the new paper starting up in June 2010, my role changed from being just one of the reporters to the editor and head of the publication. The Sunweaver/Angels offered us a place for the office at the start, and we soon had an inworld office. Under a new banner, we kept on covering the people, places, and events across the virtual world.

Over the past ten years, much has changed in Second Life. I came on when it was the darling of the tech media, considered "Internet 2.0," and mentioned in big media, including newspapers and TV news, even prime time TV shows. By the time the Newser took over from the old SLN, it was already fading from public view and the public was changing it's attention to other computer applications it could easier understand, such as Facebook. Many places here have come and gone. A few such as The Lost Gardens of Apollo have been lucky enough to be brought back by Linden Lab. Second Life's media has changed as well. Treet  TV used to do live programing across the Grid, viewable on inworld TV sets. Today, live programing is a rarity, reserved for a few special events. Shows like "Tonight Life" and "The 1st Question" that went on for a number of years are gone.

But while some things have been lost as time has gone on, there have also been some additions. Over time, new people have come to Second Life and made their own marks on the Grid. New places and builds have been constructed, giving those here new areas to explore. There's always something new here. One just needs to know where to find it.

Of "The Lab," as the residents call Linden Lab, the owners of Second Life, the love/hate relationship the residents have with them is still there. When I first came on there was some interaction with the residents. But after Linden Lab's founder Philip Rosedale/Philip Linden stepped down, they seemed to become more distant. Then with the appearance of the current CEO Ebbe Altberg/Ebbe Linden, there was more interaction again. But while the increased interaction helps, the view the residents have of The Lab is still mixed. They appreciate it's founders inventing Second Life, and the present company maintaining it. But at the same time they groan, sometimes curse at it for it's blunders. It seems the Lab puts developing new bells and whistles to getting rid of bugs and glitches. When it comes to banning people, there's a general feeling that the Lab has a way of being unable to stop a location from being repeatedly griefed by day-old alts made by the same owner, yet accounts that have lasted for years end up banned for trivial infractions. And then there is Sansar. While a few people here see promise in the "next generation virtual world" as it was originally called, at least some years from now, most residents see it as a waste of Linden Lab's time and their money, feeling all Sansar does for them is delay the amount of time bugs and glitches get fixed and raise their fees.

For myself, there have been ups and downs along the way. Old friends have stopped coming on, often when real life demands their full attention or otherwise makes it impossible to be here. This includes some hands at the Newser staff, of whom we've had to say goodbye to some talented writers such as DrFran Babcock. But new ones have continued to come in to bring in their own skill at reporting, such as Deaflegacy and Klaus Bereznyak. My home of the Sunweaver and Angels Estates has seen some changes, sims vanishing and appearing, clubs closing and opening, and people leaving and coming in. Club Zero Gravity for instance had to close it's doors for a time when finances forced it to, but recently reopened back and as good as ever. I myself have been helping Nydia Tungsten and Skylark Lefavre manage the community's beach club the Happy Vixen.

So what's ahead? Ten years ago, I had no real idea what my future was here beyond the next year or two. I never saw myself two and a half years later heading the publication that would replace the one my old employers had then. Despite Linden Lab's heavy handedness at times, it's a safe bet the Grid will still be around for a few more years, probably several more years, unless there's a major catastrophe such as a devastating earthquake in California that takes out the Lab and it's servers. I have expanded my writing beyond the virtual world, doing a blog about matters outside of Second LIfe, which I named "Food on the Table" on hopes it will eventually lead me to a writing job I can make a full time living on. I've also been writing a science-fiction novel on the side, the working title being "The Corsean Encounter." In the story, two humans end up on a pre-Industrial alien world, followed later by others with hostile intentions. If it does modestly well, I'll write more.

But I have no plans on stopping my reporting on Second Life, and the good this virtual world can do for people. As long as you keep reading, as long as I have a team by my side and as long as I'm able to, I'll keep on writing about the news here..

Bixyl Shuftan

Monday, November 6, 2017

The Media Looks At Second Life: Ars Technica and Atlantic Monthly Write About The Grid


By Bixyl Shuftan

Second Life got no shortage of attention from both the tech media and mainstream media in it's golden age, when it was regularly featured in both online and real life technology publications, newspapers, real life TV news and science programs, and more. These days, not so much. So when larger media writes about the virtual world these days, it gets the attention of residents.

Ars Technica, an online publication about news and opinion articles about technology, published an article on October 23 by Samuel Axon. Axon had been in Second Life in earlier years "and found it to be more successful (and less ambitious) than its critics and commentators advertised." Wondering how it had changed, he recently came back. So what did Axon think of Second Life today? On one hand, he felt "the platform today enjoys a healthy community."

One example of this is the commerce the residents engage in, such as in breedable pets of which the rarest "still sell for thousands of US dollars." But the making of the goods has changed as technologies like mesh and Bento mean the "hobbyists and tinkerers have given way to more experienced professionals." And "the Amazonification of retail seems to have happened to Second Life" with shopping taking place less in inworld stores and more on Marketplace.

And it wasn't just traveling to stores that people were spending less time doing inworld, but exploring in general. Axon wrote, "as with the shopping experience, discovery and exploration are things some users are not all happy with right now." While there is some traveling to different places on the Grid, "most of the action really happens around events or on private property." The Destination Guide, Axon feels, doesn't get that much attention. He stated that this lack of exploring didn't necessarily mean "Second Life has become is any less interesting. It’s just more evidence that Second Life has evolved into something more specific and personalized. "

Axon also touched on the issue of sex, which he stated is "often one of the first things people think of when Second Life comes up." Although it still goes on he wrote, what he went on to say was a big contrast in the picture some in larger media give, "just as I was years ago, I’m convinced that framing it primarily as a cybersex emporium isn’t accurate. Anecdotally, it seems to me that the same or even a smaller segment of Second Life is dedicated to sex-related content when compared to what you’d find in the Internet at large. Second Life is, above all else, a gathering place for people with special interests. In some cases, that means Star Trek role-playing nights. In others, it means very specific fetish dungeons. Like the Internet, Second Life simply stands as an expression of the diversity of human experience."

Besides Ars Technica, another publication has taken an interest in Second Life. New World Notes recently reported that Atlantic Monthly (https://www.theatlantic.com/) would soon "feature an in-depth exploration of Second Life ... both online and in print." The article was written by Lesile Jamison. Hamlet Au talked to her, and she told him, "I found users generous and acute and incredibly thoughtful about why Second Life was meaningful to them," whatever the reason. She also found help when trying to learn about how to get around.

