Tea Time murders, divine hags, mermaids and castaways

It’s time to kick-off a week of story-telling in voice, brought to our virtual lives by the staff and volunteers at the Seanchai Library. As always, all times SLT, and events are held at the Library’s Second Life home at Bradley University, unless otherwise indicated.

Sunday, February 7th: Crazy Eights Tea Time at Baker Street

Crazy Eights: the lounge at 221B Baker Street stands ready to receive guests

Crazy Eights: the lounge at 221B Baker Street stands ready to receive guests for readings of The Return of Sherlock Holmes, every Sunday commencing on February 7th

Sherlock Holmes is dead, killed when he plunged from a ledge atop the Reichenbach Falls, Switzerland, whilst locked in physical combat with his arch nemesis, James Moriarty. There is simply no way either man could have survived the drop, and so Sherlock Holmes is dead.

Or is he?

Holmes-returnThree years after this fateful event, long-time friend of Holmes, Doctor John Watson, now returned to practising medicine, attends the murder of a young gambler, the Honourable Ronald Adair. Apparently shot at close range with a revolver, Adair’s room was locked from the inside with the only other exit being a 20-foot drop out of an open window to the street below; not an easy escape route for a murderer.

While visiting the crime scene, Watson encounters an old book collector, and is perplexed when the book collector follows him back to his Kensington Practice – until the old man removes his disguise and proves himself to be Sherlock Holmes!

Thus, Watson is reunited with Holmes and learns some of what has transpired in the three years since the events in Switzerland. He also learns that Holmes is still in danger and has baited a trap in which  he hopes to catch one of Moriarty’s henchmen, who, as it transpires, is also responsible for the murder of Ronald Adair.

Join Caledonia Skytower, Corwyn Allen, Kayden OConnell ain the living room of 221B Baker Street on Seanchai’s Crazy Eights installation, as the commence reading the collected adventures of Holmes and Watson, first published in the Stand Magazine in 1903-04, and gathered into the single volume, The Return of Sherlock Holmes, published in 1905.

Monday February 8th 19:00: Peter Robinson

Gyro Muggins continues with a tale from the universe of Larry Niven’s Man-Kzin Wars.

Man Kzin XThe Kzinti, are a warlike race Niven first introduced to the world in his 1966 story The Warriors. They permeated many of his stories set in the Known Space series, and well as appearing in his Nebula and Hugo award-winning Ringworld. In his stories, Niven references a series of conflicts between Kzinti and humans, but did not write about the wars himself. Such was the demand for more information on the wars, however, he allowed the Man-Kzin wars to become a shared universe series, with the majority of the stories written by other science-fiction authors such as Hal Codebatch, Poul Anderson, Dean Ing, Jerry Pournelle, S.M. Stirling, Greg Bear and others.

Peter Robinson is a short story written by Australian author Hal Colebatch, and forms one of 18 stories he has written for the series. It first appears in Man Kzin X: The Wunder War, and is one of four stories, all by Codebatch, which make up the volume.

In it, an expedition by the Institute of Knowledge on Jinx, funded by the Puppeteers sets of to explore a recently detected slaver stasis box, an artefact of the ancient Thrintun (Slaver) Empire. Arriving at their target, the team of mixed races, including human and Kzinti, discover that it is nine miles in diameter, the largest box ever discovered.

Tuesday February 9th: The Cailleach Returns

In Irish and Scottish mythology, the Cailleach is a divine hag, and regarded as a creatrix. In Scotland, for example, she is credited with making many mountains and high hills, and is also regarded as the mother of all the gods and goddesses. She’s also said to be the personification of winter.

Find out more by joining Aoife Lorefield at Seanchai Library.

Wednesday February 10th 19:00: Pearl

PearlFaerie Maven-Pralou continue her reading of the first book in Lisa Pinkham’s the Doll Collection series.

Everything changes for Addy on her 12th birthday, when she receives a mysterious gift of a collection of dolls and an opal necklace imbued with magical powers.

