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Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Interview with Nydia Tungsten about "Switched Destinies"


By Bixyl Shuftan

Nydia Tungsten is known for many things in Second Life, DJ, estate manager, community leader, video director, and writer. Of her writing talents, she has recently applied them to real-life. Earlier this week, she announced her novel "Switched Destinies" has appeared on Amazon.

"It was a LONG time coming," Nydia told me of the story finally being published, saying it had taken "about eight months or so" to write. Of where the idea came from, "When I was 18 I think, I had a rough idea hit me. I tried to put it down then, (but) got poo-pooed by family, so I gave it up. ... It was too, strange for them. The lead character was a cougar, in a human world. This was WAY before I ever even HEARD the word furry (laughter). This was MANY moons ago."

So what made her decide to give the story another try? She explained, "I was riding with my brother in his truck, spending many an hour just watching the world go by. Then one day I let my mind wander, and I found (the story) again. It was like saying hello to an old friend. I spoke to my brother about it, and he told me to get it out of my system and see where it goes. So he bought me a laptop and I started putting it down."

"The next hurdle was finding someone to help editing it," she went on, "My daughter and a few others helped me with it. My daughter read it when she was, 12 I think. She took over my laptop and read it...and read it and read it, she would have read the whole thing in one go if I didn't take it away and make her go to sleep. When she did finish, she was raving about it and about how I HAD to publish it because (according to her) it was better than any of the 'Harry Potter' books she read. I told her she was just being nice and I almost had a fight on my hands (laughter)."

So what is the story about? The description on Amazon is, "Two souls, viewed by many of their kinds’ as eccentric lunatics, suddenly find themselves switched within their parallel universes. Now in strange new lands, each is having to learn about the other side of the mirror. In the all new Switched Destinies.” The story is a science-fiction/fantasy one in which a human scientist, Kevin Baron, ends up changing places with his counterpart in a universe where the world is populated by anthropomorphic beings, or furries, such as cat people, rabbit people, and many other varieties.

But a population made up of people looking like various animals is just the first surprise, "He finds a new culture and some shocking surprises, but also a few friends along the way." The society is roughly Medieval in technology, "Honor and status it what 90% of what their society is built on. Weapons consist of swords and bows, for the most part. Most can use some form of magic, and some can be really good with it. There are different 'classes' of people as well." From the human visitor's point of view, "the basic laws can be a bit, extreme, and how conflicts are handled."

Nydia didn't want to give away too much of the story and the characters, "I am so proud of how they came together. I want the readers to enjoy the 'First Experience' for themselves. And the more they know in advance reduces that for them. I want them to experience like I did, as it happens whether it is to laugh or cry or wonder. They way they tell their story, you are carried along with them, as they learn about each other and their ways."

When asked about what influences she had when coming up with the story, she answered, "I am not sure what inspired me to start it, but they, the characters, inspired me to keep going, to see what happens next." She's also started a sequel of both the further adventures of the human hero and his furry counterpart, "though my editor, my daughter, is now pushing me to write the story of what happens in the human world more. She is the self proclaimed "Expert" on my books since she has read them so many times. The second book follows the same time line as the first. The third takes place a few years later. So there are three, possibly four, more books coming." Does either hero find a way back to his home universe? Nydia isn't telling.

One thing she was willing to reveal was the woman, a rabbit/raccoon hybrid or "mix," whom the human visitor ends up in a relationship with and marrying. The character is named Nydia, but she didn't name her after her Second Life persona, but the other way around as she had developed her years earlier, "she is TOTALLY different from me, but when I started Second Life it asked me to come up with a name, and her name was the one that came out." She did have an avatar of the character in Second Life, "One of my (close friends), Jian, made an avi of her. I am SO proud of it. I only were it for special occasions, so I don't soil her image (laughter)."

She then changed avatars to the appearance of the "Switched Destinies" character, and spoke to me as if the character, "Good Afternoon Bixyl, I am the Lady of Baron Manor Nydia Tangen." Of the character starting off with a low status in her society but ending up the second in charge of a noble house, "Since you know of what my station in life was, you know how shocked I was to get to where I am today. My spouse, may the Goddess bless him, hasn't a clue, nor care of any such status I may have had in the past. But just tells me 'I am worth it,' and he loves his 'Little bandit' to which I usually roll my eyes and laugh at his other worldly ideals. But I do love him, and will die for him if ever called to do so, we all would."

