Aliens, pirates, music and drabbles in Second Life

Seanchai Library

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, September 14th: Anything You Can Do

Gyro Muggins reads Randall Garrett’s (writing as “Darrell T. Langart”, one of his many pen-names) story of an alien encounter first published in serial form in 1962.

What do you do when you finally make contact with E.T. after it crash lands on Earth and you find that, unlike Hollywood, it’s not here  for reasons of conquest- but that, despite its clear intelligence, it just doesn’t care about the destruction and death it wreaks across a city, because its norms of behaviour are so thoroughly  – well, alien – compared to ours, and its sheer power means very little can actually harm it?

Well, you obviously take a man and rebuild him – but not with bionics; rather you do so purely biologically- so that he can match anything the alien can do. But then, when you’ve done so, is your creation still human?

Tuesday, September 15th:

12:00 Noon: Russell Eponym, Live in the Glen

Music, poetry, and stories in a popular weekly session at Ceiluradh Glen.

19:00: Young Jack Sparrow: the Pirate Chase

Shandon Loring presents another chapter from Captain Jack Sparrow saga.

Jack and company are hot on the trail of the notorious pirate Left Foot Louis, who they believe has the Sword of Cortes, but Arabella, the first mate, has a personal score to settle with Louis that could jeopardise the entire mission.

Wednesday, September 16th, 19:00: R is for “Random”

More 100-word stories with R. Dismantled.

Thursday, September 17th, 19:00:Pirates!

Seanchai staff and friends gather in anticipation of International Talk Like a Pirate Day (September 19th), to share stories of salty sea dogs and high seas hi-jinks.

2020 viewer release summaries week #37

Logos representative only and should not be seen as an endorsement / preference / recommendation

Updates for the week ending Sunday, September 13th

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 6.4.7.546539, dated August 11, promoted August 17, formerly the Arrack Maintenance RC viewer – No Change.
  • Release channel cohorts:
    • The Bormotukha Maintenance RC viewer, version 6.4.8.548394, issued on September 8th.
    • Mesh uploader RC viewer updated to version 6.4.8.548061 on September 8th.
  • Project viewers:
    • No updates.

LL Viewer Resources

Third-party Viewers

V6-style

  • No updates.

V1-style

Mobile / Other Clients

  • No updates.

Additional TPV Resources

Related Links

Space Sunday: the Moon and Mars, amateurs and asteroids

Courtesy of the Ivan Allen College of Liberal Arts, Georgia Tech

The Moon and Mars are very different places, but for the last 40 years, the idea of sending humans to Mars has been tied very closely to the idea of a return to the Moon. However, whether this point of view has helped or hindered either a return to the Moon with a human presence or the goal of sending humans to Mars is highly debatable.

In 1989, for example, NASA was challenged to develop a plan to get humans back to the Moon and then on to Mars. Much was made of the idea that the former was necessary because it would ultimately make the means to reach the latter easier and cheaper; however, the blueprint NASA eventually proposed for achieving both a return to the Moon and the onwards exploration of Mars – called the Space Exploration Initiative – required a 30-year time frame to complete and a bill of US $450 billion – or more in comparable terms, than the United States spent on World War 2. Result: any idea of going to the Moon or Mars was quietly pushed aside in favour of just building the International Space Station.

Much of this plan cited the idea that the Moon could be used to form a “cheaper” launch venue for reaching Mars and elsewhere in the solar system, with materials gathered from the surface of the Moon making it “cheaper” to build and test the required hardware needed to reach Mars, whilst the lunar environment could offer the means of testing technologies needed in the attempt to reach Mars such as landing systems, use of local resources.  Similar claims were made in the early 2000s with NASA’s Vision for Space Exploration, which similarly ended up pushed to one side on the grounds and time frame.

