Kaja’s Models and Machinations is Now Public!

I have finally received my Form 3 LFS 3D printer!

Form 3 boxed

As such, I have switched my website to public, so that it may now be indexed in search engines.  I will also now be using that as my primary online address, rather than this blog.  For now, the displayed title is “Kaja’s Tiny Tanks,” since that’s all I have listed at the moment, but that will eventually become one section, as I add more items to the shop.

My intent is to record an unboxing video (which may not happen), set the machine up, run some tests, and then immediately start cranking out models, so that I can populate both my own shop and my Wargaming 3D shop.  Current circumstances prevent me from doing most of that for the next few days, and I have another video that I hope to record before then anyway.

Finally, I’ll be able to do something productive!

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I Have Joined Wargaming 3D! And Now We Wait…

Wargaming 3D preview

Wargaming 3D is a file-sharing website, similar to Thingiverse, but specifically for historical wargaming miniatures.  I recently accepted an invitation to join the site, but there is a catch: all 3d files uploaded to the site must be printable with either FDM or a resin-based process.  I have had my models printed successfully many times, but mostly with SLS, so I’ll have to wait until I get my own shop running before I can offer any files for sale.  Besides, I need photographs.  That being said, here’s a link, so you can check it out, bookmark it, add it to your favourites, or whatever you want.

So, what impact is this going to have on my own miniature shop, once it’s online?  Well, I see it as free advertising.  Since I render all of my own models, and I don’t “borrow” other designs, I can charge whatever I want for file downloads.  Those of my customers who have their own 3D printers can download my files, while those who do not will be stuck buying printed models from me.  In other words, if you like tiny tanks, you have options – but you still have to wait until 11 October, and, hopefully, no later than that.

Projects: Old, New, Cancelled, In-Progress, Pending, Delayed, and WHY

I’ve had quite a few projects over the past few years, some of which I’ve had to either put on the back burner, so to speak, or cancel entirely.  Some of these I’m determined to get back to eventually, but that may be years from now, while others I’m glad to be rid of.  Meanwhile, other projects have gone well, even if they aren’t finished yet.  So, here’s a bit of what I’m working on, and at the end of this list, I’ll explain why I wrote this strange little log.

Project № 1: pilot’s license.  Status: delayed indefinitely.  I’ve always wanted to fly, and I first got behind the controls of an aeroplane at the age of 11.  Unfortunately, my flight instructor died of small-cell lung cancer when I was only 14, so I wasn’t old enough to fly solo, and solo endorsements are good for only 90 days anyway.  I eventually started flying again after getting my first real job in industry (I don’t count the two machine shops I worked in as a teen-ager), when I was 22.  I made three solo flights, and was well on my way to finally getting my license, but when management at my job changed, I was under so much stress that I was in no condition to fly anymore.  I’m glad to be rid of that job, but ever since, I’ve been focusing on how to make a living, and I keep having to deal with setbacks.  I haven’t flown in almost four years, and I’ll probably have to start from the beginning when I finally get back in the air again.  Hopefully, I won’t lose my log book again, not that it will make much of a difference.

Project № 2: The Nine Empires.  Status: delayed indefinitely.  I originally intended this to be a series of novels, but at this point, I’m thinking that I’m better off creating a tabletop wargame and writing an actual story later.  I’ve been stuck in the worldbuilding stage for… I don’t even know how long, at least five years, but I made my first map for this story in February of 2017, and the current map is from December of the same year.  Part of the problem is that I can’t be a full-time writer, because I have too many other things to do.  In addition to my job, studying for my written aviation tests, martial arts practise, work around the house, and everything else, I can’t work on this project for more than an hour a day at most.  Most days, I don’t work on it at all.  What can say, other than dreams aren’t worth dirt?

Project № 3: start my own shop.  Status: in progress / delayed. I’m talking about Shapeways here, and just like the last entry on this list, I started it while I still had my last job.  I’ve been able to make a lot more progress here than in other ventures, and I decided that this would be my business.  I’ve wanted my own business since I was 16, but it wasn’t until I discovered 3D printing at the age of 20 that I finally figured out exactly what that business would be.  Since I keep adding new items to my Shapeways shop, it appears in more and more search results, drawing in more customers, and I keep making more money through it.  However, for multiple reasons that I’ve already discussed, it makes sense for me to start producing items myself, specifically model tanks and jewellery.  Originally, it was going to be just the tanks, but since the printer I ordered can use two different types of castable wax, that means that I can print my own jewellery patterns.  I can’t do investment casting myself, yet, but I know someone who does.  I can then sell these things on Etsy, and once I have a large enough inventory, I may even try to get a spot at a Renaissance faire.  However, starting this operation has been delayed by at least two months, because Formlabs can’t keep up with orders of their latest machine, as I’ve already mentioned.  Judging by what I’ve seen from a quick glance at the company’s Twitter feed, I’d say that I’m one of several hundred rather annoyed customers.  This sort of nonsense right here is the reason I want to be as self-sufficient as possible – I can’t rely on other people!

Project № 4: CAD tutorials.  Status: in progress.  I always intended to make CAD tutorials, but I didn’t have much motivation until someone on Steemit suggested it.  It took quite a while, mostly because it took several months to find decent screen recording software (I don’t have friends to help me in this regard), but I eventually got around to making my first video CAD tutorial.  I now have six such videos, four of which are broken up into multiple parts.  I have a few others planned, but I have no idea when I’m going to get to them.  At least I have something to show for now.

Project № 5: wooden over-shoes.  Status: delayed indefinitely.  I’ve mentioned this project before, but I still can’t get blocks of wood!  Seriously, how hard is it to get blocks of wood?!  Then again, I don’t have the slightest clue what type of wood I should make them out of, and no-one I’ve asked knows either.  From what I’ve read, poplar works for wooden shoes, but I’ve been told that’s wrong.  I keep hearing “make your own blocks,” but they need to be reasonably square in order for me to able to cut the basic shape on a bandsaw, and I don’t have the equipment to do that.  I’m not going to spend tens of thousands of dollars on woodworking tools for a single project, either, because I have no intention of becoming a woodworker, but it looks like that might be my only option.  You may have noticed a trend by now, that if I must rely on another person for help with a project, the project simply doesn’t get done.  If I seem bitter about this, that’s because I am.  I can’t do everything myself!

