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Author MarcusRowland

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Recent entries from Meme-Free Zone - the blog of MarcusRowland

NOTE: This blog has been rated FR15 by the author. Blog content is not moderated by TtH

OK, once I got the correct version (which is a bug fix for problems caused by anti-virus programs) I've managed to set up a virtual XP machine with the software I want to use and a printer driver, and got it activated. Can't actually find the files I've previously created with this program, which is a bit annoying, but I really only need to re-create one, everything else will be new.

Question - while I'm not planning to use this for internet access, I may end up needing to do so. Does it have any anti-virus protection from the software that's already installed under Windows 7, or do I need to add something?

While I could RTFM, it's 300+ pages and I'm hoping someone may already know!

later - asked several places, apparently there is a small chance of a virus infecting the virtual machine, but very little of it infecting anything else before it gets taken out by my anti-virus software. Since this will probably only be used for a few hours a year, and I don't really plan on using the browser at all, I think it's an acceptable risk.

later still - on reflection I've installed Avast in the virtual PC - no reason not to, and I might as well have the extra protection.
Posted: 26 Aug 14 14:56 • Comments
I want to run some software that REALLY doesn't like running on my Windows 7 PC, and I really don't want to upgrade to Professional just so I can run one program under XP. But I think I have an old XP install CD somewhere, and Virtualbox looks like it'll let me run XP under Windows 7 (or possibly on my Linux box) - does anyone have any experience of it, and know if there's any down-side to it?
Posted: 25 Aug 14 15:39 • Comments
I was looking for 3D converters for SLRs on eBay (and decided they're way too expensive, but that's irrelevant) and came across this. It appears to be a 35mm f11-f22 manual perspective control lens suitable for Nikon etc. SLRs, there's aperture control but I think fixed focus. It isn't something I'd want to use myself, but if anyone reading this is interested in architectural photography it may be interesting - probably not wonderful, given plastic lens elements, but cheap enough it might be worth getting just to play with perspective techniques.
Posted: 23 Aug 14 19:41 • Comments
...was pretty good, although most of the plot elements were recycled from previous new Who stories. The new dynamic between the Doctor and Clara looks interesting, and although the story was mostly set up to introduce the new Doctor's personality etc., it worked reasonably well, and brought back everyone's favourite Victorians. At the end we have a "new" character whom I suspect may be someone we've seen before - The Master in her first female regeneration. The looniness, glee etc. seemed right for the character, and it's the ship the fans have wanted for a LONG time. I suspect it will not end well...

And next week there are Daleks!
Posted: 23 Aug 14 16:25 • Comments
My friend Roger WINOLJ has a son who has just done technical work on a student film that may be of interest - H.P. Lovecraft's From Beyond. It's quite well done, about the only criticism I have is that the narrator is very obviously British, where it's clear that the story was written with an American narrator, and pronounces Tillinghast differently at different points in the story. VERY creepy anyway, and I thoroughly recommend it.

For some reason embedding is disabled, but it works best at high resolution anyway.
Posted: 21 Aug 14 15:26 • Comments
Now I really wish I'd decided to go to Shamrokon - I've just realised that it's the Notting Hill Carnival this weekend, noise levels will go through the roof! For some reason I thought it was the end of next week. I hope that everyone who does go will have a good time anyway.
Posted: 21 Aug 14 10:03 • Comments
Haven't posted from the Worldcon because I've been busy and things have been going well, all my panels were fun and I'll be running a game tomorrow. There's no juicy gossip or scandal I'm aware of. Just sitting in the auditorium waiting for the Hugo Award ceremony to start; if I can I'll post the results as comments as they are announced, but if they ask people to hold off until the ceremony ends I will.

All now posted!
Posted: 17 Aug 14 14:44 • Comments
The Master is a better employer than the British government.

Compare how both get Torchwood out of the way when they might otherwise ask awkward questions:

The Master - sends them to the Himalayas on a wild goose chase.
HM Govt. - blows up their HQ and sends assassins after them.

Of course nobody's perfect, and the Master does occasionally terminate employees who have outlived their usefulness or get on his nerves - e.g. Chan-To, though in that case it wasn't actually The Master who originally hired her, but his predecessor Yana.

