Contents

Caty and Cara's Page

Our Computers

Snapshots with Text

Essays for Fun

Ken Burch's Tales

Ken's Neocron Tales

More Neocron Tales

Secret Wars

Tales of the Walker Clan

Our Cast

Why Kevin Doesn't Dance

Writing of Mine That Doesn't Totally Suck

Stuff dl Thinks Is Cool

The Old, Old Grandma Story

The Final Battle

James' Photos

James Meyer's Birds:

Introduction

Photos 1 through 25

Photos 26 through 50

Photos 51 through 75

Photos 76 through 100

Reading

a book cover

Playing



alChandler's Halls



Serving dozens since 1999!


The Master of Image Manipulation



I had a program called Photoshop Elements for years and I used it to remove annoying logos from pictures I was going to use a wallpaper. When I went with a 64 bit OS, Photoshop Elements just died. Now I use GIMP for the same purpose. It's free and that's hard to beat, although I suppose if I were serious about photography I'd be using Photoshop. But I'm not.

By the way, I actually like the Jet Propulsion Laboratory and NASA. But the logo is annoying when it's on your desktop.

September 25, 2016


Free Trade

It seems that Republicans are turning away from free trade, at least according to Politico:

Now, of course, there’s a Democrat in the White House, which may help explain the increase in GOP voter opposition to trade deals. But the global financial crisis also helped to hollow out some depressed working-class communities that had already been affected by outsourcing to China, Mexico and Vietnam. Trump’s proposals, and the fiery rhetoric in which he wraps these ideas, have captured the imagination of many in Michigan, Ohio and Pennsylvania.

I'm guessing the idea is that in 2017 after President Trump tears up NAFTA the factories that relocated to Mexico will come back to America, and that's not going to happen.

Factories don't relocate on the basis of tariffs alone. Sometimes it's because they can pay their workers less money in another country. Other times it's because they don't like American environmental or safety regulations. Those things aren't going to change. Two years into a Trump administration unemployment will be rising as countries retaliate against American tariffs and your phone still won't be made in the United States.

All of which sucks. And perhaps there are policies that can encourage job creation in America. And hell, maybe Trump is sincere when he says that punishing China will create jobs in America. But as Charlie Brown discovered a long time ago, sincerity doesn't win ball games.

September 25, 2016


The Path of Exile Skill Tree

It's not a joke, that's actually the game's skill tree. Hell there are some players who've been playing for a couple of year, just searching for that perfect mix of skills. There are a lot of Ahabs in this game.

September 22, 2016


Jack

It's a little known fact but when I was playing Skyrim I'd let Jack level my character when I was at work. He tried very hard but he just wasn't very good at it.

September 21, 2016


Weeping Flame

Just like all my male characters are named alChandler, or as close to that as I can come, all my female characters are named Weeping Flame, after the hero I created way back in City of Heroes. This version of the character is a magic user and she's becoming quite the badass, at least in solo play. The screenshot was taken at her sanctuary. After a certain point in the game you can get your own housing, presumably a relic left over from the early days when the devs figured they could somehow turn the game into a MMO.

I'm now 15 hours into the game and I am enjoying myself.

September 21, 2016


Path of Exile

You know how this shit works by now, at least I hope you do. Weeping Flame is a magic user. She has a wand, a few spells and can raise the corpses of her dead enemies to be her minions. Diablo came out in 1996, twenty years later the action role playing game is pretty much the same deal.

There's a whole community that takes this game very seriously. I know because I see the messages the post in chat. Some, hell a lot of players treat this like a mini MMORPG. I just log on to the server and go off into my own little solo adventure. I don't play for hours at a time the way I did Deus Ex: Mankind Divided, but I have racked up ten hours of playtime.

In the screenshot Weeping Flame has just killed a boss, a bandit leader. The guy actually offered me a bribe to switch sides, which was a nice touch. I remained faithful and took him down.

From what I gather, Path of Exile sold for $20 when it was first released. The team made its money and then just made it a free game. They do have a store in the game but the stuff in there is cosmetic only, pets and things like that. Nothing they sell actually affects gameplay. That's a nice touch too.

