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My One Gets Scaird in the Pharmacy

I sit in a pharmacy chair while my One gets scaird

You are probably wondering what I am doing sitting in this chair in this plain white room. Well, this was no ordinary white room. It all started when my One Who Thinks She Knows, wanted to go bushwhacking again and did not want to go to the Aloft Nonprofit Commons. We checked the map around the IEEE sims and saw the USF Health islands.

Not only did we see the USF Health 2 sim, but we saw there were avies there, close to a dozen of them, each in his or her own little shelter or building. My One thought the avies might be attending a lecture or busy in a lab. She wanted to see what was going on. She wanted to see even if it got both of us banned.

Actually, my One did not want to get us banned. She wanted to slip in and slip out. She did not want to disturb the students in their classes or lab exercises. She said she had once been a student herself, and besides if we got banned, we could get every body else banned like those no good squatters on UAA Seawolves.

Still my One had to see so we went. I was a little tricky flying up on to the platform, and then we found no doors to any of the twenty-four identical pharmacies, though we could see through the drive-in window. We had to use a cam and sit, and I landed on a counter. We cammed all over the place.

There was indeed a student in our pharmacy. She was in a back room behind the counter where the pharmacists made prescription drugs. This made my One very cautious, though she did camm into the back room. She said that in "real life" the back rooms near the counter in most pharmacies lead to the public bathrooms. Most pharmacies in "real life" have nice clean bathrooms. The student in the back room, which did not have a bathroom, just stood still and did nothing. My One believed she was waiting for her lab partner or there was a professor watching her computer screen. The professor was in "Real Life" and he or she was watching a bunch of students, each one in a pharmacy of his/her own.

assorted merchandise for sale

Meanwhile, my One and I made a tour of the pharmacy. We looked at the products on the shelves. My One was impressed with the details, until she looked more closely. There was food, baby wipes, diet snacks, cold cream, and children's diarreah remedy, all sold close together in a weird jumble. This was the same image on all six shelves. My One thinks whoever built the pharmacy economized on textures.

close up of prescription medicinesMy One was more impressed with the prescription medicines, but then again, neither of us has seen the back end of a "real life" pharmacy. Of course, my One told me about how her grandfather for whom she is named and who died in 1959 was a pharmacist. He owned his own drug stores, one in Cortland, New York and the other in a place called Catteraugus, New York. She also said he was a track star in the 100 yard dash at Columbia, University.

Flavorings for medicines Of course my One was utterly fascinated by all the details in the back of the pharmacy. These are flavorings for children's medicines and maybe adult ones. There is banana, lemon, watermellon, strawberry, raspberry, cherry, and even bubblegum. My One thinks that the syrups probably only make the medicine taste worse. She is a skeptic, and she remembers taking bad tasting medicine as a child.

A pill mover

Then there was this fascinating tool. My One thought it was a knife at first. She has to cut up a prescription pill and take only half of it in "real life," but it was too blunt to be a knife. It's a pill mover. You pour pills into it and they slide along the concave surface into a new bottle.

I don't know how to open a safe Now my One wanted a really good photograph to take as a trophy of our invading the twenty-four pharmacies on the USF 2 Sim, so I crouched down and pretended to crack the safe. Forget that the only way I know how to open anything is to touch it or to put in a passcode. My One explained that if I could hear the combination, I could open the safe. Of course, I didn't hear anything. There wasn't anything to hear, but I could pose like I was breaking in. We at least had a fun photo that made our trip to the pharmacy look like it was really dangerous.

Then we went to explore the rest of the island. We went to the info-hub and noticed that there were teleport posters advertising Patient Centered Counseling with an assortment of characters that could have been other students or more likely were bots. I have no problem with bots. They make me think of poor Maria in the prison on Texas Pan American 3, but my One thinks that bots are even lower than Petable Turtles, just things. We argue over this.

Then my One noticed that one of the bots' names was Courtney Zero. "That's the same name as our student in the pharmacy!" my One exclaimed. She was sure that had to be a conincidence, yet the picture of Courtney also matched the student we had seen. We clicked on the teleport poster, and found ourselves in a hospital room. We could get a note card that explained that Courtney had persistent coughing. We were supposed to interview her like a doctor or nurse.

There was just one problem. Courtney was standing back in the pharmacy like a statue. She was hiding in the back room. I'm not sure what she was doing there and no-showing her medical appointment, not that bots really get sick.

By the way, my One, who does not like bots, even very sophisticated ones like Courtney, does not feel embarassed that she mistook Courtney Zero for a "real student." She says that after UAA Seawolves and what happened there with the squatters, people walking around academic sims, even if they are open to the public, have to be extra polite. Also, we are not putting USF Health 2 on the spread sheet because the pharmacy was nothing but a mockup and the patients were apparently missing from their patient centered counseling sessions. In other words, the sim is not crowded with students and not ready for prime time, and maybe I really should have tried to crack that safe. My One only thinks there were drugs in it, but maybe there were Lindens or birthstone Petable Turtle Eggs. What do you think?

Iyoba BatOni with help from Eileen H. Kramer -- October 30, 2012

More About Keeping my One Happy

When you have a One who Thinks He or She Knows, you have to keep them happy or you will have a rough life. So it is, I have continued to do whatever I can to make my One happy. My One loves her Barack Obaama. She was at the phone bank this afternoon making lots of calls to other Ones to remind them to vote. She did this even though a very bad storm is coming in "real life" where she lives. Me, I love rain and storms. I never see very much rain so having lots of it would be fun. I'm not sure about the wind though. I'll have to think about that.

Iyoba in her Barack Obama T-shirt Well, on Friday I asked my One who Thinks She Knows to let me wear my Barack Obama T-shirt. To me surprize, she was utterly delighted with the idea! I put it on and we took lots of pictures together. I even made some campaign posters because I got inspired.

Petable Turtle lovers for Obama! My One told me all about campaign headquarters that is down near what used to be the SugarBunz store on the corner of Candler and Glenwood, and about the main campaign headquarters on Auburn Avenue. "Real Life" doesn't have a lot of islands and roads connect everything, so road names are important. She said that in the headquarters there were all kinds of signs like "Educators for Obama" and "Women for Obama." Of course there were no "Avies for Obama." and there was nothing about breedable pets like Lily Frogs, Petable Turtles, and Zwickies, so I made my own sign for all ofus who take care of our Ones' Petable Turtles.

Zwicky lovers for Obama The turtle in the poster is Billie. She's one of our oldest turtles, and she is fast asleep. My One took the picture from the back so every one could see the logo on the back of my Obama shirt. Of course, we did not want to leave the zwickies out. Here I am with Nimrod, our youngest male zwicky and we have a Zwicky Lovers for Obama poster too. My One says she might put these on her cell phone so she can show all the other Ones at the phone bank.

Then my One remembered that there were other Ones who loved politics as much as she did, and they made posters and put them up in a yard on Teaching Six. They called their yard full of posters for their political campaigns the Terra Project, and that is where we went next. You can read more about the Terra Project here, but you really have to visit it to get a feel for it.

Arbitrary Governance Party The whole yard is full of posters. There is even a place fo vote. I guess any body can vote or be part of Terra now. I'm not sure and neither is my One. My One liked this poster because the party's platform was clear and clever, though she thinks their name reminds her of dictatorship. They kind of clear that up with the poster.

Real Freedom? And this poster made my One laugh. She liked the picture which comes from a movie called Broken Back Mountain, but she also said the picture is copyrighted. She got very serious and told me that real freedom and justice begin wtih respect for other people's property. You can't have freedom if you steal a movie studio's pictures and use them without permission no matter how good your cause.

I think it would be very exciting to be a member of Terra. Maybe I'll see if my One can still join. She's not sure it is open to the public any more. She also found more pictures of the Terra Project on Flickr. There's a part of it we haven't seen because we did not know any of it was in the sky. Well, I have my easy-lift anklet and I know where I may be going soon, but if it keeps my One happy, I don't really mind.

Iyoba BatOni with help from Eileen H. Kramer -- October 28, 2012

"Tell me a Happy Story"

Damien and Yatif nose to nose

My One who Thinks She Knows was out of sorts again. How many times does this happen? Way too many if you ask me, and there really is absolutely no excuse for it.

All turtle eggs are beautifulWe have land and we have pets, and My One for all I complain is a wonderful and compassionate owner. She always has turtle food on hand and she never sends eggs "to the trader." The turtles nosing each other are Damien (the magenta male) and Yatif (the green and burgundy daughter of Zillah who had no face, just a pumpkin where her head was. Some Ones do cruel things when they breed Petable Turtles.). The egg's mother is Vashti who is orangey red, and Shais who is gold colored with a brown top shell and a burgundy plastron. That's his underneath shell.

And then there are our Lily Frogs. My One and I went to get food for them a few days ago. No matter how much the same her eggs are, she always boxes them up carefully before putting them in inventory and she won't retire any frog that breeds, and these are old frogs. Moselle, the green frog in the picture is more than a hundred and sixty days old. Her script that is supposed to retire her failed, and we are both glad of it!

This is AsherAsher is a much younger frog. His name is Hebrew for happiness, and he's the only Refuah Shelema frog in Second Life. He has an apples and honey pattern for the Jewish New Year, but he can't pass it on, because Lily Frogs only pass on their patterns through the mother. Still he makes for gold and copper colored eggs no matter with whom he mates.