Project № 6: countryball history lessons.  Status: cancelled.  This was meant to be a whimsical animated series on BitChute, and in a video titled “Vlog № 0,” I showed a tidbit of what this was supposed to be like.  However, I simply didn’t have time to dedicate to it.  Much as I would like to make educational videos on multiple subjects, they require a tremendous amount of time, which I simply didn’t have when I came up with the idea.

Project № 7: animated vlogs.  Status: cancelled.  “Vlog,” in case you didn’t know, is short for “video log.”  I intended to record myself talking about… something… periodically, and synchronising my animated avatar to that recording, along with images up on screen.  However, because of problems I had with recording in the past, I decided that my vlogs would have to be scripted, and then I realised that I could save a lot of time just by writing a script, then not bothering to put in the various notes for animation, much less actually animate anything… or even record myself reading what I just wrote.  Rather like what I do now.

Project № 8: Slice of Bird Life.  Status: cancelled.  This was supposed to be a hand-drawn comic strip about all the funny moments that went on at my mother’s bird feeder.  I told her multiple times that I didn’t want to do it, that I didn’t have time to develop and perfect my art style, and that there was no way this would make any money.  Profitability doesn’t matter to me, but my mother is Jewish (I’m not, because I’m adopted), and she nags me to this day about the fact that I don’t have a six-figure paycheck.

Project № 9: cleaning my waterways.  Status: in progress.  I dredged the lower pond last year, and the upper pond this year.  During the summer, the stream in between the ponds gets overgrown, as do the edges, and if I’m not keeping up with it every day, then it gets out of hand.  Since I’m frequently away for weeks at a time, I decided to just leave it for now, and move on to the main feeder stream to the upper pond.  I documented some of the work, just so that viewers can get an idea of what’s involved.  Hopefully, I’ll be busy with my 3D printing shop this Autumn, which means I won’t do any more work on the ponds until next Spring.  Since they get filled with leaves and need to be cleaned out regularly, then maybe I can make some better videos then.

Project № 10: tractor canopy.  Status: in progress.  It would be done by now, but between running out of shielding gas (for welding the frame) and other interruptions, it sat for over a month with nothing done to it.  However, I uploaded a half-hour video documenting all the metalworking yesterday, which pushed me to 4000 total views on BitChute (not a lot, I know), and has been viewed the same number of times in two days that the previous one was in two months.  Well, I guess that’s my cue to revive my metal shop.  I made a video showing the design process before I did any physical work, and I’m happy to say that, so far, I’ve stuck to my design almost perfectly, as opposed to throwing out the blueprint and improvising.  The third and final video will show the process of laying out, cutting, and sewing the canvas canopy.  Yes, I know how to both weld and sew.  A useful, if unusual, combination of skills, and the only thing I like to brag about.

I have another project pending, but I’m not going to discuss it here, largely because it’s for someone else and I know very little about it at the moment.  I can tell you, at the very least, that the project is biomedical.  It came up at an inopportune time, mostly because I have too much work to do at home to waste time travelling, but I’m spinning my wheels, so to speak, fighting against my severe depression, which is doing more to hold me back than anything else.  I feel stretched thin, while also being worn down and unable to get ahead.  Maybe this informal “business trip” will prove to be the pick-me-up that I need, but the buzz probably won’t last long enough to let me catch up on all my other work.  In any case, I hope sharing this list of projects gives you some insight into why I keep bouncing back and forth between unrelated activities, with occasional periods of total non-productivity.

Concerning Coggles

Have I mentioned coggles here before, or was that only on Steemit?  Oh well, I’m mentioning them now.  Speaking of Steemit, I would post this there, except that Steemit isn’t working at the moment.

Coggles are the smallest of the “humanoid” races that inhabit the Rossberan continent.  Much like lavkins, votrels, and druorns, they are non-ape monkeys, but coggles are too distantly related to interbreed with the other three.  They are very small, with adults typically standing at 61 cm (24 in) tall.  They are also covered in brown fur of various shades, aside from their faces and chests (though adult males have fur on their chests as well).  They have large, round ears, giving them an appearance reminiscent of Cheburashka, possibly the most famous Russian cartoon character.  They also really like oranges, which is the reason that the second and third largest populations of Rossberan coggles are found in Breace and Southern Karaden, which are warm and humid for half the year.  The majority of Rossberan coggles, however, live in Arcadia, though they make up a much smaller percentage of the population than in Breace.

Coggles

Despite their adorable appearance, the life of a typical coggle is not at all like any of Cheburashka’s cute adventures; The Nine Empires is grimdark, after all.  Coggles tend to have very large families, and couples with a dozen children are not uncommon, though most have between four and eight.  However, given their unfortunate status in most societies, the majority of coggles do not live long enough to reproduce.  Outside of Bulmut, which tends to have a culture of multi-species tolerance, owing to the large population of dwarves, most societies treat coggles as second-class citizens or worse.  Arcadia is, easily, the worst example of this.  Despite the fact that slavery has been outlawed everywhere on Rossbera for over a century by the time that this story takes place, coggles are classified as animals in Arcadia, can be bought and sold like livestock, and are effectively no better off than slaves.  This unfortunate fact was reflected in Arcadian technology, which was several decades behind that of Bulmut – allow me to go off on a tangent for a while.

Mechanical devices and factories alike require a tremendous amount of maintenance.  More advanced technology allows that maintenance to be performed by fewer people.  I could go on for several pages about the history of technology and how its design reflects the mindset of industry and society at large, particularly when it comes to hugely contrasting numbers of people required to operate similar systems in different times and places, but I won’t do that now.  Instead, I shall provide one specific example.  Machines, such as steam engines, have many moving parts that require lubrication.  In Bulmut, the approach was to incorporate a system of tubes connected to easily-accessible oil cups, such that the entire machine could be lubricated from a single location, and neither stopping nor opening up the machine was necessary.  However, the Arcadian approach was to simply have coggles crawl into the tight spaces with oil cans, and hope that none of them got ground into a bloody pulp in the process.  It certainly made machines simpler, since they didn’t have a system of lubrication tubes connected to lots of little oil cups (which have springs, hinges, and the occasional sight-glass), but it also meant that machine operators needed to buy lots of coggles to maintain them.  In short, the Bulmutian Method was to improve machines and systems to increase the throughput with the same number of people, whereas the Arcadian Method was the exact opposite.

