second life

Time For A Reboot

Also posted on Danko Whitfield’s blog, Journey To the Center Of The Metaverse

First, this Hypergrid address…
dankoville.outworldz.net:8002

(If I didn’t do that, my buddy 111shawn would bust my chops loudly enough to be heard throughout the Metaverse. And I just can’t have that.)

Ahem…

Real life hasn’t been treating me well and it’s screwed up my virtual life. While they’ve been kicking me around, health issues have limited my virtual world activities for quite awhile now. Recently, when things calmed down for a few days, sort of a time out, I changed things up quite a bit to bring some order to my virtual life, to make the structure of it fit the circumstance.

In December and again at the beginning of March, I had a few better days in a row. Each time I messed around with a new toy, Fred Beckhusen’s (FerdFrederix) Outworldz/Dreamworld OpenSim Installer. It’s changed my VL massively, like Sim-on-a-Stick did at one time. It’s a free program that makes it easy to create and manage your own OpenSim virtual world, connected to the hypergrid. Just takes a few minutes to set it up. It’s so flexible, I was able to test a bunch of things in a very short time. Somewhere along the way while I thought about the different ways I could use this new tool with my many virtual world projects, I realized that the advances in OpenSim of the last few years, along with what I’ve learned about how to get the most out of those features and now this new software had led me to a place where…

I can do anything I want. There are no more limits! Not only can I have any kind of virtual world I want, I can have EVERY kind of virtual world I want, as many as I want. And if I choose, I can do all of this without spending a dime.

I made a plan that would not affect the projects I already had online. I’d take all of my other virtual world projects and put them online, connected to the hypergrid. All of them, even the ones I was sure were too big to ever get out of Sim-on-a-Stick. I’d put all of them online and have a mini-grid of projects in various stages of undress and fully dressed, works in progress and completed projects, projects from the past, anything worth showing or working on, studying, testing.

I run my worlds off my PC, so I wasn’t going to put all of them online simultaneously. That would be silly, silly. Instead, I’d rotate them, as needed. I would create a separate OpenSim instance for each project and only run a few regions at a time. I’d boot up whichever project I felt like working on that day or that week. I’d have the same welcome region on each instance with easy-to-update info for visitors about which regions were online today, with direct teleports. And because the welcome regions would all have the same name, I’d only have one HG address to publicize. Not that I’d publicize it much because it would just be a personal mini-grid, a place to work on stuff, test stuff. I wouldn’t have it on 24/7 like with Dankoville or past projects. But once in awhile I’d put one of those past projects online and say, “Open House!” and keep it on 24/7 for a couple weeks. I would actually be creating multiple virtual worlds but to a visitor, it would seem like one grid that changes its regions around rather often. It would all be pretty flexible, well-suited to the situation.

Sounds like a lot of work, doesn’t it? I suppose it is, in a way. But Fred’s software makes things so easy, I set up all those instances (twelve!) and their regions, loaded my content (via OARs and IARs), tested everything and was done in an afternoon.

Wow. Now I had everything all ready to go whenever I was ready.

And that’s when I bumped into a limitation.

I can turn worlds on or off, edit them, save them, bring them to a different place, even give you a copy so you can do all of those things. But I don’t have that kind of power over Time. Even with all my experience as a time traveler, the control of time is beyond my reach. There is only so much time available at any given point in time. And, at this point in my time, there isn’t enough of it to use all of those worlds as outlined above. But it’s still a damn good idea and if I had the time, I’d pursue it. But since I don’t, here’s what I decided to do…

I’ve shutdown all but one of the places I had online. (More about that last one in a moment.) I’m going to focus on one virtual world project, a new one. I’ll keep a couple others handy so I can play with them a little when inspiration strikes or I need a break. Everything else goes on my virtual shelf, where it most likely will collect dust. If my situation changes someday, I can dust them off and play with them again but otherwise those projects are inactive and I don’t have to worry about them anymore.

The new project is actually a new take on an old project. Dankoville has been my main virtual world project since it first went online in September 2013. The configuration of regions changed a number of times as OpenSim advanced and I got better at using it. If I could do then what I can do now, I’d do some things differently. Hey, there’s a thought!

I had that thought four weekends ago. Then I ran a couple more tests using Fred’s DreamWorld. And I thought about that “I can do anything” bit. When it got to the part about “I can do anything but I can’t do everything anymore,” I asked myself out loud, “Why don’t I blow Dankoville up and start again?”