Now you can see my One's bad moods are pointness, but I still have to bear the brunt of them. My One takes me bushwhacking when she is in a bad mood. Of course we land on ban lines, and try to teleport to sims that won't let us in. They give all education sims a bad reputation as closed sims. And yes we do have to go back to check UAA Seawolves. My One thinks the Ones who run that place will some day see reason. Don't hold your breath! We're still banned from Trenza Mall but that's another story.

Our first stop that actually let us walk around was Power Education Island. There wasn't much there but empty buildings, but my One wanted to be a good samaritan and stop the spinning treadmill, and whoops...you can guess what happens. This doesn't happen to my One. It happens to me! Here I am running my poor avie buns off to nowhere! Is that fair!

Then we arrived at Buffalo State which my One calls SUNY Buffalo. The trouble is that by now my One was telling me sad stories. Now my One can get very emotional. That's when you have to watch out.

Is she really benevolent? This angel, for example inspired a tale. "I have to take a picture of this angel," my One was quite excited. She looks just like Benevolence on the Ball State University sim. You know about Ball State don't you..." I knew I was in trouble.

"I used to have a colleague supervisor at work," the One explained "who told me about a college in Indiana that had a revolving door on its hiring process. It was up or out. That was what she said. She said that it was Indiana University. I was job hunting at the time and it was.... " My One told me how job adds from Ball State appeared in The Chronicle of Higher Education every couple of months. She applied there three times. She may have even had a phone interview.

Buffalo State HospitalThen we visited the Richardson Building. There were supposed to pictures of an abandoned mental hospital in there. American Ones are fascinated by these kinds of pictures. My One was disappointed that there were not enough pictures (yet) to put the Richardson Building on her Spread Sheet, but there were enough pictures to give her another story.

Some time long before I was every born, My One snuck into this place. She even showed me the pictures. Sometimes I know what she knows. I wish I didn't know it. This makes Shinrae Hakata Hospital look like a walk in the park. It also makes me want to cry. My One said there were places where the roof had collapsed. That's what really scaird her about being inside the building that she said was only three blocks from her home at the time. She had a good friend who worked there, and two other friends who were hospitalized there for short times, but in the newer part of the hospital, not the part in the pictures.

Buffalo STate Faculty Research Building and a friend By now I realized I was just going to cry and cry if I did not get my One to snap out of her rotten mood. Poor One! Poor me! I was glad we found the Faculty Research Building. There were the usual freebies, and a cat couch with tiger stripes. In fact, he was a tiger couch. His name was Buffalo Bengal. I always LOVE cat couches, and Buffalo Bengal was no exception.

I told him all about Goofy Kitty, the cat couch my One made for me. See, my One does have a good heart. It's just her moods! I don't know why they are so terrible. I told Buffalo Bengal my problems and he advised me to ask my One to tell me a happy story.

Actually, I didn't tell my One to tell me a happy story. Instead, I asked my One if we could go somewhere that could make her feel good. She knew just what she wanted then. She put Barack Obama into the search engine. He is running for President in "Real Life," and he is one of her favorite fellow Ones. She goes to this place called a phone bank every Sunday to persaude other Ones to vote for him. If enough Ones vote for him, he gets to stay President of all the Ones in the United States.

Barack Obama Headquarters A short time later we found Re-Elect Obama Headquarters. My One got a lawn sign and a new t-shirt for me. We have no room for a lawn sign and are too busy making our own dresses for me to wear the t-shirt but her mood was much improved. She told me about the phone bank and the long ride to South DeKalb County. She told me about the store called SugarBunz which just closed and the pretty lady in the green velvet outfit who ran it and who was taking out all the fixtures. It will be sad to see the closed store, but maybe election night won't be so sad if Barack Obama gets elected. My One told about going to vote early. That story has yet to happen, but if it makes my One happy, I'll be happy.

I don't think we avies have a President. If we did maybe he or she could outlaw banning avies because they are short or because their Ones are busy in the kitchen or bathroom, or because they "embarass the Japanese language." Maybe they can make sure that all Lily Frogs breed when they're old like mine do. I'm not sure what a President does except he is important and my One is happy about voting. Go vote One and be happy!

Iyoba BatOni with help from Eileen H. Kramer -- October 26, 2012

Real Science

Iyoba and I have not been doing much bushwhacking since I flipped over the Explore SL Spreadsheet, and I've been laying in dress designs for the winter, but not doing as much dress making as either of us have wanted. We have several unfinished summer dress textures that need to come to life.

I bought one dress to life last night in the ABC sandbox, and Iyoba nearly found herself stepped on by big avatarim in big shoes. We also got to watch an avie demonstrate some kind of eleborate shield/blind in the combat cage. They have that there.

The entrance to the Virtual Genetics LabMeanwhile, Iyoba and I got lucky exploring the MediaZoo sim. We found the Virtual Genetics Lab. No you don't have to wear a lab coat. Iyoba was in no mood to change out of her lovely cantaloupe work dress. Besides lab coats don't work well when avatarim are wearing prim skirts and jackets. Iyoba also did not have to remove her feet or change her hair or eyes or even wear a mask, something she gladly would have done (Not the feet or eyes, but the mask). A computer outside the lab gives clear instructions and a taste of what's to come.

Polymerase Chain ReactionHere is an animation of a polymerase chain reaction which replicates the DNA to make the sample large enough or easy enough to be tested. You can seee the DNA unzipped and replicated with the help of enzymes. I was glad I remembered something about protein synthesis from my biochemistry course years ago. Some things you don't forget. If you want to take pictures like this, you have to set snap shots with the HUDs (heads up display) on.

This is the second time Iyoba watched the animation. I liked that you could replay the animations as much as you wanted. They are the best part of the exhibit. I also liked that this was not an exhibit for K-12 or novices. It was real teeth sinking in science. In the next slide you can see the patient's family tree. The family carries a recessive gene for cystic fibrosis, a disease for which it was very hard to screen for carriers.

DNA undergoes electropharesis And here Iyoba watches the DNA undergo electrophareses. You have to set up the gel correctly and add the right reagents. If you are doing this demo by trial and error, as I largely was, it will not let you trash the experiment if you guess wrong. I guessed right more than half the time and did not feel like a total klutz in the lab.

Info on Sickel Anemia And here Iyoba learns about sickel cell anemia. This image is a thumbnail. Click on it for a bigger version.

Notice the British spelling. Also carriers "suffer" with sickel cell trait. In the US they carry the trait, but since they are largely asymptomatic, they don't suffer. The test for Sickel Cell is much older, since it uses proteins rather than genes. It has an interesting and checkered history in the United States due to distrust of medical authorities in the African American Community (There is very good reason for this distrust).

This bit of guilt and history is missing from this British display. Also missing was any mention of ethics. I did not try the third demo. It might be interesting to see how the Virtual Genetics Lab handles a screening for the BraC genes or for the gene that indicates a particular form of Alzheimer's or Huntington's Disease. "Do you want to know?" I should go back and try the third test with Iyoba. I may just do that.

Eileen H. Kramer and Iyoba BatOni -- October 24, 2012

I Can Do it Better Part VII
Shinrei Hakata Hospital

There were and still are oh so many good choices for Virtual Excursions but since the good folks on VStark State chose only seven sites, I can only choose seven. I can blog about other places, but I'll put them on a different list or no list at all. The choice for the last site was difficult. One of the runner up sites, portrayed a brutal, Central New York, or Midwestern winter and featured a winter preparedness/rescue game. Another featured an Indiana Jones/Mayan or Aztec themed orientation course with more atmosphere than words can describe even though the language there was Japanese. I really wanted to avoid educational sites for the Virtual Excursions, and while I really liked the Mayan Temple, I remembered another site, not used for orientation that was every bit as spooky.

graffiti on the wall Hakata Shinrei Hospital was still in business, and still every bit as good as I remembered it. There are no note card givers at this abandoned mental institution, and yes "shinrei" is Japanese for ghost. Ironically, it's not the ghosts at Shinrei Hakata Hospital that engage the imagination and spur on exploration. It's the generally abandoned and very dark nature of the building. It's the graffiti on the walls and the stains on the floors, the broken soda machines, and the piles of miscellaneous furniture in the halls.

Iyoba sits on a bed contemplating her next move What makes Shinrei Hakata Hospital an excellent excursion site is that it is a flexible build. There are arrows inside, but you don't have to follow them. There are instructions (The flash light is free and a good idea.), but you don't have to follow them. I explored solo, so there was no question that I had a flash light. If you have a group, you might want every member to have his or her own light so you can split up if you choose. Fortunately, the instructions do not tell avatarim to work their way around the obstacles. I did that this time. The last time I visited, I jumped over the obstacles by sitting on them and then standing. Both methods provide slightly different but equally good views of the interior.

Iyoba reaches the roof. You can even clamber on to the roof if you are willing to jump obstructions. The instructions say to set the sky to midnight, but I recommend against doing this. The contrast between the darkened hospital and bright sunny world outside which Second Life occasionally gives you, adds to the atmosphere.

