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Subject:RIP Tanith Lee
Time:04:49 pm
Just heard that Tanith Lee died on Sunday, aged 67. I did't know her, but I enjoyed most of her books, and felt that she was generally a better read than a lot of other fantasy authors. She'll be missed.

rozk has written a beautiful tribute in verse here.
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Time:04:44 pm
Saw on someone's tweets that Microsoft's latest free product (for javascript developers) is called Vorlon.js, and is supposed to be an all-wise all-knowing developer's aid, if I understand the article below correctly (I am NOT a javascript person).


The trouble is that it describes the Vorlons as "helpful wise diplomats" or words to that effect. And to the best of my recollection it was almost impossible to get a straight answer from them at the best of times, especially if there was some sort of crisis. See, for example, the second half Drabble here.

Am I missing something?
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Subject:Hindsight is a wonderful thing
Time:11:16 pm
Back in 2008 I wrote Forgotten Futures X, The Tooth and Claw Role Playing Game, based on Tooth and Claw by Jo Walton. It's a fun setting where the player characters are cannibalistic dragons whose Victorian-ish society was loosely inspired by Trollope.

Seven years too late I've realised I missed a wonderful opening lines for one of the NPCs - the banking and insurance magnate known as The Crimson Claw, who has grown so big that he dwarfs any player character and can never leave his vaults - the tunnels are too small for him.

Read more...Collapse )

I could almost kick myself that I didn't put that in, but I think it's really a bit late now. And to be honest, while it feels like a fun line, it might not quite cause the sensation of mind-numbing terror I want characters to feel if they meet him.
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Subject:Less than the sum of its parts
Time:08:28 pm
A while ago I bought a non-working late 2009 Mac Mini for £68 including delivery, thinking that the problem would probably be something like the hard disk that I could fix or replace. Instead it was completely DOA, with some sort of motherboard fault I couldn't locate or fix. I managed to establish that it wasn't the power supply, which was OK with my previous Mac Mini, and tested the hard drive and found that was OK too. I'm pretty sure that the DVD drive is also OK since it lived on the same daughterboard, and the motherboard shows no signs of making a recovery if they're removed.

I thought about trying to get it fixed, but even a quick look at repair prices told me it would probably be a non-starter, so eventually I decided to do a bit of asset stripping.

So far I've sold the power supply for £25, the hard drive for £20, and just auctioned the rest of it (less the DVD drive, which is still on sale - full refund offered if DOA) for £34, all plus postage. So I'm currently eleven pounds ahead, which isn't too bad. Must admit I would have preferred to have had the working computer, but it's better than nothing.
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Subject:Supergirl leaked
Time:10:13 pm
The Supergirl pilot episode has apparently been leaked - haven't seen it yet but by all accounts it's pretty good, much better than the trailer.

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Subject:Freedompop free mobile phone service
Time:10:37 am
Anyone know anything about freedompop, a free mobile phone provider? eBuyer's blog makes it sound a good match to my needs, e.g. very few calls, a little data and check email on the move, the pay plans from other companies I've looked at are too expensive for the little use I'd make of them. I'd need to get some sort of mobile phone with a bigger screen, of course, but something old and slow would be fine for my needs.


All that Freedompop's UK site does is take your address details and say that they'll contact you when the service is available, but it does appear to be genuine if eBuyer aren't lying.

later - reviews of their US service say it's a bit slow, with coverage poor and no technical support unless you pay for it. Might still be worth considering for very occasional use, but only if I can find a suitable unlocked phone cheap.
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Subject:Bees in danger again
Time:12:37 am
Think this speaks for itself:


Our bees are in danger again. Toxic chemical companies are trying to get their banned pesticides back on UK fields. Yesterday an application was submitted to the government asking them to lift the ban on bee-killing chemicals for some crops planted this autumn.

Bees don’t have a voice, but we do. Please can you sign the petition right now demanding that we keep the ban on bee-killing pesticides?

Click here to add your name: https://secure.38degrees.org.uk/keep-the-ban
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Subject:Another Bundle of Holding offer - Ars Magica - in aid of Project Gutenberg
Time:05:34 pm
This is another offer of PDF RPGs at low price - this time for the game Ars Magica, which has a lot of fans. This is in part a celebration of the work of David Chart, who is retiring from his role as line editor for the game. 10% of the proceeds after costs will go to Project Gutenberg, which is a very good idea. The offer starts in an hour or so and runs to June 2nd.


STARTER COLLECTION ($14.95 - retail value $55)
  • Ars Magica 5 corebook ($18)
  • Covenants ($15)
  • Houses of Hermes: True Lineages ($15)
  • Apprentices ($7)
  • The Living Covenant [freebie materials]

STORYGUIDE'S COLLECTION (threshold starting at $27.95 - retail value $70)
  • Broken Covenant of Calebais ($10)
  • Houses of Hermes: Mystery Cults ($15)
  • Houses of Hermes: Societates ($15)
  • The Lion and the Lily ($15)
  • Tales of Mythic Europe ($15)
Total retail value: $125

The customer can pay any price (minimum $14.95) to get all the titles in the Starter Collection. If you pay more than the threshold (average) price, which is set at $27.95 to start, you also get all the titles in the Storyguide's Collection. Obviously this gets more expensive as it goes along, so buy early if you want the storyguides collection!
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Subject:Arrow renewed, and another spinoff - Legends of Tomorrow
Time:10:59 pm
Arrow has apparently been renewed for a fourth series, and there is going to be yet another spinoff next year - Legends of Tomorrow, which is described as "Rip Hunter travels back in time to the present day where he brings together a team of heroes and villains in an attempt to prevent Vandal Savage from destroying the world and time itself." The list of characters looks interesting:

Victor Garber as Professor Martin Stein / Firestorm
Brandon Routh as Ray Palmer / The Atom
Caity Lotz as Sara Lance / White Canary
Arthur Darvill as Rip Hunter: A roguish time traveler who hides the strains of being responsible for history itself behind a facade of charm and wit.
Ciara Renée as Kendra Saunders / Hawkgirl: A young woman who is just beginning to learn that she has been repeatedly reincarnated over the centuries. When provoked, her ancient warrior persona manifests itself, along with wings that grow out of her back, earning her the moniker Hawkgirl.
Franz Drameh as Jay Jackson: A former high school athlete whose pro career was derailed by an injury who now works as an auto mechanic.
Dominic Purcell as Mick Rory / Heat Wave
Wentworth Miller as Leonard Snart / Captain Cold

No Supergirl, which is a little odd if that's supposed to be based in the same universe.

later - james_nicoll pointed to a trailer:

later still - explanation for no Supergirl - that show's on a different channel to the rest, so no crossovers.

Apparently there is going to be yet another show, based on Teen Titans, on yet another channel, TNT. See the Teen Titans entry in Wikipedia:

TNT has ordered a pilot for a live-action TV series based on the Teen Titans called Blackbirds, formaly titled Titans, about Dick Grayson emerging from Batman's shadow to become Nightwing, the leader of a band of heroes including Starfire, Raven, Oracle, and Hawk & Dove. The pilot was written by Akiva Goldsman and Marc Haimes with filming set in Toronto in the summer and casting announced in May. On May 13, 2015, TNT president Kevin Reilly said that they hope to have the casting locked down by the summer and that he believes the show will be "very true" to the comics and "groundbreaking."

This has the potential to get VERY confusing!
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Time:09:48 am
Gacked from selenak - I knew the show was coming but wasn't aware of the trailer.

BIG trailer for the new Supergirl series from the makers of The Flash and Arrow. Looks VERY interesting!

