Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Worlds Coming Together: Part II

Written 31 March, 2010

Worlds Coming Together Part II

I know I promised to get to the details, but just before we retired I took this shot through the roof of the hotel's canopy.


As soon as I got back home, I took this photo on Whimsy Kaboom.


Worlds Coming Together: Part I

Written 31 March, 2010

Worlds Coming Together

Part I

My faithful readers may remember Sweetie was convinced the Opryland Hotel in Nashville is a place where Earth and Second Life intermingle.

My job was to gather photographic evidence.

My investigation centered on the immense conservatories.

When I say immense, I mean immense!


The spaces didn't look at all dissimilar to conservatories in Second Life.



The vegetation was lush...


... as is Second Life's...


In fact, many of the plants were the same:



Here's a photo from the hotel with one of Lilith Heart's baby banana palms GIMPED in, added to the hotel's own banana palm:


Lilith's plant is on the left. I left it a shade darker so the two plants would be easier to differentiate. If I had taken more time with the edging, the two would have been virtually indistinguishable.

The hotel had plenty of particles. Fountains...


... and waterfalls...


Things of course lacking in Second Life. No, wait!



The bridges and structures were even the same. Why, they even had that freebie gazebo I carried around in my inventory for so long!



By the end of the first day I had documented the physical similarities of the worlds.

On Day Two, I would turn to the details.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Off to Nashville!



Written 26 March, 2010

Off to Nashville!

This morning I jumped in my little red Miata and headed north on I-75. My destination: Nashville.

Nashville happens to be one of my old home towns. I was a resident of Tennessee for many years, and most of that time was spent in or near the city. I like it considerably better than I do Atlanta, which is entirely too large for my taste. Nashville itself is bigger than I remember, but it's still dear to my heart.

But the purpose of my road trip wasn't to revisit my history. Rather, I would be meeting Sweetie, who flew from her home in the Northeast to explore a place of great importance-- the Opryland Hotel.

The Opryland Hotel (now called the Gaylord Opryland Hotel because it belongs to the much-reviled Gaylord Entertainment Corporation), is one of the largest non-casino hotels in the world. With 3000 rooms and three huge conservatories of five or more acres each, it's an impressive place to visit. I've always liked it. Now, thanks to Sweetie, I understand why.


You see, Sweetie is convinced the Opryland hotel is one of a very few nexus points where Second Life and Earth come together. It's a portal of sorts, where the two worlds intertwine.

Las Vegas, of course, is also a nexus. And probably Graceland is.

Sweetie left her Fortress of Solitude in New York today to travel to Nashville to investigate the hotel. At 7 am I got a call. Would I please drive immediately to Nashville? And would I please bring my camera?

"My camera?" I asked sleepily. "Why didn't you pack yours?"

"No room," she said. "You know the exploding lipsticks get priority!"

Indeed they do, so I packed my camera and hit the road.

On the drive north, I was fairly certain this was another of Sweetie's crackpot conspiracy theories-- but after half a day in the hotel, I'm convinced she's onto something.

Tomorrow I'll be busily taking photos to prove Sweetie's point. When I return home, I'll begin to post them here.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Svarga Has Returned!

Written 24 March, 2010

Svarga Has Returned!

I was happy to read today in New World Notes that one of Second Life's most beloved sims, absent from the grid for the past year or so, has been returned to the grid.

Yes, Svarga has returned!

According to NWN, Linden Lab bought Svarga from creator Laukosargas Svarog-- possibly because the sim, with its artificial ecosystem, came close to the Second Life initially envisioned by Philip Linden.

I've not visited yet-- waiting for Sweetie so we can go together-- but at first glance, when I took a landmark, it seemed close to the original.

Here are some photos from the old Svarga




Come to think of it, Svarga looks a bit 2006, doesn't it?

Making Signs for Second Life

Written 24 March, 2010

Making Signs for Second Life

I made my first Second Life sign back in November 2006, just days after I acquired my first property. Since my idiot neighbor Kitra had put in a security orb that covered his entire parcel, I wanted signs to mark the borders of my parcel.


