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


One Thousand and One Nights

The first full translation of One Thousand and One Nights was done by Sir Richard Francis Burton. There had been earlier English translations but they had been edited to remove the bits about sex. Burton kept the sex in and, since he was living in the Victorian Age, issued it as a private edition for subscribers.

Burton's language has a certain charm but it gives the work an archaic air that wasn't in the original. Right now I'm dipping into a modern translation by Malcolm C. Lyons and Ursula Lyons. Whenever I'm between books, or simply need a palate cleanser, I read their version. In fact, I've bee doing that for years and at the moment I'm on the 610th night.

The Lyons' translation cost money and is well worth it to my way of thinking. But Burton's version is free. It's excentric but it has its own virtues:

Verily the works and words of those gone before us have become instances and examples to men of our modern day, that folk may view what admonishing chances befel other folk and may therefrom take warning; and that they may peruse the annals of antique peoples and all that hath betided them, and be thereby ruled and restrained:— Praise, therefore, be to Him who hath made the histories of the Past an admonition unto the Present! Now of such instances are the tales called “A Thousand Nights and a Night,” together with their far famed legends and wonders. Therein it is related (but Allah is All knowing of His hidden things and All ruling and All honoured and All giving and All gracious and All merciful that, in tide of yore and in time long gone before, there was a King of the Kings of the Banu Sásán in the Islands of India and China, a Lord of armies and guards and servants and dependents. He left only two sons, one in the prime of manhood and the other yet a youth, while both were Knights and Braves, albeit the elder was a doughtier horseman than the younger. So he succeeded to the empire; when he ruled the land and forded it over his lieges with justice so exemplary that he was beloved by all the peoples of his capital and of his kingdom. His name was King Shahryár, and he made his younger brother, Shah Zamán hight, King of Samarcand in Barbarian land.

That should be enough to let you know what you're in for if you decide to try Burton. Archaic, but if you can get through the King James Bible you can get though him. And if you're the type who likes reading the works and words of those gone before us you really should give the Nights a shot.

Later on today Borne: A Novel by Jeff VanderMeer arrives on my Kindle. You may remember me going on about his Southern Reach Trilogy a few years ago. His books are weird and strange and have depths to them that can swallow the unwary reader. They're very, very good.

April 25, 2017


In Which Kevin Learns a New Thing About His Back

Last month I bought a new printer. I was going to throw out the big box it came in but Newton had fallen in love with the thing so I kept it in my office. Newton used it as an observation post and for scratching. By the middle of April there were bits of cardboard everywhere but I didn't mind, when all is said and done Newton doesn't ask much of me.

But last night I discovered that Newton had clawed through the box in several places and was starting to shred the styrofoam packing that I failed to throw out before I gave the box to Newton. I'm reasonably sure that Newton wouldn't eat the stuff but it was sticking to his fur and I didn't want him swallowing it while grooming, so the box went in the trash and today I brought out the vacuum to clean up the shredded cardboard and styrofoam.

I don't vacuum, twice a month Edie comes in and does that for me, but I have used a vacuum cleaner in the distant past. So I hauled it out of the closet, cleaned up the office, straightened up and goddamn did my back hurt. Not, it's raining and my back doesn't like it hurt, it was more like I felt back in September when my vertebrae still hadn't healed.

And compression fractured never really heal completely. My fucked up vertebrae is at the very end of my spine and moving the vacuum cleaner around while leaning at a 45 degree angle agitated it. But the good news is now I have a legitimate excuse for not vacuuming.

I took Tramadol and that helped and I'll try to avoid vacuuming in the future. If I ever give Newton a big box again and it has styrofoam, I'll throw that shit out first. And now I think it's time for a cup of green tea and some Mass Effect.

April 22, 2017


The Continuing Adventures of Meredith Ryder

That thing in the distance is the corpse of an insane AI. Earlier in the game I encountered a heavily shielded Kett base. Last night I brought those shields down. Tonight I entered the base and found out that they were using captured Angara as slaves. I liberated the slaves, the Angara being allies and all, and discovered that the Kett were trying to enter a sealed chamber. I used explosives to enter the chamber and met an ancient, paranoid and suicidal AI. It started to use energy to kill one of the Angara and while there was no doubt the AI's knowledge would have been useful, I decided to destroy the AI rather then let an innocent person be killed. It was one of those instant judgment calls and I like to think that Captain Kirk would have done the same thing. Drack thinks I did the right thing anyway.

