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



Spreading optimism since 1999


Sauron and Trump

The short version is that it never occurred to Sauron that someone, especially someone in power, would possess the Ring and decide to destroy it. That's not how powerful people operate. The idea that Gandalf, Galdriel and Elrond would all unite behind a plan to destroy the Ring wasn't a concern of his.

Presidential candidates pick a running mate to bring in voters who might not be enthused by the name at the top of the ticket. Obama picked Biden, Biden picked Harris and Trump picked Mike Pence, a God fearing regular Republican. And because Pence was a God fearing regular Republican he resisted calls to overturn the results of the 2020 election and certified Biden as president.

And that why Trump picked J.D. Vance for vice-president. Vance wouldn't have any moral qualms if Trump declared himself dictator for life. And unlike the 2016 election, Trump didn't have to worry about attracting unaffiliated voters. Biden's perceived dementia would ensure that enough independents would go with Trump this time around.

Because just as Sauron didn't think that anyone would willingly destroy the Ring, Trump couldn't understand that a sitting president might decide not to run for the good of his country, not to mention his party. But that's just what Biden did and now Trump and the Republicans have a problem, Vance will not bring in anyone who hasn't already decided to vote for Trump. If Trump drops Vance for someone like Mike Johnson (who's also an asshole but not as big an asshole as Vance) it will make him look weak. But if he keeps Vance on the ticket there's a good possibility that independents will break for Harris. Not to mention that now that Biden is off the table, Trump's own mental lapses are fair game for the Democrats.

I'm still worried about the election but not quite as worried as I was last week.

July 22, 2024


Post Victory Hangover

At 1:30 this morning I ate a chocolate candy from Brute's Roots to see if that would help me with the last boss fight in Warhammer 40K Boltgun. It didn't help with my hand/eye coordination but it did give me the patience to keep trying. I finally got him at about 3:00. By then I was wired and didn't get to bed until 8:00. So now I'm foggy from the candy and will have to put off shopping until tomorrow.

But it was worth it.

July 21, 2024


I Finished Warhammer 40k Boltgun

I figured I had a 50-50 chance of beating the final boss and I managed to pull it off. After many unsuccessful attempts I was getting frustrated but I broke out a gummy and that made me calm enough to follow through.

I'm not very sure about the game's plot. I have a vague idea that somebody stole something important from somewhere to do bad things with it. I've been tasked with getting it back before the bad guys use it to do evil stuff. Really, that's all you need to know. Plotting isn't the game's strong suit.

July 21, 2024


A Rare Case of Visual Awareness

I'm not very visually aware but yesterday I was playing Warhammer 40K Boltgun and noticed how big the levels were, compared to mid 90s first person shooters.

Shooters in the 90s had to give the illusion of being in a big environment without actually having the ability to show one. Not because of any flaw in the programming but because of the limitations of computers 30 years ago. Sometimes you'd see a side street blocked off for construction, that sort of thing. Occasionally a game didn't even try to be subtle, you'd make a turn to the right and get the You Can't Go That Way message. Half Life had a clever way of dealing with it. At the end of an area they'd have a wall that showed the next area. The game would load the new area and when it was finished it would swap out the picture for the actual map. That way the game could give you the sense of being in a huge complex without blowing up your computer.

But, Warhammer 40K Boltgun doesn't have that problem, it can make huge levels. While contemporary players can deal with the pixelated graphics, I doubt they would put up with the tiny levels you'd see in Doom. An if anybody really wants a 90s experience, ypi can buy the original Doom.

And just in case you were wondering, I'm now halfway through the third and final act. I should be finished, one way or the other, very soon.

July 20, 2024


Crowdstrike

July 19, 2024


Warhammer 40k Boltgun

First person shooters in the 90s were not subtle. I played Doom, Doom 2 and Duke Nukem and the play style was move in, keep moving, and keep shooting. I sucked at those things, which is why I didn't finish Doom 1 and Doom 2, until a couple of years ago. And I never finished Duke Nukem, although I have fond memories of the death matches I played with Ken.

And I suppose I'm posting this to mark the patience I'm showing with this game. Even on low difficulty I'm having some problems but (so far) I haven't raged quit during my current play through.

By the way, I've always found the Dune universe depressing, but you know what? The Warhammer 40k universe makes Dune looks like it's set in the Shire, yet I've played several games there. It's the difference between reading or watching a work of art and living in one (and yeah, games qualify as works of art).

Now, I think Boltgun qualifies as art but is it great art? No, but it does do a good job of recapturing look and play style of first person shooters in the mid-90s. Brings a tear to my eye it does.

