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!


Macular Degeneration

My Dad had macular degeneration. Driving for my Dad was like sitting in front of my computer is for me, it was a big part of his life and when he had to give up driving he fell into a fairly rapid decline. And because there are genes associated with macular degeneration I knew there was a good chance I'd get it. And today I was diagnosed with the condition.

I spent a couple of hours at the office of Foxman Foxman Margolis & Associates. They dilated my pupils:

Gave me the diagnosis and then then the doctor said he was going to inject something into my eye to stop the damage from progressing and potentially reversing it. Yes it hurt, the eye is still a little sore but I'm glad he didn't give me much of a chance to think things over. I might not need another injection, on the other hand I might need them on a monthly basis, depending on what the doctor sees on the next visit. But it does look like I won't be turning in my drivers license anytime soon and that's a relief. Although I should add that if you ask Caitlyn Cherepakhov, I never should have been issued a license in the first place.

Right now the eye still hurts a little, and while my pupils have closed up a bit working at the computer is still giving me a bit of a headache. But I'm also aware that I'm luckier then my Dad was. I'd like to bring out Kassandra right now and kill some cultists in Greece but I think I'll have to wait until tomorrow for that.

December 12, 2018


The Orphan's Tales

The unnamed orphan lives in the garden of the Sultan's palace. Her eyelids are black because when she was an infant a spirit wrote stories on them. When she finds someone to tell all her stories to then the spirit will come back and judge her. Unfortunately for her the Sultan's wives, children and courtiers are frightened of her and while she is unmolested in the garden, they giver her a wide berth. Until one day one of the Sultan's sons meets her in a remote part of the garden and asks to hear her stories.

That's the frame story of The Orphan's Tales and just like The Lord of the Rings is a 1,000 page novel broken up into three volumes, The Orphan's Tales is one work divided into two volumes.

If you've encountered One Thousand and One Nights then you know that the book is a labyrinth. Scheherazade tells a story about a porter who encounters a woman with two dogs. The woman in turn tells a story about how the dogs are really her sisters and soon you're far away from the porter. Catherynne M. Valente tells her stories the same way, a story about a prince who kills a goose who turns out to be the daughter of a witch. The witch tells a story about how she came to be a witch, taught by her grandmother who has a story of her own to tell and soon we're very far from the garden in the Sultan's palace. It is hard to follow but I spent four years reading One Thousand and One Nights and so far I'm keeping up with Valente. Too be fair, if I hadn't finished the Nights her book might have daunted me.

I'm almost finished with the first volume The Orphan's Tales: In the Night Garden. And between them the two books have just about the same number of pages as The Lord of the Rings. So after I finish the second book I think I'm reading a Star Trek novel. By the way, if you've never read the Nights you owe it to yourself to at least dip into it. Here's a link to the Burton translation if you're feeling brave. If you're not feeling brave here's a link to an abridged version.

December 9, 2018


Sometimes I'm an Idiot

I dislike clutter on my desktop but there are now several competitors to Steam and I deal with them. So I would install something like Origins, play something like Mass Effect Andromeda, then remove the game and the service from Kosh. It was pure stubbornness on my part and I admit I'm an asshole about things sometimes.

So, Epic is launching a service to compete with Steam and I'll probably have to deal with it sooner or later. Anyway, I was on Twitter last night and a fellow I follow from Gamers with Jobs, Shawn Andrich, posted that he had to add another gaming service to the tile section of his start menu. I felt like an idiot for not thinking of that. After all, I already use tiles for programs like Merge MP3 and Pandora. programs I use infrequently but want to access easily.

So that's what I did. By the way, Movie Maker is there as a legacy. I used to use it to compress Fraps files to something a bit more manageable. But now I'm using OBS to post videos and I no longer have that problem. Still, Movie Maker served me well for many years and dammit, you don't boot something off the start menu just because it's getting old.

December 8, 2018


Random LotR Thoughts

I finished another Tolkien reread and I've taken away a few things starting with Sam. Sam was a bit more assertive then I remembered him being. Yes, he never called Frodo by his given name, it was always Mr. Frodo, but he still can hold his own with Sean Astin's version. And Astin's Sam wasn't exactly on a first name basis with Frodo either.

There's a bit where King Theoden is compared to Oromë the Hunter. And Oromë is referred to as one of the gods. You know, as a kid, before The Silmarillion had been published I had no idea what the Valar were. And I had no idea that Oromë was one of them. There's a line in The Two Towers where an elephant runs amok and one of Faramir's men asks the Valar to turn him aside. So apparently there is a bit of religion in Middle-earth.

