For and about Cancer Survivors in Second Life, and for anyone who has been touched by cancer

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Limo to San Francisco please

What is real and what is virtual? I’m in San Francisco for the Second Life Community Convention and sometimes it’s hard to believe I flew halfway round the world. It took me nearly two days to get here from the UK as the flight I was due to take on Monday was cancelled. Why didn’t I just tp here?

Wednesday, August 12 A good friend shows me some of the sights of San Francisco. We buy picnic foods at the Ferry Building and take the ferry out to Sausalito, passing Alcatraz island on the way and getting a fairly clear view of the Golden Gate Bridge, which has always been completely shrouded in fog on previous visits. A magical day, with time to relax and to get used to the time difference.

Thursday, August 13, 9 am. Time to set off for the Westin St Francis Hotel where the convention is being held. When I arrive I follow the noise up to the mezzanine floor. There’s a gathering crowd around what looks like a registration desk, but no badges or programs to be seen. Gradually the story unfolds. The registration materials have failed to rez. Otherwise it’s business as usual, and the sessions are due to start at noon. Aside from the slight inconvenience of not knowing who’s talking at any particular time, no-one seems particularly bothered by the lack of badges and programs. In fact, it acts as an ice-breaker and gets us talking to each other. I meet Frans Charming and Rhiannon Chatnoir who are familiar faces from last year. Somehow I manage to meet up with Bri and Pookie Gufler – one of the volunteers, Glennan Glenerg who like me is from the UK, takes a picture of me on his cell phone to show Bri if he sees him. Now why didn’t I think of that. Bri is the Health Track leader and we have had several meetings in world during the process of putting the track together. Bri introduces me to Pathfinder Linden who will be on a panel on Saturday with Treasure Ballinger, Ricken Flow, and myself.

And then, I meet Gentle Heron ...

I recognize Gentle by her voice and fall under her spell. Gentle is someone I have long admired and meeting her in person is a great thrill. She has multiple sclerosis and is unable to stand unaided, and if she has to go very far she uses a wheelchair, but she has turned her disability into a gift and has used her second life to make a difference not only for herself but also for many others. Gentle came into Second Life with several others looking for a community to support people with disabilities and when they didn’t find it they decided to create it. What started as the Heron Sanctuary has evolved into Virtual Ability, Inc., which now helps people with a wide range of disabilities to enter and thrive in Second Life. Earlier this year, Virtual Ability was one of two projects to win the first ever Linden Prize. It’s not hard to understand why. VA is fundamentally changing the way people play and learn in Second Life, and it is bound not to stop there as Gentle is still full of ideas for the future.

Somehow I navigate Gentle’s wheelchair (which was damaged on her flight to San Francisco) and we find a place to sit, and find ourselves talking with Dusan Writer, another person I’ve admired from a distance and who I learn later is Doug Thomson in real life, the CEO of Remedy Communications, and Shirlee Mills, who makes and sells pianos in Second Life. Later, Gentle introduces me to Harper Beresford and we three go off for lunch together, Harper takes over the driving and does a better job of it than me. The conversation sparks so many ideas. Later I look up Harper’s blog, called ‘Harper’s Bizarre’. It’s witty and insightful, just like its writer. There is food for thought in her blog piece about ‘charities in SL’.

In the evening we go to the Linden Lab Luau in the Yerba Buena Garden opposite the Moseum of Modern Art. At the door there are, of course, freebies ... It seems slightly surreal to be surrounded by so many Second Life residents and Lindens wearing brightly colored leis and eating real food. After the party Flash Alcott shows me the memorial to Martin Luther King which is behind a magnificent 50-foot waterfall. We listen to the water falling and read the inscription ‘No, No, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until “justice rolls down like water and righteousness like a mighty stream.”’

And then on to the ‘Blarney Stone on Tour’ where the Blarney Stone Bar in Second Life has taken over the real life Sellers Market on Market Street for the evening. We listen to Second Life musicians in real life and drink beer. It’s the sign of a good party when the beer starts flowing and this one is no exception ... one glass of beer takes flight and lands on me! And it's REAL beer! So, back to the hotel to wash and brush up ...


mark said...

Wow what a trip! I'm just planning my wedding and was thinking of honeymooning to san franciso and touring some of america. I'm just looking for places to get limo hire locally but stumbled on to your blog. I'm based back in the UK or YUK! how long was the flight?

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