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


Fallout 4: New Vegas

My greatest gaming disappointment is that I never finished Fallout New Vegas. I couldn't progress in the game without doing something that would have hurt a lot of people. Never mind that my character was on a single minded quest for revenge and damn the consequences, I walked away from the game.

A couple of years ago I decided to finish the game, but Fallout New Vegas was released in 2010 and I had severe problems running it on 64 bit Windows 10. The bottom line was that after a few hours the game became unplayable on my system. Too bad I had problems role playing a vengeance driven character, live and learn. But dammit, I wanted to finish that game. That's why I was glad to learn that a team is working on a Fallout 4mod that will convert the game to Fallout New Vegas. Understand, I've no problem playing an 11 year old game, I just can't. I'm not getting my hopes up too high, a lot of projects like this end up abandoned but there's nothing wrong with hoping. Meanwhile, here's a link to the FAQ.

January 20, 2021


Happy Anniversary

I had a web page in one form or another since I was on a dial up connection with Mindspring but on January 14, 2001 I registered alchandler.com with Network Solutions. It took a bit before my webpage migrated from Mindspring to alchandler.com but it happened and so alChandler's Halls is 20 years old. And that's why I've trotted out the picture of the dwarves. I've also gone back to the Kosh wallpaper.

This is partially a burst of nostalgia from a man who'll be 65 in six weeks but it's also because we've had four years under the worst president in American history. The damage Trump inflicted on the country won't be fully repaired in my lifetime, but I'm hoping Inauguration Day will be a small step in the right direction. While I'm not an optimist by any means, Kosh and the original version of alChandler have been given another turn on stage in honor of renewal and all that shit.

By the way, in another bit of housekeeping, I just realized I still had Cyberpunk 2077 listed as my current game. In fact I only played it for four hours and then abandoned it as too buggy to play. For the last 65 hours I've been playing Assassin's Creed Valhalla and while that game has its quirks, it more then meets my minimum requirements for playability. I've no idea when Cyberpunk 2077 will get its shit together.

January 16, 2021


Leave it to Psmith

The P is silent.

Like a lot of people there's a subliminal hum of stress following me around that won't dissipate until next Wednesday. P. G. Wodehouse is helping. I first read Leave it to Psmith some 40 years a go and I hated it, but now Wodehouse's gentle comedy is just what I need. By the way, not only does Trump leave next Wednesday but another episode of The Expanse drops.

As long a I'm talking media, I broke down and watched the first episode of Queen's Gambit. Everything I read about it indicated that it would be depressing and sure enough it was. But it also hooked me and made me a bit sorry I no longer play chess. I have no head for strategy games, never did have to be honest. And yet I have Fritz Chess, The Many Faces of Go and Civ 6 on my desktop; lonely and neglected. Instead I spend my time in 9th century Britain, raiding monasteries and killing Saxons. Not all Saxons, just the ones that deserve it, or pissed off my brother.

But the important thing is that I have stuff to keep my mind off the last horrifying days of the Trump administration.

January 16, 2021


Rebellion and the Expanse

This is the longest I've gone without posting in some time. I'm afraid the attack on the Capitol upset me quite a bit and unlike 9/11 where the perpetrators were from outside, the attack on the Capitol was the result of domestic terrorism. The only reason I'm posting now is that I binged watched The Expanse over the last two days and that improved my mood immensely. If you like science fiction and have Amazon Prime you should probably give it the once over.

January 15, 2021


My Parents and My Books

I was talking to Marie last night and I told her I was reading Mordew by Alex Pheby. I mentioned that it had been influenced by Mervyn Peake's books and that led to a brief description of the Gormenghast novels. Marie listened to a brief precis of the books and said, "And your parents let you read that?"

