To sift the sands of Mars

This last week has been an interesting one for news on NASA’s Mars Science Laboratory, with the release on the 27th September of news that the rover Curiosity has come across extensive evidence for free-flowing water to have once existed in Gale Crater.

Curiosity examines Jake

Prior to this, on Sol 47 (September 23rd) Curiosity commenced contact science on a rock dubbed Jake Matijevic, using the Alpha Particle X-Ray Spectrometer (APXS), mounted on the turret at the end of the rover’s robot arm. Studies of the rock continued through Sol 48, September 24th, with the ChemCam laser being used once more to assist in analysing the rock’s composition, and MAHLI, the Mars Hand Lens Imager, gathering a range of images of the rock from various distances.

On Sol 49, Curiosity resumed its drive towards Glenelg, a region where three different types of terrain, as observed from orbit, come together. Now over half-way to the region, the rover travelled a further 31 metres (102 ft). During the day, the rover also captured more images of its location and observed the Martian sky.

Sol 50 saw the rover complete its longest single drive to date: 48.9 metres (160 ft), bringing the total distance covered to over 400 metres, or close to quarter of a mile. With the drive came a shift in emphasis for the science team, as they start looking for a location where Curiosity can obtain its first sample of Martian soil. Ideally, the team would like to find a sandy spot with planet of loose Martian fines which can be scooped up by the sample system on the robot arm and then delivered to the on-board SAM and CheMin instruments for detailed analysis.

The road to Glenelg: a mosaic of the land immediately before Curiosity and leading up to Glenelg.

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SL snaps and Flickr housekeeping

I don’t pretend to be a great SL photographer, but I do like to capture images of the places I visit and blog about – usually producing a slideshow on Flickr for those interested in my Destination articles.

Up until now, I’ve tended to simply drop my Flickr uploads into sets, one per event / location, as a rule, and leave things at that. However, as I had some time on my hands recently, I took the opportunity to finally organize things into collections, which I hope will make browsing my efforts easier.

I’ve create five “high level” collections so far, and there may be more to come. These are:

  • SL Destinations – which comprises the  sets of images of all the SL Destinations I’ve visited and blogged upon over the past few years, arranged into a series of sub-collections
  • SL Art Events and Installations – sets of images taken at various art events I’ve been able to preview
  • My Second Life – sets of a personal nature, such as Fallingwater images & my looks over the years
  • Space and Astronomy – image collections which have gone with some of my space & astronomy reports.

While I’m nowhere near the calibre of some, photography wise (I’m useless with PhotoShop and the like, as I’ve mentioned before) and so am reliant on whatever the viewer has to offer in order to capture my pictures, I’ve also created a little set of what I regard as my personal favourites – one that will probably grow whenever vanity grabs me, and which I hope you enjoy. Please use the full screen mode and click Show Info if you want the specifics of each image in the set.

(Or click here to go directly to the full screen display)

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Worlds within worlds

Today sees the opening of Petites Kingdom, bringing together a number of creators of petite avatars and their accessories in a single, themed sim.To mark the opening, there will be a special welcome ceremony at 12:00 noon SLT, followed by the opening of a crystal hunt which will run through until the 20th October. Entertainments will commence at 15:00 SLT.

Thanks to a helping hand from Elizabeth Tinsley, I managed to get a sneak peek at the new Kingdom today, ahead of the official opening.

Petites Kingdom

The press release for the opening provides something of a backstory for the new region,  noting that this new world, ringed by mountains, will eventually be the home to nine floating islands for petites (and big folk visitors), although only five are currently available. The remaining four are trapped somewhere on the other side of a magical portal, the crystal power supplies for which have been scattered across the region following an accident, and must be gathered back together in order for the portal to have enough power to bring the remain islands to their new home.

It’s a charming story in which to frame the crystal hunt (the crystals themselves offering rewards to those finding them), and it’ll be interesting to see how the remaining four islands will arrive (one at a time between now and the 20th October, as the portal “regains” its power, or all together in another region-wide celebratory event?).

Te region itself is beautifully put together using phantom sim extenders to project a towering vista of mountains surrounding a great lake, a valley to one side allowing water to travel from the lake to the sea beyond. Great falls tumble from the high mountains, replenishing the lake’s supply.

Petites Kingdom

The five islands are clustered to one side of the lake, floating majestically above the turquoise water and casting long shadows over its smooth surface. Some are linked by long, slender bridges, others stand alone; some float free, others dip their lower extremes into the water. Each island comes with its own tale / backstory.

