Saturday, 31 January 2015

Refugium Newsletter - February 2015

[repost from]

With January behind us, it’s been three full months since we’ve had daily meditation sessions at Refugium. After a somewhat busy December, with several Advent and Christmas activities, January was more quiet.

If you’re not familiar with Refugium, it’s a small meditation center in Melanthia on the Second Life continent of Heterocera. Our practice of meditation is grounded in the Christian tradition, with every session beginning with a brief quote from the Scriptures, and ending with another quote on the related subject, from a wide diversity of authors including poets, mystics and philosophers. Time permitting, after the sessions we usually hang out for a bit in the nearby Refugium Cafe for a relaxed chat over drinks and cake. We are a friendly community and everyone is welcome to join us both for our shared quiet time and the fellowship afterwards.

Daily 30-minute meditation sessions begin at 11pm SLT (7am UTC). I am still hoping to be able to offer another time slot that would be more convenient to people in different time zones, after we’ve discontinued special weekend sessions at 9am SLT. At the moment, I’m looking into the possibility of organizing additional, shorter, 15 to 20-minute Sunday sessions at 3 pm SLT, but more on that later in the month.

To keep in touch with news and announcements from Refugium, you can follow the Tumblr blog found at this URL, where I post a selection of quotes we use, also snapshots and links to articles about meditation. There is now also an inworld group, which you can find by typing “Refugium Announcements” in the group search feature of your viewer.

To visit Refugium, please follow this SLurl.

With best wishes,


Thursday, 29 January 2015

Heterocera Travelogue #8: Drinker

Taking off from Spectacle, the place where I ended my last travelogue, I decided to go down Route 4 towards south, to a place with a promising name - Drinker!

Before I came here to explore, I was imagining a land overflowing with drinks and cocktails. Driving through on numerous occasions before, I do remember seeing a club here which looked quite nice from the road. However, no sign of any of that now. To begin with, the sim is actually named after a moth species, and has very little to do with drinking.

Drinker moth (Euthrix potatoria)
The sim borders with some of the places already covered in my journey: Spectacle to the north, Plusia and Wainscot to the east. It borders with Dagger to the west, and lovely named November to the south.

It was here in Drinker that I realized there's a pattern to most of the mainland sims I've visited so far. Apart from some percentage of abandoned or undeveloped land, there's usually one parcel which  dominates the scenery and gives a certain feel to the whole place. I've seen that in Wainscot, Plusia, Spectacle and other places, and the same goes for Drinker.

The single largest parcel and the most developed one here is that of Clint Blackbart's Pensacola Police Station, nestled between Route 3.5 and 4, seen in the centre of the aerial shot above. It's a hilly area, and as you walk towards west, you can definitely notice the changing topography of the region, with the ever higher altitude.

The police station itself is a large, modern building, with a helipad on one of the roofs and a number of quality police vehicles on the parking lot (caution - if you intend to visit with a helicopter, there are banlines in the area).

Zippedy and his pet Cyril
Very close to the station building is a forest area, resembling a camping ground. You can find some naughty things here, such as a sex dumpster with some adult animations. I was joined in my exploration by two friends, Gustav and Zippedy, but we didn't dare try them out, moving on quickly. Last thing we needed was getting arrested for lewd behaviour - on the grounds of a police station at that!

Officer Blackbart actually happened to be there at the time of our visit, but didn't mind at all that we were snooping around. He told me that this is a quiet area with not much crime to report.

The other quite large building in the area is a fortress across the street. However, it was protected by banlines, which was rather disappointing. Lack of trees was not such a pleasing contrast to Clint Blackbart's wooded area, either.

The other parcels in Drinker are purely commercial. There's an Alli & Ali hair store affiliate.

Along Route 4, there's a furniture store by the name of Sapphire Flames. The items sold there are inexpensive, but high-prim and dated. They must have looked quite decent several years ago, although most of them still carry the sign "New". The place seems like one of those mainland parcels that are left frozen in time. It seems SL 2.0 is the only thing that will be end of them.

On the plus side, they also sell wet T-shirts, although my companions didn't seem all that impressed.

Last but not least, there is something that is supposed to be a texture store, Siberian Original Texture Market. It really is original, in that it seems to be completely invisible! There's only the sign left, which looked both sad and funny at the same time. How mainland, I thought.

