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Carl Sagan Quote

In science it often happens that scientists say, "You know that's a really good argument; my position is mistaken," and then they would actually change their minds and you never hear that old view from them again.

They really do it.

It doesn't happen as often as it should, because scientists are human and change is sometimes painful. But it happens every day. I cannot recall the last time something like that happened in politics or religion.

— Carl Sagan (1934 — 1996)

Sources of Stress

Major sources of worry seem to behave like a stack. The current major worry nags at you until something bigger goes on top of it and starts occupying my attention. Then that resolves, and I'm back to the previous worry.

This is distinct from minor worries, which seem to be additive.

There's one fairly unshiftable major worry on my stack, currently about three layers down, namely my ongoing body/species issues. I wonder what would be beneath that if I ever found a way of addressing it.

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I really must stop forgetting this thing exists.

This entry was originally posted on DreamWidth. View comment count unavailable comments there at http://terrana.dreamwidth.org/5061.html. Feel free to comment there; you can use OpenID or ask me for an invite.

A Night in Triple-World

I had an absolutely brilliant dream last night. It gave me an interesting new world to explore.

Picture, if you will, the typical "furry" world: something very similar to modern western society, but with all the humans replaced by anthropomorphic animals of varying species. This is a pretty well-established trope at this point, and one I use (both consciously and subconsciously, apparently) as a jumping-off point more often than I'm entirely comfortable with.

Now add to the mix the fact that everyone has three identical bodies. This is not to say that everyone has two doppelgängers; this is one person, one mind, who happens to have three physically separate bodies. And this applies to everyone. Moving one or more of your selves more than a few meters from the others is physically uncomfortable, the discomfort rapidly increasing with distance, to the point of actual pain beyond ten meters or so.

This leads to some interesting societal adaptations. Nearly everything was arranged in threes, from simple doorways, to rows of subway turnstiles, to seats and stairs, and so on. Having only two bodies is seen as a major disability, and it does happen whether due to accident or birth defect, and only one is crippling. Most of how the world works assumes you can be in three (reasonably nearby) places at once, and things get awkward if you can't, much as someone stuck in a wheelchair must be frustrated by how there are stairs absolutely everywhere.

There was no specific narrative to this dream. It just followed a day in the life of a fairly typical cohabiting couple, cats I think they were, and the logistics inherent in their daily routine.

I think this is a setting I would like to revisit at some point. I have certainly been meaning to start writing again.

This entry was originally posted on DreamWidth. View comment count unavailable comments there at http://terrana.dreamwidth.org/4820.html. Feel free to comment there; you can use OpenID or ask me for an invite.

Twitter, Dragons and Griffins

Hello, everyone! My, but it's been a long time since I've posted here, isn't it? Five months by my count. Let me tell you why.


The simple fact is that I've been far more active on Twitter than here. This is not anything in particular against Dreamwidth or Livejournal; Twitter helps me keep my thoughts concise. If I can't say it clearly in 140 characters, then it's worth examining exactly what it is I'm trying to say, brevity being the soul of wit and so on. Before I got a Twitter account, you'll notice that my LJ feed was mostly composed of infrequent, brief, and often meaningless entries. These days, I keep my mental diarrhoea short-form.

For those of you that have followed the link here from the relevant tweet: hi! This is where I come to express my longer thoughts, when they can't really be condensed. I always tweet links when I post here, so you've not missed anything.

With the administrativa and social politics out of the way, let's get on to why I'm here.

Dragons and Griffins

Whether you spell it griffin, gryphon, or anything in between, there has been a definite trend lately among dragons to have some sort of special liking for griffins. A few months ago, I took it upon myself to learn why. Here are my findings.


Oh dear, did I say we were done with the social politics? The number one reason I have determined for dragons having developed a thing for griffins in recent years is, in fact, the perception itself. Dragons, I have observed in the past, are a group largely in denial about themselves - while projecting a façade of fierce individualism, they will also tend towards the group average.

Up until a few years ago, it was foxes. No one really questioned it, there was just this connection between dragons and foxes. This is simply a mutation of this same concept, largely self-reinforcing in nature. You can even spot the nucleation sites, the originators of the new idea, if you go looking for them. I leave this as an exercise for the reader.

In short, the dragon-griffin connection is a meme in the truest sense, a self-replicating idea.

Like Meets Like

The other main reason the idea of the griffin is so attractive to the dragon is that we see a lot of ourselves in them. First, both groups have a strong mythical basis. There are simply no real-world examples of dragons or griffins who are not masquerading as human in the physical, offline world. This alone is not enough to form the connection - we have no special relationship with unicorns, after all, and they're something of a rising star in the online world - but it does help reinforce it once memetics have done their job as described above.

There is also the matter of shape. With the gradual collapse of the dragon community into the broader furry movement over the last ten years, we've often found ourselves the only quadrupeds in a sea of bipeds. Griffins are more inclined to eschew the standard anthropomorphic shape and keep four feet on the ground. This appeals to many dragons for the same reason that the aforementioned bipedal shape appeals to more mainstream furries - we prefer things shaped like us. It is, if you will, a case of dracomorphisation.

Personal Variations

These are all generalisations. Everyone I have spoken to about this justifies it slightly differently. This is the perfect manifestation of the group/individual dichotomy so common in dragons, that I described earlier: most having similar thoughts for what we say are different reasons. But it's interesting the sort of things that have been said.

