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


Wuthering Heights

I just finished Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë. I saw the movie with Laurence Olivier and Merle Oberon a few years ago and figured I had a good handle on things. Heathcliff is the proud homeless boy taken in by Mr. Earnshaw. He's in love with Earnshaw's daughter Cathy, Cathy kind of blows him off but repents after it's too late, Heathcliff goes off somewhere, comes back rich only to find that Cathy has married Edgar Linton. And other shit happens.

So, I'm halfway through the book and Cathy dies. I expected that but in the movie she dies at the end. The book goes into Wuthering Hights: The Next Generation mode as Heathcliff fucks up the lives of Cathy's daughter, his son and Earnshaw's grandson. Because while move Heathcliff is kind of tragic, book Heathcliff is an absolute shit eating bastard. Wikipedia describes him as a Byronic hero, which apparently means that Heathcliff is, according to Lord Macaulay's defintion of the term, "a man proud, moody, cynical, with defiance on his brow, and misery in his heart, a scorner of his kind, implacable in revenge, yet capable of deep and strong affection." But I'm just a simple man and Heathcliff was just a prick. But so was Byron, for that matter.

At any rate, I think it's time to leave the 19th century for a bit, dip back into the 1001 Nights and a Night for a story or two and move on.

June 24, 2017


Some Prey Observations

In 1984 I played The Bard's Tale. My party started out in the sewers underneath Skara Brae. I think that the first monsters I ran into were rats, there weren't many of them but my party kept wiping and it took two days before I beat them. Because that's how gaming was in the 80s.

I've always had some of Mom's impatience. My computer was set in the corner of the living room when I lived in Somers Point and the wall next to it was covered in small holes. When I encountered something like the rats of Skara Brae I'd stab the wall with a pen in my frustration. So it wasn't a total surprise when Sea Aire Apartments didn't refund my deposit.

Prey reminds me of those early games I played on my Commodore 64, The Bard's Tale, Ultima II, Questron, Might and Magic and the old Infocom text adventures. They were unforgiving and there was no easy way to get advice and hints in those days, not unless you knew a local group of gamers. I didn't know any, unfortunately. But I did finish my fair share of games in the 80s, it just took a lot longer.

Prey, at least for me, is brutally unforgiving but on easy it is just (barely) within my ability to manage. at least it is so far. I don't know if I'll be able to finish it but I've put 45 hours into the game, I've had a good run.

I suppose this shit serves me right, I was a demigod by the end of Mass Effect Andromeda so it was inevitable that something like Prey would put me back in my place.

June 21, 2017


Six Thirty in the Morning

And I'm up, they're doing something to my car and they advised me to come in as early as I can.

I was never a morning person. When the Casino Control Commission switched to permanent shifts, I did a year on day shift because swing was pretty boring, not that the job of an inspector was a steady stream of car chases and gun fights you understand. Day shift went fast but I was a zombie so the next year I went to swing and I stayed on that shift for over twenty years. And here I am this fine morning, dead man walking.

It's my Mom's blood in me. Mom and I disagreed on many things but we shared the bond of our circadian rhythms.

June 20, 2017


Gaming in the 80s



This is is Ultima II on the IBM PC.



And this is the same game running on the Commodore 64.

And the Commodore 64 had better graphics and better sound then the IBM PC but the C64 was a closed box and the IBM PC was upgradable and in the long run that made all the difference in the world.

Still, for a long time I'd look at the IBM PC and think, "All your money and all your power can't delver the sound and graphics I'm getting." And life was good.

June 18, 2017


Prey

I've been playing Prey for a good seven hours, most of the time bitching like my Mom would bitch when you mentioned Bill Clinton to her. Mom was convinced Clinton was possessed by the Devil you see. Towards the end of the seven hour fun fest I got a lot of neuromods. Nueromods are items that allow you to raise your abilities and today, just for the hell of it I raised my gun smithing skill and that allowed me to upgrade my beloved shotgun, the margrave. Suddenly stuff that's been kicking my my ass all night dies in two shots.

I've no idea who should be more angry at, the game for being a dick or me for being stupid.

June 18, 2017


Another Prey Movie

I need to get into a certain area. Only one woman had voice access and she, like everybody else, is either dead or mutated. But if I can find voice recordings of her I can fudge it, so that's what I'm doing in the crew quarters. And I'm posting this move so you can see me in combat.

Poor Ivy, she's what happens when the typhon organism take control. I'm sure she was a nice person.

By the way the posted version was my third take for this video. In the first two I took some slight damage before Ivy died and my ego made me try again. Allow an old man his vanity.

