Thursday, October 28, 2010

Teachers Rock Second Life!

Education's cutting edge technologies are vigorously debated by some of the most vibrant groups in Second Life: Real Life Teachers! This meeting of Virtual Worlds Education Roundtable ( was totally unplanned and yet tremendously interesting and informative free-form discussion. SL founder of VWER, AJ Brooks (SL), shares, "The most important thing to know about the VWER is that it is nothing without the community... most of our meetings take place with everyone sitting around a big roundtable and anyone has a chance to share... all are welcome – there is always a seat open."

The group I received notice of the VWER meeting is ISTE: Educational Technology Association. In real life (RL), ISTE is the International Society for Technology in Education. ISTE and VWER are independent groups, but their active membership highly overlap and cross-advertise their events. ISTE is a a Real Life (RL) professional association, but in Second Life (SL) ISTE becomes a thriving global forum with multiple daily events for all teachers, preschool through post-secondary education, to network and learn the latest teaching and technology innovations. You can participate too! Every Thursday at 5pm SL time (US Pacific) ISTE hosts their Newcomers' Social at ISTE Island (221, 126, 23)

I attended a totally free form discussion at Montclair State CHSSSouth region. With no agenda at all, most SL groups would founder at such a totally unplanned event. With a thousand enthusiastic SL members, it's not a problem for VWER. Their online community is so strong that a simple announcement can gather large groups of enthusiastic discussants, ready to pave their own way toward educational excellence and group synergies.

This discussion was wide ranging and, I thought, a very refreshing view of upcoming SL changes. For example the ending of educational discounts for land in SL did not seem to concern these educators much. For example, Marc Rexen commented: "Our first contract with WebCT was for just short of $500,000 or $15 bucks per head...most site-contracts are down at $1 to $2 per head, or much more (Campus Agreements with MS). Depending on usage, what LL wants for a sim is peanuts."

Surprisingly, Second Life use for teaching is often questioned by students, and getting tech support for "the SL game" in schools is well nigh impossible. Those were major topics of discussion. You would think that children and young adults would "get" SL in a heartbeat, but not so, says educator Sheila Yoshikawa, "I still find it interesting that at the moment I'm having to give very clear accounts to my students about why we are using SL (they ask me, why) when they don't ask 'Why are we using blackboard?' "

What I found most encouraging is the educators' deep reverence for the SL platform. With so many other technologies and metaverses available now, the discussion sounded like SL was the only game in town, so to speak! SL (See iReport SecondLife is Not a Game!» ) Marc Rexen shares: "Distance Education, discussions, language training, trust and presence building, can really only be done here [in Second Life]...very few other venues, even video-conferencing, are as good."

VWER founder AJ Brooks shared more: "We meet each week on Thursday at 2:30pm SL Time (US Pacific). Meetings have a variety of themes, different each week, usually more focused. We do actively explore non SL alternatives. VWER is an outlet for people to express their ideas and learn. Views of individual members do not reflect the official views of VWER." VWER meetings at Montclair State CHSSSouth region are in their Ampitheather: Montclair State CHSSSouth (128, 128, 2).

One VWER member was concerned that quoting from SL public chat might be an ethical problem for the members. Perhaps inhibiting members views at future meetings. In general, public chat in SL, on sims open to all, is fair game (on the record) for quotations, with respect to the SL Terms of Service. I took a conservative approach, as I would with any private IM interviews and requested prior permission for members' quotes in this story.

Any1 Gynoid

Originally posted on CNN.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

The Oct. 12 Battle for Bastogne

The events in the WW2 RP area have gone on, and not just the fighting. The leading officer of the combined German groups recently retired, having to leave Second Life, after a long period of service. But new faces came in, such as Sky Pydeau whom made ace status faster than previous pilots. There was recently a fencing match, of whom the Imperial Japanese Naval forces had someone playing for a friend whom couldn’t make the match. And there was the ball in which a cease-fire was declared and members of both sides were invited to attend. Once it was over, the skirmishes and battles resumed.