It was simple, as were the next few signs:


Thankfully, I soon abandoned that horrible font!

To make my signs I used an ancient copy of Quark XPress, a page layout program I had once used to design magazines and newsletters.

Soon, my Quark signs became more complex.




XPress was handy for making signs, although my older version 3.1 was limited. For instance, to get an image into Second Life I had to print it as an Adobe Acrobat file , then save the Adobe PDF as a jpg, then pay ten Lindens to import the jpg into Second Life. And there were just some things XPress couldn't do.

Enter GIMP.

GIMP is an unfortunate acronym for Gnu Image Manipulation Program, a shareware program with most of the functionality of the expensive PhotoShop.

More than ten years earlier I had set a goal of learning Photoshop, but I moved away from my early Mac, which had the program installed. One thing led to another, and time marched on.

When I downloaded GIMP I took myself to Amazon and ordered the book Beginning GIMP by Akkana Peck. I worked my way through the chapters and pretty soon I more or less understood what I was doing.

GIMP was handy for cutting figures out of backgrounds:


That's a prim Bender I made. I soon learned photographing prims in front of colored backdrops helped in cutting them out of the background.

Here's my first alpha, a cutout of Sesame Street characters Statler and Waldorf, made for my friend Dodgeguy Woodward and accomplished by flying by the seat of my pants:

The alpha was less than perfect, but it worked!

GIMP's layers and assorted filters and scripts allowed me to easily achieve effects not possible in GIMP:


And it was more handy than XPress for some signs. Compare this with the Gardens sign above:


GIMP has been handy for more than signs, however. Here I've applied a frame to a photo:


Photo by Sweetie

Where GIMP really shines, however, is in the creation of textures and the alteration of photos.

See here for GIMPed photos; in each, I removed the name tag of the water skiing robot.

With GIMP, you can blend textures, layer them, lighten or darken, smudge them, or actually draw them. Here's one of my first textures, cast iron at 512 x 512 pixels . Feel free to download and use it.


Signs can add a lot to a landscape, or they can detract from it. Come to Whimsy some time and enjoy the signs. Most are funny, and, taken together, they tell the story of a tropical archipelago that was abandoned by its colonizers due to volcanic activity and only recently reinhabited.

Click on the photo above to read the sign.


Tuesday, March 23, 2010

YouTube is Broken


Written 23 March, 2010

YouTube is Broken

According to my media player, YouTube has introduced a new method of streaming and this has broken all YouTube videos in Second Life.

Oh noooes!

Tonight Sweetie and I planned to watch this weeks' episode of Legend of the Seeker in world, but it wouldn't stream.

I could find nothing about this on the YouTube site or on Google search.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Chey On Crack


Written 21 March, 2010

Chey on Crack

Sweetie has an adage.

She does NOW, anyway-- after my latest purchase.

Here I am in a flowery fairylike gown I picked up at the Relay For Life Clothes Fair.

The sales photo gave no hint of the way the back would look!

Sweetie's adage?

Simply this:

Sellers should engage in fair labeling. Potential buyers should be warned about non-removable resize scripts, clothing that requires the amputation of one or more limbs, hats that will remove our prim hair, and, of course, designs that expose butt cracks.

Sunday Morning Machinima, 21 March, 2010

Sunday Morning Machinima, 21 March, 2010

I know, I know, this scene with Hitler has been recaptioned by a hundred different people, but this one-- this one is just funny.



My apologies if I have posted this film before. I think not, but...

I guess I need to make a list.

Happy Sunday!



Saturday, March 20, 2010

Robbed!


Written 20 March, 2010

Robbed!

I never give beggars money. Never.

I'm trained as a behaviorist, you see, and I firmly believe behavior is maintained by its consequences. Beggars beg because people give them money. Begging pays.

You must be careful with beggars, though. Many of them are street people, and ever since the early 80s, when Reagan turned mentally ill people out of the psychiatric hospitals by the tens of thousands, that unsightly, smelly woman asking for two bucks is likely to be a schizophrenic with a long history of arrests, perhaps including some for assault. The odds are even great the person has a long-standing substance abuse problem.