Any thoughts?
Posted: 7 Aug 14 09:19 • Comments
The iMac's lower 512mb arrived today and works perfectly, so I now have a 1gb 700mhz gem of 2003-ish computer design. Not sure where it's going to end up - probably my bedroom if I can summon up the energy to run the network cable, but probably not until after the Worldcon. Since I have guests on Saturday and need to clear up its immediate destination is a corner of my sitting room behind one of the armchairs.

By sheer chance the steam engine fuel also arrived today and I gave that a trial run. Works, but I think next time will have to be outdoors, the smell of the fuel burning is a little overpowering.

Next thing to do tonight - clean out the snake tank. Ah, the joys of pet ownership...
Posted: 5 Aug 14 15:44 • Comments
Someone local offered a 32" LCD TV on freecycle this afternoon. So I asked for it, thinking I had the usual snowball's chance in hell... and ended up collecting it this evening. Just set it up with an old freeview box in my bedroom, it's working pretty well. It's an oldish model but the specification is reasonable for its day. I think it's this one, but it might be an earlier one from the same manufacturer so I can't guarantee the specification is right.

1366 X 768 Resolution, Brightness 500 Cd/m², Contrast Ratio 600:1 - so not incredibly bright and the contrast is a bit wishy-washy, but it's certainly good enough for occasional use in my bedroom.

VERY pleased!
Posted: 3 Aug 14 16:02 • Comments
The bird feeder outside my kitchen window is currently getting a lot of attention from blue tits - seem to be several smallish ones, I'm wondering if they hatched earlier this year though it seems a bit too early for them to be flying. Most of them have got the idea of sticking their beaks into the holes to pull out seeds, but there is at least one that's persistently trying to peck its way through the clear plastic. Not sure if that makes him an idiot or unusually intelligent, able to recognize food even when he can't smell or taste it.
Posted: 1 Aug 14 07:54 • Comments
Guardians of the Galaxy wasn't great art, but it was a lot of fun, from the alien abduction of Peter Quill (then aged eight-ish) moments after his mother's death, a fast forward 28 years, then through some fun crime stuff to the moment when Quill and his associates become the titular Guardians and save the galaxy from a stolen McGuffin, one of the Infinity Gems, which is wanted by Thanos, a rather nasty Kree called Ronan, and lots of others.

It isn't without flaws, largely the result of its comic-book origins and decision to give it a 12A rating - most notably, we never really see the results of the frequent use of weapons and general violence; at one point the walking talking(?) tree Groot is nice to a child, later in the film we know logically that the child has to be dead, but we aren't shown it, or much else to point out that people are dying here, and in large numbers, at least in part because of the hero's actions.

Despite this weakness I enjoyed the film; the plot makes about as much sense as most comics, e.g. more than the average Star Trek / Star Wars movie, the sets and special effects are gorgeous and definitely inspired by the comics, and the characterization is pretty good, with running gag about the various aliens not understanding Earth metaphors ("But who put sticks up their asses? It sounds very cruel?"), Rocket Racoon's addiction to seriously overpowered weapons, and so forth. Incidentally, I discovered that I was scarily on the money with my characterisation of a Rocket-like Meerkat in a Star Wars game over the weekend; about the only difference was that Rocket never actually stepped out of a lift to assist two Jedi, leaving a pile of dead guards behind him, and said "Say hello to their leetle friend!" so I think I came out ahead on points. But Rocket has much bigger guns.

There are two short scenes in the end credits, neither very important; one shows Drax the Destroyer relaxing by sharpening his knives after th...
Posted: 31 Jul 14 11:44 • More • Comments
Just realised that Guardians of the Galaxy is on release already, thought it wasn't out for a couple more weeks. Well, I didn't have any other plans for this afternoon...
Posted: 31 Jul 14 04:24 • Comments
...was one of these


Condition not as nice as this, there are water marks around the filler and some mild corrosion on the steering axle, and the water gauge is a bit grungy, but I think it's in working order, won't know for sure until I can get some fuel tablets and test it - there wasn't any with it so I just walked a couple of miles to a shop in Camden that i thought would have it, only to find that it closed down several months ago. Never mind, it's easy to get on ebay.

This cost me £20, and since they seem to be on offer for more than £100 on eBay I think I got a good deal - I'll probably play with it for a while then sell it on.
Posted: 30 Jul 14 12:19 • Comments
I have an idea for a follow-up to my Thor story - this time short and not too serious. One of the things in there is this conversation between Thor and Tony Stark - does it seem right for the characters?

“Man of Iron!”