Most times when I stop by the New Bastogne sim in the WW2 RP area, it is firmly in the hands of the German teams. Occasionally there may be some Allied in Fallout to the south. A few about are often left alone, but if someone’s eager for a match or if a large number arrives, the results usually a fight, with planes, tanks, and numbers of infantry shooting, shelling, and bombing. Usually these matches are resolved within an hour or two, usually.

On Monday October 12, yours truly logged onto Second Life to hear there was a particularly lengthy brawl going on. It had been going on for hours, and neither side was giving in. I ported over for a closer look. The Allies had taken up defensive positions in Fallout, but an anti-aircraft gun was making it tough for the JG-2 “Richthofens” air group. Indeed that anti-aircraft gun was just near-indestructible. There was a little chuckling from a few of the opposition that this was an “anti-camping gun,” a new model that was brought onto the field before testing was complete. But after a while, they agreed to make it easier to beat, and the scripts were changed for lower hitpoints.

And with that, the Richthofen skunkgirl whom has been getting a reputation for being a topnotch bomber, went up in a Junkers Ju88 medium bomber to deal with that and other ground targets. Unfortunately, she was soon met by a Spitfire, which kept after her tail. Taking evasive action she was able to avoid much damage, while a Me109F4 flew up from the air base, caught up to them, lined up the Spitfire in his sights and open fire. The Spitfire turned and a dogfight ensued, but the Me109 was able to turn tighter and “lead” the Spitfire into his line of fire. Eventually, the Spitfire took too much damage and took a dive, leaving a smoking trail.

After a few minutes, Another Spitfire came south across the Channel. It and the Me109 engaged each other in another dogfight. This one lasted longer than the first, and the German plane was damaged a little. But as before, the Me109 was able to outmanuver the Spitfire enough to finally shoot it down, and send it plumeting into a hedgerow. Another victory for the Richthofens.

Looking around after that, I noticed a number of personnel at a bridge connecting Fallout to New Bastogne. To my surprise, it was the officers of the Allied teams sitting on the rail and breaking out the fishing poles. I was then IMed that a cease-fire had been declared, and the Germans were to leave the Allies alone as they fished. With the fight over, I didn’t stick around muhch longer. The pilot of the Me109 joked that his opponent wasn’t the first man to get in trouble for fixating on a girl’s rear end.

I later chatted with Duarte Koray, whom had spent some time earlier in the battle. He couldn’t remember much, “I participate in many missions, difficult to remember all. (grin) ... I just remember the time I went by plane, I took down three aircraft, returned to base, and then afterwards, ... I think I went fishing.” With a truce declared, he had gone to fish with the American and British teams.

Both teams duking it out for hours on end, and then declaring a halt to the fighting and sitting down to fish. Some fishermen might consider this a perfect ending to a pitched match.

Bixyl Shuftan

Monday, October 18, 2010

SL Joy for 33 Chile Miners

Second Life people rejoiced wildly for the safe rescue of all 33 miners in Chile! It's a miracle after 3 months underground, all miners are safe and sound. It's a victory for humankind and working people everywhere. People care! Big Time!

Well, I wondered what are SL people doing to support the miners and their families? Quicker than Sarah Palin can say "YOU BETCHA!" I found a very cool SL site where you can live the miner's experience. Login to SL and copy paste this in your browser or SL chat:

Kleopatra Arai built a Chilean Miner's memorial site on her Cuidad Jardin (Garden City) sim, including a full scale Miner's Rescue Capsule, what the Chilean's sent down the rescue tunnel to bring each miner to the surface one by one. The Miner's Rescue capsule in SL is the creation of Juancho Faith.

Kleopatra of the rescue of the 33 miners: "My experience as a Chilean in the case of the miners, from the day of the accident August 5, 2010, no one knew if they were alive or dead ... and as more days passed, lesser chance of finding them alive. At 17 days the accident was global news to find them alive, an incredible joy, but we had to wait for rescue, and no one knew how long they might be down, there was talk of months ...... On Oct. 13 we not only laughed, wept and became very excited with every rescue, also I am now intensely re-united with this great country in total solidarity!" This brought Chile together like no other event in their history! Wow!

