Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Relay Weekend 2016 - The Pros Versus The Cons

Some of the Hearts & Souls team

Disclaimer: When I post about negative experiences it is rarely if ever out of any smug satisfaction.  There are no winners.  It is a "buyer beware" as I stumble through the metaverse.  This post definitely serves this purpose.  You have an opportunity to learn from any mistakes I've made and spot warning signs in advance.  Those who know these people and find me relating a story: take it for what it is; there's no glory in it for me. I am sure to lose several from my contact list.  I always blog with the expectation that someone is going to find out, whether there are tattlers or not. This is The Internet.  Just keep in mind that my opinions may not be that of the Hearts & Souls Relay For Life team, and that taking anything out on the team or creating difficulties getting the team resources or preventing them from representation or fundraising is an attack on innocent people - both from the team and American Cancer Society - who have nothing to do with this post.

Breaking down the purpose of a committee for any fundraising venture, they exist strictly to represent volunteers, provide the resources needed, and act in fundraisers' best interest.  They stand with us, not below us and most definitely not above us. Most veteran Relayers in Second Life have distanced themselves from Relay For Life of Second Life as the committee has distanced itself from those basic roles. As already mentioned, the committee had taken to treating volunteers like employees.

To review: Relay Weekend is when volunteers get together to celebrate the spirit of Relay and take time out to honor those fighting cancer, those sharing in the fight, and those who have triumphed.  It is a time of remembrance for those we've lost.  It is also a great opportunity to offer some stuff for donation at one's campsite.  Relay Weekend in Second Life has historically enjoyed a boost in revenue.  In recent years however the committee has given consideration for the Relayer a back seat while pushing the fundraising aspect in their mantra.

Relay For Life and Relay Weekend are about community and camaraderie.  There were many instances of this in SL but a majority of driving forces this year had special ways of showing that they did not give a crap about their fellow volunteers.

First, the track itself. 

As you may recall the big argument over initial campsite requirements - sims which were either sponsored or endorsed by The American Cancer Society, therefore covered - was a need to use less regions for campsites and leave out those who did not raise more than a pittance.

As per a prior blog entry, I initially requested a small campsite. However I was placed between two large spaces where our parcel would easily get lost (it was decided by the team to have an actual camping ground). Across the road was a modern tile walkway and vessels from Sail For Life.  A narrow forest between a village and an airstrip across from a pier the length of an entire sim.  We would become swallowed up.

Filler parcel
Upon wandering the track it became clear that a LOT of parcels went unassigned.  Apparently they still had an excessive number of regions with corners and empty sections throughout (there were only a couple of team no-shows).  It was easy to get reassigned a full size campsite surrounded by gardens and more forestry for neighbors.  It was perfect.

Throughout preparations the committee hawked spaces for volunteer builders to fill in; one of our former neighbors expanded to fill our former spot (or 1-1/2 of a large campsite).  Anything not claimed or assigned was turned into a simple lake area with a couple of trees or shrubs and a kiosk.

The other issue were redundant campsites for the same org.  It's no secret that the Relay Rockers is a closed team consisting of T1-Radio personnel, so why do they have an additional campsite for their station on "Media Row"?  T1 Radio is home to the Relay Rockers. End of story.

Another parcel redundancy was for Fantasy Faire. They had a sponsored sim and took up one half, then another parcel on Media Row.  At best why not just give credit where due and make it a Radio Riel campsite on Media Row for providing FF their stream?

More on Media Row later.

Last but not Least a Survivors designer sim. Since American Cancer Society region has become part of the track there already IS a dedication to Survivors.  This was an unnecessary presence, just like any staff or committee related campsite should have been replaced with more active attention drawn to the key region where this all converges and still offers the best information & spots to reflect or pay homage.  I still cringe at how they desecrated Pro Recreant's memorial to make way for the kickoff day build.

The Low Lag Pitch

As you know there was emphasis in keeping builds phantom and linked to a root prim way beneath the terrain. I visited some committee builds to view the depth of their foundations and followed suit, but the Pathfinding aspects were largely bullshit and not applicable to the track.  It was easy enough to humor them and ours was among the few campsites who complied.  Almost everyone used phantom and the water spaces helped as well.

Sue Peregrine and Grace Devin get major kudos for planning and helping teams prepare for the most stable Relay Weekend on record.  In fact Grace went out of her way to help our team get re-settled and was always on hand for questions or to check out track anomalies.

Grace also redesigned the archways and eliminated trackside infostations.  The assorted callouts and decor on the archways provided lap theme swag and information.

An archway under construction

The only problems in the design were that directional arrows appeared only once per sim and there was no center line to align automated walkers to.  These both fell under feedback in 2015 as being Relayer-unfriendly over prettiness.

Activity Sims Fail

Their idea of land conservation wasn't in the track with its zillion filler spaces (we could have had so many less but rather in having only three Activity sims instead of four.  Not only that an Activity sim turned out to be "Relay For Life", which traditionally served as the landing point for visitors.

So think about this: You have an opening ceremony which usually requires 4 heavily populated regions with the committee set in the center for everyone to follow.  This time it is three regions, one which has a forced landing point hundreds of meters up with displays and an introduction to Relay For Life for those who connected via viewer MOTD's or the Second Life Destination Guide.  The other sims were filled and this was your only means to get to the ground level ceremony.

What were they thinking? Not of the Relayer, the survivor, the caregiver, the ill participant on disability who donated some of their living expenses for their team total.  What a gesture of disrespect. Whomever planned the Activity area had a lot to answer for after that one.

Reasoning Away the Lack of Participation & Revenue

Random Darrow had decided why numbers were down:

"I picture Relay For Life in SL as a rose bush.  We were large with long tangled up branches.  We produced a lot of roses.  You could find us easily because of our size. Some roses died quite quickly others worked hard hanging on.  Yet ,we were strong and proud.

"But along came a pruning...

"...I think seasoned Relayers will agree with me that for the last couple of years we have seen a decrease in the number of teams and our totals have declined.  There are several reasons for that, but the largest I believe is the fluctuation in sl users. All of SL is feeling this."

Whatever you say Random.  Anything to turn away from the truth or for the committee to be held accountable.

The Rude & Disrespectful Lackey

Then, despite the archway and its streamline design it was decided that a BOX be placed on the track as well.  Some Committee lackey came by to place it not inside the archway but a ways and in front of our campsite.

[11:46] Holocluck Henly: hello what are you doing
[11:46] Holocluck Henly: not in front of our campsite thank you very much
[11:47] Committee Lackey: Okay listen up
[11:47] Committee Lackey: ]yes in front of your campsite
[11:47] Holocluck Henly: I'll check with the committee
[11:47] Committee Lackey: I am [Committee Lackey] and Random wanted the volunteer shrts at all 33 Landing points
[11:47] Committee Lackey: I am on the comittee
[11:47] Committee Lackey: I made all the t-shirts this year
[11:47] Holocluck Henly: I dont know you. and she didnt inform us of anything
[11:47] Holocluck Henly: I'll double check
[11:47] Committee Lackey: be my guest
[11:48] Committee Lackey: and thanks for the attitude instead of a little grattitude
[11:48] Holocluck Henly: for what
[11:48] Committee Lackey: go running to random
[11:48] Holocluck Henly: just coming here to plop a sale prim down I dont know you
[11:48] Holocluck Henly: yup
[11:48] Committee Lackey: I am doing what I was told
[11:48] Holocluck Henly: if you're right you have nothing to worry about
[11:49] Committee Lackey: I don't

According to Random, the lackey was asked to leave these boxes "at or near" Relay archways.  As usual someone was expected to use their better judgement and were incapable of exercising a minimum of empathy behind their actions on behalf of a Relay For Life committee or the American Cancer Society.  They only had one job...

