Resting at The Outer Garden in Second Life

The Outer Garden, October 2022 – click an image for full size

For want of the need to unwind, I found myself in-world and re-visiting The Outer Garden, the always-engaging garden world designed by Bisou Dexler. The last time I visited, he gardens had moved from a sky platform to the ground; with this visit, I found it has not only moved back to the sky, it has relocated to a Mainland region.

The Outer Garden has always been a place of beauty and enigma, and this remains the case for the current iteration. The core of the build are the ruins of what appears to have once been a mighty manor house, much of it roofless and caught within the glowing light of a misty morning / evening (take your pick as to the time of day) which haunts the huge building with a ghostly glow.

The Outer Garden, October 2022

The landing point sits at one end of the ruin’s main hall running from west – and the landing point – eastwards, various rooms and halls opening off of it, each with its own theme or secret. The first of these, opening on the right as one walks away from the landing point, forms a watery garden where water tumbles from the walls and forms a curtain within the arch of the room’s great window. These falls feed into a stream running within the room, shrouded in mist, and with trees and plants growing along its banks to form a mystic garden enclosed by the high stone walls.

Further along the hall sit another room, this one under a surviving part of roof of the manor house. Cluttered with furniture, it forms a cosy yet untidy space full of the warmth of life and a sense of retreat. Balloons float within the room, and a bed and painting canvases suggest this is home to someone, and the manor house not entirely deserted.

The Outer Garden, October 2022

And there is still more: a broken access way into an inner garden the manor house may once have surrounded; a hall heavy in vines and with a stairway within it forming an artistic statement rather than being intended to anywhere; and a strange room of vanity screens and bed and an mannequin, all of which appear to be trying to tell a story. All bring character to the setting and are linked by smaller details waiting to be found along the hallway.

Beyond the ruins, the land continues to be shrouded in mist, the inner courtyard garden flank on this far side by the broken remains of the main house and a smaller, glass-roofed hallway now serving as a unique, if narrow, tea house.

The Outer Garden, October 2022

The garden is also home to both a carousel and what looks to be a small Ferris wheel. Lit by a hundred glowing bulbs, the latter is beautifully ornate, if lacking cars one which people might ride around it. Beyond this, amidst the trees and mist lie still more ruins, chapel-like in form, but sans anything within their broken walls.

In my previous visits to The Outer Garden, teleports offer then means to visit two more settings The Moon is Serene and The Rose Garden, both of which I had in the past enjoyed spending time within. While the Destination Guide entry references a teleport mirror within The Outer Garden’s landing point and providing the means to visit other gardens, I confess that I did not see any such mirror either at the landing point or during my wanderings. Ergo, the images here only represent the main build.

The Outer Garden, October 2022

Whether my lack of success in finding any teleport is down to my own failure or because the other gardens mentioned on the DG description are no longer available, I have no idea. If I did miss both teleport and additional spaces to explore, then the fault is mine alone, and I offer my apologies to Bisou from missing them.

Even so, The Outer Garden still retains its sense of beauty and mystery whilst offering multiple opportunities for photography and for simply escaping and relaxing. As such, it remains a recommended visit.

The Outer Garden, October 2022

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A Farthest Light in Second Life

The Outer Garden – The Farthest Light

Bisou Dexler recently announced an addition to his extraordinary region design, The Outer Garden, a place we’ve visited a number of times over the years (see Return to the Outer Garden in Second Life (2017) and Timeless peace in The Outer Garden (2015). The new addition to this Full region (which includes the private region land capacity bonus) is called The Farthest Light.

The new build is reached via the teleport mirror located at the main landing point at The Outer Garden. For those who have not rich in the fantastical and whimsical, and if you’ve not previously visited it, I recommend taking a look around before progressing onwards, as it will set the tone for an onward visit. However, while talking teleporters, I would that at the time of my visit to see the latest additions, a couple of the mirrors in the network didn’t appear to have been set to public use.

The Outer Garden – The Farthest light

The Farthest Light comprises two parts; the first and larger offers a night setting (although the surrounding shell can be de-rendered for alternative looks to the setting   should you wish), and is visually stunning in its presentation.

The arrival point sits within a lighthouse sitting atop a slender pillar that rises from what appears to be cresting waves a far distance below. It stands alone from the rest of the setting, which is dominated by a floating castle hanging in the night sky like an ice palace.

The Outer Garden – The Farthest Light

The “land” before this castle is, to say the least, chaotic. Resembling a draught board, it undulated as breaks, mixed with water-like clouds that pulse and swirl like waves caught amidst the rocks of a coastline. A bridge spans one of the undulation in the landscape, but is canted wildly, while telegraph poles march along one of the waves of the tiled land, whilst beneath it, what appears to be the façade of a collapsed building lies, forming a new face to the setting. Fish circle and swirl in the air above and below this strange landscape while the most whimsical of flowers rise up from the cloud waters.

All of this only scratches the surface of what its a most unusual world. As well the columns supporting the lighthouse and the castle are other, shorter pillars rising to decagon tops. Many of these are empty; some are home to further objects of interest: stage curtains here, a broken trampoline there – you can even take a turn as Schroeder and try your hand at playing a miniature piano – or play the full-size own outside of the lighthouse).

The Outer Garden – The Farthest Light

These pillars and columns stand within a setting of its own, presided over by a Moon rising over the cresting waters from which the pillars rise, whilst more moons hang in the black sky.

But how does one reach these various points? There are no obvious paths or stairways, visible or transparent, to be found. The answer is given in a sign just outside the lighthouse where visitors arrive: take to the wing and fly. Whether this means physically wearing any wings you have (which would be fully in keeping with the setting), or just taking to the air is up to you. Whilst flying, be sure as well to check the floating rock with the large lit window fronting it. I also understand there is a tour system that will fly you around the setting, although I confess I failed to find it.

The Outer Garden – The Farthest Light

The castle, when reached is mostly empty; but find your way to the great hall and you will find more worth seeing and photographing, together with another of the teleport mirrors. This will carry you down to the second part of The Furthest Light, a watery scene complete with a sinking vessel.

A  third build element, one I hadn’t visited previously, can be reached through at least some of the teleport mirrors is the Travelling Carnival, less complex setting where a gondola is making its way through a sea of plants and moons towards a walled gate with the promise of blue skies beyond.  

The Outer Garden – The Farthest Light

Admittedly, how you get back to the other platforms from here is a little difficult to work out – at the time of my visit there was no teleporter – however, walk far enough, and you will find your way down to the ground level of the gardens. Although again, this was one of the locations where the teleport mirror that was available had apparently yet to be set to public use at the time of my visit.

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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)