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


Preparing for the Inauguration

Tomorrow Newton and I are laying in a case of Sam Adams and two tubs of catnip to get us through the Inauguration and into Saturday. Don't fuck with us.

January 19, 2017


A Bookish Confession

I was 34 years old in 1990 and I fancied myself well read. And so, of course, I was an idiot. In an early issue of The Sandman a young woman is being mugged when she's rescued by a large man with a sword cane:

Had I been half as well red as I thought I was I would have realized that Gilbert was Gilbert Kenneth Chesterton. G. K. Chesterton was an English writer, he lived from 1874 to 1936, weighed 286 pounds, wore the cape, the hat and did indeed carry a swordstick. Neil Gaiman wasn't trying to be clever, he just assumed that his readers would instantly get the fact that Rose's rescuer, Gilbert, was this guy:

But I didn't recognize Gilbert, even though I had read Chesterton's most famous work, The Man Who Was Thursday. And today, 27 years later, I am still ashamed.

I'm currently reading Tremendous Trifles a collection of newspaper columns published in 1909. I have to be in the right mood for Chesterton but when I am he's a lot of fun. Like C. S. Lewis, he's a Christian and he unapologetically proselytizes, but he always has a sense of humor about things. C. S. Lewis was never able to pull off the whole sense of humor thing. He kept his in a locked box under his bed.

Anyway, if your into allegorical fantasies, and who isn't, you might want to look up The Man Who was Thursday. It's in the public domain and the link goes to a nicely formatted ebook edition. But there's no pressure, I'll still like you even if Chesterton annoys you.

January 18, 2017


Lucifer

This is abut the television show Lucifer, sort of.

Ever read the Book of Job? It opens with the Sons of God gathered before Yahweh. Also there is Satan. And it's not like he was dragged there in chains, in fact Yahweh and Satan seem to be on reasonably good terms. Good enough so that when Yahweh starts bragging about what a great guy Job is, Satan feels free enough to call him out on it.

That's not to say that Satan is a guy you'd want as your drinking buddy, he's the adversary after all. But in the context of Job it's like he's the prosecuting attorney. While your client might not like him, he's got a job to do to.

Flash forward to 1667. John Milton has just come out with Paradise Lost, the poem about Man's first disobedience. And the poem's tragic hero is Satan. Satan is a brave, charismatic leader whose troops would follow into Hell, literally in this case. Satan tried to overthrow God, got his ass kicked and rallied his boys to make Hell their kingdom.

Another flash forward to 1989, DC's imprint Vertigo is publishing The Sandman, written by Neil Gaiman. Among the sprawling cast of characters is Lucifer Morningstar. Lucifer just ups and leaves Hell, giving the key to Dream of the Endless. He then has a nice vacation before he opens Lux, a trendy Los Angeles nightclub. Hell has been turned over to two angels, Remiel and Duma and God seems satisfied with that arrangement, although Remiel is less then pleased, after all Lucifer's rule in Hell lasted 10 billion years before he dropped the mic and left the stage. Remiel pretty much considers the whole place a shit hole.

And that version of Lucifer was spun into a solo series written by Mike Carey. Hell was never intended as a punishment for Lucifer, it was a gift where Lucifer could be as far as possible from his Father. By the end of the run Lucifer goes even farther, leaving Yahweh's creation entirely.

And that's the version of Lucifer that shows up on Monday nights on Fox, sort of. I doubt Satan the Adversary, Milton's Satan or the Vertigo version would really warm up to Tom Ellis's version:

Like Gaiman and Carey's Lucifer, the shows version quit Hell, but God wants him back performing his function, to rule Hell and dispense justice in proportion to one's sins. While I can't imagine the television version of Lucifer casually strolling into the Court of Heaven, he is fulfilling a divinely ordained function. In that sense he's fairly close to the Satan in Job.

And that's what interests me, the changing conceptions of God and Lucifer. They both evolved over time and reading the Bible is almost like digging up an ancient city, layer by layer. In Genesis Yahweh was thrown for a loop by the Adam and Eve's sin, he wasn't expecting it. By the time Milton got hold of the legend, God was officially omnipotent and omniscient, which led to some cool plot complications. At one point God bitches to his Son that even though he created Adam and Eve knowing in advance that they couldn't withstand Satan's temptation, he's certainly not to blame for their plight. Then he mutters something about free will and goes off to have a drink.

And at this point, I'm thinking I should wrap this up and reread Elaine Pagels' wonderful book The Origin of Satan.

January 17, 2017


New Sleeping Arrangements

Cats tend to have a variety of sleeping spots. This week the sleeping spot of choice seems to be under the covers of my bed.