Coggles tend to be very docile, and coupled with their small size, meant that there was nothing they could or would do about their position in society.  However, not everywhere was as bad as Arcadia.  In neighbouring Breace, clockmakers and other skilled craftsmen typically employed whole families of coggles to help them with simple, repetitive tasks.  The exact nature of this “employment” varied wildly, with some clockmakers having multiple shops staffed entirely by coggles, such that customers might never see the clockmaker himself.  Tailors frequently had a similar arrangement, with several coggles appearing out of seemingly nowhere upon being summoned to take measurements, which they would record all at once before the customer had enough time to ask what was happening.

The strangest social dynamic involving coggles is on the continent of Khandar, however.  There, coggles actually make up the majority of the population.  Khandarian technology was far behind Rossberan technology overall, but some types of mechanical devices were far more complex, and technology was heading in a very different direction anyway.  However, coggles didn’t develop any of it.  Khandarian technology was developed by either druorns or black dwarves, which formed complex mechanics’ guilds that behaved somewhat like monasteries.  Study of mechanical principles was considered the highest calling, and mechanical inventors were beheld with almost religious reverence.  Coggles would frequently make pilgrimages from their villages to the mechanics’ guilds and return with sufficient knowledge to fully mechanise their hometowns.  Agriculture became highly automated on Khandar, and also technologically advanced, with many cities making use of aquaponic terraces.  Khandarian cities were typically self-contained and self-governing, owing to a lack of roads or anything else in between settlements.  They had to be, considering that most of Khandar was nothing more than bare rock.  I will probably go into more detail about the mechanic’s guilds at a later date, since it ends up being a significant part of the plot in the last two books.

Aside from what I mentioned in the last paragraph, I have no idea how I’m going to include the coggles in my story.  None of the POV characters are coggles, and neither clockmakers’ shops nor haberdasheries are common settings.  Bookstores are, so that’s a possibility.  I’ll figure something out.

 

 

The Problems with the Monomyth

Anyone who has taken a single class in English literature has heard of the monomyth.  It’s the idea that there is only one type of story that can be told: the hero’s journey.  NO, NO, NO, forty thousand times, NO!  I’m going to shatter this misconception into a thousand tiny pieces.

First of all, the very concept of the monomyth breaks the fundamental law of classification: you must have at least two daughter categories for each parent category.  I’ve taken a few classes on public speaking and other forms of presentation, and my instructors always said the exact same thing when talking about MS PowerPoint: “you can’t have an A without a B,” referring, of course, to subordinate bullet points.  This is the single best example of the fundamental law of classification that I can think of.  So, the first and simplest problem I have with the monomyth is this: if all stories are the same on some level, then that doesn’t mean you’ve classified all stories together, you’ve simply re-defined what a story IS.  I guess if you don’t have a hero’s journey, then you don’t have a story, right?  Oh, I’m just getting started.  If you majored in English literature and you never once had a disagreement with any of your professors, you should stop reading now, because this article is only going to get worse.

Normally, I do not care about the source of an idea when evaluating its validity.  “Never confuse the author with the art,” goes the old saying, but in the case of the monomyth, its source is actually important.  Joseph Campbell codified the monomyth as a literary trope, even though he didn’t actually invent the term; James Joyce did.  The reason that I can’t separate the monomyth from Campbell is simply because of how he came up with the idea: religion.  Campbell was a theologian, and he studied comparative world religions quite extensively, finding core similarities between all of them, then callously proclaimed this to be some profound development that unites all people, all stories, into one.  Campbell apparently believed in the psychic unity of humanity, which, for lack of a better word, infected his work.  Humans, while social, are not eusocial, otherwise human society would be much more cohesive, rather like an ant colony.  On this planet, only insects have hive minds.  Inaccurate information has no practical application, and cannot serve as the foundation for a sound theory.  A common analogy is “building a house on shifting sand.”  Well, I can say, with certainty, that the monomyth is not a monolith, because it’s already losing bricks.

The first of these fallen bricks is the simple fact that not everyone is the hero of their own story.  Not everyone wishes to be the leader, the centre of attention, or even particularly exceptional.  Some people just want to live a tolerable life, while others wish to devote themselves to another, and see that other person as the hero of their story.  Yes, for those exceptions to the rule of “everyone is the hero of their own story,” such stories don’t have much to them, which is why no-one bothers to tell them.  Accounts of lives of common people from ages past are so scarce for the same reason that hardly anyone knows what ordinary houses looked like long ago – stories that make for compelling entertainment do not concern themselves with the mundane.  However, one must acknowledge that even mundane activities can be enjoyable in the moment, not everyone needs to go on a grand adventure to have a life worth living, and to think that only the grandiose is worthy of attention is to diminish all those precious moments that life has.  The anti-religious cynic in me smells theistic hubris in this entire notion, so I might be a tad biased.

Speaking of deriding the mundane, have you ever noticed how many heroes have royal or otherwise exceptional heritage, yet are raised as commoners?  The “lost prince” trope is as old as royalty itself, in all likelihood, and the oldest example I can think of off the top of my head is the story of Perseus, bastard son of Zeus and a human queen, who was raised by fishermen.  Oh, that poor princely demigod, so oppressed living amongst commoners!  Perhaps my complete irreverence toward royalty is cultural, seeing as I was born in a country that butchered its royalty over a hundred years ago, but what’s with the contempt toward commoners in literature?  Fine, fine, that’s not the message that the story of Perseus is meant to convey, but more recent stories use this trope a lot, from Cinderella (not always a princess, but usually trapped in an abusive household) to Harry Potter.  Displacement certainly makes for a nice setup, but it need not be limited to a “downgrade.”  This isn’t a problem with the monomyth, specifically, it’s just a noisome trope, and I could make some guesses as to where it comes from, but that’s a rant for another time.

