Exploring (and Building) in Cryptovoxels

While I was home sick with a cold this past week, I spent a little time wandering around Cryptovoxels (which is very easy to do, since it all runs in your web browser). Here are a few pictures I took on my travels:

The Rose Nexus Gallery (blogged previously here)

There are already quite a few impressive builds, including this huge sphere, guarded by a couple of massive heads:

You might not know that Spidymonkey kindly gave me a parcel of virtual land to build on in Cryptovoxels (thanks, Spidymonkey!). He even went so far as to create a three-dimensional version of my profile picture to place on it!

And (after a bit of troubleshooting), I was able to build my first creation on my own land. My first wall!

You can choose different designs for your blocks, and you can delete previously placed blocks to make things like windows:

The way that Cryptovoxels handles colour is interesting. Essentially, you have to buy colour using cryptocurrency (or have it gifted to you). According to the documentation:

Color is a limited resource in Cryptovoxels. Any land owner can build in black and white and greyscale for no extra cost, but if you want to use color voxels or color images, you need to add some $COLR. There are three ways to get $COLR.

– Build something cool and get $COLR as a reward
– Purchase $COLR from Uniswap using Ether
– Have someone in-world add some $COLR to your parcel to say thanks

(And yes, before you say anything about my building skills…I’m a blogger, not an architect. Be kind.)


Sinespace Creator Spotlight: BlakOpal Designs

One of the nice things about avatar clothing in Sinespace is that you can incorporate in-world cloth physics, as shown by the skirt of this dress created by BlackOpal Designs, in a recent video posted to YouTube:

In a recent interview with 80 Level, the couple behind BlakOpal Designs explains how they got started creating content for virtual worlds, starting off with Second Life in 2008:

We are BlakOpal and Trilo Byte, based in the San Francisco Bay Area in the United States. We’re artists in both the real and virtual worlds. Together and separately we’ve worked on real-world projects such as bespoke clothing (like pirate coats, corsets, and dresses), custom bars and furniture, a human-powered carousel, a 40-foot long space pirate ship, and even a large climbable ziggurat. BlakOpal has a strong background in graphic design, 3D and animation, while Trilo’s background is a bit more varied and also covers advertising, marketing, and industrial design. We love art and technology and have been doing this for most of our lives.

We got into making content for virtual worlds in 2008 when we were taking a year off from Burning Man (an arts and culture festival in northern Nevada) and had a lot of time on our hands. At that time, we discovered a BBC documentary called Visions Of The Future presented by Dr. Michio Kaku – a brilliant theoretical physicist and futurist who we are big fans of. In the program, he talked about virtual worlds, specifically Second Life, and he even mentioned that they had a virtual version of Burning Man that took place in-world. We decided to look it up and check it out and were immediately hooked. We had been making 2D and 3D art for years at that point, and immediately started making things and playing around to see what we could do.

When BlakOpal and Trilo Byte discovered that Sinespace had in-world cloth physics, that was enough to get them hooked! They were the first people to create avatar clothing with working cloth physics in Sinespace, in December 2016.

Trilo is quoted in the 80 Level interview:

One of the great things about making things for SineSpace is that it’s based on the Unity game engine, and Unity can work with almost anything. You can use whatever 3D modeling program you like, as long as it can export an FBX, DAE, or OBJ file. You can use anything from free programs like Blender to commercial programs like ZBrushModoCinema 4DMarvelous DesignerMaya… the list goes on and on.  It’s just a matter of finding a program (or programs) that you like and is within your budget and learning how to use the tools.

For texturing, you can use free programs like GIMP (the GNU Image Manipulation Program) or Krita, or commercial programs like PixelmatorPhotoshopSubstance Painter or Mari. A lot of modeling programs have pretty good tools for texturing built in, too. The choices here are endless, it’s about finding the right program for your budget and learning how to use it.

For more information on BlakOpal Designs, you can visit Trilo’s website or follow their Twitter, Instagram, or YouTube.

So today, I decided that Vanity Fair would pay a visit to the in-world BlakOpal store, and do a little shopping. You can also do your shopping using the in-client Shop button, or from the Sinespace Shop website (here’s a link to take you directly to the BlakOpal Designs store).