Not paying beggars always, until yesterday, worked in my favor. But yesterday it got me robbed. Not violently, sneakily.

It happened like this...

I had gone to the grocery store. After I paid for my purchases I took them to my car to load them.

I drive a Mazda Miata, which is hardly the world's largest car. After I filled the trunk, I started putting bags in the passenger floorboard and the passenger seat.

I was hampered by a long and narrow empty cardboard box I was carrying in the passenger seat. And I was distracted by my friend Tracy, who was talking my ear off through my Bluetooth.

As I was loading my car I was keeping an eye on a nappy-headed woman in a soiled green blouse. She was shaking down the woman in the car next to mine, and I was sure I would be her next target.

So I hurried and drove away before she could get to me.

Unfortunately, I left my purse in the grocery cart.

The big box was obscuring my view, so I couldn't see that I didn't have my bag. I was perhaps 90 seconds down the road when I checked and realized it wasn't in the car.

I roared back, but of course..

... well, street person + opportunity = theft

At my most pissed off I described her as crack whore. She might or might not have been a prostitute, but I'm quite sure she was looking for some quick bucks to buy a bottle or a bag.

That would explain why she took only my wallet and left my purse, which contained my checkbook, keys, and iTouch.

She got less than ten bucks, counting the change, but she also got my drivers' license, social security card, health and auto insurance cards, AAA card, voter's registration card, and my permit to carry concealed. And, of course, my debit card.

I canceled the bank card immediately, of course. I also called the police so there would be a report. And I went through my checkbook to be sure no checks or deposit tickets were missing. Everything was there.

I'm going to have a fun time getting all my ID replaced. I'll be without a bank card for seven to ten days, and when it comes I'll have to change the numbers at a couple of dozen places online. I'll have to go by AAA, the social security office, State Farm, the drivers' license station, and the county courthouse. Drat!

It's not the world's worst disaster, of course, barely a two on a scale of ten, but it's still irritating.

Thank goodness, people can't rob you in Second Life without your permission!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

The Whale Makes a Mighty Leap

Written 18 March, 2010

The Whale Makes a Mighty Leap

I've taken to standing on the beach platform on Whimsy Kaboom, as the view is great and I get fast frame rates.

The other day I saw Kaboom's humpback taking to the air. I moved quickly and got the following snapshot:


I soon realized I had been redlined. I had lost my internet connection.

Maybe all those times I have seen physical animals flying happily toward the horizon have happened when I briefly lost sconnectivity. Mystery solved?

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Ah, Sure, and a Happy St. Pat's Day to Ya!

Written 17 March, 2010

Ah, Sure, and a Happy St. Pat's Day to Ya!


By the Light of the Prim Moon

Written 17 March, 2010

By the Light of the Prim Moon

Last night I was standing on the beach platform on Whimsy Kaboom (the same platform that used to be on my former property of Pele on the now-defunct Forsaken sim). I was watching the moon rise.

It was a nice moon, but it wasn't QUITE bright enough-- so I pulled a little moon I had created out of inventory and stuck it in front of the real virtual moon.


Gotta love the reflections on the water!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Trimming My Inventory-- Now a Compulsion!


Written 16 March, 2010

Trimming My Inventory-- Now a Compulsion
!
By the time I was in Second Life a month, I had more than 20,000 items, mostly freebies. I eventually got rid of most of them. Still, I seemed to have 20k items. In fact, my inventory has hovered around 20k since.

Whenever my inventory has risen much above 20,000, I've taken steps to bring its count down-- and I've documented the various ways I did so in this blog.

The first thing I did was to delete all my many freebies (all but the textures). Then I went on a hunt for duplicates. When I was new I didn't understand that you didn't need multiple copies of copyable items. I would have four or five copies of various things I had rezzed and then taken.

Then I used Search to get rid of unwanted scripts and notecard that had come with various purchases. Because I was buying a lot of stuff, that accounted for hundreds of items.