Now then, even if we assume that everyone is the hero of their own story, then what about stories that have multiple main characters?  Is the story then multiple stories within one?  Some would say yes, while others would claim that there can truly be only one main character.  Fine then, how does a critic determine who the main character is, then?  Some would say that it’s the title character, but not every story is named after one of its characters.  Some would say that it’s the first character introduced, but I can think of another exception right off the top of my head: Journey to the West.  The main character is the monk, Xuanzang (a.k.a. Tripitaka, but that’s actually the name of the text he is sent to retrieve), but he isn’t even mentioned in the first seven chapters, all of which detail the various hijinks of the Monkey King, Son Wukong, instead.  For a better-known example in the 21st century, who is the main character in A Song of Ice and Fire?  Chew on that for a while, because I maintain there are at least six, three of whom were introduced in the very first book, and are still alive by the end of the fifth (except for Jon, he almost made it to the end of A Dance with Dragons).  Some of the point-of-view (POV) characters in the series fit the character template for a classic hero quite well, while others do not fit without some dizzying mental gymnastics.  I could say that they don’t fit at all, but staunch adherents to the monomyth insist that all stories fit, even if they must use the most contrived allegories in order to make that so.

Before I continue to the next point, I should mention what the classic hero archetype is.  This is the journey between the known and the unknown, and it is supposed to be circular.  Even if the hero doesn’t return home, specifically, they must venture into the unknown, and return to a life they knew before their adventure, having somehow grown because of it.  The “unknown” is so vague that one could say that every stage of an “ordinary” life is another adventure, but what if no return journey is ever made?  What if the “unknown” becomes the new ordinary, as it does when people move to new places?  Does becoming accustomed to the new life count as a return to normalcy?  I would say no, because war stories exist.  By “war story,” I am referring to any personal account of a soldier at war, even if it’s complete fiction.  War certainly counts as an adventure, according to the criteria of the monomyth, and volunteering or getting drafted is definitely the “call” to adventure, but what about the following stages?  Soldiers at war typically don’t spend more than 10% of their time actually in combat, and it doesn’t take long for many of them to get used to their new living arrangement on a military base, possibly in a foreign country, with a whole new group of friends, not school-mates, but brothers-in-arms.  Combat is a different story, but there doesn’t need to be combat for a compelling story: how much fighting did they do in M*A*S*H*?  That’s right, none, but all of those characters knew they were at war.

Right, so not everyone is a hero, not every prominent character is the centre of the story, stories can have more than one main character, and not every character adheres to the classic hero archetype.  The next fallen brick I’ll look at is the transformation at the bottom of the hero’s journey (the deepest part of the unknown).  This is usually when an ordinary character truly becomes a hero.  This transformation usually takes place immediately after some sort of revelation.  Campbell referred to this as “death and rebirth,” following the religious archetype, but no-one insists that this must be a literal death and rebirth.  A substantial character change works to fit this archetype, but what about those characters that have the revelation and either make the wrong choice or fail to learn from the experience at all?  This is where the religious basis for the monomyth absolutely infuriates me, because those who are devout do not learn.  A requirement of faith is that it remain intact even some revelation challenges it, so no highly religious character can undergo any development.  Furthermore, transformation is a common backstory for villains as well, and even though many villains are portrayed as the heroes of their own stories, there are still plenty that are one-dimensional non-characters that exist only as obstacles for the heroes to overcome.  Ah, but the devout will probably inform me that the cementing of faith is the transformation from an ordinary person to a hero.  If that is your argument, I have nothing more to say to you, because you’ve already made up your mind.  However, for those who are still capable of changing their minds, keep reading.

The final stage of the “unknown” part of the hero’s journey is sometimes called “atonement,” another needlessly religious term.  Strangely enough, this is the stage of the journey when things start to look up, and the hero begins to triumph with greater and greater ease against their challenges before crossing the threshold back into their comfort zone.  This fallen brick irritates me almost as much as the last one for a very simple reason: it implies that the hero is being punished for everything that has happened thus far, even though that would best be set before any sort of transformation.  One could also construe this phase as the hero’s “duty” before returning to a normal life, but how many times could a character go through alternating temptations, transformations, and atonements before finally going home?  Once again, no story need fit this pattern.  A Series of Unfortunate Events, for instance, goes through this thirteen times before finally showing any sign of resolution, earning the criticism of being highly repetitive (but not from me).  However, another criticism of this type of story is that the characters don’t drive the plot, are “just along for the ride,” and therefore, there isn’t a real story.  To those who say this about A Series of Unfortunate Events, I would respond with “read Memoirs from the House of the Dead sometime then.”  I’m getting off track, because Russian literature rarely possesses the same tropes as English literature.  However, this does remind me of a flaw with Campbell’s methods: he looked at stories from around the world through a decidedly Western lens, not realising that he was dealing with vastly different cultures.  Then again, for someone who spoke so highly of Sanskrit, he wasn’t very good at translating it, so a lot of his apparent cognitive dissonance could simply be attributed to poor linguistic skills.  Strangely enough, this ties in to religiosity, because “Western” monotheism is lost in translation, and I’m not even referring to the original languages of biblical scriptures (still not capitalising).  There are two words I can name off the top of my head from Greek that have no direct translation in English (I can name quite a few in Russian as well, but that’s not relevant): pistis and nous.  The former appears throughout the bible, and the latter is best known from The Iliad.  The meaning of pistis is still discussed today, so I have to wonder what sort of linguistic barrier Campbell encountered and didn’t even know it.  After all, the more you study anything, the more complicated it always turns out to be, yet the monomyth is supposed to be simple.

