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


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


Dusk

Richard Garriott's MMO, Shroud of the Avatar was finally released this year. In what's probably a bad sign for the game, it's gone free to play. And another game vaguely connected with my younger years, Underworld Ascendant will be released on 11/15. It's a riff on the two Ultima Underworld games from the 90s. The world of mouth from the beta players is pretty bad and I'm waiting for the reviews before I consider buy the thing.

Both games feature developers who created games in the 80s and 90s trying to update their original creations. Dusk takes a different approach. It's designed to look like a mid 90s shooter, sort of Quake's country cousin. I bought the game in early access in January, messed about with it and moved on. But a couple of days ago I read that it's leaving early access in December, so I reinstalled it to see what's changed. Not much although the game has an easy mode now for people like me who played Quake in my 30s and have lost a considerable amount of hand/eye coordination over the last 3 decades.

And if Dusk seems faintly ridiculous today, take a look at what Quake looked like if you were playing it on a system with the 3dfx Voodoo card. I remember thinking that graphics couldn't get any better.

November 1, 2018


Athens

Kassandra has made it to Athens, the center of the Greek world in the 5th century BCE. She's about to turn level 20 and after exploring an island or two it was time to get back to the game's central plot. So after a bit of sightseeing I'll hook up with Pericles, Athens' leader, and my old buddy Herodotus to see what we can do about stopping the Cult of Kosmos. They're actually running the Greek world and if that isn't bad enough, the Cult wants to kill my Mom.

Critics have been saying that Assassin's Creed Odyssey is a true role playing game, I tend to disagree. Both Assassin's Creed Odyssey and Assassin's Creed Origins have a glaze of role playing elements and I'll concede that the glaze is a tad more generous in Odyssey then Origins, but if you're expecting Witcher 3 or Divinity Original Sin you're going to be disappointed. You're an assassin, you kill people. When you've killed all the people you needed to kill in location A you go to location B and kill the people who need killing there. And so far I've no problem with that.

October 30, 2018


Ready for His Close Up

I have a symbiotic relationship with Kosh and my phone. My laptops have always been tools first.

When I was a kid my Dad always told me that one day his tools would be mine. Much later he hesitantly told me that he was giving his tools to Danny, my brother in law. He was relieved to hear that I heartily approved of his decision. Good tools should be used and Danny would use them.

The new laptop will never really be a gaming machine although unlike its predecessor it can run World of Warcraft without straining. It's not a gaming machine, it is (if you'll excuse the pomposity) my mobile office. And I know have everything I need on it. I have Chrome as my web browser, Thunderbird and Lighting as my email/calendar programs, SynWrite as my HTML editor, Office Libre as my office suite, Quicken 2013 as my checkbook program and WoW and Steam as a nod towards gaming. All that and I still have 116 GB free on the SSD.

I have a strange relationship with large purchases. Once I decide to buy something like a new laptop I have to have it now, otherwise I'll back up. I could have ordered my laptop with a 500 GB SSD online but if I did that I might have put it off for another year. So I'm satisfied with my purchase.

Little Kosh will get his debut over Thanksgiving weekend at Donna's. But I'm thinking about using him while watching the returns on Election Day. I used to do that with my last laptop until its speed got annoying even by my standards.

By the way, I bought a new carrier for Little Kosh. The old laptop's bag was far to big, while both have 15" screens the new computer is considerably slimmer. So I went to Best Buy and among the $89.85 bags I bought a $29.95 bag. When I got it home I realized it was made of tissue paper. So I put on my big kid pants, took it back, asked for store credit and bought a more expensive bag. I'm so proud of myself.

October 28, 2018


Tweaking the Laptop

I did some work on Little Kosh and then put it aside for a bit. I was putting off installing World of Warcraft because it's a 56 GB install and takes a while to download. So while I'm waiting I thought I'd fire up the version of SynWrite I installed. As it turns out it's the wrong version so I'll have to check the version on Kosh and install it here.

