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


The Soul of Dagon

That's the blue thing on the pedestal. I just got it from the first dungeon. That's what alChandler is doing these days. Anyway, I've now unlocked the portal to the second world and, I presume, the second artifact. Danger and peril await.

September 4, 2015


Good News, Bad News

Good News: I finished Amadis of Gual. Bad News: I won't have my video card back for two or three weeks. Outcome: Nobody talk to me until October.

September 3, 2015


Sunless Sea

Christ, I can't even run Sunless Sea on this thing. The game is practically a goddamn text adventure. In fact, this is what I'm reduced to playing.

September 2, 2015


Metal Gear Solid

I never played the previous Metal Gear games, a lingering prejudice against a series born on consoles I suppose. But it is combat with a heavy emphasis on stealth and since Splinter Cell has morphed into something alien to me, I'm thinking that after being Geralt for a month and a half it might be time for something different.

The arc of this year's games has gone from RPG to Batman and back to RPG. Splinter Cell might be just what I need. The new game is out but there's a prequel released last year for $19.99 that I think I'll try first. at least once I get Kosh back up. I'm very grateful for the laptop and it's repaid the money I spent on it many time over but as a gaming machine it's useless. And to tell the truth even when it was young it was never much use for games. Sadly, a gaming laptop costs about $2,000 and becomes outdated pretty quickly. And I did not spend $2,000 on little Kosh.

By the way, the game, if I buy it, is Metal Gear Solid V so I've missed a lot of lore. However, from what I've read, the lore in Metal Gear is not necessary to enjoy the game. It's sort of like worrying if you need to know the lore to enjoy Euro Truck Simulator 2.

Update: Or maybe not, I hate games that include management shit. Dragon Age: Inquisition had a lot of that but I was able to just assign missions at random to people without worrying, it didn't really affect the progress of the game one way or another. If I liked management shit I would have done it at my job where they'd pay me for it.

September 1, 2015


Don Amadis and Don Quixote

Amadis of Gaul came first, written sometime in the 14th century. But the earliest version we have was published in 1508 and was heavily edited by one Garci Rodríguez de Montalvo. It was a big hit and inspired a lot of sequels, a lot like the Marvel movies today.

So, in 1605 Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra turned out volume 1 of Don Quixote. It was many, many things and one of them was a satire of Amadis and the whole genre of knight errantry. I've read Don Quixote but I've never been able to finish Amadis of Gaul. My Kindle tells me I've just hit the 40% mark in Amadis so there's a good chance that I'll make it through the whole thing this time. And if I do that, I'll feel up to reading Cervantes a second time. Truth be told, it will be my third time but it will be the second time for the Edith Grossman translation.

You know, Terry Gilliam has been talking about doing something with Don Quixote for years now. If anyone can do the silly old bastard justice, he could.

August 31, 2015


Keyboards

For the first time in many years I'm using the laptop as my main computer until Nvidia decides what they'll do about my video card. Now, Kosh's original keyboard was light colored and easy to see in the relatively dim light in the office. The new keyboard is backlit and easy to see too. But the laptop's keyboard is dark and it's very difficult to make out the keys.

At this point someone inevitably says, "Don't you touch type?" and when I say no they look at me like I'm a barbarian walking around with a severed head in my hand. No, I can't touch type.

But I don't remember the keys on Little Kosh being quite this hard to see either. But I'm 59, I'm Lucky I can see the screen, much less the keyboard.

August 30, 2015


Amadis of Gaul

After Ballantine Books made a lot of money on the authorized paperback edition of The Lord of the Rings Betty and Ian Ballantine cast about for other massive fantasy trilogies they could publish. They ended up publishing paperback editions of E. R. Eddison's stuff and Peake's Gormenghast Trilogy. After that they were out of ideas. That's why they hired Lin Carter who edited the Ballantine Adult Fantasy series. The funny thing about that series was that a lot of the books were in the public domain.

If you're a publisher, not having to pay royalties is awesome.