“Hey, Thor, how’s it going?”

“Well! We were attacked by Hydra in London, and many of their agents have been captured.”

“I heard something about that, but the reports were a little confusing. Something about helpful mutants?”

“It was actually wizardry, but I am not supposed to say so. I was told that your head might explode if you tried to understand it.”

“Magic... Riiight... Okay, leaving that for the moment (goes on to explain the current problem)"

Does this seem plausible for them - especially, Tony Stark dropping the topic so easily?
Posted: 29 Jul 14 17:11 • Comments
I didn't want to jinx it by saying anything in case more problems arose, but I finally got clearance to give blood again last week, and gave blood for the hundredth time today - only two years later than expected! Fortunately all went well, and apart from feeling just a little drained (sorry!) I'm fine. Should be resuming regular donations.
Posted: 29 Jul 14 13:23 • Comments
Are we told Sam Wilson's rank in Captain America: The Winter Soldier?

We're told he's a specially trained USAF Pararescue veteran - looking at the Wikipedia article on this organisation, most of the notable people it mentions (e.g. the medal winners etc.) seem to be sergeants. Does it seem reasonable to give him that rank if it isn't mentioned in the film? Do we ever see him in uniform?

Comics are unfortunately no help because he has a completely different background there.

Posted: 28 Jul 14 17:24 • Comments
Continuum is going well - so far I've played or run games in every slot of the con:

Friday evening I played Victorian Call of Cthulhu, and survived the adventure with my sanity reasonably intact, mostly because I was electrocuted and unconscious through the final encounter. Also because I'd luckily thought to equip the party with bottles of lamp oil, which they used on the Big Bad before it could assimilate us and convert us to a mixture of bloody pulp and bone fragments. Considering just how horrible the monster was, we were very lucky that nobody was killed or went permanently insane, though a couple came close.

On Saturday morning I ran Pyramid Scheme, my Forgotten Futures adventure, with some good players and fun role playing. They successfully found their way into the Tomb of the Emperors and found the ghastly secret of Mad Empress Margaret, and were the first group to correctly guess what had really happened to her.

Saturday afternoon was GURPS Discworld with Phil Masters as GM, and some silliness with a group of wizards setting up Sto Helit's magical college. I don't think I particularly distinguished myself in this one, apart from pioneering the use of "teacher" as a skill for interrogating children, since I kept on going off after red herrings.

Sunday evening was Kingdom, a crisis management game, in which we were the crew of an STL spaceship which found that it had been beaten to its target system. This sort of worked, but seemed to drag a bit due to a fairly clunky resolution system and players who did not know how to keep scenes short. We only reached the first crisis point by 11 PM, and nobody felt much like going on after that so we ended there.

Today I'm playing the Laundry RPG (SAN loss inevitable, I fear) then running Monster Mash, a Diana Warrior Princess game. Not sure what I'll be doing tonight, but hopefully another game - wish me luck!

later ...
Posted: 27 Jul 14 04:47 • More • Comments
The collapse of SHIELD leads to the release of a dangerous wizard, and problems in London for Buffy, Thor, and their friends.

Part V - the aftermath...

See chapter 1 for disclaimers etc.

On AO3:

London Calling
Marcus L. Rowland


“Your friend’s lucky to be alive,” said the neurosurgeon. “We were going to start off with an MRI scan, then someone mentioned Hydra and Doctor Tompkins remembered some of the reports from America, so we put him into an electromagnetically-screened room and tested him with passive sensors first. Good thing too.”

Giles stared at the X-ray of Ethan’s skull, and the devices embedded in and around his eye. “They must have wanted to be sure he couldn’t disobey them.”

“I’ve already told the police, it’ll probably make a big difference to the charges brought against him, whatever they are, if he was acting under duress.”

“I’d imagine so,” said Giles, “It’ll be interesting to hear his side of the story.”

“The magnetic effects of an MRI scan would have probably detonated the power pack or ripped the entire mechanism out of his brain. It would have killed him either way.”

“Can you remove it?”

“Certainly. It’s tricky, but nothing like as bad as a deep brain tumour, though I’m afraid that he’ll probably have reduced vision in that eye, if we can save it at all. There may be some short term paralysis too. We’ll keep him under until we’ve operated, just to be on the safe side, but between the screening and the dam...
Posted: 24 Jul 14 17:36 • More • Comments
The collapse of SHIELD leads to the release of a dangerous wizard, and problems in London for Buffy, Thor, and their friends.