So I did.

The idea is to make it a much bigger world, (because we can!) depicting the fictional town of Dankoville, which appears in some of my stories, and the surrounding area. I want it to cover a big enough land area that I’ll never be able to finish it. As I’ve said before, a virtual world is the model train set of this time. I want a world to build out, tinker with, revise, play with…forever. And to use for inspiration and feel in my writing. I have new ideas to pursue, new characters that I want to build-in to the story and the virtual place. It’s fun to live in a make believe place you are writing about. Creating it in story and then standing inside it, is still awesome, as is the reverse, building something and then writing a story about it. And then there’s writing and building at the same time. Each process is fun, rewarding. A lot of learning goes on. It keeps the creative mind going. Some call it, “storybuilding.”

I came up with several ideas for the new grid layout. I may try more than one. This is a project best done in my own sandbox rather than connected to a grid. And, if I’m working on a new Dankoville – and that new version will be open to the public as I’m working on it – then it’s time to close the old version. I let Nara Malone know what I was up to and gave her my thanks. I’d like to thank her publicly too, for hosting Dankoville on Naras Nook grid (Nook is a virtual writers colony, check it out!). She came to my rescue at a time when I wasn’t sure if Dankoville would survive and during my two years on Nook, Nara was as gracious and supportive as could be. I can’t thank her enough.

When I can, I’ll do a separate post with specifics about the new Dankoville project.

The one region that I did not shut down is on Craft-World, it’s called Elsewhere. It’s a wooded area at the intersection of two small state roads somewhere. I’ve got a house there that’s been a retreat at times. It opened in July 2015. The region’s content was originally from an early version of Dankoville and I’ll be moving it to the new Dankoville and using it as my home there, keeping the name Elsewhere because when people notice I haven’t been around much – not that it happens often – and they ask where I’ve been, I like to say, “Elsewhere.” I’m thinking about using the Elsewhere region on Craft as a showcase for some completed projects of the past, the region name still fits. A couple of these projects had been on OSgrid for a little while recently but I never got the chance to promote them.

I saved this part for last because it’s the most difficult, special, important. My tenth Rez Day in Second Life comes this June. I started out just awed by the whole thing. I explored non-stop, chatted with people along the way. I met so many nice people my first two weeks in Second Life, how could I not be drawn in? It was beautiful, it was crazy, it had everything. I’ve had lots of great fun there and I expect there will be more…but I’ve given up my last remaining parcel there as part of The Great Shutdown of ’17, as it shall be forever known in Whitfield family lore.

I spent a lot of time in SL for several years and got a lot of enjoyment out of it. It was a great escape from RL, to state the obvious. When I wandered into OpenSim – here it comes! – it opened a whole new world(s). No? Didn’t think so. Well, if I can’t do a pun, I’ll do a cliche: …it truly broadened my horizons. Truly. With a cherry on top.

Eventually, I spent nearly all of my time in OpenSim, never intending to choose one over the other. OpenSim gave me many more possibilities. And it worked well with my writing. But I never left SL completely.

I couldn’t. Because I couldn’t let go of Winterfell. It’s magical. There’s something about it that you just can’t shake. It must be The Mists. I arrived there seven years ago this month. I’ve kept a home there all through these times that I’ve been away. And now when I’m in Winterfell, which recently adopted the new name, Rosehaven, I’ll be the old friend visiting from out of town. Or out of century. To Lady Twilight and Princess Selena, a salute to your excellence in leadership and management, thanks for making such a beautiful, fun and extraordinary place to live and play in and for cultivating a fun community. My first community involvement in Winterfell was posting RP stories on the old online storyboards. (Which have had a recent rebirth in Rosehaven, nice to see.) It was fun to be writing about a world other than the real world. It still is and I hope to get back to it soon. I always smile when I think of how it started in Winterfell.

And finally (just for now, I mean, don’t get excited), I still plan to be a tourist in new worlds too. I’ve visited one briefly and will explore there and Elsewhere (got it in there again!) as time allows.

Dankoville hasn’t been online for the past week but since I’m posting this, I’ve fired the grid up for the next few days. There isn’t going to be a regular schedule but I certainly hope there’ll be many days when it’ll be online from morning to late night and I’ll be in for a few hours. I’m running four adjoining 4×4 varregions (1024s). Sometimes I’m running a sandbox or two. Sometimes I’ll run some crazy test, so enter at your own risk! But do feel free to stop by, look around, maybe say hello.

