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!


Upgrading Pierce

Yesterday I spent my time in Control trying to get enough crafting stuff to open up the second upgrade slot for my pierce weapon. I succeeded and just now I took the modified weapon out for a spin. I was surprised at how much of a difference that second mod made. I still don't think I'll finish the game but if I spend tomorrow, well today it's 3:30 in the morning, getting enough material to unlock the third slot the gun might actually kick ass. So that's where I'm at battling the Hiss (I know, I didn't make up the name) in Control.

September 21, 2019


Life Imitates Art

That picture is from 2010: The Year We Make Contact, it's the scene where the monoliths turn Jupiter into a small star.

And that picture was taken by the Juno probe, currently studying Jupiter. Alas, it's not godlike aliens messing about with Jupiter, rather Jupiter's moon, Io, is eclipsing the Sun. Still, pretty cool in its own right if you ask me.

September 21, 2019


Difficulty Levels

You know, if I had known that Control didn't have difficulty levels I wouldn't have bought it. But I'm glad I didn't know that because I've had a good time with it. Now I'm at the end of the game and unless they issue a patch I doubt I'll be able to finish it. But I'm giving it my best shot, upgrading my weapons by running around looking for infected to fight to gain crafting materials.

I generally check put the Gamers with Jobs site and one of their regulars, Colleen Hannon wrote an article called When Every Game is Hard Mode. Hannon has issues that prevent her from playing games the way she used to and when a game like Sekiro: Shadows Dies Twice comes out without difficulty levels she simply can't play it.

Now, I have no health issues at the moment that prevent me from playing games, but I am on the clumsy side. If I'm especially motivated, like I was with Control, I can do better then expected but I'll never be able to finish something like Dark Souls.

Meanwhile, I have three more weapons and a skill or two to max out. After that, I'll put it aside if I can't do the final fight, hoping that Remedy issues a patch that will offer a lower difficulty setting. If not, well I had a good time.

September 20, 2019


Gaming PSA

The Epic Store gives away free games every week. This week they're giving away six Batman games, three Lego Batman games and the three Arkham games. I'm not particularly interested in the Lego games but I've played all three Arkham games, Batman: Arkham Asylum, Batman: Arkham City and Batman: Arkham Knight and I heartily recommend them.

If you don't play computer games or you don't want to sign up with another online store, that's cool. But six games for free is a pretty good deal.

September 20, 2019


On Beauty

I once read Roger's Version by John Updike. I remember nothing about it except I was bored. Here's the plot summery from Wikipedia:

The novel is about Roger Lambert, a theology professor in his fifties, whose rather complacent faith is challenged by Dale, an evangelical graduate student who believes he can prove that God exists with computer science. Roger becomes obsessed with the thought that Dale is having an affair with his wife, Esther.

Roger himself becomes involved with his niece Verna, a coarse but lively nineteen-year-old and single parent whose own mother (Roger's half sister) had a sexual hold over him when they were in their teens. Verna, frustrated by her poverty and limited opportunities, becomes increasingly abusive towards her one and a half year old, mixed-race daughter, Paula. Roger, out of sympathy for her situation and his increasing sexual attraction for her, begins to tutor Verna so she can earn her high school equivalency.

One evening, when Paula refuses to go to sleep, Verna shoves and hits her; Paula falls and breaks her leg. Roger, after helping Verna disguise the assault as a playground accident from the hospital staff, has sex with her. Dale, meanwhile, grows depressed and disillusioned when his computer data does not seem to point to the existence of God. The novel ends with Verna leaving Boston to return to her parents in Cleveland and Roger and Esther receiving temporary custody of Paula.

I remember none of that.

A couple of weeks ago I was in the mood for a work about upper middle class academic types. The type of people who turn up in Woody Allen movies and sometimes in Updike novels. These days I'm still a little wary about Woody Allen's work and while Updike was regarded as a national treasure he didn't do much for me. Somehow I stumbled into a review of Zadie Smith's book, On Beauty. Again from Wikipedia:

On Beauty centres on the story of two families and their different yet increasingly intertwined lives. The Belsey family consists of university professor Howard, a white Englishman; his African-American wife Kiki; and their children, Jerome, Zora and Levi. They live in the fictional university town of Wellington, outside Boston. Howard's professional nemesis is Monty Kipps, a Trinidadian living in Britain with his wife Carlene and children Victoria and Michael.

The Belsey family has always defined itself as liberal and atheist, and Howard in particular is furious when his son Jerome, lately a born-again Christian, goes to work as an intern with the ultra-conservative Christian Kipps family over his summer holidays. After a failed affair with Victoria Kipps, Jerome returns home. However, the families are again brought closer nine months later when the Kippses move to Wellington, and Monty begins work at the university.

