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!


The Glimmer Twins

Rolf's on the right, I'm on the left and we both like sniper rifles. We also seem to have a similar fashion sense.

March 31, 2020


Far Cry New Dawn

That's Rolf channeling his best Dean Wincheter. We're taking the whole sheltering in place thing as an opportunity to play Far Cry New Dawn co-op. Haven't played co-op in ages and I think we both had a good time, I'll try to remember to get Rolf to snap a shot of my character and I'll post it here.

March 30, 2020


Gonarch's Lair

After I died fighting Gonarch in under 40 seconds I looked at this guy's video and decided it was half past fuck this shit o'clock. Last year I spent hours and hours on a fight in Control and I realized life is too short. That being said, I enjoyed Black Mesa and recommend it for those in the mood for a nostalgic visit to the Black Mesa complex.

One more thought, I've noticed that since the release of Dark Souls in 2011, action games have gotten considerably harder (at least for me). Dark Souls set out to be the triathlon of action games but it seems to me that its ethos has been adopted by a lot of other games. But that might not be the case, in 2011 I was 55, now I'm 64 and as my friends will attest, my hand/eye coordination sucked in my 40s. So while games may have gotten harder it might simply be my age. Time to play Stardew Valley I guess and be done with it.

March 28, 2020


Black Mesa: Entering the Endgame

The last third of the Xen section of Black Mesa is about creating a portal to the next section, Gonarch's Lair. Gronarch is one of the two endgame bosses and to be honest I had no memory of the encounter, but this video brought the whole thing back.

And that's not what I'm showing here. I've no doubt that the new and improved Gonarch will make short work of me. No, this video is of me firing up the final piece of equipment to open the portal.

I bought Black Mesa in October of 2017 when it was in early access and was pretty rough. But it's out of early access and if I can't advance too much farther I can't say that I haven't had a good time.

March 27, 2020


Star Trek Picard

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At the end of the finale, Jean-Luc Picard dies from the effects of his brain abnormality. Fortunately for him his brain is scanned and reconstituted in a synthetic body, without said abnormality. The body is the same physical age as original Jean-Luc's and will age normally. Huzzah! Picard lives!

Nope. The Picard who commanded the Enterprise D is dead. What you have is a new Picard with all of the original's memories but no continuity of consciousness. Or as Cat Valente puts it:

And that's that. The Jean-Luc I've known and loved for 32 years is either buried on Coppelius or else his body is in the cargo hold of the La Sirena, awaiting burial in La Barre, France. You know, the only book I've read that realized that a back up is not the original was A Memory Called Empire by Arkady Martine. Mahit Dzmare is the ambassador from Lsel Station, sent to Teixcalaanli Empire to do ambassadorial things and to find out what happened to the old ambassador, Yskander Aghavn. She's carrying an imago machine with Aghavn's memories, several years out of date. The copy in the machine has a weird sort of consciousness but is aware that it's a copy whose purpose is to help Dzmare with her duties.

If you like intelligent science fiction, you could do worse then to read it.

March 27, 2020


The Future is Now

A young man playing Half Life: Alyx discovers he can draw in the game and nothing will ever be the same again.

March 25, 2020


Puzzles

That glowing ball is a teleporter and to get it working I had to solve a series of puzzles. Not hard puzzles, objectively speaking but hard for me. I'm not good at puzzles.

Whenever I got stuck in Black Mesa before I would go to video walkthroughs from a guy who calls himself BigMacDavis. He provides a running commentary on what he's doing in a voice that sounds like he's the overnight DJ at a light rock station. But he hasn't done the Xen section of the game yet and other videos were sans commentary. So when I got stuck in the base that the survey team from the lab built on Xen I decided to give it a try. The power was out and to leave I had to restore it. Restoration was pretty simple in retrospect, find a power source, insert it in a holder, find plugs and press the right buttons. Easy puzzles but I'm not good at that.

Eventually I came to an outdoor section with no way out. It took me hours of dicking around but eventually I found a way to activate a teleporter. And that's where I'm at, just wanted to share my pride at having succeeded in a series of simple tasks.

March 25, 2020


Self Isolation

In other words, what I do most of the time. I must admit I've taken it a bit further then I normally would, I haven't been anywhere since last Wednesday. I used the time to finish that damn book about Facebook and continue to chip away at Black Mesa. Just now I finally entered the portal to Xen.

Xen is a very pretty place:

For the rest, I'd feel better if we had a guy who was even marginally competent running the show but that's not going to happen. Trump is considering trying to get people going back to work in two weeks or so but he doesn't have the authority to overrule the various shelter in place orders that city and state governments have imposed. And I hope you guys are keeping safe and that we all come through this.

