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!


Music

When Rolf was telling me about all the benefits of the wireless amp, he emphasized that I could stream music off my phone. I kind of looked a him blankly, I asked, "Why would I want to do that?"

The amp is in my office and while Rolf figured I read in there and I kind of do, the NY Times and a host of other websites, but my computer is always on and I'll use it for music. But Rolf was talking about reading books with the computer off and I do that in the living room.

But Kosh is still down, I'm using the laptop and my phone is streaming Pandora to the amp. So that phone streaming thing came in handy after all. By the way, my Pandora station sounds a lot like WMMR used to sound in the late 70s and early 80s. Works for me.

July 21, 2019


Book Sales

I can't really game on the laptop, that's not its job, its job is to keep me sane when Kosh is down and it's accomplishing that admirably. So I've been blathering on a bit here more then usual, for instance:

The Ballantine Adult Fantasy series never made money for the Ballantines, they supported it for the same reason a network will support a prestigious show that loses in the ratings, for art's sake. But when the Ballantines sold their company to Random House in 1973 the publisher took one look at the numbers and the series was canceled. Hell, it was lucky to last as long as it did.

I got curious about those numbers. I've no right to call up whoever runs Penguin Books (which merged with Random House) and ask for the sales figures for a 50 year old imprint but I can do a little guesswork. Yesterday I downloaded One of Cleopatra's Nights and Other Fantastic Romances by Théophile Gautier and that was one of the books Lin Carter would have liked to have included in Ballantine Adult Fantasy, had the series gone on longer.

I got my copy from Project Gutenberg. If you want a physical copy you're out of luck, the only physical book by Gautier in English available from the world's biggest bookseller is Mademoiselle de Maupin. So if you want to read One of Cleopatra's Nights and Other Fantastic Romances you either get the ebook edition or go to an out of print bookseller.

Gutenberg keeps tabs on how many time a book has been downloaded. And how many times has that book been downloaded? Seventy four times, and two of those downloads were by me.

That number should be taken with a grain of salt, I've no idea how often Gutenberg updates them. For that matter, I'm sure there are people who would love to read Gautier but dislike ebooks. So imagine that for every one of those downloads there are two or three people who track down Gautier's book to Gutenberg, realize it's in ebook format, sigh sadly and go elsewhere.

And leads me to conclude that while the Ballantine Adult Fantasy series is beloved by a certain type of bibliophile of a certain age, the profit for something like The Well at the World's End probably allowed Betty and Ian Ballantine to take Carter out to lunch at McDonald's.

My taste in literature was formed by that series 50 years ago. I don't consider myself a book snob but I'll admit I have a love of prose that tends toward the ornate. Blame Lin Carter. And I'm grateful to be living in a time where getting a book by someone like Gautier is ridiculously easy, at least if you can tolerate ebooks.

July 21, 2019


One of Cleopatra's Nights and Other Fantastic Romances

I've mentioned before that Ian and Betty Ballantine snagged the paperback rights to The Lord of the Rings. It made them a lot of money and they published other fantasy novels. Eventually they hired Lin Carter to edit a series of classic fantasy works to be reissued for a new generation of readers. The first definition of a classic fantasy works was one that was in the public domain. Fortunately for the Ballantines, there were a lot of novels in the public domain and Carter had an eye for the good stuff.

The series ran from 1969 to 1974 and it shaped my taste in literature. After his death in 1988 a list of books Carter wanted to include in the series was found. One of those books would have been One of Cleopatra's Nights and Other Fantastic Romances by Théophile Gautier. The book of stories was translated from French to English by Lafcadio Hearn. As a 19th century gentleman might have phrased it, I have no French but Hearn's translation of Gautier is considered extraordinary. And it's available on the internet, if you're so inclined.

And I found the book online before I found out that Carter had marked it for inclusion in the series he was editing. I always admired his taste in literature so I take a certain pride at having fond my way to Gautier on my own. A little petty I know but there it is.

July 21, 2019


Star Trek: Picard

I recognized Jeri Ryan as Seven of Nine and Brent Spiner as Data but I'm ashamed to say I didn't recognize the young fellow with the beard sitting in the captain's chair. As it turns out that's Jonathan Del Arco, reprising his role as Hugh the Borg from I, Borg, Descent and Descent Part 2.

Star Trek isn't for everyone and I haven't always enjoyed every version of Trek. I disliked Star Trek Voyager and the movie, Star Trek Nemesis. But I'm getting very good vibes from the trailer. By the way, the name of Picard's dog in Number One.

