Friday, August 18, 2017

Interview With Grace Devin (Grace Loudon)

By Bixyl Shuftan

Among those in the Relay Committee this year was Grace Devin (account name Grace Loudon) Grace has been with the Relay for the past several years, and this year was on the Committee. Recently, I had a chance to speak with her about how she ended up in the Relay for Life in Second Life and some of the things that's been done here.

We met up at the American Cancer Society Island, just outside the main building. But sitting down at a table proved slightly complicated, "(laughter) I don't like it when there are so many sitting options. Just give me a sit for goodness sakes."

When I asked her about how she found out about Second Life, Grace answered, "Oh my gosh;  that's a long way back to remember (laughter). I was playing 'There,' and friends started talking about a new place to check out: Second Life. You had to sign upm it was still in Beta. I didn't make the BETA cut but I got in soon after and made a short, squat little woman named Edna Thereian. I lasted a month (laughter). Then I left for awhile, and thought one day, 'Let's give this another try,'  and I never left!"

I asked her, "When did you return, and what was the difference?" Grace told me, "I started Valentine's Day in 2004 - I remember I had such a hard time figuring out how to move around and function...and yes, I got a box stuck on my head...that I decided it just wasn't for me.  I'd say maybe 2 months later I came back, made a new avatar and dived in.  Had to have a little more patience. I also had to have a little money. Seemed to make it more of an amiable place to be in."

"How did your first days after your return go?" I asked. Grace answered, "Oh great!  I don't think my experience was any different from any other person new to Second Life.  When I was new, there were no regions.  It was all mainland and it was very small.  The population was a fraction of what it is now.  There were maybe five shops, four clubs. It was easy to make friends and just hang out and goof off all the time. It was fun."

I then asked her, "When did you first come across the Relay in Second Life?" She replied, "I spent a good six years in Second Life without ever having heard of Relay For Life of Second Life.  I didn't even know American Cancer Society was represented in SL.  I spent a great deal of my time building.  I got to the point where I was building for a living:  roleplay regions, stores, etc.  I joined up with a really good friend and we started a virtual business that pulled in real life companies - we built region representations for them.  Smirnoff Vodka, The Tourism Board for Mexico, we did a representation of Cocos Island for its entry into being a new Wonders of the World. We had just finished that build actually, when my friend went into the hospital for surgery.  The night we finished she went in.  She never came home - she passed from complications from treatment for endometrial cancer."

"I'm sorry to hear that," I responded. Grace went on, "Yeah, it was pretty heartbreaking.  She was only 23.  From that, I learned about the American Cancer Society. And a friend was involved in Relay For Llife, and she asked if I would help out with a couple of things. And viola - sucked in!" "So you came in around 2011?" I asked. "Yep," she answered, "right around them.  Just finished my 6th year with Relay"

My next question was, "How did your first season with the Relay go?" Grace replied, "My first season, I was asked to build a Designer Region.  So I did - and I remember that there was some fuss over the fact I built a castle (bottom of page) and it was right in front of the water region where activities were going to be held, (laughter) 'and Grace makes her entrance.'  But it all went well in the end and it was great fun. The next year, Charlene, who took care of the track setup, asked me to be her assistant and I said 'sure, what could go wrong?' (laughter)"

After a chuckle, I asked, "Heh, so what happened next year?" Grace answered. "The next year I ended up, through a series of circumstances, being the person in charge.  And thus I became the "track boss" for the next few years.  This year or this past year I ventured into being a part of the Steering Committee. Though I still got to be on the track, which I love. 'On the track' meaning I made sure it was there, along with all the tools and fun things.  And (I) coordinated the Designer Regions, as well as Activities."

I then asked Grace, "What would you say your best accomplishments as 'track boss' were?" She answered, "Not beating anyone up? I kid! I don't really think of any of it as an accomplishment to be honest.  Everything is just a list of things that need to be done so we can have an awesome Relay Weekend.  If everyone has a good time and complaints are minimal, then I guess I could call that an accomplishment. But I never do that by myself. There is a whole gang of people who are integral to every bit of it."

"For those who don't know," I inquired, "what is your position on the committee?" Grace replied, "I am the Relay For Life of Second Life Co-Lead !  That means I'm like Nuala (Maracus)'s (The Lead) assistant.  One of them, there is also Leala Spires.  We are both Co-Leads. So we're backup, the posse, the crew (laughter). Relay this year was split into three areas - Bring the People, Bring the Fun, and Fund the Mission. I was the 'Bring the Fun' person.  Or as we like to refer to it:  'Bring da Funk.'" "So there was lots of funky music?" I asked. She answered, "Every chance we got! (laughter)"

"It was great being the lead for that area, truly," Grace went on, "Lots of creative thinking, brainstorming sessions, party planning, making things, And the people were phenomenal." I asked her, "What were some of the best examples of creative thinking?" She explained, "Every time we had to plan an event, something awesome came out of it.  We were all about 'breaking that box,' so we strived to create things that were new and never done before, or at least not done the way we did them.  For example, our Paint SL Purple and Kickoff events, normally two separate events.  We combined them into one and made it a Purple Kickoff.  Recognition was a ,department, this year, and we had to think of new, fun ways to recognize people like our volunteers, survivors, etc.  From music playing, eggs, to giant greeting cards that said 'cow in the heck are ya?'  Also, we created the Passport Hud for tools and links that everyone used.  Lots and lots of stuff for Relay Weekend as well."