In actual fact, when things like the amount of energy required to launch humans to the Moon and to launch them to Mars, there is actually very little difference – in fact, when you take into consideration the energy needed to slow a mission into lunar orbit, the energy needed to land it on the Moon, and the energy to re-launch from the Moon to reach Mars, and going to Mars via the Moon actually becomes more expensive in terms of your energy budget – particularly when you consider that regardless of whether they go directly to Mars or via the Moon, all crews will commence their mission directly from Earth. And when you add in all the costs and complexities involved in developing a lunar launch capability  – fabrication facilities for vehicle production, development of fuel depots and so on – then the bill for going to Mars via the Moon starts to outstrip the bill for going to Mars directly from Earth.

This point was pretty much demonstrated in the 1990s by aerospace engineers Robert Zubrin and David Baker. Following that US $450 billion bill, they looked at how humans to realistically and cost-effectively be taken to Mars and back safely. Their work resulted in the Mars Direct mission proposal which, in 1996, would have cost around US $10 billion for the first mission and then $1 billion per mission thereafter, with two launches taking place every 2 years.

One of the unique aspects of Mars Direct was the idea of sending the Earth Return Vehicle (ERV) to Mars 2 years ahead of the crew, with the crew following in the “hab” – a combined spacecraft and home. Credit: Mars Society UK

While there were issues with the Mars Direct proposal (for example: the small number of crew – just 4 people – in the original profile, and a certain cavalier attitude towards cosmic radiation exposure), it offered a “lifeboat” option for getting a crew back to Earth, and it held up to scrutiny as a practical means to reaching Mars within a 10-12 year development cycle. So much so, in fact, that it became the basis for a generation of NASA Mars mission proposals (the Design Reference Missions), and former NASA Administrator Michael Griffin pushed the agency into starting work on the development of the Ares launch vehicles identified as being required for the Mars Direct proposal, under what became known as the Constellation programme (although ultimately, Constellation was cancelled after just one flight of an Ares 1 booster to make way for the Space Launch System).

In terms of technology development, the Moon is also of questionable benefit in terms of missions to Mars. Much has been made of testing landing systems for use on Mars through missions to the Moon, but the fact is, such tests are of limited value: the Moon has little practical atmosphere, ergo, there’s no means to test atmospheric entry systems. A lunar landing also requires an entirely propulsive means of slowing a vehicle and bringing it to a safe landing. However, the tenuous Martian atmosphere allows for aerobraking as both the demands of atmospheric entry and immediately afterwards. It also allows the use of a certain degree of aerodynamic flight capabilities and – potentially and depending on the mass of the landing vehicle – the use of parachute braking systems in addition to propulsive means of slowing and landing.

The atmosphere of Mars readily lends itself to ISRU – in-situ resource utilisation, than allows a 19th century process, the Sabatier Reaction, to generate water, methane and oxygen, using just a small amount of hydrogen feedstock carried to Mars by the ERV. Credit: Orange Dot Productions / Inara Pey

Similarly, while there is plenty of scope for in-situ resource utilisation on both the Moon and Mars – the production of fuel stocks, air and  water, for example – the fact that Mars has an atmosphere that can be used in the production of these elements, whilst on the Moon they must be obtained through processing the regolith, again means the respective technologies needed for doing so on Mars are very different to those needed on the Moon.

So does this mean the idea of using the Moon as a proving ground for going to Mars is a complete misnomer? Not entirely. There are opportunities for testing technologies and procedures that will be required on Mars through a human presence on the Moon – but they do need to be put into perspective. And this is pretty much the findings that have come out of the annual Humans to Mars summit organised by Explore Mars and held virtually at the start of September 2020.

In particular, the summit noted that currently, we only have two data points for human activities in gravity environments:  hear on Earth, and the micro gravity environment of Earth orbit. Therefore, even though the Moon’s gravity is half that of Mars, it would still provide a vital data point on things like muscle atrophy and bone calcification, cardiovascular impact, etc., allowing scientists gain greater information on how the human body adapts to a range of gravity environments over extended periods.

Also, things like basic rover systems for use on Mars could be practically tested on the Moon, because when all is said and down, engineers estimate that the requirements for a pressurised rover vehicle intended for use on Mars are around 70-80% the same as those for a pressurised rover intended for use on the Moon. The Moon also offers the potential for testing automated systems that could play a significant role on Mars: such and guidance systems for landings, self-deploying base stations, etc.