January 16, 2017


Picky Eating

A few weeks ago the AV Club had an article on picky eating or, as the Diagnostic And Statistical Manual Of Mental Disorders calls it: avoidant/restrictive food intake disorder. The people interviewed in the article who have ARFID are absolutely miserable.

Today a link to the article turned up on Metafilter. The comments were interesting, to me anyway, because I'm a very picky eater. I avoid all green vegetables, all beans, stuff in cream sauces, soup, stews and I'm sure you get the idea. But my eating habits never made me unhappy, at least not after I moved out of my parent's house. I'm sure that without a daily multivitamin I'd have some problems but I do take one.

On those occasions when I go out to eat and end up ordering off the dinner menu, I'll ask the server to hold the vegetable. Sometimes they ask if I want a substitution and I'll say no. I've no problems if you're eating the broccoli or whatever so long as nobody is insisting that I eat the stuff.

And people do try to get me to taste something that looks revolting to me. At Mrs. Silverman's house they love church potatoes. Church potatoes look disgusting to me but everybody else loves the things and tries to get me to sample them.

They're are foods that really do bother me, macaroni and cheese for instance. If you order it off the menu I won't complain but I'll also avoid looking at you until you're finished with the stuff. It bothers me that much.

According to Time, kids who are picky eaters are severely selective eaters (their term) are 20% more likely then other kids to have social anxiety issues. Well, I certainly have that. On the other hand, today I ordered a hoagie and when they asked if I wanted tomatoes, I said yes. it took me until my mid 40s before I was able to deal with them. I can't say as I enjoy the taste of tomatoes but I've stopped picking them off my sandwiches when I eat out. And I've developed a taste for BLTs.

And while I'm not anguished over my eating habits I have, over the years, encountered people who acted like my refusal to eat corn or whatever was deliberate rudeness and a sign p\of bad character. And yeah corn on the cob is disgusting.

January 16, 2017


Mighty Fine Flyin' Tex

By the way, if you want to know how badly I suck at this, after I posted this YouTube told me the video was shaky and asked me if I wanted it stabilized. I couldn't be prouder.

January 15, 2017


More Elite Dangerous

The closer we get to Inauguration Day, the more depressed I'm getting. I will definitely not unite behind Trump, I view him as the French must have viewed Marshal Pétain, someone to be endured and resisted.

So today I played another training mission in Elite Dangerous. I did not try docking, that would be too stressful, but I did try the bounty mission.

I also downloaded a picture of my joystick with the buttons mapped. When I bought the thing it cost about $60 but now you can get it for $20

Knowing the location of the buttons would come in handy since the training missions will throw up instructions like: Switch to button 8. Meanwhile, life goes on.

January 15, 2017


Elite Dangerous

After hours of fumbling around with the controls in Elite Dangerous, I made it to a space station.

And I make it into the space station after over an hour only to find out that I have to find a landing pad.

That, by the way, was not a landing pad, that was a fucking greenhouse I crashed into.

January 13, 2017


Asheron's Call

After 17 years Turbine will be shutting down Asheron's Call. Dear me, I haven't thought about that game in ages but it was the first MMOs I played. It was also one of the few games where I actually interacted with people. Towards the end of my stay in that world I had a reasonably powerful character and would sometimes act as a bodyguard for lower level characters who needed to get somewhere.

As I recall Broer and Jack lived on a PvP server and it was brutal. I was on a PvE server and because I really don't group it was hard to level my character. But I had fun there.

Turbine is also shutting down Asheron's Call 2. Its other games are leaving the company and going to Daybreak Games Company, along with some Turbine staffers. I don't expect that Turbine will be with us much longer but they had a good run. And by the way, that's one of the first screenshots I ever took, maybe even the very first. I had just finished escorting Raven the Deadly to wherever that place was, because that's the kind of thing alChandler did.

Update: This guy is 74 years old and has been playing Asheron's Call since 1999:

January 11, 2017


World of Warcraft

That's Eryxx the Demon Hunter, more about her later.

It's a sad fact that Moon and I haven't played World of Warcraft in two years. We still pay the monthly fee but we haven't played. I wanted to play but held back so that our characters wouldn't get out of synch. It helped that the last WoW expansion, Warlords of Draenor, wasn't that good. But I started getting antsy when the latest expansion, Legion came out. It got great reviews and brought a lot of people back to the game. Last week I bought the expansion and this week I 'fessed up and told Moon I was playing without her (it's all good).