Grace added, "I have to give a lot of credit to my real-life/Second Life partner as well; Sean.  He put up a lot of the funding that came up for specific script needs that were above my pay grade.  He created some tools for our use and generally exercised a great deal of patience and understanding the entire season." "Nice. Did you both come to the Relay together?" I asked her. She answered, "We did!  He doesn't like titles or being held to a position of responsibility so he has always been my background support.  Doing what he needs to do to help and watch over things when I ask him to: Big, strong silent type (smile)."

"Going back a bit," I told Grace, "you described yourself as into building and roleplaying. What kind of building did you do, and what roleplaying group and area?" She answered, "Well, when I got my first region I created a place called Laura, which is a location known to those who roleplay Gor.  I played a panther chieftess. If you're not familiar with Gor. it's sort of a female native/tribal type.  I was one of the first to play that role too by the way - little feather in my cap.  Anyway I did that for a long time, and during those couple of years I learned a lot about building and terraforming.  Then I got pretty good at it, so I started building for other people.  Eventually, I switched my own roleplay to Medieval Fantasy and built a place called Everwind, which became wildly popular.  By then I was building outside of roleplay quite regularly for a fee.  Roleplay regions for other people, shopping districts, started my own business of prefabs and furniture, etc.  Then got into the building that I told you about with my friend who passed."

"There was a time I was turning business away!" Grace told with enthusiasm, "Then Second Life grew and grew and before you knew it, there were twenty of 'me' out (in) their building regions." "Twenty people who were doing much the same work as you?" I asked. "Well, they may not have built in the same style I did," she answered, "but there was suddenly a lot of people building and it was not longer me among a few.  It was now me among a whole lot.  So the competition to get business increased, as it does regularly in Second Life, and eventually I lost interest.  Especially after the death of Katherine (my friend), I just lost the zeal for it."

I brought up, "What happened with Everwind"? Grace answered, "I closed Everwind after a couple of years and created a Steampunk Roleplay Region called Rivet Town! This also had some moderate success and I really enjoyed building it.  I can't sit still most of the time - my mind is always thinking about what I can do next (laughter). After Rivet Town, I did Everwind 2 - again, had a lot of success. But eventually I grew tired of roleplay and just stuck to Relay." "Sounds like some events, such as the Fantasy Faire, bring back some memories," I suggested. "Oh yes indeed," Grace responded, "I'd love to create for that. Maybe this, next year."

Grace then told. "In fact, as far as big-scale building goes; this island, ACS Island, is the first I've done in a long time." "So you made the builds for ACS Island?" I asked. "Yes," she answered, "What you see here I did.  I asked to do it, and yay!  I was allowed." I panned around, looking at the various structures, "Which of these places required the most planning and work?" "The Memorial Garden, she stated "by a landslide. It was so important to keep it subtle, yet significant.  To make it a place of importance, but not the main feature of American Cancer Society (Island)." "The Catt Gable Garden?" I asked. "Yes," she answered.

Grace explained of the memorial garden, "Catt started the garden on ACS, and she did a lovely job of it.  The problems we ran into however were the abundance of gifts that were left in memoriam.  Also, people felt like the setup created a bit of a maze, which was not intentional but the space was small for it and Catt worked hard to achieve that subtle aspect. She didn't want it to be so obvious when you landed. So I tried to keep a lot of her idea when I re-did it.  And I had to create a system to pay respects with flowers or candles, but not have those items just remain indefinitely. I also wanted to ensure it was a place to reflect, remember, to sit and feel at peace. And of course, memorialize Catt (smile). If you notice, along the path as you walk on the region, there are small portraits lining the walk. Those portraits are all of survivors.  To remind anyone who visits or comes for support, that there is hope. And it doesn't become about a memorial garden or a tribute to those who have passed.  Because many are still here - surviving!"

I then brought up a question that had been on my mind since the Relay Weekend sims first appeared, "Going back to the Relay, you mentioned you were once the 'Track boss.' There were a few people who noticed about the track for this one being several sims shorter than last year." Grace answered, "Yes, we took off some regions this year.  We tried to be smart about the expenses and thought every bit that we spend on what we don't truly need, we take from the donations.  So we dropped regions that just weren't necessary this year. We ended up with every region being sponsored, every region being paid for and not one penny had to come out of the fundraising totals to cover Relay Weekend. The same applied to events like Halfway There and Wrap Up - we decided not to rent a region for any events that really just didn't need it. It's nice to have and pretty to look at when decorated but is it truly necessary?"

