The Dream Café

Steven Brust: “A masterful storyteller of contagious glee and self-deprecating badassery” —Skyler White

A New Internet Experience

| 26 Comments

I’m staying with my friends Doug and Caliann in central Texas for a few days. They have dairy goats.

This morning, Caliann got on her goat forum and replied to someone with, roughly, “Goats have different metabolisms than cows. If you feed your goats that nutrient combination, you’ll kill them.”

And I thought, “Wow. An internet disagreement that actually matters. How strange.”

corwin

Author: corwin

Site administrative account, so probably Corwin, Felix or DD-B.

26 Comments

  1. I like the idea of diary goats.

  2. Diary goats! Do they prefer paper journals or a blog?

  3. That’s awesome that two people could so quickly illustrate something on the internet that doesn’t matter, like a misspelled word in a blog post! So meta.

  4. @jenphalian it’s certainly something to make a note of.

  5. TexAnne, they prefer paper journals, as they are tastier. ~smiles~ Now to address the rest of the reading world on this topic.

    Reading the tweets that have gone on over this, it shows me that Steve’s basic premise is right: Not only will so many people happily get in a snit over *things that do not matter* and completely gloss over the entire point of a post, but in doing so, completely miss the blatant inference that it applies directly to them.

    Steve might say that it is a bittersweet tapestry of life itself. I think it is further proof of the egocentricity of the human race.

    No wonder I prefer goats. ~chuckles~ They are, at least, honest in wanting their cookies.

  6. Yeah, okay, so I thought I was playing with words. You know. Like some people think is fun, and some other people even get paid for. Nice to meet you too, Jenphalian! I’ll just go back to lurking now, Steve.

  7. TexAnne, it seems you’re upset that you got called out for making fun of a typo (which is different from word play – etiquette demands that pointing out a typo should be done privately, or at least kindly). So for offending you, I apologize. There are gentler ways of saying, “not cool,” and I didn’t use them.

  8. It has been my experience that typically a literal interpretation of typos especially (as opposed to a homophone, synonym or similar word appearing in the wrong place by accident or ignorance, as there is the implication of ignorance of the appearing word’s definition and the assumption, ever present, that ignorance implies stupidity) is never mean-spirited, making fun of or intended unkindly. With possible exceptions that turn from the absurd and reaffirm the presence of an error, rather than jovially taking it as intentional in a deliberately facetious fashion. “Perhaps you meant dairy?” as a closing sentence, for instance, would render it more mean-spirited.

    Of course, you are moderator and can have a differing policy reflecting a need for overarching stances–and certainly the social dynamics of the internet do complicate things, managing to render seemingly familiar those with whom we do not have much actual connection. Indeed, some dim light in the back of my head wonders if, perhaps, it’s impertinent of me to even note these things–but heavily nuanced social interaction is neurologically difficult for me. It has been ever thus, and my reckoning of the philosophy of such things renders it seemingly worth the risk to note this–intended in only the most humble and polite of fashions to suggest a possible alternate interpretation of tone.

  9. If dead goats are your standard, then neither typos nor etiquette are particularly important by comparison. But it’s a shame that we aren’t allowed to be silly any longer.

    P.

  10. Reminds me of one of the most information-rich brief answers I ever got.
    Back in the day of the L-5 Society, volunteers would stay at the Hensons’ place in Arizona. It was one of the strangest households I’ve ever seen. Keith would finish up his day job of creating cutting edge black boxes of various sorts, bicycle the couple of blocks home, and start the evening chores by milking the goats they kept in the back yard. (There were peacocks, too.)
    So I’m helping in the kitchen after supper, and there are two garbages, clearly one organic-ish and the other not. And it’s not clear to me exactly how they make whatever their own distinction is, so I ask:
    “That’s the one we feed the goats.”

  11. Pamela: Allowed? We are allowed to be silly. It is legal. I will neither censure not censor anyone for being silly.

    But when I feel mocked for a disability, I am allowed to have my feelings hurt, too. And a friend who knows how I feel is allowed to jump in.

  12. See, I think teasing about typos – especially when it’s done as above as if the typo were the intended word – is funny, and silly, and not at all mean-spirited. I would do that to anyone who made an entertaining typo – and most people who make entertaining typos don’t have disabilities.

  13. I do NOT think it was mean spirited. I think…

    Lord, and now we dive in further into the sort of discussion I was perhaps being dismissive of in the original post–and thus I am repaid by karma.

    Several people made that joke, here and on Twitter. Of course, I didn’t get it because my brain didn’t process the difference between dairy and diary* until someone on Twitter made it explicit , which left me feeling like an idiot, which left me feeling mocked, which left me feeling hurt. I’m certain that wasn’t the intention. I know that was the effect. This is not the end of the world. It won’t kill me. And no one ought to feel more than a momentary, “oops” for stepping on a toe that was thrust out into the middle of a dark room.

    But when that happens, sometimes it’s really nice when a friend jumps in and says, “Hey, heads-up: that was a toe you stepped on.”