I was going to write that it's done with a lighter touch then Roger's Version but it would be wrong of me to say that, I don't remember enough of the book to make that kind of judgment. As for Updike, he won two Pulitzers, so is reputation is safe from my snideness.

By the way, I finished Stephen King's The Institute in two days. As it turned out, I was in the mood for Stephen King novel.

September 18, 2019


Lesbian Necromancers in Space

You know, Clark Ashton Smith had a lot of fun with necromancy and you can read one of his best stories on the practice, Necromancy in Naat at The Eldritch Dark, a site dedicated to Smith and his writing. But I'm not here to talk about Smith, just to say I have a sentimental fondness for necromancy and so, when I stumbled on an interview with Tamsyn Muir, author of Gideon the Ninth, I actually read the interview rather then clicking away. I suppose the quote from Warren Ellis had a little to do with it, "This crackling, inventive and riotous book from an original voice is a genuine pleasure. Also the author is clearly insane."

But I'm in the mood for something different. I enjoyed A Memory Called Empire and I enjoyed Control both things I would normally pass by. And as Bilbo Baggins used to say, "Third time pays for all." So then, after the book on China comes the new Stephen King and after that the necromancers.

September 15, 2019


The Batman Who Laughs

Perhaps you'll let me indulge my love of comic books for a bit. On a parallel Earth, the Joker decides to finish it with Batman. He dissolves Commissioner Gordon in acid, tortures parents to death in front of their children then injects the children with a concentrated version of the toxin that made him what he is. Oh yes, he also destroys a good chunk of Gotham City, killing the other villains to boot, not to mentions a good chunk of the city's population. The whole thing pushes Batman over the edge and in a rage he snaps the Joker's neck, which was what the Joker wanted. Once he dies his body releases the same toxin he gave the kids, turning Batman into his successor. By the time Batman realizes the seriousness of what's happening to him it's too late, he's become the Batman Who Laughs, a combination of Batman's skills and the Jokers nihilistic evil.

Still with me?

Batman Who Laughs kills all the heroes, all the villains and turns Earth into a slaughter house. Then he realizes there's an infinite number of Earths out there, so he travels to the DC universe's main Earth and things gets interesting. He shows up and Batman realizes he needs someone who thinks like his counterpart, so he brings in the Joker to help. The first thing the Joker does is shoot himself in the chest. The Joker is clinically dead for a minute or two and the same toxin that created the Batman Who Laughs doses "our" Batman. The Joker understood that Batman would need to think like his insane counterpart and eventually Batman concedes that the Joker is right. So even though he has an antitoxin that will reverse the process, he puts off taking it.

Meanwhile the Joker isn't dead and Batman asks him what he really wants. At first the Joker outlines a scenario very much like what happened on the other Earth. But our Joker has a bit more self knowledge then the other Joker had and he confesses that he doesn't want to win.

The Batman Who Laughs is one of the best villains in decades and I'd like to see him in a movie one day. The problem is that he makes Heath Ledger's Joker look like a Mormon missionary and the powers that decide such things might not want to go there.

September 15, 2019


Joker

By all reports Joaquin Phoenix is extraordinary as Arthur Fleck, a stand-up comedian who never made it. Fleck snaps and becomes the Joker.

Generally, the Joker's origin revolve around a botched robbery at the Ace Chemical plant. The leader of the robbers is the Red Hood. Batman corners the Hood and then, depending on who's telling, the Hood falls into a vat of acid or jumps into it to escape capture. Either way he the acid drains out a pipe into a stream, the Hood escapes and sees his reflection in the water.

And that's pretty much it. In most versions of the story Batman has no idea who the Joker is and he is unaware that he was around for his creation. That's what made Heath Ledger's version of the character so terrifying. Christopher Nolan dropped the whole acid vat shtick but kept the enigma part. We've no idea where he came from or what made him so bat shit crazy (you should pardon the expression) and that makes him all the more terrifying.

But in Joker Fleck is a middle aged white guy who snaps and I'm not sure I want to watch a movie about a white guy snapping, it seems like we've more then a few of those guys in real life. I'm not ruling out seeing it, I'm just not sure. At any rate it looks like Phoenix succeeded in creating a Joker free from the shadow of Heath Ledger's version, good for him.

September 15, 2019


Random Notes

I'm currently reading A Force So Swift: Mao, Truman, and the Birth of Modern China, 1949 by Kevin Peraino. Now is a good time to crack that book open, October 1st marks the 70th anniversary of the Chinese Revolution. I've the new Stephen King, The Institute, queued up on my Kindle but I needed a tonic of nonfiction.

The Institute is about an outfit that kidnaps kids with abilities and studies them, as such it ties in nicely with Control a game that I might, or might not finish this weekend. I'll pick up a case of beer tomorrow and give it my best shot. It worked with the boss battle with Former last weekend. Besides, it's an honor to be nominated.

