Archive for October, 2020


What the Empress and I Found on the Beach of Bowling Balls

Back on the GPT-3 theme again, there’s another GPT-3 client at It doesn’t use any special training as far as I’m aware (like AI Dungeon has choose your story dot com), and I don’t know if it has any hidden inputs.

It has very (very!) little documentation about what it actually does, but at the moment its top-level entities are “Prompts” (which are rendered as story titles, basically) and “Stories” (which are stories). You can create a Prompt, and optionally share it for other users to see, and given a Prompt (your own or one someone has shared) you can write a story based on it, in what appears to be an input box of their own devising.

At any time, you can push the “Write for me” button, and it will invoke GPT-3; with exactly what inputs isn’t clear, but one speculates that it’s the Prompt and the most recent part of the Story and anything that one has entered into the optional “Background” section (which I’ve never tried). The result of invoking GPT-3 will be appended to your story, and then you can go back to editing it or whatever.

You can post (share, publish) stories, unless you’ve started it as a Private Story, in which case you can’t. It looks like there is a Naughty Story filter that is applied to stories that aren’t Private. There doesn’t seem to be any way to move a story between Private and not-private, at least at the moment that I’ve found. There’s some kind of length limit beyond which you can no longer share a non-Private story. I think that’s what’s going on anyway when a story gets too long and the button greys out, but there’s no message so who knows.

Anyway! That explanation was too long. Here’s a story, where I wrote the Prompt (the title) and the first sentence, and then nudged it a bit later on when it said something that seemed contrary to the overall feel; but all I did was remove a few things that I didn’t like, break up overlong paragraphs, and give it one sentence or less as a hint later on. Mostly GPT-3 gets all the credit!

What the Empress and I Found on the Beach of Bowling Balls

The second sun was just setting, and the woman dressed as the Tarot Empress accompanied me down to the bowling-ball-covered beach. I followed her, a well-formed, middle-aged woman with thighs strong and thick from years of walking barefoot across the sand of this cove. She led me to a particularly large bowling ball—its surface polished and gleaming, it looked like a mirror—and beckoned me to sit next to her.

We had both wanted to hear the story of the day we found a strange, golden seashell. The day I threw the shell to her, and it had crushed her lovely face.

And that was what we were about to do. I took off my extravagant crimson-and-gold dress—the Empress had told me never to wear orange, even if I was seeing her—and lay down next to her pale body on the bowling-ball beach. She wore only her crown and her signature long white robe, and she scratched the wide, curled-up tail of the cat that was wrapping itself around her neck.

“The story begins at the end. . .” she said, and put her feet up over my feet. Her skin was always so warm.

“I was going to say ‘The story begins with me being as old as I am now,’” I replied, “But I reckon I got to the end pretty quick for that. You tell it, I’m kinda rattled by memories and their emotional aftermath.”

The Empress smiled, revealing trim, white teeth. She was good with her stories, and I pulled my knees up to my chest to listen. “You see,” she began, “I was just a little girl when I first found the seashell.”

I interjected, “You must’ve been seven or eight, right?”

“My memory is vague, but yes—and I admit I was an extraordinarily clever eight-year -old. My family had a mansion right on this beach, and I was always digging in the sand. I would dig for hours on end and never find anything of much interest—the most exciting thing was a sparkling rock. It was a perfect little sphere with a black center, and I put it in my pocket.”

Overhead, the lightbirds wrote ancient glyphs in the sky with their tales.

“At some point that day,” the Empress continued, “I dug up a buried stream of coins. That was exciting, but the most exciting thing of all was when I dug a little deeper, and the next shovel-full of sand revealed a dazzling golden seashell. It was the shape of a flower, and it was so gleaming that I knew it must be valuable. Clearly an endless wealth of happiness and prosperity would follow if I owned this shell. It was beautiful. . .”

I interrupted her again. “And did your family use it for unscrupulous business deals?”

“No, of course not!” She laughed. “Looking back on it now, I believe that this shell actually did belong to me. I remember those golden sands well—I remember that I found that shell in the sands outside my master’s study. I had just gotten back from my first trip to the mall with my mother—she had taken me to get the uniform for my first year at primary school—and my father was in his study looking through the accounts.”

“So you were the smartest eight-year-old working as a businesswoman?”