...and were made to move the box into the archway rather than upstage one of my teammates' luminario memorials and its hovertext message.  Because callously dumping boxes in front of campsites not only spoils dozens of presentations after two weeks or more of hard work, it makes a mockery of cancer struggles recalled trackwide.  It was a shame there was no place for a link on the arches themselves, given their surfaces already contained clickable design elements for freebies and info.  The very purpose of the archways' design was to eliminate the need for boxes.  Her actions also disrespected those who painstakingly planned, designed and built this year's track. 

A fucking soulless jerk. Send them to this post's first paragraph following the disclaimer.  Tell her to "listen up" as to the committee's purpose.

Double Standards and Relay User Unfriendliness

Remember those restrictions to keep the track clear by limiting all events to the Activity Sims? And how T1 Radio was granted some sort of exception by virtue of committee affiliation and hosted several on the track while leading up to the big weekend?  They kept their dance machines out and touted guest DJs who in turn promoted their shifts.  Media Row became a problematic piece of lag all weekend.

One of T1 Radio's track events

The Fight Back Ceremony usually held in the Activity sims was on the track for the first time.  It monopolized a corner region, forcing Relayers to skip.  It was pointless to move this to the track other than to cause a disruption and thereby disrespect Relayers, the ACS brand, and the spirit of Relay itself. Very unfortunate.

The Fight Back Ceremony was held on the track in RFL Hope

Why did they keep extra sims for the track and pepper over 20 filler parcels throughout when they should have had 4 dedicated Activity regions with the RFL sim set apart as a landing point as it had been up until this year?

All events other than relaying belong OFF the track. Also being an exhibition sim - and no longer a vantage point for Prim Perfect or Treet TV no one live streams Relay Weekend on video any longer - Media Row should be OFF the track as well, perhaps situated beside the Activity sims and right over the border from the track at that point. 

Burma Shave style messaging along our campsite

More Bright Lights

Nevar (an oldschool organizer & co-founder of Fashion For Life) and Kammie were fantastic as Activity sim monitors.  They were kind, selfless, and seemingly tireless.  They were party to a veteran spirit all but extinct from the current order.

Our Campsite

This year I resolved to build the campsite solo and it turned out pretty well. For someone who lived in apartments all their lives it was quite a challenge to take on a forest preserve as recalled from my time in Chicago as a child.  It was a low LI backdrop for a quick journey with wellness advice and links plus cancer stories at a campfire based on actual occurrences. 

I made a machinima of it for posterity. Click the video title as it runs to open it larger in a YouTube window.

It was well received and a bit of a triumph considering. Thank you to those who stopped by, and a big thank you to those who never lost the spirit of Relay and what this weekend stand for.

Seven told me that campers gather with a myriad of chair types

NEXT: RFL of SL Wrap Up and the Curious Case of the Cancer-shaming Alt

Friday, July 15, 2016

Absolute Power Comes Full Circle & a Numb Farewell to a Privilege Glutton

Disclaimer: When I post about negative experiences it is rarely if ever out of any smug satisfaction.  There are no winners.  It is a "buyer beware" as I stumble through the metaverse.  This post definitely serves this purpose.  You have an opportunity to learn from any mistakes I've made and spot warning signs in advance.  Those who know these people and find me relating a story: take it for what it is; there's no glory in it for me. I am sure to lose several from my contact list.  I always blog with the expectation that someone is going to find out anyway. This is The Internet.  Just keep in mind that my opinions may not be that of the Hearts & Souls Relay For Life team, and taking anything out on the team or creating difficulties getting the team resources or preventing them from representation or fundraising is an attack on innocent people - both from the team and American Cancer Society - who have nothing to do with this post or me. 

The Relay track this year. Nobody knows what the hell it's supposed to be.
 They think nobody watches, nobody notices, and that the clock isn't ticking.

They've poked and prodded the Kool-Aids to raise enough for the committee's goal, which by the way is a fraction of what we all raised together in 2014 without prodding.

So what do you think?  We arrived on the track first day the sims were ready - nay the first hour - and T1 Radio's parcel is completed over on RFL Give aka 2016's Media Row sim.  This is the other parcel representing the Relay Rockers, who consist basically of T1 staff.  Wouldn't you say there's redundant representation?  Fantasy Faire should have had a section on their supersized space dedicated to Fantasy Faire Radio IMHO rather than more of the same in a second parcel. It looks literally like a Fantasy Faire campsite annex.  And the committee expressed a need to cut back on regions to justify their initial rule of no campsites to anyone raising less than US$300.*

At any rate, it seems the sims weren't not ready yet for some time.

What if I told you it wasn't about traditional post-Relay but that Trader Whiplash - for whom being "The Voice of Relay" apparently hasn't been a high enough honor for covering Relay Rap and most official ceremonies (remember his entire radio crew were no-shows at the Halfway There Fair kick-off event) that suddenly this year he became a committee member along with Nuala Maracas, his former team captain (he is the Rockers' captain this year). 

What if I told you he's been holding events - impromptu or otherwise - ON THE TRACK?  Yes, at the T1 parcel on RFL Give.  The fact is they have dance machines there and people came over during his radio show - WHILE there were fundraising events being held at the Activity sims by those worthless peons who are only good for poking and prodding for more money.

I guess in his case it's okay to LAG UP THE REGION or BLOCK THE TRACK prior to Relay - or whatever BS made-up reason they gave us when they stopped our meager event of 8 attendees last year mid-stream to march us over to a designated Activity stage.

Speaking of which, at least last year Nuala oversaw the Activity sims. Now that she is on the committee we've barely heard or seen her.  Not only that, after all the hype and push over using the stages there in the week leading up to Relay, there hasn't been anyone on active duty to change streams.  Performers and participants have been lucky to flag someone down so their event can even begin!

You thought it couldn't get worse? There are so many ways to tell Relayers "we don't give a crap about you - just give us your fucking money," and Relay For Life of Second Life has certainly explored them all.

I already told my team that tonight when they're caching the track in a lap after clearing their viewers, just skip over RFL Give if it's full. Yes, I told them to expect this.  T1 prepares the state of their sim for mass consumption with a tailgate party on the eve of Relay Weekend.  Then again it might be held at their Relay Rockers campsite. Same difference...

I told my friends to expect Pink Floyd's "Money" to play during such and such lap on T1 this Saturday - the LP version with the word "bullshit" intact.  I called Trader out on using songs with profanity once and he took me to task.  But I know what I heard and he's repeated it since. Way to go on behalf of the ACS brand.

I rely on T1 to cue my team etc for lap changes and such.  Most Relay friends I know will ONLY tune in for the opening, luminaria, Fight Back, and closing ceremonies.  I guess it depends on how irritated I get over their DJs' obligatory use of title puns introducing a set before I switch over during the Relay. It's all via Winamp for me and I can switch to a playlist or Radio Riel Dieselpunk in seconds.

Farewell Trader from my contact list.  You're way more privileged than you need to be, much less more privileged than any volunteer representing ours and all the other teams should be.  You're no longer relevant since I no longer serve at official events.  You're just another big shot openly flaunting your position.  Not the first and not the last.

*I'll address more of how they "cut back" on the track in a post to follow.  It deserves its own discussion.