July 20, 2019


Cats



If you ever wondered what kind of musicals they show in Hell, wonder no more.

Update: Speaking of Hell, here's Lucifer Morningstar on Cats:

July 19, 2019


A Glitch in the Matrix

Why yes, Kosh is having problems, thanks for asking.

The laptop has two jobs. Its first is to travel with me to North Jersey, the second is to act as a backup computer should the desktop computer glitch. Little Kosh is, alas, performing his second duty, since Big Kosh seems to have an overheating problem.

Little Kosh is a compromise, he can do everyting I need but he only has a 250 GB drive. Still, that enough to handle Chrome, SynWrite, Quicken, Filezilla and Thunderbird. And there's still 143 GB free.

When Kosh goes down, I need access to those programs. And while I don't update my webpage when I'm in Sparta very often, I've done it once or twice in the last nine months.

Rolf would know better but I think this is the first time Little Kosh had to stand in for Kosh since I got him last year. He'll be doing that until Monday. There are two games available to me on LK, Diablo 3 and Sunless Sea. By tomorrow I may actually play one of them.

July 19, 2019


Rebel Galaxy

Today I played a lot of Rebel Galaxy, I've had a headache for two months now and getting lost in a game works better then over the counter painkillers or Tramadol for that matter.

I've been doing missions and when I get enough money I've been running to the next star system, upgrading equipment, scooting back, doing more missions, rinse, wash and repeat. It's actually quite relaxing.

In 10 days Wolfenstein: Youngblood will arrive on Steam. Normally I play just one game at a time but Rebel Galaxy is inoffensive and will remain on Kosh. I'd like to finish it, or at least go as far as I can. And if I do finish it I'll pick up Rebel Galaxy Outlaw when that arrives later in the year.

Rebel Galaxy Outlaw will be exclusive to the Epic store for one year and lot of people people on Steam are vowing not to buy it until it appears on Steam, presumably in late 2020. I like Steam well enough and it has a range of features Epic doesn't have but Jesus, it's not as if Gabe Newell and I are college buddies.

And that's where I'm at gaming wise these days.

July 16, 2019


Prime Day

I don't buy stuff on prime day, it's just not worth the effort of wading through the shit (Pet Food Delivery! Sony Bluetooth Speakers! Janitorial Supply Papers!) to find something I like. But today I have an actual reason to avoid the sale, workers at Amazon warehouses in Germany are on strike.

Got a story to tell you. We were going to the grocery store, mom, dad, my sister and me. We had pulled into the Shoprite parking lot when dad noticed the picketers in front of the entrance, there was a strike. Without a word dad pulled out of the parking lot and we went to another store. Dad was a union worker and he was adamant about one thing, you never crossed a picket line.

And so I don't. Dad had a few basic rules and a few of them stuck. Don't cash out your pension fund, even if your employer allows it. Get your car's oil changed regularly. Don't cross picket lines. Three rules that have stuck with me. On the other hand the one about going to mass every Sunday was abandoned when I was 14. Still, 3 out of 4 isn't too bad.

By the way, what are janitorial supply papers?

July 15, 2019


Newton the Addict

I made the mistake of giving Newton a drink from the bathroom faucet, now he's a addict. He'll drink from his bowel when I'm asleep but when I'm awake he'll try to built me into turning on the faucet for him. I generally turn it on once in the morning and once before bed. Sometimes, if I'm feeling guilty I'll turn it on in the middle of the day. But I'm concerned that he'll turn out like Marie's old cat, Daisy. Daisy would refuse to drink out of her bowl, going thirsty until Marie turned on the faucet, Newton isn't that bad yet but he will try to guilt me by hanging out by his scratching post, looking miserable.

July 14, 2019


I Think I've Found My Next Stereo System

July 14, 2019


And Now for Something Completely Different

You know, I have several long Chinese novels and two long Japanese novels and one day, I swear, I'll tackle The Journey West or maybe The Tale of Genji but today is not the day.

I finished Germania and was looking for something different. I went to Amazon and among their recommendations was a novel called Nine Cloud Dream written in the 1689 by the Korean writer Kim Man-jung. It's considered one of Korea's greatest novels and unlike The Journey West it's something I can finish in under five years.

