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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

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
What fanfic were you reading / writing in these decades (fandoms, favourite ships etc.) and links to stories if possible please?

1. 1960s
2. 70s
3. 80s
4. 80s
5. 90s
6. 90s
7. 2000s
8. Nowish

For example, I know Professionals and Blake's 7 were big in the UK in the 1970s-80s, but I wouldn't know where to look for examples of period writing.
Posted: 20 Jul 14 10:24 • Comments
I've nearly finished my BtVS/Thor story, just the remainder of the big fight scene and the epilogue still to write. Since it's turning out quite long (9600 words with more to come) I've decided to start posting it in installments. The first is mostly setting the scene, so don't expect a huge amount of action. Mostly PG apart from a little bad language.

The collapse of SHIELD leads to the release of a dangerous wizard, and problems in London for Buffy, Thor, and their friends.

There isn’t much fanfic about Thor, Jane, and their associates with a London setting, even though a lot of Thor: The Dark World takes place there. Similarly, there could stand to be more Buffy fanfic with a British setting, since the Watcher's Council was supposed to be based here. Since I live in London I decided to write some. All characters belong to their respective creators, megacorporations of doom, etc., not me. I’m ignoring all post BtVS S7 / Angel S5 comics canon etc.

London Calling
Marcus L. Rowland


“Okay,” said Buffy Summers. “I’m still a little jet lagged, I guess. Let’s just have a quick reality check. Is this Bizarro-world? Or the world without shrimp?”

“Nope,” said Dawn, “unfortunately not.”

“How the hell did the government… our government… screw up like this?”

“Your government,” said Giles, emphasising the ‘your,’ “let HYDRA gain control of SHIELD. When that fell apart there was a review of all cases in which SHIELD and other covert agencies had arranged imprisonment, which unfortunately included Ethan Rayne. And since all of the evidence and most of the paperwork went down with the Initiative, which turns out to have been at least partially controlled by HYDRA… well, they really had no alternative to releasing him and repatriating him to Britain – I
Posted: 20 Jul 14 08:21 • Comments
I was in Poundland today and noticed that they had teeny USB Bluetooth adapters for a quid. So I thought "what the hell" and bought one, and bunged it one of the USB ports on the iMac G4.

Result - it worked, no drivers needed, no hassle whatever. And since bluetooth isn't especially fast there won't be a problem with the computer having USB 1.1 ports.

Don't actually NEED Bluetooth for anything on this computer, but it's good to have the capability if needed.

I should add that I haven't tested bluetooth communications yet, since I don't currently have any compatible devices, but it's certainly being recognised by the computer.

later - and to add to the cheap bastard theme, I just picked up a mouse, keyboard, and speakers on ebay for 99p plus postage! REALLY good news, because my current keyboard turns out to have a small flaw - the main "Enter" key doesn't work! Fortunately the other Enter key does, so I can use it after a fashion, and if it dies more before the "new" one arrives I have another USB keyboard somewhere - it's windows, not Mac, but should still work.
Posted: 18 Jul 14 10:26 • Comments
Last night I reached the start of the big fight scene in my Thor story, and decided to finish for the night just after Thor summoned Mjolnir.

About thirty seconds after I shut down the computer a huge thunderstorm started, and continued on well into the night, some of the brightest and most spectacular lightning I can remember in recent years.

And that was weird - as I typed the previous paragraph we had another sudden brief downpour. Obviously Thor is trying to tell me something. Here's hoping it's a good omen for the rest of the story!
Posted: 18 Jul 14 03:49 • Comments
I wanted to install Libre Office on the iMac G4 (and possibly update the version on my iBook G4, it turns out they dropped PPC support some years ago. Anyone know what the last version was with PPC, and if it can still be downloaded anywhere?
Posted: 16 Jul 14 12:18 • Comments
The 512mb DRAM I mentioned in my previous post has arrived and worked. This is stonkingly cheap for anything that works in an iMac G4, and I am EXTREMELY pleased.

Later - found someone on ebay selling Samsung SODIMMs for a fiver, looks to be the correct spec. It's a Hong Kong vendor but I think I'm prepared to take a chance on this, there's no urgency.
Posted: 16 Jul 14 06:47 • Comments
Someone pointed me at this, which appears to be the correct memory for the less accessible slot on the iMac G4 motherboard:

It's only £4, but it has to be part of an order of at least £10 or they won't deliver it. So I've gone for that plus The Long Mars which I was going to order anyway.

If that works I'll think about paying ebay / amazon prices for the SODIMM, e.g. about a tenner.

I'm very tempted to go all-out to restore this as it originally was, which means finding an early-ish Mac USB mouse and the weird clear plastic speakers. But these seem to be seriously expensive, so unless I get lucky on ebay etc. it probably isn't going to happen - any USB mouse works, and I think I can plug in ordinary speakers though I haven't tried it yet. Not as pretty, but possibly more practical...

later - also, does this seem to be the sort of bridging thing I need to give the computer fast Wifi - the engrish of the description isn't clear!
Posted: 14 Jul 14 14:46 • Comments
Can anyone give me a rough idea of the alcohol content of a Boilermaker as in this scene from the first Thor movie?

later - The answer appears to be that they are stronger than straight American beer, and a little stronger than most British beers, at around 8% alcohol.

