July 25th, 2016

marcus 2013


Someone on Freecycle has given me an astronomical telescope (800mm x 80mm diameter) with a tripod, gear-driven mount, and a couple of eyepieces. Needs some work and a lot of cleaning up, but I think it's OK - I can focus on leaves on trees etc., but there's so much light from the sky etc. that everything looks washed out. Tonight I'm hoping for a clear sky so I can try it on the moon etc. The main other problem is that the little aiming telescope has snapped off; I've made a mounting bracket with Meccano, but it probably isn't very accurate.

I suspect there's too much light pollution in this area to get really good results, so I may end up giving it to someone who lives outside London or can take it to remote areas. But I'm going to try my hand at astronomical photography first, it'll be interesting to see how it goes.

Later - clouded over, of course! But I think it's OK so I've ordered a camera adapter, it isn't hugely expensive - just a tube with a Nikon mount at one end and a tube the diameter of a telescope eyepiece at the other.
marcus 2013

Another RPG bundle offer - Hillfolk

Hillfolk is a system by Robin Laws that favours character interaction over combat. I haven't played it much, but my impression is that it's a fun system with some nice twiddly bits to keep things moving.


"Can't wait for the new season of Game of Thrones? Why not start your own episodic series of tense, character-driven drama? Hillfolk, the Pelgrane Press RPG of epic interpersonal conflict by Robin D. Laws, brings HBO series-style drama to tabletop roleplaying. Hillfolk focuses on characters, their relationships, and the dramatic conflicts that keep their actions fresh and exciting. Using Hillfolk's DramaSystem rules, you can weave enthralling multi-session sagas about Iron Age tribes, fantasy intrigue, Regency socialites, border town drug kingpins, troubled Sopranos-type crime families, posthuman cyberpunks, and more.

Hillfolk's spectacular October 2012 Kickstarter campaign earned over US$90,000 and spawned a support line of "series pitches" -- new settings written by many of gaming's greatest designers. Originally presented in February 2015, our resurrected Hillfolk Bundle once again brings you the complete game and nearly all the series pitches -- plus three Hillfolk music tracks especially commissioned by Pelgrane Press for your series.

We provide each ebook complete in .PDF (Portable Document Format), and each audio track as an .MP3 sound file. Like all Bundle of Holding titles, these books have NO DRM (Digital Restrictions Management), and our customers are entitled to move them freely among all their ereaders.

Ten percent of each purchase (after gateway fees) goes to the charity selected by Pelgrane Press co-owner Simon Rogers -- the United Kingdom's anti-racism educational charity, The Red Card.

The total retail value of the titles in this offer is US$53. Customers who pay just US$7.95 get all seven titles in our Starter Collection (retail value $24) as DRM-free .PDF ebooks, including the Hillfolk rulebook and no less than six series pitches. Cast your own series about engineers battling zombies in the Imperial court of a magical 1920s Russia -- or the gladiatorial arena of a steam-powered flying city on the brink of revolution -- or even the dreamers, has-beens, and never-will-bes in a touring jukebox musical. (In that one, you sing!)
  • Hillfolk Rulebook - Retail price US$15
  • Encore - The dreamers, has-beens, and never-will-bes in a touring jukebox musical - Retail price US$1.50
  • Hold the Chain - The gladiatorial arena of a steam-powered flying city on the brink of revolution - Retail price US$1.50
  • Iron Tsar - Engineers battle zombies in the Imperial court of a magical 1920s Russia - Retail price US$1.50
  • Narcocorrido - Narcotraficantes and border patrols on The Devil's Highway - Retail price US$1.50
  • Sheep's Clothing - In a tranquil bedroom community for cops, a massive Internal Affairs bust threatens dozens of its key citizens - Retail price US$1.50
  • Terminal X - Modern sorcerers wage a turf war in one of the world's busiest airports - Retail price US$1.50
Pay more than the threshold (average) price (starting at $14.95) to level up and also get our complete Bonus Collection (retail value $39), including the nigh-essential companion volume Blood on the Snow, another slew of series pitches, print-and-play playing cards, and three DRM-free .MP3 music tracks especially created by composers James Semple and Marie-Anne Fischer to enhance Hillfolk game sessions. (You may recall their work from our August 2014 GUMSHOE Music offer.)
  • Blood on the Snow - A DramaSystem companion - Retail price US$15
  • Hillfolk Music - Every drama needs a theme tune - Retail price US$5
    Hillfolk playing cards - Shuffle up some inspiration - Retail price US$10
  • Art and Murder - Murder artists in the 32nd Century - Retail price US$1.50
  • Campus Desk - Return to the ink-spattered days of idealistic student journalism - Retail price US$1.50
  • Honor Among Thieves - Young thieves surviving in a City that wants to cut their throats - Retail price US$1.50
  • Niflgap - Sail the black tide of the cosmos - Retail price US$1.50
  • No Crowns - The struggles of democracy and free market capitalism in a high fantasy world - Retail price US$1.50
  • Promised Land - Squad comes before all as genetically engineered cadets take on the universe - Retail price US$1.50
There's at least one bonus item, which everyone will get if they paid more than the average at the time of payment. As usual I can't reveal what it is.

This looks like a good bundle, and some of the series pitches are very interesting indeed - I haven't quoted the full text because it would make this post way too long. I think it's well worth a look, but as usual I have to stress that I get this stuff free - your mileage may vary.
marcus 2013

Fame at last!

Just realised that tonight's Evening Standard has a letter I sent them a few days ago, in response to a photo and caption they printed on the 20th which doesn't appear to be on line, describing London's canals as being overgrown with algae.

The Benefits of Canal Duckweed

While it was nice to see your annual picture of the green canal in Little Venice [July 20] , the green plant in the water isn't algae but duckweed, a small leafed plant that is actually quite good for the environment. It takes up nutrients from the water that would otherwise go to algae, and its shade slows down the growth of algae.

It's also a very good food for ducks and could easily be harvested as animal fodder. There is some algae in the water but it isn't actually visible in the photo because the duckweed is in the way.

Marcus L. Rowland

The interesting thing about this is that they published the original picture on the 20th and I sent them an email in the evening. On Friday 22nd they published another article:


Which is basically saying what I said in my email.

Then published the email today, so it looks like a comment on their duckweed article!