And that leads to Eryxx the Demon Hunter. Eryxx is a woman because ever since Buffy the Vampire Slayer any character who hunts demons is a woman when I'm playing them. I'm working for a guy called Illidan. I recall that in the first expansion, The Burning Crusade, Moon and I spent a lot of time in the outer reaches of his stronghold. I think we actually teamed up with people and killed him before we were through with that expansion.

Well, surprise! Illidan was good guy all along, he was just working undercover. When you create a Demon Hunter, Illidan dispatches you and an army to stop some demons (duh) from going though a portal to the Shire or someplace. Not gonna lie, it's not the same without Moon but goddamn it's good to be back in Azeroth. And goddamn I'm out of practice.

January 6, 2017


Sylvie and Bruno Concluded

To my surprise I finished Sylvie and Bruno quickly. I've now moved on to Sylvie and Bruno Concluded. So, a few thoughts if you'll indulge me.

Sylvie and Bruno is really three books. It's a nonsense book that deals with the Sub Warden of Outland and his plan to oust his brother the Warden and take his place. That part is very good. But it's also the story of Dr Arthur Forester and his love for Lady Muriel Orme. Unfortunately Lady Muriel is engaged to her cousin, Eric Lindon. She discovers that Eric doesn't take religion as seriously as she does but is too noble to break it off. Those bits are rather slow moving even by the standards of Victorian novels.

Then there are the fairy bits. The Warden of Outland is not too upset about his brother's scheming because he's been made King of Fairyland. His kids, Sylvie and Bruno, follow him to Fairyland and become fairies. You know, four inches high, they hang out with mice and birds. It was considered saccharine when it was published in 1889 and they had a huge tolerance for saccharine in the 19th century.

But I knew what I was getting into so I was prepared. And I've got to give Carroll props for trying something different. He didn't come close to pulling it off but he gave it his best shot. So it looks like the winter reading project is a success.

January 5, 2017


Diablo 3: The Darkening of Tristram

I never competed the original Diablo, that's why I was looking forward to this month's anniversary event in Diablo 3. Today I went back in time, entered the ruined cathedral, conquered all 16 levels and killed Diablo. I got his soul gem and by following some instructions I got a royal calf as a pet. From now on it's just the two of us against the world.

January 5, 2017


Cat Wars Part 1

Newton ruined the power block for my laptop over the holidays and ever since then I've been keeping him away from wires, even wires he's shown no interest in for some time. He used to like resting under the table I keep my printer on but I've been chasing him away from that spot with short blasts of compressed air. He dosen't like it and now that spot under the table has become his holy grail, the only place in the whole condo worth claiming. Today we came to a very uneasy compromise and like the Syrian cease fire it's doomed to fail.

January 4, 2017


Sylvie and Bruno

In 1889 Sylvie and Bruno by Lewis Carroll was published. Sylvie and Bruno Concluded arrived in 1893. The books bombed.

Carroll had written three major works of nonsense, Alice in Wonderland, Through the Looking Glass and The Hunting of the Snark. You might not have encountered that last one, it's a poem. It will only take you 15 minutes to read and if you liked the Alice books you'll like Snark. They were all successful and left him pretty well off. But Carroll was a god fearing kind of guy and he felt bad that he hadn't written a book with a moral message. So he leveraged his fame to get Sylvie and Bruno published.

Everyone was excited, more pagan nonsense from Lewis Carroll. Sylvie and her little brother Bruno are the children of the Warden of Outland. The Chancellor and the Sub-Warden conspire to get rid of him and eventually the Warden decides to split for Elfland. The kids follow on their own and have adventures along the way.

But it turns out that the adventures of Sylvie and Bruno are witnessed by an elderly and possibly narcoleptic man who enters a fugue state now and then. He lives in London and his best friend is Arthur. Arthur is in love with Lady Muriel. Lady Muriel loves Arthur but Arthur is a skeptic about Christianity and how can Lady Muriel truly give her heart to someone like that? Oh, there's another guy who's in love with Muriel, his name is Eric.

So in the real world scenes there's a lot of talk about religion, morality and society. If you're wondering what that stuff is doing in a nonsense book for children, readers were wondering that in 1889 too. And when Carroll switches back to the kids in Elfland he tends to pile on the moral messages with the force of a million ton shithammer slamming down.

Dover published a very nice edition of Sylvie and Bruno and it was so successful that they never bothered with Sylvie and Bruno Concluded. Years ago I tried to read it and never got too far. But dammit, last year I finished Dionysica if I can get through that I can get through anything Carroll can throw at me, right? Besides, James Joyce is said to have learned a trick or two from the books.

So while there might not be a godawfully long summer reading project for 2017, I'm giving Sylvie and her idiot brother a shot this winter.

