Saturday, February 23, 2008

Handout for SL Panel at IL-TCE Conference

Note: This is the Handout that we gave out (digitally) to accompany a "Second Life" Panel at the Illinois Technology Conference for Educators 2008, February 28 from 9:45 to 10:30 am (CST). There was also an SL Playground later in the day.

(Join the NING:

To get a Second Life account:

Educational uses of Second Life




LSL, the scripting language used in SL, is well-explained in an introductory video available at

Machinima (video) in SL



· (search for “Second Life”)

Some Cool Places to Go in SL
(These are SLURLs, when you click them, they will take you to a webpage with a link directly into Second Life, which must be installed on your computer for the link to work.)

Vincent’s Starry Night, an island devoted to the work of Vincent Van Gogh;

The Second Louvre, where paintings and sculpture are on display;

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) island called Meteora with several interesting simulations, including a submarine ride, two tsunami simulations, an airplane ride into the eye of a hurricane, and a demonstration of a melting glacier. (

Renaissance Island, a simulation of a 16th century village, complete with a copy of Shakespeare’s Globe Theater;

Svarga, a simulation of an entire ecosystem, with self-replicating plants, bees, birds, rain, and a sun that produces energy for the system;

VITAL Lab at the University of Ohio has created several simulations in Second Life, including a Nutrition Game, which emphasizes the impact that fast food has on health;

HealthInfo Islan;

The Salamander Project seeks to create a web-based database of all educational materials—so-called “Learning Objects”—in Second Life

Jazz Cats dance club on Infotainment Island;

The International Society for Technology in Education weekly “Social Nights” Thursdays at 8 pm Central Time on ISTE Island;

The Teacher Networking Center (TNC) in Second Life

The Discovery Education Network holds weekly Wednesday evening workshops for educators about how to use SL;

SL campus of the ELVEN Institute at

The Ivory Tower Library of Primitives helps teach SL users how to build using “prims,” or primitive objects, at

Listservs and Groups to Join

Second Life Educators (SLED;

SL Educators and Teens (

ISTE in SL: (have to be logged in as an ISTE member) or

In-World Groups (log in to your Second Life account, and start a new search using the Search tool along the bottom right of your screen. Under the Group tab, search for the group's name. Select "join" and that's all there is to it:

ISTE: Educational Technology Assoc

Ingenious Illinois Interlopers

Discovery Education Network

Teacher Networking Center

ELVEN Institute

Contact us

Craig A. Cunningham (SL: Dewey Jung;

Lisa Perez (SL: Elaine Tulip;

Meg Ormiston (SL: Meg Writer;

Scott Swanson (SL: Kyle Thorne;

Monday, February 18, 2008

Second Life is EVERYWHERE

So I'm looking at the SPLENDA website ( for some ideas about how to make Oatmeal Raisin Cookies (I found the perfect recipe here: without so much sugar, and out of the corner of my eye I see

...and of course I have to "learn more," and so I find out that there is a a SPLENDA island in SL (I'll have to check it out):

And that SPLENDA has been having a contest:

And that the winner is:

It appears that by March 18, Splenda will have BUILT the "Splenda Pool Experience" in SL. Can't wait! :-)

[I don't know about YOU, but I find the idea of SWIMMING in a pool of Splenda No Calorie Sweetener (it's a POWDER!!!) a bit sickly sweet, if not sickening. ]

However, Spenda IS good for diabetics, because even though it tastes sweet, it's not recognized by the body as a carbohydrate. However, according to the Baking Tips I found (once I'd picked my jaw up off the floor and recovered from the swimming pool full of Splenda!!!), "Cookies often rely on brown sugar for their chewy, crunchy texture. To retain the texture, replace only the white granulated sugar in your cookie recipes." So I won't replace the brown sugar with Splenda.

I'll let you know how they taste.