Among other books the series published two anthologies, Dragons, Elves and Heroes and Golden Cities Far. Both books had selections from old stuff, very old stuff, the Völsunga Saga, the Kalevala and Amadis of Gaul. Carter had a lot to say about Amadis of Gaul in his book Tolkien: A Look Behind "The Lord of the Rings" and a section of Amadis was included inGolden Cities Far, it had a lot of charm.

Amadis of Gaul was always laying around in a corner of my mental attic and when a translation of the work by Herbert Behm and Edwin Place was published by the University Press of Kentucky, I jumped and picked up both volumes of the translation. And it did nothing for me. I've no doubt it was more accurate then the version I read in 1970 but in gaining accuracy it lost its charm.

But the translation Carter used was done in 1804 by Robert Southey, a British poet. He wasn't trying to be anachronistic, it's just that his language was a little more formal then the Behm and Place version. And while the Southey translation wasn't free, it was a lot cheaper then the edition I tried reading, so, I'll get to it. But it won't be the next book I read. That honor goes to Nine Princes in Amber by Roger Zelazney.

It's a curious thing but a lot of stuff I'd like to read is not available in ebook format. I have a very old paperback of Nine Princes in Amber that's getting a bit too delicate to read (it was published in 1970) and an omnibus edition that collects all the books in the Amber series but is a pretty shoddy, not to mention unwieldy, volume. One would think that an ebook would be a relatively risk free way to introduce Zelazney to a new generation. The Foundation Trilogy took forever to hit the Kindle store too. In the case of Amber, only the first book has hit the Kindle store.

I don't know if the other nine books in the series will turn up. During the first six months of 2014, paperbacks accounted for 42% of all book sales, hardbacks came in at 25% and ebooks accounted for 23%. Don't know where the other 10% got to, maybe audio books. The point is that ebooks are not a gold mine and for a lot of publishers, or in Zelazney's case, estates, there's no rush.

At any rate, books! And books are my fallback. Tomorrow my whining video card goes back to be replaced with one that (hopefully) doesn't whine. So no gaming for about three weeks. No serious gaming anyway, I'll be using the laptop. And reading.

August 27, 2015


A Change in Reading Habits

Since I'm on a bit of a reading roll this year, I wanted to tackle David Cannadine's The Decline and Fall of the British Aristocracy. And I may yet get around to reading it, but not this year. here's why:

It's not that I dislike reading long books. And if an author's work can only be conveyed in paper format, like Mark Z. Danielewski's House of Leaves, then I'll deal with lugging a thick book around. In Canadine's case, there's no reason why his book can't be converted to ebook format, accept that either he or his publisher haven't gotten around to it. And that is why I'm reading Lawrence James' Aristocrats: Power, Grace and Decadence - Britain's Great Ruling Classes from 1066 to the Present instead.

Given enough time, I might very well get around reading my copy of Canadine. But not right away. The next book in the reading queue is Churchill and Empire: A Portrait of an Imperialist, also by Lawrence James. Churchill was not only an imperialist, you might say he was the last imperialist. In 1945 his party lost to Labour and Clement Attlee became the prime minister. During Attlee's tenure India became an independant nation. I suppose you could make a case that the Empire limped on until 1997 when Hong Kong was returned to China but it was really all over in 1947.

That's the plan, anyway.

August 26, 2015


Battle Armor

Just finished a quest that raised me three levels. I'm now high enough to wear the cool armor that blacksmith made for me. I won't be able to play until next week so this is a nice point to take a break.

August 19, 2015


Death and the Archgriffin

That thing took me forever to kill. In fact, it's considered to be the strongest enemy in the game. I sort of stumbled into the battle. I had picked up a master smithing kit and gave it to my favorite blacksmith. That started a whole thing where she'd make me a special set of armor if she got the poison gland of an archgriffin. Long story short, after dying seven or eight times I finally puled it off, got the gland and the armor was forged. Going to be a bit before I can wear it though, I'm level 23 and you need to be level 27 to use it. But it will be worth the wait.