Hamlet was optimistic about Jamison's article, saying this "could be the most essential article on Second Life written in its roughly 15 year history." We'll soon find out, as the article should be published in mid-November

Sources: Ars Technica, New World Notes, lesliejamison.com/
Bixyl Shuftan

Monday, October 23, 2017

Barbie Alchemi on Creations For Parkinson's


By Wesley Regenbogen

About Barbie Alchemi

Barbie Alchemi is the founder of Creations Park. She created this place with the help of her family, and holds events there for Team Fox, for the Michael. J. Fox Foundation. Her real life father died with Parkinson’s and one year later her mother was diagnosed with the disease as well. Her brother introduced her to Second Life about eight years ago and her mother spend more and more time in Second Life and it improved her real life by doing so. They were all so amazed that Second Life had a so positive influence on her real life management of the disease that they felt that they needed to do something positive with their time on Second Life. Her mother is 90 years old in real life now and she is still active in Second Life today!

Interview

I met Barbie Alchemi in Creations Park. First I asked how she got into Second Life and how she created Creations Park. The answer to that question is in the introduction above. Next I asked how the raise money fo the foundation in Second Life. They started to raise money and awareness for Parkinson’s disease. Over the last eight years they raised 10 Million Lindens ( over 40,000 USD ). In addition to raising donations, they have held a weekly support group, which is open to anyone with Parkinson’s.

This year they created a Gotham Halloween Event, which is held the whole month of October 2017. They have 75 shops with fashions and home and garden decorations. Barbie told me, "You can explore our Haunted House, Cemetery and Asylum with wonderful details and surprises at every turn. We have a fun Amusement Park with Halloween themed rides and also a Lil' Pumpkin Park for families to bring their children"

They will have a fabulous line-up of DJs and live singers. They will have three performances of the "Misfit Dance and Performance Art Troupe" at 5pm Oct 21, 28 and 29. There is a raffle and auction. And we have a terrific HUNT with original gifts in every shop for only 10L each!

Then I asked how the donations are done for the foundation. She replied to me We believe it is very important for people in SL to know how their donations are handled. Our family covers all SL expenses. Team Fox has arranged to have LL to wire all donations and money raised directly to the Team Fox Headquarters. Visitors can donate at the cute Ghost Kiosks we have around the sim. And 50% - 100% of all shop sales are scripted to go to the official Team Fox Account.
"We are extremely proud to tell you that The Michael J Fox Foundation has the top rating from Charity Navigators. Team Fox gives 100% to The MJF Foundation. They have perhaps the lowest overhead of any major charity, at only 11% !!! Which means that 89% of Your donations are going into the most promising research. We are getting closer every day to a cure. And when that cure is found it will help lead to a cure for all other neurological diseases. “
Then I asked how she manages to create the sim and the decorations. She wanted to thank a few people for this, "This event could only be possible with our talented team who has worked so well together." She listed them as.
Rose Mikaelson (djroseathena)- Events for Parkinson's Coordinator
Nola Hellershanks- Events for Parkinson's Co-Coordinator
allιє pαrĸєr (swazeyrivers)- Event Music Coordinator
Miyushu Babii- Assistant Decorator
Ayesha - Solace Beach Estates (ayesha.lytton)- Amusement Park
Linden Labs- Region Sponsor
Then I asked her how she sees the future of the sim and the events she holds for the foundation. She told me, “ Gotham Island will be here for the month of October. Creations Park has been our permanent region for 6 years now. We will continue with the fabulous Shopping, Hunts, Music and on-going weekly fun activities which we all enjoy. Our Events for Parkinson's Team has some fun plans for another big event this Spring and more in the future!"
I thanked her for the interview and wished her luck with the sim and her events for the Michael J. Fox Foundation.
You can visit the place at this SLURL :
Check out this video :


Wesley Regenbogen

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

News and Commentary: "Fat Shaming" Publicity Stunt By Store Draws Protests, Traffic


By Bixyl Shuftan

Trolls have harassed stores throughout the history of Second Life. But it's not often when it's the store that does the trolling.

The "No Fat Chicks" meme has been around for some decades, both an insult to women of large size and a suggestion that the speaker is both shallow and insensitive. As it's usually men with juvenile streaks in their mentalities that use it, I was surprised to hear about a store that had a sign with the slogan, and an image of a black outline of a large woman with the international "not allowed" red slash sign. Beside the sign was another offering free "No Fat" shirts made for the store's (thin) female avatar.

Looking at the profile of the owner, I found this description:

Fat in your body! Fat in your a**! Fat in your boobs! Fat in your brain! Fat! Fat! Fat!.... OMG!!!!
STOP IT! PLEASE!
Remember that real beautiful girl Is the slender and graceful, and not looks as a fat pig!
Stop to be fat! Back to graceful!

Yours truly has seen a few female avatars in the past several years sporting what could be called a "Kardashian" look, large behinds and thighs. While there are ways to suggest the more extreme forms of this kind of look are less than realistic, this is hardly the way to do so and expect people to listen. On the Second Life Friends Facebook page and New World Notes, there were pictures and descriptions of protests of women avatars, both large and otherwise, at the store. While yours truly came at a time there weren't any, there was someone at the store who told me there had been, "Yesterday there was a protest here, it's a horrible shop. Today I came to see if there were people protesting."

But have the protests backfired? The presence of the women were certainly an increase in traffic, which does get noticed by the inworld Search function. So they may have inadvertently ended up drawing shoppers to the place. There was a sign at the store placed by the owner that appeared to be aimed at the protesters.

Thank you very much for promoting my brand, my store and my products! Before I was need to pay money for to raise a traffic, but you do it for free! Please continue your flash mob! Do not stop! I love you all!

So if one can look however they want to, why would these girls chose to be plump? Yours truly can think of a few reasons. Maybe they don't want to look like everyone else. Maybe they're plump in real life and see wearing a thin avatar as being less than honest. Maybe they're trying to avoid being IMed for sex repeatedly. In any event, it's their avatar, and with a few exceptions such as racial stereotypes, they can look however they want to.

And it's my impression most men would prefer a woman with a few extra pounds and a sweet disposition than a thin woman who's a rhymes-with-witch.



Image Credit: Fia Wycliffe

Bixyl Shuftan

Monday, September 18, 2017

Bay City, "Hot Bay City Nights," And Other Events

By Deaflegacy

Marianne McCann is a resident of Bay City.  She also organize and run the Bay City Alliance, a group for other Bay City residents to meet and work together to the betterment of the community.  Marianne also had the great, good fortune of being able to help manage and present events for Bay City for several years now.  As long as the folks feel that Marianne is doing a good job, as long as she physically can, and as long as Second Life and Bay City exists, she will continue doing that.