I suspect this will result in more Supergirl fanfic from me eventually.
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Subject:UKIP latest
Time:10:11 am
The latest on Farage, for anyone who hasn't heard - His resignation has been rejected by UKIP so he's staying on as head of the party. I wonder who exactly rejected it, and if his or her surname happens to be Farage...
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Subject:Another Bundle of Holding offer - Shadowrun 4th Edition - in aid of Electronic Frontier Foundation
Time:08:37 pm
I'm linking to these collections because they are a good way to get a lot of RPG material cheap, because they support charity, and because I did fairly well out of the Bundle of Laughs package that included Diana: Warrior Princess and hope to be included in another collection if they continue to do well.

The Shadowrun 4th Edition collection features the Shadowrun 4th Edition 20th Anniversary rulebook and all the essential supplements. The offer runs until Thursday, May 28.


STARTER COLLECTION (US$12.95 - retail value $44)
Shadowrun 4e 20th Anniversary Rulebook (retail $15)
+ Quick-Start Rules (Free RPG Day 2012)
Runner's Companion ($12)
Arsenal ($12)
Safehouses ($5)
BONUS COLLECTION (threshold starts at $27.95 - retail value $61)
Runner's Toolkit ($25)
Augmentation ($12)
Street Magic ($12)
Unwired ($12)
[Total retail value at launch: $105]

The customer can pay any price (minimum $12.95) to get all the titles in the Starter Collection. If you pay more than the threshold (average) price, which is set at $27.95 to start, you also get all the titles in the Bonus Collection. Several more bonus titles will be added after launch. Buyers who get the bundle early, when it's cheapest, will also get the additional titles. 10% of the fee (after handling etc.) will go to the Electronic Frontier Foundation, which seems nicely appropriate for Shadowrun, especially if you know the history of the similar game GURPS Cyberpunk.
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Subject:The Eye of Sauron
Time:03:42 pm
Anyone else look at the Apod feed today (well actually yesterday but it takes a while to reach Livejournal) and immediately think "Sauron!"?

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Subject:Alternative War of the Worlds Martians
Time:08:25 pm
Pointed out by Brian WINOLJ - the original drawings for a set of illustrations that were in a 1906 printing of The War of the Worlds by artist Henrique Alvim Corrêa, which are in some cases better than the Warwick Goble illustrations of 1897 - Wells liked them anyway. Lots of pictures, scroll down the page. Yours for an initial bid of £350,000, more likely a million or two.

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Subject:Good news from Marvel
Time:11:09 am
Just heard Agents of Shield and Agent Carter have been renewed!

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Subject:So, farewell then...?
Time:10:38 am
One ray of sunlight in the dismal election news - Just heard that Nigel Farage, leader of UKIP (right-wing Eurosceptic nutters) has not won his seat. VERY relieved. He claimed he would resign from his party if not elected, I wonder how he'll weasel out of it.

later - his speech didn't mention his earlier promise to resign within ten minutes if he lost. What a surprise...

later still - apparently he said he'd resign as chairman, not altogether. He's done neither.

finally - he's gone. I suspect he realised that doing so gives him a chance of clawing back some power, while staying on as party chief would just prove he's a liar.
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Subject:Good news, bad news
Time:08:49 pm
Good news - I won the premium bonds this month - only £25, but it's interesting because the bond that won was the first I ever owned, one of two bought for me by my parents a few months after I was born. Try buying just £2 worth of premium bonds these days!

Bad news - the Mac Mini is back and its wifi really wasn't working, the daughter board that carries Wifi and Bluetooth was a millimeter or so off the connector, which is a weird one with no pins. I'm guessing the box got bashed in transit hard enough for the connector to shift. I've put it back and tightened everything and it's working fine, but I've had to give a refund which is a PITA.

Never mind, the bond win will cover the expenses...

Brian WINOLJ has suggested I make a claim with the couriers and I'll give it a try, but it's a nuisance rather than a disaster.
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Subject:Canalway Cavalcade Cootness
Time:09:53 pm
I went back to the Canalway Cavalcade yesterday in much better weather, still unfortunately not very interesting from the junk/book stall point of view, though it would be great if I'd wanted canal memorabilia, of course. I didn't take pictures of the barges since I'd done that too many times before, instead I concentrated on some coots which have built their nest on the rudder of an old sailing barge that's permanently moored at Little Venice.

