Technomancer Inspirations

Here are some of the shows, stories, and franchises that have inspired me in science fiction and technomancy, often with the application of Clarke’s third law:

Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.

 

Star Trek:  I’ve not watched every episode of every season, but I have watched a lot of them.  I first started on Star Trek, the Next Generation, and I wanted to live on the Enterprise D.  Many entities over the years have technology that the user claims as magic, and/or it is revered as magic.  I’ve always been inspired by the Federation’s use of technology for the betterment of themselves and those around them.  Inspired by their engineers, using technology to solve seemingly impossible problems.

Stargate:  Many of the advanced races have technology that is often mistaken for magic (intentionally and unintentionally).  Goa’uld tell all their servants that their technology is magic, and enhance this impression by using devices that they wield to heal or destroy with hand gestures.  The Asgard are revered as gods, and they only go with it until the people they are dealing with it are advanced enough to handle the concepts of beings with advanced technology.

Babylon 5:  This is where I got my frontpage quote.  Aside from the myriad groups encountered, there is a group known as the Technomages who intentionally focus their technological development on trying to create the illusion of magic.  They are respected (or feared) depending on who they interact with and how.

Neuromancer:  This kinda feeds my cyberpunk aesthetic side.  Technology integrated as an essential part of daily life, so commonplace that it isn’t always even noticed.  A virtual world that is vast and connected with many places in the real world.  This one is relatively recent for me, but a lot of movies and shows I’ve loved over the years were clearly inspired by it (The Matrix and Code Lyoko come to mind).

Farscape:  Another one of my favorite space operas, following an astronaut named John Crichton as he tries to find his way home among the vast diversity of space and interstellar societies.  All sorts of technological wackiness, especially when there are beings so advanced that they created living ships with personalities of their own, made to be bonded with another species to act as Pilots.

Dragonriders of Pern:  Explorers of another planet genetically engineered local wildlife into flying, firebreathing, teleporting, telepathic dragons in order to combat an aerial threat to their society known as Thread.  Technology and society breaks down into a feudal structure over time, allowing them to combat the Thread with generations of dragonriders bonded to their dragons.

 

There are many others I’ve come across in my reading and viewing, but these are the main ones that first come to mind.

3D Printing and Postprocessing Safety

You should follow some basic safety precautions when dealing with 3D printers, and there are more advanced ones for further risk reduction that is particularly important if you aren’t going to monitor your prints closely.  I must note that most of my experience and the related reading I’ve done are related to Fused Deposition Modelling (FDM), which are the printers that use an extruded plastic filament, so there are probably other safety precautions I am ignorant of for other printing methods.  If you use something other than an FDM printer, I highly recommend doing your own research to find the to safeguard yourself and your printing area.

I must also note that these are aimed at safety, and will not guarantee you don’t have spectacularly failed prints, but will reduce the risk of property damage, injury, or death (before you get scared and put off 3D printing, I’m not sure that last one has ever happened, but it’s technically possible).

 

Monitor your printer:

You should watch or at least check on your 3D printer periodically while it’s printing.  This helps with keeping your prints from failing spectacularly, and helps you recover for a new attempt at a print faster after a fail, but this is also important for safety reasons.  Monitoring your print ensures that you are more likely to catch any potential fire or other safety hazards before they can cause a problem.  How frequently you need to check on it depends on the quality of your printer, your experience, and the environment you are printing in.  A quality printer in a safety-conscious workspace may not require as much monitoring as a DIY kit in a household with children and pets.

Keep Clear of Hot Nozzles:

FDM printers run by forcing plastic through a hot metal nozzle to make it melt and build up structures.  Keep anything you don’t want burned away from the nozzle.  These have to be hot to melt the plastic (190 degrees Celsius/374 degrees Fahrenheit or higher), so make sure you keep body parts away from the nozzle when it is hot, and make sure kids and pets can’t get too close to the nozzle either.

Take Precautions for Fire Safety:

Related to the above, keep flammable materials away from your 3D printer as much as possible.  You don’t want a flammable item to fall onto the printer to cause obstructions or catch fire.

DO NOT build a wooden support structure OR enclosure for your 3D printer.  This include particle board.  Adding such flammable materials to close proximity with your printer increases your fire risk.

Here are some good fire safety tips in general, brought to you by a person who learned from experience:

Don’t burn your house down 3D Printing. A Cautionary Tale

I recommend reading that article in it’s entirety, but the main things I’ve taken away from it and plan on implementing are: 1) keep an electrical fire rated fire extinguisher near the printer and 2) put a smoke detector above the printer.  That way you have as much advance warning as possible and the capability to put out any fire before it can endanger your home.

