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One game that caught my eye recently - though I'd actually downloaded it a while back - was The Journey Down: Chapter One, a particularly stylish point & click adventure, with exceptionally good voice work, background music, design, and writing. Give the trailer a try, and see what you think. ^_^ I was reminded by the recent (and eventual, if I'd been waiting for it..) release of the second instalment. It's apparently also out for OS X, Linux, and Windows.

Is anyone here interested in plush rats?

Yay! Briefly, I'd thought OS X Yosemite had inadvertently killed DxO Optics Pro 8, a useful photographic processing application - launching it just caused it to immediately keel over rather wistfully. But, with the latest beta, that's all resolved. ^_^ I may well go with their new version at some point, as I might find some use for their new noise reduction, but I'm in no great hurry - 8 does a superb job on chromatic aberration removal, let alone compensating for lens flaws, not least distortion, as well as offering the ability to correct perspective easily. I do wish they'd drop their odd marketing practice of selling two versions, split in just one regard - "pro" camera owners get to pay double as much. If you want to process D7100 RAWs, no problem for the Standard edition; if you want to do the same on a D800's output, you get to pay twice as much for the Elite edition. It's not something that affects me, but it seems difficult to justify, other than "it's not illegal".

Doctor Who "Listen" was exceptional. Really, thoroughly enjoyed that one - and the grab at the end was quite perfect. Who else? O.o; Every producer of children's TV needs to see at least this episode - there's nothing wrong with being scary. Roald Dahl certainly knew that. =:D

Previously, I'd wondered why "chip & pin" cards weren't a thing in the US, when the UK's had them for several years. Apparently, much as you'd expect, it's all down to money - in particular, the subtle differences in telecoms costs, leading to UK retailers tending to batch transactions at the end of the day, giving fraudsters more time to abuse a stolen card. The converse isn't covered as strongly, but does note that in 2012, "the US accounted for less than a quarter of the world’s payment card volume, but it incurred almost half of the fraud losses" - so, it's a change that could've taken place a while ago, but didn't.

A while back, I followed a particularly good webcomic, Mullein Fields, which I was reminded of when perusing through my archive of saved strips (if a particular day's strip really catches me, I'll save that one). Wondering what became of it, a quick search showed the artist segued to Inhuman Relations, along vaguely similar lines - if the look and style of humor of Pogo appeals to you, it'd definitely be worth checking out. Here's an example of Mullein Fields, to give you some idea. ^_^


Have you ever made your own ice cream? (This is, I suppose, calling out for a particular bun to weigh in..) It seems simple enough, at least outside food competition time constraints, with the tremendous benefit of knowing precisely what's going in, not just marketing platitudes. Which would probably be good, if terribly imbalanced. =:)

I recently rediscovered the video from an exceptional PS2 game, The Lion and the King - or rather, its sequel. The video quality's unfortunately rather poor, but there's not much being lost. I'll have to make that available somehow - it's quite supremely awful, from the poorly copied Disney style, through the *ahem* minimalist animation, and the voice acting seemingly performed by basically one person.

With the recent gig now concluded, I might poke my muzzle back into the previous code again. H.265's very nifty, but the allure of encoding to contours instead has such tremendous potential. Plenty of challenges lie ahead for the project, but they're of so novel a nature - it's understandable it'd have such shiny appeal for me. =:)

BTW, if you're visiting the Natural History Museum's "Vault", try to bear in mind that, in the quest for a great photo, one should endeavor not to lean down on the glass above the remarkable jewel-encrusted tobacco box from the Tsar, as you may find a remarkably well-mannered guard reminding you of the alarm systems in operation. ^_^; Notwithstanding, here are a couple examples. First, from the Vault, a most peculiar - yet entirely natural - mineral formation. The NHM's caption card reads: "Sometimes nature can produce specimens so seemingly contrived that it is hard to believe they were not made by a human. This intriguing box formed when crystals of brown siderite were deposited around a cube-shaped fluorite crystal. The crystal dissolved away and crystals of white quartz and golden chalcopyrite grew in the cavity. Scientists do not know what could have caused the fluorite to dissolve without affecting the siderite box around it. The mine in Devon is famous for its hollow casts, or epimorphs, and this is the best example known."


And, from the Treasures room, "Barbary lion skull.

