Thursday, February 25, 2016

"Straighten Up And Fly Right"

While Nautilus City, which I featured in my last post, is fascinating to visit, it is by no means all of Nautilus. The continent itself is comprised of a great number of lakes and waterways and a complex, interesting coastline. Today I visited two other locations on that vast and watery continent, the 1930s/40s era aerodromes at Tsurlington and at Waddon (aerodrome being a much more commonly used word than airport prior to WWII). I was welcomed by pilot Tom McGregor (mastersinn resident, left photo below) who spoke to me about vintage aviation in Second Life, and these two locations in particular.

According to Tom, the aerodromes "have just changed hands; a group of old aviators clubbed together and saved them from oblivion." The main buildings at each location feature lovely art deco style details; make sure to check out the stained glass windows from the inside.The aerodromes request "Light Piston Engined or Rotary Prop Aircraft & Helicopters Only," in keeping with the vintage era of the builds. Interested aviators can rent a hangar at either aerodrome, both of which often hold 1920-40s era themed events and dances. 

In addition to pilots, passengers are also welcome to visit. A large yellow sign at Tsurlington encourages people to join the "Passengers of SL" group, which regularly announces flights. According to the group's founder, Laben Core, "As a pilot, you have the thrill of directly affecting the outcome of the trip through your navigational abilities – server conditions permitting, of course. Passengers, on the other hand, have the freedom of surveying the churning landscape before them without having to concern themselves with the details of flight operation." I've been fortunate enough to fly as a passenger with Marianne McCann as a pilot, and the experience included "passenger goodies" such as tickets, a wearable drink tray, a safety card, an in-flight magazine, and even an air sickness bag!

Those wishing to learn more about aviation in Second Life can delve into the extensive resources available on the Wiki page. There you can find lists of active airports, available aircraft, and working airlines, as well as a very handy "Aviator's Toolkit" that includes a glossary of terms and a list of useful aviation-related groups. You can also view a video of the services available at Tsurlington here. There is an active SL Aviation Flickr group, and even a radio channel called "Music to Fly By." So come visit the lovely aerodromes at Tsurlington or Waddon, board a flight as a passenger, or rez a plane and light out on your own to explore. Just remember to take the Andrews Sisters' advice!

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

The Great City of Nautilus

Between Corsica to the North and Satori to the South lies the Mainland continent of Nautilus. Directly to the East of Nautilus is the Blake Sea, a continent of private sims. Travel between all four of these continents is possible by sea, which makes both Nautilus and the Blake Sea prime sailing destinations. Today, let's grab a free sailboat from Barbarossa Island in the Blake Sea (one which also happens to have an airport arrow and beacon on it!) and sail due West towards the entrance to Nautilus City.

Moving towards the shore, you will spot a great channel leading inland (photo above). To the left of the channel is a large structure called The Pharos, a temple decorated with dolphins and guarded by a statue of Hydraea, Goddess of the Sea. Immediately off the shoreline is a small statue of a dolphin. You used to be able to rez a rideable dolphin here. Now, if you click on the statue, you'll receive a folder containing a dolphin, a sailing chart for the Blake Sea, and some old maps of Nautilus.

Sailing in towards the City, you can stop at several interesting points along the way. To your left, you'll spot a large park that takes up two entire sims and includes a pond, a pool and a giant chess set. To your right, you can explore the crash site of Magellan Linden's "atomic boring machine" (photo below). If you walk up the hill behind the crash site, you'll find a small bench with one of the loveliest views on the Mainland. 

Like Bay City (my home away from home on the Grid, about which I'll write soon!), Nautilus properties are double prim. If you can afford the prices and decide to build here, make sure to visit The Market (photo below), where you can pick up textures and entire houses to fit in with the theme. Step inside the large, open air building to find these free items, tucked into crates and large jars.

