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Half a Lifetime
I got an Intellivision in 1980. The only game I really liked was Advanced Dungeons & Dragons: Treasure of Tarmin. I bought a couple of others but never really enjoyed them and I ended up giving the thing away. Then in 1983 I bought my first computer, it was a Commodore 64 with an external floppy drive. I was 27.
I'll be 59 in March and that means I've had a computer for over half my life, a sobering thought. I've been online for a bit too, starting with the Casino BBS in the late 80s. By then I had a Tandy 1000EX with a 1200 baud modem. It was run by a guy named Dave Schubert. I discovered that a slot tech at the Sands used to do some work for Dave and when Dave shut down his BBS, he gave all his equipment to the tech. The guy talked optimistically about starting it back up but the moment for the BBS had already passed.
In 1993 I was working at Caesars when a man came to the booth. He knew Shelle Jefferson, who was an assistant chief inspector at the time. Shelle was big into computers and had her own web page long before I did. Anyway, the man asked me if I was on the internet. I was not, at the time I was on Prodigy and CompuServe. Well, CompuServe not so much since it charged by minute. Anyway, that's what it seemed like. I used if for getting help with games. I'd quickly ask my question, log off and check back the next day and quickly read the answer.
But I was not on the internet. I was aware that in some areas there were commercial internet service providers but not in South Jersey. But there was and the patron at the booth told me to ask Shelle. I asked her and she gave me the number of a company called DIGEX. Now DIGEX would hook you up to a Unix terminal. That was cool, I knew my way around DOS and Unix was a lot like DOS. The hourly charge was not cool but DIGEX dropped the hourly charge between midnight and six in the morning. Since I worked swing, life was good.
Life was good but Digex sucked. Eventually I went from Digex to Netcom to Mindspring to Comcast. Comcast as a company sucks but I'm quite happy with them as my ISP. Somewhere in that progression I got a web page. At first I used Microsoft's Front Page. I learned that the code Front Page generated was pretty sloppy and buckled down to learn enough HTML to do alChandler's Halls by hand. This year the page turns 16.
And of course I played a lot of games. I've gone from this in 1983 (not me playing by the way):
To this in 1993:
Actually that's not from 1993, it's from 2014. And it's not the original Doom it's GZDoom, a version of the game that looks a lot nicer then the original. But I did play Doom in 1993 and that's me playing it in 2014 so I get half credit or something. Anyway, from that to Shadows of Mordor in 2015:
That's me too. I'm having a lot of fun with YouTube.
I suppose I'm feeling nostalgic. As I said, I'll be 59 in a few weeks. It's a fine age but the next birthday will be 60. That's a scary one. But let it come. I'm still learning a new thing now and then. If the price of having a wireless network, a smart phone, a DVR and all the other neat stuff the future has bought is growing old then let it happen. And I'll tell you something else, while 1983 wasn't the start of personal computers, I put that back in 1975 with the Altair, still it's fairly close. I had a computer before it was cool to have one and long before everybody had one. There's something to be said for seeing something from the beginning.
January 25, 2015
Two Control Panels
The First is from one of the ships in 2001: A Space Odyssey.
The second picture is from the ISS. It's the control set up for the station's robotic arm.
In the movie everyone lived in a clean lab. Real life has a sort of messiness to it.
January 24, 2015
Alien: Isolation Mini Games
So, I'm trying to lock down the Sevastopol's server farm. all I need to do is access the computer. The Alien is in the goddamn room with me and the game decides to make me play a mini game before it will let me interact with the computer I need, joy. For the record I locked down the server farm, avoided the Alien and made it to the checkpoint. Then I exited. Newton, sensing I was about to have a stroke jumped on my lap to calm me down. Good cat.
January 23, 2015
Alien: Isolation Back in the Saddle
I haven't really played Alien: Isolation for a week, I was too sick to do anything but read. The little movie I posted was where I left off. Today I started playing again. Thing is I have to get used to the intensity all over again.
I've passed the halfway point. My current mission is to start locking down exits to trap the Alien in one area. Once that's done we (I've hooked up with other survivors) can concentrate on leaving the station. Since we've got a ways to go yet, this is going to fail miserably, I'm sure.
January 23, 2015
alChandler Goes Live
I've never posted a movie to YouTube before and decided it was time to join the 21st century. It might be fun to record part of a Left 4 Dead session and see what comes of it. Not the whole thing, of course, maybe a boss fight. At any rate since my HTML software can't display embedded movies (it's very old) my only choice is to post this and see how it looks.
