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[If you don't want to see this post every month, please program your KILL file to search for "Allabout Callahan's". Do NOT kill the keyword "ADMIN".] == The alt.callahans Allabout == This file contains information Allabout the newsgroup alt.callahans. If you just want to find out what the group is about and what sort of posts you might see, you only need to read the first section, which is not too long. Most of this file is extra information which you might find interesting, but is not essential to understanding the group. *** What the Newsgroup is All About Well, this is not really straightforward. A good way to understand what we do here is to take a guided tour. If you just look over by the fireplace you'll meet your tour-guide... The Unicorn in the corner by the fireplace tips his hat to ye in greeting. "Welcome to alt.callahans, traveller. I'm Taldin, resident Blue Unicorn and eternal Patron. Basically, the Place here on the Net is loosely based on the Callahan's Place books by Spider Robinson; it used to be more like the books, but has changed in the course of over four years of operation. Like Callahan's in the books, we have a few customs; these are customs to work with, not rules to live by. You don't HAVE to read the books before saying anything; even I hadn't read them before joining in the fun." He gets up and walks to the bar, putting a dollar on the bartop. "All drinks are a dollar, or some other single currency unit depending on where you're from, though some people like to pay a bit more just for style." Mike, the Irish bartender, nods at the unicorn. "Spiked Apple Juice, Mike," Taldin orders. "You can get just about anything you want; Mike's the universal bartender and there's almost nothing he can't build for ya." Taldin picks up his glass, and sips it while walking to a chalk line about ten feet (or three metres) away from the fireplace. "If you like preserving glass, you can leave the glass on the bar and collect fifty cents change from the cigar box at the end of the bar. But most people toast." He raises his empty glass towards you. "To strangers; friends we've just met." And hurls the glass into the fireplace, where it breaks with a satisfying smash. A few other glasses hit the fireplace right after Taldin's. "If you agree with someone else's toast, feel free to pitch your glass right after. "Please keep in mind, though, that there are lots of postings within the group; you might have noticed the noise level when you walked in. If your pitch is just a pitch and nothing more, you might want to consider showing your support in e-mail to the poster, instead. This has been a message from the Bandwidth Conservation Society. "Toasts can be about anything; happy, sad, angry, troubles, thoughts and feelings. A toast can be private, too; you don't have to talk about it; but we're listening as best we can, if you do. And we're here for support, advice, and a bit of fun - and many, many puns. "Sometimes we might refer to Patrons who don't seem to post, like Jake, Fast Eddie, Long-Drink, Doc Webster, or Tom Hauptman. These are characters from the Callahan's books, and are as much a part of the Place (if not more) than we are. A longer description exists elsewhere in the Allabout, and if you're really interested, we recommend the books themselves highly. Again, as I said, knowledge of the books does not constitute a requirement to be here." He smiles, and gives up the line. "I'll let someone else have the stage f'r now. Oh yes. What name do you go by? And what'll you have?" He winks conspiratorially. "You might want to let people know what your birthday is, too; birthdays tend to be big things around here." As he heads back to his shadowy corner (Taldin tends to 'semi-lurk', or not post too often) he walks by one of the tables, with a peculiar looking lamp hung above it. The effect of the light is to blur the humanoid unicorn form about him, leaving a young man in the same clothes in its place. "Whups. That reminds me; this thing here is the Light of Reality, or LoR. This Place is a virtual space, yes, and open to flights of fancy and fantasy, but the key thing to remember is that it is mostly for reality. Real live people with real life thoughts." The young man looks back at you. "Be yourself, be what you feel you should have been, had you had a choice, but above all, be considerate of others, in this special Place, as well. Danke." With that, Taldin retires to the seat where you first saw him... And really, that's about all you need to know to start participating in the group. To put it perhaps a little more succinctly: alt.callahans is a newsgroup which operates under a Virtual Reality (VR) conceit. Many of the people who post here do so in present tense, third person descriptions of themselves (or themselves as some fantasy persona), interacting with the other people in a bar called Callahan's Place. None of this VR stuff is really necessary, and