Next to the market you can wander through a lovely old shipyard, and traveling further inland, you might come across a strange, maze-like palace, empty but for a round tub on the second floor, and a temple (photo below) which sits perched on the edge of the central pool in the Citadel. Inside the temple sits a glowing crystal, and other large crystals can be found throughout Nautilus City. The temple site itself is damage-enabled, although I've not yet discovered any dangers inside. However, explorers with keen eyes might discover an escape route leading back down into the central pool, just in case those dangers ever do appear.

Small details are often the most interesting part of investigating new places. The photo below highlights some details of Nautilus City - the bright blue wall covering in one room of the empty palace, a face that looks out over the great chamber in the temple of the Citadel, and bright red jars decorated with a familiar figure, complete with proudly-displayed prim and bejeweled codpiece. A few of those red jars contain free houses, but some are simply the jars themselves, in case one wants a souvenir of Philip to take home. 

Sometimes, don'tcha know, a jar is just a jar.

Friday, February 19, 2016

Here There Be Dragons

In my first post, I had mentioned that there were only ten Mainland continents, if you didn't count those that hold the Wilderness or Linden Homes sims, both of which are only accessible to premium members. Because of this limited accessibility, I hadn't intended to feature anything on those two continents in this blog. However, there are some really cool things hidden on the fringes of the vast and scary suburbia that is Linden Homes. And so, today we travel to the far Northwestern tip of that continent, to the wild and rocky shoreline that is Cape Ekim. (Edited to mention that the Linden homes sims ARE accessible to anyone, not just premium members - thank you Pussycat)

The landing point places you in front of a towering and mysterious holed stone that stands upright alongside a paved road. If you follow that road to the Northwest, it will lead you to a bridge that connects the continent to a lighthouse. Go into the lighthouse, and follow the spiral stairs to your right up to the very top. There, you will find a clue that will guide the next steps of your journey. Without that clue, when you go back down to the very bottom of the stairs, you will find your way blocked.

Once you make your way through the wall at the bottom of the stairs, you will find yourself in a very long corridor. Walk straight ahead, and keep walking, and keep walking still...until you find yourself in a cavern beneath the earth, with your way again blocked. This time, a short pillar to your left holds the key to unlocking the door. The photo below is an aerial shot that gives you an idea of just how long that corridor is, and offers a clue to your final destination. (The lighthouse is the object in the top left of the photo.)

If you can unlock the key to that next door, you'll find yourself in a series of caverns filled with underground pools. One of these pools has hidden rooms beneath it; try to find your way down beneath the water to collect the treasure. Come back up, then behind the red couch is a short corridor that leads to your way out. Look around before leaving, because there are several more shiny and interesting treasures you can collect.

Unfortunately, I couldn't figure out how to get that last door open. (I had thought it was the "mythical femur" lying beside the door, but it doesn't seem to be.) If you can figure it out, let me know! Those who do figure out how to get out will find themselves exiting a fairy tale somewhat backwards - going from the belly of the beast to his mouth. I do hope you enjoy this Mainland adventure. After all, as Tolkien said, "it simply isn't an adventure worth telling if there aren't any dragons."

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Starlight on the Rails

The sim Calleta, on the southern edge of Heterocera, is home to the Second Life Railroad's (SLRR) Union Station (see photo above) and the Hobo Railroad Infohub. This busy and welcoming sim contains a multitude of railroad crossings (naturally), a Wild West-styled town full of freebies, and a great number of whimsical billboards. You can get the Elvis-themed billboard pictured below for free from the Wheedle Gallery. A tall, stone pillar greets you at the landing point to Union Station, upon which are carved four Good Neighbor Commandments for Second Life Mainland, including "Thou shalt not block roads nor sea lanes with thy objects, nor shall ye set ban lines, for they are the suck".

