Oct 16, 2022


You’ve made it to the new domain! No longer are weeknotes on memo.barrucadu.co.uk, they’re now here on weeknotes.barrucadu.co.uk! And the CSS is different!

So let’s talk about why.

Weeknotes and memos were unhappy bedfellows

Let’s start with a bold statement: putting weeknotes and memos together was a mistake from the beginning.

I started writing memos to help me think through implementation details of dejafu and coco. Now, thinking-by-writing works best for me if I imagine I’m writing for an audience, so you’d be forgiven for thinking that Reducing Combinatorial Explosion is intended for general consumption (it was for me to get straight in my head the different techniques and work out how to explain them to others), though others like Representation & Evaluation of Typed Expressions are much more clearly just for my own edification.

But there are others that genuinely are for public consumption, like Writing a Concurrency Testing Library (Part 1) or Solving Scheduling Problems with Integer Linear Programming.

But then there are others which are clearly of no interest whatsoever to people other than myself, like How to: fix LainRadio.

So we have this weird mishmash of public, semi-public, and personal memos, all in one place because… well, there’s no good reason really. I just didn’t think to set up a separate place. I did eventually set up an RPG blog last year since I wrote a very popular memo on Dice Rolls in Call of Cthulhu and thought “maybe I could be an RPG blogger” (I couldn’t, it’s very hard coming up with ideas).

Weeknotes fall entirely into the “intended for public consumption” category.

The format and writing style have changed over time but, even from #001, these were supposed to be a public diary of sorts, which someone could read if they wanted to keep up with my life.

For a while, putting weeknotes and memos together worked, but eventually there were issues:

  • Memos were displayed in a long list ordered by updated-at time, but there’s a lot of weeknotes and a very long list doesn’t look good. So I added some CSS to display weeknotes in the current grid format, and so split the site into “weeknotes” and “not-weeknotes”.

  • Because there were so many weeknotes, they crowded memos off the bottom of the screen, even with the grid display, so if I wanted to read something else I had to scroll way down to find it.

  • Much stuff that was useful for memos, like tags, or a taxonomy, or even just an auto-generated table of contents, was just not useful for weeknotes. So that stuff all just felt like a waste of space—but I didn’t want to make the layout of weeknotes themselves inconsistent with memos (even if the index page already was).

  • But most significantly, I started to feel like everything had to be written for public consumption, since the vast majority of the content was.

I knew I wanted to split weeknotes out from the rest of the memos for a while, but I kept procrastinating. In the end, it wasn’t really much effort at all, and in fact I spent more time fiddling with the CSS than I did actually setting up the separate site, deployment pipeline, and redirects for old URLs.

A new site, a new look

With a site now dedicated to weeknotes, I could tweak the design to fit.

The three-column memo layout of sidebar, content, and sidenotes never really worked for me since switching to a portrait monitor: the sidenotes either made the content area too narrow, or were hidden off the side of the screen. So I turned sidenotes back into footnotes. The memos still keep the navigation sidebar, but the weeknotes dropped that too.

With only one column now, I could make the text bigger. But the font I was using, Gentium Book Basic looked kind of bad at the new size, I got aliasing artefacts. So I swapped it out for Valkyrie.1

I simplified the headings too, switching them over to Valkyrie as well, and removing all of my totally arbitrary font sizes. So now the browser just picks sensible relative sizes based on the body font size—which is really how I should always have done it.

I also decided to make links smallcaps, which I think looks pretty nice.

Navigation was a puzzle, but the left / right navigation of the Rust book caught my eye and, while I ended up not implementing the arrow key controls, realising that weeknotes were a sequence which it would make sense to navigate forwards and backwards through was the push I needed to think of the new footer links.

Finally, I threw out the old semi-responsive design based on media query breakpoints, because the new one-column layout handles narrow displays pretty well by itself.

The current design is much cleaner, and I’m happer with it.


