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:


Photos 1 through 25

Photos 26 through 50

Photos 51 through 75

Photos 76 through 100


a book cover


alChandler's Halls

Serving dozens since 1999

Off on a Comet

If you've ever wondered what a comet looks like up close there's your answer, courtesy of the European Space Agency's comet chasing probe, Rossetta. And the comet in question is the beloved Comet 67P/C-G.

September 16, 2014

U2 and iTunes

As part of the hoopla, Apple gave everyone with an iTunes account U2's new album, Songs of Innocence. The way it worked is it showed up in your iCloud and you had a month to download it. Now, I'm not a big fan of U2 but I'm not annoyed by them or anything and I like free stuff so I downloaded it. Free is free.

A lot of people hate U2 and even more put them in the they used to be good but now they suck category, so they haven't downloaded the album. And a subset of those people were angry that it even showed up in their iCloud. And it would remain in their list of purchased stuff regardless of whether they downloaded it or not. I'm pretty anal myself about certain things and can understand why that would really piss folks off.

So Apple posted instructions on how to make Songs of Innocence go away forever. Not from the universe, just from your account.

September 15, 2014

Now We Are Eighteen

Caty Cherepakhov, she of the Caty and Cara page, is now 18. She has all the legal privileges of adulthood excepting the right to consume alcohol. Also excepting the ability to buy tobacco products. Since she's living in New York City she won't be able to buy them legally until she's 37.

Mrs. Silverman tells me, and she has no reason to lie, that I once changed Caty's diaper. I have no memory of that event but it's probably a PTSD thing.

Ah to be 18 and living in New York City. Happy Birthday.

September 14, 2014

Now We Are One

It's taken some time but I can leave the office door open now without too much worry that Newton will destroy another set of headphones. I can't leave the bedroom door open but that's my fault, not his. I spend a lot of time in the office and was there to correct Newton when he'd do stuff like go behind the computer. When I'm in the bedroom, Newton is shut out. I really have to start reading in there some afternoons to start training the cat about what's permitted and what's not.

For the rest it's fun having a young, playful cat. And Newton seems to find me a fun person to hang with so the feeling is mutual, which is flattering.

September 14, 2014

True Confessions

You know, today I realized that I was having a genuinely lousy time playing Divinity: Original Sin. It took me over 50 hours to come to that little bit of self knowledge. But it's not as if the signs weren't there. There were longer and longer delays between play sessions and when I did play it was out of some kind of obligation to the game, not because I was going to have fun.

The breaking point occurred outside of King Boreas' castle. The main entrance was blocked and I couldn't figure out the way in. Then I rescued a rabbit who told me that there was a side entrance. But I couldn't figure out how to get there. A quick trip to Google and I learned I needed to use the teleporter pyramids.

Note the plural, I only had one. As a consequence I was stuck. One of my party members informed me that I could pick up the second one back in Cyseal.

I didn't want to go back to Cyseal and pick up the second pyramid. It wasn't like it would take a long time, there are fixed teleport gates all over the place. It's just that at that point I knew that it wasn't worth the effort. I wasn't having a good time. Hell it was like being back at the Commission except I paid for the experience.

I think this is the first time I ever gave up on a game this far in because I was bored with it. Still that's not too bad for 31 years of saving the universe.

September 13, 2014


That peaked my interest. I'm not really a fan of Bill Mahar but the headline seemed to imply he had something against John Oliver. As it turns out, not in the slightest. He and Oliver work the same side of the comedic street and he doesn't want to write something only to realize later that it was suggested from a John Oliver bit.

The article was on Salon and I'm not going to go so far as to call the headline misleading but it was a tad on the sensationalistic side.

September 12, 2014

Unnecessary Explosions

You're welcome.

September 9, 2014

More Gaming Stuff

Yep, I'm playing more Diablo 3, the new patch put in enough stuff to make it interesting. I've also put in some time on Divinity: Original Sin, I've now put in 51 hours into that game. If nothing else, I've gotten my money's worth.