Marianne hopes that Bay City has many more years to come.  “It's a great community with some great people in it. I hope we'll see more good folks become its citizens, and we'll continue to have fun long into the future..” said Marianne.

“Bay City is a unique little slice of the Second Life mainland. It's about 24 residential regions and about the same number of Linden Lab owned ones, decorated by the LDPW "Moles." It's loosely themed to the American Urban Experience, circa 1945-1965, with a distinct art deco influence. Unlike much of the mainland, Bay City has developed a strong community of folks who have sought to make the place all that more special.” said Marianne.

Marianne would say that Bay City is a very special place because it's a great blend of people and places, all seemingly working in concert.  It makes Marianne happy to see.

Bay City will have large events just about monthly.  Most are concerts, or at least have a musical components.  They can take many forms.  For an example, February “Mole day” event honors the LPWD, and their work helping to build Bay City.  In the holidays, they have a “Tree Lighting” event that includes charitable giving and live music, etc. They also have two weekly events.  Their meetings happen every Tuesday, while a weekly “rumble” race happens Thursday nights.  Toward the end of September, they usually have their Oktoberfest.  Oktoberfest is a Germanic tradition.  All big beer-focused, harvest-time event.  Oktoberfest is usually a couple hours long, with Djed music and much celebrating. Details are, as yet, pending.

Marianne would recommend Bay City to newcomers who come to Second Life for the first time.  “It's a great place to sightsee and explore, with a lot of mole and resident made content with visiting.” said Marianne.  “It's a good place and a great community.”

I got a chance to ask Marianne about "Hot Bay City Nights".  Marianne said, "Well, the "Hot Bay City Nights" event is designed to be a vintage car show and sale, focusing on the Bay City "theme era" of 1945-1965. We will bring in vendors to show their cars at the fairgrounds. We also have a couple other events at the same time: car washes to support Child's Play Charity, and the "Miss Bay City" pageant."

The first "Hot Bay City Nights" was in 2012.  The name is a take-off on "Hot August Nights", an annual vintage/custom car show in Reno, Nevada.

As long as the folks are interested and Linden Lab keeps the lights on, then Marianne suspects that they will keep doing it.

"Well, it's a group effort. This year it was primarily ran by Maureen Boccaccio and ADudeNamed Anthony, in that they did much of the decor, arranged for the vendors, and organized a lot of other details. I was also part of the planning and set up. Meanwhile, Evola Courtois managed our charity car wash, GoSpeed Racer DJed Miss Bay City, and Pygar Bu emceed Miss Bay City. So it's really done by a number of us around town." said Marianne when asked about people in charge of "Hot Bay City Nights".

"Hot Bay City Nights" ran from August 19 to 27, 2017.  Miss Bay City was held during the event on the 27th.  The car wash was held on the 23rd, if Marianne's memory serves.

Sounds like I have missed out on the fun but there is always next year and I'm already looking forward to the next event!

You can look up more about Bay City at it's Community Center at Daley Bay (234/24/25)

Deaflegacy

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

A Double Sim Move in the Sunweaver Estates


By Bixyl Shuftan

The map of the neighborhood the Second Life Newser office sits in will soon be changing. For years, the Sunweaver Estates has had Pacific Waters in the northern part of the land owned by Cynthia Farshore and the home of the Farshore Field airport. And in the eastern middle part of the landscape there was Sunlight Bay, owned by Nydia Tungsten and the home of Mouse Hole Manor. Right now, the two sims are undergoing an ownership swap. When finished, Mouse Hole Manor will be at the end of the estates in Pacific Waters, and Farshore Field will be in Sunlight Bay in the more centrist position with planes able to fly in from two directions.

Over the last 4 air shows and in general this field has been hampered by the restrictions of only having one open side. I have asked Nydia to help me by doing a land swap. So starting now you will see things disappearing on Pacific waters and Sunlight Bay, don't be alarmed.


Yep, here's the deal, Cynthia needs a sim with access on both sides for her airport to do better. She has come to me asking if we can swap. I see no reason we can't help her out. So, that means we need to pack everything up and be ready to move. I would like everything up by Thursday if possible. I have a few Idea's on creating a home  for us, maybe a beach house? We'll see. Please start packing things up when you get this notice. Thank you my angels.

I would have a few words with both Cynthia and Nydia on Tuesday evening inside her Goblin Cave. Cynthia told me, "I'm just now getting the working area cleared." Of how long it would talk, "The aim is to have the some things in place and ownerships done by Thursday evening. (The) reason is the local renfair starts this coming weekend, and my tent has about everything but Internet. ... Nydia already has her sim cleared. I need to get all my things off so we can changed renters." Sunweaver chief Rita Mariner, who was there, stated, "Everything but the road is off Sunlight Bay, but if I need to remove that, it's a minor thing."

Cynthia stated it was she who first had the idea of switching the sims, "I begin seeing problems when I first built the strip. I had it a lot shorter because you were so close to the sim border taking off one way. And then you hit the sim crossing coming in but others as well as myself found it too short. Long story short, found the sim with only one open way too confined, First air show, everyone including me kept running into the sim border and either the plane went poof or crashed. Over time things got better, but nothing can fix the closed borders but getting a sim with open ones. So I started looking at what sims could fit the bill and one was Sunlight Bay. I like it because it was centered and opened across."

The airport owner mentioned some possibilities, "You can put a runway in and use both ends, or put in two runways in an 'X.' There can be more area for a wharf. You can see Raschid's pierside warehouse is stuck in a tiny nook. ... I will try to have a passage all the way around, you'll notice right now you can't sail behind Nydia's house. There wil certainly be open water where there is right now. However, to place the things there will be less water. But you will be able to sail through. I do want a small port so we can have boat traffic, as well as plane. Which means we may be able to seriously look at a boat race for next year's Relay for Life." Rita then boke in, "I do want a pedal car race next year too." Cynthia commented, "Rita wants a race using cars she is capable of driving." "Slow enough to stay on the darn track!" Rita laughed.

Cynthia looked around the Goblin Cave, "I will see if I can give it a slightly larger dance floor, since we have dragons among us now," meaning DJ Geerkil and a few of his dragon peers, "So it will need a larger entrance and dance floor. Both easy to do when it is moved." Rita joked, "Since dragons smoke, we will have to designate this a smoking bar." There was a bit of joking back and forth for a few minutes.

It was agreed that everyone would be ready to swap the sims on Thursday, "I think Thursday is fine," Cynthia felt, "I can see I'm still going to be packing through tomorrow. Just look at the cave alone how much there is."