Hmm, just learned that if I want to use the function keys as function keys I have to hold down the fn key. F5 previews my work here in my web browser but unless you hold down fn, F5 turns the keyboard lights on and off.

In short, I've still a bit of tweaking to do with this thing. However I've just installed a dictionary for SynWrite so scratch that bit about installing a different version. And only 13 GBs of WoW to go. It looks like the only real task left is to buy a new laptop bag. This laptop has the same screen size as my old one but it's so much slimmer that it swims in my bag. That's what happens when you keep your old laptop for 10 years.

October 27, 2018


Daredevil

In the 80s I read Frank Miller's run on Daredevil. I haven't followed the book since then but I remember enough to know that the tone of Netflix's take on Daredevil is heavily influenced by Millers work and man is that show bleak. My worst day was kittens and unicorns compared to Matt Murdock's best day. I mean, you know how the death of his parent's led Bruce Wayne to become Batman? Wayne is Pollyanna compared to Murdock.

I knew there was a reason I stopped reading that book. Which is not to say that I'm not enjoying the show, I'm just glad there are only 13 episodes in a season, I'm not sure I could take the emotional strain of 26.

October 27, 2018


The Hind of Kyrenia

That's the Hind of Kyrenia, hind being an old fashioned word for deer. It's the first legendary beast I've encountered in this game. Last night it kicked my ass but this morning I had another go and this time I remembered to heal (ask Moon about my tendency to forget to heal). I wanted to share my victory with you as well as posting another picture that shows just how beautiful Ubisoft's version of Greece is.

October 25, 2018


Crunch Time

Crunch time is when the software you've been working on is close to release and the team has to pull a lot of involuntary overtime to make sure it goes out the door in a semi-stable condition.

Speaking of which, Red Dead Redemption II comes out this week. The first game sold 15 million units so Rockstar Games is smelling money. And with that kind of money there are a lot of articles about the game floating around. And in one of 'em Rockstar founder Dan Houser says, "We were working 100-hour weeks."

Everyone with an interest in the gaming industry know that this sort of thing goes on, but Rockstar makes a shit ton of money, Grand Theft Auto V has made over $6 billion. And with that kind of money floating around, people who aren't particularly interested in the gaming industry took notice and they were surprised at the 100 hour weeks line. Rockstar is normally bans their employees from talking about the development process but they've lifted the ban for Red Dead Redemption II.

And so far the employee comments seem supportive of Rockstar. Because if you want to continue in the game industry you damn well better be. As Chairman Mao once said, "The policy of letting a hundred flowers bloom and a hundred schools of thought contend is designed to promote the flourishing of the arts and the progress of science." And we all know how that turned out.

October 23, 2018


The Tomb Raider Sale

I preordered Shadow of the Tomb Raider and while it wasn't my favorite of the new series, I played it and enjoyed a good portion of the game. So I don't regret paying full price back in September.

A few days ago Square Enix put Shadow of the Tomb Raider on sale, slicing 34% off its price. Folks on Steam have responded by leaving negative reviews for the game and the sale seems to have been canceled. And while I don't regret preordering the game I'll admit that a longer time period before slicing the game's price might have been the courteous thing to do.

But the gaming industry is just that, an industry and Square Enix's product did not do as well as expected, so they went into, "Let's cut our losses mode."

I never played the original games but I tried the first game in the reboot on spec and liked it. And while I disliked elements of the third game I'd hate to see Lara Croft go away for an extended period of time. But for the present I'm content to mess about in Greece for a bit.

October 23, 2018


Ancient Greece III

October 20, 2018


High Tech Ted

Beto O'Rourke has been using Facebook to reach the voters. And after watching him air drum to Baba O'Riley I wish I could vote for him myself.

Senator Ted Cruz decided to get in on the Facebook live action and posted his own video. Remember how you tried to set up wifi for your parents and it turned into a total clusterfuck? Cruz's video went like that.

