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


Lud in the Mist

I bought Lud in the Mist in 1977 when I was just 21. The Ballantine Adult Fantasy series was defunct but occasionally the publisher would reissue books from the series and since I knew the ones in the series I missed, I'd snap them up when they were republished, even at the outrageous price of $1.95 for a paperback. Lud in the Mist was one of their number. I read the book, decided I disliked it and it has remained on my shelf for 41 years, the paper growing brittle with age. It wasn't the book's fault, it was mine. At 21 I thought that if a book was labeled fantasy then it had to have at least one fight between a wizard and a balrog. There are plenty of 21 year olds with wisdom and discernment but I wasn't one of them.

But I'm 62 and today I picked up the paperback edition. The paper wasn't only brittle, it started to bother my allergy. I have older books from Ballantine that are in much better condition, it's as if the book was pining for me to read it and when it was ignored it went into a decline. I read the first two chapters and was angry at my younger self for casting it aside. I'm traveling tomorrow and don't want to bring the elderly paperback with me so I bought the Kindle version but tonight, while the Kindle is charging, I'll read a few more chapters of the paperback. Hopefully that will make it feel a little better.

August 14, 2018


The Expansion

The World of Warcraft expansion dropped today and I played a bit of it, so far it looks like it will be fun. There was one thing that blew me away though, my character was edited into a cut scene. It was a simple scene, alChandler was walking down a boardwalk with Jaina Proudmoore (a major NPC in the game) but it was great to see him beside her. I don't know if that sort of thing is new to this expansion or was introduced in the last one. I kind of dropped out of the game very early into the that one. Either way it made me happy to see alChandler doing a West Wing walk and talk with Jaina.

August 14, 2018


Newton and the Dishwasher

Newton has been with me for over four years and during that time I haven't had a working dishwasher. Now I have one again and Newton is less then pleased with it, the sound of the thing frightens him. The first time the dishwasher went into high gear Newton was in the kitchen and he did a cartoon cat panicked exit.

He's adapting, right now the dishwasher is running in the kitchen and Newton is calmly looking out the office window. He'd freak if I brought him into the kitchen right now but I'm not that kind of a guy. Eventually he'll treat it as just another background noise but right now we're not quite there.

August 13, 2018


Stagecoach

For most of my life I had little use for John Wayne or his movies, because he was pretty much an asshole. Wikipedia has two choice quotes from a Playboy interview with him:

With a lot of blacks, thereís quite a bit of resentment along with their dissent, and possibly rightfully so. But we canít all of a sudden get down on our knees and turn everything over to the leadership of the blacks. I believe in white supremacy until the blacks are educated to a point of responsibility. I donít believe in giving authority and positions of leadership and judgment to irresponsible people.

... I don't feel we did wrong in taking this great country away from [the Native Americans] ... Our so-called stealing of this country from them was just a matter of survival. There were great numbers of people who needed new land, and the Indians were selfishly trying to keep it for themselves.

So much for him.

The first movie of his that I liked enough to see more then once was The Quiet Man. I mean, I saw True Grit as a kid with my Dad and I still like that version better then the remake, but I really enjoyed The Quiet Man. Later on I encountered She Wore a Yellow Ribbon and felt much kinder towards Wayne the actor, even if Wayne the man was an asshole. But it wasn't until a year or two ago that I saw Stagecoach and that was the movie that made him a star.

Last night the plan was to watch Stagecoach followed by his last film The Shootist The one where he plays J. B. Books, a gunfighter dying of cancer. Didn't make it to the second movie but I'll watch it tonight. And by the way, the Wikipedia entry on Wayne said that he had a three year affair with Marlene Dietrich. That's an interesting pairing.

August 12, 2018


Hec Ramsey

There used to be show called NBC Mystery Movie back in the 70s. Every week they'd air a 90 minute program and each year there'd be three shows that would rotate for the duration of the season. The one that made it big was Columbo but there was another one I enjoyed quite a bit, it was a western mystery called Hec Ramsey.

Ramsey was an outlaw turned marshal. In 1901 he takes a job as assistant chief of the New Prospect Police Department in Oklahoma Territory. The thing was that while Ramsey was good with a gun he was also up on the latest police techniques, things like bullet identification and fingerprints. Unfortunately the program isn't not out for sale or rent but episodes have been posted on YouTube, I just finished watching the pilot episode.

