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!


Making Up for Lost Time

Now that I can record videos of Wolfenstein Youngblood here's a two minute firefight in a Nazi hall of records. While the game advertised it's stealth component, most of the time it's a meat grinder.

August 22, 2019


No Man's Sky

I thought about finishing up Wolfenstein Youngblood today. After all, Iíve done all the main missions and the side missions, Iíve done three boss fights and thereís not much else to do except for the final boss. You can go back in the various sections of Paris and fight respawning Nazis but Iíve extracted all the enjoyment Iím going to get out of that.

What stopped me was the fact that the last boss fight is, by all reports, annoying as shit and unless I have some beer in me Iím going to be frustrated, win or lose. So I decided to postpone that until Friday. Instead I put No Manís Sky back on my computer. There was a huge update that changed a lot of stuff and so I decided to try it.

No Manís Sky was justly derided for promising the world and then giving the world a pretty crappy game.

So Iíve been playing with it a bit. No video because one of the recent updates switched to the Vulkan renderer that doesnít play well with programs like OBS, same problem I have with Wolfenstein Youngblood. In fact I wouldnít be surprised if Nvidia is preparing to drop its own streaming/ video capture software package on the world. Be that as it may, I did get that crappy picture of my ship. I also have a log cabin I built that can protect me from the planetís toxic environment.

I get the impression that itís worth it to build a largish base that can automatically strip mine the planet for minerals that can be sold at space stations, so thatís what Iím going for here.

Tempus Fugit

Meanwhile I took a break, did a bit of research and downloaded a video capture program called Bandicam. People have had some success with it and the Vulkan renderer. Hereís a test video I did in No Man's Sky.

Ok, that worked, now let's see if it will capture Wolfenstein Youngblood shall we?

Well then, I'm feeling rather good about myself just now. I'll record one or two more Wolfenstein Youngblood videos just to give you a taste of the game. I may just have to cast OBS adside and buy the full version of Bandicam. Or not, the free version allows you to record up to ten minutes of video. What are the chances I'll want to record more then that?

Update: While I pride myself on being able to work a search engine, I really dropped the ball with Wolfenstein. I was asking: How do you get OBS to work with Wolfenstein when the correct question was: What video capture software will work with the Vulkan renderer, live and learn.

August 22, 2019


Wolfenstein

I'm not really complaining about Wolfenstein Youngblood. I paid $30 for it and have gotten 37 hours of play. And yet, I had planned to wait for the 1.05 patch before I took n the final mission that leads to the last boss, now I'm just doing it, win or lose. I just don't really care. Rock Paper Shotgun has a review that says in part:

But even Arkane level design canít combat the fatigue of repetition. Youíll spend most of the game trudging along streets like this one, fighting the same bands of respawning enemies. Youíll shoot (or sneak, if you get proper lucky) your way through a building, reach a forgettable quest marker, then turn around to see yet another wave of overly-chunky goons in your way. Robot Nazi stormtroopers should be menacing, exploding laser hounds should be exciting, not exhausting. But before you get your hands on some big guns to fight the biggunsí, many enemies absorb more bullets than theyíre worth. It wasnít long before me and RPS vidbud Astrid took to simply sprinting past them whenever possible.

And there you have it. I think I wrote earlier that Wolfenstein Youngblood seemed like it was salvaged from a more ambitious game that didn't work out. It was patched up and sent out the door at a discount price. I had my fair share of fun but I'm ready to move on.

August 20, 2019


The Hobbit Duology

Today the winners of the Hugo Awards were announced. In the category of best related work one of the nominees was The Hobbit Duology a three part film available on YouTube by Lindsay Ellis and Angelina Meehan (no relation). The films examine what went wrong with the Hobbit films. And while I think kinder of the movies then Ellis and Meehan do, I acknowledge that they're not in the same league as the original trilogy.

By the way, the Hugo winner for best novel is The Calculating Stars, by Mary Robinette Kowal an alternate history of the American space program. The Kindle version was on sale on Amazon for $2.99. I don't know if it will still be on sale when you guys get up tomorrow but if it is you might want to check it out.

August 18, 2019


White House Subs

In the early days of the Casino Control Commission inspectors could leave the casino they were stationed in to go to lunch and occasionally an inspector would volunteer to make a run to White House Subs on Arctic Avenue. White House Subs were regarded as a cut above everybody else and the place was always mobbed.