January 3, 2017


Trump and Computers

I like this picture of Trump staring at the screen as Kellyanne Conway looks over his shoulder like she's teaching her dad to use email.

Trump is 70 years old and he will never have to use a computer unless he really wants to. But I'm wondering how necessary a computer (or tablet) is for the rest of us. Have we reached the point where a 70 year old who's not rich would need some very basic computer skills to navigate in the world today? I'm guessing we're pretty close.

January 2, 2017


Archillect

Archillect is an AI created by Murat Pak. The program grabs pictures off the net and reposts them on Twitter and Facebook. Archillect keeps track of which pictures get shared the most and uses that to refine its tastes for the next batch. It's an interesting project and I've been following it for about a year now.

That picture is one of Archillect's posts and I recognized it, I'd been there. I knew it was from a game and clicking on the picture and going to Google told me the it was from Doom 3. I'd kind of like it if Archillect went on a gaming jag. For the last couple of days it's been throwing up pictures of white rooms.

That one is the interior of the Shishiodoshi House, Avignon-Clouet Architects.

I don't mind the white rooms but it was a kick to see a location I remembered. Of course it would be from a game.

January 2, 2017


Donald Trump: Cybersleuth

From Donald Trump:

"And I know a lot about hacking. And hacking is a very hard thing to prove. So it could be somebody else. And I also know things that other people don’t know, and so they cannot be sure of the situation."

Trump promised revaluations about hacking this Tuesday or Wednesday. I'm not sure what he's going to reveal but I suspect it will be something like this:

January 1, 2017


Computer Literacy Matters

At least if you're an editor at the Washington Post. Malware was found on a laptop owned by the Burlington Electric Department. The laptop was not connected to the electrical grid and although the malware was created by a Russian group called Grizzly Steppe it's available to anyone who knows where to look and is willing to pay. So, we have one poor bastard goes to a dodgy site on company time and gets his company issued laptop infected and by the time it reaches the Washington Post it becomes this:

It seems that the writers binged watched ten episodes of CSI Cyber recently and got a little too excited.

December 31, 2016


Clockwork Soldiers

In Dishonored 2 the most formidable enemies are the clockwork soldiers created by Kirin Jindosh. They, like most of the technology in the game, run on processed whale oil and that means that if you're going to use them as bodyguards in your private chambers it's a good idea to have tanks of whale oil available to refill them. Of course the tanks are highly volatile...

I can't lie, that never gets old.

December 30, 2016


The Holy Grail

Bare with me for a moment as I tell you about something that happened in Dishonored 2 just now. The larger circle is the dining room in the Addermire Institute, a mental hospital that's been subverted by Duke Abele. Two guards are located in the raised floor above the actual dining area. One guard walks around and the other on the right is repairing something. In the dining area two guards are at one table and a second is at the other. The star is a bone charm. As Emily I can use a bone charm to augment my current powers or gain new ones. The guards don't know what bone charms can do, they have it nailed to a pillar as a decoration.

Now, I'm capable of going in there, killing the guards and taking the charm, but I'm trying to kill as few people as possible. I assumed there was a stealthy way of doing things but I couldn't figure it out, so when I was playing the game in November I just let that bone charm be, there were others in the institute. But today I figured it out.

On the institute's second floor there's a lounge and from the lounge you can look down and see the dining room. That didn't help me in November but now I have some of Corvo's powers as well as Emily's. So I used a power called chain to link the the three guards who were eating. Then I fired a sleep bolt at one of them and they all were knocked out. Because I did this when the patrolling guard was out of sight things were cool. Then I used Corvo's blink ability to go from the second floor to the dining area, I grabbed the charm and blinked back to the second floor. The patrolling guard never knew I was there.

And that, my friends, makes me very happy.

December 30, 2016


A New Year's Resolution

I don't do New Year's resolutions, but I'm doing one this year. I will reinstall Elite: Dangerous on Kosh, learn how to dock a ship and continue playing until I can afford a docking computer. So then, a little back story is in order.

About 30 years ago I bought the spaceflight sim Elite for my Commodore 64. Here's what it looked like:

That blocky thing is a space station and the pilot is manually matching rotation with the station so she can dock. You have to dock manually until you earn enough money through trading, mining or bounty hunting to buy a docking computer. I did indeed have a docking computer and soon after I bought one I stopped playing the game. There simply wasn't enough to do. I'm afraid that 64 KB of memory didn't get you a very dynamic universe.

In 2015 the new version of the game , Elite Dangerous was released. I bought the game, ran it and was so intimidated I took it off my system. But that wasn't enough! I couldn't just break a CD like I did in my Neocron days but I could tell Steam I wanted the game wiped from my account. No refund, just make it go away. And that's just what I did.

