Monday, January 30, 2017

Stepinwolf Darkstone, Virtual Ability's Apartment Manager

By Deaflegacy

Stepinwolf Darkstone, or Stepin as he is often called, and I met at his place on Cape Heron.  He is the apartment manager on Cape Heron.  He started being an apartment manager about three months after his first day in Second Life.  It would have been about nine years ago. "As far as the apartments go, that is my major responsibility." said Stepin.

Of working on the apartments, he described what it's like building them, "The first step was to work up a layout that would allow the apartments and the rental parcels to fit along with the open areas and tavern.  I did that on a spreadsheet." said Stepin. I told him that he does a good job.  He went on to say that Eme Capalini did the open spaces and the courtyards.  Stepin used entries in the apartment design contest as a basis for the apartment designs they have today.

I asked him what his favorite part of being an apartment manager. "Actually, it is talking to the tenants and other residents on Cape Heron." said Stepin.  He went on to say that dancing in the Heron's Nest Tavern is fun too because he gets to dance and chat.

Stepin has an assistant, whom is also his alt, VAI Spot. "Yes, VAI Spot is the official owner of most everything here apartment related." said Stepin.  "It is a VAI alt, so if someone needs to take over, it can be done.  And the ownership of the apartments isn't disturbed." I asked Stepin if we would get to see VAI Spot as often as we get to see Stepin.  He said that he usually only bring Spot in when he needs to change something that requires ownership of the object. Stepin told me that there are 44 apartments on Cape Heron.

Stepin then showed me the slide show that's about the history of the apartments beginning in Wolpertinger.  It was amazing and showed many different pictures, especially of the contest for the apartment designs. "When they did away with Second Life for teens, we made a teen friendly place for them to come to." said Stepin.  "You can see that Bels design was the winner of that first contest."

I asked Stepin about rentals. "Apartments in Cape Heron are available to Virtual Ability members with no other home." said Stepin. The apartments would be for the active members of Virtual Ability.

I asked Stepin if the rent for the apartments is one Linden a week. "That is correct.  It is mostly used to let us know if the apartment is being used." said Stepin. The maximum time of the rent would be six weeks, and the prim limit on an apartment is 150 prims.

Stepin did mention something about the new rental system. "Well, actually with the new rental system, we can't stop them from renting, but if we don't let them join the Cape Heron Land Group, they can't rez anything.  And I boot them out if they aren't members." said Stepin.

I asked Stepin if the rent is subsidized.  He said that the Virtual Ability Inc pays for the sim.  The rent on the apartments does not cover the cost of sim in any significant way. "So they are nearly free to Virtual Ability members who need them." said Stepin.

Stepin explained that Roxie Marten, iSkye Silverweb, and their respective ALTs Cape Heron Management as well as VAICapeHeron help him out a lot.

I asked Stepin if a member has to be a member of Virtual Ability and a member of Cape Heron Community before that person can rent an apartment. "Yes, you need to be a member of the Cape Heron Land Group with the role of Tenant to rez objects." said Stepin. "Only members of Virtual Ability qualify for membership in the Cape Heron Land Group and only after they have read the lease agreement and returned a copy with their name and date on it. Then one of the managers here will invite them into the group."

I asked Stepin if he is going to be an apartment manager for a very long time.  He said that he really enjoys working with the apartments and tenants so yes, he plans to stay.

My last question would be how long had Cape Heron been around.  He said that the covenant is dated June 30, 2015 although the sim was here before the place was done.

Stepin does have a goal and that would be to minimize the prims used by the apartments and maximize what was available to the tenant to make their apartment a home.

Stepin is really a good apartment manager.  I hope to see him again soon as time goes by.  I do plan on coming back to Cape Heron because it is really a beautiful place to be at.


Friday, January 27, 2017

Interview with Tindallia Soothsayer

By Deaflegacy

The interview happened at Tindallia Soothsayer's place.  Her residence is gorgeous and well-designed. I gave Tindallia a compliment about her building skill. "Thank you, did my best with limited prims," she answered.

We started talking about Tindallia's legend as a racer. As it turned out, in her first days there she was just going to the races as an observer because she enjoyed watching. "One day when there was no race, I tried to run the track, did pretty well." said Tindallia.  "So decided to actually enter a race."

Tindallia said that just by watching, she did learn how to race. "Well, more observant I'd say, just paid attention to what the other racers did and tried to do that myself," said Tindallia.  She had been racing since November 2009.  Tindallia had just announced her semi-retirement in January 2017.