BTW, according to Wikipedia (and don't give me a lecture about allegedly "good sources"), Splenda "is manufactured by the selective chlorination of sucrose, in which three of the hydroxyl groups are replaced with chlorine atoms to produce sucralose." (Hmmmm, chlorinated sugar!!!! yum!). It's manufactured in Alabama.

Green is chlorine; red is oxygen, gray is carbon, and white is hydrogen. In notation form:

Compare this to ordinary sucrose (sugar):

"Sucralose mixed with maltodextrin and dextrose (both made from corn) as a filler is sold internationally by McNeil Nutritionals under the Splenda brand name."

And, surprisingly, "Though marketed in the U.S. as a “No calorie sweetener,” Splenda actually contains about 86% of the calories as the same mass of sugar (331 calories per 100 g vs. 387 calories per 100 g for sugar). However, since Splenda is about 14.5% as dense as sugar, a given volume of Splenda has 12.4% the energy of the same volume of sugar.When sucralose is added directly to commercial products, the filler is omitted and no energy is added.

"Note too that although the “nutritional facts” label on Splenda’s retail packaging states that a single serving of 0.5 gram (1 teaspoon or 5 milliliters) contains zero calories, Splenda actually contains 1.66 calories per teaspoon. Such labeling is appropriate in the U.S. because the FDA’s regulations permit a product to be labeled as “zero calories” if the “food contains less than 5 calories per reference amount customarily consumed and per labeled serving.”[11] Because Splenda contains a relatively small amount of sucralose, little of which is metabolized, virtually all of Splenda’s caloric content derives from the highly fluffed dextrose or maltodextrin filler, or carrier, that gives Splenda its volume. Like other carbohydrates, dextrose and maltodextrin have 3.75 calories per gram."

Well, who knew?

UPDATE: Well, my son and I made the cookies:

He insisted that we make some "spatula sized," so one sheet was humongous, while he others were more typical of homemade cookies:

The cookies are very good. But not great. They are missing that chewy butteryness that characterizes the best oatmeal cookies. I don't know whether this is because we used Splenda instead of good old sugar, but that's certainly possible.

However, even though they are "not great," they ARE half the sugar (okay, about 51.2%) of regular cookies! Does that mean I can eat twice as much?

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Update: Photos from ELVEN Griefing Workshop


Photos from the ELVEN Institute's Griefing and Harassment Workshop, led by Zotarah Shepherd (with support from Bill Friis and Pennie Venkman) and held on January 19, 2008, have been posted to my Flickr account, here:

The photos were taken by Avigail Lindman. Thanks Avigail!

The workshop was a great success, despite some rolling restarts, which included the region Zotarah used for a field trip with the participants. I wasn't there (had to teach in First Life), but according to a detailed report from Bill Friis, this is a summary of what happened:

  • --- Pre- Workshop Chatter ---
  • ---- The Workshop Begins and Bronte Alcott Speaks ---
  • --- Zotarah Shepherd Takes Over - Griefing Intro ---
  • --- Bill Friis Does His Part - Land Settings ---
  • --- Handing Out Handouts ---
  • --- Zotarah Again - Brief Particle Grief ---
  • --- Teleport to Elf Harbour or The Cat Herder's Nightmare ---
  • --- Pammie Venkman Tells Us the Right Way to Deal with Grief ---
  • --- Pammie Gets Violent and Everybody Loves It ---



  • --- Pammie and Zotarah Conclude, Thanks All Around ---
Pammie gave a great talk with advice from real experience (she trains the Guardians for ElvenGlen Fort, who are sim administrators, greeters and protectors. It is non-gorean, elven fantasy roleplay group. Among her advice:

  • always approach griefer initially in IM to avoid a "safe face" situation
  • be polite but firm
  • always provide them with a notecard containing the rules of Second Life or of the region (see below)
  • don't laugh at a griefer or rule-breaker
  • take a snapshot with User Interface showing (so you have evidence and names for Linden Labs report)
  • send abuse report using menu choice under "help" menu
  • to get out of a cage, rez a wooden block (outside the cage and sit on it

SL Warning Notice



NOTE: Your activities are against Second Life Community Standards and can result in temporary suspension or recending of your Second Life membership!