I then brought up, "Also, for the first time in a while, the theme for next season wasn't announced at the wrap-up. When will it be announced?" Grace confessed, "Well honestly, I don't know!  We truly don't have the answer yet. There is a lot that we want to put on the table and sort out for next year.  A lot of responsibilities, things that we do or have done that are somewhat unnecessary or obsolete.  We want to try to knock out what takes a lot of time with no real measurable results.  And want very much for the people involved in putting it all together to be able to step away, sleep, not stress (laughter)." "Sounds like there may be some big changes next year," I wondered. Grace responded, "Stingray is an important part of that decision making so at this point we are all just taking a breather then we'll get together and sort it out, figure out the structure for the next year and how/when to proceed.  Some changes may be big, and there could be only one or two small changes.  It's just really, really up in the air at this moment.  But decisions will be made very soon.  I'm sure we'll have a theme!  We just might ask for suggestions later than the norm."

I then brought up the two off-season Relay-related events later this year, Making Strides for Breast Cancer, and the Christmas Expo. Grace smiled, "Absolutely!  Strides is planning a walk soon and I know Nuala already has her Christmas Expo laid out (laughter)." I smiled, "What does she have in store for us?" Grace answered, "Oh gosh, I have no idea!  I don't think I'll be working on it this year, unless she plans to surprise me with a request to help.  We may just have to wait and see!"

I then asked, "So what are your plans for next year?" Grace responded, "I suppose more of this!  (laughter) Every year I keep telling myself I have to turn it over to someone else now.  My world outside of Second life is busy, busy!  I have two kids, I sing, and have a band and we travel a lot, I actually have to curb my schedule for Relay season; my plate is quite full!  But then here I am, right back in the thick of it all (smile)  It's not easy to just step away when you see how much of an impact what you do has on the progress made in finding a cure. I feel like I might miss something if I'm not in the middle of it all."

I finally asked, "Was there anything else you wanted to add?" Grace thought for a moment, "I think there is just one more thing.  I think that everyone gets tired.  We get tired of staying up late, we get tired of trying to make everything right and perfect, we get tired of trying to work with the different personalities of everyone involved in Relay.  We get tired of doing things certain ways, we get tired of changes, we get tired of fighting, of dealing with pain, illness, losing loved ones.  I know that tired - I feel it too.  But the moment we give up because we're tired, is the moment everything we have worked for and want to continue to work for becomes to big to defeat.  I hear this said in a movie once:  'What can you expect to accomplish if you are just one drop in an ocean?' he answer was 'But what is an ocean but a series of drops all together.'  That is Relay, and that is us.  We need to never stop being those drops in the ocean." She paused for a moment, "I may not have gotten it word for word but close enough!"

It was about then we parted ways, "Thanks, Bixyl (smile).  I appreciate that you wanted to hear from me."

Image Credits: IshtarAngel Micheline, Softpaw Sommer

Bixyl Shuftan

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Cleopatra Xigalia and the Ephesians Four Christian Community

By Bixyl Shuftan

Not long ago, I traveled to the Faravari sim on the mainland to meet up with Cleopatra Xigalia, who wanted to talk about the Ephesians Four Christian community that she was part of. Cleopatra was one of a group of people at the spot I arrived at, a resting place with some pillows and chairs and a hammock under some palm trees. I had been there earlier for a live music event, and Cleopatra welcomed me back. Cleopatra told me that conversations at the place could be in voice, chat, or both. We decided on chat so I could take down more information.

One of the women there offered to record the conversation. Another responded, "need to fix my hair and make up (giggle), just joking." "I haven't started the record. and make your make up (giggle)." A third girl grinned, "need to put on a longer skirt ... funny in real-life I spend all day filming people. Now ... there is cam crew filming here." A fourth lady commented, "I trust you *name), I am sure you'll make me look cute *giggles*. Okay I'll be quiet (laughter)." More would continue to drop in as we talked.

When I asked Cleopatra where the idea for the group got started, she answered, "I dont know where to start." She had been talking with a friend, "about having Christian hangout sort of place maybe over a year ago. And then someone else I know wanted to also do it. And Ceasar (her partner) and I were led to have one. So there was a group of us who seemed to have the same need, to find fellowship with other Christians in Second Life and have a place to do that. So when the sim was set up, we had no idea what to expect really. Then one by one people came, and we bonded in Christ. We study His word. We get to know each other."

It was about then that one person, Jamiela1, dropped in and greetings were exchanged. Cleopatra told me she "was drawn back in to Second Life, and then found us right after logging back in. It seemed that in Second Life, there are Christian sims. But for us ... um, they didnt meet the full need. We saw a gap, sort of, if you know what I mean. There were classes, bible studies, but not really place for us to meet and spend time together building bonds in such a way as Christians."