And what did the character think some of the more odd things about humans and Earth? "Hmm, the shear number there are of you and your just ONE species, which you would think would make it easier to get along, but doesn't for some reason. And if I have to be honest, when I found out what some of you eat, I was a bit more than disturbed." Asking what that was, she answered, "Well, you eat rabbits and raccoons for a start. But what shocked me to the very core was ... well, my spouse told us ... dear Goddess ... we .. they taste like ..... chicken! And since I am a 'Mix' of the two, surely you can see why I would find that disturbing."

And what did her spouse find surprising about this world's food? The character answered that it was that magic was sometimes used in cooking, "He was surprised by self-stirring bowls of all things. We were more shocked he actually knew which side of the pan to cook on. I mean, he IS male, so we were absolutely shocked! His first dish he made, didn't look very appetizing, like worms covered in blood. But it turned out WONDERFULLY! He called it, what was it again, 'spagetty?' My personal favorite was what he called 'cheesecake,' he put strawberries on it, oh dear Goddess, it was so decadent!" Others in the world caught interest in his food as well, "It was so odd, but good. It is now being server in 'Shelly's' in Hightown itself. Most refer to it as exotic. What adds to it is the fact that is was a MALE that created these dishes. ... There are NO male chefs anywhere. Men just can't cook." When asked about examples when they had to such as when lost in the wilderness, she answered, "Lost in the wilderness? A male? Never. They rarely even leave their towns."

Asking the author if there was anything else she wanted to add, Nydia responded, "The meeting between my namesake and her spouse Kevin is an interesting one. She is a very honest an loyal woman. But, don't threaten her spouse or family. She has and will kill for them. ... I hope you enjoy our story."

Shortly after the interview, Nydia announced that Amazon had published her book.

As most of you know I have been trying to publish my book for longer than I have been in SL. Yesterday it happened. I was so all over the board in just giddiness, I may not have explained it well. Anyways, here is the link to the book. It is up and active. If you buy it let me know  how you like the story. Feel free to share the link with the readers in your life

"Switched Destinies" is available on Amazon for $5.00.

Bixyl Shuftan

Monday, January 22, 2018

Interview With Klaus Bereznyak


By Deaflegacy

This interview was done after I gave Klaus the notecard and Klaus sent me by the answers in another notecard.  Thanks, Klaus. 


Klaus Bereznyak has been writing for the Newser for some months. But he's also involved in other things on the Grid. Among them is Burn2. He doesn't hold any position there, but Klaus is in the group and likes to keep track of what is happening.  "I've always tried to get along to the Burns and have enjoyed the creativity on display year after year. It was always a bit of a pipe dream that I'd do something for it, the sort of thing where you might sit in a pub with friends and say "ha ha, we should do something next year; I mean, how hard can it be?" But that's as far as it goes." said Klaus. "Last year, however, I did a build with a friend. Two things came together in that the theme of "Radical Ritual" seemed like a really interesting one to engage with, and I found a creative collaborator who was game enough to say "do you want to actually do it." It was a lot of fun."

Klaus has a reason why he is on Burn2. "I like the 10 Principles of Burning Man and I think they have their place in this virtual world of imagination and experimentation. The themes of 'Radical Inclusion', 'Decommodification' and 'Self Expression' are ones I'd like to see in play more in all worlds." said Klaus. "Basically they mean, "anyone is welcome to participate", "it's not all about money", and "what you have to say is valid". If we played along with that we'd be better avatars and better humans, so I like how Burn2 brings that back into focus every year."

"I think I'll keep championing the creativity and the principles in small ways here, but I'm not planning on getting a parcel and building every year now," said Klaus when asked how long he would be on Burn2. "It was kind of a milestone to do something last year, and this year will have other paths to pursue. But "never say never". If there's one thing I have learned here, it's that the unexpected can happen if you are open to it - so, who knows, I may be involved again in the future."