The goals of the Community Standards are simple: treat each other with respect and without harassment, adhere to local standards as indicated by simulator ratings, and refrain from any hate activity which slurs a real-world individual or real-world community. Behavioral Guidelines - The "Big Six"

Within Second Life, we want to support Residents in shaping their specific experiences and making their own choices.

The Community Standards sets out six behaviors, the "Big Six", that will result in suspension or, with repeated violations, expulsion from the Second Life Community.

All Second Life Community Standards apply to all areas of Second Life, the Second Life Forums, and the Second Life Website.
Combating intolerance is a cornerstone of Second Life's Community Standards. Actions that marginalize, belittle, or defame individuals or groups inhibit the satisfying exchange of ideas and diminish the Second Life community as whole. The use of derogatory or demeaning language or images in reference to another Resident's race, ethnicity, gender, religion, or sexual orientation is never allowed in Second Life.

Given the myriad capabilities of Second Life, harassment can take many forms. Communicating or behaving in a manner which is offensively coarse, intimidating or threatening, constitutes unwelcome sexual advances or requests for sexual favors, or is otherwise likely to cause annoyance or alarm is Harassment.

Most areas in Second Life are identified as Safe. Assault in Second Life means: shooting, pushing, or shoving another Resident in a Safe Area (see Global Standards below); creating or using scripted objects which singularly or persistently target another Resident in a manner which prevents their enjoyment of Second Life.

Residents are entitled to a reasonable level of privacy with regard to their Second Lives. Sharing personal information about a fellow Resident --including gender, religion, age, marital status, race, sexual preference, and real-world location beyond what is provided by the Resident in the First Life page of their Resident profile is a violation of that Resident's privacy. Remotely monitoring conversations, posting conversation logs, or sharing conversation logs without consent are all prohibited in Second Life and on the Second Life Forums.

Second Life is an adult community, but Mature material is not necessarily appropriate in all areas (see Global Standards below). Content, communication, or behavior which involves intense strong language or expletives, nudity or sexual content, the depiction of sex or strong violence, or anything else broadly offensive must be contained within private land in areas rated Mature (M). Names of Residents, objects, places and groups are broadly viewable in Second Life directories and on the Second Life website, and must adhere to PG guidelines.

Disturbing the Peace
Every Resident has a right to live their Second Life. Disrupting scheduled events, repeated transmission of undesired advertising content, the use of repetitive sounds, following or self-spawning items, or other objects that intentionally slow server performance or inhibit another Resident's ability to enjoy Second Life are examples of Disturbing the Peace. Policies and Policing

Global Standards, Local Ratings
All areas of Second Life, including the website and the Second Life Forums, adhere to the same Community Standards. Locations within Second Life are noted as Safe or Unsafe and rated Mature (M) or non-Mature (PG), and behavior must conform to the local ratings. Any unrated area of Second Life or the Second Life website should be considered non-Mature (PG).

Warning, Suspension, Banishment
Second Life is a complex society, and it can take some time for new Residents to gain a full understanding of local customs and mores. Generally, violations of the Community Standards will first result in a Warning, followed by Suspension and eventual Banishment from Second Life. In-World Representatives, called Liaisons, may occasionally address disciplinary problems with a temporary removal from Second Life.

Global Attacks
Community Standards violations which broadly interfere with or disrupt the Second Life community, the Second Life servers or other systems related to Second Life cannot be tolerated in any form. Such actions will result in a minimum two-week suspension and a review of your account for probable removal from Second Life.

