July 9th

8:50 AM
Today is Tinderbox day. Tinderbox is a “directed graph editor” — it permits the user to create and edit a bunch of nodes along with all their connections. This is definitely “professional” software — it has a professional price (thanks, Patreon patrons!) and a steep learning curve. I’m sure that, somewhere in that feature set there’s got to be a command for “balance the Federal budget”. I’ll keep my eyes open. I’ll try to get my battle verb cluster into it. Later on, I intend to put all the verbs into this. Someday, it would be nice to have a lizard like this built right into SWAT. That someday is a ways off.

1:28 PM
I’ve been working with Tinderbox all morning and I’ve learned a lot; but I’ve also encountered the usual problems coming up to speed on a new application. Tinderbox is “professional software” for professionals — meaning that the learning curve is really steep. So I expected trouble. I was not disappointed. Herewith my notes:

I create a container and stuff notes into it. The notes do not appear inside the container viewport in the main map window. I double-click on the container to look inside. There are my notes. Apparently the space allocated to the viewport of the container is humongous, and I need to put my notes at some special location, but I try center and upper left, neither of which works. So I need to read the documentation more closely. I go to the Tinderbox home page and find no reference to detailed documentation, but there is a section called “Learn about Tinderbox”. It’s not a link, but underneath it is the phrase “getting started”. That takes me to a page with an outline. But the outline doesn’t have any links. There is a link to Mark Anderson’s Tinderbox Reference, but I was looking at a tutorial yesterday that I would rather re-locate. Where is it? 

Aha! In the Tinderbox menubar is a menu called “Help”. Underneath it is the menu item “Getting Started with Tinderbox”. That’s what I was looking at yesterday! So I get the PDF and start reading it. I try View->Arrange->Cleanup->To Grid. Didn’t help. I try each of the other Cleanup options. No luck. OK, let’s get clever: I scatter my notes all over the available space in the viewport; perhaps I might see one in the container’s viewport in the main map. Still no luck. 

OK, let’s try something else: I expand the container to hugeness. There I see two of my scattered notes. Ha! I now have a toe-hold. Note by note, I move them towards a location that appears to be the magic spot. Once I have them all grouped at that location, I return to the map. Curses! They’re not visible in the container viewport. 

Perhaps the display algorithm selects some sort of geometric center of gravity. Perhaps I have left one note dangling somewhere way out in the boonies. I search the entire space inside the container. No, everything is clustered together in the X-center, Y-a bit below center. 

So I create a new container, copy the notes out of the old container, and paste them into the new container. Same problem. I delete that container.

Wait a minute! Now the original container is showing part of the grid of notes. Huzzah! I shift the group slightly to put it closer to the center. Good, the container viewport shows them better now. One more tiny shift and it will be perfect. WHAT!?!?!? Now they’re gone! I moved them just a tiny bit! What crazy algorithm is at work here? 

I use the right-click menu to “Get Info”. I try each of the entries in the left column, looking for something I might be able to fiddle with. The only promising one is “Map”, but when I fiddle with the various X and Y values, I accomplish nothing. 

What’s especially frustrating here is that I created another container earlier and it worked perfectly. 

I’ll try starting all over. Instead of copying and pasting notes from the old contaminated container, I shall rebuild by hand the notes that it should contain. That seems to work. I create the notes on the main map level and then simply drag them into the new container. My work done, I delete the bad container.

And Tinderbox crashes, taking with it the last five minutes of my work.

I repeat my work, and this time it doesn’t crash. But I save the file, just in case. To be fair, I check the memory in Activity Monitor, and yes, only a few dozen megabytes out of 8 gigabytes are free. The crash probably could have happened to anybody. I quit some applications, freeing up some memory.

But now a new problem arises: during all my thrashing around with the container, I moved one of the notes so that it touched another note. Now the two are fused together, and I cannot figure out how to separate them. Back to the documentation. I scroll through all 110 pages, looking for something about notes fused together. Nothing I look at Mark Anderson’s Tinderbox Reference. Nothing. Back to trial and error. My problem here is that I do not know the technical term for two notes fused together inside a box. How could I know it if I never saw anything about it? 

OK, let’s experiment. I try to fuse two notes together. It happens only when the sides align neatly. I can use Undo to separate them. 

That gets me nowhere. I’m going to have to revert to brute force: delete the whole thing and start over with two new notes. 

Back to the container that gave me so much trouble earlier. I realize that I would like to see all the notes inside it in their shrunken state, so I move them around inside the container (that is, without actually opening up the container). I expand the container and re-arrange the notes, then shrink the container to fit — except now they don’t show properly. This time, my re-arrangement works. I try the same thing with the second container, and it works, too. 

I decide that it’s time to take a break, so I go back to the Getting Started PDF and save it, then quit Preview. But I don’t see it on the desktop, where these things normally go. I do a Finder search and it isn’t on my computer. I don’t believe it. I manually check inside a few obvious candidates. That’s weird; why would anybody want to put something on the web but prevent it from being downloaded? Oh, well.

Fun, fun, fun. I ask for help on the Tinderbox forum and two hours later I have a solution.

4:35 PM
Well, I think that Tinderbox has already helped the design. I realized that there were twelve different responses to combat, ranging from “routed” through “doing OK” to “winning”. After some effort, I reduced that to seven:

near collapse
having difficulty
doing OK
holding firm
doing well

These will be ongoing combat results. When combat begins, each commander will face off against a Saxon commander and they’ll duke it out. The result of that combat step will be one of the above. This information will stream to Arthur. He gets to respond to each of these with one of these twelve responses:

promise reward
order fall back
order stand firm
order probing attack
order all out attack
send in reserve unit to aid
commit the Katerfaks
retreat to reserve
order general retreat

Then another cycle of combat begins, with each commander experiencing one of the seven results above, and Arthur again responding to each commander with one of the thirteen responses above. If a commander is routed, his/her men dissolve into a terrified mob and run from the field and are removed from the battle. A commander can also rout his opponent, in which case he returns to reserve, ready for Arthur to commit him to aid another commander. This loop continues until one side orders a general retreat. The victor gets the cattle. 

So now I must re-arrange the Tinderbox document to reflect that. Here’s what I have so far, somewhat reduced in size: