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Author MarcusRowland


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

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I think I need to be a bit more careful about canned goods. I was just looking for some soup and found five cans outdated, four of them from 2010-11. The other is only a couple of months and will be supper, but this is not good houshold management...
Posted: 24 Oct 14 17:51 • Comments
A couple of days ago I ordered this cheapo infrared filter:

It arrived this afternoon - since I didn't want to go out again, I just took a few pictures through the windows to see if it worked and haven't done much beyond that. I didn't even use a tripod, and held the filter square over the lens by hand, and I'm surprised at the quality of the results I got. Exposure was 1 second at F8. I've taken the two pictures I liked best and produced three images - one as taken by the camera, one with contrast equalisation, and one after conversion to black and white. I know that there's a lot more that can be done to improve the quality and impact, but as I've said this is just a quick test. In view of the slight shakiness of the images I've hosted them on Photobucket, if anything the size reduction makes them look better.







Next step I think will be to get a Cokin or similar filter holder, hand holding was a bit of a pain, and take the camera out with a tripod to see what it ca...
Posted: 23 Oct 14 11:25 • More • Comments
First teaser trailer - looks like it'll be fun
Posted: 23 Oct 14 07:54 • Comments
This was mentioned in a reply to Illustrationcuriouswombat's repost of my Hobbit video rec yesterday - Air New Zealand's Hobbit-themed safety video
Posted: 23 Oct 14 07:15 • Comments
The hawthorn tree in the front garden of the next house, which grew very close to my kitchen window, died earlier this year. Not sure of the cause, but it didn't grow many leaves or blossom much in the last couple of years, has been shedding rotten bits of branches, didn't blossom at all this year, and lost the few leaves that had appeared by June. We'd asked their landlord to sort it because there are often children visiting the lower flat here, and it wouldn't be good if a branch fell on someone. Yesterday there were very heavy winds in London, and while I didn't notice that tree being especially affected I'd imagine more bits fell off. I know a couple of people were hurt by falling trees elsewhere in London. I suspect that the landlord took note.

Today I woke to the sound of chainsaws, and by the time I got out of the house the tree was gone. It's a real shame because it was a very pretty tree - unfortunately I don't seem to have pictures but the blossom was like this:
Posted: 22 Oct 14 14:46 • Comments
VERY silly but nicely done.
Posted: 22 Oct 14 07:03 • Comments
While I haven't given up on the idea of converting a camera for infra-red, it turns out that my main SLR, a Nikon D50, is actually moderately sensitive to infra-red. The test is simple - set the camera to manual and an exposure of a second or so, then point a video remote at the lens and hold a button down while the shutter is open. If you see a bright light at the end of the remote it's sensitive to infra-red, just how sensitive depends on the camera. The older the digital camera, the more likely this is to work.

So I should be able to take infra-red photos without actually modifying the camera if I use a filter to cut out the visible light. The snags, of course, are that exposures are long - a second or two - and you need the visible light to focus the camera, so this is very much a camera on tripod and manual operation scenario, with a lot of trial and error. But I'm going to give it a try - I've ordered a cheap infra-red filter on eBay, if I can get it to work and get interesting results I'll look at a better setup.
Posted: 22 Oct 14 05:18 • Comments
Agents of SHIELD S2 will start to air in the UK on Friday at 8 PM on C4.
Posted: 20 Oct 14 12:59 • Comments
...was a disaster; looks like I've killed the camera. Displays aren't working, it makes the noise it should for the shutter but there's no image, USB doesn't seem to want to work. I've spent four hours on it and reassembled it twice, I think the next step is the bin.

Annoying, but I'd pretty much written it off anyway, so never mind.
Posted: 19 Oct 14 10:05 • Comments
I forgot to mention that my award for a hundred blood donations arrived on Monday. I finally got around to taking photos today. It was a bit of a bugger to photograph because it's a clear glass obelisk thing, not the decanter I expected. Came in a nice lined box, weighs 880g (about 2lb) and 185mm high. It would make an absolutely perfect murder weapon in a country house mystery, especially since it would show fingerprints very clearly! I don't know if Wikipedia has pictures of the current version so I've uploaded it, and photos are below the cut.

In other news, I've decided to attempt the infra-red camera conversion I mentioned in a previous post; tonight I made a dozen or so attempts to cut a piece of microscope slide the right size to replace the infra-red filter in the camera, eventually got a couple that seem to be the right dimensions (it's only 6x9mm, a sod to cut accurately). I'm not going to attempt the actual work until tomorrow, I think I'll mess up if I try it when I'm tired.
Posted: 18 Oct 14 14:34 • Comments
I am VERY tempted to withdraw my old Fuji s5700 from sale and try this!
Posted: 17 Oct 14 11:48 • Comments
My laptop computer needs are fairly minimal - it's mostly used to read email, livejournal, fanfic etc. over breakfast, watch downloads and DVDs when I don't want to use the TV, and gets taken to games conventions if I want to run my Powerpoint Forgotten Futures ad for several hours on end. I don't actually do much work on it as such, that's mostly on desktop PCs.