Alternate Accounts
While Residents may choose to play Second Life with more than one account, specifically or consistently using an alternate account to harass other Residents or violate the Community Standards is not acceptable. Alternate accounts are generally treated as separate from a Resident's principal account, but misuse of alternate accounts can and will result in disciplinary action on the principal account.

Buyer Beware
Linden Lab does not exercise editorial control over the content of Second Life, and will make no specific efforts to review the textures, objects, sounds or other content created within Second Life. Additionally, Linden Lab does not certify or endorse the operation of in-world games, vending machines, or retail locations; refunds must be requested from the owners of these objects.

Reporting Abuse
Residents should report violations of the Community Standards using the Abuse Reporter tool located under the Help menu in the in-world tool bar. Every Abuse Report is individually investigated, and the identity of the reporter is kept strictly confidential. If you need immediate assistance, in-world Liaisons may be available to help. Look for Residents with the last name Linden.

Please enjoy your Second Life game by playing in a manner that is in accord with Community Standards and not detrimental to the enjoyment of other players.
Thank you for your attention to these matters.

Monday, February 04, 2008

More on Redhead on the Catalyst Control Center Welcome Screen

Just for fun, and because I was too worn out to do any more work, I did a little investigating of the redheaded woman on the Catalyst Control Center welcome screen. I didn't find many other references to her (I guess having a oddly-angled drawing of a buxom lady on the welcome screen of a video card applet isn't worth commenting on). I did find one person who said the reason he chose an ATI over an nVidia card is because he preferred "RedHeaded Vinyl-Clad Ass-kickers" to "Mermaids and Ogres." []

I also learned that the Control Center is customizable, so the decision to put the redhead there must have been a purposeful one by ATI. [] I also learned:
ATI introduced the Catalyst Control Center suite early in 2004 along with the release of the X800 family of cards. Up until late last year ATI made the CCC an optional driver, with older cards still able to use the old ATI Control Panel. With the release of the X1K series of cards, ATI chose to make the CCC a necessary component for the new cards." []
Then, I discovered that different models of AT Radeon cards have different graphics on their Control Center Welcome Screen. Here's the one for the ATI Radeon 1950

Maybe, I thought, the higher-end cards have even more high-resolution images on their welcome screens! Then I found a box for the ATI Radeon 9550, which had this version of the redhead:

Alas, I couldn't remember if my mere 1550 had the redhead on its box, or if I would have even noticed if it had. But I found this, which suggests that the redhead appears on multiple models, and may differ by the country in which it is distributed:

I also found this, which i assume is supplied by ATI for resale vendors to direct their customers"

...and this...

It seemed to me that there must be some kind of backstory behind the woman: who was she, and what exactly is she doing in all these action shots? Clearly, she's a warrior. But for good? For evil?

Then, for some reason, THIS came up in an image search for "catalyst control center" welcome screen:


What the heck, I thought? Upon following the link (above this paragraph), no sign of this image. However, when I followed the Google prompt to "See full-size image," it took me to

What, I wondered, does Michelle Stafford have to do with the Catalyst Control Center Welcome Screen?


Then I looked again at Michelle, and then again at the redhead on the welcome screen. Hmmmmm......

Quite a resemblance there! Both redheads. Same face shape. Eyes similar.....

Is Michelle Stafford the redhead on the Welcome Screen?

I went to Michelle's web site, and found a couple of pictures that certainly suggest the Catalyst Redhead:

I didn't see anything like "Catalyst Control Center Welcome Girl" listed in Michelle's "Credits" section of her website, but I did learn she was a start in a film called "Attaction," which I googled, and found this Wikipedia article on Michelle, which informed me that her birthday is the day after mine (a VIRGO), and that she was born in the town where I live (Chicago), supports "The Earth Organization" (where's my checkbook!), and is a Scientologist (which I'm not).

Anyway, I haven't proven that Michelle is Ruby, but I wonder....

