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 October Country

I don't think I've read The October Country since my twenties. In fact, it may have been longer then that, I remember reading some of the stories in that collection and not really understanding them. So this reread is almost like reading the book for the first time.

I said below that Bradbury had a sentimental streak but damn, these stories are dark. Not Thomas Ligotti the universe is shit and horror dark but there are nasty undercurrents there. Now I'm tempted to reread Something Wicked This Way Comes when I finish The October Country. That may prove to be a bit too much Bradbury though.

October 15, 2018


Ancient Greece II

Kassie is standing in the ruins of the place of Odysseus, the King of Ithaca.

Mycenaean Greece was a Bronze Age culture that lasted from 1600 to 1100 BCE. When Homer was singing about guys like Agamemnon and Odysseus, he was singing about Mycenaeans. By 1100 BCE Mycenaean culture collapsed due to an invasion by the Dorians. The collapse was so bad that Greece lost literacy. Things didn't start to revive until 800 BCE and the Greeks had imported a new alphabet by way of Phoenicia. And that means that while there were traditions handed down about things like the Trojan War, whatever written records that survived from the Mycenaean culture were unreadable by the Greeks.

As far as Odysseus, he's probably fictional, but hell, I'd say that Abraham and Moses were probably fictional, so what do I know? Ithaca exists, you can go there if the mood takes you. But there's no palace of Odysseus I'm afraid. However there is in Assassin's Creed Odyssey.

October 13, 2018


Meet Kassandra

She's Kassandra, her eagle's name is Ikaros. At the begining of the game you have the choice of playing as Kassandra or Alexios and the consensus is that Alexios is a bit of a stiff.

Right now Kassandra is hanging around a village on an island, doing quests to level up. She routed some bandits in a cave sacred to Hermes, dropped the bandit's loot at the home of a poor woman who needed her wagon repaired and she retrieved the Spear of Whoever for the Priestess of Whatever. She's now level 3, almost halfway to four and tomorrow she may do some more explorin' and questin' before she shakes hands with the game's storyline.

Assassin's Creed Origins was set in a world I enjoyed living in, I only left it because of a game stopping glitch. Right now the world of Assassin's Creed Odyssey is looking equally attractive.

October 12, 2018


The October Country

Ray Bradbury had a sentimental streak, but when he wanted to he could write horror with the best of them. The October Country is a collection of those horror stories and yesterday I realized I hadn't read it in decades. So I tracked it down (literally, books can hide for months in my library) and placed it on my nightstand. And damn, I have it in hard cover, I knew I had it but I forgot that I sprang for a hard cover edition.

October 11, 2018


Finishing Up

I still can't throw out the box my video card came in, dammit.

Speaking of which, the video card had no problems with Tomb Raider and is doing fine with Assassin's Creed Odyssey, not the faintest hint of coil whine to be heard. So, except for Newton's new favorite sleeping place, the video card thing is over and done.

And the laptop is more or less done as well. Every program I need is installed and all I have to do is enter a few passwords for various sites and we're back to full computer power here at the Halls.

I was feeling a bit off last month, it happens. I stepped away from a newsletter I write and hunkered down, but between the visit to Donna's, playing Shadow of the Tomb Raider and installing stuff on Little Kosh mark III I'm feeling a lot better. Doctor Who is back, Maniac looks interesting and Amazon just released the third season of The Man in the High Castle. What's not to like. I may even squeeze out a news feed tomorrow.

October 11, 2018


Some Men Want to Watch the World Burn

October 11, 2018


Ancient Greece I

October 11, 2018


In Which Kevin Sets Up His Laptop

I picked up the laptop from Rolf yesterday and spent a bit of time setting it up. Email is back, my bookmarks have been transferred and I put Battle.net and Diablo 3 on the machine. Today I'll have to deal with installing Steam, SynWrite and Filezilla, then its setup will be complete.

