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


Books I Loved as a Child

LiarTownUSA is a national treasure.

July 30, 2014


Beren, Lúthien and Peter Jackson

Beren was a human and an elf friend. Lúthien was the daughter of Thingol the Elven king and Melian the Maia. Before Thingol, Beren asked for Lúthien's hand. As the price for his daughter, Thingol demanded a Silmaril from Morgoth's crown. Beren left to go to Morgoth's fortress, Angband. But to Thingol's horror, Lúthien left the next day and join Beren in his quest.

Whenever people talk about what Tolkien movie Jackson should do next, Of Beren and Lúthien from The Silmarillion is what seem to come up the most. But Jackson and his studio don't have the rights to The Silmarillion and if Tolkien' son, Christopher Tolkien, has his way they never will. I'm afraid Christopher has a rather dim view of Jackson's work. Still, things change and while I wish Christopher Tolkien many more healthy years, and while I will mourn his passing, one day somebody else will be in charge of Tolkien's legacy. And, it the spirit of being grateful for what we have, the new trailer for The Battle of the Five Armies.

July 28, 2014


The Battle of the Five Armies

Look closely, I chose this screen shot for a reason.

July 28, 2014


Indulging Myself: Constantine

I was around for John Constantine's early appearences in Swamp Thing back in the 80s and I'm quite looking forward to the NBC series this fall. It looks like they're doing it right.

July 27, 2014


A Short Computer Odyssey

This will probably be boring, but it's kind of interesting to me. I have a mailing list and it's important that I send it out to everybody as a blind copy, nobody sees anybody else's address. The problem is I forget, so I looked for a Thunderbird extension, Thunderbird being my email program of choice, that would automate the process. I found one that was called, wait for it, Use BCC Instead. Set it up and it will send everything out a a blind copy.

The problem is that if you use the extension and check your sent mail the addressees will show up as undisclosed recipients. Now my life is pretty uncomplicated but sometimes even I have to find something in my sent mail folder. I needed something that would only use BCC above a certain threshold of recipients. That's when I began poking around in Use BCC Instead's setting. I discovered that you can turn off automatic BCC and choose a number instead. That way instead of sending out every message as a blind copy it will show you a warning box and play as sound if you don't blind copy above, say five addressees.

Granted, in the process of finding this out I killed Lightning, my calendar program and had to reinstall but for me that's acceptable damage.

July 27, 2014


Things I Wish I Could Unsee

July 27, 2014


My Phone and Andúril

In The Two Towers Jackson has a scene where Gandalf, Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli all leave their weapons with Háma, Theoden's doorkeeper. Everybody drops their stuff without complaint, including Aragorn. Aragorn was just carrying some old sword, he didn't get Andúril, the reforged sword of Elendil, until the third movie when Elrond delivers it personally.

In the book it went down differently. Aragorn was already carrying Andúril and he was goddamned if he was going to leave it on the porch in the custody of some two bit king's doorwarden. Aragorn nearly gets himself killed until Gandalf makes a big thing about giving Háma his sword, Glamdring. Glamdring was older then Andúril and so Aragron takes off his sword, but not before he gives Háma some macho bullshit about how he'll kill anyone who touches it. Aragorn in the book was a good fighter and a good friend but he could be a real asshole at times.

I suddenly realized I'm sort of like Aragorn when it comes to my phone. I'll turn it off if you like. In fact when I go to the movies I always turn it off. Hell, I'll even leave it in the car if you like, or even leave it at home, although I get very uncomfortable when I do that. But leave it with Háma? Fuck you.

Because at this point it's not just a phone, it's an external hard drive for my own brain. And if that's not enough to convince you that we're living in the future, theis headline from the Washington Post ought to do it: There is a lizard sex satellite floating in space and Russia no longer has it under control.

July 27, 2014


A Star Trek Mystery Solved

At least it was a mystery to me. I always wondered why the characters in Trek barely used their communicators. Now, science fiction is not really about predicting the future, rather it uses the future as a way of commenting on the present. Star Trek was no exception, it was 90% adventure and 10% Roddenberry's vision of what American society should be. Still, he predicted the damn cell phone but failed to anticipate how it would be used.

Except he wasn't predicting anything, he was extrapolating.

A little personal history. When I started out with the Casino Control Commission we were given these radios. They were the size of bricks, cost about $1,000 apiece and had lousy range and sound quality. They were used for the most basic communications, stuff like come back to the booth or go to roulette 7 to handle a discrepancy. They were nothing you you'd use for small talk. Now this was in 1981, Roddenberry was creating Trek in 1964. He wasn't conjuring up visions of a Nokia, he was imagining the future of the walkie talkie, Kirk had a functional, basic communication system. It did, however, look a lot cooler then the radio a carried 17 years later.

This has bugged me for about 15 years now, ever since I got my first cell phone. I should have figured this out before but I'm not the most logical thinker in the world.