After Rita left, Cynthia stated of the railroad bridge connecting Pacific waters to the sim to the south, it would still be around, but probably adjusted slightly. The Puddle Jumper mall would not be moved, but torn down and replaced with a more 19th Century looking building, "It's building design is not fitting with the steampunk theme I'm aiming for. ... It will be a taller one to take less land space." She didn't have a design for it just yet, " looking around but may still just build my own." Much of the road around Farshore Field would likely be scrapped, though, "Tjere already is one running through. That said I, will have it stored and can pull it out for the Relay races. "And the new way the sim will be laid out will allow new things to be thought up for the races."

"As Shocky (Shockwave Yareach) said, it's exciting. The door has opened to new possiblities. ... It will be a lot of work coming so there will be constrution for a long time."

Talking with Nydia, She told me, "When she approached me with the Idea, I agreed that an airport should have at least two ways in and out, and we spoke some more, and I agreed to the swap to help her out. So we emptied out our sim today for her to start her side." She then took me to Sunlight Bay. "Goddess, this place looks empty...." Nydia looked around, " It hasn't looked like this in a while." For only the second time in many years, the first being a brief time between the taking down of the old Castle Mouse Hole and the setting up of the new Mouse Hole Manor, the sim was practically bare. there was only the Sunweaver road going from HV Community to the east and to Sunweaver Space to the north,

"Seems wierd not calling this sim home any more *laughs* But, one of the Angels had a need for a better area. We will still be in the Sunweaver community, which is a very important thing to us, and to me. I have been with the sun weavers from almost day one as you know. Being here among them, being allowed to have one of my Sims here with Rita, it means a lot to me."

I asked Nydia about any possible changes to the vicinity of Mouse Hole Manor besides the move. She told me, "I am toying with a few ideas, semi tropical themed, you know me. I have always been a sucker for a good beach. We plan on still having the open water area for the community, for small  boats and personal water craft, maybe even some fishing. Rita and Cynthia will have the road and train coming to our sim, to maybe a pier and have the house across the lake." I mentioned Cynthia's plans for a wharf and boat traffic, and suggested if there might be a little boating between the two sims. Nydia answered, "There is the small river between the two sims, so that is quite the possibility."

Nydia allows a few guests to reside at her manor, and I asked how they were handling the move. She answered, "Of the ones that live here most have said they had no problem with the move once they knew why. I think the most difficult part of the move for me is picking up each of the movies, almost 300 of them. *laughs*" "That is a lot of movies," I commented. "Yeah, but again, it is more of a hang out thing. I leave them out so no one needs to be in a group or anything to come watch them, quite a few of them have been requests. I don't mind opening my home for people to watch a few movies. As long as they respect personal spaces ( Bedrooms) and respect others that are there, all are welcome."

Nydia thought more about possible changes, "We started a theater, when we first had that 1/4 sim, an underwater theater. I am thinking I may put up a form of water theater thing time, with innertubes for seats....maybe? Ranchan helped me with that (the theater), I am no builder by any means, I am lucky I know so many talented builders. ... We'll have the family club of course, have a personal water craft everyone can use. ... I want someplace that the Angels can be proud of."

Although Nydia's home will now be at one end of the Sunweaver Estates instead of the middle, that doesn't mean she'll be less involved, "Just because I will not be next to my sim HV (Community) doesn't mean I won't still be keeping an eye on it." She will still be dropping by Ranchan's space carrier a few times every week and her partner Brandi Streussel has her shop next to the Newser office.

And so, the Sunweaver Estates will see the biggest change in a while with two sim owners swapping sims and structures. And both will be exploring the new possibilities that the move allows them to take advantage of. The Sunweavers could very well see more flying and boating around in the near future.

Bixyl Shuftan

Monday, July 31, 2017

Little Issues: Explaining The "Fox Reporter" Look.


By Bixyl Shuftan

Most of what I write about is at least mildly serious, such as charities, or a location someone spent a great deal and time and effort to make. But occasionally there are certain trivial but amusing, nagging, or both, issues that aren't going away from your mind. Especially when someone keeps reminding you.

As a fan of science-fiction and fantasy, I've had as my look a "furry" avatar from the start of my Second Life experience. Initially, it was the starter "ringtail" that was available as an option for a beginning avatar at the time. But once I had the cash for another, after some thought I chose upon the Luskwood red fox avatar. I had roleplayed a felinoid in a sci-fi game a few years before. But after reading Tiffany Ross' "Cyantian Chronicles" in which the foxfolk in her story universe had one of the more detailed and interesting, sometimes tragic, histories of the peoples there, perhaps it was time for a change. That the red foxes in the Cyantian stories were traditionally soldiers or blue collar workers was the reason for the fur color.

At first, I would wear a green shirt, which was a leftover from my days in the "Runescape" MMO (what I played before "World of Warcraft"), along with clothes similar to what I wore in real life, a brown jacket and slacks. I had to skip the shoes as my feet were just too big. But after I landed a job in James and Dana's Second Life Newspaper, I used my first pay to get myself a white fedora and tan leather overcoat. Since I was a reporter, I wanted to look like one. And so, I went about in the classical 20th Century reporter's look. And with the most popular news channel being Fox News, well, that helped add to it with the "fox reporter" catchphrase.

Over the years, I would get other avatars, from Lusk stripped skunk to Kani bunny to AX hyena, to black human, and many others, which I change to on occasion. But the Luskwood red fox has continued to remain my main avatar. I sometimes change to other clothes while still being foxy, such as the red Victorian era suit I occasionally wear at the Steamlands, or a black jacket and jeans while on a motorbike. But usually I can be found with the fedora and overcoat. Although all of my avatars, aside from the human, are PG nude due to the coat of fur, I always go about with at least a pair of shorts in them, except for the mesh tinies and micro fox, which I have yet to find pants for.

Most people are happy with this look, calling it neatly dressed. But one friend for some time has been nagging me a bit, "Why do you wear clothes?"

Although she on occasion has on a full dress, she prefers going about with very little clothes. If someone had a coat of fur, even a short one, she feels realistically would mean he or she couldn't wear much for long. The overcoat and long slacks, she feels, would realistically lead to me quickly overheating. So she feels the coat and pants have to go.

I disagree. For one, this look was popular even indoors in the days before air conditioning. People just dealt with the heat. And in the colonial era when Europeans went to travel about, or take jobs, in places in the tropics, while a few were "going native," most continued to wear their existing clothes meant for a much colder climate in the hot tropical sun. Even if they didn't see the locals as "savages," it was simply the thing to do.