Currently I'm using a 14" iBook G4 for this, but increasingly I'm finding that web sites give problems - gmail and ello are the most recent examples - ello just doesn't work, Gmail is getting slow and bug-ridden and keeps telling me to upgrade my browser (I can't). Youtube isn't too good either, though that may be more wifi than the computer itself.

So I'm looking for another laptop for these purposes
Screen 14" or so
Must have built-in DVD reader (not too bothered about writing them, but don't want to have to keep hooking up a separate reader)
Must have good battery life (some games con venues charge big bucks for main electricity, and I often run it off the battery for several hours at home if I'm not near a socket) and if possible take interchangeable batteries.
Must have USB ports.
Weight isn't a big consideration, if I'm just travelling somewhere I'll generally take the iPad with me, not the laptop.

I'd ideally like something Mac-compatible again, though that isn't a top priority. I really can't afford to spend a fortune on this.

Any suggestions?
Posted: 15 Oct 14 12:13 • Comments
I've uploaded more pictures of the Crossrail archaeology site to Wikimedia Commons - mostly just panning across the site and not much different to the ones I posted here.

I also made a panorama of the engine shed pictures - since it's a VERY wide picture I've put it behind a cut:

Posted: 14 Oct 14 04:54 • Comments
Decided to have a clear out again, including the Fuji Finpix S5700 I bought last year (working but there's a problem with the flash and it was cheaper to buy another than get it fixed), the Nikon D70s, lens, and interval timer I've been messing about with for ages but never really seem to use, and a slide scanner that was DOA and is probably only good for parts.

Fujifilm finepix S5700

Nikon D70s with lens and 4gb card

Timer / remote control for above

Slide scanner (faulty)
Posted: 12 Oct 14 17:13 • Comments
Mentioning Prehistoric Park has given me an idea for some fanfic, but it needs a land animal that went extinct say 5000-10000 years ago, somewhere with a hot or desert climate, and would be interesting enough for a time-travelling zoo to want some. Any suggestions?
Posted: 10 Oct 14 18:59 • Comments
For anyone who saw my post pointing to Ayn Rand's Buffy The Vampire Slayer and wasn't clear on who Rand was...
Posted: 10 Oct 14 18:14 • Comments
I've noticed in several recent American TV shows, especially the NCIS shows, that the TOR network is being portrayed entirely negatively, as "the darknet," a hotbed of arms and drugs dealers, terrorism, etc. They seem to be ignoring the fact that TOR was originally set up by the US government to bypass censorship by other governments, also that it probably isn't particularly difficult to intercept, especially if you're the NSA, and that TOR is probably only a tiny part of web activity that is covert one way or another.

So is the reason for this

(a) Some writer heard about TOR and wanted to use it in the show and didn't think of its positive uses
(b) The prelude to some move against the TOR network by the US government
(c) Someone trying to portray TOR as the ultimate way to conceal illegal activities, in hopes that gullible criminals etc. will start to use it and thus be open to scrutiny by e.g. the NSA.

Any thoughts?
Posted: 8 Oct 14 15:43 • Comments
The two-disc DVD set of Prehistoric Park, a predecessor of Primeval, is currently being sold second hand by CEX stores at 50p, and by That's Entertainment on line at £2 including delivery. Or new for £4.82 from Amazon. For those who aren't familiar with the series, it was a "docu-drama" about a zoo set up to rescue extinct animals via time travel, from the makers of Walking With Dinosaurs etc.. Each episode they'd go back in time, rescue one or more extinct animals, and bring them back to the zoo.

There were plot holes you could drive a bus through, such as the reason (never explained) why they could only rescue animals moments before animals went extinct - e.g. a few minutes before the dinosaur-killer hit. Why not five years or five centuries earlier? But apart from that it was a fun show, and I prefer it to Primeval.

Anyway, it's available cheaply and the disks, while PAL, are Region 0 - should be playable on most DVD players (not sure about the USA) and computers. It's worth a look if you're a fan of man-dinosaur interaction.

Note - if you look on Youtube for this series you will find several animated episodes - basically, someone has taken the original programs and made animated videos with the show's soundtrack. But the real show mixed live action and CGI, and is much better.
Posted: 7 Oct 14 18:03 • Comments
Some of you may recall that I was looking for an Octodog machine a while ago, and decided not to bother because they were way too expensive.