June 17, 2017


Spectre

I just finished watching Spectre and while I have no strong feelings about James Bond either way, that was a damn enjoyable movie. And now a little trivia for you. Bond works for the Secret Intelligence Service more commonly called MI6. His boss is always known as M. If you're a Le Carre fan, George Smiley's old boss was known as Control. And even Max Smart's boss was just called Chief. And I'll tell you the reason.

The SIS started out as Secret Service Bureau in 1909 and its first boss was Captain Sir Mansfield George Smith-Cumming. But he never signed his full name, he'd just sign with the letter C. Subsequent directors kept up the habit the legal fiction being it gave them anonymity. The current head of MI6 is Alex Younger but he still signs off on things as C.

And that's why James Bond works for M, although Spectre uses the character's given name, Gareth Mallory, too.

June 17, 2017


Teeth and Reading

Yesterday I had one of my wisdom teeth extracted. I expected it to hurt a lot but then I'd be fine. In fact, it didn't really hurt at all but it took more of a toll on me then I expected. Go figure.

I had intended to read something big this summer but after The Middle Ages by Johannes Fried I'm spent. I'm thinking of tackling either Emma by Jane Austin or Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë. You know, it was Donna and Caty who got me into Austin, they insisted that Pride and Prejudice was a great book and I had to read it. And damned of it wasn't entertaining.

Of course I could throw caution to the wind and read both books.

June 14, 2017


Kevin's Incredible Journey

In two days I've clawed my way back to the Arboretum on Talos Station, that's where I raged quit on Saturday. So that's something.

June 12, 2017


Void Star

Void Star is named after a variable in C++, void*. The book is set in the early 22nd century, climate change has rendered large sections of the Earth uninhabitable, the divide between the rich, their functionaries and the poor is unbridgeable, and something is going on with an AI.

The book harkens back to Gibson's Sprawl Trilogy and it's scratching an itch I didn't know I had.

June 12, 2017


A Prey Movie

Been a bit since I've done one of these. So here's the situation, my brother, Alex Yu, has been experimenting with an alien life form on the Talos I space station and it went south. Most of the crew are dead and the ones that aren't have been colonized and turned into something called typhon organisms. I'm trying to make my way to the station's arboretum and since the elevators aren't working I have to go through the station's maintenance tunnels. Unlike most of the station, there's no gravity in the tunnels. In fact since the station doesn't rotate, how is gravity generated anyway? The big iridescent things are a type of typhon organism, not aggressive but a pain in the ass when they're blocking a hatch I need to go through.

By the way, how can I fire a gun and not be hurled backwards? Perhaps my jetpack automatically compensates.

June 12, 2017


Gaming Stuff

Yes, the Prey timeline diverges from ours in the 1950s. And Prey is a very hard game. Last night I did a rage quit and wiped the game from my account. Today I went through the Steam process of getting the game linked back to my account. Not nearly as satisfying as destroying a Neocron CD and buying the game a second time (and a third).

***

Look like I'll be putting Dishonored 2 back on Kosh in a couple of months. Arcane announced DLC for the game.

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Bioware unwrapped Dylan at the E3, Dylan is a multiplayer co-op science fiction game called Anthem. Not my cup of tea but good luck to them.

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Bethesda had a program a few years ago that would have introduced paid mods to its games. It got a lot of push back and Bethesda canceled the program. It's back, they'll be selling paid mods for Skyrim and Fallout 4. The mod developers get paid and Bethesda takes a chunk off the top.

***

There's going to be a new Wolfenstein game,Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus. I played both of Bethesda's Wolfenstein games and found them enjoyable in a forgettable kind of way. I wasn't able to beat the final boss in either game but it was a good ride up to that point so I'll probably check it out. The game will be out 10/1/17.

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And that's what interested me in today's E3 News.

June 12, 2017


Lord Buckethead

The guy in black is Lord Buckethead. He ran against Theresa May for the privilege of representing the good citizens of the Maidenhead constituency, he got 249 votes. Here's a link to his manifesto. It makes more sense then anything that's come out of the Trump administration.

June 10, 2017


Surprisingly Mass Effect

Kotaku has a long post mortem on what went wrong with Mass Effect Andromeda. It's always sad when you see a creative project fail. And while I had a good time in Andromeda, the fact that EA has put the Mass Effect franchise on hold means Mass Effect Andromeda did fail, at least by EA's standards.

June 7, 2017


Prey

As Sam Gamgee said in Moria, "I think I'm getting the hang of this". That burning goo is all that remains of some burning monster. It kicked my ass until I thought to use the explosive tanks that are being stored in the medical bay. I threw one at the thing from across the room and it just went flying, not unlike Thor after the Hulk sucker punched him. That goo was all that remained.

As to why highly combustible tanks are being kept in the medical bay, there is no OSHA in space.