Update: That worked so well I'm going to try another, this is from Dishonored:
Update 2: That worked well too. As long as I was trying new, well new to me, stuff I posted the two videos to Facebook. Never did that before either. And just for the record, I'm using Fraps to record the videos and Windows Movie Maker to compress the movies to a manageable size. Fraps saved the Alien video as a 2 gig file!
January 22, 2015
alChandler the Gaming Grandmaster
This flaming android had been blocking my progress. I had to go to a walk through to learn that the correct was to deal with him was to shoot him. It seems that 32 years of gaming doesn't get you very far sometimes.
January 21, 2015
Microsoft had their Windows 10 announcement today, I suppose the big news is that it will be a free upgrade for a year for people using Windows 7, 8 and 8.1. It will feature Direct X 12 (no word on if Direct X 12 will be available for Windows 7), cross platform play between PC gamers and Xbox One gamers and you'll be able to buy holographic glasses (no word on price).
I'm probably going for the upgrade. Microsoft has ended mainstream support for Windows 7 and while I don't like the direction Microsoft took with Windows 8, they've fixed most of the stuff that pissed off their customers. It boils down to the fact that I'll have to upgrade one day and do I want to upgrade for free or wait a year and pay Microsoft money? I choose option 1 thank you very much.
So that's that.
January 21, 2015
I've been sick since Saturday and I'm feeling especially grumpy. I can't really focus on computers, games or television. But curiously, I've been reading a lot. I finished E. R. Eddison's The Worm Ouroboros and Mistress of Mistresses and just started on A Fish Dinner in Memison. Go figure. Perhaps when ill we prune away all but our first loves.
January 20, 2015
Leon Wieseltier wrote an essay in the NY Times Book Review called Among the Disrupted. Here's a bit of it:
Amid the bacchanal of disruption, let us pause to honor the disrupted. The streets of American cities are haunted by the ghosts of bookstores and record stores, which have been destroyed by the greatest thugs in the history of the culture industry. Writers hover between a decent poverty and an indecent one; they are expected to render the fruits of their labors for little and even for nothing, and all the miracles of electronic dissemination somehow do not suffice for compensation, either of the fiscal or the spiritual kind. Everybody talks frantically about media, a second-order subject if ever there was one, as content disappears into "content." What does the understanding of media contribute to the understanding of life? Journalistic institutions slowly transform themselves into silent sweatshops in which words cannot wait for thoughts, and first responses are promoted into best responses, and patience is a professional liability. As the frequency of expression grows, the force of expression diminishes: Digital expectations of alacrity and terseness confer the highest prestige upon the twittering cacophony of one-liners and promotional announcements. It was always the case that all things must pass, but this is ridiculous.
Joe Hill's rebuttal was posted on YouTube:
January 18, 2015
Mistress of Mistresses
I finished The Worm Ouroboros and now I'm on the first book of Eddison's Zimiamvian Trilogy. So by way of explanation, at a certain point in the Worm, Lord Juss and Brandoch Daha have just climbed a mountain. They look south and see the land of Zimiamvia. Juss says:
and I," said he, "first of the children of men, mow behold with living
eyes the fabled land of Zimiamvia. Is that true, thinkest thou, which
philosophers tell us of that fortunate land: that no mortal foot may
tread it, but the blessed souls do inhabit it of the dead that be
departed, even they that were great upon earth and did great deeds
when they were living, that scorned not earth and the delights and the
glories thereof, and yet did justly and were not dastards nor yet
So that's one link between the trilogy and the Worm. The second is Edward Lessingham. He's a rich British gent and in the Worm he's transported to Mercury to invisibly watch the great war between Demonland and Witchland. In Mistress of Mistresses he just died and since he was great upon the Earth and did great deeds he wakes up as Lord Lessingham of Rerek in Zimiamvia. But he was such a great man, apparently, that one incarnation isn't enough, he's also Duke Barganax of Meszria. Lessingham and the Duke are not spirits of the dead but very much alive. They, and the other characters, are caught up in the power grab that's underway now that King Mezentius is dead.
But Zimiamvia is indeed Eddison's idea of heaven. It's chock full of lords and ladies, there are battles, daring deeds and a rather interesting underlying philosophy. God created primal beauty and then became a willing slave to his own creation. God, the male creator, makes worlds and universes for beauty, the female principle. And Lessingham and Barganax mirror this. Barganax is besotted by his mistress Fiorinda. Lessingham, for his part is in love with Queen Antiope, Mezentius' daughter.