April 21, 2017


Better Cheating Through Technology

I've mentioned many times that I have no patience for puzzles in role playing games. In Mass Effect Andromeda Remnant Vaults, essentially dungeons, are guarded by consoles that need certain glyphs inputted, it's pretty much a sodoku puzzle. Fortunately for my sanity the net has screenshots of the solutions and I have a phone.

April 20, 2017


Mass Effect

Today I played for the first time since last Wednesday. When I left off I was trying to shut down a Kett base that controlled a shield that was keeping us out of their other installation. I defeated most of the Kett but every time I tried to turn the shield controls off, another warrior would spawn. I'm not the quickest guy on the planet but eventually I figured out that the warriors would keep spawning until I ran to every control panel and turned them off. Once that was taken care of the base commander showed up and it was a classic boss fight. He had a thing orbiting him that generated a shield. You shot the orbiting thing until it temporarily lost power then you could chip away at the commander. It took about six rounds of that before we could kill him.

This fight also taught me that I can use combos even though I'm no overly coordinated. You fire one biotic power at an enemy and before it wears off you hit them with another. Combos do a lot of damage.

So that part of the fight is over but it looks like there's some mopping up to be outside the base. And then I'm assuming I we'll go to the other installation now that the shield is down. And after that I have to go to the Remnant structures and use them to warm the planet up, as well as looking for the tech that my companion Peebee wants. My dance card is still full as my parents would have put it.

I'm 25 hours into the game and sitting a bit easier in the saddle. It's a good feeling when you start to get a handle on a game.

April 20, 2017


New York 2140

Some science fiction attempts to show cultural and societal changes as well as technological change. I'm thinking of The Quantum Thief, Dune, 2001: A Space Odyssey and Neuromancer. Other works aren't interested in that sort of thing. Alien was a horror story set in space and Roddenberry described Star Trek as, "Wagon Train to the stars." Both approaches work.

So here's the deal, New York 2140 is very much a work like Alien or Star Trek. In fact, except for the setting, a New York City flooded by global warming, it could be set in the same universe as Bonfire of the Vanities. I'm almost half way through the book and I don't think I've ever seen a character take out a cell phone. Although I think the book is meant to be a cautionary tale about climate change, half way through it's a book about a real estate scam. I've nothing against that sort of thing but it's not quite what I signed up for.

In fact, if I weren't so far along I'd probably put it aside. But I'm half way through it so I'm going to stick it out.

April 19, 2017


The Trial of Galadriel

Just in case you didn't know, the Lady Galadriel is the most bad ass character in The Lord of the Rings.

April 18, 2017


The New Paradigm

Yesterday I was at Mrs. Silverman's place and Caty had some of her friends over as well. Donna asks for volunteers to take the trash out and being a helpful sort I get up and take the trash bag out of the trash compactor. Donna calls out, "You're going to let a 61 year old man take the trash out? Shame." At that point people rush up to take the bag out of my palsied hands.

And now I have to log off, the home health aid is here with my dinner.

April 17, 2017


Happy Easter

April 16, 2017


Things to Do

Now that Little Kosh is back up and running, when I get home I have to synch stuff like bookmarks and my passwords. I also have to see if I have an older version of SynWrite to put on this. For some reason they've taken their spell checker out of the newer versions of their program. It looks like this summer I'll be directing some love the laptop's way. Meanwhile, any spelling errors are SynWrite's fault.

April 15, 2017


Anniversary Present

Although I kept the printer box around because Newton loved it, today I bought him a belated anniversary present, one of those track thing with a ball inside. Newton seems to like it.

And it looks like I'm not going to be able to finish my assault on the Kett base tonight. I have to get up early tomorrow so I can't stay up until sunrise. Still the Kett can wait until next week. Oh, by the way, 24 hours into the game and I haven't lowered the difficulty down from normal yet. So that's a good thing.

April 13, 2017


Fighting on Voeld

Through a convoluted series of events, I find myself on the ice planet of Voeld, aiding the Angara in their struggle against the Kett, the bad guys of Mass Effect Andromeda. The Kett have a base protected by a shield. The shield is controled from another base and that's the one Meredith, Peebee and Drack have been trying to get to. After fighting our way past several guard posts we've finally made it to that base and disabled its own shield. And since it's three in the morning I think I'll leave them there for the night. Tomorrow I'll make the final push.

