Saturday, January 30, 2010

Why I write and other stuff

oday I was contemplating the question.."Why do you write?" I am not a published author, I don't think dissertations count..haha. I really don't think I am a very good writer..I salute anyone who reads through my blogs and doesn't escape from that experience without being confused and bewildered. This blog "mixed bag" is a silly name but it is somewhat fitting--I am never entirely sure what I will be posting here. My intent today,for example was to write a blog focused on Second Life, but this blog has wandered off on some sort of a different focus. Given that I am compelled to incorporate something regarding Second Life into this blog, which I will do towards the end.

I was inspired to write this post after reading Cecelia Ward Jones' article in the Jan/February 2010 issue of Poets and Writers magazine. In this article she chronicles her writing career and traces that she decided to be a writer at the age of nine having spent the day reading Little Women..which was thrust upon her by her grandmother after she complained of having nothing to do. At that same age I was reading alot too. Nancy Drew Mysteries, Five Little Peppers books, Bobbsey Twins, Black Beauty, My Friend Flicka, Dr. Seuss books, Scholastic Books, my mom's Reader's Digest Condensed Books, and a variety of other books. By the age of 17 had devoured Wind in the Willows, Catcher in the Rye, 1984, Watership Down, Atlas Shrugged, JRR Tolkein, Animal Farm, tons of science fiction and fantasy, I loved books and I loved to read.

Having established a life long love of reading..why do I write? in college my first composition class teacher assigned us poetry writing..I had never written poetry before but hammered out some lines.. and she loved them..she engaged in a long class discussion regarding them..I was exhilarated..I had never received such recognition for anything I had written before. I no longer have those poems but I am sure they were fueled by teen age angst and some lingering effects of a romance novel I had read. I have continued to have that sort of acknowledgment for my writing from my peers and others throughout my academic career. I have taken college classes, Writers Digest workshops, and attend various writer groups to better refine my writing skills. Therefore it must be that love of reading that is behind why I write, that recognition for what I write that drives me to continue to write today. Writing though is a fundamental tool for me to use in figuring out my world.

Writers have different processes of writing. Some can go straight to writing others carefully map out what they are going to write via an outline. I actually write most of my stuff out in long hand, then type it up or word process it into Google Docs. From there I transfer it via cut and paste to my blog. At least in this way what I write goes through to drafts..but I still know I am slack in the finer points of using just the right word. This is why I have recently been seeking out writers groups in Second Life to engage in dialogue and critique of my writing. I have listed some of these resources below:

Athena Isle Writers is for writers of all kinds to network, share contacts and information and meet writers, editors, and publishers. (Formerly Writers Wednesday.) We meet on Athena Isle EVERY Wed at 12pm SLT. Led by Alas Zerbino. Authors & expert guests booked by Cybergrrl Oh.

For writers who want to meet other writers to get inspired & rev up their writing business. Great writing job opportunities discussed. &

Virtual worlds writers group

Formerly The Guild of UK Writers. Group meetings held at Milk Wood. a featured Second Life Showcase site.

Incorporating all virtual writers' and literary group information. Helping keep your finger on the literary pulse.

The Learning Experience

Groups and workshops for writers of all kinds. Website here; , in world The Learning Experience. According to their information: WHAT EXACTLY IS THE TLE WRITERS SYMPOSIUM?

These 2-hour sessions are a combination of open mic and writers' support/feedback group: Writers read their work aloud, and if desired, get feedback afterward.

Other events;

WhereSECOND LIFE (map)
DescriptionTeacher: Alianaluz Rivera Classrunner: ashraf Aulder - ARA This class: TEXT. Story Writing. During this class students will write a short story. Join us. Come have fun and get your creative juices flowing! The first class is free. If it's the first time contact the Class Runner 30 minutes before class. Cost: 750L (1.9 euro; 2.9 US$; 300YEN) More classes:

Daily writing topics for authors. We will post news about competitions we find noteworthy. We will also offer suggestions for daily field trips you can undertake in the real world. Finally, we’ll publish inspirational thoughts to keep you moving forward. Feel free to use the photographs on this site for your own purposes.

Book Island in Second Life: Publishing Village for books, magazines and other resources for writers in Second Life. Here is a link to a recent article on Book Island.

