Writing is Like…

Chess

People write for a lot of reasons. It occurs to me one of my primary motivations was something along the lines of “I can never find enough stories of the kind I want to read.” I’ve always found a lot, don’t get me wrong. But there’s a certain point in the process of being a voracious reader (as I started out when I first learned to read) that there simply aren’t enough. So the solution was obvious.

Make my own.

I’ve been doing that for a long time now. It also remains one of my primary metrics for evaluating any particular book or story: “If I didn’t write this, would I want to read this?” And when the answer is an unequivocal YES, then I know it’s a successful story by my own standards. How it fares in the market is another matter, and frankly, not my problem.

This “make your own” mindset applies to other things as well: bread, boxes, garden arches, whatever. Which brings me to the above picture. See, I once played chess. A lot. I was on my college team, though it was informal and we only played one inter-collegiate tournament (I won my game, so there). Still have an episodic interest, usually chess problems and suchlike noodling. I once had a nice tournament quality chess set, but it didn’t make the move to NY, and every now and again I found myself missing it. Thought about getting a new one. Then I remembered I had a 3D printer and a rudimentary knowledge of computer aided design(CAD).

So, with some valuable online instruction and a little time, I made my own. Most of the pieces were easier than I expected. Except for the knight. The knight required a little drafting skill, but after five iterations I got something I was happy with. So there they are.

Next time I feel like setting up the board, I’ll be ready.

Obsessing Serially

Long time readers will know that we’ve been here before. For those who aren’t, I’ll lay it out: I’m a serial obsessionist. Meaning that I grab on to intense interests that may last for weeks, months, even years. I’ve found this to be a useful trait for someone trying to be a writer. For example, I spent a few years in the literature and history of classical Japan. The result was the Yamada Monogatari series from Prime Books. Even when such interests don’t inform an entire series, they usually make their way into numerous books and stories, either giving the initial impetus or fleshing them out with new information, or both.

All of which brings me to the item above. On one such whim, I acquired a 3D Printer, as I’ve also mentioned before. There’s an entire sub-culture dedicated to creating designs strictly to be brought to life on such devices. One can spend an awful lot of time tracking them down online and doing just that. And yet…

You know what’s really fun, and doesn’t get old nearly as fast? Learning the basics of CAD (Computer Aided Design) and creating your own designs. Like that vase above. Nothing really special about it, except that particular design with those particular proportions is something I created myself. I mean, it’s just a vase. It won’t win any design awards, but I’ll lay odds it’ll hold flowers and look good doing it. Also, I have a tsuba (Japanese sword guard) that is normally stored in a specially made box, only the box got broken in our move to New York state some years ago. For my next project I’m going to recreate that box in PLA down to the millimeter. And the best part?

Actual printing of such items takes hours.

Leaves plenty of time for writing.

The Only Direction is Onward

Chapter 11 is almost done. Marta is traveling to Mataria to help out some friends, surprising even herself. She’d planned on taking on Amaet’s debt for the cost of it, but so far the Power is silent on the price. Very strange. One assassination attempt thwarted, a new player appears, and Tymon the Black has taken an interest in Marta, though she hasn’t a clue why (Yes, I know why, but it isn’t time for Marta or, alas, any of you to know.)

Dessera the ghost has proven to be extremely helpful, if not in any way Dessera herself actually realizes. Marta now understands something important about the craja that she never realized before.

Bonetapper is as snarky as ever. That’s probably never going to change.

Closest Thing to a Replicator

The radical judges were put in place to do a job, and they are doing it. Every woman I know is mad as hell, and every man with more understanding than a brick is also. Not to mention that the freshly-packed Trump Supreme Court (TSC) immediately went chipping away at the separation of Church and State, and Thomas has proclaimed they’ll take on Marriage Equality (as in attack) and contraception later. Everyone knew this was coming, and I’m only surprised it took this long, and that’s all I’ll say on the matter…for now.

I want to talk about happier things, or at least something else. The Seventh Law of Power is going along fine (new character(s) coming in soon), and I bought myself a late birthday present: a 3D Printer.

I always thought one of the coolest things in later Star Trek was the notion of the Replicator. More magic than technological so far as I was concerned. A thing in the wall and you ask it for precisely what you want, and if you get the request in the proper form (Earl Grey, Hot), you get it…mostly. Tell me that’s not a Genie granting wishes, though I’m a little surprised the thing didn’t try to create Earl Grey on fire. It was very literal.

Those of you who have experience with 3D Printers already know they have a lot in common with the Replicator, if far less capable. You have to know what you want, express it precisely enough that a slicer app can turn the image into g-code instructions the device understands, and the thing makes it for you…if nothing goes wrong. Though calling it a printer is a bit of a misnomer. It’s more of a mini additive manufacturing device in this context, though I have seen versions large enough to make a house.

Anyway, once I had it assembled (which is another story. Supposed to take an hour. Took most of the day), I took my first stab at it just to see if I had put the thing together right, using an existing file for the test. You can see the result above. Not bad for a first attempt, if a little fuzzy around the ears.

Next I’m going to get my feet wet in CAD software so I can make my own designs. Because.

75% Chance of Human

Photo by Kindel Media on Pexels.com

I’m almost done with the introductory AI course, with three classes left. Also almost done with Chapter 10 of The Seventh Law of Power, though the two are not related, other than serving as evidence I can still multitask. Marta has just had to deal with a suspiciously inept assassin and I’ve been deep in the weeds with Mediapipe and Tensorflow.

We did a series on facial recognition early in the course, with pictures of known politicians (posed) for training data and more candid shots for the recognition bit. The software was amazingly accurate. In the last few lessons we’ve moved more into facial and gesture recognition in the sense of spotting what is and isn’t a face on a more fundamental level than simple ID, and recognizing gestures.

In a recent lesson, the goal was to make the program recognize a face on camera, and draw key index points on that face, using our own as the target. While we were looking at the raw data, one of the first parameters to show up is how confident the program is that “this is a human face” with the probability given as some fraction of one. Our instructor was fussing that the routine never gave his own face a probability higher than .93, or 93% confidence.

Mine was never more confident than 75%.

When it was time to identify gestures, you can guess which one I chose.