Here’s another article I’ve seen on fireproofing your 3D printer.  His involves some rather extreme checking and modifications, but I can see how they could help, particularly for homemade 3D printers.

Everything you need to know to make your 3D printer fireproof!

If you use a heat gun for post-processing, don’t be an idiot.  Get a trivet to put it down on after using so it doesn’t ignite anything.

Don’t Breathe Microparticles and Fumes:

Keep your printer in a well-ventilated area to prevent buildup of microparticles in the air that you can breath in.  I know the science is not definitive on whether they are harmful, but if you don’t want to take unnecessary risks this is one way to reduce them.  If a print is going to go on a long time, it is recommended that you don’t stay in the same room for an extended period of time.  Wait a few minutes after the printer finishes to let the microparticles settle.  Apparently they settle out quickly.  Then go retrieve your print.

If you use materials other than PLA, I recommend getting a fume exhaust system of some kind, as they can put off toxic gases.

Use Common Sense when Post-Processing:

I know this seems basic common sense, but general knife/blade safety is very important.  Cut away from yourself, not towards yourself.  If I were still in the Boy Scouts I’d have to have a corner cut off of my whittling chip.  I recently gave myself a jagged cut when using one of my post-processing chisels because I was careless and trying to cut late at night.  My hands weren’t as steady as I thought they were, and I foolishly cut towards myself.  Anyway, make sure you either clamp or have the piece you are working on held securely in such a way that the force you are putting into the chisel goes straight down into the cutting board.  That way if it slips or goes through easily it goes into the board and not your hand!

 

Comment below if you have any more safety tips you recommend to people for keeping their hobby (or possible workplace) safe.

Technomancer’s New Worktable: Mk II

I quickly tired of the clutter, and I’ve always liked toolboxes.  I found this one at harbor freight:

tool chest

Eight Drawer Wood Tool Chest

I’ve seen it before, and the wooden toolbox had always reminded me of the custom toolboxes by dad made for his tools years ago.  I like the echo in style.

It’s felt lined, and I’ve tried to arrange the drawers and their contents similarly to how I had them laid out on the table.  The most commonly used tools are closest to the work area.  Tool trays I’m likely to use around the same time are next to each other instead of stacked, so they don’t obscure each other when open.  I’ll probably be rearranging for a bit as I get used to working with it.

Despite it’s size, it’s definitely freed up work space, and I like that it’s neat and organized.  If any family visits, most of the sharp objects that could be dangerous to kids are in one spot to be locked away from curious fingers.

Also, by collecting most of my tools into one toolbox I’ve made it that much easier for me to do demos for local groups or set up a table at a maker fair.  I’ll just have to throw the rest in there, then put the the toolbox and the 3D printer on a cart and roll it in, instead of making a bunch of trips for things.  If I need to bring my table, I can do that too, since it is portable.

I think this work area is really shaping up nicely.  Now I just need to get a steady build queue going and make the most of it!

Technomancer’s New Worktable

I got tired of trying to use my coffee table as a place to clean up my 3D prints, and I’m not a fan of bending over more than I have to.  Let’s just say I’m not a skinny technomancer, and it was getting to be frustrating with my work flow.  Also, I’m tired of cleaning off my makeshift workspace every time I want to have people over.

I did some searching on the websites for Home Depot and Lowes, and found an inexpensive folding table that was adjustable to a height for comfortable working on items while standing up, and the supports on the legs are high up enough that it doesn’t impeded my ability to use the chest I’ve placed it over.  So now, I have my worktable.

new-worktable-1.png

I apologize for the image quality, but I prefer not to show more of my home than necessary online, so I’ve removed the background.  A technomancer has to be careful about how much he reveals of his sanctum!

Anyway, I haven’t yet had time to make much use of this new setup, so we’ll see how it works.  A few notes about my setup, for those who might want to set up their own workbench:

In the center-ish area is the cutting board and magnifier, since this is what everything else revolves around.  Tools are mostly placed to the left, in order of how frequently I use them, with the most frequently used tools closest to the cutting board.

The lighting in that area of my home was not the best, so I have a desk lamp with the light pointed at the work space, since that is where I’ll need the most light.  The switch for the lamp is on the cable for the lamp, so I’ve wrapped enough of the cable around the base that the switch stays in a easy reach, rather than having to duck under the table every time I need it.  Hopefully there won’t be any induced current issues.

My Maker notebook is on the right.  I’m right-handed, so it’s a lot easier to write notes if i keep them on the right side of the work area.

In the upper right corner are some superglue, whiteout, and nail polish topcoat.  Glue for assembly, whiteout for either covering up mistakes on white PLA or being able to add some white to something printed in another color, and the topcoat is to seal in the ink on items that I have colored in with markers (usually my flatminis).

