Spies, Alchemysts, sisters and daughters

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, May 29th

13:30 Crazy Eights: Tea Time At Baker Street

Crazy Eights sees Caledonia, Corwyn and Kayden reading from The Return of Sherlock Holmes on Sundays from the living room of 221B Baker Street. This week: The Adventure of the Second Stain.

Sherlock Holmes (l, standing) and, Dr. Watson receive two distinguished guests in “The Adventure of the Second Stain”, Sidney Paget / Strand Magazine, 1904

Holmes and Watson received two very distinguished guests, who between them have a serious problem of some considerable import and delicacy.

None other than the Prime Minister, Lord Bellinger and the Secretary of State for European Affairs, Trelawney Hope, inform Holmes that a document has been stolen from Hope’s dispatch box whilst it was at his private residence. The document, a letter from a foreign potentate, could result in very dire consequences – even war – if delivered to the wrongs hands.

Both the Prime Minister and Hope impress upon Holmes that such is the nature of the document that no-one in Hope’s household, not even his wife, knew of its presence prior to the letter vanishing when Hope was out of the house for a number of hours.

Taking the case, Holmes decides to call upon a number of spies who may have a vested interest in obtaining the letter on behalf of their governments, only to find one of them has been murdered. Deciding that this could not be mere coincidence, he finds the mystery deepening when Hope’s wife, Lady Hilda Trelawney Hope, arrives at 221B Baker Street, demanding to know the contents of the document, whilst also begging Holmes to tell her husband nothing of her visit.

15:00 Magicland Storytime:  more from the Art and Magic of William Joyce

Caledonia shares A Day with Wilbur Robinson and continues Ollie’s Odyssey.

Monday May 30th, 19:00: The Alchemyst (The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel #1)

Faerie Maven-Pralou reads Michael Scott’s mystical novel.

AlchemystAccording to the records, Nicholas Flamel was born in Paris on 28 September 1330 and died in 1418. Only his tomb has forever lain empty, because Nicholas Flamel is the greatest Alchemyst of all time. Entrusted with the care of the Codex – also known as the Book of Abraham the Mage – Flamel found within it the secret of eternal life.

But there is much else in the Codex which, if used by the wrong minds, could very well bring about the end of the world. So, for 700 years, Nicholas Flamel has guarded the Book, keeping it from all those who might otherwise seek to abuse its secrets.

Until John Dee steals it. And John Dee has the desire to unlock the Codex and bring about the very cataclysm Flamel has always feared. Without the book, he and his wife, Perenelle, will age and die, whilst with the book, Dee can thwart all attempts to recover it.

Enter 15-year-old twins, Josh and Sophie Newman. Prophecy has foretold of a time when the world would be threatened – and of the two youngsters gifted with extraordinary powers who will save it. Flamel recognises the Newman twins as those youngsters, and sets out to awaken their magical talents. So it is that Josh and Sophie find themselves cast into the middle of the greatest tale – the greatest confrontation – of all time.

Tuesday May 31st, 19:00: When Sisterhood was in Flower

sisterhoodThe writings of Florence King return to Seanchai Library as Trolley Trollop continues reading When Sisterhood was in Flower (1982),

Isabel, a conservative southern writer living in Boston, finds her life taking a number of strange turns. After an explosion brings down the wall of her apartment she is forced to share her living space with her neighbour, an ardent, humourless feminist called Polly Bradshaw. Then, between them, they take in nutty Gloria, who is fixated with all things medieval, including the lute, which she constantly plays, and the death of Edward II.

Things start unravelling further when Polly inherits a house in California, and unilaterally decides they’ll form a self-sufficient feminist commune there. Along the way, they collect Agnes, who is trying to escape her survivalist husband, and Martha, a widow whose estranged husband died after an unfortunate incident with an inflatable rubber doll.

Then Isabel has the opportunity to earn a living as a writer … of pornography …

Wednesday June 1st 19th 19:00: Raymie Nightingale

Caledonia Skytower reads Kate DiCamillo ‘s 2016 children’s story.

RaymieWhat do you do when your father takes off with a dental hygienist? Be upset? Miss him? Rail against him? Or hatch a plan to get him to come home?

Raymie Clarke decides on the latter course of action. Dad needs to come home, and it’s down to her to see that he does – and that means winning the Little Miss Central Florida Tyre contest. Doing so will get her name and picture in the papers, which are sure to be read by her father, prompting his return.

Except… In order to win the contest, Raymie must do good deeds and learn the graceful art of baton twirling. Worse, she has to go up against the nauseating, show-business steeped Louisiana Elefante, who has fainting for effect down to an art form. Then there is Beverly Tapinski, who has entered the contest not to win it, but to wreck it for everyone else. So Raymie faces a mountain of challenges she must overcome.

Then fate plays a hand, circumstance and events bringing the three girls together in an unlikely friendship in which each has a role to place in supporting and aiding the others.

Thursday, June 2nd

19:00: Steampunk Fairytales

With Shandon Loring.

21;00: Seanchai Late Night

With Finn Zeddmore

Last Call for Crazy Eights

Visit Crazy Eights before it closes and discover more about Holmes and Watson
Visit Crazy Eights before it closes and discover more about Holmes and Watson

Crazy Eights, Seanchai Library’s full region installation at LEA 9 will be closing at the end of May after a highly successful round of events and storytelling. As I reported back in January, as Crazy Eights opened its doors, there is a lot to see in this immersive, story and literature focused region, so even with live events now drawing to a close, if you have not taken the time to visit, I encourage you to do so before the doors close at midday SLT on Monday, May 30th.

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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 May / June is Habitat for Humanity, with a vision of a world where everyone has a decent place to live – a safe and clean place to call home.

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A Beautiful Suicide in Second Life

Beautiful Suicide; Inara Pey, May 2016, on Flickr Beautiful Suicide – click any image for full size

Beautiful Suicide is an enigmatic region designed by Jaidens Rancid (Jaidens) which has been featured in the Destination Guide for the last couple of weeks, thus attracting my attention.

“Embrace yourself,” the Destination Guide entry reads, “for something has happened here.”  Quite what that something might be, is left to our imaginations to conjure: and there is certainly enough here to get the thoughts ticking over. Cast into a perpetual dusk under the default windlight, this is a place of dark mystery, offering some interesting photo opportunities.

Beautiful Suicide; Inara Pey, May 2016, on Flickr Beautiful Suicide

Everything seems normal enough on arrival; there is even a hint of romance about the landing point. This is a bridge on the west side of the largest of three main islands, softly light by lanterns and fairy lights draped over the branches of the tree on either side of the water it spans. There’s even a hint of mist to add to the atmosphere. But look again, and see how the posts from which the lanterns hang have a hint of the gallows about them; the first sign that things here aren’t always as they appear.

That this is the case can further be found under the bridge, where a great troll stands knee-deep in water. And here too, is something of a conflict: on the one hand, we tend to associate trolls with dark and bad things; but this one holds a gem within its cupped hands, as if offering it to us in friendship.

Beautiful Suicide; Inara Pey, May 2016, on Flickr Beautiful Suicide

This juxtaposition of the safe and friendly with the dark and dangerous echoes throughout the region. On the east side of the main island, for example, sits a private house. within it sit all the signs of a  comfortable home; in the conservatory, a table is laid for a dinner party. It all seems so normal – until one looks up on the roof.

And whilst the nearby ruin of another house might suggest an opportunity for snuggles or a quiet escape from the world, A look behind the stairs or a glance up on to the upper floor reveals this place also has a certain macabre edge, reminding us of the question posed by the region’s Destination Guide entry Where did all the people go?

Beautiful Suicide; Inara Pey, May 2016, on Flickr Beautiful Suicide

But it is not all darkness; the region is, as I’ve noted, quite photogenic, and there are places to be found where time can be spent in idle thought on in the company of a loved one: down on the pier of the inlet, or sitting at the pool terrace alongside the main house, etc. There are even opportunities for a little fun in the form of flying saucer and boat rezzers, allowing visitors to zip through the sky or across the water surrounding the islands.

If you like your visits and / or romance edged with a darker touch, tinted with a drop of the macabre and a drizzled suggestion of black magic, Beautiful Suicide offers a more unusual destination you might enjoy taking a look at. Should you enjoy your visit, as I did, please consider making a donation towards the region’s upkeep so that other might also enjoy it.

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SL project updates 16 21/2: server, viewer, Bento

Frisland; Inara Pey, May 2016, on FlickrFrislandblog post

Server Deployments Week #21 – Recap

As always, please refer to the server deployment thread for the latest information and updates.