There is the Flying Castle, held aloft on jets of crystal magic, and where we are told the Petite Parliament regularly holds session  – regularly being on those days which aren’t holidays, celebrations, weekends or good for fishing. In other words, around two days a year. Would that our parliament in the UK would do the same… Elevated above this sits Raven’s Roost, a stone citadel built upon The Rock and home to the warriors of The Ravens. The village of Couerdebois, home to the Fleurians, lays nestled around the roots of the tree of life. Niteobryn is where the Digger city can be found, together with the mines of the magic crystals. Here is the source of the petite’s power, complete with a tiny railway on which the mined crystals are carried. Finally, in Lililoco on the Theramon archipelago, reside the Nuneefufoos, who can shape the world to their dreams, and so change their homeland as time passes.

Meeting a Petite (Shangreloo Kuhn)

Currently, much of the islands are pretty much given over to vendor space – which is one of the reasons I’m curious as to what the remaining four islands will be like. They are also scaled to suit petites and “big folk”, so you don’t necessarily need a petite form to pay a visit. The keen-eyed will probably spot builds here by the likes of Marcus Inkpen and Laufrey Markstein, which fit will with the theme of the region, and demonstrate the breadth of support for the petite community.

Petites Kingdom

I have something of a fascination with petites, and have already been trying the odd demo mesh or three, and wandering the vendors in Petites Kingdom certainly allows one to get more of a feel for what is available in terms of clothing and a wide range of accessories and goods … Anyone coming out with a latex / leather look and heels is liable to make a killing out of me :).

Of blogs and sundry thoughts

The Second Life Blog was once a place where the Lindens talked casually with you about policy, their projects, recent news, the future of SL, etc.  Residents regularly told us that they loved having access to such broad insight into the company and frequent communication with the full range of Lindens.  And Lindens loved the ongoing dialog with residents.

Sounds like something I might have said here – or you might have read from Tateru or a dozen other SL commentators. A harkening-back to the “good ol’ days”.

But it’s not. It’s actually from – wait for it – a Linden, who went on to say:

Over time however, as more Lindens came to participate, the blog got a bit manic. Some of you complained that reports of temporary performance issues would eclipse larger conversations related to long-term plans and features while others believed that tutorials and opinion pieces were distracting them from the hard news of inworld issues they needed to know about in order to run their businesses.

In other words, we outgrew our single channel blog […] We knew it was important to get back to using the blog as a key means of constructive two-way conversation with the community.

“We knew is was important to get back to using the blog as a key means of constructive … conversation…” How times have changed, hmmm?

These quotes come from the Linden Lab blog archive on WordPress. Written by Blue Linden (sadly gone in the re-organisation of June 2010), they demonstrate how much attitudes have changed within LL over the last three years.

The LL blog archive on WordPress

Continue reading “Of blogs and sundry thoughts”

Petite Kingdom opening today

Since their introduction at the start of 2012, petites have grown in popularity and  – no pun intended – stature, becoming one of the popular attractions within Second Life. It’s a world I’m just starting to explore, my interest having being piqued at this year’s SL Birthday.

Today sees the opening of Petites Kingdom, a full sim dedicated to the world of petites, providing a focal-point and home for those who enjoy this tiny world. I’ll be covering the new world in an upcoming article, but in the meantime here’s the official press release for today’s opening.

Petites Kingdom Press Release

In January 2012, the first Petites shyly ventured into our world. Curious creatures by nature they were fascinated by our world and quickly captivated the hearts of those they encountered. Offered land for an embassy by Yabusaka Loon, the Petites set up a home, only to quickly outgrow it. Thanks to the quick minds of Alia Baroque, Sharni Azalee, and Marcus Inkpen, a larger space was built for the burgeoning Petites community, but as more and more Petites came to explore our world even this new larger garden paradise began to seem too small.

After much thinking and planning by their friends, it was decided that the Petites must have a place of their own in our world, a place to come together to share their community with one another and with the people who had so warmly welcomed them to this new world.

Ringed by mountains, a lake as smooth as glass waits poised to reflect the silhouettes of the nine floating islands of the Petite Kingdom. A portal was created above the lake linking our worlds together. Five islands made the journey from the Petites’ world to ours before the magic that powers the portal ran out. It was meant to be recharged with the magic crystals gathering from the caverns of the Crystal Mine. Unfortunately the airship that came to pick up the supply of crystals and transport them to the portal was hit by a stray wind current that flipped it upside down spilling the magic crystals all over the Petites Kingdom.

