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.
January 31st 19:00: A World Out of Time
After being cryogenically frozen in the 1970s to await a cure for his (then) incurable cancer, Jaybee Corbell awakes after more than 200 years – to find his own body destroyed and his mind and memories transferred into the “mindwiped” body of a criminal. And that’s is not all that has changed: the Earth is now overseen by an oppressive, totalitarian global government called “The State”, and Corbell’s existence is to be determined by a “checker”; if he is found wanting, he will be discarded.
However, Peerssa, the checker, recommends Corbell as ideal fodder in The State’s attempts to seek out exoplanets suitable for terraforming – whether he wants to join the programme or not. Disgusted by his treatment, Corbell works out a way to take control of his one-person ship on its otherwise one-way mission, and heads toward the galactic core. Entering suspended animation, he is unaware his vessel skims close enough to the super-massive black hole at the centre of the galaxy to experience time dilation.
Emerging from his suspended state, and believing only 150 years have passed, Corbell returns to the solar system to find it again vastly changed: more than three million years have passed, and the Sun has become a bloated red giant, and Earth – well, Earth appears to have been relocated to an orbit around Jupiter, whilst humanity itself had endured extensive changes; and Corbell must face an entirely new set of challenges if he is to survive.
Join Gyro Muggins as he reads the 1976 novel (and originally a short story) by Larry Niven.
Caledonia Skytower says Gong xi fa cai – or if you prefer the Cantonese: Gung hay fat choy as the Chinese calendar turns over a new year and we say “goodbye” to the of the Ox and hello to the year of the Tiger.
The Tiger is the third sign in the Chinese zodiac. According to legend, Tiger was confident that no one could compete with its speed and vigour for the celestial race that would decide the order of the zodiacs. However, when Tiger climbed out of the river, thinking it was first, it was informed that Rat placed first for its cunning and Ox placed second for its diligence. This left the king of the jungle having to settle for third place.
Traditionally celebrated over 16 days (this year commencing on January 31st), this session stands as a mini celebration of all that the Chinese New Year entails, through story and voice.
Wednesday, February 2nd: Dark
No readings for this week.
Thursday, February 3rd 19:00: Thursday Night Sci-Fi
In the United States (where it also known as African-American History Month) and Canada, February marks Black History month, an annual remembrance of important people and events in the history of the African Diaspora (also observed in the UK and Ireland, but in the month of October). Given this, it is fitting that February should also see The Eye Arts host the latest 3D installation by London Junkers and which celebrates the life and work of a great American heroine – Harriet Tubman.
Entitled Hero, this is another installation by Junkers that is both marvellously understated in form but powerful in its content and depth. Rather than offering multiple scenes depicting Tubman’s life and work, London instead presents two gallery spaces that simply and directly encapsulate the major factors of her early life and work as an abolitionist, supported by the words of a poem also penned by Junkers.
Born into slavery in 1822 (as Armanda Ross) in Dorchester County, Maryland, Harriet Tubman was routed exposed to violent beatings and whippings as a child, and received traumatic head wound when a heavy metal weight thrown by an irate overseer struck her, leaving her with bouts of dizziness, pain in the form of headaches and hypersomnia throughout the rest of her life. As a result of this injury and the visions it gave her, Harriet became devoutly religious – and determined to escape her bonds.
In 1849, Tubman finally realised her goal to escape slavery, thanks to several factors combining – her belief in the Old Testament’s tales of deliverance for enslaved people; the discovery that her current owners were ignoring a stipulation the her mother would be manumitted (freed by her owners) at the age of 45; and thirdly that the widow of her owner might actually break up her family be selling them off.
However, a first attempt, made with her brothers Ben and Henry, ended when her siblings opted to return. A few months later Harriet tried again, this time making use of the so-called Underground Railroad – a network of former slaves, those still enslaved, abolitionists, and other activists – to reach the relative safety of Philadelphia. But she did not rest on her laurels.
I was a stranger in a strange land. My father, my mother, my brothers, and sisters, and friends were [in Maryland]. But I was free, and they should be free.