Tindallia had been dominating the races in the first place for years, during the seasons and in the championship.  She had done things no other racer has done, such as getting a perfect score for the year.  Tindallia had been getting 1st in every season, not only once but twice.  Tindallia does a lot more than just race.  She comes up with the theme for every week.  Tindallia also tear down the previous week's theme and decorate the track for the current theme.  She build a themed snail for the race as well.  Tindallia also co-host the show.  She made awards, such as racing cup and the blue ribbons for the best in show.

"Of course, just because I'm not racing doesn't mean I'm giving up the rest." said Tindallia. "I 'retired' because as I said, I've dominated the races for years. I felt it was time someone else had a chance at the 1st place position.  Well, I've proven I can race, that's for sure. In my time racing I've gotten 673 trophies, blue ribbons and awards, I don't really need more." 

After 8 years, Tindallia still enjoy doing it. "It is the longest running event in SL. RacerX started doing races in 2004," said Tindallia.

Tindallia announced her retirement just after 2:16 in this recording of the January 7 race. 


Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Why Do Some People Just Disappear From Second Life?

By Mylie Foxclaw

I have often seen people panicking when their partner has suddenly stopped logging in.  I have reacted the same during my first years on Second Life too.  We imagine the worst, a real-life problem, a death… but in many cases, that person is fine, so why do they just disappear?

Sometimes people fear to hurt the other or expect a bad reaction.  You can’t say you won’t react badly if your partner suddenly tells you that he wants to part ways.  You will be hurt, you will probably vent out your anger without realising it.  The next best option is simply to just leave without a word; without drama.  
People know when you start distancing yourself.  They can sense it even if they may not admit it.  Sometimes they are just waiting for you to confront them and tell them the truth.  And you will be surprised.  I see some people who remained friends even after breaking up or who are on good speaking terms.  Some argued and distance themselves but later, they patch up and stay good friends. 

Second Life relationships are not always easy.  A good friend of mine once told me that certain people just ran off because they told a tiny lie at the beginning but now that the relationship grew and they formed a bond, they felt that they would hurt their partner but felt like this lie became a big issue.  So they preferred to disappear suddenly, without a word.  What could the lies be?  Claiming to be single when they are married, being of the opposite gender from what they play in Second Life, faking their age.  If you put yourself in the shoes of someone who lied and imagine what they go through as they realise that their lie is becoming an issue, you may probably react the same way and leave too. 

When you find that your partner has suddenly left, you may want to consider these reasons as well.  Give it some days or weeks, then try leaving a message or an e-mail or something to see if they respond.  Keep it simple and civilised.  Remember, you can’t force someone to be with you if they don’t wish to be.  If they want to leave, let them go.  Give yourself time to digest the fact.  Take some time off Second Life or explore new facets of the virtual world to distract yourself. 

Announcing bad news and knowing you are going to hurt someone is not easy.  But when you leave like that, you’re not making things easy either.  Your partner has no idea and will worry.  He/she will wait for a while, months maybe, especially if the feelings on his/her side are deep enough.  Later they may move on, or not.  Spare them the worries and the waiting.  Break it to them, let them get mad.  If it gets so bad, restart afresh but at least you know you done your part.  No regrets, no guilty conscience. 

Whether your partner have left or you wish to leave, put yourself in the shoes of the other party and imagine what you would go through.  Don’t leave someone hanging and don’t make them feel guilty.  When it’s over, we eventually have to move on.  No need to drag it on.  You will only hurt yourself.  Isn't it better to end things in a civilised manner and remain friends?

Mylie Foxclaw

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Commentary: Judging on Apperances

By Bixyl Shuftan

In real-life, Monday was Martin Luther King Jr. Day, a US holiday named after the noted civil-rights activist famous for his "I have a dream" speech in which he hoped for a day in which all people could ban together regardless of the color of their skin. This is also the week Barack Husein Obama, America's first President from a racial minority, leaves the White House. When he was elected a little over eight years ago, it was seen by many that the United States was entering a "Post-Racial Age." Unfortunately, the highly partisan atmosphere of the country led many to wonder if his most vocal opponents, or supporters, were motivated mainly by ethnic bias, if not outright racism. Ironically, the final days of the United States first black President, some feel black-white relations are at the lowest since the Civil Rights reforms of the 60s, if not even lower.