I had forgotten that Minas Tirith was a city in serious decline. There were lot of vacant mansions in the city and talk of aristos trying to extend their lives via magic. It explains why everyone was so eager to accept Aragorn as king. Denethor wasn't the moron Jackson made him out to be but he wasn't a dynamic leader either.

I feel kind of sorry for poor Celeborn. He and Galadriel had been together since the First Age. But when Sauron's Ring is destroyed the Three Rings fail and their keepers, Elrond, Galdriel and Gandalf, decide to leave Middle-earth. Celeborn decides to stay. Of course there's nothing preventing him from going other then stubbornness, still I get the impression he spends his remaining time in Middle-earth moping and making everybody miserable until he finally sails west.

And the book is about the end of magic in Middle-earth, among other thing. The Elves leave, Dwarves and Ents die out. Orcs probably go away too. Middle-earth is left to us now.

And finally I realize that I don't have a lot of rereadings left in me. I used to reread the books every year but the years are going by a lot faster then they used to, now I reread them every two or three years. Dear me. But the good news is I can no go back to killing Athenian and Spartan soldiers.

December 6, 2018


Tumblr

I came late to Tumblr, only going to tumblrs when folks I liked stopped updating their blogs and moved to that platform. I've since grown to like it. Tumblr can be used for text but it works best as a way of sharing pictures with text as a garnish.

The folks who run Tumblr have decided to ban adult content from their platform starting on 12/17. Male nipples are allowed, female nipples are banned, Michelangelo's David's penis is allowed and mine is definitely not. AI is looking at content right now and so far it's not doing a very good job of identifying adult content, so people are making plans to leave the service.

Tumblr is owned by Oath and Oath is owned by Verizon and while there are many theories floating around about why Tumblr is making such a self destructive move, the best one I've heard is that Verizon hasn't figured out how to make money on the thing and wants to blow it up for the tax write off.

Nothing lasts forever but I'm going to miss Theremina when it goes.

December 5, 2018


Email

On Sunday I got email from Comcast reminding me that on 12/6 they were going to make a few changes in their email system. In fact it was a final message, I'm assuming that I erroneously dismissed their previous messages as ads.

But this one I read. I had to change the port from 110 to 995 and change the connection security to SSL/TLS. And if you're using Thunderbird to get your email from Comcast, so will you. Comcast also has instructions for updating other email clients like Outlook, Outlook Express and the Windows 10 client.

According to Litmus 47% of email traffic is read on phones, 36% is web based and only 17% is accessed by stand alone clients like Thunderbird. And Thunderbird's share of that 17% is less then 1%. I kind of feel like a guy still driving a manual transmission but not just any manual transmission, some obscure one like the Chrysler Pacifica Dial transmission.

Donna keeps reminding me that if I adopt a new technology it's a sure sign that the new technology will fail or be a niche product at best. William Gibson's character Case Pollard could tell which product would be successful by her aversion to it. The design that disgusted her the most would be the successful one. I can't do that but I could make a living by spotting doomed technologies. If I walk into a room and love the next iPhone prototype, Apple would pay me a fat fee and stop production.

December 5, 2018


Frodo and Gollum

There's a scene in Th Two Towers towards the end of the book. Gollum has just come back from Shelob, he plans to lead Frodo and Sam into her den, leave them to be killed and take the Ring from the remains. But when he sees Sam and Frodo asleep he nearly changes his mind:

And so Gollum found them hours later, when he returned, crawling and creeping down the path out of the gloom ahead. Sam sat propped against the stone, his head dropping sideways and his breathing heavy. In his lap lay Frodo's head, drowned in sleep; upon his white forehead lay one of Sam's brown hands, and the other lay softly upon his master's breast. Peace was in both their faces.

Gollum looked at them. A strange expression passed over his lean hungry face. The gleam faded from his eyes, and they went dim and grey, old and tired. A spasm of pain seemed to twist him, and he turned away, peering back up towards the pass, shaking his head, as if engaged in some interior debate. Then he came back, and slowly putting out a trembling hand, very cautiously he touched Frodo's knee--but almost the touch was a caress. For a fleeting moment, could one of the sleepers have seen him, they would have thought that they beheld an old weary hobbit, shrunken by the years that had carried him far beyond his time, beyond friends and kin, and the fields and streams of youth, an old starved pitiable thing.

That always gets to me, the moment when Gollum considers repentance.

December 2, 2018


Bacon and Eggs

In the category of things nobody gives a shit about, I just made bacon and eggs.