The last reason that Shinrei Hakata Hospital is worth exploring is that it fits so well with books, blogs, and articles about closed/abandoned mental institutions in the United States. Unlike Shinrei, these were often rural, human warehouses, especially in New York State. Here is a web site showing both interior and exterior images of Willard State Hospital, located in Ovid, New York in Seneca County. And here are photos, probably from a variety of state institutions. They are also available on this web site. And this is another great book about old mental hospitals: The Lives They Left Behind.

There is a reason the ghosts of Shinrei Hakata Hospital did not scare me, though I could not tear myself away from the hospital. They are too real and way too sympathetic and oddly fascinating. Of course, I suspect that views of mental illness and its treatment vary from one culture to another. A Japanese person including, Edelweiss, Shinrei Hakata Hospital's creator, probably does not see in her creation what I see. She does not set it inside the same cultural frame. I never talked to her. I did meet some of her friends late Saturday night (late afternoon in Japan) when I met them at the new swimming pool.

There is always new building on Hakata and its neighboring islands, so even if you get tired of the abandoned hospital, there is still plenty to see and do. Iyoba got in a swim, but she did not have the conversation that I now wish she had had. And yes, It would be fantastic if a professor of a psychology course or one of those English literature courses where students read One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest or "The Yellow Wallpaper" sent students to explore Hakata Shinrei Hospital or if students traveled throug it in conjunction with reding Assylum or The Lives they Left Behind. It's that worthy of a trip.

And yes, I will try to track down Edelweiss, fight my way through machine translation and ask her what she sees in her creation. I'm not sure there are books like "The Lives They Left Behind" or "Assylum" in Japan. I'm not sure if the whole horror of institutionalization idea has anything to do with Shinrei Hakata Hospital or whether it is just something I saw. Maybe we all bring our own ghosts with us to some parts of Second Life.

Eileen H. Kramer and Iyoba BatOni -- October 21, 2012

Spitting a Bitter Taste

Iyoba scowls from inside the Plush Nonprofit Commons Neither Iyoba nor I wanted to visit the Plush Nonprofit Commons, and I still won't look forward to going back. This is really odd because there is some genuinely good work done by the residents there, and I don't mean altruistic, I mean good builds, museums or organizations with information.

Paper Barron's house photograph from the Neenah Historical MuseumThis is a photo of a Paper Barron's mansion from the Neenah Historical museum where there are many such images. Samll town museums or museums about what once were small towns work especially well in Second Life, probably because the content is easy to mount and it doesn't carry a huge emotional baggage besides nostalgia and the urge to satisfy curiosity about the past.

I think the History of Computers in Education and Nonprofits museum is an especially good example of an interesting museum build. Face it, many of us older folks lived through using some of this old equipment and for those who didn't, hey you can learn.

An opera singer playing a clown on Long Island courtesy of the Freeport Historical Society. Iyoba and I rediscovered the Freeport Historical Society which had moved from Cybrary City II to the Plush Nonprofit Commons. This place keeps on growing, and that is good. Like most metro New York suburbs (I grew up in Westchester County in "real life"), Freeport transitioned from rural to suburban to very built up nearly urban. It is also a railroad suburb. People commute to the City by train. This makes it quite a good subject for a museum.

Iyoba cruises the back alleys of Plush Nonprofit Commons You don't, however, expect this article to be all sweetness and light because it is not. The Plush Nonprofit Commons is a build that feels very ugly for a number of reasons.

Iyoba and I needed a cold one and the Neenah Museum provided it.First, when we used to visit the History of Computers in Education Museum (We had a friend who was working on it), we also roamed the Plush and Aloft Nonprofit Commons islands. The build with its ivy comvered walls on the Plush side and varied architecture on the Aloft side is intrinsicly interesting. Nonprofit stalls are public so there was no fear of security orbs or ban lines. One afternon while exploring Iyoba wore either pearl grey pants or shorts and a cranberry colored tank top with a floral pattern. Her hair piece was a lovely, magenta afro I had recently made for her. Iyoba stands about five feet tall and is a bit fleshy, making her small but substantial. This of course is Second Life and many avatarim are far less tastefully dressed and far stranger in appearance.

Iyoba and I saw a man working on a bridge over in the Aloft sim and he asked what we were doing here. He did not ask if he could help us or if we were looking for something special or if we had found what we wanted. He did not welcome us. He asked if we had anything to do with nonprofits. How do you spell H-O-S-T-I-L-E. And yes, this was one incident two years or so ago, but it has stayed with me. I wish it hadn't.

Pretty souvenirs from a trip to KenyaOf course I have a deeper reason for not caring for the Plush Nonprofit Commons and it's sister Aloft Nonprofit Commons, ENVY. These 4096 or 2048 size stores cost money and they are selective in whom they take, but Second Life being monetized and accountability taking labor, what renters actually do with their space is more or less there own business. The Volunteering in Kenya store is a case in point. It has a lovely faux African (I know how scarce African inspired items are in Second Life because I make them. I also know they are a lot more colorful.) decor and a few posters, but mostly it is just advertisement. Most of us can't afford a 2048 square meter space just to advertise.

United Black Fund of ClevelandIt's also a huge waste of prims. This space run by the United Black Fund of Cleveland is just signs and a link to the organization's web site. You don't need a whole room for this! I wish I had money like this to waste. On the other hand, a meeting space in Second Life may be just the thing when people don't feel like leaving home in the evenings on cold winter nights.

This is a churchOf course I sometimes wonder how or if any of these spaces are really used at all. This church particularly makes me wonder. It's a well made and detailed chapel, but Second Life can be a bit aspirational at times. People build the world they wish they had instead of becoming famous in the "real world."

I learned that with my first Christian sim, a place called Yesha. I went looking for those who ran the place to see what kind of ministry they had in real life. I was a fairly raw newbie and did not think that any one would spend one to three hundred dollars a month to finance a simulacrum of their dream. I still can't imagine that because one can purchase such a simulacrum for far less per month.

My third complaint about Plush Nonprofit Commons is that it is part of the most conservative subculture in Second Life. By conservative, I mean socially conservative, NOT politically conservative, and also with a small dash of moralism thrown in. Education and nonprofit sector sims are conservative in a way that would make Mitt Romney blush, and yes they celebrate Banned Book Week, and many of their sims are rated "Mature" but so what.

Educators, with a few exceptions notably University of Texas at Brownsville, love order. They prefer students and faculty dress conservatively and offer a selection of free, conformist clothing. They forget that most people don't hide the Penny's catalog from their eight year old, and grandma uses it to shop. Avatarim running around in skivvies is a breach of decorum.

Commerce too is evil. It's the chasing of filthy lucre. That's why there are no shopping malls among the Virtual Excursions (And, yes I can do it better!!!!!), and the conformist clothes keep student avatarim from...shopping.

Finally Finished and Iyoba jumps for joy! The aversion to commerce means that those with a message or information to sell (Nonprofits, libraries, colleges), often segregate themselves with others of like stripe, making it hard for members of the general public to cross their paths. Yes, they are in the search engine, but instead of seeing a booth giving out information on real world nutrition in a shopping mall where they have come to dance or look for clothes, the typical avie has to seek out such information or rely on unreliable word of mouth.

Educators and other nonprofit types, at least in their public lives in SL, in turn become estranged from the general public. I remember training to work on Info Island and in the literature was a whole long notecard about griefing. I have been griefed four times in four years. I have been insulted a bit more often even with a thick skin. In the Jazz Cat, the club on Info Island, there was a sign that proudly said "No Escorts." I was waiting for a club that served escorts to hang a sign that said "No Librarians."

You can see why a master builder on the Aloft Nonprofit Commons (what a great name!) sim, might react to a magenta haired explorer as he/she did. I was one of those people even with my CVL Volunteer tag proudly showing.

Iyoba finally gets her new dress and I get my sandbox therapy And yes, there are educational sims such as Meteora, Science School II, and many of the University of Texas sims that do attempt to serve the general public. For every one of these, I think there are more than one UAA Seawolves and WSWHE BOCES (You can't get in there, the public is banned even though their tax dollars pay for it, and these are tax dollars from among the most depressed parts of New York State.) Fortunately, there are public sandboxes run in academic spaces such as Teaching where I finally made the lamprey dress for Iyoba. I think it is made of leather and yes, that is a lamprey. The work was better than I remembered it, and face it, we both needed some serious sandbox therapy.

Eileen H. Kramer with lots of help from and gratitude to Iyoba BatOni -- October 19, 2012

Debt of Gratitude

There are days when you just owe your avie. Iyoba wanted a trip to the sandbox. We got close in the last few days, but just have been too busy. "What's happening?" you may ask. We are coming down to the wire on The Explore SL Spreadsheet. We'll start over finding new places and checking out old ones to make sure they are still there, but still finishing a sheet is impressive. Only, we're not there yet. There remains one sim with many sites that we will have to travel through. I'm not looking forward to this, and neither is Iyoba. We have our reasons.

OT House wrapped in red caution tape Our first stop was Salford Univversity's OT House. I did not remember the red, honeycomb wrappign which was supposed to be like one of those storm fences, that students in colder climates make a practice of squishing down because the icey trail is invariably the best trail. The honeycomb turned out to be phantom.

Iyoba has just had an accident Iyoba got inside, got her kit, and well...this is why bushwhacking is hard work for avies. The wheel chair displaced her skirt. I found her some pants. She even endured a sim restart wheel chair and all. The wheel chair was really impossible to maneuver, and much of what should have been scripted in the house wasn't. The stair elevator particularly was out of commission. Still, even in its crude state, the OT house got its point across.