The last criticism of the monomyth that I will discuss isn’t even my own, but it is possibly the most scathing, likening it to the poison words of a charlatan.  The monomyth is analogous to a horoscope, so vague that, regardless of what actually happens, the template still fits the story.  Whatever doesn’t fit may simply be dismissed as allegory, such that every story ever told still fits the monomyth template perfectly.  This is a logical fallacy commonly known as “moving the goalposts,” and it requires a tremendous amount of mental gymnastics.  Regardless of how many tropes are defied, expectations subverted, revelations that have failed to sink in, transformations that don’t happen, and journeys cut short, somehow, the monomyth still applies!  In other words, the monomyth is already known to be useless, and I just wasted twenty-two hundred words.

Two-Month Production Delay?! I am NOT Happy

However, there’s hardly anything I can do about it.  For those wondering what’s going on, since I am one of the first people to order a Formlabs Form 3, and the company is apparently having trouble keeping up with demand, my original shipping date of 20 August has been pushed back to 11 October.  That’s another two months that my online miniature tank shop will not be usable.

Complaints aside, at least I can concentrate on the various design requests that I have yet to complete, some of which have been outstanding for… longer than I’m comfortable with, I’ll put it that way.  Two months ought to be long enough to get most of those requests finished, assuming that I don’t encounter any more noisome obstacles.  I confess, I’m my own worst enemy when it comes to this sort of thing, because I am exceedingly skilled at distracting myself, but a complete know-nothing when it comes to generating self-motivation on days when I simply don’t feel like doing anything (which, let’s face it, is nearly all of summer).  Speaking of which, I have something else in the works that you will probably see in the next day or two.

Right, enough eye-rolling, carry on.

Another Day, Another Few Dead Men. Why Am I Nonplussed?

To quote Roger Waters, I have become comfortably numb.  In fact, I wasn’t going to write anything today, but the OUTRAGE at the two recent “mass shootings” (I hate that phrase, it’s misleading) and President Trump’s supposedly pre-written reaction to them has me annoyed to the point that my work must wait, it seems.

There are some who think that mass murder is an entirely American phenomenon – this is simply incorrect.  Japan has a fairly high rate of mass-stabbings, as does the UK (blunt the knives!), and South Korea has the second-highest rate of gun suicide (last I checked) in the world; I blame K-Pop.  However, there is a good reason we don’t hear about it: news media in those countries doesn’t make such events front-page news.  There have been many times in US history that news media has brought psychologists on to ask “what can we do to prevent mass shootings?”  The answer is always something along the lines of “stop sensationalising it.  Don’t give people the idea, and certainly don’t glorify the actions of some murderer, because you’ll turn that person into a hero.  Report on the incident if you must, but don’t dwell on it.  Downplay it, stop focusing on violence, focus on who the victims were, if you must focus on something.”  Lame-stream news media, however, deliberately ignores this advice, because sensationalism sells.  They are not concerned with truth, much less making the world better, they care only about profit.  Violence is profitable, not just in the US, but the entire world.

There are some who believe that “gun culture” is another exclusively American phenomenon.  This is also incorrect.  Serbia has one as well, and considerably looser gun laws than all but the most permissive US states (e.g. Texas).  Modern Serbian gun laws were written to reflect this culture upon the breakup of Yugoslavia.  In fact, most Eastern European countries have similar gun laws to Canada, and the Czech Republic has remarkably similar gun laws to most US states, though arguably better-written.  Besides the Czech Republic, Estonia is the only European country that allows private citizens to carry a concealed weapon.  Then there’s Russia, with gun laws similar to those of present-day Australia (by which, I mean post-Christchurch), but here’s a little plot twist for you: those laws have barely changed since 1924.  That’s right, the Soviet Union had looser gun laws than either the present-day UK, Germany, or Japan, and Russia doesn’t even have a gun culture.  Personally, I suspect the reason that gun violence is so low in these countries is simply because they lack the neglectful, parasitic cities that many US states have.  I shall elaborate: Illinois, which has one of the highest (if not the highest) rates of gun violence in the US, also has the highest corporate taxes, some of the highest personal income taxes, high unemployment, and high income inequality.  It goes something like this: business moves in, and makes lots of money; the state taxes businesses and employees; working in the state becomes too expensive; business moves out; working-class people are left without an income; once-thriving industrial districts become ghettos; high taxes never disappear, and the state never recovers, it simply collapses, and must start over.  Oddly enough, this is the exact same story for communist countries, again look at Russia.  However, the Russian population isn’t packed together like sardines the way many have-been American cities are, so the impetus to fight over the few available resources simply isn’t as high.

To me, the problem is simple: too many people.  The solution, therefore, is to stop subsidising large families.  Ten children, no job?  Tough shit, if you can’t feed them, put them up for adoption.  With increasing numbers of TINK (Two Incomes, No Kids) couples who cannot afford to have their own children until well after their prime reproductive years, let those who are not so responsible with their loins supply the children for the more financially conservative individuals.  Maybe Lois Lowry was on to something…  Anyway, I’ve ranted against crowded cities so many times in the past that I can’t be bothered to do it again.  However, with increasing levels of technology, there is hardly a need to cram all industry, commercial ventures, and residences into one area.  If you have a desk job, you ought to be able to work from home and not have to spend money on fuel for your smog-belcher, not to mention that you won’t have to risk killing yourself every single day (I literally almost killed myself three times commuting to my last job).  Industry and commerce should be spread out, decentralised, and made to rely less on the bloated bureaucracy of big business.  The world needs more makers, not more paper-pushers, which is why I do what I do.  Give people more space, and maybe, I’m just spitballing here, they will be less likely to want to kill each other.

