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Just a place for the odd thoughts, updates, and the detritus of my mind that doesn't belong on social media.

Posted: May 23rd, 4:39am


It is amazing how much housekeeping a website can require!

Recently I began a project of updating my website in a few small ways, one of which was adding support for this blog. At the same time I addressed a few code bugs, and added a few features to the CMS (Gecko) with which the site is built. So far, so much normal code-tinkering.

But then I made the mistake of looking at the Site Map — and I was struck by the accumulation of ancient pages, and even categories of pages, that I'd entirely forgotten about. I got sucked into pages about the Battlegrounds card game, pages about old RPG campaigns, pages about Playmobil.

And then, of course, the errors began. I found old bits of code that no longer worked. Pages marked out in obsolete versions of the page templates — lacking my new navigation or editing elements. I found dead links — so many dead links! I found pages that were wrappers around projects that no longer existed. Out of date pages describing things I planned to do with the CMS two decades ago! (Urk!). I've removed a whole bunch of "Pages I like" or "Links" pages where no link worked.

Even this was only the upper reaches of the rabbit-hole. As soon as I started to look at older templates (e.g. the plain template used for Duality v.2.4) and add things that were missing (open-graph properties, facebook comments, font-encoding meta tags), I realised all the other things that none of my templates had: skip navigation links, screen-reader headings, aria-tags, semantic use of heading/nav/main/footer tags, so I had to add those to all the templates, not just the old ones — and if I am doing that, I reasoned, then why not turn the breadcrumbs into ULs, and the floating divs into ASIDEs and ... and ...

Somewhere along the way I found myself adding Bootstrap for the css (and coping with undoing the bits of Bootstrap's Reset that I don't like), and then the js on some pages (for image carousels), and then more js (to implement new admin-mode editors), and so...

Posted: May 17th, 2:03pm

Tales of the Castle : Seacliff

One of the formative novels of my childhood (one of many) was Gormenghast, Mervyn Peake's masterpiece of gothic fantasy (though I believe he didn't really think of it as a fantasy).

Gormenghast cast a shadow over my writing, a shadow made up of twisted towers, ruined halls, dusty carvings, hallucinatory narratives, and redolantly named characters. I read it around the age of fourteen — a similar age to the equally influentual but harder to immitate Dune — and it changed my writing, probably in ways I wasn't even aware of. It certainly wasn't the only source of the strong themes of dilapidation and unexplained mystery that run through my writing, but it was one of them!

Not long after reading Gormenghast I wrote a story as a present for my Grandmother Jessie, I think it was a Birthday present. I called "Tales of the Castle", and it was set in a place that reads a lot like a dream version of Gormenghast. I wrote it longhand, made a booklet out of it, gave it to her, and then forgot all about it.

Twenty-Five years later my Dad found the story in a box of Jessie's belongings that he's had in storage for two decades, and gave it back to me. I had no memory of it, but when I read it through I was amazed at how much it resonated with the writing I've been doing over the last couple of years. It could be part of a series with The Night Alphabet.

I transcribed it, then re-wrote it, and here it is.

Posted: May 14th, 6:29am

InBetween Character Portraits

One of the pleasures of running InBetween for people is that I get to do character portraits that aren't of humans. I am not good at humans, but better at mice.

Here's some that I've drawn

Posted: May 6th, 8:45am

Mee's Adventure and a history of solo adventures

When I was a child, one of my first encounters with Roleplaying (a hobby that has come to dominate my life) was through solo adventure gamebooks — the likes of Fighting Fantasy, Lone Wolf, Way of the Tiger, and the excellent Asterix gamebooks (which included code breaking and menhirs). I was hooked from the first one I read, and bought every one (usually second hand) that I could get my paws on.

Naturally I was obsessed by the concept of making my own, which involved assembling tiny pamphlets from coloured paper and writing them in paragraph by paragraph (with, generally, little to no advance planning). I designed cut-down rules systems based on my Termite RPG, first Grasshopper, and then the even simpler Flea, which had only one stat — Luck.

Later, when I learnt about computers, I translated that love of solo-adventures into early programmed attempts. At that time my tool of choice was the late lamented Hypercard. I designed a Hypercard toolset for makeing solo adventures (I think it was called "Adventure Maker"). These were still text based, but now had a much more complex set of adventure codes and items based on Fabled Lands. The idea being that you could transfer a character from adventure to adventure, in any order, carrying over your magic items, spells, and accolades.

The adventure maker project was probably too fancy for its own good, and I don't think anyone ever played the games other than me. Not long after, however, the World Wide Web came along, and hypertext provided the perfect medium for more solo-adventures. In the mid 90's I was the webmaster for the GEAS Village, which was the grandly named website for the Grand Edinburgh Adventuring Society — the University of Edinburgh's Roleplaying club.

The GEAS Village was a pretty grand undertaking in its own right. It had hundreds of pages: forums, before the concept of forums as we know them; an e...