So I've written the (minor) scene as follows:

Thor downed his third pint of Theakston’s Old Peculiar and said “Another!”

“Are you sure?” asked Darcy. “That stuff’s stronger than the beer we got in Puente Antiguo.”

“It is mild compared to the ales of Asgard. Or even the makers of boilers I drank in your land.”

“Your funeral. This stuff sneaks up on you.” She waved to Ian, who was queuing in front of one of the beer tents, and shouted “make that three more!”

“Three?” said Jane.

“One for me, of course.”

“I am not nursing you through another hangover.”

Posted: 13 Jul 14 16:59 • Comments
I'm thinking about networking the old iMac and putting it in my bedroom. There doesn't seem to be a lot of point getting an Airport card, it only gives you slow 11b connectivity in this model. So the main alternatives seem to be some sort of USB WiFi dongle (which would need to use PPC Mac compatible drivers), a long cable, a bridging adapter (which connects the network port of the computer to the WiFi network), or networking via the electrical mains. All have pros and cons:
USB Wifi - probably cheap, not sure which adapters work and have suitable drivers, and SLOW since I think this may be USB 1.1
Cable - free, since I already have one, but a bit inflexible and I really don't fancy doing the work to get it up there without cables dangling everywhere. I already have too many!
Bridging adapter - about £12 and up, some need a separate power supply, others can get power from USB. Again I'm not sure how compatible these are with PPC macs; presumably you have to program in the wifi password etc., at least.
Network via mains - simple but a bit pricy, around £25 for one pair of adapters.

Cable is probably the most practical choice, but I really don't fancy wiring it up, followed by network via mains. Can anyone give me any pointers?
Posted: 10 Jul 14 05:44 • Comments
I managed to get a 512mb DDR stick allegedly suitable for the upper (don't touch this because it invalidates your warranty) slot on the motherboard, and put it in to replace the 256mb already there. Result - beeps once, light on monitor flashes some sort of SOS code, does not boot. I'm guessing it's a dud, since the computer was fine as soon as I put the old memory back. However, I cleared out a metric shitload of fluff and dust, so I'm counting it as progress.

later - since the Tiger box said 256mb was OK, I've installed it - took a while, but there were no problems whatever. The only panicky moment was when it asked me for the admin password on the old install - fortunately it turned out to be "admin," my second guess (the first was "password"). I'll leave installing anything else until I've sorted memory.
Posted: 9 Jul 14 13:50 • Comments
Anyone got a 512mb 144-pin PC-133 SODIMM card going spare? Or know a cheap source?

Really don't want to spend ten times as much for RAM as I did for the computer, and wait for delivery from Hong Kong, if there's an alternative...
Posted: 7 Jul 14 16:46 • Comments
Today's eBay bargain was something a little special - an old iMac G4. Not sure what I want to do with it yet, and it may be a complete white elephant, but the price was right. VERY right, considering that there's an old price ticket marked at £900+ under the base!


This was sold as non-working (and without the keyboard and mouse, which fortunately I had). When I got it home and plugged everything in it worked. Of course it isn't exactly state of the art... It booted with the old smiley Mac logo, before eventually going to OS-X, and even then it's a bit primitive...


700mhz, 256mb RAM, 40gb hard disk, and OS-X 10.1. A DVD drive of some sort, haven't yet tested if it writes or is just DVD-R. And the only browser is (spit) Internet Exploder for Mac.


But although this version of IE has serious problems with most web pages I've tried I was able to get a network connection immediately

I think that best thing I can do is probably
(a) upgrade the memory - I think another 512mb SODIMM is the most that can easily be put in, but I would welcome correction and
(b) install Tiger (the most recent OS I have, and I think the last to support PPC processors).
But it'd still be only 2/3rds the clock speed of my iBook G4, with less RAM, and that's already struggling a little. Are there any good alternatives, e.g. a PPC linux that actually has some speed etc. advantages over OS-X?

I really love the aesthetics of these machines, the whole "giant anglepoise lamp of doom" look, so I hope I can c...
Posted: 7 Jul 14 13:13 • More • Comments
This is part of a longer story, London Calling, since people have been so helpful with the Blue Peter discussion I thought I'd post this bit as a sneak preview.

I hope I've got the Blue Peter flavour reasonably right, remembering that this is an outside broadcast bit, not in the studio, let me know what you think. Also, if anything seems odd about the way I describe the film crew working!

“What is this show anyway?” asked Jane, watching the BBC crew prepare for the next shot. “I wasn’t really listening properly when you and Darcy set it up.”