“Yes, yes, of course. Nothing’s changed on that front.” Her eyes narrowed as she pulled her long curls towards her crown, her braid was looking disheveled. “My father had every detail covered. And so I took the shell from his study and I ran through those golden sands back to the mansion. I felt like I was streaking through them, really; they were so vibrant, lending their gold light to the rest of the world. I dug a hole in the sand outside my bedroom window, and I buried the shell there, where no one could find it.”

I was waiting for this point, the moment of the interrupted story, when she threw it to me.

She must have seen my puzzled expression, because she leaned close to me and whispered, “And then I invited you to come over.” Her light violet eye was bright, as though she had the shell’s gleam herself. Her pale skin, though, was far too thin—the soft lines of her face were visible through the pale, white complexion. She whispered again, “It was a cold day in the beginning of the fall when I saw you walk onto the beach with your mother. You had thrown a rope up over the branch of the Kite-Tree and, standing on the other end, you hauled yourself up to the top. I saw you jump off the Kite Tree and land in the sand. I followed you to the mansion.”

“You didn’t invite me to your mansion?” I asked, confused.

“For you,” she whispered, and then said, “I had to be quick. I arrived at the mansion long before you did. My father was in his study, going through papers again. He was in an especially fraught mood—it seemed he was more fixated on our fortune now. I told him I was going to go for a walk on the beach and didn’t want him to wait dinner for me. He was relieved he wouldn’t have to deal with me and my mood for the night; he was always easier to deal with when I was away doing something than when I was around.”

“You have moody days?” I asked as I lifted my knees up to my chest. We were getting colder by the moment as the wind blew stronger.

“Pardon?” She smiled.

“Should we move on, then?” I asked.

“Do you remember that day?” she asked. “The day you jumped off the Kite Tree?”

“Yeah, I remember,” I said. “I came to your mansion.”

“You did.” She nodded. “I saw you coming towards me. You were running, but your eyes were on the ground with every step. I asked if you were all right, and I think you said, ‘Yes, I’m all right.’”

“I was overwhelmed by you,” I said. Because I had been.

The Empress smiled in the cold wind . “You convinced me to go for a walk with you along the beach. I was so cold that I was only in my light summer dress and my hair was entirely down. I didn’t have on shoes. But I went with you anyway, and you showed me a seashell.”

“Our lives were in the seashell, then,” I said, remembering .

“To you, they were,” she said. “They always have been. When I looked at it, I saw a creative, enthusiastic child full of abundant energy and love for our strange world.”

“And you?” I asked.

“And me, too,” she said. “But that’s not the real story.”

“Then what is the real story?” I asked impatiently.

“Just wait for it,” she replied. “Do you remember what you showed me inside of it?”

I nodded. “A blazing fire, a table with a set of plates. We were having a feast. A feast! You were the Empress, I was the Emperor, and together we were holding the Empire in our hands. You wanted us to rule the world.”

“You forget that I also showed you a sweet little cottage,” she said. “You were inside it with the woman of your dreams. You had the Empress with you and she looked at you contentedly. You would have stayed there with your love and your family forever,” she added. “ You would have stayed there, quite content, but you somehow knew that the world had to be held in your hands.”

“That’s not really how I remember it,” I said, confused. “I would have stayed in that cottage with the Empress and I would have lived there with her happily without caring for anything else in the world.”

“You were looking at a possibility,” she said. “You were looking at a possible path for yourself. I saw it, too.” I noticed her pushing closer to the fire, pulling a blanket closer around her shoulders. “And then, you opened up a jar of jam and you offered me some on a slice of toast.”

“Jam?” I repeated.

“Jam,” she replied. “The Empress asked for more jam and you gave her more. She put the perfect spoonful of marmalade onto her toast.”

“That’s the most outrageous thing I’ve heard in my life,” I said. “The Empress would never demean herself like that.”

“She would have for you, ” the Empress said.

My breath caught. “She would have? You would have?” I asked.

She nodded . “I would have for you. Because I saw the man I would love and the Emperor I would serve. You were cute, too. You were so earnest. I wanted to reach out and touch his cheeks. You were so good, so pure, so true. ”

“But you didn t,” I said softly .

She shook her head. “No, I didn’t. Because I couldn’t.”


“I had to do the right thing.” She sighed. “It was night already by the time we got back to the hermit-house. It was already a scandal at court.”

