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


Tyranny

Sometimes I'm not very smart. Last year I played a game called Tyranny. You play as a servant of the Dark Lord Kyros. The title Dark Lord should have been a heads up that Kyros is evil and I, as his servant, am pretty much a bastard too. So, last year I got to a part where I had to get from point A to point B but a village was in my path and for various xenophobic reasons they wouldn't let me through. I could have just cut my way through them but dammit, that would be wrong. So I quit the game.

Yeah, I know but in my defense I was still in a lot of pain.

And so having finished Dishonored: The Death of the Outsider and not having anything on my plate I decided to reinstall Tyranny again and this time I'm going to try to remember that evil people really don't care about wiping out a village or two.

Also put Doom back on to mess about with it for a bit. I won't be able to finish but at least I can practice first person shooting before Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus comes out next month.

September 19, 2017


Dishonored and Forgiveness

In the first game in the Dishonored series you play Corvo Attano, the Royal Protector of Empress Jessamine Kaldwin and father to the heir to the throne, Emily Kaldwin. At the beginning of the game a group of assassins, led by Daud, kill Jessamine, kidnap her daughter and leaves you to take the blame.

But a group of nobles break you out of prison and after you're free the Outsider intervenes. The Outsider is a god of chaos. He gave Daud his mark some time ago and he's not impressed by what Daud has been doing with it. So he gives you his mark, he's curious to see if you'll follow down Daud's path or chose another.

If you kill your way through the game then the world will slowly slip into chaos. At the end, if there's low chaos you rescue Emily and her reign marks a golden age. In a medium chaos state, you save her but she embarks on a path of vengeance. And in a high chaos state, she dies before you can save her and you leave the empire for good.

At a certain point in Dishonored you encounter Daud and duel him. When you defeat him, rather then using his own powers to teleport out, he submits to your judgment. He does tell you he regrets killing the empress and wants to make amends somehow. In my case, I let him live.

In the DLC you play Daud, Daud is alive regardless of what decision you made as to his fate. The default state of the world assumes mercy. You and your second in command, Billie Lurk, investigate the whaling trawler Delilah. In the course of the game, Lurk betrays you. She perceives your guilt over Jessamine's death as weakness. But because I was playing a low chaos game, she didn't go through with her plans and just like Daud submitted to Covo's judgment in the first game, Lurk submits to Daud's judgment now. And so she's exiled.

But she comes back under the name Meagan Foster, captain of the Dreadful Wale in Dishonored 2. You play as either Corvo or Emily. Either way Emily has been deposed and Foster aids you in righting that wrong. I played as Emily, now an adult, and at a certain point Foster reveals herself as Billie Lurk. Even though Lurk was in on my mother's assassination, as Foster she was a good friend and I chose to forgive her. At the end of the game she goes off to seek Daud, the only family she ever knew.

Which leads to Dishonored: The Death of the Outsider. You play as Lurk and find Daud. Daud is dying and he blames his life on the Outsider, who's been manipulating events through the entire series. But Daud discovers the Outsider's origin, he was a 15 year old boy who was sacrificed to the void thousands of years ago. He became one with the void and became the Outsider. But the knife that killed him is still around and it can end him.

Daud dies in the course of the game. In the game's world, a good person is rewarded by oblivion after death, an evil person lives on in the void forever, and Daud was evil. But as Lurk you get the knife, and enter the void, but not before you learn that the Outsider can be made a human again. He's lost his name but the mark he gives is his name and if someone were to use it on him it would make him human again.

Naturally, I made it to the void with the knife, and there I encounter Daud. The Ousider is there too, in his real form, that of a 15 year old boy merged with rock and frozen into an eternal scream. Daud blames the Outside for the way his life turned out but as Lurk I point out that the Outsider gave him power but he chose to use it as he did. Eventually Daud goes to the Outsider, whispers his real name and as a reward dissolves into oblivion. The Outsider becomes a human again and will live out a normal lifespan.

The games never directs you to play in a certain way. Most folks seem to go the high chaos route and indeed, the destructive powers are a lot of fun. I always went for low chaos and so the Outsider is alive at the end of my playthrough. And I'm a little wiped out, having played for 20 hours in two days. According to the devs, the game concludes the Kladwin era in the series. So another Dishonored game could be set anywhere, if sales warrant another game. And so I leave another game world behind.