Friday, June 24, 2016

Over Halfway There, The Bubble Congeals

Our Halfway There Fair spot: low lag with lots of LI to spare

Halfway There Fair passed back in May.  Their ceremony, which had always been a combination of celebration, inspiration and peptalk for Relay For Life of Second Life volunteers was predominantly about the numbers this year.  The lineup consisted mostly of past event chairs MamaP Beerbaum and Nikki Matheison, Fantasy Fair lead Zander Greene, and current chair Random Darrow.  Not a single Relay Rocker Committee member could be found; since they comprise so much of their ranks now this was glaringly evident, not the least of which the ceremony was not simulcast on T1 Radio. Since they are not geographically connected one has to wonder why they were all no-shows for a major milestone event.

Four seats, one current committee member for this major Relay milestone event
The layout was Relayer unfriendly, with the central event spot in one sim rather than in the corner of four sims to allow more attendees. It was amusing to find committee members stuck a ways from where they had to be for most of their own thing.

MamaP Beerbaum and Nikki Matheison exclaimed how many new teams were doing so well.  I looked over at Ariel, who was now running a team of her own.  That explained why there was no CRFB DJ competition held this year by Relay Rockers.  That must have been her baby (I'm surprised Harmony from Hell didn't steal it for themselves). Ariel had hosted a variation of it earlier in the season, placing her team near the top.  Ditto photographer Catalina Straheli, who moved on from the Relay Rockers to captain her own team with stellar results.  "New" teams of these sorts made for a strong showing in the totals and these chairs were dazzled by what they thought were all first timers.

It seemed to me that because there were many new team names which appeared on the list, the committee regarded them as fresh meat to exploit.  I don't believe they realize how many of these teams were in fact reboots or spin-offs.  So they grew confident enough to press the numbers.

I saw the survivors/Caregivers setup which indicated it was time to unmute TS. It was amusing to note that most of his spot at Halfway There Fair shows Random as the owner/person who rezzed content. Hmmmmmmmmmm

Most of TS Darrow's Survivors/Caregivers content was created and
placed by top committee chair (and partner) Random Darrow. This was
initially discovered while determining why clicking givers didn't work.

Another Incident of Disconnect

It was decided our team would participate in the Relay Rockers' Relay Stock.  We registered for a tent. When I was dispatched to pick one, I was surprised to see so many tiny puptents too small for content. I had chosen that since in recent years they held our vendors and displays better than the vans.  Now it was the opposite.  To the side a ways from the stage there were two oldschool tents, one claimed by a friend, so I picked the other one.  We figured on sharing the middle space for a communal campfire.

That evening we hung out and it was good. Sometime in the night we each received IMs to vacate these. They were committee mission tents and we should not have chosen them.  Neither of us are really good with telepathy so it is understandable that we were unaware there were special plans for the tents we chose.  Seriously: there were absolutely no signs, no info on participant notecards, nothing.  When we pointed that out - while we were made to move our stuff over to a pair of puptents the following evening - they finally put signs up on their space. I wonder what they must really think of the relayers that they didn't feel they had to communicate some basics to us?  Was this another disconnect or evidence of a caste system in action?

Communal campfire before we were asked to move.
Their spot was full of mission stuff and no one manned the tents although they were set up with tables and chairs. Really folks, these could have been scattered throughout the sim if you didn't need a presence for actual avatars to help attendees.

The Navmesh Thingie

We were told that beneath the 0m line of all sims lie a Navmesh layer, and that linking all our phantom content to a root prim which intersects this area below might serve to reduce lag.

I looked navmesh up. This is a pathfinder thing which involves anchoring a scripted character to the sim for them to move around according to a game or role play situation.  There is nothing about this improving sim performance stuff.  But hey if that's what they want us to do, how hard can it be?

Seeing  this Navmesh layer is a thing unto itself.  A 64-bit TPV cannot see this except for SL's own viewer. I am using a 64bit OS. I will not install a 32-bit viewer.  If this thing is yea many meters below the sim then I'll work accordingly.

Volunteers or Employees?

Last week we were given short notice of a VERY IMPORTANT Captains meeting to attend.  - It was to be held on a weeknight USA time at the Town Hall meeting area. 

- They got the time wrong on their latest notice and neglected to promptly follow up with a correction to stick with the original time. That would have been common courtesy of course.  Apparently it was presumed that everyone wait a half hour and do nothing.

I couldn't stick around with SL13B to work on so I left. A day or so later some notes were shared with us. 

Team Captains were called on the carpet for not raising enough for the committee's goal!  I couldn't believe it.  That was a lot of nerve.  What's even worse was they exploited a sick relayer (whom for a while things looked grim) for their agenda. 

My friends know there are some things I don't tolerate, and high up on the list is using someone ill or deceased to get people to raise money or win any sort of attention.  It is absolutely abhorrent to me. I told them back when Raglan spent most of ShadyFox' memorial to beat their chests over how awesome they were that if they dared to exploit me for fundraising, attention, sales, status, or anything beyond a simple memorial with friends and acquaintances, I'd haunt the fuck out of them.  And I would.  Unless someone expressly said or left instructions "I've made a foundation or have a favorite charity so please send donations to that instead of flowers", it's dirty money.  And Random Darrow's note showed me this unethical level of pandering.

Holy crap.

I'm still not over it, and it's been over a week!

By the way they did it again. At a recent Relay Rap there was mention that larger events would have to be held in the event sims and not on campsites the 2 weeks leading up to Relay Weekend. Instructions since have indicated that ALL events must be held on the event sims.  Deceptive like last year.

Then came the Notice for Harmony from Hell's Third Annual Halloween weekend.  They better pack sunscreen in their coffins when their times come. Just saying.

Minimal Participation

Hearts & Souls took in a nice amount of donation sales at Halfway There Fair and Relay Stock from our creative members.  As for personal participation, I DJed at Fantasy Faire as planned (what I didnt expect was to be invited to play 3 sets!).  I applied for a small campsite for next month's Relay Weekend and was approached and agreed to DJ the Sunday 4am SLT lap hour for my fifth consecutive year.

I've seen a gamut of activity this year, and regretably most of it coming from people in charge who have shown themselves to be a real disappointment. Their attitude, their demands, their expectations...  It's so disheartening.  Once again it seems they have lost all perspective for the dignity it takes to represent a reputable org OR their role to serve as a liaison and not a lean-on.  The Relay community is all just fodder to them.

Imagine this: you and some friends bring a tent to some college track for a relay you signed up for on the official website and they tell you "oh you cannot be here. You didn't raise enough for us," or be turned away for not having sufficient official brochures to pass around - forget the inspirational freebies, funny hats you made with friends to lighten the mood, high fiber bars or sing-alongs.

Like my teammates said: as long as they're not skimming off donations and it's all going where it belongs, that's what counts.   Hearts & Souls have gone at their own pace without pressure as is the key characteristic of our team since its inception.  We're just fine doing what we're doing.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

What 2016 holds for Relayers in Second Life

Disclaimer: When I post about negative experiences it is rarely if ever out of any smug satisfaction.  There are no winners.  It is a "buyer beware" as I stumble through the metaverse.  This post definitely serves this purpose.  You have an opportunity to learn from any mistakes I've made and spot warning signs in advance.  Those who know these people and find me relating a story: take it for what it is; there's no glory in it for me. I am sure to lose several from my contact list.  I always blog with the expectation that someone is going to find out, whether there are tattlers or not. This is The Internet.  Just keep in mind that my opinions may not be that of the Hearts & Souls Relay For Life team, and taking anything out on the team or creating difficulties getting the team resources or preventing them from representation or fundraising is an attack on innocent people - both from the team and American Cancer Society - who have nothing to do with this post or me. 

The First Relay Rap Gathering of 2016
Relayers waited.

Word got around that many left critical feedback as a result of the 2015 RFL season; a popular sentiment was to see what the new Relay For Life of Second Life committee would be like before resuming participation.