I never thought of it like that. My parents allowed me to read whatever I wanted to and I always assumed it was parental benevolence. But thinking back, they would have been appalled at Titus Groan, Vathek,anything by Harlan Ellison, and if they had discovered the extremely short story Sadastor by Clark Ashton Smith, being God fearing people they would have burned my books in a heart beat:

Listen, for this is the tale that was told to a fair lamia by the demon Charnadis as they sat together on the top of Mophi, above the sources of the Nile, in those years when the sphinx was young. Now the lamia was vexed, for her beauty was grown an evil legend in both Thebais and Elephantine; so that men were become fearful of her lips and cautious of her embrace, and she had no lover for almost a fortnight. She lashed her serpentine tail on the ground, and moaned softly, and wept those mythical tears which a serpent weeps. And the demon told this tale for her comforting:

Long, long ago, in the red cycles of my youth (said Charnadis), I was like all young demons, and was prone to use the agility of my wings in fantastic flights; to hover and poise like a gier-eagle above Tartarus and the pits of Python; or to lift the broad blackness of my vans on the orbit of stars. I have followed the moon from evening twilight to morning twilight; and I have gazed on the secrets of that Medusean face which she averts eternally from the earth. I have read through filming ice the ithyphallic runes on columns yet extant in her deserts; and I know the hieroglyphs which solve forgotten riddles, or hint eonian histories, on the walls of her cities taken by ineluctable snow. I have flown through the triple ring of Saturn, and have mated with lovely basilisks, on isles towering league-high from stupendous oceans where each wave is like the rise and fall of Himalayas. I have dared the clouds of Jupiter, and the black and freezing abysses of Neptune, which are crowned with eternal starlight; and I have sailed beyond to incommensurable suns, compared with which the sun that thou knowest is a corpse-candle in a stinted vault. There, in tremendous planets, I have furled my flight on the terraced mountains, large as fallen asteroids, where, with a thousand names and a thousand images, undreamt-of Evil is served and worshipt in unsurmisable ways. Or, perched in the flesh-colored lips of columnar blossoms, whose perfume was an ecstasy of incommunicable dreams, I have mocked the wiving monsters, and have lured their females , that sang and fawned at the base of my hiding-place.

Now, in my indefatigable questing among the remoter galaxies, I came one day to that forgotten and dying planet which in the language of its unrecorded peoples was called Sadastor. Immense and drear and gray beneath a waning sun, far-fissured with enormous chasms, and covered from pole to pole with the never-ebbing tides of the desert sand, it hung in space without moon or satellite, an abomination and a token of doom to fairer and younger worlds. Checking the speed of my interstellar flight, I followed its equator with a poised and level wing, above the peaks of cyclopean volcanoes, and bare, terrific ridges of elder hills, and deserts pale with the ghastliness of salt, that were manifestly the beds of former oceans.

In the very center of one of these ocean-beds, beyond sight of the mountains that formed its primeval shoreline, and leagues below their level, I found a vast and winding valley that plunged even deeplier into the abysses of this dreadful world. It was walled with perpendicular cliffs and buttresses and pinnacles of a rusty-red stone, that were fretted into a million bizarrely sinister forms by the sinking of the olden seas. I flew slowly among these cliffs as they wound ever downward in tortuous spirals for mile on mile of utter and irredeemable desolation, and the light grew dimmer above me as ledge on ledge and battlement on battlement of that strange red stone upreared themselves between my wings and the heavens. Here, when I rounded a sudden turn of the precipice, in the profoundest depth where the rays of the sun fell only for a brief while at noon, and the rocks were purple with everlasting shadow, I found a pool of dark-green water - the last remnant of the former ocean, ebbing still amid steep, insuperable walls. And from this pool there cried a voice, in accents that were subtly sweet as mortal wine of the mandragora, and faint as the murmuring of shells. And the voice said:

"Pause and remain, I pray, and tell me who thou art, who comest thus to the accursed solitude wherein I die."

Then, pausing on the brink of the pool, I peered into its gulf of shadow, and saw the pallid glimmering of a female form that upreared itself from the waters. And the form was that of a siren, with hair the color of ocean-kelp, and berylline eyes, and a dolphine shaped tail. And I said to her:

"I am the demon Charnadis. But who art thou, who lingerest thus in this ultimate pit of abomination, in the depth of a dying world?"