The oldest lion found in the UK after the extinction of native wild lions, brought to England as a royal mascot around 700 years ago."


Not-really-cocktail du jour: home-made vanilla vodka/essence, white rum, diet cola. The key is the former, but it's not as arcane as it might seem - just a vanilla pod, snipped into a few bits, in a little (100ml or so) vodka, and left for a few weeks. It turns into a wonderful thing. ^_^ Forget any vanilla essence or anything like that - real, actual vanilla, infused for that time, brings out such a richness of flavor! And white rum just happens to complement it perfectly, acting like a non-dairy milk, in terms of playing nicely with the flavors present. Forget this - just try it. =:)

Tuesday's outing also saw me dare to dive into this whole meeting people thing, after eventually finding The Hole in the Wall, where huskyteer was holding a birthday bash. ^_^ That turned out to be even more fun than I could've hoped, augmented by the random association on the table with a thrash metal musician who's apparently toured fairly extensively, which led to some unpredictably enjoyable conversational diversions. =:D (And I knew of Einstürzende Neubauten, too, which might have surprised him a little =:) A distinct bonus was winding up meeting gerald_duck for the first time since 1998. Naturally, I didn't actually recognise him until he admitted his identity - my memory of faces can be atrocious, I'm afraid. I do hope that's not the last time I encounter the others present, too, who also made for very good conversation indeed, despite the inevitable ambient pub hubbub. Yay for more birthdays!

Okay, another gem from the NHM. ^_^ How about John Audubon's snowy owls? "Audubon published The Birds of America in batches of 5 pages. He sold them for 2 guineas (equivalent to about £100 today) to wealthy individuals and institutions. Subscribers could collect full or partial sets, or buy all 4 volumes of the book for £182 (equivalent to £9,000 today). It is thought that fewer than 200 complete sets were produced and only 120 are known to survive."


The newly announced Sigma 150-600mm f/5-6.3 lenses do indeed look interesting. Going by their MTF charts, the Sports version may even exceed the Nikkor 300mm f/4D's, when used on an APS-C body. (The Sigma's aren't marked, but I'm guessing the charts on the left are the Contemporary, Sport on the right) Pricing appears to be £1599, $1999 or 2099€. (If you're unfamiliar with MTF charts, here's a handy guide to what's actually being conveyed)

A short of note: Robo-Trumble, reminiscent of the seminal Pixar short Luxo Jr - except, here, there's no CGI, with the camera on the end of a robotic arm. It's good fun. (Cute credits, too) And there's also a "making of".

If you're missing a free Bluray player on your system, peek over here for instructions on how to get VLC to handle encrypted Bluray discs. It's quite straightforward, just involving downloading the appropriate AACS library for your OS (OS X, Linux, Windows) and the keys file, and dropping them into the correct locations.

Finally, have a couple buns. ^_^ These are from a couple recent trips back to the original bunspot - and yes, they're still thriving, though one strip along the path has now been seemingly temporarily filled with gravel, perhaps debris from a neighboring construction project. Greenery's poking through already, though, suggesting it doesn't presage covering that over. The field really is quite ideal for my purposes, and theirs. =:) It's somewhat long and thin, with the long edge running alongside a well-used cycle path, so the buns are relatively okay with seeing people around on a routine basis. Better yet, the field has a few patches of briar on the path edge, giving them comfortable places to hide out, so there are opportunities within relatively short photographic reach - I'm reminded of why I never bothered picking up any teleconverter there: I simply didn't need one, much of the time. And the assortment of vegetation makes for some interestingly varied backdrops, too. With a good, healthy population there, usually quite active, it truly is a setting I can return to and enjoy a sense of both peacefulness and excitement, as I attempt to track all the individuals involved - who seems particularly feisty or springy that day.


Even buns have their disagreements. Rabbits may not be as toothily endowed as predators, but those teeth can chomp through some tough brambles, and those claws are very much not for decoration.

 
 
 
 
 
 
That first bun pic is just perfect. Superbun!

I've had a couple of goes at making ice cream. The problem part for me is having to make custard, which I never manage very successfully; now I cheat and use ready-made.
Aren't they wonderful? ^_^ Maybe you understand why I go to such lengths to observe their lives.

