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!


Embarrassing Dead Space Story #1

#1 implies they'll be others.

I'm going to put the number of times I installed this game at five, because five sounds better then six. Tonight I had to retrieve a detonator and to get it I had to traverse a Zero G chamber. It wasn't that difficult, jump from a platform to a wall, walk on the wall until you're next to another platform, grab a power pack so the door will open, jump down, open the door and get the detonator. But I remember that during one of my play throughs I had a lot to drink and got so frustrated with that section that I quit and uninstalled the game. This time I was sober and I did the whole thing with the precision of a Swiss watch. Watch this space, if I remember more rage quit stories I'll tell 'em here.

February 17, 2019


Dead Space Observations

This is 60 seconds of Dead Space, a game I started late last night.I've started this game five or six times by now and I can never remember why I abandon it, or at least get as far as my first play through.

The game is a horror game and I find the genre too stressful, yet I can play this one. I think the problem is agency. I watched a N. K. Jemisin play the remake of Resident Evil 2. The game, like most horror games, makes ammo scarce and the enemies, in this case zombies, hard to kill. So most of the time you're running away from them or searching for ingredients to manufacture bullets. And at least Resident Evil 2 lets you kill them. In Amnesia and Soma the enemies are unkillable. You just have to run, find a hiding space and hope they wander off.

In Dead Space your crew goes on a repair mission to a mining ship. When you get there you find that the miners have been turned into (get ready for it) space zombies. You get separated from the rest of the repair team and are trying to turn systems on the mining ship back on to help the rest of your team, all the while shooting space zombies. And while the game is stressful, it gives you enough weapons and ammo to defend yourself. In Soma I was helpless, not so in Dead Space. That's the difference.

It also explains why I'm not playing Enderal: Forgotten Stories. You start the game helpless and diseased. You can be killed by almost anything you encounter. And yeah, that's the way CRPGs were 30 some years ago when I got my first computer, but I've no patience for it now. It's not that the game is bad, it's just a matter of taste.

I don't know how long I'll be playing Dead Space but I'm in a gaming mood. I can't get any further in Far Cry 5 and I don't like Enderal: Forgotten Stories so I may hang around in Dead Space for awhile. In the clip I was in my way back to our ship to see if it could be repaired, if so we were all going to rendezvous there and get the fuck out of Dodge.

So much for that plan.

One last thing, I said I was watching Nora Jemisin play Resident Evil 2 earlier. I enjoy watching games on Twitch now and then if I like the folks doing the streaming. It's too bad we never tried something like that back in our Left 4 Dead days. Of course in those days I couldn't figure out how to get OLM working to record videos, much less use it as a streaming platform.

February 16, 2019


The Battle with John Seed

The battle ended when John got into a plane and I had to fly another plane and shoot him down. Unfortunately, I'm not coordinated enough to maneuver the plane, much less engage in a dogfight so that ended that.

Steam tells me I played for 34 hours and that seems like a reasonably accurate total. The game was fun, it killed some time and it was kind of forgettable. Certainly I've no particular desire to pick up another game in the franchise. But it was something a little different for me and I'm glad I picked it up. Now it's on to Enderal: Forgotten Stories.

By the way, if you're even remotely interested in the Bioshock franchise, Steam has the Bioshock Collection on sale for $14.99. All three games and the add-ons are included. While I suspect you've either played the games or given them a pass, Bioshock games are up there with the Ultima games, the Quake games and the two Left 4 Dead games in my personal hall of fame. So I'm just passing that along.

February 15, 2019


Just a Quick Battle

I decided to risk a quick battle, my sidekick and I went to a fertilizer plant and took it back from Eden's Gate. I'm so close to liberating all of John Seed's territory but I do have to get to bed. The final push, and the boss battle with John Seed, will have to wait for the weekend. If I win the battle I'm going to count it a major victory and start playing with Enderal: Forgotten Stories for a bit. It started out as a mod for Skyrim and ended up as stand lone game, free if you own Skyrim.

But Far Cry 5 won't be going anywhere, assuming I beat John Seed. I'd like to see how far I can get in the game and it's non as if I'm hurting for hard drive space.