Many like me sat out the Xmas Expo while others made it their final involvement for the calendar year.   For the first time in four years  I didn't sign up for the Sci-Fi Convention.   No gig at Merciless Ming's.  Not until I saw true change with Relay For Life of Second Life and a committee who saw to our needs and acted on our behalf with the American Cancer Society in both words AND actions, and respected each and every one of us toward a collective goal.

The Relay committee had their first Relay Rap of the year in January and word was they would announce some changes.  Following their show would be a Q&A at a Town Hall on ACS' sim.

The Inbred Committee

As we filed in, my RL jaw dropped.  The committee was positively inbred, dominated by active members of Harmony From Hell and the Relay Rockers with little else, including both of their captains.  T.S. Darrow was once again in charge of the Survivors/Caregivers Honor Lap project.  Anybody who volunteered a service out of the goodness of their hearts in the past became a committee member.  I wonder if the minutiae of titles offered them each a tax or expense write-off?  Didn't think that's why we had a committee but you really have to wonder when you see what we saw that evening. 

The changes themselves were also the last thing any of us expected.  Looks like someone upstairs wasn't pleased with the sharp decline in donations, but rather than recognize their role in this, the committee was going to take it out of our asses.  Amazing but true: they did the math and based their 2016 objective on whomever hadn't left and our doing the same as last year.  As if.

Their platform was one of a stern drive to acquire donations. Gone was the philosophy that every little bit helped the cause. Forget FUNdraising; it was  now all about FUNDraising.  They came up with all sorts of lingo with the word "fund" in it to drive home their point. 

Were they kidding?

They added that fundraising levels and incentives were rewarded at higher numbers; teams raising less than US$300 would not only be eligible for a campsite on Relay Weekend, but not be listed on the website's totals page either.  Bronze level goal went from US$40 to US$300.  We wouldn't count for contributing to the breakdown before raising that.  They were punishing us!

What a disconnect.

They created a category called Rising Star for those raising US$100-$299.99. You still didn't rate a listing in the team totals or a campsite at the track but could get a booth for your team on some designer sim for Relay Weekend.  Tent city for the impoverished - for raising ONLY a couple hundred dollars.

They made new positions for fundraising tutors, among whom is the captain of Harmony From Hell (what she gonna teach: how to steal other Relayers' ideas for FUND and profit? LOL).  Basically more committee members from the same teams give or take a token outsider or two; I guess they added them to throw us off a painfully obviously configuration.

No more mentors/coaches assigned teams.  You've seen one team you've seen them all, right?

The only good news was the return of the inworld event boards. (UPDATE: Talk and no walk; there is only the prototype in use at RFL headquarters)

Flanked by ACTs' Bain and Cure Chasers' Sienna. Several Skype
and group chats were afire over the committee's initial decrees.

The town hall was packed. Some attendees were there because they were new, but the vast majority were pissed off veterans.  The committee responded in voice to our typed feedback and questions. They took a good look at us - slowly peering out through the filmy wall of their bubble for the first time - the faithful who cared enough to show up and who were being taken advantage of. Maybe the downward trend wasn't a natural turn or failure on our parts (ya think? Btw since the previous post a few who've read it say I was spot on.  They have a choice to remain anonymous and discrete, but someone had to say these things and it was me).  Their 2016 goal was not realistic under their imposed conditions.  About time they had that revelation.

The totals page would only display in dollars.  Many had a thing to say about that one.  I pointed out that half of my team's mid-2000s total in 2015 was raised in Lindens. Also with international participation this made it difficult for those whose common point of reference WAS the Linden Dollar.  Very user-unfriendly.

They took down all our points and would notify us of a follow up town hall.

I had made up my mind not to raise money for or donate to Relay For Life of Second Life this year.  For the first time I called RFL's hotline to get a better understanding of how the Relay structure worked and what direction to take for my team.

How being a Relay Team works

RFL of SL follows the Relay For Life model pretty closely.  First there is a scheduled Relay event such as a Relay Weekend, be it local, regional, organizational, etc.  Teams  sign up for that event and their fundraising efforts leading up to it get added to the event's grand total.

Relay Weekend is a ritual which serves to honor the survivors and caregivers, as well as a collective gesture to defy cancer's devastating impact. It is a time of celebrating victories, remembering losses, and looking to the future. Of course trinkets and stuff are offered for donations towards the event's total.  To make it clear this isn't a flea market or a swap meet.  This is about those who have fought, win or lose and celebrate moving closer to a cure.

The bottom line here is that a team cannot just exist in its own universe but must associate with a Relay event. Everything culminates towards that. You have to point to an event when you create your team for the year.  It's part of the application.

The Decision and Hearts & Souls' Objectives in 2016

There was only one other online Relay event -  the hotline representative said there was once a generic online event people could latch on to but that was gone.  So I signed us up to Relay For Life of InWorldz.  With a history of committee chairs such as Bain and OldeSoul, there was no question of their level of integrity. Our offgrid fundraising would contribute towards what was felt to be a far more deserving operation.

I crafted a notecard to my teammates, having sheltered them from most of the hipocrisy and grief of the past two years, and subsequently discussed in group chat which direction we should take for inworld fundraising.  They had two choices:

1 - Join another team with a healthy recommendation to ACTS, or
2 - Hearts & Souls would continue in Second Life exclusively for inworld fundraising and not be linked to convio, with custom posters and objects linking to our external RL team site for CC and PayPal donations. 

Their main concern was whether the committee was skimming off funds in any way.  I didn't believe so.  Also Stingray Raymaker served as ACS liaison for both Second Life and InWorldz.

The team decided to continue its presence this year.  I would provide all their tools and info, see to spots for them at major events for their vendors etc, and serve faithfully as our captain.  I would not personally post kiosks or vendors but do everything else.

My only exceptions for personal contributions would be to purchase any worthwhile offering from SF Design during Fashion For Life (done) and DJ for Fantasy Faire. Also rezzing a kiosk for placement at said major events. 

They Finally Saw the Light

At the follow-up meeting there was a great deal of backpedaling in our favor: 

- Every team with funds raised would appear on the totals page
- The totals page would display as it always had, breaking down dollars and Lindens
- Teams with a history of participation would get a campsite for Relay Weekend, even if they fell short of the Bronze (we will most likely fall into this category unless they choose to punish my teammates - predominantly caregivers & survivors - as a misdirected vendetta against these posts).

Their explanation for restricting campsites is understandable:  In previous years Teams who earned US$5 would get a large campsite (about a quarter of a sim). Others would apply and be noshows, prompting staff to fill the gaps with impromptu builds and landscapes.  Take these away and you save on sim costs reducing the size of the track.

Personally I would have offered an incentive with an option for a large campsite to Gold and higher, with the majority as smaller campsites for those who raise US$50 or higher, an obvious exception being when such a team sponsors a sim.  IMHO this should have been the policy since Day One.

There's one little question: why are they griping over the cost of sims when each one is sponsored?  It has been understood that sponsoring sims (and last year they added lap theme sponsors) covered the cost of the track, already deeply discounted. 

- Having realized we could not be held accountable for any goals they set and failed to meet, they threw out their FUND agenda and renewed their vows to respect the Linden.

Their changes on the whole were far more reasonable, and many who had planned to leave following the rap resolved to register a team.

A pity extricating T S Darrow never happened.  I'll unmute him long enough to get information for my teammates to sign up for the Honour Lap, but I'm certainly not going to run it, and he otherwise does not exist to me. 

I'd question the numbers assigned to us as team designations.  They should be on a first come first serve basis.  The first teams took days to get their confirmations, and clearly those favored got lower numbers regardless of chronology.  I was among the first to register, and landed in the 50s.  At least we're in good company!

