It’s time to highlight another week of storytelling in Voice by the staff and volunteers at the Seanchai Library. As always, all times SLT, and events are held at the Library’s home in Nowhereville, unless otherwise indicated. Note that the schedule below may be subject to change during the week, please refer to the Seanchai Library website for the latest information through the week.
Monday, January 25th, 19:00: The Dark Bright Water
Gyro Muggins reads Patricia Wrightson’s second novel charting the life of Wirrun of the Inlanders.
First encountered in The Ice Is Coming, when Wirrun set out on a quest to overcome the rise of the ancient enemy of Australia, the ice-bearded Ninya, the young janitor now has a reputation as a Hero among the Inlanders (Wrightson’s fantasy view of the Australian Aboriginals). It’s not a title he appreciates; he would much rather just get back to his janitorial work.
But the spirits of the land are restless: Yunggamurra, a river spirit is lost, so uses her siren-like powers of song to draw to herself those who might might take her home. Her singing come to Wirrun’s ears, and those of an elderly aboriginal emissary, and he realises he must journey to the very heartlands of Australia to better understand what he is feeling.
This he does, with the old emissary and his friend Ularra. Once there, he discovers that a storm is indeed rising within the domain of the spirits, and he is uniquely placed to both find Yunggamurra and prevent the coming storm. And so his new adventure begins.
Scattered among poor, desolate farms, the clans of the Uplands possess gifts. Wondrous gifts: the ability—with a glance, a gesture, a word—to summon animals, bring forth fire, move the land. Fearsome gifts: They can twist a limb, chain a mind, inflict a wasting illness.
The Uplanders live in constant fear that one family might unleash its gift against another. Two young people, friends since childhood, decide not to use their gifts. One, a girl, refuses to bring animals to their death in the hunt. The other, a boy, wears a blindfold lest his eyes and his anger kill.
In this beautifully crafted story, Ursula K. Le Guin writes of the proud cruelty of power, of how hard it is to grow up, and of how much harder still it is to find, in the world’s darkness, gifts of light.
With Willow Moonfire.
Wednesday, January 27th 19:00: In Walt We Trust
More from Craig Johnson’s Sheriff Longmire Series with Kayden Oconnell and Caledonia Skytower.
Thursday, January 28th:
With Sandon Loring. Also in Kitely! Find teleport from the main Seanchai World grid.kitely.com:8002:SEANCHAI.
21:00: Seanchai Late Night
Finn Zeddmore presents contemporary sci-fi-fantasy from such on-line sources as Escape Pod, Light Speed, and Clarkesworld magazines.
Open through until Saturday, February 13th at the Konecta Art Gallery, operated by Gonzalo Osuna (Jon Rain), is a selection of art by the talented Isle Biedermann. Occupying the lower floor of the gallery, the exhibition presents 20 pieces of Isle’s work under the title Landscapes and Still Lifes, although I do not think it unfair to say the bias of the images leans somewhat to the former.
These are elegant pieces shot from around Second Life – although some have that certain depth about their subject matter that at a casual glance, they appear to have originated in the physical world. Take Bayou 1, Goatswood, Tea Time and Goatswood Churchyard as examples of this. Others are particularly evocative in the story they offer – just take Time Travellers Club Guestbook as an example of this: whom do the names on the page belong to? Where (or indeed, when, give the nature of the book’s title, did they come from or go to?
Staying with the book theme, one can almost sense the spirit of Hercule Poirot or perhaps Jane Marple hovering at the edges of Crime and Punishment, the soft colours suggestive of the calm before the discovery of a terrible act forewarned by the book dropped on the floor…
Other pieces among the selection beautifully capture the season and / or Nature’s many faces; Windmill in the Snow and La Digue particularly captivate here, the former for its depiction of the perfect walk on a crisp winter’s day, the latter for the manner in which we can almost feel the fading warmth of the lowering Sun and scent the promise of rain in the evening’s air.
Indeed, such is the depth of all of these pieces, we’re left with a feeling that they are not so much here to be enjoyed, but entered into and experienced; that more than images, they are gateways to the worlds Isle has witnessed, offering us the chance to step through them and witness those worlds first-hand. Offered for sale at an exceptionally modest price, they are pieces waiting to grace any Second life home or form a part of any private collection. Definitely not an exhibition to miss.
And whilst on the subject of collections, when visiting the gallery, do be sure to pop upstairs, where Gonzalo is displaying pieces from his personal collection of Second Life art.
This summary is generally published every Monday, and is a list of SL viewer / client releases (official and TPV) made during the previous week. When reading it, please note:
It is based on my Current Viewer Releases Page, a list of all Second Life viewers and clients that are in popular use (and of which I am aware), and which are recognised as adhering to the TPV Policy. This page includes comprehensive links to download pages, blog notes, release notes, etc., as well as links to any / all reviews of specific viewers / clients made within this blog.
By its nature, this summary presented here will always be in arrears, please refer to the Current Viewer Release Page for more up-to-date information.
Note that for purposes of length, TPV test viewers, preview / beta viewers / nightly builds are generally not recorded in these summaries.
Official LL Viewers
Current release viewer version 184.108.40.2061711, formerly Cachaça Maintenance RC viewer promoted on November 12th – No Change.
Release channel cohorts:
Dawa Maintenance RC Viewer updated to version 220.127.116.115058, January 20, 2021.