Fine, fine.  The problem is actually a bit more complex than simply “too many people,” I will admit.  Yet, the voice that says “calm down, let’s look at the big picture” isn’t heard.  The boisterous simpletons are the most audible, instead, and I certainly don’t enjoy the lame-stream media and radical, wedge-issue politicians such as “the squad” riling up the extremist fringes of society and somehow not being held responsible for egging them on.  Yes, you read that correctly, I’m blaming the news for turning groups of Americans against each other.  It’s the age-old tactic of divide-and-conquer, and to quote George Carlin “they keep the lower and middle classes fighting with each each other so that they can keep going to the bank.”  I suppose a clever lawyer might be able to make the case that media directly incites violence and should be punished for it, but there is a flip side to this, because I am a “free speech extremist.”  What I mean by that is that I oppose censorship for any reason.  The answer to bad speech is not to shut it up, the answer is to TALK BACK.  Blatant mistakes deserve to be called out, be they coming from Trump or CNN.  Trump knows this, by the way, and I think he makes at least half of his mistakes on purpose, because he knows he’ll get more attention that way; I maintain that “covfefe” was typed on purpose.  Likewise, bad ideas deserve to be ridiculed.  The lame-stream media doesn’t want this, they want to control the narrative, hence the proposals for “journalism licences,” the very notion of which is a violation of the First Amendment.  Yes, even though I live in Pennsylvania, I am familiar with more than just the Second Amendment.  Even though I like hunting and shooting, I consider the First to be more important, for the simple reason that permitting speech allows laws to be changed.  Forbidding citizens to criticise the system means that no citizen can propose changes to it.  I could go on, but there is another topic I need to address, and the reason I tagged this post with “religion.”

Accusations of Americans having a religious attachment to guns abound as a result of recent events.  The fact that Southerners, in particular, seem to be labouring under the delusion that the Constitution was divinely inspired and that bearing arms is a “god-given right” (still not capitalising) doesn’t help.  However, this isn’t a gun-centred religion, it’s the religion of American exceptionalism: “this is the best damn country in the world, and I don’t need to know about nowhere else.”  In fact, I brought up various gun-friendly European countries early in this post for that very reason.  Once again, the guns aren’t the problem, but organised religion poisons everything it touches, and guns are no exception, painting this highly polarised picture of people who either view guns with spiritual reverence or utter revulsion.  All or nothing, black or white, the problem isn’t gun culture, it’s a culture of excess.  To my European audience, Americans simply have no concept of moderation, be it with weapons, vehicles, or food.  This country may profess to worship Jesus Christ, but Americans know how to please Slaanesh more than any Abrahamic deity.  Yes, that was a Warhammer reference; I couldn’t resist.  Anyway, as much as I’ve been redirecting your attention regarding the problems that the US has, I should mention that there is indeed a religion centred about guns, the AR-15 specifically.  If you’ve ever heard of Sean Moon, then you know what I’m talking about.  However, that isn’t the norm, and I can’t emphasise that enough.  Back to the subject of religion in general, it fosters an “us vs. them” mentality, another incarnation of the divide-and-conquer strategy, keeping the sheep fighting among themselves.  This, I suspect, is the reason that radical leftism meets so many of the criteria of a religious cult: they may not have a deity, but they certainly have a concept of sin (privilege), penance (reparations), heresy (political in-correctness, “that’s offensive”), enlightenment (“wokeness”) and, depending on which subset you’re looking at, even a devil.  Apply the BITE model (Behaviour, Information, Thought, and Emotion control), a commonly-used diagnostic tool for cults, to the fringe movements of modern society, and you will see striking similarities between the religious right and the radical left.  In either case, it shuts down dialogue and invites violence instead.

I would go on, but I’ve gotten the momentary ire out of my system.  Besides, there is a very specific example that I’d like to use to illustrate my points, and he has a nasty habit of challenging every one of his detractors to a debate at his cult compound.  He, or more likely, one of his lackeys, must search his name on Google multiple times per day, otherwise he wouldn’t be so quick to call out every single person who has ever criticised him within mere hours of the initial criticism.  Once things settle down in my life, and I have time to properly tear into he-who-shall-not-be-named, I may use his persistent dogmatic idiocy as an example of why extremism is such a problem, and why bad speech must be countered with better speech, not censorship.  The instant I mention this person by name, he’s going to make me famous, since he’s far better-known than I am, and I’m not quite ready for that, but I’m trembling with anticipation just thinking about it.

New Website Preview

For those unaware, I’ve been working on starting an online business.  Since Shapeways is becoming more frustrating to deal with for my customers and I, I’ve decided to start manufacturing my most popular models in-house.  I’ve had my eyes on desktop SLS (selective laser sintering) machines for a while, but that is not where the opportunity lies.  The price of my 1:285 scale model tanks has increased substantially this year, owing to a new pricing strategy at Shapeways, which seems to favour large-scale production, so buying wargaming miniatures there is no longer cost-effective.  For this reason, the SLS machine is going to have to wait, as I ordered a Formlabs Form 3 LFS (low-force stereolithography) machine instead, which is an ultra-high-resolution 3D printer that I can use to produce tiny tanks.  There are other things I can do with this machine as well, such as printing castable wax, but I’m getting ahead of myself.

Back at the end of April, I began construction of a new online shop, from which I would sell my miniature tanks.  I’ve provided some preview links in a recent Steemit post, and today, I’m going to show you what it’s going to look like.  I hope you like my colour scheme – I chose it because I always enable night mode if it’s available (Steemit, BitChute, etc.).

Site Preview 1
The homepage
Site Preview 2
I chose to set the product gallery up like a photography blog, this way you can see my most recently added models.  From the top left to bottom right, the entries are: IS-5/T-10, IS-4, M6, AMX AC, SU-100M, T29
Site Preview 3
If you move your cursor over the “shop” option, you will see a drop-down menu with three main options.  Two of those options are divided into multiple categories.  There are multiple ways to find what you’re looking for on this site.
Site Preview 4
If you simply click on the “shop” option, you will get a list of all individual models that I offer, so I provided another menu so that you don’t get lost.  I have only 5 models currently listed, but I actually have 50 different models currently rendered, 47 of which are available on Shapeways.
Site Preview 5
This is the bottom half of the KV-1 entry (blog post).  At the bottom of each post is a list of available models.  Active links indicate a product available for sale.  Inactive links indicate something that I intend to offer, but haven’t made yet.  These intentions are reflected in the database.
Site Preview 6
This is the T-100 page.  Of the various T-100 designs proposed, the SU-100Y is the only one I have a model of, but the drawings on this page show the rest.  There is a little bit of text to go with these drawings, but I will greatly expand on it as I add more models to the page.
Site Preview 7
Each page is meant to be more of a history lesson than a sales pitch.  The IS-5/T-10 page, in particular, explains not only why this tank was designed the way it was, but also why it has five different names.