Soon, Addy finds herself transported to a beach where she meets a mermaid, Pearl, and where she can swim with and talk to underwater fairies and enjoy the company of min-reading dolphins.

But all is not as safe as it seems; when Pearl vanishes and Addy’s magic necklace is stolen, Addy is left with no way home and without a friend – and she must confront the thief on her own, trusting that the magic which resides in her is enough to put things to rights.

Thursday, February 11th 19:00 On the Island

Shandon Loring and Caledonia Skytower, continue reading the February choice for Seanchai Library’s Crazy Eight’s Featured books reading, On The Island by Tracey Garvis Graves.

Anna Emerson, a 30-year-old English teacher accepts s position as private tutor to 17-year-old T.J. Callahan, a young man who has been undergoing treatment for cancer. For Anna, it is a plum assignment, requiring as it does travelling to the Callahan Family’s summer rental in the Maldives with the teenager. T.J., however, is less than happy; with his cancer in remission, he’d rather stay at home with friends, and not carted off half-way around the world with the dead weight of lessons to catch-up on.

The island area

Crazy Eights Featured Book area: join Shandon and Caledonia in tropical surroundings  as they continue reading On the Island

Before they can reach their destination however, the pilot of the charter plane taking them to the Maldives suffers a heart attack, the ‘plane ditching in the Indian Ocean. Making it to a deserted island well off the beaten track, Anna and T.J. must work together to survive as days turn to weeks, and weeks to months without sign of rescue. As the time passes, Anna realises that her biggest challenge may not be caring for T.J. should his cancer return – but the fact he is growing into a young man.

Note: On the Island is also to be presented at Seanchai InWorldz. Check Seanchai session posts during the week for specific grid locations).

Saturday, February 13th 13:00: Seanchai 101 Workshop at the Crazy Eights

So, you think you want to be a storyteller or story reader?  It’s as simple as picking up a book and opening it, isn’t it?  Maybe, and maybe not.  Join Caledonia Skytower  at the Storyteller’s Workshop, part of Seanchai Library’s Crazy Eights installation, for an hour of tips and tricks from her seven plus years as a virtual storyteller on how to bring words to life using only your voice and your love of the text.

Note that his workshop will require the use of SL voice by active participants. If you have not used voice before or in a while, you can check your microphone settings within the viewer at Voice Echo Canyon. Further information on the workshop can be found on Seanchai’s Crazy Eights web page.


Please check with the Seanchai Library SL’s blog for updates and for additions or changes to the week’s schedule.

The featured charity for January / February is Heifer International, working with communities to end world hunger and poverty and to care for the Earth.

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Experience the Adirondacks in Second Life

Experience the Adirondacks; Inara Pey, February 2016, on Flickr Experience the Adirondacks (click any image for full size)

The new year has brought with it a new region design for Sera Bellic’s demonstration region for her Lick Sim Designs. The rural fields and rolling hills of Belleck House, redolent as they were of the Scottish lowlands or the countryside of Ireland, have now passed, and their place taken by another outdoor scene; one this time inspired by the North American continent.

Experience the Adirondacks offers visitors a taste of the Adirondack massif in the north-east of upstate New York in North America. This is a roughly circular dome of mountains whose formation owes much to ancient glaciation, and which shelters a range of wetlands as well as being home to the Adirondack Park.

Experience the Adirondacks; Inara Pey, February 2016, on Flickr Experience the Adirondacks

In Second Life, Sera offers a similar environment to  visitors: the region is surrounded by high mountains, some of them showing rounded tops and deep v-shaped flanks, suggestive of glaciers having helped carve them into being. Within their shelter, the region offers a gently sloping landscape with rocky outcrops to one end and wooded slopes leading down to a curving bay to the east. This, in turn, is protected north and south by long fingers of wooded headlands, the northern one providing access to the region’s single cabin, built out over the water.