Now, with half the islands of the Petite Kingdom here and half on the other side of the portal, we need your help! We need you to come and help us gather up the missing magic crystals so we can refuel the portal and bring the rest of the petite islands into our world. The Petites, always a very hospitable race of creatures believe highly that work and play should go hand in hand so wish to make the task of gathering the lost crystals an enjoyable one. Thus, we invite you, out friends, to come and discover the new Petite Kingdom on Saturday, September 29. Come and help us retrieve the missing crystals and stay to help us celebrate the Petites new home with music, dancing and possible surprises!

Important Information:

Please join us for The Crystal Hunt and Welcoming Celebrations on Saturday, September 29 @ Noon SLT. The hunt will start at noon SLT with celebrations starting at 3pm SLT and going until 9pm SLT. Big or small all are welcome!

Petites Kingdom! – SLurl opens September 29th, 2012

A raven’s view

Update: This region has changed hands and has been redeveloped.

I was drawn to Raven Lake Fathoms, created by Eriwen, as a result of reading the opening line of its Destination Guide entry, “Surrounded by vast mountain ranges, in complete isolation, is this lake of mystery for you to explore….” – and I wasn’t disappointed I went to take a look.

Located on Dumb N Dumber, Raven Lake Fathoms is a Homestead region that offers a lot for the intrepid explorer, and might even said to be something of a metaphor for Second Life. Topside is a placid lake, in the centre of which lies a house atop a rocky outcrop which pokes above the waters. Mountains surround the lake, and while the surface is occasionally broken by the fins of a fish or the passage of a ray, and ravens wheel overhead or perch on the shore, not a lot seems to be going on…. But take a look under the rippling surface of the lake, and there is a whole world to explore.

Raven Lake Fathoms

It is easy to come into Second Life and immediately feel lost. It’s a vast place, yet all to often, the surface appearance is that nothing is going on. Where are the people, where are the things to do? How do we find them? And it’s sad, because SL is actually constantly alive and vibrant; there are stores to visit, music venues in operation 24/7, clubs for dancing, games to be played, as well as all sorts of social interactions going on, just under the placid surface, waiting to be discovered. How to solve putting newcomers more directly in contact with the things they will find – or even may find – appealing has been the crux of much debate throughout SL’s long history.

Like Second Life, Raven Lake Fathoms is also hard to quantify descriptively. Above the surface of the water, it is tranquil; a place for possible reflection or to be captured by the photographer’s virtual lens. But the tranquility has a slight edge to it, particularly as the day fades … there is a slightly haunting edge to the beauty of the scenery, perhaps heightened by the presence of the ravens, which leave lines from Poe’s The Raven echoing in the back of one’s mind.

Raven Lake

Then there is the world beneath the surface, populated by fish and jellyfish and rays and other watery life, with fumaroles puffing, suspended islands of colour offering refuge in the depths, and more splashes of colour from vivid plant life dotted on the lake floor, together with a dew surprises.

Metaphors aside, however, Raven Lake Fathoms is a wonderful place to explore and for the mind to invent tales. You can wander the lake shore and observe the ravens, or gaze across the lake to the lonely house atop its knoll and wonder if Poe himself might not be there, a bust of Pallas above his chamber door. In you wanderings you may come across a beached steampunk submarine, perhaps stranded from the pages of a Vernian novella. The lake shore is also where Eriwen has her home, so if you happen to come across it as you explore, be sure to respect her privacy.

Raven Lake Fathoms

You can visit the house via rowing boat. Simply touch the sign near the landing-point to have one rez. It’s not just any rowing boat, either, but rather a grand one, although it did give me a few issues with camera positioning when seated. Within the house, Poe’s presence does seem a lot closer; the ghostly clearing of a throat, the books mysteriously floating above the floor, the strange sounds and the haunting repeat of a lullaby…

Underwater is an entirely different world – one where divers and merfolk are most welcome; in fact, I’d suggest that dressing / appearing in a suitable avatar form would be de rigueur. There is a lot to see here, and places to relax with a friend or from which to pass the time in quiet thought.

Be aware that there are predators here; this can only be a saltwater lake, as the sharks are cycling not far below the surface and the giant squid is a sight to behold. Leave them alone, however, and they’ll leave you to enjoy the sights and sounds of this watery world.

Raven Lake Fathoms

Raven Lake Fathoms is a wonderful use of a Homestead regions as both a home and a place for travellers to visit. If you’ve not been there before, I urge you to pay a visit. You might even find me out on the water, sitting in a rowing boat; or possibly under the waves. If the latter, don’t be surprised if I’m also sporting a tail…

(Click here to see slideshow full-screen)

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