Diablo 3 is an older game but my old laptop was much older and couldn't handle it. The new laptop has no problems with it so at least I'll have access to some mindless hack and slash. The SSD is only 256 GB so I figure I'll have room for Diablo 3 and perhaps one low requirement game from Steam.

By the way, I decided to try Assassin's Creed Odyssey. It seems to be making the same kind of buzz in the PC world that Marvel's Spider-Man is making on the PS4.

October 11, 2018


Reflections on Tomb Raider

Wing Commander III: Heart of the Tiger was released in 1994 and boy did I have fun with that game. WC3 took advantage of the storage capacity of CD-ROMs to have the games characters played by actors like Mark Hamill, Malcolm McDowell and John Rhys-Davies. And the game had a branching storyline, sort of. You can't change the plot but you can decide little things. You know, the who will your character romance kind of thing. I'm bringing it up because while I bitched about jumping a lot with Shadow of the Tomb Raider that's all it was really, the bitching of an insecure fellow who hadn't completed a game in a while. The really problem with Shadow of the Tomb Raider is that I had less agency while playing Lara Croft in 2018 then when I played Colonel Christopher Blair in 1994. Decisions were indeed made and I watched them via unskippable cut scenes. I'd then enter a ruin or raid a base then Lara and Jonah would have another angsty conversation and decide on their next course of action while I'd wait for my marching orders.

I'm not expecting Witcher 3, Dragon Age or Mass Effect from a Tomb Raider game but I expect at least as much agency as I got from a 24 year old space sim.

So that's my only real beef with Shadow of the Tomb Raider. And if you like the reboot and that doesn't bother you then by all means check it out.

October 10, 2018


Some Gaming Notes

I've just arrived at the final fight in Shadow of the Tomb Raider. I don't know how bad the boss fight will be so I'll probably hold off until the weekend. I fight better with a beer or two in me and I believe Ken will back me up on that.

Shadow of the Tomb Raider was hard for me but this is the furthest I've gotten in a game since the beginning of the year so I have a certain amount of gratitude towards it, win or lose.

And that brings up the question of my next game. Rolf's playing Assassin's Creed Odyssey and the more I hear about it the more I'm tempted. There's no hurry, I've spent 34 hours in Tomb Raider and can afford to rest for a bit.

By the way, it looks like Microsoft is buying Obsidian. It would be interesting to see what Obsidian would do with Microsoft's money behind them.

Postscript: Well then, I could hardly watch The Flash and Black Lightning tonight if I had left the final fight with Dominguez undone. So Dominguez is dead, the world won't end and I finally beat a game. I'll have some final thought on Shadow of the Tomb Raider in a day or two. By the way, Newton was in a gaming mood too. I threw a crumpled up receipt for him and he brought it back. We kept that up for about 15 minutes. I wonder if he'll remember that I'll throw it again if he returns it?

October 9, 2018


A New Laptop

Periodically Rolf would do major upgrades on Kosh and in times past that involved transferring stuff from my old system to new hard drives. Rolf would lug my computer to his place, it would stay there for several days and I'd be a basket case. On one such occasion my friends suggested that since I didn't have a lot of responsibilities and I was so dependent on my computer for the vestiges of sanity that remained to me, that it would be a good idea to have a laptop to tide me over. Thus the first Little Kosh was born.

Last week I went to see Donna and beforehand I checked out Little Kosh II to make sure he was ready for the trip. After watching him try to boot for ten minutes I decided that his useful life had come to an end. I'm not sure how old he was but I'd say ten years is a good estimate, he had a good life and he served me well. So I went north without a computer.

Donna had a Chrome Book and she gave it to me to use, she also offered it to me as a gift. It was nice of her but I turned her down. I was glad to have the use of it but I'm a computer snob. I like to have a full fledged stand alone email client, a web browser, an HTML editor, a FTP client, a checkbook program, Battle.net and Steam on any computer I'll call mine. Understand that in the course of a visit to Donna I might not use any of that stuff, but I want it there if I need it.