Movies and television shows traditionally presented the western as taking place in an almost timeless era, not unlike the way Japanese samurai movies were unmoored from any real timeline. Among other things, Hec Ramsey is about the demythologization of the west. You trade mythic figures for street lights and indoor plumbing.

So, how does a 44 year old television show hold up? In this case surprisingly well. I'd love to be able to give someone money to get cleaned up remastered discs or digital copies but it's an obscure show and I'm lucky I can find it on YouTube.

August 11, 2018


To Sum Up

Over the last two weeks I got my prostrate fixed, had Donna and Bean over, bought a dishwasher and garbage disposal, had them installed, started playing World of Warcraft again, saw the Horde burn Teldrassil the World Tree, and got a fancy mount for my troubles.

I think that's enough change for awhile. By the way, that's a hippogriff. A griffin is a cross between a lion and an eagle. A hippogriff occurs when a griffin mates with a horse, note the hooves in the back.

August 9, 2018


Armor Update

I finally have a complete set of upgraded plate armor. Not too flashy but it's functional.

August 9, 2018


Paladin Stuff

alChandler was always a retribution paladin in World of Warcraft. He's not a tank but can deal a respectable amount of damage and heal himself in a pinch. It used to bug Marie that I'd always forget to heal in battle when we played but I've picked up the habit from other games.

It's less then a week until the new expansion goes live and I've been concentrating on upgrading my gear. So far I've gotten new shoulders, gloves, boots, a belt and a cloak. I'd like to get a better helmet and breastplate too if I get the chance.

Blizzard made a change in PvE combat to encourage on the fly grouping. If a monster drops items after dying everyone who joined in the fight gets them. So the problem of kill stealing has gone away. I got my last upgrade, the belt, with the help of a Horde player. I like the new system and I probably should have checked into the game earlier then I did this time.

However I get the impression that there won't be many Horde players lending me a hand after next week. The Alliance (my side) and the Horde have been fighting together during the last few expansions but the original idea was that the two sides are enemies and each of them want sole control over Azeroth. Now that the threat of the Burning Legion (the bad guys from the last expansion) has been ended the reluctant partners are going to turn one each other. I like the idea and want to see where it goes.

August 8, 2018


Catching Up

Last week I had my second prostrate reduction procedure, it's supposed to last longer then the one I had back in 2014. Later on in the week Mrs. Silverman came down to check up on me, she brought her Chihuahua, Bean, with her. Bean had fun getting on my lap and glaring at Newton, hoping to make him jealous. It didn't work but she tried her best.

It's been a week now and the pain is pretty much gone and I'll soon be pissing like a much younger man.

While she was here Donna got me to buy a new dishwasher. It came yesterday and today I called McBride to install it, they'll also be putting in a new garbage disposal so I'll have a functioning kitchen again. Newton was very cool with Bean but I can tell that the big box in the kitchen annoys him. It will be gone by Thursday.

Between the prostrate thing and Donna's visit I didn't get much reading done. I'm trying to get back into Simon Schama's book because if I put it aside I may never finish it. On the other hand I've been playing World of Warcraft preparing for the new expansion and I'm trying to tempt Moon back into the game. Then in three weeks the major upgrade for Divinity Original Sin 2 arrives and next month the new Tomb Raider drops. It looks like I'll be gaming again.

So that's what's been happening in my life, how are things going with you guys?

August 7, 2018


Video

July 31, 2018


Amazon

In a brick and mortar bookstore you can pick up a book and read it for a bit. After all you might never have heard of its author and you're not sure you'd like it. You can't leaf through a book on Amazon but they do have a feature called Look Inside that allows you to read the first 10 or 20 pages.

It works well with fiction. Novelists very seldom burden the reader with prefaces and acknowledgements, preferring to jump right into the story. Nonfiction books do have prefaces and introductions from time to time but as a rule of thumb, the tone of an introduction will be carried throughout the book. And then there are books in translation.

A translator often includes a lengthy introduction that talks about the author, the previous translations and why a new one is needed. So you get to the end of Amazon's preview and you've no idea if you'll actually like the author's translation. I encountered this in Emily Wilson's translation of Odyssey. Amazon's preview established that she was an interesting writer but didn't actually show me her version of the poem. Fortunately her translation was an event, she was the first woman to translate Odyssey into English, and several reviews had passages from her translation.

As frustrations go, it's a minor one. Generally reviews will clue me in as to whether or not I'd like a new translation of Dante or whatever. But yeah, it bugs me a bit.

