Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Interview With Cynthia Farshore.

By Deaflegacy

Cynthia Farshore and I met at her place.  She offered me some tea and I accepted.  I asked Cynthia Farshore how she found out about Second Life.  "Real-life friend," said Cynthia Farshore, "Really talked it up and said would have things ready for me.  I hadn't had any experience in inworlds so didn't know beans about it."

"Could you please describe to me what your first days on Second Life were like?" I asked Cynthia. She replied, "Mmm, first days.  I was really shy. ... October 3 was my ninth Rezz Day so we're covering about nine years in a hurry."  I wished Cynthia Farshore a happy belated Rezz Day, then she continued, "Now, one of the people to bring me in was Raschid Marenwolf who I stuck with til Eternity. But that sim group was dying. ... Well there's more to the story than that. Actually my first home was 7isles and that is my destroyed land felled by strange magic.  In other words, Linden Lab screwed things up. But that's another story.  Then I traveled to Eternity Castle where I met a few like Liska." 

"... I Looked around and had been told of the Sunweavers," Cynthia Farshore continued on, "Now I had a rough growing up, wasn't liked in High School, was bullied some. The Navy wasn't the best place to have REAL friends, so I was outgoing.  Why I say that is so you understand why I was sneaking around Sunweaver.  I didn't know what kind of people I was going to run into and my experience so far in Medieval roleplay sims was not always the warmest.  But one day, I was floating around, cause I would less likely to be seen or contacted. I ran across a pyramid building and saw a line of furries dancing in sync.  I thought I would like to be a part of that.  I began to explore the building and then realized Raschid knew some of the residents."

Cynthia Farshore went on, "'Ok so must be a good place,' so I got brave and walked in during a dance.  There, one of the first to greet me and start talking to me was Shockwave, and we hit it off right there.  On the roleplay sims you get a casual greeting. But once there, I found people actually talk to you.  Finally a place I felt welcomed and was happy.  Once I was comfortable I began asking questions on how things worked and started building my first house, and it looked like it. Thus comes in Shocky.  With his help, I learned and my skills grew.  Now Caledon, well that came much later.  I collect some antiques, so of course 19th century steampunk attracted me."

At that point, Shockwave Yareach came in and Cynthia Farshore greeted him.  I asked Shockwave  if he didsn't mind having his name mentioned in the article.  Shockwave replied, "Not a bit.  I'm proud to be with my lady." Cynthia explained that we were talking about coming to Sunweaver.  "You were.... hesitant." replied Shockwave  "And the first time I walked in to Cutlass which was the first real Sunweaver contact and the wolf was one of the very first to say hello.  So now we're at coming to Caledon. Again I sort of hid in the shadows and looked around.  This time 'cause being furry I found places like 1920's Berlin and Civil War RP to not be so happy about some one with more hair than them.  But soon I found enough to see it was open." said Cynthia Farshore.  "Place was not so populated so getting anywhere in membership and a place was slow.  Finally found some one who granted me citizenship.  It took a bit but finally got this parcel we're on and found a ready made store that would fit in perfectly."

My next question was about Cynthia Farshore's projects, especially the award winning build she did for Relay For Life a few years ago.  She answered, "Mmmm.  Ok well, I was just building small for myself when there was a disturbance in the force so to speak.  Someone who had built a lot of Sunweaver things, took their ball and went home.  So I being able and feeling I could help started by replacing the fishing deck that Zorro uses today on Sunweaver Space, in addition to having been asked to build a new Cutlass.  Course my jaws dropped off my skull.  It's the buckets of bolts hanging in the sky today.  I had the sim Pacific Waters and went nuts building there, since I'm from an aviation family: Air field! 

"Which lead to the air show idea after I joined our Relay For Life team.  Naturally once on that team, Rita the Chief, the two of us, " she pointed to Shockwave, "got called out to build.  We decided to take turns being chief builder per year.  Ohhh, my first camp nearly killed me, was fighting to get things to work to the last hour.  Was up all the night.  Learned a lot what NOT do do.  That was a couple years later and it was the theme Once Upon A Cure, so I thought story book let's just make a story then.  So this was different."

My last question was about "Bid Me Foxy." She answered, "Bid me Foxy, ohh boy," replied Cynthia, "I have been a goat all my SL life, until then.  It started with my friend Liska (doing a) 'Bid me Goat,' guess why goat (grin). So in response I got brave and put in for 'Bid me Fox.'  As Liska had basically my avatar as I am a heavy modded AV, I found her fox still available, the game was on.