A unique case in the world and how I feel Chilean proud of it. We support the earthquake, the Tsunami, the accident of the miners, but the country came together again later.

Rut Ro! Any's going for a ride! .. you can open and close the rescue capsule door, sit on a pose ball, and imagine a long long ride in a small cage.

FREE T-SHIRTS! I'm sure you expected that! Yeah! You can celebrate the miner's rescue too! Come round and try these out! The shirts are in Spanish and say (roughly): We all wish well, the rescue of the 33! and on the back "Chile Miner Force". Worker Power! Way Cool!

I noticed just behind the Miner's Memorial, a very curious sight. Like dozens of SL horses, fully animated, as many as 100 (Picture 6). Hmmm quite curious, apparently, Kleo's neighbor Betsy Petrov has quite an obsession with horses. Her Argentinian themed ranch is a sight to behold. Well, at least for horse lovers! lol

Kleopatra is also a prolific fashion designer and SL builder. She's got a huge store on the sim with every conceivable kind of ladies fashions and other SL do-dads you will need in your Second Life!

Kleo's whole store is belly dancer themed, music and all! Yay! Read more about SL belly dancing in my super-fun story for SL Newspaper! :

Enjoy Your Second Life!

-- Any Gynoid

Article originally on CNN

Friday, October 15, 2010

The Secret Life of SL Mermaids

Mermaids and merfolk thrive in Second Life (SL), which has a zero-gravity dance environment for those brave enough to put on their tail and leave their legs behind. Landwalkers is the derrogatory term for SL people who haven't yet embraced the inherent beauty and bliss of being free forever from gravity and styles constrained by mere humanoid vanity.

Second Life is a place where people express freedom in many ways. Being merfolk is a particularly fun and empowering experience. As merfolk, we swim through joy in SL, enjoying complete freedom from gravity in our dances and Animation Overrides (AO). On Land and Undersea! Yeah!

My complete transformation to mer came this week. It was the second time in SL when I felt completely jurassic. I was with club owner Liz Harley, we were both mer, but she has such a killer AO that I was completely floored... JURASSIC ME!! EEEEK! I begged her for the SL landmark (LM), which she offered generously.

What an Amazing Store! OMG! Imagine Koi Goldfish outfits... done up with Japanese Kimono belts... and totally awesome AO animations... I had to have it all!!! No more Jurassic me! Now I'm full time merfolk for sure! (We shall see! Hee Hee!)

Anyways, today I got a group IM from Marybelle Lavender on Merfolk of SL. Oh, Merfolk party now at Hercules! Hmmm okies great! I'm in the gig!

Come round to Hercules for free merman and mermaid outfits!!! I plan to make up a kit for my students will full instructions on how to go mer!

Master of ceremonies at the Hercules gig was Xia Ysabel who has a very unusual merfolk avi, with octopus tentacles. Most merfolk avis have gorgeous fish tails. Way cool to discover the next generation of merfolk looks! Wow!

Also joining us for the merfolk dance party was Ellender Donner, and Psyche Spore, who is a wonderful dance hostess. Phoenix Ishmene arrived a little after the start and stayed later too.

I've been interested in SL merfolk culture since my early appearances in The Light Dancer's shows with Cellandra Zon. The first act of our first show was done in mermaid outfits, and I shall always cherish the beauty of those scenes (use them in my profile to this day).

Lately, I see a major growth in merfolk participation and adoption in SL. Previously, you've rarely seen them. Now, it's actually quite unusual not to have a merfolk or two in any given SL audience. Especially since I'm going full time mer just now! LOL

Musicians are a major factor driving the adoption of merfolk looks and culture. In particular Louis Landon's new CD is Solo Piano for Love, Peace & Mermaids.

