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


alChandler the Handyman

Today I put this lamp together by myself and I'm feeling pretty good.



Ok, I did have a little help.

November 30, 2020


Skye Larson

Sky Larson is a tech billionaire in the world of Watchdogs and she's been referenced from time to time. My gang of hackers wanted to team up with another group called 404. Before she'd agree to pool resources with us, 404's leader insisted we track down Skye Larson and discover for ourselves what she's all about. It turned out that she's been working on on a project to transfer human consciousness to computers and so far it's just another science fiction trope. But at the climax of the Skye Larson arc we make it to her house. In her basement laboratory she's built a replica of her mother's house. And then we discover Larson's secret.

The sequence would stand out in any game but it's unexpected coming from Unisoft. Anyway here's a video of the payoff I grabbed from YouTube. If you're planning to play the game you should skip it.

I saw it coming too but I still think it's a good sequence. Later on I tracked down Larson as she was uploading herself into a quantum computer. The game gave me a choice, I could let her live because her tech could be a boon for humanity or I could halt the process, killing her. I didn't have to think about it, I pulled the plug. Not because I'm a luddite, it's just that Skye needed to be killed.


Watch Dogs Legion

And now a word about the NPC guards in the game:

And yeah, the AI in Watch Dogs Legion isn't the strongest in the world but my own intelligence isn't that great either. A good example of that is my experience with Fann Tjandra. She was the first operative I got and she came equipped with a submachine gun that did a lot of damage. So I had a tendency to just swagger into places and start shooting. And while the AI enemies have their flaws the sound of a submachine gun in their offices did not go unnoticed. Tjandra ended up dead more often then not.

But I did a mission for Kathy MacDermott the other night and she joined my team. It turns out that she's a spy and comes with a silenced pistol. So last night I used her to break a dissident out of jail. I'd kill a guard, hide behind a desk and wait for another guard to come buy, then kill that one and soon I had emptied out the police station.

Rest assured, those aren't the corpses of police officers. The police force has been disbanded, replaced with security officers from Albion. They're villains so mayhem is moral and just. Besides, if I wanted to play a morally complex game with lots of ethical dilemmas to untangle I wouldn't be playing an Ubisoft game.

November 28, 2020


Holiday Accomplishments

So far I purchased a ticket for the Zappa movie that WFMU is broadcasting tomorrow, listened to Alice's Restaurant, disrupted a propaganda broadcast originating from the top of Buckingham Palace and went out and bought Why Bother Beer, also known as Coors Light.

I'm a little ashamed of my Buckingham Place performance. Last night I disrupted a propaganda broadcast by hijacking a camera, using that to hijack a cargo drone, riding the cargo drone to ride to a roof, using the drone to move a large crate that was blocking a vent and summoning a spiderbot to enter the vent and shut down the broadcast. Today I was trying to shoot my way into the palace (unsuccessfully) when all I had to do was use construction worker guy. Construction worker guy can summon a cargo drone from anywhere. I whistled up the drone, rode it to the roof and turned off the broadcast. Live and learn.

November 26, 2020


Watch Dogs: Legion

That's Duncan Petrauskas. To be honest I had to look up his name, I really don't have anything invested in the roster of characters I've recruited for DedSec. But I tend to use Duncan more then the others. He can fight and he also can hack. Since he's my go to guy I decided to get him a nicer outfit. You know, for an international city you'd think London would have more clothing stores but I had to really look for one.

November 24, 2020


Thanksgiving 2020

When I decided to buy my condo I knew nothing about mortgages. Donna did know about mortgages and she told me to take a 15 year fixed rate mortgage. So that's what I did and it worked out well for me.

As it turns out, I know nothing about about epidemics, much less immunology, but Anthony Fauci does and his recommendation is that you should spend Thanksgiving with the people who live with you, anyone else is a risk. With that in mind I'll be staying here for Thanksgiving, first time spending it here in 10 years.

I've no right to tell you what to do, I'm not an immunologist. But as I said, following advice from people who know more about a subject then I do has always worked out well for me.

November 23, 2020


Tolkien Update

Whelp, Pippin has just killed a cave troll and the action switches to the Tower of Cirith Ungol where Sam is about to try to rescue Frodo. In other words, I'm almost finished with this year's reread of The Lord of the Rings and I'll leave Middle-earth for a couple of years.

You know, memory is a funny thing. I was under the impression that Sam almost always called Frodo master in the book and that Jackson changed it to a more egalitarian Mr. Frodo. In fact Sam has used Mr. Frodo almost exclusively, at least so far. And there are a few other quirks I've noticed. I prefer Martin Freeman's Bilbo to Ian Holm's and yet it's Holm's voice I hear. I can deal with that but I'm making a conscious effort to substitute Anthony Hopkins for John Noble as my Denethor. And although I thought Viggo Mortensen looked too young to play Aragorn I've given up picturing anybody else as Strider. I just can't get Mortensen's image out of my head. Fine, he can stay.

I wonder how I'll react to Neil Gaiman's version of Gormenghast. I tried watching the BBC version back in the day but couldn't get past Ian Richardson as Sepulchrave. I really should force myself to watch the miniseries to encourage mental flexibility. Do me good.

November 22, 2020


As I Was Reading One Night

Last night I was reading The Fellowship of the Ring and at a certain point Newton sat up on his pillow and watched me quietly for about 15 minutes. I don't pretend to know his motivations but he looked so good, just sitting there, that I snapped his picture.

November 16, 2020


Ambulance Chaser

I had a recruitment mission, a doctor would join DedSec if I retrieved a cargo of organs stolen from the hospital by the Kelly Gang. I got the organs but then had to drive the ambulance holding them back to the hospital. The ambulance got pretty banged up getting out of the gang's garage and I had to drive it myself, no autopilot allowed on missions. But I got it to the hospital, the doctor joined and then the game locked up. But no problem, I had completed the mission, right?

Needless to say, when I restarted the game I was back at the start of the mission. In my Neocron days I would have ranted and perhaps uninstalled the game and destroyed the CD but I'm a lot calmer now. I did the mission a second time and brought the ambulance back in mint condition. But the game was released with a lot of bugs and I've read that some of them are game breaking. All Watchdogs: London has to do is hang together until 12/10 when Cyberpunk 2077 is released. After that it can self destruct with my blessing.

November 14, 2020


London by Night

This is Duncan, one of my operatives. He's on the roof of a building watching the London skyline, he got there by hijacking a cargo drone and using it to fly him there.

Watchdogs: Legion is an Ubisoft game and it bills itself as an open world game. That's technically true but while you can go anywhere in London almost all the buildings are closed to you. Not just ones that make sense like Westminster Palace, but bars, restaurants and stores.

Like any Ubisoft game, London is divided into zones and all of them are oppressed by Albion, a private policing firm brought in after Zero Day launched a series of bombings in the city and pinned it on my group, DedSec. You do a series of story missions designed to liberate the zone by turning the residents against Albion. Since I just started I've only liberated Camden Town. But it's a victory none the less.

In between story missions you can do a certain amount of activity to generate income. I've played enough Ubisoft games to know that the pick up missions will become repetitive. Ubisoft also has a tendency to reuse assets. Some of the games Rolf and I played over the summer had that problem. It hasn't happened yet but then again I'm not too observant.

I'm 13 hours in and I've just purchase a spiderbot that will allow me to reach areas that are blocked or closed off to me. So far I'm having a good time, we'll see if the game has staying power.

November 14, 2020


Corsair Headset Blues

The Corsair Gaming Headset cost a lot more then my last one but there's no volume control for its microphone. I did a couple of videos last night and my voice was very hard to hear. I tried this and that and finally did a Google search. That led me to a video that recommended downloading a program called Equalizer APO that allows you to tweak the microphone's volume control. I raised the volume from -6 db to 10 db and it sounds better. By the way, Rolf told me that Corsair does have a model that has a volume control for the headphones, but it will set you back $300.

Fuck those guys.

Meanwhile the video was the first test video after using Equalizer APO. If you're interested you can grab it at SourceForge.