Ckeopatra explained, "Here is a passage from one of our studies on fellowship.last week. 'Ephesians 4 is a sim founded on the idea of fellowship.  But what does that word, "fellowship" really mean?  Is it swapping life stories about ourselves?  Is it sharing the Gospel at campfires with visiting nonbelievers?  Is it keeping to our own Christian community, growing ourselves to the exclusion of other believers?' It is a critical part of the Christian life. It is essential for new believers. It is a direct call from God for us to have unity." Jamiela1 commented, "I think this is a Christian Hangout that welcomes fellowship along with Bible Studies and open discussions. We welcome the curious of faith....the new in faith and the experienced in hopes to help us all in our journey of the Written Word (Bible) and to what God plans for us all."

I asked Cleopatra where did the name "Ephesians Four" came from? She answered, "The name came after we had prayed about what to call the group. So the chapter in Ephesians has the essence of what we wanted to provide here. It is about unity and maturity in Christ. How we grow together and use our Spiritual gifts in a unique way within the Body of Christ. We are *one.*" Several others expressed their agreement, "Fellowship with the purpose of also bringing others to Christ. We share our burdens with each other, prayer for each other. We praise God and the goodness he does in our lives. We play games and hang out. We go sailing. We have music ministry too. ... Jamiela leads the Bible studies and coordinates that. Caesar provides the sim for us to use."

Cleopatra mentioned the people in the group were from around the world, the United States, Scotland, England,Germany, Holland, India, France, Philippines, Denmark, Mauritius Island, Italy, Switzerland, Ireland, Finland, Israel,Canada, Jamaica, and probably a few others. "We have many discussions with many all over the world," Jamiela1 told me. Cleopatra nodded, "We get some interesting visitors, we have lots of interesting discussions." "Yes, we learn about everyone's experiences all over the world."

What experiences did they have? Cleopatra mentioned, "We had a gigantic dragon visitor." Another answered, "I learned the word 'yuckie' and Jesus is God." After a moment, she spoke again, "not in the same sentence." That caused a few chuckles. Jamiela commented, "... to me so many to name. ... Everyone has an interesting story once they become comfortable" One person spoke, "Sometimes people come here and talk about their problems and we pray for them and with them."

Jamiela1 stated, "We study from the King James Version of the Bible so we have many who come curious, and many faithful." I asked if they used more recent translations of the Bible. Jamiela1 answered, "Many people use different translations, but we follow and are guided by King Jame Version." Cleopatra told me, "We use the NIV too, any translation that helps us understand, also going back to the Greek.  One way we learn is in discussions of the Bible, so usually yeah, KJV is the go-to. Butour style of teaching is more discussion type, Bixyl, very participative. Some people here are very new to their Faith and understanding. Some people have been believers for decades." Jamiela1, "Some other versions give more modern terms and translate to modern usage, but can loose somewhat the true translation. so we always refer back to the KJV."

Cleopatra added, "We learn about God from reading and studying the Word, and from living and gaining experience applying His Word to our lives directly. 2 Timothy 3:16, All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, we also learn from each other. Proverbs 27: 17 As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another." Jamiela stated, "The core of this group sticks to the teaching from the KJV."

Cleopatra moved to another subject, "We laugh a lot too," then smiled. Jamelia1 chuckled, "Eheheh, yes." I asked what gets the most laughter around here. Jamiela1 answered, "We laugh about lots of things, people telling about their everyday, fun things we experience in the same way, just a joy of being together makes us happy." Cleopatra added, "We sing too." One of the others commented, "We are not demure all the time. Sometimes we act like children (smile) and we sing joy joy joy." Cleopatra told me, 'We are singing and laughing now, Bix. (She) right now makes us laugh." Jamiela commented, "And sometimes we are just silly."

Cleopatra then moved on, "Some things we do though are very very serious. People bring real problems to us and issues." One man commented, "We had a woman share her story about losing her children.It was moving to see and her. That's the key in our fellowship to build each other up and comfort each other in the word of God." "It is very real here," Cleopatra told me. "We truly are here for and with each other," Jamiela added. Another stated, "That is the point! We are real and our faith is real. It's not a roleplay."

Cleopatra told me, "We dont have a 'pastor' or have sermons in the church. We are here for each other in fellowship. We aren't a church. We are *the* Church." The man commented, "We are the Church as it was intended originally." One girl commented, "Sometimes we also just hangout without doing something, just sitting around in silence and enjoy not being alone alone ... brothers and sisters in front of God." "We are safe here and are secure in our silence," Jamiela added, "We are together for one another."

Someone commented, "We are by no means Teletubby Christians." I asked if he meant televangelists. He laughed and Jamiela1 told me he meant the kids show, the man going in, "We dont jump in the air and shout how good we feel and how everything is sweet and fine." Jamiela1 added, "Right we live real lives and have real struggles and we come together for each other. And sometimes do things together just for a safe fellowship, hangout, with great people. We have dinner with each other, sharing what we fixed and or eating. We are real, not roleplay. ... We find comfort with each other as we are on our journey with GOD and the real struggles, pain, heartache and joy that comes with life."