Coots seem to be my favourite birds at present, mostly because I think their feet are so weird, also because they're loud and appear to be more or less fearless - I've seen one drive an adult swan from its nest. Their nests on the canals are usually a mix of twigs and garbage, as seen here.

Big picsCollapse )

I also got some video - warning, the noise level is high and you can't hear anything useful.

Coot's Nest at Little Venice Canalway Cavalcade event 2015 from Marcus Rowland on Vimeo.

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Subject:Victoriana Bundle of Holding
Time:10:54 am
Sorry I'm a bit late mentioning this, but the Bundle of Holding site
now has the Victoriana Bundle, featuring the Cubicle 7 Entertainment RPG of Victorian high adventure, gothic fantasy magic, and steampunk engineering. This offer runs until Monday, May 18.


PLAYER'S COLLECTION (US$12.95 - retail value $48)
- Victoriana 3e corebook (retail $25)
- + The Spring-Heeled Menace (free)
- Marvels of Science and Steampunk ($18)
- Darwin's Catalogue - Beastmen of Britain ($5)
GAMEMASTER'S COLLECTION (threshold starts at $27.95 - retail $86)
- Liber Magica ($18)
- Streets of Shadow ($18)
- The Smoke ($15)
- The Havering Adventures ($15)
- Jewel of the Empire ($20)

More titles will be added as time goes by, but the price goes up. If you buy early, you still get all the prices that will be added later. See their site for full details of how this works.

If you like Forgotten Futures this may be of interest.
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Subject:Fun with Theology
Time:07:13 pm
Today's Oglaf web comic is for once fairly clean apart from a little bad language, and has some fun with theology:


Warning - most of the strips on the site are decidedly NOT work safe.
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Subject:Colour me less than astonished
Time:03:39 pm
The guy who bought the Mac Mini G4 has asked for a refund, says it keeps telling him that there is no Airport card fitted. Since I installed it myself I find that a bit hard to believe, but I suppose it's just possible that it got bashed in the post in such a way that the card came out of its slot or something. Or that he simply doesn't know what he's doing.

So I'll be out the six quid or so it cost to send, hopefully I won't need to spend anything repairing it. I suppose it could be worse. Assuming this doesn't turn into a long drawn-out argument of course...
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Subject:Parcels, Royal Obsession, Canalway Cavalcade and an Unhappy Customer
Time:09:50 pm
Today has been annoying.

I got up and out reasonably early because I had to send the big iMac G4, which was so heavy and awkward packed (15kg in a 50x50x40cm box) that I ended up loading it onto a hand cart and wheeling it down to UPS's local pickup point. Except that when I got there they couldn't accept drop-offs because their computer was broken and wouldn't be fixed until Tuesday. So I asked if there was another UPS point in the area - they pointed me towards a shop in Portobello Road. Except that of course it's Saturday, Portobello Road was heaving with people, and I couldn't find the damn shop. So I remembered that there was a Mailboxes Etc. at Notting Hill Gate and pushed the damn thing there. Except that when I got there I found that they were UPS agents, not a UPS drop point. What's the difference? They charge £15 to accept parcels, even if you've already paid for UPS delivery! After a certain amount of ranting the manager went on line and found me another UPS drop point, a dry cleaner in Ladbroke Grove. Which was within fifty yards or so of the same road I'd come down to get to Portobello Road, and I could have got there about 40 minutes earlier if I'd known. As it was I ended up pushing the loaded trolly 2.33 miles according to Google Earth, some of it uphill, plus another 0.9 miles to get the trolley home. I suppose it's all good exercise...

So I grabbed some lunch then went to the post office for something else, but of course the post office was closed by then. More annoyance.

