Tar Baby

For those of you who don’t recognize the term “Tar Baby”, it refers to a sticky problem that just gets worse and worse the more you try to fix it. I’m having a tar baby problem right now.

It all started off so simply: I wanted to add a single new verb to Siboot: “gossip”. It was trivial to add and define its wordsockets: 3Actor for the DirObject, 4Actor for the person whose feelings are being reported, 5Actor for the person for whom 4Actor holds his feelings, 6ActorTrait to define the specific feeling (Good, Honest, or Powerful), and 7Quantifier to specify the magnitude of the feeling. As Darth Vader said, “All too easy.” 

But then I had to enter all its connections to other verbs, and I had a new problem: I needed to revise the spaghetti diagram to include the new verb. OK, so I opened up the spaghetti diagram file.

But wait! Before I can put the new verb into the spaghettie diagram, I have to have the image for the verb. OK, so let’s create an image for the verb “gossip”. Obviously, it needs to show something about talking, two people, and an emotional relationship. Perhaps something like this:


That clearly shows that this is a speech act, that it concerns two people, and that somehow an aura is involved.

But wait! I also use the aura image to represent aura-counts, as in this verb:

tell aura count

So now I have a fundamental ambiguity: does the spiral aura-symbol represent emotions or aura counts? In fact, there’s a fundamental problem that I’ve been skirting around for months: what is the difference between an aura as an emotion and an aura as a thing possessed in integer quantity? At one point I started using the term “aura pons” to specify the latter meaning, but that just doesn’t seem to work well. 

How about this: there are three traits: Honest, Good, and Powerful, the perceptions of which are the emotional part of a relationship. This is all standard stuff. The three traits are colored green for honest, blue for good, and red for powerful. The spiral symbols apply only to the entities with which acolytes do battle in dream-combat. Thus, the verb “gossip” would be broken into three new verbs that would be represented like so:

Gossip Trust

They are gossip about power, gossip about honest, gossip about good. This is a bit easier on the player, I think, so that we no longer need 6ActorTrait that we used in the definition of “gossip”. However, it will make things a bit clumsier for me. 

OK, so I think that’s acceptable. I can therefore prepare the new spaghetti diagram:

So now at last I can return to the storyworld and insert the new verbs into the system. Good riddance to that tar baby.