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!


Our Cast of Characters

So, Rolf and I have been playing Divinity Original Sin 2 for 23 hours and it's about time for a group picture. From left to right it's Rolf's character, Cole the Wise an elven battlemage. Next is one of our two NPCs, Ifan ben-Mezd a mysterious ranger, he's our bow and arrow guy. To the right of Ifan is another NPC, the Red Prince, he's a lizard king in exile. Just as Cole is a mage who can fight, The Prince is a fighter who can do some magic. And on the far right is alChandler, I'm an enchanter and I can't fight at all, I just do magic.

Rolf and I have just left the island of our exile and have reached the mainland. Looks like this game could be a long one.

June 4, 2020


A Journey to Fort Joy

Last night Rolf and I took a break from the horror show that is America in the fourth year of Trump's presidency and played some Divinity Original Sin 2 co op. Earlier in the year I made a valiant attempt to finally finish the first game, Divinity Original Sin but was stopped by a foe deadlier then the Twins-By-Fire-Joined or Braccus Rex, boredom.

And that's why when Rolf and I were talking over a game to play post Division 2 I suggested D2 rather then D1, it's just a more enjoyable game. But I told him that from my point of view it was harder.

D2, like the first game was designed as a co op game although it works quite well as a single player experience. We're playing on Rolf's computer so he's controlling his own character, an elven battlemage named Cole, and the two NPCs who've thrown in with us. I'm just controlling a human enchanter named alChandler. So far it's working better then my attempts at playing the game solo. He finds it easier to control multiple characters in battle then I did.

The game is trying to give you the feeling of playing a AD&D session with your friend and so far it seems to be working. And that's pretty much that, the next time we play I'm going to try to find us a shovel. I remember a dirt mound in the cave by the beach that led to a lower level, but only if you had a shovel to work the mound.

May 30, 2020


Killer Androids

I just finished a Star Trek novel that detailed some of the backstory of Star Trek: Picard and I'd like to talk a little about the show.

The Romulan homeworld's sun is about to go nova and the Romulan Star Empire lacks the resources to evacuate the homeworld and occupied planets in the surrounding systems. Reluctantly they ask the Federation of Planets for help. The problem for the Federation is that they need to build thousands of transport ships and not everything can be replicated, some parts have to be made by hand and that requires skilled labor. So the Feds design non sentient androids for that. And it works well, right up until the time that the androids go crazy and launch an attack that kills everyone in the Utopia Planitia Fleet Yards on Mars, crippling Starfleet's ship production, and setting the Martian stratosphere on fire. The Federation abandons the Romulan rescue effort and bans the production of any kind of synthetic life.

Assume you have an Amazon Echo and one day you get a $5,000 American Express bill for stuff you never ordered. You do some digging and discovered that the items were ordered via your Echo. So, do you assume that your Echo somehow became sentient and is trying to ruin you or do you call up Amazon and Amex and tell them your Echo was hacked?

That's an auto assembly line and those robots can kill but if an accident does happen people look to see if someone got to close too one of them or if there was a glitch. But the idea that the assembly robots just woke up to self awareness and decided to kill doesn't come up. These guys:

are more sophisticated then my Echo, or one of the welding bots on an assembly line for that matter, but the idea of an assembly droid suddenly becoming self aware and malevolent is out there. My first thought would be that the things were hacked, but no one even raises the possibility. And yes, I know, it was a plot point. Synths had to be banned because that's what the story demanded. It still bothers me.

May 25, 2020


Civilization 6

Civ 6 is free for a week over at the Epic Store. The catch is you'll actually have to have an account there to download it. According to PC Gamer Epic wants you to set up two factor authentication before they'll let you download it.

And my take away from this offering, and last week's offering of Grand Theft Auto 5, is that Epic is in this for the long haul and wants to take a chunk out of Steam.

May 21, 2020


Wallpaper

At one time I had quite a selection of Trek related wallpaper, I used to get it from a site called Desktop Starships. But those wallpapers were at 1024x768 and sometime during an upgrade cycle those old wallpapers were discarded because they didn't really scale up to 1920x1080. And life goes on.