Friday, December 4, 2015

Relay For Life of Second Life: What Went Wrong in 2015?

Hearts & Souls' core members by July 2015
Disclaimer: When I post about negative experiences it is rarely if ever out of any smug satisfaction.  There are no winners.  It is a "buyer beware" as I stumble through the metaverse.  This post definitely serves this purpose.  You have an opportunity to learn from any mistakes I've made and spot warning signs in advance.  Those who know these people and find me relating a story: take it for what it is; there's no glory in it for me. I am sure to lose several from my contact list.  I always blog with the expectation that someone is going to find out, whether there are tattlers or not. This is The Internet.  Just keep in mind that my opinions may not be that of the Hearts & Souls Relay For Life team, and taking anything out on the team or creating difficulties getting the team resources or preventing them from representation or fundraising is an attack on innocent people - both from the team and American Cancer Society - who have nothing to do with this post or me.

Despite our experience with the Team From Hell in 2014, the year as a whole was energetic and inspirational. We believed.  On the other hand, while the 2015 Relay Season started strong, it ended a wretch.

The Foundation Shows Cracks

- A Break in the Integrity of the Process -  So many teams held official fundraisers featuring contests with Lindens for prizes, the Castle Contest among them.  I could understand if this was a donation towards the winner's favorite team, but that was not stated in these promotions.

- General content was no longer required; PG-13 to light R were in - For the first time there were relaxed rules on language for music.  Limited profanity was permitted.  The American Cancer Society went with that?  Earlier in the year I made a remark because there was a slip in the General Rating rule in 2014 when T1 played a song with profanity on Relay Weekend (it was the album version of Pink Floyd's "Money").  This was vehemently denied, then the song played again this year, again with "bullshit" clearly sung.  So much for brand image emphasized so passionately during Captains training.

- Adult oriented events were promoted via official channels.  Previously, qualifying events were strictly General content and held in General to Moderate sims only.

Fundraising Failed to Reach Heights: Some Observations

Poor promotions - a Google spreadsheet for a calendar but no events page for site visitors to browse by date... This time no low-LI inworld event billboards.  We certainly took a hit from the latter having been discontinued.

The official Relay For Life of Second Life website changed over to an unprofessional, Geocities grade homepage, with cheesy backgrounds depicting avatars of committee members.  How could SL's relayers be taken seriously with this childish aesthetic?  It was an embarrassment and disrespectful.

So many people I once admired became monsters to me by August.  Will that view change with the Christmas Expo?  Here are some highlights of what went on throughout Relay Season in 2015 from my point of view.

Forgot who said it, but someone with - or associated with - the committee tried to prove a point by telling me in IM that the purpose of Relay Weekend was a push to collect the big bucks. Funny, I thought it was to take time out to honor the survivors and caregivers, who relay as a gesture in defiance of cancer.  While this has been an inspirational event and served to contribute significantly to the season total, they had forgotten the true purpose of the weekend.  Was the lone table set for one nothing more than a prop to them to milk the crowd with pathos?

There was lack of accountability on the committee's part by alienating people with deep pockets.  Many bailed throughout the year, including from committee positions (that's when a proliferation of buddies filled in).  They fell way short of their goal of less than half the amount collected the previous year.  In the end they had no one to blame but themselves.  Greediness, selfishness, and nepotism set RFL of SL back.  It certainly didn't improve anything.

Missed Opportunity to Keep Sim Resources Optimal

Apathy towards relayers and their basic needs became apparent by virtue of added junk on the track for Relay Weekend.  We live in an era where less crashes and server related incidents should make for a smoother run in Second Life, even for those on older computers.  What we gained the committee took away from us with:

1. Posing couches in several locations - we should have had these in the entertainment sims and away from the resources needed on the track.  Placing them to the side of the path in view of passersby would be no less enticing to those interested in participating

2. Stand-ups on the side of the road in each sim for relay weekend programs.  Compare resources with traditional cube giver at Relay Station.

3. Art builds so large most relayers could not see them properly.  Two come to mind: a night sky contained in a mammoth cave and an ambitious but impossible dragon.  At a time when people have their graphics down to participate, these are poor choices of parameters to build by.  Creativity is defined not by how well you compensate for mortal limitations but by how well an artist may meet and defy the technical ones once all things are considered.  Even after the weekend with graphics cranked up I never got a decent look at the dragon. 

4. No enforcement of speed scripts.  The committee did change the rules for lap awards against them at least, but what of the added scripts?  To compound it, most of the instigators were individuals who already relied on scripts for their appearance.

I had 12gb of memory in a Quad core CPU to work with and barely made less than a handful of laps.  Think about those with even less.  Was this all worth it for the relay experience they had?  Ask them.

The Problem Elephant in the Room

Long time followers of my blog know I have very specific opinions regarding people holding onto a role they are unable to fulfill.  There's no way around it: if you can't do it, you step aside.  There's no pride or glory holding onto the position.  Quite the opposite.  TS Darrow, someone already on several people's shitlist, was unable to serve as organizer for the Honor Lap for Survivors and Caregivers. He took partial credit for the hard work Catalina Straheli put in to make the project possible.  TS (sorry, used up all my acronyms the last time around) should have been removed altogether and Catalina given sole credit.  That is, if he possessed the common sense or ethics to step aside on his own.  Not his kind...

He was a real problem and clearly did not recognize the privilege of such a role much less the responsibility.  I wonder sometimes whether these types see this as an Epic Title to collect and strut around with rather than view the requirements and say to themselves "hey I can do that" and simply want to help. Rumors also flew from several angles of his behavior in committee meets. 

Many volunteers and mentors were afraid to speak up because TS was committee chair Random's partner.  After all that, so many still hoped that he would be removed.  Many of us wait to see if he will be left off the committee for 2016.  Remember this essay was drafted during the final quarter of 2015; a subsequent post will address any outcomes and revelations with the 2016 Relay season.

There's a blog post from 2012 from when our mentor at the time stated plainly that they could not be there for us or her other teams due to RL commitments, but would continue on as our mentor. What favor did she do anyone? Where did this false sense of pride and duty to let us down come from?  It isn't the first I've seen of this nor the last I'll see of it, and TS Darrow is just one in a long string of sleazy characters holding onto a title for its own sake or for unspecified perks.

It steams me more - even more than his involvement in the Halloween Weekend fiasco - that this is a position which was proudly maintained by Dat's late husband Pro Recreant until his passing.  RFL of SL could have done better. A *LOT* better.

The "One Team" Mantra

In February Catalina - model and photographer - embarked on an impressive and selfless project as her goal for the year: take portraits of avatars: singles, couples, families, groups, Relay teams, etc. to raise donations. She had begun to tally via off-season inworld kiosks and early convio donations; it was about donating and not so much about which team got the credit monetarily. Her raising money towards the cause had its own running total for her personal mission.  Seven and I went into it and encouraged teammates to go for it throughout the season.
Catalina takes a portrait of a teammate with her portable studio

It wasn't long before Catalina was assimilated into the Relay Rockers.   I suppose the One Team mantra could only take an individual so far.  Someone must have felt that her achievements and recognition would have more meaning if she joined a team. Now her project was no longer just hers.  I'm not sure why she changed gears. Her portrait show became the focal point of their Relay Weekend campsite.  I'm probably unique in thinking along these lines Catalina, and I'm sorry; you worked hard as an individual and I thought that was reward enough.  While camaraderie facilitated her covering for the Survivors/Caregivers project in TS' absence, it was good to see that the role was not taken for granted.  Again kudos for taking that on.