Ah, that's been the challenging stage? Interesting. Per MasterChef, it's more been the time available to get it solid, much more than the custard - but, I've never tried at all. Yet. ^_^ (And speaking of custard.. did you grow up with Bird's?)
Custard didn't really feature in my life until I started having school dinners aged around 9 (I think it was one of the things we never had because my dad didn't like it, like mashed potatoes) but I quickly became a convert, especially to the chocolate version we had on chocolate sponge.
For people who don't have it, Journey Down appears in bundles every so often, so it is worth looking at places like IsThereAnyDeal.com

How easy is it to transform one RAW to another, or does it go 'hang on, this has too many pixels'?

I am completely unsurprised by the card fraud stats. One memory of going to the US in the late 90s was the person at Amtrack apologising for asking someone to sign their credit card, which they'd been using unsigned for a couple of years.

I have a very simple ice cream recipe involving double cream, fruit and some sugar.
Ah, good to know! I'll point out such deals. The Journey Down's easily worth promoting here and there - it's one of those indie productions where, so clearly, everyone's truly put all of themselves into making it the best they can. I do hope this chapter fares well enough they can push ahead with the third, and perhaps concluding, part of the story.

RAWs really are literally that - sensor data. It's a matter of converting a given RAW to whatever you want, which may well be a lot lower resolution, if you're only looking at screen resolution or so. Of course, that covers a multitude of sins. Even the humblest D90 offers a solid 12-bit channel - go upward, and you'll be in 14-bit territory, and maybe higher. I tend to remain with 12-bit, as that keeps the continuous framerate high - 6fps on a D7100, which is meaningfully high with rapid rabbits, though I'd happily take more, plus even better focus tracking, which becomes a challenge, even with phase detection at those kinds of speeds. But I try. ^_^

I remain somewhat amused by the non-security of folks who sign their cards "check ID". Yep, that'll do it. O.o What journey was that for? Coast Starlight, by any chance?

If you can offer superb ice cream, I'd like to invite you to offer carefully taken photographs, in lieu of the actual thing. =:9 I still think one of my absolute favorites was around the Hauptbanhof in Hamburg - their banana was.. oh, so fresh, so vibrant!
For ice cream - I tend to be somewhat of a traditionalist and I like the hand-crank version of an ice cream maker.

There is a book by Ben and Jerry that has some excellent ice cream recipes as well as Beer Sorbet!

http://www.amazon.com/Jerrys-Homemade-Cream-Dessert-Book/dp/0894803123

Contrary to what someone else said here, if you've ever made something like malt-o-meal or canned tomato soup with milk on a stove, you are more than prepared for the ordeal of cooking ice cream. Basically, the best recipes don't need custard or anything(unless you're aiming for gelato) but rather just cook the milk a little on the stove with some vanilla+whatever else(Strawberries is one of my favorite for home made).

Anyway, my most creative thing I ever did was a kiwi-midori sorbet that won awards and made my co-workers love me.
Oo, tell me more! I've never made ice cream, in any fashion, traditional or otherwise. I have, however, made cream out of butter. I forget why it was a good idea, given it involved a good deal of effort, but it did indeed work - you'd wind up with some very good, thick cream at the end of it all. I vaguely recall it was some kind of Ronco-ish device - not very good quality, but it did sort of work.

If you feel up to leading us through a basic starter recipe into home-made ice cream, I'd be delighted. ^_^ I'm fine with any complexity of cooking, though my current resources are a touch constrained. (Just no real workspace, unfortunately - a larger and smaller chopping board, and that's it)

Kiwi-melon? Oh, yes.. very easy to see that could work supremely well. ^_^ Did you take any photos, perchance?

(And I dare say they loved you before, anyway =:)
Well, the only ice cream maker I ever had was a White Mountain hand crank. You can also buy the electric kind but I firmly believe food is better when you spend your own kinetic energy on it.

http://www.whitemountainproducts.com/recipes/recipes.html

Those were the first recipes I made and a few years later I bought the Ben and Jerry's book which taught me how to make a wider variety of items.

Kiwi sorbet was something I made up. 12 kiwis, mashed and then mashed some more. 2 lemons, juiced. 1 cup midori. 2 cups sugar. You will need to adjust the ingredients based on the sweetness of the kiwi and the bitterness of the lemon but basically it should taste good before you freeze it.