I love AAA games and I'm looking forward to Dishonored 2 in November, but there are a lot of smaller games out there and I've started to look out for stuff that fits my taste and playing style. And, for what it's worth, it was really cool to be able to trot out Weeping Flame again.

September 19, 2016


Emmys

I watched a little of the Emmys tonight, I figured it would do me good. But I bailed before Tatiana Maslany won for her several roles in Orphan Black and Rami Malek for playing Elliot Alderson in Mr. Robot. When Malek won he looked at the audience and said, "Please tell me you're seeing this too." If you watch the show then that's funny. Thus my faith in the universe is restored.

September 19, 2016


Lewis and Clarke

From Backroom Boys: The Secret Return of the British Boffin by Francis Spufford.

September 18, 2016


Schedules

Back when I still had gainful employment with the Casino Control Commission, I worked a four day week. It was kind of strange, I'd work four eight hour days but in most two week pay periods I worked ten days. For those weeks where I only worked nine days they'd plug in one of the 14 holidays the state recognized, that way I'd get a full ten days pay. It also meant that my days off went back by one every week. So for 29 years the concept of the five day work week with weekends and holiday off meant nothing to me.

Whenever my days off fell on a weekend there was a bit of cultural shock. I'd go to the grocery store and start blinking like the Mole in Wind in the Willows when I encountered the crowds. I'm more aware of weekends these days. Today I went to the Bagel Gourmet after my errands. I was sort of hoping there would be no line. It's not laziness, I injured my back in July and can't stand up for any long period of time without pain. My hope was dashed when the line was almost to the door. Because most people have to get things done on the weekend.

Now that I think of it, the last time I had to keep a normal schedule was in 1981. from January, 1980 until June 1981 I had a 9 to 5 job. I was laid off and got the Commission gig in November of 1981. Since then I've sort of been on my out of synch with most folk. Not only did I have the four day week, I worked swing for most of my career. In fact, I do sort of live like the Mole. Which isn't a bad thing at all, I always liked that guy.

By the way, I just took a tentative step into the world of modern music by getting a Pandora account. From what I remember of The Wind in the Willows Mole was rather fond of Phish.

September 17, 2016


Donald Trump

I know two people who support Donald Trump for president. I was on the phone with one of them the other night and was told, in no uncertain terms, that if I voted for Clinton they hoped somebody would shoot me in the head.

Donald Trump has given a certain subset of white America a kind of moral permission to be violent and racist. And even if he loses in November, that bile will poison American politics for some time to come. So in one sense, he's already won something. Meanwhile, I still plan to vote for Clinton, but perhaps I'll wear my pith helmet to the polling station. You never know.

September 17, 2016


The Ominous Trail

I'm in that pile somewhere and the four red things are my minions so everything is cool. But that trail of blood isn't from me, I'm following it. Turned out to lead to the guy I wanted to kill.

September 17, 2016


Path of Exile

You've got to admit it has the whole Diablo 2 dungeon crawling thing down cold. And, not to belabor the point, it's free on Steam.

September 15, 2016


Cadbury

I don't really mention Cadbury a lot. He was only with me for a year and his death hit me much harder then Jack's. Jack was with me for 10 years and he was almost 14 when I had to have him put down. He had a good run and a pretty good life. But Cad did not have a good run, although I like to think that his last year was a good one.
Then WHAM! That last trip to the vet.

It's a point of pride for me that the fur on his belly had grown back by the summer of 2013. He was quite stressed out at Beacon Rescue, he's already been adopted out once and returned and the other cats at Beacon hated him. He responded by obsessive grooming. So when he stopped with the grooming and his fur grew back I was quite pleased. Cadbury had finally decided that he could allow himself to feel happy.

Cadbury died in October, 2013. That same month that marked Cad's exit saw Newton's entrance. I pegged his offical birthday at October 1, 2013. When I got him in April he was about six months old.

Come to think of it, October is a damn fine month for a cat to be born.