There was a fast-tracked security update deployed to the LeTigre RC channel on Friday, May 20th. This update was also deployed as a server maintenance package to the Main (SLS) channel on Tuesday, May 24th.

On Wednesday, May 25th, all three RC channels were updated with a server maintenance package which combines the security update plus a new crash fix.

The security patch was apparently a precautionary measure, rather than a response to an actual exploit

Week #22 Deployments

The current RC update should move to the Main grid on Tuesday, May 31st, and the RCs should all receive a new package comprising:

  • A fix for BUG-10979 [Bento] Scripted attachments attached to the new enhanced skeleton attachment points show as worn on “Invalid Attachment Point” in the script limits floater
  • More checks for per-agent script limit
  • Internal improvements.

More news on these last two to follow.

Project Bento

As noted in my Project Bento update, the plan is for the back-end of Project Bento to be enabled on the main grid during week #22, most likely on Tuesday, May 31st. This will allow content making use of the Bento extensions to the avatar skeleton to be uploaded to the main grid. However, Bento content requires viewer-side updates in order to render correctly. Currently these are restricted to the Bento Project viewer and those TPVs which have adopted the Bento code ahead of the curve.

This also doesn’t mark the end of the Bento project; at this point, enabling Bento on Agni, is to expose the capabilities to a wider audience of content creators and allow broader testing.

Bento Viewer

The Bento Project viewer updated to version 5.0.0.315657 on Thursday, May 26th. This version includes the following significant updates:

reset skeletionA “Reset Skeleton” option, intended to fix cases where an avatar is distorted in your world view as a result of incorrectly applied joint updates. For example, a non-human avatar may show as “crunched up” because it is still in a human pose. Note that this option should also work for non-Bento avatars when become deformed as a result of swapping shapes / forms / animations as well.

Right-clicking on the affected avatar (your own or another) and selecting Reset Skeleton from the avatar context menu should correct the avatar’s appearance in your view. As this is a viewer-side update, it will not affect how anyone else sees the affected avatar until they use Reset Skeleton. The Lab has requested feedback on the capability if it fails to work as intended.

The viewer also includes a few late-breaking changes to the slider support for mesh avatars, including jaw shape and head shape. Sliders that affect the scale of mPelvis now also alter mHindLimbsRoot, to better keep the front and hind legs synced up.

SL Viewer

Other than the Project Bento viewer update, the list for official viewers remains as per the first part of this report.

 

Red, White and Blue in Second Life

Red, White Blue Event PosterRed, White and Blue is the name of a week-long event being held by Creations for Parkinson’s in support of the Michael J. Fox Foundation.

It opens its doors on Friday, May 27th, 2016, and will run through until Monday, June 6th, 2016, and features live performers, DJs, tribute concerts, shopping gachas, a hunt, a carnival and a special art auction.

The event takes place on a specially constructed sky platform over Creations Park, to help reduce lag issues, and is sponsored by Windlight Magazine, Azul and Chop Zuey Fine Couture Jewellery.

The merchants participating in the event are: Alme, Azul, Entice, KL Couture, Like Design, Meshopotamia, Miss Darcy, Paris Fashion, %Percent Furniture and Lighting, Soyralle, Tashi, TRS Designs, Whimsical Happenings, and Windlight Workz.

The art is displayed on the terraces either side of the main performance area, and features pieces by Barret Darkfold, Carleey Noonan, Cherrycarr Resident, Eleseren Brianna, jamie86 Resident, Johannes1977 Resident, JolieElle Parfort, KodyMeyers Resident, Muse4u Resident, Myra Wildmist, Otoc Resident, Rage Darkstone, Rinzlerkitty Resident, Sheba Blitz, Syphera Inaka and Theda Tammas. All are available for auction via the Creations kiosks alongside each piece.

The carnival includes a host of rides to enjoy, including a roller-coaster, bumper cars, pirate ship swings, a gravitron ride, a Ferris wheel and many assorted side-shows and games to enjoy.

Funds raised  through bids for the art, via the Team Fox donation kiosks, the carnival ticket machines and the gacha machines will all be donated to Team Fox, the fund-raising arm of the Michaeel J. Fox Foundation. The participating merchants also have items for sale through special Creations for Parkinson’s vendors.