Klaus went on to say that there is good effort to make the whole thing like a real Burn.  "It's not about coming in on the last building day and dumping something prefabricated and leaving it," said Klaus. "We drove trucks onto the Playa and unloaded building materials, we set up a camp and took a couple of weeks putting it together, met other burners and hung out. We savored the process and documented it at each stage. That was the best part of the experience. You can see how it came together in Pearl Grey's machinima here: https://vimeo.com/248213080."


Building Sojourning Outpost from Pearl Grey on Vimeo.


Like Burn2, Klaus doesn't hold a position with LEA, but he likes to support the creativity that gives space to.  "My involvement was deeper this time last year because I had the good fortune to be invited by another friend to contribute to their work: Art Oluja's Glass jars on LEA 11." said Klaus. "I worked on the soundscape for the sim, creating sounds with woodwind and percussion, which is nicely captured in another vimeo here: https://vimeo.com/228706022 . It was a great experience, and I guess you'll notice the emerging theme is that I like to collaborate."

When Klaus was asked about how long he had been doing it for LEA, Klaus said, "Well, it was just that one thing. I will always keep in touch with what's happening, and I think writing for the Newser gives a nice opportunity to highlight the stuff that's new and different or that makes me sit up and think."

When I asked Klaus if he is writing in real life about Second Life, he said, "Not exactly. I keep the two worlds quite separate, but I write in both worlds. Of course, there is a lot of creative bleed between the two and SL inspires my writing in RL just as RL inspires what I do inworld, but I enjoy the different aspects that the two environments bring out from me in and of themselves. For instance, Klaus writes more poetry than his physical alt does in RL. This is probably because the shorter form is better suited to the average avatar's attention span, and I try to get along to 'Inksters' Poetry Prompt sessions whenever I can. That's not something I'd do in RL. I blog here, too, writing about design aspects of Mainland parcels and topography at http://virtualtopophilia.blogspot.co.uk/ . This year I'm going to be doing more blog writing about Mainland exploration in another collaboration. Obviously I enjoy writing for the Newser as well. In RL, I write and edit professionally and for pleasure, too. The bottom line is that "writers write" - whatever I'm doing becomes grist to the writing mill."

I asked Klaus about how long he had been working on this project, and he had the answer for that question. "I came back to SL in 2015 after a long hiatus. At that time I had some curiosity about how humans can dream collaboratively, and this related to a book I was working on. There were other reasons I re-engaged, too, and being here quickly took on a life of its own." said Klaus.  "In some ways it's all a massive project, a journey in self-experimentation and imagination. When we chat inworld, we are "writing", and this is a very big book that's not only made from words but also prims and mesh. It will never be done and I guess I will keep fighting the lag and the worse aspects of avatar behavior until the grid shuts down - because it's worth it to me, and there's still life in it."

When Klaus was asked about how he is doing with his novel, he said, "I have a lot of projects on the go, and some will go by the wayside. When I was 15 years old in RL, I started writing a novel about a garden that was a world of its own and in many ways similar to this virtual world. Maybe one day I will finish that. In the meantime I'll just be "gardening" here and writing about what inspires me. I have a vineyard, a gallery and a cafe to run; I co-run a shop and a printing press, and ... the list goes on."

Thank you, Klaus, for giving me the answers to the questions I gave you in the notecard.  I really appreciate it.  I believe that I'm already one of your fans, which is fantastic.  As days go by, Klaus and I continue to work together as a part of the SL Newser team.  I look forward to good days with Klaus.

Deaflegacy

Friday, January 19, 2018

Reader Submitted: Mourning the Loss of Two Relayers


“I don't think there's one word that can describe a man's life.”- Citizen Kane

This is probably the hardest post I’ve had to write. I remember when I was in the hospital, Henrietta stayed up almost every night with Sidonie and Cuddly. She always presented this shy demeanor, but beyond that was a woman who was deeply loyal, deeply committed to the causes she believed in.

 Sid, Cuddly, Henrietta and I talk almost daily. Three years ago we created a Facebook chat group that we just chat into, and no matter what we always talked through things. Hospital visits, strokes, dying cats, ferrets, movie quotes only Henrietta understood, and just life in general.

If there was one thing that I could always count on, it was my troupe of four. I recently went through a bit of depression that I could not explain- it happens to all of us. I must’ve chatted into the group at 3am my time and since we all have the group on our phones we all see the alerts. Henrietta woke up and kept me company through a time that was particularly hard for me.