In Second Life, as it's residents can take on any appearance they want, one would think what they look like wouldn't matter wherever they went. That's not exactly the case. Various historical and sci-fi/Fantasy roleplay areas, such as "The Berlin 1920s Project," have stated unless you look like what someone in the time and place did/does, you can expect to be thrown out (after being given a warning). While this often means nonhuman avatars, human avatars wearing the wrong clothes will get thrown out as well. So the complaints about the RP sims have been minimal.

But what really irritates residents who prefer nonhuman avatars are the stories, if not personal experiences, about the handful of clubs and residential areas, meant not for roleplay but to just relax in, that have policies requiring visitors to be of human appearance only. Anyone who isn't gets thrown out. Grease Coakes would write about his experience with it at a club. I myself would write about the issue as well in 2009 and 2014. In my ten years I've only been asked to leave a place three times because of my appearance and two of them were probably the same location, the second time after someone invited me over to a venue suggesting it might be a great place to do a club review and afterwards never went there again. There were a few times someone handed me a notecard of the sim's dress code and once when a bot whispered to me that nonhuman avatars weren't welcome, but no further action was taken.

I've heard fans of furred avatars use the term "racism" to describe these experiences. I'm not so sure about that as we're not talking about human avatars of a different race, but a kind of appearance that in real life can only be compared to a circus "werewolf man," or the most extreme forms of body modification. Despite that such incidents seem to be rare, the result has been some residents being reluctant to go out into the wider grid, tending to stick around in places where there are other avatars like them, sometimes venturing out only after invited to by friends or if the location advertises itself as "furry friendly" or a similar term. On the other hand, there's no shortage of furs who don't particularly care if a few people have a problem with their appearance, and freely go about on the Grid. So you can pretty much find anthro avatars all over Second Life.

By all means the problem isn't just one way. I've heard of a few instances of furred avatars harassing human ones because of their appearance. The one of which I heard the most details was of a human DJ at a furry club getting insulted by one of the vulpines, calling her a "hairless ape." But the furred staff would have none of it. The offender was thrown out and banned for several weeks. Aside from a few nude beaches and a couple RP areas several years ago, humans are not going to have a problem going about sims that cater to furs. And as many furs prize individuality, I've seen contests at furry clubs in which the winner is the lone human who entered. Plus I've seen mixed couples on the dance floor, as well as an occasional mixed partnership between a human and fur (for some reason though, I've seldom seen human males in these pairings).

As for the issue of avatars and race, it was touched upon early in Second Life's history by Hamet Au when he was in the employ of Linden Lab, him describing an experiment by one normally blonde and fair-skinned lady when she went about in a black skin. The result was a few instances of racial slurs, and a few friends not contacting her for a while. So a few years ago, I decided to do an experiment of my own as part of a Relay for Life avatar challenge by going about as a black human for a while. The results were quite different from described by the girl in Hamlet's article. Only two people made an issue about it, and one was a real life coworker who follows the newsletter. In fact, there were a few people (all human) who asked me if I was going to keep it as my main appearance.

Over time, these articles have gotten a number of responses, some describing their own or a friend's ill treatment. One remarked it was his experience any avatar that stuck out from the rest of those in a sim, whether it was human, furry, or otherwise, was sooner or later going to run into trouble, often because of the fear of griefers.

It's been a while since I've heard details about someone getting thrown out of a place because of his or her avatar's appearance. Though as the retirement of America's first black President in real life has brought up questions about how widespread ethnic bias is, among both his opponents and supporters, it did make me think about the issue in Second Life again. How widespread the problem is, in both real life and Second Life, it seems to be a matter of opinion.

Bixyl Shuftan

Friday, January 13, 2017

Lauren Weyland. Second Life's Comedian/Comedienne, is Retiring

By Deaflegacy

Lauren Weyland and I met at her club.  Before the interview began, I asked if we could do the interview in text because of my hearing disability.  Lauren said yes, and it was when the interview began.

Lauren's last day is on Tuesday, January 17.  After that, she will be retiring.  She had been working as a comedian for 10 years.  Lauren told me she had done comedy shows that are of First Life and Second Life. Curious, I asked what "First Life" is.  It turns out that "First Life" is another word for "Real Life" among some residents.

"What's your best memories, Lauren?" I asked.

"One of my best memories was actually at a real-life Second Life event nearly 8 years ago in San Francisco.  THE Second Life convention." said Lauren.  "When a woman came up to me and hugged me so tight. She is blind in first life...and she said I made her laugh so much she found so much happiness."

I smiled, knowing that comedy could go a long way.