This is a scene from the great outdoors, where physical activity can be the order of the day, and this latter point is immediately evidenced to visitors upon their arrival. The landing point sits on a large wooden platform sitting over the flooded floor of a sheer shaded crater-like hole, a waterfall plunging into it over the precipice to one side. Unless one resorts to cheating and the use of flight, the only way off the platform is by either a walk under the water or a swim across it with the aid of a “floatie”, rezzed by touching the blue sphere floating over the water.

Experience the Adirondacks; Inara Pey, February 2016, on Flickr Experience the Adirondacks

There are further watery activities to be found as you explore: swimming is available in the curving bay to the east, canoes can be obtained from various points and used to paddle around the region’s shoreline, while for the adventurous, a climb up to the plateau at the southern end of the region will reveal an opportunity for cliff diving – just be warned the water at the foot of the cliffs is a little shallow!

For those seeking something quieter, there are a number of seating and cuddle spots scattered about the region, including a very well-appointed tent for those who take their glamping comforts seriously :) .

Experience the Adirondacks; Inara Pey, February 2016, on Flickr Experience the Adirondacks

So if you’re looking for a brief break from the normal grind and fancy a little fresh, mountain air mixed with a little swimming or canoeing, why not Experience the Adirondacks for a while?

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The Drax Files 35: exposing the bones of Project Bento

Project Bento extends the avatar skeleton, adding a significant set of bones (e.g. 30 for the face, 30 for the hands Project Bento - extending the SL avatar skeleton

Project Bento extending the SL avatar skeleton

Project Bento is an ongoing project running as a collaboration between Linden Lab and content creators / animators to extend what is possible with the standard Second Life avatar. It’s also the subject of a series of reports and updates in this blog and, more importantly in this particular context, the subject of segment #35 of The Drax Files World Makers.

At just under 3.5 minutes in length, the segment is somewhat shorter than previous editions of World Makers, but what it lacks in time, it more than makes up for in terms of content. Anyone wishing to grasp the intent of the project, its complexity, and its collaborative nature can do no better than to sit down and watch World Makers 35.

Bento’s roots as a real project go back to around the start of 2015. The Second Life team at the Lab (which is probably larger than many people are prepared to give credit, comprising as it does product managers, engineers, designers, coders, the viewer team, etc.), periodically get together to discuss how and where they might improve Second life and offer new features.

Improvements to the avatar skeleton is one of those things that has long been requested by SL users and content creators, and thanks to work previously undertaken under-the-hood within Second Life, both within the servers and the viewer, it had, by early 2015, reached the point where it was felt it could be undertaken in a manner which would both yield a positive outcome.

Vir Linden, Senior Software Engineer at Linden Lab, and technical project lead for Bento

Vir Linden, Senior Software Engineer at Linden Lab, and technical project lead for Bento

Vir Linden has been the engineering lead in the project, which is by managed from a product perspective by Troy Linden and from an engineering standpoint by Oz Linden. It has over the months involved many from the SL team at the Lab including Aura Linden, Grumpity Linden, Dan Linden, Simon Linden, Rider Linden, and Coyot Linden, many of whom feature in the World Maker’s Video.

Perhaps most importantly of all, from a user’s perspective, is that from very early on, Bento featured – one might say almost driven – by content creators themselves, including Cathy Foil, Siddean Munro, Flea Bussy, Toady Nakamura, and Matrice Laville.

These are the people who focused on what bones should be thought about in order to extend the avatar skeleton, and who undertook a lot of the work testing ideas and feasibility, options for integration into tools already available to support avatar creation (such as Avastar, Mayastar), and so on. Several of the LDPW moles were also involved in the work, offering input and ideas based on their long-term experiences as content creators and developers.

Meetings for the project were held on a weekly basis (transitioning into the public Bento User Group meetings on Aditi once the work had reached to point of being available in a project viewer), and both Drax and I were invited along to witness the collaborative nature of the work between residents and Lab staff (although I admit, my attendance was sporadic, as the scheduled meeting time ended up being awkward for me to make in the latter part of 2015).