April 13, 2017


Mass Effect Trek

Today I did some errands around the Nexus, then I took my ship, headed off into the blue and made first contact with an alien race. This game has its share of problems but damned if it isn't the best Star Trek game I ever played. I can forgive a lot for that.

April 11, 2017


This Isn't Creepy, Nope



And let the memes begin.

April 10, 2017


Blade Runner and Neuromancer

I posted that picture to Facebook today, as one tends to do. Here's a fun fact, when Blade Runner came out, William Gibson was writing Neuromancer. He decided to take a break and watch it. He left the theater horrified, scared that people would assume he copied Ridley Scott's look for his own book. As it turned out the aesthetics of Scott's movie and Gibson's book were rather different.

April 10, 2017


22nd Century Drop In

I use several pictures of London as wallpaper. This particular picture is of the City of London, a separate city in the middle of the rest of London, looking south west. Imagine if the New York City Financial District was its own separate city with its own government and that's what the City of London is to the rest of London.

London has an odd look to it. It's like a bit of the city from 2117 somehow time slipped back to 2017 and now everybody has to make the best of it.

April 9, 2017


The Office

How I think my office looks:



How it really looks:

April 9, 2017


Open World Games

In Torment: Tides of Numenera your character's goal is to find a way to defeat The Sorrow. Occasionally you'll aid someone but you're never allowed to stray to far from your ultimate purpose.

In Witcher 3 your goal at the beginning is to find out what happened to Ciri, a human woman that the Witchers raised. It's made very clear that your character, Geralt, looks on Ciri as a daughter and he'll move mountains to find her. But I'm afraid that's not what Geralt did when I was controlling him. I played the game for 178 hours and for at least 145 of them I was just exploring the wonderful world CD Projekt created. At one point I even took time out to help a lonely old woman find her frying pan.

Witcher 3 is an open world game and if the open world is sufficiently interesting, the temptation is to put the plot on the back burner while you go exploring. And that's what I did in Witcher 3, and Skyrim and Fallout 4 for that matter.

The point of all this is that Bioware's Dragon Age Inquisition and Mass Effect Andromeda are considered by many to be open world games. I'm not sure I completely agree with that designation but they are a lot bigger then some of Bioware's early RPGs. And for some who like Bioware's approach to role playing but who don't particularly like open world games, Mass Effect Andromeda is a little disorienting.

And that's cool, a lot of people don't like open world games. That being said, I like how Bioware handled the problem of players wandering away from the plot in Mass Effect Andromeda. Your character is the Pathfinder. When you go off on some kind of tangent you're not leaving the main quest, it's your job to go off on tangents. It's rather clever, actually.

I got 151 hours out of Dragon Age Inquisition. I don't know how long I'll be playing Mass Effect Andromeda but I'm already 14 hours into the game. Hell, there's a good chance I'll be playing this when Prey comes out next month, and that's a good thing.

April 9, 2017


Last Word on Mass Effect Andromeda

I'll still be talking about Meredith's adventures, this is just my last word on the state of the game.

If someone who never played role playing games asked me for a good title to try I would not recommend Mass Effect Andromeda. It simply doesn't have the polish I've come to expect in a $59.99 AAA game. However if someone who was into RPGs asked me if they should play Mass Effect Andromeda I'd give them a conditional yes, especially if they played and enjoyed Dragon Age Inquisition.

In my case, I waited a week before buying the game and 14 hours in I haven't regretted my purchase. So there you have it. The game, in my opinion, was released too early but it's not a Batman: Arkham Knight fuck up. Bioware is trying their best to correct the game's flaws and I'm having a good time.

Oh, one more thing, if you like RPGs but aren't necessarily a Bioware fan boy or girl, wait until you can pick the game up on sale. Of course since we're talking Electronic Arts here, you might never see it on sale.

April 8, 2017


Kevin Gets Productive

Over the last several months I've made some minor changes:

  • I signed up for Pandora, it's playing the Grateful Dead even as we speak.

  • I renewed my passport.

  • I canceled the DVD part of Netflix.

  • I bought a new printer.

  • And I bought a new router.

