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alChandler's Halls

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Yesterday ars Technica had an article on Beowulf that referenced Tolkien's essay Beowulf: The Monsters and the Critics. Now I've never read that but I do have a collection of his essays and I figured that after finishing Mr. Penumbra's 24 Hour Book Store I might dip into it for a bit. So I went to the bookcase where that volume lived and it wasn't there.

I have a lot of books and at one time I had a fairly good idea of where they lived. My library isn't well organized but back in the day I'd always be going back for one book or another and my mental map of the books was pretty strong. But for over ten years I've been using a Kindle and I've sort of lost track of a lot of my books. They're here somewhere but to find an individual book sometimes takes me days.

In the case of the Tolkien book, I did find it, but then it occurred to me that if I read that, it might be fun to reread Seamus Heaney's wonderful translation of Beowulf and that's nowhere to be found. It's here but I'll have to send out search teams.

April 18, 2019


After two months of fiddling and tweaking I am cautiously optimistic that the tech side of my life is up to snuff and working as it should. And that means that my office will catch fire during my sleep tonight.

April 18, 2019

Connecting with the Cat

I'm not the most empathetic person in the world and I still miss a lot of cues but just now Newton got a case off the zoomies and I decided that it was a good time to throw one of the mini superballs his way. He's pretty happy right now. What he hasn't mastered is the art of bringing it back to me so I can throw it again. But if the ball happens to land by the door of the office he'll sit next to it and hope I notice. He's not so hot when it comes to social cues either.

April 16, 2019

The Infinite Scroll

A black and white photo essay on using phones and computers in public places. The photos have a 21st century noir look.

April 13, 2019

Computer Stuff

There's a link on the right to pictures of computers. Twenty years ago computers hadn't yet morphed into stuff, they were still cool just for themselves. Today posting pictures of Our Computers would be like posting pictures of Our Toaster Ovens. And that's why the computer pictures haven't been updated in 13 years. The last picture I added was the water cooled version of Kosh that was pit together for me when I turned 50. That version of Kosh was a midlife crisis thing. By the way, that water cooled system still lives, last time I checked. I gave it to John's son Brett and as far as I know it's still going.

Anyway, the other day I took a picture of my computer desk, I was going to use it for something or other. I don't take good photos, I'm not a particularly visual person. But I liked the way that picture turned out and while I don't plan on updating Our Computers anytime soon, I wanted to post the picture of the desk here. It's not very good but I like it.

By the way, my speed down has jumped from 35 mps to about 460 mps. I was on the slowest tier of Comcast's internet speed. But it turned out that Comcast's slowest speed was 70 mps. My old cable modem couldn't handle that. So the new cable modem/router doubled my speed right out of the box. But when Rolf called Comcast to initialize the device Comcast offered a promotion for its preferred tier and Rolf persuaded me to take it. So now I'm getting about 460 mps down. The deal was that I get faster internet, Showtime and Starz if I agreed to take Comcast's phone service. I don't even have to use the service, just agree to add it to my bill. I suspect Comcast's phone service isn't as popular as they hoped. All that added $2 to my bill, so I'm pretty happy. The jury is still out on the television's apps but I haven't rebooted in a few days so that's a good sign.

April 13, 2019

In Which I Farm for Gold

I've reached the gold farming stage of the game. After being poor for the first part, I've now made it to the settlement of Warden's Hold. They've got an arena there and I'm participating in free for all matches. There are only three of us in any given match, I wait for one guy to kill the other and then I gank him and collect 350 gold.

It's a living.

April 12, 2019

USS Enterprise

Some spoilers, sort of.

When Star Trek Discovery introduced Captain Pike they played some footage from the first Star Trek pilot featuring Christopher Pike. That pilot was called The Cage and footage from it was used inDiscovery without any alteration. Yeah, the sets were cheesy and Jeffrey Hunter looked nothing like Anson Mount but it worked.

In 1992 Star Trek the Next Generation had an episode titled Relics. Mr. Scott had been caught in a transporter loop for some 80 years and was now on the Enterprise-D. Feeling lost he recreates the bridge of his Enterprise on the holodeck.

It's a little jarring but that's where the willing suspension of disbelief comes in, I accept the fact that the original Enterprise is a high tech ship, even though the recreated bridge doesn't really look it.