The Double Standards Mantra

The Relay Rockers had become the media voice for RFL of SL through T1 Radio and deservedly so.  They hosted the CRFB DJ competition for years and raised money for other teams once their own goal had been met.  However there were things I wasn't too keen about in 2015 and it's time to call the Rockers out.

1. They seemed beyond the restrictions everyone else had to follow.  Perfect case in point: limiting the number of teammates at the campsite during Relay to half a dozen tops.  They had about 20.  We shared their sim and members of our team were unable to get in to wave on the survivors & caregivers at first.  We're talking about no more than four of us. What can you say to that?  It would be like David asking Goliath to stop unconsciously flicking & burying him in ashes.  Avalon had about 8, another 6 or so hung out across the road from us for another team, and access was still needed for caregivers and survivors to run through our portion of the track. Many teams did that: had more than 6-8 of their own simultaneously during Relay weekend, but I expected better of the Rockers. 

2. The Relay Rockers enjoyed a tradition of throwing a party Sunday afternoon following the Victory lap. This year it was held at their sister campsite for T1 over on Media Row (yes, annually they enjoy representation in  two spots), but that wasn't the only thing. 

Seems as though the builder of the event sims - now a committee member - wanted to show for her hard work so a rule was made that EVENTS WERE TO BE HELD IN THE EVENT SIMS!  I say "made up" because of what transpired...  There has always been a rule not to throw parties or events on campsites during Relay.  We've seen tailgate parties the Friday before.  We've seen post-relay parties Sunday afternoon following.  However 2015 was the first time teams got their land almost 2 weeks in advance.  While there was encouragement for those in need of a place to use the event sims during that time, we had a place.  I promoted our event by group notice and submitted for their Google grid, and no one said boo.  We relied on one of them to change our stream URL; for the first time access to it was restricted on the parcel. That Saturday before Relay Weekend they opened the track up to those in the RFL Volunteers group, so we held our "Halloween in July" event at our campsite.

Or tried to.  There was such an uproar over the 8 or so partiers and how we set a bad precedent and threatened to hog the sim's resources (of the 45+ sims there was maybe another dozen individuals dispersed throughout), and that rules were made for a reason, and on and on it went.  Wasn't sure when the builder started calling the shots on event rules but her mouth was definitely in the melee and putting her foot down in notices.  It's not like we filled the sim with 20 teammates, if you know what I mean *points up*

We were forced to stop the stream and move over to The DJ Stage for the second half.  It was disgusting and humiliating, but most of all baseless and unnecessary.  I think Random Darrow attended because she felt sorry for us and saw on some level how we got fucked.  I think she genuinely meant well.

Random Darrow dancing with us at the Event Sim

Of course the Relay Rockers still got carte blanche that following Friday for their tailgate party and as usual filled a sim on Sunday with the annual post-relay party. 

Relay Stock: A Personal Disappointment

The height of Relay Season 2014 for me was Relay Stock hosted by the Relay Rockers.  I loved Relay Stock weekend.  I opened with the first set Saturday morning with The Beatles' Good Morning and took it from there with rock, psychedelia, funk, sould, glam... I attended many sets, we danced on vans, I hung out at my muddy campfire a ways from the stage where I sold tie dye. It was awesome.

When Relay season 2015 ramped up, I watched for Relay Stock applications so i could sign up to DJ again. I never saw it, only a teaser notice.  Perhaps SL failed to deliver since I never saw a call to apply via IM/Email.  It was too late get a DJ slot by the time I found out but I managed to get us a tent to put our stuff.  I did hold a Pirate Radio set early Sunday morning (participants had to add my stream URL to their media players of choice), but it wasn't the same as being a part of the weekend.

I was proud of the art I hand drew for my Pirate Radio poster. If there was interest in it, I would have offered the original on eBay for a convio donation.  Nobody gave a crap.

Our spot at Relay Stock 2015. Pirate Radio poster to the right.

Some Bottom Lines and Let Downs

- Meaningless rules made up for self-satisfaction
- Double standards & favoritism
- Unnecessary stress
- Active team members in committee positions
- of course Harmony From Hell pissed all over our Halloween theme like the diseased, plagiarizing dogs they are and used my idea as an annual event of theirs moving forward.

Problems Within the Ranks.

Things were cutting close.  I had been diagnosed with cancer in June.  CT scans suggested it had not spread and surgery should be a success.  I had worked out with my Sloan Kettering team to have the procedure done right after Relay Weekend.

As mentioned previously we had gotten our land for the campsite early - right after Independence Day.  I wanted to get ours done in a week, while I still had a mediocre level of energy both physically and mentally.  Never had I encountered so much resistance.  The theme was an Autumn suburban community and trick or treating door to door for visitors to learn something new about prevention with each house.  The centerpiece up on the hill was a graveyard of failed practices and quack remedies.  Every stop had a freebie and an inspirational or educational notecard.  I placed the road and homes, drew some ghosts of doctors and sent them flying over the graveyard.  My teammates researched and placed pumpkins with gifts in each house and into marked graves.

Hearts & Souls' campsite Tricks & Treats in 2015

But things went south.  I asked them to work the landscape and they must have misunderstood.  Corners of the path looked too primmy and needed to be filled in with a shrub or bush etc.  Instead they indiscriminately threw crap all over the lawns, not unlike some crazed dog randomly leaving their chew and squeeze toys all over a neighborhood's lawns.  I encountered so much resistance and as much as I had made it clear what we needed.  I returned items since we werent on simultaneously, diplomatically clarified what was needed.  I also had to return trees and other things which violated placement rules.  They didn't do a thing for the landscape and kept putting what I called shitskies all over the place.  The straw broke when one of them - who made plushie owls for sale - placed a plushie owl on each roof.  Clearly whatever rapport we had since 2012 had left the building. They took their little prim-mongering toys, cared enough to keep the informative stuff and freebies on, and left the team.

A friend on another team helped me with some enhancements to the landscape and to  get my stress level down, which of course went back up from the campsite event fiasco.

The moment Relay Weekend had ended, they took the rest of their stuff. There was nothing on display for photographers or videographers.  As usual our place was marked by a shot of our team sign.

Four days after Relay Weekend I was under general anesthesia for six hours.  Subsequent pathology showed the cancer had just started to enter the excised muscle mass.  I'll never know if the stresses leading up to Relay Weekend had a hand in my requiring post-op radiation treatments.  I haven't been the same physically since. 

My co-captain dropped everything and went back to a Star Wars MMORPG in early spring, so I couldn't rely on her covering for me.  In hindsight I really should have had the procedure sooner and to hell with Relay Weekend.

Our annual breakfast spread Sunday morning
By the closing ceremony in August there was so much antipathy towards the committee.  It appeared as though they had sealed themselves into a bubble and were oblivious how much they had alienated the SL populace.  Having fallen short of their goal and the delay of off-season kiosks made them appear desperate to squeeze out more for the year.  Home & Garden / Breedables Expo sat out 2015, which also had an impact on the total.  As it turns out there was a genuine delay of post-season tools as a new scriptwriter was engaged who had to balance between his new role and a demanding RL.  

The straw of course occurred during the wrap up ceremonies.  A raffle of RL items would be awarded to someone among those  who had donated US$100 or more by convio during a certain time frame.  Who won this?  What if I told you it was the committee chair's moll, TS Darrow?  Trust me I wasn't the only one aghast that a committee member got it over all those eligible relayers.  I don't think most people expected anyone from the committee would be tacky enough to participate.  But you know me.  I'm blunt.  I had nothing to lose audibly calling shenanigans.  The minions shushed me as if I was ruining the mood of the moment, but little did they know how far gone that hour had already become.  And them.  They can't pull a sour grapes card since I didn't participate, but I reckon many of them thought that.

