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Who is the Centaur and What is his Library?

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centaur at dragoncon 2021

Hi, I'm Anthony Francis, and I teach robots to learn, particularly deep reinforcement learning for robot navigation as well as the intersection of memory, emotion, and planning for contextual control

I write urban fantasy about a woman who can bring her tattoos to life and steampunk about women scientists and adventurers, as well as space opera featuring a young centauress explorer. I also draw a webcomic about a girl who can travel to any possible story.

On this site, I also have resources on how to become a better writer, on how to overcome writer's block, on the science of airships, my thoughts on how religion intersects with artificial intelligence, and even a collection of recipes and thoughts on food.

If you're looking for a good place to get started, my first novel, FROST MOON, won an EPIC Ebook award, and my team's work on PRM-RL won the ICRA 2018 Best Paper Award. Otherwise, I hope while you are here in the Library that you find something informative, interesting or at least entertaining!

-the Centaur

P.S. This is a "sticky" post designed to introduce the blog; keep scrolling down for more recent content, or check out the site menu, tags or categories to explore more.

Let it Snow

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Snow in South Carolina

Snow in South Carolina! Or, as my friends in Boulder call it, Tuesday. It usually snows once or twice each year in Greenville, but we only get one of these big dumps of powder every 3-5 years or so.

Neighbors in Snow

In the moonlight, the neighbor's house looked as pretty as a Thomas Kinkade. Now, I've seen snow like this before, I've seen it before, and it's familiar to my wife, who works a lot in New York. But as for Loki ...

Loki in the Snow

No sir, he didn't like it.

-the Centaur

Remember January 6th

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Trump Calling for Insurrection

Recall to memory the Sixth of January,
Riot, insurrection and plot
For no justification should the January Insurrection
Ever be forgot

A little over one year ago today, lame-duck President Donald Trump directed an unruly band of his followers to "fight like hell" to overturn the election of Joe Biden, in the hope of disenfranchising me and the 81 million other Americans who voted to bring to an end Trump's dyscivic reign.

"Dyscivic" means "antagonistic to civilization." It's a word coined by alt-right pundit Vox Day to disparage the aspirations of "social justice warriors" like myself. I am a writer, and I hereby confiscate "dyscivic" and repurpose it to mean "antagonistic to the civic structures of our society" - which Donald Trump was.

Of my good friends who voted for Donald Trump, at least two voted for him precisely because they expected he would be disruptive to our existing system. One specifically said, "I voted for Donald Trump because I hoped he would blow up the Republican Party, and I'm waiting for the Democrats to go next."

Keep waiting. Even though progressives like AOC and moderates like myself don't always get along, we recognize that we share the same end goals, that our principles are compatible, and they're worth fighting for together, even if we might disagree on methods.

I don't get the same sense from my most right-wing friends, who viciously lambast politicians from their own party for not "getting on the Trump train" in every possible respect - even when those politicians have multi-decade records voting for precisely the positions my friends loudly advocate for.

Reliance on trust is toxic to any organization. It encourages dependence on personal relationships - even friendships - developed over years or decades, and makes the organization resistant to new information delivered by new people. When that trust is in leadership, it becomes loyalty ... which is deeply dyscivic.

The purpose of government is to put the use of force under rational control. To prevent one man from using that force to execute their own personal will, we create civic structures that corral the use of power. We loan power, not grant it; and when you loan power to someone, you watch them.

Over four years, we watched Donald Trump demand loyalty on an unprecedented scale in American politics - from his followers, from fellow politicians, from the machinery of government. He turned on his appointees when their understanding of their civic duties conflicted with his own petty desires.

And when the American people had had enough - when even some of my Trumpian friends switched parties because they could not abide what he was doing to our political system - Trump spat on those of us who dared to vote against him, and then tried to pretend to his followers that we did not exist.

Well, sir, our voices were heard. And we won't be silent. We know that you and your followers are going to try again - I remember watching your suppoprters meeting in the dark in the months leading up to the insurrection (holding 10pm rallies in the parking lot of a nearby grocery store). We'll be watching.

For I'm not the only one. Here's a few quotes from my fellow Americans around the web:

http://wilwheaton.net/2022/01/one-year-later/

We all know how that turned out. All but seven Republican Senators — forty-three of fifty members in the upper chamber — protected him and embraced his Big Lie. In the year since, they have doubled down on it, and they have not stopped insisting that we did not see what we saw one year ago today with our own eyes.

And:

https://whatever.scalzi.com/2022/01/06/january-6-one-year-on/

And yet, after perhaps 48 hours of unrehearsed shock, the Republican party rallied around this traitor to the republic and the constitution, and tried to rebrand an actual coup attempt into overexuberant tourism.

And not about January 6th, but important all the same:

https://angrystaffofficer.com/2022/01/03/american-war-and-american-memory/

Why is this important? Because as we look ahead into another year at the beginning of a new decade of a constantly changing world, America needs to take a hard look at herself and ask whether we are remembering or forgetting the right things. This is not only vital to our collective consciousness as to who we are as a nation, but to the success of future military operations.

I assert that remembering the right things isn't just vital to our success in military endeavors, but to each of us personally, in the aggregate, as a nation, and as a civilization. If we don't remember the true story - good and bad and ugly - then those who make up stories for their own convenience will rule the day.

Remember, the Big Lie was the foundation for the Final Solution.