By the way, they'll be more screen shots of Prey then there were for Mass Effect Andromeda. Origin did no have a screen shot feature so I had to run Fraps if I wanted to take a picture. Steam will take a screen shot if you hit F12 while playing.

June 7, 2017


Insomnia

Mom had no real sleep pattern. Sometimes she'd crash at two in the morning, other times she'd be up until six. I'm pretty much the same way but unlike Mom I'll occasionally search the web for advice on keeping a normal sleep schedule, hoping that something new will turn up. It's all well meaning and fairly useless:

But at least I can get to sleep without Zolpidem. Small victories and all.

June 6, 2017


Tevildo Lord of Cats

I've finally started on Beren and Lúthien. Christopher Tolkien has given is several versions of the story to show the evolution of his father's thoughts. In the earliest version Beren the Elf is brought before Melko and is eventually sent to the kitchens to be Melko's official huntsman. His supervisor is Melko's second in command, Tevildo, Lord of Cats:

His eyes were long and very narrow and slanted, and gleamed both red and green, but his great grey whiskers were as stout and sharp as needles. His purr was like the roll of drums and his growl like thunder, but when he yelled in wrath it turned the blood cold, and indeed small beasts and birds were frozen as to stone, or dropped lifeless often at the very sound.

Tolkien did not like cats.

Eventually Tevildo evolved into Sauron. Sauron did not have cats as servants but he sort of considered Shelob as a cat:

And as for Sauron: he knew where she lurked. It pleased him that she should dwell there hungry but unabated in malice, a more sure watch upon that ancient path into his land than any other that his skill could have devised. And Orcs, they were useful slaves, but he had them in plenty. If now and again Shelob caught them to stay her appetite, she was welcome: he could spare them. And sometimes as a man may cast a dainty to his cat (his cat he calls her, but she owns him not) Sauron would send her prisoners that he had no better uses for: he would have them driven to her hole, and report brought back to him of the play she made.

At any rate Tevildo became Thu the Necromancer who became Sauron the Great, Lord of the Rings. And Sauron did time as the Necromancer of Dol Guldor before he openly declared himself and rebuilt Barad-dűr.

As far as Melko goes, he became Melkor, although everybody just referred to him as Morgoth, which means "Black Enemy" in Sindarin.

The (sort of) finial version of Beren and Lúthien is in The Silmarillion but it's really nice to see the earlier versions. But it's aso sad, at least for me. My romance with Tolkien's books began about 50 years ago and this is the last posthumous book Christopher Tolkien will be issuing. He's 93 and he's done his best for his Dad's legacy. But dear me there's still stuff I haven't read by Tolkien and endings are a part of life.

And by the way, if you're interested in Beren and Lúthien but don't feel like reading the book, much less The Silmarillion, Tor has a short retelling of their story called Lúthien: Tolkien’s Badass Elf Princess.

June 4, 2017


Google Play Music

Apple Music is this guy:

Google Play Music is this guy:

And that's the guy who went south on me tonight, just as I was getting ready to have a couple of beers and play Prey. Instead of doing that I was diagnosing the error message my phone was giving me, backing up my music directory and resetting Google Play back to its original state. It worked and more then one problem that developed over the last month or so have been cleared up and life is good. But I'm too stressed for Prey so instead I played with Newton and now I'm plotting my next move.

Update: Well I did play a little and made it to my office on the Talos 1 space station. Since I thought I was on Earth there's probably an infodump coming. This might be a good time to save and exit. By the way, I kicked the difficulty down to easy. I'm entitled.

June 2, 2017


A Wizard of Earthsea

I was a teenager when I read A Wizard of Earthsea, maybe 14 or 15. Eventually I read the other two books in what was then a trilogy, The Tombs of Atuan and The Farthest Shore. I liked them but they didn't stick with me and I haven't picked them up in about 40 years.

So, after finishing The Middle Ages I wanted to read Words Are My Matter, a book of essays by Ursula K. Le Guin, but I realized I hadn't read any of her fiction in decades. So yesterday I picked up A Wizard of Earthsea and after some 30 pages bought the other two books in the trilogy. I finished the first book and I've just started the second one. When the mood and the right book converge I can burn through a book.

I enjoyed the first book a lot. Some of it was Le Guin's writing style and some of it had to do with being free of the politics of the Holy Roman Empire.

And now I'm going to post this and decide whether I want to wade into The Tombs of Atuan or play a little Prey.

May 30, 2017


Finally

After far too long I'm nearly finished with The Middle Ages I wasn't in the mood for a dry history but at a certain point I felt honor bound to finish it. Next up on the reading list is A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K. Le Guin. I read it as teenager, as well as the other two books that formed the Earthsea Trilogy. Those books disappeared a long time ago but I just picked up the first book in Kindle format.