The website needs updating but here it is…

http://dankoville.weebly.com/

And that HG address again…

dankoville.outworldz.net:8002

Thanks for reading.

Welcome To My Worlds

As promised in my recent piece, Revirtualizing, here’s a summary of my current virtual world places and writing projects.

Dankoville

This is my main inworld project and currently my main source of story material. It’s a 768 varregion, the size of nine standard regions in a 3×3 square. The location is “somewhere in the Corn Belt of the U.S.” The sim consists of the small town of Dankoville, several farming communities and two small cities. In story, this sim constitutes most of Strange County. You can visit Dankoville on Naras Nook grid. Here’s the Hypergrid address:

world.narasnook.com:8900:dankoville

Winterfell

Danko has lived on the Winterfell estate in Second Life for the past five years. It has been his home base from which to travel the Metaverse and the Chronoverse. Danko has at various times owned one or more of the following here: a townhouse, a cabin in the woods, an office, a pub, his own region with a castle. Currently he has one small parcel in the Winterfell Laudanum region for the Storytellers Pub. He has a private office and sitting room in the sky above the pub. You can visit Winterfell in Second Life. Here’s the SLURL address for my pub:

http://maps.secondlife.com/secondlife/Winterfell%20Laudanum/210/210/23

These next three sims are all currently located offline in Sim-on-a-Stick (SoaS).

Medieval Project

This will be a “forever project.” It will never be finished and it will never go online. It’s simply too big for that. However, parts of it may very well go online someday.

In January 2014, I started making a four-region Medieval sim on Kitely. The buildings were those I bought or freebies I’d collected as well as some mods I’d done. Early on in the process, I got a story idea and eventually wrote a 9200 word story that took place in this location. That was much too long for my story blog.

Soon after starting the first Medieval sim, I decided to build another one at the same time, an unrelated place. The big difference being that in this sim, it would always be winter. It was also a four-region world on Kitely. I made the southern half of one region lower than the rest of the sim so it could have farmland and a growing season to sustain the frozen northern area. I started getting an image of the ruler of this land.

Both of these projects sat on the shelf on Kitely for months, never open to the public. I’d visit them once in awhile. Last December, I was fooling around in SoaS with varregions. I wanted to investigate multiple varregions sharing borders – which there had been trouble reports about; I wanted to have a grid with only varregions and no standard regions – because there was a lot of talk about how mixing the two caused trouble; I wanted to use only 512×512 varregions – because some said larger ones caused trouble and others said mixing the sizes of vars wasn’t good.

If you’re not familiar with varregions, a 512 var is the equivalent of four standard regions in a square, a 2×2 layout.

I placed three of these end to end from north to south on my grid. To the east of that, I placed two vars end to end, north to south, lined up so they were centered next to the row of three. Then to the east of those two, I added another row of three, then a row of two, and one last row of three vars.

I now had a grid with 13 varregions – equivalent to 52 standard regions – laid out in a way that on the World Map…sort of looked like a castle. Which got me thinking…

That’s when the Medieval Project started taking shape. I moved the two medieval sims from Kitely to this new world in SoaS. I then began thinking about which vars to leave as open bodies of water and I began investigating names of little kingdoms and started thinking about the story possibilities. I uploaded some free OARs which feature castles including four by Giacomo Rexen of Craft World grid. And I’ve done a lot of terrain work. I’ve written one major scene for this world, involving a meeting of the ruling council. Danko is in that story but the names of all the other characters were left blank.

So, as you can see, a start has been made on several fronts but only a start.

Victorian Steampunk Project

This is a long-term project in SoaS. I’d like to make a Victorian Steampunk location setting for Danko’s travels in the 1870s. He keeps an office in this time. Over the past five years in his story blog, he has written about his travels in Winterfell and Caledon as well as (Second Life) Steamland nations, past and present, and allied nations. But much of the current writing I’m doing requires that I create the place and place names and the people, of course. Although I gave initial thought and a small amount of inworld layout work to this project over a year ago, it’s been sitting on the shelf since. I don’t expect to have serious time to devote to it any time soon but I have already written one story that takes place in this location, so I would like to make some progress on the build. I have put out the word that I am looking for Victorian-era buildings and clothing and I will be shopping for those items in my travels.

New England Island Project

This is the project most likely to get finished.