Tiffany Ross would also say a few things on the matter in her comic forums some years ago. The furry people of her fictional world of Cyantia didn't have a nudity taboo, but most who lived in cities and towns still wore clothes in public. As she saw it, clothes allowed her Cyantians, as well as humans in real life, a chance to distinguish themselves as individuals, even for those who aren't fashion snobs. Plus it helped distinguish themselves from those who went "feral" and abandoned civilization, and their clothes.

And of course, if you're standing upright, your "family jewels" are more exposed to things like low branches and flying rocks. So some kind of cover is needed to prevent what realistically would have you bending over in pain.

So the clothes stay. While you may see me in something other than the coat and fedora on the fox on occasion, or an avatar other than the fox such as the skunk at some Relay events, if anyone sees me stark naked in public, it's from a computer glitch.

As for why always a male avatar, aside from when my friends raise an enormous amount of money for charity, that's an issue I've already discussed in December 2013. As for why I haven't replaced this avatar that's been around for over ten years, that's another story.

Bixyl Shuftan

Friday, July 28, 2017

My Alt and I: The Story of Rezzdammit Resident


By Bixyl Shuftan

One subject my neighbors occasionally talk about are "alts," short for alternate accounts. Sometimes ridiculed, sometimes seen as a convenience, sometimes viewed with annoyance, sometimes feared, they've more or less become an aspect of Second Life.

Rita Mariner, the leader of the Sunweaver community, is considered an "alt champion" with her "Sawyer Squad," dozens of avatars, mostly female and with "Sawyer" as part of the name, used for her "Tiny Empires" game. Only a few get used at a time, either for herself or to help out a friend. There's also tales of a super-griefer, whose name I won't bother to mention, who supposedly hid behind hundreds of identities. But most who have one obviously limit themselves to fewer, probably one or two. At least one friend sees alts as an alternative to "shapeshifting," enjoying being lots of appearances, but not wanting more than one tied to a name.

For years, yours truly never bothered to get one. Then in March 2012, I found out about the new Linden Lab place for newcomers to Second Life: Destination Island. Since the land was barred to me, the only way to get a look was to create a new account. So I did. But what about the name. I thought for a bit, then recalled my friend Nydia Tungsten's favorite gesture, "REZZDAMMIT!! D:" Well, the more I thought about it, the more I liked it. So I typed it in, and it was accepted. I then typed the name and password into the viewer, and Rezzdammit resident was born.

As I mentioned in the article, my experience with Destination Island was a disappointment. And that might have been the end of the alt, except for his name. A few days later at a community party, Nydia used that gesture. And on a whimsy, I brought up another viewer, logged in Rezzdammit, and he appeared, "You called?" That caused a bit of confusion until I explained what was going on. After that, I figured I'd be using Rezz some. So I sent him a package of free Wingless furry avatars, eventually settling on the Wingless red wolf. When controlling him, I gave him something of a goofy "country bumpkin" personality, "Heyas! Watcha doin'? Hyuk-hyuk!" He didn't sound too smart, but was always good-natured.

As Steelhead, who sponsored me at the time, had meetings at the same time as a community club I was helping to run, I had the idea of sending Rezzdammit there to listen in and take notes. He would be a member of the group as well, and got into a number of the Steelhead community's zany chats, often when some detail that was a bit complicated went over his head and he would mistake what was being talked about for something else, usually in a way that resulted in chuckles. Because he was often in Steelhead, I usually had him wear something that fit in with the place. Eventually, I came across a steampunkish hat in a gacha that was a rare item, and it became a lasting part of his usual outfit.

Eventually, he would get dragged into the Tiny Empires game I was in, ending up under someone who was under me. And sometimes I'll bring him in to get a free acre or ship. He's only at the medium level of the game, so he can't take part in tournaments yet. Maybe someday.

I used to have at the bottom of his description that he was my alt. But at the suggestion of a friend, I changed it to simply saying this was an alt, but invited the reader to guess who. With a name like "Rezzdammit," it's going to be obvious to those familiar with Second Life inside expressions that the user had experience with the virtual world when signing him up.

Reactions to him have been mostly positive. When having him look in on places that know me well when I can't be there, I try to tell the owner, or at least one of the staff. The name has gotten numerous chuckles, and his goofy personality has gotten more than one person to say they wouldn't have known it was me otherwise. GoSpeed Racer told me about a group for those with catchy or amusing names. So he joined it, and often has the title "Cleverly Named." Not everyone appreciates him, however. As "dammit" is a mild swear word, he's blocked from Luskwood and the pony sims.

After five years, Rezz as he's usually called has become more or less a familiar sight around the Sunweaver/Angel community, and at Steelhead again now that it's back. I had been using him to do a few games that I'd be interrupted while doing under my main account. But lately he's been occasionally getting ringed up with IMs while doing those. But in exploring the new Linden entry area, I had to create still another alt. so perhaps he'll be used to explore an area undisturbed at times.

But in any event, the goofy red wolf will continue to make occasional appearances, and tip his mechanical hat before heading out, "Gotsta go, sees ya laytah."

Bixyl Shuftan

Friday, June 23, 2017

Grey Nacht's Greenie Tribute


By Gemma Cleanslate


Ah,  the Greenie House! For those who visited I am sure you recall it. For those who never saw it, I am sorry.  You missed a wonderful destination. The Humans never know who caused all the mischief in the house.If you look closely you can see us gathered t the kitchen sink for a fishing contest. We avatars  were very small in that enormous house. It was put there by Rezzables. Finally that company moved it all to Opensim in June 2010.  This video will give you an idea of what it was like when avatars visited the house.  



https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hIK2BpJ_s8A


Once in a while Grey Nacht pulls out all the Greenie paraphernalia and sets it up in his sim. Many of us still have our Greenie avatars and pull them out for that event.  That is Grey in the red hat overseeing the fishing.


 That is me inn my paparazzi Greenie avatar. It is great fun for those who recall the house and the stuff in it.


We hold a contest amidst the decor that we remember from the house. 
I took some pictures of us there fishing in our Greenie avatars and having fun!. It was great to recall those times. 
Thanks Grey!!!
Gemma Cleanslate

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Looking Back: Sean Voss' Second Life Tours


By Bixyl Shuftan

For several months from late 2007 to spring 2008, I was among those who was part of a group that explored various places around Second Life: Sean Voss Tours. A resident named Sean Voss, whose motto on his profile read, "Hello, I know something about everything but nothing about anything," would go around the Grid, looking for interesting places to explore. And on Tuesday evenings, we in his Virtual Travel Hub group would meet up at his Landmark Island and go to the best places he found. There was a different theme every week.

