Once more to Whimberly

Whimberly; Inara Pey, December 2017, on FlickrWhimberly – click on any image for full size

Whimberly marked one of the first places we visited in Second Life at the start of 2017, when I remarked that the great beauty of the region lay within its simple elegance. In August, a return visit was made, after region holder Staubi (Engelsstaub) had given Whimberly a make-over, presenting a new look along the same elegant simplicity of presentation. So, when friend Miro Collas tipped me that a further make-over had been made to the region, it seemed a third visit would make a fitting end-of-year report on the region, balancing may January write-up.

This latest iteration of the region offers something of an echo of both the designs from mid-year and the start of 2017. As with August 2017, the landing point sits towards the north-east of the island, up on a rocky shoulder of a hill. Once again, this is home to a small summer-house – but in difference to August’s design, this one has been converted into a 50’s style diner inside, complete with jukebox, vinyl covered bench sitting and plenty of chrome. Also echoing the August design, a stone fountain sits outside of the diner, a parasolled seating area to one side, looking southwards across the water to a small island where a windmill stands, sails gently turning.

Whimberly; Inara Pey, December 2017, on FlickrWhimberly

A dirt track runs down the hill to the lower reaches of the island, which have something of a feel for the January design of the region. A wide-open, grassy scene dominates the central landscape beneath the cloud-laden sky, the track splitting before the tide of grass, one arm leading to another summer-house, this one sitting within ornate walls, but offering a strong reminder of a similar place found within the January 2017 build, complete with the deck looking out over northern waters.

To the south, the track curve past a second wooden deck, where little motor boats can be rezzed and used to reach the windmill island, before following the water’s edge westwards before forking again, offering route to a choice of local houses.

Whimberly; Inara Pey, December 2017, on FlickrWhimberly

The first of these has a distinctly Mediterranean look to it. With the old pick-up truck parked outside the front, the well and the cart wheels stacked against a wall, it might easily be taken for a farm-house. A look inside and a walk to the back of the house, with its terraced pool, reveal it to be anything but. An old stone jetty, broken and partially flooded – one of two to be found alongside the shoreline – sits close by, a place where an artist has been practising their skill with brush and paint.

The second house is much larger, and occupies the south-west spur of the island. Sitting among what might be oak trees and watched by a weeping willow, this has the feel of a family home – three pairs of Wellington boot in the hall, a meal for three set on a table, and so on. A car sits outside the garage, guarding the front door.

Whimberly; Inara Pey, December 2017, on FlickrWhimberly

The little motor boats available to puttering around on the water are, I have to say, quite nippy; also, getting out of them takes a little care as well – any double-click teleporting will carry you back to the landing point. However, the windmill offers a haven for Greedy, Greedy and On a Roll fans, while a picnic blanket is spread under the wind-bent back of an old tree close to the windmill’s doors.

Whimberly always has been a region of serene, natural beauty, and this iteration is no exception; the melding of ideas from earlier designs is sublime, and the entire look and feel of the region so perfectly executed with a wonderfully light touch. It’s the perfect setting for an end-of-year visit, and a reminder that while we are in the midst of winter in the northern hemisphere, spring is really not that far away. In other words, an ideal place to visit and escape the winter blues.

Whimberly; Inara Pey, December 2017, on FlickrWhimberly

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Tralala’s Diner in Second Life

Tralala’s Diner – click any image for full size

We first came across Tralala’s Diner courtesy of (who else?) Shakespeare and Max, who forwarded the landmark back in September 2017, although time didn’t permit us a visit until November (partly because I misfiled the LM in inventory). The description for the region – designed by tralala Loordes – did pique my curiosity in part: “Hong Kong Rooftop Slums” – not that I managed to find anything that remotely put me in mind of that wonderful city. The rest of the description, however, suits this full region right down to the T: it really is post-apocalyptic setting, with lots going on.

In fact, so much is going on visually, that the region is perhaps lifted above other regions offering similar settings; there is a quirkiness about Tralala’s Diner which makes it a little more than “just” your typical post-apocalyptic setting. Yes, there are the fires, the ruined buildings, the areas being reclaimed by nature, the attempts to organise life after the fall as witnessed through the presence of wind turbines, and what appears to be – at least going on the number of antennae, aerials and satellite dishes vying for rooftop space – attempts to make contact with other group who may have survived whatever disaster has befallen this world.