Lauren said that after doing ten years of comedy, it's time to move on.  She will miss doing the show, which is the longest running show on Second Life.  She told me she missed only twenty shows in the whole time. At one show a week at fifty-two weeks a year, that's five hundred shows she's been in.

One of the things that comes with being a comedian is many great memories. 

Lauren gave me her old biography, which I will share in this article. 

I did learn from her old biography that Lauren was born on October 1, 2006, into a relatively modest family.  Lauren was unable to learn the craft of building or scripting.  Instead, she made watercress sandwiches for people who could build and entertained them with her jokes.  Since then, Lauren moved on and performed at dozens of clubs, corporate events, and numerable benefits.  She had also written and performed in Theater Plays as well as to maintain a regular show night at her club, "Lauren's Place" on Cookie Island.

Lauren has one child, Lula, and is living in the sim Old Wives although she had never been married.  When she is not working on comedy, she can be found landscaping at her home, making a gourmet meal, or just kicking back on her dock, reading a good novel. Lauren is also writing an autobiography, "Beneath The Skin: Second Life Exposed" and "Laughter - The orgasm you don't have to worry about if your partner is finished."

After reading Lauren's old biography and having an interview with her, I'd say that Lauren had accomplished so much in her 10 years of doing comedy.  I wish her all the best in her retirement.


Editor's note: The Newser also interviewed Lauren Weyland in 2011

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Phoenix Squadron

By Bixyl Shuftan

Last month, I was told about a group of pilots performing for a charity event in Second Life, the KT Festival raising funds for This was the Phoenix Squadron. Unfortunetly, I couldn't make the event. But I did meet up with one of the fliers shortly afterward, May Silvercloud. Meeting up at the museum area at Baitoushan International Airport (164, 180, 3001), she showed me three planes of theirs, a WW2 torpedo bomber, a 1940s "Shooting Star" jet, and a Vietnam War-era fighter-bomber, all painted crimson red, "This is our display. We are the group of the month for December."

I asked about the name, and May answered, "Well, some of the team were members of another, called the Moths. And when that team disbanded, we rose like a Phoenix, and formed Team Phoenix." She stated the team has three Americans, two Britishers, and one Brazilian for the pilots, as well as a DJ and announcer, "We train twice a week when we don't have a show, and the week of a show we will train everyday beforehand." There was no association with the Firestorm Development Team, which used to be called the Phoenix Development Team in it's earlier days, though there was a Phoenix airport that they later based at.

Besides the KT Festival, they had taken part in other events. Probably the most memorable, "would have to be one we did for Willow Spring Horse Auction place.They were having an event for Relay for Life. The sim was packed and the lag was really bad. But we stuck to our plan, and it turned out great." But as they had taken part in larger air shows and times with other teams, others might have a different idea. Of Second Life's flight squadron's she called Phoenix, "one of the most varied of all the teams ...  the variety of maneuvers we fly (and) we fly very close, and also keep formation. Other teams spread themselves more, which (in our opinion) distracts the viewer from the team, focuses on individuals rather than the team. And Phoenix is all about the team."

She told me the team would be meeting up on Sunday, and some days later I dropped by where they were at the SecondLife International Airport at the Antilaghi (244/189/24). The four others besides May were Mr. Pilot Sinn (Aviator747), whom was the only male in the group, Destiny Bellarose (Destiny0000), Diana266, and Mila Kowalski. They were seated at the moment, and invited me to sit with them. May described her introduction to Second Life aircraft , "I was introduced to it by a friend, and then trained by Diana and Pilot in a group called NAS (Naval Air Squadron)." Pilot stated, "I am a real-life pilot, so I enjoy anything to do with aviation." Destiny told, "I stumbled upon it all by accident and trained myself by trial and error until joining an aerobatic team about 3 years ago, and then really learning how to fly. My husband is an air show pilot in real life." Diana commented, "Dest is an airshow groupie." Destiny giggled, "Yes, I've been to them all over North America." Mila informed, "I am part from that group called NAS that May talked before." May mentioned the pilot who was absent, "We do have another pilot called Melody. She is away in real life for a while."

Destiny went on, "I have partied with and flown next to the real-life Blue Angels. ... love flying in both worlds. I think it took me about a year of flying everyday to learn how to land and airplane on a runway. It is harder than it looks." Mila added, "Same here Des." May stated of the group's purpose, "We do this to promote flying in Second Life, and because we love doing it. As Pilot says, it's amazing how many people don't know you can fly in Second Life. And when they see it, they are amazed." My response was, "That seems a bit odd to me, considering one of the first things one learns around here is pressing the 'fly' button." May answered me, "Yes, but not in planes. Most people never get to experience it as they are in clubs or on sims without flying." Pilot added, "I have talked to some people in sl that have been here a long time,and they had no idea you could fly a plane in Second Life."