In early 2014, I created a one-region world on Kitely depicting an island town somewhere off the coast of New England. This region was about 90-percent done but it sat there for months, closed to the public, as I was busy with other things. When I downgraded my Kitely account the other day, I moved my unfinished regions there into SoaS to have them available offline. Because this Island build is so close to being finished, I’ve decided to take a serious look at its story possibilities. I think this may become my secondary project after Dankoville. I’ll tell you more about this project soon.

 

 

Alastair Whybrow

An old friend and neighbor from Caledon passed away a few days ago.

A remembrance of Mr. Whybrow appeared on my blogs, Journey To The Center Of The Metaverse…

http://journeymetaverse.wordpress.com/2014/12/29/mr-whybrow/

…and The Further Adventures Of Danko Whitfield, Semi-Retired Time Traveller…

http://steampunkexplorer.wordpress.com/2014/12/29/mr-whybrow/

Alts and “De-alting”

I like creating characters.

I used to create a lot of “alts” (virtual world speak for alternate avatars) in Second Life just because I could. But as I started writing about my virtual life, I wanted to create avatar versions of some of the characters I was writing about. Just for fun. That’s when my total number of alts got out of hand. So I’ve had to kill some off from time to time. Well, I didn’t really “have” to…it’s just my preference. I never used these alts so I decided to get rid of them so I could clear the way for the creation of other alts who are being used…in story.

Every once in awhile I bump off a few more.

Danko posted about my recent rampage on Journey To The Center Of The Metavwerse…

http://journeymetaverse.wordpress.com/2014/05/21/whitfield-goes-on-virtual-killing-spree-12-dead/

Danko’s Worlds

Danko has a new site with links to the virtual world places he is connected with. It has the HG addresses and links to more info on each location.

The idea of this page is to provide information about the locations that many of Danko’s stories take place in as well as other projects Danko is involved in. This information will help other virtual world explorers visit these places.

Have a look…

The site is called Danko’s Worlds.

It will grow this year as I plan to open several more sims.

What Is This “Dankoville” Anyway?

this piece was written to appear on My Virtual Blog as well as the Dankoville website. It will be cross-posted on a couple of Danko Whitfield’s blogs.

 

Welcome to my world and thanks for your interest.

Almost all of the writing I do these days is as Danko Whitfield, writer & explorer of virtual worlds. The virtual world of Dankoville is a place for me to visualize Danko’s story, to walk through it, to stand inside it, to be or feel as Danko as I ever could be.

It is also my virtual writer’s retreat.

Hence, Dankoville is made up of places in Danko’s story.

The Greater Dankoville area of the grid includes the town of Dankoville and neighboring farming communities. Dankoville is located somewhere in the upper midwest or nothern plains of the United States. For a time, I tried to keep blurred whether it was in the U.S. or Canada but I could only hold off committing on that for so long. Last fall, Danko told the story of returning to the family farm (in Whitfield Crossing, a few miles (two regions) south of Dankoville) . In one installment of the story we learned that in 1960, Dankoville was a roughly two-day bus trip from Kansas City. Danko gets on the bus at some hour of the morning and arrives in Dankoville late the next afternoon. We don’t know about layovers or delays so we don’t really know how many miles Dankoville is from Kansas City or what state it is in. We – Danko and me – don’t get into specifics about that.

Danko had written about the family farm – operated by his Uncle Manuel – in the past. But he only made references to it. When I started writing as Danko, in the spring of 2010 – three years after I joined Second Life and a few months before I first ventured into OpenSim, I made the decision to write only about places I could visit in virtual worlds. There were a number of reasons for this, I doubt I can remember them all now, but they included: it would be a different approach for me; I could let Danko’s character develop as these virtual places – real places to him – came into his virtual (real) life; I could help bring the places I visited to the attention of other virtual explorers.

But when Danko started writing about his travels, I was divesting SL Mainland holdings – which totaled almost three full regions at their peak. Danko now had only two parcels – 2048 sqm total – in Winterfell (and soon a 1536 sqm parcel in neighboring Caledon). There was no room to create the family farm. Which was fine as Danko was exploring Winterfell, Caledon, The Steamlands and related places so he had plenty of new things to write about as his new life was just beginning.