I'm currently reading a Star Trek novel and I realized I needed some Trek wallpaper, so I went to Desktop Starships.

Dear me, time sweeps us all away, doesn't it?

In the 90s Trek was a bigger part of geek culture then it is today. But it still exists and there are still people making Trek themed wallpaper. And Trek itself seems to be experiencing a mini renaissance over at CBS All Access. And that's a good thing.

May 21, 2020


All Good Things...

Rolf on the left, I'm on the right and we're posing by a corpse, as one does. I had a good time fighting gangs in Washington.

May 21, 2020


Today I am a Man

Edie, the woman who comes in twice a month to clean, hasn't been in since March and I suspect she won't be back until the second half of June. Since it's been eight weeks since she's been here I realized that it was time to drag out the old vacuum cleaner. There were two glitches, the first was that I had to change the bag. Fortunately I have a phone and after only 15 minutes of cursing and fumbling I followed the instructions and was ready to go.

The second glitch was that I haven't touched the vacuum cleaner since my self inflicted defenestration. My back started hurting immediately and a thorough cleaning became a quick touch up. Still, it's a start and I'm feeling pretty damn good about myself. I'm not sure Newton feels the same way though. He's pretty cool when Edie vacuums but he looked positively alarmed when I came into the bedroom, hunched over and dragging the vacuum cleaner. Hopefully he won't have to put up with my attempts at cleaning for too much longer.

May 19, 2020


And So Washington Is Saved

The Washington of The Division 2 that is, our Washington is still being run by Trump. Rolf and I had a good time, I put in 70 hours and Rolf came in at 100. As for a future co op goes, that's up in the air right now. And solo wise, I still have Far Cry Primal on my system. Long term, Cyberpunk 2077 drops on 9/17. There's also Vampire: The Masquerade Bloodlines 2 that arriving sometime in 2020, the exact date is unspecified. So that's what's on my gaming radar.

I don't know if The Division 2 works as a solo game because I only played when Rolf was online but he played a few missions by himself and he seemed to enjoy them. I can say that co op play is fun, for what that's worth.

May 18, 2020


WWIII

In the Star Trek timeline WWIII lasted from 2026 to 2053. Among the things lost in that war was all knowledge about circuit breakers. Two hundred years later humanity still hadn't reinvented them.

I know, I'm being petty but the idea that consoles on the bridge erupt in sparks when the Enterprise take a torpedo hit still bothers me.

May 15, 2020


Zoom

When were talk on the phone Mrs. Silverman will occasionally ask me to Facetime her. I explain that I haven't had an iPhone for four years, that Facetime is exclusively an IOS app and suggest she put Duo on her phone. Duo is the Android version of Facetime and works on IOS too. But she doesn't want Duo on her phone and we move on to other things. It's not just Mrs. S, I've discovered that most iPhone users assume that everyone has access to Apple's proprietary programs and react with surprise when they find out otherwise.

The last time we had that conversation she suggested I put Zoom on Kosh. But Kosh has no camera and that Zoom is an insecure program, I do my banking on Kosh after all, not that anyone is particularly interested in the alChandler billions. However I also have a laptop and a phone and after wondering why Donna wouldn't install Duo on her computer I felt morally obligated to install Zoom on my phone (Mobile Kosh). So I did and on Wednesday, after some fumbling on my part, we had our first Zoom conversation.

It worked well, we'll do it again and, at least on my phone, Zoom really drains my battery. It's partially my fault, I very seldom do the close background apps thing to save battery life. But the good news is that Donna doesn't think I need a Zoom background. When I talk on the phone in my office I pit my feet up on a little table next to my printer and the image on Zoom looked like this:

The books are a good backdrop and make me look scholarly unless you happen to note Rorschach, Gandalf the White and the Nazgul on the top middle shelf; or the pewter Big Daddy on the top left shelf for that matter. But what the hell, they add charm. At any rate, I have the Zoom thing down now, start Zoom, turn on email synch, wait for Donna's email and accept the invitation.

By the way, I've noticed my hairline is beginning to do a slow and somewhat uneven retreat. I blame this guy:

That's my great grandfather. Dad told me his once, unfortunately I've long since forgotten. His name may be lost but his genes are still floating around.