Pressurised rovers designed for use on Mars have much in common with similar vehicles intended for use on the Moon. Therefore, it makes sense for technologies for the former be tested / employed on the latter – something that also helps lower development and operating costs. Image credit: JAXA / Toyota

Crew activities could also benefit from lunar operations – although here, caution should again be exercised. For example, the summit identified the use of the Lunar Orbital Platform-Gateway (LOP-G) as a means of simulating transit flights to / from Mars to study the physical / psychological / practical challenges of 6-7 month transit times – but frankly, work like this could be carried out just as effectively from Earth orbit. However, options for providing greater protection against cosmic and solar radiation could benefit enormously from lunar-based testing.

Overall, the idea of integrating lunar and Mars mission requirements – where there are natural and genuine cross-overs – could ultimately assist humanity’s move from going back to the Moon to moving onwards to Mars than might be the case in viewing them as separate goals. But in order for this to work, how using the Moon to genuinely assist in undertaking human mission to Mars needs to be clearly understood and stated. The report from the Humans to Mars summit, although it does contain one or two questionable assertions, is nevertheless a positive step towards doing so.

NEOs: One Reason Why Amateur Astronomers are Important

There’s been a lot of late about near-Earth objects (NEOs) – asteroid that can come close to Earth in their orbits and so present a risk of striking Earth at some point. For example, on August 31st, I wrote about this over-excitement around 2018 VP₁ despite the fact it can never present a significant threat (see Space Sunday: Venus’ transformation, SLS and an asteroid).

However, on September 10th, 2020, a much larger asteroid crossed Earth’s orbit, and served as a reminder that there are sizeable bodies out there we have yet to find and which could represent a serious threat – and the importance of amateur astronomers in finding them.

2020 QU6, measuring roughly a kilometre across, passed by Earth at a distance of 40 million kilometres. That’s far enough away for it not to be classified as a near miss, although its orbit is still being assessed to see if it might become a future threat. Certainly, given its size, 2020 QU6 is substantial enough to cause a massive level of devastation were it to make contact. However, what is of key interest here is that, just two weeks prior to its passage past the Earth it was entirely unknown.

The negative image in which Leonardo Amaral identified NEO 2020 QU6. Credit: Leonardo Amaral

Despite its size, 2020 QU6 was not stopped until August 27th, 2020, when amateur astronomer Leonardo Amaral, working at the Campo dos Amarais observatory in Brazil, observed it for the first time. A keen asteroid hunter,Leonard identified the asteroid using equipment he had obtained via a 2019 grant from the Planetary Society that allowed him to significantly upgrade his equipment. In this, he is part of a global network of amateur astronomers the Planetary Society support in the work hunting down asteroids that might pose a threat to Earth.

Thus, his discovery of 2020 QU6 both underlines the importance of amateur astronomers in the finding and tracking of NEOs  – particularly given that the major space agencies believe they’ve thus far only identified around 90% of large NEOs that pose a very significant threat to Earth should they collide with us. Leonardo’s work also highlights the importance of amateur astronomers operating in the southern hemisphere, where the larger agencies carrying out similar work don’t have such a pronounced presence as they do in the northern hemisphere., so there is a greater reliance on professional and amateur astronomers. This in a particularly valid point to remember, because knowing there could still be several hundred objects of 1 km or larger routinely crossing the orbit of Earth that we’re completely unaware of is a little unsettling.

Isolation’s Passengers in Second Life

Isolation’s Passengers – click any image for full size

Archetype11 Nova, aka Schmexysbuddy Resident, has been responsible for some of the most evocative / thought-provoking region builds in Second Life. I’ve covered a number of them in these pages – notably his Hotel California builds; his work embraces landscape design and artistic statement, often mixing ideas and sentiment, ideals and imaginings in an eclectic whole that captivates the eye and challenges us to look deeper, think a little harder and take a closer look at what is being offered.