September 15, 2016


Of Beren and Lúthien

You're probably never going to read The Silmarillion and that means you'll never read the best thing Tolkien wrote, the story of Beren and Lúthien. Beren was a mortal and Lúthien was an Elven princess, the daughter of the Elvenking, Thingol Greycloak and Melian, a Maia, an angelic spirit. But you can read this summary.

When Beren enters Thngol's kingdom and asks for Lúthien's hand, Thingol will grants his request if Beren brings him a Silmaril from Morgoth's Iron Crown. Far from being cowed, Beren responds:

"For little price do Elven-kings sell their daughters: for gems, and things made by craft. But if this be your will, Thingol, I will perform it. And when we meet again my hand shall hold a Silmaril from the Iron Crown; for you have not looked the last upon Beren son of Barahir."

Damn, another reread is in the air, and why not? I'm 60, how many more rereads do I have left?

September 14, 2016


pet Peeves: Rescue Animals

I got Newton from the Atlantic County Animal Shelter in Pleasantville. It's a no kill shelter and Newton was in very good health. The shelter placed him in a cage at the entrance of the area where the animals were kept. He was a kitten, he was friendly and he was still enthusiastic about life. It was a good move on the shelter's part and it got him adopted.

As I said, Newton didn't like being there but I didn't rescue him, I adopted him. According to Wikipedia a rescue dog is:

A rescue dog is a dog that is rescued from a possible euthanasia after being found as a stray, a dog that has been saved from an abusive or neglectful home by an animal rescue organisation such as the RSPCA in the UK or the ASPCA in the USA.

Of course the definition would carry more weight had the author not misspelled organization. And I'm making the assumption that the same definition would apply to cats and other animals.

I've no doubt that Newton is a lot happier here, but I don't think my action really meets the definition of the term rescue. But I still feel an appalling moral smugness over the fact that I adopted him. And I suspect that Newton is happy with the way things turned out too.

September 13, 2016


The Northern Command Post

September 12, 2016

>

Path of Exile

This really will be my last post until next week.

About two weeks ago Sean sands of the Gamers with Jobs podcast raved about a game called Path of Exile. It harkens back to Diablo 2 arguably the best in the series. It's other selling point is that it's free.

I've only just downloaded it. I created a witch named Biffffffff and played with her enough to know that I like playing a witch and I'm going to recreate her with a better name before I go to bed. Anyway, if you have Steam it's free and I'll know more next week when I get back.

Update: Biffffffff has been repalced with WeepingFlame (no spaces allowed in names). After half an hour with this, well, I think I'll be messing about with it for a bit. I may even give them a buck or two for a vanity pet. In half an hour I got through the section on the zombie infested beach and killed the boss. It wasn't exactly a tutorial but it was a nice way to get used to the games's mechanics. And that's it, alChandler has left the building.



Weeping Flame and her zombie minion.

September 8, 2016


Well Then, I Finished Deus Ex

Killed the boss and saved a bunch of UN diplomats too boot. Unfortunately a decision I made a week ago prevented me from saving the life of my boss, Jim Miller. My character, Adam Jensen, is convinced that his suspicions about Miller were unjustified. alChandler isn't so sure about that but still I wish it had been possible to save him.

So, after playing two games back to back there's nothing on my plate now until November. Still, you never know when something will turn up.

September 8, 2016


Luke Cage

The best treatment of comic book characters isn't the Marvel movies and it isn't Christopher Nolan's Batman trilogy, it's the Marvel shows on Netflix. So far we've had two seasons of Daredevil, one of Jessica Jones and on 9/30 Luke Cage arrives.

And that 60 second clip isn't going to change your mind if you hate the whole idea of superheroes, the same way Village Blues isn't going to change your mind about jazz if you really hate the genre. But I am looking forward to this.

I'm making one of my frequent treks to Sparta so nothing here until next week.