  • I rented a movie from Amazon.

I'm especially proud of the Amazon thing. I was getting DVDs from Netflix in the mail and sending them back without even taking them out of the mailing sleeve. Slowly alChandler tip toes into the 21st century.

April 8, 2017


Jesus Soldier, It's Ten in the Morning

This is another bug in Mass Effect Andromeda, or perhaps it just that discipline is rather lax at this settlement.

Update: A patch just went down. I entered the game just to make sure that drunk lady was still drunk. She was and that's cool, I'm startng to like her.

April 6, 2017


Meanwhile Back at the Nexus

While Meredith defeats the Kett, changes the environment of the planet and establishes a military outpost on Eos, back at the Nexus morale is falling.

For all my bitching, I'm having a pretty good time in the game.

Later on today a big patch arrives. We'll see if that makes things a tad smoother. I'll settle for the eyes looking less horrifying.

April 6, 2017


A Mass Effect Observation

Last night I was in the Remnant Vault on Eos. The deal was that Eos and other planets were supposed to be quite nice but when the ships of the Andromeda Initiative arrived, the worlds were inhospitable. In the case of Eos, the planet had a high level of radioactivity. Long story short I discovered that there were alien devices on the planet that the bad guys, the Kett, were interested in. I turned them on and they sent a signal to a vast underground complex called the Remnant Vault. Figuring out that the devices were some kind of environmental control tech gone bad, I went inside the vault to reset them.

So, I'm following an energy conduit and I come to a door that's locked. I spend 45 minutes trying to find a way around the door and eventually give up and go to a walkthrough. From the walkthrough I find that the locked door is a bug, it's supposed to be open. if you exit and reload a saved game it will probably be unlocked the next time you get to it. Problem solved.

I bring this up because the Remnant Vault wasn't some obscure little side quest, this was part of the game's main storyline, and the game shipped with this bug. And it shipped with the bad facial animations and the other things people are complaining about. I'm not privy to discussions between EA and Bioware but I'd bet a pension check that EA ordered the game released before Bioware thought it was ready.

EA bought Bioware and they can do whatever they want with their property. And I really enjoyed the Remnant Vault sequence, I felt the whole Star Trek/Forbidden Planet vibe. But I'm wondering if Bioware can weather the bad publicity that the poor state of Mass Effect Andromeda has generated. Still, everything comes to an end and I am enjoying myself.

April 5, 2017


Next Time I'll Drive

April 4, 2017


Damn, I Miss Witcher 3

April 4, 2017


Portrait

I'm trying to play Meredith as a Kirk type. Picard was an older man and by his time captains didn't go on away missions. Kirk was younger and the in his day it was acceptable for starship captains to beam down into potentially hazardous situations. Besides, Meredith isn't a captain, she's a pathfinder, charged with finding suitable worlds for the 100,000 20,000 colonists.

That's right, of the 100,000 colonists that were sent from the Milky Way to Andromeda, only Earth's ship has managed to rendezvous with the Nexus, the vast ship meant to be a hub for the new colonies. One of my jobs is to find out what happened to the other for ships.

I'm at the Nexus now. My main mission is to take a scout ship to Eos, a world deemed habitable. While I'm there I'm going to retrieve a body to investigate a murder. But before I leave there's a bunch of people to talk to. In fact, it reminds me of the original Mass Effect. The hub in that game was a vast structure called the Citadel. Every time you went there you'd end up with three or four side quests. In my case the murder thing is a side quest, a guy is accused of murdering his commander during a fire fight with the bad guys, the Kett. I assume I'll pick up a few more before I head out with my scout ship.

And while it's kind of hard to take Star Trek seriously these days, it's a bit of a kick to be in an episode.

April 3, 2017


President Trump and President Sisi

Today Trump met with President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi of Egypt and he had nothing but good thing to say about him, "I just want to let everybody know in case there was any doubt that we are very much behind President el-Sisi. He’s done a fantastic job in a very difficult situation. We are very much behind Egypt and the people of Egypt. The United States has, believe me, backing, and we have strong backing."

The United States has a history of backing puffed up dictators like Sisi. In the old days the government justified it as a necessary part of the war against communism. Thus we supported the Shah of Iran and when he was chased out by his own people the new government became a hard and fast enemy of the US. Now Trump is supporting Sisi and justifying it as a necessary part of the war against terrorism. Eventually Sisi or his successor will be ousted and the new government will be our enemy. I'd say that Trump hasn't learned anything from history but Trump is ignorant of history.