Tralala’s Diner

A visit starts at the landing point, slight off-centre to the middle of the region, in a shack at the end of an old street. An overpass rises just outside the shack, broken and bearing the wrecks of vehicles rusting in the elements. Signs beneath the elevated road warn of bio hazards ahead, perhaps encouraging those stepping out under a grubby sky to turn and follow the old road pointing away from the dire warnings. This road has long since been overtaken by nature, grass and bushes laying claim to its one pristine tarmac, the ageing and decrepit buildings on either side of it seeming to have faired better under nature’s attempts at reclamation.

Where you go from here is a matter of pointing your feet; it actually doesn’t matter where you go, as you’re bound to come across something extraordinary in whichever direction you opt to strike out. Daring the warning signs, for example, will bring you to a shanty town built within and on the roofs of old industrial units, and huddled around the square of a market offering a Sino-Japanese fusion of looks. Southwards, and the southern aspect of the region is given over to the ruins of city tower blocks standing as if blasted by one ore more explosions. Then there are the more eclectic structures to be found that together add a strange whimsy to the place; like the sliced hull of a submarine converted into a dormitory or barracks or the improbable sight of the home built of shipping containers held aloft by a propeller lazily turning beneath them, the owner’s bicycle neatly propped outside the vault-like door.

Tralala’s Diner

And that’s just the start. Everywhere are buildings old and older, whole and broken, some sheltering homes or market stalls or shops or other signs of commerce, others harking back to a bygone era when machines turned within them, people pulled off the roads to spend a night in their bedrooms and money was the oil that kept life moving. Now, among the hodgepodge of homes and places of commerce, the broken road and the decaying vehicles, the only things moving seem to the birds and the wind turbines. The latter are scattered across the landscape, standing alone or in regimented rows of three, as if waiting for some latter-day Don Quixote to come tilting at them, perhaps on a bizarre steed of human design.

What makes Tralala’s Diner particularly fascinating is the detail poured into it. Everywhere you wander there is something to see, be it large or small. The marketplace, for example is chock full of human bric-a-brac and the needs of life, while many of the buildings have interior fittings and furnishing, however shabby they might be. There is some cost for this however, particularly if you run the viewer with shadows enabled: with all the textures, the rainfall, etc., I found my FPS collapsing into single digits while exploring, and did struggle in a couple of places with rendering / movement.

Tralala’s Diner

Nevertheless, for those who like dystopian environments and places offering a post-apocalyptic outlook, Tralala’s Diner should not be missed. It is photogenically captivating, and those taking pictures are encouraged to post them to the region’s Flickr group.

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A photogenic twirl in Second Life

La virevolte; Inara Pey, December 2017, on FlickrLa virevolte – click on any image for full size

La virevolte (The Twirl) is a gorgeous Homestead region designed by Iska (sablina). Caught in a winter setting, this is a rugged region is a rugged setting, running from lowland areas in the west to highland regions to the east, surrounded by snow-capped mountains.

Where this might be is open to question – there are few clues in the form of architecture and wildlife, although the vehicles in the region are of European origin. But where this might be really doesn’t matter; what is important is the sheer beauty of the region’s composition, which uses muted tones and colours to considerable effect, both outdoors and inside the buildings scattered across the region.

La virevolte; Inara Pey, December 2017, on FlickrLa virevolte

The landing point lies in the middle of the region,  close to a snowy track that winds from a headland on the west side, where an old lighthouse sits, then passes a log cabin sitting within its own fenced-off grounds before arriving at the foot of the eastern uplands.  A narrow channel cuts into the land near the lighthouse, forming a small, oval bay spanned by an ageing bridge. On the south side of this channel lies an old stone-walled barn, a Citroen van parked close by.

This western side of the landscape is largely snow free – although as one travels eastwards, the snow makes its presence felt, both on the ground and as it falls from a sky filled with scurrying clouds that scrape their way over the tall surrounding mountains. This gives the perfect impression of a wintry cold front moving across the land, depositing snow as it passes, gradually hiding the tough grass of the region under a white blanket.

La virevolte; Inara Pey, December 2017, on FlickrLa virevolte

Within the deeper snows of this eastern side of the region, sits a cosy wooden cabin overlooking waters that cut into the landscape from the north to form a small bay and finger of water that cuts a small slice of land off from the rest to form a little island. This brackets the western headland, connected to it by a rope-and-wood bridge. Old ruins sit on this crooked silver of land, sharing it with a curtain of silver birch which line the banks of the water channel.