I asked about some of the challenges the group has had over time. Cleopatra told me, "We have only been here since May, so we didn't know what to expect. We had to get more chairs for one." She also mentioned griefers, "I think there were seven of them at one of our first events. ... Last night we had a couple trolls." I asked how often they show up.Cleopatra told me, "Less than I expected actually." One other challenge was the group was getting larger in size, "growing kinda fast. So we just take this one day at a time, and look to God's word for what we are to do and how to handle things. We have struggles daily. We look to the word for how to handle them. The Bible gives us instruction on how to handle these." Jamiela1 added, "We seem to be able at the end of the day handle through God what we deal with each day."

I asked what their plans were if the group continues to grow. Jamiela1 answered, "We do have discussions about it, but have nothing set in stone at this time really. As the need comes, we try to deal and discuss accordingly." Cleopatra told me, "We plan to continue to follow God's direction. We will not ask for donations or rent land or take up offerings. We will do as the Bible teaches us, to walk daily with Him and have faith that He wills how us what to do next. If we get too big, God will tell us what to do. We are handling it fine so far it seems.  We deal with things as they come." One man stated, "If the group  at some point will expand we hope to reach more people and be even more  activities  in what we do. That also means more responsibility. ... As our core continues to grow, we will eventually get more ability to spread more activities over more people and therefor we become more effective." Cleopatra told me, "Most people find us from search. Some send their friends and some bring others. As we grow we share the responsibility and work. As God brings more people to us, our core group will grow and more people will contribute their spiritual gifts."

I asked about their more memorable events. Cleopatra told me there was a music concert not long ago attended by more than a dozen that was probably their most memorable, "We also had a great little pool tourney the other night in Ceasar's office, playing secondlife billiards pool table. People just gather and we had someone there from Greece and Brazil." Jamiela1 added, "We have had a few game events where we played pool or chess. We are still so new, we haven't had many, but they have all been memorable." Cleopatra mentioned of the concert, "someone ... told us she was getting baptized the next day."

"If you know what I mean," Cleopatra told me, "in the end it is *all* for God. So we are here for each other, yes, to grow together, but of course in the end our mission is the spread the Word." She pointed to a nearby structure, "The lighthouse is on the sim in the corner. We are here to be light."

Cleopatra would show me around their land, places like a gelato (ice cream) ship, a coffee house, "If you notice, there are lots of pianos, a little garden, we made a lot of smaller gathering places in the sim. We have lessons here too." She also mentioned the boats, "Ceasar's boats are in the harbor and people get taken on rides and stuff. He likes to sail and taking people to the Blake Sea from here." There was also a ballroom, a church, "this is just used for people to sit and pray or meditate onthe word. We dont really have a pastor or sunday services or anything." There was also a Tardis in the area, "The Tardis does bring some interesting people sometimes too."

It was about then that Cleopatra and I parted ways, "I hope you had a good time visiting us."

Faravari (150/85/25)

Bixyl Shuftan

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Interview with Deaflegacy

By Wesley Regenbogen

Wesley Regenbogen, "Question one:  How did you find out about Second Life and how did you manage to get started?"

DeafLegacy Resident, "Someone who I used to know in real life was the one who told me about Second Life.  I got interested and asked him how I can join.  He helped me out.  When I got on Second Life, I met some peopl,e and that was how I got started here."

Wesley Regenbogen, "Question two: How did you get involved in Virtual Ability and how did that reflect your experience here in Second Life?"

DeafLegacy Resident, "The same person who introduced me to Second Life was a member of Virtual Ability.  I met Gentle Heron, and I found out what Virtual Ability is all about.  I asked to become a member and ever since then, I've been with the group.  It reflects my experience in Second Life a great deal because I'm disabled and as far as I know, there had been no misunderstanding, which is fantastic."

Wesley Regenbogen, "Question three:  You are also a reporter for SL Newser. How did you get involved in SL Newser?  As I understand you are a writer in real life as well."

DeafLegacy Resident, "Well, there is one person I'd like to give credit to for introducing me to the Newser.  It would be you, who introduced me to Bixyl Shuftan, and I asked him if I could be a reporter.  Bixyl said yes, and on that day, I've became a reporter.  It is true that I am a writer in real life as well.  So far, I've written two stories, and hope to write a third story soon."

Wesley Regenbogen, "Question four: Was it difficult for you to get started in Second Life, because of your disability in real life? I understand Virtual Ability helps people with disabilities in Second Life and does a great job at doing so."

DeafLegacy Resident, "I met Gentle Heron on the first day I was on Second Life.  I became a member on that day.  It wasn't hard because someone who introduced me to Second Life was a member of Virtual Ability.  That helped me a lot, even though I have no idea if that person is still around in Virtual Ability."

Wesley Regenbogen, "Question five: How long have you been member of Virtual Ability ?"

DeafLegacy Resident, "I have been on Second Life for two years now.  So I've also been a member of Virtual Ability for two years."

Wesley Regenbogen, "Question six: What role do you have in Virtual Ability or are you just a member of it ?"

DeafLegacy Resident, "I'm just a member."