Sometimes it is easy to forget but Second Life is not one dimensional- we are more than just the avatars we create.

Over time all four of our lives,  in world and out of it, became important. Cuddly got a live in boyfriend toy thing, Sidonie had new cats and Henrietta lamented about ferrets. We all know each other so well that if we met in real life, I don’t think we would even notice that we weren’t hiding behind our Second Life skins.

That’s what I love about Henrietta- she is so real, so true to herself that Sid, Cuddly and I had a shoulder to lean on to and rely on. She is always full of movie quotes and tv show quotes that none of us had heard of before but yet she persisted...

Henrietta Demina had many passions. Living life with a smile and laughter was one of them. She was dedicated to her real life family and friends and treated us SL family and friends just as she would in real life. She wrote about her Strange family on her website and was immensely proud of all of our accomplishments. Henrietta had her Demina family too, passionate about role playing as vampires. She was dedicated to the character she made on Second Life, changing only her hair to accommodate Relay season.

For the last five years she was deeply, deeply passionate about Relay for Life. She and her brother Hilshire made RFLSL as real as it could be- they collected monies in real life as much as they could and usually donated it in pieces.

Henrietta was the definition of a true relayer. She attended as many events of other teams as much as possible, slowly draining that chunk of change (which was easily in the thousands dollar wise) at each team event showing her support.

She volunteered to DJ at just about every single event possible. She was passionate about the Fantasy faire, Christmas expo, you name it she was there.

Quiet but steadfast defined Henrietta’s Relay journey- she was happy to let others in the spotlight even if she was more deserving. Most recently she was heavily involved with the Christmas Expo as a host and was happy to spend her entire week only at the Expo.

She became the Team Captain of Team Strange Journeys last year and held the baton with pride. She dedicated part of her sim to the team’s accomplishments and journey.

Above all, she was the Co Coordinator of the Castle Home and Garden contest. She retired a few years ago so she made the CHG her full time job, almost literally. She worked so hard that she worked herself into having a stroke right before the Opening Ceremonies last year. She was respected and loved by all of our contestants and our merchants. It was usually her that people would go to for support, and she was more than happy to give it.

It feels strange- life is a journey and I preach that, always. This week we lost both Henrietta and Hilshire Demina. They were killed in an accident early this week and it just doesn’t make sense.

I can see Henrietta standing in front of me, giggling, saying that sometimes life is funny that way. I can see her saying a quote from a movie she admired 40 years ago, and something about “don’t worry about it”. She would probably kill me if I said anything like “I can’t do the CHG without you”. She would want you all to smile and keep fighting. She would say, “don’t worry about lil ole me!”

Henrietta, you made a profound impact on my life and that will stay with me forever. You have made a difference and we won’t soon forget it.

Henrietta and Hilshire Demina, thank you. You can rest in your coffins now, and bite as many people as you want.

We will hold a memorial service and will send details when we have them.

Rowena Dubrovna

Monday, January 8, 2018

Feed A Smile


By Shaza Denver,

Hello my loyal readers,

     Well the hectic holidays are behind us for the most part.  I know I for one need to find the time to take down all the decorations and pack them away for next year.  Its still snowing of course.  Winter has  not left us,  at least not yet.  I hope everyone had a fantastic holiday season.   I hope you made new friends.  I hope you had good times with family and a peaceful and happy holiday season. 

     There were so many hunts going on,  and so many group gifts to be had.  It was indeed a joyful time for me.  My inventory is bursting at the seams.  I have no idea when I fill find to time to get this lot of goodies sorted.  Its probably going to take me a year! 

     With the holidays over I am skipping around Second Life looking for things to do and see.  Well as it happens I  was out on New Years Eve and I met a gentleman at a popular venue.  We had a dance or two and he told me about this charity that he sponsors, Feed A Smile.

     There are fewer things that gives so much joy than supporting others that are in need.  It warms your heart and gives meaning to your life.  Its what life is about. Helping others less fortunate.  In my humble opinion!   Second Life is no more different in real life in that respect.  We help those that we can when we can.   With that said let me jump down from my soap box and go ahead and tell you about this heart warming charity.