July 24, 2014


Just a Tech Thought

Today I was watching Tom Merritt's Daily Tech News. The guest was Molly Wood and they briefly touched on the Apple/IBM alliance. Wood pointed out that sales of iPads are flat. She went on to say that while you need a phone, a tablet is a luxury item. She went on to speculate that the alliance is Apple's attempt to make their tablets a business necessity. I've no idea if that's the case but it's a grand fine idea to speculate about.

July 22, 2014


I Spoke Too Soon About Bosses

It turned out that all of the undead in Cyseal were the doing of an undead mage called Braccus. He was level 9 and my guys were level 9 and he kicked my ass. It took me almost 7 hours before I found a strategy that would work on the guy. Of course I could have followed the advice on the forums and come back when I was level 10 but it was important to me to pull this off at level 9. I remember in Ultima VI there were fights that took me a couple of days to beat. At any rate I'm going to rest for a day or so then come back and enjoy my plunder.

July 22, 2014


Because You Demanded It

He's around 10 or 11 months now. I lean toward 11 in hopes that he'll start slowing down soon. At any rate I've officially dubbed 8/31 as his birthday.

July 22, 2014


The Battle of the Bone Charred Idol

Cyseal is plagued by undead. I've discovered that the center of everything is at the old church. I found the church's graveyard but before I could find the church itself I encountered a fire idol, some undead warriors and something called twins joined by fire. That's them, or it if you prefer, in the lower right:

I had problems because the idol kept resurrecting the fallen undead but through Google I learned that the idol has a limited range, so I attacked, retreated, the flaming undead followed then I tuned and killed them outside the idol's resurrection limit. Then I came back and went for the idol:

This game is really reminding me of the RPGs I used to play in the 80s and 90s. Games like Ultima VII and Planescape Torment. But the turn based combat gives it a genuine D&D feel that those games lacked. In short, I'm having fun.

By the way the rain in the screen shot is courtesy of my mage, Jahan. He also made short work of the twins with his ice shard spell. I've started sucking up to him a little. It always pays to butter up the mage.

July 20, 2014


Samson and Desdemona

Samson the lighthouse keeper was in love with Desdemona. He became convinced that she was unfaithful and when he spotted her ship on the was back to Cyseal Harbor he shut off the life. The ship floundered and all hands were lost. After the heinous deed, Samson learns that Desdemona was always faithful to him. And do Samson's ghost begs me to find Desdemona and convince her to come back to the lighthouse.

Something has changed in me over the years. When I get back to the lighthouse Desdemona asked me if she should forgive Samson, and at one time I would have said hell yes and the couple would be reunited in death. But murder is murder and while I'm against the death penalty that's a long way from forgiveness. aChandler advised her not to forgive him and Samson will face eternity alone. Perhaps alChandler is spilling over into me but for some things there are no second chances. Or perhaps I was just frustrated by the fight with Evelyn. Perhaps if I encountered Desdemona after the fight I'd feel better towards Samson. I doubt it though. I know alChandler too well.

Yep, he's not a font of forgiveness I'm afraid.

July 20, 2014


Kill the Magic User First

I had despaired of ever talking to Jake the Zombie, Evelyn, the evil necromancer, kept slaughtering my party. Today I figured out why. Evelyn would summon six allies, one of which was a demon mage. He didn't have a lot of health but his powerful offensive spells decimated my group. Today I made it a point to take him down first. Once he was gone the rest were relatively easy. Always kill the magic users first.

Evelyn was the big boss of the area. But there are still a couple of unexplored areas on the may so I won't be leaving the village of Cyseal quite yet. But I'll go exploring knowing I've faced down the worst this area can throw at me.

July 19, 2014


On Rare occasions I Go Outside

But they are so rare that I feel compelled to supply evidence. This was taken as I was leaving Roger Hoover's retirement party.

July 16, 2014


Boss Fight

I must be doing something right because my fight with the Arhu SparkMaster 5000 went surprisingly well. In fact the fight with the minions outside the thing's lair was a lot tougher. I have two player controled characters, alChandler, a warrior and Weeping Flame, a cleric. With that build I don't have to worry about using a NPC slot for a healer. Having two folks with healing spells on the team helps but it's not required.

So far I'm 19 hours into the game and I still haven't left the starting area, go figure.

July 15, 2014


Holes in the Wall

My cat is a rambunctious spirited psychotic asshole who has knocked holes in my wall. Because I know nothing of home repair I figured it would cost me thousands of dollars to get repaired. It didn't:



Update: And, as it turned out, the orc captain on the northwest beach proved beatable.

July 14, 2014


I Have Low T

I received this concerned email today:

I was touched by their concern but I checked, I'm just fine:

July 14, 2014


On Reading Thomas Ligotti

I'm reading Thomas Ligotti's Songs of a Dead Dreamer. The impetuous for that came from True Detective. I'd heard of Ligotti before that but he's a short story writer and I pretty much overdosed on short stories as a teenager. But the character of Rust Cohle was heavily influenced by Ligotti so I thought I'd give him a try.