Iyoba takes a break in the Textile and Garment Chamber Our next stop was the HK Polytechnic University Campus where there was a library. It soon turned out that there was a lot more than just the library on this sim. There was an art gallery of graphic design posters and panels. There was an exhibit of bioengineered fabrics and high tech sports clothing. This is where Iyoba is taking a break in the photo.

Iyoba tends the poor bot even though nothing in the room works There was even a hospital exhibit that did not make the spread sheet. First, it wanted me to replace Iyoba from the skin and shape out. I thought this exercise in conformity and costume was simply too much. I had no problem suiting and gowning my avie who looks a bit like a football player in an overly long jersey. I did not see any reason to add hair, eyes, or prim shoes. I couldn't get her out into the hall without a lot of cam and sit technique and in the room we visited, there was nothing to touch, nothing that gave note cards and something even told us (some kind of message giver) that the room wouldn't work because Iyoba was not a student in the program. The hostility, overkill, and lack of function kept the hospital in the sky off of our Spread Sheet.

Here is the great big reference counter Of course the library is still in operation. There is a handsomely dressed bot manning the big, red, reference desk. She has on a lovely suit complete with white hose. Over her head hangs a marquis to remind avatarim that they have indeed come to the right place.

Look working books! And yes, the library is the right place in so many ways. Instead of just being filled with dummy book shelves to lend atmosphere, each bank of books leads to a database. Yes, they are locked down except for Science Direct, but if you are a student at HK Poly U, this is yourlibrary in full flower. The big space is entirely functional!

Sculpture on roof of library with Iyoba sitting beneath it And there is even a small art gallery with a rooftop garden next door. This lovely sculpture makes the perfect end to a surprisingly fruitful session, but of course there is more. The cool fall days don't make me feel much like swiming, but Iyoba was psyched to go to Second Earth 3, home of the Abyss Observatory so she could swim there.

Iyoba swims far under the sea The Abyss Observatory lived up to its reputation. I think it has even grown, since a Japanese university also makes use of the island. This sim isn't just for learning. It is fun. It is excursion worthy, except...I'm fraught and conflicted over including any swimming sites. I have nothing against swimming. I even bought Iyoba a Swimmer so she could swim instead of always walk on the bottom of the ocean and not have to stay on the walking paths.

Iyoba swims in the Abyss sandbox. Most avatarim, though, never buy a swimmer. It costs about two to three dollars, and was one of the best purchases I ever made, but it's a total game changer. The Abyss Observatory, or Siggie's WaterWorks are completely different places if your avie swims. And unlike skiing, a Swimmer is not free. There is a free version, but it was copybotted to death and the creator just gave up on it. I received the original version when a kind oldbie asked Iyoba and me what we wanted. I told him I wanted to know if it was possible for an avie to swim.

The old swimmer (the free one) is just a dance animation. The new Swimmer is a HUD, a heads up display. Of course there are ethical problems with giving out the old swimmer, and requiring a piece of equipment not readily available. It's not required, but I find some sort of Swimmer indispensible in Second Life, in the same way I find skis and ice skates necessary. Finding a swimmer or my giving one, would make an excursion to either the Abyss Observatory of Siggy's Waterworks complicated. I may take a nother look at Siggy's Waterworks since he has ways for avatarim to enjoy the water without needing a Swimmer. I'm probably going to need a vacation to Siggy's after our last bushwhacking journey before "flipping that spread sheet."

Iyoba BatOni, the real star, and Eileen H. Kramer -- October 17, 2012

The Sweet Juice of a Secret

First, and I am sorry to disappoint, nobody has done anything remotely wrong. Second, I ought to be minding my own business or asking Fleet Goldenberg to unlock the door on my "free to stay" retail space on EduIsland 9, but I'm curious. I wouldn't bushwhack if I wasn't, so when I noticed at Grid Survey that my two old free-to-stay homes, EduIsland 4 and 5, still existed and that there were two EduIsland 4's, I became curious.

I expected to find abandoned places. I love to find abandoned places. Even new owners with security orbs and ban lines can be fun. The new EduIsland 4 piqued my curiosity. It was new. It wasn't where I'd had my first free-to-stay spot, which was real land where I designed an open platform library, but never fully built it. "Real life" intervened.

Here is the inside of a library of sorts EduIsland 4 was not abandoned. In fact, it had this library building where Iyoba dances in front of the books. The library exists to link to books published at LuLu by Sambiglyon, Fleet Goldenberg's "real life" publishing concern.

A library in the middle of nowhere Here is the library/bookstore on EduIsland 4 from the outside. All of this is at ground level, though with the stark white and perfectly flat landscape, it looks a lot like a sky box.

Iyoba squats over the canal Iyoba's and my next stop was EduIsland 4OLD, which as you can see from the picture looks very abandoned indeed. Fleet sent Iyoba and I to the Free to Stay dormitory on EduIsland 5 late this summer when he said he had to give up the island. The University of Missouri School of Journalism, the island's largest tennant had moved out, yet here it is midOctober and the island still exists and has even been renamed at a cost of fifty dollars. Is this island really abandoned?

The Free to Stay Dormitory on EduIsland 5 A visit to EduIsland 5 made me think that Fleet did not abandoned EduIsland 4 (now EduIsland 4OLD). Of course the free-to-stay tenants on EduIsland 5, had to leave about ten days ago, but so too did a number of paying, nonprofits. Two were able to remain. One found a new home, and two just vanished. The picture above is what is left of the free-to-stay dormitory. Not all the tenants have broken camp for their new quarters on EduIsland 9.

Iyoba does a bridge on EduIsland 5 Part of the mystery of the three islands revealed itself when a rather annoying welcomer for a store called Thingamabobs wanted to give me a landmark. Thingamobabs sells the accoutrements for child avatarim. This is a perfectly reasonable sort of business, though it is more common to find "main stores" like this on the mainalnd, where they look good on a lot of empty land, like the kind where Iyoba made a bridge. Empty land is good for practicing poses.

Here it is!Empty land also yields up its secrets with the About Land command. In this case, Iyoba and I learned that Fleet Goldenberg had rented a large portion of EduIsland 5 to a group called MDSC308. The group has three members that show, no description, and the public can not join. I suspect it is a land holding group who pays Fleet regular rent and who in turn rents to retailers like the proprietor of Thingamabobs.

My question of course is: "Is Fleet courting another land baron to take over what used to be EduIsland 4?" This would bring in income to support the new EduIsland 4 and similar ventures. Economically it makes sense. As long as the land baron can keep tenants, it frees Fleet up for better things. The educational and library sector tenants and their friends who wander the Info Island Archipleago benefit from shopping in a comfortable, G-rated environment. Fleet gets a stable tenant. The land baron takes his or her cut. Only the free-to-stay tenants and the nonprofits suffer, and Fleet is really doing a very good job in taking care of the free-to-stays. After all he could have just booted us all out.

I wish I could feel more grateful. Fleet by the way doesn't owe me any information about his plans, but I'm a former landlord's secretary and/or advertising agent. I learned something about the land business by watching my bosses. I just wish I knew more of what was going on, and yes, I still need to ask Fleet to unlock my door.

Eileen H. Kramer with lots of help from Iyoba BatOni -- October 14, 2012

Wowie and Wammie
I Can do It Better VI

The first crisp, cool, days of Autumn have finally arrived in the South, and neither Iyoba nor I felt like swimming. When I feel the change of seasons, Iyoba needs to bundle up. We've been making and sometimes wearing long sleeved dresses and blouses. I've been wearing sweaters all day at work and my inbetween coat to work. We just weren't up for a trip to Waterworks Island. We'll get there...soon, I promise.

A sandbox in AutumnMeanwhile, the choice for our sixth excursion was a true no brainer. Every newbie who wants to build, and every newbie should learn to build but that is my idea and I am stuck with it, needs at least one quiet sandbox. The only thing is that our inventory is full of an embarassment of riches. There are quiet, well-maintained sandboxes at:

Lehigh University
Cal State Northridge
Texas Womans Unviersity 3

And there are somewhat scuzzy, but friendly sandboxes at:

College Life
Deakin University Arts Education

Iyoba stands before the mall wall with a lovely signThere are also closed and hostile sandboxes that deserve a post of their own. I did not choose any of the above. They are all good choices, but I wanted an outstanding choice. I remembered a sandbox near a pretty Japanese Mall on the island of Sapporo. This would be the place. It would offer a sandbox and something more, one of the finest mall builds in Second Life and something just a tiny bit more exotic than the usual.

Iyoba sits on a birch stump When most Americans think of Japan, they think Tokyo. Sapporo is a city on the northern island of Hokaido which is both colder and more rural than the rest of the country. So much for my tenth grade Global Studies. Sapporo still sounds like an exotic locale and the sim is beautiful and utterly well kept. It also changes with the seasons. It is fall there. The grass has dried out. The trees have lost their leaves or are showing their fine colors. There was something about all this temperate beauty instead of faux tropical which rubs me just the right way. If you need a warm weather sandbox once Sapporo freezes over, try one of the selections above. Avatarim shivering with cold make their ones freeze.

Iyoba prepares to enter the volcanic cave Of course Sapporo offers much more than a well made mall and a well run sandbox. In the picture above, the ever intrepid Iyoba prepares to enter the volcanic cave, not sure what she will find.