Also, trying to add too much more alcohol makes it so it never freezes and instead just turns into slush. I speak from experience. Add a bottle of vodka to the above recipe and you'll have a killer cocktail but it never freezes.
DID actually make our own ice cream!... Thanks for the VLC advice! *hughuggle!*
I set a David Tennant watch on my DVR to catch the second season of Broadchurch next year, among others. I was kind of shocked when it picked up a nature documentary about birds migrating, I think there's a nature photographer of the same name, or something like that. ANYWAY, they had a scene at a resting place in Scotland, IIRC, where the birds are taking it easy and stoking up for a final push to the Arctic. The area was also rabbit grounds during their mating season. They showed the rabbits boxing, which is apparently the signal for the birds that it's time to move on. All I could think of was a silly face-to-face slap fight: 'You brute! You brute! You savage!'

It was an awesome program, I'd love to know how they got such amazing close-ups of the flocks in flight, not to mention the ultra-high speed of the birds flying in a storm. I can't imagine the light and lens speeds required for that. They had cameras mounted on some birds, it seemed like it actually had four lenses and sensors pointing fore, aft, port and starboard. And the slow motion really caught the musculature of the back flexing as they flapped their wings. And all amazingly stabilized. I know you can do some image stabilization in post-processing as I've done it, but this was something else.
And my dad used to make the most amazing peanut butter ice cream, my mom made the mix and my dad made the machine. He build a machine that had a differential for turning two buckets simultaneously that had a reverse for uncoupling the attachments to the bucket heads. The buckets he'd fiberglassed so they wouldn't leak. He hasn't made any in ages, I should ask him to when we're over for Thanksgiving while me, my mom, and my wife are doing everything else.
Oh, that sounds absolutely fantastic. =:D Please try to take photos sometime, ideally with him in mad scientist/steampunk engineer garb, poised suitably melodramatically over such wondrous apparatus. ^_^

And yes, it surely needs powering up. In the name of research. Tasty, delicious research.

One variety a friend's made (and has, as yet, failed to offer me any, although I do tend to be in orbit in the Bay only occasionally these days =:) in the past is peach, which strikes me as having serious nom potential.
BTW, that keyfile is terribly old (20-04-2012) and I haven't seen any new ones wandering around.

That, and I think a newer BluRay disc revoked necessary keys in my external BluRay drive, so nothing's been willing to play. =.= I've kinda given up and I just rely on my PS3 for BluRay watching these days. *sighs*
Mm, fair point. It's not been a priority, I'll admit - if I want an HD file, it's depressingly easier to just hop over to Usenet than fuss around with ripping a BD. Plus ça change, ne?

Here, I suppose it's similar - the BD player does actually play discs as well, but neither of us actually use it for that more than every other month or so, either for DVD bargains, or the odd undiscovered BD gem. Mostly, it's just a pretty good media player - not perfect, as it will reject some H.264 encodings, but for the most part, it's fairly reliable.

BTW, on the animation front, you might like to check out "The Day of the Crows", a French production, traditionally animated, with some furry themes, even if not really a furry production.
I made ice-cream the other day! Well, almost? I had some frozen cream that thaws clotted, so I wanted to see if the ice-cream maker would mush it back into smoothness. As it turns out, I made ice-butter. Coffee-flavoured butter, no less!

My original plan was that I could buy cream cheaply in clearance sales (right before they expire), and then freeze them until I needed them. I just realized now that I could probably make buckets and buckets of ice-cream right then, and then keep that frozen for months. It would make more sense.

And now I'm wondering if ice-cream made in such a fashion would stir well into tea or coffee. All I can do with my frozen cartons of cream, when thawed, is dip cookies in them. Maybe some baking.

(It's the nature of expiry. I got a whole bunch of cream for $1 per litre, but of course it's impossible -- and unhealthy -- to consume it all at once.)



Oh, I've just realized I left the frozen-solid remains on the kitchen counter an hour ago. I should do something about that before it gets everywhere.
...

Please remember to only use your powers for good. ^_^;

Although, an empire built on coffee-flavored butter really doesn't seem like such a bad thing.
All shall taste my butter!

It actually didn't turn out bad. I plopped it all onto some paper towel, and every once in a while I put more on top, flipped it over, and removed the old towel.

It tastes just like regular butter, but sweetened and with some coffee added. It might be good on toast? Far better at room temperature than frozen, because now it melts and doesn't get all lardy.