I remember very little about it save that Ged, the hero, did something incredibly fucking dumb and has to make it right. If it grabs me I'll read the rest of the books, no longer a trilogy it's a six book series.

And by the way, this week Beren and Lúthien by J.R.R. Tolkien comes out. I don't buy print books very often but I'll make an exception for this and I'll haul my sorry ass to the bookstore on Thursday.

May 29, 2017


Finished Mass Effect Andromeda

I staid up far too late on Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Yesterday I finished the game and managed to get to bed by two. I put 93 hours into the game and completed 84%, not bad at all. When I was doing the final fight I was level 52 and when I would wade into the Kett it would go like this:

As to the game itself, it had flaws but it was still far more satisfying then Mass Effect 3. In fact, I'm a little sad that a sequel doesn't seem to be in the cards. EA has put the Mass Effect franchise on hiatus and the developer, BioWare Montreal, has been turned into a support studio and will be helping out in BioWare's next big project, Dylan.

I'll be keeping Mass Effect Andromeda on my hard drive at least until the E3 in June. If there's going to be any DLC for the game, EA will announce it then. They'll also probably tell us what Dylan is all about. Meanwhile I purchased Prey last night and after decompressing for a few days, that will be the next big game for me.

May 29, 2017


Welcome to Poor Decision Theater

Thursday I started playing Mass Effect Andromeda and continued playing until 4:30 Friday morning. And I felt fine on Friday. Yesterday I started playing Mass Effect Andromeda and continued playing until 6:30 this morning. To be honest, I'm dragging a little. After I post this I'm going to the supermarket, then I'm going to play Mass Effect Andromeda and on Saturday...

May 27, 2017


Mass Effect: Turning the Corner

I've been playing for two months, I'm level 40 and this week I realized that the end of the game is in sight. I could probably go after the Archon right but instead I'm doing quests for my crewmates.

For all my bitching I'm going to miss the Mass Effect universe. The game didn't do as well as EA hoped, there's no expansions in the pipeline and the studio that developed it, Bioware Montreal, is now a support studio for other projects. And things end after all. Besides, if I finish the game soon, I might be able to plow through the rest of the book I've been trying to plow through.

May 26, 2017


AI in Movies

Sometime in the 21st century Peter Weyland creates a synthetic human. The synthetic names himself David and it's clear he is a rational, self aware being and probably is far more intelligent then any human could hope to be. So naturally he's treated like shit.

And that, more or less, is the way of things in films. In Blade Runner, Ex Machina, 2001: A Space Odyssey and a host of other films being that are superior to us intellectually and sometimes physically are treated with less consideration then I give my cat. Then, to the surprise of nobody except the protagonists, the AIs, Replicants, intelligent apes, self aware vacuum cleaners rebel against their human oppressors.

Think about it, in Prometheus David is a glorified night watchman/servant. He does nothing that the ship's computer, presumably an earlier version of the MU-TH-UR 6000, couldn't of handled on its own. And if a crisis did happen Mother is perfectly capable of waking up the crew. As for David, that bastard should probably been given a lab, an unlimited budget, a staff and been told to indulge himself.

There are two reasons why we don't have super intelligent self aware AIs running around. The first is that we haven't figured out how to do that yet. The second is that dumb software is far more useful then self aware synthetics. Today we have software designed to do specific tasks, trade stocks, DM a role playing game set in Andromeda or predict the weather. And the various programs that do these thing aren't remotely self aware. A self aware AI would have gone crazy with frustration watching me run around the Andromeda galaxy and would probably just kill off my character and then delete itself in despair.

That's it for now, off to play Mass Effect Andromeda.

May 25, 2017


Alien Covenant

I watch a show called Legends of Tomorrow a superhero program. I enjoy it but would only recommend it with qualifications. It's not a sophisticated program and it doesn't expect to be taken seriously.

The Alien franchise does want to be taken seriously and that's how I judge it, that's why Alien Covenant made me angry. It's a vehicle for Ridley Scott's philosophical speculations that depends on well trained intelligent characters making very poor decisions. I can deal with that in other circumstances but as I said, the Alien movies demand your respect. Then we have the captain of a ship hauling cryogenically frozen colonists on their way to settle a vetted planet deciding to divert to an unknown Earth like planet because it's closer.

What could possibly go wrong?

If it were another director I'd check my brain at the door and enjoy Alien Covenant as a mindless, blood soaked romp. But this is Ridley Fucking Scott. He gave us Alien and Blade Runner, he's better then this.

But for what it's worth, I'm in the minority here. It's gotten respectable reviews and it's making money. And please don't think I begrudge Scott his success. But I was disappointed in the film, personally.

May 24, 2017