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!


Some Random Gaming Notes

I learned Warren Ellis was one of the writers for Dead Space. I kind of wish I knew that when I started it again two months ago. Not that it would have changed anything, I suppose.

The game held up very well in spite of its age. I've installed a couple of more recent games that just wouldn't work on a 64 bit Windows 10 system. I'm not going to dump on a game for not running on an OS that didn't exist when it was made, I'm just noting that Dead Space performed like a champ.

***

Back in 2004 I played, or tried to play, Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines. Unfortunately it had so many bugs on release that was unplayable. But the devs released patches and fans released their own patches and eventually it was stable enough to play. It turned out to be a very good RPG. Tonight I read that a sequel is coming in 2020, Vampire: The Masquerades—Bloodlines 2. I'm tempted to preorder but I'm going to resist the temptation, at least for now. After all, the original game was a disaster on release. Besides, I've seen too many projects that talked big and just didn't deliver.

***

But after beating the hive mind last night I wasn't ready to put gaming aside for a month or two. I've been looking at Metro Exodus, a post nuclear war shooter, since it was released last month. It looked interesting but I wasn't sure I'd get very far in the game. So I punted and got an earlier game in the Metro series, Metro 2033, for $20. If I like it, great, if I don't, no great loss. I thought about picking up the next Dead Space game but the consensus is that the series went south after the first game.

March 22, 2019


Dead Space: Chapter 12

Whelp, it took 11 years but I finally beat Dead Space. That means my life will be pretty much all down hill from here.

March 21, 2019


Dead Space: Chapter 11

I made it to the penultimate chapter (wanted to use that word for a bit). The enemies are getting tougher, as enemies tend to do, and I'm starting to feel stressed out. If I felt this way at the beginning of the game I would have uninstalled it and moved on but I'm so close to the ending that I'm soldiering on, playing the game in short bursts then stepping away. It's probably building character.

March 20, 2019


Ray Tracing

According to Ars Technica, Nvidia is bringing 3D ray tracing to its 10 and 16 series cards this April. Which is kind of nice of them. Of course it won't affect the visuals in Dead Space but I'm bound to finish it in April, right? Then I'll move on to something a little more contemporary so I can enjoy slowly rendered ray tracing.

March 20, 2019


Dead Space: Chapter 10

This replay started as a lark, I wanted to see how far I could get this time. But now I'm on Chapter 10 of 12 and I really, really want to complete the game. I'm at the point where I just can't walk away, you know?

March 16, 2019


Star Base 59



Star Base 59 has a new CO.

March 16, 2019


Dead Space

For the record, I'm still playing this. I'm about 20 hours in and I've reached Chapter 9 of 12. It looks like I've a very real chance of finishing this game after ten years. By the way, I know I suck at shooters but I'm normally a much better shot then this, tonight was beer night.

March 15, 2019


WinRAR

I'm one of those people who still uses WinRAR to extract zip files. I'm aware that I can do that through Windows and I'm also aware that while WinRAR can extract a lot of other file formats, I never download files compressed in those formats. It just give me emotional security to use a program that takes me back to the days when I used do download files from Usenet and use WinRAR to combine the various parts together.

Anyway, if you use WinRAR, or know somebody who uses it, be advised that you want to make sure you or they are using version 5.70. It turns out there's a nasty bug that allows all manner of evil things to slip into your computer using the older versions.Or you could just stop using it I suppose, but what fun is that?

March 15, 2019


Spock

This season Spock has joined the cast of Star Trek Discovery, he's played by Ethan Peck. He's the third person to play the Vulcan, following Leonard Nimoy in the original series and the movies and Zachary Quinto in the rebooted universe. Ethan Peck's Spock has yet to meet James Kirk, he's still serving under Christopher Pike. He's under a lot of pressure for, um, reasons (Rolf hasn't seen this season yet) and he's experimenting with his emotions.

He's also an asshole.

It turns out that Spock the asshole is fun to watch. He was been keeping his emotions under control for a long time and now that he's letting his hair down, metaphorically speaking, he's learning as he goes along. Or maybe he knows how to interact with people emotionally and he's just enjoying being a dick now and then. Either way I'm enjoying this take on an old friend.