The BlakOpal Designs Store in Sinespace
The BlakOpal Designs Store: in-client shopping via the Shop button
The BlakOpal Designs Store on the Sinespace Shop website

Here are a few of the outfits she picked up today:

This is the Bettie top and matching miniskirt, available for 149 Gold each. This outfit comes in red as shown, as well as purple, blue, green, and black:

The next outfit Vanity models consists of:

  • the Crescent Hoop earrings in Ripple Gold (only 39 Gold!);
  • the gold Mirabelle Wrap Dress (physics enabled; 179 Gold); and
  • the black Misty Ballet Slipper (99 Gold).

Watch how the skirt of this dress moves as Vanity walks! You will never see this kind of cloth physics in Second Life, folks! (Even Sansar only has cloth physics enabled in Lookbook mode as you dress and style your avatar, not in-world cloth physics.)

The following, final outfit consists of four separate pieces:

  • the blue Moto Jacket F Dragonfly (149 Gold);
  • the black Lillian Lace Top (79 Gold);
  • the blue Marco Jeans F (99 Gold); and
  • the blue Sineverse F Dragonfly Sneakers (149 Gold).

As you can see, the detailing on this clothing is remarkable!

So hurry on down to BlakOpal Designs and pick up some wonderfully crafted outfits for your avatar! They sell menswear as well as women’s clothing, in styles ranging from modern to steampunk to pirate!

This blogpost is sponsored by Sinespace, and was written in my new role as an embedded reporter for this virtual world (more details here).

UPDATED! Wuhan Coronavirus Update: January 25th, 2020

The first close-up images of the Wuhan coronavirus were released on Friday. Photo: Chinese Centre For Disease Control And Prevention (source)

Sorry, guys, but I am going to be continuing to post about the Wuhan coronavirus situation on this blog. Given my background as a flu prepper, and despite my attempts to inject some laughter into previous potential pandemics, everything I have seen and read so far indicates that this is situation which requires all hands on deck.

Given that this blog gets between 600 and 6,000 views per day, I am hoping that I can use my little soapbox to help bring other people up-to-speed as to what is happening out there in the real world. Yes, we in virtual worlds do tend sometimes to use them to escape aspects of reality that we would rather not have to deal with. I am certainly guilty of this myself, and I suspect some of you, my readers, are as well.

But as a librarian who works at a university science library, I owe it to you to make sure that you are connected to the best, most up-to-date sources of information to make the best decisions. So here goes. Expect a new blogpost with updated information and links every day.

First: You Need to Put Things Into Perspective

To put the current crisis into some historical perspective, and to understand terms being thrown around such as R0, read this informative 2014 article by the World Economic Forum, How Ebola compares with other diseases, which obviously does not talk about the Wuhan virus, but discusses and compares previous epidemics and pandemics over the years. At this point, we do not yet know the R0 of the Wuhan coronavirus (which is essentially, a measure of how easy it is to catch it from an infected person). Scientists are working to figure that out as soon as possible, however, based on the early spread of cases.

Second: You Need to Prepare

Watch this one-and-half-minute video from TIME magazine, excerpts from an interview with Hong Kong infectious disease expert Dr. Yuen Kwok-yung, explaining in a calm and credible way why you need to take this situation seriously:

I’m just going to cut and paste a good argument posted to the China_Flu subReddit discussion group:

I’ve noticed that there are two dominant mindsets on this sub when it comes to gathering emergency supplies.

Group 1 thinks something like, “It’s fear-mongering to suggest anyone go out and get supplies. It’s paranoid to go get emergency supplies.”

Group 2 thinks something like, “The world is about to end and so I need as many supplies as possible. Why won’t people recognize the emergency and give real advice?”

I figured that linking to what the CDC [U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] has already recommended for ages might be helpful.

Group 1 needs to understand that the CDC wants literally everyone to have emergency supplies even at the best of times, and has already tried over and over again to convince people to prepare for emergencies, including specific emergencies like flu pandemic, which they have explicitly mentioned many times. The only problem they’d have with you running out to get a hand cranked radio is that they think you should’ve gotten one a long time ago, not that they think preparation is paranoid.

