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Friday, January 30, 2015

SHTFriday: Almost Finished with this Bug-Out Bag Series

It's okay if you're tired of this series. I am, too. I didn't realize it would stretch into a 6-part monster, but that's what happens when you have a lot of gear and insist on photographing it all. 

Anyway, if you're still here, go read the next-to-last installment


Thursday, January 29, 2015

The Thor Question

A few months ago, I spoke at some length about how I wasn't terribly pleased with the news that Marvel had decided to 'make Thor a woman' and my reasons for feeling this way. I think I was rather rational about it, and it turns out that some of my concerns may have been alleviated, but some may still remain.

I encourage the reader to look back on that article, as it's relevant today when we take a look at the major factor that I could not, at the time, cover: Will it be any good?


Three months or so have passed since the book launched, and three issues have been released that I've been able to obtain and read. To summarize what's happened, during a battle on the moon, Nick Fury (who'd recently stolen the secrets of Uatu the Watcher) whispered something in Thor's ear that stopped him in his tracks and made him drop his hammer. Thor had been on the moon , basically sulking and trying to lift Mjolnir unsuccessfully. Becoming broody and unresponsive, his mother Frigga (filling in for Odin) is naturally concerned for him, and Odin himself returns and attempts to lift the hammer, failing in this as well.

The Asgardians finally leave the moon at the end of the first issue, and an unidentified woman approaches the hammer, says to herself that there must always be a Thor, and lifts it easily, empowering her with Thor's abilities and covering her in Thor-esque armour. About this time, Malekith (disappointingly looking nothing like Christopher Eccleston) launches an attack on an undersea research base owned by Marvel corporation Roxxon with a legion of Frost Giants after beating up a Mjolnir-less Thor, chopping his arm off, and wearing it as a scarf for the next few issues. The woman now wielding the hammer returns to Earth and attacks the Frost Giants as they make their way up from the ocean floor to a floating Roxxon base. 

Sir Not Appearing In This Book
 So the questions are: Have my concerns been laid to rest and, more importantly, is it any good?

To the first: Not completely. I will say that in three issues so far, she has not once referred to herself as Thor, and no one has positively identified her AS Thor. As I explained previously, I'm perfectly OK with Thor being somehow deemed not worthy to hold the hammer, and if anyone could convince him that he's not it's Nick Fury (with or without Watcher knowledge). I'm still not sure why Odin of all people can't lift it, and that had better be explained as well, as he's the one that enchanted Mjolnir to begin with. What I wouldn't be ok with is literally calling this woman Thor, as she's clearly not. Thor is the man's (god's?) name. It's not a title or an office like “Captain America” or “Iron Man.” You don't put James Rhodes in an Iron Man suit and call him Tony Stark, you call him War Machine. You don't give Bucky Barnes the Red/White/Blue and call him Steve Rogers, you call him Captain America. I'm perfectly ok with either a) turning Thor into a woman or b) giving the status of God(dess) of Thunder to another person, but you don't just give someone's name away. It's a bit disrespectful, and so far that hasn't happened, but I hear in a future issue it might. As an addendum to the points I've made previously, I'm perfectly fine with a woman taking over a traditionally male character, if it's done right. Renee Montoya's been one of my favorite supporting Batman characters, and when she took over the role of The Question, I was thrilled. DC did not disappoint there. But we didn't start calling her Vic Sage. She was still Renee Montoya, just in The Question's mask/suit. 

Seriously, go read Crime Bible: Five Lessons In Blood. DC can do diversity well.
As for the Goddess of Thunder's identity.. that's still not been revealed. I can tell, through dialogue, that it's not one of my top three picks for female replacements for Thor, though. There's an internal monologue portrayed through thought bubbles that this woman is clearly not used to having superpowers, which rules out Valkyrie, Carol Danvers (Ms/Captain Marvel), and Angela, and a scene in which she's isolated from the hammer briefly and starts to lose her powers confirms this. And as for that dialogue.. it's very cringey. It honestly feels like they're half-assing Spider-man's insecure internal monologueing for whoever this is, and it makes the character feel a little unlikeable.

In short, the book's a bit dull, and it feels like it's riding off the mystery and controversy of a female Thor without actually bringing a good story, and that's kind of disappointing. As much as I was dead-set against what Marvel seemed to be doing, I was still holding out hope they'd surprise me. So far, I haven't been. So far I've been kinda bored, but I'm going to stick around and see how it turns out. Avengers: Age of Ultron is only a few months out now, and I'm going to be very cross if they dump this and go back to Thor Thor after such a lackluster performance.

Besides, we've already had a proper female Thor. And she was a goddess to begin with.
I think it's telling that, for a review of this book, I've spent so little time actually talking about what happens in this book. I'm hoping it picks up soon, because it's got a lot of ground to cover before AoU comes out.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

HEY YOU GUYS!

