Fantasy Faire 2021: the gates are open

Fantasy Faire 2021: Valhalla (Alia Baroque)

Note that SLurl to the Fairelands are listed at the end of this article, rather than being embedded in the text.

The largest fantasy-related event to take place in Second Life, Fantasy Faire 2021, opened its gates to fairelanders at 12:00 SLT on Thursday, April 22nd, and will remain open through until Sunday May 9th, 2021 inclusive, once again raising money for Relay for Life and the American Cancer Society’s efforts to bring about a World Without Cancer.

As with previous years, 2021 will see a wide range of activities and events taking place through until Sunday, May 2nd, including the LitFest, DJ and live performances, auctions, role-play opportunities, and more – all of which will culminate in the The Final Shindig a four-hour jamboree intended to give as many people as possible the chance to drop in and celebrate the Faire’s success. After this, the regions will remain open for people to visit and enjoy sans on-going activities, allowing them to enjoy the the shopping and the regions themselves – although some activities will also continue through the final week as well.

Fantasy Faire 2021: Peaville goes Nuts (Sweetgwendoline Bailey and Mondi Beaumont)

Fantasy Faire 2021 this year encompasses 16 shopping regions devoted to the best in fantasy creations and four event regions. As is usual, the best place to start a visit is Fairelands Junction. From here visitors can access all of the shopping regions via the portals, and also visit the memorial area and the worldlings – region designs that didn’t make it into this year’s event.

The regions designs for this year are another enticing mix of realms designed by familiar Faire names such as Kayle Matzerath, Sharni Azalee, Sweetgwendoline Bailey and Mondi Beaumont, Dumpling and Solas Enchantment, Alia Baroque, Kilik Lekvoda, returning designers such as Beq Janus and Elizabeth Jarvinen, and names new to the Faire, working either on their own or in partnership with others.

You can find a full list of the regions, their designers and principal sponsors here, while those wishing to shop can see what stores are where within the Fairelands realms via the Fantasy Faire Shopping Catalogue.

Fantasy Faire 2021: Líng xiāo lóng 灵霄龙 (Fiona Fei)

Events and Activities Highlights

Fantasy Faire 2021 will again be filled with events and activities, with music from DJs focused on the the deck of the Fairechylde as she lies moored in the Dark Awakening, while performances of theatre, dance and more will be on offer alongside the Faire’s art displays in Paer Thura. Dedicated schedules are available for both DJ parties and live performances are now available, so keep your eye on them as well.

LitFest 2021

The LitFest will this year be based at Líng xiāo lóng 灵霄龙. The Litfest is a special place where the magic of the spoken word will weave tales of wonder, relate stories of great adventure and daring; where talks by authors, discussions, creative writing sessions and performances will all take place. In addition, literary hawks and writers will be encouraged to join daily tours of the Fairelands and afterwards compose pieces related to their travels.

The full LitFest schedule provides a run-down of activities, but here are a some highlights.

The Region Tours: taking place at either 13:00 SLT or 17:00 SLT and running from Friday, April 23rd through Sunday, May 9th, the LitFest tours offer the chance to explore the Fairelands and seeking the stories they have to tell as well as their special secret places and details. Stories can also be submitted for publication on the Fantasy Faire website, provided they are submitted within two days of each tour.

Sharon Lee and Steve Miller

LitFest Special Guests: this year the LitFest special guests are writing partnership Sharon Lee and Steve Miller, perhaps best known for their Liaden Universe® works – and are also long-term Second Life Residents.

Over the course of their partnership, Lee and Miller have written thirty-two novels, twenty-three in their original space opera setting, the Liaden Universe®, where honour, wit, and true love are potent weapons against villainy. In addition, Sharon Lee has published three novels in the urban fantasy genre, the Crimson Trilogy (also known as the Archer Beach Trilogy).

The couple will be appearing at Fantasy Faire as follows:

  • Tuesday April 27th 15:00-16:00 – Interview with Sharon Lee and Steve Miller: Sharon and Steve will talk to Saffia Widdershins about their lives, their work and the challenging of world-building in a universe that stretches for millennium.
  • Friday April 30th 15:00-14:00 – Reading by Sharon Lee and Steve Miller: the couple will read from their works set in the Liaden Universe® and, if there’s time, take audience questions.

For the full schedule of activities, please refer to the LitFest schedule.