Wesley Regenbogen< "Question 7, If you would meet another person in Second Life that has a disability, would you introduce them to Virtual Ability and guide them around SL?"

DeafLegacy Resident, "Yes, I would."

Wesley Regenbogen, "Question eight: What plans do you have in your Second Life in the near future?"

DeafLegacy Resident, "I hope to continue renting the land parcels I have now until it's no longer possible. And I also hope to continue being a reporter and a photographer for SL Newser."

Wesley Regenbogen, "I wish you all of the luck and hope you will do what you like here in Second Life. Thank you for taking the time for doing this interview."

DeafLegacy Resident, "Thank you, Wesley."

Wesley Regenbogen

Friday, July 21, 2017

Interview with Gem Sunkiller

By Deaflegacy

Gem Sunkiller and I met at the Relay for Life sims making up the track for this year's Relay Weekend.  My first question was about Gem being a part of the Relay. "Oh...that is a very long story," she answered, "I'll try to condense it.  In 2011 I lost my mother to metastatic colon cancer.  I found myself on the RFL track that Relay weekend in the wee hours of the morning.  The Event Chair at the time, MamaP Beerbaum walked with me for a bit, she both comforted and invited me to be a part of Relay For Life." said Gem.  "Jumped in with both feet in 2012, forming Team Shadow with SL Family and Friends."

Gem had been the captain of Team Shadow and had served in a variety of positions on the committee.  Gem helped with Outreach this year. She chuckled, "You might call me an unofficial cheerleader for Relay in SL." Her Relay team, Team Shadow, has around 30 people from a variety of communities on second Life.  They have recently added several new members.

When I asked Gem what her hope and goal are, she has this to say.  "My hope for Team Shadow, beyond the prayer that we are not needed next year because a cure has been found, I hope we Relay the right way, for the right reasons.  It's our desire to help other Relayers reach their goals.  As far as goals. Relay Goal is to finish the fight."

The biggest event of the year for Team Shadow varied year to year.  This year, they hosted a 12 hour "Country for a Cure" event that featured DJ's from five teams.  It was successful beyond their expectation, raising over 140,000 Linden dollars.  They hope to replicate that success for Making Strides and again next Relay season. "Outreach is one of my favorite things." said Gem.

I asked Gem if someone asks about RFL as well as Team Shadow, what would Gem say. "So when someone asks about RFL, I am always happy to give information about the movement here in SL.  I also try to steer them to forming a team, or participating in any way they find appropriate." said Gem. "When someone asks about Team Shadow, well, I tell them we are an open minded and accepting group of people who are insanely passionate about finding a cure, and funding the mission.  And invite them to come join the fun."


Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Back to Normal: A Look Back At The "Bid Me Human" and "Platinum Challenge"

By Bixyl Shuftan

On Monday June 19 started a period of a little more than two weeks when I wasn't quite myself. For the latest round of "Bid Me" events of my community's Relay for Life team, the Sunbeamers, I had volunteered for a "Bid Me Human." Although I had changed briefly to a human avatar for short periods of time over the years, I hadn't volunteered to be one for a "Bid Me" event since the days of the Passionate Redheads in May 2011. The result of that was me being stuck in the look for a month. This time, the Sunbeamer chief ruled it was for two weeks, although it would turn out to be nine days, with a catch.

Besides the shorter time involved, it didn't affect me so much this time as the slightly awkward feeling I had at the clubs at the start of last time. I was still being asked to dance. I was still able to dress in theme much of the time, such for the "Video Game" party in which I went as a "Rust" player (picture to the left). And the reaction I got from others, furry and human alike, was mostly positive. There were a couple exceptions. One was one girl who felt, "That avatar is not you." The other was an incident when a friend invited me over to a country music club whose attendance was all human except possibly a couple neko avatars. Someone there, seeing my avatar's black appearance, made some remark about an "interracial sim."

Considering in real life, my appearance is white, I once had a black boss, and one church in the area has it's sign in both English and Korean, if that was some kind of joke, I missed the point entirely. I only spent a short time in the place before events called me elsewhere, so I didn't see any immediate response. I was later told by the person who invited me that the guy who made the remark had been told by the club owner not to do that again if he wanted to be able to keep coming over.

Then on Sunday June 25 came another development, the Sunbeamers reaching Platinum Rank in their fundraiseing total. Earlier, the team's chances of hitting the next level after Gold were iffy, so I had told team leader Rita Mariner, and others, that if the team made Platinum, I'd go female for a week. That got a chuckle of of Rita, and made it part of her next announcement to the group.

Males going about as girls in Second Life can be a touchy subject, especially with occasional stories of "catfishing." So I almost never changed to one, or rather deliberately as the jokes about glitches and "ruthing" go, and never went about in public as one, doing so only rarely  to show a girl in private what a certain avatar would look like, or a couple certain pictures for articles. I even wrote about the subject once in response to Becky Shamen's article , saying the "dos" and "don'ts" about it could be a little complicated with gray areas that appear different hues to different people. But an enormous amount of money going to charity from it, to me that seemed like a good enough reason.