July 19, 2024


J.D. Vance

Of course Vance has removed those tweets from X, but they're still out there. And after all, a willingness to peddle your ass to the highest bidder is just what Trump is looking for in a vice president.

July 15, 2024


Round Two

Because I took a stab at Warhammer 40k Boltgun at the beginning of the year I didn't list it under Playing when I reinstalled it two weeks ago. I have a habit of getting frustrated with the game and quitting it early on. But I just finished the first set of missions (there are three parts to the game) and decided to put the box art up.

The game is described as a Boomer Shooter and someone on Reddit remarked that term is inaccurate, Baby Boomers didn't play games like Doom and Duke Nukem' in the 90s when they came out and they certainly aren't playing them now. However I played them in the 90s, as did Ken, and three of my friends still play games today. I remember a letter in Rolling Stone I read in the 70s. The letter writer and his friend were in a bar, arguing about the greatest rock band of all time. Names like The Beatles and Led Zeppelin were tossed out. A man who appeared to be in his 60s was listening to them. When He finished his beer and started to leave he passed the young men and said, "My vote would go to The Clash."

Never assume.

July 15, 2024


AI

For some reason Newton decided that there was one spot on my bedroom's carpet that was perfect for scratching. When I caught him I'd yell and he'd stop it but that didn't stop him from doing it the next day. On Marie's advice I bought bought him one of those corrugated cardboard things and parked it on the spot he was using.

As it turned out he loved it, problem solved. I took a picture of him sitting on the thing like he was a ship's captain. And because of that I used the picture in the Dream app with the prompt, "My cat as a ship's captain," and used the Baroque filter and the AI produced the picture I'm using as my phone's wallpaper.

While I like the picture I wouldn't call it art. I just contributed a description and Dream did the rest. But Dream is not self aware so personally I don't think of its pictures as art. But I suspect the jury is still out on whether or not AI's productions can be called art or not.

I'm bring this up because the NY Times had an article about Lee Saedol. He was the Go player who lost a match to AlphaGo in 2016. Chess playing computers use brute look ahead to defeat human grandmasters, but Go has too many moves for that to work. But the folks who taught AlaphGo the rules set it to playing itself. The version that won the first game became the seed of the next two versions, and so on. AlphaGo taught itself the game's strategy and it got good enough to beat a Go player of 9 dan rank.

Lee retired from Go in 2019, he felt that losing to a computer meant that his world was collapsing. If that's the way he feels then that's the way he feels. As a kid I loved strategy games, as an adult I discovered I suck at them, life went on. But I'm not interested in watching a computer defeat a highly ranked Go champion at this point, I accept the fact that programs can kick our asses at lots of things, things that require intelligence that was once thought to be beyond a computer's capacity. I suspect that sometime in this century we'll produce a general artificial intelligence. When it arrives let's hope it does better with its intelligence then humans have with theirs.

July 12, 2024


Sandman and Loki

Next year Netfix will release season 2 of Sandman. Among the new characters introduced are Odin, Loki and Thor, IO9 writes:

Notably, TV will also enjoy a new Loki in Freddie Fox, who’s currently appearing on House of the Dragon as Ser Gwayne Hightower. Loki’s nothing without his better-liked brother, Thor, however, and so Laurence O’Fuarain of The Witcher: Blood Origins has the unenviable task of taking over the role from the MCU’s Chris Hemsworth. Scottish character actor Clive Russell (One Piece) will play their disappointed father, Odin.

I'm being a bit picky here but in the original myths, Loki was not Odin's foster son, that was an invention of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. Odin and Loki were blood brothers It's referenced in the Elder Edda in a section called Lokasenna. Loki is thrown out of a feast, he comes back pretty pissed and says to Odin:

Odin! dost thou remember when we in early days blended our blood together? When to taste beer thou didst constantly refuse, unless to both 'twas offered?

Odin then says to his son Vidar:

Rise up, Vidar! and let the wolf's sire sit at our compotation; that Loki may not utter words of contumely in Oegir's hall.

I'm wondering how folks who only know the Aesir through Marvel will react to Neil Gaiman's interpretation of them.

July 4, 2024


Scavengers Reign

Ari and her robotic sidekick Levi

In December an animated series premiered on Max, Scavengers Reign. The cargo ship Demeter 227 had a horrendous accident and a few of the crew manage to eject in pods and land on a planet called Vesta. They're separated and they're attempting to survive as well as trying to land what remains of Demeter 227 to wake up the passengers in cryogenic stasis (not to mention grabbing the supplies the ship was carrying that will make their stay on Vesta a lot easier). I gave it a try based on a rave review by Jeff VanderMeer. I was expecting something like the Southern Reach books and the series (created by Joseph Bennett and Charles Huettner) was very much its own thing, so I bailed after two episodes. Apparently I wasn't alone because Max kicked the series over to Netflix. Last night, aided by edibles, I gave it a second try, and damn was it good. I ended up binge watching all 12 episodes.