August 18, 2015


Working for Amazon

The New York Times has an article about what it's like to work for Amazon. Well if you're an adrenaline junkie who doesn't mind mental and emotional abuse, it's great. For everybody else it's like working for an egotistical, narcissistic asshole, with the possibility of stock options.

August 16, 2015


One Last Quest Story

Not one last quest, just one last story for a while. A couple of weeks ago I run into a guy being attacked by ghouls. I dispatch the monsters and he's grateful. He tells me it's his job to collect the bodies of plague victims and when he gets enough of them he has to burn them. I notice he's being pretty casual about the whole thing and warn him that unless he's careful he'll catch plague from the bodies. Not to worry says the guy. He has a natural immunity to disease. Never been sick a day in his life. That's why he took the job, he's immune to the plague.

Oh well, stranger things have happened.

Today I'm in a distance corner of the province and noticed a cabin. I investigate and who do I find but the undertaker, and he's dying of the plague. Turns out he was just lucky. Anyway, he's facing a painful death and doesn't have the courage to kill himself. But since I'm here he offers me a coin purse to run him though. Since I'm a compassionate witcher I take the money, kill him and burn his corpse.

It was just a little encounter in a forest far from anywhere. If I hadn't been checking the map I would have missed the cabin and forgotten about the guy. But there he was and it was a poignant touch. I don't think I've played a RPG that put this much effort into its side quests since the Ultima games. And that was a long time ago.

August 15, 2015


My Sense of Humor

From the comic book Injection by Warren Ellis and Declan Shalvey. And if you don't know what TED is, well you know the shit you like to babble about until everybody wants to kill you? If you're rich you can attend the Technology, Entertainment, Design Conference and babble there. Hell, they'll even put your insane rant on the internet.

August 14, 2015


A Towerful of Mice

My character, Geralt of Riva, has a backstory. One of his friends is Keira Metz, former adviser to King Foltest and currently on the run from the Witch Hunters. She taps me to investigate a curse on Fyke Island. I go there, find a tower that's overrun by rats. Keira has given me a lantern that allows me to hear the dead. I discover that there was an uprising and the lord of the tower and his daughter were killed. At the top of the tower the ghost of the daughter is still there. She thinks that she's the reason for the curse, a plague that exists on the island. She had a lover, a commoner named Graham. If Graham buries her remains then Anabelle, the ghost, will finally rest and the curse will be lifted.

So I take the remains to Graham, he agrees to bury them, I leave thinking I've done my bit and Graham screams. I rush back to his house and there's Anabelle in her true form standing over Graham's body. She became a pesta, a plague demon, after death and by taking her remains off the island I lifted the curse there but now Anabelle is free to spread the plague elsewhere.

Fortunately now that the tower is free from disease, Keira will take the notes of the former lord's court magician. He studied the disease and was working on a cure. Still, it wasn't my finest moment and it's a good thing I went into government work rather then taking that witcher gig.

August 14, 2015


Crafting

I completed about 80% of Alien Isolation. I was unable to finish because I didn't have enough Molotov cocktails to hold the xenomorph off. To be fair the game warned me that crafting was going to be important to finishing but I hate crafting so much that I'd rather have the game beat me then spend time looking for ingredients to build stuff.

Fallout 4 is coming out in November. I played the first Fallout, Fallout 3 And Fallout: New Vegas. When I heard that the game would have a robust crafting system, as well as the ability to start your own settlement, I was going to give the game a pass. Today Bethesda went out of their way to assure people that neither feature is necessary to complete the game. The devs think their cool but if you're not into it you can still complete the game.

I wish more studios would make that shit optional.


Troll

Killed my first one of these today. I remember them being a lot harder in the first game in the series. Then again in this came I came across this guy when I was level 11.

I actually felt kind of sorry for the dude. He was tasked by Redanian soldiers to guard boats that the soldiers took from local villagers. The villagers staged a raid, killing the soldiers and the troll killed the villagers. He ate them and since the soldiers were already dead...why not? He reminded me a little of the three trolls in The Hobbit. I was almost tempted to let him go but a troll with a taste for human flesh is not a good thing to have so close to human settlements. And I am a monster killer after all.