But on a lark last fall, I found myself with a 3×3 OpenSim grid via New World Studio. I wasn’t planning to have my own world/region/grid/standalone/whatever…I was just curious about how NWS worked. I had a couple of specific question about it and, rather than ask anybody, I gave it a try to see if I could get the answers. I wasn’t expecting to be able to make it work – either because of NWS’ shortcomings or my PC’s shortcomings or my own.

Son of a bitch started right up.

I had a 3×3 online. On the grid! Holy shit!!

I should do something with this!

What should I do with this?

That’s how it happened. There was no plan. No idea I’d ever be able to do such a thing. Now I really had to give some thought to what to do with it. First question: How can I possibly fill up a 3×3?

I NEVER considered reducing it to one region. I had a 3×3 on the grid! I wasn’t whittling that down unless the software or the machinery began demanding it. If they did, fine. But until then… I wanted the biggest, blankest page I could get.

I had started using Sim-on-a-Stick the previous winter but had not had the time to get very far with the little projects I’d started. I’d been planning long-term to put these projects on Kitely. For now, I took the OARs – one of which was called Dankoville, and filled about half the 3×3. Which was fine…I could keep three regions empty for uploading OARs and for building and figure out the rest later.

I decided to make Dankoville the prime region in the SW corner. That’s how the grid got its name.

But that Dankoville from the SoaS project was not going to be a small town. It was going to be much smaller than that. It was just going to be one of those fork in the road places that spring up where two highways come together in the middle of nowhere. There would be three buildings – a small gas station, one store, a bar. One corner would be a vacant lot with weeds coming up through the cracks of the cement. That would be the “town.” Not a town nor a village.

The rest of the region would have cornfields. There would be a small suburban-style house as one often sees on small farms today. And a barn.

Aside from the details – trees, landscaping, farm animals, tractor, furniture, items in the store, a bus stop, etc. – that was it.

It would be a quiet, little place. I would put it on Kitely. I figured I’d chill at the bar or sit at the bus stop.

And I was never really going to call it Dankoville.

I was going to call it “____”-ville, I just didn’t know what the first part would be. When I had to save the OAR from SoaS the first time, I had to call it something I’d remember in case I didn’t get back to it for a few months (which is exactly what happened). The name Dankoville already existed as a website. I established it in 2010 when Danko started his new approach to Second Life and began living in the 1870s and writing his blog from Winterfell. I planned to have the website as a place to write about Danko’s former life on the SL Mainland in the 21st century. I had lots of photos and I wanted to show off my former towns. I didn’t know what to call the website but I picked up on a comment a friend had made. We were talking once when I was getting ready to start a new town on the Mainland and I was not sure yet what the new town would be like. Robyn had lived in two of my towns and really liked the feel of them. She said, “Whatever you do with it, I’m sure it will have that ‘Dankoville” feel to it.” I liked that. So I used it for the name of the website figuring it was an umbrella title under which I could feature pictures and articles about all my former towns. My portfolio, I guess. But I became so immersed in Danko’s new life and story that I never got to it, so the Dankoville website on Weebly just sat there as one page with links to my blogs.

So the name Dankoville was never going to be used for an actual town or region, much less a grid. It was a description of a style of place… that became the name of a website that was never used… that became a file name for a very small sim.

Now it was the name of my grid. And that region in the SW corner of my 3×3 had cornfields in it. And a suburban house for the modern farm family. And a barn. And one shop and the start of a gas station build where two highways came together.

Hey, this town could be where Uncle Manuel’s farm is…

All sorts of story ideas were going through my head as I sat at my computer staring at the map of my new world. In the past, Danko’s relatives wrote to him from the farm or even came to Winterfell to visit. But he couldn’t go to them because of my approach in writing about places I and my readers could actually visit. But now…he could go home again!

The Dankoville grid has evolved from there. I wanted the new concept for the town of Dankoville to be a small but central area with farms in the surrounding countryside, the neighboring regions. Because on the grid Dankoville would be adjacent to ocean, I decided Danko, me and you would all have to imagine that there was no ocean there, it was just more farm fields, as far as the eye could see. That’s why the highway runs to the region border, It doesn’t stop there, it goes on forever. Or at least to California.

But the whole grid wouldn’t be farms, wouldn’t be Dankoville, wouldn’t be the 21st century. Danko was born in the mid-20th century but – as the son of a time traveller and a time traveller himself – his childhood was spent in the 1830s, he later lived in the late 20th and early 21st centuries and then settled in the 1870s. So I needed some regions from other times and genre.

