Friday, January 24, 2014

Introducing Katzu

By Becky Shamen

Before learning about Second Life, I was developing skills at making animated videos, for teaching purposes. Upon seeing samples of my work, a friend suggested I check out SL. The dragon in the video was named Katzu Kwattle (Quetzalcoatl) and his mission was to teach the principles which are the ancient foundation of every religion on earth.

One of the main reasons for joining and staying in SL was that it might provide pictures and animations that could be used in teaching the Ancient Wisdom. Over the last four years, we have developed avatar's personas to fill this mission. The exotic dancer (stripper), Becky "Sha" Shamen, becomes an enlightened member and supporter of "Community". With her theory that "Heaven is for Heroes", she becomes an explorer/Journalist, encouraging readers to embrace their inner Indiana Jones and go exploring in SL. Over time, several alts have been developed, in the hope that these could springboard to better prepared teachers. This process of spinning out new alts began with "Bach Shamen", Sha's brother. A separate account was used because, although Sha could change her display name to male, the account name would show his real name was Becky. We should note here that, many males, she had met, said that females had it easier than males, in regards to earning money and finding love in SL, so this added to the reason for trying a male avatar.

For about two months, Bach made slow progress, with getting L$ and girl friends, disproving the M/F theory. Then, he got sidetracked by the very means of his advancement. Wanting more wealth and friends, he turned from his inner mission to follow his older sister's path. Sha's brother morphed into her little sister. This "new" character served no purpose, other than just being a copy-cat, so eventually faded out of SL.

As a reporter, Sha felt that a male avatar might be better suited to some of the sims and adventures being covered. Since snapshots of him would not show names, she made a male alt, within her own account and called him Joshua Xavier. Josh appeared in a number of articles, under Sha's Newser Byline. Ultimately, a new SL account was opened for Joshua and he soon changed his display name to Josh X. Of note here, although Sha and Josh share the same oneness with this writer and have similar qualities, they have distinctively different personalities and sometimes even disagree on things.

Now, as his own man, Josh is also a reporter for the Newser. As a Scientist/Philosopher, Josh's stories span a different end of the spectrum from Sha's and may even fall off the scale of what will fit in the Newser. For writing "off the scale" stories, Josh would need to create his own, larger than life alt. After reading Xymber's article on SP Dragon Guardians, it seemed a good idea to reincarnate Katzu, into SL.
Josh did some detective work and tracked down Spider's shop on MP and inworld. At L$2,899, it was more than he could afford, so Sha sent him the needed funds. After the Friday night theme party, at Cutlass, Josh logged off and went to the marketplace.  Returning to SL, he opens the package and puts on the new avatar. Right away, we discover this avatar is way more complicated than just switching from human to furry. Knowing it would take weeks to perfect, we were still eager to take it out for a test drive. We changed the color of the belly scales, to match the original, christened him "Katzu Kwattle" and headed to Cutlsss, to find stragglers and compare the size and manuvering differences. Our friend Val was there and we had a long chat, as I played with finding good camera angles to capture the dragon that is the same height as the club's walls.
Although Josh and Katzu can't be on SL at the same time. using two viewers, either can meet up with Sha. Such meetings are hard on our notebook computer and both Katzu and Sha have more than average draw weight, as avatars go. Still, we wanted to see if it could be done, so Katzu came on, using the SL Viewer and Sha came in, using the Nirans Viewer. With great effort, we set up a snapshot of Sha, dressed in colors of fire for an upcoming theme, interviewing Katzu as to who he is and what his mission will be. That conversation shall not be given here, but shall reverberate in the writer's mind, in the weeks that follow.
Within days, we learned that it was much easier to navigate and take pictures of Katzu, when he walks on all four, a.k.a. quad mode.
Getting used to this avatar is like learning a new software or viewer. In the long run, his high cost is offset by not needing other accessories like clothing, shoes and hair. It comes with two HUDs that allow changes to looks and movement. The AO has many preset animated gestures and even 12 animated grunts, giving him a limited dragon vocabulary. The #3 grunt sounds, unmistakably like HELLO. By clicking the AO off, he will follow  the regular AO or dance HUD and drop back to quad with a click of the mouse.
You may or may not see any Katzu stories in the Newser, but they will turn up at from time to time. A hint of his mission can be found in the fact that Katzu calls himself a Makara, rather than a Dragon.
Becky "Sha"  Shamen

Monday, January 13, 2014


By Joshua Xavier

I have had a life long fascination with the architecture of churches and temples. As for the religions they house, not so much. Recently, a friend began forwarding e-mails called Daily Word to me. These were created by Unity Church. I liked them, because they fit my own philosophy, so I began to think about it more. I remembered seeing a Unitarian church in the Destination Guide, so returned there to get the landmark. The Guide gives a brief description.

Visit Unitarian Universalism, a community that focuses on a belief that there is a common thread of humanity that joins all of us. All are welcome at the services, held every Thursday at 6.30 p.m. (Pacific). At other times, you can sit in the quiet of the sanctuary or visit the coffee shop and library.