I put another blanket over her. Above us, the stars blinked signals to the sea. From the back of the beach house, there was the sound of the waves following up the shore. The air was humid, and through it, I could see her eyes. They were focused on the fire.

“We sat at opposite ends of the room,” she continued, “You told me that you were an orphan, that you had nowhere else to go, and that you were simply passing through. You told me about the fire the night before, and then you asked me if I had ever been in love. You asked me if I had ever loved anyone.”

“I did,” I said.

She nodded . “You asked me if I had ever been in love. You asked me if I had loved anyone, and I knew what you were really asking. You wanted me to tell you that I loved you, but I couldn’t admit it. It was time to say goodbye, but I couldn’t say it.”

“I’m glad you couldn’t,” I whispered.

“So am I,” she said.

The beach and the night surrounded us, and the glow of the fire cast a warm light upon her face. I was close enough to her now. I could have touched her shoulder. I could have reached out and held her hand. I moved closer to her. There was no one there, no one to see us or stop us, and I knew this was the last chance I would have to ask her.

“I have to know, Empress.”

She leaned away from the fire and towards me.

“What?” she asked.

“Did you love me?”

“Yes,” she said. “I did.”

“Did you love me enough to stay with me?”

“I did.”

As I held her in the dark of the night , I knew I’d never give up the memory of that day. It was the only day I knew I owed her, and I owed her this – an unrepayable love.

It doesn’t completely make sense, either locally or globally, but still I like it a lot.

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The Ontological Argument for the Existence of the Z2500 Rocket Car in my Basement

Let us define “the Z2500 Rocket Car” to be the most amazing rocket car in my basement that it’s possible to imagine.

We can use simple logic to discover various things about the Z2500 Rocket Car.

It is a rocket car, and it is in my basement, by definition. It is also really amazing as a direct consequence of the definition and our own experience, as it is possible to imagine some really amazing rocket cars in my basement.

Obviously it has a siren and flashing lights, and can not only drive really fast on land, but can also fly and travel on and under the water, since a rocket car that can do all these things is obviously more amazing than one that can’t.

Equally obviously, the Z2500 Rocket Car exists, because a rocket car that exists is clearly more amazing than one that doesn’t.

And beyond that, it’s impossible to conceive of it not existing! Because, again, a rocket car that it’s impossible to conceive of not existing, is more amazing than one that it’s possible to conceive of not existing.

So that’s very cool: there exists a rocket car in my basement that has a siren and flashing lights, can fly, etc. Woot!

There are two problems with this:

  • We don’t have a garage or anything, or even a cellar door, so I’m not sure how I’m going to get the Z2500 Rocket Car out of my basement. However, I’m pretty sure that I can leave that up to the car itself, because a car that could solve a problem like that by itself would clearly be more amazing than one that couldn’t.
  • Also, when I go down into my basement, I don’t see the Z2500 Rocket Car that is down there. Presumably this is because it’s invisible (a rocket car that can become invisible is obviously more amazing than one that can’t), but it also means that I can’t get into it and ride around in it right now, and that seems contradictory, since a rocket car that I can get into and ride around in, right now, would seem to be more amazing than one that I can’t.

Clearly further thought is needed.

With thanks, obviously, to old Gaunilo of Marmoutiers and his excellent island. It is sad that Anselm’s response to this is to ignore the island entirely, and just restate the original argument in different words. They weren’t really aware of rigorous logic back then (Hi, Aristotle!).


Cooking with the AI

What can I tell you? The weather has been amazing. Someone mentioned Hemingway’s Moveable Feast to me, and I realized I hadn’t read it in literally decades, so now I’m reading it again, and it’s so good.

I’m trying to steer a course between devouring it all in a couple of hours and then being sad, and reading it so slowly that I forget I’m reading it entirely and never finish.

So just now I went onto the front porch in the air, and read the chapter about the waiters at his favorite café and their moustaches and then I made myself stop and come back inside.

I’ve been playing with GPT3 more! Lots more. So I’ll tell you about just a little of that.

I started giving it (GPT3 via AI Dungeon) recipe titles and watching it generate recipes, and that went really well. This one:



2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
Zest of 4 small lemons
2 large eggs
3/4 cup vegetable oil
1 cup white sugar
1 cup brown sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 tsp. orange extract
2 cups powdered sugar
3 tbsp. fresh orange juice

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, salt and lemon zest. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, oil, white sugar, brown sugar and vanilla and orange extracts. Add the liquid ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir until just combined. Cover the dough and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.