With Divinity: Original Sin I'm always feeling under powered, I'm making progress but I'm earning it dammit. In Diablo 3 I'm a fucking demigod. Just look at me, two minions and fiery wings.

So the two games really compliment each other.

Now, I can look forward to, so I'm told, another 10 to 50 hours of Divinity: Original Sin and the game's length will influence my purchases for the rest of the year. I've no intention of buying Witcher 3 or Dragon Age: Inquisition. I'm sure they're both good games and all that. But there is Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor, Alien: Isolation and Wasteland 2. But if Wasteland 2 is another 100+ hour crawl I might have to take a breather, no matter how good it is.

Oh yeah, there's a World of Warcraft expansion coming out in November too. I try to look at it this way, gaming is still a cheaper hobby then owning a boat.

Update: When you are underpowered then being able to set things on fire is pretty cool. Jahan just flash fried a wolf pack. I can remember when my party would get its ass kicked by just one wolf.

September 7, 2014

Gaming Stuff

The first computer game was created by a guy named Steve Russell. His nickname was slug and he looked like this:

The game he created was Spacewar. It was created in 1962, ran on a PDP-1 and looked like this:

It probably doesn't come as much of a surprise if I tell you that for a long tome gaming, as in the electronic kind, was exclusively the hobby of young, white males. But these days gaming has moved into the main stream. Twenty years ago you couldn't have gotten games like Dear Esther, The Stanley Parable or Gone Home published. In fact if gaming as a hobby interests you in any way then these are good times to be living in. Well good times if you leave out ISIS, Russia and the collapse of the casino industry in Atlantic City.

But not everybody is happy about new voices in what used to be a club for socially awkward white guys, as Anita Sarkeesian found out. Sarkeesian is a gaming critic who does a series of videos called Tropes vs Women in Video Games. Her last episode, Women as Background Decoration: Part 2 came out last week. And boy did it raise a stink:

Unfortunately, it damn near impossible to have an intelligent discussion about her ideas because this happened.

The thing is this sort of thing happens on the net all the time. Not to me, I'm a white guy, but they happen to people who aren't white guys all the time. Part of it, of course is the nature of the net:

But it also seems to happen when people discover that there own little corner of the universe is no longer their private game preserve. Everybody games and even your grandmom understands the basic idea of World of Warcraft. Being a gamer is nothing special.

It sucks to be Sarkeesian right now, she had to leave her house. But generally this kind of vitriol occurs as a rearguard action after the club is no longer restricted. Meanwhile I'm still playing stuff. I actually broke down and Downloaded Diablo 3 today and I'm still playing Divinity: Original Sin. In fact, here's a close up of my party:

In front there's alChandler and Weeping Flame (I really have to get her a better helmet then that cloth cap she's wearing). In the back there's Jahan the magic user and Madora, she's pushing 50 but does more damage then al or Weeping Flame. The screenshot was taken right after my party killed 2 level 12 orcs. Since we're all level 10 I was feeling quite pleased about the encounter.

September 6, 2014

My Weekend Project

August 29, 2014

London: The Biography

Oranges and lemons,
Say the bells of St. Clement's.

You owe me five farthings,
Say the bells of St. Martin's.

When will you pay me?
Say the bells of Old Bailey.

When I grow rich,
Say the bells of Shoreditch.

When will that be?
Say the bells of Stepney.

I do not know,
Says the great bell of Bow.

Here comes a candle to light you to bed,
And here comes a chopper to chop off your head.

I bought Peter Ackroyd's wonderful book London: The Biography 13 years ago. For some reason I've never been able to finish it, even though the book seemed written with me in mind. But I've been out of the Commission for four years now and the remnants of a once reasonably middle brow mind are beginning to stir. This year, this year I'll nail the little bastard.

August 28, 2014

Newton and the Ghosts of Cats Past

August 27, 2014


I'll be in north Jersey on Monday and won't be posting but this Monday I'll have been retired for four years. Monday is Labor Day ironically enough.

August 25, 2014


I was talking to Rolf today and it really struck me that I'm no longer interested in the latest and greatest in video on my computer. I've been running at 1920x1200 for well over tree years now and while I'm aware that I could get a much better card and monitor for under $500, I've no desire. I suppose I've reached the Myst threshold.