According to Marianne McCann, "Calleta was one of the telehubs that cropped up on the Atoll. One of two, I believe, and the only one on that continent that was built by Residents." For those of you (like I was!) who are unaware of the history of telehubs, back before 2005 it cost linden dollars to teleport. However, because the grid at that time was still small, people could fly from one end of the grid to another. As the grid expanded, Linden Lab introduced telehubs - designated Linden builds which created a network where residents could port to the telehub closest to where they wanted to go, then walk, fly or take other transport to get the rest of the way. Naturally, transportation networks grew up around those telehubs. In Calleta, in addition to the SLRR, you can find a pod station with four different routes, leading both to Sansara and further into Heterocera. Right off the shore is a tiny island called the "Hobo Hilton", and here travelers can rest, rez bumper boats or large, floating rubber duckies, or grab a free lighthouse from the nearby dock.

Marianne continued her story about telehubs by saying, "So, the time during the expansion of the telehubs was also before there was an LDPW. What the Lab used to do back then is have contests for builds, or have an interested group 'manage' the hub's build. In Calleta's case, a group of folks fancied themselves hobos and set up a hub along the tracks. Coming into that group of hobos, as well as a number of other builders, was Arcadia Asylum. She built (and built and built) content in Caletta." You can still find Arcadia's freebies throughout the sim.

Over at the Hobo camp, travelers are welcome to sit by the fire, sharing tales of the road along with a bottle of whiskey. Largely designed by resident Orhalla Zander, the camp offers a place for homeless residents of the grid to live, learn, and share content. Hobo culture in Second Life seems strongly reminiscent of American hobo colleges in the early 1900's. Far from the highly-satired image of the hobo during the Great Depression, hobos have been an integral part of American culture since the Civil War. In a fascinating and extensive article from Collector's Weekly called "Don't Call Them Bums: The Unsung History of America's Hard-Working Hoboes, author Lisa Hix comments, "hoboes helped build the very railroads they traveled on, as well as the sewer systems, water lines, roads, bridges, and homes that have filled up the West." They formed a migratory workers union, held annual conventions which are still going on today, and created a Hobo Code of Ethics in 1887, the first law of which is “Decide your own life. Don’t let another person run or rule you.” Membership cards for the International Itinerant Migratory Workers Union contained an oath which began, "I, (name), solemnly swear to do all in my power to aid and assist all those willing to help themselves."

As stated in various Second Life Hobo Network groups, "We are a community working together to build the kind of virtual village we want to live in. Hobos are independent and creative people who need little and share a lot." The groups, including the one at Calleta, provide places to rez and build, and bestow help and advice on SL newcomers...helping all those willing to help themselves.

In addition to the Hobo infohub at Calleta, there is also a Hobo Haven (far right photo, above) at the Virtual Railway Consortium (VRC) in Tuliptree. At the VRC Headquarters, you can find a long wall full of history about railroads in SL, and real-time maps depicting the location of trains and pods throughout the grid (center photo, above). You can also find free open source railroad trains, scripts, builds, and landmark collections. Residents interested in more information about the Second Life Railroad can find it here.

Even those with no interest in the SLRR will enjoy visiting Calleta. Pick up a few freebies, play on the bumper boats, and rest your weary bones by the hobo campfire while listening to songs about riding the rails. You'll be glad you did.

"Looking back along the road I've traveled 
The miles can tell a million tales
Each year is like some rolling freight train
And cold as starlight on the rails"
Rosalie Sorrels: Starlight on the Rails (Utah Phillips)

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Stardancing in Shinda

On Sansara, just north of the Mare Secundus (a fascinating place that deserves its own blog post) is a collection of parcels with a cosmic flair. Here one can stop for a bite to eat at Papa Primbee's Diner (photo below), explore the beach "filled with spaced out nature", then click on the floating moon to port up to Inspire Space Park.

But before you head up, take a look around at ground level. Shinda is a unique sim in that all of the parcels have a similar which even spills over to surrounding sims. Visit an art gallery, climb up the inside of a giant tree, maze your way through a labyrinth, or meditate high above the earth on one of Sharni Azalee's wonderful floating islands. When you are finished exploring, you can click on one of the many floating moons in the area to port high above to the truly magical Space Park.