Sadly I didn't appreciate their subs because as picky an eater as I am now, I was far worse in the 80s and 90s. And today, now that I'm ever so slightly less uptight about food, it occurs to me that I'd like to taste one with a palate mellowed by age and wisdom. But alas, I'm not driving into Atlantic City for a White House sub. But I can call up Giovanni's Pizza and order and Italian hoagie, proudly leaving the tomatoes on, asking for a little oil and vinegar and hot peppers. And that is just what I'm going to do.

August 18, 2019


Prisma

I used to post a lot of picture edited with the Prisma app, then Prisma went subscription, they wanted $18.95 a year for access to their filters. I took the high road and refused to pay.

But dammit, Prisma really is worth it, I paid them their money and you've got to admit, that picture of Newton looking like a slumbering Bagheera is so fucking cool. I think it's my second favorite Prisma picture.

August 17, 2019


Gormenghast

One of the most remarkable works I ever read (and reread) are Mervyn Peakeís Gormenghast books: Titus Groan, Gormenghast and Titus Alone. They were meant to be part of a larger sequence that would have followed Titus, the 77th Earl of Groan, from birth to old age. Peake never got to finish the project, dementia with Lewy bodies prevented that, but the three books and a novella, Boy in Darkness are incredible.

Titus starts out as an infant in the first book, heir to Castle Gormenghast, a castle as large as a city state. Itís isolated, crumpling and the atmosphere of the castle is oppressive, and thatís on a good day. As Wikidpedia puts it:

Gormenghast is a remote and reclusive earldom dominated by the huge Castle Gormenghast at its centre, and ruled by the noble family of Groan since time immemorial. The earldom derives its name from Gormenghast Mountain, and is isolated from the outside world by inhospitable regions on each side of it. To the North are marshy wastelands, to the South are salt grey marshes (and presumably then the ocean), to the East are quicksands and the tideless sea, and to the West are knuckles of endless rock. To the West also lies the claw-like Gormenghast Mountain, with the Twisted Woods and Gormenghast river at its foot. East of them are escarpments described as "an irregular tableland of greeny-black rock, broken and scarred and empty", then desolate swamp before the vicinity of the castle is reached.[10] Gormenghast Mountain is said to be so large that from the castle it looks at most a few miles distant, whereas in fact it is a day's ride away on horseback. However, this is contradicted by events within the story, when various characters are able to travel on foot to the castle and back within a single day. Given that it is surrounded on three sides by watery regions, it is not implausible that the entire region can be flooded, as described in the second book, Gormenghast.

At the centre of the earldom is the vast, largely deserted Castle, whose remaining inhabitants centre their lives on the ritual surrounding the ruling family of Groan. The castle is described as being like an immense island of stone, its every outline familiar to the inhabitants, who know: "every bay, inlet and headland of the great stone island of the Groans, of its sheer cliffs, of its crumbling outcrops, the broken line of the towers".[11] Dominating the ivy-covered, crumbling castle is the highest tower, the Tower of Flints, which is inhabited by great numbers of owls. The castle is so huge that most of the inhabitants do not venture outside except for certain ceremonies. Outside the castle, clustered under the northern walls, is a hodge-podge of mud dwellings inhabited by the "Bright Carvers", whose only purpose is to carve elaborate objects out of wood and present them to the Earl. They are in awe of the "Castles", as they call Gormenghast's inhabitants.

Some contact with the outside world is implied; Dr. Prunesquallor at one point sketches an ostrich skeleton, while Steerpike procures a monkey from somewhere. Otherwise, the impression given is that Gormenghast is stagnant, insular, and introspective. A recurring theme is the time-consuming and pointless rituals that the inhabitants submit to regularly, the origin and purpose of which is long forgotten.

And why am I bring Gormenghast up again? Well in 2000 the BBC did a miniseries based on the first two books. I didn't think much of it and haven't been able to force myself to watch the DVDs. But last year Neil Gaiman was working to find somebody who could mount a proper production based on the books. Today Showtime announced that it's doing a series based on the books and neil Gaiman will be one of the showrunners.

I'm quite happy right now.

August 16, 2019


Slow Horses

Mick Herron's Slow Horses is a novel about spies. It reminds me a lot of John le Carrť's George Smiley novels. And if Slow Horses is less dense then Tinker Tailer Soldier Spy it's also more fun to read.

The book is part of the Slough House Series and I'm tempted to dive into the second book right away but I've learned from experience that it's a mistake to do that, generally. So instead of that I'll be rereading F. Marion Crawford's fantasy, Khaled. I haven't picked that one up since 1971 when I was 15!

