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



Throw the bastard out


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 — 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


She Turned Me Into a Newt



I got better.

October 18, 2020


Two Lists of Fantasy Novels

Hey! Time came out with their list of the 100 Best Fantasy Novels. There's been some grumbling about their choices so here's another list. The second list has Mervyn Peake so by that inclusion it's better then Time's list.

Just kidding, it's all subjective, and Time's list includes The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by N. K. Jemisen and The Wandering Unicorn by Manuel Mujica Lainez, both are wonderful.

October 15, 2020


Talking Heads: Once in a Lifetime Starring the G-Man

October 13, 2020


Bloodshed and Bach

I had just finished writing the newsfeed thing I send out from time to time. I had music on in the background and was about to turn it off and start a quick level of Warhammer when the shuffle played the Kyrie Eleison from Bach's Mass in B Minor. And it hit me, that music would go well with Warhammer the whole gothic ambience. And I think it does work rather well here.

Update: My that does end rather abruptly. If I ever do another one I've got to time it better. In my defense it was a spur of the moment decision to take do the video.

October 11, 2020


Four Thirty Gaming

It's well after four in the morning, here's what happened. I was trying to stop a rebellion on some planet. I had killed most of the rebels but the revolutionaries planned to attack the planet's geothermal station. If the controls were destroyed the planet would blow up in a year or so.

Yeah, I know it makes no sense.

There are two ramps that the enemy uses to attack the power station. I had some troops and a kick ass sword, unfortunately that wasn't enough. A sword is a close up weapon and I'd drive them back on one side but couldn't get back to stop the rebels on the other side. I tried it three times and each time the station was destroyed by the first wave of attackers. Rather then rage quit I looked at a couple of YouTube videos, those guys were using guns, not swords or axes. It allowed them to cover both sides, taking out the main threats and leaving the rest for the soldiers. Fortunately I had a pretty good gun in my backpack so I gave the mission another try.

The gun worked, I defeated three waves of attackers and switched to my sword for the boss fight at the end. I'm feeling pretty good, or as good as you get that this hour. The picture shows the aftermath of the fight, happy soldiers and lots of loot.

October 10, 2020


Warhammer 40,000: Inquisitor - Martyr

Warhammer started out as a table top game. Set 40,000 years in the future, its setting was influenced by Tolkien, Lovecraft and Paradide Lost. According to the Wikipedia article:

The setting is, by the admission of its own writers, deliberately absurd and hyperbolic. This applies to the scale. The Imperium of Man has lasted 10,000 years, controls roughly a million planets, and has a population that likely numbers in the trillions. The armaments and tactics seen in the setting are equally nonsensical, such as the heavy usage of melee weaponry, war machines that tower hundreds of feet above the ground (and thus make easy targets for artillery), and magic-users who place curses on their foes.

Last year I played Warhammer 40,000: Chaosbane. It wasn't great but for a couple of weeks it scratched my gaming itch. So at the end of a month long gaming drought I bought another action game set in that universe. My character is a miserable, unnamed inquisitor for the Empire, wading into laser fire in a suit of armor and a big ass sword.

But I'm mentioning the game because the ship, space stations and bases look like something out of the Alien universe. They're dilapidated, they're dirty and they look like they're ten years late for the scrap heap. Hell, there are even giant fans scattered about for no discernable reason.

From what I gather the game was in poor shape when it was released in 2018. The developer, Neocore Games, wrestled it into good shape by 2019 and seven hours in I've had no problems. At any rate this game should keep me calm for a bit, then on November 18 Cyberpunk 2077 arrives. That should take me into 2021.

October 9, 2020


Migrating Music

In 2016 my iPhone died, killed by a fall in a parking lot. So I went to the Verizon Store and told them I'd by a Samsung phone but I didn't know how to migrate my music from the iPhone. They did and half an hour later I walked out with a Galaxy S7. Later I looked through my new phone's directory and discovered that the music folder was empty. The guy at the store had added a folder called iPhone and that folder contained another folder called music. It seemed messy but the Google Play app was able to sort it out that was good enough for me.

Four years later I'm in my car firing up Google Play to synch it with the car's radio and I get the message that Google Play is shutting down. The phone politely asked me if I wanted to install YouTube Music to handle my music needs. When I got home I tried it but alas, it couldn't find my music. But being a likely lad I copied the files from iPhone>music to the music folder in my phone's main directory. YouTube Music worked.