It's not like I haven't made bacon and eggs before, I have. But during the ten years or so I've been without a dishwasher, the taste of crispy bacon and scrambled eggs had to contend with the inevitable clean up. So I'd only make them a couple of times a year. But now I have a dishwasher again and my cleanup is done, everything is in the dishwasher and ready to go. My life has taken a wonderful turn for the better.

Of course there is a downside.

December 1, 2018


The Black Gate Is Closed

I'm two thirds of the way through The Two Towers and Frodo, Sam and Gollum are looking at the gates of Mordor.

Tolkien considered The Lord of the Rings to be one novel divided into six books. The fourth book of that novel covered the journey of the two hoobits and Smeagol to Mordor and in my younger years it was always the hardest to get through. But when I was was young I didn't realized that Tolkien had fought in WWI and that the Dead Marshes and the waste before Mordor is taken from real life. In fact he refers to the land of slag before the gates as the Noman Lands. Tolkien had been to Mordor.

But I'm through that and Gollum is going to take the hobbits to the pass of Cirith Ungol, but not before they encounter Faramir, Boromir's brother. If you only know Faramir from the movie you'll be surprised to lean that Tolkien's version does not try to send the Ring to Minas Tirith. Like Gandalf he believes that the Ring will corrupt whoever tries to wield it. Instead he gives Frodo what aid he can and sends him on his way, to the great anger of his father, Denethor, when he reports on the matter later.

I should finish The Two Towers by tomorrow and get started on The Return of the King. By the way, Tolkien's publisher chose that title. Tolkien felt it gave too much of the plot away and wanted to call it The War of the Ring.

November 30, 2018


I've Had All I Can Stands 'Cause I Can't Stands No More

Over Thanksgiving Donna argued that given the fact that I don't watch a lot of television anymore it would make sense to cancel cable TV. I was never a big fan of change and I've been resisting the idea of cutting the cord but today I learned that Comcast will raising my bill by $18.25 in January. That will bring my total Comcast bill to $181.53.

Change is looking pretty damn good right about now.

November 27, 2018


Christmas Tree

Yesterday we got a tree and managed to do a fair bit of decorating. In fact, Friday was the smoothest transition from Thanksgiving to the Christmas season that I can remember since I've been coming up to the Sparta house. Now that I've said that, no doubt the tree will awake in the night and kill us all.

November 25, 2018


The NY Times on Gaming

The NY Times has an article about the ability of games to tell a sophisticated story is starting to equal the best work in other mediums:

But the best games reveal a mass cultural medium that has come fully into its own, artistically flourishing in ways that resemble the movie industry during its 20th-century peak and television over the past 20 years. From “The Searchers” to “The Godfather,” from “The Sopranos” to “The Americans,” what connects these eras, and their most outstanding works, is a shared ambition, a desire to be both grand and granular, telling individual stories against the backdrop of national and cultural identity, deconstructing their genres while advancing the form.

The article gave two examples of video games that rise to the level of art: Red Dead Redemption 2 and Fallout 76. Now, Red Dead Redemption 2 has been lauded as a classic by gaming critics. But Fallout 76 has been panned as disappointment. It could be that Peter Suderman, the author, genuinely thinks that Fallout 76 is a masterpiece. After all, I think Hook is a great film. On the other hand, I'm not really knowledgeable about film and my opinion on Hook holds very little weight.

I'm wondering if Suderman is knowledgeable about video games, or if his opinion on Fallout 76 is a lot like my opinion of Hook. Either way, it's nice to see someone in the Times taking video games as a serious art form.

BTW, I'm writing this on the laptop, I can work on this bastard!

November 23, 2018


The Steam Autumn Sale

You lose track of time. For some reason I remember Hellgate London coming out around 2001. As it turned out it came out in 2007. The game was created by a few of the folks who did Diablo 2 and like a lot of people I bought it based on that pedigree and was disappointed. I uninstalled it, put it in the closet of wonders and forgot about it until last year when I wanted to play it again. Sadly it appeared that I must have thrown out the CD that actually launched the game.

I was unaware that Hellgate London came to Steam at the end of last month until today when it was listed on Steam for something like $7 as part of the Autumn sale. So it's now on my hard drive where it will stay, waiting for me to hit a dry patch in gaming.

November 21, 2018


The Fellowship of the Ring

As a kid it was the covers of the trilogy that drew me to Tolkien, I would study them seeking out some hidden meaning. I wish I had the old Ballantine paperback editions but I read and rerad them until they were unreadable. The same goes for Ballantine's edition of the Gormenghast Trilogy, they were inexpensive paperback editions but they were talismans to me.