April 3, 2017


The Bioware Announcement

I've put three hours into Mass Effect Andromeda and I've encountered little glitches, things like flickering hair or a kind of hiccup that moves characters around slightly. Nothing game breaking but...

This is a major release by a major studio, a $59.99 game and this is stuff that should have been handled a long time ago. And the tone of their happy, smiley great news a comin' message grates just a bit. We'll see what Bioware has to say to us tomorrow.

April 3, 2017


A Word About Ghost in the Shell

In 1960 John Sturges released his film The Magnificent Seven. It was based on The Seven Samurai by Akira Kurosawa. Kurosawa's film was set in 16th century Japan and was about seven ronin who help beleaguered farmers fight off bandits. Sturges' remake was set in 19th century Mexico and was about seven gunfighters who help beleaguered farmers fight off bandits. Both films are good but I want to point out that rather then putting Yul Brynner and Steve McQueen in 16th century Japan, Sturges made a western.

And if you want to do a live action remake of Ghost in the Shell with a white cast then why set it in a futuristic Japanese city? Set it in 22nd century Seattle with an all American cast, replace Department 9 with the NSA and you're home free. And if you want to set your movie in Japan, then why not hire Asian actors?

And while I'm talking about hiring, it also helps if you hire some folks with a good knowledge of the source material. Just sayin'.

April 3, 2017


Dystopia

You can find more of Tom Gauld's work at You're All Just Jealous of My Jetpack.

April 2, 2017


Trump on Chuck Todd

Sleepy eyes? I call that bold talk for a 70 year old fat man.

April 1, 2017


EA and Mass Effect

It's noon, in a bit I'm going to make oatmeal, then I'm doing some errands and I'm coming home with some beer and I'm going to really sit down with Mass Effect Andromeda.

When your business involves making art, whether it's music, movies or games, there are two ways you can approach things. You can try to make great art and hope it sells, or you can try to maximize your profits and hope that you've made a quality product that will please consumers. EA goes with the second approach.

When EA bought Bioware the studio had enormous cachet. I mean they made Baldur's Gate, Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic and Mass Effect. But they also made Dragon Age 2 on the cheap so the studio can and did fuck up before EA bought them. So I'm not going to blame all the problems with Mass Effect Andromeda on EA. And if I'm being honest, while Dragon Age 2 wasn't a great game, I had fun playing it. I hope to have fun with Mass Effect Andromeda too.

To infinity and beyond!

April 1, 2017


Introducing Meredith Ryder

You know, Ken always remarked on how dark I set my games. I don't notice it when I'm playing but I do notice it when I look at a screen shot. Sometimes I'll use Gimp to lighten it but it's three in the morning so fuck that shit.

Anyway, I did want to introduce you to Meredith Ryder. My normal strategy with a new game is to get some beer and learn the mechanics. That will have to wait until Saturday. I also have to decide how to play her. Most of the time when I chose to respond to an NPC in a logical manner, she's acting a lot like alChandler would but dammit she is in the military.

Mass Effect 3 really fucked up with their multiple endings. When it came time for the fourth game in the series they avoided the problem of the multiple endings by assuming that after Mass Effect but before Mass Effect 2 Earth launched colonizing ship to Andromeda. The journey took 600 years so the whole question of how Shepard's fight with the Reapers went down is irrelevant.

For me the ending of Mass Effect 3 was pretty depressing. Less angst and doom in Andromeda would really be welcome. Parts of the original Mass Effect almost had a Star Trek feel and I'm hoping I get that from this game too.

March 31, 2017


Ghost in the Shell

No, not that one, tonight I watched the 1995 movie and after 22 years it still holds up.

I don't know what's up with Scarlett Johansson's version of the Major, but Major Motoko Kusanagi is concerned about her place in the world and her relationship with humanity. That relationship is made all the more problematic because their aren't many unaugmented humans left, most folks having opted for a whole buffet of cybernetic implants. Granted, the Major and Batou are extreme examples but in Section 9 only Togusa is relatively unenhanced.

I've no idea how the 2017 movie will do but it made a wonderful excuse to go back and watch the original.

March 31, 2017