But I also found it slow and overstuffed with features designed to get me to stream music rather then listening to the files I already had. After doing some research I downloaded Poweramp, it just plays music. Once I verified that it would indeed play my music, and being a bit paranoid, I copied iPhone>music from my phone to my back up drive and then deleted it from the phone. You know, just in case something horrible happens in 2022 and I need those files. As far as my car is concerned, nothing has changed, it will connect with Poweramp just as happily as it connected to Google Play.

I note that if I used Google Play as a streaming service and wished to switch to something like Spotify, things would be more complicated, but I just listen to songs I purchased so it was pretty simple. Also, if you do use Goggle play, you can use it to listen to your music until December, then you'll have to find another way of doing things.

October 1, 2020


If WWI Was a Bar Fight

Since I'm a good ways into The Guns of August I googled this old thing. It's cruel humor but I find The Death of Stalin hilarious. One thing, just like a lot of the jokes on XKCD only work if you have a fair knowledge of math and physics, this only works if you know the basic outline of World War I.

Germany, Austria and Italy are standing together in the middle of a pub when Serbia bumps into Austria and spills Austria’s pint.

Austria demands Serbia buy it a whole new suit because of the new beer stains on its trouser leg.

Germany expresses its support for Austria’s point of view.

Britain recommends that everyone calm down a bit.

Serbia points out that it can’t afford a whole suit, but offers to pay for the cleaning of Austria’s trousers.

Russia and Serbia look at Austria.

Austria asks Serbia who it’s looking at.

Russia suggests that Austria should leave its little brother alone.

Austria inquires as to whose army will assist Russia in doing so.

Germany appeals to Britain that France has been looking at it, and that it's sufficiently out of order that Britain not intervene.

Britain replies that France can look at who it wants to, that Britain is looking at Germany too, and what is Germany going to do about it?

Germany tells Russia to stop looking at Austria, or Germany will render Russia incapable of such action anymore.

Britain and France ask Germany whether it’s looking at Belgium.

Turkey and Germany go off into a corner and whisper. When they come back, Turkey makes a show of not looking at anyone.

Germany rolls up its sleeves, looks at France, and punches Belgium.

France and Britain punch Germany. Austria punches Russia. Germany punches Britain and France with one hand and Russia with the other.

Russia throws a punch at Germany, but misses and nearly falls over. Japan calls over from the other side of the room that it’s on Britain’s side, but stays there. Italy surprises everyone by punching Austria.

Australia punches Turkey, and gets punched back. There are no hard feelings because Britain made Australia do it.

France gets thrown through a plate glass window, but gets back up and carries on fighting. Russia gets thrown through another one, gets knocked out, suffers brain damage, and wakes up with a complete personality change.

Italy throws a punch at Austria and misses, but Austria falls over anyway. Italy raises both fists in the air and runs round the room chanting.

America waits till Germany is about to fall over from sustained punching from Britain and France, then walks over and smashes it with a barstool, then pretends it won the fight all by itself.

By now all the chairs are broken and the big mirror over the bar is shattered. Britain, France and America agree that Germany threw the first punch, so the whole thing is Germany’s fault. While Germany is still unconscious, they go through its pockets, steal its wallet, and buy drinks for all their friends.

The only thing I'd add is that Belgium probably felt that Germany deserved to get rolled.

September 27, 2020


Trump at the Supreme Court

Trump went to the Supreme Court to pay his respects to Justice Ginsburg. He dislike non scripted encounters with the public because he seems to have enough self knowledge to realize he's hated by the majority of Americans.

The paradox of Trump is that while he's incapable of giving love, he craves it for himself. And in moments like these you can see him briefly realize that he's damned.

September 24, 2020


Busby Berkeley

It may be a byproduct of reaching my 60s but I've developed an unexpected fondness for Busby Berkeley musicals. Since Comcast moved Turner Classic Movies to their sports tier I've picked up a few of them on Amazon Prime.

Last night I watched Gold Diggers of 1933. This guy, Ned Sparks, plays Barney Hopkins, a producer trying to raise money to put on a show.

And I'm posting a picture of him because he was one of those guys who turned up in very old Warner Brothers cartoons that were shown regularly on television when I was a kid.

Back in the early 60s I had no idea who he was although later I figured out that he was a movie star back in another age of the world. Here's the basic plot from Wikipedia:

The "gold diggers" are four aspiring actresses: Polly (Ruby Keeler), an ingenue; Carol (Joan Blondell), a torch singer; Trixie (Aline MacMahon), a comedian; and Fay (Ginger Rogers), a glamour puss.