Well, I hope you can find a minute to stop by Sea of Hercules, pick up your free merfolk outfit and give it a whirl. Try the merfolk dance ball there... Way fun! Being merfolk is a particularly joyous celebration of life that is truly at the core of SL fun.

-- Any1 Gynoid

Article originally in CNN

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Interview with Kaeko Freenote

Kaeko Freenote is a talented, live singer with a sweet, soulful voice that you will instantly warm to. I had the distinct pleasure of attending one of Kaeko's live shows in Second Life recently and afterwards, I was honoured to spend some time with Kaeko to have a chat with her and to meet her SL family.

Kaeko invited me to her home - a delightful little trailer set amongst an orchard of peach trees (more about that later!) where I joined Kaeko and one of her loved ones, Carson Wylie for a chat.

This evening, Kaeko performed at Hepburns, a club where she has only sung a couple of times. Kaeko considers her 'home' venue to be 'Smooth Jazz Club', "The venue owner, Maebh Jewell, is an amazing person. She found me and 'rescued' me from just a dreadful venue, that treated me horribly. She heard something in me. She has always been laid back, professional, friendly and encouraging. I asked Kaeko if this felt like a rebirth of sorts for her. "Well, in a way I've had two rebirths at Smooth. First was her finding me at all and welcoming me to sing jazz standards, which I really prefer to pop and alternative. And also giving me somewhere I felt welcomed and appreciated and just...home. And then, after I got sick and had to leave for a while and had my surgery and all that, she welcomed me back with open arms. I could sing again, something I wasn't sure I'd ever be able to do again. So that was really an SL and a RL rebirth, through Maebh and Smooth and SL."

"She is brilliant. I can't imagine anyone I would rather sing for..."

Kaeko has branched out and written some of her own lyrics and one day, she would love to be able to hear her own music and to try it on her own audience.

"Because of my Chiari Malformation, I have never been able to learn an instrument. It effects the part of the brain that handles the fine hand/eye coordination it takes to play. Sometimes I think it would be wonderful to have a live pianist or guitarist that I could sing with, so we could create music together."

"Theres something about the energy of two artists thats intoxicating..."

Our chat is momentarily but pleasantly interrupted by a lively bundle of energy, also known as Kaeko's son, Cable. Little Cable greets us all before running off as quickly as he bounded in, his mind fixated by other, less 'adult' endeavours.

Kaeko smiles at her son as we continue our chat. Kaeko's taste in music is varied, although she has no particular favourite genre of music. "I don't have a favourite style, persay, but its what I studied in real life. Jazz standards, choral pieces and Broadway. So my style is more tuned for it. I do enjoy my pop shows. We have fun!"

Kaeko's pop shows have an extremely universal theme - the theme of SL love. "Moving from the moment you see each other and feel that spark, to the passion, to the doubt and jealousy, to the insistence of self-strength, to the trip and sobbing over the one who got away, to finding yourself again. To me, thats such a common, common theme in SL. Almost everyone knows it, almost everyone understands and can relate"

Our chat takes an interesting twist when I ask Kaeko an extremely personal yet soul-searching question....

'Kaeko, tell me honestly, do you sing in the shower?'

Kaeko laughs, "Its funny. I ONLY sing in the shower when I'm sad or angry and haven't found words to capture it yet. And then you can hear me singing 'Noone Knows Who I am' from Jeckyl and Hyde or 'Need A Place' from Secret Garden.

"My mind works, and sound comes out of my face without my knowledge or permission..."

An evening, an hour, even a few minutes with Kaeko and her beautiful voice will inspire you to believe in the words as you listen to them escaping her lips. Her songs are chosen especially by the lady herself, "Songs that touch you because you know that situation, that feeling, thats the common factor for me."

You can find Kaeko in Second Life and on Facebook. Oh, and if you attend one of her performances, you will not only leave with a lingering smile on your face and sweet memories in your heart, your head will be FULL of facts on peaches....Kaeko loves them!!
Kaeko, thank you for your gift and once again, thank you for sharing your voice, your time and your family with me. YOU are the sweetest peach in the garden.

Nova Halderman