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alChandler's Halls

Serving dozens since 1999!

Now We Are 20

A group shot as our party heads into the end game. In front is alChandler, in the back starting at the left are Ifan ben-Mezd, the Red Prince, and Cole the Wise. No, I don't know why elvish armor looks that way but I can tell you that it works.

July 12, 2020

I Owe Newton an Apology

Last month Newton started obsessing about the dust bunnies under my stove, pulling them out and staring at the space under there, sometimes for hours. Or so i thought. Today when I woke up there was a dead mouse in the corridor outside my bedroom. That's what he was obsessing about, and to think I made fun of him. Never again buddy.

July 12, 2020

A Word About Radagast the Brown

I've written about Radagast the Brown before so this post is sort of a retread. I can't help it, as a kid I thought that if I was one of the istari, I would have been Radagast.

And so a word about my buddy Radagast. He makes just one appearance in The Lord of the Rings. In the books after Gandalf drops the bad news about the Ring to Frodo, Frodo decides to whip up a cover story to explain his upcoming absence from Bag End and leave the Shire in September. Gandalf agrees with the plan and decides to scout the road ahead. When Gandalf gets close to Bree he finds a grumpy Radagast the Brown camped by the side of the road. Radagast tells Gandalf that he was looking for him and that all he knew was that he was staying in a wild region with the uncouth name of Shire. Unlike the movie version the book version was a bit of a stick in the mud.

Radagast goes on to say that the NazgŻl have crossed the river and are also seeking the Shire. Also, Saruman wants to see Gandalf. Gandalf agrees to go to Orthanc but asks Radagast to use his birds to gather news and send a messenger to him at there. Radagast agrees, rides off and then things go down like they did in the movie. But Radagast was an honest guy, would never have betrayed Gandalf knowingly and so he sent his messenger to Orthanc, one of the great eagles.

Which makes Radagast look kind of dumb, honest but dumb. Saruman says of him:

'Radagast the Brown!' laughed Saruman, and he no longer concealed his scorn. 'Radagast the Bird-tamer! Radagast the Simple! Radagast the Fool! Yet he had just the wit to play the part that I set him. For you have come, and that was all the purpose of my message. And here you will stay, Gandalf the Grey, and rest from journeys. For I am Saruman the Wise, Saruman Ring-maker, Saruman of Many Colours!'

But Iím not so sure that Radagasr was a fool, after all the eagles were described as proud birds. If I was sending a messenger to Gandalf at Orthanc I might send a raven or a starling but not one of the great eagles, the eagles were heavy duty players in their own right. Iím just speculating here but I suspect that after thinking it over, Radagast began to smell something wrong about his errand and so sent a bird capable of rescuing Gandalf should he need rescuing.

Later on, after his council, Elrond sends out riders to find out the lay of the land. They get as far south as Rhosgobel, Radagast wasnít there. This has lead some people to speculate that Saruman had Radagast killed for his part in saving Gandalf. But thereís another explanation for Radagastís absence, I expect that before he went home to his eyrie in the Misty Mountains, the eagle gave Radagast a heads up that Saruman was a traitor and that Rhosgobel wasnít a safe place any more. So Radagast booked.

Tolkien speculated that Radagast fell, abandoning his mission to rally people against Sauron to concentrate on birds and beasts. But that his fault was not as grievous as Sarumanís and he might have been allowed to return to Valinor. And in fact, Radagast had been added to the mission at the request of Yavanna, the vala who watched over nature, and he did indeed do that. So while Radagast might have have abandoned the charge that ManwŽ laid on him, he kept faith with Yavanna.

At any rate my head canon is that Radagast was allowed to go home but he probably put it off for as long as he could, having fallen in love with his own little slice of Middle-earth.

July 11, 2020

Dreams IV

Jeff VanderMeer was dreaming and saw words written on a wall. He wrote them down in his dream and when he woke up he grabbed pen and paper and wrote them down again:

Where lies the strangling fruit that came from the hand of the sinner I shall bring forth the seeds of the dead to share with the worms that gather in the darkness and surround the world with the power of their lives while from the dimlit halls of other places forms that never were and never could be writhe for the impatience of the few who never saw what could have been. In the black water with the sun shining at midnight, those fruit shall come ripe and in the darkness of that which is golden shall split open to reveal the revelation of the fatal softness in the earth. The shadows of the abyss are like the petals of a monstrous flower that shall blossom within the skull and expand the mind beyond what any man can bear, but whether it decays under the earth or above on green fields, or out to sea or in the very air, all shall come to revelation, and to revel, in the knowledge of the strangling fruitóand the hand of the sinner shall rejoice, for there is no sin in shadow or in light that the seeds of the dead cannot forgive. And there shall be in the planting in the shadows a grace and a mercy from which shall blossom dark flowers, and their teeth shall devour and sustain and herald the passing of an age. That which dies shall still know life in death for all that decays is not forgotten and reanimated it shall walk the world in the bliss of not-knowing. And then there shall be a fire that knows the naming of you, and in the presence of the strangling fruit, its dark flame shall acquire every part of you that remains.