November 21, 2018


Thanksgiving Prep

Getting ready for my trip up north tomorrow. I dropped Newton off at the vet to be boarded, bought some stuff, updated a few things on the laptop and now it's charging in the living room. If Newton were still here Little Kosh would be charging in the bedroom with the door shut. Newton is five years old and he still has a thing about chewing on wires.

I may update this page from Donna's. I really haven't had the ability to do that for almost a year, my old laptop was pretty unstable towards the end.

You know, I've been retired for eight years now and you'd think I would have adjusted to a regular schedule again but that's not the case. I went to Shoprite today and was wondering why there were so many people in the store. It seems that the Commission's schedule has changed my DNA for good.

November 21, 2018


The Erymanthian Boar

Boy did that pig give me trouble. He lived in a swamp that belches poison gas and he farted poison too. The first few times we fought he killed me easily. However when I hit level 41 I upgraded my healing ability to the third tier, that meant I could completely cleanse myself of poison. So I went back for another round and killed him on the first try.

Now I just have to bring his skin back to Daphne, the woman who gave me the quest to kill the boar and other mythical beasts in the first place. But she's moved to the Petrified Islands and I'm not high enough to go there yet. But still I killed that boar and that's a great way leave the game for a Thanksgiving break.

November 20, 2018


Classic Cyberpunk Tropes

Assuming you watched the video, I'd like to offer my own opinion. There's only so far you can update the tropes of a genre before you're no longer making a work of art in that genre. The hard boiled detective story may have been created out of prohibition and the depression but it is its own genre now and I believe the same can be said of cyberpunk. Cyberpunk has transcended its 80s origin. Now, like the western cyberpunk may lose the favor of readers and viewers, but that's another story.

That being said, I've got to confess that I never considered Mr. Robot a cyberpunk work. Now I'm going to have to rewatch the show.

Update: Now that I think of it, while Blade Runner, a film referenced in the video as a work that inspired the cyberpunk genre, lent its aesthetic to cyberpunk, it was not a cyberpunk film. It was classic science fiction married to a detective film. And since it was based on Philip K. Dick's novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? it had a high dose of mind fuckery added to the mix. Neuromancer, on the other hand, is a cyberpunk novel.

November 19, 2018


Kassandra the Ranger

The last patch gave players the ability to choose what their armor looks like. Although my version of Kassandra is good in a fight, we prefer to kill by stealth so I've gone for a rogue/ranger look. I hate to admit this but I fiddled around with her appearance for almost an hour before I settled on this.

November 18, 2018


10,000 Zombies Vs Giant Blender

God I love technology.

November 18, 2018


Hobbit Stuff

The thing about the Silmarillion is that it's fucking bleak. The Noldor go to war against Mrogoth to recover the silmarils and get their asses kicked. The Valar come and save the day and let the survivors come crawling back to Valinor. But a lot of the Noldor want to stay in Middle-earth and one, Galadriel, has no choice. When the Noldor left Valinor their leaders did some shitty things and were barred from returning while they were alive. By the end of Silmarillion all but one of the leaders were dead. Being dead they did a stretch in Mandos, the elvish halls of the dead, and were given new bodies in Valinor. Galadriel was the only one who survived. And since she was still alive the ban was still in place. I guess she could have done the whiskey and sleeping pills thing but I suspect the Valar would have considered that cheating.

I reread Tolkien in internal historical order, Silmarillion, The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings and while The Lord of the Rings isn't as depressing as Silmarillion it's still a bit of a downer. The elves will leave Middle-earth, the dwarves and ents will die out and magic will go away. And the three hobbit Ring bearers, Bilbo, Frodo and Sam, have PTSD to varying degrees and will leave Middle-earth after saving it.

And that's why it's so nice to read The Hobbit between the other two works. It has its sad moments to be sure, but it's a palate cleanser.

You know, in the 1960s Tolkien started to rewrite The Hobbit to make the book's tone more in tune with The Lord of the Rings. His friends talked him out of it and personally I'm glad. By the way, I agree with the general consensus that the Hobbit movies are a bit of mess, but Martin Freeman made a wonderful Bilbo.

November 18, 2018


The Batman Who Laughs

The other day I told Donna that I was going to buy the Batman Who Laughs figurine but that it would be my last for awhile. I said I was in danger of becoming an old lady surrounded by china dolls.

"Sorry to tell you this but you're already there."