With Isolation’s Passengers, Archetype11 offers what might be his most provocative  – and possibly his most personal – region design yet. It occupies a private full region that has the additional Full region LI bonus, although it does not currently make use of the extra land capacity. This additional space  – previous builds by Archetype11 / Schmexysbuddy have tended to be on Homestead regions – appears to offer plenty of opportunity for expansion or (perhaps) for multiple environments within the same location.

Isolation’s Passengers

The foundational aspect for this design is that of the SARS-COV-2 pandemic. This is not an uncommon theme within art and region design at present, but with Isolation’s Passengers, Archetype11 offers a different perspective on the pandemic, one which – as noted – touches on the personal for him, as he noted to me whilst I was visiting the region:

It’s intent is the onslaught of 2nd and 3rd order effects of isolation that aren’t readily visible…the invisible passengers of this pandemic. It was inspired by the death of a friend and brother of mine.

– Archetype11 Nova, describing Isolation’s Passengers

The story of that death can be found here, and should be read as a part of a visit to this region, as it helps to frame some of the motifs to be found within it.

Isolation’s Passengers

For those unfamiliar with the concepts of the 2nd and 3rd order effects of isolation, in the 1980s and as a part of studies into the long-term impact of isolation can have on the psyche among groups such as submariners, small teams on long-duration expeditions in the Antarctic and crews aboard the International Space Station. In particular, they noted three distinct reactions to being so isolated, linked to different points in  the isolation period.

The first order comes early on, encompassing the initial weeks / months of isolation.  It is marked by heightened anxiety, possibly mixed with periods of confusion and panic (think of the early stages of the the pandemic: anxiety over lock-downs, panic buying of toilet rolls, etc.). The second order (sometime referred to as the “sourdough order”) is marked by a sense of routine, possibly edged with a sense of newness / novelty (again, in terms of the pandemic: the novelty of working from home, the formation of a new routine based on self-motivation, etc). And then there is the third order. This is more negative: the dropping of routine as everything blurs into a never-ending whole where days are difficult to separate, and encompasses resentment towards our situation and towards those who are around us (not so much because of who they are but rather because they represent the fact we cannot interact with anyone else), and is a time that can be marked by emotional outbursts, aggressiveness, rowdy or anti-social behaviour.

Isolation’s Passengers

The 3rd order can often include a further emotional response that might appear as contrary to the others listed for it: that of anticipation – the sense that things will soon be over, and life can “get back to normal”, which in turn can lead to further frustration as “the end” doesn’t seem to get any closer, despite the passage of time.

Within Isolation’s Passenger’s we see many motifs representing elements of the second and third order effects of isolation – take the line of large masks with waterfalls falling from one eye: their repetition suggestive of routine; painted bodies suggestive of excitement that the freedom of expression isolation and working from home appears to initially present. Then there is the large clock sitting to one side of the region, representing the dragging passage of time and the resentment it can cause – the reminder of how long its been, and how long, potentially, we may still have to go before things “get back to normal”.

Isolation’s Passengers

But there is more here as well: the personal element of love and loss of a friend beautifully offered through these suggestions of life and death, love and loss through the use of angelic figurines (some partially dismembered), the shrouded busts with their crowns of thorns, the floating bodies under their own shrouds, the great church, the huddled skeletons, the shiny Morgan sports car with its “Just Married” sign and the promise of a bright future,  sitting amidst the wreck of several junker cars suggestive of age and decrepitude – and loss.

The layering of images and ideas within this build is compelling in their sheer diversity. Take the line of masks noted above; within them might also be seen the cracking of our daily façades – the faces we present to the the rest of the world that are becoming increasingly redundant in this age of isolation; also to be found within them is the sense of tears offered by the falling water. Between two of them sits  the carcass of an ageing ship, an orchestra playing even as pumps fail to keep the water at bay. This is rich in multiple motifs: there’s the idea of trying to carry on as normal in the rising tide of change; the echo of the Titanic and the idea we’re facing the sinking of all that can be normal in an increasingly  confusing, isolating world; the hint that despite the current disorder, perhaps normality can return; and then there’s the personal element again: music played in remembrance of a loved one.