Next, I purchased K&R Engineering's great texture organizers. Back in early 2007 they were the best on the grid, and I suspect they still may be. I put all my textures in them, reducing my inventory count by some thousands. By now, I expect, there must be 20,000+ textures in the various organizers.

About a year after that my inventory had again grown to the point of needing to do something about it. I made a little sky platform and put a grid texture on it, with squares just a little larger than .5 x .5 x .5 boxes. I put little descriptive boxes Sweetie had made, named them for various categories, and put backups of all my copyable items in them. I also stuffed them with things I didn't need but couldn't quite bring myself to throw away. I now have about 50 prim storage boxes with everything from Christmas stuff I don't need eleven months of the year to gadgets I have retired to plants that don't fit Whimsy's theme to no-copy outfits that never quite worked.

I've done other things to cut down inventory count. I made a notecard and, as I deleted cards, wrote the names of people who ended up in my Calling Cards folder but with whom I had fallen out of touch. I included notes to identify them.

Long ago I deleted my duplicate and no-longer-working landmarks and put rest into notecards, by category. I keep no more than 50 landmarks in history. When I need to jump, I use my Mystitool's teleport history, or teleport via the map, or use search or picks of creators. If that fails, I open a notecard-- and you know what? I rarely need to open a notecard.

Over the past several weeks I have boxed up stuff with lots of components. When I wand to wear my big dragon avi, I just open its' box. When I want to lay track for Kitto Flora's little steam train, I unbox it. When I want to wear that outfit with 50 parts, I unpack it first. And when I want one of Lilith Heart's plants, I pull it out of a box.

All of this makes me perhaps more than a bit compulsive, and it does cause a bit of inconvenience, but being three years and four months in world with an inventory of 16,600 items makes it all worthwhile.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Sunday Morning Machinima, 14 March, 2010

Sunday Morning Machimima, 14 March, 2010

Okay, okay, so I'm late. What can I say? I got caught up stuffing a notecard with free stuff and suddenly it was 5 am-- and that's the OLD time, not the new Daylight Savings Time that went into effect last night.

So-- it must be morning SOMEWHERE!

I found this video in the very interesting Pixel Scoop blog.



The Little Fisherman Story by SpyvSpy Aeon. Nice name. And nice machinima!

I found this YouTube video on Pixel Scoop also. Steady your nerves before watching.



This is EXACTLY how I feel when my internet connection goes down. So far, however, I have managed not to smash my keyboard!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Schedules of Reinforcement

Written 10 March, 2010

Schedules of Reinforcement

The death of a baby of a Korean couple who were so immersed in raising a virtual baby in a "Second Life-like" virtual world that they neglected their real infant has made big news in recent weeks:

-----
The couple left their 3-month-old daughter alone for 12-hour intervals while they went to a cyber cafe to play an online game, according to AOL News. The 41-year-old man and 25-year-old woman dropped by the house occasionally to feed the baby powdered milk.
The couple had become "obsessed with raising a virtual girl called Anima in the popular role-playing game Prius Online. The game, similar to Second Life, allows players to create another existence for themselves in a virtual world, including getting a job, interacting with other users and earning an extra avatar to nurture once they reach a certain level," according to the London Guardian.
-----
Video game addiction is in fact a topic of considerable concern in modern society. There are big questions about whether the American Psychiatric Association will list it in their upcoming revision of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (see also here), and already at least one nonprofit exists to combat what it characterizes as a mental illness.

In today's society it's almost impossible to avoid computers. And they certainly affect our bodies. We are subject to repetitive motion syndrome, migraines, pinched nerves, and other physical ailments caused by spending too much time sitting in front of screens. But computers affect our psyches also, and in ways we are only just beginning to understand.

There's little doubt, for example, that exposure to computers during childhood and teen years is causing dramatic changes in the way young people think. Educators are noticing difficulties with attention span in university students who, immersed in a world of tweets and Facebooking and text messaging, seem unable to concentrate on a single subject for more than a minute or two. In fact, in the news this week were reports that some university professors are banning laptops in classrooms because students are focusing on their screens rather than their instructors' words. The recent PBS Frontline film Digital Nation (a must watch) compellingly documents this change in the way young people think.