But dear me, it was a pretty place.

September 17, 2017


Merciful Ghost

After a mission in the Dishonored series I generally get the merciful score, but getting ranked as merciful and ghost doesn't happen too often. And since there's only one more mission to go I thought I'd boast a bit. By the way, I'm playing on medium.

September 17, 2017


Not a Glitch

In this came I'm playing Billie Lurk. I worked for an assassin named Daud, betrayed him and was shown mercy, even as Corvo showed Daud mercy in Dishonored. In Dishonored 2 I helped the deposed empress Emily while using the name Meagan Foster. Eventually I confessed that I was one of the assassins who helped kill her mother. Emily chose to forgive me at the end of the game and so I went off to find the only family I ever knew, Daud.

And that leads to the current game, I rescued Daud and he's taked me to kill the Outsider, the trickster go who set everything in motion way back in the first game. And that leads me to this video.

Billie Lurk is a wanted woman and there are posters of her all over the city. At a certain point in the game I noticed them flickering and I thought, "Fuck, a graphics glitch. Arcane should know better." Then I got close to one and discovered something else was going on.

September 16, 2017


The United Federation of "hold my beer, I got this"

You may have noticed that in Star Trek Starfleet ships, or rather Starfleet ships crewed by humans, malfunction spectacularly and regularly. That's because humans try dumb shit just for the hell of it. The only show where that didn't happen was Deep Space 9 and DS9 wasn't built by humans, it was a Cardassian space station. Klingons are ruled by honor, Vulcans are ruled by logic and Ferengi are ruled by profit. Humans are ruled by hold my beer, I've got this.

September 16, 2017


Dishonored: The Death of the Outsider

Stacking unconscious guards has been a tradition over here since 1998 when Thief: The Dark Project was published.

September 16, 2017


Cassini

This was the very last picture the Cassini probe took before it dove into Saturn's atmosphere.

September 16, 2017


Dishonored: The Death of the Outsider

The game unlocked at midnight and then the traditional game day patch went down. It's now about 1:20, I've been playing for a bit and I want to continue but I've had insomnia for most of the week. Yesterday was the first good night's sleep in three days. So while I want to pull an all nighter, my residual common sense is kicking in and I'll leave the game until tomorrow. Besides, I think I want to savor this one.

September 15, 2017


List of Games: Part 2

What the hell, a word about the games on the list.

Diablo 3: The Darkening of Tristram: I really got a kick out of this and I wish Blizzard had expanded it and offered it as a stand alone game. I played a lot of Diablo back in the day. When it was released it was billed as Nethack but with much better graphics.

Deus Ex: Mankind Divided A Criminal Past: This was the first time a Deus Ex expansion didn't click for me. I'd kind of like to put it back on but I don't want to go through the trouble of downloading the original game. Besides, the Deus Ex franchise may be over for awhile, like a lot of recent games Deus Ex: Mankind Divided under performed.

Torment: Tides of Numenera: This was billed as the spiritual successor to Planescape Torment. You know, like the other isometric role playing games I played this year, this one had a number of companions you could play with and then swap out for others. But I tend to find a group that works for me and I stick with them. So I miss a certain amount of content.

Mass Effect Andromeda: I had a good time with this, I played for 94 hours and would have loved some DLC. But the whole franchise is on hold. The game had a lot of problems and I saw a video that floated the idea that development was so long that EA decided to release it knowing that it wasn't really ready. They made their money but knew that they'd never be able to sell DLC because of the bad word of mouth. So they never planned any. Too bad, I had some good times in the Mass Effect universe/

What Remains of Edith Finch: A magical realism walking simulator. I enjoy the genre but it's not for everybody. In most games your actions matter, they effect things, whether it's discovering the secret of the Changing God or defeating the Kett. But you don't effect anything in a walking simulator, instead you try to figure out what happened in a given environment. Once you've discovered the whole story, that's it the game ends. I loved What Remains of Edith Finch but in general I'm not the type who says, "You have to play this game! That goes double for walking simulators.

Prey: Damn, it took three tries before I could finish this game. Right now it's probably my game of the year. Remember A Scanner Darkly? Preyis even a bigger head trip.