Long story short, today Rolf and I went to Best Buy and I bought Little Kosh III. I wanted a 17" laptop with a 1 TB hard Drive but Rolf talked me into a 15" laptop with a 256 GB SSD. I'm used to a 30 second boot time in Kosh and Rolf argued that I wouldn't be able to stand the wait for a mechanical drive to boot. He's probably right.

So my new HP computer is at Rolf's getting the crap cleaned out of it, I'll pick it up tomorrow and it will go north next month for Thanksgiving. The great cycle of computer life continues.

October 9, 2018


Home Again

I really enjoyed my four days at Donna's place. For that matter I needed it, I needed to unwind. But it's good to be home, back with my cat and wrestling with Shadow of the Tomb Raider once more. At Donna's I tried boiled octopus and discovered it's vile. And tonight at my place I discovered that turning Lara slightly to the left or right can make the difference between her making a grapple jump or falling to her death. And by the way, I think I deserve major credit for trying octopus and managing to get it down my throat. Damn that was disgusting.

At any rate, I'm almost at the final boss fight in Shadow of the Tomb Raider. So far I managed to get through the City of the Serpent, where he's trying to complete a ritual that will turn him into a god or something, and I only looked at the walk through once. I'm giving myself major credit for that too.

October 9, 2018


Half Life Flashbacks

Ever since Half Life 2 helicopters in games have been my equivalent of being hunted by the Nazgūl. If you don't remember, the helicopter gunship in HL2 hunted you through half the game until you stumbled across the rocket launcher. Until then you had to run and hope you had a recent saved game.

In this case the helicopter was sent by Trinity, a top secret organization whose goal is world domination. The brain trust Trinity decided that it would be cool to have the helicopter shoot up a poorly maintained oil refinery with flammable barrels stacked everywhere.

That went as well as could be expected. And that's it for me for a bit. I'm heading to North Jersey and my laptop has crapped out on me.

October 3, 2018


Frustration: The Good Kind

I haven't played a game that required hand/eye coordination in well over a year so Shadow of the Tomb Raider has been really hard for me. But last night I got through an extended patch of rock jumping and made it to an oil complex controlled by Trinity, the villains of the last three games. I had no gear but my survival knife and had to use stealth.

It took me some time to figure out that the F key meant attack in every circumstance but once I did I started rolling up Trinity's men. And then I had to stop and go to bed, I'd made a 9:30 appointment with my doctor. If I hadn't I would have been up until four in the morning.

But the game gave me a reward, Lara discovered a poison that when applied to her arrows causes hallucinations and paranoia. And boy they're fun.

So I was frustrated at having to go to bed but damn that was satisfying. And by the way, I'm starting to warm us to OBS. With Fraps I had to use Windows Movie Maker to downsize my videos to a reasonable size and convert them to.mov format. I don't have to deal with that with OBS.

October 3, 2018


It's Groucho's Birthday!

He was born in 1890. Personally, I would like to temporarily slip into the universe where President Donald Trump and President Rufus T. Firefly are about to sit down for a summit.

October 2, 2018


Newton at Five

Newton's birthday has been pegged at October 1 and that means he turned five years old yesterday. He has achieved more dignity then I would have given him credit for back when he moved in with me. And yet some of the kitten still remains. He likes chasing crumpled cash register receipts and dropping them in the toilet. For that matter, he still likes drinking from the toilet. He likes it when I trot out his favorite toy, literally a clump of fur tied to a stick, and drag it around the floor.

He still has a sense of fun.

I can bitch about the accommodations I had to make, his annoying habit of trying to coax me out of bed after about four hours of sleep and the parts of the walls I had to spackle after he tore though the paint (there's a patch in the picture). But to be honest, some of my behavior frustrates him a well. But like two old friends we've learned to take the good with the bad. And in our friendship, I'm the jittery, unstable one and he's the rock steady one.

