Kyle's Birthday 2024

June 10, 2024 4:19 pm

We went out to the Chabot Space & Science Center on my birthday as we'd never been and it seemed interesting.

We got to sit in the actual-size Mercury capsule (smaller than I thought!), the girls made and launched paper rockets, we saw a show in the planetarium, and built a cart.

And then it was time to head to Martinez because....this year Mom & Dad were in the midst of one of their around-the-country trips and they arrived by train on my birthday.

So we picked them up from the station and drove back to Livermore to have dinner at a Chinese restaurant and then home for cake and presents. Lots of games to add to my oversized collection. Going to need to start pruning them really soon.

3D Prints May 2024

May 31, 2024 9:35 pm

With a 3D printer, I feel I should catalog the things I've designed and printed this month. I imagine there will be fewer in general in the future.

Sliding-door latch cover

First was a cover for the sliding-door latch. The original one came off many years ago now. I think we found it but didn't know what it was. So it sat on the kitchen counter for months until we gave up and threw it away. Of course, it was only then that we realized it had probably been for the sliding door--which was now just a bit of bare metal. But not anymore!

Designed in Bambu Studio. I would export to an STL, but it fails due to self-intersections in the mesh. But it prints fine.

Curtain-rod hook cowl

The little cowl that holds the curtain rod in place snapped off many years ago and the rod has sat lying on the window sill since then. But, less than 1 cent later, it's back up and working again.

Designed in Bambu Studio.

Kinfire Chronicles: Night's Fall organizers

My most ambitious project so far, I designed a set of organizers for the Kinfire Chronicles game. They stack in the box where the riser, loot box, and spacer foam originally sit.

Tan would work better for the color scheme than the yellow I used, but I didn't have any tan filament.

I designed this entirely in Bambu Studio and again had issues trying to export STL files. I started recreating it again in SolveSpace as a way to learn that program, but I haven't finished yet.

I had to take a detour to implement text kerning in the SolveSpace code base. I have an open pull request on that project to get the new feature merged into the application.

The cardbox models came out ridiculously large (96 and 10 MB each) when I converted them as much to meshes as I could. Hoping that won't be problem when I finish re-implementing them.

R/C Car Part

I bought an R/C car from RadioShack when I was in middle school and it's followed me around since then. Several years ago I pulled it out and let Heather drive it around. She ran it into a curb and a bracket that attaches the front-left wheel to the chassis snapped. Not really her fault, the plastic was just old and brittle.

So it went back on a shelf in the garage waiting for me to figure out a way to repair it. I tried a number of things, but nothing functional. It needs to hold a smooth cylinder for the wheel joint to pivot in, so I couldn't just glue stuff together.

I took this as another opportunity to learn how to effectively use SolveSpace and carefully measured all the parts and recreated the bracket. I printed two, making adjustments each time, before realizing that was a dumb way to fine-tune it. Especially since I couldn't actually see what the problems were. Instead I took a picture and overlaid it on the part I was designing to make the final adjustments (which were down to tenths of a millimeter).

That worked great, the part fit, and the car is back in business.

Designed in SolveSpace. The original file, a STL export, and a STEP export:

Games May 2024

7:18 pm

I managed to get a fair bit of gaming in this month and did fairly well over all.

Started out by going and playing games at a friend's house on May 4th.

First played a quick game of Faraway (which I lost). It has an interesting mechanic. You play cards that earn points based on the other cards you play, but you score them in reverse order of play. That is, you start by playing a card which will only score points if you play other cards to fulfill the conditions. You're acquiring a new card each round, so rather than building on what you've already done, your kind of playing backwards. You've done something and now you need to acquire and play the cards that make it useful.

After Faraway, we played a long game of Star Wars: Outer Rim in honor of "May the 4th be with you." Choose a character and then explore the Outer Rim on your way to fame and fortune. Take on jobs as a bounty hunter, smuggler, or mercenary. Upgrade your ship. Bring on new crew. I enjoyed the game--probably better the second time around once you have some idea of how things play out and how to run your character. I lost.

After finally wrapping up Outer Rim, we played a much-shorter game of The Guild of Merchant Explorers. Though I was the only one to have played previously, I did not win this game either.

As a family we finally got around to playing the second half of the Escape the Crate Sled Race mission (we played the first half back in March). We were thoroughly victorious and brought the diphtheria antitoxin to Nome.

Jess and I played Wyrmspan on Mother's Day. I won that one. And we played another time with friends and I won that one too.

At a board-game meetup I played Concordia. It's a game about establishing trade routes in ancient Rome. Decent theme, competitive but not particularly adversarial. I lost.

Jess and I continued our adventure in Kinfire Chronicles: Night's Fall by completing Quest 5. It came down to the skin of our teeth, but we survived. We got to play using the new organizer I designed and printed, but we'll get to that in another post.

Jess and I played a game of Everdell (the base game) with friends. I won that. Which I was surprised by because I started out with a pretty lousy hand and went in to autumn with a single green production card in my town.

And, finally, I played a game of The Wolves at a board-game meetup which I also managed to win. It's effectively a wolf-life simulator game. You have a wolf pack and need to expand your pack, hunt food, and defend your territory from other packs to earn the most points.

Books May 2024

6:21 pm

Books I finished reading in May 2024. Designing and 3D-printing things sucked up a bunch of my free time this month, but I still got some reading in.

The Returning by Bryan Thomas Schmidt

Not sure how I ended up with this book, but it's been sitting on my ereader for years.

The writing was pretty good, but the antagonist was kind of a Saturday-morning-cartooon, mustache-twirling, caricature.

Civil unrest in a sci-fi setting.

Silo 49: Going Dark by Ann Christy

Fan fiction of Hugh Howey's Wool/Silo world. This has also been sitting on my ereader for years.

Well written and edited, decent story. I enjoyed it. Explores what happens to a silo besieged by illness with a failing population.

The Worlds I See by Fei-Fei Li

Our most recent book-group book at work. A sort-of-memoir, sort-of-history of the work on artificial-intelligence and machine-learning systems.

Though I found it a little grandiose to compare the (impressive, yes) improvements in AI capabilities of the past ~5 years to anything close to the revolution in chemistry and physics that was quantum mechanics and relativity.

Motel of the Mysteries by David Macaulay

I saw a description of this in a internet discussion and it sounded interesting. However, it was disappointingly shallow and short.

The concept is someone in the year 4000-something falls into an old late-20th-century motel and draws erroneous conclusions about the purpose of the contents found therein.

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.