(And yes, I use the British spelling of ‘traveller’ here even though I’m not British. I only do that when writing as Danko or writing about Danko. He does it because he was influenced by the Victorian Steampunk of Caledon and the other SL Steamland nations of the era. It “fit” and time travel was important to his story. But I drew the line at ‘traveller’ otherwise there would be harbour and colour and where would it end?)

So we have Medieval/Fantasy and Old West regions on the grid and plan to have Victorian Steampunk as well. I also wanted some winter regions for use particularly during the non-winter months where I live in RL.

Soon after Dankoville went online in September of 2013, it became a major part of Danko’s story. After writing a few ‘episodes’ I felt I wanted to write about the county seat. When the grid returned in February 2014, I expanded it to include New Teasdale – another SoaS project that was left aside and intended eventually for Kitely – which was based on a town I had on the SL Mainland, Teasdale. New Teasdale is now the county seat of Strange County and it has a couple of new neighboring regions.

So that is where the Dankoville grid is at today. As I have noted elsewhere, I’m using the word “grid” as slang in regards to Dankoville. It is not operating in grid mode, it is a standalone. Whether it is possible to run 25 regions as a standalone…………is apparently a question nobody has the answer to. I’m going to find out. I am now working on a brand new PC and I’m sure the machine can handle it. If OpenSim via New World Studio can handle it is what is to be determined. If  it doesn’t work, it’s not a problem for me. I’ll just eliminate some regions or move them to Kitely where I now have regions to spare.

Whatever size I can run Dankoville at, it will meet my needs. I did a prim count the other day and I have 46,000 prims spread out over the 25 regions. Only two regions have a lot of scripts. Obviously this will change as I fill up the grid over time but the type of places I’m building are not going to over-tax the system. If it does, as I say, I can reduce the size of the grid without trouble or regret.

I could have started with just a few regions and added them as I need them, that would be the practical way to do it. But I’ve long had a daydream about having a bunch of contiguous regions all at once – a great big, blank canvas to develop over time. I could never afford to do such a thing in Second Life or with an OpenSim hosting company but I can afford it if it’s free. So that’s what I’m doing with New World Studio. I kicked in the twenty bucks for the full license last fall to support the project. Other than that, there are some incidental costs in buying some virtual items. But mostly I’ll make use of the free items that talented OpenSim creators have made and given to the community. And I’ll make my own simple prim builds. It’ll never be featured in Prim Perfect but Dankoville is perfect for me.

And I’m leaving that Hypergrid door open so fellow writers and virtual world enthusiasts can come by for a look. If someone else gets some inspiration to write or role play here – or just to hang out in my pub or the old west or a castle or just sit at the bus stop and pass the time – that will make me feel good.

But Danko’s storylines take place on other grids too. Especially Second Life and Kitely. Winterfell (on SL) is still Danko’s home and a new storyline is about to begin there. On Kitely, I have only one sim open to the public but I’m working (slowly) on some others.

For those reasons, Dankoville won’t be “finished” tomorrow…or next year for that matter. Or maybe, “ever.”

I’m not going to be in a rush with this place. Another reason is that creating it and figuring it out is part of the fun. Storyline will inspire the build and vice versa. So some of the regions will see rapid development and some will be empty for awhile. Some will develop bit by bit. I will be able to work on whatever I feel like at the time. As much as I have always liked deadlines, I have also always been a person who likes to go with the flow. The latter will be my approach here. I am making a concerted effort to get a few regions “done” or close to it so the place has some “there there” and so it is worth the effort the people who visit will be making. And I will keep the inworld Dankoville Information Center and the Dankoville website up to date to make it easy for the tourists to get around and find things.

But mostly, I’m in this for the long haul. Will be fun. And with multiple blogs and a website, don’t worry, I’ll keep you posted. 🙂

I come from a working class background. When I was five years old, we lived in the second floor apartment of a wooden house next to a vacant lot and a block from the commercial area in our part of the city. A young couple, newlyweds, lived in a second floor apartment in the wooden house next door. Once in a while they would invite me in to see the man’s prized possession – probably his only possession that wasn’t a necessity – his model train layout. I’m sure I don’t have to explain how fascinating those trains and the little town and the surrounding countryside were to a five-year old and the inspiration they spawned.

It recently hit me that having my own virtual world is the 21st century equivalent of the model train set and layout.

“Next stop: Dankoville. All aboard!”