And what of video games and MMORPGS-- massively multiplayer online role playing games like World of Warcraft and Ultima Online? Does their immersive nature pose additional risks, cause additional changes in the way we think and behave? And are they in fact addicting? And what of virtual worlds like Second Life? Will they in fact be so compelling that we will starve our babies because we can't tear ourselves away from our computers?

On May 8 www.cracked.com posted this humorously-written but serious article about video game addiction. Author David Wong asks "Are some games intentionally designed to keep you compulsively playing, even when you're not enjoying it?"

His answer? "Oh hell, yes!"

Wong references an article by John Hopson called Behavioral Game Design. Hopson discusses principles of behavioral psychology, in particular something called schedules of reinforcement. While Hopson doesn't quite say these schedules can be used to manipulate people into spending more time in video games, he at least implies it.

Wong thinks Hopson is just talking in code...

-----

"Each contingency is an arrangement of time, activity, and reward, and there are an infinite number of ways these elements can be combined to produce the pattern of activity you want from your players."

Notice his article does not contain the words "fun" or "enjoyment." That's not his field. Instead it's "the pattern of activity you want."
-----

... and probably, Hopson is talking in code.

The schedules of reinforcement Hopson describes were derived from work done by B.F. Skinner and his students and co-workers and described in Skinner's 1938 book Principles of Behavior.

At a time when experimental psychologists were trying to derive universal laws of learning by running rats through mazes and devising elaborate intra-organism equations to describe the resulting behavior, Skinner treated the organism as a black box, looking at what went into the box and what came out of the box and not worrying about what happened inside the box itself. He applied stimuli and analyzed the resulting behavior, not worrying about intervening mental processes.

This was in a way similar to the work of Ivan Pavlov, a Russian physiologist whose experiments with salivation in dogs resulted in a theory of learning called Classical Conditioning. When the presentation of meat powder was paired with the ringing of a bell, Pavlov discovered, his dogs would soon begin to salivate when the bell was rung without meat powder being present. Pavlov, too, you see, treated his dogs as a black box.

Through work in his lab, using rats and pigeons as subjects, Skinner developed theories about how stimuli affected behavior. He called this Operant Conditioning. From his theories emerged the applied science of Applied Behavior Analysis-- or, in the vernacular, behavior modification.

A principle tenant of operant conditioning are the aforementioned schedules of reinforcement.

Schedules of reinforcement are, simply, rules for the awarding or removal of reinforcers after a specified behavior.

Skinner derived his schedules by starving pigeons and rats to 80% of their normal body weight, then placing them in an operant conditioning chamber or "Skinner Box," an enclosure with a level to press (for rats) or button to peck (for pigeons) and a chute to deliver food (reinforcers) on a schedule to be awarded in response to one or more level presses or button pecks.

Obvously, a rat will soon learn to press a lever or a pigeon peck a button to get a reinforcer (food). The rat might at first accidentally blunder into the lever or the pigeon quizzically peck the button , but they will quickly figure out that the action brings them food. And predictably, they will press or peck until they are satiated.

Also, predictably, if the lever and button stops delivering food, the rat and pigeon will quickly stop pressing or pecking. Behaviorists call this extinction.

What Skinner discovered, however, was the the intervals and ratios of the reinforcement have powerful effects upon the frequency of button pecking/lever pressing-- and moreover, upon extinction.

When reinforcement is delivered on a fixed ratio (every five pecks, say), pecks are steady, with a brief pause after reinforcement. An example of a fixed ratio schedule for humans is piece work, in which money is based on the number of units assembled or delivered.

When reinforcement is delivered at a fixed interval (it comes at the first lever press or peck after the interval has expired), responses increase gradually as the interval approaches, then decrease after delivery. An example of a fixed interval schedule for humans might be checking to see if the mail has been delivered. As mail time approaches, you might check more frequently; after delivery, you will stop checking.

When reinforcement is delivered on variable schedules, however, things get interesting, and interesting indeed.

What typically occurs is high rates of responding both before and after delivery of reinforcement, and tremendous resistance to extinction.