The Red, White and Blue event stage and part of the art auction, beyond
The Red, White and Blue event stage and part of the art auction, beyond

About Creations Park

Creations Park was established by Barbie Alchemi after witnessing the beneficial effects Second Life had on her mother, Fran Seranade, a Parkinson’s sufferer and who first became involved in the platform, along with Barbie, as a means for family members to keep closer contact with one another across the breadth of the United States. Creations is dedicated to raising donations for the Michael J Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research (MJFF).

As well as running a range of fund-raising events and activities, the Park offers support groups and research into the positive effects of Second Life for people with Parkinson’s Disease. 100% of all donations received through events at, and visits to, Creations Park go directly to Team Fox and the MJFF. All costs and expenses associated with the region are met directly by Barbie’s family.

You can read more about the story of Creations Park in my 2013 article on Barbie and Fran, or by watching a Drax Files video.

A Small World for art in Second Life

Small World Gallery: toysoldier Thor
Small World Gallery: Toysoldier Thor

Update, August 2016: Regrettably, and as a result of illness, Small World Arts Gallery has closed.

Silas Merlin poked me in the direction of the Small World Arts Sim and Mall (SWA for short), operated by Mikey Jefford (mikeythai) – and I have to say, as galleries go, it is an impressive space. While not completely occupied, the gallery occupies two wings of a building reaching up to 4 stories into the air, and located in lush surroundings in which further art and attractions can be found, spread over two regions.

Designed by Addi Tachikawa (Adrienne Falconer), the gallery builds offer a modern wood, glass and steel design which provides plenty of exhibition space – artists have a number of linked side halls apiece, which all open off of the main halls dissecting each wing.

Small World Gallery: Maghda
Small World Gallery: Maghda

“I opened 2 weeks ago,” Mickey informed me as we chatted during my visit. “But it was half the size then, so we have not officially had a gallery opening yet.” That’s in the planning stages, and Mickey hopes to make an announcement soon. In the meantime, the gallery spaces – which are filled on the basis of invitation – offer a rich cross-section of art.

Many of the names behind the art on display will be familiar to regular exhibition goers: Silas Merlin, Giovanna Cerise, Toy Soldier Thor, Nino Vichan, Gem Preiz,  Kayly Iali; others may be less familiar, but no less captivating in their art.  In terms of the 2D art displayed, there is perhaps a lean towards art from the physical world being favoured for exhibition over art from “within” Second Life, such as avatar studies and SL landscapes. I asked Mickey if this was deliberate.

Small World Gallery: grounds
Small World Gallery: grounds

“No, not really,” he replied. “I just select what I like and what I think looks good and I think if ‘I get it others will’.” Certainly, the bias does not in any way detract from the gallery. Rather the reverse in fact: it again demonstrates that SL is a valid medium in which to present art from the physical world.

Within the grounds, there is more art to be discovered, as well as walks through the woods, either along paths or greenswards, places to sit and relax  – there’s even an old house boat offering table-top games for visitors. The paths and trails through the regions offer pleasing opportunities to explore, and It’s worthwhile taking your time when meandering if you want to catch all of the art that’s on display.  I should also point out that there is a third region (Wizard Forest) connected to the two gallery regions, however, access to this is restricted, containing as it does a private home.

Small World Gallery: grounds
Small World Gallery: grounds

With a mall with spaces available to rent by artists, indoor and outdoor art displays, a rooftop garden and events venue, SWA certainly has a lot to offer, and represents a significant commitment to art is Second Life. As such, I have absolutely no hesitation in recommending it as a destination for anyone with an interest in art, and / or who enjoys exploring and appreciating new spaces and locations in-world.

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Project Bento User Group update 14 with audio

Project Bento – extending the SL avatar skeleton
Project Bento – extending the SL avatar skeleton

The following notes and audio were taken from the weekly Bento User Group meeting, held on Thursday, May 26th at 13:00 SLT on Aditi. For details on each meeting and the location, please refer to the Bento User Group wiki page.

Note that this update is not intended to offer a full transcript of the meeting, nor does it present the discussion points in chronological order. Rather, it represents the core points of discussion, grouped together by subject matter were relevant / possible, whilst maintaining the overall context of the meeting.