So, there you have it.  You can visit my website, of course, but it won’t show up in search engines yet.  I’m not ready to go public until production begins, which should be in about a month.  The only reason the website is accessible at all is because I had to enable it in order to get the ecommerce plugin to work.  Likewise, you can even order some of the KV-1 and KV-2 variants I already have listed, but you won’t get them for a while.  Besides, those prices are just placeholders based on preliminary cost calculations.  Those preliminary calculations yielded results similar to what they used to be on Shapeways (for me – I marked them up 20-50% depending on how much work went into them before the pricing system changed), but I’m hoping the actual prices will be even cheaper.

The Cult of Nószimål

This is yet another idea that I’ve had to incorporate into The Nine Empires.  I’m not sure where I’ll place these specific passages, or if I’ll have to re-write them to fit my outline.  Oh well, it’s not a priority, since I’m just doing this to take a break from web design and virtual tank design.  Enjoy!

Adya sat silently, his teacup in one hand, and a folded piece of paper in another.  After placing his cup back in its saucer, perched on a small table next to him, he gently unfolded the paper, trying not to disturb Kaia, who was busily writing at her desk on the other side of the room.  Adya held one of Kaia’s drawings, a mess of numbers and notes scrawled about the lines of yet another infernal death machine.  His eyes darted about the page, trying to see if he could make heads or tails of it, but he wasn’t about to waste any effort.  Only Kaia could understand her own notes.  Adya folded the paper again, and then went back to drinking his tea and playing with his hair.  Suddenly, the door flew open, and in rushed a strangely-dressed… fellow… out of breath, and clearly unhappy.

“Pardon my intrusion, great one,” he said, facing Kaia’s desk and bowing deeply, “but I bring grave news from factory 17.”  “Let me guess,” Kaia replied, not bothering to look up, “that daft git Vasili Annastashchenko shut off my water again.”  “I’m afraid so, great one.  He prods the mighty beast, as his ilk is prone to do.  They cannot abide your success-” Kaia cut him off: “lock it down, but keep the workers fed.  The dregs of that filthy city congregate anywhere they can get food or money to buy food, and I won’t have Vasili stealing my workforce.  Tell them to hurry up with those closed-circuit steam systems, and until they’re finished, transfer the work orders to factory 12.”  “Of course,” the strange fellow said, bowing as he backed out the door, “you are the master.”

“Great one?”  Adya raised one eyebrow at Kaia.  “A member of the Cult of Nószimål,” Kaia explained, “it used to be a fairly mainstream religion in its behaviour, but they’ve been getting weirder ever since the split.”  “Split of what?”  “The Rhûnnish Empire, what else? Anyway, with many of the old faiths shattered during Alexandra’s Conquest, a number of people took to worshiping the Green-Eyed Raven, as they believed her to be the divine guardian of the rightful ruler.”  “They got that bit right, didn’t they?”  “Shut up.  The cult eventually became just like any other religion, with its various sects forever quarreling over stupid doctrinal differences.  In this case, it was the nature of their deity.  Some believed her to be an immortal ice-nymph in enchanted armour, allowing her to walk the land during the summer cycle-” “and some thought that she was a different sort of goddess or a shapeshifting, undead witch, blah blah blah, I’ve heard it all before,” Adya interrupted, “What does this have to do with you?”  “I’m getting to that.  Nószimål, as you know, would disappear for such long periods that some soldiers went their entire lives without ever seeing her.  This, of course, gave rise to the belief that she wasn’t just one person, and yet another sect of the cult emerged around the idea of reincarnation.  When Ivan Karamazov began his bloody purge of the religion, he was particularly interested in wiping out the sects that preached Nószimål’s eventual return.  Unfortunately, he failed to wipe them out, instead driving them underground and into madness.  By chance, I met one of them, and that chance meeting has drawn them out of hiding and into my service.”  “All because they think I’m the reincarnation of the Green-Eyed Raven.”  Kaia did not speak that last part aloud, lest anyone but Adya hear.  “Are you?”  Adya replied in the same manner.  “I doubt it?  Not a single memory of my past lives has given me the slightest clue as to who I was, but if I was Veyra, I think I’d know.

Adya didn’t know what to make of this.  There was an ancient cult that worshiped Veyra Blackwing, the Green-Eyed Raven, understandable, but now that same cult seemed to worship Kaia.  At long last, he had a bit of a devious thought: “if they worship you because you’re the only other chuyinka they know about, do you think they’d offer me the same reverence?  It would be nice if we were all worshiped as gods once again…”  “Don’t get your hopes up,” Kaia sighed, “the only thing these cultists agree on is that I’m the reincarnation of their deity, but the few who know what I really am are keeping their mouths shut.  Besides, I’m not going to tell them all to stop everything that they’re doing, gather in one place, and listen to me tell them about the exact nature of a long-dead chuyinka that no-one alive has ever met.  I highly doubt that any one of them holds a belief close enough to the truth that I wouldn’t turn them all away immediately with such a sermon.”

You are a beacon to the fractured forces of chaos, Adya thought, hoping Kaia wouldn’t notice.  He knew that she despised being exalted, and didn’t even want this job.  Perhaps Rua was on to something when she said “those who hate war are the best at waging it.”  Adya stared at a speck of dust in the corner, losing himself in his thoughts.