Be that as it may BWL is cool. He's the Batman from an alternate Earth who finally snapped and killed the Joker. But when the Joker died a toxic gas was released that drove Batman insane. The Batman Who Laughs is as nihilistic as the Joker but he retains all his skills and intellect.

And he's the coolest looking villain I've seen in years.

November 17, 2018


2018 Problems

November 16, 2018


Prima Games Shuts Down

Prima Games published strategy guides for video games, they've been in that business since 1990. Whelp, they're shutting down. After all, how can they compete with all the free walkthroughs online?

I'm old enough to remember when information on games was in short supply. I used to read Scorpia's column in Computer Gaming World for hints and for the old Infocom games I bought InvisiClues. But by the 1993 I had net access so I never really encountered the Prima Guides, although I saw them in the stores. Then in 2003 I stopped buying actual discs and started downloading my stuff from Steam, so the guides vanished from my radar. Still, I recognize that those guides were a treasured part of many a person's childhood. Nostalgia is small doses is not a bad thing.

November 12, 2018


Microsoft Buys Obsidian and inXile

Obsidian most famously created Fallout: New Vegas, they also did Pillars of Eternity the game that helped me deal with the pain of a broken vertebra. inXile did Wasteland 2 and Bard's Tale IV. And while I'm interested in the business end of gaming, I normally don't talk about acquisitions. But Obsidian and inXile make role playing games and role playing games are my thing, so I hope Microsoft doesn't fuck this up.

November 11, 2018


Bull Jumping

That's Kassandra wearing the armor of Theseus. She's getting ready to enter the Labyrinth and kill the Minotaur. Theseus is supposed to have done that some time before the Trojan War, around 1250 BCE give or take a decade or two, but since we're all friends here we won't quibble.

Now, historically speaking there wasn't a Minotaur, or a King Minos for that matter, but there were kings ruling Crete and they did have a palace in Knossos. And while the Cretans didn't mate with bulls they did practice the sport of bull leaping. According to Wikipedia:

Bull-leaping is a form of non-violent bull fighting based on an ancient ritual involving an acrobat leaping over the back of a charging bull (or cow). The sport survives in modern France, usually with cows rather than bulls, as course landaise; and in Spain, with bulls, as recortes. Ritual leaping over bulls is a motif of Middle Bronze Age figurative art, notably of Minoan Crete, but also found in Hittite Anatolia, the Levant, Bactria and the Indus Valley. It is often interpreted as a depiction of a rite performed in connection with bull worship.

How we got from bull leaping to the Minotaur is anybody's guess.

November 10, 2018


Pirates

There's a story behind this screen shot. A woman wanted me to find a treasure, I was to grab it and meet her on her ship where she'd pay me a finders fee. It turned out that she was a pirate and all she and her crew offered me was my life if I jumped off the ship and swam for shore. It didn't go like she expected.

November 5, 2018


Orcs

Tolkien played around with many versions of the origin of orcs but the one that ended up in the Silmarillion was that they were elves, corrupted by Morgoth's arts. Certainly the orcs in The Lord of the Rings show no great love for Sauron, they serve him out of fear. And that's why I like this picture of an orc. The fellow isn't grotesque, he just looks like an incredibly pissed off elf.

You know, when elves died their spirits went to the Halls of Mandos in Valinor, there to be given new bodies after a time. I always wondered what happened to the souls of the poor orcs. Probably just kept in Mandos until the purpose of creation is fulfilled, then they're Eru's problem. At any rate, that fellow is how I see orcs now, with all due respect to Mr. Jackson.

November 5, 2018


Mycroft Holmes

I was unaware that Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was a fan of Sherlock Holmes but he is, and has been for a long time. He and Anna Waterhouse have coauthored two novels about Sherlock's older brother Mycroft Holmes.

When we encounter Mycroft in the stories he's the man who runs things behind the scenes for the British government. He's overweight and although he's smarter then Sherlock he can't be bothered to check whether or not his deductions are accurate. Abdul-Jabbar and Waterhouse are interested in Mycroft as a young man and what made him turn out that way. It's been awhile since I've read a anything connected with Sherlock Holmes and I think I'm due.

November 3, 2018


The Nemean Lion

It doesn't look it but that lion is dead. It's the Nemean Lion and it's a boss, part of a quest to kill a series of legendary animals. And while I'm proud of killing it, a boss is a boss after all, I wouldn't have bothered you with a post, not after 63 hours of play. But this is the second time I had to kill him, the first time he died his corpse got stuck in a rock and I couldn't loot it. Unless you can loot his pelt and bring it back to Daphne at the Temple of Artemis you don't get credit for the kill.

November 3, 2018