Oh about that jump, I was going to post video if I made the jump or not so I'm proud that I didn't mess up.

March 24, 2020


Jorkens

From 1905 to 1919 Lord Dunsany wrote fantasy short stories set in his own invented worlds. He started out with The Gods of Pegana in which he created his own pantheon, and finished with Tales of Three Hemispheres. These stories influenced people like H. P. Lovecraft, Jack Vance, Guillermo Del Toro and Clark Ashton Smith. But Dunsany didn't stop writing short stories in 1919, he simply moved on to other styles. Hell, after The Gods of Pegana and its followup, Time and the Gods he abandoned Pegana forever, moving onto other locations and other styles.

With that in mind, in 1931 he wrote The Travel Tales of Mr. Joseph Jorkens. Jorkens was a stout old fellow who hung out at the Billiards Club in London and would tell adventures from his younger years in return for free drinks. The stories were hard to believe but they were told wit panache and the club members didn't mind the whiskey tariff. If this sounds familiar, the Jorkens books inspired other works, Arthur C. Clarke's Tales from the White Hart and L. Sprague de Camp and Fletcher Pratt's Tales from Gavagan's Bar.

Always wanted to read the Jorkens stories, ever since Lin Carter mentioned them in one of his nonfiction books. I found a copy of Dunsany's second Jorkens collection. Jorkens Remembers Africa and so far I'm enjoying it.

March 23, 2020


A Gaming Note

At this point I have to admit that while the vast majority of role playing gamers love the games that Larian Studios creates, I dislike them. I haven't been able to force myself to play Divinity Original Sin until today and after ten minutes I just abandoned the whole thing.

On the other hand I've reached Lamda Core in Black Mesa, best $20 I've spent in a bit. And I know that I say this a lot but Divinity Original Sin isn't a bad game, I just don't like it.

March 21, 2020


History Nerd

This is what being a history nerd is like. GQ has an article about Jonah Hill's 20 films to watch while you're isolating yourself. Number 15 was Barry Lyndon, here's what he said about it (italics are mine):

By without a doubt the greatest filmmaker of all time, Stanley Kubrick. It also takes place in Renaissance time, with like, powdered wigs, and it’s all shot using natural light, meaning as the light would’ve been at the time, so with candles. He invented weird lenses that didn’t fit on cameras that shouldn’t have had them. No one can touch him. He’s the best director of all time, whether or not he’s your favorite. It’s a beautiful film—it’s slow, it’s gorgeous, it’s not like a fucking action movie. It’s slow, but it is worth it.

Meanwhile I'm mentally screaming, "No, no, no, it's set in the 18th fucking century, Georgian England!" And my anger in no way invalidates the rest of his observations about the film. In fact, I should watch that again, I haven't seen it since college.

March 18, 2020


Launch

After 21 years this is still one of my favorite moments in gaming.

March 17, 2020


Hot Rats

I didn't realize this but Hot Rats is 50 years old!

Neither rock, jazz nor fusion, “Hot Rats” is also all those things at once — and a little more besides. The thoughtful intimacy of Blue Note recordings informs “It Must Be a Camel,” while Underwood’s “Gumbo Variations” solo owes a debt to free-jazz pioneer Albert Ayler. Conversely, you can hear the influence of Zappa’s “Hot Rats” playing in Allan Holdsworth’s and Al Di Meola’s later music, while Return to Forever, Weather Report and others would pick up on his newly expanded sonic palette. And, having performed with Zappa, violinist Jean-Luc Ponty would always retain a Zappa tinge. But while Miles Davis would continue to record music in the vein of “Bitches Brew,” “Hot Rats” was a one-off whose ongoing influence was more about ambition than imitation.

Hot Rats is still one of my favorite albums.

March 13, 2020


Song of Joy

March 13, 2020


Coins

This ad showed up on PC Gamer:

And this one turned up on the New York Times:

I've no objection to the ads and it might be cool to have an old coin but I'm curious about what I could have done online to make the god of advertising think I'd be interested in Judean coins. I'm also interest in how long it will be before the god gives up and tries something else.

March 13, 2020


Madora's Revenge

In Divinity Madora's character arc is trying to find redemption for panicking and running away when the orcs took Hunter's Glen, the village she was tasked with defending. Well we finally caught up with the orc responsible for the slaughter is named Norok, he's the son of the Orc Queen and he's mentally impaired. The Queen told him that the humans he killed were playing and he believed her. He was an innocent.