August 15, 2019


Getting ready for the Boss

I was getting ready to tell you that I had one more mission to do in Wolfenstein Youngblood, then I was going to take on the final boss. I was trying to take a pragmatic view towards the last boss, I have a mixed record with final boss fights in the Wolfenstein series, having lost more then I won.

But just or the hell of it, I checked the gamesís notes on its Steam page. Patch 1.04 will drop this week and the patch after that is going to adjust the difficulty of the boss fights. So under the assumption that the difficulty of those fights will be toned down a bit Iím going to hold off on tackling General Lothar. Of course, they could be cranking the difficulty up a notch but I donít think so, a lot of people were bitching about that fight being too hard.

Still wish I could have taken a video but a patch for that doesn't seem to be in the cards.

August 14, 2019


Bodyguard

In the 00s William Gibson wrote his Blue Ant Trilogy and described it as present day science fiction. And the best way to define present day science fiction is to give you an example. In the first book, Pattern Recognition, Case Pollard is hired to track down the people behind the footage. Little snippets of film from a much larger work are turning up on the internet and Case Pollardís employer, Hubertus Bigend, believes that itís an incredible example of viral marketing.

The book is set in 2002, YouTube didnít exist then but the technology to shoot a video and distribute on the internet via things like bit torrent did exist, it just wasnít done, at least not a lot.

Think of it like this, in the 1930s television was present day science fiction. It existed and if you lived in the right place and had money you could watch broadcasts. But television wouldnít become mainstream until the late 40s.

Present day science fiction.

Iím more interested in trying to imagine how present day technology would look to people in the past. I think about that a lot and what triggered it this time was Bodyguard, a British import currently on Netflix.

David Budd is a Scottish veteran and a police officer. Heís good at his job but he suffers post traumatic stress disorder from his time as a soldier in Afghanistan. Heís separated from his wife and pretty disgusted that Britain is still militarily involved in Afghanistan. Then heís tapped to be the principal protection officer for Home Secretary Julia Montague. Montague doesnít have a vast reservoir of patience and Budd dislikes Montagueís support for military engagement with the Taliban.

Now, in 1982 Blade Runner came out, a movie set in 2019. Bodyguard premiered in 2018 but since Iím watching it in 2019, letís pretend itís set in this year. Now imagine that Bodyguard is actually a show that came out in 1982, how would viewers react?

The thing that hit me watching the one episode is that itís fairly dystopian. The show opens with Budd on a train with his kids when he learns thereís a suicide bomber in the bathroom. He enters the bathroom, talks the bomber down and he gets the PPO assignment as a reward.

But from the point of view of 1982, the fact that suicide bombing is something that Britain has to endure now and then would seem appalling, as would the presence of British soldiers in Afghanistan. In 1982 it was the Soviet Union fighting over there and just how did the UK get dragged into the fight anyway?

Then thereís the omnipresent surveillance technology. It existed in 1982, to be sure but the casual acceptance of it in 2019 would be chilling. In fact, I suspect that viewers in 1982 would consider Bodyguardís version of 2019 unpleasant, in spite of the cool toys that people seem to have, portable computers and some kind of miniature computer/communication device.

And I suppose I could go on for a bit, this stuff fascinates me. And itís a shabby trick, linking Bodyguard to Blade Runner to predispose you to accept the former as a dystopia, itís not, itís a show about a cop some problem assigned to protect a government minister whose policies he dislikes. And itís pretty good, Iíll watch episode two tonight.

August 12, 2019


J. D. Salinger

The NY Times is reporting that Matt Salinger, son of J. D. Salinger, is going to allow his fatherís books to be published in ebook format. Heís also going to be releasing some of his fatherís unpublished writings.

Good for him.

Like a lot of us in high school I had to read The Catcher in the Rye, because it encapsulated teenaged angst. I hated it and I hated Holden Caulfield, the whiny little shit. Of course I was miserable in high school, I had no friends, was depressed all the time and the last thing I needed was 250 pages of Holden bitching about his problems. I had to reread it in college and later I read it a third time in my 30s, just to see if my opinion would change. It didnít.

But to tell the truth, I didnít start feeling comfortable in my own skin until my 40s. So Iím tempted to buy The Catcher in the Rye when it comes out for the Kindle, just to see if I like it any better now that Iíve dropped some of my own baggage.

And as for Matt Salingerís plan to release some of his dadís unpublished works, wonderful, although Christopher Tolkien could probably tell him that projects like that can spiral out of control pretty quickly.

August 11, 2019

Update: The Guardian has an article that points out that today's teenagers have little patience for Holden's shit. Still plan to reread it though.


Old Internet People

Iím reading Because Internet by Gretchen McCulloch, itís about how the internet is changing language and so far itís very interesting.