Myst was an adventure game that came out in 1993. I remember telling Rolf that if first person shooters could look as good as Myst I'd be happy. It's 22 years later and they do and I am.

In fact, I don't intend to upgrade anything until either something breaks or there's a game I want to run and can't. I'm not totally without feeling though, I want an Oculus Rift.

August 25, 2014

H. P. Lovecraft and the World Fantasy Award

Lovecraft's face graces the World fantasy Award and a lot of people are unhappy with that. Some want him off because he was a bigot of royal proportions. Others think that he should go because while he was an important witer he was also a very bad writer:

The most merciful thing in the world, I think, is the inability of the human mind to correlate all its contents. We live on a placid island of ignorance in the midst of black seas of infinity, and it was not meant that we should voyage far. The sciences, each straining in its own direction, have hitherto harmed us little; but some day the piecing together of dissociated knowledge will open up such terrifying vistas of reality, and of our frightful position therein, that we shall either go mad from the revelation or flee from the light into the peace and safety of a new dark age.

Theosophists have guessed at the awesome grandeur of the cosmic cycle wherein our world and human race form transient incidents. They have hinted at strange survivals in terms which would freeze the blood if not masked by a bland optimism. But it is not from them that there came the single glimpse of forbidden eons which chills me when I think of it and maddens me when I dream of it. That glimpse, like all dread glimpses of truth, flashed out from an accidental piecing together of separated things - in this case an old newspaper item and the notes of a dead professor. I hope that no one else will accomplish this piecing out; certainly, if I live, I shall never knowingly supply a link in so hideous a chain. I think that the professor, too intented to keep silent regarding the part he knew, and that he would have destroyed his notes had not sudden death seized him.

My knowledge of the thing began in the winter of 1926-27 with the death of my great-uncle, George Gammell Angell, Professor Emeritus of Semitic Languages in Brown University, Providence, Rhode Island. Professor Angell was widely known as an authority on ancient inscriptions, and had frequently been resorted to by the heads of prominent museums; so that his passing at the age of ninety-two may be recalled by many. Locally, interest was intensified by the obscurity of the cause of death. The professor had been stricken whilst returning from the Newport boat; falling suddenly; as witnesses said, after having been jostled by a nautical-looking negro who had come from one of the queer dark courts on the precipitous hillside which formed a short cut from the waterfront to the deceased's home in Williams Street. Physicians were unable to find any visible disorder, but concluded after perplexed debate that some obscure lesion of the heart, induced by the brisk ascent of so steep a hill by so elderly a man, was responsible for the end. At the time I saw no reason to dissent from this dictum, but latterly I am inclined to wonder - and more than wonder.

Yeah, he was pretty bad, now that I think of it.

August 25, 2014

I'm a cop. If you don't want to get hurt, don't challenge me.

That's the title of an article in the Washington Post by former LAPD officer Sunil Dutta. It's his advice on how to deal with the police:

Even though it might sound harsh and impolitic, here is the bottom line: if you don't want to get shot, tased, pepper-sprayed, struck with a baton or thrown to the ground, just do what I tell you. Don't argue with me, don't call me names, don't tell me that I can't stop you, don't say I'm a racist pig, don't threaten that you'll sue me and take away my badge. Don't scream at me that you pay my salary, and don't even think of aggressively walking towards me. Most field stops are complete in minutes. How difficult is it to cooperate for that long?

Aren't we the precious little hothouse orchid?

Now yeah, cops put their lives in danger, they get shot at and all that stuff. I concede that from the get go. But you know what? Getting yelled at and putting up with shit from the public is part of a cop's job too. And once you're sure that the angry person you pulled over for speeding is no threat then yup, they can threaten to sue you, threaten to have your badge and they have the right to say those thing without getting tased, pepper-sprayed or struck with a baton. In real life, of course you never know if you'll run into an officer Dutta who will pepper spray you if you call him a racist pig so it's probably a good idea to keep sentiments like that to yourself. But it's despicable that Dutta feels that by virtue of his position he's entitled to a level of deference from the public that other civil servants aren't.