some posters use a more 'normal' posting style. After a while you will get used to reading posts in different styles. For your own style, just pick something with which you feel comfortable. So what do we talk about in Callahan's? Well, anything really. There are no restrictions on topic, with the single exception that insults, abuse, slander, and similar things are not tolerated. If there is anything on your mind at all, you will almost certainly find people here willing to talk about it. Just keep in mind that if it's something controversial, not everyone will agree with you (although they should respect your right to your own opinion). Another common conversation topic is the sharing of puns and other jocularities. The puns stem from the Callahan's books and they're kind of tree-ditional; you'll find they branch off from any topic imaginable - sorry, I should leaf it there. There are other things we do here, which rely more heavily on the VR nature of the Place. Every so often there is a big tickle, or pillow, or custard pie fight, and the Place gets really messy for a while. And sometimes there will be a big birthday party for one of the more well known or popular Patrons. A lot of other things happen in the bar as well - it's a pretty lively place! Just one more thing... If you've been to other newsgroups you may have been called a 'newbie' at some stage. That's generally not a very nice experience, and we think of 'newbie' as kind of offensive here. So here we have _newcomers_ instead. Newcomers are not 'clueless newbies', they're just friends we haven't known for long yet. That's about it, really. You'll learn a lot more with experience, or by reading through the rest of this file. Welcome to Callahan's! *** What Callahan's Is, and What Callahan's Isn't One of the most important concepts borrowed from the Callahan's Place books by Spider Robinson is the axiom (as paraphrased by Aahz): "Shared pain is lessened, shared joy increased; thus do we refute entropy." This forms the basis of much of the interaction in the group. Patrons often make a toast when something sad or happy happens in their life. The sharing seems to do just what the axiom says - it makes the pain more bearable, or makes the joy more wonderful. Patrons have shared many significant events in the past; everything from losing jobs, pets, or close relatives, to falling in love, graduating, or having a baby. The shared joy comes pretty easily, but the shared pain can be more difficult. Often a Patron will simply make a cryptic toast and not wish to talk about it any more. That is fine. A very important thing about sharing pain in Callahan's is that we do it voluntarily. People will always listen if you want to talk, but they should never pry. In Spider's books there is a character called Fast Eddie, who is quick to use his blackjack on anyone who asks a prying question. We think that's reasonable - so prying into other people's business here is strongly discouraged. Sometimes, however, a Patron does want to talk about something painful in detail. While we can almost guarantee that people will be willing to listen and sympathise, we CANNOT make any claims that we will be able to help in any other way. We are a group of relatively normal people; we have no magic powers to make people's lives better. The Callahan's of Spider's stories could weave a certain magic, and the stories always had happy endings. But this Callahan's is just a newsgroup. This is reality, not a story. We try very hard to listen to people. If someone has a real problem, we even offer advice. But advice is not always right, and it's often worth exactly what you pay for it. The important thing to remember is not to harbour false expectations about the power of Callahan's. Some people have, and have been sorely disappointed. Having said that, however, it is also easy to underestimate the good things and emotional support which can come from sharing. It is easy to be cynical and say that Callahan's is just a bunch of weepy pathos groupies. That is just as much a mistake as overestimating the power of the Place. In summary, alt.callahans is just a newsgroup. But it's a newsgroup in which the Patrons make an honest effort to be real friends with one another. We _are_ a friendly bunch, in general, and if you need some friends, we're always here. But we can't do anything which a more normal sort of friend can't do. *** Some VR Traditions The Virtual atmosphere in Callahan's can take some getting used to. There are several traditions and bits of Virtual scenery which are often mentioned. The long-time Patrons know these from familiarity, but newcomers can probably do with an explanation. But first, a brief technical note. You've probably already noticed how busy the Place is. In order to make finding the sort of posts you're looking for a little easier, we have an informal _keyword_ system to label specific types of post. Most posts don't have any keyword, but those which do