Isolation’s Passengers

Poignant, beautifully presented, and watched over by the floating spores of a virus that hang in the sky – a reminder that as per that title of the build – we are all just passengers in the unfolding situation in the world today. Even the region’s core name – Solveig – seems to reflect the intertwined themes presented in the build – Sol and Veig being old Norse words meaning “house” or “hall” (the place where we most commonly have to isolate) and “strength” or “battle” (reflective of the strength we draw on from within in handling the battle we face in moving beyond the 3rd order of isolation).

SLurl Details

Announcing the Second Life Endowment for the Arts

via Linden Lab

In August 2019, and after an eight-year run (it’s first public exhibitions coming in 2011 after initially being announced in late 2010), the Linden Endowment for the Arts (LEA) closed, the organising committee having decided to step away from managing it (see: Linden Endowment for the Arts to officially close, LEA: more on the closure, and a move to save it and Linden Endowment for the Arts: update).

Following the announcement, there were numerous discussions on how the work of the LEA might be continued. In particular, artists Tansee Resident and Riannah Avora launched an in-world group specifically with the aim of gathering ideas and viewpoints on how the work of the LEA – and Linden Lab’s involvement in the body – might be continued.

At the time, a lot of discussions were held and a considerable number of ideas put forward (I was happy to play a small background role in advising both Tansee and Riannah in a number of areas, including potential discussions with Linden Lab). Ultimately, both went on to found groups operating on similar principals to LEA, with Tansee co-founding the Hannigton Endowment for the Arts (HEA) along with Hannington Xeltentat, and Riannah co-founding United Artists of SL.

However, the idea of a Lab-supported facility to help promote arts in Second Life never entirely went away, and Tansee continued to pursue ideas, refining a proposal originally created from the ideas gathered after the LEA had closed down. Then, in June 2020, a conversation with Lab CEO Ebbe Altberg at the SL17B event opened a door of opportunity. This in turn lead to a series of meetings with senior staff at the Lab, including Patch Linden, Vice President of Product Operations, and Brett Linden, the Lab’s senior Marketing Manager. After several such meetings, which included reviews of, and updates to, the proposal, Linden Lab indicated a willingness to support a new body similar to that of the LEA, but operating on a more modest and flexible footing.

Announced today, and starting an January 2021, the Second Life Endowment for the Arts (SLEA) will operate across seven regions supplied by Linden Lab, and managed by Tansee and Hannington supported by a Board of Advisers (the full list of whom is yet to be announced), and a team of volunteers to help in the day-to-day operations, once the new regions are open.

The seven SLEA regions

The seven regions, which are currently being set-up, will comprise the following:

  • A  central hub (SLEA7). This will likely include:
    • A landing point.
    • Facilities for SLEA coordinators, advisers and volunteers.
    • An education centre.
    • A events centre to support arts activities and events across Second Life.
    • A teleport hub serving the SLEA grant regions and information on the artists currently exhibiting.
    • The SLEA Theatre for mounting art-related and special events.
    • An art Challenge corner.
  • Four Full regions (SLEA1-3 and SLEA6) for region-wide art installations ranging from 1 to 6 months duration.
  • A single region (SLEA4) providing four quarter-region installation spaces.
  • A sandbox region. This will include an artist hangout and club for events and parties along with a new underwater building area.
The planned SLEA 7 hub region

As  noted above, SLEA will formally début in January 2021. Between now and then, the plan is to release information over a period of time, starting in October. These activities will include:

  • Providing information on:
    • How those interested to volunteer to help run SLEA, and on specific volunteer roles that are available.
    • How artists will be able to apply for grants, and requirements / guidelines for exhibiting through SLEA.
  • Updates on region design status.
  • Detailed information on the SLEA website, social media channels, etc.
  • The opening of the first round of applications for artists.

The reason for not having the website / social media presence in place alongside of this announcement was explained by SLEA co-ordinator Tansee Resident as follows:

We intentionally do not have a Website or a FB page or any of the essential networking tools. The reason for this is we truly want to include the artists in building this community from the ground up. In order to build a solid foundation it is imperative that we establish a Volunteer base and find people who are willing to share their area of expertise.

