Dickens, Santa and pajamas

The last two days before Christmas are upon us, and as The Dickens Project enters its final week, Caledonia Skytower will be presenting a reading of the entire novel in two parts, commencing at 15:00 SLT each day on the 23rd and 24th December, 2012.

The reading, as well as forming a part of The Dickens Project celebrations, is very much a part of SL Christmas tradition for Cale, as she explains:

Everyone has their holiday traditions.  Mine used to be about baking cookies and how much of the contents of my decoration boxes I could get out and up in the house.  Several years ago I was asked by then King Marik Zarco of the Bloodlines SL Clan of Blood Evolution to read A Christmas Carol out loud in their Kingdom.  That became an annual tradition which, in many ways, fed the kernel of an idea that eventually lead to The Dickens Project.

The Dickens Project: continues this week
The Dickens Project: continues this week

Be sure to join Caledonia as she brings us the first 90-minute reading of the novella at The Dickens Project stage at 15:00 Sunday 23rd December, and second, 120-minute reading, same time, same place, on Monday 24th December.

The Dickens Project for the Week

Celebrations at The Dickens Project will continue after the Christmas Day break, with presentations taking place on the 26th and 27th December, as follows:

  • Wednesday, December 26th – OTHER DICKENS!
    • 10:00: Caledonia Skytower & Elegia Underwood with Oliver Twist & David Copperfield
    • Midday: Klannex Northmead with a selection from Little Dorrit
    • 14:00: Dubhna Rhiadra with a selection from the Ghost Stories of Charles Dickens
    • 16:00: Caledonia Skytower with a selection from Great Expectations
  • Thursday, December 27th – Closing Day – “Alternate Versions Presentations” TBA

All events will take place at The Dickens Project stage. All times SLT.

The Dickens Project (image courtesy of Storyfests SL)
The Dickens Project (image courtesy of Storyfests SL)

Seanchai Library Readings

The Seanchai Library will be presenting suitably themed stories during the week as well, so why not join them at their home on Imagination Island?

Wednesday 26th December 19:00 – The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus

santaclausJoin Caledonia Skytower at Magicland as she reads from the 1902 classic L. Frank Baum children’s story,  The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus. Join her as she recounts how Ak: Master Woodsman of the World discovers the baby Claus in the forest and passes him into the care of the lioness Shiegra, only for Necile, a wood nymph, to take the babe as her own and persuade Ak that she should – thus earning the child the name “Neclaus” (which in our modern times of course, as the author tells us, we mis-spell as “Nicolas”). As he grows, so Neclaus is encouraged to see the world of mortals – of which he is a part – and so his adventures begin and, eventually, the legend of Santa Claus is born!

Thursday 27th December 19:00 – Pajama Party!

Favorite Bedtime Stories with Derry McMahon, Kayden Oconnell, Faerie Maven-Pralou, and Caledonia Skytower.

Please remember all events are in Voice.

Christmas at grandma’s & preparing for when you can’t phone home

CuriosityIt has continued to be a little quiet, news-wise where the Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) mission is concerned. As mentioned last time, this is hardly surprising, given the way the news cycle works.

Since my last report, Curiosity has started exploring the depression slight to east of Glenelg which has been given the name “Yellowknife Bay”. This is an area of one of three terrain types which come together within Glenelg itself (one of the other two being the terrain the rover has been traversing since its arrival on Mars at the start of August). It is very different in nature to the terrain found around the landing site at Bradbury Landing, and an initial approach to the area was halted on December 10th (Sol 123) when sensors on the rover reported conflicting angles of tilt to the main computer. While Curiosity was in no danger of toppling over, an on-board safety protocol was initiated which halted the rover’s planned drive while it ‘phoned home for advice.

Curiosity’s progress (click to enlarge)

Confident the rover was in no danger, mission managers instructed Curiosity to resume its drive on Sol 124, which saw it complete the planned traverse from the 10th December and pass over a 1/2-metre lip into the depression proper. On Sol 125 (December 12th) Curiosity covered a further 26.1 metres (86 ft), moving well into the depression, surveying a number of rocks along the way with both the Mastcam system and ChemCam in a series of remote sensing exercises.

A prime mission goal for Curiosity’s explorations of Yellowknife Bay is the identification of a suitable candidate for the first use of the percussive drill – the last major item of equipment on the rover’s robot arm turret to be commissioned. As such, the rock surveys were part of this work.

Close-up of Curiosity's drill in action (simulation) - the drill should be deployed for the first time early in the New Year, 2013
Close-up of Curiosity’s drill in action (simulation) – the drill should be deployed for the first time early in the New Year, 2013

The drill will be used to collect samples from inside Martian rocks, something never before attempted on Mars. The powdered sample, once obtained, will be passed through the CHIMRA system which is also used to sieve and sort samples obtained by the soil scoop, before being passed to CheMin and SAM aboard the rover for detailed analysis.