I am amused by the contextual gender flexibility of the word "guys".


One guy is always male. (Which isn't surprising, since Guy has been a man's name for over a thousand years.) Therefore it follows that if someone says "It's a guy thing" or "Guys' night out" you know with 100% certainty that said guys are male.

But I have seen a woman address a group made up entirely of women with "Hi guys!" in which case those guys are now 100% female. However, even though a group of women can be called "guys", I have never seen that group subdivided such that one women would be a "guy", regardless of how logical that might be. 

Interestingly enough, I have witnessed both genders refer to a diverse collection of both men and women as "guys", and neither male nor female has been offended by this. 

So not only is it one of the very few words in English which is gendered in the singular but genderless in the plural -- the only other of which I can think of is "man/men/mankind" -- it actually tops it. Many women feel that the word "mankind" is sexist when used to refer to all humanity, but I have yet to see any woman seriously object to "guys" even when used in nearly the same way. 

I don't really have a point to this other than Huh. A distinctly gendered noun has become a gender-neutral collective through cultural drift. Who'da thunk it?


PS:  If the title of this blog post immediately made you think of this, then congrats! You're old, like me. 

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Traveller Tuesday: Planetary Habitability Codes

Are you a Trekkie? Do you wish you had the opportunity to say "Class M planet" in a game of Traveller?  Well, now you can.


By cross-referencing Traveller's Universal World Profile definitions with Star Trek's Planetary Classifcation definitions, we arrive at this handy Venn Intersection of science-fiction geekery.

Please note that these are approximations; Star Trek's system isn't as granular as Traveller's UWP,


Class A, B and C planets:
  • Different only in how the planet is heated
    • Class A is geothermal (heated internally)
    • Class B is geomorteus (heated by a star)
    • Class C is geoinactive (frozen)
  • Size:1-6
  • Atmospheres: 0-3
  • Hydrographics: 0-1 

Class D planets:
  • Planetoids
  • Size:0-1
  • Atmospheres: 0
  • Hydrographics: 0

Class E, F, G planets:
  • Highly volcanic
    • Class E is geoplastic: the entire surface is molten
    • Class F is geometallic: the surface has cooled somewhat with significant metal deposits
    • Class G is geocrystalline: volcanic eruptions have mostly stopped and the surface is beginning to metamorphose into traditional rock
  • Size:6-9
  • Atmospheres: 9-12
  • Hydrographics: any

Class H planets:
  • Desert
  • Size: 5-9
  • Atmospheres: 9-13
  • Hydrographics: 0-1

Class I planets:
  • Large Gas Giants

Class J planets:
  • Small Gas Giants

Class K planets:
  • Uninhabitable without technology
  • Size: 3-6
  • Atmospheres: 0-10, but always tainted or exotic
  • Hydrographics: 0-1

Class L planets:
  • Marginally habitable
  • Size: 6-9
  • Atmospheres: 4-9, tainted
  • Hydrographics: any

Class M planets:
  • Terrestrial
  • Size: 6-9
  • Atmospheres: 5-9 (taint is likely to be from industrial pollution)
  • Hydrographics: any

Class N planets:
  • Terrestrial, with reducing (hostile) atmospheres
  • Size: 6-9
  • Atmospheres: 5-12
  • Hydrographics: any

Class O and P planets 
  • Water worlds; main difference is that class O is pelagic and class P is glaciated
  • Size: 6-9
  • Atmospheres: 5-9
  • Hydrographics: 8-10

Class Q and R planets:
  • a.k.a "questionable" or "random", i.e. "WTF? This makes no sense. I blame the Ancients."
  • Size: 3-9
  • Atmospheres: 1-10
  • Hydrographics: any

Class S and T planets:
  • Supermassive Gas Giants 

Class U, V, and W planets (unofficial)
  • Artificially constructed habitats
    • Class U: hollowed-out asteroid
    • Class V: Ringworld
    • Class W: Dyson Sphere

Class X, Y and Z planets
  • a.k.a. "hellworlds" or "demon planets"
  • Size: 6-9
  • Atmospheres: 10-15
  • Hydrographics: any, but rarely H20

Monday, January 26, 2015

Monday Gunday Product Review: Witt Machine Muzzle Brake for Mosin-Nagant 91/30

Back in March I received a Witt Machine Muzzle Brake (normally $85, but I got mine through a group-buy that only cost $55) for my now-infamous Mosin-Nagant 91/30. (Witt Machine also makes M44 brakes.)


Attachment
As you can see from the attached photos, this is not a cheap brake that clamps on with a single screw and will end up flying downrange after a few shots; this is a solidly machined piece of anodized aluminum that sockets onto the barrel exactly like a bayonet does, and is then further secured by no less than four screws.

The instructions also call for the user to further secure it in place with application of blue Loctite along the contact surfaces of the barrel. However, this was not ideal for me because 1) with the brake permanently mounted I could not fit it inside my longest rifle case, and 2) I still like the idea of being able to use my bayonet.