– Harriet Tubman
And so, spurred both by the Fugitive Slave Law of 1850 which imposed heavy punishment on those aiding escaped slaves, together with the news that members of her family were to be sold off, Tubman started working to bring her family and other escaping slaves out of Maryland and, thanks to the threat of the Fugitive Slave Law making it harder to find places where escapees could be kept safe, she would lead them as far north as British Ontario (Canada), the British Empire having abolished slavery altogether. Over the course of 11 years and 13 expeditions, Tubman directly guided 70 slaves to freedom, and assisted an estimated 50-60 more in their efforts to find freedom.
All of this is captured with Junker’s words and installation. In the first hall, the poem is set upon a pedestal alongside a fire roaring in a hearth – the latter suggestive of the warmth and comfort of a place to live free from the rigours and terror of slavery. Click the poem to get a HUD version for ease of reading, if required, for the words are beautifully crafted, telling Harriet’s tale in freeing herself and then seeking to free the rest of her family and others. Within in it we find not only a reflection of her life and work as a practical abolitionist, but also personal touches that bring her to life, such as the name Minty awarded her by her family or that of Moses, the name given her by those she freed because like him, she led her people from bondage.
Either side of this poem and its warm, safe fireplace sit railway tracks and little wagons, personifying the idea of the Underground Railroad and to the idea of slave labour (the wagons resembling those used to haul coal, rock or other fruits of manual labour). Both of these tracks angle towards a stone arch that leads visitors into woodland clearing at night.
Here a single track of rail line points to the towering figure of Tubman as show towers like an angelic protector over a pregnant woman and two young children – one of whom carries the yoke and chains of slavery -, figures that represent all those she guided to safety from captivity. Around them, the Moonlit woods stand as a reminder of the covert nature of journeys Tubman took with her wards, travelling by night and hiding by day. Within the setting we also witness the dangers that hunted them by day and night: the baying hounds that tracked them, leading torch-bearing, angry men promising the threat of recapture or even death from a bullet or at the end of a rope for having the temerity to attempt to seek a life of freedom.
Harriet Tubman’s life and work was remarkable; not only did she do much to free those enslaved directly by physical efforts, she also worked alongside abolitionists like Frederick Douglass and John Brown and working in support of the Union cause in the US Civil War (where she was directly involved in an action that resulted in the freeing on 750 slaves), and then in later life worked to promote the cause of women’s suffrage. Within Hero London offers a just honouring of Tubman and her endeavours and a fitting exhibit for Black History Month – do be sure to pay it a visit.
On Monday, January 31st, there will be a special pre-recorded edition of Lab Gab featuring Linden Lab’s Executive Chairman Brad Oberwager (Oberwolf Linden) and the Lab’s co-founder, Philip Rosedale.
As noted in an official press release and within this blog (and others), High Fidelity Incorporated, the company co-founded by Rosedale in 2013, following his departure from Linden Lab, has invested in Linden Lab, bringing with it an a influx of money, patents and new and returning skills.
Updates from the week ending Sunday, January 30th, 2022
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
Release viewer: Mac Voice hotfix viewer 184.108.40.2067427, dated January 13 – no change.
Release channel cohorts:
Performance Improvements project viewer updated to version 220.127.116.117604, on January 24.
China has published an overview of its plans for the next five years in its space exploration endeavours. It builds on the last five years, which have seen a remarkable acceleration in China’s capabilities with in the introduction of new Long March 5, 6, 7, 8 and 11 rockets, the commencement of work on the country’s multi-module space station, and the launch of missions to the Moon and Mars.
In particular, the plan – published on January 28th, 2022 – indicates that as well as completing its new modular space station, China will seek to develop its space transportation capabilities, test new technologies, embark on both crewed and robotic exploration missions, modernise space governance, enhance innovation and boost international cooperation.
Notably, the plan confirms China intends to the undertake crewed missions to the lunar surface – most likely commencing in the late 2020s, and also folds current private-sector space activities that are in progress within the country into its overall national strategy, utilising the private sector to leverage new technologies and innovation.
Robotic missions confirmed in the paper include:
Chang’e-6: a second lunar sample-return mission, scheduled for a 2024 launch, which will return around 2.2 kg of material from up to 2 metres below the Moon’s surface.
Chang’e-7: a 4-part lunar mission that will include an orbiter, a lander, a rover, and a robotic “flying probe”, all of which will focus on the Moon’s South Pole.