In real life, slot machines pay off on a variable ratio. And pulling the lever of slot machines is notoriously resistant to extinction. Just think about your Grandma in Atlantic City who just dropped 1500 quarters into a broken slot machine.

Consider: you have a machine in your hallway that gives you a quarter every time you pull the lever. You pull it happily for several days, then it stops delivering. After you fiddle with it for five or ten minutes, you walk away. Thereafter you might pull the lever every once in a while as you pass the machine, just to see if the rules have changed.

But what if you were playing a slot machine that suddenly stopped paying off. How long would it be before you figured out money wasn't forthcoming? Answer: it would be a very long time! Think thousands of responses.

Variable intervals are much the same. They pay on the first response after an unknown period of time. Human examples aren't plentiful, but consider giveaways on radio shows. You find yourself listening all day in hopes the DJ will finally play Abbey Road so you can call in for free tickets to next week's Paul McCartney concert.

There's a reason I have given human examples to these schedules of reinforcement. That's because even though they were derived from experiments with pigeons and rats, they apply equally well to dogs and to fish and to baboons and to humans. They are universal laws of learning, certain invertebrates possibly excepted. As much as some humans might not like the idea, we learn in the same ways as other animals.

For this reason, manipulation of schedules of reinforcement can have powerful effects on humans. Just ask anyone who has left Las Vegas with only his or her shirt!

Since their inception, video games have taken advantage of the various schedules of reinforcement. This adds to their attraction and makes it more difficult to tear oneself away from the computer to oh, say, go home and feed the baby powdered milk. Certainly game designers, whether cynically, or otherwise, do whatever they can to keep people immersed.

Second Life and other virtual worlds are indeed attractive to many people-- and, as with games, staying in world is depending upon reinforcement. But here's the distinction between games and virtual worlds:

In games, computer-based or not, reinforcement is delivered according to the will of the game designer and comes according to strict rules. You get queened when your checker reaches the other side of the board, you go to Level II when you kill enough orcs or find the treasure, your arrow hits closest to the center of the target.

But in virtual worlds, the reinforcement comes not from external sources, but from within the user himself or herself.

Those of us who are in Second Life are here because it satisfies us. We are reinforced by the landscapes and cities built by others, or by building or scripting things for ourselves, or by talking to strangers and to our friends, or by performing music, or by watching the performances of others.

We can certainly steer our second lives in the direction of artificial rewards-- by gambling, or by playing HUD-based games like Tiny Empires, or by role playing-- but we do that in real life as well. We are not cynically manipulated by the intrinsic design of Second Life-- this world is, after all, absent the creations of its residents, mostly empty space. It is compelling because LIFE is compelling. We are here because we are living a life in a distinct virtual space-- not because we are responding to someone else's devised schedules of reinforcement.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Ride for Roswell


10 March, 2010

Ride for Roswell

Awhile back a very nice man called Aaron Cianci had a talk with me about Ride for Roswell. I promised him a blog about it, timed for about now.

Ride for Roswell is an annual fundraiser for Roswell Park Cancer Institute in Buffalo, NY. This year's ride will take place on Saturday, 26 June. Cyclists from the area and all around the world will ride 62.5-mile, 44-mile, 33-mile, 30-mile, and 20-mile routes (there are short routes for beginnings and the less-than-physically-fit).

Well, guess what? Aaron is working on a ride for Second Life.