But it's even more complicated. Barganax and Antiope have similar personalities, as do lessingham and Fiorinda. Oh, and remember primal beauty? Her name is Aphrodite and she's incarnated in Zimiamvia as Fiorinda. She's also Antiope but Fiorinda is aware of her own godhood, Antiope isn't. And that makes Lessingham and the Duke, and one presumes Edward Lessingham of Earth, Avatars of the creator, AKA Zeus. For the Gods, to while away eternity, take on mortal guises, forget their divinity and pretty much live noble lives.
If all of this makes Eddison sound like an elitist, well he was an elitist. And Zimiamvia really was his idea of heaven. Not mine by a long shot but it's great fun to read about. By the way Tolkien and Eddison met each other. Tolkien liked Eddison's stuff but disn't like the philosphy behind it. Tolkien was a good Catholic boy after all. Eddison, for his part died before The Lord of the Rings was published. So we'll never know what he thought of Tolkien's magnum opus.
The books aren't for everyone. A good rule of thumb is that if you find The Lord of the Rings tough sledding then Mistress of Mistresses isn't for you.
January 17, 2015
Son o' God Comics
I've written things like the Pope Francis thing from time to time and quickly taken them down after cooling off. Not this time. The idea that you have some kind of moral right to defend insults to your religion with violence is deeply offensive to me. And that leads me to Son o' God Comics and the National Lampoon.
If you missed the National Lampoon you missed an American magazine that was pretty close to Charlie Hebdo. It was sometimes racist, sometimes sexist, sometimes just plain revolting. It also was hilarious. They once ran this on their back cover, it was a bogus Volkswagen ad:
Kids, get your mom or dad to explain this one to you.
If you got to read it in their prime you were lucky. At any rate they published a bit called Son o' God Comics. It was created by Michael Choquette, Sean Kelly and Neal Adams. The idea was that Benny David became the superhero Son o' God. As Son o' God he fought the Catholic Church:
And Bob Dylan:
And yeah, if you take Catholicism, Islam, Judaism or religion in general seriously then this is probably offensive to you. But I am deeply offended by the idea that if people who make fun of religion are attacked, well they had it coming. The only difference between my offense and Pope Francis' offense is that as morally repugnant as I find his statement on Charlie Hebdo, I don't have the right to hit him. I wouldn't shake his hand in a reception line but that's about as far as I'd go.
So there you have it.
January 16, 2015
You know, I was really tempted to go on an atheist rant after the Charlie Hebdo massacre. But I held my peace. Religion is important to a lot of people, the attackers aren't representative of the vast majority of Muslims, life is too short for anger and all that shit. Then Pope Francis came out with this crap:
Well Frank, here's the thing, in a civilized society, people don't get to hit each other over insults, real or perceived. People who hit over that shit are arrested and sent to jail, and rightly so. And, at least in this country, there's no law against making fun of religion.
And here's another thing, at least your mom existed, the religion you head is bullshit. Jesus is not the son of a god, he didn't rise from the dead, the host is a piece of bread and people believe in that shit because they're scared of the dark. Your religion is a night light against personal extinction. And not just yours, all of 'em. Now, I'm normally polite about religion, but not when people say that the right to free speech should be curtailed because it infringes on their fantasy life.
So you and your mom can blow me.
January 15, 2015
Prime Minister Cameron wants to ban encrypted chat services like Snapchat unless said service put in a backdoor that the British intelligence community can use at their leisure. He's also like ISP, and sites like Facebook to monitor their users and inform the government when anything untoward is done. This is why his proposals are a very bad idea.
January 13, 2015
Governor Christie's Mind Set
Before he gave his State of the State address, Governor Christie gave a little briefing for the press. The national press that is, reporters for NJN and NJ papers were excluded. And that, as much as anything sums up Christie for me. At this stage of the game governing New Jersey is just a distraction from his quest for the Republican nomination.
January 13, 2015
The Worm Ouroboros
It used to be that you could download The Worm Ouroboros from Project Gutenberg. As far as I know it's still in the public domain but Gutenberg has taken it down. Presumably because HarperCollins Publishers have released all of E. R. Eddison's fantasies in Kindle and Nook editions. But it's still out there legally if you do a search.
When Eddison was 10 he started creating the world of the Worm. At 10 his world was on Mercury and featured countries with names like Demonland and Witchland. Another author would have changed the names if he was writing about his imaginary kingdoms as an adult. Eddison did not and that's the first check if you're going to read him.