March 15, 2019


Rereading Good Omens

I bought Good Omens 29 years ago because Neil Gaiman was one of the authors. I knew of Gaiman because of The Sandman and figured the book would be a lot like that. Instead it was a satirical send up of Christian eschatology. I finished the book but I didn't like it very much.

It's funny, back then I could read books that featured the gods of various pantheons and enjoy them. But a work of fantasy that took as its starting point the existence of God and Satan to the exclusion of any other belief rubbed me the wrong way. And I wasn't even consistent about that, I could read C. S. Lewis and Charles Williams without blinking an eye. I've no idea why that was, suffice it to say that 34 year old Kevin is a stranger to 63 year old Kevin and that's probably a good thing. There has to be some intellectual growth over three decades.

Meantime, I'm enjoying rereading it. It's the story of Aziraphale, an angel of the order of Principalities and Crowley, the demon responsible for the fall of humanity. They've been living on Earth for 6,000 year, they're on good terms with each other and neither one wants the world to end, so when events that portend the end of days start to come to pass, they decide to prevent the apocalypse from happening. It's going to be a six episode mini series on Amazon Prime and when I learned that David Tennant was cast as Crowley, that was all I needed to hear.

March 10, 2019


The Bird King

That's the name of G. Willow Wilson's latest novel, the novel I intended to start right after I finished If You Can keep It by Michael Tomasky, a survey of political divisions in America. Unfortunately I finished it earlier then I expected and The Bird King won't be released until Tuesday. And that's why I started reading a novella called The Tea Master and the Detective by Aliette de Bodard. Be prepared, that's my motto.

Update: The problem with having a lot of books is that it's easy to mislay them. Amazon Prime will soon be showing Good Omens based on the novel of the same name by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett. Now I know where I keep my Gaiman, the short story collections are in the bookcase by the front door and the novels are in a bookcase by my office. I intended to reread it Good Omens before the series dropped and for the alst several days I've been prowling around the condo looking for it (it isn't in either of the Gaiman sections).

And while I sometimes replace a book with an ebook, if the volume in question is a very large book or it's in delicate condition, my copy was, the last time I saw it, in very good shape. But I can't find it and in a fit of pique I just dropped $7.49 for the Kindle version and will be reading that in place of The Tea Master and the Detective. And if my copy turns up during the next few days I will yell at the cat for imaginary offenses.

March 10, 2019


The Umbrella Academy

The Umbrella Academy is The Big Chill for teen aged superhero teams. Their mentor having died, the surviving five members of the superhero team The Umbrella Academy gather at his mansion, their former school, and reminisce about their past and what an asshole the old man was. There's also the end of the world to deal with. And because I tend to go on about such things, I'll say that I'm enjoying it a lot and then quit while I'm ahead. If you're into such things, it's on Netflix.

March 7, 2019


Anthem

I don't follow console gaming closely because I don't have a console, but I do read the headlines.

There's a game out by EA's studio Bioware called Anthem, a squad based multiplayer shooter. It's the first time Bioware has made a game of this type and EA was hoping it would be big for them. The game's start has been rocky to say the least and there have been a couple of big patches to try to clean up the mess. Unfortunately after the latest patch the game is shutting off PS4s in the middle of play. And a few unlucky players have had their consoles bricked.

While my sympathy for EA is limited I have a great deal of sympathy for PS4 players who bought a game that shuts down their consoles and in some cases bricks them. And as for Bioware, I expect that EA will use the studio for spare parts before all this is over.

March 5, 2019


Docking

Right now only the governments of Russia and China can send people into space. An American company, SpaceX, is hoping to join that club. Early yesterday morning their Crewed Dragon Capsule successfully docked with the International Space Station. Later on in the week it will return to Earth and if everything goes as planned American astronauts will use it to get to the ISS over the summer.

