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!


Galadriel and Gimli

Since I'm getting psyched for the final Hobbit movie, here's a little story for you, I just learned about this.

The Elves awoke by the  Bay of Cuiviénen in the First Age of Middle-earth. They were discovered by Oromë, the Hunter of the Valar and some of them were brought to Valinor. There they grew in wisdom and power and the wisest of them was Fëanor. Unfortunately his pride was as great as his wisdom and he was responsible for the great suffering of the Noldor Elves in the First Age.

But before all that, when the Noldor were still living in Valinor, Fëanor became enamored of Galadriel and asked her for a single lock of her hair. Three times he asked her and three times she refused. Fëanor eventually married Nerdanel and the rest is history.

Ages pass and in Lothlórien Gimli the Dwarf, tongue tied and aware of the enormity of his request, humbly asks Galadriel for a lock of her hair. Galadriel, almost certainly remembering Fëanor, gives him three. Later, after Aragorn dies, Legolas sails west to Valinor and Gimli goes with him. According to Tolkien, it was Galadriel who persuaded the Valar to let him come. And Gimli, who was old even by the standards of Dwarves, simply wanted to see Galadriel one more time before he died.

Nice story that. I think I've got Tolkien out of my system for a bit, at least until Wednesday.

December 15, 2014


Sir Christopher Lee

Christopher Lee, the only member of the cast of Peter Jackson's Tolkien adaptations to actually meet Tolkien, reprised his role of Saruman the White at 89. He's now 92 and a couple of days from now The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies comes out. But he's not resting. He's released an album of heavy metal Christmas music.

He also fought in WWII and was a member of the Special Operations Executive during the same war which meant he did spy shit. In fact his step cousin was Ian Fleming. Lee's life was, and still is an interesting one.

By the way, do you know that he rereads The Lord of the Rings once a year? Even I've cut back from that.

December 15, 2014


I moved from Williamstown to Ocean City around 1982. Before then I had been a big radio listener, mostly the two album oriented rock stations WMMR and WYSP. But they didn't reach Ocean City and the local stations weren't as good. When I moved into my current place in 1991 I discovered that Comcast provided a feed of Philadelphia radio stations and for awhile my interest in radio was rekindled. But Comcast replaced the feed with their own music package and I stopped listening.

Which is a shame because back in the day radio was a wonderful way to get exposed to new music. The disk jockeys programed their own shows and their tastes were evident. If you listened to Pierre Robert you knew you were in for a lot of Grateful Dead. And I was pleased to learn they still let him play all of Alice's Restaurant on Thanksgiving.

This year I ended up with 43 new songs in my iTunes library. But 11 of them are from that U2 album Apple gave away. So at a $1.29 for 312 songs that $40 on music this year, the price of one middle league game. I get my music recommendations from the few radio stations I do listen to, WFMU in North Jersey, WRTI the classical and Jazz station out Philadelphia and WLFR, the Stockton radio station.

For the rest, just recommendations from web pages and Twitter feeds. The last song I bought was Bojack's Theme from the show Bojack Horseman. It was mentioned by Sean Sands on his Twitter stream, I went to the YouTube link and after listening:

I liked it enough to give Apple $1.29 for a legal copy. That's pretty much how I purchase music these days. But I do miss the days when the radio was on in the background, like your life had a soundtrack. You know, I wonder how important music is to young people, young being defined as under 30 in this case. Truth to tell I've no idea how important it was to me. The decline of music in alChandler's life coincided with the rise of computer games and video tapes. Go figure.

December 15, 2014


On the Gaming Front

Yes, I gave up on Styx, yes I bought Dragon Age: Inquisition, no I'll never finish it and it's been that kind of year. I'm really glad 2014 is almost over. In fact, this is as good a time as any to post the Gaming List 2014:

Batman: Arkham Asylum
Diablo 3 (Again)
Bioshock: Burial at Sea Episode 2
Thief 4
Diablo 3: Reaper of Souls
Shadowrun Returns
Bioshock 2
Wolfenstein: The New Order
Gunslinger: Call of Juarez
Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning
Bioshock 2: Minerva's Den

With the exception of Bioshock 2: Minerva's Den I haven't finished anything during the second half of the year. It's one of those things. And with that in mind, here's the first screenshot:

By the way, in this version of things, alChandler is a dwarf again. Back in 1980 he started out as a dwarf so now the circle is complete. On the list to the left he's represented by the green hand. It's what he uses to close rifts. It's complicated.