The second check is Eddison's 17th century Jacobean prose. A good rule of thumb is that if you find the King James Bible rough going then the Worm is not for you. Here's a sample:
Corund groaned. "Omens," said he, "increase upon us from that time forth when the King accepted the challenge, evilly, and flatly against thy counsel and mine and the counsel of all the great ones in the land. Surely the Gods have made him fey, having ordained his destruction and our humbling before these Demons." And he said, "Omens thicken upon us, O Gro. First, the night raven that went widdershins round about the palace of Carcë, that night when the King accepted this challenge, and we were all drunken with wine after our great feasting and surfeiting in his halls. Next, the stumbling of the King whenas he went upon the poop of the long ship which bare us on this voyage to these islands. Next, the squint-eyed cup-bearer that poured out unto us yesternight. And throughout, the devilish pride and bragging humour of the King. No more: he is fey. And the dice fall against him."
Gro spake and said, "O Corund, I will not hide it from thee that my heart is heavy as thy heart under shadow of ill to be. For as I lay sleeping betwixt the strokes of night, a dream of the night stood by my bed and beheld me with a glance so fell that I was all adrad and quaking with fear. And it seemed to me that the dream smote the roof above my bed, and the roof opened and disclosed the outer dark, and in the dark travelled a bearded star, and the night was quick with fiery signs. And blood was on the roof, and great gouts of blood on the walls and on the cornice of my bed. And the dream screeched like the screech-owl, and cried, Witchland from thy hand, O King! And methought the whole world was lighted in a lowe, and with a great cry I awoke out of the dream."
"Thou art wise," said Corund; "and belike the dream was a true dream, sent thee through the gate of horn, and belike it forebodeth events great and evil for the King and for Witchland."
Gro said, "Disclose it not to the others, for none can strive with Fate and gain the victory, and it would but cast down their hearts. But it is fitting we be ready against evil hap. If (which yet may the Gods forfend) ill come of this wrastling bout, fail not every one of you ere you act on any enterprise to take counsel of me. 'Bare is back without brother behind it.' Together must we do that we do."
If that's a bit much, well I can't say as I blame you. But just like people enamored of James Joyce will tell you that Ulysses is worth the effort, I tell you that if you're really into fantasy then The Worm Ouroboros is worth it. But just like running a marathon, it's not for everyone.
As for what the book is really about, it tells of the epic war between Demonland and Witchland. If you can imagine that the Vikings, not the Italians, drove the Renaissance you've got an idea of what the book is like. There are no wealthy hobbits here. Everyone in the story is an aristocrat and not only to the commoners keep their place, they like their place. A lord of Demonland may fall in battle but they will never, ever be killed by the captain of their guard in a coup. Compared to Eddison, Tolkien is a communist.
I haven't read the Worm in years. It's part of a larger series that was only available and a rather unwieldy paperback edition, and that had gone out of print. I was holding out for Eddison's books to be released in Kindle format. And they were, I bought them last year and now I'm reading chapter two of the Worm: The Wrastling For Demonland. That's right, on Mercury they don't wrestle, they wrastle. That sums up the book in a word.
January 12, 2015
Newton in 2015
January 10, 2015
A Successful Christmas Present
He loves it. To be honest it makes me feel kind of sad I didn't do something like that for Jack, not that he wasn't happy.
January 10, 2015
This is the third save game checkpoint I've hit in ten minutes. Either I'm getting good at this or the game is getting ready to drop a million ton shithammer on my head.
January 9, 2015
Last night I was playing Alien: Isolation. I had gone to the medical section and retrieved a medical kit I needed. I was on my way back to my wounded friend when I discovered that the exit was short circuited. But there was a way around that. I could go to the other side of the medical section and trigger an alarm. Then an alternate circuit would open the exit. The problem was that there were other humans aware of my presence.
At the time I didn't realize that there was an alternate route to the alarm. I tried to sneak past the folks looking for me. They spotted me, began shooting and I backpedaled and took shelter behind a hospital bed. As I cowered behind the bed I heard screaming. The shooting had been heard by the Alien and she was busy killing my attackers. When she was through she left. I had remained silent and she was unaware that I was even there.
AI in games is getting interesting.
January 8, 2015
January 8, 2015
2,000 MS-DOS Games
My second computer was a Tandy 1000 EX, I figure I got it in, oh 1988. With it I was introduced to the world of MS-DOS. The Software Library has over 2,000 playable MS-DOS games. A lot can change in 27 years.
January 7, 2015
William Gibson: Technology, Science Fiction & the Apocalypse
January 6, 2015
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