When you arrive at the Space Park, make sure your WL is set to midnight, and that you have particles enabled. The Space Park has two levels: level one is where most people hang out, and DJs and particle artists regularly perform there, creating a dreamy atmosphere with "the latest in spacey downtempo and mid energy music." A quieter second level is full of places to read, cuddle, or dance with a partner. (Make sure you walk out onto the asteroid path on the second level and into the large planet at the end.)

In addition to the particle shows, visitors will find places to meditate, do tai chi, dance, gaze at the stars, or float into space alone (see photo below) or with a friend. Floating across the Milky Way, I couldn't help but think that Stardance author Jeanne Robinson would've loved it.

There are always people at Inspire, at any given time of day or night, and for a place that was created in 2006 that's really saying something. Occasionally visitors might feel like they've been transported back to 2006 as well, since while at the Park you are always sure to spot facelights, wings, horse avatars, flexi hair, and even bling! Inspire Space Park is kind of a quintessential SL experience, but rather than feeling tacky or outdated, it's actually quite charming.

Owner Earth Primbee calls the Space Park and Nature Preserve below "a cosmic dream that I dream with my co-creators Grafx Newbold and Raphael Cremorne. Together we create a place that inspires beauty, peace, and love to make the universe a better place." In this, I think they've succeeded.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Hanging by a thread in Heterocera

With an extensive system of roads and railways, Heterocera (also known as the Atoll Continent) is a delight to explore. The second continent after Sansara, Heterocera is easily recognizable on a map, shaped as it is like a giant double horseshoe. Three mountain ranges ringing inner and outer lagoons dominate the landscape. Today we will wander to the sim Spini, where one can spot, precariously perched on a hillside, a fascinating little parcel called Fieger's Piece.

Porting to the parcel, I found that owner Fieger Difference was there, remodeling the main building, the Damocles Diner. Looking up, you will spot a train dangling high above the diner, swinging threateningly overhead. "Do you know the myth of Damocles?" asked Fieger. "The train hanging down over the diner is a big hint." In that myth, there is a sword hanging over Damocles' head at dinner, fastened only by a single horsehair. Thankfully, the train seems securely anchored in place.

"Well," remarked Fieger, "I haven't quite got the hang of Railroad track-side service (as you probably noticed), but eventually there will be seating on all levels, and all are welcome to explore." At the top of the parcel, where the tracks split, visitors can take an open-car elevator mid-way down and stop to explore a small sitting pool or a cluttered engineer's office before walking down the hill to the diner. While seated outside, one can view the Moleford Municipal Water Station, Spini Reservoir, directly to the north - a whimsical build by Garden Mole. Fieger reassures potential visitors that it is perfectly safe to dine at Damocles. "I've had this diner over a year," he stated, "and yes, the train and the anchor have held up the whole time."

The diner is set on a terraced hill that leads down to the lagoon, between the Second Life Railroad (above the parcel, obviously), and Route 1 (below). Observant visitors who look at the parcel from the map view will notice that above the railroad tracks is another line running in parallel to Route 1 and the SLRR...but it is more than just a road. Set at the terminus of Route 6 (the High Mountain Road/public bridleway), an impressive recreation of the Great Wall of China runs south through 14 sims, and explorers can travel its length either on top or through a tunnel inside. The first time I went traveled the Wall was actually on a motorcycle, but walking is also enjoyable as there are fantastic views from the top.

The northern entrance to the Great Wall is not far at all from the Damocles Diner. Starting at the Athetis rez zone (photo above), travellers can decide whether they want to explore the Wall to the south, or venture north along the beautifully rustic Route 6 (photo below), one of the most scenic roads on all of the Mainland. Choices, choices. As the scarecrow said, "Pardon me, but this way is a very nice way. It's pleasant down that way, too. Of course, some people do go both ways." Either choice offers a great ramble though many sims. Whichever you decide, enjoy the trip, and make sure you stop at the diner for something to eat!

Saturday, February 6, 2016

But why is the rum gone?