     Feed A Smile has events all over Second Life that help the Live and Learn in Kenya Int'l program.  The proceeds help very poor children in Kenya to receive hot meals.   A school is being built so that these children may learn.  How wonderful is that.   There is an art gallery where you may purchase artworks by SL artist.  These sales benefit the charity as well. 

Jump on over there and check out the artwork for yourself.  I know I bought several as the work is quite good and well......it does help this worth while cause.  Here is your taxi to the gallery. 

Art Aid at Commonwealth Village, Momil (34, 125, 68)

     I am told the village holds monthly events for the charity as well.  So stay tuned for articles that will inform you of dates and times.  Oh and if you are family oriented such as myself,  children of Second Life are more than welcome to attend. 

     There is an venue that caters to the needs of this charity.  This venue is called Lavender Fields.  At the venue you will find a replica of the school being built for the children. 
     
       I myself visited the replica.   It is quite impressive,  and to know just what it stands for and the benefits it gives to others is heart warming. 

     Lavender Fields in itself is  a beautiful venue.   The build is lovely, and of course the flowers are my favorite color! What's not to love. 

     Do get over and check out the venue.  You will be impressed as much as I was,  of that I  am sure.  Here is your url to the venue.  Get over and check it out. While you're there, Feed A Smile.   You won't be sorry.  The feeling it will give you is like no other.

The Lavender Field, Feed A Smile (53, 124, 23)

     Until next time loyal readers.  Please stay tuned for articles about this amazing charity here in SL.

Warm Tidings,

Shaza

Monday, January 1, 2018

Christmas Giving Tree and Sponsor an SL Child for the Holidays


By Alura Denver (Alura Messing)

The Holiday Season is all about spending time with family and friends regardless of what religion you follow.  No matter what community we spend our time in here in Second Life, we all find some way to celebrate with the people we spend our time with.  The "Family/Kid" role playing community feels the holidays even more than some others since "family" and "community" are at the very heart of the holidays.  But not every kid has a family and some families are not here for the SL holidays, because they are off in real life celebrating, or on vacation.  So, many who role play little kids are left alone with no one to spend time with.  This year however, a small dent is being put into that loneliness.  Sweet Tots store reached out to their customers and the kid community to host the first ever "Giving Tree and Sponsor an SL Child" for the Holidays.

Sweetiepie Riggles the owner of Sweet Tots was approached by her SL sister Cryssie アєνєηѕєу Tiepolo яιℓєу (Crystalle Qork)  with the idea for this because she herself was a kid with no family for the holidays.  As the two talked over the details and opportunities they could see with the event,  they got so excited that they started it two weeks early to give the kids even more time to make plans and interact with sponsors if they chose to.

What they soon found, was that they had more response from people wanting to help and sponsor kids, than they did have kids.  "At first pepols was scared to sign up. Sometimes pepols judge kids for being needy. but but the role of RPing a kids is being able to provide for us selves." said Cryssie "Lots of times kids are afraids to ask for help. Thems not wanna seem too needy."  But they found a way around this fear by asking the community to refer kids to them as well as sponsor, in a notecard that the sent to their whole customer base.

After the deadline for applications passed, Cryssie set up an "Angel Wall" that people could go to to pick kids to help.  This was set up as an activity for families so they could role play doing this together.  Depending on what the kid wanted to do (just get a present or spend time with a family) the sponsor was then able to contact the kid and share the gift or arrange an activity for them to join.  Some kids might just RP a nice dinner or maybe time with Christmas Jammies, hot coco and stories.  At that point it was all up to them.

The outcome of the event was a smashing success.  Some of the families fell in love with the kids they sponsored and asked them to join their families and adopted them.  Others just got the joy of opening not just the one thing they hoped for, but a whole slew of presents.  "Every kids that signed up gotta present whether they asked for it or not!  I had 3 stores donate toys and stuff and 5 stores donate clothing but but Sweet Tots donated huge gift cards to all the kids that signed up. So each box has about 25-30 presents" said Cryssie.