The aesthetic is what if VanderMeer and Moebius collaborated on a series. There are three groups on Vesta. There's Ari and Levi, Sam the ship's captain and the ship's botanist Ursula, and finally Kaemen and Hollow. Kaemen is the guy who (unintentionally) was responsible for the ship's accident, Hollow is a telepathic animal whose contact with Kaemen did it no good.



Kaemen and Hollow

It took me six months to appreciate Scavengers Reign for its own sake and boy is it good! If I had to describe its genre I'd say it's New weird which is not to everybody's taste. The series underperformed by Max's standards which is why they kicked it over to Netflix. The 12 episodes tell a complete story but there's setup for a second series. But no more then Max, Netflix isn't a charity and they're watching the numbers, so we'll see. Anyway, that's my media recommendation for 2024.

June 30, 2024


Shadow of the Vampire

Nosferatu was an adaptation of Bram Stoker's Dracula. Stoker's widow found out about it and the movie's director, F. W. Murnau changed some details and the movie was released in 1922 as Nosferatu. The courts were not satisfied but that's another story. Suffice it to say that Nosferatu is the ancestor of subsequent vampire movies.

The vampire in question is Count Orlok (who is definitely not Count Dracula). Orlok was played by Max Schreck.

Schreck was very good at playing a vampire.

Fast forward, years ago I watched a movie called Shadow of the Vampire. The idea was that Schreck was so good at playing a vampire because he was a vampire, that's the hook. I really enjoyed the film but never saw it again. I'd check on Amazon but while the DVD was available, it wasn't available digitally. But today, just for the hell of it I checked again and there it was. Cool.

Willem Dafoe played Schreck. According to the IMDB Dafoe got the part of the Green Goblin in Spider-Man after the producers saw him in Shadow of the Vampire. By the way, in the book, Dracula could go about during the day, I really should reread that book.

June 24, 2024


Reading the Evening News

My Dad worked rotating shifts, so he would sometimes read the morning edition of the newspaper and sometimes he'd grab the evening edition. I don't think that there are too many papers still publishing evening editions these days. Newspapers have websites that are updated during the course of the day. Newton, on the other hand, is a traditionalist. He reads the morning paper when I get up and let him in the office and when I come back to it at night he reads the evening edition. But although he's getting old he still keeps up with the times, sometimes he'll sit on my lap and get the news from various Videos for Cats on YouTube.

By the way, as I was writing this I remembered the time Trump refused to allow the New york Times to be sold in his casinos. That led me to a 2016 article in the Times about Trump in Atlantic City called How Donald Trump Bankrupted His Atlantic City Casinos, but Still Earned Millions. If you're interested and don't subscribe to the Times, it's a gift article. I discovered I get 10 gift articles a month, cool. Anyway, if you are (or were) remotely connected to the AC casino industry back in the day, you won't be surprised by anything there but it's nice to see it all laid out right and proper.

June 23, 2024


This Is Some First Class Bullshit

Its dishonesty is charming in a weird sort of way.

June 20, 2024


AI Rant

When I woke up this morning I checked my phone and Charlie Stross on Mastadon had a link to a rant titled I Will Fucking Piledrive You If You Mention AI Again. By the time I got out of bed, showered and had my morning coffee the essay had made it to Verge.

Sweet merciful Jesus, stop talking. Unless you are one of a tiny handful of businesses who know exactly what they're going to use AI for, you do not need AI for anything - or rather, you do not need to do anything to reap the benefits. Artificial intelligence, as it exists and is useful now, is probably already baked into your businesses software supply chain. Your managed security provider is probably using some algorithms baked up in a lab software to detect anomalous traffic, and here's a secret, they didn't do much AI work either, they bought software from the tiny sector of the market that actually does need to do employ data scientists.

There's a lot more, if you're so inclined.

June 19, 2024


Gloomwood

I finished Gloomwood today, at least the 20% that's in early access. I'll let the game alone for a couple of years now. I had to go to a walkthrough to complete it, as it turned out I missed a key from one of the guards. I'm also finding the city hard to navigate without maps. Even the half assed maps provided in Thief would have been appreciated.

But on the whole I enjoyed my second play through of Gloomwood. I made the game harder then it had to be by not taking the flare gun when I had the chance. I do that kind of thing a lot, I'm stubborn. Of course now that I know how useful the flare gun can be in battle I'm tempted to go back for another playthrough. But I have enough self knowledge to realize that another playthrough would only end it disaster and self incrimination. We're not going to go there.

June 18, 2024