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Author MarcusRowland


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

The Campanile has moved me to one of their normal rooms - about half the size, but it has a reasonably sized table area with spare sockets, more seating, and a bathroom with a cubicle shower. Feels a lot more comfortable.

Con's going well so far - just taking a breather between program items to pop back to the hotel and check everything's OK and check email, since I don't have wifi access at the Plaza. Good fun so far, a lot of enjoyable items, and tomorrow I'm on a panel talking fanfic. See some of you there?
Posted: 18 Apr 14 15:20 • Comments
For some reason my hotel room (in the Campanaille, Glasgow SECC) is "accessible" for wheelchair users - not sure how this happened since I didn't book it intentionally, but the hotel are firm that it's the right room and I'm not causing a problem for any disabled guests.

So, first impressions; apparently disabled people need little or no table space, since the only horizontal surfaces are a small shelf holding the TV and phone with a small amount of extra space, and a small highish shelf with the kettle. The available space is just about enough for a laptop, except that there's no accessible mains socket - it's behind the TV which can't be moved. The only place in the room with an accessible socket is the kettle shelf, way too small for most laptops.

There's no curtain in the bathroom for the shower, so water presumably goes all over the floor, which does not feel especially non-slip. The razor socket seems a bit high for someone in a wheelchair and there's no shelf to put a razor or electric toothbrush down safely while plugged in; there's a small flat bit by the sink but it would be easy to get it wet or drop it in the basin. The only flat place to put e.g. cosmetics or medication is the window sill on the other side of the basin.

The basin is also too small to put the kettle under the tap and fill it with more than a small cup of water - you have to tilt it about 45 degrees.

I don't know if this is the norm for accessible rooms, so far I am not impressed. I've asked for another room, but they can't do it until tomorrow at the earliest. We'll see what happens.

Later - it occurs to me that a disabled occupant might well want to recharge an electric wheelchair overnight, use a CPAP machine, etc. There is nowhere to plug them in.
Posted: 17 Apr 14 12:29 • Comments
I've apparently lost my mobile phone at some point since Sunday afternoon, when I used it for the first time in months.

No big deal, it's a cheapo Samsung with about £5 left on the Pay as You Go plan - I can replace it for about £23 including £20 credit - but a bit of a nuisance, and a waste of a reasonably good phone. The one I'll probably get to replace it is the Samsung 1200, which is either the same model or a lot like it, with an Orange plan so I get back the remaining credit on the old phone

Anyone got a better alternative in a REALLY basic phone available in the UK.
Posted: 16 Apr 14 14:27 • Comments
The London Evening Standard's support for the new and piss-poor "London Live" TV channel (owned by the same people and running heavily to repeats) is getting embarrassing. Today more than half of their TV review page is devoted to the channel, including a repeat of a mediocre episode of Spaced as one of three "The best shows to watch with Twitter" (one of the others is on this channel too). There are 9 programmes on from 6 PM until the close, of which everything from 8.00 to 10.00 PM is a repeat, as is the last programme at 11.30

Admittedly there doesn't seem to be much on tonight generally on any channel, but crap like this means that this channel is VERY low on my "to watch" list. London could probably do with a good local TV channel - unfortunately this just isn't it.
Posted: 15 Apr 14 14:21 • Comments
I'm working on the next chunk of my Dexter / NCIS / Burn Notice story, and just began another paragraph of Michael Westen's spy lore with the phrase "When you're a spy..." So I did a search, and it's the thirteenth time I've used the phrase since I began the story. I really should have set it up as a macro!
Posted: 13 Apr 14 17:08 • Comments
For the historically inclined:

This map superimposes Google maps and Victorian Ordnance survey maps of London circa 1893-1896. I've already found some interesting surprises including a row of houses across the road from my house that was demolished to make room for railway lines some time between then and the 1940s.

Update - I posted this to the Illustrationlittle_details comm and got several more recommendations:

1746 and 1869-80 surveys

Scotland (and the rest of the UK) - lots of different maps

OS maps:

Aerial images, 1919-1953:
Posted: 11 Apr 14 16:19 • Comments
I'm thinking of getting a small powered subwoofer for my home cinema setup, which is in a room about 10' x 15' with a lot of sound absorbent books, sofas, etc.. Doesn't need to be hugely powerful, I'm just looking for a little more clarity on low frequency sounds. Really DON'T want to shake the house and annoy the neighbours!

Any recommendations?
Posted: 8 Apr 14 20:34 • Comments
Next installment of the long declutter.

The Golden Compass (single DVD ex-rental version)

Spektronic Firecracker 1500W DMX Strobe
Posted: 1 Apr 14 17:38 • Comments
Found by appsgonefree and (at the moment) free, two fun small apps for iPad and iPhone:

AirScanner works a lot like facetime, using the iPhone/iPad camera to transmit video to another computer. The difference is that you're not limited to other Apple equipment - the program sets up the camera as a webcam on the local wireless network, and any computer regardless of type can display the video if the user enters the numerical address.