And so the Southern Reach Trilogy was born.

The average person can't read in dreams but writers can sometimes pull it off. For the rest of us something like what happened to me in a dream the other day goes down. I was reading something about a third season episode of Star Trek. The words didn't really register but I got the sense of it, this episode was up for an Emmy. That surprised me because Trek's third season was pretty bad. It went on that in that year the episode was nominated it lost out to an episode of Mission Impossible. The words Mission Impossible were set a few lines down from the rest of the paragraph and I could clearly read them. I woke up thinking that I'm one of the chosen few who can read in dreams.

Perhaps that's not the case. While we don't read in dreams we can occasionally read a word or a couple of words here and there. We're just unable to pick up a book in our dreams and read Jabberwocky. As to why we can't read in dreams, well there's this reason, which is as good as any I suppose. But I wouldn't worry about it, after all scientists still aren't sure why we dream, much less the mechanics of reading in dreams. Personally, I think it's a lot like this, there's a thing called a generative adversarial network. A gan is shown samples of something and attempts to produce new material based on the material it's learned. Useful for statistical predictions and such, not so useful for images, at least not when it's running on something with Kosh's processing power. It's still fun to play around with though. Someone trained a gan on clocks and watches and this is one of the timepieces it came up with:

In a dream, you'd know what time it is and that's what reading in dreams is like.

July 9, 2020

Honesty Is the Best Policy

As part of getting Amazon Prime I get the basic Amazon Music streaming service. Fine, I use it from time to time. But for the last few months I've been getting a promo for Amazon Music Unlimited, I get a free month then it's a special $7.95 a month rate. Perhaps it's my age but I see that as paying for radio and you don't pay for radio, so I immediately cancel the auto renewal. But that still leaves me with a free month. Then, a few days after the cancellation goes into effect, I get another promo and free month.

Finally, feeling somewhat guilty (yeah, I know, taking the food out of Jeff Bezos' mouth) I called up Amazon and talked to Courtney. She verified that I'm getting the promo month after month, she has no idea why it's happening and pretty much that's it. But it's on record that I contacted them and this month I'll actually take Unlimited out for a spin. And I gave Courtney five stars across the board for feedback. The bottom line is that I'm basking in the warm glow of righteousness and I'm still getting free stuff. How good is that?

July 7, 2020

The Betrayal

After a wonderful week up north and a day's rest, Rolf and I resumed our adventure in Divinity Original Sin 2 and the game took a dark turn indeed.

The world of Rivellon is being invaded by voidwoken and the only way to stop them is to become godwoken and take the place of our own enfeebled gods. In our party of four I already told Rolf I'd stand aside for him and he convinced our NPCs, the Red Prince and Ifan Ben-Mezd to do the same. At the beginning of the game you get your choice of NPC companions and I never got far enough into the game to find out what happened to them, I just assumed they went their way and lived happy lives.

Not so, when we entered the ruins of the Academy and tried to get to the Wellspring that would make Rolf's character, Cole the Wise, a god we found out the NPCs were on their own quest for divinity and we had to fight them. As if that's wasn't bad enough, our old gods, the one who asked up to take their places, jumped us and tried to steal our power. In short, we had to kill people we liked and gods that we trusted.

Which makes the whole thing memorable, if somewhat depressing. Reminds me a little of Fallout 4 when I was trying to find my son who was taken out of cryogenic freeze. The clues let to the evil Institute that was conducting horrific experiments. Turned out that while I remained in freeze, my son became part of the Institute, grew old and now he ran the place.

At any rate we're 80 hours in and we've made it to the last section. Onwards to glory and all that.

July 5, 2020

I Am Not a Clever Man

When I visit Donna I always charge Little Kosh and make sure my Thunderbird profile and Quicken information is up to date. And for 15, maybe even 20 years I've been doing this in my bedroom where there's no room to work. Today I realized I could do this in my kitchen. And rather then beating myself up for not figuring this out before, I'm congratulating myself for having figured it out at the semi-advanced age of 64.

Update: Why yes, that is my finger in the picture.