When I arrived there, I went in the visitors center. On one wall, there were seven gold plaques, which I took to be the principles of Unity. I found these to be so compatible with my own thinking, I actually looked to see if there were any Unitarian churches near my home in L.A.

One thing I noticed on UUtopia was the lack of walls, which also fits my way of thinking. There are many gathering buildings, with open air construction and circular seating. Among them, we find the Baha'i Center. The Baha'i and Unitarian are two separate religions, but share the same principles.

“So powerful is the light of unity that it can illumine the whole earth.” —Baha’u’llah

The buildings weren't the only beautiful thing. Although flying is permitted, it is much nicer to just walk. Everywhere you go, the scenery is like a well kept park, with fountains and waterfalls and gardens, with their sacred geometry.

In this place, there is no priest or minister to warn you of fire and brimstone if you do not listen to his interpretation of what God wants from you. Just being on this sim makes one feel closer to heaven. As I explored each area, I looked forward to the next delight. From the contemplative tree house, I could see some violet energy bursts, arranged above a circle on the ground. When I went and stood in the circle I felt somehow rejuvenated. I don't know how this could be so, or if that was what it was for. I can only suggest you go and test this rejuvenescence for yourself.

I saved the main meeting place for last. This is where the congregation meets on Thursday evenings. It is a natural setting, with no roof or walls. It makes other churches and temples seem like whitewashed tombs. The development of unity and oneness in Secondlife has always been an important part of why both Sha and I came and stay here. The UUtopia sim has done a masterful job of incorporating these ideals into the very geometry of the place.

In real life, I am a founder of a group called "The Keys of Knowledge" in which J.J.Dewey teaches. The group is dedicated to seeking higher principles to live by and gathering together in what is called "Molecular Order". Three samples of JJ's teachings, on this topic, taken from the group archives, follow.

"When we incarnate as humans we acquire a body which is composed of billions of tiny lives that are cooperating together in a molecular order so the lesser lives can have a greater experience through you, the greater life. Now it is time for the human race to do the same and prepare bodies of manifestation that will draw forth greater lives so we can individually go in consciousness where no human has gone before." - 

"We are all composite beings made of many lesser lives and to maintain the cohesive force to keep the lower lives together to maintain the higher, attention must be focused on the higher energies of soul. Without this attention and the drawing forth of spiritual power then the forces holding the lesser lives becomes diminished until, eventually, the lesser lives come apart and return to their native element. This produces a death or disintegration of the person as he is. This is comparable to a water molecule of two atoms of hydrogen and one of oxygen which has been together for millions of years falling apart and returning to the two separate gasses of hydrogen and oxygen - no longer having the properties of water." -

"When we move from one kingdom to another we still keep our individual identity but we go through a process of fusion where the many become one with a greater life." - 

Joshua Xavier

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

A Trip to the Avatar Fitness Club

By DrFran Babcock

In my First Life I am called upon often to read and evaluate research, and I get to read a lot of it. I was very surprised to find that a study was conducted at the University of Kansas (see reference at the end of this article) using Second Life™ as a support for weight loss. Since the most common resolution for the New Year is to lose weight, this could not be timelier.

 I figure folks are not really interested in me providing details of the research, but I am sure you would like to know what they researchers uncovered. Basically, two groups of sedentary people were put on packaged food weight loss programs. One group had actual face-to-face support in a group and the other group had virtual support groups held in Second Life™ that used voice.  It was found that the face-to-face group lost more weight, but, the Second Life™ group maintained their weight loss for a longer time—in my opinion, a far more important indication of success.

With this in mind I tried to track down support groups in world, and I found an amazing location for all things fitness and health: The Avatar Fitness Club, or AFC.

The Avatar Fitness Club

The club is a project of the Cooperative Extension (news article ). DrFran is quite fit (cough, cough) so she sent Morleena in a skimpy bikini to explore the site. The build is set up to be a virtual health center, and contains aerobic equipment, a weight room, yoga room, swimming pool, and more. She was happy to see that there are actual support groups starting there that are held in the AFC Lounge on Fridays at 1:30 PM SL time. If you are interested you have to IM Jaye Jeffries to reserve a spot. Jaye is in school in First Life, studying Exercise Physiology, so he is a perfect candidate for this kind of venue.

It is true that just having your avatar run laps and lift weights will not do a thing, but wouldn’t it be nice to talk to other people who are working on weight loss while your avatar motivates you to do exercise in First Life?

Morleena ran on the treadmill, swam a few laps, lifted weights, and did a bit of yoga. She didn’t go to a support group, because there was none at the times she was there, but there were a few avatars using the equipment.

So, are you feeling as if you’d like to get rid of those 2013 holiday pounds? A trip to the Avatar Fitness Club might be just the push you need to motivate you to make some changes for your health. I suspect that if enough people join the (free) group, that the owners of the club will add some more support groups. After all, the research does seem to indicate that talking about weighty issues does help keep off the weight.

You can find the Avatar Fitness Club here:

 DrFran Babcock