I remedied this by calling Witt Machine leaving a message with the receptionist. I received a call back from the president of the company (it turns out the receptionist is his wife), and when I explained the situation he said -- and I paraphrase here because it's been nearly a year -- "Yeah, it should be fine with just the socket and screws. That's how we test each of them before we ship them. The Loctite is just an extra layer of security. But if your brake fails, send it back and we'll replace it."

I am pleased to report that my muzzle brake has yet to fail, and I don't think it ever will, either.


Dimensions




Performance
This muzzle brake is supposed to reduce felt recoil and muzzle rise up to 70%. While I cannot accurately speculate as to how much recoil it reduces due to all the other recoil-reducing gimcrackery I have on my Mosin, I can tell you that it does indeed kick less. In a previous post I noted that Oleg Volk said I had managed to drop the recoil down to that of an AR-15.

I'm not sure if I would go quite that far. What I will claim, however, is that this brake eliminated nearly all of the twisting, bucking and jumping antics that drove me crazy. (No joke: every time I fired it, the rifle would jump up about an inch and 2-3 inches to the left. This made re-acquiring my target at 100 yards a severe annoyance.)


Cleaning
If you shoot corrosive surplus ammo, you know the importance of cleaning. One of the first things I thought when looking at this brake was "I bet all those vents and baffles make it a pain in the rear to clean."  I am pleased to say that I was completely wrong about this, and here's why: I can take the brake off and stick it under hot running water, or soak it in a pot of boiling water, or just spray the heck out of it with solvent. Then I just wipe it down, possibly apply some CLP to it, and it's ready to go again.

However, if you glued it to your barrel, you're probably not going to have a fun time.


My Rating: A+
I encourage every Mosin owner to get one of these. Not only does it help tame your beast to make it more fun to shoot, the brake is just as rugged as your rifle. It's easy to put on, easy to take off, and its multiple methods of securing it make it clear that its designer is serious about it not coming off during operation. The fact that it also has a 100% lifetime guarantee further demonstrates that the manufacturer believes in its reliability.

The brake mounted on a certain infamous 91/30.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Gun Blog Variety Podcast #23

http://tinyurl.com/nmwoenx

Episode 23 is out and ready to impress!
  • Sean reveals that he's been reading short stories on the internets, and he tells you where to find them.
  • I tell you about my Twelve "C's" of Preparedness.
  • Nicki Kenyon discusses Foreign Policy Fails
  • The recent incidents of SWATting are making Miguel Gonzalez angry.
  • Barron B. pours cold water on the idea that cops are going to search your home with radar.
  • Weer'd explores the frequent anti-gunner refrain that "There's no such thing as a law abiding gun owner." 
  • And to top it all off, hosts Adam and Sean talk about the hidden gun rights message in Disney's hit movie "Frozen." 
Listen to the podcast here.
Show notes may be found here.

Check it out. And don't forget to share with a friend!

Musings Upon a Missed SHTFriday

I had a truly awful headache on Friday that culminated in me crawling into bed for 6 hours until the pain went away. Naturally, this left me unable to write my scheduled Blue Collar Prepping article.

Fortunately, I was prepared for such an emergency, and called up a guest post. Titled "A Prepping Guide for Beginners," it lists 4 easy things you can start doing right now to get prepared for emergencies and disasters, and I encourage everyone to go read it.

Entry is always the hardest part of a hobby-lifestyle, and a lot of folks are overwhelmed at the prospect. With prepping, the normal desire to get it right is compounded with the fear that getting it wrong could result in disaster, injury or death.  This is one reason why I rail against shows like "Doomsday Preppers"; it presents extreme outliers as if they were the gold standard and anything short of that is failure, and that's simply not true.

If you have a camping backpack that has a tent, a sleeping bag, a change of clothes, some food, and the ability to start a fire, you have preps and you are immediately much better off than anyone without them. That backpack is now your core; build around it. Add to it, bit by bit, as much as you can afford. I've been prepping since 2009 on a budget of around $30/month (not counting Christmas and birthday presents) and I have quite a respectable bit of gear. I'm certain I could survive a tornado, a hurricane, or a forest fire, and could exist in relative comfort until help arrived or power returned.

I'm still not sexy enough for Doomsday Preppers to notice me. And that's fine, because that program is sensationalist crap. It promotes bad practices (breaking Operational Security by appearing on a nationwide TV program, for starters) the way women's magazines promote unhealthy self-image.

In conclusion, I heartily recommend new preppers check out David Blackard's Wednesday articles. David is a fellow with a limited budget who is essentially re-building his supplies from the ground up. While his articles may not be as entertaining as the others, they are packed with good information on how to be a stingy prepper.

I'm going to close with David's signature farewell" Remember, Some is always better than None!

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