Nine Cloud Dream is a Buddhist fantasy. Set during the Tang dynasty it's the story of a Buddhist monk who begins questioning his vows. His master arranges for him to be reborn as a fellow destined for greatness so he can see if the secular life is really what he wants. It's just what I need after a 400 page history of Germany.

If I have one quibble it's this, these days Chinese names are translated into English using the pinyin system. When I was in college the standard was the Wade–Giles system. Today the founder of the People's Republic is known as Mao Zedong but in college his name was converted into English as Mao Tse-tung. And I'm only bringing it up because it took me a bit to get used to pinyin. You know, what the fuck did you guys do with Chou En-lai and who's this Zhou Enlai you keep talking about?

Anyway, the translator, Heinz Insu Fenkl, felt that since Kim was setting his story in China about 1,000 years in his past, he'd use the Wade–Giles system of romanization to give an archaic flavor to the novel. It's a bit jarring and to my mind unnecessary. But it's still a good novel. Of course I'm only a little ways in, it may all go to hell by page 78. But I doubt it, I am an optimist after all.

July 12, 2019


Aunt Juno

The plot part of Rebel Galaxy involved tracking down my Aunt Juno. At the beginning of the game a friend of hers gives you a ship and an artifact she wanted you to have. You spend the rest of your time in the game's first star system trying to track her down. I broke her out of a prison, with the help of the militia, and bought another ship, Tennhauser class and made a short trip to the next star system.

So, the next step is to make enough money to buy a couple of MK3 weapons, earn money by doing bounties back in the starting system and when I've finally upgraded everything on the new ship to MK3 I'll be ready for the next part of the game. And that's pretty much where I'm at right now. It looks like Rebel Galaxy will hold my interest, at least until Wolfenstein: Youngblood unlocks on 7/26 and maybe afterwards. You know, I had forgotten that Wolfenstein: Youngblood is just three weeks away from launch.

July 9, 2019


2001, Advanced Tech and Isaac Newton

Isaac Newton the guy, not the cat of the same name.

I saw the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey before I read Arthur C. Clarke's novel. In the novel the monolith in space takes Dave Bowman through a cosmic Grand Central Station. Dave is awed but not horrified, he figures out what's going on, the aliens have a transportation system that gets around the speed of light, cool.

Kubrick, for his part didn't feel the need to explain anything, you saw what you saw and decided what it meant for yourself. A cosmic transportation system it might have been but if that's the case, what's up with the colored landscapes, why are their blobs, are the nebulas? And Dave is clearly not cool with this, in fact he looks like he's having a nervous breakdown.

And why wouldn't he? He's dealing with tech designed by aliens who were incredibly advanced some three million years ago when they messed with the minds of the hominids at the water hole. Dave can't comprehend what he's seeing, has now way of interpreting it and it's a wonder he stayed sane.

Which leads me to my thought experiment regarding Isaac Newton. You go back in time to London, 1719. Sir Isaac Newton has a cushy job in London as Master of the Royal Mint. But that's not why you've gone back in time, he's also the president of the Royal Society, a group of scholars and scientists trying to expand human knowledge. You've gone back to 1719 because you're so impressed by Newton that you want to show him London 300 years in the future. So you and Newton pop into Cannon Street in the City of London.

I presume you've given him some warning about what London would be like in 2019 and perhaps he handles it a good deal better then Dave did. But it would still be nice of you could hustle him to a quiet pub and get a drink or two into him. Because Ike and Dave are both dealing with thing well outside of their conceptual framework. And besides, as Clarke's Third law says:

Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.

Now, to be fair, this guy has a criticism of Clarke's Third Law:

I haven't done the legwork on the first two, but I do think there's a problem with the third. I think Clarke meant that technology and magic were the same to the uninitiated. Tell a person who is totally ignorant of, say, television that the pictures on a television are something you personally create with magic and tell them that it's vast web of interconnecting technologies, and their response is largely the same. Then again, most people are "ignorant" of television, in any practical sense. Even those who know the basic physical concepts behind the idea wouldn't be able to reconstruct a television, or even most of the parts of a television. When it comes to making even the plastic casing that surrounds the technology, all but a few people in a thousand would be completely stumped. We've never learned how to do it.

But we assume that, given the right training and resources, we could learn how to do it. This is why, no matter what wonders scientists produce in a lab, from an electronic limb that amputees move using their thoughts to animal-less meat, we don't point at them and shout, "Sorcerers!" We have no idea how it's done but we sense that, given time and teaching, we could do it, too. Even the most extraordinary feats, which we are entirely ignorant about, we write off as science and technology.