And the Storm Mountain Writers Center in Second Life A place for writers! Serious fiction, poetry, creative nonfiction classes taught by professionals; critique & support groups; writers' hangout & coffeeshop (Hemingway Cafe); information source for entire SL writing scene, bookstore, Athen

So get inworld and check these places out... and remember ..don't stop writing.....

Sunday, January 24, 2010

10 Free Science Resources for Students and Teachers Guest Post from Karen Schweitzer

10 Free Science Resources for Students and Teachers

The web is a great place for students and teachers to find science resources. There are sites with educational videos, virtual science demos, interactive activities, suggestions for experiments, and science resources that can be shared with the whole classroom via interactive whiteboards. Here are 10 science-related sites for students and teachers to explore throughout the school year.

Bill Nye the Science Guy - Bill Nye offers a wide range of free science resources for kids and teachers on his website. Resources include video demos, printable experiment instructions, pop quizzes, activities, and exercises.

The Why Files - This site offers a look at the "science behind the news." In addition to interesting articles and facts, The Why Files also provides virtual science demos, cool science images, and teacher activity pages.

National Geographic - The Science and Space section of the National Geographic site offers a blog, educational articles, a photo gallery, videos, quizzes, and other activities that would be of interest to classrooms who are studying science topics. Other offerings include games and virtual field trips.

Exploratorium - Students and teachers who visit the Exploratorium website can explore hands-on activities, science videos, webcasts, a digital library with exhibit-inspired materials, and many other online resources.

Stellarium - This free planetarium software displays a realistic 3D sky on your computer. Stellarium also works well with Smart Boards and other interactive whiteboards.

Bugscope - Created by the Imaging Technology Group at the Beckman Institute at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, Bugscope provides classrooms with free access to a scanning electron microscope (SEM) that can be used to study insect specimens at high-magnification. After signing up, classrooms send in insects they've collected, propose an experiment and schedule a free, interactive session. - is a standards-based education website with videos, interactive activities, and user-generated content. Science-related features include simulations, games, virtual labs, and animated illustrations.

NASA Space Games - The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) offers word puzzles, scrambled pictures, trivia, quizzes, a board game, and other science-related games that can be played online or through interactive whiteboards. The NASA Space Games site is also a good place to find suggestions for science projects and experiments.

Try Science - Supported by more than 400 science centers worldwide, Try Science is an interactive science site with live science center webcams, online adventures, offline experiment suggestions, polls, and quizzes.

Ref Desk - The RefDesk offers a comprehensive science and technology facts encyclopedia with 100+ links to science resources around the web. The encyclopedia is a good place to find research materials for reports and projects.

Guest post from education writer Karen Schweitzer. Karen is the Guide to Business School. She also writes about online college classes for

Sunday, January 17, 2010

A guest post 5 Free Alternatives to Photoshop (With Layers)

5 Free Alternatives to Photoshop (With Layers)

The Internet has revolutionized our world, so much so that geographical distances have vanished, we are completely connected to every nook and corner of the world, and we have access to any kind of information if only we know where to look. Another area where the web has made our lives easier is in the procurement of free software and applications; we love the fact that we no longer have to pay for things that are nice and useful. Thanks to the concept of open source, we are now free to use some of the best software, at no cost at all. Yes, some of the best things online do come free, like alternatives to the horribly expensive and proprietary photo editing software from Adobe, Photoshop.

Most people avoid choosing the free options because they are not complete and are usually mere shadows of the software they attempt to replace. But there are a few free alternatives to Photoshop that are quite comprehensive, and I’ve listed five that come with Layers, the feature in Photoshop that has people raving because it allows you to work with and make changes to compositions easily.

· Paint.NET: Hard to believe that any software that has the tag Microsoft would be offered for free, but this one really is. Paint.NET was actually designed to be a free alternative to Microsoft’s Paint software that comes with Windows OS, but it is now an open source application that offers quite a comprehensive set of features. The UI is great, and with unlimited UNDO options and the ability to work with layers, it is a favorite option for those who don’t want to shell out a lot of money for a neat photo editing tool.

· Splashup: If a photo editing tool was a size zero, it has to be Splashup. Formerly known as Fauxto, this application allows you to easily edit images from Facebook, Flickr and Picassa, and although it’s not feature rich, it has most of the abilities that you use most often. This makes it a light tool, one that is fast and does not take up too much space. You can also work with multiple images and layer simultaneously.