Tansee Resident, SLEA Co-ordinator

Proposed time line for SLEA development

So, in the interim period, those interested in SLEA as artists and / or as potential volunteers are asked to join the SLEA in-world group, which will be the primary channel of communications for the next few weeks. Also, to help promote SLEA, there will be a special Designing Worlds show featuring Brett and Patch Linden, together with Tansee and Hannington, which will be show at 14:00 SLT on Monday, September 14th via the Designing Worlds website and channels.

You can also read the official SLEA announcement from the Lab.

I’ll also continue to provide updates through these pages.

A Captain’s Retreat in Second Life

AustinLiam’s Captain’s Retreat boathouse / house on display with accessories at his in-world store.

While I like to build in SL – particularly my own homes – I’m always on the lookout for units made by others that might suit our needs or be up for a bit of kitbashing. One of those I’ve had my eyes on for  a fair while is AustinLiam’s Captain’s Retreat, and moving to a home literally just across the water from Austin’s in-world base of operations has tended to sharpen my interest in having a play with that design.

For those unfamiliar with Austin’s work, he produces a range of commercial and residential units and accessories ideal for those wishing to build a waterside setting or who live on / near the water. Most are of a wooden design, and so well suited to being used in a variety of settings.

AustinLiam’s Captain’s Retreat integrated into Isla Caitinara

The Captain’s Retreat is a split-level building well suited to a coastal locations or on the banks of broad rivers / the edge of lakes. It’s an over-the-water design, the lower level forming a boathouse suitable for small or modest sized powered boats, with the upper  level offering a large open-plan area providing some 20 square metres of accommodation space (including 2 balconies) that can easily and comfortably be split into two living areas,  and is well-lit thanks to large windows on three sides of the building, two sets of which incorporate sliding doors to access balconies that bracket the building.

At 84 LI, the building is supplied without a rezzer – you just unpack it and drag it out of the resultant  folder (which also contains a single armchair, a flag pole and a bearskin rug referred to as “bear … already dead” 🙂 ), then place it. This is handy for those who don’t like messing around with rezzers; however, for those who (like me) enjoy kitbashing / modding designs, thought has been given to making this a flexible design well suited to modding. The fireplace elements, for example, can be easily selected and relocated within the house. External lighting is supplied as a part of the build, the lights individually switchable, while the boathouse has a door that can be raised / lowered and has piers for easy access to any moored boat.

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The interior living space can be comfortably split into smaller areas to suit needs. Borrowing from Austin’s approach, I used a room divider rather than full-height walls, and added slatted blinds from additional privacy between “day” room and sleeping area

In our case, the mood nature of the design allowed me to add external decking around two sides of the house, and then split the main living area into two areas – one a general living space,  with more than enough room for a sofa and armchairs, a dining  area and even a gallery kitchen. Taking a leaf from Austin’s in-world show home for the Captain’s Retreat, the remaining half of the room became a bedroom area,  overlooking the open waterway passing our Second Norway island.

The mod nature of the house allowed the fireplace to be relocated as noted above, whilst also allowing me to add greater depth to the two balconies and the glass awnings over the top of them. While it is not vital, I also modified the lighting supplied with the house, removing the supplied  scripts and replaced them with a system integrated with the room lighting I added to the house, with a script to activate all lights a SL sunset and turn them off at SL sunrise.

The living area of the house has balconies on either side, served by sliding window doors. The modular design of the build means that these balconies can be made deeper if required to provide more space, and the supporting beams of the house frame adjusted to match

At  L$1680, this isn’t a design that will break the bank – but it can provide a surprisingly comfortable living space. Thanks to Ydille’s Multi Scene Rezzer & Multi Scene Erazer Pro V5 I reviewed last month, the Captain’s Retreat house now forms a 4th option of house we can have at Isla Caitinara whenever we feel like a change – and for those looking for a house they can easily mod and / or create a cosy home on the water, I’d have no hesitation in recommending this design.

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