“Symbols of the Cult,” Rubina read aloud, “began with a symbol identical to one worn in three places on Nószimål’s armour, which eventually became the Rhûnnish letter N, but its true meaning at the time is unknown.  Warrior cultists who fought in the Grand Marshal’s elite guard displayed an elongated version, with the central stem frequently serving as the pole for a banner.  Sects that believed Nószimål to be an ice nymph typically displayed a symbol that they referred to as the dark iron snowflake, a symbol frequently associated with other winter cults, but may have originated as a distorted version of the Grand Marshal’s own symbol.”  “You’re surrounded by cultists in the Kremlin, you know that,” Yuri growled, “they showed up round the same time Vamaruchenko did.”  “Great,” Rubina rolled her eyes, “another reason to hate her.  I wonder what their connection is to I.A.M.A.D.A.”  Yuri raised an eyebrow.  Rubina continued, “well, I’ve never seen Kveta wearing a dark iron snowflake or anything like it, have you?”  “I never see her, I’d have to ask the night guards to make note of such a thing.”  “There’s some connection, I know it.”  “About the only thing connecting them is that they’re both creepy and out to gain more power, just like the Annastashchenkos, the Dondarovskis, or the fucking Communists.  My job isn’t to connect the dots, your Grace, my job is to kill anyone who crosses you.”

This is going to keep me awake, Rubina thought as she rolled over in her bed.  My mother has invited all our enemies into the White Keep itself.  Kveta Vamaruchenko, the merchant of death, the cultists that Ivan Karamazov was supposed to have gotten rid of three centuries ago, the yellow-haired shit-faggots that cheat us out of tax money, and everyone else who wants to overthrow us.  Must I be spirited away to some faraway land, as a fairy tale princess?  I already have my own empire, I’m not giving that up just yet…

The Method to my Madness

I’ve been neglecting this blog for a while, but don’t think that I’ve given up.  Indeed, there are only 24 hours in a day, and I have too many other things to do.  For instance, my short, eye-catching posts about miniatures have all but disappeared ever since I started blogging on Steemit.  In addition, I post weekly updates to SubscribeStar, sharing both my 3D modelling work and outdoor projects.  As I’m writing this, I’m taking a break from trimming back the vegetation encroaching on either side of my driveway.  As much as I hate hot weather and, especially, hot sunny weather, I can’t sit still in front of my computer 16 hours a day making models and managing my websites.  So much to do, so little time.

So, with my pathetic excuse for not posting a single update in over a month out of the way, allow me to share how I prefer to approach life.  I enjoy thought experiments on the subject of vices and virtues, but I find that the subject ought to be limited to an academic context.  Here’s the problem: vices and virtues disappear if they do not affect a person’s life.  Hard work, for instance, is widely considered to be a virtuous activity.  However, working hard does not necessarily pay off.  Getting things done is more important than working hard, in my view.  Working smart is just as important, if not more so.  If, indeed, the broadest principles are best conveyed through painstaking specifics (to paraphrase J.R.R. Tolkien), then using an old-fashioned push-mower may be harder work than using a lawn tractor or zero-turn, but it takes longer.  Sitting on a tractor may not be good exercise, but it leaves me with more time and energy to get other things done about the house.  This example may seem ludicrously stupid and obvious to anyone reading this, but you’d be surprised how many arguments I’ve had about lawnmowers.  However, not all work needs to be done in the most efficient manner possible at all times.  To use another example, I could probably dredge my pond much more quickly if I asked my neighbour to lend me his backhoe.  However, I enjoy using hand tools, listening to birds, and watching frogs.  Getting things done is more important than working hard, unless you enjoy doing things the hard way.  Again, this may seem obvious to anyone reading this, but I’ve lost count of how many arguments I’ve had over this topic, as if I always get it wrong: when I do things the easy way, I’m being lazy; when I do things the hard way, I’m being stupid.  There is always a way to twist things round to make something someone does to be either a vice or a virtue, in spite of the fact that there is nothing inherently good or bad about the manner in which the greenery is trimmed.  Yes, some people are actually that opinionated and particular when it comes to landscaping.

On the subject of vices, idle entertainment is widely considered a vice.  The picture that comes to most people’s minds, I imagine, is an obese, unkempt man slumped on a couch, with a TV remote in one hand and a beer in the other.  Of course, this image makes “idling” at the end of a work day seem like a vice – that man should be on a treadmill!  Those who cannot sit still (like me) don’t understand the appeal of TV.  However, those who consider idle entertainment to be a vice seem to have this tendency to lump any activity that isn’t physically strenuous into that category, such as playing video games.  In my experience, these are the same people who insist that those who have desk jobs don’t actually work for a living.  However, any serious gamer will tell you that video games are not as passive a form of entertainment as television.  Furthermore, desk work is still work – it isn’t relaxing, even if it’s fun.  Sometimes, it’s engaging, and the task at hand, though time-consuming, proceeds with enough measurable progress that any amount of time yields some feeling of accomplishment.  Other times, desk work is complete drudgery, spending endless hours scanning through data or search results, looking for a single, specific piece of information.  My most recent batch of tanks has been like this – all experimental designs, some of which were never built, that are not well-known, and don’t have readily-available three-view drawings with dimensions or a scale.  As such, I wind up spending so much more time looking through databases and other sources, trying to find something I can use, than on actually rendering the model.  Other times, I need to look at photographs to figure out what I’m actually looking at, because a three-view drawing may not necessarily show everything.  Again, this runs into time.  When you don’t have a watchdog making sure you’re always at your desk and on task, there is good reason to get up, walk away, do something else, and come back after getting something done and renewing that feeling of productivity.  Again, if you’re like me, and you work from home, there is almost always an abundance of household chores to take care of when you need to get away from your desk.  However, returning to a mind-numbing task immediately may prove fruitless.  You may not get anywhere, so do something else and have fun instead.  Yet, conventional wisdom has it that “putting in your time” is more important.  I hate conventional wisdom, that’s why I decided to start my own online business, instead of continuing the mind-numbing, fruitless search for a regular job.

I was going to write another paragraph on the subject of another virtue before concluding (in fact, I wrote it and then deleted it), but I couldn’t think straight anymore.  I don’t even know what the point of this post should really be.  It started out as an explanation of why my progress on my model tank collection has been so slow, and why I’ve been bouncing back and forth between projects in an effort to remain productive.  Today is not a good day, since I worked out in the sun for two days in a row, and I’m feeling the full effect right now (fatigue, not sunburn – I take precautions against the latter).  I hate not being productive, but some days, I can’t do anything about it.  Then again, I suppose I could conclude by saying “there’s nothing wrong with taking a break,” since that’s what I need to hear about now.