Good Morning November 21, 2016

Good morning on this the 21st of November, in the year of our Lord 2016.

So I’ve been reading a tutorial on the Vulkan API, which is a code library for doing 3D rendering using a video card. It was designed recently  by the same people who made the previous standard (openGL) to reflect what modern video cards are like, and to be able to get maximum performance out of them. Since everything new is better (*wink*) I decided to check it out, especially since any game I write won’t come out for years (little children leave little time and are more important). It’s low-level and I can see how it would be high performance; it’s also complicated and certainly not designed to be easy to use. I kind of think I’m going to give it a try.

One of the cool things about games in general, and possibly especially about 3D games, is that it’s very doable to build them in pieces, where one tinkers with parts, occasionally adding features. Which is fun, low-stress, and rewarding. Terrible way to get something done on a deadline, but a great learning experience.

Which brings up the interesting topic of tinkering. Curiously, tinkers were originally itinerant tinsmiths who would fix tin goods, especially, I believe, pots and pans. At first glance this seems a bit strange, and tin has a very low melting point—less than 500 degree Fahrenheit. If you stick a pot over a fire, the outside of it will be exposed to temperatures higher than that. However, upon further research, it turns out that tin was used to line the inside of the pots and pans. Tin sticks well to iron, and unlike iron doesn’t rust. A very thin layer of tin on the inside of a pot or pan would prevent corrosion, but would be at very nearly the same temperature as the food which, especially if water is used in the cooking, will not go much above the boiling point of water. The result is pans that won’t rust. Apparently lots of other things used to be made of tin because it was easy to work; tinsmiths therefore had to be very adaptable to fixing whatever someone had made before them. Also curious is that whereas iron tends to be worked hot, tin tends to be worked cold. (Hence someone who smiths iron is a blacksmith, from all of the soot, whereas someone who works tin is a whitesmith, because it’s so much cleaner, I gather.)

Anyway¸ whatever its origins, tinkering has come to mean trying things and working things out for oneself and making things work without a detailed plan beforehand. (Especially doing so in stages on something that has some functionality already) No one wants to travel over a bridge which was made by tinkering, but a great many things do work this way, and it’s a great deal of fun to tinker on things. This is especially true of software, I think, where by keeping a copy of the old code around before one started tinkering, in the worst case you just toss out the changes that didn’t work and try something else. It’s sort of a compromise between the hard work of starting from scratch and the very easy work of playing video games; the rewards come easier than the former but not as easily as in the latter, but they do have the reality and permanence of the former, if not always the durability. Like with most good things, the key is balance. Narrow goods must never be allowed to become universal, or they become tyrannical. But, kept in their place—in balance with other goods—they can blossom and become very good indeed.

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