"Booyy I had no idea the Sunnies would sentence me to twelve weeks!!  And if we include Shocky he also got twelve weeks as a goat!  But hey, we raised over 64 K.  So for 12 weeks me and Shocky was close to reversed."

I asked Cynthia  if there was anything else she would like me to mention in the article.  She relied, "Oh, and the DJing and two radio steams.  One is classic rock and the other steampunk or events.  For someone to have come in hiding behind trees, I now build, DJ, holder of two sims and two parcels, am a Duchy in Caledon and have a large number of friends.  Second Life has helped me in my real self. I have DJed for Sunweavers, Nydia's Angels, Caledon Nights and still do some as a matter of facts I'm DJing this weekend for Caledon Oxbridge University fund drive tomorrow night  (Saturday Oct. 20) 7 - 9 SL time." Cynthia Farshore went on to say that she will also be DJing  on Oct. 27th from 6-8PM SL time at the Goblin Cave Entertainment Center in Caledon Downs (104,89,32).

Over the past nine years, "The goat you got," as she once called herself, has come a long way.


Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Interview With DJ Khyra Ares

By Deaflegacy

Khyra Ares is a DJ in Second Life.  In the past, she's DJed at places such as the Heart of Gold club. The Newser best knows her for her DJing Monday nights at the Happy Vixen beach club. There, she's best known for her "EDM" style music, and her unique "dazzle" pattern of stripes, which has given her the nickname the "Dazzlecat DJ." She and I recently had an interview.

I met Khyra on Discord instead of on Second Life for the interview. It seemed like a good idea. My first question for her was how long has she been Dj-ing for the Happy Vixen Club? “Close to if not just over a year now,” said Khyra. When I asked her if she is also a DJ in real life, Khyra replied, “Actually yes. Some of the people I have known in Second Life have gotten me a few gigs here and there, mainly at conventions.”

I asked Khyra how she found Second Life. She answered, “Back in September of 2006 I was engaged to a guy that I had been dating for about seven years. On the second of September, he took me to his house and confessed how much he loved me and how it hurt when I wasn't there with him. He told me he would always be there for me. The last words he said were 'I'm sorry.' I had looked down for a moment when something hit the floor, and the next sound I heard was the gun as he took his own life."

"I was devastated,” said Khyra, “I shut down completely and wouldn't talk to anyone, I hardly ate, I didn't sleep. I retreated to the only safe place I knew of: my computer. I found myself searching the internet randomly, not really for anything in particular. But then an advertisement on a random webpage caught my eye. It was an ad for Second Life. I downloaded the viewer and retreated into the virtual world, trying to keep myself as far away from reality as I could. I made friends, lived my life there, and after a week or so, it became more of a grief therapy than a game. I wasn't able to sleep for almost a month, just spent that time in world. Second Life helped me more than anyone will ever know.”

The question after that was how she came to have that particular avatar that she has now. Khyra replied, “I always had a vision of how I wanted my avatar to look. It took a few years and saving lots of tips from dancing and DJing to be able to get an avatar creator to do a tribal stripe design for my tigress avatar and purchase all the other parts I needed.” replied Khyra, “The avatar mimics my real-life fursona.”

I wanted to know if Khyra was planning on staying as a DJ at Happy Vixen Club for a long time. “I am indeed. As long as they will have me,” said Khyra with a smile. The last question I had for her was what are her future plans. Khyra replied,  “I think this question deserves one of my favorite movie quotes. 'The future is not set. There is no fate but what we make for ourselves' - John Connor, Terminator 2. Allow me to explain. My schedule in the real world is very hectic. One month I could have nothing to do at all other than my two day a week job. The next month I could be working 24/7 for three months straight. I live day to day, making my future as I go along."

"Aside from Djing in Second Life as well as room parties at real-life conventions," Khyra explained,  "my main job is as a Field Technician for Talton Communications, a company that provides equipment for telephones for detainees at multiple I.C.E. (immigration) detention centers across the country. I go to the facilities that I service once a week and do any repairs that are needed. My hobby, which other folks call a second job is I have a small, one person mobile computer repair business. I build computers, repair them, upgrade them, install home networks for wired and wireless internet, and install camera systems for residences. I am unsure of whether or not I will be able to DJ sometimes, but some how, I always pull it off in the end, one way or another.”