November 12, 2020


Stephen Colbert on The Hobbit: Meh

Patton Oswalt was a guest on Colbert last February and he mentioned that he and his daughter Alice were going to read The Hobbit together. Colbert does not have a high opinion of the book and said:

I read The Lord of the Rings multiple times before I ever read The Hobbit. And then I read The Hobbit, and I went, okay, I kind of get what theyíre referring to here. But it just does not have the high style and the language. I just donít think itís as good a book as The Lord of the Rings."

He want on to tell Oswalt that at 10 Alice was probably too old for The Hobbit, "If she was six, Iíd say read The Hobbit."

I had a different experience then Colbert, I came to The Hobbit when I was 10 and reread it a couple of times before I read The Lord of the Rings. It was my gateway drug to Tolkien and I have a sentimental affection for it. But it's a kid's book and if you read The Lord of the Rings first and expect The Hobbit to have a similar tone you're in for a shock. In my case, when I reread Tolkien I start with Silmarillion a book that's ultimately a tragedy. Rereading The Hobbit acts as a chaser and then I move on to The Lord of the Rings a book with tragic elements as well. You don't need to read The Hobbit to appreciate the other works but I'm glad I encountered Tolkien in the order that I did.

By the way, I'd be interested in Colbert's opinion about other writers of epic fantasies, books by William Morris, E. R. Eddison and George R. R. Martin. Especially Eddison, Tolkien enjoyed the style of Eddison's books but was appalled by the philosophy behind them. Eddison never got to read The Lord of the Rings but described Tolkien's views as soft. But Tolkien fought in WWI and Eddison didn't. Tolkien's characters fight when necessary but they don't enjoy battle for its own sake. Eddison's characters love battle and at the end of The Worm Ouroboros the Lords of Demonland are devastated by the destruction of their enemies because the aren't any foes left worthy of their steel. I have a high opinion of Eddison's books but like Tolkien I pass on the philosophy behind them.

November 8, 2020


Watchdogs Legion

I picked this up last week. It's an open world game in the same sense that Grand Theft Auto V is an open world game. You're in a huge city, London in this case, but most of the buildings can't be entered. On the plus side the game is set in the near future so all the cars have an autodrive setting. It will probably remain on my drive for a bit, I doubt I'll come close to finishing it but it's a good game to mess around in for an hour or so.

November 8, 2020


The Defeat Becomes Real

As Trump came back to the White House after golfing, someone snapped a shot of him looking at the people celebrating his loss. I'm using the whole picture as wallpaper but I wanted to share the close up of his face with you guys. Trump lives in his own world and within that world he shapes his own reality. But for a brief moment he seems to realize the joy his defeat inspired. This is the face of a man who is afraid of his future.

By the way, if you're not above schadenfreude and want your own defeated Trump wallpaper you can grab it here.

November 7, 2020


The Four Seasons

And so Trump's people booked The Four Seasons in Philadelphia as a venue for Rudy Giuliani to speak about the president's plans to challenge the election results. However there's another business by that name in Philly, and that's why Giuliani spoke in front of Four Seasons Total Landscaping today. It's located between Fantasy Island Adult Books and a crematorium.

November 7, 2020


Gnome for Sale



The merchant threw in the bowl for free.

November 5, 2020


The Silmarillion

I used to reread Tolkien every year but alas, the years are shorter now and my last Tolkien reread was in 2018. I think it appropriate that I start reading The Silmarillion on Election Day. You know, a battle against a Dark Lord and all that.

Ultimately the story of Middle-earth is one of loss. Magic passes, the Elves leave for the West and humans take dominion of a diminished world. Tolkien was heavily influenced by Norse Sagas and the Kalevala. Having read the occasional saga and the Kalevala I can tell you that they're great but also sad, as is The Silmarillion.

The short version is that FŽanor created three jewels, the Silarils, that captured the light of the Two Trees of Valinor. Morgoth, the first Dark Lord, steals the jewels and heads east for his fortress in Middle-earth. Against the will of the Valar, FŽanor leads his people, the Noldor Elves, back to Middle-earth to wage war against Morgoth and retrieve the Silmarils. Right from the beginning they're told that they'll fail and that's exactly what happens.