October 1st just doesn't mark the Chinese Revolution, it marks Newton's 6th birthday.

He was in a cage at the front of the animal shelter, a cage meant for kittens considerably younger then he was. Newton was six months old when I first saw him and was already past prime cuteness. If I hadn't adopted him he might have been at the shelter for a long time. So they kept him in the kitten cage at the front hoping someone would take him hone. The cage was too small for him to sit upright and once I got him home he'd sit with his legs splayed. It took a couple of days for him to realize he didn't have to worry about hitting his head on the top of the cage.

For the rest, I've gotten up early every day this week, once from insomnia and the rest because I had to do stuff. But tomorrow is the weekend and next Thursday I travel up north. So life is, after all, rather pleasant.

September 10, 2019


Round Two

You might remember my week long battle with Former, a boss in Control. Tonight I was doing a side quest for a guy name Langston, he was in charge of storing items with unusual properties and several of them had escaped. So I volunteered to round them up for him, because that's what you do in video games, helping people in tasks that they should be able to handle themselves.

Ok, maybe the guy genuinely can't handle rounding up the items himself. Anyway one of these items was pink flamingo and when I caught up with it the thing transported me to the astral plane for a second boss battle with Former.

Long story short is that the boss battle took two minutes, I kicked his ass and corralled the flamingo. I'm beginning to think that there's a small chance that I'll finish this game. Hell, I'm proud of myself for getting this far.

September 10, 2019


The Situation

I'm rereading Borne by Jeff VanderMeer, here a summary of the plot according to Wikipedia:

In the ruins of a nameless city of the future, ruled by a giant grizzly called Mord, a woman named Rachel lives as a scavenger, collecting genetically engineered organisms and experiments created by the biotech firm the Company. Hidden in Mord's fur, she finds a sea anemone-like creature that she calls Borne.

The summation forgets to mention Rachel's partner and lover Wick, who used to work for the company. Nor does it mention the fact that Mord is three stories tall and can fly. These things are important.

Perhaps you've already decided that Borne isn't for you, tastes do vary after all. But perhaps you're on the fence and if so I have some good news. Borne is a sequel of sorts to a story VanderMeer wrote called The Situation. It's available in VanderMeer's collection of stories The Third Bear. But VanderMeer, along with Eric orchard and Zack Giallongo adapted it as a graphic story. I tells about Wick's days working as a bioengineer for the Company. Wick's best friend is a guy named Mord who worked with him. But then Mord was transferred to human resources and he and Wick drifted apart. you know how that goes.

At any rate, it's free and you can read it here. There you go, try before you buy.

Update: I've learned that the original story is a available to read in pdf format right here on Wired's site, so there you go.

September 8, 2019


Daniel Mell Junior

That's my nephew, Danny Mell. He's recently gotten back into painting and he was part of an exhibition of local artists at the Hazlet, NJ library. I went up there today and saw him, my sister and brother in law, and my cousin Mary Kay. It was really good to see him doing so well and at the end of the month I'm going back up north to pick up a painting he gave me, no small gift, he has more then a few sales to his credit.

September 7, 2019


Control: I am too Stupid to Live

That thing is called a former and it's considered one of the easier boss monsters in Control, it's also been kicking my ass for a week.

Because I'm a moron.

When I first encountered it I'd shoot it, doing a small amount of damage, not even coming close to killing it. I'm not really clever so I went to a walkthrough and discovered the secret is to wait until its eye is open, then shoot there and throw stuff at it. So that's what I've been doing for the last week. However I stopped shooting at it when eye was closed. Why? Fuck me, that's why.

Anyway, I decided to put the former on hold until tonight, beer night. I made a few bombing runs and got him down to 25% health. At that point he doesn't open his eye again and just tries to hit you with his insect like legs. I just avoided them until he got me. Why didn't I shoot him? Because his eye was closed.

At that point I watched a video of the fight on YouTube and realized, you still have to shoot him, even if his eye is closed. I went back and on the second try killed him.

I swear, sometimes I think I need a legal guardian. Anyway, here's a video of someone else's fight with the former:

And so I've won a great personal victory. Seriously, this kind of thing usually leads to me rage quitting. And while I've used the incredible power of Sam Adams Cherry Wheat to give me the power to defeat the former, that power has peaked I'm afraid. But I'm still playing the game and I'll take up where I left off tomorrow.

September 7, 2019


Of Books and Games

I've taken a bit of a break in Control because I'm having problems with a boss. Tomorrow after I get back from my sister's place I'm going to drink some beer and settle down for a couple of hours. if I still can't beat the boss then I'll know it's time to do other stuff and try to increase my skills for a bit. In the Oldest House just because you can reach an area doesn't mean you're equipped to handle it.