And I suppose that the producers of Star Trek Discovery could have had the USS Discovery look more in line with the USS Enterprise circa 1966 but what would pass in 1992 would be considered laughable in 2019. But because the show brought in Captain Pike and Mr. Spock, the creators didn't shrink from showing the Enterprise and the Enterprise's bridge. This is what they came up with:

We've got Pike standing in front of the captain's chair, there's the science station on his right, the communications station on his left and his first officer, Number One, is at the helm. The ship does look a little retro, during its refit Pike had stuff like the holo projectors ripped out and replaced with old fashioned flat screens, but it looks right. I can imagine Captain Kirk on that bridge.

But I don't need to see him on it. Star Trek is part and parcel of its time and while I enjoy the digital effects CBS added to the original episodes, many do not. And in fact they did add modern effects to the bridge, but they were too distracting to the test audiences.

It might have been easier had the producers decided to set the show in the Kelvin timeline, but that version of Trek seems to have run its course after three movies so were back in the main timeline. And I'm glad they did, I'm also glad I like the show. After Star Trek Voyager and Star Trek Enterprise I'm finally enthused about Trek again.

April 12, 2019


I took Newton to the vet's for his annual exam and shots. Normally he's pretty good about it, tolerating it and showing no aggression but today he was growling and hissing. You know, the poor guy has been through a lot, having been boarded there four times in five months and that really is a strain for him. I'd like to go a few months with him, just lazing about at home.

April 11, 2019

Elite Dangerous

In the 80s I played Elite a space sim on my Commodore 64. One of the rites of passage in that game was learning to dock my ship manually. It was hard but I was young, I learned how to do it and then earned enough cash to get a docking computer. After that the whole galaxy was open to me. Unfortunately it was a boring galaxy. 64KB has its limits.

Elite Dangerous had the same deal, you had to dock manually at first. it took me a couple of years but I managed to pull it off, barely.

Even allowing for age docking in Elite Dangerous was much harder then in the original game and after docking I pronounced the game a success and took it off my system.

And if you go on the boards in Steam, you'll find a lot of people who can't get over that hurdle. Today the news dropped that the developers are adding several new things to the game. The one that interested me is that new players will get a docking computer right from the start. The patch that will make the game friendlier to newer players drops on 4/23, with that in mind I've put the game back on my system.

Yes, I'm going to take advantage of the docking computer. I can't drive a stick either.

Update: A poster on Steam's Elite Board pointed out that in the original game, once you manually made it inside a space station that was it, you were docked. In Elite Dangerous not only do you have to match rotation and fly inside the space station, you then have to find the right landing pad and gently lower your ship on the pad. So the difficulty I had in docking wasn't age related. That makes me happy.

April 11, 2019

It's Taken Over a Year and 29 Hours But

Like Sam Gamgee, I think I'm getting the hang of this.

April 7, 2019

Today I Learned...

Today I learned that in Seven: The Days Long Gone that if there are guards outside and you want to break into a safe use lockpicks, even though the drill is easier. The noise of the drill will bring the guards. I've been playing this for 12 hours now and I only just figured that out.

April 7, 2019

An Unfinished Tech Story

A couple of months ago I bought an expensive (for me) television. The picture was wonderful, it had a whole bunch of apps but it had a flaw, every two days it would lose its connection to my network and I'd have to force the set to reboot to reconnect. It didn't take very long but it was troubling.

Rolf tried some stuff but ultimately it came down to one of two things, either the set had a bad network card that Sony would need to replace, or my cable modem was so old that the set was having problems working with it.

Here's the thing about that, I have an apartment sized washer/dryer combo in a closet. It's pretty old and I'm aware that I'll probably have to replace it one day. But I won't have to deal with getting a letter from the water company telling me that my washer is so old it won't work with the water they're supplying me and if I want to continue washing clothes I'm going to have to upgrade. But that happens all the time with computers and stuff that hangs off our home networks. If you're using an older version of Windows, Microsoft will stop updating it, if you're still using Netscape you won't be able to go to certain sites and if your cable modem is too old, Comcast will tell you to get a new one and cut off your internet access. With that in mind, meet Modem the Grey.

I've had that modem for at least ten years now. I bought it when I was still working for the Casino Control Commission and I've been retired for almost nine years. About two years ago I had to buy a new router and Rolf tried connecting stuff to its faster 5GHz channel but most of my equipment wouldn't work with that and I had to hang everything off the 2.4GHz channel. Rolf told me that the problem wasn't the router, it was the older cable modem. Two years and one television set later he argued that it was time to upgrade to a modem/router combo unit, that even if the problem with the television was the network card, sooner or later Comcast would force me to buy new equipment or lease their own router/modem combo. Since leasing from Comcast doesn't sit right with me there was only one thing to do, upgrade to Modem the White.