    If Jenphalian did anything more than that, then for chrissakes she apologized 45 minutes later.

    It seems to me we can a) let this drop (probably the best choice), b) make it about when making fun of typos is hurtful, or c) make it about me being oversensitive. But can we PLEASE not make it about a friend who, knowing I was hurt, had the audacity to say, “Please don’t do that”?

    *Even now, staring at those two words, I have to really concentrate to see the difference; brains are strange things.

  14. Clearly this conversation has gotten everyone by the tail.

  15. Would that be the tail of two cities? Could–not–resist

  16. @ Neil I encountered a nice example of how early we (humans) can process those kinds of distinctions. One corner of my garden is where all the rubbish collects. I was cleaning up one day sorting the rubbish into compost and non compostable (sweet wrappers, crisp packets, plant labels etc) when I was joined by a friend’s little girl who wanted to help. She was around two and still mostly preverbal. I showed her and told her it was leaves and grass in one container, paper and plastic in the other. I wasn’t really expecting her to sort them right but she did, wow!. And those sort of distinctions are precisely what are needed in gathering, agriculture and, well just about everything we do.

  17. I know this is completely off topic (frankly, my dears, I don’t give a damn), but it occurred to me that there is almost no mention in the books of any Dragaerans that could be considered toddlers or younger. Even Devera appears to be older than negative Dragaeran 7. This deeply bothers me on some fundamental it-keeps-me-up-at-night-wondering level. Are we sure Dragaerans don’t bud or summon their offspring from some necromantic plane?

  18. There are very few mentioned, particularly compared to the number of young Easterners we see. But there are clues here and there about why that is.

  19. … sleep is for the weak, especially when challenged to solve a mystery.

  20. It is unfortunate that there is no option to edit posts. Truthfully, I have considered the matter fairly carefully. 1) Dragaerans, seeing as they age approximately logarithmically compared to Easterners, should spend only slightly longer in their toddler years than Easterners despite living to much greater ages overall. 2) The gap between Dragaeran births should be correspondingly long. 3) Dragaerans use contraception (I’d cite the book, but I have forgotten). 1 and 2 together imply that the percentage of the total population of Dragaerans who have toddler age children will be much less than that of humans….

    … but there is another issue to consider. Dragaeran contraception is almost certainly sorcerous in nature. If Dragaerans have it and even “rich” Easterners like Vlad don’t, sorcery is the most logical answer. (Money and equality don’t prevent pregnancy last I heard.) The only other reasonable alternative would be something herbal, which would be in the purview of witches and Dragaerans would never rely on witches if they could avoid it. Consider that all sorcery vanished in the Interregnum. Assuming the fall of the Empire didn’t dampen the average Dragaeran’s desire to fornicate, that means the large population of Dragaerans suddenly began having completely unprotected sex. Consequently, and despite the plagues, there should be a Dragaeran “baby boom”. The interregnum lasted for 250 years according to one source, and currently it is about 250 years into Zerika’s reign. (244 was the uprising in South Adrilankha with Kelly). The leading edge of the baby boom is now in their five hundredth year, which is prime fertility age. We should now be seeing a second order childbearing surge, yet we still have a mysterious absence of wailing Dragaeran infants that Loiosh can use as subjects for exceedingly tasteless jokes.

  21. Getting back to the actual goats for a moment, it is interesting how the net can help disseminate actual opinions or even facts that do matter. That said, I sometimes read a post in one forum or another and find myself screaming at the screen “why are you asking/arguing with us total strangers..go to an emergency room now!”

    On the other, other hand I recently went to a chicken keeping forum online as I was thinking of trying to keep chickens again. I got great advice, that can best be summed up as don’t because there are to many fishers near by and coops aren’t usually fisher proof. I felt like that saved me a bit of cash and aggravation.

  22. Baroness – off the top of my head, the book that has the most data in this area would be Athyra. In particular there’s a lot of implication in there that Dragaerans simply aren’t fertile until quite a long time comparatively to Easterners, even taking into account logarithmic age differences (i.e. where a human might be fertile at 13, a Dragaeran might not be fertile until the equivalent of 18 or 20)

    I seem to also remember some comments in Athyra about Physickers producing herbal contraceptives – or at least hints about it. That’s neither sorcerous nor strictly witchy, although Vlad’s witchraft training would probably recognize the recipes.

    There’s also no strict reason to expect that Dragaerans are that fertile in the first place, especially in cases of cross-breeding. The various comments about Dragaerans being *actually* genetically related to their house animals being significant in this regard. Although one would expect that to lead to Teckla being more populous than Dragons … which does seem to be born out by the literature….

  23. A Dragaeran can’t conceive accidentally – or so I’ve been told. (Yendi ch.10)

    We know significant genetic engineering went into the creation of the Dragaeran tribes. I’ve seen no evidence of a baby boom, and from Vlad’s wholly post-Interregnum perspective illegitimate Dragaerans are still a rarity. Perhaps the creators found a way to put conception under the conscious control of the participants.