One respondent called it a simple power trip; griffins are rare and fragile, and we like to possess them, control them. Another expressed the view that it's an appreciation for the combination of elegance and sturdiness inherent in the griffin form: the flowing, aerodynamic shape of a bird with the added bonus that you won't break it if you pick it up and hug it. Or, er, do other physical things to it.

My personal view is a bit simpler. I just really, really like birds. The mammal back half is just an unnecessary coda, but it doesn't spoil the view.


There are a lot of personal factors at work here, and of course this is hardly a rigorous study, just an informal gathering of opinions among a rather small sample of dragons. But what I have seen convinces me that the main factor at work here is the memetic one. It is because everyone knows it is.

Feel free to comment with your own thoughts. I welcome any input in this matter, and the debate is by no means settled by anything I've said here.

Enjoy your catbirds responsibly.

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Did you ever play a browser game called Glitch? It was strange, wonderful, and utterly unique. A couple of my friends dismissed it as just another "social" Facebook game, because it superficially shared a couple of aspects, but in truth it was something else entirely. It was a glimpse into a bizarre and beautiful world, where eggs grow on trees, grain is harvested by squeezing sarcastic chickens, and every rock has a story to tell. A place where people would fall over each other to help the new guy out, asking nothing in return, for no other reason than wanting to be nice.

At the end of last year, the architects of this unique experience announced that the game wasn't making enough money to pay the server costs, and would have to close. The forums and website would remain online for a time but, after one last big farewell party, the world was gone.

Now the forums are gone too. As of today, the community site is in read-only mode, and will soon disappear completely.

I'm not ashamed to admit I cried for hours when the game servers shut down, and I'll shed a tear today. Glitch was something special, and we'll never see its like again. If you were there, take a moment to remember with me the good times we had.

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I'm gearing up to try running a tabletop RPG again. This has not historically gone well; I've had three failed attempts due to group dysfunction, two of those before the game even started, and one further failure because I simply wasn't having fun – though everyone else in the room apparently was, so I guess that was sort of a success?

Still, I'm down four for four on the RPG front. And yet here I am trying again. I must be mad.

I feel good about this one, though. First session should be in two or three weeks, depending on when everyone's available. I'm using my own setting, which is a first; all my prior attempts have been to run Bard's World Tree.

I'm going for a steam-and-magic theme in a medieval fantasy world. Standard Tolkien races are out, foxes are in. The system is a slightly modified TriStat, which is lightweight and lends itself to online play well, with my own magic system bolted on the side.

But most of all, this should be a game about exceptional people. It feels like every game I've played in for longer than a single session has had the Firefly-esque theme of a group of misfits with eclectic skillsets trying to get by in an uncaring world/universe, and while I've no problem with that per se, it'd be nice to have a sense of making a difference. Of course, I'm not going to be playing in this one directly, but it's still something I'd like to aim for.

So here I am, curled up in front of the heater with my laptop and a drawing pad, making maps. There are worse ways I've spent evenings lately.

Obligatory Annual Retrospective

The world is now down to the very last of its 2012 reserves. As soon as a week from now, we will have to begin tapping our 2013 resources, although it looks like those should be sufficient to see us through next year.

So it's the end of the year, and as is traditional, it's time to look back and reflect. This forces me to conclude that 2012 was an absolutely crazy year in all the best and worst ways. It's probably the best year I've had recently, though it doesn't have a lot of competition in that regard, the previous six years having been utterly miserable. It's definitely been the most interesting.

But where to begin? Why, behind the cut, good sir!Collapse )

TL;DR: Interesting year, could have been a lot worse.


I have nothing substantive to post. Just wanted to let you know that I'm still here and paying attention to you, even if I rarely mention it.

Pandemic 2

Who remembers Pandemic 2?

It was a flash game made in the mid-2000s in which the player takes the role of, as the name suggests, a highly infectious disease. The goal of the game is to wipe out humanity by tailoring the traits of the disease, and its ongoing mutation, to first enhance transmissibility and reduce visibility, and then to raise lethality once enough people have been infected. In response, the people of the world will kill your infection vectors, shut down transit systems and eventually develop a vaccine to try and stop you, but only if they realise how big a threat you cause.

This structure makes for a briefly interesting game, but far more amusing is the various unrealistic things in incorporates and implies.

First of all, as we know, there is no planning behind the progression of any given disease, so it's quite amusing to have something milder than the common cold spread throughout the world and then suddenly cause millions to drop dead from brain haemorrhage.

Then there's Madagascar. Known in the real world as a relatively poor island nation with interesting wildlife, players of Pandemic curse its name, and its government tendency to shut down its one port at the first sign of someone sniffling in Japan. More often than not, Madagascar becomes the last bastion of humanity against the disease, to the point where some commentators at the time suggested simply restarting the game if you didn't actually start there.

My first disease, back in 2008, was a virus, Disco Fever, which ravaged most of the world but left Australia and Madagascar untouched. How about yours?

This entry was originally posted on DreamWidth. View comment count unavailable comments there at http://terrana.dreamwidth.org/3952.html. Feel free to comment there; you can use OpenID or ask me for an invite.