June 23, 2020

William Morris

I read The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings and The Gormenghast Trilogy as a kid. That last one was over my head, I was 12 or 13 when I got it, but the Gormenghast books had cool covers and they were awesomely weird. After that I was ready for more and I started to dip into the Ballantine Adult Fantasy Series. One of the first books I picked up was The Wood Beyond the World by William Morris. I told myself I enjoyed it and went on to read others in the series but the truth is that I didn't like it very much. But in my defense, here's the first paragraph:

Awhile ago there was a young man dwelling in a great and goodly city by the sea which had to name Langton on Holm. He was but of five and twenty winters, a fair-faced man, yellow-haired, tall and strong; rather wiser than foolisher than young men are mostly wont; a valiant youth, and a kind; not of many words but courteous of speech; no roisterer, nought masterful, but peaceable and knowing how to forbear: in a fray a perilous foe, and a trusty war-fellow. His father, with whom he was dwelling when this tale begins, was a great merchant, richer than a baron of the land, a head-man of the greatest of the Lineages of Langton, and a captain of the Porte; he was of the Lineage of the Goldings, therefore was he called Bartholomew Golden, and his son Golden Walter.

Yeah, I thought so. It wasn't just me.

I've reread it a couple of times and to be honest I don't remember much about it. But I've since developed a taste for Morris' biggest fantasy, The Well at the World's End and I think it's time to make another pass at The Wood Beyond the World.

Most folks believe that The Wood Beyond the World is the first fantasy novel, fantasy in this case referring to a work set in an invented world with magic stuff in it. A line is traced from Morris to E. R. Eddison to Tolkien. There's something to that but you can really over think that sort of thing.

June 23, 2020

3D Glasses

I have a pair of 3D glasses that I keep on top of the Victrola next to my desk, I haven't used them since I got my new glasses.

I have macular degeneration in one eye and while it's under control I was starting to see double in the far left of my field of vision. The optometrist told me that it was a side effect of my good eye trying to compensate for my bad eye. When he prescribed my new glasses he weakened the lens on my bad eye so my good eye wouldn't be overcompensating and after a couple of months it worked, I no longer have double vision in the far left of my visual field. However today I discovered that 3D glasses no longer work for me. I'm guessing that things like Valve's 3D hardware wouldn't work either. But given a choice between being able to drive or playing Half Life Alex I'll take driving.

June 14, 2020


Every so often I send something out to a mailing list I created. Today I was well into writing it when I accidentally deleted the whole thing, leaving me with no will to live. However things brightened up when Rolf dropped off a mug he had made. It commemorates the two co-op games we finished and the one we're currently playing.

Now, if I had beer I'd start reconstructing my email. But I don't have beer and won't until tomorrow so that's that.

June 11, 2020

The House on the Borderland

It was written in 1907 by William Hope Hodgson and I find it his most accessible work.

So then, two guys are on a fishing holiday in the west of Ireland and they find some creepy ruins and a journal. The journal is written by self proclaimed recluse. The recluse bought a vast house for a song because it has a really shitty reputation. He moves in with his sister and his dog, Pepper. The sister does the housekeeping and the recluse mostly sits around and reads. Remove the sister, replace the dog with a tuxedo cat and you've pretty much got my retirement life style.

But the house is cursed. Mr. Recluse has a vision of a vast amphitheater watched over by unmoving gods and demons. There's huge replica of his house and there's a kind of vast humanoid pig demon trying to break into the thing. Meanwhile in his part of the worlds swine things, as he calls them, are trying to break into his house. Fortunately Mr. Recluse is a handy man with a gun.

He has another vision of a place he calls the Sea of Sleep. There he finds the spirit of his one true love who died some time ago. She tells him in no uncertain terms that while the house has mystical energies that allow him to come to her version of heaven, the house is pretty much 110% evil and he'd do well to pack up his sister and Pepper and get out of Dodge. So then, the recluse has a vision of his true love's heaven and another vision of what may be a hell awaiting him if he stays in the house.

Yep, he stays and comes to a bad end.

This is the third time I read this book and the first time I had no sympathy for the recluse's fate. He stays in the house because it's the only way he can see his lover. But given the fact that he knows there's life after death and personal heavens and hells it might make sense to move back to England and see his lover after he himself dies. He's not doing anything heroic, the swine things aren't a menace to anyone other then to whoever is living in the house. In my younger years I saw the recluse as a heroic figure fighting against cosmic evil, now I see him as a self involved, selfish bastard.

Funny how some books seem to change as we age. And don't get me wrong, I love The House on the Borderland, I just changed my opinion of the central character. And I've got another ghost story loaded up on the Kindle waiting for my attention.

June 6, 2020

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