And so we continue to sail through life, my second best friend and me.

October 2, 2018


The Broken Earth Trilogy

I picked up the first book, The Fifth Season last year. I'd been putting off reading it because it sounded depressing. But the first two books in trilogy won a Hugo for best novel in 2016 and 2017 respectively. That was a good recommendation so I bought it and put it aside. This year when N. K. Jemisin won a third Hugo for the third book, The Stone Sky I figured I had to buckle down. After all Dune was depressing but I gave it a couple of tries.

Like the characters Dune the folks in Jemison's books do reprehensible things. Unlike the the people in Dune the characters in The Broken Earth Trilogy aren't machiavellian pricks, they's simply desperate.

So here's the deal, the book takes place on Earth. Not our iteration Earth but Earth none the less. This version of Earth is extremely geologically active. Fortunately there's a group of people called orogenes. They can manipulate geological forces, stopping earthquakes, capping volcanoes and squelching tsunamis. But because it's hard to control this kind of power, orogenes are hated and feared. They're generally killed when found out but there are imperially sanctioned orogenes who wear black uniforms and prevent huge geologic events from happening that cause extended winters, sometimes for years, sometimes for decades.

And The Fifth Season opens with an eruption whose aftermath will be measured in millennia. So the trilogy is concerned with people trying to survive and to figure out how to end these violent events, called fifth seasons, for good.

I'm more then halfway through book two. And you know what, there's only so many times you can reread Tolkien.

October 1, 2018


The Heart of the Matter



Man, walkthrough is written all over this place.

October 1, 2018


Brett Kavanaugh vs Samuel L Jackson

September 29, 2018


Sauron's Ring and the Three

On r/tolkienfans someone asked a question about Sauron and the three rings the Elves kept. I love the answer:

September 27, 2018


Some Thoughts on Raiding Tombs

I'm not good at this series, so I'm not going to bitch about stuff like leaping to a wall with my grappling hook and falling to my death over and over again, that's on me. What I am going to talk about is my lack of agency in Shadow of the Tomb Raider.

To often in this I'm on watching action in cut scenes that I should be participating in, at least in my mind. Or information is delivered in long emo conversations between Lara and Jonah. I just feel that gaming writing should be better then that. I'm used to games were my decisions matter, I don't get to make any decisions here.

That's my big gripe, I have a couple of smaller gripes, wonky camera angles crop up from time to time and there is the occasional stutter, things that shouldn't crop up in an AAA game. All that aside, I'm enjoying myself, I'm 18 hours into it.

Shadow of the Tomb Raider hasn't been burning up the sales charts and while the game has its flaws the main reason for that is Spider-Man for the PS4. That thing is huge, it makes me wish I had a PS4 myself.

I also wish I was better at grappling.

September 27, 2018


Shameful Self Indulgence

You'll notice the white paint I'm sure. That's because I have the puzzles set to easy. I'm not a particularly observant person at the best of times and if I had the puzzles set on normal (no white paint) I would have rage quit by now. But I've played enough with my new toy for one day. Later on in the week I'll fool around with OBS's video output settings with the idea of making the videos a tad sharper.

By the way, notice that even with white paint splashed over the jutting log I still mange to overlook it at first.

September 24, 2018


A Successful Day

You know, I generally prefer written instructions to watching a video but in the case of learning the basics of OBS, JESSEverything's video on how to use the program was wonderful. I'll think kinder of video tutorials from now on.

And it's nice to be able to talk on videos, although to be fair, I think Fraps managed it back in our Left 4 Dead Days so I may have just ignored the capability until I was forced to turn to a new program. In fact, I think I did have a video of alChandler getting creamed in L4D 2 on my hard drive but I can't seem to find it right now. It may not have survived the transition to the new drive or it may just be buried somewhere. Hope I dig it up it's the only record of the gang playing together.

But in the mean time I think I'll take Lara into the jungle.

September 24, 2018