Group 2 will have some actual guidance instead of just getting told to stop freaking out. Or instead of being swept up by actual paranoid suggestions like bankrupting themselves to order hazmat suits in bulk. The CDC does not recommend that everyone have a bizillion N95 masks, but they do recommend many things that lots of us might not even think about beforehand. (Like: how good is your can opener? Because canned food is no good if you struggle to open it.)

If you are in Group 1, likely nothing I say is going to convince you to prepare until it’s too late. If you are in Group 2, like me, someone who went crazy during the bird flu scare and stocked up on face masks, tinned food, and Tamiflu (which, by the way, will be completely useless against the Wuhan coronavirus), then some actual, credible guidance on what to buy is a good idea.

Here is the CDC’s Guide to Personal Health Preparedness, which includes sections with handy shopping lists on:

  • Personal needs (food, water, toilet paper, first aid supplies, soap and hand sanitizer, garbage bags, etc.)
  • Prescriptions (essentially, talk to your doctor and pharmacist about creating an emergency supply of your prescription medications, and stock up on some over-the-counter medications)
  • Power sources (flashlight, extra batteries, car chargers and adapters for your mobile devices, a battery-operated or hand-crank radio)

Third: You Need to Stay Informed

The University of California San Francisco published this excellent article, an interview with infectious disease expert Dr. Charles Chiu: As Mysterious Coronavirus Spreads, An Infectious Disease Expert Explains What You Should Know:

Right now, we don’t know the transmission efficiency for the new virus. A case was reported from China where one patient apparently infected 14 health care workers at the hospital, and it’s possible that some patients, known as super spreaders, are more infectious than others. We don’t know whether that particular patient was a super spreader or whether this reflects the fact that this virus is already very efficient at human-to-human transmission.

Based on the reports, the symptoms of respiratory infection from 2019-nCoV are very similar to those from other coronaviruses: nasal congestion, headache, cough, sore throat and a fever. In some patients, these symptoms can worsen into pneumonia, with chest tightness, chest pain, and shortness of breath. If you’re elderly, immunocompromised, or if you have other comorbidities such as heart disease, liver disease, you are at higher risk of developing severe pneumonia and dying from the disease.

We also know that there are documented cases of human-to-human transmission as shown by the hospital-acquired cases, and evidence of sustained cycles of transmission, as evidenced by secondary infections in household members who were not exposed to the markets from which the initial cases originated. We also know that there have been deaths from this virus, the majority in older men with underlying health problems, but also in a healthy young man. So it’s definitely something to worry about.

Again, I stress: all the experts are telling you that you need to take this seriously.

Now, if you want a single-screen, up-to-date statistics panel, which shows you the current information on the spread of the Wuhan coronavirus, you’re in luck! The Center for Systems Science and Engineering (CSSE) at Johns Hopkins University has created a panel with the latest information (updated every day at noon EST), including a global map of reported cases which you can zoom in and out on:

Wuhan Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) Global Cases (by Johns Hopkins University)

Here are a few other good, credible sources of information on the Wuhan coronavirus:

In addition to these official sources, there are two other places you can check, which might have reports (including translated links to local social media in China) that have not yet made the mainstream news media. Please keep in mind that some of the information you find here might be gossip, rumours, misinformation, or disinformation!

Stay healthy!

Coping with the Wuhan Virus: Laughter is the Best Medicine (Plus a Couple of Real Tips for Dealing with the Situation)

What do you do with a problem like Mar-Ryan?

I’m a weird person. (But then, if you’ve been following this blog at all, we’ve already established that fact pretty firmly.) Throughout my life, I have had a somewhat lamentable tendency to go off on weird tangents.

And, back around 2006, my tangent was bird flu. I became obsessed with following and discussing the latest information about the H5N1 avian flu virus with other flu preppers (a.k.a. “flubies”), which for a time looked as though it would develop into a global pandemic. (I just checked, and I still remember my username and password from the FluTrackers.com discussion forum!)

Me and my fellow flubies were constantly worrying, analyzing, and obsessing over the latest case data and news reports. So, in an effort to inject some levity into what was a grave and potentially life-threatening situation, I began using my rudimentary Photoshop skills to create funny pictures to share with my fellow flubies.