Cutiepie (0ojazzyd0o) was one of the participants this year.  She and her sponsor spoke a few times about things she liked and what they were going to do to celebrate.  When I spoke with Cutiepie she was looking forward to having dinner with her family, playing some games and exchanging some presents.  When I asked her if she would do it again she absolutely lit up with excitement and said " i enjoyed doing it yes and if i chould do it a gan tomarow .... i got lots of gitf all readyy from some of the sponcers of the giving tree in cluding  bubblegum and sweet tots and raynas closet.  i saport sweet tots and thought it was a realy cool i dea to have a giving event."

With such a successful event and so many wonderful experiences coming out of it I asked Cryssie if she would consider doing it again next year.  Her immediate response was, "yes! I hope to do it for many many many many many years to come.   I like knowing the lil bit effort helps sooooo many kids."  So be sure to look into it next year if you would like to donate or participate and share in some holiday love.
Alura Messing

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Rita Mariner and the Sawyer Squad


By Bixyl Shuftan

Many residents in Second Life have at least one alt, short for "alternate account" for those outside the virtual world. It's on the record yours truly has two. Some have a few to several. But few can boast of having the number that Rita Mariner, the chieftess of the Sunweaver community, does. She has over a hundred, most in what she calls the "Sawyer Squad." Her alts are no real secret as she often has a few around Club Cutlass, and will occasionally have one by her. Recently, I had a few words with her about these accounts.

"Maybe 120 plus Sawyers" Rita answered when I asked how many she had. Asking her how did the Sawyer Squad start, she answered, "It started just after I got started in Tiny Empires and Tiny Empires 3000 myself, we were finding it hard to find enough players to become subjects or subordinates.  Also many players would start in one, the other or both, get bored and quit. So I started the Sawyers to fill the gap and try to give active players ... at least one person in their downline, that was active."

How soon and how fast did the alts grow in number? "That happened over a period of years," she answered, "only as I needed them and also due to the investment each one represented.  I figure between the avatars, HUDS, clothes, etc, each alt has, they cost me approximately 20,000L each. ... I have close to $14,000US invested in them over the years."

So what did they have besides HUDs and basic clothes? The chieftess replied, "Well, right from the beginning I decided that all Sawyers would be black, my Babes in Black, as I call them.  Most have aat least two avatars, an Uchi Kani and then a second one of a different critter and most also have a EP pony. Then you toss in several changes of clothes, 7 Seas Fishing game, Crowley Corp ships, AO's.  The costs add up."

Why the name Sawyer and why black? Rita answered, "Sawyer is from the female cat, Sawyer, from Cats Don't Dance. I liked her.  I picked black, 'cause a black Kani is very sexy looking."

"The fun part is several of my alts have their own fans now," the Sunweaver leader revealed. I asked how that came about and why, and was told, "Sawyer021 and Brandi Tungsten both have mice avatars, so they play cousins. Momma Gil, has both Sawyer017 and MissMystique. She wants them on all the time, I don't have the computer power for that. ... MissMystique I created just for MommaGil. She is a cream colored Chinchilla, very pretty. Sawyer017 also has a black Uchi Chinchilla."

Besides the Sawyer Squad, Rita stated she had a few other alts, "I also have a bunch more named ones I created just for fun, The Chipettes have been used in a music video, by Nydia Tungsten. I have the chipmunks too, still looking for the proper hair and outfits for them. Once I actually found a nice chipmunk avatar I created set of named avatars with that, for fun, the female ones are cute, the male ones, not so much."



I brought up Valkyrie Ice, whom was the one non-Sawyer in the "Babes in Black" group. Rita told me, "They are not a separate grroup, Babes in Black, is part of my Sunweavers group. If you have a black avatar, you can be in it. I put the Sawyers in all the regular groups and treat them like a regular player. If someone tlaks to them, I try to get them to respond back. They are not there just as eye candy. I do try to have some fun with them too. That's why they are NOT disposable to me. I come to Second Life for only a couple reasons, be with my friends and play Tiny Empires and Tiny Empires 3000. I don't build much and don't script, (but) I have a massive investment here already in my ten sims. I do participate in the Relay For Life with my Sunbeamer Team, and I am happy to raise what money we can for the American Cancer Society."