Cheyenne checks her bike before the Ride for Roswell in Second Life

Here's Aaron's info on the Second Life Ride for Roswell ride, which will take place 12 May between 6:30 and 10:30 pm LST:
Thank you so much for your interest in contributing to the 2010 Ride for Roswell, to benefit the Roswell Park Cancer Institute in Buffalo, New York, United States. Whether you are a cancer survivor yourself, or the friend or loved one of someone who is fighting cancer or who has lost that fight, we are banding together this year to increase awareness and to provide funding for the next year of patient care and research at the Institute.
Before I discuss the different ways that you, as a Second Life resident, can help to contribute to the cause with your time or resources, I would like to tell you the story of why I became involved in this project. Three short years ago, I'd never met anyone with cancer, nor anyone affected by cancer. I was very lucky that, at 24 years old, nobody I knew was afflicted with the disease, and I had never lost anyone to the disease.
However, as all of us did at one time or another, it was in my personal wanderings over the Internet that I came into Second Life, and like we tend to do, I began making friends. Whether it was playing Slingo at a local facility or just hanging out playing cards, I met people. And about three years ago, as of the time you read this message, I met a very dear friend of mine, whose name is ShujinTribble Kawanishi. 
Now, Shujin and I met at a club where I was working at the time as a DJ, and he was a very nice guy. We became fast friends, and though he was a humorous and intelligent person, I always got the feeling something was there, under the surface, that he didn't talk about. Well, some time went on, and Shujin (or Shuie as we affectionately call him) became a DJ at my side, and we worked together to help benefit one of the places that would become our home.
In May of 2006, the club for which we work decided that we would do a charity event, which would become an annual occurrence. While many of the staff had their own ideas about what charity to choose, it was Shujin's story - his very deep, personal story, which touched and forever affects not only his life, but the lives of those of us privileged enough to know him as our friend. This is the true story of cancer, and of angiosarcoma specifically, that motivated every single member of our staff and the 1,000-plus members of our club to band together to support this organization. 
ShujinTribble, like many of us, wandered off to college in his late teens. Now, Shujin is a social, outgoing guy now, but like all of us, things were a bit more awkward at that age. He didn't date much throughout college, only twice in fact. However, very near the end of his college career, it would be that second date, that second meeting, which would prove to change his life forever.
Fujin Tribble, as she was affectionately called by her husband, was a vibrant woman who was passionate about art and music, and to call it love at first sight was an understatement. As Shujin told me the story of he and his wife's meeting, "We both knew we were going to be together for all of time." I never had the privilege of meeting Fujin personally, but with all the stories that I've heard from my long-time friend over the years, she has earned a place in my heart, and I feel as though I've known her nearly as long as I have him. 
Fujin and Shujin were celebrating the birth of their first daughter, nicknamed Tiny Tribble to this day by all who know her father's affection for Star Trek, in 2002 when they learned of Fujin's diagnosis: Angiosarcoma, a quick-acting, extremely malignant form of cancer which is hard to treat, and is so rare that even America's oldest cancer center - the Roswell Park Cancer Institute - considers it a "one in a million" chance they would receive a patient with it.
Tiny Tribble is the beautiful young girl who appears on the sides of the donation box from which you received this notecard. There's a strong resemblence between her and her mother, and the bright, happy, brilliant personality that Fujin was known for by those who loved her, lives on in her daughter to this day. 
Six weeks after their daughter's birth, Fujin was regrettably unable to continue breastfeeding her first child. As anyone who has experienced cancer treatment, either themselves or through family members, knows, it's an unpleasant process. There were several surgeries, chemotherapy and radiation treatments. Even with all this, however, the rarity and lack of research on this cancer left some pretty grim odds: Only 1 in 5 people who are diagnosed with Angiosarcoma survive to the five year mark. By comparison, 49 out of 50 breast cancer patients will survive to the five-year point, as a result of great breakthroughs in treating that condition. 
It was just under three years, though, before Fujin lost the battle against angiosarcoma, with her husband and her mother at her side. The part where Shujin always tears up as he tells me this story, which I'm now sharing with you, are the last words that he shared with his beloved wife as she fell asleep for the last time: "We will beat this for someone else. My word." It makes me tear up too. I've taken my dear friend's promise to his wife, and I've made it my own, as have the 1,400 members of The Feline Conspiracy. I hope you will help us to fulfill this promise today. 