Over time, Sean showed me and the others, which included my friends from the STA area at the time Blarion and Keli, some interesting places. Some of which I would write about for the Second Life Newspaper. One week was sports-themed, and we went to a baseball stadium and a bowling alley, a go-kart course, and what I found to be the most fun "Dive World" which offered virtual scuba diving. The later was from PADI, a worldwide diving organization, to encourage people to get into real scuba diving, which I imagine it did. I had to adjust the scuba outfit for my furry avatar, but it made for a fun picture. Another fun trip was at Weather Channel, where we could surf the waves on the beach. We would also visit NOAA Island, which had the distinction of being funded by the US government through someone in the department. It's three-dimensional weather map and the tsunami exhibit were fun to watch.

Another memorable visit on Sean's tours was to Bedrock, a depiction of "The Flinstones" hometown. It was fun in itself, but as it turned out underneath the jail was a "sex dungeon," which gave us some chuckles. One has to admit not many would think of looking for such a place there. One tour was about adult-themed places, a capture-roleplay or CARP maze, a BDSM area, and a place that was the more romantic kind of naughty. Then there was "Hillarious 2008," a place of cartoonish political satire done in three dimensions. When Blarion asked the owner Christophe Hugo about a "Herald" article of a red mosque at the place, he was thrown out. And after i wrote about the place for the SLN, I was told all of Sean Voss' group would be banned in response for my action. Recently, Christophe stated that at the time he was dealing with numerous griefers, and it wasn't always easy telling apart skeptics from trolls.

Other places included the popular Greenies sim and a sister build Kings Rezzable. We would visit the SS Galaxy and talk to the cruise ship's captain. He offered each of us a coupon for a discount if we wanted to book a room later. There was the Sculpties Factory, which Sean called a virtual wax museum of famous people such as Jimmy Hendrix and Marylin Monroe, the Mexico sim, and more. As for his place Landmark Island, one could pick up landmarks to the places that were on his tour. Sean and the managers of the STA where I hung out at the time knew each other and the STA would tell people of the tour group and Landmark Island. When the STA was shut down, Sean told us we were free to hang out at Landmark Island if we wanted.

In December 2007, Sean published a book under his real-life name, Sean Percival, about these and other locations in Second Life: "Second Life In-World Travel Guide." It listed over 200 places, intended for both new users who didn't know where to go for fun, and more seasoned users looking for more places. It's still available for sale on Amazon for about five dollars. But by now most of the places have gone, so the book is more useful as a description of what Second Life was like in it's heyday.

Sadly the tour group didn't last for longer than it did. In retrospect, Sean would either had to take a break, or scale back the tours to once or twice a month if they continued. One day when we showed up for the tour group, he wasn't there. Instead, we were told by someone he was canceling the tours, at least for the time being. Soon after, we got a notecard with the following.

My beloved tour group! Apologies for not getting a notice out to you earlier today. Spidey told me lots came by for the tour and she had to deliver the bad news. Due to an over active first life with work I’m not able to login to SL much these days. The ongoing technical problems have also been a major issue as well.

So I need to take a break for a few months and hope to return again then. I’m hoping you are able to stay in this group and join us again in the future. The tours have always been a great pleasure for me and want to thank anyone who has come along for one. I’ll send a notice if anything changes and a tour is upcoming and when possible forward on any new landmarks that come my way.

And so the tours came to an end. I would drop by Landmark Island once or twice more. But Blarion, Keli, and I would find other things to do. A few months later, I saw Sean log on and instant-messaged me. He was happy to hear from me, and sent me a teleport. I dropped in with him next to Torley Linden in the Paris 1900 sim. What I remember is Sean saying he was planning on doing a video here, and we ended up looking around and in the Moulin Rouge. That would be the last I ever saw of him. Eventually, Landmark Island itself would vanish. I'm sure I messaged him, but I can't recall any response of his.

Doing an Internet search more recently, I found a blog entry dated May 8 2008, close to the time of his farewell message to his tour group: "Virtual Exits: Second Lite Residents Turn Their Back." He seemed to express mixed opinions, wondering if Linden Lab had lowered the bar a little too much on entering the place, "Introduce the concept of an economy and naturally you’ll get your wantrepreneurs, scammers, greifers, and general weirdos that make things interesting. Following the local news and gossip here and you’ll find its very much some bizarre society seen commonly in Twilight Zone episodes." Of the virtual world's infrastructure, he felt the Lab did either band-aid solutions to problems, or ignored the problem. Between the low-lifes and the technical problems, he stated it was his observation many of their most talented residents were walking away, including himself. "Between the myriad of grid issues and increasingly busy first life, my free time and interests have wained. ... I still have no doubt virtual worlds have some place in the future. However, I can't help but feel they will be given to us by companies, and not the user-generated polar opposite. Perhaps they can meet somewhere in the middle. ..."

Sean's website at https://seanpercival.com/ describes him as "an American investor and entrepreneur" who "invested in over 120 startups, and founded several of his own." One of these startups was Wittlebee, a kids' clothing store, of which he gave up his position as CEO in 2013. He currently offers to help aspiring startup companies through his services. His blog features advice for small businessmen, but also goes in to other topics such as Tron and Bitcoin.

It seems Sean Voss/Percival has left Second Life behind, but has been keeping himself busy.

Sources: Techcrunch, seanpercival.com

Image Credit: Sean Voss

Bixyl Shuftan

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Remembering Artistic Fimicloud


By Bixyl Shuftan

Cancer is a deadly disease. According to Wikipedia, almost nine million people a year around the world die from it. Striking down men and women, rich and poor, men and women, young and old, it takes away many individuals in the prime of their lives, leaving behind saddened family and friends. In Second Life, while avatars do not get cancer, the people behind them do. For the Relay for Life in Second Life, it's mission is to raise funds for research for cures and treatments has brought thousands to take part, from it's most active participants to those just stopping by to make a small donation. Sadly, along the way some of the Relayers have passed on. Catt Gable, Shady Fox, Alliez Mysterio and others would not survive their personal fight with the illness.

For the Sunweaver community and the Passionate Redheads RFL team in their early days, among their numbers was Artistic Fimicloud. In Second Life, she was known for her pink fox avatar. In real life she was Stephanie Koslow, an artist who did a number of pictures. Sadly, she also suffered from cancer, a struggle that had gone on for years. On May 26, 2008, the woman behind the little pink fox passed away at age 49, a sad day for both the Sunweaver community and it's team, and for the Relay.  Some days later, there was a memorial service in the Colorado sim. One artwork of her made since showed Stephanie's spirit rising from her body as her pink vixen avatar. "I Relay for Fimi" became a title seen on a number of the Redheads and others. Fimi's treehouse continues to remain up at the Sunweaver Estates at Sunweaver Bay (179/155/33).