By the way, the woman with the sniper rifle is grace Armstrong. She's a sniper and I had my own sniper rifle when we went took the plant. As it turned out, two snipers made short work of the defenders.

February 15, 2019


Far Cry 5

After not playing Far Cry 5 for several weeks, I'm finally in the mood to go back to Hope County, Montana. Unfortunately I made my appointment with the retinal specialist tomorrow for 10:15 AM, because I am a complete and total asshole. Really. It's 11:15 PM right now and I'll have to get up at 7:00 if I want to be sure to be there on time.

Asshole!

February 14, 2019


Eden Phillpotts

In 1972 a book called Discoveries in Fantasy was published as part of the Ballantine Adult Fantasy series. It contained works from four forgotten writers, Ernest Bramah, Donald Corey, Richard Garnett and Eden Phillpotts. While Corey didn't do anything for me, the other three did, I picked up the Ballantine editions of Bramah's fantasies and picked up a couple more from Project Gutenberg much later. Garnett's fantasy stories come from his book The Twilight of the Gods and that too is available from Gutenberg. The Phillpott's tale in Discoveries in Fantasy was The Miniature in which Zeus decides to create sentient beings on a small planet in the image of the gods and invite his fellow Olympians, as well as other deities, to interact with the poor creatures. Phillpotts's fantasies are now back in print courtesy of Prologue Books and I picked up a couple in Kindle format.

In 1976 Philpotts daughter, Adelaide, was interviewed by James Dayananda, who was editing a book of Eden Phillpotts' letters. She told him that her father sexually abused her from the time she was five until her early 30s when Phillpotts remarried. When she herself married in 1951, when she was 55, her father broke all contact with her.

Eden Phillpotts died in 1960, Adelaide Phillpotts died in 1993.

I've always maintained that art is sperate from the artist and just as it's wrong to hate a child for the sins of his or her parents a work of art shouldn't be judged by the sins of its creator, or its creator's virtues for that matter. According to the Times:

Anti-Semitism turns up so often in the résumés of 20th-century artists, in fact, that it almost seems part of the job description, and critics and commentators have sometimes tried to mitigate if not excuse it. Wagner, they point out, had Jewish friends. Eliot was a devout, churchgoing Anglican — surely not a “bad” person in any extreme way. So for now, let’s leave anti-Semitism off the list. How about misogyny, or generally creepy behavior toward women? Picasso probably takes the prize here: of the seven main women in his life, two went mad and two killed themselves. His standing could be in jeopardy, though, if the crime novelist Patricia Cornwell ever succeeds in proving her conviction — argued at length and at great expense in her book Portrait of a Killer: Jack the Ripper— Case Closed — that the British painter Walter Sickert was in fact the famous serial killer.

Speaking of killing, Norman Mailer in a rage once tried to kill one of his wives. The painter Caravaggio and the poet and playwright Ben Jonson both killed men in duels or brawls. Genet was a thief, Rimbaud was a smuggler, Byron committed incest, Flaubert paid for sex with boys. So case closed, one is tempted to say, invoking Ms. Cornwell’s phrase: anti-Semitism, misogyny, racism (I left that out, but there are too many examples to cite), murderousness, theft, sex crimes. That’s not to mention the drunkenness, drug-taking, backstabbing, casual adultery and chronic indebtedness that we know attended (or attends) the lives of so many people who make unquestionably good art. Why should we be surprised or think otherwise? Why should artists be any better than the rest of us?

Still, I never was particularly fond of Mailer or Byron, and while I like Flaubert's Salammbo, I've never reread it. But I've reread The Miniature more then once. And so far Pan and the Twins is very good. I'm not going to delete the book or start judging books by the morality, or immorality of their authors, but yeah, I'm feeling guilty for whatever that's worth.

February 14, 2019


Activision-Blizzard Layoffs

Activision-Blizzard had a very good year last year but it wasn't as good as Wall Street hoped for, so the company is laying off 775 people.