She divides internet users based on when they actually got online for the first time. If you got online during the first half of the 90s (or earlier) youíre an Old Internet Person. Since I got my first internet access in 1993, I qualify. But being on a BBS also qualifies you as an Old Internet Person. By that definition Iíve been online since 1988 when, armed only with a 1200 baud modem, I connected with the Casino BBS.

In those days I had an eclectic but valuable skill set. I could set up an internet connection from scratch, tinker around with files in DOS and occasionally unfuckup your computer for you. But the long term goal was always to get to what we have today, ubiquitous computing and a certain ease of use. You can still fuck up your computer, but itís a bit harder then it was in the 90s and early 00s. And if you do fuck it up, Iím not the one who has to unfuckup it for you.

And Iíve posted similar sentiments in the past but dear me, McCullochís book is making me a tad nostalgic.

Oh by the way, normally I write posts directly in my HTML editor. But this one has been written using LibreOffice Writer first, then itís going to be pasted into the editor, with some formatting added there. Writing in SynWrite works but as I get older Iím aware that stopping to add tags breaks up the flow, as it were. So Iíll try this for a bit and see how it goes.

August 11, 2019


A Macular Degeneration Post

I'm sure I mentioned it before but I have macular degeneration, the wet kind:

Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is a problem with your retina. It happens when a part of the retina called the macula is damaged. With AMD you lose your central vision. You cannot see fine details, whether you are looking at something close or far. But your peripheral (side) vision will still be normal. For instance, imagine you are looking at a clock with hands. With AMD, you might see the clockís numbers but not the hands.

Wet AMD This form is less common but much more serious. Wet AMD is when new, abnormal blood vessels grow under the retina. These vessels may leak blood or other fluids, causing scarring of the macula. You lose vision faster with wet AMD than with dry AMD.

Many people donít realize they have AMD until their vision is very blurry. This is why it is important to have regular visits to an ophthalmologist. He or she can look for early signs of AMD before you have any vision problems.

From the good people at the American Academy of Ophthalmology.

I first noticed it last year when I got up to go to the bathroom and the toilet seat was slightly distorted. I put it down to beer but a few days later the same thing happened and I went to my eye doctor. He referred me to Doctor Conner, a retina specialist. Doctor Conner told me I had wet macular degeneration but it could be treated by injecting me with a drug that would control the hemorrhaging.

In my fucking eye.

I've been back to see him several times, the last time because the vision in my right eye was getting bad. He told me I had a subretinal hemorrhage and gave me another injection. At this point I'm going to tell you two things about me, things you've probably already worked out for yourself. I'm a pessimist and I tend toward paranoia. So even though the shots take a few weeks to show even the slightest improvement, I knew three things:

  1. I was going to go blind

  2. I wouldn't be able to drive ever again

  3. Because I couldn't drive I wouldn't be able to get to the grocery store and I'd be found dead from starvation in my condo

I'm afraid that is the way I think. But being aware of it I try not to inflict my angst on other people, regardless of anything Mrs. Silverman tells you. So after the injection in July when my vision continued to decline I resisted the temptation to run screaming back to Dr. Conner and contended myself with doing stuff like seeing if I could get food and beer delivered. As it turned out The Shoprite in Absecon delivers, as does White Horse Liquors. And today, a little over two weeks since I got the injection, my vision was better. Just a little bit but it was better.

And now the public announcement portion of this post. Some 80% of people who get age related macular degeneration get the dry kind. It's much slower moving then the wet kind but there's no treatment for it at the moment. The other 20% get the wet kind. It's much faster moving but there are treatments, at least if you don't mind needles. So if you notice any kind of visual distortion, you should get it checked out.

And secondly, I'm sure some of you have seen my paranoid, depressive side. Thanks for sticking around anyway. That being said, If I wake up fucking blind tomorrow I'm so deleting this post.

Update: I nearly included a horrifying panel from Cerebus the Aardvark but thought better of it at the last minute. The idea is to encourage people to get any vision problems checked out not to go for a cheap laugh.

August 10, 2019


Not a Wolfenstein Video

I'm almost finished with Wolfenstein and I know you're all disappointed that I'm unable to record my gameplay so to compensate here's a 60 second action video of Newton.

August 10, 2019


Killing Nazis

Unfortunately I can't show you a video of Wofenstein Youngblood because the deves don't seem inclined to fix the problem that prevents OBS from working with the game. But that picture gives you an idea of the body count.

By the way, the Nazis have PCs. I wonder what they call their pointing device, surely not a mouse. Let's take a look.