Kentucky Route Zero Acts 1-4: It's not a walking simulator but it's still a story you observe rather then a game where you influence things. But it has a cult following.

Divinity: Original Sin: It was my third try on this game. I know that people love it and the sequel just came out today but I just didn't like it.

Pillars of Eternity: Played it last year and it helped me through a lot of back pain. I felt I owed the game a replay so I could figure out what the hell was going on.

Tacoma: Another walking simulator. You're trying to find out why the crew of the transit station Tacoma evacuated. I enjoyed this one a lot and ended up playing it twice.

And tomorrow the new Dishonored game unlocks, so I'm happy.

September 14, 2017


An Early Look at alChandler's List of Games in 2017

Diablo 3: The Darkening of Tristram+
Deus Ex: Mankind Divided A Criminal Past
Torment: Tides of Numenera+
Mass Effect Andromeda+
What Remains of Edith Finch+
Prey+
Kentucky Route Zero Act 1+
Kentucky Route Zero Act 2+
Kentucky Route Zero Act 3+
Kentucky Route Zero Act 4+
Divinity: Original Sin
Pillars of Eternity (Replay)+
Tacoma+

And they'll be one or two games added to the list, Dishonored: The Death of the Outsider has finished preloading and unlocks tomorrow and there's Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus and Vampyre coming up.

I've played 13 games so far and finished 11. While I get a sense of satisfaction finishing a game, it's not a requirement for enjoying the game. Still, this year I've have a higher completion average then I normally do.

Dishonored: The Death of the Outsider will be interesting. Dishonored 2 did not do as well as expected so rather then market the new game as DLC, as is usually the case, it's a smaller stand alone game. I can get behind that. As for my upcoming games, I'm looking forward to Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus more then I should. Here's my history with Wolfenstein. I finished Beyond Castle Wolfenstein in 1984 on my Commodore 64. I also finished Wolfenstein 3D on my Tandy EX in 1993. It was a very early 3D shooter and at the time it blew me away. if you want to try it Bethesda has a working version here.

I finished that one too.

And there are others too, suffice it to say Wolfenstein and I go back, I was 28 when I blew up Hitler in his bunker.

But I should focus on Dishonored. There I won't be running and gunning, I'll be stealthing. This time, I won't be playing Corvo or his daughter, Emily, I'll be playing Billie Lurk, an assassin working for Daud. Duad was the man who murdered Empress Jessamine Kaldwin, kidnapped Emily and framed Corvo. In Dishonored when I finally encountered Daud, I let him live. I encountered Billie Lurk last in Dishonored 2. She was hiding under the identity of Meagan Foster and when I discovered her true identity (I was playing Emily) I eventually told her that she had changed. So at the end she left to seek out Daud, the only family she ever had.

In the new game, Daud tells her he blames the Outsider, the trickster god who started the events of the first two games, for all the chaos that's happened. So in this game I'm out to kill a god. How cool is that?

Of course, I'm alChandler, I've killed a god or two in my career.

September 14, 2017


How Not to Land an Orbital Rocket Booster

September 14, 2017


Prototype

An early version of the Oculus Rift for Windows 95.

September 12, 2017


Meanwhile on Ted Cruz's Twitter Feed

September 12, 2017


The Orville

The ads for The Orville tried to make the show look like it was about the wackiest ship in space. Instead it's Seth MacFarlane's homage to Star Trek.

I told my DVR to record it, read the reviews and they were universally terrible so I canceled the recording. Then a I read a tweet from Scott Kurtz:

I know The Orville is getting bad reviews but it's clearly Seth's love letter to Trek. It's worth giving a couple episodes.

Kurtz is not an overly forgiving fellow so I decided to give the first episode a chance.

Here's the deal, the show isn't that great. MacFarlane has no idea how to integrate humor and drama, he probably should have spent less time watching Voyager and more time watching Firefly. That being said, I don't think the show is terrible, to my mind it's already a lot better then Voyager and that show lasted seven seasons. I don't know how long The Orville will last, these days networks aren't very forgiving and I suspect its 13 episode season will be its first and last. But I grabbed a season pass for it and we'll see how the show does.

And yeah, I know, I dump on Voyager a lot. I just didn't care for it, you know?

