The Real Open-World Sandbox Game



Any given perspective can make you happy or miserable. It's fun to look at life as a kind of Real Open-World Sandbox Game.

A trick that games do, is make failure acceptable. This means be prepared to fail, dust off, and repeat. I laugh about my failures. I don't expect to win first try - that'd be too easy. My stats are incrementally improving, probably.

Games don't take themselves too seriously. This is tricky - to appropriately respect a subject, yet keep things fun. New ideas require a touch of unexpected. It's ok to question rules, test edges, and do the experiment. However, keep a safety check on consequences.

Games let us cooperate, and celebrate others success. We spend hours problem-solving together in-game. Particularly skilled friends spend hours teaching, and saving my ass. How great is that. People scream, "Help!", and we run to them.

Games let us celebrate diversity. Swap gender, and/or play as another race/culture - that's fine. It's interesting to see how differently people respond based on digital appearance. I believe the lasting effects of role-playing diversity, and diverse media exposure is positive.

Anecdotal evidence suggests gaming folks are happier, but it's still possible to compartmentalize real life and games. The next step is to translate good game thinking into life thinking. These are a few patterns I see.

MP Select Mini 3D Printer

Disassembled MP hot-end, $10 

In 2016, I got my first 3D printer for $230. Now that I've been through several spools of filament, I'm starting to understand how deep this hole goes. The journey that began with a test-print, then learning some software, designing stuff, has eventually led to tearing into the machine and replacing broken parts.

First the $2 fan stopped. To replace that I found it was a 12v 30mm fan, which is interesting because some expensive printers have 24v, big heaters, larger dual fans. My MP Select Mini is fine for PLA printed slowly (20mm/s), but not for speed or exotic plastics.

I've replaced the painters-tape print bed. The expensive machines have self-leveling, but on this machine I have to remember to do it. It's easy to forget and, not set correctly, the painters-tape got damaged. Painters-tape isn't great at holding prints either; I usually get lift around the edges. The expensive machines use something nicer like removable PEI-steel build plates.

The $2 heat-break clogged. The PTFE tube inside the hot-end bonded with melted PLA and to replace that part is a bit of a hassle; the hot-end disassembles into a dozen tiny parts and the heat-break is in the middle of all that. There shouldn't be melted PLA inside the heat-break. Here the expensive printers do a better job regulating heat, and also at being easy to service and clear.

And it was tricky to align and load filament through all these parts. I'd use sandpaper to round the end of the filament, otherwise it would catch on things. Something like the nicer E3D V6 Lite has a one-piece throat to solve this problem.

E3D V6 Lite in mount adapter, $60

Since the MP Select Mini has some non-standard parts, it's work to find perfect replacements. I find myself measuring parts with dial calipers before ordering. It's a precision machine, and if a nozzle is too big, then it could hit the bed. Monoprice doesn't have much in parts. The expensive machines have name-brand parts, in-stock.

The heat-bed stopped working when it's $1 thermistor quit. Things like nozzles, belts and heater-cartridges, do wear out and will need to be replaced. But in my case, it was these wires under the bed coming apart, so I re-routed new wire through a new 1/2" hole. I've never seen these beds in-stock, so the next fix might mean cutting a custom aluminum plate, with standard heater and standard thermistor.

MP Mini bed re-wire, $0

During the previous events, I discovered a stripped sheetmetal screw. This printer generally has ok hardware where you will see it, and cheap hardware where you won't. Since I don't have a welder, I'll glue-in a twenty-cent threaded insert from HK.

All of this is a long way to understand why something like the Prusa i3 MK3 is $750. I understand there are people that hot-rod their MP Select Mini - I salute them. My plan is only to see how long I can keep this thing printing.

Not everybody is ready for this level of tinkering. I'd recommend this inexpensive printer to folks that own wrenches and screwdrivers and aren't afraid to use them. Consider it part of the entertainment.

The Linguistic Treadmill



New words, new thoughts, new stories, new things.

The Oxford English Dictionary is adding 840 new words (on average) every year! I was surprised to learn that we're creating new language this quickly. The chart above was created to double-check the feeling that, either I'm getting older, or things are changing faster. Turns out I'm probably just getting older.

How fast is language currently replacing itself? 

While the entire OED is 600 thousand words, I remember that an average working vocabulary is closer to 10 thousand words. If all new words were required working vocabulary, then the whole of language would be replaced in 12 years. If only 2% of new words were required, then it would still only take 580 years. My answer is that a lot can change in one lifetime.

Is the concise edition any indicator?

The OED Concise edition contains 240 thousand words, 40% of the entire dictionary. Surprisingly large. This subjective size limit is imposed by the limits of printing and distribution. The goal of a dictionary is to answer the most questions, and that means including words most frequently encountered. A subtle indicator of usage frequency, perhaps.

Will we run out of new words?

The permutations of 9 letter words is over 1 trillion,  26! / (26-9)! = 1,133,836,704,000. So if we create 840 new words a year, it would take over a billion years. So, no - alphabets will morph significantly over that span of time. We've only had written languages for a few thousand years.

The Ahiram epitaph in Phoenician
The Ahiram epitaph in Phoenician (c. 1000 BC) 

Wait, we're still creating new alphabets?!

Every June, the Unicode group updates their collection of 137,439 characters. In 2018 they added 46 Mtavruli letters, 5 CJK letters (Chinese/Japanese/Korean), and 66 additional emoji. Even without Unicode support, authors get quite creative trying to type things. They can't be stopped.

(╯°□°)╯︵ ┻━┻

Even governments slowly update their official alphabets. For example, most schools recently dropped support for cursive scripts and started teaching qwerty. Although cursive is still widely used in advertising. The Coke logo uses the Spencerian handwriting popular in 1886.