Rita stated the response others have had to her alts has been positive as far as she's seen, "They like them, Queen Ranchan titled me 'Sawyer Swarm Queen' in Tiny Empires. In TE3K, I am Space Booty Hunter. (Also) in TE3K, I was able to move some of my Sawyers under a new player who moved to our guild and bump him back up to Director. ... That's what the Sawyers are for."

Rita then mentioned a problem that had recently come up, "I want to get my alts off Singularity and onto a better viewer, I can't do it without help. All my pass codes were written a ledger book and months ago, (and) it got accidentally tossed out in the trash and I mean ALL my pass codes, not just for Second Life. So that is why I am trying to get Linden Lab to understand the situation. I can't go through the normal procedure to recover pass codes, the e-mails tied to the various accounts have long since disappeared or been changed into something else." And when she tried contacting Linden Lab, their response was bureaucratic, "I put in a ticket to try and get this issue with my alt avatars fixed and have run into a roadblock they NEVER had out in the open, but buried in their wiki site. Who goes to the wiki site? They say, on their wiki site you limited to five alts! They will help me with five. And even they screwed that up. They are stuck on Singularity, I want to move them to Firestorm/Phoenix, can't do it without the passcodes."

"I don't want to throw them away," Rita spoke about Linden Lab's five alt limit, "I have close to $14,000US invested in them over the years." She did have a possible compromise for the Lab, "I suggest to Linden Lab, that they put a third option on the signup page for alts. If they want $9.95 fee for each alt, then ask at creation, I would have gladly paid it, then.  but in exchange I want no hassles if I need help."

Some days later, Rita had an update on the situation of her alts, "Linden Lab actually took my suggestion and I got my five accounts back." I asked if she was going to get help with the rest, and the Sunweaver leader answered, "It's all done. I told them to just put a simple code on each one for now, e-mail me the code, I would use that to access their AL account page and reset the passcode myself. So they did it, I accessed eacch one and they are all reset."

And so all is well once again with one of the largest groups of alts in Second Life. If you want to see some of them, come on over to Club Cutlass, or message Rita Mariner.

Bixyl Shuftan

Monday, December 11, 2017

Survivors of Suicide


By Bixyl Shuftan

Suicide is a major cause of death, with close to a million cases worldwide and over forty thousand in America every year, and it is believed to be underreported. It has been on the increase in places, up 24% in the past 15 years in America. While it has been on the decrease in Russia recently, it is still very high at 15.6 cases per 100,000 people and has a teen rate three times the world average. Fortunately, there are numerous organization and groups offering help. In Second Life, there is one group created to help people or friends of people whom had attempted it, those or friends of those at risk, or friends and family of those who succeeded and need help coming to terms: Survivors of Suicide. As time went on, the group has gone on to help people with depression in general, though suicide prevention remains a focus.

I was recently invited by one of the staff of Survivors of Suicide, Sebastien Bouevier, to drop by their location at the Schoomere sim and hear him tell about the group. Sebastien described the purpose of the group as, "to spread awareness and help prevent suicide, but we also serve as a peer support group, helping our members though the good and the bad times." When I asked who founded the group and when, he answered, "Krissy Sinclair, our founder, started the group over six years ago. I've been running the group for two years now." When I asked what inspired Krissy to start the group, he answered, "Im not 100% sure, but at that time there wasn't any active support groups for mental health in Second Life. ... I've only been here four years, so I can't say how the group was before I joined, but it has been a very helpful tool to stay well."

He then explained how he got into the group, "What inspires me to keep the group running is the fact that the group was so helpful for me after my suicide attempt four years ago. ... I nearly succeeded. I was sectioned under the Mental Health Act (UK), and spent six weeks in a psychiatric hospital. It was a turning point in my life, as it gave my illness a name. Up until then, I didn't realize how ill I was. When I came out of hospital, it was difficult to get the help I needed to readjust to a normal life, which is when I found Survivors of Suicide where I could get guidance from others who have experienced similar things." He had found out about SoS, as it's sometimes called, by doing a search for mental health groups, "and it was one of the top three results."

When asked about the progress of his recovery, his answer was, "In one word, slow. (laughter) Joking aside, it was very tough to come to terms with having bipolar. It wasn't what I had hoped for me, but that is part of life. We cant decide what cards we are dealt. It took me a couple of years to come to terms, and even longer to fully accept my diagnosis. Nowadays I embrace it, and I spend a lot of my time helping others who are going through similar experiences in their lives."