She answered: "I am a siren, and my name is Lyspial. Of the seas wherein I saw and sported at leisure many centuries ago, and whose gallant mariners I drew to to an enchanted death on the shores of my disastrous isle, there remains only this fallen pool. Alas! For the pool dwindles daily, and when it is wholly gone I too must perish."

She began to weep, and her briny tears fell down and were added to the briny waters.

Fain would I have comforted her, and I said:

"Weep not, for I will lift thee upon my wings and bear thee to some newer world, where the sky-blue waters of abounding seas are shattered to intricate webs of wannest foam, on low shores that are green and aureate with pristine spring. There, perchance for eons, thou shalt have thine abode, and galleys with painted oars and great barges purpureal-sailed shall be drawn upon thy rocks in the red light of sunsets domed with storm, and shall mingle the crash of their figured prows with the sweet sorcery of thy mortal singing."

But still she wept, and would not be comforted, crying:

"Thou art kind, but this would avail me not, for I was born of the waters of this world, and with its waters I must die. Alas! my lovely seas, that ran in unbroken sapphire from shores of perennial blossoms to shores of everlasting snow! Alas! the sea-winds, with their mingled perfumes of brine and weed, and scents of ocean flowers and flowers of the land, and far-blown exotic balsams! Alas! the quinquiremes of cycle-ended wars, and the heavy-laden argosies with sails and cordage of byssus, that plied between barbaric isles with their cargoes of topaz or garnet-coloured wines and jade and ivory idols, in the antique summers that now are less than legend! Alas! the dead captains, the beautiful dead sailors that were borne by the ebbing tide to my couches of amber seaweed, in my caverns underneath a cedared promontory! Alas! the kisses that I laid on their cold and hueless lips, on their sealed marmorean eyelids!"


And sorrow and pity seized me at her words, for I knew that she spoke the lamentable truth, that her doom was in the lessening of the bitter waters. So, after many proffered condolences, no less vague than vain, I bade her a melancholy farewell and flew heavily away between the spiral cliffs where I had come, and clomb the somber skies till the world Sadastor was only a darkling mote far down in space. But the tragic shadow of the siren's fate, and her sorrow, lay grievously upon me for hours, and only in the kisses of a beautiful fierce vampire, in a far-off and young and exuberant world, was I able to forget it. And I tell the now the tale thereof, that haply thou mayest be consoled by the contemplation of a plight that was infinitely more dolorous and irremediable than thine own.

They wouldn't have stood for that shit.

But I was reading science fiction and fantasy, two light hearted genres that were free of subversion. So with my parent's blessing I would read stuff like Harlan Ellison's I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream. Mom read the Bible and the odd religious book, Dad read magazines and newspapers but neither read novels and just assumed what I read was Buck Rogers stuff and dancing hobbits. And a good thing too, my childhood was on the bleak side, emotionally speaking. But my books got me through it. If they had been taken away I would have spiraled downwards to a very dark place.

What, darker then that shit about the demon? Yes, I'm afraid so.

Fortunately I did have my books and with them I've evolved into the bundle of optimism I am today.

January 1, 2021


Pexachu VS Godzilla

The Christmas movie I didn't know I needed.

December 27, 2020


Movie Musings

Personally, I think the two best Episodes of any Trek to date are The Best of Both Worlds Parts 1 and 2 from Star Trek the Next Generation In part one Picard, worrying about the result of his ship's upcoming encounter with the Borg, talks to Guinan and brings up Alaric I's sack of Rome in 410:

We may yet prevail. That's a... a conceit. But... it's a healthy one. I wonder if the Emperor Honorius watching the Visigoths coming over the seventh hill truly realized that the Roman Empire was about to fall. This is just another page in history, isn't it? Will this be the end of *our* civilization? Turn the page.