Since her passing, every year there has been an event of some kind in her honor. The following year there was a candlelight vigil, of which Ishtarkiss took a number of pictures of, as well as a "Blowout" event featuring art and screenshots. Beginning in 2010 (more pictures by Ishtarkiss), there have been memorial dances in Fimi's honor. This year was no exception, with the Happy Vixen and Club Cutlass running events on the week of her passing nine years before.

The Happy Vixen's event was at Tuesday May 23 6PM, with DJ Tantari at the booth. Several people wore pink outfits or pink avatars in Fimi's honor. Tantari had made a "Pink Fox" track just for these events, "The search for a cure goes on in her memory. Never give up! Never give in!" The track was a combination of fox-themed and other tunes, but ended with a somewhat sad song, "Goodbye" by Ulrich Schnauss. "After every journey, one has to say goodbye," Tantari concluded the track.

Club Cutlass would hold the larger of the two events on Friday May 26, the ninth anniversary of Fimi's departure. The event was also at 6PM. Sabine McGettigan, the longtime leader of the Passionate Redheads team, was among those at the tribute. Also there was Sunbeamer team captain Rita Mariner, Dusk Griswold, and Shockwave Yareach whom also knew Fimi. Once again, many showed up in pink avatars, pink outfits, or both. On the wall was a picture of Fimi, and on the floor one of the pink fox statuettes that represent her.

In the nine years since Fimi left us, much has changed with both the Relay and the community and team she was part of. Some have left, and others who never had the chance to know her, including myself, have come in. The Passionate Redheads team would fold and become a part of Relay history as a top-ranking team to the end, it's members of the Sunweaver community forming a new team: the Sunbeamers.

People continue to suffer and die from cancer. And there have been a few conspiracy theorists whom wonder if there is some kind of plot behind the scenes by the powerful of Capitalist and Communist and Islamist lands to keep a cure from ever being found, or that a cure has been found but the medical community is so fearful of quackery it will not accept anything more than strictly conventional medicine. But most of us realize the struggle to cure cancer is a more difficult one than getting to the moon. With that, we knew where to go and it was a matter of building a big enough rocket with the means to get a team there safely and back. Finding a cure for cancer has proven more difficult as it's not just one but a multitude of diseases with a multitude of causes. But every fundraising event, every dollar donated, whether to the Relay for Life or a number of other reputable charities such as the Susan G. Komen Foundation, brings us closer to a day when a cure for the last form of cancer has been found.

In the meantime, in and out of Second Life, people will continue to help, with time, money, and in my case a pen.

"We shall remember,"

Source: IshtarKiss Flickr page 

Bixyl Shuftan

Saturday, April 1, 2017

ApRiL fOoL!



Happy April Fools Day from the Second Life Newser!




Yes, there is an "Ark Park," but Linden Lab isn't part of the team developing it.

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

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

Bixyl Shuftan

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Furry Discrimination


By Grease Coakes

Sometimes in Second Life I just want to chill and hang out at one of the many dance clubs in Second Life. Maybe to work on a writing project with a live DJ jamming tunes for me or goof off talking with friends. Electronic Music Informer is a good source of various music clubs to whatever music genres. Until one day when I walked into a club that was against furries which surprised me, as the majority of human clubs accept me for who I am.

So I find a club at Anaconda (42/32/22) that was playing hip hop. I was accepting that they were playing different music. It’s boring to hear EDM or electric dance music all the time. I was there for less than a minute and suddenly I got an IM from nowhere

Šassy Hausмaηη - Ivory  (Sassy Lexenstar): WE NEED TO CHANGE HUMAN PLEASE
Grease Coakes: why?
Grease Coakes: Furries aren't allowed?
Šassy Hausмaηη - Ivory  (Sassy Lexenstar): NO FURRY
Šassy Hausмaηη - Ivory  (Sassy Lexenstar): NO
Šassy Hausмaηη - Ivory  (Sassy Lexenstar): MOM WILL BOUNCE YOU
Grease Coakes: That's racist :O
Grease Coakes: I don't understand why don't you allow furries?

When I went there a second time without reason she booted me to a safe haven here at the Vilania sim. What really surprised me is that I was banned there just for being a furry. When I tried to go there to get more answers I ran into a message that said, “Teleport failed You are banned from the region.”

So not only did I not get a reason of why furries are not allowed at this club, I was also banned. That’s sad that in Second life that I ran into a racist club. It’s bad enough to see racism in my first life. Second Life should be a place to chill and relax and if I choose to be a walking talking fox then so be it.

I’m part of a group called  “Furs Against Social Inequality.” I shared my story within the chat group and got some swift responses.

Second Life should be a better environment then the real world to hang out at a club with or without your friends. It’s unfortunate although rare that there are clubs in Second Life that don’t allow you if you’re different then the human norm. Second Life is a fantasy where you should be allowed whomever you want. It’s a shame I found a club that wasn’t okay with that.

Grease Coakes

Editor's Note: The Newser has reported on avatar discrimination a few times in the past, a recent commentary in January examining them.

Monday, March 20, 2017

What It's Like To Acquire A Sim


By MajikVixen (bluevioletvixen.lorefield)

I knew that by the time I had four different parcels I was paying tier on, things were becoming a bit ridiculous, and it was time to investigate actually getting a sim.  With the beginning of Sansar underway, and the new increase of prims allotted to Second Life from Linden Labs, I figured there surely was a good solution to my predicament.

The first thing I did was call Linden Lab.  They gave me a good page off their website to go to (I have listed it at the bottom of this article in the URL section, and rehosted it at Tiny URL).  At that "Name Your Land" page, you can create a name for your region (or see if the name you want is available), find out which areas of the grid are available to make a sim (by putting in coordinates or another region name), and even click to chat immediately with a more-than-happy-to-speak-with-you sales associate.

I found the Linden Lab sales associate very informative, but my gawd, the prices were astounding! $600 USD for the initial buying price of a sim PLUS $300 USD a month tier -a car engine goes for around $500 USD.  Plus you have to take into account, their policy of residents not being allowed to own Homesteads without owning a Full private region, because Homesteads are essentially an add-on for a full region (not physically, but from a sales perspective).  Sadly, there are no discounts available.  Linden Lab only has the Premium incentive to offer: 1) weekly L$300 stipend deposited to your shop, 2) L$1,000 sign-up bonus for first-time Premium Account subscribers to be deposited to your account after 45 consecutive days, 3) Linden Home or 512 Square Meter Tier allotment for use towards a parcel on the Mainland, 4) Expanded Live-Chat customer support, 5) Exclusive Virtual Gifts, 6) Premium-only accessible areas and experiences in Second Life, 7) Exclusive activities and games, 8) Increased cap on missed Instant Messages, 9) Increased group membership limits, and 10) Voice Morphing.

