About Time we got a 3D Printer

May 2, 2024 10:39 pm

Every so often I'd poke my head around the 3D printer space to see what was on offer and find excuses why I wasn't going to buy anything. Then I found the Bambu Lab A1 which was released last year. The company seems to have a good reputation and the A1 promises an annoyance-free printing experience. Self-leveling, self-calibrating, self-monitoring--just print things without any fuss. It has multiple connectivity options and works with industry standard formats and their software is open source (and an extension of an existing open source project).

Well, with Jess being excited by board-game organizing, Heather into 3D printing at school, and I out of excuses for why not to buy one; we bought one. It arrived today. Assembly was a bit of work, but the provided instructions were generally very clear and easy to follow.

After dinner I finished setting up and the girls anxiously waited for it to finish its self-calibration routine so we could try our first print.

Opting to keep things simple, I printed the little boat model that comes pre-installed on the SD-card. I am thoroughly impressed. It's much faster and has better detail than I was expecting.

The cats were very concerned. London's in back keeping a wary eye on it.

Here's the completed boat. Took about 14 minutes.

I thought I'd keep my expectations low for my first design. I made this eclipse souvenir and stuck a craft magnet on the back.

The printer in action:

I'm very pleased with it so far. This is what the future feels like. Now we all just have to develop some modeling skills to realize our ambitions.

Games April 2024

April 30, 2024 11:00 pm

Jess and I continued our campaign in Kinfire Chronicles: Night's Fall successfully completing quests 17 and 4 with Feyn and Roland making their way to the great city of Din'Lux.

We played two games of Wyrmspan while in Arkansas for the eclipse (of course we brought a suitcase full of games, do you not when you travel?). I won one (by 1 point!) and lost one.

Also while in Arkansas we played Ex Libris, which I lost.

I also played a few rounds of Cobra Paw (have the fastest paw to collect the tiles) and Exploding Kittens (be the last one standing after all the kittens have exploded) with the girls in Arkansas.

Back at home we introduced friends to Harry Potter: Hogwarts Battle by playing year 4; we lost. This is a game some friends introduced us to years ago. I was skeptical at first because there are so many money grabs where a crappy idea is skinned over with a popular theme and they sell a million copies just because. But it actually is a solid game at its core and the theming generally only enhances the mechanics.

It's a cooperative deck-building game which increases in complexity and difficulty as you move up the years (representing the years in the books). You must enhance your deck with more powerful cards to defeat a set of villains before they take control of a set of locations. My biggest complaint is that the difficulty can vary wildly depending on the ordering of the villains.

At a board-game meetup I jumped into a game of Millennium Blades--which seems to be as post-modern as you can get in gaming. It's a game in which your characters are collectible-card-game players (e.g., Magic: The Gathering). In the game as your character, you buy/sell/trade cards to form a deck and then you play tournaments of the inner-game card game against the other players.

Points are awarded for how you rank during the inner-game tournaments. The game alternates between these inner-game tournaments and a buy/sell/trade/deck-build phase until you've held three tournaments. We didn't have time to finish the whole thing. We did 2 tournaments and one buy/sell/trade/deck-build phase. I lost. It was a bit of a strange game.

At another board-game meetup I played another game of Mystic Vale. I lost. I still find the core mechanic interesting from a technical perspective, but the game doesn't really speak to me.

After Mystic Vale, we played The Guild of Merchant Explorers which I really enjoyed. It's a quick game with simple mechanics, but I found the core concept and theming to be very engaging and fun. It's the first game in quite a while that I played and then immediately put on my wishlist.

It's a "group solitaire" kind of game played in 4 rounds. In each round you build out trade routes on your map (everyone has their own, identical map--no resource contention with other players). Everyone can play each turn simultaneously which keeps things moving. With your trade routes you score points in various ways (connecting cities, exploring ruins, building villages, etc.). Most points wins.

The game comes with 4 different maps to play and several different objective cards (3 used per game). There's randomization of how you can build your trade routes and players get asymmetric special-building powers that really drive differences in play between players. So there's some decent variety built in. With 3 of us playing for the first time I think we completed a 4-player game in 30-45 minutes.

Books April 2024

10:48 pm

Books I finished reading in April 2024.

Axiomatic by Greg Egan

This is a collection of short stories by Greg Egan which I really enjoyed. The stories are usually hard-sci-fi nuggets--explorations of "what if this were true about the universe?"

Some really great, though-provoking pieces.

A Fire Upon the Deep by Vernor Vinge

A "first contact" story. But it's not about space-faring species exploring the final frontier. Nor a nascent space-exploring species being welcomed into the intergalactic fold.

More of an exploration of what happens when fate puts a pre-industrial civilization at the center of an intergalactic incident.

Uncle Tungsten: Memories of a Chemical Boyhood by Oliver Sacks

Sacks recounts the development of modern chemistry through the lens of his childhood in England before, during, and after World War II.

A time when an 11-year-old kid could wander down to a supply shop and come home with all manner of caustic, toxic, and explosive chemicals to play with.

Wild in how fundamentally different his youth was from anything that would be considered "normal" today.

And finally, The Father Thing by Philip K. Dick; which I read as a standalone short story. I think it qualifies as American Gothic in style--a brief horror story about an invasive species.

Garage Door Painting

April 29, 2024 5:37 pm

The paint on the garage door was in need of a refresh. It was puckering, buckling, chipping, and peeling in sections across the lower half of the door (which gets direct sunlight for about half the year). So on Saturday I scraped, sanded, and pressure washed the door. And on Sunday the girls helped me prime and paint it.

I don't have a before picture, so you'll just have to trust me that it needed the work. You can see how badly faded the paint is by comparing the finished door to the wall on either side which was originally the same color.