Arranmore in Second Life

Arranmore; Inara Pey, August 2016, on Flickr Arranmore – click any image for full size

Now open in Second Life is Arranmore, the latest region designed by Lauren Bentham. Although its name from Arranmore (Árainn Mhór, essentially “large island”), the largest inhabited island off the west coast of County Donegal, Ireland, this is an entirely a fictional place of dark fantasy – and extremely atmospheric to boot.

Lauren has a long history of region design in Second Life, offering some of the most popular destinations for SL traveller on the grid. From the Baja group of region (Baja Norte, Baja Cove, Baja Bay and Baja Sands), through the likes of Storybrooke Gardens (a personal favourite – see here and here), Bentham Manor, Everwinter, to her most recent prior design, Netherwood (see my April 2016 review), Lauren’s work is deservedly known and appreciated. I’ve little doubt Arranmore will be the same.

Arranmore; Inara Pey, August 2016, on Flickr Arranmore

Visitors arrive on the west side of the region, on a small platform alongside a single railway line which curls south-to-north along the west side of the island without actually going anywhere: the two extremes of the track end in buffers. Perhaps it once went further – the fallen mass of a lighthouse suggests a calamity befell the north-west end of the island, so perhaps the tracks were washed away in whatever storm may have been responsible for bringing down that tower.

Ringed by the high peaks of surrounding islands, Arranmore broods beneath a sombre, storm-laden blanket of heavy grey cloud. Thunder rolls around the rugged peaks of the other islands, a deep booming against the plaintive cry of gull and moan of wind. Lightning flickers and forks, reflected by the mist rolling in from the sea as it drifts inland between the island’s trees like a living thing, watched over by the ever-rotating eye of a surviving lighthouse.

Arranmore; Inara Pey, August 2016, on Flickr Arranmore

On arrival, newcomers are invited to take a torch, offered alongside the region’s rules. If you’re keeping to the default windlight – which I suggest you do while initially exploring – the torch is a handy thing to have. Across the tracks from the little railway platform sit the entrance to the grounds of a once great manor house. This, we are told, was had been the home to Lord & Lady Inman and their family, all of whom mysteriously vanished whilst on holiday. Since their disappearance, the house has slowly fallen into ruin and the fortunes of the island had declined.

It is along the path leading towards the brooding form of the manor house that we come across the first signs that this is indeed a place where those still living on the island might be somewhat Lovecraftian in their ways – or perhaps it was the Inmans themselves? Just over the wall from the path sits a rotunda, its broken dome still offering some protection for a statue of an adult figure holding an tentacled infant child close to his or her chest. Even along the path to the house strangeness can be found: an empty hearse, a mildewed stuffed toy, its eyes apparently cut out, occupying the basket of a tricycle, and the gaunt figure of a local, funereal in his top hat and tails, holding aloft a lantern – whether in greeting or warning is yours to decide.

Arranmore; Inara Pey, August 2016, on Flickr Arranmore

As with all of Lauren’s region designs, there is a lot to see here, be it in the manor house as it slowly moulders away, or in the surrounding grounds and other building on the island. All of it is beautifully composed to create an environment that is a curious mix of the dark, the beautiful, the mysterious, the unsettling, and utterly captivating. One which really needs to be experienced rather than simply written about.

Lauren notes that the region is primarily for enjoyment and photography – those wishing to rez props in support of their photo work can join the local group for L$175 and do so – but role-play is welcome. There is a warning in the rules that weapons are not allowed – although seeing a member of the admin team walking around carrying an assault rifle seemed  a little at odds with the spirit of the rules🙂. There’s also a Flickr group for those so minded to add their pictures.

Arranmore; Inara Pey, August 2016, on Flickr Arranmore

Definitely a must for any SL traveller’s itinerary.

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Rain songs and cipherscapes in Second Life

Song about Rain is an ensemble exhibition now open at the Pretentious Art Gallery, Crestwick Island ( a location I blogged about in June 2015), featuring images by Panteleimon Aeo, Burk Bode, MaryFelicity, Cold Frog, Nur Moo, Charlie Namiboo, Laura Richards, Mr. S., Sugar Silverstar, Maloe Vansant, and  Anita Witt.

As the title suggests, the central theme of this exhibition is rain, with each artist submitting a single avatar study on the subject. Thus, it is an eye-catching exhibition of subtle contrasts in using rain  to frame a scene, focus the eye and  / or tell a story. All of the images have much to say, but I confess that where storytelling is concerned, I found myself particularly drawn to The Rain Song by Mr. S. (featured at the top of this article), which suggested an entire novella to me whilst admiring it. All of the pictures are offered for sale at the set price of L$300 each.

Next door, at the Broad Street Gallery, Cipher (Ciphertazi Wandin), co-holder of Crestwick Island, presents eight of his superb images which mix landscapes, avatar studies and images of personal space together in an intriguing set of pieces. All are superbly and evocative of mood and place, and can be purchased for the exceptionally modest L$100 each.

Both the Pretentious Gallery and Broad Street Gallery are modest in size, making trips to see the two exhibitions easy to combine. Doing so also offers visitors the opportunity to explore Crestwick Island which, if you haven’t done so before, is very much worth taking the time to see.