Since it's the bank holiday I decided to head to Little Venice and see what the Canalway Cavalcade is like this year - I ended up taking the bus to Paddington Station, which is near the canal route, since I wanted to check if the post office there happened to be open on Saturdays. It turns out that that post office is now closed down completely... So I headed towards the canal, and noticed that there were a lot of police around, also TV transmitter vans etc. I thought at first that there must have been trouble at the canal, but the real story was crowd control for hordes of journalists and sightseers outside St, Mary's Hospital, waiting to catch a glimpse of the royal baby and parents. Not really something I'm into, so I went on to the canal instead.... just as a light drizzle started.

Had a quick look around but most of the stalls selling bric-a-brac, old books, etc. seem to have gone, this year it was all touristy "souvenir of the canal" stuff, which is fair enough considering it's an event that supports the canal trust but isn't actually of great interest to me. The weather wasn't helping me to enjoy myself, so I decided to head home along the canal.

Got home and actually fell asleep for a couple of hours, woke up to find that there were email messages from the guy who bought the Mac Mini earlier this week. He can't figure it out, can't get a Wifi connection, etc. etc. and wants me to sort it out by phone to his (mobile) number. I sent him a couple of emails which I hope have sorted it, but I suspect that it'll end up with him wanting a refund. Fingers crossed I'm wrong. I wonder how much support he'd get from e.g. PC World on a Saturday afternoon/evening...

later - forgot to say that this started yesterday afternoon - between that and selling the iMac G4 and having to pack it I missed an evening out with friends.

Another annoyance - someone who was supposed to be picking up a freecycle giveaway tonight didn't turn up and wants to reschedule.

So, all in all not a terribly fun day. Hoping that things will be a bit better tomorrow. If it's nice I'll go to the canal again and get some pictures.
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Subject:Anyone got a Canon camera?
Time:07:37 pm
I was in a charity shop today, picked up two unopened but somewhat elderly Hama RS-80 N3 remote control cable releases for Canon cameras - allegedly fitting the following:

Canon EOS 5D/30D/60D/10D/20D/1D/1DS/3/1V
Kodak DSC520

The release is supposed to be two stage (autofocus, release) and lockable for long exposures.

These cost a quid each, but unless I take them out of the packaging the postage in the UK would be £2.80, despite weighing very little they're large enough to be classed as small parcels under the current barmy regulations. Unpacked I'd guess at 90p.

Before I try to flog them on ebay does anyone here want them?
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Subject:Steam Avengers AU
Time:02:20 pm
The SSR (Strategic Scientific Reserve) is a WW2 organisation in Marvel comics that eventually became SHIELD.

But there are other uses of this acronym out there. One is the Strategic Steam Reserve kept by several countries, a collection of old steam locos kept for emergencies where e.g. a fuel blockade stops diesel getting through, the electricity grid goes down, magnetic pulse with all of the engine electronics fried, etc.

So it occurs to me that someone really ought to write a Talking Steam Train Avengers AU, in which all of the characters are steam engines or associated characters etc. E.g.
- Tony is something very high-tech by steam standards but temperamental - e.g., I think there were some experiments with steam turbine trains before everyone realised it was a stupid idea.
- Bruce is powerful and usually reliable but has a bad temper - when he gets angry he sometimes leaks superheated steam and has been known to ignore signals and even run through buffers.
- Thor is a extremely powerful engine imported from Norway, but not very bright. Loki was the next engine built by the same factory, much more intelligent, and resents his "brother" for his stupidity.
- The Captain is a blast from the past, built to pull military trains, extremely powerful and well armoured. He's patriotic to a fault and never backs away from a challenge.

Not sure about Clint, Natasha, Pepper, etc. Nick Fury is obviously the one-eyed Controller.