July 29, 2018


Facebook

Facebook's valuation went down by $120 billion and that was big news. The news sites kept referring to Facebook as a tech company and that annoyed me. Intel is a tech company, Facebook is a company that sells information on its users to businesses so they can serve up targeted ads. They use computers obviously, but that doesn't make them a tech company.

July 26, 2018


Raymond Chandler

It's 3:30 in the morning and I just finished Farewell, My Lovely. Damn that was good. I had the book for years but was never able to get through it, I'd get tangled in the plot and just throw my hands up. But a few months of fairly clean living sharpened my wits and I finished it and it was wonderful.

Of course now I'm in the mood for a bottle of scotch and a roll your own cigarette.

July 24, 2018


Spoilers

I read a review for Circe that mentioned that Circe had a son by Odysseus named Telegonus who went on to kill his father by mistake. My first thought was damn, you spoiled the ending. A second or two later I realized, no he didn't. Of course Telegonus killed Odysseus. I knew this and so would anyone else who came to this book.

Maybe not.

At one point writers just assumed that their readers had a working knowledge of Greek and Roman myths. There was an epic poem written about Telegonus called Telegony and a play by Sophocles about the death of Odysseys called Odysseus Acanthoplex. Both are lost but they are mentioned by others. And Carlo Luigi Grua wrote an opera on the subject, Telegone that premiered in 1697. In short, at one time a reasonably well read person would have has a vague knowledge of Odysseus' ultimate fate.

Today I'm going to assume that a reasonably well read person knows of Circe and Odysseus although they may not have plowed through the Odyssey since high school lit. But I think you can be very well read without ever having heard of Telegonus, or a lot of other things for that matter.

So, if you're going to read a fantasy autobiography of Circe can a reviewer assume that the audience for that book has a good working knowledge of her history? My own opinion is no you cannot. I don't think mentioning Odysseus' trip to her island and Circe turning his men to pigs constitutes a spoiler but bringing up Telegonus does.

Because I'm in a bookish mood today.

July 22, 2018


Circe

It's difficult to make gods relatable without diminishing their divinity. A tug one way and they're remote, alien figures of powers. But make them too human and you get the MCU's Thor, one of the gods of the firm handshake as Lucifer once dismissed him. And that's why I'm enjoying Madeline Miller's Circe. It's Circe's story told in first person and while you can understand her Miller never lets you forget that Circe is not a human being. She's the daughter of Hyperion the Titan. It's quite impressive and I'm enjoying her book more then any other fantasy I've read in the last few years.

July 22, 2018


Reproducible Results

Landing once in a starport is nice but in order to actually play Elite Dangerous I have to be able to do it on a regular basis, at least until I can get hold of a docking computer. I haven't touched the game since I made my first landing early Tuesday morning. So I just started the game, fired up the docking tutorial and landed on my first try. In the words of Sam Gamgee, I think I'm getting the hang of this.

July 19, 2018


The Core i9 MacBook Pro

I don't follow computer news the way I used to but Rolf still maintains a healthy interest. The other day he told me about the 2018 MacBook Pro. It's expensive but if you're buying anything from Apple these days then you have to set aside mundane matters like the state of your bank account.

The MacBook Pro comes with an Intel i9-8950K processor that starts at 2.9 GHz and go up to 4.8 GHz. Unfortunately that kind of power generates a shit ton of heat and Apple hasn't designed a cooling system that can handle it. And I'm not talking about the 4.8 GHz speed, it can't handle its base 2.9 GHz speed. So if you buy the thing to use it for video rendering your i9 processor will be chugging along at 2.2 GHz, slower then the 2017 MacBook Pro.

The consensus seems to be that the computer is so slim that Apple can't fit an adequate cooling system inside the thing. Apple has always sacrificed practicality for style. And to be honest I really don't know anyone personally who uses Apple computers for serious stuff, although I know a few who still use iPhones. If anyone asked my advice, not that it's worth much anymore, I'd steer them away from Apple products, but that's just me, and what do I know? I'm still using a case that looks like it was cobbled together from Darth Vader's old armor.

July 19, 2018


Made It!

It's taken me two fucking years, not metaphorical years but actual years, but I finally landed a ship in a spaceport! For two goddamn years I've felt like Charlie Brown but no more!

Today's landing took patience and a lot of beer but it's done. I may never play this game again but I landed a ship in Elite Dangerous. Seriously, this is the proudest I've been about any post retirement thing I've done.

July 18, 2018