August 13, 2015


Adblock

I don't mind ads on a page, I really don't. But when ads started auto playing loud ass videos I started using the Adblock extension for Chrome. A lot of people use it, so many, in fact, that it's a big problem for sites that depend on ad revenues to keep going.

Occasionally a site will notice I'm running it and ask me politely to disable it for their domain. I generally agree and if pop ups and auto playing videos don't turn up I'll keep the site on Adblock's excluded list. Yesterday the Atlantic Monthly's site asked me to turn off Adblock on their domain and I complied. The next thing that happened was a pop up appeared asking me to subscribe.

Well then. Nothing like being kicked in the balls by your buddy ten seconds after you forgive him for kicking you in the balls that other time.

August 13, 2015


I Am Buster of Borg

August 12, 2015


The Monster Nest

One of the Withcher's jobs is destroying monster nests. It took me forever to figure out how to do that so I'm proud of myself. One of the things I'm not proud of is the first time I destroyed the nest I stood on top of it and got caught up in the explosion. I didn't die but I felt like an idiot. So I loaded a save and reshot the scene.

August 10, 2015


Star Wars

I'm hoping these are the credits for Episode VII.

August 10, 2015


Witcher 3

I haven't played the game in about two weeks, blame the Ramayana. But I picked up where I left off and that's cool but I've one gripe. In the upper right hand corner of the screen there's a minimap. It changes orientation as you do so if you're heading east then east is at the top of the map. I've no sense of direction and that doesn't help.

Anyway, I'm trying to track down Ciri, a young woman who was raised in Kaer Morhen. There's a baron, more of a jumped up bandit really, who is willing to give me information about Ciri in return for information about his family. I've tracked down his daughter who pretty much dismissed her father as a drunken brute. She and her mom fled the baron shortly after mom miscarried. In fact the last quest I completed before today was laying the ghost of the fetus to rest. At any rate, mom was dragged off my a monster and now that I've found the daughter I'm going to try to find out what happened to mom. This is not a cheerful game.

Depressing as the world is, I'm trying to be my usual ray of sunshine. I just killed a cockatrice and turned down the reward because the guy offering it was pretty poor.

I wouldn't have lasted a day in the Middle Ages.

August 10, 2015


Don Winslow

Until a couple of weeks ago I never heard of Don Winslow. But Warren Ellis started raving about The Power of the Dog and later about The Cartel. Since I like Ellis' work and since The Power of the Dog was going for $7.99 I decided to check it out. It's next in the queue.

The two books are about the war on drugs and its effect on the United States and Mexico. From what I gather, if Tom Clancy had been a realist, and a better writer, The Power of the Dog is something he would have written. We'll see.

August 9, 2015


Mr. Robot

By the way, has anybody seen Mr. Robot? It's on USA and it's about a poorly socialized hacker named Elliot Alderson. And believe me, I know from poorly socialized.

That will either make you want to watch it or, perhaps, run screaming in the other direction. We're cool either way.

August 9, 2015


People Using Phones

.

This is a Flickr set of people using phones. Just the thing after finishing a Gibson novel. And what's interesting is that nobody is actually using them to make phone calls.

August 9, 2015


On Rereading The Peripheral

In Gibson's book Pattern Recognition a Buzz Rickson jacket comes into play several times. If you never heard of the brand it doesn't matter, you can pretty much figure out it's an expensive item. But there really are Buzz Rickson jackets and they really are horribly expensive, at least by my standards. And that's the thing about William Gibson, whether he's writing a contemporary novel or science fiction he expects you to keep up.

Consider, I went to the Keurig and made a cup of tea. Then I nuked some pastrami, made a sandwich, went to the living room and watched the debate I DVRed last night. Most people know what nuked refers to and, hopefully, know what DVR used as a verb is about. And if you don't know what a Keurig is, you can probably put it in the same category as a Mister Coffee. And we have the net, if you're really unsure about what a Keurig is you can pull out your phone and google it.

And that last sentence would be utter nonsense if written 20 years ago.