And so, Cora-Anne Tine, my public-service pandemic advice columnist diva/drag persona was born! (Say “Cora-Anne Tine” five times really, really fast and you will “get” my drag name. 😉 )

My column was called Cora-Anne Tine, Advice to the Flu-Lorn and Your Guide to a Stylish Pandemic. These pictures used to illustrate that tongue-in-cheek “advice” column all date back to between 2005 and 2006 (ahh, the memories!):

Caption: Pandemic Advice Diva Cora-Anne Tine does a little light reading…
Caption: Kate Moss Cocaine Chic is SO yesterday! Cora-Anne models the latest look: Pippi Plague!!! Sultry! Sexy! SASSY! The look whispers “Come a little bit closer”, yet screams “STAY THE F**K AWAY FROM ME!” Note the little touches that pull the look together: the yellow Caution tape hair bows, the duct tape accents on the N95 face mask, that look of panic in the eyes! Watch for this look on a runwa… erm, in a quarantine shelter near you this fall!
(WASHINGTON, D.C., November 1st, 2005) Absolutely, completely unretouched photo from President George Bush’s press conference announcing the appointment.
George Bush answers a reporter’s question while Cora-Anne Tine holds aloft a dead bird in a typical “Evita Peron – People of Argentina!” gesture. Note the Barbara Bush pearls 🙂 In a brief speech to reporters, Ms. Tine said that her highest priority would be the implementation of the Families Under Complete Quarantine for an Extended Duration program: “I’m here to make sure that every single American family gets F.U.C.Q.E.D. according to the Bush administration’s pandemic flu preparedness brochure, er, plan.” In related news, Vice-President Dick Cheney had a Cora-nary.
Every family can be a F.U.C.Q.E.D. family!
Elton John and Cora-Anne Tine, caught canoodling by the paparazzi!
Yes, you can learn how to make my fabulous bling-bling goggles!
See Cora-Anne’s latest F.U.C.Q.E.D. Program Arts ‘n’ Crafts posting!!
Crafts with Cora-Anne: Bling-Bling Goggles Step 1
Crafts with Cora-Anne: Bling-Bling Goggles Step 2
Dear Readers: Yes, after some high-level diplomatic talks, Yours Truly is back on the ground in China! Here, I am instructing the Chinese bird-flu eradication teams, showing them how to use their fumigators to dispense Glade Plug-Ins Lilac Spring scent. Remember, a lilac-scented farm is a CLEAN farm!!

Yes, you could say that I had fun with it. But I always made sure to include links to good, credible sources of information about a possible pandemic and how to prepare for it. There was method to my madness.

So, stay tuned! Here is what the situation looks like in China today:

Source: BBC

So, it looks like we are going to be facing a rapidly-evolving, global health emergency situation. Expect an explosion of cases, first in China, and then globally. Unfortunately, government-imposed quarantines will not be effective against a virus that appears to have a 14-day incubation period (for example, an estimated tens of thousands of Wuhan citizens left the city before the Chinese government restricted travel). Hospitals will quickly become overwhelmed, as can be seen from this footage shared on Twitter which was linked to from today’s BBC article.

So, what can you do?

Well, based on my past experiences as a bird flu prepper, here is some real advice (all joking aside, you do need to pay attention to this situation as it develops):

  • Don’t panic; prepare. NOW is the time to do some common-sense preparation for the potential societal disruption that a pandemic virus can cause. Plan for a period of time when you will be stuck at home and unable to get supplies. Go grocery shopping and stock up on non-perishable food. Get your prescriptions refilled to last you, so you don’t run out of your medications if you can’t get out to the pharmacy. And if you want to buy things like face masks to protect yourself and your family, the time to do it is BEFORE everybody else wants to get their hands on them! (As you can see from my pictures, I already have a stock of face masks and eye goggles!)
  • Stay informed. Read widely, but be a discriminating information consumer. Good sources of up-to-date information on the Wuhan coronavirus are the World Health Organization and the Wikipedia page, which is constantly being kept current by an army of volunteer editors. Dedicated discussion forums like FluTrackers.com can often be an invaluable source of information that you might not (yet) find in the mainstream news media, with people posting translations of breaking Chinese news bulletins. There is a new China_Flu subReddit community that is sharing links to resources—but again, be careful! Gossip, rumours, misinformation, and disinformation can spread rapidly via social media.

As I come across other good sources of information about the Wuhan virus, I will share them here. Stay healthy!