In a small bowl, whisk together the powdered sugar and orange juice.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Form level tablespoons of cookie dough into balls and place 2 inches apart on ungreased cookie sheets. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, until lightly browned but still soft. Remove from the oven and immediately roll the warm cookies in powdered sugar mixture. Place on wire racks to cool.

Makes 5 dozen cookies.

The first thing I said about it was that it obviously wouldn’t make as many as five dozen cookies, haha! That turned out to be completely wrong.

I made it, halved, and got just shy of 30 cookies, and that was without the lemon zest (we didn’t have any lemons), and with some of the cookies larger than instructed, so a full recipe would have made just about 60, or five dozen, cookies.

I also said (in a chat at work, where I’ve been amusing people with GPT3 tales also) that surely not all of the confectioner’s sugar would be used up, since it was just for the glaze. But in fact every bit of the glaze was used up, so I was wrong about that also.

And the cookies were very good! So clearly the AI triumphed there.

Feeling rather inferior, I typed the title of a bread recipe in French with the idea that it would certainly mess up amusingly: “NOTRE RECETTE DE PAIN SIMPLE FAVORITE”. The AI (showing off) added “DE STEVE” to the end, as I’d mentioned Steve in an earlier recipe, and produced this quite plausible recipe. The main oddnesses are that it specifies “levure de farine”, or “flour leavening”, which doesn’t seem to be a term whose meaning anyone knows, and that the baking time (15 minutes) is ridiculous. It’s also unusual to cut the butter into the dough in a bread recipe, but YOLO.

I made it assuming that Active Dry Yeast would do for “levure de farine” and that I should cook it until it was actually done (50 minutes rather than 15), and it was quite good!

I posted a lasagna recipe that it made to the Pastafarians group at work (it needed more traffic), and based on a comment on that I had it make a lasagna recipe based on a title in Italian, and it also did a wild job. The main oddity is that it listed an optional garnish of Wakame seaweed, which seems to have been a rather novel invention on its part (although it is sometimes used as a garnish on entirely different things).

So that was all fun!

(And my God, I was not aware until I looked for a good thing to link to above, of the awful treatment of free-thinkers in Russia. Get out there and vote against Trump if you’re in the US, and against your local Putin candidates if you’re somewhere else. Dark friggin’ times!)


Just more stories

So I’ve been posting most of my GPT-3 stuff over on reddit (apologies for the somewhat increased level of snark and anything overly NSFW over there; I tend to drift a bit toward the centroid of behavior in a community). But I wanted to share a couple of noteworthy things here.

First off, I’ve been tempting it to write fake Wikipedia-like material for various things, and this is one of the best. I told it nothing whatever about the person in advance, just the name, and I typed the first two lines of the below (the “You show him” line and the header), and it did absolutely all the rest. It’s amazingly plausible (and not cribbed from any specific real person as far as I can tell with some searching), until the end where the larf is.

You show him the Wikipedia page on your iPad:

— Felipe Duquesne —

Felipe Duquesne (1625-1685) was a 17th century French pirate and mercenary. Duquesne served as a buccaneer under the employ of the pirate-ruled island of Tortuga before later becoming a mercenary and soldier of fortune in service of the king of France. During the 1670s he commanded a fleet of ships in service of France’s privateering industry, before later being assigned to lead a French force which succeeded in the capture and annexation of the small Caribbean island of St. Christophe, which served as a base for French privateers.

As a commander of men, Duquesne was described as ruthless and utterly without mercy to his enemies, both of which qualities made him a valued asset to the government of France. After his command of St. Christophe, he later served in the French invasion of Jamaica, after which he was made commander of France’s first ever nuclear reactor in Normandy in 1678.

I’ve also been experimenting with having it write author’s notes and afterwards and contact information and so on after it decides a story is over and says THE END. Here’s a relatively long piece that shows off both some of that, and the general craziness and fun that is possible. I’ve been using Story mode quite a bit lately, so it’s less obvious what I did and what the AI did; I’ve put most or perhaps all of the things that I did in italics to clarify that. But basically just enjoy!