Then, I found another example of this image:

...only THIS time, she had a NAME. The name of the image file was Ruby_ATI.jpg. RUBY!! Finally, I could put a name to the face. This got me more excited. Instead of searching for vague terms like "redhead," I could search for "Ruby"!!!

I decided that maybe Ruby represented more than just the Catalyst Control Center; maybe she was an icon for ATI in general. So I decided broaden my search to "ATI Radeon" images, and see whether any other images came up.

First thing I found was the highest resolution image of Ruby that I had found so far, over the caption:

Ruby is ATI's new tech-demo superstar.
(click to enlarge)

so of course I did, and found

And then, another very high resolution image, available as wallpaper for the computer desktop:


Clearly ATI has a sense that some of its customers might want to have more "eye time" with Ruby! However, not THAT much of a sense, because there were 11 matches to "ATI Radeon" on that website, and most of them feature THIS guy, hardly competition for Ruby:

I felt that I was coming close to finding out what Ruby was all about. I found this image:


..which made me think there must be a backstory to Ruby. And the image was accompanied by this text:

ATI created a new Ruby "Whiteout" tech demo to show off what the Radeon HD 2900 XT can do. In the new demo, the Ruby model has 200,000 triangles, and the entire video averages more than 1 million triangles per frame. In comparison, the Ruby from the Radeon X1000 series demo, "The Assassin," only has 80,000 triangles, and the demo averages just over 500,000 triangles per frame. The new Ruby also has 128 facial animation targets compared to four for the older models, which allows for more realistic facial expressions.

Following the link [], I came at last to where I should have started, the ATI web site, where I learned that Ruby is a model, designed (and repeatedly redesigned) to demonstrate new capabilities of ATI graphics cards. Regarding "Whiteout":
Ruby's latest adventure takes place in a rugged, mountainous terrain where her skills as a snowboarder are tested and may just save her life. This fast paced, action packed demo exploits the power of the ATI Radeon HD 2900XT to create a rich and expansive landscape of snow, rock, and ice. From the procedural snow accumulation on the harsh terrain to the wrinkles on Ruby's brow and the physics that drive each strand of fur on Ruby's fur collar, the ATI Radeon HD 2900XT can handle it all.

In order to create an expressive, compelling character our artists constructed 128 morph targets to drive Ruby's facial rig. All of these facial "poses" are combined using the GPU to create Ruby's final look. Ruby also uses a number of animated wrinkle maps to add additional subtle expressiveness to her brow, eyes, mouth and chin. High dynamic range imaging techniques are used through out the Whiteout demo to account for the brightest of outdoor environments as well as the darkest depths of Ruby's icy head quarters. Advanced light scattering techniques are employed to faithfully reproduce the complex interactions of light with snow and ice.

Sadly, since I only have an ATI 1550, I couldn't play the demo version of "Whiteout," which requires "
Windows Vista®, an ATI Radeon™ HD series product with 512MB of video memory and a high end CPU with 1GB of RAM." However, when I went up a level, to [], I found a whole list of demos. Fortunately, some of the demos have MPG versions available, which (OF COURSE!) I watched, and you can too:

"Doublecross" introduces the near future world of ATI's "Ruby" and her arch enemy "Optico". In an action packed 1 minute and 40 seconds, Ruby has to outwit the cunning "Optico" as he attempts to cheat on an exchange. Ruby not only has to use her wits but battle Optico's Ninja henchmen. Culminating in an explosive ending, Ruby escapes, leaving Optico vowing revenge. Through the use of motion captured animation, depth-of-field, realistic image based lighting and dynamic shadows; "DoubleCross" borrows heavily from both gaming and movie genres to create a compelling demo that further raises the expectations for real-time graphics.