On April 12, 1961 Yuri Alekseyevich Gagarin of the Soviet Union became the first person to get to space. I'm going to put an optimistic spin on things and assume that the unmanned test of the Crewed Dragon Capsule will go as planed and it will ferry humans this July. That's 57 years from Gagarin to SpaceX's test run. But SpaceX and other companies have been launching satellites into orbit and hauling cargo to the ISS for nine years now. So I guess it was inevitable that they'd try to develop that capacity to launch people.

You know, at one time any kind of space launch was a big thing. But things become common place and most of the time that's a good thing. By the early 16th century books were no longer incredibly expensive items. And while I don't think space flight will be available to everybody in my lifetime, I suspect that competition between SpaceX, Blue Origin, Virgin Galactic and other companies will lead to a more robust infrastructure in low Earth orbit. I hope I'm around to see that.


Interface

Last Night I watched Star: Trek Discovery followed by The Orville and I started thinking about how quickly are attempts to imagine future interfaces go out of date. The bridge of the Discovery has a pretty high tech look but the Orville looks pretty retro. Of course that's by design, the show is Seth MacFarlane's love letter to Star Trek: The Next Generation.

You know, when Battlestar Galactica finally showed us the bridge of a Cylon Basestar I was pretty disappointed.

It looked like the lobby of a nice hotel with cascading sheets of water in the background. The water wasn't there for show, it was the control interface.

Now it works for me, it's alien and somewhat incomprehensible, just like future tech should be. And while I'm sure that the design of the Discovery's bridge will look dated in a decade, the bridge of a Cylon Basestar looks right 10 years after the show went off the air.

And it's all a matter of taste anyway. Some people may think that this bridge is still the best high tech look in the history of science fiction television.

And while it hasn't aged well, I don't think that the latest Trek show needs to go out of its way to explain the look of the NCC 1701's bridge either. There's a reason it's called suspension of disbelief.

March 2, 2019


Leaving Environmental Control

As it turned out, I didn't need a walkthrough to get past the part that stumped me. To be honest it wasn't much of a puzzle at all, but I'm not much of a puzzle solver either.

The mining ship has an alien virus that transforming the crew into gigeresque monsters. For the last several days I've been in environmental control, it's basically a greenhouse that keeps the air breathable. There was some kind of alien plant like former human thing poisoning the air and I had to repair the damage, kill the transformed crew, then face the boss.

Before I restarted this game I read a lot of advice about which weapons to upgrade. The consensus was to upgrade the pulse rifle and the ripper. My pulse rifle is almost maxed out for damage and made quick work of the boss so the advice turned out to be good.

You know, Dead Space came out in 2008 and runs quite well on Windows 10. Fallout New Vegas, a game I'd really like to replay, came out in 2010 and just won't run on Widows 10. At least it won't run on Kosh, other people have no problems running it on Windows 10. Of course Dead Space is a relatively simple game set in a derelict mining ship with cramped corridors and Fallout New Vegas is far more extensive with a lot of moving parts. I kind of hope somebody will update it with a modern engine just for my personal benefit. But I really have nothing to bitch about. While Far Cry 5 didn't floor me I had a nice enough time with it and I'm enjoying my umpteenth Dead Space replay. So gaming wise, 2019 is starting out rather well.

February 28, 2019


Mea Culpa

I remember bitching about how text walkthroughs were being replaced by video and how annoyed I was by that trend. But I couldn't have gotten as far as I have in Dead Space without watching the video walkthroughs. I still find some of the narrators annoying but that's another story. To be honest I'd like to go to a walkthrough right now, but it's three in the morning and even I know when to put Mr. Computer aside and go to bed.

February 27, 2019


Post Crimson Peak

Crimson Peak wasn't bad, unless you were looking to be surprised. If anything in the movie surprised you then you don't read or watch a lot of horror or fantasy. That being said, it was enjoyable comfort food and the $3.99 to rent the thing was money well spent.

You know, I'm noticing that Tom Hiddleston can go from unctuous to psychotic rage in under two seconds. It's too bad he's too old to play Steerpike in Neil Gaiman's Gormenghast project. He could still do Sepulchrave I think. Of course, I'm not even sure that Gaiman can pull off a Gormenghast series. It would be nice if he could. The BBC did an adaptation in 2000 but they just couldn't make it work.