are labelled in the Subject line with an upper-case word, such as TOAST. Some of these keywords are mentioned below in association with their appropriate VR traditions; all of them are listed and described fully in the Guide to Keywords post, which is posted to the group every two weeks. Okay, with that out of the way, here's a list of Callahan's traditions: The Toast: As already mentioned, this is the usual method of sharing some big news in your life, whether it be good or bad. Basically, you buy your drink from Mike (no, it doesn't have to be alcoholic), walk to the chalk line which is marked on the floor in front of the fireplace, declare your toast, drink, and throw your glass into the fire. If you want to keep talking after the toast, the floor is yours, so go ahead. If not, that's okay too. Toasts are usually labelled with the keyword TOAST. Hugs! (and Backrubs!): A lot of the folks in Callahan's are pretty affectionate, and what better way to display the way you feel towards your friends than to share hugs? Hugs are very comforting and therapeutic in Real Life, and can be in VR as well. Being greeted with a Magda Wolf-Attack Hug (tm), or a Very Big Beth Hug (tm), or whatever other style of hugs folks are offering when you're feeling a bit down is sure to make you feel better! Well... some people _are_ a little nervous about physical contact, so we should keep that in mind too. Hugs in Callahan's are always _offered_, never given against someone's will. And ditto for backrubs, which are even better than hugs, 'cause they last so much longer! Peanuts: The traditional missile weapon of choice to be used against inveterate punsters. A hail of peanuts has ended the rain of more than one pretender to the pun-throne. Ouch! Who threw that? Oh, while on this topic, although it doesn't really involve peanuts, be wary of buying drinks by saying "Drinks are on me". A lot of people often take this literally, and you will probably end up dripping! Soapboxes: Sometimes a Patron will make a long, opinionated speech, which espouses personal views which might not necessarily agree with someone else's. When this happens, the speaker often finds him or herself standing on top of a pile of spontaneously appearing soapboxes. This follows the venerable English tradition of making public speeches while standing on, you guessed it, a wooden soapbox. People in Callahan's will also often use the word 'soapbox' as a synonym for 'pontificate', though in a good-natured way. Soapbox posts can be labelled with the keyword SOAPBOX. X-Windows: You may be familiar with this as an operating environment on some computer systems, but in Callahan's an X-Window is more like a normal window. The X-Window is on a wall and you can look through it. But sometimes it displays different things to what you might expect - a bit like a film screen. Patrons who wish to describe events or places from Real Life usually do so by looking into the X-Window. An X-Window post will usually contain some beautifully detailed descriptive prose. Such posts are often labelled with the keyword WINDOW. The Danger Room: Callahan's is generally a peaceful sort of place, but we recognise that anger is a valid emotion and a lot of good can often be done by venting it in a safe way. If something really frustrating happens to you and you feel like smashing some furniture, you can go into the Danger Room and be as violent as you like. All we ask is that you don't take others in there and be violent to _them_. Danger Room posts should have the keyword DANGER ROOM in their Subject header line. The Rafters: There are quite a few people who like to read Callahan's, but who never post. These people are known as 'lurkers', and in the VR of the Place, they sit up near the vaulted ceiling on the rafters. Okay, for the architecturally minded they are technically joists (rafters are higher up, snug against the roof), but most folks just call them rafters. The French Doors: The French Doors were introduced by the Didi-Sprite, as a way of opening a portal out of the Place and into whatever magical setting she designs for the extravagant parties she organises. They are sort of like X-windows, except that Patrons are able to step through them and take part in whatever lies beyond. Other people have used them for special celebrations as well. Often the Doors lead directly into Didi's Meadow, which is the perfect place for a picnic. The Lounge: The Lounge was a gift to The Place on November 7th, 1993 in a post by Jezebel, the Didi-Sprite, Draco, Tink, and kitten. It was constructed as a space for respite - a place to let go of our cares. Postings from the lounge are often quiet stories or threads, usually denoted with the keyword LOUNGE in the Subject line. The lounge is a large sunken pit located near the fireplace and the bar, ringed by open rails and wide polished wooden steps and ramps which lead down from all sides. It is carpeted with a plush white woollen rug adorned with an intricate