Let's make sure that doesn't happen here.

-the Centaur

Welcome to 2022

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What a year! Hard to believe 2020 is over. Well, now that we're moving on to 2021 ...

Wait, what? 2021 is over already?

-the Centaur

Transitional Updates

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mocha from alexander's

Out with October, in with November, and with it, a bunch of updates. Dragon*Con came and went and was a success. Our Kickstarter for Beyond Boots 'n' Bars was funded; thanks to everyone who participated! But most importantly, the move from California to the East Coast is mostly done.

That last I blame for my lack of posting (and drawing - sheesh, I am ~80+ drawings behind) but, ultimately, that was the most important thing that I and my wife needed to be working on for quite a while. Now, she's got a functioning art studio again, and my library is ... getting there.

But, now it's time to get back to it. I'll be doing Nanowrimo again - JEREMIAH WILLSTONE AND THE FLYING GARDENS OF VENUS, something-like-book 2.75 on my original outline. Since Nano has been so great to me, I'm sponsoring it this year, which in turn, means you can find FROST MOON there!

Welp, back to it. Onward, fellow adventurers!

-the Centaur

Support the Kickstarter for our Clubfoot Journal

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Clubfoot Journal Prototype

Hail, fellow adventurers! Our small press, Thinking Ink, is running a Kickstarter to launch a journal for parents of children with clubfoot. Written by Betsy Miller, one of Thinking Ink Press's founders and an active contributor to the clubfoot community, this journal will enable parents to track the progress of their children's treatment, as well as providing exercises and notes to help them process their experiences.

The Kickstarter is live now! Please spread the word, as we love getting specialty books like this into the hands of people who truly need them!

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/thinkinginkpress/beyond-boots-n-bars-a-journal-for-clubfoot-parents

-the Centaur

A Long Day

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a long day

a long day. but a good one. more tomorrow.

-the centaur

Update on Site Maintenance

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Well, it looks like the way WordPress is going to pull the Classic Editor out of my cold, dead hands is to screw up the formatting of any post published with the Classic Editor. The only way it seems to get posts to appear correctly in the blog roll is to use the new Gutenberg garbage. I will be updating posts a few at a time to try to overcome this. The problem is only "new" Classic Editor posts ... the older content in the blog doesn't appear to be affected, so hopefully it won't take too long if I update a few a day.

-the Centaur

Departure Angle on Viewer

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after dragoncon

Well, Dragon Con 2021 was a resounding success. I have a page full of notes to transcribe here, but just wanted to put a stake in the ground, now that the move and the con are over, so I can get back to blogging and drawing and posting drawings every day.

-the Centaur

Pictured: The bus stop, after all the busses stopped.

Back to Dragon Con!

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dragoncon 2021

Well, we're back at a con at last! And as usual, I'm posting my schedule at the last minute. At least I got the chance to see some people I haven't seen in person for two full years!

dragonwriters 2021

And here is my schedule:

Title: Star Trek Essays
Description: There are thousands of worlds within Star Trek, & thousands of topics to talk about. Where do we start? Join a panel of published writers & producers to discuss what's worth discussing in Trek essays, articles, & videos.
Time: Fri 11:30 am Location: Galleria 2-3 - Hilton (Length: 1 Hour)
(Tentative Panelists: Kyle Mackenzie Sullivan, R Alan Siler, Anthony Francis)

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Title: Teaching Robots to Learn
Description: When you tell a machine to learn, all bets are off on what it will learn to do. In this panel, we'll discuss techniques used today to teach robots to recognize objects, to grasp them, to navigate autonomously around people, & even to imagine the future.
Time: Fri 04:00 pm Location: Atlanta - Sheraton (Length: 1 Hour)
(Tentative Panelists: Anthony Francis)

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Title: To Series or to Stand-Alone?
Description: Fantasy readers fall in love with the characters & worlds we build. How do you sustain the interest in a series--or would this idea work better as a stand-alone?
Time: Sat 10:00 am Location: Embassy EF - Hyatt (Length: 1 Hour)
(Tentative Panelists: Anthony Francis, Moderator: Nancy Knight, A. J. Hartley, J. Gregory Keyes, Seressia Glass, Dakota Krout)

-------------------
Title: Author Signings:
Time: Sun 01:00 pm Location: International Hall South 1-3 - Marriott (Length: 1 Hour)
(Tentative Panelists: Clay Gilbert, Patricia L. Briggs, Anthony Francis)

-------------------
Title: Dead at the Keyboard
Description: Panelists discuss strategies to combat writers' block, stress, fatigue, boredom, insecurity, & deadline anxiety.
Time: Mon 11:30 am Location: Embassy EF - Hyatt (Length: 1 Hour)
(Tentative Panelists:Moderator: Nancy Knight, Keith R.A. DeCandido, Anthony Francis, Peter David, Trisha J. Wooldridge)

-------------------
Title: My Favorite Author, Book, Series, Character...
Description: Authors discuss their favorites among their own works & offer insights into their favorites in other authors' writing.
Time: Mon 01:00 pm Location: Embassy EF - Hyatt (Length: 1 Hour)
(Tentative Panelists: Anthony Francis, Moderator: Bill Fawcett, Trisha J. Wooldridge, James R. Tuck)

Hope to see you there!

-the Centaur

P.S. I have been drawing more or less every day, but I have also been moving, so you get a drawing another time.