Behind the cabin, the rocky shoulders of a plateau rise in steps to where a barn has been converted into something of a club house or social space, with comfortable sofas and chairs, a pool table and general bric-a-brac. This is reached by way of stone steps cut into the rock, and which rise from the western end of the rutted track mentioned above. An avenue of small trees, their trunks bent into a series of arches, also runs from close by the cabin to the foot of the steps.

La virevolte; Inara Pey, December 2017, on FlickrLa virevolte

Rocks also rise in the south-east corner of the region, offer a small shelf where another, unfurnished, cabin sits. This can be reached by following the curve of a second track that branches from the first to swing around a low table of rock to provide access to a little depression in the land, where sits a well and a pair from benches – and stone steps offer the way up to the cabin.

There are one or two areas where the grasses to the east and north need to be set to phantom, but La virevolte is wonderfully wild, windswept and marvellous photogenic. It makes for a picturesque visit – and our thanks, once again, to Shakespeare and Max for pointing it out to us!

La virevolte; Inara Pey, December 2017, on FlickrLa virevolte

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Return to ISM in Second Life

International Space Museum

It’s been over five years since I wrote about the International Spaceflight Museum (ISM) in Second Life.  At that time, this two-region facility, offering something of a history of space exploration, had just come through something of a financial crisis (see here and here).  Prior to that, my last visit was far back in 2012 – so I thought I’d hop back over for an update.

Comprising Spaceport Alpha and Spaceport Beta, and entirely funded by donations and sponsorship as a 501(c)3 non-profit, ISM is a large-scale undertaking, providing a good introduction to the history of space flight, charting many of the key events and the systems they used. It provides insight into international space operations covering – America, the Soviet Union/Russia, Europe, Japan, China, India – together with something of a look at commercial activities.

International Space Station: Rocket Ring

A visit starts at the main landing point / information hub. This features a citation to a letter from Konstantin Eduardovich Tsiolkovsky, the Soviet Russian rocket scientist regarded as the “grandfather” of modern rocketry. Given as Earth is the cradle of humanity, but one cannot live in a cradle forever, the quote is from a phrase Tsiolkovsky wrote in 1911, which transliterates as Planyeta yest’ kolybyel razuma, no nyelzya vietchno zhit’ v kolybyeli – “a planet is the cradle of mind, but one cannot live in a cradle forever”. However, both this literal translation and the more popular quote point to the same ideal: that to grow as a species, humanity must as some point reach beyond the planet of our birth.

A path leads away from the landing hub towards ISM’s most impressive feature: the Rocket Ring. This provides models of some of the major launch systems used by countries around the world. This includes vehicles such as the V2 rocket – which both Russia and America utilised in their early post-war experiments; launch systems developed from ballistic missile systems – such as America’s Titan and Atlas; through to more familiar launchers such as the Soviet / Russian Soyuz and Proton families, and a look at some of the more recent vehicles to enter the market: SpaceX’s Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy.

International Space Museum: SpaceShipOne

The ring is far from complete – systems such as Blue Origin’s New Shephard and New Glenn are lacking, NASA’s Space Launch System is missing (although the cancelled Ares launchers from the US Constellation programme are present, dominating the ring alongside Russia’s massive N1 lunar booster). However, space is limited, and what is presented is still a rich array of launch vehicles which, for those interested in the less well advertised space programmes – such as Japan’s, India’s or China’s, provides some excellent models of their current fleets.

Beneath the Rocket ring are further exhibits, including models of the Apollo Command and Service Module (CSM) and Lunar Excursion Module (LEM), the Gemini capsule, and a look at the lives of  Tsiolkovsky and Robert Hutchings Goddard, regarded as the “father” of modern rockery. NASA’s Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle (MPCV) in both its original form, with rounded solar arrays and a more recent design, featuring twin rectangular solar arrays. Orion will use a Service Module based on the European Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV), which used to haul up to 5 tonnes of supplies and equipment to the space station, and include the ATV’s unique arrangement of four solar arrays.

International Spaceflight Museum: an historical look at the ISS with the shuttle docked, and a European ATV resupply vehicle arriving. Also docked is a combination of Soyuz+Progress vehicles

Further out from these are further displays, including the Apollo Saturn 1B rocket, information centres and more. These also include interactive elements, such as a Gemini V / Atlas II rocket, which offers a ride up to one of the sky exhibits – that of the International Space Station (which can also be reached from the ground-level sit-on teleport kiosks). Also in the sky and reached from the ISS display, are models of the solar system.