fractal dragon pattern. The area is also decorated with overstuffed chairs, footstools, tables, lamps, pillows, Libby the Lounge Lizard, and George the stool pigeon. The NULL Sound (tm) equipment built into the railings diminishes the usually raucous Callahan's hubbub to a soft soothing murmur, like the gentle crash of ocean waves. Aurora's Herem: This is something fun for the females in the Place (although many males seem to enjoy the attention!), begun by Aurora. She has assembled a 'herem', which is like a harem, only full of able-bodied men and for the entertainment of the women. Any females are welcome to join in the fun, and any males are welcome to apply for a place in this most prestigious collection. Herem posts are designated with the keyword HEREM. Occasionally things will get a little bit sensual, but never beyond the bounds of good taste. Firelizards: These beautiful and affectionate flying dragonets abound plentifully in Callahan's. Originally brought in from Rukbat 3 aka P.E.R.N.c, the telepathic firelizards have established well hidden breeding grounds throughout the nooks and crannies of The Place. On occasion, clutches of eggs are presented to those people who choose to impress one for a lifetime of deep friendship. The eggs usually hatch on Valentine's Day, February 14, so most of the firelizards in the Place share that birthdate. Firelizards sometimes hang out in the rafters, but more often they stay cozily wrapped around their life-mates who speak for them. If you wish to speak for them, secure permission first. For more information on firelizards, see Anne McCaffrey's "The Dragonriders of Pern" (c) series. Those who are already familiar with the Pernese firelizards might note some of them have unusual colourations and patterns like mauve, grey, stripes, and flecks. These hybrids were the union of a Pernese firelizard and an enchanted dragon named Ace, from Gian-Paolo's Dragon Poker card deck. Their capabilities are not fully known. And some of the small dragons seen in Callahan's are not Pernese at all, most notably DragonRose and DragonOrder, who were introduced to the Place by Chauntilly Lais and Tink respectively. Lamplighter's Almanac: The Lamplighter posts an Almanac page each day. This lists interesting events and happenings for the day in question, as well as any Patrons whose birthday it happens to be. The Didi-Sprite keeps the birthday list - more about that later. The Almanac uses the keyword BOARD, indicating the bulletin board on the wall of the Place where it hangs. Those Virtual items seem to be in fairly regular use. There are also some other things which used to be popular in the past, and which get referred to once in a while these days: The Hot Tub: If you need to relax your muscles, there is a magical hot tub (always the right temperature) to climb into. It's always the right size, too, for either one person, or a huge hot tub party. Bathing costumes are optional, but please keep your hands to yourself unless granted permission to give a backrub. The VPM: The Virtual Pizza Machine was introduced by Nicarra for the 1990/91 New Year's Pizza Party. It is voice activated and can produce anything with a dough crust and a filling or topping. So it can make pizzas, and also calzones, pies, spring rolls, spanakopita, apple turnovers... use your imagination! Ingredients are not a problem; the VPM once made a small birdseed pizza for a hamster. The VPM has made regular reappearances every New Year's Eve, though it is available for round-the-year use. Radio Free Colorado: RFC is a radio station which Mike sometimes tunes into for the entertainment of the Patrons. It will play any song you request (as long as you supply the words!). You can request favourites, or perhaps something with words relevant to your feelings. Requests are usually made by calling the station on the phone at one end of the bar. If you make a post with the words of a song, please give credit to the artist. Warm Fuzzies: These were introduced by Gilly Rosenthol way back in 1989. A warm fuzzy looks like an animate ball of fur, rather like a tribble, although with feet and hands if they need them. They are the embodiment of caring and are freely given to others in friendship. They hum when they are happy - which is most of the time! And they come in any colour or combinations of colours imaginable. VAX: VAX is an animated, mobile vacuum cleaner, brought into the Place by Nick Chopper. He cleans up any errant glass by the fireplace, and gets the Place looking respectable again after any particularly feathery or custardy play-fights. The Floating Dance Floor: If RFC plays a song which gets your feet tapping, you can take to the dance floor. The dance floor floats above the normal floor, of course, so people who don't want to dance don't have to walk around it. The Folx Room: This is a non-sexist bathroom, complete with a shower in case you need to clean up for any reason. == continued in Part 2 - Danger Mouse.