According to Comcast, I'll be getting faster internet but they'll be a 24 to 48 hour wait until it actually kicks in. However the television, Tivo and phone are talking to the 5GHz channel and that's something right there. I won't be using the apps on the television until Monday, if they connect without a problem that's a sign that maybe the set's network card is good.

And that's my unfinished tech story.

April 6, 2019

The Midnight Parasites

In the Renaissance there was a painter named Hieronymus Bosch. He painted stuff like this:

That's from his triptych, The Garden of Earthly Delights. Bosh was a bit out there. In 1972 the Japanese animator Yoji Kuri did a nine minute film based on panel three, the Hell part of the triptych seen above. It was called The Midnight Parasites.

Here's a link to a tour of the work and here's a video that features a very loose interpretation of the center panel:

I think I may have posted stuff about Bosch before but I'm just in a mood for him tonight, and for Kuri's film.

April 5, 2019


I've played computer games for a good long while and I'm fascinated by the business. Early this year Bioware released Anthem a multiplayer co-op shooter and the release hasn't gone well for the studio and its parent company, Electronic Arts. If you're into such things, Kotaku has a long article on how a beloved studio made a game that tanked.

April 3, 2019

A Night at the Whitney

Among other things Donna and I went to the Whitney Museum to see the Andy Warhol exhibition. I have to admit I was never that fond of Warhol's art but the exhibit changed my mind, a lot of his art was pretty funny. Here I am in front of the famous Cambell's Soup cans, leaning on my cane like I'm 80 years old.

We also went to the Tolkien exhibition at the Morgan Library. They had lots of his drawings and maps, here's a drawing of Barad-dr he did.

There was also food and drink in hobbit like abundance.

March 31, 2019

Entering NYC Mode

March 30, 2019


Your mileage may vary, but I'm liking young angsty Spock on Star Trek Discovery. He's about 26 years old, a lieutenant and kind of an asshole. Of course, given their 200 year lifespan, 26 is pretty young for a Vulcan so I'm willing to cut the kid some slack.

March 27, 2019

The Day Before

Tomorrow I head north so today I'm taking care of a few things. I boarded Newton, did a bit of shopping and in the bedroom Little Kosh is charging.

I always feel guilty boarding Newton. I've had four cats here and Newton is the only one who has to be boarded, I could leave the other three alone and get Marie to look in on them from time to time. But Kafka was sick when I got him and never really acted like a kitten, Jack was a refugee and so was Cadbury. I got them as adults and both of them had been bounced around by life, they were pretty low maintenance.

But Newton was six months old and playful when I got him, he's still playful for that matter. He chews on wires and doesn't like to be left alone for too long. And I'm writing this because while I know it's for the best that he go to the vet's for a few days, I feel guilty.

Meanwhile, Little Kosh was down to 24% power so he'll be plugged in for a bit. I may not take him out of his bag while I'm in New York but he's part of my whole, ahem, mobile office. I feel like a pompous ass saying that but there you go. Besides, I also put my Kindle in that bag and charging cables.

Oh, I think I've finally settled on my next game! I really disliked a lot about Metro Exodus 2033 and Call of Cthulhu just didn't click for me, I may go back to it some other time. Two days a go I put Seven:The Days Long Gone back on my system. I bought it last year and abandoned it about 18 hours in. A few days ago the devs released a massive patch that took care of some issues and released new content, free for folks who already had the original game. So it went back on Kosh and I must say that I'm enjoying it more then I did last year.

You play a thief named Teriel. The first time I played the game I played Teriel like he was Garrett from Thief. Garrett was pretty squishy, he could take out one guard in a fight but he'd take some damage, and the levels in Thief were designed for stealth and only stealth. You'd knock out a guard from behind, hide the body and move on, that was as violent as Garrett got.

But Teriel can fight. He can't solo several guards but one on one he's more then a match for them. So I'll keep that in mind this play through.

That's what's happening here, in New York there's a Tolkien exhibition at the Morgan Library that I'm geeking out about seeing. A few years ago I had an opportunity to see a Lewis Carroll exhibition in Philadelphia and I simply forgot about it. I don't want that to happen this time.

March 27, 2019