On December 14th, Curiosity completed a drive of 32.8 metres (108 ft) to reach two “targets of interest” which mission planners dubbed “Costello” and “Flaherty”. Each of these rocks was subjected to study using the Alpha Particle X-Ray Spectrometer (APXS) and MAHLI, the Mars Hand Lens Imager, both mounted on the rover’s robot arm turret. These studies lasted a couple of days, during which Curiosity carried out various REMS monitoring activities as well; then on Sol 130 a further drive of just 5.6 metres (18 ft).

Continue reading “Christmas at grandma’s & preparing for when you can’t phone home”

LL look back at 2012. Will they learn to communicate in 2013?

Linden Lab  published a blog post on December 20th looking back over the last twelve months and looking ahead to 2013.

This year hasn’t been a particularly sexy year for Second Life in terms of Big News. The Lab has been more focused on working “under the bonnet (hood)” to sort out a lot of the mechanical aspects, as it were, of Second Life. It matters not as to whether some of what they’ve been working on are things people feel should have been “sorted out years ago”. The fact is that the Lab are working on long-standing issues and is also trying to bring new capabilities to SL which do serve to improve out in-world experience, and that is deserving recognition.

However, it is when there have been “major” deployments through the year that the Lab’s inherent weakness and seeming inability to learn from its mistakes comes to the fore. In particular, the blog post points to three major roll-outs in 2012: advanced creation tools, pathfinding, and Direct Delivery. While one of these, the advanced creation tools, did initially hit problems when first deployed to a Release Channel, the matter was quickly dealt with such that they could be safely deployed and properly announced by the Lab. True, we’re still waiting on the updates to the permissions system, but at least we did receive decent and widespread notification of their deployment.

Pathfinding: let down by poor Lab communications
Pathfinding: let down by poor Lab communications

Alongside the advanced tools, pathfinding was one of the “big things” for SL in 2012, trumpeted by Rod Humble himself. In many respects, pathfinding was potentially a “bigger” release than the advanced creation tools, so one would have thought it would be more prominent in the Lab’s communications with users.

Not so. While we did get a sneak peek in September, the Lab relinquished all attempts to communicate the project to their wider user community, leaving it almost entirely up to bloggers to carry the message. And while no-one set out to deliberately misinform people, the fact remains that pathfinding was so complicated that the lack of clear-cut information from the Lab did lead to misunderstandings which in turn led to reports that it would result in a “Tsunami” of problems or would have a huge adverse impact on SL as a whole once deployed.

In both instances, people at the Lab did move to try to clarify matters and redress the misunderstandings. However, by the time they had, the damage had been done. In abdicating all major responsibility for communicating with their users, the Lab had opened the door to misunderstanding, misconceptions and mistrust, with the result that the negative perceptions of pathfinding continue today, with the functionality remaining disabled across many private estates.

With Direct Delivery, the situation is somewhat worse, with everything from the initial deployment through to mounting issues across the Marketplace as a whole becoming something of a catalogue of errors in which a complete unwillingness on the part of the Commerce Team / Linden Lab to engage in a decent level of communication with merchants has played a major role. Even Rod Humble’s own intervention in matters on two separate occasions, the first via Twitter,  the second time on the Commerce forum itself, have proven hollow. Despite all assurances to the contrary, communications on the ongoing issues with the Marketplace remain minimal, with little indication that matters are approaching any form of resolution.

Failed subscriptions for August - courtesy
Listing enhancement issues have been a repeated cause of upset for merchants through 2012, one of a litany of errors and problems occurring within the Marketplace during the year; some of them apparently as a result of the introduction of Direct Delivery  (image courtesy of Ry0ta Exonar)

Both of these situations point to a need for Linden Lab to be more openly proactive in communicating with users – and there really is no excuse for them not to do so. A recent response from the Lab to the question of why they don’t routinely blog any more was that “no-one reads the blogs”. However, this is hardly an explanation – it is an excuse. Keep the blog reasonably up-to-date with information, be it news or periodic updates, give people a reason to read it – and they will.

In 2013, we’re promised some more new capabilities and options which can and should significantly improve th look and feel of Second Life and do much to improve the overall user experience. Things like materials processing and server-side avatar baking. These are all to the good and will hopefully be “nice to haves” when they arrive.

What would also be nice to have in 2013 is more proactive and widespread, informative communication flowing out of the Lab. Sadly, the cynic / realist in me is not holding her breath in anticipation.