October 20, 2018


Role Playing

For a guy who plays a lot of role playing games, I don't do much role playing. And in the case of Assassin's Creed Origins I bring some baggage with me.

The game is set during the Peloponnesian War between the Delian League (Athens) and the Peloponnesian League (Sparta). After the wars with Persia, Athens became the dominant power in Greece. However it abused its power leading to some of the Greek city states turning to Sparta as a counterweight. Now personally, I think the Spartans, at least 5th century BCE Spartan, were complete bastards. But my character, Kassandra, is a 5th century BCE mercenary and currently she's working for the Spartans. And I'm guessing that she doesn't share my distaste for them.

So then, a Spartan military commander asked me to return a crucial tablet. He's not paying me but I am under Spartan contract. I track down the guy who stole the thing and although the commander thought he was a Spartan traitor, it turned out he was an Athenian spy who offered to pay me off. It was tempting because I was looking for an excuse to burn the Spartans.

But Kassie wasn't, and a mercenary doesn't live very long of they're constantly burning their employers, I returned the tablet to the Spartan commander. So I'm role playing in a RPG. The last game I really role played in was Witcher 3. My decisions led to a disastrous political situation. However Geralt felt like a father to Ciri and not only did she survive the game, she looked like she was going to have a happy life because of his decisions. And while I might have second thoughts about Geralt's decisions, Geralt doesn't. Let's hope Kassandra will be able to say the same.

October 20, 2018


Random Notes

The weather is changing and Newton has changed bedding, in fact he's back to using his cat bed. He varies his sleeping arrangements every four of five months or so and there's a semiregular rotation.

***

Over the weekend Kassie made her first sea voyage and had her first two sea battles, she won them both. I don't like the sailing part of the game and wish there was some way to automate it but there's not and to tell the truth they're not that bad when you're playing on easy. I'll complete this first voyage next beer night when the idea of a sea battle won't be quite so stressful.

***

I like to listen to a free form radio station from North Jersey, WFMU. Several weeks ago I was no longer able to stream audio from the site. Now here's the thing, I'm not a perfectionist. I don't own a suit, my beard is scruffy and I'll happily eat frozen meatloaf entrees. But I'm picky about my computer and it was bugging me that the WFMU live stream wouldn't play. I disabled my antivirus to see if that was the answer but nothing changed (today Rolf told me I would have had to uninstall the program to see if it was the culprit).

Anyway, this morning Bitdefender pushed through an emergency patch to take care of some bugs that cropped up from their last big update and lo! WFMU was streaming again. Computerwise Kosh is back up to snuff and Little Kosh is ready for next month's trip to North Jersey. The tech is happy.

***

I'm currently reading Melmoth the Wanderer. I heard about this book in connection with Oscar Wilde. In 1895 Wilde went to jail for sodomy. He did two years and when he was released most of his friends abandoned him and he kicked about Europe for a bit calling himself Sebastian Melmoth. Sebastian after Saint Sebastian and Melmoth after the title character in Melmoth the Wanderer. The book's author, Charles Maturin, was Wilde's great uncle.

It was written in 1820 and in the 19th century it had a lot of admirers. It fell between the cracks in the 20th century but I always wanted to read it. I put it off because by today's standards it's rather stilted, it's also a long ass book. But after rereading The October Country and Something Wicked This Way Comes I was ready for another October type book so I started Melmoth the Wanderer. So far it's not too bad. In 1816 John Melmoth inherited his Uncle's estate. But there's another Melmoth around, the splitting image of a Melmoth whose portrait was painted in 1646. The Melmoth from 1646 was a bastard and the one from 1816 ain't too cheery either. And I'll confess that I knew before I started reading the book that 1646 Melmoth and sinister 1816 Melmoth are one in the same. If a book is 198 years old it's all right to spoil bits of it.

And that's today's update.

October 17, 2018


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