December 14, 2014


On Torture

You know, I'm pretty much ashamed of my country at the moment. Yes, the Senate did release the report on torture, there's that. But the Obama administration didn't want it released and Obama still backs the folks who actually did the torturing, apparently feeling that the defense, "I was just following orders," is sufficient. Just for the record, it's not.

There are a lot of people defending the whole torture program, that if it saved American lives then it was justified. Some of 'em even showed up on my Facebook feed. Fine, but there's something that I really, really don't understand. See, as an atheist my belief is that this is my only life, no continuation after death, no heaven, hell or reincarnation. This is my only shot and it's almost 3/4 over. That being said, I'm against torture in any form. In the case, no useful information was recovered but even if it had it doesn't matter. Torture is never justified. There were trials at Nuremberg some time ago that established that and most governments at least pay lip service to it.

Now, I can understand why atheists might condone torture. 80 years is a mighty short time to be alive and the dark is forever. But according to the latest numbers, only 1.6% of Americans identify themselves as atheist or agnostic. That means that folk like Brennan, Cheney and Obama are probably believers of some kind. They believe in God, judgement and some kind of afterlife. Perhaps they don't believe in hell, or perhaps they're willing to commit sins for the greater good and hope that God understands.

In a way, I know the answer, people compartmentalize their lives, their religion on Sunday, realpolitik the rest of the week.

You know, South Africa had something called the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission. It wasn't about prosecuting members of the apartheid government. If you were willing to testify you'd get amnesty. It was about the oppressors and the victims telling their stories. Much as I'd like to see Cheney in jail, I'd rather have him sit down and tell the truth about every subterranean deed he ever engaged in. But as a country we've never had the balls for that sort of thing.

After the Second World War Germany and Japan took two different approaches to the crimes committed by their wartime governments. Germany apologized and took responsibility for what happened. Japan, on the other hand, never admitted responsibility for its war crimes. America has a lot in its past, slavery, genocide, internment camps, torture, we have a lot of ugly things in our past and present. Every country does. But it would be nice if, as a nation, we could own up to our shit like we were grown ups.

December 14, 2014


Stephen Colbert Interviews Smaug

December 12, 2014


Elite Dangerous

Elite Dangerous is a remake of the original Elite, a game from 1984. Here's the trailer:

And here's a slightly more honest version with actual game play footage mixed in:

If you're unsure of a game, wait for the demo. If it doesn't have a demo, then be careful. That being said, I'll probably spring for Elite Dangerous.

December 11, 2014


Guilt Trip

Newton's new bed is in my office and he's only allowed to be in my office when I'm there. He chews through the wire on my headphones and so when I leave the office, so does he. There's a certain amount of guilt involved in this, Newton really looks happy in the bed and...and it's snowing outside, I was just going to go to the grocery store and I really don't have to now that I think about it.

Maybe I'll just fuck around on the computer for a little bit longer and let him sleep. I'll do shit tomorrow.

December 11, 2014


In Honor of the Last Tolkien Movie

Understand, I do not have Stephen Colbert's knowledge of Tolkien, I wish I did. But to ask him to name just two of the Valar, my God were they not obviously friends such an insult to Colbert's knowledge of Tolkien could only be met with blood.

December 10, 2014


Newton's Christmas Present



At first Newton didn't know what to make of it.



But when he worked it out he looked at me, chirped twice and settled down.

December 10, 2014


Eothen

I go in cycles. Sometime I'll be so hooked on a game that I won't pick up a book for weeks. Other times, the games languish as I go into heavy reading mode. This week it's reading mode.