February 26, 2019


Crimson Peak

Last year I tried to watch Crimson Peak when it was on Netflix, I wasn't able to get very far before I just gave up. Thing is, I should have been all over that movie, not only does it have an over the top gothic look but Tom Hiddleston and Jim Beaver were in it (to be honest I never got to Jim Beaver I bailed pretty early in the movie).

I'm giving it another try because I have a grown up television now and the movie should be more immersive, as Rolf like to say. If I can get through, and more importantly enjoy Crimson Peak I might give Roma a try. I don't follow the Oscars very much but I've read in more then one place that had Roma not been distributed by Netflix it would have won best picture. I do know that Steven Spielberg is very defensive about Netflix, and other alternate distribution platforms I assume:

"You certainly, if it's a good show, deserve an Emmy, but not an Oscar. I don't believe that films that are just given token qualifications in a couple of theaters for less than a week should qualify for the Academy Award nomination."

Speaking only for myself, I'll see something like Captain Marvel or Avengers: Endgame in a theater but I'm not really fond of the whole going out to the movies experience. I have to sit through commercials, endless previews and pay for overpriced, rubbery hot dogs. Now that I have a halfway decent television I'd love to have the option to stream first run movies from home. And yes, I know I'm a misanthropic hermit. What else is new? At least I'm embracing new technology, that's important for a man my age.

February 25, 2019


Dead Space

I haven't played Dead Space in about two weeks. I screwed about in it for a bit today and I think I'm at the half way point. The frustrating thing is that I'm not sure if I'm seeing new stuff or if I've been in this area, hydroponics, before. The first time I played the game I got pretty far before I reached a brick wall but it was so long ago I don't quite remember where I stopped playing. At any rate I've had a good run this time, my best in years so that's something.

February 25, 2019


Wealthy Successful and Miserable

That's the title of an article in the magazine section of the New York Times. It starts out with a story about an investment banker who hates his job but needs the $1.2 million a year to keep his life style. But it's not just the well off who are unhappy:

In the mid-1980s, roughly 61 percent of workers told pollsters they were satisfied with their jobs. Since then, that number has declined substantially, hovering around half; the low point was in 2010, when only 43 percent of workers were satisfied, according to data collected by the Conference Board, a nonprofit research organization. The rest said they were unhappy, or at best neutral, about how they spent the bulk of their days.

I was in the neutral category. I didn't dislike my job but it wasn't particularly fulfilling either. There were inspectors who loved the job and who managed to be passionate about it without being assholes. Not a lot, but a few.

I suppose the $1.2 million question is would I have changed places with the miserable investment banker, assuming the gods granted me the skill to do what he did? No, I would not. I'm not good at stress and in my experience people who earn that kind of money work very hard. But, as the article points out, there are people who are put under the same stress the investment banker had to deal with but without the $1.2 million.

February 24, 2019


Well Then

I just found out that for the last three years I've been paying $85 every February to renew my subscription to Avast, an antivirus product I haven't used since 2016. So how's your day going?

February 17, 2019


Chapter Four

I've reached the fourth chapter in Dead Space, furthest I've gotten since my orignal play through back in whenever. For the life of me I don't know what my problem with this game is, or was for that matter. I've had a good run this time and I'd kind of like to finish the game this time, or at least get close to it.

By the way, for an 11 year old game the graphics hold up pretty well. Of course for most of the game you're dealing with mutated monsters and corpses but it looks pretty good for its age.

February 17, 2019


Embarrassing Dead Space Story #1

#1 implies they'll be others.

I'm going to put the number of times I installed this game at five, because five sounds better then six. Tonight I had to retrieve a detonator and to get it I had to traverse a Zero G chamber. It wasn't that difficult, jump from a platform to a wall, walk on the wall until you're next to another platform, grab a power pack so the door will open, jump down, open the door and get the detonator. But I remember that during one of my play throughs I had a lot to drink and got so frustrated with that section that I quit and uninstalled the game. This time I was sober and I did the whole thing with the precision of a Swiss watch. Watch this space, if I remember more rage quit stories I'll tell 'em here.

February 17, 2019