Well, I do eat hot dogs occasionally since they're low fat and pretty cheap, and it suddenly occurred to me that it's entirely possible to make something a lot like an octodog with an 8-segment wire cutter gizmo from a mandolin. So this was my lunch a few days ago; The eyes were peppercorns, the blasphemous yellow ichor was mustard...


If I do this again I'll probably use something else for the eyes, not quite sure what yet. Possibly capers or cloves? Suggestions gratefully received anyway.
Posted: 7 Oct 14 12:26 • Comments
I went to the industrial archaeology site at Westbourne Park yesterday, fortunately in very nice weather (today has been vile and very cold). Unfortunately it really was a one-day thing, they dug it up over a very short period, and in days the whole site will have to be cleared so that they can lay pilings and foundations for a bus garage, a Tarmac depot, and new tracks. What was actually on show was the foundations of some of the support buildings from Brunel's original railway and its successors.

First, some of the floor of a long wooden shed to the west of the Westbourne Park site, originally designed to hold trains in Brunel's broad gauge, later converted for standard gauge. One track was in front of the fence at the back (which separates the site from the working tracks), another was much closer to me but unfortunately doesn't show well in this photo. The central troughs under each track were for inspection and drainage, since trains were cleaned and washed there. This isn't as clear as I would like, I seem to have lost another that showed things much better better - or I didn't actually take it when I thought I did. The bit with jumbled bricks between the two tracks is apparently left from the demolition of the original shed some time in the early 20th century.


Next, the foundations of a railway turntable that served various engine sheds and sidings, which was in the middle of the site. They think that this was for standard gauge trains. Unfortunately there isn't much left apart from the foundations. It was probably turned by hand, using some sort of ratchet system. They think that at some point it was lengthened, which is why there are two circles of foundations for the outer ring of the turntable. The two square structures were added in when the turntable was enlarged; the archaeologist (the gu...
Posted: 6 Oct 14 17:09 • More • Comments
Gacked from Illustrationbeer_good_foamy

Apparently there's going to be a third series of Twin Peaks.
Posted: 6 Oct 14 13:21 • Comments
...that my big issue with last night's Dr. Who episode wasn't about the metaphors of the story, the dynamics of the characters, or even the big science plot-holes that abounded.

No, my big issue was that you can't use a hand-pumped aerosol in a vacuum. It works by taking air in from the outside and using it to push out the liquid. No air outside equals no pressure to push out the liquid, so no spray.

It might be argued that air trapped in the container would be at a higher pressure than vacuum, so push the liquid out anyway, but if it's that airtight it's probably going to swell up and pop like a balloon anyway.

It's ludicrously tiny compared to the rest of the dodgy science, but somehow it really bugged me. So my overall memory of that story will probably remain as "the one with the dodgy aerosol" which I'm sure is not what was intended.

later - numerous readers have pointed out that I've got it wrong and they did say that it didn't work in a vacuum - my attention must have wandered for a sec. Many apologies. I shall now brood about all the other dodgy science instead.
Posted: 5 Oct 14 06:29 • Comments
Isn't it about time that Captain America was promoted? If you go by the Marvel cinematic continuity he's had his present rank for about five subjective years; if you go by comics continuity it's decades. All of which probably makes him the longest serving and most experienced captain in the US army, and horribly overdue for promotion.

And if he's now in SHIELD / some successor organization they should have taken his time in rank in the army into account - again, he's overdue for promotion.

So why isn't he Major America, Senior Agent America, or whatever?
Posted: 4 Oct 14 17:54 • Comments
It seems a while since I've done a picspam post, here are a few of the photos (and one screen shot) I've taken over the last few months. I've reduced the size a little, but it's behind cuts because there are 10 images and one of them is a BIG (for London) spider!

Birds at the new improved (not so round) Round Pond:

Prince Albert looking at the Albert Hall, from the park:

A rather nice old car that was parked near here a few weeks ago:

A bee hover fly that was sunning itself on a sloping wall by the canal:
Illustration Illustration

Ducklings (because Ducklings=cuuuuute):

The Crossrail tunnel opening at Royal Oak now that a lot of the conveyor belts etc. have been removed:

Swans grooming:

Oolite on a portrait-orientated monitor, showing some of the rather nice graphics of the current version:
The nose of the ship looks a bit low-res because it's never usually visible on a landscape-orientated monitor...
Posted: 1 Oct 14 14:31 • More • Comments
Illustrationvicarage pointed out to me that on Sunday Crossrail will be running tours of some bits of Brunel's railway (the remains of an engine shed's floor, track beds, etc.) that have been dug up while excavating the old shunting yards at Westbourne Park, just down the road from me, as part of the project. Ought to be interesting, I hope, and it's so close that it's definitely worth taking a look. You have to book tickets in advance, I've booked for 1 PM.

Details of it here:

Book tickets here:
Posted: 1 Oct 14 13:46 • Comments