I say this because in 29 years on the casino floor all those things that Dutta feels give him the right to kick the shit out of you happened to me. I've been yelled at, accused of racism, the whole nine yards. Not having a gun, a taser or even a baton I simply took it. In fact, one of the reasons the inspection staff lasted as long as it did was because an asshole patron at a blackjack table could be fobbed off on us.

Though some former inspectors feel otherwise, sucking up disrespect from the public was part of our job.

And it was part of officer Dutta's job although he seems to disagree.

I've been stopped by the police before and probably will be again. Each time it was a fairly low key encounter on both sides. In my book the cop writing thew ticket is entitled to common courtesy. But if you can't handle people calling you an asshole without resorting to violence, maybe police work isn't for you.

August 20, 2014

Accidental Venn Diagram

August 19, 2014

I'm Posting This for Jack

August 16, 2014

I Bought Newton a $269 Box for His Birthday

It came with a free receiver.

August 14, 2014

Twist Tie

I was throwing stuff out from a kitchen cabinet when I found an old twist tie. I closed it so that it looked like a snake, threw it on the kitchen floor and Newton spent ten happy minutes batting it around.

Our dogs and cats don't really ask too much of us and it doesn't make too much to make them happy. Hell, just now Newton brought his catnip mouse into the office, dropped it on the chair and now he'll be enjoying himself for five minutes and then try to get me to throw it out into the living room and he'll be off again.

All of which is to say that Newton is the first Kitten I've ever lived with and it's been remarkable. I nearly said owned but then Tolkien's line about cats came to mind. He was writing about Sauron and how the Dark Lord used to refer to Shelob as his cat. "His cat he calls her, but she owns him not." Tolkien didn't care for cats but he got the ownership model right.

August 14, 2014

Meanwhile in Ferguson

August 13, 2014

Humans Need Not Apply

August 13, 2014

Return of alChandler and the Gang

After a three week vacation I went back to Divinity: Original Sin. With any complex game there's a type of skill degradation that occurs when you haven't played, even if the layoff is only a few weeks. In the screenshot above I had just won a battle and leveled up. I was smart, keeping my magic user in the back, sending my warriors to deal with their magic users and generally behaving like I had absorbed a scooch of strategy after 31 years of playing these things. But that was my second go at the battle. My first pass after was to play the thing like it was Diablo 3, moving everybody to take on the big guys:

It didn't end well for me.

And that just about finishes the first area. The bosses are dead, I'm level 10 and it's time to move on. Just one more trip to Cyseal and I'm out of there.

August 12, 2014

Tomb Raider

Last year I played Tomb Raider the Laura Croft reboot. I wanted to try something new and since it was on sale for $20 I took a shot. It turned out that I loved it. So did a lot of other people, it sold 6 million copies.

Tomorrow something called Gamescom starts. At a press conference it was announced that the sequel to Tomb Raider, Rise of the Tomb Raider will come out as an Xbox exclusive Christmas 2015. And it looks like it's going to be a real exclusive, not one of those exclusive for six months then released for PC and PS4.

That means that the majority of the folks who played Tomb Raider in 2013 won't be playing Rise of the Tomb Raider in 2015. And that's a shame because a lot of them would have bought the game.

Look, it's no secret that the numbers for the Xbox One have been disappointing. I've no doubt that Microsoft offered Square Enix a lot of money for the exclusive. I'm sure Microsoft is hoping that the exclusive spurs Xbox sales. But that's not what's going to happen.

I'm not knocking console gaming, I'm really not. But consoles are closed systems, PC gamers have far more options then console gamers do. And while a PC gamer who was waitng a bit before buying an Xbox One might get off the fence and get one if they were a fan of the franchise, I can't imagine that someone with no intentions of buying an Xbox would plonk down $500 for Laura Croft.

But hell, short term the Money will be great for the devloper and the publisher. It won't do the Tomb Raider franchise any good but not everybody can be winners, right?

August 12, 2014