The film was made in 1933, during the Great Depression and contains numerous direct references to it. It begins with a rehearsal for a stage show, which is interrupted by the producer's creditors who close down the show because of unpaid bills.

At the unglamorous apartment shared by three of the four actresses (Polly, Carol, and Trixie), the producer, Barney Hopkins (Ned Sparks), is in despair because he has everything he needs to put on a show, except money. He hears Brad Roberts (Dick Powell), the girls' neighbor and Polly's boyfriend, playing the piano. Brad is a brilliant songwriter and singer who not only has written the music for a show, but also offers Hopkins $15,000 in cash to back the production. Of course, they all think he is kidding, but he insists that he is serious – he offers to back the show, but refuses to perform in it, despite his talent and voice.

Brad comes through with the money and the show goes into production, but the girls are suspicious that he must be a criminal since he is cagey about his past and will not appear in the show, even though he is clearly more talented than the aging juvenile lead (Clarence Nordstrom) they have hired. It turns out, however, that Brad is in fact a millionaire's son whose family does not want him associating with the theatre. On opening night, in order to save the show when the juvenile cannot perform (due to his lumbago acting up), Brad is forced to play the lead role.

And hilarity ensues.

The thing that amuses the hell out of me is that the musical numbers were supposed to be happening on an actual stage. But Berkeley would stage these gigantic sequences that would have trouble fitting on a football field.

Berkeley was the musical director for Gold Diggers of 1933, Mervyn LeRoy was the director for the rest of the film. Berkeley was also musical director for Footlight Parade and 42nd Street with Lloyd Bacon doing the non-musical stuff. And in Gold Diggers of 1935 Berkeley was the sole director.

I'm not trying to convert anyone, I'm just saying I've developed an appreciation for very old musicals.

September 24, 2020


Sparrowmoon's New Spell

The thing beast I'm riding is Sparrowmoon, she purchased a spell that turns her into that flying thing. Given my lack of a sense of direction, this will make getting around a lot easier.

September 20, 2020


Newton Burns Me

My cat likes to drink from the bathroom sink. I used to turn it on for him when I got up but then he’d start to scream outside my bedroom door at five in the morning to wake me up, so that shit ended. I’d just turn on the water for him when I damn well felt like it.

Today Newton started crying with his play with me voice, and being a nice guy I picked up his wire toy with the cardboard at the end and started to play with him. He’s jumping up and down, hunting the thing. He runs into the bathroom and I follow. Before I know it he’s on the sink, waiting for me to turn the water on, I wasn’t playing with him, he’d been playing with me.

I stalk out and then think for a minute. I go back to the bathroom and in my best Emperor Palpantine voice say, “Your duplicity must be rewarded.”

I turned the water on.

September 19, 2020


Random Stuff

I finally finished the combined read of Orlando Innamorato and Orlando Furioso and I must admit it got to be a bit of a slog towards the end. I probably should have taken a brake between the two books. If you're interested Orlando Furioso is the better poem. Paradoxically, I recommend the prose translation by Guido Waldman if you plan to tackle it yourself, I don't think Barbara Reynolds' poetic translation quite works. But perhaps I'll give it a second try in a few years.

***

Since then I've read a very short book about Charles Dodgson's interest in photography and I'm half way through Rage, Bob Woodward's second book on the Trump administration. It's not going to change anybody's mind but it does drive home the point that even if Trump was a left wing Democrat he would still be intellectually and emotionally unsuited for the presidency.

***

I'm in one of my insomniac periods but I finally made up my sleep deficit. I'm tempted to celebrate with some beer but something tells me that drinking stimulants late ant night would not be a good thing, at least not until my sleeping patterns become a tad more regular.

September 16, 2020


You Say Reavers, I Say Marauders

Peril on Gorgon sets itself up as a noir mystery. A woman named Wilhelmina Ambrose hires you to find her mother's journal on an asteroid named Gorgon. Gorgon was the site of a project by Spacer's Choice, one of the major corporations in the system, to develop a drug that would give workers more energy and lessen their need for sleep. The project collapsed, Spacer's Choice evacuated the asteroid and Wilhelmina's mom, Doctor Olivia Ambrose is believed to be dead and she's been blamed for the disastrous outcome on Gorgon. Wilhelmina hopes the journal will clear her mother's name.

Along the way you fight lots of evil grunts called Marauders. They're the equivalent of orcs in a fantasy game. As you travel through the ruined pharmaceutical complex you discover the truth behind the Marauders. The drug Dr. Ambrose was trying to develop, Adrena-Time, had a side effect that made the test subjects psychotically aggressive. They became the Marauders. In fact the Marauders are still addicted to the stuff and that's why so many of them hang out on Gorgon, scrounging for Adrena-Time hypos in the ruined labs.