Oh, they're using those things. Figures.

August 8, 2019


Wolfenstein Youngblood

I'm almost 16 hours in, I've reached level 30 and while I'm enjoying myself I get the feeling that the while nobody was slacking off while designing and programming the game, nobody was putting in their best effort either. Occupied Paris is small and so you're going over the same areas again and again, restocked with Nazis for every new mission. But the game isn't selling for $60, it sold for $30 and it ran out of side missions before I could get too bored.

The real question is, am I having fun? The answer to that is yes, I am having fun. Maybe not $60 worth of fun but I am having $39 worth of fun. Fair value for a fair price is all you can ask.

By the way, the game was review bombed on Steam and one of the reasons was that you had to play a female character. That's rather silly considering all the games our there that insist you play a male character. And while they were a bit off putting at first, I've grown to like Jess and Soph.

August 7, 2019


Phone Meditations

Smart phones have been around for a while now, but I didn't get my first one until 2011, it was an iPhone.

In part it was because I was a little intimidated by smart phones. I figured that Apple would hold my hand and gently lead me into the world of smart phones, and that's how it worked out.

Nut as it turned out the leaning curve wasn't as steep as I feared and by the time I was ready to replace my iPhone the restrictions Apple placed on its phone were starting to grate. But I felt locked in, I bought my music from iTunes and in those days its music was in a proprietary format. So while Apple made things like using a custom ringtone a pain in the ass, I reenlisted and bought a second iPhone. When that one broke, a month or so after it turned two, I went to my local Verizon store, looked at Apple's offerings and told the salesperson that I'd like to get an Android but it was impossible to transfer my pictures and music from Apple to Android. He disabused me of that nonsense and I walked out with a Samsung Galaxy S7, with all my pictures and the bulk of my music intact. I had it for over three years and I'd still have it but for my music, it took up 10 GB on a 32 GB phone.

I know that there are memes along the lines of Friends don't let friends use Apple products but that's bullshit. Although my iPhones both broke after two years, I have a friend who's still using her iPhone 4. While I felt somewhat restricted by my two iPhone, most people will never notice them. You'll pay a little more for an iPhone then for a similarly tricked out Android, but hell, Mrs. S thought I overpaid for my $800 laptop. So I know that Apple users are willing to pay a bit more for what they want.

Rolf went with me when I bought the phone yesterday and I mentioned that while we don't have cybernetic brain implants, for all intents and purposes our phones act like an external brain augmentation. With that in mind, it's important that you're comfortable with your phone.

August 3, 2019


New Phone

I bought a new phone yesterday, it's a Samsung Galaxy S10 with 128 GB. To be honest, it's more phone then I really need, 64 GB would have dome just fine but when it comes to storage I believe in overkill. I have a 2 TB SSD in Kosh. Am I using all that space? No. Do I feel like I wasted my money? No. Same with the phone.

I've got it set up the way I like, removed a bunch of crapware and I'm quite happy with it, but I do have one quibble:

That's a charging cable for my phone, it's plugged into Kosh's USB hub so I can access my phone's folders. You might notice that it's not a standard Android cable, my phone doesn't use them. Samsung gave me one of these.

This is a standard Android cable, Samson gave me several of these. It's nice of them but I can't use them. The next time I go to Mrs. Silverman's I'll bring them with me, her house devours cables, Android and Apple. Meanwile on Monday I'll visit my local Verizon store and buy a couple more official Samsung Galaxy S10 cables.

August 3, 2019


The Lost Outpost

After bitching about Wolfenstein Youngblood"s inability to work with OBS, I decided to do a side mission, The Lost Outpost. That's what I've been doing for the last couple of hours.

A resistance outpost went silent and my sister and I were asked to find out what went wrong. I fight my way through a Nazi checkpoint, find the outpost and a load of corpses. The Nazis had been there and the ones they didn't kill were taken to an interrogation center. I make my way to the center, find more corpses and a computer. That's when I got stuck, took out my phone and did a quick search; it turned out you had to shoot the computer to trigger a tape recording from the center's commander. If you know anything at all about me you know that shooting a computer isn't something I'd think of. But I did and found my way to the commander's location. We track him down, deal with the formidable soldiers guarding him and take him out. It was quite satisfying.

When I learned that Arcane Studio was was working on this game I figured I'd be stealthing my way through occupied Paris. No such luck but the design of the various levels remind me of Dishonored. I'd climb building, enter an apartment, go through a window to circumvent a locked gate. I'm expecting to see some of these things before the game ends.

August 2, 2019