Khyra DJs at the Happy Vixen each Monday (baring real-life interruptions) from 6 to 9 SL time.
Purrfection Estates (236/219/24).


Monday, October 1, 2018

Interview With Tonya Souther of Team Firestorm

By Bixyl Shuftan

It was a week ago that Team Firestorm celebrated it's eighth anniversary party. Among those there was Tonya Souther, whom heads the part of the team that works on the Firestorm  Apple computer viewer, and is a founding member of the team. I recently met up with her to talk about her and her time with the team.

Noting that she had been around since 2009, I asked Tonya how she found out about Second Life. She answered, "I have an real-life friend who ran a club here for quite a long time. She's known as Axi Kurmin inworld, and as DJBronxelf in real-life. And yes, she will happily combine the two. I've known her for much longer than I've been on Second Life. She got me interested, and going to a furry convention (RCFM) that had some Second Life content.  I created this character before I got on SL, and was thrilled I could be the tigress I'd been playing online for years. ... .I was part of a group who'd been together on IRC for years. ... I bought the first avatar within moments, but that's because I'd met the creator at RCFM before signing up."

Tonya's first days and weeks went, "like learning any new platform, but Axi did a lot to help me up the learning curve, and so did the folks at the RCFM sim." One thing that got her attention was the futniture designed for Restrained Life furniture in mind, not just the cheeky aspect, but that people had the ability to design these kinds of things here, "that was what sold me on this platform being something that could be much broader than I'd magined." She would develop and sell her own line of RLV furniture.

Although Tonya became a user of the Emerald Viewer, "I liked the feature set ... I didn't meet Jessica until July of 2010. They had come up with a new release, but there was no Mac version available. They'd had problems getting it running, and their previous Mac developer had left in a huff. I got it working, and got invited to join the project, right before the whole Emeraldgate kerfuffle happened. I was an Emerald developer for a grand total of three weeks before it imploded.

As Tonya had just joined the team, her perspective from inside during Emeraldgate was somewhat limited, "What I saw was the fallout from the metadata data collection and the DDoS. I didn't know any of the players well, but I knew who were the big contributors. When LL issued their ultimatum, I wasn't all that surprised. The big problem for us was going to be to keep the project going. I wanted to have Emerald continue as before, minus the three people that Linden Lab had demanded depart. Two of them did, but one did not...and his refusal essentially shot Emerald in the head."

She described what happened next, "When it became obvious that we were going down in flames, I got with Jessica. She'd made comments about forking the project, and I convinced her that we were going to have to do just that if we couldn't eject that one developer. We did try. Jessica had admin privileges on the Emerald servers and she tried to lock that developer out of it, but got caught and shut off. So I talked her into starting a new project, which came quickly to be known as Phoenix (from the ashes of Emerald). She was reluctant at first. But she realized after I twisted her arm that it needed doing, and she was about the only one who could. And so we did."

Tonya called the next few weeks, "Hectic as hell! We were busting our collective butts to get something, anything, ready to release ASAP, so the users would have something to work with. Linden Lab had been very, very clear in their insistence that if their ultimatum wasn't met, Emerald would be blocked. But we got something built and running and rebranded,-that was most of the hard work, really - and released. And as soon as we did, Linden Lab dropped the banhammer (on Emerald)."

When I asked if the reaction of Team Phoenix to the Lab putting their viewer on the approved list was a sigh of relief, Tonya responded, "Yes, and not from just us, either. I can't prove it, but I'm pretty sure Linden Lab was waiting for us to release before banning Emerald. They were quite happy that they had an alternative available for folks who didn't want to use 1.23." And the reaction fron the new team to what was left of Emerald signing up with Utherverse the owners of the small "Red Light District" adult-oriented virtual world? Tonya called it, "A collective eyeroll, and that was about it. We were up to our a**es in our own alligators enough, and we didn't have time to worry about what folks Linden Lab had run off were up to, as long as they didn't bother us. They tried. They released a version of Emerald, the 2600 release, that was designed to evade the ban, and got themselves thrown out of SL for their troubles. ... I don't know how many were banned just for using it; I only know that two were banned for releasing it - one of them one of the ones Linden Lab had demanded we eject from Emerald." This was Lonley Bluebird/Phox, "the other was Arabella Steadham, who was Emerald's PR person. Me, I never understood why an open source project needed a PR person in the first place, and when she started trying ot run the Emerald project at the end, that struck me as a serious case of (the) tail wagging (the) dog."