A throne fit for a princess What Iyoba and I found was a hot spring complete with amenities such as Rubics Cubes and a commode. Why a commode? Who wants their avie peeing in the hot spring every one else is using or swimming with a full bladder. No, I did not photgraph Iyoba ascending the throne, but it is a pretty one.

Get your avie clean and relaxedOf course Iyoba did get to enjoy a well-deserved bath and swim in cold water to the neighboring island which is a story in itself. In this picture, she is busy getting clean. Avatarim do get dirty and it's nice to have them bathe every once in a while as well as change their clothes every day. Who wants a smell, scuzzy avie! Also if your avie gets too dirty, your skin will crawl with her discomfort. Hot baths and swimming areas and showers are wonderful things for all those reasons.

Coming home...sort ofThe most wonderful surprise of all was that the Sapporo and the Hakodate Monasteric Park were NOT sims I had just discovered this summer and used to make hair and go mall crawling. They are a lot older. I had visited them in 2010 or a bit before and then forgotten about them. They had been in winter mode then. I liked that. I especially liked the birch and pine forests and realistic hills. I walked around until I hit ban lines. I don't think Sapporo was even available. It was locked behind those ban lines. There is nothing like being treated shabbily to make one forget a place. Now of course that I am welcome (Was there a change of management?) all is forgiven. The sim is beautiful, and it is even a site of a Virtual Excursion.

Eileen H. Kramer and Iyoba BatOni -- October 12, 2012

"You have a Place," and
Others are not so Lucky

Last Friday the note from Fleet Goldenberg did not say: "You have a place." I think this phrase is more common when landlords speak Portuguese as a first language and English as a second one. Still, I had to pick up, lock, stock, and barrel and move my "free to stay" space in which I am slowly building a library to EduIsland 9. Since I was well under my fifty prim maximum and I knew how to link my objects together, and Fleet (bless his heart), redid my walls in my wallpaper instead of his (Mine is much brighter and more cheerful, and makes the room look airier), the move was painless.

A bottle and basket of information It also motivated me to do some work on my library, adding a fresh texture to the news basket which has a label on it now, and checking my notes to make sure they were up to date. University of Alaska Seawolves was on my Good Libraries note, and you know what they did. If you don't go there for yourself (I'm not giving you a link for obvious reasons!) and see the ban lines. Some nasty squatters and yours truely ruined it for every one else. I found the squatters and informed on them.

Another view of my fifty prim free space I'm going to be experimenting with a book shaped sculptie with links to popular fiction and of course my excursions are going to make another note card along with a list of quiet sandboxes and another of noisey clubs. I work on all of this very slowly. There is just one small problem. My landlord, Fleet, has left my door locked so nobody can come in to see the information. I need to pester him, albeit politely. If I were renting a comparable retale space, I would have an opening and no door at all. I might even just have a table. I have half a dozen retale kiosks in inventory along with store signs. I've never had much luck renting retale space. I like this space because it is free. I don't like that it is isolated, and that it is locked and that I can't unlock it myself or even decide if I want a door that has to be opened, is downright annoying. Still I am lucky to have a place.

Past tense

The folks who gave classes, met, and otherwise used the land on Isla Sonoita are not as lucky. The islands' owners in a fit of rare transparency have placed their island's description in the past tense. I don't think they say what happened to their land. I know the story if not the particulars. If you can't pay the rent, you don't keep your land. A whole island is way too much land for most educational ventures. A 4096 or even a 2048 is really excessive. I can put together a library in fifty prims. I could also set up a resource center with some media and a few link or note card dispensers (The Ludo Notecard Giver Script) is a real godsend for obvious reasons) for students in one or more classes and/or the general public. I could exhibit art. I could even put up a few student projects or links to them. If others were interested, we could share classroom space either on the roof or on open property. A mall would be a perfect set up. All we'd need is a few extra benches or chairs. Temp rezzing benches would be ideal or just permission to rezz benches in the empty square most malls have. The professors could then clean them up when class or an event was over. Rent would be standard retail space rent, about a dollar (250L for a fifty prim space) per week.

Here is the same story in numbers Here is the same sad story of Isla Sonoita in numbers instead of words. The island lays stripped bare. It waits for Linden Labs to claim it and zap it or else give it to somebody else. I will miss this sim. It was beautiful. There are many sims I miss, including Oklahoma State where I thought I would come back to take pictures and never did. It was gone just seven days after I visited it.

Iyoba gets very emotional Like Iyoba, I too could cry for all the sims and places I once knew that are gone and the ones that are no longer as good. Second Life has its emotional highs, lows, and unexpected pleasant surprizes. The sad ones can blind side you. The sims that make you angry leave you raging alone. I feel bad for the folks with big dreams who rented Isla Sonoita. I'm glad I don't know their story's details. I'm terrible at finding retail space, and I'll get Fleet to unlock my front door on EduIsland 9.

Eileen H. Kramer with help from Iyoba BatOni -- October 11, 2012

I can do it Better V
Wait for the Tears

The Good Ship AtlasThere were once two very good Saudi Arabian builds in Second Life. This ship, the Mighty Atlas, sails to nowhere on the island of Saudi Arabia. This was a glitzy build, with a luxury liner parked at the dock, a mosque on the sand, and a club in the sky.

Inside the AtlasHere is the pool lounge inside the Atlas. Alas, the pool table is just for show. This was the first of many disappointments which usually came in the form of locked doors.

Another door that will not openAll these locked doors on the good ship, Atlas, enraged Iyoba who like me, had hoped for something better. Worse yet, though there was plenty of water on the island, Iyoba could not swim because scripted objects could not run, and she could not fly, so we never found the sky club if it is still there. We even managed to run afoul of a security orb. Yes, this is a pretty island, but seeing it locked down killed its magic.

Of course, when you say "no" to a place, you end up having to look for a substitute. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia on Arab Land came to mind. I remembered this is an elegant build, just bordering on gauche. There were comfy counches, lots of stairs to climb, a museum, a campground, plenty of place to walk, but builds change over the months and years. They deteriorate and....

Click this thumbnail for a mountain-top panorama Let's just say I had no idea about the rebuild at Arab Land. This photo does not do it justice. None of my photos do. The peach sand, orange bricks, the ornate and sturdy bridges, the little cultural touches, all make you ask: why can't all builds in Second Life be this utterly fantastic? I was nearly crying because this build is that good. Yes, it is a worthy excursion choice if only to show students and newbies what is possible. Click the thumbnail at the right to get a full screen view.

Bridges and paths in the dester peeks invite walkingHere is one of the bridges on one of the trails. Notice the ornate iron work and the lovely textures. Don't you just want to explore. And this is all public space, no ban lines!

Care for some tea?And Arab Land is culturally sensitive in the best sense of the term. You don't have to wonder if the martinis and margaritas served are mocktails or as real a thing as you can get in a virtual world. Here the beverage of choice is tea and it's not sweet or unsweet. It's hot!

When you gotta go! And when your avie needs to go, Arab Land's builders have thoughtfully provided a facility. No it doesn't have a seat, but there is a sink thoughtfully provided for your ablutions. This was the first time in four plus years that I have seen a squat toilet in Second Life.

Walking at the top of the worldAnd here is Iyoba using a sturdy, rope bridge to cross between mountain peaks. There are days when it is good to be on top of the world. There are days when you remember that patience is the key to finding great sites for excursions. And yes, Arab Land deserves a space on any one's excursion list. Note: you will usually find this sim empty since its owners are seven to nine hours ahead of east coast time, but then again, sometimes it is fun to have such a lovely place all to yourself.

Eileen H. Kramer and Iyoba BatOni -- October 8, 2012

I Can Do It Better IV
Love and Snow

Sign at the top of the hill on WolfMountainResort

more grass skiing

A chairlift sits on a grassy summer summit

I really did think my One Who Thinks She Knows was crazy. She wasn't just her usual, out of sorts self. She was looking for the impossible, snow in Second Life in October. Winter in Second Life lasts a couple of months if that, and it is not here yet. It's that simple.

And yes, I remember Niseko Hirafu and the back country beyond Wengens and yes, they were both snowy, but you needed your own skis for Wengens and Niseko Hirafu/ now Niseko Annupuri had turned green. That was that.

My One said we needed to try other ski areas, but Crossley Mountain and the Alpine Executive Center had disappeared. Wolf Mountain Resort was still in business. That was where we went.

This was the first nonempty ski sim we had visited, and they had all sorts of activities besides skiing. There were even sleds. There were avies having a good times, avies with happy Ones, but my One was the one to pitch a fit. She complained because there was no snow. She complained because one of the chairlifts was broken. She complained because there were no free skis, and she complained because there was a soft spot on the lodge porch. I was the one who got stuck under the porch by the way. I guess you can say my One sometimes takes my side.

We visited two other ski areas. One, an island that is supposed to be the Austrian Alps had genuine freezing rain which my One admired, but no snow!. I finally asked my One what it was with the snow. She said that snow was special. She had happy memories of skiing as a child. She had fond memories of cross country skiing on state lands in Utica, New York. She missed the snow which is very rare where she now lives, but couldn't she see, most avies are just fine without it. They are just as happy wtih free sleds as free skis. They want to spend their time in the lodge which has a swimming pool and at the Howling Wolf hot springs. Hey, I even like hot springs.