I received a convio fundraising award, which meant little to me.  I knew I scored a large sum from friends and family out of pity for having cancer.   I figured this was not going to happen each year, that the results were not the product of my skills in any way.

Sitting with Lemondrop during the wrap up

Just prior to October's breast cancer drive we finally got the off-season tools, which I passed on to my team mates.

My Decision For Now

I'll continue to pass tools over to my team, but I will refrain from personally paying Lindens into Relay For Life of Second Life.

 I may do something for Relay outside Second Life next year in 2016.

 It's entirely up to the team what will happen to inworld Hearts & Souls. That's for another post.

I may be the only one saying anything, but the numbers speak for themselves. Poor planning and poor ethics, and an oblivious and corrupt committee.  So many fed up residents have had their arms folded throughout the fall.  I wasn't thrilled to see who was involved with the Xmas Expo and decided to pass.  Many of us were expecting a full purge.

This is unfortunate.  It means I may not participate in SLSFCon or Fantasy Faire.

I've wanted to join in Fashion For Life for two years but the organizers have been so bloody aloof each time. No wonder half of the shops were unoccupied. It's nice to see Nevar Lobo taking a proactive role again, but is it too little too late?

While a large number share my sentiments, the herd mentality is a strong one.  Most people unhappy with what's been going down will continue to support Relay For Life of Second Life.  Whether or not RFL of SL knows fully the dissatisfaction and disappointment leveled at them, what they do know is that very few will go through the trouble of developing an alternative.  And would The American Cancer Society lend their support in turn since they already have a representative acting as liaison on their behalf?

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Hearts & Souls and the Great Halloween Heist by the Team From Hell

Disclaimer: When I post about negative experiences it is rarely if ever out of any smug satisfaction.  There are no winners.  It is a "buyer beware" as I stumble through the metaverse.  The next posts definitely serve this purpose.  Those not aware of to whom I refer have a story from which to learn from any mistakes I've made and spot warning signs in advance.  Those who know these people and find me relating a story: take it for what it is; there's no glory in it for me. I always blog with the expectation that someone is going to find out, whether there are tattlers or not. This is The Internet.

I don't like biting my tongue.  It turns fiends into tyrants. The George Zimmermans of the world are let go after performing atrocities and in their mind they have been condoned and are at liberty to do it again.

As some recall I've blogged about a sexual predator who was revered in a community and in time elevated to martyr as I shut my mouth and disengaged from them so I would no longer see her notices or her name everywhere.  Why does the victim have to go?  If these crimes were reported anywhere  nearly as often as they occur and were taken to heart instead of denied with a turn of heads or mocked by the stigma circus, I'd have less reason to see it as a flaw in human DNA.

So let's revisit something I wrote in 2012 about fundraising.  Some people become overzealous and feel their objective is above the law much less basic courtesy, thereby clearing the way for themselves to perform rude, unethical, sometimes unspeakable acts in the name of a higher cause (sounds almost like humanity's MO, doesn't it?).  Mind you there isn't a legitimate charity in existence which wants to be associated with unethical practices or anything which could give them a bad reputation.  It's dirty money, plain and simple. Another kind of predator and another kind of prey.

For those unfamiliar with Relay For Life of Second Life, it is *a* team as recognized by The American Cancer Society.  It is comprised annually of dozens of sub teams - aka inworld teams - any of which may operate under an array of circumstances and apply any variety of methods.  There are guidelines which when followed preserve the integrity of donations and one hopes the reputation of the American Cancer Society brand, but with so many operating independently of eachother, one can't ever be too sure. On the other hand, with so many inworld teams there are choices and a group for just about anybody to slip comfortably into.

That said, let me bring up the purpose of this post. There are Relay for Life of Second Life teams which raise gobs of money, and that's great.  There is one however that my team fell prey to in 2014. They exude a bubbly enthusiasm on the outside, and the moment RFL of SL relaxed their rules regarding dedicated committee positions, several of their members fell into dual roles (I've always been of the opinion that this policy anywhere at anytime is a conflict of interest and an invitation to corruption.  However this point is for another blog post).

I had a friend on their team plus their captain worked as an events coordinator at the start of the 2014 Relay season, therefore we had an amicable rapport.  There was no warning of what we were in for.

For those who have not been active in RFL of SL in recent years, since 2014 Relay Season there have been opportunities for teams to borrow the use of entire sims for large events free of charge.  In May of that year the captain of this team approached me with a proposal to collaborate on a weekend event on one of these sims to showcase teams which had not raised much thus far. Her vision was to bring these underdogs to the forefront and give them an opportunity to increase their totals into Bronze status (US$40) or higher.  It sounded like a very noble cause. 

Mind you their team was already Platinum (over US$2000 raised) or thereabouts while we may have squeaked into Silver (over US$400) by then.  We discussed a theme - I think she had something country or hayridish in mind - I honestly don't recall.  When I suggested Halloween she loved it; we'd hold a meeting to bring our teammates into the planning. 

We met in my TARDIS, which at the time served as our team's clubhouse, to work out who would do what.  One of ours would put together a hunt. One of theirs would landscape the sim based on our discussions. I would get the talent together for events including something big for Saturday night. They would set up booths for team sales. Before I invited DJs etc they indicated I would receive a list from them of prospective names to contact. Their co-captain (whom I will call JayZee) said the list would comprise of talent from smaller teams as well as theirs (at the time I was our only DJ).  Okay.  We'd also take on early Sunday evening 3:30-5pm SLT with one of us hosting their weekly 7seas Fishing contest on site and offer exclusive trophies and contest prizes.

It was also decided (not by me) to keep the weekend quiet & not promote it for participants (their list would cover that).  I'd also suggested inviting Relay Rockers to host a BYOK (bring your own kiosk) and work out maybe a Relay Rap (T1 Radio broadcasts an excellent talk show each week during Relay season) on location, but those two ideas were turned down. Certainly we could listen while those of us fished since we did that anyway each week, but Okay.

We'd use Google Docs to plan and schedule - meh all right.  At any rate we were set and it was going to be a great weekend.

First sign of trouble came early.  A few days later I asked their captain whether she knew if JayZee had the list of contacts ready.  I got a very defensive you're-backing-me-into-a-wall response.  Like catching a kid who is sneaking cookies & is trying to deny it while holding the goods.  I thought that was an odd sort of tone and instinctively my mind wanted to run screaming from a potentially bad arrangement.  But for the team I'd let it roll off; maybe she just had a bad day or something.

Our hunt person loved hunts but never organized them before.  I explained this wasn't gridwide and just involved getting creators to participate in putting objects a la scavenger hunt throughout the sim in specially shaped RFL hunt prims.  Placement would be such that they would be easy to spot and hunters would be led close to entertainment and booth locations so that said underdog teams would get some exposure... as soon as the other team deemed it okay to let us promote the hunt and weekend for creator participation.

About a week or so after our meeting I got an IM from someone else from their team.  Let's say their initials acronym into "That Shitheaded Dumbass" or "Tyrannical Sociopathic Diva".  He informed me that HE would be event lead. Just like that.  Oh shit, I thought, who the hell was this yahoo and what did we get into?  We agreed that after I got talents together (was still waiting for that mythical list at that point and asked a couple of non-RFL performer-friends) he'd fill in the blanks with their team and friends.  Meanwhile events and timing began to congeal on the Google doc.

No list after two weeks.  It also became annoyingly evident that JayZee had a mouth on her and didn't hesitate to let rude tumble from it when the mood struck her.  One week in and already I considered using mute but thought about the team (must think about the team) and that there was a greater whole to think about.  Checking her Facebook page she had shares on it which strongly suggested at the time that she enjoyed winding up men for the fun of it. 