September 12, 2017


Halt and Catch Fire

Halt and Catch Fire is a drama about the early days of the personal computer. Now it's in its fourth and final season and the show is dealing with search engines. One group of characters are trying to design a search engine called Rover and the second group is working on a curated listing of web sites called Comet. Comet is pretty much Yahoo.

We've all kind of forgotten how bad search engines were in the mid 90s. Here's a common trick that could fool them in the early days. If your site was about the Beatles and you wanted to make it to the top of the results on the first page for a search on the Beatles, you'd set the background of your page to grey, then you choose a font and set its color to grey too and just write Beatles everywhere. The user wouldn't see it but the search engine's web crawler would and it would think your site must be a major resource on the Beatles.

It wasn't until Google came along that search really became useful, at least for me. Google figured out that a really useful site would have a lot of folks linking to it and that's what Google's crawler looked for. It looked for a lot of other thing too but that one innovation made a world of difference.

September 11, 2017


George Smiley Is Really Old

September 10, 2017


Good Advice

At least I hope it was good advice. In the late 90s I was working with woman who was also a born again Christian and she came to me for advice. Her 13 year old son wanted to play Diablo but her friends from church told her the game promoted Satanism. Since I was known to play the odd computer game or two she wanted my take on the game.

I told her that yes, Diablo was the Devil, but far from promoting Satan worship, Diablo was the villain of the of the game. The whole point of the game was to ultimately defeat him. The woman smiled and told me she decided her kid could have the game. I like to think that if Diablo had glorified Satanism I would have told her.

September 10, 2017


House Flipping

Quartz has a story about house flipping. It's thesis is that subprime borrowers didn't crash the housing market, it was middle class house flippers who got in over their heads and defaulted en masse.

I've no way of judging how accurate the article is, I don't know enough about economics. I do know that when my Mom died in 2002 I came into a modest inheritance and used it to pay off my mortgage. At the time I was talking about that with a supervising inspector who was genuinely horrified at my decision. He told me that if I should have borrowed against the equity in my house, added that to my inheritance and bought the most expensive house I could afford. In six months I'd be able to sell it for a huge profit.

Every now and then I still see infomercials on late night television that offer you to teach you the secrets of house flipping.

September 10, 2017


A Newton Story

Newton sometimes watches television with me and when he does, this is pretty much how we look. Late Thursday night he joined me as I was watching Stephen Colbert. Normally I'm watching stuff on the Tivo but on Thursday I was watching Colbert in real time and real time television means commercials.

So Newton and I are watching a dog food commercial and after we learn how great this stuff is the commercial cuts to five happy dogs running towards the camera. Newton does a major freakout, gouging a chunk out of my neck as he scrambled over me to get to the safety of my bedroom. I get up, yell at him and for the rest of the night Newton decided that my bedroom was a fine and dandy place to chill.

The little asshole obviously has some issues.

September 9, 2017


Playing Life on Easy Mode

A few years ago John Scalzi posted an essay called Straight White Male: The Lowest Difficulty Setting There Is. And he's right, I am privileged and I couldn't keep a straight face (excuse the pun) if I tried to argue otherwise.

There's a new South Park RPG coming out, South Park: The Fractured but Whole, and the game has a sliding difficulty setting:

I hope the game gives Scalzi a shout out in the credits.

September 7, 2017


Phones!

Two of 'em, the iPhone 8 and the Galaxy Note 8. New phones coming out from Apple and Samsung respectively, and they both will cost $1,000.

I'm using the Galaxy S7 and I'm still happy with it. In fact, I don't see myself getting a new phone until 2019. That may change of course, my phone will be two years old next summer and once they hit that age the battery life drops to 15 minutes and the screen tends to break if you cough on it. You never know.

I don't wish ill to either Apple or Samsung but I'm wondering if the $1,000 price point will work for them. Apple has a reputation for providing upscale tech products for m'lord and m'lady but is Samasung in that rarified place too?

When new tech is introduced I tend to follow it breathlessly. I followed Intel's chips like a sports fan following their favorite team. These days, it's just stuff. I love my computer and I upgrade on a regular basis but I love it for what it can do, not for its own sake. It's stuff. I think phones are in the same category. We'll see if Apple and Samsung can get people excited enough to pay $1,000 for new phones.

September 7, 2017