This is just my initial setup, and it will evolve over time.  As I’m writing this post I’m already thinking of things that I need to start storing on or near the table, and things I use infrequently enough that they don’t need to be on the table (they’re mostly there right now because I’m trying to clean up).  I’m also considering finding some sort of organizer or toolbox to more compactly store the tools within easy reach.

I am slightly concerned that this table won’t be stable enough in the long run, but I think where I’ve got it positioned against a wall should reduce any wobble.

I hope this gives you guys ideas about how you might setup your own hobby tables.

Nostalgia VR: SEGA Mega Drive & Genesis Classics

I just found out that there is a way to play old SEGA games as if it was on a console in VR… and it’s on sale on Steam right now.  This brings back memories of hanging out at my friend’s house as a kid.

… and I’m apparently not much better at Sonic 2 now than I was then.  In fact…I’m probably worse, as I’m kinda abusing a feature they included that allows you to rewind or fastforward play of the game, so if you screw up you can undo your mistake.

Yeah, I know it’s cheaty, but it’s built right into the game.  And it’s hard to keep from sliding to your death in these older games.  I never did spend quite that much time with consoles to be familiar with it.

D&D AL Tips Part 3: One-Time Prep

One-Time Homework

Know Your Character Sheet

Take the time between to learn where things are on character sheets.  As long as you are using the same format character sheet, no matter which character of yours you are playing, you should know where to look when the DM asks for AC, initiative, your scores, your modifiers, your attack rolls and damage, etc.  You don’t by any stretch of the imagination need to have the contents of the sheets memorized, but you should take the time to learn where to look.  Knowing where to quickly find information is just as important if not more so than knowing the information itself.  I’ve covered these parts in a separate post; link is below.

Get To Know Your Character Sheet: Overview

 

Read Chapter 9: Combat, in the Player’s Handbook

This section of the rulebook is applicable to all players and the DM.  This section of the book covers most of the generic elements that you are going to be doing in combat, or at least the general mechanics of them.  Actions, bonus actions, movements, reactions, etc. are covered here.  Information relating to the specifics of spellcasting are in Chapter 10.

While I’m on the subject, turn to page 195 in your Player’s Handbook.  Please.  Look in the lower left corner, and read the section on Opportunity Attacks.  Come back to my blog post when you are finished.

Done?  Good.  Now read it again, please.  I don’t know how many times I’ve seen this one misused or misquoted. We all tend to remember simplified versions of rules as they were first explained to us.  I’ve seen a lot of people (myself included) who had a rule told to them at the table, explained as it pertained to the specific situation at hand, and then misapply that to other situations because they hadn’t ever read the actual rule themselves.

 

Spellcasters, read Chapter 10: Spellcasting, in the Player’s Handbook

Spellcasters, you really need to read this section once.  It explains how magic works.  Components required, casting times, preparing spells, rituals, etc.  It’s not that long of a chapter, and you don’t have to memorize it, but if you don’t read it you’re going to keep butting heads with your DM as you attempt to do things that aren’t legal in D&D.

Now, turn to page 202.  In about the middle of the page, there is a section labelled Casting Time.  Please read this section now.  Please read the Bonus Action subsection again.  This one trips a lot of us up.  It seems that everytime I or someone else at the table tries to quote it, we get it wrong in mechanically significant ways.

 

Read the Adventure League Player’s Guide

Each season of D&D Adventurer’s League they update the rules that exist solely for Adventurer’s League.  The main rules for players are currently 4 pages long.  Please read them before playing.  This cover the basics for Adventurers League.  If it doesn’t answer your questions, the FAQ and the Dungeonmaster’s Guide to Adventurers League are also available for free online.  Feel free to ask questions, but you are expected to at least read the player’s guide at some point.  I recommend printing it out and carrying a copy with you for reference, since it’s so short, but be aware that it will change periodically.  They can be found here:

Adventurer’s League Rule Pack

 

Tab the chapters of your Player’s Handbook

Few things are more frustrating than having to stop a session for a few minutes to look up a bit of information.  I find that putting easy to use, labelled tabs on my player’s handbook greatly speeds up my ability to find information.  I put tabs on each chapter on the side, and occasionally I’ll put temporary ones at the top of the rulebook for things that I use frequently, such as the wizard class section when I’m playing a wizard.  Tabbing the rulebook isn’t a requirement, and is usually considered above and beyond the normal prep expected, but being able to quickly find information can be almost as good as already knowing the answer.  We can’t all have photographic memory.  I’ve found this so useful that I’ve tabbed ALL my rulebooks this way (YMMV on the other rulebooks, they aren’t all as neatly delineated as the player’s handbook).

Tabbed Book

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