Which is a long way of saying I'm rereading The Peripheral. It's set in two time periods, the first is about the year 2030 and the second is in the very early 22nd century. I have to reread most of his stuff. The first time is to get a sense of the world and the second read is to enjoy his language now that I have a rough idea about what's going on.

The folks in the 22nd century live on the other side of something called the Jackpot. A combination of global warming, crop failure, wild weather and antibiotic resistant diseases that killed off 80% of the population. In other words, a shitstorm that seems to have already begun for us. Perhaps, if we're very lucky, the die off will be under 50%.

But for right now I have a Keurig, a Kindle and The Peripheral to read. So life is good.

August 7, 2015


The Great Debate

I watched the debate and was pretty depressed. So I went and got a beer and played a game. Then Newton started bugging me to play with him. Because to Newton I'm a pretty fun guy. Having a cat is awesome.

August 7, 2015


Finished

It's one in the morning and I just finished the Ramayana. Glad I did it, discipline and all that good shit but I don't want to tackle anything that long for a while.

By the way, by the standards of the 4th century BCE Rama might be the ideal man but by the standards of the 21st century CE he turned out to be a bit of a dick at the end.

August 6, 2015


Power Grab

My, iTunes took advantage of the upgrade to Windows 10 to associate itself with files it had no business playing. Give the fuckers an inch and they'll take a mile.

August 4, 2015


Newton and Aunt Kay

On my mother's side of the family there were folks who'd have severe mood swings. My mom was one, Aunt Kay was another. Today we'd call them bipolar. Back then we'd just comment on their tempers. Mom had a bad one but I've heard that Aunt Kay's was worse. Kay was married to a guy named Tony Novak. Uncle Tony drank a bit and died young. Kay lived alone after that.

Kay used to crochet. She made the comforter Newton's sleeping on. I think I actually got the comforter from mom after Kay died. I rarely used it but kept it draped around the arm of a chair. After all, it looked nice and say what you want about her temper, Aunt Kay loved me.

When I got Newton, he'd sleep on the chair in the living room. Later, when he got more comfortable he'd sleep on the sofa. I noted the spot and one day I put the comforter there. It made Newton very happy and now we have our own separate sides of the couch. He'll jump up and greet me then move to his side and sleep. But not always sleep, sometimes he'll watch television, other times he'll stare at the ceiling hoping a bug will turn up. But he'll do those things on Aunt Kay's comforter.

For a while Aunt Kay had a cat of her own named Muffin. She doted on the animal. I think she would have been pleased at her comforter's ultimate owner.

August 1, 2015


First Boss Fight

For the record he kicked my ass three times and I got him on the fourth try. The ultimate enemy here is the Wild Hunt and he was one of them. So my attitude now is that they can be killed.

July 31, 2015


To My Friends Who Hunt

I realize that what with Cecil and all this is not a good time for you. But you guys really need to muzzle Ted Nugent. Every time that asshole opens his mouth The angels post another 1,000 acres. Surely hunters can come up with a better spokesman. I mean, Morgan Freeman hunts. Shove Nugent in the basement for a bit and get the guy who played God out in front of the cameras. Just sayin'.

July 30, 2015


Windows 10

It was a spur of the moment decision to do the upgrade to Windows 10 now rather then wait for the notification. The only minor glitch was a temporary lack of sound. Before I could even troubleshoot the problem Windows found the new driver I needed. And Windows seems to be playing nice with my programs, some of which are very old. Here at the Halls we're still running Quicken 2002. That, HTML Kit and a few other dinosaurs are still lumbering along nicely.

And of course I tested Witcher 3. That works, Steam runs and life is good.

Of course it's all a little odd, things are moved around a bit, control panel seems to have been replaced by settings and there's shit like Candy Crush Saga being shilled in the live tiles section of the start menu. Right now I'm not sure what the fuss is about. I know that MS wants me to get into the habit of buying apps but right now I don't see myself doing to much of that.

On the other hand I think I could get used to the little weather tile and calendar app in the start menu. On the desktop I have games on the right side of the screen and serious stuff on the left. I never used things like the weather app because it spoiled the symmetry. I know that's a little weird but there you go. I like having them in the start menu.