A year and a half later and I began to think, "Dammit, I'm alChandler. alChandler doesn't run from a challenge, he fights and if he's defeated he still holds his head up high." And I remembered that the game looked rather nice:

So during the current Steam sale I picked it up for $20 and put it back on Kosh. I'm going to do my best to learn how to dock and if I succeed I'll play until I can afford a docking computer. I may not pull it off but alChandler doesn't run. Or something like that.

By the way Dishonored 2 is back on my system. The latest patch gave us New Game+. If you completed the game as Corvo or Emily you could start a new game, keep your abilities and pick some abilities from the other character. I completed the game with Emily, started a + game with Emily and I have some of Corvo's powers too. In fact I'm really a bit too powerful. I like that feeling.

Finally on a non-gaming note, my back hurts. When I wet to see Doctor Atkinson back in July he told me that it would bother me from time to time and after being really nice to me the last several weeks it's now bothering me. Don't get me wrong, I know people with serious back problems and I'm not a member of their club. I can do what I have to do without a problem. But yes, it hurts. And I can't help thinking that I sort of deserve a certain amount of pain for being so stupid. But while Kevin is uncomfortable, Emily Kaldwin kick ass and takes names.

December 29, 2016


Clothes

This Christmas my intention was to take a few pictures while I was in Sparta and post them, I'd updated my laptop and I was ready. Unfortunately Newton almost chewed through the cable from the power brick to the computer while I was installing updates and the cable gave way while I was up north.

So no updates over the holiday.

Saturday I went shopping with Donna and ended up in a upscale clothes store. I got to sit down and that was nice because my back is now sensitive to weather changes. The store's owner gave me wine and that was nice too.

In case you're wondering, I let Newton live when I picked him up on Monday.

December 28, 2016


2016

December 27, 2016


Christmas 2016

This is Mrs. Silverman's Christmas tree. And just posting this was a a pain in the ass because I use a program called SynWrite at home to edit my page but I never bothered to install it on Little Kosh. So I'm grappling with HTML Kit. But I soldier onwards.

December 24, 2016


The Big Fucking Gun

Newton loves chewing on wires. He doesn't do it the way he did as a kitten but it's still not safe to let him sit near the tangle of wires underneath my desk. He's been getting pretty cavalier about the prohibited areas in my office so today I went to Best Buy and picked up the BFG 9000 of cat chastisement. It annoys him more then anything else and he moves on.

December 23, 2016


A Few year End Gaming Thoughts

First of all, if you like first person horror games, I suggest you check out the Resident Evil 7 Demo on Steam. It's very good and I'll never play the full game. It's strange, I can watch any horror movie out there but put me in a decrepit house with monsters and I fall apart.

***

This was the year I discovered I've fallen out of love with old school isometric RPGs. I can't bring myself to finish Tyranny and I lost patience with Divinity: Original Sin. But both games are given very good reviews. I don't know if it's age or if it's that I've been spoiled by open world games like Fallout 4. I did finish Pillars of Eternity and I'm planning to get Torment: Tides of Numenera when it comes out in February but the romance, for lack of a better term, is gone. But hell, I don't play any text adventures these days either.

***

I've discovered, thanks to the Winter Steam Sale that just like older DOS games did not play well on Windows 7, older Windows XP games don't always plat well with Windows 10, 64 bit. Windows XP was, let me look it up, Jesus it's 15 years old, no wonder older XP games don't work on Kosh.

***

So far I picked up Heretic and the original Unreal. Unreal dates back to 1999 and Heretic goes back to the days of Doom and Doom 2. They both work on my system. As far as Unreal goes, I never finished it but I do remember how stunning the graphics were back in 98.

***

Anyway, here's hoping Trump doesn't destroy the world until I get a chance to play Prey in 2017. Have a good holiday.

December 23, 2016


Rogue One

I saw Rogue One this week. Since I'm not heavily invested in the Star Wars universe, I viewed the movie as an action flick, not unlike The Dirty Dozen with all the baggage that entails. But there is one thing I really loved, it was seeing Darth Vader tear into some rebel soldiers.

When we see Jedi is the Star Wars films there always fighting each other, the one exception being Obi-Wan's fight with Jango Fett. Jedis and Sith Lords are supposed to be incredible bad asses, and people react to them that way but we never actually see them fighting really kicking ass. But in Rogue One we see why everybody is scared shitless of Darth Vader and it was very cool.

The only other thing I'll say about the movie is that I think the criticism that you don't care about the characters is valid. But then again I didn't care about the characters in The Dirty Dozen either.

December 22, 2016