And that line made me angry back in 1990. Honorius wasn't at Rome, the capitol had been moved to Ravenna. Nor was it the end of the empire. The Western Roman Empire survived until 476 when when a German officer named Odoacer forced Flavius Romulus Augustus, called by everyone Romulus Augustulus (Romulus the Little Augustus), to abdicate. Odoacer then sent the former emperor to the Castellum Lucullanum in Naples and gave him a pension. He was just too pathetic to execute.

But Picard's version of history is more dramatic and the Trek franchise never pretended to be bastion of accuracy.

Generally, if a movie isn't pretending to be a serious, well researched film I'll given it a pass when it comes to stuff I know is wrong. That's why I get angry at Interstellar, Christopher Nolan's movie. Remember the plant blight at the beginning of the film? Dr. Matthew Kleinhenz, a professor in the Department of Horticulture and Crop Science at The Ohio State University had this to say about the blight in an interview:

“I got the biggest kick out of this premise,” Kleinhenz said. “But if I were sitting around talking with the filmmakers I’d be a wet blanket.” Blight, disease, and all the other factors that make crops die off, he explained, don’t usually cut such a wide swath. Also, when one plant form dies off or struggles, that often opens a door for another to thrive.

“The way the biological world is constructed just doesn’t support this scenario,” he said. “There are strains of diseases that wreak havoc on individual crops and even on groups of related regions, but these have to not just be adapted to the crop but to the climate and conditions.”

As long as I'm mentioning Christopher Nolan, fuck this:

Love isn’t something we invented. It’s observable, powerful, it has to mean something… Love is the one thing we’re capable of perceiving that transcends dimensions of time and space.

No problem with that line in a Trek movie, a fantasy or whatever but I had problems with it in Interstellar.

But wait minute, not everyone had problems with that. Natalie Zutter over at Tor wrote Why Do We Reject Love as a Powerful Force in Interstellar? She mentions Madeleine L'Engle's A Wrinkle in Time as a book that used the whole power of love thing. My personal take is that L'Engle is writing what might be described as science fantasy, not unlike C. S Lewis' Space Trilogy.

At any rate, my ground rules are my own. I don't expect much from superhero movies, Star Wars or Trek. I expect more from something like The Expanse and the gold standard for a plausible science fiction movie these days is The Martian, knocking 2001: A Space Odyssey out of the top slot for that sort of thing. And as Moon pointed out today, neither one of us has forgiven Star Trek Into Darkness for the rappelling Klingons

So there you go. This whole thing started with a conversation with a friend. He was appalled by some of the thing he saw in Wonder Woman 1984. I noted those same things but gave the film a pass. On the other hand, he thoroughly enjoyed Zack Snyder's Man of Steel and I have a visceral dislike of that, as well as Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and Justice League. However I'm willing to cut Snyder some slack for Justice League and will watch his four hour director's cut come March. And just so we're clear, viscerally disliking a movie is not the same as saying it's bad.

December 26, 2020


Double Feature Night

Last night I watched The Bishop's Wife and Beauty and the Beast. The second film was the 1946 version, written and directed by Jean Cocteau. The Bishop's Wife turns up on Turner Classic Movies from time to time but I hadn't seen Beauty and the Beast in ages. I have the DVD and when I saw the film listed in the TCM section of HBO Max, I was expecting to see that level of quality. As it turned out this was a restored version and it looked wonderful. Almost put me in the Christmas spirit it did, fortunately my misanthropy came though intact.

December 24, 2020


Christmas 2020

I'm never really fountain of Christmas spirit, being an introvert atheist and all, but this Christmas is pretty bleak, even by my standards. Never the less I decided to trot Gollum out for a couple of days, I'm proud of him. I'm aware I did a half assed job with the hat but half assed was the absolute best I could do. Meanwhile, be careful and let's hope that 2021 is better then 2020.

December 23, 2020


That's All I Can Stands

That's my version of Cyberpunk's main character, V. The hat isn't a style choice, it counts as armor. Now here's V, wearing the same outfit, looking in the bathroom mirror.