May 8, 2020


Home Depot's New Bluetooth Garden Hose

May 3, 2020


The Division 2

I haven't posted anything from The Division 2, that's just been remedied. Here's a little solo street battle.

For a few years a group of us played Left for Dead and Left for Dead 2 together. The Division came out in March of 2016, just as that phase of our lives was ending. I played it solo for a bit and got my ass kicked and abandoned it. But I'm having a lot of fun in 2020 playing The Division 2 with Rolf, I was right the game does indeed have legs.

May 3, 2020


Rules for Dealing with Wish Givers

So you encounter an entity that offers you a wish. I'm assuming you didn't seek this encounter, it's a chance thing. You get a ring that summons a benevolent jinn, a raven flies in through an open window and starts to speak, something like that happens to you. There are really only two rules to remember. The first is even if you're sure that that being offering the wish is good by nature, turn them down. Too many things can go wrong. A figure of speech might be taken literally, your wish might have consequences you didn't anticipate, even if you're going through a really shitty patch it's still best to walk away. Besides, there's every possibility that the wish giver is malevolent. Perhaps the raven seeks a future favor, to be determined later but something that will be within your power to grant with no ill consequences for you. Remember that there are always consequences and turn her down.

The other thing to remember is to be polite. The Devil is a gentleman and you should be too. After you turn the raven down, offer her food and drink. Perhaps she will simply leave, or perhaps she'll look you up and down and ask for a saucer of scotch. Grant her request, make small talk and say goodbye when she leaves. It will cost you nothing and you probably won't remember the encounter the next day anyway.

But maybe, maybe many years later as you're walking in the winter and start to slip on a patch of black ice you suddenly recover and go your way unharmed. Nothing too generous, just a raven remembering that you had good manners.

May 2, 2020


How to be Idle

I just finished Tom Hodgkinson's book How to be Idle and rarely has a book whose thesis I accepted annoyed me as much as this one did. His point, that we work too hard and make ourselves miserable, is something I agree with. But his answer, leave wage slavery and follow your dreams, is a solution that simply isn't an option for most people.

Hodgkinson is a talented writer and a good enough business person so that his absinthe import business thrives. But most of us are not talented writers and most new businesses fail. That leaves us with no other option then to work for somebody else and hope that our job is bearable. In my case it was. If I had a family I would have probably taken all the overtime I could get or else have taken a second job as so many of my colleagues did. But it was just me so no overtime and no second job.

A good but frustrating book. But now, it's on to new Stephen King! He's got a collection of four novellas called If It Bleeds. You know, like the old rule for a story that makes the front page of a newspaper, if if bleeds it leads.

April 29, 2020


The Song of Achilles

The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller is a love story about Achilles and Patroclus and it took me awhile to finish it.

You see, there's no happy ending for those two. About halfway though the book the action shifts to Troy and the Trojan War, aside from ending badly for the Trojans, also ends badly for Patroclus and Achilles. But once I did get to Troy I finished the second half of the book in two days, I wanted to find out how Miller would handle it. As it turned out the ending was well worth my trepidation over the inevitable deaths of the two main characters. And so on to the next book.

April 27, 2020


[Fill in Name of Company] Cares

April 21, 2020


Division 2

When The Division came out in 2016 there was some interest in it as a possible followup to our multiplayer gaming adventures. Nothing much came from it so I played a bit of it solo and then abandoned it. It's now 2020 and after finishing Far Cry New Dawn co-op, Rolf and I cast about for a new game. After a brief and most unsatisfactory flirtation with Borderlands 2, Rolf and I settled on The Division 2. The game is set in Washington, DC where the brave folks of The Division are trying to restore civilization after it collapsed in the wake of a pandemic. Nothing disconcerting about that setting, is there?

Rolf and I installed it, played the mandatory solo bit in which our respective characters had to fight their way to the White House, then we were allowed to go co-op and we traveled to Washington's theater district where a command post had been set up, fighting three sets of bad guys on the way. It's very early but it looks like the game has legs.

April 20, 2020