Eventually May suggested, "Ok, shall we take Bix for a flight?" The group went to five jets parked just outside the hangar. May invited me to get into the back seat of her jet, and they started the engines, "hold on to your hat." The planes then went down the runway, picking up speed, then taking off, raising the landing gear. To see around, I had to expand my draw distance, but lower the quality of what could be seen. We were out over ocean, so that helped things rezz faster. Among the things I saw in the water was Ahab's Haunt, an island with a huge creature's skeleton that Gemma Cleanslate had written about years ago. I also saw that we weren't along in the air. Someone else was flying around these skies at the moment. The squadron flew about, doing manuvers and going about in formation. They would loopin formation, fly stright up and seperate and reform, and other manuveres. It was quite a ride.

Eventually, it was time to head back. So the squadron made a return course to the airport, made their approach to the runway, and touched down. Despite all of those sim crosings, no one had crashed. Thr group did feel one thing gave them some trouble, May saying, "That boat caused me a lot of problems with lag spikes." Diana explained, "Many of the older boats have lots of scripts and are high prims." Destiny felt the problem was something else, "I had too much eggnog last night. I thought my left hand was my right hand." I asked about boats and buildings in combat areas that are scripted to fall apart when having taken enough damage. May told me, "They can be bad if they fall apart when we are near them. But not so bad normally."

Commenting about the variety of planes around, I asked if they had any favorite planes in aviation history. May answered, "Mine is definitely the Spitfire." Pilot added, "Mine is the P-51."Destiny spoke, " My favorite is the Spitfire as well. Love their manuverability and the sound of that engine as the plane roars by you." Mila commented, "Mine is (the) Hell Diver I think." Of the planes' mechanics, Destiny commented, "We have a great fly script thanks to our plane's builder, Shana." Mila added, "Yes Shana is the best!" "She builds a great product for what we do."

I asked about occasions in which things went hilariously wrong. May answered, "Well, we did a display, or tried to. But when we entered the sim, all but I crashed." Destiny chuckled, "Sometimes we get crazy and crash into each other and giggle to death. I had to edit out of a creek (on) the day May speaks of......I was soooooooooo embarrassed. The lag was insane that day." May stated, "Although we are serious fliers, we don't take ourselves seriously." Destiny added, "We are here to have fun, but, we have that professional side that requires commitment."

May commented, "There would be a lot more shows if there wasn't so much rivalry amongst creators. ... Certain designers won't go to the same sim as others. A friend of ours tried to organize a huge show, and it got canceled because of (rivalry)." Destiny spoke, "I think that rivalries and egos are everywhere." May went on, "If designers would just accept that customers don't all want the same thing. It would be much easier. Some want realistic flight capabilities, and some don't." "Diversity is so necessary," Destiny commented. The talk returned to Shana again, May saying, "We publicly support her, and she has helped us as a group enormously." Destiny added, "Yes....and she tries to come to our shows and various events."

It was about this time Pilot had to leave, before I had another question to ask, "With him being the only guy, I take it there's been some minor ribbing on occasion?" "No, not minor," May answered, "major." Destiny giggled, "He puts up with lots of girlie talk." May added, "but gives as good as he gets." I asked, "Any stories, or are the readers just asked to use their imaginations?" May stated, "I take the fifth on that." Destiny joked, "Well .... as an example, as we were taxing out today, he made some sound in his mic. And I simply asked him, 'Hey, Pi, get a hair caught in your zipper?' " The group chuckled. Destiny continued, "I harrass him like that all the time. He takes it all in fun." May stated, "We have all been friends for about two years now. So we know each other inside and out." 'We don't take ourselves too seriously," Destiny added, "and, we can be brutily honest when called upon." I did half-seriously ask if with the red coats of paint on the planes, were there any jokes about diving with the sun behind them. That led to a conversation about combat sims, and they reminding of their start in the NAS.

It was about this time we went our seperate ways. May reminded, "We are here to entertain and hopefully raise money for the various charities." Destiny offered to answer any questions readers of the article might have.

So if you're interested in Second Life aviation, this is one group of people who know plenty about it. And if you want an air group to perform at a charity event, they'll be more than happy to help.

Bixyl Shuftan.