  24. @#22 Jeff, I do remember the lines about the herbal physickers. That would explain the non-baby boom in the Teckla house, but not necessarily the noble houses who would likely eschew anything made by Teckla because it wasn’t classy enough for them when there are Athyra they can throw imperials at.
    “There’s also no strict reason to expect that Dragaerans are that fertile in the first place, especially in cases of cross-breeding” – It definitely was mentioned somewhere (Athyra?) that infertility was a major problem for Dragaerans, yet crossbreeds are born anyway. They are a taboo topic, so I imagine their real prevalence is underestimated. The entire Jhereg house is mostly mishmash and manages to keep steady numbers despite apparently large rates of bloodshed. Many of the houseless “road agents” during the Interregnum were crossbreeds if I remember correctly. That said, even if non-Teckla Dragaerans are not that fertile, I would still expect a few more infants and young children to be mentioned.

    @#23 Mackerel, that is a good point. That said, Vlad is not the most reliable guy when it comes to certain Dragaeran issues and even he admits it is secondhand knowledge. Yendi is also early in Brust canon when things were a little less settled.

    It still seems reasonable to expect there should be a baby boom given the circumstances, but in absence of evidence for one, I wonder if this means the opposite is happening. The Teckla are probably okay, but maybe the noble houses are at risk of a population crash? Adron’s Disaster had to hurt since many nobles were located in Dragaera City. Dragaerans do take longer to reproduce, and there are plenty of wars and duels killing them off despite revivification and no more plagues or natural disasters. Many of the main characters have only one child or none. (Although typically they are high nobles who may not want to split their holdings between multiple children and avoid the inevitable feuds that result.) I do recall Verra saying that a shift in the mode of government couldn’t happen now, but perhaps could in the future. We know the gods have limited premonition. A lack of nobles could definitely make a peasant led revolution more viable.

    I wish some of these questions would be answered because, for example, Daymar discovers the Jenoine have left behind a psionic computer terminal with left over research notes on the life history of Dragaerans and Easterners. … Now that I think about it, I wonder if Daymar would like the idea of a psionic internet? I imagine that it would be a perfect outlet for some of Paarfi’s more exotic works, but I wildly, wildly digress.

  25. I’m amazed there’s something a goat can’t eat. I thought that was their superpower.

  26. I had doubtful success at working through the implications of Dragaeran lifespans.

    If we assume that on average Dragaerans are very old compared to humans, why are they not smarter? A significant number regularly gamble. Some of them lose more money than they can afford to lose, leading to predictable problems with Jhereg enforcers. I would expect that anybody over 120 ought to know better. They have time to see that they will on average lose money. They have time to see what happens to people who go deeply in debt to the Jhereg. But they act like they don’t understand.

    Jhereg bosses do not appear to look at the long run. Say another boss shows signs of weakness, and you want to take advantage. Do you gradually start an altercation that ends in one of you getting killed? It could be you! Isn’t it better to offer to assist him until he gets back on his feet, for a price? A lot of bosses who want to keep things stable can survive together. Go for the short-term advantage and you’ll die like a human. But then, it would throw everything off to have an Easterner boss. You can’t make long-term deals with him because he’ll be dead within 100 years or so regardless.

    Assassins like Vlad must be rare if Dragaerans live a long time. Look at a Dragaeran assassin who kills, say, 1 person a month. In 1000 years he kills around 12,000 Dragaerans. A human in a 40 year career would kill only 480. A slow-reproducing population can’t have many assassins at all or assassination turns into the main cause of death.

    Suppose you can invest and get 3% real ROI. You have a job as a busboy at a restaurant. You save 5% of your income and invest it. In well under a century you make considerably more money from your investments than from your job. You could retire….

    When I try to put it together I get something like this:

    Dragaerans have a moderate birthrate. There are a few very old people and lots of young ones. Young ones die a variety of ways, as does everyone else so that only a few get very old.

    Population growth rate fluctuates around zero. Average ROI is zero. Lots of people are poor, and a steady job is valuable. Being a busboy for 800 years is a lot better than most available alternatives. The system is dominated by old people who think more subtly than young ones can. The system is designed to kill off young people before they can become competitors. Just enough of them survive to replace the older ones who get killed. Dragons kill off their young in pointless wars. Jhereg kill their young in pointless turf wars etc. Etc.

    Older Dragaerans gamble because it is a socially acceptable way to dispose of their surplus money. If they save money and try to get ahead it makes them targets. Anything they do that is out of the ordinary can make them targets. It is far more important to behave like a typical Tiassa than to be a “successful” Tiassa.

    But after hundreds of years playing it safe, doing the same thing over and over and over again with no prospect for variety, many of them get bored out of their minds. They do things with little or no positive payoff and significant risks, because they just can’t stand it any more. Gambling debts. Alcohol and drugs. Stupid conspiracies. In a world where there are three hands reaching for every plum it seems stupid to give up any secure position. But they just can’t take it any more.

    I feel like I’ve missed a lot of important clues, but I may have some pieces of it.

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