The game can't render the hat in the bathroom mirror and when it strips the hat it strips the hair. Now, on one hand I like the Neal Stephenson look. But mirrors have been around since Duke Dukem

With that glitch, I've had enough. There are a lot of people playing Cyberpunk 2077 on the PC who are having a great time, and that's wonderful. But this kind of thing bothers me no end, the game as released is at best an early beta version. In fact it reminds me of Neocron.

But I have more self control these days, so instead of throwing a fit I'm just going to stop playing for a couple of months and see how the game shakes out next year. "Cause I'm all about the self control.

December 15, 2020


First Day in Night City

Blade Runner and Neuromancer owe an awful lot to the detective novels of Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler, as well as to film noir. And that's why while Jackie and I were driving in the rain we saw cops in a flying tank take down some guys with guns. After the police waved us on Jackie, sounding like he just walked out of Roman Polanski's Chinatown, said, "They probably deserved it."

On a less artistic note, I've already encountered a few bugs. Nothing game breaking but inexcusable in a $60 AAA game. It reminds me of how bad Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines was when it was release. I had to wait a year after I bought it until it was in a playable state. I hope it doesn't come to that with Cyberpunk 2077. Also the visuals make me wish I had a Nvidia GeForce RTX 3080. But they aren't available for love or money and so my GTX 180ti will just have to do the best it can.

December 13, 2020


Artifacts from the Future: 2

You're character in Cyberpunk 2077 is called V. You can make V male, female, cisgendered or trans. So I went with a cisgendered male, young but with white dreadlocks as a nod towards my real age. I'm assuming V had his hair made permanently white as a fashion statement, and by hair I mean all his hair.

The car is problematic, it sounds like a gas guzzler but it could be an electric with vrooom sounds added for the cool factor. Part of the problem is V's a nomad who left his clan. I'm not sure if the tech I've seen him use is representative of stuff I'll find in Night City or if the junker car and antique phone simply means that V is poor and he's using what he can get. I do know I made the right decision being a nomad. You have to drive from the get go and the dirt roads are empty. I'll never be comfortable with driving in games but at least I'm getting a feel for how cars handle.

December 10, 2020


Artifacts from the Future: 1

William Gibson coined the term cyberspace in his novel Neuromancer, here's how he described it:

"Cyberspace. A consensual hallucination experienced daily by billions of legitimate operators, in every nation, by children being taught mathematical concepts... A graphic representation of data abstracted from banks of every computer in the human system. Unthinkable complexity. Lines of light ranged in the nonspace of the mind, clusters and constellations of data. Like city lights, receding..."

Gibson didn't even own a computer when he wrote that and the computers that were available back in the early 80s were not exactly working in the realm of unthinkable complexity. Neuromancer was set in a future extrapolated from early 80s technology by a guy who didn't know a lot about early 80s technology but knew an awful lot about what seemed cool. It worked and in 2020 I think it still works although Gibson's Sprawl Trilogy is definitely a period piece.

And that leads to the first picture from Cyberpunk 2077. It's not of a bug, it's from the opening sequence. V is a nomad trying to make a call on his phone but he can't get a radio signal so he drives to a radio tower and plugs his phone into the thing. Cyberpunk 2077 isn't a future extrapolated from 2020. It's people from 2020 trying to imagine people in 1980 imagining a world 97 years in their future. So, like Neuromancer we get body mods and cyberspace, but unlike Neuromancer we get cell phones too.

Of course I'm only half an hour into it, I haven't even encountered a game breaking bug yet, but that's the vibe I'm getting from the game right now.