To sum up, Drinker was an interesting place to visit. I think I'll pay officer Blackbart another visit and ask him about the role play done at his place. As I live only two or three sims from there, it felt reassuring to know there's an active police community in the area. It also made me think about possible community role playing I might do there, putting some of my land to a more practical use. I do have a small train station, but visiting Drinker, I had a vision of a village fire station in my Triphosa.

For the next instalment, I'll stay on Route 4 and move on to my next destination, November.

Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Night shift

Waiting for my friends to pick me up, I took a few snapshots at the Nørgaard Village train station. 

We often don't do teleports but actually drive to each other, or in this case, hop on a train - at least when we're on the same continent.

It was a quiet night, not a single train passed by. As can be seen, I almost nodded off. Not very professional, but in my defence, it was a long day...

Monday, 26 January 2015

Red Bikcin's fractal art

Several days ago a new exhibition opened at Galeria Mexico. If you haven't visited before, the location is Mexican-themed, with a number of galleries found inside Mayan pyramids. While the theme may be an ancient one, the art found there is usually contemporary.

The latest to have their works on display here is Red Bikcin. Her gently moving geometric forms in outer space-like vacuum make you want to sit down and just watch the mesmerizing alternations of form and colour.

Bikcin is not the first to display fractal art here. In fact, Galeria Mexico often features artists who work with that form, and I still vividly remember some of the past exhibitions. To keep informed about news from this important and dynamic inworld art spot, consider joining the Facebook group.

To visit Red Bikcin's exhibition, follow this SLurl.

Wednesday, 21 January 2015

Ello - and good bye?

It's been roughly three months since I joined Ello, one of the new social networks. At the time, I was quite enthusiastic about it and couldn't wait to receive the invitation to join.

First, there's its minimalist, black and white look and simple features that really appealed to me. The promise of a social network without all the clutter and myriads of ever changing functions sounded very good to me. More importantly, there was the founders' Manifesto, defining Ello as an ethical and conscientious alternative to the established networks driven by profit and greed for your personal information. "We believe a social network can be a tool for empowerment. Not a tool to deceive, coerce and manipulate — but a place to connect, create and celebrate life." Dubbed by the mainstream media as the "anti-Facebook", it grew exponentially in 2014, aided by Facebook's real name policy and storm in a teapot over dissenting drag queens.

The issue touched the Second Life community as well, as a number of SL avatars' profiles was deleted in yet another purge. FB-exiles were frantically looking for an alternative, and Ello's arrival seemed perfectly timed. However, if you log in these days, you are not very likely to see people posting anything there. The most recent of my SL friends' updates go back to November of 2014, and those are only very brief comments. RL profiles seem to be doing only slightly better. What went wrong for Ello, despite its visual appeal and the proclaimed ethical standards? I talked to several of my SL friends and fellow Ello-ites to pick their brains.

 A common complaint is that at the moment people tend to be using several platforms simultaneously and that it's tedious, time-consuming or repetitive (often all of the above) to maintain meaningful presence on all of them. In other words, Ello had to be really really good in order to squeeze out competition and replace any of the big networks, and that just hasn't happened. Another comment was more technical, namely that Ello lacks a lot of critical features that would make it more functional and, well, interesting. One can't argue with that - Ello really doesn't offer much in that sense, although some new features have been added in the meantime (here's the list of the current features).

Lack of mobile support was another thing: no Ello app has been developed to this day. I've had trouble logging in even via a browser in my mobile, which has been very disappointing. That's a huge drawback in itself, since so much of social networking relies on hand-held devices.

Finally, although I've praised Ello's minimalist appearance, the fact is that some people just don't like it. Customization options are practically non-existent: if you don't like the default appearance and feel stuck with it, you're not very likely to come back all that often. As one of my friends told me, "I did not get that warm and fuzzy feel for it that would make me return."

I can relate to some of these sentiments, but my problem with Ello was not really with the network itself or how it's set up (again, maybe I'm crazy, but I actually love it), but with the lack of interaction. Whenever I post there, I feel like I'm talking to myself. There is no sense of community, at all. None. Somebody might respond to a post after a few weeks, if at all.