"Dangerous Curves" continues the adventures of ATI’s heroine, Ruby. During this 45 second sequence, Ruby has to avoid Optico’s automated drones intent on her demise. A high speed motorcycle chase ensues through a gritty tunnel, punctuated by yet another explosive conclusion. Dangerous Curves continues ATI's tradition of blending movie and gaming genres to create a compelling demo. The use of real-time motion-blur, glows and precomputed radiance transfer (PRT) technology delivers realistic lighting and is a compelling demonstration of the cinematic experience that is possible on today’s 3D graphics hardware.

Ruby’s latest adventure places our heroine in a large complex environment and uses high dynamic range lighting and dynamic soft shadows to set the mood. The villain of the piece, a cyborg called Cyn, is our most complex character to date, consisting of over 120,000 polygons – all lit, transformed, rendered and shaded using the power of the Radeon® X1800.
Then, I went back to the HD2000 demo page, and discovered a version of Whiteout that I could play (hallelujah), at with a link to a downloadable version. This is the point at which she jumps out of the plane with her snowboard!

And this, when she's about to evade a rocket fired at her:

And this, as she is taking her revenge:

(You can also get Ruby videos at

Ah, Ruby! She is, of course, a "good guy"--fast, sexy, smart, with a European accent, and always victorious, just as you'd expect, looking at her. And she makes you want to run out at get the latest ATI graphics card, just so you can see her beauty mark with more detail.

Sadly, it seems that ATI may have moved on to a new woman. This is the box cover of the ATI Radeon 1650 Pro, released in early 2007:


I guessed that Ruby must have lost some of her appeal, and was replaced with someone with more cache. However, I later found out that this is "Sapphire," and she's only associated with a particular line of ATI cards. ("A tool for the performance oriented, the Sapphire X1600 PRO comes equipped with the hardware muscle to deliver an entire realm of fantasy right to your desktop." []

However, even more sadly,with the release of Microsoft Windows Vista, ATI seems to have changed their favorite image related to the Catalyst Control Center to something much less interesting than Ruby or Sapphire:

What the heck is up with THAT?!?!?!

PS. I could find no evidence that Ruby is modeled on Michelle Stafford. However, it was an odd coincidence that she came up in my search, only to not appear on the page where she was supposed to be. Does anyone know anything?

PPS. Now that I know Ruby's name, I can search Google Images for "ATI Ruby," and find a whole SLEW of Ruby images.

She even has her own fan site:,

where fans (like me?) can download desktop wallpapers, screen savers, and videos. Ruby even has a biography:

Rumored to be the daughter of a high-ranking military officer and a foreign ambassador, Agent codename: 'RUBY' is listed in the agency database as ideal for covert missions and high-risk activities that are unsuitable for other freelance agents. This operative possesses Class One Security Clearance and Level 'A' computer expertise. Skilled in martial arts, demolition and surveillance, Agent RUBY is authorized in the use of extreme force and has global diplomatic immunity.

Prior to her working for ATI, RUBY operated internationally as a mercenary for hire. Her movements can be traced to various conflicts in Asia and Central America as well as operations involving the British Secret Service. Deep cover operatives have discovered documents suggesting her field rank within this organization as Security Director, Field Operations, Senior Grade (unconfirmed). Her associations with her employers have been verified as performing functions including: sniper, saboteur, hacker, spy, commando and as a diplomatic courier for various governments.

As an ATI operative, agent RUBY has dealt effectively with the billionaire technologist: 'Optico' ( see accompanying dossier ). In derailing Optico's use of secret technology, which he hoped to sell to hostile foreign governments, RUBY's intelligence-gathering network has allowed ATI unprecedented access to Optico's inner lair and the transfer of this highly sensitive technology, created by Optico Industries. Preliminary examination of this technology indicates unlimited potential.

Agent RUBY's past history, although free of overt criminal activity, remains open to further investigation. Although her loyalty is assured, close supervision of this freelance agent by staff administrators is advised.

There are even, at gaming shows, real-world imitators of the animated heroine:

Somehow, now that I know who she is and what she stands for, she seems a whole lot less interesting. What is it they say, about playing hard to get?