Note that due to the landing point in operation, you’ll need to walk into town to reach the galleries – but again, this gives you the chance to enjoy Crestwick Island more fully than if simply plonking down in front of the galleries🙂 .

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Second Life’s August 23rd woes by April Linden

secondlifeTuesday, August 23rd was not a particularly good day for Second Life, with an extended period of unscheduled maintenance with log-ins suspended and those in-world advised to refraining from rezzing No Copy objects, or making any LindeX related transactions, etc.

At the time of the problem, there was speculation that it might be due to further issues with the central database node (and kudos for Caitlyn for suggesting this🙂 ). Writing in a Tools and Technology blog post on August 24th, Operations Team lead April Linden confirmed this was in fact the case:

Shortly after 10:30am [PDT], the master node of one of the central databases crashed. This is the same type of crash we’ve experienced before, and we handled it in the same way. We shut down a lot of services (including logins) so we could bring services back up in an orderly manner, and then promptly selected a new master and promoted it up the chain. This took roughly an hour, as it usually does.

Given this has happened in the relatively recent past (see here and here), the Ops Team are getting pretty good with handling these situations. Except this time there was a slight wrinkle in the proceedings. The previous failures had occurred when concurrency was relatively low due to the times they occurred. This time, however, the problem hit when rather a lot of people were trying to get into SL, so as April notes:

A few minutes before 11:30am [PDT] we started the process of restoring all services to the Grid. When we enabled logins, we did it in our usual method – turning on about half of the servers at once. Normally this works out as a throttle pretty well, but in this case, we were well into a very busy part of the day. Demand to login was very high, and the number of Residents trying to log in at once was more than the new master database node could handle.

Around noon we made the call to close off logins again and allow the system to cool off. While we were waiting for things to settle down we did some digging to try to figure out what was unique about this failure, and what we’ll need to do to prevent it next time.

It wasn’t actually until a third attempt was made to bring up the login hosts one at time that things ran smoothly, with services being fully restored at around 2:30pm PDT.

Now, as April notes, she and her team have a new challenge to deal with: understanding why they had to turn the login servers back on much more slowly than in the past. There is, however, a bright spot in all this: the work put into making the Grid Status feed more resilient paid off, with the service appearing to cope with the load placed on it by several thousand people trying to discover what was going on.

None of us like it when the go wrong, but it’s impossible for SL to be all plain sailing. What is always useful is not only being kept informed about what is going on when things do get messed up (and don’t forget, if you’re on Twitter you can also get grid status updates there as well), but in also being given the opportunity to understand why things went wrong after the fact.

In this respect, April’s blog posts are always most welcome, and continue to be an informative read, helping anyone who does so just what a complicated beast Second life is, and how hard the Lab actually does work to try to keep it running smoothly for all of us – and to get on top of this as quickly as they can when things do go wrong.

A Chinese Garden in Second Life

There are many spiritual centres throughout Second Life offering a range of environments and opportunities for rest, spiritual comfort, recovery, teaching and more.

One such region is Qoheleth (Hebrew:  gatherer / assembler; an assembly). I’ve been drawn there a couple of times over the course of the last year – although admittedly not out of any spiritual want or needs – because the region is largely given over an oriental theme, something of which I’m rather fond. In particular, it includes A Chinese Garden, designed by Camryn Darkstone with the assistance of region holder Grath (Grath Helgerud), as it is this garden which has tended to attract me.

Surrounded by tall walls, through which circular gateways provide access to the rest of the region, A Chinese Garden offers visitors a place to wander under sky and along open-sided passages, look out over quiet waters, and generally relax and enjoy themselves away from the demands of the rest of Second Life. It is, in a word, a peaceful setting.

What makes it particularly attractive is not only that it works well under a range of windlight settings, but the outside of three notable building and things like handrails, almost all the structures within the garden have been designed and built by Camryn, thus harking back to the days when so much in SL was very much DIY, rather than prefabricated.

In an age where so much creative expression in Second Life has perhaps shifted towards being more about landscaping and object placement (which can be as creative and rewarding as gluing prims together, make no mistake), it is good to visit places like the Chinese Garden and be reminded of just what can be done with the humble prim and a little time.

The Sino-Japanese theme continues beyond the immediate walls of the garden, as does the broadly spiritual theme of the region, operated by the Psychoanalytic Round Table discussion group – about which I know little beyond that provided in an information note card. However, just outside of the immediate Garden grounds is a Chinese theatre, again designed by Camryn, and woodland tracks leading over bridges and under trees to other locations of interest, such as the Nanyangong Citadel, and the Stone Circle, where one can learn about Ubuunto – “what it takes to be human”.  There’s even a companion house sitting among the trees beyond the garden walls for those seeking company – although I have no idea how active it might be.

For those seeking spiritual rest or renewal, Qoheleth sits amidst three over regions with community / faith / spiritual leanings. These I have not explored, but leave it to those who might to do so. As someone who does enjoy oriental themed locations in SL (and I have a couple more lined-up for upcoming posts!), A Chinese Garden makes for a charming and relaxing visit.

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