Part IV - things start happening...

See chapter 1 for disclaimers etc.

On AO3:

London Calling
Marcus L. Rowland


“Have you actually been to bed at all?” Buffy asked Giles, sitting on a corner of his desk and helping herself to a Garibaldi biscuit from a plate that sat next to the cold remains of a cup of tea.

“Well… not as such. I’ve been finalising arrangements and coordinating with the teams in the field.”

“Yeah, I heard about that. You seem to have half the slayers in London thinking the apocalypse is coming. The rest think you’re gearing up for surprise inspections. News flash… they’re getting upset, you might want to turn it down a notch or two.”

“I keep thinking there’s something we’re missing.”

“Maybe, but you’re not gonna find it if you’re too tired to think properly.”

“Maybe you’re right.”

“Get to bed for a few hours, Dawn and I will hold things down.”

“But Buffy…”

“Bed. Or do you want me to carry you and tuck you in?”

“Damn. All right, but for goodness sake call me if there’s any sign of Ethan.”

* * * * *

“Find anything interesting?” asked Darcy.

Jane looked up from the table of old ornaments she was examining, and said “I found some astronomy magazines on the book table, but they’...
Posted: 23 Jul 14 13:58 • More • Comments
The collapse of SHIELD leads to the release of a dangerous wizard, and problems in London for Buffy, Thor, and their friends.

Part III - the calm before the storm...

See chapter 1 for disclaimers etc.

On AO3:

London Calling
Marcus L. Rowland


“The police have found the car used in the robbery,” said Giles. “Ethan abandoned it in the short-stay parking area at Westfield shopping centre yesterday evening. That’s only a couple of miles from the shop. The car-park operators were going to clamp it but they noticed that it had been hot-wired and called the police. When they searched it they found the hammer and one of the missing pieces.”

“It’s definitely Ethan?” asked Dawn.

“There’s security camera footage,” said Giles. “Unfortunately it simply shows him waving at the camera then leaving. There are four underground stations and a dozen or so bus stops in easy walking distance, and we don’t have the time or resources to check his movements from there. He could be anywhere in the country by now.”

“He won’t be,” said Buffy. “He probably knows you’re here, and he couldn’t resist a chance to show off again. Waving at the camera? Who else would even recognize him?”

“What about the police?” asked Dawn.

“They’re looking for him, of course, but I wouldn’t hold out too much hope. As far as they’re concerned he’s simply someone who stole some statues, not a murderer or a terrorist.”

“With Ethan that may just be a matter of time,” said...
Posted: 22 Jul 14 11:17 • More • Comments
The collapse of SHIELD leads to the release of a dangerous wizard, and problems in London for Buffy, Thor, and their friends.

Part II - the plot begins to emerge...

See chapter 1 for disclaimers etc.

On AO3:

London Calling
Marcus L. Rowland


“Kensington Church Street next,” said Dawn, looking at her check-list, “there are a couple of antique shops there that occasionally handle magical artefacts, they’re pretty expensive, but it’s just possible Ethan might buy something. We might as well walk, it isn’t far, and the traffic’s really snarled up today.”

“Okay.” They walked together in silence for several minutes, then Buffy said “Okay, I’ve got to ask. What happened to what’s his name? Your boyfriend? You haven’t mentioned him once since I got into town.”

“I haven’t got one.”

“Sure you have, you spent a fortune calling him the last time you were in Cleveland.”

“That was four years ago, Buffy, I broke up with him a year later, you really weren’t paying attention. Pretty sure I mentioned it.”

“Three years ago? How the hell did that happen?”

“You were busy in Cleveland, I was busy in Cambridge, and he had to transfer to Sheffield University. We just drifted apart, I guess neither of us was ready for commitment. It wasn’t really anyone’s fault.”

“And since then?”

“I’ve had a few dates, nothing serious. Don’t worry, the gossip mill hasn’t let you down, there just hasn’t been any juicy news.”
Posted: 21 Jul 14 11:51 • More • Comments
Someone's post on freecycle tonight:

Wanted pc mousse (chalk farm) by xxxxxx
Hi,I am looking for a mousse for my laptop. If anyone has one that they don't use,ley me know. Thanks

I have some low-fat lemon mousses in my fridge...
Posted: 20 Jul 14 15:53 • Comments