Have you heard of Jan Morris? She's primarily known as a travel writer today and a damn good one. There was a brief interview with her in the Sunday Times' Book Review. She was asked about her favorite travel book:

My favorite travel book is "Eothen" (1844), by Alexander Kinglake, the father of modern English travel writing and a prime exponent of an almost obsolete genre - gentlemanly English humor. "Eothen" means "out of the east" in Greek - Kinglake said it was the only difficult word in the book - and the work concerns a merrily protracted journey in what was then the Turkish Near East. Kinglake spent seven years polishing its prose, and one contemporary defined its style as "lively, brilliant and rather insolent." So it seems to me still - sparkling, ironic and terrific fun.

Now I had just finished a longish history of Egypt and wanted a palette cleanser and something described as sparkling, ironic and terrific fun seemed like just the thing, especially if the recommendation came from someone like Morris. And since it was published in 1844, there was a good chance it was available on Project Gutenberg. And it was there.

I'm curious about the sales of inexpensive editions of classics in the wake of ebooks. There used be something called the New American Library that published paperback editions of classic, Dickens, Austen, those sort of folks. In 1987 Penguin Books ended up with the whole thing.

Now, if you're going to read a good English Translation, something Like Robert Pinsky's translation of The Inferno, you're going to pay for it. But if you want to read The Iliad and don't mind Alexander Pope's translation, you can have it for free. And with authors writing in English the matter doesn't come up. As long as the book was published before 1923, it's in the public domain. I'm curious, there will always be people who prefer print book over ebooks. For them there are still low cost print editions available. But of those people, there's a subset of readers who value low cost even more then they want the physical book. So, the question is, are sites like Project Gutenberg affecting the sales of low cost paperback editons of classics in the public domain? I suspect they must be but I'd like figures.

December 9, 2014


Another Article on Atlantic City

This one is from The Daily Beast and it centers on the Taj Mahal. It's take?

Despite its waterfront location, it never developed a family-friendly alternative to gambling like Las Vegas had, nor did it manage to achieve the same glamorous sheen: Vegas had Sinatra and high-end escorts, A.C. had Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes and crack whores.

I'd say it was somewhat negative.

December 8, 2014


Moses and Cleopatra

Ridley Scott's film about Moses, Exodus: Gods and Kings opens this week. I'm sorry to say that there's no historical evidence for the existence of Moses, much less evidence that he kicked Ramses II's ass. And I'm not going to get into the whole casting controversy. Instead I'm going to go on a different tangent.

The founder of the ancient Egyptian state was Menes. He became the first pharaoh of Egypt in 3100 BC. Generally Cleopatra VII is regarded as the last ruler of ancient Egypt, even though her dynasty was Greek. She committed suicide in 30 BC. That's a run of 3,070 years for the ancient Egyptian state. And in all that time film makers focus on two events, the whole Exodus thing and Cleopatra. Now I'll concede that they're both cracking yarns but some other interesting stuff happened during those 3,070 years.

I'm more then halfway though the Egyptian history book, in case you hadn't noticed.

December 8, 2014


The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies

I said a lot of mean things about Peter Jackson in the past, and I still don't like what he did to Denethor and Faramir. But the fact is, that The Lord of the Rings ain't that profound a book. In the end it's a quest tale, a good one but it's not a sacred text. And hell, even if it was, I don't have much use for sacred texts.

Ever since 1977 The Hobbit was the middle book between The Silmarillion and The Lord of the Rings. The Silmarillion was the book about aristocratic Elves making very questionable decisions and, in the end, getting their asses kicked by Morgoth. And The Lord of the Rings was about three very rich Hobbits, and Frodo's servant Sam, stepping up to the plate and doing what the Wise couldn't. It's also about the end of the end of the Third Age, the Elves getting booted out of Middle-earth and the coming of Men into their own.

But The Hobbit was a kid's book. That's why the appearance of Azog, who was dead before the action started, or Radagast, who was an off camera presence in the book and that's stretching it, doesn't upset me.

So far the mood of the movies follows the mood of the book exactly. Though Bilbo never said, "What have we done?" in the book, the book darkens considerably and by the end of The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug Thorin was already showing signs of gold sickness. Or as Balin puts it, "A sickness lies upon that treasure. A sickness which drove your grandfather mad." I believe I can say that without spoiling the third film for you.