Role-Play and Table-Top Gaming

2021 will once again have numerous opportunities for role-play within the Fairelands.This year the Children of Stories will return this year as the Junior Society of Extra-ordinary Explorers. The children (previously appearing as the Rickety Weasels, the Mouse Guardians, the Children of Echtra, the Lilypods,  the Magpies, the Bubo Owls, and the Grizzly Cubs) will be investigating the mysterious Amethyst Rift where an ancient society of sorcerers vanished into the mists one day.

In addition:

  • There will also be regular Meet ’n’ Greets with the NeoVictoria Project. These are out-of-character events where players from the NeoVictoria community will be available to discuss the project, the story-world and how to get involved. For more information read more here.
  • Role-play classes will be available for those new to role-play in Second Life. Again, details can be found here.
  • Table-top games have been a part of Fantasy Faire 2018, and will again a part of activities – check the game page for details.

And There’s More

And don’t forget the live auction, the silent auction, jail and bail, the Fairelands Quest: The Language of Birds, the first part of which opens on Monday, April 26th.

Fantasy Faire 2021: J’Adoube (Sharni Azalee)

Keep Abreast of Everything

There are many ways of keeping up to speed with events and activities at the Fairelands:

Fantasy Faire 2021 SLurls


Entertainment, Performances, Etc:

Strandhavet Viking Museum in Second Life

Strandhavet Viking Museum, April 2021

Despite having moved to Second Norway eight months ago – and having been pretty familiar with the estate a good while before that – I have to admit I only recently discovered the Strandhavet Viking Museum, tucked away on the northern island of the estate.  For those with any interest at all in Viking History, it is a compact treasure trove of information and artefacts.

Curated and operated by Katia (katia Martinek), the museum offers both indoors and outdoor exhibits to appreciate, and is richly informative on the Viking / Norse life and the extensive history and travels of the Vikings. From the landing point, the museum’s facilities might be split into three areas: the main exhibition building, the art centre and the outdoor displays.

Strandhavet Viking Museum, April 2021

The latter comprise two main displays – the Holmgang (duelling area) and the  burial mounds, each presented with information boards that will either supply visitors with note cards or links to web pages where information on Viking burials (including the Lindholm Høje burial site) can be obtained.

The main museum building is laid out much as a physical world museum tends to be, presenting a mix of large, open displays and those placed behind glass to protect them, and visitors are encouraged by rope barriers and the general layout to follow a path into the centre of the building.

Strandhavet Viking Museum, April 2021

This route will take you by way of learning about Yggdrasil and  Old Norse cosmology and the Överhogdal Tapestries, through displays focusing on Viking Life – dress, weapons, pastimes, architecture, transportation – notably the Viking long ship, which sits as the museum’s central display piece – religions (both pagan and Christian), law, and more. Again, individual displays offer note cards and  / or links for further information, and Katia has clearly taken considerable time to bring together a collection that offers genuine insight to Viking society.

At the time of my visit, the museum included an exhibition entitled Vikings in the East. Many of us are likely more than familiar with the westward voyages and activities of the Vikings – their coastal raids down long the Atlantic coast of Europe the around Britain, their trans-Atlantic voyages, even their travels to the Mediterranean.  What may be less familiar is their journeys east into central Europe and beyond. Vikings in the East helps to put much of the latter into perspective. If – like me – you’ve watched (and growled at) the seven seasons of Vikings, this exhibit offers a lot to help historically frame things.

Strandhavet Viking Museum, April 2021

The second of the museum’s building offers a display of Viking art, a small café and the opportunity to learn to play Berserker – which like chess, takes minutes to learn and a potential lifetime to master (although watching the animated playing pieces can keep players entertained!).

My  only minor niggle is that – again, appreciating the LI count – the museum feels a little cramped, and could do with perhaps being a little larger; the featured exhibit is a little crowded-in by the presence of the long ship. But that aside, Strandhavet Viking Museum is an entertaining, engaging and informative visit.

Strandhavet Viking Museum, April 2021

SLurl Details

A trip to La Vallee in Second Life

La Vallee, April 2021

Shawn Shakespeare pointed me in the direction of La Vallee, a Homestead region held by Som (Sominel Edelman) and home to his business Landscapes Unlimited – the in-world store for which is located overhead within the region.