Spaceport Bravo, reached via a runway-like bridge over which the first sub-orbital flight of SpaceShipOne is recorded, sits a reproduction of NASA’s Vehicle (or Vertical, as it was originally known) Assembly Building (the VAB). This is where the Apollo rockets and space shuttle systems were “stacked” and readied for launch, and where the SLS rocket will be assembled ready for flight. One of the bays in the VAB feature the space shuttle Atlantis, which has just been mated with its External Tank / Solid Rocket Booster units; the other features a Saturn V leaving the bay atop its crawler-transporter. Alongside of this is an Orbiter Processing Facility (OPF), the interior of which is somewhat sparse, but does offer models of NASA’s lunar rover vehicle and the  Lunniy Korabl (LK) lander vehicle which formed part of the Soviet Union’s manned lunar programme aspirations.

International Space Station: Mercury recalled

Visually, ISM offers a lot to see, not all of which is expressed here – and at one time hosted a range of events (it’s unclear whether this is still the case). However, there are some disappointments. An attempt has been made to link exhibits to a wiki, but the majority of pages have yet to be populated, for example. Several areas appear a little sparse – such as the OPF building, as noted; all of which gives a feeling the ISM is caught in time – as if in the midst of a still-to-be completed update, including elements which might be relatively easily seen to. Take the photo map of the Florida space coast, for example. This shows the facilities at both Kennedy Space Centre and Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, but has yet to be updated to reflect SpaceX’s use of Kennedy’s Pad-39A and Canaveral’s SLc-40 and SLC-13.

Even so, for those who want to dip their toes a little more deeply into the world of space flight, ISM retains a lot to offer, while across the water NASA’s Explorer Island offers an interesting looking back in history to the US space agency’s involvement in Second Life.

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International Spaceflight Museum (Spaceport Alpha, rated; General)

Tarrying at Tramore Bay in Second Life

Tranmore Bay; Inara Pey, December 2017, on FlickrTramore Bay – click on any image for full size

Tramore Bay, the work of Pernilla (PernillaOhl) and Amelie Tautou (Amilee34) is once again evidence that you don’t need at entire region – Full or Homestead – to make a lasting impression in Second Life. Occupying the south-east corner of a Full region, Tranmore Bay is a compacts design, making full used of the space available to presents a highly photogenic and quite delightful cove-like environment in which to spend time.

That said, a visit begins, not within the cove itself, but high overhead, at the industrial / brewery chic Tramore Bar, where music can be enjoyed with a drink and game of darts or while cosying close to the fireplace.  Six teleport options are available on the wall next to the landing point (and a TP station in on the floor, the twin of several at ground level), each of which delivers visitors to an area of the cove at ground level. As all are within easy walking distance of one another, which you take to the ground isn’t that important – although the café is perhaps the most central.

Tranmore Bay; Inara Pey, December 2017, on FlickrTramore Bay – click on any image for full size

The default windlight at ground level is a deep sunset, but this is a place where a rich variety of environmental settings can be used to create the ambience required of your pictures. As Caitlyn and I both felt we needed a break from winter’s snow and hints of winter, I selected a more late summer setting for the pictures here to add some further sensations of warmth.  The café is an old wooden structure, looking equally out to sea and inland. It’s and the rest of the cove lay protected by high rocky walls on three sides, with a view out over beach and sea to the south.

Woodlands border one side of the café , sitting in the lee of the cliffs and offering paths to wander and deer and horses to watch. Inland from the café is a music stage, with a path lurking in the shadows, offering a winding path up into the west cliffs. It is this path, and the one to the east of the land, which add further depth to the setting, allowing visitors to climb up between rocky shoulders to the flat cliff tops, then roam along the grass-covered rock to a camp site on the west cliffs or, by way of wooden bridge, to the chapel-like lighthouse keeping a watchful eye on things from a rocky island in the very south-east corner of the region.

Tranmore Bay; Inara Pey, December 2017, on FlickrTramore Bay – click on any image for full size

The path to the lighthouse lies across a narrow body of water from the café , spanned by a rough bridge formed by the fallen trunks of trees. The path to it, like the one to the camp site, offers superb views over the land, particularly from the great rocky arch spanning the water to the lighthouse’s little perch. Also to be found on this side of the water, tucked under the cliffs, is an old ruin, the setting for outdoor dining, a little Romany camp close by.