Chang’e 8: a mission to test technologies expected to be used in the establishment of a lunar base.
An asteroid sample-return mission (possibly in cooperation with Russia).
Developing technologies that will be used for a Mars sample-return mission and for a deep space mission to Jupiter and its moons.
In addition, the paper highlights on-orbit crew operations aboard the new space station which will include a range of sciences and helping to lay the groundwork for human operations in cislunar space in order to make and support actual lunar landings. It also makes mention of the introduction of China’s new crew launch system that will replace the current Shenzhou vehicles, the continued development of a fully reusable space transportation system, and a possible spaceplane launch system – most likely as a payload delivery system, although one Chinese company has stated it plans to commence operating a spaceplane that, launched vertically, could be used for space tourism flights and point-to-point passenger flights around the Earth.
Some of China’s emerging capabilities have given rise to a certain amount of fear-mongering in the west (and notably within America’s political right). One such mission is that of Shijian 21, referred to by China as a “space debris mitigation mission” and launched in October 25th October 2021, but denounced as an “anti-satellite” mission by the US Right and touted as another failure of President Biden’s “woke” policies.
However, on January 22nd, 2022, Shijian 21 docked with the defunct Beidou-2 G2 navigation satellite. The latter had failed to reach its assigned orbit following its launch in 2009, and had since become a risk to other geostationary satellites. Having successfully docked, Shijian 21 pushed the defunct satellite into a much higher orbit, eliminating it as a threat, thus confirming the mission is part of China’s desire to develop a capability to remove its own space debris from orbit, with the Shijian class of vehicle also potentially capable of supply satellites with propellants to extend their lifespan.
The paper is also the first time that China’s private sector space ventures have been mentioned in a government document. This is seen as both a recognition of the rapid growth of the country’s private / commercial space sector, and of the benefits of folding such work into the nation’s broader ambitions and goals – just as the United States has done through NASA contracts with SpaceX, Boeing, Blue Origin, etc.
NASA Commemorates Comrades Lost
NASA has marked the 55th anniversary of the Apollo 1 fire with a video commemorating those of the US astronaut corps who have lost their lives whilst preparing for, or during, a US mission into space. Those commemorated are not the only people to have lost their lives in the quest to achieve a human presence in space, but within the west, the 17 who are commemorated in the video are perhaps the most well-known.
initially designated AS-204, Apollo 1 was intended to be the first crewed mission of the United States Apollo program, undertaking an Earth orbital test of the Apollo Command and Service module. Set for launch on February 27th, 1967, the mission never took place.
During a full launch rehearsal test at Cape Kennedy Air Force Station Launch Complex 34 on January 27th, 1967, a fire broke out within the command module and, due to the oxygen-rich nature of the atmosphere within the vehicle, coupled with the extensive use of flammable materials within it and the complex design of the entry / egress hatch, all three astronauts – Command Pilot Gus Grissom, Senior Pilot Ed White, and Pilot Roger B. Chaffee – were killed before the support crew on the launch gantry could successfully open the hatch to extract them from the vehicle.
Nineteen years later, on January 28th, 1986, the 25th flight of the Space Transportation System, officially designed STS-51-L, came to an abrupt end 68 seconds after launch when the massive external tank that fuelled the pace shuttle orbiter’s three main engines exploded beneath the vehicle, the result of a failure with one of the support solid rocket boosters. All seven souls aboard the shuttle Challenger – mission commander Francis R. “Dick” Scobee, pilot Michael J. Smith, mission specialists Ellison S. Onizuka, Judith A. Resnik and Ronald E. McNair, together with payload specialists Gregory B. Jarvis and S. Christa McAuliffe – were lost.
The third disaster marked by the video is that of the shuttle Columbia, lost on February 1st, 2003 at the end of the 113th shuttle system flight – and the vehicle’s 28th mission. It broke apart following re-entry into the atmosphere, the result of super-heated gases penetrating the vulnerable interior wing space of the vehicle as a result of damage received during the mission’s launch. Killed aboard it were Rick D. Husband (commander), William C. McCool (pilot), David M. Brown, Kalpana Chawla, Laurel B. Clark, Michael P. Anderson (mission specialists) and Israeli payload specialist Ilan Ramon.