And I'm sure that Dave might have reacted better had the monolith said, "You're going to see some very strange shit. It won't hurt you. Would you like a Xanax before we begin?

Jeff VanderMeer's Southern Reach Trilogy is another good example of humans dealing with incredibly advanced tech. It sealed of a section of the Florida coast, is doing ecological experiments and it might not even realize that humans are sentient. Oh, and the tech is damaged so what it's doing in Florida might not even be what its creators intended.

I don't know, perhaps I'm just reacting to a lifetime of science fiction where plucky humans encounter incredibly advanced tech and come up smiling.

July 8, 2019


An Unexpected Pleasure

I'm going to try not to mention Rebel Galaxy for a bit. The only reason I got it was because it was a freebie on the Epic Store. The sequel, Rebel Galaxy Outlaw will be out later an it's exclusive to the store for a year, so the game I'm playing is a loss leader.

Some eleven hours in my ship has the best equipment available in my part of space, except for a jump drive to get me to the next sector. I've done a couple of the plot missions, picked up a mercenary named Gariss and generally gone about the starting star system harassing pirates. I haven't done much trading and because I tend to be lawful good in these games I haven't done any acts of piracy myself. Here's where I'm at stats wise:

I'm enjoying myself a lot more then I expected and if I keep having fun, I just might pick up the sequel. And that's that, it's three in the morning, time to put the computer to bed.

July 6, 2019


The Radagast

I bought a new ship today, Mastodon class. I named it the Radagast.

I always had a soft spot for Radagast the Brown. In the books he finds Gandalf outside of Bree and delivers a message, Saruman wants to see him. Gandalf sets off but asks Radagast to use his birds to reconnoiter the area and meet him at Orthanc. When Gandalf gets to Orthanc Saruman does his evil bit and tells Gandalf that Radagast had turned bad too and delivered a false message. As it turned out, Radagast did not turn evil, Saruman fed him a line of shit and being a little slow on the uptake he didn't see through it. So Radagast gets Gandalf captured. But he also rescued him, sending the eagle to deliver a report on what was going on in the area. In fact, some think that Radagast had his doubts about Saruman and sent the eagle just in case Gandalf was walking into a trap.

And that's Radagast's star turn in The Fellowship of the Ring. When Elrond calls a council he does send messengers to Rhosgobel but Radagast wasn't there. So much for Radagast.

He tended to believe what people tell him and since I'm like that myself I identify with him. Also in Jackson's movies Radagast drives a sled pulled by giant rabbits. So for however long I end up playing this game, and after eight hours I haven't left the starting area, my ships will be named Radagast.

July 5, 2019


Star Wars

In spite of my headache, and it's painful at the moment, I decided to step away from my kvetching, fire up OLM (you know, it's kinda hard to use but once you get the hang of it it's great for making videos, at least the simple ones I make) fire up Rebel Galaxy and go after some pirates. By the way about an hour and a half ago I posted some stats from the game. Here's the latest update:

My head still hurts but tractoring cargo from destroyed pirate fighters helps a little. Have a good holiday people.

July 4, 2019


Headaches

For the last week and a half I've had a headache that goes from quite painful (like right now in fact) to just a lumpish sensation in the back of my head. This is the third time in my life that I've had to deal with sustained pain. The first time was when my feet started cracking open and bleeding. My Sister helped me with that one, she said, "Dummy, you have Irish feet, use Nuetrogena Foot Cream." It worked.

The second time was when my cracked vertebrae was healing, that took two months to subside.

Right now my headache is at, well if I was still working I'd call out sick if I knew everybody else on the team was coming in. It's not as bad as the other two episodes but there's no real explanation. Anyway, if I write something especially grumpy here, take it with a bit of salt.

July 4, 2019


Stats

I don't dig too deeply into the structure of the games I play and that means I miss a lot. For instance I didn't know that Rebel Galaxy keeps a record of my play. So that's where I'm at right now. I've destroyed 34 fighters and 2 capital ships. All were pirate vessels, I don't do the Han Solo thing.

There is a plot to this game but I've been putting it off until I can upgrade my ship's equipment. I currently have about 20,000 credits and I'll need a lot more to upgrade weapons and shields. And the thing is, I'm not putting hours into this game, I play in short bursts. Still, maybe I should investigate the plot, maybe after I upgrade my cannons.

July 4, 2019