First of all, Ligotti is a pretty pessimistic guy. He espouses a philosophy called antinatalism which can best be summed up as he is happiest who was never born. You may remember that old rust felt the same way. In Ligotti's stories bad things happen just because. There's no reason, no face of evil, it just seems like the universe should never have developed life at all, much less life that can be aware of its own misery.

Ligotti makes Lovecraft look like Dave Barry.

So, I get up this morning and the first news story I come across is this one:

Not what I needed to see. Then I got a text from my bank asking if I had purchased $62.49 in groceries from a Colorado King Sooper Market. One phone call later and the charge is reversed and a new ATM card will be sent in 7 to 10 business days. Yay!

This is all Ligotti's fault but I intend to keep reading, I'm made of sterner stuff.

July 13, 2014


Governor Perry Opened the Meeting by Announcing He's Running for President

July 11, 2014


Gaming Mindsets

Note that the two dead spiders were mine, conjured up by Jehan, my mage. They were on our side. Also, I'm getting a bit bolder, feeling a bit more confident about taking on larger groups. I'll tell you, Divinity: Original Sin is a shock after playing Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning. In a lot of games you become a demigod after a certain point and combat is almost an annoyance. But in Dungeons and Dragons combat was always difficult and high level characters could die, not form any mistakes, just through some bad breaks. Early computer role playing games hewed pretty closely towards that model and even a high level character had to strain sometimes.

Divinity: Original Sin is a throwback to those days. A long time ago I played Baldur's Gate and when I played it I played it on easy. Even so I barely got through it. I don't know how I'll do in this game, or even if I'll finish it but I'm playing it on easy without a second thought.

The second half of 2014 looks to be great for gaming, at least for me. By the time I finish Divinity, Wasteland II should be out. And that game is a sequel to a game released in 1988. Later on there's Alien: Isolation. The idea of a stealth game in the Alien universe has enormous appeal to me and if the game is, well, not a buggy piece of shit, I'll get it. As if that's not enough, the new William Gibson novel will be released 10/28/14.

Every now and then the universe conspires to make me happy.

July 11, 2014


First World Problems

I really, really feel like firing up Divinity: Original Sin but it's one in the morning and if I start playing I'll be up until six again. That will destroy what little remains of my health so I'm going to read in bed and go to sleep by two or three.

July 11, 2014


Extra Content

Ken posted this photo on his Facebook feed yesterday:

It's from the upcoming stealth game Alien: Isolation a first person stealth game set in the Alien universe. Now I like stealth games and I like the idea of a game set in that universe. Hell, I still have good memories of Alien Verses Predator here I'd stealth my way to victory in multiplay. But the last Alien game released was Alien: Colonial Marines. That was an appallingly bad game:

So while I'm following the news on the game I won't actually be buying it until after it's released. And that means that I won't be getting the extra content with Ripley and the rest of the Nostromo gang. It's only available if you preorder the game. And you just can't preorder it anywhere, you have to preorder it from Gamestop, America's most beloved gaming emporium. The last time I went to a Gamestop was in 2011 when I bought Skyrim. I really wanted the map:

It's got a place of honor between my retirement certificate from New Jersey and Fear 3.

Which means that I will go over Ken's place and watch the content on his computer. And that brings me to the larger question about extra content. It's become fragmented with one bit of content available from Steam, another if you got Gamestop. You'll get an extra weapon or different armor. I'm waiting for the day when some company, probably Ubisoft he grumbles, releases extra content that is necessary to actually complete the game. When that happens, and I suspect it will, you'll find an uprising. Just follow the news about Dungeon Keeper for a look into PC gaming's future.

Update: What he said. Though to be fair, there are franchises I will preorder in a heartbeat. If Bethesda ever announces a new Elder Scrolls solo game, I'll preorder it the day Steam will let me.

July 9, 2014


In Which Age Catches Up to Me

Twice this week I played Divinity: Original Sin until six in the morning. At one time I could do that with no lingering after effects. Alas, those days seem to be behind me as more then 48 hours later my sleep pattern is still fucked.

It was worth it though.

And while I'm on the subject of age, this week's Gamers With Jobs Podcast features an episode set back in December 28th, 1994. They did a good job of recreating the era talking about their BBS and apologizing that the podcast was a 54 meg download. I especially enjoyed their scorn of Windows 95 for putting an unneeded layer between you and the inner workings of the computer. I vaguely recall being a little upset over the perceived marginalization of DOS myself.

You know, sometime around 1994 I was having a drink with Donna Lea and I must have been pontificating about computers, as I am wont to do from time to time. A few seats from us this old guy (very old, he looked to be the same age I'm today) perked up and started talking about the Pentium. He was a booster and felt that once you bought a Pentium computer, that would be the last computer purchase you'd ever have to make. I respectfully disagreed with him and 20 years later I think I can say that I was right.

While I'm being all nostalgic, some footage from The Today Show circa 1994. This is actually stuff going on during a commercial break. Brian Williams noticed that there was an email address on a segment logo and didn't know what it meant. I did since I got my net access in 1993, so there.

July 9, 2014