As a casual observer I've followed tech and gaming for well over 30 years now and it's the same old thing, tech people need to unionize but most folks scorn the idea until they get their layoff letter. By then it's too late. In the mid 90s if you knew HTML you could have made a lot of money throwing together quick and dirty web pages for people. But by the end of th decade that market collapsed and web designers were shit out of luck. On the boards I followed in those days programmers were snidely posting that if the web designers had bothered to learn a real language like C++ or Java they'd still have jobs.

Then companies started outsourcing programming jobs. I saw a lot of posts that said, "Shit, we need to unionize," back then.

I don't actually know anyone who works for Activision-Blizzard, or anyone else in the gaming industry for that matter, but I hope the people who got laid off land on their feet.

February 13, 2019


American Gods

I first read Neil Gaiman because Donna Lea had jury duty in May Landing. She went to a comic book shop called The Fantasy Factory on her lunch break and picked up The Sandman #1 as a gift for me. It was written by Neil Gaiman and told the story of Dream, one of the Endless who are older then gods.

Neil Gaiman is hit or miss with me. I loved The Sandman, Neverwhere and The Ocean at the End of the Lane. But his novel American Gods didn't do much for me and when it became a television show I didn't watch it, besides it was on Starz and I don't have that channel.

Several weeks ago it was on sale at Amazon for $20 so I decided to give it a try. I watched the first episode in January and postponed the rest until the new television was up and running and I'm glad I waited. Bryan Fuller was the show's executive producer and he has a very surrealistic style, at least he did on Hannibal. That style works well with a show about old and new gods fighting it out in America.

The show's conceit is that when waves of people came to America they brought their gods with them. Those gods became Americanized and by the 21st century were waning in power. They're also in conflict with new gods, such as Media:

It's one of the few times where I like the television show better then the book. Season 2 begins on Starz in March. I've no plans to add Starz to my cable bill but if the individual episodes are available on Amazon I might pay to watch them. I'll wait for a bit though, Bryan Fuller left after one season and there's been some trouble during the production of the second season. And if I'm really curious about what happens I can always reread the book.

February 13, 2019


'tis Done

I tend to be a worst case scenario kind of guy and it's a bad idea to have two big things planned at the same time. But last week I had a colonoscopy and over the weekend Rolf installed a new television. As it turned out my colon is reasonably healthy, the television is cool and just now movers came and took my old home entertainment cabinet and my laser discs away.

As it turned out one of the movers was a geek and I mentioned that my laser copy of Star Wars: A New Hope was the last time Lucas allowed the original version of the scene between Solo and Greedo to be sold.He was very happy to get those things and I made his day.

And now I think I'll pop off to the living room and watch something on the TV.

February 12, 2019


Television

The new set is up and running. I put off watching the second episode of I am the Night until I could watch it on the new set. I'm a pretty impatient person and I am the Night is a slow burn in the best film noir tradition. I've noticed that the bigger the screen, the more patient I am.

The stuff on top of the old entertainment center has been scattered throughout the condo. But The Batman Who Laughs, the Phurba Dagger and the Dragon made the cut and live underneath the new set. It's hard to see in the picture but they're there. And I just realized, the dragon has been with me for 40 years this year. Damn.

February 12, 2019


Transition

I'm old enough to remember when furniture was delivered to your home in a delivery truck and what came out of the tuck was actual furniture. What came to my house of Friday was a flat box that contained a kit that could be assembled into a television stand. Fortunately I didn't have to deal with that, Rolf put it together for me.

Meanwhile, the old home entertainment center stand to one side, partially disassembled. On Monday I'll call a junk hauling service to take it away. An ignominious end for something that served me well for 17 years or so but most of our ends are ignominious.

Technically it's Sunday, although very early on Sunday. I'll pick up Rolf 11 hours from now and he'll mount the new television on the stand and hook the receiver, Tivo and DVD player up. Then I'll watch something to break in the new set, possibly Thor: Ragnarok followed by Avengers: Infinity War. And I may have a frosty beverage or two, there hasn't been beer in this house since before Christmas. It is fitting that the first movie is on a disk while the second is digital and exists only in the aether. One must move with the times.

There are two more upgrades I'd like to do but they can wait until the second half of the year. There's such a thing as too much change after all.