“Blue Peter?” said Ian. “It’s a magazine show for kids. It’s the oldest children’s TV show in the world, been on the BBC since the nineteen-fifties. Over the years everyone’s been on it; the Queen, Madonna, Johnny Storm, Doctor Who.”

“Which one?” asked Jane.

“Most of them from Hartnell onwards,” said Darcy. “Most of the monsters too. And they raise a ton of money for charity, a couple of million a year. You remember the YouTube clip I showed you, the black and white TV show with the baby elephant? That’s Blue Peter.”

“Quiet please, everyone,” said one of the crew, producing a clapper board. “Take seven! Action!”

The young Asian presenter smiled at the camera and said “We’re here at London Zoo tonight to see their latest exhibit; their first animal from another world, which somehow found its way to Earth when the Dark Elves invaded Greenwich. And we’re very lucky to be joined by none other than Prince Thor of Asgard, who’s going to tell us all about it.” She turned to Thor, who was in his Asgardian costume, and added “Prince Thor, welcome to Blue Peter.”

“Thank you, it is good to be here.”

“Prince Thor, we’re really not sure what to call this creature. What can you tell us about it?”

Thor gestured towards a huge steel-barred cage behind them, wher...
Posted: 6 Jul 14 17:09 • More • Comments
Would Tony Stark appear on the show? Would they even invite him, given his general reputation? I'm guessing Top Gear is more his sort of thing, but that one's already been written by several people. Maybe Blue Peter could have an Iron Man art competition, or a "build your own Iron Man mask" thing.

I'm taking Steve Rogers as a given, the first time he's in the UK long enough for them get him on the show. Probably Clint Barton, if they mention Robin Hood and give him a chance to show off his archery. And definitely NOT Natasha Romanoff, her skills set does not fit comfortably with children's TV. Not sure about Bruce Banner, but I think another no, due to shyness, though maybe Hulk would like a badge if some of the other Avengers have them.

Would any of them have badges before they became famous, e.g. as a kid Bruce visits England and happens to be involved in some activity that gets him on the show? Clint's circus days?

Posted: 4 Jul 14 03:06 • Comments
One of the things about Blue Peter is their system of badges, presented to anyone who appears on the show or contributes in various other ways.

So... in my current story Thor will appear on the show, in an item that relates slightly to nature, but of course also talking about Manhattan, Greenwich, his implausibly large hammer, etc. etc.

View Poll: So which badge does Thor get on Blue Peter?
Posted: 3 Jul 14 18:49 • Comments
Silly idea for a scene in a story I'm writing: Post Thor - The Dark World Thor is living with Jane in London and naturally has attracted considerable media attention. And occasionally gets invited onto daytime TV shows...

So I'm looking for a British (preferably London-based) show that would be appropriate for someone who doesn't really know much about Earth politics or current affairs, society in general, quiz topics, etc. etc., hasn't yet learned to drive (which lets out Top Gear), and is so ridiculously powerful that it makes no sense having him on any sort of competitive athletic / sports thing.

I'm vaguely thinking one of the judges on some sort of food and drink show - his idea of portion size might be interesting - or something of the sort, possibly Blue Peter (though that isn't made in London any more) or another kid's show, or something else where his personal presence etc. would be enough to make entertaining TV.

The snag is that I don't watch daytime TV at all and have no idea what shows would fit.

Any suggestions?

later - just thought of a good way to use Blue Peter as the show, so that's what it will be.
Posted: 3 Jul 14 13:13 • Comments
A couple of years ago I spent way too much time reading all of the known works of an author and adding summaries of his books to the minimal entry on Wikipedia.

Please could someone who understands Wikipedia better than I do take a look at the entry and its revisions, and explain why an article about an author has been edited to remove all references to two out of four books, with the deletions marked as "Off topic"
Posted: 2 Jul 14 18:19 • Comments
These are the scenarios I'll be running at Continuum 2014 at the end of July - I've run both before at other cons, so please don't sign up if you've played in them before.

Saturday Morning
Adventure title: Pyramid Scheme
System: Forgotten Futures
4-6 Players, pregenerated characters
Summary: In the aftermath of the Sirian invasion there are some unusual opportunities for entrepreneurs. Some of them seem too good to be true... but why on Earth would the government pay anyone to dismantle and ship a pyramid to Mars? This is a test of a new setting and scenario and some delays and problems are possible.

This is another test of the setting for Forgotten Futures XII. I previously ran this at Dragonmeet 2013.

Sunday Afternoon
Adventure Title: Monster Mash
System: Diana: Warrior Princess
4-6 players
Adventure Description: America, the 1950s. You just want to meet with your friends, chug a few beers or some blood or brains, and maybe go out and terrorize the neighbourhood a little. But the locals seem to have weird objections. Well, that's what being a monster is all about, it shouldn't come as much of a surprise, but somehow it always hurts. But not as much as you're going to hurt the locals...
Note: this is a play-test of a system variant and adventure still in development, occasional rough patches are possible. I've run this once before at Dragonmeet 2012.
Posted: 2 Jul 14 15:04 • Comments