September 8, 2016


Adam Jensen in London

Over the last few missions a poor decision on my part forced me to abandon my non violent play through. In the course of the game you can upgrade your battery capacity. If you're playing stealth there's an augment that will cloak you, making you invisible to cameras and roving guards, but it really drains your battery. Now that I'm almost finished I realize I should have upgraded my battery much earlier. So, I've had to resort to guns to get through the game. I can't blame the game, it was a failure on my part to carefully read the descriptions of the implants when it came time to upgrade my stuff.

And now I have upgraded my battery capacity, just in time for the last mission in the game, at least I think it's the last mission. I'm trying to stop an assassination. The idea is that the murder will be pinned on augments. I think the plot is orchestrated by a radical group of augments who want to push the general population of augments into a position where they'll have no choice but to fight, the thinking being that augments will defeat non augmented humans and take their place at the top of the food chain. It's all pretty convoluted.

I've noticed that a lot of people are complaining about the length of the game, finishing it in under 20 hours. I'm at 49 hours myself. Now some of that is because I suck, but not all. A good player can easily play for 35-40 hours if they explore the city and do some of the side missions. But if you're not into that then yeah, you will finish the game in 20 hours.

So far I've been playing the game on normal difficulty. The last few game I've played I had to drop straight to easy so I'm pleased that I haven't had to that in this one yet. Of course there's a boss fight coming so I might have to but that doesn't change the fact that I've gotten this far.

This year I've played 14 games and, so far, I've finished 8. I'm kind of assuming I'll finish Deus Ex. Some kicked my ass but even the ones that did were fun, you can't ask for more then that.

Update: Now that's better. I have to incapacitate all the security guards in this place so they don't raise a ruckus later. Unfortunately some of them are being tracked by surveillance cameras. But I just broke into the security office, hacked a computer and disabled all the cameras in building. This is a good place to save and then relax.

September 6, 2016


The Trump Kids

The Cylons were created by man.
They rebelled.
They Evolved.
There are many copies.
And they have a plan.

September 5, 2016


Friendly Fire

So, I have a police substation to get into at a time when there's curfew on and the police have orders to shoot violators on sight. Never the less I make my way to the substation and there are a lot of cops wearing armor out in front. Fortunately there's also a laptop that's controlling a mobile turret. I knock out the officer by the laptop, then I change the friendly fire control on the turret from off to on and start cackling with glee.

Serves them right, what kind of police department wants a death robot with a friendly fire option in the first place?

September 4, 2016


Books 2: Dionysica Aftermath

It's taken a bit to recover my love of reading after finishing Dionysica. To recover I've read book of horror stories by Arthur Machen, a fantasy novella by Seanan McGuire and now a Mesopotamian history by Paul Kriwaczek. Now that my pallet is almost clear I should be ready for the le Carré memoir when it arrives on my Kindle this Tuesday. I'd orignally planned to reread le Carré's novel A Perfect Spy before the memoir but le Carré is a dense writer. I can do dense but my copy is a hardback. I'll need a bit more post-Dionysica decompression before I can tackle dense and hardback format together.

September 4, 2016


Books 1:George Smiley

First a detour into my reading habits. John le Carré's memoir The Pigeon Tunnel: Stories from My Life comes out this Tuesday. I've read a lot of his stuff and while I don't reread the George Smiley trilogy as often as Tolkien it does get pulled off the shelf on a regular basis.

George Smiley has been played by Alec Guinness and Gary Oldman and they were wonderful. But Smiley is an inconspicuous bugger, the type of guy your eyes slide over without really seeing. He's pudgy and looks more like a retired investment banker then a former spy. Guinness and Oldman capture Smiley's self effacing attitude but they can't capture Smiley's ordinariness. It's not they're fault and it may just be me but I can't imagine people overlooking Gary Oldman.

That's Toby Jones reading from the beginning of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. Whenever a director wants a an actor to play a villain whose looks and mannerisms belie his awfulness they go with Jones. Jones would be the perfect Smiley, a meek and mild man capable of brutality by proxy when need arises. I would love it if somebody remade Smiley's People with Jones in the lead.

But that's not going to happen. He was in Gary Oldman's movie playing Percy Allenine, the fellow who was running MI6 after Smiley's forced retirement. But I've found my own canonical image of Smiley so I'm happy.