The reason Shaun gave me the nudge is that currently the ground level of the region is sporting a design by Isha (Sablina), a talented region design whose work encompasses the likes of La Virevolte, Ponto Cabina, Field of Dreams – all of which have featured in articles in this blog – and, most recently a design on behalf of Gnaaah Xeltentat for Florence at Low Tide (see: Spring at Florence in Second Life).

La Vallee, April 2021
La Vallee is a design that serves two purposes: the first is to demonstrate Som’s latest off-region surround, the Alpine Valley MEGA, which goes on sale from May 1st; it’s also as a setting for exploration and – for those so inclined  – for entering Som’s “50K Photo Contest” that is focused on the setting.

As with the majority of Sablina’s designs, this is an incredibly restful setting, a tall island rising from the midst of a lake guarded by a ring of high alpine peaks where snow yet nestles in the folds and dips of rock where the snow has yet to fully penetrate.

La Vallee, April 2021

The island rises fairly tall and sheer from the waters, although on the west side, the lower reaches of the island slope more gently down to the water’s edge, reached by a switch back path of hard granite that drops away from the paved path that runs across the island’s saddle between its two peaks.

The first, and lower, of these peaks is home to the landing point: a small country station that faces a thatched-roofed cottage across a single line of track. An old steam loco is huffing its way towards this terminus across the high stone viaduct that connects island to the rest of the land (actually the region surround); but no passenger service is this – there are no cars riding along behind the loco’s tender.

La Vallee, April 2021

The taller of the two peaks is home to a pair of farm houses that sit together within a low wall of stone that rings them, a couple of gaps within its circumference offering the means to wander to the very edge of the cliffs. Pass through one of them, and you’ll find it also offers anther path that winds around the peak, outer edge marked by lengths of drystone wall to eventually return to the steps that lead up to the farmhouses.

This path is one of two that ring the peak, the second sits lower, reached by a crossroads in the path lining the farmhouses with the railway station. It offers a pleasing walk with plenty of views, together with a number of vignettes and places to sit and pass the time.

La Vallee, April 2021

Those who want to can wander further can fly over to the smaller island to the west – but keep in mind this actually blends with the region surround, so be careful of where you walk.

The beauty of this region really doesn’t require the level of description given here – its the kind of place that really speaks for itself during a visit. So with that in mind I’m going to say no more other than suggest that if you haven’t already done so – be sure to take the time to jump over and pay a visit. For those interested, a board at the landing point provides a a link to the region’s landing point – although specifics are a little light in terms of prizes, etc.

La Vallee, April 2021

Slurl Details

  • La Vallee (Landscapes Showcase, rated Moderate)

2021 SUG meeting week #16 summary

The Redwoods, February 2021 – blog post

The following notes were taken from the Tuesday, April 20th, 2021 Simulator User Group (SUG) meeting. There’s not actually a lot to report, with most of the meeting taken up with general comments on “nice to have” ideas (e.g. improved IK for locating an avatar’s position / height, options to improve sitting on furniture, LSL access to map tile information, etc.), none of which is currently under consideration by LL as potential implementations.

Server Deployments

No server deployments have been planned for this week. There will, however, be a general “clean-up” of some of the Snack RC and experimental channels, but should not impact more than a couple dozen regions.

Regular deployments are expected to resume from week #17 (commencing Monday, 26th, April, 2021).

SL Viewer

There have been no updates to the current crop of official viewers to mark the start of the week.

  • Release viewer: Custom Key Mappings RC viewer, version, dated March 24, promoted March 27.
  • Release channel cohorts:
    • Love Me Render (LMR) 5 project viewer, version, dated April 7.
  • Project viewers:
    • Legacy Profiles viewer, version, dated October 26.
    • Copy / Paste viewer, version, dated December 9, 2019.
    • Project Muscadine (Animesh follow-on) project viewer, version, dated November 22, 2019.
    • 360 Snapshot project viewer, version, dated July 16, 2019.

In Brief

  • There is a “minor” update to be deployed to the back-end Soon™ that may help with the current problems.

Ambre Singh: artistic expressionism in Second Life

Ambre Singh Gallery, April 2021

Far back in January 2021, I received an invitation from Ambre Singh to visit her gallery spaces located overhead at Noir’WEN City – and I offer my apologies to her for only now getting around to doing so.

A Second Life resident for getting towards 14 years, Ambre is an artist who uses photography, art, a sense of humour and generally provocative in the manner it prods the grey matter between the ears to start churning thoughts.