And that's it for movies based on Tolkien's work. Not only does Christopher Tolkien hate the movies, the rest of the family pretty much hates them too. Maybe it's time to see who has the rights to the Zimiamvian Trilogy. I could see Kenneth Branagh doing something with that, and in his younger years he would have made a kick ass Edward Lessingham. Hell, The Worm Ouroboros is in the public domain. Although I don't know how the general public would react to a war between Demonland and Witchland. E.R. Eddison started creating his private world when he was 10. He wrote The Worm Ouroboros as an adult but was unwilling to change the names his ten year old gave to the great nations of Mercury.

Oh yeah, the Worm, takes place on Mercury. Scratch the whole idea, if John Carter bombed you can forget about a movie about the war between the Demons and the Witches set on Mercury where everybody speaks in Jacobean English.

Still, it would have been nice to see Lord Juss, Spitfire, Goldry Bluszco and Brandoch Daha on the big screen. And they are snappy dressers.

December 7, 2014


The New Car

Why didn't anyone tell me these things had gotten so high tech? I feel like I'm piloting Serenity. At any rate it's mine now. And while I was being so competent I just renewed alchandler.com. I own it until 2023. Nothing else important gets done until next week.

December 4, 2014


Sirius

As you might expect, I bought a new car. One of the things I got with it was three free months of Sirius Radio. I've had the thing for one fucking day and I'm already getting whining emails from them. Apparently the hard to get strategy isn't working for them and they've gone straight to begging.

December 3, 2014


A Eulogy for Radio Shack

My dad was an electrician and he got the Radio Shack catalog sent to him. In those days Radio Shack was a a big hobbyist company. As I recall they sold a lot of Heathkit stuff. You'd by a kit from Heathkit and put together a radio. The idea was that you'd learn something about electronics while getting a discount because you put it together yourself.

Jon Bois used to work for Radio Shack and writes a eulogy for the company.

BTW, I know that technically it should be an eulogy but the rule of thumb is that if the correct usage sounds awkward when said out loud, go with the other one.

November 30, 2014


Judenhass

Dave Sim has done two things for which he will long be remembered. The first is Cerebus the Aardvark, a 300 issue comic book. It was one long story and nothing like it has been attempted before or since.

The second is Judenhass it's a 60 page meditation on antisemitism and the Holocaust. Sim has put the work in the public domain and you can download it in pdf format for free. You should make it your business to do so.

November 29, 2014


And How Was Your Thanksgiving?



As far as I'm concerned Bambi's mom was a worthless shithead who deserved to die.

November 28, 2014


Styx

Styx has just paid for itself. That's because I got to drop a chandelier on a bunch of guys. I've played a lot of games where you had the option of dropping chandeliers on people but by the time I discovered I there was a chandelier I could drop, everyone was already dead. This is the first time I actually was able to use one as a weapon. And it was glorious.

By the way, people aren't going on about the level design in Styx but I don't think I've seen a game make better use of vertical space. The game is using the Unreal 3 engine and while that engine is 10 years old it still has some life left in it.

November 25, 2014


Just an Observation

So, Dragon Age: Inquisition is downloading in the background. It's like this, imagine a person who likes Quentin Tarantino but hates westerns, sooner or later that person is going to get around to watching Django Unchained. In my case, I like RPGs, I like Bioware games but I dislike the decisions Bioware made with Dragon Age: Inquisition. What does that matter, inevitably I'm going to buy it so get it over with and Give EA my $60.

While I was downloading the game I fired up Styx to play a little. Origin and Steam do not like to be running simultaneously and my video card started beeping angrily at me. Just to check, I edited Origin, EA's online store, and restarted Styx. The game ran smoothly and my rapidly aging card hadn't a care in the world. So go figure.

By the way, Origin is offering Crusader: No Remorse as a free download. I played the game when it first came out, back in 1995. Don't know how the graphics look today but it was fun 20 years ago and you can't beat the price. Just throwing that out there.

November 25, 2014


Best RPG Year

I admire Janicki as a critic. And pretty much everyone seems to agree with him, 2014 has been the best year for RPGs in some time. But my personal experience is rather different. I got bored with Divinity: Original Sin and walked away. I never played the South Park game although I might if I find it on a Steam sale and Dark Souls 2 is too punishingly difficult to even consider.