Secondly, I don't often give up on books but I have on The Well of the Unicorn. I'm afraid that I just couldn't keep track of the various factions vying for power. So that's that, I've started Lock In by John Scalazi, near future science fiction about to FBI agents investigating a murder. The catch is that one of the agent, Christopher Shane, has Hayden's syndrome. It's a condition that deprives you of voluntary movement. So Shane has a robotic body that allows him to move about while his real body is in a hospital bed. A nice palate cleanser after Fletcher Pratt and needed.

September 7, 2019


In the Mood

I've gotten past two bosses in Control, that's two more then I thought I'd defeat. It's now 12:30 in the morning and I'd like to have a go at the third one. But I have to get up at nine in the morning, it will take many tries before I can defeat this guy and win or lose I'll be too wired to sleep. So I'll write this sad little post and go to bed.

September 4, 2019


The Well of the Unicorn

There's actually a history of epic fantasy. The line starts with British polymath William Morris, then goes to Irish playwright Lord Dunsany, followed by E. R. Edison and finally ending up with Tolkien. Those guys, all of them from the British Isles, constitute classic fantasy. But between Edison and Tolkien there was an American writer, Fletcher Pratt, who wrote a book called The Well of the Unicorn in 1948. I had a used paperback copy when I was a kid and was never able to get into it and felt guilty. I mean, I loved this stuff, I read The Worm Ouroboros as a teenager, more then once. Yet The Well of the Unicorn defeated me.

Probably because of the politics. In Tolkien, Sauron and Saruman are bad, Gandalf and Aragorn are good and that's all you need to know about the political lineup in Middle-earth. Not so in Fletcher Pratt's book. Airar Alvarson is a Dalecarl yeomen who lost his father's farm to a Vulking named Fabrizius. Soon he gets caught up in a Dalecarl resistance movement to overthrow Count Vulk the Fourteenth. Pratt didn't waste time with a long involved backstory, and while Aragorn is always noble, the rebels Alvarson throws in with are not.

Right now I'm on chapter five and I can say that so far the book is all right. Not high praise but I've read a lot of Eurocentric epic fantasy over the years and I'm kind of burnt out on the whole genre.

September 4, 2019


Cyberpunk 2077



It comes out in April. Needless to say, I preordered it a couple of months ago.

September 2, 2019


Combat

I've held off showing you combat in Control until I was sure I wouldn't totally disgrace myself. I've learned the basic mechanisms now, alternate between the gun and telekinesis. Make sure you use telekinesis on the guys with shields first (the ones with the red glow) then shoot them when their shields are down.

I'm not great at the game and I'm wondering if I can take out the next boss (I doubt it) but I can hold my own in a firefight and that's something.

On a related note, I've nothing really to kvetch about regarding the Epic store but I do wish they'd keep track of the hours I've played like Steam does. The lack of that feature isn't driving me into a rage but I'd kind of like to know.

September 1, 2019


A Gaming Video with Commentary

Two confessions about the video, I did not become the directory, I became the director. Secondly, I mistook the Newton's Cradle on the control panel for a switch. That's why I pressed F and expected something to happen, other then the balls clicking. With those two things out of the way, here's a video from Control with commentary.

Hmm, that watermark is annoying, if I pay for the full version of Bandicam it goes away.

I'm not going to lie to you guys, the combat in this game is hard, there's no difficulty settings and it has puzzles in it. All things being equal I probably would have given up were it not for my favorite character in the game, The Oldest House. The Oldest House is a skyscraper that just popped into existence in New York City and the Federal Bureau of Control moved in, considering it as part of their mandate to investigate paranormal phenomenon. Besides, who can turn down rent free office space in Manhattan?

The house changes, twists and turns and its antecedents are literary, Gormenghast Castle, the house owned by Will Navidson and Karen Green and of course The Library of Babel. And so because The Oldest House is so compelling, I put up with firefights and boss fights that take me a day or two to resolve. And it's the reason that I fool around with the puzzles, rather then just going to YouTube for the solution.

I almost certainly won't be able to finish it, but until I have to throw in the towel it will be good for me.

September 1, 2019


Gaming Stuff

I'm watching Felicia Day play vanilla World of Warcraft on Twitch. Meanwhile, Wolfenstein: Youngblood released their patch that makes the game easier. So if I waited a week I might have had a shot at finishing the game.

I regret nothing.

I spent Monday and Tuesday in Control trying to kill a dude call Tomasello. Late Tuesday night I succeeded. Well, I almost killed him, he retreated at the last minute. Asshole.

Control doesn't have difficulty levels, you can, however, turn on aim assist and I did do that. I've also got ability points today and I put them into health. I'm concentrating on my gun, hopefully turning Jesse into a tank. She also has telekinesis but I kind of suck at that.

Today I got up at six in the morning and took not one but two naps today so I figured I'd be up till dawn. Not so, I'm starting to wind down. So I'll get back to Day on WoW and call it a night after that.

August 29, 2019