February 10, 2019


Star Trek

The ranking of the shows according to me:

  1. Star Trek Deep Space Nine

  2. Star Trek the Next Generation

  3. Star Trek

  4. Star Trek Enterprise

  5. Star Trek Voyager

Star Trek the Animated Series isn't on the list because I've only seen a few episodes. It's on Netflix and I'll get around to it eventually.

Right now I'm not sure if Star Trek Discovery is the new leader or if it shares the top spot with DS9. I'm leaning towards dropping DS9 to the second spot but will wait until the end of season two before I make that call.

February 8, 2019


Blackmail

David Pecker, owner of the National Enquirer, sent Jeff Bezos, lord of all he surveys, a letter that read, in part:

However, in the interests of expediating this situation, and with The Washington Post poised to publish unsubstantiated rumors of The National Enquirer’s initial report, I wanted to describe to you the photos obtained during our newsgathering.

In addition to the “below the belt selfie - otherwise colloquially known as a ‘d*ck pick’” - The Enquirer obtained a further nine images. These include:

· Mr. Bezos face selfie at what appears to be a business meeting.

· Ms. Sanchez response - a photograph of her smoking a cigar in what appears to be a simulated oral sex scene.

Mr. Bezos simply published the letter on Medium along with his response. For the rest, Warren Ellis summed up the wisdom of Mr. Pecker's gambit quite eloquently:

February 7, 2019


After the Colonoscopy

It seems that my colon is healthy for a 62 year old man, although I could use more fiber. The doctor told me to pick up Citrucel tablets and take two a day. Of course, if I jut ate vegetables like most people I wouldn't need the tablets but that's not going to happen.

Anyway, I can forget about that for another five years or so.

February 7, 2019


Open the Bomb Bay Doors

Tomorrow I'm having a colonoscopy done, the first one in over 10 years, today I'm doing the prep. In about half an hour I take four laxative tablets and the fun begins. Newton is fairly sensitive to changes in my behavior so he's going to have an interesting 11 hours or so.



The calm before the storm.

February 6, 2019


Autumn in the Heavenly Kingdom

Autumn in the Heavenly Kingdom is a history of the Taiping Rebellion. On one side you had the Qing dynasty in its dotage and on the other you had the Taiping Heavenly Kingdom led by Hong Xiuquan, who told anyone who asked that he was the younger brother of Jesus. It lasted from 1850 to 1864 and Stephen Platt, the author of the book, categorizes it as the bloodiest civil war in history.

The Europeans considered the Manchu government to be corrupt as shit, but they backed the Qing dynasty becaue a weak and corrupt government can be manipulated and controlled. In fact the 19th century and most of the 20th were pretty awful for China, and China's policies today are a reaction to to that. Anyway it's time to read a fat history.

February 5, 2019


I Am the Night

Last night I watched the first episode of I Am the Night, a miniseries about the Black Dahlia murder. It was written and created by Sam Sheridan and it owes a lot to film noir, even though it's set in 1965.

The first episode was directed by Patty Jenkins and opens with a shot of a flat waste with mountains in the distance. The camera zooms in and eventually stops at a house, the house of Fauna Hodel, one of the series' two protagonists. At the end of the episode we're at one end of a very long room where there's a lavish party going on. The camera zooms in and stops midway through the room to focus on George Hodel, the villain of the piece.

And I'm only mentioning it because I noticed how the two shots bookended the episode. I never notice stuff like that so I'm quite proud of myself.

February 3, 2019


Carter and Lovecraft

I just finished Carter and Lovecraft by Jonathan L. Howard and I enjoyed it enough to buy the sequel, After the End of the World.The books deal with Dan Carter, descendant of Randolph Carter, and Emily Lovecraft, descendant of the writer. And here's the thing, a lot of the enjoyment comes, in my case anyway, from familiarity with the writings of H. P. Lovecraft.

By any definition, Lovecraft is a terrible writer and in my day he was best encountered as a adolescent. It was his ideas that grabbed folks, not his prose. But these days his shtick, that we only see a small portion of reality and if we were ever to see any more then that it would blast our very souls, is fairly mainstream. And I think that if you've made it to your 20s without reading Lovecraft, you can skip him. Stephen King tells a better story and Thomas Ligotii does cosmic angst far better.