At the far Northwest corner of Satori (also called Maebaleia, or The Japanese Continent) is a small island called Pirate's Cove. It is easily reachable by boat or Yavascript Pod; in fact, the N1 Yavascript route stops there on its way around the coastline. Go to the Yavascript station at Basilisk and choose the N1 route (several routes leave from there) for Southern Nautilus and the NW Maebaleia Islands. If you've never ridden a pod, this is one of the more interesting routes, and a great place to start. But be sure to hop off at the island with the large pirate ship and huge, grinning skull. 

This crescent-shaped island is another mole creation; you can find a great number of interesting mole builds dotting the small islands which surround each continent. On this one you can explore a pirate ship, warm yourself by a campfire, or grab some whiskey from several bottles scattered around the island. If you look carefully, you might even find the pirate treasure, and take away a sapphire crown and a gleaming sword complete with built-in pirate attitude (see picture below). The only thing conspicuously missing was rum.

But the best part of this island might well be the discovery that we all own the large, gleaming skull that dominates the landscape. Created by resident Locke Cardway, you can find a copy in your inventory! Look under:  Library >> Objects >> Sculpt Prims - Examples, and it is called Skullpty2. It is mod/copy/transfer, so you can make it as large or small as you want, for use as a pirate cave or a Shakespearean prop. Alas, poor Yorick, all the rum is gone.

After moving on from Pirate's Cove, the Yavapod tour passes by a number of interesting builds, including Rte. 14 (home to Dead Mole's Curve and the Seven Chicken Bridge), and the impressive remains of the Leviathan on Ahab's Haunt (see below). Created by resident Yavanna Llanfair, Yavascript pod tours cover most of the Linden roads and waterways on the Mainland, and are a great way to see the sights. Not always in the shape of a pod, they also turn into train cars, boats, balloons, or even snowmobiles, depending on the landscape. The main pod station at Durango also houses the pod information centre, where you can find information about the tour commentary and catch a pod through some of the most historic areas of the grid.  

So ahoy, mateys! Choose a route, hop on, tour the Mainland by pod...and plunder some pirate treasure along the way! Just be sure to bring your own rum. 

"He is life! He is love! He has a bejeweled codpiece!"

And so, from Sansara, the oldest of the ten main continents, we travel today to Zindra, the newest. "Oh, Zindra!," I hear you thinking, "now THAT should be interesting!" Sorry to disappoint you, folks, but we're going to church. The First Church of Rosedale (Immersionist), to be exact. Samantha Poindexter, pastor, met me in front of the chapel to give me the Good News about Philip.

Dedicated to the worship of Second Life founder Philip Rosedale (Philip Linden), the tiny chapel is perched on a hill on a charming parcel in Rhianna, and according to Samantha, has been there "since the Rapture brought us to Zindra in July of 2009. Before that," she goes on to say, "we spent a couple months at the top of a mountain on the mainland; before that, Caledon Penzance. The Penzance founder's plaque above the doors on the inside may well be the only one on Zindra." ("The Rapture" is how Samantha refers to the removal of all adult parcels from other mainland locations to Zindra upon its creation.)

The building is adorned with beautiful stained glass windows (see picture, below), alternating images of Philip (no bejeweled codpiece in sight, sadly) with images of stacked prims, the original building block of Second Life. While Samantha no longer holds regular services in the chapel, people still visit to pay their respects. "Awhile back I found a photo on Snapzilla of a wedding that apparently took place here, which I wouldn't otherwise have known about," she said. In addition, several St. Torley's Day celebrations have been held at this location, during which the stained glass windows are changed out to reflect Torley's image in pink and green splendor.

When asked what gave her the idea for the church, Samantha said, "The T-shirts came first. I started with a couple based on the premise that, in SL, Philip Linden was God, and then I got ideas for more, and then the joke totally ran away with me. Or the spirit moved me; take your choice." The t-shirts she is referring to can be found at Samantha's Shirts in Vicina (see my favorite, below). The shirts are all pay-what-you-want sharewear, and although they are old-school system shirts, Samantha mentioned that she was looking into updating them with applier kits.