December 10, 2020


The List for 2020

As usual, games where I completed the story are marked with a +. Four games are marked co op, those are the games I played with Rolf. Onwards and upwards:

Red Dead Redemption 2
Bulletstorm+
Amid Evil
Kentucky Route Zero+
Greedfall+
Divinity Original Sin Enhanced Edition
Black Mesa
Far Cry New Dawn co op+
Bleakshore+
Far Cry Primal
The Division 2 co op+
Divinity Original Sin 2 co op+
Superhot+
Ghost Recon Wilderness co op
The Outer Worlds: Peril on Gorgon+
The Unfinished Swan+
What Remains of Edith Finch+
World of Warcraft
Torchlight 2
Warhammer 40,000: Inquisitor – Martyr+
Watchdogs Legion
Cyberpunk 2077

A few notes, first of all I'll be dipping into Cyberpunk 2077 tomorrow but it's not going to get a lot of play in the next couple of weeks. For one thing it's buggy and I want to see how things shake out. So it will turn up on 2021's list too. So while 22 games are on the list, only 21 of them have gotten substantial play. Of those remaining 21 games I completed 12 of them, 9 by myself and 3 with Rolf. We could have completed Ghost Recon Wilderness but we got bored. Of the three games Rolf and I did finish, I'm happiest that we completed Divinity Original Sin 2. I'd been trying unsuccessfully to complete it for years and I couldn't have done it without Rolf.

The biggest disappointment was Red Dead Redemption 2. It's a slow moving western game and the training/prolog section lasted for 8 hours. By the time I made it to the main game I was bored and just quit. Not saying it's a bad game but it wasn't for me. On the other hand I was pleasantly surprised by Greedfall. It's a solo rpg about colonialism and while the didn't have a big budget I had a great time and would love another game in that universe.

And I completed a puzzle game! It's called The Unfinished Swan and while I'm not sure if I had a burst of inspiration or if the puzzles were very easy but I had a good time.

Marie and I got back into World of Warcraft after eight years. Like the co op games with Rolf, it's gaming as a social activity. Speaking of which, 22 games in a year is a record that I'm attributing to the whole sheltering in place thing. I'm an introvert who doesn't engage in a lot of social activity but even I'm chafing under the necessary restrictions. Gaming took up the slack.

Fair warning, Cyberpunk 2077 unlocks at 7:00 PM this evening. The review copies have been horribly buggy and between that and the fact that they'll be the usual clusterfuck for the first 24 hours, I won't be cracking it open for a day or two. But once it settles down, if it's half as good as its hype I'll be boring you with pictures and stories. Meanwhile, stay safe.

December 9, 2020


Two Gaming Notes

I had intended to play Watch Dogs Legion a bit longer but I had reached a point where it asked more hand/eye coordination then I could muster. I'm disappointed because I was having fun but that sort of thing happens more often then I admit, and I did get 48 hours out of it.

Tomorrow at 7:00 PM EST Cyberpunk 2077 unlocks. It's reported to be riddled with bugs and there's going to be a large game day patch to address them. I intend to grab the patch but I think I'll hold off on playing the game until I hear how the patch works. I am not eager to invite another Neocron into my life right now.

December 8, 2020


Mank, Thalberg and the Marx Brothers

Last night I watched Mank on Netflix and enjoyed it. In the movie Irving Thalberg, MGM's head of production, remarks in passing that the Marx Brothers are barred from his office. Here's the story behind that.

The Marx Brothers' contract with Paramount ended in 1933 with Duck Soup. After that Zeppo left the act to form a theatrical agency with his brother Gummo. Groucho and Chico did radio, and Harpo did a good will tour of the Soviet Union. But Thalberg persuaded Groucho, Harpo and Chico to sign with MGM.

The guys were to have their first meeting with Thalberg. They went to his huge office but after ten minutes Thalberg was called away. They waited for hours and finally Thalberg’s secretary said that they’d have to reschedule for tomorrow. The brothers were somewhat pissed but agreed. The next day they arrived at Thalberg’s office and Thalberg is called away again. The Marx Brothers decided to strike back. Harpo went to the MGM employee cafeteria and came back with a few raw potatoes. They them barricaded Thalberg's door. Thalberg came back for the meeting, couldn’t get in, got help from some security guys and when the got into the office the Marx Brothers were naked roasting potatoes in Thalberg’s fireplace (it was a really huge office).

When Groucho told that story on the Dick Cavett Show he finished with, "And he never kept us waiting again."

I was pleased that the movie referenced that story. And I think Mank is the first serious movie I've watched in some time.

December 5, 2020