No, my One wanted me to go to Wengen which long ago was our old info-hub home of choice. We wanted to be at the snow and away from any possible harassment. It was quiet there. I could use my home made skis to go exploring in the high mountains. I swam in a dry suit under the ice. I didn't ice skate yet. We even got to use our Niseko Hirafo skis if we could find a rezz zone to put them on.

Even after we got the land for the Honey Hut, we still came back to Wengen from time to time. The only problem with this area is a total lack of amenitines. My One stewed and fumed about how newbies would have to buy their skis for free at Niseko Annupuri and bring them to Wengen which would make for a complicated write up and excursion.

Well we went to Wengen anyway. You can see why we both loved this spot. It is beautiful, and if you hve skates, the lake is frozen and fun.

We headed across the street and found the chairlift that now worked. It did not work when we first explored here a few years ago. The lift is much larger and longer than the old Niseko Hirafu lift and both longer and slower than the one at WolfIslandResort. It stops and you have to get up. My One was glad the lift doesn't conk you on the rear.

Then we found the skis. I got to try them. Somewhere in here, there is a portrait of me skiing, and my One liked it so much she even made a profile picture, and yes, my One is RIGHT! Skiing on snow is better. It is very beautiful when a rising or setting sun (She thought the sun was setting but she should have had faith. The sun rose.) makes the snow a soft rainbow, and there is something about a vast, open, and wintery landscape, especially since you can ski "off piste", and just cross the coutry. The free skis at Wengens have cross country animations that make exploring fun and skiing often feels more like flying than real flying. Hey for me it's real!

Sometimes the past is a song. Sometimes the song repeats in many verses. I learned to downhill ski when was seven and eight and skied until I was sixteen. I learned cross country skiing in college physical education, bought my own skis with one of my first pay checks, and would take days off to ski turns of a couple of miles each on the state lands. Cross country skiing is flight on ground level. It is amazing to effortlessly move fast under your own power and figure out how to cross half frozen streams or get down a hill. Skiing is freedom and being effective under your own power for an adult.

For the child in me, skiing was the unbridled liberty to go up in a chairlift that I could barely operate (Chairlifts are not made for someone just four feet high and forty-seven pounds or someone four foot three and fifty-four pounds.) and go miles from my parents and then enjoy speed. Of course I also had the joy of picking my slope and the achievement getting down the hill.

Skiing also meant mishaps, getting conked, getting dragged under chair lifts, pulling a ligament in my right knee when I was nine because I was being too reckless and enjoying an athletic side of me that did not appear in phys ed. Gym in most public schools used to be an abomination and probably still is.

Somehow though, I got back on my feet, even when I had issues to work out such as after the accident. My parents should not have let a nine year old with a taste for speed all alone on those slopes, but they did and they wanted me back. I got back and learned to deal with my recklessness on my own terms. I think in the end it was the best thing. I became a more cautious skiier and switched to cross country as an adult, but I stayed an enthusiast. I miss skiing in the South. I miss it because of all the good things it means for me.

Being on the slopes with Iyoba brings back those memories of winter freedom. I don't mind being alone. I often was almost alone or all alone when skiing cross country. The vastness of the back country around Wengen reminds me of the vast reaches of golf courses and university owned lands at Cornell where I learned to cross country ski in phys ed. I remember my roommates snug indoors in a North Campus dormitory room watching the cross country skiing class of which I was a part trek off with our gear to where the parking lot ended and the snowy fields began. To them, skiing was an utterly uncomfortable way to get exercise.

Coming home to Wengen InfoHub

Riding the Wengen-Toggenburg Chairlift

Free skis at the Toggenburg lift top

Give Iyoba and me a mouintain at dawn

To me, cross country skiing, was a gentle activity that strengthened the body, but more importantly refreshed and warmed the soul. You wore a lighter coat for skiing than you did for just walking around campus, and you flew under the sky through open ground surrounded by nearly black conifers and bare, gray, deciduous trees, and yes we often skied in the late afternoon and early evening so I saw the sun set on snow.

So when I see Iyoba in open country beyond the top of the Toggenburg Lift, my soul and memories, are with her on the snow. I am not cold because I am moving. I do not need to fly, each push of the poles or skis sends me much further than walking and of course gravity gives us both wings. I don't have to worry about being alone. I am outside and at peace with a hostile landscape.

I WANT TO GIVE THIS EXPERIENCE TO NEWBIES AND STUDENTS. This is a gift of passion and love. For first timers, here is the link to the top of the Toggenburg chairlift. This is to make sure you can get your skis. For those with skis all ready or who want to start with a ride to the top of the mountain. Here is the link to the Wengen infohub. Just cross the street past the train tracks and make a slight left. You'll see one of two working lifts.

Of course this like all excursion choices, is subjective, but in many ways I think this is the most subjective of all. There is a reason for the shortage of year around snow in Second Life. Most avies and their "Ones" "don't do cold weather." Obtaining clothes with adequate coverage is not easy. I started making winter jackets and coats as well as warm sweaters for Iyoba in the summer of 2008 about two months into my Second Life career.

But after making sure that a site is free of rip offs, hazing, and major league nuiscences, the first criteria for picking an excursion site is that it has the love baked in like a Bread Cat.

What is this love? I guess that is the educational take away from ski paradise. Yes, it's subjective. Those playing high school student violating dress code or pole dancing or being a vampire, quadruped, or child, have all found a love and passion of their own, thought it's not one I fully understand. Second Life teaches how different we really all are even if we are successful, reasonably busy, students or working adults on the outside. One size just doesn't fit all on the inside or where our avatarim work and play.

And is this love and passion addiction? If all you have is a hammer every thing is a nail, but addiction implies disease. Second Life works when it works in part as it does on the ski slopes or the Dead Coaster at Mirai because there is enough on the screen to make you believe it is real, but also because you willingly bring something to the screen that comes from inside you, memories, values, desires. Second Life does a pretty good job of being a place to live through these. Is this "getting your buttons pushed?" All I know is I felt amazing after skiing with Iyoba and I'd like to share that feeling with newbies and students, or maybe start them thinking about what really can amaze and satisfy them in Second Life.

Iyoba BatOni and Eileen H. Kramer -- October 5, 2012

Critters and Craving Cold Comfort or...
I Can Do it Better III

To find excursion sites, I have to look no farther than my memories. One of the things I really enjoyed as a newbie was going to stores where I could try products that were fun but which I could not afford, either because I did not care to spend the Lindens or because I did not have the land on which to rezz the item. Model homes and prefabs as well as the now long gone hot tub sim fell into this category. Then the now also gone Petable Turtle Marketplace a few sims away from Iyoba Tarantal's Honey Hut, came into Iyoba's and my life. And two years ago, I became a turtle tamer.

A rare and beautiful zwicky In the Second Life of 2012, a large breedable market has to be on the excursion list. I chose the UBSTech Farmers/Orphanage as a good visiting site. I think they offer the largest selection of species, and they are mainly smaller breedables rather than horses or Breed-a-Bulls. This is important because large breedables usually stand still in stalls crowded together in a small space. They are sad things to see. Smaller breedables have room to move.

A colony of Zwickies gathered around a feeder Zwickies are technically not small breedables, but they move all of their eight prims. The ones in these images are all rare species. They are also social and will come to nuzzle and rub against vistors, when they are not shooting stars at each other or farting. You can zoom in and follow the zwickies. You can watch them. You can even catch them in the act. All without paying a single cent.

A creamsicle meerooMeeros are also another interactive breedable available at the the UBSTech Farmers/Orphanage . You can get a free hud and pet them. You can pet up to ten meeroos a day. You don't have to own them to pet them.

A prairie dogThere are even new pets like this breedable prairie dog. I also saw elephants, hamsters, sparrows, grouse, rabbits, dogs, cats...you get the idea.

There is just one problem with a sim like the UBSTech Farmers/Orphanage. While all breedables are beyond the reach of any newbie student, because he/she doesn't have the land on which to house them, the cost of an individual egg is often less than 250 Lindens (one dollar). It is possible that an unknowing and impulsive student does not read the note cards and buys an egg. It's not the most expensive useless purchase. My mother would call it a cheap lesson, but learning about a products less obvious costs is not a pleasant lesson.

Unlike owning and raising breedables, skiing in Second Life is usually a free activity. I own two skiing animations, but that is just me. It is possible to use a free dance animation for hotdog style downhill skiing, and to walk or run while wearing skis to go cross country. Skis can be home made or you can obtain a free pair from any number of locations.

All dressed up and no place that's snow There is just one problem with skiing. It's cold up on those mountains and Iyoba was NOT wearing last year's winter coat. I did not want my avie on strike again. I made her a winter jacket. Here she is showing it off. I took this picture on Niseko Annaupuri, formerly Niskeo Hirafu, which I remembered as Second Life's premiere ski destination. I don't care if the sim is Japanese. The slopes looked lovely at night. There was an easy to use chairlift that worked. There was a nice lodge to explore at the top of the slope, and skiing at sunset under snow covered trees or through the slalom trail was gorgeous and brought back memory of learning to ski at Vernon Valley (These day's it's called Mountain Creek) in New Jersey.

skisThere is still skiing at Niseko Annaupuri as you can see from these skis, but there is something a bit strange about this picture. The snow is gone. Actually, the snow has been receding from the Niskeo Annapuri valley for some time, but now it is even gone in the highlands and the summit is positively green!