I had thought the Sunnies had a fair chance of reaching the goal, so an idea came to me: go as Rita's double. I saw this as a playful poke in the ribs, though as some who prefer furry avatars take their unique appearance seriously and react badly to perceived "copying," I talked to a few people first to make sure Rita wouldn't freak. It turned out planning ahead was a good idea as Cynthia Farshore and Shockwave Yareach's steampunk land and air racing event was the most successful event the Sunbeamers ever had. So yours truly had to own up, Rita saying she was expecting to see my new look at the Cutlass party Wednesday June 28. So I got a white kani female, found a white hairpiece for it (ironically the style was also called a "Rita"), found a couple smaller bunny feet that resembled the catlike ones Rita had, though mine had bigger claws. As for the dress, fortunately finding that wasn't hard as Rita had once told me and others during a party what brand it was. One friend helped by giving me a title in her group, "Bunny Chieftess." So on Wednesday night, I dropped in and while everyone else was still rezzing, and presumably I was to them, I walked right up to Rita. After the usual "Hey Bixyl," there was silence followed by "whoah" and laughter. Rita was among those laughing, telling me I did a great job, "Good going Bixyl, you got me," and we both posed for a picture for a group announcement for the community.

So after that, the reaction was almost entirely positive. One friend pretended to be upset I wasn't trying to do a tribute to her appearance. As she was busty, I joked that I'd get a backache just looking at my avatar (contrary to the opinion of some, not all males go ga-ga at the sight of large breasts, and some can find sympathy for the back pain and other challenges of well-endowed women). But another reason was I wasn't as good a designer and fashionista as she was. Someone thought I could have done a slightly more realistic job on the feet, but considering I was trying to get as close to Rita's look as possible it was pretty good. To those who don't know Rita, she has something of an act of being an aggressive alpha doe bunny with an attraction for other girls' "booty," though she's always careful only to tease those she knows. I'd occasionally imitate her in chat as a joke, which got a few chuckles. Going about at events outside the Sunweaver and Angel areas, there were a few "Ms. Shuftan" comments, but no one gave me a hard time. At the Second Life Birthday, almost no one spoke a word about it.

Someone did joke that I'd be enjoying the "look from behind." In short, I didn't get the same feeling from looking at the avie as other female avatars, maybe because it was supposed to be "me." I had wondered a little if some guys would make a pass at me, but that never happened. What did happen was there were several girls who suggested I could stay in that form, probably as a joke ... probably. I did still end up getting dances from a few girls. I guess they knew this was all in the name of fun. And I was openly saying this was no big deal, "I can go without peeing standing up for a week." For the Independence Day party at the Happy Vixen, I even got her a dress from a Relay shopping event for a one time use. The following day would be the last for the "Rita clone," at least for a long, long time.

So now, back to my normal foxy self. Though I would still occasionally change looks, such as the skunkboy for the "Black and White" event at Cutlass a couple days later, I was sticking with being furry and male. But already, I have people asking what will I do for next Relay season when the Sunnies hit Platinum again. In short, I don't know yet. But there's a year to think about it. And in any event, it was, different, going about in the other form. But I won't be doing it again, at least not without another enormous amount of money going to charity.

Bixyl Shuftan

Monday, July 10, 2017

Interview With Wesley Regenbogen

By Deaflegacy

Wesley Regenbogen is one of the four reporters currently writing for the Second Life Newser. I got a chance to ask Wesley to tell me all about his writing career. He and I met at the Cobras Motorcycle Club's area. "I started my virtual journalism career in a virtual world called 'Cybertown'," said Wesley.  "I saw that they were looking for writers, so I applied for a job as a virtual journalist at the CVN ( Cybertown Virtual News ). The editor asked me to send in a sample article and first I thought 'here goes nothing.'  But eventually the editor replied back to me that the article was good enough for publication, so he asked me if I was interested in joining his team of writers for CVN.  I agreed to join them, and then I wrote more and more articles about what was happening in Cybertown. My articles became better and better and the editor promoted me to CVN Deputy and assigned me with other tasks within CVN."

But then the ownership of Cybertown went to new owners and they decided to become a paid membership site only, so Wesley decided to leave the virtual world of Cybertown and also the virtual newspaper Wesley was writing for.  Wesley wandered around the web and found a few other virtual worlds that were somewhat similar, but they didn't have the same "feeling" as Wesley had in

Finally, Wesley's luck changed, "In November 2006, I joined Second Life after I saw a video about it on the web. I decided to join in and after looking around for virtual newspapers around Second Life, I came across SL Newspaper and contacted the owner ( James T Juno ). He asked me to come for an interview and he decided that I could write for them and so I did for a while."

But Wesley would soon take a break, "I took a hiatus from Second Life, because I lost interest in Second Life at the time.  A few years later, I returned, but found out that SL Newspaper didn't exist anymore, so I tried to find similar virtual newspapers in Second Life, but I found none at the time."