I was psyched for Wasteland 2 but after Divinity: Original Sin I didn't want to play anther old school role playing game. Once again, I'll probably pick it up during a Steam sale. I went back to Diablo 3 and loved the changes Blizzard made and that leaves Dragon Age Inquisition. I've absolutely no desire to lead a faction, I despised that part of Neverwinter Nights 2 but this is such a huge game that I'll probably pick it up sooner or later. Maybe when it's on sale. Of course Dragon Age Inquisition is Origin, not Steam so the odds of it going on sale are pretty poor.

Yeah, I'm probably going to have to buy the goddam thing, aren't I? But right now I don't have to face that decision, I'm just a backstabbing goblin, happily killing guards.

November 23, 2014


So, How To Get Into the Embassy...

...when the entrance is patrolled by three guards? Simple, take out one guard with a thrown knife, take out the second guard with a second knife when he comes to investigate. Hide when the third guard comes, wait for him to turn his back and execute a muffled kill. Then walk right in.

I think alChandler's gaming drought is over.

November 23, 2014


Christopher Tolkien

Christopher Tolkien, J.R.R. Tolkien's son and literary executor turned 91 today. Tolkien the younger gets a bad rap for disliking Peter Jackson's movies but as far as I'm concerned he has a place in literary Valhalla for cobbling together The Silmarillion from the vast amount of material his father left and getting it published. Yes, I'd like a movie about Beren and Luthien but I sincerely wish Christopher Tolkien a life as long as Bilbo's. And if that means no more movies in my lifetime (Bilbo lived to be 131) so be it.

November 22, 2014


Gaming

Ins Dishonored and Thief you were encouraged to deal with your enemies nonviolently. Instead of killing them you'd sneak up behind them and knock them out with a blackjack. I know that in the real world that would indeed be considered a violent act, but not so in the worlds of Garrett and Corvo Attano.

Styx dispenses with such moral ambiguity. Yo sneak up behind a person and your choice is a muffled kill or just a kill. Since the victim doesn't scream with a muffled kill, that's the one you use. You end up with a lot of corpses.

And you might have heard that an expansion arrived for World of Warcraft. Among other things it adds a garrison, WoW's version of player housing:

The whole idea is that a disgraced orc warlord goes back in time, prevents the Horde from being corrupted by a demon and invades Azeroth in the present day, pouring through the dark portal. The Horde and the Alliance put aside their differences and go back in time to destroy the dark portal, preventing the invasion from ever happening:

Finally, I may put Shadows of Mordor back on my system just to play as this woman:

She's Lithariel, the Warrior Commander of the Tribesmen of Nurn. The cut scenes will still show Talion the asshole ranger but you can't have everything.

Update: Nope, I still dislike the gameplay.

November 22, 2014


Success

If nothing else I finally finished The Island of the Day Before. It took me 20 damn years but it's been read. Now, as a reward, Stephen King's latest, Revival.

November 19, 2014


It's Shit Like This

The picture comes from Boing Boing and it captures Cory Doctorow's over the top reaction to the failure of the Senate to take up a bill that would have restricted the NSA's ability to just root through our phone records like a hog looking for truffles.

One of the things I dislike about some on the right, such as Fox News, is the way they demonize folks on the left. But it's just as despicable when people I agree with do it. Mitch McConnell isn't a traitor, he just has different ideas about national security then Doctorow, or for that matter I have.

I suppose it comes down to this, you can't babble on about Republican fear mongering and then post shit like that. Well, you can but it's not logically consistent. And it's cheap.

November 19, 2014


Philae Strikes Carbon

The Philae probe ended up in a relatively shady spot on Comet 67P. It's solar panels can't get enough sunlight and the probe is powered down. But before it went into hibernation it detected carbon on the comet. One of Philae's goals was to determine if comets could have delivered organic molecules to Earth. Now that scientists know that Comet 67P is carrying carbon they're going to pour over the rest of the data Philae sent of before its hibernation to see if carrying other compounds. Stuff like methane would be cool to find and finding amino acids would be awesome.

November 18, 2014