Oh bruh ther.

Our huntress grew stressed.  Turns out JayZee had been giving her terrible advice and straying her to dwell on some bullshit gridwide project. What would be the point of that other than to make things more difficult?  As it turned out the date for the weekend crossed a major week-long mega thing for which our would-be huntress was a key player.  She didn't want to let us all down but knew that even under the best of circumstances it was impossible to do both.  I said don't worry about that because damn she had a lot on her plate.  This wasn't a time for her to get jerked around but a time to focus on her own event and see it through to awesomeness.  I offered to tell the other team that she wasn't going to host a hunt for the weekend.  You could just see the weight lifting from her shoulders that moment.

I only ever had one issue with this teammate: she never felt she was doing  enough for us.  This could not be farther from the truth.  Most of her socializing occurred off the grid, and she frequently entered donations via convio from RL collections made among friends and colleagues.  She was fantastic as far as we were concerned.  I wish she saw it that way, and that the substance of bodies or location where collections took place did not make her any more or less of a valued member of our team. 

As one would predict, the other team's captain got very cold and snotty on hearing the news.  I've no doubt she thought I was being tyrannical (there's that word again) and dictated my team's every actions.  I really got that impression from them as a whole at this point, like I told people not to get involved when most of my team wasn't actively participating in RFL events.  The attraction of Hearts & Souls has always been no pressure; if you just want to rez out a kiosk in your shop then that's fine; every little bit helps. We've always had a lot of those on our roster as well as off. Slow and steady wins the race.

About a week prior, with SL11B, Litha, and Burnal Equinox all set to coincide with our Halloween weekend with the Team from Hell, most of my team's talent prospects - including a live performer - bowed out for sudden RL commitments.  That left from us my opening the weekend with a DJ set, the Saturday night event, and our fishing contest on Sunday.  The poster I had provided for the event was discarded and they renamed the weekend and posted another image for billboards with our team's name conspicuously absent.  At about this time their captain asked me whether we needed our corner space for the whole weekend.  It appeared they wanted to remove every last evidence of our involvement as collaborators as quickly as possible and clear off the Saturday night event spot.  "What," I responded about the gothic ball space, "a whole sim and 1024sqm is too much for us?"  She got on the defensive again and denied this entirely, but why else would one ask such a thing?  That's rhetorical btw.

The land became available and JayZee got to work.  Our hostess for the Saturday night formal ball (the concept of a formal ball with classical music as a viable attraction appeared to escape them, which I found highly amusing) reported that they watched her silently like hawks (or buzzards?) as she prepared the spot.

I brought the ordeal - the defensive attitude, removing us from promotions etc etc - to the attention of a committee member, who observed the proceedings as of about two days prior and into the weekend.  They saw everything, as did all of our friends and teammates.

This is some of what transpired...

- A forced landing point in the sim's Eastern edge and no flying.  If your underdog team wanted to send out LM's to people promoting their donation items, your contacts could not land at the booth.  They'd have to walk a winding path into dense vegetation and through a swamp to the SW corner of the sim.

- This path eventually led up to a stage due west, which consisted of an open air structure like the remnants of a barn.  To the east of the stage's grassy clearing intended for spectators lay the entrance to their maze.  They insisted on "no fly" rules in the entire sim for it (because their maze and raising money for their team was more important).  When I opened with my set Saturday morning, I thought some of them had come to listen to the music but had instead set out to add more content to the entrance of the maze as well as kiosks for their team.

- There were kiosks liberally peppered everywhere, all set to their team, so much so that the few who made it over to my set after having braved the long walk to the west side inadvertently gave to the other team first and not to ours.  One acquaintance IMed me and expressed their anger at the nerve.  There wasn't much I could do.  With all the hype to entice us with altruistic intentions, one would have thought at the very least they would set all those kiosks to other teams.  Suffice it to say they raked it in that weekend,  IMHO at the cost of those less successful than themselves.  Including us.  Especially us given the aggravation we endured.

- Walking further north you came to our section in the NW corner, about 2048 in all between the hill for our ball and an open air swamp in the corner with a pier.  Presumably the pier was also used throughout the weekend for a zombie shoot.  We witnessed a similar experience with their maintaining a rotation of people watching us like cops during our fishing contest on Sunday evening.

- They scheduled events opposite ours - or tried to.  They had attempted to do something Saturday opposite the ball and had to clear out due to the turnout.  Ours was easily the best attended event that weekend.  We almost filled the sim for the ball, mostly with outsiders to RFL who mingled with many regulars and relayers.  It was an ideal and intended result.  My friend was the only one who attended from their team. It was a beautiful evening.

Sev, Nev, and Cluck
One of my teammates opted to join in on the BYOK event after we cleared off our fishing stuff Sunday evening.  The fishing event was a success as well, despite having had to teleport everybody in due to those oppressive land settings. Yes, you heard right: They invited the Relay Rockers to host a BYOK event after they rejected my suggestion. I'm glad they thought of it!

It was The Weekend From Hell with The Team From Hell for sure, and I gladly disengaged from some of them afterwards and outright blocked others once it was over.  The most horrible people to work with and I have to wonder whether they were just pleased someone else came up with a great theme for the weekend and then didn't want to deal with working with anyone else after that?  Maybe this was all a coordinated effort to discourage us early on and we didn't get the hint?  I suspect they've been less than gracious to others too, having done it so well. It was a slick operation.

I told my friend OldeSoul: if I ever come to you saying we're thinking of collaborating with another team on a weekend or mega project, you have permission to smack me upside my head as hard as you need to.

And I meant that.

As a captain my role is to protect my teammates and represent the team, as I had with letting those people know we could no longer run a hunt.  I expedite their wishes as much as I expedite my own.  My mistake was believing this other captain had any similar role as her crew appeared to work autonomously and she'd get bent out of shape over simple organizational questions.  Making it difficult to access other teams' offerings and even getting tips for themselves intended for others really has me wondering whether they changed EVERYTHING about that weekend - aside from the theme, which wasn't their idea anyway.

Just when I thought this nightmare could become a faded memory, in May 2015 they announced on a Relay Rap show  that they were planning "their" second annual Halloween weekend! They didn't even have the dignity of changing to an original theme  Yes, they had a nerve.  No, at this point I'm quite sure  that they are devoid of souls the lot of them.  Their ins with the committee led to expected results of non-action when I lodged a formal complaint.  I can't believe I lodged a formal complaint.  Why should anyone have to do that? What makes people act or think that what they do is justified? Or that karma won't step in some day? 

The committee threw out an apples and oranges analogy to justify the team's unscrupulous behavior.  Teammates in high places and all that. No method of escalation.  Soul stealers who are beyond the ethical values of us mere mortals and confidently out of reach of facing consequences.

Why did I pick Halloween?

Halloween is the artists' holiday here in New York City.  We dressed in hand-made costumes to High School of Art & Design, which I attended in the mid-Seventies.  I am a veteran Greenwich Village Halloween Parade performer from the late Seventies when it was privately funded and hosted until it got swallowed up by commercialism in the 90s.  It is also Samhain, a solemn day to mark harvest's end and a time to remember loved ones we'd lost and their legacies which remain.  In other words, those fucks usurped something near and dear to me and my culture and tramp stamped their team name on it to make it their own.  Dirty money..

By the way, you haven't heard the last about That Shameless Dickhead.  More to come about him, don't you worry.

There is much karma due them.

In 2014 I saw this as an isolated case with perhaps a reputation on that team which others chose not to mention or share. They all sure seemed confident. I still don't believe we were their first victims. Up until then negative experiences regarding Relay For Life of Second Life were few and relatively minor.

Next: Looking back at 2015.