I asked how many were in the group. Sebastien told me, "743 members at the moment (smile). We are the largest active mental health / peer support group in Second Life. Of course some of our members are more actively participating than others. We think it is so important for the group to be open to everyone. We do get a lot of people come through during the holidays. We have mentor boards on the wall by the staircase where anyone can click on our mentors boards to speak to someone one on one." I asked if the group included people other than those affected by suicide. He told me, "Yes, we are open for anyone. Some of our members are not even suffering from mental health issues, but are carers for friends and relatives that do."

How did Sebastien go from a regular member to one of the staff? His answer was, "I think it was a natural progression. As I got better, I started needing less and less help, and simultaneously having more and more advice to give.  I started here as a mentor, helping members through difficult times and sharing my own experiences. Then when Krissy needed a Director of Mentors, I took on that role. I have had managerial experience in real life, so I guess that helped in her decision to appoint me. Then as she had to withdraw even more from Second Life, she made me a co-founder, and I've been doing that for the best part of a year now. I think another important part was that I am very committed to staying well and healthy, and I try to help others do the same. My favorite saying is 'When the sun shines through again, it is time to patch the roof for rain.' It is kind of my motto, really. Knowing that we have a chronic illness, and taking steps to prevent and minimize relapses."

How would he say the group has been doing this time? "It has been pretty steady," Sebastien answered, "Participation in group meetings have increased over the last six months. The average is between four and ten people at a time, which is a really good group size really. Of course we are slightly busier now during the holidays which sadly is a peak time for depression and suicide. I think it reminds people of how lonely they are. So we are here to make sure nobody feels alone." I asked how much busier they are during the Christmas holiday. He answered, "At least thirty percent busier. Maybe fifty percent."

So what would Sebastien recommend to someone who suspects a friend of theirs has depression, and at what point should there be cause for concern? He admitted, "That's a tricky question because everyone are so different. But I'd say its time to start worrying when someone changes drastically from their usual selves, especially if the person is talking a lot about death or suicide. I will say though, if someone decides to withdraw, give them space but encourage them to participate in things, even if its just going for a walk together." I asked him what stories besides his stood out. He told me, "There are too many stories to share them all, but we have helped people suffering with anything from bipolar disorder, anxiety, depression, disassociative personality disorder to childhood abuse victims, each and every member here has their own unique stories."

With the holidays being a time when more people were coming forward, I asked Sebastian if the group had any special plans. He told me, "One of our mentors is organizing a 24 hour sleepover, though the exact date hasn't been set yet. Other than that, we will continue with our weekly group meetings as normal, and have mentors available throughout the day and night for people who need someone to talk to. We have mentors in the US, Canada, UK, Germany, and Australia, so there is usually someone online most of the time. And when nobody is on, there will always be someone in the group chat where people can reach out as well." And their plans for next year? "The current plan is to increase our support group meetings to three per week instead of just two, each one focusing on different aspects to mental health and wellness."

I asked Sebastien about other mental health groups. He told me, "I have seen quite a lot of mental health support groups come and go in the over six years we have been open. I don't want to comment on them as they are no longer open."

Sebastien then showed me the upper meeting room, located almost a couple thousand meters high above the sim. It was a somewhat small room with four chairs large enough to seat more than one person, a bookshelf that looked like it came out of a modern art painting, and a window showing a view of a major city from above, as if in a skyscraper. He told me, "When people click my mentor board I like to bring them here to talk. It is a private and calm space where nobody will disturb us. I have even held an intervention here with one of our members and their friends. Suicide is a serious matter, and we take it very seriously here. I do have to say, that we are NOT mental health professionals, and we don't offer counseling. We are purely a peer support group here to help and support one another through difficult times. Even if we were trained mental health professionals, it would be highly unethical to practice that here in Second Life."

It was about then the interview was over, and we parted ways.

Currently the Survivors of Suicide meets on Wednesdays at 4pm SLT, and  Mondays at Noon SLT

Schoomere (160/32/24)

Source: Wikipedia

Bixyl Shuftan