· GIMP: Although this free application lacks adjustment layers, it cannot be left out of any list that contains viable and good alternatives to Photoshop. GIMP is almost Photoshop, except for a few minor features. And best of all, it’s completely free, a fact which makes up for the few shortcomings it has. Although GIMP is good enough and is being constantly improved upon by a large community, if you want to try something that was developed much later (GIMP is the oldest alternative to Photoshop), you could try GIMPshop which is also similar to Photoshop and free.

· Phoenix: A Rich Internet Application (RIA) that allows you to work on your images from within a browser, Phoenix looks and feels just like a desktop application. While it’s close enough to Photoshop to satisfy diehard fans of Adobe’s software, the real delight in using Phoenix is that it is a collaborative application that facilitates group work. Users can be in different countries and scattered across the globe, yet they’re able to work on the same project, thanks to Phoenix.

· FotoFlexer: It’s advertised as the “world’s most advanced online image editor”, and while that statement may have to be taken with a grain of salt, it’s true that FotoFlexr is a great photo editing tool. It links seamlessly with Facebook, Flickr, MySpace and Picassa and also allows integration of its API into your website. This is also an online tool like Phoenix in that it must be used from within a browser when you’re connected to the Internet.


This article is written by Kathy Wilson, who writes on the subject of Photography College . She can be reached at her email id: .

Sunday, January 10, 2010

David Denton, Cetus, Second Life/Virtual Worlds Architect Designer

Note; the links I provide in the presentation are Second Life slurls. The slurls will take your avatar directly to the site in Second Life. You can get an account and avatar for Second Life by visiting their website here:

In many ways Second Life is the virtual "warehouse" of art and art work by illustrators, designers, musicians, writers, and digital artists. It provides for the delivery of a variety of artistic expressions of images, music, and interactive experiences never before imagined. One of my favorite is that of Cetus. Cetus is the creative expression of digital art in Second Life created by David Denton.

According to David's website, he is an architect and Virtual Worlds Architect, as illustrated below his work is fantastic. The photos present Cetus, the Cairo Project, an exhibit hall at Stanford and University of New Mexico. What makes his work most remarkable is his use of light, color and transparent textures, this ultimately makes his use of prims much less than you would anticipate.


Cetus is an example of what builds and sites in virtual worlds should be...a stretch of the creative potential of virtual worlds and designs to do something different, to create an interactive immersive experience.


While I was visiting Cetus, for about the fourth or fifth in fact I ran into David or that is his avatar, DB Bailey. I complimented him on his work at Cetus and he asked me if I had seen the Cairo Project. Because I had not he took me on a tour. According to David/DB the Cairo project is collaboration between the University of Southern California and Cairo University. This incredible project will allow students from these two different cultures to learn about each other, their countries and to collaborate together. In fact this project itself is symbolic of the success that can occur when teams can work together to create a build in Second Life that can be replicated in real life. The build in Second Life can allow the architects to design and experience how the site will actually "work," in the real world and to easily make changes as necessary before the site is actually built. This is an efficient way of designing and building.

The photo below is the actual screen that will be used to stream videos in world at the Cairo Project. Note the reflections in the floor a well.

Pictures of the real world application of a collaborative project between David Denton and architects in Cairo:

David also demonstrated how an artist from Egypt uses Second Life to display his artwork. This particular artist designs clay tiles in Egypt, they were used here as decorative elements for building:

Here is another example of this artist's work:

David has also done design work for universities throughout the world and he offered to show me some of the work he has done. This includes the Stanford Library exhibit hall in Second Life:

The build at Stanford seems to be floating, if you visit and look up this is what you will see. It is an amazing feeling of airiness and floating...yet you do feel that you are in a structure.

Finally David's design at the University of New Mexico is an artistic representation of cultures native to this state. However it is much more than that ..a digital representation of live in the State of New Mexico. There is a hot air balloon tour which allows you to get a good view of the site.

It is remarkable. The colors are rich, the graphical representation of the desert mountains surrounding the are realistic. This site is a feast for the eyes, set you environmental settings to sunset to fully enjoy this experience.

This site provides students and faculty with unique meeting spots to enjoy discussions or classroom activities:

More photos from the beautiful University of New Mexico site:

These sites and the work of David Denton illustrate the truly remarkable potential of virtual worlds in providing rich artistic, collaboration, and learning experiences in the 3D/virtual world environments. Not only that it provides us with the means to tap into the potential of collaboration and communication. It was an exciting opportunity for me to meet and discuss with David Denton his work in Second Life!