Bento project meetings were held in-world, allowing Lab staff and content creators / animators develop the project collaboratively.

Bento project meetings were held in-world, allowing Lab staff and content creators / animators develop the project collaboratively.

The complexity evident in Bento can be summed up in the fact that there are now 106 bones in the SL avatar skeleton, plus the original 26 collision volumes of the basic avatar, giving a total of 132 joints. These new bones include:

  • 11 extra limb bones for wings, additional arms, or extra legs.
  • 6 tail bones
  • 30 bones in the hands (all 10 fingers!)
  • 30 bones for facial expressions
  • 2 other new bones in the head for animating ears or antennae
  • 13 new attachment points associated with the new bones
Bento has huge implications for avatars of all kinds - even bunnies, as Etheria Parrott demonstrates with the facial features on this Bento Bunny . watch the video

Bento has huge implications for avatars of all kinds – even bunnies, as Etheria Parrott demonstrates with the facial features on this Bento Bunny . watch the video

Getting to this point alone took time and effort – and no small amount of testing. How many bones could the avatar realistically support within Second Life? What would be the data load placed on the simulator (allowing for a considerable amount of work the simulator used to do having been moved to the CDN service, something we’ll also be seeing more of in the future)? What happens when you get a lot of animated avatar appendages all operating in the same space?

These are just some of the questions which had to be addressed by those initially working on Bento, and are still being considered now in the more open Bento beta. Nor is it just a case of providing the bones and the options for animating them: there’s also the matter of ensuring the data relating to  bone movements, etc., can be reliably managed, tracked, communicated and visualised by both the simulator and the viewer.

All of which adds up to a complex project, but it is one seen as genuinely important by those at the Lab working on it, as Troy, Coyot, Aura, and Vir note in the video:

[Troy] The avatar is an extension of the resident. It’s an extension of their personality in a Very detailed way. [Coyot] Enabling  that imaginative element of ourselves is really important and not to be under-rated. People can go, “ah well, it’s fantasy, whatever,” but the imagination is an expression of who we really are. [Aura] By allowing avatars to have these new expressive modes, we can really increase this visual communication that people have. [Vir]  That’s going to increase the sense of presence in the 3D world.

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Windlight moves location in Second Life

Windlight Gallery in its new home

Windlight Gallery in its new home

Windlight Magazine and Art Gallery has relocated in-world. Now located in its own region, the gallery remains the centrepiece of Windlight Magazine in-world activities and the home to the Windlight Art Fellowship Programme.

As well as the gallery, the region is home to the Ristorante Ivanna, Chromatic Gallery, featuring the art of Windlight founder and owner, Johannes1977 Resident, office space for magazine staff, and the Tribute and Crown pub, which is conveniently located a short walk from the offices (hey! writing for a magazine is thirsty work, OK?!).

Ristorante Ivanna

Ristorante Ivanna

The region has yet to formally open, but work is progressing apace, with the gallery almost completely set-up, and members of the Windlight Staff gradually moving into the new office accommodation.

As the gallery now occupies its own region, there are a limited number of rental units which will be made available as the region opens. These will be available at L$200 per week, with a 100 LI allowance, and are placed in a prime spot facing the gallery building. Artists wishing to have a studio shop will get initial preference on the units when rentals open.

The Tribute and Crown pub - handy for after office hours - with the boathouse through the trees, where visitors can enjoy 7 seas fishing and other pastimes

The Tribute and Crown pub – handy for after office hours – with the boathouse through the trees, where visitors can enjoy 7 seas fishing and other pastimes

“We’ve decided to make the move so we can house larger art shows,” John told me as we discussed the relocation. “It also means we can support 3D projects as well.” Having a full region certainly gives an added sense of space to the Windlight facilities, and as a member of the staff, I have to admit the new staff offices causes me to get a little creative in setting out my workspace :) .

So, if you have a landmark for the Windlight Gallery, do be sure to hop over to the new location and update it; and while you’re there, why not have a wander around?

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