Although come to think of it, we have the internet and Wikipedia. You probably can learn enough about HPL to enjoy the novels without slogging through The Call of Cthulhu. as for me, while I don't reread much Lovecraft, I still have an affection for his shit.

By the way, if you do want to try Lovecraft, be advised that he was racist to the point of psychosis and yes it shows up in his stories from time to time. If anybody tells you different, they're wrong. Also be prepared for his pseudo 18th century style. In all honesty it's not very good, though the twisted little bastard has his moments.

February 2, 2019


Far Cry 5

I'm in a weird place with Far Cry 5, on one hand I'm kind of bored with it but on the other, there's nothing else in my immediate future so I'm still playing it.

I got the opportunity to fly a plane a little while ago, I just couldn't do it. But today I did steal a monster truck the cult had appropriated and I successfully drove it back to its owner so I did accomplish something that I didn't think I would be able to pull off. That did make me happy. For the rest, a few more story missions and I'll be ready to take on John Seed, the boss of this part of Hope County. I'm kind of curious about what kind of boss fight they'll throw at me.

February 1, 2019


Newton

It's been a rough month for Newton. I made two trips to Donna's in a month which meant he was boarded twice in a month. And when I came home I was sick for the first time in his life. For pretty much the last week he's been walking around the house meowing his distress. Today was the first day he was reasonably calm.

It's a generalization to be sure, but cats don't like a lot of change and Newton has had to put up with a lot over the last six weeks. Currently he's asleep in a corner of my office and though I normally kick him out when I leave it today I'll take a chance and let him stay, he's earned it.

January 29, 2019


Kindle

Amazon will tell you that your Kindle can go two weeks between charges. The small print says that the estimate is based on 30 minutes of use a day. And if you're younger then I am, with a family and a career, that's a fair estimate.

I've been retired long enough to have fallen into a rhythm. I go on long gaming jags where I'll play for hours and hours, then I'll put my game aside for a couple of weeks and read for hours and hours. I'm sort of like the Penguin when he clashed with Batman in the comic books of the 60s. Sometimes his crimes involved birds, other time they were based on umbrellas. At any rate, if you read for several hours a day you'll get two or three days. I'm a conservative fellow and charge mine when it gets below 50%.

I'm currently reading a book of short observations by Jan Morris called In My Mind's Eye. She's 91 and her traveling days are over but she's still a joy to read. Speaking of which, I've wanted to reread her book The Venetian Empire for months now. I know I have it here somewhere but for the life of me I can't find it. I just got the Kindle edition which means it will turn up tomorrow.

By the way, you did know that Venice was an imperial power, right? She was back in the day. If you wanted goods from India and beyond they were available through the Ottomans. They added their markup, the Venetians picked them up and added their own surcharge. That's why the rest of Europe was so eager to find an alternate rout to the east. When Vasco da Gama reached India by going around Africa that ended the money train for the Turks and Venetians. And that's how onerous their surcharges were, it was cheaper to circle around Africa. Venice hit the skids, lost her empire and her independence was ended by Napoleon. After Napoleon Venice became part of Austria, in 1848 became independent, in 1849 it was returned to Austria and in 1866 the new born Kingdom of Italy kicked the Austrians out for good and Venice has been part of Italy ever since.

And damn, I really didn't want to buy that book a second time.

January 27, 2019


The Glass Town Game

The four Brontë kids, Charlotte, Branwell, Emily and Anne invented imaginary countries as children, kind of the stuff Tolkien did as an adult. I'm just about finished with The Glass Town Game by Catherynne M. Valente. In that book the Brontës end up in their imaginary world and deal with the fallout of the games they set there.

I've been sick all week and last night I plowed through about 200 pages of the book.

The book works for kids an adults and for me the best thing about it is that it started me thinking about my own childhood, way back before kindergarten. My childhood wasn't really happy but I do miss the imagination of my early days, you know? For that reminder alone the book was worth the price of admission.

January 27, 2019