"Philip Himself once put a few L$ in the collection plate when I was offline, and I was rendered speechless for about 20 minutes when I saw the notification," recalls Samantha. If you enjoy your visit, and wish to support the chapel as well, the collection plate is located on the front step.

Samantha's disclaimer: "The First Church of Rosedale is not affiliated with or endorsed by Philip Rosedale, Philip Linden, Linden Lab, Second Life, or any other person or entity you might care to name, excepting Samantha Poindexter and Samantha's Shirts. Any reference to living, dead, fictional, or nonfictional persons or avatars, without satiric purpose, is unintentional. (But, hoo boy, do we ever indulge in the satire.) All rights reserved, don't take any wooden nickels, and may Phil be with you."

Friday, February 5, 2016

"Let's take a trip to Niagara; this time we'll visit the falls"

A couple of years ago, I asked my partner Ziki if she had ever blogged any Mainland destinations. Her response was to wrinkle her nose and ask, “Why??” I grinned, but I think that’s a pretty typical view of Mainland in Second Life: people complain that the builds are random and often ugly, that there is a lot of low-hanging sky clutter, and that abandoned parcels are everywhere. There is truth to all of those complaints. But Mainland also contains some wonderful hidden gems, expansive transportation networks, and some strong, tight-knit and welcoming communities like Bay City and East River. The resident/builder “moles” of the Linden Department of Public Works (LDPW) have created road and trail systems on each of the ten Mainland continents*, and their creative and often humorous builds dot the landscape. In this blog, I plan to highlight places on the Mainland which are well worth a visit...or two!

Mainland advertisement from the ever-delightful LDPW
After deciding to write about these vast and oft-maligned regions, I was pondering exactly where to begin. Should I start with listing the Mainland continents and giving some history about each? What about highlighting one iconic location, like the sim DaBoom, or the volcano Mt. G'al? Should I start in Bay City, my home away from home on the Grid? Finally, I opened the World Map to Sansara, the first Mainland continent, clicked at random, landed on a small island, and almost immediately had to duck out of the way of an airplane. That small island is the only spot of dry land in the sim Kremer, and consists mainly of a sandy airstrip and a rez zone. A cluster of mostly empty shacks dots the south end of the island, and on the north end, a single wooden pier hosts a working sailboat giver. From there one can set sail across the oddly-named Bay of Space Pigs to such iconic destinations as the Beanstalk.

But first, what’s that big, concrete arrow on the ground nearby?

In first life, a transcontinental air mail route was initiated by the US Post Office in 1920, but those were the days before radar or even any decent aviation charts. Pilots had to navigate from New York to San Francisco and back using only landmarks, which made flying in bad weather or at night nearly impossible. Responding to that situation, in 1924 the Postal Service created a series of bright yellow concrete arrows, connected to beacon towers and placed every ten miles along the route. Most of the beacon towers were torn down in the 1940’s and their steel reclaimed for the war effort, but many of the big concrete arrows remain.  Click here for more information and a wonderfully illustrated 1929 map of the arrow route. In Second Life, the arrow and accompanying beacon at the Kremer airstrip are a nod to this early form of navigation.

There are a great number of very active aviation communities in Second Life, and most of them are located on Mainland sims. The advantage of Mainland for travel is that each of the continents is at least 100 sims linked together, making long distance trips possible. Sim crossings and ban lines can make these trips especially interesting! So pay a visit to Kremer, rez a plane or grab a free boat, and set off on your own adventure. The Mainland awaits! 

"Let's get away from it all"

* There are ten Mainland continents - not counting the Wilderness or Premium Home sims - and those ten are listed here starting with the oldest: Sansara, Heterocera, the Sharp Continent (the old Teen Grid), Jeogeot, Nautilus, Satori, Corsica, Gaeta 1, Gaeta 5, and Zindra.