The thing is, unlike Facebook, Ello demands time. If you have something meaningful to convey, you actually have to write. There are no 'like' buttons that have made us all incredibly mentally lazy on Facebook (nor the Tumblr hearts or the Twitter stars). If you do like somebody's post, Ello elicits explanation, it prompts you to be active and actually write as a simple click won't do. I find it fantastic that at the time of FB someone had the audacity to launch a social network that goes counter to the sort of networking that doesn't necessarily involve any thinking process at all. But can it work?

Here are just a few things one can do on Ello, though, so that it doesn't seem like it's a useless network with absolutely no features at all. (1) The account is extremely easy to set up, you can open it anonymously, there is no name policy and no danger of getting kicked out because you're, say, an SL avatar. (2) Obviously, you can post messages or images, with no word limit; the same goes for comments. (3) Search function has greatly improved and it's quite precise now. (4) Notifications are still a bit rough, but they added new functions and it's much easier to keep track of things - a pet peeve for a lot of early users, as notifications really didn't work well. (5) You get to choose whether your profile is public or accessible only to Ello users. (6) There is now a share option, which originally wasn't there.

Notifications are now readily available and clearly listed.
What I find missing are private messages. I think Ello's intent is to have a network that works transparently, with everything people post out there in the open, hence no PMs. And also, Ello strikes me as highly individualistic, hence no groups (although I suspect the reason for that could also be of technical nature).

I'm not sure if there's future for Ello. As far as the SL community is concerned, it looks pretty dead right now. I guess it's impossible for it to compete with FB or G+ without features such as groups, private messages or the ubiquitous likes and pluses. However, I believe there has to be a place on the market for such a network. I have to believe that for all the folks out there who resent commercialism behind social networks (Ello remains ad-free), who love to express their views in a way more meaningful than a simple click and who share the values listed in the Manifesto. So, fingers crossed. For what it matters, I won't say good bye to it just yet.

P.S. One can join Ello only through invitation. If you need one, post a comment or contact me inworld.

Friday, 16 January 2015

Night cap at Der Keller in 1920s Berlin

When I first joined SL and discovered the 1920s Berlin sim, going out for a drink at Der Keller quickly became like a daily ritual. It was and remains the sim's hub of social activity, the place to go if you want to get to know its residents, hear (or help spread) the latest gossip, or just enjoy a drink or two with the 1920s music in the background.

Trying to get Frau Jo's attention and order some Rotwein.
My RL schedule has changed since, and the daily get-togethers there at 2pm SLT often don't work for me at all. If I actually manage to get there, I'm often too tired to interact with people. And if I'm not tired, I'm too socially shy to chat much, even in the virtual environment.

Last night was not much different, but Duncan I slipped into our 1920s outfits and spent some time there, eavesdropping on late-night conversations (occasional Thursdays there are voice days, usually only local chat is used).

After a few glasses of wine, I took a few snapshots of the gentlemen of Berlin.

Father Helendale, in a bar, at such late hour?
Enjoying Herr Armundsen's company. Prosit!
Herr Luynes. What's the secret of his youthful looks?
Mr Payne, about to go to his night shift?

Wednesday, 14 January 2015

Heterocera Travelogue #7: Spectacle

Leaving Snout and Plusia behind, my next destination is Spectacle, a place along Satelite Way. Spectacle borders with Ear to the north, Plusia to the east, Drinker to the south and Mullein to the west.

At the beginning, a word of caution. This is the first place on my journey across Heterocera with banlines in it, on at least one parcel, so beware if you travel by plane or helicopter (or even by car, if you’re a driver like me!). I will take this opportunity to reiterate that banlines are one of the worst ideas to have been implemented in SL. I wish the gods of SL would just put an end to them. And now back to the subject…

As can be seen from the aerial below, most of Spectacle is quite green, with lots of trees, while roads and railway tracks add to the small town atmosphere.

Although there is some abandoned land in Spectacle, as pretty much everywhere on mainland, the sim looks quite decent. In its eastern part is Juna’s Railroad Park, a private train station connected to SLRR (the green area at the top right of the aerial). The place is newbie friendly, with freebies on offer, as well as teleports to several locations.

One of them is a private changing room up in a skybox, that only one avatar can use at a time, to ensure privacy - perfect for homeless newcomers to SL. When I come to think of the sort of places I used to use as a changing room as a newbie, I wish I had known about places like these.