At this point I'm sure my decisions are responsible for what happened next. Madora realizes Norok isn't responsible for his actions but she wades in and that means we all have to attack the poor bastard. I suspect that if alChandler and Weeping Flame had been a bit more merciful, Madora would have leaned towards mercy and Norok would have been allowed to live. But that's not what happened. And here's the leisurely turn based battle.

March 10, 2020


Test

The server that hosts this page finally died after years of loyal service. OLM migrated me to a new server and I'm just making sure everything is copacetic.

March 10, 2020


Tentacles

I wasn't going to do another one of these today but this thing annoyed the shit out of me. The Tentacle Thing was a boss, kind of, in the original Half Life. It could kill you easily but if you crept quietly it would leave you be, it was sensitive to sound. The folks behind Black Mesa thought it would be cool to take out the creeping quietly part so the only thing to do was to throw grenades to distract it. However grenades and explosives didn't work most of the time so you had to do run fast and hope for the best. And because this bit was so annoying, I decided to celebrate when it came time to toast the bastard.

By the way, for those of you that were playing Sven Co-op with me back around the turn of the century, my jumping skills haven't improved all that much.

March 8, 2020


Sound Test 2: Black Mesa

A bit smoother then yesterday's Divinity Original Sin test. The game actually looks better then this, I compressed the file a bit before I uploaded it. If all goes well I will post some combat footage from Divinity later in the week, not that anyone is asking for it.

March 8, 2020


Sound Test 1

It occurred to me that I haven't done a vocal track with a game since I stopped using Fraps. This is the first time I tried talking while recording with Bandicam. It's a little stuttery at first but I think I can fix that.

At any rate, that village is Hunter's Glen. Madora, who's in my party, was a source hunter assigned to protect the place but when the orcs arrived she panicked and ran. She's been torturing herself over it ever since. It's her character arc. Hunter's Glen is also a new area to me, I never got this far in the game before. In the earlier sections I just bulled through, if I got stuck I just went to the walkthrough on the grounds that I did this stuff before, but in Hunter's Glen I'm going to have to make an effort to work things out for myself.

March 7, 2020


Elevator Ride

While I wasn't going to play Black Mesa until I finished Divinity Original Sin I couldn't resit checking it out. This is very early in the game, shortly after the resonance cascade. The game looks very good but it's not state of the art. But I don't need state of the art, this is a nostalgia thing for me.

By the way, I haven't posted anything from Divinity Original Sin. That's because combat is challenging but not visually exciting. But finishing this game, or coming close, means a lot to me and I think I'll turn on Bandicam for my next play session and film the first fight I get into.

March 7, 2020


Why They'll Burn me as a Witch

In 1983 I bought a Commodore 64 with a 1541 floppy drive. I paid about $1,000 for it from Sears. That was far more expensive then other stores were selling it for but I knew nothing about computers except that I wanted to play Zork and had a Sears credit card. I was very happy with my purchase I was also very, very poor for a long time afterwards. And so when the winter turned bitterly cold in January and February of 1984 I faced it with a coat that had no buttons. And rather then buy a new coat, or pay a tailor to sew new buttons on, I just walked around with my coat unbuttoned. I was 27, immortal and had a large credit card bill. I didn't need a new coat.

When the winter was over my voice had gotten a bit raspier and my high pitched laugh deepened but what the hell, I had finished Zork and had moved onto Ultima 2. Life was good. Until January of 1985 when I started coughing. And to this day I cough from January to about April. And most years that would be no big thing. But this year is the year of the plague and coughing in public is a sign that I'm a selfish pig of a man, dripping with viruses, waiting to infect you, your elders and your children with COVID-19.

Monday morning I go to the auto dealership to have my breaks checked. I will bring cough drops and if I feel myself about to cough I will take my phone out, pretend I have a call and go outside. I may be taking a lot of calls that day.

March 7, 2020


Black Mesa

In case you're interested, the full version of the fan remake of Half Life, Black Mesa is out. I bought it back in 2016, messed about with it for a bit then put it aside. But the team has completed it and while I'm not going to play it seriously, or anything else for that matter, until I'm through with Divinity Original Sin but I might poke at it from time to time. PC Gamer gave it an 83 and raved about the remade Xen levels and Eurogamer called it a masterful remake.

At any rate if you're into nostalgia, $19.99 gets you a return trip to the Black Mesa Laboratory.

March 5, 2020


The Siege of Gondor

Bret Devereaux is a military historian and on his site he's written a six part analysis of the Siege of Gondor in Jackson's Return of the King. He also points out where Jackson's version of the battle diverges from the book. So here's Part I: Professionals Talk Logistics for your dining and dancing pleasure.

March 4, 2020