Throughout all of this, there are charming little touches: the wild flowers; the snuggle posts on the beach and around camp fires; a scatter of art by Mistero Hifeng which add a unique feel to the setting; the sailing boat (privately owned) moored in the lee of cliffs and lighthouse island – and more besides. There are a couple of little rough spots in the landscaping where plants perhaps need to be phantom, or path sections don’t quite align, but these are more than compensated for by the sheer beauty of Tranmore Bay.

Tranmore Bay; Inara Pey, December 2017, on FlickrTramore Bay – click on any image for full size

All told, this is a really delightful place to visit. Those interested in learning about music events at Tramore Bay can join the local group, photographers can enjoy the setting for their work, and explorers will find plenty to see and appreciate – and to offer reasons to tarry a while. Should you enjoy your visit, do please consider making a donation towards the enjoyment of Tranmore Bay by others via the tip jar up at the bar.

Tranmore Bay; Inara Pey, December 2017, on FlickrTramore Bay – click on any image for full size

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D 0 X: an Island Fantasy in Second Life

D o X; Inara Pey, December 2017, on FlickrD o X – click on any image for full size

D 0 X is a Homestead region designed by Paradox Ivory, and the home of the Urben Gallery. Open to the public, the region, at the time of our visit, lay split into three winter-bound islands, rowing boats (via rezzer) enabling explorers to travel between them without the need for flying.

Visitors arrive on the largest of the three islands, on the north-west side of the region, where snow is falling heavily. The landing point is on the central neck of the island, a short distance from the warehouse forming this single living space on the island. This has been converted into a cosy home, where someone has been baking and the table is set for dinner. Through a glass panelled door, the bedroom is scattered with the bric-a-brac of daily living, the entire scene within the building one of homely warmth, perfectly contrasting with the snowy scenes visible through the windows.

D o X; Inara Pey, December 2017, on FlickrD o X – click on any image for full size

Outside, paths offer ways west, east and south. The latter is the shortest, running past an old church gatehouse (in which sits information on the region and a teleport up to the Urben Gallery, which will open on January 7th, 2018. This path ends at a wooden jetty where a rowing boat can be reached, providing the way to reach the remaining two islands.

The path to the east climbs a little set of stone steps under an arch of rowan boughs string with lights. It leads, by way of a path running between trees and bushes, to a rocky outcrop providing a view out over the winter waters to the smallest of the three islands, the home of a ruined lighthouse. Westwards, the path is wilder, again running between trees and bushes to a south-facing headland and offering a view towards the second largest of the islands.

D o X; Inara Pey, December 2017, on FlickrD o X – click on any image for full size

With a grey rocky skirt topped by undulating snow, this island is home to a barn converted into a warm snug of a home, where the traditional bed appears to have been replaced by a chaise. The fireplace sparkles with flames, armchairs you could lose yourself in ranged before it, with all the accoutrements of life again scattered cosily around. Whoever lives here obviously isn’t put off by the cold: the brick paved terrace to the front of the property features a table set for dinner, an outdoor fireplace glowing with warmth alongside it.

The barn is reached via a path rising by step and curve from the island’s jetty, guarded at either end by gabled gates. This path runs alongside the house, offering access to the front terrace before continuing on to another outdoor seating area atop a small squared-off terrace and warmed by another fire. A little to the south from the barn, and overlooking a little inlet, is another outdoor fire and seating, a Thermos available for hot drinks.

D o X; Inara Pey, December 2017, on FlickrD o X – click on any image for full size

The northern end of this island is crowned by a great wind turbine – presumably providing electrical power to the properties on both of the larger islands. Its great blades turn steadily, shadows seeming to slice silently over the snow, completely ignored by the deer roaming here.

With two further (off-sim) islands to the north-west and south-east, D o X has the feel of a tiny winter-bound archipelago in which seasonal retreats have been established. Set beneath a twilight sky circled by an aurora and patrolled by deer, it is a picturesque setting. We’ll doubtless be returning in the new year, when we’ll also pay a visit to the Urben Gallery up in the sky.

D o X; Inara Pey, December 2017, on FlickrD o X – click on any image for full size

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  • D o X (Island Fantasy, rated: Moderate)