September 4, 2016


Finesse

Currently in Deus Ex: Mankind Divided augmented people in Prague have rioted over the death of Talos Rucker. The government's response is martial law, even Interpol agents like my character will be shot on sight if they're found on the streets. But I have places to go so I sneak and walk the subway tunnels. Unfortunately I found that the police have placed a gun turret that is guarding the only exit from this particular tunnel. There are many ways of dealing with this problem but the simplest is to remember that my character is very, very strong.

September 2, 2016


Talos Rucker

My character, Adam Jensen, is serving two masters. He's working for Interpol but he's also working for an organization called Juggernaut that's trying to protect augmented people, people with cybernetic enhancements. But there's another organization fighting for the same thing, the Augmented Rights Coalition, and unlike Juggernaut, ARC is a public group. That's ARC's leader, Talos Rucker. Rucker has always advocated non violence but when the Prague subway was bombed the evidence pointed to ARC and Interpol ordered me to bring Rucker in for questioning.

The ideal outcome would be for Rucker to come in voluntarily. I got points right off the bat for my own non violence, I didn't kill a single person making my way to him, but I still had to persuade him to come in. Fortunately one of my augments allows me to monitor his vital signs and I could tell which approach would work best with him. In the end he realized that his own non violent philosophy meant that he had to come in for questioning, and as an augment myself I gave him my word that he wouldn't be harmed.

Deus Ex: Mankind Divided hasn't thrown a boss at me yet and I'm 23 hours into it. But it was a bitch and a half to get through Rucker's stronghold in Golem City without killing anyone, and it was all for naught. Rucker told me he had evidence that someone in ARC had planned the subway bombing and he gave me the file. But then somebody took control of Rucker's own implants and used them to kill him.

At this point I know two things, my boss in Interpol is dirty and somebody in ARC is a killer. This game is starting to resemble a John le Carré novel.

August 31, 2016


Saving Dusan

Currently Adam Jensen is in Golem City. I was going to meet a guy named Tibor and he was going to get me in to see Talos Rucker, leader of the Augmented Rights Coalition. There was a bombing in Prague and ARC was blamed. So the cops are clamping down hard in GC and GC is basically a ghetto that the Czech Republic has set up for augmented folks, so it was pretty much a shit pile before the clamp down.

I learn that Tibor is in jail, so I sneak in to rescue my contact. Tibor doesn't want to be rescued because he's a member of ARC and even if he gets away the authorities will just arrest his family. He does, however ask me to break out his brother Dusan, who was brought in with him.

Dusan is in an interrogation room getting the shit beat out of him by a cop. I take down that cop but there are three others outside the room and one is wearing power armor. I take down the other two but that leaves me with the big guy to deal with. I've nothing that will hurt him but I did just activate a military grade augment that will allow me to shock him with electricity. When his suit is fried I can put him down with a non lethal takedown.

And that's just what I did. Then I freed Dusan who gave me the password that will get me into ARC headquarters.

At this point I'm more or less locked into stealth and non lethal tactics. The last Deus Ex game boasted that you could use any tactic you wanted to get through the game but if you went with a stealth build, you couldn't get past the first boss fight. I was stealth and I got past the boss by taking advantage of his piss poor AI. To be fair, Eidos didn't do the boss fights but it still sucked.

But they insist that in Deus Ex: Mankind Divided, stealth can get you through the whole game. I certainly hope so.

August 30, 2016


Adam Jensesn the Blade Runner

I posted this on FB for Ken and forgot to put this video here. My camera work sucks but this part of the game's world, Golem City, has that Blade Runner, Neoromancer look that a lot of near future science fiction strives for. And, for what it's worth, I'm 16 hours into the game and I haven't killed anyone.

August 29, 2016


Deus Ex

Having retrieved evidence from under the collective noses of the Prague Police Department, I now make my stealthy way out of the crime scene. Note that a I shoot a tranc dart at the cop on the right and the cop on the left doesn't notice, those helmets must restrict hearing.

August 28, 2016