I'm not the person to write this, I don't know enough about trains, so please feel free to use this idea. If you do a credit would be nice.
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Subject:Large laserdisc lot for sale (Near Tower Bridge, London)
Time:05:06 pm
I know a couple of people on my friends list are interested in laserdiscs, this may be of interest:

This guy is selling off a large collection pretty cheaply by UK standards - link to his ad is below:


Unusually for Gumtree, he appears to be ready to do mail order (at least in the UK) as well as allowing people to collect them from his home. While I didn't actually count his disks, he's definitely got several hundred - I saw them - and all of the ones I bought are in reasonable used quality, ranging from ex-rental to very good.

I don't know how long this will last - he's apparently moving soon and needs to shift them before he goes. One warning - he's on the fourth floor (US fifth floor!) of a block of flats with no lift, getting large quantities downstairs would not be fun!
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Subject:Holy frack...
Time:11:20 pm
With nearly a day to go, the Mac Mini G4 is on £68.07

I can sort of understand it going for more than the usual Mini G4 because it has Wifi and Bluetooth, but that seems a bit excessive. I really hope that this doesn't end up with complaints that it won't run the latest arcade games once I sell it!
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Subject:Minor Potter crossover thought
Time:10:11 pm
There seem to be endless stories where someone important from another fandom adopts Harry Potter and takes him away from the Dursleys to be brought up totally awesome. You see it a lot in Buffy crossovers, also Avengers (usually Tony Stark adopting him) and dozens of others. This is generally combined with a lot of hatred to Dumbledore for leaving him with such unsuitable guardians, explanations that the "blood wards" on the Dursley home were useless or actually harming Harry, etc. etc.

But just once I'd love to see a story where Dumbledore was right, and the result of taking him away from the Dursleys is catastrophic - maybe whoever has him will be attacked by Death Eaters, maybe removing Harry from the wards too early lets Voldemort take over his body, or something else even more undesirable.

Just saying...
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Subject:Selling out again
Time:09:24 pm
I've put the upgraded iMac G4 on sale at £99.99; I'm also selling my Mac Mini G4 with a mouse and keyboard, currently bid to £17 with two days to go, and some other computer tat. If anyone's interested see here:


I'll probably be putting more on sale in the next few days.
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Subject:Age of Ultron...
Time:05:55 pm
...was pretty much what you'd expect - loud, lots of explosions, reasonably well plotted (though as in some other movies the main characters make most of their own problems) and fast-paced throughout. I'm not going to describe the plot in any detail, but here be spoilers:

SPOILERS!!!!!!!Collapse )

On the whole I enjoyed it, but Winter Soldier was better.

I've left out a lot here because it's even more spoilery. See it yourself if you want more, and please don't leave spoilers in comments, I'll delete them.
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Subject:The Darker Side of Soulmates
Time:10:42 am
This post by autopope is an interesting discussion of vampires and parasitology. Some of the comments made me realise that the sort of behaviour shown in a lot of "Soulmate/Soulmark" fanfic AU stories corresponds very well with parasitic infection; the host carries a parasite that needs to mate with another of its own kind (let's say there are ten different types for the sake of argument, that most people are born infected, that the first parasite into a human host stops any other parasite from taking over except under special circumstances such as the death of the first parasite, and that they can only reproduce once or twice). They obviously need to attract another person carrying the same parasite; one way to do it might be to have the bearers born with marks which show which parasite they're carrying, and attract other humans with the same infection - and yes, the parasite is to an extent controlling the host's behaviour by e.g. releasing endorphins an/or pheromones when a suitable mate is near, pumping up the output of chemicals considerably when mating seems likely.

The end result is that you get people born with weird marks who are programmed to "fall in love" with someone whose marks correspond. To make it more confusing the marks might look very different to humans than to their parasites, so that it looks like there are thousands of different soulmarks when the truth is that only a couple of key features (e.g. the precise colour, length, key angles) are relevant to the parasite, the rest is just random.

You can't quite get to the silliest end of soulmark fiction - people born with the first words their true love says to them pre-tattooed on their skin - from this premise, but you can come disturbingly close.
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