Just a little bit further to the north-west is the actual Spectacle Train Station, more modern and run by the SLRR. If you take the train further in that direction, it will take you all the way to Yucca at the very north of the continent.

Conveniently, there’s also a taxi stand there, owned by Enid Oompa, one of legendary AnneMarie Otoole’s alts. One of these days I will sit in one of her vehicles and go for a ride, but today I just wasn’t feeling adventurous enough.

Apart from SLRR, Spectacle has also access to three Linden roads - technically two, since it’s two different routes, 3.5 and 4. Both connect this area with the rest of the continent, thanks to the elaborate system of Linden roads on Heterocera, making this sim the best connected one yet.

Thus far we’ve covered the lower part of Spectacle, at the average altitude of about 60m. The rest of the sim is up in the hills to the west, at about 80m above sea level.

First there’s the building housing Dark Passions and Tempus Heart stores. If you climb up the stairs, you will reach a terrace with a nice view of the neighbouring Plusia and Wainscot (and further, depending on your viewer’s settings). 

The stores are located in a charming fortress which is at the same time the single largest building in the sim. There are all kinds of low-cost items in there, from picture frames to corsets to toe nails.

The place has a somewhat spooky feel to it, though, and after a few minutes’ rest in the creepy chair with spindly legs, I moved on.

On the neighbouring parcel there’s the Templenet Sanctuary. Walk up a very steep path towards a relaxing, spa-like spot with nice forest views. Apart from that one parcel with banlines, everything else in Spectacle is either public or very welcoming to visitors.

Unlike most of the places I’ve visited so far during my journey, Spectacle feels like a real small town, rather than a group of randomly lumped together parcels, as is often the case. It was a nice place to visit and take a closer look.

Tuesday, 13 January 2015

Reading "Der Eigene" in 1920s Berlin

The world's first gay magazine was founded in Berlin in 1896. "Der Eigene", with selling line changing over the years, contained anarchist (later social-democratic) political writings along with literary works and homoerotic art. It was banned once the Nazis seized power, and the last issue dates to 1932.

For my apartment in the 1920s Berlin sim, I made a few copies which are lying around. Now, don't get too excited - as I can't really build a thing in SL (shame on me), these are just simple prims with the cover texture on them which I made a long time ago. But if anyone would like a copy, two are available on my Marketplace, and I'll be adding more when I get to it.

To access Abinoam's Home Collection on MP, click here.

River Pearl blogs about Refugium and Norgaard Village

A few days ago, a first-time visitor came by my place on Heterocera, just as the meditation session at Refugium was getting to a close. She joined us for coffee at the Refugium cafe afterwards and later wrote a blog post about her visit, including several very nice snapshots she had taken there.

I think River Pearl's post has been the first time someone has blogged about Refugium and Norgaard Village (well, someone other than me, who can't shut up about it). More than the nice words she had to say about the place itself, it felt gratifying to learn that my friends and I made her feel welcome and included.

You can read River's blog post here.

Friday, 9 January 2015

New Refugium meetinghouse: meditating in a ryokan

Refugium: Centre for Contemplation has had a makeover. I didn't think I would ever replace the old building, as I liked it a lot, but yesterday I came across one that caught my attention.

My Japanese friends will find it funny, possibly odd, as the building is actually supposed to be a ryokan - a traditional Japanese inn, rather than a meditation area.

To be honest, it was the space itself, its minimalist design and quality texturing that made me go for it. I hope repurposing it like that doesn't seem too weird.

A shout-out to EllaGuru Wellesley, a very talented creator - interestingly, also from Heterocera. I love to support the local economy! :D

She was very friendly and helpful answering all of my questions, even came by to meet me in person last night. Customer service doesn't get better than that!

I've placed some of her other buildings elsewhere in Nørgaard Village, and will blog more about her and her designs later.

Also, you can see more snapshots from the new Refugium on my Tumblr. To visit the inworld location, click here.

Early spring in Triphosa

It was a busy day for me. Regular visitors of Refugium: Centre for Contemplation will be in for a surprise tomorrow, as there's a whole new meetinghouse now, of which I will blog more soon.

There's also a brand new gallery building on the recently acquired part of Nørgaard Village. It's still a work in progress, but at the end of the day my dog Max and I sat down to enjoy the spring flowers.