The city breathes and moves around you. It is a city of beech trees, and hoverboards. The buildings are tall and magnificent.
You hold on to your sketch-book.
Life is beautiful.
You sit on a bench, and sketch street scenes. Many people lead dogs or ferrets or octopi on leashes. The street is slippery.
You see a girl throw a ball for her ferret. The street is slicker than you think. The ferret runs after the ball. It slips, and falls into a sewer grate.
Oh, no! You run to her aid.
“What should I do?” she cries. The ferret squeaks in the darkness.
You and other passersby pry open the sewer grate. A crowd gathers.
“I can’t see it!” a man says.
You shine your phone’s flashlight into the sewer grate. You see ferret. It waddles towards you.
You reach down toward it. Someone named Fred holds onto your legs. You cannot reach far enough.
“It is too far down,” you say. “I cannot help you.”
The ferret climbs up the grate. It is stuck. It can go forward, toward your hand.
You stretch further toward it. The ferret takes the bait. It climbs into your hands, and toward freedom.
You hold it up to the crowd. They cheer.
Fred replaces the sewer grate, and calls for city workers to repair it to that ferrets will no longer fit through.
You saved a ferret. Maybe, today, you are the hero of the sidewalk.
“I see something,” you say.
You are in a forest. It is dark. You fumble for your flashlight.
Small soft things run up and down your arms and your head. You brush them away.
They squeak and squeal.
“What is this?” you say.
You stand up. You shine your flashlight up into the trees.
Hundreds, maybe thousands of rats surround you.
They hiss and squeak and run up and down your body.
They are hungry.
“Grh,” you grunt.
You speak to the Rat Queen. She has a proposal.
“We will not bite you,” she says, “if you feed us.”
The rats squeak and squeal. You think they agree with her proposal.
“Do you accept these terms?” she asks.
“Yes,” you say.
The rats surround you. They squeak and squeal and rub against you. It is a pleasant feeling. You have never felt anything like it before.
You feed the rats from the food in your truck. They continue to caress you with their small bodies.
The rats follow you everywhere.
They eat with you, and play games with you. They are happy, but you miss the touch of other humans.
But, you must keep the rats fed.
It takes two trucks a week to feed them all. Their favorite foods are watermelons and pizza.
You try to cut corners, by buying large amounts of cheaper foods. The rats will not eat them. You have tried chicken feed, cornmeal and even rat food.
You suggest to the Rat Queen that the rats should not eat only watermelons and pizza. It is not good for them in the long run!
The rats will not hear of it.
It is your job to feed them. It is their job to touch you.
One bright day, the Rat Queen addresses you from her golden throne.
“We will not be feeding ourselves any longer,” she says.
“What?” you say. “But, but, you must eat!”
“It is not our job to feed ourselves,” she says. “It is your job. We do not eat. We are happy just touching you.”
“But, what happens when I run out of food to feed you?”
“Then, we will die,” she says.
You nod in acceptance. This is just the way it is.
You keep the rats fed. As long as you keep feeding them, they will keep caressing you with their small furry bodies.
You are the rat king!
You sit in a throne beside the Rat Queen. She holds your hand.
“When I saw you walk into class the first day, I knew we were meant for each other,” she says.
It is fate. There are always enough watermelons. There are always enough pizzas. There are enough rats.
You will live here, forever, with your queen.
Rat King: The main character.
Rat Queen: The love of the Rat King’s life. She is very fond of him.
Fred: A rat that makes his living eating pizza and watermelons.
Percy: A large, albino rat. He seems to be very fond of the Rat King.
Squeak: A strange rat that only makes squeaking noises.
The Ratlings: A group of rats that follow the rat king.
G-Daddy: An old rat. He has great wisdom.
Old Blue Eyes: The father of Squeak.
—– THE END —–
TRANSLATOR’S NOTE: I really enjoyed writing this story. It was a little strange at first, since I haven’t written a story like this before, but it was fun! I also liked experimenting with different aspects of writing.
I’m considering doing this with other fandoms, but I probably won’t for a while.
Hopefully you guys enjoyed this little story of mine. :)
Thanks for reading!

And that’s it! It made the “translator’s note” just an author’s note, which is interesting. And it apparently considers guns to be wholesome; how American!

Some of these subreddits exist, and some (including the enigmatic Boycott Habs, possibly a reference to a Montreal Canadiens controversy in like 2011) don’t.

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