And that's it for Windows 10, at least for now.

July 30, 2015


Niellen the Hunter

One more quest, Niellen is a hunter who wants me to find his missing wife. She may have gone into the woods but Niellen can't find a trace. Margrit, the hunter's sister in law thinks her sister may have gone to visit a friend in another town.

I ask around town, two children saw Niellen wife enter the forest with another woman. That's not good, there are wolves in there. So I enter the forest, kill a pack of wolves and follow a trail that only a witcher could follow to a remote cottage. By the side of the cottage there's a door that leads to a cavern. There are wolves there and a werewolf. No problem, I'm a witcher, killing werewolves is what I do. So I wound the werewolf and am about to finish it off when out pops Margrit.

The long and the short of it is that the werewolf is Niellen. He would lock himself away during his time of change. Margrit was in love with Niellen and led her sister to the cavern when the hunter was in wolf mode hoping he'd kill her. Niellen did but had no memory of it until Margrit confessed.

At this point Niellen, who loved his wife, vows to kill Margrit. I allow it but tell him if I ever see him again I'll kill him. He slaughters Margrit as I turn away. But he follows me outside and begs for death.

I oblige him.

There's a lot of work put into these side quests. This is some good shit.

July 29, 2015


Geralt and Letho

So here's the deal, an old woman offers me money if I clear out the monsters from her ancestral estate. I agree but I don't find any monsters, just a lot of traps. I disarm the traps and find Letho, a witcher from the School of the Viper. He's being tracked by mercenaries. So I agree to help. Letho has been set up by a guy called Louis, we track down Louis, kill his guards and Louis tells us the location of the mercenaries after Letho. We go to the town they're held up in and Letho gives me instructions not to interfere. He attacks them and is killed. At that point I intervene, kill the remaining mercenaries only to discover that Letho wasn't dead. He's taken a drug that simulated death. His plan was to be "killed" by the mercenaries who'd spread the word that he was dead. At that point his many enemies would lay off. But I fucked that up for him. In my defense I had no idea what he was planning.

At any rate since the heat was still on I suggested he travel to Kaer Morhen, the keep that's the headquarters of the School of the Wolf. Letho agree, takes off and I still have to make my way to the old woman who started this and tell her that she can go back to her estate.

This was just a side quest yet it made me feel like I had stumbled into a Clint Eastwood movie. Very cool. And here's a shot of what's left of the mercs. There were four more but Letho took care of them before his so called death.

July 28, 2015


Ramayana Book 3

I've just started book 3 and the villain of the piece still hasn't shown up. But at least we've got Rama, Sita and Lakshmana firmly established in exile in the forest. Bharata, Rama's brother, is acting king of Ayodhya until Rama's term of exile is over. Bharata himself has taken a pair of Rama's shoes and set them on the throne as a sign that he's just Rama's regent.

Rama is in a fairly wild region and the local hermits have asked Rama's help in dealing with Rakshasas, that is demons, who infest the area. Rama, in fact, is an incarnation of Vishnu who took on human form so he could defeat Ravana, King of the Rakshasas. So the fact that the things are starting to turn up is a sign that the plot is finally getting a move on.

July 27, 2015


Windows 10 and Nvidia

There have been reports that Windows 10 automatic driver update feature has been clashing with Nvidia's own driver update tool, in some cases rendering your box unusable.

The issue is occurring because Nvidia will push new drivers out without waiting for Microsoft certification. So you'll have the latest driver installed and Windows 10 will overwrite it with an older driver that has just been certified. And that is what is causing problems on people's PCs.

I don't know how widespread this issue is and it's possible that MS has already fixed it but since I have a GTX 970 and use Nvidia's tool to update I'm going to hold off on jumping to Windows 10 until I see how things go.

July 27, 2015


Witcher 3: The Video

At this point I'm not really officially playing a game without video. So here's 25 seconds of me beating the crap out of wild dogs. You may note that I'm leaping a lot, it's a Batman legacy.

July 27, 2015