The Roswell Park Cancer Institute was founded in 1898 by Dr. Roswell Park. It continues to be at the cutting edge of both patient care and cancer research, contributing significantly to not only those suffering from angiosarcoma, but also those who suffer from other forms of cancer, including breast cancer, gastrointestinal cancers, and pediatric cancers. 
Our team, "End of Cycle for Sarcoma," represents Shujin, his daughter, and any here in Second Life who are able to contribute any amount to the Roswell Park Cancer Institute. We will be collecting donations throughout the end of the donation period - which ends July 27, 2010 - for the Ride for Roswell. Last year, we managed to collect over US $1,500.00 for the cause. This year, we've set ourselves a very much more ambitious goal - US $5,000.00. EVERY SINGLE PENNY that we raise goes to research funding or patient care. ** NO DONATIONS FROM THE R4R will ever be used for employee salaries, benefits, investments, or anything else but cancer research and patient care. ** 
Generally, we've chosen to run our charity event locally inside our own club facility, and our members have been the primary source of the team's donations. However, with such wonderful experiences in the Second Life community that I've had over the last three years, I know that we, as a Second Life family, can do so much more if we work together. I want you to become a member of that family, to help us beat these diseases, for those who suffer from them now and in the future. 
Here is how you can help. 
1. Make a payment in world - no matter how big or small - to the box from which you received this notecard. Every single L$ counts - even just a single one! (Please make sure the payment is being directed to EndOfCycleForSarcoma Davidov - no other Second Life avatar should receive these funds). 
2. If you're not comfortable donating in world, or buying Lindens to do so, please click the top panel of the box. It will provide you with a small blue menu on the upper right corner of your screen, that will redirect you to our team's website on the Ride for Roswell event page. There, you can pay via secure credit card payment on the web. If you're not near the box any more, here is the website address: https://giving.roswellpark.org/NetCommunity/SSLPage.aspx?pid=616&tab=3&frsid=14865 
3. If online transactions aren't your thing, we've got you covered there too! Please feel free to send your check or money order (please denominate in US funds) to the Roswell Park Alliance Foundation, Elm & Carlton Streets, Buffalo, NY 14263, United States. Please make sure write "Team End of Cycle for Sarcoma" in the memo section of your payment so that we can keep a proper tally of all Second Life donations. 
4. If you are a business owner, please consider contacting myself, Aaron Cianci, or ShujinTribble Kawanishi to allow us to place a small, three-prim donation box in your place of business, at a location of your choosing. You may keep it there for as long or brief a time as you wish, and return it whenever you feel the desire to do so. Corporate sponsors who, individually or among their customers, exceed L$10,000 in donations will receive recognition for one month after our live broadcast date, including a placard at our facility's entryway with a direct teleport link to their place of business, if they choose to do so 
5. If you are a club or venue owner, please send me an instant message about participating in our grid-wide "Ride for Roswell" radio broadcast, which will take place live in Second Life on Friday, May 12, 2010, from 6:30 to 10:30 PM, Second Life time. We have scripted objects to automatically switch your land over to our stream for the event, and switch it back when the event is over. Of course, this works best if you also have a donation box on your property. 
*** A FINAL NOTE *** 
Even if right now you cannot provide financial assistance, please don't feel left out. I openly implore every person who reads this message: contact your local cancer center, and see what you can do to help. If it's not financial resources, time and other supplies are always helpful in treating patients and providing much-needed assistance to these cutting-edge organizations.
I thank you deeply for taking the last few minutes to read over this notecard, and I hope you are inspired to help. If you have any questions or concerns about your donation, or you are a United States citizen or permanent resident who requires a receipt of your donation for income tax or personal recordkeeping purposes, please do not hesitate to contact me for further assistance. 
Thank you again for your time and consideration in this matter. 
Sincerely, 
Aaron CianciTeam Technical LeadEnd of Cycle for Sarcoma

Dragon Sighting

10 March, 2010

Dragon Sighting

Over the weekend I saw this huge dragon hanging around the volcano at Whimsy.

You know what was funny? Sweetie was nowhere in sight!





Tuesday, March 9, 2010

The Mother Road

Written 9 March 2010

The Mother Road

Here are some photos from The Mother Road on J Peace Island, where a short section of U.S. Route 66 has been recreated.

Imagine an America in the year 2010 without interstate highways.

I took the liberty of turning some of my color photographs...


... into black and white with GIMP...


... and others from color...


... into sepiatone.





It was a great place for photos.