Bento on Agni

A Bento Imp celebrates the upcoming Bento move to Agni
A Bento Imp celebrates the upcoming Bento move to Agni

It had been hoped that back-end support for Bento would be enabled on Agni (the main grid) during week #21. However, things got held up while a fix was being pushed through QA (possibly the security fix which rolled to LeTigre and then to all channels this week?).

The Lab is now planning to enable Bento in week #22, most likely on Tuesday, May 31st.

A couple of points to remember with the move to Agni:

  • This isn’t in any way a “final” release of Bento, although the Skeleton and slider updates are now frozen (unless a really significant issue / bug is found. At this point, enabling Bento on Agni, which includes the ability to upload Bento items to the main grid, is to expose the capabilities to a wider audience of content creators and allow broader testing
  • Until the Bento code comes into wider circulation among TPVs, any mesh avatars, etc., rigged to the new bones will look deformed in non-Bento viewer, and may cause some viewer instability / crashes.

Details are still TBD, but one aspect of the move to Agni will be a further stress test to see how large numbers of Bento avatars impact performance, region crossings, etc. Details, including date and time will be made available in due course.

Date and Location of Next Meeting

With the deployment of Bento to the main grid, Bento User Group meetings will also swap over to Agni as well to encourage attendance. Details of where meetings will take place will be announced via the User Group wiki page and through the Bento forum thread.

With regards to the next meeting, due on Thursday, June 2nd, there is a Lab internal meeting taking place that day. It is therefore unclear if the Bento meeting will take place or will be cancelled (Vir would prefer for the latter not to happen, given the scheduled Bento deployment to the main grid). A decision on whether, when and where it will be held will again be made via the User Group wiki page, etc., once decided.

Project Viewer Update

The Bento Project viewer updated to version 5.0.0.315657 on Thursday, May 26th. This version includes the following significant updates:

reset skeletionA “Reset Skeleton” option, intended to fix cases where an avatar is distorted in your world view as a result of incorrectly applied joint updates. For example, a non-human avatar may show as “crunched up” because it is still in a human pose.

Right-clicking on the affected avatar (your own or another) and selecting Reset Skeleton from the avatar context menu should correct the avatar’s appearance in your view. As this is a viewer-side update, it will not affect how anyone else sees the affected avatar until they use Reset Skeleton. The Lab has requested feedback on the capability if it fails to work as intended.

The viewer also includes a few late-breaking changes to the slider support for mesh avatars, including jaw shape and head shape. Sliders that affect the scale of mPelvis now also alter mHindLimbsRoot, to better keep the front and hind legs synced up.

Updated Skeleton and Test Files

At the time of writing, the Bento test files have yet to be updated to reflect the most recent viewer changes. When this has happened, they will be linked via the Bento Testing page. Matrice Lavalle from Avastar and Cathy foil of MayaStar are working on getting the skeleton files updated for their respective plug-ins, and ensuring the are consistent with one another, something they hope have finished in the very near future.

Once this has been done, both Avastar and Mayastar will be updated, and will include collision volumes and some other weighting tweaks which should help improve slider behaviour when editing an avatar’s appearance.

Vir has started putting together a repository for supporting test models and animations which can be made available through the wiki Bento test page, so if there are other Bento creators / animators who have test models and files they would like to submit, he asks that they drop him a line.

There was also discussion on how to present the models to ensure those using different modelling tools (e.g 3D Max) can obtain a full set of bones with which to work.

Other Items

BVH File Interpreter

The Second Life BVH interpreter has apparently been updated so it will allow the upload of position data. However, if problems are found when doing so, the Lab requests a JIRA is filed to let them know,

Animation Exports and Mayastar / Maya

Mayastar is the skeleton plug-in Cathy Foil produces for Maya users (Avastar being the plug-in for Blender). Mayastar will current export  .BVH files with bone rotations for the entire skeleton, but translations for the mPelvis bone only. This works reasonably well with these restrictions, although it does have an issue with feet Cathy is currently looking to fix. As far as skinning, etc., is concerned, Maya works “pretty good”.

However, and in her own time, Aura Linden is working on an exporter for Maya which is intended to support export .ANIM files with both rotation and translation of all bones in the skeleton.

This should eliminate the need to sue two skeletons for Mayastar – one for rigging and one for animations. Subject to confirmation, the .BVH uploader may also have been updated to eliminate the need to use two skeletons.

Continue reading “Project Bento User Group update 14 with audio”