After a build-up of excitement around a potential start-of-year flight for SpaceX Starship prototype SN9, things has slowed down somewhat – but the vehicle may now be on the brink of making its 12.5 km ascent to altitude and an attempt to land successfully after an unpowered “skydive” back towards Earth.
As I noted in my January 10th Space Sunday report, SpaceX had managed to accelerate the processing of SN9 in comparison to SN8 to a point where the majority of pre-flight checks for the vehicle – including a static fire test of the engines on January 6th – had been completed in just a 2-week period following its delivery to the launch stand on December 22nd, compared to 2 months taken for prototype SN8 to reach the same point.
However, as I noted at the time, that static fire test was far shorter than had been expected – just 2 second in length, signifying a possible issue. This appeared to be confirmed when SpaceX attempted further engine tests between January 8th and January 12th, of of which had to be scrubbed for various reasons (including weather), before a further test was made on Wednesday, January 13th – and things took an unexpected turn: after the first brief test, two further tests took place within a 2-hour period for all three tests.
Tweeting about them SpaceX CEO Elon Musk referred to the three firings as “test starts” of the three Raptor motors, rather than full pre-flight static fire tests. Following them, and a successful de-tanking of excess fuel, inspections of the motors revealed that two needed slight repairs, causing the company to swap them out for other units.
As part of streamlining starship operations, SpaceX have refined the processes related to engine swap-outs to a point where they can effectively be achieved within days rather than weeks, depending on the availability of replacement motor units – the actual physical removal of an engine can be completed in hours, as can the installation of a replacement. In this case, the work was done over a couple of days, the engines requiring replacement being removed from the vehicle and shipped out of Boca Chica before the replacements were delivered and installed, clearing the way for a final engine test.
This took place on Friday, January 22nd, when all three engines were ignited for several seconds before shutting down. Described as “very smooth” by Musk afterwards, this final engine test – the 5th for SN9 – means that the door is open for a flight test, possibly as early as Monday, January 24th, 2021.
Outside of SN9, it appears work at Boca Chica has commenced on Starship prototypes SN17 and SN18, and on the second Super Heavy booster prototype. Also, in my January 10th Space Sunday update, I noted that work had been discontinued on Starship prototypes SN12 through SN14. Work has now commenced in dismantling those parts of SN12 that had been fabricated. This is likely due to the fact that SpaceX are iterating the design and construction of the prototypes so fast, SN12 had become effectively obsolete due to the materials used.
The rapid rate of iteration is also reflected in the move of a new fuel tank section – SN7.2 -, which has been moved to a test stand where it will be pressurised to destruction in a similar manner to the SN7 and SN7.1, each of which also saw iterations in the basic tank design. SN7.2 in particular is built using 3 mm aluminium rather that the current 4 mm material in an attempt to reduce the overall “dry” mass of the vehicle.
In 2020, Musk raised the idea of launching Starship / Super Heavy vehicle from sea platforms, suggesting this could be used for vehicles intended to reach orbit or in passenger-carrying sub-orbital transcontinental flights. Now evidence has emerged this is more than an idea, and SpaceX is in the process of converting two former offshore drilling platforms for use as floating launch platforms.
Aerospace Photographer Jack Beyer was the first to bring the news to the public eye after exploring the port of Brownsville, Texas, not far from the SpaceX facilities at Boca Chica whilst waiting for the SN9 static fire tests to resume. In particular, he spotted an oil platform apparently called Deimos (“dread”) undergoing extensive refit work. Not long after, a image captured over the port of Galveston, Texas, and dated January 13th revealed another rig with the name Phobos (“fear”), and which was later moved to Pascagoula, Mississippi, between January 17th and 22nd.
Phobos and Deimos are, of course, the names given to the captured moons of Mars, and the discovery of the two rigs sparked speculation that the platforms had been purchased by SpaceX.
Michael Baylor from NASAspaceflight.com started digging into things using further images captured by Jack Beyer, and discovered that the two rigs in question were originally owned by the world’s largest offshore drilling / well drilling company: UK-registered and Texas-based Valaris plc (formerly ENSCO-Rowan).
Originally constructed in Singapore in 2008, the two rigs were originally called ENSCO 8500 (later Valaris 8500 and now Deimos), and ENSCO 8501 (later Valaris 8501 and now Phobos). However, following the company declaring bankruptcy, the company offered the platforms for sale and US 3.5 million apiece. The purchaser was company called Lone Star Mineral Development LLC, which had only formed in June 2020. Further digging revealed that one of the principals for Lone Star Mineral Development is none other than SpaceX Chief Financial Officer (CFO), who is also the head of the company’s Strategic Acquisitions Group, Bret Johnsen.
Both platforms are classified as “semi-submersible”, meaning they float on large pontoons that can be filled with water ballast that both settles them in the water to stabilise them while dynamic positioning water thrusters hold them in a precise location, making them an ideal launch platform, as does their deck loading of around 8,000 tonnes,means that are more than capable of supporting a Super Heavy / Starship combination and their fuel loads.
The work to convert the two platforms to support fuelling, payload integration, launch, and landing operations is extensive. As such neither is likely to be ready for use in 2021. However, once operational, they will effectively double the number of Super Heavy / Starship launch facilities – SpaceX is currently building the first Super Heavy platform at Boca Chica,and have plans for a second. Multiple launch facilities will be essential in the future if SpaceX is to start to build towards the planned number of launches for the system..