But that plot twist was used in Serenity back in 2005. The marauders were called Reavers and the drug was an atmospheric agent designed to inhibit aggression. It was tested on a small colony and it worked too well, 90% of the colony's population just laid down and vegged out until they died. The other 10% became psychotically aggressive and became Reavers.

The Outer Wilds made no secret of its root in Joss Whedon's Firefly my ship, Unreliable looks like Mal's ship, Serenity. My mechanic, Parvati, is a lot like Serenity's mechanic, Kaylee. Fine, I get that, but borrowing the Reaver storyline from Serenity seems a bit much. And because I was a Firefly fan, the big reveal fell flat for me.

All that being said, it was nice to be back in that universe for a little while.

Update: I've done just about everything there is to do in this expansion, including killing the feared Marauder, Charles from Accounting. Every so often I like hanging around in a game world after the quests are done, I did that in Skyrim and Witcher 3. But they were open world game with procedurally generated bad guys. The Outer Worlds isn't like that. Still I may stay on Gorgon a bit longer. I've pretty much settled on Nyoka and Ellie as the NPCs I take out with me. I may take some of the others in my crew out for a spin, just to level them up for a bit. Meanwhile, here's a shot taken from Gorgon looking up at the Ambrose Estate on an asteroid orbiting Gorgon, a nice touch.

September 13, 2020


The Unreliable

The Outer Wilds has two parents. The first is Fallout New Vegas, the second is Firefly. My ship, Unreliable, has a distinct resemblance to Serenity, Captain Reynolds' ship and my mechanic, Parvati, owes an awful lot to Mal's mechanic, Kaylee. All well and good.

I've been playing the expansion to The Outer Wilds for a few hours now and I've reached what seems to be the big twist, you know, the twist that changes everything. I was suitably impressed until I remembered the plot of the Firefly movie, Serenity. It took me an hour or two and I was somewhat disappointed when I got the connection with the movie. Of course I haven't finished the game so there may be a major fake out coming up. And I'm still having fun albeit somewhat subdued fun.

September 12, 2020


Gaming Update

Rolf and I had started playing The Division a few days ago. After all, we finished The Division 2, the first one should be a breeze. It didn't work out that way, Rolf found the gameplay repetitive and I found it too difficult for me. My hand/eye coordination was nothing to write home about in in my 20s and it hasn't gotten any better in my 60s. So, Rolf is going to play Horizon Zero Dawn and I was psyched for The Outer Worlds: Peril on Gorgon dlc for Obsidian's answer to Firefly that I finished last year.

It was supposed to be released on the Epic store today, it's 5:30 PM and it looks like it isn't showing up today. Seems that Epic accidentally put it on the store yesterday and some people bought it and downloaded it. So Epic took it down and released an emergency patch for The Outer Worlds that would remove the dlc. That worked but since the dlc made changes to your saved games, folks who had it early found that their saved games would no longer work. Obsidian posted this helpful message on Twitter:

And that's been the only message from Obsidian. Console players did get the dlc today but a lot of them have a different problem. The dlc requires you to have finished a quest called Radio Free Monarch. But it also requires you not to have gone on to the final area of the game, Tartarus. But not to worry, the game autosaves before you leave the ship on Tartarus. Unfortunately console players don't always have the luxury of keeping around a lot of saved games and some of them just have saves on Tartarus. So even if they buy the dlc, it won't run for them. Well it will providing they start a new game and finish everything up to and including Radio Free Monarch.

And I can't get upset about this, I mean the world is fucked right now.

But Epic is trying to take on Apple in court and trying to set itself up ad the spunky alternative to Steam. So the people running Epic might be a little angsty about things right now.

September 9, 2020


Gaming in the Year of the Great Plague

You know the last big solo game I played? It was Greedfall and I finished that on 2/1/20. I've played other games since then and finished three co-op games with Rolf but Greedfall was the last big solo game I finished. No wonder I feel a bit sluggish.

But this Wednesday the first DLC for The Outer Worlds arrives, it's called Peril on Gorgon:

I don't expect it to last as long as The Outer Worlds did but if I get 15 or 20 hours out if it I'll be happy. Then on 11/18/20 Cyberpunk 2077 arrives, it's by CD Projekt RED, the people who did Witcher 3, a game I played for 178 hours. With luck Cyberpunk 2077 will carry me over until 2021.

September 6, 2020