Skiing on grasFortunately, skis work on grass. These are the new Niseko skis. The old ones had to be both attached and rezzed and contained six parts. The new model contains four parts and need only be worn. Iyoba can no longer use her 2008 model Niskeo skis on this sim unless she puts them on at home first because she can't rez them. The new skis also come without the scripting for the animation. One obtains the animation in the hut above the slalom course. A board appears. A ski clad avie, sits on it and away you go. You can swoosh, turn, glide, and even fall head over heals, a most amusing touch though.

I know what this was.Unfortunately, you can't herring bone or side step to get up the mountain. Flying kind of breaks the verisimilitude, but the chair lift has vanished. This I believe is the canopy that covered the wheel that held the cable and the motor that turned the wheel at the bottom of the slope.

What happened here?And even if the chair lift ran, there would be no place to get off at the top. The slope around what once was the ski lodge and the place where you got off the chairlift is now too steep to put the top part of the chair lift and provide an easy means for avies to steer clear of the proverbial bump on the butt. My younger brother used to make me sit on the inside and risk getting "conked," back in the day. Well, avatarim don't have to worry about being conked any more.

Although there still is a Niseko Annaupuri, the Niseko ski resort of my memory is gone, and that is true even with the new skis and the slalom course. Sorry, a ski area needs snow. It also needs a working chair lift or platter pull or t-bar. Even a rope tow would be part of the experience. There is nothing like a taste of virtual winter on a sultry summer day in real life or for those of us in the real life South where the right combination of snow and cold that allows cross country skis to work, just doesn't happen.

I can't recommend Niseko Annupuri as it is today. It was fun skiing on grass, but it's not a real ski area. I have a couple of other options that Iyoba and I will explore in the coming days and weeks. It would be a shame not to have a ski area on our excursions list. The problem is that not all skiable space gives away skis. Most of it is no-rezz, so the skis must be wearable. I solved this problem by making skis in the last summer of 2008. I still use the skis because they are big and cartoonish and easy to detatch and find. One ski area I remmeber had a course that went too fast and took forever to reach. Another seemed to be suffering Niseko Annupuri's fate (warming up) several years ago. Finally, the ski lands by Wengens have a working chair lift but you need your own equipment.

Skis are not all that easy to come by, though even a novice with a posing stool can make a wearable set of skis and poles. This is a good early building project. The downhill animation can be a free dance. If you want more, you need to buy it. This brings up a thorny topic that many eduational types skirt by shying away from commercial sims, but it's a problem that needs to be out in the open. Second Life has no entry cost, but it is a monetized world. That means sooner or later every resident has to face the question of how much skin to put in the game. Certainly a couple of US dollars for a skiing animation and possibly a ski outfit will hardly break any one or turn them into an addict. On the other hand, there is something about spending money for online entertainment. Fortunately, skiing can stay free. Back country skiing in Wengens brings up the issue of private propertyand ban lines and security orbs, but that is fun for another day.

Or maybe not. I started out "I Can Do It Better" by decrying the paternalism of shielding students and newbies from sex, violence, and commercialism as part of their first explorations in Second Life, but even I get paternalistic with newbies. I want them not to be hazed. I also wonder about the ethics of tempting them to spend money. I also don't want to see them ripped off, but in the end I think exposure to commerce offers more benefits than risks.

I remember recoiling with horror when reading a lot of the introductory material to Second Life that told me all the things I had to buy. As it turned out I bought nearly none of them and there were things not on the list I needed. The wearable skis and the winter coat were cases in point. A good winter coat is usually a made rather than a bought item, but it costs to upload textures. Maybe the best advice for educators is to have students set aside five to ten dollars as a modest "lab fee" for the semester. Hopefully the right activities and excursions will get them hooked enough to become informed consumers after that. I'm not sure. Knowing what to want and knowing what is out there is a good step toward becoming an informed prosumer (Much better than just being a consumer. A prosumer makes things.)

Eileen H. Kramer and Iyoba BatOni -- October 4, 2012

I Can Do it Better II

A capital building with flags flying Iyoba, my favorite avie is right. Looking for favorite virtual expedition spots does improve my spirits. This is true even when a sim is a substitute for places remembered and gone. In a way I am lucky. Portuguese and perhaps Brazilians tend to build their capital cities over and over again, so the architecture reappears whenever they put down roots and want to build something grand and beautiful. The last time I saw architecture like this capital building was on the now defunct sims, Utopia Portugal XXII and XXV. I like Roman numerals too, but there are none here. This sim is less than a year old and it is called Algarve Sunset Portugal.

A light house Every where you look the buildings and the cobble stone streets and the paved sidewalks and even this lighthouse have just a little bit more loving care built into them. I'd like to see a light house that is NOT red and white or unpainted. They must exist somewhere, but I'll take the prosaic colors for the fresh paint and lovely texture.

A bronze ship fountain Ships are also a common theme on Portuguese / Brazilian sims. There's a reason for this. The Portuguese raced the Spanish during the age of exploration, before the British, Dutch, and French eclipsed them. Meanwhile this race left Europeans in South and Central America, an area we still call Latin America today. Sail on! I like that this ship is made of bronze and doubles as a fountain.

Iyoba dances at the clubOf course I don't recommend sims because they are pretty. A pretty build that isn't useful except for walking around and nursing one's lonely feelings is a sad sight. Algarve Sunset Portugal is a working sim. It includes a club that my friend, Herman Banx, promotes. In fact, the club is how I found the sim. Being a member of dance and DJ promotion groups, has advantages that outweigh the huge amount of notice spam such groups generate.

Clothes for saleAnd Clothing like the fancy underwear shown in this image is for sale on Algarve Sunset Portugal as it is on many other sims. The stores are a bit nicer on the outside, but it's the same nonworksafe stuff inside, but don't worry, you can show this to your grandmother. If she's old enough she'll remember wearing corsettes, girdles, and other instruments of sartorial torture. She'll probably give you a chuckle. Your grandfather might be a bit embarassed, but he's a guy. Your eight year old would say "ladies undies." Then she'd go back to the Penny's catalog. I realize this is supposed to be sexy, but so what! And no, you can't wear it to class unless you have pants on with it and maybe not even then if it does not give full coverage, but I would think most adults know this.

Games of chanceThere is even a gaming hall on Algarve Sunset Portugal. Beware. The house always wins, but there is a difference between doing a thing well and doing it poorly. This gambling den teaches about doing gaming right. It is one building on an entire island. It is one attraction among many. The outside of the building is not garish, and the inside is airy and comfortable. I'm not sure if the games are fair or if there are demo versions one can play for free, but if a student wants to try Xingo, this is one of the better places to do it.

Some eduators might question whether a sim like this teaches as much or more than a formal orientation sim or a museum or a library. I would say it teaches a lot, though I'm not sure about more. It depends on the quality of the education or orientation sim used for comparison. Algarve Sunset Portugal teaches about aesthetics, what makes a good and original build. It teaches etiquette if you visit the club. It impresses upon sheltered, "real life" Americans that not all the world speaks English. It also shows how much American pop music has infiltrated. It lets students window shop in a monetized world and decide their own attitudes toward a higly sexualized culture. Unless you see it as part of your travels, how can you decide how much of it you accept and how far you want to go? It lets students experience the vice of Xingo, and gives them plenty of place to walk away. It lets students understand mainstream (albeit Portuguese/ Brazilian) Second Life culture by being part of it. It also teaches that free enterprize, commercialism, and monetization are not dirty words, though it's perfectly fine to say "no" to any piece of merchandise.

I'll come up with more ways to tempt students to part with their lindens, in some of the other excursions. Hang on, there is more to come, though I do have to get back to the the Spread Sheet.

Eileen H. Kramer and Iyoba BatOni -- October 3, 2012

How NOT to Build an Academic Sim

There is no question. King Saud University is an absolutely, EPIC fail. You don't have to read much beyond this paragraph to be convinced. Here it is.

sim for sale

The only questions and why this sim has reached the end of the line. For one thing, it is badly built. While, Arabs tend to be good at "big builds." King Saud University is built well beyond even oversize, avatar scale.

This tower is not human scale Here is Iyoba on a ramp in the medical school tower. There are no note card givers. There are a few posters. No one has even attempted to build a simulation. This is an unfinished or dismantled structure. I think it is unfinished.

The library looks promising

The library sign gets to the point. I really like the signage here. I like the quick, easy to rez textures, and the bilingual lettering, and the colors. The library sign conveys the spirit of what one hopes to find within.

Whoops! Unfortunately, Iyoba's and my hopes were dashed. This is what the library looks like. There are a few couches and desks, but not even those, godawful fake book shelves. The computers do not connect to a catalog. There are no computers. There are no connections to licensed databases, specialized databases, the Quran, Project Gutenberg etc... Nothing happened here.

Here is how students get around Of course it is quite tempting when one has an academic sim and someone else' money and tons of really valuable rezzing space, to make that space as enjoyable as possible, especially if those funding you, really don't have a lot of idea of what goes on in Second Life. Until the teleporter system works, students at King Saud University can drive to school on sturday, well maintained roads. They can even rezz their own cars, and when classes are not in session, they can go for a ride. Except for a few parked vehicles, these roads are deserted and wonderfully lonely these days.