And yet it's an uplifting book. Victories are fleeting. And if that means that good passes, so does evil. And yeah, I think Trump qualifies as evil and I hope he passes, never to rise again, in today's election.

November 3, 2020


G String

Yesterday I read a review of a game called G String. I'd beaten Warhammer and while the random missions the game generated were kind of fun, I'd had enough of that particular dystopia.

So I sprang for the game, it went for $18 on Steam, here's the poop. It's a total Half Life 2 conversion and it was done pretty much by one person, Eyaura Eya. Instead of a far future galactic dystopia, this game is set in a near future dystopia where environmental collapse is killing those of us unfortunate enough to still live on Earth. Pretty much your Blade Runner scenario. Unfortunately I can't tell you much about the game, I'm only an hour into it and won't be able to play any more until next week.

I'll be honest, I wouldn't have picked the game up at all if it wasn't for the fact that Cyberpunk 2077 has been delayed for another month. I wanted to play something and had my eyes on two big 60+ hour games but I had my heart set on Cyberpunk 2077 so I didn't want to get involved in another looong game, if you know what I mean.

Of course the Half Life 2 engine is 16 years old so don't expect to be blown away. But that means the game can run on older hardware. And there's more but I'm just putting off shoving Newton into his carrier and taking him to the vet's to be boarded for the weekend. Time to post this, finish my coffee and do what has to be done.

October 28, 2020


Microsoft on Little Kosh

Today I booted up Little Kosh, my laptop, for the first time in four months. I only use him on road trips and there haven't been many of them this year. After the inevitable batch of updates I encountered Microsoft's new browser, Edge. Windows had also decided to change the speed of my mouse. Edge isn't that annoying although when I downloaded Skype from the Microsoft Store Windows did not use my default browser, instead it used Edge.

That was annoying, and a little insulting.

Edge is on my desktop box too but Windows updates don't seem to tweak my OS settings as much. Perhaps they do but I'm always using Kosh and I strive to keep my preferences intact. Little Kosh doesn't get that kind of care so the changes from four months of updates stand out more.

Still, Little Kosh is back in fighting trim, I put World of Warcraft and Skype on him in case things get slow in Sparta, life goes om. Oh, by the way, I'd forgotten how bloated WoW is. I've a 2 TB hard drive on Kosh but a 250 GB drive on Little Kosh. WoW is a 60 GB download and that reduced my free space to 88 GB. Still, it was never meant to be a gaming machine. However I'll probably go for 500 GB for my next laptop, hopefully not in the near future.

October 28, 2020


Poor Decision Theater

At three in the morning I was tired but not quite ready for bed, so I decided to play a quick mission in Warhammer. As decisions go, that one was probably a bad one.

October 26, 2020


Counterpart

Today Amazon through up a suggestion about a show called Counterpart. I watched the first episode and I have to admit it pushed all my buttons.

J. K. Simmons plays Howard Silk, a mid level worker for the Office of Interchange. He also plays Howard Silk, an intelligence agent from a parallel Earth. The two Earths were identical until 1987 when an East German scientist accidentally made contact with his counterpart. Since then the Earths have diverged and Howard Silk the office worker gets sucked into a plot from his counterpart's world to destabilize his world.

The show doesn't play coy, the first episode dives right into things, as I recall Fringe took an entire season to tell you what was going on.

Counterpart originally aired on Starz and was canceled after two seasons. COO Jeffrey Hirsch explained his reasoning:

Justin Marks is a great writer. I'd love to find something else we can do together, but John Landgraf grabbed him when we canceled the show. It was very complicated and there's nothing wrong with being complicated. But to a certain extent, part of my view on the world today is for the most part people's lives are tough and when they come home at night and want to escape their lives, they want to be able to get into a piece of content very easily and escape. Counterpart was really hard for people to get into ó it wasn't accessible.

Fair enough I guess, I thought it was fairly accessible but what do I know? Hirsch is refocusing Starz to concentrate on their premium women viewers. But there are two seasons of Counterpart, one's on Prime and the other drops in December.

October 26, 2020