KaleidaCam is simply a kaleidascope camera app - you can select how many facets, rotate, and other fun stuff.
Posted: 31 Mar 14 11:49 • Comments
Just realised that Stanley Weinbaum's The Black Flame is eligible for the 1939 retro-Hugo awards at this year's Worldcon. While it's usually published with its prelude Dawn of Flame, The Black Flame on its own is a stand-alone novel-length work. The New Adam is also eligible, though I don't personally feel that it's as good, others may differ.

This is Weinbaum's last year of eligibility as far as I know, since I'm pretty sure all his other posthumously-published works were published in years that had Hugo awards.

later - I'm an idiot - it's works appearing in 1938 that are eligible. Which means his only eligible stories are

"Revolution of 1950" 10-11/38 Amazing (with Roger Sherman Hoar writing as Ralph Milne Farley)
"Tidal Moon" in 12/38 Thrilling Wonder (with Helen Weinbaum, his sister)

Neither unfortunately his best work.
Posted: 29 Mar 14 17:57 • Comments
One of the nice things about retirement is being able to catch early shows at the cinema with no kids (and in this case virtually no audience, I think three in the whole cinema). The Winter Soldier was today's movie, and turned out to be pretty good - I won't say perfect, but there was a lot less to complain about than I expected.

Before I get to spoilers, I can say that we see much more of Black Widow than I expected - I thought it would be a token appearance to keep the fans happy, but she's in a majority of scenes and pivotal to the plot. We also find out what happened to Peggy, see the Captain America exhibit at the Smithsonian (which does have some swastikas on view in historical film etc., something we didn't see in Captain America), where Cap is recognised by a kid who sees through his impenetrable disguise of a baseball cap. We also get glimpses of his apartment and his shopping list of things he needs to learn more about in the 21st century, and learn more about SHIELD - a lot more.

Then there's the actual plot -

Captain America is living a sightly lonely life in Washington, where he seems to be friendly with a veteran he's met on the streets, and sort of talking to the pretty nurse in the next apartment. Then he's sent off to deal with some pirates who have boarded a SHIELD launch platform ship, and it gradually becomes apparent that there is something rotten in the state of SHIELD - VERY rotten. After Nick Fury is assassinated (after some scenes of him being VERY kickass against about fifty attackers) it becomes clear that SHIELD has been pretty much pwned by HYDRA since the 1950s, and is about to take over the world on HYDRA's behalf. This involves the construction of a spy satellite network and three new automated helicarriers, which will be used to kill approximately 20 million "threats" to Hydra's version of Order and bring about world peace.

Naturally Cap. isn't very happy about this, and is soon on the run...
Posted: 27 Mar 14 14:12 • More • Comments
Think I'm going to go see The Winter Soldier tomorrow or Thursday - It's showing in 2D at the Vue at Shepherd's Bush, and they do good over-60s prices and have a Weatherspoon's pub in the same building. If I go Thursday that's their curry club day, so I think that's more likely.

Anyone seen it yet?
Posted: 25 Mar 14 18:45 • Comments
Natasha Romanoff. 'Nuff said?
Posted: 23 Mar 14 15:46 • Comments
There's an interesting foul-up in season 1 of Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles. At one point it's mentioned that Sarah has type O blood and John is type AB. Which is interesting because a type O mother can't have an AB child, only A, B, or O.

If we take this literally John Connor can't be Sarah's son. That doesn't mean he can't be the resistance leader he's supposed to become, of course, but it does suggest that something happened to Sarah's child (she's pregnant at the end of Terminator) and Sarah somehow adopted or stole another child to replace him.

So... let's assume that Sarah didn't stop in Mexico at the end of Terminator, she kept going and ended up in Britain. She miscarried somewhere along the way. And then, as if by a miracle, she found a child abandoned on the doorstep of a suburban home, and decided to raise him as John Connor...

Obvious fun stuff - "John" starts to learn combat techniques at an early age, and is already fairly kickass by the time of Terminator 2. Then in the aftermath of that owls start bombarding them with letters addressed to "Harry Potter" and Sarah has to admit the truth about her actions. Let's say this happens around the start of Terminator SCC, and Sarah sees this as a good way to get "John" out of the line of fire and get him some useful magical skills. Things are naturally complicated by the Terminators who are still hunting John and Sarah, by Cameron, Voldemort and Death Eaters etc. etc.