The Good Ship Aurora The Good Ship Aurora is also deserted. The Aurora is home to King Saud University's virtual, Marine Sciences Program. Now it makes perfect and wonderful sense that a marine science program would happen on a boat, or better yet, that a boat could make an excellent student union. Many academic sims have boats,

For educational viewing of course Of course the Aurora provides numerous flat screen, TVs for viewing educational programs on marine science. This is definitely a step in the right direction.

A comfy couch And students may relax on comfy couches as they learn by watching educational television. Here is Iyoba enjoying a lovely black leather couch. Unfortunately, some of the classroom doors were locked. I'm not sure why the professors did this. This is where the old cam and sit manouver comes in very, handy.

Food and drinks

And should the students become hungry, there is ample food and drink available onboard the Aurora. Yes, those look like high balls, but I know they are mocktails because Saudi Arabia is a dry country.

In case students get tired And of course the study of marine science is quite fatiguing. Some students just need to lie down, so the Aurora thoughtfully includes a bedroom, and a bath with a whirlpool hot tub in case the avies are dirty and need a bath. OK, enough sarcasm. NOBODY MADE THE SLIGHTEST EFFORT TO REFIT THIS LUXURY YACHT FOR AN ACADEMIC SETTING!

What could have been And sarcasm and snark aside, it's a shame that the rest of King Saud University couldn't look like this lovely building in the Heritage Village about a hundred and twenty meters up. This lovely structure with its adobe walls and turkey red, Persian carpets would make a perfect faculty office or break out area. A larger version could have many uses, as could traditional Arab tents. Deserts and oases could have provided walkable landscape, and yes, you coudl throw in a family or two of animated, sculpted camels, and some cute donkeys. Why not?

I don't know what is going to happen to the USF portion of the sim next door. I did not check to see if it was for sale. I remember when some of my Arab friends, whom I hope are still my friends after I write this, telling me about the building of King Saud University. I don't know what happened between then and now, and please visit King Saud University as a cautionary tale before it disappears.

Eileen H. Kramer and Iyoba BatOni -- October 1, 2012

"I can do it so much better!"

My One Who Thinks She Knows, my One for short, has been out of sorts ever since I can remember. She's still out of sorts because she was looking at an educational sim that was a total, epic, fail. That's not the sim she wants to talk about. In fact, vStarkState is a going concern and a beautiful build. We are going to have to visit more of it.

Virtual ExcursionsHere is the Virtual Excursions Store. This is where the trouble began. My One at first was thrilled. "There is a collection of links in here. These folks qualify for the Spread Sheet." she said. We headed inside.

Posters that advertise excursions 1 Posters that adverties excursions 2

I could feel my One's heart sink. "You know, Iyoba," she told me. "These are just awful. The SPQR is a role playing game. I've never been to Virtual Bucharest or the Holocaust Museum, so those might be decent. I bet Africa is Africa Illuminated which doesn't make the spread sheet and Mexico is the Mayan exhibit at University of Washington which is pretty good, but all this stuff is overhyped. It's the same links every where. It comes from an old list. Why can't educators be more original? You know they paid somebody to make the build and shoved in the links as an afterthought." Sigh! Groan!

Iyoba's back to the wall in the empty room upstairs I did not need a One having a melt down so I suggested we head upstairs. Around the corner we found stairs to an empty room I had only seen on camming. I told my One: "See here, pretend this is your wall. Now what would you put here?" "Oh, I could do it so much better," my One replied. "There are dozens of fun places I could send newbies on expeditions. I remember fondly...." "Stop pissing, moaning, and remembering One and let's get down to that project."

Suffice it to say, my One took my suggestion. It really wasn't so bad, though she is a bit bogged down in the details of the project. She said the first step and stop would be obvious: Mirai. My One even put aside her grudge about the closed sandbox. Second Life is full of closed sandboxes, but we always keep finding more. At least there are no squatters in Mirai. I'm going to let my One tell about Mirai and explain the whole Do it Better project.

Iyoba BatOni -- September 30, 2012

Posters that advertise excursions 1 Posters that adverties excursions 2

My first thought as I snapped this shot was: "What is wrong with this picture?" First, I'd seen the links before. They are from someone's list of approved links, and it turns out that two of them were utterly dead. Those were the link to Africa (There are two perfectly good Africa reenactments and several smaller exhibits that could fill this space.) and the one for Mexico (Think University of Washington here). I haven't tried the others. The Holocaust Museum scares me. If it is done badly, it is wince-worthy or not worthy of the Explore SL Spread Sheet. We did test out Rome SPQR. It is a role play sim, in fact several of them, not really an educational site. It is fun.

And it did give me an important clue, though, to why beyond just using someone else's list the management at vStarkState included the links they did in their Virtual Excursion Center. In a place like the Virtual Excursion Center the links come recommended by the faculty, administrators, head builders etc... I'm not sure which, only that they are recommended. This means they are where these people think students should go.

Look at this wall again and see that all these places are scrubbed clean of commerce. The sex is toned down, and the violence is nonexistent. They are replicas mainly of things in real life rather than sims built by those people today. There are also dozens of better choices if your aim is to educate. I think though the aim here is mainly to shield students from the hurly burly of Second Life.

This is a bad idea in so many ways it is not funny. First, Second Life is sixteen to eighteen and up. Everyone passing through a university sim is going to be eighteen or close to it or older. Full nudity and catching any one en flagrante is excedingly rare in Second Life. The trappings of sexuality, poles, cages etc... are much less rare. Folks running around in bathing suits or underware (lingere) is extremely common, but no worse than what you would see in the Penny's Catalog. Foul language abounds, but adults and teens know all the cuss words. Unwanted requests to "sex" are a nuiscence. Pornography shoved in one's face, and pornographic chat spam are nuiscences. Hazing is offensive, but it's fairly easy to test drive a location to make sure avatarim that go there will receive a pleasant reception. Sexuality is a part of Second Life culture, and there is no reason for it to be offensive.

Most places that include violence, first person shooters, advertise where the free fire zone begins so that visitors can avoid it, offer a target range, and free weapons. If you want to shoot your fellow player, here is the place. If you don't enjoy the target range. If you don't like weapons avoid the whole business, but a fairly run shooter is good recreation for those who like shooting. This really isn't me. I have felt safe and fine in first person shooters and even explored the free fire zone, but it's just not me. Then again, I enjoy skiing and ice skating in Second Life, and most griefing in Second Life is urban legend. I can count on the fingers of my hand the number of times it has happened to me in four and a half years.

More important, Second Life is laissez faire capitalist. If you want to understand Second Life, you need to travel the malls, model homes, and other commercial establishments. There is much a newbie can learn froma first time visit to a body parts shop. One of my favorite spots as a newbie was a store that sold hot tubs. I'd strip my avie to a bathing suit and let Iyoba enjoy herself in each and ever tub. I did not have the land to buy a hot tub, and eventually made my own in ground pool around Christmas time 2010, but that is another story. I do have a commercial water sim in mind for my "Do it Better" wall.

Mirai pipeline Our first top though was Mirai. This is the MagSl Orientation sim. Most of the text is in Japanese. This is an authentic Japanese sim. The sandbox is no longer open, but the architecture is fantastic, and definitely more than just another pretty build. It invites exploration, and this pipe is special. An avie can jump in to it at the top, tumble to the bottom, and not come out hurt from a fall. I'm not sure why it works so well. It just does. Iyoba must have jumped through the pipe several times though we also tried the stairs.

Ride the Peacock Ferris Wheel Have your fortune told

On Mirai you can ride the Peacock ferris wheel or have your fortune told. The Peacock is colorful but it is slow. You can see a closeup of a yellow car above.

Kaboom! Your avie, however, can also get shot out of a human cannon. I have seen more sophisticated human canon balls at DCCCD, an academic sim, as well as a sandbox with texture sorter, but the Mirai canon was fun because your avie could land either on the ground or on the tiled roof outcroppings and then have to come back downstairs via the pipeline. Iyoba did not mind being shot out of the canon half a dozen times to get two good shots.

The Dead Coaster But for true daredevils like my Iyoba, there's the Dead Coaster. A friendly devil offers instructions in Japanese. The coaster is easy to operate and unlike a certain roller coaster advertised in Destinations, you do not have to wait until another user is finished to try it. Of course...it is one wild ride, with...I'm not going to tell you what happens at the end, but suffice it to say, Iyoba could not wait to ride the Dead Coaster and would like to do so again.

Shots of the Dead Coaster More shots of the Dead Coaster

I told Iyoba that all of this was the easy part. The hard part is that I have so many places that I would recommend to newbies for excursions. The harder part is that half of these places have vanished. Utopia Portugal (all twenty-five islands) where Iyoba and I had our first Stinky Stinky, is gone. Sera Korea where I walked the malls, activity camped, and played in the amusement park with Iyoba is gone as well. Ciudad Guaruja and Ilha Bella Gomorrah are gone. This means we have to find some substitute places, as well as visit some oldies but goodies, and we only have so many choices. I feel overwhelmed. Also, the our Spread Sheet keeps calling and we have not even explored all of vStarkState. I think in all fairness that there may be better stuff there.

Eileen H. Kramer -- September 30, 2012