No books this week either! I spent all of it playing Crusader Kings 3

Roleplaying Games

A rare week in which I didn’t run any games at all. The weekly Wicked Ones game was paused for one of the players to run a Genesys one-shot.

Once, I considered using Genesys for a campaign. It’s narrative but has an appealing mechanical heft to it. But having played a couple of one-shots now, the weird dice are a bigger barrier than I thought they would be. It’s not just that everyone has to learn how to read them, it’s also that a single roll can give the GM so much to incorporate into the fiction, and I feel like actually doing that in a way which feels meaningful and satisfying, and not arbitrary, all the time would be hard.

I’m much more a fan of simple binary pass / fail where the GM can incorporate degrees of success or failure on the fly if they want to. For example, in Call of Cthulhu I might only ask for a regular roll, but if the player gets a hard success or an extreme success, I’ll often give them something more. Or if they only just fail, I might show that by having lessened consequences. But, equally, I might not: the game doesn’t say you have to do that, so it’s up to whatever feels right in the moment. With the Genesys narrative dice, the GM has a lot less flexibility in that regard.

Though, I recognise that the entire point of the narrative dice is to force the game to go in directions nobody expected, it’s not that they’re a needlessly restrictive mechanic, it’s just not the sort of thing I think I would like to run.


Crusader Kings 3

So yeah, I spent almost all of my free time this week playing Crusader Kings 3. I’ve been trying to reform the Roman Empire. I’m not there yet, but I think I’m doing an alright job:

The Empire of Italia

So right now I have most of Western Europe (the Iberian Peninsula being the big exception, where I’ve only made small inroads), some of Eastern Europe, and even a bit of Scandinavia. The darker patches inside the empire are internal wars between vassals, but the land is all ultimately under my control: there are no independent realms entirely surrounded by Italia.

My next big goal is to conquer the lands of Illyricum, which currently the Byzantine Empire holds most of, which will let me take the “Unify Italy” decision, a prerequisite for the “Restore the Roman Empire” decision. I also need to subjugate Lotharingia at some point soon: they’ve had it too good for too long.

Unfortunately, my empire is now so large that succession is a major problem. The last few times, I’ve had to deal with rebel kings who have demanded independence (and some have briefly attained it before my following character beat them into submission again). I need to do some restructuring of the realm to make these powerful vassals happier: perhaps lowering their feudal obligations, or even by tyrannically revoking some kingdom titles so that I have a larger number of smaller vassals, and not a smaller number of larger vassals.

The Rings of Power

Season 1 of Amazon’s LoTR series The Rings of Power finished this week. Eight to ten episodes, each of which is an hour to an hour and a half in length, seems a pretty common format for streaming shows these days. I think personally I’d prefer longer seasons of shorter episodes.

Overall, I quite enjoyed it, and I’m looking forward to season 2. It had a slow start, but got better towards the end. I liked the little tie-ins to the story of The Lord of the Rings. Though, I felt that Halbrand, when confronted, was just a bit too willing to admit that he was Sauron.

Also, the forging of the rings went differently to how I expected. I don’t know if this is covered in Tolkien’s works which I’ve not read, but I’d always imagined that Sauron and Celebrimbor together first made the Nine, then the Seven, and then Sauron was exposed and fled before the making of the Three, whereupon he made the One in secret. So the Three represent the culmination of Celebrimbor’s earlier work, honed by making 16 other rings of power. But from what we saw, Sauron and Celebrimbor skipped straight to the making of the Three, so I guess making the Nine and the Seven will be entirely the work of Sauron. Though, this also makes sense: it’s just that in this version it was Sauron, not Celebrimbor, who was practicing.

  1. Valkyrie is a non-free font created by the author of Butterick’s Practical Typography, a resource I referred to a lot while writing (or putting off writing) my Ph.D thesis. I use a few of his fonts in my thesis, and picked up the rest a couple of years ago.↩︎