Thematically, much of her work might be considered Adult, with images not suitable for the work environment; it mixes direct Second Life photography – notably her avatar, the characters she creates and her friends – with mixed media pieces that combine physical world at and images with elements created within Second Life mixed with classical works both to tell her own stories and / or in celebration of their original artists.

Ambre Singh Gallery, April 2021

Her gallery space at Noir’WEN offer two wings set within a warehouse environment, one of which is devoted to a permanent exhibition entitled The Pink Dildo, and the other offers a broader mix of Ambre’s work, including the opportunity to rez past exhibitions – a novel idea I’ve admittedly never come across before.

The Pink Dildo (you can take it from the title this is an exhibit that can be labelled NSFW!) is a clever, humour-filled but ultimately thought-provoking view “of the role of women in the development of human societies”.  Within it, Ambre presents a collection of images that combine original in-world art with clever re-workings of classical pieces of art to take us on a journey from pre-history through to modern times, each piece generally including a pink dildo in some fashion, together with a short descriptive text offered in English and French.

Ambre Singh: The Pink Dildo, April 2021

While it might be easy to dismiss these pieces as a means of simple titillation, to do so would be to miss the point. Whilst the entire exhibition includes adult themes wrapped in humour (just read the artist’s biography placed within the exhibit for evidence of the latter), there is a subtext within The Pink Dildo that might best be described as commentary on the (largely patriarchal) recording of history, whilst also offering personal views on modern society (notably on the upper floor of the hall), not all of which we may ascribe to or agree with, but which nevertheless give good pause for thought.

What is particularly – for me – engaging about this exhibition is the manner in which Ambre has taken classic pieces of art by Rembrandt, Poynter, da Vinci, Bouguereau, Jacques-Louis David, JW Waterhouse, Litovchenko and others and re-interpreted them as a part of her story. I also appreciate the topping and tailing of this exhibit through the use of a reference to 2001: A Space Odyssey at the start, and a sideways reference to Musk & SpaceX and their plans to colonise Mars. 

Ambre Singh, The Pink Dildo, April 2021

The interjection of her avatar into classical works of art can also be found in the second wing of Ambre’s gallery, although with art that is more nude in tone and adult in theme, so again should be considered NSFW. Here, within the upper floor rezzer area, one can appreciate her take on pieces by JW Waterhouse, Boucher, Courbet, Draper and more, as well as collections of her avatar portraiture work, a neat little musical quiz challenging people to match the images with the song titles and more.

Engaging, rich in content, story and sub-text, Ambre Singh’s art is well worth visiting – and extended to a current exhibition in Noir’WENs ground-level gallery as well – something I’ll be returning to in the future.

Ambre Singh Gallery, April 2021

SLurl Details

Mars Monday: Ingenuity flies

Ingenuity hovers 3m above the surface of Jezero Crater, Mars, watched by the Mars 2020 rover Perseverance. Credit: NASA/JPL

April 19th saw aviation and space flight history made 288 million kilometres from Earth, when a tiny drone-like craft weighing just 1.8 kg spun-up two contra-rotating rotor blades, each 1.2 metres in diameter, to 2,500 rpm and then rose into the tenuous atmosphere of Mars to a height of 3 metres, hovered rotated about its vertical axis, then descended to land on the Martian surface once more.

Ingenuity, a proof-of-concept system to test the feasibility of controlled, powered flight on Mars, is a remarkable little vehicle that holds great promise for the future of the exploration of that world. While this initial flight was short – under a minute in total length from spinning-up its rotors to touch-down, it opens the door to more extensive flights over the coming days that will see the vehicle complete more complex manoeuvres. In doing so, it will provide vital information on the behaviour of rotary vehicles on Mars, vehicles that could in the future provide enormous additional potential and capabilities to future robotic missions on Mars and eventually support human missions.

The flight occurred at 07:31 UTC on Monday, April 19th, with telemetry being recorded by the helicopter’s own systems and relayed to the Mars 2020 Perseverance rover, which also recorded the event using its Mastcam-Z camera system and its navigation cameras. The initial data from the flight was then transmitted to Earth some three hours later, with additional images and video being transmitted throughout the day.

The first indication of the success of the flight came not through any pictures but via a simple graphic track of altimeter readings made by Ingenuity. Mostly flat to show the vehicle was sitting on the ground, the track was marked by a sudden “bump” recording the vehicle rise to just over 3 metres, its hover, and then its descent. It was enough to get the helicopter’s flight team – a handful at JPL practising social distancing in a large room, the rest working from home – rejoicing. But the chart was just the opening treat.

The altimeter data track from Ingenuity was the first solid indication that Ingenuity had successfully flown. Credit: NASA/JPL

Following the initial receipt of data, still images in low-resolution captured by Perseverance’s navigation cameras clearly showed the helicopter “jumping” between to close-together points, indicating that during the period between the images, it had flown and landed. However the biggest treat came later in the day with a stream of frames captured by the Mastcam-Z system on the rover.  When strung together, these produced a video of the flight.

Ingenuity is a project more than six years in the making, and has uniquely involved not only multiple NASA space and science centres, but also their aviation research and development centres as well. It was actually a late addition to the Mars 2020 mission, requiring some extensive changes to the rover that had to be made in order to mount the helicopter beneath the rover’s belly, and include a mechanism for deploying Ingenuity onto the surface of Mars.

Ahead of the Mars 2020 launch, Ingenuity want through extensive testing to simulate flight conditions on Mars. This involved placing the vehicle a large vacuum chamber filled with carbon dioxide to a pressure to match the surface atmospheric pressure on Mars – which is the equivalent of Earth’s at an altitude of 30 km. To simulate the low Martian gravity (38% that of Earth’s), a special rig was attached to the demonstrator to counter 62% of its mass. Finally, a wall of 900 computer fans was used to simulate typical surface wind speeds on the surface of Mars, as recorded by the Mars Science Laboratory rover Curiosity.

 All of this allowed engineers to define the optimal size of the helicopter’s rotors, balancing them against Ingenuity’s mass and size and to determine things like their required rate of spin to achieve flight – between 2,400 and 2,500 rpm  – five times the speed of Earth-based helicopter rotors.

A low-resolution image taken by Ingenuity’s downward point camera showing the helicopter’s shadow on the surface of Mars as it hovers at a height of 3m. Credit: NASA/JPL

Even so, flying an engineering test model in a controlled environment is very different to doing the same on Mars – hence a lot was riding on this first flight.

Ahead of it, the area selected for the test flight sequence and previously dubbed “the airfield” was unofficially renamed “Wright Brothers Field”. Having safely dropped off the helicopter there in early April, Perseverance had driven some 70 metres from Ingenuity at a rise overlooking the area that NASA has dubbed “Van Zyl Overlook” in honour of key Ingenuity team member Jakob van Zyl, who passed away unexpectedly in August 2020. From this vantage point it is hoped that the rover will be able to record all of Ingenuity’s flights.

Captured by Ingenuity’s downward-pointing camera, this image shows Ingenuity’s shadow on the surface of Mars just before it lands. Two of the vehicle’s legs can be seen top left and top right, while the 2,500 rpm spin of the contra-rotating blades used to provide lift makes them appear semi-transparent. Credit: NASA/JPL

Prior to the flight, and as noted in my previous Space Sunday update, the flight team had to make some changes to the software overseeing Ingenuity’s first flight. Not only have these adjustments worked well, it is hoped that they will remove any need for running a complete software re-installation on the vehicle – a process that could take several days to complete and severely impact the ability to complete all of the remaining four planned test flights. However, the option of a full re-installation is being kept open should further issues arise with the timing and control processes.

Inn the meantime, it’s going to be a few days before all of the data from the first flight has been analysed. As such, the next flight for Ingenuity has yet to be scheduled.

When it does goes ahead, it should see the helicopter rise to an altitude of around 5 metres, then translate into horizontal flight for a distance of some 50 metres before coming to a stop, then returning once more to land.

As it is, the initial telemetry from Ingenuity shows it is a good health – better, in fact than before it lifted off. This is because the flight removed dust that had been accumulating on the solar cells located above the vehicle’s rotors, interfering with their efficiency.

In all the Mars Helicopter project has three goals:

  • Show via Earth-based testing that it should be possible for a heavier-than-air vehicle  to take flight on Mars – achieve via the vacuum tests described above.
  • Achieve stable flight on Mars – now achieved through this first flight.
  • Obtain data that can inform engineers as to the design and capabilities required by future aerial vehicles that could be deployed to Mars – and also elsewhere in the solar system, such as Saturn’s moon Titan.
Following the flight, the ICAO has officially designated Ingenuity the first of aircraft type IGY, and gave its testing area on Mars the airport code JZRO. image credit: NASA

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