But after their hectic start, things began to calm a little. But they weren't truly out of the woods for a little while, "Once we got the first relase out, things quieted down a bit. We had some teething pains, with one developer trying to take over the world and getting run off, and juggling infrastructure. But it settled down after a few months. That's when we could start back to working on actually improving the code and fixing stuff that had been broken. I'd say we were in a state of flux for about the first six months, and then we could really get on with the business of making a viewer people would actually want to use. We were conscious that we were rising form Emerald's ashes. The topic on the Skype channel we were using to communicate at the time got set to 'Wie Phonix aus der Asche werd ich auferstehen' ...a line from Megaherz's song Kopfschuss. 'They tried shooting us in the head and we rose again.' And we knew that all eyes were on us, just waiting to pounce if we screwed up even a little bit. So we went out of our way to be squeaky clean."

So what was the feeling of the team at their first anniversary? Tonya described it as, "Surprised we'd made it that far, and relief that we'd put the worst behind us. We figured that if we'd lasted that long, then we were going to keep going indefinitely. Most of that was due to Jess. It's actually very rare for an open source software project to be led by a non-programmer, but she's done a masterful job of it." When asked what the biggest challenges the team faced since their first few months were, she remarked, "The biggest challenges have been personalities, mainly, Jess will joke, as she did at the party Sunday, about having two developers near each other who aren't trying to kill each other, but our disagreements have been ... passionate, at times. But we get through them."

I asked about the times Linden Lab stepped in and asked them to remove something, such as the feature early on that told users what viewer others were using. Tonya answered, "A few times, yes. We go back and forth with Linden Lab quite often about what goes into the viewer and what stays out. Most of the time, we agree pretty quickly. But there have been some serious arguments. That was one. The reason Linden Lab gave - that it was leading to bullying of users not using Phoenix - I think was BS, but LL does have the power to demand that we do things a certain way. And in the end, we do them if we can't change Oz's mind. Fortunately, he does listen to us and champion us internally. I asked if that was the biggest difference of opinion between the Lab and the team. She answered, "Mrrrr...that's a good question. I think it was, but there have been others almost as big. Take our 3-reelase policy, for example. We now will disable versions of Firestorm older than the current release minus two. We didn't want to do it, but the Lab insisted and said that we could either do that or else use their automatic updater. We're all about giving the user choices, so we do it our own way."

And while the team had their share of challenges, what were the parts that were the most fun? She answered, "The fun parts for us are when people discover something in Firestorm they didn't know was there that makes their lives easier. That gives us a real boost.  Events? We don't really have things that turn us on as a team. We're proud and happy when Jessica gets recognized for the work we've done."

Being part of Team Firestorm is only part of what Tonya does. She also runs a sci-fi roleplay inworld, about a group of Earthfolk whom are in a symbiotic relationship with extraterrestrials known as the Lategum, "Roleplay is alive and well in Second Life! I've got a sim I manage, and a group, that has an ongoing roleplay with some serious worldbuilding behind it. That's been rewarding, not just for its own sake, but as a place to belong among like-minded people. I'm wearing the uniform of the RP group, where I am known as Sister Alpha 8369. We spend quite a lot of time with each other, and it points out the real genius of Second Life: we can be who and what we want to be, deep down inside, and enjoy the company of others with similar interests."

Tonya showed me one of the meeting areas of the roleplay, "This is our common gathering area. ... We're actually 3 0 meters below the surface of the island nation of Jimat Pulau, in the South Pacific not far from Tahiti." There were some pictures nearby in a hallway, "We have a couple of furry artists among our members. But we are not furry-exclusive. We'll happily accept any species we can make a uniform for. In practice, that means they need to use a body that's SLUV compatible. Making uniforms for all fo the different mesh bodies is a rabbit hole that goes very, very deep. I made the uniforms, originally, and have adapted them for Maitreya and Omega."

"Second Life is a big part of my life, in general," Tonya told me, "Without Firestorm, I'd have left long ago. Yes, I'm a developer, but I couldn't do it by myself, not even close. We have a pretty large team, and every last one of them does something we need. They all deserve thanks."

Tonya Souther can either be contacted inworld, or email her at

Addition: Tonya Souther also has a blog, where she talks about "Second Life, from the perspective of a user, builder, vendor, and third-party viewer developer." -

Bixyl Shuftan