I was a bit thwarted, but I decided to continue my research with one of the companies in Second Life that I had contently rented from for over a couple of years now, ZoHa Islands.  My relationship with them started because I Fish Hunt, and every time I went to their buoy, I was always greeted personally by a sales representative.  No matter that all I was interested in, was just catching fish, they were always polite and wished me good luck, consistently.  I thought that was really cool.  They built a good rapport with me, and I finally took them up on their offer one day, and haven't looked back.  They recently implemented a new system, where you must file a ticket on their website to get a response to any inquiry (I have listed that at the bottom of this article as the second link in the URL reference section).  They do this to make sure everyone gets answered and nobody gets accidentally missed on the group chat.  Tammy Mayo (tammiedee.mayo), a very helpful and patient representative, contacted me, and we talked for about three hours initially (but really, she did earn her commission, poor thing, *laughter*).

At the time, my main concern was being able to have a sim connected to my previous home of Faerie Crossing, a land of 10 neighbored regions.  Now, it is not possible for ZoHa to make a sim from scratch, off of any place on the grid, and sell it to you.  Nonetheless, they do have a fabulous selection of already existing regions to choose from (starting at $30 USD for the initial buy price, and about $120 USD per month for homesteads).  It is entirely conceivable to get a sim and have it moved (it costs a one-time fee of $150 USD, which is what LL charges).  However, in order to move a sim right next to another, and become neighbors, you need to have permission from the owner of the other region first.  All the areas on the map in the first link (under "Region Location" "Region Coordinates") that are cross-hatched in red, are these types of places you need to get permission for.  Everything else is fair game.  Also, it is just as easy to have any of ZoHa's sims renamed (it costs a one-time fee of $50 USD, which is also what Linden Lab charges). 

Next I had to decide whether I should invest in a Homestead sim or a Full.  The difference between them is not just price, but prims and avatar capacity.  They are exactly the same size of 65,000+ SqM.  However, a Homestead can only host 20 avatars at any given time, whereas a Full can have up to 100.  You also get 5,000 prims with a Homestead, but with a Full, you get 20,000.  This is why Homesteads are usually cheaper.  I figured it would be safe to give the Homestead a try, and I could always change to the Full later if it ever became necessary.  It's not like I was planning on renting out parcels or anything, so what the heck?

It took about a day or less to change the title of Vita Nova into Zamargad.  As far as Linden Lab paperwork goes, the Governor of ZoHa Islands owns it, but I have full control of the region.  From making it Moderate, who can visit (open to the public or not), generating parcels, to even writing my own Covenant; Zamargad is a little piece of me that I get to share with all who dare to tread it.  Not a bad deal at all.  I saved $950 USD (OMG!), and ZoHa gave me a current resident discount (for having already been a client).

After recovering from the shock and depression of being banned from my previous Faerie Crossing home of three years, and with some powerfully supportive decorating suggestions and tips from friends, it took about a month to finalize Zamargad.  I learned that the best way to see Second Life is to tick these in my viewer settings: "Automatically change environment to use region/parcel settings" and to "Use Firestorm Parcel Windlight Sharing."  Environment settings really set the mood for what kind of ornamentation is best.  I chose a night theme so the glowing vegetation and other structures had just the right touch of mysteriousness and wonder.  It took about $200 USD of birthday and Christmas money, and countless, relentless hours of scouring the Marketplace to turn my new home into a masterpiece.

I wanted an epic grand opening, and I definitely got one!  Vinnie (acoustic.rhapsody) of The Vinnie Show, one of the performers for my grand opening, mentioned something very key for setting things in motion, in the preparation of this event.  In anticipation of all the traffic this would generate, we were worried about crashing my Homestead of Zamargad.  Vinnie suggested a work around of using a parcel on a Full sim, and then having a tour of Zamargad afterward.  Tammy helped me again to get the grand opening party parcel.  I only had to rent it for a week, and I got another discount for having done so.  I went back into a productive creative mode, and designed the grand opening parcel set, so that all I had to do was "Take" it from Zamargad, and rerezz it at the parcel.  The grand opening was definitely a success!  Over L$2,500 were raised in donations during this all day event.  I was very pleased that everyone came to support and share my reverie with me.

I also learned that it actually doesn't matter where your region is on the grid.  You could be an adoption sim, surrounded by BDSM sims.  In any event, "location, location, location" doesn't matter, unless you're going for Mainland. And in that case, it's because you want to be a part of a historical continent, pricing, or clear rules instead of a covenant.  If your region is awesome, people will come, no matter what.  There are no such things as designated areas of the Second Life grid for fantasy, or any other what-have-you themes, even in Mainland where ironically the only constant theme is variety.  At one time there were a bunch of fantasy regions surrounding the realms of Faerie Crossing, Elf Circle, Farhaven, and Isle of Wyrms, but that is slowly dissipating.  I would love to see a huge continent of fantasy, but I suppose it's like when per say, a cell phone company buys out another cell phone company and they merge ... and they keep on buying all the other cell phone companies until there is almost a monopoly ... and then they split and get bought out by other cell phone companies altogether, and the cycle repeats.  It is just the nature of business and things. 

According to Rabbinical mythology, Zamargad is the name of the land to which Lilith (Adam's first wife) betook herself in her flight from Paradise (the garden of Eden). And it is near the Red Sea, which could be metaphorically construed as the disapproving neighbors cross-hatched in red on the "Name Your Land" map. - Thus I do toy with the idea of poetically moving a water sim away from the fantasy realms I once knew...  But Zamargad currently rests, nestled between a bunch of other private estates on the grid, and is happy there for the time being.  Despite my otherwise assertive soul and meaningful trivia, I do think there are better things to put my money toward... like tipping performers and venues!

But that is what it's like to get a sim.  Lots of research, preparation, anxiety, support, a new found appreciation of everything that goes into all the places you visit in Second Life, and of course, the big payoff - celebration and sharing your imagination with the world!  Very fulfilling and worth it.  If I had more money and ideas, I'm sure I would do it again.  ...I hope this article helped you some, and gave you a bit more perspective on the matter.  Here's to your dreams coming true as well!

Additional Information:

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MajikVixen (bluevioletvixen.lorefield)
Email: MajikVixen@GMail.com