Wesley would look again later, "In July 2014 I came back to Second Life and found out about SL Newser and I send in a sample article and to my surprise it was accepted and I could join in the team of writers. Ever since, I'm writing for SL Newser and hope I can write for them as long as I can."

And what was Wesley doing in a motorcycle club?  He explained, "Well, let me start at the beginning. I wanted to start a awareness campaign for 'Be The Match' and I was contacted by Mightbe Shelter here in Second Life and we talked about 'Be The Match' and stuff. Then she told me about the Cobras MC and that they have done the campaign for Be The Match in the past. So, she was very helpful in trying to explain it and gave me advice and stuff that they made before." said Wesley. "Then she told me about Cobras MC and that they wanted to help me and support me for Be The Match.  So that's how I got to know about Cobras MC."

Wesley went on to say that he just joined the rides and their events, "Yes, it's a friendly bunch of people and I like the rides and events they are holding here." After a while, he started as a  Prospect with them.  After a month, Wesley was "patched in" on Sunday, June 4, 2017.

I asked him if he would continue his work with Be The Match while being with Cobras.  "Yes, I hope to start the Be The Match campaign soon, just need to figure out how to do it and stuff. I hope to launch the campaign soon. I have been trying to get someone from the organization into Second Life, but it seems not to be easy." said Wesley.

I asked Wesley if he is planning on staying in the club for a long time.  "Yes, I'm planning on staying forever, I guess," said Wesley. He went on to say that people can join them at the rides if they want as well as to participate in the events of Cobras MC.

I asked Wesley if he consider his decision to join Cobras MC to be the best move.  Wesley  said, "Of course, as I mentioned earlier, they are a friendly bunch of people and I haven't regretted joining the Cobras MC."

Indeed, I hope that Wesley Regenbogen would write for the SL Newser as long as he can.  Wesley is a remarkable reporter. 

Friday, July 7, 2017

How To Get From Zero to Hero (aka Patched) in the Combras Motorcycle Club

By Wesley Regenbogen

Introduction to Cobras MC

Cobras MC is a Second Life motorcycle club ( MC ) which I wrote about last month (link to article). They have a club and track on the sims of Rock Valley and Appletor. After some time with them, I was invited to join. In this article I will explain which steps you need to take if you are interested in joining the Cobras MC.
First I just “hung around” and later I prospected with them for about a month or so.
On the 4 th of June 2017 I was “patched in”. “Patched in” means you are a full member of the Cobras MC.
In this article I will explain which steps you need to take if you are interested in joining the Cobras MC. Cobras MC is a voice active MC in Second Life, so you will need to have a microphone or a headset ( with a microphone ) to communicate with them. But also typing is allowed, of course.

Step 1 : Become a “hang around”

When people first visit Cobras MC and hang around with the people that are there, they are often referred to as “hang arounds.” Basically, the people need to get to know you and you need to get to know the people. You are encouraged to use voice in Second Life, so people can talk to you, rather then just typing. If people can’t voice, they can type, of course.

Hang around as much as you can and join the rides and events when you are able to. This gives you an opportunity to get to know people and see if you like it or not. You can get a “Venom” title after they send you an invite. A “Venom” is like a supporter title, this means you are a supporter of the Cobras MC.

Step 2 : Become a “Cobras Venom”

Once you “hang around” more frequently, you will be invited to become a “Cobras Venom”.
This is a title given to you when you join in at rides and are present at the events most of the times. Officers can give these titles to people whom want to keep being informed of what the Cobra MC is doing.

To become a prospect you first become a Cobras Venom. If you want to prospect, the main requirement is you must voice.

Step 3: Applying to become a Prospect

When you are ready to start your Prospect career at Cobras MC, you need to contact a recruiter and speak ( by voice ) to them and let them know you are ready to start prospecting. They will ask you to meet up with them and ask you some questions. They also ask that you can do voice. When one of the officers asks you to voice, you need to be able to.

If they think you are suitable, you get a prospect vest and you need to wear it at all times and also your prospect tag when you are at the Cobras MC. Depending on the Prospect it can take a few weeks to about a month to prospect. This is a fun time, enjoy it. They get to know you and you get to know them, remember that.

Occasionally, you will get hazed to see if you fit the MC. Don’t worry, it’s all in the name of fun. Ride with them at the noon rides and participate in the events and you’ll get to know people better and they surely will get to know you better in the process as well.

One piece of advice : be nice and follow the instructions of the officers and you’ll do great, trust me.

Step 4 : Getting “patched in” into Cobras MC

Once your prospect period has almost come to an end, you will be asked for a second interview ( by voice ). This is a normal interview without questions. After this meeting up with the officers or the execs, they will vote for you the next Sunday meeting.

When you get enough votes, will be “patched in” and you are a full member of the Cobras MC. Only full patched members can vote to get prospects “patched in”. So, once you are “patched in” you can vote for prospects as well.

Congrats to those that got “patched in” !!!

Wesley Regenbogen