I'm not going to write this one, but maybe someone else would like to give it a try.
Posted: 22 Mar 14 07:10 • Comments
The clearout continues

Apple iSight webcam - the original 640x480 firewire version
Posted: 21 Mar 14 18:13 • Comments
If anyone has tried to phone me over the last few days - I've just discovered that there is a problem with the extension cable to my office (where the answering machine is located) which may mean I've missed calls. I hope to fix this in the next couple of days, but until then please keep trying until you get either me or the answering machine.
Posted: 18 Mar 14 17:43 • Comments
Around the end of November I put a bird feeder outside my kitchen window. Nothing went near it for ages, but a couple of weeks ago I noticed a small bird which flew of before I could get a good look, and some seeds spilled on the sill. I've since seen and heard it several times, and it's been getting less shy - today it carried on feeding while I took several photos. Quality isn't as good as I'd like because of the (dirty) glass and reflected flash, but here it is:


There ought to be more using the feeder soon - the tree there will be blossoming sooner or later, which usually brings in the crowds.
Posted: 16 Mar 14 09:24 • Comments
Picked this up in a charity shop yesterday - the Mac version. Unfortunately it needs a higher spec machine than my laptop, with a graphics accelerator etc. Anyone IN THE UK want it? Yours free, but a small donation to charity would be nice. I should mention that all I have is the discs and case, I don't know if there was a manual, or you have to enter a code word or something to play.
Posted: 14 Mar 14 16:47 • Comments
A story in last night's Evening Standard claimed that someone in a US bar was beaten up for wearing Google Glasses. I'm not convinced it's true - details were sketchy - but it does seem to bear out the idea that these things will not be popular because of the invasion of privacy they represent.

So... there has to be a business opportunity here, for anti-Google Goggle devices.

I'm thinking mainly in terms of wearable QR codes that lead to malware or sites that chew up bandwidth / processing power one way or another, or are just intensely annoying; badgers, for example. But there must be other possibilities; strobes that work just outside the visible spectrum but are seen by cameras, for example. Obviously we don't want to be too antisocial, but I have a feeling that there will be a lot of things like this in days to come.

Bujold-related SF thought - did this happen to Simon Illyan a lot? It's canon for Manfred Maxx in the Accelerando universe, of course.
Posted: 11 Mar 14 04:33 • Comments
...there's currently a special offer - you can get all 9 books in the Digital Millennium edition (which updates them to present-day technology etc.) for $22, normally $54.99

and enter the code LIVEJOURNAL at the end of checkout (after you've approved payment of the full price on PayPal - it goes back to a page on Diane Duane's site for entering offer codes)

Offer ends Tuesday night 11:59PM Hawai'ian time.

60% off offer applies to all her other books too.
Posted: 9 Mar 14 14:38 • Comments
One of the things I'd like but really can't justify buying is an AC-3 RF demodulator - a gizmo that sits between a laserdisc player and a home cinema amplifier and converts AC-3 digital sound tracks to surround sound. I narrowly missed getting an amp that had this built-in when I bought my home cinema setup,; Richer Sounds ran out a few days earlier - and never bothered to buy one after that because PAL laserdiscs don't have AC-3 tracks, they're only found on some NTSC discs, and I only had a couple of discs that supported it. But when I bought my current laserdisc player the vendor threw in 30-odd disks with AC-3 tracks, and it would be nice to hear them properly.

It isn't essential because they also have digital stereo tracks, but if I could get hold of one cheaply I'd love to see what it can do. If anyone can point me at a cheap source (MUCH cheaper than the one currently on ebay UK which is £85 including delivery) I'd be grateful.
Posted: 8 Mar 14 17:09 • Comments
...and others with an interest in typography; the iPad game Font Nerd, in which you have to identify fonts, is currently a free download. May be today only though.
Posted: 8 Mar 14 05:12 • Comments
Were Disney's "Man in Space" and "Our Friend The Atom" ever released on video, DVD, etc.?
Posted: 6 Mar 14 18:57 • Comments
The new CF card for the Nikon D70s arrived today. I put it in and tried it - and it seems to work perfectly. I can only assume that the previous owner somehow messed up his cards, which can apparently happen if you access them via a card reader rather than through the camera.

The only problem I didn't understand was that the counter for frame number is reading 1.1 - but I just realised that there's a teeny "K" there too, as in 1.1 thousand pictures left on the 4gb card!

Next step will be to make sure that everything really is OK and that e.g. the sensor isn't dusty, file transfer works, etc. But so far it's looking very good.

I've just realised that it has a socket for a remote control timer/sequencer, which means that if I wanted to spend another £20 or so I can set it up to do time lapse photography.

Anyway, count me VERY pleased!

Update a few minutes later - everything seems to be ok!
Posted: 6 Mar 14 08:41 • Comments
The row over Jonathan Ross's selection (then quick resignation) as Hugo Award presenter has reached the London Evening Standard, apparently because his wife has closed her Twitter account.

Still not convinced it's a major news story...
Posted: 5 Mar 14 13:31 • Comments